Sunday, March 23, 2008

Um, we're gonna need more space marines...

Zero Punctuation's Yahtzee just reviewed the new Turok release.  It's one of the funniest thing's I've seen in a long time, and it's worth it just for the obscure Doom references that only old people like me get, because we wasted our youth on it.  Hey... I'm still playing it...


Saturday, March 22, 2008

... and the horse you rode in on!

I've taken a little flack lately for the fact that I was in a cult and tend to be frank about it.  It's amazing how many people consider themselves an expert on the topic, despite having never been in a cult or even so much as read a book on it.  I suppose they saw some documentary on Jim Jones or David Koresh, which was all the education on the topic they really needed.  A friend of mine jokingly told me once that this video was all he needed to know about being a Mormon.  The context made it quite funny, but I'm not going to go into that.  What's sad is that many people probably think that it's true. 

Joining a cult is not an indication that you're stupid or disturbed.  That's like saying being raped makes you a slut, it's idiotic.  A cult is something that happens to you, like a car accident, being mugged, or getting a disease.  Nobody joins a cult intentionally, nobody joining a cult knows they're joining a cult.  Most don't know they've joined a cult when they leave.

Maybe people think I'm honest about it because I think it's cool.  I don't.  Would you brag about being raped?  That's how stupid the idea is.

Maybe people think I'm honest about it for attention.  Would you want that kind of attention?  If you do, you're a moron.  Imagine how much fun it is to go back to all of the people you were an asshole to and say "I'm sorry I was an asshole to you for the past few years, I was brainwashed in a cult."  Woohoo, now that's some real fuckin' fun!

I'm honest about it because it happened to me.  It's part of who I am now, and that can't be changed.  Believe me, I would love it if I could erase that from ever having happened.  I was a different person before, and that person is gone now.  I miss him, because he was a great guy. 

Maybe you would like to have somebody fuck with your brain for years, then have to recover on your own.  No empathy, no resources, nobody you can talk to about it.  Jack shit.  You're on your own to figure out what happened to you and make sense of it, and try to rebuild some sense of self and self-esteem.  How's that sound for fun?  Wanna try it?  I hear the Scientologists are still recruiting.

And here's the best part, in all the years since, all the people I've told this experience to, not one person has EVER said to me "Gee, I'm sorry that happened to you." or anything even remotely empathetic.  Instead, I get jokes, off color comments, and strange looks.  I went through hell, and my reward is people looking at me like I've got a nose growing out of my eyeball.  What lovely people.  Let's be honest, I don't really expect anybody to give a crap, and I never have.  That's not why I'm honest about it either.  I'm honest about it because it's liberating.  If I can tell people what happened, the cult has no hold over me any more.  Believe me, my first instinct was to hide it and never tell anybody.  I'm glad I didn't go that route.  I will, however, never refer to them any other way than "the cult."

Next time somebody tells you they were in a cult, perhaps you should ask them about it, instead of mocking them for it.  You might learn something.  At the very least you'll look less like an asshole.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Battlestar Galactica 1980... Huh?

The President of the United States There was a key element missing from my childhood.  When I was little, I took an immediate dislike to Jimmy Carter, because he interrupted the Battlestar Galactica pilot for some stupid speech, probably State of the Union or some stupid crap like that.  Dude, get off the TV, I'm watching a monkey dressed up like a robotic dog!

Battlestar Galactica ended abruptly, but lived on in reruns for the better part of my childhood, and can still be found today.   It was an amazing show for it's time.  Unfortunately, the effects were just as expensive back then, and BG was one of the most expensive shows of it's time, leading to it's cancellation.    Network execs can be real bungholes...

The backlash caused by the cancellation of BG led the execs to reconsider their decision, and eventually the reinstated the show, in a manner of speaking.  Enter Battlestar Galactica 1980.Battlestar Galactica... what happened?

I completely missed this show.  It apparently wasn't well received even when it was new.  It was canceled after a handful of episodes.  I recall the commercials for it, but either I never got around to actually watching it, or my brain was so traumatized by the event that I've suppressed all memory of it. 

I decided to catch up.  Thanks to Netflix, I was able to watch all of the episodes of BG1980 and see what I had been missing.

Mutant Boy The first three episodes started fairly well.  It helped that I was expecting utter crap, so it would have been hard to disappoint.  So the plot is they've found earth.  Apollo is gone (no explanation), and so is Starbuck (no explanation, at first anyway).  Now, even though they still refer to the Quorum of 12 from time to time, they never really make an appearance and the whole fleet is being led by this mutant uber-geek called Dr. Zee.  In the first few episodes, they applied some strange effect to his voice, I suppose to make him sound other-worldly.  Apparently that got too expensive for later episodes. 

