29 December 2007


Whatever you're doing now, stop it. I don't know what strange trail of links and memes led you here like a trail of breadcrumbs through the dark forest of the web, but you need to put them aside immediately, and go read Pinakothek. I mean, seriously, stop reading this, click on the link (the underlined word at the end of the previous sentence), and read that blog. All of it. If you aren't impressed with that prose, you need to go to the hospital and donate your eyes to someone who will put them to proper use.

Metal Fever

I'm linking "Metal Fingers in My Body" mostly for the following quote:
Personally I do not have much faith in the uncanny valley. The original publication on this topic (dating from 1970) was not based on any empirical research ... it was more an intuitive feeling expressed by Masahiro Mori that has since been hyped into an assumption of fact.
Every mention of interaction, sexual or other, with robots/androids seemingly requires a link to the wikipedia entry on "The Uncanny Valley." Doing so indicates that you're cool enough to be linked on boing boing and Metafilter.

I ranted about this a few times in the past, but who the hell listens to me? But said article provides the only positive note I can find in China's firewalling of wikipedia. In fact, I will delude myself into believing they block the resource only to prevent me from getting my blood pressure up the next time I find myself looking at that damned graph.

As to the article itself, I don't know a delicate way to phrase this. Mr. Levy says, "I believe that sexbots will change our perceptions of human relationships." Perhaps I'm missing something here, but what he's describing looks for the world like using more sophisticated technology for the purpose of jerking off, and if any group will focus a disproportionate amount of their time to said pursuit, it's those who work in the technology industry. I would even say that the necessity that's nominally the mother of inventions is the need to enhance the inventor's onanistic practices. I'm not criticizing or judging anyone. Lord knows I've spent countless lonely evenings thinking of great technological advances, to the point where I began to read microprocessor specifications and A.I. research summaries with an unhealthy gleam in my eye. But let's remember what we're saying here. It's still just a spectacular advancement in porn. If it leads to real, useful, world-changing advancements, wonderful, but for now, it's just a more complicated way for nerds to beat off.

08 December 2007

What's Up?

I just chanced upon Pinakothek a little while ago. Only two posts, but they're both damn fine reads.

Somewhere in the recent quick updates, Firefox fixed the arrow keys and the page up/down home/end things. I reached the point where I would try to scroll with the arrows and Slashdot would go to the bottom of the long-ass page (and good luck finding which iteration of "first post" or "Natalie Portman" you were skipping by looking for the actual discussion). Today, I pressed the down arrow, immediately said, "Oh shit," and then noticed that the screen merely advanced one line. At first, I was delighted. Then I realized that I was getting really excited over the computer doing something that might reasonably be expected. OK, perhaps you wouldn't expect the windows version of a program to do what the mac and linux versions do, or to do what every other program on windows does, but I have higher standards. Now, if I could figure out why the mouse goes absolutely apeshit every couple hours, I might finally make peace with this damned machine.

Long read of the week: Lester Bangs interviews Brian Eno. Eno made me want to be a musician, and still inspires me to think about that stuff. In fact, the ideas I heard him espouse led to my interest in the technology that would make such ideas feasible, and that, in turn, led to my studies and career in computer science. Then, at one point, I realized that what I liked more than the music itself was the description of the music. I purchased many obscure LPs, sometimes spending a great deal of time and money searching them out and badgering record store clerks to order them in for me. Almost none of them lived up to the expectations the reviews created. I'll extend that a little further, and say that software development went that same way. The expectations I had for tools, languages, methodologies, etc. were never matched by experience. I like the aesthetics of code, but actually trying to find something that needs to be written leaves me asking myself why I bother. I had a notion to write a version of vi for a 6809 machine I owned over twenty years ago. There's a nice emulator, and I have some development tools for the platform. But really, why would I do that? Vim has been ported to every platform I'm likely to encounter.

So, what did we learn today? I learned that writing is more interesting than music, software, or games. As wonderful as Eno's music is, it's more interesting to hear his theories and observations about composing and recording (or any other topic he chooses to expound upon). I learned that running jokes have finite lifespans, after which they are no longer amusing to sober, sane individuals. I learned that just because something is conceivably possible it's not automatically a good idea. I also learned that a small bag of nacho cheese Doritos will cause strong recollections of home, and that writing a concluding paragraph the way I was taught in middle school kind of blows. Fuck it. There's maybe five of you that will ever glance at this page, and at most, three of you even scroll this far down. All semester, we've struggled with trying to impart the skill of the five-paragraph essay to the freshmen, and then I recalled that in many, many years of public school, I never really mastered the format myself, and many of my classmates had an ever weaker grasp of the subject. If Chinese students have managed for over 5,000 years without that skill, I'm not going to push it. I'd rather they spoke out loud in oral class, instead of handing me notes that said they don't know how to "talk good enough English." I need to sleep now.

25 November 2007


After I posted the link to BLDGBLOG last night, Geoff Manaugh came right back today with a long article about shipping container architecture, which also fascinates me. I can very easily imagine a subgenre of architecture-obsessed science fiction, though I pray it will not have a "-punk" label.

Some twenty-five or thirty years ago, I went to my first estate sale. My mother took me to a big house, and we wandered around, looking at the possessions some deceased man's family no longer wished to keep. I had a small amount of cash from my lunch money savings (I went without eating or drinking every single day until I got home, and pocketed the quarters) and a sawbuck my grandmother gave me for my birthday. The kind old widow who was parting with her late husband's worldly goods half-heartedly bargained with me until the arithmetic would allow me to purchase both a banjo and a shortwave radio. She said the old man had only used the radio tune in WWV and reset all the clocks in the house when daylight savings time began or ended. While she explained that, she and my mother rolled their eyes, agreeing that men have strange obsessions when kept in the house for too long.

Later, a drummer I went to high school with also turned out to own a shortwave set. We compared ideas about the best use for such a thing. I mostly tried to find amusing programs or decipher numbers stations. He monkeyed with the controls to make odd noises, and said it was better than the cheap synthesizers available at the time. As the radio I had featured a quarter-inch earphone plug (the same size as an electric guitar) I incorporated it into my musical career.

Every few months, until I moved out of my house suddenly a couple of years ago, I would drag that radio out and try to find proper antenna and ground connections, but there was less and less to be found by way of signals. Mostly religious broadcasts and the BBC was all I found at the last. Anyway, the other justification I came up with for keeping the thing was as a source for samples I could incorporate into musical compositions. There are a lot of web sites where such samples can be found now, so that notion is quashed to the point where I don't even try to look at the handheld radios on display over at Hymall.

Today, someone mentioned The Radio Kitchen on Metafilter. It's run by a man known only as "The Professor" and is a vast treasure of recordings of long-distance radio broadcasts. I also love the pictures of vintage receivers that surround the page.

