Friday, November 30, 2007

Wordpress!

For the sake of experimentation, I've installed WordPress on my machine at home. The install process was easier than a clumsy fall, and importing my Blogger posts (and comments!) was a matter of only a couple mouse clicks, too. I haven't decided whether to use this as my primary blogposting spot or not, but I can think of several benefits. Most importantly, I've got full control over EVERYTHING, since it runs on my own server. The access logs are also as thorough as it gets: No longer will I have to rely on Sitemeter to give me incomplete and unreliable information about my visitors.

The posting and editing interface has more features than Blogger (including the ability to perma-link certain posts, if you want, for search engine friendliness), and, so far, it doesn't have any of the annoying formatting bugs Blogger seems to breed.

The only drawback I can see to this style of blogging will be my limited bandwidth -- my own server has a pitiful 512kbps upload capacity, and if the site grows much more at all, I'll either need to upgrade my internet account or seek professional hosting services. Thankfully, the theme I've chosen is mostly text, so it doesn't seem to take much bandwidth to navigate.

I'll cross-post for now, since I haven't decided which to keep, but in the meantime, check out the awesomeness. I'm psyched enough to have archived my homepage (the code for which I slaved upon for many hours) and moved the Wordpress blog to take its place. Thank the heavens for FOSS :-)

Monday, November 26, 2007

On Content

Sorry, folks, but I've failed. I hadn't actually announced participation in NaBloPoMo (preparing for inevitable failure, I was), but I sure wanted to participate. I did pretty well there, until life caught up with me. Some things make blogging seem awfully unimportant.

I do have some personal insight to share, though. It's mostly to do with this happiness we seem so obsessed in finding. It's popular nowadays, at least in our culture, to seek gratification for oneself, often regardless of the cost. The only thing that matters, we say, is one's own happiness. While that's true when all is said and done, a person should think a bit about what happiness is before holding this mantra up as a catch-all hedonist's license.

Have you found lasting happiness in heroin when the people you care about (and who care about you!) weep in private over your self-destruction? A glazed cruller tastes very good, but if you swipe it off your beloved grandmother's plate, does it give you as much pleasure? Acceptance-seeking behavior sometimes makes a person behave ridiculously, but there's a certain amount of peer approval that's required for happiness. Seek pleasure, but don't let it come at the cost of somebody you owe loyalty to. Happiness thus obtained is bittersweet and empty. The real happiness, the contented, full-bellied feeling of being in the right place at the right time, depends on the approval of the folks you share your life with. Don't let them dictate, but it's foolish to brush off the opinion of a person who knows you well.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

END

Well, I finished Xenocide. A spectacular book, but I was severely let down once again by my new and awesome idea being already thought of by somebody else.

The characters had discovered a sort of extra dimension near the end of the novel, and with that discovery came talk about the origin of the universe. The author described my brilliant idea about each universe eventually developing something that can create more universes (and on and on...) perfectly, except the elements in his example were different.

Bah to my creativity already having been created. Bah, I say!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Lovely link

My aunt has introduced me to FOUND Magazine. It's light, funny, and better for all of it because it's so... real. Enjoy it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

How Inconvenient

Here come the holidays. The next few days will be full of family togetherness, and while I hate to admit it, the frequent blogging thing is going to become a bit of a distraction. Normally, I've got nothing better to do, but with a sister I haven't seen in forever (months, but quite long enough to be forever) and a grandmother I haven't seen in years, I haven't much motivation to tear myself away from happiness to blog stuffs. If I'm certainly going to try, but it's quite possible I'll be back to two-line entries just to post something more than nothing.

