I've written a couple of technical nodes recently, the first nodes I've written in quite some time. For both these nodes, I got a few comments along the lines of "This is too technical, there is not enough explanation, no layman could understand this." In retrospect, the former (lock convoying) had absolutely no introduction in its first incarnation, and really was very layman-unfriendly. The second (non-blocking synchronization), however, started out with the intro it has now, and overall, I thought it made a decent effort at providing the layman with a general idea of the issue at hand, while giving the clergy (so to speak; the clergy of the Church of Computer Science, anyway) a good definition and explanation of the term, and providing both with points of departure for further reading in related topics by way of hardlinks.

When I write on a very specific technical term, like NBS or lock convoying, I feel like my first and foremost duty is to the technical person who needs a clear, conscise, and easy-to-find definition of the term. After all, the writeup is only in "New Writeups" for a few hours, and after that the odds are that anyone who finds it is either looking specifically for it, or has stumbled onto it by way of some related node; in either case it is highly unlikely that such a person is a layperson with no knowledge of the subject. On the other hand, I do recognize that I do also have a duty to the odd layperson who finds my writeup, and that his reaction to the entire thing must, ideally, consist of quite a bit more than a "wtf?". So my general goal for the layman when writing these kinds of nodes is for him to take hom a general feel for what the term means, the issues at hand, and some links to further information if he's interested. To some extent, also, I am expecting him to read some of the hardlinks I have provided, particularly when he does not understand a hardlinked term. However, I specifically do not expect him to understand the entire content of the node.

A different approach would be to explain everything. For example, in the NBS node, I could have engaged in short explanations of each of the four problems I mentioned with regards to lock-based synchronization; I could have explained what mutexes are; atomicity; compare-and-swap; etc. What I have thus far preferred to do, is to write my writeup without these explanations of tangential terms, and provide hardlinks to the relevant nodes (and, where these links do not lead to a relevant writeup, create such a writeup in said node). In any case, my point in writing all this is to ask, is my way the correct way for E2, or should I start writing technical term writeups with a lot more tangential substance, that are perhaps somewhat less useful to the technical reader who is looking for very specific information, but more useful to the layperson?

I'm writing this on emacs and listening to the CBC Radio 3 podcast for June 17, 2005. I'm sleepy.

Last night we went to a Valentine's night hike at the Jefferson Memorial Forest. The hike itself was about a mile long with candles in mason jars lining the trail so we could see. It started at 19:30, so the moon had not risen yet. It was dark but not dangerously so. Afterward, there were hot beverages and desserts at a conference center nearby. We had fun, though I don't know how romantic it was. We were constantly worried about tripping, and if we stopped to snog, we feared that we would be trampled by the couple behind us.

Since gentlemen do not kiss and tell, I will not tell you what happened when we came home. Suffice it to say that we are both in our mid-30s and 'twas past our bedtime. OK, I'll spill: we went to sleep. No, we did not euphemistically "sleep together". We slept. How lame are we?

Justin's Rambling Story about Cats

A recent Everything Poll asked whether we, as a whole, were more cat people or dog people. I answered that I am neutral because I love animals of all kinds. Okay, bugs creep me out a little bit, but you're just as prone to find me embarrasing myself with a dog as you are with a cat.

I've had five cats in my lifetime, and I think that they warrant mention. Mokey was my first. Being the small child that I was, I named her after a character from my then favorite TV show, Fraggle Rock. She was a black and white domestic short hair (DSH), and she loved to do that happy feet thing on me while I read on the couch. Lefty was probably my favorite. His name was very appropriate, if not entirely original. You see, Lefty had only three legs, but he thought he was a dog (he panted when he got tired), and he could outrun Mokey. I think this is because he ran like a rabbit. You could also see how grateful he was to have a home when you looked at him. He never misbehaved, and he was content to be carried around by a young boy. Indy was my first non-black and white DSH. She was brown and black and tan and all sorts of other colors. She mostly kept to herself, and she didn't seem to like me very much. I liked her okay, but she was definitely one of those independent cats. She took to peeing at the bottom of our staircase, and my mom took all three of them to the vet and had them put down "to keep the others from doing it, too." I cried for days. As a matter of fact, I'm a little misty right now.

