So, this is cool. Does there seem to be a rash of bubble-to-line web music toys? First I run into musicovery the other day (which, by the by, has this rad animated .ico thing going on) and now this TuneGlue business.
Time was being a rock snob was hard, expensive work. Now all it takes is a Rhapsody subscription and some time. The rock snobs are making their knowledge available to the general public, an action I always thought was completely contrary to their ethos. The idea was to know good music and keep it from everyone else in order to maintain coolness. Now, I'm the music guy at work. Me. It's a world gone mad.
I'm guessing, though, that they're just toying with us. They still have their ivory tower CD collections, their secret stashes of the real dope. The sanctum sanctorum is still out there, guarded by grim mop-topped acolytes.
Does everyone else find 50's-60's mod style intriguing? Please tell me I'm not alone on this.
Maybe I spent too much time watching The Prisoner as a kid, or maybe it was Julie Newmar in Catwoman garb giving me a few ideas about just what it was the grown-ups were all so interested in, but the aesthetic lodged itself in my pre-pubescent mind as being odd and foreign but irrepressibly fascinating.
Somewhere in the yet-to-be-digitized index card system in my head, filed under "fantasy worlds" in a bright yellow folder between "Arabian Nights" and "Norman Rockwell's America", one can find this weird realm where there is a dearth of lines and an abundance of uniform shapes. People wore triangles. The cartoons became freaky art pieces. Airline aisles became runways. The whole world was built with construction paper and green-handled safety scissors.
And from whence came this land of over-exaggerated poses? My guess is the film quality. Early color film always looks like someone got a little crazy with the saturation and brightness bars in Photoshop and left them set to "blandify". What to do when lost in a world of washed-outedness? Make big bright blocks of color and put them on the women.
Words on zee nets is that someone is thinking about aFirefly video game, a massively-multiplayer online deal. This is dumb. You want to make something good? Here's how you do it:
#1: The base ingredients. What do we know about the Firefly universe? Interstellar travel, psychics, cannibals, and legalized prostitution.
#2: The spices. Q1: What does Firefly feel like? A: Old West. Q2: What's fun about Firefly? A: The language, sharp-shooting, wild stunts with spaceships, Kaylee.
#3: Mix until smooth. So, what we want here is a workable plot line which fits in the 'verse but doesn't feature any of the main characters. E.g. -- playing as Luke Skywalker is lame, but playing as Kyle Katarn is awesome. We'll set this in the post-unification, pre-Serenity timeframe.
You play as a newly-recruited Alliance agent who is sent undercover to gather up a young woman from a far-flung dirthole planet. You book a seat on a civilian transport (NOT the Serenity) and head out. You have some adventures on the way there and get to know the crew.
Once you get to Dirtonia, you discover that the woman you have been sent to bring in is a Companion, and a psychic one at that -- which makes her wicked good at her job. The Alliance wants her for the River experiment. You, being a good guy, decide to go rogue.
The overall plot pits you against an Alliance bigwig who is oppressing a dusty planet known for harboring Browncoats during the war. You and your ragtag band of misfits (you end up Captain, due to some serendipity) free the locals from his reign, cleaning up the single-horsed town.
Gameplay switches back and forth between rpg-action and flight-sim (reavers are out there). You meet up with various lesser characters in your travels (e.g. the Serenity's original engine guy -- you know, blonde tattoo dude? -- is on your crew.) and hit some of the locations from the show. Lots of shooting, quipping, and Blue Sun cola.
Now over a week into the post-nanowrimo stupor, I find myself with few thoughts on the event, setting aside the following: I can now say "I have this first draft of a novel" instead of "I've been working on a novel", and this makes me more credible to myself. The revision stage will be long and repetitive, but now I know who the characters are and what they want, how the world works, etc. which makes the first round of re-write just consistency-checking. Still haven't reached the part where I worry too much about the prose being, you know, good, but when it comes I feel I will be better equipped.
All in all, I recommend the experience. Just being a participant -- having a website to go to and flashy wordcount trackers -- pushed me to complete draft uno of my magnum space opus, something I've been doing little more than putter around with for some time. I'm all for it.
Thirty days hath November. Thirty div 2 is fifteen. Today is the fifteenth.
50K words in Nanowrimo. I have 25K.
Some thoughts on the progress thus far: Actually writing the story takes you places you didn't expect, reveals things about the created world which you didn't fully realize, and shows you just how long it takes to move from plot point A to plot point B. Good times. Aside from an errant scene and my general dissatisfaction with the quality of the prose itself, I'm relatively satisfied with the book, especially looking at it as a first draft.
The issue is that I haven't really gotten to the cool stuff yet. Everything has been set-up so far. I have a feeling that if I want this to end up as a viable book, 25,000 will be a lot more like the one-third mark than the one-half. This makes sense; 50K is barely novel length.
So here we are. Seven days in, and over 12K down. I've been keeping ahead of the curve number- wise, but let me tell you, I have been writing some crap.
To be fair, some of what has made it to the page can be described as 'not altogether horrible'. A couple glints are even 'more or less passable'. A whole damn lot, though, is 'weak, hackish drivel'. Today was the first day that just bit. I mean, Jesus. Like, if I read this scene somewhere, I'd send a letter to the author asking him to cease and desist.
"I haven't gotten to the point yet where I really start padding for wordcount," he said in a hushed, conspiratorial tone, a mouse-brown eyebrow raised to form a thin peak. "But I can barely wait to see what kind of Harlequin bullshit I come up with when I do."
The byways roil with mist and the leaves grow sallow. Dripping black branches creak in the unnatural cold. The slow death that is autumn is upon us, and with it comes this cautionary tale.
