# (1) 01 Dec 2007, 03:55PM: No Way That's Ruby On Rails:
You Know You're A Geek When you see a trailer for Untraceable and immediately wonder what sort of infrastructure can scale like that.
Also, the government could just make up a copyright infringement claim and send a DMCA takedown notice.
# (4) 01 Dec 2007, 04:57PM: My Upcoming Bollywood Masterpiece, "Dil Pyaar Kya He," Will Not Suffer From Such Flaws:
When I was at Fog Creek, around the time Firewall came out, someone proposed a movie night of films that get the internet hilariously wrong (relevant Penny Arcade cartoon). The air of lunchtime grew light with laughter and we soon saw that one night would not be enough.
After discovering Untraceable, I started compiling a list via memory and IMDB tags for "website" and "internet." Hoo boy.
For a chaser: the 2001 documentary Startup.com, probably just as agonizing but because it's true.
I feel as though I'm missing some big pre-existing list. So what am I missing? I'm thinking films, usually thrillers, where some implausible feature or missing feature of current technology is a core plot device.
# (3) 02 Dec 2007, 12:08PM: "Firefly" Jokes:
Today Leonard is having his yearly backup Thanksgiving. I say "his" because it's really his idea and his motive, although I do get to eat lots of stuffing. I get leftovers twice! It's great. And he makes famous sweet potatoes!
Anyway, I am reminded of the primary Thanksgiving we had this year, where I saw all of Firefly with my sister and husband. Our more durable jests:
- Anytime we saw Inara's quarters, especially after "Jaynestown" halfway through the series, I intoned: "Pan-Asian Theatre now continues."
- In "Shindig," when Atherton Wing angrily gestures with Inara to leave the ball with him, Leonard supplied his line: "My arm! Candyless!?"
- In "Jaynestown," the youngster asks Inara whether he isn't supposed to be a man, now that he's mated. Inara says, "A man is just a boy who's old enough to ask that question." I added: "And kill a tiger."
# 02 Dec 2007, 01:30PM: Don't Forget Umbrellas From The Boo.com Accessory Wall:
Today I imitated Heidi Klum.
"Top American designer Michael Kors....Nina Garcia, fashion editor for Elle Magazine...and our guest judge, Mary Poppins."
# (1) 05 Dec 2007, 04:05PM: More Taboo Wizardry:
Leonard was trying to get us to guess "TV Guide." He said it was an empirical method for discovering what's on. I shouted, "Calling a guy?"
Evan heard this and suggested we make a Taboo card for the phrase "Calling A Guy", where one of the Taboo phrases is "empirical method."
# 06 Dec 2007, 12:03PM: Wishlist:
Oh yeah, end-of-year gift-giving season. My wishlist begins with charity. I am lucky enough to be well-off. I married a guy with a lucrative career, I was born in the US in the twentieth century to middle-class strivers who pushed me to make something of myself, and so all the needs on the lowest levels of my need hierarchy are taken care of. All my troubles are in the realm of career and emotion. So -- here's the Charity Navigator holiday giving guide.
# 06 Dec 2007, 12:27PM: Upcoming Heather Gold Show:
In the middle of my finals so I shouldn't go, but you should; the Law Project has serious promise.
# 06 Dec 2007, 11:56PM: Sociability:
For three nights in a row I have hobnobbed with people in suits to exchange business cards. I have been telling them that I am seeking a project management role in a small, flat organization where I'll listen to users, translate business needs into technical action plans, and coordinate developers who create sites, services, or products that have a chance of making someone smile.
It can be difficult to translate my set of preferences and peeves into a specific and positive objective. I love conversing, and in conversation one can take a few sentences, gauge a partner's empathy for said peeves and prefs, and clarify them with vivid descriptions. The one-way static text of my resume just isn't as social. The resume's necessary, but I'd rather hobnob, even if it means I have to put my nice shoes on.
