Strange Brouhaha

Friday, November 30, 2007

Belliblog's Four For Friday

Unusually for the Four For Friday, not every question is a Russian novel.

Q1 - Beam Me Up, Scotty: Do you think humans should actively attempt to colonize another planet, or would doing so right now simply be a waste of money? While I am fairly certain that colonizing another planet--say, Mars--would rank fairly high on the "cool" meter, and while I am in general all for interplanetary exploration, it would be waste of money right now. We need to find a way to fix things that are wrong on this planet.

Q2 - Absurdity: Which do you think is more absurd: That a 54-year-old school teacher in the Sudan was arrested earlier in the week and sentenced to 15 days in prison after she allowed her class of seven-year-olds to name a teddy bear "Mohammed" as part of a school project, or the fact that almost every single late night "talk" show--including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and The Late Show with David Letterman--is on hiatus because of a "writers" strike? The quotes around the word writers in the question are a sad indication that the person who formulates the question doesn't understand the role of writers in television. (And on late night they think that Letterman's Top 10 is not the product of an hour in a writing room? Do Conan's Masturbating Bear sketches simply spring out fully formed in the moment?) And in fact, the comments on the Belliblog website about this topic are also fairly sad. Writers are not getting paid for their work. THAT'S the absurd thing. I'm not generally a big union guy, but writers should be getting paid. No, my pick here for most absurd is the backwards-ass situation in Sudan. Today people were calling for this woman to be executed. How is that not absurd?

Q3 - Spend It All, Now!: On this day in 2004, longtime Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings finally lost after winning 222 consecutive rounds and netting for himself over $2.5 million in winnings. If you came into 10 times that amount of money ($25,000,000) and were given just 72 hours to spend every last dime, how would you spend it? (Caveat #1: You are limited to investing or trusting only 1% or $250,000. Caveat #2: You may only purchase one piece of real property and its cost may not exceed 4% of the total spend or $1,000,000.) I'd make the investment and the real property purchase. Then I would purchase assets that would be easily liquidated, like diamonds and gold. Since there's no "Brewster's Millions" provision that the money needs to spent without having anything to show for it, it should be pretty easy. The hard part would be figuring out where you could get 23.75 million dollars in gems and gold. Okay, I'd buy a new BMW, too.

Q4 - Cars: What is the absolute worst experience you have ever had in an automobile? Without going into too many specifics, The Wife will recall a time when we were visiting California and I almost got carsick from driving around in the hills. That was the absolute worst, because with the situation we were in, I couldn't say anything. I believe I passed out when the drive was over. Yes, it was even worse than the time we were stranded in Chicago, although that's a very close second.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Here's yet another meme, asked and answered

3x Thursday was particularly thought-provoking today.

1. Do you think as humans, we'd be better off *without* feelings? Why/why not? While they are messy, inconvenient and at times downright painful, feelings are absolutely necessary to the survival of the human race. Think about it; without feelings, you'd have no reaction to the statement "My baby is on fire," and that doesn't bode well for the future of any species.

2. So, you have a bad day at work. You put up with the day and then you go home. What do you do to relax and prepare for another work day? Sit down, eat, watch some TV, check my email, surf the Internet, read a book. If I start thinking about work, I ruthlessly squash the thought.

3. Do you worry about the big things (work, finances, tests) or the little things (broken cars, the house not being clean, a tear in your shirt)? Why? I don't consider a broken car a "little thing," but given those items, I worry far more about little things. The little things are the things that you can take care of, giving yourself far less to worry about.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Electric Guitars. Yay!

Blogdrive Insanity has a Monday Music Mambo, this being Monday.

1. Have you ever played electric guitar? Did you enjoy it? Yes, and yes. I played rhythm guitar for a Joe Satriani song for Hammer in college, but just one--I couldn't play the Metallica song well enough for us to do it, mostly because I had to sing as well. I can't play anything very complicated and sing at the same time. It's just one or the other. I also played for a local production of "Grease" a while ago. That was a lot of fun, especially the night that we closed out rehearsal with "Dueling Banjos." I've also recorded some things for my own personal enjoyment.

