Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mac, camping around Lake Tahoe

Originally uploaded by _buttercup
This is from a camping trip GP and I took, around 2001 or so. Mac loved the lake there.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The wrong Mexican

It's so early in the day, yet I've twice already been gob-smacked into amazed silence.

In gob-smackdown #1, I was sitting on a bench at the dog park with another woman. A third woman came over and said "this dog" was a bad dog, a trouble maker, etc. I assumed she was talking about her own dog in the hyperbolic way some dog-owners do, but it slowly because less and less plausible as her dogs walked away and she continued to talk about "this dog." It turns out she was talking about the dog of the woman next to me, the dog who was now sitting next to us. I had seen nothing anti-social in this dog's behavior. The scolder simply felt it was a good idea to come over and diss the dog to the owner. Nothing she said was even constructive, which is the usual dog park social-vice: unsolicited advice. This was just unsolicited insults.

The gob-smack the second (homage à Buffy, "lesson the first") was courtesy of my downstairs neighbor, an 80 year old white show-biz guy. He was standing at the back gate to our complex, holding the gate open whistling at someone I couldn't see. He continued the whistling as I approached. I offered to hold the gate for him if he needed to talk with someone. He accepted and went to the corner, where I saw he was trying to get the attention of the young Mexican gardeners across the street. I didn't watch closely, but soon he was headed back to me. As he approached, he said it was "the wrong Mexican." He went on to explain that he had more clothes than he could possibly use due to the excessive wardrobing that happened in show business and he often offered them to the gardeners who work in our complex. The wrong Mexican. The phrase is evocative of a particular world-view in which all Mexicans are gardeners and all gardeners are Mexican. Where this is the extent of their identity. Where they want to wear old show-biz guy clothes.

Googling "the wrong Mexican" yields two sets of grimly humorous results. The majority of results cite the movie "The Machete" the tagline of which is: "They just fucked with the wrong Mexican." The other humorous result is the suggestion by google that I change my search to "the working Mexican."

In San Francisco, They Love the Devil

[Drawing of Sutro Tower by Lee Feynves]

Ok, not exactly. But this is the second of the humorous devil-related events I've seen. I'm quoting from boingboing in near-entirety here:

[The driver of the San Francisco cab with medallion number 666] convinced assistant commission executive director Jordanna Thigpen to request that the board retire medallion No. 666 forever. Unfortunately for Byrne, the commission voted 5-1 yesterday that the number should live on. From a pre-vote San Francisco Chronicle article:
Byrne, a 30-year veteran driver, was assigned No. 666 only last August, Thigpen said, after another applicant refused to accept the number. Since then, sources said, Byrne has been involved in at least one accident -- even after taking the precaution of having the cab blessed at Mission Dolores.

"Do I believe in the Mark of the Beast myself?" Thigpen said in an interview. "No. But there is a lot of negative energy around that cab. If we can help somebody out, why not do it? If something's a nuisance, it's our duty to get rid of it, right?"

A commission clerk, who asked not to be identified, said Byrne "had many deaths around him and his family" and that getting rid of the cursed number "is an idea that speaks for itself." Link
And from a post-vote article: "How dare you take Lucifer's number away," said Thomas George-Williams, president of the cab drivers union, who was sporting the red horns (at the hearing). "This is a serious issue."
A cabbie named Tom warned the commission that it was "opening a can of worms" and would soon be deluged with requests to retire other numbers. A cabbie named Barry pointed out that 666 was the address of SS Peter and Paul's Church on Filbert Street, an outfit not thought to be in Satan's pocket." Link
The original humorous devil-related San Franciscan event involved a controversy over a large monument of a cross in a public park. While many felt that it was inappropriate for the city to appear to be endorsing a particular religion, there was no agreement about what action to take: selling it on the cheap to a particular religious group was seen to favor that group. One editorial suggested selling landmarks to all interested religious groups, including selling Sutro Tower to the satanists.

Note: Thanks to dolface for finding the source of the drawing.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Domo-kun ipod case

When life gives you lemons (and your dog eats your (plain leather) ipod case), make a Domo-kun ipod case. I based it on this tutorial.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Favorite slur

You grog-faced villain!

