Archive for August, 2011

2011/08/31

Offlining

It’s odd being offline. Not that I’m entirely, or even primarily, offline. But I am significantly offline, and that’s significant.

(Hm, I don’t know how to control emphasis in this WordPress iPad app; pretend “significantly” is in italics, or HTML emphasis tags, in that previous paragraph, ‘kay?)

Sometime on ummm Sunday? Yeah, M confirms that it was Sunday, at about fourish PM, just when we were getting smug about the Enormous Hurricane having passed us with minimal damage to anything but a few hundred leaves forcibly removed from trees, the power suddenly went out.

And it’s still out! Many minutes, even days, later! And so is the Internet connection!

Meanwhile, in the basement, the half-inch of water that I figured would be our tenuous bond with people who had actual problems from the storm, got a bit over five inches deep before it started down again, and there’s still a good three inches down there. Which means, among other things, no hot water. And lots of very wet basement-stuffs.

And we still don’t have actual problems. :)

I mean, no trees fell on the house or cars, no one was injured in any way, no one is sick, and Panera has power and Internet, and work has power and Internet, and for that matter our cellphones have power (as long as they get to work or Panera now and then) and Internet (annoying and probably sneakily expensive and tiny-screened as they are, being nice primitive low-function cellphones), and there’s no water in the house anywhere but the basement, and so on and so on.

The iPad has a nice long battery life. (Especially given Panera, work, etc.)

And I’m getting pretty good at Sudoku.

I’m also reading some old-fashioned paper books, by flashlight and atmospheric candle-light, as well as some of the books cached on the device here, by the intrinsic glow of the screen. And getting to sleep (much) earlier.

But I do miss Second Life, and WoW, and all of that there virtual online stuff. (I did sneak into SL for a couple of minutes on my work laptop, during a boring conference call, to check on my virtual plants; the virtual sprinkler has been working fine and they are virtually healthy, and producing little virtual cuttings for virtual hybridization, although I could swear that I ought to have had another second-virtual-generation virtual hybrid by now and I didn’t notice one, grumble grumble.)

I’ve keeping up with virtual events to an extent by reading Dale’s Twitter feed; but it’s not really about the events. It’s more about putting one’s feet up at the end of a tiring day, and falling through the screen into a place where there is no PowerPoint, and no office politics, and you can fly, and fight the bad guys (ha, I can’t even remember that big Bad Guy group’s name; the Cult of Something, I think), and create a zeppelin with your mind and all.

And in the case of Second Life getting to talk to all those fascinating friends and not-yet-friends, and in the case of WoW getting to be pretty much completely antisocial, except for groups of random strangers and now and then a group of vaguely-known guildies to gang up on the unsuspecting and infinitely reborn evil monsters. (Some people get very social on WoW (see for instance the very funny and memorable “The Guild” web video series that I would link to if I weren’t offline), but I’m not one of them; SL is my virtual social, and Zeppelin-creating, place. WoW is for introversion!)

And (what’s with all of these “and”s?) I can’t do any of that stuff right now. But really it’s not too bad. Fasts of all kinds are good for the soul, in moderation, and this way I’m forced to enjoy the good old-fashioned offline things.

Well…

Good old-fashioned offline things including this iPad, that is. :)

(P.S. Weird Al’s “Genius in France” is a (begin emphasis)very(end emphasis) odd track. Is there some back-story there, or is he just being… weird? Maybe I will look it up next time I am in Panera…)

(P.P.S. “Twilight’s Hammer”, that’s it!)

(P.P.P.S. And the health club also has power and Internet, and now the water is just over one inch, but the water heater still won’t stay lit…)

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2011/08/26

Storm a’comin’!

There is a huge hurricane more or less approaching, and it is very exciting!

We have gone around the outside of the house, grouping things into categories:

  • Things that there are alot of, and the storm will probably blow them around, but it doesn’t really matter (sand grains, leaves, sticks, squirrels, etc), which we leave where they are,
  • Things that there are only a few of, but that are hard to move and if the storm manages to blow them around we will have already fled the area (the house, the garage, large boulders, that wooden deck-thing in the back yard), which we also leave where they are,
  • And finally things in between, primarily lawn furniture and plant-pots and like that, all of which we have now stuffed precariously into the garage.

