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day, argh
I have spent, I kid you not, the better part of the past 5 work days trying to figure out the source of an arcane publishing problem that results in English language titles occasionally appearing in the tables of contents of non-English-language documents. It's entirely too arcane to go into here. If you will forgive me for being vague, it results from Thing A (which is a little counterintuitive but needs to happen to keep the software usable) combined with Thing B (which is a little counterintuitive but has sound reasons behind it), followed by Thing C (which is basically dumb behavior and in my opinion, a bug).

So, I filed a bug report, where I tried to explain in as comprehensible a way as possible that "We have a problem because Thing A --> Thing B --> Thing C, and I think the solution is to have the software not do Thing C, which arguably it really shouldn't do according to the spec, which I have linked here." The title of the bug, by the way, is basically, "Thing C should not happen."

I got back a "Sorry, why can't you just not do that in the first place? And also, do you want a fix for Thing A, Thing B, or Thing C?"

So I wrote back an even simpler explanation of the problem, with diagrams. And reiterated, "The problem here is Thing C."

I have just been offered a solution that prevents Thing A from happening. Yeah, the one that "needs to happen to keep the software usable." I have just written back explaining why that is not a fix from my point of view, and reiterating, once again, that the problem is Thing C.

I'm starting to worry here that the real solution is going to end up being Ugly Error-Prone Workaround D, which I came up with while I was writing my second bug update, but explicitly nixed because it was a pain in the butt and people would forget to do it correctly and not catch the error until the document came back from translation.

10th-Feb-2016 02:18 pm - Thirteen!
weights, deadlift
Thirteen pushups in a row with my hands elevated on the weight bench. I creep ever closer to the elusive push up from the floor.

I also did some messing around with power cleans for the first time in a while. I think I probably need to ask my trainer for some pointers on technique. I can clean 65lbs. fairly easily, but I'm not comfortable putting more weight on the bar until I'm more confident of my form.

As I was leaving the gym, I overheard this conversation between my trainer and another client.

Client: Trainer, I have to confess! I had half a bagel this morning.
Trainer: That's good. That means you had some carbs.

This is part of the reason why I train with this trainer, and not the dude who goes around telling people not to eat carrots because they have "too much sugar".
The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth GapThe Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap by Matt Taibbi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Taibbi writes with a very distinctive style - he has a gift for outlandish and vivid metaphors, and a taste for highly emotive language. Sometimes, I wish he would cool it a little, because as a reader I'm wary of being manipulated. And there's plenty of stuff in this book where the bare clinical facts are entirely sufficient to produce outrage, and I don't need the author metaphorically poking me in the ribs saying, "Hey! Hey! Are you angry yet?"

And this book will definitely make you angry (and depressed), but it's an important read. Taibbi does an excellent job of dissecting two trends in the American justice system. First, the extent to which corporate fraud and other financial crimes are prosecuted very gingerly, if at all, and second, the extent to which (often poor, often non-white) individuals can routinely have the full force of the court system thrown at them for relatively minor offenses. The causes behind this are many. There's a big dollop of flawed legal precedent: the tale of the Holder memo is an amazing case study in unintended consequences from a policy that wasn't thoroughly thought through. There are lots of skewed institutional incentives: it turns out that if you evaluate police performance on a metric of number of arrests, police will find ways to make arrests at any cost. And if you tell the Justice Department that the thing that matters most is successful prosecutions, you can pretty much guarantee that the Justice Department will only prosecute slam-dunk cases. There's a whole lot of political theater in the form of politicians scoring cheap points by going after welfare recipients and undocumented immigrants. And a great big chunk of simple racism.

I don't think that there are simple solutions to any of these causes, but having read this book, I now feel much better informed about what the causes are, and ready to join the discussion of how to address them.

View all my reviews
8th-Feb-2016 02:54 pm - Awesome customer service alert
wirrn, FTW
I was already pretty darn impressed with TomboyX for a) having a nice diversity in both race and body size in the people modeling the clothing on their website, and for b) actually making clothing in a wide range of sizes. (I can't tell you how many clothing websites I've visited that essentially have the unspoken message, "You would like cute androgynous style and you are bigger than a size 10? Ha ha, go away, fatty!")

