Sunday, October 31, 2004

A quarter million calories

So, apparently not that many kids trick-or-treat apartment complexes around here. I saw four groups of kids the entire night. I took about three bags of candy to work Friday, and it was gone in less than half an hour. So, I went out today and bought a lot more candy, and now I'm left with an enormous cauldron of it. I also placed a can of tuna in my candy bowl just to see what happened... I'm not particularly shocked that no child chose the can of tuna over the candy, but a reaction of some sort would have been entertaining.

Amazon wants me to have sex with men

Usually, I'm fairly impressed with the things that Amazon.com recommends for me. In fact, I have discovered a lot of musical artists that I like thanks to their automated recommendations. Because of this, I periodically go through the things that it wants me to buy. Tonight, I found out that Zero 7 has a new CD out, and a few days ago, I found out about Vanessa Carlton's latest CD, both of which are great news to me.

Amazon knows that I like DVD sets of nerdy shows. For example, I have all of the released seasons of The Simpsons, Family Guy, Futurama, The X-Files, Millennium, Star Trek: Voyager, The Critic, and Arrested Development. So, I fully understand that Amazon wants me to buy Babylon 5, Angel, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, and Stargate SG-1, though I'm not really interested in those shows. It knows that I like electronic and trip-hop music, so it suggests a lot of electronic music for me. It knows that I have purchased pans, so it suggests lots more pans for me. Tonight, it even recommended for me the camera that I just bought. But then it gets weird. Amazon, of all websites, should know that I don't really read. In fact, I've only purchased a couple books in recent history; I purchased Get Your War On 2 from Amazon recently (which is barely a book, since it's all cartoons), and then America: The Book—but that was from Barnes and Noble. As I was looking through my recommendations tonight, I noticed something odd: there were a lot of books in there, which I don't normally see, but even more strangely, starting with about page eight, they were all gay-themed books. There were collections of coming-out stories, a few political-ish books, and then several of what are apparently the gay version of trashy romance novels. I've never seen so much gay literature in my life... and I'm now really wondering what prompted Amazon to suggest these items for me.

So, not too long after, I go back to Amazon to click on the "why was I recommended this?" links. But they're all gone. I had already clicked "not interested" on those items, so now it's too late to find out what dirty secrets Amazon thinks it knows about me. Going through my wish list, I can't even fathom what's so gay about the items I want. The only particularly gay things on my list are two books by Dan Savage (of "Savage Love" fame in The Onion AV Club), but those were the first items I ever added to my wish list, years and years ago. I've never bought them because, well, I don't really read. My recent items are cookbooks, "Deep Thoughts" books by Jack Handey, and a lot of CDs.

I'm terribly confused. What about my Amazon browsing habits screams "ho-mo-sexual?" I must know! A couple times before, Amazon went on a recommendin'-spree of weird things: once grills, and another time jewelry. But, when those happened, the same items were being recommended to Daniel. Weird. Very, very weird.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

The Grudge

I saw "The Grudge" tonight. I have to say, it exceeded all of my expectations. I mean, I thought it was going to be really bad. It turns out that it was horrid beyond my dreams. Absolutely abysmal. I mean, it wasn't quite as bad as "Punch-Drunk Love," but it was still bad enough that, if I were hospitalized and the TV in my room could only show this movie, I would prefer to just lie there and twiddle my thumbs.

So, yeah, that. Here are a few more random tidbits that don't fit anywhere:
  • I came closer to being pelted with bird crap than ever before today. If it weren't for the fact that a Segway with maxed-out weight tolerance doesn't go uphill very fast, I would have had a face full of white goo this morning.
  • I got a slug stuck inside my fender today. I got into my office and noticed two little antennae sticking out from under it. Nasty.
  • While waiting for the movie, we went to Borders to look around. There, they had books titled Cryptography for Dummies and Network Security for Dummies. We unanimously agreed that, despite their best intentions, dummies should probably not be attempting to secure networks or sensitive data.
  • I wore my Halloween "costume" to the theatre, and I was actually approached by a random guy who told me how awesome it was.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Sam's Club

My dad informed me that they now sell Segways at Sam's Club. That just seems kind of funny to me... that they would sell a Segway in the same store as where you get a year's worth of mayonnaise in bulk in order to save $1.24. But, I guess there must be other people like me, who would actively use it in place of a car. It saves me quite a bit of money, not needing car payments or insurance or gas. Anyway, I thought it was entertaining.

