2004 August❮❮prevnext❯❯

act now! time is running out!

click to run

--A stylized 60 second timer, written in Processing. (More convenient to use than the PalmPilot version I made earlier I think, at least if you have a laptop.) One advantage over a regular timer is you don't have to wait for it to run down to reuse it... (Here's the Source...geek note: one thing I like about these toys is, so long as you don't use external graphics, they are 100% described by a single text file...)

thoughts of the produce section 2004

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Thoughts of the Moment

--Here's the history of Thoughts of the Produce Section, plus three more examples here, here, and here. This one I drew at the same meeting that produced that page of tiny doodles.

Geek Javascript of the Moment
Unix Date:
--Just need something quick and dirty to go from Unix "seconds since 1970" timestamps to something more human readable. Not as quick and dirty as I hoped, it took me a bit to realize that javascript was thinking in milliseconds, so I had to muliply by 1000. Duhhr!

Article of the Moment
Golfing across Mongolia, one stroke at a time. He's hitting a golfball across the entire dang country, he went 1,234 miles. Crazy and awe inspiring. I suppose if I liked golf at all it would be even cooler.

Feature of the Moment
Slate has a pretty hard hitting series Dispatches from Fallujah...it's a few steps to getting my head around what it's like to be one of the guys over there...

filthy with miracles

Article of the Moment
Scientific American on how The Law of Large Numbers guarantees that "miracles" happen 295 times a day in America. Or as "Uncle Al" put it, "There are 27O million Americans. The US is filthy with one-in-a-million events." (In the SciAm article I also like the thought "during the time that we are awake and actively engaged in living our lives, roughly for eight hours each day, we see and hear things happening at a rate of about one per second. So the total number of events that happen to us is about thirty thousand per day, or about a million per month." 30,000 events per day...huh.)

Photoshopping of the Moment
--Some amazing art hackery going on in Worth1000's Modern Mod Ren contest, modern celebrities as the subjects of slightly less modern art...

Quote and Essay of the Moment
This experience was only part of a larger process of edification. Living in Europe, I gradually came to appreciate American virtues I'd always taken for granted, or even disdained--among them a lack of self-seriousness, a grasp of irony and self-deprecating humor, a friendly informality with strangers, an unashamed curiosity, an openness to new experience, an innate optimism, a willingness to think for oneself and speak one's mind and question the accepted way of doing things. (One reason why Euro- peans view Americans as ignorant is that when we don't know something, we're more likely to admit it freely and ask questions.)
It's worth reading (even though at least on my browser, quotation marks and other puncuation display as question marks and accented characters as Chinese...) -- it's a right leaning, spirited response to some books that provide a much more negative view of the United States.

News of the Moment
Statue of Liberty has re-opened for tourists. Huh, I hadn't realized it had been shutdown. Bummed to hear it's only up to the pedastal top, though: "The rest of the statue continues to be off-limits because it cannot accommodate large numbers of tourists and does not meet safety codes." I'm glad I got the view from the crown (even if I never got to go up to the torch...) Of course my memories of the place will always be tempered by the time I went up with my then girlfriend and she got the WORST cramps ever...watching her roll on the floor of halfway up the pedastal, and not being able to do a ton to help...)

rico's roughnecks - everybody fights. nobody quits

You know, I found something a little sad in realizing I don't know this new apartment as well as the old house...like, groping for the kitchen faucet in the dark, I didn't intuitively know that it was one of those single long handle jobbies, rather than having two twisting handles...I dunno.

I think the divorce being final this Saturday is going to bend my perspective a bit, probably for the better. We'll see how it goes.

Quote of the Moment
Slashdot had an article linking to this piece on the next generations of Army uniforms. Here was my response to Slashdot:

It's worth RTFA, because of some absolutely choice quotes:
the 2020 model will remind you of an ominous creature out of a science fiction movie
I love the use of "ominous"
When you have a uniform with this new nanotechnology, it can absorb unlimited numbers of machine-gun rounds
Wouldn't that get kind of heavy?
We are looking at potentially mounting a weapon directly to the uniform system and now the soldier becomes a walking gun platform.
Now THAT sounds like fun...

Grumble of the Moment
How much do I find my job rather unengaging? So much so that I'm really looking forward to going to Walgreens over lunch and picking up one of those stupid SMTWTFS pillboxes people with a variety of pills use to keep track. I don't have a lot of pills but I can't think of a better way of keeping track of the 6 all-in-one vitamins I'm supposed to be having daily. (One of the side effects of going to a semi-hippy doctor I guess.) I'll keep the pill thing shamefully hidden in the depths of my everpresent courier bag...

Urban Legend of the Moment
Heheheh...I was just really amused by this Starbucks poster ("Collapse into Cool") and that they didn't see the implication of a tie-in w/ WTC...


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It has almost slipped from the frontpage but LAN3 who was very fond of the Hating America link mentioned the " showing as ? issue can be fixed in IE by going to View|Encoding -- I had best results by making sure "Auto-Select" was checked.

Quote of the Moment
People are stupider than anybody.
Tom Lehrer (May 2000 Onion A.V.Club interview)

Songs of the Moment
A study in contrasts: Gloomy Sunday was said to have led to a number of suicides in the first part of the 1900s. (The 3rd verse that basically says "oh it was all a dream!" was added later, probably to try to counteract it or something.) Maybe that was mostly an Urban Legend, however.

And then we have Dennis Learly's "A**HOLE" song well-set to scenes from the game Halo. Goes on a bit, but the song is still amusing in parts and the way they match up the in-game action to the lyrics is funny as well.

