2006 September❮❮prevnext❯❯

what did we learn this week, children?

I learned a few things at this company and in this city:
  1. There was a gentleman working here who aways wore a turban. I have to admit that it never occurred to me that you could coordinate a turban with the shirt you were wearing, color-wise, much like I've been doing with shirts and ties all week, but now it makes perfect sense.
  2. There company had a room/closet labeled "medical needs". It had cupboards labeled with a sequence of letters. For some reason I was a little bit bothered about why there was a comfortable chair in the center of that small dark room, facing the cupboards, until I realized that it might make a discrete place for a nursing mother. (Or, I suppose, someone resting with a headache or some such.) There was also a digital clock right in front of the chair, rather that was something useful for such a situation, or more a nagging reminder that "times a-passin'!" I'm not sure.
  3. So Colorado has the lowest obesity rate in the country. Though Massachuseets isn't far behind, surprisingly...but in the Denver area, I think you could really tell, especially in this high-rent area. It's a little funny how there's a correlation between being well-off and being fit, and we've changed as a culture, so that basic food needs are generally easily met.
  4. After a successful presentation of the new small application I developed for this company, one of the women mentioned that I was a bit if a brainiac, or a similar term. So I guess it's flattering that despite my self-perceived (or even hypochondriacal) mental deterioration over the years, I still read as "smart", even when I'm just trying to be "friendly" and/or "eager to please".
More as I think of it but I have to go pack.

beam me up bart

Back in town!

Boston people... so a friend of Ksenia's, also a student at AIB, but a bit older, just went on a trip to Japan. He took some photographs that I haven't see yet but I've heard are great. He's looking for some kind of exhibition space... any suggestions?

Video of the Moment

--Fun Simpson/Star Trek mashup. Great use of the theremin!


Hmm. I guess there's a danger that when I'm busier at work but doing "interesting" things that this site becomes a bit "bloggier". (Or as I put it when describing the site to someone who's not web-saavy, more "here's what I had for lunch today") I don't have the freetime that finding interesting tangental links and quotes requires. And even my recent reading on the plane hasn't been too fruitful from a quote point of view.

So, yesterday. Ksenia and I thought about going to my family's place in Ocean Grove, but it seemed like too much of a drive, and the rag-end of Ernesto promised to cut into what little beach-y time there was to be had. We also toyed with like Toronto or Montreal, but then realized the drive was even longer.

(Truth is, I'm really bad at organizing vacations. I guess I really don't "get it". Putting it into my whole "interesting/non-interesting" world view... there's lots of interesting stuff at home I haven't even seen, and I don't think tourists see the really interesting bits of a place unless they have a native guide. (Plus hotels are so frickin' expensive! A typical daily rate is pretty high, beyond my typical "mad money" threshold.)

So we decided to maybe do more of an overnight trip Monday or Tuesday. So yesterday we took care of a few errands around Harvard Square, then we went up to that new Jordans in Reading. I've been thinking about something couch-like. We start at the Fuddruckers there. Man, I still think that's about the best Burger place in the world... fantastic burgers, home fries, these banana shakes...amazing.

Then we wandered the labyrinth that is Jordans. It's kind of scarey what a maze that place is.

Then we caught Superman Returns 2D/3D at the IMAX... only having 4 scenes in 3D was kind of a bummer, but still it was decent. The "Superman = Jesus" thing was a bit heavyhanded (and I know the weirdness of that coming from two jewish guys from Cleveland has been remarked upon before.) and Lois was way too young, but still not bad.

on the road again

(1 comment)
Heading up for a day or two to Bennington. Further updates as time and 'net access allows.

Quote of the Moment
Well, we all got misery, but it passes, it always passes!
Mike Feder, "New York Son"
.... I used to use this in my .sig file, haven't thought about it in a while but it bounces in the back of my head.

Curse of the Moment
Speaking of misery... on August 1 this gimpy crow was hopping around the Sox basepath and things have been terrible ever since. Not just the team playing like crap, but medical problems as well: Manny's knee, Ortiz with heart palpatations... even stuff as bad as Jon Lester getting diagnosed with lymphoma. For a while I thought it was just that they needed to Varitek to mold the pitching, but now I'm not sure.

News of the Moment
As everyone has heard I'm sure, the Crocodile Hunter is dead. I don't know about the rest of y'all, but my takeaway message is this: DON'T MESS WITH STINGRAYS....

sheer stark raving crazy nuts

Still on the road...

Quote of the Moment
People are sheer stark raving crazy nuts. Quote me.
Jack Poderhotz, as quoted by Garrison Keillor

deerhill and dale

My last day of "vacation"... trying to rush around making ready for party and a future housemate.