So having done that (and also M having gone to the local Warehouse Store and bought large quantities of various things, and me having dropped off my car at the shop for Regular Maintenance and asked the service lady to have it done tomorrow before the roads become impassable although I’m not sure she actually wrote that down), we are now safe from the storm, and the things on the news, like the evacuation of New York City and all, just add to the excitement.

Citizens residing in the vicinity of secret underground bio-weapon research labs should avoid contact with flood waters, which may contain genetically-engineered viruses capable of converting ordinary humans into flesh-eating zombies.

(If anyone fleeing Manhattan due to the zombie onslaught could post a quick Tweet to give us in the suburbs a little extra warning, it’d be great; thanks! We want to be prepared, like these people.)

(We note with alarm and delight that the CDC actually has anti-Zombie posters. Good to know the government is on its toes!)

If you observe black FEMA vans slowly cruising nearby streets with the lights off, spraying something into the air out of silent nozzles, and dragging people from their homes, you are experiencing stress-induced hallucinations; report to the nearest FEMA van for counseling.

(The adorable cat is also very excited, because there is a small fly in the house! This is at least as exciting to her as the prospect of a major hurricane, cats not being really big on mere prospects in general.)

Rabbi Yehuda Levin blames hurricane Irene on negative reaction of everyone on the East Coast to his blaming the recent earthquake on gay rights legislation.

(In other news, he is an enormous douchebag, to use the technical term.)

And although it isn’t directly hurricane-related, I’d like to hear what the Tea Party has to say about word that the same Republicans who think it’s critical to extend the Bush tax cuts for billionaires are opposed to extending tax cuts for working people. Where’s the rage and the quaint hand-made signs now, eh?

Sheesh.

(As a possible antidote to that thought, here are many pictures of nude persons; most, I’m afraid, female and in need of a few hamburgers, but what can one do, eh?)

This is just like th’ old days! Posting random things for no particular reason, and boldfacing various phrases!

Woot!

(We also have a sandbag on the front porch; I hear these are useful in floods and hurricanes and things. Although I think people generally end up using more than one.)

2011/08/23

Esoterica

Hey, Bro,
Don’t you know?
As above, so below.
— Johnny Dee and the Alchemists

One advantage of getting into a smallish airport late at night is that even though you signed up for the usual compact/subcompact, and you’re presumably paying that rate, sometimes all that they have left at midnight is a snazzy white Mustang with Sirius Satellite Radio!

Boo and also Ya!

On the other hand as far as I can tell it drives just like every other car I’ve ever rented, and Sirius Satellite Radio is less interesting than local FM stations down near the bottom of the dial.

But still… :)

Hm, no calculator on the iPad; what does that tell us about Consumers? I have manually calculated the tip for the nice waitress at Waffle House; highly recommended as a place for having waffles and sausage and eggs (and pie!) for dinner.

2011/08/23

Light show

Big-ass lightning storm
East out the airplane window.
Perfect idleness.

2011/08/22

More shininess

The SF340b is a very small airplane. With propellers!

So one advantage of the WordPress iPad app over the web-page is that you can use it when off the network.

Like for instance when rising into the pink and grey and salmon and blue and orange clouds of a gorgeous late-summer day, in a very small SF340b (with propellers), with the cute 14-year-old stewardess, I mean, flight attendant, about to bring around the complimentary beverages, and if we are lucky the little packages of cookies and/or pretzels.

(One of those evocative decisions: the cookies or the pretzels? Is it luxury vs. practicality and health? Or a question of which studies on the effects of sodium intake you disbelieve less? Or which word you decide, in some preconscious social calculus, you would rather say to the cute 14-year-old flight attendant, on the spur of the moment as so many things in an airplane are always spur-of-the-moment, despite, or because of, how many billions of times they’ve been done before?)

Or at least I hope you can actually use it when offline, and it’s not going to toss these words away in some fit of error-message pique when it for some reason tries to contact the server, and finds that there is no there there, ‘way up here in the soft pastel sky.

We’ll see!

