2006 May❮❮prevnext❯❯


May 1, 2006
Happy May Day everyone.

Gadget of the Moment
I think it's only inadvertently an infomercial, but this video of a guy tooling around with the Quickcam Orbit software's facial recognition software, giving himself funny virtual hats, noses, and even some total avatars (i.e. he becomes a bunny, or a dinosaur, etc, and the avatar matches up to his lip and head movements) makes it look like a hell of a lot of fun, and a great use of technology.

Fun with computers fiddling with images from a camera has been around for a while. A few years ago Sony released the Eye Toy, a cheap webcammy looking thing with a disc of fun minigames...slapping away tiny ninjas was especially fun. But the basic technology behind that has been around for over 35 years... Myron Krueger did some amazing stuff, all in real-time. here's a webpage about his videoplace work, and you can also watch this video. Keeping in mind that this was coming out right around "Pong" being invented, never mind Pong being widely released, and you can see how utterly amazing it was, from both the technology and creativity standpoints. (I'm finally getting around to ordering his book...I think its been on my wishlist since before Amazon had the used books connection.)

Quote of the Moment
Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.
Arthur Schopenhauer

my gut tells me that's how our nervous system works

May 2, 2006
Ok, I'm a day late and a dollar short with this, but Stephen Colbert at the White House Press Corps dinner is brilliant... a beautiful absurdist element runs through so much of it, as if you used a video projector to broadcast Fox News on Groucho Marx, except before he was dead. Or maybe it's just Dave Barry-like. But still. Some excerpts from this uneven transcript:
We go straight from the gut, right sir? That's where the truth lies, right down here in the gut. Do you know you have more nerve endings in your gut than you have in your head? You can look it up. I know some of you are going to say I did look it up, and that's not true. That's 'cause you looked it up in a book. Next time look it up in your gut. I did. My gut tells me that's how our nervous system works.
I believe the government that governs best is the government that governs least. And by these standards, we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq.
Because really, what incentive do these people have to answer your questions, after all? I mean, nothing satisfies you. Everybody asks for personnel changes. So the White House has personnel changes. Then you write they're just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. First of all, that is a terrible metaphor. This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg.
BoingBoing has a more canonical set of related links. The video even has its own fan site, Thank You Stephen Colbert.

The Daily Show and The Colbert Report (pronounced with a soft T for both words) are... amazing. Maybe the most important thing basic cable has ever done; sharp, cutting satire that's also damn funny.

Kirktrivia of the Moment
More mundane things in my life for the avid consumption of my readership: I got a new desktop system, one continuing my obsession with compact consumer goods. This computer will be named Monk, sixth of that name. Here's the new hotness next to the old and busted...

I've disappointed some of my Mac-friends by shunning the Mac Mini, even though it's smaller and could conceivably dual-boot to XP. My gut (heh) just told me to keep it simple, and this slab actually appeals to me more than the little box of the Mini, which seems like it would almost get lost on my desk. Since I'm pretty laptopped up, I mostly turn to the desktop when I need to hunker down and focus, and right now I still only do that well on Windows. Plus the new HP slimline also has some nifty features, like a built-in multicard reader and Lightscribe laser-etching for CDs and DVD it burns, if I'm willing to shell out a bit more for the media.

I ended up stickering Monk 5 quite a bit...
I haven't decided if Monk 6 will meet a similar fate, or if I should try to keep things a bit neater. Anyway Monk 5 will have a good home... having a good hand-me-down recipient in mind is a wonderfully self-serving form of generosity when you really just want to upgrade. The new machine has proper USB2, and can actually show 32 bit color, so those will be some improvements beyond the form factor.

Now to get to taking away all the Fisher-Price crap UI and loaded up "special" offers and get to work...

crossing some rubicon or other

May 3, 2006
Crossing the Rubicon of the Moment
Wow. So although nothing is definite, Ksenia and I made a fairly significant lifestyle decision last night... (no relax, not that one, or that one either.)

Friends of hers have worked at a senior residence for many years. Their basic deal is a free small apartment, life insurance, and an extraordinarily tiny stipend in exchange for being present half the times the office is closed, from evening 'til morning, and being a contact in case of emergencies and on call for some basic tasks.

A similar opportunity looks like it might be opening up at a different residence, one in Newton. And last night we talked and decided to apply.

I'm acutely aware of the potential upsides and downsides of this... upsides are: of course, the "free rent" aspect. It seems like that could be tremendously freeing, in the sense of providing a "secure base" for the foreseeable future. If there came a time when we decided or were forced to live on savings for a while, it would stretch much further in a situation such as that where the primary requirement is "being there".

Another upside-- and I understand that this could pale in a hurry-- is an almost public service angle to it, becoming a core stalwart for a community of folks in the 7th and 8th innings of their lives. There's risk to that, of course... from just having to be there for residents in emergency situations, being brave and constant even if they're scared and freaked out, to even the possibility of the "we haven't heard from grandpa for a few days, could you check up on him?" call leading to being the "first responder" for tragedy. And surely a group of Seniors is going to be a mixed bag, they won't all be the loveable ol' codgers from the movies. Some will be cranky, some might not like us, some might be... well, a lot of things. There will be dead lightbulbs and clogged toilets to deal with. On the other hand (and this is still in the "might pale mighty quick" category) I think there might be a poetic grace in learning about this part of life, in terms of my own mortality. (Heck, there might even be pointers in how I'd like cope with my own retirement plans.)

