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Last Build Date: Mon, 21 Jan 2013 17:12:30 GMT


Some notes about being an adult

Mon, 21 Jan 2013 17:12:30 GMT

Last night, I read some stuff about being an adult that really changed some things in me personally. I have never been "fine" with being an adult for a few reasons. One, I don't feel like one. Two, as a kid, adults frequently let me down. The second I more or less got over as the years went by: I learned for forgive the frailty of the human experience and how the people I may have looked up to were flawed, and sadly I had the intelligence to see this at far too young an age and felt cheated by the experience.

But the first one has always been a problem. I hang out with kids, and I don't feel any more or less like they do. I just control my reactions better. I have been told by many my age, "I don't feel like an adult, either," but the devil's advocate in me asked if it was just because I hung around fandom and in the mundane world, there were "real adults" roaming around who think and act mature. Maybe they are the real adults and I am still that 16 year old broken kid who had a shitty childhood and never left the Peter Pan stage. I am president of a non-profit, have a great job, a nice house, married 23 years with a kid. How did that happen? Someone will surely find out and boot me out of the party and I'll wake up back in my old bed in McLean, screaming in terror about the illusion. Certainly being an adult age has been far better than being a kid, was that because I was a kid?

Then some people discussed the concept of adulthood following along a similar paradox to Theseus' Ship. I didn't know what this was, so I looked it up. The ship of Theseus, also known as Theseus' paradox, is a paradox that raises the question of whether an object which has had all its component parts replaced remains fundamentally the same object. The paradox is most notably recorded by Plutarch in Life of Theseus from the late 1st century where Plutarch asked whether a ship which was restored by replacing all its wooden parts, remained the same ship.

When we were children, we saw adults as a constant. They were adults because we never experienced them transitioning into adults. As such, we were unable to discern how it happened, and we have no precedent for what it looks like when an adolescent turns into an adult; we can't mark that exact point. Just like marking the points when the ship stopped being the same ship as parts were replaced individually over time. The people who were adults when we were kids are still adults, and the people who were teenagers when we were teenagers are still teenagers. Like Theseus' Ship, small things were changed, but they remained the same person as we observed them. To make things even more obscured, many of us were never given an absolute threshold to cross, or conditions that ascertained adulthood, and it was impossible for us to derive them growing up, so we simply don't know where (following the Theseus narrative) we stop being the same ship. This has always been one of my concerns as a male; our modern society had not male ritual. Women had a demarcation of having their period, which is a little more concrete before and after. For guys, what is it? Losing our virginity? Our first wet dream? I am not sure. I know a lot of my friends who went through their Bar Mitzvah hadn't even hit puberty yet when "they became a man," so even that custom Jewish tradition isn't really a good line, either.

If this is true, the only reason your elders were "adults" was because you perceived them as being more responsible and capable than you. They saw themselves the same way you see yourself now. If you want to be an "adult", all you have to do is be responsible, capable, and self-reliant and the rest will follow.

This has given me a lot to think about.

Some bash command line tricks I wish I would remember: Part 2

Fri, 14 Dec 2012 14:27:11 GMT

My new job has me learning a lot of new bash stuff by neccessity. Here's some new stuff I have learned, and wanted to jot down.

I am using awk, but I need to use more than one field separator

awk -F "=|," 
I wish I had found this earlier, and I searched for it, but never found what I was looking for because my Google-fu was weak. I stumbled upon it quite by accident. Here's what I used to do: Suppose I wanted to cut out some text and isolate it, like the system times from a dmesg dump for my sda deveice.
glarson@shrm-excelsior:~$ grep sda  /var/log/dmesg
[    1.170644] sd 0:0:0:0: [sda] 488397168 512-byte logical blocks: (250 GB/232 GiB)
[    1.170945] sd 0:0:0:0: [sda] Write Protect is off
[    1.170950] sd 0:0:0:0: [sda] Mode Sense: 00 3a 00 00
[    1.171077] sd 0:0:0:0: [sda] Write cache: enabled, read cache: enabled, doesn't support DPO or FUA
[    1.220626]  sda: sda1 sda2 < sda5 >
[    1.221922] sd 0:0:0:0: [sda] Attached SCSI disk
[    3.241926] EXT4-fs (sda1): mounted filesystem with ordered data mode. Opts: (null)
[    7.291400] Adding 6273020k swap on /dev/sda5.  Priority:-1 extents:1 across:6273020k
[    7.505029] EXT4-fs (sda1): re-mounted. Opts: errors=remount-ro
Then I'd have to do this:
glarson@shrm-excelsior:~$ grep sda  /var/log/dmesg | awk -F'[' '{print $2}' | awk -F']' '{print $1}'
Now I can do this:
glarson@shrm-excelsior:~$ grep sda  /var/log/dmesg | awk -F"\[|\]" '{print $2}'

I have this long-assed command, I'd like to put it in an editor but not save it as a script

This brings up whatever editor your shell has. I found vi to work the best, but some clown inists on nano for Debioan distros, so...

How do I change my default CLI editor?

export EDITOR=/usr/bin/vim 
(put in .bashrc to make permenant)

I want to replace a whole line based on one match string

sed -e "s/.*FARISLAND.*/###########/" cland.txt
In your sed statement, put "dot star" at each end of the search string. It will replace that line with the replacement. In that example, anything line that has "FARIS" in it will be replaced etriely with ########### My termian gives me a lot of " â " when I try and draw lines
 set your terminal to UTF-8
The ISO standard emulation fonts mess up ASCII 256 graphics.

Maybe this will help others.

Today marks 6 months, half a year, that I have been off all refined sugar

Thu, 01 Nov 2012 18:54:04 GMT

On May 1st of 2012, I decided to take an "endurance challenge" to go off all refined sugars. No sweets, no cake, no candy, no chocolate. In addition, there would be no honey. The only sugars I have ingested since that day are:

- The ones provided in fruit juices, but sparingly, as they are high in sugar
- Natural fruit (oranges, bananas, apples, pears, etc.)
- Where sugar occurs as a *minor* ingredient (like wheat/whole grain breads), except anything with HFCS is completely banned.

Have I lost weight? Yes. First I went from 335 to 341, stopped, and then lost weight gradually until about 2 months ago where I plateaued at 315. I am sure if I exercised, which I had planned to do, I'd be about 310 or so. Sadly, I got this new job where I went from walking 2-5 miles a day to about less than a mile a day. I have tried to take advantage of the gym here, but my work is literally I get here at 8, work straight through until 4:30 to 5:30, occasionally stopping for lunch a few times a week. I am hoping to balance this better as time goes on, but this company is meeting-crazy, where I have 1-2 meetings of 90 minutes each A DAY on average. Most of them are completely unnecessary.

Do I feel different? Well, for the first 3 months, I had a severe lack of energy with a feeling of about 30% less energy for daily tasks than I used to have. Then that settled down as my body got used to the new energy levels. I have noticed a severe reduction in craving for carbs (pasta, bread, and the like). In fact, I have no feeling at all whatsoever about them.

But the most surprising thing about this is I have had almost no cravings for sweets. It was like May 1st, it just shut off. I have been through multiple conventions, various parties, had free sweets offered to me, and while this Halloween would have been the most stressful, it's only been the usual chocolate cravings I used to get for migraines and SAD that have been the hardest to deal with. And even so, it's been manageable.

I wish I could pass along some kind of worldly wise experience, but that's about all I have. Part of this has been mysterious to me, and the rest hasn't been very impressive.

