Dickens of a Blog

(May 2008)

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May 31, 2008. Saturday.

(02:30:37 AM CDT) A Little Thing I Like to Call Exhaustion

My birthday went excellent. Thanks to all for the presents, time, well-wishes, snow-cones and whathaveyou. I am going to be doing a second round of hanging out tomorrow night, but I am exhausted for now.

The following things occurred today, just to highlight how busy it all was:

  1. Played three hours of hot, humid mini-golf that descended into "fear for our lives because the monkeys might kill us" terror. Ok, not terror. Just a sense of "doesn't this look like a horror movie set" disease. A malaise, if you will. I got sweaty, lost a ball, nearly had another hit me in the face due to a glancing shot, had a snow-cone, danced a little dance, made a little hole in one, and mocked the tremendously booberific shape of one of the holes.
  2. Ate tempura at Miso House and loved it. Drank hot sake and loved it.
  3. Got a replacement copy of Good Omens. But catch this, the replacement copy was SUPPOSED to be a 2007 reprint gone remainder stock. Turns out that I got a 1990 first American edition of the novel. Which is sweet.
  4. Went looking for "pirate treasure" with this treasure hunt thing. Out of a possible $152, I found $2. Whoo. I also seem to have sunburned myself. Woo!
  5. Ate a big breakfast, sizable lunch (Schlotzky's on University with the in-laws), and the aforementioend big dinner. Guh. Also ate a single, solitary, lonesome donut.
  6. Sister-in-law got me In the Mouth of Madness. Neato! Wasn't even sure the movie was in print any more.
  7. Becca made me this really cute tea mug. I am currently in the middle of confirming care instructions before I wash it and destroy it.
  8. Paid bills!
  9. Watched Alone (by the folks behind the original Shutter). Fans of Dark Water or M.R. James style ghost stories might like it. There are some good jump-scares, but much of it is mood.
  10. Ordered the next couple of Discworld books from eReader.com. They had a huge sale going on.
  11. Got quasi-accepted to UA. More news forthcoming.

I think there are other things, but I am too exhausted to think of anything else. Night!

Si Vales, Valeo

May 30, 2008. Friday.

(12:48:12 PM CDT) The Book Market

Today, presumably because it is my birthday*, the Associated Press released an article, found on CNN.com about how the book market is likely to "stay flat" (i.e. not boom, nor presumably collapse). This is, as many of know, a matter of much consternation for me, and for many others (especially since polls have suggested that as many as 25% of Americans didn't read a single book last year and many of the others probably read less than one book a month). But it's a matter that has been around for a while, you know, because I doubt people read more 50 years ago. Book lovers have been odd ducks for some time.

Looking at the AP/CNN.com article, a couple of quotes stood out to me, explaining what some of the problem might be: "As publishers pray for a new children's series to equal Harry Potter and await the next novel by "The Da Vinci Code" author Dan Brown, a report released Friday predicts a tight market for at least the next few years." and "Barring another Potter-like phenomenon, Greco believes the children's market will barely break even."

The last quote is especially poignant with the additional quote that "The hottest market, according to the industry study group, isn't books, but standardized tests, boosted by the requirements of the No Child Left Behind legislation." That's right, our millions of dollars of education money is not going to teach children to read primary texts, but to teach them fake their way through some questionable test.

The reason these quotes strike me as important is because they show part of the problem. We aren't teaching our children to read with books like Harry Potter, no matter what the optimists say. We are teaching them to respond to another fad. Harry Potter was just a different sort of Pokemon, a different sort of Power Rangers. And if it penetrated across more demographics and appealed to adults, too, that only means it reached much the same market as the one that found The Da Vinci Code as groundbreaking and worthy of the greatest-selling-book-evar-(!) award. Another fad. Another book that everyone talked about and so non-readers read just to see. (It helps that both were controversial, I assure you).

As long as the book company continues to be short sighted, as long as it aims for moving millions instead of reaching out and inspiring new people to the hobby, I don't see it ever doing well again. A single book lover like me will spend 10-20 dollars of every paycheck on books. Maybe more. I have spent as much as $3000 on books in a year (and that doesn't include in store purchases, that was entirely online where it was easier to track). Cory Doctorow talks about having 10,000 books in his collection (a number that makes me drool). Brian Keene, Neil Gaiman, Chuck Palahniuk, Stephen King - all of my favorite writers discuss books with passion in their voice. They promote the art and speak at benefits. But the industry doesn't want one Doug Bolden buying $500 on a steady basis. It wants 500 Casual Buyers spending $25 on the hot new hardcover even if 400 never buy another.

And this is why I am trying to buy more and more used books and ebooks. It is self-destructive, in a way, but the book industry doesn't seem to care about strong readers any more. And weak readers on a large basis don't seem to care about the book industry all that much.

So it goes.

Si Vales, Valeo

(01:56:10 AM CDT) It's Me Birfday!

Huzzah to me! Huzzah!

Sadly, besides to say that The Battle of Wesnoth is a fun game, I can't think of anything else to say.

Si Vales, Valeo

May 29, 2008. Thursday.

(01:22:52 AM CDT) The Next Couple of Days, The Last Couple of Reviews

Tomorrow, I have the first job interview that has meant something to me since I started Book Gallery. I think. That sounds about right. The Barnes and Noble interview that I went to was after I had decided that retail work probably wasn't for me. Same for the FYE. The library interview at UAH was less of an interview and more of a "thanks for dropping off your resume". Tomorrow's (well, today's by technical terms) is actually an interesting sounding job and it should fit well in my schedule. Too bad it requires skills I am "rusty" in. I'm sure I'll do fine, mind you. Just rusty is all.

Then there will be two nights of fun. First night, maybe mini-golf. Hopefully mini-golf. Second night, drinking. That pretty much sums it up. Next week, though, I am seriously in need of a Saturday Night Reading Club. Haven't done that in a while.

Rambles aside, there are several reviews that I have posted over the past couple of days. I'll end by linking to them:

Alright, time to read Snuff and get some sleep.

Si Vales, Valeo

May 28, 2008. Wednesday.

(06:42:29 PM CDT) More on the Idiotic, Ironic Radio Ad

BoingBoing.net posted an update on the "Sit Down and Shut up" radio ads. Maybe. While the one is authentic, the other thing they link to (a blog post by the guy who supposedly wrote the ad itself) is at least a tad more questionable. It is a single blog post, with very few other marks of authenicity, that repeats the basic message of the ad: there is something called freedom of speech so you can shut up. If that sounds like a dumb statement, welcome to the wonderful world that is that ad. The blog post also cites that the Constitution is clearly a Christian document (I suppose "In the year of our Lord" is the clearly), that Believers (which means Christian, it seems) are a silent majority, that people are offended by the Truth of the message (this, of course, despite a lack of authority and with a lack of actual statistics to back him up), that is immoral to force your philosophy on anyone, and that a car dealership operates only under the rules of the "good book". I really can't tell if the thing is meant to be authentic or not. Part of me is feeling a fake while reading through it, though it's overall message which contradicts itself matches that in the ad.

So...publicity stunt? I simply don't know.

Si Vales, Valeo

(01:35:02 AM CDT) The IMDBification of Our Political System

Ok. Admittedly, I am the sort of guy who just spent an hour playing Resident Evil 3 just so that I could shoot a ton of zombies with an assault rifle. I am the sort of guy who picked up Richard Laymon's Night in Lonesome October this afternoon and read it in something of a single sitting (two sittings, broken up by the need to grab a quick lunch). Take what I say with a grain of salt. But doesn't it seem that our politics have degraded to the substance of an Internet message board? Not only are websites chock full of commentators whose matery of the English language often brings into question their rabid desire to have it be an official language, which could be seen as the most immediate example of what I mean, but even official news websites and shows have stooped. While it was all fun and games to turn Clinton's "let's bend the rhetoric" games back on her when she mentioned the June shooting of RFK, the fact that some have actually tried to make a big deal about it suggests much the same level of IQ plummeting fanatacism as when someone attacks a person on IMDB for misspelling a movie's title. See also the last two or three big controversies in this election.

Look at Obama getting busted for not putting his hand on his heart during some rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner". Note that the others are facing away from the flag (other flags) and yet they are treated as doing it right. What's more, for all of those smug assholes who think you are demonstrating that he hates America, I have two things to say to you: 1) you're racist and the truth will set you free, and 2) read the Snopes.com write up. The fact that a glorified photo op of a cook out has become a rallying cry is exactly what I am talking about. Imagine that you go out to a ballgame and, while there, bend over to pick up a bag of spilled popcorn during the national anthem and someone takes a photograph. Does it matter why your hand isn't over your heart? Does having your hand over your heart for every single rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" for your whole life somehow make you particularly worthy to be president? Of course not. It's a dumb reason to make any sort of personal decision about someone. Especially when there are plenty of photos of him putting his hand over his heart in other places. Of course, nine times out of ten the same crowd that makes a big deal over this are the same folks who still e-mail each other about his middle name being Hussein.

What got me started on this was a FoxNews clip where a woman jokes about him and Osama Bin Laden needing to get killed. Sometimes acronyms just aren't enough: What. The. Fuck? Seriously? SERIOUSLY?

Si Vales, Valeo

May 26, 2008. Monday.

(11:47:41 PM CDT) 31 in four days...

