July 20, 2003

Like Television

While I wait for my first paycheck to arrive (one of the really annoying parts of going through a contracting agency), I'm in the mood for low-cost entertainment. I watched a recording of the movie Fahrenheit 451 that my computer made, and I'm slowly attacking the Project Gutenberg text of Anna Karenina. I'm converting my copy to an HTML version as I go, so there is at least some point in finishing it (there are other HTML versions out there, but they don't really follow the formatting style I prefer)…

I suppose that, in theory, I'm not supposed to understand the book. There are themes that I just have not had the opportunity to experience in life yet. (And at this rate…) But maybe I have not properly interpreted what other people said about the book. It so far seems to just be about princes and princesses—kind of odd material for almost anyone living in 2003.

I haven't managed to read any (non-technical) books for a while, so hopefully it will be entertaining no matter what…

I was sitting out eating lunch at Chipotle thinking that the United States has an entertainment culture, but then I remembered that we also work more than most other cultures. The dichotomy of working too hard and playing too hard is the best definition of the culture of the USA I can come up with at the moment…

Posted by mike at 12:33 PM Central | Books , Food , Movies | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 17, 2003

The House-Elf Liberation Front

Well, I'm halfway through Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, though I don't know when I'll get around to attacking the most recent book. Other than reading, today kind of just turned into another day.

I tried to drag myself out to do some stuff, but just ended up pacing around Best Buy a little, then going for a drive. It felt like a good day to get a bit lost, but it might have been more enjoyable if I'd turned on the A/C in my car. I ended up driving across the river on a bridge that has metal grating for the road surface. It's a bit creepy, since the grid seems to grab hold of the tires and wiggle the car from side to side.

Reminded me of something I saw on TV about the Mackinac Bridge, where the middle two lanes are metal grating. I've thought it might be fun to take a long weekend or a week to drive up to Duluth, through Wisconsin to Michigan, and then take the bridge south as I went through Detroit, then swung back to Minnesota by going through Chicago, Milwaukee, etc.

Though there are probably more exciting things I could do with my time ;-)

Posted by mike at 11:39 PM Central | Books , Car | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 20, 2003

Virus Warning

Came home today to find 46 messages in my inbox, most likely generated by the Sobig.F worm variant floating around now. Most of the messages were errors returning undeliverable mail. So, a worm is sitting on someone's computer using my address in the From: field, what fun.

I finished Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire yesterday night. Now that I'm done with that, I'll need to spend some time cleaning up in my apartment. Whee.

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October 04, 2003

Living Vicariously Through C-SPAN

Reading The Partly Cloudy Patriot, by Sarah Vowell…

So what does it mean that in the last twelve months I've taken trips to the sites of so many historical tragedies? Besides Gettysburg and Salem, I've dropped by Little Bighorn Battlefield (more ominous than Gettysburg in that a bunch of headstones mark the spot where soldiers in Custer's 7th Cavalry fell down and died); the North Dakota ranch where Theodore Rooselevt escaped when his wife and mother died on the same day; Dealey Plaza in Dallas; and the George W. Bush inauguration.

Hmm… Must remember to tune into This American Life on NPR sometime soon…

Posted by mike at 11:20 PM Central | Books | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 05, 2003

The American Way

Ah, Laundry Day, how I hate you.

I stayed up late reading the Sarah Vowell book. Cripes, this woman is my hero. I wish I had the vocabulary, travel experience, and knowledge of German existentialist cinema that she has.

The creepiest thing I learned: April 19th is “Patriot's Day,” at least in some states. That's the day in 1775 when the first shots were fired in the lead up to the American Revolution. Over 200 years later, Timothy McVeigh put a truck bomb in front of a federal building in Oklahoma City (though Internet research also shows that the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas was torched on that day a few years earlier). The incongruity with that and the new September 11th “Patriot Day” is disorienting.

I think I may have to read the book again. It's something I'd like to absorb more thoroughly.

Yesterday, I finally went to see Once Upon a Time in Mexico with my brother. It's a decent action movie, though the blood and gore factor was a bit higher than I expected. However, I have little doubt that a shotgun discharged at point blank range toward someone's kneecaps would probably have a similar effect to what was shown in the movie.

The most entertaining moment for me had to be when the Johnny Depp character was at a bullfight, wearing khakis and a t-shirt saying “CIA: Central Intelligence Agency,” as he laid plans for overthrowing the government. And, does he say “Savvy?” in every movie he's in?

