Thursday, March 31, 2005

HTTP/1.1 200 OK

I decided to wear my Halloween costume from 2004 to work today as an April Fool's gag. (It had to be on March 31... everyone expects silliness on April 1.) I was pretty shocked at how many people on my team never even noticed that I wore a custom jersey that said "LOCALHOST 80" back last October.

Black Obelisks Do Not Deter Space Spiders Day!

I thought it would be fun to write a post for Girls Are Pretty, my favorite blog which I have mentioned before in passing. It's an incredibly weird site; it basically boils down to a very detailed and absurd horoscope each day. I sent this one to Pretty Girl, but she (he) never responded, so I guess I'll post it here, because I think it's pretty damned funny.

Black Obelisks Do Not Deter Space Spiders Day!

A year ago, you became Special Advisor to the President on Evil Space Spiders, the greatest honor you have ever achieved. At first, people thought you were crazy—there’s no such thing as evil space spiders. But, you got the President to spend billions of dollars of taxpayer money creating giant black stone obelisks, believing them to be the only defense we have against the Arachnars, an invading force of evil space spiders who will come to Earth and help their estranged brethren rise up against us before conquering our planet. (He was very, very drunk.) The dedication ceremony for the final obelisk will be today. It will be a momentous occasion; the culmination of a lifetime of crackpot research and painstaking planning. You will have a slice of moist, delicious cake, and each piece will have tiny little black frosting spiders on it. Nice touch. The napkins are probably left over from last year’s Halloween, but they will seem fitting at the time.

As you sleep tonight night, you will have horrible nightmares of the spider attacks, just as you predicted. But, to your dismay, the obelisks will do nothing! It will be awful, and everyone you ever loved will die in a bloody battle of man vs. spider. You will awake at midnight in a shivering sweat, only to find that your legs are missing, soggy sheets and bloody chunks in their place, and there are fifty carnivorous spiders slowly consuming your scrotum. As you scream out in agonizing pain, your two roommates will run into the room, turn on the lights, and yell “surprise!” It will have probably been funnier if you still had your scrotum.

Happy Black Obelisks Do Not Deter Space Spiders Day!

Overreaction in the extreme

There's a petition for a new version of "classic" Visual Basic—that is, not Visual Basic .NET, but old COM-based, sorta-OOP Visual Basic. So much has been said on this issue that there's not really anything that I can add. Current VB developers lose essentially nothing by Microsoft ending "mainstream support" for VB. They can still write whole new applications in VB6 if they want. Old DOS-based VisiCalc still runs on Longhorn. There's no reason to think that companies with existing VB6 applications have anything to lose. I haven't started any new personal development projects in VB6 in a while, but I know that I can if I want to for some reason in the future. Anyway, the petition is just absurd. I'm glad that Microsoft had the balls to break stuff for the better with VB.NET, and I hope they continue to do more of it. (Let's get rid of ReDim... please.) There are some smart people who signed that petition, people who have been influential in the world of VB for a long time. This makes me sad, because it's so stupid. They complain that Microsoft isn't listening to their customers—and, I suppose, in some ways, that they're right. Microsoft isn't giving some people what they're asking for; instead, they're giving something that's far more powerful, just as easy to use, and better in almost every conceivable way. These people are asking for something that makes no sense.

Annotation: for those of you who don't know, I've used every version of Visual Basic that has been released so far. VB, VB-DOS, VB2, VB3, VB4-16 and VB4-32, VB5 (even VB5CCE), VB6, VB.NET 7, VB.NET 7.1, VB 2005. While that certainly doesn't make me an expert or some kind of all-knowing authority, I'm at least reasonably familiar with the language and tool.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Glad to be home

Oh, how one's level of motivation can change over the course of twenty-four hours based solely on productivity.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

All the livelong day

I worked for 12 1/2 hours today. So, if you're wondering why my blog has been so empty recently, there's your answer. I didn't have to be there that long today. I guess I was just motivated. Good motivation, too; not the bad kind of "if you don't put in twelve-hour days you can find another job" motivation.

How funny...

Arrested Development on Sunday had one of the most clever self-referential jokes I've heard in a while. In fact, I didn't even notice it at first. In the episode, an order placed for Bluth company homes was reduced from 22 to 18. What I didn't realize at the time is that Fox cut the second season of Arrested Development down from 22 to 18 episodes. (I knew it had been trimmed down, but I didn't catch the exact numbers.)

