Sunday, November 25 2012 23:09 EST
Thanksgiving has happened! Yeah, some of you won't care or even know about that, but it happened nonetheless. Our experience was surprsingly pleasurable despite M having to work half the day and us attending two separate celebrations. We had a delicious and enjoyable meal in Bristol with M's dad's side of the family, and then drove back to the hood to hang out with Michele's mom's side of the fam which currently includes an extraordinary number of kids. And it was lovely - fortunately all of the kids are adorable.
) and doing some more home work for a brilliant, online, cryptography course
There are a lot of things I was hoping to rant about, but you're spared that crap because I'm tired. For the benefit of my memory, they include
- Language-obsessed developers.
- Workplaces and their fear of conflict compared to their willingness to silently harbour grudges and then create cult-like hatred of people they've never really talked to.
- The entire financial system as it is in 2012.
- Willing morons.
- Morons (willing and unwilling) who are allowed to make decisions.
- People who can't understand why anyone would be against the idea of working all day every day. (q.v. Morons)
Sunday, October 21 2012 19:39 EDT
By the year 2000 we'll all have jet-packs and robots will do all the work, allowing us to spend all of our time playing chess and discussing Chekhov.
Meanwhile, in 2012, here's how I spent my luxurious Sunday.
M works on Sunday and so she had to abandon the snuggly bed at an early hour. Being a girl it takes her a couple of hours to leave the house which I spent drifting in and out of unnerving dreams; when the dreams gave way to conscious mental meanderings such as "I wonder what the lyrics to 'Freak Magnet' actually are" and "perhaps if I till the soil in Minecraft I can grow some grasses", I happily remembered my Nexus-7 was in crawling distance of the bed and thus began two hours of Internet whimsy in the safe comfort of the bed. M brought up our new housemate, Corbett, in his travel cage because the little git was screaming his head off. Once on the bed he settled down to make his gentle happy noises and started to preen. There we sat for a long while: me messing about on Facebook, he messing around with his feathers.
Something in the corner of the room started playing annoying music which caused me to scowl and ignore it. Curiosity eventually led me to get out of the enveloping duvet and investigate the source of the music which turned out to be M's iPad: it appeared my Dad had attempted to call me over Facetime. So I retreated to the comfort of the bed and the company of Corbett with the iPad, and called back. Now it feels like 2012! A video chat with my parents in their comfy room 3000 miles away and me in the bed.
After a nice long chat I took a shower and went back to messing around with a mobile app I'm playing with while Leo hung out on my shoulder.
I had arranged to go on a bike ride with a friend at 2pm but she wasn't feeling too good when I called round. The weather was so spectacularly beautiful it would have been criminal not to take advantage of it so I went alone. It was the most beautiful autumnal day and I cycled along the Schuylkill River Trail up to Spring Mill and back before nearly killing myself walking up the bastard hill. But it was an 11 mile round-trip which pays for itself in smug value. If it wasn't for living in Hilly Hillville on the Hill I would cycle everywhere. Probly.
This evening was spent hanging out with M and the birds, eating shrimp and pineapple tacos, watching recent British TV and drinking wine.
This is how we live in the comfortable end of the first world in 2012. If you ever hear me moan about anything then please give me a slap.
Sunday, October 07 2012 23:30 EDT
A while ago I shipped my (not very) old iPad to my parents in England. It took a while to get there - not to England, that part of the journey was impressively fast - it was after landing on Blighty that things slowed down. The HMRC (i.e. bastard taxation bastards) held on to it for a couple of weeks while they tried to find a way of squeezing some cash out of it. Eventually they gave up trying to think of something rational and just charged 80 quid in "VAT" because they bloody well can. My mum and dad therefore had to fork out in order to receive this gift.
Once they had it in their hands it worked as I'd hoped and we managed to use Facetime for weekly family chats. In the meantime they appealed to HMRC for a refund on the basis that they had taken their money for no good reason - the judgement is still pending.
One thing I had forgotten is that the developer version of iOS I'd installed on it would eventually expire and not be upgradable via the normal means...for some reason. Last week it expired. It doesn't tell the user it has expired, it just gives a bunch of nonsensical error messages and leads the desperate operator through a variety of frustrating circular paths to nowhere. The only useful suggestion it gives is to connect it to iTunes. But my parents don't have a mac on which to run iTunes. They don't have windows either; they run Ubuntu. So how could this problem be solved.