Like a dog

Monday, during the Monday Morning FrontPage Developers Meeting (3:00 pm), I was sitting near an electrical outlet, and my manager was about five feet away and unraveling his power cord. Once he finished, I reached out and took the plug and plugged it in for him. When I did this, he looked at me wide-eyed, and the guy sitting next to me seemed surprised as well. He then said for all to hear, "Wow, I have you trained! Like, you will do my bidding." It was slightly embarrassing, but kind of entertaining as well.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

So sweepy

I'd really like to limit the number of times I leave work after midnight. I worked 14 hours today. I will, however, finally be able to resume writing code tomorrow. All this—these six wasted workdays and a weekend—because the guy testing my feature didn't want to have to wait a couple weeks. (I guess it's kind of hard to change your schedule at the last minute, but I doubt that it was really worth this much extra work.) It's kind of funny because I technically outrank him, despite the fact that he conducted my very first on-campus FrontPage interview. In fact, it seems kind of odd outranking anybody.

Now I'm going to sleep.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Not safe for work

So, I was looking at Photoshop Phriday, and one of my coworkers started reading with me...

Phil: "That's a lot of bukkake"...? What's bukkake?
Me: Uh, I'll let you find that out yourself.

Later, once he had finished helping my officemate...

Phil: Take it easy, guys. I'm gonna go look up "bukkake."

At this point, I quickly got up to go catch him before he got to his office...

Me: Uh, you might want to look that up at home.
Phil: Oooooh... sounds interesting.

So what?

So, I've noticed that many of my recent posts have begun with the same word. Determining this word is left as an exercise to the reader. I could make up some elaborate story about how it's a form of neo-technological poetry or something, but that would just be stupid. In reality, it's because I write like I talk, and when I talk, I tend to fall into certain patterns for weeks at a time. I have, unfortunately, been starting many of my conversations with the word "so," not just the posts in my blog.

Pretty printing

So, when I came back from dinner Friday night to begin my long evening of debugging, I saw the following text on my whiteboard:

When the pretty printer receives
a PP_UGLY flag it fails


Later, this conversation took place when a coworker stopped by. (Useful information: Phil is a coworker of small stature who has an odd sense of humor.)

Alex: Hmmm, that looks like Phil's work.
Me: Why do you say that?
Alex: Because it looks like the kind of dumbass thing he would think was funny.
Me: Oh. I thought because it was low to the ground.
Alex: Good. Now, if you never tell him what I just said, I'll never tell him what you just said.

And then he left.

Stress

So, last week was not a good week. On Mondays, I have a status meeting with my manager. After describing that I got no productive work whatsoever done last week, he said, "well, don't grow the grey hairs about it." (He's not great with English, or French, for that matter.) It's nice to have a manager who understands development... that you can sometimes go an entire week without getting anything done. I mean, that's more important than having a manager who understands English grammar, isn't it?

Sunday, October 24, 2004

A clean slate

So, I just reinstalled Windows. I've been working on it all day. Setting up a new computer is always such an ordeal for me... I need things to be exactly the way I like them, and this usually seems to be about a 16-hour process when it's all said and done. In fact, starting from scratch is something that I would normally reserve for a catastrophic event of some kind. This time, though, I'm doing it to try out Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005: The Product that Shouldn't Be a Separate Operating System but Is for Some F#$%ing Reason AND Can't Be Upgraded to from Windows XP Professional. (Marketing later shortened the name to "Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005.") I mean, it's cool and all, but there's really no reason that I shouldn't be able to upgrade to it from XP Professional. It does feature a few changes to the operating system, such as improvements to Remote Desktop, but in reality, they're changes that should have been made to other versions of Windows anyway. I'm all for product differentiation, but this is a really stupid way of doing it.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

So cold

So, it's been pretty cold here for the past week, and the forecast for this week is pretty much identical. Now, I'm not talking about Nebraska -20F cold... this is Northwest +55F cold. It turns out that I will have to use my apartment's heating after all... waking up to 58F temperatures is not sexy. What's worse is that it's actually nicer in Lincoln right now. But... I'll have the last laugh when it dips down below freezing for the first time this winter and it's -20F there... maybe...

Friday, October 22, 2004

Kickass Friday night

So, this is the first time that I've worked this late before. Granted, I did eat lunch and dinner at some point, but I've been working for quite some time today, being that it's a few minutes until midnight. I'll also come in tomorrow, though if it's nice outside, I'll wait until evening before I do.

Still, there's nowhere I'd rather be working.

