Showing posts from 2016

Things That Are Nice: Day 25

Happy holidays one and all. I hope you all had as pleasant and quiet a Christmas Day as I did.

I fed the rats an entire (small) pot pie. At first they were confused. There is fud in r bol? But its closed? But the lid is also a fud? They eventually figured it out by chewing on it, which is how they figure out most things they can't turn over. Later on, I fed them some of the strawberry yogies, which may be their new favorite thing on earth.

My college Watson loves her Christmas gadget, and informed me that the reason mine hasn't shown up yet is that the game isn't released until the 30th, and Amazon won't let her gift it until then. One of my roommates got word that her UMass application was received and is crossing her fingers for a transfer. The dishes ares all done. The world has not yet ended.

I am posting this (carefully!) from a hot bath with the new Kindle. I've already queued up the Saturday auto-posts for 2017, which will be music, since YouTube has conveni…

Things That Are Nice: Day 24

Inasmuch as it's actually Christmas Eve now -- and I'm going to be spending the evening standing at the door of the Somerville Theater handing out programs at the Slutcracker -- I'm just going to link to Google's Santa Tracker and leave you all to tinker with it. No equivalent for my Jewish friends, I'm afraid; your kids all know where their Hanukkah presents come from.

Happy holidays!

Things That Are Nice: Day 23

Ratmas is coming!

The critters got their cage decorated today, as I'm doing things tomorrow, and am probably not going to feel like doing anything even remotely useful on Sunday. I apologize for being a rubbish photographer. This was also a test of the Kindle Fire camera, which turns out to be much better at capturing images in dark environments such as, for instance, the interior of a rat cage that has a fleece blanket thrown over the top.

Cut for an extremely photo-heavy entry.

Things That Are Nice: Day 22

Pretty much anyone who has ever played more than one video game has had at least a passing thought about making one themselves. I can't speak to arcade-style shmups, and I don't have much practical experience with things like Unreal Engine. The RPG Maker line is sadly too expensive to use as a toy for me to tinker with. 
Fortunately, I am a drooling fan of various kinds of visual novel games, both of which can be produced with free software and distributed to a variety of platforms. 
Pure text games can be put together with Inform 7, a scripting engine that specifically aims to be as English-like as possible. It's got stricter syntax than actual English does, and assumes some very specific meanings for certain words, but the end result is indeed readable -- although if you're really determined to dig into the guts of Z-code you can fix that. Inform compiles games into code intended for a Z-machine of one version or another, and they are played with whatever happens to …

Things That Are Nice: Day 21

This guy is great. He runs this channel, all about old games, computers, and peripherals like early digital cameras, along with a sister channel called 8 Bit Keys, which is all about early digital music and synthesizers.

I freely admit this is nerdy as fuck. History of media technology was actually my focus as an undergrad, which probably explains about 90% of why I had to take a build-your-own degree if I ever wanted to get out of there.

Things That Are Nice: Day 20

Have some friends of mine at Flat Earth Theatre presenting Lovecraft's Unnamable Tales! No, I don't know anyone normal anymore. They were actually asked to perform this show for Google, which has an office in Kendall Square, Cambridge.

Things That Are Nice: Day 19

It still startles me when people give me birthday and Christmas presents. It particularly startles me when someone sends something off my Amazon Wish List. I have things on it mostly out of social pressure. It's not that I don't like stuff; it's just that I don't see the point in sitting and meditating on how much I want something I can't shell out for just then, so the things on there are things that would be nice to have, but I'm not particularly hoping to get them.

One of them happened to be on a large attention-getting sale when I put it on there. The first I found out about it was when they teleported a box to my porch in what I estimate was less than a day after the order was put in. Amazon scares me sometimes.