A young gentlemen, accustomed to a quiet, sensible life of diligent work and pleasant conversation, took it upon himself to travel across the dim expanse of upstate New York to reach the city proper. The day before his trek began, a note arrived from his host-to-be. "I have this… thing. See the attached picture – yesit does have a curse on it. It' s about the size of a skinny three year old– it would take up about as much room as a full backpack, say. It 's pretty solid, but not too heavy." Already feeling the slimy tendrils of fear creeping along the back of his skull at the thought of driving into Gotham, the gentleman's fancy saw this cargo as a risk to himself and his passengers, a bogy who would plague him throughout the journey. "Poppycock," he told himself. "It is but a decoration, a maudlin statuette meant to arouse the humours. Enough of this tiresome foolishness."
His first act upon obtaining this ebon idol was to name him, passing the action off as humor and light-heartedness. In the quiet of his soul, though, he imagined the bogy might be pleased with him. As he considered an appropriate sobriquet, the syllable "ire" seemed to be whispered into his thoughts. "'Ira,'" he ejaculated. "'Ira' will do nicely."
In addition to naming the beast in the backseat of his car, the gentleman rested the map and directions for his journey on the folded lap of the statue. Again, he played it off as a joke, when in truth he felt the beast less likely to malign him if included in responsibilities of the trip.
The majority of the trek passed without incident, lit by an unusually bright full moon and headed toward the increasingly pink sky above the city. The gentleman forgot his fears, losing them in the gentle hum of the road.
As the car approached the bridge of Tappan Zee, the gateway to the city, the gentleman called for the directions. At the exact moment that the papers were removed from Ira's silent stewardship, a large object flew at the rapidly travelling car. A discarded paper box, large enough to hold an oven, lofted into the air and smashed into the vehicle, obscuring the view of the road. His pulse throbbing in his ears, the gentleman wondered if this, at last, was to be his doom.
A mere second later, the flattened box flew away. The gentleman and his passengers were safe, and the rest of the trip held no further excitements. Ira was delivered, never to be seen again.
One of the issues about living a nomadic life temporarily is soap. You end up using girls' soap. Important things to know:
#1 - It's not a bar. One of those weird upside-down bottles is filled with a goo that is meant to replace the time-honored bar. It's probably the one with the outline of a naked woman on it.
#2 - It smells weird. You're going to stink like apricots for a while. Or shea butter, whatever the hell that is.
#3 - It does stuff to you. I have no idea how this works, but girl soap says things like "stimulates" and "awakens" on the bottle. Girls expect a lot more out of their soap than dudes. For men, soap is for cleaning oneself. For women, soap is the key to unlocking the true self, confident and beautiful and independent.
DJ Shadow? Dude, what happened? I mean, I was with you right up until this video. What's going on? Is there something you need to talk about? You can, you know, like call me if you need to get something off your chest. I tell you what. Why don't you come over on Friday and we'll get wasted and play Perfect Dark. Seriously, dude.
O, Blogworld! Unedited publishers, unite! Use the word! Show those leather-elbowed oligarchs at Merriam-Webster that the language is ours, that it lives here with us on our gaudy webpages and not in their dust-blanketed mahogany bookcases.
Let 'sposta' be the warning shot across the bow of their reputation. They would be wise to recognize our meager word -- if not we will hit them with a flood of new verbiage equally if not more base and plebian. We don't need their authoritarian condescension anymore, and if they don't want to be completely supplanted by pure democracy, that had best show we groundlings some respect.
Why should the linguists decide what is correct? Sposten't it be a decision made by all users of the language equally? How dare people who have dedicated their lives to the study of English claim the right to rule over it! Just because you have thirty years of experience and alphabet soup after your name doesn't mean you know more than us, especially if we're loud and numerous. Proletariat!
Daddy, Daddy! Alex is quoting Elliott Smith again!
Now, son. That's only natural when people go back to work after vacation.
Dude, I went to the awesomest library this weekend. I don't want to wig anybody out, but I think it may have been created for me. One of those deals where God goes back in time and makes it so it was always there. See, I was talking about libraries with Dr. V. So I says to him I says "libraries should sell coffee and have free wifi". His reply? "We're going there tomorrow".
Add this to the litany of cautionary tales regarding the complete uselessness of the staff at videogame stores.
My dear old grandmother plays bridge regularly. She had a copy of Hoyle's Classic Games for her PC, with which she would practice her mad brizzidge skillz. The CD disappeared, and she needed to reinstall.
Now, one would think that if an old lady were to walk into a videogame specialty store with the case for an earlier version of a current title -- a title which was in stock at the store, no less -- and ask for help, she would leave with a newly purchased game. There, gentle reader, is where you would be wrong. Dear old Grandma was informed that they did not have the game and that she should leave with haste. I assume she was asked if she wanted to pre-order Madden '08.
On my recent visit to VT, a stop was made at the mall. Now, I'm not good for much, but finding videogames? Come on. I walked in, looked under "H", found the game, and purchased it. Clearly I have some kind of preternatural ability. What else could explain how I was able to make the game appear where none was there before? I certainly hope her bridge acumen improves, what with me foresaking my immortal soul and all.
Looks as if the Mountain Goats will not be returning to Buffalo this year, despite their "see you next year" promises. I think... I think we may have scared them. The image of four of us standing far behind the crowd, arms crossed and heads moving just slightly in time to the strumming, while in truth a reverent meditation, may have appeared as disdain or even derision from the stage. The dude just fled off stage after his encore, as if about to chase the bottom of a bottle, break hotel furniture, and make incoherent threats towards abstractions.
Throughout my bookish life, I have tried and failed several times to read various non-fiction books. It turns out I just don't have the stamina for it.
Here's the issue: they just don't need to be book length. For example, I am currently sweating through Guns, Germs, and Steel, which claims to explain differences in the technological development in various societies throughout history. I just read a whole damn chapter on wild almonds. Sorry, but the sentence "some wild plants lent themselves to cultivation better than others" would have suited me just fine. I have a feeling that when I reach the final page I will wonder why the author didn't just write a five paragraph essay.
