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Robust McManlyPants on Average Display » 2005 » July

July 2005


OK, so it’s not really a “geezer” disease, but it certainly reminded me
I’m not 20 anymore.  Yes, this is me blogging about my kidney
stone.  Deal.  Also, this gets pretty gross.  Just an
FYI.

So Thursday morning I wake up absurdly early to find that my side
hurts.  I think I’ve cramped it in my sleep or something, but over
the next little while I find that it is not getting better.  No,
quite the opposite, in fact.  Eventually it hurts so bad I am up,
pacing the living room, deciding what to do.  By “deciding” I mean
“debating whether I am about to die,” since that’s certainly what it
felt like was happening.  By 9:00am I had decided that I had
appendicitis and was going to die horribly when it burst inside me and
sprayed my innards with molten lead and so it was time to go to the
doctor.  I woke The Boyf and told him what was up and that I was
going to shower and take myself to Duke Urgent Care, a couple of
streets over.  In the shower it improved so much that I thought
maybe I was overreacting, but as soon as I let myself think it,
stepping from the shower itself, the pain came back on me so hard that
all I could do was bend double and aim for the toilet.  I was
heaving my guts out in pain, and that was a powerful motivator to
continue on the path to medical attention.

By the time I’d reached the doctor, I was short of breath and all I
could do was keep moving.  I paced the examining room while the
doctor told me he was pretty sure it was either a kidney stone or
appendicitis and they were going to need to run some blood work. 
I groaned and twitched as they poked and prodded me, paying another
round of tribute to the porcelain gods in the middle of
everything.  By this point a nurse had said the following to
me:  “Honey, I’ve had babies, and I’ve had kidney stones, and
kidney stones are worse.”  The thought that what I was going to
experience was akin to giving birth through my dick was not exactly a
comfort, but her candor was refreshing.  Eventually the doctor had
the good news that I was not, in fact, about to die when my appendix
went nuclear and that it was probably a stone.  To be sure,
though, they wanted to send me to Duke Hospital to have a scan done and
check me out properly.  “I don’t care,” I told him, “Whatever you
say, but you have got to give me something for the pain.  If all
you can do is punch me until I don’t care anymore, just start hitting
me.  I can take it.”  At that point the nurse from earlier
reappeared with two big needles and told me she needed me to turn on my
side.  Approximately five seconds later, I was starting to get an
idea of the true nature of Shangri-La as dispensed in medicinal
increments.  “Please tell me one of those was a pain killer,” I
said to her.  “Honey,” the nurse replied, patting my arm, “They
both were.  And they’re the good stuff.”  At this point – a
mere thirty seconds after being injected – everything was right with my
world.  I gave her a Harvey Birdman’s boss-esque “Ha HA!  You are an ANGEL!”  After that, it all gets fuzzy.

Oh, there was a ride to Duke Hospital, and there was being wheeled
around and being scanned.  They put me in something that I
remember had “Lightspeed” written on the side in a highly stylized,
italicized font.  It had a soothing but commanding, male voice
that told me when to breathe and when to hold my breath and,
eventually, a doctor appeared and said, “You definitely have a
stone.  We’re going to give you some medicine to help you pass it
and then you can go home.”  The Boyf had endured my feeble
attempts to spend the afternoon reading and some serious whining when
the drugs wore off, but let me tell you, he was chin-up and 110% on top
of things the entire time.  I honestly do not know what I would do
without him.  I think I would have just laid in the hospital and
cried for the rest of the day when the drugs wore off.  Let me
tell you, it is not a pleasant thing to go from sheer bliss to
murderous levels of pain in ten seconds.  The Boyf was quick to
get me some attention, though, and the nice people at the hospital,
gave me morphine (and then, later, they gave me… more morphine), and
by the time that wore off then there was one last gasp of pain before
everything was fine.

By the time The Boyf had returned me to my car, the morphine had worn
off and I was good to drive.  I went around the corner to the drug
store, dropped off my prescriptions, and went to grab some Gatorade to
occupy my time while the pharmacists got my drugs ready to go.  I
ended up chugging the Gatorade because I was so dry and then spent an
eventful few minutes regretting that decision in the bathroom adjacent
to the pharmacy proper.  As I emerged, eyes watering, the
pharmacist looked up and said, “Your prescription is ready,” and I
nearly hugged her neck.

Since then, I’ve mainly been tired.  That much pain, it seems, can really wear you out.

Today I awoke to the horrifying realization that my side hurt
again.  I was up in an instant, taking the pain meds I’d largely
ignored yesterday and the FloMax (yes, that’s what it’s called – three
guesses what it makes me do), and the anti-nausea pills, and laying on
the couch in the living room in case I was about to experience my
second kidney stone, praying to any gods who would listen that
honestly, we could reach a deal to our mutual satisfaction here, they
just needed to do me one little favor and either make it go away or let me die
Fortunately, the pain was never the same as it was on Thursday – a
minor pain compared to Thursday’s, much as one might compare a dull
ache to a gunshot wound – and I figured out, after moving around the
house a little, that it’s not that I’m having another bout, it’s that I’m sore.  I wondered, very briefly, how on earth that had
happened, but honestly, I don’t know what else I should have
expected.  My right kidney just spent the day trying to spit out a
rock.  Being a little sore seems perfectly natural.

