Manor back-loop

Rode the Manor back-loop with Susan today. 35 miles. Couldn’t ask for nicer weather–it must have hit 80°F. Sunny, little traffic, light winds. Perfect. Really weird that it is supposed to get down into the 20s tonight.

Copy-protected CDs

So we’re starting to see Copy-protected CDs from one of the major media conglomerates, Vivendi/Universal. The point is to make it impossible to rip MP3s from them (which, even under the absurd Digital Millenium Copyright Act isn’t necessarily illegal, I don’t think), but the net effect is that copy-protected CDs simply will not play in many computer CD-players, or even some plain-old CD players. If you buy one of these, return it as defective.

I’ve asked amazon.com to post a notice on their info page for every copy-protected CD they sell, so I’ll know not to buy it. Perhaps if enough people make the same suggestion, they’ll do it. This should make Universal sweat a little.


Party at DuShun’s. Guiness. Rum. Pete’s Ale. Sangria. Oh yeah, I’m going to have the bedspins tonight.


A postscript to that last entry:The next morning, I discovered I had a flat on my back tire. I must have been riding with a slow leak, I reckoned, since I didn’t notice low pressure when I was riding.When I patched the tube, I discovered a complete nail was poked all the way through the tire. That’s unusual.

Three days in one

I love those days that are like two or three days rolled into one. Friday was just such a day. In observation of my b-day, Jenny took my out to a movie and lunch. First we went by Flight Path, where we figured out how to start up the wireless networking on her fancy-schmancy new Powerbook G4. It worked, and that was cool. Ram was there, he came over and was pretty wowed by the machine.Then, after doing a little web-surfing and caffeinating, we headed over to the re-opened Highland 10 movie theater. Highland 10 used to be owned by one of the big chains, but they closed it. Not a surprise, the place was kind of a dump, and some of the auditoriums smelled noticeably of mold. Well, it has been re-opened by some penny-ante operation that not only has done nothing to remedy the mold situation, but has done a laughable job of keeping up such infrastructure as remains. Case in point: the RESTROOM sign was made by cutting a template out of electrical tape and cardboard. This might have been a 2nd-grader’s class project.The movie we saw was the new Ocean’s Eleven, which was quite entertaining. Not the most cerebral of movies, but that’s fine. Directed by Steven Soderbergh. He’s good.After that we went to lunch at Kim Phung, a big Vietnamese joint. Noodles, spring rolls, Vietnamese coffee. Good. Then we stopped at the My Thanh grocery next door, where we amused ourselves greatly looking at strange food products and purchasing some of them. I bought two packs of these gummy ginger candies that are just fantastic. They come in what look like kretek packages.Ting Ting JaheJenny dropped me off at home, where, lucky me, my recently ordered firedancing video had just arrived, so I watched that.Tracy was having a little happy-hour get-together at Opal Divine’s, so I then made my way down there by bike, meeting her and some of her friends. Caesar was at another table with another group of friends, oddly enough. Jenny showed up on foot (she had gone for a run) and she had my birthday present with her, a very slick leatherman. As Jenny might put it, it’s juicy. I like it.I then rode to the Blue Genie Art Bazaar, where Shanti (among many others) was having an exhibit/sale of her stuff. I hadn’t seen Shanti in, like, forever, so I was looking forward to going. The place is a little hard to find, and as I was making my way there, what do I see but the distinctive yellow Beetle driven by my also long-not-seen friend Audrey, who is headed the wrong way trying to find it. We meet up and say hi.The Blue Genie warehouse is a huge place, really cool. I saw a woman working there who works at Vulcan Video, who I only know because she looks curiously similar to someone else I know. She pointed me to Shanti, and Shanti and I had a brief chance to catch up. Shanti introduced me to Rory Skagen–one of the Blue Genies, and an artist whose work I really dig. There was lots of interesting art to look at, and lots of interesting people-watching to boot. The postcard for the event promised firedancing, and it turns out the firedancers were Sage and Natalie. I asked Sage “need a bucket man?” and she did, so I volunteered for that. John showed up.Sage, despite having recently suffered some nasty burns, and despite a goopy gravel driveway to perform on, put on a typically excellent show, as did Natalie and, what’s her name, Addie (?) who performs with a flaming hula-hoop.After the show, I bumped into a friend of Justin and DuShun’s, Jay, said hi to him, and waved hello to Raq. Said my goodbyes and headed out, catching up with Audrey as I left.I turned north on Springdale, took that to Airport, and decided that, even though Airport is a pretty nasty road to ride on, it would be the most direct way home, so I took it. It was the first–and second–time I’ve been chased by a dog on an urban ride. And they were both junkyard dogs, too. They didn’t get close though. Phew. Made it home feeling totally jazzed, and decided to record the day for posterity.

