Obviously not my image but from Dune, but I wanted to incorporate it into my collection since – for whatever reason – I find this to be one of the best and somehow most hauntings science fiction images I’ve seen in a long time!

Recently I’ve been running my own snaps through Lumina AI just to tweak the clarity and contrast a bit, so I did the same thing with this image.

Here’s a copy of the original:

Bubble architecture in Domodossala – 7

The bubbles!  The bubbles!  Oh, the stories about bubbles that I could regale you with!

But this post is not about bubbles, but rather bubble architecture. And more specifically, Italian bubble architecture.

I’ve said that France is the all time master at turning beautiful historical buildings into hideous monstrosities by encasing parts of them – or sometimes all of them – in giant glass bubbles.  There are very few exceptions where they get this mix right.

The Italians, it seems, have learned from the French mistakes and are creating their own beautiful bubble architectures, such as this one that I spotted in Domodossala:

For me the absolute nicest touch of the bubble is its base, which is a very smooth segue between the existing concrete paving blocks and the bubble itself.

Well, done, Italy!

Reflections of a Valley Guy — Part 7 “The Hollywood adventure continues”

A guest blog, by Chuck Ritley

I was riding high on heady fumes of stardom.  Then came another pinnacle opportunity. From 1965 through 1970, comic actor Don Adams starred in a James-Bond-send-up TV series named Get Smart.  He played an inept spy and the series had a big cult following.

Universal, to capitalize, decided to produce “The Return of Maxwell Smart”.    And they asked me for a full blown computer lab and would I come down and help the set designers plan it out?   My boss thought it was great, told me to take whatever I needed from inventory, and I left for Burbank with 4 field engineers and visions of getting my own Oscar.

Well, we cobbled up a lab, the studio prop guys added flashing lights, I wrote a bunch of nonsense programs, and the 4 FE’s sat around in case something burned out, and had their pictures taken with minor movie stars.  Oh, the glamour of Hollywood.  The movie plot line had Agent Smart use the computer to stop an evil genius from exploding a bomb that would leave everyone in the U.S. stark naked.

I knew this was the end of my Hollywood career, so I asked my boss:  “When the movie comes out at our local theater, why don’t we rent the whole theater for one night and take the whole company, their families and make a party out of it?”  (Ideas like this are the difference between me and Bill Gates.)  My boss thought it was great, and started negotiating.

But Hollywood dreams shatter. Just as the movie was ready for release, Universal changed the title.  Instead of “The Return of Maxwell Smart”, they named it “The Nude Bomb”. NOT a good follow-up to “E.T”.  The movie was a bomb, and the company wanted some distance.  No opening night theater party, no more movies for Chuck, only 3 confused lawyers trying to get our name removed from the credits.


Show biz!  There’s nothing like it.

This guest blog was submitted by Chuck Ritley, an adjunct professor of computer science with several major universities in the San Antonio area.  

Here are the links to the other blogs in this series:

Reflections of a Valley Guy – Part 1: “The Way It Was”

Reflections of a Valley Guy – Part 2: “First Wave of Characters”

Reflections of a Valley Guy – Part 3: “Evolution of the Geek”

Reflections of a Valley Guy – Part 4: “When Giant Frys.com Sold Pork Chops”

Reflections of a Valley Guy – Part 5: “Mr. Yee and the Albrae Street – Taiwan Connection”

Reflections of a Valley Guy – Part 6: “Hollywood discovers the Valley”

Reflections of a Valley Guy – Part 7: “The Hollywood adventures continue”



Reflections of a Valley Guy — Part 6 “Hollywood discovers the Valley”

A guest blog, by Chuck Ritley

While I enjoy movies, I’ve never been interested in the goings-on in Hollywood.   To me, it was a crowded place to pass through to get to the Burbank Airport on my way home to The Valley.  That changed – for a while – in 1980.   At that time, computer terminals were downright ugly – just square boxes with keyboards.  But the company I worked for paid a Swedish design firm (I think they also did the 1979 Saab) to come up with a streamlined, injection molded terminal.  Same electronics – fancy look.

Six months after the intro, I got a call from a guy who said he was the prop master at Universal Studios.  He had seen one of our terminals, liked the look, and could I help him get one in a movie?  Sounded like great publicity, so I flew to Burbank and drove out to Universal.  It turns out that prop masters for major studios are big-time executives, with golf carts, managing everything from jet planes to spears.  But he made me welcome.

