Archive of February, 2002
February 28, 2002:
[This brain fart has been put on hold so that I may keep my job. That, and I'm still fuming about it more than 15 hours later. I'll make an announcement on one of my updates when the coast is clear.]
Update: Now it can be told.
Basically, I was working on a third-party program that we'd created the layout for. It's, quite frankly, a pain in the ass due to how limited it is and how convoluted it can be. But there was no deadline that I knew of, so I wasn't really getting stressed about it. If 5:00 rolled around and I was stumped, I just left to take a fresh look the next day.
Then I found out Wednesday night that John wanted to take it with him Thursday afternoon. Gee, that woulda been nice to know on Monday. So I'm there late, trying to fix this one last bug. One of my coworkers, a senior programmer who knows more about Windows-style .ini files, took a look and found a global variable that might be causing the bug. We flipped it, and the bug was fixed.
And it created another bug. It was late, and the thing was just in demo form, since the client using this software was still getting us information for it. I proposed a quick fix that would invlove "hiding" a button behind a part of the program. When that part went away and nothing happened (the new bug) the button would appear, telling the user to click it to continue. Ugly, for sure, but the best idea I had at the time.
The department head checked in to see how things were going as I was telling the designers about the new bug. We walked over, looked at the program, and talked options. At the time I only saw two: Leave it as-is and apply the band-aid so we could look at the thing later, or revert to the old bug and work around it. The first option had the advantage of being in place; the second option had the advantage of being more transparent.
(Sorry I'm not giving more detail here, but I'm erring on the side of too little information.)
She said my two options were unacceptable, and began lecturing me -- in public -- about the need for professionalism. Lectured. Publicly. For being unprofessional. Does anyone else see the hypocrisy in that? Anyway, I've received the lecture before, in public before, and this time I'd had enough. I backed up a few inches, motioned to the screen, and told her to program away.
Needless to say, she wasn't happy with that at all.
We step into a conference room -- the first time in the history of the company that someone was bitched out in private, I think -- and had a conversation that basically boils down to:
"Your attitude and sarcasm won't cut it here!"
"Then show me some goddamn respect!"
"Do your job!"
"Let me do my job!"
As we left the room, she assured me the incident would be "documented", which I took to mean she'd see John first thing in the morning and tell him to fire me. And when I got to work the next day, guess who was in John's anteroom.
I went back to the group, who seemed resigned to one of two less than optimal solutions, and we discussed pros and cons for a few minutes. Then something in my brain clicked and I saw a way to solve the problem.
A couple experiments with the .ini file later, I had something that worked, or was at least ready to be tested.
So, I was incorrect -- there was a better solution. But I still think that when I told my department head that I could see two options, it's her job to accept that. I've shown several times that I'm willing to work something through to completion, so it's not like I was just trying to get out of something.
I don't know how well I've described what I've started referring to as The Argument, or just how tired I was of being treated like I'm incompetent, or really of anything here. All I know is, she finally pushed me too far, and I was within about five seconds of quitting.
I stayed, but not for long.
February 27, 2002:
Just a quick one today: Disney's releasing sequels to Peter Pan and Cinderella. Does anyone else see anything wrong with pimping out two of their classics for a few extra bucks?
February 26, 2002:
From listening to George Carlin and reading his book Brain Droppings, I've picked up a tendency to over-analyze people's use of English. Straight from the pages of Carlin's book comes the word "tragedy."
As everyone who went to a private school knows, Shakespeare wrote (among other things) tragedies. For my fellow public school students, Shakespeare lived in England a long time ago and wrote plays. Anyway, what makes a tragedy a tragedy is when an otherwise good person suffers a downfall as a result of his own personality flaws. Macbeth, King Lear, Richard II and (to go back to the Greek tragedies) Oedipus Rex all lead normal lives and were happy people and had it all slip away.
But now everything is a tragedy. The terrorist attacks last September were horrific, but they weren't tragedies. I'd pretty much given up, but then I saw a special on (of all places) ESPN. They were talking about Daryll Strawberry and Dwight Gooden. A pair of athletes who were at the tops of their games, and lost their careers (or at least large parts of them) to drugs.
