January 27, 2001

Mo and I went over to Lena's last night, just a casual time hanging out, eating Thai food, drinking a bit of Mike's Hard Lemonade (which is the best hard lemonade, much better than that pseudo-microbrew Doc Otis crap), playing Monopoly...

Ugh, Monopoly. I don't understand why people like this game. You never actually finish a game, just go around that stupid board again and again. (Though I do like that little race car.) It's depressing too, the luck of the dice the first few go 'rounds sets the course for the rest of the game, which is a little too close to real life for comfort. The Parker Brothers originally rejected it for having "52 Design Errors"... they thought a family game should last 45 minutes, have easy to understand rules, and a CLEAR WINNER. And they were right.


I asked about yesterday's gram/kilogram issue on Usenet. The best answer included the following quote: (from "National Institute of Standards and Technology Special Publication 330, 1991 edition.")
III.3 The kilogram
Among the base units of the International System, the unit of mass is the only one whose name, for historical reasons, contains a prefix. Names of decimal multiples and submultiples of the unit of mass are formed by attaching prefixes to the word "gram" (CIPM (1967), Recommendation 2)
I think the term "base unit" is ambiguous, making it a bit of a trick question, which is fair enough in Trivial Pursuit. (Though I still think I should've been given the benefit of the doubt.) Anyway, I am glad I know some of the reasons why now, it was worth tracking down.

axe the saxrantramble

November 9, 2004

Most overrated musical instrument: without a question, for me it has to be the saxophone.

First off is how corny the thing's origins are. While Adolphe Sax's motivations aren't clear...maybe he was worried about some weird clarinet "overblowing octaves" things, maybe he was just looking to let woodwind players make as much damn noise as the brass...the indisputable fact is he named the stupid things after himself. If I were to make a whole new instrument I hope I could come with a better name than "Kirkaphone". It's just self-aggrandizing egotism, is what it is. (And of course, the instrument always gets abbreviated to "playing sax". That's like saying you're "playing Jones" or what not.) And the guy's almost supernatural ability to tick off other instrument manufacturers made the instrument a pariah for years, and that's why it's not a part of classical music from the 1800s. Or maybe those composers just knew something that later music guys forgot.

Second off is just the playing of the Sax, especially for beginner players. I hate instruments with reeds, they're always cracking and the players are always running out, or having to work to keep 'em damp. Any instrument where you're supposed to keep part of it moist doesn't seem like a good instrument to me. Plus...well, I was a brass player, and I'm kind of grateful that the mouthpieces for those instruments are concave. Freudian symbolism aside, it's kind of nice to not be required to place part of the instrument IN your actual body. And speaking of beginning players...man, no instrument sounds as bad in the hands of a novice as a sax can. That squeaking and squawking was the bane of my middle school Wind Ensemble years.

Then there's the music that is made with saxes. They say that the saxophone is one of the most expressive instruments, capable of providing a huge variety of moods and sounds and that's why the jazz guys dug it so much, why it's almost like the human voice almost and blah blah blah, but really, there's only two types that you run into: the brash, honking stuff, and the smooth, corners-free "Kenny G" crap. I guess the honking stuff is ok, I'm as amused by a good round of Yakety Sax as the next guy, but that Smooth Jazz crap is really the stuff that aesthetic crimes against humanity are made of.

And, finally, while on the topic of aesthetic crimes...why the hell is Saxophone the only instrument culturally linked to coolness that's not an electric guitar? They're right up there with "throw on a pair of sunglasses" in terms of hackneyed visual signifiers of "cool". Sometimes I can't believe that my political allegiance to Clinton survived him playing saxophone with sunglasses on on national television--for a guy so in touch with the Black community that he put his office in Harlem, he is as corny as all get out. Plus, the way saxophone players feel compelled to duck and bob around during any solos they might have, flapping their elbows like they're doing the funky chicken...man, it's a nightmare. How they still manage to culturally read as "hip" is beyond me. Not to mention that retarded pun "Sax Appeal" that always seems to rear its ugly head.

Now, fair disclosure: my opinion might be biased by the bitterness of years of playing tuba. The only thing lower down on the cultural totem pole than the tuba players might be the accordionists. And yet, years after I stopped playing I had to confess that the reputation is not completely undeserved: they aren't a good sounding instrument by themselves. If you can hear a tuba do anything besides providing a general "bass" foundation, you're probably regretting it. Unless it's Dixieland. Dixieland is kind of fun. So maybe I'm jealous of all the attention the saxophones got, but still; Saxophones are completely, completely overrated.

go to the ant thou sluggardrant

November 12, 2004

My laptop at work is amazingly bad. It's 2 1/2 years old, which isn't too awful, but there's something about Dell laptops, at least the ones running Windows 2000, that makes them get all clogged up...apps are always a little on the slow side, and startup and shutdown take a LOOOONG time.

And I don't even need a laptop for work...it's been nice a few times when I wanted to "work at home", and when I want to have a document at a meeting without printing it out, but overall, I have one because when I asked for a flatpanel in 2002 those screens were considered luxuries...so they gave me a much more expensive laptop instead, go figure.

So the laptop was sluggish but usable. Then they added some Symantec virus scanning, and now the thing is just silly. For some reason the system is setup to do a full deep scan daily. When the scan is going full out, the harddrive is whirring constantly and sometimes I can watch a newly visible application's window refresh, drawing in the window line...by line....by line....by line. The system runs like molasses. In January. On Pluto. During a coldsnap. My only recourse is to spend about 20 minutes or so shutting it down and then restarting...I can't kill the scan process directly...it's protected, 'cause killing it is exactly what you'd expect a virus to do, innit?

