Thursday, December 30, 2004

double oh never mind

Those who know me know I'm a big Bond fan. I have seen every movie except the one with Denise Richards, have read several of the books, have logged an unspeakable number of hours playing James Bond videogames, have spent hours researching Aston Martin, have been to a Bond-themed bar, have gone as Bond to a Halloween party, laughed at the refential jokes in Austin Powers, etc. After a recent successful viewing of Goldfinger, with 7/8 of my normal blood capacity and under unusual amounts of stress, I gave some strong consideration to a Bond blog, in which I would chronicle a viewing of all of the film. After a nap and some food, I decided against this. I mean, how often would I post? What would I have to say? So, consider yourselves lucky that I didn't start up yet another ill-advised blog.

When Alex was in Egypt's lands...

I have few guilty pleasures. This is due mainly to the fact that I partake in many pleasures and feel guilt about almost none of them. Today I savored one of those few -- calling in sick. Now, I don't mean calling in sick when you're not, which ain't right. I mean calling in sick when you're actually sick. I usually slog my way through the work day when feeling ill, but from time to time I give the call. I don't even do the sick voice. This is grand. Sleep half the day, laze about the rest, and feel tip-top the next morning.

Why don't I do this every time I feel sick? Because I have a work problem. Any time you guys want to stage an intervention to tell me you're all concerned about my working, feel free to jump right in. Granted, I rarely work late or on weekends, but still. Dude needs to take some damn vay-cay now and then. If I make it to the DMV before my birthday, it will proof of divine providence.

Monday, December 27, 2004

No, Mister Bond. I expect you to boogie.

Nothing beats a good sample. It's like a little puzzle in the song, taunting you for not being cool enough to get it. As a fan of DJ Shadow, I've pretty much given up on any meager shot I had at being the guy who points out the source of samples. But yesterday, as I partook in 007 Days of Christmas, I heard a familiar strain. You know that song 6 Underground by Sneaker Pimps, the infi-cool song from the Saint soundtrack? The first few notes are a sample of the music playing when James Bond walks into the bedroom to find his latest girl coated in gold. This, quite clearly, is awesome. It is also an indicator that I need to lay off the spy flicks a little.


I'd offer you a comparison, but Rhapsody doesn't have the Goldfinger soundtrack. Dammeht.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Quiet on the field.

Something unlikely happened at my house yesterday. After the cookie-filled close of Christmas dinner proper, the women cleaned up and the men sat in the living room and watched football. That's right -- an actual football game on the TV in my home. From this experience, I took away one thing and one thing only: on holidays, men watch football not out of any love of the sport, but rather a desire to not have to engage in conversation for a time.

As you may have noticed, both this post and the two prior reveal me to be completely small-talked out.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Daddy's going to kill Ralphie.

In the post-coffee, pre-extended-family-arrival lull, is it inappropriate to pull out the Xbox? Between prepping din-din, brushing off the car, and watching A Christmas Story repeatedly, the fam is relatively occupied. I fear, though, that they are not occupied enough not to take serious umbrage to me continuing my battle against the Covenant. I can hear the whispers now: "I can't believe Alex is playing videogames. Why isn't he sitting in here with us, waiting in bored silence for something to happen?"

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Zen and the Art of Vehicle Maintenance

I have found peace, and it is at Target. Despite unruly throngs of holiday desperation, the automotive section at holds strong as a bastion against the cruel Hell that is shopping. There, men find solace from wives and children (their own and others'), wandering in with the vaguest of intents, staring in gentle contemplation at shelves of windshield wiper fluid, content with this brief respite from noise and obligation.

Monday, December 20, 2004

It's on the street.

Sometimes life is like a sitcom. Like today's episode, in which our well-meaning but often befuddled protagonist awakes to a 50F cold house, determines that the heat isn't working, calls the pretty young landlady who comes in as the pretty younger wife tries to distract her from the pile of (albeit clean) dishes in the sink, calls in to work saying he'll be late, goes out to the 3F unbearably cold car, drives to work wondering why his allegedly insulated boots aren't keeping his toes any warmer than if he wore ice-blocks in their stead, gets to his 70F warm cube, starts to feel sick from the wild temperature swings, vows to stay indoors for the entire day, pours himself a cup of coffee, sets to working, then makes a face at the camera when the fire alarm goes off.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

The smell of cakes and pies is absolutely everywhere.

It's coming.

The gauntlet of the mall has been run several times over, and with success. Guestlists have been cemented within reasonable margins. Nog abounds. My home is primed for Christmas, but what does one do with the few days between now and then? Being ready early creates a quiet, smoldering stress, the feeling that you should be doing something. Do we have the right tablecloth? Should we pick up those swizzle-sticks? Since during this season all are expected to be rushing around getting ready, the entire engine of the US is set towards that one goal. There's nothing else to do. So, I will sit quietly in my home, letting the dulling glow of the tree distract me.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

This big.

