There was a quick exchange in the brightly-lit hallway between Rhonda and our surprise guest, who seemed to be showing some last-minute reluctance, much as a child with self-doubt reconsiders stepping onto the stage of a talent show…but, finally, the younger female voice acquiesced in comments of yielding tones. Rhonda opened the door for her… and in walked the nefarious ghost, the nearly naked crying girl from the stairwell who had haunted my thoughts for the past few months.
Only a few weeks ago, after the disastrous introduction between Joe and Donna, I had just resolved my issue with Lance when I had found our lachrymose damsel in distress on the only clean steps in our building (though her acerbic tongue made her more of a siren than a distraught princess). My offers of assistance fell deaf on her heavily-pierced ears, but Rhonda’s matriarchal disposition seemed to have more a calming effect than my pleas. After what seemed only a few moments, my wife had somehow managed to herd her emotions into calm pastures, and unbelievably, our blonde valkyrie sans armor had been rendered a defenseless calf, crawling into my beloved’s arms for warmth and sustenance. Choosing not to call the police for the moment, we welcomed her into our home, where we could put some color into her cheeks and offer her some respite from whatever in the world seemed to torment her. And this is where she told her story.
Her name was Catelyn Gingrich, and having grown up in a small town outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, she and her friends had always talked about eventually moving to New York City someday. Like so many girls of her age, seemingly among every generation, certain cities morph into mystical places that offer untold riches in wisdom, romance, and personal enrichment. For some young women, Paris and London become an irresistible beacon; for some, it becomes a wild place like Montreal; and yet for others, it becomes NYC. They have no skills to further any chance of success, but plans are for those who lack an adventurous soul. They conspire to make their way together, with only a few scant funds and their friendship needed to keep their dreams afloat…and, then, one fateful day, they load their meager belongings onto their boat (i.e., a crowded sedan) and make their terrifying journey on asphalt rivers, to the city that might swallow their souls (according to their preachers and mothers). Before they left, you could have warned them with an analogy about the danger of meeting one’s heroes, how you might have created ridiculously high expectations for them, how you might eventually wish that you had never met them in the first place…but they wouldn’t have listened, instead laughing and cheering as they floored the accelerator and peeled out of the local grocery’s parking lot.
And such was the case for our dear Catelyn and her friends. They found an overpriced but still barely affordable apartment on the Lower East Side, and all four of them crowded into the small space that was originally meant for two. Working at menial jobs around the city, struggling to even becomes baristas, they enjoyed the excitement inherent to the daily struggle of life in a city that commands you to stay on your toes. They dated an assortment of men, and they even tried a few rounds of pansexual petting at places like The Cubbyhole. However, after a couple years, the novelty of such experiences began to wane, as it does with every nomadic coven of young women who pass through this town and occupy these winding streets that also rebel against grid-like structures. More importantly, they always find a surprise: that the city does not impart any riches or, contrary to all popular television, teach any wisdom from the mouths of its friendly denizens. Instead, its greatest gift comes in a different form: as the ultimate catalyst, forcing the seed within you to grow and to discover the self that has remained hidden from you for so long. Catelyn and her crew of childhood friends learned this lesson the hard way, as the late night conversations along the Highline and in the 24-hour diners led to those moments of catharsis and the metamorphosis of the soul. One or two learned how much they really valued their family and their sense of home, and they vowed to return to their native land. The others realized how much they valued space and piracy, and they forged a plan to live somewhere more green and spacious. As New York City never remains the same thing for very long, perpetually changing and making you vow to change as well, they kept their promises…and much like many others before them, they departed somberly through the very turnstiles of the city that they had so joyously spun through before, the same ones that generations have used to pass through this place. This place that for some, of the few who choose to stay, eventually will call home.
For like all the rest who stay, Catelyn knew one thing: there was nowhere else that she felt a sense of belonging. She had a strange allure to the dichotomy of this place, a place where one could feel profound isolation and claustrophobia simultaneously. It was a place where you could be inspired and decimated many times in one day, and you could laugh with a bloody chin and clenched fists. Catelyn wasn’t a poet of any kind, but despite not having the ability to provide any verbose explanation, she knew that the taste of this special place rolled across her tongue like an oenomel, like the fiery myriad of diverse flavors that one encounters with a sip of Calvados. Though she knew not the future, she knew that nothing was left for her but disappointment in Harrisburg. However, determined as she may have been in that act of commitment to new home, there was now one stark fact: she now had no means of living on her own in the city. It was only then that she had learned of the cheaper prices and more abundant space waiting in the sleepy towns that roosted among the cliffs of the Palisades, and looking for another new adventure, she had moved to the small, casual neighborhood of West Guttenberg.
