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: Sumana Dismisses Dilettantes, Including Herself, in MC Masala: When your religion is someone else's tourist attraction.

I once told my mother that I was becoming a Buddhist and renouncing worldly things. This was fine with her until I declared that this also applied to eating dinner. My ploy to avoid eating failed spectacularly.
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: Independence From Work: Things I sort of wanted to do today: work on an essay, start reading The Baroque Cycle, rewrite a humorous play about Indian-Americans that my sister and I wrote ten years ago. In fact, I've watched the World Cup match and browsed far too much of Overheard In New York via hitting the Random Entry link over and over. Some favorites:

In apology, here is a joke Seth told me: The name of Ubuntu Linux comes from an old African word meaning "can't install Debian."
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: "I am ICANN!": Do you know anyone to nominate for ICANN? As long as they're not villains.


: Barack Obama's Prayer: "A hope that we can live with one another in a way that reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all." From a speech that I he wrote specifically for me, it seems.

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: More Kicks From the Baby Name Wizard Voyager: Today some del.icio.us poking-around led me back to the Voyager.


: World Cup Of Hemlock: I watched the overtime and the penalty kicks at a crowded cafe near my house, where the crowd ran very pro-Italian but gave good sporting cheers to French goals too.

The pro-Italian folks celebrated for perhaps 30 seconds after that last Italian goal. But no one broke out into singing or recognizable Italian. And the guy sitting next to me, who spent ten years of his life in France and just got back from a visit to Paris, will be mourning for days.

Like booze, sports is a social lubricant. It was nice to make small talk with the strangers. And I liked being an Asian American, in a Greek/Latino/Middle-Eastern neighborhood of New York, watching a French player of African descent exhale and shake off his nervousness as he began a run up to his penalty kick. The universal language of the attempted goal is up there with music and sex. The only reason soccer can incur the destructive kind of nationalism it does overseas is that almost every nation plays on that common battlefield.

But for every raised and fulfilled hope there is a raised and dashed one. Even though I wouldn't want to remove melancholy from the human condition, I feel bad for that French guy.


: MC Masala on Regret And Nostalgia: More melancholy.

I can glean no pleasure at all from memories of indiscretions that were fun at the time.

I made wince-worthy mistakes with booze, boys and writing. Yes, writing. A moment of bombastic self-indulgence on the printed page actually long outlives my friends' memory of a stupid ouzo-drenched insult, which makes me grateful to my friends and resentful of those crumbling stacks of my high school newspaper that I somehow can't bear to throw away.


: Yes, I Always End Up Quoting The Communist Manifesto: The most intellectually stimulating part of Jesus is Magic (that's not saying much) is now available on YouTube: Silverman's song "Jewish People Driving German Cars".

Also on YouTube: videos from Square One TV, specifically Mathnet. Mathnet, Weird Al Yankovic, and the Capitol Steps all introduced me to melodies, plots, and characters that I only learned later were ripoffs. Disorienting, which is good. Reminds you that all that is solid melts into air.


: Annals of Brilliance: I have to get this document scanned. Instead of dealing with the stupid scanner software, I'll just use our fax machine to fax it to ourselves, since any fax to our number gets turned into an image file and emailed to us!

I chortled over this until the fax machine tried to call the destination fax number and got a busy signal.


: Precarious Culture: George W. Bush and I agree: Get well soon, Roger Ebert!

Today Cody's on Telegraph closes. Joe sent me some pictures from the memorial service. Goodbye, old shop. In memory, via a book blog, some laughs.


: Where Daniel Davies Went: I'll have to add the complete list of Comment Is Free articles by Daniel Davies to my bookmarks. A particularly applicable post: how Davies proposes to deal with abuse from commenters or fellow stockbrokers.


: Faith in the Memory of the Unseen: In case you didn't see it last week, a lovely and thought-provoking article on memory from the NYT. Includes "dual processing," "neurological," "memory" and "double perception" theories, déjà vécu, presque vu, and jamais vu.