I turn 31 in 4 days time. Actually, considering it is almost Tuesday, 3. I have nothing huge planned, not by a long shot. Just a couple of friends, some Dragon Garden, and maybe some mini-golf if the weather is permitting. There is an interesting coincidence involving my 31st birthday. Aimee Mann's new CD, which includes the song "31 Today", will be released on May 30th, at least to people who order it from her website. I think I will take advantage of that. The two songs I have heard off of it have been excellent. I figure it's worth a whirl (plus, she is independently labeled and the cost is only $15).

Memorial Day weekend has had some seriously tiring activity. Friday seems to be a wash. I'm sure something happened but I can't remember what. Saturday we went out to Grant for Alicia's graduation. It was short and sweet, relatively speaking, but the drive to and fro mixed with the lunch afterward zapped me. Then Katie and Jason came over and hang out for a while. Sunday is also something of a wash, a mixture of various errands. Today we went hiking, did a little bit of North Plateau and all of South Plateau (for the first time, since the trail tends to be really busy and isn't that much of a hiking trail, more of a walking path, we tend to use it only to get other trails). I think I am going to request doing that again a couple of times. With the parts of NP mixed in, SP equalled about 4 miles. Spread out over a little less than 2 hours makes a good little hike.

Afterward, had lunch with her folks and then went "shopping" for scooters/Vespas. We found out there is a dealer in Madison, and will be going next Saturday to view their lot. Not sure if we can afford one, unless it is used, but Sarah really wants one and as long as the payments are kind of low (this term being somewhat relative) then it should be ok.

No word yet from Tuscaloosa. This week should be THE week, though. If I don't hear anything by this week, I am pretty much going to start assuming I didn't get it.

Got my first round of birthday cash. Got a copy (through Amazon) of Neal Stephenson's Cobweb, a well-used copy of Brotherhood of the Wolf from Moviestop, and a copy of The Orphanage from the same. Moviestop, by the way, has a great sale of something like half off several of their used movies (the ones on the table were like $2.99 - $3.99). I don't know how long that is to last.

I also performed the biggest whoopsie that I have done in a while. I have a slightly old account on Columbia House DVD, which I use to get movies in "bulk" whenever sales are aligned. I had done this recently to get 4-5 new movies for about $60, including a couple of special, limited editions. I was on the website trying to think out how much to budget for paying them off this weekend when I decided to enter some information in a box not related to pay-all-now box down below. Went I hit enter, though, it acted as though the pay-all-now box was the active one. This, of course, being a week where Sarah and I don't really have $60 to spare. But, hopefully, I think we have it all worked out. If I come back in tears in a couple of days time. Whoops.

Si Vales, Valeo

(12:44:08 PM CDT) Omigod, Like, you know, irony much?

Just because I have heard this argument from about 800 people now, all of who are too stupid to vet their own speech through their head before saying it out loud, I felt the need to quote a bit of something I saw in a BoingBoing.net post (you can go there to get the whole scoop):

Since we all know that 86 out of every 100 of us are Christians, who believe in God, we at Keiffe & Sons Ford wonder why we don't tell the other 14% to sit down and shut up. I guess I just offended 14% of the people who are listening to this message. Well, if that is the case then I say that's tough, this is America folks, it's called free speech.

Just in case you were wondering: yes, that's a car ad. Note to idiots everywhere, I am never buying a car from someone who is that dumb.

Si Vales, Valeo

PS: For those wondering, I am not talking about the Christian portion. I bolded the bits that show their lack of IQ.

May 23, 2008. Friday.

(11:13:56 PM CDT) Bookshop!

One episode remains before I have seen the whole of Bernard Black and company. Ah, sigh. I have an idea for my own, heavily Black Books inspired sitcom, which I will have to post about sometime.

Currently, a Python script that looked like if dougs_state is with_a_headache would return inact a then block. I'm just saying.

But, before I go to bed, I want to say CONGRATS TO ALICIA RIDOUT ON GRADUATION. YAY DUMB ASS REDNECK CLASS OF 2008. She got third place, but don't get excited, it's a school full of idiots. That's like getting third place in a beauty contest full of people of Innsmouth. Sure, I kid, but can she tell me what the relationship between the intensity of light is and the change of distance from the light source? Can she? What's the capital of Cincinnati, huh? Which of the Marx Brothers wrote the Communist Manifesto? Public education. It's rubbish.


Si Vales, Valeo

(03:47:35 PM CDT) This is go time, code red!

We have medical reports that confirm the dead are returning to life! Maybe not attacking the living, yet, but let's give her a few days.

While contemplating the sure to come zombie apocalypse, relax to nice, cool refreshing glass of the memiest Weezer video ever:

Si Vales, Valeo

(01:11:19 PM CDT) Notes about Alabama senators

Most of my friends mention not knowing much about Alabama senators or congressmen. Neither do, not really. I know some names here or there, and I know some general stances (I remember one of our senators supporting, for instance, a ban on any literature that could be understood to promote gay lifestyles being paid for with federal or state dollars). After reading this morning, that Shelby is behind/supporting a bill that would require fingerprint information on "loan originators" (why? who knows...) I decided I needed to look into some other things. I found the following links to be of interest:

I especially recommend the "On the Issues" links, which show their voting records. They have a very similar voting record overall, with many tidbits that might be interesting to read. Both are anti-abortion, "anti-civil rights" (a term which indicates that they are against any sort of race/orientational leanings), anti-public education, anti-union, anti-healthcare, pro-war, pro-tax cut. Both of them have been against the rights of detainees, and for increase in the power of the CIA to obtain information. Both oppose the US pulling out of Iraq, and oppose regulation on campaign funding and lobbying. Both have been re-elected at least once (with Shelby being re-elected several times). Sessions is up for election this Fall. By the way, Sessions not only is for removing the ban on CIA's ability to torture, but has also stated that anti-war protesters do "not represent the American ideals of freedom, liberty and spreading that around the world. I frankly don't know what they represent, other than to blame America first." That's right, remember when I said the other day that some use the phrase "Blame America First crowd" as a random buzz-word and talking point? Sessions is one of those people."

Take this information as you will. It is a lot of reading to go through, I admit, but I find it interesting and important. It can be done in under an hour.

Ok, some other random tidbits of news and a short Bag o' Links:

  • What our local congressional candidates have to say on the issues. Some surprising stuff here. They hold that homosexual marriage is a state issue and should not be part of the constitution. They are against No Child Left Behind. Most of it non-surprising. The Artic Wildlife Refuge is touted as some miraculous fountain of youth that will cure all of our foreign oil ills. They are pro-life, by and large. Rather than remove troops from Iraq, they promote focusing on developing stability in the country.
  • Big Spring Park to be Set Aside for Recreational Use Only. This is after a few controversial building decisions in and around the park worried people that it would be boxed in by businesses.

Si Vales, Valeo

May 22, 2008. Thursday.

(10:41:51 PM CDT) Well, I don't seem to have died from a heart-attack

I've had some weird chest pains. They are not "heart-attack" pains, I don't think, because it's to the side of my chest and it seems to hurt to the touch. My left forearm is numb, however, but that could be entirely psychosomatic. I think I've done some weird rib-bruising thing in my sleep. My heartbeat is coming in at about 65-70 beats a minute, and seems fine and normal. I have tinges of a blood pressure drop, though, with standing up and whatnot making me light headed, and my breath is shorter. Sigh. Oh well, if I die, this is the last post I'll ever make I suppose.

Do you suppose you get to know how every book ends, in Heaven? Is that plausible? Because, really, that's nice. That would take, like, half of the stress off of my life right now.

Speaking of stress on my life, the same high gas prices that are pissing in Ford's cornflakes [article: Ford cutting production, especially larger vehicle production, *clap* *clap* *clap*] are now pissing in my pumpkin-seed granola. At the current price of $4.05 a gallon, and assuming an average of 25 miles per gallon, and saying that a trip to my mom's house is about 270 miles, this comes out to be about 45 dollars each way, all other things staying put. $90 dollars for gas alone, for a two-three day trip, with no food or anything else added into the mix. Crikeys. It's doable, but it seems quite likely that we will 1) have to postpone the trip a couple of paychecks, 2) take a Greyhound bus with some plan-ahead discounts or 3) do both.

Ok. Enough of the negative (heart-attacks, things that induce heart-attacks, etc). Time for a bit of the old positve. Um. I got a copy of Iron King in the mail after waiting a couple-three week for it. Bought it a few weeks ago under decent discount and just had to wait for it to ship. It's another in the same kind of line as Ultraman released by BCI Eclipse. Kind of cool to get 1960s/1970s Japanese Giant-Robo-Monster live action stuff for not a stupid high price ($10-$30 per box set depending on how well you shop). On top of this, my pre-order copy of Snuff came in. And the book selections from The Horror Book Club for June include Coffin Country (which I wanted) and a Jack Ketchum (which is always good). And Sarah and I have been watching Black Books and she loves it. At least I think she loves it. And I finally got to see Diary of the Dead (plan on writing a review of it tonight, along with a couple of postponed reviews). So, I mean, there are a ton of good things. Including I have an interview next week for a job that shouldn't pay a lot (in that it will be sporadic work) but will pay enough to help and will work well with my planned career.

And, if you are in the neighborhood, I can say that John's Big Brother is the place to by beef in town. As long as you don't need organic, massaged Italian beef or something. Sarah and I got a Boston Butt (ok, so not beef, but hush) for $1.25 a pound, a shoulder steak for $1.99 a pound, and ground chuck for the same. $15 netted us about 10 pounds of meat, which should do us for a week. It's local, it's small and cozy, it's fresh, and it's cheap. There you go, a well-earned endorsement.