One final plus is that it's a chance for Ksenia to gain a measure of independence for herself that she doesn't have now. Right now, we live in "my apartment", and some of the cohabitation has been a product of utility. To be maybe too blunt, there are parts of my experience, ranging from moving around a lot as a child to the death of my father to my divorce to the way I never did "play the field" after the divorce to certain known differences in needed affection and attention levels between Ksenia and me to my general uncertain and wishy-washy nature that leave me unable to be certain about the future I want for myself and for "us". I love Ksenia, I dig her family.... I've made no progress in my Russian, I'm still a giant "let me work on this project" pain in the ass to be around from time to time. Anyway, it seems like this kind of position, with her as the official representative but with an understanding that we would be interchangable there, levels things out in certain ways, and seems like that could be a good base for figuring out what comes next.

The location is kind of interesting, a stone's throw from a T stop at the end of greenline. This would put me further from some of my closest friends, but on the other hand, for the group of friends who rely on public transportation to come see me on gaming night life would be easier. And of course, the T would mean more independence for Ksenia, since a T stop is tremendously more covenient than having to hop a bus to the T. We'd also be nearer her family and my mom, assuming and my mom isn't relocated this summer. (I also have an inkling that Newton might be an easier driving stomping ground for her, which again might help her build more independence.)

So, the downsides:

Rightly or wrongly the first thing that comes to mind is the size of the aprartment, a one BR likely a number of notches down from my current digs. Suddenly, my vague touchy-feeling ideas and work about how nice it would be to have a post-house-owning clutter-free life would be put to the test in stark fashion. I've lived in small places before...this shoebox Mo and I shared in East Arlington comes to mind... and it wasn't too bad but it will definately require a deliberate scaling back.

Secondly is the time commitment. Our friends who have been doing this for a decade have to forego a certain number of social events over the years. Life will have to revolve a preplanned schedule, and you have to hope that the other couple doing the same thing in the same place will be amenable to schedule rearrangement and swapping. Plus, it's the full time the office there is closed, namely 5PM to 8AM, so I might have to be more flexible with the time at my current job.

Third, of course, is the responsibility angle... it's a bit hefty, though like I implied earlier it seems like it has its Pros and Cons.

So, those are my thoughts. I'm welcoming feedback, though I guess (finally!) a feeling of not wanting to hear too many dissenting opinions is able to balance my usual urge to scurry around querying my friends and families "is this a good idea?" (A strategy which has some positive qualities, like being legitimately interested in other people's experience and thoughts, but also some negative traits, like being a way for me to avoid full responsibility for my decision.)

And who knows, this might be an almighty putting the cart before the horse, since we might not even get the position. Still I think it's good to be aware of the implications before things are definitely set.

Random note: I could have sworn there was an arthouse movie called "Crossing The Rubicon" in the early 1990s, where I learned the term, but IMDB only knows one made in 1997.... oh wait, it must be To Cross the Rubicon. Abswers.com talks about the phrase for people who might not be familar with it.

Link of the Moment
In the
things I posted 5 years ago department, Seanbaby's Hostess Page is still one of the funniest things online (or at least the links with the dots that have the commentary) and if you're in a hurry, Batman and the Mummy is still almost pee-your-pants funny.

Product Search of the Moment
Things I wasn't aware of the market for, via Froogle: explosion proof refrigerators.

choo choo trolley

May 4, 2006
For what it's worth, I really like the Moussaoui verdict. I think declining to kill for the sake of punishment and vengance can be an appropriate difference between Us and Them. Moussaoui would have claimed victory either way.

Ambiguous Quote of the Moment
"The ancient Egyptians crossbred horses, cattle, wheat, and grapes, to produce animals and food of higher quality."
Alan Lightman, "The Discoveries"
...man, if you read that incorrectly, it produces a very vivid image...I don't quite know what it is, but I don't think I'd want to drink wine made from it!

Philosophy of the Moment
Hypothetical Moral Dilemmas. I like the relationship between 2 and 3, how it points out the distinction we make about intent and inevitability, even if the end result is the same.

stuck in the middle with you

May 5, 2006
Quote of the Moment
"Measuring in powers of ten, we human beings are almost exactly midway between the largest material object in the universe, the galaxies, and the smallest that we have explored in our particle accelerators, the electrons and quarks. We stand in the middle. From our thin sliver of existence, we want to know everything."
Alan Lightman, epilogue to "The Discoveries".
Just finished that book, a collection of the most important scientific papers of the 20th century, in raw or somewhat abbreviated form, collected and augmented (in terms of background biographical and explanatory essays) by Alan "Einstein's Dreams" Lightman. Dr. Lightman was supposed to be at the meeting of UU "Science and Spirituality" reading and discussion group, but couldn't make it when his travel plans changed at the last minute. Still a great book, it really gives you the sense of the personalities of the various people who made these discoveries, as well as the palpable sense excitement and discovery these must have felt.

Web Design Geekery and Windows Insanity of the Moment
Anyone who does web-develop'y stuff on Windows has probably run into that issue where you get an annoying

even if your local page has just a drop of javascript. This is a typical Windows half-assed "security" hack, and at my current job it was annoying us, because we wanted to use some locally loaded javascript in IE during our installation.

