3.31.2008

casual_friday { A little late

Been sick, sorry.
'Enjoy the Silence' - Depeche Mode

3.26.2008

science/nature { First the bees, now the bats...


NYT Science article about the mysterious die off of bats around New York (this seems similar to the bee die off, which I believe was caused by a virus).


Wildlife biologists fear a significant die-off in about 15 caves and mines in New York, as well as at sites in Massachusetts and Vermont. Whatever is killing the bats leaves them unusually thin and, in some cases, dotted with a white fungus. Bat experts fear that what they call White Nose Syndrome may spell doom for several species that keep insect pests under control.

3.21.2008

response { KoN: "Obama's God Problem"

A great debate has been raging over on the virtual pages of Knight of Nothing's blog. Juicy stuff that goes straight to the heart of matters.

In order to not fracture the discussion I've posted my response there in the comments. I recommend others read and join in the discussion.

casual_friday { Creepy Cartoons and Music too



3.20.2008

war { 5th Anniversary of the Iraq War


Last night Nerdwife and I attended a candlelight peace vigil in remembrance of the 5th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. It was a walk around Silver Lake. The organizers were only expecting a dozen or so to show up, as it was a last minute thing, but more than 40+ arrived. We talked about the war, its cost. The future, hope. Hope that we as a people will put an end to the war and find a way to insure it will not happen again. It was a beautiful night.

literature { R.I.P. Arthur C Clarke

"My god, its full of stars."

Arthur C Clarke, died at 90.


May his travel be eternal.

3.18.2008

time { Wayback Machine: May, 1993

Age: 17
Place: International Science and Engineering Fair, Mississippi Beach, MS

This is where I met Nerdwife for the first time. Nights spent on the beach of the Gulf of Mexico. Swimming, sailing, science. Day trip to New Orleans, six teenagers left alone exploring the French Quarter. Gumbo. Hotels. Staying up late. Cable. Music. Angst. Excitement. We were young, we had our futures ahead of us. We were smart. We were nerdy. We played poker in hotel lobbies. I walked on water (literally, the tide was out and the water was a few cm deep, I have a picture where I am highlighted by the moon and it looks like I am walking on the ocean). Beach bums. Casinos. Teachers getting pooped on by seagulls. This is where my love of sailing started, when I was "captain" of a catamaran with three lovely swimsuit clad ladies. I was graduating in a few weeks from High School.

Here are the three videos I remember most that were on cable while we, the Northern/East Central MN delegation, were there. Thank you YouTube for this blast from the past:

'Sleeping Satellite' - Tasmin Archer


'Come Undone' - Duran Duran


'Living on the Edge' - Aerosmith

america { how are we doing?

BBC footage of sub-prime shanty town in LA.



America.


Fuck. Yeah.

3.15.2008

response { EB: "Davis: Walz Wrong to Support Tax Hikes"

Davis: Walz Wrong to Support Tax Hikes

Davis is a fool. He's pulling the usual election year tax B.S. How will the war and its aftermath be paid for? How will basic services be maintained or created? How will infrastructure be repaired?

I grow weary of this tired pablum from Republicans. Someone has to pay for things. And no privatization is not the answer.

I myself would rather pay in money than blood. Have a publically educated (and not Home Schooled, and have college education available) society. Drive on safe roads. Not have to worry about health care. We don't have this. We won't have this until people move beyond this idiocy of all this stuff comes magically. Taxes pay for these things.

The GOP, of which Davis is a part, also like to confuse 'American families' with 'the rich'. Look deeper into this proposed budget plan, it is non-binding and won't affect tax law. It expires the Bush tax breaks on the upper 5%, capital gains, and a lot of other sources and rates of income most 'American families' don't have.


Overall, the Democrats’ budget plans assume that at least some of Bush’s signature 2001 and 2003 tax cuts (PL 107-16, PL 108-27) will expire as scheduled in 2010. Others that have helped lower- and middle-income taxpayers would be extended but offset by spending cuts or tax increases elsewhere.

Democrats say added revenue from allowing taxes on the wealthy to increase would allow them to boost spending in areas they say have been neglected during the Bush administration, such as infrastructure and education programs.


Davis is just regurgitating the tired GOP party line and mudslinging.

The GOP is the one who is short sighted. Their "tax breaks now" mentality for re-election (or the bullshit Pawlenty's been playing since 2002) mean that someone, both us when we're older and our children and possibly our children's children will be paying for actions taken now. Cutting spending and axing, in what my opinion are important, social services can only get you so far.