I'll end it with this article, posted for two reasons. One, anyone claiming that heart problems have overtaken infections diseases as a leading cause of death seems to be barking up 1998's tree. I swear that people have mentioned this before. For a decade. The other reason that I posted it is the contradiction between the first and third paragraphs, which say, respectively: "Chronic conditions such as heart disease and stroke have surpassed infectious diseases as the leading causes of deaths worldwide, according to a U.N. study released this week," and "The United Nations' World Health Organization had predicted that cardiovascular disease would overtake infectious diseases as the most common cause of death, but not until 2010." Who knows what the difference is meant to be, there, but it looks like a copy edit mistake or something. I guess.

Si Vales, Valeo

May 20, 2008. Tuesday.

(02:10:48 PM CDT) Updated the Wishlight

About the only time my Wishlist gets used nowadays is about the Christmas time (or when I buy something off of it for myself), but I wented ahead and updated it anyhow. With my birthday coming up in a couple of weeks, there is a chance that someone will want to get me something. You can see the newly updated wishlist at:


There are a wide range of books and movies on there, stuff most of my friend wouldn't mind buying. I have a handful of pre-orders on there (I think my most wanted items are all pre-orders). I'm not sure how pre-ordering works when you buy it off a wishlight, though. I kind of keep them on there because I can sort through them myself. But, the Wodehouse, the EC Archives, the Absolute Sandman, and Final Watch are probably the most beloved items on the whole thing and none of them are currently available.

There are a couple of items that Amazon does not carry that I would adore as gifts. The first two still count as pre-orders: Tales from the Crypt (EC Archives) Volume Three and Weird Science (EC Archives) Volume Three. The last item that comes to mind (and that is easy for me to link to) would be: Sunao Inami's Impulse of Acoustic.

Besides that, any sort of weird little gift certificate or book you don't think I have or whatnot would be just fine. And getting me nothing is fine as well. I really don't mind.

Si Vales, Valeo

(01:54:29 AM CDT) By the Way

By the way, just to get this off my chest: I HAVE THE COOLEST WIFE, EVER!. She got up at 11:40pm (with her having to wake up at 5am) to drive me down to the Midnight sale for Diary of the Dead at MovieStop.

Neat, huh?

(01:38:37 AM CDT) Why, You! *shakes fist*

While watching Black Books with the wife tonight, I mentioned how, though I am somewhat closer to Bernard (or will be in 10 years), I feel for Manny because life happens to him like it happens to me. To sum it up: life is fair, it shits on everyone. For those afraid that this portends a new wave of negativity, I will have to refer you to my May 13th post. If you remember, I conclude, there, that the Universe is 5 years old and that it has a crush on me.

Anyhow, my luck goes something like this. I used to pay for the "PLUS" version of Hotmail. It gave me some neat features, the #1 neat thing was that I could check it through KMail (a big deal for someone who got 50-60% of e-mail through Hotmail at the time) and my account did not go through random expirations. Some Hotmail accounts would get deleted after a month of inactivity. While the chances that I would go a month without checking the one were minimal, the fact of the matter was that I did often have life or lags getting in the way. The 19.95 a year per account was sort of a small price to pay for those two luxuries.

But, due to some changes in Microsoft (including the possible change over from allowing any old e-mail client to check an account and just a increasingly "user friendly" interface that complicates things) I decided to let my accounts expire. Or so I thought. The credit card that was linked to those two accounts had expired last year and cancellation seemed to be something that require lots of talking and mamby-pamby chatting to get done, so I thought I would "sneak it in".

I got a couple of e-mails saying that my account was expiring and Oh Dearie and whatnot, and it seemed to work. After a month, I didn't get anymore e-mails. I figured it had died and went to Heaven. But, nope, I'm not that lucky at all. Turns out that somehow, through some manner of being, Microsoft managed to get the expired credit card to except the charge, which rolled over to the new card. This card COULD take the charge, but this meant that I got charged $39.95 for the privilege of having about 19.9 gigs more space with Hotmail than I would ever need. Sigh. Anyhow, I got in touch with them, after much fighting and debate with the interface. The actual customer rep was extremely helpful, and despite their "refunds are not guaranteed" policy I think he was able to get it refunded (the charge went through on the 17th or something, so about 2 days ago). I may have accidently cancelled my hotmail accounts altogether, but that's ok, too. I barely use them. I only use the one to chat and I only use that one to chat with one person (my sister-in-law).

Of course, here is the kicker. Since the card that was their account had expired, what's the chance that the refund will get bounced? I don't know, but I am going to use that argument if the refund doesn't show up in a couple of days, that I will. I updated my credit card information on MS's file, but since that is a "new" credit card and not the one technically charged, I don't think that will help. Who knows?

Like I said, life is fair. Crap involving Microsoft happens to about 97% of the world's computer literate people. I'm lucky in that it seems like my crap will be solved in 1-3 business days. Hopefully. If not, expect to hear my rants on it.

Si Vales Valeo

May 19, 2008. Monday.

(02:17:53 PM CDT) Life Changes, Habits, Others

Sarah and I have been changing around a few of our lifestyle tidbits. We have been trying to buy more whole foods, buying more fresh and organic/humane meat and avoiding prepackaged meat, aiming for things that are reusable and/or rechargable, cutting down on packaging by buying in bulk, and so on. I notice that some of the "buy-in" costs are higher, but the overall price seems to be lower. Once you get the canisters and the cooking utensils and the whatnots and what-have-yous out of the way, the actual product price is a bit less. And, even when it is cheaper to get more disposable and refined products, the overall oppurtunity cost is higher. If not for me, then for the world at large.

Today's mental theme has been the "Blame America First" crowd. Which has some strong, diehard members who will always think that our country is scum no matter how many changes we make. Of course, the term "Blame America First" is often applied to people who, like me, think that America must take responsibility. If we use 25% of the world's resources, we need to be doing 25% of the world's work. That only seems fair. I mean, think about it, we are only 5% of the world in population but use up about a quarter of what the world produces. If the remainder of the world truly embraced the American lifestyle, we are talking about 500% of the world's current usage output being consumed. There is no way things would be sustainable at that rate. America exists because the rest of the world conserves. We have to come to terms with this and aim for the long term impact assessment.

As a side-note, Barack Obama definitely won my vote with his speech in Oregon in which he said "We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK.". That's not about blaming America first. That's about hold America to the high level of expectations that it sets for itself by its place in the world and its place in the food chain. Let's call it the new noblesse oblige. Or, let's drop the notion of goodness from our actions and become a new Rome. We are trying, as a country, to straddle some fence and this has never historically worked.

Sure, people will hate us anyhow. There are people who will hate us for historical reasons, or for social reasons, or for psychotic reasons, but when studies find that we throw away about 27% of our food* (yes, in the middle of Americans whining about increased food costs, we wasted over 1/4 of the food available) then we find ourselves somewhat justified as a target of at least mild annoyance. This is the gas addiction problem all over again: we have stopped being smart consumers and have started allowing ourselves to be delusional and think that someone must fix the problems that we are responsible for.

In completely other news, I tried out a new experiment today. Since the legal status of kreteks stays in flux, I purchased an ounce or two of organic clove and then ground it up and mixed it in with a black cherry tobacco. This should be "healthier" than many kreteks, in that I can regulate that no preservatives have been added. I'll experiment with a few other blends. The taste is excellent, but the overall effect is fairly strong. I don't think I would want to smoke many bowls of this (I only smoke about two-three pipe bowls a week, as is). I need to find rolling papers, but not sure where to get those without a) ordering in bulk or b) getting rolling tobacco (some stores sell them in combo packs, other stores require the purchase of both in order to get the papers). Maybe the Humidor has them? If this works, then I will definitely share good recipes with friends. Almost all of my friends smoke cloves on odd weekends and wouldn't enjoy regular, chemical laden cigarettes as replacement. This will likely appeal to them.

Si Vales, Valeo

*: for some more information, you can read The Wasted Food Blog.

May 18, 2008. Sunday.

(11:10:05 PM CDT) Still Alive. Playing with Security Bits. Monkeys?

I've had a moderatley busy weekend, but busy in the sense of what I normally mean busy: time was spectacularly wasted. Alicia came over to stay for the weekend. Friday night seems to be a bust, at least in the sense of me not recalling a damned thing about it. Saturday featured a few fun bits. Grocery shopping (how fun is that) and then that night some friends came over (the Book Gallery bunch, lacking a couple due to prior engagements, and my nephew). We went swimming in massively cold water, watched a few episodes of Black Books, drank a few new beers (new to me), ate some pizza, played Super Mario 64 (a vast improvement over Super Mario 63, let me tell you). After everyone but Alicia left, we watched Juno (she loved it) and then watched Cloverfield (she and I both liked it, but with reservations) and then played some more sm64 until, surprisingly, we finished getting all 120 stars (!) and then I whupped up on Bowser first time trying (!). However, the prize for doing these things are a triple jump that does nothing and 100 men. It's mostly just about the act of completion.

Today was something of a lounge day. Watched Flight of the Living Dead, watched most of the movie The Reaping, fed the fish down at Big Spring Park, cooked some chicken vegetable soup, and went shopping at Garden Cove. I got 3lbs of mixed cereal which tastes excellent.