158 Days with no sugar

Sat, 06 Oct 2012 13:30:15 GMT

Well, day 158. Thought I'd tell you how it was going.My first big hurdle was Balticon at the end of May, which came and went with little fuss. I did eat a "Men in Black III Commemorative Donut," and accidentally someone gave me a Caffeine Free (but not sugar free) Coke, but that was the first indication my body got over HFCS. Since then, I have only ingested a few sugar items, both recipes Scarlet made because, well, I wanted to see how good a cook she was (and she's good). She did hit me both times, though. I have been to several events where danishes and cake were served since May, and I avoided them. My new job has been the first real test, because there's a public candy bowl right near my desk that is constantly refilled, and twice a week, due to the huge amount of meetings and demos my company does, leftover catered food. Plus, they have this "sorta-mandatory health program" for fat employees such as myself, which I have been told by my boss "is not enforced." Good thing, that coach (who only comes in twice a month) is a bitch. First time I ever bought gym clothes since I had to buy my gym uniform in high school.Anyway, the biggest test is coming: the holidays. Pies, cakes, cookies, candy, and other sweets loom on the horizon like a dark storm. This is where the rubber meets the road, as most people on diets know. But for me, I use "diet" in the original sense, "what one eats" instead of what it's turned into, "I eat less for an unspecified amount of time." And really, [i]I am doing fairly well[/i]. Recently, the SAD I have is coming, which I need to manage, and I have had some cravings of up to 5 on a scale of 1-10 far more frequently. But a few days, ago, I was in Wal-Mart, walking down a candy aisle that was so epic in scale, it seemed like out of a cartoon. I really should have taken photos. Rows and rows of orange boxes, filled to overflowing with large bags of candy, and not just the ghetto kind: GOOD candy like brand name chocolates and sweets. Kit-Kats, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Tootsie Pops, Hershey Bars, Kisses, M&Ms... you all know the names. I walked down the aisle like I was walking down some holy land of candy. I marveled at the opulence and spectacle of sugar and happy memories afforded to the good people of this land. Just one $3-$5/bag could buy a chocolate coma-like bliss that would last for hours as the salty-sweet aroma of cocoa and peanut butter swirled in my skull and led me to a happy land of good dreams.And yes, despite all that poetry I just spewed forth... I didn't feel the need to grab a bag. There was no wanting, no whimpering, no pangs of regret, nor a lustful craving of what once was. I appreciated it for its beauty, but didn't have a desire to have it. Kind of like being in a museum of fine art. Part of my mouth "remembers" the metallic tang it got the few times I did have HFCS or lots of sugar, and that seemed to switch everything off since I also get the same tang with migraines. I have the same reflex with vinegar; it reminds me of vomit, so I never crave it and gag when I taste it.Maybe by November, I'll be elbow deep in a bowl of hot fudge, cackling like a crazy person as the sweet chocolaty goodness dribbles down my chin and fills my veins. I cannot say "oh, this is for good" with any certainty. I don't understand what made me decide May 1st was "the day" and why it's not been nearly as hard as I would have guessed in April if I had any warning I'd be starting such a journey. I don't know what "switched off" so I can't say it wouldn't just "switch on" 10 minutes after I hit the "Update Journal" button. Or happen tomorrow. Or October 31st, when I make the Trick or Treat goodie bags. Or Christmas Day, when there is always a lot of food.I will say one thing: people say I am brave. They also call food high in fat or sugar, "junk food" or "bad food" like something is wrong with it. I think those are both wrong. "Junk food" is fucking delicious. Don't lie to yourself o[...]

Sugar Free Endurance test - Day 120

Wed, 29 Aug 2012 16:12:20 GMT

It's been almost a third of a year since I decided to not eat sugar anymore. I am still not very tempted, and sailing has been fairly smooth. There have been a handful of mistakes: someone gave me some popcorn that has sugar in it (kettle corn), more issues with Gatorade, and I ate a piece of banana cake Scarlet made because, well, she made it.

There have been a few cravings. My carb craving has shot down as well. The need for breads, pasta, and such have been very low. I find my body craves more fruit juice and sugar-free ice cream than ever. I have been reducing the fruit juice, because it almost as bad as soda, and the sugar free ice cream is a new issue; I never used to eat even regular ice cream before. I am trying to build up my tolerance to beans, eggs, and dairy. I used to be allergic to the first two, and the dairy allergy started when I was 20-21 or so. So far, the "magic number" of when my stomach decides to stab me with razors is about 4 eggs (up from 2), and beans has not been measured effectively. The ice cream thing has led to me drinking up to 2 cups of milk without bad side effects.

Weight loss is steady and slow. I have mostly stayed at around 319 for the last week, which is 12 lbs lower than when I started. I am not sure if it will plateau, but I am concerned about the lack of exercise now that my job has moved from Silver Spring to Alexandria. Yes, I got a new job, more on that in another post. To be on the Metro to DTSS was about 2 miles minimum, with up to another 3 miles depending on data center work, which was pretty scant in the last few years to be honest. Now, I get dropped off in front of my office in the morning by Christine, and walk about 3 blocks to a bus which drops me in front of Christine's work. During work orientation, I was asked to report to a fitness test next Thursday because... well, being fat here is not a good thing. Note, they don't FORCE me to exercise or lose weight, they just STRONGLY ENCOURAGE a healthy lifestyle. This company sucks if you're a smoker, fat, or want to eat unhealthy snacks. They are also mega-germ-phobic for a non-medical company. But it's so far been a good job. But as I said, more in another post.

Other than that, not a whole lot to report.

Some bash command line tricks I wish I would remember

Tue, 14 Aug 2012 16:49:25 GMT

I have these tacked up in my pod. But I am leaving my company after 7+ years, and packing up. For some reason, I can never remember the following, so I have them tacked up to remind me and save some significant time. I will most likely lose this slip of paper. Doh.

I started a vi session, forgot to do it as root, and now I can't save it
:w !sudo tee %

Dammit, this became a real issue when I started implementing sudo in my daily life. You need sudo (with correct permissions to the current account) and tee installed, which these days, is real common.

I want to run a long, complex-assed command again, but with one minor change

I found myself doing this with some complicated for-while loops at the command line during DNS dig queries. !! (pronounced, "bang bang" ...really) is also useful for "run last command" when you get into sudo problems.
[you@localhost]$ make sandwich
You do not have permissions to do this.
[you@localhost]$ sudo !!
Enter sudo password:

All set! Note: ^foo^bar also works on MOST systems, but it only works on the FIRST match, and the rest are ignored.

I did an ls to a directory, now I want to cd to it
cd [esc] .

That's the command, the escape key, and a period. It will fill in the last parameter. !$ (bang dollar-sign) also works.

How to I write to dev null again? Fucking hate crontab reports.
 [command] > /dev/null 2>&1

I forget the order of the 2 and 1 and & symbol all the time

Maybe this will help others.

"Into The Night" by Benny Mardones is the whiniest love song ever created.

Fri, 20 Jul 2012 17:36:13 GMT

... and it's creepy.Yesterday, I was trying to shop in the supermarket, and I heard this horrible reminder of while I intensely disliked music from 1988-1991.I am not a fan of ballads. Most of them are insincere, and are the Hallmark cards of love songs. I'm sorry, I have a list of these which includes "Wind Beneath my Wings," but "Into The Night" is one of those musical tragedies that Benny belches out like a drunken frat boy thinking if he fakes sincere romance, he's gonna get laid.I know the song is way old, like from 1980, but thanks to a "Where are They Now" segment in 1989, he got famous again right around when I got married. A one hit wonder that should have died with disco, it snuck into the pile of dying heavy metal ballads that dominated the airwaves in the late 1980s and was found washed up on a dozen "Lite Rock" stations ever since.First, Benny's voice is just terrible. Gravelly and full of sinus resonance, it has the musical range of a crying child reduced and octave or two. He might be more suited to blues music, but instead, he sings this "from the heart" schmaltz that is almost too desperate. The piano that starts in seems to be played at a much different tempo, like the guy they hired was told it was a different style of song altogether. Right off the bat, I wonder if I played two sound files that are overlapping."She's just sixteen years old... Leave her alone, they say..."Uh, yeah. Unless you are also 16. Now, in anime fandom, I know some people who are 16. Most are decent, smart people, but I wouldn't want to date one at 43. I probably wouldn't have wanted to date one when I was 21, either, and not because I was already married, but because there's just a level of relationship immaturity that I would have been incompatible with. This opening lyric is creepy, because they tell you to "leave her alone" for a reason, dude. "Dirty Dancing," would have ended differently in real life. Nobody puts baby in a corner indeed. Anyway, most of it is this older guy belting out his lust-filled hopes and dreams to a teenager. But okay, maybe he's also 16 or 17. But what does he know about love, then? Or as an adult? The lyrics are terrible, I can't even make sense of them:"It's like having a dream where nobody has a heart. It's like having it alland watching it fall apart and I would wait till the end of time for you."Kind of like a zombie apocalypse, maybe? Maybe he meats heart in a metaphoric sense, like, "It's like having a dream where no one has any feelings of decency for fellow human beings. It's also like having a lot of stuff, and then losing it which leads to waiting out the rest of my days hoping you'd ... see me?" What a pathetic loser. I can't figure out what he's trying to convey to this teenager, or fellow drunken roommates about how much he wants this 16 year old to love him. This makes even less sense, because in the lyrics before these, he wants to fly in like fucking Superman and take her up high and show her "a love you've never seen." The mile high club? Having sex in an airplane toilet?Okay, so some of Lady Gaga's stuff isn't that great, either. But she puts it in a pop beat that doesn't try to be anything else but uplifting and making you want to dance and sing the chorus. This guy... gees. But I didn't even try and decipher the lyrics until this post. What I really wanted to complain about is the desperate, whiny, belching form this song has. It has shitty pentameter, and the lyrics don't really match the tempo. It's like he didn't rehearse, and was reading from a cue card. "Just put any old white bread and unoffensive music in the background," he seemed to say, "I got got these slick lyrics that will make the teen cashier at Shop-Rite show me her boobs." Like he recorded it at one of those country fairs. "Look, I am the white Marvin Gaye," he seems to want to say. And Marvin would have said, "Uh, n[...]

