Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Anna Nicole Smith is dead. This shouldn’t be news to you; it happened quite a while ago, and it’s been all over the news, all over the interwebs, and probably all over the blogosphere too.

I don’t know a whole lot about Anna Nicole Smith’s life. (Or her death, for that matter.) In fact, it’s safe to say that I know almost nothing about her. All I know is what I saw in MAD TV sketches, which is hardly enough to call me knowledgeable. So I’m not writing, as some have done, to mourn her death. Neither am I writing to say “finally, she’s dead”, as others have probably done. I’m not writing to talk about feminism, or any of the other topics that were suddenly attached, posthumously, to Anna’s name. (Not in the mainstream media, but in the blogosphere.)

I am writing to shame the media. And I’m shaming the media for three simple words: “former Playboy playmate”.

I think we all realize that news about Anna’s death was incredibly overblown in the media; it’s not a story that deserved so much coverage. If you’ll forgive the hyperbole, there is no longer a man, woman, or child in North America who doesn’t know Smith’s name—at least, not a man, woman, or child with the power of speech. And, by the same token, all of those men, women, and children also know that she was a “former Playboy playmate”.

It has become an unwritten rule in the media that these three words must always be prepended to Anna’s name—never is there to be an article written about her that does not include her new name. She is no longer Anna Nicole Smith, she is “former Playboy playmate Anna Nicole Smith”. (If you have to leave any part of this phrase out, leave out the “Anna Nicole Smith” part—if you say “former Playboy playmate whatsername”, we’ll know who you mean.)

Does the fact that Smith posed for Playboy have anything to do with the story? Well… no, not really. Nothing at all, in fact. It’s pure, unadulterated, unapologetic titillation. Sex sells, so we’re going to saturate the airwaves with story after story about Smith’s death, using the phrase “former Playboy playmate” as much as humanly possible.

Former Playboy playmate Anna Nicole Smith died in her home today. The cause of the former Playboy playmate’s death is, as yet, undetermined, but we are getting word that the former Playboy playmate may have died from an overdose of sleeping pills.

The medical examiner is currently refusing to speculate on the cause of the former nude model’s death, but friends of the former stripper said that Smith, who was a naked nude model for Playboy had been taking sleeping pills, leading others to speculate that this might have been the cause of her death. No word yet as to whether former Playboy playmate Anna Nicole Smith was naked, at the time of her death. Nude naked sex. Sex stripper sex.

Back to you, Tim. Breasts.

I’ve long since given up on any type of journalistic integrity from the mainstream media, so I’m not writing this post because I’m shocked or appalled. It’s par for the course. Any time there’s any news story about a woman who is involved, or has previously been involved, in any kind of sex work, it’s mandatory that this has to be mentioned in the story. A woman just won the lottery? So what? A woman who used to be a stripper just won the lottery? Front page! Former Stripper Wins Lottery! Who cares if it was decades ago that she used to be a stripper, and she’s married now, with kids?

It’s no wonder we don’t expect much from the media, these days. They’ve earned our mistrust. Journalism has been replaced by titillation and soundbites. News has been replaced by spin. Commentary has been replaced by partisan punditry. Being “balanced” has been replaced by showing “both sides” of any argument, even if one of those “sides” is clearly ridiculous.

  • Typical Political Talk Show
  • Host
  • We’re here tonight to talk about global warming.
  • Guest 1
  • We need to sign on to Kyoto, because we’re one of the few countries in the world that hasn’t yet done so.
  • Guest 2
  • Scientists are idiots. Global warming doesn’t exist.
  • Host
  • And we’ve got both guests here tonight, to show both sides of the story! Stay tuned!

Actually, that might be a bad example. There’s been so much blatantly false reporting in the media about global warming that people might actually believe scientists disagree about global warming. (The truth is that there are thousands of scientists who say there’s no question, of course it’s happening, and two or three who work for conservative think tanks (funded by oil companies) who say that there’s disagreement.)

As an aside, I fully realize that the above paragraph sounds like paranoid rantings. Unfortunately, although it is a rant, it’s also true.

When large media companies amalgamate, this is what you get. News becomes a product, like any other, and the marketing department, rather than the newsroom, decides what the public will see. When you have fewer and fewer companies running the media, you get fewer and fewer viewpoints. (Have you read Necessary Illusions, yet, to see where this is all going? Or rather, has gone? Actually, the global warming example above is a perfect example: take a look at the org charts of the big multinational companies who are running the news, and you’ll see that they’re also interconnected with the oil companies. (The chart I linked to above doesn’t show the relationship, because it’s only focused on media companies.) It’s no surprise that they report on global warming as if it’s a theory, instead of a dire fact that needs addressing.)

All that to say this: For shame, media. For shame.

It’s tempting to say that “at least it’s better in Canada than it is in the States”, but the fact is, most of the “former Playboy playmate” quotes I’ve heard have been from Canadian media sources, not American ones. It’s not like I’m getting my news from Fox, right? We have as much to be ashamed of as they do, when it comes to crass titillation, at the expense of real news.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Writer’s Block?