Irritating urination habits

So, there's this Indian guy who, I believe, works on Microsoft Project. I've been in the bathroom at the same time as him twice this week now. He has what might be the most annoying bathroom habit ever. He stands in front of the urinal, standing at about the maximum acceptable distance from the urinal, and arches his body so that every part of his body is as far away as possible, as if his penis spewed painful radiation, and he had to make sure that the rest of his body was safe. He stands with his right hand on his hip, and his left hand on the flush handle. He then proceeds to flush the urinal constantly until he is done. There isn't a second of slience... it's just WHOOOOSH-slush-WHOOOOOSH-slush-WHOOOOOSH-slush. If I weren't certain that this was real life, I would have assumed it was a Monty Python sketch or something. The first time that I... experienced... this guy, he was starting his mission just as I approached the urinal. Here are the emotions I went through, numbered by flush:
  1. Confusion
  2. Annoyance
  3. Perplexed entertainment
  4. Anger
  5. Outright fury

By this time, I had finished, and washed my hands and left quickly. He was still going at it when I left.

Oh, and he smells, too.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Party time

Well, I just finished filling out my ballot. I'm currently registered Republican, but maybe I should change my party... here's how it turned out:

Democrat: 7 votes, including President and Governor
Republican: 3 votes
Libertarian: 3 votes
Nonpartisan: 6 votes

I actually read about the positions of each and every person I voted for, which kind of makes me feel like a good citizen or something. I just hope that John F. Anything-But-Bush manages to pull this off...

Oh yeah, and the position of one of the candidates was to put an end to internet pornography. First of all, OH HOLY CRAP NO, and second of all, how do you think you're going to manage that? Washington Secretary of Whatever is somewhat different than Emperor and All-Powerful Arbiter of Earth. I try not to vote for stupid people, and that includes people who use ten or more consecutive exclamation points in their personal biography.

Social awkwardness

As I've blogged before, I'm always extremely awkward in pretty much any social situation. One good example is that I can never really tell if someone is trying to flirt with me or not. My rule of thumb is that someone who is considerably nicer to me than other people around me (like specifically saying "hi" to me alone out of a group of people), and touches me physically, is flirting. But that can't be that accurate—I'm nice to pretty much everyone, even people I can't stand, and I could easily see someone misconstruing my niceness as flirting. (I generally avoid touching people at work, because (1) I'm not as close to people at work as I am to my friends from school, (2) guys don't generally like being touched by guys, and (3) I don't touch girls because I've already gotten an HR warning for sexual harassment once.) If I go by those rules, there is one girl who is definitely flirting with me, a girl who probably is, and two guys who probably are. That would mean that there are as many people attracted to me right now as there have been in my entire life (socially-dysfunctional girl in middle school, mentally disabled girl in high school, and fairly normal girl in college). That doesn't seem right.

If you misread someone's signs at a party (a what?) or at school (well, except when you live in the same building as all of your classmates), there generally aren't going to be any lasting consequences. But, if, for example, I attempt to engage in flirting with some girl on my team, and I fail, it's going to be very awkward once I have to start working with her on a feature. Maybe that's why I don't try. I wonder what it means that the fact that I don't ever try doesn't bother me.

Candy

Oh, man. I really shouldn't have purchased Halloween candy in advance. Or, at least not stuff that I liked. My lust for Reese's products knows no bounds.

Bad ideas for Halloween

I don't know if kids regularly trick-or-treat apartment complexes in Redmond; they do in Lincoln. (They should... so much candy with so little walking...) If they do, I've thought of a few bad Halloween ideas.

Bad Halloween costume ideas:
  • Child molester
  • Catholic priest
  • An upside-down, decapicated head with spider legs that jumps out from cracks in the walls and bites your face
  • Ron Jeremy

Bad Halloween candy ideas:

  • Bulk Pixy Stix (Ziploc bags filled with powdered sugar)
  • C1AL.IS, ALSO KNOWN AS SUPER VIA.GRA
  • Indian candy. I'm not talking about Candy Corn, I'm talking about the hideous candy from India. Trust me, that stuff's completely inedible.

Back home

I'm heading home for Thanksgiving Friday November 19, and I'm returning to Redmond on the following Friday, November 26. My very rough plans involve Friday night, Saturday, Sunday evening, and various parts of Monday and Tuesday visiting my Kauffman friends, and the rest of the time at home with my family. If you haven't placed the order for the red carpet yet, you might want to soon.

