Friday, June 27, 2008

Dear Japan,

Your clocks are running seven hours too fast. PLZFIXKTHXBYE!

I like my Japanese cow-orkers. I really do. Of course, I've never had any "face-time" with them which might explain this lack of animosity. But when I need to work with them I either have to be up at 3am (and sober enough to function) or I might as well send snail mail. One round-trip communication takes three days.

I needed a database in Shift-JIS, the most common Japanese encoding. It's crap compared to Unicode... hell, it's crap compared to anycode, it being a freaky Microsoft hack to enforce their idea of codepages and still work with previous Japanese standards like JIS X 0201 and 0208. Wacky stuff if you're one of the couple dozen codepage supergeeks. I know I'm lame. Haz a cat. In fact, take two; they're small.

So what the hell do I want with a Shift-JIS DB when its suckage quotient is so high? It seems we have a bug, one that I not only pointed out about eight fucking years ago but which also should've been dealt with by the time $OurBigApp supported Unicode.

ATTENTION AMERICAN DATABASE-PROGRAMMING INFIDELS: There is a huge fucking difference between "character" and "byte". Not for you normally, but for most of the rest of the fucking world. One byte per character works fine for English. ASCII is also sufficient for Latin, Swahili and Hawaiian. It is rumoured that there are other languages, many of which have more characters than can be addressed with a single byte.

It turns out a field length of 5,000 characters isn't actually 5,000 characters but 5,000 bytes. For the Japanese this means that they can only squeeze in around 2,200 characters, not quite enough for what this field is designed to contain. But only in UTF-8. In Shift-JIS and UTF-16 with their fucking surrogate pairs the number becomes even more grim -- around 1600 characters.

So why didn't I just install a fucking Shift-JIS database on my own if I'm such a Mr Smarty-Pants? Setting up the DB is easy but our installer which adds and shapes the schema sucks. It's overly complicated (more than 90 screens of text and clicky goodness). That alone isn't a problem. I don't speak or read Chinese and I can still not only install but administer Windows in Chinese, both Traditional and Standard. Microsoft sucks but at least their suckage is uniform across languages. Same dialogs, same layout, same buttons, same icons. Not so $OurBigApp. The Japanese installer is nothing like the English which is nothing like the German, so I can't even run a side-by-side installation and select the correct radio buttons or fill in the proper fields.

I can read some Japanese but with so little chance to use the language I've lost much of it over the past 12 years. A few smrt peepul might think, "Duh! Just select the dialog text, copy and then paste it into Teh Ghugel Translator!" Yeah, I thought of that. Our programmers had different ideas:

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cow-Orkers XVII: Dr. Seuss

People often ask me, "REC? Why do you drink so much? Are you trying to become an alcoholic?"

Become? Hah! Walk a mile in my moccasins, muthafuckers. Or just sit in this room and listen.

I aten't dead yet!

Joe, my neighbour at work for those who've forgotten, just asked about the expression his toddler has been taught by an "English teacher" who claims to have lived in England.

"Vat iss means Pring out ze rroof tiles?"
I can't bring myself to relive any more of this than I have to so I'll skip the dialog. I finally figured out what he was trying to ask me, the meaning of "bring out the roof tiles". This is an expression his toddler has been taught and now actively uses. The teacher insists this phrase signifies the need to take a dump. This guy once lived in London, most likely the way I lived in Stockholm: an overnight hotel stay.

I screamed to Jules to have a listen; everyone else stopped what they were doing as well. I then loudly repeated the idiom I'd heard and its supposed meaning. Jules was laughing so hard that it was hard to hear anything else. Tears were streaming out of his eyes. The rest of the Krauts were laughing. Only Joe didn't get it.

And that should've been the end of it. But it wasn't. It never is. I had to ask.

"I'm going to hate myself for this, but what does he call peeing?"
"Ach!," said Joe with a triumphant smile, "Zet iss calt Make a pruller"! He beamed proudly. The office once again erupted into laughter. My noggin rushed for the safety and comfort of the my-head-shaped-dent in front of my keyboard.