The first three episodes formed a three part story arc, which was rare in those days, and tended to lend the show a little bit of credibility.  The super-scaled-back budget was pretty apparent, from the title credits which showed exclusively clips from the original series, to the battle scenes which were also exclusively clips from the original series.

Warning: spoilers ahead. 

I can get past bad, cheap special effects.  I understand that not every show will have a multi-billion-dollar-an-episode budget, and don't expect hollywood quality effects from 80s sci-fi.  BUT... there's no excuse for bad writing.  After starting well (I gave them some extra leeway for the fact that it was the first episodes, which are never all that great), the show quickly devolved into standard 80s type television.  Any one of the plots could have easily been transplanted into Knight Rider, the A-Team, or any other number of similar 80s TV shows with minimal rewriting.  Very few were had anything unique to BG that was central to the plot.  The show had almost nothing redeeming about it until the last episode The Return of StarbuckProbably not as good as I remember it

This is where we finally find out what happened to our favorite womanizing hot-shot pilot.  The plot apparently borrowed heavily from Enemy Mine, or maybe it was the other way around.  Anyway, the similarities were unnerving.  In a flashback, Starbuck crash lands on an abandoned planet that he immediately names Planet Starbuck.  He finds the cylons he was fighting crashed not too far away, and in a fit of loneliness, fixes one. 

They of course become friends, even though the cylon vehemently denies it.  At one point, after a nasty lovers quarrel, the cylon says he's going to find Starbuck a woman.  Surprisingly, he does.  While nobody shows any normal level of interest in exactly where she came from, she soon becomes part of the group.  Oh, and she's pregnant with Starbuck's psychic love child.  I dont know

Role model for young boys of the 70s The lover's spats between Starbuck and the cylon get worse as the cylon gets jealous of Starbuck and the mysterious woman.  Finally the baby is born, and Starbuck is suddenly able to figure out how to build a small spaceship from the left over parts of his crashed viper and the cylon raider.  He puts the woman and the baby on the ship and they take off, leaving Starbuck alone with the cylon again.  A few new cylons show up, and the friendly cylon (Cy, was his name, BTW) is killed defending Starbuck while killing his fellow cylons.  Starbuck is all alone again, except the mystery woman shows up on a cliff and announces to the cosmos that she "judges this man good".  Okay, we could've done that for you, we saw the original series, lady. 

The spaceship shows up at Galactica with only the baby on board, who grows up to be (like it could've turned out any other way) Dr. Zee. 

With the exception of those four episodes, there was nothing else worth saving about this show.  It's a typical maltreatment of a good show by money-centric corporate executives, convinced that the cattle they call viewers will watch any piece of crap they put in front of them, so they focus on cutting costs, crank out yet another cookie cutter TV show, and sit back and wait for the money to roll in. 

It's no wonder Richard Hatch's Galactica 2.0 starts with the premise that '80 never happened.  I kindof wish it hadn't either.  Don't get me wrong, there was a lot of potential there, but nobody put in the effort to try to make this show something special. 

Best known as Jack Crichton Interesting facts: The star of the show, Kent McCord, whose character, despite being called Troy was actually Boxey grown up, also played John Crichton's father on Farscape, Jack Crichton.  Jerry Van Dyke, the other main character, was Dick Van Dyke's son.  Also Robyn Douglas who played the hottie reporter, apparently did a Playboy Cover in 1974 (according to IMDB).  It's kindof interesting she did it before landing the part on BG1980.  She also doesn't seem to have been heard from since the '80s.  Too bad....

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

More traumatizing videos, cause I care

Watch at your own risk.

It's Doctor Bloody Who... In Drag?  Now there's something you don't see every day...  Yes, it actually is David Tennant.


Mac vs. Pc vs. Linux.  This one is worth it just for the BSOD.

Videos, cause I got nothin' better

Brace yourself for this one.  If you're a fan of either The Lord of the Rings or Star Trek, you're likely to find this first video rather traumatic.


The second is, well, about Elvis who is, without question, still the king.

Monday, March 3, 2008

My rules

I have a few rules.  Not many, but the ones I have don't get violated.  The rules that pertain to making sure I don't quit on your sorry ass and go work somewhere else go something like this:

1) Don't fuck with my money.  Let's be honest, I work there because I get paid.   It has nothing to do with company loyalty (would your company be loyal to me if it wasn't in it's best interest?  Neither would I).  It has nothing to do with needing something to do.  I have plenty of things I want to work on, going to work everyday gets in the way of that.  I'm there because you pay me.  When you stop paying me, I stop coming to work.  Period.

