October 2015

The Letter I'd Like to Receive

At this point in my life, I'm not big on complaining when something's not up to par at some restaurant or store I'm at. I'm more inclined to chalk it up to someone having a bad day and move on. But sometimes you feel something needs to be said, so I've decided that instead of actually making a formal complaint, I'd pretend that I did, then craft the response I'd like to see in return. So below, I present the letter I did not just get from the Embassy Suites.

Embassy Suites Page 1

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Think Like a Programmer: In (Simplified) Chinese!

Although this news has probably already been widely disseminated through Chinese media outlets, I need to tell the rest of the world that Think Like a Programmer is now also available in Chinese.

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"Chinese," in this case, means Simplified Chinese, which is how books are generally printed in mainland China. Traditional Chinese, which has more characters, is still dominant in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao. (Why yes, I did just return from a trip to Wikipedia, thanks for asking.) Chinese must be the most textually dense language this book has been printed in, because it's  the most slender of all editions. The cover price is a mere 49 yuan, which at today's exchange rate is $7.71 US. At that price, there's really no reason why every programmer in China shouldn't pick up a copy, right?

In all seriousness, I love to hear from readers so if you do pick up a copy of this edition, let me know what you think.

Now, if you were really hoping for a Traditional Chinese edition of one of my books, stay tuned; I may have some news shortly.

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Must You Ask My Name?

More and more, restaurants that have you order at a counter are asking for your name. I'd like to start the official pushback against this practice here and now. This position has been arrived at after due thought; in general, I prefer the personal to the impersonal. I almost never do any business in a drive-through if I can help it. I'd much rather park and go inside and talk with another human being face to face. On the whole, I concur with Patrick McGoohan that we shouldn't be referred to by numbers.

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"I'm not a number! I'm a free man!"

But you know what? When I've just given you my order, please, just give me a number and let me go on my way. Don't ask for my name.

Perhaps I would feel differently if my name was Steve or Bob. But it's not. I don't know what people on the other side of the counter think I am saying when I say my name, but clearly, it's not "Anton." So I've gotten in the habit of always spelling the name afterwards: "My name is Anton. A-N-T-O-N." Strangely, that never works. Sometimes they type those letters, but in a random order, so that later I must hold up my hand when someone calls out "Natno" or "Anont." In other cases, they ignore my proscribed spelling altogether and assign me a similar name more to their liking. Most often this is "Antoine," but occasionally I'll be "Antonio." And while those are fine names shared by fine people, they aren't my name.

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Poker pro Antonio Esfandiari hugging $18 million

It's gotten to the point where I try to scope out when my order is ready so I can cut off the name-calling before it happens: "Is that a chicken parmesan? That's me."

The alternative is to come up with a fake identity for use when ordering food. But what name to use? At first thought, the best choice would be a simple name like John, but then you open up the possibility of standing next to other people actually named John, and then the moment of delivering the chicken parmesan to its rightful owner turns into the scene where everyone claims to be Spartacus.

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"No, I'm Spartacus!"

So then maybe the right idea is an unusual name but one people can spell, like Mars or Pony. But then I think, if the whole point is that I don't want to be called by someone else's name, isn't this just surrendering before the battle starts? The ultimate solution is for restaurants to ditch this cheap attempt to conjure up instant familiarity and go back to the time-honored system of giving each customer a number. Is it impersonal? Yes. Does it work? Yes.

So look: I'm all for treating people as people, as individuals with intrinsic worth in the eyes of their fellow men and their Maker. That said, sometimes in life you just have to stand up and proclaim that you're a number.

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"Who am I? 24601!"

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