2008 May❮❮prevnext❯❯

it's robots all the way down

May 1, 2008
So, new solution for the new KHftCEA -- Twitter! While in theory Twitter is more this way of telling people who care where you are and what you're doing, it can also be a handy repository for the attention starved to post their bon mots, as Lore Sjoberg has done. (The goal is to avoid the scenario of this Penny Arcade -- and for me the world of ideas is so much more compelling than the world of mundane activities...)

So for now the KHftCEA will be twitter-based. (I shoved in KHftCEA thoughts from the past week in a big batch to see how it felt.) So now I can post little 140-character gems from the web or a cellphone! We'll see how it goes, how personal I'm willing to get in that kind of forum, and how it will support or interfere with how I post here.

Quote of the Moment
Si, abbiamo un anima. Ma e fatta di tanti piccoli robot.
Italian philosopher Giulio Giorello
"Yes, we have a soul. But it is made up of many small robots." -- A favorite of Daniel Dennett whose "Freedom Evolves" I'm reading now.

Birthday of the Moment
Happy Birthday BASIC! (Cool link from the slashdot comments: first BASIC manual. As the commentator pointed out, "their original 'hello world' program does linear algebra (page '9')")

<geek type="computer" mode="retro">BASIC wasn't a bad introduction. For people growing up in the 80s, though, it made us think line numbers were more important than they really are... full-screen editors made them obsolete, really, otherwise they're just a convenient way of entering and re-entering lines in a certain order. (See listings in magazines for Amgia's linenumberless BASIC was an eye-opener!) In retrospect, the lack of local variables was the real killer.

See Batari BASIC, the BASIC that compiles into stuff you can run on an Atari 2600, made me realize how close to ASM that stuff was! Even when he ditched line numbers, the fairly stackless BASIC is a lot closer to Assembler than "low" level languages such as C.</geek>

Milestone of the Moment
Wanna hear something crazy? It has been five years since peace broke out in Iraq! Half a decade of the "End of Major Combat" in Iraq.

your own robot army

May 2, 2008

--derived from zomghott.com's ASCIIBotics Labs' Quantum Mini-Robot-Factory. The rightful winner of BoingBoing Gadget and Seagate's 1K Competition - the code I'm Creative Commonsing here can do it's work in under 1K, which is lovely and amazing.

it wasn't me being creative, really, but i am so pleased with today's kisrael.com's robot machine i could give me such a pinch!
GTA4 has reawakened my interest in Rastafarian vocab... wikipedia talks about some of the deliberate logic of "I and I" instead of "me"
thank heavens for google plus youtube... i thought that mountain dew "thank heavens for little girls" spot was gone forever

i and i

May 3, 2008
Keeping up the ASCII art theme, I've recently started going back to some of that in my .sigs on some message boards. .Sigs I have used:
the self-portrait: (mid-90s usenet)
( = )

the pac-man: (atariage)

(< o o o

the alien bill: (TGQ)

=/ \(<D)_/
==/\/  >_

I don't know if the color counts as cheating.

Vocabulary of the Moment
A character in GTA4 made me wiki up the vocabulary of the Rastas. It's intriguing how so much of the special vocabulary was deliberately made, a purposeful break from the past that shuns words that even sound like negative things. Sometimes it's a little corny ("Overstanding" or "Innerstanding" to dodge the "under" of "understanding", "livicaton" to avoid the "dead" of "dedication") but often it's kind of cool. I dig "I and I", which (I think) can mean "you and I" as well as "Me, spirit and body" (and overall they use "I" rather than "Me", because of the subject/object preference.)

It might be easy to over-romanticize the outlook. If memory of my parent's descriptions are right, when we were living on St. Thomas we got the feeling that not all of them shared the move-beyond-racism outlook of some of them, and there was a lot of expressed distrust and dislike.

Quote of the Moment
Then there was this girl, Ava Cleveland, and her brother Larry. Larry had It something terrible, and also had a little way of taking opium. (Oh, please wait a minute. I think I'm going to be able to use "opium" in a sentence. I opium mother is feeling better. No, I guess I'm not, either.) Ava was young and slender and proud. And she had It. It, hell; she had Those.
Dorothy Parker

"why is a cow?"
just found out this, my grandmother's koan-like answer to annoying "why?"

cross your legs, the fight is on
aunt susan paraphrasing her father, on why she crowned in an elevator

quote of the moment

May 4, 2008
Pressed, I would define spirituality as the shadow of light humanity casts as it moves through the darkness of everything that can be explained. I think of Buddha's smile and Einstein's halo of hair. I think of birthday parties. I think of common politeness, and the breathtaking attempt to imagine what someone else is feeling. I think of spirit lamps.
John Updike

Was at an upscale-ish restaurant last night; funny how even the swankiest menu has to have that "consuming raw or undercooked" footnote...
"you know if there's some one you'd want to keep away from an actual magic wand...'I suppose you wonder why I have antlers'-wait wait on GWB
now with twitter more than ever I wish iPhone SMS had a damn character count! f'in iChat clone minimalism.
main regret on being a doodler more than a proper cartoonist: can't really draw a woman I find sexy. I'm no r crumb!
(err not that i'm into r crumb's vision of amazon femininity all the time, but at least he knows what he likes! and can draw it.)
took me a second to trace my feeling mildly bummed to realizing the haggard main character of gta4 is 4 years younger than me.


May 5, 2008
Busy day learning to be a ScrumMaster(tm). It's not as gross or porn-y as that might sound.