And not just once. Every time Daryll got a second chance he blew it because he couldn't get off coke. Dwight lied to his friends about how good he felt to be clean while his urine tests were coming back positive.
They weren't horrible things (unless you know the guys) but they were true tragedies.
February 25, 2002:
A few weeks ago my rear-view mirror fell off the windshield. I went out and bought the three-dollar repair kit (basically a two-part glue) and read the directions. Must be at least 50°F. OK.
Then we went on a four-week-long cold snap. I know some of you reading this are saying, "Gee, that's odd for winter." You may all get bent and stay there -- I'm telling a story here.
Finally, weather.com tells me that it's 53 degrees. I take my rear-view mirror off the coffee table ('cause that's where they go when they fall off), grabbed the glue and headed outside.
I squeeze the tube containing part one. This is supposed to break a vial inside the outer tube and wet a cotton swab with the stuff. In actuality, both the tubes break, getting some glue-stuff on my fingers. On the upside, I don't have cancer yet and I can dyo;; drr/
The rest of the application goes off OK; I add part two to the back of the "button" and hold it in place for a little more than a minute. Then I have to wait 15 minutes for everything to set.
I sit in the car for a couple minutes, because it's a nice day out, then go inside to collect my laundry and read my e-mail. I debated writing this story then but decided against it because with my luck it'd turn out to be my own little version of "Dewey defeats Truman" -- turns out I was right.
After the 15 minutes are up I go back out and put the mirror in place over the button, and screw it down tight, so it won't wobble around. I notice that it's out of alignment and grab the thing to adjust it. And it comes off in my hand.
So, one of four things is true:
- The bit of part one that leaked out was enough to make the bond less than secure.
- I didn't actually wait 15 minutes and therefore the glue wasn't set all the way.
- The fact that a little piece of windshield came off with the button might mean that not enough of the surface had glue on it.
- God hates me.
I don't really want to know which one it is.
February 23, 2002:
Well, the worst display of fanatical flag-waving in recent memory is coming to a close. Maybe now everybody can get back to normal and remember that they don't really give a damn about figure skating, cross-country skiing or the biathalon.
Never mind that we raised such a huge stink when one of our guys was accidentally tripped in a speed-skating race that the officials wound up taking away someone else's gold medal. Or that when the Russians beat the Fifty-First State (Canada) in figure skating that we bitched about it non-stop until the IOC changed the rules. Now, was there something going on there? Probably. But would we have really cared if it had been the Chinese?
But anyway, the TV schedules are going to get back to normal, and a bunch of half-frozen idiots can stop chanting "USA! USA!" even when the US isn't playing.
And maybe we'll stop sticking the rest of the world's face in the fact that we're better at just about everything we want to be. Or maybe we'll stop insisting that everyone feel our pain for what happened last September. The rest of the world's been dealing with terrorism for decades -- the only difference between us and them was how long it took for us to notice, and the degree of the loss.
In other words, maybe the world will forget by the time the next Olympics start that we can be a bunch of loudmouthed assholes.
February 22, 2002:
Well, I actually did have things I wanted to write and post. I've just been busy getting Alumni Hall online for the other alums to visit and fill in (hopefully) before Carnival.
Now, for the non-CMU, non-fraternity people:
Alumni Hall is what we called the part of the old fraternity house where we hung the old composites and the "family tree" showing big and little brothers. In actuality it was a fire escape, because we didn't want the stuff getting damaged.
Carnival is Carnegie Mellon's Spring Carnival. Students get Friday off, and there are activities throughout the weekend, particularly Booth and Buggy. And a lot of alumni come back for the weekend-long party. Fraternities usually use this chance to hit up their alums for donations. I'm gonna use it to push the online version of Alumni Hall to the people who aren't in it yet.
February 21, 2002:
I'm guessing that people's daydreams could give others a peek into their psyche. I'm kinda curious what a shrink would make of mine.
