Alea iacta est

Tuesday, 13 October 2009 00:56
Earlier today, ran into a reference to Julius Caesar's The die is cast, and its meaning in context. Here we are crossing the river, and while I have stacked up the odds in my favor to the best of my ability, from here on out its all down to ol' dame fortuna. Roll 'em.

As someone who loves the mechanisms and the history of cards and dice, this should really be one of my favorite quotations, right? But the fact is, for the time being anyway, I get vaguely irritated when I hear it. For most of my life, I thought the metaphor had a completely different referent: one of my well-meaning teachers, at some point early on, introduced me to this phrase, and taught that Caesar was comparing his crossing to metal-casting. ("Die" as in "tool and die", see.) And that made enough sense at the time - Caesar, in this version, was saying that the blow had been struck, the metal had been cut, shaped, and cooled, and there was no unbending it now. I had no reason to question this interpretation.

And indeed, I don't think that I did reëxamine it until, honestly, only a year or two ago, when it occurred to me that he was talking about rolling dice - as if he had just committed all his units in a tense war game! Luckily, the web had been invented and distributed in the intervening years, so it took only a moment for me to confirm that I was correct. It floored me. Not only was that a cooler version - because, you know, games and all - but it makes a so much more compelling story. Caesar at the height of his ambition, making the move that would forever seal his place in the tale of human history, and his pull-quote utterance is his admission of uncertainty despite it all. That's awesome.

So yeah, running into the quote now makes me itchy, annoyed that I was mis-taught something that strikes me as so relevant, and yet probably wouldn't have had a huge impact on my life had I learned it correctly. Whew.
prog: (tiles)
Doing dishes and wiping away the permanent coffee stain on my kitchen counter (which will presently reappear, because my coffee-making habits are, uh, habitual) brought to mind [livejournal.com profile] perpetualpuddle, a sweet little poem of an LJ account, if one not used in many years.

I believe that [livejournal.com profile] surrealestate originally newgrouped it. Nice to see that it is still there. (See its user info for background.)


If you see a little icon instead of a video player, clicking it should make it appear... (Blah LJ)
http://fjgallagher.wordpress.com/

Blog of Frank Gallagher, the dedicatedly brilliant personality who brought UMaine's student newspaper, The Maine Campus, to statewide prominence in the early-mid 1990s. He also made it an exciting place to work, enough to become the reason my undergraduate career took an extra year to complete.

Looks like he's joined the ever-growing crowd of people I know in Portland, ME, though he clearly keeps strong ties to his beloved San Fransisco.

In some ways he was the first real boss-slash-colleague I ever had, and I have been looking for this guy off and on for ages. He dropped me a LinkedIn invite just yesterday! I look forward to reading him once again.
I am very angry for stupid reasons so here have this.

[Crossposted from Appleseed Blog]

My friend Noah, a sysadmin at MIT, reports that on October 1 he switched off the info-mac hyperarchive (hyperarchive.lcs.mit.edu), one of the oldest websites on the internet. It was a web-accessible version of the info-mac archive, an online repository of Mac freeware and shareware, which before then was mainly browsable via FTP. I have fond memories of spending evenings trolling through the hyperarchive's directory structure, looking for neat stuff to fill my Mac LC's 40 GB hard drive, circa 1994.

Several years ago, when I was writing the Nutshell book, I discussed the possibility of being the hyperarchive's volunteer maintainer. Nothing came of it, though, and the server was allowed to coast into electronic senescence. I see from that Wikipedia article that there exists an info-mac website that claims lineage from the original archive and mailing list, but it's now just one more computer-news website in a vast sea. It does sport a mirror of the info-mac archive, where it's quickly apparent how little traffic it got since the turn of the decade; viewing some categories by date shows you software from the 1990s on the first page.

Though the hyperarchive's role was supplanted by better-organized websites years ago (hello, versiontracker), I won't forget its important role in the early history of Macintosh software, the web, and myself as a computer dood. Goodbye, old friend!

What is it

Thursday, 14 August 2008 12:05
I found this object while unpacking. I know what it is, even though I haven't had reason to use it in, oh, 16 years or so.



Do you know what it is?

(The thing on top is a plunger which presses straight down, and springs back up when released.)

Identified first by [livejournal.com profile] kyroraz in comments!

Glass Vader

Saturday, 9 August 2008 21:52
prog: (khan)
I love this story of a Stained Glass Darth Vader window designed by a 7-year-old in 1977 (and crafted by a grown-up friend). They've been proudly displaying it ever since.

Movies at the Brattle

Wednesday, 14 May 2008 14:19
[livejournal.com profile] classicaljunkie and I caught a double feech at the Brattle two weekends ago: The Magnificent Seven followed by The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. We hadn't seen either before, and enjoyed both.

TMS seemed to be a restored print of some sort. The film looked bright, colorful and all-around excellent for being nearly 50 years old, but the moment there was any sort of visual transition (like a cross-dissolve from one scene to the next) it abruptly turned into murky crap. I wondered why the restoration techniques don't seem to work on the transitions, or maybe it was just like that all along.

