death to all kings!

(10 comments)
October 1, 2006

Man, my neck and upper back are so sore and stiff, maybe from carrying a too-heavy monitor. Bleh.

Quote of the Moment
"It makes dying so much easier. There's so much less to leave."
Senator Thomas Hart Benton (from Missouri in the 1800s), surveying the burned ruins of his Washington home.

From that Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes... still hit and miss, but I liked learning how Jean Baptiste John, a general during the French days of the Terror who later became King of Sweden had a secret tattoo "Death to all kings." (Maybe just a rumor though... a lot of these anecdotes are a bit suspect.)


meaning to alarm you

(3 comments)
October 2, 2006

The other week I saw the most amazing alarm clock. I don't recall the brand name, but what impressed me is that in a lower part of the display it showed what time the alarm was set for, in much smaller numbers than the current time, and I think a different color. So you could tell at a glance, and didn't have to fiddle with any buttons. What a great idea! Such an obvious idea, but I'm not sure if I would have thought of it. I guess that's why there are patents, but I still think we're a bit patent-happy in this country.

Rant of the Moment
[On receiving a job at the Appalachian Regional Commission, one of the "antipoverty agencies" setup during the Kennedy and Johnson eras] You see, poverty was actually recognized as a real problem, and the government actually tried to help people to overcome it. How crazy is that? What were we thinking? It was obviously a wrongheaded idea, and I am so glad that we got rid of all those agencies. Look around. Everyone seems to be doing so well, especially those Appalachians who live in places called Hollers. And if they aren't doing well, let me tell you, it's their own fucking fault. Besides, I am sure they are happier not being burdened by cash, which leaves them plenty of time to whittle shit to their heart's content.
--Lewis Black, "Nothing's Sacred". You have to kind of hear it in his voice for it to work. That book is a biography of sorts... he was more of an artsy 60s type than I would have guessed.

dig dug dag

(6 comments)
October 3, 2006

As awful as the school killings are, I get just slightly more angry when the killer takes their own life. I guess, mercifully, I have almost no way of empathizing with this kind of deed, but...I don't know, are these guys trying to send some kind of "message"?

Message to would be mass muderers, your legacy will be: everyone just thinks you were a giant violent dumbass.

I guess my mistake is trying to attribute any kind of normal rationality to this.

Art of the Moment
--On a lighter moment, the videogame "Dig-Dug" reinvisioned by Handre De Jager, one of a series.


in the zonesramble

(18 comments)
October 4, 2006

For a while now... maybe since Dylan moved to San Diego... I haven't had any trouble keeping Timezones straight for the USA. But yesterday one of the guys at work gathered people for a teleconference 4 hours too early because he did the math wrong for the Mountain time zone. (subtracted 2 when he should have added)

My trick involves a certain physicality: in effect, it's as if I'm overlaying the United States on the top half of a clock:
Then, it's easy to grasp how a mental timezone journey's west sets the clock back one hour. Each hop to the west has a matching hop backwards on the clock. (Hopefully my super-crude diagram makes things more clear, not less.)

Prior to this, I also mixed up how many hours back to go for, say, California time... I have little problem recalling that the country has 4 timezones, but before this "3 hops back system" it was easy to make what computerists call a fencepost error and subtract 4 instead of 3.

PS Am I crazy in remembering that Windows used to have a much niftier "timezone" interface that would highlight the area of the timezone as you selected it, and maybe even let you select a timezone by clicking on your area? My install of XP has a select list and then a static map of the world beneath, with no obvious interaction between the two. It almost feels as if some retarded patent stopped Microsoft from having the niftier UI.

Quote of the Moment
"I read the book of Job last night. I don't think God comes well out of it."
--Virgina Woolf. Synchronicity: David Plotz' Blogging the Bible makes it sounds like the book of Joshua can have a simlar effect.

i just like saying "luftballoons"funny

(6 comments)
October 5, 2006

I was thinking about 99 Red Balloons the other day. For those who haven't ever really listened, the plot of the song is that people buy a bunch of balloons, let them go, it triggers some kind Air Force defense system and Word War III results.

So the song starts off a little weird:
You and I in a little toy shop
Buy a bag of balloons with the money we've got.
Set them free at the break of dawn
'Til one by one, they were gone.
You'd think they'd need to be helium filled balloons. The "money we've got" line makes it sound like they don't have much, and they don't mention anything about purchasing a helium tank... perhaps it's a super windy day or something? Maybe the balloons were prefilled with helium? (Though would 99 of them fit in a bag?) Or maybe it's something much, much more sinister...

Take a look at the ending:
It's all over and I'm standing pretty.
In this dust that was a city.
If I could find a souvenir.
Just to prove the world was here.
And here is a red balloon
I think of you and let it go.
What I want to know is... just how tough is that damn balloon? I mean, the nuclear exchange pulverized the town, and this balloon survived? Maybe the air force was right to scramble and attack these well-nigh-invulnerable super-balloons that don't need helium to fly, and seem to have deliberatly provoked a nuclear conflagration... we played right into their hands!

It's been a while since I've seen that film, but maybe Le Ballon rouge was just a scout... in fact, possibly that young boy should be tried as a collaborator!

