Sunday, December 31, 2006
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Fate, whatever it is, is not really smiling on me at the moment, and I know that "fate" includes other things that maybe would make me sad if I thought about them so I won't.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
For running a red light.
On my bicycle.
I had a red light, traffic going in the opposite direction had green + left-arrow. There were no cars in the opposite left-turn lane. I wasn't going to get a light until the next light cycle at least and bikes don't trigger the sensors at that intersection. What the hell ya gonna do, right?
But what's really stupid is that when the cop asked for ID I gave it to him. I could have just said, "No, I don't carry my license when I ride my bike." He'd have given me a big old ticket for operation of a vehicle without a license. Which does him a lot of good when he can't identify me (he was a motorcycle cop, so he couldn't have actually arrested me). So I'd just give him a fake name and address (Hi, I'm William Hawthorne, 1240 N. Monroe St. in San José) and be off scot-free.
Next time... next time...
Friday, December 15, 2006
Computers with the Windows Vista Capable PC logo will meet or exceed the requirements to deliver the core Windows Vista experiences such as innovations in security, reliability, organizing and finding information. They can also deliver key business features found in the Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Enterprise versions, such as the ability to join a domain.
However, some premium features may require advanced or additional hardware. If a PC is not Windows Aero capable, for example, the desktop graphics experience in Windows Vista will be comparable to Windows XP with regards to visual features, stability and performance.
What's funny is that within Windows and especially within Vista, there are constantly messages on the screen like, "Windows is connecting to the network share", "Windows is retrieving the volume listing", "Windows is adjusting your display settings". It's always Windows doing something for you. Until, of course, it imposes system requirements. Then it's "the desktop graphics experience in Windows Vista will be comperable to Windows XP". See the difference? Or when you get locked of your system due to activation getting fucked up (it's been a big problem in the early corporate versions I've been using for development)... well, I don't have the system in front of me at the moment, but I recall a message, "Your copy of Windows is not genuine" in the lower left corner, and I have definitely read the "Use of blah blah Windows features requires a genuine copy of Windows" spiel, which is always in a tone that says, "These are the rules, we didn't set 'em, just thought we'd tell ya". They say it in the same way I'd say it if I was cleaning someone's computer that couldn't get system updates because they were running a pirated version of Windows. They don't have the right to use that tone, because they're the ones setting the restriction!
If they just said, "We, Microsoft, don't want people pirating our stuff and we'll cut off updates to people that do," I would respect that. But instead they're pushing some tripe about the advantages of "genuine" Microsoft products. Le meh. Just speak the damn truth without dancing around it.
And also, calling every feature in Vista an "experience" makes for documents, press releases, and even in-system dialog boxes that just make my eyes glaze over. It seems like corporate marketing-speak, but it actually makes it all the way down to the system itself. Weird stuff. The disconnect between it and the way real people (from n00bs up to geeks) understand their computers is sort of like the difference between Sony's lame fake blog about a guy wanting a PSP (they took it down after people got angry at them for astroturfing, so all that's left is a Google Cache version without images or formatting... but the text is still there, and it's still telling) and real human enthusiasm. And it's a difference that I can't exactly quantify, which bothers me. Someone that knows something about language, help? Perhaps I should read up on that...
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
I'm not going to sing a song / To ladies that aren't he-he-here / Nor to dudes that would not / Listen to songs anyway
I need to write something and I don't know what to write
And I don't know what to cook and I don't know what to eat
Friday, December 8, 2006
Got to watch some executives race each other on Segways. Sometimes life is incredibly confusing, and maybe it would be less so if I was drunk all day. But they don't allow beer at work. Damn shame.
And yesterday I was pissed off because my rear dérailleur was out of wack, ruining my chance for an awesome morning bike ride, but it turned out to be really easy to fix and I did it this morning instead. Maybe this weekend I can set up an appointment to see a doctor about my injuries so I can run again. It would probably help if I wasn't so stressed-out.
If any of you ever come to the West, drink some beers from the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. Their most famous is their pale ale. I've never seen them outside the West, maybe they are there and I just don't know it. Either way, they are good. Also, visit me, but if you can't, at least have some good beer.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
I had never experienced sinus problems in my life.
Then, about a year ago, I experienced them.
I was completely unprepared.
As I recall, I was sneezing with such force that I was lightheaded and dizzy for a few seconds after each one. My maxillary and frontal sinuses had turned purple and were sticking out of my face. And my knee was hurting like hell. Not related, but still annoying.
And right now my nose is on fucking FIRE. You know, like those guys on TV commercials with flames on their faces? Like that.
How the mighty have fallen.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
And it didn't work: there's still plenty of crime.
Well, to be fair, the changes weren't all made to stop crime. Some of them were plain-old corporate power-grabs.
Here are a few things that are entirely ridiculous (though I'm certainly open to arguments that they aren't):
- First sales being whatsoever different from subsequent sales.
- People needing patent licenses to use consumer products (usually computer software and hardware)
- Contracts that are basically up for sale (usage licenses for software, tickets to events, stuff like that) being non-transferable even though they were originally offered to anyone that would pay for them.
- Contracts you have to agree to with no ability to negotiate the terms (almost any type of usage license for a consumer product falls under this category)
- Corporations having the rights of people, including that of free speech (corporations fundamentally cannot be held accountable for their speech and actions as people can, so they should have an accordingly different set of rights that holds them to higher standards, keeping in mind that corporations are supposed to be established for the public good)
Monday, November 27, 2006
And furthermore, this all has nothing to do with anything, because if I wound up as lonely as I did last year on a college campus, with tons of people around that share a lot of common ground with me, then everything really is on me and not any place that I go or any tendency of society.
And there was a third point, too, but I forgot it.
Anyway, I can't decide with my mind, so I will probably just have to go with my gut?
The whole thing was good, and I'm glad I made the trip. Highlights include John and me riding the West Coast Offense to backyard football victory over the forces of LAS majors, the family being awesome (this is how things normally are... over the last few years I've really come to appreciate how awesome my family is), weather being even better than in California and Frisbee! Also, missing out on Johnurag Palinsenmond's trip to White Castle is something I'm glad for :-P.
I'm disappointed about narrowly missing connections with both Heather and Jess, and then when trying to round up people for Sunday morning ice skating downtown realizing that all my information about how to contact people was in California, except for AIM, and nobody was on. So that didn't happen. And also realizing that it takes me longer to prepare to call people on the phone than it does to actually talk to them, which I somehow had never noticed before. That needs major improvement.
I was terribly sad on the airplane back west to Phoenix, but on the one from Phoenix to San José I was too busy defending my seat from the invading forces of some dude's gigantic arm to think about anything else.
I have had various conversations lately that have made me think about this place a lot, this place being, approximately, "California in the context of it being where my job is and almost nothing else". My mom talked about one time when she had just moved to Chicago and had lots of work to do and stayed home alone for Thanksgiving. She was a two hour drive from most of her family and friends. And my grandma talked about my mom moving to Chicago, and how that seemed like such a long way away. And of course my mom's sisters live on the same street, not a mile away from the house they grew up in (where my grandma still lives); a truly impressive portion of my mom's extended family lives in Paxton, and almost all of it is within central Illinois. So it is kind of a long way away, still. But. Consider making a trip from Chicago back to Paxton. It's two hours from "I'm coming to see you" to "I'm at your doorstep" (at most 3 in horrible traffic) and you'd spend maybe $30 for gas round-trip. Santa Clara to Chicago area? You'd be lucky to pull it off in a day (especially if your "doorstep" destination was outside the Chicago city limits), and spend at least $600 for round-trip airfare (if you were on short notice, which is the scenario I'm using). It means trips have to be very occasional and well-planned, they practically require time off work, and there isn't much flexibility. Which is kind of not how I roll. Air travel does shrink the country, but it doesn't shrink it *that* much.