In any case, it's a 5th Gen Kindle Fire, which is essentially an Android tablet with a pair of flimsy Groucho glasses on by way of disguise. I had it less than twenty-four hours before I scaled the fence of Amazon's little walled garden and…
Addendum to the addendum: If anybody wants the PlayBook. I'd be happy to trade you for a Fire case. Kindle Fire 7" 5th gen (2015 release), black, book-style, convertible/with stand, please. Pockets are nice but not necessary. Don't care about a stylus holder, don't care if it's leather or "leather" or nylon. Actual Kindle case required; generic ones all assume a much larger bezel than it has.

16GB PlayBook comes with OEM folding travel charger (1A wall plug; does not like charging on only 500mA when hooked to computer USB 2.0 ports) and generic convertible case, and is remitted as-is, i.e., according to tonight's tests screen lights up about 50% of the time when you poke the power button. AFAICT, brain is fine, battery is fine, all power connections are fine, LCD touchscreen is physically fine, dodgy bit is somewhere either in the contact under the power switch or the ribbon cable carrying video signal. If you are brave and/or foolhardy, you can get …
Addendum: In some sort of bizarre show of solidarity, the 16GB Blackberry PlayBook I inherited from a deadbeat roommate has spontaneously un-bricked itself. I have no idea how or why. It developed black screen o' death issues a while ago, and none of the force-boot methods worked, so I left it alone. The only reason I had it out was to steal the case to use for the new Fire until I could get one that fit properly. It's unreliable and has an interesting little red chevron smudge in the upper left corner, but it does definitely still think it's a tablet. Good for it, I guess?

Things That Are Nice: Day 18

An Incomplete List of Things That Make Rats Happy:

FoodA small dish of snowDiscarded wine corksContainers that previously held foodWrapping paperEar scritchesFoodUsed tea bagsCardboard boxesStrawberry yogurt treatsFoodFlannel blankets with pre-chewed holesEmpty oatmeal cannistersFoodLoveFood

Things That Are Nice: Day 17

Yesterday, I went Christmas shopping with friend of mine who had not yet seen the glory that is Primark. UK readers, are your Primarks as full of Lurex as the one in Boston? Also, mermaid scale sequinned sweatshirts, and holographic sneakers. The floors back in the fitting rooms have glitter ground into the carpet. Mind you, I am not complaining. If I had more money, I'd be knee-deep in shiny gold sweaters right now. I took this particular friend down there because she was told as a child that sparkly things are for looking at, not for wearing, and since finding out that she was tragically misinformed, she has been making up for lost time.

We also strolled around a bit downtown, because downtown Boston takes Christmas extremely seriously, and there are about five fully-decked Christmas trees within maybe a square mile, that I know of, plus they throw lights in all of the trees on Boston Common. I was going to include one of the photos I took of the official Boston tree, but I am …

Things That Are Nice: Day 16

This is Ashens. Ashens also takes things apart, like yesterday's Big Clive, but the things he takes apart are mostly boxes. He likes to go to Poundland and buy loads of interesting-looking crap to test. Sometimes people send him foreign snack food to try -- mostly he does, although a couple of times he's proven too canny to open mystery cans that already reek of fish.

Ashens is so famous for opening boxes on YouTube that he's been given access to boxes in the Computing History Archive for opening purposes, which he does with great glee.

Things That Are Nice: Day 15

This is Big Clive. Big Clive is a Scottish man who takes things apart. Some of the things, as above, go bang. Most of them don't, but the innards are interesting. Watch Big Clive if you want to know what's inside a lot of cheap Chinese gizmos and random junked gadgets.
Someone just asked me tonight, and yes, I do have an Amazon wishlist. There's not a lot on it. I've basically quit wanting things I can't afford, in self defense. Amazon credit would always be used for something, and the local grocery store here is a Shaw's/Star Market, although Peapod also delivers to our place.

I asked the rats, and while they did manage to give me a single crumpled, paw-printed piece of paper, with wee little toof marks all around the edges, the only thing they wrote on it was "fud". So I've taken the liberty of adding some other rat supplies to their list -- bedding, boxes, the blankets I use as cage covers, and some of the random stuff I feed them.

