Archive for March, 2006

coding like a girl

March 31st, 2006

First of all: Code like a girl

to which I say: bwahahahahaha 

The funny part is that I tend to pay attention to the 'aesthetics' of my code, so if this new terminology becomes mainstream, I might be labeled a metro coder.

the inner child

March 31st, 2006

Hm, that sounds like a line out of a psychology book, now you have the impression that I know what I'm talking about, how about "the child in you"?

Well, the premise of this theme is that growing up is a very split and incoherent process. In fact, I would say that there is probably noone alive fully "grown up", we all mature in certain aspects, while we remain child-like in others. But today I'm not out to establish some grand theorem, this is a simple and possibly identifiable entry. The essay question follows. In what way(s) are you still a child? The answer is probably in more ways than I realize.

But to start off with something that [literally] craves attention.. I don't know if this is true for everyone, but when I was a kid, I was really desperate for attention. "Look mom, I can climb this tree." "Look mom, I can do a trick." And so on and so forth, it would never end. Parents are not easily impressed by what kids do, anything else would be strange. But kids look up to parents and they want to establish some authority of their own, they want recognition. Most of all, I wanted someone to willingly watch stuff that I did that I thought was really impressive. Well, times have changed a bit, I no longer try to impress all the time, but I do still have that instinct of seeking attention for something that to me merits attention. If something happens to me, good or bad, I want to tell someone about it. If I hear a good story, I want to repeat it to someone. I don't like repeating myself, so I would like to tell one person and that's it, but I enjoy the notion of having something exciting to tell. It often just gets piled on whomever is in the line of fire, whether I'm with someone or I meet someone.. then there's always im/email to fall back on. It isn't just telling stories though, I'm the same way with sharing something I think is really cool, be it a book, music, comedy, software, whatever. I get excited about introducing someone to something new, something really great.

I got my first bike when I was six and I adored riding my bike. For many years after that I was still very excited about having a bike, using it all the time. It was pretty much around the time when I realized I had seen just about every inch of Trondheim that I lost interest in my bike. There was nothing else to see, it was all the same. But when I do ride my bike, I ride in pretty much the same way I did when I was 10 or 12. Well, the last 10 years or so I used to be more reckless, I rode down steep hills with unreliable brakes, I rode in traffic without thinking twice about it and so on. Then a few years ago I had an accident, slid on ice and hit my head on the ground, and that made me slow down a bit ever since. There's no way I could have seen it coming though, I thought all the ice had melted, it was under a layer of sand. So I'm excitable, but a bit cautious now. The contrast in Utrecht is noticeable, here *everyone* is on a bike, you have streams of bikes where in Norway you would have a couple of them. But just as I would back home, I stick out when I ride here. I ride over bumps, onto the sidewalk, off the sidewalk, I ride on the pedestrian sidewalk, on the roadway, I ignore traffic lights (but I do pay close attention to traffic), I constantly overtake people, I ride with enthusiasm. It's about having some fun, not merely logistics.

That's two I can think of, what are yours?

Signs: no story, no ideas

March 28th, 2006

"You wanna go with me to NBC?"
"Yeah, I think we really got something here."
"What do we got?"
"An idea."
"What idea?"
"An idea for the show."
"I still don't know what the idea is!!!!!"
"It's about nothing."
"Right..."
"Everybody's doing something, we'll do nothing!"

There is a worry that if you watch too much television, it may warp your perception of reality to believe that what you see on tv is actually real. That's one take on it, how about a second opinion?