I, for one, welcome our new floating latex overlords.

all that buzzin' makes me dizzy

(2 comments)
October 6, 2006

Ugh. I'm getting bajillions of bounces to "alienbill@alienbill.com", I've had to make a Google filter. Apparently, someone is using that as the "From" line in some retarded weightloss SPAM. Such asscactusry.

I guess one of these days I have to pick a smaller number of "valid" email addresses and stop receiving any fool thing that heads to one of my web domains.

Lyrics of the Moment
So the other weekend when Ksenia and I were in Vermont we went to the Banana Republic factory outlet and I heard the coolest song... it was a nice electronica remix of "theme to Peter Gunn"...but it had lyrics, something I had never heard for that song:
Every night your line is busy,
All that buzzin' makes me dizzy.
Couldn't count on all my fingers
All the dates you had with swingers.
Bye-bye.
Bye, baby.
I'm gonna kiss you goodbye
And walk right through that doorway.
(If you want to sing along, the first four lines go along with the classic "dum dum Dum dum DUM Dum DUM DUM" bassline, and the next 4 are the same melody that kicks in in the "Spy Hunter" video game... or you could just listen to the sample they have on the Amazon page)

It turns out it's Sarah Vaughan singing, with a remix by Max Sedgley. (the original has very light percussion and lacks the drive the remix has.) Sarah Vaughan did another great "lyrics addded" cover of "'Round Midnight", which is actually how I was able to learn its somewhat amorphous melodic line.

The Verve Remixed3 also has a remixed Sarah Vaughan cover of Peggy Lee's "Fever". Oddly, the remix has exactly the same drive and beat as "Peter Gunn", so it doesn't work quite as well, given "Fever"s natural laid-back groove. Still, a good CD, as are the other ones in the series. (Or rather, each CD has at least 1 or 2 songs making it worthwhile, with the rest good filler... "Is You Is Or Is You Aint" is the start of the first one, "Whatever Lola Wants" for the second.)

mach daddycool

(19 comments)
October 7, 2006

So a couple of years ago I sang the praises of my Garmin 2610 GPS...

It's getting a bit long in the tooth (compared to say, the TomTom I got for my mom recently, with its 3D-ish angled maps and friendlier UI) but remains generally reliable. Admittedly its maps are blissfully ignorant of the post-Big-Dig world, and I'm too cheap to shell out for the update, but still, having this kind of device is a huge boon... it is to Mapquest what cellphones are to landlines, and I barely understand how people made spontaneous plan changes without 'em.

Anyway, back then I mentioned its "Max Speed" record, which I likened to a "high score" feature. Well, all I have to say is:
Max Speed: 2492

Beat that. I just wish it had a spot for my initials.

extending the family

October 8, 2006
So today I'm heading out to a family wedding. S. and T. are keeping it a casual affair, because there are some tragic roots to them finding each other... S. was married to B. and they had 4 kids, including the baby twins, when suddenly on a vacation trip, B. gets a mysterious viral or bacterial infection and dies... from her feeling a bit unwell to no longer being with us was an amazingly short time, like 2 or 3 days, if that.

(I'm not sure why I'm being coy and using initials... a sudden surprsising concern for other folk's privacy I guess, I noticed I didn't use any names when I mentioned the tragedy after it had happened.)

So anyway, S. finds T., who has a daughter of her own, and they merge their lives, and T. takes on de facto mommyhood for the whole lot. Their invitation was touching:
"It is not our task to question the circumstances that have formed our lives, only to give thanks for the steps we have taken down the path that brought us together." S. and T., along with R., O., W., P. and B. invite you to share their joy as they are married and create a new family on: October 8, 2006, 11:30 AM
So, the folks are invited to dress casually or bring a change of clothes along with outdoorsy stuff like whiffle bats and bocce balls.

So, it should be a happy day, no matter how awful the prelude was.

Anecdote of the Moment
After the War was over, all Confederate soldiers were required to take an oath of allegiance to the Union before they were allowed to become U. S. citizens again.

One such story is that a number of men were before Union General Butler to take the oath of allegiance. One of them, a wag in his way, looked at the General, and with a peculiar Southern drawl, said: "We gave you hell at Chickamauga, General!"

The General was furious at the man's familiar impudence and threatened him with all sorts of punishment. Again came that drawling voice, repeating the first part of the statement, but he was stopped by the General, who ordered him to take the oath of allegiance to the United States at once or he would have him shot. After some hesitation, looking into General Butler's fierce eye, he reluctantly consented to take the oath. After taking the oath, he looked calmly into General Butler's face, and drew himself up as if proud to become a citizen of the United States and a member of the Yankee Army, and said: "General, I suppose I am a good Yankee and citizen of the United States now?" The General replied in a very fatherly tone, "I hope so." "Well, General," he replied, "the rebels did give us hell at Chickamauga, didn't they?"

--from this History page, though I googled for it after seeing it in Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes.

i can almost hear the wow-chikka-wow-wow guitars.

(3 comments)
October 9, 2006

So Saturday FoSO and FoSOSO and I visited Miller doing 24-hour comics day. He was working alongside a dozen or so other comic artists at Comicopia near Kenmore Square-- great comic store, that... tremendous selection of mainstream and indy stuff.

