Why no wolverine?

April 26, 2007

This might sound like a totally inane question… but I’ve always wondered: why does the University of Michigan not employ a wolverine mascot? I’ve always loved the handsome and cheery Bucky the Badger, and the disgruntled mumblings of Michigan alumni when I ask them this question (“you just don’t underSTAND”) lead me to believe the answer is either lost in the mists of time or truly moronic. So… which is it? Free the wolverine, man!

Six startups

April 16, 2007

Recently I had to tell a friend my picks for five most exciting startups I see in the Valley right now. I came up with six, if anyone cares… in no particular order:

* Offermatica: web metrics. Most of the companies in this space don’t end up convincing you that they understand the web OR metrics… but not these guys.

* AdMob: mobile ad network. Not only does my friend Mike Rowehl work there, but this category is going to be so huge.

* VideoEgg: video ad network. I like a company that isn’t afraid to go head to head with Google. 🙂

* LiveOps: distributed customer service infrastructure. Again, this is going to be huge… like imagine if you could have a perfectly functional “call center” made up of people in rural areas or specialists from around the country.

* Aggregate Knowledge: collaborative filtering service. Using the power of social networking for something not pointless.

* AutoMattic: blogware. The product just works — I’ve switched all my blogs from three different competitors to it.

Hmmmm… according to this list, I think I like businesses in the internet infrastructure space…

I have recently been victimized by one of those awful spring colds that creep up on you just when you think you’re past cold season. The main symptom seems to be subtle oxygen deprivation, leading to the (hopefully temporary) loss of numerous IQ points, utter exhaustion, and diminution of the will to live. To combat this, I decided I needed to take a minute to remember the good things in life. So not to get all Julie Andrews on your unsuspecting selves, but here are some of my recent favorite things.

* Listening to Jeff Barr tell me about flying around an island in Second Life with his friend, a French wolf. I admire the crap out of Jeff for being able to process new stuff with both good judgment and lack of crotchety grandpa-ness.

* My brother’s recent blog post (first of a series) on his mis-adventures in online dating. It gets funnier!

* The look on Ops Boy’s face when I presented him with a half-pound of lardo (it’s not exactly lard… more like cured fatback with herbs) from Mario Batali’s father’s butcher shop in Seattle.

* I was lying in bed, on the verge of waking up, when my (dead) cat Ratpig crept up to stare into my face. It was just a dream, but I felt like someone gave me a gift.

* Staying up late reading trashy novels. Long ago I decided not to allow myself to read exciting books at bedtime any more, so now I only read books about stuff like Lincoln’s cabinet members or the geology of national parks. But this weekend I allowed a couple nights of Day Watch and Point of Impact as my birthday present to myself.

* Recalling that in my bizarrely long and nearly unbroken string of crappy meals in San Francisco, there have been three decent ones: one at Town Hall (although I’ve had overpriced swill there too), one at Ozumo, and actually a couple at El Raigon.

Microsoft’s final hope

April 9, 2007

I suspect I am like many (if not most) web developers these days in that I only keep Windows around for one reason: to test my work on Internet Explorer. It’s incredibly expensive too: I had to buy a special fatty box that could handle two virtual machines, a bunch of Windows XP licenses (each of which only allows me to have one person logged into the box at any given time, so forget having two team members being able to look at bugs together), couple Outlook licenses, and the time required for my Ops guy to set up a separate VM each for IE6 and IE7. Just understanding and complying with the licensing issues is a non-trivial requirement — personally I think I’m too stupid for the job, cause I can’t wrap my head around the idea that your software can lock onto your hardware and refuse to install on any new hard disk thereafter.

During the era of Microsoft’s dominance, who would ever have thought that a piece of software given away for free is completely, 100% driving my use of Windows? It’s not even the much-vaunted Windows desktop apps any more — OpenOffice.org is quite good now, and I vastly prefer Keynote/OmniGraffle to PowerPoint/Visio — and I never really managed to use their server apps or developer tools. Even more ironic is the fact that Microsoft is a company completely riven in two by their inability to embrace the web fully due to the success of their desktop software… and yet their last claw-hold on millions of developers like me is IE. Talk about your immanent contradictions!

I don’t actually mind IE7… what I really hate is IE6. It probably adds a good 15% “tax” in dev and QA time to support its crappy CSS model. I wonder if the time has come for the web world to seriously mount a campaign to destroy IE6 once and for all. Rifkin’s highly unscientific poll and Renkoo’s weekly traffic graphs lead me to believe that the key to change is corporate computers — individual users seem to change over to IE7 when the auto-updater tells them to, unless they have a pressing reason not to — and therefore the key is to sway the hearts and minds of IT staff everywhere until we reach a tipping point. At this point even Microsoft would probably be happy to join in stomping IE6.

