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Current Events

Prancer

The internet is full of link rot. Things that you point to for their brilliance submerge out of view years later, lost to the sands of time. The wayback machine may be your only salvation but it’s like looking for lost scraps of paper in the attic.

For this reason, I have copy/pasted this bit of internet brilliance below for you to enjoy today and forever. The context is an adoption listing for a 2-year old Chihuahua in a brutally honest Facebook post that went wildly viral.

Ok, I’ve tried. I’ve tried for the last several months to post this dog for adoption and make him sound…palatable. The problem is, he’s just not. There’s not a very big market for neurotic, man hating, animal hating, children hating dogs that look like gremlins. But I have to believe there’s someone out there for Prancer, because I am tired and so is my family. Every day we live in the grips of the demonic Chihuahua hellscape he has created in our home. If you own a Chihuahua you probably know what I’m talking about. He’s literally the Chihuahua meme that describes them as being 50% hate and 50% tremble. If you’re intrigued and horrified at how this animal sounds already, just wait….there’s more. Prancer came to me obese, wearing a cashmere sweater, with a bacon egg n cheese stuffed in his crate with him. I should have known in that moment this dog would be a problem. He was owned by an elderly woman who treated him like a human and never socialized him. Sprinkle in a little genetic predisposition for being nervous, and you’ve concocted a neurotic mess, AKA Prancer. His first week he was too terrified to have a personality. As awful as it sounds, I kind of liked him better that way. He was quiet, and just laid on the couch. Didn’t bother anyone. I was excited to see him come out of his shell and become a real dog. I am convinced at this point he is not a real dog, but more like a vessel for a traumatized Victorian child that now haunts our home. Prancer only likes women. Nothing else. He hates men more than women do, which says a lot. If you have a husband don’t bother applying, unless you hate him. Prancer has lived with a man for 6 months and still has not accepted him. He bonds to a woman/women, and takes his job of protection seriously. He offers better protection than capitol security. This also extends to other animals. Have other dogs? Cats? Don’t apply unless they like being shaken up like a ragdoll by a 13lb rage machine. This may be confusing to people, as he currently lives with my other 7 dogs and 12 cats. That’s because we have somewhat come to an agreement that it’s wrong to attack the other animals. But you know that episode of The Office where Michael Scott silently whispers “I’ll kill you.” to Toby? That’s Prancer having to begrudgingly coexist with everyone when I’m around. We also mentioned no kids for Prancer. I think at this point, you can imagine why. He’s never been in the presence of a child, but I can already imagine the demonic noises and shaking fury that would erupt from his body if he was. Prancer wants to be your only child. So what are his good traits? He is loyal beyond belief, although to tell you a secret his complex is really just a facade for his fear. If someone tried to kill you I can guarantee he would run away screeching. But as far as companionship, you will never be alone again. He likes to go for car rides, he is housebroken, he knows a few basic commands, he is quiet and non destructive when left alone at home, and even though we call him bologna face he is kind of cute to look at. He also “smiles” when he is excited. His ideal home would be with a single woman, a mother and daughter, or a lesbian couple. You can’t live in an apartment or a condo unless you want him to ankle bite your neighbors. We already addressed the men and children situation. If you have people over he would have to be put away like he’s a vacuum. I know finding someone who wants a chucky doll in a dogs body is hard, but I have to try. Prancer is available through Second Chance Pet Adoption League. He is in New Jersey but can be adopted anywhere in the general tri state area. If you’ve always wanted your own haunted Victorian child in the body of a small dog that hates men and children, please email [email protected] Oh, also he’s only 2yrs old and will probably live to be 21 through pure spite, so take that into account if you’re interested.

Second Chance Pet Adoption League

The good news is that Prancer has been adopted and now has his own Instagram account @prancerthechihuahua

Hat-tipping Devon for the pointer.

Categories
Current Events

Full Disclosure

Diving into the minutiae of documents sometimes uncovers wonderful details and flashes of humanity.