The day has been giving me the itch to try something similar, and I've actually run a few practice panels on my tablet PC. Of course, the whole thing is, if it's 24-hour comics day that kind of gives a non-cartoonist the itch (as opposed to someone who already does comics on a semi-regular basis) then the danger is you'll start thinking that somehow, 24 hours, 24 pages (or 100 panels is considered the "web equivalent") is the most legitimate way of doing comics. Which is of course silly, 24-hour comics day is supposed to be more of a fun challenge experiment-y type thing.

But without the framework of that challenge, it almost feels presumptuous to think I can or should be a cartoonist, especially when I don't feel the urge to polish the art too much beyond my current doodle-ish stage... though it might be good to have that as a way of telling a story, and know more about blocking stuff out from that point of view. (Come to think of it, my work would be one of those comics where the art is less important than, say, the dialog, and I know that bugs some fans of the form.)

I've been refining my "handpainted paint.exe" Technique. Here's one of my practice panels:
So if I'd like to try 24-Hour-Comics day next year, I should really learn how to tell a story in comic form before then... especially if I want to sit in a room with talented folk slaving w/ professional tools and inks while I poke at my high tech laptop.

Sports News of the Moment
So the Yankees went down to ignominious defeat, the priciest 1-and-out team in baseball. The schadenfreude I take in that team is enormous.

And the Patriots won a defensively tough game against the Dolphins. What most struck me was when I heard this quote from Brady's press conference on the radio:
[2nd String QB Matt Cassel] and I fight like teenage girls. [...] We are always slapping each other around and wrestling and slap boxing and [messing] around with each other in the weight room. And so I decided to take that to the next level. And we were messing around in the quarterback room one day and he walked in with a milkshake, and I kind of put my foot by the door, and I kicked the door and the milkshake splashed up and went all over him. So he sat down, and I was laughing. So I said give me the towel, because I wanted to clean up the wall. So I threw the towel at his face, and it had shake all over it. He had a little shake in his mouth and he spit it all over me.
He had me at "And so I decided to take that to the next level." Plus, if you follow the link, he says he makes Cassel call him "Longshanks."

superbone met the bad man

(8 comments)
October 10, 2006

Hearing about the Detroit Lions right after the Tigers beat the Yankees, it got me thinking, how many cities have coordinated teams? I made up a list of all the NFL, MLB, NHL,and NBA teams and sorted it alphabetically to gather the cities, and came up with: Then there were more with more obvious thematic links to the city: There were a few other cases as well, but none seemed quite as interesting.

Of course there might be more cool instances if teams didn't move around, leading to such dumb things as the New Orleans team moving and becoming the "Utah Jazz".

Quote of the Moment
"Confine your kissing to the irresistible."
--Sir Rudolf Bing, advice from when he was managing the Metropolitan Opera and there was a flu pandemic.

Maynard Ferguson...
I love this photo
I used this as the top of the page quote for the lastest issue of the Love Blender. I also did a review of "The Way We Were" and in researching that I found out something sad... Maynard Ferguson is dead!

He was kind of an idol of mine, in a campy kind of way, but man did he have chops!

He's the only jazz musician I've made an effort to see live, twice, once at Daddy-O's and once at Ryles. His cover of Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon" is just the bomb-diggity.

when you're really bad, they call you cracker jack

(7 comments)
October 11, 2006

I know it's been an "easy" snark for a while but when did Cracker Jack prizes get so lame?

It's still a decent snack, a bag is like 150 calories, 20 of fat, and satisfies a sweet tooth so long as it isn't craving chocolate. But the "prizes"... ugh. I bought a carton at Cosctco, so not only are the prizes irretrievably lame (Hey kids, push a pencil through this decorative piece of paper to make a pencil topper! Here's a picture of an American historical figure as a boy, fold it around to see them as a grownup! Bend and tear this to make a very sad little puppet mouth!) but they're also repetitive, the same 5 or 6 things again and again.

Part of the problem might be that the FDA has a thing against toys "hiding" in food, as demonstrated by this "Won't Somebody Think of the CHILDREN????" quote from Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal:
"Historically, we have identified Disney characters with happy endings. But there is no happy ending to a child choking on a tiny plastic rendering of 'Simba' or 'Nala' from 'The Lion King' "
(Italics mine, because you know, it's an important point. Seriously, there is no happy ending to a child choking on a tiny plastic rendering of 'Simba' or 'Nala' from 'The Lion King.' Unless you make the kid cough it up, and he or she stops choking.) Incidentally, this is why Kindereggs are an import-only item.

So in trying to pin down when Cracker Jack might have last been cool, I went to the official history page. I like how the only item of note since 2000 is:
2002 Frito Lay redesigns crackerjack.com to keep up with changing technologies on the Internet.
Remember, people, don't let your web designer decide what's important enough to put on your company history page.

But still, the last time I remember being happy with a Cracker Jack prize must've been around 1996 or so... they had some very decent Looney Tune stickers, reflective silver, I got two Marvin the Martians to put on a portable CD player. And even then I recognized that Cracker Jack prizes had been "flat" for some time, but at least stickers and temporary tattoos actually have a chance of being "fun", unlike sad little "put this on top of your pencil" scraps of paper. I'm not sure, but my personal conspiracy theory is that the prizes might have gotten further downgraded when Frito Lay bought the brand.

So in retribution, I'm going try to spread this retarded meme that has been kicking around my head for decades:
How does one potato chip proposition another one?
Are you 'Frito Lay'?
Ha! Take that you damn chipmongers!

well at least it's only SHAMpoocomic

(13 comments)
October 12, 2006

buffasnow

(11 comments)
October 13, 2006

Sweet Jimminy Crickets, Buffalo under 2 feet of snow. Not a promising start to a winter they're saying could be a doozy.