Monday, March 28, 2005


New Enya single, Sumiregusa (Windows Media stream; doesn't work through some firewalls). Hot.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Home storage server

I think that it would be really nice to have my own storage server at home. I could set up folders on my main desktop to be archived onto the storage server, and stuff that I probably didn't need to have on my computer at all, like my music collection, could just be stored on the network. It would have to be just as easy to use as if it were on my own computer; the fact that I can mount network folders into my local file system (as in, C:\Music is really \\meepledrive\Music) would make this possible. Anyway, this is mostly all due to laziness; like every other person on the planet, I don't like backing up. I'd still need to periodically back up my most critical files and take them to another location, but at least I'd be safe from just about everything but a fire.

Maybe my current desktop will become a home server once I get some nice, beefy 64-bit monster in a year or so.

Oh, and Happy Easter. I kinda forgot to set my alarm. Oops.

Potluck in Azeroth

I was thinking this afternoon about what a World of Warcraft potluck would be like. Every time someone would show up with a dish containing beef, all of the Tauren players would turn against them. Each table would have the name of a different game location, and all of the Alliance players would be on one side and the Horde on the other. Except, of course, for the rogues sneaking around. They'd pretend that they were invisible, but they're really just be crouching down and making some bad imitation of the "I'm invisible" noise. Then you'd be getting your food and someone wearing an undead rogue costume stabs you in the right kidney with a fork. After about three minutes people would start taking their clothes off and dancing on the table, and there would be big flaming braziers in the corners of the room, and there would always be people standing in them. Someone would yell out that they were starting a casino, and then another person would yell out "LFG GNOMER," and then finally someone would yell out "Southshore is under attack" and there would be a massive food fight. Then that person would yell out "LFG GNOMER" again, which they would continue to do every few seconds for fifteen minutes. Either the cops would come and break it all up, or the lag would be so bad that half of the people would just leave and go home.

Yeah, I think it would be just like that.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Door protocol

Okay, here's another thing that bugs me. When they leave, people who enter your office should return the door to the state it was in when they entered. If the door was closed when you came by to ask me something, close it when you leave. It's that simple. This has been done correctly exactly one-third of the time today. I'm not asking people to maintain a complex state machine or even a stack for the state of my door; just a single "was the door opened or closed when I entered?" mental variable is fine. But, apparently this is just too much for people.

Quaker Squares

Just a reminder for everybody: Quaker Oat Squares Quaker Squares Quaker Essentials Oatmeal Squares are the best cereal ever. Don't mess with me: I'm chock-full of riboflavin and thiamin... bitch.

I thought about this post for 103 seconds

Ever notice how when someone says that something will take ten minutes, you interpret this as "it will take approximately ten minutes," but when they say it will take one hour, twelve minutes, and nine seconds, you interpret this as "it will take exactly one hour, twelve minutes, and nine seconds?" I wonder why this is. Maybe it's conditioning—someone started doing it, and then more people started doing it, and then it became a part of our culture like "you're fired." Or, maybe it's because those numbers are easier to say or understand because they take less time to say. If you're going to go to the effort of saying such a long value, it must be correct; if you spend less time saying it, then it was probably just an estimate. That would explain why we'd choose 2:00:00 over 1:48:17, but not why we'd choose 5:00 over 7:00. For numbers between 0 and 100, what's the appeal of 25 over 30? Is 25 really "simpler," perhaps because it's 100/4, whereas 30 is 3*100/10? Are we really going through all of that when we say that something is 25% done instead of 30% done, or is it just that we internally think of it as a fraction, and then convert that to a percentage?


It seems like an entertaining thing to do for a short period of time would be to listen to a few songs with very different equalizer settings. Every time I listen to a song on new speakers or headphones I seem to hear something different. Just now I noticed interesting little background effects on Inama Nushif (Bryan Tyler, Children of Dune) that I didn't realize were there. When I listened to Good Luck (Basement Jaxx, Kish Kash) for the first time with my new speakers and sub I discovered the explosion of bass during the introduction. Perhaps using equalizer settings would at least simulate some of this, allowing you to focus on ranges of the song that you ignored previously. Of course, the characteristics of a particular speaker are more complex than ten little sliders in Winamp, but it seems like it might still be an interesting exercise.

