Saturday, August 30, 2008

The calm before the calmer

Those of you that know me at all know that the title of this post is complete fiction in my world. I am allergic to calm. I cannot handle serenity. I take moderation in, of course, moderation. So you can only imagine my current state as our trip to Italy looms right around the corner. Since I just read Kfluff's post, I am in the mood to award points to events contributing to this current turmoil.

  • Bought airline tickets for trip 3 months ago (+5)
  • Seats on plane may be the last row on the plane (-6) but are side-by-side (+2)
  • Bought sound dampening earmuffs to wear on the plane so I can hear my iGadgets without threatening the integrity of my eardrums with excessive volume (+2 per ear)
  • Had to move rifle ammunition, shooting glasses, and recoil sleeves to the side to find the earmuffs at the local general store (=)
  • Already booked hotel in Rome for two days on our own surrounded by ... uh ... Rome (+3)
  • Have no idea how we're going to get from the airport to the hotel (-2)
  • Hotel is 1 block from train station (+4)
  • Already have train tickets to Arezzo (+3)
  • Know that M&E will meet us in Arezzo with a car to whisk us to the villa (+++ a lot)
Now to the technology category:
  • Bought a voltage converter for all our gadgets (+2)
  • Called AT&T three times, each time asking a slightly different question which moved me closer to my goal of having one phone work without gouging a hole in my wallet and unlocking another phone which we can put a pay-as-you-go SIM card in once we're overseas (+1, +1, +1, over the course of three hours)
  • Headache from the automated phone system (-3, -3, -3, during the same three hours)
  • Bought an amazing video camera with which The T has been documenting our daily lives so as to practice (+4)
  • Discovered the vid-cam does not play nice with my Mac out of the box (-4)
  • Read on discussion boards that a free application can translate video files to iMovie friendly files ... 
  • but only if I pay $20 for a QuickTime module (~ a wash)
  • Filmed Chaos yawning, transferred file to Mac, translated movie file, opened in iMovie and added a special effect (+10 and all hassle forgotten) (bonus!)
  • Currently loading movies and books onto iPhone and iPod for flight. 16 GB holds a goodly amount of video. (+, nothing but +)
Folks, we and our gadgets are off to Italy. We promise to document the adventure well. No matter what the arithmetic above results in, we are on the plus side.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

No kidding?

File this under Headline of the Day (though I'm not done with the Sunday paper yet)

Speedo Now Selling LZR Racer Swim Suit to the Public, U. S. Whale Sightings Way Up
-- seen at Gizmodo

Friday, August 15, 2008

It fits, ergo it must be so

Crossword clue: Columbus discovery of 1493

Grid so far: -n----a

Well, Indiana fits both the spaces and the timeline. My public school
education must have failed me again.

Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Is there a prize for this?

So I'm thinking of using a wiki in one of my classes this fall. Generally, I'm motivated by the "why one when many" model of information delivery. More specifically, since I never know where the next calculator question is going to come from, the students could work from their collective knowledge. Sounds good in theory. Post what you know, it is more than I could ever tell you.

Problem one with the theory is where does the wiki wiv, er, live. One option is at pbwiki. While surfing throught the employee information, I found the following:

Lynn Wu got her undergraduate degree in Golf and Sports Turf Management. She won silver in the biathlon in Torino. She also took on Wolverine on American Gladiators. Coming in at 6 feet 4 inches, Lynn keeps the PBwiki team in line with her amazon-like ferocity. In her spare time Lynn enjoys LOLcatting, practicing the art of bowyery, and writing fake biographies.

I'm leaning toward pbwiki as the external host for the class wiki if only because the upper-level mucky-mucks are cool with this and see amazon-like ferocity as a plus.

Updated 12:40 PM — The tagline for EditMe: "geek tested, newbie approved" is also a useful measure of quality.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

More thrilling words were never heard

"All jurors in the pool during August 4th to August 15th are released from service. We have no upcoming trials. Thank you for your service."

Oh, no. Thank you. I was called at the beginning of the term and sat in on a three day trial. I was gripped the whole time. This was the first time I've served and the whole procedure was fascinating. The case involved a plaintiff appealing the decision of the Labor & Industries Board to not re-open her injury claim. She wanted it re-opened and the Board said the injury was healed and denied her request. She appealed. That's when I became involved as a juror.

I have to say, with all my complaints about bureaucracies and red tape, I like that such an option exists for us little people. Hopefully I never need to appeal for medical attention (knocking on all wood within arm's distance right now) but I was happy to serve on this jury.

The cool part was that, rather than recall all the witnesses who testified in front of the Board, the lawyers read the transcripts to the jury. OK, it wasn't as dynamic as watching Hang 'Em High Harmon strut around on Law & Order: The Perpetual Trial but it was not boring. Each lawyer read the answers of their witnesses and they did a good job not putting us to sleep. Even the judge stayed in tune—we jurors were checking to make sure he was turning the pages at the same time as the lawyers. I wonder if my listening almost non-stop to books on bytes affected my listening skills during the read through.

Before we began deliberating, a juror asked the bailiff what the shortest time deliberating was that he knew of. He replied "about 18 minutes." Well, if our lunches hadn't already arrived (thanks to the County for that one, btw), we would have beat the record. Based on the fact that we all had ordered iced tea as our lunch beverage, I suggested we take an informal count to see if we also agreed on the decision. Turned out that we all agreed on that too! So we tucked in, discussed why we decided the way we did as individuals, recalled the bailiff, and skedaddled after agreeing with the Board's decision to not re-open the injury claim. I'm glad my first experience did not involve an actual crime.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Another manifestation of the obesity epidemic

The ongoing societal problem of obesity has recently become an individual problem for mói. 

