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  • Michael Krakovskiy 11:34 pm on April 2, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Ellen Ullman, , Piping, , , , , worst permanent solution   

    Plumbing Chops 

    In my line of work I am often reminded of this brilliant passage from  Ellen Ullman’s “The Bug” (which I reviewed earlier):

    “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.

    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?”

    To take the metaphor a little bit further, let me bring up one actual plumbing nightmare that I faced when I was renovating my apartment. One of the contractors clumsily knocked  off a valve on a piece of  water piping that did not have a local shutoff. The only shutoff was in the basement, and required turning off the water for the entire line. And the super, who could do the shutoff  was not in for a couple of days.

    Another contractor knew exactly what to do in that case. He created something that he called a “chop” (I found out later that the term is Ukrainian). It’s a conical piece of wood, shaped like a fat pencil that is hammered into the hole in the pipe. In a couple of minutes the wood swells up and completely plugs the leak. Add some duct tape around it, and you got a very good temporary plug that is almost as strong as the unbroken pipe.  It makes the worst permanent solution (wood rots), but the best temporary one (it can be applied without taking the whole system down and is reasonably strong).

    Chops, or as they are called in English – thru-hull plugs, are a maritime invention: they are used for emergency repairs on boats. These days you can even buy a ready made set.

    People think of software as of something static. Well, dynamic websites are more like a ships out at sea. Sometimes you have to patch them up in a storm. And then a good, strong “chop” is the best you can hope for until you can repair the leak permanently. And you are going to sink unless there’s somebody around who knows how to make a “chop”.

  • Michael Krakovskiy 5:04 pm on November 6, 2007 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Ellen Ullman,   

    Thnking Inside the Box 

    Sometimes I feel sorry for myself because I spend most of my waking hours inside a cube. Sometimes I sleep there too. Then I feel even sorrier. But on the other hand, some people are so much worse of than I am. My cube is much better than this guy’s, but the bugs I deal with are much more insidious. If you don’t believe me, read Ellen Ullman’s “The Bug“.

  • Michael Krakovskiy 2:01 pm on December 26, 2004 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Education in the United States, Ellen Ullman, Flicker, , , , , , Theodore Roszak, ,   

    Deadprogrammer’s Top 5 Books Read In 2004 

    Best books that I’ve read in 2004:

    The Bug by Ellen Ullman (here’s my writeup)

    Time and Again by Jack Finney ( mentioned here)

    Thinking in Pictures: And Other Reports from My Life with Autism by Temple Grandin (to be reviewed soon)

    Flicker by Theodore Roszak (to be reviewed soon)

    Subwayland : Adventures in the World Beneath New York by Randy Kennedy (to be reviewed soon)

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