Friday, April 30, 2010

Too Young To Buy Beer, Too Old To Care

So last weekend I was at the grocery store picking up the usual assortment of things I'm supposed to eat.  Lean turkey, lowfat cheese, high-fiber low-carb pita bread, fresh spinach, fresh broccoli, hummus, shredded wheat, etc.  I happened by the beer section and saw that a local brewer put out a summer ale that sounded mighty sexy.  On a whim I picked it up and took it to the register.  The checker was, naturally, underage, and so a supervisor had to come and look at my license for proof of age.  She asked if she could take my wallet (um, no, you can't take my wallet), and eventually settled for taking my license.  Then she came back and informed me that people with non-New York driver's licenses can't buy beer and if I didn't have another proof of my age I couldn't buy it.
Now, listen, people.  I'm approaching a Significant Age that reduces some women to tears in the middle of the night.  I myself have felt middle-aged since elementary school, so I can't say that it matters much to me, although I will say that being single at this age is pretty freighted.  One of the few compensations for having the 17-year-old supermarket checker look at you as though you're geriatric is the opportunity to buy beer without being audited in this fashion.  Fortunately, one of the other compensations is that there is absolutely no desperation about having beer.  I'm fairly sure that if I go to the brewery in question I'll be able to purchase said beer even though my driver's license is from Arizona.  I certainly don't need beer.  Indeed, it was sort of wrecking my healthy food streak, anyway.
But I have one question for that supermarket.  If I were underage, would I really be buying my beer to chug alongside high-fiber, low-carb pita bread?  Are they huffing pitas now?  Seriously, is this some new youth crisis I should know about?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Running up that hill....

That is an awesome song by Kate Bush, from back in the day. The song was also featured in The Chocolate War, which was an awesome book. But that's not the point.

As you might imagine, I was running up a hill today. I was on my usual 7 mile hilly route, and decided to double back on the hilliest part instead of doing a loop so I'd get in more hills. Not sure why. I was climbing up the last hill, and looking up at the top, and feeling tired. I've been tired running lately. It's better now that I'm on taper (I love taper this time) but still not feeling super strong running. But there I am, jogging up the hill, and looking at the top, and feeling tired and crabby. I was wishing that the hard part was over already, or that magically someone would give me a ride to the top, and I had this thought "what would I pay to be up there, at the top, instead of down here looking at it." And then it hit me. I wouldn't give a thing. I was running up this hill because I wanted to, and when I reached the top it would be because I had run up it and beaten it, and I wouldn't want anything to take that away. So I picked up the pace and ran up the hill. And when I reached the top, I was tired and out of breath, but I was still running and I was glad for it. Sometimes I think that describes some parts of life. Just some of them. Lots of other times in life I'd say "f#$k this hill, just get me home" but there are times when you choose to run it and it's worth it.

This ends my pseudo-profound running metaphor. More even cooler posts about computer games to follow, never fear.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Master of Orion 1 and 2 ... The Revenge!

A while back I posted about Master of Orion, an incredibly fun 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) space strategy game from the days of yore that I've been playing since I was in diapers (computer-wise, anyway). Well, just today, (Good Old Games) got Master of Orion 1 AND 2 posted for $5.99. What GOG does, very well, is take the games, remove all DRM (manual checks, disk checks, etc), bundle them with a pre-configured version of DOSBOX (see prior posts about that one), and then distributes them as Windows apps. So you get, in effect, a fully functioning old game that runs fine on a modern system without troubling ancient copy protection cropping up and without having to do a lot of fancy fiddling with DOSBOX to make it run. It's sweet! And now MOO1 AND 2 are available. I've been able to get MOO1 to run in Linux (DOSBOX has a Linux version) and assume you could for 2 as well. MOO2 is, by the way, almost as fun as MOO1. So if you've got an old school gamer bone in your body, you've got to check this out!

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Mike Birbiglia was hilarious. We laughed. We cried. We were shocked. We laughed some more. I had the honor of speaking briefly to Flora Hogman, who told the evening's most affecting story, about her mother's final act on her way to Auschwitz, entrusting her daughter to the care of a convent, and Flora's journey to recover her name, her past, and her sense of belonging.

