kirk.is | archive | 2007 jun

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moar! moar! moar!

(9 comments)
June 1, 2007
W00T, Mr. Ibis and Felisdemens will be in town! Always nice to see good friends, especially with the chance to return hospitality (I visited them in February.)

LOLCats of the Moment
Last December I posted about Cat Macros, pictures of cats with funny captions, usually in a kind of pidgin kitty talk. The meme is still around, mercifully renamed to "LOLCats" (and applied to tons of other non-Cat things).

The most canonical site seems to be I CAN HAZ CHEEZBURGER? I browsed its whole archive the other day, looking for this one that's been banging around my head:


I find that enormously and endlessly funny, just the idea of the big blubbery walrus voice, and the hint of walrus-y perspective... it inspired a host of sequel images, none of them very funny, alas.

As I was browsing I was a bit startled to make this discovery: That's Mo's cat Murphy, in a shot grabbed from the bottom of this page in my photbook. Memetastic! (I have no idea who assembled the final product.)

Quote of the Moment
"The Devil does not know a lot because He's the Devil, He knows a lot because he's old."
-- from a Slashdot .sig, attribute to "unknown"

News of the Moment
Kevorkian out of prison after 8 years. Good for him! He's a creepy lookin' guy, but to say that the government needs to ban people from making difficult end-of-life decisions is just wrong.

burn baby burn

(7 comments)
June 2, 2007
I was watching the History Channel Star Wars special the other night, the one going on about how Star Wars has these mythic tropes, and when they showed Luke removing Vader's helmet at the end of Return of the Jedi, I started thinking about how Hayden Christensen must be thinking "that's supposed to be me?"... and I finally put my finger on something that has been bothering me fore a while:
  
Darth Vader unmasked and Uncle Fester; separated at birth?

Quote of the Moment
"There's a level of facility that everyone needs to accomplish, and from there it's a matter of deciding for yourself how important ultra-facility is to your expression. ... I found, like Joseph Campbell said, if you just follow whatever gives you a little joy or excitement or awe, then you're on the right track."
--Terry Bozzio (heh, speaking of Joseph Campbell...as the Star Wars special did at great length...

In doing my extensive research for this, I found this Wii "Mii" Avatar of Vader Unmasked... I guess there are whole sites dedicated to celebrity Miis. Also I found this rather disturbing bit of fan art, Lava Damaged Vader, buy this one guy who does a lot of them.

Editorial of the Moment
You know, I think I need to rethink having positive feelings about Giuliani. I had some doubts back when he Disneyfied Times Square, and especially his recent playing-to-the-cheap-seats indignation that our Iraq policy may have set some of the conditions that let WTC happen, but he had that social liberal / fiscal conservative vibe going, pro-choice and all... but after reading that link, yikes.

eight inches to the mile

(8 comments)
June 3, 2007
I was a little late to the whole "computers with built in memory card readers" thing but now that I have a desktop and a laptop that can just directly take the card my camera uses, it's a great shortcut.

The first 3-card reader I saw was at a DIY photo print device at a camera store... it seemed weird at the time, because each card format seemed rather proprietary, and all in all it was kind of a throwback to that brief time when computers were coming with built-in Zip drives. But now I just recognize it as a small but meaningful convenience, relative to digging up the appropriate cable.

Link of the Moment
Slate had a good piece on How Do Spelling Contests Work in Other Countries? Especially the ones that don't draw from like 10 other languages so that there's some large measure of spelling consistency? Grammer dictation and dictionary lookups for pictographic languages were two of the surprising answers.

Fact of the Moment
--from a 1931 Modern Mechanics article on Flat-Earthers. The magazine stated a "well-known fact" I hadn't heard before: the ratio of curve of the earth is about "eight inches to one mile".


zenlicious

(17 comments)
June 4, 2007
I have to admit my study and application of Zen is laughably half-assed; maybe more like quarter-assed, given that I haven't even set myself to any kind of zazen meditation practice. In fact, I'd like to write more about it but I'm having trouble getting my thoughts in order, which is probably rather un-Zen-like in itself.

Quote of the Moment
Not that we weren't awesome. We wrote the Constitution in the time it takes you nimrods to figure out which is the aye button and which is the nay. But we weren't gods. We were men. We had flaws. Adams was an unbearable prick and squealed girlishly whenever he saw a bug. And Ben Franklin? If crack existed in our day, that boozed-up snuff machine would weigh 80 pounds and live outside the Port Authority. And I had slaves! Damn, I can't believe I had slaves!
--Thomas Jefferson, introduction to the Daily Show's "America (The Book)", a faux textbook that was really making the rounds a few years ago when I got it as a gift, but I'm only getting to it now...

Article of the Moment
More from the War Nerd; mostly about the Tamils and their relatively low-tech air raids, and how have such a larger impact than the hardware they're using should be able to. Being so low and slow they're hard to hunt down, the enemy AA probably does more damage to the city its meant to protect than the bombs do, and the blackout is probably the most pointless aspect of it all. It reminds me a bit of a "War World" sci-fi story where the super future high tech air fighters had trouble coping with the rather retro-technology of the lost colony; specifically, the wood-and-canvas biplanes were invisible to the detection systems, and one biplane managed to take down a much superior craft by going kamikaze and getting swept into the air intake.