Ksenia and I went up to Vermont. Brattleboro on the way in was pretty nifty. We stayed at a place called the Deerhill Inn, and I gotta say that of the 3 or so B+Bs I've stayed at, this one is definitely tops. We did the whole web search thing (and man those room photos start looking all alike after a short while) and this one stood out... at first because of the webdesign, but it turns out that's a reflection of the place itself. For starters the room (we stayed in the Dahlia room) looked great in the photos and had the full set of amenities: fireplace, tub with jacuzzi jets, TV/DVD, even wireless 'Net so I didn't feel like a total refugee. Then it turns out that the grounds were beautifully done as well, with better landscaping and a much better view than any other place I've been in...they even feature a small pool. Breakfast was great (though I'm getting the sneaking suspicion it's fairly easy for B+Bs to throw together breakfasts that seem impressive and taste wonderful...) but the place also has a (price-y) built-in restaurant... we had a great creme brulee via something like room service.

Plus you can order these various packages, in-room massage, dinner things, etc... I splurged for some champagne and local chocolates. Oh, and if you poke around the site, the "last minute deals" links is pretty damn bargain-riffic.

I guess in short it manages to get the best of both worlds, some of the features of a small hotel without sacrificing much of the personal feel of a smaller B+B.

Yesterday we also went to the Billings Farm outside of Woodstock. Ksenia had an urge to commune with cows a bit, and that was the place to do it, along with stocking up on Maple Syrup. And Maple Candy. And Maple-infused Seltzer. Etc. Plus, they had some ice cream made from milk from the herd. Kind of weird to think you're ingesting something that might well have come out of the creature you were just petting 15 minutes earlier.

We also did a little factory outletting in Manchester. I had more trouble than I expected explaining the Factory Outlet concept to Ksenia, especially after she saw some of the brands (I stocked up on amusing boxers at Banana Republic) and the prices (Giorgio Armani had shirts at 90% off...which makes a $500 shirt just barely outside of what I'll pay, rather than considering the price "bat-s*** insane") and the fact that there didn't actually seem to be any factories nearby.

Plus, I got my first ever speeding-ticket. Boo, Hiss, frickin' Vermont pseudo-highways going straight through the middle of their little podunk towns.

Quote of the Moment
You are a little soul carrying around a corpse.
Cool and memorable way of putting the situation, though I'm not crazy about the hint of "Cartesian Dualism" (soul and body as distinct and separable) it carries.

the glee of geek

Note to my future self: changing a toilet seat is well-nigh trivial, so long as you're able to figure out which side the hinge is on for the caps protecting the plastic screws.

Webcomic of the Moment
Wow. I have never had such a strong feeling of "this comic is for people like me" as I get from xkcd, "A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language", from super-geeky jokes (most of which I get, or at least I understand what I'm likely not getting), to oddly romantic one-offs, to just idiosyncratic things like the red spiders in geometric perspective landscapes shown here, it's great. It even covers a few issues that were near and dear to my heart: the non-fictional nature of Centrifigual Force, no matter what high school teachers try to drill into us, and the horrendous irony (not to mention, annoyarifficness) of quoting Monty Python skits word-per-word.

I know there's a whole Nerdcore/geeksta rap movement out there... this might be the comic version of that.

Link of the Moment
Wikipedia's lamest edit wars...bicker bicker bicker! My favorite was about Cranky Kong:
Was Cranky Kong the original Donkey Kong? Could it be the character in Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 games is actually his son? Or perhaps his grandson? Should we trust offhand comments made by a video-game character? Does being licensed by Nintendo make Rareware publications "official"? How official is the "Nintendo Seal of Quality"? To some people, these questions are a matter of life and death.
FWIW, the original Donkey Kong Country on SNES is a great game for a more hardcore gamer to team up with a less experienced gamer, it has a fairly unique co-operative mode where the "n00b" can control the action but then switch off when the going gets rough, plus it's colorful, has nice music and bossfights.

it's time to party like it's 09/09/09

Mr. Ibis and Co. is in town, and so Saturday evening where having a party, like around 6, aftern an afternoon of multiplayer videogaming. Any regular readers in the Boston area are welcome to come join in for either or both parts (hi Candi!)... I'm having a sneaking suspicion that evite is not a reliable way of getting invites any more, so tonight I have to make a plethora of last minute phonecalls.

Quote of the Moment
Did you ever walk into a room and forget why you walked in? I think that's how dogs spend their lives.
Sue Murphy.
But hell, that's how I spend my life as well.

the air was filled with yelling and smoke and bullets

Went to Trader Joe's last night to stock up for today's party.

Paper bags were more prominently displayed than plastic for doing our own bagging, so we used those.

