We report, you decide

Every day when we get Big Gulps from 7-Eleven, my sister and I walk out the door (which faces the local Fred Meyer) to see this sight:

You make the call: was Benny pantsed, or is he simply pantsless?

Tsunamis suck

Marin’s been keeping much closer tabs on the effects of Sunday’s tsunamis than I have, but the overwhelming impact of them remains: 118,000 dead. That number endlessly rises, it seems, as time passes.

Though it’s easy enough to ignore in the humdrum of my unaffected, normal life, my mind boggles when I try to actually think about what the survivors are going through.

After September 11th, both Amazon and Apple (and I’m sure other sites, though those were the two that stuck in my mind) did something that struck me as fundamentally good: they took the majority of their main pages and converted them into advertisements for organizations such as the American Red Cross.

I never actually donated anything in response to 9/11, mostly because there didn’t seem to be any real need for what I had to offer—yes, people were donating, but they were doing so because it was pretty much all they could do, and they felt the need to do something.

Now, thanks to these tsunamis, Apple and Amazon have modified their main pages again. (And this time, it seems, there is a need.) Amazon actually offers an easy way to donate using any credit card you have on file with them, and keeps a running tally of how much has been donated: in something around three days, as I write this, Amazon customers alone have donated $6.9 million to the Red Cross’ efforts.


My contribution isn’t even a drop in that total, but you might think about pitching in—if you haven’t already.

I know that I’d hope people would do the same for me, if the ocean saw fit to try and strike me down. Stupid ocean.

xMac speculation

The Mac rumor market just got extremely hot and bothered over a renewed rumor that Apple will soon announce a headless iMac that will sell for $500. The goal of such an xMac (apparently the preferred “unknown product name” title) would ostensibly be to build off of Apple’s success with the iPod—Windows users who were impressed with the design of the iPod might be willing to spring for a Mac on the side, provided that Mac didn’t cost as much as Macs today do.

Of course, the rumored specs of this rumored xMac aren’t knock-your-socks-off impressive: 1.25 GHz G4 processor, 256 MB RAM, 40 GB hard drive, CD-RW/DVD drive, DVI and/or VGA out, a handful of USB and firewire ports.

I’d say that this thing, if it does exist, has potential in three directions:

1) OMG CHEAP MAC If you aren’t terribly interested in high-end tasks, you don’t actually need a G5 processor or a fancy video card. (Let’s face it: you don’t buy a Mac to play the latest games.) This would probably be Apple’s best hope to gain market share, and this (courtesy of the iPod) is probably Apple’s best time to attempt such a move. Besides, at $500 it wouldn’t cost any more than a high-end iPod.

2) OMG CHEAP SERVER I’m probably the only one in the world who thinks like this, but I’ve been longing for some Mac-compatible form of NAS for a good year or two. The xMac, save for the piddly hard drive, would make a damn fine home server. (This is where the firewire port comes in, if not one’s ability to replace small hard drives with large hard drives.)

2) OMG EXPENSIVE TIVO Put some sort of video-out port in that box—and, maybe, a larger hard drive—and you have an Apple-branded TiVo. (Confession: I don’t actually have a TiVo, or much beyond a superficial understanding of how they work.) This would also seem to be a different angle of Apple’s “digital hub” strategy.

Of course, I (and everyone else on various Mac forums) am just blowing smoke right now… but I could see potential in such a “3-in-1” device. I’d be tempted to buy one, just for the server potential.

The great time-sink

It seems the internet can be used for Great Evil (in this case, selling great evil*) as well as for Great Good. In my case, it is also used to suck the time out of my life. I’m not sure how, but lately I’ve been coming home from work, sitting down in front of my computer, and then going to bed. And the killer detail is that I’m not actually accomplishing a damn thing! (Well, it’s more like I learn about piddly little things—e.g. yesterday I learned more about the .name TLD.)

[*I enjoyed the first one; the second one was OK; the horror of the third one overpowers all good the others did; I don’t remember the fourth, although I did see it once, long ago.]

Oh, and my apologies if my snow hack-design resulted in black text on a black background. Believe it or not, I’m not so stupid as to actually intend that—but apparently I am so stupid as not to test my CSS in more than one browser.

Here’s a taste of what it should have looked like, if you had been using Safari on Mac OS X (yes, Tiffany, you and I were the only ones who saw this):

It wasn’t hawt, but I thought it looked passable… and the only reason I did it was so that the snow would be visible. Oh well—next time I’ll nail it.