Right now I'm listening to my playlist of what I decided were my 100 favorite songs as of about a year ago. (Yesterday I played my top 25, and I got to remember why I liked each one so much.) This morning on the way to work I made it to Tristram from the Diablo and Diablo II soundtracks... not only memorable, but really good. I should update my lists soon; I've found a lot of great stuff over the past year.


It's pretty creepy when people I don't really know wink at me. This isn't the "don't let them in on our secret" wink or the "let's procreate" wink; this is the "I'm winking for no apparent reason" wink. Stop it. Quit it right now.

You know what's hot? Women who are cynical or sarcastic. Of this I was reminded twofold today.

Thursday, March 24, 2005


Today I got a package containing a smaller box, buried in peanuts near the bottom of the package. This package was about four feet long. To get to my item, I had to empty the peanuts onto the floor. Unfortunately, I had to leave immediately this to avoid being late, and as I left, I said to myself, "I'm gonna forget about this in half an hour, and I'm gonna be so disappointed when I come home to a huge pile of peanuts that I then have to clean up." And I was right.

Somehow, another faucet post

This post is about faucets in general. Why do bathroom faucets with two knobs still exist? Haven't those been obsolete for decades? Put soap on hands. Turn knobs. Knobs are soapy. Rince hands. Hands are clean. Turn knobs. Hands are now soapy. The only really effective way to use them is to turn the water on before soaping up, which is wasteful.

Somehow, somewhere, there must be a market for this product. Who buys these things? People who forget when they're at Home Depot that those faucets suck-suck-suck-suck. Then they get home, and then they install it, and, oh crap, this thing sucks! But, they've already installed it, so they're just going to live with it for a decade. By the end of the decade, they've grown accustomed to how much their bathroom sink fixture sucks.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Faucets of mystery

I don't understand the bathroom faucets in my apartment. In one bathroom, the hot water scalds almost immediately; you have to turn the hot water just a tiny little bit, and then the cold water at least halfway, if you want some temperature of water that won't melt the flesh off your hands. The faucet in my other bathroom hardly ever even gets warm. It takes so long to notice a change in temperature when you turn the faucet that I can only assume that the pipe goes from the water main to Antarctica and then directly to my faucet. Sigh.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Code optimization

An interesting little blog post on code optimization in C++... how Class1::GetQ could not only be identical to Class2::GetValue, but actually point to the same function in the EXE file. Raymond Chen's blog is often quite interesting. He's a smart guy, and he knows a ridiculous amount and variety of stuff.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Now I'm twice as awesome

I now have a second noble steed in Warcraft: a purple raptor named Xeen for Vger, my troll shaman persona. My friend with whom I play that character and I pooled our money and purchased our mounts together. Cute. :) I still feel an eerie sense of accomplishment, despite it being a wholly virtual purchase. In fact, I pay Blizzard real money for the privilege of spending hours and hours buying things with fake money.

I played around with a couple different ways to word that. "My friend and I mounted for the first time late tonight" didn't really quite have the ring I was going for.

I've now logged in 403 hours on my two characters. That's unsettling.

Sunday, March 20, 2005


I always think it's funny when people see my apartment, and they walk into my entertainment room and see the massive, behemoth speakers and then look around, puzzled, asking where my TV is. (My LCD monitor is my TV, of course.)

A matter of misread rules

I'm always annoyed when I find out that I've been playing by the wrong rules for a long period of time. I found out that I misread two parts of the rules to Coloretto, one of my favorite card games. The wild and +2 cards are placed like any of the other colored cards, and not immediately taken by the players. When drawing the end-of-round card, the player immediately draws another card; it's not the end of his or her turn. With these two corrections, it is indeed impossible to run out of cards before the round is up, instead of statistically very unlikely. It's also a bit more fair (I've played it this way a few times as a "variant" before discovering that it's the correct way to play).

And, oh man, did I ever screw up the rules to Puerto Rico. The game is much less likely to end due to running out of colonists than the way I played before: when refilling the colonist ship, empty plantation spaces are not jobs; only open positions in the city are. And I was apparently all wrong about shipping. I've gotta reread the rules.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Warm, doughy, flaky

You know, I'm happy that the Atkins thing seems to be dying out. I don't seem to really hear about it anymore. The grocery store is still full of new low-carb products, but at least nobody's talking about it and TV ads aren't going nuts over their new low-carb entrées. It makes me so happy that I want to eat an entire loaf of warm, doughy, flaky, fresh-baked bread.

