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Month: November 2004

Incredible

I finally got to see _The Incredibles_ — I took my wife for her birthday. (We had decided based on the reviews that it was probably too intense for my five-year-old daughter; as it turned out we were completely justified. Maybe when she’s eight.)

Summary: Fantastic. I can’t imagine any way it could have possibly been made any better. It’s difficult to imagine another studio who could have even made this movie. The set design alone is worthy of an Academy Award nomination — there’s a scene in which the walls of a room are decorated in minute detail, even though the room is not directly lit and the walls are barely visible. But as usual with Pixar, it’s the story that propels the picture; the technology is there to support the story and not to be the main focus.

Every Pixar film has met or surpassed the previous release, and _The Incredibles_ is no exception. It’s difficult to imagine how _Cars_ (scheduled for November 2005) will continue the streak; the early teaser is amusing but not particularly captivating.

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Autogoogling

In a previous post I suggested Googling my name might be interesting. I should have tried it myself first. 🙂

For the record, I am not a [super featherweight boxer from Queensland, Australia](http://www.boxrec.com/boxer_display.php?boxer_id=047469). (And if I were, I wouldn’t have anywhere near an 8-7-2 record.) Nor am I an [Australian tour guide](http://www2.visitvictoria.com/displayObject.cfm/ObjectID.8BAAADA6-FD2F-4C9D-ABDE7A17C28AD1EC/vvt.vhtml) looking for platypuses in the Otway Forest. (Wonder if that’s the same person.)

I am also not a descendant of [William Henry Berger](http://www.aquila.net/rayhent/whberger.htm) of Bern Twp., Pa., or the son of [Daniel Finn and Anna Addison](http://www.gbnf.com/genealogy/jenkins/html/d0034/I3909.HTM). (If you’re interested in my Finn family genealogy — hint: I’m not Irish — I’d be happy to put you in touch with my father, who’s spending his retirement tracking our family history; I believe he’s got us back to [Pepin the Short](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pippin_III).)

And finally, I’m not a [twenty-year-old from Newcastle, England](http://www.ibizaqueenvictoria.com/again/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=2099&PN=1), looking for a job in a British pub in Ibiza (scroll down). Although there are days when that does sound pleasant.

(However, I *am* the person who contributed the CLU and DCL entries to the list of programs that print “Merry Christmas” in various programming languages — posted to Usenet in 1983. Boy, am I old.)

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EA Spouse speaks out

I’m only just hearing about the [EA spouse][] who spoke out about the increasingly extreme conditions under which the SO was working. At last count this single weblog entry had 2780 comments.

[EA spouse]: http://www.livejournal.com/users/ea_spouse/274.html

Reading the description of the EA development process from the point of view of a longtime software engineer, my mind boggles at the idea of a “pre-crunch” to ramp up for the “real” crunch, followed by a “super-crunch” — all apparently planned for in the schedule. Folks, apart from being disgraceful and probably illegal, this plain just doesn’t work; engineers get fatigued and you end up with crappy software. And no compensatory considerations for the staff? No money, no comp time? It’s not like EA is a startup company; they’re making money, and they’ve been making games for years. They should know better.

I’ve worked at three different companies, including one in the gaming subindustry. All of these companies were startups or startup-sized, and so the success or failure of any one project might mean the success or failure of the company as a whole. We knew this and reacted accordingly — when the time came, we put in the level of effort needed to accomplish the job, up to twelve- to fourteen-hour days, six or seven days a week. (I tried very hard to keep one day to myself, to protect my own sanity.)

In my experience, we were *always* compensated for our extra effort in some way, usually comp time or cash. In one case we had a specific deadline with promised bonuses for meeting it, including an extra bonus for the “team MVP.” We were given every opportunity to meet the goal (including moving the deadline back ten days after the server failed in the last month), and everyone got the MVP bonus. (We ended up not shipping for another fifteen months, but that’s another story.)

