blarg?

Solid Bones, Has Character

A little while ago, I asserted that my house was insulated with wool. That was only partially correct. It turns out that my house has actually been insulated with whatever scrap biomass was to hand at the time.

I regret the error.

Boy, do I ever regret the error.

UPDATE: A correction to the correction: also, a St. John’s leather key wallet, a souvenir playing card from the Bahamas (the Joker, of all things) and a hornet’s nest. So, “scrap biomass” should instead read “wool, scrap biomass, cheap souvenirs and a goddamned hornet’s nest“.

I continue to very much regret these errors.

Exhibit 1: The McCain/Palin campaign slogan: “The Ticket For America”.

Exhibit 2: The Pathological Liar character created by John Lovitz, who according to Wikipedia appeared “on Weekend Update segments – and other sketches – to share his farcical views. [...] he would tell outrageous whoppers in an effort to make himself seem important (such as his claim that he invented Rock and Roll). One recurring lie was claiming he was married to Morgan Fairchild. His devious look, hand rubbing and nervous speech made it clear he was making up lies, one after the other, on the spot. And if he came up with a particularly good lie he would add the catchphrase: “Yeahhh! That’s the ticket!””

Somewhere in the world there’s a PR consultant whose expensive suit, rimless glasses and carefully manicured hair have successfully hidden the fact that he’s not one of them, and he’s laughing himself to sleep every night at the snowjob he’s been selling the presumptive Republican nominee. Did he have a hand in the choice of the prospective VP? As we all watch the “McCain Chooses Younger Rich Woman, Again” stories build up a good head of steam, one can only hope so.

McCain/Palin: That’s The Ticket.

Whoever you are, Mr. Deep Cover Progressive Public Relations Consultant: Godspeed, sir. I salute you.

It’s the Jawbone headset that makes the look, I think.

I can’t stand dealing with people who wear cell headsets all the time.

What is going through your mind, Headset Wearer? Are you trying to give the world the impression that you’re such a player that somebody might call you at any moment with crucial information about the deal? Are all your friends doing it? Because all I see is that there is not a single person in the world you would not interrupt our conversation to talk to instead. Your wife, the Pope, a telemarketer or some hobo drunk-dialing you after half a bottle of Scope: whoever it is, you’ll take that call and expect me to wait while you mumble into your fashion accessory. And fuck you too, frankly. At least cells have call display.

Everything’s a tradeoff, though. On the upside now that those things are the standard plumage of the pompous, self-important asshole, you can spot them reliably from half a block away and start planning your escape long before they get into miasma-of-cologne-and-greasy-handshake range. So there is that.

Telephone Pole

I just got some junk mail (the old paper kind, how retro!) that came in an envelope advertising a “Free Gas Card” and containing an invitation to join some matchmaking/dating thing. Apparently defraying the cost of gas is now considered a stronger incentive than a healthy relationship or the prospect of sex.

FYI: We’re all doomed.

Another Red Button

Swear to god:

11:13 < mhoye > I just answered a call from somebody who claimed that they could not do their job because their hyphens were not long enough.
11:14 < gnomon > Um.
11:15 < coop > there should be a telethon or something

If you’re ever wondering why sysadmins seem cranky and cynical, try and imagine how a career full of interactions like this might erode your opinion of your fellow man a little. Try and meet us halfway.

Streetlight

So: taking down old plaster-and-lathe walls with a circular saw, because we’re re-insulating and re-walling a room.

Pro: faaaast.

Con: Insane dust everywhere. I wear a respirator, obviously, but you have to seal the room or you get a layer of chalk dust on every single flat surface in the house. Annoying!

So, listen: for a spark to light a room full of dust into a huge explosion, that dust has to be fairly fine and combustible on its own, does it not? Like wood or coal, as opposed to (just to pick one example at random) Depression-era plaster? Does the fact that my house is apparently insulated with wool affect the outcome? I don’t want to explode.

Did I mention that my house is insulated with wool? It makes me wonder if obtaining building materials in the early twentieth century was some lunatic real-world rendition of Settlers Of Catan, because somebody apparently traded in some brick, some wood and something on the order of three hundred sheep to build my settlement right here.

The Subterraneanist

You are in a room. It is cool and brightly lit. There is a phone here. There are many machines here, with green lights. They are humming. There is one machine here with a red light. The red light is blinking. It is making no sound.

> look at machine

The machine has a red light on it. It is silent. The light is blinking.

> fix machine

The machine is under warranty. Are you sure you want to do that?

> look on machine

There is a service agreement here. It says “4 Hrs.”

> use service agreement.

Nothing happens.

> use service agreement on phone.

The service agreement slides off the phone and onto the floor.

> pick up service agreement

You pick up the service agreement.

> Look in service agreement.

You see a phone number here.

> use phone number

You dial the phone number. You are now on hold.

> wait

Nothing happens. You are on hold.

> wait

Nothing happens. You are on hold.

> wait

A strange voice speaks to you from the phone. You do not understand what they are saying.

> use service agreement on phone

The strange voice gives you an incident number and hangs up.

> wait

You hear only a dial tone.

> hang up phone

You hang up the phone.

> wait four hours

Nothing happens.

> wait four hours

Nothing happens.

> wait four hours

Nothing happens.