2. Name one of your favorite electric guitarists and why you like him or her. It's hard to pick just one, because there are a lot of them that I like more or less the same amount. The first one that came to mind was Alex Lifeson of Rush, but I couldn't say exactly why.

3. Name a song with a good electric guitar solo. I was playing Guitar Hero III at work, and one of the songs was "One" by Metallica. The solo in that is really good. I'll pick that. (Runner up: watch some live Guns N' Roses video on YouTube--Slash was AMAZING. I never appreciated that on the records, or at least as much as I probably should have.)

4. You just bought a brand-new shiny electric guitar. What song do you try out on it first? First, the rhythm part to a jazz tune called "Spinning" that I wrote, because it starts in fifth position and ends in first, which makes it good for checking intonation. Then "Enter Sandman" by Metallica, after I remind myself how to play it. Then "Plush" by STP to exercise the other three strings.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I am no longer just a participant

I sprinted to the finish line again this year, finishing my National Novel Writing Month project a little early. The process this year was much more enjoyable; I didn't sweat daily word counts, and that made it all okay. I just used the weekends to stay on pace, and Thanksgiving to blow the doors open.

This year's product overall was much better, too. It wasn't torture to wring it out--it just kind of glided along, almost writing itself, which was good. I still wouldn't want actual humans to read it, but at least it's readable this year. Last year's--ugh, ugh and ugh. (Among my other sins last year, I realized after I was done that at least half of the names I used were from "Heroes," and that when I was visualizing the action, I was visualizing the "Heroes" actors. Bad bad bad bad bad.)

The Winner banner is up, too.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

The Old Feed Mill was in top form this year, serving up a nice spread of food. Three-bean salad, fresh cranberry relish, homemade rolls, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, stuffing, mushroom strudel. For meats, they laid out cornbread-stuffed pork roast (the cornbread was not terribly successful, but the pork was great), a very nice thinly-sliced roast beef, and of course turkey.

The turkey was okay, but it really made me want to make chuk. I miss having chuk. And chuk makes me think of gau for some reason...maybe I'll make some for Chinese New Year. Mmm.

(Speaking of turkey, if you cooked at home this year and are not going to make chuk, at least consider making your own stock--don't let the carcass go to waste. Ruhlman tells you how and why.)

I'm thankful for a lot this year. I've had a good year at work, and I'm thankful that my accident didn't end up being a lot worse than it was. I'm thankful for a roof over our heads and food to eat. I'm thankful for our health and for yours, whoever and wherever you are.

Here's hoping that next year is good for everyone.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Briefly Noted

  • Courtesy of The Wife, who says that this is worst headline ever, and I am not inclined to disagree: Student Slain to Death Near U of Chicago. This is a tragedy, of course, and we should not be making fun. It is also sad that the student was killed.

  • Courtesy of homie Michelle: not a hoax, exercises your brain and donates food. Only follow the link if you have time to kill. Warning: after 200 or so words, you'll start to see repeats.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Overheard, pt. II

I find the concept of the Turducken humorous and possibly tasty, but I just heard an ad where a guy says "I'm cooking a Turduckenoosetrich!" and found it even more humorous.

That would be a Turducken stuffed inside a goose inside an ostrich, in case you're wondering. "Deep fried!" the hapless husband in the ad says enthusiastically.

"We're going out this year," the wife announces.


The Child and I went to a sandwich shop for lunch after dance yesterday. We sat next to a table of chattering women. One of them was complaining about something that someone else had posted online--either on the complainer's own Web site or the someone else's Web site--saying that she, the complainer, was entirely too focused on herself and was a bitch.

The complaining woman then spent the next twenty minutes (no lie) talking about herself.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Et Cetera

Just a bunch of random stuff. It's been a longish week, with no time to blog.

  • Tuesday: We bought a satellite radio (XM) and it's great. It seems kind of weird paying for radio, but they have specialty channels that will simply never happen on your FM dial--which is odd, considering that diversity-killing Clear Channel is a backer of XM. Choosing a satellite service is difficult, because both Sirius and XM are evil in different ways. And there's a bit of uncertainty in the whole market anyway because of the merger. But I think we're not unhappy with our choice. The only problem is positioning the antenna: it needs southern exposure, and our house runs east-west with no south-facing anything.

