Previous 20

AP style update (google edition)

In the future, you are encouraged to refer to the social network sometimes called “Google Plus” or “G+” by its proper name:

The Plusterfuck”

Additionally, the act of partially or completely breaking a formerly useful service in order to coerce people into using G+ when they have no desire to do so is to be referred to as “plusterfuckery.”  Example usage: “Man, they really plusterfucked Google Chat with the new Hangouts feature.” or “I still use Gmail, but I’m kinda worried that they’re going to commit some plusterfuckery to it eventually.”

On a related note, the proper name for the personal heads-up display popularly known as “Google Glass” should henceforth be referred to as “Segway For Your Face.”

Crossposted from: blahg.blank.org

cluster theory

Ever been in an aggravating situation that wasn’t quite a clusterfuck?  Behold a helpful taxonomy of clusters, in ascending order:

  1. Clusterwave
  2. Clusterairkiss
  3. Clusterhug
  4. Clusternoserub
  5. Clustercheekkiss
  6. Clusterfrenchkiss
  7. Clustergrope
  8. Clusterfuck

Crossposted from: blahg.blank.org

requiescat in pace


George McGovern, 1922 — 2012

Few men in history have been as completely vindicated in the aftermath of total defeat as George McGovern. Richard Nixon was the walking incarnation of the dark side of the American dream: a man who lied as easily as he breathed, a boot-licking toady to those with more power than him and a backstabbing thug to all those with less. McGovern had more decency and honor in his fingernail trimmings than in every aggregate cell of Nixon’s body, and his entire life of service in the aftermath of the 1972 election is testimony to that bedrock fact.

The fact that the United States elected Richard Nixon president over McGovern proves just how far from our ideals we fall. The fact that we are capable of generating men like McGovern in the first place is the only reason to have any hope that we could yet come closer.

Crossposted from: blahg.blank.org

burying the giants whose shoulders we stood on

Farewell to Peter Bergman, the original (and best) Doctor Memory.  Requiscat in pace, the world is an annoyingly more normal place without you.

Crossposted from: blahg.blank.org

this is why you fail

Most of the photos I’ve taken of my daughter are with a now nearly eight year old Canon SD500.  Every once in a while, I think that I should replace it with something newer and faster: Theda tends to move at near-mach velocities in her calmer moments, and I miss a lot of shots waiting for the autofocus.  I’ve been thinking this now for a good two years, and yet I have not actually replaced the camera.  Why?  Well, this is what I see every time I go to Canon’s web page and start researching replacements:

I’ll spare you the effort of counting them up: that is THIRTY TWO distinct models of compact camera that Canon is currently attempting to sell.  Almost all of them are priced within the range of $110 to $250, and the model names are a sludge of letters and numbers that could only make sense to some sort of obsessive camera-otaku.  Some, but not all of them have completely meaningless star ratings: shockingly, they all get four or five stars out of five! And best of all, their “compare models” tool only lets you compare three models at a time.  So that’s helpful.

The only sane answer to the question “which one of these cameras do I want?” is “fuck it, I’ll just use the camera in my cell phone,” and according to Canon’s most recent financial results that’s pretty much what everyone is doing.

You’d think that someone in the camera business would have noticed this and decided to try something different, but they’re all just as bad: Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Samsung, you name it.  They all have dozens of nearly identical models, and they all introduce new models like clockwork every six months.  Surely the introduction of the new SX128g878ASDF7-HSPRO model in shiny purple (that won’t ship anywhere outside Japan for another four months by which time the details of the next model will have leaked) will reverse the trend!

The single smartest thing Steve Jobs did in the first FIVE YEARS of his second tenure at Apple was to take a very large axe to Apple’s overgrown product line, and reduce it from over 25 models to six, with clear feature differences at each price point.  It’s always amazing to me how many industries have yet to grasp why that was a good idea.

[After the fact edit: yes, people, thank you for the camera recommendations.  And yes, I know about third-party review sites that attempt to ameliorate the suckage of the original manufacturers’ product lines and web pages.  My point, such as it is, was that the manufacturers should stop sucking.]

[Edit the second: the really frustrating thing is that at least in Canon’s case, they demonstrably know better.  Their DSLR selection is everything that their compact line-up isn’t: there are 9 total models (really actually 7 with some older out-of-production ones still in stock), each at a different price-point, and with a clear and obvious performance reward for spending each additional $500-1000.  There’s no earthly reason that their compact selection couldn’t work the same way.]

