Tuesday, July 31, 2001

The Good Stuff Comes in Rushes

Too cool. Not only is the world painted in brighter colors, but Internet Explorer has finally started working as I want it to. I found the Magic Setting that broke high-end browser functions like the better Blogger post editor and the security checking my bank does, and now all is well in browserland. Huzzah!

So anyway, looking forward to the Maine vacation beginning this Saturday. I'm reasonably certain I'll be able to update Brain Squeezings while out of town as I'm taking Tangy the iBook with me, but unsure I'll necessarily be in the mood to. Time will tell.

I Suppose I Need a Garret

Went and grabbed some writers-on-writing books from B&N this past Sunday on getting the creative juices flowing, to be read while I'm on vacation. I know, I know, reading isn't writing, but I find I do better at this stuff when I'm jazzed about it, and reading advice from Real Published People serves me well in that capacity.

The more I try to get away from writing the more it jumps out at me from behind corners and lets me know that it's not going away. I know in my heart of hearts that I don't want to be a programmer ten years down the road; since I have no training in elite carpentry (my third choice), I'm going to have to go for my second but more difficult choice, and that's collecting royalties for purchased written work. I love the idea of setting my own schedule, researching new stuff all the time (as responsible authors should), and --let's be honest-- receiving kudos and recognition for my work. I'm frightened half to death of the self-discovery that attends writing as it should be done, and the long, long journey from start to finish that any novel entails.

And yet, and yet, and yet. I live life at its most honest and cogent while writing. I explore my deepest nadirs and highest pinnacles, do my best thinking and feeling, deal best with the world in its broad expansiveness and pointillist detail. Sigh.

I envy Wendy her consistency in working on her novel, and congratulate her on overcoming whatever demons (great or tiny) were necessary to do it. I'm hoping to dredge up some fresh ideas and slather some grease on my own creative gears while in Maine, and build some momentum for the coming years of sitting at my own writing desk (currently covered with billz and disused computer partz), glowing LCD in front of me, weaving whatever threads I spin among whatever warp and woof I settle on.

I'm well aware that writing for a living is saturated with rejection notices, long painful hours of toil and the derision (or worse, apathy) of critics. I'm also aware that the writer who earns more than subsistence-level income is rare indeed. But what can I do, it won't go away.


Monday, July 30, 2001

AbioCor Update

The man with the bionic heart is up and walking. Wonderful news. I imagine the hospital in question is once again getting plenty of calls - I'm becoming more and more convinced that this is the start of widespread American acceptance of necessary-for-life organ replacements.



I feel so much better.

Apparently caffeine withdrawal takes a lot longer than I realized. Onset begins after 24-48 hours cold turkey, peaks 24-48 hours after that, and can last for a week after onset. I was beginning to feel better at the end of last week, and today I feel much better, and more able to take on the world.

Let's see: a 12-oz. can of Diet Coke has about 45 mg of caffeine. I quit from a consistent 80 D-Coke ounces a day, so I was taking in around 300 mg per day - about three cups of coffee's worth (drip coffee fluctuates between 80 and 135 mg a cup). Geez, I feel like a lightweight. I know people who can't start their morning without four cups, and who take in a dozen cups over the course of a day. The literature recommends cutting back after 250 mg daily, so I suppose 300 was a little high.

Still, it's hard to argue: I feel a lot better and more focused, I'm getting up earlier and easier, and I'm a lot more emotionally even than I was pre-quitting. Works for me.

So anyway, I'm done talking about caffeine. I refuse to get evangelistic about it; everyone's responsible for reading their own body's tea leaves.

So - on to weight loss.


PS. I'm growing to dislike the new layout. I may go back to the original soon, in case anyone has an opinion they'd like to share.

Friday, July 27, 2001

One Beachhead Taken

Well, I've got the colors looking pretty darned good, but unfortunately the thing looks like warmed-over dogdoo in Netscape 4.7x because the way this page implements styles (especially fonts, but colors too) isn't supported, apparently. Should have checked all that before I did all this color work. :-(

Like the layout, hate the colors. Fiddling...

Thursday, July 26, 2001

Experimenting with templates. Patience, please. :-)
Hm! Just discovered that BJD has a sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, that's getting very good reviews. Will have to check it out.

Been a while since I posted anything. I was tired of posting depressive introspective derivative stuff; I read through my archives Monday and decided that they were depressing even to me, so I figured I'd fall back on Mom's old standby: "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

And here we are with no posts for the last two days. Mom's advice isn't getting me much of anywhere, and I've probably stunk my few existing readers away from ever hitting the site again by this point.

...But what the hell. I have to interact with the outside world in some way (that or be found when the smell attracts the neighbors), so rather than focus on my wacked-out finances, the crashing bore that is work, or my seemingly complete inability to pound my social life into any sort of shape, I'll write here as a way of trying to discover something interesting and clever in the day.

Bridget Jones's[sic] Privacy

Finished reading Bridget Jones's Diary this morning, and devoutly wished I'd read the book before seeing the movie. Renee and Hugh were very well cast for the movie version, but beyond the first 45 minutes or so the file bore very little resemblance to the written work. Strangely enough, each story worked well for its medium: the movie was perfect for a two-hour star-spangled romp, and the book of course worked very well in the medium-sized novel format.

Of course now I have to fight to use articles and pronouns consistently - I really liked Bridget's voice in the book. 'Twouldn't be fair if the blog began to sprout obsessive counting , a la:

Wednesday, July 25
weight 315, alcohol units 2, calories 3500 (General Tso's & fried dumplings; n.v.g.), minutes TiVo 120 (v.g.), minutes videogaming 330 (bad), minutes human conversation 50 (p.d.g.)

