April 2003

Getting older

Yesterday, I received the alumni magazine from my high school. It contained a small picture of an alumni get-together, with people from my graduating class and the classes one year ahead/behind.

I was shocked. There were faces in that picture that I simply couldn’t recognize (not possible in a graduating class of 69 people)–and when I read their names in the caption, I was doubly shocked at how much those people had changed. I mentioned this to Jenny, and she just said “fat balding guys?” That nailed it.

Time has been kind to me. I’ve certainly changed and aged, but physically, I don’t think I’d leave anyone from back then wondering.

Next year will be time for my class’ 20-year reunion. I won’t be there.

eDonkey on Mac OS X

Has anyone out there successfully installed edonkey on OS X? If so, how? I spent way too much time trying to get it to work and failing.

Oh Lazyweb, I invoke thee!

Demon of the Derby

Saw Demon of the Derby (which, interestingly, is not in the IMDB) last night at the Alamo. This is a documentary about Ann Calvello, a roller-derby competitor who started in the late 40s and was still competing in the late 90s.

Ann’s an amazing person: someone who never quit, who never gave a fuck what anyone thought about her, who never got the message that getting old means taking up crocheting and staying in, who never quit wearing outlandish clothes, spiked heels, and unreal hair colors, and, sadly, who never got out of the sun, and is left with skin like leather. She demonstrates that sometimes the trivial and even ridiculous can become legitimized and even sanctified just through time and cussed endurance.

If you get a chance to see the movie, stay through the credits, which are hilarious themselves and are interspersed with some great clips, like Ann saying “the reason I don’t wear red lipstick is because it makes my face look like a baboon’s ass!”

After the movie, I chatted with some local roller girls (Riff Scandel and (I think) Cat Tastrophe), who had a bout on Sunday that I, regretfully, had to miss. But their next one is June 8, and I’m marking my calendar, hell yeah!

Know your secretaries

In the Sunday NY Times, Maureen Dowd pointed out the tension between the Secretaries of State and Defense. Yesterday, Peter Jennings made an interesting flub, where he referred to “Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld.” And that night on the Daily Show, John Stewart did the same–though I suspect he was doing so intentionally.

The Daily Show also had a wickedly funny “debate,” juxtaposing clips of Governor GW Bush with those of President GW Bush speaking on foreign policy, etc. Especially funny the way they showed one smirking at whatever the other was saying. Governor Bush sounded…rational by comparison, although President Bush did a better job of reigning in his beavis-and-butthead speaking style where he laughs at his own inanities.


It was one year ago today that Gwen and I met. The best thing that’s happened in my life over the past 365 days.

Apple Music Store

As rumored, Apple has created a store for downloadable music, which ties in with a new version of iTunes.

They apparently have a library of 200,000 tracks from the five big labels. So far so good. They’re charging $0.99 per track. Not good. In terms of an hour’s-worth of music, this works out to be about as much as buying the CD, perhaps more–except you don’t get the CD, booklet or full-quality audio for that matter, but do get restrictions on how you can use your downloads (although the restrictions are admittedly pretty liberal, and easy enough to circumvent).

This does seem like an improvement over some of the existing for-fee music-download services, and the integration with iTunes looks pretty slick, but the pricing is outlandish ($0.25 per track would be my limit), and the pay-per-track pricing model is a bad idea. A monthly-fee all-you-can-eat model is one that I could get behind.

A big Saturday

It seems like everything was going on this weekend. Unfortunately, one can only be in so many places at one time.

Gwen and I elected to start off Saturday with Flugtag, which seemed sorta corporate, but also seemed like it might be sorta fun. We wandered around the staging area to see the (ahem) aircraft before the event itself, which turned out to be a good idea. That’s where the action really was: the Sombrero Aliens had a live mariachi band, cheerleaders, etc. We could inspect the construction and decoration in detail (I got some pictures–log in as adamguest/adamguest). And so on.

Our vantage point for the actual event was fairly distant, and the event was dull: it felt like hours of boredom punctuated by moments of anticlimax. Gwen and I stuck around for five launchings, none of which flew so much as fell.

So after that it was off to Eeyore’s Birthday Party. For whatever reason, I didn’t run into nearly as many members of my freak contingent as I expected, though we did run into some of Gwen’s old friends there. The event seemed smaller than last year (when there had been a sort of adjunct party going on about a half-mile north). The police presence was much lower this year as well. But it was still fun, and remains a funky, anarchic, and essentially Austin type of event. I didn’t pull out the camera because when you’re behind a camera, you’re not participating, and Eeyore’s feels to me like a “no spectators, only participants” kind of event.

My allergies were getting the better of me, and so we wound up leaving earlier than I really wanted. That night, we went to Yard Dog (a gallery specializing in self-taught, outsider, and primitive-style art), where a 92-year-old man was having his first art opening. The writeup in the Chronicle said he’d started drawing nudes for the past 15 years and had never shown any of them, but all the work on display was dated 2002. Go figure. Aside: Outsider art that really is what it claims to be is one thing, but some of the stuff at Yard Dog is clearly done by MFAs who adopt primitivism as a style. This annoys me.

