Sunday, September 23, 2012

Unlocking OverDrive Media Audiobooks

I've been trying to check out audiobooks from my county library system and listen to them, either on my Galaxy Nexus or my Windows machine, for about two weeks. What I did wrong was implement impatience: I just needed to sit down and read all the warning messages coming at me.

The primary one is that WMA files are incompatible with my smartphone, so forget that.

But my computer, a new machine bristling with processing power, should be able to handle any file or download the programs that will enable it to handle any file. Yet all I was getting, when downloading a new title, was an error message. ...Long story short, eventually I did get everything sorted out, and it was such a hairy process that I'd like to document it here, in case anyone else is struggling with audiobooks and OverDrive Media Console.

  1. I received the error message "Error 0x80070075 - parameter is incorrect." Apparently this relates to DRM protection, which doesn't apply to audiobooks legally obtained from your local (or online) library.
  2. The Blog of Mark has great preliminary instructions for finding your own DRM folder and potentially disabling its restrictions. A lot of this entails disabling all the hidden folder filters on your machine.
  3. After trying those step-by-step procedures and yielding nothing, be sure to download and run the batch file he provides in the Dec. 2008 update. That will take you straight to your extremely well-hidden DRM folder, after unlocking everything in step 2.
  4. A library in Albuquerque provides the next steps, going into that folder and removing a few very specific files. Only after this was accomplished was I able to run my downloaded WMA files.
I know I could write up more elegant steps to effect this end, but this is the path I followed and it worked well enough. That's the basic material one needs to resolve this problem that shouldn't be a problem.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Recent Past Update

Let's see, it's been an eventful July so far. The hard part is over... or the hard part that we knew of at the beginning of the month, that hard part is over. There's another hard part coming up.

We started out with Rebecca's birthday. That kind of fell apart: I had one idea for a party that didn't see fruition, and I tried to coordinate another party with a friend but didn't follow through on it, so he assumed the event was canceled. Which, in practice, it was. I tried to make up for that with some interesting gifts, one particularly hard to retrieve, so I hope Rebecca felt special even if she's married to a procrastinator.

Mid-month was when we moved out of the East Isles apartment (above Tao Natural Foods) and into the Fulton apartment, half a mile from the pricey 50th & France shopping district. The move did not go smoothly: Rebecca underestimated the outlandish volume of property we've accrued, so it took two guys four hours, instead of one hour, to move it all into the truck. But they called a third guy, and we pitched in, so we got it all hustled into the Fulton apt. within 45 minutes.

"I'm not an omen, but I can see how you'd be confused."
The Fulton apartment... I thought it was ungainly and queer, but Rebecca was convinced we'd love it and could make it work. That was before the inundation of off-gassing toxins from the new carpet in the front room (a long, narrow catwalk created by building a facade over the recessed front wall of the building) and the staircase; before we found the dead bird in the bathroom; before our as-promised free washer and dryer were swapped out with coin-op machines. Yes, they stripped the carpet and polished up a wonderful hardwood floor in two rooms. Yes, they installed a nice ceiling fan in what we're using for a bedroom. No, there are no light switches in any of the rooms, except one in the kitchen that doesn't seem to control anything. No, we have no idea how to supply power to the lights in the basement: sometimes they're on and sometimes they're off. No, we don't know where the water leak or the dead mice are coming from in the basement. Yes, the landlords have agreed to release us from our lease.

Friday, July 13, 2012

No Bicyclist Left Behind

"Trail Closed July 9, Two Weeks"? That couldn't possibly apply to me or this trail.

Most Minneapolis-based cyclists are famous for their hyper-illiteracy. Not only can they not read small words like "STOP" or "ONE WAY" or "No Bikes on Sidewalk," they have proven inability to decipher simple pictograms or icons, like the big orange "do not walk" sign at red lights... or red lights themselves. Those glaring images, intuitive to small children, elude the comprehension of so-called bicycle enthusiasts in the Twin Cities.

Well, now, here's something else. After a career of ignoring the bikes-only STOP signs at either end of the Franklin bike bridge (like the oft-neglected bikes-only STOP signs lining the Greenway), now Minneapolis cyclists are also not paying attention to posted signs ordering cyclists to not use the bridge or the bike trail along Lyndale, between Franklin and Loring Park. Further, they're also not paying attention to enormous road blocks, either.

