2008 January❮❮prevnext❯❯

how to dread the new year

from David Michaelis' "Schulz and Peanuts"

media of the year

So, my narcissistic annual tradition: here's the media I consumed over the past year. I was pleased that my T-based commute let me read like twice as many books this year.

Movies at the Cinema: (16)
Night at the Museum, Smokin' Aces, Pan's Labyrinth, Grindhouse, Spiderman 3, Pirates of the Carribean 3 : At World's End, Ocean's 13, Fantastic Four, Transformers, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Hot Fuzz, Superbad, Simpsons, Good Luck Chuck, 2 Days in Paris, Lust, Caution

Pan's Labyrinth was dark and weird and scary and lovely. Hot Fuzz was a funny British mocking and honoring cop movies, 2 Days in Paris was kind of a Parisian Woody Allen neurotic comedy, and Lust, Caution and its story in occupied China was sensual but absolutely disturbing.

Movies on DVD (52)
History of the World Part I, Brick, Dukes of Hazzard, Natural Born Killers, Lie With Me, Dr. Katz Season 1, Voices of a Distant Star, Supernatural Season 1, Birthday Girl, Red Dawn, Sports Night Season 1, The Place Promised in Our Early Days , Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic, Saw, Little Miss Sunshine, Pumping Iron, The OH! in Ohio, Foxfire, This Film Is Not Rated, i heart huckabees, Me and You and Everyone We Know, Waiting..., Kung Fu Hustle, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan , Eurotrip, Gizmo, Smoke, Strangers with Candy Season 1, Dirty Shame, Flyboys, Shaun of the Dead, Volver, Lord of War, Johnny Mnemonic, Killing Zoe, Girl Play, Children of Men, Marie Antoinette, Spaced Season 1, Kalifornia, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, Black Snake Moan, Reno 911!: Miami, 300, Save the Green Planet!, The Fountain, Dasepo Naughty Girls, Pirates of the Carribean 2: Dead Man's Chest, Blood Diamond, Live Free or Die Hard, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy, A Scanner Darkly

Brick was nior Encyclopedia Brown. Lie With Me was sexy arthouse. I've already said a lot about Voices of a Distant Star and its spiritual successor The Place Promised in Our Early Days didn't disappoint. Kung Fu Hustle was just plain fun. Gizmo! is worth tracking down for its take on inventions and feats in the 30s 40s and 50s. The dystopia of Children of Men was a little heavy handed but it was still a great video. Spaced Season 1... I think it's where the folks from Hot Fuzz / Shaun of the Dead got it going. Save the Green Planet was a Korean film, very hard to parse, and with some ambiguity about its crazy hero. Finally, A Scanner Darkly used that rotoscope effect in a great way.

Movies on TV (2)
Seabiscuit, Beer League

Not much to say, though Arty Lang's Beer League was a bit better than I expected

Books (78)
On A Pale Horse, Bearing an Hourglass, The Ancestor's Tale, The Unix-Haters Handbook, A Short History of Myth, The Alien Years, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Blink, An Anthropologist On Mars:, Grave Peril, The Only Bush I Trust Is My Own, The Civilized Engineer, Dave Gorman's Googlewhack! Adventure, Virtual Organisms: The Startling World of Artificial Life, The Game-Players of Titan, Magical Thinking, Sellevision, Running with Scissors, Friday Night Lights, Ruining It for Everybody, Why We Do It: Rethinking Sex and the Selfish Gene, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eight Dimension, The Sixteen Pleasures, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, Dork Whore, Investigating Sex: Surrealist Discussions 1928-1932, Recue from Domestic Perfection, A Year in the Merde, Timequake, Steppenwolf, Kennedy and his Women, Solaris, The Middle-Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze, The Average American Male: A Novel, Overclocked, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Tuesdays with Morrie, What's Your Dangerous Idea?, Mind & Emergence: from quantum to consciousness, The Fountainhead, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Zen Living , The Secret Symbols of the Dollar Bill, The Dharma Bums, The Perks of Being a Wallflower., One Good Turn: A Natural History of the Screwdriver and the Screw, Eleanor Rigby, The Complete Saki, It's Too Late to Say I'm Sorry, Everyday Life in Early America, One-Night Stands with American History, Country Stores in Early New England, The Education of a Coach, The Planiverse, Possible Side Effects, Invisible Cities, America (The Book) A Citizen's Guide to Democracy in Inaction, We, Not Even Wrong: Adventures in Autism, Consider the Lobster, David Rakoff, Edge presents The 100 Best Videogames, Comedy by the Numbers: The 169 Secrets of Humor and Popularity , The Planets, Pro-Wicket, CODE The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software, The Man In The High Castle, New York Sawed in Half, The Golden Compass, Good Poems for Hard Times, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass, The Selfish Gene, The Dharma of Star Wars, The Maltese Falcon, Riding Rockets, Fierce People, Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar, Schulz and Peanuts