Luckily, there's a work around that doesn't require the user to change security zone settings.... just put this line near the top of your page (there are some other variants of this that work as well):
<!-- saved from url=(0003)x:y -->
That's it! I got that formulation from this Usenet article, which had a link to this excellent in-depth discussion and rant, including several different ways of working around the issue, and explaining just who clue-light Microsoft is with this stuff.

The workaround is so easy I don't know if it makes me laugh or cry... it raises the question, if this is a "security" issue, why is there such a simple workaround? And if not, why hassle people at all? Especially for something as trivial (and I think, well-sandboxed) as Javascript...

Web Use Hint of the Moment
Which reminds me... I've just started installing Google toolbar for its super-nifty spellcheck implementation, it scans for textfields on your currently open webpage and has a very handy way of selecting correcting spellings. You don't even need to show the whole toolbar, you can add the Google pieces-part you want to some of the other bars. (At least in Firefox, I think IE as well) If only there was a way to personalize the dictionary, or at least having common HTML elements in it, it would be darn near perfect.

never underestimate the power of moral smugness

May 6, 2006
I gave blood today.... actually went ahead and did the Double Red Blood Cell thing, where they use a centrifuge to take out a double dose of red cells and then put the rest back. So my sense of moral smugness should power me throughout the rest of the day.

Passage of the Moment
i can taste summer coming. there are certain smells that i forget about until summer rolls around, and then they all come flowing back in my memory: bonfires, sunblock, cookouts, fresh-cut grass... and then there are the images, pictures of things in my mind that probably weren't as good as i remember, yet i can see them so vividly: cramming in a car to go to drive-in movies, covered in bugspray and armed with snacks; wandering around amusement parks dripping wet from water rides; grabbing an elephant ear and some cotton candy at the local fair; seeing a movie on a weeknight and leaving the theater to meet the warm night air... these are the things i hope to do every summer; sometimes i do, sometimes i don't... but this year i'm hoping extra hard.
Such a lovely passage, gave me a big old wave of nostalgic feeling. It's really good writing, a lot of sensory details if you're in the right frame of mine. Makes me happy for the return of summer!

ice ice baby

May 7, 2006
Quote of the Moment
"You can ask him anything, but he's going to say what he wants, at the pace that he wants. It's like boxing a glacier. Enjoy that metaphor, by the way, because your grandchildren will have no idea what a glacier is."
Stephen Colbert on interviewing Jesse Jackson

Spellcheck Thought of the Moment
I've been thinking more about why I like Google's spellcheck feature so much. It's not like I don't have other ways of checking spelling, and it's less customizable than almost any of them...I can't tell it to ignore HTML, the names of certain people, or just little vocabulary quirks I'm content with using. But before Google, there were 2 main spellcheck UI formats I encountered. Microsoft Word has both of them...the oldest is having the computer read through your document and throwing up a popup for each word it thinks is incorrect. Later, Word's default switch to the "immediately underline the suspect word" format. I thought it was a big improvement. But Google, in effect, gets the best of both worlds... press the button, and each suspect word (in the input forms) is colored and underlined, and you can click to get a droplist of suggestions for each one. This is great! It allows quick scanning in a way "popup on each word" doesn't, and by not showing up until you're ready to spellcheck, the underlines don't interrupt your writing flow the way the Word default does. (I just can't bring myself to ignore the notification as soon as it appears.)

Heh. I love it when I can analyze exactly what it is in a UI that makes it work for me.

Also, Google's check leaves corrected words a different color until the spellcheck is over. This is likely partially a programming expediency, but it also has some very positive UI implications.

Link of the Moment
Slashdot linked to this this comparison of old gadgets and their current counterparts, and someone pointed out the even niftier gadget blog retrothing.

that's pretty cool

May 8, 2006
Animation of the Moment
--Multi Lock On. According to this page, the early text says, "If you cannot open the door, break it" and at the end "If you cannot open the door by pushing... try to pull it open." Animated GIFs really are the flipbooks of our time.

"i just deleted my dog's pirated copy of microsoft office" "how does he spell?" "terrible!"

May 9, 2006
I was talking with Tim yesterday, the head engineer of my development group, about the appreciation for Google's form of spellcheck that I posted about the other day. He said that his ideal UI would actually collect mistakes over in a sometimes hidden, sometimes visible pane on the right side. Personally I thought this was a little nuts, because you lose so much of the context and scan-a-bility, even if you have some clever "click to show it in context" feature. He thought having the mistake in one place would make it quicker to work through mistakes sparsely distributed in a long document (not so much scrolling to see stuff)... he views spelling mistakes as being similar to programming bugs, which are best handled in a kind of batch format...

I still think what Google has is going to be superior to Tim's idea for the majority of people, but it's fascinating to hear dissenting opinion like that.

News of the Moment
Scientology nearly ready to unveil Super Power Training Center. Wow. This sounds so much like Xavier's mansion in X-Men I can hardly believe it. (Someone should photoshop Tom Cruise, John Travolta et al. as the X-Men toughing it out in the Danger Room.)

Also, the main thing I have to say about Blaine failing to break the underwater record is that I like the name of his trainer, Kirk Krack.

Oh, and Slate points out how self-destructive Nancy Pelosi might be for the democrats. How dumb are they? If there's one thing this nation doesn't want, it's lots of partisan investigations. The heartland doesn't seem nearly so pro-Bush as it used to be, but it's not intensely anti-Bush either, and if the Democrats had a chance to make strides these mid-term elections, it would be by being a party of balance and moderation.

