Archive for May, 2008

Wall Street financiers spinner class smackdown

May 30, 2008

 He just can’t help the grunting.

Nor can he help shouting “Woo-woo!” or “Great song!” or “Good burn,” or – inexplicably, “You go, girl!”

That’s what a spin-class workout is all about, hedge-fund manager Stuart Sugarman testified yesterday, taking the stand as the victim in the bizarre case of an Upper East Side gym assault.

Parody or real? A girl software developer

May 30, 2008

Datamation is running a series of columns from Sara Chipps (sp. Chips?) that I cannot determine if they are the serious musings of a real female software developer, or if it is some kind of parody. This posting, “Natural Programmers (Code Monkeys) vs. Career Programmers (Geeks in Suits)”  is an almost wistful throwback to the good old days of being in IT, having fun doing little with your life other than writing code. Not the current reality of offshoring, the demand for “business facing” IT people, the distain for developing code by the ladder climbers. The “natural programmer,” the throwback. The “career programmer,” well more like what is in vogue these days, you could say.

“Natural Programmers” or (code monkeys for the sake of this article) are the kids who spent 70 percent of their youth attached to a keyboard (and the other 30 percent dodging school and overcoming social awkwardness). They’re the adults that make the technical connections and discoveries that seem uncanny, the programmer that designs amazingly architected systems.

“Career Programmers” (or developers) are excellent businessmen; they’re single-minded in making their bosses happy, and in making efficient, cost effective solutions.

If you want someone that will code with their head down, be quiet during meetings, and do everything you ask without argument then the career programmer is the way to go. However, if you want your solution to knock people’s socks off, if you want to be the “next big thing,” then you need to find a code monkey.  

Naveen Jain is back

May 30, 2008

Naveen Jain of Infospace infamy  is back!

Curry westerns?

May 28, 2008

 Vinod Chopra  is set to make a movie in New Mexico:

Chopra’s Broken Horses, with a screenplay based on an original story by Chopra himself, is the work of several award-winning writers including Abhijat Joshi (Lage Raho Munnabhai, Eklavya and 64 Squares) and Jason Richman (Bangkok Dangerous, Swing Vote) and legendary BAFTA winner and Academy Award nominated screenwriter and executive producer, Nick Pileggi as script consultant (Goodfellas, Casino and American Gangster). Chopra has recently returned from script and development meetings in Los Angeles and scouting locations in New Mexico…

I can’t find anywhere on the Net what the plot of the movie is. It has a Western filming location, and a Western name, so maybe it’s a Western.

Vinod Chopra Films and Reliance Big Entertainment have inked a multiple film production deal to co-produce feature films over the next three years.

Reliance Big Entertainment , owned by Anil Ambani (one of the world’s richest men), counts George Soros as an investor. RBE, as its name suggests, has some big plans :

Indeed, this trend is being fuelled by the international ambitions of cash-rich Bollywood production and world distribution sector players.

RBE has swung development deals with companies owned by Hollywood stars Nicholas Cage, Brad Pitt, Jim Carey, Tom Hanks and George Clooney.

These strategic partnerships, says RBE’s creative consultant Prasoon Joshi, could in the long run yield "Hollywood films with Indian stories".

Donnis Redman – missing for 50 years

May 28, 2008

Update: could this be her from a cold case file of 1968?

I checked my mail yesterday, and as usual got a wad of junk that helps (barely) keeps the US Postal Service afloat. I grabbed one of the cards in the pile and used it as a bookmark (recycling people!) On the front of the card is an ad for “Affordable quality health insurance” from BlueCross BlueShield of NC.

The back of the card is a missing child alert . A 14 year old girl, Donnis Redman , has been missing for more than 50 years, since March 1, 1958. And somebody is still looking for her. The card has a photo of her from 1950s and an age progressed image of what she may look like today, at age 64.

Are her parents or siblings still alive? If Donnis is still alive, who knows what her name is now of what kind of life she had.

