blarg?

Just the other day, Shaver href="http://off.net/~shaver/diary/2003/01/#20030129">prodded
me to do a little functionality cleanup here, so thanks
to Cascading Style
Sheets
I’m catapulting my web page into the late twentieth
century. Double-flattery, in that he is the first person to want to
link to something specific here, and that he reads it at all. I
resolve to have a link to him on my page every day.

I don’t know what the normal social patterns of the average human
neck-resident gland are, but I’ve got one just below my jawbone
that’s got both drive and ambition. I think it’s trying to unseat
my brain as Heaviest Cranial Organ; I certainly feel like a bitter,
no-prisoners King Of The Hill
championship is taking place on the left side of my skull. I thought
that antihistamines were supposed to prevent you from
histaminating, but I guess not.

I’m tempted to call the Ontario href="http://www.healthyontario.com">Health Line, because the
headache has resisted conventional
treatment with a driving
ambition of its own, groping around my head on the way to
that coveted “splitting” merit badge. The Healthy Ontario href="http://www.healthyontario.com">website does not inspire
confidence, sadly, with a list of “Hot Topics” on the front page
that includes such luminaries as:

  • Heart Attack
  • Stroke
  • Norwalk Virus
  • Influeza
  • West Nile Virus
  • Did You Wash Your Hands?

I know that clean hands are as good a preventative measure as you’re
likely to see in medicine, but I’m suspicious of any government
initiative that sounds like my mom. I’d be concerned if I found a
headline reading “You Should Look Both Ways Before Crossing The
Street” at Transport Canada’s website, or seeing “Study Reveals
That If You Keep Making That Face, It Will Freeze Like That”
over at Health Canada, so I don’t know how to react to that last
list group.

Two personal notes: one to Geoff, who I stalked to the Dome only
to find Sean there, saying “Geoff’s At The Loon, With Your Shit”,
just like that, capitals and everything, and who the waitress at the
Loon informed me had just left. The content of the personal note is
“I Live Two Blocks Away From The Loon, You Could Have Dropped It
Off At My Place You Weasel”, also with the caps. The other, to The
Mike Who Doesn’t Make Linking To Individual Entries Hard, is this:
One week, man. One week. Less, even. I’m almost done.

Update: I’m going to live.

A brief visit to the clinic got me a prescription for
something called Keflex and the information that I have a throat
infection of some kind. I’m pretty dismayed by this – I cut back
on the coffee, I get headaches, I cut back on the alcohol, and I
get a lymph node with delusions of grandeur. I’m tempted to take
up smoking again just to be sure that I avoid lung cancer.

Uncle Drew, if you’re watching, I won’t, I promise.

Always helpful, Arlene suggested that I give it 24 hours before
taking my prescription; her opinion of walk-in-clinic medecine is
not high, and all the antibiotics in the world won’t fix a viral
infection, so wait it out for a bit, she says. She consulted with
her two resident roommates and had me peer down my own throat before
making that call, and my suggestion that I treat the problem with
disinfectant-strength cane rum was roundly dismissed by all.

Oh, well.

Those of you who wish to spend a moment in my personal, cozy little
corner of academic hell should come to visit me in Carleton’s School
Of Computer Science, where I can show you the readme.txt file,
in the c:\program_files\plus!\ directory, from Microsoft Internet
Explorer 3.0.

It is on all the machines. It is part of our standard lab
disk image, and I am going to be ill. I have worked so long and
so hard at this, and at the end of the day I’m going to end up with
a degree from an institution that cannot compile a disk image.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I may be able to compromise by
vomiting profusely.

Technical note: the people at href="http://www.debian.org">Debian have a special place in my
heart, indeed one of the few places in my heart left that’s still
reasonably clean and well-lit but, my God, look at this: Debian-Sid,
a.k.a. Debian Unstable, the ephemeral, misty cloud of arterial spray
moments ahead of the bleeding edge of Linux technology includes
(get this) a Napster client.

If speaking ill of the dead is a no-no, I wonder what reading the
error messages from a Napster client aloud will do to your karma.

Alex read last week’s entries, and was consumed with rage! Brimstone
steamed from his mouth and nose as vitriol spewed through his
keyboard, directed at your unsuspecting author! Well, probably not
really; he just disagreed with me. He’s a pretty relaxed guy most
of the time, and probably doesn’t even know how to sweat
bile or make a sinister red froth drip from his tear ducts. And
good for him, I say. But he did disagree, and with his gracious
permission I’m going to reprint some of his remarks here in no
particular order. It will become obvious in a moment that I agree
with most of his points, and that I expressed myself poorly in
that previous group. Mercifully, though, I disagree with him in
on enough points that it won’t seem like I’m gunning for the 2003
Remora Anteriorum Award and if we’re really lucky, fearless reader,
this won’t be a complete waste of time. Alex writes:

href="http://catb.org/~esr/jargon/html/The-Story-of-Mel.html"
>Real Programmers” like that are jerks. They get
laid off by any half-competent manager. They produce terrible code,
and in the end it’s inefficient. Real Programmers will focus on
the most useless and unused part of the code, and will make it
optimized. It will be buggy, and impossible to debug. They always
screw up. They’re prima-donnas, except they don’t really know what
they’re talking about.