In other news, Mozilla has finally released Firefox 3 Beta. A more detailed article over at ars technica outlines some impressive new features, including full-page zoom capability, rendering with a vector graphics engine (with support for hardware acceleration), and a completely overhauled bookmarks system. At the same time, the article at ars claims improvements to the software will decrease system load, but that, of course, remains to be seen. Once I get my new machine (hopefully tomorrow), I'll put it to the test and get some stats put up here, if I can motivate myself to do so :p

Monday, November 19, 2007

Wheee

Prices sure have come down. Since my sandbox (a 430Mhz PIII with a 6GB hard drive) died, I'm in the market for a new toy. I did some price work today and came up with a decent machine (an absolute powerhouse compared to the last, with a Sempron 3000+, 512MB RAM and a 160GB drive) for $175, including a $15 rebate on the board/processor thing. Lovely, eh? Bear in mind, this doesn't come with an operating system -- that's what the experiments are all about. To add Windows to the price of this computer would cost an additional $200-$400. That's right: The computer costs less than the operating system nowadays. In my own terribly humble opinion, free is a much better price. I've decided to give Fedora a try and see if it's all it's cracked up to be. It's about time I tried something user-friendly.

Egads

I lack inspiration or something. I'm also a little late (but again, it's still my Sunday).

You want lulz? Check it.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Hiya

Xenocide is good. I'm rushing off to party like a monster, but if I think about it, I'll write up a review sometime later on.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Man On Fire

I'm not motivated to go into detail in regards to my animosity toward the mainstream music industry (this post links to a good article on the subject, if you really want to read that much), but to sum it up, I pirate RIAA-affiliated music with the voracity of a T-Rex on a chicken range (seriously, I don't need near this much crap), while I buy albums by artists who're not affiliated with the RIAA, and I enjoy them a great deal more than my vast pirated music collection.

Anyway, sometimes, the best way to stiffen one's resolve is to take a good, hard look into the eye of the enemy.

Over at the RIAA web site, their front page boasts control over "90% of all legitimate sound recordings," a possible Freudian indication of their eventual goal. Beyond that, the first link in the middle of the page is to "How much money we're making" (actually entitled "Unit shipment and dollar value charts"), and appears, beneath the surface, to indicate a significant drop in profits during the last five or ten years.

Here's the problem I run into -- why is that information displayed so prominently on their web site, right below their claim to 90% market share? It's certainly not an advertisement for label-seeking artists; who'd want to join up with such a loser?

I've developed two conclusions from the above questions. First, in regards to motive, the record industry's major lament these days is a sharp drop in record sales, reportedly due to rampant online piracy. Whether or not the piracy is a debatable point, their motive is clear: "Here's the proof! See? We weren't lying!"

My second conclusion is a bit of a stretch. Displaying reports like this that reflect negatively on the growth of your company is, needless to say, a poor business strategy. There's no sane reason for it, and it's a great way to steer investors away from your company. Advertising them in the middle of the front page on your web site, then, is tantamount to setting yourself on fire in the public theater that is the capitalist marketplace.

What kind of man sets fire to himself with the intent not to die, but to show everyone how much he's suffering and expect to reap the benefits of pity? Such a man is wholly self-centered, apparently a bit desperate, and must deem himself invincible. Such a man also, however, is nice and crispy before too long.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I'm picky, but...

Sometimes, the beat is just too much to resist. Between the dark ghetto beats (and the dark ghetto voice), the idea of a beverage made of "Hypno and Hennessy" (uh, yuck?), and a barrage of images from the Incredible Hulk (ah, childhood), this video gave me a nice, wide smile. Check it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Reader?

I'm not so sure about this Google Reader thingymabob. In a nutshell, it aggregates all your RSS feeds into an easy-to-navigate interface, including article previews (actually, the full articles) in a sort of pop-up bubble thing.

While it's great for users, site administrators might find the thing a bane, since you can't tell who's reading, or where they came from. Granted, if the reader clicks the link to "View original content," a hit will be recorded, but the article in pop-up form on your Google homepage doesn't generate any record at all on the target site. For bloggers just starting out, at least, it's nice to know what people are reading, when they're reading, and where they come from. Not only that, but some bloggers (not me, admittedly, but some) surely use their site's layout to create an atmosphere for their writing.

