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Archive May 2002
Wednesday 29 May 2002
I just got a spam about "super oxygenated" water, with "up to 1500% more oxygen". For those of you unfamiliar with these things, pure hydrogen peroxide (the bleach) is water with '100% more oxygen'. The version of hydrogen peroxide used as an antiseptic is water with about 4% more oxygen, and is quite capable of changing your hair colour with sufficient exposure. I wish the people who order super oxygenated water would get, and drink, what they ordered. [00:01] [5 comments]

Tuesday 28 May 2002
Why is it that microwave food always says to pierce the plastic wrap before cooking? I have experimented with this by, well, not doing, and it results in pretty much what I predicted; the plastic container inflates, eventually the pressure causes it to rupture, at which point it is exactly the same as if I had pierced it in advance. So why should I waste my time with a fork or knife? My working theory is that it's similar to the now legendary McDonalds' "danger, danger, Will Robinson - coffee is hot" labelling; if they didn't do it, somebody would manage to microwave something just enough that the container didn't rupture, and then would open it with their eye right next to it, and be surprised by the sudden expulsion of steam. Or perhaps they would open it with their mouth. [21:00] [3 comments] Oh my. I'm glad I started researching short-film-distribution before I started filming anything. I need signed releases from any actors, signed releases from any musicians, signed releases from myself about thirteen times, signed releases from anyone whose property I film within, trademark or business releases should any logos appear in shot, copyright registration, and so on and so forth, in order to be able to distribute the thing in any way shape or form. Ahhh, the power of bureaucracy. Speaking of which, I'm not only wanting my readers to be in it - if any of you know anyone in the Maryland/DC/Virginia area who would be willing (or, better, who actually wants) to appear briefly in a short movie (for no money), please point them my way. [09:49] [2 comments]
The latest of the DSL install fiasco. First a little background. There are three companies involved; they are Speakeasy, Covad and Verizon. The only one of these we can speak to about the non-working DSL is Speakeasy - coincidentally also the only one that can't actually do anything to fix it. They are responsible for speaking to Covad, who are responsible for blaming Verizon. Which is fair enough in those instances where Verizon actually are to blame, but this is not one of those instances.

Both Covad and Verizon have sent out techs to our house twice. The first Verizon guy was out to install a new phone jack, and to install a proper demark. Covad's first tech pulled something out of the demark and pretended that would fix it. Their second slowed the line down (which he called "reducing the noise margin" - which, admittedly, it does, but I asked him what that meant and he completely deceptively avoided saying "it means I slowed the line down". If he had said that, I would have been able to tell him it wouldn't help because we already tried that remotely as one of the first troubleshooting attempts. So then, when it still didn't work, they blamed Verizon. A Verizon guy came out, the first visiting tech who seemed the slightest bit competent or honest. He tested the line quality, declared that it's actually really good, and sensibly suggested that the problem is almost certainly with Covad's central office, where we are connected into a shared card; the intermittency, which we long ago said was almost certainly due to crosstalk (which nobody would believe, despite the ridiculously plain evidence), would be explained by the crosstalk occurring at that card, due to a fault in the card or the slot in which it is located. He called Covad, who refused to consider the idea, and declared that they would send a tech out. Again. To see if it's a problem with our lines. Are they saying the first two techs they sent out were incompetent? Perhaps, but I have another theory.

When the tech gets here I'm going to inform him that if he's going to 'fix' anything he's got to tell me and show me exactly what he's doing, because I don't believe that there is anything here for him to fix, and because I believe that what will, in fact, be happening is that he'll be so-called 'fixing' something at the same time as the central office are doing what we've already told them to do, so that they can charge us 'professional install' fees despite, in fact, our end-user-install having been perfectly correct nearly two months ago. I may also have to inform him that if he tries to tell me it's Verizon's fault, without first having the Covad C.O. even so much as try plugging us into a different card, I will be forced to decapitate then defenestrate him. [01:42] [8 comments]