I move we bring back the pamphlet. Go ahead and spend your adult life proving something -- just boil it down to the essentials for me. Thirty pages tops. And I know you think you have already, that you've tearfully stripped untold pages of vastly important details on the mating habits of horseshoe crabs which your editor told you the unwashed plebs just wouldn't be able to handle. Your editor is right. Trim that puppy down, no matter how a good thick book looks on a library shelf.
As I plowed through a writing project this weekend, I caught myself typing the stale phrase "that rarest of species". I know, I really am that stuffy. Maybe it's The Dante Club, maybe the Pride and Prejudice, but my English has become substantially more Queen's recently, probably to the same degree as Johnny's has become Queens.
Either way, I struck the phrase, assuming I was unconsciously quoting something. Damned if I can figure out what though. I mere googling returns a litany of articles using the phrase, but no source. I tried Shakespeare and the KJV. Even a thorough bartleby session turned up nought. (See? Who uses 'nought'?)
Anybody got anything on this? I mean, it must have come from somewhere. Three cheers to you if you find it. I'll toast your name with a sherry in the parlor and draw up an epigram praising your alacrity.
Main Entry: her·met·ic Pronunciation: (")h&r-'met-ik Function: adjective : being airtight or impervious to air —her·met·i·cal·ly/-i-k(&-)lE/adverb Her·mes Tris·me·gis·tus/'h&r-(")mEz-"tris-m&-'jis-t&s,/ Greek mythological character. Hermes Trismegistus was identified by the Greeks with the Egyptian god Thoth. To him was ascribed authorship of various works on astrology, magic, alchemy, and medicine. It was also believed that he had invented a magic seal to keep vessels airtight, and from his name the adjective hermetic meaning airtight was derived.
First we had to change all the maps. The Germanies combined, and the USSR didn't turn out to care that much about the U.
Then the food pyramid. All of a sudden, dead animal is good for you again.
Now the solar system? Setting aside the general dimwittedness of messing with a celestial body named after a death god, what's left? Are we going to add more states? Will we discover new half-elements, requiring us to carry atomic number to at least the tenths? Perhaps an additional stanza can be added to the Gettysburg Address. A new color of the rainbow, something between red and orange, just to mess with Mr. Biv? How about another Great Lake?
I promise this isn't really about videogames. I mean, a little, but not much.
The black and pink versions of the DS Lite are being released in the US quite soon. 'Onyx' and 'Coral Pink', I should say. Now, in Japan they called it 'Noble Pink'. Why the switch?
Does pink mean something other than 'feminine' in Japan? Is it associated with the nobility there, as blue and purple are to the anglosphere? Are Japanese more likely to respond well to concepts of nobility and class structure? Does Nintendo fear we will take up arms against their nobles and overthrow them, establishing 'Casteless Pink' and 'Merit-based Salmon' DSes?
1) No morning shave. 2) A half-day in the office with a T-shirt and shorts on.
I become a ninja when not in my business cadzh. Several unsuspecting coworkers took a step back and gasped when I said 'hello', unaware that the non-descript shape heading towards them was indeed I. I vow to you this day, gentle reader, not to use this power for evil. After all, Yojimbo is still out there somewhere.
Esquire recently published an article about the fact that serious criticism on videogames does not exist. No incisive essays, no erudite articles, just "dude, looks like Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Jedi Outcast II: Jedi Academy* is gonna be sweet" stuff. As someone with experience reviewing games, I feel I must state the following: videogames are not art. They just ain't. It takes a lot of artists to make one, and some of them can have truly brilliant imagery, but I have yet to see the game that's art. Artistically presented maybe.
In my (albeit limited) experience, professional criticism often takes one of two forms:
A) The secret decoder ring. "Here's what the artist/author/composer is trying to say, dimwit."
B) The petri dish. "Here are all of the religiosociopoliticaeconoclimatic factors kicking around in the spacetime locale in which the artist/author/composer worked. Put it all together, and how could he not end up writing this? Hmmm, dimwit?"
These approaches require that the author actually be saying something, whether he means to or not. I'm just not seeing it. When I sit around and talk about games, relevance never comes up. This is due mainly to the fact that it's not there.
I mean, come on. Let's give it a try.
"The major statement made by Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 comes to its zenith when the audience unlocks Darth Maul as a playable character. At that precise moment in the play experience, expect to turn to your fellow aficionados and reverently gasp the syllables "skateboarding is totally fucking awesome". "
"In summary, after witnessing the stunning victory of Natalie Cook and Kerri Ann Pottharst at Sydney, Team Ninja's 2001-02 Japan had begun to taste the beauty of the occidental sport of volleyball, which, in combination with the new Xbox's hardware and man's enduring fascination with breasts, made a perfect world in which to develop Dead or Alive: Extreme Beach Volleyball."
The decorative style in the B A Start household can most easily be described as "libraryey" or perhaps "libresque". We like us some books. Her Worshipfulness, though, has often bemoaned the fact that a collection more often lacks uniformity, looking hodge-podge and patchwork.
My solution: why not pick up some large collections? We'd use them, and they have a standardized look. (Can you see how my nefarious plan is working? Slowly but diligently I move towards attaining my life-long goal of owning the OED.)
Here are some I've had my eye on:
The Harvard Classics -- the "five-foot shelf" meant to equal a liberal arts education. Haven't been in print for years, but a little Ebay action should do it.
The Loeb Library -- The left page is in Greek or Latin, the right page the English translation. Both pages contain the foundations of Western thought.
I write to you to apologize. As you may remember, at Goose's wedding we sat together. I had tied my tie with a windsor knot, and each of you had tied his with a half-windsor. When someone commented on my more formal, dare I say stately, knot, I took the opportunity to mock you, saying that I was the only person at the table who did not look as if he was going to his first communion. This was, perhaps, a bit much.
Please accept my apology. Also, the fine folks at Brooks Brothers have put together a site to help us learn even more knots. I couldn't help but think of you.
