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14th March 2011
This Has the Characteristic Look and Feel of a Complete Fuckup
My goals for this evening were:
Pay the bills.
Ensure the weekly backups are under way.
Get to bed early.
Yes, I tried to get something done on a Sunday.
Anyway, the body count:
Didn't get to the grocery store early enough —
Daylight Savings Time.
Backups were already running when I sat down to do the bills —
Daylight Savings Time.
Said backups were copying every file to the external drive, instead of just the new ones, turning a 45-minute backup into 15+ hours —
Daylight Savings Time.
It is now 4
in the morning, so getting to bed early is going onto the
Daylight Fucking Savings Time.
So no food, no bills, and an incremental backup transformed into a full backup because Windows is the only entity in the world that
copes with Daylight Savings Time worse than I do.
Even Microsoft's own apps
don't get it right.
I've found all involve knowing exactly when Daylight Savings Time starts and ends, then trying to guess what Microsoft did to the clock so you can un-mangle it by hand.
This is complicated by the fact that Daylight Savings Time itself is not a constant, but an act of legislative fiat.
So, any long-term solution will have to co-ordinate the independent and capricious decisions of not only Microsoft, but also the US government.
That seems to mean constant patching is the only way to go…
robocopy hasn't been updated since 2003.
I have about a dozen clocks left to fiddle with, but fuck it, I'm going to bed.
Maybe I'll wake up in Guam, and it will all have been a dream.
26th December 2010
I Want Him in the Theater Until He Dies Watching. Acknowledge:
craigjclark has talked me into the theaters to see the new Tron this weekend.
I laughed out loud when he told me it was in 3-D.
“I thought we'd seen the last of them in Captain EO.”
Craig has known me since 1991 and really shouldn't be surprised when I say things like this.
Tron: Legacy has me apprehensive, to say the least.
Star Wars may have been the first movie I saw, but Tron was the first movie I owned.
This was back when “owning a movie” was a new and uncomfortable concept, kind of like “owning last Thursday”.
While other kids wrote Basic games that exited with “Thank you for playing Lemonade Stand”, mine always said “END OF LINE”.
I couldn't tell you which movie was my favorite, but I do know which one has remained safe from toxic sequels, thanks entirely to Disney's pretending they'd never made Tron in the first place.
EPCOT Center, Pagan Cathedral to The Future, didn't have a single Tron reference on the premises.
(A park worker told me the omission was deliberate.)
Still, there were many rumors of a Tron sequel over the last decade.
The first I remember was Tron 2.0, which would have been the only movie in existence worthy of its “Point-Oh” suffix, since “
tron” actually was the name of a program.
Then came Tron Y2K, which didn't make it in time to avoid ridicule and was replaced by Tron: Killer App, which thankfully didn't make it at all.
Now it's Tron: Legacy, which was just another rumor until this week.
I am already suspicious because they've so narrowly missed the obvious name, Tron: Legacy Code.
Legacy code is a real-life industry term for ancient software that you don't know who wrote, don't really know what it does, but nevertheless can't live without.
This perfectly describes a thirty-year-old security AI discovered to be still guarding the mainframes when the company goes to shut them down.
…if that's even remotely what the movie's about.
I have no idea.
I haven't seen so much as a photo yet.
This was both accidental, because I didn't know there was anything to see, and deliberate, because I strictly avoid promotional materials for any movie I might like.
This policy is a direct result of Terminator 2.
The opening third of that movie is all misdirection to set up the first gunshot, when you discover that you've misinterpreted everything up to that point…
unless you'd seen the preview, which gave it all away.
I've never seen a movie so sabotaged by its own advertising, and with a little effort, I never will again.
So Tron: Legacy has me nervous enough that I'll have (extra) trouble sleeping tonight.
I didn't have this problem with the first Star Wars prequel, because there was no fear then —
it was obviously going to be the Best.
Tomorrow, the last remaining favorite of my childhood gets sequelled.