Monday 27 May 2002
The poisoning of ants; Raid Extra Strength may be extra strong, but the ants won't touch it. They'll walk around it, they'll walk under it, and if you make it so they can't do either of those, they'll walk over or through its container, but they won't touch the poison, even if you leave it for two weeks. Combat Improved Formula, on the other hand, has ants munching away on it within 15 minutes, resulting in ten foot tall piles of giant radioactive ant corpses. This is my experience, and should not be considered universal - perhaps larger ants would have preferred the Raid. [22:25] [0 comments]
A flash of lightning, then darkness. Not just ordinary darkness; there was no moon, no stars, no streetlights. It was as though the whole world had disappeared, outside his room. Even the room could have been thought to be gone, if it weren't for the blinking and glowing lights of various electronic devices. There was just his screen. His screen and him, lit by its light. A monosyllabic shout outside dispelled the pleasant illusion, though the darkness remained. [06:57] [2 comments] Here's something that doesn't happen every day - a cat just fell through my ceiling. Perhaps fell out of my ceiling would be more accurate. It's a dodgy soft-panelled basement ceiling. I'm not at all sure how the cat managed to get in there, but it got out by puttings its weight on one of the many loosely-fitted panels, then unexpectedly dropping. I hope we never get a roommate with a pet ninja. [00:49] [0 comments]

Sunday 26 May 2002
Ahem. Or perhaps with a slightly more legible style would be better. Like this perhaps. This update will split my comments between two forums, which is a bit of a shame. [21:41] [6 comments] Splendid - success. With any luck it will also support the mouseover text for the usual selection of supporting browsers. [21:37] [0 comments] I have just added a bit to my Blog-entry code that will hopefully simultaneously post my Blog comments into my LiveJournal. Which should mean less hassle for people with LiveJournal accounts who want to read my writings. This post is the first test. [21:36] [5 comments]

Saturday 25 May 2002
An online quizzy thing that I particularly enjoyed (as it generally implies I do if I include the image) - questions less tedious than the norm, and a particularly pleasing piece of text on the image. Mm.

I am a dreamer. Constantly filling my mind with fantasies, I withdraw inside myself in order to experience these more clearly. I dislike people and the distractions they cause. I am eccentric and lack a firm grasp on reality. I experience a wide range of emotions, and can often times be dangerous to myself and others. I need to focus more on the real world.
My song is: Solitary Shell
Which degree of inner turbulence are you?
[08:24] [6 comments]
And on a less me-me-me note, something vaguely amusing - The 213 Things Skippy Is No Longer Allowed To Do In The US Army. Funnier given the claimer at the end, and imagining these as things done by an army person. [07:02] [2 comments] I'm also writing a mini-webserver for Windows. There are several out there, but I couldn't find one which supports resuming downloads. Since I wanted one as an alternative to instant-messager file-sending, that could resume, that lack was rather irksome. Since I already wrote RavenGet, it shouldn't be too hard to write the other end of the same communication. [07:00] [1 comment]
After some pondering, I've decided it would be nicer to not have any speaking parts in Solipsism, but instead to have mumbling parts. In the style of Charlie Brown adults, or Pingu. There were only six lines of dialogue anyway, and the dialogue content is irrelevant. Better to make that clear in an artistic and slightly unnerving way, I think, than to write irrelevance in. [06:31] [10 comments]

Friday 24 May 2002
I intend to make a short movie. The sort of thing that appears on atomfilms.com or the sci-fi channel's Exposure series. The working title is Solipsism, and, ironically, I need lots of people as bit-part actors. Any local readers who would be willing to appear? I need a few speaking parts too, but I'm already forming designs on them. [20:49] [8 comments]

Monday 20 May 2002
Hoorah, it's silly personality quiz time. How can I resist posting when I take a What kind of soul are you? quiz, and the result is that I am soulless? Quite easily, I suppose, but I choose not to. And it thinks that's bad. Ha! [08:46] [17 comments]
The result - my fate-tempting went unrequited, with nothing further being destroyed. The hard-drive successfully formatted and appears usable, though with "1.34Mb in bad sectors". As I gather, this is something that's liable to result in more bad sectors coming soon, so that'll be a drive to not use for anything important. I mostly didn't anyway; it's been labelled, somewhat ironically, 'scratch' for months anyway. [05:38] [4 comments]
It's time for Computer Grouch Rant - everyone's favourite comedy hour! Stand up and cheer, kids! And let's hear it for your host, Angry Raven!