...Yep, way too much information. But brutally honest, which was the best part of the book.

Actually, that's one of the things I'm ambivalent about when posting here. Any blog posting is time away from writing in my truly personal diary, where I'm much more honest with myself and much less witty / flighty about whatever the subject of the day is. Of course there's the slight matter of the logistics of writing either in my Palm IIIc, which requires an obvious set-up with its folding keyboard, or in my iBook, which had damn well better keep its Tangerine self at home. Oh BTW, most of my posts are from work, if you hadn't glanced at the times of posting. :-)

But the sort of honesty B. Jones exhibits in the novel is only attractive or funny (at least to me) because it's fictional, and thus at a safe distance. If I were to go into the intimate details here of every fault, foible and flummox every day, no matter how wittily or giddily protrayed, I'd feel entirely too exposed and embarrassed, and probably drive those who care for me to send the nice young men in their clean white coats. It's just not helpful or tasteful.

Ah well. Nice to be posting again.


Monday, July 23, 2001

A New Week

Back in the saddle here at work. Got a data issue or two to chew on here at work and a flight to which to take Matt tonight. Works for me.

So Sarah's Party was lightly attended. Bummer. At least the important people attended. Consider me dutifully informed.

/me puts down his Louisville Clue Slugger. :-)

I like Sangria well enough, but am regrettably nowhere near Chicago. If I start receiving funny-colored ice cubes (or their soggy remnants) in the mail, I shall be properly impressed. Don't expect the envelopes to get privileged real-estate on the mantel, though.

Oh, and apparently my installation of Internet Explorer 5.5 SP1 with Internet Tools is now reporting to the world at large that it's version 4.0, which precludes smooth access to many nifty Web functions like the higher-end Blogger post editor and certain sites like Wendy or anyone, any ideas on how to get IE55 to announce itself properly?

Stimulant-free and Still Ascerbic

I have now been clean of caffeine for close to a full week. It still sucks. I'm practically flogging myself out of bed in the morning. I feel considerably less lucid than before, and commit five times as many typos as I used to. Life continues, though, and a little voice in the back of my brain keeps insisting it's a good idea. I want to tell the little voice where to stick its ideas, but so far have yet to discover a reliable means of communication.

Caffeine-free diet colas are arguably the most damning indictment of humanity's refusal to admit defeat in the face of evidence I've yet found, except possibly for nonalcoholic beer. I feel somehow unclean after a CFD Coke, like I'm being dishonest at a very primal level. Like fat-free shortening or sugar-free candy, it feels very close to partipating in the defining example of an oxymoron. Making me the moron in question, of course. :-)


Saturday, July 21, 2001

A Fit of Geek

There are many paths to the pinnacle of the mountain of Geekiness, Grasshoppa. Where I am strong in the Way of the Gadget, and Master of the Flickering Screen, wdespain appears farther advanced along the Unix Path, and Weaving of the Web's Silken Strands.

Enlightenment takes many forms.


Friday, July 20, 2001

Cold Turkey Sucks

Doing a lot better today. Near as I can tell, yesterday's uplifting slice of life came from my brain lacking a chemical it had got all friendly and intimate with for so long. Caffeine can be your friend, and do all sorts of things for you like allow mental function beyond normal endurance limits, but getting so you regulate your hour-to-hour energy level with it is a bad thing.

So anyway, what else is going on? My brother Matt is visiting for the weekend (flew up from Atlanta yesterday evening), and we're heading up to eastern Maryland at oh-dark-thirty tomorrow morning to participate in that fascinating ritual of male bonding and mayhem called a LAN party. Essentially everyone involved brings along a computer full of videogames that can talk over a computer network, and then you plug them all together and do so. For 18 hours a day. It's a blast.

I picked a hell of a week to dump caffeine. ;-)

But it's great to have Matt around again. Sushi and the Boys remembered him right off the bat, and things have settled right in. A much better day.


Thursday, July 19, 2001

It's another of those cool, breezy overcast days with misty rain on the breeze and introspection dripping from the branches. It's also one of those days when you barely drag yourself into work, because after limping to the bathroom on your bum ankle, showering and flumping onto the couch you can't think of a single reason to go into work other than that calling in sick would call attention to you and cost you a vacation day.

You don't really want to post this on the blog, because most everyone tries to keep their entries upbeat or at least wry, but there's nothing wry in you today. Despite the soggy day you feel dried out, insubstantial. Even cleverness has limited appeal.

Rainy days are pure, in a way - there's no sun on your face to warm you, no scudding clouds to cheer you, no shiny sun in the sky to remind you that there are higher powers that occasionally smile. It's just you, raw, and the world, and the honesty of that is somehow a freeing and welcome thing. Like divorce, or turning the corner on a fever.

The cubicle is overwarm, bringing to mind desiccated, dim Catholic schoolrooms with radiators. The fluorescent lights are garish and hard, and the whole office has a furtive, whispering aspect today.


Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Smile for the camera

So far lacking anything interesting or original to say or do today, I pirate from minutiae again and offer the results of my own Personality Disorder Test:

Very High: Avoidant

High: Paranoid, Antisocial, Histrionic, Narcissistic

Moderate: Schizoid, Schizotypal, Dependent, Obsessive-Compulsive

And for giggles, we'll grab the definition for the winner...

Avoidant personality disorder is characterized by extreme social anxiety. People with this disorder often feel inadequate, avoid social situations, and seek out jobs with little contact with others. They are fearful of being rejected and worry about embarassing themselves in front of others. They exaggerate the potential difficulties of new situations to rationalize avoiding them. Often, they will create fantasy worlds to substitute for the real one. Unlike schizoid personality disorder, avoidant people yearn for social relations yet feel they are unable to obtain them. They are frequently depressed and have low self-confidence.


