blarg?

Dear Home Decorators Of The World, Hear This: Paint over wallpaper is a capital crime. It is so wrong, so wide and deeply understood to be wrong that even though it should be enough to let you hang from the gibbet of your own terrible taste, a truly just society would draw your punishment out, anointing you with a weak solution of vinegar and water and scraping you right down from dwindling flesh to slowly bleaching bone.

Especially if you’ve painted over the wallpaper you put on the ceiling. I mean, Jeebus, who does that? Honestly, come on.

I will be requiring novel stimulus now. URL me, world.

I often wonder if people who blow stuff up for a living want to come home and unwind by methodically fixing dumb, trivial little problems on absurdly tight deadlines for disproportionately high stakes. I comfort myself periodically with the idea that they might.

On the off chance that there’s another Linux pariah reading this: tell me, how does one watch HDTV in Linux these days?

I should start off by saying that I’ve got a Hauppauge HVR-950 USB dongle here, plugged in and working – a miraculous little widget, incidentally, which I will endorse at great length in the future – but I’m looking a program that will let me watch TV (both high- and standard-def) in a little window on my screen.

So far:

  • Mythtv isn’t the right answer. It doesn’t run in its own window, it runs full screen, or rather, starts to run full-screen for a quarter-second and then noisily dies, pulling X down with it. Crashy!
  • tvtime isn’t the right answer – no sound, standard-def TV only.
  • Xine-hd might contain the right answer within it, but the interface is such a goddamned crime scene that I have no way of knowing. Four years later it’s the same shitty skinned interface, designed by and for second-generation crack babies; not a damn thing has changed, as far as I can tell. Not a confidence-builder.
  • Anything that runs from the console is not the right answer, and
  • Buying a Mac is not the right answer.

But I can’t find anything else that isn’t in one of those categories, so all I have is a bunch of half-working semisolutions. Which is, I suppose, the Linux Way. Anyone? Beuller?

“I have no idea what we’re seeing right now, but I have a feeling it’s
really, really wrong.”
– Stan, South Park

I’m cleaning out my junk mail folder and it is saturating my brain with horrific images brought on by the bizarre, alien euphemisms that spammers now employ to worm their way past my filters. And it occurs to me that somewhere in the world, some young person’s first glimpse into the sewer that is consenting adulthood is going to come not from sex-ed classes, swiped copies of playboy (so retro!) or even just a regular old birds-and-bees talk from mom and dad, but from this cesspool of psychosexual depravity that your mail client works hard to keep you from seeing.

And as a result, some parent out there, I’m sure even as we speak, is having the most horrifically awkward conversation in the history of the universe.

“Dad, what’s a hymen cracker?”
“… a what, now?”
“Would mom love you more if you had a bigger piano?”
“We don’t own a piano.”
“Oh. Is farm fun what happens when you punch a donkey?”

Good luck, people-I-know-who-are-now-or-about-to-be-parents. Your courage astounds me, and I salute you.

Two somewhat related things:

Most of what we have to do to the new place, modulo the basement problem, is cosmetic, but it’s cosmetic work that’s been left undone for years. We rented an industrial carpet cleaner to go over the rugs, and the wastewater I poured out of it when I was done was practically black. I spent last weekend pulling down vines and cleaning out rain gutters, work that might not have been done in five years; they were full of what might have been plant matter once, but now it was topsoil.

At work, because I work in I.T., I routinely put my hands on more than a hundred computers a week; it’s part of the job, but I see the same thing there: neglect. Keyboards crusted with muffin crumbs and hand cream, sticky and blackening crusts forming around the edges of the keys, squating like vermin in offices that have an organic oil-slick sheen on those surfaces that aren’t matte with dust.

I had brief, awkward conversation with the people who sold the house we bought, and they mentioned that aside from the one room they repainted, they didn’t really do much to the place, and I thought, “man, I know!” Like I couldn’t tell just from pouring that black water down the drain how well you actually took care of your home. Which brings me to the core of today’s rant:

People of earth, clean up your space.