I also had the opportunity to accost Mike Birbiglia during the intermission, but I elected instead to let him proceed to the bathroom. I expect my fangirl medal in the mail any day now.

The evening was all I hoped and more, and if I manage to find a gas station before I run out of fumes on my way home, my life will truly be worth living.

Moth at the Player's Club

After a real roller-coaster of a day (all work-related and all thoroughly boring to humans with lives) I actually managed to leave work early enough too catch the train and get to the Player's Club. I'd never been before, and it's amazing. The place is stuffed with portraits--I waited in line for my tickets next to Edward Albee and Katharine Hepburn--and it's not at all the setting I imagined. It's all red velvet and gilt and dark wood.

Mike Birbiglia is hosting the evening of storytelling, and the theme ("Hoodwinked") is immensely promising. More from the train if I'm awake enough.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

As Always, I Bow to JP

And this is why I don't blog about television.  As always, the great JP has said it better.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Unreliable Narrator

Mad props to How I Met Your Mother for giving the unreliable narrator entire episode? Tonight's episode basically called attention to the fact that Ted is telling this story to his kids and for all we know he could be lying essentially all the time. Not content with just pointing that out, they spent the entire episode examining lies in storytelling (Barney: "People want the lie") and driving the point home by wrapping Marshall's lies in Barney's lies and tying them all up with the usual framing device of Ted telling his kids about it in a story with an extremely suspect ending. I'm not sure it worked as well as they thought it would, but How I Met Your Mother is the home of the unreliable narrator ("Uncle Marshall and I were eating a sandwich") and it was ambitious to spend the entire episode on it. (New Metanarrative, now with 30% more monkeys!) It was a little like those pictures you had as a kid where the kid is holding a book with a picture of a kid holding a book with a picture of a kid holding a book....

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Serious Question

I know we have more serious priorities. I know this isn't a potential Nobel prize. But can someone please invent a pair of glasses that don't rip the hair out of my head at random intervals throughout the day? At this rate I'll have a dramatically receding hairline in a matter of weeks.

Again, leading scientists of the world, I can appreciate that you are very busy curing cancer and making bridges that don't fall down, and I don't want you to think I'm not grateful. I just think that if you took five minutes to take a look at these hinges, a lot fewer of us would be bald.

Excuse me while I go put in my contact lenses. I probably shouldn't wear them on weekends, but my temples hurt.

Mobile Blogging

A lot of my favorite bloggers routinely post from their mobile phones. What with every phone on earth being a camera, and with so many of them requiring an unlimited data plan, it seemed like a perfectly natural development.

Then I got my smartphone, and it just wasn't. Natural, that is. That's because I'm not really a text-savvy person. On my old Nokia phone, I had gotten reasonably proficient, but that was mostly because I had it for five years. If you do anything for five years, you can get better at it, so even though in the end I still wasn't very good with it, I was good enough that I didn't actively seem retarded.

When I got the Eris, I knew the on-screen keyboard was a challenge for many users, but having had the pleasure of a Blackberry, I also knew that a physical keyboard didn't add any noticeable speed for me, so I figured I'd go ahead and risk it.

I got pretty good with the native keyboard, but I knew I was never going to be good enough to e-mail or blog from my phone. Since the phone (or, technically, the phone's data plan) is more expensive than my old one, I really wanted to get more out of it.

I finally heeded advice ubiquitous in Android forums and downloaded Swype this morning. And now not only can I blog from my phone, I can blog the word ubiquitous!

I sincerely doubt there's anyone left who doesn't know how awesome Swype is. It's an application that replaces the native keyboard with one where you drag your finger from one key to the next. It's quickly learned and astonishingly accurate. I literally just started using it, and this entry has taken me just moments longer than it would have on a full-size keyboard.

Magic, I tell you! Here's hoping developers keep coming out with apps that make me seem like less of an old fogey.

