2007 February❮❮prevnext❯❯

a city under siege: boston and the lite-brite invasion

So yesterday afternoon folks around Boston had a bit of a scare, with reports of police working to clear some suspicious, bomb-like packages on many of the major bridges and thoroughfares going into the city. Traffic was snarled and nerves were frayed.

As you've likely heard, the suspicious packages were actually some "guerrilla marketing" for a Cartoon Network show/movie "Aqua Teen Hunger Force". Here's a video (with great music!) showing these "bomblike devices" being deployed:


Seeing the video, I have to say, these things were pretty cool. I wish I had seen one. (I wonder how they're staying attached to the structures...)

Listening to Mayor "Mumbles" Manino on the local newstalk station, I started to get kind of angry, he's talking about suspending the parent company Turner's broadcast license (including CNN... awesome), huge fines, jailtime, and is generally on a moral highhorse about a mile tall. And constantly calling them "hoax devices", as if the whole thing was a deliberate bomb scare.

I'm angry too, but more at the over-reaction of the city. OK, the figure looks a little "angry" and was in suspicious, vulnerable locations. But the damn things are flat. How much explosive did they expect to be packed in these things, especially after the first one was "detonated"? And the blatant sense of whimsy... even if they didn't recognize the character, who the hell did they think was "attacking" us? The Joker or some other Batman villain bothering to make elaborate props? The comedy wing of Al Qaeda? The same guys from "Fight Club" who blew up a building with a Have A Nice Day face? Seriously.

At first I was concerned, even as I heard the packages (still not fully described in the media) were harmless, I thought it could be terrorists sizing up our response times and reactions, like some of the question marks around that LA Subway mercury spill. But now I'm more concerned for our nation's backbone, and lack of common sense. People: an attack is going to happen someday, somewhere, somehow. Hopefully it will be contained and localized, but people will die. Chances are it won't be you, or even someone you love. We need to have appropriate levels of concern and purposefully work to have responses commiserate with the scares we face in the meanwhile.

"Then the terrorists will have won" was the overused gagline from 5 years ago, but it still holds true. Taking our new grimmer reality in stride and learning to prosper and relax even in that (along with doing everything appropriate to prevent future attacks) will be the real victory in the War Against Terror. Turning some electronic graffiti into a citywide clampdown ("the war against liquids" to be joined by "the war against lite-brites") won't be.

when harry stalked sally

I was awoken this morning by an odd sound... the school across the street must have been having a fire drill or some kind of mass field trip, because there were tons of kids right in front of the apartment. I'm not sure why the sound of it was so striking, maybe just because my brain wasn't that awake, but all those voices merged... it was different than, say, a typical audience murmur, because some of the kids were shouting and what not. For some reason it was odd how you could pick out individual voices (thought none of the words) but was also one big burble.

Hmm. Apparently I can think like a stoned hippy first thing in the morning.

Oh hey, is it Groundhog's Day? My favorite not-quite-a-holiday!

Video of the Moment

--When Harry Met Sally: The Psychological Thriller. Brilliant recut.
Sometimes it hits me that making even normal movies trailers must be an interesting challenge.


35-odd hours into the new Legend of Zelda game for the Wii, and maybe only 2/3 or 3/4 done. On the one hand, that is a large chunk of time for a trivial pursuit. On the other hand, it's a work week. The game has largely been enjoyable, with a few annoying bits, and then the occasional "tell me why I'm playing this again?" I'm looking forward to when I can finally say it's done, and do a better job of thinking about other things.

I don't play all that many "big" games all the way through. But I've found puzzle-ish games like this one are fun with a co-pilot to givadvice, and sometimes drive, partially because it restores the social nature of gaming, which is really a big raw for me, and partially because I'm not all that clever with puzzles. I'm using a help guide when I'm on my own, but I try to use it for reference to keep me from getting stuck (and burning more time) instead of following it step by step.

Anyway, I was getting a bit burnt out on Zelda 'til I got to <SPOILER instructions="(highlight to read)">the Temple of Time, and this magic wand that lets you control your character as he controls a statue/robot with a big ol' stone hammer...very satisfying. </SPOILER.> That was nice.

The other nice part is the use of the word "twilit" as an adjective meaning "of or possessed by the Twilight Realm".

Quote of the Moment
I always get people gifts that I would want. Therefore, this year, you're getting a gun.
the about page mentions it's all the funnier because he has a great French-Canadian accent.

last of the scheinfeldt brothers

So yesterday I attended the funeral of Joe Scheinfeldt, last of the Scheinfeldt brothers, 4 great and funny guys, including my grandfather Papa Sam.

Anecdotes about the brothers include them swimming across the Charles naked, clothes in a bundle above the water (they were all good swimmers... actually all of them except Papa Sam served in the navy for decades), getting dresse, then sneaking into a Sox game. The legend doesn't explain if the swimming helped them sneak in somehow, or if it was just for the hell of it.

The graveside service was Navy, and included some moving touches, the flag-draped coffin, a rifle salute, taps, and the presentation of the flag to Joe's widow.