If I were a writer, I would consider this blog a vehicle for my writing. Wait… I am a writer. I have a book coming out this summer: Beginning XML, Fourth Edition. (Well, to be fair, it’s not my book. I’m just one of the writers involved. Still, it contains my writing, and it will be published, ergo, I’m a writer.)

Which begs the question: Why don’t I consider this blog to be a vehicle for my writing? I’m a writer, and I write things here. I guess it’s because I don’t really put anything serious here; just inane ramblings, and amateurish reviews of books and movies. And posts about my weekends. And other typical blogger-style posts.

So, back to my main point: If I were a writer, and considered this blog to be a vehicle for my writing, then I would consider myself to have a serious case of writer’s block, these days, because I’m not really writing much of substance. (Not that I ever did.) (Why do I keep interrupting myself to undercut my own points?)

Let’s take an example. What were the last ten things I posted here?

  • joke post
  • joke post
  • post about the fact that my new coworker keeps asking questions I don’t know how to answer
  • joke post
  • post in response to an annoying comment
  • RUTR update
  • book review: The Honourable Schoolboy
  • RUTR update
  • long post about a trip downtown—which proves why I shouldn’t consider myself a writer, because a simple post about the fact that I was feeling run-down turned into a long “dear diary” style post
  • a post about the fact that I don’t have many blogs that I read regularly anymore
Which breaks down like this:

That’s another thing: I put a lot of useless graphs up on my blog. What’s up with that? I used to put up pictures sometimes, and then I stopped, because the infrared port on my laptop wasn’t enabled. But I’ve now gone into the BIOS settings and enabled it, so that I can transfer pictures from my camera phone. For example, here’s the box of Kleenex I bought on Friday, since I was sick:

Interesting, eh? Yeah, I thought so too.

I think I’m just being hard on myself because I found another blog that’s interesting to read; every time I find one, it makes me question my own blogging abilities. Just like every time I read a novel by John le Carré, I question my ability to write fiction; I’m not in his league. (Is that why my novel is still on the shelf, and I haven’t touched it in months? If so, it still doesn’t explain why God in the Driver’s Seat is on the shelf, and I haven’t touched it in months. Or why my book on Microsoft Word—which is now a book on Writer—is on the shelf, and I haven’t touched it in months…)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Drug Dealers vs. Software Developers

Another joke post.

Drug DealersSoftware Developers
Refer to their clients as “users”.Refer to their clients as “users”.
“The first one’s free!”“Download a free trial version...”
Have important South-East Asian connections (to help move the stuff).Have important South-East Asian connections (to help debug the code).
Strange jargon: “Stick”, “Rock”, “Dime bag”, “E”.Strange jargon: “SCSI”, “RTFM”, “Java”, “ISDN”.
Realize that there’s tons of cash in the 14- to 25-year-old market.Realize that there’s tons of cash in the 14- to 25-year-old market.
Job is assisted by the industry’s producing newer, more potent mixes.Job is assisted by industry’s producing newer, faster machines.
Often seen in the company of pimps and hustlers.Often seen in the company of marketing people and venture capitalists.
Their product causes unhealthy addictions.DOOM. Quake. SimCity. Duke Nukem. ’Nuff said.
Do your job well, and you can sleep with sexy movie stars who depend on you.Damn! Damn! DAMN!!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Teaching Math

This is another “joke post”, from the old web site. According to the HTML page I used to have up, it was “submitted” by Phil Kiracofe, whoever that is.

Teaching Math in 1950:
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?
Teaching Math in 1960:
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?
Teaching Math in 1970:
A logger exchanges a set ‘L’ of lumber for a set ‘M’ of money. The cardinality of set ‘M’ is 100. Each element is worth one dollar. The set ‘C’, the cost of production contains 20 fewer points than set. What is the cardinality of the set ‘P’ of profits?
Teaching Math in 1980:
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.
Teaching Math in 1990:
By cutting down beautiful forest trees, the logger makes $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the forest birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down the trees? There are no wrong answers.
Teaching Math in 1996:
By laying off 402 of its loggers, a company improves its stock price from $80 to $100. How much capital gain per share does the CEO make by exercising his stock options at $80? Assume capital gains are no longer taxed, because this encourages investment.
Teaching Math in 1997:
A company outsources all of its loggers. They save on benefits and when demand for their product is down the logging work force can easily be cut back. The average logger employed by the company earned $50,000, had 3 weeks vacation, received a nice retirement plan and medical insurance. The contracted logger charges $50 an hour. Was outsourcing a good move?
Teaching Math in 1998:
A logging company exports its wood-finishing jobs to its Indonesian subsidiary and lays off the corresponding half of its US workers (the higher- paid half). It clear-cuts 95% of the forest, leaving the rest for the spotted owl, and lays off all its remaining US workers. It tells the workers that the spotted owl is responsible for the absence of fellable trees and lobbies Congress for exemption from the Endangered Species Act. Congress instead exempts the company from all federal regulation. What is the return on investment of the lobbying?

I don’t know anything

I had a new colleague join the team last week. I never feel so ignorant as when I have a new colleague—it turns out that I know absolutely nothing about the company that I work for.

