30 June, 2008

Java

I love my coffee. Love. It.
If I was the Pope and I could make someone a saint, it would be the guy that figured out that we could eat these things:
It was a pretty ballsy move, or just stupid, since generally little red berries are a no-no as far as eating stuff on the trail goes unless you know exactly what they are. It is like eating wild mushrooms, only a more colorful version of culinary roulette.
Legend has it that it was an Arabian shepherd (actually, he herded goats, so what is that, a gotherd?) named Kaldi who figured it out. As the story goes, he was up on the mountain (because it’s always mountain grown, right?) with his goats when he lost track of some of the more rebellious goats and had to go in search of them.
When he found them, they were dancing and frolicking under a strange tree with red berries, not caring at all that he had had to go out of his way to find them. They were goats, after all. But the shepherd boy (gotherd?), instead of scolding them, succumbed to goat pressure (Hey, kid, want some berries?) and ate some of the red berries himself.

Soon he found himself dancing with his goats, probably telling them how much he loved them and wishing he had a cell phone so he could call his ex-girlfriend. Luckily, they didn’t have cell phones until later, because the engineers needed coffee with which to stay up all night designing the circuitry for the little things, so he was spared from any coffee dialing, but he probably nevertheless had a very deep and meaningful conversation with the goats.
It must have been like crystal meth to a system completely unused to chemical stimulation. He probably came down the mountain with red juice stains all over his face twitching like Tweak. But he brought down a sackful of the berries to share with his village (to support his own habit, you know; it was sad, really).
I am not sure when they figured out to dry them, roast them, grind them, and boil them. They probably dried them just out of a matter of habit, and the roasting probably came from the practice of toasting other spices. But one thing I hadn’t known until I was enlightened by Alton Brown was that the caffeine levels dropped with roasting.
I never would have believed that these:



were chemically inferior to these:
(I should have been suspicious because they were French roasted, after all, and you just can’t trust those French roasts)
The darker the roast, the less the caffeine. I had always expected dark roasts, because they have such a bold flavor, to have more caffeine, but it is not so. Espresso roast actually has the least amount of caffeine in it than any other roast, from what I understand. That must be how the Existentialists are able to remain so detached.
So now I try to find the lightest roast I can find, but it is difficult, because it seems consumers all want to have dark roasts. Probably because they remain uninformed. I may have to start roasting my own beans or buying them from a specialty store where they will roast them to my specifications.
That may seem like a behaviour as indicative of addiction as growing my own bud, but it just makes sense. Coffee is sort of a luxury, and so I think the experience should be luxurious. Anyone who doesn’t think it is a luxury should check out the prices in their nearest Starbucks. And Starbuck’s coffee sucks. I think that if it costs a little more or takes a little more time to make gourmet coffee at home so that it can be that much better of an experience, then it is worth it.
I used to balk at buying high quality beans until I looked at how much I paid for even a cup of inferior coffee at the gas station. If I am paying $2 for a large coffee then I am being a cheapskate to worry about paying 12 bucks a pound for some Hawaiian gold. (Kona, that is). Why, it was downright unAmerican for me not to invest in quality beans.
Truly.
Coffee is as American as Apple pie (which is why it is no coincidence that pie and coffee go so well together). During the run-up to the Revolutionary war was when America switched from tea to coffee. (See the smugglers didn’t charge taxes on the coffee.) You could tell who was a Whig or a Loyalist by what they served with cake (this was before the time of Johnny Appleseed,so there was no baseball and Apple Pie).
After we beat the British back we brought back the casual drinking of tea (for the sake of our little girls) but it never regained its pre-Revolutionary popularity. Unless you were a little girl or one of her dolls. The comeback of drinking tea in earnest I think owes itself more to the Eastern culture and the hummingbird bait that passes for tea down south. And also Star Trek.
I have two absolutes when it comes to the culinary arts.
  1. It is never too hot for coffee
  2. It is never too cold for ice cream.
These rules served me well throughout my entire military career, and they serve me well today. But whenever I can mix my rules, life is even sweeter.
My current drug of choice is a simple iced coffee I make by simply pouring a double shot of coffee over two scoops of ice cream and then hitting it with a stick blender.
Why, it’s like listening to music by moonlight.

29 June, 2008

Here, Kitty Kitty

My cat is weird. I know they say that pets take on the personality of their owner, but I think she is far stranger than I am. I love her a lot, and when she is mellow she can be very sweet. But she is not mellow very often.
(Ignore the dates, I didn’t set them before I started snapping photos.  This was taken in May 08)
She is fascinated by water. If there is ever any standing water she is honor bound to splash in it. Even better if she can knock it over completely.
She loves being out in the rain; she will come home soaked and delirious with excitement from playing in all that water.
She will jump in the shower sometimes, but gets mad at me because I like it hotter than rain.  She scared the hell out of me the first time she did that, since I had never had a cat like her.  I was washing my hair and all of a sudden I felt something rubbing against my leg.
No matter what she says, I did NOT scream like a girl.
This was taken shortly before she dumped ice water all over her and the floor.
It was high adventure.
She likes me to be there when she eats; preferably petting her.  I think she was taken from her mother too soon, and so she wants that nurturing.  Sometimes I fear that she won’t eat unless I am around.   When I walk towards her food, she gets very excited and runs to her bowl, assuming that I have signalled that it is feeding time. 
I have weaned her a bit from this.  But she still expects me, if I am near her while she eats, to pet her.  
She is a burrower of the highest order.  She likes nothing more than to have a box or a bag in which she can secret herself from which she can attack the unsuspecting human that walks by. 
I always know she is in a playful mood when I see a purring book bag in the living room.

