Stirred, Not Shaken

Wow, the wonders of blogging. I now know that Polaroid doesn't want us to follow Outkast's advice any more. I wouldn't have known this without The Big Smoker,

The Piano Tuner, Around the World on a Penny-Farthing, Loving Graham Greene& Brown Girl in the Ring

It might have happened this way...

I hop on the Metro and sit next to a woman reading The Piano Tuner, by David Mason. She only seems to be a few pages in, so I lean over and say, "Don't do it."

She pushes back her hat - it looks much like a purple mushroom - and says, "Excuse me?"

"Trust me," I reply. "Don't get too involved. He's gonna break your heart." I point to the book. A younger man in the seat behind us leans forward.

"What are you talking about, dude?" he says. He is wearing an Orioles baseball cap and sitting next to a box of perfume samples. "That book rocks."

"Oh, sure," I say. "It has some lovely prose --"

"And the story, man, about this guy in the 1880s who, like, tunes pianos and stuff and then goes all secret agent man in Burma or somewhere --"

"Right," I say, sitting straight and trying to look authoritative. "He has some beautiful passages, like: "

The author, one Mr. Scott, had taken the Burmese name Shway Yoe, meaning Golden Honest, as a nom de plume, a fact that Katherine dismissed as further proof that the war was but a "boy's game." Nevertheless, it made her uneasy, and she reminded herself before falling asleep to tell Edgar not to return with a ridiculous new name as well.

"But in the end, " I conclude, "Edgar will break your heart." The perfume man shakes his head.

"What you want to read," I call out -- the woman has gathered her things and moved to the other end of the car, so I have to shout, a little -- "is a true-life journal from the same time period. This guy rode a bicycle around the world in the mid-1880s. I particularly enjoyed passages like this paragraph about dancing he witnessed in India:"

An idea seems to prevail in many Occidental minds that the Nautch dance is a very naughty thing; but nothing is further from the truth. Of course, it can be made naughty and no doubt often is; but then so can many another form of innocent amusement.
"Around the World on a Penny-Farthing is racist trash," interrupts a man standing near the doors. He is clad in cycle pants and is holding a mirrored helmet. The mushroom-hatted woman is leaning into the door trying to avoid the mud on his mountain bike. "Mr. Stevens seems to think that all peoples the world over exist simply for his service. And he's terribly paternalistic when asked for small demonstrations, like when he says:"

His donkeys are loaded with half-ripe grapes, which he is perhaps taking all the way to Constantinople in this slow and laborious manner, and he offers me some as an inducement for me to ride for his benefit. Some wheelmen, being possessed of a sensitive nature, would undoubtedely think that they had a right to feel aggrieved or insulted if offered a bunch of unripe grapes as an inducement to go ahead and break their necks; but these people here in Asia Minor are but simple-hearted, over-grown children; they will go straight to heaven when they die, every one of them.

He utters this quote all in one breath, and now begins to gasp. The purple hatted woman winces at each heave. Another passenger, this one in white shirt and black tie, moves from across the aisle to sit with our perfumerer.

"This paternalism," he says, "is everywhere rampant in modern literature, not just in old travel journals. Why, I've been reading Loving Graham Greene. In said book, two typical American women try to throw money at the problem of protecting writers (who never asked for protection, I might add) in Algeria..."

"Hardly typical Americans; they're rich biddies with nothing better to do," says the shy woman in the next seat over. She has been shifting about uncomfortably, probably because she is dwarfed by her oversized backpack which is covered with buttons and other attachments, including a wee doll. She is wearing a rainbow-colored knit cap. "You want a book about typical Americans, you should read Brown Girl the Ring, by Nalo Hopkinson. It's --"

"I don't know if science fiction Canadians playing with Voodoo and battling evil are really typical Americans," says our bicyclist.

"Canada is in North America," points out the perfume sampler. "But the important thing about that book is that Ms Hopkinson is no Octavia Butler."

"It would also be nice if there were at least one positive male character in the book," I state with conviction.

No one really wants to get into that argument, so we fall silent. We are uncertain how to proceed.

Luckily, the train driver supplies aid:

"Next stop, Metro Center, transfer point to the Red Line."

"To summarize," I say, quickly. "The Piano Tuner is beautifully written. The writer has made it (perhaps too) easy to care about the characters and what happens to them."

"Around the World on a Penny Farthing," says the guy in the black tie, "is an interesting journal of a nineteenth century trip around the world, just so long as you can get beyond the paternalism."

"Which is impossible to get around in Gloria Emerson's Loving Graham Greene", says the small woman. "But that is probably the point."

The cyclist finishes: "And Brown Girl in the Ring is a mildly interesting fantasy set in future Toronto. Sadly, it aspires to more depth than it achieves."

The bells chime and doors open. The mushroom-hatted woman does her best to scramble over the bicycle and out onto the platform.