Political Observation of the Moment
And it's true; both candidates are for the corporation, and I do agree with Nader that ultimately the corporation is the major evil. But in my mind, Bush is the immediate obstacle. He is a collection of disasters for America. What he does to the English language is a species of catastrophe all by itself. Bush learned a long time ago that certain key words, 'evil, patriotism, stand-firm, flag, our-fight-against-terrorism,' will get half the people in America stirred up. That's all he works with. Kerry will be better in many ways, no question.
He also said
"It could be that the most incisive personal crime committed by George Bush is that he probably never said to himself, 'I don't deserve to be president.' You just can't trust a man who's never been embarrassed by himself. The vanity of George W. stands out with every smirk. He literally cannot control that vanity. It seeps out of every movement of his lips, it squeezes through every tight-lipped grimace. Every grin is a study in smugsmanship."
Right on. When Bush talks about "humble" anything, he's talking out of his ass.

2019 UPDATE: looking back... I think about how Obama's detractors thought he was the arrogant one. It has a different flavor, though. And of course Trump somehow transcends mere smugness to become a monument to, of, by, and for himself.

crazy people

I gave blood this morning...I rock!

Cartoon of the Moment
An illustrated tale from the psychiatric ward.

Bushism of the Moment
Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.
GWB, Aug. 5, 2004, via Slate.com's Bushism of the Day

Music and Videos of the Moment
Weird...The Chipmunks' Song [slowed down]..."Yes, hear Simon, Theodore and Alvin at their true speed, sounding respectively like an accountant, a hot-dog vendor, and a lunatic." Good ennunciation. (Actually, according to the amusing writeup at The Straight Dope, the voices are all done by one guy, Ross Bagdasarian.)

Speaking of things made funnier via chipmunk talk, Peterman is a big fan of Foamy The Squirrel in the toons at iLL WiLL PreSS. The rant "FAT-KINS DIET" is good if you're in a hurry.

Ramble of the Moment
You know what would be a useful minor superpower? The ability to really know how to pack things up for shipping. In this e-bay and what-not day and age, that has to be worth some cash. I always get stymied, trying to think of where to get the right size box, and what to use to stop it from rattling around, and get confused by some of the post office options, all of those details. "Packing Things Deftly" would definately be better than my current actual minor superability, "able to bring group conversations to an end by a comment that goes just a little too far."

Passing of the Moment
R.I.P., Rick James! Wonder what this will do to the plans for a movie based on the Chappelle's Show skit, about his wild days...So please. Everyone. One last "I'm Rick James, Bitch!" and then a moment of silence.

end of an era

So. At some point today, or maybe already, Mo and I are no longer married. No more of that that weird phrasing "my soon-to-be-ex", no more trying to figure out why the state makes it 120 days of waiting, not much more of anything I suppose...

Musical call and response:
"Is That All There Is?" --Peggy Lee
"That's it / That's it / That's All There Is" --Beastie Boys

Eh, sigh. I dunno. The milestone hasn't hit me like I thought it might, or at least not yet.

I have to admit I went for one last gesture. Mo's pretty insistent on not hearing from me for a while, but a week ago I ordered flowers for delivery today with a card:
Mo--So here we are. Sorry for what's gone on lately. Please try to look on what we were with kindness and generosity. You will always have a piece of my heart. --Kirk
which is pretty much how I feel about that.

Musical Interlude of the Moment
My Aunt sent me a link to this man and his suit of horns which cheers me up a bit. A lovely combination of musical talent, athletic grace, and clownish props.

Kind of interesting that the first thing the crowd claps to is a waltz, and they clap on 2 and 3...

Update of the Moment
The new Blender of Love is here for your reading pleasure.

Quote and Article of the Moment
As if there was something romantic and glamorous about hard work ... if there was something romantic about it, the Duke of Westminster would be digging his own fucking garden, wouldn't he?
I have to make sure that book makes it on my wishlist once Amazon knows about it. Not that I need any help with the topic. I thought the essay made some great points about the Protestant Work Ethic. Is it just a pity the way we have to grind away our hours at the mill, or is there a weird beauty in it?


Article of the Moment
Bill pointed out this smart and funny article on the Monkeysphere, how our monkey brains are probably only equipped to really deal with 150 or so other primates, and therefore everyone else we have to cope with become kind of 2D semi-people, they aren't really real to us... (BTW, I really like drawing monkeys.)

Quote of the Moment
Friendship's more lasting than love...and more legal than stalking
Jane, BBC's "Coupling".

Rambles of the Moment
I've been noticing lately...we must have a HUGE part of our subconscious brain dedicated to judging how old somebody is. Like, take this image, clipped from the cover of the recent ramake of "Freaky Friday":
What makes it "funny" is that Jamie Lee Curtis is dressed stereotypically young, and Lindsay Lohan is dressed "middle age", but it's still really obvious to our monkey-brains that Lohan is much younger than Curtis...even in this not-very-high-resolution photo. I know there's decent evolutionary reasons for that, and could probably start to pin down what visual cues I'm using to place someone age-wise, but still, it seems like a tremendously complicated process, something it would probably be tough to teach a computer to do. (Unless there's some shortcut I'm missing, like the way ears and noses keep having some amount of growth or whatever, so it's more of a ratio thing...)

rambles on romance


I've put off seriously getting to seekin' new romance 'til the divorce was final. There were some some practical reasons for that: there would've been an emotional baggage, not to mention having to explain it ("well, we're practically divorced...no, really!"), some dating services just won't deal with you until you're really in the clear, marriage wise, plus it was good to have some time to let the makeover sink in.

But now it's final, and I gotta figure out "what now".

Before I rush into anything, I think I should ask myself: am I anxious for new romance? And if so, why?

Sometimes I feel like I have a dollop of "been there, done that", at least relative to some other single folks I know who haven't been married. (Like they said on Will & Grace: "I want to marry...'the one.'" "And well you should, honey. How else are you going to get to 'the two' and 'the three'?") It's like I've proven something to myself, or maybe the world.

Now that's an idea that's going to get me into trouble and make everyone think I'm a shallow jerk and maybe stop me from finding True Love: I can't shake a concern for "what the world thinks".