Today's Tron excursion has been canceled due to an imminent potential
Maybe next weekend.
22nd December 2010
The “Waist-Away” Diet Plan
It seems I picked up a cold at the holiday party last weekend.
No, not on the 18th…
on the 11th.
Life has short-changed me a week this December.
Anyone have a spare?
Back in college when I worked for an ambulance service, my immune system occasionally got bored crushing hapless microbes, so it would stalk the neighborhood while I slept and murder common household pests.
But now, apparently-healthy people can infect me with the Sumerian Death Flu from polite conversational distance.
On the bright side, the Sumerian Death has more than made up for any weight I gained over the holidays.
Unfortunately, this weight loss took the form of blowing my own brains into a kleenex every morning.
(There's certainly no way that much gunk could have fit in my sinuses alone.)
I coughed a few additional organs into the bathroom sink, but I didn't take the time to identify them.
Concerned by these developments, I turned to the foremost medical authorities of our age —
WebMD and eMedicine —
and searched for my symptoms:
Cessation of useful life functions.
Brain expelled through nose.
Most abdominal organs missing.
Based on this perfectly accurate description of my condition, they recommended the following cure:
Dehydrate soft tissues with natron salts.
Rinse chest cavity with palm wine, frankincense, and myrrh.
Rub exterior with cedar and lotus oils.
Bandage with linen.
Store horizontally in a dry, dark place.
I'm feeling better already, mostly due to a huge head start on that last step.
There is one lasting side effect of this cure:
I will lay a dread curse upon anyone I catch rummaging through my books, computers, or other personal effects…
but I already did that anyway.
30th November 2010
A few months ago,
I noticed that I had unintentionally given up watching movies.
was simply “the 2010 movie”
until last Tuesday.
After a trip to the
a group of friends and friends-of-friends made
“2010's other movie”.
We had intended to buffer the badness with a
but that fell through when we discovered that none of us actually owned said 'Trax.
With the plan already in motion, we recklessly continued to watch the film without the prophylactic layer of scathing humor.
We did our best to fend off the pain with riffs of our own, and I think we did well given our lack of preparation, but in the end we all suffered some deep hurting.
Thanks to that one tragic error, fully half of my 2010 theatrical intake is now the sort of film Mystery Science Theater 3000 would have thought twice about.
Also, even the slightest stress now triggers my new verbal tick of screaming “You're tearing me apart!” in an unidentifiable accent.
To reduce 2010's drek ratio to less than 50%, those same friends have recommended
(Wikipedia — better than Cliff's Notes.)
It is directed by the same guy who did Memento, but…
Wasn't he that kid on the
30th October 2010
This Is a Bad Idea
Why do I find the idea of
National Novel-Writing Month
I don't read fiction any more.
I haven't even tried in over a year, because my disbelief suspenders are likely to snap without warning.
I should have zero interest in writing it.
Actually, I'm pretty sure I don't really want to.
I'm just attracted to the clear goal and the structure they've provided to achieve it…
like an MMORPG quest with less grinding.
I already have
too much fun
on my plate.
The top item on my to-do list should be “Delete most of my to-do list”, not “Find new ways to waste a month”.
It's a good thing they didn't call it National Non-Fiction Writing Month, or they might have caught me.
30th September 2010
Speaking of Television…
Last night, I watched two episodes of Connections 2 on an old VHS tape, and I realized that it was the first time in 2010 that I'd used my TV for anything other than playing CDs.
I did see a couple episodes of The Muppet Show at a friend's house, and she insisted I watch Pixar's Up when she found out I'd never heard of it.
But nothing on my own initiative until two nights ago…
and I'm still not sure what possessed me.
Even after seven years without television, I'm sometimes surprised by how little I miss it.
When I was a kid, I learned there were people who didn't own a TV set, and I thought they must be crazy people like the ones who climbed water towers and started shooting into crowds.
I never thought I'd one day be one of those people…
without a TV, that is.
Now, the idea of spending hours staring at a bunch of colored lights sounds outright awful.
