Explosion

About an hour ago, I was watching TV – I forget what, probably flipping through the channels, and contemplating going to Taco Bell for dinner. I noticed that my lights in the living room were flickering a bit, and I was sort of pissed that my fluorescent-LED replacement things that were supposed to last for ten million hours were crapping out after less than a year. All of a sudden, there was a fucking EXPLOSION! It was far louder than anything I’ve ever heard (and I’ve heard some impressive stuff) and it sounded like it was within a block of my place. I checked the phones and the ethernet to see if it was anything that would affect that, and then I went into that weird sort of adrenaline-fueled paranoia where you memorize the location of everything in the room in case the five stories above you collapse into the basement and you need to find a quick exit. I grabbed my coat and went outside, thinking it would be a fucking scud missile or car bomb, although it sounded far too “compressed” and not as omnidirectional as an exploding car.

By the time I went outside (I waited a second – read too many stories about IRA secondary bombing) and saw some fire trucks trying to put out a couple of cars that were basically twenty foot pyres of flame. There was also smouldering smoke coming out of every ConEd manhole within a block. I got enough half-truths from the pigs that were fencing off the neighborhood; I guess there was a fire and explosion of a switch or transformer underground, hence the flickering lights, and an exploding manhole set off the cars. So I went to Burger King, came back, and ate. A few minutes, there was a second explosion, but not as loud. And I think I heard a third, but it was much smaller, maybe a car gas tank or something. The lights are still flickering, and I’m worried that they will go out. (Shit – fourth explosion!) But the computer and ethernet are working fine. I hope they get the fire underway or the dropping temps help, and I hope ConEd has some redundant systems they can get online.

Nothing interesting is going on in life. I am really trying to think of another writing project, but I can’t find a spare moment or two a day to do any writing. And that’s not because of anything interesting going on. I basically go to work, come home, eat a couple of meals in there, and add some TV or the PlayStation, and that’s about it. I’ve been fighting a cold, which also makes it hard to get out of a slump. But I have managed some updates to the glossary in the last week or so. And I’m still planning for Hawaii, which is in five? weeks.

I’m too tired to argue about the war, but I watched two war movies today. First was The Big Red One, which has interesting spots in it, and Lee Marvin is always first-class. But it looks pretty dated, and has a lot of the bad sound effects and fake deaths like a John Wayne movie. Plus it’s hard to take it seriously after seeing something like Band of Brothers and its millions of dollars of effects. Second was Three Kings, which is strange because it’s one of the only Desert Storm (I) movies out there. It doesn’t focus on the actual war though; it uses the aftermath as the setting for an interesting quest. It’s weird to see “retro” films about the past that cover a period that seems like yesterday for me.

Speaking of just like yesterday, it’s been four years since I left Seattle. (Actually, the four-year mark is on Monday.) I’ve been thinking about Seattle a lot, even in my dreams, which is part of my depression lately. I have these dreams where I go back and somehow my apartment was still held for me, and a bunch of stuff of mine is in storage, stuff that I thought I lost years ago. The apartment is always different in the weird, surreal way that dreams distort reality, but it still has so many details that remind me so much of 600 7th Ave #520. This morning I had the dream, and when I woke up, a cool, clean breeze drifted through a window. For a moment, it felt like I was back, like my big window looking out over Harborview was cracked open, and I could wake up, run downstairs, and jump in the Escort for a quick run up I-5 and to the nearby Denny’s, or over the 520 to some record shopping in Bellvue. It’s always weird what I miss and what I look back on over time, but right now it’s really kicking me in the ass because I don’t feel like the present is offering that much. Of course, ten years from now, I could be anywhere in the world, wishing I was back in Astoria the night the manholes exploded.

PS Thank you to Kelly for the link. Now I’m off to play some Playstation for a while.

The Iraq War actually doesn’t take place in New York

It’s pouring outside, and I’m waiting for my Mexican food.

Everyone keeps asking me about the war, if I feel safe in New York, etc etc etc. I feel very bored about the war, and I think part of it is that the whole anti-war thing has been such a yuppie cause celebre in the last few months, that my gut reaction is to be morbidly pro-war. So when people start with the generic “President Bush is such an idiot” or “I’m ashamed to be an American” rhetoric, I usually tell them that I can’t fucking wait for the pictures of charred babies on alt.tasteless.binaries and that last night I jerked off while watching Platoon.

Face it: many people are anti-war for the same reason they buy Britney Spears records or they think that the movie Chicago is any good, and that is because their friends think the same way. Most people don’t know how the Oil For Food program works, and not many people seem aware that Sadaam has spent billions of dollars building alabaster-floored, marble-walled palaces with multitudes of water fountains and shiny mirrors and elaborate paintings of his ugly mug since the last gulf war. They know that 60,000 kids died of cholera since 1991 because of bad water, but haven’t made the connection that Sadaam and friends in the upper government aren’t drinking the same water. I think what I’m getting at is that you have this huge group of people who know nothing, but love to think they know more than everyone else, and that’s why they need to think that President Bush is an idiot, and why they need to think that playing the bongos and singing John Lennon songs will make it all go away.

