# 02 Apr 2006, 10:36AM: Does Anyone (Who Writes This Blog) Have Anything Worth Saying Anymore?:
Leonard and I were reading a really interesting comments thread comparing the advantages of tech publishing models in the middle of last week. Against all odds, it stayed almost entirely informative, polite, and well-written. Then:
God, it's all such a bunch of s***. It's hard to believe that anyone is buying stuff from either self-publishing or the mainstream press. The tech world, and the literature world has become so faddish.
Does anyone have anything worth saying anymore?
I'm trying to learn to deal with geeks. I thought they were like my friends, Zack and Seth and Leonard and Joe and Eric and Devin and Zed and Brendan and Riana and too many names to reel off. And the people at Fog Creek are also of this type and I can communicate with them. But somehow I selected for something -- compassion? well-roundedness? a lack of arrogance? -- and now I have to learn how to talk and work with these people, this other species.
The geeks I'm running into socially here are almost all white guys, probably wealthier than me, usually older than me, and they treat feelings and uncertainty as irrelevant distractions. I believe that there's a difference between not caring what people think and not caring how people feel; this distinction eludes many of my new acquaintances. And forget about showing vulnerability! Their neat and easy distinction between their ideas and their selves means that I'm never talking to them, can never affect them one way or another. For all I know, they were born on third base (hitting the lottery in the Punnet Square of machine intelligence) and think they hit a triple. And I've gotten halfway through Glen's Leading Geeks and Duncan's The Career Programmer: Guerilla Tactics for an Imperfect World and they make me want to run for the hills. Am I choosing to spend the rest of my life working with misanthropic, nitpicking jerks?
Part of me wants to be productive and useful, to engage with the Other. After all, isn't this what I have to do? I'll have to work with this personality type for the rest of my life; shouldn't I resign myself and acclimate? And part of me is yelling, loud enough that it interferes, "God, it's all such a bunch of s***!"
Rachel has an awesome career that I could imagine having someday. But I would still have to show compassion for and empathize with people who never return the favor. The more I can understand and work with them, the more like them I become, and I want to keep that part of me that doesn't act like a machine intact. Irrational, non-adversarial, respectful, compassionate stuff is important.
Their arguments keep ringing in my head, the way Ayn Rand's used to, telling me to come over to this utopian paradise where nothing can ever hurt you. After all, they've already won. They set the terms for discourse in the places where I'm going to work if I keep up the career I've chosen. And they think they understand all my arguments and have already proven me wrong.
Or are you so flummoxed and confused and crazy that you decided that what they did made it OK for you to forget the handbook? They're evil, so ... so what? So you get to be evil? Well, of course you get to be evil, but then you're evil. Is that how you envisioned it turning out?
More Jon Carroll, since I'm in that mood:
I mean, render unto me a break. If your family feels so threatened by my family that you think you have to organize a boycott of a car company, then your family has problems my family can do nothing to solve.
I've been reading Jon Carroll archives and lists of April Fool's Day Hoaxes and they make me feel better because they make me laugh. I prefer laughing to arguing with the voices in my head. I miss my friends, I miss San Francisco, I miss the time before I saw mice in my apartments, I miss not caring whether admissions people at major universities saw what I wrote on my blog, I miss thinking that I could get along equally well with suits and geeks. Now I think I get along equally badly with suits and geeks, and that if I want to be a good interface between those two sides, I have to change into someone I don't think I want to be. I feel as though my self is in danger.
I'd say that it'll all be better in the morning, but that's what I thought last night, and this is the morning. But eating might help.
# 02 Apr 2006, 11:58AM: MC Masala Slams The Ramayana:
Now this should get me some letters! Indian epic slamdown!:
In "The Mahabharata," the ultimate family feud roils a great dynasty. Good people end up on the wrong side, a woman has five husbands, a god comes to earth, curses and prophecies and magical weapons intersect in giant explosions on the battlefield, and a bird threatens to kill a guy unless he answers some pretty heavy philosophical riddles. It's awesome.
In "The Ramayana," perfect people foil evil people's plans. The hero's allies show perfect loyalty, a model wife has to go through a magical test to see whether the villain has sullied her purity, the hero blithely destroys the city the villain rules and a monkey army makes a bridge between India and Sri Lanka. The monkey-men constitute the only lively part of the whole tale.
# 02 Apr 2006, 07:53PM GMT+5:30: In The Application Of My Seat To A Chair:
Lunch (and dinner and Wikipedia and writing and conversing with Riana and Leonard) have helped me feel better.