That decaying paste between your keys, that film all over your desk? That’s months or years of bread crumbs and hair follicles, spilled colas and snarfed cream-and-sugar coffees, and everything that’s taken up residence in it since. That grey dust in corners and around the edges of your shelves and papers? That’s dead skin, dandruff and hair, some yours, some not, and every time anyone’s coughed or sneezed nearby, your office has soaked it right up.

I’m no believer in holistic medicine, but I tell you this: this crap builds up in your environment; it is how people get sick and stay sick. You feel a little tired or a a little nauseous every single day? I can’t say I’m surprised. Wondering about that chronic cough you just can’t seem to shake? I don’t wonder at all; if your office looks like that, I’m willing to bet your house looks a lot like it, passable but grimy, with stuff building up in the places you don’t quite want to look. And you’re breathing it in, all night, every night.

It’s easy to get into that state without realizing it; all you have to do is nothing. Occasionally, you should mean to get to that later! But that’s about it. All you have to do is relax into it, and you barely feel a thing – it’s a lot like freezing to death, really.

I’m hardly the cleanest person in the world, and I’m definitely not trying to drag the hypochondriacs out of the woodwork here, but virtually every office I’ve seen in this degenerate state, no matter how bad, didn’t need much more than a replaced keyboard, a bottle of windex and a roll of paper towels, at a cost of basically nothing. The hard part, of course, is deciding to do it. That involves actually confronting what you’ve allowed your environment to become, which can feel uncomfortably introspective. And we can’t have that! But I promise you, it’s so totally worth it. Feeling run down and vaguely ill every day? Look around, look really hard. How could getting out from under that not be worth five dollars worth of Windex and an hour of organizing?

I should confess here that I have ulterior motives beyond the raw, unfettered altruism for which I am so very widely known; I’m telling you all this today out of naked, gibbering self-interest. I’ll have to put my hands on that keyboard at some point, to push down keys caked grey with stale donut and ancient moisturizer, and be polite and professional the whole time, but I tell you: I think it’s damn disgusting. I mean, Jeebus, stop polluting your space like some diseased, mange-bitten animal soiling its cage and start acting like you’ve earned your spot at the top of the food chain. Seriously, the fact that you will feel immensely better about your workday and possibly your whole life is entirely secondary to me, so long as I don’t have to fight off another screaming case of the heebie-jeebies every time I touch your computer or wash my hands for ten minutes afterwards.

I have got some excellent, excellent nerd-porn here for you. If you have anything at all that you actually need to get done in the next few hours, you need to stop reading this right now, because otherwise you’re basically doomed.

Via TED.com, where they have a huge collection of brain candy:

And that’s just a taste. If you can’t blow off an afternoon just soaking up the video on that site, you’re not really trying. But if you want to know my favorite bit (so far!), it’s this piece of awesome right here:

O. M. F. G.

So cool.

On the off chance that this is useful to some of you, below you’ll find my longwinded email to an anonymous friend of mine concerning what laptop they should buy, as they go off to do some anonymous thing at some anonymous place, lightly edited (I misplaced the Sony sentence, sorry!) and lightly hotlinked as well. Good luck, anonymous friend; I hope that this is useful information.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 – mhoye

Ok, so: Laptops.

Let me start out by assuming you want a 15″ or smaller model with a
decent screen, not one of those thirty-pound home-theater-replacement
suitcases. I’m also going to roll in the cost of upgrading to 2-gig of
RAM into all of these models, because it makes a huge difference in the
performance, responsiveness and lifespan of modern laptops, and because
the cost of the extra RAM is basically zero when you compare it to the
value of your time. You know how every now and then Windows goes off
into the weeds for a minute or two? More RAM is how you keep that from
happening. That, and wifi-b/g (at least) has to be built in (naturally).

