The REAL reason Invader Zim was cancelled…

In case you didn’t get pointed to Jhonen Vasquez’s blog, here he lays out the official story on why Invader Zim was cancelled:

Like most things in life, it really does just come down to how you hide the bodies…

(Edit: Link fixed.)

Oh…so THAT’s the Black Swan.

You know, usually when I talk about people on stage dancing around while pretending to be animals, folks think I’m talking about the latest convention and it’s masquerade. But in this case it was a little different.

I went to the ballet this weekend and watched Swan Lake.

First off, for those who are curious: a ballet is a type of artform where the story is told through dancing and music. Nothing else. No signing. No talking. Most people are most familiar with the ballet from The Nutcracker which tends to be broadcast on TV each Christmas.

Going to Swan Lake as you first ballet is sort of like watching Akira as your first anime. It is a beast of the genre. Swan Lake is about 3 hours long, not counting the intermissions. (The production I attended did all three intermissions.) It is archetypical for it’s artform. Most of the pictures people have of the ballet (lots of gals running around the stage in white flat tutu’s) are based on scenes from Swan Lake.

Part of the reason I wanted to go to the ballet is the little voice in the back of my head that says that such a thing may not be around forever. The American middle class is washing away, and as that buying power erodes, things like the arts are disappearing as well. Who pays for such a thing when you can’t buy gas? There is a good chance that in my lifetime, the cost of fielding a stage with 30 experienced dancers and an orchestra pit of 40 professional musicians may just be insurmountable. Especially when you consider an up and coming generation raised on 1-minute youtube mashup videos. 3-hours of music is tough for my generation to sit for. Who knows where we will be in 20 years.

So when the opportunity came up, I went.

If we might for a moment delve into my mind, I can explain something. I am very sure that in my head there are two parts of me. One part, the creative and humorous side, I can best characterize as Gir from Invader Zim. Or at least an addle-brained monkey. The other side, whom I’ll cal “Harv” is an overweight cigar-smoking plumber type. He’s the one that knows how to fix things, and makes sure I drive correctly.

For the first few minutes of the show Harv was kicking his feet up on the controls and heckling loudly. In his eyes I was basically watching a bunch of faeries prancing about the stage in costume.

By the end of the first act, Harv had shut up and was trying to not to be caught watching with interest. By the close of the fourth act, Gir and Harv were both forward on their seats and watching intently. I think Gir left a puddle of drool, not sure. But it would explain my sniffles the next day.

So yeah, I ended up liking it. And not just because I had friends playing in the pit and the music was awesome. I liked all of it. There’s a heck of a lot of art and beauty in there.

Color me surprised.

Another surprise was that the hall was packed and it was a sellout. Apparently the move The Black Swan (which involves a dancer going insane as she struggles to play one of the evil roles in this ballet) apparently made a few people curious and they were attending to see what the ballet was like. There were also a surprising number of children in the audience. I’m guessing the Disney princess movement mixed with dance lessons might be making some folks interested in the ballet. To their credit a LOT of the children were well behaved and stayed all 3 hours. Some were better behaved than their parents.

So why did I like it? For one thing, the dancers on stage are busting their asses and it shows. The acrobatic nature is just stunning in some cases. Visually it’s supposed to be like a moving painting, and it is. Second, I was surprised at how well the could act a fairly complex plot. Admittedly I had read the program notes before each section, but I was able to follow and be involved in the story.

And it was neat that this was almost the stereotype plot you imagine: At the end, everybody dies and falls off of cliffs. Who could ask for more?

I think I’ll catch one or two more if I can. Right now I’ll admit I still prefer a live musical or a big orchestra concert. But hey, I had a good dose of culture and enjoyed it. Me. Really! Who knew?


Memes don’t seem to go around much anymore, but what they hey?

Let me know if you guys find an animal name, variation, or whatnot that should be caught and I’ll add it.

The awesome art was provided by Susandeer.

The Furry ConBadge Drinking Game

My badgename
is worth
0 drinks!

It looks like you've got a fairly creative badge name.
No drinks for you. v1.7

I’m a heavy drinker

Piano Lessons

Interested in brushing up on those piano lessons you had had as a kid? Live in the silicon valley area? This person is awesome:

Smash-up job postings.

I always find these humorous. Companies, when they have a job-opening, sometimes get into “kitchen sink” mode. Where they throw every single institutional need into a single listing. Oddly enough, most companies don’t actually want to pay for what they are asking for.

I saw tons of these in Philadelphia in the bio-tech area: Little research companies that would have an one-man-show IT opening that also required all of the credentials of a biology researcher and to pitch in on that too.