Crossposted from: blahg.blank.org

the hunt, redux

I am, once again, apartment-hunting in San Francisco. It is even more awesome than last time.

Inquiry:

Subject: your 4br listing on craigslist
From: "Dr. Memory" 
To: pdgfr-2829561917@hous.craigslist.org

Hey there.  My wife and I are very interested in taking a look at this
unit; when is a good time for you to show it?

-Dr. Memory
 (phone number)

Response:

From: Val Robertson <valrobertson18@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: your 4br listing on craigslist
To: "Dr. Memory" 
Date: Fri, 3 Feb 2012 06:10:22 -0800 (PST)

Hello,

I got a contract job in an engineering company for a construction project as
part of the structural engineers to build a highrise building in West Africa. I
am a Building tech specialist, so my accommodation period in Nigeria will be
about 4 years, so that's the reason why i am renting out the unit. I do not
intend to make profit out of it all i want is to find a good and clean person
to take good care of the place. I`m the owner of the unit and it is furnished
but if you want you can make use of your furniture's and help keep mine in the
storage locker which is situated both in the unit and in the building and these
does not attracts any funds.

The monthly rent am requesting for includes all utilities (water, electricity,
Internet, cable, 1 parking spots, air conditioning, dishwasher, garbage
disposal, microwave, refrigerator, stove, laundry in-suite, washer and dryer)
the monthly rent you will be paying includes all this and they will be taken
care of as soon as you pay your rent.

Everything in this unit is functional and in good working conditions. Once you
started staying in the unit and there is any case of any repairs which is as a
result of normal faults like leakages, you will get in touch with me and i will
get it fixed, i am in possession of the keys to the Home which makes hard for
you to view the unit. You can move into the unit when you receive the keys but
the only problem is that am the only person who has the keys but i hope that we
will be able to reach a compromise on this.

ADDRESS TO THE PROPERTY: 1034 Delaware Street, Berkeley CA 94710

TERMS AND CONDITION:
The lease is month to month , 6 month or 1yrs and can be renewed ~It can be
rented furnished or unfurnished ~ You will have to take good care of my unit
Utilities are included in the rent ~Pets Allowed Any further questions please
contact and get back to me for the pics of the unit and the application form.
Thank you for your interest and i`m awaiting your response.

Thanks.

Counter-offer:

Date: Fri, 3 Feb 2012 10:07:43 -0800
Subject: Re: your 4br listing on craigslist
From: "Dr. Memory" 
To: Val Robertson <valrobertson18@yahoo.com>

Val: this sounds like the deal of the century!  In Jesus' name, I am most
happy to have met you.

I would be happy to pay you the full year's rent in cash, as I have
recently come into a large sum of money left to me by Maryam Abacha, the
widow of General Sani Abacha, ex-military Head of State of the Federal
Republic of Nigeria who died on the 8th of June 1998 of heart problems.
Since you are in Nigeria you are undoubtedly familiar with how generous the
Abachas were with their estate!

Madam Abacha left to me the sum of 30 million dollars US, out of which I
could easily fulfill the terms of your lease.  As you are currently
residing in Nigeria, you would be the perfect person to help me secure the
transfer of these funds from the Central Bank of Nigeria to my accounts at
Citibank NY.  I would like to hire you to be my agent in this matter, for
which I will pay you 15% of the total funds once they are transferred.

If you are interested, please respond immediately.

-Dr. Memory
 Global Skunkworks Investments, LLC
 San Francisco, CA

So far no reply, but I live in hope.

Crossposted from: blahg.blank.org

any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice

(An actual letter I just had to send to someone who almost certainly did not deserve it.)

Dear Ms. [Elided]:

My apologies for the intrusion.  My friend [elided] was kind enough to share your contact information with me, and after close to a month of getting the run-around from Clipper customer service both over the phone and in person, I’m willing to try just about anything.

What follows is probably way too verbose.  The nutshell version: my card was blocked on 10/10 because my credit card number changed causing an autoload to fail.  I updated my account with new CC information on 10/11 and autoload began to work again, but the card is still blocked and nobody on the phone or at the clipper service booths have been able to unblock it.  The card serial number is [elided].  Any help you could offer would be deeply appreciated.