So here I am, on the mending side of my first kidney stone
attack.  From everything I’ve read, it runs in families, and my
father’s father has had multiple bouts of them.  Likewise from my
newly acquired education in the ways of the kidney stone, it seems that
having one is no big deal but having more than one is a sign that they will be an occasional but lifelong visitor.

I really hope this is my one and only. (more…)

So, I’ve had a slow couple of days, blog-wise.  Wednesday was
spent doing a Hall thing and sitting under the shade at Caffe Driade,
playing my Gameboy.  I loved it.  Yesterday, though, I woke
up around 8:00am and discovered a growing pain in my lower
abdomen.  Long story short, I discovered the wonderful new world
of kidney stones.

Why do I get old man diseases?

At any rate, today I’m back at work but I’m tired.  Very, very
tired.  I may cut out early, and this weekend is filled with
gaming (woot!) and so I doubt I’ll have much to say until that’s over.

Man.  I could so take a nap right now. (more…)

What a productive weekend, I have to say.  The Boyf
and I rented a palm sander and he went after the bookshelves we’re
trying to get done up to go into the library.  I rented a
lawnmower that involved an engine so I could (finally) catch up on the
mowing and, tah-dah, we got a crapload done around the house. 
Throw in some delicious chicken-and-vegetable fried rice by Pants
Wilder and we had a Sunday to remember.  Of course, Saturday was
spent grilling and doing crafty things at Kath’s & Bascha‘s house.  My “craft,” such as it was, involved writing a summary of a D&D game and posting those pictures of the trees hit by lightning, but hey.

The weather is so wretched I find it difficult to even talk
about.  I know my forebears endured this, and more, all without
the advent of air conditioning.  I also know that I am entirely
comfortable admitting that I am of weaker, diluted stock and that I do
not have it in me to live that sort of life.  I long to sit on a
throne of ice inside a walk-in refrigerator.  That would be pretty
rad right now.

So I have a laptop question for my fellow Apple geeks:  is the
switch to Intel chips next year a good reason not to buy an iBook this
autumn?  The iBooks finally got a refresh
to something more respectable in terms of base stats (256 MB is not
enough RAM to run any version of OS X, I don’t care what they say), and
the 14-inch model looks mighty attractive.  I wouldn’t be buying
it until November or December anyway, and at that point am I better off
(in terms of performance and/or in terms of software availability,
etc.) just waiting for the Intel models?  My current Windows
laptop has had a number of improvements made to it this year, such that
even though it’s years old and runs at 600 MHz it’s still a pretty
peppy little machine with a big-ass hard drive and everything I really
need it to do.  I would be fine continuing to use it, but I would
also be more than fine with having a new iBook as a Christmas &
NaNo present to myself.  However, I have zero understanding of
what the switch to Intel will really mean.  Will I be buying a
useless hunk of plastic?  Will I be buying a highly attractive
hunk of plastic that will be useless in six months? (more…)

So, I have up the pictures of when lightning struck a couple of trees in our yard.

It’s worth noting that I also have included in the same album a picture of Bruce, a picture of Ivan – the world’s scariest and yet friendliest dog – and a picture of a Halloween decoration we saw at A Southern Season which, quite frankly, was simply made for Bascha. (more…)

So, I’m reading around the interwebs today (the interwebnets as a client referred to it today, entirely without irony) and I see this on Wired:

For 26 years, strange conversations have been taking place in a basement lab at Princeton University.

No one can hear them, but they can see their apparent effect: balls
that go in certain directions on command, water fountains that seem to
rise higher with a wish and drums that quicken their beat.

Yet no one hears the conversations because they occur between the minds of experimenters and the machines they will to action.

Researchers at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research program, or Pear, have been attempting to measure the effect of human consciousness on machines since 1979.

Using random event generators — computers that spew random output —
they have participants focus their intent on controlling the machines’
output. Out of several million trials, they’ve detected small but
“statistically significant” signs that minds may be able to interact
with machines. However, researchers are careful not to claim that minds
cause an effect or that they know the nature of the communication.

Well, holy shit.  That is some cool stuff.  I have to confess, the nerd in me had an immediate reaction:  That’s what Charles can do.  Charles, you see, was my character in an extended Trinity chronicle run by Mr. Pink Eyes (Katastrophes
and Pants Wilder and I were his trio of players).  He was an
electrokinetic, and manipulating machines with his mind was one of his
main deals.  Damn, what a fun game that was.  Eventually
Charles morphed into the non-superpowered main character of Shell Access, my NaNo from last year.

Reading further into the article I saw this, though:

Participants have been able to direct one out of every 10,000 bits of
data measured across all of the tests. That figure might seem small,
but Dean Radin, a senior scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences
and former researcher at AT&T’s Bell Labs, said it’s to be expected.