Things That Are Nice: Day 14

Makeup makes me stupidly happy. No, I don't know why. It's really just pigment and paint in tiny packages. But I buy it all at CVS, which means it's also cheap, so I suppose I might as well.

I have actually found a foundation that matches me and covers my freckles. It's cheap (from Rimmel of London, their drugstore brand) and moreover it was on sale. Usually foundation is too pink or too yellow for me, and it takes me forever to find someone who makes the shade "light porcelain", i.e., "one step above blending white". If it needs to be thicker, I have a little pot of Physician's Formula talc-free powder, and if it just needs to be more matte, then I have some e.l.f. HD translucent setting powder.

Weirdly enough, the best highlighter palette I have is also the best eyebrow palette I have. Physician's Formula Shimmer Strips in nude. If you're a redhead, I recommend giving up on eyebrow pencils -- they will never be coppery enough -- and do…

Things That Are Nice: Day 13

I've been keeping myself occupied with large amounts of 『名探偵コナン』, ("Detective Conan" in translation; "Case Closed" in the unexpectedly good dub). It follows the cases of high school detective Kudou Shinichi, after he is given an experimental drug by a group of bad guys known only as the "Black Organizatoin" and de-aged into a boy of about six. They seemed to think the stuff killed him and he does his best to keep it that way, pretending to be the grade-schooler "Edogawa Conan" and staying with his best friend/might as well be girlfriend Mouri Ran and her father Kogoro, who works as a private detective. Shinichi/Conan helps (well, "helps") Kogoro solve cases with the aid of gadgets provided by his friend and next-door neighbor Professor Agasa, and occasionally a gang of kid detectives who latched onto him in school.

The most pleasing thing about this series is that nobody in it is stupid. I am easily irritated by mystery series in …

Things That Are Nice: Day 12

This is a comedy letsplay (a streamed video of someone playing a video game, with commentary, if you don't follow the scene) of Castlevania 64. Castlevania 64 is a notoriously shitty game, and this amuses me for no other reason than Evil Tim here continually points out every last way in which it is a shitty game, for our edification. He also suffers through Legacy of Darkness for the sake of the audience.

Things That Are Nice: Day 11

This is a band called Ninja Sex Party. I am not kidding. They are hilarious. NSP is composed of Danny Sexbang, aka Daniel Avidan, and Ninja Brian, aka Brian Wecht.

Dan is probably better known as Not-So-Grump of Game Grumps, which he hosts with his friend Arin Hanson. If the two of them aren't listed under Heterosexual Life Partners on TV Tropes, they should be. Hanson used to host GG with JonTron, and when JonTron left to do his own thing, he remembered thinking NSP was hilarious, and sent a message to Avidan. Who, as it turned out, used to listen to Hanson's previous podcast. When they finally met in person they were each desperately trying not to fanboy-drool all over the other one, and mostly failing.

There are many, many Game Grumps playlists out there, including a Best Of. If you really want to see into the depths of their psyches, hunt down one of their Zelda playthroughs. Zelda games for some reason turn into Confession Time. Highlights include the time in Wind Waker …

Things That Are Nice: Day 10

Linky linky if that doesn't work.

I am forever tempted to do this. Corner people I think are awesome, and tell them in great detail why I think that. I almost never do it -- most people get severely weirded out over it, and it's not worth the awkwardness. But Stephen Colbert got the chance to do just that when Jon Stewart left The Daily Show. The cast and crew evidently plotted this without letting Fearless Leader know; Colbert knew full well Stewart was going to squirm and sniffle and try to weasel out, hence blocking his escape after the bit they'd actually rehearsed.

It's not on the soundtrack to the broadcast footage, but a couple of the other correspondents have mentioned that the mob sent up a gleeful chant of "Made him cry! Made him cry!" as they gathered afterwards.