Mutual Fund disclosure statements are the usual dry blah-de-dah boilerplates but The Wall Street Journal Moneybeat column digs out this chestnut from the go-go dotcom days before the crash.

Plain Language Risk Disclosure

First of all, stock prices are volatile. Well, duh. If you buy shares in a stock mutual fund, any stock mutual fund, your investment value will change every day. In a recession it will go down, day after day, week after week, month after month, until you are ready to tear your hair out, unless you’ve already gone bald from worry. It will insist on this even if Ghandi, Jefferson, John Lennon, Jesus and the Apostles, Einstein, Merlin and Golda Maier all manage the thing. Stock markets show remarkably little respect for people or their reputations. Furthermore, if the fund has really been successful, you might be buying someone else’s whopping gains when you invest, on which you may have to pay taxes for returns you didn’t earn. Just try and find somewhere you don’t, though. Dismal.

While the long-term bias in stock prices is upward, stocks enter a bear market with amazing regularity, about every 3 – 4 years. It goes with the territory. Expect it. Live with it. If you can’t do that, go bury your money in a jar or put it in the bank and don’t bother us about why your investment goes south sometimes or why water runs downhill. It’s physics, man.

Aside from the mandatory boilerplate terrorizing above, there are risks that are specific to the IPS Millennium Fund you should understand better. Since most people don’t read the Prospectus (this isn’t aimed at you, of course, just all those other investors), we thought we’d try a more innovative way to scare you.

We buy scary stuff. You know, Internet stocks, small companies. These things go up and down like Pogo Sticks on steroids. We aren’t a sector tech fund, we are a growth & income fund, but right now the Internet is where we think most of the value is. While we try to moderate the consequent volatility by buying electric utility companies, Real Estate Investment Trusts, banks and other widows-and-orphans stuff with big dividend yields, it doesn’t always work. Even if we buy a lot of them. Sometimes we get killed anyway when Internet and other tech stocks take a particularly big hit. The “we” is actually a euphemism for you, got it?

We also get killed if interest rates go up, because that affects high dividend companies badly. Since rising interest rates affect everything badly, we could get killed even worse if the Fed raises rates, or the economy in general experiences higher interest rates beyond the control of those in control, or gets out of control. Whatever.

Many of the companies we buy are growing really fast. Like, 50% – 100% per year sales growth. Many of them also don’t make any money, although they may be relatively large companies. That means they have silly valuations by traditional valuation techniques. We don’t know what that means any more than you do, because we have never seen anything like the Internet before. So we might overpay for these companies, thinking we are really smart and can get away with it because they are growing so fast. It doesn’t take a whole lot for these companies to drop 50% or more, because nobody else knows what they are worth either. Received Wisdom can turn on a dime in this business, and when that happens prices fall off a cliff.

Even if we were really smart and stole these companies, if their prices run way up we are still as vulnerable as if we were really dumb and paid that high a price for them to start with. If we sell them, you will get pretty irritated with us come tax time, so we try not to do any more of that than we have to. The pole of that strategy, though, is that if we are really successful, you will have a lot of downside risk in a recession or a bear market. Bummer.

Finally, if you haven’t already grabbed the phone and started yelling at your broker to sell our fund as fast as possible, you should understand the shifting sands of technology. It doesn’t take billions of dollars to start a high tech company, like it did U.S. Steel or Ford Motor. Anybody can do it, and everybody does. Many of our companies are small, even though they dominate their market niche. It’s much easier for a new technology to blow one of our companies out of the water than it was in the old days of canal, mining, railroad and steel companies.

Just so you know. Don’t come crying to us if we lose all your money, and you wind up a Dumpster Dude or a Basket Lady rooting for aluminum cans in your old age.

If you like that, check out other bits of brilliance that I’ve highlighted in the past:

Categories
Current Events

The probabilistic guarantees of a web browser

We’ve all been there. Something goes all sideways in our browser and we’re stuck with a spinning throbber as the fan kicks into overdrive. Tempted to see what might be going on, we roll up our sleeves and pop the virtual hood and our world goes from rainbows and unicorns into a stinky mess of barbwire orc-speak of the Inpect Element window.

