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Diver's Pursuits

Below are the 25 most recent journal entries.

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  2016.08.12  16.45
How do you stay current?

Question:  What do you do to stay current with (the world | your career | your friends | etc)?  What do you read / practice / etc?
Background: As a programmer I'm constantly chasing the state of the art curve, and it's constantly moving out from under me which leaves my skills less marketable.  The news (politics, world events, etc) usually either bores the socks off me or makes me furious; this gives it a tremendous ugh field, yet I feel like I should keep up with it.  My friends' lives are complex and busy and staying up to date with what's happening for them often feels overwhelming, yet not doing so means that those relationships fade.
I often wish there were a service that would send me a summary every day saying something like what I put below, along with links to more information.

How do y'all stay current with your lives, careers, and the world?
Example "stay somewhat current" report that I wish I could get emailed to me:
*) Here are the things you need to know about politics so you don't sound clueless.
  *) Donald Trump insulted a gold star military family
  *) Hillary Clinton is ahead in the polls by X
  *) There was a massive riot in <country> that was caused by <thing> and that's important to the US because <reason>
  *) <country A> is talking about imposing trade sanctions on <country B> because <reason> and that matters to the US because <reason>
*) Here's a summary of the lives on the friends you've expressed interest in tracking:
  *) Alice and her husband Bob had a baby, , on <date>. Alice will be on mat leave until <date>
    *) Charlie is responding well to chemo
  *) Danielle is moving to <place> for a new job as a <title> with <company>
  *) Emily is enjoying her new relationship with who she met on in
*) Important upcoming dates:
*) Al's birthday
    *) Kim's wedding
    *) Your parent's anniversary

*) You said that you're a web programmer.  Here are some relevant tech trends:
  *) Jobs are trending down for Ruby and up for Haskell
  *) 'Containers' are the new hotness.  Containers are just slightly gimped FreeBSD jails.
  *) MEAN stack is continuing to gain mindshare and LAMP is continuing to lose it


  2016.07.13  13.32
Spaghetti law

There's a term in programming, 'spaghetti code'.  It's not a compliment.  It refers to messy, disorganized code that is difficult to follow and uses bad practices such as GOTO commands instead of proper subroutine calls.  Spaghetti code is a nightmare for anyone who has to come along later and work with that code.  I have just been reminded that the U.S. body of law is spaghetti; laws reference other laws and provide edits to other laws -- actual textual edits, not simple amendments.  I very much doubt that those original laws have pointers back to all the places that have subsequently edited them, which means that they aren't trustworthy sources.  This is a thing that I knew, but didn't really think about until I started looking into it.

Want examples?  Look behind the cut.  (Not for the faint of heart.)

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I suppose this is why the quote exists:  "Law and sausages:  everyone wants them, no one wants to know how they are made."


  2016.06.02  11.59
Deliberate practice, how and why

There's a term, "Deliberate Practice", that gets thrown around in my circles a fair bit.  I recently went and read the original paper by Ericsson et al.

As with most academic papers, there's quite a bit of fluff in it -- e.g., the entire "Brief Historical Background" section, which has no bearing on the actual facts discovered by this study.  If you boil it down, though, here is what you get:

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Did I miss any important points?


  2016.06.01  11.38
Pointless algorithm questions and cowardly interviewers

Tech interviews frustrate me.  Well, actually, interviews frustrate me.

I just had a phone interview (audio only).  The guy asked me a lot of questions about my background.  I answered them as honestly as I could, and I'm not sure if the result was positive.  The conversation went something like this:
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So here's what I find frustrating:  this is a pointless question that has no relevance to the actual job, he doesn't have the guts to tell me to my face that I flunked his pointless test, and I'm probably not going to get the job even though my experience is very much in line with what they need.  The part that irritates me the most is the "not having the guts to say so" part, though.


  2016.03.30  12.47
How not to advertise for a programming job

I'm in the middle of jobhunting for programming work, and I just found the following ad.  I'd like to review it in the hope that the tens of thousands of people () who (a) read this blog and (b) are responsible for writing ads for technical jobs might learn something.

(Cut tag around the ad itself so as not to text-wall you.)

Problems with this ad:

  1. Too much babble about your company history.  I don't care how many staff you have, how many countries you're in, or when you were founded.  I care about what skills I need, what I'm going to be doing, and how much money you're going to pay me.

  2. I don't care about the benefits package.  There's nothing here that's both unusual and significant.  Don't waste my time.

