I Wonder: Data Model

I was thinking today about the web video experience, and I wondered:

Would the data in a porn video stream be called the naughty bits?

And does that mean that video content protection is just a way for the producers to protect their privates?

If you don’t know the speed of your internet data connection, would you call it x rated?

If you enjoy a video, how do you tip your server?


Little Jokes for Saturday

There was a judge who lacked conviction; he couldn't complete his death penalty cases. He couldn't finish his sentences; he just left them hanging.

Did you hear about the laundry loads that fell in love? It was a sorted affair.


When I am King: Termi-Nation

When I am King...

Employee departure notices will be standardized.

It's always difficult for a company when someone leaves. If the person left involuntarily, kicking and screaming and scrabbling at the doorframes, then the company wants to appear as if it had no choice, or even as if the employee chose to leave and those layers of skin super-glued to their office chair were mere coincidence. On the other hand, when a person leaves voluntarily, the company wants it to appear as if the employee had no choice and that, all things being equal, they would happily have super-glued themselves to their office chair. Either way, the company wants to come out looking as though it's still the perfect place to be, and any recent departures are just happenstance and don't reflect the perfect nirvana of the company's culture.

Meanwhile, the employee also has a reputation to uphold for their career. If they are tossed out on the pavement with their measly box of personal items, from the leaky mug with lip-cutting edges their kid made in first grade to the collection of vintage porn that they're hiding from the wife, they want to make it look as though they chose to leave, standing in the middle of the busy street and yelling up at the towering office block, “Oh yeah? Well you can't fire me because I quit!” as they're winged by a passing pizza delivery car.

If, on the other hand, the employee has chosen to leave, they want to appear calm, cool, and collected, and avoid the temptation to moon their co-workers, because they know that they may come shuffling back in three weeks, begging for their old job and asking for the super glue.

One of the problems faced is what everyone should say.

For the employee, there is the traditional “Goodbye email” that is typically sent to a small, private list of people which usually includes everyone in the entire company. This email should reflect the right tone on why they are leaving. Or, to be more accurate, the message should lie as much as necessary to portray the employee in the best possible light.

In response, people that receive the email feel compelled to send something in return, wishing the quitters well or finally telling them what they thought of them.

Finally, the company's management team needs to have some response ready when and if anyone asks why the drone left this most perfect of all corporate environments.

All of these messages are currently developed manually and individually, every single time someone leaves a company. This is an incredible waste of productivity, from the anguish of what to say to the effort of writing and re-writing the messages to get the nuances just right. The whole process wastes huge amounts of time which could be much better spent chatting around the coffee pot, exchanging rumors of other employee departures.

When I am King, there will be standardized goodbye messages to simplify the entire process from all sides. This could make company terminations so easy that employees will feel free to move about at will. And companies will feel free to fire entire departments and move that work to cheaper locales. (Oh wait – that's already the case!)

All of these messages, from the departing employee, the fellow workers, and the company representatives, will be provided by simple templates that can be emailed, sent to PR newswires, or graffitied on the bathroom walls as appropriate.

The employee's template is as follows. Note that the same template should be used whether the employee walked out by choice or was thrown out by force; either way, they will want to make it seem like the calm, cool, collected decision that it probably wasn't.

After [make up a number here; nobody will care] years, it is time for me to move on. Although it was a difficult decision made over a series of [weeks, months, beers], I feel it is something I must do because I:

  1. ______ Want to spend more time with family

  2. ______ Am taking advantage of a new, exciting opportunity

  3. ______ Want to try something new

  4. ______ Have been fired for gross and disgusting insubordination

  5. ______ None of the above

  6. ______ All of the above except E

  7. ______ Some combination of ABCD: __________

  8. ______ Other reason (please explain in 1 word or less): __________

Good luck to everyone here. It's been my pleasure and honor to work with each and every one of you [optional: list every person in the organization, skipping individuals that really pissed you off], and know that I'll be rooting for the team regardless of what I may be doing at the competition. And heck, it's a small [industry, valley, city, world, galaxy]; I'm sure we'll have the chance to work together again.