My mom and I both moved to unfamiliar places where we had no community for the sake of our careers. So many people, especially those growing up in urban or suburban areas, leave communities for careers. Go off to a place where they have a lot of "room above their heads", earn more money than they need, and then spend tons of it getting back to some community (if it can even be said to exist anymore when they get back), or supplanting it. I am really having a hard time seeing what's gained from complicating my life like that. I am really having a hard time seeing why we can't stick together instead of scattering like billiards balls that then have to be gradually knocked back into the pockets. It takes me a really long time to get comfortable somewhere, especially when I've had as little help as I've had here, and I just need to know where my option went to choose community instead of career. I could have moved back to Elmhurst, stayed in Champaign-Urbana after college, or I could move to Chicago now, and almost everyone I know from those places is either gone or will be soon. In Paxton you can stick around and not have to re-find yourself every few years. And when people leave they can come back and find some continuity. Where is my option? The masses of people in these new places just make me more alone.
I also talked to one of my cousins, who gets bored even spending Thanksgiving weekend back in Paxton. He drove to Chicago and back Thanksgiving night, which is something I'd probably not do but for a very good reason. (Well, I did Elmhurst->Champaign->Chicago->Champaign in a weekend once, and the reason was pretty good.) He's probably the kind of person that would be better off living in a more exciting place; you know, a smart dude that would get in trouble because he was bored in school, someone that likes to have lots of people around and things going on. He should be doing what I'm doing. He also talked about some girl that wasn't giving him "happy endings", so I probably should have suggested he have her read him some fairy tales.
I really did a lot of listening this past weekend. And some responding. I guess this is another response, just a big overall response.
I think I'll leave it at that.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
I was thinking earlier today about my recent desires for escapism. To temporarily be things that I'm not, as a break from my life. And I was walking to the car to get some groceries, 'cause there are no close grocery stores (I should plan ahead trips to the store so they don't wind up like this, which is something I don't think about because it's so convenient to just go to the store whenever I feel like it and sit in my apartment being broody during the times when I actually have the time to make a proper grocery run). And I though to myself:
AL! Hold the fuck up! I thought you were supposed to be a plural person. I thought that you held several sometimes conflicting realities within yourself and celebrated that chaos. You should never need to escape reality, and you should never want to; reality is where everything good happens. But not for a long, long time have I seen you take some singular version of your self and believe so insistently that it's the "real you". I'm also pretty disappointed that you've made it the most boring, dour, ponderous version of yourself possible. You never actually believed that you were the person you dressed like until the last few months came around. Well, I mean, there always was a part of you that was that person, but it wasn't the whole thing.
On the radio later I heard an interview with an actor that played a major role in Fast Food America. The actor was talking about how his character, who was a powerful dude in the movie's fictional fast-food chain, had some misgivings about what he was doing but would never act on them because of his real-world pressures. He had to keep his job and raise his family. Because that all is real and acting on one's true beliefs isn't. OK, I'm not going to say that those values are misplaced; people must order their own values, in general. But you had to hear the guy talk, and hear the way he used the word "real" to discount personal convictions in favor of modern corporate tradition. Tradition. Tradition. Tradition.
Why is it that practically everyone from my rich suburban high school went to a four-year college? Tradition. It was the path set out for them and they followed it, most of them pretty damn aimlessly by my observation. Why do most of them approach job-hunting the way they do? Tradition. And then they get families and get locked in to that tradition, to perpetuate it on to the next generation.
And I'm gonna call myself out, I got one in-person job interview and only seriously pursued two companies going for a job. I wasn't very imaginative about it because all I knew is that I wanted to get as far away from anything resembling college as I could. And I'm lazy, both in the sense that it's a virtue for engineers and in the sense that it's a vice in life. Not that I would have done better had I applied at more companies. My life wouldn't be much different if I was working for Microsoft, Google, Amazon, AMD or Intel. My life wouldn't be much different if my mom hadn't opened up my application to UIUC five years ago, decided my handwriting was too sloppy, re-filled it out, written "Computer Engineering" instead of "Computer Science" because she couldn't find "Computer Science" in the list of majors, and then mailed it before I had a chance to look it over. Because I never made it different. Because I still wouldn't have listened to myself when I was burning out senior year. Because I would have kept doing the same thing the guy in the radio interview did, defining the "real world" as the world of the modern corporate tradition rather than the as world as I truly saw it.
And his movie character had a family and kids, he had an excuse. I'm 22, nobody's depending on me, I don't have very much debt or very many commitments. If I had a dream I could live it out, but I don't. But I could at least see the world through my own eyes rather than look at it through the little holes in the four or five nearly identical blue polo shirts that I wear so regularly. I could at least start living out any of the people that are inside of me other than this one that seems to have been at the fore lately.
I didn't bring my copy of Walden here to California when I moved here but I'll pick it up when I got home. One of Jason Zencka's favorite quotes from it when we were in high school was about the ability of people to make a difference in their own lives. It made me uncomfortable then because I never felt I could do it (but it still convinced me to go out running in the still mornings and feel really good), and it makes me uncomfortable now because I desperately need to do it OR ELSE!
Too much damn rambling. I have this really awesome song to record this weekend, and if I don't post it, even if none of you actually listen to my songs (which is cool, I don't claim they're awesome to anyone but myself, because I can hear them in my head being sung by people like Frank Black, Lou Reed and Elvis Costello), kick me in the ass and tell me to stop moping and do something. TIME TO SLEEP!
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Yesterday I ate the last of certain foods in my apartment.
And today they aren't here.
Funny how that works.
I have been fusing together working bits and parts of songs and ideas where they fit, because some of these things need to be completed, and a song can and should have more than one or two working parts. Well, Ted Leo really said it best, "I gather around me / All the little pieces in this song / And fit them where they belong". I have some fun creations that I've been coming out of the shower and immediately singing and pounding out on my keyboard in the morning. And I've resigned myself to the realization that my recollection of throwing out the notebook containing the "Just Minutia/Camino Blanco" sketches must have been accurate after all. So I recreated the "Just Minutia" banner on the whiteboard in my cube at work, and vanquished my fear of trying to redo it and getting it all wrong.
Now, nobody except for maybe my brother John knows what I mean when I say, the "Just Minutia" sketches, and absolutely nobody has ever actually seen them, but maybe someday I'll remake them on some real paper (note to self: get some real paper), find a scanner on craigslist, and share them with y'all. It's my concept for a comic strip that's a little bit like XKCD with a dash of ELER and a pinch of SARC.
Which reminds me, I'm going to rip this idea off from this other dude's blog. POLL: Which webcomic character am I?
- Hannelore from Questionable Content (the blonde in this particular QC strip)
- Indie Rock Pete from Diesel Sweeties (keeping in mind his entire body of work and not just that particular strip, which is simply a classic early DS strip)
- Utahraptor from Dino Comix (because although I am without a doubt a machine that turns food into ideas, even more than that I'm a contrarian)
- Tycho from Penny Arcade (not the one electrocuting himself)
Sunday, November 12, 2006
I mean, there are always lots of things that I can't post for lots of reasons, but there is a specific set of things that I can't post for a specific reason.
I need to start over completely, I don't think I can make a plan that meets my requirements right now, suggestions?
Thursday, November 9, 2006
One more tire/inner tube down. One more walk-home-lugging-bike to go. Yarr.
Monday, November 6, 2006
Is coming off the field in the Frisbee game, making eye contact and then walking, head down, to my bag, grabbing my water bottle and stretching my sore hamstring while making funny faces.
Is so much damn awkward silence.
Like there should be nearly a million people now standing up and screaming, "THE SOLUTION TO OUR SO-CALLED TRAFFIC PROBLEM IS NOT THESE MASSIVE FUTURISTIC SLABS OF CONCRETE!!" but there aren't.
I hate the assholes that ride deafeningly-loud motorcycles by my windows while I'm trying to sleep. But sometimes I'd rather hear the splattering of their engines than the eerie, TIE fighter-like sound of cars, which have to rank up there with the most dehumanizing and antisocial creations of humanity.