Riana wrote about caffeine addiction, social acceptance of same, and prostate cancer (among other things) earlier this year, on the same day that Wikipedia featured an article on prostate cancer on its main page. This reminds me of Daniel Davies's musings on caffeine and the US. Both essays are amusing and edifying.
Back to the grind.
# 04 Apr 2006, 11:25AM: Dr. Warren's Logic Class Shows Up Again:
The other day, I made a funny typo when writing a letter to a customer. I wrote, "Iff you'd like to order..." Logically, that's "If and only if you'd like to order..."
# 07 Apr 2006, 01:10PM: For Brendan's Eyes Nonexclusively:
WBFF Radio has been playing Ben Folds for the last several hours. I finally checked the site to see how long this marathon will continue. The answer: WBFF plays the complete discographies of Ben Folds Five, Ben Folds, Darren Jessee, Robert Sledge, Fear of Pop, and The Bens. And that's it.
In retrospect, the name should have given it away.
# 09 Apr 2006, 03:07PM: Yet Another Reason:
If you're in transit through Moscow, and you have a stop at Domodedovo Airport, you might have to pass a lie detector test that includes the question, "Have you ever lied to the authorities?"
When I visited Russia in the summer of 2001, I asked a program coordinator whether I should worry about racism. She said that it wouldn't be a problem for me, because I'm female and because Russians love Indians (the Cold War relationship between the USSR and India was warm). Now violent racists have made a lie of her words.
# 10 Apr 2006, 07:12AM: MC Masala Shares Subway Anecdotes:
Some mildly entertaining stories about mass transit.
You can guess the transfer blues that ensued. Our first walk through the midnight streets of Berkeley had no romance in it; we were arguing over whether I was naive. (That argument never goes well.) When we finally arrived, no one seemed relieved; no one had worried about us.
If you enjoyed "Indian lit: Leaping over tall tales in a single bound", you may also enjoy John-Paul Spiro's more expansive take in "If it feels good, worship it".
# 10 Apr 2006, 07:41AM: Trying To Explain:
I like story arcs in my TV these days. House, West Wing, Fall And Rise of Reginald Perrin, Deep Space Nine -- I want stories that grow and deepen.
The West Wing is almost over. We found out last night who won the fictional election. I was happy but disappointed too, not that it matters. We'll never get to see what the new administration would look like.
I do wish that the character of Josh either didn't exist or were much, much more competent and compelling. Maybe it's just the way Bradley Whitford plays him, but he's always seemed to me a screwup and the worst kind of conventional-wisdom repeater. Why in the world does Donna find him attractive?
# 11 Apr 2006, 11:04PM: Music:
Yesterday, as I waited at 59th and Lexington for a subway train, I listened to a busker play a steel drum. As I came in, he played a medley of "When the Saints Come Marching In" and the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Then he turned to the most awesome rendition of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" that I have ever heard, and that includes the Switched-on Bach version. Sometimes you get wonderful gifts that you never did anything to deserve.
# 12 Apr 2006, 08:28AM: Advice to Colleagues of Indians:
If you have coworkers, vendors, or customers who work in Bangalore or some other Karnatakan city, you won't be able to get much done with them today. Rajkumar has died. Think Elvis plus Jesus. Mourning in the streets, state funeral, all shops closed, that sort of thing.
Rest in peace, Dr. Rajkumar.
# 12 Apr 2006, 03:42PM: Why Do I Want To Type His Name "Ynggve"?:
My favorite writer this month: Steve Yegge.
Update: I know I already mentioned Yegge. Here's an excuse to mention him again:
Paul Graham has to be that way. Not just because he's a rich bastard who (with two friends) implemented an application in Lisp that we've been unable to match at Amazon, and Yahoo bought him out for $40 million in stock that proceeded to soar. That's not the main reason he comes off the way he does, although as far as I'm concerned, it gives him at least a halfway decent excuse.
Paul comes off the way he does because he's good at marketing, and he realizes that in a world full of egotistical programmers, the only way to be heard in all the noise is to be an arrogant bastard.
We work in a fashion industry, and marketing really matters.
# 12 Apr 2006, 03:58PM: Still Seems Weird To "Build" A "Gem":
Yay for Leonard! He is a triumpher!
Within Ruby, there are these packages called Gems. Whenever I hear Leonard refer to a RubyGem, I think he's being sarcastic. "Oh yeah, I have to go over this ABSOLUTE GEM of an application tonight."