I'm also glad that it's now apparently safe to make Abu Ghraib photo jokes. Arrested Development did it a week ago, and it was hilarious.

Tissues annoy me

I am always perturbed when I take a Kleenex (technically a Puffs Plus with Lotion Facial Tissue, but to the normal world, "a Kleenex") from the box, and there are still plenty more in the box, but the chain has been broken and I have to reach into the box to start a new chain. This is only really an issue with the roughly-cube-shaped boxes; the flatter ones don't have this problem, but they take up too much surface space.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Stovetop auto shutoff

Surely someone has already thought of making a stove that turns itself off if there's nothing on the burner for, say, three minutes. Maybe there were technical problems with the calibration, and it would tend to start turning off while you're cooking after a couple years of use. But it seems like it wouldn't be too tough. Add a spring here, a timer there...

God's Holy Seven-day Forecast

I received an advertisement in the mail for The City Church today, and one side of the advertisement simply read "EVERYBODY GOES TO CHURCH ON EASTER." Wow, if that's not going to convince CURRENT RESIDENT that Jesus Christ died for his or her sins, I don't know what would.

I found this advertisement mildly offensive, because all it really had to say about Easter is that it is an event of mandatory attendance for everyone, especially the person receiving the postcard. Whether or not it has any spiritual significance is irrelevant; you had better be there, you piece of trash. I kind of got the feeling that it was to convince some Hindu family who just moved to the Seattle area and wasn't totally familiar with our customs that they would be out of the loop or ridiculed the Monday following Easter if they didn't show up. "Honey, did you see this? This card says that everybody goes to church on Easter." That's obviously reading between the lines a bit, but I found the advertisement to be quite unpleasant.

See, this is why some people hate Christians. Well, one reason.

They've got a pretty nice-looking home page, though. It makes church look like daytime talk TV; like the choir director is going to say at some point, "and now we'll go to Al for God's Holy Seven-day Forecast." Maybe there aren't any hymns; maybe they've been replaced with music videos. Maybe they have coffee for Communion.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


"Please tell me that someone’s not about to do a shot of Diet Snapple."
That's how wild it can get in my apartment on Friday nights.

“Well, I’ll use the new hat for the stats, but I’m so keeping this one for when I go clubbing.”
If you had a purple hat in Warcraft, you'd understand.

And, after knocking over a full can of Diet Coke but picking it up so quickly that only an ounce spilled:
Mike: That was… impressive.
Me: Thanks! I excel at controlled failure.
Noel: Hmmm… dev?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Crispy Critters!

Last night I was racking my brain trying to remember the name of the cereal with the sweet, puffy corn animal shapes. I was thinking of Crispy Critters. Man, that stuff was awesome. I was so excited this morning when I remembered what it was called, and now you too can share my joy.


It's not often that I feel old. I mean, I'm only 23. But the fact that there exist computer science students in school today who do not immediately recognize IDSPISPOPD and IDDQD makes me feel old. These things are so ingrained into my soul that I can recall them instantaneously at any time, much more easily than I can recall things like the quadratic formula or my mom's birthday. To my generation, knowing these things was like knowing who Gordon Freeman is or about the Terrans, Protoss, and Zerg. But those things are no longer essential computer gaming knowledge... relegated to the realm of now-useless trivia. This is mildly depressing.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Authentication of autonomous agents

Something I was thinking of today... I'm not sure our current forms of electronic authentication are really going to cut it when autonomous agents come into play. Imagine you work for a large company that restricts physical access to its facilities (in my case, a keycard), as well as to its network (a password while at work, and my keycard and PIN while away from work). What about artificially intelligent robots on my behalf? Obviously, this isn't a big problem at the moment. But, imagine a situation where you have robots doing simple tasks, such as delivering interoffice mail, or a personal robot who goes to get a CD from your car. How does authentication work in this case? There are several interests to take into account.

On one hand, the person wants the robot to be able to do everything they can. It should be able to access the same network resources, and open the same doors. They also want the assurance of security that if their robot is captured and cracked open, the thief can't suddenly drive their car or enter their house. On the other hand, the corporation wants to know that they can be safe from these same kinds of things—if Sneaky Bob captures Travis' robot, Sneaky Bob can't use it to let him into the building and access the source code to Longhorn, which should finally be shipping by the time that we have superintelligent robots.