2) Let me do my damn job.  Even though I only come to work because you pay me, It doesn't mean I don't have a little pride.  I do a good job, because It's important to me to do a good job.  I'll bitch until you fix the processes that are killing the project, I'll take the extra time to fix the stupid ass code I just found, and I'll take the extra time to make sure my code isn't just as bad or worse than the stupid ass code I just found.  When you get pissed off at me because I'm not being a good little code monkey and shutting up, letting all the bad crap happen, I no longer have any use for you.  If you're not going to let me do a good job, why the hell would I stay?  So you can blame me when it all goes to shit?  No thanks.

3)  If you've got a problem with me, tell me.  Don't hold on to it and throw it out as ammo in a meeting in front of God's naked ass and the rest of the country. 

I've worked for a lot of people since I started my professional career as a coder.  Some of them were unethical.  Well, one was anyway.  And when he asked me to do things that were unethical, I asked him to kindly stuff it in his oversized, cancerous ass.  Figuratively speaking, of course.  He carefully considered what I had to say, then decided that maybe he should choose the ethical route.  That was a good day.

Some were not very bright.  Somehow I survived all that.

Most were pretty good.  I enjoy working for somebody that wants to do things right, and is willing to listen to another's ideas about what that might be.  So far I think my track record has been pretty good.

My previous job fucked with my money.  Now I work at my current job.

My current job, despite all, has been pretty good so far.  They did a lot of really stupid shit when I started, and now they do far less stupid shit.  I'd like to think that's largely in part because of me, but I work with a lot of smart people.  I'm pretty sure I contributed quite a bit though.

Since January, I've been on another team that's more or less doomed to failure.  I took it on as my personal mission to save this project.  I had a lot of work ahead of me.  My team lead was based in New York, so there was the remote aspect of the team.  That was difficult, but not insurmountable.  In addition, he's Serbian, which makes for some cultural differences.  Many of my jokes are lost on him, because English is a second language for him.  That's not really a problem, just an observation.  As the last couple of months passed, I realized that the business unit and the leads were getting pissed and annoyed with me because I wasn't just being a good little code monkey.  I don't do the good little code monkey part very well.  If they wanted somebody to shut the fuck up and just write the damn code, they should have hired a junior developer, not me.  I'm too expensive for that shit.

Last Friday, something happened which I'm not sure I can get past.  We had a sprint retrospective.  It helps if you know a little about Agile methods and Scrum, even though we don't really do it right.  A sprint is a chunk of time in a development project.  A sprint retrospective is basically what everybody thought went well and not so well for that particular sprint.  I made a nice long list of things I thought needed to change.  I don't make this shit up, 90% came from things that worked well on other projects.  I do my homework.

The danger of a sprint retrospective is people taking things personally.  I've been though many, and I try to never take things personally, even if I think somebody might be referring to me.  One of the biggest rules in agile is not to personally attack the other team members.  You can attack an idea, but not the person presenting it.  "Your idea won't work because blah blah blah" instead of "Your idea sucks because you're a flatulating butthead!"  Common sense, one would think.

It's hard, though, to not take comments personally when they keep using your name.  It's harder when that person is your team lead.  It's even harder when the first indication you had that they might be not completely satisfied with the work you're doing is their list of grievances aired about you during the sprint retrospective.  It's even harder when the response to the thoughtful, carefully considered suggestions you provided is "well, X didn't do this and X did that."  Um, how about responding to what I just said instead of a personal attack there, home boy?

Perhaps the suggestions I listed were misconstrued as a personal attack on him.  Perhaps it's another cultural difference clash.  Perhaps my team lead hasn't read the Agile book yet. 

Or maybe he's the kind of guy that will throw me under the bus when the project fails.  That's pretty much what I think happened on Friday.  That entire business unit is big on finger pointing.  It's not important what's fucked up, only who fucked up.

I think my resume is good enough I can get another job without too much effort, so I'm not too worried about getting fired and/or quitting.  I wish I could quit and just not work anywhere for a while like Rory, but I just ain't that cool. 

I need to talk to my boss's boss about this, but I put it off today.  Basically, when I dragged my sorry ass into the office this morning, I was still to pissed off about it to be rational about it, so I figured the meeting wouldn't go too well.  The request will go something like "I need off of his team now.  This can happen one of two ways, one of which includes my continuing to work here."  I'm looking for a less ultimatumish way of saying this.

I don't know how many techie readers I have, but I would appreciate some comments here.  Have you experienced something like this?  How did you handle it?  Am I just being pissy here, or is professional pride enough to merit an employment change?