More on sugar-free endurance test

Wed, 06 Jun 2012 02:30:27 GMT

Like I said in my last post, I am not sure where I am going with this. I kind of expected this to be harder. That being said, I kind of don't want to go back to sugar. Now that I don't seem to have had much weight gain (in fact, last I weighted 2 lbs less than when I started 35 days ago), I could do this for a while. But then what?

While I figure that out, let me explain why I did this to start off: just to see what happened. I had no idea. last time I went 27 days in 2007 before I broke, and I don't even remember why. I recall I gained 5 lbs, and felt miserable. I had cravings that built up and just got to be too much. Probably one of those. I felt 5 years was good to try again. I thought I'd make it to 20, maybe 25 before I felt like crap. But I am on 35 and not feeling as crappy. I have been doing a lot of pondering on this, and I think it's because I am now taking Metformin for my type 2 diabetes.

Eventually, I'd like to resort to a very simple diet of meats, veggies, some dairy, and fruits. A very simple diet of fresher and basic stuff. But I didn't want to give it all up in one go. I felt that being off sugar would be a decent test to study the effects of cravings. But that didn't work out as being so tough as I expected. Next, I am going to try and cut back on processed foods or high carbs (like vastly reduce bread and potato intake). I am going to try and increase roots and berries.

I'd also like to mention this is my test, not yours. Nothing in what I am doing is licensed by a physician; my doctor has no idea. In fact, I just started it on May 1st on a whim. I could have also gone bowling. I am also weird. My body does not react like others do in may cases. Vitamin C (in doses over 200mg) makes me sick. I cannot taste the difference in artificial sweeteners and real. Pepsi and Coke taste the same to me. Lobster has no taste. I see colors and halos around people which may or may not be synesthesia. I am mildly allergic to eggs, corn, and beans. I am immune to poison ivy. And so on. So, don't look to me for guidance and inspiration like I know what the heck I'm doing. I'm nuts.

Now, one fear I have is... say I'm at a party, and all they have is chips, cookies, soda, and a veggie platter with stuff I don't really like. I will starve. Or be miserable as fibers of supermarket celery and rubbery cheery tomatoes hurt what teeth I have left. Not sure what to do there.

Day 35 with no sugar

Tue, 05 Jun 2012 20:54:26 GMT

I have had odd cravings. Like pineapple juice. I used to hate pineapple juice as a kid, and only barely tolerated it as an adult. Sour and bitter, I found myself wanting it really bad. The store was out, so I ended up getting a "sugar-free" (fruit juice from concentrate) orange/banana/pineapple.

I drank two glasses, and probably only needed 1.5 glasses as my craving satiated, I suddenly really hated pineapple juice again. Man, I got a whole half a carton left.

In 35 days, I have only had a few HFCS/refined sugar bumps, and I feel a little lost as I didn't expect to get this far, or if I did, I expected to be miserable like the last mile of a marathon. But still no real significant cravings, and no fantasies about eating brownies or anything. I was going to post something funny there like, "hot gooey brownies smothered in hot chocolate and ice cream and cookie dough..." in some angst-fueled frustration with exaggerated adjectives ... but it made me feel a little ill. That's... a little weird for me.

What next? 60 days? Then what? Why am I doing this?

Still the biggest thing is finding things that taste good with no sugar. For instance: sugar free ice cream is simply horrible. I have tried many brands, and they either have no taste or are just drab and awful. It's not the aspartame or sucralose that does it for me, it's... just taste and mouth-feel. Sugar free chocolate candy is equally as bad.

I think diet food is what makes people stop diets more than anything. I have this theory that people diet less to get better, but more to punish themselves. Like they say, "I am trying to lose weight," but think, "Fatty fat fat fat loser I hate you..." and that is reflected in diet food. Well, it's just a theory.

Mostly sugar-free for 29 days and counting

Tue, 29 May 2012 15:25:53 GMT

So, I am day 29 of the sugar-free endurance test. Just to reiterate the goals:1. See how long I can go without *intentionally* ingesting refined sugar that does not occur naturally, which inlcudes surcrose, frutcose, high-frutcose corn syrup (HFCS), or sugar from beets, cane, or corn. 2. Admit when I made a mistake and why as part of my ongoing personal study3. Sugar substitutes are allowed (like Stevia, saccharine, aspartame, etc)4. Things with naturally occurring sugar, like fruits, are allowed but not artificially over-sweetened like fruit juices, which while they claim "100% juice" are artificially sweetened with concentrates of fruit juice, which is essentially sugar.Maybe this will help others.Now, yesterday, I had a mistake and an intentional ingestion, which I am not admitting to be all martyr on anyone, but to illustrate something I discovered.So, I was sitting at Balticon Ops, and asked if they had a sugar free soda back there, and someone said, "We have caffiene-free diet Pepsi." That sounded fine, as water can only be used so much before you kind of get sick of it as your only drink. I was handed a can, and shortly after I took a few sips, someone behind me slipped on a cart and smacked me HARD in the head right on an old head injury. I have a bump on my skull from an old injury I got when I was 17 and hit my head when I fell on my friend's foot locker at the foot of her bed. This produced a crack in my skull that just seems to geet getting re-injured because it protrudes a bit, and so anything that grazes my head slides into the groove and hits the crack again like a speed bump attracts low bumpers. Almost immediately, I had an electric shock of a migraine, and I tasted metal in my mouth. Now, when I get migraine attacks, sometimes this happens: a horrible, teeth-squeaking feeling of copper or rusty metal, followed by a similar smell. This time, the taste was brutal but no smell occurred, which I was grateful for. After I made sure no blood was seeping from my head, I continued to sip my diet drink, and the taste got WORSE instead of better. Normally, if I suck on a mint or something, the taste goes away. I had to suck on several to get this horrible, metallic taste out of my mouth. When my soda was halfway done, I noticed I was smelling metal; but it was coming from the can, and not a usual migraine symptom. On a hunch, I looked at the side of the can to see the ingredients.High frutcose corn syrup. It was "caffiene free" but not diet. After a short discussion with others, some confirmed that people not used to HFCS often hate the taste, and it's gotten steadily worse over the last 10 years. So I dumped the rest of the soda, and after rinsing my mouth out in the restroom, most of the metallic taste went way. I had to eat a few Altoids, though. Looking online, there are connections between HFCS and mercury, but I seriously doubt my mouth could really tell those kinds of minute levels. I wondered if this was my brain and/or mouth "waking up" to detecting the sugars. So later that night, I ate a "Men in Black III" donut (I wanted to try one since they are limited time only) to see if I got the same reaction. And I *did*. I felt like I was eating salted aluminum foil. So I looked up the nutritional info online. The "Brownie Batter Buttercreme Filling" has both sugar and HFCS listed, which was so strong and salty (these donuts are really high in sodium too, apparently, 330mg), that is actually was rivaling the chocolate flavoring. And those who study confectionery know chocolate flavoring is so strong, it's often used when a cake batch goes "bad," because it covers up pretty much every mistake, including burnt sugar. So... that's like saying another ingredient in a grilled cheese sandwich is so strong, it overpowered the caramelized onions or [...]

