Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Moving Like a Boss

After the disaster that was my previous attempt to move, I was quite apprehensive of this one.  However, I put a lot of time into packing ahead of time, and hired movers this time, and everything actually ended up going quite smoothly.  Wow I really...I guess there isn't much to talk about when things go smoothly for a change.  My new digs:


Moving to Queens from Seattle didn't really feel like moving to a new city...more liking washing ashore after a hurricane that ate 4 years of my life.

This move though, this one feels like moving to a new city...possibly because Brooklyn is basically its own city.  If Manhattan disappeared, Brooklyn would still be there, and would still be more cramped and more expensive than anywhere in Philly.  Speaking of Philly, I would like to believe that because I am "from there" ...ish, I will be immune to becoming a snobby new york asshole.  However, its going to start costing me $250 a month to store my fucking car, so its highly likely that in a few months I won't have a car, and will suddenly be one of those assholes who never wants to leave NYC.

So...now all I need to do is learn to cook, play volleyball, get into salsa, possibly get into a second sport, start seeing an expensive fitness trainer, work on the startup, find a new bar to go to all the time again, and maybe try to implement an RTS in minecraft...all without spending any money, ever, because my apartment is more expensive than any apartment should ever be.  I think I may start eating ramen noodles again.  I also really want to get some kind of music server, or something.  Also some people at my favorite bar in Astoria have told me I need to go to a bar, drink tea by myself, and not play with or read anything on my phone.  Because that's what it takes to look approachable.  I didn't tell these people about the tiger hat, but for you guys, lets just be clear for the record:

Tiger Hat:  1
Sitting Alone at Bars:  0

Also I have no place to hang my clothes now.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

App Idea: legal situation advisor

The laws regarding what cops can and can't do to us vary by state.  For example, in NYC the Ninth Circuit said that random bag searches don't violate the 4th amendment.  According to a highly upvoted reddit post, a key reason for this is the fact that people who are subjected to this have the option to leave the subway instead--an option the cops probably won't tell you about and might not even be aware of.  So expect a story in the future detailing what happens when I'm randomly picked for a bag search and I refuse.  It should be a good one, unless they just shoot me in the back, in which case my posts will cease entirely.

Moving on.

In any situation, anywhere, I like to know the exact legal minimum amount of cooperation I am required to give to cops by law.  For example:

If I'm drinking in a bar and a cop asks for my id, do I have to give it to him, or can I tell him to fuck off?  What if its a member of the liquor control board standing next to a cop?

If I'm walking on the street and a cop asks for my id, do I have to give it to him, or can I just tell him my name and city of birth?

Cops who do traffic stops appear to have started to ask for your phone number.  Do I have to give it to these assholes?  What will happen if I refuse?

In my opinion, these are all important legal questions, because sometimes the laws are set up to fuck you over if you refuse certain things.  For example, when you get a driver's license, you a forced to sign an agreement saying that you will submit to those bullshit roadside sobriety tests.  And in this case, everything is flipped backwards.  The cops DO act like you have the right to refuse, except you don't exactly, because you already agreed you would do it, and your refusal guarantees a 128 day suspension (depending on juridiction).

So, it can be rather imperative to know the law.  In fact, you may also find it necessary to quote the relevant court cases to the officer, just in case they don't.

I am thinking of a simple app where you select a situation (they're asking for id, traffic stop, bag search, crossing the border) and it will use your position to look up the state and federal laws relevant to your situation.



Actually, on a related note:  I was also thinking of a different app, where you type in a speeding ticket number and it finds you a lawyer for that precinct.  As I found out during my cross country trip, doing so can be quite the challenge.  Some juridictions (like the middle of montana and south dakota) don't actually have "speeding lawyers" who specialize in getting people out of speeding tickets.

Monday, September 29, 2014

[fiction] Damaged Goods, Part 5

I don't need your help now, you will let me down, down, down...
--Rise Against



Between just the two of them, it was difficult to tell who was more uncomfortable:  the orange-jumpsuited girl who looked moments away from being in tears, or the preppy ponytail who sat stiffly, glancing about the room with deer eyes.

"I was wondering if you could help me," said pony tail girl.  "Its my aunt..."