I like his take on the A-10 Warthog:
Take America's own A-10 Warthog. I remember back when it was in the procurement cycle, the USAF hated the A-10, bad-mouthed it every chance they got. One fighter jock said, "It's built to take a lot of hits and boy is it going to take a lot of hits." A lot of other pilots just said out loud, "It's ugly." The AF wanted to invest in another generation of flying Porsches, and the Army, naturally, tried to drag the money into up-armored choppers, resulting in the AH-64, the Y2K of attack aircraft - all hype, no kills. Little Orphan A-10, the Warthog nobody loved, ended up saving Christmas for everybody, becoming the best CAS aircraft in the world.
I think (not quite sure) that the Army is prohibited from flying its own fixed-wing attack aircraft, it being the Air Force's bailiwick, which is why they are stuck with helicopters.

Washington, AC/DC

(14 comments)
June 5, 2007
I want to run for public office on a platform of changing the city name of Washington D.C. to, I dunno, Washington D.U.S.A. or some such. I mean why should Colombia get all the blamecredit for what goes on there?

(Yeah, Yeah, I know, not the same thing but still, a bit odd. Not "Electoral College" odd, but odd.)

Link of the Moment
I was thinking about the similarities between Zen life practice and Getting Things Done when I found a nifty site ZenHabits.net. They even offer ZTD: Zen-To-Done, a somewhat Zen-ified version of the GTD methodology.

Image of the Moment

--Found online, on jj.am, a kind of archive for 4chan.org. Neither site for the faint of heart or delicately-sensibled. I've been on an animated GIF kick as of late.

to be geniuses we must play at being geniuses

(2 comments)
June 6, 2007
Currently reading: The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

I was thinking about adding a piece of the sidebar to say what I'm currently reading, but I couldn't decide if I was legitimately hoping to strike up conversations about the material or just kind of showing off. (Or, the worry that it's one step away from one of those LJ-ish "current mood" indicators.)

Any thoughts?

Quote of the Moment
"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be."
--Kurt Vonnegut. I'm surprised that I hadn't quoted that before, at least Google doesn't think I have. It reminds me of Dali's "to be geniuses we must play at being geniuses"... come to think of it, that quote barely shows up on google, or anywhere online. Odd, I wonder where I got it...

Science of the Moment
Ooh... some new brain science seems to lend some small amount of support to my half-joking hope that my terrible memory helps leave more brainspace for my tangential thought rebounds.

*crickets*

(7 comments)
June 7, 2007
I love how typing "*crickets*" or "*crickets chirping*" in a chat program or e-mail is an indicator of silence, usually awkward science, most often after a failed joke. It's like a Looney-Tunes driven mini-haiku.

Quote of the Moment
"Love is reverence, and worship, and glory, and the upward glance."
--Ayn Rand. After reading "The Fountainhead", I think I see some echo of my theory that for a successful relationship both people need to quietly think that the other person is just a little out of their league.

Link of the Moment
The blog passive-aggressive notes from roommates, neighbors, coworkers and strangers offers photos of tangible slices of interpersonal conflict. Compelling!

Optical Illusion of the Moment

--Let your eye follow the missing dot around. (I've seen this frame-by-frame, and that's the "honest" view... one dot missing each frame.) Now focus your eye on the middle cross... Weird! Then hold it for a bit more... slightly weirder! This is one of the most effective illusions I've seen. (via 4chan.org)

@ boston public garden

(5 comments)
June 8, 2007







happy birthday ebling!

(5 comments)
June 9, 2007
Ended up heading up to Rockport to help EvilB before his daughter's first birhday party tomorrow, so not much time for an update... but here are some fireworks I tried to take pictures of last Friday. I think it was Arlington's centennial or something:



That's actually from the end of the street where I live. It's always kind of cool to be able to see fireworks from your house.

mr. hat, mc ballyhoo, and you

(4 comments)
June 10, 2007
So this is old news, but it came up recently, and I wanted to record the link: South Park's Mr. Hat is based on a "real" educational puppet called "High Hat". And I had lessons using him at St. Pats in Salamanca NY... I don't remember there being a puppet, but sheets and cards and general educational materials (though, Hmmm, I thought I remembered the hat coming over the character's eyes, unlike this current one... has South Park overwritten my childhood memories?)

Actually I guess this came up because the Mario Party series released their first Wii entry (they're already up to 8) and the "host" is "MC Ballyhoo". (Actually, they've had a lot of different hosts over the series... I think it would've been better if they stuck with one iconic mascot. Anyway.) And in this case, the eyes belong to the hat itself, "Big Top". I guess there might be a shade of the Harry Potter sorting hat. (Tangential Wikipedia link: Magical Objects in Harry Potter) (Meta-tangent... I like the argument about the "Nimbus 2000" on Broomsticks in Harry Potter, just the way the page exhibits a kind of Wiki "multiple personality disorder" about how it compares to the "Firebolt", and if that means if "fastest model yet" was wrong, or how exactly the timing works out, etc...)