So, first of all, any security credentials need to be stored safely. If the machine loses power, it shouldn't be able to get at those credentials without some kind of strong password—essentially, the key or password that the owner has assigned to the robot. This prevents someone from stealing the robot, turning it off, and then ripping out the hard drive or memory core or whatever and searching for the password. Those master credentials (your robot key) would unlock the other credentials (your house key) stored on the robot.

Also, the corporation would need some way to restrict your ability to copy credentials to another device. I don't know exactly how this is done, but presumably something exists with smart cards to at least deter this. The corporation could say that only the ID card that they issue to me can be used to open the front door, and I can't copy this over to a robot, and that my machines can never access source code. Some of this depends on trusted machines—someone could always create a machine that mimics a human or doesn't follow by the rules or duplicates a key that clearly has "DO NOT DUPLICATE" printed on the side. This seems to be what it always comes down to... technology breaks down when you hit the physical side of things. Someone could make a little mod chip for your robot that allows you to bypass your corporation's rules as to what robots can or cannot do. Eventually, someone would still come up with a way to steal someone's robot and robot key, and they'd break into the building. I'm not sure if there can ever be a good solution to this kind of problem.

Oh well. Not really finished thoughts. Just stuff that was on my mind this morning.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Sometimes parents are cool

Me: Hey, you asked me to call. So, I am. Eventually.
Mom: Oh, hi! I just wanted to hear your voice. I know we email, but maybe you were kidnapped or something, and Microsoft is just answering your email for you.
Me: Or I could be a Cylon.
Mom: I never even thought about that! I guess I should let you talk to Dad.
Dad: So, I've been playing that Star Wars game (Knights of the Old Republic), and I want to know what kind of equipment I should buy.

Sometimes parents are cool. Where, of course, "cool" is a relative word.

Thanks for the early notice

My dentist's office called me today at 8:59am to ask if they could schedule my appointment tomorrow to today at 10:00am. Nothing like giving me plenty of time to shower and put clothes on.


I've been trying out not italicizing or quoting titles, and I like it so far. I don't have to decide how to mark up "the Battlestar Galactica episode, '6 Degrees of Separation'" because it's just "the Battlestar Galactica episode, 6 Degrees of Separation." Perhaps soon I will get to a point where I don't have to make a conscious effort to not mark up titles, and I'll have achieved freedom from some of the stupider rules of grammar. I'm all about getting rid of stupid things.

Ah, weekends

Weekends are great. At least, they are when I don't have to work. I have a feeling that I'm going to have to start working a bit on weekends to meet my schedule. That's gonna suck. But, for now, thanks to the magic of self-delusion and postponing the nigh-inevitable, life is grand.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Yay weekends

Matthew and Steven were here for the night (Matt spent the day interviewing for an internship), with my more local friend Marc joining us later on. We played four games, and I lost all four. How sad.

Friday, March 11, 2005

For honor

World of Warcraft is going to be instituting their new honor system soon. I was reading about it today, and I'm convinced that it's pretty stupid.

"...if the number of Dishonorable Kills escalates to such a degree that it hampers general gameplay, we may well step in and institute a penalty for Dishonorable Kills."

Hmm. I thought that the whole point of the PVP honor system was that they realized that this was already a HUGE problem. I thought that they were going to try to fix this. As it stands, they're just giving players even more incentive to kill other players at random. My level 45 character could be killed by someone in the low 50s and they would still get an "Honorable Kill," even though I don't have the slightest chance of putting up any fight. This is just going to make playing on a PVP server suck even more.

There are some neat things about the new PVP honor system. It finally explains what the members-only areas in a couple of the major cities are for. And, Epic Commander's Mounts, though sound cool: an Epic mount for roughly the price of a normal one, usable only by the top PVP players.

I don't know. It hasn't been deployed yet. Maybe it's not as bad as it sounds; maybe a 53 killing a 45 will count as dishonorable, though it doesn't sound like it will. The way I see it, there is nothing Blizzard needs to do to increase the amount of PVP combat happening in the game. The game is already rank with PVP, and it needs no encouragement whatsoever. I would have hoped that they would do something to reduce the ganking.

Thursday, March 10, 2005


This game is reeeeeeally trippy. It's kind of reminiscent of Tron, but original in its own right, perhaps even taking the retro ultrapixelized thing to the next level. Weirdly cool.