# 07 Dec 2007, 03:03AM: Question Time:
The Wednesday night mingling happened after a talk at the Columbia business school. One of the speakers: Martin Sorrell, whom everyone called "Sir Martin" since the Queen knighted him, even though we're in the US where titles of nobility cut no ice. Supposedly it's the polite thing to do, but I wish I'd just called him "Mr. Sorrell" instead of going with the flow and calling him "Sir Martin." He's just a guy who looks like if Harlan Ellison had Christopher Hitchens's face and a broken nose. If Douglas Adams never got a "Sir" then why should this guy?
It was later pointed out to me that he's an incredibly rich guy, one who over 22 years built WPP, the leading advertising firm in the world. But I'd never heard of it or him until the professor who organized the gig started raving about his catch, and gleefully wishing one of us would have the courage to ask Sorrell about his succession plan. I volunteered, since I didn't see what would be so brave about it.
Sorrell didn't mention, but I later heard, that he's divorced and has no children. When I asked the question, he first joked that he had to leave the room, then more seriously noted that the company's succession planning had found internal candidates who would be able to run WPP, externally and internally, as well as he had.
But! Other points of his: No one will run the firm quite as he does, and that's fine. Founding and running businesses are different skillsets and it's rare to find both in one person. He felt the lust for scale, the urge to grow his business to epic heights. Starting a business is the closest a man can come to having a baby.
Hmmm. There is a stereotype that women lavish(ed) ruinous attention on their children because other avenues of self-expression and achievement are/were closed to us. But I hadn't considered the reverse.
# 07 Dec 2007, 09:06PM: Instant Comedy:
While riding public transit or what have you, visibly reading a copy of The Prince imbues all your other actions and aspects with new weight. It's comic shorthand on the level of having a character buy an enema as part of some varied selection at the drugstore.
# 08 Dec 2007, 02:17AM: Probably Pictures of Me In There:
A few years ago, I lugged a fairly comprehensive set of issues of Amerikannada to the UC Berkeley South Asian Studies collection. Amerikannada, the literary magazine my parents ran for several years, printed fiction and nonfiction by the Kannada-speaking diaspora in the States, so we figured that donating a run to Berkeley might do a good turn to some future researcher.
Today I did a WorldCat search to find libraries anywhere in the world that stock it. (By the way, WorldCat saved me eighty bucks on a terrible textbook this semester; I got it via interlibrary loan instead of buying it.) The answer: the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, and Berkeley. Scarcity shouldn't make me feel good, but I'm glad my weightlifting massively increased the chances of someone west of the Mississippi being able to look at my parents' opus.
# (1) 11 Dec 2007, 08:12AM: In Which Sumana Suggests That Jumping Off A Cliff Might Prove Beneficial:
I take a quick break from writing about a new technology strategy for TJX to mention something interesting about the job quest.
Given that I really enjoy helping people learn, achieve their goals, and create cool things, and that people do not seem to flee from my approach, and that I have an affinity for software, tech management is a good (and possibly lucrative) path for me. You've heard of the Value(able)s, Talents, Skills Venn diagram? I'm doing what makes sense: starting at the intersection of my talents and what the market values, and using that drive to get better at the domain-specific skillset.
I don't have any experience on my resume that says MANAGER in the title, other than about a year of stage-managing Heather Gold's one-woman show, I Look Like An Egg, But I Identify As A Cookie. But I have a bunch of experience in managing projects and teams. I was an editor on the high school newspaper for three years, after years of being editor-in-chief for other school papers. Quiz Bowl captain. Technical director and sometime producer/adviser for John Morearty's weekly TV show, Talking It Through, rising from camera operator. Creator and teacher of two UC Berkeley courses for three semesters. Not to mention various projects at Salon and Fog Creek.
But getting all this across to someone who only sees a resume (and possibly a short cover letter, if it hasn't been stripped off by the time it crosses her desk) is tough. So I meet people in meatspace and socially network so that my applications have more of a chance on the first reading, and I apply to nonprofits and startups where the big cheeses are more likely to take a chance on a smart, promising twentysomething.
And I'm young and childless and I want a career-building step, not just a job for money, so I'm more able to take those jobs. Or to start a startup with someone, speaking of taking a chance. Let me know if you've been aching to ask me to partner with you. I'm just woozy enough this morning to consider it.