You can get an e-text of The Unix-Haters Handbook for free now. It's dated but opened my eyes to a world beyond Unix as the optimal OS- especially the reminder that the Clipboard has overlap with Unix pipes but does stuff pipes never could. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time tried to give insight into the inner life of autistics. Magical Thinking: True Stories made me think that Augusten Burroughs is David Sedaris turned up to 11. The Sixteen Pleasures was a lovely work; "The Hours" crossed with "Cinema Paradiso", with a thoughtful look at the craft of book preservation. I reread Timequake, Vonnegut's swansong, and it was still fantastic. Tuesdays with Morrie was a tearjerker, but not without wisdom What Is Your Dangerous Idea? had some neat thoughts, there might be a web version to hunt down. Kerouac's The Dharma Bums had some real insights in to the challenges of an American applying Zen Bhuddism to real life. One Good Turn: A Natural History of the Screwdriver and the Screw was geektastically wonderful. The Complete Saki- the guy is the Thurber of Edwardian Fops! Comedy by the Numbers: The 169 Secrets of Humor and Popularity was funny in a meta kind of way. CODE The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software is Petzold building a computer from the ground up, conceptually; great layman reading. His Dark Materials Trilogy had some ideas that I'm sure millions will find blasphemous, it's too bad they shied away from that in the first movie. The Dharma of Star Wars pointed out how much of that California version of Zen leaked into all the films. The Maltese Falcon was hardboiled and great. Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut lived up to its subtitle.

Comics/Graphic Novels (29)
Transformers Evolutions: Hearts of Steel, 32 Stories, Filth, Goddess, Swamp Thing: A Murder of Crows, Swamp Thing: Love and Death, Swamp Thing: The Curse, Swamp Thing: Earth to Earth, The New American Splendor Anthology, Feeble Attempts, Bighead, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomedy, Houdini: The Handcuff King, Star Wars Rogue Squadron Omnibus Vol 1, Demo, Action Philosophers, Sequential, Truth and Beauty Bombs, How to Make Money Like a Porn Star, Incredible Change-Bots, Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness, Pet Noir, Clumsy, Will You Still Love Me If I Wet The Bed?, I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets!, Ministry of Space, Planetary - All Over the World and Other Stories, Planetary 2, Planetary 3

32 Stories was the very earliest Optic Nerve, great stuff writ small. Fans of "Dykes to Watch Out For" should check out the autobiographical Fun Home: A Family Tragicomedy, it struck home in a few weird ways. Demo was a nice take on "real world superpowers". Action Philosophers was a goofy review of some deep thinkers. I enjoyed rereading old Softer World comics Truth and Beauty Bombs; deeply weird stuff. Will You Still Love Me If I Wet The Bed? was a reread of some great sweet short comics. Fletcher Hanks' I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets! is just so deeply old school and weird... Finally Ministry of Space had a nice "Dan Dare" vibe as it recast the space race as something where the Brits got ahead.

Games (17)
Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Crackdown, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, StarFox 64, Chibi-Robo!, Toy Story, Gears of War, Crackdown, Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, Trax, Bioshock, Robot Gardening, Raiden 2, Halo 3, Super Mario Galaxies, flywrench, Portal

Wow... I didn't play too too many games but there were some great ones. Chibi-Robo was a lost gem on the GC; very sweet tale of a little robot helping a disfunctional family. It took me a while to get used to Gears of War's "duck and cover" mentality, but it has its charms. Crackdown was a super-powered take on the GTA formula, but Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction is THE superhero game par excellence. Trax was a recommendation from a friend, a tiny little gem for the old Gameboy. Bioshock was underwater Ayn Rand gone all wrong (but at least it had three dimensional characters! ZING!) Super Mario Galaxies was a collection of brilliant little gameplay microcosms, and Portal, with its simple idea of "what happens if you could connect any two parts of a room with a door?, along with its psychotic computer was just a great way to end the year. Favorite quote:
Good news. I figured out what that thing you just incinerated did. It was a Morality Core they installed after I flooded the enrichment center with a deadly neurotoxin to make me stop flooding the enrichment center with a deadly neurotoxin. So get comfortable while I warm up the Neurotoxin Emitters.
That made me laugh...

brr brr brr brr

It is so cold out there. Reminded me of ducking my head into the supermarket open-topped freezers as a kid to inhale that rich ozone-y smell.