28 June, 2008

Aerosmith GH

Holy crap the Aerosmith Guitar Hero is incredibly fun to play. Most of the songs I have played so far were by the original artists. Even the cover songs (very few, it seems) are well done. It is the best sounding GH I have ever played so far.
The game follows the same format as a career in the other games, except you are Aerosmith. It follows the band from their first gig at a high school (how would you like to be able to look back to a high school dance and say that you saw Aerosmith’s opening gig?) all the way through the rest of their career with live interview clips interspersed.
All of the Aerosmith songs are original. The opening acts (Joan Jett, the Clash, the Kinks, etc) give a variety for those who are not Aerosmith fanatics. I’m glad because, though I love Aerosmith, if it were only Aerosmith songs then it should just have been a download add-on instead of a new game. Instead of boss battles, in this one you have to beat the opening acts in order to bring out Aerosmith.
I’m having a blast.
This concept has a lot of potential. I hear they are talking about doing the same for other wildly popular bands like Metallica.
Woot! I hope I remember to finish packing.

No locusts here

When it comes right down to it, it is exceedingly hard to eat everything in the pantry and fridge. I almost have my freezer consumed, but my pantry has way too many odds and ends. Time to make some stews, I think; that will kill off my canned goods and some pasta.
I am a bit abashed that in a world struggling with skyrocketing food prices and widespread hunger (if not outright famine) I have spent any time at all considering the difficulty of eating everything I have.

26 June, 2008

Ever dance with the Devil in the pale moonlight?

I sold my soul for women and gold
To never grow tired and never grow old
But the gold grew heavy, the women grew mean
And I grew filthy, fat, and obscene
And I grew to see what now makes me weep
And I’d give it all back just to lay down and sleep
                                           - 2008 JS McAnarney

I’ve never understood how someone could make a deal with the Devil. The whole concept just doesn’t hold any water. Not that I can’t accept the remote possibility that there is some supernatural maleficent being in constant struggle with an all powerful yet benevolent Creator for that spark of divinity within me that many would consider my soul.
Of course, I don’t consider it likely, and I have found what I believe to more likely explanations for the ultimately unexplainable. But, I admit, there is more that I do not know for certain than that which I know.
Someone smarter than me once wrote that certainty, not doubt, was the enemy of faith. I think they meant that the steel of our belief that has been through the fires of our doubt is stronger than that which can be forged on the pusillanimous pyres of complacent assumption.
Just because I have doubts does not mean that I cannot face the possibility that I am wrong. I create my morality the best I can and I live my life so that I can respect the man in the mirror. I find I cannot stake my philosophy on a possibility; I’ll do the best I can with what I can know now and deal with the rest later.
Faust was obsessed with knowledge, and he sold his soul to the devil in order to know everything; he had little faith in the teachings of the Church. He was a scientist, after all. The moral of the story is supposed to be that faith is better than reason; what profit a man to gain the world if he loses his soul, and all that.
But it has got to be a fake; it would never work like that.
I mean few people, if given incontrovertible proof of the existence of a Creator, would fail to give It props. I mean look at how we revere our parents (most of us); certainly we would worship that which created us all. But unlike the certainty that we were born of the union of our parents, we can not be sure that there is a God.
And Faust was only concerned with what he could know for sure.
The fallacy of the story lay in the fact that as soon as the Devil shows up to offer you a sweet deal, it sort of gives proof to half of the story, and that gives evidence for the other half. Faust would have seen this, I think.
Science is not only concerned with that which can be directly observed but also the effects of a phenomenon which can be directly observed. Brownian motion (dust particles moving seemingly of their own accord) led to the discovery of the atom, the (then) immeasurable pieces of reality that were colliding with the dust and causing it to move. Like the old poem, "Who Has Seen the Wind?" much of what we know about our Universe is deduced by observing the effects of that which we cannot measure directly.
And that is still science. Creationists and Intelligent Design proponents will argue that we cannot know about the Big Bang because we were not there to see it. But we don’t have to have been there. We can see its effects. If the effects of a phenomenon can be predicted and measured, it can be reasoned that the phenomenon is at least partly understood. The COBE experiment validated the Big Bang theory.
Science
It Works, Bitches
We don’t know everything right now. I believe that we have the capacity to know; if we don’t kill ourselves off first. Just because we don’t know everything right now does not indicate that we need to rely on archaic texts to explain the nature of the universe. Just because we can’t explain everything doesn’t prove there is an omniscient being somewhere that can. Until proven otherwise, I am still the highest form of intelligence. I’ll follow my senses, rather than my fears and uncertainties.
But if the Devil knocks on my door one night and asks me to dance, rather than tempt me to sell my soul for power, wealth or knowledge, it would cause me to drop everything and devote my life to serving God.
And that probably ensures it will never happen, even if it could. 

