Dickens of a Blog

(April 2009)

If you want to comment, then you can contact me. I will post comments to the journal as soon as possible, unless you ask me not to share them.

April 30, 2009. Thursday.

(12:26:46 PM CDT)

Worst Book Ever ;->

One of the strange children of the Internet is the "Worst _____ Ever" phenonmenon. While people have no doubt been saying things like "That was drivel!" and "ABSURD!" forever, it seems like only in the Internet, with it's audience-granted anonymous idiots who delight in finding their writings automatically stored, could you have someone actually thinking they can assign the "worst ever" status to anything. And I by anything, I mean practically everything. You also have people who have no concept of superlatives, that by saying "Worst movie ever" twice a week, they make their opinion look like it is worth about, well, what I guess it really is in the cosmic scale of things (oh, snap, no I didn't!). Internet, here is a tip, try "That movie was worse than most," or "That movie was so horrid that I do not think I will see it again, though I will spend much time ranting about it because I am bored and the Internet tells me to do things and I done them," and stop sounding like an overreactionary troglodyte (no offense to that bagger at Kroger).

Seeing as so many people clamor to assign "worst" status to practically everything, it is not with much surprise that I came across Goodreads constantly updated, and user submitted, Worst Books of All Time. It is also not surprising to see by "worst", they mostly mean "popular books that I do not see what the hype is about". Sure Da Vinci Code and Twilight have issues, but worse than James Patterson's Jester? No. Worse than that book about thug love that we used to sell in Book Gallery? No no no. That's just the thing, and the big problem with most of these "worst of" lists, many of them are sounding boards for people to say "I don't like things that are popular!" Trust me. Name the worst movie ever. I have probably seen three more than are worse. Name the worst book ever? I probably have sold a dozen that will make that one look finely written. There are always worse things. I guess the same is true of the "best ever" end of the spectrum, but somehow it seems more petty down on the "worst ever" end.

The list includes a lot of required reading. Not surprisingly. With damn near a 100% accuracy, when someone says they hate Charles Dickens what they mean is "I didn't like reading Great Expectations in high school". Nearly everyone I know who hates The Scarlet Letter or Frankenstein or The Lord of the Flies read them in high school. Or, as the case may be, did not read them in high school and tried getting the Cliff Notes. Or, just as common, read the first and last sentence of every paragraph. I once had someone tell me the reason The Hobbit was bad book was because she had to write a book report on it and didn't feel like it. Here's another tip, Internet, no one ever likes the books they read in high school. No one. If they think they did, it is only because the book sucked so much less than everything else going on that week. Nothing ruins a work of literature like being force fed it in a class full of oversexed, attention-deficited peers who consider acts of reading an affront to their social life. If you were one of the few (ok, so maybe not no one) who did like reading the book, it will be just you and the teacher talking about symbolism while everyone else makes fun of you for caring about what a stoplight means.

I have reread several books that I read in high school and either did not get or did not care for, and found most of them to be tons better when read as an adult on my own schedule and power. At no time did any teacher mention that The Lord of the Flies is not meant to be taken literally, that it is meant to be taken as a symbolic struggle of a single man. At no point did they mention that The Scarlet Letter is not only about hypocricy, it is about the absolute insolvability of the question of what to do with a new vision of feminism and current society. No, we get teachers who act bored by it teaching students who are bored by it. Seriously, take your three most hated books from your high school reading lists and reread them on your own time and do a little research into them. See if they go down better this time.

The third general class of books on the list, behind best-selling fiction and required reading, seems to be right-wing books (including religious texts and "wisdom" books), which probably indicates a slight to large left-wing bias on Goodreads. Though, I must say, several of the ones near the top of the list might almost deserve it. The couple that I have read have been pretty poorly argued and written to get attention more than to convince. The final class would be comprised of artsy books or underground books that are somewhat popular, though they do not get as many votes as the other three classes.

One thing that is infuriating about the list is that people can vote for more than one,w hich again brings up the question of whether people have heard of superlatives before. Maybe their english teacher was too busy ruining classics to teach them grammar? Since people can bring up more than one, you have people listing every book they read in high school, or every book by an author they do not like or disagree with. Which just makes the whole thing pointless, not that any of the Web 2.0 stuff has that much of a point to begin with. They are not listing "the worst book ever", they are listing books they did not like. Those are two different things. If anything, each members of Goodreads should have to limit their vote to one. And, they should have to list a reason. That would make the list a lot more interesting. I wonder how many people would be honest and say "Others like it and I don't, so somehow that makes it worse than if others did not like it, too"?

Si Vales, Valeo

PS: That article linked above included this interesting link, which is about the birth of the emoticon way back when. Hence the devil wink in my title. That used to be my most used smile, it was an upgrade from the standard wink.

(12:15:47 AM CDT)

A funny thing happened on the way to a...um...big book torrent.

So, let me start with the explanation. I decided to start culling my books down and I set up a number of rules to follow. One of which was "I would not keep partial series unless I really wanted to get the whole thing". Fair enough, right? I have several bits of series by Gene Wolfe, but no whole ones. Ok? Is it worth collecting a half dozen books by the man to fill in gaps? Should I only keep some of the series? These are questions to be answered.

For those of you who have never torrented ebooks before, you might not know this but there are a massive set of torrents that deal with science fiction, fantasy, and some horror. There are five or six main torrents and who knows how many updates. Since ebooks are small, most people like to stick them in folders of hundreds or thousands of books to justify making a torrent file. These mega-torrents are this principle, except notched up a bit. Hundreds and hundreds of ebooks by dozens of writer per torrent, and the final count comes out to be over 13,000 individual books (the number of ebooks is the name).

In one of these massive ebook collections, authors whose first names (why not last names? I have no idea) start with G through L was collected. Maybe F through L. I'm almsot postive it stopped at L but cannot remember where it started but I know it included at least a G because it was Gene Wolfe I was looking for. I figured I could glance at books I am missing. Oh, and look, Jack Vance. I have a stack of his but it might be fun to see what I'm missing. I don't want these other dozens and dozens of authors, but when I try and say "don't download" to everything but those two, it starts locking up everything so screw it. The file is just too big with too many smaller files, my computer doesn't like me touching it.

The torrent downloaded, the sheer number of files hosed my client, and I pretty much just deleted the file right about the time it was completed (my share ratio was like 4%, if that). Or, I should say, the files. It was somewhere near a gig of ebooks.

This was Monday afternoon. This morning, I wake up and I see an e-mail saying something about DMCA violations and note this and that. First thought, someone has reported some of my writings on my website as theirs and I'm miffed. Then I see some note about Harry Potter ebooks. It takes me a couple of seconds. J. As in J.K. Rowling. That massive torrent must have included her stuff as well. Piss.

I've mostly laughed about it, but it is bothersome, because it never even occurred to me that her books would be included. Plus, since I just deleted the files right off (partially to bring sanity back to my computer, and partially because I was serious about my whole "stop using torrents to just get things I don't want to pay for, if I don't want to pay for it, then I don't want to use it" resolution) I had forgotten about even trying to get Wolfe and Vance stuff. Looked around the net, and others have either panicked or gotten really bold about it ("SCREW THE MAN!" sort of posts). I am taking the stance of saying "Sorry, I really didn't mean to, and I promise it won't happen again unless I make another stupid mistake, but hey, the file was gone before the notice was even sent." Of course, it is sort of hard to say "I'm innocent" when I was trying to look at something else, but if it makes you feel better, I never did. I have no idea what files were on that torrent outside of a couple of authors' names.

Again, oops. My bad. But has driven home my resolution to keep using torrents for legitimate purposes.

Si Vales, Valeo

April 27, 2009. Monday.

