Monday, August 28, 2006

Ernesto looks like it won't hit Hotlanta after all

So all you lovely folks going to Dragon*Con just enjoy, have a fun time, and make sure you bring a slicker to wear over your costume because you'll probably just get a "big wet rainstorm," like the folks in that one Daria episode got.

The way the storm track has been going, perhaps it will just boomerang off into the Atlantic and die. Good. After last year the less, the merrier.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Uh-oh...Ernesto may crash Dragon*Con

Guess who's coming to dinner...

Everyone is very relieved to see that Hurricane Ernesto is not really likely to follow in the footsteps of Hurricane Katrina and make a trip to New Orleans. Certainly those concerned about Gulf of Mexico oil platforms and potential interruptions/oil spills are breathing easier too.

However: there is one big event that Ernesto might be gunning for, and that's Dragon*Con.

My Cartoon Geeks buddy Tom Reed is going, as are most of the geeks on the Eastern Seaboard. Dragon*Con is to the East Coast what San Diego Comic-Con is to the West Coast. It's smaller than SDCCI, but it's not really smaller by that much.

Dragon*Con starts on September 1st. If you look at the chart (go ahead, click it!) you see where Ernesto will potentially be hovering on that date...a little bit north of Atlanta.

This doesn't look pretty. Hopefully Ernesto will lose its punch before it makes it there.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Rejuveniles in the pre-apocalyptic zone: Is anyone surprised?

Today someone basically gave a name to people like me. I'm a "Rejuvenile." w00h00. Someone's got my number. Someone's been watching me for the past 30 some-odd years. Yeah, Chris Noxon, preach on. You're preaching to the choir here.

A "Rejuvenile" is a person who's supposedly too old for things like toys, comic books, anime, cartoons, fantasy, and so forth, yet doggedly pursues them anyway. A "Rejuvenile" drives around in a cute little car like a Mini or a New Beetle or a Fit or rides a Vespa. A "Rejuvenile" bakes cupcakes or goes to a hip bakery to get them, and washes them down with Producer's Dairy chocolate milk...the stuff with Hopalong Cassidy still emblazoned on the carton. Don't look for it locally here in have to go to Fresno to find it. A "Rejuvenile" doesn't get together with buddies from the Alma Mater to play nine holes at Riviera, he gets together with his friends and plays kickball.

Is anyone surprised by this?

It seems like the "Rejuvenile" thing got mainstream in the wake of 9/11. I haven't heard official figures but the estimates were that 110,000 to 130,000 people attended San Diego Comic-Con this year. Last year's confirmed total was 104,000 people. It's not just the geeks and the Otakus that have rejoined the ranks of the "Rejuvenile." It's parents with kids and the whole family Cosplays.

What exists for those who are adults in this day and age?

As I wrote to the author of the book Rejuvenile as a response to a post on his blog:

No, I think that people are embracing a second childhood because the terrain of adulthood in the Third Millenium is a scary freaking place, and death is as real and palpable as the images burnt in our brains by the TV news on 9/11/2001 and 8/29/2005. (Hurricane Katrina is the second date for those for whom that date is not burnt into their cerebrums.)

The world is a more dangerous, scary place than it ever has been. Who the hell wants to be an ADULT now? People are looking for comfort wherever they can find it. What's more comfortable than eating cereal out of a box on Saturday Morning in your footies at ungodly-o-clock? What's more comfortable than a chocolate cupcake with rainbow jimmies? What's more comfortable than a pair of Vans' Off-The-Wall skater shoes, jam shorts and a faded old Led Zep T-Shirt?

We are becoming Rejuvenile because we crave what we lost as adults, and what recent history has taken from us. We are becoming Rejuvenile because death indeed lives on our shoulders now. For all of us, not just for Don Juan and Carlos Castaneda.

