2009-12-27

Alexandra and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Just wondering when the luck will start turning for me.

I have been traveling to Virginia and North Carolina for a week now, and so far...

  • My flight to Virginia has been delayed and rerouted due to snowstorms, whole trip taking 26+ hours;
  • On the way, I caught a cold which still lingers, and which caused a laryngitis, with loss of voice.
  • Coming back from dinner in Durham, I hit a deer with my rental car.

Other than that, the trip has been great, and I managed to meet everyone I hoped to so far. Now if only the cold would let up a bit, it may end up an enjoyable experience after all!

2009-12-25

Dumbstruck

I caught a head cold bug on the plane, and have been having a case of laryngitis since Wednesday. Basically, my voice just disappeared, and the best I can do is "speak" in croaks and squeaks for a few seconds before dissolving into a cough. Thankfully, it's almost over, and I hope to have my voice back in a day or two, but in the meantime, my condition has given me a chance to study human communications without being involved too much in them.

One interesting thought I had is that I am basically speech-impaired, only that I am also totally unskilled in use of any of the aids that folks who can't easily speak employ to communicate with fellow humans.

I don't carry a note pad, and I can't type on the iPhone fast enough to have any meaningful exchange.

My most complex conversations in the past two days have all been in a chat, while people around me have to deal with one-sentence responses from me.

The most interesting part is that I can be present and observe social interactions while being a very passive participant myself. Something like this would not happen had I not lost my ability to speak.

So anyways, if you want to reach me over the next few days, I recommend a written medium. :)

Happy holidays, y'all!

2009-12-17

How I learned to stop worrying and love Mr asdf asdf

I find it vaguely offensive and fairly annoying that "customers" who come to download a free trial of our software, or free documentation, or free books, find it necessary to input abusive language in the registration form.

In that context "asdf asdf" and "test@test.com" become almost welcome bits of garbage.

The fact that the person would think that far ahead to know that someone like me will be looking through the leads and read their insults, makes me think they are more than a bit asocial.

Just for the record, the only "required" bits in the entire form are email and the name, and we always respect unsubscribe requests.

2009-12-15

One year of free music

One year ago, I have decided to only use free music for a "few months," which turned into a full year. In the course of this year, I found a number of great artists on Jamendo, as well as a few free downloads of more mainstream type music.

Recently I have renewed my emusic.com subscription, in part because they now have a much larger catalogue which includes M.I.A., Bob Dylan, and Cake, to name but a few whose songs were not available just a year ago.

Looking back on the year without paid subscription, I also realized that I have spent more money donating to artists on Jamendo, to my favourite internet radio station soma.fm, and to the Creative Commons than I would normally spend on the music.

Since we're all being encouraged to give money to some cause or another in celebration of a number of holidays around this time of the year, may I kindly suggest you give to the Creative Commons or an artist of your choice on Jamendo? 'Tis the season, yaknow.

Bullitt chase sequence mapped out

If you are reading my blog, chances are, you are into cars. Even if not, you might like the movie "Bullitt" which I finally caught up on watching last night.

New to the Bay area as I am, even I recognized that they were in San Francisco. But where?

Now here's someone who takes their Steve McQueen seriously. This dude has mapped out the entire chase sequence for your viewing pleasure.

Enjoy.

2009-12-13

Finnjabi Bad Boy

Enjoy the vid and a few thoughts about "brownface" on Sociological Images.

I like the closing: "So who’s right? Us radical critics or the people we think we’re defending? Perhaps it’s worth thinking about."

2009-12-11

Ninja Assassin

While I am at it, might as well share what I thought about the Ninja Assassin movie.

I watched it last week, with my karate sensei, and we mostly went to look at the martial arts and weapons techniques, without much hope for a plot. And "Ninja" didn't disappoint. Lots of fight scenes, very cartoonish violence and blood, and very meagre story. Kinda like Kill Bill Vol 1, minus the plot.

Also, the movie, which to a great extent was supposed to be playing in Berlin, had a number of obvious, and easy to avoid blunders. They do get a kudos for having Interpol agents eat an authentic Berliner "Currywurst" on their lunch break. That's where it ends.

One would think that in the era of Internet getting your fake German billboards to look believable enough would be easy. You just google for them. However, the one outdoor ad that figures prominently in the movie (where the main character exits his apartment) has gibberish German on it that is not only misspelt, but doesn't make any sort of sense at all.

The scene in the apartment complex in Berlin, where the janitor says to a character that they had to go inside the apartment to fix the heating is so wrong I don't even know where to start. While it is normal in the US for the rental management to enter the rented property as they need to, in Germany, the renter needs to be present to let them in. Also, "heating" in Germany is usually done centrally, with radiators and hot water, and unless there's a leak in the radiator there is no need to "fix" anything in the actual unit.