“Many times in the beginning of a new scientific realm the effects are
weak because of high variability,” Radin said. “We don’t know all of
the factors yet that are involved in the effect (that could increase
the results).”

Radin likens the current state of research to when scientists first
began studying static electricity and didn’t know that humidity levels
could affect the amount of static electricity produced.

OK, now we’re heading more into the arena of the Technocracy, that
venerable and formidable opponent of all free-thinking dirty hippies in
White Wolf’s much-beloved Mage: the Ascension (link goes to the new version, Mage: the Awakening)
game.  In that game, Reality was a fluid thing susceptible to
subtle (or not-so-) pushes and shoves from those able to grasp the
underlying mechanics of reprogramming the universe.  The
Technocracy claimed that its use of magic was actually new applications
of science, misunderstood and difficult to reproduce.  Magi on
both sides of that war commonly believed that all technology
was, in fact, magic that had been accepted by the vast majority of
“sleepers” and thus was no written almost indelibly into the workings
of the world.  Interesting stuff for a night of sitting around
chewing the fat, but it’s not the same gig as Charles’ was.  In
Trinity, the super-specials (Psions) used a force called subquanta to
affect reality.  The science of studying quanta and subquanta was
called Noetics.

Then I re-read that part above and noticed this on the second pass:

…Dean Radin, a senior scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences


That got me going, and I did a bit more looking around; turns out there’s even a Wikipedia entry on noetics

I want you to understand that right now, in the back of my brain,
Charles is sitting there with his arms crossed and his feet up going, Yeah, yeah, laugh it up now, while you can.  You just wait and see what the future holds.
(more…)

Yes, this is dumb, but it’s a slow evening.

So I read this over at one of my favorite blogs, Pam’s House Blend:  one of the Christian “news” sites is running a story about Ben Jones being upset about the new Dukes of Hazzard
movie because, as he puts it, the Dukes never really hurt anybody and
the good guys always won in the end whereas the movie is, one would
assume, largely a study in cleavage.  In the comments to Pam’s
post, a commenter took great pains to dissect the notion that the Dukes
were good role models or that the show – the old one – had any
redeeming value.

OK, I have to step up to the plate on that one.  I say The Dukes of Hazzard had a strong and very important message, and like my love of Dawn of the Dead as the 2nd best ’70s/’80s transition movie ever made, I will defend this one in detail. 

I do not believe that we have to look for a “moral” in everything we
watch, but if one chooses that as the crime to prosecute I think Dukes of Hazzard has a respectable defense to be assembled.  My comment is below:

I’m afraid I have to disagree with sticker-shock.  Yes, it had
“light sexuality” in every episode, and yes, the town was controlled by
greedy & corrupt locals.  But the show’s heroes, the actual
protagonists, were of high moral calibre.  The show had a very
strong subversive element.  The Duke Boys and Girl – raised and
living in (oh yes, I will say it) a non-traditional family –
generally saved the day by figuring out a clever way to get around the
arbitrary and unfair rules imposed on them by their local authorities
and, in so doing, set right some otherwise tragic misdeed.  They
had no qualm with those whose religion, skin color or sex were other
than their own and they would work to aid anyone in need without first
making sure they fit any profile of what was acceptable or unacceptable
in their local culture.  Also, in an era when the token woman on
an “adventure” show would be nothing but eye candy, Daisy was a very
powerful female character who was often smarter than the Dukes, often
more clever and completely unafraid of her own sexual power.  She
was much more than just a sex object – she was bringing down villains
in her own right.  As a relic of the past, it’s easy to view her
as nothing more than talking T&A.  At the time, she was about
as close to Buffy as the ’70s weekly adventure series could get.

Yes, there were crimes in every episode, commited by villains and
heroes alike, but the Dukes always had fairness as their guiding
principle, not the letter of the law, and their infractions were always
more minor than the wrong they sought to right.  It was more
important to them to see someone else saved from suffering or given a
fair chance than to say they had never gotten a wreckless driving
ticket.

As for ol’ Cooter, he’s a former Congressman, yes.  He’s a progressive Democrat.  Last year he wrote a pretty fabulous editorial piece
about Zell Miller after Emperor Millpatine’s performance at the
RNC.  He described Zell as “Zig-Zag Zell” and derided the thought
that anyone could take Zell seriously anymore after Jones spent his
whole life watching Zell switch positions at will in an effort to climb
the ladder of Georgia’s government. 

Are there still Dukes of Hazzard fans?  I hesitate to call myself
a fan – I’ve tried watching it again a few times and had to do so
through half-closed fingers – but as a child I was fascinated by a show
set in a place that looked like the place where I lived. 
As a teen, learning just how corrupt were a lot of the local authority
figures around me, I would remember their example.  I don’t TiVo
it every day, now, but I’m still a fan of the strong moral messsage of the show and, clearly, CMT thinks it’s worth rebroadcast. 