You don’t see them as often out here. In general, companies are more technically affluent. But they do show up. This one had me and the roommates laughing:

It looks like someone pasted a relatively full-duty network admin position description on top of a senior sysadmin position.

There are people who can do this. I could probably study hard and do it. In a high-end environment, with respect, support and compensation, this could be a good job.

But I don’t think this is a high-end environemt: It sounds like they want you to come up with missing documentation, be constantly on call, be rack monkey, and train support staff.

Oh.. and these “ideal candidate profile” bullets tell you just how well this shop manages its work:

– Able to manage multiple projects, deadlines and activities and prioritize workload.
– To be proactive and excel in a fast-paced environment with excellent problem solving and organizational skills.
– Works well under pressure.

Remember that they’re bothering to list this as their ideal candidate profile and are stating it in the best light they can think of. It sounds like this place is a constant firefight and/or cutting corners.

Other interesting signs creep up: “proficiency in English.” “Strong … intercultural skills.” “Please note that Travel is required to India.”

I’d estimate the laundry list of skills here are what? $150-160k in the valley? Anyone want to bet it’s going to be paid $60k and staffed by a green card that doesn’t know most of it?

How do you spell “wolf”?

As you might guess from the scores I mentioned when I described the conbadge drinking game, I’ve scored all of the badge names I’ve handled over the years.

I wasn’t about to review all 6500+ names by hand. I programmed something to score things. After all, I had time to kill as the badges printed.

The pattern matching got interesting. I need to check for any spelling variations people might use. Think for a moment on how many ways someone might spell “wolf” on a badge.

In a lot of programming languages, you use a pattern matching shorthand called a “regular expression” to describe the text you are looking for. This is the regular expression my scoring program uses for “wolf”:


It was quick and dirty code, so it looks a bit unreadable. However, in my badge name list, it matches all of the following spellings:


I need to go back and make sure this code has good coverage. Maybe I should put up a web page where you can score your badge name.

Fact… or Fiction?

Bennie drinks his milk!

The furry con-badge drinking game.

As part of the setup for registration for Anthrocon, I would print all the pre-registered badges and signup sheets. This was usually a period of several days of feeding badges through printers and checking the finish. Then there’d be a big sorting party where the badges were broken into their various bins by category.

This means that there’d be several days where we’d be looking at the various names people have chosen with nothing else much to do than comment on them. Thus the “furry con-badge drinking game” was born.

I’m writing the rules down here and will endeavor to keep this post ( updated with any changes.

Certain overused or fruity name components ended up being declared as drinkable. Much like there are 5 fingers on a sober person’s hand, there are 5 categories of fruity name components:

  • Animals
  • Colors
  • Elements
  • Seasons
  • Celestials

Animals: These are your normal animal names. (IE: fox, dog, tiger, wolf.) This includes cutsey variants (poni, wuffie, etc), mythical animals (unicorn, dragon), and latin variants (canis, vupline)

Colors: What it says: red, green, blue, grey, etc.

Elements: These include classical elements (water,wind,fire,earth), metals (bronze,gold,silver) and jewels (emerald,ruby,etc.)

Seasons: Summer, Winter, Fall, and Spring.

Celestials: Things that fall in sort of a hippy-dippy view of the world. Astronomy (sun,moon,star), Weather (storm,thunder,snow,sky,shadow), and various god variants (angel,demon,god,goddess,anubis,etc)

For each component, there is a penalty of one drink. So for example “SunDragon Pony” would be three drinks. “WinterWolf” would be two. And “Bennie” would be zero.

I’m debating on a variant of adding a half drink for “the.”

Most badges do not end up requiring a drink. Almost exactly 75% of the badges would score zero drinks. Of the other 25%, most are single-drinkers.

The record though, currently stands at 4-drinks. Of the 6500 or so unique badge names I’ve printed, there has been only one 4-drinker: “TigerTabbie/Tigrekat

That was fun because it was 4 animal references. But it is sort of disqualified because it is two names on one badge.

If you look at single-name badges, the record is 3 drinks. 16 badges (about 0.2%) scored 3:

Blue Heeler SunFire
Cobalt “Foxwolf” Sykes
Cobalt Blue Fox
Emerald Sky Blue
Fennec Wolfox
Foxwolf Firebane
Kitten SunShadow
Kitty BlackRabbit
Silver Dragonwolf
Skye Bluedeer
Tigeron Starfire
Tippi Blue Snowangel
TygerMoon Foxx
Vulpin the Ponyfox

A 16-way tie is no fun, and the 4-drinker is not really a clear winner. So here is the challenge: If you can prove to me a badge of 5 drinks or more, I will buy you said 5 drinks at the next con I run into you at.

