Life in Atlanta

Getting ready for anniversary dinner at Bridgetown Grill which is ironically across the street from the office we just moved away from. This has been a Caribbean food day for me, since I got lunch at Kool Korner grocery, right by Georgia Tech. I was in that part of town dropping off the yard sale stuff at the Salvation Army and felt like a Cuban sandwich for lunch. Tonight will probably be Caribbean nachos with jerk chicken for me, dunno what D will want.

I spent an atypically long time in the car today, what with driving downtown over lunch and failing to make it over to the I-85 exit in the morning and having to cut through town. I listened to all but the last 20 minutes of the Gonzo Marketing book. I should give him a break from my earlier post. It is pretty good and makes a lot of sense. More about it later, off to anniversary fun!

Rage Against Everything

Although I have seen it referenced many times from Doc Searls’ weblog, this weekend is the first time I have read Rageboy’s Weblog. What brought that about is that I bought a copy of his book Gonzo Marketing on tape at BookEars on Friday (in the $0.99 bin – sorry RB). One of the first things I saw was this post about some dumbass kid who didn’t like his daughter’s weblog. All natural to be mad about that and all but the way he expressed that was kind of disturbing to me, especially where he characterizes the kid as a “Z-list blogger” who is “displacing his thinly disguised envy of her ‘A-list’ blogger dad.”

Now come on, seriously. I’m one of many Z-list bloggers – does that mean we should all give up because we aren’t as wondrous as Christopher Locke? Of course not. Isn’t this what blogging is supposed to be about, is giving a voice to everyone? At the point where you start evaluating opinions by the amount of blog juice someone has, you have started a headfirst slide down the slippery slope of the same bullshit power politics that exist everywhere else. Maybe I picked a really bad day to walk in, but having this be the very first thing I saw from his blog really colors my opinion of him and his book. When I hear him reading his text about the power of the democratization of the Net and the conversations that give everyone the power, in the back of my head I’m thinking “until they piss you off, then you pull rank.”

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Today is our 13th wedding anniversary. People told us it was unwise to
get married at age 12, but it has worked out just fine.

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On to the post about Maurice’s
BBQ
. What got me thinking about this was that my father-in-law
brought some of the sauce with him on a visit. Somewhere in the last
few years, they have added the rebel flag on the bottle. I guess once
they’ve been pulled from all the store shelves, there is nothing worse
that can happen and they might as well go all out to appeal to their core
constituency. As a datum from what I felt two years ago is
this post from Usenet
(apologies to my newsgroup friends for the
absurdly long link). In previous posts other folks were asking why I
would stop frequenting a place I liked just because I didn’t like the
politics of the owner. This post was my attempt to explain that it’s
more than just disliking the politics, that he is going well out of
his way to make his politics part of his business. This is not a man
who quietly holds a belief and is being persecuted for it. Bessinger
is co-branding his products with a particular brand of southern
racism, the same brand that defies flag changes as impinging upon “our
traditions” and seeks biblical justification and historical
revisionism to rationalize the sins of the old south and the
Confederacy.

The last time I ate in one of his Piggie Park
restaurants, the whole joint seemed to be in a state of decay with the
building noticably deteriorating, no customers and oddest of all, the
counter covered with stacks of photocopies of newspaper articles about
reverse discrimination cases and stories about wrongdoings of prominent
black people. It was really creepy and a dismal
experience. Ultimately, my decision not to purchase his products
anymore (note that I don’t dump it down the sink when it was given as
a gift) is driven by the fact that I feel like a scumbag when I give
him money. This is materially different from disliking the private
politics of a business owner, it is no longer being able to turn off
the voice inside my head that says “this food doesn’t taste as good
as buying it makes me feel bad.”

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Teresa Nielsen-Hayden writes a harrowing essay about harrowing
essay about the covering nature of executives in over their heads

– specifically about the commander-in-chief but broadly about many
people of this sort. I happen to have some above me in organizations
and I recognized the description as being all to accurate. Beware the
executives that substitute bluster for reason – chances are they are
using the bluster is that they don’t have the tools to use the reason.