Looks like ma bookie Del is slowly working his way towards stardom, his likeness appearing in an ad for what appears to be for a videogame in which you point at the sky and say "Holy shit, it's the Christ!". Maybe you kill demons or something.
I normally eschew discussions of religion on B A Start, but here's what bugs me about the rapture. So, all the good people go to Heaven and everybody else stays of Earth, which has recently been transferred to new ownership. What kind of Heaven is it to watch loved ones suffer at the hands of Satan? I mean, you get up there, look around, and notice a few coworkers are missing. Doesn't that bug you a little when they hand you the harp, the knowledge that people you know will spend a thousand years being tortured? Or is that the kind of thinking that gets you kicked out. Either way, it just doesn't sound all that heavenly to me.
Unbearably hot weather marks the beginning of a season in the B A Start household; time to start figuring out what to dress as for Halloween.
The great conversation lasts months, with scores of concepts tossed aside until the winner is declared. Then, the day before the event a final switch-up is made, and well-planned wigs, props, and oddly-colored glasses find themselves put out to pasture without even seeing use.
In the past few years, I've been Buddy Holly, the Invisible Man, and the Mad Hatter. What will this year's jam sessions bring? Only the Ghost of Halloween Future knows for sure.
The Doozers, the benevolent hard-hatted fairies of the Fraggle world, baffle me. What a horrid existence, consumed by the sisyphean task of building and rebuilding their radish-steel buildings, only to watch as the relatively giant fragglekind eat them for pleasure.
Perhaps, though, they have attained some atlantean zen society. If it weren't for the sons and daughters of fraggledom, they would be able to build their sugary utopia in days. What, then, would they do with themselves? Life without work is misery, so why not create an impossible task for you and yours? An entire species devoted to an unattainable ideal, happily plugging away towards it until judgement.
This, clearly, is the secret of their people, known only to the eldest of the Doozer elders. And the Trash Heap, of course.
Went to a show the other night and everybody but me was dressed like Elliott Smith. I was dressed in my work clothes, looking more than a little like a put-upon divorced father on his night with the kids. I think I'm going to go buy a black t-shirt and one of those Fidel Castro hats to keep in storage for just such an occasion, one in which I need to dress like I'm acting out in order to blend in.
Now that's what I am discussing. And to think, I didn't bring my DS to the hospital out of respect. How long before young Maeve gets a chance to blue shell the old man? Should Unkie Alex's christening gift be a Noble Pink DS lite? Girls like pink, right? Do you buy gifts for christenings? I really have no idea how this all works.
As a teenager, I got into a fight with the Religious Right. The Merrimack school board went God on us, and started doing crazy stuff. Things got messy. Here's what Wikipedia has to say on the topic:
In recent years, Merrimack has also been a battleground of sorts for the Gay Rights and school prayer movements in New Hampshire and nationwide. In the mid-1990's, led by a conservative majority, the Merrimack School Board passed a series of school regulations banning what they called "Homosexual Acts and Homosexual Materials" in the school district and mandating a district-wide daily "Moment of silence". Banned actions included same-sex hand holding and hugging. Banned materials included any literature written by purported homosexuals. Merrimack erupted into a firestorm of political debate, bringing the town into the forefront of the growing debate over homosexuality in the U.S. The scandal culminated in months of dramatic regionally televised school board meetings, student-led walkouts, and a national news special. Today, the district still observes a daily moment of silence, but the bans on homosexuality have been all but forgotten. As you can imagine, the 'live free or die' types didn't like this very much. Our parents held large meetings in their homes to discuss how to fight the board or support it. Any public event became polarized, with knots of people looking askance at one another. Whose hand did you shake? Who did you ignore? Were you with side A or side B?
I was into it. I argued the topics all the time. I coughed or dropped things during the moment of silence. I interviewed the school board members on their opinions on a variety of sensitive topics, and published their responses verbatim in the school newspaper right before an election, trying to give the jerks the rope required to hang themselves. I imagine I alienated a lot of people without realizing it, but hey. It really bugged me.
Why do I bring this up? I ran across the issue today as I read this page on banned books. Good old Merrimack.
The concept of book banning was one of the many that pissed me off back then. The very term got my blood boiling. What I realize now is that is a high school strikes a book from its curriculum because it contains a swear word or a sex scene, it's not that big of a deal. We can always go to the public library and get it, or the book store.
Now, if a book is removed from the curriculum because it was written by a homosexual? That's a real problem.
Overall, I'm glad I ran across this reminded of my hometown's past (and present) today. While my juvenile fervor may have subsided a little, topics of public school literature curricula and school prayer still get a rise out of me.
Just in case B A Start comes before Royal Toybox on your daily read list Les Garvois have had their baby. Thanks mucho to Esther for keeping us all posted. I have to confess to being on serious tenterhooks after a call involving some kind of broken water.
But you didn't come to B A Start for baby talk. Instead, I offer you my personal review of Ultraviolet.
Imagine a movie based on a comic book. I don't mean 'based on a comic-book character', I mean written and filmed as if taken directly from the pulpy pages of an illustrated periodical. All of the super-cheesy lines kept. Lots and lots of action which, while good-looking, doesn't have any purpose. Yick.
Maybe if the fighting was better I would have enjoyed it more, or if I had seen the effects on the big screen... no. No no no. It was just awful.
In the spirit of this celebration, I have a recommendation for you: start watching the History Channel's mini-series The Revolution. It's one of the best documentary series I have watched, particularly due to the variety of POV's brought to the table by the experts they interviewed. That West Point dude is hardcore.
Also here are some hi-res images of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution etc. They're JPEG, which is weak sauce, but still. Patriots delight.
Patriotism in a time as frustrating as ours can be dangerous. People think you're crazy or stupid or evil. Here's my deal: my love America is for the ideals, not necessarily all current practices. Inalienable human rights. The self-evident truths. A more perfect union. Above all, liberty.
