# 02 Feb 2008, 06:45PM: Here We Go:
By day two at Behavior I got assigned to a project. Every company advertising a job says that you must be comfortable in a fast-paced environment and this is the first time since Salon I've really felt the truth of that. And Leonard is back! Oh, how I've missed him. Now till May: hectic and full of accomplishment, I predict.
# (3) 03 Feb 2008, 12:11PM: Rituals & Security:
In May I'll be graduating with a master's. Commencement ceremonies will occur in the evening of Tuesday, May 20th for my program and in the late morning of Wednesday, May 21st for the university-wide hoopla. I haven't yet decided whether to attend just the School of Continuing Education one or both.
This will be about ten years after my high school diploma, and indeed I have been thinking about going back to Lodi and doing the ten-year Tokay reunion. I've even sent off a letter with my new address to the school so the reunion committee can track me down and tell me when it is.
My friend Ron characterized the ten-year reunion as the scoring line on a race: how far can you get in ten years? By the standard measures I've done very well. I've married an awesome guy, graduated (soon) from two prestigious universities, and started earning a very good salary. And that, as much as my emotional growth over the past ten years, is a reason I could go there without a bunch of anxiety.
It's curious. I think of incidents from high school that make my face hot, and then I think, "I'm probably making more than you." And if envy is green, then superiority is cool, blue water. I could drown in it.
# (1) 03 Feb 2008, 09:53PM: Legal & Investment Advice:
For the past few months, when I've had a legal document that I wanted a lawyer to review, I've consulted Danielle Sucher. Riana Pfefferkorn referred me; it's nice to have friends in law school! Ms. Sucher and I have never met. We've done everything over email and the phone, so you can tell she's responsive. She's smart and candid and her prices are reasonable. Recommended. Item 7 here talks about some of her more high-profile and interesting law work.
I guess this means I have a lawyer. I feel adult and responsible. I'd feel more responsible if someone referred Leonard & me to a good financial planner in New York City. Do comment or email to let me know if you can recommend someone.
"Purpose-driven voluntary sector"* small-world note: her sweetie works at the Open Planning Project, like Leonard's friend Ian Bicking and (I presume) Mel Chua!
Other legal bit: In RightsAgent I see a hint of the supplier-side equivalent to the IP clearinghouse I wanted, or wanted to start.
*Thanks to Luis for publicizing the phrase. Did I mention yay law school friends?
# 04 Feb 2008, 07:59AM: Technologists Needed, Tech Priorities, And Tech Triumphs:
My sweetie just wrote an amazing essay on what the government space program should be doing.
A talk about priorities is usually a talk about money, so here's a
baseline number. NASA's 2008 budget is $17.3 billion. This is not a
trivial sum, but since the government always seems able to allocate
much larger sums for pointless wars, weapons systems that don't work
and/or are strategically useless, etc., I've never bought into the
argument that this $17.3 billion is taking off the table money that
could be used to solve pressing social problems. (In fact there's a
pressing social problem that NASA is in a good position to help with,
except that part
got taken out of NASA's mission statement.) I prefer to think of
NASA's budget as a Strategic Awesomeness Reserve. And over time I've
come to the conclusion that manned space exploration is not
Leonard also has been keeping up the insight and research at The Future: A Retrospective. When I saw his post about the female condom I felt a need to bring up the relevant section of Our Bodies, Ourselves so people could learn about the plethora of birth control methods we currently enjoy. A new IUD, a vaginal ring, spermicidal foams, a patch, low-dose and combination-hormone pills, the implant one-sixth the size of Norplant... and now a contraceptive pill that also stops menstruation. Let's see how many of these Future Stuff predicted!
I got into an argument last week with a sullen, America-bashing Scottish kid at SIPA. Among other things easily refuted by about five minutes of blog-reading research, he charged that Big Pharma Doesn't Make Medicines That Really Help People. Oh really? I can think of about three uncomplimentary reasons why he hasn't been keeping up with the latest in contraceptive tech.
# 07 Feb 2008, 10:15AM: Question:
What is the half-life of leaked data?
# 08 Feb 2008, 01:50PM: Kale, You Have Betrayed Me!:
I am eating a lunch of kale, seaweed, tofu, and brown rice. Somehow it is both huge and not very filling.
# 08 Feb 2008, 05:50PM: From Work Today:
After a very long conference call: "I've lost some acuity. I'm not the same person you hired....That experience was like the opposite of meditation."
"Crazy Bread. So 'crazy' means 'has cheese in it'?..." "Emotionally Disturbed Bread!" "Why does my bread come in a jacket?"
# 10 Feb 2008, 03:39PM: After:
Last night was the last weekly Slightly Known People show at Rififi in the Village. They performed some of their best skits, other sketch comedians and groups did bits, and we all sang together at the end. In April they start a regular gig at an Off-Broadway venue, which is great for them, like a graduation, but I'm going to miss the old ritual.
I am getting kind of tired of going to comedy shows alone.
# 16 Feb 2008, 12:00PM: Tax History Saved For A Future Post:
In the last few months, I've seen and read a few things and had opinions on them. Here we go.