Should anyone feel like contacting me in the future, you can always reach me at [option: you should give a fake email address here, as nobody will bother contacting you. Your are dead to them now].

[Good luck!, Go team!, Love and kisses!],
[Your name here]

Responders to this email will use this template (thanks to Brent C in HR (Humor Resources) for some of these items):

Hey [employee name],

  1. ______ Good luck!

  2. ______ You rat fink bastard. You realize, of course, that this means we'll all be inheriting all of your work on top of everything we're already swamped with. As if we haven't been carrying your lazy ass this whole time already. We're going to miss you ... only if our aim is off.

  3. ______ Can you take me with you!? (Just kidding! ;) (But not really! ;););)

  4. ______ Whatever. You'll come crawling back. They always do.

  5. ______ When are you leaving your office? I want first dibs on your stuff. Make sure you leave that framed “You want it when?!” poster – that cracks me up!

  6. ______ Who is this? Do I know you? Please remove me from this alias.

The company, meanwhile, uses this template for responding to any inquiries about this employee:

The former employee, [employee name], is no longer at this company because:

  1. ______ He Died

  2. ______ He is taking time off from the fast lane to spend with his dog

  3. ______ He is taking advantage of a unique, if superficial, opportunity

  4. ______ His wife was diagnosed with a serious nasal condition and he is taking time off to help clean up the mucous.

  5. ______ Ah, who cares? He was a jerk anyway. A real jerk. Good riddance!

  6. ______ He lost out in a power struggle typical of the executive levels at which he operated. His departure is just the unfortunate yet necessary result of the company's corporate evolution. The company is stronger for his absence.

  7. ______ He has a terminal illness and has left the company to pursue his life-long dream of driving in Nascar and touring every Budweiser factory south of the Mason Dixon before he finally kicks it.

Hopefully, these templates will help make our society an efficient and productive environment for quitters everywhere. I'm all fired up about it. We can make it work; it just takes a little de-termination.


Crystal Methodology (link)

I wrote a very geeky humor piece on software process on my Java blog the other day. Rather than paste it here wholesale, I'll just be lazy and link to it:



When I am King: Gratituitous

When I am King...

Superfluous gratitude will be required training, of course.

If you managed to read my Thanks Giving post, then you may have wondered to yourself, “How do people get so good at thanking other people?” Is it a trait that comes naturally to born leaders, or an instinctive animal behavior, like humming to inspid elevator music or eating donuts until we can feel the dough and lard coming out the top of our throat?

I've done some investigation and determined that it is actually a formal part of management training. Big companies realize that they are supposed to make employees feel wanted and appreciated. An important part of this process is thanking the employees profusely for anything they may or may not have done, because, as one management manual put it, "A thanked employee is an appreciative employee." And thanks is cheaper than cash. This management technique is so ingrained in corporate behavior that companies usually have courses around it, such as these:

CORP MT-1002-18 Making Employees Feel Wanted and Appreciated
Your employees work hard for you, and you want to make sure to do everything you can to keep them doing so, especially since manacles and whips are no longer alllowed in the workplace. This course teaches how to make employees feel like you appreciate their efforts, even when you don't know who they are or what they do.
This is a prerequisite for course MT-1002-19

CORP MT-1002-19 Gratuitous Gratitude
One of the most important tools at a manager's disposal is thanking their employees. There is no better way to make an employee feel like their efforts have not been a complete waste of their lives, yet this technique costs the company nothing! It only takes a little bit of your time, and you can even use automated programs (taught in this course) to send out the emails for you. Sending email works wonders for assuaging guilt over long working hours and the gradual disintegration of family life. Occasional hallway conversations can also make employees feel good (although fraternizing too much with employees is not recommended).
This is a prerequisite for course MT-1005-01

