Eric: September 2003 Archives
September 30, 2003
So I had an odd dream last night. I dreamt that Lindsay and I were helping Jenny move into the dorms at UT Austin (which was weird enough; I can only imagine that it was some amalgam of memories helping Jen move into the dorm at Butler). As we were carrying a load of stuff across the dorm lobby (this dorm was apparently a high-rise, with a hotel-type lobby on the ground floor), I saw my old AP English teacher and drama director, Mrs. Berry (though I am suddenly unsure if that was actually her name). She moved to Texas (in real life) just after the end of my senior year of high school, which made me feel sorry for the juniors as she was a great teacher.
So anyway, I saw Mrs. Berry across the lobby, but I had a heavy armful of stuff, so we ascended the high-rise looking for Jen's room. It took us a while to find, as the place didn't have any straight hallways longer than about 4 feet. (This particular image may have come from that bionic office I linked yesterday.) By the time we found the room and came back down, Mrs. Berry was gone. It was a very odd dream, especially since I haven't thought of Mrs. Berry in a while (probably not since the last time Jenny mocked me about Guys and DollsBye Bye Birdie), and I had almost forgotten she moved to Texas. I don't even know where in Texas or whether she's still there.
Also: T minus 81 hours and counting.
September 29, 2003
Build him the perfect office:
Most software managers know what good office space would be like, and they know they don't have it, and can't have it. Office space seems to be the one thing that nobody can get right and nobody can do anything about. There's a ten year lease, and whenever the company moves the last person anybody asks about how to design the space is the manager of the software team, who finds out what his new veal-fattening pens, uh, cubicle farm is going to be like for the first time on the Monday after the move-in.
Well, it's my own damn company and I can do something about it, so I did.
Jenny's post on Accumulated Wisdom has inspired me to post some things I have recently learned.
- Don't keep black pens in your shirt pocket.
- If you are going to be foolish enough to put black pens in your shirt pocket, carefully check all your shirts for pens before washing them.
- Should a pen escape your insufficiently vigilant watch, OxyClean is surprisingly good at getting ink out of clothes.
Also, the season premiere of Law & Order: Criminal Intent last night was good. It was all about sordid, polygamist architects, and when you mix that with Vincent D'Onofrio's patented "Weird Insight" character, that's guaranteed good plot material right there.
Also, the theatrical trailer for Return of the King is out, and damn if it doesn't have me all shivery.
Finally, there are only roughly 103 hours between now and when I get to kiss Jenny again. This week cannot possibly go fast enough. (Actually, I forgot the time change: 102 hours!)
September 26, 2003
OpenP2P.com has an article/interview titled Independent Label Go-Kart Records Embraces MP3s which is quite interesting. A quote:
Instead of suing little girls and filing ridiculous lawsuits, we here at Go-Kart have decided to embrace this new MP3 technology, and have unleashed the first commercially sold MP3 CD… We feel that this format is the perfect way to promote bands, rather than take away from them.
They even include instructions on how to burn the mp3s to other CDs. Greg Ross, who runs Go-Kart, seems like an entirely sane person. Along with services like irate radio, CDBaby, and Dell's (hopefully good) upcoming music service, it looks like within a few months you won't need to illegally download songs you want, which is a definite improvement. (As Greg notes in the interview, filesharing services suck for finding what you want anyway, so I'll be happy when there's a good, my-rights friendly service where I don't have to worry about getting 4 minutes of a 20-second loop or digital bleeps and bloops instead of (say) Sheryl Crow's cover of Cat Stevens' First Cut Is The Deepest. Of course whether Dell will be the first big service to sell big-name artists and still manage sane DRM settings is an unfortunately open question.)
September 23, 2003
So I encountered one of the software engineer's primary enemies yesterday: a non-deterministic bug. What I mean by that is that the bug's behavior is apparently random. Sometimes the bug will appear, sometimes it will not, and there is no way to reliably reproduce the bug. These are possibly the most difficult class of bugs to fix; if you tell any software developer that you've found a problem with his software, his first question is almost certainly going to be "How do I reproduce it?". This particular bug was due to a race condition; two files were being created at about the same time. If one was created first, the code worked perfectly; if the other was, it exposed a heretofore unknown problem in the code.
I spent eight hours yesterday and four hours today hunting this bug through four layers of software, at least 7 different software modules, and two different configurations. And in the end, I nailed it to the wall.
It's surprising, really, how much pure satisfaction I derive from that; from proving that I understand how the software and the computer work, being able to explain the exact problem to my team lead and my manager, and being able to fix the problem in six lines of code.
It's funny; yesterday I worked late, and the last 12 work hours were high-pressure and high-stress, and they were not at all glamorous, but they sure as hell reminded me why I love what I do.
September 22, 2003
I cannot believe that this is an actual, honest-to-God, official, frequently-asked-question, but it is on the website of the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory:
Why don't we try to destroy tropical cyclones by nuking them?
