The Proposal Style of Python

I wrote about The Breakup Style of PowerPoint,
in which I talked about how I suspect that office culture and
PowerPoint style is behind the rash of email breakups I’d been hearing
about lately. It’s only fair to also talk about how people use
computers to do the opposite, namely proposing marriage.

Snaggy from the Joy of Tech webcomic writes:

When we heard that Forum member and SuperFan
“angryjungman” was thinking of popping the question, we offered to make
it a very special day by letting him use the Joy of Tech comic as his
proposal medium. After discussing it with Tony and coming up with an
idea, we set out to work. Using photo references, Nitrozac turned the
young couple into comic illustrations, and depicted a cute story line
in which Tony calls his girlfriend over to his computer to read some
code that he has written. The Python code she reads is actually a
proposal, including an ASCII text art engagement ring…

The initial “cliffhanger” comic is here, and if you read the final comic, you’ll find out that she said “yes”. Congrats, guys!

Although I am a programmer by trade and hobby and really like
Python, I’ll probably not opt for this route. The accordion may be
involved, however.

I look forward to reading various critiques of Tony’s Python code on
the newsgroups. Even I, a rather non-pendantic person by programmer
standards, looked at the code and said “Why’d he do it that way?”,
knowing full well that it was writen with Steph in mind, not the Python


That Jon Udell is One Deep Brutha!

In response to Joyce “Troutgirl” Park’s firing over her blog (which I covered here), he’s written an article which concludes with this paragraph:

Ecologists know that life is most interesting, and also most dangerous, at habitat boundaries — where the ocean meets the shore, where the forest meets the meadow. And in the virtual world, where the private meets the public. A healthy ecosystem requires that we colonize that marginal zone. When people get hurt trying to do that — in the right ways, for the right reasons — we should offer them not only our condolences, but also our thanks.

A filet mignon on a flaming sword to you, sir!

It Happened to Me

From my CD-ROM archives I: Virtual Bubble Wrap, Standalone Edition

This is the first in a series of goodies that I found on a stash of
CD-ROM archives that’d completely forgotten about until I was cleaning
up some old junk this weekend.

One application that had received considerable buzz in the Mac world
back in 1994 was something called the Mackerel Stack. It was an
interactive multimedia piece that showcased the company’s work. Written
in the Hypercard-like Supercard, it was an amazing piece of software
and it fit on a single 1.2 MB floppy disk!

It was packed with “easter eggs”, the most popular of which was a
little zen game called Virtual Bubble Wrap. Designed by Creative
Director Dave Groff with the input of the other Creative Director Kevin
Steele and programmed with the help of all-round-idea-guy Karl Borst,
VBW was a little interactive gem. I joined Mackerel in 1995
and near the end of that year, after waking up on Mike Korditsch’s
couch with an awesome Tequila-induced hangover after celebrating my
birthday, I went home and coded what would eventually become the
Shockwave version of VBW.

It would go on to be featured in InterActivity
magazine (In the article, Macromedia engineers talked about how they
used VBW as part of their Shockwave demos) and a number of then-new
television shows that covered the then-relatively-new World Wide Web.

I found a standalone version of Virtual Bubble Wrap for Windows that
I’d put together back in the days of Windows 98. It still works under
Windows XP, and I’ve attached a ZIPped version with this entry if you
ever feel you need to zen out for a couple of minutes.

I have the source, so it’s possible for me to compile a Mac version;
the problem is that all my editions of Director (the software I used to
write it) are pre-Mac OS X; it will run only on pre-OS X machines
(which I no longer have) and will only produce programs that run on
pre-OS X machines.

Dave Groff and Kevin Steele have a fine essay about “the good ol’ days”  titled When Multimedia Was Black and White.


On Troutgirl’s Getting Fired for Blogging [Updated]

Last night while cruising for new links before going to
bed, I noticed a link to Joyce “Troutgirl” Park’s blog entry on how her
employer, Friendster, fired her for blogging. Being too tired to blog,
I made a note to write about it in the morning and got scooped by Cory
Doctorow in Boing Boing
and Jeremy Zawodny in his own blog.

(The moral of the story: the early bird may get the worm, but the night
owl gets the nice juicy field mice.)

Here’s the entry in its entirety:

So I was terminated
from Friendster today. The reason given was blogging.

The levels of irony on this are pretty deep. For one thing, I
wrote a fairly well-known paper last year about the need for semi-permeable
. For another thing, by all accounts the particular
posts that led to my termination were this
and this

(although feel free to check my archives for any other incriminating
information). I try really hard not to blog about anything that is not
a matter of public record… but I guess that’s not protection any
more. You get Slashdotted, make Udell’s column, lose your job. And
finally, it’s especially ironic because Friendster, of course, is a
company that is all about getting people to reveal information about

Let me note that I loved working for my VP of engineering,
Winner, and I loved my team with all my heart. I worked really hard for
that company, and I don’t think I have anything to be ashamed of.

