Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   pre-IPO discipline
Tuesday, November 9 1999
By now you've all seen my classic animation called Dan & Gwen. Its herky-jerky animated life began back in early 1993 as a series of frames to replace the toasters in the ubiquitous "Flying Toaster" AfterDark screen saver for Macintosh. I built the original screen saver version using SuperPaint 3.0 and ResEdit 2.13, and it will forever stand as an accomplishment for which I am justifiably proud.
Some time in 1996 or 1997 I made an animated GIF out of the frames, and that GIF has become one of my most familiar creations. Whenever I need a quickie stand-in image, I can remember its URL easier than I can recall any other. For this reason it's often served as a test image to help me as I build web pages for my present employer.
I am the technical lead when it comes to matters related to the "Main Menu," the homepage of the site. If you know the website (which is currently the 11th most popular on the web) you can view the source on the homepage and find the string "Gus Mueller" mixed in with lots of other things. Recently during a slight redesign of the website's homepage, I was jokingly using the Dan and Gwen animation on the development system's Main Menu to help with the placement of a new semi-dynamic mixed content piece. The bawdy GIF looked a little out of place amid the excessively serious corporate greys and swooshes, but its shock value had long since been replaced for me by a certain Mona Lisa familiarity.
Sometime last week, 12 more web servers were added to the server farm downtown to cope with the rapidly-scaling demand, and our network guy told me to "sync" the servers. So I ran a script which copied the latest development changes to the new servers. These servers weren't actually live yet, and I overwrote the main menu ASP file on all of them with the genuine live version because I knew the version the script had copied was still a work in progress. I neglected, however, to overwrite one of the includes, the part actually containing the animation reference. Some half hour later or so, the network guy made the new servers live-live, and for a brief burst, the Dan & Gwen animation was on the Main Menu for some 30% of the servers out on the genuine World Wide Web. I know this because I checked the Spies logs later that evening and saw them swamped with requests for this image. Whoopsie!
But no one said anything to me. All that happened was that the Director of Engineering told me to get that animation off the development server. He didn't tell me what had transpired.
Well, today the schoolmarmish VP of IT pulled me aside and took me downstairs to Human Resources, saying she had good news and bad news for me. We went back into a room with the head of HR and Paul the technical recruiter. I was nervous, thinking perhaps they'd discovered this journal. Since no one had said anything about the Dan & Gwen incident, I'd assumed I was in the clear. But no, it was time to be held accountable.
It bears mentioning at this point that the schoolmarmish VP of IT, a former manager at Qualcomm, is one of those drab corporate folks obsessed proper paperwork and following strict procedure. Her idea of high entertainment is not a six pack of Bud and a bug zapper, it's checking her latest stock quotes. Her monologues consist almost entirely of pat phrases such as "subject matter expert" and "act like we're a public company," always in that tight, predictable rotation one comes to expect from an alternative rock station.
I explained my case, saying that I use that image all the time as a test image, and that I had no idea it would ever find its way to the live system. (I didn't actually admit to copying over the tainted include file to live during the sync process; it was important to maintain some of the mystery about that issue and diffuse the guilt to an unknown set of others.) The schoolmarmish VP of IT was actually fairly understanding, in her pat-phrase-spewing no-nonsense kind of way. My punishment ended up being a sheet of reprimand in my personal file (can you believe the company has reached this milestone of bureaucracy?). I couldn't really argue the point much, though I found it all rather humiliating. Afterwards, in my daydreams, I was wishing I'd been more of a rebel and refused to sign the sheet of reprimand. But of course I'd signed it without fuss.
In our over-stressed, over-driven company, there's a food chain (or, actually a food web) of blame for all the fucked up things happening on a continual basis. Whenever the Grand Pooh Bah sees that something is amiss, he comes down hard on the people closest to him, the fellow founders of the company (such as the Director of Engineering). In the aftermath of years of psychological abuse, they're a uniformly broken collection of people. What little remains of their spines seems to have changed into cartilage. Despite reportedly being "furious" about the Main Menu mishap, the Director of Engineering didn't even have the necessary resolve to confront me about it; he had to send the schoolmarmish VP of IT to do it in her characteristically bureaucratic fashion. And of course when the blame finally came down to me, I did what I could to diffuse it out into the technical & community staff generally. This was in perfect keeping with the traditions of the company.
I think the reason there'd been such a delay between my offense and my reprimand was that the powers that be consider me something of a flight risk. I have an air of disgruntled about me, and the cynicism I feel is not especially well concealed. If my managers make any one of my days too miserable, the thinking might go, I'll tell them hasta la pasta and go find another job paying two times as much. That would be bad for the company; my track record is proven and they certainly don't want me to leave. So the schoolmarmish VP of IT found some bit of good news with which to temper the bad. Since it was a little past my one year anniversary, she trucked out my suite of stock options for the coming year and presented them as though they were lavish evidence of my great importance to the company. It was an impressive, flattering number, though I don't know how it competes with what others in my position are receiving; I'm well aware of my company's history of gross remunerative imbalances.
The remarkable thing is that I actually made it through a whole year with this company without any sort of reprimand at all. That's got to be some sort of first for someone cursed with DeMar-Mueller boat-rocking genes.

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