If she were to ask me “serna, for our connection to Oracle, are we using the thin drivers, or the OCI drivers?” then I’d be able to answer her, and even explain why. If she were to ask “serna, what type of persistence layer are we using?” then I’d be able to answer that, too. But these aren’t the types of questions that people new to the company ask.

It’s more like “serna, where can I get a stapler?” followed by “Um… I don’t know. I don’t use a stapler.” Or “serna, the HR department sent me an automated email about installing some kind of time reporting application; do I need it?” followed by “Um… I don’t know. I didn’t install it, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to. Don’t you want to ask me about connection pools or something?” At which point she politely ends the conversation, so she can go and talk to someone who actually knows what he’s talking about.

Some day—I don’t know when, but mark my words, it will happen—she’ll ask me a technical question, and I’ll be able to answer it. Until then, my response to every question is “Um… why don’t you ask him?” or “Um… why don’t you ask her?”

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What If People Bought Cars Like They Buy Computers?

Another joke post.

General Motors doesn’t have a help line for people who don’t know how to drive, because people don’t buy cars like they buy computers, but imagine if they did…

  • Help Line
  • General Motors Help Line, how may I help you?
  • Customer
  • I got in my car and closed the door and nothing happened!
  • Help Line
  • Did you put the key in the ignition slot and turn it?
  • Customer
  • What’s an ignition?
  • Help Line
  • It’s a starter motor that draws current from your battery and turns over the engine.
  • Customer
  • Ignition? Motor? Battery? Engine? How come I have to know all these technical terms just to use my car?
  • Help Line
  • General Motors Help Line, how may I help you?
  • Customer
  • Hi, I just bought my first car, and I chose your car because it has automatic transmission, cruise control, power steering, power brakes, and power door locks.
  • Help Line
  • Thanks for buying our car. How may I help you?
  • Customer
  • How do I work it?
  • Help Line
  • Do you know how to drive?
  • Customer
  • Do I know how to what?
  • Help Line
  • Do you know how to drive?
  • Customer
  • I’m not a technical person, I just want to go places in my car!
  • Help Line
  • General Motors Help Line, how may I help you?
  • Customer
  • Your cars suck.
  • Help Line
  • What’s wrong?
  • Customer
  • Mine crashed, that’s what’s wrong.
  • Help Line
  • What were you doing?
  • Customer
  • I wanted it to run faster, so I pushed the accelerator pedal all the way to the floor. It worked for a while and then it crashed and it won’t start now!
  • Help Line
  • It’s your responsibility if you misuse the product. What do you expect us to do about it?
  • Customer
  • I want you to send me the latest version that doesn’t crash anymore!
  • Help Line
  • General Motors Help Line, how may I help you?
  • Customer
  • My car ran for a week, and now it won’t go anywhere!
  • Help Line
  • Is the gas tank empty?
  • Customer
  • Huh? How do I know?
  • Help Line
  • There’s a little gauge on the front panel with a needle and markings from ‘E’ to ‘F’. Where is the needle pointing?
  • Customer
  • It’s pointing to ‘E’. What does that mean?
  • Help Line
  • It means you have to visit a gasoline vendor and purchase some more gasoline. You can install it yourself or pay the vendor to install it for you.
  • Customer
  • What? I paid $22,000 for this car! Now you tell me that I have to keep buying more components? I want a car that comes with everything built in!

Letters to the Editor

Dear Concerned Reader:

Thank you for your interest in our post dated March 14th, titled Roll up the Rim. As you point out, 2 divided by 17 is not 17%, it is 11.7%, or, rounded to the nearest whole number, as our spreadsheet does it, 12%. We apologize for our editorial laxness, and will attempt to reduce such typographical errors in future blog posts.

Clearly, since you have taken the time to write in and correct us, the post in question must have been relevant and pertinent to your life, and therefore it must have been quite an inconvenience to see our typo. We on the editorial board at can only hope that this apology will make up for any hardship you may have suffered.

In an effort to make up for our mistake, we are presenting here a picture of the spreadsheet in question, showing the current state of serna’s Roll up the Rim winnings. As illustrated, as of this posting, he has won 4 out of 28 coffees, or 62%.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I haven’t won a hybrid yet

I mentioned that I’d been given a large cup, yesterday, and that I didn’t win the car, although it won a doughnut. I was given another large cup yesterday afternoon—which didn’t win anything—so, according to my “larger cups win larger prizes” theory, I had two chances at the car, yesterday.

But here’s the thing: after that experience, I’m starting to partially understand how gamblers might feel. For the record, I don’t consider rolling up the rim to be gambling; I’m not buying any more coffees than I would normally, and anything I get from rolling up my rims is just a sweet bonus to the main prize, which is the coffee inside the cup. But, the thing is, when I rolled up the rim on my two large coffees yesterday, there was a part of me that was expecting to win the car.

I’m not stupid. I realize that the chances of winning a car are pretty low, and it’s not likely to happen to me. But when I was rolling up the rims, it’s like part of me was just taking it for granted that I would see that I’d won the car. To the point that I was not just disappointed, when I saw I hadn’t won, but even a little bit surprised.