After the movie, we went to Burger King, where I re-discovered the silliness that goes on in the fast food industry. I ordered a sandwich, an apple pie, and a small drink. The last thing I see before the price pops up on the little screen pointed at me is “MED COKE.” Medium? I wanted a small.

“I'm sorry, sir, we only have medium, large, and extra large. You can see it's not on the menu.” I mutter something about this being a letter-writing offense, but pay up. Later, when my food is ready, I tell her to tell her manager that I'd like to see small beverages back on the menu. She looks at me like I'm from Jupiter.

Despite cases being laughed out of courtrooms recently, fast food joint are not doing a good job of convincing me that there isn't a conspiracy to make everyone in America fat.

Posted by mike at 02:07 PM Central | Books , Food , Movies , September 11th , War | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

October 31, 2003

Do You Know Any Slow Or Special People?

Staying up late flipping through the channels, I came across some video on one of the public access channels of Al Franken when he came to town a few weeks ago.

So, you're asking, what would Stuart Smalley have to say to President Bush? Well, to get started:

Hello Me.
I'm President Bush
I haven't created any new jobs
But that's okay
Because I'm good enough
Smart enough
And doggone it
Almost half the people voted for me

It was mentioned that Bill O'Reilly had an odd interview on NPR. I listened to it and could tell it had been designed to be moderately confrontational, not unlike the setups that O'Reilly has on his own shows. Listening to it, I had to admit that he's pretty good at what he does, but there are inconsistencies in what he says versus reality. Towards the end of the scheduled interview period (30 minutes or so), he decides to shut down the interview, which was done via radio between two separate locations, so he only had to flip a switch. That's kind of funny, because the context of him quitting was some questioning along the lines of how he shuts out or shoots down any negative criticism so that he always gets the last word.

In fairness, you can't believe every word you hear from Al Franken's mouth. He's a comedian and a satirist. On the other hand, you can't believe every word you hear from Bill O'Reilly because he's a lying bastard. ;-)

Posted by mike at 01:45 PM Central | Books , News , Politics , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 02, 2003

And God Said, “Let There Be Google. And LexisNexis

I consumed yesterday. I guess I just needed to get out and feel the weight of something just purchased on my arms. They haven't been exercised with much else lately, so there you go.

Well, I guess I fell for the Frankenblitz advertising campaign, and went out and got his book. I think it's very good, though it would be very difficult to properly fact-check it (the book is, after all, satire which generally leads to the fact that some of the “facts” are not true—but they're funny).

Hmm… That's all I got.

Posted by mike at 12:32 PM Central | Books | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 04, 2003

I Renounce Jack Kerouac

Erin mentioning that Minneapolis/St. Paul is the most fun area in the U.S. seems prescient as I have recently hatched a plan to have fun and meet women. Well, sort of.

As you may have noticed from my previous entries, I've been listening to recordings of This American Life over the last few days. I've probably listened to a few more shows than is really appropriate, but I like listening to them. There are things that I need to do, but it's a really great show, and I recommend everyone listen to it once in a while. Old recordings are online and free (though with the rate I've been downloading them lately, I figure I should put up some cash to NPR sometime soon).

I really like these stories on the show. Thinking about it a bit, I realized that I've always liked listening to stories. I usually never have anything to say, but I enjoy the simple act of listening. Most of the time, at least.

Anyway, I came up with the great idea to go and attend readings of various things around town. I haven't really gotten started on this part of the plan, though. They don't seem to happen as often as I'd like, and while I like true storytelling, I'm not sure if I'd go for poetry or anything else. Maybe plays qualify too, I don't really know.

However, the bonus that I saw was that, if these readings occur in the right places, I might have a good chance of talking to other people. Possibly even people who are interested in the same things I am, though I doubt that many admirers of intricately weaved stories are also Linux hackers by day. Still, it's better than any other opportunity I've ever seen, since I've never felt comfortable strinking up conversations with people in places where it's loud and I have to yell to be heard even face-to-face.

Well, it's just a theory, or perhaps not even that far. Some experimentation is in order, in any case. This is all I've got at the moment.

Posted by mike at 10:21 PM Central | Books | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 06, 2003

And We End Tonight with Nazis on Trampolines

I somewhat randomly came across car-part.com today. You can easily see who has parts, and what price they are. Sweet. It looks like the junkyard near my hometown has a headlight assembly for $20, which is a steal. However, there's a note that says it's off a Z24 convertible, which might be slightly different…

Around noon, I drove over to Midway and did the necessary bits to get my driver's license renewed. I was curious what the experience would be like, mostly because of the image I had in my head from movies and TV. Trips to the DMV are always portrayed as walks into hell, where citizens are tortured by infinitely long lines moving backwards. However, I've never had that experience. Things have always gone smoothly for me (well, except for those first trips where I failed at my driving exams).