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I was googling on an old Usenet post of mine to talk about Maurice
Bessinger, the man who runs the Maurice’s BBQ empire. Before I get
into that, I found a post of mine in that same thread that I really
like. When I want to I can be quite sensible. The link to the actual
post is this
but it is like, my post, so surely I can repost in entirety without a
problem.

In article <3A6D83BF.D888020B@home.com>, Kip Williams  
wrote:

> That's good. Why do I suspect, though, that our new leaders will > make every effort to keep anyone here from benefitting from this? > Just wait: they'll find some cryptic passage in Numbers that makes > it immoral to use the technique.

You've just touched on something I've noticed. If an evangelical Christian group or person uses entirely Old Testament passages to support an argument, it is invariably a shaky one (homosexuality, natural inferiority of black people AKA "children of Ham", etc.) I always figure that in these cases, if there were a New Testament support for it, that would have been trotted out first. I always boggle that folks who believe that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ took away the old laws, brought in a world of "the spirit, not of the law" have no problem supporting, say, homosexuality as wrong based entirely on laws that were supposedly repealed by Christ.

My own guess is that the priority order would go approximately something like this:

1) Something Jesus himself said 2) Passage from a Gospel 3) Passage from an epistle of Paul 4) All other New Testatment, save Revelations 5) Revelations 6) Passage from Psalms or Proverbs 7) Books written by Moses 8) Everything else

When Jerry Falwell or Maurice Bessinger starts off with 7 or 8, it says to me they couldn't find any support in 1-6.

d

This is something I always always think about when I hear some
hatemongering fundamentalist using the bible as support for some
bigoted position – God hates gays, the blacks are the sons of Ham and
deserve slavery, women are not to hold public office or whatever
crazy horseshit they happen to be spewing at the time. When that
biblical support is all from Obadiah, it says to me that Jesus was
silent on this issue. That makes it all the more suspicious that
evangelical Christians are inflamed about an issue that Jesus himself
is not on record with an opinion, (ie, homosexuality). That takes an
amount of gall I cannot imagine – to consider oneself so holy that it
would be reasonable to “fill in the gaps” of the ills Jesus didn’t get
around to condemning. As I read the Gospels, Jesus was about love, so
someone speaking in his name yet whose rhetoric of full of things that
are to be hated and shunned (Jerry Falwell) is a liar, a dishonest and
conceited bad steward of the word of God.

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Turns out I misinformed my people in the Atlanta Science Fiction Society about
the times – it really was supposed to be from 10 to 3 but I think I
told people 8:30 to noon (not sure why I thought that.) As it turned
out, most of the business I did was by 10 or 10:30 anyway. If I had
packed up at noon it wouldn’t have radically altered my take. The day
was fun but a lot of work. I don’t know how effective their overall
advertising was, but I personally got 6 or 8 people to show up and shop (no one
that came for the books went away without browsing the other tables)
so I am comfortable claiming that I expanded the market for our sale
and that everyone benefited from that.

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I just tried to do the Trackback to Craig Hughes’ disgruntlement post
but got an empty page. Perhaps it doesn’t do what I think it is
supposed to do. I’m certainly full to the brim of thoughts of why my
days are not what I want them to be and whether that means I should
spend enormous amounts of energy remediating that or no energy to
withdraw and let it be fucked. Not a fun line of thinking either way.

Got to get in the shower and get on about my yard sale. I have two
tables now, and a bunch of Georged change. I have RSVPs
from people on the Atlanta Science Fiction Society mailing list who
say they’ll be coming – I hope they don’t hate it or I’ll feel
guilty. In fact, I think I’m going to make one more pass to see what
books I can divest just to get more good stuff for these folks. I’m
not sure when our official start time is, but I plan on being there at
8 AM so I can be selling to the early birds. Must shower!

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After having 90 minutes to soak in, this Craig Hughes thing is every
more spookily relevant and absolutely true. My company is having one
of those Friday afternoon beer bashes at 4 PM, so I’ll leave at 3:50
PM. I just plain don’t feel like sitting around looking at people like
I’m happy to be here. God help me, and God help Craig.