"Paper or plastic?" is a famous question, but come to think of it I have no idea what criteria to use. Is plastic cheaper for the store? Which one is considered more eco-friendly? Or useful for reuse?

Transcript of the Moment
Tell us about the fight.
I didn't see no fight.
Well, tell us what you did see?
I went to a dance at the Turner house, and as the men swung around and changed partners, they would slap each other, and one fellow hit harder than the other one liked, and so the other hit back and somebody pulled a knife and a rifle that had been hidden under a bed, and the air was filled with yelling and smoke and bullets.
Alleged court transcript, collected by Richard Lederer in "Funny Times". What a poetic final line! It's almost another example of Zeugma...

we got ibis! we got mr. ibis on a m-f'in plane!!


So yesterday's festivities were rather much a success. We had a solid 4 people for much of the gaming in the afternoon, and then it was just over a dozen for the party itself. On the evite I described it as aiming for the "ass-kickingest party this side of the Mason-Dixon line", partially to emphasize the temporary reversal Mr. Ibis' and Felisdemen's southernly location, but in retrospect "ass-kickingest" isn't what I'm really aiming for with these things.

(FoSO's expressed disdain the "prepacked and unoriginal format" of Evite.com invites, though I kind of appreciate being able to focus on one bit of custom art. I redid this one to use Mr.Ibis' preferred public persona, and that just reminds me... man, I have to work on my Photoshop-type skills in general. I use an ancient copy of Paint Shop Pro that barely supports layers, and even there I know I'm missing out on stuff. I don't know if I should seek out a copy of Photoshop or just really focus on learning "The GIMP". My problem is, I still tend to think in terms of individual pixels...)

Anyway, the party: We had lots of good snackies, did some basic grilling with good Trader Joe's burgers and interesting sausages, Ksenia made some great salads and then some damn fine Mojitos, EB made a wonderful batch of Margaritas. I even did an emergency run to CVS for a $20 blender.

Besides the general hanging of out and friendly debate of the merits of the movie Aliens, and if it's a horror movie or sci-fi or what, and general admiration of cndb.com, etc, we played a few games including "Eat Poop You Cat" and "Catchphrase". I wired my rotating-ball-of-colored-lights to the ceiling in my front room, but we didn't quite have the spark to get dancing underway, though my old reliable party mix set was well-received. Feels like we're all getting old though, as things kind of broke down a bit before midnight (They had had an early 6ish start though.)

I really love how empty my physical desktop is at this moment, and it reminds me of my goals of decluttering my life. On the other hand, that decluttering urge is also the kind of thing that makes me have to run out and buy a $20 blender from CVS...

Political Jab of the Moment
So Afghanistan is unraveling, a bit. I've recanted my early naysaying about going into Afghanistan, it looks like a decent decision in retrospect, but man, sometimes I think we are stretched way thin, and I still think there might have been a third way between ignoring Saddam and toppeling him. I don't know if there's much validity to the "honeypot/flypaper" argument or not.

five years on

So, 9/11, five years on.

Like I've mentioned, I worked at the WTC towers for a few days in 1998... and while I guess my totally ordinary "where DO the years go?" pondering is a lot less sociopolitically siginificant than what happened in 2001, it is odd to me to think that the gap between my working there (and of course, the weirdness of visiting there (on 9/11/1999) and the tragedy is so much less time then between the tragedy and now.

Hell, those proud towers (arguably a little much for the neighborhood around them, though it sounds disrespectful to mention that controversy now) and their beautiful interplay of shadows were only around about 30 years. (Heh, and this page mentiond 10,000 people worked on them, and 60 people died during the construction--) That's not a great deal of time in the history of the city, even though they had such a huge significance in the skyline, and in how people thought of New York City, and maybe even how NYC thought of itself.

But of course, I'm just alternating between my subjective concerns, and thoughts on architecture, when its the human tragedy that makes the day what it is. 3,000 people... less than first feared, but still. 3,000 lives stopped over the course of a few hours. It's deeply disturbing to try and put yourself in their shoes, the doubt and confusion and fear. And of course the uncertainty might be one of the hardest parts to try and duplicate in empathy; we now know that the airplanes are going to be turned into missiles, that those towers are doomed to collapse, and can only really see the tragedy as the biggest event in a series of engagements between the West and Islamic terrorist.

(Ugh, you know, I forgot about the proximity this post would have to yesterday's "Mr Ibis on a Plane" logo, even though I just meant to play on the meme of a few months earlier.)

the battlin' geoducks

So, last night I bought a replacement for my camera.