I am a geek, so much so that my identity online is "Ms. Geek" So many of the current Rejuvenile trends can be traced back to geek/nerd/Otaku tastemaker roots. And before this, to the Fandom that helped make Star Trek an institution and Sci-Fi reading material for a whole generation. Geeks and Otaku and Fannish Folk have always been the disaffected, the ones for whom the "mundane world" seemed colorless and a living tomb. None of us wanted to grow up because dammit, the grown-up world was screwed up. That's what it seemed like from the perspective of someone whose formative years were bookended by Vietnam and the rise of Reagan. And the truth of the matter is that aside from a brief shining moment of Clintonian optimism as the dot-com boom galloped and freedom seemed to be on the move in places like Russia and Eastern Europe, it's gotten worse and worse and worse.

People don't leave Mom and Dad's house because they want to stay there forever, unless you are an Italian male. People live under Mom and Dad's roof here in the States because they can't afford to strike out on their own.

People collect comics and lunchboxes and toys because it's a cheaper thing to collect than antiques and Expressionist paintings. The Rejuvenile lifestyle is not cheap-cheap unless you do things yourself and resist the temptation to blow money on that DVD box set or that Parks Sabers Luke Skywalker replica lightsabre, but it's a more econo lifestyle than others. Bling bling? Ka-ching. It's indulgences that people with lowered expectations and living with the reality of downward mobility can afford.

We know we're mortal. We know it will all be over someday. We dread the end but we dread the period before the end the most: the "assisted living facilities" and worse; the very real possibility of dirt poverty at one's twilight years, of cat food in a Single Room Occupancy hotel room. We know we're going to die and we know we are probably going to have a crappy old age. So why not postpone it all? Why not just cut out the boring, drudgy "adult" years and be a kid until our bodies don't allow us to anymore?

There is a dark reality to which the Rejuvenile lifestyle is a reaction. Does that mean it's dysfunctional? I'd say that people could choose worse and more maladaptive coping mechanisms than this.

The words of Tom Waits, in a song that could be an anthem for the Rejuvenile Nation, say it better than I ever could. Follow the link.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

School is fast approaching...

Wow. Where did the freaking summer go?

Tomorrow I'm going to be going to Woodbury at Nine Freaking O'Clock in the freaking morning to attend an orientation for people manning the Woodbury info booth. I'm also going to make it official and bail from Psychobiology. I hate doing that because one of my favorite Woodbury profs is teaching it, but then again it's a 9AM class and I'm simply not a morning person. I won't be able to do anything about it when I'm finally done with college and I have to re-enter the workaday world, but now I can schedule my life in such a way that I don't have to take early classes.

I was partially successful in tidying up the Lab. It's still a cluttered mess but not as bad as it was.

When this interface works, it's really, really nice. Of course, when authentication gets all stuffed up and I can't log in, it stinks. Thanks, Blogger...or at least, I think I'm thankful anyway.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Cutting through the clutter, one step at a time...

Thanks to the miracle of Craigslist I was able to offload a whole bunch of books I'm not going to need anymore. Au revoir, MCSE study books. Hasta la bye-bye, obsolete computer books. I kept most of my Linux books except for the really old ones. I even kept a compact but informationally dense book on Windows 2000, imagine that.

I still have a pile of books in the front room, but it's much smaller now. The majority of them are old textbooks I didn't part with for any number of reasons.

I haven't been able to get through all of the clutter I have wanted to this Summer. However, I have managed to make some progress. I still wouldn't invite someone here to hang out just yet. But it's getting better.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

We became snakes...

OK, here's my review.

1.) It's silly but it's not especially campy. The humor is all in the absurdity of the scenario.

2.) It's technically OK but you can definitely tell when a live snake was used in a scene and when CGI snakes were used. The CGI snakes had hints of "video game character" all over them.

3.) Nobody could have pulled this movie off but Samuel L. Jackson. In a lot of respects he's what elevates this above and beyond the schlock barrier. Great acting, with little hints of that good comedic sense he displayed at Comic Con when they did the panel.

4.) The director really got acquainted with Sam Raimi's style of directing when he did this. In fact I think the only person who could have made this better would have been Sam Raimi. Maybe they'll hire him when they do the inevitable sequels from Special Agent Flynn's case file.