I'm no fisherman, but I caught a decent-sized fish once, and put the picture up in my cube. I recommend doing this. Take something from your personal life and post it for the visitors to see. Why, you ask? Here's an example.

Today, someone came to my office. This poor guy has being trying to get some info out of me via phone for a few weeks, but I've been too busy to find the answer he's looking for. So, in he comes. I turn to my PC, making extempore ingratiating sounds and "pulling him up" to make a good show of it. When I turn back to tell him I haven't done anything for him, he interrupts me to ask about the fish. Is that a tiger muskie? What lake is that? Have you ever fished Lake Youveneverheardof? Et cetera. He left satisfied that I was indeed busy and not just blowing him off, dreaming of grandiose fish.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Double bogey

3 strikes and you're out. Everybody knows this. You get three tries, and if you screw it up all three times, you're in trouble. But does the rest of the world follow the same rule, since they don't play baseball? Do British people get six tries at everything, because you get six overs in cricket? Do the Scots measure everything in par? "It took you five times to get this right, Wilson. It's a 3-par. Take a hike".

Monday, December 13, 2004

Iceman / Lightning Boy / Magic Dude

Saw an odd thing on this Geek Day. A Domino's delivery vehicle. Why odd? Any native Buffalo pizza place on its worst day beats the highest quality Domino's has ever or will ever provide. What kind of sick individual orders Domino's around here? Stockholders? Why Geek Day? The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Special Edition DVD is released tonight at midnight. Every nerd in America is sitting at his computer right now, considering whether or not to wait. This in and of itself is more of a Geek Observance than a full Geek Day, but the fact that the Sci-Fi original feature Earthsea, based on the books of Ursula LeGuin, is also coming out today takes us out of Ordinary Time and in to the holiday.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Just one lump.

When people rent, one of the attributes they consider in an apartment is often summarized as "character". This can be roughly translated to "looks old". My apartment, for example, has one of the quaint, old-timey round analog thermostats. It doesn't work. The heat is either on or off, and does not stop when the assigned temperature has been reached. This makes for some very cold mornings, since there's no one awake to turn the heat on and off every couple of hours. The morning shave has become a trial of fire. The good news is, the milk stays very cool in my cereal, and I believe I am becoming hardened to the cold. Don't worry, I won't rub it in.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Go get 'em, Tiger.

Press conference at the hospital today. You see, we bought this robot. The surgeon sits down and moves a controller around, and then the robot mimics the movements on a much smaller scale. As my betters got up in front of the cameras explaining the benefits of less invasive surgery methods and the long-terms cost savings, my stare could not be averted from the motionless arms of the robot, silent and poised. I had a meeting to go to, and thus did not get to see the merged-man-machine in action. From the lack of alarms, I inferred that my fear that the robot would take control of its master and go on a rampage, committing wanton acts of healthcare in accordance to its programming throughout the downtown area until well-meaning law enforcement personnel were forced to shoot the misunderstood beast down was not founded. And by "fear", I mean "hope".

Moon pies.

It's over. UPS picked up the old and busted Dell today, after DHL's failed attempts. What can Brown do for me? Get my stuff back to Dell so fast that I've already received confirmation, that's what. How did they track stuff before the internet? Before computers? Before fax machines? We live in an age that is sure to some day be hearkened back to as golden.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Ad infinitum

I have known the eternity of death, and it is the stretch of I-90 between Erie, PA and Buffalo, NY. That drive reminds me of various conversations I have been subjected to in which people try to explain to me how time goes slower when you travel at the speed of light. Or something like that. The scenery calls to mind the scrolling backgrounds in Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Only by losing one's self and accepting that cruel Time will place you in Buffalo when she sees fit and no sooner can you survive without descending into utter madness. Be warned.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

There's a really big snake.

Never been to Ikea before. No one told me it was enchanted. All people who enter are doomed to walk in circles, passing the same secret-language-labelled displays over and over until they decide to buy something. At that point, the prices get lower the more one looks around, drawing the starry-eyed customer deeper and deeper into the maze. The key to escape is left right out in the open, mocking those who overlook them -- hideous yellow bags are piled in bins around the store, and only by plucking one will the unwitting shopper reveal the exit.

Thursday, December 02, 2004


Discerning B A Starters may have noticed the "Get Firefox" button under "Other Links". Now's when I tells ya why's I likes the Firefox.

#1 - They say it's safer. I can only assume they mean the menus and buttons are placed in such a way that my inevitable debilitation due to carpal tunnel syndrome will be pushed back a few weeks.

#2 - Extensions. They've got all these user-created extensions of the software that do cool stuff. At least they look like they do cool stuff. I mean, I'm not really sure what a mouse gesture is, but since I don't, it must be cool, right? Knowledge I don't have is supposed to be cool, isn't it?

#3 - Themes. Tired of your boring browser? Well, Firefox has got tons of user-created themes, which change the look of the buttons and what not. Granted, 75% of them are based on pawprints, but hey. At first I was disappointed in this feature, since I was expecting a searchable online database of junior-high themes on various topics, such as what I did during my summer vacation. I adjusted.