James Mickens, writing for ;login: magazine, has a style of writing all his own. His last column for the magazine is a tour de force of the current state of HTML and how the whole thing is a teetering mess that can easily come tumbling down.

Each browser is reckless and fanciful in its own way, but all browsers share a love of epic paging to disk. Not an infrequent showering of petite I/Os that are aligned on the allocation boundaries of the file system—I mean adversarial thunder-snows of reads and writes, a primordial deluge that makes you gather your kinfolk and think about which things you need two of, and what the consequences would be if you didn’t bring fire ants, because fire ants ruin summers. Browsers don’t require a specific reason to thrash the disk; instead, paging is a way of life for browsers, a leisure activity that is fulfilling in and of itself. If you’re not a computer scientist or a tinkerer, you just accept the fact that going to CNN.com will cause the green blinky light with the cylinder icon to stay green and not blinky. However, if you know how computers work, the incessant paging drives you mad. It turns you into Torquemada, a wretched figure consumed by the fear that your ideological system is an elaborate lie designed to hide the excessive disk seeks of shadowy overlords. You launch your task manager, and you discover that your browser has launched 67 different processes, all of which are named “browser.exe,” and all of which are launching desperate volleys of I/Os to cryptic parts of the file system like “\roaming\pots\pans\cache\4$$Dtub.partial”, where “\4$$” is an exotic escape sequence that resolves to the Latvian double umlaut. You do an Internet search for potential solutions, and you’re confronted with a series of contradictory, ill-founded opinions: your browser has a virus; your virus has a virus; you should be using Emacs; you should be using vi, and this is why your marriage is loveless.

This choice bit is from, To Wash it All Away. There’s more where this came from. Someone pulled together a collection of a few choice essays over on MSDN which includes such gems as, Mobile Computing Research Is a Hornet’s Nest of Deception and Chicanery. Prose that only a frustrated Microsoft researcher could spawn. Peals of laughter, tears of joy – go read him now.

Categories
Office

Matt, meet Andy

I love hyperbolic prose. Especially when it’s used to sell something. Better yet when it’s pitching you or something you do.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune is hiring and Matthew Doig penned what is perhaps the all-time best Want Ad ever. It reads more like a call to arms than a job spec.

We want to add some talent to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune investigative team. Every serious candidate should have a proven track record of conceiving, reporting and writing stellar investigative pieces that provoke change. However, our ideal candidate has also cursed out an editor, had spokespeople hang up on them in anger and threatened to resign at least once because some fool wanted to screw around with their perfect lede.

We do a mix of quick hit investigative work when events call for it and mini-projects that might run for a few days. But every year we like to put together a project way too ambitious for a paper our size because we dream that one day Walt Bogdanich will have to say: “I can’t believe the Sarasota Whatever-Tribune cost me my 20th Pulitzer.” As many of you already know, those kinds of projects can be hellish, soul-sucking, doubt-inducing affairs. But if you’re the type of sicko who likes holing up in a tiny, closed  office with reporters of questionable hygiene to build databases from scratch by hand-entering thousands of pages of documents to take on powerful people and institutions that wish you were dead, all for the glorious reward of having readers pick up the paper and glance at your potential prize-winning epic as they flip their way to the Jumble… well, if that sounds like journalism Heaven, then you’re our kind of sicko.

For those unaware of Florida’s reputation, it’s arguably the best news state in the country and not just because of the great public records laws. We have all kinds of corruption, violence and scumbaggery. The 9/11 terrorists trained here. Bush read My Pet Goat here. Our elections are colossal clusterfucks. Our new governor once ran a health care company that got hit with a record fine because of rampant Medicare fraud. We have hurricanes, wildfires, tar balls, bedbugs, diseased citrus trees and an entire town overrun by giant roaches (only one of those things is made up). And we have Disney World and beaches, so bring the whole family.