It's going to be weird being by myself in Redmond for Christmas, but I made a conscious decision to go home for Thanksgiving and not Christmas—I only have a small amount of vacation time accrued, so I couldn't go for both, and I figured that Thanksgiving gave me much better chances of spending time with you guys, seeing as Christmas is right after finals.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Hot nude webcam pics

Last night, my manager was talking to one of his friends over MSN Messenger at home. His friend had just purchased a webcam, and was trying to get it set up. He was having problems with his firewall or something to that effect. Finally, he got it working. He asked my manager why he didn't have a webcam, and my manager told him that it was a "security risk"; he didn't want to have to worry about whether the camera was on or not. Right as he said this, his friend's wife walked in front of the just-set-up camera, totally nude.

Dreams

I'm not sure why, but I've been dreaming a lot more often recently, or at least remembering them. I guess it's because I've been making an effort to get a reasonable amount of sleep each night for the past couple weeks. Not only that, but my dreams have been more interesting than usual—no dreams of buttoning my shirt, or getting a Diet Coke from the fridge, or deleting spam. It's a nice change from the last half decade.

That's it for this post if you're tired of reading about the bizarre things that I dream about. If you're not, then here we go.

Last night, I had another weird dream. I had an uncle (this wasn't my real-life uncle) who had directed a documentary called "WAR" about, well, war. The actual film didn't show up in my dream, but I knew that I had seen it before and it was extremely funny. He was really trying to promote his film because the Academy Awards were the following night. (Apparently, in my dreamworld, Oscars are decided by a live vote by the audience.) He was giving out copies of his movie to everyone he could find, and made me take several, even though I had seen it already.

So, then the dream cut to the next night, at the Oscars. Apparently, families of people whose movies are up for consideration don't get very good seats; I was way up on the balcony with people my age misbehaving. There were a group of high school guys sitting to my left that kept getting up and switching seats, and giggling amongst themselves. The one sitting next to me for most of the show was drinking red liquid from a large glass bottle, a little at a time, and he kept leaning into me and touching me. I assumed he was being an ass, and I ignored him. After one of the big musical numbers, I looked over, and discovered that he was trying to get me to drink from the bottle. Tired of being nudged, I took a big gulp of it and gave it back. He and his friends gasped when they saw how much I drank, and then one of them frantically explained to me that it was drugged, and that very bad things were going to happen to me after drinking that much. And then the dream ended, awakened by the sound of drilling or a leaf blower or some kind of extremely loud machinery that I now get to hear every weekday morning at about 8:30.

I'm kind of annoyed that so many of my recent dreams seem to lack closure. What happened to me after drinking the whatever-it-was? Did "WAR" win any of the awards it was up for? What was the point of the story? I guess it's better than dreaming about dressing myself in the morning, but I would still really like to have something of importance happen in a dream sometime. I guess my subconscious just isn't creative enough.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Not quite a dream

Last night, not long before I finally fell asleep, I had a strange image flash into my head. It was sort of like how, in movies, they show a person having some kind of traumatic flashback, or receiving some sort of alien mind control signal—there was a flash of light, and then an image that seemed completely real, as if I were someone else for a second. Then, when it was over, I was back to my bed.

Now, with that kind of setup, you know it's got to be good. I bet you're just dying to know what happened. (If not, let's pretend for a second.) So, here's how it went down.

I was lying in bed, trying very hard to clean my mind of thoughts so I could sleep. (I generally have a very hard time getting to sleep on any given night.) As I was doing this, I farted. Not just any fart, but a Mt. St. Helens fart. It was precisely at that moment that I experienced the image flash before my eyes. The image was of a carving on a totem pole gasping in horror at my eruption. For a few seconds I was very confused, until the absurdity of what had just happened set in. I really wanted to laugh, but for some reason I couldn't. And that was the last thing I remember before waking up this morning.

Half-Life 2 gold.

November 16. Holy crap. Finally.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Watch as I answer my own question

Well, it looks like the only thing that was edited for the U.S. R-rated version was the sex scene. It seems that W and Kerry were both in the original cut as well, but were removed from all versions.

Putting the "F" back in Freedom

Team America: World Police was incredible. I haven't laughed that long in ages. It spares no one from its arsenal: half witty and biting commentary, and half outright insult and offense. If this movie really was edited down to make an "R" rating, I can't imagine the kinds of things they must have left out.