What do you think… could we launch a campaign? Join hands, sing Kumbaya, and drive IE6’s market share below 20%? I have a dream!

100 things from 2003

April 9, 2007

As part of rescuing my old blog from the garbage bin — not something I’m sure is a good idea, by the way — I found this list of 100 things about Troutgirl from January 2003. Not too much of import has changed since then: the knitting group is no more, the Stealthmobile’s transmission broke so I got an Acura a couple years ago, I finally got a moving violation on a business trip to Orange County, the programming book went into a third edition, and I guess I don’t get all my jobs by throwing my resume over the transom any more. Anyway, this is for archival purposes.

1. I am a naturalized citizen of the USA, and firmly believe this is the best citizenship status possible.
2. There is no vegetable that I don’t like, even the freaky ones.
3. I have been the victim of a felony, as have most of my loved ones.
4. At one point I weighed almost 200 pounds.
5. I think it’s silly to name pets after literary or philosophical figures.
6. One of my life goals is to visit every national park in the USA.
7. The only thing I collect is refrigerator magnets. My favorite magnets are those that depict folk items, such as specialty foods or symbolic animals.
8. I used to collect books about basketball and baseball, but my entire collection got mildewed and I had to have it hauled away.
9. I have made compost indoors, in a kimchi jar.
10. I am not a Lisp programmer, but I play one on the Internet.
11. My family of four emigrated to America with $100 between us.
12. I self-censor a lot more than people think I do.
13. I belong to a book club and a knitting group.
14. I was expelled from a mediocre public high school at age 15, right after I got a perfect score on the PSAT.
15. I dropped out of a PhD program after finishing half the dissertation, and I’ve never regretted it.
16. My dissertation was about tourism and the heritage industries.
17. Pinetop Perkins once bought me a Courvoisier.
18. I desperately want to ride in a blimp. If you know someone who could help arrange this for me (like your sister works in PR at Goodyear) please get in touch!
19. Competitive games and sports bore me, unless they involve beating someone up.
20. I firmly believe movies are the art form of the age, but I don’t really enjoy watching them.
21. My favorite era of English prose is mid-18th to early-19th century.
22. I have more cousins than I can name.
23. When I need to relax, I imagine myself walking in the giant fern forest of Olympic National Park.
24. My car is a 1995 American-made anonymobile.
25. The only food I really don’t like is sea cucumbers.
26. According to the season, I drink Irish, Scotch, martinis, greyhounds, gin and tonics, cheap beer, or black-and-tans.
27. My wedding dress was grass green, fuschia, gold, and black. My reception dress was orange-red and yellow. My bridesmaids’ dresses were magenta with tooth-shaped paillettes all over.
28. My husband looks a little like Bill Clinton, only less shifty.
29. The back of my head is flat. Like Half Dome, that flat.
30. One time when I was broke, I won $100 in a carton of Diet Coke. That’s the only lottery I’ve ever won.
31. My grandfather was a political prisoner of the Japanese empire who died after losing his job and spending a year in political prison.
32. I majored in history, specifically the history of the Japanese empire.
33. I attended the same high school as Gary Larsen of Far Side fame.
34. I have never gone to the ER or been admitted to the hospital.
35. The most valuable skill I learned as an adult: accounting. Everyone should understand double-entry bookeeping.
36. I think post-WWII literary fiction is dreck, almost without exception.
37. The most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen is the Ardabil Carpet. I cried when I saw it for the first time.
38. I only like cream-cheese frosting and whipped-cream frosting. Down with that nasty shortening frosting!
39. I always enjoy going to the dentist because they tell me I have pretty teeth and praise me for being so brave — two qualities on which I secretly pride myself.
40. I have never gotten a moving violation. I’ve never even been pulled over for a moving violation.
41. I actually believe standardized tests and grades are a good quick-and-dirty measure of intellectual firepower, and anyone who doesn’t think so is just not very book-smart. There are plenty of other kinds of intelligence, pick one of those to excel at and stop whining about this one.
42. I don’t think intellectual firepower is a good predictor of future happiness or worldly success.
43. Nonfiction books are much easier for me to read than fiction.
44. My greatest talent in cooking is the ability to gaze into the fridge and think up a dish that uses up all the food in there.
45. I’m good at finding lost stuff around the house.
46. My university professors and fellow grad students were about evenly split on whether I could write minimally-acceptable prose. I got several failing grades on papers, solely on the basis of writing style.