(06:27:27 PM CDT)

Formative fantasy fiction of teenager years: revisisted

When I was a young adult, I never touched the literature branded by my age group. This is only partially a truth, since I did read Young Adult from time to time, just rarely. Since I was about twelve, I have been reading adult levels of literature: be it classics, horror, fantasy, science fiction, or otherwise. During high school, the genre for us geeks was fantasy. I am not sure if science fiction was on a downturn, or if the lack of steady internet access was keeping cyberpunk out, or if fantasy with it's swords and wands that shoot magic and spears and a dozen other phallic symbols was just more appealing to the gaggle of gangly near-men that I hung with; but thick volumes of fantasy were the vogue.

If you are unaware of the high fantasy field, the genre usually goes like this: some unlikely hero confronts an evil from the past in a land that was once torn by war and is now re-entering it, and usually turns out to be THE hero of legend, while some traitor is in his midst and some magically inclined female with red hair and an older, stronger male is along for the ride. The female is technically optional, but only if you are J.R.R. Tolkein and you can try and be ironic by making the male the magically inclined one and the female the fighter, but mostly if you were writing in the 90s. This quest is going to take 3, 7, or 10 volumes (with an option for 12 if you are Goodkind or Jordan, and a possible double trilogy if your heroes are a dragon prince or an unbeliever) and each volume is going to be from 400-900 pages. By sheer numbers alone, the volumes are probably written by Weiss and/or Hickman.

To say it is a juvenile field is a disservice, but in many ways it is a juvenile field because it appeals to the very parts of us that give a crap when we are in high school. That is a good thing, by the way. It externalizes the conflict, which might not be less of a good thing intellectually but it does say that confronting evil head-on is best, while suggesting the primary good guys have some dark past that they are willing to put aside in order to make the world a better place and who hasn't been betrayed by a seeming best friend?

So, I read a lot of high fantasy and then I stopped being a teenager and I stopped reading it. I have read a bit here or there since then, single books of trilogies, and stuff written by the half-parodic Anthony or fully parodic Pratchett. I have reread Lord of the Rings. I have read something like three Forgotten Realms books but only some of the early ones and nothing after the series hit its stride. Oh, I have read Pages of Pain which is amazing and relatively brief, and of course Song of Fire and Ice which isn't really High Fantasy but some sort of politico-low fantasy. I think that is it. I have read a massive amount of science fiction, especially cyberpunk and the humanist philosopho-SF that came right before. There are those who consider fantasy and science fiction "basically the same thing" and these are the idiots who think there is a good reason to subdivide self-help books into different categories. Here is a tip, believe in yourself and make a list if it helps. There, I just saved you every penny you might possibly ever spend on a self-help book again.

Recently, I thought it would be fun to try and get back into the high fantasy field as a guy who likes a little internal conflict and strange, experimental writing. I have a few pieces here or there: Death Gate Cycle, Dragonlance, some Forgotten Realms, and so on. I have the Wheel of Time up to the last volume, Dark Tower, and ton of Terry Brooks. I am starting with the Death Gate cycle and am enjoying it, so maybe I was a little too harsh on the genre overall, but I imagine the "90% is crap" is going to be obvious pretty soon. In fact, one downside to my little experiment is that I have culled much of the stuff I found particularly trite and a lot of what remains is at least more than average. Oh well, they don't call me a book snob for nothing.

Si Vales, Valeo

(12:21:26 AM CDT)

Fun Time Waster: Mystery Case FIles - Huntsville

My time waster of today (and tomorrow, it looks like) has been Mystery Case Files - Huntsville, which is a hidden object game. I'll explain what this means in a minute, but first I wanted to point out some weird thing about the Amazon listing. It has the game around the $50 mark. You can get it "new and used" for under $20. If you get it direct (here is the product website, available for Windows and Mac) you can get it for as low as $6.99 depending on which membership plan you sign up for.

Hidden Object Games (HOGs, I guess) are like those I Spy books but with another level of interaction, and I would declare them as "very casual" games. The Mystery Case File series has you as a detective solving cases. There a handful of locations (reptile shop, inn, diner, museum, grave-yard, etc). Each location has hundreds of objects scattered around on a static screen. You have a time limit and a list of objects to collect in the room, say "Two frogs, Pencil, Pair of Dice". You search the room until you find them. They generally have nothing to do with the case and the whole point of the game is mostly to just play "I Spy" with the computer, with the backstory adding some flavor. Some of the objects are just out in the open (albeit in the midst of clutter). Some are slightly behind other objects. Some are colored in a way to make them hard to spot right off (commonly happens that objects on a stature are "part of the statue" or are at least colored to look like it). Sometimes it is a painting of the object (for instance, the "pair of dice" might be on an album cover). Sometimes the object is nonsensically placed or is something of a fake object (the pencil might be oversized and in the umbrella stand). Finally, some objects are puns or such. "Two pairs of glasses" turned out to be a pair of drinking glasses and a set of spectacles. Some of the rooms are heavily cluttered and the trick is sorting through all of the images. Some of the rooms are less cluttered, but the objects are often "fakes" or mis-sized.

You complete the list under the time limit in order to move the next stage (more in just a second). The game starts out needing 15 objects over two rooms. Later it needs dozens. Once you get the objects (one rule seems to be that you can overlook one object each "case") you then have to put together a puzzle with your remaining time. The puzzle is one of the locations you just searched through except now it has the perp caught in the act. If you finish finding all the objects and solve the puzzle before running out of time, it gives a short blurb about the criminal and you unlock the next case. If you have trouble finding the objects, you can use one of three hints. These help a lot early on, but later you start having to find things like "five bottles" (which count as one object) and so hints end up worth a lot less. However, as you play, you get used to the rooms and the layouts and so you can clear entire rooms in matters of seconds.

The end result is something like four or five hours of time waster that is kind of relaxing and visual. The cases are kind of funny, and there seems to be some randomness as to which cases you get (after failing on case, I got another different one for that level), but the blurbs are so short that there is not much to be said about them. I am not sure what the replay value is. Since the game is essentially just searching for the objects in as little time as possible, the random choice of objects and the ability to improve suggests at least one additional playthrough could be fun. As you can guess from the name, the game is set in "Huntsville" but this does not seem to be "of Alabama" so much as just some quirky small town. It is still fun to pretend, though.

The next games in the series add increasing amounts of story and are supposed to each add a new level of interaction or something. I am not sure how well those work, but will try them sometime soon, probably.

Si Vales, Valeo

April 25, 2009. Saturday.

(02:26:33 PM CDT)

I LURVE silly mail people. Plus, two fun digital thingamajiggers (Art + Mythbusters).

When I went to check the mail this afternoon, I found a "come pick up your package at the post office" notice on my door. I have been home all day, and a good bit of it has been in the living room. In fact, I probably saw the mail person walk up to the door (or at least heard someone walk up to the door) but just assumed it was a neighbor walking by. The logic seems to go like this: "I can not get it in their mailbox, so I will walk up to their apartment and leave a note for them to come pick it up". They could have just brought the package, indoubtedly a book, with them; but chose instead, to create needless work for me. This same mail person also shoved another book on top of our other mail, creasing it fairly severely. I wonder if there was a long, drawn process of choosing between the books? Or did they just "know" which book to shove into the mailbox and which one to take back to the office? Our regular mail person tends to be really friendly and knows us by sight. On Saturdays, though, they use a couple of different people and every time I have had trouble with a package, it has been a Saturday delivery. I do adore our regularly mailman, though, and understand he can not and should not be a six-day a week worker, but it can be frustrating.

Well, off to a memorial service on this hot and sunny day, but will leave you with something that is not a complaint nor a sad note: two little fun bits of digital media I found on the web.