Video of the Moment

--Paper Airplane over NYC. Beautiful.

The classic paper airplane design is so elegant. I'm not sure if it's the ultimate flier but it has such great lines...

Livestock of a Past Moment
Boingboing linked to a 1934 Modern Mechanix article on Farming Frogs for Food and Profit. (I think they had a lot of odd money making scheme articles during the depression. But I wonder, what makes it seem like such a non-starter now? Is it just an aversion to eating a meat that's not mammal, fish, or bird? Or is it the legacy of the Muppet Movie, Doc Hopper and Kermit's line about all those little frugs on tiny crutches...?

toss that ravaging grizzly a steak while we try to get away

So the Patriots' Belichick was voted Coach of the Year, despite the whole Spygate thing. Is this:

A. Sheer recognition of a unique achievement in the NFL, the 16-0 season.
B. A show of solidarity for a guy who was probably a scapegoat for a not uncommon practice in the NFL
C. A gift to the AFC, in the sense of "we better not make this guy any madder!"

Article of the MOment
"Don't know why I thought of you" wrote Beau as he sent me this NY times piece on having clutter, being overweight, and the cognitive science behind hoarding. Yeah, sure, Beau. Just play innocent.

I kid, I kid; Beau is one of the most straight forward and unsnarky people I know. And to be fair, all three of those are issues I'll write about here-- in fact there was that previous time I heard about viewing excess weight as "body clutter".

First Kiss of the Moment
Suddenly I know so much. I understand about waves and cross tides and how jellyfish float and why rivers empty themselves in the Gulf. I understand the undulating movement of the stingray on Sea Hunt and the hard forward muscle of the shark. Now I know why they call it petting, for even though I'm more still in the plush warmth of his mouth than I can ever get in church, my whole body is purring. I let my self breathe into him a breath that tastes like ashes from a long fire.
Mary Karr, "Cherry"

poli wanna tick

So Obama took Iowa.

I was wondering why I had heard Edwards as the possible front runner? Before a few weeks ago it was all Hillary vs. Obama (sidenote: is it sexist we use Clinton's first name but the last name of most of the other candidates, or just to make more distinction from husband?)

How does pop culture play in this... is the Huckabee campaign helped by the movie "i <3 huckabees"? Is Obama aided by "24" and its portrayal of an African American president?

Electability, including my cynical view that physically appealing candidates have a huge edge, is foremost in my mind. I think Hillary Clinton has been too much of a rallying figure for the Republicans, and also voters are more sexist than they are racist. And Hillary has this Lieberman-esque way of playing the Won't Someone Think of the Children type card, so while I admire her previous work on single player healthcare, I'm kind of hoping she isn't the Democratic candidate... and that she doesn't turn the campaign too negative.

Quote of the Moment
This Culture War bullshit is starting to drive me nuts. I'd go live in a cave somewhere if I thought I could find one with DSL.
-Tycho, "Penny Arcade"

chop that wood!

So, football.

The Venn diagram overlap of Star Wars and Football fans meets its apogee (block that metaphor!) in 18to88.com's Football Predictions where each team inner Star Wars character is revealed. This is the retrospective edition, seeing how each mapping worked out and suggesting new ones for the mismatches.

Slate's guide to faking your way through the playoffs mentioned Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio's motivational prop gone awry. An wood stump, an ax, testosterone-laden football players and a mandate to "keep choppin' wood" -- what could possibly go wrong?
"Chris said that everyone else had been taking a swing with the ax, chopping the wood, and he finally decided to do it, too," Rosenhaus said. "Unfortunately, the ax either went through the wood, or bounced off it, and went into Chris' foot. Chris told me it is a pretty significant injury."
I just imagine some kind of stunned silence, marred only by their punter's cries of pain. I mean, how stupid would you feel having such a goofy object lesson take out one of your players for a season?

Quote of the Moment
We live in a Newtonian world of Einsteinian physics ruled by Frankenstein logic.
David Russell

how low can you go?

(1 comment)
I don't know if this is a legitimate economic bellwether but I was kind of bummed to notice that the billboards on the Red Line platform at Park Street were "house ads" for the MBTA, when last week they were Apple. (One semi-PSA about not using cellphones etc, one suggesting that the T is a pleasant way to get to Logan airport.)