I Chose a Parson is a 1956 memoir by Phyllis Stark, an American woman who went to Gustavus Adolphus College, married a seminary student, had two kids, and helped her husband as he rose to a bishopric in the Episcopal Church. I got it for a few bucks at Sam Weller's in Salt Lake City, in the cheapo-books room crowded with out-of-print manuals and histories and children's primers, where the pipe on the ceiling's dripping into a bucket on the floor. Never was there a greater diamond in the muck. Stark writes with the dry eloquence of the Brits and the earthy humor of the Midwest, and every page has a great anecdote. I kept reading stuff to Leonard:
In the original list of repairs new pews had been included, but later that item had been deleted because, as usual, expenses were exceeding the original estimates. I felt very strongly, however, that the new beauty we were seeking to achieve would be completely lost if the crude and wretchedly uncomfortable pews were to remain. With the hope of persuading Leland to press the point, I presented the case to him a good many times, but without success. Then one day I decided to drop my reasoned approach and try instead a more feminine technique.
'Darling,' I said sweetly, 'I've got my heart set on new pews.'
He pulled me up short with the trenchant reply, 'That, my dear, is the only part of your anatomy that will ever set on new pews.'
I'm glad to say, however, that the other members of the committee were more amenable to my importuning, and before the repair work was finished, not only did we have new pews, but also new kneelers upholstered with the best quality surgical foam rubber!
I think Rivka and Rachel would especially like this book. And I have more to quote from it in another entry.
Ratatouille is good. The animation of water is amazing. I got creeped out by all the rats. The critic's flashback is moving.
Juno is not the most comfortable movie to watch with my Mormon in-laws. The banter is great and all the actors were spot-on. I could have done with a less monotonous soundtrack. For the first half of the movie Jason Bateman is basically Michael Bluth, but he and Michael Cera really break out. Ellen Page makes me want to see the upcoming Smart People which is evidently this year's Little Miss Sunshine. Some people find Juno's choice to bear the child unbelievable, but I can see a bunch of reasons, implied strongly or subtly, why she'd do that. However, I do want to find a comedy-drama that is specifically about abortion, just to see if it can be done.
An Affair To Remember: Leonard and I saw the Cary Grant/Deborah Kerr version. All the annoying plot devices of screwball comedy without actual chemistry. That Italy scene takes forever! And the second half is a huge Idiot Plot. From my recollection Sleepless in Seattle is a much better film.
An American In Paris: I had an argument with Will Franken about this movie. I couldn't stand it because the lead, Jerry Mulligan, is a sleazeball stalker. Evidently Will wishes men could be more "romantic" in that manner today and feels castrated by feminism and the need to take a single rejection as a final rejection. I pointed out that I've been the aggressor in every romantic relationship I've ever had, and have been rejected many, many times. And yet somehow I got a husband without stalking him! And lots of men and women find each other without sexually harrassing each other!
Will asked, basically, what if it's love? What if you're in love with someone and they don't love you back? Isn't it just and true to persist in professing your love? The answer is no and it's a contradictory question anyhow. One-way romantic "love" is obsession, infatuation, lust; love is a conversation, two minds meeting as one. And how can you love someone if you don't respect their wishes (namely, "stop asking me out")?
The average Futurama is better sci-fi than the average Star Trek: Voyager.
Scott Westerfeld's Uglies is great, easy-to-read teen-focused sci-fi. The characters make sense while growing and displaying new depths, the worldbuilding is exciting, the action scenes and dialogue are all page-turners, and now I have another trilogy to finish, which I can't afford right now. See you again in May, Westerfeld.
If you can believe it, The Matrix was on American Movie Classics the other day. This is kind of embarrassing for me. I taught The Matrix enthusiastically in my Politics in Modern Sci-Fi class and in my prior Politics of the Midlife Crisis class. I still think the plot and visuals are fun and interesting, but most of the dialogue and acting hasn't held up well for me. I do still like Keanu Reeves's part, though.
The September 11th film anthology was on Sundance and I TiVo'd it mainly to watch Inarritu's segment. It was unbearably evocative and I couldn't watch the whole thing. The whole collection is worthwhile: see it with Brendan and followed by the original Shall We Dance?
# 16 Feb 2008, 12:55PM: Superiority Dance:
A couple of years ago, I tried to explain to Eric that he had a bad conversational habit. When Person A brings what she thinks is a new item into the conversation, and Person B says "Oh yeah, I already know all about that," Person A feels as though her conversational effort has been rebuffed or she's being called stupid for thinking the item is new or interesting. I used the Gricean maxims, specifically quantity, to explain to Eric why his habit bothered me: he was acting as though I had broken the "be informative" rule.
Patrick Nielsen Hayden is a little more forthright and antagonistic when he sees this habit:
I personally think conversations about the current emergency would be
vastly improved by a general moratorium on the "What, You Just Figured That Out, Where Have You Been?" rhetorical gambit. Indeed, what that
particular routine indicates most clearly is that the speaker is more
interested in striking a pose than in actually forming a useful alliance.
