My wife

Feb. 28th, 2010 05:24 pm
thedarkages: (mogen_david)
Some moron smashed liquor bottles all over our parking lot.

While I was gone, my wife swept up all the broken glass, on the theory that "someone might get hurt."

This is the kind of person my wife is.
thedarkages: (disc)
Interesting problem: how to assemble a survey of classical music in 6-10 discs for $70 or under.

I hate survey CDs -- "100 Classical Pieces to Chill Out By." They're inevitably put together by the "special products" division of a label, which means that the key consideration is not quality of performance but how cheap the licensing is. Our local classical station offers them by the dozens as premiums. I want to do slightly better than that. I have a friend who is just getting into classical music. But I'm not sure she has the kind of concentration you need to listen to a whole Nathan Milstein or Beaux Arts Trio album. At the same time, I'm not comfortable simply ripping her some "mix CDs." And if I put together something out of the albums I know and love, it will cost me $150-$170. I need 6-10 "cheap and cheerful" records which will get the job done without being musical disappointments and without bankrupting me. My first and best thought was Naxos -- they had a survey sequence, but it is now offered only in Sweden. Researching and assembling a repertoire of good budget CDs will take an incredible amount of time.

What am I missing?
thedarkages: (fiend)
If it's over $15 a plate, it is not a "recession special."

If you're charging more money for your "recession special" than you did for the same items on the menu a month ago, it's not a "recession special."

If you're tacking expensive extras onto the bill even before the people have ordered the "recession special," it's not a "recession special."

The entire point of the exercise is to get more of your business from ordinary people. Those people in the AMG SLK 55 are not coming back. With the stunts you're pulling, neither are we.
thedarkages: (mogen_david)
Why do Moses's sons, Gershom and Eliezer, get so little play in the Bible? You would think they'd be more important.


Jan. 27th, 2010 06:14 pm
thedarkages: (Default)
Barack Obama will be the Jimmy Carter of the 21st century. His perceived failures will lead to the 2012 election of someone so harmful and retrogressive as to make Dick Cheney look like Louis Brandeis.

I don't think he's going to prove me wrong tonight.
thedarkages: (bang)
Do not agree to grade student papers for a flat fee.

Even if you get away with it the first term, enrollment will double the second term. You will wind up working yourself into exhaustion for vanishingly small amounts of money.

Don't do it.
thedarkages: (book)
So, in 2011, the New York Times is going to start charging for online content.

They're "trying to get it right," after their dismal failure with TimesSelect.

If the price is right, it wouldn't be a bad thing. I'd like the Times to survive.

But this is the newspaper that wanted to charge me $91.00 a year for the fryin' Book Review.

I have no confidence that they will paywall in a way that isn't extortionate.

And that will probably mean farewell to the Paper of Record.

I suppose the loss of comforting things from the past is just part of growing older. Still, it's hard to see it happen.
thedarkages: (danger)
A while back, I tried an online backup service called JungleDisk, which uses Amazon S3 for storage. I used it for about a week, until I realized that my ISP's throttling of upload speed meant that I would completely back up my documents folder in about a month. I uninstalled it. But what I didn't realize was that JungleDisk had created an S3 account and password for me, and even though I had gotten rid of what I thought was everything, that account is still active and costing me about $0.02 a month in Amazon Payments.

I have not found a way of getting in touch with a human being at Amazon, explaining my situation, and getting them to delete the account. My username and password for the account were internal to JungleDisk, and have now been lost. How do I stop this?
thedarkages: (book)
How Addicted to Facebook Are You?

Created by Oatmeal

I still maintain that Facebook is sucking the life out of LiveJournal. Why post something interesting if you can simply "like" something or do a one-sentence status update? Why post to LJ friends, when you can update to the infinitely larger and more diffuse circle of Facebook "friends"? Why stick with the friends you've built up over years, when Facebook aggressively recruits everyone you know?

We could be seeing an indie bookstore/Amazon dynamic in the making.
thedarkages: (book)
Flexagons are fun things you can make with paper. They are topologically interesting.

The two best books on flexagons, by Les Pook, cost $48 in paperback (Cambridge University Press) and $129 in hardcover (no paperback) (Springer Verlag).

How are people who want to have fun -- the Martin Gardner set -- going to fork over that kind of money?

Cambridge and Springer are the acme of greed -- and others are following.
thedarkages: (Default)
[Is it me, or has Facebook been siphoning off 90% of LiveJournal activity? Things have been very slow in the vicinity of my Friends page.]

