Life

The things that happen between events

Christmas Kitty

I would hate for this blog to just become a place where I post sad things, so here is something nice: We welcome a new family member this week named Rory. He is my Christmas kitty and a welcome addition to the home. He has a big personality and quite an appetite. He is just shy of 4 months old and a bit of a purr machine. Missy is slowly getting used to the new company and there is much scampering. They are also able to share the bed without too much drama (by the bed, I mean me).
Posted by John in Cats, Life
It’s been a rough year.

It’s been a rough year.

Valentine “Binky” Clark
?/2002 – 12/12/2017

I am sad to say that my sweet kitty Valentine passed away today. She was with me for over 12 years and was as spoiled as I could possibly make her. Writing her story down helps me remember the joy she brought me. Hopefully it will bring you some as well.

She came to me on Valentine’s Day by way of the Atlanta Humane Society and she was my “scratch and dent” kitty. Her previous life had been less than happy and she arrived at the pound with a broken tail, bowed back legs and a general terror of pretty much everything. 

Hasta la vista, baby

She also, like a number of white cats, sported a pair of mismatched eyes; one green and one blue. It was odd enough most of the time, but flash photography made her look like the Terminator kitty.

For the first week she hid behind the washing machine or under the bed. Eventually she was coaxed out with food and kind words. After an adjustment period she decided I was acceptable and could continue to stay in her house. 

This is how we nap

She had an odd but quiet personality and along with her odd walk (stemming from the bowed back legs), this garnered her a number of nicknames: “Binky,” “Boopatina Wobble Bottom,” “Ludmilla”  and “Ghost Kitty.”  She really had too much personality for a single name, but I have to say “Binky” was what she was called most often. The ghost kitty name came from that fact that most of my friends rarely saw more than a glimpse of her. Which is odd, given that she spent most of her time napping. She liked to lay in the windowsill and sun herself.

Spooning Good

She had a select list of people she liked and as she got older, she seemed to become more social. However, right from the start she developed a very strong attachment to my other cat, Cricket and as I am going back through pictures I have found dozens of the two of them spooned up together. 

She also developed a singular attachment to the bed, which she considered to be hers by Divine right and generously allowed me to share. Other than eating and the litter box, she could almost always be found on the bed, waiting for someone to lay down and spoon with her.

This is mine

In the mornings, when I made the bed she would follow me from side to side, staying on the mattress but within petting distance. When I went to sleep at night she flop over on me with all of the gentleness of a sumo wrestler and wiggle her way up until she tucked herself into my armpit and laid her head on my shoulder. 

Letting her go was very difficult. Doubly so since Cricket passed in August. She was a loving friend and a good comfort to me when I needed it. It is my fondest hope that wherever she is now, she and Cricket are spooning together and telling tales about me to all the other cats. I will miss her very much.

Better times

Posted by John in Cats, Life
DragonCon Photos

DragonCon Photos

It’s that time of year again. Time to get inspired by the creative cauldron that is DragonCon. Special kudos to Connie for the fantastic River Tam cosplay (and for being a huge Gator fan).

 

Posted by John in Life, Nerd Stuff
Tonight on The Turntable: American Football

Tonight on The Turntable: American Football

Wow…

In today’s mail I got my copy of “American Football” from Polyvinyl and all I can keep saying is “wow.”

Let’s leave aside that fact that this LP was originally released in 1999 and I never knew about it. This 15 year anniversary release is a study in how to create an experience with craft.

For starters, it’s expanded from one to two LP’s, with the second one being a collection of “rare live recordings, demos, and practice sessions.” The vinyl itself is a lovely marbled red and the cover and record sleeves are designed around some very nice photography.

There is also an enormous booklet that includes lyrics, brief stories about each song and (be still my beating heart) the guitars tunings used for each song. That last one almost made me weep. Somebody wanted this music to be enjoyed on every possible level.

In addition, Polyvinyl the record label really has won my heart as well. This order contained a complementary single from the upcoming Alvvays LP (which I had already pre-ordered). Evidently this is a Polyvinyl tradition, in which they occasionally include a little something extra in an order. These extra singles are created specifically for mail order customers and are never sold. They just get slipped into random orders or included with special edition releases. That is pretty awesome.