Sunday, November 5, 2006
http://earth.hair.trick.bog.mysteryrobot.com:8080/optimistic_song.ogg edit: router got reset again, everything is at earth.hair.trick.bog.mysteryrobot.com now
And I finally have a reasonable index page up there now, too, in full xhtml glory. I think eventually I'll self-host this blog and use that as an excuse to properly learn perl. Not that you necessarily need perl for a blog, but I'd want people to leave comments.
Finally: if you use Windows you can play Ogg/Vorbis files with Winamp. If you use a Macintosh there's a dead program called "MacAmp Lite" that can still be found floating around the Internet somewhere. If you use some form of Unix just about any music player worth its salt plays 'em (I've been using Audacious lately, which is like xmms except not from the 18th century); the simplest way to play a single ogg file is with the ogg123 command-line tool from the vorbis-tools package (vorbis-tools or something very similar, according to the Internet, can also be made to run on at least Plan 9, DOS, QNX, NeXTSTEP, VMS and BeOS and can surely at least yield you a decoding filter anywhere you have a reasonable C compiler).
If you're using some platform that isn't mentioned above let me know, just because I enjoy hearing about obscure computer systems. I know I left out something... hmm... IBM mainframes? Well there are portable devices. Windows Mobile and PalmOS have no shortage of Ogg-capable media players. Vorbis-tools will work on Symbian, so you can probably get it running on your cell phone. The only other systems I can think of are tied to hardware too old and slow to conceivably run a Vorbis decoder in real-time. And those various one-man OS projects that seemingly are all inspired by BeOS but somehow different from it. There are the academic "capability" systems: KeyKOS, EROS, CapROS and Coyotos, and probably many others. OK I'm done thinking about this for now.
Friday, November 3, 2006
Someday I'll find a way to hack up the comments page too, because I write long paragraphs and the current layout makes them really hard to read.
Monday, October 30, 2006
I am so hungry and I have almost no food but I don't want to go out in public to get food. Maybe I do have food here. I could make Irish oatmeal... oh w00t I have pasta. Disaster averted.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
But that is a lie. They were not rocks upon which I sat, nor were they waves that crashed against them. It was not the sun that warmed my face, nor was it the Pacific Ocean that I gazed upon through squinted eyes. Or, if you please, the Ocean could not be brought forth-hither to me. Point being that our continent has no west coast.
"Are you local?" asked the nice woman at the Central Avenue Bakery.
"No, I'm just in town for the half-marathon." (But perhaps I wish I was local... nah, I don't think I could stand living in such a boutique town... maybe I need to let my hair down about that kind of thing a little, maybe I should allow myself the imagining of being local in a place like Pacific Grove...)
"Is the race over?"
"Yes, it started at seven this morning." (Haha, actually I just stopped in for a mid-race snack.)
"It must be not quite as hard to run 13 miles if you've run one before..."
"Actually this was my first half-marathon." (Actually, I'm quite superstitious; at the end of the race I kept right on running past the finish line so I could finish at 14.)
This is really distracting from the point of this post, except that the post is a part of this blog and this blog is in part an awkward conversation blog. Anyway, she thanked me quite profusely as I left, and I oddly said, "See you later," which is probably technically true, and I will realize that truth when it manifests and she will not, because I've only met two bakery employees in Pacific Grove and she undoubtedly runs into several hungry runners with severe aversions to barber's scissors every day (this is California).
As I was saying, we have no west coast. All that stuff that acted upon me while I read is set into order by the Monterey and Pacific Grove chambers of commerce, so that I would come and run their half marathon, and later that day buy a sandwich from the Central Avenue Bakery. It is the very essence of modern sandwich-hood that orders the rocks and the ocean thusly. In the general (that is, the not-necessarily-modern) case sandwiches, of course, could rely on the whims of nature. If for a spell the shoreline was hideous the sandwich ingredients would go stale from disuse (and lots resort workers would get laid off, the golf ball factories would back up; in short, the downfall of Man). But today, with the precision of modern science we've measured that the shoreline is always beautiful, and ordered it as an element of our plan. Our plan for sandwiches. Delicious sandwiches. And a cookie.
Except that I just can't take that kind of cynicism.
Wait, who the fuck am I kidding, I am all about that kind of cynicism. I think that Heidegger, if anything, is too reluctant to apply it to his vision of the idyllic old-fashioned farm. Using the words of the translation I've read, farming has unquestionably "set upon" and "ordered" the countryside, with some of each harvest set aside as "standing reserve". Farming, in fact, has ultimately re-imagined the vast prairies of the midwest as "farm land", to the extent that people unconsciously talk of and accept the corn fields down I-57 as natural things. When people calculate "urban sprawl" they talk the same way about the encroachment of urban areas onto both open space and rural farms. By so often using farming as his example of non-modern technology Heidegger almost let me convince myself that there was no non-modern technology.
But that's not his fault, I'm just too eager to convince myself of things. One example of technology that I wouldn't call modern is Donald Knuth's TeX. It doesn't impose its order upon the computer system, it works within it. In fact, Unix programs in general are strongly encouraged to find elegant ways to work within Unix. Non-modern technology if you accept for a second Unix as a created but "natural" environment. Some old Unix guys realized that "modern Unix" was getting ugly, and this was because it was full of modern technology that imposed new order on the way the system worked. So they "reinvented nature" with Plan 9. One might also say that Emacs is a newly created nature for text editing, in many ways modern relative to Unix but allowing for many extensions non-modern relative to itself.
On the other hand the stereotypical Windows program is modern technology, trying to dominate and order the system (think anti-virus software through WinXP). And when Microsoft tries to create a better nature and tell programmers not to set their order upon it the programmers make a stink about it. Because they have actual money riding on their ordering. They'd rather reign in Hell, and just hope it never burns down.
Actually, given that just about nobody uses Plan 9, it's safe to say lots of Unix programmers would rather have the familiar orderings of X11, sockets, terminal emulators and other modern impositions than live in a world that allows for so much more simplicity.
OK and this post doesn't really make any sense if you (a) haven't read Heidegger's "The Question Concerning Technology" or (b) aren't a massive computer geek. In fact, it might not make any sense at all. But here it is.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
This being the comment,
which sums it all up: progress! So that reminds me that I'm not always indifferent to progress, sometimes it's kind of a good thing. It's a good thing in context, at the very least, and we always have to live in context.
Speaking of context I can't believe today is (very early) Thursday, tomorrow is Friday, after that Saturday and then finally Sunday and the half-marathon! So it won't exactly be a triumphant race I don't think, but I think I can just have fun, and that's success enough.
AH my brain almost just went on a really depressing tangent on that (the context thing, and why it being just days before the race is a context) but I'm not going there, at least not until I'm lying awake in bed a few hours from now. Argh.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Down on the Los Gatos Creek Trail, I wussed out on the run and stopped at the boundary of the big park and turned around and started walking.
I tend to run in the evening and the sun was getting to me. My legs were too tired for how long I'd been out there. I was thinking about walking backwards, and running backwards, and how much less jarring it was on my knees, and how according to the Slashdot hordes builders of bipedal robots had an easier time if they made the knees bend forwards.
The previous night I'd seen Richard Dawkins on the Internet (insert tangent about how the Internet gives copyright infringers the ability to provide ord'nary yokels like myself the ability to play with the timing of media delivery (aaargh I HATE using the word media like that but the only other words I can think of are "entertainment", which isn't accurate, and "content", which I also don't like) and its implications for the long-tail and for the death of water-cooler culture), decrying the notion that evolution was random and calling natural selection a highly directed process. Richard Dawkins, who now that I've seen him on a Colbert episode of unkown vintage I seem to see everywhere, is sometimes billed as the "world's most famous atheist" (which is probably not literally true, though his atheism is probably the world's most famous atheism) and wrote a book called The God Delusion.
But if natural selection is so damn directed, how come after millions of years of it I'm still running with knees that bend the wrong way? Simple: God did it.
Before people started building shit all over the place there were lots of hills, and people had to walk really long distances over them. You can walk up and down hills. It's much less jarring to go uphill with knees that bend backwards. And much less jarring to go downhill with knees that bend forwards. God wanted us to figure that shit out, but we were too dumb; we walked forwards everywhere and made knee surgeons rich. We have eyes in the front of our heads because we were meant always to be looking up the hills for falling rocks, and also so that when walking backwards down hills we would do so at a prudent speed because we couldn't see very well.
