Goodbye Sparky

George "Sparky" Anderson passed today. It's a bit hard to explain the connection that Michiganders have with Sparky; it's not like losing a family member, but it's close, an odd way. The only real way I can relate to it is through my own experiences.

Baseball was a huge part of growing up. My father played a lot; high school, college, semi-professionally after that. I was, notoriously, at a ball field weeks after my birth. My summers were spent playing or watching my dad play, keeping the books, running the scoreboard, pigging out on concession-stand candy and popcorn. When I wasn't at a game physically, baseball was on the television or, even more ubiquitously, the radio. And, aside from the strong voice of Ernie Harwell, there was one name that always popped on the radio, the one name that was consistant from season to season.

Sparky Anderson.

I can even hear Ernie pronouncing his name; "Spahrkeeh". Sparky was The Coach. And to baseball players, Coach was where the bucked stopped. When Sparky made a change in the lineup, pulled Morris, or (even better) stormed the field, conversation stopped and ears craned to the radio.

When I think back to those endless summers on the diamonds, Tigers' baseball meant two things: Ernie's voice and Sparky's face. Sparky Anderson was, to me and so many others, the face of summer. In my Junior year of college, I sat silently with dozens of other young men and women watching ESPN Classic, mouths open as Game 5 played out from our youths. Goose Gossage stood firm against his manager, Kirk Gibson looked over to the dugout, and Sparky mouthed (now, said, thanks to edited footage) "he wants to pitch to you." He chuckled as Gibby paced around the plate, the chuckle of someone who knew more than anyone else at the park that he'd already won the Series. I want to believe I remember that moment from my childhood, but I don't. But I happily layer that cold night in Kalamazoo over a slightly warmer night in October to remember a definitive moment.

Every Tigers fan, fair-weather fans included, have similar stories. Sparky factors into many of them. He was Tigers baseball; hell, he will be for some of us for years to come. But those times are passing. An era has passed.

Sparky, I wish I'd had a chance to meet you. May you rest in peace.

links for 2010-10-05

New Hobby: Book Making

I've been fishing around for something to do as a hobby for while. Making beer, while fun, isn't something we have the facilities for me to do with any regularity. Plus, it's kind of a pain in the ass (sorry brewers, it is). J-- had recently turned our spare bedroom into a writing room, which freed up a corner in the den. I quickly set up a card table, decked it out with a random Ikea shelf that had been sitting in a corner, and instantly realized I had nothing to do with the space.

A couple failed trips to Riders Hobby store later, I knew I wouldn't be building model planes or cars anymore. I really enjoyed doing it as a kid, but I felt no passion for building what are, essentially, toys. I still don't have quite enough space or money to bump up to making model sailing boats or R/C planes, so I found myself adrift without options.

But then, due to a random conversation at work, I was Googling for more information about making books. I watched some videos, browsed the few websites that are out there, and then a planned trip to Hollanders in Ann Arbor. Soon, I found myself in possession of a bone folder and some supplies.

I spent a couple tense hours measuring, cutting, gluing, and fretting as I assembled my first book; a deckle-edged, blank-paged journal with a cover cut from a map of the world. It an amateur's job, which goes with my skill level. But I loved it and I wanted to make more books. I love the feel of books and the fact that I can create them taps into a visceral part of me, that part that used to hang out in my dad's shop, breaking all his tools and cutting up his stock of wood.

This past weekend, I made book number two: a conventional, lined journal with a book cloth edge. It's constructions is slightly better than the first book; practice makes perfect, right? I had planned to spread the construction out over the weekend, but I managed to finish it the same day I bought it.

I think I've found a hobby.

[caption id="attachment_1776" align="alignleft" width="500" caption="My First Two Books; 1st one on the bottom"][/caption]

links for 2010-09-07

Atheists are People, Too

Every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics: You are all stardust. You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded, because the elements - the carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, all the things that matter for evolution and for life - weren’t created at the beginning of time. They were created in the nuclear furnaces of stars, and the only way for them to get into your body is if those stars were kind enough to explode. So, forget Jesus. The stars died so that you could be here today. --Lawrence Krauss

via Atheists are People, Too.

Inception explained and other thoughts

I think that in a couple of years this will become the accepted reading of the film, and differing interpretations will have to be skillfully argued to be even remotely considered. The film makes this clear, and it never holds back the truth from audiences. Some find this idea to be narratively repugnant

The above is an excerpt from a discussion of the film's themes, and will completely give it away, so don't read it if you haven't seen the movie yet (link to full review at the bottom).

We had a similar discussion to this on the way back from the movie, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Otherwise, a good summary of the themes in the movie. Well worth your money to see in the theater; it was the first movie we'd gone to theaters to see in over a year and, despite every reason for why we don't go to the theater anymore sitting or occurring in our theater, we enjoyed the hell out of Inception.

On a side note, the review of Inception by Rex Reed led me to the conclusion that he's just become a professional troll recently. Yeah, I linked to it, but damn, if you have to resort to middle-school name calling or vibrator jokes when reviewing a movie with lesbian lead characters (seriously, in the first paragraph?), you've abdicated your Reviewer hat for page views as a Troll. How the mighty have fallen.