Bear with me a moment now, because I'm going to try and connect all this stuff into the big concept I see it as fitting into, like a big puzzle. As we, humanity, progress into the future, things change. Technology advances, and radio is forgotten. Notions of living space change, and dwellings evolve from four-bedroom standalone ranch-styles in the suburbs to repurposed shipping containers hanging on the backs of billboards or the rafters of shopping mall parking garages. Notions of personal space and privacy change. Maybe more and more of our belongings will exist only virtually, and "real life" homes will only be places to sleep and have sex, all other activities being open to public scrutiny. We might move away from George Carlin's view of having a place to keep the stuff we accumulate, and toward an existence where the online and offline merge, the division blurring, until we come to view chat sessions and web pages as places in the same sense as the diner on the corner or the mall are places.

It's starting already. Customer service is an automated voice at a toll-free number, advising you to go to the company web site to seek assistance. Large corporations find the need to set policy for employees doing work inside Second Life. We're already in the future William Gibson predicted (and many pooh-pooh'ed in the early 1980's), or well on the way to it. The only questions that remain is how we will all react, and who will successfully adapt.

07 October 2007


This is how this song really should sound.

03 October 2007

Are we there yet?

One of my recurring obsessions is with the division between public and private space and the mindset shift as one moves from one to the other. Sitting at home in your bedroom reading a book is different from sitting in a laundromat reading a book, or even sitting in the lobby of a hotel reading a book. Even if you have a comfortable chair and the temperature is just proper, you're visible. You aren't alone, even if you're the only one there.

Another idea I can't seem to divest myself of is the perceptions of retail space installations. I've worked in retail, and seen the shitty plywood/cheapest-ass carpet assemblies that serve as platforms for mannequins to stand on, and yet, they look a little magical when I'm wandering through the aisles, contemplating how to get the mannequin out to my car without being caught (there was one in particular that I would've paid big money for, just because it had a facial expression that messed with my brain every time I passed by on my way to the stationery aisle).

So, I read all the related links to this story of a group of artists that covertly built an apartment in a shopping mall in Providence. Actually, I read a bit of the original article last night, then left it when I was called to the other room. I woke three times during the night, convinced that I had some deep memory of a similar meme. Then, I recalled that William Gibson had a bit in one of his novels about people building makeshift homes in Tokyo train stations, or something similar. Every notion I've had for a science-fiction plot line turns out to have already been covered in one of his stories already. I would suggest that explaining the mechanism by which this coincidence occurred might be a suitable concept to base a story on, but I'm sure his next manuscript already has it penciled in the margins (he writes on an old manual typewriter, you know).

4 October 2007 9:43 AM
I almost forgot this bit. BLDGBLOG had a mention of the A.I.R. unit, which is a lightweight "deployable condo unit." I could easily see something like this being covertly stuck to the back corner of a strip mall, or a few of them being placed together to form a community on some interstitial bit of land, the kind of place where exact ownership of that spot is not easily determined, and maybe not interesting to anyone else. The diagrams look a bit luxurious for my ideas, but something along these lines, discretely attached to the back of a bus station, Shoney's, or interstate rest area, would be as cool as the club house in the mall garage loft.

08 September 2007

"I" is for "I don't know if it counts as irony or not."

It took the better part of two weeks, but bittorrent finally coughed up the second half of "No Maps for these Territories" this afternoon. I saw the first half, which was not marked as "part one of two" in the listing, and then waited not-so-patiently for the rest to download (after I googled the torrent out of another site entirely). Anyway, I watched the rest of it as soon as it finished downloading, and at the very end, after all the credits finished rolling (and I watched them to try and discern who did the music that played over said ending credits) there were two URLs displayed for a few moments before the video ended. One was the site for the film itself, and the other was www.atomcandy.com. The latter gave me the message: "The server at landing.domainsponsor.com is taking too long to respond." Since the title of the page is "Search the web" I'm just as glad nothing showed up, because I know the idea is for a blinking, flash-polluted advertisement asking too much money for the domain. In fact, whoever purchases the name is likely to get sued by some real candy manufacturer who has been selling "Atom Candies" since early 1946. You know the things, red dye #2 color and artificial cinnamon flavoring. Maybe you recall getting sick from eating too many of them while you absent-mindedly skimmed a yellowing copy of Famous Monsters of Filmland.
Or maybe that was just me. I still feel queasy when I smell those candies.

28 August 2007


Now I'm glad I dropped out and subsequently studied elsewhere. [link]

When I was at Cornell, I discovered Throbbing Gristle, but only some of their material appealed to me. The rest was annoying. After they broke up, I tried to figure out who did which bits. Coil had some good songs, and some bad ones. I never figured out what Chris & Cosey/CTI did, because I only heard their songs in the middle of long sets on the radio, and didn't match the name to the sound. I saw a bit about Genesis P. Orridge today, and can't for the life of me recall what I thought about Psychic TV, except that I kind of avoided their recordings.

19 August 2007


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OK, here's the second attempt. A link loading in another tab took down the entire browser (some web pages do that, though I can't figure out why because when I try to look at the pages in question for clues, the fucking browser crashes).

The image above is a photograph of a design carved on someone's leg. Tattoos were too easily removed with lasers, and piercings would heal closed if the jewelry was removed, and maybe cosmetic surgery could eradicate branding or "scarification" so this chick let someone whittle a cartoon character on her thigh. I like how the design incorporates a knife and slab of raw meat, both dripping blood, as well as a girl wearing only fishnets and an apron. Raw meat carved to look like raw meat.

Don't get me wrong; I have been obsessed with more than one anime series. But I never, ever for a millisecond considered gouging Lain's likeness into my abs. I will admit, however, that I watched FLCL again last night, and I would purchase an orange Vespa without hesitation if the price was in my range.

18 August 2007

The Grim Stripper

A death-worshiping cult in Mexico City has replaced the icon (or is it an idol?) at the front of their church with a statuette of a woman in a long golden robe.
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For the record, none of the following is mocking the beliefs of the people who attend said church. So long as they don't harm others, what they believe is fine by me (and I'm sure they're relieved as all hell to know that a semi-anonymous blogger conditionally approves of their creed). But a few questions linger in my mind:
  • Did they leave the Vampirella costume on under that robe? The value of memorabilia like that goes WAY down if you lose the original accessories.
  • Did they change the bibles and hymnals to reflect that Elvira, Mistress of the Dark is now their one true savior?
  • Fuck, you don't think that's maybe supposed to be Cher, do you? That would be over the line.
Now that I think of it, there used to be a comic book store in the same mini-mall where I bought all the Amiga software and peripherals I used to own. In the back, next to the indie and import section, they had assorted knick-knacks (or "collectibles" if you let them dictate the terminology) to separate the comic books from the RPG stuff. One of the objects they sold was a model of Elvira. The parts that were supposed to represent flesh were glow-in-the-dark plastic. I wanted to buy it, but it was (as I recall) out of my discretionary budget range.

