Friday, August 31

Trois

Well, here we are, three years and 1,800 posts later. In three years, I think I've learned to deal with my introverted nature just a little better. I've increased my writing skill somewhat. I've thought out loud about a few things that I probably wouldn't have thought about. I've shared a few embarrassing secrets. I've ranted. I've raved. I've maybe even convinced a few people who didn't even realize I had a blog until recently that my life is somehow interesting enough to warrant hundreds of thousands of words describing it, whether or not it actually is.

Well, as far as I can tell, there are at least a few people who read this thing. (Don't be a stranger; leave a comment every once in a while.) So, I see no reason to stop now.

Double sigh-ded

Microsoft saves paper and trees by defaulting all of the printers to double-sided printing. Or, at least they purport to. I wonder how many pages and how much ink I've wasted in the three and a half years I've worked here after printing something, going to pick it up, realizing it printed double-sided, recycling that copy, and then printing a single-sided copy.

If I'm printing something, it's either to send to someone (for a rebate or something), to fill out and fax, or it's a single page. I don't want crap printed on both sides. At least the printers don't default to stapling the corners anymore.

I'm not around wet dog hair that much

"Freshly filed fingernails" is one of the smells I smell at least somewhat frequently that I hate the most. It's not even that it's a terrible smell; it just annoys me for some reason.

Meetings

I don't always hate meeting new people. In fact, I don't really even mind it. It's just that the situations I associate with meeting new people are social situations in which I don't have the upper hand, when I don't know the majority of the people around me. That's more what I hate than the actual meeting of another human.

If I'm at dinner or a party and I'm primarily with people I know, it's pretty easy for me to meet someone. If the tables are turned, and I'm in a strange place with strange people, it's downright near impossible for me to muster up the strength to talk to new people. There is strength in numbers, my friends.

Even worse than having to meet someone in a strange place, though, is the very idea of being set up with someone. I can hardly imagine anything worse, and I've outright rejected this every time it's been proposed for me. Now you've combined a social situation that even normal people often find awkward with meeting new people in a strange place without anyone I know around me to back me up. Just kill me.


Currently listening: Gotan Project—Lunático

Evacuee

Many years ago, sometime in the ancient 1990s, I had the idea to produce sheet music for the beautiful and sad song Evacuee by Enya. I had the software to do it, a basic understanding of music notation, and a jonesin' to do a "music project" of some sort. So that's what I did—I decided to print sheet music for piano and organ. I cheated a little and got the melody and the basics from a MIDI file, but there was still quite a lot of hand editing and tuning to be done.

Any of you who know more about playing an instrument than I do may already see the problem here: I don't know how to play any instruments (well, I understand how to play a piano; I just can't do it). The sheet music I produced was hilariously unusable. Were it not so depressing to see my work fail, I would have greatly enjoyed the perplexed look on my piano-playing accomplice's face when she saw the first draft. She just stared for a second and then replied, "My hands aren't nearly big enough to play this. Nobody's are."

I got so caught up in the notation and my little project that I didn't stop to think that I had created some musical constructs that were too great in range to be played by human hands. Luckily, with a few tips, I was able to adjust and simplify the music so that it sounded roughly the same, but didn't rely on so many impossible chords. I learned a valuable lesson with that project: think about who's going to use the output you're producing before it's too late and you've designed something that isn't useful to anyone.


I don't have the sheet music or the Windows 3.1 software I used to create it anymore. But, at least you can listen to what the original song sounds like.

Enya—Evacuee

Injustice

What is it about injustice that people find so disgusting versus other offenses? It seems that injustice is a topic that just about anyone can get riled up about. Justice is one of the few qualities that is nearly universally seen as good and noble and true. People may have their own ideas of what is just, but justice as an ideal is highly regarded.

Our desire for justice is one of the core things that sets us apart from "lesser" beings. It's also one of our only ways of dealing with the randomness inherent in life. I wonder if either of those has anything to do why so many people consider the ideal of justice to be so sacred, and injustice to be so disgusting.

Or maybe people don't care as much about justice as I perceive.