Oddly, they also included a piece of “Air Heads” taffy with the order. Thankfully, this was well sealed. — I suspect this Champaign-Urbana, Illinois company has little experience with a Georgia summer, where asphalt can actually be rendered into a liquid state from the heat. 🙂 That said, this has to be the most pleasing package I have received in a very long time.

The music itself is a marvelous blend of math-rock and airy melody, which is perfect for the light rain falling outside. Reading through the stories on each track while the music plays is such a treat. It’s more like a conversation. I think this weekend, I will reserve some time to put on the head phones, lay down on the couch with all the lights off and just listen.

This is kind of what I was talking about in my previous couple of posts, what I will term an “heirloom experience.”

For the crafter, it’s considering how what you make will be experienced, touched, heard or whatever. What you make is not simple utility, it is how you pass on an experience to someone.

For the person who encounters the craft, the magic lies in the “aha moment,” when you  realize that someone thought about your experience when they were building or designing. This can be anything from the art and presentation of a great album like the one I am listening to right now, the smooth gentle curve on a nice piece of furniture, or the surprise you feel when a piece of software does what you were hoping, instead of what you expected.

There is a sudden appreciation of the Crafter behind the Craft, the thought behind the experience. So much of our experiences in this vein are negative, rather than positive. In fact, I am fairly certain the the creators of the “blister pack” have likely been atomized at this point by the sheer power of psychic rage directed their way.

The drawback to Craft has always been two-fold: time and money. Craft takes longer and tends to cost more. Everyone is busy and everyone wants to get a bargain. So much so this has actually become the sum total of American industry; the corporation that can shave 3 minutes off a production process or lower the cost of each widget made by 40 cents will succeed and amass tremendous wealth.

These corporations deal with millions of people, so the math makes perfect sense for them. Sadly, most individual humans have bought into the idea that life is a business. We cut 5 minutes here and save 20 cents there, all in the goal of succeeding the way a business succeeds.

The problem is that the math doesn’t work at our level, or even at the level of a small business for that matter. In our lives, we deal with small numbers of people, so the time we shave off of our interactions with them doesn’t benefit us significantly, nor does it benefit them. But still we shave that time and save those pennies, and the only one’s who gain a wealth of experience are the corporations we buy from. The math works for them, but not for us.

What if we took the time, spent the dollar and invested in ourselves and the small group of people we encounter every day? We could take the time to sand down that rough edge on whatever we are making, or spend a little extra money on that bottle of wine to share with a friend (even if they might never notice the difference). What would happen?

Given the amount of stress we inflict on ourselves every day, maybe we should try to bring a few more heirloom experiences into our lives.

Posted by John in Life, Music
Old Habits

Old Habits

I restarted an old habit these past few weeks. Vinyl records.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I already have about 1000 vinyl albums. I got out of the habit when CD’s got big (about 500 of those) and I dropped CDs for the most part when audio streaming went mainstream.

I have a Spotify account and a Pandora account, but increasingly music has become a background thing; something to listen to while doing other things.This is probably the way most people listen to music.

However, there was a time for me when music was the thing.

Not an addition to, but the thing. An album was a treasure,  a direct link between me and a band. They had something to communicate to me and I needed to stop and listen. Anything less would just be rude.

I lost some of this with CDs because I could cram 5 of them into a changer and just play. I got even farther away from it when digital music became the norm. There’s something about access to every track ever… It’s a little like Ikea: when it’s cheap and pervasive, it’s easier to take for granted, just passively absorb like background noise. No attachment and no history.

It’s especially odd for me as a wood worker. There is a huge movement right now around hand tools and heirloom furniture. The idea that the thing you create is important enough to pass down, not just use and discard. It’s not just utilitarian ephemera, it’s an expression of it’s creator. It’s a moment in time.

It seems to me that there are pieces of history that are just simply transitional. They get us from point A to point B. They serve a purpose, without question, but they are not the stories we tell our children. They are the things that happen between History (big H).