Cheap houses if you don’t mind the snow

May 28, 2008

Buffalo, NY has one of the most affordable housing markets in the US right now. “based on the median family income of $60,900 and the median sales price of $90,000.” Other affordable cities include Syracuse and Rochester, NY and Indianapolis.

 

IT work hazardous to health

May 27, 2008

People who work in IT are getting fat and are out of shape. Adding obesity, very poor diets and lack of physical fitness to the list of ills when working in IT. You already knew about carpal tunnel syndrome, back and other problems from sitting in poor position all day long, mental stress from job pressures and at times extremely long hours (all of which in turn contributes to getting fat and poor diets). How many IT people have died from karoshi?

 

Cruel to be Kind

May 27, 2008

Hamlet : I do repent; but heaven hath pleas’d it so
To punish me with this, and this with me,
That I must be their scourge and minister.
I will bestow him, and will answer well
The death I gave him. So again good night.
I must be cruel only to be kind.
This bad begins and worse remains behind.

Cruel to be Kind  – Oh, I can’t take another heartache
Though you say oh my friend, I’m at my wit’s end
You say your love is bonafide, but that don’t coincide

With the things that you do and when I ask you to be nice
You say you’ve got to be…

Cruel to be kind in the right measure
Cruel to be kind it’s a very good sign
Cruel to be kind means that I love you
Baby, got to be cruel, you got to be cruel to be kind …

Coward . You don’t even have some place to be late for, which she’ll remind you of, but that was the quickest, most gutless way to bail out of the situation and run for the tall grass of changed conversations. You feel like a dishonest, pathetic excuse for a person…

2008_03_29_cruel_to_be_kind

Doodle by Lee . The code for this doodle and other doodles you can use on your blog can be found at Doodles .

 Anyway. Back to the main topic : ‘being cruel to be kind’ is a true truism if ever there was one.

Take, for example, someone preparing you a sandwich for the first time. They smother it with vegemite and pineapple jam. After reluctantly taking a bite against your better judgment and once the gagging subsides they ask you "Do you like it?"

If you were a kind idiot, you’d probably say "It’s the best vegemite and pineapple jam sandwhich I’ve ever had." While probably true given that someone would be unlikely to eat such a thing twice, the problem here is that the perpertrator of this crime against humanity will be encouraged in their ineptitude.

I would reply more truthfully thus: "That’s the most disgusting travesty against nature I’ve ever had the misfortune to become aware of!" While this may have a short term negative affect on morale, relationships, etc., the long term good justifies this. The sandwhich maker will either attempt to improve their skills to the benefit of all or they’ll give up and save the world from their ‘skills’ (putting the ‘kills’ into ‘skills’).

If I were to answer "Fantastic! You are a deity of the arts! God painted all the beauty in the world with the shit from your arse!" then that would be ‘false kindness’. This false kindness is the root cause of mediocrity in society. If everyone is politely telling everyone else that what they are doing is good enough then we’ll never actually get anything that is good .

 

London is dangerous for teenagers

May 26, 2008

CNN reports this piece of news , as have other news outlets off the wire. The tie in is that it involves a minor actor in an unreleased "Harry Potter" film, who will have to appear in it posthumously:

LONDON, England (AP) — A British teenage actor playing a minor role in the upcoming "Harry Potter" film was stabbed to death during a brawl in London on Saturday, police said.Rob Knox, 18, was stabbed after he got caught up in a fight outside a bar in southwest London early Saturday, London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement.Knox plays Ravenclaw student Marcus Belby in the upcoming film "Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince," the sixth installment of the popular series set for release in November.Warner Bros., the studio that is producing the film, said it was shocked by the news.
Knox was one of five young men taken to various hospitals after the brawl, police said. Among them was a 21-year-old who has since been arrested on suspicion of murder.The fight did not appear to be gang-related, police added, but it puts the number of violent teenage deaths in London at 14 so far this year.
 

