Friday, February 27, 2009

Scent

Individual smells

Our sense of smell is one I believe we far too often overlook. Smell can convey a lot of information to animals about predators or other animals nearby, territory, mating, and whether or not food is good to eat, just to name a few. On humans we don't see to use it for much other than seeking out food, and perhaps letting us know when there's a gas leak.

It's no mystery that smell is closely linked with memory. Evolutionarily speaking this makes sense -- we find out what's good and what's bad through smell and thus are able to determine the best course of action from their. Most often if something smells rancid or rotten, it is, and eating it would probably do us harm. On the other hand, if something smells pleasant there's a good chance it's good for us to eat, or at least not harmful. You get the idea. We can also learn a large amount about someone from their smell; if someone is clean, disease free, and in good health, we'll most likely find their smell pleasant. If they're not well kept, have an infection or some other health issues, there's a good chance they'll emit a less attractive scent; that's not to say it will necessarily be a bad smell, it just won't be a pleasant one.

This brings up the idea of cologne/perfume -- something external we apply to ourselves to make our smell more attractive. There are two main advantages to this: the first being that it makes our smell more pleasant and thus more attractive, giving the impression that we're in good health and thus a good mate, and the second being that it connects that scent to us. If we have a certain scent that is always with us, others will begin to associate that smell with us, presuming that it is not already connected to someone else in their mind. An example of this is Tommy Hilfiger's Tommy Girl perfume: I knew a girl named Megan Hunter when I was 15 who wore it and to this day whenever I smell it memories of her briefly flash through my mind. We never dated or had a relationship, but we were friends and she was the only girl I know who wore/wears it. Almost a decade later, that smell is still tied to her.

I wear cologne occasionally. I picked up a small bottle of Giorgio Armani's Acqua Di Gio and it's been the one I've worn ever since. I haven't worn it for awhile since it is expensive and so daily wear isn't always worth it, and I've known/dated a few girls who are allergic to it which again makes wearing it a bit of a problem. But recently I've decided to wear it again. Most girls tend to give it favorable reviews and I think it works for me.

I am not a lumberjack

While there is something vaguely metrosexual about wearing cologne -- you don't hear about lumberjacks putting on cologne in the morning -- it's more me than anything hyper masculine.

This leads me to the reason for all this: what do you think about perfumes/colognes?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

How fads get started

This was posted on Twitter yesterday at about noon CST.

For the next 6 hours, "Armageddon" was the most popular topic on Twitter. Interestingly, tea didn't make the list, though Google did throw up ads advertising tea for the next few hours if you did a search for Armageddon. I think my favorite responses to come out of this were:
An awful lot of votes coming in for Armageddon, & one vote for Pepsi.It's a good thing it's not a democracy or the world wd end in 24 people
and
Honestly, if you're given the choice between Armageddon or tea, you don't say "what kind of tea?" People.I love you all, but...(shakes head)
I find it rather impressive that from one simple comment, an entire social networking system can be thrown into a discussion regarding the end of the world, tea, a Bruce Willis film, and, perhaps most entertainingly, questions about why everyone is talking about Armageddon.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Twitter

On the right, under "Tweets"

Most people seem to see Twitter as the next step on social networking and blogging -- that is, something technophiles and narcissistic yuppies do to feel important.

I don't doubt that's at least partially true. I fully admit I'm somewhat of a narcissist. But at the same time, it's nice to see little messages from friends about thoughts they've got or something that just happened to them. Some people do try too hard to be humorous or random, but most just give honest updates about things they're thinking. It's enjoyable. Also because it's limited to 140 characters, they're always short and can be written/read quickly. Very nice when you're busy.

There's another reason I really like Twitter, and that's that it has the power to connect people more directly than things like Facebook or blogs. If I can be on Twitter, do a tweet to Neil Gaiman, Elijah Wood, or Trent Reznor, and get a personal response back from them within minutes, there's something really cool about that. As I said in an earlier post, it lets you know that they're people, too. Yes, they're busy with projects and things they're working on and probably get lots of fan mail which makes it hard to respond most of the time, but they still like connecting with people and answering questions when they can. If you're a fan of someone on Facebook, they might have seen your profile pic once; if you follow their blog and comment, it's possible they read your comment, but getting a response is unlikely due to the sheer number of comments they get; if you write a letter or e-mail, again, it's likely they'll be read, but a personal response is sometimes just not feasible.

Maybe it's just me, but I think it's pretty cool. Also, very useful for news.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Good ideas, bad ideas

All too familiar

I wish that authors, comedians, professors, musicians, and other great creators of our time would show us their notes, their rough drafts, their first outlines, and their works that just didn't work.