24 June, 2008

Supreme Court Sides with (Child) Rapists

I am no longer a fan of the death penalty. I used to be. I took the pro position in an argumentative essay in my criminal justice class and defeated my competition on the strength of my research and the passion of my argument.
My error lay in the depth of my faith in the criminal justice system. I argued on the assumption that it was impossible to convict and sentence to death an innocent man. Since then, I have seen how very many people have been wrongfully convicted of heinous crimes, and I no longer believe that the system has enough checks and balances to ensure an innocent man not be put to death.
I still believe in the moral justification for the taking of someone's life; I believe that sometimes violence is necessary. Not for revenge; we shouldn’t kill in anger. It is hard to love your enemy and still pull the trigger, but it is the only way to keep from becoming the monster. Some people deserve to die for their actions. But it should be a measured response.
Sometimes, the only just thing to do is to kill. However, I do not believe that, in our present system, legal equates to just. But in a perfect system, if it could be proved incontrovertibly that a crime worthy of the death penalty had been committed, I say pull the switch.
I am willing to assume the karmic consequences of taking the life of a person who has so little regard for the lives of others.
But, again, I do not trust our ability to know for sure whether they deserve to die. It is a philosophical exercise, for me. If it could be known that a Man had committed such a crime then I believe that their life should in return be forfeit.
It is hard to know whether there were mitigating circumstances. A man who steals to feed his family, I think, deserves a lesser punishment than a man who steals to serve his own needs. They both deserve punishment, but the crimes are different.
But there is one crime in which there are no mitigating circumstances. Ironically, in variations of this crime, nearly always does the perpetrator try to justify the act by bringing in supposedly mitigating circumstances. Often the jury is led to believe that the victim deserved the crime. It is a ruse of the most sinister nature. Because no absolutely and irrefutably means no.
It would be hard for me not to kill a rapist out of anger. Truly. I might just have to live with having taken a life with fury in my heart. I think I could learn to live with myself, though. Because I think rape should be a capital crime. Especially the rape of a child. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court of the US does not agree with me. They think that to put a child rapist to death would be cruel and unusual punishment. Are they serious? I am a peaceful man, but I’m not sure that castration with a rusty knife would be cruel.
See why I lost faith in our justice system?

23 June, 2008

Don't make me put my teeth in!

I have too much crap for as small of a living space I occupy. I also have a lot of things that I just don’t use right now. Normally, I would just throw the stuff away, but the things that I am not using are things that I might need in the future. Power tools, military gear, etc.
I know that as soon as I give all my old uniforms to the salvation army then they would decide I need to come back on active duty. SO I save it. Plus, I might want to wear my dress blues again sometime.
So I rent a small storage unit to keep all my non-essential stuff. It keeps my apartment from being cluttered and lets the Energy flow freely. Clutter is bad for my soul.
I have noticed that I get on this downward spiral sometimes in which I get depressed, for one reason or another, and because of that I am not as fastidious. And then, inevitably, my apartment gets messy which makes me unhappy. And because I am unhappy, I don’t feel like cleaning as much. Et cetera, et cetera. At times like that I tell myself I don't need antidepressants, I just need to clean my apartment. The mood improvement benefit is fantastic.
So anyway i rented this space in Rolla when I got here, and I moved out of it last month in preparation for getting out of the city. I have cleared out of more locations than your average bear and I know how to clean it to get my deposit back. And a storage unit is pretty easy. Just empty and sweep. Imagine my surprise when they said I didn’t get my deposit back.
Turns out they left it vacant for like 9 days and when they [said they] checked they [said they] found it full of trash. Bullshitida, not my trash, I said.
I had to call a bunch of people, and they were stupid if they thought I wouldn’t raise a ruckus over twenty bucks. I’ll pay any fine if I am wrong, but they ain’t taking a dime of mine if I am right.
I had tried to get them to come check me out when I vacated the place. it said so right in my termination letter. They told me to just leave it unlocked and they would check it later. So I know one of two things happened, neither of which was me leaving a bunch of crap in my unit.
Either they checked the wrong unit [one time they called me to tell me my they did a security check and found my lock had been cut, and to this day I think they cut it but they cut the wrong one. Nothing was stolen] or someone else used it as a dump in the time between me vacating and them checking it (probably someone in a nearby unit that was also vacating). But how could they call me responsible for what happened to their unit after I vacated?
I explained this (somewhat patiently) to a series of people over the last few days. I finally got them to admit they were delinquent in their responsibility to check the unit in a timely manner and so they would refund my deposit.
I am well on my way to being a cantankerous old man.
Get off my lawn you damn kids!
AND I just got word the real estate company has agreed to waive the fee for steam cleaning because of all my efforts when their pipes burst. HA! I made like $250 in the last few days just by writing some sternly worded letters and making some assertive phone calls. WOOT!

Who's a clever boy?

