Friday Four

Friday, August 01, 2014

1. A web page designer, who had been working with a client in real time, makes an amusing realization after getting his client's okay:

After ten minutes of "a little more" and "a little less," the client tells me it's spot on.

After they hang up, I realized that I had made a mistake. I had been viewing my local copy of the site, and they had been viewing the live version. I never once uploaded the changed file. [bold added]
This reminds me a little of the old story about how Michelangelo responded to a critic's assertion that the nose on the David was too big.

2. While we're considering new variants on old themes, someone has warned us that key-duplicating apps can be used for break-ins.
Such services also enable jerks like me to steal your keys any time they get a moment alone with them. Leave your ring of cut-brass secrets unattended on your desk at work, at a bar table while you buy another round, or in a hotel room, and any stranger--or friend--can upload your keys to their online collection. The trick is far easier than having them copied at a hardware store. KeyMe says it will even duplicate keys marked "do not duplicate," including some high-security keys sold by Medeco, Mul-T-lock and Schlage. Parking valets suddenly require a ludicrous level of trust: KeyMe already allows some car keys to be scanned and mail-ordered; KeysDuplicated says that feature is on the way.
Also, much of what I said about "bumping" nearly eight years ago still applies.

3. Charles Babbage, who built a mechanical computer in the nineteenth century, was asked twice by members of the British parliament whether his machine would spit out correct answers if given the wrong data. Something about the wording of his reaction makes me smile: "I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."

4. The following bit of advice on removing poison ivy is, like the whole piece, both good and amusing.
"I'm already exposed, so I might as well keep going." As soon as I catch myself thinking this, I know it is time to hit the shower. [bold in original]
The main poison ivy plant in our back yard is huge: I'll be paying someone else to remove it soon, thank you very much.

-- CAV


Grant said...


That first anecdote reminds me of a job I once interviewed for. The position was pure "grunt work" (picking up household junk and hauling it away), and the company was to have a grand total of two people (the owner, and one yet-to-be-hired employee). On top of that, it was a part-time position (and that's using the term generously). Anyway, the "interview" was held over the phone, but apparently that wasn't good enough, because then the guy asked to meet me in person (at a coffee shop, where he asked me the exact same questions he asked me over the phone, in between checking out female passersby and commenting on their figures, no less). At the end of it it was blatantly obvious that I was hired, but he said that he "had other people to interview and that he would be in touch." Literally minutes later he called me and told me that I was hired.

The guy was such a second hander that he couldn't trust his own judgement (not only in regards to my suitability for the job, but also how the job didn't warrant such a formal hiring process). He consciously approached the task with the question "what do people do when they hire employees?" and then proceeded to mimick other, larger employers. I think that that web page designer's client thought to himself "what do people do when they inspect a designer's work?" and then mimicked what is most often done (ie: find imperfections - as if getting what one wants, in the first attempt, were metaphysically impossible simply because it is rare).

I also experience this phenomenon often when I sell something on Craigslist. People write to me, all but explicitly commit to the purchase, and THEN - out of the blue - attempt to negotiate the price with me; as if they're supposed to negotiate - even if they agree with the original asking price - simply because "that's what people do on Craigslist"; because they have this unexamined notion that it's essentially a yard sale.

It's amusing, but also depressing, that so many people approach their dealings this way.


Gus Van Horn said...


True, but you also have to watch out for situations in which such silliness as haggling is expected. Not that I care for haggling or for finding myself revisiting an agreement I thought was made, but many people probably have some justification for thinking you might get ripped off if you don't haggle on Craig's List.