I was even more impressed when, after I'd placed an order with them, I got an email from their customer service department saying, "Hey, we noticed that your order has a mix of sizes in it. Before we pack it, we just wanted to check - did you really mean to order 2 XLs and an XS?"

No, I hadn't - I must have made an error in the online form. But it was really awesome that they noticed and checked. I am not used to that kind of attention to detail in my online shopping experiences.

I just kind of wish that more of their stuff didn't have the word "Tomboy" emblazoned in giant letters all over it. Because I kind of have issues with the word, though clearly not the aesthetic.
4th-Feb-2016 11:16 am(no subject)
diabetes, insulin
I stumbled across this rather fascinating review article entitled, "The Underappreciated Role of Muscle in Health and Disease". A lot of it is stuff that I was vaguely aware of, but one thing that I really didn't appreciate is the extent to which the body's protein needs can rise substantially with acute illness or injury. Given that your body will take the protein from your muscles if it can't get it from your diet, that might explain part of why an acute injury or illness can cause so much long term debility.

The article also makes a good case that the current dietary recommendations for protein were developed without taking into account requirements for preserving or increasing muscle mass, and should probably be revised upwards. I agree, although it's worth noting that the average American eats nearly twice the currently recommended amount of protein per day, so changing the guidelines wouldn't necessarily have a dramatic effect on overall health.

Anyway, I had a fairly strenuous workout yesterday, and quite a bit of my muscle mass is complaining today, so it's nice to be reminded that it's doing me some good.
29th-Jan-2016 02:58 pm(no subject)
katarina, doom
So, I wish I could say I was surprised when video surfaced of Phil Anselmo (of Down and Pantera fame) doing a Nazi salute and shouting, "White Power" at a recent concert. It's all too common these days for footage to surface of some well-respected musician behaving badly.

What I find rather more surprising is that Anselmo has apparently been doing crap like this for years, and nobody's really said much about it. I've probably read a million pages of forum and blog posts dissecting the political and racial beliefs of various metal artists, and I don't recall reading a word about Anselmo. That could be because I don't really follow his work all that closely, but I also suspect that he's benefited from the almost uniquely venerated status of Pantera in the American metal scene.

Anyway, the video below is kind of embarrassingly 101-level anti-racism, but apparently that is what the metal community needs to hear right now, so I applaud Robb Flynn for being willing to say it. 

28th-Jan-2016 12:42 pm - Twelve!
weights, deadlift
12 push ups in a row with my hands on the weight bench today.

I've also been doing this shoulder warmup routine lately, and it seems to help a lot with the shoulder stuff.

It's funny how rehabilitating an injury like frozen shoulder is kind of like peeling an onion. Each time I regain some bit of range of motion or functionality, I go looking for some new exercise that exposes the next bit of restriction or muscle imbalance. And then I work on fixing that. Case in point - if you just ask me to lift my arms overhead, my left arm looks just as functional as my right. Hand me a kettlebell, have me press it overhead with one hand, and then walk around with it, and the left arm doesn't look so great any more. I can do it, but what is a pretty easy and natural motion with my right arm is a mess of wobbly stabilizing muscles and trying to avoid ugly compensations when I do it with my left. So, I'm working on that.

Also did some goblet squats, lunges, and sumo deadlifts today just so that my lower body doesn't feel neglected.
26th-Jan-2016 02:02 pm - I feel strategic
talent, pencil
I'm working on a doc plan for a new project, and instead of diving in and creating a document outline, I'm writing:
A description of who the intended audience for the documentation is, and what they need.
A description of the purpose of each intended documentation deliverable, what it needs to include to help users succeed, and what it shouldn't include.
And a list of open questions that I need answered by the product manager and/or the development team before I can have confidence in the first two items.

I appear to have absorbed something from all the content strategy conferences I got sent to last year.