Much like the other towns surrounding it and much like Little Peru, its constituents were mainly Hispanic, and she had to adjust with the little Spanish that she knew…but, in the end, she acclimated to her new environment with a speed that surprised even herself. She had left Manhattan as a girl, and learning to stand on her own two feet in this place, one which she hadn’t even known to exist only a few years before…she felt that she was finally a woman. (Who might still wear yoga pants with prints out of sheer laziness, but hey, all journeys start with baby steps.) After a few weeks of commuting into the city and back for an office job that barely exceeded minimum wage, it only made sense to look for employment somewhere closer, if possible…but in the sleepy residential towns of the Palisades, where business offices were as welcome as rehab clinics, that proved more difficult than expected. There were a few bars and restaurants looking for work, but a white girl who did not speak Spanish was at a great disadvantage. It was only when she went to the city hall of West Guttenberg to fight a parking ticket, that she finally caught a break with the discovery of a sign: Assistant Secretary Needed for the Office of Mayor Massaco. “What a great opportunity! To work nearby and in support of my new community!” she thought to herself. Suddenly, she imagined a future as a townie of this small hamlet, throwing off the coat of a wanderer and even becoming a community leader of this place that she could call home. And this Mayor Massaco sounded nice…finally, for once, everything was going to work out in her favor.
Happy New Year, everyone! As for my new resolution, I’m gonna code and write until those keys start flying off the board!
2015, here I come!
Here, I present a leaked copy of the upcoming Blackhat movie (i.e., Hackers 2: The Next Crappy Movie about Hackers). Please don’t ask me where I got it. It’s a secret.
EXT. BUILDING TOP – DUSK
[ On the top of a condo highrise on the Tsing Lung Tau Ferry Pier in Hong Kong, a masked man screams in agony with an arrow in his leg. Our hunky, hacker hero Nicholas Hathaway slowly approaches him with the empty crossbow that has wounded our villain. ]
NICHOLAS: You didn’t think that you would get away with it, did you? I was able to reverse-engineer your code, and I found the coordinates for your secret hideout buried in the comments. So, just tell me…why? I hacked for fun and mischief…where things are a little grey! But you, with your nuclear reactor shutdown and siphoning people’s money…that’s definitely much darker than anything I’ve done. Now I see the ‘white’, and I’ll never become anything like you…black hat!
MASKED VILLAIN: Ha ha ha! You’re just like me, Nicholas…you just don’t have the guts to face it! I issued the flag on the compiler, to put those comments in the binary executable…on purpose! Because I wanted you to find me…to find out who I really am…
[ The villain removes his mask to show his true identity. ]
NICHOLAS: Mark Zuckerberg!
ZUCKERBERG: That’s right! It’s me, Mark Zuckerberg. After the “Social Network” and how it mocked me, I became bitter at the world, despite my billions of dollars. I used my elite hacker skills for evil, like exposing Jennifer Lawrence’s breasts for the world to see. And to rob people of money and to make nuclear reactors fail…all in order to make the world pay for how they’ve treated me!
NICHOLAS: Of course…only you would know how to inject SQL into a database and give it a virus…
[ Mark Zuckerberg hobbles to his feet, so that he stands before Nicholas. ]
ZUCKERBERG: Exactly! Clearly, though, you won’t join me…so, in that case, you must die!
[ Mark Zuckerberg extracts a hidden gun from his shirt, and he points it maniacally at Nicholas. Bracing for the bullet, Nicholas shields himself with his arms just as the gun explodes in Zuckerberg’s hands. The explosion from his hands causes Zuckerberg to be propelled over the edge of the building, and Zuckerberg falls stories to his death on the street below. ]
FEMALE VOICE: I thought that you could use a little help.
[ Nicholas turns around to face his Asian love interest. ]
NICHOLAS: How did you…?
HOT ASIAN CHICK: You’re not the only one with elite hacking skills. I hacked into the biometric unit that controls access to the gun, and then I used a stack overflow to cause the gun’s bullet to implode upon ignition.
NICHOLAS: Hey, maybe girls can code, too.
HOT ASIAN CHICK: I’ll teach you what other things girls can do.
[ She and Nicholas Hathaway embrace and just begin to kiss when a maintenance man walks onto the roof from the stairwell. They turn to face him after being interrupted, and showing a face of embarrassment, he tries to leave them alone. He cannot, though, since the door to the stairwell is now locked and will not budge. He pats his pockets for the access card, and he shakes his head in frustration.]
MAINTENANCE MAN: Oh, no, I forgot my access card! Hey…do either of you know anything about hacking a door?
[ They turn to face each other and laugh. ]
Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.
- How about we improve our performance by wrapping your O() around my logn?
- I couldn’t help but notice that we’re ethnically diverse…and I’m all about fast and heavy race conditions.
- Girl, you’re so fine…as much as I’d try to hold my lock with you, I couldn’t stop releasing early.
- I’ve lost something, and I think that I might find it on you. Mind if I opt for a depth-first search?
- Care to swing by my office for a quick examination? I’m designing a new architecture, and I just found the perfect domain model.
- With an angelic rackspace like that, you must have just fallen out of the cloud.
- I suggest that we go home and remove these masks, so that we can finally see all the bits underneath.
- What’s your favorite configuration? Mine is where you’re the master, and I’m your slave.
- I can tell you one thing, sweetheart: there isn’t anything generic about your container.
- Are you a developer as well as beautiful? Because I’d love to push my code into your repo.
Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.
- First Circle (Limbo): For developers who can’t pick a language or platform as their given specialty.