Video of the Moment

--Ruby and Lesley Rankine singing for Mountain Dew in the late 90s. One of the joys of youtube is unearthing some bit of pop-culture ephemera you thought was gone forever -- I remember asking about this video on Usenet, trying to get the group and/or singer, I really dig this ad - a bit too much w/ the 90s Awesome Radicalness but some really neat shots, like the reflection in the climber's goggles...

Reminds me a bit of the Sega Scream that used to end all their spots.
scrumaster of scrummasters ken schwaber got sick of his chime being stolen; now he uses a toy duck call
scrum principles: transparency (you suck), compassion (and that makes me sad)

culture eats strategy for breakfast

damnation. after years of i can't believe it didn't pull through yet, my beloved safety hoody's pullstring finally pulled through.

kirk's corn-fed bedfellows, or: libel theater, part 1

May 6, 2008
So, the other week I read about one horrified web designer's interview with the people at X10.com, those fine folks who really helped cement hatred of the "popunder" ad part of web culture. ("Well yeah... but honestly they made a shitload of money" said one of the interviewers there.)

Two quotes from the interviewers stood out for me...
You've probably seen our website, and as you can see, it looks pretty shitty. That's pretty much how it's going to stay.
and then on their target audience:
Men from around age 30-40 with a little extra money who like buying gadgets and aren't too concerned if it doesn't work too well.
because when I put those two concepts together in the context of my professional history, one name rung out.. but to be professional, I will keep quiet about it.

I'd like to write about it in excruciating detail now, over the course of a few days, so I need never mention it again.

The year was 1999. (At the risk of getting ahead of myself in the story, my proposed slogan for their ammo catalog then was Ammo @ [REDACTED]: "Let's shoot our way through Y2K"(tm)) I was working for another small company, owned by a major midwest publisher...

<geek>Oy, what a company! Back in their pure dotcom they were pioneers in dynamic websites, claiming to have invented the Virtual Server patch for sun machines that let one machine act as the webserver for various domains. In fact they were such early innovators they had their own templating language that they clung to even after industry standards emerged, until they decided to switch - to a new in-house language based on Reverse Polish Notation. Not being a big fan of HP calculators I plotted my exit.</geek>

My company had been bought by the big (now defunct, huh!) midwestern printing company. That gave my company some strange, corn-fed bedfellows, companies that I assume did their printing through our parent company and were looking to have their web presence.

This catalog is, as far as I can tell, pretty much a "midwest" thing. Part of the issue was that they already had a web presence; a straight-forward retelling of their print catalogs in Microsoft code.

The first task was to port their existing website to our own technology. They really didn't want to make it look any better, and they stuck to their guns that their website should just be a big mirror of their multiple catalogs.

The first part of that made life little fun for me, who had to do the port. I learned a valuable lesson though; when they turned the firehose from their hammered Windows NT boxes to our inhouse solution, our server went down, hard. The volume was relatively enormous, and we had a major failure of due diligence in testing how our stuff scaled. <geek>The emergency fix for that was kind of cool, something to talk about on future interviews: we discovered the problem was with the DB queries, and realized that that each catalog page had a distinct URL that we could use as the basis of a rough-and-ready homebrew cache.</geek>

The second part made life no fun for our design group (who had ambition; they wanted to kind of segment themselves off as "216design.com", some play on the Netscape color safe palette) Every month 2 or 3 catalogs would come out that they had to make into webpages, grabbing the artwork, fixing up the text markup, and correlating the item numbers.
Sheer drudgery, and we lacked the tools to really automate it, since what they got were the raw Quark files (quirky Quark; I remember the lead guy chucking about how the print catalog designers basically used big photos as their wastebasket, hiding unneeded art behind.) I did what I could with my Perl mojo, but it was still a major pain in the ass, a vast parade of guns and domestic wares and crappy closeout specials that had no end in site, and no real way of streamlining the monotony. And making it worse was the "best buddy" style the whole catalog was written, like it was just one guy finding all these deals for you, your best drinkin' buddy look for bargains.

TOMORROW: Kirk Visits the Frozen Wasteland

half my trouble with household neatness: trash bin access. an attention span thing.
new business lingo:"c level executives", c as in CEO, CIO, etc
i kind of forget there's a starbucks like, 5 doors down. i don't like starbucks all that much but maybe forgetting is some kind of defense.

kirk's corn-fed bedfellows, or: libel theater, part 2

May 7, 2008
Continued from yesterday...

So in October of 1999 I got to travel to St. Paul, Minnesota to explain the weird inbred computer language we had recoded the Midwest Surplus Retailers website in.

I'm surprised that my journal indicates it was October, because my strongest memory is how cold it was...bitingly ice cold, but I was grateful for that, because these offices are right across the street from this:

These are stockyards. These are where the cows we eat go to die, and I imagine the smell must be awful in summer. But you know, fine, it's alright, it's not like I'm a vegetarian. But still, this truck...

This truck seemed to be permanently stationed there... in fact I think I see it in this Google maps view. The truck is at the end of a raised conveyor belt. All day long former bits of cows go drip, drop, plop into the truck.

So I got the tour of the facility. They had just put in a new automated conveyor/scanning system and my main host (I forget his name, some manager) had come up with the design and implementation and was rightfully proud of it. (Their warehouse with the system still features prominently in their advertising, more on that tomorrow.) I was duly impressed, especially knowing the challenges people on the hardware side of things must face.