Quote of the Moment
We tend to overlay grown-up wisdoms across the blanker selves that the young actually proffer. (When my son was born, I remember staring into his blue, wondering eyes, then asking the obstetrical nurse what he might be thinking. "You know the static channel on your TV?")
Mary Karr, "Cherry". Tabula Rasas ain't what they used to be!

take me out to the concerto

So one factoid from the Charles Schulz bio:
Classical music was attracting so many new aficionados that by 1955 some 35 million people would attend musical performances--more than twice that year's ticket buyers to major league baseball games.
That seems amazing to me! I wonder if it has to do with aspirational feel of the times, or what.

But even now I have to deal with the reality that I only dig classical when it's fast.

there is no god and murphy is his prophet

I was somewhat aware of the application of Murphy's Principles that states:
the best way to find a missing pair of glasses is to go ahead and purchase the replacements.
But I'm a little disconcerted how thoroughly I've been applying this late as of late, a few months ago with my regular glasses, and then just yesterday with my sunglasses.

Oh well. The new sunglass frames I picked out (or rather, the Eye Q custom frames that proprietor David looked up as I walked in and said 'Those' -- good advice spoken authoritatively, that's exactly what I need in matters of fashion) are pretty rockin', a nice break from the classic Blues Brothers-wannabe black plastic look that I tend to stick with but probably isn't the best for my face.

Mystery of the Moment
--Charming Mystery of the story behind an idiosyncratic cartoon face drawn by this guy's father.

Exchange of the Moment
"[Sobbing] This is the worst day of my life!"
"--The worst day of your life so far..."
Bart and Homer Simpson, The Simpsons Movie

books to read and games to play

Just Read: Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Lathe of Heaven"
Excellent quick sci-fi read, future discussion topic for my UU Covenant group. It starts with a Twilight Zone-esque conceit of a man whose "effective dreams" can reshape reality, creating an alternative earth with its own history and only he and the people witnessing the dream have any idea there was another path. It becomes a brilliant debate between the positivism of the man's therapist (who has a machine that helps induce deep dreaming and implants dream suggestions that he hopes will remake the world in a better way) and the natural Taoism of the man, who is deathly afraid of exercising a right he doesn't have to reforge the universe.

Just Played: "Earth Defense Force 2017" on the Xbox 360
Fantastic B-movie of a game! A Scifi run-around and shoot things, with hundreds of giant ants, spiders, and walking robots marauding through cites with buildings that can be brought down by an errant rocket blast (doesn't really hurt you or the city, it seems... its rebuilt by the next level.) It also features some truly colossal enemies, like walkers about 3 or 4 times the size of a Star Wars AT-AT, and HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE spaceships that silently hang over the city in much the way that bricks don't.

It touches so many sci fi movie and literature tropes: So it's just fantastic. Watching the giant ants swarm up and over walls, engulfing the Seattle Space Needle-like tower in the distance, a Walker emerging from the fire and smoke from the wreckage of one of his brothers, guns blazing... really impressive.

It was odd though, the setting is Japan, and when the battle seems to be going poorly for humanity, the commander's radio broadcast goes with a theme of "well, we're screwed as a planet against this alien invasion, but let us show them how a real fighting force dies!" It made me think about the Japanese ferocity at the end of WW2...

Quote of the Moment
"Well, with a sharp enough instrument, almost any passageway of the head becomes a path to the brain."
Erica Bial (paraphrased.)
The conversation started with a reference those little ear lobsters from "Wrath of Kahn" and then devolved into various movies' way of invading the brain, like that one Schwarzenegger flick with big red bulb that gets pulled out of the nose.


Getting geared up for a March trip to Japan! But man, I am such crap at planning trips. I'm also not such a brave tourist. On the one hand, I try to avoid the most blatantly tourist-friendly ways of seeing countries, I want to see the real life of a place. On the other hand, the prospect of being stuck somewhere and not speaking the language so much makes me really anxious. Usually my solution for this is having a friend in the other country to play host, but still I'm going to need to make some sidetrips on my own and I find that a bit intimidating.

Article of the Moment
Slate on Ghost Malls - coming soon to a commercial district near you?

They always freak me out, to see a strip mall (or one of those hybrids that's like a strip mall but has an interior to walk around in) with closed store after closed store.