And then He appeared before me, as my eyes drifted out of focus, as I sat on a rock, and the sky split open, and out poured a mammoth pirate ship sailing on a sea of delicious marinara. The temperature dropped, like, five kelvin at that point, all over the world. It was trippy. (this paragraph is verbatim from the only part of the aborted song attempt that really worked)
I wandered around the path for a while after that just staring at the beautiful reservoir and park benches and happy little trees and dogs and dogs and people and then eventually decided to run back as fast as I could. Then I remembered that there were these little fitness stations in the last mile, so I stopped to do those as I passed by. The first one was this awesome diagonal bar that you're supposed to grip at "a challenging height" and vault yourself over with your legs extended out straight. This might be easy for normal people (the chick on the diagram sure made it look easy at least), but I'm a distance runner so it was really hard. This apparatus, being along this section of the trail, is also right behind someone's backyard (IPP-style... IPP REPRAZENT! The IPP has a much better surface though. OMG IPP MEMORY LANE this one time I ran west down the IPP and a bird flew after me and almost hit me on the head, then on the way back east I passed by this blond girl going west who warned me that she almost just got hit on the head by a bird but I don't process things very quickly when I'm running so I just kept on going but this time I was at the end of the run and tired, and I couldn't escape the bird, who gave me a good solid knock to the head), so they could probably make really funny videos of uncoordinated distance runners trying to use this device and then send 'em to YouTube.
So, then, which way do God's knees bend? Trick question, the dude has no knees. He drives his Hummer everywhere. It's like an extension of his noodly appendage.
[Most of this is blatantly ripped off of ye olde Venganza, except for that IPP crap]
Friday, October 20, 2006
Most of the computers we use today (certainly all of the ones that we think about primarily as "computers") are based on the Von Neumann architecture. There is a processor and there is memory. The processor fetches instructions from memory and follows them. Typically the instructions are simple things like, "Load a number stored at memory location X", "Load another number stored at memory location Y", "Add those two numbers", "Store the result in memory location Z".
Through some nasty conspiracy billions of these simple instructions were used to create horrors of complexity like the rich text-entry widgets used by websites like Blogger and Gmail, but that's beside the point.
Of course, there are two problems with the Von Neumann architecture: input and output. First, output: how do we show off the results of the instructions we've executed? That's my job (I work for Nvidia, writing drivers for graphics hardware) and I'm not going to tell you how to do my job. Next, input: how do we get all these instructions and data into memory in the first place? This is called "bootstrapping".
Originally people had to write their instructions into memory manually every time they wanted them followed. If I had to do that every time I wanted my computer to post on this blog you can imagine I wouldn't do it very often. Early computing pioneers really liked my blog, however, so they invented all this crazy stuff like hard drives, BIOSes, operating systems and web browsers just to make it easier for me to post here. Later computing pioneers invented those crappy rich-text widgets. The BIOS is a magical entity that, among other magical things, magically grabs some instructions from the hard drive when you turn on your computer and puts them into memory so the processor can follow them.
See, this is where it starts to get complicated. The instructions that the BIOS grabs? They're a "program" (set of instructions) called the "bootloader". Well, part of the bootloader at least. They're the part of the bootloader that tell the processor how to find some more bootloader instructions on the hard disk, put them in memory and follow them. In many systems, once found, these instructions will again tell the processor to find even more bootloader instructions, load them into memory and follow them. After some arbitrary number of "bootloader" stages (on a tri-booting GNU/Linux+WinVista+WinNT system you might have an MBR, a few GRUB stages, then chainload to WinVista's BOOTMGR, which goes and finds NTLDR which finally loads Windows NT, which is a pretty disappointing destination after all that) you eventually have the operating system loaded in memory, its instructions being followed by the processor. The main point of the operating system is... you guessed it: to find other programs on the hard disk and load their instructions into memory so the processor can follow them. Engineers might make things really complicated, but at least we aren't very imaginative.
What I'm writing to complain about, at long last, is a bootloader. GRUB is a rather nice bootloader that's typically used on GNU/Linux systems (though it can be used for some others). One reason it has the multiple stages I mentioned in the last paragraph is because at some stages it can be customized. You can show a menu of choices of operating systems to boot to (or other bootloaders to chainload). There's a file that you use to customize GRUB, it's called "grub.conf". It's a nice text file. You can open and change it with a text editor (a text editor is a set of instructions that tells a computer how to edit a text file according to the wishes of its user; people like me spend a lot of time using text editors, and often our favorite text editor is our favorite program), and you can post yours on the Internet to give other people ideas for theirs. Windows Vista's BOOTMGR, on the other hand, uses a configuration file called BCD. It's a binary file; all computer files are technically binary files and are encoded in various ways; text files are a subset of these particularly encoded to represent a sequence of text characters in a standard way. When I say, "binary files," I mean files falling outside of this subset. Anyhow, BCD is a binary file and can only sensibly be edited using Windows Vista's very own BCDEDIT.EXE. BCDEDIT.EXE is a set of instructions for editing the BCD according to the wishes of its user and also to a set of inscrutable constraints devised by its authors.
And that was pretty much just background knowledge. All I really want to say is (apologies to Douglas Adams):
The Sirius Cybernetics Corporation... err... I mean, THE PEOPLE THAT WROTE BCDEDIT.EXE are a bunch of mindless jerks that will be first against the wall when the revolution comes.
Friday, October 13, 2006
So a few weeks ago I was writing this song that I'll probably record and post here tomorrow. I hit this big D major chord, because it seemed like the right thing to do. Then I hit it again, and then a third time. Then I randomly started singing "Love in Vain" (a song by the Rolling Stones). It worked a lot better than it should have (or maybe it didn't and I'm delusional). I polished up the arrangement over the next few weeks, recorded it, then considered whether I should post it or not. I decided to post it, in honor of Ian replying to a few of my haiku posts and away messages in haiku, knowing that he would spin in his... grave... ???... if he heard me butchering the Stones like this... or something... I can't get this sentence right, screw it. Here is the URL:
Note the domain name has changed. Some time ago I accidentally flipped the switch that controls the outlet that my DSL modem is plugged into and my IP address changed, and thus the namber changed. Such is life. So now my computer is at that address, and my songs along with it.
I really like the overall sound and idea of this arrangement, even if my performance isn't anywhere near perfect. I didn't take a whole lot of time with the recording, though that's largely because the vocal part is so high that (1) I could only do so many takes before my voice got tired and (2) it came out much louder, meaning I didn't have to spend so much time trying to amplify the vocals without getting too much noise. Noise is a real problem with my setup, and I've considered either buying a digital mixing board or building a dedicated recording computer. However, at this point noise is hardly the most offensive part of my music.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Life is... hilarious.
Monday, October 9, 2006
So remember how I locked myself out of my apartment a few posts ago? Tonight I had a similar experience, only worse, and it wasn't even my fault this time. I'll tell you the entire story of my day, because I think it was a very fitting day for its ending.
I woke up this morning, checked the e-mail, responded to a response to a blog post, talked on AIM a bit. Then I ate breakfast, a peach and a bowl of oatmeal. It was good. Then I went on a 40-mile bike ride to Palo Alto and back.
One cool thing about Silicon Valley is that you can usually find streets with good bike lanes. One bad thing is that there are lots of stoplights and cyclists, since they go just slower than the speed of traffic, always seem to hit a disproportionate number of lights just as they turn red. I think that I would have been significantly less exhausted at the end of the ride had I not been forced to constantly brake and accelerate. Anyhow, by the end of the ride I was so completely spent that I could barely make it up the little hill over the railroad tracks about 2.5 miles from home. Fortunately there's a gas station at the bottom of the hill, and I stopped there to refuel. Not with gas but with a 32-ounce bottle of Gatorade, which I chugged down at a rate that I can only describe as Ulatowskian. Gatorade, for those of you that don't know, really does have magical healing powers. The knowledge that home is near also has magical healing powers. So the last couple miles weren't so bad.