"Shall we do this again next month?" I ask.

ClearQuest Tic-Tac-Toe: Fields

Irrational Use of Rational Tools

This is the continuing story of a true CM Geek. We're making a Tic-Tac-Toe game schema for ClearQuest!

On the record type of TicTacGame, I want to have fields for each player (REFERENCE to users) and a field for each space. To keep track of the spaces, I'll number them as space_x_y, with the cooridinates at the lower left. That is, the lower-left space is called space_1_1, the bottom-middle space is called space_2_1, etc.

These fields will all start off blank. At first, I was thinking that the valid values will either be X or O, so we'll need a CONSTANT_LIST in the Choice List column. However, the better approach will probably be to create a hook to define which value is available to the user making a move. We'll cover that later. Promise

Finally, I also want to record who the winner was, and for fun, record the winning type (x or o). And a counter for the number of spaces left to use. This one will be an integer field.

We'll come back and address the permissions and behaviour of these fields (when they are read-only, when they are required) when we get into the game structure more.

So, my Field settings look like:

Field NameType

After creating fields, one must go and create a form for viewing and changing information. This form will also be our playing board. We'll put user and history information on the front and the game board on the second tab.

Any other suggestions?


Spent an hour yesterday getting a badge for working at a large financial institution. I don't understand why each and every organisation in the entire world that requires a badge is inefficient at providing this service. Inevitably, the window of opportunity for obtaining said badge is short and the lines long. If six thousand people need a badge, surely the powers that be can spring for a half-day availability at least, or a second camera.

Now that I'm badged, I feel like this turtle.

You Take The High Road

I forgot to mention that we celebrated Burns Night in appropriate style, our first Burns Night Supper since leaving bonnie Scotland. Quite a crowd gathered at the Royal Mile Pub in Wheaton, and such a sight you rarely do see over here: men in kilts reading poems about sausage. What goes through our heads?

The haggis was properly piped in, by a fine piper who shivered a bit. Because the bar is not spacious, he was forced to warm up his bagpipe outside. But as the 25th of January this year brought a bit of snow, you may remember, "warming up" is not quite the right term to apply, I suspect. At any rate, he did a fine job, the lad did. Behind him marched three gentlemen (in various states of sobriety) standing tall and proud in their family tartans, Scottish in that way that only Americans several generations removed from their Celtic roots can be. The wee parade wound its way through the crowd and presented the haggis to the master of ceremonies, who saluted them, took their bottle of whisky and proceeded to address the haggis.

The master did a very good job, I thought, of presenting the work of Rabbie Burns, Scotland's own. The language that Rabbie used is not always easy on the American ear, but this man did an excellent job with inflection and gesture to drive home the proper point: the haggis is the chief of the pudding race:

Fair fa` your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o` the pudding-race!
Aboon them a` yet tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o`a grace
As lang`s my arm.

At the end of the poem, the haggis is sliced open for all to enjoy (and ramekins of the stuff were offered to all takers, few as they may have been). This was followed by the playing of fiddles, the telling of jokes, the unfolding of stories, and the dancing of wee girls who have too many appointments with dance classes instead of playing with other children or watching TV like normal human beings...

There have been ten generations since my ancestors wandered over from the lowlands of Scotland in 1773. (That's right: that makes my father generation IX and me generation X.) And even though I spent two recent years as a weegie, I must say that I wasn't going anywhere near that haggis. Too much time has passed. The food at the Royal Mile is fine for what it is, but it rarely brings thoughts of Glasgow to my mind.

But then, what I miss most about Glaswegian food are the curries. If I could have a fine chicken chasni from Mother India with a bit of garlic naan bread, I think that then, and only then, would I truly feel nostalgic for auld lang syne.

Gosh I wish I had the recipe from Mother India.

Quick Bullets from the Train

Passing thoughts as I passed through the countryside:

  • Saw a Pinto Wagon on US50. Thought those had all blown up years ago.
  • Parking at New Carrollton station is abysmal after 9am. Right, won't do that again.
  • On the train with a MetroRail Train Operator. She had a patch that read, "Courtesy Award." I kept waiting for her to scream or hit somebody or something, but no such luck. She did take up two seats with her bag, though.
  • Though there's insufficient parking, there is a set of restrooms. Very nice, but not for Metro users!
  • If international flights limit bags to 70 pounds, but domestic weights are at 50 pounds, what can a visitor from Glasgow do when stopping in DC between home and Oklahoma?
  • Nice to see we're not the only ones experiencing cold-weather problems.
  • Could Metro have purchased more slippery (I wanted to write "slipperierier", but I couldn't figure out how to make it stop) tiles? Any time it even rains, I have trouble walking without breaking my neck.

More Beef on Wick

A (Quick) Restaurant Report

It turns out that the Brunette and I didn't have to go all the way to New York to eat beef on wick after all.