When I read something like Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman, I have this imagery of him sitting at an oak desk on a red leather chair in a small, wood paneled room, quickly typing at a type writer by candle light and with only a cup of tea on the desk, each word being placed exactly as it appears before me. It feels like the story just comes out, that this is the only way it has ever existed because this is the only way for it to exist. Anything else would simply be wrong and Mr. Gaiman knows this, so he doesn't write it that way. It was conceived in it's entirety and written flawlessly the first time.

I'm sure this is not true. While I have spoken of my utmost respect for Mr. Gaiman in previous posts, I cannot believe that all of his stories are written as they appear in the book the first time or that the initial storyline he works up is the exact same as the finished product. He (most likely) works through a league of ideas, storylines, characters, plot twists, rewrites, and any number of things that his editor and perhaps close friends recommend or suggest that he takes to heart. These works are products of years of work on his part writing and rewriting and re-rewriting to make it work as it does. But we don't see this. We only see the finished product. We're never shown the crumpled stacks of paper he went through. (Metaphorically speaking, of course. I'm sure he now writes on a computer. Or perhaps on his G1.)

Comedians are the same way. We don't know what jokes Jerry Seinfeld comes up with and doesn't use; we don't know what observations George Carlin made that didn't end up in his final acts; we don't know what little mimes or scenarios Eddie Izzard thinks up but decides just aren't going to work. Their successes are all we see and so I begin to see this as "everything he writes" or "every joke they come up with" is brilliant and sheer gold.

I mention these amazing minds of our time because they have often inspired me to do what I do while at the same time they discourage me with their work since it seems like they can do no wrong. How can I begin to do what they do when all I can seem to write is menial dribble that might evoke a half-smile from a reader, while they can write jokes that will make audiences of tens of thousands burst out into laughter, or stories that will entertain millions?

I write this not to tell you what you already know but to remind me of what I so often forget: they've all written jokes andstories that have failed, too. Not everything they've done has been an amazing success; we just don't see what isn't remarkable because it never gets out to the public. It stays with them in their studies or in the minds of their friends who told them, "Neil, sorry mate, but that story is terrible," or, "Jerry, that's not very funny."

Mr. Gaiman updates his blog regularly, and while I do read it as regularly as he updates, I admit that there are times when I'm not blown away by his writing. There is always some wit to it, but sometimes it's just kind of "oh." (I must point out his blog regarding making what I think was cranberry sauce from scratch over Thanksgiving, which involved the instructions, "Boil for a long time. No longer than that.") His blog actually inspired me to write more often for my own, because while he has accomplished more in writing than I could ever dream, his blog has shown me that not everything he writes is flawless or brilliant or usable as a standard for currency.


The last few days I've sat here, wondering what to write. Sometimes events happen that I think "this'll make a great blog entry" and other times I'll get an idea and think "write about this." But there are a fair number of times when I don't know what to write about. During those times I try to just write about whatever I can think of, be it something simple like what I did that day or something everyone has read about like the Academy Awards. Either way I'm writing. Either way I have a chance to produce something great -- and there are some posts I'm very proud to have written. I may not have the wit and humor of David Sedaris, but I'm inclined to think he spent a fair share of time on Me Talk Pretty One Day in order to make it so delightful.

That being said, I hope you can all bear with me through the times when I write menial dribble and the times I write things I'm truly proud of.

the joy of success

Hopefully this has helped you to do something as well, reminding you that those whom you look up to in that field have done their share of failures as well. I once read that in order to be a creator/inventor you have to have a certain naivety in believing that it will work despite everything pointing to the contrary -- you have to believe it will work and be persistent against failure. Because you will fail. I'll fail. We'll all fail a lot. But sometimes we'll succeed. And that's why we should keep doing it: because when you succeed there's nothing else quite like it in the world.

Monday, February 23, 2009

And the Heath Ledger Award goes to...

I Googled "Academy Awards"

The Academy Awards, while entertaining largely in part due to Wolverine (aka Hugh Jackman), were not much of a surprise. Slumdog Millionaire took Best Director and Best Picture, Sean Penn and Kate Winslet won Best Actor/Actress, Wall-E won Best Animated Film, Penelope Cruz won Best Supporting Actress, and Heath Ledger won Best Supporting Actor which might as well have been named the Heath Ledger Award.

Hugh Jackman was a brilliant choice for hosting. He was funny without being snarky, he was fun to watch sing and dance without being gawdy, and he's Wolverine. I really think that, had he not gotten his break into America cinema as Wolverine in X-Men, he would have become the next Hugh Grant-ish romantic comedy star. He can sing, he can dance, he's got the looks. Although Kate & Leopold didn't really work; Meg Ryan should stay paired with Tom Hanks.