But that wasn't my last bit of culture shock. To be fair, I was kind of sheltered, the kid of clergy who had gone to a fancy-ish school in the Northeast and then was on his second white-collar job. Still, the amount of lockdown for the restrooms, along with posted warnings that anyone found writing graffiti there would be fired, was jarring, a reminder of a blue collar way of life I didn't know much about. (This was for the warehouse workers; the big banks of cubbies for the folks handling the calls was its own special kind of sould-draining-ness.) I was also surprised, just based on geography and I guess climate, at how many Latino workers were there, I thought that was something you'd mostly see on the coasts.

The folks whom I was there to train were pretty good guys. It was a bit depressing, just because you could see in their eyes how you didn't have a lot of options when you wanted to do high-tech stuff in that part of the country, but they seemed to be getting by. (This was somewhere in the middle of the dot-com thing, and even though I wasn't (yet) at one of those Aeron chairs kind of places, I could tell I had been relatively spoiled.)

The biggest shock was yet to come: a trip to Executive Country!

Shock #1: the paneling. Again, maybe it was the contrast with Boston corporate land, but seeing all the high muckity-mucks hanging out in what looked like the finished half of your parents' basement was odd.

Shock #2: the President of the company (Gary Olen) was out that day but his office... I think I saw more bear pelts and deer heads in that room than I have since. (At least it hid the paneling.)

Shock #3: the VP who was in, a woman who I guess was head of technology, had a pyramid of cigarette butts on her desk that would have made a crowd of tiny, tiny Egyptian slaves proud.

So, I've already mentioned the "best beer buddy" prose all the catalogs are written in, but the fact is there's something to it, I guess they do a fair amount of product testing there, and I got the impression that hunting trips were kind of a bonding thing for the upper echelons, and to be "one of the boys" this VP had to make a trip. Hence, the deer head on her office wall:

"Yeah, that was the one time I went hunting. But it was a good kill, no kill regret all..."

Yikes! Ok, fine, I eat meat, hunting is a different culture that I can respect, etc etc but... shouldn't, like, the concern about HAVING kill regret act as your little Jimminy Cricket telling you that this is something you shouldn't be doing?

The trip was OK despite the cold. (And I still have a photo of the local bar advertising the weekly "Meat Raffle" - again, there's my over-privileged snarky self being inappropriately amused.) I stayed at a hotel that was a refurbished mini-castle, and got to visit the famous Mall of America and ride a roller coaster inside. I went to Planet Hollywood there (not having enough guts to bring back a business receipt for "Hooters") and passed up the opportunity to buy a Robert Smith jersey (who had been the football star of my high school, but always in Randy Moss' shadow when he played with the Vikings.)

Tomorrow: "no snark regret at all"?

our conscius minds may not have free will, but rather "free won't!"
vilayanur ramachandran

i had "luck be in lady" in my head for a few days. luckily, my interior monologue has a lovely singing voice.
musta been a good day of coding; I'm having to unclench my jaw.

kirk's corn-fed bedfellows, or: libel theater, part 3

(1 comment)
May 8, 2008
Continued from yesterday and Monday... So, like I mentioned, this Midwest Surplus Retailers catalog is written in an annoying "best beer buddy" style. Sometimes it's just ordinary retail, but something about this disclaimer at the end of their about page rubs me the wrong way.
I do my best to make sure the correct photo, price and copy are shown. But...sometimes I make a mistake. In the event of any such mistake, I reserve the right to charge the correct price, to ship the correct item, or to correct the mistake. However, you will be notified at the time you order and...I beg your pardon.
I find the first person voice really annoying in that last sentence because of how it relies on some kind of assumptive sense of chivalry...companies shouldn't be looking for that kind of first person politeness!

Oh, who knows. Maybe I'm just the wrong demographic, that this guy is to people who voted for George Bush what "J. Peterman" is for my latte-swilling crowd. And while their site is still kind of junky, its JPGs oddly compressed and its layout forever stuck in the mid-90s, it looks to have some decent prices. (though I've seen some PDAs etc in "electronics" that are complete ripoffs...)

Now, Hell, I'm half tempted to buy some hiking poles.

Toy of the Moment
Roadkill Stuffed Animals. Flattened viscera was never so cute!

you probably wouldn't believe how much money i just lost. oh well! at least I dig my iphone's "pinball" ring with vibrate on, physicality

burma shorn

May 9, 2008
So, wrapped up in my own little world at work, and going down memory lane with Sportsman's Guide, I feel remiss for not thinking about the tragedy of Burma more than I have been. The toll there is orders of magnitude worse than say, Katrina, and make my personal problems seem like quantum noise in comparison.

In other news. It's tough not to be charmed by tales of Dale Davis, the 115lb, 78 year old blind bowler who just rolled a perfect game of bowling (more details and photos here, at a local paper that clearly has no idea about permalinks.) I guess bowling can be all about muscle memory! The details in that second link are lovely.

Quote of the Moment
You're leaving college now, and going out into real life. And you have to realize that real life is not like college. Real life is like high school.
Meryl Streep to a graduating class at Vassar

GTAIV radio

pap, smeared.

(1 comment)
May 10, 2008
Wow, twice in a row now Pap has let the Red Sox down in the 9th. (Though the Sox are keeping up their proud tradition of leaving legends of men on base.) Maybe I'm jinxing him by tuning on the radio in the eighth as I get ready to turn in!

Apologies for the crudeness of today's title. You know, it's funny how every once in a while I still think "Wow, I can't believe the Pats won every game and then lost the Super Bowl." (Makes me think of that "BeliCHOKE!" headline idea I had, along with a thousand other football fans.)

So ummm... Go Celtics!

Photos of the Moment


May 11, 2008
Oy. A Sunday I kind of set aside for Stuff I've Been Meaning To Get Around To... Pay bills! Work on packing! Shared "what are you reading?" sidebar! Patch up that Java game engine! Catch up on correspondence!