New Year’s cleaning

So, tell me: if I’m having trouble fitting all my stuff (not just Christmas loot, though that certainly doesn’t help) in my 12′ by 12′ room, is the room too small or do I have too much stuff?

I figure it’s about time to do my annual cleaning and clean-out of my room (just in time for the new year!), but I’ve been disheartened by looking around. I have a whole bunch of math texts populating my bookcase, and some can undoubtedly be removed—but which ones might be useful in the future? (Keep in mind that actuaries actually do math as part of their job; I’m not just clinging onto old textbooks for absolutely no reason.) How can I possibly fit the piles of books on my desk into my already-full bookcases?

Perhaps most importantly: how can I ever hope to win against an army of dust-bunnies that make the armies of Troy pale in comparison? (Those aren’t good odds, if you’re the man with the can of Pledge in your hands.) Cleaning this small room is going to be a major PITA—which is exactly why I’ve kept putting it off.

Merry Christmas!

(Or, if you don’t celebrate Christmas…uh… Happy Saturday.)

I don’t predict a whole lot of excitement in my holiday, but I like my holidays quiet—so I’m not complaining. Podunk, Oregon tends to shut down for Christmas, so it’s not like there’ll actually be anything to do, even if I wanted to. Maybe I’ll actually watch anime, or work on the site, or (gasp!) read something after the festivities end.

That’s crazy talk, I tell you. I mean, the fact that I modified my CSS and added a snow javascript to this page is pretty amazing, in and of itself.

¡Viva la revolución!

Two of my coworkers were today complaining about spyware on their PCs. After first pointing out that the Mac doesn’t really suffer from that problem (I do my best to help Apple), I then (more-helpfully) pointed them to Mozilla.org to download Firefox and Thunderbird.

(Okay, Thunderbird might not help with the spyware problem. Still, moving away from IE and Outlook seems like a decent—though far from foolproof—way to reduce the odds of being infected by the next virus, if nothing else.)

As they say on the internet: karma ++

Office-office party

Yesterday was the office-only Christmas celebration, complete with catered lunch (plus ornament exchange) as well as a white-elephant gift exchange (plus booze) in the evening. Yes, that’s right: for the first time evar (where “evar” is defined as the many years I’ve worked there), my coworkers drank beer and/or wine at our workplace. In an officially approved manner, even.

The best line of the evening not uttered by me: Once I start drinking, I don’t care what it is!

People brought wine, but nobody thought to bring a corkscrew. Fortunately, someone had a camping kit in their car complete with a port-a-corkscrew. Unfortunately, it really didn’t give you all that much to grab onto while trying to remove a cork. The gals of the office had thus been passing these bottles over to one of the guys to open. That Guy was sitting down, and so had held the wine bottle between his legs while yanking on the corkscrew with both hands.

This one time, however, That Guy was nowhere to be found. I was unfortunate enough to be the closest male, and so I was handed the bottle to open. I tried to leave the bottle on the counter, using one hand on the corkscrew and one hand on the bottle—and was just getting nowhere. One of the gals then suggested that I stick the bottle between my legs to open it, as That Guy had done. My response?

The best line of the evening uttered by me: No thanks; I’m secure in my sexuality.

(5 seconds pass)

[uproarious laughter]

Sass at work, Jamming with John, & more

Someone at work had been leaving my archival DVDs lying around outside of their cases—just begging for them to be scratched up. I, of course couldn’t sit idly by, and I had two emailing styles that I could employ:

1) blah blah don’t leave dvds out of cases blah blah gut you like a fish.

2) Only punks and half-wits leave DVDs out of their cases. And we aren’t punks or half-wits, are we?

Don’t answer that.

I ultimately ran with the version that didn’t imply bodily harm, and people seemed to enjoy that bit of levity. At least, I haven’t been called into the principal’s office yet.

In chatting with John earlier, I learned that he had a new wireless network complete with print server “over the litterbox.” (Ostensibly this is so you can print a document and then grab it while running out to the car.) He mentioned that he had tried to get someone with a laptop to print some random thing to their printer while his family was eating dinner, but hadn’t found anyone who had a laptop with a wireless card.

I happen to have such a laptop (in the form of an old Powerbook with an Airport card), and I sure as hell wasn’t going to let this chance for comedy gold slip through my fingers. Accordingly, Brian and I snuck over to John’s house one evening late last week.