Most of my friends love the Mythbusters, and I do not know of any that hate them, so maybe you will enjoy this: frame-by-frame, user controlled, slow-motion footage of some of their better recent explosions. You can frame it a notch at a time with your keyboard, or use the mouse to go back and forth. This includes that recent 5k "making diamonds" explosion with all of its neat shockwave effects. If you dig, there are a couple of other categories (one includes Jamie slapping Adam and another involves driving through a fruit stand) that you can find by going through their main video tab. It is a fun time-waster, at least.

The second digital media fun stuffs is the art of Julia Fullerton-Batten. She has some photography, and if you click on the project tabs you can see her "Teenage Stories" art show. Teenage girls in every day scenes knocked out of perspective by having the teens stand on miniature sets and potentially through some tricks of perspective. It is kind of fun and surreal. I have not looked around that much, but I have enjoyed what I have seen.

Si Vales, Valeo

April 23, 2009. Thursday.

(02:37:59 PM CDT)

Soul Burger's Closing. Classic Literature. Public Domain Suggestion.

I am still a bit down about the news of Soul Burger closing. Sarah went by and picked up a soul burger for herself and a big daddy for me. That will be our final memorial to that fine old place. I am going to miss it. In something of a horrid coincidence, I am watching the Twilight Zone episode with the antique shop that tries to wish away it's troubles and it keeps getting in more trouble (Season 2, Episode 2, "Man in the Bottle" I think). It is a black comedy that ends with the moral of "fix your stuff, don't keep wishing for some magical future" but has always had a mean spirited streak or something that causes me to feel bad afterwards. Heh.

Last night got confirmation (via the magic of "scale technology") that my lifestyle has went to poop. I never quite realized it until last night, but I think the majority of the reason why Americans are fat and washed out is because of convenience. I now want to do research on a number of countries and compare the ratio of housewives versus the sort of American style health problems: obesity and such. Not saying that wives should stay home, but Sarah and I were definitely healthier last year when I was off for most of it and spent the time preparing healthier meals, and keeping things clean enough that our stress levels never worried about it, and such. We have both slipped off on our good habits now that fast food beckons and television trumps exercise because we are tired after work. I think I am going to have to say "no" to convenience for a few weeks, see how that turns out for me.

In less whiny news, I snagged a good number of ebooks from Ebooks @ Adelaide. If you have not looked at that site, you should. Hundreds of classic texts, all public domain (in Australia, most are are PD in the US), and well formatted and presented. Cleaned up and the like. I am sorting through my loot right now and trying to make them into a little bit better organized and named set of files, and then will use them as sort of the base pool for my public domain book club. When I first started the idea, I was thinking of adding in a number of Creative Commons works (and will still add a few for funsies) but looking at the sheer number of public domain awesomeness out there we could easily stick to PD for years.

Since certain works up-for-grabs via Australia's more logical system (fifty years past the death of the author) that are not in the public domain here, I've been thinking about the differences. American copyright is largely hosed due to "Steamboat Willie" with a lot of the weird extensions and exceptions trying to keep Mickey Mouse from entering into anything like the publid domain. Works prior to 1923 are public domain, works after 1923 are possibly public domain based a handful of factors, while works that are not in public domain may be so seventy years after the death of the author unless some special circumstances apply. It gets quite confusing. So confusing, in fact, that outside of those clearly PD works, most people seem to either avoid the works in general or to just assume that anything not currently in print is PD. Oh, and a number of reprints of public domain works claim that they cannot be copied and so forth, which is probably referring to aesthetics like typesetting but just adds tons of confusion. Life + Fifty cuts through the chase while allowing a couple of generations of heirs to profit off the book. The problem with even Life + Fifty is that while key classics are just fine, and will make it through this period, there are many works that might not. Sure, a lot of this is fluff, but in "genre" fields like Science Fiction and Horror, it is not unusual for underground and/or highly influential works to just disappear.

I have been thinking that maybe we can make copyright based on the most practical consideration: publication. Rather than Life + 70 w/ considerations, you make it Life + 50 with copyright expiring if the work has not be reprinted in the past ten years. This means the works stay alive, profitable for the family, for as long as they are reprinted or until fifty years are up, whichever comes first. You could add the exception that derivative works have to wait for thirty years after author's death assuming there are no reprints. This stops Hollywood, say, from pouncng on the works of poorer authors until a longer consideration is given. You might even extend this principle that works that have not been reprinted for over thirty years fall into public domain with some stipulations that allow authors to reclaim works in some conditions (i.e. the sort of conditions that stop authors from using public domain status as a cheap advertisement).

At any rate, a bit of a stability would be awesome. Oh, and by the way, I am apparently not addicted to Facebook.

Si Vales, Valeo

April 22, 2009. Wednesday.

(10:56:25 AM CDT)

'Tis Earth Day, I suppose. Deontology and Depeche Mode...

My schedule must be hosed. My mental clock, I mean. While I know today is Wednesday, it feels like two days ago I was thinking about what to post on Sunday, which meant that I must have taken Monday as Saturday or something. That, or I was abducted and kept for more than nine minutes. D'oh.

Listening to Depeche Mode's Sounds of the Universe for the third time. I bought it for $3.99 on AmazonMP3 yesterday (apparently on certain big releases, they sell them for heavy discount on opening day). On my first listen, my rating would have probably been an "eh". It just didn't thrill me, but made ok music to play. Now, though, it is much closer to a "good", which is where I think it will end up. I have been a fan of Depeche Mode for a while and this album is fairly classic Mode. My one complaint, maybe, is that sounds a little bit like a Depeche Mode inspired band from the early 90s. It has a lot of the classic elements of their sound, but did not really strike me as pushing it anywhere new on my first listen. I have not taken time to listen to the lyrics yet, and so my attitude might change when I do that, and take it a fuller view.

I was going to make a couple of ranty posts over the past couple of days, and mostly have decided to eschew them both besides something of a summary of the first one. I actually cannot recall what the second post was (somehow, Deadliest Catch inspired it) but I know the first on was about the way that we always think of our actions as justified, and someone always considers our actions evil. This was inspired by the beauty pageant with the comment about gays shouldn't marry, but she did not mean offense. Response came from either group A, in which what she said was evil, or Group B, in which what she said was truth and Group A was evil. Both groups feel completely justified. Look at the torture thing. Which we are now calling "enhanced interrogation" and "harsh tactics" so that we do not use the word "torture"1. There are some, like me, who considers using torture to protect this country from an extemist regime is so drenched in irony as to be some attempt to mock us all. There are others, like several members of my family, who consider people like me to be a threat to this country. It is not so much that Hell's road is paved in good intentions as that none of us feel like we are going to Hell. We all think we are Heaven's chosen warriors.

Look at today, Earth Day. There are those who think that they are saving the planet and some who think that saving the planet is tantamount to metaphysical betrayal. There are some who think that running all of their appliances on full today is justified because some of those "hippy types" are acting so smug. There are those who think that killing off the human race may not be a bad thing. There are those who are fuming at the mouth at what I just said.

In morality, there are two general schools of thought (more than this, sure, but these are the big ones). The deontologists, which means "down from being", who think that moral code is built into our nature; and the utilitarians, who believe moral code should be based on outcome. Now, the old utilitarians get a bad, bad wrap. I am sure some of the people reading this have gut reacted to the word. "They USE people" and "Might as well screw a dog in the street" is the kind of responses utilitarians gets. In a sense, "If all we care about is what we get from an action, that's selfish!" But, name one deontologist who is not doing it for personal gain, be it Heaven or a national pride, though, and I would be shocked. Fear of God is a tricky subject when what you really mean is "fear of Hell".

Anyhow, the wind up here is that while utilitarianism gets slammed all the time, you cannot find any greater crimes than those committed by deontologists. The Crusades, Stalin's starving his people, Mao's cultural revolution, Hitler's genocides, and so on. All of these were done by people who thought they had solved morality by learning the very nature of what is right and were doing what was the best thing for their cause. Nothing has more potential for evil than someone who thinks they are following an external source, especially when they become fantatical about said source and ignore anything like common sense because they consider any issues with their source as from another, evil, source. "Just following orders," I think is the phrase.

