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: To Optimize Response Speed On MySQL, Follow These Instructions: Just watched Jay Pipes's 45-minute Google TechTalk, "Performance Tuning Best Practices for MySQL". A few points I took to heart:

I've just listed a few of the best tips. If you deal with MySQL for fun or profit, check out the talk.

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: Mac-o! Mac-o!: I got interviewed by Gene Steinberg on The Tech Night Owl LIVE (although it was not LIVE or live). My interview starts around 48:20, but just before it is a highly entertaining ad for Attack of the Rockoids.

Is my voice really that high? Not right now it's not, because I have another cold. Please don't wince too hard at my discussion of ports as "harbors" (Leonard has now kindly corrected me). And let us know what you think of Copilot 2.0.

(2) : London Mid-March: My sister and I will probably be visiting London for about three days in the middle of March. Would anyone there care to put us up? Barring that, could I buy anyone there a cup of tea?

(1) : Newest MC Masala Column: I'm not always right. Still sick.

: Misc: From class yesterday, in "managing emerging technologies":

"I believe that they originally went by Research Associates, or Internet Research Agency. [pause] But that information may be false."

[during a presentation on solar energy in the 20th century] "I heard Monsanto's taking out a patent on the sun."

Yesterday was the first round of failed technology presentations. Betamax, Laserdisc, WebTV, and Carter/Reagan-era solar energy. Fun fact: Philips, a company that has a claim on inventing the VCR, backed neither VHS nor Betamax. They originally went with a format you've never heard of, V-2000.

Tonight I host a Meetup group about web comics at the Skylight Diner on 34th St. Come on down if you like.

Ze Frank tells the clear, bitter truth about procrastination.

: Better: Oh yeah, by the way, my group's presentation went okay, despite the fact that I was out of commission due to illness for four days preceding, so the other folks in my group had to work a zillion times harder. Argh. Leonard reminded me that this is just payback for all the times in school that I carried freeloaders. Still. I'm better now, and networked successfully at the New York Tech Meetup. Gotta crank out this column, though.

: Minimalism: Just got off the column for this Sunday. Something I had to leave out: Mike Daisey wrote about his time at Amazon in his book 21 Dog Years (based on his monologue) and talked about dot-coms and minimalism in architecture for a paragraph.

I don't know what it is about tech companies and exposed ductwork -- they love the stuff. It's as though the building's guts reflect an inner anxiety writ large, so that at any point in the day any of us can look up at the exposed piping and exclaim, "We're so busy, look how hard we're working...oh God, please, we're almost profitable, we're working so hard that we don't have time to cover up these ducts! They had to be exposed! That's how dedicated we are!"
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: Weight And Delay: I've lost a few pounds recently, with no change in my exercise habits, following Michael Pollan's recent advice in the New York Times summing up his recent book The Omnivore's Dilemma. "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." By food, he means real food, not processed food product that people wouldn't recognize as food a hundred years ago.

So, for example, I'll allow myself real sweets, made by Leonard, but not mass-produced candy. And I am reducing my portions, reminding myself that it's fine to be a little bit hungry just as I finish eating. Sometimes I feel full a few minutes later, once my stomach's gotten all the food in.

By "my exercise habits," I mean my relatively sedentary life of walking to and from the subway and pacing on the phone. Workout shows pile up on the TiVo unwatched. I am ashamed.

My pattern in exercise is that I make a prediction/promise about my future actions and keep being surprised by the same pattern over and over. Why is this a surprise? A similar phenomenon I witnessed recently; don't forget that software engineering isn't just typing. It's the creative design doodling, yes, and it's integration, administering your development box, and all the miscellaneous petty stuff too. If it takes you twenty minutes of typing and three days of menial OS problems to get your deliverable to the end user, then the end user still had to wait three days, not just "your" twenty minutes. It's all yours. Especially if you made promises based on the typing time.