I mean, what do we look for in romantic partners? You want someone smart. And funny. And attractive. Having some kind of career is a plus. And then there are those incredibly crucial but hard to gauge intangibles: they have to like you. At some point, you have to be able to figure if they're going to able to commit and be reliable. And you have to make sure your life goals are compatible. (And, in my case, that they're compatible with my lack of life goals...)

Anyway, the world looks to much at that set of tangibles, because it's easy to be shallow. And that affects how the world deals with us, and that can be profound. (Or is that all a cover, an excuse for me saying "dang it, I want a cute girlfriend!"?)

Back to the central point; why do I want romance, and what do I want out of it? Companionship is a big chunk of that, emotional, intellectual, physical. And for strengths that complement my weaknesses (me being wishywashy comes to mind) and strengths that complement my strengths and maybe a few minor weaknesses so I can feel useful too. And someone to show the stuff I think is cool to first.

(Great line from The Opposite of Sex: "Look for me first, in any crowded room, and I'll do the same.")

Eh, that's enough rambling for today. Tomorrow: thinking about strategy in the harsh worlds of dating, Internet and otherwise.

Pixels of the Moment
Eboy's Ecity is full of that big pixel, 3/4 angle goodness. It's funny how evocative the style is, I can't think of any videogame systems that ever really looked like that, it's kind of a self-contained but very cool style.

Followup of the Moment
In the comments the other day I mentioned people with the abilility to read other people very well...the link I was thinking of was from last September and the term I couldn't remember was "microexpressions". Anyway, here's a more recent article about people detecting lies. Turns out some Secret Service guys might be really good at it--is it their training, or their selection I wonder...

Link of the Moment
Beds for the Paranoid. Sleep tight! Don't let the axe-wielding murdering maniacs bite!

ramble regarding romance day 2

So, like I said....today I need to consider strategies in the harsh world of dating, Internet and otherwise.

I think that the problem with "otherwise" is...well, it sounds really cool to meet people "out in the wild", and it can get urge you to get involved in some cool activities, but unless that future-beloved is willing to smack you in the face with a clue-by-four, you're going to miss them unless you're awfully alert. And if you're that alert, you're goint to seem annoying and needy and desperate, and that's a bad thing. The thing is, in the real world of interesting people, Murphy's Law of Dating ("she already has a boyfriend") holds sway.

So like I've been saying, it seems that rather than going and meeting interesting people and hoping they're single (and interested in not staying that way), it makes more sense to go where people already admit they're single, and looking, and then hope that they're interesting. It just seems like the odds are better. And I don't think Internet personals have the stigma they once might've at, say, the turn of the millennium or so.

So that means...I have to get good at the art of the Internet personal. And navigating the whole space. (And maybe try speed dating; when you're attached, it sounds like the coolest thing to be able to do, a neat competition, but when you have more of an active interest in the result, it's a bit more anxiety producing. (Anecdotally, one friend says that with speed dating for straight folk they have to balance the number of men and women and, unusual for most dating type services, the men are the limiting factor. I've gotten the impression that most other services, there are more men with their ears to the ground than women.))

So besides honing up my prose to make a good profile, and also whatever kind of initial contact notes people write, I need some good photos of me. Ideally, of course, the post makeover me. And there are dang few of those around.

So I had a coworker friend try taking some, but I wasn't really ecstatic about the results. It's all a bit of a forced setting. The first batch looked like mugshots or passport photos or something: (Click for larger)

I'm trying to decide if I look too...I dunno, broad across in that second photo. And then we had the "at the cubicle" series which was too backlit, and the middle one was a a bit-- shall we say, "foppish" looking

Of course, if I'm willing to throw in a pre-makeover picture, I have some "hey, I'm a fun geek!" options:

Part of the solution might be to go out with some friends to an interesting locale, just for the sake of making some better pictures of me. I dunno. Thoughts on which of these to use if it came to that? Thoughts on where to go to make entertaining photos? (Hell, I wonder what the hourly rate for that photojournalist-style wedding photographer we used is...or is that just way too much trying too hard?)

And any thoughts on what Internet place is best? Match.com seems to be a bit of a standard. Eharmony and that new "true" one (with those kinda creepy "we check to make sure they're not married or a felon so you can be safe!" popup ads) might be appealing to a certain kind of women at least.) Nerve/Onion/Salon personals (all interconnected I think) seem kind of hip. I've also heard of some successful matchups with Yahoo! personals...huh. And is it better to go with one, or a more scattershot approach? That seems exhausting, but heh...in the search for something like "the one", you worry about all the possibilities you're closing out by trying to stick with only a single site.

And real world options...I know one guy who met the love of his life at the MFA singles night. That's kind of cool in a way. And like I said, speed dating sounds like it would be entertaining to try once. Any other ideas? (I know, I know. "Take a class". "Join some groups". Etc etc...)

So let me know what you think. And don't worry, I don't think I'm going to have any more days of this kind of ramble any time soon...

Quote of the Moment
Love is like eating mushrooms--You never know if it's the right thing until it's too late.
Ira Gershwin. (via Bill...I'm always on the lookout for possible loveblender quotes...)

Toy of the Moment
Imagination is one of the prettiest interactive toys I've seen in a while.

Article of the Moment
Slate on "The Magic Shirt That Makes You Stronger" and weightlifters who are approaching the 1,000lb barrier for the Bench Press...without these new "Bench Shirts", they max out at about 713. But when you read what the shirt is, basically they're giving themselves a temporary exoskeleton. Seems like cheating to me! (But I wouldn't tell them that to their faces...)

jump! for my love!

News Article of the Moment
"It started about who would play solitaire on the computer."
Cousin of the Greek guy who jumped off the same balcony his Olympic Judo team girlfriend had a few days earlier, following an argument.
Both are in pretty serious condition at different hospitals. Crazy Greeks! Though come to think of it, if my girlfriend was national Judo champion...I'd probably let her go ahead and play solitaire ahead of me.