5.) If you want a good idea of what you are in for, think the original Poseidon Adventure or the Airport movies instead of Airplane! This is a reboot of the '70s staple, the disaster film, not a spoof. If you've seen any of the originals from the period you'll know what you are looking at.

6.) I'm sure getting Keanu Reeves to portray the surf rat dude would have cost way too much for the budget. But that role was made for him. Maybe he'd be a bit too old for the role by now. In that case, the guy who got the role was just fine.

7.) No matter how prepared you are for the catch phrase, it's still effective. Although in my opinion the best line is actually "Fucking snake! Get off my dick!"

Was it worth the $15 for the both of us? Yeah, it was. Is it high art? Nope. Is it a mythological journey with a universal message? No freaking way. It's just your basic grindhouse disaster movie and if you come looking for anything else you will be disappointed. However, if you come looking for your basic grindhouse disaster movie you will be richly rewarded.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Snakes all over the Web...

I haven't been able to get to the theatres to see Snakes on a Plane yet, but I'm going tomorrow morning to my local megaplex ('nuff respect for the Mann Plant 16 in Panorama City!) to check it out during the first matinee. My hubby is getting all romantic and telling me to "consider it a date." OK, cool. Lunch and a movie. It's been a while since I've done that.

Of course, the fan action is at Snakes on a Blog. Some folks in Seattle got all Star Wars on it and lined up for SoaP at the Cinerama Theatre, which is owned (like about half of the city) by Paul Allen, formerly of Microsoft.

The movie is also surprisingly keeping a "fresh" profile on Rotten Tomatoes. Usually critics don't like getting shut out of a movie, but a lot of critics seem to be enjoying the movie anyway.

Here's a little bit of fan art I came up with:

Click it to see it in all its glory.

I still want to write a fic where Mace Windu has to deal with an attempt on his life on a starship bound for the tourist paradise planet of Naboo. And of course, the weapon chosen by the still-in-hiding Sith? Snakes. Snakes on a Starship. It's a natural. I took a few whacks at it but I suppose it really does require seeing the movie first. Of course, when it's finished, it'll be linked here.

Until tomorrow...sssssssssssss....

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Totally delighted with my new (to me) Mac...

I now have a fairly capable Mac to work with. An iMac is not usually what you would consider a "power user's" computer, but there you go. It's got a 500MHz IBM PPC G3 proc and now has 768MB of RAM now that the DIMM arrived.

There are some definite quirks about this machine. The specs are actually consistent with an iMac released in Europe, although it came with a plain-Jane slot loading CD-ROM as opposed to a CD-RW like the original spec says. Apple makes educational-only machines from time to time, and they are usually bare-bones affairs.

Now that the upgrades have been done, however, it is a more capable machine. It will get external storage upgrades which will make it even more capable: a DVD-/+RW/RAM drive and an external 120GB hard drive.

This should hold me until I get a MacIntel. I'm hoping to get one as a grad gift in 2007.

Update: here's my desktop. I don't know why I get such perverse pleasure in decorating my desktop but I do.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

25 computers in 25 years or less: what I think of PC World's list.

OK, PC World joined the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the first IBM PC (Five-slot, 5150) with their list of the 25 Greatest Personal Computers.

When you put the word "greatest" on any list, you are begging to have people take pot shots at you. So here are my shots at their list.

First off, I agree with their number one. The Apple II was the first practical personal computer. The Apple I came as a kit. The rest of them (Altair, Imsai, etc.) were basically geek toys, at a time when most geeks were either HAM Radio enthusiasts, model train buffs, electronic kit builders or in Fandom. The Apple II came into its own because it had a "killer app" -- VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet program. This is what got it in the door in businesses where other less capable, more toy-like computers were stopped at the door.