Another obvious mistake was the scene on the highway, with road signs, markings, and guard rails looking nothing like Germany.

Question is, since there was no plot requirement to stage this in "Berlin" any more than in Mexico or some other more accessible country where this was apparently filmed, why not just admit it? Just say it's all playing wherever it is you're filming it!

I forget the other things that they got wrong, but there were a few more. These were the most egregious.

Anyways, if you plan to see the movie, don't expect a lot of anything besides cartoon blood and dismemberment.

Not-so-fantastic Mr. Fox

Watched Fantastic Mr Fox the other day, and the only reason I stayed till the end was that I didn't have to be anywhere else, and it was already too dark for another spirited mountain drive that day.

Maybe I am not the right audience for this, maybe I just don't get it, but it was slow-moving, the animation was not particularly interesting, and the dialog was lackluster at best.

However, it was the only movie that was running in the theaters nearby that I haven't already seen and was even remotely looking interesting.

2009-12-10

Rebounding from shock

Yesterday, I fell a willing victim to impulse shopping. A very happy victim, I must admit.

From my autocross friends in NC I found out about a sale on double-adjustable Koni shock absorbers, discounted so low that I found it impossible to pass on the opportunity.

I estimate that the stock shocks on my car have about another 10-20 thousand miles of life left in them. Granted, they are good shocks, but they aren't adjustable.

Now the plan goes like this:

  1. Konis arrive and get installed on the S2000.
  2. Stock shocks go into storage, alongside the stock front stabilizer bar.
  3. When it's time for the yeller-screamer and I to part ways, she gets all her stock parts back, and I sell the performance parts separately.
  4. Profit.
The "shocking" part of this is of course the unbudgeted-for purchase. However, this purchase would have become necessary eventually, and I was thinking of swapping the shocks out some time later next year anyway.

Now of course I can't wait for the parts to arrive, so I can admire them and begin screwing with the setup. Because the sooner that happens, the sooner I will stop going back and forth between child-like anticipation and feeling guilty about splurging on the shocks in the first place :)

2009-12-04

Support Creative Commons

This year, more than ever before, it is vital that we all support choice and sharing online. Truly, everyone benefits from a free and open internet, and we have only just begun to see how beneficial a culture of sharing can be.

Donate today and Greenplum will double your contribution. I have.

2009-12-02

The little brick that did, and other mobile device adventures

So my friend Jason and I went to the San Francisco International Auto Show yesterday night. Getting there was easy enough, traffic was playing nice for most of the way, and we found parking close by the convention center, and off we were to the show.

There will be a separate post about the actual show, while I would like to turn your attention, my gentle reader, to our adventures on the way back to the parking garage to retrieve the car.

When leaving the parking lot, I remembered a few landmarks and the name of the street from which the underground parking lot was accessible, and Jason saved the name of the parking service on his phone. We were within ten minutes or less of a walk from the Moscone center, which was visible from the main street, as soon as we turned out of the side street, called Jessie.

Finding the way back was a bit harder. For starters, we got out of Moscone on the side farthest from parking. I figured we could use some help, and punched "Jessie Street at Mision" as a destination into the Google Maps app. Ten minutes or so later we found ourselves at a corner that looked nothing like where we needed to be.

At which point Jason, who has the new Droid phone, comes to the rescue and--using voice commands, no less--has his phone search for "Tower Valet Parking." Droid obliges, and we discover that we must be about a block off. So we walk over there, turn into what seems to be another Jessie Street, and find ourselves in front of Tower Valet all right. Just that it's the wrong Tower Valet.

So I decide it is my turn to use a superpower to save the day and ask the parking attendant, showing him the parking stub, where the other Tower Valet is. He looks at the ticket, looking more puzzled than I feel comfortable with, and says, "There's a phone number. Call the number."

Dejected, I rejoined Jason in the street.

We circled the Jessie Streets and their corners with Mission a few more times, up and down between 7th and 4th, where the damn street, which seems to have devoured the parking garage, and our car with it, appeared to end.

My thoughts turned to the possibility of catching the last train to Mountain View, but Jason understandably didn't want to abandon his car in some alternate-reality parking lot.

Then, the flash of genius! We had the garage's address! On the parking stub!

Promptly, it got punched into the Droid and soon enough we were smelling the familiar aroma of the good old Tower Valet, made up of urine, car exhaust, and some strongly-perfumed cleaning agent, that failed to do anything about the urine, and only seemed to add a new pungent note to it.

Let me tally up: Between the two of us, and three GPS-enabled mobile devices, it took us 40 minutes to find the parking garage, whose address we've had all along.

Human intelligence win?