I'm not so fond of this thing. For now, I'm making a point to "view original content" and experience the articles in the way they were originally intended. You should, too.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

2 Below

If you have access to New Belgium beers in your area, you really ought to pick up their 2 Below Winter Ale and give it a try. It's their winter seasonal, and despite the ratings on ratebeer, it's one of the best I've tried this year. The 74th percentile is no good indication as to the deliciousness of this brew.

The beer pours a lovely reddish-amber color, with a thin, but resinous lingering head. Nose is of pine hops, earth, and mild fruit. The first sip is bright, juicy, and full of pine-needle hops. This stuff tastes very much like a freshly cut Christmas tree would smell -- sweet, light, and rich piney goodness. The carbonation here is just right, with tiny, abundant, sharp bubbles, just shy of the "explode in your mouth" variety. The finish is dry, but by no means bitter. I'm always amazed at beers that can incorporate so much juicy hop flavor (Goose Island's IIPA is the quintessential example) without making the beer uncomfortably bitter, and this one pulls it off spectacularly. The aftertaste is clean, although sips do leave the mouth a bit sticky for awhile after the beer is gone.

I'm a little surprised this falls into the "ESB" category on ratebeer's site. I realize the categories aren't a perfect system, but this reminds me much more of an imperial IPA (minus the alcohol content, although this one is at a respectable 6.6% ABV) than any ESB I've tasted. In any case, it's hard to go wrong with this choice. It's got a delicious, full-bodied flavor, and at less than $8 per sixer, even if you don't like it, it won't be much of a sacrifice to hand it over to me for... disposal :p

Monday, November 12, 2007

I would, but...

I was going to post a lovely song for you this evening, but my singer just isn't cooperating with me this evening. I'm no vocalist, so to actually get something that sounds decent takes quite a good number of tries. I've got to give up this evening. Perhaps tomorrow.

In the meantime, check this guy out. The tune I wanted to sing is "Clean Elvis," which so happens to be on that very page. Fair warning -- the link goes to a Myspace page, so if you've sworn of the cesspool, you may not want to click.

WHUPS

My days are so wonky... to me, it's still Sunday until about 3am. Perhaps this counts? In any case, a decision to choose blog over adventure would be folly. It held no ghosts, but a burned-out building in the middle of the woods was cool enough in itself. Please enjoy the multimedia.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bleh

Saturdays leave me drained. I don't have the energy to post, so until tomorrow, share my love for Fox Television. I especially love the exploding van with the "Demonstration" disclaimer: "Yes, we're trying to scare you. Here, watch this van blow up."

Friday, November 9, 2007

Supreme Commander

I finally tried Supreme Commander yesterday evening. Real-time strategy is, by far, my favorite genre, so I'm a bit biased, but I can say with confidence this is quite a good game.

Primarily, economic development is a lot more active a process than in other RTS games. The two economic units, Energy and Mass, exist in a sort of "pool." Creating buildings and units drains energy and/or mass, and when the pool is empty, building slows to a near halt, and the economy stalls. When you're generating a surplus of energy and mass, the pool fills back up to the maximum level. Resource management in this game is an interesting balancing act, and it's unique (at least, in my own experience) to this game.

The tech tree is also pretty deep, allowing for a "Tech 1" rush of a large number of weak units (similar to the Zerg in Starcraft) early in the game, followed up by more and more powerful units (including a virtually unstoppable giant spider thing) as the player makes his way down the tech tree. The base defense installations allow for long games, epic sieges, and plenty of time to develop your technology to the point at which you're comfortable breaking out of your shell (with much fire, we hope).

As icing on the cake, the game has built-in support for dual displays, allowing the player to have a world-sized strategic map on one display and the familiar RTS-style interface on the other. I must say, however, at high settings with two monitors running, the game did stutter some during the most graphically intense (read: just when the battle started to heat up) moments.

To summarize, I am not looking forward to waking up at 7:30am tomorrow. I've decided to just bugger all and be tired. I can't quit this darned game.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Tee Vee

Today, I spoke with a customer who made up my mind. I will not subscribe to any sort of pay-for television service for the foreseeable future.

