I’ve been pretty busy the last couple of days and did not get my fill of TV. The day before yesterday I had a dream in which I was working on some bikes with Paul Teutul Sr. Today’s dream involved me working for detective Monk, I think, while investigating Tony Soprano and his associates. Paulie Walnuts had a blood stained shirt from someone he murdered hanging above his bed, he wanted to hide it, but was too lazy to do so.
“No news is good news” – that’s what one of the old Usenet newsreaders used to say when there weren’t any new articles to read in your subscriptions. Is that a coincidence that CNN, one of the two evil companies that employs Lord Vader himself as its mouthpiece, is so obsessed with violent, fiery death? Cartoonist Jeffery Rowland even felt that he needed a special new word coined for this phenomenon.
CNN.com is a news site that I frequently visit, mostly because the url is so much nicer than http://news.bbc.co.uk, which is superior in all regards to CNN. As far as news goes, I am mostly interested in what’s happening in five countries: the US, Russia, Ukraine, Turkmenistan, Israel and Japan. Why Turkmenistan? Because of the Great Serdar, of course. In any case, not many interesting things happen in Canada or the UK, and I could not care less for France, Germany and the rest of the Snootyland. Communist China and North Korea do not let out any interesting news and news from the entire African continent are usually too depressing.
What’s different in Japanese news? Well, first of all there’s a lot more sex-related news. American news are heavy on violence, but light on sex. MSN Mainichi Daily News are full of headlines very much in the spirit of one famous hacker’s “Dear Japanese People” posts.
Right now, the headlines are full of stories about a 57 year old fortune teller living with a “harem” of “about 10 women.” An older popular news story featured an embezzling accountant who spent stolen money on 17 mistresses.
Unhealthy Japanese obsession with schoolgirls is clearly present in the news: not a day goes by when there isn’t a schoolgirl sex-related article on Mainichi. Here’s a typical one:
It gets more complicated than that:
“The two 18-year-old, third-year high school girls, whose names are being withheld under the Juvenile Law, threatened on Dec. 29 to reveal that the 19-year-old private 1st class had sex with one of them unless he handed over 2 million yen, local police said.
They forced a 21-year-old lance corporal who was accompanying the private to withdraw 400,000 yen from an automatic teller machine at a convenience store in Sasebo and received the money from him.
The girls subsequently demanded 1.6 million yen from the GSDF soldiers. However, the soldiers consulted police, who arrested the two girls.
A fisherman and two other men were earlier arrested for giving the girls advice on how to extort money from the victim.”
Japanese news agencies are no stranger to violence. A particularly unsettling trend that I noticed is an abundance of stories about family violence in Japan: “Man stabbed parents because they wouldn’t drink his miso soup“, “Man arrested for leaving bed-ridden, elderly mother to die“, “Woman nabbed for fatally kicking boyfriend“. It gets weirder, too: “Jobless man sets fire to futon in house after mom refuses to buy him dolls.” Overall, all these stories feature jobless people.
Violent (“Homeless man stabs abusive youth in stomach“) and non-violent homeless people (“Homeless man can officially register a public park where he lives as his residence, a court has said“) are often in the news.
We all think about how safe life in Japan is, but according to the news that I see, if the jobless, the homeless and the US servicemen won’t get you, train crashes, heavy snow, natural gas or sticky rice cakes will: “4 die after train blown off tracks in Yamagata“, “Elderly woman trapped in heavy snow freezes to death“, “Natural gas kills mother and children at hot spring“, “4 Kanto residents choke to death on sticky rice cakes“.
All those people got killed in heavy snow, yet mount Fuji was missing it’s snow cap last year. Strange.
The conflict of Japanese whalers and Greenpeace activists gets a lot of coverage: for some reason I’ve never seen this picture of a Greenpeace dude nearly harpooned to death anywhere else.
Two Japan-specific stories that don’t get much play in the US news is the Livedoor scandal and the badly constructed “twin” condo buildings. The Livedoor news get funny sometimes: “Convenience store chain am/pm Japan has decided to pull an energy drink developed by former Livedoor President Takafumi Horie off its shelves because it doesn’t want to sell items associated with scandal-tainted people, it has been learned“.
