Archive for August, 2004

Wall Mac

Tuesday, August 31st, 2004

Ballot stuffer of the day: Diebold

Mac links, old and new:

Beware of Bedbugs

Monday, August 30th, 2004

It’s moving time again in Boston. Every spring and fall the dumpsters fill up with discarded furniture and the other detritus of migrant student life. Permanent residents pick through the leavings. Neon tickets for overflowing dumpsters collect on the doors of apartment buildings, though how they get back to the absentee landlords is beyond me.

This year, however, there’s a new participant in the dumpster-picking ritual: bedbugs. Allston is the hotbed of bedbug activity, but I spotted the new bedbug warning label [bottom of the page] on a lovely blue loveseat as far east as Back Bay. Somehow I doubt the Allston bedbugs are that close to Beacon Hill.

Gnomi provides a guide to Boston for the newbies, but she leaves out both the bedbug risk and another vital piece of information. As explained previously in this very blog, the wooden ties with long steel rods laid across them are train tracks. Trains run on them. If you are on the tracks when the train comes, you get squished. Surly T employees will have to scrape you off the rails, and that only makes them surlier.

I mention this because a New Zealander electrocuted himself at Haymarket station this weekend. The NZ news and the young man’s mother blame inexperience with the third rail of Boston transit. I fully admit that the DANGER THIRD RAIL signs are small and poorly-lit, and that they date back to a time when Bostonians were expected to read, understand, and obey simple English imperative sentences. Yet the unfortunate Kiwi does seem to have had a rudimentary knowledge of the English language—certainly enough to handle “no trespassing” and “danger,” if not up to the subtlety of “third rail.”

In any event, the argument from ignorance is bosh. Matthew Gallagher died because he was walking on the train tracks. The third rail was merely a complication—a bonus, if you will. The MBTA cannot save people from their own stupidity. Bad Transit should be recommending a Darwin Award for Gallagher, not a lawyer.

Mistress of the Universe

Sunday, August 29th, 2004

Tasteless Toy of the Day: the 9/11 toy (via Backspin)

I am the Master of the Universe!
Magister Mundi sum!

Which Weird Latin Phrase Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

The Little Psychopathy

Saturday, August 28th, 2004

Seema blogged recently about what makes a successful blog, but I think a bigger question is What makes a successful blogger? Forget about the fame - what makes one blogger happy and the next one frustrated?

I was writing to a friend who’d burned out on blogging about the flood of information that any blogger faces. Even if you’re just blogging about your own personal life, there are 24 hours a day of that to be distilled into a few paragraphs of blog. The secret to blogging joy is being able to write exactly as much as you want to write to convey what you want to convey.

Maybe you have deep ideas or maybe you have cutesy links, maybe you want to keep your finger on the weak pulse of the MBTA or be an alpha geek content provider. But there will always be more ideas, more links, more T derailments, and more geeking. You have to draw the line somewhere, and do it without guilt.

That’s where the little psychopathy comes in handy. Once upon a time, blowing people and responsibilities off was considered impolite. Now it’s expected and necessary. The internet is a world of procrastinators, where only the most interesting things get done, and whole websites, fandoms, and people fall by the wayside when the interest wanes. You won’t be happy on-line unless you can put off answering email or blogging that so-so blog entry indefinitely (which is to say, forever). You need to be one with the asynchronous nature of the net, which is to say, you have to be able to procrastinate your troubles away or you’ll get an ulcer.

The net belongs to the slackers.

Transparent Aluminum

Friday, August 27th, 2004

Disease of the day: Bird flu in swine.

And you thought Scotty was making the whole thing up! Physics Web reports a glass breakthrough:

Scientists in the US have developed a novel technique to make bulk quantities of glass from alumina for the first time. Anatoly Rosenflanz and colleagues at 3M in Minnesota used a “flame-spray” technique to alloy alumina (aluminium oxide) with rare-earth metal oxides to produce strong glass with good optical properties.