Once again, I didn't have any trouble at all.

After that, I went to Borders to pick up David Sedaris' book, Me Talk Pretty One Day. This is yet another consequence of me listening to way too much NPR stuff. Anyway, I looked around for the book, since Borders' computers told me that it was in stock. In the end, I didn't find it on the shelves, but I was being lazy. I picked up another book instead, Naked, and brought it to the register.

Now, as I took it to the counter, I was thinking about what the cashier might say. A lot of this thinking centered around the fact that David Sedaris is gay, and I am not. This is just one of those annoying latent prejudices that pops up once in a while because I grew up in a small town where the population was 99.8% white, and I didn't know anyone who was “out.”

In the end, I decided it was stupid to worry about it, and the cashier probably wouldn't mumble anything more than a few grunts at me anyway.

“Find everything okay?” she parroted.

“Yep.” I wanted to say no. I nearly piped up and mentioned that I was really looking for the other book. However, I'd been lazy. It was all my own damn fault for not finding everything okay.

“Have you read Me Talk Pretty One Day?” she asked as I handed her my money. “I thought it was hilarious.”

Dammit. Dammit. Dammit. She figured me out, sort of. I almost said, “Uh, yeah, that was the book I was really looking for,” but that would just reveal my true plan. Obviously. I stammered something about planning to “get it soon.”

“It's great,” she replied as she handed me my change. “I even think it's better than this book”

Gah! The death blow. And the transaction was over. Oh well, at least she was cute.

I smiled and left.

Posted by mike at 04:46 PM Central | Books , Car | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 17, 2004

Just the Fax Ma'am

Today has been even more laid-back. I suppose this is just about as low as I want to go in the activity department. At about this point, I have a tendency to just get tired out by doing nothing for too long and begin a downward spiral. So, I've been reading Catch Me If You Can, the book upon which the movie is based, not the other way around. I started in on it the other day, reading in bursts of a chapter or two when I get a chance. Since my grandparents have lost a fair amount of mobility over the years, my bed area downstairs hasn't seen much foot traffic except for my dad going in and out of his room from time to time. I've mostly just been sitting in one of the easy chairs with my headphones
on as I listen to the radio or a CD and read the book.

I'm kind of surprised by the radio stations around here. There doesn't seem to be a huge number of country staitons around. I guess it seems to be about the same ratio as I find in Minnesota. Still, the air is choked with various rock variants. Some are more geared toward the top-40s end, though most try to be fairly heavy rock or are some variation on classic rock or oldies. I'm appreciating the fact that the playlists are different than those in the Cities. Not quite as much overplaying of John Mayer Jack Johnson (or is that John Jackson? Reminds me of a Futurama episode or two ;-) Anyway, I've just gotten extremely annoyed by the Minnesota stations over the past several months since they beat their overly-short playlists into the ground.

A better strategy than restricting the playlist to 50 songs is to expand it. A lot. I need variety, dammit! It might be good to have scheduled times where certain genres are emphasized, though I'd hate to see certain songs essentially banned from daylight hours or whatever. Still, most stations make massive train wrecks most of the time when transitioning between songs. If scheduling is only going to happen on computers, then it's best to describe the songs in some way to prevent the new song from totally messing up the flow. Some simple beat and note (frequency) matching would be helpful.

WLRS 105.1 (“The Walrus” :-p) is now playing a new song I just heard on that Danville station the other night. Maybe we were all just going through a periodic drought period for new music. I suppose the aural pushers might take a break around Christmas. It would be nice to have some more stuff show up now. Ah. Then the segue to an aincent Red Hot Chili Peppers tune… Bleh.

Anyway, I'd read Catch Me If You Can. I guess I was surprised by the libidinous root causes of that whole escapade. That seemed to get glossed over from what I remember of the movie, though maybe I just try to avoid thinking about things like that. Reading the book yesterday definitely influenced my dreams last night. My mind gave me images I haven't had in a long while. They involved a girl I knew back in High School, though one I generally hadn't thought of back then. Still, I don't think I'd take this as a sign…she attended seminary after graduating from Byron :-p

Still, the book definitely reminds me that I'm not taking the appropriate chances to enjoy my life properly these days. Of course, this is another thing that seems to run in the family. Out of my dad and his brothers, only my father ever married. Both of his brothers (one older and one younger) are long-time bachelors.