The movie that needed a computer was “Captain America”.  No, not the one you saw in 2014, with CGI and wide screen explosions.  This was the 1980 version.  No CGI, much smaller explosions.  The plot:  Captain A, who rides a nuclear-powered Harley, must save Phoenix from a nuclear bomb, but he needs a computer to figure things out.  That’s where we came in.

So I shipped a couple of computers and some terminals South and showed up at the studio for shooting the computer scenes.  The studio techs had built panels of flashing light, since our computers had none.  And I cobbled up some nonsense programs to make things jump on the screen.  But it was tough to keep a straight face while showing a guy in a red, white, and blue jump suit how to tap the keys.

We appeared for only 6 minutes in what was not a very good movie.  But, Universal fell in love with the design of the terminals, and I got offers to bring more equipment down for appearances in “The Rockford Files”, with James Garner, and “Mrs. Columbo” (the wife of the Peter Falk detective, who sadly only lasted for 4 or 5 episodes, but was computer literate.)

But the apex was this:  we provided the computer terminals for “ET”, while the studio did their own flashing lights.  (Next time you see a re-run, watch the credits closely.  We come up just before the caterers.)

And no, I never even saw Steven what-his-name.  And I had no idea it would become a classic.








This guest blog was submitted by Chuck Ritley, an adjunct professor of computer science with several major universities in the San Antonio area.  

Here are the links to the other blogs in this series:

Reflections of a Valley Guy – Part 1: “The Way It Was”

Reflections of a Valley Guy – Part 2: “First Wave of Characters”

Reflections of a Valley Guy – Part 3: “Evolution of the Geek”

Reflections of a Valley Guy – Part 4: “When Giant Frys.com Sold Pork Chops”

Reflections of a Valley Guy – Part 5: “Mr. Yee and the Albrae Street – Taiwan Connection”

Reflections of a Valley Guy – Part 6: “Hollywood discovers the Valley”

Reflections of a Valley Guy – Part 7: “The Hollywood adventures continue”



Recently I posted what I thought was quite a nice map of world languages, here.

Here is a very similar graph, but this time of Gross Domestic Product:


I am not a Grossdomesticproductician, but I do think a graph of this nature could be confusing. It compares GDP that has been converted to a single currency, but it strikes me that looking at it in its natural setting of its own buying power could be more insightful.


To blog or not to blog

A guest blog, by Arlene Ritley

I have been wondering for some time now if I should start a blog.  It then came to me that a blog is like keeping a diary which every girl in the 60’s and perhaps earlier, kept.  Boys might have kept a diary but never went around advertising this to other guys.  A sign of the times.

I’m not familiar with blogs so I went to my good friend Google.  “Google,” I asked. “What is the difference between a blog and a diary?”  And this is what I found.

You probably knew this, but I didn’t, the word blog came from the words “web log.”  Who would have thought? I found this interesting.  But why isn’t it called a diary?  Again I found that a diary contains personal and perhaps confidential information or entries that probably shouldn’t be shared with the rest of the world.

Do I really want the world to know that I was in love with Elvis Presley?  Or that I cut a day of school so that a friend and I could travel downtown to see Liberace who was in Cleveland for the opening of the Cleveland Trust Bank?  Or that the day of becoming a woman finally arrived.  I wrote about the last one in great detail.

                                   CERTAINLY NOT!

Blogs are for people who do or say things that are important to them and who feel that their thoughts or pictures should be shared with the universe.  Some are interesting and general, like travel or photography others are more specific like cooking and gardening.

Did you know that there are companies who will write blogs for you?  They not only compose the blog but also set up the blog site.  Google “blog writing services.”  How can an amateur blogger compete with a blog that was written by an accomplished writer?  I was lucky to get one A+ in high school (and that was in glee club) so how can I compete?

I can’t.  But I do like the idea of writing down my thoughts.  Not to share with others but to cleanse my mind at the end of the day or the early morning hours.  I will write freely and without fear of hurting anyone’s feelings by putting my thoughts in writing.

Dear Diary……


This guest blog was submitted by Arlene Ritley, an editor with the Island Moon Newspaper – one of South Texas’s largest community newspapers.