I have been playing around with some of the Gmail encryption stuff I blogged about and it works mildly. The only problem I have found with it to date seems to be things failing when they are signed (specifically, when they are signed by the sender in Gmail) but I have not quite dug into it enough to find out what is going on. I will continue to tweak around with it, and do some research about helping me Windows peeps get GPG set up on Windows so that more people can play with it, with me.

Since I have already fallen asleep twice in the past hour, while sitting upright, going to go and brush teeth and get the ready for bed stage underway, and pass out while reading some book or another.

Si Vales, Valeo

May 16, 2008. Friday.

(02:37:36 PM CDT) Gmail Encryption Stuffs

You guys know me, I like to play around with encryption and cryptography just for the fun of it (nothing I do is really encrypt worthy, ever, but that doesn't mean I won't encrypt it just to play). I figured I would share this link because most of you use Firefox, quite a few of you use Gmail, and I thought it would be fun to play around and build a circle of friends who use safe messages:

HOWTO Encrypt your Gmail.

And, while I'm here, might as well ALSO share the sad (and short) story of a man who lost a spitting contest because he decided to run up to the balcony to get an extra boost.

Si Vales, Valeo

May 15, 2008. Thursday.

(11:17:55 AM CDT) Old Fashioned Bag o' Links, Daily Show on West Virginia, Good/Bad Obfuscation

When I had to tell two family members "No, Barack Obama is NOT a Muslim" it was with a sense of expectation. A lot of my family get their news solely from word of mouth or from a mixture of that and Fox News. A few wrong facts are to be expected. When I heard one of the people from my hometown say "I'm not going to elect a nigger because he'll put blacks in power and take it away from white people and I can't take that chance," I just pretty much kept my mouth shut. Sure, not standing up to the tyrrany of racism is sort of approving of racism, but, with apologies to MLK: NAWF.

This is largely why the clip from the Daily Show made me laugh so much. It is not so much because West Virginians are dumb (well, I'll leave that up to your interpretation). It is because as much as I defend Alabama when I get the chance, hearing the things that South Alabamans say come out of another state's mouth is, well, special:

Another topic (rather than the election and gas addiction) that has been on my mind has been good versus bad obfuscation when it comes to confusing someone trying to crack into your personal information. The concept of the brief cases with the little three numbers occurred to me. Let's say you have something of value in that briefcase, ok? Three numbers means you can have 1000 combinations (assuming all three digits can range from 0-9). Assuming from 5-10 seconds to try out each possible combination, that comes out to be within 5000-10000 seconds, or, if you assume the middle, about 2 hours to crack into your briefcase. Anything work two hours of work is not safe. However, anything not worth two hours of work is relatively safe. Just adding one more digit increases the work load to 20 hours. Two more digits and it will take a week (of constant working) to get into it. By this time, however, the question of the briefcase integrity comes up. Also, two three-digit pads does not make a six-digit pad. It only doubles the workload, assuming the pads work separately. No, those briefcases are bad obfuscation. They only hide the truth is a small field of untruth.

A common technicque is to the hide the truth in a unsuspected field of untruths. For isntance, a briefcase that has a few wrong combinations that "work", but cause a central compartment that is relatively undetectable to stay locked. Or, well, the idea of hiding datat in "plain sight" through things like HTML. For an example of how easy it can be, look up at the previous paragraph (the one that begins "Another topic..." If you have Firefox, then highlight the first sentence of that paragraph and then right-click and "View Selection Source". A simple message that might just be so harmless or so timely that the chances of finding it and acting upon it in any way is almost impossible. And, had the message been, say, true and useful, then there are a dozen things I could do to make it more hiddden. View the source of the words around Firefox and you will see sort of what I mean. A bit of code that looks like it might be of server-side usage until you reverse the letters and realize that this might also mention old baileys at 11pm.

I wonder how often people will check my source code now, just to be safe?

Now, for today's Bag o' Links!

  • Following in the footsteps of a president whose big promises (from ending the War on Terror, to space exploration, to budget fixes, to fuel economy, to ecological repair, to diplomacy) all tended to involve years in which he would have no power (forcing the country to either continue his policies or put up with his supporters saying that his positive achievements were abandoned unfairly, an act of rhetorical pissantry): McCain predicts Iraq War over in 2013.
  • Doris Lessing complains that the Nobel Prize effectively ends her career as a writer. She certainly makes it sound annoying.
  • A fun one from Cracked.com: 5 Psychological Experiments that Proved We're Doomed.
  • Another humorous article: Top 10 T-Shirts to Get Arrested In.
  • You know how one of the BIG reasons why we should hate Mexicans who come over our border is because they cost us $10,000,000,000 to $30,000,000,000 per year in tax-payer money? What the hell, then, should we do with the information that single parent families cost tax-payers $113,000,000,000 per year? I would guess probably nothing. Well, I mean, something. But those who tend to hate illegal immigrants probably aren't about the money anyhow.
  • Here's a little tidbit for Huntsville peeps: Huntsville hospital gets no tax-payer money.
  • And I'll end with this, a website about becoming complaint free. Sure, when I stored the link to post later, my original intention to say "Well, I just don't like it and I find it to be stupid and dumb" (you know, irony) but I won't go there. Because I do stupid and ironic all the time. Instead, I'll let you go and make up your own mind. But I will say that the phrase "Your thoughts create your world and your words indicate your thoughts," makes an interesting case against negative thoughts but fails to note that our world is actually created by collective thought process. Sometimes which must be overcame. If you define "complaining" as only recognizing problems but not acting upon them, I agree than cutting it out will help. If, however, complaints are a way to organizing an offense against problems, then they can have a place. The issue, of course, being that most want to complain ("Wwwah! gas prices are high and I wanted to drive to San Francisco for the fun of it!") without action ("Carpool to save money? That's dumb!").

Happy complaining!

(03:36:15 AM CDT) Ways and Means

Sarah has good news. Ask her next time you see her in person.

Now, I give you a comparison between the Windows way, and the Linux way. Windows way: charge $79.99 for a product that converts documents to PDFs and lets you work with PDFs and blah, blah, blah...which has minimal customer support (apparently) and bugs. The Linux way? Um, free.

Another tidbit I want to share is a poem by Robert Chambers (found in In Search of the Unknown):

Where the slanting forest eaves,
Shingled tight with greenest leaves,
Sweep the scented meadow-sedge,
Let us snoop along the edge;
Let us pry in hidden nooks,
Laden with our nature books,
Scaring birds with happy cries,
Chloroforming butterflies,
Rooting up each woodland plant,
Pinning beetle, fly, and ant,
So we may identify
What we've ruined, by-and-by.


Happy Reading

May 14, 2008. Wednesday.

(03:26:31 PM CDT) Something I Posted in Reply to a Friend's Journal

When a friend mentioned how gas prices are rising despite the fact that supply is staying the same (thankfully, people are finally beginning to note that OPEC and the Middle East may not be the real culprits here), I felt the need to point out that the other half the equation is definitely demand. In order to do so, I posted the following reply, which I am copying here:

Sarah and I have been talking a lot about this lately. I have an essay about 45% written in my head on the subject. One half of it deals with the question of regulation (considering the central place of gas in our lives, how come it is not regulated when, say, our telecommunications and hydroelectric power are?). But the other half takes a "soapbox" stance on how addicted our society is to gasoline, and how expecting people who can make a profit off of this addiction to not make a profit is naive.

We transport plastics from all around the world just to save pennies on worker costs, and burn up gallons of fuel to do so. I mean, think about how much fuel was spent to bring us a truckload of Barbies, whose bodies are made out of petroleum. We transport fruit from across the country just so we can have Californian apples or Washington grapes or Central American bananas or whatever. We like big name stores with their huge distribution centers that use up thousands of gallons of gas to transport things back and forth to just to aid in regulation. We pave our roads, in a fitting cycle of life, in a petroleum derivative. More and more Americans are trying to move out into residential areas and drive anywhere from half an hour to two hours to work. Our very notion of a vacation involves traveling for hours to some new spot. Such a large amount of business that could be handled locally, or electronically, becomes an excuse for businessmen to fly around the world.

Every scrap of plastic and most synthetic fibers involve petroleum. A good number of medicine involves petroleum. A large amount of adhesives and other household chemicals, ditto. Etc Etc

Our country is hopelessly addicted to petroleum. And, one of the truest signs of addiction, we keep blaming others. It's the scientist's fault for not coming up with an alternative. It's the government's fault for not regulating or enforcing price caps. It's the car maker's fault for not giving us better models. And we deny the level of addiction. Suggestions to change our lifestyle usually bring about scorn and incredulity.

I've been working out some ideas for how to break the addiction, and some of them are along the lines of: 1) Buy locally as much as possible. If an apple travels 1000 miles to get to you, that's a lot of gas for a piece of fruit. We can grow corn and potatoes right here in Alabama. We do not need to add gallons of extra fuel "for convenience". Supporting local farmers not only keeps the local economy stronger, but increases tolerances to several allergies. Large farms also tend to use a much larger scale of equipment, though in relation to smaller farms, the gas cost might be about the same. 2) Avoid chain stores as much as possible. Their reliance on distribution centers is just one good reason. 3) Buy used (or use something like Freecyle) as much as possible. This helps cut down on transportation and construction costs. 4) While plastics are unavoidable, try and buy products that minimize plastic waste. Disposable anything should be cut back. 5) By certain foods in bulk and freeze them or store them. This cuts back on packaging costs, shipping costs, and so forth. 6) Drive smartly. Do grocery shopping in single goes, instead of many small trips. Carpool.