What is my solution? Simple. Don't be an asshole.

Si Vales, Valeo

1: Seriously, how much BS is that? Changing words around to try and avoid a negative connotation and acting like it is working? If that's the case, why don't we call "rape" "harsh love" and "pedophilia" "paying enhanced attention to children"?

April 21, 2009. Tuesday.

(02:06:04 AM CDT)

Random (mostly horror) Movie Reviews

I've watched a surprising number of movies this past week. Figured I would spout out a few reviews in roughly the order I watched them in. Here it goes, horror (and one not-horror) movie reviews in brief:

Feast III: the "ending" to the series, for now, though possibly a fourth is on the way. Not quite as shocking as the previous, works a little stronger until the last third, in which the budget ran out or something. Movie ends up with an incomplete feel and an out of nowhere ending designed for giggles more than cohesion. Will watch again, possibly with commentary, just to see. By the way, for those that did not get enough of "breasts covered in blood" from Candyman, there is a scene just for you.

Splinter: came out last week. Creature feature with a bugger than gets inside you, bends you around (literally), and causes large splinters to erupt from all over. The monster concept is awesome, the monster design is mostly awesome until it gets a little CG at the end, and the character design has a little to be desired. Need to rewatch this one, since this is one you watch by yourself where you can concentrate, not with friends who are wanting to talk and have a good time.

Leprechaun: crap start to what is probably the crappiest of the horror franchises. Tolerability increased by sheer horror of Warwick Davis's punfilled delivery, the sheer sexy of Jennifer Anniston in cut offs, and the sheer nonsense that bubbles to the surface.

Deathbed: The Bed that Eats: horrid, painful tripe that is made something like tolerable by its sheer inexplicibility. This is not me saying "This movie is crap" because I can, this is me saying this movie is poorly short, improperly dubbed, crap acted, nonsensically plotted, and has about as much tension as one can imagine from the title. Dude in a painting watches a bed eat people. Subplot of a missing sister adds something like a conclusive framework, but mostly it just involves effects of people "floating" in a yellow liquid that melts their flesh, eats their chicken, and drinks their Pepto Bismol. The movie has a few self-aware attempts at humor that show the director is not quite so much a bumbling idiot but just working with what he had, but really could have accomplished everything in about half an hour and not needed multi-minute filler scenes of the camera circling around a garden or against some hedges. I say watch it, but bring friends and a sense of humor.

Inside: French horror that does not play around. Pregnant woman is brutally attacked in her house. Gratiutous use of metal scissors and crochet needles as torture instruments. Actually well plotted, though, and well paced. Not for the weak of heart, by any means.

From Within: one of the Afterdark Horrorfest 3 entries. So-so movie in which suicides hit a small town and whoever seens the vicitim first is the next to go. Apparently if the victim is not found, then the person who gets tolerably close suffices? Something like One Missed Call without the cellphone, a couple of surprises at the end spice it up but it needed a few more deaths, a little less teenage romance, and probably a big oomph to the end (I have heard that some was cut, which I believe).

Yes Man: the lone non-horror entry in this. Not a bad movie, but only so-so. Formulaic, with a couple of surprises (most supplied by the supporting cast) and the similarities to Liar, Liar are hard to overlook. Basic rediscovering life story is sweet, but a darker comedy about what could have really went wrong might have worked better.

Burrowers: just fresh out today. Has gotten a lot of preliminary flack for being perceived as being a rip-off of Tremors 4 which is actually bollocks. Outside of the "underground monster" and "west" keywords, the tones, monsters, heroes, pacing, and just about everything else are different. Really was a well-done horror movie, and the slow-burn of the monsters' attack makes the whole thing particularly horrifying. The audience is able to piece together what really happened offscreen, and that adds to the horror. Currently in my "Doug's Top 5 picks for 2009's Horror DVD's King!" (Let the Right One In is the other, for now).

Si Vales, Valeo

April 16, 2009. Thursday.

(08:03:08 PM CDT)

Mea Culpa I: Doug the Poet, part 1

I have been thinking about doing a series of posts for a while, not consecutively and not necessarily in any real order, about various facets of my history. Not a tell-all memoir. Not an accounting for everything or a confessions of sins (though the title might suggest otherwise), but just to take a few of the bits that have went into my development and bring them to light. Most, but not all, of the people that were there for all of things that I have talked about have moved on and I rarely see them. Some are no doubt curious as to a few things. All in all, I think it will make something of an interesting experience. A loose, confederated autobiography, as it were.


Those who know me now, and have only known me since about 2005, have not seen much of my poetry. They may have gotten an e-mail or two, maybe they saw a few poems in a blog post. But, overall, the fount of poetry that I used to let forth has greatly dried up. Quality over quantity, and I am probably still producing just about as many keepers as I always did, but at one point in time being friends with me meant being aware of a vast amount of poetry that I was writing.

What is likely my first poem was written early (as opposed to a series of strange "raps" that I composed in the mid-80s, often rhyming the word "woods" with "misunderstood", making what might be an early version of Gangstagrass). I think 1987. I would have been around nine or ten. It was a mimick of "She walks in beauty like the night" and went something along the lines of "She is as beautiful as the night, the moon is her eyes". It was not bad, per se, but nothing worth reading except as a curiosity penned by a boy just now entering into the early stages of puberty. I wrote a poem about female beauty before I had reached that stage that brings a, shall we say deeper, at least more passionate, understanding of the subject.

The first batch of real poems, and the term is used sort of loosely, came out in high school. I can almost remember the events, but not fully. Ninth grade, that would be 1991. I was sitting on at the cafeteria tables. It was either lunch or before school or during some assembly. I was talking to some friends and was generally defending poetry. Though I, myself, had not done much. Maybe there had been a class assignment, I am unsure. I remember writing a line has pretty much haunted my poet side to this day: "Call it inevitable". It was a simple, possibly stupid, poem about a group of animals dying due to a sudden, crushing wave. The imagery described in the beginning was quiet and almost serene, and then it announces them dead. They "cannot help but to die". Then came the final line: "Call it inevitable". While my belief in fate and free-will have gone back and forth over the years, that first poem of this second batch, with its concepts of beauty and death rolled into one, along with the confluence of a natural event with the hand of fate, has stayed with me.

Over the course of my high school career, I generated a couple of notebooks. There were a large number of poems at this time, not all were finished. Most were unbelievable tripe. Two that I can recall, outside of the one that doomed young crabs to die, includes a sappy attempt at a love poem (to no one in particular, I was just imitating form) in which everything is declared "For you, my love"; and a poem in which the man who knows it all declares the answer to everything is "I don't know". Discard the love poem, and even the latter poem, but note the irony involved. The man who knows it all says "I don't know". For a person like me, obsessed with learning about the world, the idea that knowledge was indefinite, but woefully finite, was a hard one to make. I would wager people who believe in the power of knowledge a whole lot less than I do would be unwilling to admit that we cannot learn everything, and by extension, what we do not know is always greater than what we do know. Later poems would echo that exact same sentiment, especially echoing the mix of quiet acceptance and joyful despair over this fact. Oh, and there was a longer poem in which I talked about how hot a classmate was through an adolescent (pun intended) allegory of a lioness hunting her prey. Maybe in a desert? For extra hot.