Let's see if this provokes more fruitful discussion than a typical doc plan review.
22nd-Jan-2016 02:47 pm - Well, this is going to be interesting
Alert readers may have noticed that I haven't been posting much about Doctor Who lately. This is partly because I'm still working my way through Peter Capaldi's first season, and I figure nobody really wants my hot take on episodes that aired over a year ago, and partly because my feeling about the show at the point where I am in my viewing can be neatly summed up by, "Keep the Doctor; regenerate the showrunner."

To be clear, I don't think that Moffat is a bad showrunner, although I think he was generally better as a writer when he was writing for Russell Davies as showrunner. (I'm kind of sorry that we never got to see Davies write for Moffat's Who - maybe he'd also have been a better writer with someone else running things.) But I'm getting really tired of Moffat's particular tropes and obsessions, and I'm really not much caring for how the Doctor/companion relationship has developed in Capaldi's first season. Also, if you manage to bring an episode as stupid as "Kill the Moon" to fruition, you're clearly not showrunning to the highest standard.

I have had many conversations with fellow fans about who might replace Moffat, and most of them have ended with my saying, "Honestly, I don't really care who it is, as long as it isn't Chris Chibnall." I have nothing against Chibnall personally. I'm sure he's a lovely man. But he is pretty much responsible for all of my least favorite Doctor Who and Torchwood episodes ever. (Except for "Kill the Moon". It does not appear that anything about "Kill the Moon" can be blamed on Chibnall.) And I still haven't forgiven him for what he did to the Silurians.

So, the BBC have just announced that Steven Moffat will be leaving the show after the next season (which will apparently be airing in 2017, because the BBC has realized I need time to catch up or something) and will be replaced by...Chris Chibnall.

I'm trying to be optimistic. It's entirely possible that just as I think that Moffat is an excellent writer for Who but only a fair showrunner, I may end up thinking that Chibnall is a lousy writer but a good showrunner.
21st-Jan-2016 09:30 am - I...what?
A couple of days ago, I used a contact form over on the International Rescue Committee's site to contact my senators, asking them to vote against H.R. 4038, which would place additional restrictions on resettling refugees in the United States.

I got a reply from Senator Feinstein this morning which was reasonably reassuring in its substance, but also startling in its missing of my point.

Thank you for contacting me to share your opposition to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States. I welcome the opportunity to respond.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, there are currently more than 4 million registered Syrian refugees seeking assistance after fleeing five years of conflict in Syria. Over 2,500 Syrians have lost their lives while taking dangerous journeys to European countries. The Syrian conflict has led to the world's worst ongoing humanitarian crisis and the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

I understand you are concerned that the U.S. Department of State may initiate a new program to resettle Syrian refugees in the United States and that you believe this poses a threat to our national security. The President has said, for fiscal year 2016, the U.S. would accept up to 85,000 refugees, 10,000 of which would be Syrians. All U.S. refugee applicants, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, or religion, are required to meet strict criteria, including security checks through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Intelligence community, and the U.S. Department of State, in order to qualify for admission to the United States. Additionally, refugees from certain countries must meet additional clearance levels. For example, biometric information, such as fingerprints and photographs, are collected from refugees coming from Syria and compared to the U.S. vast biometric holdings on foreign nationals.

This was followed up with some additional stuff about the Visa Waiver program and how Senator Feinstein thinks that that is the real security threat that needs to be addressed. Which frankly makes me uneasy as well, but I haven't researched that properly, so I don't know how I feel about that.

I think I can probably chalk this up to a clerical error somewhere. I did write back to Senator Feinstein:

Dear Senator Feinstein:

Thank you for your message. I'm afraid my original email might not have been clear - I was writing to you in support of resettling additional refugees in the United States. I do not believe that Syrian refugees represent any kind of security threat to the United States, and I'm glad that you share my opinion that the existing screening process and security checks for refugees are thorough and adequate.

I very much appreciate your reply to my email, and the additional information that you have provided about your work in ensuring the safety and security of Americans.


Wendy A. Shaffer
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