The long version:

Sometime in late September, my Visa card was cloned by someone in England.  Visa’s fraud detection department noticed it immediately and reissued my card.  They assured me that any recurrent subscription payments would be automatically migrated to the new card number, and with one glaring exception that was true.  You can probably guess what the exception was.

On October 10th, Clipper tried to autoload a new BART pass onto my card, using the old Visa number.  The transaction was of course declined, and Clipper immediately blocked the entire card.  (As a parenthetical, there was still an active ~$15 e-cash credit for MUNI from the last successful autoload for that product, but apparently clipper’s system can’t distinguish such things and the card was locked on all transit systems.  Which is awesome.)  They sent me an email message informing me of this, and I immediately logged into the clipper website and updated my credit card information.  The website accepted the new CC info, and on Oct 11th I was cheerfully informed via email that in three-to-five days my card would be unblocked.  Which seems like an odd time lag compared to the instantaneous blocking after an autoload failure, but so be it.

Five days later, my card was still not unblocked, but I was about to take a trip to the east coast so I didn’t pay it any mind.  I returned from new york on the 20th, and the card was still blocked.  There followed a series of increasingly hilarious interactions with clipper support:

On this Monday the 24th, a young man cheerfully informed me that there was “an unlock in the system” for my card, and that I would be able to use it again on the morning of the 25th.  This was not true.

On Tuesday the 25th, a young woman answered the phone, got about halfway into stating her name before she dropped the receiver.  After some fumbling around, a second young woman said “hello”.  I said “hello” back, and there was then an awkward silence.  After some prodding, she admitted that she was in fact a Clipper service agent.  After looking at my account, she insisted that what I needed to do was go to a BART fare gate, tag my card, and when the screen flashed the red “See Agent” message, to do exactly the opposite of what it instructed: stand still and hold the card on the reader for another ten seconds.  This, she assured me, would definitely unlock the card.  I had and still have a suspicion that she was yanking my chain, but I figured nothing ventured nothing gained, right?  To the intense annoyance of the people in line behind me at Montgomery station, I tried this, not once but three times: it of course did not work.

Yesterday, the 28th, a young man informed me that actually it wasn’t the BART fare gate that I needed to tag against, but the ticket collection machine.  Possibly the red SFMTA one instead of the blue BART one.  And if that didn’t work, I should take the card to the Embarcadero service booth, since obviously it was damaged.  This of course also did not work, and the BART gate agent at my station assured me that the card was not damaged, just blocked.

Today, I left work early and took my card to the Embarcadero service booth ($3.50 round trip, but what’s a few dollars when I’ve already wasted several hours?), where a very friendly gentleman attempted first to unblock the card himself, then to call Clipper HQ to get more information, and then lastly to attempt to issue me a new card.  As you’ve probably already guessed: Clipper HQ couldn’t tell him anything more than they’d told me, and the system would not let him issue me a new card.  He confessed to me as he handed me the card back that his personal recommendation was to never ever use AutoLoad, because “this is always what happens when anything goes wrong with it.”

So here I am: the Clipper website insists that autoload is working, and in fact has helpfully charged me roughly $60 to top off both my BART pass and my MUNI e-cash.  But the card still doesn’t work, and nobody at any level of Clipper customer support seems to have any idea how to unblock it.  Probably the smart thing to do at this point would be just to cancel the account completely, dispute the last autoload transaction with Visa, happily resume using BART’s paper tickets, and regale friends at bars with this story for a few months in hopes of having them buy me drinks out of sympathy, but literal-minded sort that I am, I find myself thinking that if the card was blocked from the central office with no interaction with me needed, surely the card can be unblocked remotely just as easily without me having to do some sort of complicated dance between multiple card readers.

Please feel free to contact me via email or the phone number below if I can offer any more useful (or at least funny) information about this.  As above, any help you could offer would be deeply appreciated.

Yours,

-Doctor Memory, Esq, PhD, OTO, OGS, etc

  San  Francisco, CA

Crossposted from: blahg.blank.org

rest in peace, you beautiful crazy bastard

Thank you, Steve.

Crossposted from: blahg.blank.org

decade of aggression


Ten Fucking Years.
Not wiser, just older.

Crossposted from: blahg.blank.org

Tags:

a well-regulated metal militia

(Hoisted from, of all things, a discussion of the cultural significance of Def Leppard’s “Hysteria”, and slightly expanded for clarity.  Reposted here mostly because I’m amused by the idea of a deep metaphysical similarity between Bret Michels and Camille Paglia.)