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Here is a very interesting piece about why
are my life and career not what I want
by Craig Hughes of SpamAssassin fame. Jesus, this
was tough reading. While the specifics differ (my company wasn’t
acquired and I didn’t found it with requisite cash influx and my wife
isn’t pregnant) the issues he raises, the lying in bed on the verge of
tears because the way things are differs so dramatically from the way
you want them to be, that’s me right now. I highly recommend reading this
piece for anyone whose current situation is not their desired
one. Excerpt:

I need to stop trying to heat many pots i the hope that one might
start boiling, and instead just turn the heat off and live with the
lukewarm. But I can’t bring myself to do that. My mind is rebelling
against itself, I understand what the easy path would be, but cannot
bring myself to follow it. I find myself wondering if this is how
most people think of their jobs, have most people resigned themselves
to this shit? Is that why I’m having so much trouble being able to
actually get anything done, because everyone else I’m dealing with has
already given up trying? What percentage of the world’s workforce
behaves this way? Is this an economically healthy thing? I can
understand cerebrally that some measure of institutional conservatism
is vital to avoid chaos, but surely things can be conservative without
being so oppressively unchangeable.

I’ve been trying to play it kind of cool with my workplace discontent
in public places like this, but I believe it has reached the point
where it is undisguisable. I just resent having to spend my days in a
way that is so patently useless. The main reason why it is useless is
because my particular workplace absolutely always lives in a state of
emergency. Some customer has an issue, everyone drop everything. We
have decided that the sales engineers are going to get a release
tomorrow, everyone drop everything. Someone asked for a feature, get
it in tomorrow’s release. The notion of a roadmap, of things we know
we are going to do but not yet is a foreign concept. More than all
this, though, is the feeling that all my input is being redirected
straight to /dev/null. Presumably they hired me because I know what
I’m doing, yet every time someone asks my opinion they ignore what I
have to say. I see things go wrong every day that I suggested ways to
prevent. This is what Craig was talking about – do I fight that with
all the energy I have or throw my hands in the air and say “Oh well,
perhaps y’all ought to start listening to me.” A year ago, it was more
the former and now it is pretty much always the latter. I don’t like
giving up, but on the other hand I don’t want to use up my personal
energy and raise my blood pressure for them anymore. A few months ago
when giving blood at the Red Cross, I had a pressure 30 points above
my previously highest recorded one. I’m not willing to blow a gasket
for this place, so as much as I hate it I choose to withdraw the very
thing that makes me a good employee because my employers are being
such poor stewards of that resource. How sad for them.

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The yard sale isn’t until tomorrow and yet I’ve already made over $50,
just selling books out of my trunk to coworkers. This means that I’ve
already broken even on the fees I paid to ABE to never actually sell a
book. I need to just cancel that account posthaste to make sure I
don’t rack up any more charges. Screw that, I’ll be done with all this
by tomorrow one way or another. My poor little Honda Civic will be
glad to not shlep these 500 pounds of books any farther than necessary.

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My friend Mark Bourne had an op-ed piece about what
not to do while protesting the war
printed in the Oregonian
yesterday. Apparently this was read in its entirety on the Rush
Limbaugh show yesterday, with full attribution and all. I’d be curious
to know what the commentary was, being that the piece is all about how
protesting the war in childish disruptive ways plays into the hands of
the right and their massive PR offensive. It is good reading, and
Mark
is a great guy.

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I’m going for something that I’ve been thinking about for a while but
haven’t done. I’m installing Subversion on my Linux
box. It is (supposed to be) a drop-in replacement for CVS that has some pretty nice
features. Subversion isn’t based on the file the way CVS is, but has
some notion of the metadata surrounding a project. This way, changing
a filename is something that can be versioned or even changing
permissions on a file. CVS can’t do that, because all the information
about revisions are attached to the file itself. I’m going for it
and if I like it might even try doing some of my personal projects as
a local Subversion project. For those who are geeky enough to do it, I
highly recommend using some form of source control on anything you
want to save or version over time. Write your novel in text and keep
it in CVS – it gives you a backup and you can keep track of changes
that way. It really does make life more bueno.

