# 01 May 2006, 03:10PM: Doug Rushkoff & Amar Chitra Katha:
"...comics from India about the early life of Krishna and Buddha. This is stuff they developed in the 70's, to teach kids about their religions. And much of it was in English. So I really liked that stuff...."
# 01 May 2006, 03:34PM: Observations:
Strawberry ice cream made from fresh-picked strawberries really is better.
Leonard's mother's brothers resemble Leonard startlingly.
Mass media stories about the issues in my life right now don't feel on point. Arguments about outsourcing to India or immigration reform do have a more personal impact. But all the Oregon election handwringing or CNN special reports on AIDS in the world feel far, far away right now, far away from the logistics of Frances's last days.
# 04 May 2006, 01:17AM: Back:
I've returned to New York after a short visit with Frances and other members of Leonard's family, now my family as well, in Bakersfield. If I think too much about how I'm going to miss Frances, or the illusory concept of justice, I'll just start crying again. So I won't talk about that right now.
# 04 May 2006, 12:51PM: Enjoying A Fine Chabon:
Despite feints to the contrary, neither Leonard nor I has read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. Leonard gave it to me to read on the plane(s) back from Bakersfield. I felt gauche reading it in public but now, 2/3 into it, I don't even mind people seeing me read it on the subway. Maybe a good strategy for me with these pop books is to start reading them at home so I get hooked enough to be ok with looking like an illiterate fool on public transit.
Chabon really loves the word "spavined" -- maybe the big twist ending will be where he finally uses it to describe a horse. That is my only carp (Karp?) with this book.
# 05 May 2006, 05:07PM:
Rest in peace, Frances.
# 05 May 2006, 05:21PM: "The World Should Stop":
"I can't imagine what it must have been like to see everyone stop, to see the hats come off one by one, to see the women hush their children.
"Just for a moment, the whole world would stop, like you think it should when a loved one dies."
# 06 May 2006, 12:31PM: Advice:
Some advice I've gotten recently:
"When your kid starts talking about Web 4.0, send him to his room."
"Try to put the other person [in your marriage] first; don't be selfish."
"A person's sexuality changes over time, through childhood and adulthood."
I go back to Jon Carroll again and again.
"It was for the best," we say, although sometimes it was not for the best, and no, I don't want a hug right now, or a consoling quote from Rumi or the Bible. The five stages of grief are a highly artificial construct, and I do not for a moment think they represent some universal law. I do know there is one stage of grief. It's called, "Well, God damn it to hell, that sucks big time." Lather, rinse, repeat.
THE ONLY WAY out of the sadness box is love. Not someone loving you, although that sure helps. But really, it's you discovering the urge to love that still lives within you. Sometimes this is very hard, but it is work that needs doing. There is still music and sunshine and balloons and a mechanical gorilla that plays the "Macarena." (I have one of the latter.)
I do believe that love is not an emotion. There are all sorts of emotions that resemble love -- lust, pity, compassion, trust -- but they are not the same thing. Love is a series of actions, actions often taken against self- interest. Love involves walking it like you talk it. Love involves generosity of spirit. Love involves sacrifice. Love is not for sissies.
# 06 May 2006, 02:45PM: Freaking Mouse:
Aaaaargh. I hate hate hate having a mouse in the apartment. I don't know what's worse, seeing it or not knowing where it is.
# 08 May 2006, 12:45AM: Viewer Discretion & Tissues Advised:
I can't get this poignant safer-sex ad out of my head.
# 08 May 2006, 10:00AM: Live, In These United States!:
I'm wearing my wedding pants today. They are the only pair of white pants I own. I have to do laundry.
Overseas Indian customer service representatives are the only ones who can pronounce my last name on the first try.
I feel so much more comfortable in New York now that I know someone who's transitioning genders. I feel more at home.
# 10 May 2006, 11:44AM: Transliteracy:
I didn't realize until today that Babelfish translates English to and from two kinds of Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portugese, Russian, and Spanish, at least well enough to decipher an out-of-office autoreply.
# 10 May 2006, 12:25PM: Sad Bookstore News:
A Clean Well-Lighted Place For Books is looking for a buyer, and Cody's on Telegraph, where I worked for almost a year, is closing. There'll still be the Fourth Street and San Francisco locations, but it's a punch in the gut nonetheless.
# 12 May 2006, 01:29AM: "I hate the UN so much!":
Super News! amuses me greatly. I laughed out loud at the end of "Wacky Saddam Trial."
