Randomness at a grocery store, and the suckitude of life

At the grocery store this evening, between the frozen aisle and the canned goods, two women bumped into each other and started talking about a mutual acquaintance. “Has So-and so gotten married yet?” “No, she’s still not married.” “Really? That’s too bad.” “Yeah, i don’t know what it is. She has to find a husband some time.” “Maybe she’s just too picky.”

Dear God, I didn’t know there was anyone left like that in the world–not for real. Seriously. I thought that was something you’d only find on bad TV sitcoms. This is 2004, not 1904, right? Women do have value that doesn’t derive from their husbands, right?

Later, at the checkout line, the cashier looks at me and says “You know what’s interesting? All these countries that don’t like the USA, and say bad things about America, when something happens to them, who do they turn to? We give everyone in the world handouts and they still don’t like us. Like Russia. And why doesn’t Canada have its own army?”

The Universe of Suck Department: This weekend, Shelly and I were supposed to go to Atlanta with nihilus and phyrra so we could look at apartments, then from there up to Nashville to pick up their car. And as it turns out, next weekend I’ll be in Miami Beach with a client instead. Suck, suck, suck.

Yes, boys and girls, there really is something worse than reality TV

So last week, Shelly and I were over at M & S’s house, where we were treated to the Star Wars Holiday Special, first aired in November 1978 and never shown since. This movie is arguably the worst thing ever to be shown on network television–worse than Big Brother, worse than Barney, worse than the Super Mario Brothers TV show, worse than Starsky & Hutch and Hee-Haw combined.

The show, which was produced by George Lucas, is so awful that Lucas himself said if he had the time and money, he would “track down every copy of the show out there and smash it to bits with a hammer.” The premise: Han is trying to take Chewbacca home to visit his family for the Wookie holiday of “Life Day,” and gets sidetracked along the way dealing with Imperials and (in an animated sequence worse than the classic Hanna-Barbera saturday morning cartons, Boba Fett).

The show is done as a variety act, with long and mnd-destroying scenes of life on the Wookie homeworld (including a fifteen-minute-long conversation between Chewbacca’s wife and his son, in Wookie, with no subtitles), a transvestite Harvey Korman doing a Julia-Childs-esque cooking show about roast Bantha meat, Luke Skywalker with bleached hair and so much makeup he might as well be a transvestite, and, incredibly, Carrie Fisher trying to sing.

Yes, you read that right. Carrie Fisher, right in the beginning of her long slide into drug addiction, makes an appearance, glassy-eyed and so completely blitzed out of her mind that she can barely walk, and sings.

There’s a lot of singing here. Jefferson Airplane sings in a “Wookie Entertainment” scene. Bea Arthur sings in a bar, with footage spliced in from the original cantina in the movie–and they couldn’t afford to rebuild the entire cantina set as it was in the movie, so the design of the cantina keeps changing and parts of the cantina jump around every time the camera angle changes. (Why is she singing? Because the Imperials have closed down the bar. We know this because a bunch of stormtroopers are watching a film of the bar as part of a “moral education lesson.”)Diane Carol appears as a hologram inside some sort of gadget that Chewy’s father owns, which as near as I can tell is the futuristic version of a Playboy centerfold, and she sings.

And Han meets Boba Fett, on a planet which is for some unexplained reason entirely covered in six feet of red pasta sauce.

There’s enough material in the movie for perhaps fifteen or twenty minutes, stretched out to fill two hours that feel more like twelve. The show just goes on and on and on, and every time you think it can’t get any more dreadful, it does.

We definitely need to find a copy on DVD.

(Potentially) happy news…

So. three days ago, I get an email from an editor of PC Player magazine–they’re doing an article on geek wear, they want to feature the Villain Tees Web site, and could I please send him high-resolution press-ready CMYK TIFF images of the geek-related shirts on the site?

The Villain Tees ordering system has been b0rken for months, in part because I had to switch to a new screen printer and a new ordering system and I didn’t have the energy to fix it.

Fixed now; the ordering system is back online, the new screen printer is actually giving me a better price than my former screen printer was, and it’s ready to go. Be interesting to see if the magazine article actually drives people to the site…

The beach, Georgia, and urban decay Florida style

A couple days ago, Shelly and I went to the beach, and admired the sun setting over Clearwater’s urban decay. It was quite lovely (the urban decay, that is; Florida sunsets are always lovely), and the beach was utterly abandoned save for us.

My client–the electronics firm that wants to hire me and send me up to Atlanta–received notification last week that their venture capital funds had been transferred from the overseas VC group, so the move is on. Some of the principals of the company have been in Atlanta for the past several days, getting ready to sign the lease on the research and manufacturing facility they’ll be moving into; the place is nothing short of amazinf, a 33,000 square-foot, brand-new facility that’s completely gorgeous. Shelly’s been apartment hunting all week; we’re in the process of narrowing down the likely places to live, and we’ll be taking a trip up there in a couple of weeks to check out the places on the short list. phyrra and nihilus have volunteered to accompany us and help us look, which rocks.

On the one hand, not owning my own business is going to take some adjusting. on the other hand, the potential exists to make an absolutely obscene amount of money, and one of my contacts at another client (a large nationwide retail chain) is relocating to the client’s corporate office in Atlanta, so I’ll likely be continuing to work with him; since I’ll still have clients of my own in Atlanta, working for a startup is not as risky as it could be.