Where to begin?

Why, reading TV Tropes of course.

Yesterday was Miller's annual-ish Grunt Hunt puzzle event at the Cambridgeside Galleria. My team came in third out of six or seven, not bad considering 3 of us were newbies and the fourth was me -- I don't have a terrific mind for puzzles.

Defacement of the Moment
--Joe D makes money better, or at least funnier.

Anecdote of the Moment
Sir Laurence Olivier is on tour reading the sonnets of Shakespeare. The house is hushed. He begins: "Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments--"

A guy stands up in the back row of the last balcony and hollers, "HEY, LARRY OLIVER! SING 'MALAGUENA'!"

Unaccustomed as he is to being heckled, let alone heckled nonsensically, Sir Laurence stops. Waits a moment. Begins again:

"Let me not to the marriage of true minds--"

"HEY, LARRY OLIVER!" cries the guy in the back. It is clear he is drunk. "SING 'MALAGUENA'!"

It's not as though Olivier has any need, generally, to have a squelch prepared. Rather than dignify this guy with a response, he pauses again, pointedly, and then, again, begins:

"Let me not to the marriage--"

"HEY!" the guy screams, "LARRY OLIVER! SING 'MALAGUENA'!"

Olivier can no longer rise above this. "Sir," he says, and the richness of his voice is to the coarseness of the heckler's as Armagnac is to Mountain Dew, "in the first place, my name..." He hates to have to say this. "...is not 'Oliver,' it is Olivier. In the second place, and more important, I am not here to sing. I am here to read certain sonnets by William Shakespeare.

"And in the third place..." Somehow he can't forbear to make this point as well. "...'Malaguena' is an instrumental. I couldn't sing it if I wanted to. So, if you don't mind, 'Let me not--'"

And the guys stands up and hollers, "WELL, SHOW US YOUR DICK THEN!"

as related by Roy Blount, Jr. in "Be Sweet"

pentomino I thought you said "back from brunch with Mom. mom crepes". Creepy!
young (and cute) Mediterranean-ish gal at the local coffee house calls guys "love" and "darling". Bet I'm not the only guy tipping her well.
procrastination as a competitive sport. No one would get around to telling people not to make the "but they never get to start it!" joke(s)
I prefer sunglasses but sometimes worry I'm not absorbing spring and summer

death is no different whined at than withstood

May 12, 2008
Cyclones in Burma! Volcanoes in South America! Tornadoes in Oklahoma! Earthquakes in China!

I guess I should let all that help get a perspective on my own problems and pile of stress that leaped on me as of late (Laid off friends who could use resume help! Deadlines at work! Former mentors who need side projects done! Investments gone bad! Apartment moves that need to be established!)

Probably some of the stage for the current AAAAAAHH!!! was also set by Bill the Splut's link to our planet's maybe-already-too-late need for CO2 350, tickling my old nuclear war/Y2K-ish anxieties that are generally well-coated by existential bravado but might be still lurking underneath.

So lets cheer myself up with some poetry!

Poem of the Moment
I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what's really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
-- The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused -- nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel
, not seeing
That this is what we fear -- no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can't escape,
Yet can't accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

Philip Larkin, Aubade

sigh. so disillusioning when you work to crank up your work ethic and it's not as big a difference as you expected.
so, advil is like a blood thinner, right? so is a headache, like, 'jeez the blood in my head is too thick'?
why does it feel easier to take the 77 from harvard than the 79 from alewife?

it's substitute for human experience good!

May 13, 2008
I hadn't gotten into iTunes store, in part because it seemed like DRM'd hell. But Amazon sells individual MP3 tracks for $.99! That's terrific when they have the album you want. You can listen to a (generally well-selected) snippet, and that is enough like my process of deciding what music actually gets onto my iPhone that I don't feel compelled to buy entire albums.

I've never been a believer in the "album" as the basic unit of music. At best it's a large and potentially unstable molecule. A song is an atom, and it has quantum subparts of melodies, harmonies, lyrics, hooks, and rhythm. (And I usually only care about those last three.)

I'm sure I've spent at least $5K on CDs over the years, and the number of tracks that just seem like filler is astounding. I try not to be completely "hit singles" centric, there are a number of "B sides" I love, but I'm just done with listening to whole albums.

Video of the Moment

--Yogurt: Food of Women! I love this; it's funny and goofy and snarky but still a bit understated.

Quote of the Moment
Friendship lives on its income, love devours its capital.
Arsène Houssaye.
I'm not sure I grasp the full implication; is it condemning love as unsustainable?
I secretly think everyone is incompetent and needs to be protected, except for me. I KNOW I'm incompetent
Roy Blount Jr writing about the h-before-w sound in 'what' YEARS before Chappele's "Lil John" "HUHWHUT? OKAY"
peeve: other books that put the authors name atop each page in lieu of chapter titles
dick donovan's 117 mile homerun; landed on a freight train to Chatanooga
old SEO: repeating keywords. how quaint! did google provoke comment spam?
at the corner of boylston and charles, heed the "don't walk" timer... cars are a-comin'!
so difficult to get an objective view of life; why should my mood be whatever the last two hours were? maybe Buddhist detachment is key.
pizza from Viga comes on a plate in foil, shut in a flat brown paper bag w/ a little sticker. "That looks good!" says a coworker-he's right!
where and how can i get a therapist who speaks zen detachment, existential courage, humanist possibility, daoist sense of flow?
cmgaglione damn i was thinking "somewhere in cambridge"
i'd be willing to bet twenty bucks that "tweeter.com" has an a surprising uptick of frontpage hints since october 2006
cmgaglione I don't see why; I've made the typo for twitter about 5 times.


