Apr 27 2011

How to Insult Someone Like a Viking

Did you know that the Vikings liked to play the dozens? They had this great tradition of the senna, or insult contest, many of which actually got recorded for posterity as part of the Norse sagas. So the next time you need a snappy comeback, consider one of these:

“It is my pleasure to fight with distinction while you kiss your bondwomen by the fire.”

“It is strange that you dare to come in an army with good men, you who have sucked the blood of many cold corpses.”

“You were gelded by the giant’s daughters on Thrasness.”

“Do you remember when you were a mare with the stallion Grani and I rode you at full speed on Bravoll? Afterward you were the goatherd of the giant Golnir.”

“I sired nine wolves on you at Laganess, and I was the father of them all.”

I particularly like that last one, for its combination of sexual intimidation and sheer WTF-ery. A surefire put-down for any situation!

Apr 27 2011

Take Me To Your Leader

I have this daydream I revisit occasionally. It’s the one where the aliens come, and they make contact, first of all, with me. But not because they actually want to talk with me. “You, specimen of this planet’s dominant species,” they say. “You…hew-mahn. You appear to be unexceptional in age and social status, and you are a representative of the type that slightly dominates your world’s population. Fee-males. Unexceptional hew-mahn fee-male, please identify a small group of those who may speak on behalf of your world. We will bring those you name aboard our ship to negotiate a preliminary treaty between the hew-mahns and the bzzzt-SCHREE! Please excuse. That was a translator error.”

So then I name a few people who I’d trust to represent humanity in the first contact with the aliens. This is the fun part of the daydream. Who would you choose? Say you’re sitting there, at the computer, and your room fills with green light and the aliens start talking to you in their weird distorted voices. Who do you tell them to go look for?

The aliens are prepared to deal with between three and eight people. You have to keep in mind, of course, that the more people you send, the more likely it is humanity’s message will become confused and jumbled. My current group is: President Obama, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Stephen Hawking, Seth Shostak of the SETI project, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Judith Martin (Miss Manners). Shostak and Le Guin are in there because I figure it would be good to have some people who have spent a lot of time thinking about first-contact scenarios, and Mrs. Martin makes an appearance because I can’t think of a situation that requires more delicacy, tact, and charm. The group is weighted towards Americans because, well, I’m American, but I do try to pick a group that’s diverse along as many axes as possible.

So who would you pick, to represent humanity? It’s good to be prepared.

Apr 25 2011

Happy Spring!

I hope everyone who celebrated Easter yesterday had an excellent holiday; that those who are observing Passover are in the midst of similar excellence; and that those who are merely in a mood to celebrate spring weather are managing to endure the grey and wet with patience.

We hosted Pappy and Nonna over the weekend, which was delightful as always, especially for the kids. We dyed eggs:


and Robin had a great time hunting them in the backyard:


while Davy cheered from the warmth of his Pappy’s lap:


Then we had Easter dinner! At the store I got the very last leg of local lamb, and we roasted it along with snap peas and carrots from our veggie box, and a strawberry pie for dessert. The strawberries were from our veggie box too, and even the herbs were snipped from our front yard (we planted two rosemary shrubs flanking the front steps a few weeks ago). I didn’t take a picture of the food, but I did snap a photo of the flower arrangement, of which I am unreasonably proud:


I dunno, it just came out in a particularly satisfactory fashion somehow. Lilacs, pink-shaded calla lillies, and pussy willows. Even though it’s drippy and chill outside, having pretty flowers makes me happy about Spring.

Apr 14 2011

Quick Update

I haven’t posted much recently, I know. The main thing going on right now is that Sam’s grandmother Elsie is in failing health. We’re leaving for Reno tomorrow, but we’re told that she probably won’t be aware of us when we’re there. Elsie is a kind and generous lady who makes a great fruitcake and keeps her fridge papered with pictures of the boys. I’m glad Robin got to spend some time with her, and sorry that Davy didn’t get to see her more. And of course I have enormous sympathy for Sam’s family during this difficult time.

Update: I just learned that Elsie passed away last night. I’m so sorry for Sam and his family.

Apr 1 2011

A Minor Setback Amidst all the Awesome

Molly the mastiff didn’t have enough puppies for us to get one from this litter. I think we’re top of the waiting list now, but it will be several months before another litter of puppies is born—and Molly won’t be the mama, which is a little bit of a pity, as she was our favorite of the doggies that the breeder had. But we’re still getting a puppy sometime in the near future!