I wonder how many have ever used MNCare? Or Medicare. Or served in Iraq or in the service and use VA benefits? The GI Bill? The Pell Grant?

His three talking points have issues.

A taxpayer bill or rights? Sounds awfully short-sighted. What if there is another national emergency? Another war? A new beneficial social initiative? While I applaud the idea of paying down our debt, the idea of returning the money to the taxpayers, which I am assuming in this case to be some kind of rebate, is flawed. That money is better spent paying down more of the debt, or benefiting taxpayers in some form of social service (roads, medicare, social security, education, etc.).

A 2/3 majority for tax increases is idiocy, as is making it Constitutional amendment. This would pretty much guarantee any tax increase would never be passed. Pawlenty plays that game with MN and its hurting us, imagine this on a national scale?

I also find his supporting a 'line item veto' interesting, since Republicans weren't too keen on it when Clinton had it in the 90s. Paradoxically they argued it gave the President too much power.

3.14.2008

food { Organic...Agri-Corps


Know which brand owns your favorite Organic brand. We buy from local producers as much as possible and directly from the farmer (via CSA or Farmer's Market) when in season, but I know the realities of economics. In a way this makes organic foods more available. In another way, it dilutes the meaning of the word organic. I doubt highly these corporations maintain high organic standards, and cut corners to maximize profits wherever possible, if not even pressure via lobbying to change the criteria for becoming organic certified to suit their needs. Choose your evil.

(originally encountered on boingboing.net)

musings { "Lets make some music, make some money, find some models for wives..."

From 'Time to Pretend' by The Management (aka MGMT).

This song was on a play list of random, loosely thematic songs I put together on a whim, and I don't remember doing it, but the play list name is in my naming style:


00aXsomething
1. "Under the Blacklight" - Rilo Kiley
2. "Time to Pretend (Radio Version)" - MGMT
3. "Road to Peace" - Tom Waits
4. "Law of Life" - Farah
5. "Lady Operator" - Mirage
6. "Lake of Dreams" - Mirage
7. "Computer Love" - Glass Candy (Kraftwerks remake)
8. "Flux" - Bloc Party
9. "Wanderlust" - Delays
10. "Yell Fire" - Michael Franti & Spearhead
11. "Infra-Red" - Placebo
12. "Meds" - Placebo
13. "Pierrot the Clown" - Placebo
14. "Metal Heart" - Garbage
15. "All Along the Watchtower" - Jimi Hendrix Experience
16. "Cannonball" - The Breeders
17. "Walking With A Ghost" - Tegan & Sara
18. "Morning Glory" - Oasis
19. "An Honest Mistake (Superdiscount Remix)" - The Bravery
20. "Army Dreamers" - Kate Bush
21. "God" - Tori Amos
22. "Guerrilla Radio" - Rage Against the Machine
23. "16 Military Wives" - The Decemberists
24. "Here I Dreamt I was an Architect" - The Decemberists
25. "Dashboard" - Modest Mouse


On this list, four songs are really resonating with me at the moment; "Here I Dreamt I was an Architect", "Dashboard", "Wanderlust", and "Time to Pretend (Radio Version)". They are all songs, rather existentialist in nature. They focus on the what if? the where am I? the why don't I? There is a sense of dreaming in them as well. A certain, let's leave all this behind and do something else. These have been thoughts and themes in my life a lot lately. Growing unrest and frustration with my job, feelings of stagnation in living in Rochester, general unease about the general state of things in America have often made me seek escapist thoughts. The sudden realization of adulthood. Dreaming of other places I've been. Thinking of places I would like to be again with Nerdwife, walking along Stinson Beach north of San Francisco, or riding the Aqua Bus to Granville Island to go to the market in Vancouver, or even just stand upon the shores of Lake Superior like we did on our honeymoon. My thoughts of places I'd rather be tend to drift to locations near large bodies of water. Some of the most "in the moment" I've ever been have been in these places. The only other memory I have of being so of that moment in time, was laying in a darkened hospital room, four days into the chemotherapy, Nerdwife dozing in a chair by my side, listening to my heart beat, the sounds of the room, it was late, or really early, night shift in the hospital. I often was awake at this time, it was peaceful, quiet, I really didn't worry about anything, or have any cares. Not even "will I live?" I was just there. I had a similar experience the other night. I was lounging on the floor, we were watching City of God, when I suddenly, I'm not sure why, I looked up at the ceiling and it hit me full force...this is our house...we bought it, we're paying the mortgage on it...I'm an adult. This may not seem profound or earth shattering to others. And really it wasn't, but it was a moment when the child inside me receded a little farther. I had never, up to that point ever thought about this situation like that before. Suddenly, it was like something caught up with me, and I'm not sure I was ready for it. But life is a journey, not a destination, while part of me stands on the road and looks at where I've been and at places I wish I could return, part of me looks forward and wonders what is around that next bend in the road?