May 14, 2008
The other day I thought of all the things I'd like to take from various faiths: Along with my homebrew sense of "interestingness as a moral good". Ideally maybe I'd even find some kind of therapist who was into all of those, especially the first few, though I always feel I'm on shaky ground (no pun intended) taking on the faiths from Asia.
So those are the ideals... then it hit me that I'm more dealing with Do any traditions have a good sense of whimsy? I'm thinking maybe Wicca but I'm not sure, sometimes they seem to take that hippy stuff pretty seriously. Maybe Zen, with the koans and all.

Video of the Moment

MUTO a wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

--via Mr.Ibis who points out "it all starts as Alien Bill" -- pretty much does! The whole video is pretty amazing. I love how it "lets the strings show" in terms of the erased part from previous frames...

Quote of the Moment
Your problem is that your inner child is a bit too outer.
Ksenia, a long while back.
Now THAT'S what I call SUCCINCT!
does myspace have all that playing around crap facebook does?

no news is good news

May 15, 2008
Moods and focus are such funny things. Our perceptions so dictate our reality. Not in a mind over matter kind of way, but our subjective realities. Isolated events provide the coloring for our whole world models.

It might be asymmetrical, weight towards the negative; bad news does more coloring than good. Or maybe... Murphy's Law-derived ideas, like how there's no situation so bad that it can't get worse, seems to mean that most news is bad news. Happy status quos aren't news; good things usually have to build gradually and slowly. No wonder Confucianism-based cultures have such disdain for change! It takes a long while for change to show its positive side.

Like Hamlet said, "for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so" which is a complete crock, but still most of our lives will be spent failing to appreciate our good condition, combined with worrying that doom and gloom is right around the corner. (And sometime it may well be, that's the trouble of it!)

Ramble, ramble, ramble.

Quote of the Moment
I laminate things that don't really need to be laminated.
Micaela Blei, Third Grade Teacher, on how she Procrastinates
Via this Slate gadget showing procrastination across professions

Link of the Moment
This guy is flying over the Swiss Alps on what is essentially a tiny jet-powered glider. He's like a superhero in training!
do cable providers deliberately sprinkle your paid for channels among the blanks to be annoying and get you to buy more?
niko in gta iv has a count of miles driven, walked, people shot, etc. i'd like the same for my life,+ stuff like lines of code written, etc

future selfish

May 16, 2008
So, people who come back here on a regular basis, how do you keep track of your regular links? Like do you just tend to type in the name or do you have a pile of bookmarks in the browser or elsewhere?

Quote of the Moment
Debt is your future self sending you money back in time. So the question is, are you and your future self both happy with the deal?
Tim Harford
He's talking on NPR in part how as a student economist, he over-scrimped and saved, and kind of wishes he could undo that.

As I've previously mentioned, I like the idea of a distinct "future self", related but not quite the same as who I am now.

Turns out Tim Harford also runs an interesting Undercover Economist blog with this bit of career advice:
Economist Andrew Oswald believes we work too hard and under-invest in friendships. So if my career advice is depressing, ignore it and talk to your friends instead.
We gotta watch out for that!

Doodle of the Moment

I was happy with my heart cellphone for May's edition of the Blender of Love -- this is the full size version.

Popcorn is a miracle, a little pebble waiting to burst into a blossom of carb...


May 17, 2008
Busy in Rockport. Luckily I have noise canceling headphones if I need to do any of the dreaded scraping of paint, so I should feel less like I'm having steel wool dragged across my spinal column.

Photos of the Moment
Today's theme, random things around Boston.

basho redux

May 18, 2008
To view this content, you need to install Java from java.com
basho2 - source - built with processing

(WARNING: has sound, but not 'til you click.) So I managed to turn last month's software toy into an actual game! Use the yoyo to bash the frogs into frog heaven... unfortunately frog hell is the red line behind the cloud so if you miss the frog is fried. It's tough, my high score is like 4...

alien bill has a posse

May 19, 2008
Much fretting over the layout of my new place. More on that tomorrow I guess...

Homage of the Moment

--Jeremy added this to my facebook "fun wall" (it's kind of amusing watching it draw in there, it replays the strokes he used.) He draws a mean looking 'Bill! (Here's a explanation of the reference, though I think it has been pretty exposed by now...)

Passage of the Moment
[My mother] had more different expressions for gaits than anybody I have ever known: hightailing it, lightfooting it, hotfooting it, highballing it, going at a dogtrot, coattails in the breeze, with coattails flapping, lallygagging, traipsing, sashaying, moseying, ploughing along, parading along, prissing along, frisking along, flouncing along, shooting along, barreling along, galloping along, poking along, dragging along, trucking along, breezing along down the avenue, waltzing right in, shaking a leg, going zrooop, going lickety-split, going at a dogtrot, going like a house afire, going like a crazy man, highlining, flying low, burining up the road, making a beeline, going dancing by, slewfooting. Many of these were judgemental. She didn't approve of breezing along the avenue; she didn't have time for it; but you could tell she liked the idea.
Roy Blount Jr, "Be Sweet", his memoirs and middle-aged recollections of his parents.
Over all it expresses a kind of a bitter viewpoint, and the book never really jells.