When our elected leaders do things in accord with our ideals, I applaud them. When they do not, I malign them, and as I do I take comfort in the fact that they can be voted out of office. We don't have to wake up each morning and hope that the dictator dies soon, and that his son will be better to us than he is.
A difficulty comes when the will of the people is wrong, by which I mean it does not live up to the aforementioned ideals. Thus a republic can be better than a democracy, but only when the leaders are virtuous. A healthy mix of both seems to be working out fairly well.
Thus, I urge you to celebrate our freedoms and liberties today. Wave a flag and love the nation that should be, and mostly is. If this were a speech, I believe I would have the audacity to recite the preamble to the Constitution right now, but instead I'll just link to it.
Once upon a time, an official NHL website had pictures of the redesigned Sabres jersey, something for which the people of the hamlet of Buffalo had been pining. A silly boy posted the pictures accidentally.
"O, no," the boy said. "I will surely be whipped until my skin is in tatters and fed to the boars!"
He leapt up and removed the pictures, but it was too late. They had been stolen.
"Joy!" shouted the people. "A new logo!"
"The blue and the gold are there," they said.
"It looks like Barney Rubble's hair," they said.
"It is both old and new," they said.
"It looks like poo," they said.
What the people did not know is that the new logo was enchanted, drawn by a wise old man who lived alone in a mountain cave. Men who wore the sign became faster and stronger, and their weapons would not break. They beat devils and lightning, hurricanes and maple leaves, panthers and finally flames to steal the silver chalice and return with it to the little hamlet. And the people of the hamlet were happy.
Aside from the Geek Day status that a comic-book movie opening receives, today marks the end of Ordinary Time. After tonight's festival a new season begins, a season of rebirth.
Yes, going to see the new Superman movie is going to be roughly equivalent to a deeply religious experience, whether I like the film or not. The only son of a benevolent creator sent to Earth to save us from ourselves? The most powerful force in the universe walking among us, as one of us? How doesn't everyone feel this way?
Finally got around to picking up Brain Age for the DS, the software that claims to be a good daily regimen for keeping the grey matter in good shape. While it doesn't come out and say "prevents Alzheimer's" anywhere, that's certainly the idea. Three things:
1: It's actually quite fun. I wouldn't have thought doing 100 simple calculations as fast as possible would be enjoyable, but I guess I should have.
2: Nintendo's got to be laughing all the way to the five-story italian-plumber-shaped piggy-bank they keep their yen in. The game's selling as if it was hotcakes, and a whole new demographic has opened up. I mean, go to the site and look at the marketing. These people ain't playing Mario Tennis.
3: I'm discovering that a good alternate title could have been "Handwriting Age". O, Mrs. Robinson! Why did I not listen and learn decent handwriting from you? I live in shame.
Some time ago, an unclaimed pair of very stylish sunglasses sat on the counter in the men's room near my office. Even without close observation, one could see that they were of great value. There are many services offered by my company, but a Lost-and-Found is not one them, so I let them lie there untouched. Later that day, I saw them being sported by one of the Housekeeping staff, oddly disparate with his dingy uniform.
Months passed as per normal, and I did not realize that I had not seen the housekeeper since that day. This was made abundantly clear to me today, when I saw this fellow in the corridor wearing the same sunglasses. There was something different about him, something difficult to place one's finger on. Something about his gait perhaps, or his facial expression? Or perhaps that he was dressed in full pimp gear, complete with hat, cane, and bright red suit. I do not use hyperbole when I tell you his outfit looked very much like this, but substantially more pimp.
Apparently I missed my chance to don the charmed glasses that would transform me from my mundane self into a natty pimp. I feel okay about it, though, as I have received mixed reports on whether or not that profession is easy.
There is some allure to staying up past the times deemed appropriate and well into those known as "too late" when one has to be at work doing noxious things in the particularly early AM, some awful draw that convinces one that actual life takes place after all well-meaning citizens have bedded down.
There's a feeling of superiority, a self-designated elitism that comes to one upon realization that too much caffeine has been taken to ever get to sleep now. More than a small dose of masochism laces this feeling, or perhaps it is sadism directed towards the day-time version of yourself. Here's a chance to make that simpering shade of the real you pay. He'll be late, barely functioning. The day will be an utter waste, and he will be even further behind. What control you have, what power over that hapless fool's fate.
And when you finally do wake, a light taste of that feeling lingers somewhere in the gaps where your wisdom teeth used to be. For a dull moment, before the shower and shave and drive and coffee, you will remember that life of quiet and strength.
The only real issue I have with Gates is that it should come with a disclaimer, which should read as follows:
You will doubtless find yourself looking up to the Spartans during and after your reading. Please note that they were very, very bad people. No, really. They had a huge slave population which worked day and night for the "real" Spartans, and every male citizen had to serve time on the Secret Police, who would creep around at night kill any slave who stuck out from the crowd. Bad.
Not to go all Undercaffeinated on you all, but today I post on a political issue. I know, I know.
The Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority has released a press... um.. release stating that the city could save all kinds of moolah if we slashed city employee benefits. They compare the amount they employees pay to some "average worker" numbers and that kind of thing. In summary, they're saying that if we worked with the state govt to make the benefits packages less awesome, we'd save. They present these packages as disgustingly good and vastly expensive.
Here's the thing.
#1. Duh. Benefits, particulary healthcare, have become veddy veddy expensive recently, and employers everywhere are freaking out about it. So, easy target.
#2: When talking about public employee costs, you should really be making your comparisons based on total compensation, that being salary + bens. Nice benefits packages are a good way to entice people to work thankless and dangerous service jobs with traditionally low salaries. The taxpayer doesn't want anybody getting rich off his dime, so sal stays lousy. Bens can increase without anybody getting too wound up about it.
Until now, that is. Good for the Fiscal whatzit for looking at it, but before we go and slash the bens of people that haven't received a raise in years, let's make sure we look at the whole story.