So after the EBling's birthday party (which also acted as a bit of a housewarming, despite much work needing doing before move-in) we tried a little Mario Party 8. The minigames all seemed pretty solid, which is the important thing, but they seem to have cut out the ability to unlock all the games for free play by not letting people set all 4 players to computer control. So either humans have to play that rather slowly placed board game, bleh, or maybe I can load a save game from the Internet...

monday with morrie

(5 comments)
June 11, 2007
Passage of the Moment
"I've picked a place to be buried."
Where is that?
"Not far from here. On a hill, beneath a tree, overlooking a pond. Very serene. A good place to think."
Are you planning on thinking there?
"I'm planning on being dead there."
He chuckles. I chuckle.
"Will you visit?"
Visit?
"Just come and talk. Make it a Tuesday. You always come on Tuesdays."
We're Tuesday people.
"Right. Tuesday people. Come to talk, then?"
He has grown so weak so fast.
"Look at me," he says.
I'm looking.
"You'll come to my grave? To tell me your problems?"
My problems?
"Yes."
And you'll give me answers?
"I'll give you what I can. Don't I always?"
I picture his grave, on the hill, overlooking the pond, some little nine-foot piece of earth where they will place him, cover him with dirt, put a stone on top. Maybe in a few weeks? Maybe in a few days? I see myself sitting there alone, arms across my knees, starting into space.
It won't be the same, I say, not being able to hear you talk.
"Ah, talk. . ."
He closes his eyes and smiles.
"Tell you what. After I'm dead, you talk. And I'll listen."
--Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom. I finished it a month ago but it's still kind of in my head.

This passage kind of makes me want to head to downstate Ohio where my dad is buried. (By coincidence, though, it was actually his sister who was taken down by Lou Gehrig's, the same thing that got Morrie Schwartz... I was too young to get to know her, unfortunately.)

One other point I remember from the book is Morrie expression appreciation for a kind of regression to physical infancy, and being able to enjoy the physical intimacy with his caretakers that that entailed.

I get the feeling we don't touch enough, especially here in New England.

Heh. Probably not the most cheerful bit to start the week with!


free boston now

(3 comments)
June 12, 2007
So like NYC, Boston has had a free paper they hand out at the subways, the Boston Metro. And recently it gained a rival, "Boston NOW". Which I enjoy because sometimes the guys will call out "Free Boston Now!" which is clearly a chant you can take to the streets.

Image and Project of the moment
--The Mr. Lee CatCam project is lovely and brilliant... a tiny digital camera on the collar of an outdoor cat. Views from the secret life of cats!


Zen Koans and Quote of the Moment
"Does a dog have Buddha nature?"
"Woof!"
--"The Dharma Bums"

"Why did Bodhidharma come from the West?"
"I don't care."
--An old cook with lidded eyes from the same book. His response is labeled as the absolutely perfect answer

"But let the mind beware, that though the flesh be bugged, the circumstances of existence are pretty glorious."
--Jack Kerouac, "The Dharma Bums".

The other expression that sticks in my head (which is claimed to be Cervantes) is "comparisons are odious". That's a fairly bold philosophical Zen statement, that things should be taken as they are, and that relative comparisons aren't worth the hassle.


kirkis in the underworld

(8 comments)
June 13, 2007
At work yesterday my having a decent digital camera came in handy for some folks who needed to make some screenshots from actual phones. So once again I may build a reputation as the guy to go to when you need a white board photo or what not.

With better cameras, I'm using more and more diskspace every year. I was musing about winnowing the worthless shots out of what I usually keep on my harddrive. (Historically I've been superstitious about not getting rid of old photos, but now I'm generating so many of them as I try to get the shot just right...)

So I would probably hedge my bet and burn a DVD with all the photos-- even if I never actually tried to retrieve something from that archive. That DVD would map to the Greek idea of Hades; files reduced to abstract collections of ones and zeros, shadows of their former selves lacking the life force of being turned into viewable images... And if I did have to go to the DVD to retrieve a file, I would be like like Orpheus travelling to the Underworld...

Monster of the Moment
Angus used to have vivid, terrifying nightmares about an evil blue mouse named Hickory Dock who would scuttle from a loudly ticking clock and bite him on the hand--inspired, apparently, from the seemingly benign nursery rhyme. Even at the ripe age of five, Angus can't sleep with a ticking clock in the room.
--"The Complete Idiot's Guide to Zen Living". Sorry the kid was having nightmares but "Hickory Dock" is one of the coolest evil names I've heard in a while. Much cooler than my own childhood bedtime foible of being convinced that someone saying "Don't Let The Bedbugs Bite" would give me nightmares.

day of thur

(11 comments)
June 14, 2007
This must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays.

Politics of the Moment
"We will see neighbor against neighbor, church against church, family member against family member. That's why in this country we don't vote to take away rights."
--Marc Solomon, MassEquality. Tight vote looms on same-sex marriage, if a MA constitutional amendment to cut down the scope of the definition of marriage should be part of the 2008 ballot. Err, isn't there a precedent for constitutional amendments ADDING rights? As in, they made the "Bill of Rights" not the "Bill of Fewer Rights". (Oh, there was Prohibition, which they had to discard a little while after.) To be brutally frank, I think this comes down to King Mob being squicked by buttsex. If you're against gay marriage, don't have one.

