Linux upgrades, conspiracies, Danger

Okay, it just took me about an hour and a half of dicking around to get started, but here I am. It seems Red Hat Linux 8.0 has a brain tumor in the program that I use to resize images, and I had to go through a lengthy procedure to get the fucking thing all right. But it is, and here’s a treat for you: Photos of the Blizzard! This is mostly a series of shots when I was walking to work on the Tuesday after, and it features lots of buried cars. [These are long gone, sorry.]

Another project I am working on now – I am writing another glossary, but it is a conspiracy theory glossary now. It is here, but I have barely started working on it. It takes a lot longer to research each entry than the last glossary, but it is loads of fun. So give me a week or two, and I should have enough entries for it to be interesting.

In other news, I bought a Danger Hiptop yesterday. It is a combination cell phone, small computer, PDA, web browser, and pager, with a small keyboard, a neat flip-open screen, and very cool integration. You can view the web with it, use it to read mail, do PDA-type stuff, and play games on it. All of your data actually lives on servers, and their back-end strips down and re-renders web pages for speed and simplicity. And the cool part is that the data network is all-you-can use for one price, at least for the first year. I don’t actually have it yet – I ordered on the phone, so I am very ancy about getting the thing. But I’m hoping it will let me send mail and maybe put up some tiny web journal while on the road with it. We’ll see.

Not much else is going on here, just busy with other crap and reading about 22 different books on the JFK assassination at the same time for the glossary. When you read this much shit about it, you can pretty much make up any story about that day and have it make sense. Anyway…


New Best Buy

Yes, I’m still here. I guess I’ve been hiding out, although I really don’t know what I’ve been doing for the last week or so. After the snow ended, everything started melting, flooding, raining, and the walk to work became these waist-high mountains of snow, with giant lakes on the other side. The weekend’s been nothing but rain, and yet I was vaguely productive in the sense of getting out of the house and not sitting in bed until 3PM and then eating one daily meal of delivery pizza in front of the TV.

I got out into the city yesterday, fought the rain and got some DVD shopping at the new Best Buy in Chelsea. There are a lot of new stores going in down there, and I’m not entirely sure why, because I’m not familiar with the area. Maybe everyone’s getting the fuck out; maybe Bloomberg gave some kind of tax cut to big chain stores who wanted to move in. Anyway, I saw an Outback Steakhouse going in there. I am not entirely in love with the place, but it’s at the head of the A list for Ray, for some reason. So at least when he’s here next, I can bring him there in addition to other New York places.

Today I went to Rite-Aid to get fucked over on a prescription again. I don’t think they’ve ever been able to get one right yet. Also went grocery shopping, which as I’ve mentioned before involves grabbing about $50 of stuff that doesn’t even constitute a meal. I guess I really should eat before I go to the store. At least the iPod makes it a bit more tolerable. The muzak at this particular store is usually horrific, electronic horn and synth versions of bad 80s pop tunes blasted out of tinny speakers in the ceiling. You’d think they do it to get people the fuck out of the store, instead of somehow finding music that made people want to buy more meat or something.

I’m barely picking at some short stories for a book, and that’s what I must go do now.


hiding from snow

Yes, I survived the snow. I went shopping on Sunday, so I hid out indoors, watched TV, and did nothing else while it managed to pour down about two FEET of white stuff. I went out at about seven to get my laundry, but found the laundromat and everything else closed. So I got the camcorder and walked around for a while. Cars were entirely buried in drifts, and roads were mostly plowed to single-lane width, with some of the sidewalks partially shoveled, but most of them completely hidden under dunes of white. Absolutely nobody was outside, with no cars, people, or sounds for blocks. It felt like the whole city had vanished from a neutron bomb, aside from the occasional building super digging out their sidewalk.

I got to work okay today, although it took about twice as long as usual. The walk to the train took some patience, as only half of the sidewalks were clear, and each street crossing at a curb involved scaling a wall of snow left by the plows. Trains were slow, crowded, and infrequent, so that took a great deal of waiting. Only about half of our people made it here today, so it will be somewhat quiet in the office this afternoon.