And then there are pieces of History; expressions of self, slices of time and moments of wonder.

Stop right now and think. Which of your moments are the heirlooms you will pass to your children and which are just transitions and ephemera.

I am listening to Matt Pond PA’s “Several Arrows Later” on 180 gram vinyl. What are you doing?

Posted by John in Life, Music

Contractors

Dude! My berries are frozen!

Dude! My berries are frozen!

I have been kind of quiet here for the last few months, but with good reason. On Tuesday, it will be 6 months since my water pipes froze and burst during the first freeze of 2014. This two part post covers the last six months of my life as I attempt to recover from the freeze. I am writing this, not as a list of woes and worries, but to ask a simple question; what the hell is wrong with contractors?

January 8th

pipes1It’s the second night of the big freeze, Delta Plumbing responded quickly in the emergency, and while I might quibble with the pricing, given that fact that they were working round the clock to fix things and the fact that they came when they said they would (8pm on the first call), I will tip my hat to them and say thank you.

Soggy carpet and 4 industrial fans means 3 days in a hotel with 3 cats.

Soggy carpet and 4 industrial fans means 3 days in a hotel with 3 cats.

The man from Delta had recommended a contractor called Apex Mitigation services to handle the water removal. Like Delta, Apex came when they said they would and responded very quickly and efficiently. The only knock on them was that they managed to nick one of my alarm wires.

This was totally not their fault, as we didn’t know where the wires were run and since it was only a nick, I didn’t even know they had done it until over a week later when the alarm would start intermittently beeping at me for no reason. Not a big deal, I just had the alarm company come out and track down the break and fix it.

The electrician sent out by My Alarm Center had the old school habit of stripping the wires with his wire cutters. As a recovering electrician myself, I have done this in a pinch, but it always runs the risk of  creating a weak spot in the wires if you crimp to hard (much like the previous issue he was there to fix).

Sure enough, I was in line for the bank later in the day when I got a call from the alarm monitoring station that my alarm had gone off. I went home, discovered the bad splices and just re-did them myself. Irritating, but it could be worse. Yes… yes it could.

Apex had recommended a renovations contractor called AYS (At Your Service) to fix the kitchen and bedroom water damage. They came out and did the initial walk through with the insurance company and I talked through a number of potential issues with them. One thing I was very clear about was that we would not do the demolition of the kitchen until the new cabinets where actually in our hands. I had no urge to be weeks without a kitchen (ah the naiveté of youth).

February 20th

As the weeks passed I had a horrible time getting AYS (Assemble it Your Self?) to call me back when I left messages. No one could tell me, when the work was going to get done or even when they would come out again. They missed 3 appointments including two days when I stayed home from work to wait for them. The final straw was when they called weeks later to say they would be out to demolish the kitchen the next day… without even asking me what cabinets I wanted to order. Are You Serious? I have a 8 foot square of bare concrete in my bedroom and the kitchen counters are starting to sag. Nothing was started and the communication was awful. So AYS got fired.

March 5th

I did a bit of looking around and decided I would let Home Depot do the carpet in the bedroom. If they did a good job, I would get them to do the kitchen. Home Depot’s subcontractor is a company called Romanoff Renovations and they made me feel all kinds of stabby.

Basically, the carpet guys wanted to leave me with my bedroom in my kitchen

Basically, the carpet guys wanted to leave me with my bedroom in my kitchen

Having dealt with the alarm wires in great detail since the original damage, I knew exactly where each one came up near the wall. I took great pains to point each of these 3 places out to all of the guys working on the crew. You need to be careful here, here and here… They managed to cut Every… Single… One.

At first, they just wanted to continue putting in the carpet, then they started talking about just leaving and then, despite being told not to on multiple occasions by both myself and their own supervisors, they started trying to fix it themselves.

I was eventually able to get an alarm technician to come out on an emergency service call to fix things and check the system. After far too much aggravation, they were able to get the carpet finished. Romanoff agreed to reimburse the cost of the repair, which was the least they could do… and in fact, all they would do.

