September 30, 2004

Stupidity play! RED CARD!

The title of this entry is a direct quote from a fondly remembered high-school gym teacher. It was his direct way of informing you that you had just done something that (again in his words) dropped you below Darwin's Breakpoint, and since he couldn't remove you from the gene pool, he could at least kick you out of the game. Just in case, he would thunder, stupidity is catching.

Bless you, Alton Smith; I have warranted the Red Card. Became so incensed at work today, from a long series of wearying travails I won't belabor here, that I was forced to redirect some rage upon a whiteboard, which (like a certain door) hadn't ever really done anything to me.

Unlike the door, though, the whiteboard (with the help of the wall it was hung on) came out ahead. It's undamaged. I, on the other hand, have been informed by the helpful folks at MGH that I have what is descriptively known as " Boxer's Fracture" - twice - of the metacarpal bone in my right hand.

This entry is hence being typed one-handed-lefty, which means I'm having to look at the damn keyboard for the first time since college. And it's slow.

Learned some cool stuff in the hospital, though. For example, I was chatting with a gent whose coworker had had his thumb sliced halfway through the base, cutting two tendons. They assured him he was in no danger of losing it. While he waited for the injured guy's wife to show up, we talked about his job - he's an elevator mechanic. I learned that the reason I have an unconscious affinity for old skyscraper elevators is that most of then are original equipment, with the exception of the motors and controllers - the DC motors are now AC, much more reliable, and the controllers modern. He told me the old elevator systems were overengineered, made of heavy steel; as a result, they are smooth and nigh indestructible, giving a superior ride. Modern elevators, using cheaper materials and engineered tightly to legal tolerances to save money, while safe, are not as rigid and solid.

Also, one of the main limits to building height has been the elevator shaft. The shaft must be true; no flex is tolerated, although sway is. As a result, extremely tall buildings have sky lobbies where you switch elevators so that the structure can have flex points where the shafts break. He told me that Otis has an elevator now that can move sideways between shafts automatically, smoothly enough that it is hard to notice - meaning no more switching elevators in extremely tall buildings! Turbolifts, here we come.

From listening to the tech instructing the medical student as he put on my cast, I learned that changing the temperature of the mix water in plaster will not only change the time to set (which I had known but forgotten) but thus change the temperature of the cast's exothermic period - which makes sense.

And from this experience, I've learned that broken bones hurt, and that having one working hand is startlingly annoying.

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September 29, 2004

Pretty Hate Machine

Fairly depressed. Was surfing various newsbytes, and came a page which offered some English translations of 'man in the street' interviews with Saudi citizens, asking them "Would you shake hands with a Jew?" Their answers do nothing to further my hope for peace, love and understanding.

I don't even know where to begin. I could argue points of view, or reiterate points of fact and reference, but obviously neither of those have any real relevance here. What matters is the situation, not the viewpoints; the causes not the effects. How have we gotten here? How do we get out? I'm not going to cry pithy tears and say that I weep for my brethren in those photos and wish only to educate them; that would be a self-serving and hollow claim. No, I'll limit myself to saying honestly that I want to figure out how we've gotten to this point, all of us; and try to figure out how we get out of it. I want not to go to Saudi Arabia, and I do want to be someone directly responsible for affecting U.S. foreign and military policy towards that nation.

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September 27, 2004

Bloginfopolicy

So apparently my employer has finally realized, in another lobe of its elephantine corporate brain, that "Oh my goodness, there's this thing called the internet," and hence we now have an official corporate blogging policy. I wasn't actually aware of this until I happened upon mention of it (ironically) in a co-worker's not-a-blog. It seems to forbid a lot of things. In the interests of full disclosure, I do believe I should set out the juicy bits of it right here and now before going any further.

As I noted earlier, my fun li'l startup (well, not mine, but the one that employed me) was bought by this middlin' large software shop from one of those Mountain states. Ain't sayin' which one, but I will offer the following hint: it has a Pantone color named after it. In any case, here are some relevant bits of the lawyerese that probably now apply to me.

Policy: ------ (my company) encourages personal websites and weblogs, and it respects employees' use of them as a medium of self-expression.