Now that I mentioned glow-in-the-dark plastic, I will mention another recent discovery: The Virtual Absinthe Museum. One of the things they display is Uranium Glass. Now I have two vague nostalgic feelings (you think Dearest is letting Absinthe into the house?). I notice a lot less stuff made from glow-in-the-dark plastic these days. Is that just fashions changing, or is there a practical reason?

14 August 2007

The Golden Age of Leather

I was possessed the other day to search for information, video, and MP3s of Blue Oyster Cult the other day, and found a torrent with pretty much every recording the band ever made. Some of them I had never heard of, and after listening to them, I understand why. Some of the early releases have out-takes and demos included, which are interesting to hardcore fans, but not so good that anyone will curse the limits of the LP for consigning the tracks to obscurity. There are also demo versions of a few songs, which sound more like something you'd find if you picked up an old reel-to-reel machine at a thrift store and checked out the included tapes in cryptically marked boxes.

In the midst of an article about William Gibson's new book, I ran across links to sites that purport to be an online magazine he writes about in the book, so something along those lines. While perusing the one that could be seen from this side of the great firewall, the first link I hit was a blog entry from someone whose life closely resembled the plot of the book. So we're left with an author writing about readers writing about an author writing about his readers writing about an author writing about his readers, and now me writing about all of that. Did your brain explode yet?

All Thumbs is a display of thumbnail images of TV stations Jeff Kadet received in Macomb*, Illinois. Back in a previous century, I used to scan dead channels when there was nothing interesting on, and fiddle with the antenna until I thought I saw something. In the summers, we could get CJOH-6 fairly reliably. They showed reruns of "Hogan's Heroes" every afternoon for as much of my childhood as I can recall. There was a channel 2 station out of Buffalo, but the one time we could actually watch it was an event that we talked about after purchasing a Betamax ("just think, if we had this thing the night we saw channel 2..."). The UHF channels from Rochester and Syracuse were iffy at best. Of course, I also had shortwave radios, and made antennas by stringing wire as far as it would spool between two trees.

*How long can you look at the name before you start fitting it to the tune of "My Humps"?

Because I was thinking about death recently, I wound up finding Death by Caffeine. The joke I've been telling for years is that I passed away in 1982, but the twitching that results from so much coffee gives the illusion of life. Of course, now that I saw all those wonderful stay-awake-forever drinks, I'm bummed that I can't practically get them sent to me here. Perhaps I'll have to go see what Metro has, and settle for that.

13 August 2007

Placing the blame where it belongs

Back on August 11th, I mentioned that I had been wasting what I considered too much time on Amiga emulators and related software. It's under control now, though I've been waiting on a torrent of old software nine days running (stuck at 97.9% and seeders only appear at random moments, drive the ETA down to under an hour, then disappear after I get 8k or so of new stuff).

This has been a dual-edged sword. On one hand, I'm really angry at myself for frittering away a lot of precious vacation time on nostalgia over stuff that I never used effectively. I had DCTV at one point, and connected it to my camcorder, and apart from making a handful of self-portraits with my eyes completely whited/blacked out (with shadows or highlights applied to make it really creepy) I had no use for such a thing. I only bought it because I had lusted after it in magazine ads years before, and employment combined with the advent of eBay to make the acquisition possible. I also downloaded a lot of software from usenet groups that had eluded me in the pre-internet days. I never used any of it. So I find myself thinking, "This is cool that I finally have this, but why the fuck did I want it now?"

This was part of the reason. Ars Technica ran an article on the history of the Amiga. I forgot about that until they ran the second segment today.

I'm hoping now to put the obsession and ambivalent feelings surrounding said obsession to some use in another project I started. Frequently, I have run across the advice to "write what you know." I suppose it's time to put that into practice, at least until next week when part three of the series lands in my RSS reader.

12 August 2007

Metal Fever

I forget who I was talking with recently, but the concept of combined AI, RealDolls, and robotics came up. I was trying desperately to recall the name of Hajime Sorayama, but couldn't get my memory to comply with the request. The conversation was about influences and obsessions, and I was trying to fit together the story of Sorayama's artworks, William Gibson's writing, and the effect of spending hours upon hours hip-deep in technical manuals and computer hardware.

My father worked as a technician in the R & D labs at Xerox. Before that, he was a repairman for electro-mechanical calculators, and still prior, I heard, worked for G.E. in some capacity (prior to joining the Navy to work on flight simulators). Hence, the environment I found myself in from birth was full of electronics. One of my earliest memories is sitting on the floor behind the record player we had. There was a brass grill to allow ventilation of the vacuum tubes. The holes in the grill had a magnifying effect, so looking in there was an immersive experience for me. The tubes stood like office towers in a twenty-second century metropolis. The dry, hot air that convection forced out of the cabinet smelled of phenolic and solder, mixed with the resins of the wood the cabinet was made of. And the Ventures provided the soundtrack to that still, yet compelling tableau.

When I was older, I amused myself with the seemingly endless boxes of spare parts that came into the house when projects ended. Assorted indicator lamps, control servos, switches, and random circuit boards filled half of the house. So, I went through the various changes from childhood to adolescence to adulthood buried in technological debris, emerging at almost the same moment that Mr. Gibson coined the term "cyberspace", Max Headroom first stuttered to life, and Laurie Anderson released "Big Science".

I was thinking, just before sitting down to write this, about Sorayama's paintings, and what makes or made them so compelling. In the present, when Poser gives just about anyone the ability to create realistic pictures of chrome-plated nudes, would such an artist ever be noticed?

11 August 2007

I'm getting really sick of myself.

Three days have been lost now to WinUAE fiddling and related chasing after links to forgotten development tools. I started by telling myself I needed to refresh my memory a bit. I'm working on a story that involves a character who clings to antiquated systems and software, partly for technical reasons, but also for aesthetic motives. Before a lot of you were born, I sat and pored over technical manuals for systems that were, at that time, fairly advanced (going from 64k of memory to 512k was a major step, and when OS-9 provided multitasking, it was the stuff of dreams. Mind you, my job at the time involved programming a mainframe with a capacity that your Palm Pilot would sneer at.)

But, I realize, after losing a few days that I resent losing, that I'm not up for learning chunky-to-planar plasma simulator coding, even if I clearly understood what that meant. I never got too far with programming these systems when they were physically extant. The idea was to get the feel of such things again, to more accurately describe them in the context of some imaginary developer spending three sleepless days debugging and optimizing a bit of code that may or may not have metaphysical properties. Now that I spent so long in that dark alley, I feel like I ought to spend three days without sleep myself and try to write my self-esteem back to where I could stand to be in the same room with myself again. I know that made damn little sense, but don't look back, and definitely don't turn around to edit it. We have to keep going forward, or it will catch up to us, and then all hope would be beyond our reach.

Did I mention before that word processing software has failed to progress in twenty years, and might have become less useful in that time? I thought that again when I tried out a program I used in 1989, and it looked for the world like Open Office on a low-res monitor. It went at about the same speed, which is pitiful. Fuck it.