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: Caution: A woman doing some relaxing work-surfing on the sociology of baby names will give the wrong impression.


: And Hanging On The Car Door Handle Was...A NetNanny!: Want to hear a horror story about control freak managers?

...The engineers were placed out of the loop regarding what was happening in the standards committee and when they finally agreed on a standard, our hardware could not support it....
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: The Cangelosi Cards: The other night, as I do almost every month, I shanghaied Fog Creek people into coming with me to the New York Tech Meetup, where people making cool tech show it off, people in the audience ask incisive questions, tech and business people network, and Meetup CEO Scott Heiferman shows how inexplicable he is.

After the meetup, some of us adjourned to a post-meetup meetup at a nearby bar, the Pine Tree Lodge on 35th Street near 1st Avenue. There, we heard the most tremendously wonderful music I've heard in months. The Cangelosi Cards play O Brother, Where Art Thou-style music. They went for hours and all of it was magical. They'll be at the Pine Tree Lodge this coming Tuesday as well, the 18th. The Cangelosi Cards seem to have no web presence aside from their temporary association with harmonica player Miguel Weissman, and the Pine Tree Lodge has a basically useless web site, so it still feels indie to know about these folks. Go.


: You Forgot Poland: The Musical: Today I wrote a column in a much-shorter-than-usual span of time, because I thought I was very late. I can't quite tell now whether I was actually late, but it's nice to know that if I set my mind to it (and steal liberally from my weblog) (is that even stealing?) I can write a fair-to-middlin' 750-word column in less than two hours.

Am bonding with the interns over Super Smash Brothers Melee or something like that. "Melee" means "Above" in Kannada and indeed each day my skills are above my skills the previous day. I would like to believe that the interns and I are growing our relationship and that Everything Bad Is Good For Me, but I doubt it. It's not as though my mastery of Tetris has had any tangible results.

An old goodie from John-Paul Spiro: "The Logic of Capital Punishment."


: Transit: Via Feministe: tributes to those who died in the London terrorist attack a year ago. The terrorists exploded bombs during rush hour, on the subway and bus systems.

Lee Baisden, an accountant for a fire brigade: "He had just moved in with his boyfriend of three years but also spent much of his time looking after his widowed mother, who suffers from multiple sclerosis."

Of another victim: His new employer, Jessops, closed all its 280 stores for the national two-minute silence on July 14 [2005].

Another: the victim's mother, a minister, "had been bombarded with messages of sympathy and support, and driven to memorial sites by cab drivers who had refused payment."

"I will always remember her and all the others involved in these tragic events but I will not be afraid of these evil and barbaric terrorists, ever."

Another: "His parents were killed by the Taliban when he was a teenager. He left his family in Afghanistan and arrived in Britain in January 2002..."

Another: "Shahara Islam, from Whitechapel, east London was born in Britain to a devout Muslim family of Bengali origin."

We still don't know who killed almost 200 people a few days ago in Mumbai. People were going home from work on commuter trains, as on BART or Caltrain or Metro-North. And every day we take our trains, and we're not going to stop.


: An Other Roundup: The Muslim comic boom! Includes a few jokes Muslims tell about themselves.

The result is a kind of black-Muslim fusion. Azeem recalls being 17 and telling his grandmother, a devout southern US Baptist, that he had become a Muslim. "I said, 'Grandma, I'm a Muslim.' She looked up and said, 'No you're not. You ain't never been to jail.'"

Hugo Schwyzer, a soccer fan, has a fresh take on the Materazzi/Zidane incident from the World Cup final. Materazzi almost certainly made a racially charged insult to provoke Zidane. Schwyzer comments,

I am a white, Christian, heterosexual male.... There isn't a single term in English that you can use that attacks me for being who I am.
Yet another part of being Other -- the epithets hurt more, and there are more of them.

