Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The iMac G5 Cereal Box

Apple just released their new iMac today. G5 processor, 17" and 19" LCD screen, with everything built into the screen. Pretty much the standard evolution from the original iMac and Mac Classic with everything in the screen. It actually looks a lot like a descendent of the 20th Anniversary Macintosh released in 1996 as a bit of a novelty.

Personally I was a lot more taken with the design of the desk-lamp model, but I haven't seen this one in person yet. I still love being able to adjust the iMac G4's screen so easily. But this new model's 64-bitness and super-fast system bus are as good as anyone could ask out of a consumer computer. It certainly couldn't take up any less space on a desk, which is pretty amazing in itself. Especially compared with my current laptop + bulky CRT setup. If you added the wireless keyboard and mouse you'd have an amazingly slick looking workspace.

Having gone through several moves and a lab migration I definitely have more respect for the all-in-one form factor. This new iMac also seems to be a lot more user-serviceable than the previous versions, as you can just take the whole back panel off and can see all the parts all layed out across the back of the LCD panel. Sort of like an XServe with a screen glued onto it and propped up so it's vertical.

By al - 6:40 p.m. | (6) comments | Post a Comment

I wish I had more blog commenters like this guy over at the 'tube.

By al - 12:46 p.m. | (1) comments | Post a Comment


From MetaFilter:
a visitor to rio takes a bunch of disposable cameras and hands them out to children in the favela of rocinha to take pictures of their lives (via k5) (scroll down)
From the same MeFi thread: images from the Rwanda Project are the same idea.

By al - 12:38 p.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Monday, August 30, 2004

The Mysterious Disappearing Drivers

So today I go to plug in my nice little USB mouse into my laptop, ready to do some work, and... .. nothing. Driver wouldn't recognize the mouse, and of course I am not going to dig through my boxes and boxes looking for whichever copy of a WinXP CD I may have installed from. And besides, what the hell kind of OS doesn't keep mouse drivers around as a pre-configured option? You know, so people can plug them in and use them without having to remember which service pack CD they need to put in to get the proper driver from.

At any rate, before I got my mouse working properly I managed to lose the functionality in my touchpad, install XP service pack 2, seriously consider formatting my drive and losing 2 days of productivit, figure out that there are about a million driver files stowed away in c:\windows\inf\, and finally figured out what "unknown device" that's been a sore spot in my lovely device manager for months. Apparently I own a Secure Digital card reader. Neat. I should go get a card to stick in there. And maybe a camera to stick the card in. Or maybe just forget about it again and save my money like I'm supposed to be doing.

This was officially the worst fight with computer hardware I've engaged in, even worse than any kernel compilation tangles with Debian. I hate computers.

By al - 4:49 p.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment


Hugo Chávez (Wikipedia article), president of Venezuela, who has managed to tick off the US government to the point of their supporting a failed coup d'etat against him for the sin of promising to help the poor who elected him. Go figure. Apparently the US's habit of interfering in Latin American politics, to the detriment of peoples' quality of life.
A television crew from Ireland (Radio Telifís Éireann) which happened to be recording a documentary about Chávez at the time (and which after the short coup was based in the presidential palace with members of both rival governments and their supporters) recorded images of the events that contradicted explanations given by anti-Chávez campaigners, by the opposition-controlled elements of the media, by the US State Department, and by President George W. Bush's official spokesman. The television crew released a documentary film called "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" detailing the events of the coup.
Chávez isn't perfect by any means, he isn't afraid of a tough political fight but he seems to really love Venezuelans and Venezuela and is fighting for the poor, something which hasn't hapened before there, despite them being in the overwhelming majority in a democratic nation.

Greg Palast wrote an interesting article on Venezuela: Dick Cheney, Hugo Chavez and Bill Clinton's Band: Why Venezuela has Voted Again for Their 'Negro e Indio' President which puts the opposition between the rich, white, priveleged elites in Venezuela and the poor, darker-skinned majority in stark, unapologetic terms and is a very good read as well.
There's so much BS and baloney thrown around about Venezuela that I may be violating some rule of US journalism by providing some facts. Let's begin with this: 77% of Venezuela's farmland is owned by 3% of the population, the 'hacendados.'

I met one of these farmlords in Caracas at an anti-Chavez protest march. Oddest demonstration I've ever seen: frosted blondes in high heels clutching designer bags, screeching, "Chavez - dic-ta-dor!" The plantation owner griped about the "socialismo" of Chavez, then jumped into his Jaguar convertible.

That week, Chavez himself handed me a copy of the "socialist" manifesto that so rattled the man in the Jag. It was a new law passed by Venezuela's Congress which gave land to the landless. The Chavez law transferred only fields from the giant haciendas which had been left unused and abandoned.

This land reform, by the way, was promoted to Venezuela in the 1960s by that Lefty radical, John F. Kennedy. Venezuela's dictator of the time agreed to hand out land, but forgot to give peasants title to their property.

But Chavez won't forget, because the mirror reminds him. What the affable president sees in his reflection, beyond the ribbons of office, is a "negro e indio" -- a "Black and Indian" man, dark as a cola nut, same as the landless and, until now, the hopeless. For the first time in Venezuela's history, the 80% Black-Indian population elected a man with skin darker than the man in the Jaguar.

By al - 8:56 a.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Someone Didn't Get the Memo

The trailer for Batman Begins is rather striking for one thing: it takes place entirely in broad daylight. This is Batman. Batman is not a creature of the daylight. A young, well-dressed ,broody kid watching his parents get killed? So Batman is Harry Potter now? I've already written about the emo-fication of Spider-Man, and now I fear they're doing teh same to Batman, only with a touch of gothiness thrown in.

OK, it's true I'm just disappointed that Darren Aronofsky isn't doing it anymore, but come on. Broad, bright daylight?

By al - 10:32 p.m. | (2) comments | Post a Comment


Okay so now Steve and I have been into the new appartment for about a month now. And already we have a large list of complaints. One the worse things is that the power to the bathroom and refridgerator keeps going out. I have sent Steve serveral times to talk to the people at Property Care to look into it. The electrician came by and flicked the breaker. It worked for the electrician but has yet to work for us. On the electricians second return he took the fan in the bathroom out and cleaned it. This has not fixed the problem. We have been showering in the dark and have are fridge pluged into an out lit that it is not designed for. I get worried that we might just set the place on fire. Now the electrician blames the electrical problem on Steve having an air pump. Come on now. That thing is used for less than a minute a week and is unplugged other wise. I get the feeling they just don't want to look into the problem. Like they just don't want to bother. It is easier to blame us instead of trying to figure out what the problem may be. My mind wonders if perhaps if we should start making threats, like deducting a days worth of rent for every day we are with out power in the bath room, or maybe not paying rent at all until there is a clear indication that the problem has been dealt with. Things like this piss me off.

By Sabrina - 9:02 a.m. | (2) comments | Post a Comment

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Packing Sucks

Me, before starting school: "Yeah, I'd better take these undergrad textbooks with me, I might need a few of them"

Actual number of times I opened one of my old textbooks: 3.

I also think I might just go ahead and throw out all my old cd-rs. I know, I know "you never know when you might need a collection of every verion of Redhat and Mandrake Linux from RH4.2 onwards". Especially when you only have a laptop with strange exotic hardware that most of those old distros won't even recognize.

