There is a town in north Ontario

September 11, 2010

The past month has been the longest and hardest to endure that I can remember. That said, my lungs are busy ventilating and exchanging gases; my heart is busy circulating blood; and my GI tract is, as usual, uncomplainingly going about its business. I am enduring; I will endure. I have it pretty good. My limbic system doesn’t always agree, but so it goes. I’m not here to write about that right now.

What I am here to do is issue my obligatory periodic apology for neglecting this space again, make a good-faith effort to un-neglect this space a little, show off some pictures, and put off applying tung oil to the raw parts of my desk—my desk, which has prominently featured raw pine for over a year now, and which it only recently occurred to me to apply any kind of finishing treatment to. When I finally cleared it off, so I could transport it half a mile down the road, I noticed some discoloration in parts. So, after procrastinating some other tasks by reading about wood, I decided on tung oil. After further procrastination in the form of further reading, I decided on actual tung oil, rather than one of the easy-to-find “tung oil finishes” that contain about as much tung oil as lemon-lime Gatorade contains actual lemon or lime juice. So, after tracking down a local store that actually carried tung oil, a task in itself, I stopped by only to discover that they were fresh out and their weekly merchandise shipment was delayed by the Labor Day holiday. I’ve since been back, and acquired some tung oil, as well as some thinner with which to thin the first couple of coats.[1] Now that I have all my equipment assembled, the next course of action was, obviously, to take my car in for an oil change, then sip coffee in a bookstore all afternoon while reading, and subsequently purchasing, a couple of books I’ve been intending to read for a while.[2] The desk can wait.

Last night, in a welcome diversion, was movie night at a friend’s apartment.[3] One of the movies I’d seen before (The Maltese Falcon); and one I hadn’t, though I’d seen a few very similar films (Blade Runner)[4]. Both are classics, based on equally classic books. Seeing the movies back-to-back, and wanting to procrastinate today, inspired me to finally get the books. Not that I’ve read either one of them through yet, but here are some of my early impressions.

The Maltese Falcon. Two things I know for sure. One, Dashiell Hammett can write. I really should’ve checked out his work sooner. And two, Humphrey Bogart sure as shit isn’t a barrel-chested six-foot blond with a body “like a shaved bear’s”. Yet I can’t stop picturing him as Sam Spade. Obviously my judgment is clouded by the fact that I’ve seen the movie half a dozen times and have come to associate Bogart with Spade, but so far I really do feel that Spade works better as a short guy with a lisp than as some kind of gleaming god of masculinity.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I’ve just been reading and rereading the first chapter. Not only is it great to have an actual context for Deckard’s character, but (as has been pointed out to me) it’s a fantastic example of how to do sci-fi right: the futuristic aspects that Philip K. Dick explores are introduced intelligibly and painlessly—and with a sense of humor to boot. It’s the polar opposite of Frank Herbert, for example, who drowns you in deadly-serious gibberish before you can even turn the page. (And, I have to say, the line “My schedule for today lists a six-hour self-accusatory depression” is pure brilliance.)

* * *

[1] Having to thin the oil for the first few coats, and indeed having to apply several coats in the first place, are only a few of the benefits of using 100% pure tung oil.

[2] I fucking swear, I’m not going to buy myself any more books until I read at least, say, six of the ones I’ve already acquired with the honest but yet-unrealized intention of reading. Goddamnit.

[3] If there’s one thing I learned yesterday, it’s that it’s good to have a friend with Blu-Ray player and a 1080p projector pointed at a wall that happens to be roughly 16:9. Very good.

[4] I’ve actually seen three or four different films named Blade Runner over the years, none of them more than once. There are enough different cuts of the movie out there that this is pretty easy to do, and they’re generally different enough from one another that they really do seem like completely different movies. For what it’s worth, the version I saw last night was probably my favorite so far—it told the most coherent story, without having to rely on voiceover narration, and without tacking on an unnecessary, shitty happy ending.


April 9, 2009

What a time to be alive:

This computer has been on its last legs for years, and I daresay those last legs just got a good deal longer, now that it has, among other new features, a SATA card and more free space than I know what to do with.

In other news, there’s nothing quite as fun (and as productive) as having several beers and then tinkering with your computer. For example, those beers make it much easier to justify plugging a 6-pin PCI-E power connector . . .

. . . into the socket on your brand-new (yet already obsolete! Hooray for AGP) video card, a socket designed for an 8-pin connector . . .

. . . simply because, hey, you happen to have a 6-pin connector available, but your power supply doesn’t have an 8-pin connector, and you’re far too lazy to use a molex-to-8-pin adapter . . .

. . . like some kind of chump. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen from plugging a connector into a socket it’s physically compatible with, but doesn’t have the right number of pins for? And anyway, the inside of your case is already enough of a rat’s nest as it is, without adding even more cables and adapters. Plus, since you only have one free molex connector, so to use the adapter, you’d have to either (a) only plug in half the connectors it wants, which seems even worse than plugging in a cable that provides 6/8 of them, or (b) unplug something else and go through even more trouble. The lazy way dictated plugging in what was available and seeing what happened.

As it turns out, the video card is working just fine with the 6-pin cable. Had I done a little research beforehand, I’d have learned that it’s entirely unsurprising for the card to be working fine with an incomplete power connection. But that would have been less fun — because, after all, brash confidence with no rational basis is more fun than careful consideration. Not that I’d really know.