Thursday, August 30

Eastside

There's this odd rivalry between people who live in downtown Seattle and people who don't. We kind of disdain each other. I'm a proud Eastsider myself (the "Eastside" is basically everything not downtown Seattle). You'll notice that I titled my blog "Sleepless in the Seattle Metro area" not only to avoid trademark infringement, but also to make it more clear that I do not associate myself with Seattle more than necessary.

I think the most common characteristic I associate with Seattle dwellers is extroversion. All other things the same, if there are two similar people and one lives in Seattle and the other doesn't, the Eastsider probably is more introverted. At least, that's the way I see it. People who live in Seattle pay extra and spend far more time commuting for the ability to live in a denser urban environment. I suppose there are introverted people who like big cities, but I hate cities for the same reasons that I'm an introvert, so there's next to no appeal whatsoever living in the city. Really the only thing that is appealing to me is the fact that more things would be within walking distance; living right in the middle of a residential area makes it pretty difficult to get to anything besides work or more houses and apartments.

Everything else about living in the city sounds awful to me. I hate commuting, travel time, and traffic, so Seattle is already not the place for me, since I work on the Eastside. Add on top of that a pretty significant level of discomfort at being surrounded by people and it's a recipe for psychological torture. I don't care about the docks or the shops or the museums or the stadiums or the bars or the restaurants; I find cities to be suffocating and dirty and unnerving.

So, Redmond is perfect for me. It's essentially a small town that happens to have relatively simple access to two big cities. It would take a lot to get me to leave. I can't imagine what would get me to actually live in Seattle. I come from Lincoln, Nebraska, so I'm sure I'll continue to adapt to the Seattle area over time, but the thought of someday getting to a point where I wouldn't mind living in Seattle seems somewhat ridiculous. There were a few condos in Bellevue that I considered; Bellevue is the second-largest city in the area. Those would have been a little more tolerable, as Bellevue doesn't seem as large or as dirty to me as Seattle. I'm comfortable enough walking around in Bellevue. It's high-density enough that I don't think I'd want to live there, but it doesn't creep me out. But Redmond is far more appealing. No scary big buildings. Lots of trees.


Currently listening: Moby—South Side, NERD—Lapdance

The elements of a good desktop wallpaper

Good desktop wallpaper uses medium or dark colors. Light colors are painful to look at for a long time, and they distract from the lighter colors of the actual content you're looking at.

Good desktop wallpaper doesn't have distracting textures or objects along the left side or top; that's where my icons go, and I need to be able to read the text.

Good desktop wallpaper is at least as large as your monitor.

Good desktop wallpaper is the correct aspect ratio, or somewhat wider.

Good desktop wallpaper is composed like a good photograph, even if it's not a photograph. It shouldn't be muddled or overcrowded.

Good desktop wallpaper has a cheery disposition, rosy cheeks, and plays games—all sorts.


That's what I look for in wallpaper. Did I miss something?

Bonus

Today I learned that next Monday is a day off. Score.

Nobody tells me these things.

Tuesday, August 28

High

I dreamed last night that I was smoking pot on my back porch with my neighbor, which is in no way grounded in any sort of reality. Actually, come to think of it, I've been coming home from work really late for a couple months; I think I've only even seen one or two of my neighbors in all that time.

I kill myself (and sometimes people wish I would)

When a beginning programmer is just starting to become confident writing code...

...has he gotten his C legs?


[If you don't get it, Wikipedia understands.]

Dark City

I watched a pretty cool movie with Louise tonight—Dark City. It's somewhere between The Matrix and The Truman Show in plot, and as the title might imply, darker than either. Good suspense sci-fi.

Sunday, August 26

Mind of its own

Having a TV in front of a thermostat is, well, suboptimal. Every time I turn on the TV, the thermostat warms up and decides it's time to cool the house down.

Roses

When I bought my house, I became the owner of a bunch of rose bushes as well. Roses look nice. Roses also require direct care to do well. This puts me in an interesting position. On one hand, I am not terribly interested in expending effort to make plants grow better. On the other, they only require about half an hour of care a week, now that I've fixed the most glaring problems with them. Since they certainly look nicer than either dead rose bushes or no bushes at all would look, and it would be a pity to just let them die, I take care of them. And, I suppose it is rewarding on some level to see a bunch of blooming roses and know that you are partially responsible for making that happen. But, all things considered, I'd really have preferred something that looks perhaps not quite as nice, but requires no effort.