Nobody likes a “real programmer”. Nobody works with them. You can’t
count on them. They can’t provide you with decent estimates, or
a stable API, because they don’t think those things are important.
I really have nothing good to say about Mel.

Let me be clear about this – I don’t want to be Mel. I did, once,
but I grew up; the reason that I grew up had a lot to do with my
fellow students and my opinion their and occasionally, I’ll admit,
my, ability to cooperate, which is dismal to the point of slapstick.
The problem is that I’ve realized that I could actually get out of
a degree program here without ever having to so much as attempt a
couple of things that I suspect are pretty fundamental skills out
there in Real Life. For example, I have not yet had to:

  • Write a stable, rigorously defined API. Sure, I’ve had to
    create products, widgets that do whatever limited thing
    they do in some clearly-defined way, interacting with libraries,
    whatever, but I’ve never had to do the reverse: writing a library
    to support an existing program. I don’t doubt that I could,
    but it’s not something I have done.

  • Start working in mid-project on a large, established codebase. I
    need to know if I can internalize and contribute usefully to
    a project that is already underway. Everything that I’ve had to do
    so far, in the rigorous academic world of “if you show your code to
    other people, you’re cheating“, has basically been lone-wolf
    software that, so long as it accomplishes the given task within the
    given parameters, doesn’t have to scaleable, easily understandable
    or even legible.

  • Play well with others. This is a superset of the last two,
    and includes a social aspect that I continually struggle with here
    at school. I can only hope that when I get out into the real world
    the fact that I struggle to hold back the vitriol when I’m dealing
    with boneheaded ideas or boneheaded people will be offset by the
    hopefully small intersection between professional programmers and
    boneheads.

In short, while I’m absolutely sure that I can learn to do it,
I am not confident right now that I can join a team of programmers,
understand very clearly what is already there and contribute
useful things in return. I understand why the actual “ href="http://catb.org/~esr/jargon/html/group/Real-Programmer.html"
>Real Programmer group says most people
think it’s a good thing there aren’t many of them left. I
can indeed write code. I understand, viscerally, why href="http://www.lysator.liu.se/c/ten-commandments.html">these
are important, I really do. I use lint. I’m a University programmer,
and I’m pretty good at it. I don’t know if I’m good at or even
capable of production-quality teamwork, and this clearly
needs to change.

You seem to think that there’s a
majic to programming. Maybe there is – but not in the work that
I’ve done, and not in the people I’ve worked with. Be smart,
think of things logically, use deductive reasoning, and you’re
ahead of the crowd. People think that I’m a smart guy at work,
because I do things like ask: “If we test that out, and it works, it
doesn’t prove anything. If we test it out, and it fails, it still
doesn’t prove anything. So why are we testing it? What would it
tell us?”

I don’t think there’s a magic to programming, but
I do think there’s some magic to being able to quickly
develop a deep understanding of a complicated system. I have
witnessed, and have far too often experienced, an inadequate
understanding of some program or system resulting in (and, quite
probably, from) half-assed programmers changing clearly
unrelated things at random in the hopes that it will make some href="http://catb.org/~esr/jargon/html/group/shotgun-debugging.html">poorly-understood
problem go away. I have learned
enough about myself to recognize whether I’m href="http://catb.org/~esr/jargon/html/group/thrash.html">thrashing
because I’m trying to work around a problem in the code, or
whether I’m trying to work around a more fundamental problem with
my understanding, and I think that’s a big step. But I nonetheless
have a deep, deep fear of thrashing like that at a real job.

He wrote a bit more than that, but it’s totally dinner time. See
you all soon enough.

Many things that I don’t understand are happening.

Checking my referrer logs briefly, I see dozens of people
from Europe are looking at my photoshop work, specifically at href="http://neon.polkaroo.net/~mhoye/art/hippie.jpg">my picture of
George, and I have no idea why. France, the Netherlands,
Italy… I don’t know anybody in Europe. I’m barely aware that
that there is a Europe. That’s where we get dance music and
Germans from, isn’t it? What the hell is going on here?