In high school, I had my own little sci-fi-ish reality where I stumbled upon some till-then unknown secret to meditation that gave me a couple abilities: I could see in a fight what my opponent would do next, and I had telekenesis. The fighting thing came in handy because I -- superhero that I was -- had kept a group of Bad Guys from doing something horrible at the high school. They kept coming back to get revenge, I kept getting better at beating them. Eventually the fantasy involved me beating six or seven people rather handily.
Then I went to college, and forgot about it for a couple years.
Then, when I started having troubles with ROTC, I started up my little adventures again. I had grown more powerful in the intervening years (and why not) but had kept things hidden from the people I was in college with, for fear of causing a panic if someone started flying around or flipping over cars with a thought.
I also had taught some high-school friends the meditation technique, but I'd lost contact with them. They'll come into play later, I promise. So, is this getting weird, or is this a normal thing to do?
Anyway, the story now adds a twist. I didn't want to teach anyone else, for the same reason I kept my abilities hidden. But I found that people's brains who have the ability are different from normal people, and when a bunch of my friends didn't show that change, I thought it would be safe to teach them.
One of them develops the change (apparently it's the effect, not the cause, of the abilities) and I'm exposed when I have to launch a friend out of the middle of the street to keep her from getting hit by a bus. Then I have to float myself over the ensuing trafic snarl to calm her down.
People, as I predicted, freak out. Some fundamentalist Christian decides I'm Satan-spawn and gets his mindless flock to try to do me in. I develop (discover?) I can also create a Star Trek-like shield around myself, create wormholes, and shoot ionized blasts of hydrogen (from water vapor in the air) at people. I'm usually content to just let bricks, stones and such ping off the shield (which I've imagined makes a neat visible ripple effect on the shield surface) but when they try to shoot me I zap them, to keep people from getting hit by stray bullets.
Gee, now my daydream has become combative. I know that ain't normal.
Now I usually just play out variations on that theme, sometimes calling in my friends who also have the ability for help (see, I told you they'd be back) when the fundies whip out things like surface-to-air missles on me. I've decided that my shield can take two impacts from stinger missles.
I also tend to imagine myself in the TV shows I watch. Saving the day, as always. But the people there don't flip out and try to kill me.
So now I have two daydreams. One, that takes place in the real world, in which I'm a freak of nature that people want to destroy. Another, that takes place in the worlds of Star Trek, Smallville, etc., some of them based in the real world, where I'm accepted and even welcomed.
Damn I'm weird.
February 20, 2002:
Cleveland, Ohio, is currently embroiled in controversy: Is its school-voucher program constitutional? Does it violate the separation of church and state? Does it discriminate?
Yes, no and no.
All right, I'll get to the second question first, since it's the cause for the first. Do vouchers violate separation of church and state? Here's why they don't. Vouchers are simply a check, given to the parents of any child, for a portion of the taxes that would have been used in that child's education. Now, reread that sentence, and tell me where it mentions religion. You're absolutely right; it doesn't.
Now, vouchers can be used at religious schools, and those schools are predominantly Catholic. But they don't have to be -- any religion can set up a school, and as long as it meets the requirements set by the state it'll do just fine. Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, you name it. If it teaches what it needs to teach for the state to consider it a school, it's fine.
You see, chruch-state separation doesn't mean "endorsement of no religion" -- it means "endorsement of no religion over the others". And since any religion has simply to get a school certified, and since no preference is given to whether a private, non-religious school gets the money vs. a parochial school, no one religion is favored. Therefore, church-state is satisfied and vouchers are constitutional. End of report.
Now, the discrimination bit. This is utterly ridiculous. Private schools have a lot of white kids. This is because black people unfortunately tend to make less money, on average, than white people. They simply couldn't afford to send their kids to private schools. Now they can. The first couple years of the voucher program, the number of students opting for it were overwhelmingly black (and other minorities).
The only people being discriminated against are the white suburbanites who don't want "those people" in their kids' school. Well, fuck the suburbanites. Give those kids a chance to learn out of books that were made after World War II and in an environment where they won't get shot at on the playground, and they just might break that cycle of black people forming a majority of the underclass.