# 12 May 2006, 05:32AM: Joke:
Babak told me a knock-knock joke the other day. It really only works if you do it in a non-US accent.
George W. Bush!
George W. Bush.
George W. Bush who?
George W. Bush, the President of the United States of America!
I still find it funny, but I doubt it'll become the next Interrupting Cow. I must point you as well to a funnier knock-knock joke and a funnier Bush joke.
# 15 May 2006, 05:01PM: Fame:
Some Fog Creekers made a fast-paced movie (2 minutes, 15 seconds) to demo some new features in FogBugz 5.0, which launches today.
# 16 May 2006, 08:06PM: Dumb Spying Gives Us Neither Security Nor Liberty:
An NYT article on why the tremendous civil liberty invasion by the NSA does us no good at all. Such a stupid wide-net ploy and for basically zero gain. The only things it facilitates are bad, anti-democratic (small d) power grabs. It makes me sick.
# 17 May 2006, 02:02PM: More Screencasting Screenhogging:
A visit to Fog Creek; I discuss the Fog Creek Software Management Training Program with Betsy Weber of TechSmith.
# 17 May 2006, 02:15PM: Three Equals Three Except After E:
Coworker 1, futzing with double-precision or floating-point or something: "Does 3 equal 3?"
Coworker 2, immediately: "Sometimes."
Me, cracking up: "Coworker 1, did you ask that just to try to get Coworker 2 to make an absolute statement?"
Coworker 2: "What I said was absolutely true."
# 19 May 2006, 05:17PM: Things I Like About Myself:
- Keep my nails short
- Almost always honest & straightforward
- can make jokes
- am finally, finally, goddammit, learning to listen to other people
- hold on, this is supposed to be a self-affirming list
- am basically pretty
- so why don't guys hit on me
- is it because I'm married now
- no, it didn't happen even before I wore the ring
- stop it stop it stop it
- pretty good metacognition
# 20 May 2006, 10:56AM: Just What I Needed:
Last night I went to a Mike Daisey show about Tesla, which was very good of course, and I'm really looking forward to next week's conclusion of his "Great Men of Genius" series (L. Ron Hubbard -- catch it while you can).
But I felt unsatisfied, and didn't want to go home just yet. I took a train back into Manhattan, shepherding two non-English-speaking strangers to their destination. On my way out of the train station, I had one of those awful ambiguous trying-to-do-the-right-thing moments with a borderline domestic violence scene.
I wandered through the East Village and veered towards the Lower East side, ate some veg lasagna and finished volume two of Fables. What was I looking for? Comedy? Music? An air of camaraderie, relief from my errors, someplace to be impressed instead of impressing others.
Around ten till midnight, I came across a cinema about to show The Great Muppet Caper. Of course!
It was FANTASTIC.
# 20 May 2006, 01:32PM: MC Masala, and Something Laughworthy:
I'll start with a taxonomy that made me laugh (caution: it's raunchy).
Some columns I've written lately (tardy because of ANG technical problems):
From April: Scheme, scheming, and geek authenticity and getting married -- a shock to one who thought she knew me (viz., me).
From May: Bug tracking for the soul.
How secure are you? Do you encourage people to find errors in your work so you can correct them? Do you welcome even brusque or picayune reports of your mistakes?
If you're a programmer, you don't have a choice. Or, rather, your choice is between welcoming bug reports or distributing very buggy software.
Every day I marvel at my colleagues' ability to separate themselves from their work when users point out its shortcomings.
Fred Brooks called it "egoless programming." I'd like to see "egoless writing" or "egoless governing" as often as I see programmers congratulate users or testers for finding their bugs.
I've been soliciting advice from married people.
Upon hearing a guy sing the praises of honesty, a woman chimed in to say, "But if you cheat on your spouse, don't tell him just to make yourself feel better."
The rest of the folks at the table suggested that a person in that situation had already disregarded another, more crucial bit of advice.
And something else that would be comically absurd if it weren't heartbreaking: An Iranian girl defends herself from an attempted rape, and is sentenced to death. Nazanin Mahabad Fatehi will almost certainly die before she sees another winter. If not her, another equally innocent Iranian girl.
