Archive for February, 2004

Failure to Appear

Thursday, February 19th, 2004

Chinatown bus link of the day: the Bus Mafia

Once upon a time I lived in Western Massachusetts. Then I moved to another state, got a non-Mass license, and registered to vote. The next year I moved to a third state. The next year I moved to a fourth state. Sometime between the third and fourth states, I was called up for jury duty in Northampton, Mass. I failed to appear, partly because I didn’t get the notice until after my date, and partly because I wasn’t a resident of Massachusetts and therefore had no right, never mind duty, to serve on local juries.

Now that’s par for the course in Massachusetts. But this time, this time the Jury Commissioner went too far.

It all began three and a half years ago, when I was once again living in Massachusetts (the fifth state), after having been away for seven or eight years. I was called up for jury duty in Chelsea. Though I didn’t even know where Chelsea was, I checked with the MBTA and took the day off work (unpaid) in order to do my annoying civic duty. The reminder postcard said I was on stand-by status and to call a number beforehand to check whether I should report on my assigned day. I called the number; the recording told me not to come in.

Yesterday I got a delinquency notice for failing to appear in Chelsea three and a half years ago when they told me not to appear, complete with threats of a criminal complaint against me if I didn’t make it up to them by rescheduling my jury duty. Of course it’s been over three years and I’ve had jury duty in Roxbury since then, so if showing up for jury dury is enough to clear my record, it ought to be clear.

I called the phone number and a typical state worker answered. Since I’d served since my alleged delinquency, she said I was excused. I said I wasn’t delinquent; that I’d been told not to report. She said they wanted jurors that day, ma’am. Like she remembers whether they wanted jurors in Chelsea on a fall day in 2000! I remember because I was one of the jurors they didn’t want.

Anyway, the Jury Commissioner is going to send me a letter saying that all is forgiven because I cleaned up my act and showed in Roxbury. I’m going to send one back saying that there’s nothing to forgive and I want my record cleared of alleged delinquency in 2000, not to mention that incident in Northampton back in the 90’s.

The moral of this story is: if you’re called up for jury duty in Massachusetts and you don’t feel like going, hang it all and don’t go, because they’re just going to send you a delinquency notice three years later no matter what you do. And you can make it up to them by scheduling new jury duty, possibly retroactively. Why obey the law if you’re going to be treated like a criminal either way? You may as well enjoy the crime if you’re going to do the time.

I’m really starting to hate this state. Maybe I should move back to state #2.


Wednesday, February 18th, 2004

Your muse is Urania, the Heavenly, muse of
Astronomy. You are in love with Astronomy and
Astrophysics (which is doubly good because it
impresses more people at cocktail parties).
You aren’t very much concerned with this earth
at all, and may tend to be a geeky person.
There’s nothing wrong with that, of
course–geeks make fantastic conversation and
will leave you to your own devices, which is
often what you want. Go discover stars…

Which of the Nine Muses is your muse?
brought to you by Quizilla

Bitter Jack the Muse is slightly less bitter today, since a little birdie told him he was recced at BSO. Unfortunately, Bitter Jack is too busy moping in Minnesota to market himself properly.

Even my muse is retired…

In Between Seasons

Tuesday, February 17th, 2004

Lego link of the day: The Portland Lego Brickfest at Wired
Filk musical of the day: Once More With Hobbits

I’ve finished off season 4 of Stargate with drabbles for “Double Jeopardy” and “Exodus”: Double Take and A Fateful Trip. On the long side, my new AU fic, A White Dove, clocks in at 7,500 words. It’s set in season 7 (though there are no real spoilers since I haven’t seen any of season 7) and it’s unrelated to the previous two AU fics. This is also my first not entirely sappy or parodic or bitter Stargate fic of over 100 words.

Note that I said not entirely. The cool thing about AU’s is that you can kill the characters over and over and over again, and there will still be spares in some other universe. (You can take that as a summary of the story.)

Link Dump

Monday, February 16th, 2004

My desktop is a mess, so I’m cleaning it up with another link dump.

