August 06, 2002

the office

As Meredith has faithfully reported, our office is now much cleaner. I made a few discoveries:

  • My beloved Makita battery drill, which I have owned for my entire adult life, is dying. Specifically, the variable speed switch is dying, and is no longer so variable. It's mostly either on or off. While this saddens me, it's had a good life. But it does make drilling screws into wood quite a bit more challenging.
  • Blinds come with screws 'suitable for wood or sheet metal'. This is a lie. Screws are good for one thing or another. After breaking the heads off of two screws, just as they were almost all the way in our wooden trim around the windows, I realized this, and that these screws were good for metal. Well, maybe they were. Sure as hell they weren't good for wood.
  • Meredith is right; the room really does look better with blinds instead of sheets. That said, I miss the ability to make the room really dark. Meredith thrives in the light, while I am seldom seen outdoors without sunglasses on. They say that opposites attract.
  • Most of the mass of cables on the desk weren't even being used. Actually, this isn't so much a discovery as it is confirmation of what I strongly suspected. There have been four or maybe five different computers used on that desk at various points, not counting laptops, plus who knows how many peripherals (three of the computers are still in use, although the Mac is used pretty rarely now). Each time one went away, the computer or device was taken away, leaving behind a cable or three. This has never happened to me at work because I have never had the same office for this long. Oh, and at Apple I wasn't allowed to update computers as often as I have at home. Hmm.

I'm writing this offline, sitting on Caltrain, headed up to visit meriko & Russell. Meredith is in Berkeley this week, and is already over there. This train is very, very full, more and more with baseball fans. We were just invaded with the Chicago Cubs fan contingent. I haven't followed baseball in years, but I was always a Cubs fan as a kid.

Posted by Mike at 05:45 PM

August 07, 2002

People who are different than us

Katherine Harris, the former Florida Secretary of State who was the center of so much attention during the Bush-Gore election two years ago, is in the news again. This time it's for not noticing that according to Florida election law — you know, that part of the law that the Secretary of State oversees — she was supposed to resign from her state office before filing to run for Federal office. In this story, Harris is quoted, "I should have read the law. I didn't."

So much for "practicing principled leadership."

Posted by Mike at 07:58 PM

August 08, 2002

dialects and just plain stupidity

The clan I play Counter-Strike with has been going out more and more to different servers, playing other clans. (Why are they called clans? Beats me. But they are.) The differences between various clans is really amazing. Our entire clan got banned from one server because they decided we were obviously cheating. More like they obviously suck. That one's gotten ugly, complete with them editing posts members from our clan made on their forums (our clan members did not, in fact, post entries about their sexual desires for their own sisters). Reading their posts, you realize that, really, they're just a bunch of 14 year olds who flunked out of school. At least they flunked out of English, given their spelling and grammar.

Others are far more mature, both some that we are much better than and those who are much better than us. They are Polite, gracious, and wanting to learn or willing to help us learn. There's a world of difference between deciding that the person who just killed you 'must be hacking' and asking how they did it so you can become a better player. I wonder what makes the difference between the two approaches. Is it age? Probably it's not quite that simple; I've met people my own age in this game who you would never guess were older than 14 from how they handle themselves. And I've met 15 year olds who are more mature than some of the adults, although that seems more unusual.

I also find myself amazed by the use of the English language. Or, rather, the total abuse of it. Some of it is intentional. There's a kind of 'hacker-speak' that's emerged where common words are deliberately misspelled, or numbers are substituted for letters, but in a basically consistent pattern. For example, an 'elite' player is referred to as 'l33t'. One recent change I've noticed is referring to someone 'pwning' (owning). I asked once, in IRC, where the hell these came from - who was it that decided that misspelling 'own' as 'pwn' was cool? A friend jokingly postulated that perhaps it was as simple as someone mistyping it once, then trying to cover it by claiming that it was cool, and then it caught on. He was joking, but maybe it really is that simple. At any rate, hacker-speak seems to be practically an entire dialect. There are even web pages that translate normal English into 'hacker-speak', although they don't seem to do a perfect job. I would find a translator that did the reverse more useful. Truth be told, hacker-speak looks pretty damned silly to me. But perhaps that's just my own bias ;)

Worse than hacker-speak, though, are people who genuinely have no clue how to use the English language. They can't spell, confuse every possibly homonym (they're - their - there, our - are, your - you're, etc.), and mangle grammar beyond anything I've ever seen. This isn't a dialect, this is just idiocy. While I can read through a fair amount of mistakes like this and still get the meaning, there are more and more posts that I read that are so badly mangled that I honestly haven't the slightest idea what the author is trying to say. Just none. It's kind of terrifying, in a way - do these people really write like this all the time? Are they just being lazy in the online postings? These are the same people who make comments like, "how in the hell do u have the time to type all that" in response to postings of more than 150 words. One person seemed to think that a friend of mine and I must have been using a computer program to write so many words (~500 words in three separate posts from us). Some people, I guess, really are this ignorant. Scary indeed.

