Friday, December 31, 2004

A lackluster end to a craptastic year

I don't mind saying, this year has sucked and I'm glad to see it gone. Good riddance.

Oh by the way Tom Waits kicks ass.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

I don't have bad taste, I've got slow taste.

Have you ever had the great feeling of discovering something new and completely cool, only to have your sense of cool completly dashed by someone else pointing out that they knew about it 6 months ago. I go through this all the time. Music, movies, art, restuarants. I show up, and there's usually a sign there that says "been there, done that". Most frequently the sign was left by one of my friends who is invariably more hip to stuff than I am. Why the hell didn't you share this cool shit six months ago when you found it.

Here's another one for you. I have the same problem with wine. I'm not a big wine drinker, but I enjoy a glass every now and then, but if someone ever says "You should try this wine. It's great. It has a woody flavor with citrusy undertones." I don't know what that means, but I'll try a glass. Here's how it usually goes:

1st glass: Hmm... Tastes like red wine to me. Maybe I should have another.
2nd glass: Hmmmmm.... Still tastes like red wine. Let me think about this. Maybe I should have another.
3rd glass: Nope. I'm not getting it. No wood, no citrus. Am I doing something wrong here? Don't get me wrong, the wine is good, but I'm not noticing the "rich boquet".
4th glass: Hey, I think I do taste some woody flavor. You know what? I don't know. Maybe I'm just to drunk to taste now.

Monday, December 20, 2004

The most excruciating pain ever, or why you should never put Listerine in your eyes or up your nose.

Being the lazy guy that I am, I frequently drink stuff straight from the container it came in. Milk, 2 liters of soda, soy sauce. You name it, I've probably drunk it straight from the bottle. Until this moring that list included mouthwash. Never again. I'd just finished brushing my teeth, and was going to finish of with a shot of Listerine (The new citrus flavor). Through some wierd space time warp of physics, I managed to shoot Listerine up my left nostril, and into my left eye. The mouth of the bottle was facing up, but the Listerine just shot up into my face. If I'm ever stuck in a third world jail, and presented with the alternative between a nose full of Listerine, or bamboo shoots underneath the fingernails, I might just consider the bamboo. This is the most excruciating pain I've ever been in. It's now a couple of hours later, and my eye's quit watering, but my nose won't stop burning. It feels like fire up my nose whenever I take a breath.

Thursday, December 16, 2004


I've recently undertaken to learning Macromedia Flash. This has to be the most poorly documented piece of software ever. When I say poorly, I'm not saying that there's no documentation. I'm saying that the documentation that's out there is so poorly written and organized, that I gave up trying to use it. Part of the problem is that they don't just have one big document that gives you everything. There are half a bajillion little documents that give you some information.

The documentation looks like it was designed by a person who absolutely refuses to read any more text than will fit on a single page. This means that any idea or concept that's too big for one page is made so vague that it fits on one page, or it's split up into incoherent chunks.

I had a Computer Science professor who thought the same way. This was back in the day before professors had their notes condensed down into powerpoint slides. She wrote her notes out on an overhead projector longhand. She'd do this on transparency sheets. One concept to a sheet please. If it was a big concept she would start out writing small. Sometimes she would miscalculate, and end up having to cram the last bits of information in a jumble of smudged overhead marker at the very bottom right corner of the transparency sheet.

Anyway back to the Flash documentation and how bad it was. It was so bad that I went out and bought an external manual. I generally don't like manuals. I'd prefer something that I can print off at work and staple together. That way work picks up the tab. No such luck this time. Normally when buying manuals I go straight to the source of 90% of all good technical documentation. O'Reilly and Associates. If it's technical, they've written a manual on it, and in my experience it is often the best manual on the topic. This time I didn't find one to my liking. I started to ask around, and got a few suggestions. Normally I have several rules about manuals.

  1. Never buy a book who's title insults you. If you see a book title like "Personal Finance for Dummies" or "Practical Database Design for Flaming Idiots" or "Learning Perl for the microencephalic", just put the book down and walk away.
  2. Never buy a book with a past participle that starts in "de" or "un" in the title. That means no words like demystified, unleashed, debunked. That sets up entirely too high of an expectation. What if the subject isn't demystified or unleashed when I'm done reading? There's one exception that I make to this rule. As soon as the authors get off their asses and write them, I'm buying the entire UNFUCKED series. I'm sure that I could probably help provide source material, and might even be able to ghost write for them.
  3. The more authors, the worse the manual. I've found that between 1 and 3 authors is optimal. There are a few exceptions. This being the most notable. On the other hand, this book is almost guaranteed to suck.
  4. Never buy a manual with the author(s) picture(s) on the front.
  5. Only one adjective in the title. That means books like this one are out. If there are adjectives in the title they should be words like practical, simple and plain.