Not much else to report, except that I’m getting frustrated over a lack of writing lately, and that’s compounded by a general feeling that I’m not sure what I should be writing next. I have a couple of ideas on projects, but I also have this overwhelming feeling that I’m barely treading water these days, and I need to find that “big” project to somehow advance myself. I guess for years I thought that Rumored would be that project, and now that it’s done and I’m still here at the same level, it makes me wonder what I need to do next. Does that make any sense?


iPod, CD binging

This iPod is incredible. It’s a great experience to have a big plurality of your music collection with you at all times, in a tiny little box as big as a deck of cards. And it’s great to listen to everything on shuffle, hearing old favorites next to new CDs next to things I cherished ten years ago but haven’t heard in ages because they were on a compilation CD buried somewhere in my apartment. I’ve been ripping CDs nonstop, and I’m barely filling up the 20 gigs of space. I’ve got about six gigs on there, and another gig or so of stuff I’ve ripped today.

I went to Best Buy today, the new one in Chelsea. It was a minor pain in the ass because there wasn’t an N/W train running to Manhattan, so I had to get on the 7. Then I got on an F, and it took me right to the door of this new place. The whole store is actually underground, and it’s big for a store in Chelsea, although it’s probably one of the smallest Best Buys I’ve been in. I went on a CD rampage, and here’s what I got:

  • CKY – Infiltrate, Destroy, Rebuild
  • CKY – Volume 1
  • Twisted Forever – A Tribute to the Legendary Twisted Sister
  • Iron Maiden – Powerslave
  • Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind
  • Iron Maiden – Somewhere in Time
  • Iron Maiden – Iron Maiden
  • Orgy – Vapor Transmission
  • NWA – Greatest Hits
  • Green Day – Kerplunk
  • Dead Kennedys – Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death

The Iron Maiden CDs are all the new “full cover” versions, with shitty bonus tracks available as multimedia only. I should’ve bought them all five years ago when they were in the cool Castle reissues with a bonus CD in a brilliant box, but I’m an idiot. I don’t have any of them on CD – all of my old Maiden stuff was on vinyl. The CKY is new to me, but I really like them a lot – I first heard them in the Jackass movie. The rest of the list were impulse purchases or stuff that was at a good price, so there you go.

I also picked up a copy of The Sims for PS/2, not really knowing much about it except that a lot of people like it. I played it for an hour or so this afternoon, and it is a total pain in the ass. You have to tell your dude what to do: eat, crap, bathe, watch TV, learn stuff, pick up the house, etc etc. If you don’t do stuff, your meters go down. For example, if you don’t talk to other family members, your social meter goes down. If you don’t watch TV or listen to the radio, your fun meter goes down. And you never, ever have time to do everything. So basically, it’s like real life. And I can’t manage to keep my own house clean or eat three square meals a day, so there’s not a chance I can do it on the computer. Despite this, it’s hard to put down. Go figure.

OK, gotta get out of here and get some stuff done.



The iPod is here. I got it on Wednesday, and I’ve been happily adding songs to it and toting it around to work and back, and I’m pretty impressed with it sofar. I’ve only used it with Windows so far; I bought the Windows model (which is formatted for Windows and not HFS+ for the Mac) and it came with a copy of MusicMatch that’s been modified for the iPod. So when I plug in the iPod with a firewire cord, MusicMatch opens and asks me if I want to sync up my music. I can also look at the iPod as if it was my E: drive, and even stash files there, in case I want to put them on another computer later. You can’t do anything with the files, although now the iPod has some rudimentary organizer capability if you put vcard or vcal files on it.

Overall, I have a lot of good things to say about the device. The UI is pretty slick, a very quality product that one would expect from Apple. The unit itself looks great, very futuristic yet refined, unlike the cheap plastic cases on most MP3 players. It’s also very small, only 7 ounces and smaller than I’d expect a 20 Gig drive plus player to be. The display is incredibly crisp and readable, with a great font. It sounds good, it holds a lot, and it’s very easy to update. Plus it has some long-range batteries that are automatically charged when you plug in the firewire cord.