Enumerations for great justice

One of my coworkers came into my office (well, my officemate's and my office) to ask us a question about enumerations in .NET. We answered it, and he responded, "Thank you, gentlemen. All your base," bowed, and left.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

To enjoy being a bastard

If you know me, you know that I'm rather... blunt. I enjoy being extremely sarcastic. Anyway, it may or may not surprise you to know that there's a lot that I keep to myself. Tonight, I was talking to a friend, and I thought of several things that I could have said that were so cruel that they probably would have brought the grown man to tears. Though I'd never say them—at least, not to that person—I receive great joy in thinking of them. I'n not talking about Photoshopping a picture of the World Trade Center and superimposing the word "OWNED"; these things are so horrible that there are only a couple people I could share them with. I operate under the assumption that this is perfectly normal and healthy: to think of the most cruel, tasteless way to make fun of someone, but then keep it to yourself. I hope that doesn't indicate some serious psychological problem. (I mean, unless it's a funny serious psychological problem.)

No apologies

Oh, yeah, and I'm completely aware that my life has been even more exceptionally boring than usual recently. I guess that's what happens when you wake up, go to work, code and respond to email, go to luch, code and respond to email, go home, code and respond to email, and then go to bed. Basically, I require three things in life: caffiene, the freedom to be creative when I want to be, and a steady stream of gaming. Time constraints have eliminated all but the most liquid of those three things.

I've noticed that I'm just significantly less happy when I have to work with other peoples' code. At work, recently, I've shifted a bit from making brand-new, cool stuff to hooking up my new stuff with old code, and, well, that sucks. Then, of course, the various travails that I've had with other peoples' code at home that I've explained in far too much detail already. I guess I only really enjoy coding when I'm making something new. When I'm fixing something, or tying stuff together, or anything that's not creating new stuff (or completely reworking old stuff), I'm just not that interested. Or, maybe it's just not enough mast... sleep.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The software Home Depot

[Warning: another technical post ahoy...]

I've always been a do-it-yourselfer. If there's something that's pre-made that doesn't do exactly what I want easily and reliably, I generally forget about it and make it myself. This has served me well.

However, in my latest IvoryTower HTML-parsing adventures, I decided that I would try to learn some off-the-shelf technologies. For the more technical of you, I decided on this: with a block of HTML, start by cleaning things up with a monstrous regular expression, then put it through HTML Tidy, then put it through a complex XSL transform, and then use the XML DOM to manipulate it further. I've already explained my feelings toward regular expressions (respect and disgust), and I'm not really sold on XSLT (I could have done the same thing in a lot less time manually). I do rather enjoy the XML DOM, even though it does have some annoying shortcomings (for example, it's a major operation to excise a substring from a block of text and replace it with a new node, especially if you want to do this more than once). However, I am furious at HTML Tidy.

At first, I was really excited about HTML Tidy. Its mission is to take as input the worst HTML ever, and turn it into something useful, even well-formed XML... no short order. It does this pretty well, it turns out, though there are a lot of not-well-documented options you need to learn. There's even a version of Tidy that you can use from other software called libtidy. So, I decided early on that I would use this in IvoryTower. Big mistake.

Libtidy is a C library, which was a bit of a pain to call from .NET (string? what's a string?), though that wasn't the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that it failed randomly. I mean, completely randomly, it would fail to allocate a buffer of memory. I got around this by catching the error, waiting a few milliseconds, and then doing it again, which worked. But then more problems started pouring in. The worst is that it wasn't Unicode-compliant, which was kind of an important requirement for me. So, I tried out TidyATL, a C++/ATL/COM wrapper around libtidy, which was easier to call from .NET, and Unicode-friendly. This, unfortunately, didn't get around the random failures... and in TidyATL, instead of a simple failure, you get a stack overflow, which is something you can't recover from. In the end, certain blocks of perfectly-valid HTML would hang the app at 100% CPU for a while, and then the program would crash.

I spent many, many, many late hours trying to come up with a solution, and finally I just couldn't. I scrapped the whole idea of using libtidy tonight, and tried a different option, one that I had originally decided would be too complicated: using an SGML parser and DOM. (HTML is a variant of SGML.) This turned out to be extraordinarily simple: I had my program up and running in half an hour, with no weird little special cases, bugs, or hacks. Wonderful. It doesn't do quite as much as HTML Tidy since it's just a parser and DOM (for example, Tidy could, if I wanted it to, replace ugly <font> tags with valid CSS), but it does everything I need it to, without a heaping helping of pain. It turns out that this SGML reader was developed by another Microsoft employee on his own time.

This whole experience has left me quite frustrated, though in the end, it all seems to have worked out. This was way more work than it needed to be. I should have just stuck with my original instincts: do all of the parsing myself, and then use the XML DOM for tree operations. Then, I would have avoided regular expressions and Tidy altogether, and I would have been a much happier developer.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Fragile (sounds Italian)

I told Andy a while back that I wasn't going to blog about lamps. It turns out that I lied.