At home I ate a Clif bar (more magical healing powers), then cooked a one-pound bag of fusili and ate that. Stretched and watched some football. Read a little bit. Then decided I should probably get some groceries lest my Monday morning breakfast consist of a bottle of beer and an onion. Threw on sandals, went to the car, drove down to the Trader Joe's in Campbell. It's about 4 miles from home, about 2 miles farther than the nearest grocery store and generally worth the trip.
Picked up a solid basket worth of food, checked out. The checker dude-woman asked me if I was old enough to buy the beer I was buying, I said, "yes," she asked how old I was, I said, "22," she asked what year I was born in, I said, "1984." I could have turned at least two of those answers into crazy tangents but I didn't; instead she mentioned that her sister was 22 also, for some reason asked me where I was born ("Illinois," which I intoned with my very best Illinoisian accent) and how that made me feel ("Hmm, I don't know..." because I have never thought about how my birthplace makes me feel, because I struggle to feel on my feet, and because that is a very odd question; but if people never asked people wierd questions nobody would ever talk to anyone else, so it's all good). She first thought that Illinois was the home of the Hoosiers, but then remembered that it was the Fighting Illini; she'd been to Champaign (how about that?). How did I like Teh Valley coming from Illinois ("It's great for cycling and not as good for running"), did I run the half-marathon in San José today (seriously, was I the only person that didn't know that was happening until I saw the street closure notices? But anyway, "No, but I'm doing one in Monterey in a couple weeks.") She went to a Catholic boarding school in Monterey. If you can tell me the point of writing this paragraph into this blog entry I'll mail you cookies, because I have no idea.
Went out to my car, opened the trunk, put the grocery bags in the trunk, closed the trunk. I bet you think I locked my keys in the trunk. Ha! Not even close! I walked over to the driver-side door, stuck the key in the lock, turned the key, pulled the door open, slipped into the car about as smoothly as one can after a 40-mile bike ride (that is, for the record, pretty damn smoothly... I am very good at trivial things). Stuck the key in the ignition. It wouldn't go in all the way. Took it out, stuck it in again. Same thing. Took it out, jammed it in harder. Ah, there it goes. Car does that sometimes. Turned the key... err, tried to turn the key. It wouldn't budge. Oh crap. Took it out, stuck it in again. No luck. Took it out, stuck it in again. No luck. Repeated this about 30 times, applying all the torque I could muster to the rectanguar head of the key. Not a one-hundreth of a radian of angular displacement from the original position. Tested to see if the car would go *ding* if I opened the door while the keys were in. Yep. Tested the headlights, dome light and hazards. All working. Torqued the key. No rotation.
Walked around the car a few times. Used the key to open the trunk and the doors (thinking maybe it just needed a confidence boost). Tried starting the car again. No dice. Walked around the shopping center, tried starting the car again (maybe it needed a break?). Nope.
At this point it struck me that I really didn't want to walk four miles back home with a big bag of groceries in each hand. It also struck me that I didn't have another way to get home. So, because I wasn't in any particular rush, I opened up the trunk and started munching on the food, hoping I'd come up with a brilliant solution to this problem. A half pound of trail mix later, nothing. So I picked up the bags and started walking. I walked along the right sidewalk so I could catch a northbound bus if it happened to come by. They don't send out too many buses at 9:30pm on Sunday nights in Campbell (who knew?). Finally arrived at home. It struck me that now not only would my back and legs be sore tomorrow (which I already knew) but also my arms and shoulders. Boo on this. And now I have to call a tower and get my car fixed somehow when I have no clue what's wrong with it. Well, first I'll try my spare key, which means a few extra miles on the bike after work tomorrow. I'm sure my legs can take it. Bleh.
Sunday, October 8, 2006
What really stands out here is the last part in the "Writing 16-bit code" section. "So you can write code that runs on 16-bit processors, but only if that code never references memory." And this is basically what I love about GNU. Not only do they call their assembler "gas", but they tell you in the documentation how to get it to generate code for 16-bit processors even though you couldn't possibly write a real program that way. EDIT: I was just thinking about this and realized you could push and pop off the stack given these restrictions. And you could still do port IO! But even if you're writing for a machine where all your devices use port IO, I don't think that you could call subroutines or branch. I could look it up, but I don't feel like it.
So when RedHat and Tivo have to fork GNU in a few years after the GPL v3 fiasco, you know which version I'm going to be using. I wouldn't read too much into that... but stuff like this just brings me joy.
Monday, October 2, 2006
Today was a a beautiful rainy day.
Why am I blogging about something superficial like the weather? Because the rain was the most significant event in my life in a long time. I'm not worried about wasting years of my life, I've got plenty left, but it's starting to get boring.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
So I locked myself out at about midnight-point-five or so while taking out some recyclables. Last time I recycle. My spare key is in a drawer in my cube at work, so I walked there, and waited for anyone to exit. Fortunately this is Silicon Valley, where people work 10am to 2am. I don't work 10am to 2am, people do. This dude let me in and even gave me a ride back home, since it was right on his way. He was clearly under the effects of large doses of caffeine and very tired. I am very grateful that he delayed his bedtime by a few minutes to prevent me from spending my entire night on a metal bench outside of my building.
So my faith in humanity is on an upswing. We aren't going to Hell in a handbasket, maybe we're going there in a warm... soft... bed...jadshf;f iueafjh;slj
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
on the bottoms of my feet
So I remember
The places I've been
Some far, far too many times,
And go somewhere new
Friday, September 22, 2006
Well EXCUSE ME for not discovering Hüsker Dü (band ahoy... wtf) when they first hit the scene. I kind of wasn't born yet. And while Zen Arcade (not to mention the Minutemen's landmark Double Nickels on the Dime) was released in the year of my birth, I think 1984 was a bit early for the "play Mozart to your baby" movement; I don't think the "play hardcore punk rock to your baby" movement has yet taken hold...
As I drove to work
my ears made a connection:
"No shit," said teh 'webs
came from those two bands
Listening to my dad's R.E.M. albums back in the day I never would have made the connection between R.E.M. and anything resembling hardcore punk. But the similar melodies of the Hüskers made me think of other similarities between their loud, violent, rushed-together rock and the folky pop of R.E.M. And for some reason as I was running two songs played next to eachother in my mind, one each of my favorite songs from the two bands: Something I Learned Today and The One I Love. Both in minor keys (perhaps even the same key... my ear wants to say that, but hasn't heard the latter song in a really long time), both utilizing lots of III and flat-VII (I think you call it flat-VII still in a minor key, because regular vii implies that it's raised... meh, you know what I mean), both briefly flirting with the relative major, both almost completely diatonic. They feel very similar despite differences in volume, production values and vocal styles.
But there's more to think about in The One I Love. R.E.M. isn't telling a story like a folk singer/songwriter or pleading to a lover like a rock star. The lyrics, despite their haunting delivery, are hardcore through and through. They are in some sense distant, never addressing or identifying his love. They repeat themselves over and over again, expressing and then reiterating, to drive home the point, his lonliness and regret. And almost every line of the song is self-referential, alternately identifying and questioning itself. Play it faster, turn up the intellectuality and sarcasm and shout the lyrics, and you've got yourself a Minutemen song (What could be romantic to Mike Watt / He's only a skeleton . . .). Of course R.E.M. differentiates themselves from the hardcore crowd by not turning up the intellectuality and sarcasm, and just delivering the emotions of the song in a straight-up way that resonates naturally in the mainstream heart.