A large video compression that I've been trying to do for the last five days at last reveals the secret of its failure. It's not the compression software, it's not the codecs, no, it's super hard drive damage. More irritating than a malfunctioning software patch, taking longer to repair than a corrupt file allocation table. Oh yes, it's not just a matter of a scandisk - scandisk sucks air through its teeth and says "ooh, it'll cost ya, mate". It's not just a matter of reformatting - format says "it's more than my job's worth". Not even repartitioning can save it - fdisk claims "we'll have to call in a specialist". No, this is a job for the almighty low level format, feared by sane computer people the world over. It's recommended that you remove all other hard drives before doing a low level format, but do I? Do I? No more than I make a backup before attacking the registry with the double-edged axe that is regedit. I tempt fate, flashing a bit of leg in the hope that it will give me a ride to the next town. I thumb my nose at fortune, as it passes by in the other direction. Is such behaviour sheer insanity? I expect so. Stay tuned for an update, same bat-time, same bat-channel. [05:07] [3 comments]

Sunday 19 May 2002
I just saw Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones, and would like to disagree with the reviews I have seen. The reviews have said "better than episode one". I didn't think so. It was dire. Really really poor. Everything the trailer promised, that had me not wanting to see it. I shouldn't have let myself be persuaded by reviews. The actor for Anakin (or the direction that made him act so) was terrible - he was nearly as bad as Jar Jar Binks. And the movie still had Jar Jar Binks in it. And he didn't get exploded. And all the ships looked like Babylon 5 ships, but worse - what are they going to do in Episode 3 to explain why all the technology after that looks industrial, when all the technology before it looked computer generated? The movie was a showcase for stupid pointless not-even-very-good effects. Case in point - Anakin and Amidala eating some fruit. The fruit was computer generated. It looked like a pear, except obviously computer generated. And then there was a computer generated glass vase on the table, so the camera could pan round and show the fruit being refracted through the glass. Now, the reason the fruit was computer generated was so that it could be flown through the air using the Force. But they didn't computer generate flying things in Episode 4, did they? Wires are perfectly good for the purpose, and would result, much more pleasingly, in fruit that doesn't look computer generated. And then they could have used a real vase with real refraction and the whole scene would have looked real instead of stupid. Why won't movie makers stop using computers and making billion-dollar movies, and go back to using wires, blue-screens and stop-motion animation, and make better movies on a budget of a couple of quid? Gargh.

On the up-side, the (computer generated, of course) planet of the cloners was really very nice, and I want one. Both the planet and a cloner. And all the Fett gadgets. Don't see the movie. Don't see it. Just get a screenshot of the cloner planet or something. And maybe one of Amidala, if you fancy her (though you'd do better to get a shot from episode one).

Oh, the Yoda-with-a-lightsabre scene was quite good too. But it's not worth seeing the movie for that 3-second segment. [13:28] [27 comments]

Saturday 18 May 2002
My wife's employers are a bunch of absolute shit-heads. They've been working her 80 hour weeks for over a month, now, and they just called her to get her on a fucking conference call for nearly two hours (and still going) at 2:30am. She's spent most of the hour on the phone clearly not being involved in the conversation at all, having her time completely and utterly wasted. Her time in which she should be sleeping. And then they'll bitch if she doesn't show up to work on time due to diabetes causing her to not wake up. Partially her fault, possibly, for letting them behave this way, rather than screaming and breaking all their knee-caps. Which is the least of what they deserve.