# 20 May 2006, 02:20PM: An Archaeopteryx And A Pig:
Poet Jim Fisher (a.k.a. Mountain Goats fan Jim Fisher) is finishing up a two-year poetry fellowship at Stanford. He pointed me to a cutting Billy Collins poem about workshopping poetry -- oh man, no code review in the realm of software could ever be as meaningless as workshopping poetry, could it?
and tells us that words are food thrown down
on the ground for other words to eat.
Billy Collins is pretty attractive. You know who else is surprisingly attractive? The younger Charles Grodin, who plays villain Nicky Holliday in The Great Muppet Caper. I jested while buying my ticket, "Is this rated R? Do I need to show ID? There is some serious man-pig love in this one, you know." And I'd forgotten how strong and disturbing Holliday's attraction to Miss Piggy is. Man, when do you see that sort of raw passion in the movies these days?
# 20 May 2006, 02:40PM: Amusing, Amusing, AAAAAGH:
"This guy's incredible."
Cynical, topical, addictive.
Finally, in March of 2004, the CIA figured out they had screwed up. Masri's passport was genuine, and he was just some poor unemployed schmoe who had had a fight with his wife. But they kept him for two more months anyway because they weren't sure what to do.
# 21 May 2006, 02:30PM: The Customer Is Always The Customer:
Sometimes I wish I could defend "Keep it Simple, Stupid" with flair and confidence to people who think they need things that they probably don't. Folks who say "the customer is always right" have almost never worked retail. 99% of the customers are right; the 1% that are incandescently wrong bat off all attempts at reasonableness.
How do you kindly tell a prospective customer, "You are looking for something that our product does not and will not do"? It helps if you weren't trying to sell your product in the first place. Christopher Petrilli, a user of the open-source bugtracker Trac, writes about its ease of use and consequent design tradeoffs.
Honestly, if you can't trust your developers to set the box on a
ticket to the right setting and need a nanny to do this for you, then
you have problems infinately worse than lack of "workflow".....
Just my two cents, but if this is your "deciding factor," then I think
you need to re-think your evaluation priorities......
Again, Trac isn't all-things-to-all-people, and so if you absosmurfly
must have a formal workflow system, then I suspect you're going to
need to look elsewhere.
Basically, I have been doing corporate customer service long enough that I find clear and straightforward "We won't do that and your premises are wrong" answers extraordinarily refreshing. I'm still trying to figure out why the Trac and PuTTY examples feel fresh and the 37 Signals "It Just Doesn't Matter" post feels grating and arrogant.
# 21 May 2006, 02:54PM: MC Masala on "House, M.D.":
Would you rather work with an affable incompetent, or with the most abrasive genius ever?
Software developers, the stereotype goes, have House-ish characteristics: They don't care about their colleagues' emotions and see everyone who does as unduly delicate and probably incompetent. The common term for directing hacker scorn at a "suit" or a "drone" is "flipping the bozo bit." Once a programmer has decided you are a bozo, his mental processes ignore everything you say. But Dr. House goes one step further. He doesn't care how others feel, not because he's socially inept, but because he sociopathically manipulates everyone, including his closest friend.
# 22 May 2006, 04:59PM: You Never Expect Burlesque:
Leonard is back! The era of buying airplane tickets two days in advance is (I hope) over!
Last night I saw Dara and her friend Amina, and we stayed up too late talking; now my body has its revenge! Leonard is making sickbed soup but with lime and chili instead of HotLime sauce. I emailed in sick to work. When I called to check in, my boss reminded me that Fog Creek has unlimited sick days to make sure I get well fast instead of working sick and infecting others. Oh yeah, I work for the best company ever, sometimes I forget.
On Saturday night, I went to see Slightly Known People, and their guest, The Bitter Poet, recited funny poems. And his sidekick did burlesque. I was not prepared.
# 23 May 2006, 11:51AM: "That does not seem like a good 'why.'":
The most permissive laws ever are not good enough for the Bush Administration.
To boil it down mathematically, if you had an arrangement by which you could f*** other women, then three days later tell your wife, and 98% of the time your wife said "Sure, whatever," you would still be working under stricter rules than the FISA law.
# 27 May 2006, 11:48PM: Hot Queens Nights:
Temperatures this weekend will hit the mid-eighties. Makes me want to carry an ice-water bath around town with me.
# 28 May 2006, 12:05AM: More Data in the Jerkitude Debate:
"What is more dangerous: fear or arrogance?"
Answer: They both suck. What you prefer: a poke in the left or the right eye? If you prefer, I'll take arrogance, at least arrogant people have the courage to act, and in the process, might get served humble pie.