More things to get rid of:
  • My collection of event-related T-Shirts I'd be too embarrassed I went to now to ever wear them.
  • My back-issues of Guitar World Magazine, because you never know when you need to get the second bridge to "Crazy Train" just right, or find out what George Lynch (of Dokken fame) is up to these days.
  • My baking ingredients. # of times I actually used baking powder: 1.
  • My rolled-up, un-hung posters that looked good in a residence room but, christ, I'm 25, time to ditch the Titan: AE movie poster.
  • My un-mated socks that I haven't thrown out yet. The presence of white sports socks with the red strip at the top indicates that some of these have a grade 8-era vintage.
  • 60 metres of Cat-5 ethernet cable, 10 metres of phone cable. Note: still much longer than my current Wireless range.
  • 25 metres of speaker wire. I will never live in any house big enough to need even a third of that.
  • The styrofoam packing braces for my monitor. Might as well put my blankets to use instead.
  • The bag of rice I thought I was getting such a good deal on by buying in bulk.
  • I already did get rid of my couch, back to the street corner from whence it was grabbed. Gone in 20 minutes. And the circle of life continues.
Sweet Jesus I hate moving. I haven't had to do it in 2 years, which, after going through the co-op program in undergrad and moving every 4 months, is quite a change. But it means I actually accumulated stuff. God damnit. If I ever become a radical minimalist it will be out of sheer laziness and dislike of moving crap around and keeping track of it rather than some higher moral calling.

By al - 8:24 p.m. | (4) comments | Post a Comment

Friday, August 27, 2004

why are people so inconsiderate

so I went to bed last night early, 9:45. I was so tired....soooooooooo tired. I wanted to get up rested this morning because I have to go to the DMV this morning and I hate being tired waiting in line. However in the 8.5 hour between when I went to bed and when my alarm went off, I got less than four hours sleep. The idots down the street, played lound music until four AM. And when someone final called the cops (why did I think of that) they had a yelling match with them. I mean for god sake it is a work night and not everyone can sleep through loud thumping music, especially if they have a replica of Sting on there wall, which was acctually shaking.
I would have thought that common sence would prevail here. Work night, please keep it down. People don't like to go to work tired.

By Sabrina - 7:16 a.m. | (2) comments | Post a Comment

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Why I Hate DB2: Part 1

No one reading this blog will know or care, but for christ's sake IBM, you could at least put a line of code in your installation screen to tell your users that if you have an apostrophe in your username that you are in for some mysterious error messages and a ton of frustration because DB2 usernames don't support them. It wouldn't be a hard thing to do. In fact it would have taken less time than it's taking me to write this paragraph. I'm not even asking you to even fix the problem, I know that would be entirely too much trouble for the world's largest computer company, but one little warning screen would have been nice.

As it is I think you're just discriminating against the Irish. I guess the days of our being the 'white negroes' aren't fully over yet. Fucking collaborators.

By al - 1:11 p.m. | (2) comments | Post a Comment

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Internet Explorer Sucks

Any HTML / CSS experts out there wanna clue me in on why Internet Explorer browsers want to make the comment link on entry below this one disappear when you mouse over it, but not in any other browser or on any other link on these pages? It's bollocks is what it is.

Everybody should just go and get FireFox anyway, of course.

By al - 9:10 p.m. | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Olympics Musings

Well, Canada got their over-achieving asses kicked into fourth place by the Japanese baseball team yesterday. A medal in baseball would have been awesome. I love how there are about a million swimming events so a country like australia cleans up in the medals while if you are a country that's good at baseball, and send a whole team of guys to the olympics and they win gold after playing a whole tournament it amounts to just one little medal in the standings, while they have different swimming medals for various lengths of pool, types of stroke, etc. Imagine there was separate medals for 4-inning baseball, 7-inning baseball, 9-inning baseball, home-run derby, fastest pitch, lowest ERA.. that would even it out some.

The same thing happens to Canada in the winter olympics. All the effort and resources that went into the gold medal hockey team amounted to one little tick in the medal standings, while Norway's cross-country skiiers alone sent their medal tally beyond ours.

Makes lots of sense.

By al - 3:51 p.m. | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Aunt Binnie

well I guess I have some rather large news. My sister told me yester day that she is pregnant and in April she is going to have my parents first grandchild/ or grandchildren.

so I am now trying to decide what the child should call me. Aunt beany, aunt brina, Aunt B, may aunt Sabrina the teenage witch is too long for a child to say. But aunt sabrina seems like it would be too long and hard for a child to say anyway. The child him/herself will probably come up with a name they will like saying anyway..
feel free on a vote or new suggestion....with in reason remember this is a baby.

By Sabrina - 9:45 p.m. | (2) comments | Post a Comment

The Best Part of Contract Work...

"I'm bored... I think I'll make some money."

By al - 7:42 p.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Defeating the Purpose of Wireless Networking

Destroying my wireless network card's antenna has actually now rendered me worse off than I was before having wireless at all. My wireless range is about 3 metres max, and the signal goes out now and then almost at random. Seeing the plastic bits hanging from the little destroyed card still clinging to life, with the flashing green LED telling me I have a signal, is like watching Astroboy's broken body fighting for life as his battery runs out, desperately trying to hold onto some spark of life. The Ironic part is that I have network cables that are easily five times as long as my current wireless range, but as I mentioned before that's no help anymore either. So today, because I am doing some work with someone else, I had to actually lug my entire wireless rig, plus the ADSL modem, downstairs to the living room so we could have networking capabilities.

I just love technology.

By al - 8:30 a.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Monday, August 23, 2004

Team America: World Police (.mov) — I (heart) Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

By al - 10:58 p.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Outsource Your Own Job!

The Times of India - Outsource your job to earn more! — "Says a programmer on Slashdot.org who outsourced his job: "About a year ago I hired a developer in India to do my job. I pay him $12,000 out of the $67,000 I get. He's happy to have the work. I'm happy that I have to work only 90 minutes a day just supervising the code. My employer thinks I'm telecommuting. Now I'm considering getting a second job and doing the same thing." "

The thing I mostly find interesting is the perspective on outsourcing from the other side. Rather than the simple "they're sending our jobs away" perspective, we hear a point of view of people who benefit from the practice.

Not that I generally approve of it. But I do find it ironic that people happily bought Nike shoes made by 12 year olds in tinderbox factories for years, but as soon as their white collar programming jobs are threatened suddenly the loss of (north) American jobs to developing countries is a huge problem.

On the other hand, the race to the bototm isn't going to leave anyone better off except the people who don't actually do the real work.

Perhaps, eventually, we'll flatten out the wage gaps between countries. But not if it's at the sole expense of working people. I think if a company employs someone that personshould have the same employee rights regardless of which country they live in. By that I mean the right to unionize, the right to a safe work environment, and the right to make a decent living for their work.

By al - 5:56 p.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

The L-Curve

The L-Curve — "The red line represents a graph of family income across the population. The height of the curve at any point is the height of a stack of $100 bills equalling that income."

OK, that's just fucked. Maybe Adeel is right about the wheels of capitalism being oiled by the blood of the worker.

By al - 2:20 p.m. | (2) comments | Post a Comment

Friday, August 20, 2004

just a bit more for fun

This part to my own admition is not as well worked out as the last bit I published but I thought I could introduce you to the main charecter :)

Chapter 1-Venturing forth

“I don’t care what he wants you to do; you will get out from behind this bar and give that man his tankard of beer.” The large man, wielding a bar rag, raged at his youngest bar maid.

“But Dealogar….”she stared in a wimper voice

“Don’t Dealogar me, I pay you to feed my customers beer, and as much of it as they want. NOW GO!!” His voice hit a climax on the final words of that sentence that the young bar maid jumped back.

“Why don’t you serve him and let him tap your ass, for a while,” She took the rag from his and slapped down on the bar, pulled off her own apron and threw it next to the rag. “I will not be treated like a whore!” she spoke so loud the bar stopped moving. The silence of that moment was so intense that it made her shiver. She started to walk away, but a hand grabbed her by the wrist.

“Verra, you will not talk to me like that,” Dealogar pulled her back.

Verra teeth were grinding now. She could feel the strength of her boss hand forming bruises in her forearm. “Let go!” She said behind those grinding teeth.

“You are on my time right now, and you will serve that man his beer or I will break your arm.” Dealorgar pulled her next to him and spoke in a soft voice, “or being treated like a whore will be the least of your problems.”