...whew.

External Websites and Weblogs:
If you choose to identify yourself as a ------ employee or to discuss matters related to ------'s technology or business on your external website or weblog, remember that, although you and the Company view your website or weblog as a personal project and a medium of personal expression, some readers may nonetheless view you as an authorized spokesperson for the Company.† In light of this possibility, please observe the following guidelines:
  • Make it clear to your readers that the views you express are yours alone and that they do not necessarily reflect the views of ------.† To help reduce the potential for confusion, you should put the following notice in a reasonably prominent place on your site (e.g., at the bottom of your "about me" page):

    OOO! OOO! READ THIS! IT APPLIES!

    The views expressed on this website/weblog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

  • Do not disclose any information that is confidential or proprietary to ------ or to any third party that has disclosed information to us.† Consult ACLB1 and ------'s policies concerning confidentiality for guidance about what constitutes confidential information. †

  • Remember that your employment documents give ------ certain rights with respect to concepts and developments you produce that are related to the Company's business.† Consult your manager or human resources if you have questions about the propriety of publishing such concepts or developments related to the Company's business on your site.

  • You may not provide a link from your site to ------'s website. Such a link may cause†confusion over the extent to which the Company is associated with or responsible for the content of your external website.† Further, you may not use Company trademarks on your site or reproduce Company material without first obtaining permission.

  • Do not disclose any personal information or opinions that could tip off third parties about ------ business.† For example, if it is known that you are working on an important project at ------ and you announce you are taking a four-week vacation starting on a certain date, it might tip off a product release date.† If you have a strong opinion on a feature of a competitor's product, it might tip off third parties about ------'s product features.†

  • Finally, be aware that the Company may request that you temporarily confine your website or weblog commentary to topics unrelated to ------ (or, in rare cases, that you temporarily suspend your website or weblog activity altogether) if it believes this is necessary or advisable to ensure compliance with securities regulations or other laws.

If you have any questions about these guidelines or any matter related to your site that these guidelines do not address, direct them to your human resources manager.†

1: Ass-Covering Legal Bible, or our corporate catch-all behavior guide. Name Changed To Protect The Consultants' Salaries.

It's not that I have all that much disdain for this policy. As corporate communications policies go, it's actually quite liberal for this day and age, I suppose. I'm just driven to sarcasm and needling by our society and legal system's constant need to to patronize, condescend, micromanage, and lay out in excruciating detail things that really could be boiled down in many cases to 'don't be stupid or evil.'

Especially when, as in the case of Sharp Tools, the blog in question does not reside on my company's computers, network, time, physical space, or any other form of resources other than maybe a couple of my brain cells during the day. I logged on to our intranet to find my private blog already happily listed in our directory of employee blogs, right next to this somewhat intrusive notice of expected behavior, despite my never having submitted it for listing there - my company had gone out, found the blog, listed it next to my name, and applied the policy to me, reaching out to my life outside of work without so much as even emailing me directly.

People tell me I'm an arrogant shit for expecting personal attention in situations like this, and so be it. However, some days, I feel that this sort of impersonal cog-i-fication contributes negatively to my attitude (at least) towards the organizations and PTB that make up corporate America, even as I have to live in it.

So, as long as this is my own little space on the web, stick it to the Man, people. Let's have a detailed look at that bit of lawyer poop, shall we?

The first few sentences are reasonably inoffensive. Then we get this gem: "You may not provide a link from your site to ------'s website. Such a link may cause†confusion over the extent to which the Company is associated with or responsible for the content of your external website." Oh-kay. Right. So let's just toss out the ENTIRE CONCEPT OF THE WEB while we're at it. We can't trust websurfers to ever understand that a link from a private site to a company could EVER OCCUR without said company's connivance and agreement, oh my no. This is how such rampant stupidity as sites attempting to require legal agreement to link to them occurs. While I might have some respect for this position were I to ever, in fact, claim to speak for my employer (which I don't, to the point of reproducing their witty little disclaimer above) I in fact view it with much the same level of glee I view this little gem of a story.

Moving right along.