To add insult to injury, their check for the reimbursement came with a legal release statement which basically said that by signing the check I agreed never to ask them for anything else. I will state this as plainly as possibly, I would not hire Romanoff Renovations to build a birdhouse. If I was legally able to ask them for anything else, I would ask them to go fuck themselves. Home Depot should pick a better class of contractor.

By this point at least I had carpet, so all things considered, it could be worse… much worse in fact.

To find out just how much worse things could get, read Contractors II: Global Builders Restoration

Posted by John in Life

Oh Hail No!

Golfball sized hail bombarded my house. I woke up thinking the cats were knocking things over upstairs. A quick check showed all the cats were in bed with me… and all very unhappy about the noise. It sounded like someone had moved my house onto a driving range.

Posted by John in Life

The Life

Good wine. Good fire. Good night.

Posted by John in Life

File under 7 impossible things before breakfast…

I ran into an interesting problem yesterday when my laptop suddenly stopped connecting to the office network. It could see the connection, but never got an IP address. It’s a fairly new machine, but had been working fine for about 2 weeks prior to this. 2 hours of troubleshooting yielded only frustration and I resolved myself to using Ethernet at work.

At the end of the day, I unplugged my external monitor… and the wireless connected almost immediately. Huh? I plugged the monitor back in and the connection died. Seriously? Then I remembered, I had bought a new monitor connector to run the external monitor with the new powerbook. It’s cheap and probably unshielded. After a quick Internet search, I figured out that the monitor interference was making a hash of my connection. I switched the channel on the wireless network and it connected just fine with the external monitor attached.

The long and short of this is that when it comes to computers, the obvious issue is often cause by something that appears totally unrelated. Actually… I think we can pretty much say that about everything.

Posted by John in Life

Dear Brain Chemistry, yes I did work enough and accomplished enough this weekend. Would you kindly bugger off!

Posted by John in Life

The new theme is starting to come together. I still want to get a bit more detailed with the boxes.

Posted by John in Life
Dropped off at the postoffice

Dropped off at the postoffice

Here’s a business model for you…

How about I:

  1. Charge you $4 for shipping
  2. Send your package to another state (In the utterly wrong direction)
  3. Then drop it in the US mail for actual delivery

DHL – When going out to your own mailbox is just too hard!

Posted by John in Life

From the spam box…

How do you respond to something like this?

Message From Job Association. Monster.com & Careerbuilder.com
You are disturbed by administration of sites of job Association. You are a member of this group. One of our employers interested in you. There is the message from this Employee*

Yes… I am, in fact, disturbed.

Posted by John in Life

Why I want to move to Sweden…

I made the off-hand comment to my wife that we really need to move to Sweden. She took the opportunity to enlighten me as to the current Swedish Crime wave of midgets hiding in luggage and pilfering things out of your bags on a long train ride. Unable to believe this rather odd assertion, I did what any red-blooded American would do, I typed “Swedish Luggage Midgets” into Google (Which produced a number of hits and some rather disturbing advertising links).

Evil GeniusSuffice to say she was indeed correct: Dwarves Used For Bus Luggage Scam

Of course I could not help but point out that US crimes tend to lean more towards the gang-violence, drug wars and impeachable offenses by the current village idiot. Given that fact, Swedish crimes seem much cooler.

Hey is that a midget in your bag or are you just glad to see me?

Posted by John in Life

Living in the boonies…

Most days, living 40 miles South of Atlanta is a total pain; long drives, 5 o’ clock traffic that starts at 3pm and neighbors who think that the rebel flag is the finest in out-door decorations.

Then there are the days when a bunny rabbit takes up residence in your yard.
Bunny Wabbit

Or a flock of 500 blackbirds land in the driveway and begin making an insane amount of noise. I thought my cat was going to have a stroke.
Birds

Posted by John in Life

Another Brick In The Wall

It’s about 3 am and I am having a really odd dream… I have been re-hired at Earthlink and I am sitting next to some guy at a desk and he is going over my job with me. I am really not paying much attention, because a lobotomized monkey could do the work he is describing.

Man without a faceI notice that every desk has a phone shaped like Santa Clause’s head. I ask him why and he tells me that this guy in marketing got a great deal on them for the company, but that nobody really wants to talk about it.