Last night I saw Eric and a bunch of other folks in my master's cohort at Jen's party. The Swiss guy played the piano and I joked that the hydrazine in that satellite the government's shooting down is just a Xeroxed zine for people who love water -- perfectly harmless! I mentioned how much I love my new job, especially because the people are friendly: more specifically, the founders at the top don't shun human interaction the way Joel and Michael do, and the company culture suits me far better. Sure I'll have moments of conflict with my coworkers, but they'll be about "who's in charge of this task" or "you should have done that more quickly," not a fundamental misapprehension of human nature.
"Charles Dodgson": "I must be a more cynical SOB than Patrick --- I'm
not remotely surprised. It's just a fact of human nature that [etc]"
I like your writing and I like you, but this is an online rhetorical gambit on which I call BS.
First, point to where I said I was surprised.
Second, the game of "You're surprised by $ODIOUSBEHAVIOR???" is itself
odious. Hello, person who has, by dint of great effort, worked themselves
around to agreeing with me! Allow me to point out in the most withering
possible terms that I'm more worldly than you, more knowledgeable than
you, more sophisticated than you, and boy howdy, are you ever a chump.
I've indulged in this variety of superiority dance myself. Astonishingly,
it turns out to not be the most effective imaginable way of acquiring and
retaining allies. Human nature is so unpredictable; who could have known?
# 16 Feb 2008, 09:05PM: Lessons Of The Past Few Weeks:
I work better when I keep my inbox to fewer than ten messages on a daily basis. Everything that's not a to-do task goes into one big archive folder that I can search or sort if I need something. Thanks, Gmail, for giving the world the insight that, in a virtual environment without haptic reminders of size and relevance, search engines beat a zillion hierarchical folders hands-down. And IMAP rocks.
I still need to work on keeping my volume down when I'm excited in a conversation.
The art of the cc:, especially when sending out an email documenting what everyone just agreed to in a conference call.
If you provide a critical service that other people depend on, and you can't quickly get them an explanation describing the service with sample inputs and outputs, I throw up my hands in disgust. Bonus points if you change the service without telling anyone and respond to questions with "nothing's changed!" for a day or more.
I need more office pants. Black pantage is de rigeur for business-y women, it seems.
A bug tracker is orders of magnitude better than Basecamp To-Do lists for organizing software development tasks. A bug tracker is a collective memory, a place to prioritize, a wiki for specs and repro cases and screenshots, and an easy collection of nifty, gameable stats on How Many Bugs We Closed Today to wow the client and your manager. Even if the project manager has to spend time each day translating between the bugtracker and emails with clients and colleagues, it's worth it. I knew this before but I'm newly re-grokking it.
I am good at this job. This job is good for me. I am so grateful and proud.
# (2) 18 Feb 2008, 10:17AM: Soycake:
Leonard read a 1986 edition of Programmers at Work from Microsoft Press. The back cover includes ads for other contemporary books, including Programmer's Guide to the IBM PC with Peter Norton on the cover.
Like one S. Jobs, Norton went to Reed College. And he spent at least a few months, possibly five years (it's hard for me to tell by Googling) in a Buddhist monastery. He started the company when he was nearly twice the age of today's stereotypical startup founder. I like how roundabout his story is.
You've seen pictures of Norton from his books and from the Norton Utilities box (software that's been in development and use for over twenty years, by the way), where he's wearing glasses and his hair has gone lighter. But check out 42-year-old Norton in 1985, who reminds me of Jim Fisher and Leonard of George Frankly from Mathnet, the serial within Square One TV.
His pose is as unreadable as the Mona Lisa's. The nerd look is deliberate and iconic; maybe I'll have to stop using Dilbert as a shorthand for my type of man and start referring to "Peter Norton in the pink shirt photo." He's used to these sorts of helpless predilections.
# 21 Feb 2008, 02:58PM: Easy Listening:
Today's work soundtrack so far: Michael Masley (whom I suspect my local spa uses for "relax while you wax" music), Weird Al Yankovic, and a conference call I got to leave an hour early because we'd covered the few bugs I was responsible for.
"The Saga Begins," the "American Pie" filk on Running With Scissors, reminds me of good times with my ex. Yes, Weird Al is making me melancholy.
Update: And "Jerry Springer" is a filk of Barenaked Ladies' "One Week," which makes me nostalgic for a different ex. What's next? I don't even know anyone in Albuquerque.
# 24 Feb 2008, 04:17PM: Did You Ever Doubt I Was That Demographic?:
I got my first real paycheck from Behavior this past week. Also last week, I stood in line for about 90 minutes at Nintendo World (Rockefeller Center, midtown Manhattan) to buy a Wii. It's my first console ever. I also bought Super Mario Galaxy so I could be Leonard's star bits helper. It's even more fun than Wii Tennis!
Maybe now more friends of mine will come all the way to Astoria to visit. That's the real reason Nintendo's still shipping inadequate supplies of the Wii, fourteen months after launch. I have the cool console, so I'll be popular and people will come to my house after school. I mean work.
# (2) 28 Feb 2008, 01:36PM: Ribbit:
What a difference between "Mike can probably do this today" and "Mike can probably do this toady."
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