Perhaps I'll change my mind next time I realize that I've got to trim off some of the activities that take up so much of my time on a weekly basis if I'm ever going to get anything done, which seems to happen somewhat regularly. Maybe I can donate my roses to a neighbor; they'd still be around to make things look nice, but I could reap the myriad benefits of laziness.

Friday, August 24

The PTA Disbands

"Look at me! Grade me! Evaluate and rank me! I'm good, good, good and oh so smart! Grade meeeeeeeee!"
—Lisa Simpson, "The PTA Disbands"


Today... was review day, the day that looms over you and terrifies you for a week or two in advance even when you have nothing to fear.

Today... was a very good day.

Tuesday, August 21

Knowledge base

So, in the past few months I've been building up a list of high-quality articles about EclipseCrossword that answer popular questions. They're searchable, so people who have common questions can theoretically find answers near-instantly instead of waiting for me to respond to them. This is good for everyone.

The thing that's new is that now I have a bunch of articles that I can point people to instead of writing lengthy replies. This is great for me, because it saves me a lot of typing. It's also great for the people asking the questions, because they get well-thought-out answers complete with pictures and links to other articles. The only real downside is that it loses some of the personal touch. Instead of getting a personal response (or something that looks like one) when someone asks if they can make corrections to a puzzle they created last week, they get something like this:

Hi! Yes, you can add and remove words, change clues, and make other modifications to puzzles that you've saved in the past. This page will walk you through the process:

http://www.eclipsecrossword.com/help-changing-word-list.html

I hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions or comments, and have a good one.

—Travis
Green Eclipse.com personal support

(I've typed that last line so many times I don't even want to think about it. In Outlook 2003 I used to be able to type "I hope" and it would offer to AutoComplete it; it's probably the feature I miss most in Outlook 2007.)

Anyway, it seems a little less personal, at least to me, even though I honestly read their email from start to finish, thought a bit about how best to answer their question, and only then decided that I'd already written up an answer to that question and put it online. I wonder sometimes if people are put off by those responses; I might do a survey. I wonder if it seems like I'm ignoring them, or being condescending, or just being cold. Sometimes I word it to the effect of "Here's an article I wrote recently..." to make it seem a little more friendly.

What do you think? If you'd asked a question and got an answer back that was basically just a link to a page that was specifically written to answer questions almost exactly like yours, how do you think you'd react?

Troubleshooting

It took a few emails, but I knew how this one was going to turn out right from the beginning.

Problem: When I print my crossword puzzle, the boxes come out really tiny.

Solution: Don't include words (phrases, really) that are 43 letters long. 8.5" paper minus margins divided by 43 letters equals roughly 1/6" squares.

Monday, August 20

Magicks

So, I didn't know until last night that there are people who have successful businesses selling magical spells on eBay. You pay them money, and then they cast the spell from afar. You wait a few weeks, and then you realize that you paid money for nothing, and then you are told that it might take a little longer to work, conveniently passing whatever dispute cutoff line eBay has. A friend of a coworker showed me last night a "Haunted African SEX Voodo Vessel" or something to that effect. It sold for like $515. It looked like something that you could get at a dollar store that might contain hand soap. If I were an African shaman who was mass-producing magical containers, I'd probably make them look a little less tacky. This old lady (or someone using the picture of an old lady on all their auctions) is making a killing selling these random things in addition to her normal "cast spells from afar" business.

I'm kind of jealous that I didn't think of it first. The best part, though, is that she has 99.8% positive feedback. She got one negative feedback once, more than a year ago.

Buyer> Thanks but waiting to see outcome. Hope it's soon!!!
Seller> both men we worked on are crazy for you one chasing,it is up to you to chose : )

It's all kind of overwhelming. Now, I'll admit that I'm not the kind of person who believes in old ladies casting spells and charms to make me have more sex or make more money, but I'm pretty sure that if I were, I would not believe that they worked anonymously over the internet. It seems like I'd draw the line there.

Sunday, August 19

I think I get it now

For me, science fiction has several draws. The first is that it generally features bizarre gadgets, and I'm predisposed to enjoy gadgets in my entertainment because I like them in real life. But most importantly, I think, beyond the unusual storylines with their thinly-veiled parallels to the real world, is that science fiction gives writers an opportunity to have unusual characters and settings for everyday situations.