Debian apt-get misery: Part 1

Wed, 14 Mar 2012 14:20:12 GMT

So, there's one of those "don't pull the thread" kind of stories.I used to have Ubuntu, then they went all UNITY/GNOME3 on me. So when I got a new system, I installed flat Debian.But I installed Debian Squeeze (Stable) for amd64. It lived up to its name, it was stable.Except when I had to install Nvidia proprietary drivers. The Nvidia drivers were good. But apt-get hated them, because it messed up some xorg-alternative-something-something package, due to a bad link in the install script. Long story short, the packages are fine for 32-bit, but the 64-bit need some work. But this made installing packages difficult because they would ALWAYS get the error "can't find link to libgl-something.1," which was there, but a link to libgl-something.1.2 which wasn't there. So I'd link it to libgl.209.12 (something) which was Nvidia's video driver, but then it would error out, "this is a 64-bit executable" which, duh, it's a 64-bit OS. It was annoying, but I was able to install packages.Except when it came to various packages, which errored out, because a few packages (like MAME) wanted the xorg-alternative-something-something to behave, and so I couldn't install them. So much for continuing my Pokemon Blue game.So I needed to install a DVD burner for making movie CDs. My favorite is DeVeDe. It wouldn't install because I had a copy of ffmpeg libraries that were too old. I couldn't upgrade ffmpeg because... xorg-alternative-something-something was messed up.So I tried to do a dist-upgrade, which did nothing but make the machine worse and worse. This failed on all kinds of levels. I tried various fixes and long story short, rendered Linux unbootable. I have dual-boot into Windows, and that works (so, you know, GRUB works). And my /home partition is a separate partition, which is also backed up daily, so I am not hosed when it comes to data, so I decided to do a fresh install of Debian 6.04, Wheezy, which is the "testing" version (as opposed to "stable"). I should have started with Wheezy anyway, as "stable" is always way out of date because it takes so long to test the stability of packages and their dependencies. The install download constantly timed out, which mirrored the issues I have had off and on for a while getting the Debian ftp mirrors for *anything* (even here at work). Their servers time out, the sources.list have IP errors (or at least DNS is not updating quickly), and it took 30 minutes just to get an 198mb netinstall CD. The first CD didn't match the MD5 hashsum. So I had to download it again. Then it took two CDs to burn it via the Windows7 "burn an ISO" program, whatever the hell that does. At least it doesn't try to burn one ISO file on the CD like WindowsXP did, it actually burns a real image. The first image failed, and the CD was not recognized as boot media. The second image worked.Then, of course, a few more hours to get the packages. Many timeouts. Then it said it could not find a kernel to install, but constantly asking for it to find one (I assumed due to the timeouts) eventually found one: version amd64-3.02. At around 11:30pm last night, I booted into Debian and it hung at some funky-assed error dealing with AHCI or something. Known bug, you need to change some things in your modules.conf. So I tried to boot into "recovery," and that failed at another error that didn't recognize something in my hard drive. So I thought I'd mount it off a rescue CD I had and... the BIOS didn't see that CD as bootable. I gave up, because now it was midnight, and I had work to go to in 6 hours.My options seem to be among these:Re-install Debian squeeze-stable. I'll be back to issues with my packages.Try installing wheezy-testing again. Maybe the install got borked with all the timeouts.Go back to Ubuntu, which seems to have a l[...]

Installing a self-signed cert on a server, forcing Chrome on Linux to like it

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 16:14:11 GMT

This was such a pain in the ass, I wanted to save it for later.Setup: I have a Debian server, running the browser Chrome. I had SSL problems for my Smoothwall firewall which didn't allow me to store passwords, nor could I go onto the site without "OMFG YOU ARE GOING TO AN UNTRUSTED SITE LOOK OUT!!!" errors from Chrome.Given that I didn't want to shell out $50 for a real root cert, I needed to generate a self-signed cert because, well, the one that came with Smoothwall was mostly empty and stupid. I needed to do this anyway for my own educational purposes.Step 1: Generate a Private Keyopenssl genrsa -des3 -out smoothwall.server.key 2048It asked me for a passphrase, so I chose password12345 (not really, but I am not telling you my real one which is 230 characters long, and not the same passowrd as my luggage)Step 2: Generate a CSR (Certificate Signing Request)openssl req -new -key smoothwall.server.key -out smoothwall.server.csrThen I filled out this:Country Name (2 letter code) [GB]:US State or Province Name (full name) [Berkshire]:Dementia Locality Name (eg, city) [Newbury]:Paranoid Organization Name (eg, company) [My Company Ltd]:Punadyne Labs Organizational Unit Name (eg, section) []:Speculative Techology Common Name (eg, your name or your server's hostname) []:smoothwall.localdomain Email Address [] Please enter the following 'extra' attributes to be sent with your certificate request A challenge password []: [left blank] An optional company name []: [left blank]Step 3: Remove Passphrase from KeyI fucking hate it when sysadmins forget this step, and every damn time I have to restart the webserver, I have to enter in a passphrase. This removed the passphrase, but make sure that when you save it on the server, this file is set to only be readable by the root user!cp smoothwall.server.key smoothwall.server.key.orginal.withpassphrase openssl rsa -in smoothwall.server.key.original.withpassphrase -out smoothwall.server.keyIdeally, you should have these files and permissions:$ ls -al -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 745 Mar 10 12:19 smoothwall.server.csr -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 891 Mar 10 13:22 smoothwall.server.key -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 963 Mar 10 13:22 smoothwall.server.key.original.withpassphraseStep 4: Generating a Self-Signed CertificateAt this point, normally you mail the CSR to some site that charges you $50 or more to generate a cert. But fuck that for a personal home network. I am self-signing for 5 years because after 5 years... well, I don't think this server/setup will last that long. Hell, I hope it survives the next reboot, I have it on an old Dell desktop.openssl x509 -req -days 1825 -in smoothwall.server.csr -signkey smoothwall.server.key -out smoothwall.server.crtYes, that's what Verisign charges you $125 for doing. Oh, but they are "trusted." Whatevs.Step 5: Installing the Private Key and CertificateIn this case, I had to check where Smoothwall stored its certs. I found the apache config, and noted these lines:SSLEngine On SSLCertificateFile /etc/httpd/server.crt SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/httpd/server.keyI backed up those files in case something went horribly wrong (note, you should always do this), and then I copied my files over to there, renaming them "server.crt" and "server.key" so that everything matched. Yippie skippy. I couldn't figure out how to restart the web server itself, so I rebooted the box. Ha ha, fuck you, all who were on my network!Step 6: Testing the certI looked in Chrome, which STILL said it was untrusted, and since Google Chrome in Linux doesn’t have a SSL certificate manager. Chrome for Linux relies on some "NSS Shared DB" which I am sure sounds clever to somebody. But I checked and made sure the new cert was no longer the [...]


Thu, 08 Dec 2011 14:29:05 GMT

So, the other day, I am responding to this post on a forum about why people who work in computers always get asked to fix something, like it's all related. I say it's our unique troubleshooting ability. Jeff Goldblum demonstrated how, using only a Mac laptop and some software, we could infiltrate an alien ship and plant a virus somehow. That character had some mad driver-writing skillz, yo. I could see any one of my tech friends being taken by spaceship and asked to fix something, and this happens:

Okay, I fixed your anal probe. I found out that your ship's power is divided into several nodes that are color coded. I don't know what they mean, exactly, but I did notice that the anal probulator was plugged in twice: one to a green outlet, and one to a blue. I didn't know which one did what, so I unplugged them both, and plugged them back in one at a time. What I noticed is that a small green light appeared on the ... wand thingee, but there was a dim orange light on the main part of the unit that flashed. I noticed that it had a red plug, plugged into a blue outlet. I wondered if you had a red outlet. You did, but something else was plugged into it. I asked a crew member what it was, and he said it was something I cannot pronounce in my language's phonemes. I asked him if it was okay to unplug, and he said, "Oh, yeah. I don't need it on anymore." It turns out he was using it around the same time you said the probulator stopped working. I unplugged the... other thing, and plugged in the red plug on the probulator to it. And I got a green light. They tested it on this poor redneck in a holding cell, and said it was now working great.