One telling thing about this test is that at the end they offer several cut'n'paste means of getting results onto web pages, and mention weblogs in particular.

"You are all individuals!"
"I'm not!"

I feel like Tom Selleck's character at the end of Her Alibi, after his editor's told him (along with everyone else who's read his stuff) that his stories are predictable, but that that's a good thing.


Tuesday, July 17, 2001

Stretch Armstrong Eats Breakfast, Dumps Stimulants

Starting one more climb up the weight-loss ladder

Dug out my Yoga Zone exercise tapes for the first time in a year and did the flexibility thing this morning before work. "Introduction to Yoga," which is a an hour-long program that's hard enough that you have no illusions about what you're undertaking, but simple enough that a complete beginner won't be frustrated if they're a novice.

The experience was both bolstering and humbling, as usual. Bolstering because I inherited great flexibility from my parents, and it's nice to still be able to perform all the exercises after all this time without having to cheat too much. Humbling because after all I am pretty darn chunky and thus have to modify a few of the positions because I've got too much meat in the way.

But still, I got the exercises done, showered, got to work, and grabbed a bag of "Chex Mix" for breakfast, which is another departure from the usual. I don't like to eat breakfast, despite every nutritionist in the world telling me that it's necessary to get the metabolism jump-started each day. Thankfully Chex Mix isn't heavy enough to trigger that lovely "I'm heavy and I'm sitting in your stomach" feeling pretty much everything else does before noon.

I'm also kicking my caffeine habit, starting today. I realized that I was in the habit of taking in between 60 and 80 ounces of Diet Coke/Diet Pepsi daily (a lunchtime 42-ouncer from McDonalds along with a few 20-oz bottles from the vending machine), and as such was probably whipsawing my energy level and general sanity something awful.

So I'm looking forward to dull muscle aches tomorrow or Thursday, combined with caffeine-withdrawal headaches for the coming half week. But at least my metabolism will be running higher and I'll perspire more freely. :-p

TANSTAAFL. Eat and move like a pig and you'll look like a pig. Eat and move like a cat and you'll look like a cat. Somewhere in here is a cat trying to get out.

Mmmm. Chex Mix.


Monday, July 16, 2001

Easy on the Eyes

I also saw the Final Fantasy movie over the weekend. Great stuff!

I was most impressed by the unrelenting design excellence of the film. From the soldiers' armor to the dozens of different forms of phantom to the vehicles to the landscaping, the entire movie just oozed imagination and creativity (well, except in the area of dialog - plot was pretty standard "quest for the world-saving key" fare). There was also a lot of great algorithm work - the feathers on the eagle at the end, the smooth undulation of the flying phantoms, the motion of ships through the air and as they landed -- especially Aki's as it blew aside the cars at the beginning. Beautiful sound work as well; especially for bass freaks like me. :-)

Where the movie made some of the greatest strides, but where it still has a bit to go, is human modeling and movement. FF does humans better than they've ever been done, make no mistake, but unlike Andy and many, many other viewers I never could quite suspend my disbelief that these were anything other than CGI marionettes. To be fair, I'm probably handicapped in this area, though: I've played so many 3D games with at-best-iffy human motion, and fiddled with animation long enough, that I know how hard it is to get people right, and as such have a finely tuned eye for the tiny things. Like Aki's hands not moving exactly naturally over computer controls, or a neck twisting a few degrees too far, or someone walking while emoting with their hands without the elbows bobbing properly due to gravity or, as Andy noticed, the "skating" effect as feet meet floor less than perfectly.

But still, I don't want to bust on Square's work too badly, because I know I couldn't improve on it personally, and because it's never been done better. There's a famous quote from Alan Kay regarding the first iteration of the Macintosh (of which he wrote a scathing review back in the day): "The Macintosh is the first personal computer worth criticizing." In a way, this is true of the human motion in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Pixar and Dreamworks have made a lot of strides in the area of CGI films, but their people (where there've been any) have generally been lacking in realism, and "cartooned up" to compensate, or to fit with other characters.

Thankfully (or perhaps not, if you're a Hollywood stuntperson or member of the SAG), Square has brought us lots closer to the kind of realism necessary to completely fool the audience.


Friday, July 13, 2001

Oh, and here's a very different review I found. Interesting perspective.


A.I. reactions, initial and progressing (spoilers abound, careful...)

(For purposes of the following discussion I'm ignoring issues like "why weren't all mecha, distrusted anyway, built with beacons announcing their position?" and "Lady Liberty's submerged but the plot unfolds in New Jersey?" and "broken by spinach but not the pool?" and "don't ice ages make water levels fall?")

Saw A.I. last night. Left the theater feeling peeved and cheated. Aliens? Bleah. I definitely agreed with the critics who said, "Twenty minutes too long."

But then I found this hefty thread on the Home Theater Forum that suggested a different possibility, and one that I'm embarrassed to admit never crossed my mind.

The translucent guys make a lot more sense as Mecha! The self-evolved progeny of the 'bots. Suddenly traits like pictures in the face, touching to transfer information, the ability to read David's memories and possessing sparkly neurons make a bit more sense, as does their quest to discover what humanity was. They also plug into Gigolo Joe's prediction about machines being all that survived. I feel a good bit better about the crafting of the end now. It was Kubrick's, BTW...

I just wish that Spielberg had been a little more overt (or perhaps used a weaker touchstone of creature design), if Mecha were what he intended. They do look a lot like the frequently-reappearing company logo, but everybody I left the theater with was flabbergasted that the movie was turned over to aliens from outer space.

(BTW, Sarah and Mary, fix your archives! I couldn't get back to your A.I. comments.)