Then again they say that most years, but still.

Cartooning of the Moment
Oh, nifty, Gabe of Penny Arcade has his own art blog, including this video (WARNING: he threw a soundtrack with its fair share of cussing, so turn down the volume if your not so inclined) of him inking Boba Fett:

I find it interesting (in small doses at least) because I'm trying to get my own PC/comic mojo working. I do need to get the software working for the variable width linestrokes.

Anecdote of the Moment
"'Promise me solemnly,' I said to her as she lay on what I believed to be her death bed, 'if you find in the world beyond the grave that you can communicate with me--that there is some way in which you can make me aware of your continued existence--promise me solemnly that you will never, never avail yourself of it.' She recovered and never, never forgave me."
--Samuel Butler

thighs and whispers

(3 comments)
October 14, 2006

The other day we had some Grey Poupon mustard at work. Oddly, my strongest association with that mustard is working with mentally handicapped kids at Camp Happiness, a daycamp run by the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. The kids generally all got boxed lunches, but there was nothing for the counsellors except for this surplus of hotdogs we kept on hand, and then, oddly, Grey Poupon to dip 'em in.

Quote of the Moment
"Thighs--of course. But knees--never!"
--Coco Chanel, when asked if she approved of the 60s fashion of miniskirts exposing girls' knees and thighs. I think I know what she means, Knees are weird. Or rather, I blame the kneecaps, the rest can be quite lovely.

on the image of women

(2 comments)
October 15, 2006

Oh, Sunday Morning already. Weekends where I have a lot of office work to catch up on make me long for a few months off more than ever.

Advice of the Moment
"How, for example, could I make a fat lady, walking down Fifth Avenue, slip on a banana peel and still get a laugh. It's been done a million times. What's the best way to get the laugh? Do I show first the banana peel, than the fat lady approaching: then she slips? Or do I show the fat lady first, then the banana peel, and then she slips?"
"Neither. You show the fat lady approaching; then you show the fat lady approaching; then you show the banana peel; then you show the fat lady and the banana peel together; then she steps over the banana peel and disappears down a manhole."
--Playwright Charles MacArthur seeking advice from Charlie Chaplin.

Video of the Moment

--"Model to Billboard" is a longer road than you might have thought. It's odd that this kind of manipulation doesn't set off our "fake" detectors; sometimes I think we're not much different than that one kind of fish I read about, where researchers were easily able to make a fake fish that was "sexier" to the guy fishes than any real femal fish, even though it was just kind of a parody of color and fins.

hulk SMASH hulk STOMP hulk STINK

(11 comments)
October 16, 2006

So not too long ago (even though it was a month or so of on-again, off-again playing) I got through a wonderfully cathartic video game, The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. You get the chance to play the Hulk as he smashes and slams his way through cityscapes and bleak desert landscapes, crushing buses and cars (or ripping up the latter for use as armor-plated gauntlets), doing battle with tanks, 'copters, and even more specialized mech foes, leaping over (and even running up the side of) buildings and landmarks. The sense of speed and power was almost palpable, and was a great after-work stress reliever. It's rare that a game aims to so viscerally capture what it would be like to wield such immense power in a kind of "sandbox" setting.

So I got into the Hulk for a bit. (The movie of a few years back is sitting in its red netflix envelope right now.) One guy on a message board asked who would win, Hulk or Superman, a question which the Internet has of course thoroughly addressed. But on a different forum I found a slightly larger version of this post 9-11 image:



Man, after playing that game, and its exploration of the uncontrolled fury and occasional boasting ("Hulk is strongest there is!") of the Hulk, this image feels more and more like a metaphor for this nation and its response to WTC, particularly in Iraq: righteous fury and exercise of strength even if more restraint and finesse was called for and would have put us in a better situation.

Oh well. On a lighter note, from Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin comics blog:


Heheheheh. Well, Hulk is supposed to be strongest one there is...

300,000,000

(13 comments)
October 17, 2006

300 Million Americans today! We are "the only industrialized nation in the world whose population is rising substantially"...huh! Is that immigration, or breeding?

Doodles of the Moment
More Tablet PC doodles... right now I'm fooling around with a pressure-sensitive pen, letting me get variable width pen strokes. I think this gives me a lot more flexibility, and lets me achieve something closer to my "usual" doodling style. So here I'm messing with different pen widths and the like in "GIMP"...

It probably means something that all these guys are looking off to the right, but I have no idea what.

Quote of the Moment
"I finally realize that patriotism is not enough; I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone."
--Edith Cavell, before being executed by Germans during WWI for helping Allied soldiers escape.

Ads of the Moment
This page of old computer tv spots is making the rounds. I got a say, I strongly disagree with some of the commentary... I think the "Think Different" campaign, or at least the spot they show, was terrible, trying to get the product to ride on as many coattails as possible, the very worst kind of "feel good" advertising, making up for in unmitigated gall what it lacks in creativity. (Compare that with the "IBM Linux" spot 6 years after, which I think does a much better job.) And he says that for his money it's "the single best computer ad ever"...but I think it's much less inspiring and relevant then, say, the "Apple Newton" spot he rips on before that.