Comic of the Moment
Basic Instructions continues to amuse. I just found a receipt for the $2200 Buddha (a 36" RCA that dwarfed the tiny apartment) TV I bought myself 7 years ago. EB has sure milked helping me get it up those stairs! (But at least this weekend he showed me that I can indeed get not one but two of these six foot tables into my little Scion. I'd recommend those tables by the way... Miller and I both have one and they come in useful at the oddest times, plus they're lightweight but sturdy.

I remember getting my first Canon digital camera not too long after, justified in part by my old camera breaking right before the wedding. It's funny, my "big ticket" purchases seem to not be as big as in years past, but there might be more of them now.

"i will not be reading my mail forever"

(4 comments)
June 15, 2007
Despite the risk of running into "what are you trying to do, kill your mother?" I wanted to mention that at Mr. Ibis' birthday party we hosted, for a lark I got my toenails painted by felisdemens:


(I used nail polish remover the other day, fulfilling my vow to felisdemens to remove the color before it grew out too much.)

It was interesting gaging folks' reaction to it. Some positive, some much more iffy. It provoked more raised eyebrow than I expected... painted toenails are a bigger secondary signifier than I would have guessed, people don't see it as a gender-neutral form of decoration like they have with earrings.

PS On an unrelated (honest) note, the proposed MA constitutional amendment to limit the definition of marriage was defeated so it won't come to statewide ballot until at least 2012. Good.

Now Reading: "The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin". Just Finished: "One Good Turn" and "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"

Spam Response of the Moment
I will not be reading my mail forever.
Your mail regarding '(No subject)' will be read if you send to my another mail address.
please get my new address from faculty of management.
Thank you
--Automated response to some Spam sent by some jerk using my domain as the apparent "from". I just like the despair in the first line, undercut a bit by what follows.

Link of the Moment
Kids roaming ranges shrinking. Talks about some interesting possible mental health issues related to that. boingboing has a nice summary. I know I have a very iffy relationship with the great outdoors...

roll-o-matic

(2 comments)
June 16, 2007
Been working in Rockport and only barely got this entry in! (Ahh, dialup via modem... brings back memories, though not as much as going straight to a 2400 baud 80x24 terminal screen would...)

I know, heaven forfend I miss a day, especially when I don't have much to say...

But I will take a moment to put in a good word for the Roll-O-Matic Sponge Roller Mop. Besides having a nifty name, it really does work a treat. EvilB and I are taking on a nasty cleaning task, swabbing the ceiling of this one nicotine-stained room with water and cleaning fluid, and this thing works wonders at getting the water back up off the floor, with a legitimately clever squeeze mechanism. Yay for simple, well-designed technology. (You can tell I just read "One Good Turn", the history of the screw and screwdriver... we take so much precision manufacture for granted!)

agreeable

(6 comments)
June 17, 2007
So this is going to start off as a token entry...

I've been reading Ben Franklin's Autobiography, a slim book but dense, though readable overall. One concept I like is his use of the word "agreeable". In an age of superlatives and gushing enthusiasm, its positive understatement is like a nice cool glass of water.

my weekend: an interprative performance art piece with week-old balloons and power drill

(2 comments)
June 18, 2007

cool programs about a decade late

(3 comments)
June 19, 2007
Hey kids! Remember the Palm? Would you believe games and utilities are still being made for it?

Alright, I'm a little cynical. But I still think my Palm Z22 has about the best PDA UI out there, so much better designed around the constraints of working with a small screen than the Microsoft Outlook derived crap, or some of the cellphones that don't even pretend to make an effort at usability.

For a long time I've been amusing myself writing things in PocketC, a little computer language that lets you write, compile, and run things on the Palm. Only recently though did I start to notice there's also a Windows-y desktop version that lets you take the same code and make standalone Palm apps, which is a much cooler way to be. So here are two:

bpm -- this is one of the few truly practical Palm programs I've made, despite (or because of) its bare appearance. If you just start tapping in the rhythm of a song or your pulse, it will give you the beats per minute after just a few taps.
5Jive -- I wrote the core of this years ago, on vacation in Florida, based on a Windows game I saw there. Click on a shape, and then to some square it can move to, and when you get five or more in a row they disappear.


I like the winding paths my unoptimized algorithm for 5jive ends up with... I tweaked the timing so it takes about the same amount of time no matter how many steps the shape has to take. Also I'm pleased with the tiny "alienbill.com" I got to fit in a 39x4 grid as a signature.

Links of the Moment
Two neat things on Slate today: 31 photos that changed the world and this link on some UK people enjoying playing with sins against the English language.

on benjamin franklin and his most excellent autobiography, the intentionality of desert areas, and assorted other topicks

(16 comments)
June 20, 2007
So, some closing thoughts on Ben Franklin's Autobiography. (That's a link to the Project Gutenberg etext. It makes me wish print books were more searchable! But, the ASCII text drops the italics.)