Am I right?

Gorilla movies

Thu, 08 Dec 2011 14:23:54 GMT

I had a classmate who had this opinion on Star Wars back in the 1980s.

Me: So, you ever watch Star Wars?
Him: No, I don't get into Gorilla movies.
Me: What?
Him: Gorilla movies. You know, Planet of the Apes, King Kong, Star Wars, Star Trek, 2001, etc.
Me: Chewbacca is not a gorilla.
Him: Ape, space-chimp, whatever. I don't know why sci-fi is always has to have a gorilla in it. Is it because of the chimps in the space program?
Me: What is wrong with you? What is the last sci-fi film you watched?
Him: Alien.
Me: Hah! And was there a gorilla in that?
Him: I don't know, I stopped watching it because after twenty minutes of the same hallway over and over, I fell asleep. Did they ever get off that ship? At the end, she's blasting some gorilla into space. Didn't even make sense.
Me: That was an alien!
Him: No, it was definitely a gorilla.

It reminded me of another friend's mom, who thought Star Trek was "that astronaut gangster TV show" because the ONLY episode she saw was "A Piece of the Action." Because she didn't want her kid to be a gangster and reinforced the Italian stereotype, she forbid him watching Star Trek.


Wed, 07 Dec 2011 19:44:44 GMT

My dad had an unusual gift of making people feel stupid. While discussing this with someone who had similar problems as a child, we tried to diagram how these conversations would go. What resulted was a string of IMs about techniques so evil and horrible, that I am scared to post them lest it give some evil person ideas. I think I may someday post a list of countermeasures, and maybe make an e-book out of it called, "How Others Manipulate You and Ways to See It" or something. Not that I have decent counter tactics, like f I wrote "How to Build a Pipe Bomb" it wouldn't necessarily prevent you from being hurt in an explosion. One of the more common tactics that I will discuss is the way some people try and make you look like a liar. My dad and her dad had this down to a science. It's amazing how it works and I am not sure if our fathers did this because they really thought they were trying to stop our lying, or just wanted us to look stupid. In my case, I am pretty sure it was the latter. I am curious how this looks in professional debate techniques. My friends Neal and his brother Glen were debate team champions in their school days, and Neal used to fascinate me with terms like "petitio principii," "reductio ad absurdum," and other tales of tautology. I often wished I had similar training in the face of people trying to prove me wrong in something I am most assured is right, or at least exactly how I saw it. The premise of a liar hunter starts with the assumption the other person is lying without thinking of alternatives. Thus anything and everything the victim says is interpreted, to its fullest extreme, as proof of the accuser's theory. For instance, the devilish phrase, "What the hell is wrong with you?" or its cousin, "Are you stupid or something?" Posed as a question, it's actually a statement that something is wrong with you. "When did you stop beating your wife?" Thus, you are put on the defensive if you're not aware of how to handle this tactic. It reminds me of an old joke my friend Neal had with his dad which infuriated him. "Suppose a rooster lays an egg on top of a barn," his dad would say. "Will it roll on the east side or west side of the roof?" The answer is apparently, "Ha ha, roosters don't lay eggs; hens do!" This implies the person who tried to answer anything regarding the egg itself was an idiot. Neal immediately brought up the point that to answer such a question established a hypothesis independent of reality. Maybe roosters do not lay eggs in real life, but you said "suppose," which means you set up a premise and and answer demanded a postulation on the premise. "Suppose the murderer was someone the victim knew?" is a good example from a typical mystery novel. But in this case, it was the questioner trying to make you look stupid, and his dad merely repeated that someone raised in the suburbs was so disconnected from reality, they were blinded to the fact roosters are male. People who set up false premises in questions are not looking for an answer, they wanted to be be right and destabilize your argument until you doubt even your own reality and experience.This is one of the core reasons that privacy is, or should be, an essential right to an adult. It disarms someone looking for postulated evidence that can be used against them. Does this related phrase sound familiar?"If you did nothing wrong, what reason do you have to hide?"A good answer is, "If I did nothing wrong, what reason do you have to look?" Sadly, that's a logical answer, and people out witch-hunting are not swayed by debate or reality in most cases. They want to look because they have no evidence. And when they violate your privac[...]

So 2011 is almost at a close...

Wed, 07 Dec 2011 18:45:52 GMT

In 1977, I was a book nerd who signed up for the Scholastic Book thing... many of you remember it back in US grammar school. There was an onionskin paper catalog that had mostly reprints of popular kids books, with some posters, calendars, and sometimes toys tossed in. My mother made sure I got a lot of books, and I was the ONLY kid I knew who always had an order of more than 5 items per delivery. This was awesome, personally, but it gained me a lot of beatings because I was a "BOOK WORM." One year, it got so bad, my teacher gave me the order after school because she understood how hard it was.


Anyway, in one of these packets I got a free "1977 Fact-a-day" calendars. It was a large unfolding poster that had a fact a day for each square. One of the things that this poster had was a goofy, "This calendar can be reused in 1983!" As a joke, they had a space where you could cross out "1977" and put in 1983, using some futuristic font.

I was such a nerd, I mathematically figured out that I could also use the calendar again in 1994, 2005, and 2011. I remember how proud I was at this discovery that calendars repeated. I showed this to my teacher and she said, "so what?" I was crushed. I won't name her name, because otherwise she was okay, but 1977 was the year I found out doing math for no reason was pointless. Thank goodness I was too stupid to remember this lesson. Also, in the back of my head, 1983, 1994, 2005, and 2011 were magically connected in some way. So this year ends an era started by some strange calendar I got as a kid. I guess I could also connect 2022, 2033, 2039, 2050 and so on, but enough is enough.

In 1977, the year 2011 seemed impossibly far away to be almost magical. "Man, I'll turn 43! I'll be older than my dad!" I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the future would be like. We'd have a base on the moon, that much I was certain of, because I mistakenly assumed we knew the value of establishing colonies in space and didn't know how the economy was militarily-driven. Cars would probably fly, because I knew nothing about stupid drivers and traffic mishaps. Part of me wishes I could go back in time and ask myself, "So... what will people eat? How will children's TV be different?" I would say nothing but my calendar math was remotely accurate in predicting anything.

What I didn't know was how my life would change in that year. I was diagnosed as dyslexic and some bozo test said I had an incredibly high IQ. My mother's drinking also increased. This would cause my father to "get involved" in my schoolwork, and my grades plummeted. My childhood ended in 1977, which started a spiral into depression, and started patterns that affected me in 1983, 1994, 2005, and even residuals linger in 2011.

Well, it's time to end all that. I am going into 2012 with a positive spring in my step.

It's pronounced, "strop"

Wed, 12 Oct 2011 18:24:12 GMT

Years ago, I worked at Chesapeake Knife and Tool. We sold many "manly" things besides knives and tools, like Zippo lighters and straight razors. I learned a lot about people who shaved with straight razors. First, they were usually among the fringes of educational society. It took a strange person who, in an era of disposable razors, would prefer an unguarded thin steel blade that was so sharp, it could cut through a human being without much effort. Sharpening the razor with such a thin edge was a task in itself. Unlike the edge of your common kitchen knife, if you tried to chop celery with a straight razor, you might actually break the edge. You'd certainly dull it really fast, and at the very least, bend or curl the fine line between deftly cutting thick hairs at pore level or dragging a small rake across your face that had been sharpened by evil fairies. The edge would dull simply by aging after a week. So using such a fussy device to shave one's face where a lot of important veins and arteries were close to the skin in a very visible disfiguring area took a certain kind of crazy.These people would come by and ask for the usual accouterments: lathering soap, a bowl, a brush, and a "strop." A strop was a strip of leather that also had another parallel strip of cloth with a very, very mild abrasive impregnated into it. Because the blade dulled with practically every use, an aficionado of risky facial cosmology would need to make sure that the edge of his thin scythe was not only as sharp as it could be, but was also clean and free of any warping. So before every use, they would hone the blade with the white cloth, and then "deburr" (remove microscopic bits of metal) the blade with the leather strap. You may have seen this in a movie, where it looks like the barber is wiping the blade on some leather strap. But you can't just do that without a degree of skill; it requires knowing exactly what angle and direction to swipe the blade. And after so many shaves, the razor may actually need sharpened in the classical sense: on a hone, a kind of slippery piece of slate-like stone lubricated with only water or maybe some shaving soap. After all that, after every use, you have to oil the blade because it's such a high carbon steel that it will rust from the moisture present in the air. I am not shitting you. I have seen some of these blades where there are dark pits where water was left for a day or so, and if you just leave it un-oiled, after a few weeks, the blade starts to stain black.This is not a hobby for the lazy. This is not a weekend thing where you can keep coming back to it on your spring break like you've been meaning to. I can't tell you if this process is better than any other kind of shave, and any straight razor zealot will insist it's better even if it only means, "I have to justify I am not some kind of lone nut!" I don't think I'll ever want to know because a friend of mine in the SCA once trusted someone who was "skilled in this art" at Pennsic to give him a shave. Even though "the bleeding was not that bad," he had to grow a beard until the scars went away on their own. The whole point of this story came about as I was explaining to someone about making sure never to say something aloud until you were sure there were no customers in the store. One day, a man came in, looking to buy some supplies for his dabble into the art of facial scarring near-misses. Like many of his ilk, he was an older guy who wore a newsboy cap and a plaid sweater vest under a suede jacket. The kind of guy who was nostalgic for his father's time when he was assured it was simpler. [...]