Random Thought of the Moment
I was looking at my old Palm-Pilot journal, KHftCEA. I gave up using my ever-present Palm as a journal shortly after I started doing this site on a daily basis...too much overlap. Overall that's been a positive change, but there's a certain lovely spontaneous triviality that posting to the web lacks. (Combined with being more aware of it being a public, "mom reads it" forum...even though I've since published the old Palm stuff, it was written in a more private voice and was more open.)

So I don't know if I should go back to having that kind of private notekeeping, or maybe add in more stuff here, or what. But in the spirit of the KHftCEA, here's a thought:

Maybe a friendship that turns into a romance is a bad idea, because it's too easy to not try to impress the other person. When I compare the lack of evidence I worked to woo Mo, vs. how much I have for some of my previous romantic interests, it's kind of sad. I absolutely took her for granted too quickly...I remember even noticing how much more she seemed to be into me than I was into her, back in the day. I mean, I was still into her for a lot of reasons, but I was probably pretty lousy at showing it.

(Heh...another side benefit of keeping a journal on the Pilot...the relative difficulty of writing in large amounts of text probably caused me to be more succinct...these last few days have been text, text, and more text.)

Eye Brow Raiser of the Moment
This Slate piece (arguing Kerry = CostCo, Bush = WalMart, CostCo beats WalMart) mentions a factoid given in Fortune the average salary of a Costco member is $95,333...yow! Is that like, average household income, or for a single person? (I'm always amused at surveys that ask "Household Income Range" but don't do a good job of asking how many salaries that's made up of, or how many people it supports.) Anyway, here's the .doc file (or Google HTMLification) with that factoid.

Anyways, I thought I was doing pretty well for myself...but apparently I'd be bringing the average down if I were to join CostCo!

smile, darn ya, smile!

The Many Faces of Kirk of the Moment
So FoSO volunteered to take a stab at some photos of me. I'm learning that I tend not to pose very easily, or at least not well. Still, I think a more interesting backdrop, getting in close with the zoom, and taking a LOT of photos led to some decent enough results...which ones do you all think are the best bet? (Click to Zoom)

Quote of the Moment
Intuition is not clairovoyance. It's not guesswork either. Intuition is executive summary, that 90 percent of the higher brain that functions subconsciously--but no less rigorously--than the self-aware subroutine that thinks of itself as the person.
Peter Watts, "Maelstrom".
The trouble for me is, yeah it might be "rigorous" (not sure about that) but it's also heuristic, and hard to check the work. Meaning it uses a lot guesstimates...when we reach to catch a thrown ball, we're not doing calculus in our head, we're using some much rougher formula, and using some feedback loops..in general, I'm convinced intuition takes a lot of short cuts, and often it works out, but sometimes it doesn't. And when two people's logical deductions don't match, you can hash it out, but if two intuitions disagree, what can you do? This is an advantage (or, depending on your perspective, disadvantage) scientific inquiry has over religious thought.

Gist for the Neurosis Mill of the Moment
Volcano! Why America's coast could be toast. If this one big volcano goes, it could send a giant tsunami that would slam into the East Coast...the weird part is it would travel 4,000 miles in about 9 hours...I can barely imagine what trying to evacuate the vulnerable regions would look like. But as someone on Slashdot pointed out, these things are set to go off in geological time, which is a whole lot of human lifespans...

Tip of the Moment
Geeks: if you use the Windows command prompt a lot, and you miss the old unix "tab completion", you can get something kind of like it by running regedit and changing [HKEY_CURRENT_USER \Software \Microsoft \Command Processor] CompletionChar= 9 (ASCII value for TAB) or PathCompletionChar= 9 (ASCII value for TAB) -- I only had the former on my system. It's a little different than the Unix shells I grew up with...as you keep pressing it cycles through different possible completions, rather than filling in what is unique and then beeping if there's more than one option.


Breakthrough of the Moment
Gene therapy to make monkeys stop slacking. When can I get this to put in my Dunkin Donuts iced coffee in the morning??

Ramble of the Moment
It's always grated on me a bit that I don't have an exact starting date for the Blender of Love. I think I used to have a slightly stronger idea of the starting point...for some reason I've written a lot of things that put it at "late 1993", like on the Blender history page. 'Course, late 2003, I was kind of too busy with a breakup to think about that anniversary all that much I guess...

So I've been looking for other dates. I've been using Google's "Groups" features to search my old Usenet posts. I started advertising it in my signature file in July 1995, as far as I can tell. (July 12, I wasn't, July 19, I was.) So July 2005 might be as good a date as any to make an anniversary, though it won't be as cool as one for the absolute start.

Other milestones: Anyway, it's kind of sad to my archivist self that I don't have a clearer idea of the start of it all. Ah well. But come to think of it, I don't have a clear idea of how I'd want to mark any given 10-year anniversary either...

Quote of the Moment
Naturally, the common people don't want war, but after all, it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.
Hermann Goering.
Of course, if they're not utterly evil leaders, THEY firmly believe the war is justified. Our administration was hankering to move on Iraq for a long time, from a fear of WMD to a wish for revenge for the assassination attempt on Bush Sr.

nerds are hot

Quote of the Moment
Nerds are hot. If you wanna get really hot and bothered, check out Kirk's resume. Whew.

Painting of the Moment

--Probably technically the best painting I made in a class I took in 1997 or so, though not my favorite. Also, the instructor touched it up a bit. My mom likes it though, right now it's in her den.

Sucker Punch of the Moment
This Modern World's blog has this photo and article of a Yale '69 yearbook photo of GWB illegally walloping a guy in a rugby match. Wot a jerk.


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Quote of the Moment
Life is no way to treat an animal, not even a mouse.

Link of the Moment
Wow...Arlington's street signs are so bad they're worthy of their own website...which I found linked to on that site about designs that are just Messed Up, This Is Broken.