When everything died down, I told him to tell the teacher that I, REC, said he's an incompetent fuckwit and if he wants to take it up with me he knows where to find me.

But no, that's not the whole story. Because not five minutes later he mentioned finally understanding the word which was pronounced somewhere between "hoass" and "hawz".

"A hose?"
"Ja, a hwawzs! I am finally learn ziss meaning"
Deer in the headlamps time...
"A 'hoawz' like what?"
Joe hesitated and then said, "Like, you know..." and whinnied.
"A horse?!"
"Ja! I am not knowing for sure?"
"That's a 'hORse', not 'hose'."
"Zet iss vat I am said!" he replied as he kept mispronouncing both words.
"Ja, a 'hoawz' iss a Pferd and not a Gartenschlauch vhich iss a 'hoawz'."

I want to beat him with a rubber pony. Instead I packed up and left.

"Bring out ze rroof tiles" has, of course, now become the latest in office slang around here. Fortunately "make a pruller" doesn't seem to have passed muster.

This along with being newly single isn't giving me much motivation to put down the bottle.


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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

We Don't Say 'No'

That didn't go over so well.


OK, I think I have a solution to this problem. It's going to take a bit of ess-plaining though.

And as I'm doing this LookOut pops up one of its sporadic update notices to inform me that some of the mail which was sent to me over the past four days has finally been passed on by the central server.
From: Some Guy [mailto:some.guy@$]
Sent: 10. June 2008 14:45
To: really.evil.canine@$
Subject: Callback request for Ticket # AJ-10-E14


The customer from ticket AJ-10-E14 did call in and asked to be called back. Can you give him a call ?

Some Guy
$MegaCorp Core Care

Oh, go blow it out your ass.
From: Really Evil Canine [mailto:really.evil.canine@$]
Sent: 10. June 2008 16:12
To: Some Guy
Subject: RE: Callback request for Ticket # AJ-10-E14


No. I'm too busy actually working on his ticket. And by not calling him I've managed to find the problem for which I'm in the middle of writing a solution, said solution to be posted inside the next half hour.


Fifteen minutes later Meathead was on the phone. While I wasn't expecting him to tell me that my request for the big, fuck-off 45" monitor was finally going to be approved (denied, again), neither did I think I was in trouble. It was probably another discussion about the latest developments with $BigPrinterCo to determine if there's any chance of unfucking the system they set their worst and dullest upon.

"What the fuck, REC?"
"I just got my ass chewed out by $DriedUpBitchManager. What the fuck?"
"That mail you sent."

I tried to think. It's been four years since the "E-Mail Incident" which managed to escalate it's way up to the fucking $BigCorp boardroom inside 36 hours. Had to lay low for a few months as well as outperform third line support worldwide to get that one to blow over. I haven't sent anything like it since. Did someone get upset about the Helpful Hints mail I try to send out every month with various suggestions and methods to ease work?

"Don't ever tell Core Care 'No.'"


"When they tell you a customer wants a call-back, agree."
"But I told the mook that I was in the middle of writing the solution."
"Don't ever tell Core Care 'No.'"
"Uhh... OK. So I now have to call the fuckwits?"
"No, but don't ever tell Core Care that."
"Didn't plan to. So we're cool?"
"No we're definitely not cool. When you buy me a Maß of beer, that's when we'll be cool" Six euros to get out of the doghouse? Deal.

And just as I finish typing this there's a new mail which has come in. Core Care, natch'.

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In compliance with $MegaCorp's general policies as well as my desire to
continue living under a roof and not the sky or a bus shelter, I add this:

The views expressed on this blog are my own and
do not necessarily reflect the views of $MegaCorp, even if every
single one of my cow-orkers who has discovered this blog agrees with me
and would also like to see the implementation of Root Cause: 17-Fuckwit.