So, I ordered some lamps from Lamps Plus a while back. Like all of my furniture, they are sexy, and more expensive than they really should be. One of them is an awesome glowing tube manufactured by 3M. The day after ordering them, I got a coupon code for $100 off floor lamps. Since it took them a few days to ship, I asked them to either apply the coupon code after the fact, or cancel the order so I could replace it with a new one and use the coupon; they happily applied the coupon for me. Then, the fun began.

My order arrived, and out of the five bulbs in it, three were broken. One wasn't broken immediately, but it exploded (internally) after a couple minutes of usage. That's $30 worth of broken bulb, so I sent them an email asking for replacements, and they happily complied. I got the replacements a couple days later, and I was stopped in my tracks when I saw the packages: I received two replacement lamps, and one replacement bulb, packaged in its own box. I talked with customer service again, and they said I could cannibalize the bulbs from one of the lamps, and they'll send me a UPS return label.

Right after receiving my last email from them, I got another order confirmation email, which surprised me, having not ordered anything. It was a receipt for another 3M lamp, price $0.00. I don't have any idea what they're sending me this time; I didn't even ask for this. Maybe it's just a free bulb... I don't know. All I know is that this is just about the most failed internet purchase ever.

Oh, to be a UI engineer

Of course, after making my last post, all sorts of ideas for an IDE for creating regular expressions come to mind. It would be way too much work to code, though, with not enough target users. Group A is all people who write regular expressions. Group B is all people who like using UI when writing programs. Group A intersect Group B equals an incredibly small group of people... probably smaller than the already miniscule group of, say, attractive people who play tabletop wargames with miniatures.

Understand the regex, win teh prize

I have enormous levels of simultaneous respect and disgust for regular expressions (regex). The fact that such complex behavior can be expressed in such a small space is undeniably cool to a software engineer. Yet, as someone who prizes readable and understandable code above almost all else, I generally find them extremely unpleasant to work with. I recently wrote this regular expression:

(?<=\</?)\w+?:(?=\w+?\s*?/?\>)|\<\?.*?\>

If this were written in procedural code (VB, C/C++/C#, Java, etc.), it would probably be a hundred lines, yet it can be expressed in the language of regular expressions in less than a hundred characters. The problem with something like this is that it's pretty much impossible to visualize. Once it's written and put into use, it's set in stone, because no one will be able to understand it later. Had I not documented this regular expression, I'd probably have no idea what it was for in a week. Now, this can be said about a lot of things; someone who works with regular expressions on a regular basis would have more luck at understanding that, but I don't expect that there are too many people in the world who could understand the line of code above without an extreme amount of effort.

In writing that expression, I learned all sorts of new terminology like "atomic zero-width assertions" and "positive lookbehind group." I am certain that these names were chosen primarily to make regular expressions sound even more technical than they really are. The main computer teacher at my high school, Mrs. Trumble, had a theory that most computer science terms were named the way they are to sound more daunting and frightening to non-technical people, setting those who could understand the terminology cleanly apart from the rest of the world, and therefore ensuring greater job security for the future. When I heard this theory, I was immediately convinced, and I still am today.

Thursday, October 7, 2004

Roommates with Tommy Lee

Apparently my brother was interviewed to be a roommate of Tommy Lee for his upcoming reality show, but he had to be turned down when they found out he wasn't 21. You can imagine my mother's relief that he was not accepted.

A dream starring Leslie Nielsen

I'll get to the title of this post soon. I'm going to tell you about the dream I had last night. This was one of the more insane dreams I've had in quite a while.

So, the dream started in a grocery store. I was there with my brother getting breakfast, and he went straight to the donuts, grabbing three. I decided to go for the healthy version, getting two regular donuts and one granola donut. (Why did I get donuts? I like bagels a whole lot more.) So, we paid for these and left the store. We drove somewhere—I didn't know where we were going, but it didn't seem to matter.

We ended up at an enormous house: at least three stories tall, with massive square footage. I never did figure out who the house belonged to, but I assumed it was my grandparents'. We ate our breakfast outside the house, and then my mom came outside to get us. Inside were my aunt, cousin, and grandfather, all from my mom's side of the family, as well as Winston, an incredibly obese dog that belonged to a different aunt who was not present. We decided to watch a movie, which was a really awful, stereotypical sci-fi movie in which a bunch of tourists from Earth (with Leslie Nielsen as the captain) decide to take a trip to the moon, and somehow get so far off course that they land on an unknown planet in a faraway galaxy. As far as I can tell, I watched this movie with my family in its entirety during the dream, which I don't think has ever happened before.