Happy New Year! And, the ritley.com litmus test . . .

First things first: Happy New Year, dear world!

I was surprised to learn that the well-known litmus test dates back to the 1300’s – I would have guessed it to follow sometime after the Renaissance.

Anyway, I digress.

Although to be honest, it may be impossible for one to digress unless and until one has actually started, which I have not.

So first things first, let me start.

For those that may not know it, in addition to acting as an outlet for a combination of very creative and very weird mental juices that, if not periodically released, would mix together violently and cause very great danger to my brain, my blog serves primarily as my own personal litmus test for my desired degree of sanity. If I am happy and healthy and have a bit of creative energy left over in my day, I find time to tap into this energy and express myself in a blog. If I am under pressure or find my creative juices overly drained, no blog.

Oh, and a hobby of mine is travel photography – so my blog also serves as a very nice showcase of some of my travel photography snaps that I am more proud of.

Anyway, in the time since I started this blog in 2014, hardly a day has gone by without a blog: I have just over thirteen hundred of entries by now, and if I am in good spirits, I can usually knock out a new blog (including photo) in less than 3 minutes. I’ve timed it, so I know.

Since November this site ritley.com has been blogless, and precisely for these reasons mentioned above.  New job, new demands.  Well, new job is a bit of an understatement: whole new career.

Hopefully I have things now better under control, so let’s see how long I can keep up my daily blogging!

Google googled me!

The cool thing about the business social networking site LinkedIn is that you can see who has tried to look you up – well, at least you can see their company name. I recently stopped at a nuclear reactor in France – one day later someone from the Gendarmerie Nationale looked me up – coincidence?

(And by the way, if they did, think of the technology involved: scanning my vehicle, optical character recognition of the license plate, database lookup to find the owner, running the owner through searches like this – I hope they are using RPA, since it seems a very good candidate for robotic process automation. And if they are not – S’il vous plaît appelez-moi, et je suis heureux de prendre rendez-vous pour un conseil en technologie! )

Anyway, after “googling” many people myself I felt quite honoured and privileged to be the subject of their scrutiny,

Believe it or not – it’s been a bit over a decade – but if memory serves me right I once spoke with the present head of Google (Sundar Pichai) on the phone, naturally back before he was so famous. I wrote down his name in my notebook – but sadly I can’t find the notebook anymore to confirm.

When memories trigger the senses

My Aunt recently posted a very old advertisement of an American variety store called Woolworth’s. Apparently, she thought they were all out of business – and in America, they are. But not in Germany, as this snap shows:

The key point here is a different one. The advertisement for Woolworth’s – as indeed this real store – immediately triggers a flood of memories involving sights and smells. And not just for me: when I shared this photo with my family, they also mentioned this effect.

There is something about the old “Woolworths” that is hard to put into words. You would walk into one of these stores and be hit by the smells of their inside cafeteria — “back in the day” it was common for any large store to have a cafeteria – but also the sights and sounds.

If you want to learn more about photography, check this out!

Just finished the most difficult but also the most rewarding course I’ve taken in a long time: Photography foundations: composition.

Regarding the why – I really enjoy photography, but I have no formal training. I see something I like, and I take a picture with my little point-and-shoot. I’m not interested in lenses and apertures and f-stops and all that. So for a long time I looked for a course that would focus on content, not on technique. This course is it!

Regarding the how – it is a self-learning course available from the LinkedIn platform. You have to pay for a subscription, but then you have access to many hundreds of online courses.

Here are the learning objectives:

  • Looking versus seeing
  • Understanding when and why to use black and white
  • Analyzing lines
  • Arranging the elements into lines and shapes
  • Working with perspective and symmetry
  • Changing focal length, camera position, and depth
  • Dividing rectangular frames into thirds
  • Weighting the corners in square pictures
  • Composing photographs of people
  • Composing landscape photos
  • Working with light: direction, texture, and negative space
  • How to shoot color
  • Guiding the viewer’s eye

Here’s the contents of this course:

  • Understanding composition
  • Seeing
  • Composition fundamentals
  • Geometry
  • Shooting best practices
  • Balance revisited
  • Light
  • Workshop: finding light
  • Color
  • Guiding the viewer
  • Workshop: foreground and background
  • Layers
  • Post-production
  • Workshop: exhibition

It’s a rather long course (5 hours and 29 minutes) – I spread it out over several weeks because there is literally too much material to digest. I’d study a chapter and learn something, then spend a few days thinking about it and trying things out with my camera.