Comment of the Moment
"Good God. Wait until somebody leaves a Speak and Spell lying around. They'll probably send in a hostage team to negotiate with it."

big wheel keep on turnin'

I'm going to pretend I have some kind of sense of privacy and not go into a lot of details here, but Ksenia and I actually broke up in December... (I guess a lot of the regulars here already knew that, but I figured there might be a few stragglers.)

Quote of the Moment
"We have to believe in free will. We've got no choice."
Isaac Baeshevis Singer

Technology of the Moment
--Boingboing linked to this article on a uniwheel tank idea. Turns out modernmechanix is a very cool site, a long with the Retrotech Museum, which is like a steampunk wonderland of what-mighta-been technology.

Still, you think these things would be difficult to stop in a hurry.

what to watch

I learned something the other week, in dealing with a few different remote offices that needed my signature for some paperwork: more places assume random individuals have a printer and fax machine than a scanner. Since they were emailing me the forms, I asked if I could print and sign and scan and email back rather than print and sign and fax back. (I don't know why that seemed interesting to me. I guess if I was working in an office, it would be easier to get to a fax machine, and I'm more aware that I'm working from home than my next company or Blue Cross/Blue Shield is. Maybe just because the same thing happened twice in a day or two.)

Newspiece of the Moment
I kind of liked reading about a phone thief who relented after 21 text messages.

Videos of the Moment
In decluttering I found an August 4, 1995 copy of Entertainment Weekly I had saved because of its feature "The 100 Greatest Videos For Every Occasion". In the spirit of recording things electronically so I can get rid of the physical clutter, here they are (minus the small blurbs that made the article pleasant reading in the first place)

What to watch...
When Your Parents Come Over
1.The Joy Luck Club 2.Field of Dreams 3.Quiz Show 4.The World According to Garp 5.Amadeus

When The Kids Are Home
1.E.T.The Extra-Terrestrial 2.101 Dalmations 3.National Geographic's Really Wild Animals / Geokids 4.Raffi in Concert with the Rise and Shine Band 5.The Bear 6.The Gods Must Be Crazy 7.Singin' in the Rain 8.Bringing Up Baby 9.Ferris Bueller's Day Off 10.The Trouble with Harry

When You Have Too Little Freetime
1.A Sailute to Friz Freleng 2.New York Stories 3.Footlight Parade 4.Duck Soup 5.The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash

When You Have Too Much Free Time
1.Twin Peaks, Vols 1-6 2.Berlin Alexanderplatz 3.Shoah 4, War and Peace 5.Terminator 2: Judgement Day - Special Edition

On That First Video Date
1.Breakfast at Tiffany's 2.Singles 3.West Side Story 4.Groundhog Day 5.The Evil Dead 6.Harold and Maude 7.Play It Again, Sam 8.The Shop Around the Corner 9.The Night Porter 10.Ulysses

When You Want To Dump That Someone Special
1.The Unbearable Lightness of Being 2.True Love 3.Bitter Moon 4.The Diceman Cometh 5.Bad Lieutenant

When You're Doing STuff Around The House
1.My Dinner with Andre 2.Puppy Love! 3.The Mind's Eye 4.The Planets 5.Grok Gazer 6.Pink Floyd at Pompeii 7.Swing, Swing, Swing 8.Fantasia 9.2001: A Space Odyssey 10.The Tales of Hoffman

When Your Sopa Gets Preempted
1.Grand Hotel 2.From Here to Eternity 3.The Magnificent Ambersons 4.Peyton Place 5.Roots 6.Magnificent Obsessions 7.The Betsy 8.The Group 9.Since You Went Away 10.Soapdish

When You're Stuck Inside On A Rainy Day
1.Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory 2.Star Wars / The Empire Strikes Back / Return of the Jedi 3.Lawrence of Arabia 4.Jaws 5.The Ten Commandments 6.Planet of the Apes 7.Deep Cover 8.Read Window 9.Misery 10.The Seventh Seal

When You're Blue
1.Airplane! 2.The Elephant Man 3.Imitation of Life 4.Mary Poppins 5.Earthquake

When You're Throwing A Bash
1.Thunderbirds 2.Koyaanisqatsi 3.The T.A.M.I.Show 4.The Trials of Live Vol.4 5.Vintage Commercials Vol.2

When You're Thinking Thin
1.Monty Python's The Meaning of Life 2.The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover 3.Fatso 4.Frenzy 5.Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

When You Need A Career Boost
1.The Fountainhead 2.How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying 3.A Shock to the System 4.The Bellboy 5.Ed Wood

Over and Over Again
1.The Godfather Parts I,II,III/The Godfather 1902-1959: The Complete Epic/The Godfather Trilogy 1901-1980 2.8 1/2 3.Psycho 4.Raging Bull 5.The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 6.Rashomon 7.Nashville 8.Playtime 9.Betrayal 10.Beat The Devil

the twenty-one secondary sins

click to use
"The Twenty-one Secondary Sins"
// source code // built with Processing

Click (or drag between) any two sins to see their combination.
Creative content lovingly stolen from Jessica Hagy's We're All Going to Hell at Indexed.