So: I should be realistic, and take into account my own stresses and foibles and time constraints. Eating more healthfully doesn't take any more time, so it's easy for me to do.

In fact, it just saved me a few minutes. I was thinking of indulging in a Jell-O "chocolate" pudding cup from the Fog Creek fridge, but looked back and saw that, out of tens of tries, never has a Jell-O pudding cup ever made me feel better. So I didn't. Incremental improvement.

: Approved: Watched The Queen (very good) just before watching Children of Men (oh my word what an excellent thing). Any parallels other than the death of Princess Diana?

(1) : From An Insane Tech Support Call Today: "Lovecraft once wrote a short story called 'At the Mountains of Madness.'"

"I cross those every day!"

"Yeah, we've built a highway through those mountains."

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(2) : Sssssssss: UC Berkeley and Stanford have a rivalry. It took me a few years to grok their friendly rivalry, just as it was amazing the first time I played Jeopardy! with my husband and enjoyed it when he won just as when I did. Stanford and Cal are both good schools, and besides now I have the East Coast school folks to deal with. We merely hissed when Berkeley lecturers mention Stanford; the folks at Duke evidently scream to overpower the speaker's voice if he mentions UNC-Chapel Hill.

"Well, we just hiss to indicate the rivalry, but we don't cut off the speaker's free speech," I explained.

"Mentioning UNC doesn't count as free speech," said Duke-guy.

"What are you, 23?"

(6) : Holidays: Every year I try not to pay attention to Valentine's Day or the Academy Awards, and every year I catch them out of the corner of an eye. They're manufactured fusses, and the more secure you feel the less anxiety you feel about them.

(3) : That's It: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: Jordan + Danny doesn't make sense. A strong, competent, funny woman is going to fall for the plainly incompetent unimaginative junkie stalker? Somehow it's okay for the senior black guy on the staff to ride roughshod over the junior black guy because they have different conceptions of their own blackness? (Like the product placement debate, this was done better and funnier on 30 Rock.) Sorry, Timothy Busfield and Nate Corddry and Amanda Peet and Matthew Perry, I'd like to watch you being funny, but it's not worth it. I didn't watch it this week, and won't. TiVo Season Pass: deleted.

House: It does not make sense for Dr. House to always win. And it gets boring. Forget having strong female characters -- how about strong non-House characters? Interpersonal game theory + one funny line per week does not equal compelling TV. "Three Stories" broke the mold, and it was great, but it's sad that there even is a mold. I didn't watch this week, and won't. TiVo Season Pass: deleted.

: An Exercise: "I think that's how you get stronger, is working through the pain."

"Not if you die!"

"You might fall over, yeah. But that's just ... heightening the contradictions. It's a Leninist model of personal fitness."

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: Phillip Robertson: I used to work at Salon, which means that I got to meet a lot of writers and editors. I had lunch with Cary Tennis a few times, hung out fairly regularly with Page Rockwell and Farhad Manjoo and Katharine Mieszkowski, etc. But the most alien experience was talking with Phillip Robertson.

He's a war correspondent. He didn't seem like an adrenaline junkie when I had lunch with him once or twice. At times I tried to say things like "Stay safe" or "Have you considered not going?" because, as much as I value his reportage, I kind of know him now, so I also value his life and limb.

He was on the ground in Iraq for the turn there from bad to worse. The Salon archives of his stuff comprise half the most memorable work Salon published while I was there. Substantial reading for the weekend.

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(4) : Day Of Activities: Yesterday I took the day off from work to help Leonard get his Indian visa at the Indian consulate. (Later this year he's coming with me to see my parents in India, just before our short vacation in London.) I didn't expect the whole day would be as nice as it was.

If you get to the New York City consulate of India by 8:30 or so, then you don't have to wait too long after the office starts working (by 9:15) to actually get to a service window. They let us into the heated waiting room about 20 minutes early, which I appreciated. (Snow from about ten days ago is still on the ground here.) Leonard's application said he was a writer, and this got his otherwise bog-standard case escalated to "Talk to Mr. Such-and-so on the upper level" status. Aside from that, everything was in order and tediously uneventful.