If I’m honest, I’ve lived a lot of my life filled with self loathing. Some of it deserved, probably a lot of it not; but I can’t change the past. One of the defensive mechanisms my psyche came up with when I wasn’t looking was a fair amount of hubris.
I am not a believer in false modesty; I figure that is just as big a sin against Minerva as arrogance. That being said, I still have a hard time accepting compliments about things I feel I didn’t earn.
I mean, if I have been putting in the hours at the gym and get told I have a nice ass, I can take it. I earned it with my own sweat. If someone compliments me on good grades or a well cooked meal, I can revel in it. Indeed, like a puppy, you will likely see me shiver with pleasure that someone has noticed what a good boy I have been.
I’ll try not to pee on the floor in my excitement, so don’t get your hopes up, you fans of R. Kelley. You know to whom I am speaking…
But I’ve never liked getting credit where I felt it wasn’t due. Even as a platoon sergeant it was much easier for me to take responsibility for the errors of my platoon than to accept accolades for their accomplishments. It was my team, true, but I jut trained them; they were the ones who performed.
I think it is because I always was wary of this narcissistic side that had developed to counteract my self-loathing. It is odd, because from the outside I sometimes may appear humble, and it likely is a result of me feeling the most cocky.
I think it is also a reaction to the transient property of praise. One ‘oh shit’ destroys a hundred ‘atta-boy’s. I don’t want undeserved praise, because I know eventually undeserved criticism is likely to follow, and it does more damage to me. I’m a sensitive guy underneath all my armor.
Still, I can admit that I wield my limited intelligence with a fair amount of skill. I pride myself in finding clever little hacks to my simple life’s little obstacles. It is all I have, any more. Once maybe my ability to think outside the box might have saved lives or made a difference in the welfare of my soldiers. Now it just shaves a few seconds off my chores.
But as I get older, those seconds become more precious. Sometimes I look back and wonder if I have wasted much of my life. I wonder what ripples I have created that have positively impacted the lives of others. I can’t see any, really, and Clarence isn’t around to show me. But that doesn’t fill me with despair as much as it fills me with resolve to make the most of the next half of my life.
There’s always time to change the road you’re on.
So.  I was practicing my chord changing and having trouble remembering all of them (I am up to eight) and I didn’t like having to stop my rhythm to turn the pages when I happened upon an idea. I downloaded pictures of the chords and made a slide show that automatically advanced every 10 seconds to prompt me. It made me happy. I like ideas, even if they are small and meaningless in light of the worlds problems. It made me happy and I decided that, for today, that is all I needed.
AND I made the best chili (with an I) EVER today. I am a culinary genius!

If I were Dante

There are 370 billionaires in this country and 40 million people living beneath the poverty line. Wake up, 7-11, this is the fucking third world.
     Conrad, Weeds, Season 2, Episode 11

Dante wrote about the circles of Hell, and who would populate each.  I am updating.
General asshats
Circle I Limbo
People who wear a bluetooth headset like an accessory
Circle II Whirling in a Dark & Stormy Wind
People who play their car stereo so loud I can hear it in my house
Circle III Mud, Rain, Cold, Hail & Snow
People who litter
Circle IV Rolling Weights
Parents who bring squalling brats to R-rated movies
Circle V Stuck in Mud, Mangled
Parents who let their preteen daughters dress like tramps
Circle VI Buried for Eternity
Osama bin Laden
Circle VII Burning Sands
George Bush
Circle IIX Immersed in Excrement
Healthy people who park in the handicapped parking spot
Circle IX Frozen in Ice

18 June, 2008

Quote of the day

 “When does CPR become necrophilia?” Doug, Weeds
The second season of Weeds has even better dialogue than the first season.
Here Uncle Andy explains masturbation techniques to Shane. It is brilliant.
Andy: All right, listen closely, I'm not gonna beat around the bush. HAHAHAHAHA! 
[Shane stares blankly] 
Andy: Your little body's changing, and it's all good, believe me. Problem now is every time we jerk the gherkin, we end up with a lot of unwanted, sticky white stuff everywhere, right? Right. So, first order of business: no more socks. They're expensive... gumming up the works, plumbing-wise. Now you might be thinking to yourself, 'But Uncle Andy, what do I do with all that pearl jam if I can't spew it into Mr. Sock?' Glad you asked. You can have a lovely time tuggin' the tiger in the shower each morning. That eliminates the need for a goo glove. But the day is long, masturbation's fun... so unless we wanna take four or five showers every day, we're gonna need some other options here. So let's start with the basics. Tissues: perfectly acceptable backstop for all that Creamy Italian. They can be rough and dry on such soft, sensitive skin, not to mention they can stick to your dick head like a f***in' Band-Aid. Ouch. From there we move on to more lubricated flak-catchers. Specifically bananas. Step one, peel the banana. Step two, slip the peel over your Randy Johnson and start pitching. Now for extra credit, warm up the peel in the microwave - not TOO hot... serious yowza. Also olive oil, moisturizer, honey, spit, butter, hair conditioner and Vaseline can all be used for lube. In my opinion the best lube... is lube. So save your allowance... invest in some soon. All right, moving on... when you tug your Thomas on the toilet, [spitting sound] shoot right into the bowl. In bed, soft t-shirt, perhaps a downy hand towel of your very own that you don't mind tossing after tossing. There's no such thing as polishing the Raised Sceptre of Love too much. It reduces stress, it enhances immune function... also, practice makes perfect. So work on your control now while you're a solo artist, you'll be playing some long, happy duets in the future. All right, class dismissed
I ♥ shows that are dialogue driven. That is one of the reasons I loved Lions for Lambs so much. I think that some people are turned off of shows that rely more on dialogue than action, but it is my favorite.
A picture may indeed be worth a thousand words but I would still rather have the words.
I am almost all done packing; I picked up a couple stacks of newspapers from the school newspaper editor the other day to wrap the rest of my dishes. I thought that was pretty nice of him to share.
I just cannot get my strumming technique down pat. I think it must be something wrong with the way I am holding the pick. I would be able to ask my little brother, when he gets here, to show me except for the fact that he does not use a pick. I want to be able to use the pick.
I am already able to play a few tunes using individual strings, and so I am just going to have to learn how to strum with a pick. I like being able to play melody, not just chords. I am working on playing Ride of the Valkyries since I learned how to read that sheet music when I programmed it into a microcontroller for a school project last year.
I wonder if my Bro knows how to play duelling banjos? That would be fun. I wish I could learn some of the things he knows. He is a blues harp player, but he plays folk guitar. I want to be able to play folk guitar for when I am at drum circles and get tired of drumming (what?) but I want to be able to play rock guitar.
Hey There, Delilah is a great song. Interesting name for a band, also.
I am learning Python, now. It is a programming language that is simpler than C++ but more powerful than java [I am not sure if it can leap tall buildings]. There are some things I would like to make my desktop do that I would need to write a script for, so I will learn Python now in order to exert more control over my computer.
I have ways of making it talk.
I am at Panera, taking advantage of unlimited coffee. It also lets me watch people. I like watching people. Except when they are really really loud, and then I still don’t mind watching them, I just wish I couldn’t hear them. I wish I had to use a hearing aid so I could turn it off like Grandpa used to when he got tired of Grandma bitching all the time. Just smile and nod.
17 days til the move. Holy shit.
PS: I finally figured out how to turn off tapping on my touchpad; it was driving me crazy and the GUI config editor for the synaptics touchpad wouldn’t load in Linux. But I figured out the command necessary to edit my x11org.conf file so now I no longer type a whole paragraph just to find I had accidentally tapped the friggin touchpad and typed it all into the address bar. Sweet.

