The boring rants of a lazy nerd

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Personal - Being late

I have noticed that every time I meet R.Y. while commuting I am… shall we say "not at my best"? I wondered why is that. So I figure: we only meet on a bus at a time that means I'm very late, so it usually means I've tumbled out of bed and into my uniform in under ten minutes.
It's interesting though that my poor state doesn't bother me otherwise. Maybe I should readjust my answers on that meme to get "dork" instead of "geek".

Friday, August 26, 2005

Books - Edward E. "Doc" Smith - Galactic Patrol (Lensman Series Book #3)

So, I've read somewhere that it was among the first, defining works of the Space Opera genre. I got curious. All I've go to say after reading it is thank God it's not 1937. I have never read a fanfic, not on FFN, not even intentionally bad fanfic, that was this horrible. I can hardly call it a proper novel. The very outdated technology and nomenclature was bad enough ("ray guns", "ether"? WTF!), but the over-the-top depiction of absolutely everything, the non-existent characterization, and Gary Stu hero, a notable lack of morals and disregard for human life really made it hard to believe it was a published work (a bestseller?), not something scribbled in a bored 4th grader's note book. The worst parts were the blatant racism and sexism: worship of classical idealized Arian God-like build and features (a seven foot tall blue-eyed blonde male whose body is described by a male narrator, in a male leading character's words, speaking to an obviously intended male reader, as "beautiful") and the stated as truism belief of the narrator that women are inherently feeble minded and are only good for treating the wounded, recreation and procreation. I've wanted to stop reading so many times, but I've kept on to try and see if it got any worse. I was unpleasantly surprised to discover that it had, indeed, got worse.

Of purely historical interest nowadays. Avoid if possible, read with caution.

Books - Terry Pratchett - Wyrd Sisters (Discworld, Book 6)

So, the promised review. I've read the Hebrew translation (that's what I had with me), without reading the original before or after (I might yet). I've managed to reverse translate some of the jokes, but still I didn't laugh nearly as much as I remember laughing while reading The Colour of Magic. Partly it's because a peculiarity of mine: while reading or especially watching comedic situations, I often feel embarrassed for the "fool" instead of laughing at him. Thus I didn't laugh too much at Magrat's naïvete or Granny Weatherwax's imposing personality. Reading the reviews I've noticed I've missed some (most?) of the Shakespearian jokes. Gytha Ogg is brilliant ("Three marriages and an adventurous girlhood had left Nanny Ogg with thigh muscles that could crack coconuts"). That's it.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Life - A weekend on base

Last Thursday, fifteen minutes before end of the work week, a guy who is in charge of arranging the duty shifts / rotation calls and says I must stay for the weekend because they really need me and they're very sorry It's on such a short notice and they'll compensate me later. The notice was indeed short — I was already "late for duty" by hours and needed many more to get home and take things for the weekend and get back. So they decided the need was grave and I won't go home. Instead my parents can bring me items I might need1.

Ridiculous, but an order is an order and thus, I've spent the weekend with some old and new friends. Everything but the weather was great - the guys (people brought laptops and guitars!), the CO ("I don't like to do the paperwork, can we pretend I didn't catch you asleep and you'll stay awake for two more hours?"), the girls (I took guesses at their data, will check Monday how I did), even the notorious cooking (compensated by local take-out joints being open 24/7). We eventually got so tired from the heat and humidity I beat a guy at chess who in usual circumstances would wipe the board with me.

A girl, all of one month in the service behind her (one day out of bootcamp), didn't handle third watch too well (Why go to sleep while there are friends around to talk to? Because you don't share a watch with those friends meaning your sleep cycles aren't in sync, but of course you have to stop being a teenager for a moment to get this) and whined to the CO about being too sleepy on the third night. He took pity and so I got to fill in for her.

She realized she has done something not nice and to appease her conscience (her own words) brought me vending machine coffee and snack bars at around 4AM, claiming insomnia. We end up sitting there talking until dawn and the end of the shift. What's interesting is that instead of the oversized dirty field uniform she wore short, tight, black somethings with more lacy under-somethings in sight. Also she was playing with her hair and rocking back and forth, showing decent amount of cleavage.

I kept my distance, playing the perfect listener and gentleman, letting her tell me a condensed account of her life ages ten to eighteen, and pretending not to notice anything, thinking she didn't need me to be a guy, but two hours later, with first light, the magic gone and we departing in different directions, I realized that maybe she was hitting on me and I was a giant prat for not even taking a phone number2, especially since I had the perfect legit reason — to read her her own file off the computer at the office3.

1 - Z.L. has immediately lent me two books he had with him. Book review posts to follow.

2 - or ICQ UIN? What is it that I'm supposed to ask for these days?

3 - For reasons unknown (Well… I can guess, but that would be a really long digression), the military don't tell people how well they tested, and thus everyone feels obligated to get this otherwise completely uninteresting information through black market channels and longish chains of friends-of-friends).

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Life - Updates

I've found out (thanks to T.S.) that the military has accepted a plea we (mostly D.Z. and N.K.) filed two years ago about our signing for extra six months of enlisted service being illegal (though they never bothered to tell us). It means I'll be discharged in January '08 instead of July '08, and more importantly I'll get my first real paycheck in January '06. It will be minimum wage I think, but that's ten times more than what I get now!