It sounds corny, sure, but the moral of the story in nearly every
episode was that even if the local sheriff or the county commissioner
are on the take there are still ideals worth fighting for –
worth going to jail for, if necessary – and the greater crime would be
to sit idly by and let corruption wash away everything one values about
the place one makes a home.  Their whole daring-do schtick never
made them rich and it ruined a few cop cars, but at the end of every
episode the message was clear:  do what makes the world a fairer
place, reach out to another in need, and let no puffed-up blowhards in
fancy cars or wearing shiny badges or holding big sacks of cash coerce
you to do otherwise.  If you ask me, very post-Nixon. 
Which message would you rather have broadcast in your living
room?  That, or the “lessons” in yet another episode of The Simple Life?

So okay, here I am, crazy queer leftist, defending The Dukes of Hazzard on
one of my favorite blogs.  What a strange day.  At any rate,
“Cooter” is no conservative and I have to agree with him that the
movie’s message will almost certainly be inferior to that of the
show.  One will tell kids that it’s a good idea to stand up for
equality and thumb their nose at corrupt and arbitrary tyranny every
chance they get, while the other will probably say they should try to
get laid as often as possible while on the run from the cops.  One
is a moral; the other, amoral.  To me, it’s as simple as that. (more…)

Lightning strikes – Twin Peaks pilot – gardening update – I do some driving.

So, we had a pretty full weekend.  For one thing, remember me
saying on Friday that I was having a slow day at work? 
Yeah.  About that:  I ended up here until 5:30am on
Saturday morning when something blew up in my face.  Turned out to
be unrelated to what I was doing, one of those Oh the universe simply hates me moments, but honestly, after Pants Wilder’s weekend of work, I can’t bitch.  OK, I can, but it’s largely hollow.  The best part of it was when The Boyf
messaged me around 3am wondering where the hell I was and my pocket
started singing “Hey Boy” in a soft, muffled voice.  Everyone
stopped talking and looked at my pocket and we just stood there in a
diorama while it played.  “I’ll check that in a minute,” I said
and then we went back to what we were doing.

Saturday was spent running errands and going to KJ‘s going-away party.  This was, simply put, one of the best parties I’ve been to in a long time – perhaps since Katastrophes‘ and Mr. Pink Eyes
engagement party.  It was awesome.  Lots of wine and grilling
and this guy (brother of a brother, so a sort of brother-in-law) being
hilariously and stupendously disconnected from reality via
intoxication.  I will forever remember this enormously tall man
extending his arm towards… I don’t know, someone and
bellowing, IN THE FIFTH DIMENSION, HE HAS EXPOSED HIMSELF.  I have
no idea what that means – the dude had exposed absolutely nothing, I’m
almost certain – and all I could do was laugh and laugh and laugh.

Sunday consisted entirely of a failed attempt to go to Fallen Orc
(they were at Trinocon for the weekend) and a leisurely drive through
the backroads to get to D&D.  Suffice to say, I had hoped I
could find a Borders or the like where NC 55 and US 64 meet, as I was
already in the neighborhood, more or less, and instead discovered that
the back way to Russ’ place for D&D was much shorter, from there,
than any other way I can possibly imagine.  Plus it involves
driving across parts of Jordan Lake on a beautiful day and, hey, bonus.

Monday I ran a few errands, and here’s the thing: I came home to find
“splinters,” and by “splinters” I mean “two-to-six-feet in length
shards of wood” in a thirty foot burst around my back yard.  The
source?  A tree got struck by lightning.  Two, actually.

Let me just say that shit is freaky.

I took a few pictures, but I need to assemble them into
composites.  I first noticed the smaller lightning strike when I
realized there was a giant, red gash down the side of one of
the oak trees in our backyard grove.  I walked over to investigate
and was shocked at the scarring and the pulverized wood fanned out
around it.  As I walked around I noticed the real scary
strike, the one that starts twenty or thirty feet up a tree and runs
all the way down to the ground, gouging a huge strip of the tree out
and leaving the earth around the bottom of the tree blown out – dirt
literally pushed up and away as though someone had set off a cherry
bomb at the base of the oak.  That one left me standing there
going Duh… a-duh… for a while.  Yes, exactly like James Hurley when he’s being “thoughtful.”  Yowza.

This morning I think I spied from the bathroom window the part of the
first-noticed tree where the lightning entered it, just one little gash
about eye-level from the 2nd floor.

Yesterday also involved a trip to the gardening store to try to resolve
my vines-but-no-fruit issue with the zucchini, squash and, to a lesser
degree, the peppers and tomatoes.  I asked the lady at The
Nameless Gardening Store near our house if she could recommend some
plants to attract bees and she took me out to their yard to show me a
couple.  The first one she pointed out, we both noticed, was in
fact crawling with bees.  “Well, there’s your advertising photo,”
she told me, and I bought two of them immediately.  So, fingers
crossed, I’ll have a more fruitful garden now.  Even if I don’t,
at least I’ve got a couple of pretty bushes to go with the
garden.  While up there, I picked a bunch of new, ripe peppers
including the first jalapen~o of the year.  Woot!