I've spoken to plenty of angry customers without internet service, and plenty of angry customers without TV service, and I've become aware of a significant difference between the two groups. The latter, without TV, is nothing short of desperate. I'll admit, I find myself a little lost if our internet service drops for awhile, but I always find something to do. On the internet, after all, I have to actively find things with which to entertain myself. Even if it's just wandering around in the yard with a knife in an "I wonder if I can cut this" and "I can tie these things together and make string" sort of mood, I make do.

Life is more than glowing boxes and pre-programmed entertainment regimens. It's so full of exploration and adventure. The problem is once we get accustomed to letting the TV (or anything, for that matter) entertain us, we lose some of our ability to actually, actively live. There are no discoveries to be had on the Discovery channel, I'm afraid -- everything you see there was made for you to watch, by people who have already discovered what you're learning about. You're not learning anything useful, anyway. At least with the internet, we're capable of stimulating something and getting a response. Hacking with computers is a great way to explore, and if you're smart enough (I've yet to reach that level, admittedly), you can make entirely new discoveries within that tiny little world. The TV, on the other hand, is completely passive, and exists for nothing more than to allow us to switch off and become vegetables for awhile.

There's nothing wrong with vegetating -- our lifestyle does seem to generate an urge to drop everything and drool at times -- but if letting the tube carry your brain for awhile is the only thing you learn to do to sort out your thoughts, you'll be very unhappy without that "quick fix" if it's unavailable. TV is as addicting as anything they warned us about in grade school's DARE program, in that sense; the familiar image of the beer-bellied man in an easy chair with a remote is as sad a picture of abuse as any of the scary drug videos (we're even forgetting how to teach...) they showed us in school.

Challenge yourself. Don't watch the TV on for two days, and don't channel surf for a week after that. I haven't done that in months, and I live with no sense at all of an unsatisfied urge to immerse myself in the glowy world of the tee vee. Would you feel the same after a few days?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

How Many Fingers?

Sources indicate this man is about to go to trial on charges of terrorism. The trial, in itself, is a pretty big deal, as it's been six years since Khadr was captured and imprisoned in Guantanamo, but that's not quite the point. I hadn't heard this story until today, and the trial isn't foremost on my mind.

Khadr was fifteen when he was taken. He's spent the last six years (about a quarter of his life) in a military prison camp, infamous for stories of the torture of its inmates. Now, at twenty-one years, they're wondering if he should stand trial and spend the rest of his life in jail. The alternative is anyone's guess.

I can say with some confidence we wouldn't just let this guy go. First, he did lob a grenade at our soldiers, and if he didn't hate us then, he sure as heck isn't a fan of us now. There's a real risk he'd "reoffend," to use civilian terminology, so it'd be folly to set him loose without some sort of...

"Psychiatric help," the radio said. They're considering giving him psychiatric help, since he's probably gonna be pretty messed up after spending so long, at so impressionable an age, in such an awful place, especially after being brainwashed into the enemy's army. It's ridiculous to imagine this man sitting on a couch in a head shrink's plush office talking about his past. No, help is a misnomer. They're gonna somehow need to convince him we're not as evil as everybody thinks we are, since he's had such a bad first impression with us. He's been brainwashed, by our standards (no normal fifteen-year-old kid would join the military... pfft), so we're gonna try and un-brainwash him. We'll rehabilitate him, Orwell style. How many fingers, kid? We're the freest nation on earth.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Hang it up.

At Wendy's today, a man and his two sons shared a table. They didn't share a meal or an hour -- they shared just a table.

The man, you see, yammered on his cell phone the entire time about collegiate football. The younger boy told the older about his day at school while Dad talked about the ins and outs of retiring numbers to whoever was more important than his boys on the other end of the line. When they finally ended up leaving, it was one of the boys who said, "Dad, we have to go. It's 5:45, and we need to be there by six." Still yakking, the man stood up and hurried out, the boys following only by their own accord. If the boys had stayed, I wonder how far he'd have gotten before he realized they weren't behind him. Five, ten minutes on the road, maybe?