SELF-REPLICATING DEVICE. LEVEL 0 THREAT: GLOBAL DANGER. DO NOT MESS WITH

(6 comments)
October 18, 2006

I saw the Boston Globe headline the other day, Tech sector spurs state's economic recovery.

Well, that's good news. Evil B has recently found a job much closer to what he set out to do in computerdom, and while earlier this year the headhunters were relatively quiet, its picked up a bit as of late.

The reading recently how nation-wide there are probably less high-tech jobs than before the late90s boom... well, I take solace in my pseudo-daoist outlook; this field started to feel like my "uncarved block" sometime during college, and going with that flow has done pretty well for me...I've stayed gainfully employed through the big post-Boom shakeout, recovering fairly easily after back to back layoffs a year apart, and there's no particular reason to think the bottom is going to totally fall out.

Quote of the Moment
Q: What led you to resist merchandising Calvin and Hobbes?
A: For starters, I clearly miscalculated how popular it would be to show Calvin urinating on a Ford logo. . . .
--Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson. It was obviously his decision to make, but I do think merchandising is a part of the cultural communication between artist and audience, one of the the few ways to make it a dialog of sorts.

Warnings of the Moment
Speaking of the Tech Sector... a subset of Warning Signs for Tomorrow-- new threats in a hyper-technological future. Sure, some will never come to pass, but still... cool page. (thanks LAN3!)


"the helicopter on the computer screen has to be spinning- otherwise it just wouldn't work"geek

(14 comments)
October 19, 2006

This evening I'm heading out on a last-minute business trip...I'm taking the Acela to Delaware. I've heard people speaking highly of travel by train, and I haven't taken one since this one terrible red-eye with Dylan back in the day, like in the late-80s, so I'm looking forward to it over all.

Cars of the Moment
I was gratified to see my car (albeit in a different color) as the big front-and-center image on Slate.com yeserday with the teaser My Teeny-Tiny Supercheap New Car. The article explains that the "low-end" for cars ain't as low as it used to be in the bad old Yugo days, even accounting for inflation, but still.

The Scion xA does well (though I think his concerns about the after-market-mod branding is a little unfounded)

the scion xA

the honda fit
but the champion is the Honda Fit... the Fit wasn't around when I was in the market, and the xA is going away, so they'll only be competing for a few seasons. It seems like the Fit does some things better (especially in having reconfigurable seats, and in my mom's minivan I saw how terrific Stow-and-Go seating can be) but design-wise I think it's not as good as the Scion. Hmm, trying to analyze that, I think the wheels look a bit too small on the Fit, and I'm not crazy about how the windows taper in the back. The Scion actually has rather pronounced bulges for the wheel well (is that what it's called?) and a good use of black trim around the rear side windows that give it a sturdier chunky look.

(It's funny how foreshortening affects cars like this. I have a short and stumpy automobile but from the side, it seems kind of long...)

I barely understand why there's a "midsize" market... small cars just make so much more sense to me, and they've really gotten good over the past few decades. Cheaper to buy, cheaper to run, quick off the line, park like a dream, and hatchbacks carry more than their fairshare of stuff. I think my xA is fine for the highways, like the guy at Slate says. And my Scion has more headroom than a lot of much larger cars I've been in... but I guess I've always just liked small cars, like Veronika's Renault Twingo when we visited her in Germany. (Heh... though Smart is coming to the USA soon... I'm not sure if that would be ok on the highways or not, but if I ever get more money than I know what to do with, I'd consider their convertible as a kind of toy car to have around on summer days in the city...)

what did delaware?

(2 comments)
October 20, 2006

On the road!

Wrong lessons learned thus far: You know, I was thinking that this was the first time I'd been on a train since this weird Red-Eye trip I took with Dylan in sixth grade or so, but then I remembered Europe, from third-world-ish sardine-can packed bar cars in Portugal to multiple trips around Germany. It still feels rather novel, though.

Anecdote of the Moment
"President Coolidge had a group of guests on the presidential yacht cruising the Potomac. As he stood alone at the rail, looking out at the expanse of water, someone exclaimed, 'Look at that slight and slender figure! Look at that head, bowed over the rail! What thoughts are in the mind of this man, burdened by the problems of the nation?' Finally, Coolidge turned around, and joined the others, saying, `See that sea gull over there? Been watching it for twenty minutes. Hasn't moved. I think he's dead!'"
--Arthur Krock...via Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes. Though it was funny when I looked in the back and saw the story attributed to "A. Krock"... somehow reassuring to know that inane presidential remarks are nothing new.

Photo of the Moment

-"-A UPS-owned B767 departs Des Moines Int'l and turns south", via cellar.org Image of the Day, who got it from airliners.net. Almost makes me regret travelling by train this time!

you, igeek

(10 comments)
October 21, 2006

Sometimes I think I'm surprisingly worse at using bad UIs than my peers.

On the one hand, compared to, say, some people in my family, I'm pretty good, and sometimes my mom will trust me to help her navigate through a computer program or gadget that's new to both of us. And usually it's not too tough: figure out what the program does, figure out what information the program probably needs to do it, and then try to match what's onscreen UI-wise against those expectations.