  3. You lead off with:  "The Applications Developer role will be responsible for supporting projects that involve the development, implementation and deployment of applications to $COMPANY. "   Really?  The Applications Developer job will develop applications?  Who could have predicted it?

  4. Job Responsibilites:  This was written by a pointy-haired boss and is a waste of space in your ad.  "Efficiently manage workload and projects within set timelines and to agreed budget, achieving set objectives.  Assimilate and apply new job-related information in a timely manner"? How is this different from any other job?  Again, I care about: what I will do, what skills I need, how much money you'll give me for it.  Anything else is useless.

  5. Job Requirements.  This is a bit of a pet peeve, but asking for both a Bachelor's degree and 5 to 8 years experience is stupid.  If I have 5 years experience it means I can do the job, regardless of whether I have a diploma.  Don't waste my time.  (In my case I have 20 years, so I'm almost certainly qualified for anything you're likely to want based on this vague and poorly written ad.)

  6. The buzzwords you use matter, and you're using the wrong ones. 

    • Prototype is a Javascript library, and Rose::DB::Object is a database interface.  Both of them lost to their competitors (jQuery and DBIx::Class, respectively).  This means your shop is either out of date and change-resistant or someone non-technical wrote this ad and no technical person checked it.  Sloppy.

    • Saying you want someone with both CVS and git experience is bizarre; CVS is a legacy version control system that hasn't been widely used since the 90s.  git is a recent and au courant VCS that is the system of choice in most modern shops.  CVS was replaced by git for very good reasons; if you are using just CVS it means your shop is outdated and change-resistant.  If you are using both CVS and git it means that you don't understand overhead costs and system integration, and you never thought to research ways to migrate your CVS repository into your git system.  (Which is quite straightforward.)

    • Saying that you want both mod_perl (the correct capitalization) and Catalyst experience is equally bizarre.  mod_perl was largely replaced by FastCGI for good reasons.  Catalyst is a modern web framework which is easy to integrate into a FastCGI environment and running it under mod_perl seems odd.

  7. Everything that comes after 'Design and documentation of code' is more meaningless pablum.  Again, don't waste my time.

  8. List the salary range! This is the number one thing that I and any other job applicant is looking for!  The salary is the first make-or-break as to whether I'm going to apply.  Why would you not list it?

Finally, the single biggest blunder:  buried in the middle of all this blather is the line "Please apply using our online application system." There's no link.  I have no way to get to your application system.  You provide a link to your homepage, but neither the word "Job" nor the word "Apply" appears on that page.  Do you really think I'm going to dig around your site hoping to find a way to send you a resume?

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  2016.03.19  00.38
Fairly amazing email conversation I just had

There's a startup advertising through my social graph; they sounded somewhat interesting and I'm looking around for work, so I reached out.  I explained my CV and asked some questions about the job.  Here's the ensuing conversation; it's condensed a bit, but all of their words are direct quotes.

Them: Our ideal person wouldn't need a salary.

Me: Sorry, I'm going back to programming because my savings are running low, so I need a salary.
Them: What's the minimum you would accept?
Me: I think I can get $X - $Y on the open market.
Them: Yeah, those are reasonable numbers.  I just wasn't sure what your trade-off was between "making lots of money" and "working at a company that's actually doing something of serious value." ;) If there is none, then we definitely can't compete.
Me: You're assuming that those are mutually exclusive goals.
Them: I think there is definitely a trade-off, but then again I have a very high bar for what constitutes "serious value." :)
Me: Good luck with that.

What a sanctimonious jackass.


  2016.02.08  17.54
Kickstarter == chocolate!

Minor bit of solicitation here:  I'm hoping to send people to a friend's Kickstarter where the rewards are chocolate: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tracywolf/cable-car-cakes-and-chocolates
My friend Tracy Wolf does chocolates that are better than any professionally-made chocolates I've ever had.  A few years ago I asked her to teach me / help me to make a few batches so that I could give them to family as presents.  They were amazing -- people had trouble believing that I had made them, and everyone raved about the.
Tracy is opening Cable Car Cakes and Chocolates, a bakery/chocolate shop, in San Francisco and has just launched a Kickstarter to pay for the necessary equipment (enrobers, mixers, etc).  The rewards are chocolates!
Again, the Kickstarter is here:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tracywolf/cable-car-cakes-and-chocolates

If you enjoy chocolates, if you like to support small business owners, if you would like to try some incredible treats, go check this out.  (Also, if you're financially minded, the reward chocolates are less expensive than buying good chocolate at the store!)
If you think you might want to pledge please do it soon!  The first 36 hours of a Kickstarter are incredibly important -- Kickstarters that don't fund well during that time tend not to fund at all.