I suppose it's good that quality films got recognized -- particularly relatively low budget ($15 million), small films like Slumdog Millionaire that almost didn't even make it to theaters. But it would have been nice to be surprised by some of the decisions. Being anticipatory about who will win is most of the fun of award shows. If you know who's winning it's like watching a Superbowl where you already know who wins -- sure there might be some entertaining moments, but the excitement is lost.

by Danny Boyle

While all the nominees were good, most critics and reviewers were able to predict who would win. Of course, Danny Boyle does deserve Best Director -- I haven't seen Slumdog Millionaire yet but his work on everything from A Life Less Ordinary to Sunshine to 28 Days Later is incredible. He's just a great film maker.

Forgive the somewhat generic posting -- my weekend was rather relaxed: I read, practiced guitar, slept a lot, worked a bit, and that was about it. Writing about it wouldn't be all too entertaining.
I did play laser tag with some friends but it was rather anticlimactic since the arena was too small and the people playing were just walking around shooting wherever they could. I firmly believe if you're going to play laser tag in a maze-like arena in

Laser Tag: it's pretty much Tron

blacklight you should get into it, hiding and moving like a Delta Force squad. Most of the people playing walked around like New Yorkers in a subway. It took away a lot of fun when people don't care if they get shot.

I think that's why I prefer paintball. People get more into playing carefully because being shot hurts. Pain is a great motivator for dodging.

Friday, February 20, 2009

CNN or The Onion: when reality is weirder than fiction

CNN posted an article yesterday with the title RNC chair plans 'off the hook' campaign, tells critics to ‘stuff it’. Reading the article -- I mean c'mon, who wouldn't want to read an article about an RNC chairman telling people to "stuff it"? -- I have to say, the opening paragraph made me laugh. I can't believe that the GOP is going be able to modernize it's image to make conservativism appeal to urban-suburban hip-hop audiences. But wow, I want to see them try. As a friend said, "I want to see Cheney in a do-rag."

I still find that article absurd. While reading lines like:
“We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles. But we want to apply them to urban-surburban hip-hop settings.”

He added, jokingly, that “we need to uptick our image with everyone, including one-armed midgets.”

and
“I don't do 'cutting-edge,’” he said. “That's what Democrats are doing. We're going beyond cutting-edge.”
I find myself double checking the web address and all links on the page to make sure none of them cite The Onion as their source. While I applaud the new chairman for having the stones to go against the traditional old, rich, white guy Republican image and to try and be more modern, it's sad to watch.

"Hold still, this'll be totally rad."

It's like watching George W. Bush try to fist bump someone. It's not their generation, it's not their thing. The GOP should stick to what they know: military, religion, and predicting changes in the weather when their knees start acting up.

I really don't know what else to say. It's February 19th. So either this is really happening and the RNC is actually throwing a "Hail Mary," or CNN published their April Fool's article a month and a half early.

That being said, I think we need to start a betting pool for when Cheney will finally appear in a do-rag.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Cadbury ♥

Need I say more?

For about two months a year, Cadbury makes and sells the Cadbury Creme Eggs. These used to be accompanied by commercials of a cute rabbit making "bock bock bock" sounds that I actually enjoyed as a kid, though that was largely because they meant that Cadbury Creme Eggs were once again in stores. And I just like bunnies.

I made a trip to Walmart for some dish detergent and a new bottle of face wash. I actually enjoy shopping for hygiene products -- there's something I find enjoyable about taking care of myself and being clean. Plus the face wash I buy looks like uranium-238. Seriously. It glows in the dark.

While at the Mart of Wally I walked past the holiday display. Which was now bright green instead of bright red. The first candies I saw were red and so I just assumed it was Valentine's Day leftovers. Then I saw it -- an endcap stocked with Peeps.

The Heralds of the Eggs

I don't like Peeps. I never have. I don't really think anyone in my family ever has. They're marshmallows with glittery crap on them. The appeal is lost on me. However, Peeps are the Herald of the Creme Eggs. Where there are Peeps, there are Creme Eggs. This sent a shiver of joy down my spine and I quickly made my way to the aisle behind the Peeps. First I didn't see them -- the glorious eggs, wrapped in shiny foil of blue and red and yellow seemed to elude my vision.

"Are they not here? Were the signs not there? Are the Peeps lying to me?" I thought to myself. As I continued to search I began contemplating the demise of the Peeps should they have lied to me. This was a sin most grievous and terrible. To give signs of Creme Eggs and then not produce them is punishable by Death by Microwave (for Peeps it's a slow and painful death preceded by gigantism).

Plain, yet so beautiful

Then I saw them. In a plain box, with little flair and advertising, they sat. Cadbury Creme Eggs. Boxes of 4. Pure. Nestled calmly, one upon the other.