Punishment: All souls chained to this level will walk door to door with their résumé, only to have each one slammed in their faces with the phrase “You have no strengths!”
- Second Circle (Lust): Taking into account who we have to face each day at work and their respective level of resembling a troglodyte, we can go ahead and eliminate this possibility.
Punishment: Not applicable. This level of hell is empty.
- Third Circle (Gluttony): For programmers who create memory leaks and perpetual loops, eating up all the memory and CPU cycles on the system.
Punishment: Every single day, these offenders are presented a choice to either write an enterprise server application (with an embedded demoscene) that can run efficiently with only 2K of RAM or to eat an entire Alienware computer case.
- Fourth Circle (Greed): For IT managers who wouldn’t share resources or knowledge with other managers.
Punishment: Chained to a wall and gagged, these souls must watch silently as their peers take credit for all of the damned’s projects and heap praises upon each other.
- Fifth Circle (Anger): For admins who blow their top and acerbically berate all users, both advanced and novice in technical knowledge.
Punishment: Surrounded by blaring alarms about hard drives losing disk space, they will sit at a terminal for eternity and their fingers will only be able to repeatedly type ‘fsck’ (and other variations with more vowels).
- Sixth Circle (Heresy): For the sales managers at software companies who know the limitations of the product being sold but then promise everything else to the customer.
Punishment: Unfortunately, this level of hell is full of innocent software developers. As with the world of the living, the salesmen have talked their way out of punishment and somehow placed the full load of misery onto the developers.
- Seventh Circle (Violence): For the developers whose nonsensical code causes headaches and dizziness to those who review it.
Punishment: While being flogged with the “computer-mice-o-nine” tails, they must write the code for their next project through only the smashing of their heads against a vintage IBM Model M keyboard. ‘Click-clank-click’ will be the only soundtrack for eternity.
- Eight Circle (Fraud): For all IT staff who knowingly have taken one shortcut in their lives when they should have done things the right way.
Punishment: Due to overcapacity (in that all fellow IT staff belong here), a huge volume of sinners will need to take turns being in the pit in order to accommodate the space. The punishment has yet to be determined since the domain model hasn’t taken all factors (like performance requirements) into account yet.
- Ninth Circle (Treachery): For any CIO/CTO who had a productive, strategic vision for the company but then abandoned that vision at the first sign of trouble (or a golden parachute).
Punishment: Much like those stuck in Limbo, these souls must forever be denied employment by various prospective employers…but they must suffer while chained to an ex-spouse who perpetually complains about a lack of alimony or child payments.
Footnote: The title would be nine levels of hell, but since the second level is empty and the sixth level is misused, there’s actually only seven. That seems to fit, though, since nothing in tech has an implementation which matches the specs.
Unless you’ve been busy living under a rock or preparing inside your bunker for Armageddon, you’ve heard of Code.org and their goal to excite the public about the potential prospects for everyone in regards to programming. Codecademy even claims that it can empower the common layman with the skills to become an employable programmer…in only 3 months! However, despite all of their efforts to galvanize people, the impact has been nominal at best. What’s really needed is an effective campaign to convince people to join the world of developers. Some useful ideas that come to mind are:
- Spread the rumor that advanced coders are able to summon the power of hadouken when they reach a high enough level.
- Stress how developers gain an infinite amount of patience by dealing with the both complex systems and less-than-complex managers.
- Pitch how one can become enlightened and attain a higher level of philosophical understanding about Hobbes’ sentiment towards mankind, as you attempt to make one Web page consistent across dozens of browsers and platforms.
- Showcase the absolutely festive environment that one expects with the sausage party that is a programmer’s career.
- Demonstrate the power of software development by showing how one junior developer can commit several lines of code and cause the entire downfall of a project and/or system.
- Emphasize how programmers acquire skills that are essential assets in a modern technological society (but will become useless in the event of a great solar flare and its crushing blow to our global infrastructure).
- Pour Mountain Dew onto your shirt (as a sugary adhesive) and then cover yourself in crushed Doritos, proclaiming to be the crumbs in a coworker’s keyboard.
- Create a noose from some spare cable and put it around your neck. When somebody asks what you are, state that you are the [fill in blank] server that’s always hanging for no good reason.
- Find that one guy in your office with anime figures and steal a few of them from his elevated shelf. Then, paint their faces with printer ink and walk around with them, boldly announcing to be the proud parent process of several zombie children. (Avoid the actual owner of the figures for the entire duration of the party.)
- Print out three copies of a cute puppy’s face found on the Internet, align them in a row, and tape them to your head. Afterwards, create a collar from a network cable and attach a large name tag which says “Kerberos the Happy Scrappy Hero Authentication“.
- Empty one of your rectangular wastebaskets, draw the face of a demon on its side, and don it on your head to parade around as a corrupted USB stick.
- If you and a fellow programmer are feeling a little adventurous, create a ‘cat-o-nine tails’ from the spare mice in the hardware closet and create a spiked paper collar using paper and staples. Now, with one person wielding the tails and with one person wearing the collar, be the sensation of your event by attending as a MongoDB master and slave configuration.