# 13 Apr 2006, 09:36PM: Irregular Verb Conjugation:
I have a healthy respect for the inherent viciousness of the feline.
You don't care for cats.
He's afraid of the kitty.
# 13 Apr 2006, 09:53PM: Dead Mice Eat No Peanut Butter:
"Man, [that instance of vermin] is eating that poison like crazy!"
"Yeah, we can't keep it on the shelves!"
"Yes, because the FDA won't let us, because it's POISON."
# 14 Apr 2006, 11:07PM GMT+5:30: No One Has a Calling Anymore, Just A Core Competence:
All this time I thought I was a multiply-layered intersecting matrix of identities, and all this time I was actually a seven-word elevator pitch.
# 15 Apr 2006, 11:10PM: "Charade":
Leonard and I saw the very odd and very good movie "Charade" tonight. It has suspense, romance, comedy, and international intrigue. All it's missing is some song-and-dance numbers! Recommended.
# 16 Apr 2006, 03:23PM GMT+5:30: Brian K. Vaughn & Bernie Hou:
I have started spending regular cash at Midtown Comics to get the compilations of Brian K. Vaughn's comics Ex Machina, Runaways, and Y: The Last Man. I grew up on Amar Chitra Katha and only recently have I graduated to the grown-up stuff. Man, it's fantastic.
One issue of Ex Machina includes a reference to Midtown Comics itself. Disorienting.
Alien Loves Predator also helps me feel at home in my new city.
# 16 Apr 2006, 05:01PM: MC Masala on Paying Attention To Tiny Numbers:
Small print on restaurant menus will bite you.
The server started treating me very, very nicely. She chatted me up and gave me a flight of comparison sakes so I could understand the subtle grace of the daiginjo.
You can tell where this is going.
# 18 Apr 2006, 11:36PM:
Make It New, the man said, and I took it to heart, the one place I shouldn't have. I feared cliches because I was young, but life's too short for that game. Love is classic, fresh when the meme wars fade. Love is never played out.
So now I choose to prune my decision tree, and blossom in love, and taste of this new fruit. We'll make meaning of our lives together.
Leonard, you initiate me into the colors of the world. Your love sends me casting for words and throwing them away. I gladly accept your proposal of marriage, Leonard.
# 22 Apr 2006, 10:09AM: I'm Testing the Upgrade:
Just like Linus Torvalds did
I'm testing the upgrade
(Except that he is talented)
# 22 Apr 2006, 11:06AM: LiveJournal Userpic Epicenter:
A LiveJournal user with the awesome username of "pinstripe_bindi" (I like both bindis and pinstripes!) has the ultimate collection of LJ icons. House, Powerpuff, Calvin & Hobbes, Futurama, Lost, Frida Kahlo, Firefly, Harry Potter, anti-Bush, Jon Stewart, My Neighbor Totoro, Daria, Hello Kitty, Snakes on a Plane, and more. I approve of this cornucopia.
# (12) 22 Apr 2006, 12:19PM: To Love And To Cherish:
Leonard and I married each other yesterday. Our friend Camille took pictures.
As Leonard mentioned, we need for nothing except your good wishes and your advice. In celebration, I've turned on comments for this entry. Please tell us your hard-earned wisdom to keep our union strong and loving. This is the biggest project I've ever undertaken, and your words are more than welcome.
# 23 Apr 2006, 01:29PM: The Proto-Schemer:
Scheme and me in this week's column.
Lisp has considerable status among programmers. Growing proficient in Lisp, the conventional wisdom goes, is like learning Latin or Greek; it teaches rigor and elegance in thought. It helps you grasp the essential patterns, challenges and creativity of programming a computer. A culture surrounds this language, as a culture surrounds any language, and the Lisp community is regarded as smart and snobby. Maybe coders as a whole regard Lispers as I regard particularly obnoxious geeks: infuriatingly smart and arrogant, as though they have discovered the true scheme of the world.
# 23 Apr 2006, 05:23PM: Nonobvious Stuff I May Do Now That I'm Married to Leonard:
- Talk freely with him about family money situations
- Mention our one-bedroom apartment
- Get cheaper memberships at some museums than we could while single
- Feel threatened by gay marriage (just kidding)
# 25 Apr 2006, 03:41PM: Completely Unrelated Items Entry:
From a Business of Software discussion: yes, it's a Steve Pavlina article, but this one isn't nearly as wince-inducing as his "focus all arguments on the other person's flaws" HOWTO. This one is a really interesting and non-annoying essay on a possible "lie of success" and how to get over fear of failure.