  2016.01.30  21.35
Impressions on El Capitan

I've been using OSX 10.11 (El Capitan) for a month now.  Before this I was using OSX 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard).  Here's how EC stacks up.

Summary:  Wait a few months or a year before upgrading.  Hopefully Apple will get some of the issues ironed out.

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  2016.01.25  19.46
Writing: level up! (through shame)

Last week I finished the first chapter of The Tinker's Daughter, which might end up being called The Tinker's Children.  I asked avivasedai for feedback; she read through it and we had a conversation that went a little somethin' like this:

avivasedai:  So, the idea is that she came home to find that her house has burned down and her single-parent father is dead, right?
Me: Yep!  Exciting, huh?
avivasedai: And, she's 16, right?
Me: Yep!
avivasedai: So...is she going to have an emotional reaction at some point?
Me: What?!  She totally...<reads>...um...<reads>...hang on......oh.
avivasedai: Yeah.
Me: I crit-failed my character development check, didn't I?
avivasedai: Well, I wouldn't have put it like that...but, yes.  Yes, you did.

(EDIT:  Just to be clear, the above is written for humor.  avivasedai was actually very nice about it, and I really appreciated the feedback.)

Yeah, I had spent a lot of time figuring out how the world worked so that I knew what the characters could do, and then my brain was too full of that so I didn't think what the characters would do.  This did, however, have a useful side effect:  when I'm writing, I have a visualization of the scene in my brain so that I can describe it.  I just need to move that camera inside the character's head instead of having it in a cinematic view.


  2016.01.17  11.06
My microwave is magical!

I made myself some tea this morning, and then I started playing harp; when I finished the tea was stone cold. No problem, this is why God Percy Spencer invented the microwave. I go over, opened the door...and there was tea there! Even more amazing: it looked exactly like the mug of tea that I made yesterday and never drank!

I can't tell -- does my microwave create matter of the 'tea' persuasion, or do my mugs travel in time and space?


  2016.01.16  10.55
Fun with Desktops

El Capitan has a new1 feature, which is Desktops. The way this works is that you have 'Desktop 1' and you put windows on it. Then you can create 'Desktop 2' and put windows on THAT, and so on. Only one desktop is visible at a time and you can slide between them to see different sets of windows. For example, you might have a Desktop for "work-related stuff" and another for "entertainment stuff".

In theory this sounds great. The devil, however, is in the details. Specifically, the details of what happens when you have an external monitor plugged in.
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[1] Actually, it's been around for a while. Linux has had virtual desktops for at least a decade, and earlier versions of OSX had something called 'Spaces' which was the kiddie-pool version of virtual desktops.


  2016.01.06  15.44
El Capitan stuffs it up with SSL

Well, this has been a fun day.  The following is programming/techy stuff, so it's that's not your bag feel free to skip.

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Meh.  I'm going to get a sandwich for lunch, then get back to writing.


  2016.01.05  15.08
Data transferred, first impressions

Short form: on OSX 10.11, is there a way to search for more than one tag at a time? How about a way to see my home directory without manually creating a symlink?

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  2016.01.04  11.03
Computers, for good and ill

My computer is dying.  The DVD drive hasn't worked in over a year, a few months ago the USB ports stopped working, several of the keys (notably e, a, m, and recently r) are flaky, and it is literally falling apart:  the screws that hold the case together are getting loose, and I have to keep tightening them again.  Two of them have already fallen out and gotten lost.

For Christmas, my parents were generous enough to give me a new computer.  I was thinking about switching to Linux this time, but it occurred to me that changing operating systems when you *need* to is a bad plan, so I asked for another MBP.  I now have a beautiful shiny new machine, but it doesn't have all my data.  I moved the most critical stuff over via Dropbox, but I'd like to get my keychain, applications, etc moved over as well.

Ordinarily this is straightforward, and there are several ways to make it happen:

  1. Hook the two computes together with Firewire, use Migration Assistant.  Problem: Appl doesn't make Firewire anymore, and hasn't for years.  It's been replaced by Thunderbolt, a cable of which I do not have.

  2. Use Carbon Copy Cloner to make a bootable image of my current computer onto an external USB device, then unroll that image over what's currently on the new machine.  It would wipe out the new OSX, but I'm not so heartbroken about that.  Problem: USB ports on the current machine don't work.

  3. It could probably be done using Unix tools via rsync and other goodness, assuming I could find sufficient methods to handle Apple's weird extensions to Unix.  Problem: Very high risk method.