Tales of Mild Interest: How I got to Shake Hands with the Real Stan Lee

Wed, 24 Aug 2011 16:31:30 GMT

As some of you know, I work among the highest management in an anime convention as a co-chair, which is kind of like claiming your were president of the college chess club on your resume; it may impress some hard core nerds but most people don't care and may actually be annoyed if you bring it up too much. But for the small core of you who knows who Stan Lee is...OK, for those who don't, Stan Lee American comic book writer, editor, actor, producer, publisher, television personality, and the former president and chairman of Marvel Comics. He is credited with being one of the major creators of superhero characters you have heard of if you have been watching movies for the past 10 years: The X-Men, The Fantastic Four, Spiderman, The Hulk, and many others. In the comic book world, he is the closest to a deity as it gets. He's also a really nice guy, very funny, and like the wacky grandpa who can get away with calling people a dork in public. Stan Lee is a "Big Deal."I don't read comics. This is not a statement of pride, it's kind of a confession of sorts among my friends, as I am a bit of an outsider due to this. I did read a few comics as a kid, but I read mostly graphic novels of famous literary classics like Robinson Crusoe, Call of the Wild, The Time Machine, and the Washington Star. I didn't like comics (with the exception of Mad and Cracked magazines) because the cost-to-entertainment ratio was rather low. Comics were about 95 cents as a kid, and I could read them in 20 minutes. A paperback book was $3.95, and that was several hour's worth of entertainment. I didn't get an allowance, so the rare money I did get I would spend wisely. With books, most of my reading collection was stored in a place called "The Public Library," which cost nothing. They didn't have many comics, except the oddball comic collection or graphic novel. So while nerd friends of mine poured over the latest Spiderman, marveling at his ability to sell them Hostess products, I was reading Tolkien. That does not mean I wasn't AWARE of the comics. If I had unlimited funds for comics as my friends did, I am sure a great portion of my life would be arguing DC versus Marvel Universe. Of which I only discovered the difference less than a decade ago.I first became aware of Stan Lee when he showed up in "Mall Rats," a film directed by Kevin Smith. Over the next few years, Stan would show up randomly in the nerd universe, and I found I rather liked him due to his personality, self-deprecating humor, and cries of EXCELSIOR! for no apparent reason. So when my anime convention agreed we should try our a comic book convention to promote our event, I was delighted to find out Stan Lee would be there. Maybe I'd get to see him! I joked I'd stalk him.I was really there on business, and had no real objective or serious plans to meet Stan Lee. It just seemed like something funny to say, like "I am gonna marry that Hooters waitress," or "FOX News journalist." In fact, I had plan to meet some famous people who are even more obscure except in their narrow universe. Like Stan Sakai (which I jokingly referred to as "the other Stan" all con), creator of the Usagi Yojimbo manga. Mr. Sakai is a guest at my convention, and I wanted to make sure he knew I was one of the co-chairs. He's an awesome guy, too, and if you ever get an opportunity to spend time with him, you should do so. I was also supposed to seek out vendors and industry guests for Katsucon 18 and 19. And, on a personal quest, "Josh," the famous Baltimore "ICE COLD WATARRR..." guy. In my clueless wanderings between these, I met othe[...]

Post for the humor impaired

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 16:23:32 GMT

(Summary at bottom of post)@Wilw recently TweetedPanhandler did not appreciate my thoughtful critique of his angle. My advice was EASILY worth more than a dollar, ya lousy bum.I wrote this journal entry so Wil wouldn't have to. He's got better stuff to do. He has a wife, a son, friends, a career, role playing gaming, a podcast, a toaster, and a dog in that order. If you have looked here, you are either being educated as to why this was delivered as funny, you want to see how humor works, or you are adding to the mockery of the people who took Wil seriously as disliking the homeless.Humor is a form of delivery where someone says something, expecting the other person to laugh. It arises from a mental conflict that is resolved, invoking laughter in the recipient. Ironic humor is where someone says something that is the opposite of what is commonly perceived as true for the same result, often in direct opposition of their normal attitude. It is higher level of humor that has this flow:1. Deliverer says a common that is socially unpleasant.2. Receiver hears the unpleasant comment, and feels conflict3. Receiver has the mental facility to understand that it was not meant truthfully. This is an added step where someone can sympathize with another's thoughts and understand that this is in conflict with another's thoughts.4. Seeing the conflict resolved, laughter is invoked. "He was being sarcastic/ironic!"People took offense at this tweet because they did not expect ironic humor. Here is the joke explained.1. "Panhandler did not appreciate my thoughtful critique of his angle." The words used in this phrase were used in a syntax that was a little more complex than required. This is part of the setup. It implies that Wil was imitating the higher educated as thinking of themselves as better than other people, notably people who ask for money on the street. This is known as "mockery," but not of the panhandler, but of his portrayal of a higher breed of human on the social scale.2. "My advice was EASILY worth more than a dollar," he continues. This is probably a jab on Hollywood and the esoteric vague quality of advice which people pay for. The subtlety of this comment is hardened by years of listening to bad advice from people in media production, like program managers, many of whom consider their advice to be so valuable, that giving it away for free is a rare treat. This is commonly seen as stupid except for the people who actually believe themselves. Wil has not bridged the mockery from a snooty set-up to the delivery of sarcasm. 3. While the joke could have ended there, Wil punctuates the remark with a twist, by adding, "ya lousy bum." This is a stark contrast to the syntax of the language previously presented. Thus the joke is funny in two ways: one, it mocks the arrogant, and then ends it with a more guttural, "commoner," response. This exposes the mocked snooty person as being no better than a commoner after all.To further clarify the delivery of this Tweet, I shall expose it literally."I am making fun of a person (via method acting) of higher social class that was confused as to why someone of a lower social class did not understand why advice into how he asks for money was not accepted as valuable. This person would assume that the person of lower social class was mistaken if he did not believe that his advice was worth a great deal more than one US Dollar. Then I let the persona I am acting out collapse to expose that he is nothing more than a schoolyard bully via a taunting jeer that would not be common to someone of [...]

Sorry, can't stop, gotta run...