Things That Are Nice: Day 9

This will never not be hilarious. Evginy Plushenko, four-time Olympian, one of the most technically accomplished skaters in the world, famous for his tribute to Nijinsky... skating around in a muscle suit and doing a striptease to "Sex Bomb".

His exhibition skates tend to be somewhat mad. He also has one with a trick costume -- where he demonstrates that he can in fact skate like a girl if he feels like it -- the one with the mascot head and rigged props, and the one where he's dressed like a baby with his bangs in pigtails.

Plush is kinda wacky, is what I'm saying here. You will be totally unsurprised to find out he's good friends with Johnny Weir -- one of the reasons Weir hops to Russia so often is to visit Plushenko, his wife Yana Rudovskaya, and their kids.

Things That Are Nice: Day 8

I have no idea why this woman entertains me so much. I don't even paint my nails. But entertain me she does. She is obsessed with holographic glitter, so she's my kind of people already, and apparently her day job is some sort of statistical analyst. She has a criminology degree. And two cats. Just... watch the crazy.

Things That Are Nice: Day 7

I grew up stuck in the endless desert. Crazy magic sky water will never not be my favorite. There are few noises more soothing than the sounds of a crashing rainstorm that you are not out in.

Things That Are Nice: Day 6

George Burns and Gracie Allen did vaudeville together in the 1920s, movies in the '30s, radio in the '40s, and television (above) in the '50s. They were married for almost all of it. The duo originally cast George as the daffy one and Gracie as the straight man, but the audience wouldn't stop laughing at Gracie's lines -- so they swapped, and had an instant hit.

It takes a remarkable amount of intelligence to be the kind of "dumb blonde" Grace portrayed on screen. The art of what George called "illogical logic" involves knowing what people expect you to say, figuring out why they expect that, and then swapping it out for something that technically fits all of the requirements of the correct answer in context, except that it is complete nonsense. Gracie evidently did it off the cuff, in person. She was on tour and engaged to another performer when George went head over heels for her and tried to woo her away. He inadvertently won her over by maki…

Things That Are Nice: Day 5

There's kind of a story behind that song.

In 1995/6, Bowie was on a European tour, and for some life/family-related reason, his opener -- I think it was Morrissey, but don't quote me on that -- had to bail on him. So he rummaged through a pile of demos and pulled out "Nancy Boy", later one of the singles off of Placebo's self-titled debut. He decided he liked it, and got his people to phone their people (i.e., probably somebody's flat), and somehow or another... things happened. And they went.

You can't not learn a lot about someone when you go on tour with them. They apparently learned that Bowie was as fantastic to work with as reputed, and also, amazingly, that he was a human being. He drank beer and had headaches and read a lot of books and missed his wife. And he also talked to them, because for God only knows what reason he actually liked the crazy mixed-up kids on tour with him, and cared what they thought.

It is obvious from listening to them tha…

Things That Are Nice: Day 4

You remember "Tiny Hamsters Eating Tiny Burritos", yes? John Oliver ran it once, after spending about twenty minutes elucidating something terrible about the world, just so everyone could go to bed happy.

Did you know there are more Tiny Hamster videos? YES THERE ARE! Here is the playlist!

Just as a side note, I feel better knowing I am not the only person who plans, prepares, and plates tiny meals for my beloved vermin when I have too much time on my hands.

(Mine are getting new bowls for Ratmas this year, and I have already knit up the hammocks. Both roommates have agreed to help. Photos closer to Christmas.)

Things That Are Nice: Day 3

Here is a young bat making happy squeaky sounds while being petted:

Things That Are Nice: Day 2

Answer to obvious question: Yes. As hatters. The pretty, mildly pigeon-toed one in the KISS jacket and the one in the gorilla suit matriculated at an actual formal art school, entirely on purpose, which is a universally recognized sign of insanity.

