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World Conquest
October 2000
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because ... well ... why the hell not ...?

it's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it.

Friday, October 27th


Secrets of the Ancient Rubber Monsters:

Urk. Having a couple of those days when I feel like I'm moving in slow motion and everything that needs to be done has to be done in extra-fast-motion just to have a chance of getting through it.

... the Six Million Dollar Man and almost all icky, drippy, or rubber-covered monsters ...

It's not like I haven't been getting some stuff done--actually I've got twenty-eight rolls of film to sort through from the shoot a couple of days back, lots of digital stills and DV footage from MileHiCon (including the Critter Crunch--I'm still tempted to do "Critter Crunch, the music video") and GothNic. I just have to get finished with some mathematical modelling and simulation issues and get caught up on filling in the remaining details on the Dragon and the Hawk website. [ ] (you can always check that out to see some of the stuff I've been working on in between crises and events--though lately it's been a little harder than usual to tell which are the "crises" and which are the "events.")

In the meantime, I think I really just have to learn whatever secret it was that the Six Million Dollar Man and almost all icky, drippy, or rubber-covered monsters know: "how do you move in slow motion and *still* manage to outrun everything else."

It might be high heels, actually, now that I think about it. No matter how fast they look like they're running, no woman dressed in high heels can ever outrun a drippy, icky, or rubber-covered monster.

So, I guess I'll have to find some way to attach high heels onto all my problems. This could require a *lot* of high heels, but I bet it would be worth it.

Thursday, October 19th


Imminent Death of the Internet Predicted; Webcast at Eleven!

Well, okay, so I'm exaggerating a little. There won't really be a webcast at eleven. But, see, I do occasionally get some of my more recent articles from the Unnatural Enquirer ] up on the web. In this case, " " - the Doomsday Tag ]

I'll keep working on the Webcast thing. Right now I'm having enough trouble figuring out why my preferred MPEG encoder (Tsunami) has abruptly decided to produce output files containing high-bandwidth encoded tracks of digital silence regardless of the input.

Unless this is just Nature's way of telling me that I really should be doing Yet Another Remake of Nosferatu, but this time keeping to the format of the original and doing it as a silent movie.


It's probably some ill-documented conflict in one of the codecs.

Wednesday, October 18th


I can guess what you're thinking - you're probably thinking I'd forgotten about you, not having written anything in almost a week and not a whole lot the week before, for that matter.

Honest - I didn't mean to leave you feeling neglected, it just sort of happened.

Yeah, you've heard that one before, I know. I don't guarantee that today's episode will make up for missing several installments, and I don't even have a whole pile of really super links just queued up and ready to be checked out, but we'll do what we can with what we've got.

... on TV it doesn't sound quite as much like I'm talking through a vacuum cleaner ...

One thing I've got, though is a soundtrack album. (woo-hoo!) Took lots longer than I'd ever expected to put together; each time I'd take care of one little bit or another I'd find that there was something else that still bugged me or could stand some improvement--I just hadn't noticed it there for a moment because I was worrying about the last "one last thing" that needed some working on. Unfortunately, the different edits kept taking longer because I'd exhausted the easier ones already and all of the last few tweaks and transitions required going back to the original source material and more-or-less redoing everything I'd done up until then to get back to the same basic arrangement, except without the sonic quirks that I wanted to get rid of.

So, on Monday the demo versions of that went off to the distributors; we'll see how that goes. I'm hoping to have everything taken care of with the UPC registration and all that shortly and the album may start trickling into record stores in a couple of weeks and be available through Amazon in about a month. Here's hoping. I'll keep you posted.

If you're in or around the Denver metro area, you might have been caught some of the commercials for MileHiCon [ ] the SF convention coming up this weekend (eep!). In case you weren't sure, yes, that is me doing my patented "TV Announcer Voice" in the commercial. If you haven't seen it on TV (and for some reason wonder what I sound like doing the "TV Announcer Voice," I smooshed a copy down into RealVideo format and put it at [ ] (on TV it doesn't sound quite as much like I'm talking through a vacuum cleaner).

But, anyway, apart from that, my life has partially been eaten up by trying to track down some as-yet-unexplained behavior in my statistical modelling package that simulates the operation of hybrid fiber-coax broadband distribution systems. (No cause for alarm; your telephone and internet distribution systems are not about to go *boom* because of this; it's only something I've seen happening with a set of parameters that don't appear to fit a physically realistic equipment configuration.)

... and by the wonders of getting the new digital video editing gear working properly and then rebuilding the Dragon and the Hawk ] site nearly from the ground up. Still gotta fill in a few details here and there, but the basic layout of the new version of the site is all there. Keep watching over the next few days; you never know what I'll sneak onto there while I'm at it.