Comically oversized, two-lane wooden barrier dominating the bike trail? That couldn't possibly apply to us or our bikes.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Poor Online Representation

I run a few blogs, loosely, lazily. I update them whenever. It was easier to do when I was unemployed because I could undertake larger writing projects, but it was also harder because I was locked up in my apartment and not subject to new experiences.

One of my blogs is all about writing, stationery, the postal system, stuff like that. Three years ago I wrote a little post about some odd stamps I found in my childhood. We'd just moved to a new house in Canton, MI, and in one of the cupboards was a small wax envelope from the post office with a collection of several international stamps. The stamps I'd chosen to write about were (ostensibly) from the South Moluccas.

I know nothing about the South Moluccas. My public education system never mentioned them once. I didn't have any Dutch friends so they never came up in conversation ("So, what indigenous tribes did your ancestors attempt to wipe out in their pursuit of wealth?" "Funny story..."). When I wrote that blog post, I had to do some cursory online research—my favorite kind—to have anything to talk about. I summed up their history from both a philatelic and a governmental perspective, so I thought.
In the last two years this post has attracted some unpleasant people, ranging from mildly to overtly. Here's my original post, and you can scroll down and read Justin's response. His response is familiar in that it's a pretty typical fanboy reaction: greet the author with condescension, then show off your specialized interest in a topic. Given that he doesn't have much of a Blogger profile or any blogs, I suspect he only started an account to comment on my blog. I specifically block anonymous posts because I believe anonymity is an open invitation to jackassery.

This belief is borne out by the next comment, that of someone calling himself malukucollection. He has a blog with exactly one post: I suspect he lost interest immediately. The templated layout is in Dutch, you'll note, so for some reason he still has a vested interest in these islands, and apparently I'd touched a nerve. (He deleted his response but I got an e-mail alert when it came in.)

malukucollection has left a new comment on your post "Republik Maluku Selatan":
Christian go back school asshole 

My contact with these individuals began and ended with those posts. I didn't respond to them: there's no point. I don't believe in responding to hostility (in contrast with every celebrity on Twitter). But they introduced themselves to me and, in as many words as they chose to employ, gave me as much as I needed to know about them. Justin's a little snotty and kind of a know-it-all. Malukucollection's grasp of English is better than my grasp of Dutch, but he still comes off as an asshole. And that is all I know about them.

Incidents like this make me keenly self-conscious when I comment on other people's posts, respond to their tweets, write up customer responses, etc. Someone generally does read these things and they react to what I write. Only a few times have I been embarrassed to have one of my rants responded to with a thoughtful and much more diplomatic approach than I'd used, by a manager or an owner or a writer. I didn't like being called out only because I didn't like having represented myself poorly, so now I try to avoid that.

Obviously, not everyone shares this philosophy.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Free Bike Headlights on the Greenway

Oh, look at this, you stupid hipsters: free bike headlights! This Thursday at Greenway/Hiawatha!

I know you think you're very cool because you're not good at following instructions, and you're not very strong on reading signs or pictures, but how can this be any easier? Free is right within your budget (after blowing way too much money on your illegal fixie and that trendy waterproof backpack all your art school/cappuccino buddies have).

Getting hit by a car will ruin your bike, hipster.
It's on the Greenway, where you've definitely been posing, so it's not like you don't know where this is. Yes, I know, cops are involved, and you're all such badasses for going against red lights and not using hand signals; yes, everyone admires you for your learning disorder. But it's in your best interest to not get hit by a car, do you agree? Surely you must agree that you would like to not get hit by a car. One good way to do that is to install a light on the front of your bike. Yes, I know, it's the law and you prefer breaking laws without understanding them, but think of it as a safety measure, instead.

You don't even have to install it! They will do all the work for you. All you have to do is bike your ugly butt down the very same bike path you use anyway, ask for a free thing that will save your life, and they will install it for you. If you insist on being so dumb-stupid that you can't do all the things that you would do anyway, hipsters, you truly are unfit to live. In any other society, you would have been eaten by wolves a long time ago, but our nanny-state insists on making laws to protect you from yourself.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Back in the Bike Saddle Again

I deleted my traffic-blog, Small Laws, but that doesn't mean traffic stops happening. I was attracting a lot of negative attention from people who'd bitch about my work there—not directly to me, mind. No comments on my blog, but they'd link to my posts from other message boards and it was no feat to find them and see what people were saying.