I’m going to skip over Dell, HP and Toshiba laptops, because my
experiences with their hardware has been so unbelievably awful that
I just never touch that shit if I don’t have to. HP and Toshiba’s
laptops are overpriced, and Dell laptops always seem to break about
a month after the warranty period ends. Also, you might have heard of
“e-machines” or “MDG computers”, which you should avoid at all costs,
because they suck ass hard enough to cave your skull in. Sony’s laptops are overpriced lifestyle products, even though some of the higher-end models are very tiny; I’m going to skip them, too, because they’re expensive and Sony products are a pain in my ass.

Ok, so where to start? I know you don’t want to go this route, but if
I were in your position I would seriously consider buying a Macbook.
You can get Microsoft Office for it, the build quality is excellent
and all of the stupid crap that you need to put up with as a PC user
(viruses, spyware, zombie “helper” apps running all the goddamned time,
all that shit) just goes away, poof. Not to mention, they have the
best power management management that money can buy. Your entry-level
13.1″ MacBook with the 2-gig option costs $1459, so there you
are. It doesn’t look cheap, but it’s actually an extremely competitive
price when you take things like screen quality and feature set into
consideration.

I’m using a Lenovo laptop, one of their 3000 series. They’re pretty good,
and I’m really happy with mine. They come in a couple of flavors, that
all kind of look the same; the “C200″ line is your entry-level consumer
laptop, and with the RAM upgrade, they start at about $765. Cheap! But
the screen resolution is only 1024×768. The N series is the widescreen
model and comes in a few different flavors, the entry-level N100
(1280×800 screen, 2-gig RAM) costing $1312. The N200 model, the one I
have, has a much nicer screen (1680×1050 and strikingly pretty) and costs
an extra two hundred bucks, $1512. I’m really happy with it, too. The
next step up there is their Lenovo’s V100 line, their “ultra-portable”
line, which basically means “thinner but more expensive”. I’ll let you
check that out on your own.

If you’re interested in spending a bit more money, but for something
with really fantastic build quality you should look at the ThinkPad
line from Lenovo, too – they’re pricier, but they come in a lot of
different shapes and sizes and they’ve got a well-deserved reputation
for durability and longevity. If you’re interested, I’ll price some
of them out for you, too; I know a lot of people who just won’t use anything else.

I’ve never worked with Fujitsu’s hardware, but I’ve heard a lot of good
things about their LifeBook series. Their prices are usually a bit high,
but the Lifebook A6020 (at $1187, right now) looks like good value for
money, and seems like a decent little machine.

If you’re interested in something that’s a little different, and a lot
cheaper, Asus is coming out with something called an “Eee-PC” this
August, an ultraportable little computer that consists mainly of a
lower-end processor, flash memory and a screen; very lightweight,
very small, but (comparatively) dirt cheap, too – less than $300,
it’s supposed to be. Not for watching movies or streaming video,
to be sure, but fantastic for taking notes and moving around. I’m
almost certainly going to be picking one of them up for myself, and
I’ll let you know how it looks if you’re interested. The only problem
is that this is a Possible Future Thing, rather than something that
you can go buy in the store right now.

So, there you go, anonymous friend. Don’t skimp on the RAM, seriously, especially if you’re going to be running Vista, especially on a laptop, because they usually share regular memory with the video card, which can be a pretty big hit.

Other than that, good luck.

So, I’ve found out about expensive-slash-extensive basement repair costs and in the same day accepted a new job at a new organization, so the rollercoaster continues apace. If all of you could arrange for nothing bad to happen to anyone anywhere in the next few days, I would appreciate it.

So, roughly eleven thousand dollars to get our basement refinished.

Sorry, that should read “waterproofed”. “Refinished” will cost, you know, more. Compare and contrast that to our home inspection, which reads “basement appears dry”.

Yeah, I wasn’t doing anything with that eleven grand anyway.

Yay.