And what about the kids who stay in the public schools? Well, there are three types:
Can't Even Learn in a Public School This probably means that the child is mentally retarded. No, seriously: the ninth-grade proficiency test actually had a question about parallel lines. And people took that test nine times and still failed. If your child can't figure out which of these sets of lines are parallel ( + ) ( X ) ( || ) ( |\ ) then he should be checked for mental problems.
Disruptive and Dangerous Hey, your kid doesn't want to learn and you don't want to help him, there's nothing I can do about it. But I'm glad the kids who don't want to be the jizz-mopper at the local peep show don't have to deal with him any more.
Stupid Parents "Well, I went to a public school and turned out OK." Sure you did. But your public school wasn't turning out an clearly inferior product 30 years ago. They've been underfunded for a decade, the crime rate at the inner city schools would make Detroit blush, and the buildings are falling apart. Why would you subject your child to something like that when you can get money from the city to send him to a real school? Don't worry though; I'm sure when your kid's a janitor making $20k a year, he'll thank you for making a political statement that kept him from working at Microsoft.
So, to sum up, let those kids learn, for Christ's sake. Nobody benefits from having a large segement of the population leave off with a sixth-grade education.
February 19, 2002:
One of the networks (ABC?) had the first two Indiana Jones movies on over the last week. I didn't think about it too much at the time I originally saw the movies, but in the marathon-ish format they were using, I got to see a little something: Spielberg was basically saying all the religions are right.
Think about it. In Raiders of the Lost Ark the Nazis find the Ark of the Covenant. They open that sucker up, and get turned into piles of goo because they're evil. Indy and his lady-friend, by not daring to look into the light coming out of the Ark, are safe. I'd say that's pretty much akin to saying the Jews had it right all along.
Then, in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom the plot revolves around the Thuggee cult -- which the Brits thought they had exterminated. The dark magic of the Thuggees works, since the leader of the cult is able to remove a man's heart and keep the man alive only to be lowered into a pit of lava. The heart, magically connected to the man, bursts into flames as well. At the end of the movie, Indy is able to defeat the leader guy by using the power of the Shankara stones, which were given by the Hindu god Shiva. Score one for Hinduism and the related wackier stuff.
Finally, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade takes the Nazis (didn't they learn last time?) and Indy in search of the Holy Grail. When found, it is shown to have kept a knight of the Crusades alive for a millennium and then heals a gunshot wound suffered by Indy's father. When those silly Nazis try to remove the Grail from the cave, against the knight's warning, the cave destroys itself, taking the bad guys with it. Oh yeah, it has a similar Nazi-nuking affect to the Ark. Score one for Christianity.
Thus, according to Spielberg's movies everyone's right. Of course there a mutually exclusive bits between religions, so it also means everybody's a bit wrong too. So, either Spielberg's trying to make a statement about how it's not the religion you choose or the means one uses to worship, as long as one does it. (Doesn't leave much room for atheists like me, though. Oh well.) Or he just needed some big mythical item for Jones and Co. to find, and you need multiple religions for enough magic to make three blockbuster movies.
February 18, 2002:
Just FYI. I probably won't be railing against silly management decisions for a while. I've had my performance review (which sounded like a pretense to firing me but that was Monday and I'm still here) and the closed ( !! ) salaray reviews will begin once all the performance reviews are done. So I'm swallowing down my bile for the time being.
When the new pay rate is established, y'all will be the first to know ;)
February 16, 2002:
During "SkaterGate" at the Olympics, they always show the same picture of the figure skating pair. The woman's hair is pulled back so tight it looks like her scalp might detach, and she's wearing what is essentially a cheerleading outfit as she skates over a giant freaking heat sink. So she always appears kinda cute, but not really cute.
Then they showed a picture of her as she recieved her gold medal, off the ice, with her hair down. She's hot.
I really hope the guy's gay -- at least then I can pretend she's available.
Update: Just so I'm not misunderstood, I'm down with the whole cheerleader outfit thing. I was trying to say that she always looks like she's freezing her ass off in that photo they show of her on-ice. For some reason, women don't look as attractive when they look like they're about to start shivering uncontrollably.