The culture of soccer fans is one that I've become quite intimate with over the last 5-6 years. I won't say that I've seen it all, but I have seen the bulk of it. I've talked to maybe 200-300 different people about soccer, read their opinions, had discussions etc. I haven't adopted everything in the culture, in fact there's probably a lot more that I've rejected than what I've adopted. But if you blend in with these people, one thing that will strike you is how they manage to get their whole life philosophy all entangled into following the sport. That's right, if you talk to the "real fans" (as opposed to the "plastic"/"bandwagoner"/"gloryhunter" variety) as they call themselves, what they will convey to you is that supporting a "smaller club" is more "honorable". If you stick with a small club through all the ups and downs (but mostly downs) and then the club wins some trophy, apparently that victory is so much better than winning something every year. Why, because the accumulated "suffering" has made this climax look a lot better than it really is. Are you thinking what I'm thinking? It's not religion, but it does have a similar vibe, doesn't it? "Blessed are those who suffer"? I know there's a line that goes something like that in the Bible. So basically, suffering is a Good Thing (tm).

Which brings us right back to the core of the issue. I saw "Signs" on tv last night. If you haven't seen it, maybe you're under the impression that it's a nail biting thriller packed with excitement. Well, let me relieve you of that delusion right now. It is basically a movie about nothing. Just like George Costanza's idea on "Seinfeld". Only they based a two hour production on that idea. "No story? You gotta have a story!" "Who says you gotta have a story?" Who indeed. The story is this.. two brothers live out on a farm, aliens come to kill them. Only when I write it in one sentence, you probably get the idea that the movie actually did have a plot? My bad. This is the blueprint of every scene in the movie:

We start with an annoying camera angle that doesn't really show you much and clearly isn't showing you what you want to see. Then gradually it moves onto the character, the room, some more vital part of the scene. There is no sound, it's completely quiet, no music, no sound effects. You see Mel Gibson, he looks depressed. His face is like set in stone, expressionless, he's just standing there. He says one sentence. Camera turns to Joaquin Phoenix. He's sitting down, looks unhappy, he takes a long pause before he replies with one sentence.

And then they copy/paste that onto a 2h roll of film. The thread about the aliens is actually hard to imagine being done any worse. In the 1.5h build-up they are totally paranoid and terrified about someone making a crop circle in their field. Then when they actually meet the alien, they beat him up with a baseball bat and leave him bleeding to death in the kitchen, not even making sure that he's dead. Then there's something about how Mel is a minister, his wife was killed in a car crash and he re-gains his faith at the end, total bs.

So what about the suffering? You probably know where this is going, don't you? See, Mel Gibson is in this movie. So every Mel Gibson fan probably raced to the movies to see their favorite in this production. But this is a lot like that soccer fan supporting his team when they're about to get relegated. This has to be one of the worst movies Mel Gibson ever played in, and yet the faithful fan will still go watch it. Even knowing that it sucks, he will still go see it. Because that's what fans do. And after a movie like this, they go and see.. say, "The Patriot" and they think that is a great movie. Well, if you compare it to "Signs", it certainly is.

that's rubbish

March 27th, 2006

It seems like a lifetime ago now, but back before I lived in Norway, I would crack up upon hearing stories from Erik about what life in Holland could be like at times. It all sounded too nutty to be true. Well, guess who's laughing now, that's right, Erik. One time he told me he took out the garbage "on the wrong day" [wtf??], cause he was headed out of the city, the garbage men "caught" him, they literally went through his garbage and found a piece of paper with his name on it [WTF???] and fined him for the "infraction" [please stop, I can't take anymore]. bwahahaha. Oh dear, couldn't hold it in. No, but seriously, whaaat? Dude, where is my car?

Ok, so I move into this historical monument (I kid you not) in the very center of Utrecht that the university painstakingly secured for me. The house is a ruin, it's literally falling apart. There are rumors about it being demolished once the last tenant moves out of it. In fact, there are rumors that it was supposed to be demolished years ago already. I won't dwell on the house, it deserves a photo album of its own. But rest assured it utterly sucks and looks, as one visitor called it, like "a hell hole". Anywho, I live with 4 other internationals here. That's right, big surprise they ripped off the international students and put them in probably the crappiest premises in the whole of Utrecht, charging us a steady fee. But where was I, oh yes, garbage, the recurring theme of this entry.