Videos of the Moment
This page of Skating Videos had some pretty amazing footage, including Matrix-esque shots. If you're in a hurry I'd suggest just going for "Bennihana" Quicktime Video. (There are also some less exciting tutorial static pages in the links there.)

Weather of the Moment
I was about to write this but then I realized how small-potatoes a complaint it was compared to thousands and thousands of people in Florida...but, what is the point of a blog if not to magnify our petty issues out of all proportion?

Anyway: this weather has be stymied. It's chilly, but extremely humid. Damp. Clammy, even. What clothes do you wear for that??


Article of the Moment
For "Popular Science", a man tries to live with only the ideas and technology available in 1954. He even writes "I can't go to yoga or the gym, since only the YMCA was around in 1954 (it turns out, though, that sit-ups and push- ups aren't a bad workout, and they're cheaper than a gym membership)." Makes me wonder about the idea that you don't need props to stay fit for the most part.

Quote of the Moment
To the lonely it is company; to the forsaken it is a friend; to the aged and impotent it is a benefactor; they that be penniless are yet rich, in that they still have this majestic diversion. There are times when I prefer it to sodomy.
And as long as I've brought us to this level of discourse, those who are more easily amused than offended may want to check out this non-explicit European print-ad for sexual lubricant. (mirror)

Image of the Moment
--via boing boing, photos from a wedding with stormtroopers. Strange world.


Game of the Moment
Thrust 2002 is a decent port of the old C=64 game "Thrust"...looks great, though doesn't impress me quite as much as Thomas Jentzsch's amazing port to the Atari 2600.

Product of the Moment
I have to admit, boingboing's coverage of an explosive sink and toilet plunger (it uses C02 cartridges to blast through clogs...literally) sounds pretty temping. I wonder if that's the best thing for older pipes, though...

Oddness of the Moment
It's the Hall of Technical Documentation Weirdness. Good for a quick glance... AT&T's circa 1952 sweeping instructions were pretty good, and I found these warning diagrams from a toy tank strangely compelling. How To Put a Compaq Proliant server on a table should be a lesson to us all as well.

Software of the Moment
Stickies for Windows seems to be a pretty decent version of virtual Post-It notes for your Windows desktop...

an unusually mild august night in portugal

12 years ago this month, it was a surprisingly temperate August in Portugal. I was visiting with Marcos and his family in Vilar Formoso for three weeks before going to college. (Marcos had been living with me and my mom as a foreign exchange student the school year before, he's an incredibly congenial guy with GQ looks. He had about 15 different gals asking him to the Homecoming Dance that fall.)

I drank alcohol for the first time in Portugal. In fact, I learned something, and I'll impart that bit of drinking wisdom to you now:
If you're ever in a little cafe in Portugal, and you see the guy behind the counter making up some weird, green kool-aid looking concoction in a large barrel-shaped glass, don't ask what it is.

If you do ask what it is, don't accept when your friend offers to buy you one.

If you do accept when your friend offers to buy you one, don't listen to the man behind the counter when he says "hey, you drink like this [mimes chugging], I buy you another!"

If you do listen to the man behind the counter when he says "hey, you drink like this", and you do drink like that, and you start sipping at your second, and the man behind the counter says "no, no, this one too you must drink like this", ignore him.

And if you don't ignore him...well, at this point, you're pretty much on your own.

Marcos and his brother Manny had a good friend named Baptista. The four of us had hung around that cafe, and one great early early morning drove to the bakery where Baptista used to work and got hot crusty rolls and drove back home and made up this amazing tuna stuff to put on them and played cards in the kitchen 'til dawn.

Baptista was a nice guy, a few years older than me, and a bit political-minded. He only had a little bit of English, I had no Portuguese . Together we tried to figure out the Portuguese version of Microsoft Word, which I had never tried to use before, even in English. Also, I was doodling constantly in a notebook those weeks; another time he and collaborated on some odd political cartoons about censorship; that's why I know the Portuguese word for ink: "tinta".

But neither of those were the time I want to talk about.

See, I wasn't supposed to be in Portugal for 3 weeks; I was supposed to be there for around a week and a half, spending the rest of the time visiting Veronika in Germany. Veronika and I had gone out the year before Marcos' stay, when she was a foreign exchange student. We hadn't made each other any promises about keeping it up long distance, but we were writing, and that Spring she had sent me a bit of a "Dear John" letter, she had met somebody new. A few weeks later, she wrote again and confirmed it would probably be awkward if I were to visit.


One thing I learned is that when you're young and Portuguese, living on the border with Spain, lots of times you cross the border where there are some better clubs. You drink a lot and pee on the buildings, it's kind of a tradition. So a bunch of us had done just that, and then plans got a little drunken and confused, but there was something about meeting back in Vilar Formoso at the train station. Baptista and I stumbled back and waited for Marcos and a few other guys.

I decided to tell him about Veronika, and how I still had such strong feelings for her, and how amazing she was, and how sad I was that I wasn't going to be able to see her that summer. And he opened up to me about his French teacher, this woman he had a huge crush on, but it was doomed from the start. There was something about that moment: the moonlight, the booze, the empty train station, having to stumble through phrases to find the words we had in common to tell our parallel stories of heartbreak...

Later Marcos and his friend showed up, and the friend took this picture:

If it's not completely obvious, we're all pretty drunk. Also, Portuguese train stations have some of the loveliest murals.

The next Spring, I found out Baptista had died...I guess he had some epilepsy, and maybe there was some tie-in with former drug use, or something, I don't know. So I was shocked and sad. And a little later the Beatles' "Let It Be" came on the CD player, and I wept, like I hadn't since my father had died, like I wouldn't again 'til Mo told me she wanted a divorce.

Just one of those things, I guess.