Dog fighting

This is an incredibly disturbing article about a dog fighting ring that an NFL star was involved in. The cruelty went beyond the fighting and training for fighting; dogs were destroyed cruelly. For once I agree with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)*

''Some of the grisly details in these filings shocked even me, and I'm a person who faces this stuff every day,'' Goodwin (of HSUS) said. ''...Those are extremely violent methods of execution -- they're unnecessary and just sick.''

*Generally I dislike HSUS because they capitalize on the people's good will toward their local shelters by implying through their name that they are the national group for local shelters; actually they have no affiliation. They are a fairly radical political group like PETA; I agree with about 50% of their policies and initiatives.

Nuclear Power

I was listening to a radio show about nuclear power today. The safety concerns and the potential improvements with respect to carbon emissions are pretty well-trodden ground, but I haven't heard much about where uranium comes from. Is there an OPEC for uranium? Would using more nuclear power allow us to be more independent?

This article, titled "Lack of fuel may limit U.S. nuclear power expansion", says
Much of the uranium used by the United States is coming from mines in such countries as Australia, Canada, Namibia and, most recently, Kazakhstan. Small amounts are mined in the western United States, but the United States is largely reliant on overseas supplies. The United States also relies on Russia for half its fuel [converted from weapons].

Silver Spoons at the Dog Park

(Based on the title, I seem to be on an 80's television theme.) I saw a funny sight at the dog park a few weeks ago. A man, maybe 60 was at the dog park with another man, maybe 30. It's unusual for two people to come with one dog during the day, so they caught my attention. Neither was dressed remarkably. They left the enclosed area shortly before I did, and I was amazed to see a town car pull up to them as they walked out. A uniformed chauffeur got out and brought wipes from the trunk over to the men and the dog. One of the men began to clean the dog while the driver filled a water dish. As I left the parking lot, the chauffeur was opening the door for the older man to get in the car.

There is a stretch limousine that regularly comes to the dog park, but it is owned by a dog care guy and the dogs just hop into it, mud and all. The guy wears shorts, a t-shirt and a bluetooth headset. Entirely different.

Adding a leading zero to a file name

I often find this necessary when trying to get audiobook files to automatically sort correctly. For example, files from chapter one are named "1-01 Book Name" and "1-02 Book Name", but files from chapter 11 are named "11-01 Book Name" and "11-02 Book Name." In the current case, they were in all kinds of strangely named subdirectories, so first I had to copy them all into a single directory. (I did this in Ubuntu Feisty, but it should work in most flavors of Linux and OSX and Cygwin (for Windows users )):

find . -type f -name "*mp3" -exec mv {} ~/bookdir/ \;

Next I moved the ones that already were correctly formatted. There's a more elegant way to do this, selecting files that have digits in the first two places, but my case was so simple that I used the dumb way:

mv 10* 2dig
mv 11* 2dig

Finally we get to the actual renaming, using substitution syntax.

rename 's//0/' *.mp3

The part in the single quotes means substitute anything with an initial zero. In english it would be add an initial zero.

Now move the correctly named files back into your directory, and voila:

mv 2dig/* .

Some wizard could do all this with a single command, but I'm not that wizard.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Motorcycle nostalgia

I saw this motorcycle on the street today. The light color at the front of the tank is not just the light; it's the way the bike is painted.

It reminded me of my last motorcycle, which had a way cooler paint job:

I sold it when I moved down to Los Angeles, on the premise that it LA is a ridiculously dangerous place to ride a bike. I've found that true, but I still miss having one.

"Soviet Fashion Show" commercial for Wendy's

I loved this commercial when it was new (1985), and I still do. I'm not sure why. Partially I fell for the cold war era mockery of Soviet uniformity and communism, but at the same time I loved what may have been self-mockery: the portrayal of a soviet fashion show MC'd in english, subtitles of english...

Wendy's: Soviet Fashion Show

Posted Feb 26, 2002

The classic "Soviet Fashion Show" commercial for Wendy's.