No, my friends, I did not wake up to find myself a pre-teen taking medication for cholesterol. Nor did I have to purchase two adjacent seats, one for each buttock, on the plane that will be whisking me to Italy. My friends, societal obesity is now directly affecting my wardrobe. "How can this be?" I hear you cry. It's quite simple, really. 

I do a great deal of clothes shopping at the local Bonne Velonté outlet ... er, the Good Will eight blocks up the hill. Considering that I shop near the bottom of the clothing food chain, think for a moment about who these clothes once belonged to. Obese people donate just as much clothing as, uh, norms do and since there are more obeses in the wild, there is more obese-size clothing hitting the racks. 

Very rarely do I walk out empty handed but I did after my last trip. The shirts looked like car cozies. The fleece vests were the size of large sheep. The pants resembled two industrial smokestacks sewn together. The footwear ... well, footwear is not something I buy used but one has to glance at the rack, right?

Absolutely stunning. These make me think a bowling shoe mated with a ... bowling shoe. In fact, many generations of inbreeding must have occurred. Or is this what happens when Christian Louboutin has nipped a little too frequently at the bubbly while at the design table?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Link Analysis

I've been pondering what my links say about me. 

I regularly visit about 30 different sites, loosely categorized according to humor or technology or comics/graphic novels or design or games or random or environmental issues or consumer issues. There is also a small category called People Behind the Curtain which consists of blogs by people I know here in meat space.

That last category was not part of my analysis of my link habits. However, the other ones are a batch of inconsistencies I cannot resolve. For example, since we are beginning a lifetime long remodel here at Meanwhile Manor, I check in on Apartment Therapy much like I flip through design magazines in the library. Usually my reaction to this blog is that peoples' lives must be very small indeed if they lose sleep over just what shade of eggplant goes with the divan throw. However, the site is useful from the mechanical side of design. I have seen lamps made of egg crates, ball-point pens, and milk jugs. And why the hell not? I love it when the function of an object is not changed but its form is so radically different from what came before. But why should I replace the small bowl my change collects in with one that has been designed for just that purpose and has some famous designer's name stamped on it? The bowl works fine. This is the part of design I do not understand and refuse to be a part of: the lemming-like dash to re-do my house with the year's hottest trends. ... but I still like looking at the evolution of the lamp.

That site is in direct conflict with another site I visit regularly: Unclutterer. This latter site makes me feel bad over my consumer side. I have guilt over my gadgetry habit and I go back to the site because of the taint of Original Spend on my soul. There is great info like ideas for thinning my material possessions and organizing what is left.

Two other sites I visit are also in direct conflict with one another. Treehugger and Cool Gadgets. The first is all about trying to save the planet from the wasteful habits of the virus known as homo sapien while the second announces the latest toy that may be entertaining or useful but will also have to be updated in 18 months resulting in even more finite resources being wasted so I can watch tv shows on a handheld device in better resolution.

So what is a humble web-surfer to do? Do I shun my gadgets and gadget sites to reduce the temptation to buy the next one? Do I say minimalism or bust and not bring anything new into the house unless something of equal mass is expunged? (My, that sounds much like life in a bubble; is that type of existence possible for lifeforms above krill?) And can I ever truly expunge anything when all that means for me is throw it on the communal pile at the end of the road known as the dump?

I'm off to ponder this more, iPhone in hand while I turn the compost pile.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Buffalo, NY: the new world power

I just had the most bizarre wiki experience that has shrunk my view of the planet. Follow along, kids.

I have acquired a copy of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age. I went to The Wik to learn more about this documentary before I committed myself to watching all thirteen hours. On the incredibly brief page, I clicked on the link for ...

PBS. I read way more about the tagline " ... and people like you" than I could have predicted. The page included a list of major PBS affiliates including ...

WNED. I had flashback overload to childhood hours spent wondering why there were no commercials on this station. I knew it had something to do with "people like me" but wasn't sure what because my parents would just bitch about the fund-raising campaign and change the channel. Then I clicked on ...

Buffalo, NY. I love that information about the climate is the first major wiki subsection. I miss snow and thought about the Blizzard of '77. I lived it. The rest of y'all can play the board game. As part of the discussion surrounding the cultural nuances of Buffalo, the 4 AM last call for bars is front and center.

I believe that this drinking convenience is a major reason for InBev locating their American headquarters in Buffalo. I mean, with those extra two hours, think of the research the company's interns can do investigating the beverage selection of the locals.

Look at that loop. It started with a documentary about the Cold War and ended with info on what the population of St. Louis sees as a foreign invasion by a Belgian company headquartered in this hemisphere in the city where I grew up.

I don't know what it means but it means something.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Protect your valuable stuff

Hmm, was there some sort of problem for which this was the answer?

Monday, August 04, 2008

Fling is in the air!

Ah, the sweet stench of the political campaign season. There is nothing else like it. For three years and six months out of every four year cycle, I believe most Americans try to be conscientious about not littering and leaving only footprints and packing out what they packed in, etc., etc. And then a campaign for political office starts and you wouldn't believe what people will pound into their lawns.

My current favorite campaign sign is the following:

Dino Rossi
Don't Let Seattle Steal This One!

So positive! So uplifting! It just screams leadership, rationality, decisiveness and forward-thinking. Blech

I offer this link in the spirit of sharing what I found in my efforts to find a picture of one of these signs. Apparently these are not "official" campaign signs and are produced by a special interest group. Big whoopee squat. I hate the ethical slight-of-hand behind these stunts where the candidate professes his discontent while backers sling slop.

 How many more weeks of this nonsense?