  • I wanted to set up an Atom feed, but the Four Easy Steps involved downloading MT 2.65, which happens to include its own Atom template, so gee, you’d think that would be one hard step, not four easy ones.
  • If you thought installing a new version of MT was bad, try Step 3, getting your webserver to serve Atom files with a new mime-type. Any step that suggests getting a better web hosting service is not an “easy” step.
  • So I thought I’d try Mark Pilgrim’s Atom 0.3 template, but that requires two plugins. I don’t even know if they’re installed here, and I don’t care enough about Atom to harass my host over it.
  • Atom: it’s not just a feed, it’s a way of life. If you have an Atom 0.3 template that works with MT 2.63 out of the box, please share it with me. Otherwise, I’m going to start saying nice things about Dave Winer.
  • Skia is a lovely font owned by Apple - it’s a shame more people can’t use it. Abstract fonts lists it as free, but that may not be the genuine Skia. To be safe, you should get a Mac.
  • Visibone has a nice browsershare survey, in case you’re curious about who can see what fonts.
  • Sean Wilson has some more nice bookmarklets, which Windows people tend to call favelets.
  • Although Stargate SG-1 is headed into a record-breaking eighth season, other shows are busy doing the Firefly. As everyone knows by now, the WB kicked Joss out on his Buffy-neglecting behind. If you ask me, a show can get only so far when the lead actor can’t act his way out of a paper bag.
  • Speaking of which, UPN is still threatening to give Enterprise the old heave-ho.
  • And while we’re on the topic of dogs (I mean Porthos, of course), the Canine Genome Project has distinguished ten families of man’s best friend.
  • Scientists have been sphere-packing with M&M’s - mmm-mmm, math!
  • A white dwarf star gives a whole new meaning to like a diamond in the sky.
  • Did you know the Hubble recently spotted the most distant known object in the entire universe? It used gravitational lensing to see the ancient cluster of stars. But that’s not the point.
  • The point is that the Hubble is going to be left to rot up there and will stop working in just a few years. Why? Because NASA has new safety regulations forbidding the astronauts from doing a space walk to the Hubble. How many times, I ask you, has a shuttle blown up because someone went on a spacewalk? Tooling around in space is the least deadly of all shuttle endeavors. If they ever launch another one of those aging behemoths again, the only thing they should be doing with it is fixing the Hubble. (If crazy people want to travel to and from the International Space Station, let them use rockets.)
  • But then again, I remember the debacle at the beginning of the Hubble’s tour of duty; maybe this death-by-too-scared-to-fix-it is a fitting end to its star-crossed career.
  • Speaking of star-crossed spaceships, someone found the wrong Beagle.
  • Apparently, Mars really is red. Who knew?
  • Which scifi writer are you? I was Heinlein, which is odd since the only thing I ever got out of him was grok.
  • There’s a Speculative Literature Foundation, with nice links to resources for writers.
  • Greg Egan has a home page, but only the bibliography is up-to-date.
  • Barbie and Ken play Arwen and Aragorn - and I thought the movies were wonky…
  • A List Apart lists cool custom css underlines.
  • Speaking of lists, learn about the little-known but versatile tags for HTML definition lists
  • Robert Wade lists the rules according to guys.
  • Silence is for sale again at the iTunes Store.
  • A nifty little app called Wiretap will let you record your own silence (OSX 10.2+).
  • Dinner time: TastyBite InstantIndia, available at a Trader Joe’s near me. (Shaw’s has them way overpriced.)
  • TastyBite’s store locator for Massachusetts is an entertaining example of the perils of off-shore database entry. Who knew that Massachusetts had cities like Malibu, Mamaroneck, Mayland (Wayland, Maynard, or a combination of the two?), Mlt, Mit (perhaps an indication that MIT has seceded from Cambridge), Morrissey Boulevard, Hyannis Mall, Lexington Street, Newport (RI), Narragansett (RI), Pawtucket (RI), Providence (the capital of RI), Norwalk (CT), Old Saybrook (CT), Stamford (CT), Meriden (CT), Middletown (CT), Vernon (CT), Allston Plus (is that anywhere near Lower Allston?), Franklin Plus, Mt. Auburn Plus (seceded from Cambridge and supersized), Brighton Mills (a step up for Brighton?), Porter Square (presumably named after the world-famous T stop), Newburgh, Hedley (with a Mountain Farm Mell), and “Salem, Mass” (scare quotes in original)? All out-of-state towns are listed with a genuine MA after them.


Sunday, February 15th, 2004

Boycott of the day: Shaw’s Supermarket

Boskone has left town, perhaps due to the biting windchill here in America’s windiest city. I enjoyed the talk on interpretations of quantum mechanics given by John G. Cramer. He’s a good speaker and must make a great professor. I had no idea he had his own: the Transactional Interpretation. I’m a pilot-wave girl myself, but I don’t know that the pilot wave survives the experiment he spoke about. Then again, the Transactional Interpretation involves time travel and we all know that leads to being a monkey’s uncle.