It was years before I got another cat. All of our others had been rescue cats, but this one was different. My dad only agreed to take him because he was going to be put down the next day. So Brutus came home, and he's been with me ever since. My folks had him declawed (just like the three that came before him), and this changed his disposition toward them. Sure, he'd come out when it was time for breakfast, but other than that, he hung out in my room. I think he knew that I wasn't the one that did it to him. When I moved out of my parents's house two years ago, I took him with me. He seems pretty happy in California, but I think he'll like our new house in Colorado better. Other than that, he throws up a little more often than I'd like, but he's a good boy, and he made living alone bearable. If the worst he does is throw up on the carpet, I can deal with that.

After getting married, my wife moved out to California because it's where my job was located. She didn't bring her cat, Isis, with her because she didn't think it would be right to tear her away from her folks's other cat, Sunny, with whom she wrestles, meows and has a generally good time. In an attempt to fill that hole a little bit, we went to the local Humane Society and picked out a kitten that would be ours (instead of mine since Brutus has been with me since he was a kitten and is now 14). She picked a silver tabby, and we dubbed him Cassius. We joke that all we need now is a big dog named Ceaser, and we'll be set. Cassius is the first cat I've ever had that has his claws. It's not as scary as my parents led me to believe. Sure, I've got a little scratch on my hand, but I'd rather have a small scratch than have another animal whose fingers were all chopped off at the first knuckle.

The catbox (the real one, where cats pee, not the talking one) is my responsibility. The smell doesn't get along with Jenny, and I don't mind. After all, she cooks and cleans our apartment. The least I can do is strain the catbox. It turns out that I let it go one day too many (I usually strain it ever two or three days) because this morning Cassius woke us up by peeing on our bed. We think we've got it all cleaned up. We used OxyClean and warm water for about an hour, and blotted it up the best we could. There's no sign of yellow on the mattress, which is good. We put down a bunch of salt to soak up any remaining moisture, and Cassius is spending the day in the bathroom.

I know exactly what my parents would have done if this happened to them. Both cats would be taking their last trip to the veterinarian. I don't have that it me. Those two cats are members of our family, and no mistake is ever going to change that. I'm not even mad at the cat. I'm concerned about whether he was mad that the catbox was full or he has a bladder infection. I'm disappointed in myself for neglecting the catbox yesterday morning, and I'm sad that we decided not to let the cats in the bedroom anymore.

I'm glad my parents could teach me this. I'm just sorry that they taught it to me by putting our cats to sleep.

Julian walked in and said he'd like a job. I said oh I'm not the one you want, and blushed when I heard myself. I meant to say, I'm only the girl behind the counter that nobody looks at, I just stand here looking rectangular in this big dumb apron. Instead I offered to get Brian. Julian nodded. I went to get Brian.

I told Brian it was a friend of mine from school who wanted to fill out an application. I don't know why I did it. I do. Brian and I have a mutual grudging respect and he knows I only recommend people who would be good workers. This sometimes runs counter to his own agenda of hiring pretty flirty girls (I don’t know how I got in the door), but it gets the coffee made.

I told the lie and retreated to the stockroom to regret it. I can’t estimate peoples' ages for crap and for all I knew Julian was in grad school, which is the sort of thing that would go in a blank on a job application, which would reveal me as a liar. I didn't want him to be in grad school.

I remembered I had a job and was at it. I went back to the counter and watched the two of them talk at a table in the corner. I think Julian's neat and calm demeanor was all that was necessary because the interview took about four minutes and then he was on his way out, pausing by the door to glance back at me and perform an unfamiliar gesture which I did not correctly interpret until he was gone: he had tipped his hat to me, although he hadn’t been wearing a hat. It was at that moment that I began to consider Julian a candidate.

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