Verra had expected this threat and was not about to take it. She pulled away with every muscle she had, and twisted to face her boss. Her fist hit his jaw with such force he stumbled back, then he was hit with a tanker of beer followed by a bar rag and a bar maid apron. “If you threaten me like that ever again you will not see the next sun rise.” Then Verra walked out. Her strides were strong and with purpose until she was out the door. Once she was outside they grew weaker and weaker until down the dark street and she could no longer hear the noise of the bar. Then she allowed herself to cry.

She knew what she had done, she knew that bar had been her only salvation and she knew she had no where to go. When her strength returned she was able to gather her self up and walk back to the small hut like house she had lived in the last few years. At the end of the week they would ask her to leave. She would be a burden on the village. She had no money, she had no job and she had no husband. She would have to beg for her food and the village did not welcome beggars, most were quickly removed from the area, several had found their way to the jail and on occasion some found themselves in the clutches of the gallows.

In her hut she picked up a few belongings and all the food she could find, in the morning while the sun was still low in the sky and the streets still quiet she moved on. The days were slow and long for Verra. Her hands were always cold and her body always shaking. She walked for several hours everyday, the muddy roads winded between towns and narrowed in the depth of the forest between. Verra had very little idea where she was going she was getting as far from where she was that day as she could. She moved from one village to the next, sometimes finding work sometimes finding a generous soul who gave her food and shelter for a day or two, but she found nothing constant. Years pasted for Verra, the years where so lonely and one day she realized she was no longer the young girl who had worked at that bar, but a lonely woman, whose purpose in life was lost.

She sat on the edge of the road she traveled that day to take a bite of food, some apples she found earlier that day.

“Tears are not appropriate for a woman.” It was a man’s voice. His voice was rough and tired sounding, but comforting. “What child is missing from your heart, that you cry when the gods have provided you with food and other well known joys of life.”

Verra wanted really bad to turn around and face this man, who was either comforting her or teasing her she could not decided which. “Would you care for an apple sir?” she pulled a second apple from her sac.

“I would indeed child,” he walked in front of her. He was an elderly gentle man, dressed in long blue robes, with a long beard streaked with black and white. His hair was equally long but it was all white, not hint of the color it had once been lay on his head. “It is rare to find one so down trodden and still so generous.” He sat down next to Verra and took the apple. “I am Ranmaral.” He smiled though Verra only saw the up lift of a very grey thick beard.

“I am Verra,” she too smiled and the two sat quietly enjoying their apples together. When Verra had cleaned her apple so the only thing left was a very small core, she turned to the old man.

“Are you a priest?” She asked looking at him.

“I am a kind of priest, yes.” He replied creating the first spark of curiousity that Verra had felt in over a year. The last spark found her self surround by some very hungy baggars and nearly ended in her death.

“What king of priest are you?”

“A rare kind, I am one of the last of my order.” Ranmaral took a bit out of his apple.

Verra waited patiently for him to finish his reply.

“Once there were many of us. When I was young we were well know in this land. In my grandfathers time we were the best know order and in his grandfathers time we were the only kind.” He took yet another bit out of the apple.

By Sabrina - 11:25 p.m. | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Holy F@#$

Today Al and I wonder down to City Cinama to watch fareinhite 9/11. As one might guess from this titlte I was blown away. My mind and thoughts have become a jumble of unbelievable chaos.
I reach into the depth of my mind to find a train of though I can stick with to explain how this documentory made me feel. I cannot give anyone a clear indication of what I am thinking about. I can say that this has made me think, even if the thoughts are nothing but a ramdom string of emotions and mental images. I found that the film brought to life a serious of my own belief about the american government, and gave me an overwhelming feeling of relief to be Canadian, and in the same thought a fear of being the neighbor to such a ruthless government, who would brain wash their own people. I am not foolish enough to say the canadian government has brain washed us as well....but perhaps they are a little more suttle in how they do it and choose their points a little more carefully. Perhaps they simply blunder less. In any case I would still perfer to live in a country where the Priminister questions the validity of going to war instead of pushing it on his/her people.
In the jumble of horrifying images that I watched on the screen today one full thought had occured to me. And though I did not hear it mentioned in the movie I have hear the words uttered before.
that state is simply "How can we find peace by provoking war- hand shakes are much better promotors of truce than bullets"

I don't know in all honesty what to say when it comes to war...no matter which war we talk about. I see only death and distruction. The political advancement and money that may be made in war surely cannot be compared to the lives lost and the horrors inflicted on both sides of the battle. I fear only that world peace cannot be achieved until such time that money and politics have been tossed carelessly away by civilization and in the lack of such things we can learn to enjoy the presences of all nations and their cultures and become a world instead of seperate countries.

Perhaps I have tossed in a few emotions into my thoughts and perhaps many people disagree with the statements I have posted. But this is simply the opion of a girl from a small island that has not seen War on it for a long time and will hopefully remain a place of peace and Freedom where people can visit and feel safe.

By Sabrina - 10:16 p.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

The Great Divide - Free E-Book

The Retro vs Metro website is a funny little teaser for what it turns out is a new book on American rural vs. urban demographics and how it affects politics. Well, the book is out, and the publishers have made it available for free download in pdf format. I wish more publishers would do this. Just as widespread mp3 sharing hasn't killed the music business, giving people a chance to read a book, before buying it (and most people still prefer printed pages to reading on a screen) is actually giving authors a great deal of success. The canonical examples are boing boing contributer Cory Doctorow and Lawrence Lessig. But I think there's a big pent-up demand out there among people who might not be sure what kind of books they like, so they don't want to go and buy one out of the blue. Hell, the publishing industry has survived the existence of libraries for quite some time now, and they offer the material in the same format as the bookstores do.

I'll post a review of The Great Divide when I finish it. Pretty good so far.

via MetaFilter.

By al - 8:57 a.m. | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Short Notice Trip to PEI

OK, so I'll be on the Island from this afternoon through probably only tomorrow (or Saturday). Whenever I need to find something to do I first go to The Buzz's web site to see their nifty calendar of events. The one that looked kind of interesting was Sketch 22, an improv show put on by blogroll resident Rob MacD and a few others, looks like the successor to the 4-Play show a few years back (2 of the same guys, the other being perennial CBC guy Matt Rainnie.) Last time I saw 4-Play I ended up on stage for one of the skits and actually managed to throw out a few audience-pleasing lines and got Mr. Rainnnie to do a dance. A worthy accomplishment in my mind. Not much else in the Buzz, Fat Jebus is playing at Baba's, and there'd be nothing more exciting than going on a trip only to find the biggest band playing in your destination is a mainstay of The Cellar. Fun times.

Or I may just stay in and do some more desperate thesis work. (you know, the boring and sensible option.) Being my productive self I did arrange to get in touch with someone from a contract I'm working on while at home. If I get any more efficient I might need to get a day planner. I love that I've developed applications, and an XML library, for the Palm OS but I don't even have the need to own one myself.

By al - 6:25 a.m. | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Ho'in It Up

Haven't really talked about the work I'm doing on the side in addition to my thesis work, since it's 1) boring, 2) not something I'd want the people I'm working with to google up. But I'm noticing that it's rather an addicting thing to work on such short notice, and to go straight to new projects, and work whenever I want, and avoid most office politics. The down side, of course, is the lack of job security. And the need to be productive, not generally a fan of that.

I'm noticing also the relationship between myself and the people who have gotten me work is such that I sort of feel like I'm being pimped out, only the old fashioned kind probably still pays more per hour. Somehow, though, I don't think I have the qualifications for that.

But it has its thrills, like having to learn how some system works in the space of a night because you said you were familiar with it. (Having used it a couple of times, 3 versions ago counts, right? right?) The waiting to be paid part is less fun, and wondering which parts of your work constitute billable hours and which ones you spent making coffee or talking on the phone. Also keeping track of this kind of income for tax purposes is torturous, and the reason why I always just let my actual employers take off whatever they wanted to and then collected a nice big surprise of a refund before this. Having to plan ahead and think "wow, I'm not actually going to get to keep some of this" is a new and unpleasant feeling. Not enough to make me become a Conservative, mind you, I just can't muster up the hatefulness, but I can sort of sympathize with those greedy turds who always go on about taxes now, while enjoying roads and schools and jails and all the other nice things we have.