Stupid inheritance

One of the things that I've apparently inherited from my parents is a penchant for collecting things that I then have no interest in using. It took some kind of manual brain override for me to crack open my Futurama coasters, and I've got the most beautiful table setting I've ever encountered, and I don't want to damage it, so I just use some plain black plates and bowls instead. (Stfu.) I kind of want to stop. I paid less than $60 for those dishes. Why do I care if I scratch them or break them? It's just stupid. I should make a conscious effort to use things that I buy. I don't mind tossing some portion of money at frivolous things (like nice dishes instead of cheaper ones that hold food just as well), but it's idiotic to spend money on something that you aren't going to use.

Now I think I need another Diet Coke.

My coke addiction

I don't think that my dependence on Diet Coke (or caffeinated, carbonated beverages in general) should really be classified as an addiction, though the various definitions on seem to suggest that I qualify. I'm trying to think of the last time that I've gone a day without a caffeinated beverage, and I can't remember one. On rare occasions I'll manage to have only two or three. But never zero. On an average workday I'll have between eight and ten, and on an average weekend I'll have three. That's not so bad.

Hey Palinor or whatever your name is

Almost certainly you've gone too far once you start calling people you see in real life by their MMORPG character names. But, have you gone too far if you can simply acknowledge that you may reach such a point eventually, or be surprised when you see someone as a human and not an elf?

My hair!

How could I have run out of hair glue with such little notice? Oh, the humanity!

That's sexual harassment and I don't have to take it

One thing that I consistently fail to understand about people is what things will offend them. As someone who is offended by extremely little, it just boggles my mind that someone who uses the word "fuck" in everyday language can be so uptight about hearing the word "penis." Today a coworker was asking which of the two gender symbols he was looking at. I told him that it was the female symbol; the female symbol looks like a hand mirror, and the male system either looks like a shield and spear, or a person with a penis, and suddenly he became extremely offended, and replied, "please don't use that word in my office any more than you have to." I was very puzzled; I had not expected that kind of reaction at all. It's not like I even said it in a slightly vulgar way, like "the male symbol is the one with the pointy arrow dick." Men have penises. The symbol that indicates masculinity kind of looks like it has one too.

It has recently become time for the yearly sensitivity and harassment training, and, as always, I don't agree that there's any problem in some of the little scenarios in the videos. (But, of course, I've got to abide by the rules whether I like them or not.) One example is the group of friends who like to share detailed stories of their little sexcapades with each other. Anyone who was to overhear this might be offended by it, so such a discussion could be considered sexual harassment. On one hand, sure, it's the workplace, and that's not a work-related topic anyway. But, a workplace is a complex social ecosystem, especially at a place like Microsoft where people set their own hours, work how they want, and have tens of thousands of people to potentially hang out with. I'm not so sure that the benefits of shielding extremely sheltered and fragile people outweigh the stifling of expression that results. It makes me pretty uncomfortable knowing that some comment that I think it perfectly legitimate might be offensive to someone else. We're trading the occasional and accidental offense for oppression and constant discomfort.

I'm not trying to say that sexual harassment doesn't exist. Clearly there are examples of things that are unacceptable... continuing to talk about something that bothers someone else in their presence, surfing for porn at work, spanking the secretary as she walks by, making fun of someone's accent if they don't think it's funny, and so forth. But, I think that I'm a reasonable, friendly person. I may be blunt, but I'm not mean. I just can't imagine what it's like to be offended by something that seems so inherently unoffensive to me. I try to put myself in their shoes, but I can't.

The interested individual contributor's dilemma

We had a product-wide meeting today, and our product's manager, a past CEO of a large company, was talking about the fine line between doing one's job and participating in the success of the product or company. Usually the stuff he talks about is walking the fine line between BS and management-fad drivel, in my humble opinion (I have extremely low regard of most theories about people management), but this one point was pretty interesting. He said that, in the end, Microsoft has to trust its employees' judgment to spend their time wisely. If you spend too much time just focused on your job, especially if you're "just a developer," you will rarely come up with any interesting new ideas or products, and you won't often solve problems in a breakthrough way. If you spend too much time in meetings and discussing what the product "could" do, or think about new directions we could take the product, or things like that, then you're not doing the job you're paid to do, and you're putting the product's schedule or feature set at risk. It's up to me to decide how much of my time I spend actually coding my features, and how much of my time I spend on things that aren't technically in my job description, like helping to hammer out the UI for a new dialog, or coming up with an interesting way to divide the current product into new SKUs; my duty is simply to try to find the balance that is best for the product and the company. It's rather cool being entrusted with this much discretion over how I spend my time at work.