Quote of the Moment
If you see a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives.... But close up a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern.
Ursula K. LeGuin

Games of the Moment
My innergamergeek is getting all revved up about Nintendo's new console with this Nintendo Wii launch show coverage. Lots of photos.

kirk rocks

May 10, 2006
Quote of the Moment
I've always had sort of an ironic view of life. My belief system is that when this is over, it's over. That you don't look down from heaven and wait for your loved ones to join you. There may be some soul activity, but I'm not sure about that. But what I am sure about is that your molecules continue and in due time become something else. That's science.

And that works for me. So that if this is it, you better take it at its right proportion. That there are serious things, but most things are temporal and ephemeral, and you should cultivate that attitude. That joy and love and all the verities are what counts. So I try not to take too many things seriously, and if I find myself caught up in the seriousness of the moment, within a period of time, I'm able to cajole myself out of it.
William Shatner, from the History Channel documentary "How William Shatner Changed the World".
Wow. One for the mortality guide quotes page. The guy is amazing. Go buy his spoken word album Has Been. (kisrael'd previously)

Palm Cleanout of the Moment
I have a category on my Palm TODO, "@google", things I want to look up online and possibly link. "Palm Cleanout" will be the "of the Moment" where I stuff that stuff.
Wired had a bit on Josh Davis, "the Jackson Pollock of the Internet age". I really got a wonder...a guy like that, how much is innovation and skill and how much is raw chutzpah?

Technical Reference of the moment
Tim pointed me to quirksmode.org that has a lot of crossbrowser coding comparisons and suggestions.


May 11, 2006
I've done an extremely bad job of keeping track of my 401Ks over the years. It's hard to keep track of that stuff, especially when rollovers take time and sometimes get stuck. And then when companies fold and merge...ugh.

There should be a rule: every document that lists, say, your name for a given 401K account should also list the damn company it's associated with!


FoSO pointed out that it might be helpful for the sidebar writers to have a link right there, as well as a reminder what their login is, so there's a new link on the sidebar, which should give the idea that it is something people can edit as well.

Politics of the Moment
Slate on Bush's terrible, terrible management style. I see this as a strong rebuke against idealism and for pragmatism.

Palm Cleanout of the Moment
While in NYC, Ksenia and I stopped in the Neue Galerie. I thought Egon Schiele's stuff was amazingly modern... this self-portrait is from 1910, but looks like... well, the 1980s, but still.

I also learned about Nazi Germany's "Commission for the Utilization of the Products of Degenerate Art", which I guess would confiscate and sell these works for hard currency.

dj sleepy

May 12, 2006
Captions of the Moment
S'funny... people say that the older you get, the less you sleep...

but I gotta tell ya... the exact opposite is happening with me...

the older I get the longer I sleep.. & I'm perfectly fine with that...

with the rate I'm going, I figure to be up to 17 hours a day by the time I'm fifty...

I'm hoping to reach about 23 1/2 hours a day, just before I croak...

that way I'll be perfectly use to being dead.

Keith Knight, "The K Chronicles"

Windows Tool of the Moment
Max remembered me griping about Outlook's mismanagement of the Windows taskbar, and recently sent me a link for Taskbar Shuffle, a small little app that adds a trivial and intuitive ability to drag taskbar buttons to wherever on the taskbar you want them. Nice! (The only problem is I've gotten a little use to "Group Similar Items", which supposedly doesn't play so well with this app. But still I think I'll go back to not grouping.)

something's fishy

May 13, 2006
Political Potshot of the Moment
I would say the best moment of all was when I caught a 7.5 pound perch in my lake.
Bush when asked about the high point of his presidency by a German newspaper, according to this article.
Now, this would either be a world-record setting perch, a lie, a mistake, or a mistranslation. (Later transcripts possibly correct it to "bass") But even giving him the benefit of the doubt, I reserve the right to be annoyed by the tone of his response, the blasé approach to the highest office of the land. (via Bill the Splut)

Crappy Photoshopping of the Moment
--Man, I gotta get me some better tools for doing this kind of thing... this could also be a good bumper sticker for Air Force One...

what is cool

May 14, 2006
Quote of the Moment
Original coolness was a way of feeling like you were resisting oppression without actually doing what was necessary to throw it off.
from this article about a survey of 20-somethings that claims friendliness is the new cool.
Heh, and like everything else, original coolness was another thing the white performers nicked from the black guys. (via Nick, who specifically pointed out that quote)

Video of the Moment
Speaking of a new sense of sincerity....some public radio program had Willy Mason in studio... he's from Martha's Vineyard I think but he's a big hit in the UK, especially for his song Oxygen which has become a bit of a youth anthem there. You can see the video for it here. Good stuff; I stopped by Newbury Comics to pick up the CD before the show was even over. (I was in the area.)

april showers

May 15, 2006
April Showers may bring May Flowers, but May Showers will bring Flood Watches in Effect for All of Massachusetts. Or thereabouts.

Makes me for not having homeowner flooded basement worries.

Still, rain never seems to be a "cure" for drought conditions, its like it doesn't really count unless it's snow runoff.

In other news, I did a loveblender edition this weekend. I'm not happy with myself that it's constantly about a week later than it should be.