So anyway I broke down and bought a couple of the books recommended by my cow-orkers. The ones recommended seem to break most of my rules, but we shall see.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

A Religious Experience, yes god likes Vegas too.

It is my firm belief that there are very few truely interesting topics of conversation. In my list are politics, philosophy, religion, music and art. If you can't somehow bring in one or more of these topics it might be hard to hold my attention. Today, sitting at lunch the topic of religion came up. Invariably when this happens, someone will fall back on the "Religion, isn't a polite topic of conversation" schtick. If you are worried about loosing a friend because you might disagree on something, then maybe you shouldn't be friends in the first place.

Despite one person's objection we as a group forged ahead. As part of this conversation someone brought up the idea of a "religious experience", and whether anyone had an exerienced that they felt qualified. I guess it might help to define what I think is meant by a religious experience. I think of it as an experience where you are possesed with an overwhelming sense that there is something much greater than yourself out there, and you are momentarily stupified and overawed by the sense of it.

Some people have this easy. They have kids. I can't tell you how many people have described to me the process of watching their child go from being a little more than a poop and drool factory to something capable of rational thought as being somewhat miraculous. I can certainly understand this. I've watched my own niece with a sense of wonder and amazement at what she once was, and what she is becoming.

I've had what to me felt like it must have been a religious experience. The only problem is that it was on a flight leaving Vegas. A cruel joke at my expense is left as an assignment for the reader. This was my first and only trip to Vegas. I was being sent there for a work function. I arrived at 10 in the morning and went straight to the convention center. I spent a hectic and long day making sure that a poorly organized exhibit for one of my clients went off with as little trouble as possible. I finished up at 7 that evening. Took a taxi back to the airport. All I saw of the city was from the window of my cab. The only time I was on a casino floor was crossing it to the restroom. No shows, no slots, no $7.95 all you can eat Lobster and Steak buffet. Nothing. Once at the airport I picked up a sandwich and got on the plane. By this point you are probably saying some religious experience. You're a retard. Wait a second. I'm not there yet.

It's now 9 in the evening and I've just finished an exhausing 16 hour day. I'm in my seat, looking out the window, and the plane begins to taxi. Soon it's taking off. As it's taking off, the pilot flips on the insanely bright headlights that sit under the wings. These planes engines are now bathed in bright light, and surrounded by pitch darkness. As the plane lifts, I look past the wings to the skyline and see the Luxor hotel light up, as I look down and I see the engines wobbling back and forth. This is where it began. At first I was terrified. Those things shouldn't be wobbling back and forth. Holy shit. They are about to drop off. I'm going to die. Then I start to think, no they have to be able to move, otherwise they would snap off from the stress. I then start thinking about the fact that the engines are attached by bushings and gimbals. A person had to spend hours to design those pieces. They were then tested validated, and sent off to be produced. Besides those pieces, every piece on that engine recieved the same treatment. The same goes for the wing it's attached to, and the body of the plane itself. Beyond that there's the entire airport infrastructure, and the air traffic control system that keeps us all safe when we are flying. Outside the wing is the Luxor hotel, with a light on top so bright that it can be seen from space. Meanwhile I'd had breakfast in one city, lunch in another, and will go to bed in the first. Both cities thousands of miles apart. At that moment it struck me. The enormity of the society that I'm part of. Not just society, the whole human cultural organism. We've shaped, molded and altered the face of the planet and the space around the planet so that the effects will be seen for millions of years. I'm not making a value judgement about those effects. Some are good and some are bad. It's just the enormity of it all. I sat there for like 10 minutes unable to do anything but stare at the engine under the wing and marvel at what I was involved in. Yeah I know it's not conventional, and I know it's not the "face of god" or anything like that, but I was certainly moved.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Saturday, December 04, 2004

What the hell do I want? Part II

In a previous post, I spent some time enumerating what I'm looking for in a significant other. The topic came up again last night at my company's holiday party. The person that I was speaking with mentioned that she had a list. I mentioned mine as well. We started comparing notes. It soon became obvious that hers was a little more detailed than mine. This point was made abundantly obvious when she asked me what was on my list. I didn't do too well.

Now, let me back up a bit and give some context. Like I said, this was a company function. Anybody who knows me knows that I work for a company full of drunks. Furthermore, anybody who knows me knows that I'm not above knocking a few back on occasion. This was one of those occasions. By this point in the evening I'd partaken of some of the food, and some of the drink. I'd managed to burn the roof of my mouth early on with some of the food, so it kind of hurt when I ate. This caused me to spend a little more time drinking than eating. I'm not saying I was drunk, just a little unfocused.