Last night was spent watching the pilot to Twin Peaks with Katastrophes, Mr. Pink Eyes, Mr. Saturday, The Boyf, Pants Wilder, Andy, Angel and boomtownrat.  We cracked open the copy of the pilot episode I’d bought Way Back When at Borders, when the 1st season box set
came out, for the very first time.  I was indescribably pleased to
find it wrapped in plastic, and even moreso to find that the DVD
version does NOT include the extra 15 minutes of nonsense
tacked onto the VHS release of the pilot.  As I was prepped to
pause it to end it in the proper place, we saw the credits roll. 
Angel and I were high-fiving over this grand discovery.  Twin Peaks delivered as it should be?  Delicious. (more…)

So, this morning I went ahead and downloaded the Billy Nayer Show ringtones from The American Astronaut (IMDB listing provided for the unwashed).  They are awesome.  Now, I have the following conditions set up on my phone:

  • When my father calls, my phone asks, “WHAT DID YOUR FATHER TEACH YOU?”  Naturally, he taught me to kill the sunflower.
  • When The Boyf calls, my phone plays, “Hey boy, hey boy… I got a message for you/about a thing called love and the stars above/etc.”
  • When Pants Wilder, Mr. Saturday, Katastrophes or Mr. Pink Eyes
    calls, it will play Ceres Walk, the song that played when the main
    character hops across the surface of Ceres from his ship to the bar.

In case this isn’t patently obvious, I am having kind of a slow day at work.  This is a good thing.

What interests me most about all of this, though, is that I found you
can download from Xingtone a little piece of software that lets you
turn any mp3 into a ringtone suitable for use with your phone.

Yes.  Any mp3.

And they have a demo version of the software, so no commitment.

So, here’s the deal:  if you’re a friend who calls me, tell me
what song you want to be your ringtone.  If I don’t have that
song, I will ask you to provide me a copy of the mp3 so that I might
twist it to my own wicked ends.  I reserve the right to disagree
with your choice of ringtone, so there’s that, but hey.  This
seems like an awesome, awesome new toy.  Also, this is the part of me that is still fourteen.

*shrug*

I also reserve the right to scrap this entire idea a week from now when
I get really, really tired of rushing to answer my phone because I have
it obnoxiously packed with ringtones.  That’s the part of me
that’s thirty. (more…)

The Billy Nayer Show has ringtones.

What did your father teach you? (more…)

I.  If you are going to be an instructor for a training class for
a major new offer for a major new client, it is best not to gibber,
work backwards from the end to the beginning of the training materials,
dive into the various arcana of the offer without explaining anything
in terms of the physical or logical layout of any of the networks
involved or otherwise present your session in the form of what The Boyf
likes to call “word salad.”

OK, so I knew that already.  What I learned today is that at least one co-worker does not.

II.  Being a car salesman would totally suck, even worse than I
already imagined.  (A new co-worker came to us from having sold
used cars for 2 months and provided this new knowledge.)

III.  I am not sufficiently well-socialized to deal with a lot of
people in the world, and I am bad at hiding this fact. 
Fortunately, the tech industry has lots of room in it for poorly
socialized geeks for whom it’s sometimes simply easier to play off
shyness as being an asshole.

IV.  Much as I am legally required to watch anything involving
vampires, one of my co-workers is legally required to watch any movie
which is an adaptation of a comic book.  Also, he says Fantastic Four
sucks just as much as you think it does.  I didn’t learn that,
though, since I already knew it from having seen a variety of trailers
for said “film,” so it doesn’t count.  Just the legal requirement
that he see adaptations of comics counts.

V.  Sometimes, my employers buy new tools that promise us the sky and all the stars in it and they work. (more…)

So, another weekend of grillin’ & gamin’.  Bascha & Kath were kind enough to host us all for a debut of Bascha’s extremely awesome new grill.  Mr. Pink Eyes and Andy of Compound X were our grillmasters.  I whipped up some (accidentally extra-spicy) guacamole and The Boyf
and I brought some fancy cheeses – applewood smoked cheddar and
blueberry stilton – obtained at the Southern Season sale.  As the
dudes cooked up our veggies and our meats to delicious perfection – exactly the shade of pink in the middle I had desired, gods but they were good burgers – we sat and talked and drank fantastic wine brought by Pants Wilder.  Namely, we had Rock Rabbit Syrah
(Note:  the site just wouldn’t work for me in Firefox, but in IE
it was manageable.)  He said the shelf tag in the store said,
simply, “It’s like liquid crack.”  Truer words were never
spoken.  After, hours of D&D passed with delight.  It was
a fucking awesome day.

Sunday was The Day I Went Back to Cingular.  I have to give them credit here – my car charger wasn’t working and The Boyf‘s
phone was dead, and I was ready to summon up a bitchstorm the likes of
which even I can rarely produce.  Wisely, I went in being polite
to start with, and discovered that the people at the Cingular stores in
Durham and Chapel Hill are (a) extremely nice and (b) unbelievably
helpful.  They fixed my car charger issue right away and then were
able to identify the problem with The Boyf’s phone and, when he went in
the next day, get him a new phone immediately.  They were pretty
awesome.