06 August 2007

Day of obsessions

I've never tried to explain this to anyone before, but my compulsion to try and write is derived from a few very specific, yet difficult-to-explain obsessions and aesthetics. As it happens, a lot of things that turned up in the RSS reader today fed into those. I originally thought to try and explain some of this, using these links as illuminating examples, but I think I'll just give you the pointers, and let you connect the dots for yourself.

Rivetgirl's Flikr page has now expanded my collection of wallpapers by a third. She has a great eye for close-ups of everyday sights, rendering interest that's normally passed by unseen.

For anyone who has read The Lost Girls by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie, there's an interesting video on SexTV wherein the two speak about the work. They raise a lot of interesting points regarding pornography and literature.

Have I discussed emulation here before? Every so often, I search out emulators for every computer or operating system I ever had. I ran across DOSBox today, via a Slashdot article. I've almost, but not quite reached the point where I can think about such things without downloading and losing days to them. I really like the idea more than the actual entity.

A link about Richard Kadrey's Metrophage led me to "Fiction, Cyberpunk, and all That" this morning. I thought the link came from Metafilter, but I just looked and it isn't there now, and my net connection is going sour, so I can't easily search out who put me on that trail. Perhaps I should just put my OPML file on some free host, and link to it in the sidebar?

It feels like I ought to have a proper ending for these things, but I've had this tab in the background for two hours, searched for Poser accessories on Demonoid, and now I need to go do something productive, so draw your own conclusions. At least you know I'm not Fake Steve Jobs. I had that blog in my RSS feeds for a while, but after a couple of weeks, it got kind of same-y. He would call someone "freetard" or "frigtard", then rant about software products and phones. After a while, it started to sound like a drunken frat boy, and that's entertaining for about two seconds if you're sober.

05 August 2007

Neanderthal Sex

OK, so someone else thinks that Neanderthals were bred into the general population. The difference is that they used polite, discrete language, instead of, as I often do, declare that humans will fuck anything they can catch up to.

Here's a link to a history of Antarctic exploration.

Here's a video of a woman with big tits and a fondness for whipped cream, just to see if I can put such a thing in a blog entry.

http://view.break.com/338566 - Watch more free videos

04 August 2007

learning stuff

This has been tutorial day for me.

has a page of GIMP video tutorials. Many of them are simple, or maybe it's just tasks I'm used to doing and forgot how I ever learned. There's a page of tutorials on the GIMP page, albeit not with videos (the merit of video or static pages is left as a debate for the voices in the reader's head). I almost dread clicking through to read the rest of an article about the GIMP though, because inevitably, someone whines about the fact that the interface doesn't look like photoshop, or OS X, or Vista, or the dashboard of their VW. Personally, I like that. I wish software could have more variation in the GUI department. I keep trying to find a way to use Poser or Blender more, just because they have interfaces that depart from the bland uniformity (or uniform blandness).

While I'm on that subject, I have to wonder why we have title bars on windows. There are buttons for minimize, maximize, and close, then another button on the other corner with a drop-down menu to minimize, maximize, close, restore, move, or size. Then there's the icons on the toolbar, with all those same options. So don't bother trying to point out that GIMP has three windows with duplicated menus. This interface is already in dire need of an enema.

Back to the aforementioned learning, I saw an article in the RSS feeds with a tutorial on bittorrent. Mostly I skim such things, because there's more articles than time to read them, but I noticed a link in there to Demonoid. A colleague asked me to go there a while ago and download some files. If you aren't a member of their site, you get limited to how many torrents you can download from them. My friend wanted a total of 21 torrents, and if all of us in the department coordinated our efforts, we could get them in just 3 days. Then we forgot all about it an hour later due to unseasonably warm temperatures. After seeing the article, I went to see if I could even reach demonoid from here, and lo and behold, registrations were open. So I signed up. In case you don't have such luck right away, you can search The Pirate Bay, ISO Hunt, Mini-nova, Nova Torrents, Torrent Spy, or btjunkie. Also worth looking into is this tutorial for speeding up your downloads.

And lastly, Make your Own Notebooks. I use a different method for slapping together my own, but that's based on readily-available supplies. I've seen a lot of sites with similar ideas, and the methodologies don't vary much.

See? You can learn something on the web, even things that aren't related to porn.

02 August 2007


In a previous century, someone asked permission to store some belongings in the basement of a house I shared with a friend. One of the items was a box of LP records and a turntable (by that time, I ditched my turntable after making cassette tapes of all my records and buying a recently-made-available CD player). The records were standard stuff for that time-- Gary Numan, Devo, etc. I found the songs I liked from them, and made a couple of tapes I kept for a few years.

Then I came to "Third Reich & Roll" by The Residents. Simultaneously, I was intrigued that someone got a record deal to do that, and kind of uncomfortable with the effect it had when I heard it. I forgot about The Residents for a while, until the internet managed to present the idea to me again, and I listened to more of their material, much of which sounds more appealing to me. When I bought a new computer, I didn't transfer any of their songs, because a last-minute crash/restore before I came to China left me copying DVD-RWs until the small hours, and I opted to limit my music library and rest.

Today, I found out about this page, which is a selected discography. There's a pantload of MP3s on there, so you can hear what the excitement (or lack thereof) is about.

29 July 2007


Was it here that I mentioned my fascination with photos of abandoned places? In any case, let's pretend that it was, and I am following up on that meme with another link.

Modern Ruins was the first link I discovered in this genre, and I believed it was gone until I stumbled into it again this afternoon via a link from GoodShit. That I spotted it among the parade of undressed young women attests to the fact that my brain and eyes are not yet totally ruined.

Christ almighty, can the fucking cursor stay in the edit box long enough for me to type one goddamned sentence?

I had to switch back to windows, because the sound drivers in linux didn't allow the microphone to work on my laptop, and Sweety-pie disliked the Chinese input system it had (I didn't mind it, but I could list all the Chinese I know on one page, and still have enough space for the source code to said input module). So, I archived everything onto DVD-RWs, found the restore discs (that I made myself because Sony can't afford to pack them in with the $2500 computer), and spent all. damn. day. feeding the same two discs in...and swapping to disc 2...and swapping back to disc one. The progress box would show one program that I didn't want being installed, then we switched the discs, and one program I dreaded trying to uninstall would be put on, etc. I swapped the damn things at least eight times, then spent three hours uninstalling shitware, and rebooting after every. single. action. Then, something made all those little icons next to the clock go away. I tried searching for some good way to fix that, but I still don't know the proper term for them, and all the search results were to pages that said to restore from a previous backup. So, I got the DVDs back out, and started the restore procedure. Did I mention yet that it's Summer? I mean, hot enough to melt the flesh off one's upper body? I went in the other room for a cold drink and to spray myself with water, and when I came back, the machine was just asking for the first swap. I removed Disc 1, and noticed that all the stuff appeared as it should on the desktop. The menu bar also looked correct. So I clicked "cancel" on the box that requested the other disc. I clicked that about 37 times, noticing that it did change what it was asking for each time. Finally, it told me I was done. The machine rebooted, and I had essentially a clean install of XP. No free trial anything. No fucking symantec buggerware. I looked at every directory, turning on the "show hidden files" and "show system files" to make sure they weren't hiding backups of the "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy" games someplace.