16 June, 2008

Back in the saddle

I wrote a letter today to a politician. I used to write them all the time, when I had faith in the system. I stopped doing it about ten years ago, because the responses I was getting made it clear that they weren’t even giving a cursory glance at my arguments; they were just responding to keywords.
Sometimes I would get a response thanking me for supporting a position I clearly and decisively destroyed in my letter. Fuckers.
I got sick of politicians. I still am, for the most part.
I just can’t get over the feeling that this one is different.
Dear Sir, 
Almost three years ago Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. When Mr. Bush finally decided to leave his ranch he offered weak platitudes that New Orleans would be rebuilt "whatever it takes."
His promises, empty as they were, were forgotten almost as soon as the sound bytes stopped airing on Fox news. Today New Orleans struggles on its own and with the help of volunteers and private industry to rebuild herself. The federal government is nowhere to be seen.
Now, with the flooding in the Midwest, it seems evident that the levees in New Orleans were not the only pieces of infrastructure that we as a nation have too long ignored. This is a failure of the federal government that is unconscionable in its magnitude.
Education, infrastructure, and health care are all areas which would promote the general welfare but have been neglected in favor of providing (poorly) for the common defense.
With the economy stumbling blindly along (led by the blind, it seems) I think that another set of public works initiatives are in order much like the ones that Franklin Roosevelt championed to pull this country out of the last Great Depression.
The immediate benefits of this is that it would put many people back to work in areas that have been hit by downsizing and outsourcing. Roads and bridges and levees must be built and hospitals and schools must be modernized and populated with employees.
The long term benefits of this will be a nation that is better prepared to face the challenges of tomorrow.
The money for all of this can surely be found in the savings that will result from pulling our troops out of Iraq. There is so much work to be done and so many areas that can be improved that will help our country, and help those that still struggle to find the American dream. Things like education, health care, and public transportation are needed most where they are least likely to be found.  Let's fix that. The benefit of these things is multifaceted, of course, and will positively impact far more than just poverty.
Thank you for all that you have done and will do for this country.
Respectfully,
Jeffrey S. McAnarney
SSG, US Army, Retired
  
I think I will volunteer for the campaign when I get down to AL. I really, really like Obama.

15 June, 2008

a la carte

After just a few days of working with Linux I have to say, unabashedly, that it rocks. Not only is it much faster than XP but it feels more powerful as well.
I am still getting to know the operating system itself, but I am coming up to speed pretty quickly. I still recall much of the techniques I used for DOS back before Windows became the standard. Command line interfaces can’t scare me.
But really, with the new desktop interfaces that come with some of the distributions, CLI skills aren’t that important. I only like to be able to tweak, and so I will of course dig deep into the entrails of the OS to make it do just what I want; but it is not necessary.
The glory of it is that it already does a lot of things that I had wished I could have done in Windows, and I didn’t have to do anything to get it to work. The linux army has already thought of it.
Two of the things I really like so far are Konqueror [the browser that comes with KDE, a Debian distro based GUI] and Amarok [the standard sound player in Kubuntu, the particular flavor of Linux I installed]. Lightning fast browsing; faster than I ever achieved even with Firefox. But the thing I really like is the shortcuts it offers for searching. For instance, if I want to search google images of the flooded midwest all I have to do is type “ggi: midwest flooding” in the address bar. If I want to see what IMDB has to say about the Hulk, I just type “imdb:hulk”. And I can add shortcuts to any site I want; it is very configurable, like everything else. That saves a couple of mouse clicks every time, which may not seem like much, but it adds up.
But the coolest thing by far that I have discovered to date is the capabilities of Amarok. Instead of just the standard ‘now playing’ visualizations of most media players, this one has a contextual sidebar that looks at the song file that is playing and automatically downloads information on the band and the lyrics and displays it. I thought that was pretty fucking cool. I could make WMP do that, but I had to import the lyrics by hand.
I have just scratched the surface of what this thing can do, but it is pretty exciting. I am working my way through some textbooks that I downloaded in pdf version; when I learn how to write my own scripts then I will really be using it the way it was meant to be used. Right now I feel like I am just driving a rental sports car; its fast, but it isn’t mine.
Sometimes I really regret all the time I spent in the military. I have been so happy since I went back to school and really started feeding my knowledge appetite. I wish I didn’t wait so long; not that I couldn’t have learned a lot of this stuff while I was in, but I was always so drained from all the bullshit. Or too drunk.  But now I am here, and I can devote the rest of my life to being a nerd. Unless they decide to put me back on active duty.

