Sunday, February 27, 2005

Numbers of Years

The software industry has a strange practice of seeking employees who have a certain number of years experience with a particular technology. A job posting might require "at least 5 years experience with Java" or something like that. At first glance, this might seem reasonable, but it is actually kind of weird. It is easily possible to continue to do something badly for a very long time, so that adding more years will not add any more value.

For example, I know people with over 5 years experience using a VCR who still cannot set the clock. But they can press play, stop, fast forward, and eject, and that is all that matters to them. I think that even after 10 years experience, these people will still not be able to set the clock.

So I do not want to work on a team with someone with X years of experience with a technology. I want someone with X units of skill with a technology, and the more rapidly they acquired that skill, the better. Of course, skill is harder to measure, which is why the industry falls back on years of experience.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

"I don't believe anything, but I have many suspicions."

-- Robert Anton Wilson

Heat Shock

It is ridiculously sunny and warm here in Portland for this time of year. It makes me laugh, because I think about how people who just moved here will think that this is normal. They will be in for quite a shock when Portland turns back into the Devil's Storm-Drain.

Friday, February 25, 2005

My Teammate

I was playing World of Warcraft earlier tonight. I teamed up with a level 2 character for a little while. The other player didn't say anything, and was slower than average in casting spells, but other than that everything was going fine. I figured it must be someone who just started the game, so it was no problem. We killed some monsters and completed a quest. We made a pretty good team. A few minutes later I got a chat message saying something like, "oh, this is funny, you've teamed up with my daughter who is playing, and she is only 6 years old."

I was shocked. When I was 6 years old, I couldn't have even imagined anything like WOW. Besides, back then computers had 1 byte of memory, took up a whole city block, and ran so slow that it was faster (and probably more accurate) to count on your fingers.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


Her: We have so many duplicate items.

Me: They're not duplicates, they're backups. What is that thing in the back of your car? A "duplicate tire?" No, it's a spare tire. It's there to save you in an emergency.

[This conversation started because I have 6 pairs of headphones. OK, I guess that's an extreme "backup strategy."]

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Iron Monkey's Rule of Lost Items

If it has been missing for more than 2 days, and it costs less than $20, then just buy another one. You probably will never find the original, but if you do, then you will have a spare.

Friday, February 04, 2005

The Ups and Downs

You can melt down, but you can't melt up. You can get fed up, but you can't get fed down. But getting shot up may lead to getting shot down.

Locking something up and locking it down mean the same thing, but knocking someone up and knocking them down are very different. Getting beat up and getting beat down are similar, but standing up and standing down are not.

You can tie something up or tie it down, and those are not opposites. Closing something up is not the opposite of closing it down. You can settle up or settle down, but they are two different things, not opposites.

But when you bring your computer system up and then bring it down, those are opposites. And if you mark something down the opposite is to mark it up.

You can let up and let down, back up and back down, but you only pack up and leave not pack down and leave, give up not give down, and you can bed down even though you can't bed up. You can only open something up and not open it down.

A quarreling couple can make up but not make down (and they can make out but not make in). You can feel mixed up but not feel mixed down. Yet being shaken down can leave you feeling shaken up!

Generally things get fired up or watered down, but not fired down or watered up. You can fill a glass up, but not fill it down. You can show up for work, but not show down for work. You can look someone up, but not look someone down* -- but you can look someone up and down.

English is officially broken -- everyone gets a full refund, plus a free replacement language.

[* One person told me that he thinks "look someone down" is acceptable. To me "she stared him down" sounds fine, but "she looked him down" sounds wrong. Native speakers often disagree about borderline cases like this.]

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Haven't Seen It

I found this summary of UK politics on the Background Noise blog:

Labour Backbencher - "Could the Prime Minister please tell the House if he thinks terrorism is bad."
TB –

Labour Backbencher – "Does the Prime Minister think that money for hospitals and schools is a good thing."
TB –

Question of this nature come up all the time, asking the PM to support or condemn something that absolutely anyone would support or condemn. The topics of the questions change but the format doesn’t. Also allows the PM to talk about his policies.

In the U.S., we have a contrasting dynamic where any accusation against the administration is met not with a denial or explanation, but simply with a plea of ignorance. It goes something like this:

Reporter 1: Mr. President, how would you respond to the recent story in the Washington Post claiming that you are an evil robot from the future?

President: Well, I haven't seen the original article, so I can't comment on that.

Reporter 2: Mr. President, an ex-member of your cabinet said that you intend to launch a nuclear attack against Australia next month. Is this true?

President: If you're talking about the book that came out earlier this year, I haven't read it, so you're asking me to comment on something where I don't have all the information. Next question, please.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


Lately I've started playing World of Warcraft. I love the look and feel of the world. The only problem with games like this is that they can make real life seem boring. After traveling through monster-infested mountain passes, learning spells, and finally discovering the ancient Dwarven city of Ironforge, going to the grocery store doesn't seem very cool.