It was a long run, to be able to think all that, at the speed that I usually think while running. Actually, I think really quickly most of the time but repeat every thought 5 or 10 times, that's what it feels like. More times than that when I'm nervous or something. Running divides my rate of thought significantly because I also have to think about breathing and putting feet in front of eachother and that. Right. But actually I got through all that in the first six miles and the rest of the time (probably another 6 or 7 miles but I don't know exactly) I was pretty much either spacing out or playing music in my head, repeating each line like 5 or 10 times in a row, which just must be a habit because of how my brain usually works. I'm wierd. That's how I write music, too, except worse. There's no flow or continuity whatsoever, I think of a line and it plays through my head 30 times or so until I'm utterly sick of it, then I move on to the next one. By the time I finish writing a song I've heard all the good parts so many times I don't want to hear them ever again. Unless the good parts are really good, in which case I could hear them plenty more times. But yeah, after this run I looked totally bad-ass. People were looking at me funny. It was awesome.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Today was kind of like that, except I'd be going East instead of West, and that I am not really angry enough at anyone here that I'd need to send more than one email.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Tonight I took a walk in Santa Clara and stopped at a Baskin-Robbins. I was served by a girl with braces that could barely speak above a whisper and looked like she was on the verge of tears.
Am I going to leave Santa Clara soon?
Friday, September 15, 2006
Saturday, September 9, 2006
Second, I am becoming a truly horrendous Ultimate player. Gah! And what is up with the upper part of my right hamstring? It hates me, that's what!
Third, I said I'd have a song in B-flat up soon, and... what can I say, these hips don't lie! No, that's not the song I played. This song, as one of the other posts probably mentions, is called "Justification" (or something about eighth-notes). It was originally conceived about 3 years ago as the second song in a rock opera about postal workers on bicycles (inspired by the U.S. Postal Service-sponsored cycling team that Lance Armstrong was a part of for several years, and also by an AIM conversation I had with Susan Schomburg that she probably doesn't remember). Had I completed the rock opera it would have set the world record for most eighth-notes ever in an opera, rock or not. The song has changed a bit over the years, and I think it's pretty much broken free of its strange roots.
I think that's all I have to say today. It's pretty much same as the last one, http://earth.hair.wing.ball.mysteryrobot.com:8080/justification.ogg
Oh yeah, that's right, the title. The title refers to this item from the second greatest computer game ever, Kingdom of Loathing. The greatest computer game ever is triangular minesweeper.
Friday, September 8, 2006
Last night my dreams were dominated by Wikipedia.
The dullest thing I read on Wikipedia was probably lifted straight from a Slashdot post that I probably read a long time ago, and was about the status of Linux printer drivers. LAAAAAME!
The wierdest thing I read on Wikipedia was in an article on moths, in the section, "Killing". "The most effective way to remove moths from your home is to pull their legs off with pliers, photograph them, and place the photographs around your home."
The moth picture is from some random website with lots of broken links on it. You couldn't pull the legs off that pretty thing with pliers, could you? Could you?
Wednesday, September 6, 2006
Tuesday, September 5, 2006
After these stunning disappointments I've decided to revise my entire training plan: I'm now measuring all my runs in nautical miles, and my pace in knots. For example, today I did a down-ladder at the track, running distances of 3.24, 1.62, 0.81 and 0.43 nautical miles. My speeds, respectively, were 8.95 knots, 9.01 knots, 9.56 knots and 10.11 knots. It be slow sailin' today, mateys!
Oh yeah, and I'll have more music up when a day comes where my voice isn't totally wrecked from running. I decided to get rid of the "Secrets of Breakfast" songs because I don't believe in them and playing songs I don't believe in is taking steps backwards. Those two songs were in B-flat and G, so the two I will do instead will also be in B-flat and G.
In B-flat will be a song that should either be called "Justification" or "Oh God Please Make the Eighth-Notes Stop (Or Failing That At Least Make Them In Rhythm)!". I'm pretty sure there is only one place where they eighth-notes stop in that song. In G will be "Living in Silicon Valley", which I figured out how to do on piano, I think, and if not, I think I can do it with wierd synthy shit, which will take a bit longer.
Sunday, September 3, 2006
Realizations aren't good for my getting anything done.
Saturday, September 2, 2006
Through all the struggle to get it set up, get the levels anywhere near correct, and mitigate the noise as much as possible, I had pretty much worn out my voice by the time I finished with the test track, "Candy Says" by the Velvet Underground.
I wanted to use bittorrent, but I don't know how (I r teh lamerz), but I do know how to open a port through my router and set up a tiny http server. My IP address is not static, but for at least the time being you'll be able to grab my first recording at http://earth.hair.wing.ball.mysteryrobot.com:8080/candysays.ogg
(If you can't grab it there, bitch at me on AIM, Jabber or via email, or respond to a recent post on this blog and I'll fix it)
(For more info on Nambers go to www.mysteryrobot.com. If I wasn't so lazy I'd set myself up on one of those dynamic DNS sites, but then again, if I wasn't so lazy I'd learn to use bittorrent. Nambers and a miniature HTTP server are the Al Dimond Way.)
Friday, September 1, 2006
I was planning to do some rough drafts of "Candy Says" (a Velvet Underground song that I can sing better than most songs), and two songs I wrote that share the title "The Secrets of Breakfast" (there's a story there, and it's suitably silly).
Wrote a verse of a new song today while out running, I seriously have to do less starting and more finishing. It was inspired by faces of runners that I saw, but that's not what it was about, it was about Mitch Clem drawing his girlfriend's head "too football-shaped". And TYRANNY and OPRESSION! Honestly, I couldn't make this shit up, if I ever finish this one it will be even better than "Pretty Faces" or "Wyoming Love Tragedy", which I also have no hope of ever finishing, and which you therefore will never hear ever. Actually, it has this face theme going on, maybe I can merge it with "Pretty Faces" and finally make some headway on that beast.
(This is the blog post where the tip of my unfinished creation iceberg is seen.)
And I think that's all I can squeeze out of my day today into this here text box. *clicky*
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Of course it isn't the fault of the phones that people use them in obnoxious ways. The phones just give people a choice to act obnoxiously, and people often make poor, or at least selfish, choices. I wouldn't even say that most people make bad choices most of the time, but when even a few people do occasionally in cities the size we have it's very noticeable. It holds up lines at stores, annoys (or amuses) train passengers, or occasionally even causes car accidents.
This is not, of course, a phenomenon unique to the cell phone. Look at the case of papyrus (recurring theme alert!) and the rise of the throw-away society. Cheap transportation and suburban sprawl. Every advance in computer processing power and storage capacity has lead to programmers and users eventually exhausting it and demanding more. Or, as Aaron Sheldon pointed out to me yesterday, the introduction of new Internet addressing standards and the wasteful way that addresses are allocated in the early phase when addresses are plentiful. When we can do something with short-term appeal we tend to do it, not worrying about the consequences of everyone in an entire society doing it, or of even ourselves doing it repeatedly (if a business is always driven by short-term profit-now interests of shareholders and never thinks of the future eventually it'll go down).
I do it: I drive instead of biking to work when my legs are sore. I write things down on little pieces of paper that will be thrown away, and toss out enormous piles of newspaper every few weeks (that is seriously a massive amount of waste, especially considering that the accuracy of the Merc-News is somewhere on the level of Slashdot). I run everything I need now on a four year-old computer, but will I in four more years (if I was stuck on the Windows upgrade treadmill I'd need a DX9 video card and a bigger hard drive just to run Vista)? On my (non-routable) apartment LAN the region behind my secondary NIC in my main computer enjoys a whole 16 addresses when only one computer can be physically connected in its current configuration! And the LAN is only a Class C! Oh no! IP address exhaustion on 192.168.0.0/24!
But these aren't really the ones that get me. Every time I give myself the choice to eat a ridiculous amount of cookies I do it. If I have the choice to avoid people as the path of least resistance I'll do it every time (sometimes I'll even come up with good excuses, too). I don't want to feel like I'm forcing myself to be the person I want to be, it should be what I want to do! Perhaps the feeling of force is just the long-term wisdom beating up the short-term desire. But that long-term wisdom needs some beefing up, all over the world, because nine times out of ten it's getting its ass kicked.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Actually I ran past this high school once before and there were a bunch more Illinois references on that ran that I don't remember any more.