14 June, 2008

To all those who wore a condom, Happy Safe Sex Day!

I tried to do an install of Linux inside of XP on my desktop; they give that option on the install package I downloaded. It is halfway between running off a live CD and doing a full install. It creates a virtual machine in which Linux operates on the Windows partition so there is no need to repartition the hard drive.
I use two hard drives; one HD is just for all of my documents and files and the other is for the operating system and installed programs. On the laptop I just wiped the whole HD clean and did a full install of Linux. I tried to do a dual boot of Linux and Windows, but it didn’t seem to work the way I had researched. The GRUB loader was not coming up when I rebooted and it always just went to XP.
But the install within Windows didn’t work, either. It got about 85% done and then complained it couldn’t access the CD; it warned something else might be accessing it. I thought maybe my Nero suite was interfering with it because of the way it indexes the CD-ROM drives so I uninstalled it. But that didn’t work, either.
I was about to give up, when I found another ISO of the AMD64 version of Hardy Heron. I went ahead and downloaded that one just to see; I have a 64 bit system even though I run 32 bit windows. I don’t edit video any more and I wasn’t seeing a performance improvement worth the configuration problems I was having with some programs.
Well, finally, I got the GRUB loader to work after I did a manual configuration instead of letting it work its magic. Unfortunately I cannot get this wireless card to configure for to save my life. I have tried everything I can think of. So, since I will not be using the wireless card in Alabama, anyway, I just decided to move the desktop into the kitchen where a LAN cable will reach.
Of course, now the fact that my ethernet adapter doesn’t seem to reboot properly becomes a problem. If I do a full scale powerdown, it is not an issue but, if I just restart it, it doesn’t register on the system. It was never an issue when I was using only the wireless, but now I think I need to hope they have a BIOS update I can flash to my ROM; this could get annoying. Luckily, Linux is way more stable than XP, so reboots are minimal.
Now I can break down my desk in the office and just fill it up with boxes. I have the kitchen completely packed and everything else about 80% where I want it to be.
I have been practicing my scales on the guitar; I learned five chords already, but my strumming technique needs work. I have trouble switching chords without missing a beat. Hopefully running up and down the scales will increase my dexterity.

13 June, 2008

All right, all right, I'm coming

My day began with someone pounding loudly upon my door at the crack of noon. At first I thought it was the UPS guy and he really really wanted to deliver my stuff from Amazon.com. But hell, there was no reason to act like it was an emergency.
Then I got worried that it was the landlady came to show the apartment to a new renter, which freaked me out a little because I am not supposed to have a pet and the place is trashed because I was up all night packing and I left it a mess when I went to bed.
SO I came to the door saying something like, "Hold on! Where’s the fire?" And of course it was the police which made me think, "Quick! Hide the drugs!" And then I was all, "Oh, I don’t smoke anymore! Layoff the Weeds marathon…"
It turned out there really was a fire in another part of the building and we had to vacate; so I threw some pants on and grab a book and a chair *EDIT* and went outside with my other neighbors. I kind of wished I had some marshmallows. I had the munchies, I think because I OD’d on Weeds.
It was my neighbors who had caught their kitchen on fire and then I was thinking, "ah shit please christ do NOT go apeshit with the waterhoses and flood my apartment!"
I have all of everything I have packed stacked up against the conjoining wall, and I just knew that all my sins would be repaid by having everything I owned flooded.
And then I thought, "Wow, all of fucking the midwest is flooded by acts of god but I made it almost out of this rural ass backwater place unscathed and now my shit is gonna be flooded out by an act of a Chinese couple trying to bake stuff in plastic pans.
God might be more omnipotent, but around a technological university, Chinese couples are more omnipresent.
Luckily they managed to put out the fire without having to bring the pumper truck into the front yard. It was probably one step more exciting for the firemen than saving a kitten from a tree. They probably figured they paused their X-box for nothing.
But me, I had to get up anyway. I’m a busy man.

12 June, 2008

You didn't invite me, so I crashed

I rule. Not only was I able to get everything configured on my new Linux (old) laptop, I also got a lot of packing done while it was working.

I had a hell of a time getting my wireless card to configure, because Broadcomm never released their drivers; I had to download source files and learn how to deal with tar balls [which sound really messy and at least slightly uncomfortable] but it wasn’t so bad.
A lot of the work I did last semester had to be compiled on Linux servers, so much of the terminology was already familiar. And of course after I learned how to do all that I happened upon a way that was much easier. And of course it was very lucky that I did that because shortly after I discovered that I was tinkering around under the hood and I broke something.
I have a tendency to do that.
But I made quick work of reloading everything and getting everything reconfigured and now I even have my wireless network secured with WPA-PSK; I was just using an access list to secure my wireless before I broke it because I couldn’t get the WPA to configure, but now I have both. Ha!
Operating systems tremble at the sight of me.