Firefly works for me not because of the wild-west hijinks, the thing that the series is "about"—I hate wild west settings for stories. It works because the crew of Serenity is great. Not only do they work together as an interesting group, but individually, they're all some of my favorite characters of their type. In the shower today I was thinking "who's my favorite sci-fi captain," "doctor," et cetera, and I realized that the crew of Firefly is all over the place. I haven't seen too many sci-fi series, never having been able to get into things like Babylon 5 or Farscape, but here's a quick list:

Favorite doctor:
Emergency Medical Holograph, Star Trek: Voyager (my favorite character overall)
(Runner up: Dr. Phlox, Enterprise)

Favorite captain:
Malcolm Reynolds, Firefly
(Runner up: Captain Janeway, Star Trek: Voyager)

Favorite engineer:
Kaylee, Firefly
(Runners up: I like all of the Star Trek engineers)

Favorite pilot:
Wash, Firefly
(Runners up: Data, Star Trek: The Next Generation; Starbuck, Battlestar Galactica)

Et cetera. The characters in Firefly are just excellent. That's not to say that the Star Trek characters are bad; I generally think that the various Star Trek series have had some of the best casting out of all of the shows I've watched. It's just that the characters in Firefly are just so likable that they're hard to resist. Firefly uses that to its advantage, focusing on developing characters and making you fall in love with them. Whether or not that's a dirty trick to keep me watching, it's certainly entertaining. The crews of Serenity, Voyager, and various Enterprises are well-cast families, and that makes them really appealing; it barely even matters that they happen to be flying around in space while you are watching.

(Now I'm trying to think of the worst-cast TV shows that I've watched more than a few episodes of. Maybe the BBC version of The Office?)


Currently listening: Alanis Morrissette—Are You Still Mad?

Saturday, August 18

Just don't call them capri pants

I'm liking these extra-long shorts. I have a couple pairs of shorts that end halfway between my knees and my feet, instead of right at my knees. Despite being less "short" than a normal pair of shorts, I find them slightly more comfortable. I think it's because there's no edge of the clothing that touches my knee, so even though I'm wearing more clothing, I'm less aware of it, so I feel like I'm wearing less.

If they were tight instead of baggy, and for women, they'd be capri pants. But they're not.

Friday, August 17

Terrifying thought

In a year or two, it will be common for people starting college to have been born since The Simpsons started airing. This seems very crazy to me.

Noble fact week: Friday

Bringing noble fact week to a close: I've never used a sick day inappropriately. I've gotten thiiiis close a couple times, but never actually gone through with it. I think the last one was when World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade was released—game release dates are always the biggest tests of my resolve.

Thursday, August 16

Unsettling fact week: Thursday

Today's fact: I hate touching flowers. They creep me out. I'm a little better than I used to be when I was young, when I would kind of freak out if I brushed up against certain flowers, but I still will not generally voluntarily touch flowers. I can at least deal with it if the situation calls for it; I can at least, for example, attach a corsage—but I wear gloves when I trim my roses.

I dunno. They're creepy.


Currently listening: The Mars Volta—Asilos Magdalena

Mastering disappointment

Early in life I learned to deal with being disappointed. But, it wasn't until much later that I learned to master disappointing others. For a well-behaved, intelligent overachiever, giving people what they want, sucking up, and doing really whatever they tell you to do can become nearly automatic. It wasn't a question of whether or not I'd do well on a project; I'd just put in the effort until I was assured a good grade. It became a neverending cycle that kept me craving approval like a little Lisa Simpson.

It didn't really stop until sometime in college. Studying really hard in a class I hated and just didn't get (Differential Equations) and then getting a 34% on the first test was a nice rude awakening, though also an experience that none of the rest of college ever really lived up to. What really did it, though, was finally realizing while answering tech support questions for my software, that nothing I could do would please everyone. Some design decisions in my software were mutually exclusive; I could make one person happy or the other, but not both. Some peoples' demands were just unrealistic. I could have worked full-time on all of my software, and someone would complain that I should have worked on something else. Nothing would satiate these people. And I think that's when it really hit me: I didn't have to. I didn't have to make these people happy. Sure, I like making people happy; why else would I spend so much of my free time offering free support for free software?