Now let’s get back to my original point. The person with whom I was speaking had just asked me what was on my list. All I could remember (in my semi-addled state) was "intelligent" and "a breeder". Have you ever said something and had the entire group of people around you lean back and just kind of look at you? Yup, that happened. Smooth Aaron, smooth. Fortunately, the person with whom I was speaking had the grace and poise not to call me a "male chauvinist pig asshole" in a loud voice and then storm off. She would have been justified, but she didn't. This allowed me some time to revise and extend my earlier remarks enough so that we managed to have a meaningful conversation for most of the rest of the evening.

Now when I first started thinking about these events I felt like my list was inadequate. The more I think about it I don't think so. If anything it may be too long. So here's my second whack at this. More or less I removed the things that ought to be obvious, and added on criteria.

  1. Intelligent -- I'm not saying she needs to be the next Einstein, but I'd like someone with whom I can have more than a 30 second conversation about the meaning of life.
  2. Sense of humor -- This is a must. I like to think that I have a sense of humor. It may be a little warped, but I like to think that I can take a joke. I would hope that the person that I end up with can laugh at the things in life that are laughable, and also laugh about the things that hurt as well.
  3. Interested in a family -- This is another thing that is very important to me. I'm ready to have a family. I've been ready for a while. I'd like to have children of my own and I hope to find someone that feels the same. When I originally wrote this on the window at work I wrote it as "a breeder", that was my idea of a joke. Like I said my sense of humor is a little warped.
  4. Not Insane -- Please notice that I didn't say she must be sane. I think sanity can at times be over rated. I'm just looking for someone who is reasonable to deal with 98% of the time. We all have our days.
  5. Open Minded -- While we all have our prejudices, I'm not interested in someone who is hopelessly tied to them.
  6. Something else -- There really needs to be that indefinable quality to this person. I know that statement is a total cop out. Let me try and explain myself better. Have you ever looked someone in the eye, and know that they perceive more than most people do? Their gaze seems to pierce. That's part of it, but not all of it. Have you ever watched a crowd of people laugh and see the one person that really gets the joke? That's part of it. Have you ever been telling a totally bullshit story to a crowd of people and see in someone's face a recognition that you are full of it, and know that they'd think it was funnier if they joined in, than it would be to point out the flaws in your story. That might be part of it as well.

Anyway, that's the new list. I'm sure this is something that I will continue to ponder, so I will probably revisit this topic.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

New music

A couple of weeks ago I was at a friends birthday party. Happy 30th Meg. While there I was bemoaning the lack of new music that didn't suck. I managed to run into someone who had their own radio show. I think her name is Amy, I think she was from Chicago, my recollection of the evening is a little fuzzy. Hi Amy. Amy took me under her wing, and made me a list of albums that I just had to get. There was one on her list, that I bet if there was a music store open at that hour, she would have drug me from the party and made me buy it right then and there. I've finally got to the point where I had time and give these bands a listen. I have to admit to being a little disappointed.

I learned a little trick from a friend of mine who owns a record store, and has a pretty eclectic taste in music. He claims that you can usually judge how good an album is going to sound by listening to the first 30 seconds of every track on an album. Yeah, I know this totally panders to the short attention span mentality of our world, but it really seems to work. Unfortunately none of her suggestions seem to pass the test. The first three bands Metric, Palomar and Hong Kong all sounded like their singer was a weak imitation of Debbie Harry from Blondie. They all had the same high, indistinctly angelic voice with not much to differentiate one song from the next. Hong Kong seemed to grate on my nerves the least, simply because the music had some differentiation from the mushy guitar/drums/vocals combination that they all seemed to have.

The last band, Broken Social Scene, kept my attention for slightly longer. At least their songs pass the 30 second test. I'm not saying that they are the next Beatles, but I managed to listen to their entire album without wanting to quickly track skip to find out if there were any better songs on the albums. They also seemed to mix it up a bit. All of the songs don't sound the same, while obviously coming from the same artist. Wait do I hear a banjo? Interesting. What have they done to this persons voice? Wow that sounds weird. I guess I have inherited my generation's short attention span. I really need some variety, something that grabs my attention.

OK, so then I went out and bought a couple of mainstream albums. The brand spanking new U2, and last years Ween. Once again I'm less than impressed with the new albums. U2 has so much potential, but this album just didn't seem to hit it. There are a couple of songs on there that grabbed my attention, but the rest seemed to meander about without much in the way of melody or direction. Oh well. Ween (one of my favorite bands) is always kind of a hit or miss affair. Some of their albums are insanely awesome, others are like "oh well, there are a few good tracks". The Mollusk is an insanely awesome album. Definitely in my top 5 albums of all time. Yeah I'm weird like that. Quebec, the album I just bought is just OK. Not bad mind you, but definitely not their best.