Final thought: these are one of those courses that I’ll probably come back to again and again – and that’s a nice feature about LinkedIn, after you take a course it is still available and you can go back and watch the videos as often as you like!


Quiller in German – or, are those Germans impolite and stiff, or soft-spoken and friendly?

The Quiller Memorandum is a film from 1966, starring George Segal and based on a espionage novel of the same name. Many people such as Quentin Tarrentino himself consider it the finest film in the spy genre. I fully agree.

There are two great things about the film.

First, my favorite scene takes place coincidentally at exactly the street and corner where I stayed on my first trip to Berlin!  The shop in the center background is today a Müller Drogerie.

Second, there is an interesting scene involving the German language. Since I am not a native speaker, it has long confused me. In this scene, the American spy Quiller – until now denying that he spoke German – suddenly confronts his followers and speaks to them in very fluent German, even involving some local Berlinerisms that have confused me, such as sometimes exchanging dative and accusative pronouns. Even today when I visit Berlin and talk to real Berliners it can trip me up.

However, the same movie dubbed into German uses the German language throughout – and the bit where Quiller suddenly starts speaking German is overdubbed with an entirely different set of words. I’ve always found this fascinating: although the language in both cases is spoken German, my American ears find the American version to be much less polite.

You be the judge!

The scene begins as Quiller decides to confront someone who is clandestinely following him.

Who American version German version
Quiller Are you following me? Ich frage Sie, ob Sie mir folgen! Sagen Sie mal, beschatten Sie mich? Ich habe Sie gefragt, ob Sie mich beschatten!
Short guy Ich? Nein. Ich? Nein.
Quiller Warum folgen Sie mir? Warum gehen Sie mir dann hinterher?
Short guy Ich folge Sie gar nicht. Sie müssen sich irren. Aber ich gehe dann nicht hinterher. Sie haben sich geirrt.
Quiller Wohin gehen Sie dann? So, wo gehen Sie denn dann hin?
Short guy Ich bin mit einem Bekannten verabretet. Bitte entschuldigen Sie mir Sie machen mir Spass. Ich bin mit einem Bekannten verabredet. Lassen Sie mich los!
Quiller Wo bitte? Ja, und wo sind Sie verabredet?

Just as Quiller steps up his pressure, they are joined by another clandestine colleague of the follower,


Who American version German version
Fat guy Dieter? Was ist denn los? Dieter? Was ist denn los?
Short guy Der Herr behauptet, dass ich ihn folge Ach, der bildet sich ich gehe ihn hinterher.
Fat guy Wer Du? Warum? Wer, Du? Warum denn?
Short guy Ich weiss es nicht Möchte ich auch gerne wissen.
Fat guy Sagen Sie mal, wie kommen Sie darauf? Wie kommen Sie darauf? Ist hier irgendwas?


The final discourse is interesting for two reasons. First, I find the German version to be a bit more diplomatic and polite than the American version – at least to my non-native ears it sounds this way.

But . . . here is where the nuances of the German language come in!  When Quiller says “Perhaps you have not been following me” then he is looking at the entire group, not just the original follower, thus sneakily and cleverly changing the case of the formal pronoun Sie from first person formal to second person formal!


Who American version German version
Quiller, looking at everyone Vielleicht habe ich mich geirrt? Vielleicht sind Sie mir nicht gefolgt? Wenn das so ist, werde ich gehen! Ach schön. Vielleicht habe ich mich geirrt, es kann auch ja sein. Vielleicht sind Sie mir wirklich nicht hinterher gegangen? Entschuldigen Sie! Dann darf ich wohl jetzt.
Quiller, looking at the short guy Sie sind mir im Weg! Sie stehen mir leider nur etwas im Wege.

In other words – and this is only known to people who can speak German! – Quiller was telegraphing to the entire group of three people that he knew he was being followed!

The power people’s personalities provide!

Continuing the series, the following link was sent to me by my good friend Ertan yesterday, and I found it too good to resist.

The power people’s personalities provide – gosh that sounds nice and a way to reap important benefits!

But in fact the title of the website sounds negative and an approach for solving a problem: How to deal with difficult people.