[See the update below] This isn’t the first time I’d heard of someone being fired for what they’d written in their blog. Heather “Dooce” Armstrong
wrote some less-than-kind words about her coworkers in her blog, which
prompted one of them to email every vice president in the company,
pointing them to the offending entries. In her case, I think her
company had a fairly strong case for firing her, even though she’d “made sure not to mention specific places, persons, or events by name”.

[Update]: Bill points out:

Clarification on the Dooce firing:
the uncomplimentary comments were an in-joke between her and the person in question, who found it pretty funny. Someone else snitched.

Here’s what Heather wrote:

…my boss and the human resources representative pulled me into a
conference room and handed me my last paycheck. They explained that the
company had a zero-tolerance policy about negativity (?), that my
website was influencing the younger, more impressionable members of the
company, and that the CEO demanded that I be terminated at once.

I received no severance.

As for those of you who think I was stupid to post things on my
website about my job and about co-workers: I refuse to live in fear. I
refuse to be censored. I’ve lived my life far too long in fear of
disrupting expectations. I made a conscious decision when I conceived that I would never bow to the intimidation of others,
including employers or pussy-ass cocksmacks who think I should just
stop complaining and be a good worker bee already. For those of you who think it wrong to speak up about matters that
fundamentally bother you, go and join the fucking Mormon Church. Attend
BYU. Take it up the ass and bleed. Whatever you do, don’t read, and certainly don’t think for yourself. Scandalous!

Get a goddamn sense of humor, for fucking crying out loud.

I will stand corrected…on the facts.

I am not quite convinced of the wrongness of her former employers’ decision.

I will keep in mind that Heather wrote this one day after her firing
and that people generally tend to be more strident in writing than they
are in person. However, the general tone of her writing, the fact that that she’d managed to alienate her own  family with a diatribe about their religion and the last bit of the snippet above all give
us a possible insight to her personality: namely that she’s whip-smart
and funny as all get-out, but for the love of God, don’t make her the
ambassador to anything.

Mark Pilgrim was — in my
opinion, I a
m not a lawyer nor a human resources specialist, and so on
unfairly fired for posting an article about how he’d overcome
addiction. The article in question now appears at a special site,

When she was fired, the higher-ups cited two blog entries:

In spite of the fact that everything she’d written about the company was a matter of public record, Friendster’s new CEO, former NBC President Scott Sassa
(ah, a television exec — I’m beginning to see the source of the
stupidity) saw fit to fire her. The firing is especially stupid in
light of the fact that Friendster’s business is about divulging
information about yourself.

Since my displeasure with Friendster’s move is far, far greater than
its utility to me (my blog remains my most powerful social software), I
have decided to cancel my account with Friendster. If you feel that you
too would like to leave Friendster, click here to cancel your account.

(Jeremy Zawodny has posted a screenshot of Friendster’s account-cancellation page.)

C’mon, free market! It’s time for invisible hand to do some pimp-slappin’!

Side note

I’m in an unusual position here. One of the major factors in my hiring
was my blog. In fact, during the weeks I was being interviewed, our CEO
Elliot Noss told several Tucows employees to check out my blog, particularly the entry about the New Girl, which was getting tens of thousands of hits at the time. Boss Ross
and Elliot read my blog often, and Elliot often comments on my articles
when he passes by my desk (which is quite often — I’m in the dead
center of the middle aisle).

The fact that we make a blogging tool also makes it pretty hard to fire someone solely for blogging.

When I signed my employment contract, Ross simply said “keep on
blogging what you blog; just don’t give away any company secrets”, and
as of late, Ross has suggested that I blog about what’s happening in
here more.

As for not bad-mouthing my coworkers, well, that goes without saying.

Jeremy Zawodny has a collection of links at the bottom of his entry on Troutgirl’s firing — check it out.


More entries later

I’m quite busy right now, and even my thoughts during downtime are
filled with concern about this week’s tasks, as you can see in the
photo below:


We’ve Got to Get Wil Wheaton on One of These

Dude, it would make a killer photo. Just don’t drive it anywhere near a biker bar.




Wordcount is, according to its “About” page:

WordCount™ is an artistic experiment in
the way we use language. It presents the 86,800 most frequently
used English words, ranked in order of commonality. Each word is
scaled to reflect its frequency relative to the words that precede
and follow it, giving a visual barometer of relevance. The larger
the word, the more we use it. The smaller the word, the more uncommon
it is.

“Accordion” is the 31,327th most-used word, just behind “prewar” and ahead of “finery”.