Last week was a rollercoaster for a variety of reasons, but one of them was Windows 7. I had ordered it, assuming that it would run on my Toshiba Tecra A9 laptop, about 1.5 years old (but sporting 2+-year-old technology), because it was "Vista-capable." (I ran XP.) Then, a day before 7 arrived, I ran the Upgrade Advisor. It didn't like my video card. Not at all. I ran to the Toshiba forums, where a kind soul indicated that the Upgrade Advisor was not always a credible source of advice. So: trust this guy's hunch, or get my money back? The box arrived, and, in my excitement,the decision practically made itself. (Mind you, I had been preparing for this day. All my data was backed up both as a disk image and as a regular backup, on two different disks, one of which was a remote network share. My serial numbers and installation packages were burned to CD, as were my documents and mail.)
Installation was problem-free, taking all of 30 minutes. But when the machine started up again, the dire predictions of Upgrade Advisor came true... no Aero. What I had was blisteringly fast, but there was no eye candy. I installled the latest and greatest NVIDIA video drivers, and tried to repair Aero. Mirabile visu, up it came!

7 is fast. It's faster than XP, although this could simply be due to "new system" gloss; we'll see what happens once the registry is crammed full of gunk. But it's remarkably pleasant to use, UAC is not too obtrusive, and, after a while, you forget that you're using a new operating system and just get your work done. Nominally, getting your work done is what it's all about. (Except for social networking, of course.)
thedarkages: (book)
The B&N Kindle killer looks really neat, but the name has me cracking up. "Nook" is a word which I have always associated with a particular part of the female anatomy. When I hear the woman in the video say, "And now I'm downloading a book to my Nook," I can't stop sniggering.

What were they thinking? I can't be the only one.
thedarkages: (bang)
My quest for a Linux simple enough for end users and small enough to be installed on a ten-year-old machine will have to continue. Puppy Linux is not it. Puppy seemed promising, in terms of disk space, processor consumption, and lightweight X. But it has an incredible number of rough edges. The package manager is gross -- you can't uninstall packages with it. The desktop is simplified in a few respects, but all kinds of sharp corners protrude. And it crashes, over and over again.

It's a shame, because Puppy has better features than Damn Small Linux, my last candidate.

But what do you do for people with ancient, feeble computers whose Windows installations are hopelessly corrupted? Surely, there must be some distribution that can come to the rescue.
thedarkages: (raisin)
It's about six days until my copy of Windows 7 ships, and I'm getting cold feet. It isn't just that money's getting tight, but I'm concerned that Windows 7 will run like molasses on my machine. I've got a 16 Gb SD card for "IntelliBoost," and 4 Gb of memory, but that may not be enough. My processor is an Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 ("Santa Rosa"), released nearly three years ago. My video is an Nvidia Quadro NVS 130 M, also a couple of generations behind. I can't find any performance reviews of Windows 7 with this kind of configuration -- all I get are laptop reviews. Should I cancel the order and take my chances with Microsoft edging XP out?
thedarkages: (jerome)
The reactions to Obama's winning the Nobel Peace Prize have been tiresome and predictable. I won't rehearse them here. But the choice does give me hope for a long-cherished dream of mine: that I will win a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur fellowship for having a pulse. I have a damn fine pulse. I've kept it up for years. The time is now. Nominate me, select me, and I will continue to have a pulse for as long as I live. That's a promise.
thedarkages: (bang)
Yesterday, Condé Nast announced that it was going to stop publishing Gourmet. What a terrible thing to do! Beth has enjoyed Gourmet for thirty years, and we have nearly all the issues for that entire period. There have been some ways in which it declined over time, gaining an obsession with elite lifestyle porn and decreasing the proportion of recipes every year, but it still was a way for Beth to experiment with novel dishes and feel as though she were, vicariously, a "foodie." I'll miss the writings of Jane and Michael Stern, writers obsessed with sussing out every greasy spoon, barbecue joint, fried chicken parlor, and hot dog stand in America and weighing in on their merits. (Their columns inspired me to create a family of characters in one of my unpublished stories whose love of no-good greasy food becomes a transcendent artform and way of life.) Gourmet had almost a million subscribers. Condé Nast expects to transition them over to Bon Appetit, a truly crappy middle-of-the-road lowbrow rag. As for me, I bought Beth a ten-year subscription to Gourmet as a wedding present. Condé Nast has had the decency to promise me a refund on the unmailed issues.

I blame Condé Nast for not seeing beyond the short-term dip in Gourmet's ad pages that every magazine has felt in this recession. What are they going to cut next? The New Yorker? Why not just wipe out every vestige of culture and good taste?

That last is a serious question. I feel like a dinosaur. A lot of things I grew up with, things that provided joy and flavor in life, are disappearing -- classical music, good journalism, and worthwhile television, to name but three. Am I really that old?


Sep. 16th, 2009 07:11 pm
thedarkages: (raisin)
Just as it has become more economical to hire penniless human beings to solve captchas, just so, effective comment spam seems to no longer be robotized but instead appears to be using human beings who make a vague effort to conform to the topic of the post they are defacing. The time of the Mechanical Turk has finally flowered.
thedarkages: (book)
For various reasons, I have to prune my library of a fair number of books. This is not a pleasant task. I care very much about my books. I paid good money for most of them, and others of them were gifts that have meaning for me. But some of them must go.

