blarg?

Here’s my presentation. It’s in an .ogg format, so if you’re having problems seeing it you should probably get yourself the VLC media player.

Reviewing it, I see that in my attempt to avoid making clicking noises when I pause my speech, instead I say “uh” a lot.

I will remedy this in the future, thank you for your attention in this matter.

Moving from the specific to the general, I am both allergic to cats and habitually view cat owners with what is, in my case quite demonstrably, a healthy degree of suspicion. The previous owners of my house had cats, horrible taste and questionable sanitational habits, which has both conviently reinforced my prior beliefs and required some decisive action on our part with respect to our turning-a-house-into-our-home initiatives.

We’ve had the ductwork cleaned out (something my single data point tells me that all new homeowners should immediately do, let me tell you) which improved the situation quite a bit, but we’ve finally gotten started on pulling up the carpet up off the stairs and second floor.

I have to take an antihistamine to do this work, and all that dust and leftover cat-shedding still makes my skin itch. Even after we shampooed and steam-cleaned the rugs apparently. But let me tell you, what did we find under that carpet, but pristine, untouched hardwood floor. A little bit scuffed, a little bit of paint splatter on it, but beautiful, rich, textured wood that I don’t think has been touched by human feet in twenty or thirty years.

This house is going to look great.

So, while I was looking for some information about how to batch up a process here, the Google search bar in Firefox suggested, when I got to the “b” in “how to batch…” that what I was really looking for was “how to be happy”. Aren’t we all! But when I typed that in instead, I got to the end of “be” when it suggested a bunch of alternative lifestyles, career choices and general dispositions.

On a whim, I typed “how to be a” and let it tell me what, in aggregate, the world would really rather be doing than whatever they’re doing right now. The answers turn out to be, in order:

  • happy
  • anorexic
  • emo
  • cool
  • a good kisser
  • funny
  • popular
  • a player
  • a model

This suggests that most of the self-improvement goal-setting on the internet is being driven by insecure teenagers. A little unsusprising, and I have no small amount of sympathy for people in that position, but you get a lot more information about the aggregate state of the world if you cycle through the alphabet one letter at a time, to see what people are actually following up the words “how to be a” with.

For posterity’s sake, here they are. The english-speaking world’s hopes, dreams and aspirations, as aggregated by automated processes in late 2007. There’s a lot of greed and envy in there, but surprisingly a lot of altruism too.

In order of suggestion-appearance and then alphabetically the world wants to know how to to be a:

  • actor
  • actress
  • artist
  • accountant
  • architect
  • agent
  • assassin
  • airline pilot
  • air hostess
  • air traffic controller
  • better person
  • bartender
  • bitch
  • bounty hunter
  • better kisser
  • millionaire
  • better husband
  • better boyfriend
  • better girlfriend
  • bookie
  • consultant
  • comedian
  • cheerleader
  • cop
  • chef
  • ceo
  • clown
  • christian
  • cpa
  • con artist
  • dj
  • doctor
  • detective
  • dentist
  • domestic goddess
  • drug dealer
  • director
  • dom
  • day trader
  • diva
  • emo
  • entrepreneur
  • escort
  • extra
  • estate agent
  • emcee
  • event planner
  • emt
  • engineer
  • electrician
  • friend
  • fashion designer
  • flight attendant
  • fireman
  • fire fighter
  • flirt
  • foster parent
  • freelance writer
  • farmer
  • food critic
  • good kisser
  • good girlfriend
  • good boyfriend
  • good wife
  • good manager
  • good leader
  • good friend
  • good husband
  • gentleman
  • great kisser
  • hacker
  • hippie
  • hitman
  • hipster
  • hero
  • hot guy
  • hippy
  • healthy vegetarian
  • hedge fund manager
  • how
  • interior designer
  • investment banker
  • insurance agent
  • interpreter
  • illusionist
  • journalist
  • judge
  • jerk
  • jedi
  • juggalo
  • jew
  • jockey
  • jewish mother
  • jp
  • jock
  • knight
  • kid model
  • kid spy
  • king
  • kid
  • kid actor
  • kid detective
  • keeper
  • kept woman
  • kid actress
  • leader
  • lady
  • lawyer
  • landlord
  • life coach
  • ladies man
  • librarian
  • locksmith
  • loan officer
  • linebacker
  • model
  • millionaire
  • man
  • manager
  • male model
  • music producer
  • mentor
  • mystery shopper
  • mistress
  • mechanic
  • ninja
  • nurse
  • nerd
  • nanny
  • nice person
  • notary
  • ninja on club penguin
  • nicer person
  • notary public
  • nutritionist
  • occupational therapist
  • optometrist
  • organ donor
  • owner operator
  • player
  • property developer
  • pimp
  • pilot
  • playa
  • photographer
  • police office
  • pirate
  • personal trainer
  • quarterback
  • quick change artist
  • quant
  • queen
  • quantity surveyor
  • qb
  • quarter back
  • queen bee
  • quick turn real estate millionaire
  • real estate agent
  • rapper
  • rock star
  • real estate millionaire
  • realtor
  • real man
  • radio dj
  • reporter
  • recruiter
  • spy
  • scene kid
  • singer
  • stockbroker
  • sniper
  • superhero
  • star
  • scene girl
  • salesman
  • social worker
  • teacher
  • travel agent
  • trader
  • tattoo artist
  • team player
  • tease
  • trainer
  • tomboy
  • travel writer
  • thief
  • us citizen
  • ufc fighter
  • university professor
  • u.s. citizen
  • undercover cop
  • university lecturer
  • us marshall
  • used car dealer
  • un ambassador
  • vet
  • vegetarian
  • ventriloquist
  • vamipre
  • vegan
  • veterinarian
  • voice actor
  • video game tester
  • virtual assistant
  • vj
  • writer
  • wedding planner
  • witch
  • waiter
  • woman
  • waitress
  • winner
  • wow gm
  • wizard
  • web designer
  • yoga instructor
  • yoga teacher
  • young lady
  • young model
  • youth leader
  • youth pastor
  • yacht broker
  • yummy mummy
  • young entrepreneur
  • youth broker
  • zoo keeper
  • zombie
  • zoologist
  • zookeeper