Friday, April 09, 2010

And Then There Were Three

At the beginning of the week, I was a member of a team of seven employees.  Like the Magnificent Seven.  Now we're a team of three.  We lost some really great employees and good friends in a sweeping series of layoffs.  My manager, a good man who doesn't take this sort of thing lightly, is heartbroken, and now has to give his three remaining employees their performance reviews--up until Wednesday he would have said that writing performance reviews was the thing he hated most about his job.  We are swimming in work, drowning in unfamiliar and urgent issues that need to be solved.  A friend and colleague whose job was saved had to take over a project where virtually all the key players (all friends) were laid off on Wednesday.  They told him this Wednesday at noon.  The project went live today (yeah, two days later, because he's a rock star).  We don't know whether to be glad or resentful that he pulled it off.  We keep going because we have our own bills to pay, and because we don't want to let down the people who are left, but it seems like a betrayal to provide these services and deliver products when the fact is that the services and products are only this good because of people who were unceremoniously given a box and sent packing.  It's an odd position to find yourself in.  You hope you manage to do this new mountain of work, because hey, the people who need help did not ask for this any more than you did, and their needs haven't changed.  But there's a part of you that hopes you fail, just to show the assholes who make these decisions how stupid they are. 
It's shitty, is what I'm saying.  It's not an original sentiment, but it sure is true.

Ah memory

No, literally, memory. I remember, back in the day, when we got our first IBM PC. It's memory size was 128 KB. This was something of an anomaly at the time - many PC's were using 64 KB, and as a kid only interested in games and very rudimentary programming, I couldn't see the point of all that extra space. I would much rather have had a graphics card (yes, at the time "graphics cards" were optional, and very expensive). Later on we went to 256 KB and boy, we were just out of our minds with memory. One thing I do remember is that my dad set up a RAM Disk, meaning that a logical disk that was stored wholly in memory, as opposed to floppy disks or (later) hard disks - we used this for PC Write, our very very advanced word processing program, which then did go insanely fast (by the standards of the day).

So let's put that in normal numbers. Roughly
64KB = 54,000 bytes
128 KB = 128,000 bytes
256 KB = 256,000 bytes

Our next machine made the first machine look like a geriatric patient in the Olympics. It was a PC (clone) AT 10mhz. 10 Mhz was fast enough that it had to have a speed selector so we could tone it down to 6 or 8 if we needed to. And it came with 1 MB of memory. This was, again, an insane amount of memory at the time. It also came with SVGA graphics, (I'll reminisce about those another time). If we wanted any more memory we would have to buy another whole memory board. Not a stick, or even a card, a gigantic board of memory (about the size of a modern graphics card) which would have doubled us to 2 MB. Oh, I should also point out that we had an early hard drive on that PC, which had I believe 40MB of space.

So, in this machine we had:
1MB = 1,000,000 bytes

Many years later I upgraded this machine to a custom built IBM PC- SX2-50, a 50 mhz monster with an onboard math coprocessor that was not integrated. I seem to recall having at first 2MB of memory and then 4 MB. At the time, using anything over 640KB or memory required software extension programs that were a pain in the ass. XMS and EMS were rearing their ugly heads. So to put this in more perspective:

2MB = 2,000,000 bytes
4MB = 4,000,000 bytes

And the operating systems weren't even designed to work with that huge amount of memory.

To tell you the truth, the systems kind of lump together in my own memory after that point. I think because I was out of the age of buying a new computer every 5 years (and as a result getting to know that computer, and its limitations, very very well) and into the age of buying, or, more often, upgrading my machine every few years. I know that Windows 95 required, optimally, at least 8 MB of memory (8,000,000 bytes) and that Windows 98 preferred 24 MB (24,000,000 bytes), and Windows XP prefers at least 128 MB (128,000,000 bytes0. I remember running between 256 and 512 MB for a while. Then when I went to XP we must have jumped up to 1MB. So we had things like:

512 MB = 512,000,000 bytes.
1GB = 1,000,000,000 bytes

So currently all the systems that I've built have 4GB of memory (I think LB2TR may have more, but I can't recall and I'm still in FL so can't look it up). As previously posted, my M-in-Law's pc was darn near unusable with 512MB. So let's put this all together a bit:

