22 August 2008


Ryan North's Dinosaur Comics never fails to crack me up. I'm linking this one, because the pattern is classic: polysyllabic discussion of psychological or philosophical analysis of a pertinent issue, ended with an utterance that reverses that impression. So, while those around me struggle to discern what the set-up means, I'm chuckling about "Boners Ahoy" and yet feeling smug because I think I understand something intellectual.

15 August 2008

Prescience & Caffeine

Somewhere in the past, I blathered on here about making adjectives from names, and used Kafka's name as an example. At one point, I tried to coin the term "Kafkarotic" and combine my limited knowledge of the author with pornographic stories.

Today, I noticed mention that Kafka indeed collected The Amethyst/Opals, which the article seems to indicate is a porn magazine.

The scholars interviewed didn't seem as shocked as the opening few paragraphs expected. I'm intrigued about the magazine itself. That's a cool title. Of course, the first person I ever had sex with was born in February, and collected amethysts (the birth stone for February), so perhaps I associate that word with the erotic for that reason. Whatever.

13 August 2008

Song of the South

In our neighborhood, there are at least four people whose job consists of pedaling a cart around all the side alleys and lanes, calling for junk. They buy old bottles, broken appliances, and God-only-knows what else1.

The reason I mention them is because the other day, a previously unheard voice went by, and as I lay here, trying not to die (the heat and humidity are that bad), my brain tricked me into believing that he was singing, and that I ought to recognize that tune. So, he pedaled around, asking for washing machine parts, and finally, I blurted out the next line of an old Flock of Seagulls song: "I was falling in love."

About an hour later, a woman went by, and I swear she was singing the tune for "Here Comes the Bride" with Chinese lyrics.

After a couple of hours of naming those tunes, I started to wonder if there was something wrong with that activity. Might it be racist in some way to hear only echoes of synthpop in the local language?

Then Sweetness came home, and as we were playing cards, she heard them outside, and said, "Southerners sound like they're singing all the time when they talk."

"What are they saying?" I asked.

"Who knows?"

1 - I suppose anyone who speaks the same dialect knows what they buy, but I know about two dozen words of Mandarin, let alone unknown southerner talk.

The creative spark

I just saw this video (I'm assuming it will embed above this text) of Josh Lesnick creating the latest installment of Girly. Artists fascinate me. The process fascinates me. A blank page (or screen) getting filled with the results of gestures, and those results suggest a form beyond a two-dimensional, black-and-white bit of scribbling is just short of miraculous to me. Maybe it's because my own attempts didn't turn out this way, so I gave up.

Oh, that's right, I didn't mention the Ira Glass videos. He says, somewhere in there, that it's important to keep on with whatever endeavor you start with, even if you suck at it, because continued practice is the only way to eventually not suck. It's one of those concepts that you hear from birth (or very nearly) and never really comprehend until you're over 40, far from home, and drinking heavily because everything you attempt falls short of your desires.

So, the Wacom tablet will become more than a replacement for the dying touch-pad on this machine, until I realize I'm using that notion as a mental dodge to get around doing the work writing requires. Oh well.

12 August 2008

The Principled Peter

Today's link is titled "Why Jargon Feeds on Lazy Minds." The writer suggests that every "business writer, guru, or executive" should be forced to read Orwell's essay Politics And The English Language every morning before work.

I would also propose the following phrases be eliminated from the language:
  • value your input really means, "want you to do my work."
  • thinking outside the box When you hear this, it will be from someone who is neither, even if it's meant to be ironic.
  • touch base If you forget this is a baseball metaphor, it sounds sexual. If you are aware that it's a baseball term, it's confusing, because what's being demanded doesn't resemble "touching base" so much as "being trapped in another pointless meeting only to make some idiot feel important."
  • standardized on really means "all forced to use/do." e.g. "Our company is standardized on MS Office." or "Can we standardize on arriving 30 minutes early in case anyone has issues to discuss?"
I'm sure there is an endless supply of these, as idiotic gasbags seem to be abundant, and prone to gather and trade such gems among their own kind. Thinking that made me depressed, so I'm off to see if there's a new Homestar Runner cartoon.

10 August 2008

You will. (or else?)

I watched the videos for the Aurora browser, and then several related videos for the same idea applied to a different problem set. In the end, they're not compelling. All of them use the basic concept that a 3D interface will make shopping easier. This is important because we all want to keep the economy strong to support the troops, but all that not-sitting-in-front-of-TV is too hard. I mean, if we were meant to have that much walking around and stuff, God wouldn't have invented liposuction.

Really, I watched videos demonstrating three different "next generation" browsers, and they all revolved around Amazon or eBay either in 3D or combined with some master database that KNOWS EVERYTHING YOU EVER READ OR THOUGHT.

