August 29th, 2003


Video Night

I'm going to a party at Erin's work. I don't know if anyone was going to be coming round, but I should be back in by 9pm anyway. If anyone's up for it I'll see them then, and I'll try not to poison anyone this time...

vote Robert Anton Wilson!

28 August 2003 e.v. After refusing many pleas to run for governor, I have reconsidered and now enter the race as an unofficial write-in candidate. After all, why should I remain the ONLY nutcase in California who ain't running?

My party, the Guns and Dope Party, invites extremists of both right and left to unite behind our shared goals of:

1. Get those pointy-headed Washington bureaucrats off our backs and off our fronts too

2. Guns for everybody who wants them; no guns for those who don't want them

3. Drugs for everybody who wants them; no drugs for those who don't want them

4. Freedom of choice, free love,free speech, free Internet and free beer

5. California secession -- Keep the anti-gun and ant-dope fanatics on the Eastern side of the Rockies

6. Lotsa wild parties every night by gun-toting dopers

7. Animal protection -- Support your right to keep and arm bears

[...] First order of business on assuming office: Fire 33% of the legislature [names selected at random] and replace them with full-grown adult ostriches, whose mysterious and awesome dignity will elevate the suidean barbarity long established there.

Adam's Adams

Adam nicked this from Scott Adams and I'm nicking it from him:

I noticed there are a lot of specialty airlines these days. For example, Hooters has its own airline targeted at horny men, and Virgin has an airline targeted at virgins. My idea is to start Atheist Airlines, targeted at non-believers who want to avoid security delays.

At Atheist Air, prior to boarding, passengers would be required to spout blasphemous remarks at a display of artifacts from all the major religions. This effectively weeds out anyone who has a secret plan to meet the Creator in the next few hours. Blasphemers would be allowed to carry-on pickaxes, blowtorches, chainsaws, nun chucks, whatever, under the theory that atheists generally try to avoid hurting other people in any situation where there isn't a clear escape route.


WolfLady26 had this quote on happiness:

Abd Er-Rahman III of Spain said: "I have now reigned about 50 years in victory or peace, beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honors, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity. In this situation, I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot. They amount to fourteen."

Which seemed eminently likely to me.


"Happiness is the freedom to not be bored, getting enough sleep and having people you respect respect you back."

(I wrote this in a comment on WolfLady26's journal and two people liked it, so it's now got a permanent home here)

Disbelief (and the suspension thereof)

Stories are funny things. For a start they aren't real. They're about as unreal a thing as you can get, existing solely in your imagination, different in each one as we each envisage a different world in which similar events unfold. There's a variety of different things that attract us to stories, that keep out attention focussed on them. Whether we feel any affinity for the characters, whether the story has emotional resonance with us, whether we appreciate the emotions it engenders within us and many other factors can all have a large effect on our enjoyment of a story.

One of the trickiest things to manage is suspension of disbelief - whether we are able to take the story onboard, or if our reality detectors immediately reject it as nonsense. This can be a sense of belief in relation to reality or it can relate to the inward consistency of the film. Some things can be happily accepted in the context of one story but not in another and some people will happily accept the most outrageous things at one time, but spurn other very similar things in another story. A friend of mine once disparaged Evita, saying the people didn't have even vaguely Argentinian accents. The same friend owns the complete set of Disney films and not once have I heard him complain about the lack of greek accents in Hercules.

When dealing with stories that have jumped from one medium to another, sometimes you are left with the tropes of the original medium which are suddenly more offensive to our disbelief than they were before. Spandex costumes , for instance, look almost normal to people flicking through a comic, but have a tendency towards extreme ridiculousness on the screen. However, to watch Superman and complain that he wears red and blue lycra would seem completely ridiculous - by purchasing a ticket to see Superman you've given up all rights to complain about watching a film which uses the Superman standards. Similarly, to complain that Spiderman getting his powers through being bitten by a spider is patently unscientific and ridiculous would seem churlish - Peter Parker is bitten by a spider and gains the ability to walk up walls, that's an established part of the mythos and telling that story in another mythos isn't going to change anything.

It was thereore with a certain amusement and amazement that I saw people's complaints about The Hulk - that he withstood damage that was impossible, that he leapt miles in a single leap, that his trousers never tore off when he swelled in size. Now, were this to be an original film I can understand that these complaints might have some substance, that the laws of physics might need to be taken into account (or not, depending on what kind of film was being made). But he does all of these things in the comic. The comic book character leaps miles into the air, withstands tank shells and never, ever loses his shorts. To complain that the film character based on him does all of these things seems baffling in the extreme - akin to watching a Star Wars film and complaining that there were light-sabers in it.

Working Together

One of the tenets of the ridiculously named "Extreme Programming" (a better name being "Agile Programming" of which I believe Extreme Programming is a subset) is Pair Programming, the idea being that two programmers working together are far more effective than two programmers working on their own code.

I'm not 100% convinced that this is necessarily true for actual programming, although I'd like to give it a try. I am now 100% convinced that this is true for all the admin faffy stuff that surrounds it. When you have to go through 20 tables and check the data structures, or compare two different sets of information, having one person call out figures while the other person checks them is a vast improvement. Not only is it faster because one person doesn't have to keep track of their position on both screen and paper (or even worse, switching between two applications), but it's actually motivational, because your attention is constantly engaged by the other person. It's one thing to be engaged by the work you're doing, but for things which don't interest me, try as I might I can't manage extended focus - having someone else waiting on the next figure to be read to them makes a huge difference to the enthusiasm and speed with which it's found.

Anyone out there got experience with working closely with other people in this kind of situation?


When it comes to work, if you're lucky enough to have a job that you enjoy, there's usually two bits - the bit that made you take up the job in the first place, and all the annoying stuff that you have to wade through in order to get to that bit.

In my case, the "good bit" started out as "programming", has slowly changed to be "design and programming" and will quite possibly end up as "design" (and by design I mean infrastructure design, not User Interfaces - Interface design is a horrible tedious process, especially as most user's idea of good UI isn't the same as mine). Design is actually a lot like programming, only you don't have to fix any bugs. You work out the general shape of the system and how it should work in some ethereal sense and then it's up to someone else to actually make that design work in an actual programming language on an actual computer, swearing about the problems of the IDE and dev-kit as they go.

Anyway, the bit I don't tend to like includes documentation, test plans and swearing at underlying systems that don't do what they're supposed to. I certainly appreciate that all of those things are necessary, but they're the equivalent of getting on the bus to go to the cinema - sure, you've got to walk up the hill and wait for the bus to arrive and then stare out of the window for 20 minutes, otherwise you wouldn't get to see Johnny Depp prance about with gold teeth. But you certainly aren't excited about that bit and if you could avoid it you would.

Today's faffing has involved dealing with a change to a database table. Everything was taken off the table to a temporary storage point, the table structure was changed and then we tried to load everything back on. At which point it said "Sorry, there's something wrong with the decimals." No message saying "Field XXX has a problem because it was expecting something that looks like A and got something that looks like B" - that would be far too easy and allow us to fix the problem in about 15 seconds flat. Instead I just had to go through all the data by hand and look for a problem (couldn't find it) and agree with the boss that we're throwing away the (test) data in the table and recreating it from scratch. Complete waste of time, total distraction from the coding I'd been looking forward to finishing up today and no fun at all (staring at hex dumps of database tables makes my eyes go blurry after about 7 seconds). It had to be done, but I wish we had monkeys around to do it for us. Of course we do. We have me.