Through out it all, there were a couple of teachers who supported me. Deborah Albritton was one. I am unable to remember the others name, alas. Maggie (Margeret?) something. Henderson? I am actually impressed by both of them. Here they were, reading this high school level poetry, with it's horrendous meter and wildly bouncing line length and no good purpose, and they were praising me for what I was doing, not attacking me for what I was failing to do. Also, interestingly, they were both trying to get me to join their church (one succeeded, but that is for a later time). Had they attacked my flaws, I may have given up. Of course, there is an equal chance that I would have gotten better, earlier, but their praise sort of got into my head and made me think: "Maybe I am meant to write poetry."

The one thing that might have made that teenage me rare when considered against all of my fellow high school poets around the world was the idea, an inkling though it may be, that I might not have been good at it, yet, but could eventually get there through hard work. There was something missing in my poetry. Even if I never told anyone, I could feel it. I had not arrived. I just kept this to myself. I wonder how many other juvenile wielders of the pen feel this same sentiment? Or do most unformed poets cling to their rhyme and meter, thinking themselves complete? I have yet to meet a anything like an honest poet (as opposed to someone who just writes poetry from time to time) who truly likes their own work, so maybe there a sense of self-hatred in us who try and sculpt words.

The next three or four years are fairly pointless as far as this narrative is concerned. I had several bursts of poetry. Most of them were linked, not surprisingly, to some girl. Usually not directly. I was not directly flirting, per se, but it was not uncommon for me to whip out the old poet cap to try and impress a lovely. It worked about as well as being an eccentric geek who writes poetry can hope. In other words, I got a lot of "Neat!" and not a lot of play. C'est la vie, and this is for a later time. The only poem from these years that did anything like attract attention was the simple line: "The time has come to clean the slate, and start the cycle all over again. Peace is not a restful state, but something carved from the blood of men." Used ironically (note the theme of the other two poems I highlighted, and keep in mind that this was about the same time that "I hate bigots" would make laugh and laugh) but it was not precisely taken as such. It is good that Columbine occurred after this fact or I might have been talked to. As it was, some classmates got fussy over it, some loved it. For those curious, it was a line uttered by a killer named Peace, who thought it was his God-given duty to bring about peace by killing all that disagreed. He was accompanied by a conman who called himself Truth. My teenage years were AMAZING.

I kept up writing, just very minor amounts, but it was Around 1998, while I was at Jefferson Davis Community College, that I started the writing process again in earnest. I am unable to precisely connect the dots of my memory to where the poetry train started again. I think, and this is with something like two-thirds certainty, that I started writing after a couple of cute girls started hanging out with me. Surprised? Don't be. This may be a lie, and it may have just transpired that after writing poetry, two cute girls showed up. Who knows? Ozymandias and the passage of time, all that. I started a poetry club. It was kind of awesome. Only met something like four times. Just about nothing that came out of this period was worth much, but there were a few bit lines that might work if I was gel them all together. I cannot remember them and I wrote the damned things. Several of my major themes showed up here: light, windows, water, mazes, masks, nature, angry acceptance of fate, playful despair, and more water. Mist, which is a form of water. Dew. Rain. Tears. Water. You see where I am going with this. In fact, starting with about this time, water became just about THE theme of my poetry. This is even before I found out about Thales. Like I said, my life was AMAZING.

Another theme, then, and now gone from my poetry, was a sort of mysticism. Priests of life meeting on a hill. Traditions dancing as light comes through a window. Around this time, if I had to name my two biggest poetical influences, it would be William Blake and Ralph Waldo Emerson, with heavy doses of Frost, of "Thanatopsis", and similar mystics and trancedentalists. Oh, I forgot to tell you to sit down for that shocker. That's right, this walking bundle of cynicism and skepticism used to be a pretty big adorer of spiritualism and the inner potential.

1998 or so, about seven years after I had started writing poetry as a regular hobby, I had something of a minor heartbreak. This is for a later mea culpa, but this was trigger enough to start the second depressive episode in my life (my other was in eleventh grade). Though I did make some pretty stupid decisions, it was still productive time classwise and activity wise and I also wrote a fair amount of poetry. For the first time, my poetry took on a hint of "See what you did?" blame flavor. Again, though, I can remember none of it specifically. All for the best. Something about woe and God as glass? I have no idea.

My poet drifted for a year or two. Then, came UAH. Things got very bad. I wrote a ton of poetry. That's for next time, though.

Si Vales, Valeo

April 15, 2009. Wednesday.

(01:45:33 PM CDT)

Woken up by 1-800-454-9078. Feast II. Giving myself a haircut.

Ah, freshly trimmed locks. I have just now taken the old 'lectric razor and applied to me head. I mean to do this more regularly, mostly for practical reasosn involving curls, thin hair, and beards; but I often forget. I am one of those "reset" sort of hair-cutters, get it back down to an inch, beard back down to a quarter inch, and let it grow again. None of this fancy, pinko-commie "styling". Partially because I imagine actually styling your hair in a mirror without gouging out your eye cannot not be easily done, and partially because my method takes about five minutes of my time every two months and requires practically no upkeep. Oh, and did I mention my hair ignores any and all styles and just goes where it wants? I am mostly in control of length while shape and function is its own (dis)regard. I bought these, I think they are called "clippers" by my fellow southern males, a bit back. Maybe my last birthday? Have used them at least two or three times. At the current cost of about $15 per adult male haircut, with tip expected on top of this amount, just to do what I can do in five minutes; I have already broken even. From now on, ever haircut I give myself is technically free.

After work last night, I sat down with a bowl of soup, some microwavable burritos, and a copy of the movie Feast II. It is an unrated direct-to-DVD release that more encompasses comedy than horror, with gore thrown in, so it is something of a gormedy. I have seen similar gonzo films out of Japan, with spastic action, lots of blood loss, dark humor, and a desire to offend everyone. I sent out a tweet along the lines of "it crosses from merely massively offensive, into some sort of arthouse treatment on the act of offense" and this is true. Monster bukkake, topless tattoeed women walking around for the last thirty minutes (and obviously so, meaning they are not merely in the background, but characters involved in gun fights, and running around and such), cat rape, a scene with a baby that lead several (according to message boards) to turn it off, and a series of scenes involving a melting grandma that cannot be unseen once they are seen. None of these are complaints, per se, though several of the scenes are a tad overlong, but they are shot in a way that comes across as entertaining, as best they can. Like I said, this is a surreal movie with lots of offensive material, and some of it to common sense (like when they make a key to get into the bank just by looking at the lock through a telescope). Do not take it serious. Possibly drink. Have a good time if you can while watching a movie turned up to 11. I enjoyed it and will watch it again when I am not so tired.

Finally, was woken up this morning by a call from the number 1-800-454-9078. Claimed to be from Chase Fraud Detection. Did some looking around the Internet. From everything I can tell, including calling them back and listening to what they said, this is true. Some have recommended just calling the number on the back of your Chase-Amazon (or whichever flavor of Chase you roll with) and that seems legit, too. At any rate, I make somewhat random series of micro-purchases, things like renting movies from Redbox, or buying single shows to watch, mp3s directly from the musician, or paying for articles from magazines that allow you to buy one at a time, et cetera. Not necessarily every day, but kind of often, possibly once a week. What I didn't know, but it makes sense, is that credit card fraudsters, the good ones, will often make a few minor purchases of only a dollar or two. Then, if these aren't picked up on, will go all out. This enables them to check the waters and confirm the card and stuff. A couple of my micropurchases flagged the system and so they were confirming I had made them. I confirmed such and that was that. If this turns out to be a scam, oops. But, if they knew the purchases this meant they already had enough to rip me off, anyhow, so that's no real biggie. I am basically posting this number again just to confirm that it seems completely legit. Also, slightly, to make fun of those people who say things on message boards like "THESE ARE OBVIOUSLY SCAMMERS, I AM ON A DO NOT CALL LIST!!! OMG!!! I CANCELLED ALL MY CARDS!!! I DO NOT HAVE A CHASE CARD!!! MY IDENTITY HAS BEEN STOLEN!!!". Just an FYI, even if these were scammers, there are various ways to protect yourself so no panicking. First and foremost, call the number on the back of your credit card. If this is not a legit thing, then it is best you report it as soon as possible. If it is legit, it will save you some panic. Also, do-not-call lists do not effect businesses that you do business with. Finally, Chase has recently purchased a couple of other card companies and such. Make sure you really do not have a Chase card. Oh, and to chastise Chase for, you know, not listing the damned number on their own website or just leaving a note to call back the number on the back of the card.