From there, I go to help some people put a sign on a door. Inside the door, there is a meeting taking place, which is pretty much what the sign we are hanging says. A dowdy older woman comes up and begins berating me, because sign hanging is her job and I am not doing it right.

I leave her to the signs and proceed to my new hire orientation. I am confronted by a thick stack of papers to fill out and sign, an overly chipper man in a pink shirt is telling me that everything must be filled out with a number two pencil. I begin to wonder why the heck I am here.

It’s not that anything here is so terrifically horrible, it’s just so mind-numbingly, soul-devouringly pointless. How did I get here? What happened to my business? Where are my guys? I began shoving things into my book bag and preparing for a mad dash to the door. I am pretty sure that I can find a sword somewhere and free Bryan and Brian from whatever heartless corporate hell train they have been shanghaied to… when my wife woke me up. She said I was making weird noises.

Honey, you don’t know the half of it.

Posted by John in Life

Oh Noes… Part Duex

Mac PC upside down
I was trying to convert some old videos on my PC from divx to MP4 to play on my iPod and the converted video is upside down?!?!?!? Looks fine, but you must hang from the ceiling by your toes to view it correctly. One would assume this is an obvious bug with some kind of fix right? Nah… From the Yahoo tech list:

“The old upside down video problem is legendary and, by the looks of it, one that isn’t going away any time soon.”

Umm… isn’t that something a company should perhaps fix? The article goes on to suggest a lot of different potential fixes that all seem to revolve around doing things differently when you originally encode the video… They also point out a program that has hit upon the unique fix of simply playing the video rotated 180 degrees.

So if my machine types everything backwards, the solution is a word processor that flips my text?

Of course there is another solution they didn’t touch on, use a Mac and iSquint to convert the video instead of a PC (and just about any converter you can name). All the other Mac converters seem to work fine but iSquint was free and fast.

So far, my PC has proved great for games, but not terrible great at much of anything else. Oh well, Halo 3 will come out for PC eventually.

Posted by John in Life

Oh Noes!

A Sad RealizationMan… I just had one of those PC experiences that make you glad you’re a Mac user.

I was trying out the 7digital website for some new music and was pleased to find that they had a few albums by the band “Camel” which I have been looking for in digital format. I purchased them while I was on my desktop PC, set them to download while I was at work and didn’t think much of it.

Turns out they were WMA format and not MP3… What a stinky load of weasel poop. Not only are they DRM‘ed to within an inch of their life, there was no way to “license” the tracks except one at a time (all 20 of them). So after 20 minutes of repeatedly typing my user name and password to “license” the music I just purchased, I launch Windows Media Player to burn the disc.

Urk… mistake number two. For anyone used to the simplicity of iTunes, this is like like learning to program Java on a Chinese keyboard while wearing mittens (track order? What track order? Oh you didn’t what a 2 second pause between songs? Too bad). In addition, each track runs through a process of being analyzed before burning (presumably to see if I had a “license” for it) which means it takes about twice the normal time to burn a CD.

Defective by Design indeed.

Never again.

Posted by John in Life

What the hail?

Hail in my back yardWeird. We just got hailed on big time. It was really freaky and the temperature dropped about 10 degrees. Both of the cats are hiding under the bed and asking why we don’t make it all stop.

Being someone else’s “Higher Authority” is a little unsettling at times. It makes me wonder if God has days where it’s like “Dude? What are you looking at me for?”

Anywho… getting pelted with ice BB’s in mid-June is very strange.

Posted by John in Life

Hello world (Again)!

Eventually it had to happen. Business has gotten very good and the time has come for the Twelve Foot Guru name to be a business name and not a personal name. In keeping with that change I am also moving the old site here, to Infinite Biscuit. I will also be using some different software and (as always) hopefully making more posts. The old site will be a business site for myself and my business partner, Bryan Johnson.

I will also be using a few different sites for writing and sharing what I do. For my student activities I have Gradual Student. For my political ramblings I have started Proportional Response (Warning: This site has adult language and an occasionally grumpy attitude). For programming nerd talk, Bryan and I will be using Debuggery.net. I am also considering transferring all of my photography stuff to Flickr.