The most frequent "solution" to this problem is to run iTunes in a VM or Wine and it apparently has mixed results. "If only there was a USB over Internet thing that would let me connect the iPad to my Mac over the Internet" I thought. Generally speaking, if you ever have an idea like this then it probably already exists so just Google it. I did. It does!
OK this is proprietary software (something I prefer to avoid) but it's truly awesome (in the genuine "awe" sense of the word). Using the trial version on my Dad's Ubuntu box, the iPad was plugged in and shared. Using the trial version on my Mac I connected to his box and opened iTunes. iTunes was fooled into thinking it was plugged directly in to the Macbook and happily (albeit very, very slowly) upgraded it to the release version of iOS6 - over the Internet.
Apart from the delight of being able to get the iPad working again from 3000 miles away, the sheer hack value of the operation tickled my locksmith genes and made me very happy. I'll be buying this software because not only does it do what it promises but it's beautifully built. Oh and for geeks that care: of course it's written with Qt.
Mr McG took me on a 9am bike ride today; we made it down to the art museum and back again. I killed my legs again, but I'm already feeling better for it. Also West River Drive is a beautiful ride.
This evening we were invited over Michele's M[ou]m's for a superb beef stew. On top of that she made Yorkshire puddings!
Sunday, September 16 2012 22:26 EDT
Not long ago an incredible games console was released that had astounding graphics and sound. Never having been into video games, I never bought one; they were expensive and so were the games. But there was one game that really intrigued me and could inspire long sessions playing on other people's consoles. It was only today that I realised Ecco The Dolphin
was released on the Sega Mega-Drive (Genesis) 20 years ago. 20 bloody years ago!
How the hell did that happen? Time is cruel.
- We got given a Wii by some lovely friends who are leaving Philly and heading home to the motherland. Today I hacked it for homebrew and can now not only play my beloved Ecco, but can watch my entire video collection without having to convert it to MP4.
- On Friday, this blog, the server on which it and a number of websites were hosted, vanished. This is another in a long line of hosting cock-ups that have been hammering away at my soul for the last 12 months. The details are unimportant but yet again I've had to reconstruct my "recent" blog posts from Google's cache and now I have to convert my extensive Apache configurations to nginx. As it turns out I'd planned to do this already but not at such short notice. BTW in case you weren't aware, nginx is the dogs bollocks. So is mosh.
- Mr B invited me along to see an excellent Jazz Band he's promoting at Chris' Jazz Cafe during the week. It was a truly brilliant evening.
- With yet more encouragement from Mr B I finally stopped mincing and actually bought a bike on Saturday! I love it too. After actually getting it out of the shop we took a cycle from home to Kelly Drive. It killed my knees by the end, but thanks to some stretching exercises my legs were fine the next day. It's just my arse that's sore.
- After realising that a Nexus 7 is a comfortable replacement for my work-bought iPad, I sent the latter to my family in London. Despite some unpleasantness with HMRC, they got it and now our weekly Skype chats from "the computer room" have turned into Facetime chats from the hub of the living room. It's like being in the room with everyone! My niece grows lovelier by the week.
Tuesday, September 04 2012 01:22 EDT
Once a year, General Dan makes a long journey to the foothills of the Pocono Mountains in order to replenish his stock of woodsman-style outdoorsy clothing; he purchases his gear from a place called Cabelas, which proudly describes itself as "The World's Foremost Outfitters". In fact it is actually the foremost supplier of redneck survivalist equipment ranging from camouflage gear to light artillery; and for the past two years Dan has taken me along. This was an alien concept to me, coming from England, but to the patrons of Cabelas it is simply part of the outdoor sporting life. "Sport" is the key word here.
It's not marketed as for survival or murder - but for sport.
Bear with me as I attempt to describe the experience from the point of view of, what the average patron there would probably describe as, a liberal fag.