The "Minneapolitans are terrible drivers" posts were criticized on the "Minneapolis is awesome" blogs.

The "cyclists have a portion of responsibility in traffic safety" were decried on the "cyclists can do no wrong" blogs.

Nobody brought the discussion to me, because Minnesotans don't do that. If they don't like what you're doing, they talk behind your back. If they like what you're doing, they announce it around you: not to your face and ostensibly to one of their friends, just as you're passing by. Once, a guy on a stage with a microphone at a trivia contest told me to fuck off because I called him out on a bad trivia question. After the show he approached my table, turned his back to me, and apologized to all of my friends in case he offended them: "No hard feelings? We'd really like to see you guys come back again." I'm forming a theory that anyone who looks you in the eye is from Chicago or Madison.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sic Semper Bastardes

Image framed and captured perfectly, easily,
with the Canon PowerShot Elph 110HS

Here lies not the mightiest of cameras, nor the most useful, nor the most helpful.

Here lies a camera so confounded, so hardwired for pure cussedness, that none shall mourn its passing save my enemies.

Behold it, ye, frozen in this perpetually obnoxious state: never willing to fully turn on, yet never able to fully retract.

It could take good pictures, if you had a tripod and five minutes, between the hours of 8 AM and 4 PM on a cloudless, sunny day. As a point-and-shoot it was a barely sufficient paperweight. It was known for missing crucial shots, for being unable to focus in macro mode, and for secretly slipping into macro mode.

After a short life of avoiding work, it lays down to rest now, never to arise.

Damned be you, Samsung PL210. Damned be your soul to hell.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Homebrew: Bourbon Dubbel - 04

Today was the second stage in my beer-making, and I was pretty excited about it! I even scrubbed down the bottle-capper.

I was very diligent in cleaning up all my gear. The plastic bucket would not hold enough water to wash and sterilize everything (there's a quarter-sized hole where the spigot goes) but I found a clever way around this: I stored it inside the large pot I boil my wort in. In this way I filled up three gallons of water and (after scrubbing down with soap and rinsing) let all my equipment soak in OneStep to really clean it before soaking it all in StarSan to sanitize it. I think this is the best prep job I've ever done.

Unfortunately, all the joy ended there. Racking from the carboy into the mixing bucket was unfavorable since I discovered, belatedly, my carboy cap is for a five-gallon model and I'm making one gallon. The cap for this jug is considerably smaller and my carboy cap was inapplicable. I racked it with simple tubing but sucked up a substantial amount of yeast from the bottom, despite my best efforts, and the beer that went into the bucket is cloudy as hell.

I tested the specific gravity of the beer: two weeks ago it was 1030 and today it was 1012. One of my colleagues suggested this puts it at around 2.3% ABV, which is depressing since it should've been 7%. I tasted it and it tasted like watery lager, not a hint of bourbon or oak in it. Regardless, I mixed in the maple syrup and bottled it into five bombers. In two weeks we'll see how bad of a disaster it is.

There aren't any pictures because my crappy-assed Samsung camera is broken and inoperable.

Next time I make a batch, I will let it sit in the primary fermenter for the full two weeks, rack it into a secondary container for eleven days and then place it in the fridge for three days. I'm told this will help the yeast settle and clarify the beer. I'm thinking about getting one of those attachments that go on the bottom of the racking wand, that guard it from touching bottom by an inch or two. Though what I saw tonight would contradict its efficacy: even one inch off the surface of the yeast, a tiny pale waterspout of yeast would rise up and stream into the hose, no matter how I moved it around. Perhaps there's no getting around that.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Homebrew: Bourbon Dubbel - 03

We're going places! I have added the quarter-pound of Bavarian candi sugar, the bourbon-soaked oak chips, and the 1/3-cup of bourbon. Luckily, there is still enough bourbon for me to drink.

Toki hasn't been in the kitchen for a long time, which is kinda crazy since right now the kitchen smells awesome. The bourbon, the oak, and the four grains that went into the malt all combine to make something really delicious. And I would be tempted to sample it right now except I have very good self-control and long-distance imaging, or whatever they call it. Delayed gratification. I know that the beer I'm going to make is going to be better than the freakin' awesome brew sitting on the stove right behind me right now, so I'm not going to ladle a sample into a little IKEA tumbler, let it cool, and... no, I won't even think about it.