There are a few minor issues, but nothing huge. First, the chrome back of the case looks great but instantly became a huge smudge and is impossible to clean. And I already scratched it. Also, the clip on the remote control is very tiny and a bit impractical. And the stock earbud headphones didn’t work for me, so I went for a pair of Sony vertical in-ear phones. And I wish it had more games on it – there is a breakout game, but nothing more. Other than that, very happy with everything on it.

Not much else is going on here, except that I am relatively brain dead from the temps outside and the minor cold I am nursing right now. I think I am going to the grocery store after work to buy a bunch of comfort-type food and then I’ll lock myself in the apartment and sleep through the weekend. There are three days, so hopefully I will get to mess with the computer all weekend, and watch the backlog of movies I have sitting around the house.

Oh yeah, it is valentine’s day. I would go on a small tirade about this day and the expectations of people and how I don’t like to deal with it when I am single and alone, but it’s not really worth the effort. My only consolation is that I will probably go to Rite-Aid tomorrow and buy a bunch of candy for 50% off.


Computer upgrade disasters

I think most of the computer upgrade disaster is over. I now have a new monitor, a new video card, and a new Linux installation. It took me about six hours to get everything installed with Linux and Windows 2000, most of that being Linux. I had to back up 9 gigs of personal info and work onto CD-R, then install RH8 three times, then I was stuck for an hour because networking didn’t work, and it turns out it was because I entered the wrong thing for the fucking gateway. Now, all is mostly well, except I have to undo all of the stupid Red Hat bells and whistles and get back to an actual functional operating environment. And as I say this, emacs looks deranged with all of these stupid banners and widgets and extra bullshit they have affixed to every side of my text window. They should put Richard Stallman on a hidden government installation hidden in the middle of the Nevada desert somewhere and do the world a load of good.

So now I have this monstrous screen – 21.1″ actual viewable size, with a resolution of 1600×1200. It’s big enough that I can have a browser window opened to the maximum size and still have a fuckload of space. Text is very tiny, but I am too greedy to set it to a larger size. We’ll see how it works when I get some real writing underway.

Anyway, the monitor is cool. Also, the router fuckup let me figure out what was wrong with the Navy Seals game, and I got to play that online for a bit tonight. I totally got my ass kicked, but it’s pretty fun. And my iPod is on the way – it should be here tomorrow. It was back-ordered, so I slapped down another $200 to upgrade to the 20 Gig version, and it is in stock. So I’ll be all set there.

Very tired, and feeling a bit sick. Computer upgrades always stress me out, but at least it’s a short week next week…


Taking the iPod plunge

My MiniDisc player broke! AGAIN! I just bought the fucking thing last April or something. And it’s a Japanese model, so I can’t return it, I can only put it on the slow boat and pay more than it originally cost to get it back in a year or two.

So I decided to buy an iPod. It looks like the best solution, and it is more compact and easier to work with. The only problem is getting it to work with Linux, but it appears there are hacks out there. The other option is to burn all of my CDs on my Windows partition and then install iTunes or whatever the Windows version of the software is on there. I’ll figure that out after I get it. I ordered the standard 5Gb model – I figure that should work for now.

I also decided to blow even more money and get a new monitor and video card. I got a Matrox G550 Millenium card – I was tempted to get a Radeon with twice as much memory, but the Matrox has Linux support, and that means more than billions of polygons a second or whatever. I also got a ViewSonic 20.1″ LCD monitor. It’s very cool looking, black, has built-in speakers and microphone, and does 1600×1200. So I should be very happy once that bitch is on my desk.

I almost forgot – the books got here yesterday. They look good, and I’m happy with them. If you’re reading this and you want a copy, send me an email with your address and I’ll send you one for free. I only have ten of them, but I’m sure less than ten people read this regularly, so there you go.