I had no idea about Ben Franklin, Swimming Instructor:
On one of these days, I was, to my surprise, sent for by a great man I knew only by name, a Sir William Wyndham, and I waited upon him. He had heard by some means or other of my swimming from Chelsea to Blackfriar's, and of my teaching Wygate and another young man to swim in a few hours. He had two sons, about to set out on their travels; he wish'd to have them first taught swimming, and proposed to gratify me handsomely if I would teach them. They were not yet come to town, and my stay was uncertain, so I could not undertake it; but, from this incident, I thought it likely that, if I were to remain in England and open a swimming-school, I might get a good deal of money; and it struck me so strongly, that, had the overture been sooner made me, probably I should not so soon have returned to America.
It makes me want to posit some crazy alternate history where Ben Franklin stayed and became a swim instructor, and somehow that caused monumental changes in the landscape of international relations with the Revolutionary War being replaced by some kind of swim-off. Ben Franklin-led squads of English Aristocratic swimmers vs a George Washington-coached ragtag squad of Americans... the minutemen, who could swim 5 boat-lengths in that time, or some such, with the fate of colonial independence at stake. (More on the history of swimming strokes, includes a reference to Thévenot, whom Franklin namedrops.)

A recurring theme was about how to conduct oneself during a debate:
I even forbid myself, agreeably to the old laws of our Junto, the use of every word or expression in the language that imported a fixed opinion, such as certainly, undoubtedly, etc., and I adopted, instead of them, I conceive, I apprehend, or I imagine a thing to be so or so, or it so appears to me at present. When another asserted something that I thought an error, I denied myself the pleasure of contradicting him abruptly and of showing immediately some absurdity in his proposition; and in answering, I began by observing that in certain cases or circumstances his opinion would be right, but in the present case there appeared or seemed to me some difference, etc. I soon found the advantage of this charge in my manner; the conversations I engaged in went on more pleasantly.
Now, that's my default way of arguing... except I think my reasons are less valid. I'm deathly afraid of being wrong, so I'll weasel my way into an ultimately unassailable position, hiding behind the final refuge of only describing my subjective observation. (I was also truck by the use of the word "positive", meaning "assured" as opposed to "good"... this usage predates, and preemptively argues against, the philosophy of "positivism" that would emerge later.)

That said, I think I am willing to admit when the thrust of my argument has been thwarted. And sometimes I learn something. This weekend working in Rockport the song "Missing" came on, with its lyric "And I miss you / Like the deserts miss the rain". It's a lovely lyric, but I always wondered if it was reasonable to think of deserts as "missing" the rain. I mean, aren't they in their own way viable ecosystems? EvilB countered with a description of the amazing and awe-provoking flowering that occurs in desert areas when a rain does come, even in regions that have gone for years and years without water. That was an excellent point, but then made me wonder if it's fair to use "the deserts" when you mean "the biomass of the deserts"... he countered with, well yeah, but "and I miss you / like the biomass contained with desert regions miss the rain" just doesn't scan. That got me wondering about what is the intentionality of desert regions? If they have one, than I'd say their longing is to grow, to devour more former woodland and pastures with sand and aridity... in which case they wouldn't miss the rain at all. (They might miss the wind, though, if it wasn't around, to help blow the sand and extend the borders.)

Silly argument, but a fun bit of deconstruction to go along with stripping paint off of deconstructed window moldings, and making it that much more agreeable. (Later he reacted negatively to my saying that he "brought up some good points" as debat-team-ish damning with faint praise, but I was being absolutely sincere.)

Finally, back to Ben and forming an early fire fighting company:
Our articles of agreement oblig'd every member to keep always in good order, and fit for use, a certain number of leather buckets, with strong bags and baskets (for packing and transporting of goods), which were to be brought to every fire;
I guess that speaks of the improvements of fire fighting technology over the years, that you'd see situations where there'd be a fire at a neighbors, and the safest thing to do is to bug out with your stuff, but you need something to pack it in. (Though as he noted: "since these institutions, the city has never lost by fire more than one or two houses at a time, and the flames have often been extinguished before the house in which they began has been half consumed" - that's actually quite a record!) It also reflects how consumer goods have become much cheaper in the meanwhile, and, I think, buildings more expensive.

(Heh, even when I write this, I have to remove many instances of "I think" and "I guess". I shouldn't hedge my bet quite so often when I write, but it's my nature to do so.)

Now Reading: Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland

PS After the video I posted the other day, EvilB wanted me to assure his wife that those balloons, having had a happy time celebrating their daughter's first birthday, were old, sick, and tired, and despite the growling and goofiness, it was actually euthanasia... see, balloons don't want solemnity and dignity when it's time for them to move on, it's just not in their nature.

we may well be the atlantis of some future time

June 21, 2007
Boy HOWDY does it feel like summer!

Or maybe just an early Friday.

Either way... MAN do I want to be out and about.

Bummer of the Moment
Evil B mentioned an article that had been making the rounds lately about the sad unlikelihood of the human colonization of space. A bummer for sci-fi fans and people worried about the sustainability of life on this little bluegreen rock of ours.