Arguably, this misses some of the charm of the the original by removing the formal notation and sense of figuring things out, but I'm going to pretend it has its own sense of exploration. In any case, I hadn't programmed much of anything for a few weeks, and so this was, in part, to keep me in practice.

nicholas murray butler: philosopher, diplomat, educator, anti-semite, middle school injoke

Just once I'd like to hear someone in a movie or TV show go "Aw nuts! She didn't give me her real number, this is one of those fake '555' numbers!"

(Or is '555' the "reality" of these shows, so the line would be "this can't be real, it doesn't even start with 555"...)

In Hartford there seems to be a cab company whose number is 666-6666. Of course, that's a bit of a relic, the area code is becoming more and more necessary, and sense of shared area code less important, in an age of cellphones.

Quote of the Moment
"In the case of the first man to use an anecdote there is originality; in the case of the second, there is plagiarism; with the third, it is lack of originality; and with the fourth it is drawing from a common stock."
"Yes, and in the case of the fifth, it is research."
Professor Brander Matthews and Nicholas Murray Butler
That's in the anecdote that caps "Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes", which has been my smallroom reading for months. I considered it deep synchronicity that, out of all alphabetical order, my old middle school injoke Nicholas Murray Butler made an appearance.

Music of the Moment

--Beatbox Flute from a collection of Super Mario solos. I used to do something oddly similar on the tuba. I should post that some day... no video, alas, or rather, mercifully. (This guy is rather more clever than I was at mixing the melody around the beats.)

On that page, it's interesting to hear what melody they go into after that. I personally prefer the stage 2 "underground theme". (See this MIDI page, top right corner.)


So, a while back (yeesh, five years ago!) I made up some business cards to "help with my job search". (and there were a few more alternate ideas) Now, I never really used those cards much professionally... there's just not much of a call for them.

Tangent: Actually, I attended a mandatory job search seminar, and it strikes me that a fair chunk of the recommendations haven't really applied to my past searches. Details like the "thank-you note" and things of that sort, though the way they hammer home "networking" is certainly appropriate. I guess either some of that doesn't apply as much to techie jobs (or any professional career that has its own headhunters?) or in some ways, jobs are considered more disposable than they used to be. There's a fine line between "seeming eager about this job" to "appears stark raving desperate".

Anyway, while I've never had much call for personal business cards (I'm often hard-pressed to get rid of the company ones, even when I was doing business travel) there have been a few times where I started talking about this site in some social gathering, and the person seemed reasonably interested (or was polite enough to fake it) and I thought it would be useful to spell out the URL as an invitation for them to check it out later. (Especially since a lot of folk have trouble spelling the name.) So I came up with something like:

The design was influenced by the trouble I remember having getting the sheets to line up in the printer, I shied away from the edges, and/or made the design repetitive so overlap wouldn't matter. I'm still not 100% satisfied with the placement, but I guess the bigger question is this as nifty a concept as I think it is, or is it just irredeemably dorktastic? I'm also open to feedback on the layout.

One nice thing vs. the old designs is that it only has semi-permanent info about me, without city or techie skills I'm trying to emphasize. Also, I feel more comfortable about doing this with my own domain, as opposed to some livejournal URL.

Link of the Moment
My PDA situation is in a state of flux. One ToDo I had on an old device was to google up "Hathor / Ra Blood Story"... I guess it must be this tale about how Hathor, Goddess of Love, got her start as the wrathful Hathor-Sekhmet, Goddess of Destruction, by the power of a field full of beer: (beer red-tinted to look like blood, go figure.)
Then she laughed with joy, and her laughter was like the roar of a lioness hungry for the kill. Thinking that it was indeed blood, she stooped and drank. Again and yet again she drank, laughing with delight; and the strength of the beer mounted to her brain, so that she could no longer slay.

At last she came reeling back to where Ra was waiting; that day she had not killed even a single man.

Then Ra said: "You come in peace, sweet one." And her name was changed to Hathor, and her nature was changed also to the sweetness of love and the strength of desire.
That's a cool story.

highways and byways

Back in Nyack for a few days, helping My Ever Lovin' Mom out with a few things.

Also, Mr.Ibis and felisdemens have opened up their place in Florida to me for a mid-winter, between-jobs get away, which prevents me from being completely lame and having a "stay at home vacation" for all four weeks.

(I originally was thinking of trying to make it to San Diego, because I haven't seen Dylan in even longer, and have only been to California once, but couldn't quite arrange it. (Which is a euphemism for the boy's issues with returning phone calls...))