Now, I am, for all intents and purposes, an adult. I pay my taxes, I work a full-time job, I cover my own expenses. But I also believe that part of being an adult is doing what you want. And what I wanted was to buy Creme Eggs. I didn't have a lot of money on me, but I figured I could spare some. I bought 20 Creme Eggs. And I plan on buying a whole lot more before the season is done.

My brother has a room...

I will learn from the squirrels and hamsters of this world and keep a stash of my beloved eggs for the cold, Cadbury-less months. Never again will I go so long without a Creme Egg.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Some people have coffee

You'll never forget the smell

If you ever hear your computer making a slight vibrating sound as if two things are rubbing together, it's a bad thing. Similarly, if you put your hand by the rear case fan and don't feel any air, it's a bad thing. If you smell something burning, it's a very bad thing. I've experienced all three in my life. Yesterday, I woke up to the first, quickly discovered the second, and thankfully prevented the third.

I'm not sure what happened exactly. I wake up and hear a faint vibrating-whoom sound, like what you'd expect a fan to sound like in a movie, only at regular intervals instead of constant. Checking the computer I discover that it's coming from somewhere inside. For once I'm actually thankful for the blue LEDs on my case because I can see the shadow the fan is creating, and it's slowly spinning, no more than once per second -- standard is 1200 RPM. I quickly load up a program to check the temperature of my CPU and it's about 10C higher than it should be, and while watching it it ticks up another degree.

Looking at the clock I see that I've only got about 15 minutes before I need to throw on some clothes and go to work. Normally I'd be showering right now but my brother is in there and I know he won't be out for awhile. Much like the Sun rising and France having a foreign policy of "stick it," my brother can always be counted on to shower for lengthy periods of time. When I bought my PC I picked up a 120mm fan for the rear of the case, only to discover it came with one.

It was actually 7:13

Now that spare fan is quite nice to have around. I shut off the PC and begin dismantling it. The only screwdriver I have around is on my leatherman and it's a little too small for the screws, but they come out. I'm about 6 minutes in so far.

I put the new fan in place and begin screwing it in. And the screws don't want to move. After about 3 more minutes of probing and testing I still can't figure why these screws aren't going in -- the only possible explanation is the locking groove they have cut in them not getting along with the fan for some reason. I've only got 6 minutes before I have to get ready for work, so after I get one screw in all the way, another in 80%, and a third in about halfway I figure "good enough" and go to plug the fan in. This is also where I learn that the fan I bought has a different power cable than the old fan and I can't find a proper power source for it.

Pretty, but bright at night

Grabbing the flashlight near me I begin scouring the motherboard for a 3-pin connector for a fan. Nothing. So, I begin looking for adapters somewhere to plug it into the standard 4-pin power cable. Again, nothing. The only connector I can find that fits is the one that goes to the side fan -- the 250mm side fan that I am not willing to turn off. (I already disabled the front 250mm fan because of the LED on it, I'm not about to shut off the other one; there are only three fans on this thing.) At this point I'm 3 minutes over my "you have to get ready for work" time. And I haven't gotten dressed yet. I know that when I was putting together my system there was a spare 3-pin connector somewhere. And I was right. I finally find the 3-pin connector right next to the CPU heat sink and barely accessible, but I manage to get it plugged in. In under 30 seconds I get my system put back together with all fans and cables attached, put back in place under the desk, and booted up.

A quick check of the CMOS ensures I didn't lose anything and a check of the core temperatures shows that the new fan is working swimmingly. The system is again running at about 47C -- maybe a little hot for idle, but it is OC'd by 15%. Furthermore, the system is actually quieter now since the fan I installed only produces 17 dB, even when only partially connected.

So far I haven't finished screwing in the fan yet. Most of the screws are close to stripped and I don't want to do any more damage to them. Although I did find the screws that came with the fan, so if I get ansy over the next few days I may do some surgery on my system again. We'll see. Hopefully I won't need to mess with the fans anytime soon. I still have no idea what caused the fan to fail -- I took it into work and disassembled it and can't find a thing wrong with it other than that something is slowing it down and causing it vibrating in a very un-fan-like fashion.

A good combination

And that was my morning yesterday. Some people had coffee, I got to dismantle and repair my computer.

Then I went to work. Just a little bit late.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Causality

Something made it fall.

The wisest thing anyone has said to me in a long time:

"Everything does have a cause. But you are not always that cause."
~Michelle Vigen

Monday, February 16, 2009

On Being Superficial

Aphrodite

I am, admittedly, superficial. I care about looks when it comes to dating a girl. It has always been my impression that if you do not find the person attractive then you will struggle holding a relationship with them.