The tech employment market is apparently like this throughout America. You can beg for employment, and they'll treat you like shit. The really annoying thing is that this apparent saturation of qualified technicians is entirely fraudulent - the market is only saturated because those who have jobs are willing to work for 80 hours a week. If they would all refuse to be so exploited, suddenly there would be twice as many jobs; probably more than there are qualified people. Thus the pay rates would be forced up too. Grr. I want to be in Australia, Canada, England, Sweden, Switzerland, Holland, Germany, Denmark, or any of a plethora of other not bloody America places. [11:59] [17 comments]

Friday 17 May 2002
I also saw "The Others". It's a lot like Sixth Sense, only without the being really boring aspect. Still fairly predictable (though I only predicted half the twist), and full of pleasing bits of dialogue, such as "the curtains my childrens' lives depend upon", or, a more lengthy extract, "I don't believe God made the world in seven days, I don't believe Noah got all those animals on one boat, and I don't believe the holy ghost is a dove." "I don't believe those things either." "Doves aren't holy." "They do droppings on our windows."

The whole thing produces a far superior atmosphere of spooky wrongness than any other movie I can think of with the possible exception of Cemetery Man.

All this movie-watching brought to you courtesy of my feeling under the weather recently. [21:57] [3 comments]
On a vaguely related note, I saw an excellent Korean movie a couple of days ago, thanks to Rogue; "Attack The Gas Station". It has a certain element of Rebel Without A Cause and Tarantino about it, except that it doesn't suck. It is an odd montage of short entertaining scenes, completely sequential and connected but easily separated into "the scene with the police", and so forth. There are clear dividing lines between scenes, but almost every scene is entertaining in its own right. The story is of four young men who, being bored, decide to rob the titular gas station. A short while later they rob the same gas station again; this time the owner claims that he sent the money away with his wife. They decide to hold him and the gas station hostage until he can contact her and have her bring the money. In the meantime, they amuse themselves by ripping off the customers, beating up the local gang who come round asking for protection money, and so forth. It's a very difficult movie to describe without describing individual scenes in excruciating detail. It's also a surprisingly good movie, much better than any description (given its theme) could depict. [17:59] [1 comment]
"This call is being recorded for your protection. This is the Maryland Police Force, we're doing our annual fund-raising drive, our contribution levels are $25 or $35, which would you like?"

This, at 9am. Which would I like? Well, neither, because I pay exhorbitant American taxes to support the police. But the call is being recorded - can I say that, or will the police come round and beat me up? Is this 'protection' offered by the call being recorded like the 'protection' offered by the mob? Can I record the call too, so as to 'protect' the police? I prefer pusher-robot style protection, myself.

"I can't afford it."
"How about $20?"
"No, I have $10 to get me through the next two weeks until my next paycheck."
"Oh, how about $10 then?"
"Er. Sure, and then I'll power my car with 'protection', and I'll eat delicious delicious 'protection'."

The conversation was my wife's, not mine for a change, and the last part was not spoken. [17:33] [4 comments]

Wednesday 15 May 2002
And for today's random pain; fibreglass strands in the fried cut from yesterday. Maybe I should wrap that hand in cement until things stop attacking it. [05:35] [2 comments]
An observation I made a few days ago that is fairly blogworthy; interjecting 'mystery' between any adjective-noun coupling results in hilarity. Some choice examples:
From the first two minutes after I thought of it:
 "I'd like a mexican mystery hat, please."
 "A super-sized mystery fries and extra-large mystery drink, please."
 "The Gateway 900MHz mystery computer."
 "We've got a bloody mystery infestation of ants."
And, best for last, from Holly: Freshly squeezed mystery juice.
Also entertaining, though less flexible, is adding 'magical mystery' when a noun lacks an adjective. [03:39] [9 comments]

Tuesday 14 May 2002
Somehow, today, I have managed to cut my finger while squeezing water out of a spongy painting tool (How is this possible? A sponge and water - where's the blade with which to cut?), and then to burn on the cut while frying stuff using a proper closed deep-fryer. For years as a student I used to deep-fry things using an open pan, and never burnt anything. Bloody technology. [06:31] [3 comments]
My Raven lady was reading Fast Food Nation the other day, and announced with disgust that the majority of fast food additives are made in 'flavour plants' off the New Jersey Turnpike. Some of you may recall my griping a while back about the rain in Baltimore being foul. New Jersey's air and rain are to Baltimore's air and rain what Baltimore's are to distilled water and perfectly untainted air. Which is to say, New Jersey positively reeks. Thus, you can see why one might be disgusted to discover that this foulness probably derives from chemical treatments for food.

