Glengarry Glen Ross

Fabulous drama from an all-star cast. This is the kind of film in which it’s hard to find imperfect acting, and David Mamet’s script makes it even harder. No character is quite as simple as he at first appears, and they’re all fascinating. The film just draws you in, despite the simplicity of the setting (it’s easy to see that it came from the stage). The ending is untidy, but appropriate, and anyway, this film isn’t just about the plot: it’s also about the character and machinations of salesmen and their morally blurred world. Al Pacino’s character is so transparent that you’d swear you’d never fall for his patter: but you know you would (he’s so funny when playing this kind of character; for another example, see The Devil’s Advocate).

Factoid from Wikipedia: The word ‘fuck’ is used 138 times in this film (although take with a pinch of salt; it doesn’t take its place where it should in the top 90).

How to Handle Mediation

WebSphere ESB includes two distinct technologies, both of which use the name ‘mediation’:

  • WebSphere Platform Messaging mediations, introduced in WebSphere Application Server V6.0 (and thus included in WebSphere ESB and Process Server).

  • Mediation flows, the primary facility introduced by WebSphere ESB V6.0.1 itself.

Let’s come straight out and say it: yes, this can be a little confusing, given that these two technologies go by similar names. Nevertheless, although both of them can both be used to alter messages on the Platform Messaging bus, they work in quite different ways.

Platform Messaging mediations are specified as a sequential list of ‘mediation handlers’, administratively attached to a destination such as a queue or a topic space. These mediation handlers are programmatic: they are an implementation of the MediationHandler interface. This allows a message to be altered ‘in-place’: the fundamental properties of the message, such as the message ID, are not changed, because it is logically the same message. These mediations can also be used to destroy the message, or route it elsewhere. For more information, see Dan Murphy’s article in the IBM WebSphere Developer Technical Journal.

WebSphere ESB mediation flows, on the other hand, do not have to be a simple sequential list of steps. They are a network of mediations (in the ESB sense of the word). These mediations are generally re-usable components designed to modify a message in a certain way or make some decision based upon its contents (ESB ships with several out-of-the-box). The flows can have several potential paths from start to finish. Generally, when dealing with Platform Messaging messages, JMS exports and imports will be used to bring a message into the flow and output it from the flow. This means that a message will be destroyed when it is brought into the flow, and re-created from scratch when output - it is not the same message. This is partly because ESB mediation flows can also have other types of import and export, such as those which support web services. When a message is travelling through the flow, it is actually represented as a Service Message Object.

These two technologies are therefore quite different. In general, you would use a Platform Messaging mediation when you want mediation to be transparent to an already-existant application (mediation happens after a message is put to a destination but before it is recieved). ESB mediation flows offer a richer and easier-to-use set of functionality when that’s necessary, but don’t preserve message transparency. They also provide the facility to integrate with web services and other data sources.

Usability When You Least Expect It

After getting to Barcelona airport yesterday, I looked in despair at the long lines for the Iberia economy check-in. I thought I’d give the quick check-in machines a go, but I wasn’t seriously expecting them to work. I’d booked both flights for my roundtrip between LHR and BCN with BA but the return hop was operated by Iberia; the BA quick check-in at Heathrow had worked, but hey, this is a different airline, right? They’re not going to have my credit card details or anything, are they? The machine, though, seemed to accept the record locator (booking reference) as an alternative. Maybe this was a faint hope - though I’d had experiences with the BA website being incapable of viewing my reservations with AA, and vice-versa, so I wasn’t confident. But it all just worked - the boarding card was printed, and I was congratulating myself again for my foresight in only packing carry-on.

My worry was, though, that I was impressed by this. I shouldn’t be. This is honest-to-goodness systems integration. The volumes of data are not impressive. Even the transaction rates aren’t that impressive any more, to my understanding. And from an airline customer perspective, this stuff is rapidly becoming essential to stay competitive. Maybe some more regular travellers aren’t impressed: but I wonder how often things like this still don’t work? Are my expectations set too low?

Sagrada Família

So whilst in Barcelona, we did manage to go inside the Sagrada Família in the end (after taking a look from the outside).

It’s an even more amazing building inside than out. I felt like I’d stepped into the main engine room of a gas turbine on Mars (think Total Recall). It’s hard to believe that Gaudí was allowed to build something like this (do they have planning permission in Spain?), but thank goodness he was - and to be fair, his work is all over Barcelona, so presumably they must have liked it. It’s a shame to my mind that it’s a Christian building, as it could easily have been something else, unlike most churches, but clearly religion was the main driving force behind Gaudi’s work.

The other thing that becomes more obvious once inside, and having toured the museum, is that the building is still under construction. It’s quite strange that the money can be found for this, as one just can’t imagine that being the case in the UK, say, where most churches, cathedrals, etc. are permanently short of funds. I’m happy with that, as I’ve always felt the grandeur of these buildings is one of the things that induces religious feelings in people (see The God Pill in the Economist of July 15th for more information on another way this can happen). But the architecture of this edifice almost makes its existence as a church justifiable. Almost.

Photos to follow.

Shaving and Carry-on

Just back from Barcelona. I plan to write in greater detail on my trip when I have the chance, but a quick question to the guys out there: how do you shave when on a short trip, given that you can’t take razors onboard planes these days? (I have the same opinion about this as Bruce Schneier does about mobiles in Mumbai). Increasingly I’m trying to manage with carry-on luggage only these days, and I managed it for Barcelona. But after three days, I do look a touch unkempt.

Does anyone have a magic solution I’m missing? (electric razors don’t count; I gave up on mine over a year back and haven’t looked back).

Update 2006-07-18: It appears I may have been wrong about this all along (and going unshaven as a result!). See comment trail for more details.

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