At least I'm also getting a few more bullet points for the old C.V., and if I work even harder than I was before than going back and doing a PhD might actually seem appealing. Not sure if that's a good thing or not.. At this point I never want to write another thesis again.

Here's the solution to that:

Dear Self.

If you are reading this, it's because you had the thought that maybe you would enjoy going back to grad school.

STOP. Stop it now. You likely forgot about the complete lack of a life. You probably don't remember the only getting out to socialize once a month if you're lucky. You are certainly forgetting what it's like to go to the grocery store and give a shit how much bananas are per pound. You're forgetting how much your professors complain about bullshit committee work, idiotic selfish cheating students and Byzantine bureaucracies. You don't want that. I know you probably still don't know what it is you do want, but you don't want that.


-- self

By al - 1:37 a.m. | (4) comments | Post a Comment

Monday, August 16, 2004

"Active Disengagement - or - Calculated Loafing"

From MeFi:

Corporate culture is nothing more than the "crystallization of the stupidity of a group of people at a given moment", says Corinne Maier, the author of the slacker manifesto, "Bonjour Paresse". Better read this before clocking in Monday. (NYT)

From the article:

Finally, instead of dissembling behind ambiguous notions of Gallic joie de vivre, someone in this leisurely land has declared outright that the French should eschew the Anglo-Saxon work ethic and openly embrace sloth.

Corinne Maier, the author of "Bonjour Paresse," a sort of slacker manifesto whose title translates as "Hello Laziness," has become a countercultural heroine almost overnight by encouraging the country's workers to adopt her strategy of "active disengagement" - calculated loafing - to escape the horrors of disinterested endeavor.

"Imitate me, midlevel executives, white-collar workers, neo-slaves, the damned of the tertiary sector," Ms. Maier calls in her slim volume, which is quickly becoming a national best seller. She argues that France's ossified corporate culture no longer offers rank-and-file employees the prospect of success, so, "Why not spread gangrene through the system from inside?"

Perhaps the darker side of the so-called protestant work ethic familiar to the us and UK and Americans is that someone who makes a comfortable living and doesn't give her life to her job is apparently worthy of an article in the NY Times. I have been thinking about why it is people sacrifice so much for their employers, only to be discarded at some arbitrary whim of a corporate executive who needs to feel like he's doing something. How much of one's life should one dedicate to following orders and stymying your own creativity and potential for a wage proportional to the number of hours you spend in your chair? Is it not better for people's lives and families if they worked a little less and bought a little less to make up the difference?

If you ask a kid which he'd rather have, a brand new car and a 40" TV, or have mommy and / or daddy come home at 5 o'clock, I'm sure they would pick the latter.

PS. Go to BugMeNot to get around the NYT registration nonsense, or better yet get the BugMeNot Firefox Extension.

By al - 5:05 a.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Brittle Toshiba Laptops

You can't sneeze near my laptop without some plastic bit or other falling off of it from the strain. One port cover is gone, another is loose, half of the chrome-looking plastic panel cover is gone, the cap between the network port and modem port is gone, making it impossible to plug in a network cable, the 'j' key is gone, from when I dropped a CD case on the keyboard, the battery died about a week after the warranty was up, the CD burner doesn't burn CDs reliably anymore.. And now I think the antenna on my wireless card is broken. My connection range is now on the order of 3 metres instead of 30, and I had to move my base station into my room just to get any network connection at all. Not pleased.

If I get another laptop after this one it will be 1) an apple, and 2) treated like a Janga tower, in its own protected force field, to keep crap from falling off of it. Though from all accounts the Mac laptops don't have nearly the amount of flimsy plastic crap hanging off of them as the Tishiba ones do.

It seems the quality of the workmanship in each computer I've owned (or family have owned) has gotten steadily worse since out first one, an Apple IIGS, which is still almost certainly in working order up in an attic somewhere. All of the parts were still on it, the disk drives worked solidly, they keyboard had the best feel of any I've used. If I could find a keyboard with the same feel with a USB port I'd be all over it (the new Apple keyboards don't even come close, and they're among the best ones around). I've also liked the original IBM PC keyboards with individual springs in each key instead of the stupid membrane modern keyboards have.

After that we had two laptops, a 286 and then a 486 from Toshiba. The 286 still boots up, though the 3.5" disk drive is now a remarkably efficient disk-chewing machine, and the blue CGA display is very easy on the eyes. Then I got a Pentium 200MHz desktop, entering the era of generic plastic and metal cases, a marked difference from the sheer beauty of the Apple IIGS's hardware design, where each part was made specifically for that computer, and everything fit together perfectly and had a purpose. The PC case, by contrast, was just a box with stuff thrown inside it, off-the-shelf parts from different companies for each component. An economic reality of a device so complex that one company couldn't efficiently design and make each part, but a step back in quality nonetheless.

After that PC I got an HP Pavilion for a very very good price. But it had fewer PCI slots, a crappy software modem, sound card made of tissue paper, there were plastic bits on the case like a cover over the front ports which eventually came loose.

And now we have our laptop, which is a great machine at its core, a 15" nice bright screen, great speakers that crush any other laptop speakers, lots of ram.. but the little things just aren't there anymore. It simply doesn't feel tough the way old computers do.

I think it's the same thing that's been happening to electronics and applicances across the marketplace in the last two decades. My parents got a VCR in 1985 or so that still works. Today people expect to have their electronic toys break or become useless within a couple of years, even outside of the media format obsolescence cycle which is also speeding up.

Even dishwashers and fridges are getting flimsier these days, and people are being slowly aclimated to the notion that it's normal to replace everything you own every few years. It's the natural solution to the market saturation problem that caused the Great Depression. The manufacturing revolution after World War I meant that everyone who could afford one bought one of everything, and then stopped. Factory production topped out, and it took another war before there was enough work for factories to do.

So the solution to the problem of what happens when everyone buys a DVD player is to make them fall apart after two years. I would wonder if this is a concerted effort by all makers of such products to engineer obsolescence into their products, or if it's more a product of cheaper parts going into third-world factories to compete with other companies' prices.

Either way, I'm going to stop buying stuff. This is just ridiculous. (this is in addition to my previous vow to stop doing anything that results in a recurring bill.) I should become independent of the consumer debt spiral if I can keep it up.

By al - 10:18 p.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment


You know what the best thing about wedding parties is? When the bride and groom take off on their honeymoon, the party continues on. Though by 3am once we all had finished our oven subs (we all being all the old school peopl who still think 'new england pizza company' and not 'samba brasil') everyone was feeling pretty tired and the thing sputtered out rather early.

Highlights of the day / night were Q-Ball's toast: "Mel's lucky Pete didn't say "we'll get married once I'm done my master's" and Mel's dad, Vaughan who reminded us that this means a whole lot more to parents and especially between father and daughter. The scary opera singer doing the loudest rendition of what must have been the Lord's Prayer I've ever heard at the wedding. And the minister feeling the need to hint at politics in his pre-amble was also rather, well, memorable.

"Hey everybody, cory's hanging from something" -- Chewie, when we were having the big group picture taken.

After the reception when we were all back in MacKenzie house Bean sang the Wong Danny Song, and you could tell the people who actually knew the guy from the rest by the ones who were laughing their asses off rather than just looking confused.

Cory and I getting into a heated political rant about New Brunswick industrial practices, and no one seemed to mind, oddly. I should have warned uniniated readers at the top that none of this will make any sense.