I can't believe I used to do it for fun.
Mon 04 Oct 2010 at 19:00
(that's 7:00pm for you weird 12-hour people):
Alton Brown will be signing his latest book
Princeton Market Fair's Barns & Noble.
Author events at B&N are usually pretty short, but Good Eats is “that other show I'd watch if I watched TV”, so I'll go see him.
18th September 2010
Feeling Like a Twilight Zone Protagonist
The fashion world has once again reminded me that I am not part of this culture…
After wasting the better part of a day searching for a minor upgrade to my interview clothes, I have learned that no man under the age of 40 —
and no woman of any age —
has even heard of a tie tack, let alone knows where I could buy one.
The girls behind the counter at TJ Maxx were convinced I was making this all up, until the security guard
(the over-40 guy)
stepped in to explain that “tie tacks” really existed… once.
I suspect he also came here from my weird parallel dimension, where the men had tie tacks and the women had eyebrows.
I should have asked.
Anyway, tie tacks:
I'm rolling Need on the next one that drops.
21st August 2010
One feature common to almost all persistent multiplayer games like Planetside or World of Warcraft is the respawn countdown.
Normally, this is just a 10 to 60 second pause to maintain whatever slight sense of realism the game world allows.
Without the countdown, Azeroth's battleground graveyards would suffer a strobe effect as dozens of players clicked their respawn buttons like frantic monkeys.
But the respawn timer is boring.
You just sit there and stare at it.
I think the timer could not only be more entertaining, but could make the world more immersive and give the players something to do.
Start by showing the character getting rebuilt, like Leeloo in the The Fifth Element or Darth Vader at the end of The Revenge of the Sith.
For a fantasy game, think Frankenstein.
This is not just a cinematic to help the attention-deficit player survive his 30 seconds of adrenaline withdrawal, this is actually happening in the game world.
Somewhere on that battlefield is a circle of druids chanting, or in that starbase is a surgery with doctors milling about.
The number of concurrent resurrections is limited by the number of functioning respawn points.
Blow up an operating room or stab the right couple magic users, and the opposing team watches their reinforcements slow to a trickle.
That gives the “live” players something to do.
Meanwhile, the “dead” players have the option to speed their resurrection.
There's a button on the resurrection screen that speeds up the normally-safe respawn process at the cost of introducing errors.
So if you'd normally respawn in 40 seconds, you can come back in 30, 20, or 10 if you're willing to live with the side effects.
Well, think of things that can go wrong with normal human birth, then throw in everything from computer glitches to runaway alchemical reactions to demonic possession.
You get to watch the auto-doc's mechanical arms bend your spine the wrong way as it tries to reassemble your space marine, or see the harried alchemist running around the lab trying to stop the weird melting effect that should never have started in the first place.
And so does anyone else who happens to be in the room.
Oh yes, your stats will go down.
Well, they may go down, depending on how many corners you cut, and that's assuming you have any stats left at all.
Monkey-clicking the “go faster” button will probably reduce your 80th level rogue to a puddle of goo and make him start the process all over again.
On very rare occasions, a rush job will produce a huge boost to one stat in the form of some irreproducible accident, which might or might not make up for the damage to the rest of your stats.
This could be especially fun if each side's operating rooms or healing temples were staffed by a random selection from a pool of atypical healer characters (Troll witch doctor, Klingon surgeon, burnt-out American ER doctor with a drinking problem…).
Rubber-science fiction could be a blast, because you could include every cynical joke about the modern medical system plus every dark-future staple and every fantasy standby that you could rephrase as a sufficiently-advanced technology.
In fact, this idea came to me first as a bunch of sarcastic, abusive characters in a sci-fi field hospital.
It was only later that I realized their potential as respawn entertainment for online games.
( NPCs should chatter. Here"s what I came up with for a sci-fi military hospital.Collapse )
a couple of these from other games and movies, as an exercise in homage
See if you can identify them.