"You've got to be kidding," said the convict.  Her voice caught.  Again, she was right on the edge of bursting into tears.

"No, not that, listen.  My Aunt's husband beats her.  Everyone knows, but no one will do anything.  My parents know.  They...they just...I don't know.  They won't do anything."

"What are you talking to me for?" asked the convict.

"Her husband is a cop.  It's why she can't get away.  I was wondering if you knew anyone that could, you know, who has experience...you know...with cops."

"Oh, because I'm a drug kingpin, right?"  said the convict.  "Ashley, I don't know anything about that.  I bought 1 gram of weed, once, for a girl I thought had down syndrome.  Who turned out to be a cop.  Who wouldn't even look at me."

Ashley looked down at her hands in her lap.  "I'm sorry," she said.  In a moment of irony, she turned out to be the first one to cry when she looked up with tears in her eyes.  "I don't know what do to," she said.  "My aunt can't even leave the house unless he says its ok.  No internet.  He checks her phone, the credit cards.  Can you just tell me who you bought the weed from?"

"Some some guy," said the teary-eyed convict.  "They're just some boys.  They don't know anything about doing illegal stuff or running from cops.  All they do with smoke week and talk about nonsense and eat.  Sure I can get you in touch with them, I don't think it will do you much good...."












One week later, Ashley stood outside of what was, from her point of view, a ghetto house in the dangerous part of town.  It was only one story, and cheaply made.  The lawn, though mowed, was not weedwacked near the fence.  These details appeared to be signs of pure squalor compared to the five bedroom brownstone her parents owned in one of those developments with deliberately inefficient road layouts.

Ashley knocked.  The door opened.  A young man appeared.

He stared at her through the screen, bloodshot eyes going wide.  After was seemed like an unbearable pause, he finally said:  "hey."  He also nodded up, like a douchebag.

"Hi, I was wondering..."

The boy opened the screen door and motioned her inside, where she found three more boys, gathered around a coffee table.  There was weed in an empty pizza box.  Some kind of sci fi movie with spaceships and glowing swords was playing on the tv.   Ashley stared at the weed like it was green, glowing kryptonite.

Ashley did her best to describe her quest to locate and befriend the criminal elements of the town, but the boys were not particularly loquacious, and were paying more attention to her chest.  They all began several sentences with "Yeah, uh...," each one trying to impress her with random anecdotes of times they had been rude to, or slightly inconvenienced, a law enforcement officer.

Ashley was edging towards the door when she heard a female, eastern-european voice say "hey you!"   Ashley froze.

"...get away from that poor girl," finished Nika.  Nika hurried over and shooed the boy away.  She grabbed Ashley and pulled her firmly, but gently into the kitchen.  "I'm sorry about that," said Nika.  "My brothers friends," she rolled her eyes.

"It was a dumb idea anyway," sighed Ashley.

"Tell me your story again, from the beginning," said Nika.

Ashley did.  Nika's mouth opened slightly at the part where Ashley went visiting at a prison by herself.

"You are very brave," said Nika.  Then she paused.  "And lucky.  My brother may not know anyone who can help, but I do."

"You sell drugs?"  Ashley sounded astonished.  Nika did not look like the kind of villain described by school assemblies.

"No, no.  Of course not.  But I know someone who can help your aunt."










The 16-year-old was pretty easy to spot.  Hers was the table in panera bread that had with the most calculus books strewn across it.  Snow walked up to her and said in a booming voice:  "Congratulations, you've just hired the A-team!"

"What?!?" said Ashley.

"The A-Team?  Get it?" said Snow.

Ashley shook her head.

"Oh right, you're like fourteen or something.  Ashley, right?  I'm Snow."  Snow stuck out his hand.

As Ashley shook it, completing the appearance of an appallingly creepy and underage internet hookup, she could feel the shock and disapproval from several middle aged women at nearby tables, and the piqued interest from some of the men.

"Oh God...Snow, just sit down.  Ok?"  Nika called from the counter, where she was waiting for their food.

Snow sat.  "So...pre-algebra, huh?"

"Calculus B," glared Ashley.  "And I'm Sixteen."