My grandmother can't stop commenting on how she never knew that the younger brother, Joe, could cook. He's done a good job of preparing meals for us—often including a token amount of bacon ;-) Green beans, baked sweet potatoes, fried potatoes with vegetables, roast beef, and so on. Of course, it's not all exactly from scratch, but he's done a lot.

I should probably go see if I can help out with any of the repair/upgrade projects that are going on in the house. Dad was still slowly proceeding with installing new phone/fax lines upstairs so my grandfather could move his office up there if he wanted. His office is currently downstairs, though his space down there is much bigger than the room that he might move into later.

Posted by mike at 06:49 PM Central | Books , Family , Food , Kentucky 2004 , Music , School | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 18, 2004

Life, the Universe, and Everything

Another day, another (not) dollar. I guess I spent most of the day reading. I picked up Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary by Linus Torvalds and David Diamond several months ago, but never managed to get into it. I guess the introductory bits by David Diamond had turned me off, plus there was still some latent over-enthusiasm for the stock market and the represented businesses which had hit their high shortly before the book was finalized and sent to the printers. Still, it's a good book, and I'd recommend it to lots of people. Linus is definitely an entertaining character.

Not a whole lot was going on today in Kentucky, though my dad and I installed another handhold—this time in the master bathroom. I hadn't snuck into my grandparents' bedroom yet, so I didn't even know it was there. Anyway, this installation pretty much went off without a hitch—mostly since we'd done it twice before.

Like I said, I spent most of the day reading, though I guess I did more of it without my CD player upstairs rather than listening to the radio or CD with my earmuff headphones downstairs. My grandfather had gone into town to visit his broker and get a haircut, my dad was out at the hardware store, and my uncle Joe was still trekking back from Illinois where he'd spent the night (presumably working on something). I was upstairs to keep an eye or an ear or something on grandma, just in case she needed something. Mostly, I just sat in the other room and quietly read, since I was more in the mood to read rather than listen to her repeat her stories over and over.

I went for a walk in the afternoon when a physical therapist showed up to help my grandmother exercise a bit. I took a walk around the “block” (hard to call it a block, since it's one of those annoying suburban squiggle roads that loops back on itself) and visited the local convenience store for the hell of it. Man, I really need to get out and walk more often. One of my feet started hurting a little after a few hours, though I'm sure it won't bother me too much.

My dad and I will probably go into town tomorrow. Maybe we'll try to find an Internet café or something, but I'd still rather not put my computer on an insecure network. Maybe I should try to set up an IPSec gateway on my home firewall eventually. That would give me a minimal security net, though it would probably be impossible to get the different computers working with the same version. Plus, I'd have to recompile the kernel on that old box somehow, and I'd hate to disturb its uptime ;-)

Well, my uncle has laid down on the couch in the adjoining room, so I'd better stop typing so I can avoid keeping him awake…

Posted by mike at 08:30 PM Central | Books , Family , Hardware , Internet , Kentucky 2004 , Software | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 17, 2004

Diz-nee's Mikey Moose

Doing some reading. Er, transcribing. I took an old book from my grandparents' place when I was there last month. Nice to know entertainment was just as cheesy back then :-p

     Day by day he gazed upon her,
Day by day he sighed with passion,
Day by day his heart within him
Grew more hot with love and longing
For the maid with yellow tresses.
But he was too fat and lazy
To bestir himself and woo her.
Yes, too indolent and easy
To pursue her and persuade her;
So he only gazed upon her,
Only sat and sighed with passion
For the maiden of the prairie.
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Song of Hiawatha, 1855.

The story is about some of the legends of the Midwest, so I may as well read it. Supposedly, The Song of Hiawatha was a major contributor to the early tourist trade of Minnesota.

Posted by mike at 04:34 PM Central | Books | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

March 18, 2004

Black

Ugh. We had a power outage in my apartment building. It appears that only a few blocks were affected (maybe only ours), but maybe we were on the edge of something. Anyway, two of my three computers (er, three out of my four, if you count the laptop, but it's unaffected by piddly hour-long periods without current) are functioning now. One of them has experienced some hard disk corruption, it appears. Now, the challenge of finding a Linux recovery disk or CD that can handle the 200GB hard drive and the ATA133 controller.