Link of the Moment
Cleveland Proms. I wonder if it's a bigger part of the deal in that part of the country? I know for the midwest (in general I think) it's important enough to lose the article. You are "going to prom" not (necessarily) "going to the prom". (Hence the Pretty in Pink "What about prom, Blaine? What. About. Prom.")

moving can be unsettling. having good questions about "which room for what" makes it even tougher.

come fret with me

May 20, 2008
So I think I mentioned (or not?) I'm going to be moving into the Au Pair apartment at my Aunt and Uncle's in Boston, the Mission Hill neighborhood. It's a great location, it's cheap rent, it's near work, it's being with family, including being around for my Aunt and Uncle as my mom is being moved to the Salvation Army's national headquarters in Virginia, and... well, my Uncle is older than my Aunt, and is fine and fit and sharp but maybe ain't remembering things the way he used to (err, keep this among us) and there's laundry and nifty stuff like that. Not to mention finally trying some ideas of living a bit more lightly, in terms of space and clutter and all that.

So, my new apartment. Like a lot of Boston brownstone apartments, there are compromises involved. Brownstones are skinny! My Aunt and Uncle have been really nice about giving up their former office-y space (originally a dining room) so that it's not just a small studio, and now I'm having a hard time figuring out the best way to set up the rooms...

Here's a rough sketch: (Hrrm this ended up looking a bit more phallic than I intended.)
From top to bottom: the main studio apartment (Hi Josh) is there. It's a yellow room with decent hard floors and a small kitchenette. There's a cute little window space cut out between that and the room. There's a closet two rods deep, and a decent bathroom off of the hallway (ceiling to floor with bookshelves, nice.... shown in yellow) that leads to the front room.

The front room is green and has carpeting. And another closet. The blue block is a nice mantelpiece, the brown are these built in deskslabs, and the yellow represents bookshelves (there are also bookshelves above the deskslabs. My family is a big believer in bookshelves.) There's a chandelier in the center and a nice bay window facing the street.

So one option keeps how the furniture is currently set up, with the backroom used as a bedroom. I stuck in the bed (shown in green) and a loveseat foldabed that's currently there, plus drew in where I think the projector would go, using the space above the mantle. (EB thinks I should project towards the top wall, pull the screen over the two doors, but I can't figure out where the projector would sit, plus hanging the screen would be more problematic.)
So Pros include not having to re-disassemble the bed, and in general having a nice spread out entertainment space, along with my main desk. Cons include having a kitchen off the bedroom.

I came up with an alternate idea of using the front room as a bedroom:
Pros include having the bedroom be a softer room Cons might be having people walk through the bedroom, especially if I put a chair in front of the top room's door to the outside hallway. Also, having a chandelier in the bedroom, and the way it might be louder in the morning than the top room that is by a quieter alley. Plus violating the advice of not having your workspace in your bedroom. The top room has a great wall for a projector though, I might even do something clever with that little galley window.

So I dunno. Personally I'm leaning towards the second idea, but EB and JZ both like keeping the bedroom where it is.

gonna be closer to my family but have to work harder at other social contacts...
the idea that buying quality saves more in the long term. but to what extent can you trust the price/durability correlation?
heh so funny how bonnie comes to the developer cubicleland to get work done away from the hubbub of the main open floor office
in Arlington for the night. 4 years slipped by, as years do. am I crying for what my time here was, or wasn't?

cancer in the news

May 21, 2008
So cancer has been in the Boston news lately.

The first story was Jon "Cancer Survivor" Lester pitching a no-hitter. Even though it was against the lowly Royals, it's a rare event and a terrific thing for any major league pitcher to have done.

The second, and much less happy, story is Ted Kennedy and the diagnosis of brain cancer. I have to assume Massachusetts has been taking him for granted for a long while. He's been our Senator for 46 years! I've been admiring him more now that there are so many stories about his ability to forge cross-party alliances.

You just want to rail against cancer as an entity. Damn greedy cells, too dumb not to reproduce and reproduce and reproduce, winning some little localized darwinian struggle even at the cost of their own group's ultimate longevity. When your host dies you die too, dumbass cancer!

Quote of the Moment
When you take over a pitch and line it somewhere, it's like you've thought of something and put it with beautiful clarity. Everyone is helpless and in awe. Included in your ability are your philosophies, your theories. You tap that mental reservoir and it goes.
Reggie Jackson to Roy Blount Jr

Video of the Moment

--Amy Walker does 21 Accents. Guess this was making the rounds a while back... some people pick on it but I think it's an impressive tour-de-force. Strangely captivating, and a little creepy, kind of a "master of disguise" effect... it makes me think of how I find women with different accents inherently a bit more attractive than women who share my own East coast mush.

four year cycles

(1 comment)
May 22, 2008
I'm kind of between worlds right now, mostly moved and staying in Boston, but with a lot of stuff, including my car, in Arlington. I went back there Tuesday night for my UU group, and to stop by the post office, and girly man that I am I had a quick crying spell. I'm gonna miss the place, the apartment really was so well placed, Arlington center with Gail's coffee shop, bookstore, CVS, crafts place, Starbucks, bike trail, access to Cambridge, a smattering of local retail and a ton of fun restaurants...

(Don't get me wrong, Roxbury Crossing is great as well, with a terrific local pub, supermarket, restaurants, the Green Line, MFA down the street, in shouting distance of JP, etc...)

I don't know if I was sad about what I did there in Arlington (and am putting aside), or what I didn't do there, the usual big questions about if I'm as happy with the state of my life as I usually think I am.

I gotta be amused at the way my life still seems to be following four year cycles; high school 88-92, college 92-96, the real world and the dot com boom 96-00 (and going out with Mo half of that, 98-00), 00-04 the rise and fall of a marriage, and now winding up 04-08, heading to Boston proper and starting as some kind of freshman yet again.