I got the Olympia FE-190 to replace my Canon SD400, which I guess has a reputation for fragility. In part I was willing to take a gamble with a new brand because it was only $200, though I'm missing some of the Canon bells-and-whistles already. (It's also annoying that selecting on form factor and price keeps me in the "entry level" demographic, when I have delusions of grandeur that I'm taking things that are more than just snapshots.) UPDATE: This camera sucks. You really do get what you pay for in this case, focus was terrible and pixels were very noisy. Damn it.

I guess I find it irksome that small cameras are all striving for the same metrics, megapixels and big old LCD viewscreens. I'd much rather have a tiny, STURDY camera that took fantastic pictures, even if it had a tiny screen and the resolution was only, say, twice what my monitor at home can display, rather than 2.5 to 4.

Same for laptops, where they still seem to be striving for CPU performance, even when for web browsing and Office and casual gaming it would be nice to have a machine with long battery life that you could actually keep on your lap. (At least there is a niche of rugged laptops.)

Mascot of the Moment
Sunday was a goodbye dinner for Ivan as he goes off to college... I brought up the site logoserver and he found this true gem. (I guess it beats "The Fightin' Messiahs".) Of course, his own school's mascot, the geoducks gives even the Banana Slugs a run for their money. All these guys make the "Tufts' Jumbos" look downright ordinary.

an' if a fren' come a long

You know, Miller moving in makes me realize that among the relatively few things that might count as "sacred" to me, hospitality is one of them. Specifically, being able to provide a place to crash for an out-of-town guest or even a local friend down on their luck.

And the weird thing is, I think it's this passage from "Of Mice and Men" that is the nexus for that thought, where George is taking about the place he dreams about setting up:
"An' it'd be our own, an' nobody could can us. If we don't like a guy, we can say: 'Gedt the hell out,' an' by God he's got to do it. An' if a fren' come a long, why we'd have an extra bunk, an' we'd say: 'Why don't you spen' the night,' an' by God he would."
Admittedly I've led a much more priveleged privileged ("Thanks", FoSO) life than the characters in that book and have had "my own place" since graduation, but still, the concept resonates.

Quote of the Moment
So long as there's a jingle in your head, television isn't free.
Jason Love

Fetish of the Moment
BoingBoing linked to this Radar Online piece on fetish clubs in Japan (NSFW Warning: Breasts) catering to odd, sometimes weirdly-innocent-sounding sexual interests. This one, women frolicking in green gel, was one of the weirder ones though I also liked "pay a 40,000-yen [~$340] entrance fee to drink and watch [topless] foreign women swim in a tank."

her immaculate burberry hotpants gleamed beneath the harsh fluorescent lights

So my cute little touchscreen laptop may have inspired some art from the guests of honor at the party we had on Saturday... this was beyond the fun rounds of "Eat Poop You Cat" we played.

Prose of Saturday
Chapter Fourteen - Viewing the Pinnipeds, or An Effete Pandemic

Johnny Theremin lunged for the rubber cantaloupe, but the villainous Doctor Anthelion fired his Bilious Ray with deadly accuracy. Johnny fell short by inches, clutching his heroic duodenum and groaning manfully. "You'll never get away with this, Anthelion!" he bellowed from his intrepid diaphragm. Doctor Anthelion sneered. "That's such a cliche, Theremin. The Cantaloupe is mine! MINE!" Menacingly, he reached for the pliant rubber. Johnny Theremin writhed fruitlessly on the grimy Pergo.

"Stop right there, Doctor!" A voice rang out from the doorway just out of frame. Both men looked around to see Penny Panopticon, her Gatling gun slung nonchalantly beneath her left arm. Her immaculate Burberry hotpants gleamed beneath the harsh fluorescent lights.

"And why should I?" snapped the Doctor, adjusting his goggles malevolently.

"Because I - I have the Fantod!" announced Penny, gesticulating grandiosely.

"The Fantod! The Flammable Fantod?" gasped the malign Doctor, firing his Bilious Ray into the air in shock and emphasis.

"The very same!" shouted Johnny, leaping to his feet and brandishing his laser peashooter.

"I'm ruined!" howled the Doctor, crumpling to the floor in defeat and a small pool of deus ex machina.

"Johnny Theremin" stories are kind of interesting bits of guerrilla prose, continuing adventures written by various people on cocktail napkins and airsick bags to be discovered by unsuspecting readers. F. explained that its modeled after the work Neil Gaiman invented to claim he's working on when people ask. (I don't know if it's supposed to be a secret or not, Google comes up with suspiciously little on it.)

Image of Saturday
--A collaboration between Me and Mr. Ibis...I drew the head, he added the color, torso, and really interesting arms. He definitely has a different kind of attention to detail than I do. I think it shows up in our coding styles too.