As I sat on my porch last night around 1 AM, the sound of some manner of wooden flute instrument floated down the street, its mournful tune a message too mysterious for modern ears to interpret.
A playful breeze kicked up, and cherry blossoms floated past. I followed their dancing flight with my eyes, and when I looked back, a figure could be seen down the road, slowly approaching with solemnity and intent. Was it man or demon? A grimacing mask hid his face, and great red robes adorned a giant frame.
The apparation told me he was called Yojimbo, and that I would die this day. I was to pay for my life of dissolution, which had dishonored the memory of my ancestors. When I asked who had sent him, he replied simply "my master".
I offered to pay him more than his wage, and he stood silent.
I told him I would leave, never to return to this place, and he stood silent.
I vowed to move to the honorable path of life, and still he stood silent.
The apparation would not be moved by words; the finishing couplet of this stanza was to be written in crimson. I leapt from the porch, unarmed and unarmored, and faced the one who would be my death. With a slow flourish, he unsheathed his sword, pausing for a moment before lunging.
A side-step and a twist saved me from the first blow, but the second grazed my arm as I took off my coat and began whipping it about. The cloth caught the sword just long enough for a disarming kick and a punch to the chin. A moment later, Yojimbo lay on the ground, staring up the length of his own blade.
Tempted as I was to remove the mask and see the face of my tormentor, I hesitated. Yojimbo had shown me honor; how was I to repay him? A strong wind blew in with the suddenness of a storm, bearing with it the recorder's melody. I turned to see the player, but saw only the darkened street. I looked back to the ground, and Yojimbo was gone.
A Jiffy-Lube in Durham, NC now has my address. What they plan to do with it, I can only guess.
Gary has commented on my recent posts roughly one jillion times. I will address them one by one, slowly divvying.
I now know the following: highway signs that say "Exit Only" mean "this lane is for the exit". They don't mean "it is absolutely impossible to get back on the highway. Enjoy living out the rest of your short life lost on the untamed rural byways of West Virginia". Good to know.
As I sat getting my hair cut today, a young fellow walked in wearing the standard early-twenties wear or a t-shirt and jeans. He grabbed Stuff magazine and took a seat. Close as I was to Vito's wattle, I found myself reflecting on just when exactly it was I stopped wearing T-shirts as outerwear, and when Road & Track started to seem more appropriate than the "men's interest" periodicals. That and why I was getting a haircut on the first day of vacation. Getting old, man. Getting old.
On second thought, I'll tell you: in the home. Saw a picture of this high-tech piece of equipment the other day, and found myself gasping and agape. The Sinclair was the first computer my family owned. I was five. That's the kind of environment that spawns a man like me, whose interests are abstract but can't keep his hands off of thinking machines.
Remember playing catch with your dad? Or going to the game? I spent many summer afternoons in front of the Apple IIGS with the old man, reading lines of code out of PC magazines. When we got a Macintosh SE, a friend came over with his machine and we networked them, just to say we did it. The young geek tales, they are multifarious.
You can see how I just can't help but be what I am, and can perhaps see why I've been trying to install a decent Linux distro on a seven-year-old laptop. Old habits.
We've all heard elaborate tales of the deaths of two prominent Romans who died within a century of one another, both betrayed by trusted companions, both beloved by the masses, both claiming divine heritage, both with the initials "J.C.". Better minds than mine have thought that the Jesus tale has some startling similarities to that of Julius Caesar. The final nail in the coffin* in my mind is something I heard just the other day. Cassius -- you know, lean and hungry?-- had the full name Gaius Cassius Longinus. The spearman who stabbed Jesus? Longinus. I mean, come on. The name isn't in the Bible, either. Like Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, his name came to Christian legend post-scriptum. So there you have it.
So Slazak said something funny today. Upon discovering that a two-hour meeting had been cancelled, I related to him that I would now have more time today, and would not longer be committing seppuku. He suggested I spend the time playing Sudoku.
I blog to you now from the porch, and will eventually get to healthcare costs.
The latest of the long string of unused devices which various friends have loaned/given to me is a wireless internet hub. This means I can now become dangerously addicted to playing Metroid Prime: Hunters online (friend codes to be posted later), but more to point I can connect to the nets from anywhere in the apt. So, as I sit here in the sun drinking iced tea and posting, the image goes in the rapidly growing bank of 'ain't-like-it-used-to-be' topics.
I assume the question of whether or not the increasing influence of technology had made the human experience better has been addressed every year since 1800, so we're going to pass on that today. Instead, let's just assume that a simpler life could be happier. If I were to go Office Space and opt out of the life I have led up until now, what would my options really be? How does one go about getting off the grid?
I see three major approaches: Robinson Crusoe, My Side of the Mountain, and the Merlin archetype.
Crusoe: Find a desert island and live off them fruits. Forget that -- hurricanes, man. And anyway, I assume all decent desert islands are no longer desert.
Mountain: Live a nomadic life in the uninhabited forests of the world. Survive off berries, acorns, roots, and the occasional trapped rabbit. In order to do this, I would clearly need to move south. I would pick a very large state park, put all my funds in a bank account in the nearest town, grab a knife and throw myself into the green. I would bury a set of decent clothes in a box somewhere, so when I needed to bo back into town to buy new shoes or something I could look semi-presentable. With no income and no possessions, I would have no taxes to pay. Legends of a pair of wild folk who would steal unwary campers' supplies if a small tithe were not laid out for them at night would crop up.
Merlin: Buy a small plot of land in the mountains and build a shack on it. Have a wood-burning stove for heat and cooking, a stream nearby for water, and no electricity. Have a small garden, and sell herbs etc from it to the store in town, making just enough per annum to pay property taxes. Teach wandering young men the mystical ways of nature before they go out and change the world. Spend life fishing, hunting, gathering and meditating.
The Merlin approach certainly sounds the best, but here are the issues.