47. A lawyer once told me I missed my true calling — as a tax attorney.
48. According to my mother, I was a peculiarly silent child who never cried and rarely spoke. This caused her to peg me as “slow”.
49. My dream job is working in the enforcement division of the IRS. Hey, they got Al Capone!
50. My favorite poet is John Berryman.
51. Even my best friends would not describe me as “nice”.
52. The two ugliest words in the English language are “passed away” and “draperies/drapes”. I say “dead” and “curtains” myself.
53. All my computers have been named after racehorses: notably mean racehorses in the case of the Windows ones, and notably sweet racehorses for the Linux boxen.
54. I do not understand the Electoral College. At all. Every presidential election, I am baffled.
55. My father-in-law is a famous expert on presidential elections.
56. My family celebrates New Year’s and Thanksgiving. That’s it.
57. My husband thinks I’m obsessed with crime.
58. I can’t play any sport with a ball or other projectile because I have crappy depth perception.
59. I don’t understand people who don’t like to watch TV, especially the ones who consider it a moral virtue. I love TV, especially documentaries and cooking shows.
60. I can knit and read at the same time.
61. I was born in the year of the Rooster, the month of Aries. Someone once told me I’m an ENTJ in the Keirsey typology. I don’t believe in any of those systems.
62. I’ve had the same two best friends since I was 15.
63. My brother teaches high school in the ghetto.
64. I can take or leave chocolate.
65. I’ve always wanted to get my legs waxed, but the hair doesn’t grow long enough.
66. I’ve never been called for jury duty, although I really want to serve.
67. Two of my cousins are professional acupuncturists.
68. People frequently ask me to critique their books.
69. Despite never having had any formal training in programming, I am the co-author of two books on the subject.
70. I don’t think as much as people think I do. It’s just that I’m good at rationalizing intuitions.
71. My knife and fork skills are so weak I can’t eat a bone-in chicken breast without embarrassing myself. On the other hand, I can bone a fish with chopsticks.
72. A shrink once told me I’m too frugal.
73. I’m excellent at boring repetitive tasks like practicing piano, learning languages, knitting, and working out. If you can approximate being good at something just by doing it a lot, I’m there.
74. I’ve lived in over 20 different apartments and houses during my 33 years.
75. My childhood ambition was to compile an encyclopedia.
76. I played double bass and bass guitar in junior high and high school.
77. I have run a small business.
78. Both my parents are lifelong serial entrepeneurs.
79. I’m a historical materialist.
80. I spent a summer working on an organic farm where the only power tools were humans and mules.
81. I buy all my makeup at the drugstore.
82. When I was a kid my mom owned a health food store, so we were never allowed to eat bread that weighed less than 10 lbs per loaf.
83. I want to get pugs, but my husband has Drawn the Line.
84. Although I adore cities, I don’t consider San Francisco to be one.
85. I think travel has no particular broadening effect — it’s just consumption.
86. My husband and I honeymooned in London, and celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary in Seattle.
87. Although I have as many friends in Silicon Valley as most people, I’ve never gotten a job through a personal hookup. I get all my jobs by cold-sending my resume.
88. I heartily loathe long-term visa-holders who look down on America except for the far greater money and social position they can get here. America is an ideal, not a job bank for Canadians and second-rate European academics.
89. I dislike permanent residents who refuse to become citizens. 8 years should be plenty long enough to figure out where your loyalties lie, if you have any.
90. I don’t believe Social Security will be around when I retire.
91. If I could change one thing about my life, it would be to have had better math teachers.
92. I have never been able to believe in any form of life after death. Not even as a thought experiment. Not even as a metaphor.
93. I oppose many tax cuts that would benefit me personally.
94. Being Korean-American rocks!!!
95. My mother was born when my grandmother was 50 and my grandfather was dead.
96. I work as a Web developer in Silicon Valley.
97. I’m a mesomorph.
98. As a 16-year old college freshman, I also ran the entire graduate biology department as the sole administrative assistant.
99. I worry about overfishing, and try to only eat farmed fish.
100. According to the Fordyce Emotions Questionnaire, I score 8 on a scale of 1 – 10 for being a happy person.

Back from purgatory

April 1, 2007

Ah, the Troutgirl blog is back after a… series of unfortunate incidents which convinced me that no one needs to run their own blog software any more. There are nice people out there (hi Photomatt!) who will hire nice sysadmins to do it all for you if you let them. Progress marches on! Anyway, glad you found me again. Now I gotta figure out an Apache mod_rewrite map.