I've heard somebody say (or write, more likely) that kids raise their parents, in a sense, but I'm pretty sure this isn't the picture they had in mind.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Revelation (and a tune)

I've discovered, by posting frequently, I've got to either let my life into the blog, or let the blog intrude on what I'd normally be doing. I'd much prefer the former, so without further ado, I present a goofy Willie Nelson song I love to sing. I don't claim to be any good; that's not the point of singing.





I hope you giggle. Songs are joy.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Linky

If you're up for a bit of a read, I found a terrific rant on the music industry in response to Oink's death. He makes a lot of good points, and while he shouts his cries for revolution against the currently impenetrable padded walls of the status quo, he's got some good ideas for personal protest. Good stuff.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Truth About Geekery

Imagine a geek at play, if you will, in front of a computer terminal working on a project. Let's pretend he's putting together a mail server so he can send email using his own computer instead of relying on a third party, like Google or his ISP. Cool, right? Oh. I see. Just bear with me, then.

He's hunched in front of his machine, now, trying to configure this mail server properly. Chances are it came with a bunch of messy configuration files, and to set this mail server up, he needs to edit those so the server will know how to behave.

He's not editing any files, though. Heck, he doesn't even have anything but Firefox open. What on earth is he-- he's... reading?

Fast forward thirty minutes or so. There's the geek, with twice as many Firefox tabs open, another empty Dr. Pepper can on his desk, and one tiny window with some black and white text in it. Still, he's paying most of his attention to his web browser (maybe he even has a paper book open at this point, if he's of the money-having variety). Once in awhile, he'll flip back to the config file to check something, but within a minute, he's right back to the internet, buried in pages of documentation.

The scene could go on for hours, depending on his luck, but from start to finish, he spends at least 90% of his time researching. All those hacker movies are a tad dishonest. Computery bliss isn't usually had typing miles per minute in green text on a black background (although it does look pretty sweet) -- most of the work is in the reading. It's satisfying, enriching, wholesome play, but it's time consuming, and it takes more l33t research skills than anything else. Eventually, this particular tinkerer may become proficient enough to configure a mail server without reading a word of documentation, but until then, it's to the books, with him.

I've been inspired this evening by FreeBSD's unbelievably thorough (and easily readable) documentation, and I'm filled with ideas from several hours spent this afternoon flipping through it, wondering if I should take on another project.

Friday, November 2, 2007

"News for Hippies"

Slashdot's subtitle, "News for nerds", is showing its age. Perhaps I've only started to notice, but it seems some completely off-topic stories have been making it frequently to the front page. Their story about FEMA's fake news briefing, while timely, is not of interest to me at all. Besides, I read it in the "real" news. The fact they'd include this story on their front page is evidence of their left-leaning slant. Heck, somehow an editorial piece with an opening statement of "If you act different, you might find yourself investigated, questioned, and even arrested" ended up in the "Your rights online" category, once again on the front page of my favorite geekzine. Most of the linked stories are topical and interesting, but sometimes I wonder about the selection process; even though the article contains the word database, a link to a story about protestors on a terrorist watch list does not belong on Slashdot.

I realize Slashdot is just another blog, but they're going to start turning their readers off with this awful political bias. They lose a bit of credibility by including these stories, as far as I'm concerned, and while they're entitled to post whatever on earth they want, they've also made a name for themselves that'd be a shame to destroy. I propose a new category for all these articles misplaced under "Your rights online": "Hippies delight".

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Overdose

I decided to be emo yesterday. Complete with black eyeliner, a Deftones t-shirt, trendy accessories, and (extraordinarily uncomfortable) faux-leather pants, I fit the part well -- a bit too well, in fact. My dark clothes made me mildly broody by themselves, even after I'd stopped pretending to be in eternal torment. I seem to have taken in a bit too much of the trendiness (nobody told me to pace myself...), and it messed up my brain. I've fully recovered, of course, but I'm now quite aware of the possibility of a cool overdose. It's certainly been awhile. Back in the day, I could handle that with no problem. I didn't realize I'd built up such a tolerance.