Dog on Art

This is the dog lying in the center of a campus sculpture called "Moore's Stone Volute." It's scheduled to be demolished, which saddens me.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Hobbies of my dog

My sister SB has never let me forget the way I described one roommate: I said, "he watches TV" in the same tone that one might say, "he builds ships inside bottles" or describe some other unusual occupation. So now it is only fair that my canine roommate has similar tastes.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Grim Girl

Or at least that's what she calls herself.

The best part of the LA Zoo.

(Not plastic)

It's called a mojito

but it's virgin and not like other mojitos I've had. It's terrific.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Difficult people

Yesterday I had a brief and relatively unimportant interaction with the head of my homeowners' association. She is superficially pleasant, but I hate dealing with her. She staged a coup, maligning our former association leaders. Whatever their faults may have been (few, to my knowledge), they put in a tremendous amount of work, and her (and her cronies') willingness to disparage them makes me doubt her ability to see the big picture, her ability to make good long term decisions.

Beyond this history (and her ongoing self-aggrandizement) is her lack of a relationship with integrity. Months ago, before her election to Grand Poobah, she was stirring up trouble, trying to get the people with one-bedroom apartments to insist on lower homeowner's fees. She gave me her entire spiel, after which I told her I had a two bedroom apartment. She ended the conversation with an odd way, like a cat who walks into a glass window and then tries to pretend it didn't happen. A cat who thinks she can convince observers that they didn't see what they just saw.

Yesterday I asked if we could add a second entry to the to the electronic directory that visitors use to call up to the apartment from the front entry. She said no, there is only room for 107 entries and there are 107 apartments.

I have no problem with my request being denied; unless the system capacity is sufficient for everyone to have two entries, it's a reasonable policy. However, I am insulted that I am being asked to believe any equipment in the world has a capacity for 107 entries. Fifty, sure. One hundred, sure. Two hundred, fine. You take my point. It's ludicrous.

I am mystified by her inner process. Does she think I believe her? Is she aware that she's lying? Is she simply dumb as rocks? I imagine she must have been a teacher, the crummy kind who would tell kids anything to get them to do what she wanted.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

July 4th was the Pathfinder's 10 year anniversary

Ten years ago the Pathfinder landed on Mars. This was the first mission to send a rover to a planet. It proved the utility of airbag-mediated touchdown and automated obstacle avoidance. The mission budget was less than the cost of the movie Titanic.

Three minute video here.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Anyone using iGoogle? I've got a few awesome gadgets I'm happy to share. My favorite is a a webcam of San Francisco from Sausalito. I also have a slideshow of pictures from my Flickr and Picasa accounts, a scraped feed from my new favorite columnist (Robyn Blumner), a John Stewart quote of the day, countdown timers until my vacation and Bush's last day in office (not the same day, alas, he should leave so soon). I also view my calendar, email and to-do list, but you don't want those (if you do, I'll owe you).

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Worth Bush's Time

Which of the following judicial matters does the Bush administration think requires intervention:

a) The supreme court upholds the denial of a final appeal on the grounds it was filed later than allowed by law, even though it was within the date specified in the judge's instructions. Gobsmacked legal commentators resort to short words: mean (NYTimes Editorial, St Petersburg Times' Robyn Blumner, Slate's Dahlia Lithwick).

b) Scooter Libby is ordered to begin his prison sentence.

Hint 1: the sentence was commuted, but an eventual pardon "has not been ruled out."

Hint 2: Joseph Wilson, husband of CIA operative Valerie Plame whose identity was revealed, resulting in Libby's conviction, comments, 'the commutation “should demonstrate to the American people how corrupt this administration is.” He suggested that its goal was to prevent Mr. Libby from telling all he knew about White House actions, particularly in the planning for war.' (NYTimes, "Bush Spares Libby From Prison Term", 7/2/07)

New Leaves

During SB's visit, she organized a renovation of the porch. She (and I) cleaned, arranged, and otherwise prettified the porch. The best part was going out to buy new plants. I'm an inveterate plant-killer, so this round is succulents. These are the "after the cleanup" and "before I've mistreated the plants" pictures. Hopefully having a record of how the plants are supposed to look will help me figure out when they're looking bad. Click the picture to see the individual images. Thanks SB!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Plant shopping

I made this map/list with the batchgeocode tool. The process is a little time consuming, but the tool is nicely designed.