Sure, none of this tips are absolute. There are times where you can't help but have to drive way out of your way to get something, or when you can't find something but in a chain store. But I'm not talking about cutting gas out, I'm just saying reduce gas needs by 10-20% and suddenly a lot of profit is going out of the window.

Over the next couple of days, I will continue to brain storm ideas related to this topic and posting them here.

Si Vales, Valeo

May 13, 2008. Tuesday.

(02:13:43 PM CDT) The Truth Behind "I Don't Watch TV Shows" + Balancing Budget (i.e. why me?)

When Kris Kristoffersen sings "Why me, Lord? What I have ever done..." our new hip/ironic mindset translates that into a whole other meaning. Why me, Lord? Why do you hate a fellow? Of course, the song "Why Me?" is about unexpected blessings as opposed to unexepected cursings. I really don't know why that occurred to me, but when I said "Argh, why me???" outloud while balancing the budget, after a simple little mistake made math look off when it was actually dead on and cost me half an hour of life trying to find where the whoopsie was, that was the thought process that occurred to me. I wonder what the song would be like if I sung it?

Just an FYI, I'm the one who thought the song was "I lost my thrill on Blueberry Hill" for the longest time. I'm pretty sure "Why Me?" would be a less a happy song in my hands. "Why me, Lord? Is this a test, a jest, something else?" Something like that. And I don't even quite mean it. I've always been one who has joked, though seriously, that God is out to get me and the Universe enjoys trampling me down underfoot. But I've always said that with a certain joie de vivre. If fate cares enough about you to make your life miserable, well...you are in the big league. If the World-at-Large changes even one single solitary atom around just to make you stumble and drop your favorite ice cream cone or to give you a case of the sniffles on a pretty day like today, then you have truly gotten somebody's attention. If you think back to kindegarten when that boy, or girl, pushed you down and that meant they liked, this just means 1) the Universe is infantile and 2) it has a crush. On you. Or, well, me. How sweet is that?

As for another ironic statement, I was thinking today about how many of my friends say "I don't watch TV" and how many of my friends are liars. What they mean is "I only watch it at random, I don't have many favorite shows" or "I only watch TV shows on my computer" or "I don't watch much TV" or "I watch less than the average American" or "I only watch Movies on TV". Something like that. I say it, too. I, too, am a liar. Because what I mean is that I don't watch American TV. With the exceptions of Mythbusters, How It's Made, Dirty Jobs, and, when it comes back for a second season, Flight of the Conchords, very little American style TV appeals to me for long. If Arrested Development came back, I would be all over it. If Scrubs, Family Guy, King of the Hill or The Simpsons could return to their writing level of several seasons ago, I would be all over it. I don't watch "much TV" because I simply can't before I go insane and want to scream at folks involved. I do watch a lot of indie and horror (usually of the indie sort) movies, and find that American indie movies tend to be quite excellent, but when it comes to television show watching almost all of it that I do is foreign or older American TV shows that are classics. I was looking at the series I have queued up for watching, and you can see what I mean, being mostly a mixture of British and Japanese shows with a couple of off-air American shows at the end:

  • Robin Hood the second Series
  • The Colour of Magic mini-series
  • Kamen Rider Kiva
  • Kamen Rider 555
  • Dekaranger
  • Magiranger
  • Ultraman
  • Ultraman Nexus
  • Ranma
  • Full Metal Panic
  • Gunslinger Girl
  • Tales from the Crypt
  • Twilight Zone

Over the next four or five months, that adds up to several hours of shows but I would not be able to spend a fraction of that time watching the current American output. I just can't. There is something wrong with the rhythm. Also, other countries spend a fraction of what we do on budgets. They make full-length, well-done motion pictures for under the cost of some of our sitcom episodes. And so many of their series still retains a sense of fun, wonder, and entertainment that American shows seem to be trying to replace with easy jokes and repetitive storylines.

Anyhow, that's what I mean when I say I don't watch much TV. I do. I just have to import it first.

Si Vales, Valeo

(02:24:38 AM CDT) Neat Picture and a Website Update

Just wanted to share two things with you real quick. First off, I have added a review of Kamen Rider: The First. Secondly, this picture (which is of an electrical storm caused by an erupting volcano, click the picture for the original URL):

Si Vales, Valeo

May 12, 2008. Monday.

(10:26:13 PM CDT) For All the Ladies in the House

Proving the (joking) statement that white girls don't have a thing for Asian guys is false, I present me female readers with the following pic. And, yes, I have been searching around the Internet to uphold my promise to show off some lovely Asian men.

For those who don't recognize him, about the only tell-tale sign (besides that hair) is his mark near his right eye, which might be more obvious (wink) on this page (and yes, it's safe for work).

Si Vales, Valeo

(12:41:17 AM CDT) Happy Mother's Day, All

To all you mother's out there, happy (now belated) Mother's Day. It's a rough job, and probably the most central job to the whole off our society.

I suppose yesterday (the 11th) would also be UAH's graduation. They tend to have them on Mother's Day. The only person I know that graduated this year is Laura Nabors: congrats to her. I had several friends who had indefinite classes to finish: Ryan, Vandiver, others. If they graduated, congrats to them, as well.

I've now had my headache since Friday. It is getting quite bothersome. I have thought about things I can maybe do to get rid of it, but nothing really comes to mind. I just need to keep flushing out my sinuses, I suppose. Tomorrow I may try and spend some time without focusing on any given thing. The only problem is how hard that is without going for a walk and that will just expose me to more pollen. Trading one headache for another is not a good thing. I guess I will sit at some window and stare at Barnhills for a while. Maybe Barny the Barnhills Mascot will be out. I can look upon him and be thankful that I am not him. Then, maybe I can go down and punch him, and just deal with pollen. Ah, joy.

I posted rough reviews (as in, I would like to edit them later when I feel more like writing) of Casshern and Equal Rites. I still need to get some sort of reviews up for Mr. Stain on Junk Alley, Juno and, now, Matango. I'm going to be reading Nate Kenyon's Bloodstone some tonight, but maybe I'll have time to get a little bit of writing done.

Si Vales, Valeo

May 11, 2008. Sunday.

(03:18:49 AM CDT) The Storm Has Passed, Some Movie Watching

I'm on my way to bed now, seeing that the storm has definitely passed. I hope no one got hurt by it, outside of the standard storm sort of stuff, but I am gladd to see any amount of rain falling on Alabama right now. It's been absolutely miserable as of late with the dryness and the pollen. And if we don't get more rain by summer, we are going to be in an unquestionable drought. If it can drop another 5-6 inches before the storms leave over the next couple of days, I will be happy.

Sarah and I have been watching movies over the past couple of days. We saw Daywatch last night, and Juno and Casshern tonight. I still need to watch Matango and possible The Mist tomorrow.

But, for now, I need to sleep.

Si Vales, Valeo

May 09, 2008. Friday.

(09:42:15 PM CDT) Article about "Great Tit's = Great Fun for Us Red-Blooded Americans

Sure, I know what it means it it says Great Tits Cope With Warm Weather but that doesn't mean I didn't chuckle.

Si Vales, Valeo

(03:08:42 PM CDT) A Shout-out for Garden Cove Cereal

Sarah and I found this out yesterday, and I wanted to share. Garden Cove (the awesome little grocery store in Huntsville, near Five Points, that sells an amazing array of vegetarian, natural and organic foods) sells cereal in bulk. Most of their stock looks to be Nature's Path (the cereal brand I was bragging about the other day) and is only $2.99 a pound. To put that in perspective, if I were to order, say, Froot Loops in bulk from Amazon.com I would get 100 ounces, or about 6 pounds, for $24, which is $4 a pound. Or, I can get a fully organic cereal that is healthy for me and that actually has both substance and more taste than just artificial things for a dollar cheaper. And no need to pay for someone's cardboard box that will just be thrown away.

Really, seriously, that is cool.

Si Vales, Valeo

(02:54:40 PM CDT) Today's Post Brought to You by the Letter "E"

Actually, today's post is brought to you by a nice, warm cup of Twinings Earl Grey (with milk), a nice bowl of some nameless Black Cherry aromatic I bought from the Humidor, the VAST CD Nude (aka their U2 album, by the sound of it), and a very sleepy Dougie.

I've heard absolutely no news on this anywhere so I want to be the first to say that I have indeedy got my "economic stimulus" check. I put in an order to Amazon.com for about a dozen little things that I and/or Sarah have wanted, and I ordered a couple more Discworld ebooks at 15% off (about $6 each). I also made a "splurge" purchase in a copy of Sunao Inami's Laid Back Computing. I've been meaning to order one of his CDs for a while and since he just released a new one, which is limited to 1000 copies, and it uses the phrase "Rhythmic Noise" in its description, I figured why not? Besides, its a legitimate Japanese import for under $20. That's also cool.

My sinuses have been off and on all day, random waves of wooziness and sneezing fits. I am not as sick as I was a few days ago, but until the unpredicatble waves go away, I won't consider myself well. I have no idea why the pollen gods are being especially horrific this year, but their ways are ineffable. All I can hope to do is acclimate to their inane demands.