Of course, now I don't want to install anything. It's like that first snowfall that covers everything. It feels wrong to make the first set of footprints, especially if the ground beneath is as-yet-unfrozen mud. But if the mud isn't frozen, the snow will melt and turn to filthy slush, and so I went ahead and loaded the anti-virus and firewall and other accommodate-the-weakness programs. Even on the way to work in the sewers, you might glimpse a beautiful sunrise.

13 July 2007

The Abandoning of Stereotypes

Ha. Just now when I tabbed down to the type-the-actual-text box, I saw the menu for selecting a font, but the tiny Helveticarrific text tricked my eye into seeing "Fart" and I thought that would be a strange new feature for Blogger to add. I envisioned a control that I would drag to a place in this text, and when you read that part, a cartoon ass would appear and expel a cartoon fart, complete with speed lines and exclamation-marked phonetic sound effects ("Phlabbt!!!")

Anyway, that's not what moved me to post today. I have some links to share, because I know none of y'all can find web pages without guidance, so everyone hold hands, and stay in the crosswalk (that would be a believable name for a "Christian Rock" band that sounded "edgy" or "indy", and those two adjectives would be in bold type anytime Crosswalk was written about, even by less-than-charitable reviewers)

The first of said links is CKAN. It's really a good resource for knowledge of all sorts. I only looked around briefly, but there's at least a good dictionary there, and I recall seeing the word "Dentistry" in the category list.

This is a transcript of a speech by the late Douglas Adams. I won't give away the logic to it, but I will say that it's clever (as if you wouldn't guess that).

Not much of an entry, really. Mostly, just letting people who care know that I'm still alive and not smoking cigarettes. Nope. No smoking. Not one fucking drag. Haven't even been close enough to a cigarette to get a sniff of second-hand smoke. Now if there was a mechanism to convert nervous tics to electricity, they could light this entire goddamned city for free off me.

12 July 2007

Li'l Brudder: Homeless & Unemployed

OK, so I was writing an email to my brother (hereafter referred to as Li'l Brudder) with a couple of video links, then I remembered that he is, for a few days, unemployed and homeless. That is, he is changing jobs (with two or three weeks off in between) and moving to a new house (having to vacate the old one two weeks before he can move in to the new). So most likely, he can't see the internet, as he's cowering under a newspaper while a silhouette of a hobo menaces the entire park until near dawn when the old stereotypical Irish-American cop tells him to move along before decent folk get a fright during their morning constitutional.

The first of the aforementioned links is "Lucifer" by Rockbitch. Imagine the original "Star Trek" guest actresses making a lesbian activist cable access show. It's actually a bit stranger than that, but I can't adequately explain how much, so go look. I'll watch your purse until you get back.

The other link is Stacy: Attack of the Schoolgirl Zombies. Two things really struck me as odd with this (OK, many more, but two bear mention). First is how nonchalant, even cheerful, the girl seems when she says, "My name is Eiko. I'll probably die in about a week, then I'll become a Stacy!" They could have put in subtitles that read, "My Mom says that she'll take me to Disneyworld if I pass Algebra!" and I would not have doubted it for a moment. The second thing I want to mention is the last few frames, when the subtitles read: Coming August 18...... Near Death Happiness Late Show. I want so badly to steal that name. I would even renounce my former promise not to start another band, if I could call said band "The Near-Death Happiness Late Show." Hmm. Someone did phone and tell me that she found a microphone for me. That's the truth. After installing linux, I discovered that the built-in microphone and camera on the monitor screen/lid didn't work, so I started looking at what was available, and the best price over at Hy-Mall was also the one with the best frequency response numbers (30-17,000Hz). But ever the economically skittish one, SugarCheeks told me to wait. I was convinced that she was just putting me off and hoping I would give up the idea, and about to go pay 70 kwai, when she phoned to tell me she found a good mic for 20 that had the same specs. I'll find out in a couple of hours how the sound is, and if it works with Skype (the listed justification for buying such a thing was to use Skype under linux).

"Oh, Tenderfoot, I feel like I'm at a crossroads of my life, and there's like, an IHOP on one corner, and a Denny's on the other... Can you give me some sound financial advice?"

02 July 2007

Then came the last days

The semester is very nearly finished. Grades only need to be printed, signed, and given to the people in that little room where the classroom keys used to be kept. I feel like I slept through the whole thing. There's all those hand-written notes I made while in class, detailing who was naughty and who was nice, that seem to indicate I was present and conscious, but I honestly can't recall much of anything. Every third page includes a deprecating note about the text book*.

Over the weekend, I installed Xubuntu on my laptop. It's more efficient than Ubuntu's standard release. I didn't like not being able to turn off gnome. I'm not sure I love XFCE, but when I started looking for the latest Slackware release and googling Linux from Scratch, She Who Must Be Obeyed mentioned that we share this machine, and I had to finish whatever I was doing in time for her to do some "real work".

All told, the installation took an hour from booting the CD to configuring our PPPoE, Chinese language support, and "windows-only" printer. I promised Dearest that, after I fetched something cold to drink, I would explain how to reboot the machine into XP. In the time it took for me to retrieve a cold one, she figured out how to use all the software she cared about (Firefox, OpenOffice, and an MP3 player I didn't know was installed) and would probably have gone on to hand-tune the kernel if other tasks not been more pressing.

Recently, I came to the realization that I could search for images now. In the old days, I used to look at newsgroups for new wallpaper or images that might connect to things I was writing. So, the idea that Flickr might conveniently give me all the images of "abandoned" that I could handle was a pleasant surprise. Damn, what will they think of next, a way to download music?

I've meant to mention Philosophy of History for a while now, but never seem to remember it while I am at the computer. It's an excellent resource for information about history. Look down the page a bit for "Reference Resources" and there's about every royal family ever documented.

* Seriously, why do the textbooks have to uniformly suck? The piece of crap we were given this semester was, at best, good for a laugh when the matching exercises went in ways I'm certain the authors never envisioned. In 12 chapters, they included 8 discussions of Elvis Presley, including activities requiring students to stand up and tell everything they knew about him (the students took turns standing, saying "Nothing" and then sitting back down).

20 June 2007

A post in which I will not use the Q word.

Last time, I linked a few videos from Yellow Machinegun, and mentioned the day-long wandering that led me to them. From there, I chanced upon eX-Girl. To say this band is "different" is like saying that China is "inhabited". Here they are introducing themselves to an audience.

This video (sorry, no song title given) defies concise description, incorporating noise, prog-rock, and some performance art that makes me think of the B-52's back in the day.