New Year’s cards (“nengajo“) are apparently a very serious business in Japan. From what I understand, they are supposed to be delivered exactly on January 1st. There was a flurry of news items like “Feces in 2 mailboxes stain 140 New Year cards“, “Post office to redeliver New Year’s postcards that arrived too early“, “Post office in Osaka to deliver 35 New Year’s cards a year late“. Big whoop. By the way, while we are on the subject, check out Japanese New Year’s prints by master woodblock printmaker David Bull.
The headline writers for Mainichi are prone to using puns and old-fashioned American slang, although not always very smoothly: they really overuse the words “nab”, “pinch”, “clink” (prison). Sometimes it feels like you are reading an old detective story.
This quote also is kind of unsettling:
Foreign sex workers get dirty digging for Japanese roots: “Gentlemen may well prefer blondes, but Japan’s not-so-gentle men seem to, as well, sparking a rapid increase in the number of South American sex workers with more yam than Yamato running through their veins to claim Japanese heritage, according to Spa!”
“More yam than Yamato”? What the hell?
I think of my life as one long developing and debugging session. I try to improve my software and hardware, fight bloat, load more data in my databases, find new algorithms for doing things. And of course my life is full of little bugs, inefficiencies, crashes and weird behavior. Instead of making coding my way of life I try to make my way of life be more like coding.
There are three classics of the genre of the heroic computer geek saga. First there’s Tracy Kidder’s “The Soul Of a New Machine“. Second is Douglas Coupland’s “Microserfs“. Third is G. Pascal Zachary’s Show-Stopper!. Pascal’s first name which he hides behind the initial “G” is Gregg. Yep, Gregg.
Now I would like to add another book to the list. It’s Ellen Ullman’s “The Bug“.
To describe what these books are about I need to borrow a name of Cordwainer Smith’s short story – The Burning of the Brain. Or Harlan Ellison’s I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. Those are the things that come to mind when I think about the heroes of these books.
Also comes to mind the episode of NYPD Blue where a doctor tells detective Simone that there is a possibility that the LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device) balloon pump might start “chewing up” his body. A poor choice of a metaphor in that case, but a very good one to describe what happens to the bodies and minds of the heroes of these books, be they real life superhuman engineers like Dave Cutler and Steve Wallach or more human but fictional protagonists of “Microserfs” and “The Bug”.
“The Bug” has three main characters. A tester on her way of breaking out from the cocoon of useless liberal arts degree holder and becoming a QA engineer not only in title but in life; a miserable antisocial software engineer in a fight of his life; and a software bug called The Jester.
At work I use Joel Spolsky’s most excellent bug tracking application called FogBugz. My project manager started calling especially nasty bugs “fugs”. Well, The Jester is a “fug” to the power of 10. To get the feeling of vertigo, the sense of spiraling into an abyss that “The Bug” invokes, i suggest listening to a piece titled “Spiral” on John Coltraine’s famous “Giant Steps”.
And here’s my favorite quote from the book:
“Look, Levin. Programming starts out like it’s going to be architecture–all black lines on white paper, theoretical and abstract and spatial and up-in-the-head. Then, right around the time you have to get something fucking working, it has this nasty tendency to turn into plumbing.
“No, no. Lemme think,” Harry interrupted himself. “It’s more like you’re hired as a plumber to work in an old house full of ancient, leaky pipes laid out by some long-gone plumbers who were even weirder than you are. Most of the time you spend scratching your head and thinking: Why the fuck did they do that?”
“Why the fuck did they?” Ethan said.
Which appeared to amuse Harry to no end. “Oh, you know,” he went on, laughing hoarsely, “they didn’t understand whatever the fuck had come before them, and they just had to get something working in some ridiculous time. Hey, software is just a shitload of pipe fitting you do to get something the hell working. Me,” he said, holding up his chewed, nail-torn hands as if for evidence, “I’m just a plumber.” “
I have many role models. But when I was writing that post I forgot about a few people. One of them is Saparmurat Turkmenbashi.
Saparmurat Niyazov is the fearless leader of Turkmenistan, aka First and Lifetime President of Turkmenistan High Commander of the Army Saparmurat Turkmenbashi. Turkmenbashi is a honorific, meaning Father Of All Turkmen. Few leaders in the history of mankind can come even close to achievements of Turkmenbashi:
Turkmenbashi is probably the most important writer and philosopher ever, comparable maybe only to
(I translated these quotes from a post in
Ruhnama is compulsory reading for all students in Turkmenistan. In fact, Ruhnama is it’s own subject.
