first kid at the age of nine
Tuesday, February 7 2006
I drove all the way down to Kerhonkson on a subcontracted housecall for that company that handles the fulfillment of Best Buy's extended warranty contracts (contracts that, incidentally, are extremely profitable because they rarely require any fulfillment at all). The computer I dealt with today had a blown power supply, the result of a power surge in a crude mötlëy new development of McMänsïons and modular "homes" on the west slope of the Shawangunk ridge. I've grown to hate these housecalls and the incompetent half-assed company that sends me on them, so I've told them to remove me from their system. It's a typical post-boom technology company: cheap in the extreme but linguistically stuck in 1999. The overly-friendly guy who originally contacted me only offered $35 per job (I negotiated $50) and there's no reimbursement for travel expenses. But since most of the dimbulbs who can be convinced to buy extended warranties tend to live in the hinterland, I find myself having to drive to places like, well, Kerhonkson. You can tell a lot about class and education from someones voice on the phone, and the woman I visited today hadn't sounded like your typical extended warranty purchaser. But when I got to her house and saw the permanent lightcicles hanging from the porch gutters and the bad wallpaper choices inside, well, she seemed a lot more like the kind of person who would give a slick salesman some traction at a Best Buy. She looked to be in her mid-20s and permanently exhausted. And as I worked she kept mentioning her daughters, each older than the one before. The last one was 16 years old. No wonder she was so beaten down. She'd had her first kid at the age of nine!
This evening Gretchen dropped Dina and Gilad off at the bus station and I started reading a book Gretchen bought me as a premature birthday present; Freakonomics. I was quickly lured in by its shocking revelation of a connection between liberalized abortion laws and low crime rates. From there the book quickly proved to be a serious non-fiction page turner, the likes I haven't read since Jared Diamond's last tome. Supposedly Gretchen's brother and others in her family have also found Freakonomics impossible to put down once picked up.
This evening I made great progress migrating my general-purpose web-based SQL front end to a MySQL backend. Interestingly, though, I discovered that the default database format in MySQL doesn't have any provisions for storing information about foreign key relationships. So I had to add a table called "Relation" to my test-database to allow it to do all the tricks that make my tool so useful. The rows in this Relation each have four fields: name of table, name of foreign key in that table, name of table that the foreign key points to, name of the field that the foreign key points to. I made and filled the table grudgingly, cursing the incompleteness of MySQL with every row I inserted. But once it was up and working I found that having such a table greatly improved the speed and capabilities of the tool. (Eventually I'll also be adding another helper table containing information about what administrators can administer which tables.)
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