Map of the Moment
--Northeast excerpt of Chris Yates' brilliant subway-map like simplification of the Eisenhower Interstate System. (via boingboing)

Legalism of the Moment
If passed by Washington voters, the Defense of Marriage Initiative would: Again bb covered this, which may be making the rounds. The Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance is working to point out the hypocrisy of their court using the "legitimate state interest" in limiting marriage to those couples able to have and raise children together. I admit it's a bit obnoxious, but hopefully will point out the obnoxiousness of discriminating against gay marriage... or at least force them to admit it's tradition and bias and not hide behind the "we're thinking of the CHILDREN" defense.

declutter without mercy or regret

Back in Boston.

No doubt about it, I've lost some of my decluttering drive. I noticed that the other day when I finally got to take some stuff to the goodwill truck, and (what's the opposite of retroactively?) impressed myself with my previous discipline.

My new mantra: DECLUTTER WITHOUT MERCY OR REGRET. (Which I suspect is a play on Battle Without Honor Or Humanity.) I will always have enough stuff to be interested in. Thus uninteresting stuff is taking up too much space and unwarranted attention.

News of the Moment
young astronauts in love,
the sequel
My mom hadn't heard the "Adult Diapers" detail of the Lisa Nowak story. At first I was wondering what the time pressure was; I mean it would take some time to purchase and set up the diapers, and it doesn't take that long to go to the bathroom. But then, with the BB gun, pepper spray, buck knife, mallet, black gloves, rubber tubing, and garbage bags, I guess we've kind of ruled out the spontaneous, heat-of-the-moment type defense anyway.

Admittedly, the wikipedia note that "U.S. shuttle astronauts wear specially designed diapers during launch and re-entry" which made the whole thing make a little more sense, I guess.

At least now we have a new setup for that old chestnut...
"So what do you get your deranged stalker astronaut girlfriend for her birthday?"


So at my mom's I stayed in her guestroom, aka "Aunt Susan's Room". It has it's own bathroom. That's definitely a nice small little luxury, your own bathroom right off of where you're sleeping, you never have to walk anywhere cold or worried about excess domestic nakedness.

Exchange of the Moment
Mom: So, what kind of animals do you think we will see at the zoo?
Small boy: I think elephants and snakes... Mom? Are there also pretend things there, like dinosaurs and God?
Mom: I think we need to have a talk when we get home.

Article of the Moment
One is Shi'a on Shi'a, principally in the south; the second is sectarian conflict, principally in Baghdad, but not solely; third is the insurgency; and fourth is al Qaida, and al Qaida is attacking, at times, all of those targets.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates explaining how Iraq is four, four, four wars in one! As quoted in this Slate article.
Wait, didn't he get the memo that it's all just a slice of THE war, the war against terror?

phrygian cap

Heh. Murphy being what He is, of course it's going to snow the day before my flight, possibly the first Nor'Easter. Though I guess the forecast is for inches not feet, and maybe it won't be that bad.

Video of the Moment
Cute attempt at a revival of the classic newsreel, the month in review, at Slate... some amusing vintage footage, all in b+w w/ the scratches and old-timey announcer.

FAQ of the Moment
So yesterday, with EB's assistance, I finished "Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess". A great game, epic, though the ending sequence was a little flat, and given that I'm not that crazy about the artificial puzzle mechanic, I can't be sure it was worth the 50 or so hours I put into it. (I definitely have mixed feelings about games that show you exactly how much time you've put into them, because it's always a larger number than you'd expect. On the other hand, it's not that much worse than frittering away time websurfing...)

The day after I finished the game, Slashdot pointed out that one of the GameFAQs entries for it is the entire script, along with some commentary, finishing with an attempt to piece the various games together into a single narrative (or, as the author argues, forked... one set following the "alternate timeline" if the Link of "Ocarina of Time" hadn't saved the world)

I guess I was kind of amused by the writing style, sort of Elevated "Comicbook Store Guy" prose...
This is of course the second guide I have partaken in, the first being a Gold Medal Guide I wrote for the oft-shunned but oddly addictive Star Fox Assault. It's a draughty little game, open as cannon fodder to those more willing to mince their teeth at its flaws, but it exposed to me the world of guide crafting, a world I have only approached with a detached torpidity since my last guide, one where I can espouse my love affair with the game and yet am still on due trajectory to paint around its corners and write anything but a full length guide. Twilight Princess was a likely candidate, but the availability of the Wii sunk that battle ship rather swiftly as I spent two weeks on a gladiatorial blood lust making Walmart employers quit in a fit of rage, swearing they'd die happy if they never heard the word Wii again.
Anyway, it was interesting to skim through that all, see his theories, and catch up on story bits I might not have payed enough attention to my first time through.

time goes by so slowly....

Bleh. Snow, ice, slush, sleet. The kind of day that almost makes me wish I had a job to stay home from.

Hope it doesn't make too much backup for my flight tomorrow.

Silliness of the Moment
Chaoskitty Hearts You...or at least did as of 3 years ago. Wow, have to clean up that backlog...

