Archive for February, 2005

Happy Birthday

February 28, 2005

Belated 40th birthday greetings to Rob, the Llamabutcher.
I like how his partner-in-crime, Steve, uses the Roman numbering to refer to this extra-large birthday.


All Better

February 28, 2005

I am fully recovered from the illness reported here.
Thanks to the well-wishers kind enough to leave a comment or send me an email of support.
I’m not really back into the blogging rhythm yet, but I am tweaking the blogroll and preparing a new SF Babe poll, so check back soon.

Sunday Aircraft Cheesecake (WF-2/E1-B Tracer)

February 27, 2005

This week’s aircraft cheesecake continues with the flying saucer theme introduced last week. The Grumman WF-2 (“Willy Fudd”) (later redesignated the E1-B Tracer) was the US Navy’s first carrier-borne early warning aircraft:
E1-B Tracer.jpg


February 23, 2005

File this under too much information, but what the heck…
I went to the emergency room last night with some abdominal cramps and bleeding (never have had symptoms like that before). Needless to say I was a bit freaked out.
Long story short, I have bacterial colitis, most likely from some tainted food. I’ve started antibiotics and am on a liquid diet for a couple of days, but should be completely better by Friday. This is, frankly, the ideal outcome, as it was easily spotted with early labwork and I did not need to undergo any more — ahem — invasive tests than necessary. Light blogging in the forecast for the next day or two.

SF Babes (Battlestar Babes II)

February 22, 2005

My regular readers will remember that one of the first SF Babe polls was based on the original Battlestar Galactica. Sheba won, as you can verify in the Gallery.
I still haven’t seen the “re-imagined” Battlestar Galactica, but I can tell from the various trailers and onsite reviews that this newer, grittier Battlestar can be just as easy on the eyes as the original one.
Instead of cigar-chomping Dirk Benedict playing Starbuck, cigar-chomping Katee Sackhoff pilots her Viper against the dreaded Cylons:
And Starbuck’s not the only one who got a sex change for the new series. Boomer (originally portrayed by Herb Jefferson Jr.) is now played by the beautiful Grace Park:
Cast your votes here [link disabled – ed.].
(You may also want to cast a vote in Annika’s android poll. I don’t know how long she’ll keep it up on her front page, but it coordinates nicely with last week’s SF Babe poll).
Results (Posted 1 March 2005):
Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff): 26% (15 of 58 votes)
Boomer (Grace Park): 74% (43 of 58 votes) WINNER!

Software Reliability and Contracting Best Practices

February 21, 2005

In some sort of antipodal professional-criticism synchronicity, I find myself critiquing lawyers while Alan Brain points to an article critical of software developers.
Interesting to me is the linked article’s enthusiasm for developing a modular approach to coding. I look at contracts as business algorithms. And I have some modules or “subroutines” from other agreements ready to plug into current agreements. I sometimes need to tweak them for the needs of the immediate deal, but rarely do I need to develop an entire agreement from scratch to suit my client’s needs. Lawyers learning from computer programmers. What will they think of next?

Minimally Musical

February 21, 2005

Lynn at Reflections in d minor posts a funny joke at the expense of one of the better-known minimalists of the latter 20th century. This would be my version of the joke:
While repetitive, I actually enjoy Philip Glass.
While repetitive, I actually enjoy Philip Glass.
While repetitive, I actually enjoy Philip Glass.
While repetitive, I actually enjoy Philip Glass.
While repetitive, I enjoy Philip Glass’ music. And it evolves.
While repetitive, I enjoy Philip Glass’ music. And it evolves.
While repetitive, I enjoy Philip Glass’ music. And it evolves.
While repetitive, I enjoy Philip Glass’ music. And it evolves.
It’s tonal, while repetitive, and it evolves, so I enjoy Philip Glass’ music.
It’s tonal, while repetitive, and it evolves, so I enjoy Philip Glass’ music.
It’s tonal, while repetitive, and it evolves, so I enjoy Philip Glass’ music.
It’s tonal, while repetitive, and it evolves, so I enjoy Philip Glass’ music.
I first encountered Glass in his soundtrack to the visually stimulating Koyaanisqatsi. Glass is a polarizing figure, as I later discovered while a music student at UT Austin. I went to see him in concert (on solo piano). Before the concert, the theory-comp majors all slammed him as a gimmicky composer with no real talent (as though their atonal screeches were superior, somehow). Then, at the concert, were the rich and snobby non-musician hangers-on who pretended to have their moments of greatness, some even air-kissing (I’m serious!) when they met him. Gag.
When I met him briefly, he was friendly, warm, and quite unassuming. So I won’t judge him too harshly as a person. As a composer, he made tonal music popular again, even if in the context of minimalism. One CD that I play about every three months to clear my mind is Passages (with Ravi Shankar). Hypnotic, lovely melodies that repeat, develop, intertwine, and resolve themselves. Music at its simple — minimalist — best.