#1: Those property taxes. I'd have to have some kind of income. Maybe I could learn the violin and give lessons (though some kind of wooden flute seems more appropriate).
#2: Travel. In order to live as a hermit, I would have to cut myself off nearly completely from family and friends, as I would never be able to go and see them.
#3: Medicine. Gotsta have medical help now and then, and forget that homeopathic baloney. If it worked, Pfizer would be all over it.
And so we come to it. As humans, we have to pay taxes. If we want to survive, we need medicine. If we want medicine, we pretty much need insurance. I mean, if a bear chews on me, where would I get the money for the emergency room visit? Would I just have to save up enough to cover that kind of thing before I start? So here we are at the money issue again.
Just not viable. So, I guess in order to enjoy the luxury of medical attention and longevity, I need to continue selling out. And if I'm going to do that, I might as well have internet access from my porch.
I just don’t know how much more I can take. I mean, first an awesome Supe trailer, next an awesome Jimbo trailer, and now this? What’s next? What could possibly be coming tomorrow?
Friday: Gates of Fire Goes Hollywood! Pressfield writing screenplay, filmed on location. No love interest. Actors will speak ancient Greek, and the movie will be subtitled. Keegan, Kagan, and Banchich slated as advisors.
Saturday: The Iliad, the HBO maxi-series begins filming. Every dust-biting, every foot race, every broken sword, every Nestor ramble to be acted out exactly as in the poem. Lattimore translation.
Sunday: In an unprecedented move, Lucas hires the author of B A Start for a nine-year, highly lucrative contract to write Star Wars: Episodes I, II, and III. “I had some fun with the movies, but I really just wanted to try out my new toys and make a lot of money. So, I’m considering them an alternate-universe plot-line, and have brought Alex in to write the real canon.”
So far, I've tried most of the features of the DS once each. I've used the touch-pad. I've played a match of Mario Kart online. I've played it against a friend locally. I've played a multiplayer match with a single cartridge. After today, there's only a few left.
Swung by Gamecrazy, a walled-off subset of Hollywood Video that serves as a mini game store. I went there in search of a DS Download Station, a place alleged to give me the power and authority to download a demo through the very air. A huge young fellow with the pasty complexion, soul patch, and horn-rimmed glasses stereotypical of gamers informed me that there was no station, per se, no glossy plastic box to point my DS at, but rather the entire store would yield a positive result. He entreated me to "download away".
I complied. True Swing Golf. Decent game, but it's no Tiger Woods. Either way, the Download Station idea is a valid one. It combines the wireless tech and community feeling that Nintendo are clearly focusing on in a simple way. And considering what a cheapass I am, I'm sure to be using it quite often.
Her Worshipfulness told me I should not post this picture, as it depicts me as being fat.
I've always had a bit of trouble visualizing my own size. As a teenager, I wondered why my shirts were all sized as "XL" when they clearly were made to fit normal-sized people. In college I would often be referred to as skinny or by the proper name "Slim", and didn't really get why. After I got a desk job, people who wanted to ask me for fifty-seven cents so they could get downtown attracted my attention by calling me "big guy", another epithet I never agreed with.
Apparently, I believe myself to be the one person on terra firma who is "normal-sized", and everyone else is either short or tall, diminutive or large. Sources would point to me being bigger than most people, and I'm just starting to catch on. So, if I inadvertantly crush you as I walk by, my mammoth stride spanning valleys and my head somewhere where the air is thin and crisp, cut me some slack. After all, you're the short one.
Hooverphonic's "This Strange Effect" is featured in a commercial for the Motorola SLVR. I feel safe in saying the general motif of the advert is "the latest, coolest, thing". Blue Wonder Power Milk, though, was released in 1998 -- ancient by late cool thing standards. My undefended thesis: the prevalence of online music services over the last few years has shone a light on acts which were only known by music geeks prior, and since the mainstream audience has never had them presented to it, much of this stuff is cool despite being old.
Unrelated postscriptum. Blogger's spell-check replaces 'hooverphonic' with 'overpayment'.
Had another Leadership Buffalo thing on Wednesday, this one taking me on a tour of Elmwood and the Cobblestone district. The Elmwood tour was held by "the Buffalo Risingguy", who appears to be the de facto mayor of the street. Every human we passed on the sidewalk and several of the people in cars stopped to say 'hello', and to ask with eyebrow raised what he was doing, the inference being, 'what are you doing with these squares?'.
Want to see the shells of the lofts being built next to the arena, or just can't get enough pictures of Alex? Check it out.
On Tuesday night, six men met in a darkened room to compete for glory. The fundraiser was a success in that it actually took place, the tech stuff all worked, people had a good time, and decent money was raised. It was a failure in that only seven people showed, but rumor has it the first iteration of an event like this is always poorly attended. I have many ideas for next time, so we'll see if I can't make this something a little bigger. If you're interested, my man Del has some pics up of the event -- well, the set-up for the event, anyway.
In addition to the manyfinefolkswho donated prizes, Bungie sent a box full of knick-knacks. I ended up with this little red dude as part of my 2nd place prize. Now Rooster* lives in my office, and I'm just not sure what to do with him. I feel he needs to be on display, both to up my geek cred (a necessity, since I dress like a management stooge and have to work with the IT guys) and to advertise for the next event. But where, and doing what? I am accepting suggestions.
*10 B A Start points to anyone who can guess why I named him that.
One of those true rarities, a post on webshite, has occurred. Greg reviews Kingdom Hearts 2, which continues the series of games set in the various Disney universes. Personally, I'm looking forward to KH3, in which Sora, Goofy, and Donald fight evil in the realm of the Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit.
Decades from now, some desperate grad student will write a thesis on the new social archetypes which started with the pantheon of characters from 80's TV ads. You may remember the post on the Noid -- today we discuss the pink bunny with the drum. He's entered my conscious thought a few times recently, as follows.