  • Wednesday: Minor crisis at work meant coming home late. At least, I think it was Wednesday. It's all sort of a blur.

  • Thursday: Replacing my dead Macintosh has been an exercise in frustration; this is the second (of two) computers that I've bought from Apple that have Not Been Right out of the box. This one didn't have the latest operating system on it, but at least it HAD an OS, unlike the iBook when it was new. The irony is, now that they've sent me the new OS and I've installed it...I want the old one back. Leopard is so incredibly ugly that I can hardly stand to look at it.

    But I was able to restore my Perforce server with no data loss, get my iTunes library safely onto the new machine, and reinstall and reregister the greatest program ever, Circus Ponies Notebook, with no difficulty. The nightmare is over, even though it took me a week longer than I wanted it to because I was waiting for my copy of the ugly OS.

  • Friday: Twenty years of late nights means that a person occasionally attains a state of unconsciousness a bit earlier than otherwise desired. I fully intended to Do Stuff last night, but I was snoring in my easy chair at nine and woke up twice before I realized that I should just go to bed.

  • NaNoWriMo: Note that the bar hasn't moved in a few days. It's not because I haven't updated it. Good thing Thanksgiving is coming up.

  • Meme: Wednesday Hump Day asks the not-too-terribly-musical question Name five things that are in your refrigerator and/or freezer right now. Which is not actually a question, when you look at it.

    • A block of Medium Cheddar cheese from Badger

    • A can of Diet Rite White Grape soda

    • A half-empty gallon jug of Kemp's Skim Milk

    • A pound or so of seedless red grapes

    • A jar of maraschino cherries that has been there since before the Civil War

Monday, November 12, 2007

What did you just call poor Monday?

Here's Monday's a Bitch:

1. If you could swim in a pool filled with any substance, what would you choose? I recognize and honor the creativity behind this question, but I would choose chlorinated water. Unless I could keep the contents of the pool after swimming in it, in which case I would go the Scrooge McDuck route.

2. Describe your left hand in detail. Okay, but I'm not measuring my fingers because that would mean getting up to grab a ruler. My left hand doesn't seem large to me, but it must be, because I have trouble finding gloves that fit. It has five thick but otherwise unassuming fingers crowned by unevenly trimmed nails. The back of my hand is hairy, except for my knuckles; with the exception of three lonely strands, I am devoid of mid-digital hair. I have a mole at the base of my ring finger, and another on the right side of my middle finger. My fingertips are callused from playing the guitar.

3. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be? Sushi, I guess; with all of the varieties, I would have at least a shot at being nutritionally balanced. If that's cheating, and it probably is, then I'd pick a nice New York strip.

4. Write us a haiku. What do you get when/You dereference a null/pointer? Program crash.

5. If you had some sort of deformity that was causing the general public to worship you as a God (not necessarily this one, but this story obviously inspired the question), would you want to undergo corrective surgery, or continue living as you were? (The article is about the girl in India with the conjoined twin growing out of her, giving her a couple of extra pairs of limbs.) You know, that seems like a really good question. It would depend on a bunch of factors, including "How exactly are they worshiping me" and "What kind of deformity is it" and "Have I been deformed all my life or is this a recent thing". I realize that's a non-answer, and I apologize.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

It's been a while, but here's the Saturday Six

I haven't done Patrick's Saturday Six in a long time. This week's is about computers, one of my favorite subjects.

1. What was the brand and model (if you remember) of the first computer you remember using? Hm...I think it was a demo model of a TI-99/4a in a department store, but I don't remember which store. Obviously, though, what I did was program in a stupid phrase on the order of "10 PRINT 'BUTT!'; 20 GOTO 10" because that's what you DID in those days.