Yay.

The moment of community togetherness involved in the outage was my joining Adam and Kari on a trip to a bookstore. Well, it was a place I'd never been before, which was something I needed anyway.

I almost picked up a book named Tube about the history of television, but it was a $30 hardcover and I figured my money could be better spent on other things at the moment.

I want money.

Posted by mike at 06:42 PM Central | Abode , Adam , Books , Hardware , Kari , Laptop , Software , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 27, 2004

Listening to the Liars

Interesting weather that we're about to be having, eh? Yesterday, I saw Ken Barlow on channel 11 explain the weirdness that we're going to be experiencing over the next few days. Hard to say if things will actually go this way, but supposedly temperatures will go from 40s and 50s today to 80s tomorrow, then back to 40s and 50s on Thursday. If I remember the explanation right, there was a big blob of hot air out west in California that was going to loop around a big high pressure area in the west and southwest, come north to Washington, east through Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota, and then push south through Minnesota. Then, cold air was supposed to quickly follow from Canada and take away the warm weather again.

If that forecast is right, it's pretty wacky.

Hmm. I got a Norwegian-English and German-English dictionary. Unfortunately, the Norwegian-English one is a lot older than I thought it was. It appears to have last been updated in 1974. It's the same book that my mom has used in the past, so I'd hoped that it would be newer. Oh well, it has both Boksmål and Nynorsk.

Posted by mike at 10:49 PM Central | Books , Weather | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 24, 2004

Mr. Dumas

Well. I went to the Minneapolis Public Library for the first time. I went to the central one in downtown since it's about as close as anything considering where I live. Plus the fact that the southeast branch is apparently a poor excuse for a library and doesn't have anything that I care about, apparently.

I was surprised to see something resembling a card catalog in the corner. I don't know if that's for the whole site or what. I have to say that I felt the library seemed pretty small. Then again, the Minneapolis library collection is spread out across several different branch locations. Maybe they just figure that's the best size.

Anyway, I was really confused by the “Central Mpls SC Coll” notation I got on some of the books I wanted (okay, most of the books I wanted). The library's website didn't explain what that meant. I finally asked someone at the library after searching high and low, then discovered that it meant “Special Collection,” which is up a floor.

So, I went upstairs and asked the first lady I saw about this book I was looking for. Of course, she's just a receptionist and I haven't even gotten into the Special Collection area yet. Grr. Turns out that they have some pretty restrictive hours. I guess it's open from 10 or 11 AM to 1 PM on Monday/Wednesday/Friday, and 1–5 PM on Tuesday/Thursday (or something like that). I was there at 12:54. Guess I'll go back tomorrow.

Oh well. I suppose I have to be made to feel dumb every once in a while.

Posted by mike at 02:23 PM Central | Books | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 26, 2004

Ride of the Valkyries

I'm baffled by the crap that American Movie Classics has been playing recently. I mean, Dudley Do-Right? Come on!

There seems to be an emerging relation between this AMC and that other AMC.

Had a job interview today at the U law school. It went okay, not great. Might have a second interview next week or so.

I went back to the library yesterday and read some more about the old streetcars that used to go through Minneapolis and other cities around here. I read through the book The Electric Railways of Minnesota, which turned out to be a much more technical book than I expected. Rosters of the different streetcars, where they came from, precise maps of the rails and streets of the era, construction of the railway. All sorts of stuff that would really excite some people, but I think most would get pretty bored by it.

There's a lot of really fascinating history to the old railway, but the human side of the story seems to be fading away in favor of business details (not really surprising though, since that book was compiled in large part by sifting through company records). Maybe I'm just looking in the wrong places.

Ugh. I'm tired and need a nap. I think I need to move this fall to someplace where there aren't school buses driving by every two minutes in the morning. I'm off the main drag here, but the noise carries across the park, everybody seems to keep their cars here during the day, and the noise from the school gets to be annoying sometimes.

I guess this is what you get for living in the city, but I know there are quiter places nearby. Still, a lot of people seem to think that the city absolutely must be noisy. There was an entry on LiveJournal's Twin Cities community about motorcycles, and I largely agreed with it. I hate loud motorcycles. There is no reason for a small two-wheeled vehicle to make more noise than the average semi. Still, everybody ganged up on the guy who complained. Sheesh. Motorcycles can be very quiet, and there are people out there who actually like to have quiet rides.

Posted by mike at 03:45 PM Central | Books , Movies , Self , TV , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)