But I'm easily misled, and dumb when some expectations (especially in labeling, or how controls are associated with other controls aren't met.) Here's an example:

The other day I wanted to find a hotel near the Wilmington Train Station. My boss recommended Google maps, which I was of course familiar with... I looked up the address of the station and entered it:


I think I figured out that I should click on "Find Business" easily enough, but for some reason this screen of interface stumped me:

As it turns out, it's easy enough, just enter "hotel" in the box on the left. But for some reason I Just Didn't Get It. It's like I needed the "near" prompt between the two textboxes, or something.

Maybe I was confused by how much it looked like the "Get Directions" symmetrical box pair, which I was more familiar with:


That, at least, has a little two-way-arrow icon (albeit a functional one that also swaps the start/finish locations).

But wait! I just realized that when I hit "Find Business" or "Get Directions", and then change the Map/Satellite/Hybrid view, there's a prompt ("What e.g., 'pizza'") that made it all obvious:


I gotta say, I think having that kind of "what to type" prompt appear when doing another arbitrary function (switch to Satellite view) and not when switching to that search is a definite UI bug on Google's part.

So anyway, Lately at work I've been experimenting with "load balancing" programs, software that will hit your website or application over and over and over. But I just feel like I'm the wrong guy for it sometimes, because I'm just not that gifted at picking up a new, not-well-documented or obscure UI in a hurry.

Musical Judgement of the Moment
"I'm not anti-Phil Collins. I'm just pro-Peter Gabriel."
--FoSO, just now. I have no idea why I find this amusing.

trenton makes - the world takes

(1 comment)
October 22, 2006

From the Acela train back from Delaware I saw the "Trenton Makes" bridge:



(Not my photo, though, I wasn't that quick.) Wikipedia mentioned that the bridge and neon sign is featured in the intro to the show "House" but I guess wasn't paying enough attention.

It was the slogan of Trenton back in the day, referring to the industrial output of the place. But it seems like such an oddly Ayn Rand-ian sentiment... it's a catchy slogan but seems to be saying the world is stealing, rather than engaging in fair commerce.

Trivia of the Moment
The origins of many band names. I think my favorite it still "Everything But The Girl", such a lovely note of malencholy in that even if it came from a British clothing shop ad.

Diplomacy of the Moment
"But I think there is a big possibility ... for extreme criticism and because undoubtedly there was arrogance and stupidity from the United States in Iraq,"
--Sr. State Department official Alberto Fernandez on Al-Jazeera

"I can only assume his remarks must have been mistranslated. Those comments obviously don't reflect our policy."
--a "senior Bush administration official"

That's the CNN.com headline story at the moment. It's the followup comment that amuses me... does it mean that it doesn't reflect policy for Fernandez to make comments like that, or that it's "obvious" that the USA's policy is to not be arrogant and/or stupid in terms of Iraq?

did you see that?

(13 comments)
October 23, 2006

Watching the NFL. Patriots beat the Bills handily, they go over to the Falcons/Steelers. And then because of some bizarre contractual obligations, they can't show us the exciting tied-up endgame... instead, we get to watch the 4 guys in the studio watching the game. So weird... talk talk talk then they all shut up to see if the fieldgoal attempt is good or not, while we get to see them peering at the studio monitor, offscreen. Yeah, that's great TV. Way to go, NFL and CBS. (I guess they're not allowed to show a live game after 4:15, when it starts on the other network. Wow, talking about screwing the experience up for the viewer. I guess I blame the NFL more than anything.)

Small Gif Cinema of the Moment

that 00s
show
--EB + EBbaby, myself, EBSO, and Sarah, all sitting around the EB table during Sarah's recent visit. Not the most imaginative small gif cinema, but still, a nice effect and fun use of a "Lazy Susan" (Sorry MELAS)

Powerpoint of the Moment
Forget who sent this to me... prepping for the Death Star trench run with Power Point. S'funny!

look at all that action!cool

(5 comments)
October 24, 2006

So yesterday my coworker Rob showed me this piece of art he had bought off of his son:

"Untitled" by James Young (Click for Fullsize)
The original asking price had been a dollar and ten cents. During the negotiations, dismayed at his dad's lowball offer of a quarter, young James pointed out "but look at all that action!". The final agreed upon price was a dollar.

And the Artist was correct... that's a heck of a lot of action:




I really liked some of the monster design:
Rob's a shrewed negotiator. This work was definately work at least the original asking price.

gaiden of eden

(1 comment)
October 25, 2006

Yesterday chatting with FoSO we got into the concept of Gaiden, or "Side Story".

A lot of geeks my age were first introduced to the term from the old NES game "Ninja Gaiden"... though I'm not sure what the main story is supposed to have been in that case.

Sometimes I think my story is a bit of a Gaiden for someone else's bigger story, but I'm not sure whom. And I guess this isn't a new feeling, I jsut tracked down this loveblender essay from 1997 about "Henry and June" and "Backbeat"...
What struck me about both films was the accomplishments of the 'supporting characters'. Both works end with texts going over the lives of the people portrayed. Anais' husband Hugo, portrayed as a loving but stifled banker, was an experimental film maker whose films are in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. Klaus Voormann, who loses his 'soulsibling' Astrid to the loose-cannon artistry of Stuart Sutcliffe, went on to create the cover to The Beatles' Revolver album (OK, not my favorite piece of album art, but still...) and played Bass in Lennon's Plastic Ono Band. To me, these ending texts are really the saga of the other men, the ones whose loves might've been the ones immortalized in film decades after the fact, if only fate had been different.
Of course, the most annoying thing is...I haven't even had an interesting enough life to sustain a Wikipedia entry. (In fact, my one appearance in one, a description and link to JoustPong in the entry for Joust keeps getting removed, "Wikipedia is not a collection of links" blah blah blah) much less answer Jim Morrison raising the bar to "enough to base a movie on."