We are a society of people that are saying “me me me me” to everything. This war is about how every single person is right and everyone else is wrong. Every pet cause of professional protestors are out to make this their big cause, their Vietnam, their moment to become important. That’s why people want to shut down traffic and stop air force bases and shut down cities: they are the center of the universe. This is all about them. Sure, it’s about babies being killed and oil and whatever else, but it’s about them being the most important thing in the world, because they are the one telling you the slogan you’ve already heard a million times.

And yes, Bush is a liar. But I don’t think he’s an idiot. I do think he got into office without a majority vote, but few Presidents do these days. (Mostly because of the “me me” people trying to vote in whatever idiot Greenpeace wants to vote in as a third candidate, but that’s another rant I’ll get into in 2004.) Politics is a dirty and cruel game, and in order to tell one person the truth and make them happy, you need to lie to ten others. Or rather, you need to tell two different half-truths to get what you need. I know people love to talk about how Bush is a liar and a cheat, and many of them think they could do better, but the truth is, if they got up to the top of that food chain, they would be just as big of a liar. That’s how it works. Saying the President is a liar is like saying a professional wrestler uses steroids: NO SHIT!

So the war goes on, and we’re probably not going to hear much. While CNN and Fox and the others squint at infrared webcams trained on the southern line and a couple of burning oil wells, the Special Forces guys are dressed up like fucking dirt farmers with sniper rifles under their robes, sneaking across the Turkey border and going fucking Rambo on the Republican Guard. Expect some good CIA-grade shit to be dropped in for the Kurds to pick up and fight back with, like some Madsen M50 autos with no serial numbers and a fuckload of Claymores or C-4 with Arabic instruction manuals. We won’t hear shit about any of this for six months, just like Afghanistan. And did anyone even notice we sent in a 1000-man strike force into Afghanistan to take out some bad guys? I bet they had that shit planned for weeks, and wanted to slip it in under the radar. For an army being run by a guy that is allegedly run by an idiot, they really seem to know what the fuck they’re doing.

I had other hopes for the war. First off, they should have picked a better name, like “Operation: Hell on Earth.” Then they should have suspended production of all SUVs and turned the empty shells of Hummer H2s and Ford Explorers into car bombs that could be dropped from the back of a C-130. Then we’d make a first pass that would completely level the country. The second pass would involve exact drops of precision bombs that would dig up the basements of all of the Starbucks, McDonalds, and shopping malls we would be building there. Then the third strike would involve the dumping of hot asphalt from B-52 bombers at low altitude, which would lay a nice base for the highways we would put in there. Gas is very cheap in Iraq, so we want to make sure to get in a lot of good roads so people can drive to their new jobs at the malls and Wal-Mart shopping centers. Then we round up every man, woman, and child, and make them watch every episode of Jackass and tell them that even the wimpiest of American men can endure having his scrotum stapled to his leg, and this is what will happen if they don’t sail straight. Also, the Wal-Marts will have in-store visits from Cathy Lee Gifford, and maybe she will draw any remaining sniper fire.

My food is here. I’m not going to say god bless our troops, because of course there is no god, but I do hope they have the best of luck, both in their fight and in the fight they will endure in their digestive system after eating MREs for a month or two.

Repressed memories about computer cases

A reply RE http://elemeta.com/retrocase/index.html

Oh man, you just brought back a horrible repressed memory with your case page…

When I was in college in 1991, I didn’t have the cash for a computer, and needed one bad. This guy sold me an XT clone motherboard for ten bucks, and I scoured the used junk shops looking for the rest of the pieces to get something together that would run Procomm and sit behind a 2400 baud modem so I didn’t have to leave the house to get my email.

So a local place that sold lamps and lighting equipment and had a side-line selling mail-order Commodore 64 parts also had a beaten up 5150 case, PS. and keyboard, and I talked the guy down to five bucks for all three. Great! I could just slap in that newer motherboard and get to work, right?

Um, no. Turns out, as you probably know, that not a damn thing lined up between the case and board. Every single mounting hole except one was off, and I had the whole thing supported by a suicidal mix of plastic standoffs and mix-and-match screws and bolts. My mobo had like 8 or 9 expansion slots, which didn’t jive with the 5-slot webbing on the back of the case. So I borrowed a friend’s dremel and went to work, tearing out all of the slots on the case until the whole thing looked like a Civil War field amputation done with a blunt butterknife. The worst of all was the keyboard connector. The damn thing did not line up at all, so at three in the morning one night, I got out a soldering iron, melted out the stupid thing, and reattached each wire with a few inches of lampcord or whatever I had laying around. I could then move the plug a few inches over.

The whole thing sortof worked for a semester. I fried that 55-watt power supply when I got one of those full-height, five Meg hard drives on usenet for about ten bucks. I went to a local place and got a 100-watt power supply for a few dollars, and managed to get the drive working, although when it spun up, I was afraid it would blow out every fuse in the house.