We even created a custom document for our purposes (inspired by a webcomic that Brian had recently read). Unfortunately, John’s wireless network was password-protected.

Our backup plan? Knocking on his door with Powerbook in hand, and asking him for his password. Turns out not even John knows his password, but he seemed tickled that we had even tried.

Does it even really feel like Christmas to anyone? I started the season with some anticipation towards the holiday, but now I just want the insanity to end. (The last time I was really jazzed about Christmas was my freshman year in college, and even that was probably more due to the fact that my friends were all jazzed that year.) I tried going to the mall yesterday, and parking my car outweighed any enjoyment I could have derived from the rest of the experience.

Every year I buy more stuff through Amazon and other online stores than the year before. Every year I also head out to stores once or twice, and am reminded why I buy stuff through Amazon for Christmas. Ugh.

I bothered to fill my iPod with Christmas music, but I find myself preferring to listen to almost anything else. The Christmas tunes I do listen to are mostly from Mariah Carey (she has a handful of nonstandard, catchy songs) and the Carpenters (Karen’s voice owns). Moreso, though, I listen to my collection of west coast swing and nightclub two step music.

So, in short: Bah Humbug!

I suspect my real problem is that I’ve historically associated Christmas with a break in my life: school was done, work was slow, and I could kick back and relax for a while. Not so, this year: no school to break from, I’m quite behind at work, and—probably due to poor time management—I don’t seem to have time to take care of the odds and ends I need to address, let alone doing anything I really enjoy.

I mean, this post could have been broken into at least three posts, and spread out over the last few days. Instead, you get this.

Chronicles of triumph

So I’ve been hunched over a scanner at work and/or nursing my new (related) hunchback. How’ve you been?

My one work-related victory was in taming the new copier we have. Seems the sucker likes to make a big-ass ruckus anytime someone asks it to copy onto a paper size it doesn’t have loaded—not the best situation, but certainly not the end of the world. To illustrate the power of this noise, I present to you the output of the typical IRC denizen when presented with this copier making that noise:

OMG teh copier is on fire!!!1 BRB

As you can see, that’s one powerful alarm. And I finally figured out how to turn that “feature” off. ::puffs chest::

Outside of work I’ve been caught up by the little banners that Amazon’s been running across the top of its front page:

you fool! you only have 3 minutes to purchase stuff for Christmas before you have to pay the last minute shopper tax!*

[*I.e. pay for expedited shipping.]

Instead of turning away and picking up lumps of coal to everyone I know (which I really should have done—I mean, how good have you been this year?), I actually placed some orders.

Inspired by the need to reach free shipping levels (this time, however, at Powell’s), I also picked up a random assortment of books recommended by my old Systems Theory and Thinking professor, Dr. King. BA 350, as the class was usually referred to, was the wildest my classes got in the college of business: the course consisted entirely of reading selected articles and discussing their contents. The goal was to introduce us to new ideas, to different ways of thinking, rather than to get us to successfully regurgitate information—the idea being that things are interrelated, and you would be a fool to not pay attention to those interrelationships. (Simple example: you can raise the price of your product 20% to increase revenue—but that might also reduce the number of sales you make. Complex example: Curatiba.)

I can’t possibly do Dr. King justice in my late-night rambling, but he was (and is) a man who was clearly in love with ideas; he’d take them from any source imaginable and piece ’em together into one giant gestalt amalgam. If the world wide web were to be represented by one human, I would nominate him.

I actually took an honors college class from Dr. King before I took BA 350 from him; that honors class was similarly structured, but the articles were ones that Dr. King selected because he wanted to read them. (The class, he said, was for him more than it was for us.) [Aside: it was in this class that I attained the highest mental state I will ever achieve.**]

Anyway, at the end of BA 350 Dr. King posted a list of books he recommended we read. He has since retired—causing me to think that his list had been lost to the ages—but the college hasn’t yet removed his website from their server, and so I was able to download a copy of his recommendations. At midnight last night. To then take to Amazon and pick through. The books that looked the most interested padded my order earlier today. Which is how I got here in the first place.


[**My moment of transcendence allowed me to determine the next line in the following pattern—that nobody (including the professor) knew the answer to:








It was easily one of my finest moments. Right up there with my elegantly simple disproof of a “prove or provide a counter example” problem for a linear algebra midterm, which the professor had me show to the class. Alas, I remember neither the problem nor my countexample—so y’all are spared that.]

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