(On a whim I Google'd up Marcos yesterday, he's been really bad about staying in touch. Looks like he's involved in some European political/humanitarian stuff, head of the youth forum for The North - South Centre of the Council of Europe. I don't know how big a deal that is, though I found some photos from 1998 with him sitting next to Kofi Annan. It's making my life feel a little trivial, actually.)

And that's what I wanted to say about that. There are more stories behind the photos from that trip to Portugal, seeing the old Roman aqueducts, going to Baptista's town to see a small hometown bullfight (the bulls aren't killed, and anyone can run across the ring...) and maybe some other time I'll get into all that. But right now I'm thinking about that night, and the booze, and the train station in the moonlight in Portugal.

dogs playing poker...and now they're starting to drive

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Photo of the Moment

--Looking at this photo now, I don't know what's odder...the dog driving, or the look on the face of the woman in the mural behind.

Quote and Video of the Moment
"So just remember--the Internet can be a very scary place if you're not prepared."
"How do you recommend they prepare?"
"I dunno. Try going to your local middle school chess club, hand out crystal meth and guns. That might be good practice."
Red Vs Blue are some pretty popular videos using characters from the Halo game as puppets...and now they explain real life vs. internet. Kind of a long download, but funny.

Geekery of the Moment
Oh, you think you know "Geeky", tough guy? Let me tell you this, friend: You Don't Know From Geeky. Seriously. They're just about as funny as you'd expect cartoons about the Java Enterprise Edition computer programming language to be.

big thumbs up

Tackiness of the Moment
A form of artistic political commentary in rather poor taste, (As "Evil Bastard" pointed out, parts are really REALLY tasteless; it's pretty bad even in a "edgey social satire" sense) people are invited to send in photos of themselves Doing A Lynndie: adopting the smiling, cigarette hanging, pointing-at-some-less-fortunate-person pose that Lynndie England had in the infamous prison scandal photo.

Musing of the Moment
I think that well-known phenomenon where you don't notice a recurring background noise until it stops tells us something about our sense of perception, and from there, what consciousness is and how it relates to the subsonscious. This morning I pulled into a parking space and turned off the engine...and only then did I notice that there had been an engine noise all along. But it's not quite that simple, because I wasn't just suddenly aware of the (relative) silence...for a split second I could hear the engine and analyze its sound, think about the components of it, make a quick check that nothing sounded out of the ordinary. I think it offers a tantalizing glimpse into the "tape delay" we live in, but that we fool ourselves into not perceiving. Without realizing it, I was travelling back in time, letting my conscious brain swim in the river of perceptions my subconscious brain has going along. But it didn't feel like I was "playing back the tape"...it was exactly as if I was perceiving things in the moment.

I guess that's as much about how much subconscious processing we do all the time as our fudged view of time, but the "tape delay"...the fact that it takes true, non-reflexive awareness of the outside world about half a second to kick in, but our brain purposefully fudges its clock so we end up thinking we're reacting in "real time"...is experimentally well-established. (Warning, popups for adware at that site). Our self-models are so over-simplified, and off-the-mark...I think that gives some creedencxe to the Zen view that consciousness is an illusion.

Incidentally, I have the hardest time visualizing the implications of the "zap the brain while poking the skin" experiment. I find it so difficult to really grok the idea of consciousness on tape delay, how sensations from, say, the skin must be re-encoded so it fits into our own personal subjective timestream...

Dialog of the Moment
"Pokey, are you drunk on love?"
"Yes. Also whiskey. But mostly love... and whiskey."

yes / we have two / bananas / we have two bananas / today

Quote of the Moment
There's an interesting effect here that I've noticed over the years -- smart people don't make the same mistake twice while REALLY SMART people don't make the same mistake three times. Since they tend to make fewer mistakes to start with, really smart people tend to repeat the mistakes they do make because they are initially convinced that the outcome was someone else's fault or perhaps because of cosmic rays.

Clutter of the Moment

--A photo studio in my office park was having a garage sale for all these old props. I swear, I am trying to reduce the amount of clutter in my life, but how can I resist two high quality cloth fake bananas for 50 cents?

Geek Ramble of the Moment
So, I had a bit of a revelation yesterday, about my mental model for radio signals...maybe some of the other geeks here can tell me if I'm on base. Since they're both forms of EMF, don't radio waves and visible light act roughly the same? Or, the same if most everything around me was made of glass...(since there are many materials which block light but let radio signals through without too much hassle.)

I think my previous mental model for radio waves comes from those diagrams of slowly moving circles propogating out from a central antenna. (Which is just a shade better than the mental model I got from that old RKO tower logo, big sparks jumping to radios everywhere.) But really, aren't radio waves a lot like visible light? Shining everywhere, passing through some things, reflecting off other things, getting shadows casted by some objects, but still generally scattering and reflecting and what not?

This new idea came to me when I noticed A. radio reception inside my company's parking garage is poor and B. it's dark and C. these two facts are kind of related. I know it's a bit of an oversimplification, and in particular, eyes (taking in a big spectrum of colors at once) don't easily map to radio receivers (tuning in one frequency at a time, and using...signal strength (AM radio) or flicker speed (FM radio) to imitate sound wave patterns.) Still...am I on base with this, or is this all crazy talk?

If I am right about this, it creates some interesting mental images...radio transmitters as these giant torches on towers, and a world with tons of glass trees and buildings, since wood and other building materials often let radio through. (Of course, it also brings up those kind of disturbing idea of all these radio signals passing though us like all the time...)

In a similar note, natural forces and all that, our favorite models of how gravity works may be offbase as well...

sugar-free daddy

Funny(ish) of the Moment
I guess you're just my sugar-free daddy...
At work Mr. S has mastered the art of getting two diet cokes for the price of one, and he gives me the extra...I finally realized what his title should be...