In my usual devil-advocating way, I suggested that the foul stench in the air in New Jersey is composed of the things they take out of the food additives. Everything you eat that hasn't been processed in New Jersey contains all the foul toxins that they pump into the New Jersey air. Of course, I don't believe that's the case; fast food all tastes of foul meat-additives to me. [06:25] [9 comments]

Saturday 11 May 2002
And via Kevan: Battleground God. [09:25] [2 comments] Amusing thing from crummy.com: Green Eggs and Lembas. [09:23] [0 comments] I expect most of you have friends or acquaintances who forward you hoax virus warnings and chain letters. Send those people to here. [08:01] [6 comments]

Friday 10 May 2002
I saw Spiderman the other day. The movie, that is - he isn't real. It was entertaining, but I preferred Scorpion King. They are both mindless goo; Scorpion King revelled in it better. Spiderman did nicely with adding a certain dim human element to superhero-ness, and was mostly true to the comic story. I don't think this is a particularly good thing, though, at least not with the Green Goblin as a bad-guy; probably the worst nemesis Spiderman ever had. The one major deviation from comic story was in having the webs be an innate part of the superpowers, rather than a gadget, which had the unfortunate side-effect of entirely removing any hint of scientific abilities from the character. Which was a shame, since it left him pretty much pathetic until he got spidered. The best compliment I have for the movie is that the actress of Mary Jane has nice teeth. [21:10] [1 comment]
Why is it that most of the spam I get is completely inappropriate for me? Is it just me who receives mostly "Lose weight fast!" and "Grow your penis!" spam, or is this the majority of spam? Is all advertising targeted at the insecure? (Possibly excepting the advertising targeted at people who are interested in 'Barnyard Fun', I suppose.) [09:44] [10 comments]
Hermit asks:
"Our whole public life today is like a hothouse for sexual ideas and simulations. Just look at the bill of fare served up in our movies, clubs and theaters, and you will hardly be able to deny that this is not the right kind of food, particularly for the youth." - Dubya or Hitler?
I say Hitler, because Dubya's version would have been more like:
"Our whole pubic life today is like a whorehouse for sexual ideas and stimulations. Just look at the fill of bare served up in our movies and clubs, and you will hardly be able to not deny that this is not the wrong kind of food, particly for the children."
[01:22] [4 comments]

Thursday 9 May 2002
I'm not sure the old firewall did explode, in fact - it appears that perhaps it was the wall that exploded. Evidence for this is that the pair of sockets to which the firewall was connected no longer work, and the switchbox switch that appears to have clicked across does not stay clicked back, implying a short in the wire. No doubt there'll be a fried mouse smell from the wall, coming soon to a nose near me. [03:41] [0 comments] The dramatic path of destruction continues today, with an exploding firewall. Rather spectacularly, it really did literally explode; a loud bang, sparks shooting out the back, and everything. Today has, coincidentally, been spent turning an old 486 I bought for $24 the other day into a functional firewall to replace it. [03:39] [0 comments]

Wednesday 8 May 2002
And for today's woe; ants, spiders and mice. Full house. Now also with added ant-doom and mouse-doom. Spiders, being not pack animals, seem to be sufficiently dealt with in Radiskull manner. [05:05] [4 comments]

Tuesday 7 May 2002
Today's random thought, harking back to the day Bush almost died: I want to start a Pretzel company, name it Bush Pretzels, and have the advertising slogan "If you're stupid, you'll choke on 'em". [22:35] [3 comments]
An amusing spam I got opens like this (I won't quote the actual advertising bit, so as not to be supporting spam at all):
We would like to introduce you to a new program called "Fat for Life!"

How would you like to eat whatever you want, whenever you want, as much as you want!