By al - 7:18 p.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Saturday, August 14, 2004

opening bit

“An’ wot’s a pretty li’l thing like you doin’ in a place loike this?”
Megan gritted her teeth and forced a smile. “I’m certain you already know.”
“Oh now, now. Business aside the least you could do is be friendly. ‘Ere’s no need to be loike that.” The old man grinned, flashing a rotting smile.
What am I doing here? Megan closed her eyes and fought back the nausea the old man’s fetid breath inspired.
The old man, Thomas, was the last of the watchmen down by London’s waterfront. Hired initially to keep the streets by the harbour safe, most of them were criminals themselves, prone to blackmail, extortion and violence.
Thomas was a true credit to his kind. He embodied everything about the Eastside of London that was repulsive. Thomas was seedy, grimy and sweat the sewage of London’s waterfront from his pores. His thinning hair was greasy and wild; his skin was sallow and tinted yellow by the thick fog. His teeth were as crooked as his heart.
Everything about him- from his squalid appearance to the way he licked his lips when his eyes scraped down her body- offended her.
“Now my friend informs me that you have the intelligence I’m looking for.” Megan pushed on, wrapping herself in her cloak for shelter.
“Did I say that?” Thomas made a sound that was somewhere between a chuckle and a cough. “Don’ know why I did. Hard to remember anythin’ at my age, ye know.”
Megan scowled and turned to cast a frustrated glance at the alley behind her. He was still there watching. Perhaps coming to Thomas alone had been a bad idea. She had wanted to try on her own, to hear for herself what he had to say, but now she realized that she had made a mistake. She was getting nowhere.
When she turned back to Thomas, she caught his eye and he jeered at her. “You look chilled kitten,” he taunted. “Thomas knows how te warm ye.”
Megan shuddered and took a step back. He reminded her of when she had walked through a spider’s web as a child. She wanted to take her nails and scrape the sticky proximity of him from her skin.
Thomas saw the effect he was having on her and chuckled. It rasped and gurgled from him. “If ye’d prefer we discussed price first I understand…bein’ a business man m’self and all.”
Megan pinked. He was treating her like a common street whore. Calm down, this means you fit the part. That is what you want. She reminded herself. But it wasn’t easy to ignore twenty-seven years of upbringing as a lady. Instinctively she wanted to reach over and slap the decrepit smile from his face. Instead she took another step back.
And collided with the gentleman from the alley. The gentleman had observed the entire interlude from the doorway of the gaming house across the street with keen interest and had finally decided to come forward.
He put a protective arm around Megan and she leaned into him, thankful for the support.
“I believe the lady would prefer to hear the details that I have already paid you generously for.” His tone was high, rigid and clear-a sharp contrast to the slow, guttural tone of his audience.
Instantly the wasted watchman’s demeanor changed. He took off his cap and scraped into a low bow. “Evenin’ good sir, well, ol’ Thomas didn even see ye there, hidin’ loike that in the shadows.” Standing and replacing his hat, he flashed a harmless smile and wagged his finger at the man. “Ye shudda came out an’ been social. Besides, I was juss playin’ with ‘er”
Turning to Megan, Thomas tried to look sincere but his eyes were sharp and hateful. “No offense meant ma’am.”
Megan thrust out her chin and squared her shoulders. “None taken,” she replied icily.
Impatient to get out of the cold fog, the man took a menacing step forward. “The reason we’re here….”
“All right, all right,” Thomas huffed, dropping any pretenses of civility. He turned to Megan. “Loike I tol’ yer gentleman friend ‘ere earlier, I saw the young girl yer lookin’ for go into that there house a few days ago.”
Megan’s body tensed. “You’re lying.”
Thomas’s smile was lecherous; his voice was lurid and low. “Am I?”
His tone was infuriating. She took a bold step forward to confront him. “My sister is a lady and would never set foot into a place like that.”
Thomas’s laughter was so loud and sudden that Megan was startled. He took a slow step to meet her. “M’lady,” he drawled out deliberately, “yer sister is no more a lady than you are.” his eyes, one milky with cataract, ran over her body and rested on the revealing neckline of her gown. Again, he licked his cracked lips. When he smiled next there was a string of spit that ran between them.
Here the gentleman intervened again. Stepping between Thomas and Megan, he held up a small stack of folded bills for Thomas to see. “It is very important that you share with us any and all information that you have regarding the young lady. It is very important that we find her.”
Thomas eyed the thick bundle of money greedily. “Aye, aye, ol’ Thomas remembers more. She was with a man.” He made a grab for the cash.
The gentleman raised the money above his head and out of the watchman’s reach. “Come, now good sir, you’ll have to work a little harder for the money than that. Who was she with?”
Thomas scowled and scanned the street and alleys around them. His one good eye lit up when it rested on the gaming house behind the young couple. “Hell! ‘At’s him roight there!”
Thomas’s knotted, gnarled finger pointed at the parlour window that served as a card room for the gaming house.
Through the window Megan could see several men sitting at a table, laughing and having a good time. “Which one?” She asked.
‘The wild lookin’ one. He’s a bit of a giant. Hard te miss.” When the gentleman turned to look for himself, Thomas took advantage of his lowered guard and grabbed the money.
With lightening reflexes, the gentleman grabbed Thomas’s coat lapel and shook him forcefully. “If you are deceiving us-“
“Hol’ on a minute, I’m tryin’ te help ye. Put m’self at risk an’ all, can’t blame a man fer wantin’ somethin’ in return.” Thomas tried to sound indignant.
The gentleman released Thomas and in disgust wiped his hand with his handkerchief. “Trying to help, you say? Well, for your sake I hope your intelligence is accurate.” Stepping in closer, he threatened, “because if it isn’t, I will find you again. And I can assure you that it will be a most unpleasant encounter.” Thomas blanched a bit and gave another scraping bow before he hobbled off, counting his new, small fortune.
Megan’s gaze was fixed on the window that Thomas had pointed out. Although she could not clearly make out any of the men sitting at the table, there was one occupant that stood out. He was a head taller than the other players. That has to be him, Megan thought. He knows where Winnie is.
For the first time since Winnie had disappeared days earlier, Megan felt hopeful that they would find her. They were all that much closer. Now all they needed to do was somehow get to the man that was seen with her.
“How are you faring?” Her gentleman friend gently approached her, laying a comforting hand on her shoulder.
Megan managed a nod, but could not look away from the window. She had to find a way to question him, to find out what he knew. Megan was close to her sister. She could feel it.
With that knowledge came resolve.
“I’m going in there.” Megan announced with certainty.
“W-what?” The gentleman stammered. “Meg, you can’t possibly. Just being here is damaging enough, if anyone in our acquaintance were to see you here-“
“But they won’t,” Megan interrupted. “Basil, you said so yourself that this place was too close to the waterfront and far removed from the least acceptable places that even the most lecherous men of consequence would visit.”
Turning to face her cousin, she continued, “I have already come this far, what’s half a step farther? Besides, I have an excellent disguise.” With that Megan reached up and patted the red curly wig beneath her cloak.
Basil frowned. “Is there anything I could possibly say to change your mind?” Megan shook her head. “And if I refuse to go in with you?”
“Then I’ll simply go in alone, vulnerable and unprotected.” Megan let out an exaggerated sigh.
Basil closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. “You are a reckless, obstinate woman.”
Megan’s smile was wide and bright.
Basil let out a long drawn out breathe and took his cousin by the shoulders. “Take care cousin with this masquerade of yours, these men are no better than animals and will not care that you are merely posing as a lady of-“ Basil cleared his throat, “relaxed morality.”
Megan nodded solemnly but the excitement within her was overwhelming. Winnie was close. She was within reach, she could feel it.
Basil stopped to fiddle with the gloves that he wore. Quickly, he added, “And remember... if anyone asks, I am your protector. We are visiting from Bath and-”
Megan didn’t hear him. She had already plunged head-first into the gaming house.
It’s going to be a long night. He thought wearily. Cursing her under his breath, Basil charged in after her.