Game of the Moment
Balls Up is a decent little game in the tradition of "Thrust"...the gimmick is getting a sphere in the right basket unlocks that color doors. Less difficult that some other versions, but requires patients...

remote chance

--I just want to mention: Lena and Bjorn have TOO MANY REMOTES. That is all.

Link of the Moment
Awe-inspiring page of optical illusions and eyetricks. You know, it seems like for years you always saw the same illusions over and over...look, the cube is inside out! Look, it's a vase AND two flowers? Look, the two lines are the same length! Hey hey it's Escher! But this guy is doing new amazing kinetic stuff. I wish I understood the color principles behind it better. If you're in a hurry, do Ctrl-F and cut and paste a search for "Dongurakokko"...

Ads of the Moment
Can't get enough banner ads? Then head on down to BannerReport.com! There is something strangely compelling about seeing so many ads all stuck toegether. Despite being the bane of the Internet in the late '90s (and that was before bizarre popups and unders and through and what not) it's an interesting attempt to put a valid and compelling commercial story in a little bitsy space.

Some of my previous attempts for linkexchange:

With the latter one, I was trying to follow that theory that saying 'click here!' and giving a mousepointer cue, as goofy (and intelligence insulting) as it seems to net-saavy people, actually gets more hits.

Anyway, the site came via this Wired.com article. Man, I still love Wired. Just got the most recent issue, and they find some of the best stuff to write about...

furniture that looks like it has been places

Project of the Moment
So, FoSO and I worked together on an interesting furniture project, a cabinet. I think the idea was mine, but the details and the lion's share of the labor ended up being hers. (Which is good, because I'm lazy, but also bad, because I didn't learn quite as much as I had hoped.) My bathroom is desperately short on selfspace, and I'd always been trying to think of a cool project to utilize these beautiful authentic vintage travel stickers that were attached to a crumbling valise I got at an estate sale kind of thing. So, a bunch of slicing, scanning (just in case), staining with wood stain, gluing with Mod Podge, coating with polyurethane, and touching up with a hand sander later, and this is the terrific result:
Front      Inside

Progamming Thoughts of the Moment
Been thinking a little bit about programming rules in general. Here are some rules I've decided I (and maybe everybody) should try and follow...I welcome feedback from my fellow coding geeks.
K.I.S.S.: Don't over-engineer.
I have seen so much over-designed stuff, with layer after layer after layer. Following the programming execution over a single call becomes an enormously difficult task. If any given interaction goes much deeper than 3 or 4 levels, something might well be wrong.
Keep a clean modular approach to your systems.
Have a core engine that drives everything and uses the rest of the system as an API. Think Unix's philosophy of "do one task and do it well"...this guideline comes from stuff I'm dealing with at work. They've developed these APIs, but the APIs are so tightly integrated with the logging and configuration, it's sick. For example, they made a wrapper to a Castor routine that converts an object into an XML representation. You would think that if your central program says "make me an XML representation of this object and put it in such and such a file" it would do just that, right? But no. See, it goes ahead and checks the configuration on its own accord, and then might or might not do the conversion. And whether it tries or not, or if it succeeds or fails with some error, it will do so SILENTLY, catching any exception that occurs, because heaven forfend that the main program has to worry its sweet little head about everything collapsing underneath it... Hideously redundant, impossible to follow.
Keep a devnotes.txt file
I find it useful to have a single text file where I jot things down as I figure them out...usernames, passwords, techniques, etc. It saves me a lot of time.
Consider disabling web access during the workday.
Sometimes it's easier for a programmer to get distracted, especially when things aren't going well. The worse things are going, the more slashdot and various techie websites beckon. ("This task at hand isn't working out but maybe I can learn something else new!"). If your main browser is IE, the easiest option might be to go into Tools|Internet Options|Coonections|LAN Settings and setup a bogus proxy server. Sometimes just putting in that little gatekeeper is enough to make me reconsider a wayword path.
Keep your unit tests close and your smoketests closer
If your environment is at all complex and N-tiered, avoid the trap of your system breaking down and you don't know when and you don't know why by setting up good smoke and unit tests and running them extremely frequently.

Product of the Moment
Making the rounds is this story about a cellphone based Virtual Girlfriend product...unfortunately (or fortunately for the company) you spend non-virtual money to buy her presents and what not, otherwise she gets all mad and sulky.

Man, what a potential goldmine if they find guys who get really into this. Being able to sell trivial virtual goods for real cash...there's that other company that lets people buy each other little iconic gifts, I heard it's a reasonable hit...it becomes a social thing I guess, if you can show off your gifts like some kind of trophyroom.

Strange world.

car you being served?

Site of the Moment
I'm a little annoyed that I'm still a obsessing a bit about cars, but still, Autoblog is pretty cool, with lots of little make-specific miniblogs. Makes for pretty good quick reading.

I really think hatchbacks are the way of the future. There's a lot of 'em out now: the MINI, my Scion xA, the Mazda3, the Pontiac Vibe (what a name for a car!), a bunch of others. Maybe it's a fad, but I think hatches make a lot more sense than trunks. (Here's a really strange new one from Toyota, at least in Japan...and going from the strange to the bizarre, there's also a MINI Stretch Limo...with a built-in whirlpool.)

News of the Moment
Wow. Florida is even more of a voting nuthouse than we all thought...

Article of the Moment
Tricks of the Trade is a very cool piece about little tricks various professionals have figured out...some are clever, some are downright sneaky.

Joke of the Moment
Q: What did the left shoe say to the right shoe?
A: Nothing! Shoes don't talk!

dos and don'ts, wooze and won'ts

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Site of the Moment
The A to Zs of the DOs and DON'Ts of Photography. Some good advice, lots of attitude.

Geekery of the Moment
The amazing Search Engine Belt Buckle scrolls like 24 hours worth of people's search queries in wearable form...damn, if only I ever wore belts...I wonder how the battery holds up.