12th August 2010
Are You Even Trying To Hire Anyone?
If you believe the big-bureaucracy claim that “our most valuable asset is our people”, then you might leap to the conclusion that acquiring those most valuable assets was their most important priority.
Or a priority.
Or at least worth the occasional effort.
This is not a complaint that “no one is hiring”.
This is about the dozens of big names that are hiring, but have apparently never even seen their own job search pages.
Some of the minor highlights:
( I do my best work when I"m frustrated.Collapse )
I am reminded of my very first full-time job.
A mom & pop Internet service provider posted a wanted ad on
nj.jobs with no text and a subject line of “NJ service provider needs tech support”.
I thought to myself “yes, you do” and applied.
Astonishingly, I was the only one.
Maybe there's a future in helping corporations fix their “help wanted” sites…
2nd August 2010
For Photographers and Horror Fans
takes photographs of childhood nightmares:
the Closet Monster, the Face in the Mirror, and There's Something Wrong with Mommy.
His site is safe for work, but not for anyone still afraid of things under the bed, spiders, snakes, clowns, … or anything else, really.
has lengthy “making of” features for some of his shots
The majority of his special effects are done in the studio, with makeup, lighting, and set construction playing a larger role than Photoshop.
It's an extraordinary amount of work for a single photograph, but the end result is clearly worth it.
As far as I can tell, all of his models and crew are friends and family members.
Many of those “sets” are actually someone's home.
26th July 2010
Look What I Made
I spent today with the good people of
learning to assemble electronics at their “Soldering Sunday” class.
I came out of it with a new skill, a couple minor burns, and a weapon against one of my most hated enemies:
came from the übergeek
who provides the
most complete instructions
I have seen for any product.
It's a do-it-yourself version of the commercial “TV-B-Gone”, and it will switch off most TV sets from 100–150′ away.
I can't count how many times I've wanted something just like this.
Even so, I'm responsible enough that I just avoid places with TVs, so I'll probably never use this thing.
Like most such behavior, it's more fun just knowing I could.
Lady Ada's master's thesis, “Social Defense Mechanisms”, included two devices for distancing yourself from the electronic noise around you.
(Obviously a girl after my own heart.)
The first was the
Wavebubble RF jammer,
for silencing pesky cell phones.
The second invetion was “a pair of glasses that darken whenever a television is in view”.
She invented the Joo Janta 200 Super-Chromatic TV-Sensitive Sunglasses.
24th July 2010
There's a Reason That Never Made Sense
I finally understand how transistors work!
Electricity in general has been a blind spot in my education, but what principles I thought I understood were completely violated by transistors, often as described in the same books.
William J. Beaty describes
how transistors actually work,
and he corrects frequently taught
misconceptions about electricity,
some of which had been puzzling me since junior high.
As it turns out, transistors are not some weird
three-legged circuit powered by one battery,
and there's no
positive charge magically pushed to the end of a wire
(presumably expelled from the tank of compressed hydrogen nuclei found in all computers).
Transistors are circuits —
two of 'em in fact, each with its own power source just as you'd expect.
three physical wires,
but that's because charges
flow in through one wire, and then leave on two different wires.
Transistors were never all that weird,
they were just explained badly.
I think that if your textbook had images like the ones above, you learned how they really work only by chance, if at all.
Beaty also has an “excessively short” version of the transistors article, but I don't recommend it.
Too much new covered in too little time.
Update Sun 25 Jul 2010:
Another great find:
“Why Three Prongs?”.
If you never understood why
a circuit might use a third wire, this is the clearest explanation I've ever read.
20th July 2010
It seems my house is infested with
Every laundry day, a new hole appears in at least one pair of long pants.
This weekend cost me one of my few good pairs, or as I used to call them, “My Other Nice Pants”.
On the bright side, my remaining good pair no longer needs a qualifier.
What's eerie is that every hole is in exactly the same place, about an inch below the right-hand back pocket.