I had a lot of intermittent shorts and lockups, and I figured the case was flexing the board, or crossing some traces on the backside. So when I got my tax refund next spring, I went out and blew $100 on a really nice mini-tower that I ended up using for the next ten years. But the shorts continued. I would disassemble and reassemble the damn thing in rage every night, hitting the case, the PS, flexing the motherboard, doing everything to get it to come back on. Finally one night, I had the whole thing torn down to air, earth, fire, and water, and I found the problem – the damn CPU was replaced with a V20 before I got it, and it was seated in the socket crooked. When the system heated up, it would pull half of the pins from the socket. I re-seated it, and all was well until I got a real 486 a year later.

Anyway, your project made me nostalgic for the old days, and glad I have a nice case now.

-Jon

Fuck Facts

FUCK FACTS

  1. I like the new Coke can design. It’s cool.
  2. I’m trying to figure out how the impending Broadway musicians’ strike will actually affect me, since I’ve never been to a Broadway show and never really intend to.
  3. I almost bid on a 1976 Gremlin in Staten Island that was up to $300. I wanted to paint flames on it, with a roller and housepaint, and paint OFF THE PIGS on the back of it. And if I got pulled over by the cops, I would say I was a pork farmer.
  4. To quote Bill Hicks, a war is defined as a conflict between TWO ARMIES. I think the last time we were in Iraq, there was like one bowie knife per 20 soldiers. And three pairs of shoes per platoon.
  5. There seems to be some kind of national shortage of Levoxyl, a synthetic thyroid replacement. So I’ve been out of the shit for a few days now.
  6. Emil Goldfus (aka “Abel”), the NY-based Russian spy who was exchanged for Gary Powers, lived in the same apartment building as Norman Mailer when he was writing the spy novel Barbary Coast. They didn’t know each other, though.
  7. I have a chance to go to Hawaii for four days for $700. I am debating checking it out in April or May.
  8. It’s raining like a motherfucker out.
  9. I thought those Catherine Zeta Jones/T-Mobile ads were annoying, but now for some reason I find her incredibly hot. Maybe it’s because I keep going to their site every three minutes to see what is up with my Sidekick.
  10. The Cigar Corner, on the corner of 30th Ave and Steinway, sells Barely Legal magazine.
  11. There is a cheat in Grand Theft Auto – Vice City that changes all of the pedestrians into the cast of the Michael Jackson Thriller video: zombies, and an occasional red-leather MJ wannabe.
  12. After someone is killed in the gas chamber, their body has to be completely scrubbed with bleach before it can be handled.
  13. Only three US Presidents have cried in public while in office: William McKinley, William Taft, and George W. Bush.
  14. You can use vinyl dye (sold at car parts store for refinishing car interiors) to paint plastic parts like bezels of computer drives, keyboards, cases, etc.
  15. Diesel engines get better city mileage than highway, because heat makes diesel combustion more efficient.
  16. I have a beard again. I’ll try to take some pictures of it this time.
  17. The acronym TWAIN (a scanner interface) stands for Technology Without An Interesting Name.
  18. The bible is the most shoplifted book in the USA. (Strange, considering how easy it is to get a free copy from the Gideons…)
  19. The first flushing toilet in a movie was in Psycho.
  20. I’m sick of writing these facts.

Geiger counters on the subway

On Friday, while I was riding to work, the subway stopped at 57th and 7th like it usually does, and while the doors were open, I saw three NYPD cops with FUCKING GEIGER COUNTERS! WHAT THE FUCK!?!?

Not a lot is up here. I got a copy of _Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA_ by Bob Woodward from an Amazon z-shop for only three bucks, in hardcover. I read about a fifth of it last night, and it’s not filled with ultra-crazy conspiracy shit, but the kind of thing that makes the CIA Director’s job look more like a conventional executive’s job, except way more competitive and full of political bullshit, and instead of ordering raincoats from China, you’re covertly sending weapons of mass destruction to central Asia. So that’s interesting, and I’m going to have to dig through sources of other books to find more stuff to buy used on Amazon.

I bought the _Fear and Loathing_ Criterion edition this afternoon, but haven’t fully dug into the extras yet. I watched about half of the movie with HST’s commentary, and it’s both interesting and weird. It’s almost impossible to understand a word he’s saying, plus he’ll ramble on forever about something, and then when someone asks an intriguing question like, “did you like the way Benitio Del Toro played Oscar?” he will simply answer “Yep” and that’s it. I haven’t looked at the other stuff but there are like 58 sets of commentary and a bunch of other extra shit I will probably never have time to get to.

I was dicking around at the delta.com site today and found a hotel plus plane package to Hawaii for $700!! I’m going to have to look into that, because even a trip to New Orleans was like twice as expensive. Maybe there’s some kind of stupid catch, like you have to sleep on the beach or you have to fly in the cargo hold. My sister went to Hawaii and I would like to check it out some time, especially if I can do it without spending like five grand on it.

Where the fuck is my food? I haven’t eaten all day, and I’m waiting for my sweet and sour pork from the local Chinese dump…