(So far she has asked me only what I’d like to drink (orange juice). Little packages of crunchies, if any, still wait in the future.)

I wonder if it’s possible to learn to touch-type on an iPad? (Does it look odd when “I wonder” sentences end in questionmarks? Is the iPad correct that “questionmarks” should be two words?)

The two persons in the seats ahead of me (by great good fortune I have this pair of seats here all to myself) have an old-fashioned actual laptop computer, with a physical keyboard and everything, and they are watching a movie on it.

I suppose I could watch a movie on this iPad object here, if I had one in iTunes and had replicated (excuse me) synced it down onto the iPad. Maybe someday! (Although movies are so passive; you can’t even annotate them. Yet.)

No crunches appear to be on offer, so for the time being I do not need to renew my self-definition as a Cookies or Pretzels (or even Nuts) Person. I think I will go to some other part of this embodied logical space, and read a book. See ya after landing!

(time passes)

Aha, free wireless in the terminal. Fly, little weblog entry,fly!

2011/08/21

Autoxenophobia

Well we all have a face
That we hide away forever
And we take them out and
Show ourselves
When everyone has gone
Some are satin some are steel
Some are silk and some are leather
They’re the faces of the stranger
But we love to try them on
— Joel, B

I (well, Dale) invented this word over on Twitter, where people were talking about similarities (or not) between anti-gay folks who turn out to be gay, and anti-pseudonym folks (see Google Plus Nymwars), who might be, say, afraid of odd nameless, or oddly-named, things within themselves.

Autoxenophobia: use it often!

Fear of the Stranger Within…

2011/08/21

Griftopia

So I said the other day that my libertarianness was slipping because of undesirable things that can happen even in a libertarian system with everyone obeying the (comparatively few) laws.

And that may still be true (something for another post), but at the moment I’ve decided that it isn’t relevant to what’s currently going on. I’m reading Matt Taibbi’s Griftopia, and he’s convinced me that what’s currently happening is mostly people getting vast sums of money through blatantly illegal actions, and then using a small fraction of those vast sums to avoid any sort of punishment for their crimes.

(And then using the less savvy parts of the Republican voter base, rebranded as the Tea Party, to create a huge noisy distraction around the premise that our problems are caused by giving poor people food stamps.)

There’s also an element of “getting vast sums of money from the government that you in no way deserve”, where a libertarian can say that, well, the government shouldn’t be structured in such a way that it can give anyone that much money, and that’s probably right.

But the general observation that if you steal enough money, quickly enough, you can then use some of it to deploy resources to avoid punishment (and even avoid capture, prosecution, indictment, discovery), probably applies to any society with anything like money in it.

How do we prevent this kind of crap? I think the need to prevent it (or at least minimize it) is one argument against the sort of libertarian minimal state. If the state is that minimal and simple, it’s not going to be able to defend itself against a really well-heeled miscreant, who can employ his stolen resources to baffle and evade the comparatively small and simple state.

Or as Taibbbi says in the book, talking specifically about Ayn Rand’s libertarianism:

Obviously it’s true that a Randian self-made millionaire can spend money on private guards to protect his mansion from B-and-E artists. But exactly where do the rest of us look in the Yellow Pages to hire private protection against insider trading? Against price-fixing in the corn and gasoline markets? Is each individual family supposed to hire Pinkertons to keep the local factory from dumping dioxin in the county reservoir?

We can tell lots of stories here about voluntary associations of private people getting together to hire some really good Pinkertons, but it’s not at all clear, given that even a non-libertarian nation-sized government has a hard time marshaling enough resources to do this sort of thing, that these voluntary associations could actually have enough clout to prevail against, or even sufficiently deter, people with the amount of money that this sort of crime can produce.

In some sense “criminals who make so much money that they can use it to escape detection and identification and prosecution” are an edge-case. But edge-cases can be ignored only if you’re sitting in your armchair opining about how much better a minimal government would be. In the real world, if there’s some edge-case that someone can use to get rich, it’s got to be at the center of our attention, however peripheral it is seen from the armchair.

Anyone else read Griftopia? Any nice comforting debunkings of it you can point us at?