Today’s efforts to make my day just a little bit wierder than it needed to be have been brought about by the infestation of ladybugs in office men’s room.

In truth if you put me on the spot and forced me to choose a particular bug to infest washrooms nearby, that would probably be the one I’d pick. We could do a lot worse, clearly. Nevertheless: bwah?

I’m not a libertarian, because libertarians are crazy people, but I’m just a teensy bit more sympathetic to their position right now.

So, a tree fell on my garage, and I need permission from City Hall to rebuild it, which is a little irritating, but not unreasonable. But when I got there to find out what I needed to do to get that permission… wow.

Ever been inside Toronto’s City Hall? It’s like walking into a caricature of a 1970s-vintage bureaucratic nightmare. There’s stacks of paper piled all over the place, some of visibly, physically degrading right in front of you. Brown carpets and brown walls are wrapped around brown cubicles wallpapered with yellowing mimeographed reminders on how to follow obscure processes. Brown desks and brown chairs from the Stalinist Ergonomics school of office furniture are surrounded by the stand-up fans that used to bedeck offices built with no concern for air circulation or general employee well-being, some of them running full-out with a high-pitched hum, others obviously long broken that haven’t been thrown away yet.

I’m absolutely certain that there’s some guy in the bowels of that apparatus who believes that I have his stapler, and could burn down the building. Has to be.

So now I’ve got a quarter-inch-thick stack of carbon paper to fill out. Carbon paper! Some of it five sheets thick! “In quintuplicate”, I swear! What year is this, again? It’s going to take me longer to fill out these forms than it will to actually tear down and rebuild my garage, which I’ve got to tell you, is irritating.

What an artefact, though. Carbon paper is never going to be outdated enough to be considered steampunk, and sensible retrofuturist ideals veto the inclusion of this sort of bureaucratic crap anyway. Maybe as some sort of burnt ceremonial offering to a crawling, belching oligarchic horror? We will press firmly with our ballpoints, applying ink to the carbon paper and casting the scriptures through to even the lowest tier of the fivefold forms in the manner of old, and we will wait in the line at great length, having taken the number that permits our trodding this hallowed path of ancients, and we shall place this offering at the altar of the Bhurocrax, that we may fleetingly gain his strictly-regulated favor.

Onward!

October is apparently the month of coveting. I covet many things this month. I have acquired one of them, and it has made me happy. A modest man would rest there content, but I am not so modest and this success has done nothing so much as whet my greed to keenest edge.

The problem is that many of the things I covet are either not buyable in North America or not buyable anywhere yet. Yet! Which makes me sad, but when you want magical future technology, sometimes it just stays magical future technology.

I have the wantlust for the following things:

  • An EeePC, an ultraportable little PC that’s only got a 7″ screen, four gigs of drive and one gig of RAM, but in exchange for that you get a computer that weighs less than a pound, has no moving parts and costs about $250. Runs linux, has a four to six hour battery life and a tiny little wall-socket charger, and is expected by the end of October? Maybe? Possibly?
  • An OpenMoko phone. Not quite as pretty as an iPhone, but at least I’d own it outright, and don’t have to get involved in a running firefight with the manufacturer if I decide I want to edit a calendar entry or change a font. Except their release date is this month sometime, and the posts to their developer’s blogs have the smell of slippage to them…
  • A Hanlin v3 ebook reader. This is one of a set of new portable electronic-ink displays that are legible in bright sunlight, totally portable, and (unlike their Sony counterparts) totally open to being used however you like; you don’t need to screw around with proprietary Sony-only file or datastick formats, you can use whatever you want, whenever you want. Except that they want me to do a bank transfer to buy one of them. What? Er, no thank you. If any of my readers should find themselves in the Nankai district of Tianjin, China, or somewhere else that sells them, grab two for me!