"If you have a strong opinion on a feature of a competitorís product, it might tip off third parties about ------'s product features." In other words, I'm now no longer allowed to wax enthusiastic about the field in which I work, which, I had thought, was the entire point of having a blog in the first place - and, in fact, one of main reasons people who found my blog through that handy directory at my company might ever want to read it. They most likely don't care that my cat has now reached a most improbable curb weight (although he has, that of approx. 21 lbs) or that my favorite word at the moment is sussurate. I like computers and software. That's why I work in this field. I like talking about them, and I have strong opinions. I plan on retaining these characteristics, and I plan on talking about them. In fact, most of the blog entries relating to my immediate job and those of my immediate coworkers relate quite closely to software products and those of our competitors - because we work on open-source software. If your lawyers couldn't even be bothered to learn what open-source software was before handing out this stream of crap, I can't even be bothered to take it seriously before snorting and turning back to my Macintosh.

Thank you very much.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled monkey inanity.

Posted by jbz at 11:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 24, 2004

Suicide Shopping

It was a dirty job, but someone had to do it. The cliche held just so, so true. A colleague who had been sturdily resisting the addiction had caved a while back and agreed to shop, and today was the day we all had time. Another coworker from Provo who was in town and had succumbed on his last trip acknowledged that he might need, you know, maybe one more. So off we went, the four of us; myself, the two newly afflicted, and another who I have pulled deeply down into the sickness.

It was a suicide mission. I had to go, to shepherd the newbies through the process, provide some gentle support, ensure they didn't overspend too egregiously. That, however, meant going into the damned place myself.

Sure enough, I'm $286 poorer.

On the other hand, I now have a second dedicated piston-fill pen, this one a daily driver and oh so light and quick. I broke down, joined the other stylonauts with me and bought a one-hander daily use pen - ah, modern technology. Round that off with a new red/black ink and a Moleskine notebook...joy.

Peter bought two vintage pens, a Sheaffer Vacu-fill and an older Sheaffer replaceable nib. We are losers. We revel in it.

On the other hand, my handwriting continues to improve.

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September 19, 2004

Spamariffic!

An old schoolmate and colleague of mine Raymond Chen just put up some nicely interesting data on his weblog. He apparently carefully saves every piece of spam that makes it through his corporate spamfilters to his account, preserving them much as a fastidious Englishman might fold his hanky over a juicy piece of sputum before pocketing it, and once in a while he doles out some lovely bits of data such as this.

Ray already goes into most of the really interesting conclusions there on the page. I find myself wondering what a similar graph for me would look like; while I typically save big chunks of spam to train each new generation of heuristic filter, I don't have any unbroken chains anywhere near that long. Data like this is the source of so many of those "Hey, I wonder..." questions that sometimes end up producing the Really Good Ideas, though. Good on ya, Ray.

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September 9, 2004

Pusillanimous liars and other U.S. Specialties

Go look at this. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one needs to be worth ten million votes at least. The shamelessness of it just takes my breath away. Stack that on top of this and I just don't know what to say. Who are the people who believe these men are a better choice? Why do they believe this? How can we fix this?

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The door really never did anything to me.

Was treated at work today to a breathtaking waste of time - a two-and-a-half hour presentation on 'Culture Change at Novell.' Let me start right off by saying that I don't consider the concept or idea of culture change at Novell a waste of time; however, I have never in my life been to a meeting at a large corporation dominated by a PowerPoint slide deck which has ever improved my life. Ever. Especially those which purport to talk so earnestly about improving my work environment.

To be sure, this isn't a fair comparison. I am a lucky, lucky bastard to work where I do, and I know it. This may also be one of the reasons that the presentation in question created such an unpleasant resonance with me. I do know that when it was finally admitted that the slide show in question had been done by a consultant, I refused to be surprised, because I could have told you that hours before. I was put through a hard school of presentations at a company which gives them for a living to an audience which is by some lights the premier consumer of PowerPoint excrement on the planet. Whoever did that slide deck would not have survived to collect their first paycheck.