First off, do west-coast farmers talk smack to each other? I grew up around farmers, and they mostly just asked each other, "How are you doing these days?" with some measure of concern, because they all had a rough enough time of it.

And the mouse-in-the-air thing? She's trading one repetitive stress injury for another. Great wrists, but her shoulder will need replacing.

In the last video, two men are discussing what to get a little girl for her seventh birthday, and they call her mother, who agrees to send a full inventory of the kid's room and a profile. Many commenters noted that it was a little creepy that Mom had a profile and did RFID scans of her bedroom's contents. What I want to know is why the gay uncle couldn't talk to the little girl and ask what she wanted, and wasn't it enough that his twink room-mate catered the event, spending all night making Spongebob characters from arugula, carrots, and melon?

There was another video where a man with a heavy accent wanted to buy a toy for (presumably) the same kid, and wanted it to last more than a week. Again, why not look at the damn thing, and see if it appears sturdy enough for that child's use. If you honestly don't know, get a gift certificate from the toy store and find a humorous card to attach it to.

Then there's voice command. (not in the Aurora videos, I'm going off on a tangent now. Sensitive viewers may wish to leave the web site) Joe Data-Entry is trying to update the catalog description for the "Sun Yellow" line of swimwear on the company web site. "Not 'son,' 'sun'," he says to his computer. He repeats it louder and slower. He sighs, then growls when the sigh is transcribed as some convulsion of letters and subsequently marked as misspelled. Now imagine a cube farm, with 1,500 people, none of whom have had proper training, all trying to convince their desktop that they really and truly know the difference between "crab" and "crap" and that they just have a head-cold, for Christ's sake.

It's bad enough that we have speakerphones but not private offices. There's always some "important" guy who not only has to use the speaker, at top volume (I mean, so that it distorts more than Hendrix's Marshalls at Woodstock) but also mutter aloud, "Let's see if my wife stayed at home today like a good girl..." I always pray that there's no answer, so that I can mutter, "She's probably off fucking some guy who has a three digit I.Q."

Back to user interfaces--I have given up on GUIs. I even gave up on mc. I have some files backed up on DVD-RW, and in one directory, there are several versions of every Amiga program ever made (apart from games, which take another entire DVD). I keep forgetting how painful GUI use can be until I double-click on that folder, and it takes ten frustrating, no, it's twelve now, unless it stops doing anything for five minutes, then it says twenty-three, but changed back to twelve minutes a second later, and finally eighteen minutes to display "thumbnails" of the contents. Why thumbnails? Is "LHA" a suffix used for pictures in Windows? I learned to use the command line for everything. I even switched to using vim and LaTeX for writing.

09 August 2008

Thanks for the education, Internet!

Firefox has this wonderful option to open the tabs I had last time when I start it again. Things I think are potentially fascinating but too long for my fatigue level are left there in the stack until I manage to go through all the items in google reader (because we can't have RSS feeds in China) and the list of comics I read every day ("open all in tabs" is another wonderful feature) and check my various and sundry email accounts.

So today, I finally managed to get back to Pablo Defendini's article on faster-than-light travel and related topics. It made for interesting reading, though nothing I hadn't seen before. Then I noticed some of the words were hyperlinked and clicked on "noosphere" (though it's properly spelled with an umlaut). That led to wikipedia, which is outside the great firewall, so I copied the word into the search bar on The Free Dictionary (which includes a wikipedia mirror).

I was searching through the explanation of noosphere, and saw mention of Stewart Brand and, in the references, Serial Experiment: Lain. Now, I've watched Lain some number of times I'm not comfortable disclosing, but I still read the entire article, on the chance that it would give me yet another angle of looking at the story I hadn't noticed before. It did, but that's not the point here. One of the themes mentioned in the article was Dissociative Identity Disorder. I wasn't familiar with that term, as I only studied psychology for a brief time, back when your parents were still in middle school. So, off we went to another page, and I saw mention of "Borderline Personality Disorder" which led me to another page and then several ancillary searches, and now I have a fairly confident diagnosis for an acquaintance I've had entirely too much interaction with.

A character in Alice in Wonderland said "I try to believe ten impossible things before breakfast." Before I finished my morning coffee, I feel as though I had lessons in Postmodernism, Literary Theory, and Psychology. If I could keep up this pace until lunch, I might consider grad school.

06 August 2008

as I stood 'neath the marquee moon...hesitating

There are three aisles in the corner of Hy-Mall (now called Tesco after the merger, but in my heart, it will always be pronounced Le Go) and the first is for wine, the second for beer, and the last baijiu. The fact that this bottle came from the third aisle and I haven't died yet are my only indications that I am not drinking aftershave right now.