Review day

Today I got my less-than-stern talking-to from my manager regarding my mid-year performance review. Things went pleasantly, as I was hoping and expecting. I was somewhat worried about being compared alongside the people on my team who put in more than 80 hours a week. But, now I think that my manager sees those people as some combination of bad time management, bad stress management, or just plain not efficient, which I guess is peachy for me. I was lauded on my professionalism, which is mildly humorous considering I'm the only person on my team (as far as I know) who's gotten a sexual harassment warning, who keeps his office stocked with games, used the "whenever you masturbate, God kills a kitten" picture in a presentation to management, and really doesn't take anything seriously unless he absolutely has to. But, he was referring to the way I manage my tasks and the quality of work I put out, which I guess I can't disagree with. Go me!

Wednesday, March 9, 2005


There's not much that I find particularly disturbing. But one thing that I can't stand to see is someone biting a popsicle. Just seeing it reminds me of the hideous, agonizing pain of a cold object touching my teeth.

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

He's back

Non-stop flush guy is back, by popular request. Six times today. Six! And, as always, back arched and hands on hips as if any splashing could be fatal.

Sunday, March 6, 2005


EclipseCrossword has now been downloaded half a million times. I've already written about this before so I won't go on about it again. But, I'm excited. That's pretty wacky. I mean, that's like 2% of the downloads of Firefox. I wonder how many free Microsoft files never get downloaded 500,000 times. I wonder how many times the Visual Studio 2005 Express Edition betas have been downloaded.

If I got a dollar every time someone downloaded it, I'd have half a million dollars. I wonder how long I can keep giving this thing away for free.

The problem with vacuuming

I've had a persistent problem with vacuuming in every place I've lived except UNL: it has a tendency to throw the circuitbreaker / fusebox. This happened in the home I grew up in, my parents' current home, my apartment two summers ago when I was an intern, and my current place. It's happened at least a couple times when I've been at other peoples' houses too. Why is this still a problem?

I don't know enough about electricity to know whether the problem really lies in the vacuums or the electrical systems, but it drives me crazy. Surely I can't be the only person who observes this. It can't help that I've got quite a bit of equipment all plugged into a couple outlets all connected to the same breaker switch; at least I've got UPSes on everything so that when I do lose power, the computer stays on and online. But, this is stupid. Whatever the problem is, someone who knows what it is should work something out. Are current homes just not set up for the kind of electrical demands we're putting on them? This apartment is the newest single residence I've lived in, at about twenty years old. Do people living in twenty-first century homes not have to deal with this crap?

Setting a bad precedent

I've noticed that I'm now starting to have trouble getting eight hours of sleep on those extremely rare days when I can. Last night I was in bed by 2:00, and this morning I woke up at 9:00. I couldn't sleep any more, but I was still kind of tired. This is pretty annoying, because I'd really like to get eight hours of sleep once in a while; usually the best I can manage is six and a half or seven.

Saturday, March 5, 2005

On titles

I don't mind sentences that end in prepositions, as long as rewriting the sentence to avoid it would have made it more awkward. Passive voice, when used properly, rules. And, sentences that start with conjunctions are okay too. But, dammit, it's "I'm doing well," not "I'm doing good." You can do good, but that means you're doing good works, not indicating that life is peachy.

I usually consider spelling, grammar, and punctuation to be fairly important, though I prefer an informal writing style, which allows some of the harder rules to be ignored. Usually I accept these grammatical rules without question, either because they make obvious sense, or because someone else thought of them and they seem "good enough." You should always have a comma before "and" if there are at least three items in a sequence. It looks better, it looks like it sounds, and it's consistent. But, there are a couple rules that I really just don't like.

I think it's time to reevaluate how we set apart titles of artistic works. I'm talking about movies, books, paintings, songs, albums; the whole works. We quote songs. We italicize (or underline, for the truly old-school) book and album titles. There's dispute over paintings and movies and poetry. I don't see a good reason for any of it. They're proper nouns, and thus we already capitalize them. Isn't that enough? I feel the same way about ships. Why do we italicize U.S.S. Constitution but not Paris? Not even God gets italics. Who's to say that we should italicize Larger than Life by the Backstreet Boys, but not Martin Luther King, Jr.? I say we get rid of quotes (or "quotation marks," for the people who care even more about this than me), italics, and underlining from these sorts of things. Our current system is just stupid, it's confusing, and it doesn't seem to serve a very useful purpose.