The pretty, mildly pigeon-toed one in the KISS jacket is Noel Fielding, and his tall tweedy partner in crime is Julian Barratt, here playing their most famous characters, Vince Noir and Howard Moon. The comedy team as a whole is known at The Mighty Boosh, apparently after a very impressive haircut that Mike -- Noel's brother, the short one in the elaborate turban -- once had, because they thought "Barratt & Fielding" sounded 'like solicitors'.

I'm uncertain how best to explain them, their work, or in fact their careers, other than to point out that this is the touring stage version of a show they produced for the BBC, which was essentially a live-action cartoon sitcom. You can see season one here. They also di…

Things That Are Nice: Day 1

This has been a fucking horrible year. I cannot even count the number of things that made me cry. Not even personal tragedies, like international news. Honestly, at this point, I give up on Christmas. I am just going to post a month of things that are goddamn nice. No real theme, just bits, bobs, scraps, links, pictures, videos, and stories that are not awful.

To kick things off, have a bunch of YouTube clips of rats doing weird and adorable things:

Saturday Serial: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz part 4 FINAL

Saturday Serial: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz part 3

Once upon a time, over a decade ago now, I made plans to spend my spring break visiting friends in New York. I had tickets to fly out to meet them at their university upstate, then we were going to take the train down and spend a day in Manhattan. It was sometime after 9/11 -- not so long that we were used to all the airport security theater yet, but long enough that New York had more or less returned to its normal background level of muggings, stabbings, and fraudulent cab drivers.

About a week before I was scheduled to go, I had a nightmare. I dreamt I was walking down the canyons of Manhattan, concrete cliffs towering above me, when I saw someone in the crowd look up Then more people. So I looked up, and we all saw a glint of metal high up in the air, and then the obliterating brightness of a nuclear flash.

I woke up in a dead panic. I think anyone would. That's a pretty terrible image.

I have never believed in prophetic dreams. I've never even had one of those weird coinci…
I don't really have anything useful to say anymore. But as far as useless trivia goes, if you were interested in the Bowie Legacy album that just came out, it's a very sharp collection of remasters and newly-balanced mixes. The extreme stereo separation on things like "Space Oddity" and equalization on "Life On Mars?" have been fixed, and in general someone's just gone through and cleaned everything up properly for high-def formats.

I bought the 2-disc edition, which seems to be already sold out at Amazon proper, but there is a 1-disc edition that's still listed for $9.98. Collector's edition vinyl comes out on January 6, for $39.98.
I have been sitting here for a week trying to figure out how best to explain the American clusterfuck to people overseas. It's not easy. There's a lot of context. It's the kind of thing that doesn't make any sense unless you're in it at the time.

The hard fact is, people here are dying. Not of anything so easily romanticized as bombs on barricades, but of things that no citizen of any industrialized nation has any business dying of in 2016: Diabetes, anaphylactic allergies, asthma attacks, endocarditis pursuant to chronic dental abscess, stress-induced suicides, malnutrition. There is a huge economic underclass here who used to work making things, like in factories. They were, to some extent, indispensable; you have to have actual humans with actual hands to put together cars and televisions and shoes, and you always need a certain number of hands to fill your orders. But everything is now made overseas, where it's cheaper, and the "working class" who…

Saturday Serial: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz part 2

So on Saturday, apparently I'm going to go eat pizza and drink and commiserate and plot with a bunch of very scared and upset queer/trans people. I'm friends with these particular people from a context in which being or not being a GSM was not relevant, so I'm welcome there on the basis that they know me and are fairly sure I am not going to somehow make things worse. I'm not particularly sure I'm not going to somehow make things worse, but there you go. We all apparently had too much faith in people this fall,

I'm not sure I belong there. It depends on whether you're talking physically or emotionally. There are people for whom anatomical configuration is not that important; I am unfortunately not one of them. I wouldn't rule out someday meeting a female-bodied person who is just so hot I decide it doesn't matter, but to date all the people I've crushed on are physically male, which means they're generally legally male, which means that all …

I'm fine. Sort of.