Ben, once Barbara Barres, automatically gets more respect. Joan Roughgarden, once Jonathan, automatically gets less. N.C. Andreasen's papers get published; Nancy Andreasen's don't. In psychiatry, in neurobiology, in lots of academe, this happens. Trans people, like immigrants, can tell us more about the color of the water we live in.

"Female scientists who are competitive or assertive are generally ostracized by their male colleagues," [Barres] says. In any case, he argues, "an aggressive competitive spirit" matters less to scientific success than curiosity, perseverance and self-confidence.

Women doubt their abilities more than men do, say scientists who have mentored scores of each. "Almost without exception, the talented women I have known have believed they had less ability than they actually had," [genetics] Prof. [Gregory] Petsko wrote. "And almost without exception, the talented men I have known believed they had more."

My parents kept telling me to be confident. I understand better now.

"I think we want to step back and ask, why is it that almost all Nobel Prize winners are men today?" [psychologist Elizabeth Spelke] concluded. "The answer to that question may be the same reason why all the great scientists in Florence were Christian."
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: Towards Less Sucky Management And Standup Comedy: Perhaps NYC has more opportunities for beginning standup than I'd thought. My sketch needs I fulfill with Slightly Known People every Saturday night, and once in a while The Whitest Kids You Know (although they have a scatology joke or two that really makes me nauseous) (and no women). But there's enthusiastically mediocre stand-up out there. Aziz Ansari, Laurie Kilmartin, and Ted Alexandro make for wonderful exceptions.

I started doing standup partly because Simon Stow, a fantastic political science teacher, had a background in standup. His example also helped get me into teaching and political science. But I also started because I kept seeing bad standup and thinking, "I could do better than this." You'll recognize this as the same impulse I had when watching bad management at former jobs and during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I reluctantly quote Paul Graham:

I've found that people who are great at something are not so much convinced of their own greatness as mystified at why everyone else seems so incompetent.

I seem to remember this as "the good just think they suck less" but evidently that's not in the original.

The problem of metacognition nags me. It's one of the reasons I waited so long to try booze. One classic work on the topic: "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments" by Justin Kruger and David Dunning (PDF and plain text versions). One way to get people to realize that they lack a skill is to teach it to them. How else can we correct cognitive illlusions? As a future manager, I find this a troublesome and fascinating topic. As a comedygoer and comedymaker, I want to show them how it's done.

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: A Pop Culture Summary of 2006: I used to make sure to watch the evening network news on New Year's Eve, because they put together classy montages of the year's news to a soundtrack of the year's pop tunes. I can't find those anymore. In their stead: Snakes on a Sudoku!


: Need Some Wood?: Some great posts on Crooked Timber recently: "I space object!", a validation of my use of "flatmate", UK vs. Britain vs. England, hilarious self-parodying corruption defense, and an explanation of the current Middle East crisis.

Speaking of timber: some folks at the Fog Creek lunch table recently recalled all the weird Bush quotes from that town-hall-style second debate from 2004. "Internets" has stuck around. People still remember "You forgot Poland!" and, to a lesser extent, "I own a timber company?....Need some wood?" But the Dred Scott decision derision didn't stick in their minds, and many don't realize that Bush was probably using "Dred Scott" as a coded reference to Roe v. Wade.

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: Solemn Column: No MC Masala column last week due to a mistake or two. This week: the World Cup and connections. The editors break my paragraphs up into paras of one or two sentences, and somehow that changes the tone of the thing.

Who thought we'd pay more attention to the Winter Olympics if they got their own year? Yeah, and Congressional midterms have really taken off.

We watched some games at work. Video games and sports prove a good way to bond with the interns. Isn't it funny how some people only open up if you're not looking at each other?


: Downtime Update: Leonard did a complete summary of our weekend except for the bit where I wrote half a column and reread Le Guin's The Dispossessed. We're waiting for the Ruby Cookbook to come out.