Apr 1 2011

Breaking Breaking This Just In

Robin was accepted into the awesome co-op preschool! I am doing my happy dance all around the house!

Apr 1 2011

Not an April Fool’s Post

So Sam has a new job!

Pretty much ever since we moved into the new house, we’ve been talking about ways to shorten his commute, which is currently awful—it takes about an hour and a half to get from our house to his office in Mountain View. But with the move, and the new baby, Sam also didn’t really want to add a new source of upheaval to our lives, so it’s only in the past few weeks that he’s really been sending out résumés. Oddly, as soon as he’d applied for one job, four different people got in touch with him about possible openings in other outfits: I guess a lot of companies that put off projects or growth during the recession are looking to make new hires now.

He’s had a few interviews at different places, but of all the possibilities we were really rooting for Zynga. Yes, the folks who make FarmVille. Neither of us play FarmVille (or any of their games, actually), but Sam really likes the platform they’re using to run their services, and he was impressed by the general intelligence level around the office. “Those Zynga people make me feel dumb,” he said after the first interview, which if you know Sam is really saying something. (Sam is quietly, devastatingly intelligent: I have a pretty darn high opinion of my own IQ, but over the years I’ve slowly come to the conclusion that Sam is actually smarter than me.) It’s also a really good sign that he was struck particularly by the elegance of their architecture and the competence of their technical team, as when Sam complains about his job he mostly complains about: 1) having to work within arbitrary limitations imposed by poor network architecture or badly-engineered products, and 2) inept coworkers. He doesn’t mind having to deal with difficult problems: he minds having to deal with stupid, unnecessary problems.

Anyway, apparently the affection between Sam and Zynga is mutual, as they offered him the job—he starts on April 18th! His job title will be Linux/Splunk Administrator. Splunk is a specific tool for analyzing network data that Sam has been specializing in over the past few years at VeriSign and Symantec—he likes it a lot. (I know this mostly because he has four Splunk t-shirts and he wears them all the time.) It turns out that Zynga is probably Splunk’s biggest customer, and while they’re currently using it in a fairly straightforward way to locate bugs and performance issues in their games, they have plans to build out some Splunk-based tools that would do things Sam describes as “sexy.” (Seriously. He said that.)

In the Zynga interview, the hiring manager asked Sam where he sees himself in five years. Now, Sam and I did some practice interviews where I helped him work out stock responses to some of the cliche interview questions (“What’s your greatest strength? What’s your greatest weakness?” etc.) But we hadn’t practiced that one, so Sam kind of blinked and then made what might have been the mistake of answering honestly. “I don’t know,” he said. “If you asked me that five years ago, I would’ve said that I wanted to be married, and I wanted a house. Now I have those things, and a couple of kids. So I guess in five years I just want to be watching my kids grow up.”

Of course he probably should have said something pertaining to a career arc, but when he told me that I just went “awwww.” And apparently the hiring manager has kids as well, and he kind of went “awww” a little, too.

But then! He explained that while at first Sam’s job would just be to keep all the existing technology running smoothly, because Zynga has all these plans for live, nude, sexy data analysis action, they also need someone who can help them design and build out that stuff—a tools architect, sort of. I don’t think there’s really a standard job title for it yet, but it’s something that’s becoming more common: companies need people who aren’t really traditional sysadmins (although they need the sysasmin knowledge base) and aren’t part of the programming team either (although they do need to be able to write code). But instead of working on the end product like the programmers do, or working in operations like the sysadmins do, these people build and maintain the technical infrastructure that both teams use to do their jobs. This is actually what Symantec has Sam doing now, except it’s frustrating because he has to spend too much of his time creating kludgy hacks to support legacy systems, and also doing other people’s jobs for them. So he’s really excited about the prospect of moving to a sleek, shiny startup where he’ll have more leeway to design things in an intelligent fashion.

And I’m excited about the prospect of amassing piles of cash and rolling around on them, Scrooge McDuck style. Well, not really, but Sam will be getting some Zynga stock as part of all this, and if and when Zynga has the IPO that all the analysts are a-twitter about, we could become Internet fraction-of-a-millionaires! Where the fraction is, uh, small. But hey! Still exciting.

Oh, and the commute! Zynga is based in San Francisco, so Sam will be able to take BART (or maybe even the ferry) into work. It’ll be a lot more pleasant than spending hours every day on the freeway. And hopefully he can also do things like get lunch with some of his friends who also work in the city.

So, new job! Wooo!