I didn't know (until the instant I saw him) that Yul Brenner's killbot character in Westworld was clearly a parody of his own character in TMS. This made me kind of sad to know, even though I was a fan of Westworld when, like many college students in the 1990s, I thought the gawdawful media of the 1970s was the best ever. (Because it was very ironic to think that, and possession of a great deal of irony is very important at that age.)

I still don't understand the scene where the craaaaaazy kid (the Mifune stand-in) gets intel on the bandit gang by just wandering right into it and talking to their leader. At first I was like "uhh, what, so he's a spy for the bad guys?" But then he goes to to good guys and is like "o hai I just talked to the bandit leader." There's an implication that los banditos took him as one of their own because he had cleverly disguised himself by, er, wearing a sombero. But during that very same scene, one of the bandits is reeling off the names of gang members who got killed during a failed raid earlier that day, which itself would imply that they all know each other fairly well, which would seem to spoil that fairly weak excuse. Buh? I dunno.

TGTBATU was silly and enormously entertaining, though it was a recently assembled super-extendo cut that felt about a half an hour too long. I liked it more, though I have less to say about it. Can you believe I haven't seen the previous "Man with no name" films? Gotta go back and watch em now.



We saw The Thomas Crown Affair last weekend. The 1990s remake is one of the junkie's favorite movies, so I'd seen that one, but neither of us had seen the original. It's... yeah, it's just not as cool, and it's clear why the remake kept the core interesting concept (the wonderfully perverse romance between the titular gentleman-thief and the insurance agent sent to investigate him) but ditched the particulars of the frame. The 1990s Crown is not just an art thief, he's also an art reverse-thief, and how cool is that? The 1960s Crown just hires a bunch of thugs to rob banks for him, and they do this through violence, waving guns at people. It's just brutal and uninteresting, by comparison.

I liked the comic-panel graphics and the music, though.

omg new portishead

Saturday, 3 May 2008 13:52
Portishead has a new album, 12 years after their last. [livejournal.com profile] toddalcott has the goods. I suddenly realize there's buncha albums I gots to get. There's this, and there's new R.E.M., new Underworld, and a new Ladytron disc comin out shortly. All my entertainment dollas been going to video games lately... enough a that, sez I. (Have been saying since I got the 360, actually. Been doing a good job since then.)

INTERESTING PERSONAL TRIVIA: Portishead's signature song "Sour Times" is tightly bound in my mind with the puzzle book Maze, because I happened to hear it for the first time (via MTV!) just as I discovered the Maze website for the first time, and it instantly struck how the song's sound and the book's graphics fit together very well. Yes, this would be back in my dorm room.
Unix turns precisely 1.2 billion seconds old this afternoon at precisely 4:20pm Eastern time.

$ unix2local
Please enter the UTC time: 1200000000
Thu Jan 10 16:20:00 2008 (Boston)

([livejournal.com profile] jhango and [livejournal.com profile] cnoocy discovered this.)
I posted this in a friend's LJ to tease him but I have to share it here, too.


The only other time I saw this was ~25 years ago at the downtown Hingham premiere of "WarGames", the day before I started fifth grade at a new school in a new town. It's the only video-based ad for an arcade game I recall seeing, but there used to be quite a few in the game magazines I read at the time. They all came down to "Ask your local arcade operator to buy this game." What an odd concept!

Dig-Dug was absolutely my favorite video game at the time, and I will always have a fondness for it. Also, I could probably kick your butt at it right now, still. Just sayin.

So naturally it's on YouTube five times. How do people get a hold of this stuff?
This has been going around, but I just wanted to comment that it's the most alarmingly otaku thing I've seen all month, in the William Gibson sense of the word. A Batman / Dostoyevsky mashup where someone absolutely nailed the circa-1940 American comics art and layout style. Holy smokes.
This will appear on the podcast feed shortly.



The music is "Subterranean Psychedelic Blues" by Son of Rodan, used under a Creative Commons license. (This isn't the music I'd been jabbering about using elseblog, whose permission to use I still hadn't got.)

"Official" Blip TV entry yonder.

This isn't my best one but it is also not my worst one and I hope you like it. Also I need to get a paid account again sometime so I can use my Jmac's Arcade userpic, eh...

DDR and push-ups

Wednesday, 5 September 2007 18:58
DDR Supernova is nice. I was originally resistant to the notion of completing special obstacle courses in order to unlock songs, but they are clever and encourage you to explore the various song-tweaking options that have been in the games since the beginning but which I've never bothered messing with. These mostly involve ways to change how the arrows move and appear, such as reversing the flow of arrows, or making them appear only halfway up the screen, or having them move at unpredictable speeds. It's sort of a DDR scavenger hunt, and I like it.

I can do 7-footers comfortably and some 8-footers with exertion and luck. This may be my plateau.

Also, today I bought a song on iTunes because I heard it in a DDR game, which is a first for me. It is "Jerk It Out" by Caesars. Which makes me think of someone trying with violent motions to get the last bit of caesar salad dressing from the bottle, but in fact if you listen to the iTMS sample you will hear the chunkly filtered organ riff that I found highly catchy and happy and worth a dollar. Very fun to stomp arrows in time to, as well.