Hat tip to Invisible Adjunct.
September 17, 2003
Wicked! I missed this when it hit the web (July-ish), but apparently Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman are making a Band-of-Brothers-style miniseries based on the Pacific Theater. As a kid I was more interested in the Pacific war than the European, so I'll have to watch for this.
September 16, 2003
After eight years away from newspapers, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Berkeley Breathed is creating a new comic strip called "Opus," starring his beloved penguin of the same name.
Randall Parker is considering what will happen when a single terrorist will be able to kill enormous numbers of people. His conclusion states that:
If we are going to be faced with growing threats from terrorism due to technological advances that make it easier to launch terrorist attacks of enormous lethality is there anything we can do about it? As I see it there are only about two major counters that can be used to sustain a defense in the long run:
- A massive worldwide surveillance society. Sensors would be deployed throughout the world to watch for dangerous actions by individuals.
- Reengineer human minds to make humans less dangerous.
One of his commenters says, "Another 'counter' is to build a less fragile civilization." Perhaps it's because I've been reading Frank Herbert lately again, but I'm reminded of the concept of the "Golden Path" in the Dune books (the original ones, not the horrid ones infected by Kevin J. Anderson).
September 11, 2003
September 10, 2003
I would just like to point out that Jenny gave me the best travel coffee mug I've ever had. It's made by Nissan Stainless. I poured hot coffee into it at 6:20 this morning, and at 9:40 it's still pleasantly warm. It doesn't leak, it's easy to clean, and it's nice and roomy. Highly recommended. :)
September 9, 2003
Sandy, Mark, Ryan and I watched the second-to-last summer episode of "The O.C." tonight. Watching shows like that—Sex and the City, Queer Eye, The O.C., that type of stuff—is one of the things that really makes me miss Jen. I enjoy watching the show with my friends here, but I miss the way we used to sit on the couch together, dogs at our feet, and laugh and groan at the characters and plots. I know it will happen again, hopefully in the near future, but right at the moment I really miss my wife. :-P
There are other things, of course; when I have a good day at work (like today), I want to come home and tell Jen about it while I make dinner. I want to hear how her classes went today, see my dogs go nuts when I come home. I miss hanging out with my best friend every day of my life.
It was a good day at work, though; that was cool, since lately I feel kind of like I'm just doing busy work. Not that I don't understand; when an employee is leaving on an unknown schedule, it's chancy to give them any significant projects. But I got to have some interesting, thought-provoking conversations on software engineering today, which was nice. It's a little unnerving seeing how my career goals have solidified the last two years; I do have Boeing to thank for that. Also, having read the design patterns books I did really is having an effect on my software designs. That's something I definitely wish we'd covered in the grad class I took on Software Engineering, since it would have helped a great deal when we were redesigning all of our software the last 18 months. (And a big shout-out to my Software Engineering prof…) Still, I feel like I'm gaining a certain amount of skill at finding situations where the design patterns I already know would be useful, so hopefully I can start detecting new patterns soon as well. That makes me a major geek, but I enjoy it, so what the hell. :)
Had some interesting thoughts on kids today too, but I'm still mulling those over. May post about them tomorrow night. Last thing: I love you, Jenny. :)
There's a good article in Slate called An Offer You Can Refuse which discusses the current state of P2P and the RIAA's utterly BS amnesty. Among other interesting factoids is that even if you take their deal, any other copyright owner can then subpoena the RIAA and use the amnesty information to sue you themselves. Charming, yes?
The really interesting point the author makes is to point out that activity is starting to move off of the current major P2P nets. He mentions EarthStation 5, a Palestine (as in the Middle East) based network that uses anonymization etc to try to hide who's downloading and sharing what. Another trend I've noticed is a move to "semi-private" nets, where a community (online or offline) will provide a secret, password-protected P2P net for its own use. While this does slow down the diffusion of new material, it doesn't do so by a whole lot because of the six-degrees-of-separation problem; many people will belong to multiple nets, and will thus help move material across community boundaries. Several colleges and universities have these kind of nets (both official and unofficial), as do numerous online forums.
A wise man once said that "The Internet views censorship as damage, and routes around it." So far he's right. First noticed this via Instapundit.
There. I posted. Happy? :)
September 8, 2003
So apparently the author of the SoBig worm is performing some kind of experiment—ostensibly to find out what the ideal conditions for a worm release are. (Details in the Star Tribune.) Exciting times ahead for the internet, no doubt; maybe people will slowly figure out why firewalls are good things. (I note that Microsoft is starting to ship XP with the built-in firewall enabled by default, which is something they really ought to have been doing before.)
Anyway, this quote really irritates me:
"NASA has virtually defect-free software," said Paul Saffo, director at the Institute for the Future in Menlo Park, Calif. "Why doesn't Microsoft achieve that same level of software? Because they think they don't have to and because everyone is rushing to introduce the shiniest bell and loudest whistle."