Oh and for the locals.... I thought I'd throw out a plug for "The Barn", the shoestore referenced in this old kisrael ("It's just east of West Newton." "Err, isn't that just... Newton?") Good selection, helpful salesguys, I think good prices...it's regarded as kind of a local gem so I thought I'd help spread the word. I had a pair of "Bass" shoes that were totally destroyed, I think during the trip to NYC, so that you could see the metal frame inside if you lifted the inner sole. My foot was hurting for days after wearing them.

Video of the Moment
Making the rounds (last seen at miller's LJ), I get the feeling other people might find this six minute history of dance (from Elvis to "Shake It Like a Polaroid Picture") more amusing than I did. Still it was pretty cool.

apologia for the perpetual nostalgic

May 16, 2006
The idea of hindsight being 20/20 is blatantly wishful thinking. We view the past through various lenses, not always of our own choosing; sometimes through rose-colored glasses, other times through the wrong end of a telescope, but most often through a kind of subjective kaleidoscope where various fragments slide momentarily view, reflected and amplified until they seem to form some kind of cohesive whole.

I'm a perpetual nostalgic, no bones about it. But if I were to only value some combination of the present moment and the unknowable future at the expense of my own past, I could only get poorer as time plunges inexorably forward, finally dying penniless. Nostalgia is a kind of accountancy, but also a method of mining, extracting value from the dark chambers of my own history and providing raw material for the frame of the future that I'd like to build.

Sometimes this nostalgia has taxed the indulgence of current or even former romantic interests. Perhaps that is the undying allure of first romance: the one relationship that never had to compete with any form of an idealized past...


May 17, 2006
In a dream last night I was in the Navy, I think just for a year long stint or so. But I was encouraged to get twin arm anchor tattoos, ala Popeye. (Who was also there, albeit in human (though not quite Robin Williams) form.)

Instrument of the Moment
--Tuba On Fire! This amazing video of flaming sousaphone playing along to Max Raabe's cover of "Oops I Did It Again", with gals in catholic schoolgirl outfits, highly choreographed, also with flames, touches archetypes in me I didn't even know I had. My shark jaw tuba is so wussy by comparison...

Quote of the Moment
the best way to disprove solipsists is to kill them and then continue to exist.
not that i advocate this.

he's a super neat freak! he's super-neaty.

May 18, 2006
I wonder if I could (or should) will myself into becoming something more of a neat freak.

It can start with simple stuff, like hanging up my coat when I walk in the door, rather than just tossing it wherever. And putting a bowl away when I'm done with it, rather than letting it sit.

I do get a little buzz of rightness when I declutter in some small way like that, and I wonder if it's something I could consciously parlay into larger decluttering and maintenance of that decluttered state.

In Googling on this kind of topic, I found FlyLady.net's "How To Declutter" page. I appreciate the arbitrariness of the 27 Fling Boogie, a method that says trash 27 items, then find 27 items to give away.

The concept of "Body Clutter" (which I think is mostly seen as excess weight) is also kind of interesting. Overall the site is a bit too cutesy and blatantly "not my demographic", but still.

Dialog of the Moment
Uhura: I'm not picking up any signals.
Kirk: Really? I was under the impression that women could read a man like a book.
IJD GAF, it's the opening of a five-minute retelling of the Original Trek Episode "The Changeling", the one where the violent probe Nomad calls Kirk "The Creator".

Link of the Moment
Slate Blogs the Bible... it looks like the plan is to go through it chapter by chapter, and commenting on it all along. It is amazing how many stories from the Bible don't get a lot of play nowadays, and how many don't even jive with what we think of as "Judeo-Christian Morality".

Site Anniversary of the Moment
Heh, according to this site's retrospect feature (showing what I wrote on this date for all the years going back to my Palm journal in 1997) today is the one year anniversary of...this site's retrospect feature. I guess that means I should be seeing repeats for the most part, but generally enough time goes by that it shouldn't feel too repetitive.

fly me to the moon, shake rattle & roll, etc.

May 19, 2006
Yesterday morning I had the end of a dream where I was walking on some kind of campus w/ Evil B. The moon was HUGE, low over the horizon and I could see all this detail (I think the fact that the moon looks larger the lower it is has sunk into my subconscious, which tends to exaggerate it a bit) I admired it for a moment but then it suddenly leaped to the left, then up... I just had time to process "Oh crap, that's not just the moon, something bad must be happening to the earth", then I heard some shouts and yells and was engulfed in heat and red light. I had just enough time to utter a prayer to the Universe of "thanks, I've had a pretty good run" before waking up.

I've been remember dreams a bit more often lately. On the one hand I'm grateful for that, because it seems like a way of "reclaiming" some of the value the need to sleep for so much of a 24-cycle takes away. On the other hand, I think I'm waking up more frequently in the morning hours, which is why I'm remembering stuff, and I don't think that that's good.

Video of the Moment
Not The Nine O'Clock News on Animal Communication... funny!

I like distinction Bill the Splut makes:
"funny" is when I laugh, "amusing" is when I just smirk
That seems useful but I'm not sure if it's universal enough to use without explaining it every time. But it's better than "I actually LOL'd!"

Photo of the Moment
--I thought this photo would be cool when I took it a few days ago, but now it just looks like a bad photoshop filter.

it all adds up

May 20, 2006
I've noticed that for every current front page entry, I've had a bit of non-"of the Moment" rambling. I know I've fretted about the balance of quotes-and-links to Kirk's ramblings before (and that that navel-gazing fretting probably doesn't make the most exciting reading) but I think for a while I'd like to make some non-"Moment" content a daily occurrence on this site.

