August 02, 2005

Need some really, really cheap furniture?

How creative, cheap, crazy and cool. This guy has figured out how to build furniture for his empty apartment from free FedEx packaging materials.
This is a 9.5 foot couch. It is not 100% complete yet due to how difficult it is to get fedex to deliver to my house these days.
Necessity is definitely the mother of invention, and eating off FedEx boxes sure beats eating (and sleeping) on the floor.

July 24, 2005

There goes the neighborhood

On Friday morning as I was driving to work, I saw not one, but two Hummers ahead of me at the traffic light where I turn to get on the road that gets me to I-4. The white one was turning left with me; the black one was going straight.

So I wondered: what does it feel like, to have such a need to drive a larger vehicle than everyone else that you drop an excess of funds on a Hummer, only to pull up to the traffic light and find yourself elbow-to-elbow with another Hummer driver? Are you, well, ordinary again?

July 20, 2005

Moon pie in the sky

Today is Moon Day, the thirty-sixth anniversary of the day that humans last walked on our moon. And now I read that Scotty has beamed up permanently. I wonder if he determined, at the last, that there was no intelligent life down here?

Gene Roddenberry took advantage of his Star-Trek soapbox to call peace our "Undiscovered Country". We've shuffled to the moon and back, sent drones to Mars and Jupiter, and submersibles to our deep ocean trenches. My youngest sister likes to point out that we've spent more time on the moon than in the deepest parts of the ocean, and she's still probably right.

But I think we've also spent little time truly at peace, that undiscovered country. It's not an easy place to find; and it seems that many people find it too tempting to leave rather than stay.

Beam him up

From BoingBoing:
James Doohan, chief engineer Montgomery Scott on the original Star Trek, died today at age 85. Rest in peace, Scotty.

July 07, 2005

London Underground: memory escapes

Reading news briefs this morning about the transit bombings in London, I tried to find out what stations had been affected, to remember if I had been to them when I was in Britain as a student.

Strangely, I find it hard to remember now what the stations looked like. I'm finding my memories of London Underground overrun with my mental images of the Underground in Neil Gaiman's fantasy novel, Neverwhere. Time is partly to blame, I'm sure. But I wonder if it's also that I can't quite associate the reality of the places I've been with a bombing. A surreal fantasy setting comes more easily to mind.

June 21, 2005

I pledge allegiance to the United Federation of Planets

I can't believe that a school suspended an eight-year-old kid for speaking his own version of the Pledge of Allegiance. His version:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United Federation of Planets, and to the galaxy for which it stands, one universe, under everybody, with liberty and justice for all species.
Seriously. He's eight. He likes Star Trek. This deserves suspension? The mother reports that the teacher said the following in response to the boy's so-called misbehavior:
"Mrs. Jaworski. This isn't humorous. The Pledge is an extremely important and patriotic moment each morning in the classroom. I am ashamed of your son's behavior, and I hope you are, too."
Is Big Brother in charge of this school? Are we now training children to be patriotic at all costs? WTF?

This story via BoingBoing.

Zero rows returned

Wil Wheaton has a great post about buying a new geek-celebrating t-shirt and then trying to wear it for the first time. Oops. It's a great shirt; I've always liked the design though I don't have one of my own:

> SELECT * FROM users WHERE clue > 0;
> 0 rows returned

(Rough English translation: select all users who have a clue. Result: none. Also available in a BOSSES variation...)

June 20, 2005

Sick pink shrimp: Are they aware of lightning?

Local news. When the body count isn't enough to pump up the newscast, things can get really odd. Just today: our shrimp are sick, and it's Lightning Safety Awareness Week.

Also, if you're a registered sex offender, you're now banned from public hurricane shelters in Hillsborough County, Florida. I guess that part about paying your debt to society doesn't count if you have the wrong kind of offense on your record.

June 18, 2005

Turtle Rescue!

My good deed of the week. Last night, driving home from work, I saw a Florida box turtle (photo) attempting to cross Hiawassee Road near a park. I can't imagine where he (she?) thought he was going, since he was actually leaving the safety of the park grounds.

So I pulled over in the right-turn lane, put my blinkers on, and went running back down the road like a crazy woman. That turtle was hauling his little turtle butt across the highway. When I passed him he was in the turn lane. As I was doing my lame sprint toward him, he was already in the right-hand traffic lane. Fortunately, the next car saw him (or saw loony me, and then the turtle) and moved over to the left lane to miss him.

Then a van came along in the left lane -- which was where the turtle was by this time. Man, that little guy could move! The van stopped dead in the road in front of the turtle, and I could see the driver leaning forward over his steering wheel to look at this turtle. I ran across the street, picked up the turtle, waved to the van driver, and crossed back to the park side with turtle in my hands.