Elliott Smith refers to this ever-drumming automaton in his song Rose Parade, a depiction of someone too much of a mopey, self-involved coke addict to enjoy a parade. "They asked me to come down and watch the parade and to march down the street like the duracell bunny".
This morning on NPR, some dude -- sorry, "listener commentator" -- was bitching about the national debt.
"Like the Duracell bunny it just keeps on going".
Here's the thing: it's the Energizer Bunny. I mean, I know Duracell has more name recognition, but come on. It must drive the Energizer marketing people crazy.
Here's another thing. Apparently, there are Duracell bunnies, at least according to Wikipedia. These are not, though, the bunnies in question.
Sabres. Going to the playoffs, but that slump was not so good. I read this article on the topic, and will provide for you now a fairly disturbing quote from Ryan Miller:
"It's not panic mode," Miller cautioned. "I don't think it's been terrible. It's been less than stellar, but I don't think it's any reason to go change everything and start sacrificing live animals."
I have to agree, Ryan. No reason whatsoever to start sacrificing live animals, or even dead ones for that... wait, what the hell are you talking about? To whom? What dark gods of hockey would be appeased by this nefarious act? Whatever unholy alliance you have formed with these beasts-who-are-not-of-God, I'm going to assume they would be more happy with a sacrifice of Tim Horton's and Coffee Crisps. The Canadians I know always want my "Yankee cigarettes" -- perhaps a few cartons of those would help.
Bored with your Rhapsody station? Ipod getting monotonous? I recommend a trip over to edge.ca's streaming service page and checking out "Edge 2". Unless you're Alan Cross himself, I'd be pretty surprised if you don't hear something you've never heard before. Unsurprisingly, many of the tunes I heard today were typical Cross choices -- the new wave stuff that girl in high school who you thought was a wacko but now realize was really cool listened to while she spent study hall sitting by herself drawing freaky designs in her composition book -- but they were satisfyingly interspersed with non-eyeliner stuff. Happy hunting.
You know the archetypal image of two men carrying a large, fragile, thin rectangle down a city street? Like a mirror, pane of glass, or painting? A new incarnation of this classic appeared on the sidewalk the other day as I drove home from work. I saw the two guys. I saw the oversized rectangle. It took me a moment to see, though, that it was a big honkin' plasma TV.
Is it too late for me to change my signature? My written one, I mean.
About fifteen years ago I was impressed into signing my name several hundred times in a row. By the end of that, the sig had gone from a 14-letter scrawl to an unintelligible scribble. What happens if I decide to change how I do it? Let's say I do some drills for a week or so to make sure the new style is consistent. What happens on the rare occasions someone checks the back of my credit card? Would they believe me?
Always did have a problem with names. In my various writing projects throughout the years, I have consistently dreaded the moment at which I must choose a name for a person or a place, the cursor blinking at me as if the computer was drumming its fingers. I used the same first name for the main character in the last several stories I've put to paper (or whatever the modern equivalent of that idiom should be. Wait a minute, isn't that what writers are for? Let's just call it "put to text" for now) . Ages ago I was in an online writer's group hosted by an author, and on Q&A day the only question I had was how he picked names. It's a bit of an issue.
So, here I am writing something new, and trying to hoard words that make good place names. (Serenity and Firefly are littered with superior examples: Whitefall, Maidenhead, etc.) Over the last few days, it's become something of an OCD-freakout. Every written word, every song lyric, every combination of phonemes I've exposed to has been put to the test. Eating Lay's potato chips? "Classic Station...". Listening to music? "Tourbus Station...". Blogging? "Dashboard Station...". So, if you see me and notice a glazed-over look as you're speaking, don't be concerned. When I make my millions, I'll give you a dime if I use a shard of your vocab as a place name.
Damn it, Nintendo. You came frighteningly close to changing the world. Why? "Why?" I ask you. Why could you not go the extra step? You make the DS. You give it a touch screen and some decent processing power. You wave that special wand of yours, the one that has "The Breaker of Ground" etched down the side, and bless the thing with wireless connectivity.
Visions of people on subways having pick-up games of Mario Basketball during their commutes, of people at coffee-shops wi-fiing it up to race against their friends in Budapest, Lima, and Des Moines, of heply-dressed urban teens walking down clean sidewalks with your machines in their long hands flickered in your eyes. A gaming revolution.
As what I assume must have been a throw-away feature, you toss in Pictochat, the software that sets up local chatroom so kids can IM each other during recess. And here's where you flub it up. You can now compose messages on your handheld device, but the wi-fi doesn't work for it. Users can't IM each other over the internet. I can type up an email, but can't send it to anyone.
I've done a decent amount of composition on PDAs. It's great -- you can get a few lines down wherever you are. My PDA went all fritzy recently and had to be sent to the Heaven of Broken Electronics That An Unmarried Geek Would Keep In a Box Somewhere But A Married Geek Throws Away. And here I am with a handheld electronic device with a primitive word processor on it, and damned if I want to keep what I write. One half as expensive as a PDA, and which runs games with great awesomeness. I'm not even asking that you put a calendar etc. in there (which of course you should). Just unlock the stuff you've already got.
Eleven and one half hours. That's how long I celebrated St. Pat's (read: all aspects of my self-destructive behavior) last night. Kudos to Lisa for being there and sober for the entire damn thing. I mean, you out-lasted sixteen people who came and left over the night. Krieky.
There's nothing left upstairs. I wish I could claim some belfry bats, but I'm afraid they've all gotten themselves shot out of the sky by a more advanced technology. Jess has detailed our media consumption over the last few days; now add to this my as-of-last-week-rekindled interest in an extremely out of print college textbook anthology of science fiction stories which has withstood my flirtations for the last decade or so, about five hours of interminable presentations-turned-seminar in the last couple days, and the creeping feeling that the story concept that came to mind between Scrubs and Boston Legal has been irrevocably erased, and you can imagine the precise consistency of mush my brain has reduced itself to.