An indicator of just how full of poo I am…

Here, at the end of 2002, I know next to nothing about the programing language called “C.” (Nor about any other programming language for that matter.) So you can imagine how little I knew about it nine years ago.

That didn’t stop me from writing a letter to the editor of The C User’s Journal back in 1993. I was working as a technical writer for a company whose name sounds like a skin condition, and one day one of the programmers was complaining about something he was reading in that magazine. I think it was a letter to the editor from some dork who objected to using personification and metaphor when discussing code, and who said something about humans being in complete control of their environment.

It focussed on some specific bit of code or math or something, and the guy reading the magazine explained it to me enough that I almost understood. So on a lark, I fired off a letter to the editor replying to the first guy’s letter.

Apparently the editor of The C User’s Journal was even more bored than me, because they printed my letter a few months later.

I had long since forgotten about this until last night, when I did a vainoogle (vanity Google search) while waiting my turn in the bathroom before bedtime. I found the damn letter I wrote to The C User’s Journal! Unlike a good wine, it has not matured with age — it is just as incomprehensible now as it was then.

Here it is (open the page and search on “hawco”). I’ve never smoked crack, but if I did, this is what I’d probably sound like.


Re-reading Friday’s post it occurs to me that it could be read as an indictment of my peers and a pat on the back for myself. That certainly wasn’t the intention.

It was provoked, as stated, by some frustration I felt over being given a badly-written document to “fix up.” I was frustrated first of all by the badness of the writing, but since the author does not claim to be a writer I really shouldn’t complain. Perhaps I’m so far in these woods that I expect everyone to be a lumberjack. What really frustrates me, however, was the notion that this dog needs only minimal grooming when in fact it needs a complete rewrite.

This latter frustration hits me on two levels. I resent that some people think editing a sow’s ear into a silk purse is fast and easy. By dismissing it as such, it belittles my effort. More frustrating is that many people don’t recognize the sow’s ear for what it is. Forget about not writing well, what are we to do with these people who don’t even read well? (I’m not talking about people who have literacy problems — I’m talking about people who have critical judgement problems.)

That said, I’m happy to report (if you haven’t noticed already) that I tend to overstate things. In retrospect, while much of what I get to “fix up” is bad, it isn’t all that bad, and the vast majority of it does not come from writers. And if I really think about it, those who tell me it should just take a few minutes to fix up are probably engaging in wishful thinking more than project management. I’m sure it’s often a matter of them not wanting to burden me or whatever, so they slip it to me labelled “easy” and then dive for cover once I’ve accepted it.

Still, the bad writing comments stand, but they really do focus on the bottom wrung writers — those who are either very new to the trade, or simply don’t get it. Or both. The majority of writers I know understand that to wear the hat you have to put in more effort that you do with a letter to Mom or an email to your parole officer. Except for the marketing/PR writers part — most of them suck, and I oughta know because I am one. ;-p

Another undocumented feature of the iMac…

baking bootyMeet Roxy, a Cornish Rex, currently living just outside of Quebec City. Roxy is essentially hairless, and she has discovered that sitting on her servant’s iMac is a great way to keep her bald ass warm.

I used to think hairless cats were freaks, but after getting to know Roxy and her friend Mikey, I’m convinced that if I get more cats to keep Spiff company they’re be Cornish Rexes. They’re not just hairless (and thus shedless), they’re a lot of fun and really affectionate. I also found that they’re very warm. I think their lack of fur means they generate a lot of body heat to compensate. Mmmmmm…. warm kitty…

I hate the cost of saving a few bucks!

In January of 1993 some idiot kicked in my door and stole all of my cameras and my VCR. I was a student of photography at Concordia U. at the time, so losing my cameras was a real blow, on top of the fact that the woman I was married to had walked out a week earlier.

Aside from the trauma of the violation, which included a boot print on one of my pillows and a couple of horrified cats, it turned out to be like winning the lottery, because I was insured.Basically, I traded in an armload of broken and shopworn early-80s-era Minoltas for a full and up-to-date Nikon kit that I had previously not even dared dream of.

In there somewhere I also got a new VCR. I decided to save $50 by buying the non-stereo version of the very expensive 4-head Sony VCR that I had selected. What was the point, considering my TV had only one speaker? (Historians will note that I did, however, toss an extra $200 for half an f-stop on the 50mm f1.4 lens that I chose over the more conventional f1.8 model.)

Two years later I was much better paid at work, had a much bigger TV, and was able to run a VCR through my stereo had it been a stereo VCR! In the meantime, I had taken maybe one or two photos with the 50mm 1.4 lens, prefering instead the more natural–for me–28mm wide-angle lens.

Alas, my VCR was not stereo. So I spent several years in mono (occasionally running a split mono feed through the stereo speakers). Then, a year or so ago my (then) girlfriend suddenly found herself without a VCR. She was still running a straight-to-(20-year-old)-television feed, so my mono machine was perfect for her, and it was still running like it was brand new.

So I jumped at the opportunity… I passed the Sony machine on to her (in exchange for many smooches) and upgraded my VCR. Not long after that I went insane and ended up with a 5-channel stereo receiver, 5.1 speaker system, DVD player, etc.

OK, OK, so I got over the woes of my $50 savings from 1993. What I didn’t tell you is this. Just before my recent sound-system upgrade rampage, I bought a 5-disk carrousel CD player for the insanely low price of about $120 (CDN). I got the cheap, but widely regarded, RCA RP8065. For a few dollars more I could have gotten the RP8070. The only difference is that the RP8070 has an optical output for pure digital delivery to the receiver. Big Freakin’ Deal sez I. I don’t even have a freakin’ digital receiver!

A month later I had a digital receiver.

OK, frankly, I doubt I can tell the difference aurally. But the difference smashed me over the head last night when I went to transfer a mix CD I had made on my PC to a MiniDisc. My MD recorder is a portable player/recorder that came with an optical cable for direct digital recording from a CD player to MD. But I can’t do that because my CD player doesn’t have an optical output! My only workaround is a bunch of analog patches. Can you spell D-E-G-R-A-D-E? REM never sounded so fuzzy.

Alternatively, I can buy an RCA-to-¼inch patch cord for not much less than I would have paid for the upgrade to the more expensive machine with the optical feed, and suffer only minor analog humiliation.

As much as I like to think of myself as something of an anti-materialist, this is a lesson learned and unlearned and relearned, over and over: Think ahead!