November 23rd, 2004 § Comments Off on Addiction § permalink

You are reading your favorite comic strip when the Internet connection at work goes down. The forty-five tabs you have open in your browser become instantaneously useless. News arrives from support: the link to the broadband provider is down, and won’t come back anytime soon. You are now sure that this is a conspiracy to curb the sacred procrastination that is the right of every programmer. Time passes.

A few minutes later you need to understand an obscure parameter in a system function you are using. You open another tab in the browser, without even thinking about it. All sites you try to connect to are suddenly giving you “connection refused” messages. You thoroughly check the connection parameters in the browser before remembering that the unthinkable happened. You despair of life. You can’t even remember that the tool you are using has a help system as comprehensive as the one you are trying to access on the site of the tool’s maker. More time passes.

Without access to e-mail, newsgroups, forums, and blogs, you are starting to feel isolated from the world. In the office, silent until them — the only noise that of the air conditioning and the occasional ping of an e-mail hitting an inbox — voices begin to sound, a rare cacophony. Time is still passing.

After a couple hours, your hands start to shake — a sure sign of abstinence syndrome. You decide it’s time to go home before things get worse. At home, you at least have your old dial-up connection. You close the open programs, and prepare to shut the computer down.

Suddenly, a lonely instant messenger windows pops up on the screen. The connection is back. Relieved sighs sound around you. The following silence is complete and almost instantaneous. Ecstasy — and network saturation too.

The invoice from hell

October 7th, 2004 § 2 comments § permalink

Almost a year ago, an employee of a university contacted me with a proposal. He had found me by way of a discussion group I had created on Yahoo! Groups about SCORM, and wanted me to help them to sort some problems in a SCORM-compliant course they were developing for a client of theirs.

At first, I was not willing to do the job. I was quite busy at the time, and I didn’t like the way I had been approached about the project. After long discussions via instant messaging (the university was located in another state, Rio), I accepted the job. The person contacting me had offered better conditions to convince me, but I was still unsure. But, against my best judgment, I did indeed accept the job.

After two months of sporadic work (communication problems on their part) the job was done. I delivered the code, as we had agreed, and they tested it. We solved a few issues that arose from incorrect specifications, despite the continuing communication problems, and they finally accepted the job as done too.

That’s when my troubles began. A couple weeks passed, and I couldn’t get any information about payment. After some prodding on my part, they said they would only pay if I sent them an invoice from an established company, something I had no access to at the time.

After attempting to convince them to accept any other legal form of invoice, without success, I capitulated and started to look at the task of finding what they wanted. I spent one month consulting my friends, until one them offered to send the invoice to me as he had his own company. I went to Rio in the following week, for another project, and left the invoice with a friend of mine, who went to university and delivered it into competent hands. Two additional months had gone by.

I waited a couple days after I returned from Rio and called the university. They didn’t acknowledge its receipt — even though my friend had delivered it directly to the guy I was talking to. To make things worse, the person who had contacted my with the proposal in first place had left the university, and I had no one else who could say I had delivered the code.

After another month-long wait, calling them on the cell phone almost every day — and spending 5% of the invoice value in the calls — they finally said they had the invoice, and that it was on its way to the accounting department, where I thought it already was. Hearing those news, I though I would finally see the money. I was badly mistaken.

Another month passed and nothing else happened. I tried to call them again, but the person I was supposed to talk too was never available, and none of the other persons I managed to talk to seemed to know what I was talking about. It was as if the invoice had disappeared again.

I was almost giving up when my friend, who had sent the invoice in first place, offered to help me. I accepted his offer, and he started to call them. At first, he was no more successful than I was. They kept avoiding him, and a couple weeks more went by. When my friend realized they were avoiding him, he started to pressure them. It took him a couple more calls, but they finally decided to pay the bill. But they would wire the money. Instead they would send a cheque, payable only to my friend’s company. The new problem: my friend’s company had no checking account.

I was beginning to believe I had built something upon an Indian cemetery, and had been cursed as a result. But my friend said he would solve the problem. The cheque was sent from Rio, and arrived a couple days later. My friend managed to convince the bank manager to cash the cheque upon its endorsement by him. My friend proceeded to print a common template he used for endorsement on the back of the cheque. When he was doing it, the printer jammed and ripped the cheque in two.

The invoice really didn’t want itself paid. But my friend talked again to the bank manager, and the manager said he would try to cash the cheque anyway. The cheque was sent to the bank, and the cashiers went on a strike that day. That, ironically, was the very thing that enabled the cheque to be cashed, since they didn’t verify the cheque condition as thoroughly as they would have done otherwise.

A week ago, almost a year after I was first contacted, the money appeared on my account. Since then, I’m convinced that invoice was surely from hell. It’s the only explanation for so much trouble.