By chantal - 11:54 a.m. | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Greatest Dream Ever: Rick Mercer Cartoon Edition

I don't want to forget this dream and its sheer awesomeness so I'll blog it now because it's a damn good idea for a TV show.

First I dream I'm inside a first-person shooter game, with a visual style of Doom but I can do everything, not just move forward and backwards. I am compelled to get across a set of bridges spanning a toxic waste pit. At the end of the first bridge pops out a kakodemon from Doom, floating in the air, looking like a giant tomato like it always did, shooting fire at me. I think "you know, Doom 3 just came out and I'm pretty sure they made you look scarier." The demon responded by shooting fire at me, which hurt like a bastard and caused me to run away. If he had a clever retort I didn't hear it due to the hurting and the running. While I was poking around the scenery before, now I am compelled even more to get across this structure, and to do it quickly, lest the floating tomatoe catches me again. The next bridge has three of the machine gun guys from doom at the end, aimed squarely at me, thanks to a camera zoom move that left the first-person perspective to establish dramatic flair. I'm glad my dream was more concerned with presentation than it was with the fact that I was going to die. This way I know that wihle I may die horribly some time in the future, I'll have the forethought to make it look cool. So I think “well, this is it, you're going down, but you'll make these punks remember you” and I charge at them shooting. At this point I realize I only have the shotgun, it being the stereotypical weapon of the Doom universe. I try strafing but I'm on a bridge, and my movements get ever more erratic, trying to avoid the streams of machine gun bullets. I curse the fact that while it is my dream, I apparently can't control the shotgun reload time, the game's dastardly check on the best weapon there is. I end up moving one step too far in my harried running and shooting and I jump right off the bridge and into the toxic waste pit. The dream shows me falling into the green, glowing water, collapsing to the floor, and staring upwards as the life is sucked out of me. I am then lying at the bottom of this pit thinking "ok, I'm dead, now what?" being unable to move or do anything. This scene then fades and another dream comes in.

The dream-within-a-dream starts off with Rick Mercer introducing the concept of This Hour Has 22 Minutes to a new American audience (my dream world exists outside of Weekend Update or The Daily Show, apparently). He then brings on the other cast members of This Hour and introduces them. "Now, if you've ever been up north, or had good taste in TV, you'd know these names". Next, however, we don't cut to a re-hash of the usual 22 minutes schtick, but a cartoon of a beaver on the phone with a bear. The bear lives in a tent, and the beaver has a paintbrush dripping with rainbow colours, and there's paint everywhere. The beaver says to the moose in an obvious Newfoundland accent “Well did you want dem odder colours or dem odder odder colours?” I'm pretty sure this is a punchline to a super-hilarious joke, but I can't remember the rest of the joke at the moment. Will have to do a searh. Then we cut back to the bear at his tent. Also a slight Newfie accent but only because Mercer is doing his voice as well. As the beaver rides up towards the tent on a little moped we hear the bear say “well, yeah, I do enjoy walking in the woods, your holiness. Yeah, that is a good joke.” At this point I realize the ‘hook” to my dream (yes I keep track of pithability of my dreams while having them, apparently.) It's a cartoon where the characters act out the jokes that they've appeared in, while semi-aware that that's what they're doing. Meta-humour is a big aspect to the show. The visual style is something along the lines of more-skilled Kevin Spencer look, perhaps early South Park. Not sure why Rick Mercer would get the introduction to his own show wrong like that, but I'm sure he was happy to break out of the role he's so deeply typecast into that it encroaches on my dreams. I wake up and I'm torn between thoughts of how Rick Mercer lied to me but that I'm glad he did and why didn't I just re-load a saved game?

By al - 7:35 a.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Friday, August 13, 2004

Friday Filler

1. If your family was a television family, who would they be? Name family and/or television show.

Freaks and Geeks. Mostly for the dynamic between me and my sister. The way no one would believe that we're related but we have much more in common than one would think on the surface. She was always rebellious but not finding what she was looking for in any of her adventures. I was always a little bit on the outside of the social circle of high school life like the main character in the show. (I'm basing my answer on the time when we were living together as a family, otherwise it wouldn't really be a family show.)

PS. Best. Show. Ever. As soon as I get some money coming in I'm getting the DVD set.
2. If you and your friends were a television show, what show would best describe i.e. personalities and/or day-to-day relations?

I once drew a big comparison between my friends in grad school and the characters in Neon Genesis Evangelion. Being specific would get me in trouble, and maybe 2 people will remember the series anyway so not much point in writing more. Most striking, though, was three girls I hung around with who were direct analogies of the three female characters from the show.

3. What television show would best represent your life?

My life at the moment? I don't know, they don't make TV shows about smodern-day slaves. Maybe Dilbert.

4. What theme song would run for a television about you? May be one used by a show already or something different.

Under Pressure by Queen. Mostly because it's a damn good song.

5. Who would you have play yourself? Friends and family?

Me: Matthew Broderick (circa War Games)
I really don't know any actors or actresses.. and I think I'd just be pulling names out of my ass for everyone else like I did with me. On the other hand

By al - 11:24 p.m. | (1) comments | Post a Comment

The Bizarro Bachelor Party

OK, so Peter had his bachelor party last night. And by all rights I should still be sleeping right now, but I woke up in a start thinking I had busted my laptop as it was on my end-table with the screen bent back uncomfortably too far. Now that it's on might as well write something, since I'm sure as hell not going to the lab yet.

So last night was the oddest bachelor party ever. Usually one doesn't talk about the goings on at such events, nudge nudge, wink wink, but there really wasn't much to keep secret. Peter was, as Peter always is, in his typical state, doing the rounds, pouring free beer for everyone, stone-cold sober and in charge, and only concerned that other people are having a good time.

Just noticing Peter's rhythms as I sat half-spaced-out listening to Geppy tear it up on stage and remembering every bit of Rush trivia I could muster to converse with Cory, I couldn't help but think ‘if this is how a guy carries himself at his own bachelor party, still as selfless and big-hearted as anyone I've known, Mel is one extremely lucky girl.’ I've known Peter for a long time now, and consider him one of my best friends, and I only have positive things to say about him, as I'm sure most people do. All it took was one guy like him out of a stream of 400-500 students to make MacKenzie House what it was in the day, and why I'll remember it as one of the best times of my life. When I got the first letter from the residence office telling me where I'd be living, realizing I wasn't one of the lucky ones to get Internet access or cable and far from my classes I was rather skeptical reading the words of one Peter Anderson, house president, saying that MacKenzie was the best house there is. I don't know if he was telling the truth at the time he wrote that, but it certainly became true during his time as president and proctor in the house. (as for that bit about the pool...)

I had a spot of nostalgia last night walking through MacKenzie. (incidentally it's where all the wedding guests from away are staying, nice touch.) I did my usual routine of going from where my room was on first floor, down to the pit, saying ‘hello’ to everyone just to make sure I get everyone. I wandered inside the pit lounge, sat down on one of the old couches. Went up the crazy circular staircase into the upstairs lounge, and then walked through the halls of second and third floor looking for activity, as I always did. (probably how I earned the nickname ‘the ghost of MacKenzie’ in first year from Heather.

Well, I think I'm only writing to avoid getting up, but it's definitely time to drain a carton of orange juice and hit the shower for a while.

By al - 8:13 a.m. | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Bachelor Party Tonight

... where said bachelor is an avowed tea-totler. Good times.

Will post incoherent crap later, though no spoilers of course.

By al - 4:32 p.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Now for something completely different. . . .

I know I made the call to post more a while back, so I should be leading the charge. Last week was a bit of a difficult week. Having the floor taken from under your feet has a rather jarring effect. I've talked to family and to a lot of friends over the past few days. To those I've talked to, thanks for your words of encouragement and for keeping my spirits up. They've really been helpful. This week's starting to look really good though. I see plenty of opportunities emerge and other opportunities coming to life. Hoping the trend keeps up! Definitely looking forward to this weekend. . . it will be nice to see some old friends again.