So that happened. I would like to apologize on behalf of America to... everyone, really.

It's chaos in the US right now. Not in the physical Tahrir Square sort of sense, but in the sense that everyone, on all sides of everything, is angry right now. Anger is easier to admit to than fear, and everyone, no matter who they are, is really afraid that their very existence, the way they've lived and imagined living and hoped to live all their lives, is vanishing.

The people who envisioned that working hard in a blue-collar job for decades meant they could retire to a comfortable, if small, house to garden in the afternoon and bowl with the team on Thursday nights and visit with grandkids are coming to terms with the fact that that's not how the world works anymore, and they may never get the rest they were promised. The people who saw us racing towards a world where they could be a girl one day and a boy the next, and raise 2.5 children and a dopey Labrador retriever with their …
I fail planning. Hard.

You would think this would make me also fail at the end result, but no. I have a perfectly clear idea of what I want, and also a decent idea of what I'm needs to be done in order to get there, so the project I'm working on usually stands a pretty good chance of success. I'm not bad at doing. I'm just really, really, really, fucking atrociously, sometimes dangerously bad at the part where I take the things out of my head and lay them out before me in an orderly fashion, so that I can use it as a guide to the process.

I have had this problem all my life. When I was in school, I hated those assignments where you had to write a paper in graduated stages, all of which were due at different times, and all of which were graded. I used to just write the motherfucking paper and then reverse engineer all the brainstorming webs and outlines and rough drafts I needed for the points. It hurt my shriveled little grammarian soul to introduce errors into my &quo…
A couple of my friends were discussing Election Day worries last night. Specifically, about the prospect of "poll watchers" hanging around and being douchey. Firstly, yearrrghghgh I do not have enough drugs to deal with this, but secondly, it made me think about demographics.

Dorchester is, as I may have mentioned, heavily not-white. Historically, this has been a very working-class neighborhood -- around the turn of the 20th century, there were a mix of family homes and rooming houses for Irish immigrant workers where we are now -- and this seems to have held true even as the definition of "working class" has precessed from "daily toil in the factory" to "daily toil in a boring pointless office job". I see an international panoply of clothing all the time in my various neighborhood wanderings. One night on my walk home from the T, I passed a guy in a dashiki, a lady in hijaab, and a Buddhist monk in traditional beads and kesa using his bank card…
I have discovered, doing NaNoWriMo, that I would be a rubbish romance author.

Not, I hasten to add, that I am rubbish at writing people into romances. Judging by the speed at which the dialogue is writing itself, I am fine at that. The characters are flirting their little brains right out, and both of them like it. It's the same thing that happens when you get two real people in a room together and they hit it off -- the two of them have postes and ripostes and are too invested in that to let anyone else get a word in edgewise.

No, I'm talking about romance as a genre, the kind of story where 'will they won't they' is the central all-absorbing conflict of the plot.

There are various ways to make it difficult for your characters to link up. Environmental factors are popular. The dramatic version has them separated physically by unpleasant circumstances, or socially by class or tribal affiliation. Disney's Aladdin is a classic example -- she's a princess, he&…

Saturday Serial: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz part 1

I recently caught a notice for auditions for a show whose producers expressed a particular wish to cast actors who were PoC, queer, trans*, or genderqueer. I am definitely not a person of color; my family is almost entirely of Celtic extraction. If I had any less color to me, I'd be clear. I am also definitely not trans-anything. I'm at home in my body; it does cool stuff, even if it does hurt for no reason sometimes, and I can get it to look the way I want it to when I check the mirror.

The rest of it, I really don't know how to answer.

I generally tell people that I'm a straight woman. This is the fastest and easiest way to get across that I am perfectly fine being considered female by the general public, and that the bodies I want to get my grubby little paws on are fundamentally male, if you catch my drift. This is really all the information most people need in order to get the pronouns right and judge whether it's worth the effort to hit on me, and suffices ev…