I learned to accept that some people I would make extremely happy and they would love me forever, and some people wouldn't get the answer they wanted and would be very unhappy. It wasn't my fault. They were just going to be disappointed. I learned to just be pleased with what I'd done, and not displeased when not everyone was happy about it. And that's a very important lesson to learn.

I think there are people who need to learn the opposite lessons too—some need to learn to deal with being disappointed, and some need to learn how to not disappoint others. All three are important skills.

Wednesday, August 15

Constant flush man back from hiatus

After having not seen him for well over a year, a month or so ago I saw that Constant Flush Man, one of my earliest blog recurring characters, has returned from his hiatus. (Or, he stopped doing it and then resumed... he's not very remarkable-looking.) I saw him again just now. He was washing his hands as I entered the restroom, and still washing them when I left. This brings me a sense of comfort and familiarity in my workplace.

Holy fact week: Wednesday

Today's fact: I never break the Third Commandment (Second, if you're Catholic or Lutheran).

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. [Deut 5:11]

The only exceptions in all my years are a very few isolated incidents in which I was quoting someone and couldn't think of a better way to rephrase. Since this is somewhat vague, my own interpretation is to not use God's name unless you're actually talking about God. Thus, using that word as an exclamation, or along with a request for Him to damn someone, is right out. Seems reasonable and respectful enough.

Tuesday, August 14

Naughty fact week: Tuesday

Today's naughty fact (yes, I changed the week, and I'm sure I will tomorrow): I didn't see an R-rated movie until I was nearly old enough to do so by myself—approximately age 16. I believe it was either Se7en with a group of friends, or Schindler's List in history class.

My parents didn't want me watching R-rated movies because they thought it would corrupt me and teach me all sorts of things I didn't need to know yet. What they didn't understand was the full value of a public school education. While I knew all of the most basic vocabulary of boyhood before starting kindergarten—things like "tits" and the F-bomb, S-bomb, and N-bomb—what I didn't already know I learned in the first couple weeks. By that point I knew everything from "pussy" to "buttfucker," and a rudimentary understanding of important human processes. Certain key bits of vocabularly didn't appear until the first few weeks of middle school, such as "masturbate," a process that we had to describe in more words before then, but for the most part, everything I needed to know about dirty words and sex I learned in kindergarten. I should make a poster.


Currently listening: Scissor Sisters—Tits on the Radio

Monday, August 13

The eye of truth

Creepy eye split screen

A few people have asked what's up with my current blog sidebar picture. So, here's what's up with it. It's not my eye, and I Photoshopped it a bit, partially because I wanted to just play around a little bit, and partially because I really like eyes. Here's what I did:

  • I lightened the skin tones. I actually prefer darker skin tones, but I was going for a more surreal and dreamy look, and lighter colors seemed to go along with that.
  • I lightened the whites of the eyes a lot. This picture wasn't underexposed or otherwise too dark; the eyes were roughly the correct color in the original.
  • I smoothed out the skin texture.
  • I sharpened the eyebrows and eyelashes to make them a little more distinct.
  • I removed some distracting reflections in the iris.
  • I changed the color of the iris—it was originally brown with some colored reflections and highlights; I recolored it entirely.
  • I played around with the contrast of the iris and pupil to make it stand out a little more. It's now definitely fake, but not distractingly so.

I'm happy with how it turned out.


Currently listening: Enigma—The Eyes of Truth

Sorry Brian

This happens to me all the time. It's embarrassing.

xkcd - Names

Sorry Brian. Unless you didn't notice, in which case I'm talking to a different Brian.

Weird fact week: Monday

Hmmm, let's call this weird fact week. Once a day, I will attempt to post some weird fact about myself that really has no bearing on anything. Maybe, if you're lucky, I will be concise, and not back it up with a weird story. Here's the first one.


I've never shaved with a blade. I am very clumsy, and the very idea of doing so is fairly terrifying.


I'm sure I can think of one in the next 24 hours.