Trojan-horse spamming

In June, I speculated that this would happen. Now it actually has: spammers are distributing trojan horses that infect other computers to relay spam for them.

This is clearly illegal, of course. But spammers have long been exploiting “open relays”–unsecure mail-servers–which should be considered illegal as well.

There’s smoke, and there’s smoke

The City of Austin is considering a pretty extensive public ban on smoking. As others have noted, this is a matter that gets people pretty riled. The proposed ordinance is pretty sever, in that it would ban outdoor smoking at most places where people might smoke.

Now, I hate cigarettes. I’ve never smoked a single one, and a discarded cigarette butt is only slightly less disgusting to me than is a turd. But this really does go too far. I can co-exist with smokers outdoors, for crying out loud. By over-reaching, this ordinance simply invites ridicule and non-compliance.

But if it passes, I may try to get the city to consider another ordinance that could do a world of good for public health: a ban on motor vehicles in the city. Cigarette smoke is a nuisance, but probably hasn’t significantly impaired my health. Motor vehicles have. And some of the trucks around her belch diesel exhaust that puts any smoker to shame. I don’t know how many deaths can be attributed to cigarettes per year in Austin, but I’m guessing there must be about 1,000 deaths attributable to motor vehicles every year here. That’s a lot–and the cause of death is simply beyond dispute, which is not the case with, say, lung cancer. Nobody says “well, the car running that guy over may have been a contributing factor in his death, but there were a number of genetic and lifestyle factors that may have accelerated his demise.” Nope. The car ran him over, he died.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking. People need transportation. Despite their drawbacks, transportation plays a vital role in any economy, and we won’t be able to replace cars overnight. Ok, but, umm…think of the children!

Heaven’s gonna burn your eyes

Went to see Thievery Corporation at Stubb’s last night. Thanks to Gwen’s friend Mellie, we were able to get free tickets in return for a favor Gwen had done testing Mellie’s new project.

I’ve been a fan of Thievery Corp for some time, and had recommended that we use our freebies to get into this show, but still, it was with some trepidation: the band is one of that crop of studio-oriented duos (other examples: Zero7, Chemical Brothers). I was a bit concerned we’d be treated to two guys standing behind keyboard racks for the whole show. And in fact, that was exactly how it opened (to “Treasures” from Mirror Conspiracy, if I recall correctly). After that, other musicians and singers filed in. The bass was mixed a little too loud.

The show wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. Why was it less than great? A few reasons:

  1. Very little spontaneity and improvisation in their performance. A few numbers had some, but most of them were very much like listening to album cuts really loud. While the other musicians kept the show from looking like two guys frobnicating their keyboards, I had the distinct impression the show could have been done without them, and at one point, the vocalist was clearly not singing at some moments we were hearing his voice–it was being played from a sample–though he held the mic up to his mouth to maintain the illusion.
  2. A little too much reggae for my taste. The first half of the show was their more exotic/neo-loungy/dreamy stuff. For the second half, they brought out a couple of reggae singers, who had a more energetic stage presence, despite the fact that the music was still basically downtempo. The contrast didn’t exactly work.
  3. Short show. They started pretty much at the announced 8:30 start time, and ended at 10:30 (though the end time has to do with noise ordinances).

In short, I don’t regret going, but I won’t feel like I’m missing out if I don’t go to their next show. I’m glad I didn’t pay $23 (or whatever) to get in.

Hit them with a Club

The Daily Show covered this last night, but it bears repeating. Evidently Olympia Snowe and George Voinovich, though they are Republicans, aren’t Republican enough for members of their party on the weird right. An organization called the Club for Growth has taken out ads attacking them for resisting Bush’s tax-cut plan.

That fact is weird enough, but the ads themselves are surreal. Playing on francophobic hysteria, the ads equate Snowe and Voinovich with France, with the dread tricoleur photoshopped in behind them. I’m guessing that anyone dimwitted enough to be swayed by these ads would be too ignorant to recognize France’s flag anyhow. The rest of us are left feeling either smug or appalled by just how weird the right wing really is.

Wasabi peanuts

Found at Central Market, wasabi peanuts are a taste sensation.

The correct way to eat: Put one (1) in your mouth. Close the can. Crunch down. Savor the amazingly hot wasabi goodness, as your eyeballs rattle in their sockets and smoke shoots out your ears (just like in a cartoon). Repeat.

Perhaps my most recursive metablog post to date

Via the Movable Type support board, I learned of the blogideas site. “When you don’t know what to Blog about.”

