Saturday, May 31, 2008

Animal, Vegetable or Mineral?

The T and I were discussing a news item the other day. As happens more often than not, hilarity ensued. The item of note was a kangaroo round-up and euthanization in Australia. An animal rights spokesperson was quoted along the lines of: America does not kill bald eagles. China does not kill pandas. And New Zealand does not kill kiwis. We are the only nation that kills its national symbol.

Our reaction:

The T: OK, isn't the bald eagle back from the brink of extinction? Isn't the panda endangered?

Me: Yeah. And isn't the kiwi a vegetable?!?

After the numbness in my arm faded from The T's noogie-punch, I sought out the kiwi wiki, giggled over that fortuitous spelling coincidence, and learned how wrong I was. I owe New Zealand an apology. While the furry fruit is yummy, your national symbol is admirable.

Neither fruit nor fowl fly, by the way.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Well, I didn't see that coming

So there I was, minding my own business and listening to Chickeman protect Midland City from crime and/or evil while sharpening the lawnmower with—get this—a paintbrush when all of the sudden the lawn was mowed.

One moment the lawn looked both a little scraggly around the brown spots where I got a little too exuberant while spraying vinegar on the weeds and a little thick in the lush spots where the two elements sun and water come together in a phrenzy of photosynthesis. The next moment, passersby witnessed a green ducktail of finely sliced foliage sailing through the air.

I had no plans to mow the lawn this evening. I only wanted to try out the sharpening kit which included—get this—a paintbrush. It worked really swell. So swell that after I sliced through the strips of newspaper along the entire length of the blade, I wanted to see how it would do in the grass and the next thing I knew, the entire lawn was mowed. What had been taking up to 90 minutes or so due to the necessity of having to pass over the entire lawn twice took only 30 minutes or so. I think I only got through two Chickenman adventures and, due to his crime-fighting prowess, the stories are brief. So was the mowing.

The sharpening process is quite bizarre. It involves—get this—painting a minty-fresh metallic blue compound onto the blade and spinning the blades backwards. Then you wipe off the once-blue now-gray goo, protect said blades with WD-40 and you're ready to roll. I tweaked the adjustment of the only thing I can adjust just a bit when I found there was a spot where the newspaper could slide through unscathed rather than get sliced into a ribbon and I hit the lawn.

As with all gadgets I am enamored with, this finely tuned lawnmower now needs a name. And since I just watched Blade Runner: Final Cut the other night, this naming ceremony will be easy. So easy, in fact, it is done already. It is also relevant, me thinks, that this is a reel mower. Therefore, the lawnmower shall henceforth be known as The Non-Electric Sheep.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Going to be a weird day

I awoke to hear stories about both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Neil Diamond on NPR.

I have no idea if it is safe to get out of bed or not.

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, May 18, 2008


... in the booth by the window: "How do you have three-quarters of your pizza left when it was cut into sixths?"

Only a couple of geeks could laugh at that, I think. What troubles me is how few people might understand why it was a question in the first place.

Anyway, it has been a truly wonderful time here in The Land of Neverending Parking Lots. Regardless of the time spent in the Apple, Inc. temple and the time spent in the woodworking store and the time spent in the math gadget shop and the time spent in not one but two huge bookstores, the best time is yet to come. The best part of this trip will be that I can drive away from the crowds and the traffic and the sea of asphalt and miles of unused and useless sidewalks and leave this form of humanity's madness behind... with all my loot.

Sent from my iPhone

Leaking Coinage in the Emerald City

I'm trying my hardest to pull the country out of this recession. The aspect of the economy I am focusing my efforts on is the 'math game and puzzle' category. I spent a good deal of time yesterday wandering the aisles of a store that some might consider a circle of hell. Others, like me, might have hoped upon entering the store that the Rapture had happened and we could keep the goodies for ourselves. The wares on the shelves were of the "Cube: Disassemble and Reassemble" variety, "Using Marbles and Game Boards to Conquer Space, Time, and Your Opponent" variety, and the "I'm not sure how many pieces are in there but it looks like it would amuse The T for quite a while" variety.

Another temple of capitalism I visited yesterday was Apple, Inc. I managed to contribute my semi-regular tithe to the coffers without threatening the next mortgage payment but it was not easy, mind you. I walked out with only what I walked in for. It was both disconcerting and oddly comforting. I need to reflect on this more. Am I feeling guilt for not buying something I don't need in the first place?

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Overheard only to be shared

Major League Baseball is holding auditions for fans to sing that ol' ditty Take Me Out to the Ballgame, the winner to sing at the All Star game. A pack of twenty-something males belted out a not-too-bad rendition, after which one was overheard to say they possessed "the best heterosexual elements of the Back Street Boys, N Sync" and a few other groups I didn't recognize.


