The rumors are true: Kansas is flat. Not all of it, you may be surprised to know, but the part that is flat is so overbearing in its flatness that you forget you ever saw a hill in your life. But it's sort of beautiful that way. The open prairies make you feel free and peaceful, nothing to worry about. If trouble were coming, you would see it half a mile away.


all intensive purposes.

My name is Sandra and I've been a bad blogger.

I feel the need to apologize. And yet I feel the need to not apologize. This is, after all, something I do in my free time for your enjoyment. I'm under no obligations of length, frequency, or even quality of blog articles. But I know that some of you are out there, checking this space every once in a while and going, "What's up with Sandra?" I've finally managed to get my mother to stop nagging me about blogging. And she's a nice lady, so she has. Now, instead, she just mentions the last entry I did and talks about it like it was an old friend.

So I won't apologize, but I will acknowledge that I am aware that my blogging has been sub-par lately. Let's get past that now.

In case I am unable to meet your blogging needs, I would like to recommend an alternative, Language Log. It's far superior to my blog, as it has several interesting and educated contributors and is updated several times a day. But it's all about language. So if you're not interested in that and really only tune in here because we're related or because you are keenly interested in the daily lives of young, female computer programmers, then maybe it's not worth your time.

Language is fascinating. It is so embedded in our daily use that many people don't see it as anything to be studied. But it's alive, and what's more, it's evolving. New words are invented and brought into wide use, others fall away or become other words.

A person on an internet forum was complaining about people who start sentences with conjunctions (and, but, or). Lots of people were taught that doing so was incorrect. The person remarked that this technique is often used in newspapers and magazines, and the fact that professional journalists didn't even know such a basic rule was just a commentary on the general dumbing down of our society.

Okay, so that pissed me off. First of all, because it's not a real rule and starting sentences with conjunctions is perfectly "legal." Secondly, even if it had been a rule, once the journalists start ignoring it, it's effectively not a rule anymore. The rules of grammar change as the populace changes, because a rule is no good if no one ever follows it. When the rules change, nothing is good or bad or smart or stupid, it's just evolving.

It's not just the rules, but the words themselves. Have you ever looked at the etymology of a word and wondered how on earth it came to exist as you know it? It starts off as a Greek word that looks and sounds only like a distant cousin. But over the years the word got changed and reshaped as people passed it along and said it over and over until it because what it is today. And years from now, it may be something completely different again. For example, consider the phrase "for all intents and purposes." For about twenty-two years, I thought the phrase was "for all intensive purposes." You know, because some purposes are intense. So I'd been saying it wrong for years until I saw on a web site that it was another of those commonly misused phrases. I'm not the only one who got it wrong. But if more and more people keep getting it wrong, how long before no one knows the real phrase and the wrong becomes the right?

I read a complaint about Language Log written by a woman who didn't get it. She questioned the way the linguists conduct research, which is to search on Google. If they want to find out how often people use the phrase "for all intensive purposes" as compared to "for all intents and purposes," they search for each and compare the number of hits received. The woman did not think that was an appropriate way to do research. While it's not a good way to conduct an in-depth study, it's an excellent way to get a general idea of something for a blog article. Those Google hits are composed of millions of newspaper, magazine, and blog articles - they give a great picture of how people are using words right now. And that's what the linguists are studying, what language is like at this very second and how it's changing itself right before our eyes.

In case you were curious, "all intensive purposes" received 3,250,000 Google hits, and "all intents and purposes" received 1,930,000. Maybe the incorrect is already correct.

Note: Although my entry turned into my trying to convince you that language is alive and changing, I really would like to give a hearty plug for Language Log. It doesn't just study evolution, but also how language can be manipulated or misconceptions that can occur because of language or commentaries on writing in general. It's really everything language-related. To give you a head start, I've linked a few very good articles to get you interested.

A discussion of why we use country accents when imitating old people

How words from tonal languages are written in English

The media's constant scrutiny of President Bush's speaking prowess

Bart Simpson versus the First Amendment


code freeze.

"Where did November go?" a voices cries out over the cubicle walls. It wasn't my voice, but I lamented along with it. I wanted part of November back. No one would mind another Thanksgiving. Let's go back and celebrate our veterans again! Why can't it be more like 60 days hath November?

My company operates on an annual release cycle, that is, we release a new version of our product every year. We shoot for sometime around March. And so we put out a beta version during January and February, which means we should probably finish up the coding...well, really soon. In fact, the official date that we're told to stop writing new code is December 31st. Would you like to learn a new, hip computer science term?

code freeze (n): The time when programmers stop adding new code. The existing code may be tested for bugs, which can be fixed (and probably should be), but no new features are implemented, no functionality is added.

Code freeze happens for us on December 31st. It's not a friendly deadline, because working overtime to meet your deadline means working during the holidays. I suppose I could be bitter about that, if I weren't so stressed.

I'm not exactly stressed out. I've just got a nagging stress, the kind you got in high school when you were assigned a paper and every day you procrastinated there was this tiny feeling of mild unhappiness in the back of your mind which soured your every second only minutely. I've had this feeling since September.

My only relief is that everyone else seems to be suffering, too. I don't mean that I find joy in the discomfort of others. It's just that I'm new here, and so I don't know how much I'm realistically supposed to get done. But if everyone else, even the folks who have been with the company for 15+ years, are lagging behind, then it gives me hope that at least I'm not the lone gimpy sled dog.

Still, that doesn't really make the stress go away. It only calms me when I'm in danger of hyperventilating that I'm not going to make my deadlines, I'm incompetent, I will start out the new year by looking for another job. I'll just take a deep breath and write code for ten hours straight if I have to. Code freeze will come, but it will happen after I get my features in.

Still. Where did November go?