On the one hand, there may be no argument in the world more intrinsically tiresome than “who is/is not metal?” On the other hand, props to UMD [another commentor] for making the case against Def Leppard without being a douche about it.

My 2 cents: if you don’t have an original manifesto to calibrate subsequent adherents against, you’re pretty much screwed when you talk about a “true” heritage of any cultural movement. This is why you can sometimes talk at least semi-intelligently about whether so-and-so is a Marxist or not, since Marx laid out his philosophy in a nice easy-to-digest way. Do you support worldwide revolution leading to control of the means of production by the class of industrial workers, a dictatorship of the proletariate and an eventual fading away of the state?  If yes, congratulations, you’re a Marxist. If no, you may well be influenced by Marx’s ideas, but a Marxist not so much. 

But much like feminism, metal didn’t have one single initial starting point, it had many overlapping ones: as a result, Andrea Dworkin and Sasha Grey could both credibly claim a legacy of “feminism”, and like it or not a whole bunch of wildly popular bands with ripped jeans and glossy production values could legitimately lay claim to a poppier “metal” sensibility that had its roots in Alice Cooper, AC/DC and Blue Oyster Cult in just the same way that Metallica grabbed the legacy of Sabbath, Accept and Motorhead and pummelled the mainstream into liking it…

Crossposted from: blahg.blank.org

snap judgement saturday returns

Worst-ever episode of your favorite (or close enough as to make no difference) TV series.  The one that you try very hard to forget ever happened, and which, if you think about it too long, makes you question your otherwise unhealthy devotion.

Don’t think too long about it, just go.

Oh, mine?  God, that’s all too easy: The Doctor’s Daughter, in which one of the cleverest bits of stunt casting ever in a 30-year-old tv series was wasted on a script that seemed to have been written by a 7-year-old.  Featuring Freema Agyeman’s absolute career low point, in which she has to fall into a mud puddle to loudly mourn the death of a man with a fishtank for a face, who she just met ten minutes ago.  Worst of all, they might yet bring the character back.

Crossposted from: blahg.blank.org

San Simeon trip


San Simeon trip, March 2011
Elephant seals, Hearst Castle, and a very cute baby.
88 photos, completely safe for work

Crossposted from: blahg.blank.org

Tags:

the purge continues

a purge of crappy sf

A quick purge of crappy sf/f paperbacks.  To borderlands we go!

Okay, obviously that’s slander: many of these are not crappy at all, but I don’t expect to re-read them and I need the shelf space back.

…well, except for the Piers Anthony.  Those are legitimately crap.

Oh, and “Preacher.”  Every single last one of you who recommended that rancid shit to me is FIRED.  Ahem.

(Yes, I’m still alive.  Hi!)

Crossposted from: blahg.blank.org

Tags: ,

dear LJ spammers

Of all of my old posts that you could possibly decide to load up with online pharmacy spam, why this one? (Seriously, I'm averaging one spam comment every day, and it's always to that post.) And how long before you notice that I'm not unscreening your comments?

your input is requested

Poll #1667342 Holiday Cards, and the disposal thereof.

What do you do with holiday cards?

Display them on my mantle or local equivalent, then store for future generations to marvel over.
16(20.8%)
Display them, then quietly slip them into the recycling bin.
38(49.4%)
My mantlepiece is an archeological dig of holiday cards going back to the Pleistocene period.
2(2.6%)
Open, read, grimace, shred.
4(5.2%)
Into the recycling without even opening.
0(0.0%)
Bind up into a log-like shape using twine, burn instead of a yule log.
0(0.0%)
I live in Dick Cheney's bunker of undisclosed location, and the bastards will never find me.
1(1.3%)
I have carefully and deliberately alienated anyone who ever seemed likely to send me a holiday card.
5(6.5%)
I am cos
1(1.3%)
I have a cunning plan, which I will explain in the comments.
10(13.0%)

three hundred, sixty five

Three hundred and sixty five days ago, give or take an hour or two, Miranda and I pulled on our coats, grabbed a carefully pre-packed bag, and started what we thought would be a very short two block walk over to St. Luke’s hospital.  Forty minutes later, we finally made it to the ER entrance, having learned the hard way just how long it takes to walk two and a half blocks when one of you is having contractions every two to three minutes.

A few hours after that, a small human being emerged from my girlfriend.  The world has been spinning slightly askew ever since.  It’s been a hell of a year, and it’s only gonna get weirder from here on in.