# 11 Dec 2007, 01:37PM: Coincidence:
Listening to a Smithsonian Folkways record, "If You Ain't Got the Do-Re-Mi," full of songs about riches and poverty. While I write about high finance. Here's hoping for synchrony and not dissonance.
# 11 Dec 2007, 10:14PM: Evidently:
An exercise in understanding leverage, comparing the debt financing for Nordstrom and TJX, is a popular case study among business folk. At least that's what the web tells me.
# (4) 12 Dec 2007, 11:27AM: Collection of SkyMall (TravelMall) Humor:
SkyMall has inspired a lot of parodies and homages. There's the SkyMaul book and the Coulton song, item-by-item mockery, a Penny Arcade comic, more of an essay, and airplane-travel-specific item-by-item mockery. Those are the links I've collected over the past few months; if you know of more good SkyMall (or TravelMall if you're on a bus or train) humor, post it in the comments.
Also: if you run out of Rachel Chalmers, read her old Advogato diary.
# (2) 13 Dec 2007, 12:22PM: Things You Think Are Funny When You're Stressed:
and about to take a business management final.
Also, introducing my colleagues to the client: "John, I'm really glad you brought us on board. You already know my colleagues, Killer, Spike, Tug, S***face, and Bill. You've done a great job on operational efficiency...."
Now one of my three classes for the semester is done, as of about 9pm last night. I'll be done with the semester by the 22nd.
# 16 Dec 2007, 09:40AM: Odd One Out:
Things I've suggested that have not been received well in my classes:
- If your boss asks what you think of your counterpart at the company you're about to acquire, and he's as good as or better than you, you have a responsibility to say that instead of subtly undermining the new guy.
- Salary transparency within an organization. Everyone knows what everyone else is making. This one got a really vehement "That just isn't DONE!" reaction.
- When are accounting principles going to get completely overhauled to recognize the non-fungible importance of people and information? Or at least the fuzziness of the line between cost of goods sold and operating expenses in knowledge industries?
- Sumana: Practicing our defense speeches would make them better! So I'm holding a practice session.
Other People: Great! Good idea!
Sumana: I mean, yeah, no one's presentation will be perfect when we practice, but even if you just have a fraction of a proto-speech, no slides, it's better to try it out in front of people and get feedback early. Fail faster. Rapid prototyping. Agile. Stop procrastinating and get some small useful bit of work done on it right away and start improving!
Other people: Absolutely. Glad you're putting it on. Great idea.
Sumana: So you're coming, right?
Other people: Ehhh, it's not ready yet.
# (4) 16 Dec 2007, 08:57PM: Presents For You:
I won a present from Kameron Hurley and as such I present a present offer for you as well.
The first three people who leave a comment on this blog entry will get a gift from me within the next year. I don't yet know what it will be but it might be neat! And the only restriction is that you have to pay it forward by making a similar offer on your own journal/weblog/regularly updated internet presence.
This is a neater meme than most because:
# (2) 17 Dec 2007, 02:19PM: Powerpoint Karaoke: Best Practices:
Danny O'Brien mentioned this concept and tried it out at a conference several months ago. So Leonard and I playtested it at Backup Thanksgiving (photos) at our apartment, with several of our friends. One of them, a hacker with a drama degree from NYU, mentioned that it's similar to acting exercises, which makes sense since this is a species of improv.
Before you play, you should do technical/logistical prepwork and select some Powerpoint slide sets ("decks") for the victims' use.
Technical/logistical: make sure there'll be at least 6 people participating -- 1 host/slidemover/timekeeper, 1 player, at least 4 audience members. I used a kitchen timer where I could set it to count down from some number of minutes. Make sure the video hookup to the laptop/computer works ahead of time.