By Ming - 10:32 p.m. | (4) comments | Post a Comment

Copyrighting the President by Lawrence Lessig

Wired — Copyrighting the President by Lawrence Lessig

Apparently the US corporate media is using copyright threats to prevent a documentary maker from including embarrassing footage of Bush in a re-issue of Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War. Lessig (previously blogged about here.) argues that since a president's public appearances are a matter of public record, and thus not under any copyright, that a president who makes few press conference appearances and who then tacitly, through access games, coerces TV networks into holding onto embarrassign footage, is violating a fundamental tenet of his public service, that his words belong to the public.
Though Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 has grabbed the headlines, another documentary is at the center of this debate. In August, Robert Greenwald will release an updated version of his award-winning film, Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War. Greenwald has added a clip of President George W. Bush's February interview with Tim Russert on Meet the Press, NBC's Sunday morning talk show. In the clip, the president defends his decision to go to war - astonishingly unconvincingly.

Greenwald asked NBC for permission to run the one-minute clip - offering to pay for the right, as he had done for every other clip that appears in the film. NBC said no. The network explained to his agent that the clip is 'not very flattering to the president.' Greenwald included it anyway.
Greenwald plans to use his 'fair use' rights (a tradition of copyright law that says people are free to reasonably use parts of a copyrighted work for the purposes of criticism or study) and ignore NBC's objections. Even though he has the law on his side, it is likely that NBC will try and out-lawyer him and try and set a new precedent though the brute-force legal method. If this happens the next step is literary and film critics being sued for giving bad reviews. I'm quite dismayed at the direction copyright law is headed in both the US and Canada (and creeping across the rest of the world as copyright provisions are made part of trade agreements). Go and read Lessig's Free Culture for the reasons why copyright functions much better as a temporary licence to the creator, and not a perpetual ownership of some idea or work.

The political implications are a separate issue, and on taht all that really needs to be said is that if Bush and his people are so afraid that people might hear him speak again, he's toast. Plain and simple.

By al - 6:56 a.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

The well-dressed Emo Boy.

Me in grade 9, apparently way ahead of my time. (the difference being, of course, that one generally grows out of that shit.) Just think, a whole music and fashion movement inspired by a Barenaked Ladies song.

♫ This is me in grade 9, baby, yeah..♫
♫ this is me in grade 9.. ♫

By al - 5:11 a.m. | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Sidebar Tweaks

Added a 'recent posts' thing to the sidebar, improving on the stock version a bit by including authors and # of comments for each post. Also tucked it and the archves under hidey-menus, starting to really like CSS. The temptation to add some sort of logo or picture to the site is growing but so far I'm resisting it, on principle of course :)

If you haven't checked it out yet, my friend Kayla's blog, Feminist in a Tube Top has some pretty funny posts so far, and loads of hits, which is making me jealous. Also, Gep, star of The Many Faces of Geppy (or: what happens when we find your grade 10 yearbook photo) has a site at kbombers.blogspot.com/ which makes no sense whatsoever so far, as is to be expected.

By al - 1:56 a.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Monday, August 09, 2004

Steve Gilliard's News Blog : Strong women

Steve Gilliard's News Blog : Strong women — Pretty accurately sums up the reasons why I find Teresa Heinz Kerry so appealing, and why so many conservative American men are so scared of her.

By al - 5:58 a.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Sunday, August 08, 2004

as requested by al

Al had suggested that I post bits and piece of the stuff I am currently working on. This is a wee bit brave, however I have made a few changes to this document, so this is not the final draft. But rather the first draft. Feel free to make comments as you wish....And if you are wondering who she is...you will have to wait :)

Her hands where shaking out of control now. It was not fear, it was simply age. Age controlled every move she made now; including the shaking of her hands. She had refused to age gracefully. She refused to retire from her post until her legs would no longer hold her up. She refused to put down her blade until her fingers could no longer wrap around the hilt. And now that old age has taken all that she was away she hid her hands from friends under her sleeves, so they could not see this new weakness. She had refused to age for so long that now that it was useless to fight it she could not admit her loss. This was the battle she would never win; this was the battle she knew she had lost years before she realized she was fighting it.

And in the cold winter night, with her window open so she could see the moon as she sipped her tea she lost that battle. She had put her tea on the table rattling the cup against the saucer and with one final breath she wished all fare well, until she saw them again.

Two days would pass before anyone would find her, she had been a legend in her youth, but in her death she was a secret. The young man who order her to be buried in the sacred grounds only knew she was to be buried there, he did not know why, he only knew that it must be this way. Those who attended the burial were a mixture of the elderly, who themselves could barely hold themselves up, they knew who she was and her young family, who only knew her as mother or grandmother, they too would never know her legend. None of them knew where she came from.

Her house was sealed until the family could finish grieving. The doors and windows were locked and a guard was posted at the front to keep away would be thieves, and the local priest cast a protecting blessing, to guard the remaining bits of her spirit to the halls of light. Then time forgot her. Her family moved on forgetting her house and any pieces of her they would one day want or need and time rolled on and her legend like her body died, her secret was forgotten and what she left the world grew old and died. As time passed the house was abandon by the guard, the yard went on kept and the trees and shrubs grew up forcing pressure on weakened walls and where stood the house of a legend stood a dense garden of thorns, trees and now became a home to many new creature, a shelter from the elements. The village she lived in too disappeared after time, the kingdom she once protected grew up and broaden villages were replaced by towns and then cities, some where abandon and her village was lost. The priests moved on and the world grew up.

By Sabrina - 10:22 p.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment


Hey everyone.
I am posting this message mostly because I have notice, the last several post have been by Al. The rest of us seem to be slacking off. Well Okay so I am a slacker when it comes to blog, but being disconected for over a week is part of my excuse. The rest is simply that I don't usually have much to post.
But since I have moved to a new place I thought that I would let you know that I am currently enjoying my new third floor appartment. Especially all the stairs and lack of elevator. Plus Living with steve (who is gay) has turned out to be rather interesting. Not because he is gay but because he is steve. Steve is a technofile. He likes the computer stuff and can fiddle with many machanical things and make them work, except neither one of us can seem to get his DVD player to work with my TV. I am sure we will figure that out at some point. The lack of TV however has been good for getting things done, like dishes and putting my room together. I have one blank wall to fill now. Suggestions welcome:)
The roomie has been pretty good about letting me organize things, however the fact that we rarely see eachother might be why he has yet to object to my decorating. The appartment is currently functional except the living room, we are lacking in furniture for that room big time. The lack of closets is my only other complaint. There are no bedroom closets so I have some my good close currently sitting on the floor. Oh well, there are other things one could complain about. Well that is the excitement of the day.

By Sabrina - 10:11 p.m. | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Cargo Cults

Lately I've heard the term 'cargo cult' one time too many without knowing the full background of the term's origins. Here's a WikiPedia article on the subject.

The term cargo cult is a reference to aboriginal religions that grew up in the South Pacific, especially New Guinea and Melanesian islands, initially in the mid 1800s, but most commonly in the years during and after World War II. There was no one Cargo Cult so this proper name is a misnomer - no one who participated in a cargo cult actually knew that they were doing so.

The vast amounts of war material that were air-dropped into these islands during the Pacific campaign against the Empire of Japan necessarily meant drastic changes to the lifestyle of these islanders as manufactured clothing, canned food, tents, weapons and other useful goods arrived in vast quantities to equip soldiers - and also the islanders who were their guides and hosts. When the war moved on, and ultimately when it ended, the airbases were abandoned and no new "cargo" was then being dropped.

In attempts to get cargo to fall by parachute or land in planes or ships again, islanders adopted a shallow version of the same practices they had seen the soldiers, sailors and airmen use. They carved headphones from wood, and wore them while sitting in control towers. They waved the landing signals while standing on the runways. They lit signal fires and torches to light up runways and lighthouses.