After the movie, we decided to explore the backyard, which none of us had seen yet, this being the first time any of us had been in this house. While the view from the front of the house was an urban landscape, the view from the back was completely uninhabited wilderness. In the sprawling backyard, bounded only by tall rock cliffs, we found a robot that looked very similar to my cousin. He was pretty excited at this, being eight or nine or so, and we got the idea that since this new body was in better shape than his old one (?), we should put his brain in this new body (??). So, we unscrewed the top of both skulls (???), only to find that the robot already had a brain, and it was much larger than my cousin's brain, and incompatible. The best part? The robot's brain stem was a square USB plug, and my cousin's brain stem was a rectangular USB plug. This did not seem remotely odd to any of us. Also, much of the backyard was under about three feet of standing water, which also did not seem odd.

Suddenly, we were interrupted by a pack of wild creatures that jumped down from the high cliffs and landed in the backyard. These creatures were somewhat larger than a very large dog, but were shaped more like bears. They were extremely fast, but not very strong or heavy. It turned out that they were friendly, and there was one of these dogbears for each of us. We played with the dog-bears for a while, until they began to seem agitated. We looked toward a faraway part of the backyard, and saw some very vicious-looking walrus creatures heading toward us. Not sure what exactly they were (or why there were glaciers in the backyard of this house, considering it was about 80 degrees out), we headed inside and watched from the second or third floor. The dogbears ran toward the walruses, defending their new masters. It quickly became evident that the dogbears were no match for the mighty walruses, which bit one of them cleanly in half. The dogbears then changed their strategy, tricking the walruses into falling through the ice into the water below, drowning them. Once all of these walrus creatures were taken care of, the dogbears headed back toward the house, and the dream ended.


So, I really have no idea why I had that dream or what it means. I can think of reasons for a few things in the dream: the sci-fi movie can probably be attributed to the fact that I watched an episode of Enterprise yesterday. The fact that it starred Leslie Nielsen was probably because I was recently looking for a particular quote from the movie Surf Ninjas, a very bad film in which he plays the villain. And, the dogbears were vaguely reminiscent of the "Panda-Dog," except all black, and much larger. But the house, the nonsensical landscape and client, buying breakfast with my brother, and the whole subplot of my cousin finding a robotic clone of himself with a USB brain is just insane. In fact, while my mom has shown up in a couple dreams before (long, long ago), I think that was the first time that my brother, cousin, aunt, and grandfather had ever showed up in one of my dreams. Leslie Nielsen has showed up in more dreams than they have, this being his second or third appearance in my life.

I have recently been trying to get eight hours of sleep each night, or at least pretty close. If this is what I can expect when I really do get eight hours, this should be fun.

The end of all things

I have been granted an all-access pass to file (and read, and change) bugs on Visual Studio, the .NET framework, and the other related Microsoft development technologies. Now I can not only send feedback and little nudges to the .NET developers, but I can actually tell them that I think that the tabs for documents you open showing up on the left in VS 2005 instead of on the right (like every other Windows application) is a defect in the software. I must learn to use this power wisely.

And, before any of you take this as a license to send me bugs in Office, Visual Studio, the .NET framework, Windows Forms, ASP.NET, C#, etc., you should know that you can already submit bugs for all of those things except Office on MSDN. I just happen to get a faster turnaround. :)

I care about the success of few products more than Visual Studio (or, in the past, Visual Basic, or QuickBASIC). In reality, at least as interested in seeing it succeed as I am FrontPage, because I don't use FrontPage for fifty hours a week.

Wednesday, October 6, 2004

I'm unremarkable

So, several of the cafeterias at Microsoft have a pasta station that sells what is called Texas Tijuana Taco Penne. This extremely pungent pasta, which does indeed taste somewhat like a taco, is one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten. It's good enough that I generally want to eat it one or two times a week. So, yesterday, I ordered this particular food dish. When I picked it up at the counter, my hand slipped, and about a third of it ended up on me, and another third ended up on my tray. The pasta ran from the middle of my chest down to my knees, leaving an enormous streak of delicious-smelling, greasy taco sauce. I went ahead and sat down for lunch anyway, and after lunch, I went back to my office to check my calendar, and then went home to change and start a load of laundry. I ate with about eight people that day, and talked to a few more before leaving.