Slide research: go to slideshare.net and bookmark a variety of decks. Languages the speaker doesn't know are GREAT. Leonard had success doing searches for buzzwords and jargon, but you could do well with art analysis as well. Look for decks that have around 10 or 20 slides each, with clip-art visuals & some text, and for a variety of topics -- not just all Web 2.0 stuff. Avoid:
- Decks full of text with no pictures -- novices find themselves reading out loud instead of talking on their own
- Decks shorter than 10 slides of simple stock photos -- it's hard for a novice to hang a funny narrative on them
- Parody decks -- we got taken in by one!
For play: give each volunteer a time limit. Half as many minutes as there were slides worked for us, and going over 7 minutes got boring. If the slides run out but there's still time, have a Q&A!
Some slides suck in boring ways, but nearly every slide can turn into gold. I boo at on players who completely skip slides without giving at least a joking explanation.
Alternate versions that we didn't try:
- Give the player a random topic that has to be the theme of her presentation.
- "Translator": an improv exercise where one person gives the talk, slide by slide, in a gibberish language, and someone else "translates" into English. Akin to "chicken chicken chicken," I think.
And tell me how it goes!
# 19 Dec 2007, 08:56PM: Winding Up, Winding Down:
My two regular classes this semester are finished, final papers and tests handed in. But on Saturday I turn in and defend Chapter 2 of my business plan/thesis in front of three judges (industry executives). Plus I've been networking, interviewing for jobs, etc., which are ongoing and include an interview this Friday.
Last night and this morning I played the disciplinary force getting Adam and Sabrina (who are moving soon and needed to pack) to keep the critical path clear. They tend to stay up till 4 or 5 a.m., where Leonard and I think it's a late night if we watch The Colbert Report live. At least I have a chance to catch up on sleep before getting questioned two days in a row.
# (2) 20 Dec 2007, 10:11AM: Don We Now Our Gay Agenda:
I shouldn't blog too much between now and about 10:30 Saturday morning, so maybe you'd enjoy my del.icio.us links. The last few weeks include a music video that's "Oblique Strategies" for kids with a rockin' beat, video podcast recommendations for use with the Miro Guide (and to kill time during the writers' strike), a guide to the 5 basic forms of fraud, free ska MP3s, and a zillion comic bookmarks as I read my way through the entire Unshelved archive.
Yesterday I realized that I know three people -- Brendan, Mel, and Dara -- who are nomads right now.
Via Jason Kottke, an annotated list of movies coming out next year, including one that's just a series of fake trailers. Sadly it's not called A Perfect Vacuum, which is what Apple should call its Quicktime trailers showcase. Apple sucks -- you in!
I was hoping I might get Mr. Chadwick to comment when I dissed GAAP with regard to knowledge industries. Maybe now he'll bite on the "five kinds of fraud" link. And Susie says I have just the right number of presents awaiting me, but I know I should really only consider them a bonus contingent on a "meets expectations" performance review from Santa. (Santa should really be meeting with these kids in January to set goals and agree on metrics.) So, off to be a good girl and make real spreadsheets that virtually reflect the hypothetical reality of my hypothetical business. And my "go-to-market" plan, which should not involve any little piggies.
# (1) 22 Dec 2007, 07:00AM: A Three-Hour Terror:
Maybe someday I will be less nervous/anticipatory on the first day of school or a new job, or test days. Maybe someday my body won't wake me at an hour or three early with a twisty stomach. Not today, though!
In a few hours I "defend" the second chapter of my business plan/thesis using OpenOffice Impress slides (converted to PowerPoint in case the school's computers are willfully ignorant of open file formats), a spreadsheet (was a .ods, now a .xls), and my natural wit and guile. From now till then -- practice, and breakfast if my gut will allow it. Maybe baby food would work.
# (1) 22 Dec 2007, 03:10PM: DONE:
with the semester, and listening to "This Year" by The Mountain Goats.
# 24 Dec 2007, 02:14AM: Goodwill:
Another response to an old pal, this one more than a year in the waiting.
Last year, Zed Lopez criticized me for being -- as I perceived it -- pro-happiness, pro-togetherness, pro-tolerance etc. I'd enjoyed some language in a speech by Barack Obama on religion and politics. Mr. Lopez, among others, was unhappy with the talk because they thought he was being too soft on those who want to increase or legitimize the role of Christianity in public life.