Be that as it may, this website gives a nice overview of different personality types, and you can click on the personality type and you’ll find useful advice about how to work with people with that type.

It’s nothing new, of course – I just don’t know when it begun. The earliest such approach in my recollection was a terrific book from 2001 by J. Hank Rainwater entitled “Herding Cats: A primer for programmers who lead programmers.” You can find a PDF version on the Internet if you look hard enough. Surprisingly, I discovered it at exactly the right time, when I was new in the role of IT project manager and struggling with my first real project.

And it was followed by a wonderful chapter in a book by Patrick Schmid entitled Turbo Turbo Projektmanagement: Mit einfachen Mittel schneller zum Projekterfolg.”

And this in turn was followed by a less complete but – without doubt – much more useful approach by my ex-colleague and good friend Mario Neumann in his book Projekt-Safari.

Thanks, Ertan, great catch!

Church mystery

Capt. Kirk once said, “I hate mysteries. They give me a belly-ache, and right now I’ve got a beaute.” Same with me.

Here’s the mystery. Why is a modern church located in Winterthur, Switzerland almost identical to an old church located in Bodega Bay, California?  You’ll notice the major design elements such as the pointed doorway, four windows, and even the proportions are nearly identical. Is this co-incidence?

Here’s the church at Bodega Bay, photographed by Ansel Adams,

And here is the church in Winterthur, photographed by me:

Disciplined Agile

When I hear the term Disciplined Agile, I think of someone punishing Agile – and that makes me happy!

Agile needs a good punishing.

Reason: many companies in Switzerland are now investing strongly in agile (which is good) but like most agile advocates they teach and often attempt to set up Agile with GOs (Gross Oversimplifications) that only apply to IUs (Impossible Utopias).

Many companies in Switzerland also seem to suffer badly from the misconception that Agile = Scrum. This is entirely untrue, and it doesn’t help the situation. I’ve worked in classical waterfall projects that took ultra-agile approaches.

How does DA come in?

DA ist not a framework but rather a toolbox – toolboxes are always nice!

The Essence of Software Engineering – or, why agile is not enough

Sadly, too much literature about agile Ways of Working (WoW) is all about agile Ways of Working – and it stops there.

For Grossly Oversimplified (GO) Impossible Utopia (IU) situations, that works.

But in my own experience, for the real world complexity, agile Ways of Working are only the beginning.

Much, much more is needed for success. As put in the following article: Successful software development teams need to strike a balance between quickly delivering working software systems, satisfying their stakeholders, addressing their risks, and improving their ways of working.

There’s an interesting framework that may help; this is really very interesting and pragmatic stuff:

Don’t let this fool you, however. When I first looked at it, it immediately reminded me of maturity models, such as CMMI. In a maturity model, you can stop at the level that makes sense for you, or even have mixtures of maturity in different areas.

This is not that! As you’ll notice, here’s it’s all about degree of operationalization.

ANNIVERSARY: A digital machete thins out the digital jungle!

I honestly, positively cannot believe it – today marks the 20th anniversary of an article that appeared that described my work at the Max-Planck-Institute in Stuttgart!

I’ve done a lot of things in my life that have made me proud, usually challenges I tackled that worked out well.

But this is one of those whirlwind cases that start out as something innocent and simple but then explode into something you could never, ever possibly predict! In this case, a little software application for my “office buddy” to visualize his scientific data that was subsequently downloaded and used by thousands of scientists!

I have documented the full story about ScanRead and DataScan.

The dark and secret world of Facilities Management – 5

Continuing the series, as part of a large IT transformation that I helped drive, it was necessary for us to hire 20+ talented IT professionals. And add to that around 30 mostly Indian colleagues that were to join us to run the Transition and Transformation (T&T) program. And add to that at least two other large IT teams we wanted to consolidate. And because we had so many people, it was necessary for us to locate and rent a building dedicated to IT. So I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take off my IT transformation hat and put on my facilities management hat.

This blog series recollects a bit of the journey before too much time passes and I forget some of the more interesting details.

The dark and secret underworld of Facilities Management

I’ve worn a few different hats in my life: cook in a restaurant, forklift truck driver, landscape gardener, and professional house painter to name just a few of the most important ones. So it is not only fun but a privilege when life gives me the chance to establish working relationships with people in varied trades.