So the way they organize the garbage collection here (please hold your outburst of laughter till the end of this paragraph) is that they put out garbage containers. But, you won't find them just any time at all. No, they only appear on TUESDAYS and FRIDAYS. So if you have some garbage you really want to get rid of, you have to wait up to 3 days. But pay attention, because on WEDNESDAYS they put out the *paper* container. Although people throw a lot of crap in there, *technically* it's only for paper. Got it?

Time for a story. Picture a Tuesday night. In fact, a CL night. Jake and I are in the kitchen watching the game (can't remember which one). Our garbage is full, Jake ties up the garbage bag, heads out to toss it in the dumpster. Hang on, there is no garbage container outside, just the paper one. The garbage service must have screwed up the schedule. He brings the bag back inside, it will have to wait until Friday. The next morning, at 8.30, Melissa is headed to school. She grabs the garbage on her way out. Seeing that the dumpster is full, she leaves the bag outside by the staircase and goes to school. 11am that morning, I hear the doorbell ring. I reluctantly open the door to find two funny looking guys with a van parked in the street, blocking the street completely. On the van there's a title of some kind that I can't read. After the usual "oh, you're *not* Dutch, you had *me* fooled", I'm wondering what they want. "We are the...uhm...what is it called...the environmental police". Aha...(?) "We found this envelope with your address in the garbage.." He shows me the envelope. "We found the garbage outside your house." He didn't actually make it clear what the problem was, but I could see where this was going. "Well, it's not mine, there are 5 people living in this house." They obviously wanted the culprit. "Are they home now?" Yeah, pal, it's 11am on a Wednesday, of course we're all home, noone has anywhere to go. So I go to check who's home, only Cassandra is. Cassandra and I come back to the door and continue the chat, concluding that it wasn't any of us and noone else is home at the moment.

Well that's that. Or is it now. A couple of weeks later, Jake gets a letter from the local authorities. It's in Dutch, we can't make it out. The garbage cops are fining him €50 for putting out the garbage on the wrong day. Why Jake? Because they have him on record as the tenant living here the longest. Riiight. Well, we didn't know that was what it said, Jake went down to their office to find out. He also found out he can fight the fine and he has 30 days to file a complaint. Not only that, they told him they *scan* all "evidence" like this so they have proof of these "crimes". Who said unemployment was a problem? Not when you can hire people to scan garbage. A letter of complaint? Will do. We don't know anything about the form that it's supposed to be in, not even where exactly it should be sent, so Jake calls the garbage cops and they tell him the garbage "detective" is out. "Well is there someone else I can talk to?" "No." "And you don't know anything about this?" "No." "So what can I do?" "Call back tomorrow, please." What they did tell him was that usually in these cases, the garbage cops knock on your door because someone tipped them off. Let's see, Melissa took out the trash at 8.30, at 11 they were already at our door. Yeah, that sounds about right. In fact, aside from a tip off, there is no way they could possibly know that the trash was taken out on Wednesday morning, not Tuesday night. So one of our neighbors ratted us out. How Orwellian. [Feel a laugh coming on yet?]

Of course, it would not have happened in the first place had the garbage service not put out the wrong dumpster. But as always in this country, you *will* be charged for every small infraction, whereas noone generally feels responsible for anything they may have done wrong.

Ps. The original names in this story were replaced with soap opera names so that tv addicts will feel right at home.

potential

March 26th, 2006

I was thinking "how can I visualize my emotional condition over the last month or so". My level of happiness is roughly the inverse of that graph. It's so much easier to be happy about simple things, about the status quo, because life is not bad at all. It's when you start looking ahead to something you would like to achieve that the feelings of anxiety, fear and depression hit you. Me anyway. Wanting more is a calculated risk, if I forget all about what more I could do in life, then I'm safe in my environment. If I start wanting, then inevitably I face the fear of failure. And fearing failure can actually be worse than failing itself, because failing immediately puts it in the past, whereas fear is anxiously expecting the future to unfold in your disfavor, it saps your strength.