I know some people say you should take turtles in the direction they were going, but there was nothing on the other side of the street but stores and houses. Not turtle-friendly.

So I looked at the turtle, and said to him, "Hey, you almost got tiddly-winked there." He just sucked into his shell. I've never held a box turtle that sucked into his shell before. Box turtles have a hinge on their bottom shell, so they can close up tighter. I could feel the bottom plate move when he did it. He stared back at me with his beady eyes.

I returned him to the grassy weeds at the edge of the park. I hope he'll stay there. He had some numbers painted on his shell in copper-colored paint, so somebody must be keeping track of him.

June 17, 2005

I control the horizontal, I control the vertical

This morning as I drove to work, I was considering how rewarding it felt to assert control over my life. I learned this when I was in college; it was the first time I was in a place where it wasn’t unacceptable to be assertive, to be in control, and as they say, it was Good. But Good Things are not always easy to hold on to.

As I listened to my Ipod-radio and melded with the traffic, a track from The Grey Album came up in the shuffle. I’ve never completely appreciated rap and hip-hop, though I get in the mood to listen from time to time. It suddenly occurred to me that rap is about power. I Own This. This is Mine. I Have Control. It explains the rawness of the sound, the aggressiveness. Kind of a ‘duh’ moment, I guess, but when you come from outside a tradition, you have to learn these things for yourself.

June 12, 2005

What Muppet Are You?

chef jpeg
You are the the Swedish Chef.
You are a talented individual, nobody understands you. Perhaps it's because you talk funny.

HOBBIES: Kokin' der yummee-yummers
FAVORITE MOVIE: "Wild Strawberries...and Creme"
LAST BOOK READ: "Der Swedish Chef Kokin' Bokin'"
QUOTE: "Vergoofin der flicke stoobin mit der brk-brk yubetcha!"

What Muppet are you?

June 09, 2005

Remember "Choose Your Adventure?"

If you've never heard of "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, turn to page 38. Otherwise, click over to Uncyclopedia and play The Game.

And waste some more time while you're there, too, fooling around with Zork. Not the original Zork, mind you, but a twisted, bent, Uncyclopedized Zork. Add your own screen if you like. Just watch out for the grue.

June 07, 2005

I didn't need those channels anyway

My husband just informed me that channels 23 through 98 have mysteriously vanished from our cable service this evening. We can still watch the other channels, though. Something unapproved-by-Ashcroft being transmitted this evening? Hmm..

May 31, 2005

The "Three Things" Thingie

Passed from Alice

Three things you are wearing right now:
  • my fuzzy brown "Mister Rogers" sweater
  • headphones
  • white ankle socks
Three favorite bands / musical artists:
  • Sting
  • Bobby McFerrin
  • The Beatles
Three favorite songs:
  • "Blackbird," The Beatles
  • "Freedom Is a Voice," Bobby McFerrin
  • "Joy," George Winston
Three things you want in a relationship:
  • love
  • love
  • love
Three physical things about the preferred sex that appeal to you:
  • good hugs and cuddles
  • a shoulder to lean on
  • a good smell (and NOT cologne!)
Three of your favorite hobbies/interests:
  • playing with Web sites, both my own and others'
  • reading good books
  • poking at ideas and seeing what emerges
Three things that scare you:
  • dumb people (especially those who don't know they're dumb)
  • drowning in deep water
  • machinery with evil-looking blades
Three of your everyday essentials:
  • Diet Coke
  • popcorn
  • tea
Three drugs of choice:
  • Diet Coke
  • tea
  • Paxil
Three favorite toys:
  • My computer
  • My iPod
  • ColdFusion
Three careers you have considered / are considering:
  • ballerina (age 6?)
  • astronomer (age 10?)
  • biogeneticist (age 15?)
Three places you want to go on vacation:
  • Antarctica
  • the Galapágos Islands
  • Anywhere, as long as my husband goes too :-)
Three things you want to do before you die:
  • Find myself, whereever it is that I've gone
  • Live happy
  • Learn how to tell other people about it

May 29, 2005

Stories about ordinary people are boring

At least, that's my take. I want to read stories about extraordinary people, or stories about animals or aliens or things I didn't know existed.

Even the things you might think are about everyday people really aren't. Does any television show resemble real life in any way? Hardly. "Reality TV" isn't. To say someone's life is like a soap opera (or a telenovela) is to say he has way too much drama, or misfortune, or something going on in his life -- far beyond average.

Just finished Cryptonomicon

Cryptonomiconwhew! A great read, and at 1130 pages it kept me occupied for a lot longer than your average paperback. My husband wondered if I was OK; I usually finish books sooner. I had to explain it was -- well -- oversized. Full of interesting characters, machinations, and historical factoids.

I still like Snow Crash better; it's just so over-the-top and extreme, like the whole book is overcaffeinated. But every story is its own.