Okay, finding a Thunderbolt cable seems like the best.  I should run into the Apple Store and get one.  Kinda annoying; it'll be expensive and I probably won't need it again.

Hmm, hang on, the Apple Store has a Genius Bar that has people whose job it is to help.  I wonder if they could do this for me?

[dial, dial]
Computer on phone:  Hello, I am an automated system and I can handle complete sentences.  How may I help you today, David.</voice>
Me:  ...
Computer:  Hello, David?
Me: ...yeah, that's not creepifying at all.  Move data from one computer to another.
Computer: Okay, let me get you transferred.
Announcement: doo wee ooh  All circuits are busy.  Please try your call again later.  Goodbye. <click>

Ah, the joys of computers.  Anyway, I called back and got an appointment for noon, so we're all good.


  2015.12.15  17.10
Beautiful quotes

Words that make me happy:

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  2015.12.14  08.14
Woot! The carpets, they are clean!

I talked to Trinity about getting the carpets replaced. They said they'd get the guy out to do an estimate on what it would cost to replace them.

In the meantime, I found Bay Area Carpet Cleaning. They came in and for $109 and 25 mins or so, they made the carpets look almost new again. They were moderately wet-to-damp for about 18 hours, but that was fine.

The worst of the stains, the one by the front door, has come back a little bit, but it's not that bad -- it looks more like the carpet is ruffled up than like someone poured ashes on it and then ground them in. What a relief!


  2015.12.01  14.08
Trinity Property Management of San Francisco: Where shoddy and shabby are good for business!

The carpets in my apartment are old, beige, and stained.  They've been like that since I moved in.  After 6 years I decided I couldn't take it any more.  I thought "well, maybe I can get them replaced?"   So I called my landlord (Trinity).  I was told that no, company policy is not to replace carpet during tenancy.  I asked if this was regardless of tenancy duration.  Yep, if I stay here for another 10 years, they still won't fix the carpet.

I thought about this, wondering why they would have such a tenant-unfriendly policy, and the answer occurred to me:  it's rent controlled.  If the place is shoddy and nasty, people will move out, and then Trinity can jack the price up for the next person.

Ah, the joys of renting.

EDIT: One of the other apartments on my breezeway is empty; I happened to be walking by while it was being cleaned and I got to look in. It is niiice: hardwood floors, brand new futuristic appliances, etc. Closet doors are the same shoddy crud that I have, but they are newer and glide better. I'm sure they're going for north of $3000 / month.

Meanwhile, I got my carpets actually clean!


  2015.11.25  23.54
Obama says we can own asteroids!

Woot!  We can own asteroids.

Many asteroids are literally worth trillions of dollars; this is a great reason for people to fund space development.  Since "space development" includes things like space-based solar power (unlimited energy!), this is great news.


  2015.11.21  10.12
Apparently, laughter is scary

I decided I would work in a cafe today.  And, also, have a tasty omelette that I didn't have to cook.  (Extra benny!)

So, I pop over to Morning Due, a friendly and tasty-omelette-making place a couple blocks from me, and I settle in.  I have a rule that I don't work while eating because it ruins both activities and my keyboard, so I'm eating my omelette with one hand and hitting 'down arrow' with the other (No, that is not a euphemism!  Get your mind out of the gutter!) while reading a NSFW article on Cracked.com entitled "8 Seemingly Impossible Sex Positions Tested In Real Life" which is, obviously, NSFW.  (Dad, NSFW means "Not Safe For Work", which means there's some naughty content and you probably shouldn't read it where the boss can see.  Unless you are the boss, I suppose.  Okay, carry on.)

Most Cracked articles result in a "hm, yes, jolly clever" or a "well done old chap!  Deuced amusing, pip pip!"  (I have no idea why I suddenly developed an English accent there.)  This one had me laughing so hard my eyes were watering.  I was keeping it down, but apparently not enough:  the guy in the adjoining table just slid down two tables.

Really?  I mean, come on.  I'm a whitebread guys with glasses and I'm laughing -- not giggling maniacally, not cackling, just laughing quietly like a normal person -- and he felt the need to move away?  I showered like, twenty minutes ago, dude!  I'm not some gangbanger with my hat on sideways and my pants around my knees because I never realized that that is the prison sign for "come and get some, big boy!", or maybe because I just thought penguins were badass and I wanted to talk the talk and waddle the waddle just like them.