Posted by Mike at 04:30 PM

August 25, 2002

birthday fun

Yesterday, we had a big birthday party for Meredith. Meredith spent most of the day before the party cooking, then we started up the grill late afternoon and kept it running for a few hours before finally stopping.

Everyone seemed to have a really good time. The food was quite a hit, and the homemade Oreos & Vanilla ice cream was a smash success. It helps to use recipes from the Ben & Jerry ice cream cookbook. Ice cream recipes that call for fillings (such as Oreos) are always sort of surreal, as they involve directions like, "Two minutes before it freezes, add the filling." Yeah ... OK.

anne and Dave took Meredith up on her challenge to bring her a root beer she had never had before. They found one called 'Root 66' that Meredith said was delicious. I'll take her word for it — I prefer my root beer without the word 'root' in it ;)

Posted by Mike at 04:18 PM

August 26, 2002

abusing racists online

The other day, while playing on the Counter-Strike server I help admin, someone joined named 'nigger killer'.

Counter-Strike servers have a variety of admin commands that you can use on them to help control the server, and keep things from getting out of hand. One of the more popular administrative tools, admin-mod, provides admins with a wealth of commands, including commands that are designed, essentially, to abuse people. Two of the more popular are 'slay', which causes the person to instantly explode, and 'slap', which causes the person to take 5% damage and get smacked across the screen a few feet. It even comes with a cool slapping noise. Even more fun can be had when you set a key to slap a specific person, which allows you to slap them half way across the map in a rapid-fire succession of slaps from the invisible mighty hand of the admin. The latest version also includes 'bury', which lets you stick someone in the ground so they can't move. This affords people the opportunity to experience a slightly different version of shooting fish in a barrel. For the real idiots, there's always the good old admin_ban command, which keeps them from ever coming back to the server.

Normally, of course, we try to be very careful about using these commands. Admin abuse on some servers is rampant, and it drives good players away faster than anything else. So we try not to ever use these commands.

Until, of course, someone with a name like 'nigger killer' logs in. Then the only question is how many different types of abuses you'll get at once from the admins. What does happen, anyway, when three different admins simultaneously start slapping you across the board, burying you, and slaying you?

The most amazing thing to me isn't even that people log in with names like that. People do all too often, using names ranging all over the place. One group logged in once, all with KKK in front of their names. Various other racist names are used, targeting blacks, Jews, Muslims, Arabs, Christians -- you name it.

So, as incredible as it seems, it no longer shocks me when people come into the game with names like that. What still amazes me is the shocked incredulous responses they have when they are instantly abused. "What, me? Why is this bad?" The 'nigger killer' did change his name, then asked, "Why are you upset? What did I do wrong?". The KKK group tried to convince the admin at the time that it stood for something else entirely (he had none of it). To a person, these people are always shocked and amazed that we have a problem with their choice of names.

So what happened with 'nigger killer'. Well, he changed his name to something innocuous, and we ignored his protests of abuse for a few rounds. Then he changed his name again: "nigger".

Time for admin_ban.

Sigh. So many idiots...

Posted by Mike at 10:03 PM | Comments (4)

August 30, 2002

exploiting the poor for fun and ratings

CNN ran a story on CBS's plans to create a reality TV show based on 'The Beverly Hillbillies'.

The plan, it seems, is to take a "rural, lower-middle class family" and move them into a mansion in Beverly Hills. As far as I can tell, the idea is to provide amusement as we get to watch poor people try to navigate the world of their betters. A CBS vice-president is quoted, "Imagine the episode where they have to interview maids."

Does this seem disturbing to anyone besides me?


Posted by Mike at 12:01 AM | Comments (3)

August 31, 2002

It's football time in Tennessee!!

Today was the season opener for my beloved Tennesee Volunteers, who played Wyoming. Only in college football can you have a game between Wyoming and Tennessee that is a home game for Wyoming, played in Nashville. Go figure.

Favorite moments:

  • The announcer who said that one of the players always made a point of carrying an inspirational quote with him, and that for today's game, it was quote about how we "walk by faith, not by sight" by Walter Payton. Well, actually, it was Paul, in 2 Corinthians -- not Walter Payton. But close enough. Or something.
  • Another announcer talking about what a great experience it must be for players to come play in such a huge NFL stadium like the Nashville Coliseum, which holds almost 70,000 fans. UT fans, of course, were looking around thinking, "what a cute little stadium." (Neyland Stadium, where the Vols play in Knoxville, has a capacity of 104,079 seats.)
  • The final score: Tennessee: 47, Wyoming: 7.
Next week's game is against MTSU (Middle Tennessee State University), in another fine example of a smaller school's athletic department pimping its teams out to get whipped for money. Somehow I doubt this one will be on TV.

Go Vols!

Posted by Mike at 07:21 PM | Comments (3)