In other news, I have now picked the first tomato from the garden!  ROCK
It’s small, but it had ripened and so I got it off the vine.  I’ve
also gotten the first Hungarian Hot Wax pepper and the cayennes just
sit there making and making and making.  Res Publica
commented that his pepper plants have produced bloom after bloom but no
actual peppers.  In the realm of bells and jalapen~os, I’m afraid
I’m a victim of the same fate.  Hell, even the pumpkin, squash and
zucchini vines are just sitting there blooming away but not a bit of
fruit in sight.  I am desperate for them to make, because I want
nothing so much as to fry up a little home-grown zucchini and
squash.  But hey.

In the round-up of the news, all I’m going to point out is MSNBC.com’s delicious headline regarding Rove:  White House Denials on Rove Fall Silent
I’m afraid to discuss or even think about this story too much because I
don’t want to jinx it.  I have a perfect vision of the future and
I’m afraid I might spoil it if I actually think about it too
much.  Let’s just say the Ewoks, stupid as they are, do in fact dance at the end.

In fact, the thing that most fascinates me in today’s news is this story about Native American legends regarding Thunderbird and Whale
and the possibility they’re mythologically encoded records of past
catastrophic tsunami events on the West Coast.  I don’t know why
no one thought of this before, because it makes perfect sense.  In
the legend, especially as told by Pacific Northwest tribes, Thunderbird
snatches Whale from the ocean and tries to carry Whale to her
nest.  When she gets Whale there, they have an epic battle and the
earth trembles and the waters of the ocean recede and then rise to
crash back down on land.  Well, OK, I guess other people have thought of this before
So now I wonder what it is, in particular, that makes this news? 
Is this researcher’s work an extension of the understood
timeline?  I don’t know enough about any of the sciences involved
to really get it, but it’s mighty keen to behold the clever and
effective ways so many societies have had of preserving their history.

The coolest news of all, though?  Katastrophes wants to host a
weekly two-episode Twin Peaks night.  I have it all – and I mean all – on DVD, including DVD copies of an acquaintance’s laserdisc (!) version of Season Two.  There will be Twin Peaks watched.  Oh yes, there will. (more…)

I am fascinated by serial killers, as anyone who knows me off-line is
well-aware.  That a mind can be so broken but manage to hold
itself together otherwise such that they can function without being
detected for so long is just really, really intriguing to me. 
Frankly, I find it fascinating to wonder what goes on in a mind so
unlike my own.  So when I read this post over at Pam’s House Blend, and caught this quote from the BTK Killer, it got me thinking:

“I have a lot of remorse. I’m very sorry for them. It is something I
wouldn’t want to happen to my family,” he told KAKE-TV. The interview
was conducted Saturday; some of it was aired Wednesday night with
additional portions to air Thursday.

Rader, who pleaded guilty
last week to 10 first-degree murders in the Wichita area from 1974 to
1991, nicknamed himself BTK, for “Bind, Torture, Kill,” as he taunted
media and police with cryptic messages about the crimes. He faces
sentencing Aug. 17.

Rader, 60, said his problems began in grade
school, with his sexual fantasies that were “just a little bit weirder”
than other people’s. “Somewhere along the line, someone had to pick
something up from me somewhere that there was a problem,” he said.
“They should have identified it.”

I posted what follows in Pam’s comments, but I’m posting it here as
well because… well, because serial killers are gross and scary and
fascinating to me.

Almost universally, serial killers are all about control over
others.  While it culminates in physical control over them –
determining the time, place and means of that victim’s death – they
also frequently enjoy the psychological forms of control they can
exert.  In fact, I think a case can be made that the physical
exercise of that control is, itself, merely a manifestation of the
psychological control.  Even serial killers who are unknown to
their victims (the DC shooters, the trail shooter out west a few years
ago, etc.) frequently enjoy a sense that their power over their victims
is in fact magnified by their anonymity because their victim might see them at a gas station and never know it is they who hold that power over the victim’s ultimate fate.

In light of that, I see his “It’s really not my fault, it’s yours for not stopping me”
line as being his last attempt at psychological control and power over
those around him.  If he can make his wife, his minister, his
kids, his co-workers, the cops, anyone feel a moment’s guilt
for not having stopped him sooner, he’s gained a degree of
psychological advantage over those people.  Guilt is his last
remaining weapon, and he loves that feeling of power far too much to
shy away from using it. 

Pam has posted about this in the past, I believe, and I’ve read it in
numerous early articles about him:  he was an absolute control
freak in his daily life.  In his job as a city ordinance
enforcement officer he was renowned for abusing the letter of a law as
a means of trespassing far beyond the spirit of the same.  Two
prime examples I remember reading about in an MSNBC.com article
were his habits of filming the back of a neighbor’s house and walking
around his neighborhood measuring the height of other people’s lawns
with a tape measure, looking for excuses to write them tickets. 
The kind of brain that gets its jollies that way is, sadly, all too
common in our society, too easy to understand and absolutely impossible
to stop.  Before he was caught he used his badge to control the
people who knew him and fear to control of the people around him who
would otherwise be beyond his reach.  Now that he’s been captured
he tries to use misplaced blame to achieve the same effect.  When
he says he wouldn’t want someone to do this to his family, I think it
might be safe to assume the reason is that he’d rather get to do it himself. (more…)

So, a dude in Florida has been charged with a felony for using someone else’s wireless network:

Police say Benjamin Smith III, 41, used his Acer brand laptop to hack
into
[emphasis mine – RMcMP] Dinon’s wireless Internet network. The April 20 arrest is
considered the first of its kind in Tampa Bay and among only a few so
far nationwide.