Quote of the Moment
I don't know just what you heard,
But 'Come on, Baby' are my favorite words.
Lyle Lovett

Doodle of the Moment

--it ain't easy doodling with a laptop trackpad!

used to have nightmare visions of boston nuked away; good thing i got over that now that i'm living and working here!

getting what you pay for

May 23, 2008
Slashdot had a piece on a 66% Apple Market Share For Sales of High-End PCs. Some people pointed out that since most PC makers are compelled to offer products beneath that price point, this is a bit like saying "Newsflash: Apple has 100% market share for Macs!" but still it's impressive for a company that seemed to be on the ropes ten years ago.

In the discussion Terry "Discworld" Pratchett's Vimes' Boots idea came up, and they quoted the Wikipedia entry:
Early in his career, while he is still a nearly-impoverished Watchman, Vimes reflects that he can only afford ten-dollar boots with thin soles which don't keep out the damp and wear out in a season or two. A pair of good boots, which cost fifty dollars, would last for years and years - which means that over the long run, the man with cheap boots has spent much more money and still has wet feet. This thought leads to the general realization that one of the reasons rich people remain rich is because they don't actually have to spend as much money as poor people; in many situations, they buy high-quality items (such as clothing, housing, and other necessities) which are made to last. In the long run, they actually use much less of their disposable income. He describes this as The Samuel Vimes 'Boots' Theory Of Socio-Economic Injustice.
I'm not sure how fully I buy into this-- how solid is the tie-in between cost and durability? Sometimes things seem to cost more for their own sake, and you're paying for the brandname. Other times it is indeed a false economy, like when I went for these worthless CVS brand bandaids.

My philosophy tends to run that most consumer goods aren't interesting in and of themselves, so you should try and economize. My "morality of interestingness" says that WHAT a product does is generally better than HOW it does it. I tend to buy some of the cheapest cars on the market (though new, which might put me back on the 'lets pay to minimize risks in quality'), and my digital cameras are on the cheap side. Clothing-wise, I dunno, I've heard the Vimes principle applied in judgment of my default brand Old Navy but who knows -- I don't know if I'd want to pay more for a shirt that lasts seasons and seasons!

Any anecdotes? That cheap gadget that seems to last forever? That expensive item that was worth the cost because of years of faithful service?

Right now the current test for me is a $550 laptop I got from Micro Center. If it holds up and does what I need it to do over...well, I'm not sure how long... it would seem to back my idea of economizing on such things.

Link of the Moment

--Enchanting photo re-enactments of kids' drawings.

Quote of the Moment
Her perfect confidence in herself is a thing to which monuments should be erected; hers is a poise that ought to be on display in the British Museum. The affair between Margot Asquith and Margot Asquith will live as one of the prettiest love stories in all of literature.

In this book of essays, which has all the depth and glitter of a worn dime, the Countess walks right up to such subjects as Health, Human Nature, Fame, Character, Marriage, Politics, and Opportunities. A rather large order, you might say, but it leaves the lady with unturned hair. Successively, she knocks down and drags out each topic. And there is something vastly stirring in the way in which, no matter what she takes off from, she brings the discourse back to Margot Asquith. Such singleness of purpose is met but infrequently.
Dorothy Parker.
Frankly I need to be on guard against the same tendency in my blogging.

the incomparable privilege of existence

May 24, 2008
Rock-rock-rockin' up in Rockport... (hey, hey, hey hey)

Passage of the Moment
Take a moment from time to time to remember that you are alive. I know this sounds a trifle obvious, but it is amazing how little time we take to remark upon this singular and gratifying fact. By the most astounding stroke of luck an infinitesimal portion of all the matter in the universe came together to create you and for the tiniest moment in the great span of eternity you have the incomparable privilege to exist.

For endless eons there was no you. Before you know it, you will cease to be again. And in between you have this wonderful opportunity to see and feel and think and do. Whatever else you do with your life, nothing will remotely compare with the incredible accomplishment of having been born. Congratulations. Well done. You really are special.

But not that special. There are five billion other people on this planet, everyone of them just as important, just as central to the great scheme of things, as you are. Don't ever make the horrible, unworthy mistake of thinking yourself more vital and significant than anyone else. Nearly all the people you will encounter in life merit your consideration. Many of them will be there to help you--to deliver your pizza, bag your groceries, clean up the motel room you have made such a lavish mess of. If you are not in the habit of being extremely nice to these people, then get in the habit now.

Bill Bryson, I'm a Stranger Here Myself

it is odd sleeping two or three places on a weekly basis. you half-wake and guess wrong about where you are

i own a hundred pairs of STRETCH SOCKS

May 25, 2008
Urk. Looks like at least for the time being my room arrangement options are constrained by the difficulty (or, Evil B claims, mathematical impossibility) of getting the love set into the back room via either of the two hallways. Drat and blast, I was really leaning towards the backroom as livingroom but now I'd have to be acquiring new furniture of fairly specific movable dimensions.

Thank goodness the Celtics won in Detroit last night, otherwise this "Boston teams can't win away games" meme would really be picking up some legs. Even now it seems pretty bizare.

Funny of the Moment

--via Bill the Splut, who claims to have been laughing his ass off to that punchline for 40 years.

Video of the Moment
In the news today... absolutely nothing.

2 year old catherine calls all hatchbacks "kirky cars". she knows car types more than colors! weird.
"autobots wage their battles to destroy the evil forces of ... the decepticons." that sounds preemptive! who is the aggressor here?

the tragedy of the three day weekend

(1 comment)
May 26, 2008
Three day weekends are so funny.