Interested? Click through to apply. I bet you this is a job Friendster Andy could handle.

Categories
Current Events

Best Code Comment Ever

Comments left by developers in the dead of the night are inside jokes left for others. Little winks of comic relief left for others that will be parsing through the sub-routines trying to wrangle software to get things working. Usually code comments are short but this one left by a frustrated programmer of a Photoshop viewer is epic.

At this point, I’d like to take a moment to speak to you about the Adobe PSD format. PSD is not a good format. PSD is not even a bad format. Calling it such would be an insult to other bad formats, such as PCX or JPEG. No, PSD is an abysmal format. Having worked on this code for several weeks now, my hate for PSD has grown to a raging fire that burns with the fierce passion of a million suns.

If there are two different ways of doing something, PSD will do both, in different places. It will then make up three more ways no sane human would think of, and do those too. PSD makes inconsistency an art form. Why, for instance, did it suddenly decide that *these* particular chunks should be aligned to four bytes, and that this alignment should *not* be included in the size? Other chunks in other places are either unaligned, or aligned with the alignment included in the size. Here, though, it is not included. Either one of these three behaviours would be fine. A sane format would pick one. PSD, of course, uses all three, and more.

Trying to get data out of a PSD file is like trying to find something in the attic of your eccentric old uncle who died in a freak freshwater shark attack on his 58th birthday. That last detail may not be important for the purposes of the simile, but at this point I am spending a lot of time imagining amusing fates for the people responsible for this Rube Goldberg of a file format.

Earlier, I tried to get a hold of the latest specs for the PSD file format. To do this, I had to apply to them for permission to apply to them to have them consider sending me this sacred tome. This would have involved faxing them a copy of some document or other, probably signed in blood. I can only imagine that they make this process so difficult because they are intensely ashamed of having created this abomination. I was naturally not gullible enough to go through with this procedure, but if I had done so, I would have printed out every single page of the spec, and set them all on fire. Were it within my power, I would gather every single copy of those specs, and launch them on a spaceship directly into the sun.

PSD is not my favourite file format.

via Fark

UPDATE: If you want more code comments, check out Stack Overflow which has a collection of them.

Categories
Current Events

Friendster Andy

There’s a profile of a guy on Friendster making the rounds with the most over-the-top About Me section that it’s worth posting in its entirety:

I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice with my bare hands. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees, I write award winning operas, I manage time efficiently. Occasionally, I tread water for 3 days in a row. I woo women with my sensuous and god-like saxophone playing, I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines at unflagging speed, I cook 30 minute brownies in 20 minutes. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran of love, and an outlaw in Peru. Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single- handedly defended a small village in the Amazon Basin from a horde of ferocious army ants. I play bluegrass cello, I was scouted by the Mets, I am the subject of numerous documentaries. I enjoy urban hang gliding. On Wednesday afternoons I repair electrical appliances free of charge. I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don’t perspire. I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail. I have been caller number 9 and have won the weekend passes. Last summer I toured New Jersey with a traveling centrifugal-force demonstration. I bat 400. My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust me. I can hurl tennis rackets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. I once read Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, and David Copperfield in one day and still had time to refurbish an entire dining room that evening. I know the exact location of every item at the supermarket. I have performed several covert operations with the CIA. I sleep once a week; when I do sleep, I sleep in a chair. While on vacation in Canada, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery. The laws of physics do not apply to me. I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic and all my bills are paid. On the weekends, to let off steam, I participate in full-contact origami. Years ago, I discovered the meaning of life but I forgot to write it down. I have made extraordinary four course meals using only a mouli and a toaster oven. I breed prize-winning clams. I have won bullfights in San Juan, cliff-diving competitions in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at the Kremlin. I have played Hamlet; I have performed open-heart surgery, and have spoken to Elvis. But I have not yet been to Australia.

UPDATE: I have learned that this was lifted from essay written by someone named Hugh Gallagher in 1998. Hugh is now a writer.