We’ve been spending a great deal of time with nihilus and phyrra lately, and not all of it has been playing World of Warcraft. 🙂 Spending the night at their house last night was absolutely delightful, and I’m really looking forward to continuing the trend. The friendships Shelly and I have been building with them and with S and her partner M, and the frienships we have with the Smoosh and other people in Tampa, are the most difficult part of leaving here for Atlanta; odds are good we’ll probably still be spending a great deal of time in Tampa even after the move.

American culture and the N-word

There is a word a simple two-syllable word starting with the letter “N,” thatcarries with it literally hundreds of years of associations and ideas about the role of a particular subset of people in society. the word carries connotations of race, class, and even social status, and at one time was applied only to a highly specific group of people.

The N-word word carries cultural connotations in modern American society that are increasingly divorced from its original meaning. The racial and cultural assumptions behind the word are becoming increasingly blurred; nowadays, in some subcultures, people may refer to one another by the N-word even when it’s clear that the word in its most basic meaning does not apply.

That word, of course, is Ninja.

I bring this up because New year’s Eve was the birthday celebration of cyber_wolf_2020 and datan0de, and the theme for the party was–you guessed it–ninjas.

When ninjas go wild, it is a frightening thing. Continue reading


Shelly wants to get rid of her problematic, virus-ridden, malfunctioning Sony Vaio system and start using my Mac G4 desktop in its place. The one thing standing in the way of doing this is World of Warcraft; the graphics card in the G4 isn’t good enough to play.

The difference between a Mac AGP graphics card and a PC AGP graphics card, besides the price, is just the software in the flash ROM on the card–the PC version contains Intel driver software, the Mac version contains Mac driver software. Since the video cards are firmware flashable, it’s possible to buy a PC AGP video card, get a copy of the Mac firmware as a ROM file, flash it onto the card, and end up with a Mac card.

Power Mac G5 systems come standard with an nVidia GeForce 5200 card, and you can buy the PC version of this card for about $80, so we bought a PNY GeForce card from CompUSA and set about installing the Mac firmware on it.

Doing this is A Big Pain In the Ass.

Problem 1; The nVidia flash ROM utility only runs from a floppy disk and only in DOS mode. Why PC users put up with crap like that, in this day and age, is beyond me. (The Mac version of the nVidia flash ROM utility works in the GUI just like any other program, but can’t be used because if you put a PC card in the Mac, you have no video until you run the flasher, and if you have no video, you can’t…err, run the flasher.)

Problem 2: Getting the Mac ROM image is A Big Pain In the Ass. It’s hard to find the ROM image because…well, I don’t know why. Apple goes after people who distribute the ROM image files, which is kind of weird because Apple does not sell video cards. If Apple did sell video cards, it’d make more sense, because Apple would have a vested interest in keeping people from buying PC cards and flashing them, but as Apple does not sell video cards except as included with Mac systems, this makes little financial sense.

And finally, after five hours of formatting floppies, installing the nVidia flasher utility, installing a PCI graphics card in the PC so I can flash the AGP card, and searching online for a kind soul with the Mac graphics firmware image, we come to Problem 3…

…which is that the GeForce card I bought is a PNY branded card.

Okay, just for the record: Never, ever, ever buy a PNY-branded video card.

A PNY-branded GeForce card is cheaper than, say, a Creative-branded GeForce card, and as it turns out, there’s a reason why. PNY, you see, uses different (cheaper) RAM and a different (cheaper) RAM controller on their video cards.

So, the firmware that turns a PC GeForce card into a Mac GeForce card works in any GeForce card except PNY-branded cards. PNY-branded video cards, when flashed with Mac firmware, won’t work, because the cheaper, slower RAM in the PNY-branded card is not accounted for in the Mac firmware.

Suck, suck, suck.

The good news: i kept a copy of the original PNY firmware, so I flashed it back and the card is good as new. We’re taking it back tomorrow. The bad news: Shelly still has to play World of Warcraft on her crap Sony PC, which is no end of aggrevating, and I’ll never have those five hours of my life back again.

Toward a Unified Understanding of the Human Condition

For thousands of years, scholars, philosophers, artists, and religious teachers have struggled to understand the human condition. Elaborate theories, both moral and pragmatic, have been propounded to explain the bredth and diversiy of the human condition; everything from battling angels and demons to the hidden workings of the id and the superego have been believed to be responsible for the things we feel and the way we understand and interact with the world around us.

All of those ideas are wrong, as I realized while showering this morning. The human condition is varied but bounded, and it took Hollywood to give us a model that explains the diversity of the human experience while also showing us how it’s bounded.

All of life, you see, exists somewhere within the space delineated by the movies Reservoir Dogs, Being John Malcovich, and The Princess Bride.

Each of these three movies represents the extreme outer limit of one aspect of the human condition. All of humanity–all religion, all philosophy, all creation, all expression, all experience–falls somewhere within the space marked off by these three movies.

The human condition is not represented as a three-dimensional spece with each of these movies along one axis, because no part of the human condition can fall at the origin of such a space; that is, nothing within the human experience contains no relevance to any of these three movies. Instead, if some part of the human condition has very little, say, Reservoir Dogs in it, then it follows logically that it must therefore contain a great deal of Being John Malcovich, The Princess Bride, or both, as illustrated below:

Continue reading