OK, just read over glassdog's rather caustic UnHip review of the film as linked by Andy, and while there are some decent points there, I don't think the movie was anywhere near so hackneyed or bad.


Thursday, July 12, 2001

Carnegie He Ain't

Yep, I'm winning friends and influencing people tonight. :-\

I figured there was a fair chance I'd step (nay, stomp) on toes with today's post, especially since I was reacting to a sliver of conversation and don't truly know the people involved. Like I said, I made the decision to trot my issues out and pitch an opinion flambé into the fray.

Of all the reactions I expected ("Who died and made you Hall Monitor?" "Who asked you?" "Oooh, pity party on aisle 3, pity party for Rich!") in the post-heated-post rumination I usually engage in, Mary's surprised me. I could easily get into a blow-by-blow on particular aspects of life suckage, nearby friends and age differences, but I'm chagrined to realize that Mary and I could probably switch the occasional day and fail to notice, except for the 1:2 dog/cat conversion. Sorry about that, Mary -- I'll trade you half my Reese's Pieces for half of that apple pie. :-)

Although this idea of friendly co-workers is a new one on me. Do they make those? I apparently need to order some new ones. Does Amazon carry them? You seem to have received some of the good ones. ;-)

Truth to tell, I'm jealous, and in a way, that's a compliment. A result I left out of last Friday's eMode results barrage was that apparently my preferred cardinal sin is Envy, which I thought at the time was a bum reading (was expecting Gluttony, but figured I had a good chance at Lust). Apparently the eMode folk are better at this than they let on.


Flame from the Pulpit

So I understand Mary and Andy are sorta kinda thinking about maybe attending Sarah's party.

marydellisanti: You have to go, too.
andydehnart: um, I suppose
andydehnart: as long as you drive or something
andydehnart: so we don't get knifed
marydellisanti: What?
marydellisanti: So my tires can get stolen?
andydehnart: how else would we get there? cabs don't come to her neighborhood
marydellisanti: I will drive, but I will not drop you off first then look for a parking space.
marydellisanti: You will have to walk with me from the car.

There are those among us, of the more socially challenged ilk, who would give blood to have local parties to which they were invited. I understand that there's probably a good bit of jest to this discussion, and I'm certainly not privy to the entire story, but here's a tip: go to the Goddamn party. Appreciate it, enjoy yourself and compliment the hostess when you leave. Kvetching about the safety of the neighborhood when it's patently obvious that Sarah herself has no trouble with it is in rather poor taste. Be glad you've got friends your age nearby that don't require hours of driving or flying to visit, and that you have a local social circle that embraces you and is moved to invite you over for tea and cookies (beer and prawns, whatever) once in a while.

Bitter? Moi? Just a smidge.

Mistake me not: I'm very thankful for my friends, and they're all princes and princesses when it comes to inviting me to the various functions it's practical for me to get to, but I have yet to uncover a knack for finding the circles that wind up inviting one another to lunch or impromptu parties or out for a beer from time to time. At our early-thirties stage in life it's pretty clear whether we're naturally gregarious or not, and speaking from the still-getting-there side of the line the grass is pretty damn brown on this side.

Yes, this is me impinging my own big wet blanket of issues on the discussion and taking it all far too seriously, but bear in mind that if you're in a place in life where you can pick and choose which parties you want to attend based on neighborhood, you're in a very privileged place indeed.

I understand Sarah throws a hell of a shindig. She's also an exceptionally cool person, as I'm sure you all know better than I do. For Christ's sake, go to the party.


The Devil's in the Details

It's axiomatic that the little things in life can be the ones that matter most. I just finished an hour-long battle with Internet bloody Explorer bloody 5.5, which centered around it's "Open in New Window" behavior from the right-click menu of a hyperlink.

I have over years of surfing become used to Netscape's OiNW behavior: a new window, the same dimensions but offset down and to the right from the original, containing the file indicated by the selected URL. Not difficult, right? How hard would the gifted, highly-paid and stock-optioned coders at Microsoft have to work, when marvels of elegance (seriously) like the Visual Basic IDE and the Windows 95 Explorer have their genesis in Redmond?

Internet Explorer 5.5 finally does it - the first IE to do so reliably. But, oh, we couldn't give this to Rich on the first try. No, first we'll tie its behavior to the "Reuse browser windows when opening shortcuts" setting, so if checked, IE will occasionally open a "New Window" URL in one of the oldest windows on the screen. When that's fixed by unchecking the setting, we'll make it so that when using the Links bar (which I have in Netscape forever), it'll always open Links URLs in a new window, often leaving an empty browser behind.

OK, to fix this one we grab the "IE 5.5 Service Pack 1 with Internet Tools." Which breaks OiNW completely. Doesn't open a new window, doesn't grab the URL. Just broke. Kaput. Gone.

OK, search the Web. Follow two wrong turns that do nothing. Finally, it turns out the IE55 SP1 uninstall program has an option to repair an IE55 installation. Considering all I did was a normal install, something as drastic as a repair shouldn't be necessary, and why would one go to the trouble of coding a 'repair' facility instead of just FIXING THE %$#@ INSTALL PROCESS? It's just the way of their people, apparently.

Repairing the pristine new install seems to have fixed the problem.

All is well in browserland.

I'm fine. Really.


Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Of Focus and Fidelity

As I mentioned, I went to see Cats and Dogs last night. It was in a new theater (about three months old... The "Short Pump Regal 14." LOL.), with pristine chairs, cathedral seating and that lovely "new car" smell throughout the place. The screen was new, the aisles were spotless, the chrome still gleamed.

Ahhh, I thought, the Theater Experience as it was meant to be.

Imagine my chagrin - I wound up liking movies better in the privacy of my own home, on my mid-grade home theater setup.