So there is of course a tremendous irony in a virus scan procedure doing more damage to my productivity than any virus has ever done. It's the computer equivalent of a neurotic who can't stop washing his hands...I get this image of the scan program running around frantically, hunting through every other nook, every cranny, and it would do this same deep frenetic searching every day if I let it.

Help is on the way, however. I'm getting a kick-butt new desktop PC either this week or next (and now flatpanels are standard here, not a luxury (in fact a lot of people use 2) so I'll be getting one of those too.) Even though the rate of relative PC speed increase has dropped a lot lately, it's a little odd thinking that this will probably be the fastest most powerful computer I've ever touched or used directly. (Or not....I can't remember if I've messed with much "big metal" servers that would blow even the most modern typical desktop away.) So that'll be nice. Maybe they'll let me keep my old laptop for a while, and I can let it do nothing but run its virus scan day in, day out, whirring happily and neurotically to itself and generally keeping busy.

Gripe of the Moment
Grrr...when did Apple start make QuickTime download == iTunes download?

florida filler day 2rant

February 17, 2007

It wasn't the easiest trip down here to Florida via Charlotte on Thursday.

First problem was me mis-remembering the time of the flight, somehow getting a 1PM departure stuck in my head when it was supposed to be 11... luckily I double checked when I thought I had heard my phone ring around 6:30.

I bypass the huge lines at the United counter only to have the automated kiosk tell me that it doesn't do US Airways flights. Apparently this is one of those insane "United Served By US Airways" flights and I jotted down the wrong airline, and so arrived at the wrong terminal.

So I tramp over to US Airways again bypassing a huge line only to have THEIR kiosk tell me that my first flight was running late, so I'd miss my flight and don't get a boarding pass. So I get into the huge line, along with some other travelers trying to make other connections via Charlotte, and after some complaining and only moving about 15 yards in the line (half an hour maybe?) we get put to a special express lane, and I get on my original flight, but with a later connection to Florida.

So this flight is suffering some typical airline-y delays, no big deal. Those seem on the verge of being settled when we are told: they don't actually have the crew they thought they would to fly the plane. I'm not too worried, my rescheduled connection is late enough (hmm, I think, the guy said it was 4 something, the badly printed ticket says boarding... 3:35? 3:55?) that it shouldn't be a problem.

Except, of course, it takes even longer than expected to scrape up a crew, and then there's lots of mysterious sitting at the gate, and we don't land in North Carolina 'til 4:30.

Also, just to add to the indignity of it all... when the hell did they start using tray-table tops as billboards? And those drop down video screens to go through a series of "Cranium" questions/advertisements? All the fun of a pre-movie slideshow but with even less comfortable seats.

So we get to the airport, and I decide against making a frantic push to make the connection, that boat has already sailed, to mix a metaphor. But wait! What's this? The flight is now leaving at 6PM? All right! Fate is finally smiling upon me and I have time to grab a local-ish Carolina BBQ sandwich!

(Anecdote... I purchased a book at the airport bookstore, since I had ripped through my first two pretty quickly. The clerk asked "do you need a magazine or newspaper to go with that?" What?? As like, a warmup? It's reading, not french fries, people.)

Another typical airline delay, plane got in late, need to clean it up, we'll leave at 7, blah blah... but then...they just found out their crew went "illegal" (which I assume means "have flown too many hours", and not "wanted by the INS") and the desk guy doesn't sound too optimistic about digging up a new one...

At this point, I'd want to use the ancient phrase and tell them to go take a flying fuck at a rolling donut, except I don't think they'd have the staff to actually get off the ground.

Fortunately the desk guy's pessimism was unfounded, and the flight was fairly fast, despite the cranium questions being a repeat of the first leg's....

All in all only 5 hours late, but... oy. A good chance to practice my efforts of contentment and detachment, I guess is the best that can be said about it, well that, and I'm Just Happy To Be Here.

Oh... also in the "could be worse" department, I had an empty seat next to me on the first part (guy wanted to swap for an aisle) and a whole empty role on the second. (Why someone in a full row didn't go for the aisle, I'm not sure.)

Lessons learned:


Today's Theme: Letters and Words.

Here are some neat little typographical artpieces. With music.

Here's an odd little handwriting technique.

And then Wordorigins.org gets pretty deeply into where our vocabulary came from.

Quote of the Moment
"If she would just love me again, I'd build her a beautiful cage and never ever let her out."
--Bobby Hill, "King of The Hill"

works in more placesrant

November 10, 2007

Here's the billboard I would like to see.
Seriously. Sometimes I am stunned by the sheer chutzpah of the AT&T marketing division. It's reminiscent of Soviet Propaganda in how it feels like the best way to deal with a politically inconvenient truth is to boldly proclaim the opposite with as many banners as possible. If it wasn't for the word-of-mouth, I might've believed that AT&T had a superior network, but it just ain't so.

Plus, their curiously constrained claims always tend to leave them open to ridicule. With their current campaign, "Works in more fictional places" is the obvious rejoinder. Or with the whole "Fewer Dropped Calls" - sure, if your customers can't make as many calls in the first place, fewer are going to drop. (And besides that, even the core claim seemed suspect based on my 4 months with an iPhone; back with Sprint they were an anomaly, but now sitting at my desk, a call will go along with out a hitch, 'til suddenly, silence.)

I'm willing to believe maybe the iPhone makes it worse. I wanna like AT&T, Deathstar and all. But, bleh.