I don't keep anything sharp back there, and I've tested my car seat, my couches, and everything else I usually sit on for upholstery staples or other possible culprits.
(I used the traditional method of finding unknown sharp objects: jamming my hand in and fishing around until I got bored or injured.)
It's possible that the washing machine or dryer are responsible, but to tear a half-dozen holes in exactly the same place…
well with luck like that, I should short the entire stock market.
Having eliminated the impossible, what remains —
however improbable —
must be true.
My course of action is clear:
All pants that do not have jagged holes in them —
previously referred to as “The Survivors” —
will be rechristened “Nice Pants”.
I am forbidding them to leave the house except on special occasions, and even then only if escorted by at least two pairs of shorts.
The former nice pants are hereby promoted to “Level 80 Elite Pants”… or perhaps “Command Master Chief Trousers”.
We're still negotiating.
My pants are holding out for a noble title and a crown, but I draw the line at anything more than non-hereditary peerage and embroidery.
A brave pair of newly-promoted Nice Pants will be volunteered for a decoy mission to draw out the
This mission will involve the Pants, the Gnomes, twenty meters of double-sided tape, and a swarm of gnomivorous lobsters.
Their Majesties the Remaining Pants, Respendant in Their Integrity, suggested motion sensors and death rays, but for me it's just one of those things…
A proper trap uses lobsters.
I am not at this time officially contemplating filling the cadaver of a slain pair with lobsters, patching it to look like one of the few remaining Nice Pants, and leaving it in the dryer for the next Gnome strike… but the idea has crossed my mind.
4th July 2010
Happy 4th-chan of July (or: Stay Away from You Tube)
Update 16:00 Sun 04 Jul 2010:
You Tube is reporting that
they fixed this bug and cleansed the comments.
I, however, am perfectly content to give it another day before trying them again.
Back to the original post…
I have commented out the links to You Tube in yesterday's Swedish Chef “Popcorn” post.
cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in You Tube's comments
(and maybe in video titles, too).
Taking advantage of this vulnerability is as easy as copy and paste, and last night, someone told 4chan about it.
They are now doing their best to destroy You Tube, because destroying things is what they do.
The damage is mostly limited to scrolling marquees saying “4CHAN ROXORZ” and “LOLOOLOLOL” popups, but a few of them are trying to harvest browser cookies and login sessions.
You should probably consider You Tube a no-go zone for the rest of the day.
I feel sorry for the sysadmins and web coders who will lose their holiday weekend dealing with this bullshit.
( NoScript — Live It, Love ItCollapse )
( Vandals Are the Same EverywhereCollapse )
4chan is the Internet equivalent of the black-clad morons heaving bricks into a coffee shop.
If this were a hurricane, they'd be looting department stores.
2nd July 2010
Take Wing, O Input Device!
If your Caps Lock light starts crawling away while you're typing, it could mean you've gone mad.
An alternative hypothesis is that your keyboard's LEDs are exactly the same color as the fireflies that have been sneaking in through your screen windows.
I'm not sure which would have been more fun, but apparently I went with the fireflies.
29th June 2010
Free Advice for Con Organizers
I've been to a huge number of public lectures, game conventions, and training conferences this year, and I've been consistently amazed by the seemingly obvious things that can be overlooked by the organizers and speakers.
Here are a few helpful, irate suggestions.
I have seen every one of them violated within the last twelve months, sometimes more than once.
( Worth every penny.Collapse )
23rd May 2010
Wet Windsor Wasn't
…wet, that is.
Last year, most of the Ren fair's fun stuff got rained out.
This year the weather was both moderate and dry, but the late-night campfires continued the trend of being less hospitable to entertainers than in years past.
Saturday night, the non-drumming acts totaled two.
One of those was me, and I spent most of my stage time fighting the drums, so I was completely surprised when one of the merchants asked me on Sunday to entertain her crew.
(I guess I could call this a command performance… my first, unless you count an emergency gig at a Mystic Realms wedding way back.)