Feelgood Story of the Moment
Wow, I had no idea that Scott "Dilbert" Adams had lost his voice, but the story of how he got it back sounds like a miracle. The condition, "Spasmodic Dysphonia", sounds really crazy, like the brain just breaks in this subtle and strange way:
The weirdest part of this phenomenon is that speech is processed in different parts of the brain depending on the context. So people with this problem can often sing but they canít talk. In my case I could do my normal professional speaking to large crowds but I could barely whisper and grunt off stage. [...] So at least until the fall speaking season ended, I chose to maximize my onstage voice at the expense of being able to speak in person.
I don't think it quite worked this way, but for some reason I had this image of him using his "onstage voice" while talking to people in casual settings, turning him into his own "LOUD HOWARD" Dilbert Character:

rantastic

(8 comments)
October 26, 2006

So at the risk of boring every non-techie there, a recent bit of exposition of mine from IM:
Yeah, that's one of the difficulties of technologies that try to say "and you don't write code"... same w/ things that make heavy use of XML files as controllers... for non-trivial stuff, the "non code stuff" (tags, or XML) needs to be written by someone smart enough to write code, PLUS it's another syntax to learn, PLUS it's another layer of plumbing to get through when something does go wrong. I'm definitely in the "keep it simple" and "prefer APIs over framework engines" camps, when I'm given control over architectural decisions.
So put that in your Struts-pipe and smoke it.

Nanofiction of the Moment
Computer, did we bring batteries? Computer?
--Eileen Gunn

Machine. Unexpectedly, I'd invented a time
--Alan Moore

From torched skyscrapers, men grew wings.
--Gregory Maguire

The baby's blood type? Human, mostly.
--Orson Scott Card

Tick tock tick tock tick tick.
--Neal Stephenson

--from Wired's Six Words Story Challenge. I also like Hemingways ("For sale: baby shoes, never worn.") which manages to say a lot with a little.

Art of the Moment

--Alien Bill Landscape. Fooling around with an (almost annoyingly) realistic painting program called artrage...

zzzzzzzzap

(11 comments)
October 27, 2006

Heh. My sixth grade class room had a powerstrip mounted on the edge of this metal-fronted shelving and if you touched the shelving and the radiator a tingling charge would build up and up 'til finally you let go. I could stay there and hold it the longest of all the kids in my class.

Soon after that I started doing really well on standardized tests.

Draw your own conclusions.

Rube Goldberg Setup of the Moment

--Two guys build up their own contraption at the office. They claim 6 out of the 8 runs worked (I guess the filming wasn't as great for the first 5.)

It's amazing to think about this... a carefully constructed system full of potential energy, and then the same little bit of kinetic energy (for many of the parts) travelling down it like a fuse...


Quote of the Moment
"Happiness is always a by-product. It is probably a matter of temperament, and for anything I know it may be glandular. But it is not something that can be demanded from life, and if you are not happy you had better stop worrying about it and see what treasures you can pluck from your own brand of unhappiness."
--Robertson Davies (today's Quote of the Day at Google...just trying to get Lex on one of his 'what is everyone so against happiness' minirants.)

are ess ess

(9 comments)
October 28, 2006

I dont know how many people will find this useful but this site now provides an RSS feed. For those who don't know, RSS is a way of gathering updates from many sites at once, so instead of having to go to N different sites to catch up with their articles, your RSS browser collates their latest entries into a single page. (Firefox users should be seeing the bright orange icon that indicates an RSS feed on their browser bar now, and there's also a link in the sidebar.)

I don't use it, but people who do love it. Google Reader seems to be a good reader, and Feedvalidator.org seems to be a good tool for making sure you're on the right track.

I guess there are improvements I could make...right now a whole day's contents makes up a single RSS item, but theoretically I could make it smarter and try to get each "of the Moment" chunk as a seperate item. Also I'm not sure if I'm handling the links to the comments correctly, or if I should be messing with GUIDs when I do an update, to make sure the old version isn't cached. Anyone know?

News of the Moment
So there might be a math-y way to win the lottery??? Seriously? Damn, damn, damn. It's one of those if only I was smarter, I could make my life much easier kind of things.

Quote of the Moment
I don't really know what to do with my 319 new online chums, compatriots and cronies, but frankly I never knew what to do with my meat friends either. I usually took them to mini-golf, but that doesn't seem to be an option on MySpace. I think you just collect them, as they collect you. It is the 21st century, and we are all each other's Hummel figurines.
--MySpace, Now With Random Crap by Lore Sjöberg

autumn push

(5 comments)
October 29, 2006

My goodness. It seems like every half year it gets more difficult to remember when to "Spring Forward" or "Fall Back". If the lady at the sushi place hadn't mentioned it last night, I might not have realized.

So now I go through that weird period where I don't quite trust any clock in the place, not sure if automagically updated or not.