Two funny Friday links

June 11th, 2004 § Comments Off on Two funny Friday links § permalink

I’m sick. Have fun.

Murphy’s Law has no exceptions

January 26th, 2004 § Comments Off on Murphy’s Law has no exceptions § permalink

My wife was fixing us breakfast when a slice of bread, with butter on it, fell on the kitchen’s floor with the butter side up. Surprised, she picked the slice up from the ground, to dispose of it, and remarked loudly: “Well, I guess Murphy’s Law has exceptions.” She had just finished saying it when the bread fell again to the floor with the butter side down this time. As I said later, when she told me the story, Murphy’s Law has no exceptions.

Time travelers are among us

March 29th, 2003 § Comments Off on Time travelers are among us § permalink

Via Simon Willison, an incredibly funny story: “Time-Traveler” Busted for Insider Trading.

“We don’t believe this guy’s story — he’s either a lunatic or a pathological liar,” says an SEC insider.

“But the fact is, with an initial investment of only $800, in two weeks’ time he had a portfolio valued at over $350 million. Every trade he made capitalized on unexpected business developments, which simply can’t be pure luck.

Carlssin declared that he had traveled back in time from over 200 years in the future, when it is common knowledge that our era experienced one of the worst stock plunges in history. Yet anyone armed with knowledge of the handful of stocks destined to go through the roof could make a fortune.

“It was just too tempting to resist,” Carlssin allegedly said in his videotaped confession. “I had planned to make it look natural, you know, lose a little here and there so it doesn’t look too perfect. But I just got caught in the moment.”

In a bid for leniency, Carlssin has reportedly offered to divulge “historical facts” such as the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden and a cure for AIDS.

Officials are quite confident the “time-traveler’s” claims are bogus. Yet the SEC source admits, “No one can find any record of any Andrew Carlssin existing anywhere before December 2002.”

As somebody commented in Simon’s post, the story is a hoax. Anyway, as Keith Devens wrote in another comment, I wouldn’t believe it anyway since I also don’t think God would have allowed time travels when the created the universe.


March 12th, 2003 § Comments Off on Vocabulary § permalink

Perverse Access Memory points to the Schmies Vocabulary Test. It’s an interesting word test with 200 paired words that must be classified as being (almost) the same or (almost) opposite. I scored 162. Some of the words are of Latin or Greek origin, which made the test a bit easier for a non-native English speaker like me.

Tidbits: For fun and profit

February 8th, 2003 § Comments Off on Tidbits: For fun and profit § permalink

For profit:

  • Free as in Freedom, a book detailing Richard Stallman’s individual trajectory in the open source movement, is available for free at O’Reilly.
  • Cascading versus Indexed Menu Design is a study of three common kinds of site navigation menus that seeks to determine which of them is more usable. The conclusions it reached were interesting.
  • published an interview with Dennis Ritchie.

For fun:

  • The Mystery of Time and Space is an simple Flash game resembling some solo role-playing games.
  • How good is your spelling? Take a test featuring 50 commonly misspelled words chosen by a copy-editor in the course of his professional years. I managed to score 84%, even making some with some dumb mistakes.

Male or female?

February 6th, 2003 § 2 comments § permalink

Contrary to most the quizzes you get in e-mails every day, the Gender Test is actually interesting. You answer a series of questions, and the program will determine whether you are male or female. It’s also designed to improve itself based on users’ feedback regarding the correctness of the evaluation.

Well, it correctly determined that I’m a male, with 95% confidence. Not that I had any doubts about my masculinity 😉 The site says it can get to 100% accuracy, but I don’t know in which circumstances. After the test is taken they explain how the results are achieved: statistical analysis, with a well chosen set of question that both genders are likely to answer in very distinctive ways.


January 29th, 2003 § Comments Off on Immortality § permalink

It seems a guy found the secret of immortality. And he packaged it in the form of a little device you use while sleeping. Better yet, you can choose if you want rings or foot braces. Wow!

By the way, don’t miss the rest of the site. The guy is a prolific man. He can teach you to build a UFO, decipher the Bible code, and understand the mysteries of the universe and nature. I’m impressed :)

(via Cris Dias)

Spiraling logos

January 21st, 2003 § 2 comments § permalink

I had never paid attention to the sheer number of company employing some kind of spiral or swoosh-like curve to add a “modern” look to their logos. Amusingly, there are even articles and sites devoted to criticize or satirize this profusion of curves. Also, somebody got so irritated with the swoosh that created a page to collect logos featuring the ubiquitous curve. Not only collected, but classified them. The list includes classic swoosh with a ball, classic swoosh with a star, swoosh around the company name e so on.

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