CORP MT-1005-01 Getting Promoted to Executive
Congratulations, you've made the big time! Something you have done in your career has merited catapulting to this awesome layer of management. Maybe you complimented an executive on a speech, or proposed a product vision that you heard about in some meeting, or brought a cappuccino to the CEO when she was feeling poorly. Whatever - it doesn't matter! Now you get to kick back and relax until they fire your butt in some internal political fracas that's certain to happen in the next year or two. But don't worry – executives earn way more money in an exit package than they do actually showing up to the office every day!
But in the meantime, you need to use all of the management skills that you acquired on your way up the ladder. Thank those below you (don't worry – we'll show you how to hire and thank people to do this for you) and suck up to those above; it's worked so far, and it'll keep on doing so.

You may be lucky enough to have classes like these offered at your company, but many people currently learn to do it on their own. When I am King, these courses will be offered as required curriculum starting at the the grade-school level. It's never too early to start sucking up and patronizing people.

In the meantime, keep thanking your employees and getting thanked by those more important than you. It might seem silly at first, but you'll thank me later.


When I am King: Hyper Activity

When I am King...

Our children will do more and play less.

A great debate rages in parenting circles about how much time our kids should be spending in extracurricular activities. Soccer, piano, baseball, art, swimming, martial arts, chess, parole hearings: there's clearly a lot to choose from, and more than enough to soak up a youngster's every waking moment.

On the pro side is the experience gained by the kids: teamwork, community, competitive skills, athletic prowess, mental agility, and stress management.

The detractors argue that we're not allowing enough time for the kids to just be kids. There are also things to be gained from simply having play time at home, such as: imagination, creativity, appreciation of family, and advanced capabilities with the latest game consoles.

I tend to favor the latter approach. Not only do I appreciate the positive things that it does for the kids, it allows me the petty rationalization of not having to cart the kids around in the mornings, afternoons, evenings, and all weekend to the various practices, meetings, meets, tournaments, and court appointments that a full activity schedule would require.

But I realized recently that I'm ignoring an important part of the equation. There's one other critical skill that all of this activity activity is teaching our kids: commuting.

When I was a kid and there were no activities available outside of my favorite “Let Chet out of the closet for 5 minutes” game that my parents used to play with me on some afternoons, I wasn't driven anywhere. Childhood transportation consisted of going to a nearby school and back, plus the occasional fleeing of Interpol until all charges were finally dropped after undisclosed sums exchanged hands.

So when I grew up and got a job, it was a nasty shock to have to actually commute to work. For weeks, I waited in vain outside my home for the yellow school bus to take me to work. I also attempted to walk to work, typically reaching the office sometime the following day. It took me a long time to come to grips with the fact that I had to spend a long time in the car driving to work. Every day. Wouldn't my professional life have been easier if I could have learned this earlier?

This, I would argue, is the true reason that we should all push our kids into over-achieving in all activities; because in so doing, they'll learn what it's really like to become a contributing member of society. As they sit in the car being driven a half hour to a practice, 45 minutes to a match, or for several hours to weekend meets, they'll start to appreciate their time in the car and learn to live with the close-knit community of traffic that surrounds them like a glass and steel mitten. Then, when they grow up, they'll aim for a house in the distant suburbs so that they can get back to the wonderful world of driving that they grew up with.

When I am King, I'll require that all kids are enrolled in every activity available, especially those which require long and tedious drives away from home. Let them experience the joys of driving now, while they're still young and can learn from it and appreciate how full and rich their lives are because of it.

I'll work more on this, just as soon as I get home later tonight. After my commute.


When I am King: Flush with Pride

When I am King...

I was on a plane recently and nearly fell out. Or to be more precise, I nearly got sucked out. I should never have flushed.

The toilets on airplanes must be connected directly to the jet engines. You press lightly on the happy, cartoony “Flush!” button, and the next thing you know, the cabin is filled with an explosive Whoosh! sound and you're scrabbling for purchase on the tampon bin to avoid getting pulled down the john.