Some of that might be the centralization, with Wal*Marts, Best Buys, and Targets attracting business that would otherwise be more distributed, but still.

earth defense force 1817

As a bit of a gag for Glorious Trainwrecks I made a Klik & Play tribute to that Earth Defense Force 2017 game I was praising the other day I made an homage, or parody, or something:

Earth Defense Force 1817

Featuring Soldier Seeking Bugs, Huge Hovering Spacecraft, and Robotron-esque Run and Gun Controls!

fine's not a sound

Heh. A guy I know on Atari Age just told me he overpayed a bit ($50 was the final price) for a copy of JoustPong on Ebay. The person dealing the item mentions that you can't get it new anymore, that the best you can do is FlapPing - the same game but with a different title screen, which I suppose is a point of interest for a collector.

Plus it came with one of the 50 or so T-shirts I made with it.

No word on the mylar bag the game and T-shirt came packaged in. (Surprisingly, a professional quality box is about the more difficult things for the homebrewers to do a nice economical job on.)

Heh. It reminds me that I never quite settled on whether it was "Joust Pong" or "Joust-Pong" or "JoustPong" or what.

Exchange of the Moment
"I just had an accident trying to see your picture."
"Will you get here in time to take me out to dinner?"
"I almost died."
"Well, you sound fine."
"Fine's not a sound."
Walter Kirn, "The Autumn of the Multitaskers"
An anecdote after being distracted by an incoming photo on his cellphone. I'm not sure I agree that integrated devices are that much the same as multitasking for people, though.

on guard

My company has a policy that any office above, say, 4-5 people needs a 24/7 security guard. My "developer's cubeland" suboffice I work in needs a guard even though it's just 10-15 people on a different floor of the same office building as the main, hipper office.

It seems like of silly... I know the guard is as much there for making sure laptops don't get legs as, I dunno, preventing some Die Hard-esque scene of violence and fisticuffs. Which is good, because one of the usual guards seems to be expectant. When I saw her taking her break to make some kind of personal call, I got kind of worried:
"Pregnant guard lady, you're not guarding us!"
I then realized chivalry ain't what it used to be.

Video of the Moment

--Real Life Donkey Kong, from some mercifully short-lived show on MTV or something...Still, "A" for Ambition.

Funny of the Moment
According to an fMRI of Jenkins' brain regions during the process of memory recall, his parietal lobe registers the same amount of activity when he hears the word "mother" as it does when he hears the words "Banjo Kazooie."
I think I was just impressed by the authenticity of the anecdotes. (Banjo-Kazooie was a fairly popular though now relatively obscure 3D platform game from around '97 or so.

nothing gray can stay

It's funny, it's like the weather decided to press reset, clearing out almost all of the snow that had been put down in December just to redo the coating.

Ah well, this is New England in Winter. So Eden sank to slush / Snow covers all this day / Nothing gray can stay.

Blenderisms of the Moment
"Love has as few problems as a motorcar. The only problems are the driver, the passengers, and the road."
Franz Kafka
human hearts are composed of crushed stone
and lusty cream
Just dug these lines for some reason.

So I got the issue of the Blender of Love out, finally. Plus there's a new feature where people can go back and edit works after they've been submitted, a feature that was a LONG time coming.

the process isn't about not getting fired

Just on the verge of ordering tickets to Japan. Very exciting! I need to start up on my Pimsleur...

Business Quote of the Moment
The process isn't about not getting fired.
Steve K as paraphrased by me, 2008.05.15.
Steve is our "scrummaster", who helps the team guide itself through the 30-day-cycle ("sprint") process of software development known as "scrum". (It's not "process heavy" as far as these things go, but does have certain events, the daily standup meeting, the end of cycle review and "planning poker" meeting for the next sprint.) Sometimes Steve will emphasize the importance of keeping up to your part of the Scrum contract over making other people in the company happy.

Letter Excerpt of the Moment
She hugs you in the doorway and when you say to her, 'If you move just six inches closer, I'm going to kiss you,' she moves closer, and you kiss her and the whole world is nice.
Charles Schulz to his paramour Tracey

Headline of the Moment
NY Times: New Bacteria Strain Is Striking Gay Men:
A new, highly drug-resistant strain of the “flesh-eating” MRSA bacteria is being spread among gay men in San Francisco and Boston, researchers reported on Monday.
Oy. Just the echo effect is enough to make my heart drop.


Now Reading: "Haunted" by Chuck "Fight Club" Palahniuk
Canterbury Tales meets Lord of the Flies by way of an 80s Slasher Film and Douglas Coupland. Plus the cover is super cool and glow in the dark. Very macabre but compelling.

Nostalgia of the Moment

--Promotional Page for a video game I never made in high school or so. The basic idea was Archon, also it was probably inspired by this one Archon clone called "Front Line" from Compute's Gazette.