Tonight, Sarah and I get to make a random trip through a few more errands. I finally will get a pair of shoes that I have been needing for a while and we are going to see about getting her some new glasses. And we might be getting that mini-freezer. *crosses fingers* Here's hoping. hahahah

Si Vales, Valeo

(10:26:52 AM CDT) The Civil/Criminal Divide

In the past, I have talked of the Civil/Criminal divide, how we allow cases that should have at least the flavor of a criminal proceeding to be shunted into a civil case. Most times this is used as bad excuse to bend around laws and to push for custom made punishments. But, as far as I know, this is going to cause some problems when it comes to, say, seizing proper needed in an invesigation. Looks like there is a new rule out there to enable the RIAA to keep treating cases in civil court but to get the seizures needed: Houses Passes Bill that Will Allow Them [Cops Working on RIAA Cases] to Take Away Your Stuff.

Si Vales, Valeo

May 08, 2008. Thursday.

(01:16:37 PM CDT) Bother and Tarnation

Being a natural worrier, you would think that I would be used to it by now, but apparently I have not yet innoculated myself to the fibrous tendrils of shivers that overwhelm me. It is now Thursday afternoon, only a handful of hours before my economic stimulus package thingie is supposed to be deposited "no later than" if I am going to get payment. And it's not there. Which means one of two things: 1) It will show up in the last minute or, 2) I'm not actually getting one. The way of the world points heavy and hard to #1. This is a massive, nation-wide undertaking. There is no way in hell that it can be expected to go 100% smoothly. At the same time, the power of #2 is getting to me. I never received any sort of letter saying yay or nay about how much money I am getting. I don't know if anyone else did, either, but according to their website there was supposed to be some sort of notice sent out. Did I somehow fall between the cracks? Or monkeys hijacking my stuff? I haven't a clue.

I know there is a 99.5% chance that by 2pm tomorrow the money will be there, and a 85% chance that if it is not then it will be there sometime shortly thereafter. But I find myself worrying, all the same. Sigh.

Well, to lighten my mood (and possibly yours), here are a few links to pondering:

  • The Fake Detective (not safe for work). This is a site dedicated to busting fake photos (generally nude, maybe all nude) of stars that circulate the Internet. I remember back in the late 90s when fake celebrity photos were a big deal. We had barely, as a people, begun to understand the ideas of what is now known as photoshopping (and what I call gimping). Even though photos had been faked through other techniques for years (do a search for "Stalin faked photos with Lenin" and some should come up). Somehow, though, the concept of altering digital photos surprised us, and I remember seeing many a website and getting many an e-mail claiming that some favorite starlet of mine had been topless. I find about half of these of historical interest if nothing else. It warms the shackles of my heart. Also, being used to somewhat sophisticated techniques nowadays, looking at several of the older and worse ones is worth a chuckle. Note, there is a HUGE amount of boobies being shown. Just warning you before you dig in.
  • I found that link through Cracked.com's 5 most Ridiculous Causes To Ever Get a Website. The other four are interesting as well. The bit about "The Electric Slide", by the way, is true. I had a friend who offered "Electric Slide" classes at UAH and he received a cease and desist letter on the subject after he had alread ceased and desisted. The website was different than the one linked to by Cracked (both are still up). You can read my friend's stuff in his September 27, 2006 LJ post. I could have sworn I made a reply there, but one of the interesting tidbits is the fact that most versions of the Slide are described by Ric Silver as being wrong. Since names aren't copyrightable, and I don't know about dance steps, this means that not doing the dance steps right probably breaks his claim. He would most likely havea trademark case, but I don't think a copyright one. Also of interest, back to the Cracked.com article: hot-air balloon accidents and the pledge to not complain.
  • And, to bring back my long dead "They Have Never Seen a Horror Movie" series: Small Leather Jacket Made Up of Living Stem Cells Dies. It's, um, amazing?
  • Also from BoingBoing.net: Suspected Terrorists Turned Out to be Tourists. They were taking pictures of a ferry not because they wanted to blow it up, but because they were curious. Yay for determining abnormal behaviour based on false concepts of what the average human does and/or will do.

Si Vales, Valeo

(12:33:11 AM CDT) Forgot How Awesome Boondocks Can Be. Upgrading Kubuntu. Working on Oblend

Just got done watching the Boondocks episode where Martin Luther King was not killed but merely put into a coma. So much about that series is so top notch, even the bits that go a bit too far. I can't wait until I can get Season Two in a box set and watch them all.

Well, I personally will be somewhat in and out as far as Net presence goes. Upgrading my personal box out of the stone-age. It originally ran Ubuntu 5.10, and then swtiched over to Kubuntu 6.06 adn 6.10 (at which point a lot of the updates sort of went wanky). Part of the problem was I did most of the updates by hand. This time I am letting the Adept package manager handle it. Hopefully it won't cock it up. I'm pretty much just keeping everything on my computer running on bare minimum and closing it when not in use so that the update manager (which has spent about 12 hours now, and has about 12 hours to go) gets all the files and installs them as it needs.

For the time being, you can click here to see the map of the (former) Empire of Oblend Cehr. This is a setting that Niko and I are working on for super simple Heroes of Oblend!. Make note Sarah and Alicia, especially, because the names of the countries are, well, meaningful.

I am the stone that the builder refused...

May 07, 2008. Wednesday.

(01:18:18 PM CDT) Alabama Credit Union: "The Interweb. Yeah, We're On It..."

Apparently the Alabama Credit Union has a seriest of TV spots, including this one (note the C64 computer as well as the "how you found your last girlfriend" punchline) that I dig:

I've been a member of the ACU since 1999. Nearly a decade. I've recieved nothing but good service since then. Just glad to get the oppurtunity to give a shout out in return.

Si Vales, Valeo

(11:05:28 AM CDT) The Good and Bad Things in Life

It is pretty clear to me now that I have lost the battle towards not being sick. I don't know if it is the sun, or an increased burst of pollen, or what, buy my head is very stuffy and headachy and I have no energy. I don't really cough so much as moan, so it's not really in my lungs yet, but my sinuses are dark so they are in a fairly icky spot. The bit that let's me know that I have moved on from normal allergic reaction is how weak my arms and legs feel. I noticed last night, while watching Robin Hood (series two of the new BBC version), that my hand kept shaking while I was holding on to my tea filled flask. Ah well, I'm going to take it real easy today (not that I don't take it real easy most days) and see how that goes.

Turning now to good things in life. I found a new type of cereal, last night, on my trip to Walgreens. It was labeled as Flax and Pumpkin Seed. Looking more at the label this morning, it is by Nature's Path, and they have an amazing array of cold cereals. You can get Hemp, Pumpkin Seed and Raisin, an amazing looking Muesli, Millet and Rice, just a wide variety of grains. They are all organic, vegetarian, and (if the Flax and Pumpkin Seed are any indication) are most excellent to eat. Raw sugar, fruit juices, and molasses replace any sort of refined sugar, and the grains are notably whole.

Well, that's my mix of good and bad things for the morning.

Si Vales, Valeo

(12:07:33 AM CDT) Election Results Coming In, Little Brother Review Posted, the Walgreens Beggar.

Playing the new Nine Inch Nails CD: The Slip. Thanks to Niko for that one. Turns out it is free, too, if you head over to the website (if you wants the copy for your own self).

Walked over to Walgreens to pick up a couple of supplies. There was another Beggar. Or, I should say, one of the regulars. This guy is an older black man with a mustache. Beer belly. What 'stache. Shows up with a bandage on his arm and begs for money to get his medicine. Have seen him a couple of times before. For all I know, he has to get regular treatment and has a legitimate reason to be begging, but (like the other few regulars), he only tends to show up on weeknights after about 8:30, which strikes me as an unlikely time to be trying to attend to pharmacy related needs.

Got back, and then finished up my full review fo Little Brother. You can read it here. Heh, I apparently have waaaaay too much time on my hands (not my quote, by the way, just in reference to something I said about LB elsewhere, and that was a shorter review than tonight's).

As of right now, it looks like Obama won NC by a 56%-42% margin and lost IN by a 49%-51% margin. Popular vote totals for the two states looks like about 1.51 million total votes for him versus 1.3 million total votes her for, giving him a night percentage of about 53.7% of the votes cast. He ends up with a 77 delegate addition to her 68 delegate addition, which puts the race back to roughly the spot it was before PA gave her about 10 net delegates. Considering that 10 delegates was some sort of sign of a campaign shift, before, I'm not sure what kind of response she is going to make, now. My guess is that she is going to say that his means she should stay in the race and that people have spoken in IN. Let's wait until the morning and find out.

Si Vales, Valeo

May 06, 2008. Tuesday.

(01:29:50 PM CDT) Break from the Outside World (literally). Resume Updates.

I've spent the last hour or so tooling back and forth and trying to squeeze in more information on my resume. For awhile, it was mostly primed for bookstores and libraries, now it is a little more well-rounded. There are about as many words on it as you can get on a resume.

Besides that, I've mostly just come to conclusion that I am going outside as little as possible tonight and tomorrow. My sinuses are aflame right now and I've been dizzy all day. Just too much sun and pollen exposure. I'm taking, now regularly, Walitin and it is helping (life is better after a dose) but I overwhelmed my body by the getting a good amount of sun on top of the other things, and I'm suffering for it. Tonight I think I will just take a full break from exercise (I try to every 3-4 days, anyhow) and tomorrow night I'll do some weight lifting or something.