2011/08/19

Expedition

So for the little daughter’s birthday we went into New York City (again! just a few days after last time! probably some sort of record for us!) on the train, and took the New York City Subways down to SoHo (the area South of Houston Street, whence the name), and idled patiently about while said daughter indulged her unaccountable taste for clothes shopping (even though, as I pointed out, she already has clothes).

Whilst idling about, the little boy and I went to the Opera Gallery New York which had some fun stuff to look at (I do not remember seeing the comfortable-looking sofas in that one picture on the web site, or we would probably have sat in them; unless they were part of the art). And then later M and the little boy and I all went over to the Evolution Store, which also had fun stuff to look at, much of it consisting of the remains of dead things.

After all that when we were hungry, we wandered around Little Italy a bit looking for a restaurant, and the little daughter’s telephone told her about one called “Peasant” that was nearby, so we went there.

It was very good!

They did not have the Razor Clams (which sound dangerous anyway). I had the Risotto with Veal Sauce; or at least I think it was risotto. For some reason I always forget what risotto is, and I may have it confused with something else. Sort of like arugula and that other thing. But anyway, it was very good! And the waitress was absolutely adorable (maybe about the little daughter’s age? I am a terrible judge of such things) and discussed in depth the terroir of the available by-the-glass wines, and the composition of the various sauces, and so on, at the slightest prompting.

M and I had a nice light red; the little daughter had a somewhat heavier Primitivo. Since it was her 21st birthday, we all noted that this was her first taste of alcohol, and then laughed uproariously (since she’s been in college for three years and all). We skipped dessert at Peasant, and stopped at Zero’s Grand Central (we’d checked on the way in and determined that they’d be open until 2am, which was far later than we needed them), and picked up a small red velvet cake (mmmmm) and a little fruit tart, and when we got home, happy but exhausted, we used our last dregs of energy to sing Happy Birthday and have cake and take pictures of candles being blown out and all.

I am not posting any pictures for some reason, but M has posted a number of historical little daughter pictures in her lovely and much less ironic-sounding post about the birthday.

A great time was had by all, and we are very proud and extremely astonished by this grownup that we have somehow produced. It will be very restful now that she will be taking care of all of her own affairs, although we hope she will allow us to give her little bits of advice and aid now and then.

hee hee.

2011/08/15

And here I am…

… composing a really tiny weblog post, from the iPad, using the special wordpress iPad app (“app”), rather than the web page via Safari.

It works better! Which isn’t surprising, but… shouldn’t safari have worked right in the first place?

Back in the old days of (wow what was it even called?) the special quasi-HTML just for cellphones, I opined that it would be short-lived, because cellphones would just get smart enough to do normal HTML; and I was pretty much right.

It’s more complex for “apps” of course, they aren’t just about being lighter weight, but also about being friendlier, better-behaved. But still, why not just have the website work?

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2011/08/15

Small arrays of words

It is apparently possible to post here from an iPad! Although not, it seems, to add tags or new categories. Odd little bugs, them.

I got a new telephone in the mail today, because the previous one was literally (by which I mean literally) falling apart.

I got a BlueTooth headset with the new phone, because it was cheaper that way. Apparently. I am still deeply suspicious.

My fancy coffee machine is leaking. Did I mention that M got me a fancy coffee machine the other month/year? Let’s see…

I did! At Solstice 2009, it seems. And now it leaks. These things happen.

Oh, what else, what else? There is so much I have not told you, all of these silent non-posting days weeks months.

I have been in Second Life significantly, I have been in World of Warcraft. I have two level 85 characters (“toons”) in the latter, and my paladin tank is level 74 and rising. Although at the moment I’m bored by WoW again.

Not having cursor movement keys on the iPad is a drag!

I think Google’s silly and inconsistently applied and badly rationalized Real Names policy is ill-thought-out and quite likely evil.

I am distressed or amused by the current Republican front-runners, depending on how detached I feel at the time.

My libertarianness is slipping significantly, as I see the extent that people can gain wealth and power by completely legal means, including means that would be legal even in a libertarian regime, without deserving it in any particularly significant sense. Redistribution doesn’t seem like such an unworthy goal in that context.

(See for instance Warren Buffet on how little taxes he and his extremely rich friends pay.)