It snowed like a motherfucker last night, and everything’s white outside. I wish I could get out there with the camcorder before it turns to grey sludge, but I’m here at work.


Missed a day

I feel like I missed a day somewhere, like I forgot to sleep for 24 hours and I can’t catch up. I took a sleeping pill Sunday, so on Monday I felt drunk and underwater and drugged and could barely think straight. I tried to fight this with caffeine and sugar and sleeping with my eyes open, but all I could think of was going home, getting into bed, falling asleep for days. My friend Bill was in town for the day, so we came back to my place, hung out, watched DVDs, played Red Faction, ate Thai food, and that was cool. A few hours of hassling with Premiere, and by midnight, it was bedtime, and… I was wide awake. I spent forever falling asleep, only to awake to the feeling that I missed a day somewhere.

Sunday night, when I took the Tylenol PM, I had the most fucked up terror nightmares ever. Some mystical force was attacking me on the subway, in some mathematical fashion, and I was so scared of it, I was yelling numbers or something, and I am pretty sure I was really yelling because it was the sort of thing where you try to scream in a dream and you can barely form the words or work the vocal chords. It was a total your-life-is-ending, Mothman conspiracy type of thing. I was hiding at Marie’s house and sleeping on her floor, and she vanished, and both of her cats were walking circles around me and talking, like it was some kind of Satanic ritual. (She actually has three cats, but one is newer, so she was not included. You ever notice how stuff in dreams is never up to date? Like how your dreams always happen in your childhood house?) Anyway she vanished, and then her dad showed up and took all of us on a tour of Knott’s Berry Farm, and I felt really guilty for interrupting the whole seance terror thing. I don’t remember much of the dream after that. But the terror part was pretty fucked up, and it bothered me for hours into the morning. I’ve been having more and more defined dreams, and I really hope that is an indicator that I will get off my butt and start writing something soon. My dreams were the best during the writing of Rumored, and it was no coincidence or anything.

So anyway. My tax refund is done and on the way to the bank, but I am torn between buying a gigantic monitor, going on a vacation, or just putting the damn thing in the bank for retirement. I would love to sit in front of 1600×1200 on a flat screen, but I was talking to Bill yesterday about land, houses, and all of that stuff, and it makes me think about that, too.

Not much else. Still very windy. I had a nice bit of Deja Vu this morning walking to work, in a crisp air of about 40 degrees with the rain just about to explode from the clouds. For some reason, it really reminded me of the early spring rains of Bloomington about ten years ago, walking around town without a car and with too much open road in front of me. It’s strange to think that was ten years ago, but it was. Damn.

Gotta call Ray. His mom is in town, and it’s even money that he put six .44 slugs in her head for some random reason. The parental cross-country buffer zone is great, but it means you have to put up with a years’ worth of cached misery in a week of time.


Exploding Shuttles

So I woke up yesterday around noon, and was messing with Internet Explorer on this new Windows 2000 installation, trying to get the google toolbar installed. In the course of that, I ended up going to the google news page, and the top story was something like “A history of the Shuttle program.” I thought, “That’s pretty bizarre for a top news story – google’s sort algorithm must’ve gone completely sideways.” Then I looked at the link and it mentioned the crash of the Columbia, and I thought, “shit, what a glaring error – it was just the anniversary of the Challenger crash, not the Columbia. The Columbia is still operational – it’s landing today…”

Then I realized that something was wrong, and I turned on the news and saw the Shuttle was in bite-sized pieces all over East Texas. Holy shit.

When I was a kid, they used to gather us all in the library of our elementary school, or wheel in one of those A/V carts with a big, clunky, 1970s institutional-looking TV, so we could watch every Shuttle takeoff and landing. This was heady stuff in the height of the cold war; the demonstration of American might and technology. I ate this stuff up, too. I’d read every single book in the library about Apollo, Gemini, Mercury, Skylab. I knew every mission, every failure. I knew about Apollo 13 before Apollo 13 was a household word, when it was a seldom-mentioned blemish on our space program. Like many other ten-year-old kids of the era, I thought that in the million years it would take me to graduate high school and college, they would be running Shuttles to the moon and mars like Delta runs flights to Cancun, and in the distant future of 1998, I’d only need to make a quick trip via personal jetpack to the nearest spaceport for a Star Wars-like trip to the beyond. After I got bored of dinosaurs and before I found out about computers, space travel was a Big Deal.