Don't get me wrong. The place was nearly deserted -- one mom and her group of four kids or so were the only people sharing the theater with me (9:20 PM at a kids' movie - best timeslot IMO). They were even fairly quiet.

But the projector was ever so slightly out of focus. The sound, despite emerging in glorious Dolby Surround from all sides, was poorly balanced and amplified to the point of distortion, just shy of ear pain. No one thing was enough to complain to the projectionist, but for $7.50 (roughly half the price of the DVD when it eventually comes out, or double the price of a rental), I would just as soon have spun a DVD at home with my puppies in the room, munched out on Pringles and a Yuengling Black & Tan or Killian's Red, and have had a much better picture, perfectly tuned Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound (to the way I like it), and the ability to pause if a phone call came through or nature called or my beer ran dry.

Previews? I can grab pretty much any trailer I'm interested in from promotional websites and view it on the same setup. I've been meaning to grab the Harry Potter teaser for a while now, but happened to see it first last night.

Big-screen experience? I've already mentioned sound, and decent bigscreen TVs can be had by focusing pretty much any middle-class income for a few months and shopping around for bargains. With a widescreen DVD and the lights down, it's like sitting in the very back row of a theater. Heck, just watching the widescreen VHS versions of the original Star Wars trilogy was enough to moisten the eye - I was surprised how well it all worked, considering the modest budget I had to work with.

And they wonder why theaters are shutting down all over the country. When the best they can reasonably offer can be beaten at home, the industry's in trouble.


Mayhem, Bottled

The new season of BattleBots aired its first episode last night, and it looks as if the competition was a spectacular success. To quote one of the builders of "Mauler," a Heavyweight robot from the 1999 series, "That was some gourmet damage." If you get Comedy Central, the episode will be re-airing at least four times over the remainder of the week.

One of the crazy things is that there are now veteran robots that have become regular participants, accumulating tweaks and enhancements, and lifetime records. Go figure - the robot geek crowd is keeping the same sort of stats as are kept in Sumo wrestling: wins, losses, records versus different configurations of robot, whether or not they've ever won from the red or blue starting square... On the flip side, Sumo seems to be keeping their wrestlers in fighting trim longer than ever by incorporating modern surgeries and dietary techniques. What does it mean that a milennium-old sport and a two-year-old one are converging?

In related news, it seems there will be a line of BattleBots toys available soon. Havoc-wreaking robot action figures. How cool is this? Beats gang wars.

Added BarCodeKing's site to my slowly accreting list of reciprocal links at left. Katie bar the door! :-)

Wow. Blogger's defaulting to the "low-rent" editor in IE. Scary.


I need a vacation

Just posted a request at for tickets to Maine, where I'll be hanging out with friends at their parents' lake house. I've been in the past, and it's a nicely bucolic if spacious cabin with wood stove, pier, and running water.

[Edit: This will be the first full week in August. Sorry for the ambiguity.]

A few things will be different this time. I'm single. The hosts have kids. There is potential for the place to be very noisy and disruptive, but hey, a vacation is a vacation. I'll be bringing along materials with which to write (who knows? I may even find time to use one of Earthlink's five local numbers and blog!), and try to come up with some story ideas for development.

Woohoo! Priceline got my offer accepted! Dulles to Boston for $115!

Woo! Shiny!

In other news, I went out and watched Cats and Dogs last night, and while the movie itself was lowbrow, unsophisticated and predictable, dog and cat lovers will definitely get a lot of the gags. There's a lot of spy-movie lampooning as well, so all in all it was fun if you turned your brain off.

The best thing about the evening, though, was the Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone trailer that preceded C&D. I am a recent convert to the HP series, and this trailer has me seriously stoked. Hagrid, Snape (Alan Rickman! Yes!), Dumbledore, and especially Harry, Ron and Hermione all seem to be perfectly cast (there's even John Cleese as Nearly Headless Nick), and the scenery and effects appear to be extremely faithful and well done as well.

One concern I have is that Rickman needs to be unflaggingly menacing; Snape is *not* the wryly comic baddie he played as Hans Grueber ("I am an exceptional thief, Mrs. McClane, and since I'm moving up to kidnapping, you should be more polite.") or Prince John ("A spoon is dull, you idiot; it'll hurt more."). Still, this is looking like a good'un.


Tuesday, July 10, 2001

I just realized that I've been a complete slacker in terms of posting to Squeezings the past few days. Time to remedy this.


I've mentioned my feline and canine friends on occasion, so I figure now is as good a time as any to give them a proper introduction. I'll try to get pictures posted ASAP. Brace yourself - this is an animal lover bragging on his charges.

Reese is (near as anyone can tell) a Great Dane / Rottweiler / Labrador mix. His coloration is reddish-blond with a black mask. He's upwards of two feet at the shoulder, and tips the scales at around eighty pounds. I've raised him from puppyhood -- he was near the middle of a rescued litter of nine, born on New Year's Day, 1995. From very early on it was obvious that I was going to keep Reese when the rest of his litter was adopted out. The litter was named after different forms of chocolate - "Reesie" came from the peanut butter cup, and was shortened to "Reese" as it became obvious that he was going to be too big for any sissy "ie" ending. His short tail is natural - not docked; his whole litter had tails of varying lengths; his sister Moki (from "Mocha"; she was adopted by my ex and I no longer get to see her) has a fifteen-inch tail. Despite being the larger of the dogs, Reese is a little shy and defers to Sebastian most of the time - unless food or sleeping arrangements are at stake, when he puts on a goofy grin and plants his posterior wherever he wants. Alignment: Neutral Good.