Blog of the Moment
Speaking of gadgety geekery, the gizmo blog gizmodo kind of flew under Lore's Radar, and mine as well...not that compelling but still some cool things.

Yet More Geekery of the Moment
A rather cheap and easy way of making some computer controlled lavalamps...his geeky use for 'em is to indicate when a software project's build process (making sure all the code still runs) is having problems...I could see hooking this up to a readout of the Dow Jones or NASDAQ status...

flat feet

Quotes of the Moment
If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulder of giants.
Isaac Newton
If I have not seen as far as others, it is because giants were standing on my shoulders.
Hal Abelson
In computer science, we stand on each other's feet.
Brian K. Reed

Animation of the Moment
--this happy frolicking monster, via Bruce Sterling's Blog, but he doesn't know it's origin either. Still it's absolutely great.

UPDATE: Dan points out it's Bunchies!

Story of the Moment
"No, you don't see...this is a dream...I'm dreaming you. I'm dreaming this. All of this."

She reads the disbelief in my eyes.

"Look...I can do this, just by wanting to--" She takes one step, two, down the sidewalk, then begins a glide down its length, her feet a few inches above the concrete, her white skirt fluttering around her legs. She touches down lightly, returns.

"So?" I say, "What do you mean? What are you saying? What does it matter?"

"It's...it's just..." She slumps onto a bench, runs a hand across her face. "I don't want to go. I don't know if I can come back to this. But where I come from, where I really am...I need to move. Shift, in bed. I can't help it. And maybe you won't be here when I come back, if I can come back."

I join her on the bench, afraid to touch her. "It's ok. Do what you need to do."

She gives me one last look with wide, wet eyes, then leans back into the bench, eyes closed. I wait. The wind shifts, a new breeze from the east.

Her eyes open. She looks at me, smiles, stretches. She punches me in the arm, stands, takes a few running steps that skip into a glide down the sidewalk to the corner.

I follow.

not having sunglasses makes me want to MURDER. well, no, not really.

Dang it. I think I left my sunglasses at yoga class last night. Or something.

Man, does that make me extremely unhappy.

UPDATE: I just want to reiterate my love for Eye Q Optical at Harvard Square (and Newbury Street.) I figured I'd order a second pair of sunglasses, even if I get my originals back a backup would make sense, and since previously I let them sweet talk me into getting two frames, they gave me the replacements for half-price. (Like $50, which is really cheap for prescription glasses that I love so much.)

Manifesto of the Moment
Who are we? A word about our membership.

Since the world began, we have gone about our work quietly, resisting the urge to generalize, valuing the individual over the group, the actual over the conceptual, the inherent sweetness of the present moment over the theoretically peaceful future to be obtained via murder.

Article of the Moment
The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong's moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt's evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk. Republicans: The No.1 reason the rest of the world thinks we're deaf, dumb and dangerous.

where are the flying cars? i was promised flying cars! (nay)

Concept of the Moment
We're trying to make an airplane like a horse. A horse doesn't want to be driven off a cliff. And if you're drunk and fall asleep, it's going to take you back to the barn.
Andrew Hahn, an analyst for NASA who's one of the people actually working on them flying cars we was done promised here in the future.
The quote reminds me of this one I kisrael'd in 2002 about the comparison between horses and what an intelligent car would be like.

That does seem like one of the biggest problems. People seem barely qualified to drive, flying without automation would be crazy. Also, it seems like traffic would be more sensitive to weather conditions if everyone was flying...

Of course, thinking about how much I'd love a car that could drive itself...the sad thing is the track record for those things, at least in the early days, has to be pretty much perfect. One big fatality and suddenly self-driving cars are a menace to society, ignoring what such a system could do in improving quality of life and preventing accidents by sleepy or tipsy drivers...

"i'm either the most or the least enlightened guy i know"

Philosophy of the Moment
Huh, thanks for your comments.

I'm trying to figure out if there is any established belief system that comes close to matching my piecework one: Eh, that's where I am right now...I guess finding some organized beleif system would kinda..I dunno, justify it or something.

I don't like the Bhuddist idea that everything is suffering and longing, or the Daoist notion that one's instincts are always trustworthy....

Thanks for listening to me ramble,

--I'm not sure who exactly I was writing to last November, but I still feel that's a pretty good summary of my core beliefs.

Photo of the Moment
--Hard to see in all the glare, but according the the Salem Willows' Arcade's Love Tester, I "HAVE 'IT'".

Article Quote of the Moment
But the sad truth is, the real difference between Democrats and Republicans is that their celebrities are, like, actually famous and ours are, well, singing weirdly erotic songs about Our Savior.
I heard Evanescence, who do two very good songs ("Going Under" and "My Immortal") used to have more of a Christian vibe, and sometimes their lyrics have that same odd ambiguity. (Of course "U2" did that pretty well. Amazing how just a simple gender swap in "Mysterious Ways", portraying the holy spirit as feminine, masked the lean of the message from me for years.)

crowing cro-magnon

Quote of the Moment
Were we all like children, forever, in that time before the Cro-Magnon burst of intellectualization set in? Granted, the ballooning of abstract powers of reason are probably what got us through the last Ice Age. Still, it is that same ability to shift our focus from the eternal present to the never-never land of self-referential abstraction that brought us the Egyptian priestly class, holy wars, the caste system, Machiavelli and trial lawyers.

Whining of the Moment
Weird...I just installed the Google toolbar which shows you the 0-to-10 Page Ranking for whatever you're looking at. Old standbys alienbill.com and loveblender.com both get a 5, and even Johnny-Come-Latelies like kirkjerk.com and mortals.be get a 3, but kisrael.com pegs the meter at...zero. What's up with that? I think it has more incoming links than any of the other sites...am I being blocked for some reason?

Culture Oddness of the Moment
Slowly I turned...Step by step....Inch by inch...the weird thing isn't the background of the story so much as it's one of those things you hear repeatedly but only once in a great while.

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