My mildest dreams come true

I had a strange dream this morning right before I woke up. In it, everything I wanted seemed to be coming true. Unfortunately, everything I wanted was extremely simple or mundane. I don't remember all the details, but I do remember that a package that I'm expecting today arrived before I left for work. That was the highlight of my dream-day: an early FedEx delivery. (It's not even something that cool; it's a board game that I'm going to take to my office.) The only other thing I remember is that in my dream, I woke up without snoozing the alarm, and the bed was already made.

Then, of course, I woke up to find that not even my mildest fantasies have come true. As I see it, it's one thing to be dreaming of lesbian supermodels and then wake up to find none, but another to be dreaming of not having to adjust your bedsheets and having not even that come true.

Feedback bot

After leaving feedback on the last eBay auction I won, I found that the seller left feedback for me about thirty seconds later:

FAST PAY, PERFECT TRANSACTION, THANK YOU! PLEASE SHOP AGAIN SOON! AAA+++

Apparently even automated feedback-bots don't know how the shift key works.

Sunday, August 12

Economies of scale

[Despite how it may seem, this is really not a World of Warcraft post. It's a post about batteries.]


One of these was a forfeit, which puts us at 36 out of 70. Go us!

Well, I'd resisted it for a while, but I've finally given up and begun to accept that voice chat in games is the wave of the future. (Cue dramatic music.) Marc and I have been participating in the worldwide World of Warcraft 2v2 gladiatorial arena tournament (I'd use the word "competing," but I wouldn't want to give you the wrong impression), in which teams of two players square off against other teams of two players in intense fights to the death. Things happen very quickly, so you have to react very quickly, and when you're already using all of your fingers, stopping to type a message is not productive. So, for a while now, we've been using voice chat through AIM to coordinate our play. Now I can quickly blurt out

"I just see a mage, so one stealther; he's undead so other must be rogue or druid; burn mage"

instead of

[Battleground] [Vger] says: mage

and

"warrior has mortal strike; I'm going down"

instead of

Vger has died.

It's definitely improved our play. Anyway, I promised that this is not a World of Warcraft post. Voice chat in games is here to stay whether I want to hear the voices of the fifteen-year-old nerd playing the undead rogue in my group or not. (Hint: I do not.) So, I decided to game in luxury and buy myself a new lapel microphone, like you might see on someone being interviewed on TV, or someone presenting at a conference. I hate wearing a headset, but this thing just clips onto my shirt, and it's very comfortable. Plus, my mildly unpleasant voice comes through crystal-clear on this thing, so when the day comes when I reveal my voice to people in-game whom I don't already know in real life, they'll hear every irritating word like I'm in the room with them. It was a great use of $25.

The only drawback is that unlike a headset, this thing takes a button battery. Not wanting myself to be in the middle of a killing session when my battery runs out and I have no replacement, I looked into getting a replacement battery to keep around. It turns out that you can get two of them for about $7 on Amazon, assuming you buy them with a couple CDs so you get free shipping. On a whim, I checked eBay, and there I found someone selling lots of 100 for $11 shipped. 11¢ per battery won out versus $3.50 per battery, so I went the eBay route. I expect that these batteries should last me for decades after I manage to destroy this microphone.

If you ever need a button battery, let me know.

A club not exclusive enough

I wonder how I got onto my uncle's "spam me with ancient email forwards that weren't all that funny more than half a decade ago" list. I seem to be on a lot of those nowadays.

Saturday, August 11

The cameraman and the seizures

I saw The Bourne Ultimatum tonight. It was decent; nothing spectacular. The action is good, but the story is nearly nonexistent for most of the movie, and when storyline does show up toward the end, it's pretty vague and answers very little. That said, good action and crappy story can still make for an entertaining movie.

The biggest problem with the movie, which anyone who saw it will agree, is that it must have been filmed by a crew of cameramen hired from a hospital seizure ward. There's hardly a scene where the camera isn't jumping around incessantly and distractingly—someone could get seasick from this movie. One of the more absurd parts of the movie involves Jason Bourne looking through a high-magnification monocle into another building. Somehow he is able to keep the monocle perfectly stable, even while the cameramen filming him are wobbling back and forth like bobble-head dolls.

I seem to remember this being a problem with the last Bourne movie too, but I'm not sure. Maybe it was MI:3 or Collateral. They all kind of blend together for me.