I'm just going to have some bourbon. That's good enough for now. And maybe I'll walk up to Sebastian Joe's for some ice cream, if there's some stage in this process that will let me step out for a few minutes. But I'm terrible at reading ahead (see also sparging) and it might be important for me to always be around at all times until it's sitting in the carboy, in my closet.

It's interesting because the Brooklyn BrewShop's instructions don't mention a wort chiller at all: they actually suggest filling up your sink with "five inches of water and ice cubes." Isn't that quaint! Seriously, this is totally written by two people living in a little apartment! An apartment a lot like mine, I imagine, a little... I think this is a kitchenette and not a galley kitchen, but what do I know? It's a small kitchen, I think mine is like that of the authors', and I've totally got a sink full of cold water and ice cubes waiting for the hopped malt, sugar, and drunken oak chips. I would've done this in the bathtub, since I did it before and it worked out most handily, but I'll take these authors at face value and follow their disarmingly specific instructions. I mean, they've published a book and I haven't. I'm going to take the authorities' lead, and I don't think the philosophers will fault me for this.

Ugh! It's supposed to chill for 30 minutes, and this would totally be a great moment to run out for ice cream, but I just read ahead (contrary to my nature) and apparently there's some equipment I should be cleaning and sterilizing right now. Excuse me, I have to go wash a carboy, a funnel, some tubing, and evidently my own hands for the next step.

I was about to say, Boy, this beer better be worth it, but I totally know it will be.

Crap, the ice cubes have already melted! We're not even ten minutes into this! I can't make new ice cubes in so short a time! Guess I have to deviate from the printed word and do this bidness in my 'tub.

I prefer StarSan as a biodegradable, environmentally friendly sanitizer that does the job so well, even the pros recommend it. OneStep is great for cleansing, but you must remember that's what it's for, and cleansing is not the same as sanitizing. And as it turns out, I have sanitized a bunch of equipment I don't need right yet. In fact, I have transferred everything from the 5 gal. carboy into a 1 gal. carboy, which was a tedious and stupid process, but I'm not making that much beer so it was necessary to do. Especially since the book has specified a complicated process in which I allow the pitched wort to "off-gas" for three days, a stoppered tube running into a bowl of sanitizing fluid (why?) before swapping it out for the conventional airlock. I guess I'll go along with it, but I really wish the stupid book would explain why this was necessary.

On the other hand, I'm one step closer to my ice cream.

Homebrew: Bourbon Dubbel - 02

Have to maintain the temperature for an hour, keeping it between 144-152°. I went over a little bit but I left the lid off and cut the heat, so I hope it doesn't damage anything.

I'm going to say that a lot! I just get very insecure during this process. I want everything to go right, and beer can be pretty forgiving at some stages (like boiling the wort) and not at others (everything else). I'm not very skilled and I'm confronted with that all the time: while I was tediously adding and deducting hundredths of pounds on digital scales, cautiously searching all the bins for the various malts I needed, some old guy came in with a mixed expression of determination and tired intolerance. I was dinking around with fractions and he just strode right up, got a large plastic bin, threw pounds and pounds of various malts into a few bags, and strode out again. He's an expert, he's been doing this often enough that he knows what he needs, what can be overlooked, and where his margins of error are. Not so with me: I've got to study and stare and scrutinize to make sure every last tidbit is followed, and somewhere along the way I can hope to intuit the process, to internalize the formulas so that I have a relationship with the chemical process rather than following it blindly and methodically like an aspirant to a dead religion.

See, even now, I should be boiling the wort back up to 170° with a companion gallon of water as well, but I forgot about the galon and it's heating up now while I've cut the heat on the steeping malts. I'm so terrible. I believe in drinking my failures, sure, but it's not as good as drinking a success, and I'll leave the astute reader to guess at which I'm aiming.

Anyway, another step down and another step screwed up! I was supposed to sparge the grains over a large pot, which I found after ten minutes of searching, and then dump a boiling gallon of water through the malt grains. Instead, I got rid of the grains and had to salvage them (or as many as practical/hygenic) to dump the water through them. Do I have enough malted water left over? Good lord, am I making my own malt? That would make sense! Wow, this is the missing step in homebrewing that I was dreading: when the grid goes down, sure, I could grow my own hops and maybe find malt and barley, but how would I make the malt syrup? Apparently I'm doing it right now! That just now occurred to me!

