August 31, 2004

Back From Camping

Posted in General at 3:44 pm by Ian

Went camping with my Dad, uncles and cousins this past weekend, which is why there’s been precious little bloggage. I promise to dutifully return to such pursuits imminently.


August 24, 2004

I Only Got 12

Posted in General at 10:12 pm by Ian

In the great tradition of You Don’t Know Jack: Prescription Drug or Transformer?

August 23, 2004

This Keeps Getting Better

Posted in General at 5:00 pm by Ian

So I still don’t have my replacement computer. I called Apple last Thursday (a week after they received my old one), and asked what was taking so long. The support guy apologized and put in a bump order to get it prioritized. I hadn’t heard anything, so I gave them another call today. Same old song and dance.

I start to get a little annoyed, and explain that, charming though they might be, I do not desire to have the same conversation with Apple support guys every three days. Apple support guy apologizes again, and says he will bump it up to his manager, but that he can’t really do anything more than what he did.

An hour or so later, Apple support manager guy calls. Apologizes again (they’re all very nice), and says that, due to some errors on their end, replacement has been delayed. I respond with sympathies.

Ah, but they’d like to make it up to me!

So, I will no longer be getting a 1.0 GHz proc. I will now be getting a 1.3GHz. And they’re throwing in Bluetooth. Plus, just because I’m a nice guy, 1.25 GIGS of DDR memory.


August 22, 2004

Garden State

Posted in General at 7:08 pm by Ian

Go see this movie.

Really. Just go see it.

It’s the best movie I’ve seen in a long time. Just awesome.

August 19, 2004

Giving Minos A Run For His Money

Posted in General at 9:59 pm by Ian

Last weekend, I went to the Ikea store in Burbank, eventually escaping with a serving cart, four lamps, twenty glasses, and various sundry items. I had also intended to get a bookcase, but I could not find the one I wanted, and they were out of the inexpensive one that I saw and liked. By that time, though, it was the least of my worries.

When you enter the store, you ascend an escalator to the showroom, passing various bits of furniture attached to the walls, designed to entice you to… stand still, I suppose. I mean, it’s not like you’re going to go down the escalator. (Even when you get to the top. There’s no down escalator, only a long staircase down.) At the top of the escalator is there are pieces of paper that appear to be maps, and are, technically, much in the same way that one of those wooden cut-outs of the states that four-year-olds lose from their puzzles are: They both define the outer boundaries while giving away nothing of the mysteries within. There are also golf pencils and paper measuring tapes.

The showroom is made up of many fake rooms, all displaying the wares Ikea has to offer. As I wandered through this showroom, I became amazed by the fact that all of Ikea’s designs are either very similar, or I was lost. When I found the top of the escalator for the third time, I pinpointed it.

See, the map that they had given me did not include the hundreds of walls and rooms that were added to make it seem like you were walking through an enormous mansion owned by a rather frugal gentleman with odd tastes in upholstry. Even worse, you couldn’t look up to the ceiling to see the edges of the room because there were fake ceilings in many of the fake rooms. So I wandered at random for the next while, until I finally found the kitchenry area. I found some glasses that I liked. They are, for those who are interested, nearly exactly like the ones that Dad and Peg have. For those of you who haven’t seen their glasses, imagine a crystalline cylinder with one closed end. I bought a bunch, and also some smaller ones of the same variety. Eventually, that is. I couldn’t get them then, because I still had to find the bookshelf that wasn’t there. And a table/counter/cart thing for my kitchen. I eventually found the cart thing, of which there was only one remaining, and in the process picked up some lights. Two with little grippy clamps to go above my sink so I don’t have to cut food in the dark, and some table lamps so that I can stop reading by flashlight before I go to sleep.

It occurred to me at some point that I should get a cart, which I did after only about twenty minutes of wandering aimlessly. Once I had gotten it, however, I was that much slower, and I knew that I had to find a more efficient way to navigate. I settled on the following:

1. Leave my cart by the picture frames.
2. Locate an Ikea employee.
3. Ask said employee where item x was.
4. Try, desperately, to listen to all the twists and turns that said route entails.
5. Fail. Miserably.
6. Walk in the direction indicated until I can no longer see the employee.
Repeat steps 2 through 6 until I find my item, and then repeat step 2.
7. Ask said employee how to get back to the picture frames.

Using this method, I managed to round up the stuff I wanted in just under forty minutes!

Pop Republicanism

Posted in General at 3:52 pm by Ian

You gotta admit, there’s a pretty eerie correlation here:

Soft Drink Map and Electoral Predictions Map.

August 18, 2004

A Slim Margin

Posted in General at 4:54 pm by Ian

Today I found and fixed a pretty major bug in some source code of which I was not the cause. Thus, for the first time, there is an (admittedly small) chance that I have had a net positive effect on the number of bugs in code here.


August 16, 2004

Do It In Software, Baby!

Posted in General at 3:11 pm by Ian

Somone asked Slashdot about how to sample small bits out of long mp3s. Apparently as part of an ambient noise study, they needed to do this. The approach they’d been taking was to design custom chips for mp3 players that would switch them on and off. But that was a hassle with constantly changing mp3 players. How hard, he asks, would it be to write some software that woud do some semi-random sampling of a long mp3?