Wed, 27 Jul 2011 17:25:03 GMT

I am a little stressed. For once it's not about money as much. Thankfully, takayla's full time job has saved our skins and plateaued us to the road to recovery. At this rate, it will take 5-7 years to fully recover from what was a slow drain since 2001 to a calamity in 2009. But things are looking up.I am stressed because of the delay in my eBook, which has lay awaiting my approval in my inbox since last week. I haven't had time because of Katsucon. Oh, and I haven't had time to work on my next book, either. I have been running about like nuts. This weekend I have Otakon, where I will be helping at the Katsucon table, but most of the time I am expected to make the rounds to various vendors and guests to try and schmooze and drum up business for our little con that could. Did I mention I am working Intervention con, too? What is with me? Onezumi, who runs that amazing little con, is ... amazing. So vibrant and full of energy and hope, she and Harknell are running one of the best startup cons I have seen since the FanTek days. Hell, already they have a lot of former FanTek staff. I should have said "no," but my inner voices told me to jump on this thing at the ground floor. The way this is looking, my lovely bride (who is fucking BOSS-awesome at this) and I will be Katsucon con chairs for this year and next, before we hand the reigns over to someone else the board elects. I may settle down with Intervention and see it grow from the inside out. If anything, the company they keep are amazing and talented.But I am barely doing anything for that con, reltively speaking. I am running their info booth, which means me and two assitants I hire will sit at a table most of the day and party while we get other people to party as we hand out maps and give out information. I'll be like Slurms McKenzie on my own private Wurmulon with Trixie and Dixie."Whimmy wham wham wozzle!" Last night, I went to visit my beloved DC Roller Girls for picture day. The size of the volunteer squad is now reaching small con proportions. There were about 7 of us for the photo ops, and we got our own individual photos. I am curious why anyone would want to see my face in a program book, I mean really. But they had a professional there, taking shots with a backdrop and light umbrellas. I got a few with my new friend, a Brain Slug.What is the Futurama spin this post has taken?Anyway, I am wearing said slug at Otakon. Perhaps it's symbolic for the drain this has had on my brain. Here's my work list:- Regular work (main income)- Contract work (supplementary income)- Being a published author and writer (supplementary income)- Running a house with 2 handicapped people, 3 cats, and 2 dogs. Which means I do all the housework, cleaning, cooking, shopping, budget, and repairs.- Volunteer as Convention Co-chair at Katsucon- Volunteer as head of Info Booth at Intervention- Volunteer as narrator at Balticon Podcast- Co-producer and podcaster of Fireside Meanderings- Volunteer as bouncer for the DC Rollergirls- A smalltime project I can't speak about- Another smalltime project I can't speak aboutAt Otakon, I have to do work for Katsucon. Same with Baltimore Comic-Con, Nekocon, Anime USA, and whatever other con we're having a table at. My to-do list looks like a large scoll of the Talmud.[...]

Small rant: Your video site and ads

Sat, 25 Jun 2011 16:02:18 GMT

I was trying to watch a film on a video site dedicated to documentaries because some nice person wanted me to watch a film. But I can't watch it. I just can't.This site is so invasive with in-lined video ads, I stopped watch the site. I won't even link to it, because it's that bad. It's about 9 minutes of film, and then a 50 second ad. And then when it returns to the film, the video stops even though the audio keeps going. You can reload the site, but then you get the ad again, and the site won't let you fast forward.Your site does no one any favors. Here's the issue, nobody wants to watch ads. Nobody wants to watch THE SAME AD over and over, making possibly erroneous stereotypes about Kentucky and their cult-like following of basketball, and ad made by some financial institution. With stereotype banjo-picking because we all know people from Kentucky are hillbillies who follow sports because their lives are pathetic and uneducated. Well, you think that. Your ad certainly gives the impression that rich white people don't know shit about Kentucky, and while there may be a lot of basketball fans in Louisville, Kentucky is a diverse and vast state of various different types of people. But you're a huge bulge bracket investment banking and securities firm, I am sure you see most of Appalachia as a bunch of barefoot, big-toed, overall-wearing inbred hicks who, and I quote you directly, think "basket ball is a religion." So when I am forced to listen to your sponsors who are pretty much the antithesis of the documentary I was trying to watch about non-profits arising from corruption, I don't even know if anyone is awake on your site that decides who ads to play. How about showing porn ads? I heard those are popular. Wait, I hate watching those ads, too, which is one of the top reasons I don't watch porn on the Internet.I understand you need paying sponsors. But other video sites do it better. There is a certain ad-to-content ratio mix that can work well for both sides. But some people don't get it. Marketing executives who drank through college make poor decisions. The 50% who graduated with an MBA below average GPA say PUMP ADS DOWN THE PEOPLE'S THROATS. They don't get it. They don't get how smart and savvy we are, so they try and be more invasive. There are people out there who think if they show you an ad long enough, over a repeated period, you are guaranteed to buy it. And most of it is smoke and mirrors. Nobody really knows for sure if an ad works half the time.The basic, most fundamental premise behind an ad is to make people aware a product is available to buy. "I have a widget for sale, wanna buy it?" Then you get to the next level, "I have a widget for sale, here's why you want to buy it." This leaps from exchange of needs to trying to foster a need. If that need is not created, the ad fails. Some think it's because the ad wasn't convincing enough, or that the person missed it the first time. Idiots will just keep blasting these ads at you. Here's an example: the iPhone was pretty revolutionary. It broke new ground in personal computer assisted devices. Lines formed, people went nuts. Supply was low and demand was high. iPhone ads were "this is where you can get one." Then you had Android smart phones. They were pretty gray because most of what they do is, "we're like the iPhone." Oh, they may claim better networks, processing speed, and may actually be a better product. But their ads are trying to create a need, because they haven't done muc[...]

Storm, Crazy West Virginian Mountain Kitty, 1998-2011

Mon, 20 Jun 2011 20:17:51 GMT

In 1998, my mother in law was still alive. She lived in a tiny West Virginia down near a creek off Route 220, and a few times a year we visited her for a weekend or or so. At the time, she lived in a small apartment building that would be the 5th move in 10 years as the county condemned much of the public housing she had been placed in. In a few weeks, she would finally be getting a knee replacement on her joint that left her handicapped to raise a little girl alone who would later become my wife. Our visits were usually punctuated with driving her to see a doctor, or getting something at the nearby Walmart she could not carry by herself."There are drug dealers upstairs," she said. Her apartment was on the lower floor of a two-floor complex built in the late 1950s. The exterior was getting new vinyl siding to replace the turquoise and pink clapboard it used to have, but the inside was still a lovely gold and brown shagadelic style from the last attempted refurb in the 1970s. The fact that a collection of people from a lower caste populated the interior was no surprise. But how did she know they were drug dealers? You just know, apparently.While we went out to get mom groceries for the upcoming 4th of July festivities (private time at home, really), a woman met us in the hallway. She didn't fit the West Virginian stereotype. She was dressed rather well, like she was normally shopped at Rodeo Drive, and she was smoking a brand-name cigarette. "Someone put a bunch of kittens in a dumpster," she said when we passed her, "behind the IGA." The IGA was a supermarket that had dried up and died off a few years ago in this former coal mining town populated by increasingly aging citizens. The fact this woman introduced herself with a rather oddball news fact only made her seem stranger. "Okay, then," we said, trying to stay polite enough to acknowledge her presence and prevent a repeated crazy statement, but not enough to have her continue as if we mutually agreed to a conversation. "Imma go get 'em," she continued, pulling a drag on her cancer stick like she made the decision right then and there just BECAUSE we answered her.Later that night, local kids were shooting fireworks all over. Most decent fireworks were extremely illegal in this state, so most people smuggled them from Virginia in car trunks and fired them into the poorer areas of town. As West Virginia has no wamprats and the median income forbids a T-16, most local kids chased local fauna with bottle rockets, roman candles, and other incendiary devices in their version of extreme prejudice. As we sat on the stoop that faced a modern arrangement of abandoned cars of a nearby automotive hobbyist, a furry object with a poofy tail darted under our legs. This was a small, skinny, but curiously fluffy cat coated with burrs and burn marks. Nature never meant a creature of the woodlands to have silky fur of this nature, but she had no collar, so she might have been some kind of offspring from a Persian and a stray. While she made friends with us, it was apparent that we were only temporary refuge from the psychotic offspring of welfare recipients. As the noise of the fireworks subsided, the insects that suck the blood of the disadvantaged drove us back inside. We said goodbye to our feline stranger.The next day, this cat was still hanging around. My wife went to the part of the building where a single washer and dryer set provided some small income, 4 quarters at a time, to the the owner of the apartments. While h[...]