Time for more bourbon.

Anyway, the malted liquid is boiling nicely and it's time to add some of the hops (this 1/5-reduced recipe is increasingly annoying: I have to waste many ingredients because I have more than is called for, in a one-gallon batch, but that's how we learn). And in the above left photo, please note my curious little kitty, Toki. He likes the smell of malt, apparently, though he won't actually eat a sample of the boiled grains.

Homebrew: Bourbon Dubbel - 01

Courtesy of the excellent Brooklyn BrewShop's Beer Making Book, I'm following a recipe to create what's called a "bourbon dubbel." The recipe they describe is mellower than regular bourbon-based beers, but I won't hold that against it. It might even be an advanced experiment and I might be underqualified, but in many ways I've let go of my ego and am willing, even eager, to make mistakes, thereby to learn.

What I like about homebrewing is what I like about stationery, absinthe, or smoking pipes: the ritual. I take it very seriously, perhaps to a degree others would find ridiculous. To prepare the kitchen I chased the cats out, put away the dishes, washed the counters and scrubbed the floor (my wife doesn't mind this at all).

The first thing to do was to soak some dark oak chips in bourbon overnight. Easily enough done: I'd recently picked up a lovely bottle of Woodford Reserve, so I let the French oak chips drink that up all night long. Apparently it doesn't matter whether you use chips, cubes, or spiral discs: these are all for wine but can be used for beer, and it's not a question of mass or surface area. I went with the chips anyway.

I picked up all the malts at Northern Brewer yesterday, but I was so excited to be gathering my own ingredients that I totally forgot to get the grains crushed there in the store. I've crushed my own grains before: I use a wooden mallet that I roll back and forth, with considerable force, over a plastic bag filled with small portions of the grains. Is it sufficient? I hope so, but when I poured it all into the stock pot of 160° water, some and maybe a lot of them looked perfectly intact. Just like with my last project, I hope this isn't as bad as I dread, and I hope it doesn't ruin the batch.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hennepin and 5th St is a Treacherous Gamble

Location: Hennepin Ave & S 5th St, Minneapolis, MN 55402, USA
There's a terrible tendency in Downtown West, and I don't mean the 60% rise in violent crime.

Driving northbound on Hennepin Avenue, traffic comes up to 5th St, along which runs the LRT. Traffic stops and waits for the LRT to pass, then it sits there: three lanes of traffic, one turning left and two going straight. There's a dedicated left-turn light for the left-turn lane, but it doesn't always trigger. While inconvenient, it doesn't mean the turn lane can create hazardous situations, though the people in it think it does.

It's quite common to see a car pull into the intersection as soon as the light turns green. They're trying to beat the three lanes of oncoming (southbound) traffic, of course, and sometimes they get away with it. Sometimes, however, they're held up by pedestrians in the intersection, people just crossing the street or leaving/going to the LRT. That means they're also held up in three lanes of traffic, but sometimes they just push through.

This girl nearly drove into a crowd of pedestrians, and if I hadn't leaped back she would've driven into me. She had no interest in waiting for people to get out of the way—she simply plowed through and expected everyone to defend themselves. Her expression was one of confusion, as though she couldn't understand why society didn't simply allow her to race through an intersection, pull out in front of three lanes of oncoming traffic, and have all the pedestrians clear out of the way for her. Where was the sympathy? Where was the community? What about her needs?

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pinterest 5: the Clone Invasion

Predictably, the Pinterest clones have begun emerging:
  • Clipix, the life-organizer with a private option
  • Fa Xian, China's version built by Alibaba
  • Dart It Up, the male-oriented alternative
  • Snatchly, for sharing favorite porn images
You can tell you have a good idea when other, lesser "entrepreneurs" spend all their creative effort on imitating you.

Myself, I started early with Pinterest but left after a few weeks when a certain legal issue arose with their Terms of Service, namely: 1) Pinterest willfully assumes images you link to are your property, 2) Pinterest gives itself the right to sell your images without your acknowledgment, and 3) if the original artist/photographer presses a lawsuit, Pinterest holds itself blameless and forwards all the trouble directly to you. Despite this, and even confronted with this, people cling to ignorance-as-defense: "I thought it was like a bulletin board or a bookmarks list. I don't see anything wrong with that."