I got tired of my trusty old Nokia 5120 and replaced it with a Motorola C650. I like Nokia better, but this one had a camera. I'm still learning to use it. It's so bloody children-oriented and the interface is so flashy. It looks unprofessional!
I don't believe I'm typing this, what am I, forty?

I've downloaded episodes of West Wing. It's not bad at all.

My boss' boss' boss and her boss were replaced today/tomorrow (scheduled, not sudden). We'll see how we like the new people.

Today, very suddenly, a new guy was added to my team. He's fresh out of training and we don't know yet how good is he or whether he likes computers/software.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

HP Fandom - Wahlee's "This Moment" H/G fluff

I consider Emily a friend, and I loved her previous writing and completely agreed with her in all those shipping wars I didn't really participate in, and I find nothing wrong with the story (except the typography, which I'm sure is not her fault and will be promptly fixed). But after HBP I just want to say Ginny-Sue is, if not strictly OOC, plain dull. Jo didn't tell us, even through the eyes the worst narrator ever, what Ginny is like, except that she appears to be Fred and George's female third twin and is probably good at snogging. We don't really know if her feelings for Harry are any deeper than her celebrity crush from years past. We don't know what she and Harry talk about during their lake-side excursions (if at all). We don't know she loves him and anticipates his idiotic behavior, or why she does something so atypical and quietly accepts it. All we know is that Harry was physically attracted to her and appreciated her unsophisticated sense of humor, and later was happy dating her. So what? Maybe Harry, being depraved of human touch the way he is (thanks to his loving family), needed the kind of relationship Ron had with Lavender, got exactly that from Ginny, and unlike Ron, was deliriously happy about it? Maybe they just talk Quidditch all the time. Maybe the first thing he did was checking whether she's a real redhead. Maybe I'm being stupid and need to go to sleep.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Overanalyzing - How it all began

Or, at least, my best guess is Walt Disney cartoons are partly to blame. When I was six, I used to watch the Sunday morning cartoons with my parents on our new (well… new to us, it being bought from friends who have emigrated to the US) color TV and I remember my favorite show for a while had been Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers and my favorite character was (of course) Gadget Hackwrench.

For those who don't remember: link #1, link #2.

The rest, as they say, is history.


In accordance with Ariel Sharon's plan to leave settlements in Gaza and the West Bank (what a stupid name! But I guess "Judea and Samariya" reveal it to be Jewish land and that's an inconvenient truth these days), the armed forces are in "emergency mode". Thus, some IT systems have been deemed "critical" and cannot go down, ever.
There's an underground war-room-style damage control center with walls covered by big screen maps of communication networks and traffic-light colored status boards. The room is manned around the clock by nervous, sleepy officers (some running on pure caffeine, some are in their third trimester) who are in charge of making sure nothing breaks or fix it before any one notices it broke and then make sure it never breaks again.

In a dimly lighted corner of the room, very important to the story but completely disregarded by everyone else, slacks a well camouflaged software developer turned cheap yet unreliable phone answering machine sitting a twelve hour shift, unmoving, waiting for a phone call that will never come, announcing something important broke and several room-fulls of monitoring equipment never noticed. Blended into his environment, his presence goes completely unnoticed by the war-room's proper inhabitants who forget to act like responsible officers completely on top of the situation and revert to the developers and techs they were a decade ago, not-quite-adults with baby sitters to arrange and chicken-and-egg logistical problems to solve.

Here's a good example of crisis in IT-land: Person A must have item B to be able to leave place C, which he must do to be effective. Item B is located in Place D, some four hours drive from place C and cannot be taken out until it is properly signed off by said Person A, who cannot reach it because he needs it to be able to leave place C. Something must give for the situation to be resolved, namely a set of orders or policy, but that becomes a point of pride for the brass issuing those orders, for if your orders can be waived in favor of someone else's orders, you are obviously less important.

As I watched wise old men with many years of experience in the field (meaning they know shit about current systems) mediate and judge deeply technical issues guided by very little factual knowledge, uncertain advice, caution gained by experience and rules of thumb gleaned from mistranslations of the US military and IT press, I've thought how much I don't want to get promoted to a position where I won't have time to get into the technical details and have to rely on video-conferences with "a boy"* to get a guesstimate on time to reboot a network appliance or help with pivoting some data from SQL Server using Excel. Instead I wished I could be that boy - the one they know is reliable and knows his stuff.

* - they mean "kid", but Semitic languages are chauvinistic. The proper word, "G.I" or "rating", is treated as derogatory.

I have for two years been contemplating a filk tentatively titled "I am the very model of a modern Project Manager", but alas, my rhymes leave much to be desired. I hoped this latest experience would provide inspiration, but my hopes have been shattered to bits upon my active vocabulary's rocky shore.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Life - My God! Genius! Interest improves quality!

I have been talking to anyone who would listen, trying to phrase my ideas about how the world is so fucked up because people don't do what they like. That because people are unmotivated by what they do for money they do it badly. I see it all the time and it looks like the cause of so much grief, and I'm not the only one because all the smart people I talk to agree with me (and not just to get me to shut up), and it's not just in the military or just in Israel, it's everywhere. It's nothing new, Pirsig talks about it, but just catching up on Paul Graham's latest essay I cried out "you've read my mind!". The question is: How can I make a difference? And I'm not ready to start a startup now, nor will I able to for the next three years. Damn.

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