Sent from my iPhone

Friday, May 16, 2008

It's time for bed when ...

My terabyte drive has just been christened "Hey, Zeus!" because ( ... wait for it ... ) it saves.

(I dedicate that to you, Senor Fluff. I can only hope to ever reach your heighths(/depths?) with witty wordplay.)

You are fogging up the iPhone

I've been listening to a lot of audiobooks via the iPhone and my Shuffle. It's the ultimate in multi-tasking when you have someone reading to you while you do dishes or fold laundry or mow the lawn or walk to work.

I've begun listening to whatever title is next in the database rather than trying to figure out what kind of mood I'm in and matching a book or author to the mood. That takes way too much time. And it's not easy if the book I've just finished was exceptional—positively (Rasputin's Daughter) or negatively (The Harmony Silk Factory). disclaimer: don't choose your next book on my opinion of it. If the booked is critiqued as an adventure in creative use of the language or character development, I won't have much patience for it mainly because I never learned these discriminating skills as a reader and I get bored with the text. Whereas I eat mainly to fill the void and pay little attention to presentation (and sometimes flavor), I read to be entertained.

Anyway, Black Fly Season, a peppy little police procedural, just wrapped up in my ear and it was pretty good. Moved along, good characters who didn't talk like fake people and the author didn't treat me like an imbecile and point every little thing out, for example: "... he picked up the tv remote control from the table, pointed it at the tv and pressed the red button near the top. The tv clicked off." Oh, shoot me now. Anyway, the author Giles Blunt will be on a playlist again in the future. The narrator, however, may be banished from my ear canals forever because I could hear him breathing between sentences. Last night I was listening to the iPhone in bed through the speakers and not the earbuds. The iPhone was on the pillow next to me and—I kid you not—I kept looking over to see if a cat had joined me at the head of the bed because I could hear the breathing. This has never happened before and it was creeping me out.

Besides the obvious questions regarding just what the sound engineer was doing while Senor Inhale was reading aloud, I have another inquiry: Since I couldn't hear the sucking of air through the earbuds, does this mean that they suck or does this mean that they are magnificent little audio marvels? Well, I'm off to mow the lawn and give the light comedy A Tale Etched in Blood a go. If that doesn't work out, I have a pile of This American Life to plow through. Ira Glass, now there's a guy who knows how to breathe.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

I wanted to save you, but I couldn't

Dear doc,
I am so distraught with the way things have turned out between us.
I haven't been the same since I lost you. I lay awake at night wondering if there was anything I could have done differently.

We had so much time together. Not a day went by that we didn't see each other. Hours were spent formatting, editing, and spell-checking. Mornings bled into evenings as we continued our conversations, I taking arguments in different paths and you reeling in my exuberance and helping to maintain the word-count limit.

I sensed something had changed between us each time I drifted through to Windows from OS X. I couldn't help it, doc, I swear. Every lab on campus runs Windows and I teach statistics using Excel in Office 2007. If I happened to look at Word 2007 once in a while, all I can say is that it was a mistake and I didn't like it for even a second. I always came back to the X side. Always. And I felt dirty for having wandered.

I blame Microsoft for having driven this wedge between us. Why does Excel in Office 2008 for OS X have such reduced functionality? All I want to do now is what I used to be able to do in Office X but now I have to go to Windows to do. I praise Jobs for paving the path to run Windows on an Apple. This is the only thing that has kept me sane these last few months while I conditionally add, generate a histogram, and calculate descriptive statistics. But I cannot do it in Excel 2008. I have to use Excel 2007 to do what I need to do. And so when I do these things, I crawl through a Window.

In fact, doc, I blame Microsoft for having lost you to the digital ether. I fail to understand how in this day and age, after innumerable versions (so many not even worth remembering: Windows CE, and Windows ME and Windows NT make CEMENT), how is there still no key command for saving a document, doc? When you and I were together in Word on the Mac, all I had to do was type command-S and you were saved, literally reborn to live another moment. I did it unconsciously, like tapping the space bar. Command-S. I did it between piecing together thoughts. Command-S. I did it without thinking. Command-S. It was easy. A loving tap-tap and you were mine. Command-S. Every time I did it, I strengthened our relationship. I felt it kept you from drifting away to be lost forever in a swamp of bytes.