Snow turned and looked into the eyes of an overweight middle aged woman, accompanied by two children, who was still staring a them.  Snow pointed at at Ashley and said, "its cool; she's legal in several states."

It was then that Ashley noticed the hat snow was wearing.  It was a children's hat.  Some kind of monkey.  They sat in awkward silence until Nika arrived with a tray.

"I'm so sorry, Ashley;  he really, really can be annoying.  Snow."

"Whats up."

"Take off the hat."

Snow looked at her.

"I've told you a thousand times it makes you look like an idiot."

"You really don't understand why I wear the hat.  Have I ever told you why I wear th-"

Leaning forward, Nika grabbed his wrist and dug her fingernails into his skin.  She whispered:  "Snow, this girl needs your help very badly.  If you don't help her, there is no one, and right now, you're scaring her and making her think you're an idiot-"

"I am an idiot..." muttered Snow.

"If you don't take off the hat right now, the next time you're coming up to a hairpin on a cliff I'm going to tell you its a '1' and in the other direction."

"You wouldn't dare," he said with mock indignation.

"I'll wait for when we're actually winning, too."

Snow's face was a paragon of expressionless pokerdom, but the hat came off.

Ashley noticed something about his expression, his...demeanor.  He looked at her and gave her a smile.  It was a half-smile, but it was genuine.  Ashley looked into his eyes and the butterflies in her stomach calmed.

Nika was sitting next to Ashley, facing Snow, and that appearance was enough to satisfy the nearby soccer moms that 911 didn't need to be dialed that night, although the non-event would probably be retold in quite a few book clubs the following week.

"What's with the math?" asked Snow.

"I told my mom I'm going to a friends house to study calc."

"Yeah but why did you bring it?"

"Because I need to study calc," said Ashley.

"Wow."  Snow paused.  "How long has it been since you left her house?"

Ashley shrugged.  "I don't know, like an hour?"

"Turn your phone off," said Snow, quietly.

"What?  Why?  My mom might call.  Its not like they have anything-"

"Turn it off," Snow commanded.

Ashley looked at Nika, who nodded.  Then she pulled her phone out, turned it off, and dropped it on top of her homework.  She was officially in the twilight zone.  She was AWOL from studying, talking to strangers, and would probably get home after curfew.  This was the teenage overachiever's version of waking up in a bathtub with no memory and no pants.

"So," said Nika.  "Let's start over then.  Ashley, this is my good friend-"

"Lover."

"...friend only and not lover, ever, Snow."

Ashley couldn't help but smile.

"Snow, this is Ashley.  Be nice.  Ashley, I've filled him in on what you told me but Snow has some questions."

"Do you really do this for a living?" asked Ashley.

Snow shrugged.  "Part time.  Usually I get paid."

"I have money..."  Ashley nervously and suddenly produced an amount of large bills onto the table that would have been more at home in a brothel than a Panera Bread.

"Woah there!"  Snow quickly flipped the book shut on the cash.  "Lets talk about your homework later.  First, tell me more about the husband...."









Aunt Caroline's resolve had been set the moment her niece was forced to climb in a window just to be able to converse with her.  She would leave him.  She didnt know how, or when, but she would.  The current opportunity, though, was far too sketchy.  She only agreed to talk to the man because of the fervor with which her niece begged.

The arranged meet was Caroline's daily bus ride to work.  Ashley said it would be a man wearing a funny hat, which sounded like a very poor way to identify someone, however the direction became crystal clear when Caroline boarded the bus and saw what appeared to be a homeless man wearing a monkey hat.  He ignored her when she got on.  She sat down across the aisle from him and waved goodbye to her husband.

When the bus turned the corner he suddenly looked at her and smiled.

She asked: "Are you..."

"Yes," said Snow.

Caroline moved to sit next to him.  Despite his appearance he didn't smell.

"Look, hi, I'm Caroline."  She didn't offer to shake hands.

"I'm Snow."

"I don't know what my niece has told you, but I'm really not comfortable with this."

"Of course not.  You don't know me at all."  He handed her a business card.  "Have you heard of my company?"

"No."

"Oh, well then give the card back," said Snow.  "Don't want your husband finding it."

"What exactly do you people do?"