Vaguely Romantic Anecdote of the Moment
So I gave blood the other day, and the bandage they use after tends to leaves this ooky residue behind, a pretty resilient and ugly outline of where the tape was. As I was scrubbing at it in a slightly too-hot shower, I had a weird flashback (cue Wayne's World / Scooby Doo wavy line "doodlydoo doodlydoo doodlydoo"...)

My first girlfriend was KJ, at summer camp. (Oddly enough she came from my dad's hometown of Coshocton.) One day at camp she wrote on my hand in ink, one of those wird pre-high school romantic gestures. I have no memory of what she wrote, but she joked that now she'd be able to tell if I was taking showers...

Well, the fact was I wasn't taking many showers, mostly because of the "user interface" of the shower in my cabin... a single button that might as well have been labeled "please douse me with a laserlike stream of incredibly hot water and try to melt flesh right off bone, thanks."

So I remember furiously scrubbing at that damn ink in the sinks there, with their amazing innovation of hot and cold water. Still, I couldn't get all the ink off, and was worried what that was going to say about my hygiene...

phriendly phantom phonecalls

Heh. Kind of a restless night, and this morning around 6:30 I thought I heard my cellphone ring in the other room. I ignored it 'til like 10 minutes later, then went to check.

And it's kind of a good thing I did... even though it hadn't actually rung, it made me realize that my flight was leaving 2 hours earlier than I had been for whatever reason thinking.


Luckily I have time to spare, but still. Sometimes I think a year of business travel has made me a bit too blasé about the whole subject.

Quote and Insight of the Moment
More Upper West Side adults have pointed to Mozart, I'm quite sure, as a justification for sending their kids to excruciating early music programs, than almost any other historical figure.
Malcolm Gladwell
From this piece on the surprising gap between child prodigies and achieving adults.

That was a link from this MeFi post, and I was actually much more haunted by this New York Magazine piece on the danger of being a smart kid. To quote the MetaFilter summary:
Praising a child for being smart only teaches the kid to avoid any effort that might fail.
That, in a nutshell, is My Biggest Problem, and I set up roadblock after roadblock for myself to protect a surprisingly delicate self-image; so over-inflated that any prick of "I tried hard but failed" might cause the whole thing to come crashing to earth, and so I've setup a huge anti-needle, patch-and-glue brigade.

I'm not sure if it's just a result of over-praise, though. Smart kids are better at seeing the possible negative consequences of a given path, and I think a fair number of them are afraid of confronting a situation that might end badly despite all best efforts. Or maybe I'm projecting based on my own experiences, with family tragedies I could do nothing about, which taught me that even the best intentions don't always help.

florida filler day 1

(1 comment)
Hopefully at this point I'm in Florida.

I'm digging through my old old backlog. It's amazing how many of the links are dead. or how little enthusiasm I have for the subject. Guess that's why they didn't make it here in the first place.

Today's theme: robots!

Eric Joyner's Tin Robots are really cool, though I guess the whole Rock'Em Sock'Em has been co-opted for that one truck ad...

But Maria from Fritz Lang's Metropolis has to be one of the hottest fembots of all time. It's hard to realize what big influence, design-wise, she was; 3CP0 just cribs off her and we barely notice.

Finally, Low Life Labs' Robots and Us is a kind of kid-science take on the real thing.

Quote of the Moment
"I don't think I'm a robot...I'm not sure I could tell if I was, though."
Will Wright (creator of the Sims) when asked "Are you a robot?", from the book "Smart Bomb"

florida filler day 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lessons learned: Anyway.

Today's Theme: Letters and Words.

Here are some neat little typographical artpieces. With music.

Here's an odd little handwriting technique.

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

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

florida filler day 3

Today's theme: videogames and the programming thereof.

My first foray into the wonder world of Atari games was a kind of obscure Columbia Home Arcade... you got the basic system (a rebadged Coleco Gemini, an Atari 2600 clone) and then they sent you a catalog/poster every month, like those record clubs but for games. They offered some games that are now considered pretty rare, like Spy Hunter and Donkey Kong Jr. (heh, I just realized DK Jr. was one of the featured items. I remember getting that for my birthday... not sure if it was allegedly from a grandparent or from my mom, but come to think of it it probably came through that poster. Which is fine. I loved Donkey Kong Jr, in part because of the character in the Saturday morning cartoon. I dressed up for halloween one year as him, in fact.)

Batari BASIC, a simplified programming language for writing 2600 games on the PC, has its own website, replacing my old "semi-official" one that I never did enough with. Also, it's finally at "version 1.0" after kicking around beta for a while.

Sometimes I think... if I had this language when I was writing JoustPong, I could have saved a lot of time, though the end result wouldn't have been nearly as impressive.

Then I think, that might've saved my marriage to Mo. Or... not. I might be mixing up cause and effect, that it was just my pursuit of personal projects in general in lieu of the couple-interest she was (quietely, almost secretly) craving.

Of course, I'm retroactively disappointed in myself that I never got into 8-bit programming more deeply, like with the C=64 Programmer's Reference Guide. I never did anything with the sprites, and my few attempts to get into Assembly Language back then never came to anything...