The adorable tiny cat, like the adorable tiny children, gets bigger and bigger. (Unlike them she will not be going to college, which is good for the tuition budget.) The little daughter is about to turn 21, which is utterly astounding. (Her New York driver’s license, without the “beware, underage person” banner on it, just came; she is pleased.)

How fast the time passes! An hour every hour, a day every day. At the very least!

Things, all told (not that all has been told), are good…

2011/08/15

this iPad!

I have an iPad! This is not because I am a shiny early-adopter; it is because M is a shiny early-adopter :) and she got an iPad while back, and then I got her an iPad 2 for a recent birthday, so there was this iPad sitting around sort of spare, and so…

I am somewhat gabberflasted by how much I like it, and how much it is changing my relationship to computers and books and the Internet and stuff.

This is not what I expected. I expected that it would be a sort of pointless little computer, with a small screen, no useable keyboard, not much disk space, and an underpowered CPU and GPU.

But what it actually seems to be is a really shiny and smart book, which can get to the Internet when there’s WiFi, let me read various books and maps and play games and things even when there isn’t an Internet, automatically get the latest versions of various periodicals and so on, play music, and really do pretty much everything an actual computer can do except for () World of Warcraft, () Second Life, () Program development, and () Protracted typing of long things.

Which is pretty impressive, for a book! And like a book it has the almost-negligible weight and footprint and ease of use just about anywhere that the big fancy computer most definitely lacks (especially given that carrying around the big fancy computer to use it for the things it’s best at means also carrying around its cooling pad to keep it from overheating).

Over the weekend I took a train to New York City (a very large city in New York), and then walked from Grand Central Station to Pennsylvania Station (the one in New York City, as opposed to the one in Newark, New Jersey, which is confusingly on the same train line as the New York City one), all with my iPad serving as a number of books, and a music player, and various diverting games, as well as (yay free Bryant Park Wifi!) connectivity to the world, and a set of downloaded-on-the-fly maps of the city for use when no longer near Bryant Park.

(Then I took another train to another station, and then a very small train to another station, and helped the little daughter finish packing and put all the stuff in the car, and then I drove the car home again while the little daughter took trains into New York City to see friends, and then another train home the next day to be with us for a bit also yay.)

And the iPad was an extremely convenient and fun and useful thing to have along the whole time.

Of course some of this may be shiny-new-toy effect; we’ll see!

Geekishness: here are some of the “apps” which I have on my “Ipad”:

  • Twitter – ’cause Dale my SL persona likes Twitter; takes all kinds.
  • Netflix – for watching movies (which I haven’t really done yet but it looks kewl).
  • Flickr – which is actually an iPhone app, and when running on an iPad all I can get it to do so far is show random pictures from the site in a little iPhone-shaped window; I mention this one only because I hope is is better eventually (i.e. they have a real iPad app).
  • SomaFM – Listener-supported Commercial-Free Internet Radio! Lots of nice music, again an iPhone app that doesn’t get along perfectly with the iPad, but still, nice music.
  • iBooks and the Kindle app, both with books in them (including both of the little daughter’s amazing Junior Papers snarfed as in PDFs, and also Zittrain’s “The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it” which is basically about why iPads are bad)
  • A great app from the British Library, giving access to entire scanned in books from their 19th Century collection, which is really wonderful because you can see every little blot and grain and British Library stamp, as well as reading the words.
  • A whole mess of little games and puzzles, including Dwindle and The Incredible Machine (now apparently a Disney property!), and Pinball HD (just the free tables), and Unblock Me and sudoku2 and “Swamp Talk”, which is a great little word-forming game that I got free during its free period and I play constantly.
  • TumbleVision – A kaleidoscope; and not just one of those simple modern digital kaleidoscopes that make random eight-way symmetrical patterns, but a fancy simulation of a “glass and wood and strange things” physical kaleidoscope, where the pretty things tumble around in a very physical way and it’s all very mesmerizing. (Additional pretty-things packs cost money, haha.)
  • The Blue Mars iPad app, which seems bafflingly pointless, and “Pocket MV” (“MV” for “Metaverse”), which gives one text-mostly access to Second Life and other compatible virtual worlds, which I’ve played with a little but not quite actually used.
  • Yelp – an app that like tells me about restaurants in places, which is cool in principle but I haven’t used much yet,
  • 700 City Maps – one of those “free” free apps, which gives you maps when you’re attached to the Internet (just like Google Maps, basically, only Open), and also lets you download maps locally, but oh yeah that costs money, haha. Not much money, though; and I downloaded the NYC maps while sitting in Bryant Park, and that was useful.
  • The iPad client for Dropbox, which is a wonderful little thing that cleanly (if perhaps not all that securely, depending who you trust) makes a copy of all of the things that you put into a particular directory tree, appear magically on all of the machines where you have a client installed, and which is a great way to get things onto one’s iPad (although email mostly works too).
  • System Status – the pay-for version, which gives various geeky facts about one’s iPad, like that the battery is 100% charged (for an estimated 10 hours of Internetting time), the drive’s 27.3% in-use, the machine’s been up for over twenty-seven days (I don’t actually know how to turn it off, in that sense, which is fun), there are 28 visible processes running (including the ever-popular usbethernetshari), I am running Darwin 11.0.0 (kernel build 199506), and that something is constantly trying to write to or otherwise modify my iTunes library even though it is read-only (all sortsa interesting groddy stuff in the system log). This app gives me the illusion that I am actually in control of the innards of the machine (whereas in fact Apple is, as Zittrain notes at some length).
  • FileSystem – another iPhone app, that lets me browse and even in some cases look at the files on the hard drive. No idea how much of what’s there it can actually see, but another “pretend to be in control” app.
  • iSSH – so I can log into remote Real Computers from my iPad, which is somehow extremely amusing.