The haiku frolics in the sidebar comments have raised a point I find interesting, is "growl" one syllable or two? I guess it varies by dialect, though Miller claims that it's lacking the requisite vowel (but I think back to "a e i o u, and sometimes y and w"... I learned it "sometimes y" but I have heard that "and w" thrown in there since.) Still, for me, "growl" is a perfect rhyme for "towel" and, appropriately enough, "vowel". Though I guess those words might all be, say, 1 1/2 syllables.

Of course than I start thinking about parts of the country where "fire" is one syllable and then I need to go lie down for a bit.

Image Toy of the Moment

--FoSO sent a link to this official seal generator. The UI isn't super dynamic but it's still cool. (Hint: the "Emblem" caption is a link taking you to a browser, rather than making you pick from a text list.)

Passage of the Moment
Please ensure that your seat belt is fastened, your seat back is upright and your tray-table is stowed. At Veritas Airways, your safety is our first priority. Actually, that is not quite true: if it were, our seats would be rear-facing, like those in military aircraft, since they are safer in the event of an emergency landing. But then hardly anybody would buy our tickets and we would go bust. [...] Your life-jacket can be found under your seat, but please do not remove it now. In fact, do not bother to look for it at all. In the event of a landing on water, an unprecedented miracle will have occurred, because in the history of aviation the number of wide-bodied aircraft that have made successful landings on water is zero.
Just in time for next week's trip to Seattle!

column of the Moment
We have no more troops to send to Iraq. We have, or had, the army to win any war, but (mercifully?) we are no great shakes at being an occupying force.

Thank goodness it has struck such a blow against terrorism, huh?
As the Post paraphrased the Marine Corps chief of intelligence for Iraq: "al-Qaeda has become the province's most significant political force." In other words, the prediction some began making a year ago—that Anbar would become a new and enduring sanctuary for al-Qaida—has come true.
Of course, until and unless there's a major terrorist incident in the USA, it's difficult to absolutely criticize our ham-fisted Middle East policy, but on the other hand, until there's a clearer demonstration of how Iraq ties into that, and how removing Saddam unambiguosly helped, it's hard to know that it's worth the expense.

Of course, no new taxes to support the war, that might start people counting the cost in other ways as well...

it look like a cannon and sound like death!

(1 comment)
I gave blood this morning. What they take out in blood the body instantly replaces with an equivalent amount of good karma, cut by just a dash of self-righteousness.

Anecdote of the Moment
One night this big, bad-ass hood crashes into my dressing room in Chicago and instructs me that I will open in such-and-such a club in New York the next night. I tell him I got a Chicago engagement and don't plan no traveling. And I turn my back on him to show I'm so cool. Then I hear this sound: SNAP! CLICK! I turn around and he has pulled this vast revolver on me and cocked it. Jesus, it look like a cannon and sound like death! So I look down at that steel and say, 'Weelllll, maybe I do open in New York tomorrow.'
Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong
(Via Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes, a massive tome that makes great bathroom reading but hasn't produced as much kisraelable stuff as I would have hoped.)

Armstrong's Wikipedia entry (which I think bears the scars of some harsh criticism being acknowledged but respun by admirers) had an interesting quote from Billie Holiday:
Of course Pops toms, but he toms from the heart.
I took a number of African-American culture classes at Tufts (to do double duty for "Foreign Culture" and "English major" credits, and also because it was some great stuff) so I've been pondering on that quote within that context. It's a great line from Holiday, with a blend of coolness and sincerity that acknowledges a bit of the complexity in race relations and entertainment in this country.

Product of the Moment
I couldn't find a shot of it online, but Home Depot has this terrific, simple torchiere floor lamp for like $13. It has a dark rust finish and a shaded plastic..err, shade that looks a lot more expensive than it is. (And I've determined that plastic is a much better choice, frosted glass makes these things top-heavy and generally scrapey-sounding. It's line is so elegant, just a thin tube all the way up with the switch at the top.

kills spam dead. i hope.

Comment spammers are on my mind, so once again I wade into the fray The "topics" of the links have gotten too diverse for my "forbidden words when posted with a link" filter to keep up. But I've noticed something that wasn't clear to me at first: there's hardly ever spam on my front page, these scumbags' scripts seem to prefer the dark shadows of previous comments.

So for a while I thought of closing off the ability to post comments to old articles. But that was a kind of sad admission of defeat, and there had been some really lovely comments from Johnny from Portugal recently that wouldn't have been possible with that setup.

Then the obvious solution hit me, and I don't know why I didn't think of it earlier: comments on old articles are fine, comments on old articles that include links are not. So that's the new filter, and for the time being I've even disabled the keywords-with-link filter, which was prone False Positives for spam anyway.