Have gotten into an exercise routine lately where I spend about an hour playing DDR and then doing some push-ups and other floor exercises. Though the results have been fast - I'm definitely building up strength, able to do a few more reps every day - I'm sure my form is terrible. I looked at WP's page on push-ups, which have a totally boss animated GIF of a guy doing push-ups forever, but its caption (doubtless provided by a later contributor) criticizes his bad form. Uh, and now I look at the page and the picture's gone.

This video is the number-one googley hit for "how to do push-ups". It is not how I have been doing them. I like the suggestions for making it easier, and easier again, for newbs. I remember doing the easiest kind, with bent knees, when I went to "special gym" in grade school. But today, my shoulders hurt at the bone level after doing whatever horrible thing I was doing that was apparently not push-ups, so maybe I'll try this chest-to-the-floor way tomorrow.

Family nooz

Tuesday, 4 September 2007 14:03
Mom called to tell me that Peter (the middle brother I write less about) just quit his job of many years - certainly at least a decade - working in a home for autistic adults. He just burned out, after the management was getting worse and worse, apparently. This leaves him and his wife in a no-income situation (she can't work) and mom was understandably concerned.

I advised that he go get a job in a kitchen, since he worked in a hotel kitchen for several years in the 1980s and has kept up his skills as a better-than-average home cook since then. We remembered together how his workplace nickname then was "Lightning" because we was (at least at first) such a slowpoke. He once brought home a Happy Birthday Lightning cake that his coworkers got (or perhaps made) for him.

Before his current job he had a lengthy stint as a Wackenhut security guard. He's already looked a little bit into that, and got the impression that most such jobs now require one to pack heat, where in the past he just holstered a club. All agree that this would not be a wise career move.
Not online for a compressedly extended period while I help [livejournal.com profile] classicaljunkie move in to her new place and go to shows and restock my own pantry and stuff.

Went to a Negativland show with [livejournal.com profile] cthulhia and another friend of hers last night. It was a lot of fun, if a bit long. I hadn't heard these fellows before, and I like em. As Cth predicted, they appeal to my appreciation of AV editing, since their whole act (at least in this show) involves putting together a meaningful sound collage on the fly, using a mix of analog decks and digital devices (and lots and lots of cassettes, LPs and CDs) arrayed all around them. Thematically it was a rich and lengthy pro-atheism rant, so not the most daring thing in the world to me, but it was definitely fun to watch them throw it all toegther.

I found that I couldn't stay standing more than a couple of hours and had to fade to the back of the room to sit through the last couple segments. Had a great time, modulo exhaustion and a little psychic pollution from drunk crazy people both inside and outside the club. (And did Central smell mostly of piss and barf back when I lived there? Probably. Yuck.)

Anyway, I hadn't been to the Middle East before, so I think that completes my checklist of Boston venues that have shown up (lightly disguised) in Harmonix games. (I did briefly visit the Rat while it existed, more than a decade ago, though I didn't go into the club per se. It's funny how the place has stayed legendary so long after its demise!) (I also met the late Mr. Butch while I was in there!)
I fear that my awesome kidlit-expert buddies' drunken snarling about Harry Potter is probably the only backlash I'm gonna see about all of this strangeness, I say, as I gesture around myself. (Other than griefers, but let us not count them.)

I shall read and expect to enjoy the book when the borrowing chain gets 'round to me, and am not totally free of my own little bit of plot speculation. But my goodness, this is the most tension I've ever seen gripping people in my peer group outside of a national election. I think maybe the last time I saw anything like this was around the last episode of M*A*S*H but I was too young to appreciate it at the time. And what this has that that didn't is a sense of real desperation, with many of my friends already half-panicked to get the book, race home, and read it as fast as possible before the forces of evil can spoil it for them. It is somewhat unsettling to see.

Mm. Also, it is kind of fun, isn't it.
Today's Wikipedia featured article is about fighting in hockey and I read the whole thing. I found it fascinating because I grew up in a hockey-loving house (by virtue of my brother Peter being in it) and watched and enjoyed countless Bruins games on television, and then went on to a hockey college and couldn't help but follow all our boys' (and, separately but lesserly, ladies') exploits there, and still I had no concept at all until now of NHL teams having unofficial "enforcer" players who protect the smaller players, punish perceived transgressions, and generally only fight with other enforcers. This is apparently a tradition far older than I.

I haven't followed or even thought much about hockey in years, and now it all seems rather bizarre for the reason the article states, that there's no other professional team sport in the western world that tolerates and even encourages on-field pugilistics like North American hockey. When I was a kid it seemed as natural as anything but now it strikes me as the output of unregulated testosterone poisoning, and simply distasteful. The purposeful and oddly abstract tackles and collisions in American football is just as physical but a hundred times more nuanced. (As is the checking and such in hockey, sure.)

(Subject line is what the arcade machine "Lethal Enforcers" would say when you put a quarter in and then started a one-player game, and otherwise has nothing to do with anything.)

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