I find it interesting that, even though I know how this works, there was a part of me that bought into the hype, and made me expect that I’d win something big on my large coffees. However, that being said, I’m not too far gone. When I rolled up the rim on the first one, and saw the word “Win”, I was shocked. (I was so busy thinking about cars that when I rolled it up further, and saw the word “Donut”, I was disappointed again.)

I guess the lesson to take out of all of this is that emotions are complex things.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Book Review: The Honourable Schoolboy

Author: John le Carré

This is another le Carré book featuring George Smiley, which I always find interesting to read. (Smiley is an enigmatic character, and it’s always difficult to know what’s going on in his head, unless le Carré specifically tells you.) The “honourable schoolboy” of the title is a man named Jerry Westerby, a spy working for Smiley, but the book is really about Smiley. That being said, of course, Westerby is for more than a minor character, and to a certain extent, his actions drive the plot, especially near the end of the book.

The book takes place in 1975 or 1976, mostly in Hong Kong, and involves a very complex plot involving a Russian slush fund, that I wasn’t fully able to follow. (le Carré’s plots are always complex, and he’s never afraid of giving his characters more than two dimensions, which can make things even more complex.)

Actually, this isn’t much of a book review. I usually have a lot to say about any books I read—especially the ones that I like—but in this case, I don’t feel that I want to say much about the plot. If you’d like, you can read the summary on Wikipedia, although it’s got spoilers, so be aware. (You can tell it’s a complicated book by the fact that the Wikipedia summary is so long!)

I’ve mentioned le Carré before, in other book reviews, because I’m a big fan. If you enjoy spy novels, you’ll find that le Carré’s books have more depth than some of the the other books in the genre, and a number of his books are now considered classics, for this reason.

Roll up the Rim: No car. Yet.

I’ve already mentioned my theory that you get a better chance of winning the bigger prizes if you buy the bigger sizes of coffee. Well, I got a chance to put that theory to the test, today. I bought a medium coffee at Tim’s this morning, and they had run out of medium RUTR cups, so they gave me a large cup (with about a medium cup’s worth of coffee in it).

“Excellent!” I thought to myself. “I bet my new Toyota Hybrid is right under this rim, just waiting for me to reveal it!”

Unfortunately, I didn’t win a hybrid. Fortunately, I did win a doughnut.

I’m currently sitting at a 17% win rate.

Friday, March 16, 2007


Went downtown yesterday. (Had a meeting from 3–5.) Unfortunately, I couldn’t meet up with Andrea, after work, because she had a late meeting to attend. Figures; the one day I’m actually downtown, and our schedules don’t line up.

In fact, her meeting wasn’t going to end until 8:00 or so—and she was thinking they would go out for drinks, after—so I had to wait around for a few hours. Took advantage of the situation to stop off at the Eaton Centre, and get a bubble tea. Mmm, bubble tea.

Sat in the food court for a while, sipping my bubble tea, creating a diagram to capture what I’d talked about at my meeting, working on my “Basics of Excel” presentation, and reading a book I’d brought, on SOA.

Wandered around the Eaton Centre a while longer. There’s a Mrs. Fields there, but I didn’t really feel like anything too sweet. There’s a Dairy Queen there, too, and I love Skor Blizzards, but, as I said, I didn’t feel like anything sweet.

Ended up getting Popcorn Chicken from Kentucky Fried Chicken. Bad idea. Terrible idea. I regretted this decision for the rest of the day, and well into the night.

Was carrying my backpack this entire time. It had my laptop in it, as well as a sheaf of papers a few inches thick, and the SOA book. The thick SOA book. (When you see the word “thick”, you can mentally translate that into “heavy.”)

Stopped by HMV, to see if there were any CDs or DVDs I wanted to buy. Found Casino Royale, and it was actually much cheaper than I’d been expecting, around $20, but they only had the full screen version, not the wide screen. I wandered through the DVD section some more, and found that they had a documentary section—which they called “General Interest” for some reason—and saw some that might be interesting, but didn’t buy any.

  • They had Why We Fight, which is a great documentary, but it was too expensive
  • They had The Corporation, but they only had the “standard” version, and I want to get the “extended” version
  • They had a couple of Noam Chomsky DVDs, but they were basically just talks that he had given. Which I’m sure would have been interesting, but I couldn’t bring myself to get excited enough to buy one.
I also took a look through the TV section, to see if they had the third and fourth seasons of Home Movies and Harvey Birdman, Vol 2. They did; they had Home Movies seasons 3 and 4, but they were both a bit too expensive. (And, for some bizarre reason, seasons 3 and 4 were priced differently.) I don’t know why they’re charging the same price for Home Movies—which is only about 9 episodes per season—as they are for The Simpsons, which is more like 22 or 23 episodes per season. Harvey Birdman Vol 2 was also a bit too expensive—which, in retrospect, is a very good thing, because as I’m typing this, I’m remembering that there is a good chance that I’ll be given this for my birthday!