#4 - The logo. The Firefox logo is pretty. I like pretty things. Well, maybe not all pretty things. A lot of pretty things, though. Probably most. That I've seen. Like in my life and stuff.

I'm a big fan of the pop-up blocker and password manager. I also like being able to search Wikipedia and IMDB from the toolbar. So go download it. It's pretty sweet.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Someday it may matter.

I really need to defrag. I've been experiencing a serious increase in processing time for even the most basic of tasks. Errors, hangs, and full freezes are becoming more frequent. I tried the disk cleanup, but the temporary files are already all wiped out. Seems that files are being flat-out deleted instead of just moved to the Recycle Bin. Maybe I should try a good registry cleaner. With all of the programs installed and uninstalled over the years, I'm sure there's all kind of stuff that needs to be straightened out.

I'm starting to become concerned that the problem is not hard-drive space but processor speed. How can I tell if I'm pushing the machine too hard? I've often wondered if I should dedicate the time and money to upgrading the thing piecemeal. Knowing me, I'll just keep working the poor thing until it fries. My brain, I mean. Not the new computer. That arrived and everything's fine. The gray matter on the other hand, no so much.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

I can hear the ocean.

Been trying to stay later at work the last couple days. Got two big ol' projects due by year-end and it's go time. Something in the untended pile of scraps and weeds that composes my mind heard my voice bemoaning a lack of time in the day and finally figured out that I have the ability to make more if it. So for the last couple days, instead of running off in a depressed huff shortly after the five o'clock hour, I've been working on these projects with quiet deliberation for a bit, the constant chatter of my coworkers replaced by the slow, calming sussuration of my belly wondering just what in the Hellespont is going on. All those suck-ups may be on to something after all.

Monday, November 29, 2004


Some deficiency in my nature or upbringing (though I doubt the latter, as my parents really did try) leaves a noticable gap in my personality where the enjoyment of sports should be. Try as I might, nothing seems to stick. Through the efforts of many, I've developed into a decent hockey fan, but still can't sit and watch a whole game by myself. I managed to attend every home high school football game and come away with no idea what "fair catch" means. F1, rally racing, and skiing remain the only events I can stomach, probably because I have driven a car and have also skiied. (Skied? Too bored with it to even look it up.)

Fictional sports, on the other hand, merit being called an obsession. Watching Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban last night stoked that fire until it glowed with warm geekiness. I know as much about Quidditch as any person living. While my interest in the Harry Potter series can at most be described as passing, the merest glimpse of the oval and rings makes the blood pound in my under-exercised heart. The two other biggies are pod racing and blitzball. I sincerely wish I could explain why the distractions of made-up people keep my attention more easily than actual human competition, but I am at a complete loss, an observer of my own habits as removed as you are. Feel free to submit tentative explanations -- your guess is at least as good as mine.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Denouement to Follow

I'm sending it back. The morning after the last iteration in the saga of Alex vs. the Dell, the blue screen came up again. I spent the day getting primed for the call, running through the playbook in my mind, devising stratagems, hardening my resolve. I hate being Angry Customer Guy and have been fortunate enought not to have to don that mask but a few times. This was going to be his greatest victory.

I called the Dell I-Heart-Customers line, guns at the ready. They offered to replace the machine and send UPS to pick up the old one for free. No need to bring out the Sith lord.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Arms and the Bragiole

New research on the life of Homer has uncovered surprising details. Here's the first stanza from Butler's Iliad:

Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought countless
ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to
Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures, for so were
the counsels of Jove fulfilled from the day on which the son of Atreus, king
of men, and great Achilles, first fell out with one another.
Compare to the following:

You know my husband, your father, your grandfather, of course he's not with us
now, but when he was alive years ago, after he started his business and we lived
on Wesland street with the red house and the Ford, which I tried to learn how to
drive, and let me tell you I heard some language from him then, he always was
out bowling, you know he liked to bowl.

Comparative study has revealed that Homer was a 75-year-old Italian woman from the Bronx.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Get a pen and paper.

I'd like to place a motion on the floor. Let's move Thanksgiving to September. Those of you who don't live in the Northeast may think this silly, but I would ask that you hear me out.

One would be foolish to miss Thanksgiving. A single day of feast and relaxed conversation in celebration of the traditions of hard work, inclusiveness,and piety that are so definitive to Americans. No singing, no church, no torn paper. Unfortunately, the gods of nature have clearly ruled that travel to and from this peaceful event be a task worthy of the great. Each year they loose the black-browed storm god upon us hapless mortals, and each year we must strain and suffer to earn our place at the table.

But we're America. The gods do not decide our fate. We have the power to circumvent their trickery by simply changing the date of our observance. Clearly another autumn month would be preferable, keeping in line with the harvest theme of the day. October has Halloween, a holiday fervently celebrated by all but the most Fundamentalist, the Ebenezers of All Hallows Eve. September comes out as the clear leader. Write your congressman.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Man, I don't know.