It gave me this thought, roughly paraphrased from last night: (and then today, when I mentioned the idea to some coworkers)
I mean, civilization may collapse, but I think humans will survive. We may be a bunch of nomad caveman [sic] trying to eek out a living in the ruins, but still... and just think, those folks will look back at us as some kind of Atlantis! They'll be like "and these metal boxes used to have wheels! And go fast! Much faster than a person or even a deer can run!"-- not to mention how we had flying machines and boxes that can make any kind of music you want at any time... but right now we're living the golden age! Yay us!
He laughed, but, well, yeah, yay us. And try not to screw up the planet quite so badly...

Innovation of the Moment
--Sam Adams' new beer glass design. Another future relic of this golden age!


daisies that shatter. a tornado with a halo.

(7 comments)
June 22, 2007
So yesterday (and I'm retroactively claiming it was to celebrate the longest day / start of summer) Jonathan suggested we go after work and take the Minute Man Bike Trail to its end, him on roller blades, me on bike (not a bad match, given his athleticism, and my lack thereof. Actually I was lagging him a bit.) Looking at the website, I guess I went longer than we thought, maybe 9.5 miles each way, from Arlington Center out to Bedford and back. That's quite a haul for me... I feel pretty good today, though I didn't sleep particularly well.

So here's what the end of the Minuteman looks like, and Jonathan on 'blades (he's actually amazing graceful on those things, like the way those dancers used to be on skates in the 70s) and me on a bike.

(UPDATE: I found this google map of the minuteman on a minuteman pather's blog)

Literary Bits of the Moment
I just finished Douglas Coupland's "Eleanor Rigby" (Thanks Mr. Ibis and Felisdemens! His sandals will be mailed shortly) a meditation on loneliness and human society in general.

(POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHOY...NOTHING TOO BAD)

Not my favorite Coupland work, lacking the constant flow of neat observations and ideas, but decent. For me the most striking bit was this series of apocalyptic visions of one of the central characters, dealing with MS, raised by foster families, most featuring an odd fundamentalist religious bent. (He sums it up as "This fallen world is going to end, but at least I saw it before the fall" -- it wasn't till I reviewed the book for this entry that I realized that phrase may have sunk into my head and informed my comment I posted yesterday on how we are some future collapsed society's Atlantis.)

The central recurring vision is one of farmers and their wives, burning their seeds and destroying their stores of preserved food, looking up at the sun shining in the all black sky... that scene's narrative gets further revealed throughout the book, but it's the idea of a round white ball of sun against a black sky that I find most sticks in my head.

There were other tableaus and mini-stories:
  • burning whales heaving themselves onto beaches
  • daisies that shatter
  • bales of money that wash up on shore
  • trees that go limp and deflate
  • a vision where ex-lovers had a bad breakup, and the punishment was rusting a little every time they say each other on the street, like the tin man. In the end they rust frozen in front of each other
  • a collapsed building where the digging rescuers find people compressed into diamonds by the force
  • guns shooting at loaves of bread
  • coyotes stumbling down an empty freeway. eyes are milky
  • A new order, cold white lights that burn and die
  • A tornado with a halo
  • A guy throwing a thrashing body in the trunk of a Chevy
  • A 747 the size and shape of a hotel, flying to jerusalem, with stacking chairs instead of seats
Heh, all this disturbing, dream-like imagery makes me want to go catch up on Slow Wave.

UDPATE: nearly forgot one more great quote from the book:
"Again I have to say it, Mom, there's a lot to be said for having a small and manageable dream."


Other Literary Bit of the Moment
As long as we're doing book quotes... I was tempted to do a MOM FILTER on this one, it's sexual, albeit in a detached observer kind of of way... from Stephen Chbosky's "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"
After a few minutes, the boy pushed the girl's head down, and she started to kiss his penis. She was still crying. Finally, she stopped crying because he put his penis in her mouth and I don't think you can cry in that position.
The narrator is a high school boy with certain psychological difficulties, who starts to find his social groove a bit... some elements of the book seemed to have a hint of precocious-kid-later-writer autobiography, but still a decent read. (Under an MTV imprint, oddly enough.)

robot street fight

(6 comments)
June 23, 2007
Remember how there used to be all those "Robot Wars" type shows, for the first few years of this decade? (I guess "BattleBots" on Comedy Central (which never made a ton of sense) was the one I saw most often.)

For the most part they were never robots, just armed and armored remote control cars. Big ones. But then the genre semed to kind of just drift away.

Is it just my perception because I watch less TV? Maybe they became redundant once we started up in Iraq...

Article of the Moment
So-so New Yorker article on technology. Its core point seems to be older technologies hang around and are more useful than we give them credit for, and that everything is more evolutionary than revolutionary, but at cites a lot of interesting sounding works.