Promised unrelated bit: The best game ever would be Where on the Oregon Trail is Carmen Sandiego?.
# 25 Apr 2006, 08:47PM: Loving Infringement:
I can't imagine this is completely okay legally, but some folks have reenacted a few skits from Square One TV, including a dance to "8% of My Love." I love that song! It's a very enthusiastic remake, including Comic Sans notes on the screen citing which percentages of the singer's love are already accounted for.
# 26 Apr 2006, 12:09AM: Pocket Protector = Attention:
Hat-tip to Adi for passing this along: a seven-minute film or trailer about MC Frontalot includes some footage from the show that I attended several weeks ago. Between 3:02 and 3:38 you'll see me, Adi, Adam, and John. I'm the one acting as though I'm a Linux zealot.
# 26 Apr 2006, 10:32AM: Kaavya Viswanathan:
Once in a while I see a novel by an Indian or Indian-American or Indian disapora author, especially a woman, and I think that they'll fill up the niche before I get my act together to get in on it. What if there's no more gravy train for an MC Masala by the time I write The Novel?
Now I know I have at least one leg up on 'em. Kaavya Viswanathan, you're no Gordon Korman! "...even plagiarism has become a simulacrum, a pale imitation of the real thing." Aha, here's my competitive advantage! I have a core competence in not being a plagiarist!
But come on, "bought her way into Harvard"? Dude, money can't give you drive. In fact, I imagine it usually doesn't.
# 27 Apr 2006, 01:00AM: Entertainment Miscellany:
Watched the new Spike Lee film The Inside Man tonight. It contains a subtle Bamboozled reference, constant wit, and unyielding suspense. Very good.
From dinner: "Michael Dell [in Direct from Dell] has ruined the word 'strategic' for me. Just like George W. Bush ruined 'freedom.'"
On the phone, I asked, "Is anything amiss?" and Leonard retorted, "You're not a Miss anymore!"
Jon Stewart, Tom Selleck, and Stephen Colbert are very funny men.
# 27 Apr 2006, 08:37PM: Resolved:
That Someone Should Close This Bug, Feature, or Inquiry:
- Resolved (Fixed)
- Resolved (Not Reproducible)
- Resolved (Duplicate)
- Resolved (Postponed)
- Resolved (Won't Fix)
- Resolved (By Design)
- Resolved (Implemented)
- Resolved (Won't Implement)
- Resolved (Already Exists)
- Resolved (Responded)
- Resolved (Won't Respond)
- Resolved (SPAM)
- Resolved (Waiting For Info)
# 28 Apr 2006, 01:18PM: Turtle Power:
On Travelocity right now: "In The Spirit of Da Vinci: Last Minute Code-Cracking Getaways from $199."
Sedoc gnikcarc ekil*? If you've got a taste for cloak and dagger intrigue, solving puzzles and riddles, or wandering through the labyrinths and mazes of the world, we encourage you to decode modern mysteries in the following destinations.
(*backwards for "like cracking codes?")
Actually, it's backwards for "?like cracking codes" or "?*like cracking codeS" or something else Semantic Web-looking. But come on! ROT13 it or something. GOB from Arrested Development could do better.
Travelocity recommends Poe's grave, the Spy Museum, the Morse statue and museum, the Winchester Mystery House, and the Sherlock Holmes Museum. Did they omit the Denver Airport because then you wouldn't need a hotel too?
# 29 Apr 2006, 02:50PM: And Other Austin Powers Uses:
Via Rebecca Blood, a guide to packing light. Includes the obvious-in-retrospect multipurpose tool: dental floss as makeshift thread and shoelaces.
# 29 Apr 2006, 03:04PM: Anthologies, Anthropologies:
When I look at the scrapbook for my columns, or the blog-into-book collections of years of CES, I feel grateful and proud and overwhelmed. When I look at the huge list that comes up for my "open cases that I initiated" filter in FogBugz, I don't. How sentimental I am.
# 30 Apr 2006, 01:29AM: Have A Sandwich:
If the guys from Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag actually wrote the poetry they wrote, it would probably be a lot less funny and a lot more like the lyrics from Van Morrison's contractual obligation album.
# 30 Apr 2006, 09:27PM: Love Not Played Out:
MC Masala on getting married.
The unimaginable has happened. Not only does Leonard want me in his life, but I know I want him in my life! It's an embarrassment of riches, coming to someone who had prepped herself for starvation.
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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