A local pharmacy sells 30-packs of inconveniently packaged 10mg loratadine pills for $2 and 100-pill bottles of a different generic loratadine for $10. Two different brands of generics, two wildly different prices. 450 Sutter Pharmacy back in San Francisco had sold the higher-priced generic, so I had a brand attachment to it. I found myself muttering, "But the indie pharmacy...Franz Ferdinand...the world is a vampire!"

Anyway. Werner Heisenberg was driving down the Autobahn and got pulled over. The cop walked up to the side of his car and asked, "Son, do you know how fast you were going back there?"

To this he replied, "No, but I know where I am."


: As Cute As Chandler: The many faces of Scott Rosenberg.


: 1995: Jagged Little Pill (including "Ironic" and "Hand in my Pocket") came out eleven years ago. One colleague of mine responded, "Oh yeah, I was in middle school." Another responded, "What have I been doing with my life?"


: Ruby Cookbook is Out!: Amazon has it for sale, as does Powell's Books (although Powell's only lists coauthor Lucas Carlson as the author) and the publisher (O'Reilly has a buy-two-get-one-free deal).

I am so proud of my husband. People tell me that it's of very high quality, and that it has way more recipes than comparable Cookbooks. He's created something that will help thousands of people. Congratulations to Leonard and Lucas, and to Michael, Leonard's editor.


: Daring To Eat A Peach: Evidently comedian Will Franken is doing a podcast, and a very entertaining one at that. Man, I hope I get to see a show of his sometime soon.

His audio/video sample page includes "We Are All John Kerry Tonight," which still makes me laugh out loud.

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: Activism Activity: I'll probably be at the New York City EFF Meetup tonight, dragging a Fog Creek colleague or two.


: Parties: The EFF-NYC Meetup turned into four people swapping gossip and politics in a lounge in the Fat Black Pussycat bar. Last night's Fog Creek open house turned into me playing host and connecting people who might have gotten along. But the party that never stops has stopped.


: Disturbing Comp Sci Porn Title: The Mythical Month-Man

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: MC Masala Column on Work Tips For Life: In which I bet a shiny quarter, paraphrase Kevin Drum, hype Workrave, and name-check Lincoln and the strength of weak ties.

Here's a bit I wanted to get into the article, but that got edited out.

At first, I wasn't sure whether I deserved a raise. But I hadn't had a cost-of-living increase in two years, my skills would command a substantially larger salary in jobs I saw advertised, and it would be harder for the company to replace me than for me to find a new job. Also, my company wasn't hurting for cash, and I could use the extra money. If most of these apply to you, gather your evidence, pick a target salary, and ask for it. If you get it, great! If not, consider your options. Again: are you making the right tradeoffs?


: Surprise: A white guy dances to a Bollywood song (remember, Lagaan also used this to humorous effect). Why is this funny? Is it funny? I ask you.

Snopes confirms that the US Postal Service will give you free postal materials to use in sending care packages to troops overseas.


: Marissa Mayer & I Both Use Pine: Over the past week I've been to three different tech-related meetsup. I went to an EFF-NYC group, I helped host the Fog Creek open house, and I visited the Joel On Software discussion forum meetup in lieu of my traditional Saturday night SKP visit. It'll be a good yield if I get two lasting friends out of the whole trilogy. Today I played the hermit, rereading America: The Book and bits of Jane Eyre in between working on my column and playing Tetris with my husband.

I've spent half a year with Fog Creek now, and I know its strengths and weaknesses almost as well as I know my own. I've just downloaded a bunch of Audiofile songs and the music makes me pensive. I'm wondering what it'll take for me to become an IT leader with soul and cred.

Do I have to be a tall blue-eyed blonde with patents in artificial intelligence? Is it that or Fiorinadom? Is it possible to feel like a completely lost pioneer and a cliché sellout at the same time? That sort of thing.

By the way, the Joel on Software jobs board has been hopping lately, and my boss has been blogging at unusually high volume.