So, now all I have to do is start two new sites and upload the old work site to www.12ftguru.com… and I need to make some changes to it… and check for Internet Explorer 6 compatibility… and find time to do paying work.

No sweat. I should have this done by Summer 2009. *sigh*

Posted by John in Life

You May Now Refer To Me As Master…

School is an interesting place, a bizarre cross between a job without pay and a laboratory experiment where you are the white rat. It seems strange that anyone would choose to do this to themselves, much less struggle through the almost endless levels of paperwork and bureaucracy, all for the opportunity to struggle through more paperwork and bureaucracy. It takes a particular crazed mutant to want to voluntarily go to school, much less reenlist for a master’s degree. I am one such mutant.

On August 19, 2005, I finally registered for my graduate school classes at Georgia Tech.

Whoever said that “getting there is half the fun” was obviously unfamiliar with the admissions process for graduate school. Leaving aside the insane amount of paperwork, taking the GRE twice (getting the same score both times) and the endless wait for acceptance, in the end I almost didn’t get to go because of a test I failed when I was 5 years old.

I won’t go into it here, but it involves chicken pox, Georgia State laws and more shots than I care to think about. In the end, it came down to a head cutting dual between me and the Prince of Darkness. Fortunately for me, due to budget constraints, the horned one can no longer afford Steve Vai… and let’s just say that Tiny Tim ain’t what he used to be. Sign a non-disclosure agreement and I may tell you about it one day.

On the plus side, GA Tech has some of the more interesting classes available; Computers as an Expressive Medium, Visual Culture and Design, Special Problems: Network Music, Special Topics in Game Design, Interactive Fiction, Online Communities and a class in Machinima (which is the creation of art and film using the engines from video games) Tech also has some fantastic facilities, top notch faculty and an actual football team. 🙂

I am extremely excited about it all.

I also have a new laptop. Kim wanted a laptop that didn’t weigh 30 pounds and I have finally convinced her to come over on to the side of light. She took my old powerbook G4 12 inch and I bought a new one (with twice the CPU and hard drive space). We now have his and hers powerbooks. We have not yet decided if we will dress them the same, or simply allow them to grow into their own personalities.

Posted by John in Life

Long Time No See

Bless me Internet for I have sinned… It’s been far too long since my last update. I got married in September and I am thrilled and happy.

However… whoever said getting there is half the fun was not talking about weddings. Getting married and the after-party is much fun. The 3 month-this old house-extreme makeover and general freak out… not so much with the fun.

On the plus side, I have discovered just how amazing my friends truly are. They brought food. They helped with yard work. They got me loaded. They took Kim out to race tiny cars. They kept Kim and I sane. They gave us nice gifts. Most of all, they showed up to help me celebrate getting married to the best woman in the world. My friends rock.

We had a beautiful day with perfect weather and everything came off without any huge problems. I am told that the ceremony was beautiful and just the right length (brief). I say “I am told” because, truth be told, what I remember of it was:

mumble, mumble, mumble, God. mumble, mumble, mumble, Do you take this woman? mumble, mumble, mumble, Jesus. mumble, mumble, mumble, I now pronounce you husband and wife.

As soon as I saw Kim come through the door, my brain went *hummina-hummina-hummina-hummina-hummina-hummina* I just remember breathing in, but I’m not sure I actually breathed out until we got to the “I now pronounce you husband and wife” part. It was sorta like having Daffy Duck jumping up and down in my head yelling “Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!

When the ceremony ended, people blew bubbles instead of throwing rice (which was pretty cool). I sworded open a bottle of champaign (without exploding the bottle thank goodness) and my best man, Bryan Johnson, delivered a wonderful toast.

After that, it was a wonderful mix of backyard party, photographs and warm wishes. We danced and fed each other cake and did all of cute the things that new couples do.

We made a graceful exit and wandered off to the mountains for our honeymoon, where we promptly collapsed and enjoyed the peace and quiet. All in all, I could not ask for a better day, better friends and family or a better wife.

If I was a cat, I would purr.

Posted by John in Life