The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 5

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same, 10

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back. 15

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 20
-Robert Frost

casual_friday { American Conflict WWII -> Present

As told by food of the countries involved, see war in its graphic absurdity.



and now for something completely different...but similar...sort of...

3.13.2008

flowchart { Flowchart of a Nerd's lovelife


And you're even more of a nerd if you can follow it.

3.11.2008

nerd/politics { Candidates w/ Monster Manual Entries

Saw this on boingboing. Brilliant.


John McCain (Demon Prince of Republicans.) (Lesser God.)

FREQUENCY: Very rare
NO APPEARING: 1
ARMOUR CLASS: -7
MOVE: 3" (72" per flight sector on the campaign jet)
HIT DICE: 200 hit points (But first you have to defeat 4d8 Secret Service Agents)
% IN LAIR: 0%
TREASURE TYPE: All your NATO base are belong to us!
NO. OF ATTACKS: 1
DAMAGE/ATTACK: Invades Iran. Takes 100d20 casualties in first strike while inflicting 20 x 100d20 civilian casualties. Followed by war of attrition, economic collapse, recrimination.
SPECIAL ATTACKS: 5% chance of 30,000 Megaton nuclear first strike on Upper Volta.
SPECIAL DEFENSES: +3 or better weapon to hit. In event of combat, 20% chance of heart attack per round, followed by the swearing in of President Santorum. You wouldn't want that, would you?)
MAGIC RESISTANCE: 80% (10% vs. mind control spells by Cheney.)
INTELLIGENCE: Normal.
CHARISMA: 12 (16 to neocons)
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil if under control of Cheney; otherwise Chaotic neutral.
SIZE: M
LEVEL/X.P. VALUE: X/29,950* (* for impeachment)

A huge, ancient, carnivorous dinosaur from the swamps at the heart of Republican country, not unlike Godzilla in appearance and wrinkled integument, McCain has seen better years. Nevertheless he can breathe fire and threaten to stomp flat the capital city of any country that Fox News disapproves of with the best of them.

The biggest danger in facing off against a McCain is that he might be under the mind control of the Svengali-like Cheney, Prince of Darkness. In this case, he is likely to be lethally aggressive and even more unpredictable than usual.

3.10.2008

election { Going Low, Going Negative, part 2

Found another distasteful campaign ad:

3.07.2008

election { Going Low, Going Negative

The thing I hate most in elections, is the negative mud slinging. This tactic was refined and taken to new heights by the campaign strategies of Karl Rove for Bush in 2000 (a good example was the push polling saying McCain had a "black baby" in South Carolina).

I'm a little disappointed that Hillary is using this, below is a campaign ad that was used in Texas and Ohio before the race:



Its a Fear ad, much like the one from Defense of Democracies. Meant to scare us and tap into that primal emotion.

The Obama campaign hasn't used fear ads, instead going for more of a sympathy tactic. However, supporters have gone negative, and directly against her, such as in this non-endorsed supporter ad:



I wish both sides would not go negative. I wish there was a way candidates could counter each other and maintain an honest, fair, and sportsmanlike race. Facts seem to not matter much anymore and they are hard to weed out of the noise or find in a raw, unbiased format.

Going negative foremost is childish. To those who don't support you, it deepens their anger and disgust. For those who do support you, or believe the ads/remarks, it can create false impressions of the other candidate. Either way it creates an unnecessary tension at best, and a complete split where either side will not listen to the other at worst (the scorched earth approach).

Personally I support Obama, but I could live with Clinton (at the moment). I get a lot of flak from people (which is good, it sparks good healthy debate) because I support a candidate who "lacks experience." But I keep going back to, in my mind, that this lack of experience, to me, is not a detriment. I want change. I don't want someone who come from the inside (even though Obama does) who wants to maintain the status quo. The status quo is so broken I want outside of the box thought and input. I want someone not biased by years of being in that toxic environment. You want a competent President yes (although we haven't had one since 2000), but you also want a charismatic President. Someone who can energize and inspire. That trait does not come from experience, you either have it or you don't. I don't want change for the sake of change either, but change is needed.