2. What year do you remember using a home computer for the first time? Well, if I have to remember a year, it's 1984 and using a first-generation Macintosh. But I'm pretty sure I had my Commodore 64 before that--I just don't remember what year we got it. That Commodore was great. Best computer ever, at least through the lens of nostalgia.

3. Hype aside, which platform do you prefer: Mac or PC? Overall, I prefer the Windows PC. These days, the distinction is largely moot, of course. I'm kind of over Linux and open/free software; I'd rather just Get Stuff Done without having to screw around. The one advantage that the Mac OS has over Windows is its Unix underpinnings...but other than that I'd just rather use Windows. It's weird; people complain about Windows ME all the time, but I never had a problem with it. And people complain about Vista, but while I acknowledge that it's painful to develop for and test on, I have zero problems with it as a desktop OS.

4. Take the quiz: Are you a Mac or PC? Sigh.

You Are a Mac

You are creative, stylish, and super trendy.
You demand the best - even if it costs an arm and a leg.

5. How fair would you consider the quiz to be based on the responses? Not fair at all. "Do you get sick a lot" is a really loaded question in this instance. The worst computer virus attack I've ever had to clean up was Macintosh-based (the venerable nVir-A). And "Are you more educated and richer than the general population" is just ridiculous.

6. If money were no object, what brand of computer would you most likely purchase? Does Cray still make supercomputers? I don't know, if we're really talking about computers, I'd probably go for an IBM p-series with AIX, or a Sun Ultra 40 with Solaris. If we're talking about the Mac/PC dichotomy, then I'd probably go with a boutique brand like Falcon Northwest and load it up as much as possible. Their "bragging rights" system is nineteen grand.

Friday, November 09, 2007

NaNo update

I dropped the NaNo word count widget over in my sidebar so you can see how far behind I am. I'm actually enjoying my NaNo book a lot more this year, probably because I'm not sweating the word count. I'm just having a good time rolling along.

Yesterday, I re-watched Serenity. It was even better than I remembered it, and I remembered it being really good. Joss Whedon is my master now.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Final Firework Update

I was able to get everything off the G4, even my iTunes library. The hard drive cooperated for a couple of long stretches.

And I did find out how to get to the "hidden" areas of the filesystem (like /usr/local/perforce, to pick up my Perforce depot). This is a big "duh," and when I finally figured it out I was pretty peeved that I had forgotten it.

OS X keeps mounted volumes in a directory called Volumes. You can access this from the Terminal, and since the hidden areas aren't hidden from the command line, you're home free. For example, if your mounted volume is called "Foo," you'd type "cd /Volumes/Foo/usr/local" and you'd switch to that directory. A simple "open ." opens the directory in the Finder and you're set to copy.

Anyway, everything has been rescued. I just need to set up the new machine (it is smaller than my hand!) and we'll be back to status quo ante.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Writers' Strike Implications

If the writers' strike happens, Leno, Letterman, Stewart, Colbert and others may be forced into reruns.

I imagine Fox "News" will be in the same boat.


Here's a little entry from randomness.

1. what's your view on peanut butter? do you like it or is it just plain gross? I love it. I am a devotee of the One True Way: JIF creamy. It is great on toast. It is great straight from the knife. It is great on crackers. It is great in cookies. All hail and praise, etc.

2. aerobic exercising: good for you, or a tool of the devil? It is a tool of the devil that is good for you.

3. hanging out at the bookstore, is it nerdy or a fun time? Duh. It's a fun time. What is better than being surrounded by thousands of books and magazines waiting to be read? (Well, a couple of things not suitable for a family show, I suppose.) When we first moved here to the Upper Midwest, we had no television and no money, so our entertainment options were either the movies or the bookstore. Nothing wrong with the bookstore!

4. should your socks always match? should you wear socks at all? If you wear socks, it is my firm belief that they should always match. If my socks don't match, it throws my whole day off. As for "should you wear socks," well, that's up to you.

5. is MySpace a great invention or just plain overrated? Just plain overrated.

Firework recovery update

Marginally good news on the dead computer front. I've been able to boot the G4 into disk mode, which means that other computers will treat it as an external Firewire disk. I've borrowed my mother-in-law's MacBook Pro and have been copying files.

