Archive for April, 2005

Fourteen Down, How Many to Go?
28 April, 2005

Today was my fourteenth work-day with my new team. I'd gush about how much nicer my new team is, but I don't want to be impolite to those not quite as lucky.

But it's nice to get to write software for my paycheck, as opposed to attend meetings and hide from Machiavellian politics.

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It's not April First
27 April, 2005

I think this is a real article: Exploding Toads Puzzle German Scientists

Don't Throw Me in the Briar Patch
27 April, 2005

My spouse just reported that her Windows PC is showing BSOD: the Blue Screen of Death. But I think that is a misnomer. From now on I will refer to that as BSOIMP: The Blue Screen of Impending Mac Purchase.

Give Me a Break
26 April, 2005

We are in the midst of “No TV Week”. Let me state very clearly, right at the beginning: I think it is a stupid idea.

I like television just like I like literature, movies, plays, musicals, ballet, stand-up comedy, music, paintings, sculptures, and just about every other form of art. I also like television just like I like books, audio books, lectures, and just about every other form of learning. Can television be of negligible artistic merit? Can television be a hindrance to learning? Of course on both counts.

But so can the other media. I love books but even I must admit that there are some books severely lacking in both art and learning. (Please feel free to leave your nominations in the comments.) There are also movies that suffer similarly. (NB: Independence Day.) But rather than boycott other media, we simply encourage better discrimination in selection. How can my eldest watching the Discovery Channel be wrong?

So “No TV Week” is stupid because it would throw out the baby with the bath water.

I can think of many more worthwhile causes that deserve the time and money that has been poured into this campaign. Perhaps I could get behind a “No Brain-Wasting Week”. But even then I still think there are lots of more important causes. It seems to me that universal literacy would be a lot more helpful than some middle- and upper-class kids skipping a few episodes of That's So Raven. Or perhaps we could work on the feeding the hungry. Or providing decent health care for those in Africa. Or maybe stopping genocide. Look. Without much effort I listed a bunch of better things to be doing with our time and money.

So “No TV Week” is stupid because it fiddles while Rome is burning.

Surely we can do better than this.

How'd They Know?
21 April, 2005

Following everyone else to Find Your Spot yielded:

1. Astoria, Oregon
2. Newport, Oregon
3. Ketchikan, Alaska
4. Mt. Vernon, Washington
5. Anacortes, Washington,
6. Seward, Alaska

Plural
20 April, 2005

Is “kleenices” the plural of “kleenex”?

My Kingdom for a Proof Reader
20 April, 2005

On page 23 of Designing with FPGAs & CPLDs, it says "Designers can bery easily…". (emphasis mine)

“B” for “V” is a common typo but it still reminds me of my youngest's speech patterns. Tee-hee.

The Heart of Darkness
18 April, 2005

Years ago, unfortunately many years too late, I read an article by Jeff Cooper in which he talked about the different states of mental alertness. He gave each state a color. (Note: the colors in this article differ somewhat from what I remember but the meaning is the same.)

Based on painful, personal experience, I add to his taxonomy Code Green: when you completely relax because you are in a known-to-be-safe environment. Without Code Green you get PTSD.

For years I operated in Code Orange. All the time. I saw so many people in Code White. I had been in Code White but I learned the hard way that combat gives no warning. Then I had been in Code Black, startled, surprised, and completely frozen. It almost cost me my life.

I was determined to never let that happen again, to never be caught unaware. Better to be too prepared if that was even possible. So at first I consciously chose to be in Code Orange. But after too many days living in the same environment, always under the threat of attack, Code Orange became a habit, the default setting. People thought I was a loose cannon.

And, to them, I was. They were in Code White where nothing was amiss, where there was no need to be ready to defend yourself. They saw people in Code Yellow as being paranoid. Me, I was just nutty. People don’t screw around with Nam vets. But I didn’t have any medals or surplus fatigues. I just looked like the chubby kid. So they were surprised when I wasn’t.

I was ready to go to Code Red in an instant because I had to be. I didn’t want to live like that; what child would? But I had to be and, because I desperately wanted to live, I was. I saw everything and everyone as a potential threat and I maneuvered to protect myself. Needless to say, that interfered with all of my relationships. I wanted a better life, I hoped that a better life was possible, but I resolved to do whatever it took to survive.

Most people live in a Code White fairy tale. In that fairy tale, people do treat each other poorly but nothing permanent really happens. The victims take their abuse stoically but come back the next day for more abuse. The victimizers keep victimizing, avoiding punishment by never hurting anyone too bad.

But I know that world is a fairy tale. I have lived in the real world, where good people die and bad people play for keeps. I have been through Code White into Code Black and out the other side into Code Red. I respect anyone who has been on the same journey and I envy those who haven’t.

I was lucky enough to stumble onto an extremely talented yogi (who I now call a friend) who helps people recover from combat trauma. After a couple of years talking with him, I learned to spend my time in Code Yellow. I have rehabilitated my injuries, psychological and physical, to the point where I can lead a relatively normal life now. I retain hope that I can see even better results with continued work.

But the damage has already been done. I still see people as threat vectors. I still check their hands and eyes, their clothing, their posture, everything for evidence of an impending attack. Large crowds wear me down, not just because I’m an introvert, but because it’s hard work keeping track of that many threat vectors. I don’t like surprises or being touched without my permission, especially being touched by surprise. I can still get to Code Red in an instant.

To be blunt, for me this is just a cease-fire. My worldview has been irrevocably skewed to see things from a combat perspective. My fore brain knows that the hostilities have ended but my hind brain knows that they will resume. I can’t see how that wouldn’t affect the way I perceive and am perceived. It colors the language I use and the choices I make.

That is the third, and deepest, reason they call me “Sarge”.

Pope Redux
15 April, 2005

In a previous entry I made a statement that I felt obvious but discovered was controversial: that people would try to profit from John Paul II's death.

Sadly, my cynicism was justified.

It's in the Name of Science
13 April, 2005

I have an animal companion who is on the large side for a Rhodesian Ridgeback at 116 pounds. He can move pretty fast when he wants to. I always wondered who would win the race between the deer that frequent our property and him. But I never wanted to find out because I was afraid that he would keep chasing them into the next county.

This morning my youngest opened the door to let our newest animal companion out when my Ridgeback barked and shot out the door. Coincidentally, four of the herd of deer were standing about five meters in front of the door, right in his sights as it were. I raced to the end of the house to look out the window. I see four deer hauling, er, doe down the hill, chased by my buddy. He was moving as fast as I have ever seen him move.

My awe at the beauty of watching him run was tinged with concern as I saw him disappear into the woods after the deer. I figured that he would give chase for a while and then try to return home. I was not sure how accurate his orienteering wouuld be, though, because he is not allowed to roam the countryside. By the time I got outside to start what I figured would be a futile search for him, he had already left the woods and was happily peeing on trees on our property. Apparently he did not want to eat the deer, just chase them off his property.

So now I know who is faster, the deer or my Ridgeback: neither.