On television last night, at about two o’clock in the morning,
there was a show telling viewers how great it was to live a totally
sensual, sexually-liberated hedonist existence and just basically
sleep with anything that might respond by twitching, while just
two channels away was another sex-themed TV show describing the
evils of sexual addiction, and how modern science could now fix
that by medicating you until your brains dribble out your ears.
That was only OK though – I thought I could have some fun just
flipping back and forth between them and trying believe them both,
but then I realized that in those two intervening channels there was
(a) a special on endangered wildlife and (b) a telethon! Now this,
this could be good. Flipping quickly back and forth between
all four quickly became the funniest thing since the invention of
the funny, and we all know how hard it is to find something funny
at two A.M.

“Once you’ve decided to set yourself free, and really
enjoy the pleasures of physical contact you can *click* see their
habitat shrinking rapidly *click* thanks to the contributions
people just like you have made to quality public broadcasting! We’re
seventy-five percent of the way to our goal of *click* of controlling
sexual desires with modern medicine. These new drugs are called
Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs, that work by
*click* burying their eggs on the beach late at night. *click* You
have to relax, breath deep and feel the hands on your body as *click*
we show you Casablanca, uncut and commercial free! That’s just part
of the quality programming that *click* destroys turtle habitats
through pollution and overfishing. Normally, sea turtles *click*
spend hours every day watching pornography *click* and my wife and I
both enjoy it very much. We’ve started *click* electroshock therapy
*click* in tidal pools *click* for just a few dollars a month!

I’ll tell you, though, that I don’t care how good the sex or
the drugs might be, none of it could possibly be worth getting
involved with any of the people “featured” in those shows. Give me
a choice between the creepy-looking “set yourself free” bunch and
the profoundly unsanitary and overmedicated addicts, the fact is
I’d sooner sleep with the sea turtle than touch any of the rest of
them with a ten-foot novelty cheque.

That bit in the middle probably reads better if you’re strung
out and short of sleep when you read it. Try it, really.

Item number three – at school today, some of my classmates tried
to convince me that if you caught a coin toss at the same height
at which you launched it, and then flipped it over and slapped it
on your hand, it would almost invariably (read: “totally not half
the time”) come up the opposite of what it was showing when you
started. The logic, if you can call it that was that “it’ll come
up the same way most of the time because physics is deterministic”.

And, Jesus Freaking Christ In An Indeterminate State, these are
upper-year students! In my God Damned Faculty no less. I
realize you all think you’re the Leaders of Tomorrow, but here’s
the news: it’s a coin toss, people! You know, like when they
say “it’s a coin toss”? I was getting warmed up for a full-blown
spaz attack; I had a chalkboard and a coffee and everything, but
my quiz rolled around just in time. I don’t know what was going on
in these guys’ heads, but when I came back to find out and remove
it by force, they were nowhere to be found. Maybe they went off to
change Schroedinger’s cat litter or something, the weasels.

The University has moved sharply into the late twentieth century,
putting network drops in its newly renovated buildings! Completely
unrestricted
network drops that can dump a megabyte a second
into my creaking old laptop without asking for so much as a
student number. Are they asking for abuse? They must be;
I really don’t get it, given that there’s even going to be a new
Network Security program at Carleton soon. I do, however, absolutely
love it. It’s a slogan that’s been a long time in coming, I think:
“Screw music videos. I want my DHCP.”

I’ve got Perl and Scheme
working on my laptop!
This rocks the free world, and if you’re part of said free world and felt
a mild tremor recently, that was probably it.

Arlene has been and gone, and as always the highs are higher when
she is around, and the ditch afterwards sucks through a broken
swizzle straw. This was alleviated mildly by the ongoing James Brown
soundtrack from Undercover
Brother
has infected my subconcious mind. Even the casual
observer will note that I am neither black nor particularly proud,
but that movie kicks every ass regionally available, so I’m going
to get down with my bad self whether you like it or not.

Courses are starting to pick up now, and I’ve been asked
to do a couple of interesting things. I’m going to be
volunteering at the Open
Source Weekend
, I’m putting together a first draft
of a funding request for a cleverish project that I’m
working on, I’m trying desperately to understand some part of href="http://ftp.xfree86.org/pub/X.Org/pub/unsupported/programs/xvidtune/">this
so that I can make it do what I want it to, I’m also
volunteering with the Carleton
Computer Science Society
, whose ugly-as-hell web page I just
realized I now feel a moral imperative to do something about, and
on top of that, I’ve got a hell of a lot of school I need to take
care of. w00t!

I’m struggling right now to increase my understanding of
computers from “University Programmer” level, which I suspect
is viewed in the real world as being quaintly cute, to the href="http://catb.org/~esr/jargon/html/The-Story-of-Mel.html">Real
Programmer level which is proving, as you might imagine,
difficult. Finding bugs in an open-source product, you
see, is
dirt simple
. It’s about as hard, and precisely as
interesting, as starting your rock collection in a gravel
driveway. Fixing those bugs, however, requires a far deeper href="http://catb.org/~esr/jargon/html/group/magic.html">Magic
than I currently possess, especially when it involves some
of the creeping href="http://www.gnu.org/software/emacs/emacs.html">horrors
that seem to infect the machines of the unwary. I’m going to have to
learn all this stuff, though, because the project that this grant
application is all about requires far and away more kung-fu, and
with wierd, Java-related, XML-ish,
distributed stuff that I don’t currently have a good meaty grip
on. More news as news is warranted.