B A Start Poll: Should I take advantage of Dell's Total Satisfaction Return Policy? I've got until the 24th to make up my mind. And I think I would have to pay for shipping. For a year, they'll come out and replace broken stuff.

After repeated blue screens and full on crashes today, I called support and got somebody good. He recommended a registry cleaner and a full diagnostic. Some Christmas shopping and an ice-cream later, the diag tool is still running. It doesn't come up with anything. I call 'em back, they take down some info and give me the number for customer care.

So, I'm muy torn. Send in your comments and lets here what you folks have to say.

Also, I'm thinking about changing the name of this blog to "".

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Stanza 3

The saga continues. I started getting the old Blue Screen of Death again, so I email Dell support about it. The next day I get a reply with some dangerous-looking instructions. There was DOS typing. So, mustering up some courage, I give it a go last night. Nearest I could tell, the idea was to remove a corrupted file from my PC and replace it with the orignal from the XP CD. I got down to the end of the process, and my PC told me "Access is denied" in its typically flat manner. So, I exit and restart, becoming the proud owner of a machine built for one thing -- bringing up a blue screen.

I call Dell Support. The nice pre-recorded lady asks me to enter my express service code. After a few seconds, she patiently informs me that it can be found on a label on my PC. This is fiction. I go back to the beginning and try to guess what combination of numbers will give me a person who knows how to do something other than sell me stuff. Twenty minutes on hold and one hour of instruction later, my PC is now allegedly configured exactly the same as when I first opened the box.

It froze up when I started it up this morning. It's ok now. Further updates as events warrant.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Tales of the Rhap

I had no plans of seeing The Matrix. Keanu Reeves? Are you joking? Having been dragged there, I fell deeply and irrevocably in love with the movie at the first sight of the green terminal text. It brought back memories. Good memories of early geek tendencies allowed to flourish.

The next day, the deep desire to bring some part of the movie back home with me to love in private led to the purchase of the soundtrack. This stayed in constant rotation for a long time. There was a splinter in my mind, though. The song Neo is listening to when we first see him, fallen asleep on his PC, was not to be found. The little that we hear sounds like the best song in the movie, and being denied it was unacceptable. Nonetheless, I pressed on with life, unsated and soured.

Years later, Her Worshipfulness was toying with Rhapsody and the song came on. I walked into the computer room wild-eyed and slack-jawed, trying to force long-dormant synapses to fire. Finally it came to me, and I did rejoice. And the best part was, another song from the soundtrack of another favorite movie of mine is on the same album. So go listen to Massive Attack's Mezzanine.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Who's a big boy?

Why do they always make me hold the baby? Is it just to watch me freak out? Do they think it's cute? Why do they say I'm a natural when I quite clearly am holding my breath and sweating? Is that what infants like? Is the sound of blood rushing from my face similar to the noises of the womb? Does the mother-baby bond cause a positive reaction to terror in others? Most people won't let you drive their new car or wear your shoes on the new carpet, but hold the progeny? I insist!

Thursday, November 18, 2004


I applied for a job this weekend. I'm not actively seeking a new job, but when this passed my field of view, I knew I could not resist. I've been checking in now and then since they posted a writing position a while back, and this position is pretty much the same as my current job. Except with more Star Wars. The Lucasfilm site used to have benefits etc posted, and working on the ranch, taking the company sailboat out for a turn about the bay, and living just a few minutes from Frisco sure sounded pretty good to me.

So, I threw together a cover letter and resume detailing my exploits and explaining beyond any doubt why I'm the guy. I pasted 'em into the provided boxes, filled out my personal info, and sent my little baby out into the wide world to see what he could do. But, as I clicked "Submit", something seemed strange. I hit the back arrow, and there it was, for all the Employment Office to see. My home phone number was wrong.

I have been the office joke at the Ranch for the last few days. Unconfirmed rumors on have stated that the HR folks were seen laughing it up at lunch, talking about "that phone number guy". "I hope they don't ask me about attention to detail at the interview, honey." "Hey, saw you had an opening, give me a call. Oh wait." Et cetera.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Save room for later.

In the vein of yesterday's post, a story idea has been rolling around in la cabesa. This dude is skulking around a factory, on his way to assassinate the head of the company. His people have been in the thrall of the owner for ages, since before he was born. Their entire society was transplanted from the homeland to the giant factory, which as far as he can tell is in the middle of a giant city. He and his kind work the machines, toiling endlessly to make specialty foods for the decadent city-dwellers. The oldest of his fellows in slavery call the factory owner a savior, naming some long-forgotten aid he provided, but he doesn't buy it. So, he's on his way to kill the owner and free his people. His people being the Oompa-Loompas from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It's one of those stories.

I think you can see why I'm not a writer. I have zero original ideas. If
a career could be made out of writing "but he's really the Cowardly Lion!" stories, I'd be a wealthy man.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Straight on until mourning.