These are perhaps harsh words. Harsher than deserved. However, I cannot help but wonder what this outside person was paid to come up with this stuff. Some of it, to be sure, was OK; some was common sense (well, an awful lot of it was common sense) and (here's the rub) an awful lot of it was so trite that it seriously insulted my intelligence to be sat down and told it by The Man.

I'm not going to go into specifics. I'm not sure what if any of it can be publicly disseminated. Suffice to say that I came out of one particular section of it feeling like I'd been told to bend over that nice handy table and take it like a man; lubrication was for sissies. Besides, I was expected to make myself nice and pretty for the anal violation that was expected; it wasn't the Company's job to do that for me.

I do realize that probably isn't what was meant. But it sure is what that slide deck communicated. So if anyone up there cares, well, there's a problem, right there.

Posted by jbz at 12:32 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 5, 2004

RSS Feeds and Entry Length

I've received feedback from various monkeys and others that my entries in this blog (what the hell, people read this?!) are frustrating to those who use RSS aggregators. This is due to the fact that Moveable Type tends to limit its RSS feed to 40-word snippets of each entry, which isn't too useful. After noodling around inside the Templates for the blog, I have discovered that buried inside both the RSS 1.0 and RSS 2.0 templates is the MT tag $MTEntryExcerpt; I have replaced it in both cases with $MTEntryBody. We'll now just see if that, in fact, does place the entire entry into the feed.
Posted by jbz at 2:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Poorer by one small weasel

My word, I hadn't realized that some unscrupulous monkey had placed this blog into the PlanetNovell aggregator, but there you have it. Greetings to all those curious about what goes on at the Big Red N. Welcome and sorry this particular section is so thin on juicy technical details. I'll try to toss some more your way, but please bear in mind that I'm just an Op, not a hacker - I make the hackers' machines work (most of the time) rather than actually influence design around here.

At least, that's what they think. Muahahahaha.

On a personal and somber note, this week saw a lessening of my household - Slinky, Mustela putorious furo or common ferret of the aww-isn't-he-cute variety, hath exited the scene, stage left. Slinky was suffering from several common ferret ailments, including cancer of the pancreas, adrenal gland hypertrophy, and diabetes; when he stopped eating despite regular doses of steroids, I was forced to decide that since we couldn't make him comfortable, much less happy, it was time to send him on his way quickly and painlessly.

The vet at Angell Memorial hospital who saw Slinky for his final visit was quite compassionate, and didn't attempt to convince me into any final decision. He gave me all the information I needed, and answered all my questions, and pressed me to make sure (once I'd told him what I wanted to do) that I was certain. When I explained my reasoning, he agreed, and asked if I wanted to be present. I did, of course; only proper. If I'm going to make that sort of decision for one of my pets, I need to be there if I can. He had me take care of the paperwork for the visit while they put a catheter in Slinky's leg, which was a good plan - this precluded fumbling for a vein later, and ensured that once the deed was done I could immediately leave the hospital.

When I returned to the room, already starting to tear up, he handed my my ferret. Slinky had a tube on his arm but wasn't struggling; he lay in my crooked arm much more peacefully than was his usual habit, and licked his lips a few times. I bent down to touch noses, and he licked my nose several times (I'd like to think reassuringly, but that is most likely me anthropomorphizing and wishfully thinking- most likely licking the salt from my tears). The vet gave him a quick shot of saline to clear the cathether, and as I held him close and apologized, telling him that this was the last thing I could do for him, injected a sharp-smelling drug into the tube. Slinky gave one sharp shudder as I held him and licked my nose again. I kissed his little snout, but he was already gone. The vet gently took him to check his heartbeat, but his eyes were open and vacant, so I kissed the top of his head between his ears and handed him over.

The vet told me he was gone and placed him carefully on a pad on the exam table. He asked me if I'd like to be alone with him for a while, but I shook my head; Slinky was gone now, I said, and I had gotten to say goodbye. I shook his hand, shook the veterinary student's hand (he'd been assisting). The vet carefully scritched Slinky's small head affectionately, and smoothed his form out, and I left the hospital quickly.

It was a bright, cloudless, perfect summer day.

I cried for fifteen minutes before going in to work.

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