I suspect this postdates me using Alien Bill as a signature character but I'm not 100% sure.

Ah. The 90s.

years go widdershins

If you were to plot the year as a circle, would you put Winter at top? Would the months and seasons run clockwise or counterclockwise?

For me, counterclockwise (aka widdershins, which is a great word) I'm not sure why, though. I saw some kind of ad lately that had Winter at top, Spring at left, Summer bottom, Fall right, and it seemed totally natural to me, even though thinking logically, you might want it to shadow (heh I was going to say "mirror", which is misleading in this case, and then "reflect" which wouldn't be any better) the way a (half) day is portrayed on a clock.

In short, years go widdershins for me and I have no idea why.

Site of the Moment
One of my favorite gripes is the griping of others. (Kind of a "how tolerant can we be of intolerance" derivative, which had its apotheosis in the Onion's ACLU Defends Nazis' Right To Burn Down ACLU Headquarters)

So the #1 Google hit for "Carberry's Central Square" is a page on a site called Yelp.
Visits here always spawn the question of how mediocrity can survive for so long.
or for the nearby 1369...
Nice interior, and I'm sure the drinks are nice too. I'm here to comment about the rotten tasteless tuna salad that I had a few days ago that cost $4.50 too much, albeit costing $4.50. A sorry substitute for a light lunch, I had to go down the street to Shalimar for something decent to eat.
Latte was boring and tasted off. Like the coffee beans were rebelling against providing taste, or something. Also, ordered a quiche, and what I should have called it was a "Salt Cheese Pie".
So the negativity is irritating, but then again, I'm even skeptical when people go to the other extreme. Basically, any review of a place longer than a quote inside a Zagat's snippet is going to say more about the reviewer than the place itself.

the gimp is sleeping

I'm thankful to Kate for defending Gimp, the open source image editor, when it was totally getting on my nerves. She points out that there is a consistency to its UI approach, a kind of dogged literal-mindedness. And I know I've been a bit programmed by the way other programs work. And it scares me that I have trouble switching mental gears to get along with it.

Still... no damn excuse for not having a basic "shape" tool for making rectangles and ellipses. Seriously. Look at all these buttons! They couldn't spare one? From , from "Rectangle Select" to "Dodge/Burn", not one for making a damn square.

Kate argues that I am using the wrong tool, should use Inkscape or something, but I thought I was just doing some basic screen mockup hacking, so didn't want to get into vector-y things...

random photos


Picture to show a friend those new Eye Q sunglasses.

I made a big deal about Kermit hitting 50K, so my Scion deserves similar treatment. Despite its nickname not really sticking.

When he was but a young lad, this Stilson artwork set something racing in Evil B's youthful fevered brow, even as he espied it in a gallery while accompanied by his grandmother on his way to church. But then only sweet memories remained as it was removed from that gallery...

...evidently, because it had been purchased and brought to My Ever Lovin' Aunt Susan's place, where Evil B would be reunited with this lovely hair-brushing beauty two decades or so after the fact. Small world!

Finally, I'm not saying things tend to stick around my Aunt and Uncle's place, but I think its been a while since they've been running promotional campaigns for the movie "Gremlins"...

the odd thing is, this was just right there in their pantry along with other miscellaneous food storage bits, like foil and what not. So either they haven't been wrapping many sandwiches over the past 24 years, or this box has done a great job of hiding out.

absolutely phoneme-inal!


phoneme - source - built with processing

I've made a lot of nerdy things in my time but this might well take the cake. The phonetically spelled words drift down, type the word and press return to destroy it. It's not very polished (except for the way the solved invader collapses) but not bad for a bit over 2 hours.

In the pre-KotM time I grabbed the "2of12inf" word list from 12dicts, and then crossed referenced it with the CMU Pronouncing Dictionary at KotM-time. (I found a link to the latter when I was looking for some kind of downloadable rhyming dictionary file... I had a different game in mind but couldn't find the resources for it.)

The core game idea is kind of fun I think. It's an interesting challenge to phonetically suss out a word, and then it becomes a bit of a spelling challenge.

why yellow is not green

Every residential street I see in Boston has a pile of those big fat Yellow Pages on the stoop. Few apartment dwellers seem to want one in this era of easy search engine lookups, and then no one wants responsibility for throwing them out or finding out how they can be recycled or whatever, so they sit forlorn in their protective plastic bags for months.

I guess someone's business model relies on assuming they remain intensly popular and useful, so they'll keep arriving year after year....