May 23, 2005

Yard maintenance can be fun and stress-relieving

For the person in your life who needs a little therapeutic destruction time -- yes, it's the Weed Whackin' Burninator. Guaranteed to terminate any weed with extreme prejudice and 500,000 BTUs. Read the review of the Red Dragon Torch Kit at Cool Tools.

May 11, 2005

A hawk arrives at the office

We're in the midst of a system conversion at work, so I've been too busy to take care of the more important things in life -- like blogging, which is a measure of my calm and sanity. Heh heh.

There's been a juvenile red-shouldered hawk hanging around our office since last Friday, crying out and pecking at the windows. A woman from the Audubon Birds of Prey center came out a few times to try to capture it for rehab, but it's well enough to dodge humans with speed.

So we watch it through our windows and listen to it cry. One of my friends bought some chicken and left it for the hawk, thinking it might eat it. A nice idea, but he didn't go for it.

April 27, 2005

I am Apocalypse Now (?)

I've never even seen this movie, but apparently it's me.

What Classic Movie Are You?

Thanks to Alice for asking the question...

April 24, 2005

Is knowledge to be shared or hoarded?

Alice brought this up, and it's been on my mind lately too:

Charlie on cyberdash wrote a very interesting entry on how we should emphasize the distribution of knowledge rather than merely the distribution of technology, which is a great point. He also links to a Santa Clara University symposium that convened to address the issue and discuss creating a "digital commons" to alleviate "social and economic problems in poor countries":

  • Some said it was time to rethink intellectual property laws that often prevent poor countries from tapping into useful innovations and technology. ``We should recognize that intellectual property rights are competing with basic human rights,'' said Raoul Weiler, head of a European think tank.
Funny, I attempted to have a conversation with a professor about this subject recently. He came and sat at our table during lunch and I volunteered that we were more comfortable searching for references for a paper we had to do for his class using Google than using the library's paid, proprietary academic databases. And there were a certain number of scholarly journals that actually did post their publications online for public access.

So I suggested that it would be of more value to both the authors and the publications to make their content more widely available. If more people knew about it -- then, I would think, they'd be more cited, their profile would rise, and their perceived worth would increase.

Sadly, all the prof could think of was the existing model: The publications surely must charge for access in order to exist and continue publishing.

I really tried to encourage him to think outside of the box. Since scholarly publications are generally run by not-for-profits, it's their continued existence that counts, not the percentage of profit above breakeven. What if there were a model that made it possible for publications to exist financially, but still publish their information for free? Wouldn't that benefit both sides, authors and publications?

That's when he followed up with an argument so strange I think I just looked at him and blinked unbelievingly -- that if a paper were so successful in its online freedom that everyone had read it, then it would be valueless because no one would want it any more. (As if the ubiquity of Mickey Mouse has done anything to hurt Disney's brand.)

And this guy teaches technology-related classes. I just hope his students are smart enough to know when to question him.

April 19, 2005

Fireworks on the lake

Japan is a land of fireworks connoisseurs; check out Robert Brady's blog for what it's like to enjoy the show from the 8th International Symposium on Fireworks when you've the advantage of living nearby.

Here in Orlando, land of Disney and Universal, all the family fun is supposedly pre-planned and canned. The fireworks run every night from multiple locations, perfect and precise, like wind-up toys. It's all quite routine, no mystery at all.

How I miss the magic of waiting on a sandy beach in the dark, listening for the sound of a shell launching. Then looking up to the night sky with anticipation, wondering and watching: What would it be? A chrysanthemum? Whistler? The little twirling sparklers that squirmed like polliwogs in mud?

April 17, 2005

Humans are so dense

Zip takes a bathFor two days I had to complain at them, chirping and squawking. Waking my humans up when they were napping, being louder than the TV, banging my food dish around and twanging the bars of my cage, you'd think they'd get the message. Finally, I got my Sunday bath. It's about time.

Now I can tuck my head backward, nestle my beak between my shoulders, and nap the rest of my day in peace.

April 10, 2005

Spring fever. Agh!

The insanity has taken hold. I want to sweep things clean. I want to sit outside and listen to the wind. Most of all, I want to redo my blog layout.

I am not alone in my derangement. BlogAlice, Wil Wheaton, UtopianHell ... even TerraNova recently changed their header to a bunch of spring flowers. Can I resist? I have a paper to write. I think not.

April 07, 2005

New book! Yummmm

I got a new book at Costco tonight. Mmmm, shiny. The Shadow of the Wind is blurbed as being reminiscent of Borges, Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose, and Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude.

The first chapter is titled "The Cemetery of Forgotten Books." I read it standing in the noisy, cement-floored aisle, leaning against stacks of paperbacks.