64,000 bytes
128,000 bytes (first PC)
256,000 bytes
1,000,000 bytes
(40,000,000 bytes = first hard drive)
2,000,000 bytes
4,000,000 bytes
512,000,000 bytes
1,000,000,000 bytes (M-in-law's new configuration)
4,000,000,000 bytes (current systems; limit for 32 bit OS)

One of the things 64 bit OS's such as Windows Vista and 7, and 64 bit Linux, are able to do is access memory over the 4MB limit, so people can build machines that use, for example, 16GB of RAM (16,000,000,000 bytes). Now I'm not even going into the onboard video memory for modern graphics cards (which can have a few GB of memory all to themselves).

So why go through all this crap (or, as you're asking yourself now, "Why am I reading this?!"). I suppose because this is as good a way as any to consider how truly exponential the growth of computing capability has been in the past 3 decades (Note to imagined critical readers: I say that because I've only been involved in it for that long, I know it's been going on longer than that). Our first, very expensive, and at the time HUGE, hard drive could hold less than 8% of the 512 MB of RAM that I was spitting on when I saw my M-in-law's system. And the price? Well let's just say the 1GB (1,000,000,000 bytes) of memory I bought for my M-in-law cost less than half what it would have cost to add that extra MB (1,000,000 bytes) or memory to our old 12 Mhz system.

And the final point of all of this: it's no wonder that I get my M's and G's mixed up in blog posts! *wink*.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Gas prices in the UK

In case any of our American imaginary readers were feeling hard done by when they gassed up their car this week, be of good cheer, for you are not in Britain.  If my calculations are right, gas is averaging about $7 a gallon there.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

From one of my siblings

This link is hysterical. We happy few!

A bit of bread, a cup of wine, a stick of memory .... and thou

No, the post does not involve bread, wine, or thou. You probably guessed that. I'm staying at my mother-in-laws house this week, which is not bad (I have a cool mother-in-law) and as a result am using her computer. Ah, I do miss LB2TR! All the more because this box, which we shall call The Box That Time Forgot (TBTTF) is an 8 year old work horse with, no kidding 512MB memory. Note to non-computer folks: Windows XP requires I believe 256 MB memory and that is if you want it to do no more than turn on (very, very slowly). If you want to, say, run a program you need at least 512MB. She has that. But when I say "at least" I do mean at least. It took no kidding 7 minutes to boot the machine up, and it would take a minute or sometimes several to load any program. It is oft said, quite truly, that if all you want to do is browse the web, email, and edit documents you don't need a high end machine. It is oft said by me. But you do need a machine with enough memory to recall your name in the morning. This particular case was even better because the mobo has an integrated graphics chip which uses system memory for graphics, meaning that her available memory was about 342MB. As I understand it, when Windows hits this situation, all it can do is start writing a bunch of stuff to the hard disk ("virtual memory") that it has to keep track of so it has room to think with its actual "physical" memory. Problem being that virtual memory is slow, especially on what I assume must be an IDE 5200 RPM hard drive. Hence the glacial speed of, oh, everything she was running. (even Facebook was painfully, dreadfully slow).

So, being the nice son-in-law that I be, I ran out to Best Buy, bought a ridiculously overpriced stick of 1GB memory, and popped it in. The difference is truly startling. TBTTF won't win any contests, ever, but it will boot and run and she (and I) can even do things online without going crazy during the wait. The nice thing is, if we hadn't done this, she probably would have thought she had to buy a whole new machine to get faster apps. Now TBTTF is indeed all you need if you want to do browsing, word processing, and email. I feel so useful.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Creditors at BAM