The Trash-80 Model I is on the list too even though it was not a very capable machine. It was the first personal computer I spent quality time with, although I never had one. In fact, although my first encounter with a PC was in 1978, it took me 9 frustrating years to have a computer of my very own. Which turned out to be an IBM PC 5150 that my uncle didn't want to move to his new office because it was broken. "Fix it and it's yours." He threw in a brand new Tandon amber-screen monochrome monitor. What a guy. A PC for $200 in 1987 dollars. SCORE! W00t! The tough little guy wound up getting a replacement power supply, a serial mouse, a hard drive, a 1200Kbps modem, an Epson 9 pin dot matrix printer, a Hercules Monographic Card (Graphics! Yes!) and lots of time on BBSes.

My first experience in geek lust was for the Macintosh, though. Somehow the world of DOS and GEM and all the kludgy ways you did graphics in DOS-land was pretty grim compared to the effortless nature of graphics and sound on Mac. It took me until 1995 to have a Mac of my own, and to compensate I began to collect vintage Macs. I have a ton of them that I am going to clear out in the not too distant future because I know now I don't have the time or the skills to get them in fully functional order. I'm going to pare down to just the ones I know I will have some use for. The rest go out the door. I have to get a handle on this clutter and this is the only way.

The one Mac that should have been in the top 5 but wasn't was the Mac that saved Apple: the Rev A iMac. The Bondi Blue gem that looked like nothing that had existed up until the time, was often imitated, surpassed only by each further iteration of iMac. I am the proud owner of a Lime Rev D 333MHz and an Indigo 500MHz 2001 edition. I mean, I liked iLuxo when it came out. It was striking and beautiful and a wonderful re-imagination of the concept. Even iMac was an evolution and not a revolution: it owed its "DNA" to first the original Mac, then the other all-in-one Macs that followed, from the sublime to the ridiculous. They tip their hat to the "gumdrop" iMac in the honorable mention list, but it deserves better.

They also missed the iBook/MacBook completely. OMGWTFBBQ? O RLY? YA, RLY. The PowerBook made an appearance with the PB100, but that was it. They honored the eMate but not the "Clamshell" iBook, a real masterpiece of form and function which was "nigh invulnerable" ala The Tick. (A necessity for a computer designed for K-12 students) The "Clamshell" had two drawbacks: its weight and the intricate way the innards were engineered to protect them from harm. You would think the second drawback wouldn't be a drawback: again, designed to take punishment. However, it makes the machine a nightmare to work on, a fact revealed when I went looking for someone to upgrade the one I got from my Aunt Karen after she "upgraded" to a Sony VAIO laptop. I found intrepid souls willing to take the machine on, but they are in South Carolina. The work was done with the help of FedEx and DHL.

Not to make this article too Mac-centric, I will turn my attention to an entry I largely agree with, but only have little quibbles about. The Thinkpad, at least while it was still an IBM product (yeah, I know that Lenovo was one of the companies they outsourced manufacture to a few years before Lenovo bought the Thinkpad and other Think* lines from IBM, but hear me out...) was the Ne Plus Ultra of x86 notebooks. Built like tanks but often light enough to forget you have one in your backpack, they just plain rocked. The story of the Thinkpad is pretty neat, here's the link.

Anyway, the initial release Thinkpad, the 700, made it on the list. While it's a good choice, I can think of a better choice and a best choice. Here's what I wrote about the choice on Slashdot.

The 600 series Thinkpad, released at the height of the Dot-Com Boom, has got to be the epitome of Thinkpad-dom. It was light, (5 pounds!) it was versatile, it could run as a "3 spindle machine" (HD, Optical and Floppy) if you put the Floppy Drive in an external case that connected to a proprietary connector by a cable. During the Dot-Com Boom, the 600 series Thinkpad was a status symbol. It was the laptop the Big Dogs carried, unless they were Mac fans in which case they'd have a "Wallstreet" PowerBook.

The 600 series was the first to have official instructions on the IBM website on how to install Linux. (Red Hat, for the curious.) There was always a problem with the quirky sound chip, and it took IBM years to put out a driver (F/OSS, to their credit) for the MWave modem chip. Red Hat actually "certified" the 600 series Thinkpad, in spite of those problems.

The 600 "DNA" was transfered to the T series of Thinkpads, a series still in continued manufacture by Lenovo. Whether the T60 is a worthy member of the line is something the jury's still out on, but the T4x series remain classics.

