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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Appropriate Food : New Beef King Corporation

One of the reasons I love NYC is that you're pretty much guaranteed to find cool stuff just by wandering around. In this case, I noticed the New Beef King Corp. on the way from a first course of dim sum at Ping's Seafood to a second course of assorted breads and pastries at Le Pain Quotidian in Soho[1]

Although it wasn't on the day's menu[2], I decided to wing it. Beef jerky holds a special place in the hearts of hackers. Code is more or less made of junk food. While Twix and Dr. Pepper[3] can give you a burst of energy to get you through a rough spot, there's nothing like some concentrated essence of cow or pig to give you the endurance you need for a thirty-six hour coding marathon.

New Beef King is tiny, with room for only a few customers. Most of the space is taken up by two glass display cases, the kind normally used to show jewelry or high-end chocolates. As it was my first visit, I chose a quarter pound of the simplest item "Spicy Flavor Beef Jerky". The slices were very tender, with an underlying flavor that reminded me a little of the "Teriyaki Style" jerky you get at truck stops. I suspect comparisons to American-style jerky are apples-to-oranges, though, since the preparation processed described on the Beef King web site differs from traditional American-style jerky. No, never mind, that's stupid: there's no way to avoid comparing it to truck-stop jerky and New Beef King jerky is better. Totally better. Even better than the handmade craft-jerky you get at your better class of truck stops. It rocks. I want more.

Since they accept PayPal, I'm guessing you can mail-order, but I'm just going to mosey on down there in person next time I get the craving. Who knows what else I'll find?[4]

[1] Some people go on pub crawls. We go on food crawls. The Chinatown Ice Cream Factory was in there somewhere, too. The next stop was the Lower East Side and a visit to Katz's for pastrami and beer (with a short moment of silence for the Second Avenue Deli), followed by a quick hop up to the East Village for assorted appetizers at Tigerland. Tigerland is really good, you should go there. The last stop was to be the strangely Japanese east 9th street for for octopus balls at Otakfuku, but it was getting late and our daughter needed to get to bed.
[2] Actually, there wasn't a day's menu, we constructed the whole "all day progressive dinner" thing post hoc to justify our gluttony.
[3] Or the more usual Twinkies and Coke.
[4] Right, Chinatown, so rats the size of Great Danes, but I mean other than that.

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Monday, August 07, 2006

A Space for Half-Formed Thoughts[1]

Recording dynamic systems is hard.
I recently started learning the innards of a complex software system. Shortly thereafter, I found myself at Pearl looking for a 0.3mm drafting pencil. For those not familiar, an ordinary thin-lead mechanical pencil is 0.5mm. 0.3mm pencils are for drawing the kind of really insanely detailed pictures mentally disturbed people spend thirty years drawing in secret[2].

My diagrams aren't software architecture diagrams. That is, they are, in that I do them when I'm doing architecture, but they aren't pictures of the system. They're pictures of the contents of my head. You either know what I mean, or you're a person that thinks those really huge auto-generated class diagrams are cool. Anyway, the diagrams are a shorthand, which means they leave bits out. A proper diagram of what I'm actually thinking would probably look more like the little picture at the top of this entry, which is just Tuftey and annoying. So my diagrams come out looking sort of like hybrid object/class diagrams with lots of little annotations and callouts. (People who want to generate code from diagrams should be taken out and shot[3]).

I learned about the difference between diagrams as a shorthand-notation-for-thoughts and diagrams-as-reality when I was working at a company that did geological mapping and modeling software. It took me a while to understand that geologists wanted to record their opinions, not record data. Maps are acts of creative interpretation. So are good software diagrams.

So far, the best way to capture the kind of diagrams I make is paper and (very fine point) pencil. There ought to be a better way. I stole the title of this entry from [4], which seems relevant somehow.

[1] Sure enough, another repost. I'm just pitiful.
[2] http:// www.sfmoma.org/exhibitions/exhib_detail/ 98_exhib_ag_rizzoli.html , although really he used large sheets of paper instead of tiny pencil leads , which if you think about it gets you the same effect. Or maybe in addition to, which is even better.
[3] People who want to execute diagrams directly without the code generation step may be onto something. Or not. It's really hard to tell at this point. I'm hopeful.
[4] http://flow.doorsofperception.com/ content/ tabor_trans.html , I have a sort of perverse fascination with Doors. And First Monday. That sort of vaguely socialist Euro-academic stuff is somehow very attractive.

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