I'd like to see an American-McGee'd-out version of Peter Pan. Some kid falls in a barrel and becomes a Lost Boy. When he shows up in Neverland, he is immediately grabbed by Hookcorp Security and impressed into service in the Fairydust Extraction Complex. The fairies have been hooked up to Giger-looking machines that pull their flight-granting dust directly from their glands. All the fairies have to look forward to is death, but the dead are shipped down to the Reanimation Floor, where former pirates and indians sit in drug-induced comas repeating that they do believe.

With Pan gone and grown-up, the Lost Boys have split into various Lord-of-the-Flies factions. Some are hired by Hookcorp as fairy hunters. Others are bent on rebellion, fired by timeworn stories that the ancient Mother told their forefathers. Their tormented bodies are often seen on display in the Complex, an example of the natural result of non-compliance with corporate policy. Naturally, our hero falls in with one of these bands and brings about the demise of Hookcorp. And there are mermaids in there somewhere.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Day of rest, my eye.

Sorry for the wait. You still love me, don't you?

Sunday was a rough day. All I wanted to do was make a few changes and post. At ten-thirty PM, after a day of demands, I sit down at the new Dell and watch the Blue Screen of Death appear. I know no fear, having seen this screen many times in my travels. A quick reset, and I'm back in business.

Except that I'm not.

A couple hours of bugging (I mean -out, not de-) and it's time for bed. Couldn't get through to support. Set up the trusty old Win 98 rig, email support my tale of woe. Much to my surprise, this morning there's a reply. Like all oracles, this reply spoke in byzantine riddles. I replied to the replier, making sure to use the word "warranty". Another response comes, this one clear as crystal in February. And now I'm back in the game. I have a weird bruise on my knuckle, which I can only assume cam from me biting it during my tense sleep, but other than that, no harm done. Could this have caused the problem? Who can tell? Either way, I'm buying a new scanner.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Secret doors that you can't come back through.

Well that was a close one.

I went to hook up my scanner yesterday, and it was no go with XP. The company website just came right out and said "we didn't make a new driver. Too damn bad, losers." Her Worshipfulness flat out refused to even consider buying a new scanner. Wild suggestions of setting up the old machine on an as-needed basis or bringing stuff in to work to scan came up. Things were looking grim.

I bemoaned my plight to an associate at work today. He wove a wondrous tale of websites with drivers available for download. I had heard of such things, but never anything as grand as he described. XP drivers created by users and distributed on a no-pay basis? Who are these guys? At the first opportunity, I went out and found the promised driver. Weary and roadworn, I neglected to read the instructions before attempting to install. In the events that followed, I nearly went mad, lost in a labyrinth of .ini files and dizzied by the timewarp of restore points.

Finally success was mine. With pluck and wit, I beat the machine at its own riddle game, winning its servitude forever.
DHKA has updated. Go check it out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Worth it.

Long-time readers of B A Start will remember this fan favorite, in which I poked fun at people who blog Rhapsody playlists. As a quick click on the comments will show you, this brought the architects of Rhapsody directly to my doorstep. I find this to be awesome.

Now, I know for a fact that a whole bunch of you dedicated B A Starters are equally-if-not-more-so dedicated Rhapsody members. You know the joy. Now get over to Rhapsody Rock School and check it out. Go to the source, dudes.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

If I'm not one myself.

Dude. It's here. The biggest Geek Day since the holiday's inception. Firefox and Halo 2 on the same day.

A brief history. The Geek Day tradition started long ago with the release of the Star Wars: Episode I trailer online. This event was the first recorded example of a date with attributes we now associate with Geek Day. Work is cut, internet usage spikes, and the IT guys are all abuzz. Modern historians state that the combination of the availability of high-speed internet access and genius marketing decisions made a for heady cocktail the geeks of the world were all too ready to try. Geek Day has been observed recently with midnight vigils at Best Buy, marking the release of Doom III and the extended editions of Lord of the Rings.

November 9th, 2004 marks the first full release of Firefox, the geek's choice of web browser. It's safe, fast, and easy; it's not well-known to non-geeks, thus granting uber-nerd status to those that use it; it's not by Microsoft. The kids are loving it. A pre-release version has been available for a while, but today's the day to sport your Mozilla polo shirt and celebrate. The website was frickin' mobbed this morning.

Also, Halo 2, the highly hyped sequel to one of the most successful games in recent memory, was released at midnight. There exists no decent reason for it to be anything short of unspeakably good.

Now that I've downloaded Firefox 1.0 and posted, I'm off to play Halo 2. The geek priests would be pleased with my observance rituals.

Forget Niagara Falls

I don't get a lot of email. This works out well for me, as I consistently go ages and ages without replying, leaving the poor, lonely messages in my Inbox until their big puppy eyes bug me too much and I have to let them go. Best to avoid the situation altogether, whether it makes me a bad friend or not. Regardless of the fact that I receive a paltry one to two personal emails a week, I check my email as if the log-on process was part of the rosary. It's no longer a conscious activity. Every now and then I'll notice my fingers deftly keying my username and password on the steering wheel, the kitchen table, the elevator doors. Could the constant movements of my fingers be harnessed as a power source? Could the city hook me up to some device that would provide free electricity to the needy? Would they change the password rules to force me to use more characters when there's a shortage?