The session on Fermi’s Paradox (that is, if the universe is as full of alien life as Drake’s equation seems to predict, then where are they?) gave me some good ideas. I’m firmly in the they don’t exist camp, but the discussion of how likely it is that aliens would colonize the galaxy of course also applies to us, even if we are the only intelligent life in the universe.

It might take a million years to colonize the galaxy, and our current motives for doing stuff - economics and religion, mainly - don’t seem up to that kind of sustained effort. The only “human” effort that took that long was that whole Out of Africa thing. But is there really no economic incentive to spread across the galaxy? What other force besides capitalism and religion might drive people out into space? I thought the answer was obvious, but maybe that’s just me.

Recommended books:

I almost forgot to mention that Michael A. Burstein is a very funny guy.

Happy Valentine’s Con

Saturday, February 14th, 2004

It’s not often I get to be one of the least geeky of a room full of people. In fact, it’s only at cons. This year’s guest of honor at Boskone is Stephen Baxter, who doesn’t have the axen to grind that David Brin had. I’m looking forward to next year, though, when we get Orson Scott Card. September brings Noreascon to town, but the price is steep. There’s only so much I’m willing to pay to be one of the least geeky people in a room.

Boskone 41

Friday, February 13th, 2004

Mac hint of the day: View any number of days in iCal

It’s that time of year again, when local fen spend Valentine’s Day at Boskone. If you’re in Boston and you want to see off-line fandom in the flesh, stop by for a day. Sunday is cheapest. The preliminary schedule is already up.

4096 Color Wheel 1.4

Thursday, February 12th, 2004

It’s the middle of the night and I’ve been up geeking. As a result, there’s a new version of the color wheel that saves all your colors in a hidden list. Click “show full list” to see them all. Many thanks to Nate Steiner for the suggestion, and to Nicolas Taffin for the French translation.

I’ve also tried to explain the web-safe/web-smart/unsafe colors and provide some other fun and useful color links on the new color index page.


Wednesday, February 11th, 2004

Security Fence of the Day: in Saudi Arabia.

I’ve never had much use for AppleScript, but a couple of MacOSXHints today used it and one intrigued me: dumbing the clipboard down to plain text. With that script, if I’m reading something in a Really Big Purple Font in Safari and want to cut and paste it into iChat, I can turn it into plain black text and it will come out the normal size. There was also a clunky script to toggle image loading in Safari. Other scripts in the Apple Safari AppleScript collection are more appealing - window-resizing ones like the javascript bookmarklets I mentioned a few posts back, and my personal favorite, Combine Windows, a script that takes all your open Safari windows and merges them into one window with tabs. It’s very handy for sites that insist on opening links in new windows.

The AppleScript menu isn’t on by default, but this page makes it easy to set up. Some of the Safari scripts require that you turn on GUI scripting, which as far as I can tell just means checking the “Enable access for assistive devices” checkbox in the Universal Access system preference pane. You can download collections of AppleScripts for other scriptable programs from Apple.

While I’m geeking, I should mention some other Mac links I’ve come across lately:

Alarming Macs

Wednesday, February 11th, 2004

Birthday of the day: Happy Birthday, Rocky!

Since the sudden and unexpected demise of my Baby Ben alarm clock, I’ve been wondering whether the ever-versatile Mac could replace yet another home appliance. Apparently, it can. The simplest way to do it is to use Schedule tab of the Energy Saver preferences to set the Mac to start up at a certain time. There are certain disadvantages to this approach, though: you have to shut the mac down if you want to start it up again (and if you need to reboot your computer every day, you may as well be running Windows), and the actual behavior of the mac on starting up depends on how you have it configured. I have my login screen on, so the most I get from starting up in the morning is the startup tone. On the other hand, if you log in automatically and allow Quicktime to autorun, you can play an mp3 or some such. Detailed instructions for this approach are at Low End Mac.

Making an alarm clock that will wake your mac from sleep in order to wake you from sleep is harder. Like people, macs normally require an external stimulus to wake up - keyboard input, a phone call, administrative access by ethernet, etc. Alarm clock programs work around this difficulty by either requiring you to keep your mac awake the whole time (Alarm Clock S.E., iRooster), or by using the BSD subsystem to wake the mac up from sleep (Alarm Clock Pro). The latter is apparently what the shareware program iAlarm does as well, though details are scarce - iAlarm may just be feigning sleep.

Judging from the flaky interface of Alarm Clock Pro’s Wake from Sleep menu item, and the flakiness rumors about iAlarm, I’d say that using the BSD subsystem to wake from sleep is an iffy venture at best. I’ll see how it works out.