Non-Moment of the Moment
Yesterday our lead engineer Tim was talking about his ADD and the ways he has of coping with it. He mentioned a bit of "self-medication" with caffeine, and it reminded me of Mo saying how stuff like Ritalin calms a person with ADD down but has the opposite effect on people without the condition. Same with caffeine, though "opposite effect" isn't quite accurate in either case. I only sort of remember Tim's explanation of exciters and inhibitors in the brain chemistry but it seemed to make sense of that counter-intuitive idea.

Tim's geekish computer metaphor for his head was like a terrific multithreaded processor without a scheduler, or with a poor one. One trick people with ADD pick up on is "self-medicating" with something distracting to occupy one of the threads that would otherwise start pushing the rest of the brain around, looking for something to do... he talked about how his own son will play contentedly with Legos for hours if there's a TV on, but turn it off and he'll wander off within minutes. Same goes for the daughter of a friend of his and having music on while doing homework.

He also mentioned how for someone growing up with ADD, things change as the brain matures and gets older, and that made me think about some differences I've noted in my own ability to focus. I don't think I have ADD proper, but might have had a bit of a similar chemistry especially when I was younger. But I've noticed how I used to like random music on when I wanted to hunker down and focus, but now it has to be music I'm very familiar with... preferably energetic, so I can tap into the energy as well. Tim also talked about how he's gotten very good at balancing his own head, but sometimes he'll get virtually indistractable as every thread gets focused on different elements of the same problem. I remember something like that happening when I was a kid, where I'd get so engulfed in a book that I'd ignore my name being called, though I haven't noticed that happening to me so much lately.

Video of the Moment
Wow, BoingBoing's description and photo of this golem suit was impressive enough, but check out the video. D+Dish geekery at its very finest!

I'm very impressed with youtube's performance. They seem to have great bandwidth and/or efficiency, because videos seem to always start right up, and because of their custom player, there's never a hassle with drivers...I guess the downside is there might not be an easy way of saving a video...

lets all go the movies, lets all go to the movies.

May 21, 2006
Went with EB and Ksenia last night to see "The Da Vinci Code". It was kind of at Ksenia's insistence, I wouldn't have been inclined to go otherwise. It was a decent workman-like effort, with some nice flourishes put in to document what people were explaining. (But I mean in general, a book that was all implausible chase scenes and explication, how great would you think a movie based on that would be?)

And man, nothing at that cinema (Burlington) changed my mind about avoiding the movie theater for everything but the biggest of the special-effects-laden blockbusters (and maybe book adaptations that I want to be conversant about sooner rather than later.) To whit: I don't mean to sound like such an old crank, but dag, yo. If movie theaters are worried about being undercut by DVDs they're doing a terrible job of fighting it. The wisdom of a cheap-ish video projector and dark room with a comfortable couch seems more obvious every day.

Quote of the Moment
Someone's boring me. I think it's me.
Dylan Thomas

book 'em, danno!

May 22, 2006
Watched "The Pillow Book" last night.

Minor spoilers, also not for the very squeamish, hit Ctrl-A or highlight to read:
<SPOILER> The movie made me think that I'd love to get my skin recycled to bind a book after I die. I was thinking it would be a form of immortality, to always be on some bookshelf somewhere... and I was thinking what book I'd like to bind. Some book I've found deep or meaningful? The story of my life? Something popular, so I'd see use, rather than languishing on a shelf? But then it hit me, if I want people to read a book, wrapping it in human skin probably isn't the best way of going about it, it's pretty darn creepy. </SPOILER>

Challenge of the Moment
Zefrank inspires you to make an Earth sandwich by putting slices of bread on the ground on opposite sides of the planet. He even gives you tools to help you locate the opposite, though sadly for the continental USA that's the Indian Ocean (dang, I always thought we were more exactly opposite from Australia.) May some Spaniards and New Zealanders can get it together...

The video is amusing in its own right. Zefrank rocks.

Article of the Moment
Before it expires... FoSO sent me this article about happiness and how lousy we are at guessing how delighted or despondent specific events will make us...

"y'know, i'm just happy to be here and hope i can help the ballclub. i just want to give it my best shot and good lord willing, things'll work out.... gotta play 'em one day at a time"

May 23, 2006
I just love baseball happytalk, when players or coaches or managers just say "the right thing", always positive, upbeat, having to fit what they really want to say within the framework. Maybe it's the moderating nature of it; negative things aren't as bad as all that, positive things can't be taken for granted. I know the negative spin of that is they're just mouthing platitudes, ala "Nuke LaLoosh" in Bull Durham, that they can't be frank and say what's really on their mind, but still, I always find myself responding well to it. It's just respectful to the sport.

Audio Clip of the Moment
So when I went to the Museum of Science Star Wars show I picked up one of those meant-for-kids Revenge of the Sith Audio Books, part of my fascination with medium- to low-tech electronic devices that play back sounds or show video. It's pretty useful to have R2D2 chirps or blaster sounds at the touch of a button, especially at work.

But as I was messing around with it, suddenly I got a vision of hundreds of geeks buying this book but totally wearing out this one button, the one with Natalie Portman saying "I'll Never Stop Loving You". (It's pretty low-fidelity to begin with , and the "I'll" got a bit lost in my re-recording... (thanks FoSOSO!)) The Audio Books link above includes some of the other soundclips, albeit without the craptastic cheap speaker effect.