Hettakorii No Ottokotou is a shifting five and a half minute operatic number that sometimes reminded me of the late 1970's, and sometimes just messed with my brain.

Tofu Song is an acapella number that begins as a sort of fugue, then sounds like people doing science fiction sound effects with their mouth, then goes back to sounding classical.

Here's one last clip wherein they wear inflatable chicken heads and play in a rainstorm. Having typed that, I have the sense that somewhere, someone has just won, and someone has just lost, a wager made late one night after heavier-then-usual drinking.

18 June 2007

Is there an exorcist in the house?

A few days back, or maybe a couple of weeks (damn fugue states!), I was following a trail of Eurobeat videos, and somehow discovered Yellow Machinegun. The first video is "Heartache". Something just seems wrong here. They look happy (too happy) and smiling in a way that I've seen my students do. In fact, there's a shy girl in one of my classes that looks remarkably like that bass player/singer. I was thinking it would be more pop sunshine happiness music, and then the smile was gone and that demoniacally-possessed voice comes out of her mouth.

Next up is "Spicy Spiky" which I haven't heard the likes of since 1986. Back then, girls wouldn't even attend shows where this kind of music was playing. The audience was exclusively composed of 20-something men with A.D.D.

"Vanish Your Being" and "Climb" continue the same under-two-minute vein, and make me think seriously about buying a skateboard (disembodied voices in the dark corner of the room are saying "you'll put your eye out" as I type that).

06 June 2007

I don't have too much to say this afternoon, but I've now spent so much time staring at Polar Clock that I felt compelled to link to it here, so that anyone who chances on this page in the unforeseen future will click on the broken link and curse under their breath.

I just finished reading the second issue of Steampunk Magazine. I'm still undecided what I think of the phenomenon of steampunk. Is it a reaction to the reality of near-pervasive computing and networking? Is it just that devotees of such an idea could only find each other on the web? Or did the net plant the notion in most of those people's heads?

So, for about a week now, I've had occasional, severely painful muscle spasms at the back of my skull and neck. Sweetheart brought some traditional medicine home. It looks like about a tablespoon of gravel in an envelope, but I swallow it with tea, and not only do the spasms go away, but I'm left in an incredibly good mood (whether that's because the agony is relieved or my chemistry is re-balanced remains undetermined as of this writing). So I was telling one of my colleagues about this stuff, in the context of him explaining that the medicine someone gave him for his headcold has an amphetamine-licious effect. He pointed out that one of the early symptoms of SARS is stiffness in the neck and muscle spasms. I needed another envelope of gravel as soon as I returned home.

04 June 2007

The Lost

This afternoon, I had a terrible headache, so instead of going to watch the tug-of-war as planned, I came home to rest. But, I can't just rest. That would waste valuable at-home-undisturbed time. So I started sorting through the bookmarks, particularly the folders labeled with dates, because those are from moments when I had to leave suddenly, and just opted to "bookmark all tabs" and sort out what I was doing at a later time.

So, I have no idea how some of those things came to be open at the same time, or what stream of consciousness I was fly fishing in, but there were a few worthwhile links. The only one I feel like sharing today is this article by William Gibson. He discusses "regooding" of places he has previously known and loved. I'm wondering now what it is that gives that feeling of being part of a place. Not that usual "hometown pride" schmaltzy bullshit, but a deeper feeling that a place is special. A small city where I used to live has fought to try and preserve that vibe, but as quickly as a Wal-Mart will taint it, so will attempts to institutionalize or codify it. You can't zone cool. You can't even really ask people where it is in their town. They always steer you away from the skuzzy, hole-in-the-wall looking place to yet another god-damned T.G.I. McAppleGarden (only because they honestly believe that you would be offended if they suggested Hooters). Thus, you are barred from the real place. You are isolated on the other side of the "here" glass. You are part of the stream of motorists, consumers, travelers, and passers-by, separate from the reality of the place and the people who live in it.

I'll go one step further, and say that this same thing happened to Second Life. At this time last year, it felt much more like a community. Lately, it feels more like an abandoned advertising laboratory. Empty buildings full of virtual merchandise for sale (sometimes on broken display devices) and occasionally, you find someone atop a ladder with a message saying how much virtual money they're getting for acting like they're washing the windows. Aimless wandering is hampered by exclusionary landowners.

Probably, the best thing to do is make a note of such places and times in your diary, and then you can reminisce about them after the small town where you went to college gets Disneyfied, the secluded lane where you took your first date is bulldozed to make way for a strip mall, and the park where you used to take your children is invisible behind a row of billboards and an expressway clover-leaf. Joys are fleeting and soon lost forever, but you can count on some asshole trying to sell it back to you after he ruins it.

20 May 2007

The Year of Suffixical Thinking.

I was reading Mimi Smartypants' recent remark that "Kafkaesque" needed replacing. Her invention is "Kafkalicious". Looking back over my notebooks and other writings, I notice a disturbing frequency of "-esque"-derived terms. So, I marched myself up to the board, and made a list of replacement suffixes.
  • ish -- This strikes me as stodgy, and possibly grammatically correct. The last time I saw Stephen Colbert's show, the term "Lincolnish" made an appearance during the opening montage. I want my own suffix, so this is out.
  • rrific should be able to denote either good (terrific) or bad (horrific), but in testing, it always tended to add a positive flavor. I'm not certain, but I think I've heard the term "monsterrific" before.
  • tastic actually seems more positive than "rrific" if that's possible.
  • rotic seems to add an element of sexuality. The term "Kafkarotic" would most likely be applied to literature that was alternately arousing and frustrating. "Nihilistic Foreplay" would be an interesting band name.
  • tronic would serve the purpose similar to any of these other suffixes, but only in the context of robots or computers.
  • gical/stical bring to mind magic and fantasy, but not in the usual sense. They are RPG magic and fantasy. "Kafkastical" would refer to an event similar to rolling a 20-sided die on a card table in Mom & Dad's basement to select an absurd, frustrating fate.
I'm certain that a number of other choices could be invented with a little time and effort, but such are beyond the scope of this page. Somehow, I got the notion in my head that posts to weblogs shouldn't be edited after posting (I think I read about someone who refuses to edit previous posts) and I extended that to the notion that posts should be written as quickly as possible. Five songs have gone by in the MP3 player, so this must go off to the old post graveyard now, and I should start some serious work on the shitty first draft I've been lugging around for six years.

19 May 2007

Mail. Ink. Sugar.

The package containing my birthday gifts arrived yesterday. Along with a few Moleskines, Mom packed a box of pop-tarts, some little Debbies, and a couple of bags of coffee (word of my earlier inability to find it must have reached her, despite the fact that she refuses to use a computer or the Internet).

Host unlimited photos at slide.com for FREE!