Si Vales, Valeo

May 05, 2008. Monday.

(11:39:34 PM CDT) Like, Oh My God: Doug Proved Right by Internet for YEARS Straight!

Not one damned day after posting about modus clintonis (arguing the affirmation of the consquequent to try and win an argument, which is wrong and but horrifically overused by Americans as of late, posted here) I get the pleasure of being proven right, again. When Stephen King says that illiterate people don't have much chance besides to besides to join the military he did not say anything in anyway about the literate people who join. Go ahead, read his caption over and over again, but you cannot change "If you can read, you can walk into a job later on. If you don't, then you've got, the Army, Iraq, I don't know, something like that. It's, it's not as bright... into "If you join the military, you must be dumb." Now, I'll give you that Stephen King probably even MEANT to say that people who join the military are mentally mistaken about what consitutes a good life decision (I know lots who think this) but nevertheless, that is not what he said. What he did say was "If you can read, you have choices, if you do not read, you have to take more of what's given to you." He just made the mistake of saying that in a place where anyone who suggests our country is on a bad track is obviously of Satan, of the Eastern Elite, or a dumbass. Bonus: if you look at the comments (brace yourself) then plenty of good, Christian souls wish him dead. That's refreshing.

Alright, a few more links to get off me belt. On this page I found the following image about comparative suicide rates. Something bad is going down in Hungary:

Also, just because I was doing some research on the subject, here is the Wiki on Methicillin Resistent Staph Infections.

Si Vales, Valeo

(10:17:28 PM CDT) First Time I've Had True Fast Food in Awhile

The last time I had fast food prior to tonight was Steak and Shake on March 7. That puts it at nearly two months without any. Tonight we ate out at Dairy Queen (I did, Sarah just got Ice Cream) and the experience was mixed. The food was good, but that calorie drenched food with hidden additive format just does not sit well with anymore. I've felt kind of sick to my stomach sense then. I think, next time I eat out, I may be one of those adults that gets small portions. I really do have a big appetite, but my last over indulgences have been home cooked. There is just something different about the whole thing when it's cooked at a fast food place.

Si Vales, Valeo

(03:53:39 PM CDT) Not Just Your Average Bag o' Links (Little Brother, Gedo Senki, and some NASA News)

I have three really interesting links to pop up for you. I've arranged them in significance, but they are all quite interesting.

Nasa Employees Buy Seemingly Personal Items. Something like a quarter billion US Taxpayer dollars have disappeared buying personal electronics, toys, and other doodads. Not only is this amount only over about three years, this was also drained from the severely cash strapped agency during its most budget tight days.

I watched part of a Japanese copy of Gedo Senki (which is sort of a retelling of some Earthsea story lines). I ended up not liking it. There was just some odd vibe that did not sit well with me. Once it comes out on US DVD, I may try again but probably not. Anyhow, it looks like Le Guin did not like many of the same things I had problems with. She mentions in her "first response" the issue of color (as in race) and the problems of handling the evil side of the soul. She also mentions that some fidelity should be shown to a work that is four decades old. While I agree, considering the way that Hollywood takes older works and uses them as a cheap plunder, and other countries do the same or worse (see, maybe, Dragonball and The Journey West), I almost wonder if it is worth fighting about. One day, I am going to give up movies and television altogether, I feel.

And this is some odd coincidence, since the last time I think I mentioned either one in my blog, I mentioned them both, but Cory Doctorow's new book, Little Brother, has been released for free on his website. You can get information from BoingBoing.net's post on the book. I have been reading through the plain-text version for the past hour and it is really terrifying. I highly recommend you either buy a copy or download one and give it a try.

The story is as follows: a group of kids are arrested after a terrorist attack in San Francisco. They were only trying to flag down someone to help a friend who had been injured, but their actions were interpreted as potentially hostile. Using the "everything is ok for security" excuse, the Department of Homeland Security effectively tortures the main character for information and then makes threats. Now, how likely this, I don't know. The logic that the kids were arrested because they were not in a shelter when actual terrorists could have just as easily been in a shelter strikes me as simple plot movement. What happens afterward, though, is extremely interesting. Doctorow has peppered this book with his own personal feelings, his experiences with bookstores, real life techniques on how to find spy devices and to fool ineffective security issues, and various talking points from both sides. It is young adult cyberpunk, but really useful for all ages.

Si Vales, Valeo

May 04, 2008. Sunday.

(10:06:20 PM CDT) A New Nickname for Sarah. Sunburned (Oh, NOES!). Other Tennis v Allergy notes. Modus Clintonis. The Return of Lonelywood

Sarah and I played tennis for a good while this afternoon. We started playing about 4-5pm, which means that we were pretty much right out in the sunlight. It quickly became obvious that we were going to need some sort of protection because we had one pair of clip on sunglasses between us and one workable hat. We ran down to Walgreens and bought Sarah a hat and sunglasses that would fit over her current glasses. By the way, for those interested, Walgrees currently has a sale on Walitin (their knock off of Claritin) for $13.99 and buy one get one. And, this sale includes packs up to 60 pills large, meaning you get 120 Walitin for about the price of 15 or so Claritin. This enabled us to keep playing a three set game (um, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 with me winning, I think). Too bad today was a very unlucky game of tennis.

First, I got exposed to enough sun to actually make my face pink and to trigger a mood change. Yay for allergies.

Secondly, in the middle of the third set, Sarah struck a small bird with the ball. It was one of those 1 in a million chances (the ball went kind of wild, but not too wild, and the bird happened to not only fly over the court, but swoop kind of low to that side). The two hit hard enough that the ball was knocked over to the side and the bird kind of slammed into the ground. He had a wing extended and I thought might be broken but when I got close to him he flew up and into some bushes. I think, in retrospect, that he might have assumed that a flying predator had made a try for him. Hence him not wanting to fly again. Either way, he was able to use his wing so I hope he was just stunned. Sarah was mortified.

At any rate, her new nickname is Birdkiller. Sarah "Birdkiller" Bolden. Oh, yeah...

After several years of searching, I finally came across a guy who had shared the Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter OST and had the song "Lonelywood" for download. Man I have missed that song. Anyone wondering why I liked it, you can give it a listen.

On the brink of rambling, I am, so I will end with one little bitty observation. Not only has Obama been protrayed, and with a straightface by some, a Muslim, a Christian under the complete sway of his pastor, and an anti-religious man but at least one of those attacks (the anti-religious one) involves a classic logical fallacy: Affirming the Consequent. To sum it up, with a kind of innocent example, if I say "When it rains, my doorstep gets wet" then this is not the same as saying "my doorstep is wet, therefore it rained". It may even seem to make good sense, but you can quickly think of times when a doorstep could be wet and no rain was involved (it could have snowed and the snow melted, we could have washed a dog on the doorstep, etc). A slightly more rigorous version could be "All dogs have teeth. Humans have teeth". "Humans are dogs". While no one would argue (except in exceptional cases) against the first two, the last one is obviously nonsense.

In a slightly different light, the form of "if p then q" being proven with "q" might means you are just stating what is currently going on and using it to try and prove speculation. For instance, if I wake up one day and find something not working on my computer and assume that Sarah did it, it is not hard for me to affirm the consequent by saying "If Sarah screwed with my computer, it will be broken...it is broken...therefore...". Pretty much anything can sound true in this case.

As you can see, it is flawed in both ways.

When a man says "Those who are bitter turn to religion, guns, and resentment towards others" he is not saying "A man who turns towards guns, and/or religion, and/or resentment towards others is bitter." That would be affirming the consequent. I mean, for any of you out there who think that Obama is deeply in the thrall of Wright, this would mean he is a Christian, which means he was saying that he is bitter. You cannot work logic backwards like that.

In honor of how quickly she jumped on the oppurtunity to apply bad logic, I plan to call affirming the consequent in order to win an argument modus clintonis. Here is how to apply it. Let's say that your son spent all of his money last night. People who do drugs spend all their money. Therefore, your son is own drugs. Punish away.

Here's another one. Use this one to pick up sexy girls in bars. "You are sexy. I sleep with sexy people. Let's screw!"

That's some good logic, right there.

Carry me
I'm just a dead man...

May 03, 2008. Saturday.

(11:51:09 AM CDT) Woo-hoo Lightning Strikes and the Secrets of a Happy Annoying Marriage

Sometime around 5am this morning, a lightning strike hit close enought our apartment to shut off the power for a few seconds. As far as I can tell, no damage was done to anything (most electronics go through surge protectors, anyhow) but it was a little unnerving to make a flying dashing through the house just to get stuff shut off. If you tried getting on this site before 10am or so and weren't able to, that was why (I got it all worked back out once I woke up).

My other bit to share is an article which talks about the secrets to a happy marriage: be annoying.

Si Vales, Valeo

May 03, 2008. Saturday.

(02:30:57 AM CDT) Hours of Fullmetal + a Couple of Links about Huntsville from Al.com

First off, I have that song by Fall Out Boy stuck in my head, for no real good reason as far as I can tell. The one with the whole "Baby we're going down, but we're going down swinging" or some such. I wish it would die. I won't even say I hate the song, though I mostly have been annoyed by its existence, I am just tired of my brain popping out random songs about once a day.