About halfway down the page, someone responds with:
perl -MMP3::Splitter -e ‘mp3_split($_,{},[ rand(64800), 30 ], …) for @ARGV’ filename.mp3

Not hard at all, apparently.

sudo kill -9 mysqld

Posted in General at 8:07 am by Ian

I fixed whatever it was that was not allowing comments on here. Hey Chris, any idea about why MySQL sucks so much on OpenBSD?

August 15, 2004

Last Sunday

Posted in General at 11:45 am by Ian

It took me a while to figure out how to write this, and even longer to post it because I worried that part of it would hurt Phil’s feelings and I wanted to talk to him about it first.

Phil has been an intern at LAUP (Los Angeles Urban Project) working at a small Christian school in North Pasadena called Harambee for the last six weeks. It’s a Christian community-building project that has been in progress for the last 20 years or so. The link gives some background. Over the last few weeks, we’ve written a few letters back and forth because he has been without email or telephone access. They had an open house a few weeks ago, but I couldn’t go. Phil finished LAUP on Saturday afternoon, and I drove down on Sunday to hang out with him. He invited me to go to church with him. I met him at the Harvest Time Fellowship, just a few blocks away from where he had lived and worked.

When I got there he gave me a big hug, and several people around us introduced themselves. The church was majority black (the area is about 50/50 black and latino), and they know how to do church music. I had a great time singing along with songs that I didn’t know but that were natural enough that I picked them up after one verse. It was a small room, and the music leader was very energetic and you could just feel the sound as much as you could hear it. Then they had all the new people stand up and introduce themselves and say how they came to the church that day. Apart from me there was a family of three who were checking it out and a woman who spoke about her challenges turning her life around after drug use and prison. Everyone was very accepting and encouraging.

Then there was some more music, and then the sermon started. After about five minutes, I saw where it was going, and I felt myself start to withdraw. The pastor spoke about the ease with which people claiming to be Christians had found “new” ways to be Christian, but that the only way to heaven was through Christ. She said that people had become spiritually ignorant, that they didn’t read their bibles. She said that our leaders were ignorant of the bible. I found myself staring more and more at my hands. She pointed out that many things now were legal and acceptable that never used to be accepted. She was really going, now. When she got to the word “abomination,” I literally flinched. I couldn’t believe the hateful invective that flowed through a room that only a few minutes before had been filled with happy people singing about love and salvation.

It is one thing to read polls and realize intellectually that you are philosophically in the minority on an issue. But I’m sheltered. Like Phil pointed out many times when discussing the state of life around Harambee, I just wasn’t exposed to the kind of surroundings that define that culture. Being surrounded by it made me sick to my stomach. I stared straight into the back of the chair in front of me, swallowing profusely, and tried not to hear the echoing “Amen”s of people around me, agreeing with the terrible things that had been said.

And then I got angry. I wanted to stand up and shout at them for having so fucking little perspective. These are black people. Historically oppressed and denied rights. The pastor said she had become a Christian in the sixties; she lived through the Civil Rights struggle. How could they all sit there and listen to her say “A man has no right to live with another man, to marry another man” without stopping to think “Hey… I don’t really like this talk of denying people rights just because they aren’t like us…”? How could she say such things?

The sermon wandered away for a while, and I had a chance to cool down a little bit. When she returned to the subject, I felt my throat tightening again, so I stood up, placed the welcome packet they had given me when I introduced myself on top of my seat, and walked out.

After church ended, Phil showed me the Harambee school and where he’d been staying. And then we piled into Anabelle (as much as one can pile into a Miata) and blasted out to Upland, where his friend Jonny was having a barbecue for various IV people. I finally met Jonny’s wife Tanya, about whom I had heard over a year ago on Catalina, and she was both beautiful and charming. Liz and John (a.k.a. Alumnus B), two Mudd alumni, were there, so it was good to see them and talk a bit. There was a guy who had recently gotten back from Turkey, and was telling stories about his travels and some places he’d been. It was really interesting. I had to stifle a laugh when he said you can buy a beach-front house in Turkey for $20,000. Couldn’t even pay six months’ rent on one here for that 😦

And there was Croquet, of which I played several games using very nearly the same set of rules each time. I came back from ridiculousness to win the first game I played. I was stunned. Luckily, I kept my head about me as I graciously lifted my arms above my head and bounced up and down in what I’m certain was a sportsmanlike display. Liz (not for the first time) told me to watch where I was swinging the mallet. The play of the afternoon, though, would have to be when I was the last non-poison ball left, and Jonny (I think) was chasing me around the lawn. Because I would lose if he hit me (but not if I hit him), my strategy was to hit the ball really hard. If I made it through the wicket, good to go. If I hit him, I could take another shot. If I missed, I’d be ‘way over somewhere else. This worked really well until I got along the edge of the lawn in a little rut. Jonny hit his ball toward mine, and it was running right along the edge of the lawn, sure to hit mine, until a low-hanging branch was there. His ball rolled up the branch, until it was almost directly above mine, then fell off sideways. Saved!

And then I lost the next turn. But it was still really cool.

After the barbecue, Phil went back to Harambee for one more night, and I drove back home, stopping at Ikea on the way to get lost for a few hours (but that’s a whole nother story).

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