I don't dispute that religious fundamentalism is real and dangerous in the US. And it's not like I've always been on the winning side of the culture wars.
At the time, I was basically happy with Obama's speech because of my preference for civility and hope -- Mr. Obama had made a speech that I read as pro-hope and pro-connection, as Walter Holland put more eloquently at the time. Andrew Sullivan* in The Atlantic Monthly this month:
To be able to express this kind of religious conviction without disturbing or alienating the growing phalanx of secular voters, especially on the left, is quite an achievement.
But Mr. Sullivan's not getting that right, because Obama did alienate secular voters with that speech. And Mr. Lopez was one of them. He saw the speech as "advocating not being so darn persnickety about keeping religion out of school and government." What? No! At least, 90% of the speech wasn't about that. More on the other 10% in a few paragraphs.
I think part of what Mr. Obama was saying was that we have a natural tendency to listen better to people who make an effort to connect to our legitimate sentiments. To take that further, I have a natural tendency to listen a little better to people who don't literally insult me. In explaining his distaste for Mr. Obama's message, Mr. Lopez linked to Patrick Nielsen Hayden, who, admittedly as a wounded person the day after the 2004 election, blew up at me for no fault of mine. And scorn, cross words, etc. are usual for him. So I was discounting his opinions pretty heavily (despite earlier progress).
This fall, Leonard got to hang out with Mr. Nielsen Hayden at Viable Paradise, and says he's an all-right guy. So I'm taking that into account now. And from a later comment of his, praising Scott Rosenberg's work, I can tell that "f*** you" doesn't mean to him what it does to me; part of the reason I had been offended was on behalf of my old colleague's honor. And Scott Rosenberg can obviously defend himself.
This is maybe why this post has been germinating in my drafts pocket for a year and a half; I wanted to disengage from the hostility I felt and that one of the participants in this dialogue expressed, but still address it.
Now, 17 months later, Mitt Romney has said bigoted things about nontheists. Not just our party's values share roots and expression with religious values, but
Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom....Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.
The followup: "A spokesman for the Mitt Romney campaign is thus far refusing to say whether Romney sees any positive role in America for atheists and other non-believers..." Wrongheaded, delusional, and completely the opposite of Mr. Obama's speech; dividing America instead of reaching out. If you think the Democrats should watch out for the slippery slope of reaching out to religious constituents, listen to Mr. Romney:
We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders - in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history...
Well, he's eliding the deism of the founders, and the fact that "under God" got inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance in the 1950s, and that our currency started its God-fearing ways during the Civil War, and that of course there's no way to teach world or US history without talking about religion and no one is seriously arguing that mentioning the Quakers in a public school is going to get a teacher fired. But more than that: these are government policy proposals and positions. Not just possible implications, not just likely or unlikely readings, but flat-out stated "the government should do this." And gah!
Okay, we disagree on how we read Mr. Obama's speech. But he's Michael Newdow compared to Mitt Romney. And this is including the most disagreeable passage in Mr. Obama's talk:
But a sense of proportion should also guide those who police the boundaries between church and state. Not every mention of God in public is a breach to the wall of separation - context matters. It is doubtful that children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance feel oppressed or brainwashed as a consequence of muttering the phrase "under God." I didn't. Having voluntary student prayer groups use school property to meet should not be a threat, any more than its use by the High School Republicans should threaten Democrats. And one can envision certain faith-based programs - targeting ex-offenders or substance abusers - that offer a uniquely powerful way of solving problems.
I can see both sides of the latter two points, but come on about the Pledge. It's just idiotic to think that "under God" belongs in a required public school pledge; it's there because of inertia and because it's a wedge issue.
The really important places where church encroaches upon state are like the ones Mr. Lopez mentions -- atheists, Jews, etc. harassed at public schools and the Air Force Academy, denied jobs or promotions at state and federal agencies, and so on. Those are obviously wrong and all reasonable people understand and object. The borderline bits that Mr. Obama mentions above are more controversial, and get more press, frustrating and dividing moderates. Mr. Nielsen Hayden had a similar problem with Mr. Obama's speech ("yes, I caught his obligatory dance-of-even-handedness....what aspects of his speech got covered in the national media?"): he believed it played into the hands of bigots.