The Brooklyn Academy of Music is my new substitute for going to London.  They bring a lot of British theater offerings to Brooklyn, and a ticket on the LIE is a lot cheaper than a plane ticket.  Not to mention that I haven't been able to afford and/or procure tickets to a lot of the productions at the Old Vic the last few times I've been in London (some things where I was willing to pay the ticket price were sold out, and some things were just too much for me).  The Donmar Warehouse is one of my favorite London theaters.  They do great stuff, and the theater is an incredible space.  The BAM is importing a recent Donmar Warehouse production under the direction of Alan Rickman, so I bought my ticket first and asked questions later.
Admittedly, after I bought it I noticed some adjectives that give me pause, although given the Donmar's personality I'm not exactly surprised.  Adjectives like "Swedish," "dark," and "fiercely modern."  But my enthusiasm is undaunted.  I have Googled and Wikipediad, and apparently August Strindberg, the playwright, is someone I previously should have been aware of, and Creditors is a battle of the sexes, which almost makes me wish I could see it sooner.  What an opportunity!  Sometimes Brooklyn just really rocks.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Now All I Need Is a Fire Extinguisher

I do really like this idea, and I do have Peeps, a gas stove, and a skewer. But since I don't have a fire extinguisher and since at one point I actually set fire to fish, I think I'll pass.

There are lots of wonderful Peeps photos on flickr, including a particularly tasty-looking peeps smore and an ingenious peep joust (it involves chickies, toothpicks, and a microwave). There is also a photo of the peepmobile.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Looking back on the blog, I realized one thing

I wanna live in a castle. As long as I can have it wired for DSL and satellite, and I can get a garage door opener (probably for the drawbridge or something). Oh, and there are no ghosts. Castles probably tend to have ghosts. From all the dead people who died in the castle. And no ancient blood stains or anything. That'd be gross. It goes without saying there would be no ancient curses or anything. And carpet. It'd have to have some carpet. And it would have to be well heated. I'd say it has to be roomy, but hey, it's a freaking castle, so I figure somehow or other it's roomy. A fitness center would be nice, but if it was without, I'm not picky. So provided all that's true, I want a castle. Now all I have to do is discover a hidden talent for writing some of the best selling books of all time, and make sure that they can secure me some sweet movie rights, and I'm set. I'll, errr, get right on that.

And yes, if one is to eat a peep, eat it stale

It just tastes soooooo much better that way. Nuff said.

Thanks KT, for reminding me of this simple factoid of life ;o)

How to tell if your news source is biased

I think this is a simple test. And no, the answer is not "If it says Fox News at the bottom right hand corner of the screen," though that's also a good heuristic. But I'm trying to think of a heuristic that would apply to either side of the political spectrum. Here's how you tell. If you strongly agree or disagree with more than 75% of the commentaries or spin that you see, and find that more than 75% of the stories match your world view or are blatantly against it, it's biased. Because the reality, you see, doesn't match any set world view or political agenda and so if you have an unbiased news source you should be hearing things that confirm your hypotheses and beliefs, and things that do not, all from the same source. Some of it should fill you with that warm glow of "I knew it all along" and some of it should have you thinking "wtf?, why isn't it as I had expected?" If you're watching something and nodding your head all the damn time, with nary a pause for reappraisal, doubt, or reflection, you're not watching anything objective. More likely, you're being spoonfed a bunch of crap by people who think they know what you need or want to think. And that can be entertaining, and it can be comfortable, but it's probably not informative. Thus John Stewart, who I like a whole bunch, may just be biased. But he's not what I'd call a news source, or what I believe he'd call a news source, so that's ok. Fox News, on the other hand? You be the judge.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Touching From a Distance

I posted one video I found on this site and sent two others to friends, and then bookmarked some songs I need to listen to when I'm not supposed to be in bed. I figure I should just link to the blog and say a few words about it on my way to sleep. Um... unreasonably charming... whimsical... musical... analytical... and wonderfully British.


Flying Penguins

This made me giggle, which probably means it's time for bed.

Live, Nude Peeps

When Roger Ebert linked to the Washington Post's Peep diorama, I thought, "Oh, how charming," but when I got there I discovered that the dioramas are serious business. Even Elayne Boosler wouldn't eat these peeps, especially not the nude peep in the runner-up art-class diorama.

Dedicated to Shifter, who likes his Peeps stale, like Elayne.

Video link in the title, gallery link is here.