February 15, 2002:
Came in Thursday morning to find out my review had been rescheduled again. At least this time there's a plausible reason -- the boss may call one of the reviewers at any time during the day and they don't want to cut it short. Since he's out Friday, that's when the review is now scheduled for. Only seven days late.
February 14, 2002:
The sound you heard last night at about 8:30 was my jaw hitting the floor, as one of the characters on Enterprise uttered one of the silliest things I've ever heard on a TV show. Two characters are stranded in a shuttlepod with only a couple days of air left. One begins shaving, saying an officer always looks his best, and when their bodies are found he wants to be clean-shaven.
The other guy points out that, "if I remember my honors biology class correctly, your hair keeps growing after you die. I think that includes your beard." Now let's think about this for about a microsecond. What happens to your body when you die? Your heart stops. That means there are no cells in your body receiving oxygen and nutrients.
Without those things cells can last a little while, but not very long. Resource-intensive cells like those found in the brain exhaust their reserves in about four minutes, after that they're irretrievable. Other cells can go a little while longer, depending on how active they are. I'm guessing the cells in the follicles need quite a bit of energy to make the hairs grow, so they may not last more than a couple hours.
Now there's also some contraction of the skin as it dries out -- basically the reverse process of a sponge swelling up when you soak it. Combined those things may give you some five-o-clock shadow after you cash in your chips. But the guy in the show implied he'd look like a mountain man when they were found.
February 13, 2002:
I'm going nuts here. My review was postponed from last Friday to today, then to tomorrow. I still don't have more than half a day's work to do, and I just know it's going to come up.
On the up side, I'm showing off the new bug tracking database that I built (thanks to the BugZilla people for providing me with a good idea of where to start) in ASP. I guess that'll be good for something.
I should take a trip back to Akron sometime soon, just to decompress and maybe save what sanity I have.
February 12, 2002:
After the better part of a year, I've finally started assembling the database-driven portion of my fraternity's Web site. Hopefully I'll have it finished by the time CMU's Spring Carnival rolls around so I can spread the word there to get people to use it.
It's turning out to be simpler than I thought... maybe all this database stuff I'm doing at work is actually proving to be useful.
February 11, 2002:
I did a vanity search earlier today while I was trying to look busy. For those who've never done it, a vanity search is when you type your name into a search engine like Google and see where your name shows up. I show up in a lot of places, and not always by design. What can I say, Google's very thorough.
But one of the pages that came up was a story I wrote and posted on one of the Star Trek newsgroups my freshman year. Good god does my writing ever suck. Or, it did then anyway. I'd like to think I improved.
For a while, during my freshman, sophomore and junior years, I took part in an e-mail-based role-playing game that was based on extrapolation from the (then-)current Star Trek universe. I'd like to think it helped my story writing. Otherwise it was just a time-sink for three years, and I'd hate to think Ispent that much time on it to get nothing out of it. I mean, I had fun, but I'd like to have become better for all the time I invested.
It got me thinking about my writing now. It isn't storytelling, at least not in the strictest sense. It's more of a one-sided conversation. And I've noticed that my style is very derivative of other frequently-updated sites. Spinnwebe and Not My Desk seem to be the sites with styles most similar to mine. Makes sense, since I read both of them on a regular basis and the writers seem to share many of my personality traits.
So while you're cruising around the Web with nothing to do (hey, you're here, aren't you?) go ahead and check them out. If you like my stuff, you'll probably like theirs too.
And feel free to check the first Brain Farts, starting on April 2nd, 2001, to see if this constant writing has done anything for me in the skills department.
February 09, 2002:
I was watching the Star Trek: The Next Generation reruns on TNN and saw an episode that I remembered (this isn't an odd occurrance; I remember almost all of them). I remembered that I thought the episode wasn't terribly good, but wanted a second opinion. Since I'm the only hard-core Trekkie that I know I turned to the Internet.
I found a Web archive of Tim Lynch's reviews of just about every Next Generation ep. When I first started at CMU I read the reviews on rec.atrs.startrek.misc. It was a nice regression to a time before I realized how badly hosed I was.