And that’s just the ones that I use or that are otherwise notable; there’s some other ones too not worth mentioning. (And of course there’s Google Maps an’ iTunes an’ a YouTube client an’ the app store an’ stuff that all came with it.)

Whew words, words, words! :) But anyway I have it, and I carry it around with me and listen to music and read words and play games and stuff, and it is fun.

2011/08/15

Come November

One interesting difference here (although it’s a difference of culture or tradition and affordance, not a strictly-speaking necessary difference) is that posts will tend to be smaller, and with titles, rather than, as in the old log where they were perhaps longer, and titled only by date, so that you got “here’s what I’ve thought that I feel is worth recording today” rather than “here’s what I’m thinking right now, about this subject, or at least with this subject sitting there on top”.

(Another difference might be that wordpress might start putting ads onto the pages; if that gets annoying I will consider giving them money to stop doing it. Or moving back to the old site.)

(Also I’m not sure if these pages will validate, HTML/CSS-wise. But somehow I am not as concerned about that as I now and then was, or pretended to be, in the Old Days.)

Anyway! Come November I may be writing another novel. The question will be, what sort of novel this time?

Awhile back, I posted a list of the existing novels, and what each one was sort of subjectively like.

I feel like fiddling with the medium again, at the moment at least, rather than just writing a straightforward story. Not sure just why that is. :)

And of course it may change by November.

But at the moment the playing-with-the-medium that I’m thinking of is using the rather obscure variant of first-person limited in which you get just the narrator’s experiences of the external world, without internal monologue (or dialogue), explanations, or exposition.

I sat up in the bed. A woman in a white uniform brought me food, which I ate.

Another woman came in, and stood at the foot of the bed. She said things. I continued eating, looking at her, but said nothing.

The woman at the foot of the bed said more things, in a louder voice.

Eventually, I said things back.

Could be interesting. Fifty thousand words of interesting? Maybe… :)

2011/08/15

Woot!

So we are going to experiment with a WordPress-type weblog for at least a bit, to see if in fact we post more often and/or get other benefits which more than offset whatever costs (costs?) or disadvantages or downsides (downsides!) there turn out to be.

The original weblog will of course remain there in all of its glory until the heat death of the universe, or other similar event. (If this WordPress thing doesn’t work out, I might go back over there and weblogify over there again; or I might do something else; who knows!)

I will fiddle around with the (what’s the word?) template or whatever here until I like it enough, and then I will put up a post to the original weblog, pointing to this place here.

And then we will see!