Less-than-total recall

Brains are funny. Today, for example, my brain did something funny by recalling a moment from 9 years ago.

I had just moved back to Chicago from Tokyo, and was visiting with some friends. They had rented the movie The Running Man, and we watched that. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s a dystopian sci-fi flick in which enemies of the state are entered in a gladiatorial-combat game show (hosted by Richard Dawson, nice touch). When the movie was over and the TV signal came on, what was showing but American Gladiators. For those of you who haven’t seen it, this is a gladiatorial-combat game show (sort of). I had to hold my head to keep it from exploding. “That was supposed to be science fiction!” I shrieked. “What has happened to my country in my absence?”

I guess it’s not only brains that are funny. The world can be pretty funny too. Funny-strange and funny-ha-ha.

Birthday reflections

My birthday has the funny tendency of coming near the new year, and so I get a double-whammy opportunity for reflection. With my birthday nigh upon me, I was in a reflective mood tonight, and in a rare moment, started feeling sorry for myself–this has been a tough year in some ways, and in some ways I felt that I had been stagnating or even moving backwards. A few more moments of thought made me realize that even if there is a kernel of truth in that, the idea that I have any reason to feel sorry for myself, or that I have been moving backwards overall over the past 365 days, is just ludicous. I’ve expanded my circle of friends greatly, tried new things, gotten interested in something new. I can’t complain.

firenight: scary moment

Another Tuesday, another firenight. For the first time ever, I got tangled badly enough that I had to have my safety person put my wicks out–in a behind-the-back move, my right chain got looped around my left wrist and I couldn’t shake it loose. Somewhat amazingly, I didn’t get burned (at least, not in that incident). My other two sets were OK, though, and I tried the 5-beat btb weave for the first time with fire. That went pretty well.

The finger-wand design process

This morning, I shipped off a set of fire gauntlets to a customer. It’s a funny thing: in my fire-gear business, finger wands (which are sisters to fire gauntlets) have not been my most popular item, but have occupied an inordinate amount of my attention. I think I’ve gone through something like 9 design revs on them, if you count major and minor changes. Getting a drill press was a real breakthrough, as it allowed me to use tubing instead of wiring, and I like tubing much better. These fire-gauntlets, though, they’re the first finger-wands (or wand-like product) that I’m really happy with. I can imagine improvements, yes, but this set really balanced competing demands pretty well.

The $3000 scooter

The Segway. Gee. It’s a scooter. A $3000 scooter. Yes, it’s technically cool, but in terms of its practical applications, I am left wondering “so what?” What can this do that a bike, cargo trike, or conventional scooter cannot do? I guess it can save the rider from getting a little bit of exercise. Ooh, there’s a benefit. Pardon my sarcasm.

Dean Kamen has already come up with more important applications for the gyroscopic stabilization system in this toy, which, for some reason, never got much press.