[UPDATE: April 1, 2012 - Pinterest intends to revise its Terms of Service, in effect: 1) only discouraging blatant self-promotion, with a function to report copyright violation, and 2) removing its clause about selling images users post. These changes will go into effect April 6, 2012. The inadvertent comedy behind this is that Pinterest insists it's trying to disable exploitation of its service as free advertising, while mainstream media is full of how-to articles for individuals, organizations (Army, White House), and corporations to use Pinterest for exactly this end.]

Dart It Up: toys, cars, sports, and misogyny.
Clipix sounds like what I was using Pinterest for, anyway: a folder for stuff I wanted to keep track of. I started following people who had links to really interesting jackets and clothes, so one folder was like a shopping list for that time in the future when I'll have discretionary funds. I will miss it for that: someone had access to these amazing Asian distributors I never would've heard of on my own.

The only difference between Dart It Up and Snatchly is that the former will also include sports, cars, gadgets, and firearms (or the latter lacks those). Snatchly will feature out-and-out nudity, while Dart It Up posts only show bikinis and... I don't get why anyone finds the Olson Twins attractive, when every picture makes them look like they were dug out of rubble after a week of rescue attempts. Maybe these guys get off on tragedy. Each of these services, ultimately, will succeed by reinforcing negative male stereotypes, a trend men don't fight very hard against. The lesson here: cynicism is profitable.

Dart It Up's mission statement is that it is a reaction to Pinterest's trending: manly-men didn't feel secure about posting their interests (man-cave accouterments, soft-core porn, &c.) in a gallery of women's interests: dresses, fingernail designs, hairstyles, dresses, shoes, make-up, accessories, and more dresses. Which is strange, because you can make your posts private or share them with friends. Why would someone be ashamed to post their interests unless they acknowledge they are shameful? What Dart It Up provides, then, is permission to be an asshole, just as Pinterest reinforces women being materialistic, shallow girly-girls: in fact, they're starting to address their problem with the pro-anorexia/bulimia movement known, among other facades, as "Thinspiration."

So clearly Pinterest answered a need. I don't think it created a need, I think it presented an elegant solution to something people wanted to do, something that had been touched on by other social media. People want to group these things and they want to show off their prizes. Is that a hunting instinct? A sense of accomplishment, in a surplus society where priorities have shifted from things you do to things you own?

Friday, March 30, 2012

"Flash Mob" Assaults on Cyclists in Minneapolis

In February and March there have been six incidents of a group of "young men" who emerge in force to attack Minneapolitans on bicycles. Police have noted these assaults do not seem to be motivated by theft: they are simply attacking cyclists for the sake of violence.

Cyclists: be on alert for any large group of "young men" emerging from a bus shelter along Nicollet Mall. These attacks have occurred as early as 8 PM, and at least one developed right in front of police.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Researching HSAs: an Outsider's Tale

My task today is to research HSAs. I know nothing about these so I'm going to track my learnin' here.

A health savings account is a tax-advantaged medical savings account available to taxpayers in the U.S. who are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). The funds contributed to an account are not subjected to federal income tax at the time of deposit. Unlike a flexible spending account (FSA), funds roll over and accumulate year to year if not spent.
It seems Minnesota HSA law differed from federal standards prior to January 1, 2007, so our current form of HSA is a relatively new governance. Tax-advantaged means accounts and investments that are tax-deferred, -reduced, or -free. All of this is clear enough, I think. What are my options as a U.S. citizen living in Minnesota?

IRS Publication 969 [PDF]: Health Savings Accounts and Other Tax-Favored Health Plans (Table of Contents [HTML]) - This is the authoritative document intended to help for tax purposes, but it doesn't tell me where I could participate in or qualify for an HSA.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

All Good Minneapolitans, Hie

Being unemployed, I have a lot of time on my hands. More than I know what to do with: I know with great confidence, once I do get a job I'm going to have all sorts of busywork for myself in my free time, and I will curse my past-self bitterly for squandering the riches of my free time so brazenly. I've done it before and I'm sure I'll do it again.

Hennepin History Museum,
Minneapolis, MN
On this clear and relatively warm day (it was 31° F when I went for a walk), I decided to take in a museum. It turned out to be two, but that wasn't my fault, unless "failing to check museum times" counts as my fault. I'd intended to hit the Hennepin History Museum, but I arrived half an hour before they started business, so I simply tripped kitty-corner over to the MIA. I like the MIA, it's a tremendous mansion stuffed full of the treasures of the world, the treasures of the past. It's astonishing, and it's free, and it was open so I wandered around through the Asian exhibits. I'd seen them before but how can you look at an ancient funerary statuette collection and be done with it?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Function at War with Fashion

I remember that I wanted to write about this some time ago. It just struck me as odd.