I think it is very important for you to do two things: act on your temporary conviction as if it was a real conviction; and when you realize that you are wrong, correct course very quickly.
# 28 May 2006, 12:58AM: The Thick Of It:
Now that The West Wing, Enterprise, and the best seasons of Good Eats have finished, and House has gone on summer hiatus, what shall Leonard and I watch? He doesn't care for The Daily Show as I do, and TiVo insists on recording gardening shows and pop science news as suggestions.
I've been watching The Thick of It on BBC America. The ads, which got me to start, say that it's The West Wing-meets-The Office. My bosses love The Office; I've seen about half an episode, and assume that someday I'll watch the whole British run and think it's amazing. The last West Wing, like the last Enterprise, built up suspense about a crucial text -- a speech, a letter -- and then never revealed it. Someday I'll watch all of Sorkin's Sports Night and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and the ache of those non-Sorkin West Wings will fade. In the meantime, the makers of The Thick of It describe it as Larry Sanders-meets-Yes, Minister, which feels more accurate. Oh man, Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister were awesome.
Anyway, I'm enjoying The Thick of It. It has clever dialogue and the tremendously handsome Oliver Reeder (Chris Addison with Harry Potter glasses on). Costar Chris Langham helped write many episodes of The Muppet Show (!) and had this to say about the partly-improv style:
I share with Peter a fear of improvisation, because I'm frightened of being caught out, of people seeing that I'm actually not very good at what I do. The thing about doing an improvised piece is that there's no time for technique. What's brilliant about Armando deciding to do it in this way is that we were sort of replicating what it must be like to actually be in government. One gets the impression that day-to-day life in a ministry is much more kick, bollock and scramble than it is five-year plan. So the terror of improvisation really fuels the reality of that energy. Politicians are driven by the fear of 'What do I say next?' That look of terror in my eyes is exactly the look of terror in the eyes of most politicians on most days.
By the way, the angry guy in The Thick of It looks like the raver from Spaced but they're not the same guy.
The situations and the people in The Thick of It don't resound with originality, but the dialogue does. That's worth it, for me.
# 28 May 2006, 06:46PM: MC Masala on Waiting for Marriage:
In which I quote Loving v. Virginia and list off marriage perks.
I'm lucky. Narrowly speaking, I'm lucky because New York's waiting period is short; New Hampshire makes you wait three days. More broadly, I'm lucky because I live in 2006, so no one so much as blinks at my interracial and interfaith marriage where no one's changing his name or leaving her job.
# (4) 29 May 2006, 01:06PM: Someone Should Start This Business:
I do not have an army of rights and permissions lawyers. I didn't when I was devising a curriculum and teaching a class, and I don't now that I'm writing a column. I bet lots of writers, artists, teachers, musicians, small businesses, and so on wish they could pay someone else to take care of the crazyquilt intellectual property compliance so they can get on with their work.
There should be some sort of clearinghouse service so I could pay them -- monthly, yearly, per cleared work of art, per permission plus commission, whatever -- to do the messy legal work and give me peace of mind. Maybe it would even count as due diligence to hire them, and hiring them would protect me against negligence charges. And maybe it could just be online, or maybe it could be a national brick-and-mortar chain like H&R Block.
I figure it would work like this: I show up at their office (I already have an account with them) and I give them my unpublished piece. I tell them every allusion, borrowing, quote, etc. that I think I've used, and what information I already have about the sources. ("This is from the Ben Folds song Blah, this is from the Thomas Hardy novel Pier to Bavaria, this is a quote from Gavin Gunhold's poem Registration Day, this is a quote from the Starr Report.") And I tell them what sort of venue it would be published or displayed in, so they could get the right permissions. Then they track down the owners and get the permissions and bill me.
As you can see, I don't really know what's involved in the "getting the permissions" but I'm sure it's messy. So I don't have the expertise to start this business. Does it already exist? Should someone start it? H&R Block makes money by outsourcing compliance with the baroque tax code, so why shouldn't someone make money by outsourcing compliance with the baroque intellectual property system? Until Creative Commons wins and we get something sensible, of course.
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# 29 May 2006, 02:40PM: Leonard Quote:
I asked, in our incredibly hot apartment, "Why are only some of your [shirt] buttons buttoned?"
Response: "Oh, I take life as it comes."
Cogito, Ergo Sumana by Sumana Harihareswara is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
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