You might be detecting a theme, there. Let me break it up by telling you that the one thing I have succeeded in obtaining is the new Zelda game for the DS, The Phantom Hourglass. It is, so far, fantastic; genuinely challenging, good fun to play and (even though the graphics are a little rough around the edges, I guess because antialiasing is expensive) cartoonishly pretty, in that particularly Nintendo-ey, classic-gaming way. If you’re inclined towards that sort of thing, I strongly recommend you pick up a copy.

Once upon a time there were “mix tapes”, and then there were CDs, and shortly after that nobody cared about that stuff anymore because you might as well be learning how to tan pelts, trap marmots or chip yourself a flint arrowhead. They were fun to make, though. If you were of the right age and the right young-geek frame of mind, juggling song lengths against thematic content, target audience and what were, by modern standards, ridiculous technical restrictions turned the whole thing into a fantastically nerdy exercise. Writing a love letter and solving the knapsack problem! What could be better?

Then, you (and by you, I mean “me”) grow up a bit, and maybe it dawns on you that doing the same thing with text instead of music would give you a document that read like a love letter and looked like a ransom note. But you have no shame, and press forward, because that’s just how you, and we’re still talking about me here, roll.

I’ve got a bunch of music here that I think you should hear, so I’ve started making short four-song compilations and mailing them to people. If you’re interested in hearing these love-letter/ransom-note things, comment or mail me and I’ll add you to the list.

I’m going to give a talk in a few weeks, at Seneca College’s Free Software and Open Source Symposium. I’ve got it on good authority that it’s supposed to be a PG-rated thing, and that I should substitute a measure of decorum in place of my usual frothing lunacy. With that in mind, I plan to deploy allusion, oblique reference and metaphor in place of the blunt and graphic that are my preferred instruments, because I am nothing if not accommodating.

The audience-participation part of the talk will thus involve you, audience, filling in those gaps in the narrative with dark imagery drawn from the dimly-lit corners of your very own subconscious mind, and each image you conjure will seem a crawling horror crafted personally just for you. Think of it as the “long tail” of paranoid psychosis.

There’s a lot of smart people presenting at this thing, which makes the fact that I’m going to be there a little puzzling, but I suppose if I were smarter it wouldn’t be. Anyhow, if you’re interested hearing me tell nerd ghost stories, come take a look. They’ll end on an optimistic note, and there’ll be enough great presentations there that even if you do come to mine it won’t feel like a total waste of your time.

Torontonians: I’m not the only person out there who thought Nuit Blanche was pretty boring and a little saddening, am I?

Furriners: “Nuit Blanche” is Toronto’s take on Paris’ Nuits Blanches, a much-imitated overnight public-spaces art and culture festival that the French started in Paris in 2002. Apparently in Paris it’s fantastic, miraculously great. Here, I thought that it was overcrowded, mostly boring, sporadically incomprehensible, thoroughly corporate and surprisingly expensive, but in that sense it was very true to the spirit of this overcrowded, mostly boring and surprisingly expensive corporate city.

There were some rare gems; an old stone bank done up entirely in scaled-up frilly pink lace was kind of neat. All the (you see these all over, in this city) “DIVORCE! $300″ take-a-number signs (and one huge billboard) along one stretch of road had been replaced with pitch-perfect “LOBOTOMY! $300″ parodies. But there were also a bunch of absolutely opaque, completely incomprehensible performance-art “pieces” and a lot of gimmicky little installations that seemed really intent on conveying some point that their authors hadn’t clearly thought either through or much of.

The rest of it seemed to be composed entirely of keeping art galleries open late. Virtually all of them didn’t even put up anything new. You just got to look at it through a mosh pit full of anonymous thirty-to-fiftysomethings, instead of by yourself.

But the corporate sponsorship! Brand recognition! Yee haw, that was everywhere; anti-art, placed all around the art in equal weight and measure, so that the human soul can remain perfectly unmoved, still between either pole. (Please note, organizers, that the French Nuits Blanches site is shockingly prettier and more elegant than your unusable flash monstrosity, and features one tiny link at the bottom saying “sponsors”, and does not have your disgusting brand-wads snuffled up and horked vigorously over every page.)

Toronto might, in our pedestrian Canadian terms, be a pretty big city but I tell you this: when the time for words has passed, it sure doesn’t know how to act like one. I was hoping for big art and big ideas. I wanted Royal De Luxe and big rabbits and, most of all, scale, but I felt like I was walking around a city that has a bucket of money, pedestrian taste and no soul.