Sarah and I watched Volumes 10, 11, 12 and 13 of Fullmetal Alchemist tonight. That would be 13-14 or so episodes, at about 23 minutes an episode, mabye 6 hours give or take an hour. We finally reached a point where I was tired of waiting to see how it ended and we just shoved right on through. It's an unbelievably balanced series, especially for its length. It does hit some weird, rough spots about episode 30-40, but the other 41 are top notch. The ending is heartbreakingly emotional. We will be watching the movie tomorrow. No way am I ending with that more or less cliffhanger.

For a long time, my favorite overall anime series have been Escaflowne, FLCL, and Gankutsuou. FMA is definitely being added to that list.

Here are a couple of links about old H'ville. The power surge I talked about did happen, looks like it was caused by a downed tree on the other side of town.

Also, for your consideration, here is an article about expansion of UAH and how it effects a group of home-owners. It's an interesting read, and somewhat complicated.

Si Vales, Valeo

May 02, 2008. Friday.

(02:31:16 PM CDT) Did they Go There? Yep!

The plot-line of Dekaranger episode 26 involves steroids versus hardwork and underground fight clubs. So, the question is, would they go there? The answer is: yep...

A Tyler alien named Durden

Si Vales, Valeo

(01:33:12 PM CDT) Some Weird Powersurge. The Fog Fall. Waxing Nostalgic Again.

I played The Fog Fall this afternoon (it's short, free, playable in the browser, and linked in my write up on it). It was fun and a nice, short of time, but right at the end of playing a loud pop when through my speakers and it sounded like it also went through Sarah's computer. I assume it must have been a powersurge. I have a vague memory of things blinking, but it might have been that blinked instead. I don't reall have a clue. When we first moved into this apartment, this sort of thing happened kind of often. Annoyingly so. Lately, though, it seemed to come to an end.

Well, today was a bill paying day. Yippee. Got all the bills paid, got money set aside, and got everything taken care of. After a few months of stumbling through a lot of payments, Sarah and I have actually managed to sort of upright ourselves and get a few things grounded as of late. We had a couple of paychecks where I was able to pay some things down or at least slightly ahead. We don't have enough breathing room to be comfortable, but we do have enough room to not be uncomfortable anymore.

Still, I need to start looking for a job by the end of the month. Just about anything will do, and I have at least one lead already. I only need to make about $200 a month, and possibly only for the length of this summer or so. Once I get more information back from grad school, I'll have a better overall plan.

Going back to waxing nostalgic. For the second time in as many days, a random person from my past occured to me. This time it is Joanna. I do not remember her last name. She was freckled, lived in CCRH, was a tad overweight (I think less than me, but I'm not really sure), smoked, got on the nerves of some of her roommates, drink Slimfast with meals because she liked the flavor, worked as a desk assistant in CCRH, and had a crush on Jimmy. These are the only real descriptions of her I remember. That's most of my entire memory bank dedicated to her. Those few words. I couldn't even tell you her hair color, but I think it was either light or dark brown. During the Fall of 1999, I hung out with her kind of often, though I'm pretty sure she was friendly with me to get a chance to spend more time with James.

The only event that I recall with her in it was a trip to Beauregards in 1999. I was going there with Alicia M. (at the time, now Alicia H.) and Latoric. Alicia M. was good fun to hang out with (though a poem I once wrote about her was misconstrued by someone, I'll talk about that at a later time) and Latoric was a good friend and roommate at the time. He and I liked hot wings and though it would be fun. Joanna met us in the parking lot and wanted to go, too. But we had to wait several minutes for her. We were on a tight schedule, and had only 45 or so minutes to eat, and I recall the quarter hour wait being really frustrating. Once she met up with us, we went to get our food. She ordered the hottest thing on the menu. Then, while the first three of us are enjoying our meal (though now rushed), she spent a long time complaining about how hot her food was. She seemed to be suggesting that we give her some of ours because hers was just too hot. I remember being quite pissed of her that day, fairly or no.

I have no memories of her past that day.

I'm sure she didn't die, but that's it for me.

Si Vales, Valeo

(01:55:44 AM CDT) Random Thoughts about 2am and the Hidden Dangers of the Robots.txt File.

Amy W. hated the concept of Livejournals and other online blogs. She protested them violently, angrily, spitefully, ugly and long. Her anti-LJ response actually masked the fact that she kind of wanted her own website, and had reserved Aphemia.net for a couple of years before letting the whole thing drop, and the fact that she had a few accounts here or there that she only rarely told friends in person about. How do I rectify that? I really don't know. I started keeping an online blog about 2002, mostly as a place to just jabber about random stuff. Most people I know kept them, and sometimes still keep them, as a place to rant about things that are bothering them. At the time, I pointed out that several people treated them as either a mass e-mail of sorts, addressed to all those who read the blog, or as basic way to get information out there. She would often agree that they were no better or worse than any form of Internet-enhanced communication, only to spew out another mouthful of spittle next time she came across some friend posting to one.

And if you think I am exaggerating, I assure I am not. She once slammed her fist into a computer desk over and over again because I was reading a friend's journal and she was filled with rage at the fact.

Part of me wonders if she hated the concept of people being that open, or if she thought people weren't truly open, or if she hated the fact that everyone could get published (albeit, only to a small group of readers). Maybe she hated prebuilt blogs, since she did not really say much about my blog of the time. Maybe she was just an angry person and that was a way to get it out. I don't know.

That thought just occured to me while I was writing a review of House of Blood. Most of my reviews on this website are notably personal things. I talk in the first person. I describe the environment, at times, in which I read the book or saw the movie. I mention hisotry with related materials. They are similar to blog posts, I suppose, and this made me think about someone coming along and going "stupid review" (completing some mystic circle) and well, that led to the thought above. About someone hating someone else being personal and online.

One thing being open on the Internet does is open you up for attack, as another friend of mine found out recently. Her random rants and vented frustrations from years ago were used a weapon against her and made out to be a laughing matter. Nothing she said was inherently bad, but her harassers thought it was good fun to quote the things she wrote in her blog and try to use things and feelings she might have had 4-5 years ago as some slight on her character.

That's a problem. If anything, I try to be so continuously and effortlessly open that it sort of negates the ability to take things out of context. Anyone who wants to sort through my back entries to get juicy dirt on me is going to have to sort through a lot, and anyone else coming along will be able to get the whole story. That's my hope, anyhow.

Tonight I found a different sort of attack that had never occurred to me. Most websites have a file called "robot.txt". It is a simple, seemingly innocuous file that lists which folders should be crawled by bots and spiders and the like. It also stops website mirrorers from mirroring those folders. You can see mine if you want. That pretty much means all agents can scan everything.

But what if you have a few administration folders, or private information folders, that you don't want to share with the world at large? It sounds like a good use of a robots.txt file that says something like "avoid the wifespictures and siteadmin folders". Especially true in administration stuff, which is often linked to files because active content pages need log in information and to verify updates and all that. So you put the bit about don't allow this or that folder to be indexed in a robots.txt and you leave it. In the process, you also leave a good clue at what folders you don't want touched in a plain-text file that is viewable by anyone who just searches for robots.txt. I looked around at a few websites, and found that most did not give out any viable information in their robots.txt (in fact, almost all that were there said what mine said). Just FYI if you are going to run a site, keep an eye out for that.

Good night

May 01, 2008. Thursday.

(01:10:50 PM CDT) Information on the Rebate Check Status.

Ok, after a week of joking about "being rich any day now", I decided to actually look up information about when the payment is coming out, how much it is, and so forth. Here is the basic rundown:

First, the pay schedule. The news articles I read on it were way off from this information, implying that electronic payments were going out over three days or would just start this previous Monday and go until they were done.

The amount you get back is based on the amount you paid in minus the amount you were already refunded. With a minimum of $300 per qualified taxpayer. This means if you and your spoused paid in $1000 and got $300 back, then you will get $700 back for a refund. If you paid in $1000 and got $650 back, then you would still get $600. If you make below a certain amount or above a certain amount, this changes, but not sure where exactly. The cut off is the $600/$1200 you have been hearing about. In other words, if you are single, paid in $1800, got back $400, then all you would get back is $600.

If you owe any number of things, from back child support to student loans to a couple of other things, this amount will be deducted from your total. If you have a child who is eligible for deduction (18 and younger, I suppose) then you get $300 per child. I am not sure if this is a $300 automatic payment or if this is your limit, above, is expanded by $300.

The upshot of this is, at least as far as Sarah and myself are concerned, that we will be getting only a little over 600 dollars. That's right, we made enough to just get over the minimum, but not enough that we got that much over it. Our other refund turned out to be about 125% of this one. That's ok, though. We were going to budget about $600 in for a computer for me (for grad school) so that's out. The remainder is going towards a mixture of books, Fullmetal Alchemist DVDs, a travel fund to see my family, a few clothes here or there, some tennis equipment (possibly a new racket for me, but definitely some odds and ends), probably a small deep freezer and whatnot. Oh, and an eye exam for at least Sarah. A lot of little purchases we have been putting off.

Si Vales, Valeo

(02:26:32 AM CDT) Start of a New Month (woot) and The Scariest DVD I've Ever Seen on Amazon.com.

Ok, I'll be hitting the sack in just a moment. I just wanted to say huzzah, a new month on the blog!

And, at least for the past few months, Dead Deer Walking (3-pack) strikes me as the scariest thing I have seen on Amazon.com for some time. *shudder*

Happy May Day, y'all!

Written by W Doug Bolden

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