Friday, August 10

Sir

I've developed over the past couple years a strange affinity for ridiculous salutes. I think it originated from a desire to have some sort of gesture to use to greet people in the hallways that was more noticeable than a nod but more manly than a wave. But, a regular salute seemed stiff and formal, so I started off with these weird, lazy salutes. Now they've become slightly more ridiculous, like saluting from my nose instead of my brow.

I don't really get it either.

A slight air of manliness

Well, I've successfully installed my new Segway handlebars, which was considerably more involved than I had originally assumed. It's all ready to go for tomorrow morning now, and I'll be excited to be on it again. I gave it a short test ride tonight, and I was a bit unsteady after having not ridden it in more than a month, but it's hard to say because the cobblestone road is always a bit wobbly and scary. I'm sure it won't be more than a couple minutes before I feel at home again on it.

Working on the Segway has given me greasy hands and a slight air of manliness. I say slightly because it's a Segway and not, say, a muscle car.

It's hard to believe that something so simple-looking could possibly have cost $425 and taken a month to get here. You can't immediately tell that there are a bunch of electronics inside, but even so, that seems like a healthy premium on what it must actually cost to produce, even in low volume.

Borg queen

The broken handlebars, removed from the rest of the Segway, remind me of the Borg queen's spine from First Contact—the actual handlebars are like shoulders, and the long black cords extending downward are the spine. There are even wires and circuits sticking out of the broken part for good measure. I'd post a picture, but that's a lot of work.

Wednesday, August 8

Listen to what I like

Last.fm has a nice feature that lets you create a playlist of your favorite tracks and share it with others. This is a bit nicer than, say, Pandora, because every track on the list has been personally and intentionally selected. So, here's my list.

250* excellent songs

* Unfortunately, not all are available on Last.fm. So, it's more like 175 excellent songs that you can hear and 75 that you'll just have to imagine based on the title.

Stress

I've decided that I don't actually cope with stress very well. In fact, I think I've decided that I'm actually pretty bad at it—I thought I was good at it, but now I realize I'm not. What I'm good at is avoiding and preventing stress. This works almost all of the time for me, but when I do get stressed out, I don't really have the practice to deal with it very effectively; I just can't handle it. I just have to stop what I'm doing, let my mind rest, and then try to make do. I have to relieve the stress, rather than dealing with it. I don't know... maybe that's healthy, maybe it's not.

I don't really know how I got to a point where I can just avoid stress and anger. I just consciously worked toward that for a while, and now I can control myself. My parents have fairly short fuses, and I used to too. Now I don't. I didn't listen to any subliminal tapes or anything. I just tried to act more deliberately and less instinctively. When I was younger, I'd get angry at everything. I'd get angry at computer games, I'd get angry when I tripped over something, and heck, I'd get angry if something just didn't go the way I was expecting. I finally realized, maybe around the beginning of high school or so, that I didn't like it, and that it wasn't productive. So I just decided to stop letting things make me angry.

I could probably write a book about it and make some money. Perhaps I could convincingly tell people that all they needed to do for lifelong bliss is want it. Really want it. Fill it up with a couple hundred pages of BS, and I've got myself a bestseller. But anyway, it's been pretty effective. I don't just get angry and bottle it up inside, I actually just don't get angry anymore. When I broke my Segway handlebars a month-ish ago, I knew immediately I had just lost five hundred bucks or close to it, but it just didn't bother me. I instantly reassured myself that it had happened, and I couldn't make it un-happen by becoming angry about it. I accepted it and moved on all over the course of about three seconds.

It's certainly possible that this will lead to a total mental and emotional breakdown at some point. But, so far, it seems that I can either be angry at everything, or I can choose to just accept the things I can't change and get on with life. And that seems to be a far preferable strategy.

Lost

For me, one of the absolute most stressful and unpleasant things when writing software is when you're working with an external component and eventually become lost. There's no documentation, or at least insufficient documentation, and you've run out of samples and other sources of help. You're at the end of the rope. You've exhausted your resources. Often the only thing you can do at this point is just move to working on something else, hoping that you'll receive a flash of inspiration that solves your first problem. Or, you have to decide that you don't want to use that external component, or need to use it in an entirely different way.