P.S. If anyone can link Obama endorsed, anti-Clinton ads similar to Clinton's '3AM' ad, let me know. And yes I am aware that by not asking his supporters to stop going negative, Obama is passively supporting it.

casual_friday { In Memorium of Gary Gygax

Dead Alewives (8bit)

3.06.2008

musings { A Day in the Office

Tea bags pile up in the cap of my tea cup the way butts accumulate in the ash tray of a chain smoker. Its been a three bag day. The caffeine flows through my veins like electricity, clouding the mind, making things hard to focus on. Its Thursday. Usually a day of 4 hours of meetings. Today was cut short.

I keep my headphones on at all times, to help with the illusion of privacy afforded in my small box, well slightly larger box than I had a few weeks ago. A white noise generator supposedly provides cover for phone conversations, however this is a myth. It only provides a low level slightly annoying over time hum.

Email has been quiet, almost too quiet.

The project plan in front of me continues to grow. I need to watch scope creep, easy to do with large projects.

Review of the news turns up that Jeff Healey died last week. Gygax this week, they say celebrities go in threes. I liked Jeff Healey.

Our contractor stops by, he took my 'Solaris Performance and Tools' book with him recently to a tech summit in Chicago, he had it signed by the author Jim Mauro. Sweet.

I read a story about a Marine who threw a live puppy off a cliff, and it was video taped. What the hell? I avoid trying to think deeper into this, it was on You Tube, but like the Saddam hanging, was removed relatively quickly. I don't feel the need to go look for this, I've traveled enough of the digital river that I've seen more than I probably should have, I don't need to see this.

Ribs tonight. Friends tonight. I look forward to both.

The movie '28 Weeks Later' sucks royal. And this is from a guy who likes cheesy zombie movies. '28 Days Later' was a great creepy movie, this was just a shitty sequel. The other movie we watched 'La Cirque Rouge' was an awesome cops and robbers French flick. One that oozed cool and is highly recommended to anyone.

The Presidential race remains a yawn fest. Obama/Clinton, either one. Perhaps I've grown too cynical to think either can actually help guide us out of this shitstorm in which we've become quagmired.

Time to go home.

musicvideos { Some Fatboy Slim to cheer things up

Been feeling blue, I think its the weather, these helped cheer me up.

'The Joker' (cuteness factor approaches red zone on this one)


'Right Here, Right Now' (Evolution illustrated)


'Weapon of Choice' (because you gotta love Christopher Walken)

3.04.2008

in memoriam { Farewell Dungeon Master

Gary Gygax has died.

Update:

I guess I should add that I met Gary on a couple of occasions (Gen Con 18 and 20). He was nice enough to talk to me for a couple minutes while he was waiting for lunch in the Hyatt Regency in Millwaukee during GenCon 18. I was a young kid and he was just this nice guy who created a game which over my lifetime has given me thousands of hours of enjoyment, not to mention a love of fantasy, mythology, theatrics, and platonic solids. I still have a couple of the old first edition AD&D books that Gary autographed, although my signed Players Handbook was stolen at a Con. I never got the chance to play D&D with Gary (although I have played with Dave Arneson). He was one of the fathers of Role Playing Games, and his impact in both the PnP and video game industry was considerable.



(Gary, fourth from left)

3.03.2008

tech { My compy died...


So I had to rebuild a new one.

I was never able to fully identify what was wrong with my old computer, but I suspect bad RAM, a failed power converter on the mobo, or a dead proc. The symptoms were that a random, the computer would lock up with a high pitched squeal in the headphones. At first I thought it was some kind of compatibility problem with the new (as of patch 2.3) sound engine in WoW and my Creative X-Fi sound card. But last Wendesday it locked, and in this situation, a reset would usually fix it, but this time, a reset caused the monitor to go into 'No Signal' mode and nothing happened anymore, no HDD spin up, speaker beep or anything. I was crushed. I built the computer back in 2002, it was my companion while I was house bound during my recovery from AML.

Well the computer is dead, long live the computer.