And it turns out he continued writing reviews well after TNG went off the air: He has online reviews of every movie from The Undiscovered Country through 1998's Insurrection.
I'll have to check out the site when Star Trek X comes out.
February 08, 2002:
I was flicking through the channels just now and saw an article on Inside Edition about cheating wives. Nothing's on, so what the hell, right?
At the end of the article they bring on a marriage counselor who says to the husbands out there watching, if you pay attention to your wife she's likely not to cheat.
Stop. Rewind. Read that another way and she said, if your wife cheats on you, you weren't paying attention to her.
Can you imagine the uproar it would have caused if the article had been about cheating husbands? "Ladies, pay attention to your man or he'll sleep around." No way, not happening. If a man cheats it's because he's a cad.
But if a woman cheats it's because hubby was inattentive. Man cheats, man's fault. Woman cheats, man's fault. What the fuck?
February 07, 2002:
My review's tomorrow. I was hoping to have a Super-Fun review -- walk in with my letter of resignation and spend 90 minutes going into great detail about why I'm dissatisfied and leaving. But that implies I have a new job lined up, which I don't. I've been looking for half a year now and I've got nothin'.
So now I have to spend an hour and a half grovelling for better pay or even justifying being kept around. They just hired another Web programmer and I had a lot of downtime last week. So my job search may get kicked into high gear tomorrow afternoon.
Or maybe I'm just being paranoid and I'll get a raise. And get paid a couple thousand a year more than dick.
February 06, 2002:
I had a few people cancel on my Super Bowl party. Two of them are my coworkers, who missed three and a half days of work between them, and the other two were my coworkers' SO's, one of whom was also sick. So my party was cut from eight to four. Meaning I have a lot of leftover chili.
I just hope I can find someone to help me eat the stuff before it goes bad. Rotten chili is not a pretty sight.
February 05, 2002:
Two more great ones from the Super Bowl:
Kevin Bacon tries to make a purchase, the clerk asks for ID.
Kevin: "Wait a minute."
[Various shots of Kevin rounding people up and returning to the store.]
Kevin: "I was in a movie with [some name] as an extra, ...."
[Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon -- I'm sorry, I just can't remember it all]
Kevin: ".... and she used to go out with you. So you see, we're practically brothers."
[Clerk stares blankly at Kevin]
Wife: "Honey, I've got the black teddy on."
Husband [watching TV]: "Yeah, uh-huh."
[Ed. note: No TV show has ever been that good.]
Wife: "I put the satin sheets on the bed."
Husband: [non-committal grunt]
Wife: "I've got Bud Light."
[Husband jumps up, charges up the stairs, runs into the bedroom, jumps onto the bed, slides across the satin sheets and goes out the window.]
[Cut to exterior shot, Wife looking out window. A pair of boxers is hanging from a tree branch.]
Wife: "Honey, are you OK?"
February 04, 2002:
I wouldn't have believed it if someone had told me before the game, but the Patriots beat The Greatest Show on Turf, 20-17 last night. Congrats, guys.
February 02, 2002:
As soon as I told people here at work that I like a certain TV show (Smallville, on the WB) that night's show turned out to be a rerun of one of the worst episodes of the season.
February 01, 2002:
I wholeheartedly recommend these products for the simple fact that their commercials kick ass. There'll probably be more on the way once the Super Bowl happens on Sunday.
Mother and pre-teen daughter are driving baby sister around in car.
Daughter: "Why am I named Savannah?"
Mother: "It's where you were conceived, dear."
Daughter: "So how'd Concorde get her name?" [Looks at Concorde name plate on the glove box] "Eeeeeww!"
Samuel Adams Beer:
Three friends are talking to dating guy.
DG: "I'm not showing you the tape, no way."
Friends: "Aw, c'mon." "Why not?" etc.
DG: "No. Forget it. Let's just go out." [Drinks some Sam Adams and zones out] "What was I saying?"
[Friends exchange "aw, yeah" looks]
[Cut to friends and DG watching a TV]
Woman's Voice: "Oh! Oooooohhh!"
DG: "She does yoga..."