Observation of the Moment
At an elemental level gravity is extraordinarily unrobust. Each time you pick up a book from a table or a dime from the floor you effortlessly overcome the combined gravitational exertion of an entire planet.
Bill Bryson


(1 comment)
I gotta say, I don't think my current employer has really nailed all-division team building exercises.

Yesterday at the Hynes Convention Center they asked everyone to take two of the inflated balloons that were lying about, and write their name and a problem the company has on each.

Which, well you know. It's kind of hard to be sincere with your name on it, or at least it gives one pause.

Then they had us line up on opposite sides of the wall, and walk to the other side, but you couldn't carry the balloons, you had to bounce/juggle them over.

Then, when on the other side, pick one of your balloons and pop it.

It wasn't clear what the underlying metaphor was meant to be. Up 'til the popping, it might've been "see? All our problems are mixed up, and your problem is everyone's problem". But then it was like "well you carried your problem and now the company asks you to ignore it." Or something.

And the popping was LOUD and scary. (Sort of reminds me of the old Fox News BALLOONS: Why are they so DEADLY I posted a way back) Plus the balloons were overinflated in general, so intermittent popping went on through most of the day's presentation

Sometime after lunch, they asked us to line up around the outside of the room in order of birthday-in-year, holding our remaining balloon. (Assuming you still had it, after the room crossing and random post facto popping) Then we were asked to either A. find someone to help us solve our problem B. decide to live with it. C. figure out how to solve it ourselves. Then they said there was supposed to be a ceremonial popping after ten minutes, but I think most people decided to pop after finishing A B or C, or something. And I don't know why we lined up by birthday, except maybe as a generic "talk to other people" exercise.

So I have to say by most measures (aesthetic, camaraderie-inducing, metaphoric, confidence-building, non-trauma-inducing) these balloons were not a success.

On the other hand, the schwag from the day is pretty decent, I like the hoodies they were giving out. And overall, I like where my company is going, it's just these events that make be look askance.

Quote of the Moment
A physicist is the atoms' way of thinking about atoms.
Anonymous, via Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything."

baby boom

So yeah, I'm reading the Bryson book. Right now I've been reading about what a small volume of the planet is appropriate for human life. He also points out about how we little we know about the ocean surface relative to, say, the moon.

One thought: we hear a lot about space travel, but really it's going to be tremendously difficult. I wonder if it will ever become useful to create undersea colonies? You would seem to have some protection if something happened to the magnetosphere, you have a lot more raw materials as well, access to geothermal energy, a potential source of oxygen, etc.

(It took me a while to recall that I had seen some version of this idea as the underwater city Rapture in the game Bioshock.)

Factoids of the Moment
You may not feel outstandingly robust, but if you are an average-sized adult you will contain within your modest frame no less than 7 x 1018 joules of potential energy--enough to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.
Bill Bryson, "A Brief History of Nearly Everything."
Please, please, PLEASE no one tell this to our president... suddenly he'd have his justification for throwing ANYONE in jail, never mind the folks at Gitmo.

Imagery of the Moment
--from this page of post-apocalyptic views of the Statue of Liberty-- mostly sci-fi, some comics and propganda... neat stuff!

sweet sandpaper

I decided to test my justification for sticking with iced coffee even in cold winter, namely, I really dislike burning my tongue.

It's a cold day. So I had Dunkin Donuts' Hot Chocolate, this new promotional thing with Milky Way or something.

And now have a burnt tongue.

Factoid of the Moment
It has been calculated that a baseball thrown at a hundred miles per hour will pick up 0.000000000002 grams of mass on its way to home plate.
Bill Bryson on Relativistic effects in every day life.

Logos of the Moment
--This web article on logo trends of 2007 reminded me of this stuff, left, that I've seen at Nokia. But it doesn't seem to be a single logo, more of a theme, usable on sweatshirts and in animated form.

ah but if we put that snail on a turtle's back...

Woo, Rockport beckons.

Relativity of the Moment
So if the ideas of relativity seem weird, it is only because we don't experience these sorts of interactions in normal life. However, to turn to Bodanis again, we all commonly encounter other kinds of relativity--for instance with regards to sound. If you are in a park and someone is playing annoying music, you know that if you move to a more distant spot the music will seem quieter. That's not because the music is quieter, of course, but simply that your position relative to it has changed. To something too small or sluggish to duplicate this experience--a snail, say--the idea that a boom box could seem to two observers to produce two different volumes of music simultaneously might seem incredible.
Bill Bryson, "A Brieft History of Nearly Everything"

all things are made of atoms

For some reason this doesn't look like a Snow accumulations less than one inch kind of day, it seems pretty menacing.