Anyway, back to my columns. One is about times I've been truly happy. I think the other is about practice, craftsmanship, and the tradeoffs one makes to live a satisfying life. But I'm not sure yet.

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: Some FogBlogs: Only a few of the people who work with me have publicly discoverable weblogs. But I enjoy them and you might too. Benjamin Pollack, a developer.

Now, in my book, when it comes to breaking standards, there are a lot of different ways to do it. There's breaking the standard by adding features in odd ways that no one else supports, but everyone needs (NVARCHAR and friends in SQL Server, and arguably AUTO_INCREMENT in MySQL); there's breaking the standard by not implementing features everyone else has (sequences, views, triggers, etc. in MySQL); and then there's just totally going off and doing your own thing even though the standard already solved the problem you're having.....

That's impressive, fellas. What exactly was wrong with SQL92 there? Too plebeian?

Eric Nehrlich, the other software management trainee.
However, in a Latour-ian collective world, the market does not exist just out there waiting to be discovered or reached. Such a market has to be created. It is up to the marketer to make a series of connections between the potential buyers of the mousetrap and the mousetrap itself, to form a sticky networked web that envelops the buyers. Like the last post, it's the difference between publishing an org chart and doing the footwork necessary to reify the org chart.
Tyler Griffin Hicks-Wright, a developer.
I was walking around lower Manhattan last night, and I ran across this huge hole in the street. I've seen similar areas where they've been doing work, but I always love seeing it. It's amazing how much is going on less than a foot below the surface of the asphalt. Sewer lines, water pipes, gas pipes, cable, phone, internet, electricity, everything right there. Considering it all supports over 8 million people every day, I think it's one of the most incredible, and most overlooked, engineering accomplishments in history.
Joel Spolsky, a honcho.

"Aargh!" I said, and went off to study why there was a checkbox in the options dialog called 1904 Date System.
Michael Pryor, a honcho. A logic/math puzzle blog, featuring puzzles that now appear in Make Magazine.

The FogBugz blog, mostly by Michael Pryor.

We've considered supporting PostgreSQL but I'm not convinced this doesn't open its own can of worms. Of course MSSQL has its own share of bugs, as well as Access, but for some reason the problems with MySQL seem to be more severe and more problematic. It's been said that using the InnoDB tables is less likely to cause problems, but of course the MyISAM format is the only one that supports full text indexing, thereby removing InnoDB as a candidate for our table types.

SQL Server is around $7500 per server. For me, the price is worth it.

The Fog Creek Copilot blog, mostly by Tyler Griffin Hicks-Wright. A sequel to the Project Aardvark blog from last year, where an intern wrote:

I find that I've been learning the most from all the little things. The choices I have to make every day that, when run by Joel, get, "you decide; it's your call," as a response, teach the most in the end. In more ways than one these choices are just as, if not more, important than the huge decisions that come up only a few times during a project. A big decision is of course crucial, but you can stress over it, get a lot of outside advice, and even sleep on it before settling on what to do. The small ones come up all the time, every day, and collectively steer the entire product over the course of the launch.
Jacob Krall, an intern.
I'm now officially a big fan of Zidane-do Martial Arts. Erik has a feeling there will be a huge gain in popularity of this particular move; he's investing in it in the Flippin' Sweet Futures market here in New York City.
Alice Tang, a graphic designer.
There is nothing quite like the feeling of having your superiority and significance torn down when faced with something as vast as The Sahara, and thrown into the world that is Morocco. Experiences like these are humbling yet necessary.
Stefan Rusek, a developer. (I now know to call Stefan "Megatron.") He wrote an essay about teamwork similar to the intern's thoughts above, plus:
DO NOT USE THE TECHNIQUE THAT MS SUGGESTS IN THE ARTICLE. You would expect that the company that wrote the classes would be able to tell you how to properly use them, but here they don't.

Some of these folks almost never blog, and I chose non-representative quotes using standaloneness as a criterion. Caveat lector.


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