Today, at lunch, the topic of spilling things on yourself came up, and I mentioned yesterday's event. Not a single person I was eating with (including five people from yesterday) had even noticed that I had an enormous, reeking streak of taco sauce coating my body for an hour. That's just... weird.

Sunday, October 3, 2004

Saving for retirement

Of course, having worked at my "real job" for less than half a year, saving up for retirement seems absolutely absurd. But, I figure that I really should start at some point. It's certainly going to have a very negative effect on my reckless spending, which is really disappointing. I'll start up my 401(k) in a month or two, at which point I will have 6% of my pay taken away from me before I even get it. Also, starting next paycheck, I am having another 15% of my income vountarily taken away to buy stock. This will be for more mid-term spending goals, like getting me to a point where I could go to a Jaguar dealership and just write a check for the full amount like one of my friends did.
Of course, in the meantime, I can evaluate other ways of saving for retirement. I had an idea today that wouldn't require any salary deductions to work. You know how people have been suing tobacco companies and McDonald's for all sorts of crazy money, right? Well, I figure that I already drink 10-12 cans of Diet Coke a day, something that will almost certainly give me cancer of pretty much the whole body. Assuming that in the future we still don't have a cure for the kind of everything-cancer that this plan is going to give me, I'll just sue the Coca-Cola company for my retirement fund. I mean, how was I to know that drinking an absurd amount of the stuff—a beverage strong enough to be used as a cleaner—every day was going to give me an incurable disease? Basically, I'm just betting my entire retirement on the likelihood that we don't have a cure for omnicancer in forty years. I can make a really good "sad puppy-dog" face, and assuming that judges will continue to get less and less scrupulous as the years go by, I think I'm pretty much assured a win.

Money can't buy nail clippers

So, my fingernails have progressed to the point where they are more "powerful claws" than "fingernails." Having put it off for far too long, I Segwayed down to Safeway to get nail clippers. I scoured the aisles looking for them, and finally gave up and found an employee who was walking around pointing a scanner at seemingly random objects, asking him where the nail clippers were. "In the next aisle over (points), first thing on the left." So, I go back and look through the other fingernail-related items one more time. A minute later he comes by, asking "still not finding them?" He then looks through the items that I just looked through, finding (like I did) that the only nail clippers that this Safeway carried were purple and had pictures of flowers on them, and cost $7. His reaction? "What the fuck? Bullshit!" Then, he left.

Anyway, I was not willing to pay $7 for purple nail clippers, so I left, reminded of a scene from the cinematic treasure Surf Ninjas starring Rob Schneider and Leslie Nielsen. At one point, a man tells Rob and the two surf ninjas that the ancient treasure that they are seeking is a collection of rare knives:

Man: We are looking for something money can't buy: the Knives of Kwan Su.
Schneider: Knives? Money can't buy knives? So, I walk into a knive store and I tell the clerk, "Here's a million dollars. Can I buy a knife?" The clerk says, "NO! Money can't buy knives."

Cornerstone

When I first decided that I would start a blog, I didn't think that I would do it for very long, so I just used one of the built-in Blogger themes, despite the fact that using a built-in theme for just about anything kind of hurts me. Now that I have decided that I'll continue doing this for the foreseeable future, I thought it was time to make my own template. Like all of my personal projects, I'm sure that the template to this blog will always be in a state of not-quite-finishedness. But, I had an idea for a photo, and I decided that the photo was too good not to be used on my blog in some way. So, here it is: completely absent of blue, the color that normally permeates pretty much every design for everything I make, and Myriad, my favorite font.

Friday, October 1, 2004

I do not speak Chinese or Japanese or whatever

Context: Simon, the guy across from me, is Korean. Albert, his neighbor, is Japanese.

Albert:
(speaking in Japanese)
Simon: (yells) Hey, English!
Albert: (yells back in Japanese)
Simon: English! (to me) Hey, don't you wish you white guys could say that?

Memory leaks

So, Microsoft's web server, Internet Information Services (IIS), has a cool feature that monitors the "health" of your web applications. If your application crashes, or runs out of memory because of a memory leak, or gets into an infinite loop, the server can automatically reset the program. I was reading a message board today, and I came across someone whose program wasn't freeing the memory it was using. It was getting to a point where the program would completely use up all of the memory on the system before IIS would even have time to restart the application. He noticed this as a problem, and so his brilliant solution was to try to find a way to tweak IIS and get it to restart his program more frequently. Of course, one of the first responses to his question was something to the effect of, "maybe your time would be better spent fixing the memory leak in your program." The other guy responded, "why?"

If that doesn't turn your stomach, you're probably not a programmer. :)