So this didn’t pan out, but it did give me a mission: I would go to some other music/DVD stores, and see if there was anything to buy. Which I did, but the story was the same everywhere:
  • Apparently, all stores that sell DVDs have a “general interest” section, where they put the documentaries. Nobody else had The Corporation, most places had Why We Fight, but it was priced too high.
    • The really big HMV, at Dundas & Yonge, had a bigger “general interest” section, but it didn’t have any good documentaries in it.
  • Everywhere I went had Home Movies, priced a bit too high, and with seasons 3 and 4 priced differently. They all had Harvey Birdman, Vol 2, too, priced a bit too high. (Thankfully.)
  • Everybody had Casino Royale, but many of them were also sold out of the wide screen version. The ones that did have it had it priced too high for my liking. (Around $30–40, which is the standard price for DVDs, but I don’t like paying that much for my movies.)
The last place I went looking, out of desperation, was the World’s Biggest Bookstore. While I was there, I decided to look at computer books, but they didn’t have any that I found interesting. Decided to look at John le Carré books, but they didn’t have any that I don’t already have. Except for his newest book, which just came out, but it’s hard cover, and I don’t buy hard cover books, if I can avoid it. Stumbled on the Robert Ludlum section, but they didn’t have any I didn’t already have.

Went back to the Eaton Centre. Stopped by the bubble tea place, for another bubble tea, but they were out of tapioca, so I didn’t bother. Probably just as well; how much bubble tea can a person take in one day? (Answer to rhetorical question: as much as they can dole out, baby!) Sat there for a while, and read about SOA some more.

Got back up, and wandered around for a while, just going back and forth in the Eaton Centre, to see if any stores sparked my interest. None did. Wandered into Sears, to see if they had any winter coats, so that I could finally replace mine. They didn’t have any. Went to the unmentionables department, but they didn’t have what I was looking for there, either. Went to the appliance section—which involved taking escalators up to the 4th or 5th floor, which didn’t fill me with joy, since I was carrying around my hundred pound backpack—to look at dishwashers, and see how much they cost, these days. Ours might be on its last leg, so I wanted to see how much an energy efficient one would cost. (Answer: somewhere between $500 and $1,000, which is a big range, meaning that I’m not really any better off than I was before.)

Wandered back to the food court, and simply sat for a while. I couldn’t be bothered to read my SOA book, by this point, because my brain wasn’t prepared to take in the information, so I played Solitaire on my phone, instead. By this time, it was around 8:30, so I knew Andrea would be calling any minute, so I was just killing time.

She called, and I met up with her and her colleagues at a restaurant, so that I could eat, and they could dissect the meeting they’d just been at. (They ate, too, and I took part in the dissecting a bit, but mostly, I ate, and they dissected.)

I wasn’t actually intending this post to be a diary of the evening’s events—I just wanted to mention that I feel pretty run-down, today.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Alternate title: “Oh crap. He’s going on about blogs again…”

So I used to have about a dozen blogs I followed regularly. And then I got bored of some, and stopped reading, and then bored of others, and stopped reading them, and by this morning I was down to four blogs I was following regularly.

The good news is that three of them are Christian blogs; one that I trust, one that I’m not so sure about, and one that I don’t really trust. In fact, just a second, let me remove that…

Two of the three blogs are Christian blogs.

But since I was down to so few blogs, I decided to poke around for a few minutes, and see if I could find another one. So I clicked the handy-dandy Next Blog» link, above, and got… well, I got a blog that was shilling for some cell phone company, and had an annoying ad that played music. So I closed my browser, opened it back up, and tried again. And I found a great blog, which, at least for the time being, I enjoy reading.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a few free minutes, and started clicking Next Blog» over and over, getting nothing but garbage, and this time, I get a good one on the second try.

Hmm. Having re-read what I just wrote here, it occurs to me: Would any random stranger who came to my blog, upon reading this post, decide to stay? Probably not.

Oh well. I’m posting it anyway.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Suppose Edgar Allan Poe Had Used A Computer

What’s this? Two “joke posts” in one day? Yeah, well, I had some time to kill, so I thought I’d go ahead and kill it.

As usual, I don’t know where I got this one; it’s just entitled Suppose Edgar Allan Poe Had Used A Computer on the old web site. I’m sure a quick Google search would probably tell me where it came from—and I bet some of you are already just itching to do the search, so that you can tell me—but I’m not really worried about it. Unless I get sued or something.

By the way, I defy any Simpsons fan to read this and not hear James Earl Jones’ voice in your head.

Once upon a midnight dreary, fingers cramped and vision bleary,
System manuals piled high and wasted paper on the floor,
Longing for the warmth of bed sheets, Still I sat there, doing spreadsheets:
Having reached the bottom line, I took a floppy from the drawer.
Typing with a steady hand, I then invoked the SAVE command and waited for the disk to store,
Only this and nothing more.

Deep into the monitor peering, long I sat there wond’ring, fearing,
Doubting, while the disk kept churning, turning yet to churn some more.
“Save!” I said, “You cursed PC! Save my data from before!”
One thing did the phosphors answer, only this and nothing more,
Just, “Abort, Retry, Ignore?”

Was this some bizarre illusion? Some maniacal intrusion?
These were choices undesired, ones I’d never faced before.
Carefully, I weighed the choices as the disk made impish noises.
The cursor flashed, insistent, waiting, baiting me to type some more.
Clearly I must press a key, choosing one and nothing more,
From “Choose Abort, Retry, Ignore?”