Scientific Observation of the Moment
If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? I believe it is the atomic hypothesis that
All things are made of atoms-little particles that that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another.
In that one sentence, you will see, there is an enormous amount of information about the world, if just a little imagination and thinking are applied.
Richard Feynman.
Bill Bryson quoted the core of that and I googled up the rest. I still wish I knew of a really good "kitchen sink science" proof of the atomic hypothesis.

Not-So-Scientific Observation of the Moment
One thing I've found... avocado burps actually taste good...
Evil B. This outlines the joy of eating sushi (California Rolls) with Evil B.


If there is a failure on the part of this blog (well, I'm sure there are many) it's how often I talk about the weather. Same for the introductions on the Blender of Love.

Anyway. Up in Rockport last night. The howling wind was really something, like we had all the makings of a serious storm except the precipitation. It kind of haunted me and my dreams more severely than I would have guessed.

Factoid of the Moment
One atom is to the width of a millimeter line as the thickness of a sheet of paper is to the height of the Empire State Building.
Bill Bryson, "A Short History of Nearly Everything".
The funny thing is that almost makes it seem big compared to the previous visualization he offered. Perhaps I overestimate the thickness of a sheet of paper.

Image of the Moment
--via boingboing, a long exposure shot of sex, Apres by Flickr user Aqui-Ali...


Ugh, I'm working on Yet Another Damn Cold!

Is it just me? Or does this feel like a particularly bad season for that kind of stuff?

Atomic Theory of the Moment
The way it was explained to me is that protons give an atom its identity, electron its personality.
Bill Bryson.
He begs off on describing valance numbers, but this summary goes well with what little I know of atomic theory, and I like it.

Quote of the Moment
I was hesitant. But it is what it is. [My friend] needed help. There was beer. Good times. It was worth it.

battles on two fronts

Might be beating that cold! Of course the trouble with my shotgun approach (Airborne in a few forms, oranges, OJ, Vitamin C-based drinks, Mac and Cheese with a load of garlic instead of the cheese) means I won't know if some part of that is really the most effective, or if it's got something more to do with this particular virus, etc.

Sorry this has been such a blah week for the site.

Also, I'm a bit under attack by comment spammers. I've made one trivial change, I'm seeing how long it shakes them off, how often they re-analyze the structure of my comments page (which is either a manual process, or a very clever computer) to figure out the inputs. On the one hand, doing everything myself means I don't easily integrate into group efforts to combat these bot-wielding bastards; on the other hand, being idiosyncratic means I'm a low reward/effort ratio if they have to customize a lot of code to continue the abuse of my site.

Funny(ish) of the Moment
Carrollton Elementary School
Report Card for: Vanilla Ice
collaborating and listeningA-
cutting like ninjaB-
slicing like razor bladeB+
--based on a thought of Evil B

Quote of the Moment
It seems hard to sneak a look at God's cards.
Albert Einstein.
It's then followed up by "But that He plays dice and uses 'telepathic' methods (as the present quantum theory requires of Him) is a something that I cannot believe for a single moment." which is where the famous "plays dice" quote comes from.

rubber bands of the moment

Sadly, The Museum of Useful Things at Harvard Square closed its retail location a few days ago, but they've moved some of their products into their parent space "Black Ink". And "Black Ink" luckily had this product I just can't find online: "cinch it anchor bands" (by Shepard Medical Products, but their site doesn't mention them either.)

These are, simply, rubber band with little anchors on on end. At first the idea seems silly, but they allow for this one kind of cable wrapping (shown there in the packaging) that you couldn't easily do otherwise: you loop the whole rubber band, both sides around some gathered cable, secure it with the anchors, and you have a relatively secure, easy to remove way of keeping your iPod or whatever wires from getting all tangled up.

Fantastic! I wonder why I can't find them anywhere online? I'm tempted to go start hoarding!

Quote of the Moment
Yet no scientist--no person as far as we know--has ever seen a giant squid alive [...] The indigestible parts of giant squid, in particular their beaks, accumulate in sperm whales' stomachs into the substance known as ambergris, which is used as a fixative in perfumes. The next time you spray on Chanel No. 5 (assuming you do), you may wish to reflect that you are dousing yourself in distillate of unseen sea monster.
Bill Bryson, "A Short History of Nearly Everything".
Heh, "distillate of unseen sea monster".

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