Thursday, October 12th


Slightly Surreal Ways to Start the Day Department:

Wake up. Check status of servers and network. Glance at incoming email spool to see just how much has come in over the last few hours (nothing like that moment of Spam-shock to help wake one up in the morning). Decide to make an early morning trip to the grocery store and beat the Thursday morning rush.

Is there a Thursday morning rush? Heck, I dunno; but I was the only customer in the building at 3:00AM, so if there was a Thursday morning rush, I managed to beat it.

Wander through the store, avoid the boxes and pallets of food being loaded onto the store shelves, put stuff into cart. When I get to the checkout lanes, there's one with the light on and it just has the "ring for service" bell that they put out for those late night/early AM times when I'm the only one there. For all I know, they may put the "ring for service" bell out every night, but I've only seen it on the nights when I've been there.

Ring bell twice. Place groceries on conveyor belt. Ring again. Hang out for a little longer, ring some more. Pretty much standard procedure. 24-hour grocery stores in town probably get more people showing up in the wee hours, but for obvious reasons I just drive into town until I get to a store, so this one's pretty much on the edge of civilization as we know it, a brightly-lit outpost, beyond which lies a vast, unexplored realm where all traces of native flora and fauna haven't yet been plowed under and replaced with uniform carpets of high-maintenance non-native grasses and carefully bred, but nonetheless noisy, pet dogs.

Eventually, clerck wanders up from the depths of the frozen food aisle; looks at me standing at checkout counter; says, "hey, I'll check you out."

So she stands there for a bit, looking me up and down, making approving noises. After a few toe-to-head and head-to-toe eye sweeps, she says, "okay, you'll do," and walks over to the cash register and fires it up.

The checkout experience itself was pleasant enough and generally unremarkable, and I admit that I wasn't paying a great deal of attention to anything other than making sure I pressed all the right buttons on their customer credit card payment thingie in between passing all the appropriate cards through the slot in the appropriate manner, direction, orientation, and speed. When I get home, I discovered I'd gotten a special bonus this trip because one of the bags also included a collection of the "Midnight Star," "National Enquirer," and other magazines of that type that had been on display at the checkout aisle. (At least they weren't on the checkout slip.)

Nope, I didn't see any mention of me in 'em, at least not on the covers anyway. (Guess I just haven't been involved in any sufficiently juicy scandals lately.)

I am horribly tempted to use the "hey, I'll check you out" line in a movie one of these days. I can't think of where it would fit in any of the ones on the burners right now, but just wait, you never know where it'll turn up....

Wednesday, October 11th


Number seventeen hundred and twelve in the "what not to do when editing an album series:

Okay, I've been complaining more than enough already about how long it's been taking to edit up a releasable version of the soundtrack album and I just had one of those "dohhh!" [hit forehead with hand] moments. One of the devices in the in the editing system is a Sony E2000ESD preamp/DA/switcher which is taking the tracks I'm editing in digital form and converting them to analog for playback.

I just realized that I'd not switched off its default setting to apply its own surround/delay/etc. processing effects to the S/PDIF signal before converting it to analog. So, I'd been previewing things up here, tweaking them so they sounded like I wanted them to, burning test versions onto CDs, taking them down to the more serious test system in the music room, and listening to them there where they just weren't sounding right after all.

[Repeat until hair falls out.]

So, I've switched the extra processing out of the system, redid some of my previous edits so they sounded good "naked" and have now burned "test edit, version 8e"--let's hope that this sounds right this time.

Thursday, October 5th


Son of Stupid CD-Rom tricks:

Okay, kids, here's something new not to try at home (or anywhere else):

It's one of those things I'd never thought to warn anyone not to do because, somehow, I'd just assumed that nobody would do such a thing. Up there with the "I just broke my cup-holder" flavor of technical support call.

I got an envelope in the mail with a collection of CD-ROMs that I'd been in a hurry to get ahold of--we'll skip over the reasons why for the moment, but suffice it to say that I'd needed some of the data to be found thereon.

... What kind of flavor is "manilla" anyway? I guess it's easy enough to find out ...

I pop it open and it's an ordinary manilla envelope holding an ordinary manilla file folder.

What kind of flavor is "manilla" anyway? I guess it's easy enough to find out...


Okay, that's enough of that line of experimentation. Getting back to CD-ROMs and what you shouldn't do to them, when I opened the file folder, this particular batch had been taped securely, label-side up, to the sides of the folder with industrial strength packing tape.

Um. If you ever get the urge to do this or for some reason think it might be a good idea, just don't. The shiny side of a CD is just polycarbonate plastic; the pickup laser shines through it and reflects off the layer on the back surface ... the stuff that the layer is printed or painted onto.