Sunday, November 07, 2004

See below

Rhapsody allows you to blog playlists. At first glance, this strikes me as awesome. Subsequent glances, though, give me a strangely dissatisfied feeling in that part of my brain that knows what 'cool' means, and what it feels like to use cool as a weapon. The easiest way to do this is to like punk music. If you are one of the twisted individuals who think punk bands, the basis of whose genre is not knowing how to play one's instrument, are capable of making quality music, you no doubt have allowed yourself the satisfying evil of naming punk bands when backed into a corner by someone else's coolness. "I was listening to The Posers the other day...". Knowing music that someone else doesn't returns instant cred.

The blogged playlist is the shock-and-awe weapon in this kind of warfare. The reason to blog a Rhapsody playlist is to give people quantifiable evidence of one's own coolness.

Okay, that might be a tad much. I'm sure there are benevolent Rhapsody users out there who share their picks out of some kind of altruistic charity. They think you might like it. I argue that even these Mothers Teresa of the Rhapsody community would find it hard to deny that some part of them thinks they are the cool ones, and want to drive it home to you, you sorry sucker.


Temet nosce

The Lord of the Rings movies took me on a bit of a rollercoaster ride. I approached them with trepidation and hope, since my love of the work had already been well established. The first movie disappointed. The second disgusted. The third finally satisfied. Purism is the source for this. I had many problems with deviations in Fellowship, but was slapped in the face by the travesty that was Two Towers. Return of the King stayed close enough to the original to get the thumbs-up.

I'm a pretty big fan of the Lord of the Rings novels, but my first and best love is Star Wars. And here's the situation I find myself in: Episode I disappointed. Episode II disgusted. And now Peter Jackson has set me up for heartbreak. Try as I might to be all "it's gonna suck", there remains a small corner of my mind that hopes for a repeat. I saw the Episode III trailer yesterday, and it sure didn't help. Take out that Yoda/Palpatine lightsaber nonsense and it looks like it might just be okay. By which I mean "I can barely keep myself seated from the excitement".

One would think I would have learned from The Matrix.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

For Everything

Several firsts last night. First time seeing an AHL game. First time the Amerks played in front of a crowd that large. First time Manchester lost this season. First time I took a picture of an Australian and his kids. First time I have given very serious consideration to physically threatening a child for screeching at the back of my head.

What is a gentleman to do in this situation? You're at a sporting event and a child is sitting behind you. This child's head is at the same height as yours. He insists on making a prolonged, high-pitched Emergency Broadcast System test noise directly into your ear at every possible opportunity. Once the inevitable headache begins and mere annoyance has been augmented by physical discomfort, how does one proceed? Tell the kid to shut up? Ask the parents to keep him quiet?

I opted to make frustrated faces and rub my eyes a lot. The adult stewards of this brat seemed to catch on, as they suggested he use a deeper voice to scream. I think they told him to make a lion noise or something. "Use your lion voice, honey! Rrrawwrr! Go Ducks!" They may have saved a child's life.

Friday, November 05, 2004

By definition, monarchs rule.

New PC came in today, but there's not enough time to get it all set up before I leave for the game. It's just sitting there, quietly waiting for its life's great work to begin, a minature monolith left by the peoples of Alex past as a testament to their hope for future Alexes. I'm a little nervous about running XP from home for the first time, warren as it is for viruses and other tricksy ghoulies.

Yes, I said "game" by the way. Your eyes do not deceive you. Going to catch an AHL game tonight. So there.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

No. Jump good.

On an obligatory supply run, I came across a trove of treasure: a bin full of $1 DVDs. And not the kind of DVD's you would expect in a bin of that price. Not ill-conceived movies featuring actors whose tenure on the A list passed quickly and quietly in the early nineties, but scores of short collections of old cartoons. Really old. That Popeye where Bluto is Sinbad. Felix the Cat. Something called "Tom and Jerry", but which bears no resemblance to the blue cat and big-eared mouse.

And Superman.

The original cartoon serials, in which giant magnets pull comets from the sky and into the darkened streets of Metropolis. In which scientists are mad, police are well-intentioned but foolish, and large automobiles are at constant risk of great fiery catastrophe. I'm pretty sure Superman can't even fly in these, but simply jumps very well. The animation itself is not of great quality compared to later advances, but the look is unmistakably cool. It is the truest representation of the American avatar. If you don't like them, you are not a rational person. Your very existence causes me to question the underlying assumptions of modern Western thought. Get out of my sight.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Oh my.