More meaningful were the “personal” rewards. Once our company president got us tickets to a Celtics playoff game (in ’85 — Bird/McHale/Parrish). At the gaming company I was given the opportunity to do a personally meaningful project and given a brand-new Mac II and hi-res color monitor to do it with. It’s a cliché to say this can mean more than the money does, but it’s also true.

So why would someone put up with the conditions described by the EA spouse? Sometimes (as in this case, seemingly) they needed a job in a weak market; sometimes they just didn’t know to expect any better.

One more story from early in my career: one Friday the boss asked me to demo my current project at the company-wide meeting on Monday. Unfortunately it wasn’t working yet, but I was young and the boss was new, and I was too intimidated to say anything. So I worked throughout the weekend, giving up going to New York on Saturday to attend a good friend’s wedding — to my lasting shame and regret. (And on Monday? No demo; something else came up at the meeting, and I didn’t speak up.)

[I wrote the above before skimming the comments. Apparently (a) EA’s record in this area is widely known, and (b) they’re not alone in this. It was nowhere near that at the gaming company I worked at in the mid-to-late ’80’s. I won’t name it here; it’s no longer around as an independent concern. If you Google my name you can probably figure it out on your own.]

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Who, me?

[Josh Marshall](http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/week_2004_11_14.php#004028) has been trying to find out how many representatives have voted on the “DeLay rule” (the House rule change that will allow Rep. DeLay to keep his leadership position even if he is indicted by a Texas grand jury — which, to be fair, has not happened yet).

This task is made surprisingly difficult by the fact that some GOP representatives are denying that a vote has even taken place, while others say it is a private vote (and even that there are rules against disclosing the result of the vote), and still others say they will only discuss their vote in written letters to their constituents. Some are flatly refusing to say how they voted.

Rep. Christopher Shays, however, says outright [he voted against it](http://www.house.gov/shays/news/2004/november/novrule.htm). Elsewhere he is variously quoted as saying there were a “handful” of other no votes, or [“between 30 and 50”](http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory?id=260959). At present Josh has identified between 16 and 18 members of “Shays’ Handful”.

Interestingly, there doesn’t seem to be a single representative who has gone on record as saying they voted *for* the rule change. I wonder why?

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What to Ask the Nominee

[George Will][] has some difficult questions for the nominee for Secretary of State:

[George Will]: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A55690-2004Nov16.html

> In 1991 the secretary of defense, explaining the lack of wisdom of regime change, said: “Once you’ve got Baghdad, it’s not clear what you do with it. It’s not clear what kind of government you would put in place of the one that’s currently there now. Is it going to be a Shia regime, a Sunni regime or a Kurdish regime? Or one that tilts toward the Baathists, or one that tilts toward the Islamic fundamentalists? How much credibility is that government going to have if it’s set up by the United States military when it’s there? How long does the United States military have to stay to protect the people that sign on for that government, and what happens to it once we leave?” Was Dick Cheney right?

Admittedly a question that some raised long ago; but anyway. I don’t often agree with Mr. Will, but he’s more readable than most on the right (and at least doesn’t appear to be a raving lunatic most of the time, like some).

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Sauce for the goose, unnecessary for the gander

Despite this blog’s restart being motivated by the US political situation, I’ve been somewhat remiss in keeping up with this topic, having drifted into a stunned malaise once the initial shock wore off.

I was unaware, for instance, that Rep. Tom DeLay was on the verge of being indicted by a Texas grand jury. (Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.)

However, the House Republicans, unwilling to let a little indictment interfere with the actions of their go-to guy, are [about to change the House rule][WaPo] which would have required DeLay to resign his leadership position if he is indicted.

[WaPo]: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A54572-2004Nov16.html

And who instituted that rule? Why, it was the House GOP, eleven years ago, when they were in the minority and held themselves to higher ethical standards than Democrats like Dan Rostenkowski. Now that they’re in charge, they can’t be bothered to even pretend anymore.

(Oh, wait, I guess they *are* pretending — they’re apparently drawing a distinction between a *state* grand jury indictment, which might be a “political manipulation of the process”, and a *federal* indictment. Wow. Nice one.)