No thought, effort, or extra cost required!

Millions of Americans SWEAR by the "Fat for Life" program. The results are astounding - sit in any mall and watch the results walk by!
[06:02] [4 comments]

Monday 6 May 2002
Also from the department of makeshift tools - ascending into the attic using only a length of rope. What you need for this hobby: a length of rope too narrow to climb in a normal way, a flask of weak lemon drink, some arms and an attic.

Throw the rope over a beam in the attic. No, throw it over the beam. Not all of it, just one end. Now tie a knot in that end. Now tie another. Now a loop behind the knots. Pass the rest of the rope through the loop, then tighten the loop around it. Pull the loose rope until the new loop thus formed is tight around the beam. Throw the remaining end of the rope over the beam. Pull until the fold in the rope hangs just to the floor. Step on it. Pull down on the hanging rope that is not held taught by your foot. You will be lifted. Now pull down on the rope really hard, while sort of hopping in the loop, to raise yourself into the attic. Once that is done, drink your weak lemon drink - you deserve it. [07:44] [5 comments]
Despite the perpetual breakingness of everything, still I effect effective repairs using only makeshift tools. Today's work of improvisation: reshaping a doorframe to accommodate a different handle, using only a huge padlock and a screwdriver. Curtain-rails have been attached with similar aptitude with inapt tools. This post has been brought to you by my predilection for confusingly similar words. [07:09] [0 comments]
Yet again the Toilet Of Doom foils my plans - I replaced the fill valve, and the inlet pipe started leaking due to being sealed with some dried-up cruddy putty instead of, as it should be, a washer. Aside from which, the shutoff valve leaks anyway, when closed, which means the whole inlet pipe should probably be replaced, which involves all sorts of extra silliness. Since we need a plumber anyway, to put a proper shutoff on the hot water supply, I've decided to give up on repairing the toilet myself, and have the to-be-summoned plumber replace a whole bunch of leaking shutoff valves while he's here. My decision to not summon the plumber until after I had fiddled with the toilet repairing is, at last, revealed to have been a good one. In other news, poison ivy and little bastards. Soon, soon all these things will be fixed. [04:11] [1 comment]

Saturday 4 May 2002
And, oh goody, the server's timestamp is apparently wrong again. [11:21] [2 comments]
Apologies for the more downtime for the last couple of days. The server, for some reason, pretended to be not booting up at all; upon being brought back to our house from its place of connectivity, it booted up immediately upon being plugged in. Upon being returned to the place of connectivity, it proceeded to have no network connection, which was discovered to be due to a faulty port on the switch. So lots of stupid uninteresting pointlessness there. In other stupid uninteresting pointless news, our newly-working DSL keeps on not-really-working-very-well - spending more time dropped than up, for about 10 hours each day for the two days it's been working. This is not very good for a supposedly always-up service. Sigh. On the up-side, I do have several episodes of Invader Zim now. [11:20] [0 comments]

Friday 3 May 2002
Probably inserted before my earlier entries, due to screaming temporal doom: a very short review of The Scorpion King, consisting almost entirely of a link: The Brunching Shuttlecocks Review was completely correct. [23:27] [3 comments]

Wednesday 1 May 2002
A semi-musical link today: KOMPRESSOR, with downloads available from Ampcast and listenable at mp3.com. Masterpieces ranging from RED ROBOT THEME SONG and WE MUST DESTROY X10 to ADDING UP NUMBERS and VITAMINS ARE GOOD. [20:56] [3 comments]
My server was exploded by repeated powercuts; it fried the hard drive. Despite this, I managed to recover almost everything, and had backups of those few things I couldn't recover. A mere day later and the machine is back alive and up again.

I had a revelation during this time: Usually, when I have a day of everything going wrong, the next day redeems it. This week, however, has been bad things after bad. The reason for this, I realise, is that I have something so unutterably good scheduled that everything until that time has to go horribly wrong to maintain a balance. I'm sure it will be worth it. Besides, my disaster-recovery skills exceed my ability to be entertained without good things. [05:29] [7 comments]