I find that very frustrating. Engineers are pretty resourceful, and in general good at eventually finding solutions to their problems. (They may not always be pretty, but eventually we can figure something out.) Most problems can at least be inelegantly solved with brute force. But these types of problems often can't. Engineers work by making some sense out of vast amounts of information. In this case, there's not enough information, and no matter how much you try, it still seems that there's not enough information.

I hit that point last night. I had been poking at the same thing all day, and eventually I ran out of resources. I'd searched through mountains of code, talked to every knowledgeable person I knew, and tried a hundred little variations, none of which worked. I got to that point where trying harder just wasn't going to be feasible. So, I went home, cooled off, and then worked on something entirely different later.

[Train of thought continued in the next post for those who skipped this one since it's about coding.]

Christmas in August

My neighbor's cat left a lovely hairball-esque vomit pile on my doorstep this morning. It really made my day.

Monday, August 6

But then naïve grandmothers would buy them

I would like to see a line of products that look like children's toys, but are upon closer inspection actually things that you would not want your children playing with. The possibilities are endless—sex toys, drug paraphernalia, and so on. Here's a crudely-drawn example of one of the things that springs to mind:

Pluggie

What little girl (or boy!) wouldn't want a cute little toy like that? But, sorry Julie, this toy is just for the adults.

The only problem is that somehow naïve grandmothers would stumble across them and buy them for the grandkids, and then Mommy has to explain why Julie can't play with that toy until she's fourteen.

[Note: these products may actually exist, but I swear I just came up with this idea.]


Currently listening: Gotan Project—La Vigüela

Saturday, August 4

Patching security vulnerabilities

When I returned home from work on Thursday, I pulled on my front doorknob, and it just came right off. I inspected the pieces that had fallen to the ground, and discovered that it was never attached to anything in the first place. It was just luck that it stayed in there for a few months; anyone could have twisted and pulled it off with a little force. It had always felt a little loose...

It's fixed now. But I really wonder now: what other things in my house did the previous owner's son try to repair or replace?

Friday, August 3

Frostmourne™ Hungers

During breaks today I've been poking my head around the intarwebs and finding out what I can about the news from BlizzCon today. Anything Blizzard does is news, and there aren't too many other companies who could successfully pull off a convention all about themselves, making people pay substantial sums to hear announcements of new products. (Microsoft, and moreso Apple, come to mind.)

Well, it looks like our World of Warcraft heroes are off to fight the Lich King Arthas sometime in 2008: the next chapter in the Warcraft series is World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. I was thrilled with how much better World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade was than the original game (which I certainly liked, but it was starting to get a little stale), and it looks like Wrath is going to be just as entertaining. They've been pretty forthcoming with details this time, and it seems like they have learned a lot from releasing the first expansion, already knowing the answers to questions about how they're designing loot and things like that.

Ah, the bitching over the things in the current expansion haven't even died down yet, and now it's time for another year of players complaining about things they know nothing about because they haven't played it yet, or perhaps haven't even been designed yet. The whining, or "QQing" as it's known in the biz, has already begun.

There's been no mention at BlizzCon of revealing Blizzard's yet-unannounced project (Starcraft II, World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, and ?????), which is really too bad, but not much of a big deal. The impending release of Hellgate: London in the next few months should keep my desire for a Diablo III in check.

Wednesday, August 1

Electronics and incantations

My microwave can cast a spell called "sensor reheat." I usually forget it's there, because I normally think of microwaves as having number buttons you can push to make things warm, and not things that have additional buttons that cast magical spells. I tried it out again a couple days ago, and just like it always does, it reheated my food to precisely the temperature I wanted. I don't know how it knows these things. You just push "sensor reheat," and then "start." There's no time or temperature setting. It whirs for a while, and then it stops, and then you take out your food and it's the temperature you wanted.

I'd look up how it works in the manual, but it was an open-box and didn't come with a manual. Perhaps a powerful warlock owned it and then returned it, after imbuing it with the souls of the damned in some horrifying unholy ritual. Using that button could have dire consequences of which I am completely unaware. But, until I am assured otherwise, I will continue forgetting to use it, but occasionally remembering, and being pleased with the results.