On entering the store you are greeted by one of the beige-uniformed elderly greeters - greeting is what they do. You look ahead to a brightly lit aircraft-hangar-sized building packed with people and clothing, but at the far end is a huge artificial mountain decorated with stuffed animals ranging from squirrels to wildebeest. It is a genuinely awe-inspiring sight.
The main body of the store is filled with flannel shirts, camouflage gear, jeans, wooly-warmers and your normal set of cracker-wear. But as you dig deeper, you will discover so much more. Let's go straight for the bit I, liberal-fag that I am, find most astonishing.
Guns! There are thousands of them! Shotguns, rifles, handguns, stun-guns you name it, they have fucking millions of them. Anything from a second-hand pump-action shot gun for under a hundred quid, to a M16 - the longest wall of the shop is lined with them. And it is the busiest part of the place. Families line up to hold, and ultimately purchase, these weapons and thankfully there is a large area of Windows 7 machines together with a pool of consultants waiting to help anyone through the overly intrusive state bureaucracy required to obtain the licence to buy them. Obviously this doesn't apply to pump-action shotguns as in PA no licence is required.
There are aisles and aisles of ammunition in brightly coloured boxes that look like the old Pick and Mix at Woolworths. Kids amble around joyfully looking at all of this and the lovely stuffed animals with their little cards detailing when each animal was killed.
In fact it's the enormous number of kids there that really astonishes me. They are positively encouraged to explore the wonderful world of hunting as sport. There is not only a shooting gallery, designed to make it impossibly easy to hit every target, but also a selection of "kill the wildlife" video games that really weirded me out. In fact one of them was so disturbing that I can't get it out of my head...
Big Buck HD is a video game that allows you to enjoy the real hunting experience from the convenience of your own trailer or arcade. It's about killing animals with shotguns and so you, the player, have a big plastic shotgun which you aim at the HD realistic animals
. You choose which species you want to slay and then have a few seconds to kill as many of them as they run by without killing the wrong type of animal (otherwise you lose points). No only do you get a commentary by a vacuous cracker who sounds like "cletus the slack-jawed yokel", but you also get a "trail guide". I didn't play this game but Dan got "Nicoleta" as a trail guide; she is wearing a camouflage-style bikini and her vital job is to bend over and wiggle her CGI arse
just before you successfully kill a sentient being.
Meanwhile a father pushing his child along the knives and traps aisle stopped to observe a video. "Look jimmy, a fox" he said pointing at the screen as the soft-metal guitars created an exciting backdrop to the visual thrill of a real wild fox running into the open ground. There was a bang and a chunk of the fox exploded. That child will forever thank his dad for this introduction to the sporting life. Not far away from this aisle you can pick up "bargain" holographic sights - sights which are clearly intended for shooting humans in an urban environment.
So, now for the admission: I am a hypocrite. I eat and enjoy meat. I went there and spent money, which means I probably donated to the teabaggers. But I still find the place utterly disturbing, mainly because of the liberal use of the word "sport". The killing is the part that is supposed to be enjoyable. Not the eating apparently. Kids are *actively* encouraged to come along and appreciate the killing...in the name of sport.
There's probably only one area of debate in which I'm not a hypocrite in fact: I fucking hate all sport.
Thursday, August 23 2012 02:41 EDT
"Some people have too much time on their hands" say a billion twitter tards and other assorted Internet gobshites when presented with something incredibly intricate that clearly took a lot of time and effort to create. It may seem pointless, it may actually be pointless, and it frequently did take a long time to create, but the suggestion that it is the product of someone with "too much time on their hands" is ludicrously pathetic and it gets right on my tits.
The most talented and creative people I know produce things at a rate that is at least an order of magnitude higher than I could ever follow. They get the same time as we all do - they just use it effectively. They all have day jobs, and they all go out and have fun. But they also have an inexplicable ability to be creative too. I wish I knew how this trick was pulled off and not knowing fills me with envy. But one thing is for certain: they don't have too much time on their hands. No-one does. It is argued that people who do literally nothing could be said to have too much time on their hands - but they fill their days somehow.
The real problem is people who get bored; if you find yourself bored in 2012 then you are either a moron, or living somewhere that doesn't have Internet access within walking distance. If the latter, then I feel for you. If the former then please turn off your router and stop donating your opinions. The only boring thing in your life is you.