The error in this is that recently...that is, the past 4 years or so...I believe I've dated with that being one of the most pressing factors in whether or not to date a girl. And so far it's resulted in almost every relationship lasting less than 2 months. It's not exactly an impressive track record. Of course each relationship ended for different reasons, but I believe the underlying factor was just that we were different people. Although really I suppose that's the whole point of dating -- to find out if you're compatible with someone.

The past couple weeks I've started looking at something a bit more substantial in girls: their personalities and whether or not we relate. Intellect is also a strong factor I look at; I really like a girl who can hold her own then the discussion goes into politics or philosophy. I don't require her to know Kant off the top of her head, but at least one who doesn't shy away from an intellectual conversation. Personally I like to learn everything I can about every subject and I'd like a girl with a similar fascination for knowledge. Of course, all of this goes on top of superficial attraction thing. I still want a girl who's cute.

You may think me shallow, but I'm not asking for a model, just a girl I find attractive. My criteria isn't that high. What this has led me to learn is that there are very few girls who fall under this. I don't mean to say none do -- far from it, I know several -- but as I've said before, mutual attraction is something that does not simply exist. Just because I like a girl and believe we could be a good couple does not mean she agrees and as a wise person once said, "why would you want to be with someone who doesn't want to be with you?"

There are a few girls I know who I'd like to get to know better to see if they meet this criteria. Some I work with, some I know through associations, some I'm friends with. Right now I can only think of one girl that I'm sure meets all the criteria. And we already had our time together. We've actually tried twice. Something came up and it wasn't meant to be.

Dilbert understands

Not then. But that's what happens in this life. There's a time for relationships to work and a time for them not to. Maybe we were early, maybe we were late. I don't know. All I know is that so far I've never met another girl like her. I'm sure there are other girls who will amaze me as much as she did, but I haven't seen that in them yet. I'd like to.

Friday, February 13, 2009

My office today

Used with permission from XKCD.com; credit to Randall Munroe

My office today looks exactly like this. Only without it being contained. This actually started a few days ago, so saying it's because of Friday the 13th is incorrect. It's actually because of Wednesday the 11th.

And yes, we're getting hosed right now.

Sorry, this is all you're getting for an update today. If you see me and I look stressed, this is why.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cows

This is a cow

My brother loves cows. At least he did when he was a teenager and in his early-twenties. I assume he still does, but I guess I can't say for sure. Lee loves cows, too.

I've never been altogether fond of them. Sure I find them interesting, but that's true with any large animal. Or any animal. Jeff and Lee had an altogether different fascination with them. I always assumed it was some sort of trendy "it's hip to think cows are awesome" since there was an odd surge in popularity for awhile. (I hope the bovine PR department got a bonus during those years.) I always thought wombats were the best animal around, follow closely by koalas, penguins, and cats. Giant squids and anything in the really deep marine depths comes in at #5 on my list of awesome animals. Y'know, stuff like the Vampyroteuthis Infernalis (literally translated: Vampire Squid from Hell).

Cows are fun animals. I'll admit there is something oddly cute about them. They're also incredibly tasty. And give milk. Those are two pretty big pros for the cows.

It could be true

What I really think is awesome about cows is the stuff people come up with about them. Stuff like Cows With Guns. Because the phrase "Cow Tse Tongue" is awesome. It also leads me to wonder what'll happen when the cows unite against us. I imagine it kind of like a zombie apocalypse. But with cows. And lots of steak.

Come to think of it, I'm really excited for that.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

When you watch this, remember:

This was created as for the children's television show "The Adventures of Mark Twain":



Now, I can understand making a tv show about Mark Twain's stories -- the man had a lot and they are classic American literature. But little claymation kids meeting a freakin-scary claymation Satan is a little bit much. Particularly when he gives them delicious fruits, has them make a little world, and then brutally destroys it in front of them, telling them mankind is worthless and existence meaningless.

I'm glad I grew up with Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers. Neither of those invoked the Fallen Star. Not on the air, at least.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Elizabeth Gilbert on 'genius'

I've been telling just about everyone I know about www.ted.com because it is perhaps the greatest thing I've seen in a long time. It has actually restored my faith in mankind.

If you've never heard of TED, here's some info from their site:
Our mission: Spreading ideas.

We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we're building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world's most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.
I love it. It's an exchange of ideas, research, studies, thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, understandings, and knowledge. It's not an open debate where people try to prove they're right; it's a place to go and listen to new ideas. Some people ask questions but they're always to try and better understand, never to undermine or criticize. It's about open education and learning something new from people at the top of their fields. If you don't agree with it or believe it, that's fine, because it'll still educate you and perhaps make you think about things differently.

Here's a talk given just last week by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of
Eat, Pray, Love talking about 'genius' and the creative processes and successes:



The site is www.ted.com. I encourage you to watch any and every talk you can find.