With my fingers pale and trembling Slowly toward the keyboard bending,
Longing for a happy ending, hoping all would be restored,
Praying for some guarantee Timidly I pressed a key.
But on the screen there still persisted words appearing as before.
Ghastly grim they blinked and taunted, haunted, as my patience wore,
Saying "Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

I tried to catch the chips off-guard—I pressed again, but twice as hard.
I pleaded with the cursed machine: I begged and cried and then I swore.
Now in desperation, trying random combinations,
Still there came the incantation, just as senseless as before.
Cursor blinking, angrily winking, blinking nonsense as before.
Reading, “Abort, Retry, Ignore?”

There I sat, distraught, exhausted by my own machine accosted
Getting up I turned away and paced across the office floor.
And then I saw dreadful sight: a lightning bolt cut through the night.
A gasp of horror overtook me, shook me to my core.
The lightning zapped my previous data, lost and gone forevermore.
And no “Abort, Retry, Ignore?”

To this day I do not know The place to which lost data go.
What dreaded nether world is wrought where all lost data will be stored?
Beyond the reach of mortal souls? Beyond the ether? In black holes?
But sure as there is C, Pascal, and Lotus, Ashton-Tate and more,
One day you’ll be left to wonder, data trying to restore,
“Will I see it nevermore?”

Author Unknown

René Descartes

Another of the jokes from my old web site.

Warning: This one is really lousy. But if you enjoy bad puns as much as I do, then it’ll put a smile on your face.

René Descartes goes into a tavern and sits down. A waiter comes up and says, “Good evening, Monsieur Descartes, will you be dining tonight?”

“Yes,” Descartes replies, “What do you have?”

“Well, there’s an excellent stew available this evening,” the waiter responds.

“Fine, I’ll have that then.”

“And would you like anything to drink, an ale, perhaps?”

And, being an abstemious man, Descartes replied,“I think not!”

And POOF! He disappeared.

Roll up the Rim

Well, this year is definitely not as good as last year, in terms of my Roll up the Rim winnings. I’ve won 2 out of 17 times, so far, which puts me at just 17%. (Both of the winning cups yielded free coffees.)

I was talking to Jer the other day, who doesn’t drink coffee very much, but just happened to stop in at Tim’s this week, and won a coffee. That puts his winning rate at 100%—so he told me he doesn’t want to cash in the free coffee, because if he didn’t win on that cup, it would immediately reduce his rate to 50%.

(Incidentally, Jer and I talked about a bunch of other stuff, too, but I only remember the Tim Horton-related parts of the conversation. Oh, and the baby-related stuff; I remember that. But only because he sent me a cute picture, to remind me…)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Dihodrogen Monoxide

I don’t remember where I got this originally, but I like it, so here you go…

A freshman won first prize at his Science Fair. He was attempting to show how conditioned we have become to the alarmists practicing junk science and spreading fear of everything in our environment.

In his project he urged people to sign a petition demanding strict control or total elimination of the chemical “dihydrogen monoxide.” And for plenty of good reasons, since it:

  • Can cause excessive sweating and vomiting
  • Is a major component in acid rain
  • Can cause severe burns in its gaseous state
  • Accidental inhalation can kill you
  • It contributes to erosion
  • It decreases effectiveness of automobile brakes
  • It has been found in tumors of terminal cancer patients

He asked 50 people if they supported a ban of the chemical. Forty-three said yes, six were undecided, and only one knew that the chemical was water.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Men Who Use Computers are the New Sex Symbols of the ’90s

Back in the day when I used to have a homepage, I used to have a page of jokes. I’ve decided that some of those jokes are still funny enough to share, so I’m going to start putting them here. I don’t know how often, but once in a while.

To start with, I’m going to give a blatant disregard to copyright laws, and post an article that Scott Adams (the cartoonist behind Dilbert) wrote for Windows Magazine, in 1995.


I get about 100 e-mail messages a day from readers of my comic strip “Dilbert.” Most are from disgruntled office workers, psychopaths, stalkers, comic-strip fans—that sort of person. But a growing number are from women who write to say they think Dilbert is sexy. Some say they’ve already married a Dilbert and couldn’t be happier.

If you’re not familiar with Dilbert, he’s an electrical engineer who spends most of his time with his computer. He’s a nice guy but not exactly Kevin Costner.

Okay, Dilbert is polite, honest, employed and educated. And he stays home. These are good traits, but they don’t exactly explain the incredible sex appeal. So what’s the attraction?

I think it’s a Darwinian thing. We’re attracted to the people who have the best ability to survive and thrive. In the old days it was important to be able to run down an antelope and kill it with a single blow to the forehead.

But that skill is becoming less important every year.

Now all that matters is if you can install your own Ethernet card without having to call tech support and confess your inadequacies to a stranger whose best career option is to work in tech support.

It’s obvious that the world has three distinct classes of people, each with its own evolutionary destiny:

  • Knowledgeable computer users who will evolve into godlike non-corporeal beings who rule the universe (except for those who work in tech support).
  • Computer owners who try to pass as knowledgeable but secretly use hand calculators to add totals to their Excel spreadsheets. This group will gravitate toward jobs as high school principals and operators of pet crematoriums. Eventually they will become extinct.
  • Non-computer users who will grow tails, sit in zoos and fling dung at tourists.