I have no idea where I originally found this picture. If you recognize it, please tell me where it lived before. The reason I'm showing it now is because one of the relics sent along for my birthday was a pen, nearly identical to the one in this picture, except with a clear finish on the wood instead of black paint. The brass parts are all the same. Said pen is capable of taking Fisher refills, and the weight and size are about perfect for me, so it might lead one to ask why I left it in New York when I moved here, but that kind of thinking won't get you anything good around here, Pal. I would recreate this picture now, except with one of the coffee cups in our house here, none of which resemble this this one. Alas, no matter when I try to take photographs, the rechargeable batteries aren't recharged, so the lens deploys with a pitiful sound, and then a beep alerts me that I will not be taking any pictures until I find fresh cells to power the camera.

Somewhere in the search for the origin of that photo, I ran across Hoarded Ordinaries. It had nothing to do with the quest I was on, but the photos struck a chord momentarily. The photos of the monument to Hannah Dustin and the sign leading to a monument (no mention if the path is to the same monument or not) made me think of a vague notion that arises in my notebooks. In the region where I lived until recently, there are a plethora of these signs. Some mention battles or encampments from the Revolution or the Civil War. Some mark significant places in the Native American culture. One marked the first tavern on a particular stretch of highway. The contrast, in my brain, is between the signs, which indicate some kind of interest for non-residents, and the everyday nature of the location, which is never the destination of anyone's vacation. Perhaps that location was the site of something particularly significant, but now it's the parking lot for the drug store.

Another link on Dr. DiSabato's page led to a discussion of NaNoWriMo. That reminded me that I've left my own manuscripts hanging for a while. I was going to do Novel Writing Month this year, but a bunch of stuff came up and I spaced on it completely until today. While I was showering, I briefly thought about the fact that there's no International Novel Writing Month. I think I'm going to say it is in July, because I will have free time then (November is the middle of the semester here, so I hardly have time to eat and do laundry, let alone try to crank out 3500 words per day). Then, necessarily, I tried to similarly abbreviate the name, which led me to say "IntNoWriMo" until the phrase "IntNoWriMo-da-vida" came out. I will go wash my mouth out now, and then start preparing.

25 April 2007

beam me up snotty

During the mucous-flooded hours of the past few days, I've been obsessed by previous computers I owned. The word processing programs they had were one short step up from a typewriter, but that was exactly what I wanted. We downloaded and installed OpenOffice here, because a former colleague clued me in to the way other proprietary programs collected information and sent it back to the death star to be reviewed by unknown persons for unknown purposes. But that seems to be a bug-for-bug mimic of a badly designed interface. Every time we start a new document, someone has to go find the buried menu with the proper checkboxes (and it isn't with the rest of the preferences) and turn off all that "change my random keyboard-mashing into whatever you think is proper" stuff. I want something to begin instantly when I ask it to, and let me begin typing immediately, before I forget what I wanted to write. Someone is out there now, saying, "If you forget what you wanted to type that quickly, maybe it wasn't worth writing to begin with," and you know what? FUCK YOU. When I decide to use a machine I paid money for, the quality of what I do with it is nobody's business. I want what I want, not what some hand-picked, error-corrected end-user survey said everyone should want.

I read, with some sadness, that Fred Fish passed away a few days ago. Back in the day, I used to mail order 3.5 inch floppies from a catalog. Many of them were from Fred's collection. Those were days before the industry became a giant pissing contest for billionaires. I kind of miss that. I miss being able to understand exactly how the hardware worked, and how to make code directly access it all.

That's a trend--an unfortunate one. Back when I understood the API documents for my computer, I could also look at the engine of my car and piece together how it was supposed to work. It was still simple enough that a non-expert could figure out how the pieces interacted. The last car I had, on the other hand, had a cover over most of the engine to protect it from non-expert's eyes. When I took it in for service, the mechanic attached a cable from the engine to a PC and told me that I didn't really need new spark plug wires (of course, it wasn't wet that day). As a point of interest, the later "technologically improved" vehicle actually got worse mileage than my old '76 Corolla.

So when I hear talk of microprocessor-controlled toasters, I envision a nightmare scene. On a tiny LCD screen, an animated slice of toast would appear when the button to make toast was pressed.

"Hi! It looks like you're trying to make some toast. How can I help you?
  1. Begin toasting bread (current setting: black and completely charred)
  2. View additional settings options
  3. Learn about toast with MSN® food research guides®!"
So you choose 2, the same as every day, to set it back to normal toast, with no burnt parts. After asking, "Are you sure? You can't change this setting after the bread is inserted." the whole thing goes blank, then the user is prompted to unplug the toaster, wait 30 seconds, and plug it back in. This cycle would repeat until the user was faced with a decision between eating toast or being on time for work.

Enough, I suppose. I'll go off and hunt something with a crude stone tool now, and cook it over a newly-discovered fire. And this machine will ask me if I'm sure I want to turn it off, and I will suppress the urge to scream obscenities at it.

22 April 2007

That's when I reach for my revolver

I have an awful head cold this weekend. Dearest also felt under the weather yesterday. We were unable to determine whose students infected us with this plague. Then I recalled that we can buy pseudofed here, so now I am under the effects of cold medication and a Mission of Burma playlist.

Friday, I came home early, excusing myself from the office because of a sore throat. While I was in the back room changing, I heard a small voice at the computer desk. I thought she was speaking Chinese for a moment, then I recognized the phrase "fuck! fuck! fuck!" It seems that GTA3 is the new addiction in our home, and someone has a difficult time steering the cars.

I just now realized that I've been staring at the screen slack-jawed for 20 minutes. It's time for a nap and maybe more medicine.

21 April 2007

Lies, damn lies, and ballistics.

Shift happens. It may indicate a personal flaw, but I fall for interesting statistics all the time, although I consciously distrust them.

Albert Hoffman is still alive, and apparently in good health, at age 101. Happy Bicycle Day, everyone (belatedly, I know, but time zones confuse me).

12 April 2007

Hi Ho.

I just read that Kurt Vonnegut passed away. When I was still young and impressionable, an English teacher loaned me a copy of Slapstick (and at the same time, Even Cowgirls get the Blues by Tom Robbins). I was asked to discretely take the books home and only read them there, and then return them discretely when I had finished. That act probably furthered my education more than the rest of my time in public school combined.

08 April 2007

Like camping?

One of the first things I found in China was Metro. It's a little imported slice of the outside world, and the only source I've found for affordable coffee. Perhaps affordable isn't the exact word I want, but *$ et al charge a lot more. (115 kwai for 240 grams as opposed to 89 yuan for 1100 grams)

The other day, She Who Makes Life Worth Living called on the cell phone. Metro was out of Maxwell House, would I like her to buy "other brand" for 200?

I told her thanks, but that was too much for what might be an unacceptable substitute (I spent a few days on vacation once in a little town where every restaurant and hotel "proudly served" the same brand of coffee, and I tried a cup at each establishment, thinking the others probably did something wrong that caused the results to taste like sewage filtered through singed elastic, but sadly, the flavor was Paul De Lima's fault, not that of anyone in Corning).