My attempt to move away from
frames
, which have been described by both my friends
and my instructors here at Carleton as “suck”, has been href="http://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=189079"
>thwarted. No biggie – I’ve made a
contribution to the cause, woohoo, and it’ll be fixed
soon. If you’re reading this with IE, don’t even bother
clicking on those links – instead, hustle thyself href="http://www.mozilla.org/projects/phoenix/releases.html"
>here and get the latest version of Phoenix.

Feeling very disconnected today. Arlene is coming to visit this
evening, and by God, I hope that I can get my head on straight before
she gets here. All today, all yesterday I’ve blundered through a day
that felt like a Tarantino film sans guns, choppy and disjoint; stare
at one thing long enough, and suddenly it’s not related to whatever
I was looking at last. I am experiencing serious discontinuities
during context-switching. Driving anywhere is almost impossible,
walking is proving somewhat halting, and I am having trouble coping
with any monothreaded situations. If there’s more than one thing
going on I think I’m OK, though, strangely. I have no idea if this
is a problem or not – whenever the inside of my head stops working
properly, I’m reminded of the old >Bosstones line:

“Thought I was down as far as any man could go /
thought my highs were giant size; I know now that’s not so.”

“I guess I really don’t know how to party”, is the name of the song.
I’ve felt pretty good at times, and at some times felt pretty
miserable, but for crying out loud, I really haven’t had it
bad at all. So plan A is suck it up and deal.

Update: If you do happen to pick up the latest version of
>Phoenix, you’ll understand my
absolute horror at discovering that dysfunctional,
troglodyte markup tags like <MARQUEE> still href="http://neon.polkaroo.net/~mhoye/blarg/marquee.html"
target="fixed">work
.

<blink> Gack! </blink>

I have, over the weekend, played and won a game called
“Diplomacy”. Aside from being a fact that is absurd on its face,
it was also an interesting exercise. I’ve only played it once
before, but since then I’ve heard a few pieces of advice from
a guy named John
Novak
, who’s said a few things that have stuck with me. The
most important one, which I think Andrew could have used, was the href="http://groups.google.ca/groups?q=novak++diplomacy&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&selm=4isjr9%249ap%40cegt201.bradley.edu&rnum=4">
Novak Stab Doctrine, but href="http://groups.google.ca/groups?q=novak+strong+middle+game+diplomacy&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&selm=slrn98oud4.k0u.jsn%40ts006d03.chi-il.concentric.net&rnum=1">this
tidbit from way back was what stuck with me while Alex was
doing all my heavy lifting for me.

Hopefully everyone will have forgotten this result a few years
from now when we play it again, or at least we’ll have somebody new
around I can pleasantly cooperate with until they’re well and truly
bent over. “I’m sorry, I seem to have dropped something behind that
barrel over there. Would you be so kind…?”

Apparently we’ve narrowly averted the T.A. strike here at Carleton,
an event which only bugs me because it brings the subject of Unions
up at CCSS lounge. Listening to a dozen undergrads argue about
politics is predictable, and exactly as much fun, as watching a
wind-up toy tumble down a flight of stairs.

Well, back to class. I get to spend an hour and a half listening to a
parsing howto, while the coffee fights the rolaids for control of my
digestive tract. There can be only one!

According to this machine’s referrer logs, over the last year people
have found my website after searching Google for, among other things,
the following:

  • majic belly
  • starburst music marketing
  • samosa diagram
  • wedding pictures jpg
  • ikea jerker desk photo
  • Museum of Popular Custums
  • “solar winds” ottawa chin
  • mark antony’s speech suggestion
  • Jean Chretien Henry Kissinger
  • record great lake snowstorms
  • sleepless goat kingston
  • examples of toast speech poem for a wedding anniversary
  • street fighter movie quotes satan
  • IKEA Jerker for Music
  • French Custums
  • “good speech ideas”
  • need to sell export garments in Toronto
  • clippy suicide note picture
  • mitel options password crack
  • belleville shitty
  • “george orwell” “politics and the english language” spoken
  • “Looks like you’re trying to write a suicide note”
  • face expression word smileys emotions -chat -internet
  • “saturday night” tab brood
  • cookie store toronto
  • clippy suicide note
  • IKEA jerker wanker
  • dog find oshawa
  • “matt boyd”
  • memphis slim
  • lee seigel harpers
  • dim sum richmond hill
  • oshawa psychic fair

For some reason I am experiencing fear.