I realize that there might be a reason why these scripts pick on old entries and leave the front page alone. I noticed that some entries seem to be attract far more than their fair share of spam: (quack quack waddle waddle!, antihippopotamus, brrr. brr brr Brr brr BRRRRR., a visit from the laissez-fairies, and ironically enough, towards a better comments spam filter) I would guess that those pages rank highly for specific websearches, and maybe that explains why the front pages receive less Spam they haven't had time to be indexed by the crawlers.

So I'll be keeping an eye out. I know the "no links for comments on old posts" filter is a bit leaky, because there are some feeler scripts out there without links. Some of those get picked up by my other "whole phrase match" filters, and then we'll play wait and see.

There's slightly more of a chance of a front-page flood now, but I'm more likely to notice that in a timely fashion.

(UPDATE: bleh, I notice that some f'in bot is still posting random, meaningless strings, like "lhdgvumxt etrod tzphiwa rnwtmys algcqvr nfojtgi zocyr". There aren't nearly as many of these though. Maybe at some point I'll add a filter, if 2/3 of a post aren't in the dictionary for an old post, you get rejected. This may also have the happy side-effect of ignoring people who are typing entirely in L33T.)

Videos of the Moment

--So one subgenre of fanfiction is, of course, "slash", which explores the possible romantic and sometimes sexual relationships between various characters that the original authors probably never meant, or at least would only barely hint at. They say the genre started with "Kirk/Spock" stories. This is a music video playing that up, with clips from the show. Actually, this one is a cheerful PG13 example, as opposed to the other one making the rounds, which is a dark and violent (in terms of music and imagery) video set to "Closer"... admittedly it's a bit more "artistic" than the previous one.

Finally Trek does Monty Python's Knights of the Round Table is surprisingly well matched and enjoyable.

picture yourself in a boat on a bitstream...

Travelling to Seattle on business today!

The chance to have great coffee (though when I ask the people I'll be visiting about it, they mostly mention Starbucks... ugh)... and...enjoy the rainy climate... and..errr...see that tall building with the round thing on type... and... cross the lake... hmmm.

Creepiness of the Moment
--The Girl With Error Msg Eyes, an avatar in the game "Second Life", is one of the creepiest things I've ever seen, on both a visceral and cerebral level.

Quote of the Moment
At the very minute scale, matter appears to be constructed from vibrating nothing.
Hey, he's not just for Tuesday Morning Quarterbacking any more!

seattley scenes

So this is Seattle! I got in town around 4 last night, so I figured it might be the best chance to explore a bit. And I splurged a tad and decided to give Canon one more chance, with its weirdly PSP-looking SD630.

a narrow fellow in the lemongrass

Met up with LAN3 for dinner last night. "Sazerac"...nice, and that was after a bit of a tour of the library which is even more interesting on the inside than the outside.

Man, I've become so blasé about travel. You know you've been on too many business trips (or are just flighty and unorganized) when you don't look to check what airline you're flying 'til you get to the airport subway station and have to figure out which Terminal's bus to grab.

And then there's the hotel toiletries. More and more hotels have interesting little scents there, mint and thyme and lavender and orange and lemongrass (what the hell is lemongrass? I have no idea but I dig it) and what not I kind of like the diversity. Though I just have to know... is "hair wash" and "crème rinse" the same thing as shampoo and conditioner, and in that order?

Article of the Moment
BusinessWeek on What's Really Propping Up The Economy... answer: Employment in Health Care. Two interesting little tidbits:
Despite the splashy success of companies such as Google and Yahoo!, businesses at the core of the information economy -- software, semiconductors, telecom, and the whole gamut of Web companies -- have lost more than 1.1 million jobs in the past five years. Those businesses employ fewer Americans today than they did in 1998, when the Internet frenzy kicked into high gear.
That was an eye-opener! I just have to remind myself, I got into this field because I liked it and it came naturally to me, and never sought it out as any kind of gravy train...

But the article went on and said:
John Maynard Keynes would nod approvingly if he were alive. Seventy years ago, the elegant British economist proposed that in tough times the government could and should spend large sums of money to create jobs and stimulate growth. His theories are out of fashion, but substitute "health care" for "government," and that's exactly what is happening today.
This reminds me of Tim the Libertarian's favorite gripe about the interpretation of Keynesian economics... people forget the flip side, that government should shrink, then, when the private sector was booming. And for many reasons, mostly political, that never happens, much to the chagrin of fans of small government.

whiskers. that's a funny word.

I might come back and try to talk more later... good debate going on on yesterday's comments, hope that continues. EB writes really well, especially when he gets a touch formal. Once upon a time he wrote to the Tufts' Usenet group about the fable of the White Elephant, and I could barely believe it was him.