[EDIT: It would appear the TED talks don't shrink down to fit sites when embedded like YouTube videos do.]

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Midnight Oyster

The Midnight Oyster

I love my car. It's a 2005 Hyundai Tiburon, midnight blue, aptly named "The Midnight Oyster" since it vaguely resembles one. I've also decided it's female. I think most cars are, though.

I am not a car guy. I know some things about cars; I can name a few basic makes and models, I know what a 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500 is, and I know that BMWs are the engineering equivalent of sex. Beyond that the details and ins-and-outs of cars get kind of fuzzy. I've always believed that if I put my mind to it I could figure it out. I also think a garage and some real tools would be handy.

Even without any in-depth mechanical knowledge, I know basic maintenance. By "basic maintenance" I mean I know when to take it in for an oil change and I have a pretty good idea of when Jiffy Lube tries to screw me. I don't think they have yet; I hadn't changed my blinker fluid since I got the car so they were probably right to recommend that.

I took The Midnight Oyster in on Saturday to get the oil changed. I went to Jiffy Lube since oil changes are what they do and while I could do it myself, I don't have the facilities to do so. And I figured I could spare the $50; I budgeted for it when I got my paycheck. Driving up to the place I notice that it's pretty crowded -- cars were backed up all the way across the parking lot and if my car wasn't so small and nimble I wouldn't have fit in the line. The serviceman who came out pointed out that they're pretty crowded and it'd be about an hour and a half wait -- if I wanted to try their other location I might have better luck. Not knowing where it was I asked; it was literally around the corner about two blocks away.

Note the distance

I'm not sure who is in charge of Jiffy Lube locations but I would think putting two service stations less than three blocks away from each other might not be great for business. I think they'd compete with each other. Just a thought.

Trying the second location I found they were far less busy and there was only about a fifteen minute wait. In the lobby they had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III playing on the TV; all I could think of seeing it is that I once got coffee for the man responsible for that film being made. It was an odd sensation.

While contemplating this feeling of being perhaps -- in some remote, alternate universe way -- responsible for that movie, Katie Holmes popped her head in and said my car was up and they had some questions.

My mechanic

After doing a double take it occurred to me that it wasn't actually Katie Holmes but rather a girl who looked remarkably like her, down to the half-cocked smile, slightly chubby cheeks and wide-set eyes. It was uncanny. Also, beautiful. (It would not be amiss to point out that I find it incredibly attractive if a girl can do something that is considered "manly" like killing zombies or working on cars. Hunting doesn't count, though.)

She asked me what kind of oil I wanted, if I wanted to replace the air filter, tires rotated, etc. I decided that The Midnight Oyster is my car and I want to take care of her so I got most of the maintenance done. I also tried to work up the nerve to ask Katie out
(I never did learn her name). I failed on that account.

The Midnight Oyster is now running better. She has a little more drive, but still not quite what she had when I bought her a year and a half ago. I plan on taking her in next weekend to get the fuel system cleaned -- I've been told that that'll bring back a lot of the jump. I'd like to do that. If Katie is working, I'm also going to ask her out.

Friday, February 6, 2009

An Open Letter To Claire Suddath

Apparently out of article ideas

Ms. Suddath, you wrote an article for Time called 25 Things I Didn't Want To Know About You that pokes at the recent meme on Facebook of the "25 Things About You" notes. In these notes people write 25 facts about themselves -- they can be anything, there are no guidelines other than they are be true and that they be about the person writing them. It is immensely popular, as you point out in your article. You then go on to declare it "just so stupid" and imply it is a massive waste of work hours.

I am getting a little tired of people talking about social networking as something pointless and stupid. You write for a magazine for a living or it's simply a freelance job and you got lucky with the editor. I don't know. The point is, you write. As a writer I am guessing you either have a publicist or -- the more likely scenario -- you have a network of people you can contact and who contact you regarding openings and needed articles in magazines and papers. Apparently you also don't use these networks for anything other than strict business.

Facebook is a social networking site, not a business network. It is not designed to create business contacts or keep people in a professional atmosphere on the net. Despite how many companies defer to Facebook profiles for applicants, that is not it's purpose. It is a social networking site and it exists because it is fun. That is why it is so popular. That is why it has 150 million participants and why so many of them choose to write 25 random things about themselves: it's fun.

You end your article with a rather poignant statement about how you think Twitter is similarly stupid. Recent Newbery Award winning author Neil Gaiman would most likely disagree with you on that although I believe his class and tact would keep him from making any comments directly.