Quote and Meanderings of the Moment
Life has a buoyant, carefree quality that you can feel as you read, like a physical sensation in your belly. If is this that Whitman is celebrating, though actually he does it very badly, because he is one of those writers who tell you what you ought to feel instead of making you feel it.
--Inside the Whale by George Orwell, a rumination on writing of the first half of the century and Henry Miller in particular.

He pins down some of why I really dislike Whitman... that "tell not show" and the general arrogant ignorance of When I heard the Learníd Astronomer... like Feyman says
The same thrill, the same awe and mystery, comes again and again when we look at any question deeply enough. With more knowledge comes a deeper, more wonderful mystery, luring one on to penetrate deeper still.
(The Feyman link is pretty good, actually.)

Anyway, I heard about "Inside the Whale" from this Slate piece Henry Miller School of Overseas Living for Misanthropes. I don't know how new "modern" literary criticism is, but it seems kind of strange to hear one author writing about another author when they are contemporaries from long ago.

After getting through all 3 sections of Orwell's rather meaty essays, agreeing with some parts, disagreeing with others, reading that sites dismissive and snarkily brief Criticism was kind of amusing.

autumn push

(5 comments)
October 29, 2006

My goodness. It seems like every half year it gets more difficult to remember when to "Spring Forward" or "Fall Back". If the lady at the sushi place hadn't mentioned it last night, I might not have realized.

So now I go through that weird period where I don't quite trust any clock in the place, not sure if automagically updated or not.

Quote and Meanderings of the Moment
Life has a buoyant, carefree quality that you can feel as you read, like a physical sensation in your belly. If is this that Whitman is celebrating, though actually he does it very badly, because he is one of those writers who tell you what you ought to feel instead of making you feel it.
--Inside the Whale by George Orwell, a rumination on writing of the first half of the century and Henry Miller in particular.

He pins down some of why I really dislike Whitman... that "tell not show" and the general arrogant ignorance of When I heard the Learníd Astronomer... like Feyman says
The same thrill, the same awe and mystery, comes again and again when we look at any question deeply enough. With more knowledge comes a deeper, more wonderful mystery, luring one on to penetrate deeper still.
(The Feyman link is pretty good, actually.)

Anyway, I heard about "Inside the Whale" from this Slate piece Henry Miller School of Overseas Living for Misanthropes. I don't know how new "modern" literary criticism is, but it seems kind of strange to hear one author writing about another author when they are contemporaries from long ago.

After getting through all 3 sections of Orwell's rather meaty essays, agreeing with some parts, disagreeing with others, reading that sites dismissive and snarkily brief Criticism was kind of amusing.

sweet sixteencomic

(48 comments)
October 30, 2006

Hey, does anyone have any ideas for what would make a fun party for a gal's sixteenth birthday party? (No dumb jokes, please.)

Ksenia's family is trying to figure it out for her sister whose birthday is in a few weeks... bowlings kind of lame? Are they doing ice skating yet? Too old for that?

Is having a party in the house a good idea at that age? I can't remember many "activity" parties by that age, I think they were mostly at people's houses, parent-sanctioned but without a big parental presence. I had a few surprise parties thrown at me...

Still something out of the house might be good. Any ideas?

Panels of the Moment


--FoSO and FoSOSO had a very small draw comics/eat chinese/watch movie get-together last night. I decided to work on fleshing out my Young Astronauts in Love idea, just working a few panels to see if I could get a feel for both my tool preferences and if there's a story I'd like to tell here. And in a fit of self-indulgence I decided to post the test panels here.

Quote of the Moment
"My consolation is that I am confident that somewhere at this very moment people are making love."
--Mme du Martel, on her deathbed.

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

(26 comments)
October 31, 2006

In my dream a while back was trying to figure out the syllable count for various songs (like "Amazing Grace" and "Theme to Gilligan's Island") so that I could get metered poetry by writing new lyrics to the existing melodies. I think I remember hearing about that trick a long time ago...

Of course my other big game is to see what melodies you can sing the Alphabet to. So far "Theme to I Dream of Jeannie" is the most interesting one that I've found.

Most of those other songs don't have that inelegant "LMNOP" rush that the standard "Twinkle, Twinkle" does. (And it wasn't until Middle School that I realized "Twinkle, Twinkle" and "The Alphabet Song" had the same melody, elementary schoolers were visiting our wind ensemble, and all shouted out the name I wasn't expecting after a saxophone player played it.)

Whoa. Come to think about it, "Twinkle Twinkle" isn't a great fit... not only is there that LMNOP rush, but you have to add that "now I know my ABCs, next time won't you sing with me" bit at the end.

Was it a Tom Robbins book that pointed out that "the Alphabet" is the adult word, "the ABCs" is the kiddy word, but Alphabet...Alpha...Beta... it's just a foreign and/or older word for exactly the same concept.

Band News of the Moment
Speaking of band programs... FoSO pointed out that the Tuba player for the "theme from Jaws". Which is kind of funny, despite playing the tuba part during a John Williams medley in high school, and getting to do the fun shark dun DUNN dun DUNN, I always assumed the original orchestration was more low strings than brass.

Image of the Moment
This is the Avatar of "MausBoy" on the AtariAge forums, who says:

"It's actually from one of my favorite NES games [...] Seirei Densetsu Lickle, and you play as four characters; when you are choosing one it spins around. I always liked the mouse."

I always liked pixel art that could spin.