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Things are at a low ebb here. After a beautiful day, the weather has
turned cold and rainy. I’m sitting in the office when really I’d
rather be anywhere but here. Every day I hear about people dying in
Iraq on either side that didn’t have to at all. I’m trying to dig deep
into those inner reserves of strength, only to find them full of
IOUs. I shuffle from day to day, but only from inertia. I’m just
waiting for the days to get better.

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I have changed my mind about this ABE Books thing. I have had 40
books up there for over a month and at this moment absolutely nothing
has happened. I had to make the decision to either get much more
involved and put in a few hundred books or to cut bait and not waste
any more time on it. My goal was to break even on the subscription fee
over the first 6 months. However, at this point I’m convinced that
there is no way that could happen, even if I got every book I have to
sell in the system. Rather than send good time after bad, I’m just
pulling the plug. Our neighborhood is having a yard sale this Saturday
and I’m putting them all up for sale there. Since it is away from the
house, anything that doesn’t get sold will get driven to either the
library or to the Salvation Army. In some ways this irks me because
some of these books are of reasonable value and it seems like their
getting underutilized. On the other hand, it is cheaper for me to give
them away and not have to spend lots of time on it.

What does bug me is that one of my dreams was to become a bookseller
kind of guy, in person or on the internet or something. In retrospect
that probably isn’t ever going to be anything other than an expensive
hobby. I hate to cut loose dreams, but for the forseeable future I
have better things to do with my time than trying to peddle goods one
by one. Que sera, so it goes.

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One mystery is solved on the weblog. Several people told me about the
fact that my tables where waaaay wide, but when I looked at individual
pages, that wasn’t the case. I tracked it down to this page and the SpamAssassin rules surrounded
by the <pre> tag. Oops. I broke it up into multiple lines and
thus it is all OK. Must remember to not do that.

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As I was sitting here this morning a link was IM’d by my coworker
Darin, one to a discussion called Rule
Number Four: Great People Can Manage Themselves
from Joel on
Software
. This discussion comes from the fact that Google more or
less lets developers manage themselves. My take on this is right in
the center of opinions of what has been expressed on their thus far. I
think the best way to manage developers is this: you clearly specify
everything you care about (the software must do this, must work on
these platforms, must use these libraries that we have already paid to
license, must be ready by this date, whatever.) Every single thing you
don’t specify, you don’t care about. Once you’ve told them what you
need, they do it and how they do it is not really your concern. It is
true that you can’t do this with undisciplined slackass bastards, so
the best way to deal with that is to not hire them or to fire them
once you realize they can’t work this way.

If the product is structured this way and you get something back you
didn’t like it comes down to one of two cases: did it meet what you
asked for or not? If the latter, the engineering team failed you and
you deal with that thusly. If the former, it is your fault for not
asking for what you wanted. I call that a “Requirement/spec bug.” It’s
really unreasonable to expect to get back products that meet
specifications that one is too fucking lazy or too fucking incompetent
to express to anyone, but I see it happen every day. This
unreasonability is never realized as a failing of management but
always interpreted as a failure of engineering. In the cases where I
have been on teams given clear requirements and cut loose, we have
always turned out better product faster than when we are
micromanaged. In the first case, we are on board and our goal is to
achieve, in the second everything is fiat and our goal is to game the
system to give the minimum that meets what weird input we get. Which
case do you want your developers (ie, and your money) going towards?

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From my friend Kevin comes this nugget: Major Music Labels
Use Artificial Intelligence To Help Determine “Hitability” Of
Music
. It’s an interesting coincidence that the day he forwarded
me this link, I had been in the gym listening to Queen bootlegs and
wondering if it would be possible to do a Bayesian net on guitar
sounds and identify the features that make music distinctive. I fear a
little the use to which the dumbass biscuitheads that control the
gates of Big Machine Music will put such machinery. It just seems like
one more bit of initial data that they use to justify their
self-fulfilling prophecies. “This music has no hit potential, so we
won’t promote it.” “Hey, that record didn’t sell – just like the
computer said it wouldn’t. Thank god we didn’t promote it!” I think it
is a really interesting and cool technical challenge that will be put
to horrible uses by an industry already rife with the debris of
previous modes of doing business just like this.