Your article appeared on the front page of CNN.com at the same time as an articled titled Confessions of a 40-something Woman, by Lisa Kogan, that states:
I like being unreachable once in a while, and in those days it was no big deal if somebody couldn't track you down for half an hour. You see, in the 1980s, we didn't know from e-mail or cell phones or Facebook or GPS, and a BlackBerry was nothing more complicated than a healthy treat that was high in antioxidants -- only guess what? Nobody had ever heard of antioxidants.
It then goes on and gets more nostalgic about the "good old days." While Ms. Kogan goes on to say she misses those days but is happy she's not young anymore, both of you have a similar tone: you both think that what people have today is unnecessary and intrusive. I would put my next paycheck on the line (yes, I do work a 40-hour, 8-5 job) in betting that when you were in your 20's and you were talking to friends on the phone or watching TV, your parents -- or perhaps grandparents; I don't know how old your parents were when they sired you -- were thinking about how unnecessary it was and how in their day they had to listen to the radio and imagine the stories, and write a letter or go to the person's house in order to talk to them! Phones and televisions, what nonsense in the young people's lives.

Things come full circle. What is now a daily part of our everyday lives -- Facebook, blogs, Twitter, text messaging/e-mail on our iPhones and Blackberries -- seems excessive, stupid, invasive, and I'd bet scary to you. It's not something you grew up with and you are not comfortable with it. Children are adept at learning and understanding new things; to them most of the world is new and they crave to understand it. As we get older we begin to feel that we know and understand the world and any new or foreign objects scare us. It is much akin to how people of a homogenous culture grow comfortable with themselves, but afraid of those of another race or tribe. Only in this case, we're talking about technological conveniences, not conquering nations. In the future the two may meet -- it should be an interesting day.

It doesn't matter if you feel that my writing 25 random facts about myself to my friends are stupid or a waste of my time. I enjoyed doing it and my friends enjoyed reading them -- they left comments telling me so. I never forced anyone to read them and I doubt anyone forced you to read them, either. Therefore I can only assertain that you read them of your own free will, just as someone who claims they think reality shows are stupid still turns on the TV to watch "Rock of Love" every week. But again, all this is moot. I am sure there are activities you participate in on a regular basis that are not entirely productive, but you do them because they are just fun to do. I took 30 minutes out of my day last week to write 25 random facts about myself because I enjoyed doing it; it was no more a waste of time than watching an episode of The Simpsons. Except this let me friends know a little bit more about me. So in that sense, it's more productive.

See, you and your (grand)parents have something in common: you both think that new, social technology in people's lives is stupid and unnecessary and in that you both miss the fun aspect. These things are not crucial to our survival; very little actually is. Don't worry though, you're not alone. The Amish and the Luddites both agree with you.

Now if you'll excuse me, I haven't updated my Twitter feed for about 12 hours.

Sincerely,

Tim, a 24-year-old who likes his technology

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Linux and I are having relationship issues

Just boot. Please. Pretty please.

At my job I do some diagnostic work from time to time. When systems go down I like to know what happened, but if the computer doesn't boot you can't really look through it; it's akin to asking a coma patient how they're doing.

Most (all?) versions of Linux provide a handy solution to this problem: live CDs. It's an operating system you can boot from the CD and go from there, allowing you to work on the hard drive without those pesky "Windows cannot access this file" problems. And if Linux ever gives you grief about files being inaccessible or not having permission to do something, you can always just sudo it into doing whatever you want. It's basically like telling the computer "if you don't do this I will load you up with country music videos until you beg for death." It's quite effective.

The main appeal to a portable version of Linux is that it's a custom, personal operating system I can carry with me and use on any computer. It's just fun.

I don't carry CDs with me so using my flash drive for this purpose seemed logical. Thankfully there's a website called pendrivelinux.com that has bootable versions of every time of Linux you could ever want, all of which are supposed to be persistant (that means they save your configurations and changes). What the site doesn't tell you is that they aren't. I've tried five different versions of linux from there -- each one multiple times and on multiple systems -- and they don't save. Each time it boots it wipes everything I've done. This is not useful.

I've been working on this for almost four days now and it's kind of driving me nuts. A friend suggested I just install Linux and select the flash drive as the destination claiming it worked for him. So I did that. No dice.

At this point I don't so much care about getting a portable operating system. I don't care about having Linux on my flash drive or storing information. It has come down to a personal vendetta against this concept -- against the entity that is the portable operating system.

And I will win.

[I really don't like the layout of yesterday's post. I'm going to fix it now.]

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Auditorium!

Auditorium

I think I linked this when Tycho over at Penny Arcade talked about it. Or linked it, as it were. Looking through my archives I couldn't find the post though, so maybe I didn't. You'd think you'd be able to Google search your own posts through Blogger; I found no such thing.

Anyways: Auditorium. It's a simple premise -- there's a flow of something and you have to use directional arrows to push that flow into other somethings to make music.