I ask you, what's so scary about laughter?  If someone were laughing that hard next to me, I'd ask them to share the joke because I could feel a bit of a sniffle coming on and could use some cheap medicine that wasn't made by a big pharma company with questionable business ethics who will buy up cheap cures and raise the price a thousand-fold because they care more about profits than human lives and are, for example,  are charging $300,000 a year for a medicine to treat seizures in infants under 2, although yes, of course I'm cherrypicking an example from the internet based on one random source that was the first link on Google and no I'm not fact-checking because who does that anymore -- I mean, certainly not Fox News which is supposedly "fair and balanced", amiright?

Hm.  That sentence started off well and then it got away from me.  Anyway, the point was that apparently laughter is scary.  Or, perhaps, fatal.


  2015.11.12  08.40
Things not to do: call 911 and then leave

I'm staying in a hostel right now.  I just had breakfast, I'm walking upstairs, and there's a cop, a firefighter, and an EMT walking down the stairs past me.  (That sounds like the setup for a joke, but it isn't, I promise.  Totally serious here.)  They're looking for the manager and saying "we have a medical emergency, where's the manager?"  No one knows; we all traipse upstairs; there's no one at the desk.

Everyone is standing around wondering where is the woman who is maybe dying, or the manager who can tell the EMTs where is the woman who is maybe dying.  Someone who was standing around said "yeah, there was an older woman sitting on the couch over there, but then she left."

Finally the manager comes down the stairs carrying some luggage.  Behind him comes the woman, coming down the stairs very carefully.  The EMT got on the situation and assessed things; the woman was feeling very light-headed and apparently had been for a few days.  They're taking her off to the hospital right now.

So, the lesson from this, if someone calls the ambulance for you:  stay the hell where you are! If you need to go to the hospital you don't need to bring a suitcase and if you really, really do then you can at the very least leave someone in the lobby who knows where you are.


  2015.11.10  09.10
My inner monologue while writing a scene of Induction

My inner monologue while writing a scene of The Change Storms: Induction:

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  2015.11.09  14.31
How to transfer passwords from OSX to Linux?

As I mentioned in the last post, the 'e' and 'a' keys on my computer are starting to fail.  I've been thinking about updating for a while and, if/when I do, I'm thinking about going from OSX back to Linux.  Almost all of the programs that I use on a regular basis work on both, so it's not too much of a big deal.  The one thing that would be really problematic is that all my passwords are in Keychain.

Does anyone know how to migrate passwords from OSX Keychain into anything that will run on Linux?


  2015.11.06  16.49
Fun with computing thing

Today I again saw that my computing thing is having difficulty.  Not only is it running OSX 10.6.8 (that's highly old), but its RAM is small by today's standards (8MB).  It's had some difficulty with its graphics card in months past, although I'm glad to say not in months just past.

Today, though, I saw a particular difficulty: a singular input thing is working poorly and not constantly.  Now, a laptop computing thing has two forms of input -- trackpad and button-things -- and my difficulty is not a trackpad difficulty.  If you visually study this blog post you may spot which particular button-thing is not always working by noting which alpha-thing is 'Sir Not Shown In This Post'.

I should add that this button-thing will work, just that it occasionally wants additional impact than normal.

Oh my.  Now 'a' is strting to hav issues as well.  Perhaps it's time to see about upgrading to Linux.  (And no, not because Linux will mke my keys start working again; just because it's something I've ben thinking about anyway.  Also, you cn note the issues I'm having with 'e' and 'a' in this paragraph.)


  2015.11.03  08.06
Semi-hourly wordcounts

I find that publicizing my wordcounts regularly helps me stay on target.  So, here we go:  wordcounts on The Change Storms: Induction, every 30 minutes.  (Note that you can read the book for free on my Patreon.)

8:05am - 66,201 words
...and, no sooner did I make this post than I realized I had to run to the store for something.  Okay, starting over.
9:10am - 66,201 words
9:51am - 66247.  Spent the entire time editing to get back up to speed.
10:21am - 66462.  Rest of the chapter is edited, plus wrote more.  Now I need to run to pharmacy.
12:30 - Yurgh. Two hours to get to the pharmacy, get my stuff, get lunch, get back. Blarg.
1:07pm - 66824
1:38pm - 66900.  Need to choose a bunch of powerset for the big upcoming battle.  Going to take another couple hours, probably. :/


  2015.11.01  09.31
People annoy me

I posted this question over on the Worldbuilding StackExchange site.
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Holy green apples, people, if you find it offtopic, all you have to do is say "Hey, this is offtopic, why don't you take it over to X?" How bloody stupid and obnoxious do you have to be to give answers like these?

What is it about the Internet that makes people rude?  /age_old_question


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