Monday is all like "wow... I should be at work! Woo!"

Then Tuesday arrives, and it wants to be like a Sunday. But it's not. Back to the grindstone.

At least you have the comfort of a four day work week.

Photos of the Week Or So

3 day weekend paradox: monday: "ha ha i'm not in work, wow!" tuesday: "damn it it feels like sunday". at least it's just a 4 day week.

so little to say

May 27, 2008
Whoops, trouble getting back into my normal lunch update schedule.

Quote of the Moment
Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

i don't know if there's a hell but I'm pretty sure I'm going to it.
mm-had "kermani gaz" candy, in kitchen (from iranian coworker?). ever want to kill all your officemates? poisonous sweets in the kitchen.


May 28, 2008
Still a work in progress but I've yet again revamped my personal start page. I've had it there for like 12 years...

For the first time ever... icons! I like the double-sized "favicon" look of it.

Review of the Moment
Slate reviews Susan Neiman's "Moral Clarity". It talks about Neiman's thoughts that the left has allowed the right to stake out "morality" as its own territory...
Reclamation, for Neiman, starts with rereading. She draws her first lessons from the biblical account of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Abraham's response when Yahweh tells him that He plans to destroy the cities of the plain. "Wilt thou indeed destroy the righteous with the wicked?" the patriarch protests. "Far be it from thee to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from thee! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" When the Lord agrees to spare Sodom if 50 righteous men can be found there, Abraham presses his case: " 'Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Wilt thou destroy the whole city because of five?' And he said, "I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.' "

And so the bargaining starts. Neiman's heart is stirred by Abraham's universalism (these are not his people); by his resoluteness (this is God he is challenging); and by his insistence that the details matter (exactly how many just men are there in Sodom?). And because God seems to acknowledge the force of Abraham's moral reasons, the story allows her to assert, on the basis of the Old Testament itself, that we do not "need religious authority to maintain morality." It is an elegant rhetorical move to take a favorite story of the Christian right and extract a progressive lesson: the obligation of human reason to evaluate religion's demands. If you acknowledge with Abraham, she writes, "that serious religion and serious ethics are thus separate matters, you must believe things are good or evil independent of divine authority."
I think the problem is simpler. Post-modernism, and the idea that absolute truth is likely rare to the point of non-existence, makes it hard for the left who wish to respect a multitude of opinions (including, paradoxically, those opinions that reflect the same spirit of tolerance.) It's the old Bertrand Russell saw, "The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." When some side is so willing to have belief without the need for evidence, and claim a specific, arbitrary moral interpretation as an absolute, it's tough to argue with those people from a more reasonable viewpoint!

Note to Christian Zionists: people trying to hasten the end of the world are the BAD GUYS, you selfish schmucks!

oh, hannah

May 29, 2008
So this morning I heard that there was a terrible crash on the green line. Here is a kind of useless animation about it, but then I guess since the investigation is slated to take like a year, they can only give that kind of rough summary... BTW, how does an investigation take a year? I can't see why the forensic investigation and questioning should take more than, like, a month.

I guess I shouldn't cast dispersions aspersions (thanks Mom... interesting error to make, "dis-" would seem to be a good prefix for the term) upon the dead until we know what happened, but the only fatality was the driver of the train that (I would think) is most suspect for being at fault, in that it rear-ended the other one. Even with signal failure, shouldn't a driver be able to deal with situations like this? "Gee, that train in front of me is barely moving, maybe I should slow down or stop or something...")

Convenience Store Item of the Moment
Hannah Montana-branded Birth Control Pills at the local 7-11?

(That was my first thought. Then I realized it looked more like pitch pipes. "Cookie CDs"? I would have loved to been at the design meeting for that one. "Well, Hannah Montanna makes CDs... and cookies are round... are you thinking what I'm thinking?" "Brilliant!")

that dark-chocolate-covered -cinnamon and -peppermint altoids prevail over -ginger is a damn shame
apple's big boston store has a giant billboard showing someone using iphone's notepad for a to-do list. palm had a to-do application. bleh.
ok, boingboing, i get it. cory doctrow has a new book called 'little brother'. maybe it's a "wonderful thing" BUT SHUT UP ABOUT IT ALREADY!

hi, i'm from the sun will rise tomorrow party, can i have a moment of your time?

May 30, 2008
Whoops, another hectic day.

Quote of the Moment
You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it's going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it's because those dogmas or goals are in doubt.
Robert Pirsig, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"

Link of the Moment
The World's Spookiest Weapons. It reminds me of my thought, as I was in Hiroshima, that the atomic bomb really was a sci-fi-ish "superweapon", even if you could get the same job done with more conventional killing devices.

sigh. I just made all June more annoying by printing a pass ticket instead of adding it to my tap and go card.
'succinct' is way too hard to spell and firefox's spellcheck ain't much help

all this could be yours

May 31, 2008
Taking a class in portrait photography. No time to talk!

Quote of the Moment
We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are.
Anais Nin

Link of the Moment
The humor is often crude, misogynistic or just plain mean, but demotivateus.com has some really funny stuff...


"when you're at a restaurant where you have to FLIP A SIGN FOR THEM TO STOP BRINGING MEAT its ok to eat a rib with your hands"
why didn't anyone tell me that the aliens in "close encounters" play tuba? puny clarinet playing humans!
eenie meenie gypsa-leenie oo bop bop shaleeny every rotchy every crotchy i like YOU... where the hell did i learn that?
it was nice reconciling a bit with mo and wishing her well if only in a 5am dream.
weird having to remember INBOUND from Harvard Square

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