Since very few places in this city sell ground coffee (or whole bean coffee) at all, and no others stock anything familiar, I opted to try some instant. Every convenience store, street corner vendor, and grocer sells a variety of instant coffee.

The flavor isn't quite the same, and I'm a little sad to see the coffee maker that cost a relatively large sum sitting idle, but I can live with it for a while.

Of course, sitting on a couch that I believe used to be the back seat of a car, drinking instant coffee made with water that was boiled in a tin can (the bowls are all in use with food just now), I fell into a flashback of "camping" when I was 13-17 years old. Mostly, I just wanted to be alone with my newly-discovered vices (cigarettes, paint thinner fumes, occasional liquor, and more rarely yet, pot) and a cup of coffee made over a small fire covered the evidence of my enthusiasms (the coffee for breath and the woodsmoke for clothing).

Roll the tape forward to now. I still don't dare get caught with cigarette smoke or alcohol on my breath. I'm still freezing cold, drinking coffee more for the warmth than the flavor or caffeine. I'm still a little pissed off Sunday afternoons, because it means the weekend is mostly over and I have to go back to school for a week, without really accomplishing much or enjoying much of the days off.

07 April 2007

Cum for me, my melancholy baby.

The power of art is that it lets us see, in someone else’s work, an idea that we dimly formed but lacked the skill to realise or convey, and in this way makes us feel less alone. - Alan Moore on Pornography
I ran across this quote this morning. The linked essay, while somewhat long, is a fascinating exploration of the history of erotica and its effects on society at large. What struck me as interesting is the early bit, when Mr. Moore tells of pre-Christian Europe, and the generally relaxed sexual attitudes of the inhabitants thereof. I started thinking that I'd heard something vaguely similar in recent days. I tried to recall conversations I've had with the few people I can speak to at such a level. This led me to realize that all discussion I have with native English speakers gravitates to risqué humor, fatalistic resignation over the performance of our students, or exchanges of shopping tips. Then I remembered that a few days ago, I read another fairly long essay by Barbara Ehrenreich entitled How we learned to stop having fun. Ms. Ehrenreich's first sentence states that Europe in the 17th century looks for all the world like the point when depression was invented.

So, my brain, adept as it is for completely fucking up anything involving numbers, globbed the two essays together, and came to the conclusion that Constantine doomed mankind to inexplicable melancholy by stigmatizing pornography and masturbation. But there's a few centuries in the middle of the two events I'm trying to link. The fact that I cannot bring myself to make an effort to look for the connection perfectly exemplifies why I shouldn't go to grad school.

05 April 2007

What did you learn at school today?

By all accounts, the students I face every day should be relatively homogeneous, at least as far as their ability to speak English is concerned. They all had the same courses taught by the same teachers. This week, some major topics various classes had trouble with were; the difference between the words "he" "she" "they" "it", why it's important to properly pronounce "dessert" and "desert", how to pronounce the letters V and B, and who was Friedrich Nietzsche and why did I laugh when the name was mentioned in a movie?

There are a few students who speak English more fluently than many of my classmates in College did. There are some that I can easily carry on a conversation with for an hour and not think at all about the fact that they aren't native speakers. There are a few who correct my grammar. There are too many that need help to ask to be excused so they can visit the W.C. (and why can't they hold it for 45 minutes? They're 21 years old. Bladder management should not be an issue in this decade of their lives)

The Love of my life, She eats bugs

She says each one has the nutrition of two large eggs.

I tell her that eggs do not wriggle, squirm, or otherwise act alive when I buy them. These things were rather energetic when she brought the sack of them home.

They are always on display in the markets, and I always give them wide berth. I wonder now if she actually intends to prepare them, or only use them to chase me out of the room.

01 April 2007

without a "box" joke

I was setting up to write about sci-fi web sites I read regularly, and somehow wound up at Pandora instead. I haven't tried to push it too far yet, but when I gave it the name Sigur Ros they started a stream that does, in fact, all match in style.

OK, I spoke too soon. After 5 tracks, the music stopped, and there's a box that says "It's taking longer than expected to figure out the perfect song to play next." They also mention, in tiny print at the bottom of the page, that they are only for U.S. listening, due to the DMCA.

Oh well. I suppose I can download stuff from bittorrent if the notion of background music becomes compelling enough.

While I'm near the topic, let me recommend Foobar2000 as a music player. It's small, efficient, and thus far, hasn't caused my firewall to freak out and warn me of mysterious attempts to contact the mother ship. In fact, the first time it tried to contact the internet was just now when I gave it the address of a stream to play. I notice this in contrast to the default player, which continually tries to contact the outside world in spite of my wishes.

I had a long bitch about word processors in this part, but deleted it. I'll say that, given the state of the art of word processing software, I've discovered a fondness for pen and paper, and lament that I let my typewriters out of my grasp.

fire blog with me

Back when the world was simpler and sepia-toned, I had to move from the city I lived in and loved to another place that I disliked. That was for financial reasons. What made the one place appealing and the other not was the presence of industry. The small town's only business was tourism, while the city was home to several large companies.

So, with heavy heart, I moved to the city, and found work. The job wasn't any fun at all, but it was the most money I had ever earned. I used a portion of my income to visit the small town every single chance I had.

A friend of mine was struggling to raise a baby alone on a limited income. The arrangement that we settled into was that I would buy some food, help with housework, and babysit some of the time, and I could stay there while I was in town. The chief benefit of the arrangement for my friend was that she could go to a house with a working television set and see Twin Peaks. My father had a betamax, and would tape the show for me. I stopped on my way back to the city and watched it with him.

I ran across an interview with David Lynch, and started thinking back to those days. It's difficult to comprehend that it was nearly 20 years ago now. The baby I used to take care of is now wearing a lot of the clothes I left behind when I moved away.

Watching the video, I kept thinking that Mr. Lynch should work with puppets at some point, given his constantly wriggling right hand.

I only read it for the articles.

I forget precisely how I came to the page, but I spent far too much time this weekend reading Modern Mechanix. The articles were mildly amusing, but the advertisements that runs along the sides of the page, particularly near the ends of articles that were continued in the far back pages, brought back a lot of memories. My father used to get occasional issues of Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Popular Electronics, etc. and leave them around the back room of the house, which was nominally the dining room, but served as a laboratory/workshop when meals were not in progress (or if he was in the middle of something at dinner time, we all ate on part of the table and looked at the collection of things piled beyond the food).

The advertisements in the back pages of such publications always fascinated me. I'm certain I would have been disappointed, had I sent actual money for "x-ray specs" and discovered that they did not, in fact, allow me to see through ladies' garments. But the notion that such things were out there, available to people who could afford $1.50 plus postage and handling, led my imagination to run.

31 March 2007

So, you found me.

I think I have come to a sort of detente with blogger now, so I should get on with writing something instead of endlessly tinkering with the layout tools.