Happy birthday, little girl.

Tags:

snap judgement saturday

(With apologies to Dr. Berube, whose “Arbitrary but Fun Friday” schtick I am mercilessly appropriating.)

Your snap-judgment question for the weekend is:

What is the best guitar solo in a rock song that is not by someone who’s last name is Hendrix, Page or Clapton?

My answer: Kim Thayil’s amazing breakdown in the middle of Soundgarden’s “Like Suicide”, from 1994’s “Superunknown”. 

The action starts at about 4 minutes 30 seconds in, but it’s worth listening from the top to let the effect build: the song starts as a slow dirge, with a simple three-note guitar lick woven in and out of Chris Cornell doing his usual Dio-cum-Plant vocal gymnastics… and then Thayil lets loose with a minute-long facemelter that’s part primal scream, part requiem and part epitaph.  For my money, it was Soundgarden’s high point as a band, and thus the de facto high-water mark for the entire “Seattle sound.”  (Cobain offed himself barely a month later, and it was all downhill from there.)  These days, I’m not much of a fan of guitar wank for its own sake, but this is still the one solo that I’ll cue up the track just to hear.

Your turn.  Go.  For the sake of the discussion, you can pick your own definition of “rock,” and you should consider yourself granted extremely wide latitude for a definition of “guitar solo” — assemblages of guitar samples could well qualify.  Links to audio appreciated, but not necessary.  And remember: no Jimi, no Jimmy, no Eric.

Crossposted from: blahg.blank.org

face the face

Reading the coverage of “The Social Network” has made two things apparent to me:

1. No amount of effusively positive reviews — hell, not even an effectively infinite number of them — is enough to make me even slightly interested in watching a movie about Mark Zuckerberg’s journey from douchebag Harvard student to douchebag baby billionaire.  Seriously here, I’m almost starting to think that this is some kind of carefully orchestrated prank by the world’s movie critics: “a movie about Facebook’s douchebag founder” (a movie about Facebook’s founder, for real) is like some sort of platonic ideal of “things which well-adjusted people should never care about.”

2. Only a small residual sense of propriety and decency was standing in between Jesse Vincent and becoming a multibillionaire.  There’s a lesson here, but I’m pretty sure I don’t like it.

Crossposted from: blahg.blank.org

Pickled String Beans with Ground Pork (rou mo jiang dou)

Pickled string beans with ground pork (rou mo jiang dou).

Posting here because I engendered some discussion on Facebook about this last week: looking for a recipe for a dish I’d only had in a few restaurants, I found only this one (a transcription of the one in Fuschia Dunlop’s Land of Plenty), with which I had some conceptual issues.  Dunlop’s recipe calls for pickling the beans in a salt brine, in a refridgerator, for three days: I’m convinced that this was some sort of editing or transcription error: I don’t claim to know jack about sichuan cuisine, but I know a little about pickling, and you’re not going to get much of a pickle going in three days, and especially not in a fridge.  Salt-brine fermentation takes time — minimally a few weeks — refridgerator pickling uses vinegar to give the veggies their bite.  Three days in the fridge will just give you damp, salty beans.1

So this is a mixed recipe: the meat marinade and general prep is Dunlops, but for the pickling I used the recipe that Jarvis found here — except adding all of the spices from Dunlop’s recipe: the ginger, the cinnamon, the sichuan peppercorns, the chilis and the star anise.

Verdict: tasty!  Not exactly a dead ringer for the restaurant dish, but that’s nearly impossible to do at home with any Chinese dish, just because there’s no way to get the wok hot enough.  The beans taste similar to what I had at Classic Sichuan, but I think next time I will attempt to do a proper brine pickle.

1 To be clear: I haven’t tried this, I’d just be very surprised if it worked.

Crossposted from: blahg.blank.org

Tags:

meanwhile, somewhere at apple

You know, I don’t think iTunes is bloated, baroque or feature-overstuffed enough yet.  How can we fix that?”

Dude, we’ll totally ad a social network to it!  The kids love those!”

(Alternate version: “YO DAWG, I HEARD YOU LIKED SOCIAL NETWORKS…”)

Mostly, I snark to note that in here in C.E. 2010, “…we’ll add a social network/connection to facebook” appears to have supplanted “…we’ll make it read email” as the default end-state of software project management gone metastatic.  The wheel turns.

Crossposted from: blahg.blank.org

Previous 20