Do you see what's wrong here? Or is it just me?

Because from my perspective, this young woman is carrying two purses and a load of books or maybe a laptop in her arm. And by my way of thinking, this is highly inefficient.

And it's not without precedent. I've seen women who keep all sorts of things in their purses--indeed, they buy intricate purse-systems with all sorts of pockets and webbing inside them, they go by misnomers like The Organizer--and all these things preclude finding anything in their purses. I asked one woman of my acquaintance for a simple object, let's say a pen. She said she had several, then set down the small dirigible she called her purse and commenced to digging through it. She went looking through it for longer than I could hold my breath (and I once held my breath for two minutes, while slumped to my desk in boredom), digging through artifacts and sections of trash that were awaiting proper receptacles as well as several to-do mounds, but eventually whipped it out with a strange "a-ha, told you so" look on her face, proud of her "system."

The woman in this image has extended that. She has one small, cute handbag, plus a large "staying at the cabin this weekend" carry-on, and then an arm full of the stuff she actually needs. Her shirt has no pockets, she doesn't seem to be carrying anything in her jeans pockets, but she has an armload of necessary equipment and two bags slung over her shoulder (whisper a prayer for her lumbar vertebrae).

Now me, being a stupid guy who knows nothing of fashion and looking good, my solution would be to put all of that in a nice Swiss Gear backpack. Everything in the handbag could go in the first two pockets, neatly organized; everything in the carry-on could fit in the main body pocket; and the notebooks/laptop would store in the laptop pocket. The backpack itself has weight-redistributing straps to balance and move the weight forward, easing the strain of carrying that much crap around. Her arms would be free to open doors, manipulate perfume samplers, or text with her friends, and there's less baggage to forget if she ever sets anything down, like getting a double soy half-caf turtlechino.

Yet when I've explained this to my friends of the feminine persuasion, they smile at me pityingly and shake their heads, amused at yet another man who "just doesn't get it." And on rages the conflict, without resolution or compromise or even understanding.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Origin Stories: Hawkeye (not M*A*S*H)

So I saw this...

...which was followed up by this...

...and prompted me to construct this.

"Hey kid, would you like to learn to be an expert archer?"
"What other kinds of archers are there?"
"Intermediate, Beginner, and Poor."
"I think intermediate archer sounds more my speed."
"What? Why not shoot for the moon?"
"Can expert archers shoot the moon?"
"The moon is choked with all the arrows experts shoot into it. It hardly means anything anymore."
"Can I... shoot the breeze?"
"Right in the center."
"Where is the center of the breeze?"
"Midway through its heart, just above its thorax."
"When people say 'sure as shootin',' will they be talking about me?"
"There, you're confused. The expression is 'sure as shitting.'"
"That makes more sense."
"Because everybody shits, right?"
"Almost everybody. You've got Jake the Non-Shitting Primate With No Asshole on your staff."
"He's only an intermediate archer, speaking of. Do you want to be like him?"
"Oh, hell no. Sign me up for expert. I'm all about shitting and shooting and... shutting. Like, doors."
"Mostly we've got tents with flaps. I don't know if they're ever technically 'shut'."
"Well, when I bring my skills to the city, I know they'll have doors there."
"You've got vision, kid."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Writing Sample, late 2005

Found some old writing in an old journal. I don't know what I was going to do with this.

The Company's entire facility is on fire.

The Company should have the fire extinguished, to include burning employees.

Management acknowledges instances of perceived combustion but does not believe these are of material impact. Examinations for conflagration are conducted annually. Finally, Management is not stupid and believes it would notice if its facility (and employees) were on fire.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Evil is Numerically Superior to Good

I look at a beautiful picture like this (Phoenix Old Town, Zhangjiajie, China) and I think, I'd love to go there and share in that wonder.

That makes me one of five kinds of people; my reaction, one of five possible, upon seeing that image.

  1. I want to go there and experience that.
  2. I want the nicest apartment possible there.
  3. I want to possess all of that.
  4. I have no desire to go there.
  5. I want them destroyed.