The title quotation is from the somewhat infamous Velvet Underground song "Some Kinda Love". The really classic line from that song that you've probably seen quoted in at least one person's email sig in your life is, "Put jelly on your shoulder / let us do what you fear most". The song after that one on their self-titled third album is called "Pale Blue Eyes" and drew the complaint from Sterling Morrison, "If I wrote a song like that, I wouldn't make you play it."
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
But instead I have been called to create something in a medium much more familiar to me.
You'll probably never even know about it.
But that's one of the beauties of this particular medium: the composition-performance-audience relationship is very tight.
It's a one-in-a-billion chance that you'll ever know about it, if that.
Monday, August 28, 2006
Now, onward, to make it through to Wednesday, and everything will be better then.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
- Tofurkey, the well-known soy-based turkey imitation (as well as brand name for several other similar products)
- Soyrizo, a lesser-known attempt at creating vegetarian chorizo
I actually used Soyrizo while cooking today, because recently I was grocery shopping and saw it on the shelf, remembered that I once loosely followed a recipe called "Lola's Lentils" from the side of a bag of lentils that called for chorizo, and wondered what it would taste like with this soyrizo stuff thrown in. Unfortunately I no longer have the original bag of lentils, so my cooking process was totally random, just cooked up a pound of lentils, chopped up and tossed in some random veggies, garlic, spices and this new mystery ingredient. Unfortunately my spices and the soyrizo spices didn't quite mate up very well (should have left out some of the spices and used hot peppers instead... next time...), and so the overall flavor is a bit confusing. But the texture came out well this time and my time-management was spot-on, so I'll call this at least a partial success in the realm of chefery.
I had this funny idea for a song today called "Living in Silicon Valley", which is about how we use technology and suburban sprawl to abstract away our humanity (oh no!). It sounds in my head kind of like "The Big Country" by The Talking Heads (which is the only song that I've ever heard that makes fun of farmers). The first draft words are the follwing:
Living in Silicon Valley, man
Ten hours boredom and a minute of sheer terror
That is, work for a day or so
The flip out when you think you see somebody you know
On the sidewalk
THIS IS NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN HERE
We have cars and phones
Contacts lists and schedules
We see people
When we want to see them
We see people
When we plan to see them
Working in the valley, they say
It's just a few people takin' everyone else along for the ride
That is, it's all nature for the engineering dweebs
But it sure takes some skill to sell so much stuff that nobody needs
BUT WASTE IS GOOD
Entire industries are built
Live and die on this
Want to express yourself
All you need
Is last year's supercomputer
Wanna know why my people they ain't got no success
They ain't dressed for it, they ain't dressed for it
(repeated several times before instrumental outro)
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Thursday, August 24, 2006
My first thought upon seeing these bikes and hearing that they were quieter than most of the cars on the road was that they must have mufflers on them. But everyone knows that it's impossible to ride a motorcycle without putting straight pipes on it. Nobody in their right mind would ride a motorcycle for reasons such as low price, good fuel economy and (at least in California) the right to ride between or beside lanes of traffic in traffic jams or at stoplights. All motorcyclists ride for the sole purpose of removing the mufflers and blatting by my apartment at 1AM. Therefore, I'm sad to say, it is certain that my hearing is completely lost.
In unrelated news, I just ran speedwork for the first time in the great state of California. I figured that the high school near my apartment must have a track, and it did, but it was a dirt track and jogging an test lap around it in 80 seconds proved that it was not a full quarter-mile around (it's not that 80s are hard, they're just not quite that easy). So I went over to the college, and couldn't find a track there either, but they had a little park with a jogging path around it and a sign giving its distance as 0.43 miles. Which meant that for my mile interval workout I'd have to do about two laps plus a bit more than a 200 to log a full mile. What I wound up, I'd estimate, was slightly more than a mile and slightly less than 2.5 laps (which would be 1.09 miles). Close enough. Averaged 5:47.25 for four. Woo. My guess is that if I was running actual miles it would have been about 5:25, but I have no idea how accurate their course measurement is, and it really doesn't matter that much. I just like geeking around with numbers while I run. I'll have to run about 5:38-per-mile to run a 35-minute 10k, so I'll have to get used to running that type of fast pace for longer than a mile at a time... next week (or the weekend)! In which maybe I'll find a track.
I am entirely distracted by running. Screw triathalons for now, and music and writing a new Plan 9 editor that combines the most useful ideas from sam and vi. I am going to find a race sometime in the next few weeks and kick some ass. And in a month I want to run a 35-minute 10k, and then ramp up my distance and try to run an 80-minute half-marathon. Training plan is like this:
- Run 5-6 days per week.
- Run hills at El Rancho once or twice a week.
- Do some segmented running or intervals, averaging 4-5 minutes per hard section, once a week.
- Frisbee wednesdays to keep myself good and injured.
- Stop food-binging every few days.
I don't know if I'm capable of doing those times, or if I will find the right races to do them... whatever. They should be pretty good goals. I ran a 36-minute 10k a few years ago and I can train better now than then because I have hills to train on... and I'm probably physically stronger than I was then, and time is still on my side at those distances. Frankly, time is probably on my side for any distance I want to train for. Maybe I should work on my mile time after that or maybe even half-mile, just to see if I can force myself to run like my real height instead of several inches shorter. It might also change my physical stature completely. I am getting completely carried away with the life-changing possibilities of speed training! But first, the 10k-through-half-marathon distances, since that's what I'm actually good at.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Papyrus helped them keep records. It helped them transfer and advance their knowledge. It gave rise to new forms of expression. But none of that matters. Silly papyrus, it could never give people a better life, they could only get that for and from themselves.
Yesterday (Thursday) or so I nearly fell off a rock formation one hundred or more feet to my death. Well, that's probably a bit melodramatic, I was pretty much in control for the few feet that I was actually sliding down, and I had plenty of stuff to grab onto had I not found what I did. Then getting down was all about caution, patience, sustained focus and tolerance of low-level pain, controlling heart rate and breathing... so basically it was like long-distance running but crazier.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
I just ran a relay race in Colorado, the Wild West Relay. A few times as runners were finishing their legs up I went back to pace them for the last few hundred meters. Would I go back, wait for them, and when they caught up start a full sprint and blow their doors off? The only point of that would be to show off my speed, and it would be a pretty cowardly way to do it, racing someone that's just run several miles. That's what this guy was doing with his throws. Showing off his "discmanship" at the expense of his own teammates. A throw that's not likely to be caught is a bad throw, even if it's perfectly on target.
What's really sad is that after the way he was acting this other dude with a valid suggestion to help me improve my game felt that he had to ask permission and be careful not to criticize me. Honestly, I had made some plays that deserved some constructive criticism, and it's a shame that one guy being a jerk can discourage other good players from giving pointers.
There is a guy that plays with us on Saturdays sometimes that can be pretty harsh on the players that aren't as experienced or don't have the skills he does, such as myself. But he came up to me and apologized after chewing me out once, and told me he was trying to work on anger management and just let himself get out of control. That's OK, and I respect him; it takes courage to admit that, and hard work to improve. He's doing his best, being mature, trying to understand himself. That's what life is all about.
Our Frisbee game is a plural society; different players are there for different reasons, we have many different strengths, weaknesses, styles and levels of experience and skill. Frisbee is something different to us all. We come to compete, do our best, get a workout and enjoy ourselves. We aren't going to force a player out of our game because we don't like him. We are secure in the fact that one jerk can't destroy our game, and when he realizes that he'll walk away, just as he walked away from whatever game he was at before ours.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
In parallel universe number one I choose a vinyl LP. It is shiny. I reverse the motor in my record player. I place the pin near the middle of the record. I sit back and enjoy.
In parallel universe number two I choose a cassette tape. It is less shiny, but more compact. I fast-forward through the tape, add some resistance to the circuit powering the reverse capstand motor (doing some calculations first), press "play" and then "rewind". I take in the sweet words of Satan.
In parallel universe number three I choose a compact disc. It is really shiny and sort of compact. As a frisbee, it doesn't fly all that well. I use some software based on the CD Paranoia library to capture the raw PCM data to my hard drive, write a short C program to reverse the order of samples in a PCM file of that format, run that program on the captured data and play back the reversed PCM data with aplay or similar. It's a bit of work, but worth it for digital quality.