And how should the Democrats respond to this? I like the suggestion of [Matt Deatherage][]:

> [S]top pretending they’re the majority-in-exile, and start being a real opposition party. That doesn’t mean opposing sensible policies for its own sake, as the GOP does — it means making the majority live with every single one of its decisions.

and specifically:

> Democrats have to flood the broadcast, cable, and radio shows now as much as Republicans have ever done, and every story is about Tom DeLay. Every story about legislation is about Tom DeLay’s imminent indictment. Every process story is about how his money controls the House so completely that … most of the GOP members clearly want to adopt a pro-crime rule that says, “We don’t care if our leaders commit felonies to gain more power.” Every political story is about Tom DeLay’s corruption and illegal activities. Every one of them.

[Matt Deatherage]: http://friends.macjournals.com/mattd/2004/11/17#a990

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Please, no

Disney is reportedly going ahead with *Toy Story 3*, without Pixar’s participation.

As previously mentioned, I have a five-year-old daughter, so I’ve seen quite a few of Disney’s direct-to-video sequels, and let me tell you, almost without exception they are dreadful. (OK, I found _The Lion King 1 1/2_ amusing in places, but that was due largely to the strength of the voice cast.)

And I have generally liked the original Disney features — although, come to think of it, the last one I remember enjoying was… hmm, *Hercules*? And *that* was pretty lightweight.

Pixar’s output, on the other hand, has been not only of uniformly high quality, but has actually *improved* with every release. (I can’t wait to see _The Incredibles._)

Oh, well, they can’t make me see _Toy Story 3_; they can only force me to buy it for my children. The price of fatherhood…

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Sonnet G4 Duet is Teh Snappy™

I found some time this weekend to install the [Sonnet Encore/ST G4 Duet](http://www.sonnettech.com/product/encore_st_duet.html) processor upgrade into my Power Mac G4 (Digital Audio), raising the processor speed from 533 MHz (x2) to 1.267 GHz (x2).

Objectively, I did some benchmarks before and after the upgrade, per the request of [Accelerate Your Macintosh](http://www.xlr8yourmac.com/). I’m waiting a week or so to post my review there (also by their request), so I know whether everything’s working OK, but I’ll append it below.

Subjectively, there’s a noticeable improvement in performance — startup time is reduced, applications launch more quickly, Virtual PC is actually usable, etc. Only two minor glitches on installation:

* I took the opportunity to offer my five-year-old daughter the chance to “look inside Daddy’s computer”. This was well-received, and actually she was more interested than I expected, but she kept up her usual running chatter enough that I plugged the power card into the wrong side of the processor card. It was obvious that it wouldn’t fit that way, and after a moment’s thought I realized what I’d done. After that the physical installation proceeded smoothly (except that it’s hard to see the connector plug underneath the daughterboard, and you have to take it on faith that it’s making a good connection once it’s been screwed down).

* The first time I plugged it in and powered it down, I got no reassuring “bong” sound, and no error chimes either. I quickly shut down and opened it up again. Hmm, nothing obviously wrong… Oh, look, here’s the Cuda switch — I seem to recall you’re supposed to press this after doing a processor upgrade. Even thought the Sonnet instructions didn’t mention this, I gave it a good long push, and on the second startup I was rewarded with a lovely “bong”.

[I suppose this will get me filtered out for drug references, but honestly, “bong” is the sound a Mac makes.]

Summary: Recommended. I took the plunge and ordered it from a low-cost Internet vendor, instead of sticking with a Mac-oriented dealer, but I saved almost $100 that way.

[Oh, and “Teh Snappy” comes from the forums at [Ars Technica](http://www.arstechnica.com/).]

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Dumb Old Dad?

Deeje points to Dad Gets the Bimbo Treatment in Verizon Ads and asks:

> I’ve noticed this [trend] as well, and it really [ticks] me off. I know there are a few dads reading this… what do you think?

Me too. It’s easy to say “So what, men have the all power anyway”; but I have an impressionable five-year-old daughter, and I want her to grow up thinking that *both* her parents are smart and deserve respect. (Probably the answer is less TV; but still…)

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