I put together a new system. Here is its specs:

Motherboard: Asus P5E Pro WS; LGA775, 1600/1333MHz FSB, 2xPCI-Ex16 slots, 1 PCI-X slot, 2 PCI slots, I'm an Intel man and after my first Asus mobo a few computers back, I'll be hard pressed to ever switch
Memory: Corsair XMS2 DDR2 800 PC2 6400 4-4-4-12 CAS 2x1GB memory kit (soon to be 4GB)
Processor: Intel Core Duo 3.0GHz 4MB shared L2, E6850 Conroe
Video Card (new motherboard required a new video card): BFG Tech GeForce 8800GTS 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 SLI ready, I went nVidia even though I prefer ATI because this card received good benchmarks and most games now have been optimized for nVidia chipsets (which is sad)
PSU: 500W CoolMax M-500 ATX12V
Soundcard (only piece I carried over from the old system): Creative Soundblaster X-Fi Fatal1ty

The parts arrived last Friday. I was hoping to have the system rebuilt and re-installed before 9pm, in time for our Karazhan raid (which didn't happen because 1/3 the raid never showed up). The brain and CNS transplant went successfully and I was done at 8pm. The WinXP re-install was a pain, but it always is since I refused to go Vista, it mean about 3 hours of WinXP install, SP2 install, and about 900 patch updates. I then installed and updated the mobo, vid card, soundcard, and various drivers. I didn't have to play with the BIOS beyond setting up my boot devices, which is one thing I like about Asus mobos, jumperless, fully customizable settings from the BIOS. The biggest problem I've had was re-installing and re-importing my iTunes library. I install my iTunes onto a separate disk in a non-default location, which makes importing it a pain, but it can be done.

This computer is about 2 generations newer than my old one. I was going to upgrade it sometime this year anyway because graphics technology has moved from AGP to PCI-E, and my ATI X1650 was the last AGP video card I was going to buy.

Performance specs (anecdotal):

World of Warcraft (about the only game I play routinely):
Resolution (old/new): 1680x1050/1680x1050
Settings (old/new): Minimum Vid settings + high texture detail/Full Vid settings, all sliders maxed
Average FPS (old/new): 30/170
Average Latency (old/new): 120ms/120ms

Yeah, I'm averaging 120-170fps in most of the world. In Shattrath City, the main hub, most populated, worst performing area of the game for everyone, I used to get 7-17fps around the central area and banks, with my new system, the lowest I've seen was 70fps in the Scryer's bank. In instances I'm doing about 90-120fps. In battlegrounds (also low performing due constant updates from server) I'm averaging 80fps. It feels like a whole new game with the level of detail I've never played with before.

Sins of Solar Empire
Resolution: 1680x1050 (both old and new)
Settings (old/new): Minimum + ship detail = high/Full, all settings max
Average FPS: unknown/unknown, the game has no easy FPS meter

This game plays smooth as silk on maximum detail and environment settings. I even created a custom map with 500 planets, and there was no slow down or lag. I can now have the detail turned up to the level where planets are richly detailed as are the ships instead of vague geometric blobs with different colors.

This computer build should last me for years to come. I generally get 5 years or so of life out my home built computers and I picked this one so that it would last me another 5 years.

I <3 my new compy and I <3 Nerdwife who puts up with my tech addiction and understood my need to build a new computer.

season { Spring is near

I grew up with part of my life on a farm. I know what it means to be in sync with the clockwork of nature and life. Spring is life and renewal, fall is diminish and death, summer is activity, winter is rest. Spring is close and I welcome and look forward to it. I hope each year the world will be reborn anew. I wait for the coming of the green, and hope it will not become brown too early. Winter must have snow, and summer must have sun. Spring must have warmth and fall must have chill. This is how life should be according to my internal clock. This is how it has always been for me living a lifetime thus far in Minnesota. The year has four parts. Each leads to the next. Each make up a cycle of the year. We are entering a time of renewal and rebirth. The gray will pass and out will come the sun.

'Suvetar', Gjallarhorn (yes, I've posted this before, its a fitting song for spring)



translation:


Suvetar, fine matron
Arise to see the seeds
Raise the matron's corn
So that we may be spared pain

Manutar, matron of the Earth
Lift up the shoots from the ground
New shoots from the stumps
So that we may be spared pain

Feed us with honey-hearts
Give us honey-drink
Delicious honey-grass
On a blossoming knoll

You have shining silver
You have glistening gold

Rise up, O maiden
Black from the soil

Underground crone
Most ancient of Nature's daughters
Make the peat shoot forth
And the ground turn over

Underground crone
Most ancient of Nature's daughters
Lift up a thousand seedlings
To reward my efforts.