In parallel universe number four I choose to buy from the Napster subscription service. It lets me download just Stairway! Unprecedented freedom! But wait: it doesn't let me at the sample data. It only gives me "play", "pause", "stop", "skip" and "previous". Short of getting hired at Napster I'm out of luck. Well, sure, there's the "analog hole". It'll be closed soon enough.
What's happened here? I've gained over the years freedom of venue in my listening from the more portable formats and players. In the end they gave me the freedom to download individual songs but took away the freedom to see the actual data of the song. Why did it happen? Because the record companies don't trust me to respect their copyright. That's mildly insulting, but they don't really have any reason to trust me. Good security is almost always deny-by-default, and if they don't know me and my motives personally they can't trust me.
But it goes both ways. To buy from Napster or any other DRM-based system is to put my trust in the company. It's in my interest to play the music that I've purchased, but I can only do that if my interest intersects with theirs. Will this be the case? What if I want to play it on a computer running GNU/Linux, Plan 9 or BSD? They don't care, unless all three OSes go big. What if I get an iPod (it's a stretch, I know) and want to play it on that? Not going to happen. What if I want to play it backwards? Ha! Why should I ever trust that what's in their best interest is going to also be in mine? The fact that it's ever the case is an unreliable coincidence.
So if media companies want my money, they have no choice but to trust me. Because after my experience in parallel universe number four I sure as hell don't trust them.
Curiously, when you think about DRM from the angle of trust, a slightly different case is Apple's iTunes Music Service. It was a response to the success of peer-to-peer file sharing, and has successfully made money competing with free (but often illegal, if the files shared are copyrighted) sources by offering something that to some people is worth the money. That has always been the spin, at least, but that's also what many users say and the general attitude shown by Apple: they've fought the record companies over the right to set their prices, for example, to retain their vision of the service. And what does Apple allow you to do with your iTMS tracks? Burn them to a CD! Unencrypted! They trust you! Or, at least they trust that they can convince your friends to buy the songs themselves on iTunes instead of copying your CD. It's not perfect; transcoding will result in poor quality, but that's an artifact of the original lossy compression rather than the DRM. But Apple doesn't trust you completely: you still have to use their closed-source software to decrypt the files, which locks out people running any OS but supported versions of Windows and MacOS. This gesture of mistrust means that I still would rely on Apple to get at my music the first time, which punts iTMS off of my radar. Also, the lossy compression makes transcoding to some open format for efficient storage and playback on my computers that can't run iTunes painful, which punts it even further.
Monday, August 14, 2006
2. Every time I say anything as if it is certain, I later realize that I was wrong in some important way, usually an error of omission of some sort.
The first recent conversation I had about vegetarianism was the kind that I don't like (which reflects badly on me as a thinking person, that's a story for another day), because it's the kind where I was asked a lot of questions, and I always have good answers ready for questions that people ask me but never the actual ones that they ask me. I think someone equated veganism with such practices as refusing to eat food if it had been prepared in any dish that had ever touched meat, eggs or cheese without going through some kind of cleansing ritual (implying one more sacred than the kind that goes on in the dishwasher). Yeah, I probably embellished that last claim a bit, this engineer calls poetic license. Anyway, I replied, "That's not veganism, that's idiocy," to the agreement of everyone there, but I was wrong, which I realized an embarrasingly-large amount of time later. Not everyone makes a case for their dietary choices in the hyper-rational manner that I do, some people *gasp* use human emotions to guide their sense of right and wrong. It is a good thing that different people use different processes to attack the same problems, because they can come up with very different answers that enlighten us all.
The second conversation was after the WWR with Jessica and made me think a bit, particularly Jessica's observation that when she was a vegetarian she ate a lot more processed and prepackaged foods and wasn't able to cook as much. I've noticed the same thing, but though I enjoy cooking it's not something I'm choosing to focus a lot of time and energy working on right now so I'd probably eat just as many
prepackaged foods if I ate meat. That is, it was a timing issue: I've been vegetarian for about the same interval of time that I've been cooking for myself. But this problem is larger than my coincidence, and on the plane back to San José I thought about it.
Since moving to the valley I've often heard a distinction made between Indian vegetarians and other ones. And there actually is a difference, at least statistically. Many Indian vegetarians refrain from eating meat for religious reasons, and have been vegetarian since birth, whereas most western vegetarians picked it up in college. Vegetarian dishes and the idea of eating vegetarian are passed like other cultural practices from parent to child in the prototypical Indian case. This makes the food "traditional" in the most useful sense of the word. In most of the U.S. this is not true at all.
Because vegetarianism and its food in the U.S. largely doesn't get passed on through families it needs something else. Activist groups (especially in and around colleges), vegan co-ops (shout out to Heather and her old housemates) and authors of vegetarian cookbooks pick up this slack. These things take a bit of time and energy to search out, of course. And the food isn't what you ate as a kid, so it requires an adventureous tongue. Harder still for some is the realization that mash-up of lentils, garlic, nuts, spinach and spices is a mash-up of lentils, garlic, nuts, spinach and spices. It isn't a hamburger at all, except in the sense that it's trying to squeeze itself into an American culinary tradition that it doesn't quite fit.
As an aside, that last sentance really reminds me of the claim that F/OSS doesn't innovate, that it just co-ops the ideas of the dominant COTS of the day in a way that doesn't necessarily fit the OS or its typical style of operation. The rest of this train of thought is left as an excercise for the reader.
Anyway, the other thing about western vegetarianism is somthing I was talking about earlier: the defense of it. When I tell people I'm vegetarian their first reply is typically, "Why?". (And my answer is often, depending on how familiar the asker is with my sense of humor, either, "Because it gives me less choices to make at restaurants," or, "Because it helps me distance myself from people.") I wouldn't probe someone upon their telling me of their religion, for example, or their political views. But maybe this in itself is fine. Vegetarianism in the western mold shouldn't be a choice made once and then followed, the way many people approach religion and even political choices. It is a choice made again at every bite of every meal, every time you order some food. Or in broader settings when you choose clothing and home furnishings. It's not a doctrine, it's a label for a particular set of lifestyle choices. Lots of us treat it like a doctrine and limit our application of the doctrine to where it's most straightforward and absolute. We mutter, "I'm a vegetarian," rather than asserting our choices as our desires, "I don't want meat on my pizza," in hopes that we'll be accepted in the fact-of-life style in which religions are tolerated in plural countries. Come on! This isn't about us personally: our society is doing something that we don't like in some way, for some reason, and we are supposed to be a dynamic vehicle for change, not a sleepy-eyed congregation mumbling the Lord's Prayer!
Also, WWR was awesome. It's late, and I can't tell if my attempt at persuasive wording in that last paragraph was too blatant or just plain bad. To paraphrase the Mountain Goats in a huge stretch, "Oh, this is what the 'Publish Post' button's for".
Monday, July 31, 2006
I think I'm a creative person but I've had problems with process and actually doing things for my whole life. So I'm going to try posting stuff like music on here and see how that works. And in the spirit of not-so-much-RMS/GNU-as-BSD anything I post here is public domain and I'll post as much "source" (in the form of lilypond files or whatever applies) as I can. That said, in good simple software you don't really need to see the source to know the implementation, because the algorithms are driven by the data structures and the data structures are driven by the purpose; I hope that the same would apply to music that I create. Well, at least that's the Plan 9/old-school Unix concept of software, and a minimalist concept of music; a Microsoft/Apple concept of software and a romantic concept of music might follow the "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" mantra.
At work when bugs just hurt my mind too much, I remember that quotation and think, "This bug is clearly magic. Technology is sufficiently advanced and we can all go home now." Which proves that after years of technological advancement what we're best at is bugs, because no other technological phenomenon is as mystifying as they are.
If we bug makers all went home, though, where would we go? I have no idea. I want to be a taxi driver. Alright, and I'm going to work on finishing the words to a song I'm writing and I'll get back here when I'm done with that in several years. Later.