And it is even more fun and rewarding when I got to learn a new trade myself, in this case the honorable trade of Building Facilities Management.

And as you will read below, the world of Building Facilities Management has a very pleasant public face, but deep down inside it is really a dark, secret underworld, inhabited by god-like people that can accomplish anything – if you treat us with dignity and respect.

The outside view: the helpfulness gene

Paul Cottingham, one of the finest IT leaders I’ve ever known says time and again that IT hardware people (not the software guys) are all endowed with the helpfulness gene: they’ll go to any lengths to help other people, even at the cost of great self-sacrifice. And if you see the tremendous number of over-time hours they work – and how egregiously they underestimate IT project efforts (sadly incorrect, “it never helps to bring in external help” is their mantra).

And when I put on the Facilities Manager hat and joined this mysterious underworld, I learned quickly that Facilities Managers are endowed with this gene as well.

Because at the end of the day what gives us pride is to see the people working in and visiting our building. Are the desks comfortable? Are the meetings super-productive because the rooms are equipped with exactly the right flipcharts and whiteboards and speakerphones and wide screen televisions and coat racks and wastebaskets? Is the building filled with pleasant look plants that are also easy-to-care for, and are they watered and healthy? Walls clean? Carpets smelling fresh? Nice little mats to wipe your wet shoes on?

And think about what that requires, all those things and much more: flip chart pens and white board pens and someone having made sure there are the right telephone and LAN and power cables right where they need to be. Containers to water the plants.

So – how do we facilities managers make this look so simple?

Facilities Managers are like gods

It’s not wrong to think of us Facilities Managers as gods – hopefully benevolent gods, but gods nevertheless. Because your comfort, your tools, and your very productivity at work is in our hands.

The pride of our trade means we strive to do our best to provide all employees a good level of comfort, no matter how they treat us in return. But for those employees who treat us with dignity and respect, (which sadly is all too few people who do that) we aim to exceed your needs.

The question is, how exactly are we able to do this?

And the answer is, we don’t work alone.

A dark and secret underworld

At the risk of great personal harm, I will now officially spill the secret: Facilities Management is a dark underworld comprised of Facilities Managers – but not just those in your company, but those in all companies!  Our work knows no barriers. If I work for Company X and I have an old desk, and you work for Company Y and need a desk, you just give me a call and it’s done. Because in a few months time I may need a flipchart stand that you have but don’t need. Inter-company exchanges go on like this all the time.

Think about it: the Facilities Manager is likely to inherit many basements if not whole warehouses of old things: desks and shelves and coat racks and lockers. Sure, the new stuff probably has inventory labels, and those labels have numbers, and those numbers are in some spreadsheet in the finance department. But more than likely all that old stuff has been depreciated and written off and forgotten long ago.

I can’t mention any names – although there are many.

I can’t mention any examples – although there are many more.

I can only say that, during my brief time as Facilities Manager I got to meet some really terrific, passionate people who make up this dark and secret underworld. And with their help – and they with mine – we were able to make the people in our buildings content. And for those who treated us kindly, and with honor and respect, we were always able to exceed their expectations.


Washing clothes in Switzerland

Washing machines in Germany and Switzerland are smaller and more energy efficient than those in the U.S. A normal washing cycle can take as long as 90 minutes, and a deep cleaning can take up to 3 hours!

Here is the room in my apartment building where the washing machines are kept:

The spin cycle of the better machines can reach over 2000 revolutions per second – this is an amount that is so high, in many cases the more delicate clothes cannot handle the stress and they are damaged. Needless to say, after spinning at these high speeds the clothes are effectively dry when they leave the machine.

Here is the little box where you add the detergent and, if you use it, the softening agent:

In my building, the machines were in use nearly 24×7 – and we have 8 washing machines and 8 dryers!  Well, it turns out the machines were not being used by the residents, but rather the friends of residents – whole families even!

So recently they installed a charging mechanism.  You can charge up a little chip here:

Then to activate a washing machine or a dryer, you hold the chip up to this device mounted next to the machine you want to use:

The costs are almost negligible – I think CHF 0.50 to wash clothes and to dry them. But . . . since the charging mechanism was installed, now the machines are only used by people in the building. Generally speaking, there are always at least 2-3 machines available whenever I want to use one!