Now, there are lots of different forms that blogs can take, and they’re all valid, I suppose, but if I don’t have anything to write about in my blog, I don’t write anything. I don’t feel some obligation to tap away, uninspired, for the dubious benefit of my adoring public. Some suggested topics from the site: “Experiment: how many fishsticks fit in your mouth?”; “An ode to your couch”; “Why do dogs sniff each other in the ass?”

If you’re reduced to writing about that, better take a day off.

Also, in the interest of completeness, that discussion exposed me to the memes list–which is really more a themes list (organizational conceits like “Friday Five”).

Global Nomads

On Saturday night, a friend, Cinque, staged a sort of new-media art installation event thingum at Republic Square Park called We Are All Global Nomads. For the past month, people around the world have been uploading their pictures to the site, along with brief observations of “what’s outside my window.” At the event, these pictures and observations were projected on half a dozen or so improvised screens in the park, rotating at random.

To be honest, I was afraid this was going to be a total wankfest. Weather that threatened rain didn’t help. But the weather cooperated in the end, and it actually turned out to be a nice event. I’m sure that artists cringe at the thought of their work being considered “nice,” but it was, and there’s nothing wrong with that. No surprise that a disproportionate number of uploads were from people in Austin, but there was one by a woman in Tuvalu, another by a woman on an oil rig in the North Sea.


Pictured above is the new Mazda RX-8. You don’t have to be Jean Dixon to predict that this is going to be an extremely popular car. Apart from a Wankel engine, the notable thing about it is that it is a sports car with four doors, the rear doors being half-sized and reverse-opening. Snazzy design, with sharply pronounced front fender bulges.

And in the white corner is a Subaru concept car, the evocatively named B11s. Now, I like Subarus. I own a WRX. Subarus, however, have never been noted for good styling–if anything, the company has seemingly gone out of its way to design dorky-looking cars. This is obviously a new direction for the company, if they actually build it. It’s a good looking car. But it’s somebody else’s good looks. Same shape, same unusual door configuration, similar fender bulges.

Gwen suggested it should be marketed as the “WRX-8.”

Shallow thoughts

David, the soup peddler, had a second-night-of-pesach dinner last night, at which I was present. A very new-agey type of affair. Following are some ideas that cropped up during conversation:

  1. It used to be that Americans of any political stripe could make fun of the French and feel good about it. Since GW2, the right wing has co-opted this practice. Yet another reason to be anti-war: I resent the fact that I can’t feel good about ridiculing those cheese-eating surrender-monkeys anymore.
  2. Jewish holidays are a downer: “this is the day God didn’t kill the firstborn male child of each household”; “this is the day of atonement.” Jesus! The Christians did a much better job of co-opting the fun aspects of pagan holidays. Why don’t Jews have days for collecting brightly-colored eggs, decorating indoor trees, etc?

Full moon night

Last night was a full moon. Quite amazing to see as it hung low over the horizon. The air was positively pungent with the smell of chinaberry blossoms (thanks to Jenny for identifying it). Apparently the chinaberry is considered a pest tree, not native to these parts, but it smells fantastic–somewhere between jasmine and bluebonnet. Everywhere I went last night, I could smell it. Amazing.

It being a full-moon night, there was a drum circle in the tunnels. This is one of those hidden aspects of Austin that make the place what it is. Some of my fellow fire freaks decided to meet down there for a firenight. Despite some trouble finding the place by those living outside Austin, a good time was had by all. As I sat there watching a friend spinning frenetically to the miasmic throb of the drums, the chinaberry perfume drowning out even the stink of burning fuel, it occurred to me that we were experiencing a Baraka moment.

Gwen and I headed out around midnight–right when the second shift was arriving.

I take it all back

Every word of it. Every skeptical, accusatory thing I said about the war in Iraq. Because it turns out that, yes, Iraq was harboring terrorists. Well, one terrorist. Abu Abbas. Remember him? I thought not. He hijacked the Achille Lauro and killed one of its passengers. In 1985.

This is not to trivialize the crime, but we didn’t invade a country, kill and maim thousands of civilians, allow over 100 of our own troops to die, and spend $75 billion and counting to round up this guy. Oh yeah…I remember hearing something about weapons of mass destruction a few weeks ago. Did they find any of those? Nope.

Macintouch gets with the program, sort of

Macintouch, the best Mac news site, is finally publishing an RSS feed. Excerpts only, which is fair: they need to get people to come to the site, since they’re advertising-supported.

A bigger problem is that Macintouch never had permalinks for individual stories, and yet an RSS feed requires a permalink, or something like it. The solution Macintouch is using appears to be very ad-hoc: there are indeed anchor tags for individual stories, but they don’t seem intended to scale: they read like <a name="itools7">. This is adequate for one day’s worth of news, but not for providing a permanent ID. I’m guessing that Macintouch has been running on a homebrewed content-management system that wasn’t designed with permalinks in mind; now Ric Ford is locked in, and retrofitting newfangled contraptions like permalinks is turning out to be hard.