How could programming a reg system be hard?

I spent some time at FC chatting with someone who helped them with their reg system. We commiserated on a few things, and talked of each others successes. It was fun.

It is funny how a simple problem can actually be quite complex. One of the most basic things a registration system does is capture peoples names to associate it with their registration. Let’s face it, names are how we identify people, and one of the functions of registration is to track and identify these people.

So you have a first name and a last name, right? Simple, right?

Not really. Here is a list, of examples of conceptions people have about names that are completely and utterly wrong when applied to a progressively larger and more varied group of people:

  1. People have exactly one canonical full name.
  2. People have exactly one full name which they go by.
  3. People have, at this point in time, exactly one canonical full name.
  4. People have, at this point in time, one full name which they go by.
  5. People have exactly N names, for any value of N.
  6. People’s names fit within a certain defined amount of space.
  7. People’s names do not change.
  8. People’s names change, but only at a certain enumerated set of events.
  9. People’s names are written in ASCII.
  10. People’s names are written in any single character set.
  11. People’s names are all mapped in Unicode code points.
  12. People’s names are case sensitive.
  13. People’s names are case insensitive.
  14. People’s names sometimes have prefixes or suffixes, but you can safely ignore those.
  15. People’s names do not contain numbers.
  16. People’s names are not written in ALL CAPS.
  17. People’s names are not written in all lower case letters.
  18. People’s names have an order to them. Picking any ordering scheme will automatically result in consistent ordering among all systems, as long as both use the same ordering scheme for the same name.
  19. People’s first names and last names are, by necessity, different.
  20. People have last names, family names, or anything else which is shared by folks recognized as their relatives.
  21. People’s names are globally unique.
  22. People’s names are almost globally unique.
  23. Alright alright but surely people’s names are diverse enough such that no million people share the same name.
  24. My system will never have to deal with names from China.
  25. Or Japan.
  26. Or Korea.
  27. Or Ireland, the United Kingdom, the United States, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Russia, Sweden, Botswana, South Africa, Trinidad, Haiti, France, or the Klingon Empire, all of which have “weird” naming schemes in common use.
  28. That Klingon Empire thing was a joke, right?
  29. Confound your cultural relativism! People in my society, at least, agree on one commonly accepted standard for names.
  30. There exists an algorithm which transforms names and can be reversed losslessly. (Yes, yes, you can do it if your algorithm returns the input. You get a gold star.)
  31. I can safely assume that this dictionary of bad words contains no people’s names in it.
  32. People’s names are assigned at birth.
  33. OK, maybe not at birth, but at least pretty close to birth.
  34. Alright, alright, within a year or so of birth.
  35. Five years?
  36. You’re kidding me, right?
  37. Two different systems containing data about the same person will use the same name for that person.
  38. Two different data entry operators, given a person’s name, will by necessity enter bitwise equivalent strings on any single system, if the system is well-designed.
  39. People whose names break my system are weird outliers. They should have had solid, acceptable names, like 田中太郎.
  40. People have names.

Obviously you pick and choose your complexity and handling of an issue. But I was surprised at how many of the above concepts I ran into for the con. I also had dealt with many of these in my day job dealing with medical data.

Though I never seemed to have the time to make it sparkle right and fulfill every desire, I’m still proud that my simple reg system worked as well as it did. I worked with what was at hand and made it work on the cheap. You know you’ve planned pragmatically and well when a someone registers a badge in Kanji online and it ends up properly printed on the badge at the con.

(List was shamelessly lifted from

Need any VMware integration help? or Linux admin work?

So, for my day job I work for a large consulting job.

A lot of our work centers around VMware and the various cloud tech. I’ve done work at fortune 100 companies, done education sessions on their products, and have done integration work on their lab and production software.

Additionally, I’m a fairly extensively experienced Linux admin and have good programming chops centered around that. I’ve done few turns doing data-matching and other large-scale set problems. Some systems I have been responsible for were serving millions of concurrent customers, etc.

Right now, my company has hit a lull in work and I’ve got free time. It doesn’t hurt me financially, but it is boring.

So, if your company has anything that falls under those umbrellas: vmware, linux, sysadmin, perl, cloud, etc, and you have consulting budget: poke me and I can pass back contacts to put me, or a member of my team, out your way.

Wow. It’s like a commercial in my blog.