May, 2007

  • The Old New Thing

    Male perceptions of body image in Taiwan


    A few years ago, researchers started with "muscle dysmorphia" and body-image perceptions in the United States and Europe and wondered whether the same problems afflict Taiwanese men. Listen for the results. But don't be confused by the chicken meat (肌肉).

    Sean Cole interviews Taiwanese pop star A-Mèi for her opinion. I remember a story in CNN some years ago on the singer, and it referred to her as "Ms. Mei".

    Um, that's not right.

    In Taiwanese, the "A-" prefix is used to form nicknames; compare English which appends "-y" for the same purpose. In English, "Mike" becomes "Mikey"; in Taiwanese, "Huì-Mèi" becomes "A-Mèi". If you want to refer to her formally, it's "Ms. Chang". Using "Ms. Mei" would be like referring to the musician Eddie Van Halen as "Mr. Ed".

  • The Old New Thing

    The old-fashioned theory on how processes exit


    Life was simpler back in the old days.

    Back in the old days, processes were believed to be in control of their threads. You can see this in the "old fashioned" way of exiting a process, namely by exiting all the threads. This method works only if the process knows about all the threads running in it and can get each one to clean up when it's time for the process to exit.

    In other words, the old-fashioned theory was that when a process wanted to exit, it would do something like this:

    • Tell all its threads that the show is over.
    • Wait for each of those threads to finish up.
    • Exit the main thread (which therefore exits the process).

    Of course, that was before the introduction of programming constructions that created threads that the main program didn't know about and therefore had no control over. Things like the thread pool, RPC worker threads, and DLLs that create worker threads (something still not well-understood even today).

    The world today is very different. Next time, we'll look at how this simple view of processes and threads affects the design of how processes exit.

    Still, you learned enough today to be able to solve this person's problem.

  • The Old New Thing

    Two web sites that read the fine print


    On, Michelle Leder reads the fine print in all those SEC filings, focusing on the details that companies try to hide from vigilant eyes. For example, she dug into Carnival Corp's proxy statement and discovered "that Chairman and CEO Micky Arison rang up $343K on his use of the corporate jet last year and that COO Howard Frank spent $321K," up from $215K and $101K last year, respectively. My favorite example of corporate jet-setting is this one on Applebee's former CEO Lloyd Hill.

    On 29 occasions from from April 2006 through January 2007, Applebees's corporate aircraft flew into and out of Galveston, Texas, where former CEO Lloyd Hill happens to own a beach house. The nearest Applebees's restaurant is more than 40 miles away. Though Mr. Hill ceased to be CEO in September 2006, company planes continue the Galveston shuttle.

    The current record-holder for personal use of the corporate jet is George David, Chairman and CEO of United Technologies (UTX), who spent over $600,000 of his company's money on personal flights. (And check out that $194,099 under "Cash Flexible Perquisite Allowances"! Isn't "cash perquisite" an oxymoron?)

    Another web site that reads the fine print is mouseprint*, which looks at the fine print in consumer products. It could be simple things like a gallon can of paint that is less than a gallon and a quart of mayonnaise that is less than a quart. Or it could be pointing out that Scott's 1000-sheet toilet paper, billed as having "improved long-lasting value," is actually 7.5% shorter than the old roll.

    Mouseprint* also found lacking the defense of Gorilla Glue against charges of making the unsubstantiated claim that they make "the toughest glue on planet earth." The defense? The claim is "so broad in scope, so general in nature, and so exaggerated in content, that no reasonable consumer would believe it to be a superiority claim."

    In other words, "You'd have to be an idiot to believe us!"

  • The Old New Thing

    Microspeak: Operationalize


    Here are a few citations for the word operationalize.

    A lot of work lies ahead to operationalize this plan.
    Provide security guidance and tools to help operationalize security for enterprise environments.

    I thought it meant "carry out" or "put into effect", and then I saw this sentence:

    Operationalize the demo (get computers configured, install software, verify network access).

    Now I'm not sure any more.

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