I am at a loss to figure out how to dispose of the books. Selling them via Ebay or Alibris means constant travel to and from the post office, paying out more in shipping than I receive, and, frankly, wrapping the books, which I am terrible at doing. As a rule, libraries do not accept books given to them; it costs an average of $40 to catalog and process one donated book, and if I could send my books with such dowries to their bibliographical nunnery, I could probably afford a bigger apartment and more bookcases. And simply dumping them in a box to be sold en banc, or given away to the voracious horde of graduate students... to have books I value treated as having a nominal value or no value -- breaks my heart.

I think that covers all the options, but there must be some better way. Suggestions gratefully accepted.

That day

Sep. 11th, 2009 08:52 am
thedarkages: (Default)
On 9/11/2001, I was sitting at home. I had just been laid off from work the day before, Monday, 9/10. I had gotten a call, much too early in the morning, from my crazy friend Sam in Connecticut. "New York City is being destroyed!" he yelled at me. "Turn on your television!" It wasn't one of his paranoid delusions. It was obvious to me that I was not going to be looking for work that day. Like so many other people, I watched in horror, on and on, through the endless repetitions of the planes crashing, the towers falling.

In some sense, didn't the predictions of the jingoists happen, only in reverse? They said, "if you do not do what we want, the terrorists will have won." We've spent trillions of dollars on useless wars. My wife got invasively searched twice on a recent trip because of tiny amounts of metal in her clothing. The barriers protecting our privacy have been irrevocably shattered. The terrorists probably had a much more specific vision of the destruction of this country, one which I am grateful did not come to pass, but didn't they, in some sense, get what they wanted?

Sam died young, of lung cancer, two years ago this summer. The company I had worked for had bet the farm on an enormous project that was going to be installed in the World Trade Center the week of 9/11; they were sold. For reasons I don't fully understand, I'm still around. But the transformation of my country into something unrecognizable, which began with Reagan, got an enormous jumpstart on 9/11, and even now it continues without significant relief. I thought the election of Obama meant that I could be a patriot again; the legacy of 9/11 continues to dash that hope.
thedarkages: (book)
This should really be a comment to a discussion thread on Making Light, but I have not felt particularly welcome posting there, and am not anxious to be shouted down.

The thread centers around the relationship of science fiction to the fiction traditonally taught in English classes -- to call the latter "literary fiction" and the former "genre fiction," as I have in the past, is to use fighting words. ML's readership, composed mainly of the readers, writers, and editors of science fiction, seem to believe that the institutions of high culture have attempted to suppress and denigrate science fiction in favor of its highbrow counterpart. This attempt seems not to have been completely successful; several posters remark with glee that the sales figures for science fiction so utterly outstrip those for highbrow fiction as to render the latter irrelevant. At the same time, apparently highbrow fiction retains just enough relevance, thanks in large part to a cadre of committed, joyless English teachers, to carry out its work of suppression, denigration, etc.

I have now set up enough strawmen to frighten murders upon murders of crows. There are quite a few posters on the ML thread who are at home in both worlds, and take up relatively nuanced positions. But the less nuanced posters get my goat, attributing all virtues to science fiction and all vices to highbrow fiction.

In particular, there is one canard that sticks in my craw: that university-based practitioners of highbrow fiction crank out reams of uninspired books to meet tenure requirements, which are then consumed only by their MFA students. I have two words for the first part of this assertion: Bernard Malamud. Read "The Magic Barrel" and tell me that that was cooked up for a merit increase. And don't the vast majority of writers find themselves in situations where they must produce crap in order to survive? I can think of many SF writers -- Robert Silverberg, for example -- who had to plumb the depths in order to keep the checks coming, and no one told them that what they were doing meant that the genre had somehow lost its standing as a result.

For several years during my childhood, I read very little besides science fiction, much to the consternation of my parents. When I was a teenager, I found other kinds of literature, and found that there were dimensions to reading that the SF authors I had read had left unexplored. Asimov was not the last word on gender relations, and Heinlein was not the last word on plotting. In truth, I have rarely gone back, except when my work demanded it. There are some writers, like Neal Stephenson, who have captured my interest, but there are many satisfactions on my side of the fence.

What is to stop pluralism from breaking out? Only the usual demands that take place when both sides are aggrieved. "You stop teaching people that my literature is beneath notice and I'll stop saying that your literature is elitist and irrelevant."

In the end, all such conflict may be to no end, as literacy in general becomes endangered. I recently heard World of Warcraft described as "fantasy for people who don't know how to read." Surely that constitutes a bigger threat than obscure academic novels with press runs of 1500.
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