I can't imagine why they have that much suction on the toilet unless they are simply opening up a trap on the underside of the plane and letting it all go.

What kind of things are other people doing in the toilets that require such force? And how many passengers have we lost to the flusher? I can imagine a lonely fisherman off the coast of Scotland as a plane flies unseen far overhead. A warm sprinkling of drops alights upon the man's face and he mutters, “Och! A wee rain.” The brief shower stops and he wrinkles his nose as he gets a whiff. Then a man in a business suit lands on him.

It reminds me of a trip, years ago, on a train in Italy, traveling down the desolate eastern coast. I had to use the toilet (a bad habit of mine on trips, apparently). When I flushed, I saw the bottom of the toilet simply drop down and the contents spill onto the railroad ties rushing by underneath. It gave new meaning to the phrase "potty training."

This approach certainly seems efficient for airplanes – there's no complicated flushing scheme, no storage issues, and no unpleasant jobs for people emptying, carting, and disposing of the contents of the portable septic tank. The toilet just drops its load, bit by organic bit. Sure, you're covering the entire earth in a thin layer of refuse, but that's what roofs, umbrellas, and hats are for.

When I am King, more disposal systems will work this way.
  • Home toilets will work with the efficiency of those on my airplane and train trips; they will simply let it all hang out and release their contents onto the ground below, or into pipes that go to your neighbor's foundation.
  • Garbage cans will have no bottom. When the can is full, you simply pick it up and move it to some place that does not yet have a standing pile, perhaps on your neighbor's yard.

Barf bags on the plane, however, would continue to be sealed containers. Having them empty out onto the floor would just be too gross.


Little Jokes: A Fair Cop

Earlier today, London police apprehended a youth accused of kidnapping his mother.
Attempts to get the boy to talk have been unsuccessful so far. According to a police spokesman, "He's keeping mum."


When I am King: Overleft Leftovers

When I am King...

Refrigerators will be self-cleaning.

The refrigerator is a simple device; it's just a cold box with shelves. It's barely more advanced than it was in the 1800's, when some guy named Luigi would deliver blocks of ice to your house in his horse-drawn wagon with his son 'Pinky', a nice kid that everyone pitied since he lost nine fingers to frostbite last summer trying to earn an extra penny one Saturday so that he could buy a hoop to go with the stick he'd bought the previous year.

All refrigerators work the same: You put some food on a shelf until you need it, then you take it out. Or you put some other food on the shelf in front of it, take it out, then take out the first food item.

If I were a geek, I'd say the fridge was a simple "stack" system, or a "Last In, First Out (LIFO)" queue, where the last thing you put in is the first thing you see, and usually the first thing eaten. You should eventually get around to the food that you put in there first; you just have to wait until it reaches the front of the queue on that shelf.

At least, that's the theory. In practice, you put the food on a shelf, then forget about it. You then put some other food in front of it on the same shelf and push the original food toward the back. A few days pass and more food is added to the front, pushing everything further toward the rear of the fridge until it hits the wall and everything starts to compress.

In my experience, by the time a leftover has made it to the second layer, it's a goner. The next time you see that food will be when you've been forced to clean out the appliance by order of the Health Department. And the only reason that you know it's food is that mold (which comes in many startling colors, at least in my fridge) usually starts from something edible. So it's either food or an unmatched, sopping mitten in a plastic tub.

Isn't it time that we brought this sorry appliance into our century? We can't do much for Pinky, but we can at least improve the device that put his father out of work.

When I am King, I'll introduce a new line of self-composting refrigerators. They will resemble today's appliances in most respects except that the shelves will stop short of the rear wall. When food reaches that last level of forgotten hell on a shelf, it will automatically drop down the back into a chute, where the food will be composted and the container sent to the dishwasher.

Why have just an ice box, when you can have a nice box instead?