One day we’re all watching a landing attempt, and this is a mission where they had some high winds and couldn’t land in California, so after a very tense one-day delay, (“Wow! Will they have enough air and Tang to last an extra day?”) they glided in to some other air force base, I think in Arizona or Nevada or something. I’d look this up, but I’m sure every Shuttle site on line is disconnected due to overload today. So just trust me on this one.

Anyway, the teachers are white-knuckling it, hoping the pride of the space fleet doesn’t have problems, while most of us are bored and wondering if we get to play kickball on recess today. And this one kid named Rick – maybe I should explain him. He looked like he could’ve made the final casting call to the movie Gummo, the kind of career hyperactive juvenile delinquent that spent so much time in the principal’s office, he had his own desk and phone in there. He lived in the trailer park white trash part of the school district, a small minority among the more typical whitebread, take-care-of-the-lawn-and-keep-up-with-the-Jonses folks that populated most of the subdivisions in the area. Rick was a prototypical headbanger, and the first kid I ever knew who was on Ritalin (although he chose to sell most of his dosage to other kids so they could cop a high while he ran rampant and caused chaos.) Coincidentally or not, Rick was also an amateur BMX racing star, the champion of his division in the state or maybe the world. It’s no surprise, considering they could put him in the chute on a stripped-down moly bike and have him punch the pedals like a motherfucker for two minutes of hyperactive rage.

Anyway, while the teachers are fearing the worst from this Shuttle problem, Rick jumps up and starts yelling “I HOPE IT CRASHES! I HOPE THE FUCKER BLOWS UP!” while he runs around the room in a Tasmanian Devil-like rage. The teachers had a fit at this act of total sacrelige and dragged him into a back room to beat him within inches of his life. (This was long before every square foot of elementary schools were wired with security cameras, and when teachers could still keep a rugby bat drilled with blood holes on their desk as a disciplinary aid.)

Fast-forward a few years, and I’m a high school freshman, sitting in a study hall and counting the minutes to lunch. In comes this dude who was much like Rick, the motorhead-type dude that was majoring in shop class and already had a mustache and two kids by the 9th grade. He came in and told me, “Dude! The fuckin’ Space Shuttle blew up! I just saw it on TV in the library!” Although partially amazed that he actually used his library pass to go to the library and not to go behind the school and inhale some glue, it also floored me that it could’ve happened. I thought maybe he was just pulling my leg, a prank concocted in a haze of cheap pot and model cement, an outburst like the one that Rick pulled years earlier. But by the time lunch started, there was more and more verification, and I knew it was real.

I feel strange about the whole thing. In terms of human life lost, it’s seven people; on 9/11 I personally knew four people, and way more people obviously died that day. Any time an army chopper goes down in Afghanistan, it’s about as many people; many more than seven test pilots have lost their lives in the construction of these craft over the last few decades. It’s not going to stop air travel, and it’s not going to (directly) cause major economic issues. We won’t go to war with someone over this loss, and we don’t have to rebuild or mourn some large metropolitan area because of it.

But of course, the space program is fucked. The ISS is doomed, the Shuttles may never fly again, and forget any sort of funding for any of the various Shuttle replacements that are on the drawing board. It will be years until we send people back into space, and the Russians are far too broke to do anything more than get back the three guys that are stuck in the ISS right now. Any hopes you may have had in seeing a man on Mars within your lifetime are now lost. And that’s too bad. Like I said, twenty years ago, I read every single book I could find on the subject, fact or fiction, and I’ve spent the last two decades following everything, reading everything, and hoping that ISS would be the first step to bigger and better things. This really sucks.