Only problem is that eventually the G4's disk grinds to a halt again. But I've managed to get a few things.

Another bit of marginally good news is that I did have a backup from last November. That's not as bad as it sounds; I bought my ThinkPad in March, so except for my Perforce depot, that backup is really only about four months old. (It doesn't cover my iTunes library, but that's okay.)

There are still things that are hopelessly gone, but it's not as much of a disaster as I had first feared. Whew.

I'm contemplating buying a new Mac mini to replace the G4. I know that I said I'd never buy another Mac, but it's the least-hassle option.

Update 6:30PM: I'm no longer contemplating, I've done it. The data transfer is ongoing. It's slow, because I can only transfer a few MB at a time before the drive starts grinding again. My Perforce depot is the only thing left that I feel like I have to get back, and I can't find it. (It's in /usr/local/perforce, or something like that, and I can't figure out how to get to it. I will prevail.)

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Always back stuff up

My iBook G4, trusty companion through several Blitzes, two National Novel Writing Months, a layoff, a bunch of articles and whole heck of a lot of blogging, has died a horrible, flaming death. actual flames were involved.

I was three-quarters awake this morning when I heard The Child ask The Wife, "Mommy, what's that noise from downstairs?" That alarmed me. I went down, and the iBook was making an incredibly loud metallic grinding from the general area of the hard drive.

It is dead.

My iTunes library was on the backup. My Perforce server was on the backup (fortunately, my ThinkPad was synced). Everything I wrote prior to buying the backup. All my source backup. Even stage.tex is gone.

I can't even say I've learned a lesson, because this isn't the first time I've had my ass handed to me because I didn't back up. Sigh.

And now I need a new computer. When you're just goofing around, it's fun. When you need to replace a machine quickly, it becomes work. Sigh.

Friday, November 02, 2007

A not-so-modest proposal (updated)

Is waterboarding torture?

It's a simple yes-no question.

To end the debate, perhaps anyone who thinks that it's no big deal, or who is having trouble deciding, should undergo it. The "technique" could only be stopped when the subject successfully answers this question: "What is the answer?" Nothing but a correct answer will suffice. Not "Okay, I've had enough!" not "Please, God, STOP!" and not "Don't waterboard me, bro!"

Dianne Feinstein and Charles Schumer are continuing the Senate's betrayal of everything this country is supposed to stand for by not standing up against Mukasey's nomination. There was so much hope just a year ago, and it crumbled so fast. Stupid Democrats. Maybe there really is no difference after all.

Update: Just to clarify, the question really is "What is the answer?" It is not "Is waterboarding torture?" That would be far too easy a question.'s list

I've commented on this before, but it's too bad that there aren't more smaller numbers that begin with F. It's either Friday Four or Friday Five...they all kind of run together. Maybe I should start my own Friday meme and call it Fthree for Friday. Nah. Here's five from

1. If you were on a game show and could phone a friend for help, who would your lifelines be for sports, arts & music, literature, history and geography, and science? For baseball and football, my dad; for basketball, my mother-in-law. Depending on the specific category in arts and music, The Wife or my mother-in-law. Literature and history, The Wife., good question. Chris Liu, maybe. (Remember that, The Wife; if I get on one of those game shows, you're not gonna sit in the audience, because I'll need you at home!)

2. When you need someone with muscles to help you with a task, who’s the first one you call? Chris Liu. When I was doing our bathroom remodel, he came over and helped me nail in the floor molding--my back was not being helpful. In general, though, I am (or at least used to be) able to tackle most of that kind of stuff around the house.

3. When you need some creative help with ideas for a project, who’s the first person you call? The Wife.

4. When you have a moral dilemma and need advice, on whom do you rely most? The Wife. Sometimes my father.

5. When you need to know the best way to get somewhere, which of your directionally-gifted friends do you call upon first?
David. Or possibly Google.

Mmm, a feast.

Here's Friday's Feast. Speaking of feasts, I'm on the hook for bringing treats to a meeting tomorrow morning at The Child's dance school, and I decided to make some quickbread based on Breadchick's Master Recipe. All I can say is "Whoa mama." Good stuff.