Another Legal Writing Rant

February 21, 2005

If you’ve ever tried to slog your way through a pre-printed contract, you’ve probably assumed that the stilted, archaic language is just the way that legal documents should be written. You wouldn’t be alone. Most people seem to think that contracts, pleadings, wills, and all kinds of legal instruments need to sound like the King James Bible to be effective. THEY DON’T!
Moreover, after paying $300 an hour or more to document a straightforward business transaction, businesspeople have to wonder why they receive such incomprehensible work product for so much money. (At the same time, some of those clients are suspicious when they can actually understand what their lawyer has written; they wonder whether it’s really legal).
Legal documents can be written in clear, precise English. When I encounter legaldegook — writing that is good for nothing other than sounding “legal” — I save it both for amusement and to use as an exercise in improving my own writing. Fixing someone else’s mistakes is a good way to learn to recognize and fix my own.
That’s where tonight’s post comes from. I pulled this example from a contract I reviewed just today. I didn’t rewrite it for the deal at hand, because it’s just a no-cost product evaluation agreement. But because of its high concentration of pretentious legalisms in one short paragraph, I thought it would be a good editing challenge for the blog. I’ve italicized all of the objectionable parts of this section:

At the end of the Evaluation Period, Customer shall promptly return the Products to [Seller] at Customer’s sole expense. In the event that ten (10) calendar days following the end of the Evaluation Period Customer has not returned the Products or issued a valid Purchase Order to [Seller] therefore, this Agreement shall be considered Customer’s Purchase Order and [Seller] shall invoice Customer, and Customer shall be obligated to pay [Seller], for such Products at the then current list price pursuant to [Seller’s] standard terms and conditions of sale as set forth on the invoice issued by [Seller] to Customer and/or on its website.

Note the redundancy of words like “promptly” (there’s a 10 day time limit!), “sole” (“Customer’s expense” doesn’t express or imply anyone else’s expense does it?), and “calendar” days (the contract doesn’t use “business” days elsewhere, so there’s no need to distinguish, and the word “day” without modification commonly means “calendar day”) .
Also note the multiple archaisms and pretensions of legal writing: “shall” instead of “will” or “must,” “in the event that” instead of “if,” “therefore” (which, if it is to be used at all, should be spelled “therefor” — meaning “for that” — a Germanic artifact in the English language), and “pursuant to” instead of “under.”
Note also the lazy “and/or,” which can almost always be replaced with “or.” Here, the “and/or” actually tries to gloss over an ambiguity that the drafter didn’t want to deal with (but would have been forced to, had he or she used only “and” or only “or”). What if both the invoice and the website contain different terms of sale? Which set of terms governs?
Addressing these issues, here’s what I would do to clarify and invigorate the above:

At the end of the Evaluation Period, Customer will return the Products to Seller at Customer’s expense. If Customer does not return the Products or issue a purchase order for them to Seller within 10 days after the end of the Evaluation Period, Seller may invoice Customer against this Agreement at Seller’s then-current list prices for the Products. Customer must pay Seller the amount due under the invoice within [x] days after receiving it. Unless contrary or supplemental terms are printed on the invoice, Seller’s standard terms and conditions found at [Seller’s web address] will govern the sale of the Products to Customer.

OK, it’s not Hemingway, but surely my version is both easier to read and legally clearer than the original, isn’t it?

Sunday Aircraft Cheesecake (Flying Flapjack)

February 20, 2005

This week’s airplane comes courtesy of Alan Brain’s Yamato Sashimi article, which introduced me to the “Flying Flapjack” for the first time. Without further ado, the Chance Vought V-173/XF5UFlying Flapjack:”
More info here, too.

“Sod Off, Swampy” (Or, Just Desserts)

February 17, 2005

More here, here, and here.