The Man Who Wasn’t There

Saw The Man Who Wasn’t There today. Pretty bleak. Like many of the Coen Brothers movies, it had an austere feel to it. The cinematography–all black-and-white–was beautiful. Very subtle shadings. A reminder that we still haven’t figured out color the way we’ve figured out B&W (I say “we” as if I have anything to do with it. Hah.). And while the story had a lot of film-noir elements to it, I wouldn’t quite call it film noir itself. There was a little too much nuance for that, not the cut-and-dry severity I’d expect in real film noir. And just because it’s B&W doesn’t mean its film noir, anyhow. A good movie.

Blue skies for a change

After a few really crappy days, we had a really nice one today. Blue skies, warm temperatures. Got out for the first time in a few days and worked with my chains. Caesar called and we agreed to go for a ride. We wound up getting off to a late start, and had to keep the ride short to beat the sunset, but we wound up doing a really fun in-town ride on quiet city streets. Fast and hilly. About 18 miles.

Time-shifted rain

Weather last night was very cold for Austin, with freezing rain. This morning, the trees were iced over. As the day warmed up, I started hearing what I thought was rainfall, even though the sky was clear. I realized it was the ice melting off the trees. So in a way, it really was rainfall, it just had to wait until the morning to reach the ground.

Cold and quiet at firenight

Tuesday, so it’s firenight at Cafe Mundi again (no pictures). It was really cold and windy. Not many people showed. Me, Thomas, David, and Rita. “Het-man” stopped by, decked out in tails and glittery pants. Rita left without lighting up, and Sage appeared. We managed to get a few burns in, and then called it quits. I couldn’t get warmed up enough to really get comfortable, no matter what. A newcomer to twirling, Penina, stopped by briefly.

A new use for Japan’s defunct theme parks

So I was talking with someone about the many failed theme parks in Japan (a topic about which I know way more than anybody needs to), and she asked “What do you do with a failed theme park?” I realized at that moment that the only thing to do is use it as a location for filming a Scooby Doo episode.

Thanksgiving dinner chez Butt

Thanksgiving dinner at Farooq & Eileen’s. Drew was there, along with a couple of friends of F&E’s who I didn’t know. Jenny was supposedly going to show, but wound up not making it. Quite the feast. Yams, two kinds of potatoes, a greenbean casserole, stuffing, and oh yeah, a big ol’ turkey. Everything was great. After dinner Farooq gave me this bizarre “candy” made with saltpeter, Tyrkisk Peber. Tastes sort of like black licorice, but kind of spicy. Very weird. Well, I’m glad I tried it. Then he gave me something similar, but much more potent, which I concluded was really intended for nuclear reactor cores. Yech.

Although we didn’t talk as much about the situation in Afghanistan as I thought we might, Farooq did make an interesting point: he contends that it is a lucky thing that there’s a military dictator running the show in Pakistan–if there were a political government, he believes they’d kowtow to the extremist mob and would not go along with the military action.

Then we watched some Space Ghost Coast to Coast, with special guest Tenacious D.

Jenny got a new Powerbook

Jenny got a new Powerbook and I spent a few hours yesterday helping her move files over and set it up. It’s a damn nice machine. I’m impressed by the power brick, prosaic as that may seem–it’s clear that a lot of thought went into the design. The prongs fold out of the way for transport, and can pop off to be replaced by a special extension cord (in case you can’t squeeze the brick onto your outlet strip). It has little tabs that fold out for wrapping up the cord. It’s a small rounded square, sleek and white, like an iBook.

Migrating the files from one machine to the other wasn’t as simple as it should have been, because the old machine kept locking up during the file-transfer process. Very mysterious. We wound up compressing batches of files, uploading them to the net, and then downloading them. Sounds silly, but it works, and wasn’t any slower than doing it over the improvised LAN.

Firenight: Bean burns

So, another Tuesday, another Firenight. Bean had her first burn. It’s always fun to be around someone having their first burn because they’re always so jazzed, so alive afterwards, it’s a little like catching a contact high.