11 June, 2008

March of the Penguin

I finally got fed up with my laptop. I wish I had just sunk some money into it and bought a new one but I thought I could make do with one a few years old if I ran XP. 
I don’t know if the laptop sucks or if I am just spoiled by my desktop, but it seems like it runs slower than a horny girl evading her boyfriend. So, I went back to a plan I had a few years back before my last laptop took the piss and I wiped it clean of all that was Microsoft and am now going to run Linux on it. 
I figure I could add it to the list of things I am teaching myself this summer. 
Autodidactism rocks. 
I am glad I am feeling motivated to learn stuff because, I am ashamed to say it, I just can’t seem to get into any games right now. I thought I would spend this month vegging on the couch watching movies and increasing my skills at managing massive empires and battling bad guys. Instead I am studying as hard as I was for midterms. 
But it is fun. I am addicted to epiphanies. I love the moment when I grasp a new concept. Shudders of multiple nerdgasms course through my body. 
And that is when I know I am alive and am still grateful for it. 
Sometimes I go through stretches when I am just phoning it in; I do what I need to do so that I can do what I want to do. Right now it is mostly doing what I need to do, and I lose sight of just how lucky I am to still be here to do what needs to be done. I forget to be happy I am alive. 
I remembered.  
PS: Lions for Lambs is a friggin brilliant movie. I like Redford better now than I ever did before. His best work has been since he got behind the camera. See the Last Castle, also, if you never.

10 June, 2008

T minus 26

I haven’t been to the gym for a few days; after I got up to about four miles a day my feet and knees stared hurting so I slacked off a bit. I think I’ll cut back to 16 miles a week. I don’t have any troops to inspire. 
The Bourne Conspiracy was quite enjoyable, but it was pretty fast. I am glad I rented it instead of buying it. It only took me four days to beat it. On trainee level, of course, but I never see the point in going after the high levels on a rental, I am more interested in the story and the game play. It was definitely worth the 8 bucks to rent it. 
I have the kitchen almost all packed up except a few appliances and my bakers rack. I’ll get to that tonight. My bedroom is emptied out except for some shorts and t-shirts and socks and underwear in my dresser plus my workout gear. 
I’ve had my plants outside for about a week now; the ficus shed damn near all its leaves, but it has new growth, so I am not too worried. All the rest seem to enjoy the sunshine. 
I watched Jumper the other day; it was one of the last movies I’ll get on my movie pass. It expires tomorrow, and I will let it lapse. I’ll focus on the move. Well, I still have my online account. 
I have been studying networking through AdTrans online university. Hopefully it will give me an edge when I report for work. It is pretty interesting. I am looking to split my home network into two segments when I get to Alabama since I will have cable in the office and can have the modem there. 
I will use the vonage router as a wireless access point / switch in the living room and get a new router to use as my primary gateway. I am not impressed with the capabilities of the Motorola router that Vonage sold me. Before I didn’t know how to best set it up, but now I know all about subnets and VLANs and can tweak all sorts of things. 
I am gonna play Tiberium wars again. I am bored with AoE and Rome isn’t very fun.   
EDIT: Jumper wasn’t worth the cost of pressing the disc. An excellent concept, but poorly executed. Shame.

09 June, 2008

in loco parentis

I don’t know how to be a part of my kids lives. I get frustrated when they don’t return my calls or my e-mails, but part of me is also relieved. I can’t be either a friend or a parent to them from over here. I couldn’t even be a parent when I was still married to their mom, because she was two faced in her parenting; she was making me out to be the bad guy and spoiling the kids when I was on maneuvers. 
So, for that among other things, I left her. She stayed in Germany. She stayed in Germany and sued me for sole custody. I felt I had little choice but to acquiesce. I had wars to fight, after all. 
Years later when her parenting style bore fruit and she was shackled with two unruly and undisciplined children who would not show her respect, I was expected to just drop everything and take the kids. At least that is what my dad expected me to do. I was in the middle of getting my own life back together and I didn’t feel like it would be best for the kids to be passed off to me. Not only would they feel betrayed, but I would not be able to fix what had gone wrong and still get my life straightened out. I had fucked my life up pretty well. 
I know it was selfish; it was also self defensive. I also try to rationalize that it was best for them, also. If I am ever going to be able to be a positive role in their life I had to get my shit together. Looking back, it is probably good for them that I left. I was turning into my dad. I was drinking more and more and I was getting abusive; it was only verbal, but that is how it starts, right? 
I have enough self loathing as it is. I have made almost every mistake a man can make but at least I can look at myself in the mirror and say that I never beat my kids. I don’t believe in corporal punishment. But to raise a kid without raising your hands requires, I think, a combined front from both parents. Our rules were being sabotaged by the person who was supposed to have my back when I wasn’t there. It is no wonder the kids were becoming belligerent. But it is not their fault. It is mine and hers. 
But how do I make amends now? I absolutely suck at long distance relationships. So, it seems, do they. I should write them snail mail and just pretend that they can’t write me back. Just keep writing them no matter what. 