Obviously, if you’re a woman and you’re trying to decide which evolutionary track you want your offspring to take, you don’t want to put them on the luge ride to the dung-flinging Olympics. You want a real man. You want a knowledgeable computer user with evolution potential.

And women prefer men who listen. Computer users are excellent listeners because they can look at you for long periods of time without saying anything.

Granted, early in a relationship it’s better if the guy actually talks. But men use up all the stories they’ll ever have after six months. If a woman marries a guy who’s in, let’s say, retail sales, she’ll get repeat stories starting in the seventh month and lasting forever. Marry an engineer and she gets a great listener for the next 70 years.

Plus, with the ozone layer evaporating, it’s a good strategy to mate with somebody who has an indoor hobby. Outdoorsy men are applying suntan lotion with SPF 10,000 and yet by the age of 30 they still look like dried chili peppers in pants. Compare that with the healthy glow of a man who spends 12 hours a day in front of a video screen.

It’s also well established that computer users are better lovers. I know because I heard an actual anecdote from someone who knew a woman who married a computer user and they reportedly had sex many times. I realize this isn’t statistically valid, but you have to admit it’s the most persuasive thing I’ve written so far.

If you still doubt the sexiness of male PC users, consider their hair. They tend to have either: (1) male pattern baldness—a sign of elevated testosterone—or (2) unkempt jungle hair—the kind you see only on people who just finished a frenzied bout of lovemaking. If this were a trial I think we could reach a verdict on the strong circumstantial evidence alone.

I realize there are a lot of skeptics out there. They’ll delight in pointing out the number of computer users who wear wrist braces and suggest it isn’t the repetitive use of the keyboard that causes the problem. That’s okay. Someday those skeptics will be flinging dung at tourists. Then who’ll be laughing? (Answer to rhetorical question: everybody but the tourists.)

Henry Kissinger said power is the ultimate aphrodisiac. And Bill Clinton said that knowledge is power. Therefore, logically, according to the U.S. government, knowledge of computers is the ultimate aphrodisiac. You could argue with me—I’m just a cartoonist—but it’s hard to argue with the government. Remember, they run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, so they must know a thing or two about satisfying women.

You might think this was enough to convince anyone that men who use computers are sexy. But look at it from my point of view: I’m getting paid by the word for this article. I’m not done yet.

In less enlightened times, the best way to impress women was to own a hot car.

But women wised up and realized it was better to buy their own hot cars so they wouldn’t have to ride around with jerks.

Technology has replaced hot cars as the new symbol of robust manhood. Men know that unless they get a digital line to the Internet no woman is going to look at them twice.

It’s getting worse. Soon anyone who’s not on the World Wide Web will qualify for a government subsidy for the home-pageless. And nobody likes a man who takes money from the government, except maybe Marilyn Monroe, which is why the CIA killed her. And if you think that’s stupid, I’ve got 100 words to go.

Finally, there’s the issue of mood lighting. Nothing looks sexier than a man in boxer shorts illuminated only by a 15-inch SVGA monitor.

If we agree that this is every woman’s dream scenario, then I think  we can also agree that it’s best if the guy knows how to use the computer. Otherwise, he’ll just look like a loser sitting in front of a PC in his underwear.

In summary, it’s not that I think non-PC users are less attractive. It’s just that I’m sure they won’t read this article.

Still Rollin’ up the Rims

11 coffees so far. 1 win. That's 9%.

I'm not doing as well as last year.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Been a long time since I blogged and rolled…

Hmm. I’m not happy with that title, but it just popped into my head, and now it’s stuck there.

Remember the days when I used to blog on a regular basis, sometimes six or seven times within a day? Those days seem to be gone. But I haven’t lost my enthusiasm for blogging; it’s just that I’m starting to spread myself more thinly.

For example, currently, here are some of the things I have on the go:

  • I still have this blog, which I do post to occasionally
  • I have the serna Bible Blog, which I am often good about posting to regularly, although I usually do it during the day, so if I have a busy day at work, I don’t get time
  • I haven’t mentioned it much, here, I’ve started a wiki, about Ubuntu. It’s aimed at people who are currently Windows users, looking to make the switch, and I try to explain some things in a more friendly, less Linux-nerd style. (There isn’t a lot of information on the site, yet; the idea is that new Ubuntu users might start to come here first, and then, if it doesn’t have what they need, they could go on to try the forums, and wade through all of the Linux nerd jargon.) It’ll build slowly, especially since it’s not publicly available—I’m the only one who has permissions to edit things—but I’m fine with that.
  • I’m working on a presentation, on the basics of working with Excel. It’s mostly for Andrea, to use at work, since she says a lot of her colleagues really don’t know how to use it. (I had previously done one for her, on Outlook.) Frankly, I’m not an Excel guru either, but I have been using it for the last ten years or so, so I’m sure there will be some information that new users will find handy.
There is also the Eclipse plugin, that is sort of on hold, for the moment, because I have so many other things going on.