Anyway, the above-mentioned upgrades were paid for by my 2008 federal tax refund. (My state tax refund paid for a refurbished TomTom that I’m rather satisfied with.) Despite (because of?) working only 7 months last year, I got a decent chunk of change back. Part of it is earmarked for next month’s rent, and the remainder is earmarked for gadgets and other useless crap. I’m thinking of buying a netbook of some sort with the remainder, because (a) god knows I don’t have enough computers and laptops lying around, and (b) my current primary laptop is just a bit too big and bulky and heavy to keep schlepping back and forth every day.

On anniversaries

April 1, 2009

Futurama turned 10 years old on Saturday, and there was much rejoicing.

delicious beverages

In addition to the Slurm, LöBrau, Olde Fortran, and robot oil, there were Popplers and a cake. The cake, appropriately enough, bore the message: “Good news, everyone!”

In other news, a happy birthday to those of you whose birthday it is today.

On fire hydrants, again

September 15, 2008

OK, I swear this is the last word on fire hydrants for the time being. I just couldn’t pass this up when I saw it outside an IKEA in Maryland on Saturday:

Out of Service

Look at the sky turn a hellfire red

September 12, 2008

So I’m walking home last night when a couple fire-marshal vehicles zoom past me with their sirens blaring. Ok, that’s not unheard of. But then I notice the sound of several helicopters in the air, look up, and see a huge billow of smoke illuminated from below.

Somebody's house is burning

Once I reach my apartment, which I’m glad to see is not on fire, I grab my camera.

Burning down down down down

Thankfully, it turns out the fire hydrants in my neighborhood were turned on.


May 29, 2008

Speaking of corn… Considering that the cows that provide the beef are fed a diet of corn and basically every other ingredient is sweetened with corn, you could argue that McDonald’s really serves cornburgers.

And speaking of speaking of corn, what a fortuitous billboard to drive past while having the above discussion:

a billboard, or a billboard like it????????
What is it supposed to mean? Is it some kind of puzzle where a picture of a Big Mac represents a certain value? Is it a rebus? I really can’t be sure.

The most obvious interpretation might be “100% beef”. But that would mean that “Big Mac” symbolizes zero. I doubt that suggesting McDonald’s’ flagship product equates to nothingness is what Ronald’s ad mavens had in mind.

Yet the only other plausible interpretation I could come up with [1] was “1% beef”, just outright ignoring the non-ASCII characters. [2] And that seems even more ridiculous, and even less like it would be the desired message.

But if it’s “100% beef”, it’s unclear what the percentage would be referring to. The only antecedent on the billboard itself is an entire Big Mac; buns, cheese, Thousand Island secret sauce, and all. Unless they’re making their bread out of beef these days, the overall beef percentage in a Big Mac is well below unity, regardless of whether you’re measuring by weight or volume.

A lot of these problems could have been avoided if they’d just used hamburger patties as zeroes, and put a huge Big Mac behind the text. Patties are a good deal rounder than entire burgers [3], so they’re a more straightforward stand-in for zeroes [4]; and equating a patty to zero wouldn’t be as belittling to the brand. Plus, the patties themselves are (or should be) an awful lot closer to 100% beef than the sandwiches as wholes.

Though now I’m tempted to try a proper hamburger sandwich (think “bread sandwich”, but with hamburgers rather than slices of bread).

* * *

[1] I’m assuming base 10 here. This billboard is from McDonald’s, after all, not Google.

[2] Is there a Unicode codepoint for “Big Mac”? How about “hamburger”?

[3] Were this a Wendy’s billboard, their square patties would present an entirely different set of problems. But that’s for a different discussion.

[4] Of course, zeroes usually aren’t perfectly round either, which I’ve been known to complain about in other advertisements. But no matter how you render your zeroes, they’re going to look more similar to hamburger patties than to hamburger sandwiches, so the point remains.

On Facebook

December 8, 2007


November 13, 2007

Time for a blogmeme.
» » Continue reading . . .

On comics.

October 27, 2007

It’s been pointed out to me, and rightfully so, that my last post has more than a little in common with the Wondermark strip excerpted below:

In which Bill suffers a Sudden Attack

While I can’t really disagree with that, there’s another comic that does a better job of summing up my life as a whole right now. It’s excerpted below:

Go ahead and read the whole thing. It really hits the nail on the head, except for minor details like the typewriter (people use computers nowadays) and the convertible (I ride a train). I’ve had Work is Hell for 12 years or so now, and of all the cartoons in it, that’s the one that’s stuck in my mind the most—especially the last panel—because it seemed like it portrayed such a singularly unpleasant and stultifying way of life. Now, though, I know better, because I’ve lived it. It’s really not all that bad… until you start thinking about it. Which, in a way, is really the whole point of the last panel.

How my time is spent

March 12, 2007

or: Wasn’t Notes from Underground meant as a guide to happiness?

Doubting, qualifying, hesitating;
Waiting for the moment
to pass me by.

Dithering, agonizing, considering;
Wishing to be left alone
then wond’ring why.

Doubting, fearing, loathing;
Watching men of action make
decision look so easy.

Distracted, disgusted, defensive;
Wondering just what it is I want
then having a drink.

Getting rather sick of this.

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