My re-write of Voltaire's
“USS Make Some Shit Up”
got a vastly better response on its second time out, from the vendors and also from some fair-goers who happened by.
It's been a long time since I felt like an entertainer, and I certainly wasn't expecting it after my tepid reception the night before.
For the record, my newest song is about the worst Markland / SCA household ever imagined, spotlighting the cavalier disregard for history
(not to mention other households)
displayed by their reeve, kitchen mistress, herald, and so on.
It doesn't have a title yet, but it does have a subtitle:
“In Honor of the Period Police”.
27th April 2010
Paging Doctor Suitcase…
A company called Nerdcore Learning has released a medical CCG / study aid called
According to an
American Medical News article, the game teaches antibiotics and infectious diseases in the form of two fantasy armies: the Apothecary Healers versus the Lords of Pestilence.
The game's site shows surprisingly good card art, but not much on how the game plays. Sadly, their 3-minute You Tube ad is nothing but fluff.
I'm always a little skeptical of “teaching games”.
The games that have taught me the most, like
Days of Decision,
Empires in Arms,
were excellent games first.
They encouraged and sometimes forced me to learn as they introduced bits of history that I didn't know, but that wasn't why I started playing.
(Who picked up World of Warcraft because they wanted to learn aggro management or shot rotation?)
I was once told by a US Army cadet that his history professor had used Empires in Arms to help teach the Napoleonic era.
Before the game, he allowed students to propose optional rules to benefit the country they would play, but they had to be accompanied by historical justification in the form of a short research paper.
I would have been utterly dedicated to a class like that.
7th April 2010
There's too much hobby shit going on in my life, and it's stressing me out.
It's possible to have too many hobbies in your life, so that none of them are fun any more.
A couple years ago, I realized that I had too many, so I dropped some.
I should probably drop more.
My big discovery was that, while money and time both limit how many projects I can work on at once, the main fun-killer is the number of things to do, not how much they cost or how long they take.
Hobbies are only fun when you're doing them.
(A hobby you never do is not a hobby; it's shopping.)
Adding projects to my to-do list, or even just the “I wanna” list, means each one gets less attention, time, and money, until there's not enough left to make it worthwhile.
But it's worse than that.
Some of that fun time gets wasted deciding what to do next, and then more on prep work before I can get started.
With too many options, the time wasted on decision-making and context-switching can consume the time available for making progress.
If you've ever been with a group in a video store that took two hours to decide what to spend two hours watching, you know exactly how this works.
At my worst, I ran into a form of decision paralysis that I think of as “hobbyist's guilt”.
Every time I decided to get to work on something, I was necessarily deciding to not do any of the other things I “should be doing”.
Those un-done things each made me feel a little guilty.
What was the point of owning all those [books | RPGs | computer games | more books | PDFs | minis | DVDs] if I wasn't using them?
It was all just stuff taking up space in my house and on my to-do list.
So even getting something underway wasn't really fun, because:
The fun-stuff-done to time-wasted-doing-it ratio was so bad.
I'd kinda resent one hobby for getting in the way of another.
None of the stuff earned its keep by getting used enough.
So my realization was that there is such a thing as “too much fun”.
When the relaxing goodness of time spent on Project n is always less than the wasteful badness of putting off Projects 1 through n − 1, you can't really enjoy any of them.
Consider the opposite extreme: a guy whose one and only hobby is making mail armor.
This is a legendary time sink
(“it's not a project — it's a lifestyle”),
but it's the only thing he does.
He never has to schedule it around his hang-gliding lessons or his World of Warcraft raids.
He never has to pull all the tools out of the closet or remember what he was working on, because he never put them away.
It's always ready to go, and he can literally spend all his free time on it.
I guarantee he gets more done than… well, than I do.
He's probably better at it and enjoys it more, too.
This is why, even if I had the time and money, I would not become a Revolutionary War re-enactor, a model builder, a 3-D game programmer, a scuba diver, or an astronaut.
I'd love to, but I'm having too much “fun” already.