One day I want to be known as Deadprogrammerbashi. That will be so sweet! But for now I will probably undertake a deep study of Holy Ruhnama and Turkmenbashi’s poetry. I should also start writing poems in honor of Turkmenbashi. I wonder, if I write him a letter with a poem, will he answer?
There is one project that I am glad I was not on. A few people that were sitting in a octapod next to me at iXL worked on the http://www.aba.com website. It turned out to be a horrible death march. I found out about the project because one of the coders had an Asimov’s book displayed on her table (interestingly enough, I had that book in my collection).
The book in question was “Murder at the ABA”, a detective story about a murder at the American Bookseller Association convention.
Oh, if you are wondering what the “octapod” is. An octapod is this weird replacement of a standard cubicle. It looks somewhat like this:
In other news: Scient that swallowed iXL has now been swallowed by sbi. So long to Scient, Viant, Sapient jokes.
50 foot X 50 foot giant red neon umbrella on the ugly Travelers Insurance building overlooking West Side highway pissed of TriBeCa residents for years. Besides being tacky, it shines in their windows, not letting them sleep. It’s like that Seinfeld episode with the chicken store’s neon sign that did not let Kramer sleep. The damn umbrella is four stories high!
When me and
By the way, Citibank, after merging with Travelers, changed its logo.
The arc is supposed to signify the umbrella, but it only reminds me of an upside down smile.
Banks have been mating like dinosaurs the last 10 years. My first ever bank account was from a Chemical Bank. I really liked the scientific name. Now it became Chase Manhattan. “Chase Manhattan” could be a good detective story name, right?
I’ve worked on intranets for both Chase and Citibank, and let me tell you, it’s really strange to walk out after a 10-12 hour work day and see the same logos everywhere. I really freaked out when I saw a 10 story ad for KennethCole.com. For some reason I see Ken Cole ads in almost every Q train (usually the whole train is filled with them. Oh, and now it’s even worse. In every supermarket, right at the checkout, a TV Guide magazine is staring at me.
Ok, here is something that I can’t find an answer for on the Internet.
NYPD cops wear a badge. And badge identification is no mystery to me. It’s somewhat easy. Silver shield – uniform cop. Gold star shaped shield – detective. Spiky gold shield – captain. The one with an eagle and the word sergeant – you get the idea. Five stars on the shield? That’s the police commissioner himself. The one with Magen David on top – that’s the NYPD Rabbi.
See the full list of badges here.
Now, what I have trouble identifying is the so called citation bars.
For instance, here is a picture of my home precinct commanding officer, Captain William McClellan.
See the little color bars above his badge? Those are his awards.
They are kind of hard to decipher on the picture, but here is a list of them all.
The medals are easy to identify: they are detailed here. Service bars are no mystery as well.
But what I don’t understand is the flag bars, like the American Flag Bar, which I see most often.
Is that an award, or a commemorative bar, like the WTC bar? Is the same true about Afro – American Flag Bar, German Flag Bar, Italian Flag Bar and Irish Flag Bar? What is the EMS Delivery Bar? Is it given to cops, who helped deliver babies? What is “Aux” and what is “Aux Commendation” given for? What do those cool golden wings mean?
Questions, questions. I am afraid, I’ll have to ask a librarian to help me.
I am shopping for a really good pepper mill, and dammit, I can’t decide.
Right now I narrowed it down to two choices:
a) A pepper mill made by Peugeot. Supposedly Peugeot was making pepper mills even before cars. [Insert your own joke about wimpy French cars and their origins]
b) Turkish coffee grinder that was popularized as a pepper grinder by the Frugal Gourmet dude.
Ok, so let’s see what Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance taught me. Thinking romantically, it’s really cool that the grinder is made by an automobile company. It’s a great conversation starter (not that I need any of those). But thinking classically, a mechanism made for grinding Turkish coffee must be by it’s nature more robust, and have a much greater level of adjustment.
Like obsessive-compulsive detective Monk, I can’t decide.
Oooh, isn’t the salt pig adorable? Nah, I’m happy with the salt cellar that I have. Besides, it looks like a perfect place for roaches to camp out.