How problematic is that? Well, it seems I've come across both sides of Postel's Law. I need to work on being more open and sensitive in my readings of other people's thoughts, and I (especially powerful I twenty years from now) need to take exceptional care in my words and their implications.
Perhaps the best symbol of church-state transcendence is the secular sainthood my generation has draped upon the Rev. Fred Rogers, as evidenced in the comments for the goodbye video from Mr. Rogers. He saw that TV was crap, so he worked to improve it for the sake of children everywhere. On his public television show he never proselytized, though he was an ordained Presbyterian minister. And talk about Postel's Law! He listened to kids' fears so he could comfort them, which is why he sang that song about how you don't have to worry about being sucked down the bathtub drain. And just try to find an instance where he said an unkind word to anyone, or something that even out of context sounds bad.
He listened and spoke carefully and well, even when addressing political issues (PBS funding, Sony v. Betamax). I gotta get on that. Right speech is part of right living. And that's what I've been struggling with over that 17-month-old keynote. Did I divide myself from a friend by celebrating inclusiveness? If most of its ideas are technically correct or even incisive, but an effect of it isn't, then is it right speech? And then there's the basic skill of calmly listening to people who disagree with me. Which reminds me of the bit of that controversial speech that I liked the best, and quoted the first time around:
A hope that we can live with one another in a way that reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all.
Merry Christmas, and happy holidays.
* Note that Sullivan's article mistakenly places the speech in June of 2007, not last year.
# 24 Dec 2007, 02:29AM: Happy Hols:
and Merry Christmas, in case you missed the note at the end of the previous entry. In celebration, download some MP3s by the Cangelosi Cards, a O Brother, Where Art Thou-style blues combo that made me grok jazz. Scroll down that page and check out "Pretend There's A Moon." Perfect for sipping mulled cider by.
# 25 Dec 2007, 09:40AM: OMG Squee:
Yesterday I got David Neeleman's autograph. Rock! I was just stretching my legs walking the aisle around hour three of the flight when I saw a familiar-looking man in a yellow sweater talking with kids and flight attendants in the back of the plane. I approached, and it was him! Oh, how fannishly I gushed. A little while later he did the gladhanding walk through the plane.
Neeleman is LDS, and his religious values are part of why JetBlue uses distributed call centers for customer service (think eBlocks). He thought it would be good for families if moms could work from home and earn money while taking care of their homes and kids. Lots of JetBlue customer service personnel are housewives in Salt Lake City and environs.
# 28 Dec 2007, 07:51AM: Back:
Back home from a great Christmas trip seeing John, Susie, Maggie, and the Chadwick clan, including a guy who looked like Mitt Romney. May report more when I am not travel-frazzled.
# 28 Dec 2007, 09:05PM: Visiting Bay Area Jan. 8th-15th:
I haven't seen the Bay Area at all this year. My classes don't start till late January and I'm interviewing for jobs. So I'm going to take a week to see my old friends, arriving in San Francisco early on Tuesday, January 8th and leaving on Tuesday, January 15th. Email, comment or call me if you'd like to put me up or see me while I'm there.
# 31 Dec 2007, 10:07PM: (Kazoo Sound):
I like to do productive things on New Year's Eve/Day. Today I burned through a hundred new channel submissions in the Miro video podcast guide. Cool discovery: Cinemaniacal, featuring the Unisphere making-of short and short Superman films from the 1940s.
Sixty-odd years later, the Galacticast vodcast is making terrific fun of Trek, Battlestar, and every other sci-fi touchstone. Reminds me that I should be putting my creative powers to better use, since I have a few weeks since classes/possible job begin. Before I leave for California next week, I'll make further inroads on Miro testing work and How To Design Progams study, and make a stab at my Mahabharata parody project.
Instead of a New Year's Resolution, maybe I should just be working a week at a time anyway.
Happy New Year!
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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