Author Archive

“What the hell am I doin’ here?”

Postmodern Jukebox, “Creep” (Radiohead Cover)


So that’s where they come from

Found via I Heart Chaos.

“Least that’s what people say”

Ryan Adams, “Shake It Off (Taylor Swift cover)”, found via friend-of-the-blog Meagan.

New comment policy

I’ve gotten sick of Akismet occasionally derping out and letting in a flood of spam comments. The comments seem to largely be on older posts, so from now on, I’m closing comments on any post older than 30 days.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

“When Jesus coms a’callin’, she said, he’s coming round the mountain on a train”

“You’re a folktale, the unexplainable”

Brief Reflections on Five Years at Amazon

As of Sept. 7th this year, I’ve worked at Amazon for five years. I’ve heard people say that a year at Amazon is worth two at most other companies, and while I’m not sure the exchange rate is correct, the principle is. I’ve learned more in the past five years than in over a decade of programming that came before it. I’ve worked with some of the smartest people in the world, and gotten to work on some amazing projects, only a few of which actually worked out. This is my half-assed attempt to distill those five years full of work and learning into a bulleted list.

Like all such endeavors, it is doomed to failure. That’s never stopped me before.

  • Strive to be afflicted with more important problems. Always seek out problems you don’t know how to solve. Eventually you’ll end up working on problems that no one knows how to solve.
  • Seek out people who know more than you. Learn from them, but don’t be afraid to challenge them. You’ll usually be wrong, but you’ll always learn. And sometimes you’ll be right. And then they will learn.
  • You are a terrible judge of your own abilities. Instead of wondering how far you’ve come, focus instead on where you’re going next.
  • Even the best make mistakes. Hold people to high standards, but be empathetic and forgiving of fallibility. And don’t be surprised when the people you idolize turn out to be less than perfect.
  • Have guts. Any group that punishes you for fighting the good fight isn’t worth being part of.
  • Figure out what you want to work on next before you’re ready to lay down your current project.
  • Admit that your works will be there long after you leave. Don’t let them hold you back. Build them with others in mind so that they don’t hold others back after you leave.
  • Don’t fear failure. Anyone who always succeeds is either a liar or is straining to hold themselves down in the bush league.

I don’t know how many more years I’ll choose to stay at Amazon. But I am absolutely certain that those years will make me a much better hacker.

Disclosure Notice

Riot in the Streets

“Tokyo, a city that neuters everything”

“Honma’s therapist was a woman from Osaka, in her mid-thirties. Likable enough, he supposed, but no-nonsense. He’d work himself into a sweat and she’d just egg him on, telling him that Tokyo men have got no balls!

Even here in Tokyo, a city that neuters everything, Osaka people managed to keep their own coloring. They might modify their drawl to a ‘standard textbook’ Japanese, but their accent remained Osaka. It wasn’t without its appeal, he had to admit. Honma himself didn’t have a ‘hometown’ to give his speech any particular flavor.

His father was from Tohoku in the far north. The third son of a poor farmer, he’d made his way to Tokyo soon after the war, looking for work. And had wound up as a cop. He’d had his reasons, but ‘seeing justice done’ wasn’t one of them. Back then, the Japanese had not only been stripped of their honor, with no new cause to fight for, but their rice bowls were empty.

All three of them– his parents and his wife– were from the north. And all three of them now gone. His mother from his father’s village; Chizuko from Niigata, with its heavy snows. Whenever he and Chizuko visitied his folks, Honma had been the odd man out, as if he had no roots, nowwhere he could call ‘home’.

But you’re a Tokyo boy, [Chizuko] used to tease. Honma, however, had never considered himself a native son. There was an indefinable gap between being born in Tokyo and being a ‘Tokyoite.” They say that ‘three generations makes Tokyo home,’ but could a person ever feel a bloodline connection to the place? That was the real question. How could you really speak of ‘hometown Tokyo’ or being ‘Tokyo born and bred’? Today’s city was no place to put down roots. It was a barren field, soil that gave off no smell, unplowed and unwatered. Nothing grew in the big city. People there were tumbleweeds, living on the memory of roots put down somewhere else by their parents or their parents’ parents. And those roots dry up and wither.

That must be why, he thought. Why he always felt a bit sad whenever, in the course of his job, running around the city listening to all these people’s stories, he came across someone whose accent or phrasing identified them immeiatrely as having a ‘hometown.’ Like a child out playing at dusk. One friend, then another gets called in to supper, till finally he’s on his own.” – All She Was Worth, by Miyuki Miyabe

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Magic Blue Smoke

House Rules:

1.) Carry out your own dead.
2.) No opium smoking in the elevators.
3.) In Competitions, during gunfire or while bombs are falling, players may take cover without penalty for ceasing play.
4.) A player whose stroke is affected by the simultaneous explosion of a bomb may play another ball from the same place.
4a.) Penalty one stroke.
5.) Pilsner should be in Roman type, and begin with a capital.
6.) Keep Calm and Kill It with Fire.
7.) Spammers will be fed to the Crabipede.