June 2002


Last night was firenight, made extra-special by the fact that the Ringling Bros’ circus train crept past in the middle of it, which was excellent fodder for jokes. Everyone stopped and went to look at the elephants, camels, and Lipizzans. Kristen and Gwen (a different Gwen) both had their first burns, but I forgot my camera. Sage was there, her first firenight since she returned from New Zealand.

And tomorrow, Gwen and I are taking a road trip out west. We may see the McDonald Observatory, we may see the Marfa Lights. Here’s what my Texas road atlas has to say about the Marfa Lights: “These mysterious lights, first reported by settlers in the 1880s, have still not been adequately unexplained.”


What a great weekend.

Some of Gwen’s friends organized a campout at Colorado Bend State Park. I got a few pictures. The park was pretty nice–about 10 miles down a gravel road, 100 miles away from home. Right on the Colorado River, at a point where a stream feeds into it. There’s a hiking trail along the stream, which has a few small waterfalls and some pretty good swimming holes, which were the major attraction for us. A lot of bubbas were attracted by the oppportunity to take their motorboats and personal watercraft out on the river. Oh well.

Gwen and I arrived at about 10:00 PM Friday, hooked up with the few people who had made it out there ahead of us, and set up our tent. Made a fine dinner of tuna steak, mashed potatoes, and curried rice. More people in our group started showing on Saturday, and we had a full day of hanging out, walking the trail, soaking in chilly stream water, eating, hanging out some more, and eating some more. In the course of the day we discovered a secluded group campsite, and Susan decided we should move there. The park office was closed by this time, but Susan found a ranger, who cleared it. So we pulled up stakes (literally) and moved about a fifth of a mile. The new site really was better, and not just for us, as it spared our former campsite neighbors from the group’s late-night singalong of bad 80s music (unfortunately, it did not spare me). A big feast, with lots of very fine food and lots of wine was put on. To derail my campmates’ caterwauling, I did a fire set.

Sunday was another rough day of soaking at the swimming hole; we packed up around 2:00 and hauled ass back to Austin (those country roads seem to have no speed limit).

That would make for a fine weekend right there, but there was plenty more fun to be had. Gwen and I had tickets for the very last show in Austin by the Flaming Idiots, so we got cleaned up and went to that. It was great fun–those guys are really talented as jugglers, but also good comedians and showmen.

But wait, there’s more–Jenny had invited us to meet up with her at Flipnotics to catch Shorty Long. Flipnotics is walking distance from the Zach Scott Theater where we saw the Idiots, so we strolled over and caught the band. Jenny had told us they reminded her a lot of the Asylum Street Spankers (a band we love), and when we got there, it was clear why–Shorty Long has both Pops and Mysterious John from the Spankers. Anyhow, Shorty Long put on an excellent, high-energy show lasting over two hours. I marvelled that we live in a town where talent of that quality is playing for tips at a small coffee shop on a Sunday night. Jenny and Gwen also had a chance to meet, and that was good.

Big, Bigger, Biggest: The Supersize Suburb

Big, Bigger, Biggest: The Supersize Suburb

Does anyone actually need an 8,500 square-foot house? There’s something vaguely pornographic about a house that big. My own house is somewhere in the range of 1,550 to 1,800 square feet, and families of four have lived in it comfortably. You could fit my house into one of these McMansions four or five times over. When I lived in Japan, I shared an apartment that I generously estimate to have been 240 square feet.

Goodbye, Internet radio

Goodbye, Internet radio. There’s no way the hobbyist-level operators, who are doing this as a labor of love, will be able to pay these royalties (apparently, about $500 a day). Up until today, I barely listened to conventional radio at all; I listened to Internet radio all the time. As of today, most of my favorite streams are dead air, and I have to imagine the others are not long for this earth.

No doubt the big broadcast-radio conglomerates and the RIAA are happy. The RIAA, which has had its collective head stuck up its collective ass for years, shouldn’t be so smug. I’ve bought quite a few albums as a result of music I heard on Internet radio–probably more than I’ve bought because of broadcast radio. In the past, there was a chance they’d get some revenue through record sales. Now, they’re not going to get any royalties from the Internet streams (since they’re disappearing), nor from the album sales spurred by those streams. This is arguably more of a clear-cut win for big radio, since it eliminates real competition. Then again, I’m not going to start listening to broadcast radio more as a result of this.

RBrowser Lite

Since upgrading my Mac to OS X, I’ve been trying to find just the right FTP client. RBrowser isn’t absolutely perfect, but it’s pretty darned good.

Father’s Day

Yesterday was Father’s Day, and Gwen and I drove down to Houston in her snazzy new wedgelet to visit her father, who happened to be there on business. He’s even more curmudgeonly than my own dad.

We all visited the Natural Science Museum, specifically the Butterfly Center. This was really wonderful–the exhibit was a little short on education, but is still worthwhile. The un-educational aspect fits perfectly with the rest of the museum, which is among the most commercial I’ve ever seen. One buys tickets (which aren’t cheap) to specific exhibits, not the whole museum. The exhibits are packaged and marketed like movies at a cinemaplex, with promotional displays and posters. That, combined with the fact that the museum also has an imax screen, makes it downright confusing as to whether a given attraction is an exhibit or movie. The museum had two gift shops (that I noticed), plus a McDonald’s right on the premises.

We then ate dinner at Kim Son, a Vietnamese joint that is a Houston institution. I had a really excellent shrimp curry.

And then it was about time to go home, so we did.

War On Error

War On Error: Live Pictures Taken by U.S. Planes Were Freely Available

The war on terrorism in Europe is being undermined by a military communications system that makes it easier for terrorists to tune in to live video of U.S. intelligence operations than to watch Disney cartoons or new-release movies.