Sebastian is (again, as best I know) a Greyhound / Labrador mix. Coloration: reddish-blond like Reese, but with black at the shoulders. He's the same height as Reese at the shoulder, but only weighs fifty-five pounds. He's around a year younger than Reese and is another rescue, but was abused as a puppy, and was very head-shy and nervous when my ex-wife and I first received him as a safe-house dog. He proved to be very difficult to find an adoptive family for, because despite loving kids and being great in the house, he needs more structure (read: attention and discipline - he's fairly high-strung) than most people know how to give, and was adopted out and returned by two families. When Jennifer and I split, Sebastian came with me because a) Reese needed a pal, and b) it was clear I could do well with him and give him the attention he needed. Over time, Sebastian has become the brasher, more confident of the two dogs, and his tail is the bane of anything less than two feet off the ground. Alignment: Chaotic Neutral.

Sushi is your average Domestic Shorthair Cat. She's black with a white undercoat and has a small dusting of white at her chest. She's small - eight and three-quarters pounds - and loves being an only cat. She also prefers human men to women, leading to her original name of Hussy. She was the smallest and meekest of nine cats before moving out of Jennifer's, and spent most of her time under furniture, wolfing food (she was very fat for her frame at 12 pounds once upon a time) or getting the snot thumped out of her by other cats. It took her a few days to adjust to not needing to be under things all the time, but now thrives on having the whole apartment to roam. She and the Boys get along fine; the dogs know that messing with the cat brings on a Wrath of Daddy situation, so there's no trouble. Alignment: Lawful Neutral.

That's enough for now. Here's a very blurry photo of the boys - Reese is the sprawler on the left, and Sebastian is looking up on the right.

Well, so far no avalanche of e-mail. This is much more like I *thought* the universe worked. :-)


Monday, July 09, 2001

"No, I can't say as I have any idea why he might have done it... He seemed like such a nice boy... A little quiet, maybe."
"Yep. Always kept to himself."
"Never really talked much; you know, came, bought his videogames and left."

Brain Squeezings is now a public blog, for all the world to see, as opposed to just people to whom I've fed links. Not like I'm advertising anywhere, but it felt like the thing to do.

/me steels himself for an avalanche of e-mail...


Edge of the Wedge


The first "replacement heart" (Abiomed's term) that doesn't require tubes or wires to exit the patient. Can be recharged from a standard wall socket via paddles that transmit the electricity through the skin. Battery packs allowing eight or more hours of untethered activity can be worn in a belt or harness.

The Kentucky hospital that implanted the device has been getting swamped with calls requesting the procedure, now that the patient who underwent the transplant is reported to be doing well and even writing letters to family. This has mainly to do with the harsh shortfall of available donor hearts compared to the number of patients (I think I read 2,000 organs for 200,000 people awaiting transplants... I'll try and check.).

Interestingly enough, in college and more recently I read a hell of a lot of fiction that hinged on humankind leaping at the chance to replace their God-given parts with man-made ones. I slowly came to the position that Joe Sixpack and Jane Boxwine (that ill-educated and very emotionally malleable majority) were appalled at the idea, much as they cringe in horror at genetically-modified food and nuclear power, and firmly believe in their hearts that recycling saves energy over production of new goods. I have to admit, going in for a yearly tune-up as well as check-up doesn't appeal to me either.

And yet the machine-enhanced human persisted as a mainstream archetype in Japan despite largely dying out here.

And now the advent of the AbioCor and its coming progeny, and (likely) thousands of calls from distraught people who know their birth hearts are failing them, and flutter desperately about the flame of the Kentucky clinical trial.

How many people over the age of 85 still have both the hips they were issued at birth? How many pro football players retire without any steel pins inserted? Hell, how many of us don't have portions of our teeth replaced with metal or ceramic?

Is our only road to longevity through spare parts?

No progress was made on the apartment yesterday. Am trying to bestir myself from this little rut, and I imagine billpaying tonight will do it. Paying bills always gives me a sense of accomplishment; you'd think I'd be more diligent about meeting their target dates.

I'm planning to see A.I. this week and engage in conversation, really I am.


Sunday, July 08, 2001

Regret; Inertia

Well I accomplished essentially squat yesterday. I did grab Diablo II: Lord of Destruction at CompUSA, and buy extra food for my cat Sushi, but other than that I really just cleared out space on my TiVos. Hey, there were two episodes of Babylon 5 and Sumo Digest waiting... I couldn't just let them expire! :-)

I did have extravagant plans for the apartment like cleaning and even a little laundry, but no such luck. Still, today's Sunday, so possibilities abound. But then last night's NASCAR race is waiting for me as well (I know, I know, it's a nearly endemic, highly contagious medical condition affecting anyone who's lived south of the Mason-Dixon line for more than six years).

I have four distinct flavors of ice cream in the apartment. Oddly enough I'm eating less ice cream now. Another mystery of the universe.


Friday, July 06, 2001

Tale of the Tape

Per gigglechick, I sloped over to and took a few tests.

Apparently I'm a Renaissance Man and want a Bad Girl. Who knew?

I'd also be a Basset Hound if I were canine, should be dating Cameron Diaz, vanilla if I were a flavor, was a turtle in a past life (?), have a crimson aura (earthly pleasures and instant gratification), and my superpower is animal communication.

Well, I feel better. Another blow struck in the assault on ambiguity. ;-)



The Physical

Height: 6' 2"
Weight: I'll get back to you. I am the nemesis of metal-tube chairs.
Eyes: Blue
Shoe Size: 12

The Functional

I am a Java and Visual Basic client-server database programmer/analyst by profession. It pays decently, which makes up for its boom/bust cycle of activity.


I am a builder, tweaker and gadgeteer by preference. I build computers for fun and am afflicted with a burgeoning home theater hobby and the desire to one day a) walk in my own self-perpetuating virtual Garden of Eden, and b) reach Earth orbit.