Clarification of the Moment
Obviously, they do not have it all at once and get drunk, but they get it in small amounts mixed in their tea.
Spokesperson from the Budapest Zoo, in this CNN article about how their 11 anthropoid apes go through 55 liters of wine a year to help their red blood cells.
What I like is the assumption that preventing apes from over-boozing needs clarification, but apes having their tea is of course completely normal.

Art and Science of the Moment
--Pouring plaster down Antholes to make these fantastic sculptures...wow. And to think I used to think the little mounds on the surface encompassed the entire ant nest, and felt guilty about kicking into one... (via Boingboing)

Passing of the Moment
R.I.P. Lloyd "I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy" Bentsen. What a great and riffable line!

technolusted in my heart

May 24, 2006
I have technolust in my heart for the Fujitsu Lifebook P1510D. I have mixed feelings about such dinky laptops, this one is about the size of one of those "portable DVD viewers" (ironically they leave the DVD drive external), but combined with the way the screen pivots around and is a touchscreen... oh mama! I've always dreamed of being able to doodle on something like that. The Palm has that a bit, but the canvas is too small (and the touchscreen too jittery.)

The trouble is, it's really hard to justify especially since the main justification seems to be "well maybe this will get be back into doodling on kisrael.com" (I was also considering getting a new Palm TX with wifi, so getting doodles onto the site might be that much easier...IF there was the right software for it, but I'm not sure that there is) It would be 2 or 3 times more than the desktop I just got, and twice my current laptop. (And it costs less than that review states) All that for what is basically a gimmick, though it also seems more stowable...

I knew I was in trouble when I caught myself thinking "well who could benefit from my old laptop if I got this new one", meaning my brain was starting the gearworks of justification. My current thought is this: I'm getting really concerned about my weight. Could something like this be a suitable motivation for losing 20-25 pounds?

Bleh. Given that I'm so on the fence with it, and that its cost seems pretty steep for what it offers, I should probably not give in on this. I should try to lose the weight though.

(Or what about that sub-$100 3rd world laptop? Some folks are trying to get them to sell them to folks in richer countries for $300, which would then buy 2 for the target audience...)

Toy of the Moment
Remember those Photomosaics that took over the "Magic Eye" throne in the late-90s? Here's a neat toy using that idea for infinite zoom-in. It's too bad it doesn't use a variety of photos for each pixel color though.

tiddley, your tummy pal

May 25, 2006
Yesterday my coworker let loose with a mighty sneeze, one on par with my own. Some of the other coworkers commented, and I mentioned that a "sneeze like that is nothing to sneeze at." Not my finest humor moment, but hey.

So what is something to sneeze at? One coworker suggest pepper, or pollen, but I don't think causing a sneeze is the same as being sneezed at, despite the likely proximity.

All lame jokes aside, it is an odd expression. I guess sneezing could be construed as a sign of insufficient respect, but hey... when you gotta sneeze, you gotta sneeze.

E-mail excerpt of the Moment
(After some talk about yesterday's diet-related kisraeling, and how even though Zippos are great fidgits I really shouldn't even joke about taking up smoking as a diet aid.)

>>>>Sometimes I find myself wishing
>>>>that I had a tapeworm or something though :-)


>>clearly you haven't seen enough cute, cuddley,
>>muppety cartoony tapeworms.

>again, 'eeeeeeewwwwwww!!!!!!!!!'

No, really, take a look!

--Me and FoSO. Of course, there is nothing new under the sun, and every good idea you have is probably already done somewhere on the Internet.

Personal News of the Moment
Just got the news from my boss...

Sure I'm just going to waste it, but still.... FOUR DAY WEEKEND!

good king friday

May 26, 2006
Man, four day weekend... mmm-hmm!

I'm sure I'm just going to waste it, but still.

Video of the Moment
Nick B, who has alibism himelf, linked to The Albino Code, a goofy but legitmately funny parody of Da Vinci, with a theme of what was more likely to happen if you hired someone with albinism to do your super secret killing people and skulking around work. I also thought that a fair skin and haired guy running around in a monk's robe wasn't the most stealthy choice, and didn't even think about the implications of the vision challenges associated with the condition.

Ksenia found the the Albino far and away the scariest part of Da Vinci Code, but I think that was more about how they played up the suspense movie aspect, along with the kind of freaky self-flagellation scene.

the accidental daoist

May 27, 2006
It hit me that my life style tends to drift a bit into a bastardized form of daoism, just going with the flow, and trying to avoid big struggle. I was delighted when a Google search came up with zero hits for "the accidental daoist", thinking maybe I had (against all odds) managed to coin a new phrase, but removing the "the" returns over 100 hits. (Not that many by Google standards but still.)

Maybe it means something that the other accidental daoists call themselves "an" accidental daoist rather than "the".

Sports of the Moment
Every once in a while I like to check out the websites of other Major League Baseball teams. The other week it was the Kansas City Royals (who despite having a famously terrible season beat the Yankees last night.) They had a mailbag section that asked about the "Eephus Pitch"... a junk pitch that no veolcity, no spin, no nothing, but cam sometimes totally confound batters expecting a real pitch. The wikipedia page on it was pretty decent, as was this page that says even the greatest hitter who ever lived Ted Williams had to cheat to hit this pitch... even when he knew it was coming.