Now, I’m all in favor of openness in government, but I believe someone’s pants are down around his ankles here.

What do you suppose the odds are that this’ll get to be a big story, and that Ashcroft will then tell us something scary to distract us?

Spam & Viruses

So I’ve been thinking. Spam is evil. So are e-mail viruses like the klez worm. As are, of course, the people that perpetrate both. Now, one of a spammer’s main burdens is getting the spam out–running software to pump it out. It surprises me a little that no spammer has (yet) used e-mail viruses as a means of distribution. It would make them harder to track down, and alleviate their computing burden (putting it on everyone else, of course, which is the spammer’s stock in trade anyhow).

Of course, viruses are illegal and spam isn’t (yet), which might create a disincentive to use that method. But if it starts happening, well, you read about it here first.

San Francisco trip

Oh yeah. I’m home. It was a good trip. Good hanging out with Dave & Heidi for the last time before they have twins–good hanging out with them just in general, and likewise with Brian and Maureen. Good re-acquainting myself with San Francsisco–I love visiting that town, but it reminds me that I really like living in Austin too. Spent yesterday afternoon and this morning in San Jose, and then caught the Nerd Bird home.

Perhaps it’s just because I bought a new car myself, but I found myself attuned to the cars I was seeing out there. I continue to be amazed at what a car-oriented place California is. Not just the dependence on them, but the affection lavished on them. A lot of Porsches–everything from whaletail Turbos to bathtub 356s. But what struck me was the weird stuff–like an immaculately restored K-car of all things, with a show-car quality paint job and fancy racing wheels. Or a mint-condition 1984 Hurst Olds. Or a bizarre 3-wheeled podlet (evidently Brian knows the owner). And of course the aforementioned Hummer limo.

Wireless Internet stuff

2 Tinkerers Say They’ve Found a Cheap Way to Broadband: This is pretty exciting. Hacking the Wi-Fi protocol makes it possible to blanket a whole city with fast, wireless coverage. Well, that’s the theory.

“A French engineer would say this isn’ the most elegant solution” Mr. Furrier said, “but we didn’t care about that. We took advantage of these cheap commodity chips and we just wanted to make it work.”

Then again, wasn’t it a French engineer who invented the 2CV?

Posting from Alameda

Posting from Alameda

I’m staying at Dave & Heidi’s, across the bay from beautiful San Francisco. It’s been fun. I’ll be heading back down to San Jose tomorrow to spend another day with Brian & Maureen, and then back to Austin.

Saturday night, I saw the band Luna at Bimbo’s with a friend, Robin, and a couple of her friends. Good show–Luna has a sort of folk/rock style with quirky humor. Closed with covers of Bonnie and Clyde (originally by Serge Gainsbourg) and Season of the Witch (originally by Donovan). Thanks, Robin, for knowing who did those originally. That night I saw a Hummer limo–truly obscene.

Sunday, D&H and I went to an amazingly busy diner in bustling downtown Alameda. That night I was supposed to go to a fire practice in SF, but had left the exact address back in Austin (d’oh!), so I had to bag it. Today, I went in to San Francisco and just bopped around on foot for hours, which I love to do. Went to the Japantown mall. Consumed yukimi-daifuku (those of you have have been paying attention know how much I love these). Spotted Giant Pocky (remind me to tell you about Giant Pocky someday). Then I went to the Metreon to catch the digital projection of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. I don’t really like the Metreon, but I think it’s one of the only places with digital projection, and since Lucas made such a big deal out of how this movie was all-digital, it seemed like the aesthetically correct way to see it.

What do I think of the movie? Good special effects and good action sequences. Awful script, bad direction, and acting that generally failed to rise above these limitations (except for good old Ewan MacGregor, and perhaps Christopher Lee).

Newsflash: digital image quality still isn’t as good as film. The difference wasn’t so great that I was generally aware of it, but in some of the more statically shot scenes, if I looked, I could clearly see the jaggies.

Posting from San Jose

Posting from San Jose

I’m staying at Brian & Maureen’s, where spring seems to have come about two months after it came to Austin–star jasmine, wisteria, and such are in bloom, and the whole neighborhood smells incredible. Everyone here seems to have really nice gardens. Plus the weather is about 20 degrees cooler, which (early in the season though it is) already comes as a relief.

Tomorrow it’s up to San Francisco to visit Dave & Heidi.

hentai game

Something Awful reviews a “hentai game” from Japan called X-Change.

I’m really not sure who this game’s target audience is, although if it’s the average Japanese teenage male I need to start being a lot more afraid of Japan than I have been lately.

And I’ve got to say, there are some things I’ve never understood about Japan–this is a perfect example.

New car

So I went and did it–bought a new car. A silver Subaru WRX wagon, exactly as pictured here. To say that I am nervous about taking on car payments is an embarrassing understatment.

Crablike spiny orb weaver

I’ve got a crablike spiny orb-weaver living in my front yard. I’ve long been interested in spiders, and this is certainly an interesting kind of spider. He/she builds a new web every day, and the webs are pretty big–a few feet across.

I’ve also got a bunch of wolf spiders that hang around the house.

About a Boy

Went and saw About a Boy at Alamo North with Gwen last night. Good movie. Recalls some of the spirit of that last Nick Hornby-derived movie I saw, High Fidelity, both being what you might call “adult male coming-of-age stories.” Despite being more feckless, rootless, and alone, Hugh Grant’s character Will in About a Boy is in some ways more in touch with reality and has a better grasp of other human beings than John Cusack’s Rob in High Fidelity. High Fidelity was funnier, mostly because it has Jack Black in it.