I spent an hour and a half this evening trying to get a connection going between my brother's PC and mine so we could play some XWA. (Not the aforementioned brother, denizen of the geekiest place possible (and I don't mean "ever" or "on earth"; I mean actually possible as defined by the absolute laws of the universe. Oh, that's right. Nested parentheses. What's up now?!) , but his twin, who may just be a tad geekier, but whose apartment is only mildly geeky.) On any other night, I'd be pissed. But on this Election Night, I know I'd just end up following a very frustrating day at work with hours of checking the latest counts, try as I might to pretend I don't care. An hour and a half of browsing the web while making an ill-informed suggestion now and then via IM was a welcome distraction from swirling graphics of elephants, donkeys, and greens.

Move along

I've added a list of links to the blogs of people who have commented on here on B A Start. Go check 'em out!

I've also noted that all of the descriptions under the Links section sound pretty funny if you put ", bitch!" after them.

Monday, November 01, 2004

And Other Punctuation

That time has come again, right on schedule. I am an avid blood donor. Every eight weeks I walk down to the Pheresis department and let them poke holes in me until they've had their fill. And they do so love my blood. O positive, and of an excellent year.

As is always the case, I have spent the remainder of the day hungry, cold, and snappish. I've had a lot to eat, have zero patience, and feel steady a resignation towards enduring this latest bout of post-bloodloss grumpiness, making free to tell all I meet that I have given blood and am not to be messed with today. In short, by donating blood with such regularity, I have built a menstrual cycle into my life.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

The Happy Working-grounds

Brought some work home this weekend. As I sat at my home PC, typing away at a decent clip, I noticed several things. My phone did not ring. I received no email. I heard no distracting noises. No one came to see me. I found these non-events to have a positive impact on my work. This led me to the natural conclusion that so many of us are coming to in this modern era: I should tell my boss I want to work from home.

Imagine it! I could still check my email via the web portal. I have a home phone. I have been tethered with a work pager. Set up one day a week as Alex-works-from-home-you-losers Day and watch in bewilderment as my productivity soars! A full day with no meetings, and during which I decide how available to make myself. I swear I could do a week's worth of work in a single day if loosed from the cube.

Here's the thing. What am I doing right now? Does this look business-related? That Xbox sure doesn't either. I have a feeling the "just one more level" lunch-break would be the end of my career.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Blown to smithereens

On my way to a Halloween party. I'm going dressed as the Invisible Man. I have three primary concerns:

#1 - Comfort. Just how long is it going to be before I turn into Formerly Invisible Man?
#2 - Vision. Dark glasses + bandaged face + Halloween decor = necessity to find a comfortable seat and stay there. I am good at this.
#3 - Recognition. Not really looking forward to a bunch of people I don't know coming up to me and trying to guess if they know me or not. Also not looking forward to people who know me ignoring me out of shyness / spooked-outedness

Nonetheless, I have faith that this will all work out just fine. Unless a spark from the fire hits the alcohol-laden bandages around my mouth. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Not angelic at all

Somehow, this post is not going to be about the Red Sox. It's not going to be about memories of Boggs and the Rocket from my childhood, about the unparalleled quality of the hotdogs at Fenway, or about the propriety of breaking a curse during a lunar eclipse. No, it's going to be about competition of a completely different, if not totally opposite, kind.

I have this problem with smack-talk. I mean "problem" as used in "drinking problem", referring to an inability to resist which leads to widespread issues in one's life. While I have yet to miss work due to smack-talk or start talking smack first thing when I wake up, I fear for my future.

Now, at this point one might ask "this smack, what do you talk it about?". The answer comes as a single word: Halo. Developed by Bungie, distributed by Microsoft, devoured by the American videogame-playing populace, this title is the new touchstone for games where you shoot your friends again and again. This is where my smack-talk has reached its finest. I don't mean "fine" as in "of high quality", while that is certainly the case. I mean "fine" as in "very small in size, weight, or thickness". The smack-talk becomes so fine it infiltrates your entire surroundings. It's in your hair, in the wrinkles in your clothes. That tickling in your nostrils? It's my smack-talk.

This has gotten me into trouble from time to time. Not bar-fight trouble, as I assume is obvious, but eternal-geek-shame trouble. After all this tooting of one's own horn, one had better be able to put up some big numbers. Fortunately for me, I am.

Just yesterday a friend told me his roommate and another friend had been hitting the Halo pretty hard recently. I promptly instructed him to tell them to call me next time they fire it up so I could show those ladies how the game is played. I may or may not have stated that the way I pistol-whip them will be unorthodox. Today I received the obligatory "heard you were talking smack" email, confirming that a scrimmage would be arranged, and that right quick. Now the quandary -- can I beat these guys? I mean, they're pretty sharp.

I feel confident. After all, I just came out of spring training; I stayed at my brothers place a couple weekends ago. I walked in, and five guys were Haloing it up. And these dudes are turbo-geeks in the way a tsunami is a turbo-ripple. Where do you find a bunch of grown men getting together for some good-natured competition, and where the beer should be only Mountain Dew is found? Where do you see not one, but two Xboxes with the full cast of Red vs. Blue represented? Where do people get verbally abusive when someone brings up the works of Lovecraft, because they're so tired of it being worked into some dice-and-paper game? My brother's apartment, that's where. And thus, where does one go to hone the mad Halo skills? I think you know. If I could hold my own there, I can talk as much smack as I damn well please.