I enjoy building virtual worlds, from raytraced static tableaux like this one, to real-time 3D environments that can be walked through using videogame engines like that from Half-Life or a special browser like that from ActiveWorlds.

In case you hadn't guessed, this means that I do play videogames. Current timesinks include Diablo II and Counter-Strike.

I have electronic servants called TiVos that collect TV programs I wish to watch and save them to hard disk for viewing at my leisure. I thus watch only a small amount of TV, but it's highly filtered for what I want.

Bow before Excalibur. It's my universal remote control.

My apartment's lights are operated by little remotes and keypads spread throughout the place. No one but me understands them.


I do not subscribe to a newspaper, but read an hour of news a day. Lately I'm on a bit of a "Steampunk" science-fiction kick as regards paper books. Once I finish The Difference Engine by Gibson and Sterling, I'll move on to Perdido Stree Station by Melville.

The Ephemeral

My car is currently clean. I'm looking for the other three Horsemen of the Apocalypse any minute now.

The Social

I am divorced. Being single sucks, but is better in many ways than being married was. Most of my friends live far away and thus my primary means of interacting with them is online. I live with two dogs and a cat. This is their entry.


Looks like another exciting Friday. To the best of my knowledge neither of the people who have the authority to assign me work are in the building today, so it's looking like a day of waiting for crises to combat. Turned inside out: the best possible endpoint for this day is Stupefying Dullsville. Not that there's anything wrong with that. ;-)

(Aside: looks like I don't rate a reciprocal link from Mary's site. That's OK, I'm just a heinous HTML thief barging into other peoples' conversations. Don't worry about me. Sniffle.)

Which brings me back to the larger issue of site maintenance as it's occurring here. I have a few things I want to be sure get here, but the whole business may have to wait until I shift everything over to my Geocities area, wherein I have all sorts of unused space, and can do things like post photos and use little icons and the like without worrying about whose server what's on.

Heck, if things go slowly enough today I might just start the switch.


Thursday, July 05, 2001

Have now added Mary to my extremely select (har de har) hardcoded list of "other" blog links at left. 'Twas the least I could do, considering the secondhand nature of my nav bar, and the veritable caterwauling that ensued once my omission was noticed.

Didn't want to seem presumptuous... Are there Unwritten Rules governing this sort of indiscriminate linkage, or are we bloggers expected to just link willy-nilly to anyone and anything that interests us?

I mean really... Next they'll be linking in the movies... on primetime television... in the streets!

Hide your children.

Blogger seems to be badly bogged indeed. I've got some template changes that have so far refused to show up for over an hour. Could be bad HTML, I suppose, but the changes in question were fairly minor (mainly involving the nasty color of the nav bar).


[Edit: Yay! It's fixed!]
I have now blatantly ripped a navigation bar (or am trying to - bloody Blogger be badly bogged) from Mary's minutiae site.

Room for non-blog expansion - finally. :-)

Added unique links to each post now. For those who aren't familiar, this will allow a person to bookmark a particular post here and jump right to it in the future. On the off chance this will ever be necessary. ;-)

Woohoo! Archives fixed.
My archive links is all broke. Working on it.

Response to Sarah

Sluggy Freelance is indeed one severe wack job of a comic. Accept no imitations. I have yet to see A.I., but I intend to this weekend (as well as Cats and Dogs, which looks to me to be very promising indeed), so no spoilers please. I confess, I'm expecting E.T. with androids (Spielberg plucks heartstrings and spins illusions well IMO, but he doesn't handle science very well; I'm worried his only hope for success is Kubrick's groundwork).

Back at the Helm

Spent yesterday at my good friends the Websters' house, playing Dungeons & Dragons, Third Edition as my newish alter-ego Lothar Eisenkopf, the Dwarf who Carries Sharp Things and Hits Monsters with Them. Announcing his name at his debut a few months ago was a cause for everyone at the table to sing, "Lothar... of the Hill People!", which apparently owes its Genesis to a "Saturday Night Live" skit. I am not an SNL junkie, and have no great wish to point my TiVos at Comedy Central's SNL schedule (thus deluging myself with several SNL episodes a day) just to catch a single skit. What's the deal here? (FWIW, my choice of Lothar [which I thought was nicely obscure, silly me] came from the delightfully goofy Mouse movie The Rocketeer, wherein Lothar was a semiverbal German giant of a hit man; an intimidating figure who nonetheless had a soft spot for tea in tiny china cups and Mozart on the Gramophone. He gets burned up in a Zeppelin fire. :-) ). D&D was a blast, despite taking place among the four rambunctious bundles of joy (all between the ages of 6 months and 6 years) brought by the two sets of parents present.

I'll probably post again later today. I need to get to work or something. :-D


Tuesday, July 03, 2001

Geek Tragedy

I think I finally have to switch over to 100% Internet Explorer. Call the Pentagon, the Vatican, the Campus at Redmond. Netscape has ceased to suck less than Microsoft's offering.

It's a maxim of the Open Source world that all software sucks (the best software simply sucks less), and I think Netscape has finally worn out my patience.

Blogger's post editor will work under Netscape 4.x (I refuse to use NS6 or Mozilla), but it's missing features. The HTML it generates is displayed subtly wrong by NS. Internet Explorer just gets it right. Blogger's editor has all sorts of extra bells & whistles under IE5.5.

/me dons sackcloth and ashes. Unclean... Unclean...

Wow. Just got finished skimming the most recent entries from some of the multifarious blogs linked from Sarah's blog, and then came back and read through my own.