Product of the Moment

(from Bizarro)

see ya seattle

So I bid a fond farewell to Seattle. I think my consulting role went well, though I had to put in some brutally late nights, and it was one of those things that never feels perfectly resolved.

Got a chance to wander the city a bit more on my last evening there.

I even found a very fun little arcade at the lakefront. I think the arcade games were set at their easier settings for the most part, which I appreciated. I played Star Wars Tilogy Arcade, destroyed the Deathstar which is always enjoyable. I also played ticket games, I usually don't go for that but they had this one mallet game, sort of a virtual Whack-A-Mole but with a real mallet on a big screen.

So see ya, Seattle... I'll miss you, and how you have the Daily Show on at a decent hour. Plus my hotel had the NFL Channell... man, as much as I enjoy following the Patriots and gaving a game on in the background, 24/7 football coverage is kind of creepy.

Fortune of the Moment
"You may find if you relax that you dream a thousand new paths and awake to walk your old one."
--Excerpt from the card I got from the Arcade's mechanical fortune teller. It was a lot better than the one from the mechanical Elvis at the Pike Place magic show that started "You are nature's stepchild. You enjoy nature and thrive when you spend time outdoors." Damn, Mechanical Elvis just doesn't know me at all, does he...

it all comes down to alcohol and caffeine

So I'm back, safe and relatively sound.

On my flight back I read an excellent book, "A History of the World in 6 Glasses" by Tom Standage, the impact on human culture by beer (where it came hand in hand with the harvesting of grains, and the birth of cities and civilization), wine (and the intellectual associations it still carries), hard liquor (where it had a role in the West's horrific slave trade, as well as spurring America to fight for its independence), coffee (where coffehouses were like the powerhouses of the age of enlightment), tea (almost the raison d'etre of the British Empire), and finally Coca-Cola (symbol of America's leadership role in the 20th Century.)

I hadn't realized how important coffehouses were in England and France. Standage portrays them as the websites of the age, because the various coffeehouses often had a particular "interest group" focus, from politics to philosophy, from stocks and investment to the theater. (In fact The Tatler used the coffeehouse names as captions for its own category division.)

I think, though, that my other favorite part of the book is the fact that at one point in my nation's history there was a lawsuit entitled United States v. Forty Barrels and Twenty Kegs of Coca-Cola. The idea of a big keg of sugary syrup mutely taking the witness stand is irresistible.

I also read about the "Tufts' Arctic Soda Water Apparatus". James W. Tufts lived around Boston in the late-1800s but I couldn't figure out if he was related to the family responsible for Tufts University.

Anyway, a very well-written and researched book with a great eye for the sweep of pretty much all human history.

paris in the twentieth century via the nineteenth century

I read most of another book on the way back, a (previously) "lost novel" of Jules Verne called "Paris in the Twentieth Century". The cynic in me wants to say, pity it didn't stay lost... some of the technology predictions were interesting, but mostly it was a chance for Verne to sound a panic about the the threats of technology and "modern" outlooks (once or twice those are painted as the "American" ways) for classical culture and literature.

The Wikipedia page summarizes it pretty well. Of course I dislike it because I tend to be on the "other side" of the equation, enjoying technology and the like, but also I hate books that have a whiny main character who feel society has done them personal disservice just by being its own dumb self. (See: "Catcher in The Rye") But also, it's such a dour view of humanity and technology...even in a society as insanely techno-riffic as the one Verne paints, to me it seems unlikely that admiration for the "classics" would be an object of such derision among the general population. The thing that Verne doesn't get is that in that kind of culture... sort of a pinnacle of technology and business geekdom... obscure interests are often celebrated, and there's often at least lip service paid to the classics, even if they're largely ignored in practice.

But... I certainly did dig the cover art:

a dead whale or a stove boat! or, um, neither.

Ksenia's friend Alla is in town, and we decided to go on a Whale Watch cruise and hit the aquarium...

Link of the Moment
Via Bill the Splut, it's Bad Congressional Hair.

Quote of the Moment
The Bay Area is the cradle of the computer and software industry, which continues to create jobs for our children. The iPod was not developed by Baptists in Waco. There may be a reason for this. Creative people thrive in a climate of openness and tolerance, since some great ideas start out sounding ridiculous.
Garrison Keillor
He's discussing the Republicans rush fearmongering about Nancy Pelosi "a woman from SAN FRANCISCO" as Speaker of the House, which he feels is an irritating viewpoint, especially from a party that seems to have lost its ideas of fiscal responsibility and general simple conservatism.

The idea of the association between high intellectual and economic activity in a region and a thriving gay population harkens back to that one study I kisrael'd a while back.

"billy, you're cheating yourself, if there's 25% divided among the five of you, that's 14% a piece!"