Don’t you just love that “hack into” up there?  Lordy.  Sensationalize much?

Now, lest you take me wrong, by no means am I endorsing driving around
suburban neighborhoods and making use of the Wi-Fi of a stranger. 
(What a great title for a trashy techno-romance:  The Wi-Fi of a Stranger.  Must remember it for the Plot Dare forum on NaNo this year.)  I decline to endorse it not because it’s some great evil, howeverRather, I think it’s just kind of tacky
It’s like letting your dog drop a huge steamer in your neighbor’s lawn
and failing to clean it up because it’s more convenient than walking
the dog your damn self. 

See, here’s the thing:  the concept of “stealing” Wi-Fi is not
unlike the concept of “stealing” air.  Am I stealing something
when I stand in my yard and breathe oxygen that might otherwise have
meandered across the invisible line that marks the border of my
neighbor’s property?  If I stand too close to that invisible line
and breathe for all I’m worth, am I taking something from them? 
The wireless signal that extends beyond those golden, holy boxes with
labels like Linksys and D-Link is effectively unlimited.  Yes,
there are constraints – LAN speeds and the bandwidth available via a
given means of accessing the interwebulons beyond that – but c’mon, who
is ever, and I mean ever, pushing 100 Mb/s across their
wireless LAN?    Seriously.  Get real,
people.  I don’t care how many substitute electronic cocks
someone’s got strapped to his geek belt and how many TiVo’s are on the
network and how many computers they have in the basement, the bottom
line is that it takes a whole lot of users before one more
makes the difference.  So get real with the metaphors and the
similes and the whatevers.  It is not theft, because it is
impossible to steal that of which there is an effectively infinite
supply.

This tweaks me so bad, first of all, because the “real” threat – and
it’s not much of one, frankly – is not the theft of a signal but its
pollution.  Second, it gives me an opportunity to point out
needless corporate greed draped in the cloak of self-righteous
indignation.

So, what’s the real threat?  The article (and the “victim”) get it
quite right:  that someone could use your network for activities
you don’t want carried out on your network:

The technology has made life easier for high-tech criminals because
it provides near anonymity. Each online connection generates an
Internet Protocol Address, a unique set of numbers that can be traced
back to a house or business.

That’s still the case with Wi-Fi but if a criminal taps into a
network, his actions would lead to the owner of that network. By the
time authorities show up to investigate, the hacker would be gone.

“Anything they do traces back to your house and chances are we’re going to knock on your door,” [Special Agent Bob] Breeden [head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s computer crime division] said.

That’s true.  If you have an unsecured wireless network, anybody
can use it to do anything they can do with any network, including
whatever bad things you can imagine.  The interwebs are a dark and
dangerous alley, kids, and every bum has a knife up his sleeve, etc.,
etc.  I mean, yes, the risk is there – if I were a child
pornographer, I could think of few safer(-ish) ways to get a fix than
by driving around the corner and sitting outside the home of the nice
old lady with the wireless network her granddaughter set up for her
last Christmas.  So yeah, that danger is there, I guess, but I’m
pretty sure it ranks right up there with being hit twice by lightning
while under a rain of frogs.

But you know what?  Were I a child pornographer I could also
simply sneak into your house and plant porno tapes in it.  I could
tuck them away at the backs of long-forgotten closets and you’d never
be the wiser.  If only there were a way to keep strangers from
entering your home.  Something – maybe something built into the
door – that could be used to make sure (within a reasonable margin of
failure) that only those who should have access to your home actually
enter it.  Something simple, preferably…. Gosh, I’m just not
sure I can think of anything.

Oh yeah, they’re called LOCKS and KEYS.  Even this article points that out:

For as worrisome as it seems, wireless mooching is easily preventable
by turning on encryption or requiring passwords. The problem, security
experts say, is many people do not take the time or are unsure how to
secure their wireless access from intruders. Dinon knew what to do.
“But I never did it because my neighbors are older.”

And whose fault is that, again?

What really bothers me about this whole thing, though, is the attitude
presented by at least one source for the article:  that even if
you do it with their permission you’ve still committed a crime:

“It’s no different if I went out and bought a Microsoft program and
started sharing it with everyone in my apartment. It’s theft,” said
Kena Lewis, spokeswoman for Bright House Networks in Orlando. “Just
because a crime may be undetectable doesn’t make it right.”