Gracious. I'm shockingly circumlocuitous. And dense. ;-) My blogging voice is, anyway. The question is whether or not I like this - it's remarkably consistent, and as such seems to be an honest expression of my state of mind. It's probably worth drawing some obvious parallels to my own life -- seeing as how I interact verbally with only a few people a day, live alone, "think too much" (thanks, Tripp) and communicate with the outside world primarily through e-mail and (lately) blogging. I don't generally speak this way face-to-face, so there must be other brain processes involved in the creation of this odd brain-dump style I've got.

This must be the voice I use for introspection. I'm very used to maintaining nested mental contexts while browsing (of which I do an inordinate amount), so parenthetical references and mid-sentence course changes make a bit of sense. As for grabbing at quirky words (yielding the aforementioned circumlocuity) when plainer ones would do as well, I suppose I should confess to a bit of strutting and puffery regarding a well-crafted sentence.

Of course brevity is the proverbial soul of wit, so who am I kidding? ;-)

Another nice cool day today. And the weather even had the decency to be cloudy and overcast! Comfy me. :-D

Suffering Artist - Won't Write for Sustenance

Time to get this blog back on something like a track.

Hunter recently joined the cadre among my friends urging me to stop whining and either write a damned novel or get off the proverbial pot. Rather than cater to my innate desire either to defend myself or launch into a heartrending tale of the miseries of being a self-cognizant wannabe, I bring the question to the world at large: for those esteemed readers in the writing world, how do you spur yourself into constructive action? Yes, this is a solicitation for feedback. :-)

I've produced a story or two over the years, but nothing that's satisfied me sufficiently with my own ability to keep plugging. I enjoy wrangling words, but my daily e-mail diet, journaling and blogging do seem to satisfy that desire. Where the desire to write for a living comes from is the knowledge that my current means of employ simply isn't what I want to do for the rest of my life.

It's bridging the gap between playing with tinkertoys and cooking with grease that's apparently my rub. I'm well aware that the difference between someone who wants to be Recognized as a Writer and a writer per se is that a writer per se actually sits down and does the work, i.e., she actually writes. The Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA, "The Writer's Craft" section) and Jerry Pournelle have a good bit to say about moving from wannabe to writer status, and true to my being a strong Meyers-Briggs "P," I've done a good bit of research regarding the many ways to break into the field. I've also read The Artist's Way, and though it's a helpful book, and it's one of the things (along with copious Natalie Goldberg) that's got me to the point where I can keep a journal and/or weblog faithfully, I'd still love to know if anyone out there is willing to share any own-buttkicking tricks they might have discovered.

Another way of looking at it, as I've heard expressed before, is that you really have to love writing before you do it enough to do well at it (whatever that means), and while I do love writing for it's own sake (three years of journal entries and countless e-mail tirades stand witness), so far the love of fiction writing (which is my goal here) has not found me yet. Or been found. You know what I mean.


Monday, July 02, 2001

Someone up there's been listening to me. Temperatures are in the mid-70s in Richmond today and due to plunge into the record-low territory of the mid-50s tonight. :-D

Curmudgeonly Rantings

Just found out that a good friend of mine, who thought he was nearly finished with all the stupidity surrounding his divorce, was assaulted by his ex as he dropped off the kids the other night. When he called 911 and the police arrived, she accused him of the assault, and now he faces the (remote) possibility of a year in prison. I know him, and he's one of the sweetest people you could hope to meet. An accountant and a lawyer, so he can argue a case before a judge, but to accuse him of violence is poppycock of the highest order. I'm royally cheesed off right now, and down on marriage in general.

This guy's divorce is a textbook example of what's wrong with the way male/female relationships are encoded in Virginia law. She runs off with her no-kidding dance instructor while he's working his fanny off at work to support their three kids (she has no marketable skills), and at the end of the judicial process he's stuck with $3,000 in monthly child support and an empty $250K house five nights a week.

I got very lucky with my own divorce -- we were both reasonable and adult about things, to the extent that her lawyer commented, "this never happens." The odds are 55% (or worse) against any given marriage succeeding "till death do us part." I'd laugh off a financial investment offer with those odds. I find myself hoping I'm never fool enough to risk my sanity and half my net worth again.




Monday. Early Monday. Must locate caffeine. Penguin Mints are not adequate to the task.

I wish there was some way I could live my life from noon to 4 a.m. every day... That would a) give me more time without that silly garish glowing ball in the sky, and b) mean that I wasn't an 8-to-5 wage slave any more. All this entails is me getting off my sorry posterior and producing something for which people will pay me royalties. A very simple thing, wonder why more people don't do it. Oh, wait, lots of people do, and I understand there's generally a good bit of competition, rejection and heartbreak involved. Ah well. Maybe next week. ;-)

I really enjoy reading over the various blogs that seem to be interlinking with one another in this little group. Oh, and I wanted to apologize publicly to Newton Emerson for jumping all over him; you see, he sent me a jocular e-mail busting on BattleBots from a UK intellectual property standpoint (cf. Robot Wars, another fave series of mine), and I was in a snippy mood due to leaving my sense of humor in my other suit that day. Put briefly, after a short e-mail exchange I realized that I do an excellent impression of a humorless git. Sorry, Newton; hope I didn't rain on Thursday's parade too thoroughly. :-\

Let's see - is there anything salvageable for today's post? Hmm, doubtful. Ah well, never stopped me before...

I find myself watching more and more foreign-sourced media these days, between Jackie Chan flicks, various anime DVDs, Iron Chef, Sumo Wrestling and stuff from Sony Pictures Classics, it's a wonder I'm not buying tickets to cross the Pacific. Not sure why I'm on this recent tear, but I'm spinning stuff from Ghost in the Shell to Project A-Ko recently, and loving them.

Mine is a weird life, but at least it's mine. :-D