Yes, the 700C was first. The 701C with its "butterfly keyboard" had more panache, and might have been a better choice for the Thinkpad niche. But the 600 series would have been the best choice of all, because it's the beginning of a continuum of perhaps the "best of the best" of the whole line.

It's getting late (or early, whatever...) so I'd better wrap this up with my additional OMGWTFBBQ what were they thinking? list.

1.) MIA: the White Box/Frankenbox/Homebuilt PC Compatible. It wasn't IBM or Apple or Compaq or Commodore or even Dell who opened PCs to the Great Unwashed. No, it was the shop around the corner run usually by a Mom and Pop who could put together a computer for you from mostly Taiwanese and Chinese parts. And if you were sufficiently geeky or had geeky friends, you bought your parts from said Mom and Pop and did it yourself.

The advent of this new era of "homebrew" computers didn't come on all at once. It was an extension of the upgrade trade. Just as you can go into a shop specializing in Volkswagen aftermarket parts and build yourself an entire old-school Beetle, eventually it got to the point where you could build the whole thing out of aftermarket upgrade parts.

Microsoft has a major hate going for the screwdriver shops and for computer fairs/swapmeets. Their BSA goon squad is not primarily geared towards stamping out "piracy" among either casual users or in offices...this "piracy" has helped gain Microsoft their Goliath-like market share of both operating systems and Office suites. And they haven't even made a dent in places in the Third World where less-than-legal copies of their software glut the market. But the biggest target for the BSA is the Mom and Pop screwdriver shop.

The screwdriver shops have fought back, after a fashion, by going online. NewEgg, the mecca for gaming geeks looking to trick out their systems, started off as a screwdriver shop. So did PC Club. These big operators now can go toe to toe with Microsoft and get the special rates the big manufacturers get on OEM copies of Windows XP they provide with systems. But the little guys are getting busted again and again, sometimes for specious, questionable reasons. Hence the screwdriver shops are closing down left and right, and the once mighty computer fairs are shutting down.

However, as the screwdriver shop fades into history, something the homebuilt computer is not bloody likely to do until and unless really onerous, legally mandated DRM finishes the job, we must acknowledge its contributions to the universalizing of the x86-based PC of these humble entrepreneurs. Screwdrivers high! Salute!

2.) Where's the Osborne? Putting the Kaypro into the article and not Osborne is like putting the cart before the horse. Osborne got there first. The luggable never would have had its moment in the sun had it not been for little Osz. Yeah, Osborne stole its idea from Xerox PARC. So did everyone else. Next!

3.) The MITS Altair 8800 was NOT a personal computer. It was a GEEK TOY. A personal computer allows you to do useful things. The Altair just sat and flashed lights and beeped. Period. End of line.

4.) VAIO. Good god, man, Toshiba was there first with the Libretto in 1996, and there have been more stylish little lappies before and since. Sony is NOT a PC company and never should have become one. They also spoiled their home electronics line, which was the envy of every other manufacturer by buying first CBS Record Group, then Columbia Tri-Star Pictures, then the Bertlesmann Group, then MGM Pictures. Sony became Big Media and they acquired an endless thirst for DRM everywhere like the rest of Big Media. The desire for more DRM everywhere has led to the scuttling of promising technologies like MiniDisc, and has made the geek community more suspicious about new Sony technologies like Blu-Ray.

VAIOs would still suck even if Sony wasn't a content owner. They are prissy little things made to look good but not to last. They are almost as fragile as Dell's low-end line but sold at premium prices. At least when Apple makes a computer some"Metrosexual" they build it well, although some would say that this fact about Apple is changing thanks to explodey batteries, short-happy power supplies, and humming, mooing, and roasty-hot MacBooks and MacBook Pros.

I guess the rest of the list I can take or leave. And PC World came up with another list of the 25 worst tech products earlier this year that I cannot disagree with at all. They hit some of the real howlers, although they missed a few things here and there. (Road Apples, anyone?)

Wow, this article turned out huge.