Finally, the amount of exploration these folks have done of the old N64 game Goldenye is pretty amazing.

My goodness. Today's entry went on some odd little tangents there.

Quote of the Moment
"The trouble with computers, of course, is that they're very sophisticated idiots."
The Doctor, "The Giant Robot"

florida filler day 4

Ahh, Florida.

The weather is very decent here, especially compared to what Boston seems to be slogging through, but I seem to have a knack for making warm places less warm. August 1992 in Portugal was freakishly cold (in a Mark Twain sense of "weather which will melt a brass door-knob and weather which will only make it mushy") during my three week stay. Similar winter trips to Bermuda and Florida have had similar results. Nothing you can really get upset about, it is winter after all, but still.

(Mr.Ibis and Felisdemens and I had actually been toying with the idea of attending a naturist festival, a new experience for us all, but the weather put a damper on that, much to everyone's quiet relief I think.)

But a larger block to this trip living up to its full potential is me getting socked with a big old cold, with some kind of cause and effect relationship with the most gruesome fever blister I've had in a long while, making me feel like a diseased pariah despite everyone politely ignoring it. Whether it's just the culmination of months and months of a mild case of whatever's going around that week, or that evil airplane recirculated crispy-dry air germfest thing, running into a whole new cold virus ecosystem down here, or getting a bit more sun walking around some outdoor parks, I don't know. Probably some combination.

SQUICK ALERT: I'm going to get slightly more personal than usual, though nothing too major, about Fever Blisters. Those wishing to avoid such discussion should skip down to the Links of the Moment.

Ah, Fever Blisters... (which I guess is synonymous with "Cold Sore" but for me sounds somehow marginally less disgusting) blight of my existence for, what, two and a half decades now? Factoids like
An estimated 80 percent of Americans are infected with the virus that causes cold sores and 20 percent of American adults experience recurring cold sores two to 12 times per year.
are small comfort, just because I don't seem to see many afflicted people in day to day life.

I keep a log of outbreaks. 2000 and 2002 featured problems every few months; 2001 and 2005 were free of incidents. (Wow, has Abreva been on the market since 2002? (It must be effective because it costs five times the other stuff! Well, not this time, brother.))

It may well be time to start looking for some heavier artillery. In previous years I took a regular preventative dose of the antiviral Zovirax or Valtrex, but I'm instinctively not crazy about that kind of big barrel approach, especially since it's usually reserved for other forms of the virus. Another interesting product that I just sent away for is dermaseptic, a little device that zaps a prelude-area to inject silver under the skin, silver thought to have some great antiviral properties. Anecdotally I've heard some good things about it, and there even seems to be some fair amount of clinical backing. So, I guess that's where my hopes for the future rest.

Bleh. At least there's a chance I'll be recovered before my new job.

Links of the Moment
Todays theme is...books! Again. I guess.

I dig fan stuff like The Nit Picker's Guide to the Lord of the Rings, talking about the movies. So much tough love! Personally I thought they were pretty respectable versions.

The History of the Universe in 200 Words or Less. So, a small book.

Finally, bookcrossing.com is like "Where's George?" for books, where people are encouraged to leave books in the wild but chart them as they make their way around.

Quote of the Moment
A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight
Robertson Davies

florida filler day 5

For the final day of filler, the theme is...well, you figure it out.

Slate on The Cushy Life of the Backup Catcher.

The Blog of the Incredible Hulk

Finally, The Label Man really digs his vegetable and fruit labels...

Quote of the Moment
If you haven't found something strange during the day, it hasn't been much of a day.
John A. Wheeler


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Do you think politicians ever change each other's mind, like with debate on the house floor? Does a convincing argument even matter at determining the outcome of votes, or is the real action in all the party-wrangling and poll analysis and the arguments are just good for sound clips on the evening news?

Link of the Moment
Potentially useful link: GetHuman.com... how to talk to a real live person as quickly as possible, for a big array of companies. (via Sarah, who wishes Dylan was on that list.)

Vacation Photos of the Moment
So on my first day in Florida, Felisdemens and I went to The Morikami museum and gardens.

alas, poor coconut

Florida Photos of the Moment
This Florida trip included my first ever visit to a ren-fair, where people get dressed up all Old-Tymey. (Tangential link: Chaucer's Pickup lines: "Art thou a disastrous poll tax? Bycause I feele a risynge comynge on.")

Quote of the Moment
The forceps of our minds are clumsy forceps, and crush the truth a little in taking hold of it.
HG Wells. (Yes, I know it's lame to be cribbing from qotd...)


Ahh, my last day of self-indulgent non-workday before returning to my role as dutiful office denizen.

And set myself for some bigtime indulgence I have, with the purchase of an Xbox 360 as an early birthday/lets get it while I still have a smidgin of vacation left gift to myself. I generally don't get a new system until I see something of a personal "killer app" for it. This system it happened to be the game "Crackdown", which I hoped would be a blend of GTA, Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, and Mercenaries. So far it's mostly like Mercenaries, but it's decent fun, and there are some upcoming titles that probably would have convinced me to buy the system anyway. The Xbox 360 isn't cheap, but probably fits within the price differential of what I could have spent on vacation, and what I actually did. No wonder the travel industry is so big; people can drop so much on a trip without even thinking about it.