Rebecca Black's Friday video: I break it down for you

Tue, 14 Jun 2011 02:20:33 GMT

Recently, it came to my attention that Youtube or Ark Music Factory started charging people to see this video. I decided to spare you. For those who do not wish to pay, or are afraid someone might hear them play it at work, I'll break this video down for you:The video opens up to a flip book that goes over the days of the week with worn out cliches about each day while the semi techno song ramps up its vanilla beats with the building force of a ice cream tsunami. Meanwhile, a singer with the vocal range of someone with serious rhinitis sings several bars with a mixture of the words "yeah" and "ooh" like a chimp who just discovered language. You can see her awkward stilted face blended with an edged detection Adobe Photoshop filter belting out low confidence often seen in "make your own video" booths at county fairs. Her name is Rebbecca Black, which might have made a better goth porn nickname than the bland Mediterranean teen tart that will be the main presentation of this video. No one told her not to look directly into the camera.The focus changes, when the magic day is reached in the flip book to a badly rotoscoped LCD clock in a font that hasn't been popular since Colecovision. Rebbecca apparently sleeps in full makeup, which she probably does so she doesn't have to wake up at 5:30 to put it on. Her hair looks almost normal, but the speed of the film is so jerky, I expect "Yakkity Sax" to play at any moment while Benny Hill runs around the room.We cut to Rebbecca in her foyer, signing while people hopped up on far to much caffeine get ready for the day behind her. Her hair has gone completely flat, suggesting a sudden drop in humidity, which also makes her lips swell like she's trying to be a duck or her braces just got removed the day before. The lyrics read like a literal reading of Otis Redding's "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay," except it has about as much soul as half a zombie doing the Foxtrot. She turns away to join the generic blur behind her and SUDDENLY A BUS STOPShe is alone at the bus stop suggesting the teen in the foyer probably gets private school because he's the one in the family with promise and not the blank stare of a cruise ship counselor with a lobotomy. But even though she waits for the bus, she suddenly sees her friends driving a car that is more packed than a van full of migrant workers. She squints, possibly due to sun blindness reflected from her lip gloss, and recognizes her friends: the cast from a Tommy Hilfinger ad. Somehow she gets in, after dealing with the hardest question she has had to face since her lip gloss stopped being sold in bulk: front seat or back seat? Rosa Parks never had it so good, as she chooses the back seat. Apparently this is the school of the mole people as every girl in the car has a facial blemishes the size of beetles on their faces. A choice of teen models that could fill a stadium in LA and Ark Music Factory couldn't find a teen who had heard of Clearasil?It is at this point I realize Rebbecca says the word "Friday" with the irritating forced palate of a choir boy trying to grasp onto the remnants of his pre-puberty voice. "FRYEE-DAY FRYYEE-DAY" she says over and over again; forcing herself to remember that the next day she doesn't have to go to school and endure the mockery of passers by in her neighborhood as she waits by the bus stop in the rain.That's when I realize the kid driving the car is 13.The video also realizes this, and panic-cuts to the night scene where[...]

In which I rant about XM/Sirus billing

Mon, 13 Jun 2011 16:51:51 GMT

I am mad and need to vent. TL;DR XM keeps charging me for a dead radio and won't stop.In 2008, XM went from a monthly billing cycle to a annual billing cycle. Then they raised our rates. In October of 2009, our XM radio in our GM vehicle went dead. It came with our 2006 Saturn and is part of the dashboard. For six months, we kept going back and forth trying to get it to work with their Keystone Cops tech antics. The long of the short is, either my wife and I would be on hold for a long time, and they would give us stuff to try, and it never worked. They sent half a dozen "reactivation signals." Whatever. They kept trying to sell us a new radio, but as it's part of our dashboard, it was $499 for a new radio plus whatever fee the dealership would charge us to rip out the dashboard and replace it. My wife had lost her job, and money was tight, so I canceled the service. They charged me a fee anyway, and I got them to remove the fee after a lot of yelling and screaming. I must have known something "didn't seem right," because I saved my timeline and when they sent me the "Your account has been canceled" notice via e-mail, I saved it.I got a call this morning from my credit card company. "An unusual charge" showed up, and they wanted to alert me. XM charged me $160 for an annual renewal.Those fucktards.I searched my e-mail, and found my ominous soothsaying from June of 2010. "I bet you they fuck this uuuuppp..." said my ghost doing a bad Hamlet's father impression, who was probably listening to Enrique Iglesias featuring Pitbull - "I Like It" or distracted by the Obama administration warning that BP's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could continue until August.These June 2010 reference jokes working for you?Anyway, I called XM, and was on hold for 20 minutes so I had time to build up an angst bomb that would surely kill a large woodland creature at close range. Finally got the stereotype of an Indian call center, with a girl name "Kayla" (who could not spell her name when I asked her to, or even understand the request) that sounded like she was residing in a standard GI metal filing cabinet with the cast of "Stomp the Yard." A lot of the shouting I was doing was not just because I was mad, but because she couldn't hear me. Finally, after 10 minutes of coating my office phone with hate saliva, she said she'd transfer me and to please hold.Ironically, the hold music for XM Radio is neither pleasant nor memorable. Now here's a side rant: I hate hold music that is interrupted every minute with some announcement practically begging you to hang up and try some online version of their customer service. This fanned my already inflamed anathema with mind puzzles: every few announcements, I had to either "hold on the line" or "press one to continue holding." So I had to listen to see which one it was every minute, and the pattern seemed to be about 1 our of 3 announcements. Thus, I couldn't zone out and do actual work.I am at work, see? I don't have an office, even a proper pod, or even a taped dotted line with a gap representing where a door would be if I had walls. So any time I spoke, everyone could hear it, and I don't even have the coveted "Silver Sow Award" (for excellence in farm news, particularly hog reports). People were snickering of making peanut gallery comments like, "Gawd dayum..." at the Band-aid surely forming on my forehead.These WKRP Les Nessman callback jokes doing anything for you?Finally, I get so[...]

I present to you... Cosplay Paradise

Thu, 02 Jun 2011 13:53:03 GMT

I thought of this and half wrote it at Balticon before finishing it last night... please forgive me. This is done to the song of Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise," which was kind of hard to parody because he is really liberal with rhyming and pentameter.

Cosplay Paradise
by Grig "Punkie Larson

You want to tell me what this is all about?

As I walk through the hallways of the convention floor
I take a look at my life and realize I could have added more
Cause I've been sewin' and gluin' so long that
Even my sensei thinks that my mind is gone
But I ain't never copied a manga that didn't deserve it
Me, passively watching anime, you know that's unheard of
You better watch how you tressin, and where you confessin
Or you and your kimono might be called a bathroom dress
I really hate to paint, but I gotta color-
Can't get matching fabric to match this pleather, fool
I'm the stage spotlight the little kiddies wanna be like
On my knees in the night
Sewing ribbons in the computer monitor light

Been spending most my life living in a Cosplay Paradise
Cutting threads with pocket knives living in the Cosplay Paradise
Keep spending most my life living in the Cosplay Paradise
Wish I had a job to support my strife living in the Cosplay Paradise

My mom says I'm a basket case and move out from the basement
I can't live a normal life, I watch half of TV on freeze frame
Just to see how he attaches that hood, see
And how the weapon's attached to the head piece
I'm an educated fool, Japanese on my mind
Got a Fiskars in my hand, and steampunk goggles over my eyes
I scoped out a cosplay judge, bribed him with some Pocky
In this line of work, I can't afford to get cocky, fool
Second place ain't nothing but a wrong trim away
I'm living my life first place or die, what can I say?
I'm twenty-three now, will I have to get a job at twenty-fow'?
The way things are goin' I don't know

Tell me why are we, attending this convention?
That costs so much, and gives me hypertension?

Been spending most my life living in a Cosplay Paradise
I'll never get me a wife living in the Cosplay Paradise
Keep spending most my life living in the Cosplay Paradise
I'll die of pain and strife living in a Cosplay Paradise

Leather and the fabric, fabric and the leather
Rivets and the zippers, holding it all together
Everybody's running, but half of them ain't qualified
What's going on in the green room, is that bonifide?
They say I gotta go up stairs, but nobody's here to teach me
If they can't support my hoop skirt, how can they reach me?
I guess they can't, I guess they won't
I guess I'll fall on the stage, and hope to win the stunt category, fool

Been spending most their lives, living in the Cosplay Paradise
Wearing dresses that look like beehives, living in the Cosplay Paradise
Darth Vader chests made from old disk drives, living in the Cosplay Paradise
I really hope I survive, living in the Cosplay Paradise

Tell me why are we, so blind to turn
Steampunk that was never worn by Jules Verne
Tell me why are we, so blind to turn
Steampunk that was never worn by Jules Verne...
(fade out)