Si Vales, Valeo

April 14, 2009. Tuesday.

(06:05:15 PM CDT)

Book Culling + Doug Is on His Own for a Few Days

I have spent an hour or two culling my books today. This sounds more horrific, assuming you are a booklover, than it actually is. If you are a book-hater, this probably sounds like overblown twaddle and it might be safe to skip this post.

I set up something of a triage, but it basically went like this. 1) Do I have more than one copy of the book and do these multiple copies have a purpose? 2) Is this book part of a series that either due to its length or its age I am unlikely to ever finish? 3) Have I read the book but find it to be unworthy to be kept? 4) Did I pick up the book in a splurge purpose and that is the only reason I have it? Finally, 5) is this book, due to any number of reasons, out of date, too damaged, or pretty much only worth keeping for less nostalgia than keeping it is worth?

Being a triage, the results came down to "books I do not want to keep" (because of the questions above), "books I might want to keep, but may get rid of later" usually reserved for books I have not read and want to give them a try before I discard them, and "books I do want to keep". The vast (85%) majority were in the third category with an additional 10% or so in the second. This made me feel good. I still have too many books to enjoy moving, but at least it is books that I enjoy having.

My target number was to get rid of about 70 books. I am close to that. I think I have pulled about 50 off the shelves. I have a few more shelves to hit up, classics and such that I have more than one copy of. I also need to, basically, pull most of my books off the shelves and dust them and check them for things like spiders and spills, basically to make sure the book isn't being eaten way from behind while looking ok in the front. After I am done with this, will give the old library a once over to get some of the dust out and to improve the smell as much as you can improve the smell of a room with about 800 books. Dust and book smell is going to be there. There is no escaping it.

In other news, Sarah is out of town for a few days. She is at a big national conference for her field (I am not sure if this means chemistry or a more particular subset). My bachelor-hood, brief though it may be, is somewhat imbalanced by the fact that I am working tonight and thursday, and then in class wednesday, and have a few errands to run before watching some movies with friends on Friday. In other words: no quiet time for Dougie (if I liked emoticons, this would be a good place for a frownie face, go ahead and pretend I made one).

Back to the topic that started this post, the plan is to take them to a thriftstore and possibly some of the better ones to a used bookstore for trade in. This will not happen until Saturday, and possibly not until early next week. The books discarded included some science fiction, some old computer books, will include some classics (though keep in mind I often discarded my copy in the "worst" condition, which is a relative term since I tend to baby most of them), already includes a lot of that fair to middling pop-lit that aims to be a dysfunctional tear-jerker and sometimes gets there. I am tossing out several Baen Press (nothing against the company, but they make such good ebooks that I usually just read them that way), all of my books on Java, my non-Frank Dune books (excepting one), some 70s or so books on robotics, and more. If you think you want any of these, feel free to say "dibs" and I'll put some aside. If you want to come by and look, let me know and we'll work out a time for you to stop by.

Si Vales, Valeo

April 13, 2009. Monday.

(04:28:51 PM CDT)

Ben & Jerry's OR... (2 Quizzes)

Found these two quizzes today on Mental Floss: Dicontinued Ben & Jerry's Flavor or a Band I Found on Myspace? and Ben & Jerry's Flavor or a Pottery Barn Paint Color?. I did kind of poorly on both (40% and 50% respectively), but I was not exactly trying. I probably would have done just as badly had I tried, though.

Have fun!

Si Vales, Valeo

(02:01:56 PM CDT)

Anybody want to Bookclub? (Public Domain + Creative Commons Bookclub + Bookglutton)

My last bookclub sort of petered out. I blame the book Ishmael, or as it is known by it's subtitle: "The coffin's nail." I somewhat kid, but it does bear to mention that it really was the book that sort of washed up the club. We will one day have a round table discussion of it, but for now, let's just shelve that into the past.

The other reason the 'club washed up was because I wanted to try something new. Partially inspired by that Amazon Kindle 2 Text-to-Speech versus the Author's Guild fight, and partially because I am still a huge fan of things like Project Gutenberg, I was thinking of setting up a new one that focuses specifically on books in the public domain, under Creative Commons license, and occasionally under copyright but in such a way that the publisher and/or author has been very fan oriented (note: like Baen Press books). "Fan-Oriented" is a code-phrase for "allows users to read the books in a way that suggest they consider us above a common criminal" mind you. At its core is a couple of notions: 1) these books are easier to distribute amongst members without requiring a) lots of money or b) delivery times and frantic bookstore searches; 2) it does help one to focus on the idea of books as a social construct rather than as something owned.

To this end, I have started an account and group on Bookglutton. It is a social reading site that is set up so you can actually read the books in question on the website and then your comments can be replied to and shared. It is in beta and needs a few improvements (for instance, it paginates the book every time and this can lead to an unnecessary delay every time you go to view the new comments, it only refreshes comments when you first open the book so if someone is reading at the same time, you have to refresh the book to see them, and the chat room only retains random bits from previous chats) but is interesting to play with. It allows, effectively, you to have a bookclub meeting in real time and online and then when you click on a paragraph it shares the information with others if you want to highlight exactly which paragraph you are looking at. My profile name is wyrmis and you can see my group: Doug's Public Domain Group. Our current reading is Virginia Woolf's Jacob's Room.

If you want to play along, by all means sign up an account and I'll invite you into the group. You don't have to read the book online, but the epub we are using comes from Project Gutenberg #5670. If you have a physical copy, or want to read it through some other service (Manybooks, Adelaide Ebooks, etc) then go right ahead. This is not a perfect copy in that it does not retain spacing of paragraphs, but it is quite readable. Another service that allows you to read epubs online is Bookworm. There are also several ereaders for the epub format. I prefer FBreader because it is simple and works a charm and works with everything (from Linux to your left shoe, apparently). Note the PG text includes other versions (text and such) that work with other readers. If Bookglutton doesn't work out, then next month's selection will probably use just e-mail.

So, any takers?

Si Vales, Valeo

April 12, 2009. Sunday.

(08:05:25 PM CDT)

The Guntsville Lake Tornado 2009 and some Tornado Terms

Turns out a tornado came really close to my in-laws. Dang! right? Better luck next time. Ha! I kid, but no seriously, folks, God's wrath is only funny when it happens to other countries, other ethnicities, and people who just gosh-durn deserve it. In other news, this has prompted me to look up some of the terminology surrounding tornados.

For some interesting facts, here is the Wikipedia article on the Exhanced Fujita Scale. It gives a listing and some interesting graphical comparisons. As you can assume, this comes from the Fujita Scale, which is now considered inaccurate. An interesting note about the Fujita scale is that the numbers are in relationship to the Mach scale, with an F12 (mythical though it may be) corresponding to wind speeds at the speed of sound. We are talking about little bit beyond the finger of God, if you know what I mean. *wink* It's like a divine mushroom slapped on the face of the earth.

Closely related is the Beaufort Scale of windspeeds.

Note that from what I can tell, none of these directly reference wind speeds themselves, but are ways to estimate windspeed based on the effects the wind had in the region. For instance, if mobile homes are destroyed but most houses just had their roofs removed, that would be an EF-2. If homes are destroyed and reinforced structures are heavily damaged, that is EF-5.