In between dropping off his application and picking it up at noon, we walked around a bit and ate an unremarkable brunch. Tip: Central Park's zoo doesn't charge you until after you've seen the seals through the iron fence. Also: Lexington in midtown has lots of little interesting shops, where Madison has extremely designed rich-people stores.

We passed two of the nine Oren's Daily Roast locations. Oren's takes in used books to supply schools and libraries in Ethiopia, a coffee exporter.

After we picked up his visa (which takes up a FULL HONKIN' PAGE in his passport, with stamps and glittery stripes and who knows what all), we visited the Make (Meaning) shop and painted a few coasters. Neither of us wanted to do representational art, so they're all abstract: dots, stripes, that sort of thing. Maybe we'll get pictures of them up after we pick them up next week (the store fires them in the shop kiln). Huzzah, they'll be microwave- and dishwasher-safe!

Then, another nonmemorable meal, and homewards, where we watched "How Open Source Projects Survive Poisonous People (And You Can Too)". Leonard's old CollabNet colleagues hosted it, telling stories about ways they kept the Subversion community out of trouble. Recommended.

: Concentration: One of the things I like best about Hugo Schwyzer's blog is that he regularly posts poetry, such as W.H. Auden's "A Walk After Dark." Poetry requires the most concentration of anything that comes into my RSS aggregator, and so reading it gets me closer to understanding my colleagues who read and understand code all day.

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: Did You Mean: I'm reading Roy Porter's book The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity for my class on emerging technologies. My group is studying the introduction of digital patient records, so I'm reading the Porter to give us a historical context for how medical institutions got more bureaucratic, and how processes and institutions changed once we needed/started using charts in the first place.

It's a terrific book, really comprehensive and littered with great anecdotes and quotes, but among the drier texts I've read recently. The past few times I've sat down to read it at length, I've reliably gone 50-75 pages, then conked out. Either I have tremendous sleep deprivation or I'm bored, which means I'm boring (Frances's dictum, "Only boring people are bored").

Yesterday I saw a pattern and exclaimed about it to Leonard. There's some received wisdom that everyone believes because it's traditional, and then someone new comes along and sees with new eyes and makes a new model for how the body works, and there's a flurry of new experimentation and theorizing, and then that model calcifies and becomes the new received wisdom for a few hundred years until the next experimenters come along.

Leonard reminded me that I had basically just reiterated the thesis of Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Oh yeah. I read that book, didn't I? Ten years ago.

It's a good thing that we don't have little demons following us around all the time, humbling us with prior art every time we think we've thought up something original. Well, not good for innovation, but good for my personal ego. As Leonard commented (unrelatedly) yesterday, "I never know what sentence that I say is going to throw you into an existential crisis."

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(1) : Ugly Bags of Mostly Water: "What about taking Communion moves you so much?"

In one gesture it sort of sums up the craziness and beauty of human life, which is that you are a soul in a piece of meat, you know? You are a soul in a body. You are bound to other bodies by the fact of your body, by eating and drinking, which are among the most basic human functions. And yet you are also a soul.
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(2) : MC Masala on Blinders: Freaking prejudice! Freaking lack of metacognition! Aaargh!

If our assumptions blind us to what's really going on, how can we make sure we're acting ethically? One example: in sex, in psychology experiments, in drug use, we comfort ourselves with disclaimers about consenting adults.

It is impossible for a virgin to know what sex is like, and the same applies to new drugs or mindbending experiments.

How can you give informed consent to an experience you've never had before?

We are ignorant, not just of facts, but of the models, lenses and architectures we should use to evaluate the facts that we do have. All we can do is be glad when we're disoriented, because right after that comes a measure of enlightenment.

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