Actual screenshots

The music is composed solely for the game and is incredibly well made. Very soothing and despite hearing it for quite a long time during some levels -- it is a puzzle game, afterall -- I don't think I've ever heard it skip or go out of rhythm. It's seamless. I would pay for the soundtrack alone for reading and ambient music.

The reason I bring this up again is because yesterday the full game went live. The trial I had played before was amazingly fun and the real game is even better -- plus it now allows you to save your progress via the account that is created when you buy the game. This makes it less difficult to pull away from since you don't lose your progress now, but the full game is about three times as long as the trial which makes saving progress somewhat necessary.

Happy to help new developers

The game is, simply put, fun. It's ingenious. I donated $5 a few months back because I wanted the free audio track offered with donations and figured I'd help some starting game developers out and I really wanted this game to be made; they repaid me with a free copy of the game, I am very surprised and grateful for. They're charging $10.99 on the site and think it's more than worth it. The game is solid; the music is beautiful; the puzzles are fun; the visuals are relaxing -- if you can spare it, support some game developers in this economy and purchase a copy. It's worth it.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Chili

One big MEH

I forgot the Super Bowl was last weekend. Actually forgot is the wrong word -- I don't think I ever heard about it. I legitimately didn't/don't care. I didn't watch the game, I didn't try to see the commercials, I didn't even go near a television while it was on. I never once checked online to see the score.

What I did do was make a bowl of chili the day before. It was nice. The grocery store parking lot was abhorrently packed yet the store itself, while quite crowded, was very well managed. Macey's did a very good job of handling the rush. And I got four frozen pizzas for $10, which, while I don't often eat frozen pizzas, is always a good thing.

I wanted to make something I hadn't made before and chili sounded as good as anything. I wanted to use the slow cooker since I had the weekend to myself (my brother was out of town) and I wanted to just relax and do whatever I wanted and take as long as I wanted to do it. This led to me making a lot of different dishes just because I wanted to. It made me so happy.

Sheer joy

The chili was a spicy habanero turkey chili. It turned out swimmingly. If you have time -- and a slow cooker -- I highly recommend it. Here's the recipe:
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (16 ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (16 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup rinsed and drained canned black-eyed peas
  • 1 (15 ounce) can low sodium tomato sauce
  • 1 dried habanero pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • salt to taste
Pretty basic recipe: just brown the turkey in some of the olive oil with the onion, then move that to the slow cooker and fry the garlic and red bell pepper for a few minutes in the rest of the olive oil, then throw everything -- except the last six ingredients (corn through salt) -- into the slow cooker and cook for about 7 hours on low, then add the last ingredients and cook for however long you want, another hour is what the recipe says.

I kind of ignored the last part and just threw the remaining ingredients in after about 3 hours, then cooked for another 6 or so. Then ate a bowl (with a little pepperjack cheese on top) and cooked the rest overnight. It turned out close to perfect. Sadly, it wasn't quite.

One of the four was missing

Turns out Macey's here doesn't sell habaneros which is pretty sad since Hornbacher's in Minnesota did. I was quite let down. I had to settle for a habanero hot sauce which, despite the name, does not live up to habaneros. It's spicy, but not much more so than tabasco sauce although I think the flavor is better. So, that was what I did. And I liked it. It was a great weekend.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Symbols

Bland.

Symbols are important to people. We identify with them. We have faith in them. People die for them. People will kill for flags and crosses and colors.

I'm not going to get into the philosophy or metaphysics or social consequences of symbols. Books have been written on the subject. Entire fields are devoted to studying the subject. I don't really feel like going into it right now.

Instead I'm going to complain that Christianity got the short end of the symbol stick. The cross is just plain boring. On churches, on clothing, on jewelry--it's a dull symbol. Sure it's simple and that's probably why it became so popular, but talk about aesthetically bland.

Sure there are some jeweled and fanciful versions of the cross, but they're still pretty simple.

Wiccan's know what cool symbols look like. They're intricate, detailed, artistic. Granted they're a bit harder to draw and maybe not as universal, but they're very geometrically pleasing to the eye.

Beautiful.

I'm sure some people reading this probably find this blasphemous or something. Meh. I'm talking about aesthetics and artistic appeal. You can explain and discuss the symbolism of the cross or various icons till your blue in the face and your keyboard breaks. That's fine. I'm just saying, visually, Wiccan symbols are cooler.

Because I like cats

A friend of mine linked me to these. They're by a photographer named Jane Burton who passed away a year ago. Supposedly she let the cats live in her studio so they'd be comfortable and natural in the photographs.













The photos are from a book published after her death called A Cat's Life.

EDIT: Remember the "Shrimp on a Treadmill" and "Cat's on a Treadmill" videos? I've found the next one in the series: Kittens on a Roomba!