Battlestar Galactica

I finally watched a little bit of Battlestar Galactica today (okay, five hours minus commercials... the original miniseries/movie and the two-hour pilot), on the insistence of a coworker and the suggestions of various friends and readers. It is indeed quite excellent. Assuming that it survives for another season, it will be nice to have some sort of sci-fi non-comedy around to watch when Enterprise is gone.

Enterprise becomes Battlestar Galactica. Arrested Development becomes Family Guy. Circle of life. (I guess it's not guaranteed that E and AD are not going to be around; AD hasn't technically been cancelled yet, and there has been a very big push to keep E around recently. But, I never was a very good optimist.)

The problem with DVR

The problem with DVR is that you go over to someone's house, and they say something like, "uh, you can ignore the titles of the stuff I've got recorded. I'm sure they're wrong," as "Bikini Girl Madness 12" and "Cheerleader Orgy 9" scroll past.

An alternate universe in which I took five years to graduate

Most of my readers are friends from college. I wonder what my blog would be like if I were still in college. I think it would be more interesting. Or, perhaps it wouldn't exist at all—perhaps there wouldn't have been so much of a demand for me to start blogging if the people who demanded it saw me more often. I think I'd probably not include the sort of daily conversations and encounters that I do if the people I blogged about were reading my blog. That would be too bad. In fact, I think I like this weird situation where the people who I interact with and the people who read my blog are mutually exclusive. I guess it makes things easier for me.

I'd like to forget about middle school drama class

I finally got around to watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind tonight, after wanting to see it for months and months. It was a very good drama, and a good romantic comedy. Even more unique and interesting than I was thinking. Definitely deserved the Oscar it got (original screenplay, I think), and perhaps more. I'm kind of glad I didn't buy it in order to see it, though. It seems like it's the kind of movie that would lose a lot of the magic a second time around, like The Sixth Sense and Vanilla Sky.

Apparently there's a goth bar here with a strict black-pants dress code, and the cover charge depends on your appearance. I'm not the slightest bit interesting in going (people were considering it at lunch today), but I found that fact entertaining.

And, anyway, who reads an away message that says "I'm not at the computer, but please call me if you'd like to do something" and leaves a message saying "well, looks like you aren't around; call me if you want to do something?" Apparently this whole thing about being flexible in my plans just isn't going to work. I'm going to schedule things to do Friday night by Monday afternoon, and if someone doesn't like it or something else comes up, I'll just tell them to go to hell and deal with it.

It's a good thing I'm not crazy, because otherwise I'd obsess about totally insignificant things all the time.

Thursday, March 3, 2005

Fun with watches

As I was in a coworker's office today witnessing the most intense power-debugging session I've ever seen (especially since the program being debugged wasn't even running; he just had a memory dump), I noticed a cool thing about the Watches window in Visual Studio that I figured I'd share.

Anyone who's tried to do something in Windows that their framework (MFC, Windows Forms, VB classic) didn't support will probably find this useful. Sometimes you stumble across some integer that you know if a window message (such as WM_LBUTTONDOWN), but you don't know what number it resolves to. To find out, you can create a watch for that integer, and append the string ",wm" to the value. Visual C++ will then present the value of the watch as a Windows message instead of a plain integer. You can do a similar thing to find out the value of an HRESULT code by adding ",hr" to the end. I'm sure that there are other neat things like this that I didn't know about.

Reese's fudge peanut butter cups

When I see a new peanut butter-related food product, I am compelled to try it. I'm sad to say that the new Reese's fudge peanut butter cups are slightly inferior to the regular peanut butter cups, though perhaps a little smoother in texture. Still delicious, though.

Now she needs a name

Glamredhel's beautiful mount needs an equally grand name. I need to decide between Sethanon and Lims-Kragma. Sethanon is winning out at the moment. I'll have to sleep on it.

My frostsaber

I now own a striped frostsaber. She is a welcome reward for my 200ish hours of devout Warcraft-playing.

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Glad I don't live in Ravensholm

I just made out my rent check to Ravensholm. Luckily for me, I live in Ravenswood, not Ravensholm.

(Half-Life 2 reference.)

Computer-generated Haiku

A three-word computer-generated Haiku:


Or, if you're one of those computer-generated Haiku purists who insists on poems with more than just one word per line:

flowing grass tiger
running together