Of course, a vacation gets me out of the house, into some warmer climes, lets me catch up with distant friends, and provides many interesting photo-ops and chances to catch up on my reading, while a video game system is an enabler of cocooning. Which might be reasonable as I finish up recovering from such a big cold.

Looking back on the past 8 weeks, I'd have to admit I did not get my personal project mojo working the way I had hoped. I don't think I was quite orderly enough about it. I did a number of small projects, but mostly ones that entered my head on a given day, and not off of "the list".

Floria Photos of the Moment
So on my final day there Felisdemens and I snuck in a trip to Butterfly World! (It was either that or, I kid you not, a trip to the firing range, which is something I've always wanted to try.)

we all tube for youtube

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So, I made a few movies with my camera as well this trip; mostly wildlife as it turns out. Nothing too amazing, but I'm grateful youtube makes them easy to share.

on "a short history of myth"

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I just finished Karen Armstrong's "A Short History of Myth". (I was supposed to read it for my UU Church's Science and Spirituality group, but then the Florida trip came up, so I read it in the airport and the first leg of the flight and wrote this.)

So her final chapter argues that the West is really hurting from its lack of mythology; that logos, thought/reason, has reigned surpreme for a long time, and while in many ways it has made life better for the people of those cultures, it hasn't been providing the ultimate answers that those people, neurotic and confused as we are, need.

She seems to especially criticize the attempts to reconcile rationality with myth, claiming that these were paths tried and found wanting in Judaism and Islam, but that Protestant Evangelicalism carries on the hopeless and painful struggle.

That certainly rings true with my interpretation of the tradition I grew up in. I've heard it said that if Christ has not literally risen from the dead, if other events are allegorical instead of literal, if the Bible has not received special divine protection in every verse, than the whole game is up. (Actually the Bible verse is "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain" (1 Cor. 15:14))

That's a very brittle kind of spirituality to have, if you take the obvious literal reading of that line.

And then, even within Christianity, there are things I've been taught that only now do I realize aren't considered fundamental Christian tenants. Armstrong argues that the Orthodox, for example, haven't embraced the rationalist doctrine, are content with a great deal of Mystery, don't buy into the whole original sin idea, and maybe God would have come to us in the form of Jesus even if Adam hadn't sinned. (On the other hand, when confronted with someone looking to pick a rationalist fight, they'll mention this annual Easter candle lighting miracle that takes place in the Holy Land. Given that the person channeling the miracle is searched to not have any lighting implements before going off in secret but that self-lighting candles have been known for a long while, I'm a little skeptical.)

(remake of an old comic of mine)

So, I'm struggling to understand how people accept things that are mythically true, but not factual "reality". I guess it's harder to do in a highly connected world. Historically, you experience myth by soaking it in as your immersed in your culture... but when you start to notice that other peoples believe other things, your own beliefs might start seeming arbitrary. Maybe even evil! Decartes was driven to hunt for first principles when he noticed he couldn't know if his whole external experience was really the result of a demon trying to trick him. (And I know I started to stray from my Protestant heritage when I started realizing that if I had grown up in an Islamic tradition rather than as the son of Protestant ministers, I'd probably be just as fervent about a totally different belief.)

Armstrong thinks that we look to find our myths in cultural figures, like Elvis and Princess Di. And maybe retell our mythologies in great art, like Guernica and "The Wasteland".

Maybe the purest modernist mythology we can have is science fiction. By telling stories of the future, we can escape our paranoia that the stories aren't "really real", because they sit in the realm of Might Be rather than Was. (For the record, this is also the explanation I gave for preferring "space" Legos; cars in the present and castles in the past don't have little dots all over them... but the spaceships of the future might.) Of course, this is slightly more true for Star Trek than Star Wars, the latter just seperating itself by being "a long time ago in a glaxy far far away".

I dunno, just a thought. It certainly puts the hard core fan in a new light. Maybe the overweight fanboy in the full Klingon regalia, browsing memorabilia at the local convention is really a shaman for the modern age.
Trying to channel pre-new-job nervous energy into straightening the apartment. The problem remains the same: pick a task, finish a task even when I the task takes me to a different room where other tasks start beckoning.


First day on the new job. Wish me luck...

Anecdote of the Moment
Felisdemens told a great story about a macaw that was at a pet shop where she once worked. To brutally paraphrase... first off she pointed out out that "Shut up!" is something that a LOT of pet macaws and parrots have learned to say, for some mysterious reason.

But the macaw at this store was quite affectionate, loved to climb up on people's arms, and shoulder, and nestle against their head, and then lean over and take a giant bite out of their Trapezius. So this Macaw had an even richer vocabulary of "ow get it off me!" and "fuck!"