"We specialize in helping people who fall down stairs a lot, or run into doors, or get in the way of swinging bats.  Specifically, via relocation.  We are very good at providing people with an exit strategy, no matter whom their are married to."  Snow's apparent satisfaction with himself probably looked like hubris, but he was really just happy about ending a sentence with a preposition.   It was technically correct grammar, just not something most people are aware of.

"Well...that's very interesting," Caroline tried to stay neutral.  "How did you meet my niece anyway?"

"Math club.  Listen, I'm not here to pressure you.  This isn't how we would normally set this up.  I'm just here as a favor to Ashley."

"Heh.  So am I," said Caroline.

"Fair enough," said Snow.  "But since we're here, I took the liberty of bringing along some references."  he pulled a manilla folder out of his homeless rags and handed it to Caroline.

Inside were names and numbers.  Caroline looked at Snow.

"Previous customers.  Most of them with spouses in law enforcement or intelligence.  We even had one vict--customer who was a dude."

"So I'm supposed to just call these numbers?"

"Ah, yes.  Listen, here."  Snow handed her a black phone.  "This is a Tor-Phone.  Reasonably untraceable and encrypted and all that.  Not the greatest reception but it protects you and them.  When you're done with it, just throw it in the trash."

They talked a great deal more about details...purely hypothetical, of course.

"Oh, this is my stop," Snow said suddenly.  "Listen, if you think it over and you are interested in talking more, just speed dial 1 on that phone.  And then throw it away."

"Thanks," Caroline touched his hand.  "Its nice to know that people are willing to do so much."

Snow smiled.  "Seems like you already have some good people."  He tipped his silly monkey hat and left.

 Caroline would of course never go through with it.  She only accepted the phone and the numbers out of...some misguided sense of politeness.  She put the numbers in the shredder without calling any of them.  She did remember the name of the company though, and googled it later.  And what she found made her cry.

Stories.  Story after story.  News stories, "testimony" stories, internet stories...this place was real.   And one of the videos was an early morning talk show segment about this company.  The content of the talk show was just random polarizing drivel...blah blah blah how do police officers feel about this?  Blah blah established channels?  It was the background of the interview that mattered:  the studio was on the first floor of a building, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a busy city street, and for once there wasn't a giant crowd of idiots standing at the glass to wave at the camera.  Instead, a man walked past, wearing a giant yellow hat shaped like an upside down banana, with peels for ear flaps.  The man stopped, turned slowly, looked directly into camera five, and winked.  Caroline recognized that face.  It was the man from the bus.  It was Snow.

Caroline pulled out the weird techno phone from the man on the bus, and speed-dialed 1.







Monday, September 22, 2014

Turning Points and Roller Coasters

First, exciting news regarding the startup:  someone wants to pay for it.  Wait, let me do that again.  Someone wants to pay for it!!!!!!  YAY.  I'm not sure she wants to pay for the subscription option, but she wants to buy the tablet and software off of us.  This person is not a friend, relative, or acquaintance of anyone involved with the project.  Ladies and Gentleman, this skin care software is worth actual money.


At the day job:  In recent months my work has been like a roller coaster.  Some developments make me want to quit, some make me want to stay a little while longer.  Holy fuck this is so boring.  I'm bored writing about this.  If you've gotten this far, well, that's really great for you.

Socially, I have been consistently having adventures outside of my comfort zone.  Sometimes I step out on purpose;  sometimes New York just throws a curve ball and traps me outside it.  None of the adventures are fit for print, suffice to say that I still eat dinner alone, and it still sucks.


Monday, September 15, 2014

TODO

1. Post a picture of myself with fake marijuana plants
2. waste officers' time

http://www.reddit.com/r/funny/comments/2gi920/before_and_after_be_careful_with_what_you_post_on/

Monday, August 11, 2014

Today's Dilbert is spot on

I always assumed Dilbert was about a generic office, but Scott Adams has some surprising insight about politics specific to software development.  Sadly I am guilty of this one.

In this and other Dilbert comic strips, the complaints devs had about the code that was written before they arrived is usually thrown out as a casual personality quirk.  I'm not sure the author understands that there are very strong business reasons that the existing code is always shit, or that constantly rewriting different piece is the long-term scaling plan.