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So widescreen seems to be all the rage for laptops these days, including the one I use for work. Actually that has inspired me to start putting my Windows task tray on the side, at least when using a screen with that 16x9 proportion or something like it. And I tend to put it on the right side, so it's not in contention with my default "My Computer" icon and what not, pushing those icons around.

<geek>It's weird to say but the distinctive placement has actually helped me to start to bond with this laptop. Also, I isolated why it was running its hard drive all the time: something to do with running Apache. S'funny, I wouldn't think it would provoke that much disk activity on its own, nor does it seem like the "tipping point" of triggering swapping to the hard disk.</geek>

Video of the Moment

--from "Ma + Pa Kettle" - "Ma + Pa Kettle Do Math" -- How 25% split among 5 people adds up to 14% each, demonstrated via division, multiplication, and even addition. Clever! (Thanks Nick B!)

The division notation is interesting, but I think the version I learned (with the "work in progress" answer on top) probably makes it easier to keep your place.

Currency of the Moment
Wow... the Yap Islands actually use giant stone disks-- like up to 8 feet tall-- as currency... I thought that that was just something Douglas Adams made up! Cool! The Everything2 page has a bit more information as well.


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So, the other day I read some news that kind of bummed me out a bit... 2006 will be the last model year for my car, the Scion xA. It's kind of weird to think I'll be driving an orphan, especially because I think it's such a nifty utilitarian blend. And it seems like its likely replacements are going to be bigger. Definately those xB boxes sold better, they thought the xA was going to be the hot seller because of the cost, but the "hip to be square" idea won out.

I don't know if this will increase the value of a used Scion xA, because they won't be just "an old Scion" but something more uncommon, or decrease it, because it'll just be an odd duck. But given that I think my philosophy is to drive a car into the ground (taking care of it along the way though) and then try and give it or sell it for a song to someone who could use it, maybe it's not such a big issue for me.

Quote of the Moment
[On the reaction to the Chicago Seven trial] "They ran up and down the street, smashing car windows and stuff. My first reaction was, 'Yeah, right on!' But then I thought, 'Wait, I'm parked out there.'"
Harold RemisRamis, via this Slate piece on the intense conservatism of John "Pretty in Pink" Hughes.

Video of the Moment

--Homebrew Stopaction animation, with a bit of a videogame theme.

it's miller time

Miller said farewell to his previous hovel and moved in last night. So now the apartment is full of me, Ksenia, and him. (And 'til the end of the week Ksenia's friend Alla) It's kind of a social experiment, to see how well the idea of filling your place with interesting people you like and love works out. The ideal social arrangement is, of course, the setting of the show "Friends", but given the lack of affordable multimillion apartments, this is a close second.

Still, there's an awful lot of stuff here now, Miller and I need to work to organize things and ditch the excess.

Quote of the Moment
Elmo loves you, as the phrase goes. Elmo is a source of unconditional mirth, and he makes the other Sesame Street mainstays look like characters out of Norwegian social realism.

Crash of the Moment
--The Hood Blimp Crashed??? Wow. I had always wanted to ride in one of those...

quit bugging me

In a recent Tuesday Morning Quarterback Easterbrook mentions "The Progress Paradox" (Hmm, I might have to read his book on the subject.) In TMQ he writes
Kahneman, Krueger and their collaborators also offer a vital insight -- that happiness comes from choosing time over money, but most Americans choose money over time. "Leisure is better for happiness than increased income," they argue, supposing that time spent in travel, having new experiences, relaxing, hiking, reading, or simply looking up at the stars is more important to our sense of well-being than a new car or impressive house. Unless you are in a bad financial situation, Kahneman and Krueger recommend you spend less time working, accept somewhat lower income, and use your freed hours to experience life.
Man I wish I was better at living that! I guess there are two things drawing me back from trying to coast on savings: health insurance and vague fears about retirement. Of course, I'm way overdue for bucking up and figuring out my 401Ks situation once and for all. But man, I so wish the Clintons Single Payer Healthcare idea had made it in the 90s. Rent and food, I can budget for that, but it always feels like healthcare has this risk for becoming an unlimited and vast expense at any moment, even though it probably won't.

I was talking to a Candian Ex-Pat He considers Canada's healthcare to be, and I quote, "best in the world". Which doesn't jive with how it's sometimes painted here.

Photos of the Moment
Another bug at work... bigger than the last one I took photos of but mercifully on the other side of the window. A bit backlit, but I kind of like the parking lot behind:

the champion of breakfast

Why Ksenia and I can get used to Miller as a housemate, Exhibit A:

Admittedly, not an every day (or even every weekend) kind of thing, but still...

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