Optical Illusion of the Moment
--Vaguely neat on its own, but also an illusion... its visually ambiguous if she's clockwise or counter-, and your mind can switch that (focus on the reflection, and picture it representing swinging the other way.) Via 4chan.org.

drop it like its hot

(8 comments)
June 24, 2007
Thinking about food. My housemate Miller pointed out that microwave light popcorn does not a dinner make. I remember Dylan making the same observation ten years ago when he was subletting from me for a few months. And they're right, of course, but... I don't know, dinner just isn't that important to me. I'm not that hungry in the evening, but I appreciate it as the socially most important meal of the day, and of course if delicious food is presented to me I'll generally have some.

Of course, that's the fundamental problem. I'll eat for the taste of something, and for hunger... but not for "energy" or "nutrition" per se, because there's no definite feedback loop. I can't even set up an experiment to test the idea that "dinner is an important meal" because of the disconnect between what I eat and how I feel.

Quotes of the Moment
"Hors d'oeuvres have always had a pathetic interest for me," said Reginald, "they remind me of one's childhood that one goes through, wondering what the next course is going to be like -- and during the rest of the menu one wishes one had eaten more of the hors d'oeuvres."
--Saki. I love this guy; he's like the James Thurber of Edwardian-era Foppery. I'm currently tackling "The Complete Saki" though it feels like it might be overdoing it a bit.

Imagine the other day, just when I was doing my best to understand half the things I was saying, being asked by one of those seekers after country home truths how many fowls she could keep in a run ten feet by six, or whatever it was! I told her whole crowds, as long as she kept the door shut, and the idea didn't seem to have struck her before; at least, she brooded over it for the rest of dinner.
--Saki. This line reminds me of of a Groucho Marx line I once heard, in response to a woman who explained her having lots and lots of kids by "well, I love my husband..." supposedly "I love my cigar too, but I take it out of my mouth once in a while!" didn't happen, or not on-air, but I've heard "well, I love flapjacks, but I don't have closetfulls of them!" in response to the same scenario.

Video Games of the Moment

So NickB has been talking about this game Portal, as well as a free prototype you can play on windows called Narbacular Drop. The latter has the same 2 portal system, but in a more graphically primitive and fairy tale setting. (The makers of Portal have hired the team of students who made Narbacular Drop.)

The 2 portal concept, where you can make any 2 locations "virtually adjacent" via that set of doors, is a real mindbender. Seeing your back or side through a portal you set and realizing that (in game terms) it's not a reflection, nor a video monitor of some kind, but YOU, your player herself (in N.D. you play "Princess No-Knees" so teased because of her lack of jumping ability) takes some getting used to. And then setting up little experiments and what not... plus there's usually more than one way to solve a puzzle, and it's a challenge not to get fixed on one idea when there might be an easier to execute alternative.

I'd recommend the download, even though the game is a bit glitchy. (sometimes I came into the Boulder Run room and there were no boulders, needed to finish the level, until I was killed at least once.) It's only about 4 or 5 real puzzles, but good mental exercise.

interested in chatting to goofy guy?

(2 comments)
June 25, 2007
I've had a lot of "Hi! I'm tired this afternoon. Interested in chatting to pretty girl?" SPAM as of late. It makes me wonder if the phrase "tired this afternoon" bit is helping it through Gmail's spamfilter, if it capitalizes on some international fatigue or malaise expressed in ordinary mail. Or, more likely, it's just a short message, and thus harder pattern to seperate from normal short emails.

I'm always tempted to try to send joke e-mails to friends following the spam patterns, but I guess the risk of my mail being mistaken for the real thing is just too great. And maybe they won't get it either.

Video of the Moment
This weekend I subjected myself to a Larry the Cable Guy concert (or whatever they call an hour or two of recorded stage "comedy"). I guess the accent reminds me of hanging out with my cousins in downstate Ohio back in the day. A few laughs as well, but too much dumb, mean-spirited, and/or gross-out humor.

Anyway, here's a video of the guy before the accent and personae, in this weirdly-high-strung 80s-comedy-show manner. Nowadays this guy really has the pandering thing down.

pac-man and the bailiff of the chiltern hundreds

(3 comments)
June 26, 2007
Yesterday I went wikipediaing on the concept of sinecure after seeing it in a Saki short story. My favorite has to be the British office of "Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds", used as a legal excuse for resigning from Parliament. It's just such a grand English name.

Man... how do I get me one of them sinecures?

Video Gamery of the Moment
Pac-Man skeleton, conceived by Le Gentil Garçon in collaboration with François Escuilié, palaeontologist, from the comparative observation of human and various predatory animal skulls. More photos on this collection of works, under 2004. (via bb)

Evil B. has taken a strong liking to a new Pac-Man variant, Pac-Man Championship Edition, currently only available as a download on Xbox 360's Live service. Pac Penny Arcade had high praise for it, as did dessgeega. Pac-Man creator Toru Iwatani was on the team for it, and it shows.
At first blush it looks like a slightly sexed-up version of good old Pac-Man, but widescreen (heh, sort of reminds me of the terrible 2600 version's layout.) There are some cool subtle lighting effects and a good soundtrack. The gameplay is still eating dots, but rather than having to clear a full board, you clear a small set and eat an item, and then more dots appear on the other side of the maze. The action never lets up... even when Pac-Man dies, he re-appears in the same location in a few moments, but the whole game is capped to be a five minute experience.