The cultists thought that the foreigners have some special connection to the ancestors, who were the only beings powerful enough to spill such riches. By mimicking the foreigners, they hoped to bypass them.

Eventually, the Pacific cultists gave up. But, from time to time, the term "Cargo cult" is invoked as an English language idiom, to mean any group of people making obeisance to something that it is obvious they do not comprehend.

In this sense, they are perhaps best known because of a speech by physicist Richard Feynman at a Caltech commencement, which became a chapter in the book "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!". In the speech, Feynman pointed out that cargo cultists create all the appearance of an airport - right down to headsets with bamboo "antennas" - yet the airplanes don't come. Feynman argued that scientists often produce studies with all the trappings of real science, but which are nonetheless pseudoscience and unworthy of either respect or support.

The Feynman book mentioned, Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!, is the funniest and perhaps the most honest autobiography I've ever read. Definitely worth a trip to the library for it. My favourite story in the book is when he decided he wanted to study anatomy and take a break from physics for a while. To get started, he went to the library of the university he was at at the time and asked the librarian for a map of a cat.

Another funny little story is when Feynman went to Princeton and was invited to the tea time they had. Feynman had never drank tea before, and like so many stereotypical brilliant scientific minds, he didn't pay much attention to other people's behavior or even common sense. But he was eager to fit in and was generally agreeable, so when he was asked if he wanted milk or lemon in his coffee he simply smiled and said "both". Hence the title of the book :)

Feynman is absolutely brilliant, though, it goes without saying. I only became familiar with his work from studying reversible logic for a course I took last year. I've been thinking about his speech about cargo cult science and how it applies to writing my thesis and reporting the work I did for it. The text of the speech is here.

Now it behooves me, of course, to tell you what they're missing. But it would be just about as difficult to explain to the South Sea islanders how they have to arrange things so that they get some wealth in their system. It is not something simple like telling them how to improve the shapes of the earphones. But there is one feature I notice that is generally missing in cargo cult science. That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying science in school--we never say explicitly what this is, but just hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific investigation. It is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now and speak of it explicitly. It's a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty--a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you're doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid--not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you've eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked--to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.

Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can--if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong--to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition.

One of the toughest things to do is write about the weaknesses in your own work. And it's not something they teach you how to do. The business world is allergic to such practices, and they don't teach it in undergraduate technical writing courses. Being able to clearly say the limits of how far your work goes is the best way to show its true value, but we're taught only to act as salespeople for our ideas. Sadly, this is reinforced in grad school, where everything from applying for grants to defending your thesis lets you get by only talking about the positive selling points of your work without forcing you to thoroughly investigate the weaknesses in your work.

Of course the existence of weaknesses, exceptions and limitations is absolutely a given, no one has ever come up with a theory or system that was absolutely flawless. But the mindset that you must make your own work look as good as you can permeates the culture of Universities, to the point where it feels like just another business environment.

One could talk about funding models and business ties to research institutions, but perhaps the blame for such a lack of self-discipline is human nature. We aren't all as brilliant as Richard Feynman, and perhaps we don't all have the ability to approach our own work with a critical eye the way he could. But knowing which way to head is the key moreso than lamenting the fact that we aren't there yet. Oh well, back to poking holes in my project..

By al - 11:12 a.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment


AfroSkull Awesome band, very catchy jazz-infused instrumental rock-type music, but they don't meander or get boring like most jam bands seem to. Very dancable and also good sit-down and listen type music. They have a few mp3s online here.

It's the kind of music I like to sprinkle through a party playlist to get people moving but that isn't the same old familiar tunes you hear at the bars or on the radio. It can be hard to get people to listen to something new in that kind of setting, but these guys are just too funky not to get into it right away.

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Friday, August 06, 2004

Friday Five

amyt has a deal where she posts and answers 5 odd questions every friday, might as well play along :)

1) What animal best represents you?

bat. prefers the night time, blind as a.. , friendly and social but not cute.

2) What color best represents you?

Deep red. I always use that as the background of my powerpoint presentations because everyone says not to, but it makes people focus on it and you, whereas blue puts people to sleep.

3) What season best represents you?

Winter. Fireplaces, hot cocoa, coziness.

4) What emotion best represents you?

focused mellowness

5) What flower/tree/plant best represents you?

Climbing ivy.

By al - 7:42 p.m. | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Tour Guide

My new roommate Ellie just moved to Fredericton to teach German, and I've been showing her around town for the last few days. It's funny I never really think about little things like shortcuts through lots and such, that's usually the sort of thing one learns at 2am when going around the block is absolutely not going to happen. So I passed on my knowledge of shortcuts and scenic routes as we meandered through town, and pointed out which coffee shops are good and where the half-decent nightspots are ;)

Tonight we went for ice cream at Tingley's (I'm gonna miss that place) and the night of the storm we decided it was a good time for a walk and subsequently trapsed around town getting ourselves utterly soaked walking in the pouring rain. When we got back and drank beer in our jammies on the couch watching the lightning storm. I don't believe I could come up with a nicer way to spend an evening if I sat here for a year :)

By al - 12:50 a.m. | (2) comments | Post a Comment

Wednesday, August 04, 2004


So apparently the Fred-ezone free wireless network downtown is actually really really fast, as in 800k/s download speeds. Of course the range of the signal extends to about a block from my house (bastards), which means I have to pay crappy Aliant for crappy Vibe that only give a fraction of that download speed, and I also had to buy my own wireless router on top of that.

Now, one of the advantages of having a laptop is that I can take it other places, like the little coffee shops downtown. It just occurred to me that, instead of paying the rather high price for high-speed internet, if I were to go to the Coffee Company place, buy a coffee every day, and do my email and stuff from there for an hour or so I would still end up spending less than if I paid for high-speed access at home. And since I'm a bit of a coffee addict anyway it wouldn't be an entirely new cost.

Since I don't have cable or a mobile phone Internet access is pretty much the only sizeable bill I have to pay each month, if I could get rid of that my minimalist tendencies would be appeased, and I'd probably waste less time online.

Oh well, given this city's employment situation I'll likely be moving away when my lease is up at the end of the month anyway. Too bad I couldn't have made this realization about free WiFi at the beginning of the Summer.

By al - 9:00 p.m. | (1) comments | Post a Comment

More stuff I posted to MeFi: How some female celebrities would look bald — Surprisingly attractive in some cases, terrifying in others. via memepool.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:51 AM AST - comments

By al - 2:19 a.m. | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

More Stuff to Read

From boing boing:

Fulltext of We the Media now online

The fulltext of Dan Gillmor's excellent new book, We the Media, about the way that technology is changing the media, is now online as a series of Creative Commons licensed PDFs. Link (via Dan Gillmor)

By al - 11:02 p.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Cold Turkey — by Kurt Vonnegut

Cold Turkey -- In These Times — If you haven't read anything by Kurt Vonnegut yet stop reading this blog immediately and go find a copy of Slaughterhouse Five and / or Cat's Cradle and get on it. This is a good little piece on human nature and draws a good disctinction between those who seek to help others and mean it in their hearts and those who use populist language to control people.
Eugene Debs, who died back in 1926, when I was only 4, ran 5 times as the Socialist Party candidate for president, winning 900,000 votes, 6 percent of the popular vote, in 1912, if you can imagine such a ballot. He had this to say while campaigning:
As long as there is a lower class, I am in it.
As long as there is a criminal element, I’m of it.
As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free.
Doesn’t anything socialistic make you want to throw up? Like great public schools or health insurance for all?

How about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes?

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. …

And so on.

Not exactly planks in a Republican platform. Not exactly Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney stuff.

For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.

“Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom? “Blessed are the peacemakers” in the Pentagon? Give me a break!
The fact that Jesus sounds like a socialist must make the most vocal Christians' heads spin. Probably why they don't like to discuss the actual message of their proclaimed faith as much as they are obsessed with persecuting women and gay people.

By al - 3:46 a.m. | (0) comments | Post a Comment

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