> use phone number

You dial the phone number. You are now on hold.

> wait

Nothing happens. You are on hold.

> wait

Nothing happens. You are on hold.

> ait

A strange voice speaks to you from the phone. You do not understand what they are saying.

> use incident number on phone

A strange voice speaks to you from the phone. You do not understand what they are saying.

> use service agreement on strange voice

You hear a click, then a hum. A new voice speaks to you from the phone. It asks what time zone you are in.

> hang up phone

You hang up the phone

> exit room

The red light is still flashing. Are you sure you don’t want to think about that?

> exit room

The red light is still flashing. Are you sure you don’t want to think about that?

> think about that

A thought bubble appears above your head.

> read thought bubble

It says “There are only two paths an unhappy customer can take.”

> exit room

There are two exits. Please be more specific.

> look at exits

One is labelled “no longer unhappy”. The other is labelled “no longer a customer”. You hear the phone ringing.

> exit room

There are two exits. Please be more specific. You hear the phone ringing.

Division

My wife and I went out for dinner at the Danforth Dragon who, somewhat silly website aside, make very good and interesting food. They would have my unqualified endorsement if it weren’t for the fact that, to wrap up the meal, they gave my wife a fortune cookie with not one but two fortunes in it, one of which read “You will make many changes before settling down happily” and the other reading “You will take a chance in the near future”.

Mine, for completeness sake, was something entirely pedestrian about friends being important. True! But not relevant to the problem at hand, if you see what I mean.

So, ominous! And no combination of arbitrary in-bed or pants-related subordinate clauses have allayed my suspicions. I was thinking about this in the subway the next day, a conveyance whose windows are 1/4″ thick; not something you’d normally notice, but it does give you a barely discernible and slightly offset reflection. Just enough to make my reflection look like it was wearing two identical wedding rings.

Everything is fine, you know? We’re good! I’m totally happy! But that was weird, seemingly all at once like that, the sort of thing that tips the more precariously off-kilter all the way over. Lucky for me, I’m completely sane. So, listen, it’s completely OK go eat at the Danforth Dragon, the food’s great, but if you catch them conspiring with the TTC to screw up your relationship, just leave a decent tip and get the rest of the meal to go.

East From Spadina

Like alcoholism and pyromania, in moderation paranoia can be a lot of fun. So if you’re interested in making your commute just a little bit surreal or add a certain cold war East-Berlin-chic to your next get together, I have quite a treat for you.

Numbers Stations are shortwave radio stations that transmit seemingly-random sets of numbers, repeated in sequence, on some arbitrary schedule; they’re guaranteed not to mean anything to anyone except for the shadowy figure with the right one-time pad, for whom those numbers will magically become their next marching orders through the magic of crypto.

But since it’s shortwave, anyone with a shortwave radio can tune in, and the Conet Project has collected several CDs worth of transmissions from all over the world. And if you grew up reading John Le Carré these crackling synthesized tones and strange recitations will speak to you through a code that means nothing; they will make you think of dimly-lit meetings in the cold alleys of East Berlin, of dead drops, safe houses, microfilm and old men with old secrets.

The Conet Project isn’t selling the CDs anymore, but they’re all downloadable, so put it on shuffle and head to work, looking over your shoulder the entire time. That woman with the loose suit-jacket? She’s wired. That guy with the moustache? He’s an informant, guaranteed. Don’t look him in the eye. Those two guys on the train with you, who were were on the streetcar too?

They’re on to you, man. You’re blown.

Run.

The End Of The Season

So, it’s clear that posture is important, and repetitive stress is good to avoid and so forth but people, listen up: “ergonomic” products come in exactly two varieties. They are:

  1. Very expensive, and
  2. Totally ineffectual

Whether it’s keyboards, mice, office furniture, whatever, this rule applies. Either you’re buying something flexible enough that you can customize it to your particular needs or you’re getting a piece of cheap plastic moulded for some hypothetical person who, guaranteed, isn’t you. The people at Kinesis make great products, and I’ve recommended the Evoluent side-grip mice to many of my colleagues, who report good things, but if you think you’re developing CTS know the following:

  • Read the Typing Injury FAQ,
  • Not all wrist pain is carpal tunnel,
  • Chiropractic is snake oil, and
  • Good posture and exercise do far more for you than a wrist pad or a “Natural Keyboard”.

If you’ve got pain in your wrists, or indeed anywhere, don’t ignore it. See a doctor and listen to their advice. But there’s lots of things you can do for yourself, too: get a better chair, work on your posture, use a keyboard timer and stand up to stretch when it goes off, increase your font sizes so you can read without hunching forward. And, seriously, don’t skimp on your gear. Good keyboards cost real money, but when you divide the cost of a really good keyboard by the number of hours you’ll be spending in front of it, they’re very worth it, and in dollars-per-hour-of-not-hurting terms, very nearly free.

But whatever you do, don’t self-diagnose your own repetitive-stress-carpal-tunnel affliction and then prescribe yourself some cheap piece of bent plastic as a remedy. It’s only going to make it worse, and on top of being a dumb idea it’s a horrible habit. I’ve seen what happens to people who’ve started down that road, and these days my rule of thumb is that whenever you see one of those faux-ergonomic keyboards on someone’s desk, you’re virtually guaranteed to be dealing with a hypochondriac.