Cell Phone Annoyance

There’s someone who sits in my general vicinity, at work, who has a habit of leaving his cell phone on his desk, when he goes to meetings, with his ringer volume turned up very loud. So at various points throughout the day, I get irritated by hearing his loud, annoying, phone going off. People should really learn cell phone etiquette!

I’m sorry, what? You called me a hypocrite? How dare you! I… what? Well, yes, now that you mention it, my ringtone is Soul Bossa Nova, otherwise known as the Austin Powers theme music. But surely people wouldn’t find that annoy— what? Different people have different tastes in music? Well, yes, you’re right.

Okay, I withdraw my complaint about the coworker’s annoying ringtones. But the fact that he leaves his phone unattended, and it goes off all day, still st— sorry, what?

Well, yes, it’s true. I do sometimes leave my phone on my desk, when I pop downstairs to grab a coffee, or use the bathroom. And there are times that it might go off, when I do that.

Okay. I withdraw all of my objections. Sorry to bother you.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Keeping in Touch, in the 21st Century

I know it’s only Wednesday, but it’s been a weird week, this week. Weird because I’ve bumped into or talked to a good half dozen people that I used to work with, at a previous company. Actually, no, that’s an exaggeration; it’s only been four. Still, though, that’s a lot. I’m not the best at keeping up with people—even when they’re in my MSN Messenger list, as most of these people are—so coming into contact with so many, in unrelated situations, is bizarre.

But it’s not just former colleagues I’m bumping into. A friend—who also happens to be in my MSN Messenger list, and to whom I rarely speak—sent me an email this week, inviting me to join Facebook. This is in addition to the other friend, who invited me to join Facebook.

As an aside, I don’t know why so many people are inviting me to join Facebook; I know that the whole “social networking” thing is very trendy right now, but isn’t Facebook aimed at the college-aged crowd? I’m 32, and I have no urge to reclaim my youth. Next thing you know I’ll also have to sign up for the other ones; and Friendster and LiveJournal and MySpace, etc. etc. In fact, now that I think about it, I think I’ve already been invited, by other friends, to join MySpace.

It reminds me of all of the situation with all of the different chat clients, five years ago or so; I had to have multiple—MSN Messenger and ICQ and some other ones (the names of which elude me)—because I had friends who used each. If you didn’t use the same chat clients, you were in danger of losing touch. Now it’s social networking sites. If you don’t belong to Facebook, you might lose touch with all of your friends that do, and if you don’t belong to MySpace, then you might lose touch of the friends who use that.

The silly thing is that I know for a fact that not all of the people who are signing up for these services are going to stick with it. They’ll sign up for Facebook, and say to themselves “Wow, this is cool!” So they’ll fill out their profile, and upload some pictures, and then bombard their friends with invitations to join. And then people like me will do it, for fear of losing touch, only for the initial person to get bored after a while, and never touch it again.

So I’m still somewhat undecided. I doubt I’ll sign up for Facebook—even though I’m afraid of losing touch with the person who invited me—but you never know. Who knows? Maybe joining Facebook would give me “cred” with my youth group kids… (Just kidding, of course. If I don’t have cred with my kids, signing up for a useless social networking site isn’t going to do it.)

Monday, March 05, 2007


As is so often the case, this post will be a series of random ramblings. Which is too bad; I’d recently decided that these long, rambling posts probably aren’t a good idea. Wouldn’t it be more bloggerly to do a bunch of short posts, one for each topic? I think it would. But I haven’t yet put that into practice.

I finally succumbed to the cold that I’d been fighting off for… oh, months now. Since December? November? A while, anyway. So I worked from home Tuesday—so as not to spread the germs—then took Wednesday and Thursday off sick, and worked from home on Friday again. Frankly, I would have liked to have worked from home today, too, because it’s going to take a long time to get over this one, but I’ve been out of the office for most of a week, and figured I should probably show my face.

The good news, though, now that I’m back at the office, is that I can go back to my Tim’s coffee. As mentioned, it’s Roll up the Rim season, and I’m itchin’ for some rollin’. But I’m thinking that I might have to move my coffee consumption up a notch. One of the prizes, this year, is a Toyota hybrid, and Andrea and I have been talking about getting a hybrid for a long time. But I’ve heard that the odds of winning one of the big prizes is much higher, if you get large coffee, instead of medium. I don’t know if that’s true; people might just be assuming that. On the other hand, I won a lot last year, and got nothing but coffee and doughnuts, so maybe there is something to it…

After talking so much about Service-Oriented Architecture, I may soon be getting to put some of my theories to the test. It looks like I’ll be getting into at least one project—maybe two, related, projects—which will be service-oriented. We’ll see how it pans out.

I’m hoping to post something to the serna Bible Blog again soon; it’s been neglected, while I’ve been sick. But today may be crammed full of meetings, so we’ll have to wait and see.

I’ve been playing around with Ubuntu a bit more. I’ve finally got multiple monitors working—sort of. It’s too bad that this was so difficult to figure out; for the most part, installing Ubuntu was a snap. Install it, and it works, just like Windows. But when something doesn’t work—or doesn’t 100% work—there is a learning curve to figure out how to get it to work. (Probably the same learning curve that I would have had when I was first learning Windows, but I’m starting pretty much at square 0 again.)