Um, actually, no it is not theft to borrow a neighbor’s network with permission.  That’s kind of what permission is.  The article is a bit murky as to whether they’ve asked her whether it’s wrong to use a neighbor’s connection without permission or whether it’s wrong to use a neighbor’s connection with permission, but it certainly seems, from context, that the situation she’s discussing is one of sharing a wireless connection with permission. 
No, sorry, survey says: XXX.  If I let my neighbor borrow my
wireless signal, it’s no different than letting him borrow the lawn mower.  If her point is that I paid for the right to use the cable modem and no one else
can do so, then I guess I’d better stop letting Bascha and Katastrophes
fire up their machines when they’re DM’ing over here for a night of
D&D, right?  I guess they’re not allowed to borrow my computer
to check their email, either.  And what are they doing in my chairs?  Did I get permission from my Chair Service Provider to let them sit their asses down?

Sorry, Ms. Lewis, but you don’t get to put me in a panic over the scary, scary war-drivers and tell
me what to do with my network in my own home.  Just fuck right
off.  It’s absurd to think that they can tell us what to do with
our own networks, but there you go.  They’re pissed at the idea
the neighbors might skip getting a cable modem altogether if they know
that whenever their grandkids are over to visit they can borrow my
signal, or that I might tell Mr. Saturday he should feel free to stop
by with a laptop whenever he’s out looking at houses in my
neighborhood.  That’s just plain fucked up.

Ultimately, that’s really what gets my goat.  This jackass who
thought it would be smart to set up shop in front of someone else’s
house and use his wireless signal is just that:  a jackass. 
That’s tacky.  That’s just so lame.  This is 2005, buddy, get
a coffeeshop.  I mean, puh-leze.  But to arrest him on felony
charges is equally absurd, and to turn it into an opportunity for some
mouthpiece for an ISP to claim that borrowing a neighbor’s network with
their permission is outright theft borders on the insane.

OK, I’m done now.  It just really put a burr under my saddle. (more…)

So, I know it’s been mighty quiet around here.  That’s largely
because my blogging time has been taken up with prepping and writing
and posting the background to a character I used to play in a
long-running D&D game that’s about to be resurrected.  The
sheer pain of trying to convert Whitten from a 2nd Edition AD&D
Bard (11th level) to a D&D 3.5E Sorcerer (12th level) has been a
little time-consuming.  Then, of course, there’s his blog to
create:  Pigs Are Good People
It’s where I’ve posted his background for the time spanning from the
end of the original game to the start of the new one. 

If you’re not a gamer, you probably won’t find it very
interesting.  But hey, there it is, evidence that I still live and
breathe if nothing else.

It’s also been an excuse to play with the RC3 release of Pivot 1.30.  I’ve discovered that I can edit CSS files.  But that’s all I can do:  edit them. 
I just find the parts that look likely and poke them until they scuttle
in the direction I desire.  Were I asked to come up with something
original, I’m afraid I would just have to cry until whoever wanted it
gave up and moved on.  I say frequently, and now say again, that
the last time I did any serious web-work the hot new thing was frames
That should give you an indication of the terrifying monolith I see
when I look in the direction of genuine web development these
days.  Ah well.

Bruce had a big weekend filled with outside time.  The Boyf
and I replaced the air filters in the ventilation system of our home,
we and Pants Wilder watched a crapload of animated varieties of Batman
we’d TiVo’ed of late, and Monday I tried a burger made with bison
meat.  Interesting, but not necessarily a radical departure from
regular ol’ beef.

This weekend we go to Bascha‘s to grill and game.  Woot!

Mr. Saturday is house-shopping, and turned up in our neighborhood last
night while driving around to see various places.  He asked me for
recommended neighborhoods in Durham and I told him right up front that
I am biased and will try to steer him nearer our place rather than
further away.  We sat at dinner and read real estate booklets and
talked about the danger of the ad that mentions “AS-IS” or “LOTS OF
POTENTIAL,” that sort of thing.  There is an adorable house
for sale around the corner from us, but I am loathe to recommend it to
anyone as it is next door to The Guy Who Should Never Go Shirtless But
Always, Always Does.  I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but it’s
not the kind of thing you want to see out your kitchen window during
breakfast.  Yech.

In gardening news, two of the hosta plants have bloomed, one has been
almost entirely eaten by insects or something and the others are all
flourishing in their own little ways.  The tomato plants are HUGE
and have a few green tomatoes on them.  The pepper plants have
kept growing bigger and bigger as well (though not fruitful – just
huge, and all without my usual enthusiasm for Miracle-Gro) and the squash and zucchini need to hurry up and make or I am going to eat the plants themselves because they look so good.

Finally, last night my eBay seller adventures continued.  I’ve now finally gotten everything I
could possibly need for both laptops, and have upgraded my main one as
far as it can go.  While listing its old RAM I went ahead and
listed my old cellphone, still locked to AT&T Wireless/Suncom, with
a “buy it now” price smack in the middle of the average selling
price.  Ten minutes later, someone bought it.  I literally
hadn’t made it as far as going to the listings for its model to check
out how the listing looked.

I love eBay. (more…)

The life & times of a gaming character.  Yes, I am that much of a nerd. (more…)