Si Vales, Valeo

April 10, 2009. Friday.

(12:20:48 PM CDT)

After a couple day hiatus, ready to blog again.

I'm listening to The Damnwells self-titled. I got it for free during some promotion. If you go Google you might can as well, I have no idea how long that was meant to last. I cannot really tell if I like it or not. Four or so years ago, even a couple of years ago, back when I thought Scrubs was the apothoesis of television, it would have been one of those I listened to with my headphones on, looking into the distance, enjoying the deep mope washing over me. Now, though, the rhythm just does not quite sit with me. It makes decent background music, but whenever I try to foreground it, I just cannot jive with it. I think I am going to delete it after this. I'll flip a coin. Somewhere between something and nothing is everything.

It has been a couple of days since I have blogged, a couple of days since I have felt like blogging. The reasons are fairly obvious. Grieving is such a weird thing. You see the sitcoms and the drama shows deal with it in very black and white terms: you will deny, you will mourn, you will get angry, you will mourn, etc. It is just that it really does go down like that, not in such a concrete way, there is a lot more snapping back and forth, but that is exactly what happens. You make some joke to show you are ok, then you get mad at the world and then yourself, and then you cry a bit, and then you try to think about whatifs, and then you get nervous about a repeat, and then you do some of it again. After a couple of days, the memories and the pain and love that was there are all right there still but the pain starts to fade and the love remains. Mistakes that might have been made can be let go and you focus on the things you did right. Goodbyes fit into place. It will be awhile before my patterns are back to right (like not having Toasty run up and beg everytime I open a can, or have him watch movies with me, or beg for my cereal), but I am ok, now.

He's buried out on Sarah's parent's land. We dug a hole. That was hard work, by the way. First was the layer of ropes to chop through, then a layer of clay and rocks that took an hour of slow chiseling. We put a little cairn of stones on top of him, and he was buried with a mix of things that meant a lot to us. We kept his collar, though, for our memory. Now, we are taking up the cat feeders and the extra water bowls and things of that sort. Readjusting to a single cat home, which we were for the longest. It is all a matter of changing habits, I suppose.

Enough of being maudlin, let me clear out a few links that you guys like seeing:

Porn's in the bag, baby. A gift bag for mothers was given out at a baby show, and one of the books inside of it was chick-lit romance book including "graphic" sexual description (I think the word "jerk off" is used). New moms sometimes enjoy having a little mental stimulus to get them back into the mood, and something to read while baby takes naps is awesome, right? Plus, I mean, these moms are the target demographic for the book. It is win-win, right? No, let's claim the book was intended for the children and suggest that the gift bags were borderline pedophilia. That is another awesome option. Way to horrendously fail at life and common sense, Australia.

7 ads that take themselves too seriously. I enjoyed this one, because I have always been fascinated by the way fo advertisment companies. These range from mini-dramas to surrealist expressionism trying to sell a product. Nearly none of them would work. My two favorites are the "Go Walkabout" one for Australia (note, giving young mothers chick-lit is practically soliticing minors, but naked children enticing women to fly around the world is marketing?) and the Thai insurance one, which reaches for the heart strings by having daddy's little girl expose a dark secret and getting slapped right in the middle of it.

Man charged in plaza crash. IF YOU LOOK AT ANY OF THE LINKS ON THIS POST, LOOK AT THIS ONE FOR THE MUGSHOT. It could be an April's Fool joke gone awry, or him making a face, but that is an unfortunated combination of a photo with a story about a guy who hits a building with a car.

Alright, I am going to read some more Virginia Woolf and Brian Lumley. At the same time... The vampire lord, in black and red silk, stood upon the white marble palisade with the wind...

Si Vales, Valeo

April 07, 2009. Tuesday.

(10:38:57 AM CDT)

Toasty "Underfoot", RIP

For those wondering what the "ah craps" were for (Twitter/Facebook), Toasty just passed away a quarter of an hour ago. He had renal failure (the vet thinks it might have been chronic, but all signs point to very acute and severe) that just suddenly hit him all at once last week and completely wiped him out this weekend. I won't go into much detail but he had slowed and then stopped eating. In the middle of this, we made an appointment to the vet. By the time we got there, he had completely stopped eating and was only conscious maybe half the time. Last night about 2am he dropped out of consciousness and never exactly regained besides for short, 2-3 second intervals. He was mostly calm and relaxed up to the end, so I would like to think he suffered as little as possible. Sarah and I stayed with him for over 12 hours with only minimal sleep, petting him when he was briefly conscious and making sure he got fluids. We are both so zonked. We are going to bury him out at her parents this afternoon. I would much rather have this than to have him disposed of as medical waste.

We are likely to have a wake in his honor either this weekend or, if I need to rest (and I might) next weekend. Bad movies and drinks. The sort of thing that his favorite people adored.

Goodbye, you sweet little puppy like annoyingly underfoot cuddle-blocking mama's boy of a string-loving cat. I'm sorry we couldn't help more than we did.

Si Vales, Valeo

April 05, 2009. Sunday.

(09:10:40 PM CDT)

Back from Gadsden, the Toasty is sick, the Food-Profit margin, the "Liberry" question

Sarah and I are back from Gadsden. The final class went well, the presentation was nervousness wrapped in a presentation, but I think it turned out even better than ok. We have some work to do to prepare our final project (i.e. written form, cover and a binder, etc). I have enjoyed the Systems Analysis class a whole lot, especially the concept of "Negative Entropy", which I might or might not make a post on.

This time, did not stay in Gadsden a second night. Sarah and I left town about 4 and got back to Huntsville as soon as possible. For all the good of the trip, not least of which was introducing Sarah to the band Clutch and getting to act silly with classmates, there was something of a negative spot in that Toasty—the thin and vogue-loving cat—hast gotten something like sick over the past few days. Maybe as long as a week. It is hard to tell in cats, they usually do not give you a heads up until the conditions have worsened. He started eating less and less until he was eating almost no dry food and only eating wet food. Then he started, over the next couple of days, to eat less wet food and only to lick the moisture off of it with some small nibbles. As of today, he does not seem to be eating at all. He, and he has been thin for a while, has obviously lost weight and now only comes in about six-pounds (and he is kind of a tall, long kitty). We have a vet appointment in the morning, and hopefully this something that can be treated, and, sort of nerve-smashingly, treated in our somewhat limited budget.

I have a few hundred dollars set aside but by the time we reach the $300 mark, Sarah and I are putting off bill paying in some form or another. Tuition is also needing to be paid tomorrow, and rent was due this past Friday, not to mention the amount spent on the trip, so there is a quantity of money gone that makes me feel kind of scared, but mostly I want to find out why a cat stops eating (note, he keeps drinking and is still somewhat social, though obviously tired).

With that bad news aside, I have two "experiments" I want to try out. The first one is the groceries by profit margin experiment. Take maybe about 20 different types of groceries, milk and eggs and cereal and juice and fruit and canned fruit and soup and so on. Then, factor in the costs that go into them: growing costs, production costs, packaging costs, overhead, shipping costs, costs created by some food going bad. Then, figure out which of those categories is generating the highest margins of profits. My guess is that milk, now that a lot of places are around the three dollar a gallon mark, and maybe cheaper meat are the two lowest profit items. Cereal, with it's low shipping cost and cheap-as-dirt packaging is probably the highest, especially the puffy children's cereals that have under a pound per $5 box.

The second involves the pronunciation of the word library as "liberry". Not all Southerners do it, I would say not even a majority, but a few definitely do. In Alabama, it seems to be more prominent in the upper-mid-belt region: Cullman and Birmingham. I cannot remember how it is said in the Southern portion. It has been too long. Looking online (urban dictionary) it is marked as being a ghetto/black way of saying it, but that doesn't seem to be true around here. I've heard older white librarians say it. I am thinking of setting up some way of finding out who says it which way, and try to isolate various dialects.