08 June, 2008

No Haga Apenas Hable Inglès

I’ve been watching a lot of foreign films lately. Sometimes it seems as though American cinema can not be bothered to come up with a new story line, especially for horror. If you liked The Grudge and The Ring, I urge you to see the original versions from Asian cinema. Other favorites from Asian horror are Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Infection.
Often Hollywood is not able to pull off a successful conversion. I thought Dark Water (American) sucked, while the original Japanese version was quite good. Likewise, I have read the reviews of The Eye, and it seems that they did just as poor a job with that one. Even though Jessica Alba is hot, I won’t watch a bad movie just because it has her in it. I couldn’t even make it through half of Into the Blue. However, having just seen the original The Eye, I must say it creeped the hell out of me.
Asian directors can make a scene scary where it seems Hollywood only remembers how to make things shocking. It wasn’t always like that. The Changling was a movie I saw as a teenager that was extremely scary, but had no shock value at all, just creepy. I do think that 1408 is a decent scary movie from Hollywood, and I am glad to see that Stephen King still has some spook left in him.
But where foreign film really shines is in the drama department. Some of the best has transcended the language barrier [look at all the foreign films that won Academy Awards this year] but there are so many out there. Sometimes I go for a week not watching a movie in English. Anything with Audrey Tautou is good, I think. I loved A Very Long Engagement but i think most people know her for Amélie. It was also very good; quirky, but good. Pan’s Labrynth, of course, was Spanish. Motorcycle Diaries should also not be missed. Especially for all those people who wear Che Guevara shirts and don’t even know who he is. It doesn’t talk about his revolution, but it does show his evolution.
The Violin is a black and white drama from Mexico set against the backdrop of a revolution against an oppressive South American government. Tae Guk Gi is a Korean film that documents the way the Korean war ripped families apart, much like our own civil war. It is also the most impressive combat movie I have seen since Saving Private Ryan.
Vitus is a Swiss movie about a child prodigy who just wants a normal life. The Experiment is a German movie about a prison guard experiment a la Stanford which I wish someone in charge would have watched before we invaded Iraq. Foreseen is forewarned.
I could go on and on. I use IMDB to get an idea of how good a movie is going to be. I’ll watch it anyway, perhaps, because I can make up my own mind. These films I have mentioned all score high sevens and eights. That is almost unheard of in todays cinema. Most of the crap coming out of Hollywood gets a six or a low seven if it is lucky. There are, of course, exceptions. My point is that there are good movies out there, you just have to go outside the box. I think a lot of people are turned off of foreign films because of the subtitles, but they are really missing out. Even if a little bit of action is missed while reading the dialog, that is what the pause and rewind buttons are for, right?
Go ahead, don’t be afraid, visit the foreign film section.

06 June, 2008

Oh my aching thumbs

The Bourne Conspiracy has the best melee combat in any game I have ever played. Condemned: Bloodshot was pretty impressive but Bourne is just flat out fun. I laugh at the variety of take-downs my character has.
If you have ever seen the trilogy of Bourne movies, know that the game stayed true to the fighting style that Matt Damon portrayed so well (and who knew good Will would be such a great action star?)
The platforming (wall climbing and general movement of the character) of Prince of Persia is still my favorite (even though Assassin’s Creed was beautiful, it was too easy) and Resistance is still my favorite shooter. Up until now Devil May Cry was my favorite melee, but Bourne rules.
I have been a serious slacker the last couple of days; I haven’t made a damn thing but a few phone calls and coffee and haven’t done much besides the dishes and play this game.
But I made sure my cat has been fed and I am getting my money’s worth from this game.

03 June, 2008

Atom Ant and the Case of the Missing Tuna

I woke up the other day to find that ants had invaded through two of my windows. This place hasn’t sprayed for pests in the time I have been here. They suck. Most apartments I have lived in give pesticide treatments annually. No biggy, though. I don’t mind the lack of chemicals. However, that doesn’t mean I wanted uninvited guests.
Luckily, I had a good supply of cinnamon on hand. Cinnamon is a natural bane against ants; it is caustic to them and they won’t cross a line of cinnamon. SO I just turned my window sills into cinnamon scented minefields and put the ones that were already inside out of my misery. They were after Brenna’s food and she is such a little pussy she probably would have sat there and watched.
I am worried about trying to get her to be an indoor only cat. The place I am going has rules against pets roaming free. I am sure it is mostly for the dogs, but I don’t want her to get picked up by the pound because I didn’t follow the rules. She is not going to like not going outside whenever she wants. She is so spoiled.
I think I will get another kitten when I get to Huntsville to keep her company. I am also thinking about building a little gym for her in the living room so she can climb and stuff. A few two by fours and some plywood and some carpet scraps and I could have a nice little set up to let her get her exercise. And if I put the platform up higher than any other horizontal surface then she would rather sit up there than anyplace else, so I won’t have to worry about re-training her about what she can climb on and what she cannot.
I hope she is smart enough to stay out of the fireplace. Don’t want my place smelling like singed cat hair. I hope I have enough for a used washer and dryer once I get down there. It will be nice having them in the apartment with me. Plus the place has a dishwasher! How spoiled will I be? I haven’t used a dishwasher for 5 years. But I don’t mind doing the dishes; it’s easy to clean as I go. I hope I don’t get lazy with all these modern conveniences. ;c)