Category: oddments

Looking for Amazon’s “US-East”

image: Shapiro's laptop & Chris Watterston

image: Shapiro’s laptop & Chris Watterston

Interesting article from The Atlantic (a new favorite website and daily news email of mine): Why Amazon’s Data Centers Are Hidden in Spy Country. The author tries to track down the actual, physical data-centers that make up Amazon Web Services’ “US-East” region, as well as the historical reasons why they’re all somewhere in Northern Virginia.

That’s the main part, and interesting enough on its own, but then the conclusion gets very suddenly philosophical, which I found hilarious, but touching, too.

And maybe my desire to submerge myself in that sediment, to weave The Cloud into the timelines of railroad robber-barons and military R&D, emerges from the same anxiety that makes me go try to find these buildings in the first place: that maybe we have mistaken The Cloud’s fiction of infinite storage capacity for history itself. It is a misunderstanding that hinges on a weird, sad, very human hope that history might actually end, or at least reach some kind of perfect equipoise in which nothing terrible could ever happen again. As though if we could only collate and collect and process and store enough data points, the world’s infinite vaporware of real-time data dashboards would align into some kind of ultimate sand mandala of total world knowledge, a proprietary data nirvana without terror or heartbreak or bankruptcy or death, heretofore only gestured towards in terrifying wall-to-wall Accenture and IBM advertisements at airports.

The Horror of Giant Corporations Making Good Stuff

I saw this recently on Buzzfeed: 19 Brands You Didn’t Know Were Owned By Giant Corporations. (Insert guilty acknowledgement of occasionally following links to Buzzfeed here.)

Pretty descriptive title there. It’s a simple page of product pictures, with the dark secret of their true corporate owners. Like this:

Odwalla products
Owned by: Coca-Cola

I’m not sure what the intent of this piece is. Well, the real intent is to get page-views and sell ads on Buzzfeed, of course. But as for the purported point, for my part, it made me initially feel like a sucker, a dupe, for using those products.

But once I thought about it a little more, I realized it’s actually fine, for the most part. In general, all things being equal, I would indeed rather support smaller, local, “mom & pop” kinds of companies rather than large corporations. Part of the reason for that is an expected correlation with higher quality, more well-crafted product. But these are known high-quality products, that happen to be made by a company owned by (usually bought up by) a large corporation.

Maybe Coca-Cola will start to cut corners on how Odwalla juices are made, or using cheaper ingredients. If and when they do, then complain about Odwalla. Until then, be glad that a giant company is investing in fresh, natural, healthful products, and that they’re being sold in a lot more places than the one hippie health-food store that a mom & pop juice company would be able to sell through.

Of course, if you come across tasty-looking juices that actually are made by a mom & pop juice company, by all means give them a shot. But absent such a choice, or even if you just prefer them, don’t feel bad buying Odwalla, Tom’s toothpaste, or any of these.* Be glad that you’re using your money to vote for quality goods.

* P.S. An exception to note, however, is beer (their examples are Blue Moon, made by MillerCoors, & Goose Island, made by Anheuser-Busch InBev). It’s a bit of a different category, in my opinion, because there are a lot more small, independent breweries around than there are small, independent toothpaste makers or pita chip companies. And their products are easier to find, even in regular old neighborhood grocery stores. However, the bottom line is the same. I won’t buy Blue Moon when there are more interesting options, but if I’m somewhere where the only other choices are Budweiser and Miller Light, then I’ll pick Blue Moon all day long.

P.P.S. That Buzzfeed page also includes Marmite, made by Unilever. I don’t really know what that is, except that it’s similar to Vegemite. I don’t know what that is, either, except that it’s the target of this hilarious, profane rant song by Amanda Palmer: Vegemite (The Black Death).

Alternative Titles for Software Developers

At work recently, we had new business cards printed. As a developer with few in-person interactions with current or potential customers, I’ve given out all of maybe five business cards, ever, in my career. But the company’s sending the development team to RailsConf, and the boss wants us to be able to hand a card to prospective job seekers, etc.

We don’t have actual formal titles — I usually go with a generic “software developer” when I have to give one — but business cards seem like they should somehow indicate one’s role. It wasn’t long before some of the brainstorming for this turned silly, and then, as occasionally happens, I had a short-term obsession with thinking up clever (more or less) titles.

Here’s the resultant list, in no order whatsoever, which I hereby release to the public domain, as if anybody else in the public domain would give a damn. Some are pop-culture references, some are unpop-culture references, some are just random ideas of my own.

  • ‘); DROP TABLE Contacts; —
  • Misanthrope
  • sudoer
  • Onceler in Chief
  • Ringwinner, Luckwearer, Barrel-rider
  • Señor Developer
  • Asshole
  • Spelchecker
  • Assistant to Ms. Paltrow
  • God of the Harvest
  • Unicode Expert�
  • ���������
  • Scapegoat
  • Curmudgeon
  • Captain of Industry
  • Lieutenant of Industry
  • Vice Officer
  • Assistant to the General Manager
  • Corporate Espionage
  • Clockwatcher
  • // TODO set title
  • implements Developer
  • Replicant
  • Lazy Developer
  • Earthman
  • Galactic Hyperspace Planning Council
  • King of the Britons
  • Iterator
  • Not Sure
  • Cleaner
  • Grandmaster
  • Pawn
  • Perfectonist
  • Patient Zero

For this batch of cards, I went with the first one, the xkcd reference.

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