April 05, 2005

A "Pope of the Living Dead" Moment

Yesterday morning I picked up the newspaper outside my door and saw this:


Woah, hold onto your brains! Zombie Crisis in the Vatican!

The rest of the Cover Story Anyway, after I took it out of the wrapper, the full picture emerged. Don't things like this make you wonder if the people doing front-page layout are awake, asleep, or trying to make us spit our coffee all over the paper?

April 03, 2005

Baudrillard, Borges, and The Matrix

After I posted about McLuhan, Alice mentioned I might try reading Baudrillard as well. Then Baudrillard's name came up in an article next to McLuhan's. So I thought: Twice in one week means I need to find out more.

I googled Baudrillard and found a page with some of his work online. An excerpt from a book called Simulcra and Simulation? Again, I thought, I know that title. That's the book that Neo has in The Matrix, where he stores his illegal warez. It's the scene where Neo follows the "White Rabbit."

So I follow the rabbit myself, and look up the book. On the first page Baudrillard mentions one of my favorite authors, Borges.

So the upshot of all this is that I guess I need to mark Baudrillard "for further investigation."

April 01, 2005

Late for work

I didn't feel like going to work this morning, but I have things to do that need to be done today. I take my e-commerce seriously. So I dragged myself in, half an hour late, despite the lovely sunshine and the warm 77-degree air that invited me to take a Mental Health Day. What an April Fool I am.

March 30, 2005

Is a photograph more real than a digital image?

In the bonus documentaries that come with Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, there's a long demo of a waterfall scene that didn't make the final cut because it slowed down the action. Most of the components of the scene are digitally created, including all the water effects. The artist shows how he created the waterfall from image samples and overlays -- and then added noise and film grain. Film grain. Because the image looked too crisp and perfect.

So by making a digital image look like a photograph, it becomes more "realistic" to our eyes. Isn't that interesting? Photography connotes realism. And we make this judgment -- realistic or not realistic -- when viewing an image, even though we should consciously know that photos can be staged or completely manufactured.

"The medium is the message." -- Marshall McLuhan. When a digital image simulates a photo, is that two messages? Or is it just a mixed message? ;-)

I'm not going to try it. You try it.

Ken and Alice have a large, sweet, but loudly barking dog. They also have an old crotchety neighbor that doesn't like noise and does like making complaints. What to do?

They got a shock collar but wanted to make sure it was OK for the dog. Guess what happens next. (video included)

March 28, 2005

Marshall McLuhan: the wayback way forward

I have a B.A. in English, but I'd never heard of Marshall McLuhan until recently, when I read an old magazine interview with him for a master's-level class I'm taking. My bachelor's program was centered on literature rather than communications, so perhaps that's part of the reason I missed his work.

"The medium is the message." I'd heard the phrase -- but never really thought about who might have said it or what it was supposed to mean. All I can say is, this guy rocks. He's hard to get sometimes. And for some of his work that I've read, I can't decide if I just don't get it, if he's totally missed the mark, or something else entirely.

But it definitely seems relevant today, even though it's forty years old. More on the mark than a lot of the talking heads. Even P Diddy recently quoted him, natch.

February 05, 2005

Life without a tail

Today I was thinking about one of my former green birds. Zip had a sibling, Zap, who plucked out his own tail feathers mercilessly.

The habit started when Zap had an infection in a gland near the base of his tail. I guess it itched. Poor guy. But we never could get him to stop after that. Our vet even tried putting a collar on him. He was such an acrobat that he still managed to pick his tail feathers. And the collar irritated his neck, so he started picking his neck feathers too.

Because he had no tail, Zap wasn't very good at landing after a flight. Usually birds will fan out their tail feathers just before landing to slow down. Without his tail, Zap would crash down -- feet, then chest, then beak, boom, boom, boom. And pick himself up afterwards. I always felt sorry for him.

On the other hand, with no tail in the way, Zap could also hang upside down from the roof of his cage like a bat. Zip always looked at Zap oddly when he did that -- perhaps because Zip couldn't do it himself.

January 29, 2005

The Wizard of Op

Ed Emberley is online! Mark Frauenfelder of BoingBoing recently posted about children's artist/author Ed Emberley. I loved Emberley's book The Wizard of Op when I was a kid. It's full of eyeball-twisting optical illusions.

January 25, 2005

Starting a second life

Over the holiday break I started playing with a new computer game I'd read about online: Second Life. Although I haven't found anyone's model of the Black Sun in-world yet, I have to believe it's there somewhere. There are a fair number of Snow Crash readers. The game's creators, Linden Labs, acknowledge the influence of Stephenson's novel by allotting some related in-world names: Protagonist, Raven, Radiks. :-)

Here's my avatar in my just-acquired apartment, at the TigerTor Apartments for the Landless. I'm holding off on acquiring a permanent abode in Second Life, mostly because I have homework to do.