I love it. I wish some Red Sox pitcher would put something like that into the mix.

it is what it is

(1 comment)
May 28, 2006
The weather has finally took a turn for the decidedly warm!

The weather: last refuge of the uninspired journaler. I think that's why like half of the Love Blender headers talk about it.

Did I mention that sometime late last year I made my 100th issue of the Blender? Totally missed saying anything! Ah well.

Line and Show of the Moment
It is what it is.
Pretty much every contender on "Top Chef"
"Top Chef" had its finale recently, probably the only show I've watched on a regular basis so far this year. The antepenultimate episode had a "best quotes" segment, with that one along with "You're a snake. Sssssss." and "I'm not your bitch, bitch!"

For some reason "It is what it is" is a curious blend of fatalism and, I think, confidence in being willing to stand behind the product. It seems a very non-geek thing to say; geeks are always looking to tweak things, make them better. Though maybe that's just an artifact of the malleability of food vs computer code; there's only so much you can do to improve on a finished dish, but computer code is both more permanent (it's not gone after a couple of meals) and less (it's relatively easy to keep on making changes.)

one time at band camp

May 29, 2006
I've appreciated this four day weekend, but vacation always makes me nervous for this reason: I'm afraid I won't want to or be might be unable to get back into the groove of the daily work grind.

Band of the Moment
One of the side effects of Netflix is that the barrier to entry for "guilty pleasure" movies is that much lower. Case-in-point, "American Pie Presents: Band Camp". It definitely harkened back to the old "teenage sex comedy" tradition, plus there were enough semi-realistic marching band references to keep me entertained.

It got me to googling, where I found the old rec.arts.marching.band.college FAQ. My favorite section was 2) Which band was banned from where? and my favorite incident listed in that section was
1972 Columbia is banned from West Point for "forming" the napalming of a Cambodian Villiage, complete with flaming villagers.
That, my friends, is chutzpah.

Me and my mom at Tufts Pep Band, Parents' Weekend. I like how she's sporting some major Jumbo the Elephant (Tufts' mascot) Bling.
I got to reading about Scramble Bands, where players just run from one formation to the next. (I remember once or twice where my high school band did a "scramble" when we already had a complex enough show and didn't want a highly scripted switch to the next formation.)

In trying to track down a factoid that some Ivy League bands play in suit and ties, I found my way back to the site for the Columbia University Marching Band, aka CUMB, aka "the cleverest band in the world". (In Euclid we called ourselves "God's Favorite Marching Band", as evidenced by a sudden downpour erupting with the opening gong strike of "Carmina Burana" and being finished by the time the piece was done, but I suspect the "God's Favorite" moniker isn't too original.) Anyway, I didn't see a reference to the West Point incident, but I liked their list of other scramble bands, all that intra-Ivy snarkiness. I wish Tufts had had its act together to have a scramble band rather than just a stand band, we'd only take the field once or twice a year.

I'm still trying to figure out where I could borrow a tuba or sousaphone from for a day or two, or even rent. Ksenia's dying to hear it. Or more likely, see it. Tubas are meant to be Seen as well as Heard.

that was the day

May 30, 2006
I see Amazon now has a way of categorizing past purchases as gifts, and for whom. Great! Now maybe it'll stop sending me completely inappropriate reading recommendations.

The UI for it, though, as so much of Amazon, is extremely poor. Even stuff like... I know it has a concept of me being logged in, and I want to login to take advantage of some of that, but I cannot find a simple "login" link. I have to try to figure out what activity will most require a login, and start that, and wait for it to realize that I have yet given it my credentials.

Plus, and this may always be a thorn in my side... if you're going to let people assign "priority" to their wishlist items, make that the damn default sort, at least when other people are viewing it!

Photos of the Moment
Always surprising to see a parade outside the front door:

News of the Moment
Is it just me or does the real life "fight club" sound really really retarded? And odd that it's "techies" in particular.

Science of the Moment
Personally, I hope we do start growing meat in vats. I've been interested ever since reading about "Chicken Little" in "The Space Merchants", a giant chick heart slab they'd skim meat off of for people to eat. It seems a lot more humane. I wonder if they can put some effort into faking an environment so that it has some of the finer qualities that good grass-fed freerange cows have.

Geekness of the Moment
Note to future self, when you're on windows and trying to see what ports are being listened to, "netstat -a" is the command for you.

hello, money!

May 31, 2006
Last night I greeted the money I was receiving from the ATM.

"Hello, money!" I said.

(I also gave it some encouraging talk about how happy I was to see it, and how I appreciated how it was going to help me over the coming week.)

I think I might have been influenced by some recent feng shui reading that suggested if you want to keep the cash-chi/flow of money in good order you should line up the money in your wallet respectfully, not let it get all crumpled and jumbled up.

I'd recommend this to everyone: The next time those "newborn" (or newly reborn, or whatever) twenties poke their way out of the ATM, blinking in the light, nervous about what might be their first time in the outside world, gently pick them up and say, "Hello, money!"

Article of the Moment
Wait, Jon Katz is on Slate now? I was wondering where he went after that whole Hellmouth thing on Slashdot. Upstate NY, I guess...I liked his piece on the rural man's Grunt and Grumble, patially because I remember the "Stewarts" from my time in upstate NY. Good ice cream there.

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