But I could not do it while in Windows. There is no key command to Save. When I work in Windows, saving the document actually tears me away from creating the document. My hands are on the keyboard, turning ideas into words and words into bits to be saved—but only if I move my hand to the mouse to move the cursor to a tiny patch of pixels that show a tiny save icon. My computer screen is the size of a football field and the only way I can save a document is to click in a piece of real estate not much larger than an eraser on the top of a pencil. To make matters worse, this target is sequestered in the top-left corner of the screen. I swear the Miscrosoft engineers don't actually use the products they cough cough design.

And because of this, doc, I've lost you. I've owned a Mac since they existed. I've used Word for just as long. I've generated many, many, many docs and I've been able to save them all easily and often and I can go back and visit them on their drives or in the folders they call home. But I've lost you forever, doc, because I called on you through a Window. I could not move my hand fast enough to save you when you began to fail. The key command that saves in X calls up the Start menu when in Windows. I couldn't reach you across the divide because I couldn't get to the mouse in time to click on the icon in time to save you.

I hope you can forgive, across the digital divide. I hope you've evolved into something better, faster, stronger than you were. I hope you're happy. Please know that I think of you often and that no matter how hard I try, I'll never be able to make another just like you.

Your friend,
Hunt N. Pecker

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Be sure to get a t-shirt on your way out

If you had been listening in at the end of this evening's 3-hour Statistics class, you would have heard this:

Student: Man, this class lasts longer than a concert.

Me: Yes, but we also charge more and we want it to be worth your money.

Surrounded by chickens

Ever hear of that adage about things happening in 3's? I believe there is some truth to it and I oft-times find myself looking behind me looking for the third thing or event or whatever to round out the triple. This time the triumvirate involves flightless fowl.

I am a huge fan of Savage Chickens, birthed by Doug Savage. I've laughed out loud more than once at the post-it-size insanity ... uh, creativity. This also serves to illustrate that the triplet need not happen in a defined window of time. I think I've been surfing to the Savage site for about a year now.

More recently, the T helped her co-worker build a chicken coop to assist him in his quest to get a little closer to his food source. I suddenly find myself craving an omelet. If you want to follow along in the poultry adventure, check out the Chicken Run link in the left column.

Thirdly, while the little construction project was going on, I acquired the complete and hilarious radio series Chickenman (He's everywhere! He's everywhere!) The fantastic fowl strikes fear into the hearts of criminals with his mighty bawk. He is Midland City's answer to rime that is running crampant. The wonderful white-winged warrior cruises the city in his Chicken Coupe (pronounced coop-eh) protecting civilians from crime and/or evil.

As far as trios go, this one turned out pretty well. I'm off to Midland City.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

I can save the world

(To be read in an evangelical tone of voice) Friends, we gather today to talk about the power to save. Philosophers and wisemen throughout the ages have preached and expounded loudly on the wisdom—nay!—the wholesome goodness of the act of saving. Click for a man who has to save and he has only that document. Teach a man to save, and he can save bytes upon bytes upon bytes upon ... .

OK, I'm stepping down from the pulpit. I have a hard time speaking of computer issues like a fiery pulpit pounder. I guess I'm a different kind of fundamentalist. Anyway, the question left open by the computer high priests is where all the saved stuff is saved to or what the saved stuff is saved on. I have taken one step closer to answering that question. Open my desk drawer and you'll see floppy discs, thumb drives (recently dubbed "dip sticks" by my stats class; cute), and Zip discs. Since iPods double as external drives, I count my 2nd-gen iPod and 2nd-gen Shuffle as memory space in addition to my G5 iMac and an external drive. Let's add this up shall we? For the sake of rounding, I'll ignore the drawer half-full of floppies, the computer equivalent of pennies. I can't read them anyway. They're the 21st century version of matchbooks: excellent for balancing wobbly tables.

The memory is in the order in which it was acquired:
28 Zip discs at 100 MB each, a 20 GB iPod, a 250 GB G5 iMac, a 250 GB external drive, a 1 GB shuffle, and numerous dip sticks at 500 MB each.

The static version of memory not accounted for so far but important to the story are the 60+ 4GB dvds I have filled with audiobooks. This adds 240 GBs to the list above. The grand total of digital memory space I have accumulated thus far: ~765 GB.

This is why I have added a terabyte drive to the family. Yup, that's right: 1,000 GBs more room on which to save Save SAVE the world!!! bwa-ha-ha! If we go back to a unit that is perhaps more imaginable, 1 terabyte is equivalent to 1,000,000 MB or 1,000,000 floppies. Let's line 'em up for a family photo, shall we?

(the top of the list is a Zip disc representative; the 250 GB drive is partitioned into two pieces, both orange above)

Before you ask, no I will not even try to list all the stuff I have saved on all these discs and drives. Suffice it to say that I have plenty of media to keep myself amused for a good long time.