Thanks to MarsNews.com for the link. Also via MarsNews: the ESA wants to build pretty Space houses on Earth.

Breda Breakdown

Thursday, August 26th, 2004

Question of the day: Why does the MBTA have schedules? (by way of Boston Common)

Many thanks to Eric Talbot for reminding me of the “dramatic derailment” of yet another Breda train this Sunday. I have been remiss in not blogging about it, considering that I saw the wreckage with my own eyes.

Veronica and I were at the MFA Sunday morning for the Art Deco Exhibit. Sometime after noon we made our way to the MFA stop on the E line to head back downtown. No train came for a while, but on the E line you think nothing of that during rush hour, never mind on a quiet Sunday in August. But then a woman walked down the platform telling people there had been a crash.

On the other branches of the Green Line, if the T breaks down or goes out of service for repairs, then the MBTA puts up signs and runs replacement buses. Free replacement buses. Not so on the E line. We wandered over to a nearby bus stop and waited for the 39 to show. The first bus was full—not surprising, since it was carrying all the displaced subway passengers. The driver let on a few folks, then shut the door in our faces.

The next 39 to come along had some space on it. We had to pay, and we spent most of the ride speculating about the route of the 39, where it might leave us, and what had happened to that corpse of a Breda car we’d passed at the Northeastern stop. It looked to me like the far side of the car had been shorn off—I had bought the “accident” story—but it turns out that it just derailed. All over the rails.

Take a look at that bottom picture [BadTransit.com, same link as “the wreckage” above]. I’m surprised there was only one hospitalization. Imagine if we’d been standing on that platform at the time. There were little tourist kids at the MFA stop with us (not to mention my mother and a friend riding the T for the first time).

The stop pictured (Northeastern) is a really nice one. Most trolley stops are only a few feet wide, with (if you’re lucky) a low concrete barrier between you and a busy street (Comm. Ave, Beacon St., Huntington Ave.). Picture with me a Breda train derailing and scraping 25 people (or worse, students) off the platform into oncoming traffic at rush hour. It would be the end of the entire trolley system, and everyone would be taking the 39 or the 57 downtown from then on.

And none of it would have happened if we’d just bought the 100 new trains from Kinki Sharyo.

The Amazing Color Picker

Wednesday, August 25th, 2004

Codepoetry reveals the deep secrets of the Mac OSX color picker in The Colors! I’ve always wondered how to capture a pixel’s color (answer: with the magnifying glass) or get a color into the swatch list at the bottom of the color picker (answer: drag it from the swatch next to the magnifying glass). Note the link to HexColorPicker, exColor and Painter’s Picker.

Codepoetry also asks the eternal question: If I throw a cat out the car window, is it kitty litter? (one of the random quotes you get at the top of each page) and links to the cool tool LanOSD. I’m not sure what it does, but I’m sure it’s cool.

Kitties

Tuesday, August 24th, 2004

A couple of random kitty links:

I tried the latter at home.

For a regular googlefight:

Number of results on Google for the keywords J/C and C/7:
J/C (1 930 000 results) versus C/7 (2 720 000 results)
The winner is: C/7

A kittenfight yields:

Number of results on Google for the keywords J/C kills kittens and C/7 kills kittens:
J/C kills kittens (21 results) versus C/7 kills kittens (32 results)
The winner is: C/7 kills kittens

Monkeying Around

Monday, August 23rd, 2004

I’m hoping to get a copy of this monkey gene and become a highly-productive fanfic writer again. But I hope to avoid any deadly monkey viruses while I’m at it.

You’ve Got Drabbles!

Sunday, August 22nd, 2004

There are ten (yes, ten) new drabbles up on the Stargate fic page, for the first ten episodes of Season 5. The Betas’ Choice for this batch is Black Widow, a drabble coda to “2001.” The Author’s Choice is Chaka Zulu, inspired by the real Shaka Zulu.

This brings the Stargate by Drabbles project up to 70 drabbles, a fine biblical number to go with Alas, Tollana. In a few months I may even reach a drabble of drabbles.