Si Vales, Valeo

April 02, 2009. Thursday.

(02:48:23 PM CDT)

Briefly: Three Links

Three links I wanted to share with you all. First off, LibraryThing deals with review corruption. As someone who is interested in the way that websites like Amazon deal with real, sensible reviews as opposed to reviews that are practially meaningless because the concept of "best of the best" means any book they had no problem with, I thought this was interesting. Some presses have apparently charged their own writers to create FUD as a way to promote books. Tricksy devils.

Second, Cracked.com's 6 Historical Villains Who Were Actually Not Such Bad Guys. Fun list, even if Fu Manchu did not make it. *rimshot*

Third, Final, Full HTML Text of Karl Marx's Das Kapital in English. The reason? Well, someone brought it up, and then BoingBoing had a post about it, and the G20 summit's protests about how capitalism has failed and such, as well as the recent Right Wing mantra of Obama = Marxist, it just seemed to be a good time to point out that phrases like capitalism and Marxism have meanings, not just moods. This 800 page book is the tome of Marxist ideas. If anyone is curious to give it a look-see, free is better than paying $30 for a book that sits on your shelf unread.

Si Vales, Valeo

April 01, 2009. Wednesday.

(11:50:56 AM CDT)

How to Use Twitter Wrong, the Woeful Tale of "CiscoFatty"

Twitter's a booming. According to an article on CNN.com, there was a growth of nearly 1300% over the past year. That's insane. CNN, today, even hinted that it might fuel the G20 protest fervor. Of course, as I, myself, tweeted: "Why do they always protest the G# summits where # = {8, 20, ...} and why does CNN always cover these stories with much concupiscence?" In other words, the article has little to do with Twitter though it claims it does and more to do with CNN's continued fascination with the G8/20 summit protests, a topic that CNN can never, ever get enough of.

Back to Twitter, though. An e-mail through SLIS-L (a listserv for MLIS students and associated people down at UA) linked to "the first case of someone getting fired over Twitter". The linked article, alas, did not go into much detail and so I had to look into it. The case was about someone now referred to as "Cisco Fatty", largely because her tweet (i.e. the Twitter equivalent to a blog post) said, "Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work." That's right, she publically tweeted not only the name of the company she was getting hired into, but bragged about her paycheck, and slagged off the company in the same 140 character burp. Dumbass, right?

Perhaps, though there are lots of reasons to argue that maybe she did not mean it as she sounded, as Cracked.com's "Why Twitter Can Be Dangerous" humorously pointed out, the 140 character limit can be an issue. The gist of the Cracked article, by the way, starts with him having to edit down (paraphrased) "watching the movie Strangers, and I am getting hungry" to something like "Watching strangers. hungry." and goes to it's foregone conclusion. CiscoFatty had not done the work so how does she know she is going to hate it? Is she even referring to that job in particular, or the concept of working in more general terms? That tweet does nothing to explain how she really feels. What does she hate about the job? Why apply for a job in a place she doesn't want to drive to and doesn't want to do? All we know is that she was complaining about the job while bragging about its benefits (and, I might add, who doesn't do that?). There could be sarcasm, humility, and all sorts of things behind her decision to do this.

What ended up happening is someone from Cisco found out about the tweet because, guess what?, Twitter is very public sharing tool and it is not hard at all to set up some bot that searches for certain keywords or to have a person who barely knows you "retweet" your tweet until it tweetplodes, the equivalent of a forward e-mail going critical. He contacted her, asking for the hiring manager that hired her, and chided her for not know that Cisco knows how to use the Internet. She took down her post, made her tweets private, and he took down his. But, and this is the Internet so it was bound to happen, it did that whole "critical" thing. In no time at all, a website dedicated to her (and ends up posting her personal information) went up, blogs were blasting her and defending her (I take my standard fence sitting position by lightly doing both), e-mails about her being a dumbass were cropping up, and oh, did I mention a website that may not go out of its way to publish her private, personal information but allows it to happen? Said website is the number one hit on Google if you search "CiscoFatty" right now.

Welcome to the Internet, people. Apparently hating your job and telling your friends is now meme-worthy.

I found this one interesting article about it online: TG Daily - "How To Use Technology Wrong". It takes a much more balanced approach than the people writing her off without any thought. It also points out, and it seems fairly unique in this, that the person that contacted her was not "the head of the company" and that the news, when it first broke, was too soon to really say whether she was fired or not. People just pretty much added that bit to the end of the story.

My final verdict? She did nothing wrong in that I do not have a single friend who has not complained about their job, often while mentioning the benefits. However, she was stupid in posting this to a very public website, mentioning the company by name, and throwing in all the other details at once. Her biggest sin is over-information. Had she said "I got a job offer today..." then this never would have happened. Had she ended it without the word "hate" and "fatty" in there, none of this would have happened.

Know the technology you are using to bitch about the world. Know it well.

Si Vales, Valeo

(01:02:07 AM CDT)

First post of the month, a poem: "Swimming the Air"

I'm not 100% where this came from, but it came more or less joyously. In some ways, it is my own version of "Sailing to Byzantium", a superior poem by William Butler Yeats, likely best known for the opening lines: "That is no country for old men. The young/ In one another's arms, birds in the trees/- Those dying generations - at their song..." In it, Yeats addresses his older age and the rising torrents of passion growing in the Irish government. My poem is meant to be something similar, except not. It is not so much that I am saying give up and die, which might be one interpretation of the poem, I am just saying, maybe we should realize that we are the ones beating the drums, and if we stop, and take a second to realize the call to war is just us saying to fix ourselves, maybe it isn't that bad and we are mostly spitting and spitting because we think we should.

To quote Epictetus: "We are disturbed not by events, but by the views which we take of them." and "I must die. Must I then die lamenting? I must be put in chains. Must I then also lament? I must go into exile. Does any man then hinder me from going with smiles and cheerfulness and contentment?"

We can make monsters out of thin air and then swim in delight through all the chaos they inspire, all the fear.

24-hour news has a lot to answer for...

"Swimming the Air"

I have fallen, at least it feels like it, The rain intimates its presence, Permeates the present Halo-like, hallowed-esque, Ambient about my cheery face. In the distance, drums beat, horizon's Halcyon call to war. Call to fate. This needless, ingenious, Plot, its written in twine. And the rain drops, All the rain drops, Liquid and sweet, Are fallen, at least it feels like it. A deep black wine. The night sky, well hidden, filled with Colors other than grey, but the night sky, Well hidden, is drowned out by the rain. And the fog's up, deep mist's whoop, as though It can't shake That feeling that maybe, just maybe, It's all a mistake. It falls then, like dew then, It collapses into drops on the grass. And the rain then, the freezing rain then, Washes away even that. And I'm fallen, I just know it, Laying there all quiescent and wet. And the rain then, the freezing rain then Runs off into stream's happenstance. The drums play, beating drums play, Only there're no more wars left I'll fight. Though they scream, though Lugrubrious their glee, they are mostly Ignored, Like dew drops, dead mist dew drops, Waiting in the night. Someday, maybe somewhere, someone will Answer their call, but those drums now, Those tympani, Fall wasted, practically silent, Fall wasted into the well. I have fallen, at least it feels that way, Though I cannot stop laughing; my face, My laughing face, screams ELI, Screams ELI and other things, Screams in it's own merry, rotund way, But really I understand. It's just I am too old now, much too old now, To care for a young man's bliss, A young man's piss. A young man's LAMA SABACHTHANI. Let them write their own poetry. Let them write their this, Delirous irony. And the drums beat, and the rain falls, And I really don't care. The drum beats, and the rains fall. We're all just swimming the air.

Si Vales, Valeo

Written by W Doug Bolden

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