The idea of a Macaw going "Rawrk! Ow! Get it off me! Rawrk!" amused me to no end

Video of the Moment

--Bitter:Sweet "The Mating Game". Might be getting a tad more exposure because it's preloaded on Microsoft's iPod wannabe the Zune, which is where I first heard it. Love that neolounge stuff, like History Repeating.

Wow. A duo formed on Craig's List.

pretzels for a buck

The new job is going well so far but I'm going to let it sink in a while before going on and on about it.

I will say this: there's a little concession stand at Alewife T-station, behind a bigger news stand and across from the Dunkin Donuts. Last night I bought a big pretzel from it for only a buck. Nachos were 1.50. They also had hot dogs. And I had to wonder... how the heck does something like that stay in business? With prices like that? At Alewife? I mean, that's tourist food and the only tourists there probably misread the T-map. Also, their calendars.

(Not a bad pretzel, not great but ok with mustard, and you could get it without the nasty chunk-o-salts. I kind of dig eating light at night, and that could kind of work from time to time.)

Image of the Moment

--Illustration from a Igor Malashenko commentary in Time, April 8 1991, "The Third Way: A Soviet strategist argues that while repression is all too possible, it is not inevitable". I saved that page all these years.

Independent of the meaning, and of the symbolic weight and repression and suffering that was behind the beautiful ideals in practice, from a graphics design standpoint I think the hammer and sickle rocks.

Quote of the Moment
I find the most erotic part of a woman is the boobies.
Zapp Brannigan pickup line, from "Futurama".
It's even funnier if you think of it in that big polished but dumb Phil Hartman voice.

Video Gaming of the Moment
Slate on the casual gaming delights of the Xbox 360... it touches on the concept of "Wii60", that these are two modern systems that complement each other very well. Xbox certainly is a few levels beyond anyone else for online gaming and downloads.

february stumbles to an inglorius end

Whoo, what a day, Dow dropping, Cheney ducking, Iranians thought to be scoping out the Big Apple.... that last ones kind of spooky. Sees like any war in Iran might be brought home to us. Reminds me a bit of WW2 worries about German saboteurs.

Ramble of the Moement
One thing about travelling... it gives me time to read, and also tends to give me ideas to write about. Which might be a result of the reading, or me just turning into some kind of Andy Rooney like crank about travel, as per my earlier ranting about how irritating airlines can be. Who knows... maybe finally returning to a public transit commute (wow, since before I started journaling on kisrael instead of my Palm pilot) will encourage me to be a little more externally reflective.

Anyway, Mr. Ibis suggested Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink" (a book that roughly lived up to its title in terms of how quickly I got through it. Grumblesmurf.) It was a neat book about the snap decisions we make, with lots of amazing anecdotes, like how the "Pepsi Challenge" gave Coke the terrible idea to make New Coke, not realizing that the sweeter first anonymous sip of Pepsi gave it an edge that wouldn't last for a whole can, and how this one researcher John Gottmann can watch a few minutes of couples arguing (in an odd bit of synchronicity, hypothetical couples in the book had the name of my Aunt and Uncle (page 19) and then my grandparents (page 60)) and reliably foretell the relationship future of the pair.

One interesting bit was how some "gamblers", asked to pick at whim from a red deck or a blue deck, the former stocked with big payouts but, in the long run, bigger losses, and the latter being the only sustainable-y good choice. According to various sweat sensors and the like, the subconscious started realizing the problem with red before behavior changed, and way before the person was able to talk about the difference. I had a similar situation with the video game "Grand Theft Auto: San Andres". When you flip over to the map screen the game shows the player's position with an ornate "gang tattoo gothic arrow". I was kind of irritated that the game used an artsy icon rather than something simpler that could show which compass direction my player was facing. BUT... I realized that I was making a much than chance guess at which way I was heading. The ornate arrow was re-orienting itself to point the way, and my hindbrain knew it, but my conscious mind didn't! (This, of course, also points out the odd occasional rigidity of my otherwise tangental thinking; of course they wouldn't rotate a fancy arrow, games like this don't do a lot of rotation of 2D bitmaps, only 2- and 3-D polygons.)

So you start the book, and the opening stories make it sound as if it might be an optimistic "trust your instincts" kind of tome, but with a few exceptions (like students reliably able to gauge the effectiveness of a teacher after just seconds of video footage, and the thing with the cards) but then there's a cavalcade of counter examples, from the snap judgment of the Amadou Diallo slaying to the election of pretty boy Warren Harding. So the lessons I actually took from the book are: So it's not all that useful. Though it seems like that kind of relationship assessment test could be an enormous boon to humanity, though of course it would be devastating to couples who did poorly, with a 10-15% false negative rate. There's gotta be some money in that.

I think I should be less concerned about snap judgements about music, however. Listening to a few moments of an MP3 I've heard before should let me figure out how to categorize it.

So overall the book was interesting enough to be worthwhile, but I kind of wish it hasn't been 2 years and counting waiting for a paperback version.

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