It didn't really grab me by the hindbrain, but it got Evil B, with his superior old school Pac-Man mojo and desire to tackle specific challenges. (They allow you to chain powerpellets, so that you get incresed multipliers for 8, 12, or 16 ghosts, rather than than just the 4 in the original.) It took me a while to realize that entire halves of the board were being redrawn, not just repopulated with pellets. (Some of the extra modes really throw in some interesting explorations what you can do with a Pac-Man maze, from something like a grid to long straight lines like subway tunnels.)

(Sorry, must be a slow news day...)

yippee-ki-yay

(2 comments)
June 27, 2007
So with the whole Chris Benoit murder/suicide tragedy, they were making a big deal about discovering steroids. I gotta say, I almost fell over from not-surprise that a professional wrestler was found using steroids. That's a contender for biggest non-clue in the history of sleuthing. I'm not saying that they weren't a factor in what he did, or that the number of deaths of these entertainers over the past few decades isn't alarming but... sheesh.

Article of the Moment
Slate has a neat article on the best movie quips, with a focus on Die Hard's famous line (WARNING, CUSSES)
A quarter of the line (or half, depending on how you count) is profane, and yet "Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker" is actually a delicate wisecrack. Underscoring the line's bridging of generations is the symmetry of its construction. On either side of the comma, past and present each get four syllables. This balance is manifested in the evenness of Willis' first—and best—delivery of the line. Subtly, he eases off "fucker," the word that, by virtue of its syntactical position, and its very nature, we might expect to land hardest on our ears. That Willis does not employ the same deftness in the sequels is a pity. The phrase is most effective not as a buildup to some hammer punch, but as one seamless unit of defiance.
In the 80s it was always fun to play "predict the quip"... I mean when Danny Glover is fighting off baddies in a construction project in his home with a nail gun, you know what line is coming up, right?

Webcomic of the Moment

--Julia Wertz' Fart Party, a great mostly-autobiographical webcomic. They didn't have any of the (what are the name of those $1 or $2, hand-stapled xerox style comics? Those.) at Million Year Picnic, but it sounds like there might be some larger compilations coming out.

Also... is this comic true?? Seems like a potentially useful factoid to know.


the heat, she is on

(5 comments)
June 28, 2007
Wow, HOT.

Between the extremes of walking around in wilting summer heat and freezing winter cold, I'll always take the former. Jonathan took the opposite view, citing the usual idea that you can always dress more warmly but there's only so far you can strip, but still. Trudging through severe winter cold makes me feel as if I'm suffering, this kind of summer heat is just sticky and unpleasant.

It's a good time for summer movies, then. Saw "Fantastic Four" last night. Verdict: not so fantastic, to make the obvious joke. For me part of the pleasure of this kind of dumb summer blockbuster is seeing what the writers and directors do within the constraints of the universes they have to work with, so it's less fun when superpowers and threats kind of warp and morph to meet the needs of the story, rather than the other way around.


So if Marvel is indeed planning to make its own movies rather than licensing them out, they have to do better than this, especially as they reach deeper into their pantheon for folks whose stories haven't been put to screen. (And man... how many hamfisted cameos can one guy do? I'm looking at you, Stan Lee.)

Geek Trick of the Moment
How to Extract A Song From YouTube (Or Other Video Sites). I wouldn't recommend it except for music you can't readily get through other channels; it's a shade immoral and possibly a bit illegal, the quality isn't fantastic, and people who posted the video might not have lined up the music with the beginning and end of their production. But still, the trick is there.

Quote of the Moment
Some parts of the past must be preserved, and some of the future prevented at all costs.
--Slashdot Fortune

kirk tree

(2 comments)
June 29, 2007
So today I'm leaving for a weekend in Chicago to catch the wedding of frequent-kisrael poster Mr. Lex!

Kirkism of the Moment


This is the Kirk Tree! It was planted on the day I was born.

Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration. Sadly, the true original, 2 proud tall woody stems, succumbed to weird spidery things around ten years ago. But this springs from a cutting from that very plant. I think I missed the chance to make it a vertical growth kind of thing, but it's more dense than the first version.

I have a ritual where I take a sip out of the glass when I go to water it. Corny, but hey.

sweet home chicago ... cleveland rocks

(1 comment)
June 30, 2007
So what better way to celebrate being in Chicago than a music video in praise of Cleveland?



That's the full version.

I really appreciate how Drew Carey used his show to explore some interesting ideas. There were some abject failures (like the episode based on live improv) but some of the stuff really used the bully pulpit. (Unfortunately, one of the things I wanted to post here got dumped, a really neat "loop" bit where they have a speechless repetitive scene in the office, adding a little bit of surreal action each time, until finally Drew points out they're in a rut.)

So hopefully this video will stay:

(It cuts out the intro where Lewis shows off his new tattoo "scary skeleton riding a motorcycle" "I thought you were scared of motorcycles" "Eh, I'm scared of tatoos too, that's why I drew it on..."

I'm sure it was hard word to put together productions like that, but man it looks like they were having fun.

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