Note: I almost made it five whole days without talking about videogames. Stand in awe.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Parking Paranoia

My issue is two-fold. I have no memory, since I rarely pay attention to what I do. Also, I appear to have some kind of issue with spatial relationships which prevents me from parallel parking in anything remotely resembling a timely fashion. These do not combine well, especially when it comes to locating my car.

Since I have troubles parking, I often end up farther from my home than makes sense to normal people. When I do finally park, I am inevitably lost in thought and the surroundings of the vehicle do not make into long-term memory. Thus, even the smallest of errands becomes an adventure, each beginning with the fabled Search for the Grand Am. On any given morning, my car could be anywhere in a half-mile radius.

This has led to many near-fatal events, to date all of which have entailed my heartrate steadily increasing as each step fails to put a silvery bumper into view. Clearly someone stole it. They ignored the Club and took off with my ride. Did I forget to lock it? Where's the number for my insurance company? Did I remember to renew it? Did I leave my PDA in the glove compartment? Could some vagabond have absconded with all of my valuable personal contact information? I knew I should have set a password! Et cetera.

Now, you may ask why I don't just hit the keyless entry and look for the blinking headlights or the popped trunk. I might even hit that red button with the bugle on it; to Hell with the neighbors! This seems like a fine plan, but I remind you, gentle reader, that these contraptions only work for like forty feet. A friend of mine recently showed me the "head-antenna" trick, which extends the range a bit at the cost of only two childhood memories per use. Even with this, my car is almost surely out of range. I am doomed to tread the byways and lots of this Earth for all of my days.

Fortunately, I am sure to be thinking of something more interesting at the time.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The theme song is now stuck in my head.

Can anyone explain to me why the unflappable stick of gum in the Extra commercials has a Scottish accent? We all know accents are funny, but Scottish? Are the Scots known for their endurance? What percent of the American TV-viewing populace has opinions of Scotsmen which are not founded on Braveheart or Duck Tales? Is Scottish one of the few accents one can use without offending a whole lot of people? How did this brainstorming session go?

"He's gotta have an accent. Accents make people laugh."
"Pakistani? People love Apu..."
"Surfer. I say surfer. You know, like 'gnarly dude'."
"I know what 'surfer' means. Don't surfers 'crash out' or something, though? We don't want our product associated with crashing. Out."
"It's 'Scottish'."
"Yeah, whatever. He can call people 'lassie' and stuff."
"Great thinking, Wilson!"

I really wanted to put the term 'caber toss' in there somewhere, but I couldn't work it out. Sorry, folks.

Monday, October 25, 2004


I had a meeting at 7 in the AM today. As you may have guessed from the fact that I am commenting on it, this is highly unusual. I watched four slightly different riffs on the same software demo for five and a half hours straight. Perhaps not surprisingly, I drank way too much coffee. Here's what I remember:

6:45 - Best parking spot of my career.

7:00 - Enter the meeting, wondering why in the name of all that is just there's no coffee.

8:00 - Done sucking down the instant coffee I brought from home. Nervous about the future.

9:00 - Session 1 ends. Coffee has arrived. Take back all the awful things I thought about the meeting organizer. Okay, almost all.

10:00 - I make a bet with myself to see if I can hold still for five minutes. Forget about the bet completely fifteen seconds and three pants adjustments later.

10:03 - Remember the bet. Wonder what I've been doing with my hands. Peer over my shoulder anxiously to see just exactly who now knows I'm a complete lunatic.

10:06 - Can no longer even pretend to hold still. Try breathing deeply to relax. Begin to have difficulty keeping my eyes open. Start holding my breath, unsure if I was holding it before.

10:10 to noon - No idea.

12:10 - Note that the time passes faster when I breathe deeply. Wonder if that means I was asleep.

12:25 - Bolt.

Sunday, October 24, 2004


Last night, as I watched Game 1 of the World Series, a commercial for some bank came on. This guy went around to people's desks showing the audience all the cool stuff the bank's new ATM's can do. He then showed someone dragging money between accounts with the touchscreen and said, "Would you like a bank that can do that? We're working on it." Not two seconds after, some IT guy somewhere dropped his Heineken and screamed to that friend of his who likes baseball, "What?!?! Working on it?!?! That's my project! We're in early development and he's demoing the product during the WORLD SERIES?!?!? You know what he just showed the world? A slide from Steve's Powerpoint presentation!" The last anyone has seen of him was the jittering of his hand as he read a new text-message on his pager while slamming the door to his Pontiac Vibe. He accelerated rapidly, and plateaued at 35 mph.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Saturday, January 03, 2004


Friday, January 02, 2004