ON WITH THE BODY COU...uh, on with the Feast.

How much money do you plan to spend this upcoming holiday season? Good question. We don't really have a set amount. We just buy what seems right. I decline to name a dollar figure.

What was the last television show you watched, and was it good? Deliberately? Monday's episode of "Heroes" (although it was Tuesday when I watched it), and yes. To be honest, though, I thought that it was the weakest so far this season. Oh...actually, I watched a "Simpsons" rerun tonight--the one where Mr. Burns runs for governor and Marge serves up the three-eyed fish for dinner. Not one of my favorites.

If you had to paint the walls of your living room tomorrow, what color would you choose? White, just like they are now. I can't imagine them being anything else. It's a good neutral color for all of our art, as The Wife points out.

Name something clever or practical you have thought of that should be invented, but hasn’t yet. Uh...a car engine that runs on wishes? I don't know, if I had an idea, I'd go make up some units and sell them. This is a really tough question. Oh, I know--with the baking I've been doing, I'd like an egg separator that you don't need three hands to operate. If you make a million bucks on that, be sure to slide a few my way.

List 3 things you would like to receive as gifts this upcoming holiday season. Hmmm. Practical things, and not like that $150,000 car I was mentioning the other day? I don't know...I have an answer, but I don't like questions like this because answering them seems kind of like grubbing.

Five on Friday

It's time for Five On Friday, it being Friday and all.

1. They say elephants never forget. Would you compare your memory to that of an elephant or gnat? I am well-known in my house for not remembering very much. I rely on The Wife for most of my memories of the last seventeen or so years. It's not that I don't remember anything, but more like she will say "Remember when we did this-and-such?" and I'll say "" Slide me closer to the gnat.

2. What kinds of things do you find it easy to remember? Stupid, trivial things. I love trivia, minutiae, tiny little details. Everything else I need to drill.

3. What kinds of things do you find it difficult to remember? Pretty much everything else.

4. How does your short-term memory compare to your long-term memory? I think my short-term memory is average. I have no idea if my long-term memory can be considered average.

5. How do you commit things to memory? Do you use tricks, songs, images, word associations, or other little mnemonics? Brute force repetition. I don't like mnemonics very much; it's just one more thing that you have to remember on top of everything else. For example, it's great that Many Very Eager Men Joyfully Study the Universe Nightly...but you have to remember what those letter stand for anyway, so you've wasted a brain cells memorizing the sentence and how to decode it when you could have just memorized the names of the planets to begin with. And don't get me started on Every Good Boy Does Fine and God Blesses Doers From Above.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I guess I'm on board...

I'm doing National Novel Writing Month for the third year. Last year, the whole experience was horrible. I'm giving it one more shot.

At the very least, this year's beginning shows a little more promise.

My NaNo profile has an excerpt.

3x Thursday...ahhhh, fantasy!

Today's 3x Thursday is wonderful. We are asked, simply, "If money is no object, what 3 things would you really like to have? Why?"

1. Obviously, $100 million. If "$100 million" doesn't count as a "thing", then maybe some piece of art that's worth north of $100 million. Then I'd sell it. I'd like to have this so that I'd have enough to live on and plenty to give away.

2. A BMW 760Li ($140,000-ish), or a Mercedes S600 ($150,000-ish), or, since money is no object, a luxury sedan modified by that one dude who takes gas guzzlers and turns them into super fuel-efficient performance monsters. His name is Johnathan Goodwin, and he can take a Hummer H3 and modify it to get 60MPG. (I wouldn't want the H3, though...I'd get tired of having to explain myself.) As for why...I don't know, I want a really nice car. I think that's enough of an explanation.

3. A professional football team ("Aww...the Denver Broncos?"). No, a professional baseball team. Even if they're crappy. It'd be nice to go to a ball game every now and then, and I could sell the team a few years later for a profit.

In the light of the first and third items, I realize that "a nice car" is thinking kind of small. Maybe "a nice car company" that I could sell later for a profit.