 

Unfortunately, a very bad trait the British have is that public drunkenness and fighting is a widely accepted pattern of behavior. I’ve personally confronted drunks at night in London. It’s practically unavoidable on weekend (or even weekday) nights.  The authorities of course know this. Several years ago the closing hours of pubs was extended in an attempt to curb last minute binge drinking at last call. I’m not surprised that the killing wasn’t gang related. The victim may have had nothing to do with starting the fight or knew who his killer was. If were gang related, he may have simply been shot, since the streets of London, I understand, are flooded with illegal handguns. The death toll of 14 teenagers so far this year in London works out to about an annualized rate of 30 – 32 deaths.

This year started out with a call for fighting the scourage of teen murders, it was said by one ward representative to be the top issue for the year . A BBC article from December 2007 recounts the teen murders of the past year, and what measures are being taken to deal with the issue. Sounds a lot like the situation in US cities, including the need for the black community "to take responsibility." So far, whatever measures are in place aren’t working. In 2007 there were 27 teen murders in Greater London. As stated, London is on pace to break that record. One murder of 2008 caused a row concerning the now former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, who said that "he was not responsible" for a 14-year old’s death. A series of deaths this January led to call for tougher laws on knives! Handguns in London are supposed to be pretty much illegal already. But even controlling the flow of knives won’t stop all of the killing. One murder of a teen baker occurred when some thugs broke into the shop he working at and stabbed him in the neck with a piece of glass from the window they smashed in. Another teen this past April was killed with a sword . This was an act of black-on-black gang violence. Reading this May editorial makes one think that maybe the UK is becoming a de facto part of the US. One of three UK children lives in poverty? Is this a legacy of Thatcherism?

OK – NYC isn’t so safe  either.

 

How meaningful is your work?

May 25, 2008

IT people often complain about what they do – the long hours sometimes, the pointlessness of corporate America (or whatever country, fill in the blank _______), the fear of losing their job to outsourcing, the loss of creativity in the job due to ‘process’ and pointy-headed management, the struggle to keep up with the state of the art or buzz in their profession. Often IT people look to get out, either voluntarily, or as would usually be the case, involuntary through layoffs or lack of work due to economic downturns or technological obsolesence. Even with a steady job, that is often highly paid (there has been stagnation or decline in some aspects of the industry), people lack meaning in what they do.

I thought a lot of the issue is due to relativism. It is said that people who live in rural villages in Third World countries are often happier than upper middle class ‘moderns’ in the US or the UK. They are far poorer in material terms, suffer more from disease and deprevation. But within the context of their belief system, the bonds of community and family and spirituality, they are more content. Maybe it’s that they don’t have time or the inclination think about how meaningless their lives are. If their lives are actually meaningless, if our lives are meaningless.

The articles "The best way to find meaning at work? Don’t look for it " and "Aim low to find meaning at work " (public access??) are from Lucy Kellaway, self described agony aunt (Britishism for advice columist) and financial columnist with the Financial Times who I’ve enjoyed reading (when I’ve had ready access to copies of the FT). She writes about, among other things, people, people with very high financial compensation from their work, who are increasingly finding their jobs meaningless. She says, get a grip.

As an agony aunt, I am used to people telling me that their jobs are meaningless. In fact this, is the most popular problem that readers submit. Lawyers, bankers, fund managers and all sorts of people with grand jobs write in with the same complaint: the money may be good but where is the meaning? How can I make a difference, they wail.

In fact, whoever coined the phrase “making a difference” has made a difference, though not a positive one. The phrase gestures towards grandiose achievement that is out of reach for almost everybody. Most of us make very little difference at all – which stands to reason if you think there are 30m workers in Britain alone, making it almost impossible that any of us will make a difference, except to the people we work directly with.

In fact as long as we set our sights low enough we all do make a difference at work. By performing the tasks we are supposed to perform, we are making a difference to our employers. If we weren’t, they would have fired us long ago.