Initial experiments showed that the reflective layer was much more securely attached to the packing tape than to the plastic disk. Should you find yourself in an unexpected emergency situation in which your life or that of a loved one or even a stray poodle should depend on having a CD-rom sized plastic disk with a perfectly transparent two-inch-wide stripe across the center, you now know a technique in which one could be made in a hurry.

Assuming you have some packing tape nearby. Otherwise, that poor poodle could be a goner. Sorry.

Wednesday, October 4th


(Shamelessly cribbed from some stream-of-consciousness email I wrote earlier):

Some things we may never understand.

For example, for the first time ever, I actually have Sun documentation in hardcopy form to go with the piles of Sun equipment. (I have a site license from Sun, but they don't actually send you anything with that; getting copies of their software and/or other materials is your problem--but if you can find a friend who has some of their software, you get a license giving you permission to make all the copies you want. Cuts down on distribution costs, no doubt.)

... how to identify accessories like a keyboard and mouse and why they are different from each other ...

So, I have these three boxes of printed documentation: hardware references, users guides, system administrators guides, etc. They all start out with an extensive, profusely illustrated explanation of how to identify your Sun Sparc computer, how to tell the top from the bottom, how to identify accessories like a keyboard and mouse and why they are different from each other. You learn about power cords and why they are important to a computer's operation. Important details like not trying to operate your Sun workstation or server underwater or in the bathtub are covered.

In, oh, about seventeen languages.

The pictures are the same, but they're repeated in each language section.

Whether you are installing hardware, a computer user, or trying to administer an enterprise-level network, it's assumed that you'll need a complete and thorough briefing on the complexities of correct power cord operation and maintenance.

Which leaves enough room to include a couple of chapters on turning the power switch on, what to do if nothing happens when you turn the power switch on ("Did you really read all of the chapters on power cord usage? Go back and read them again, maybe in another language this time, just in case."), and, finally, how to turn off the power switch.

More detailed instructions about how you could set up or configure your Sun Workstation or Server's hardware and configuration are at least alluded to, though their existence may be merely an urban legend or perhaps a particularly well-staged hoax.

On the other hand, even though I might not have successfully figured out how to convince Solaris to recognize the four-port SBUS network adapter, I'm pretty sure that I have successfully identified the circuit board as not being a power cord.

At least a Standard American English power cord. This version of the Sun documentation doesn't include the Ebonics version of "how to identify a power cord," so there's still a chance that this might really be a power cord, just in some other language.

So, I guess I'm not sure whether it's okay to use it in the bathtub....

Monday, October 2nd


Stupid CD-Rom tricks:

Ever notice the green tint that most inexpensive glass has when you look through a thick section of it or when you look at it from the side? That's because of a little bit of iron in the glass, one of the most common and universal contaminants found in the sand used to make glass.

... use CD-Roms to tint the windows of the van ...

Since iron is something you have to put some extra effort to get *out* of glass, nobody thinks of green glass as decorative or collectable. It's only the impurities you have to work extra to get in there (like cobalt, which gives glass that dark blue tint) that adds to the value. Sorta like the difference between "flowers" and "weeds."

The only thing that has to do with CD-ROMs is that the most recent batches of CDR blanks I've gotten from CompUSA have had so little of the active ingredient that they've been about the color of pale green glass.

Very pale. When you hold them up and try looking through them, they're not nearly as dark as standard automobile window tinting, even though they are quite a bit smaller.

So I can't really use CD-Roms to tint the windows of the van, which would bother me a lot less if I could use them for making CD-Roms.

Well, sometimes I can--the biggest problem seems to be older (8x-speed and slower, mostly) CD-Rom drives, which either can't read CDs made from this batch at all or get lots of unrecoverable errors when they try. Music CDs made from these things will play on a lot of CD players, at least for a while, and the added clicks, skips, and pops add a nostalgic feel to the music, hearkening back to the days of my youth when I had one of those little "close-and-play" cheap-o plastic 45RPM-only record players that I'd gotten free from a garage sale because it clicked and skipped and popped.

No, I didn't like it when it happened back then either.

So, they're not great for making CD-Roms, they're too small and awkward for use as car windows, and I probably can't train them to do dishes, so that limits how useful they can be.

Last year, I used a year's worth of AOL CDs to decorate a Christmas tree, but I think I'm set on that front now; no shortage of AOL CDs in this part of the world. As soon as Sally Struthers discovers a part of the world where children are suffering because they don't get enough Free AOL CDs, I'll look into sending my extras out there.

Which, I guess, leaves only one remaining practical application; I just need some more glitter and maybe some pipe cleaners to do it: CompUSA-brand "Elton John" 1970's-style giant sunglasses. Maybe it'll catch on and be the next big fashion trend.

Especially if I make the earpieces in transparent jelly-like fruit colors.

Just keep watching those Target and K-Mart flyers for their special sales on the latest in high-fashion. You'll see.

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