Anyway, check out the full Inception explanation (you too, Rex; obviously you need to have it explained to you) at chud.com.

The only WoW Killer is RealID

Yes, the headline is overdramatic (what WoW-related post couldn't be), but it's also the biggest thing to hit gaming in a many a year.

For those not following gaming news or who doesn't play World of Warcraft, Activision Blizzard announced over the weekend that they would not only expand RealID to their forums for Starcraft and World of Warcraft, but that it would be mandatory that posters to the forums to use their real-life first and last name. Old posts would not be retcon'd, but any new reply or new post would have the person's real name attached to it.

This move is, rightly so, garnering some attention. A laundry list of reasons to oppose this have crept up, from examples of real-life stalking from game activity, to the potential to out closeted gay gamers, to identity theft, to potential employers searching on your name and finding your forum posts.

Posting on the forums is, as Blizzard points out, completely optional. Your real name doesn't show up in-game unless you opt in and allow someone to see your name. But, as a commenter on Reddit points out, this is a step in a new direction. Games like WoW are inherently social; you have to group for quests sometimes, you are in a guild to raid, you talk with people to trade goods. With RealID, you have a real-life social network tied to a virtual one. The possibilities for adverstising dollars and monetizing a userbase of millions is probably still making some executive horny.

Make no mistake; this is an experiment. One they're committed to, but an experiment nonetheless. I play, but I don't use post on the forums (cesspool that they are). I think this will diminish the quality and quantity of posts, but it doesn't affect me. Not yet, anyway.

What I do see this as is a step towards mandatory RealID in-game as well. Experimenting with the forums is a litmus test for the reaction versus the effectiveness. It's the allergy test before you actually consume a suspect food. People will quit the forums, people will quit the game, bad things will happen. These are known consequences that factored into the decision.

The question isn't will they, the question is whether they can tolerate the consequences. If they extrapolate the numbers to the main subscription base, will a move like implementing RealID in-game allow them to continue making millions of dollars every month?

If they can, Blizzard will be the leader in a brand new field of social marketing. If not, they may have set their own house on fire.

It's an interesting risk; we're watching Blizzard, but you're walking a very, very thin line with many people.

Hulu Plus; more of the same

Is it any wonder broadcasters are afraid of the Internet? They don't even understand it. Exhibit most recent: Hulu Plus, a $10 per month service which allows you to watch current and back-catalogs of television shows like X-Files, Modern Family, and others. Oh, wait, a $10 per month "ad-supported" service, something Hulu considers "revolutionary" and a price-point about which they're "thrilled".

Which would be great if they only had to eat their own dog food. But here in the real world, with services like Netflix already providing ad-free streaming (to more devices), the value proposition for Hulu Plus seems smaller. Add to this the ability to already see the same shows available on Hulu Plus through regular Hulu (with the same ads), things are looking oddly... off.

The big sell here is that you can watch all currently available episodes of a show, not just the three or five trailing episodes many shows currently allow. But, with movie studios clinging to old markets and training consumers that they're going to have to wait for releases, people using the convenience of the Internet to view media are more and more willing to wait.

Essentially, Hulu Plus is almost 3 years too late with this idea. The market has better offerings with more value. Unfortunately, if Hulu Plus fails, look for calls of piracy and consumer readiness as reasons. Never mind the complete lack of any value presented and the complete ignorance of what consumers actually want.

The iPad

Yes, I caved (or, was tipped slightly further, causing me to plummet into the cavern into which I was desperately staring) and bought an iPad. Wifi-only, because I'm cheap, but bought one nonetheless. And here's why.

Douglas Adams.

No, I'm serious. It's slowly becoming a cliche, but the iPad is the first step in realizing the vision of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; the nerd's fantasy of an always connected, always updated book that tells you just what you need to know, now. It is a device that offers entertainment, wisdom, and places to get wasted. It is the Guide.

Any self-respecting (or moderately self-aware) nerd, geek, dweeb, A/V manager, or sys admin worth their salt has read the Sacred Tomes more than thrice. Annually if you want a really well-punched card. And the vision of that universe is a system of knowledge that crosses galaxies, instantaneously, if not accurately, to deliver the wisdom of people more worldly-wise-than-you to a device you can reasonably purchase. Adams himself saw the Internet to have the potential for this vision.

I did not, however, buy an iPad because I am some visionary sage of future tech. If that was my nature, I would be investing in toe nail collections (they have gold, you know). No, I bought it simply out of gadget lust. Nothing more, nothing less.

But then I saw what it did to people.

(Disclaimer, I'm well aware of the post-facto justification this post will sound like. Work with me through the rest; I'm writing with my biases prominently on display.)

I knew something was different on a Sunday a few weeks ago. My "in-laws" (not married) were over, with a visit from J--'s sister. I'd laid out the iPad casually, because I'm an attention whore like that. Everyone but J--'s mother was eager to try it; poked around the apps on it, flipped into the App Store to search for their favorite topic, things I'd seen a dozen people prior to them do at work.

J--'s mother, however, wanted nothing to with it. It didn't interest her, it was odd and different. She didn't need it. It got tossed back onto the coffee table. Then J--'s mother and I started talking about recipes for smoking meats while sitting on the couch (sidenote: I'd inherited a smoker from them and I LOVE it). I wanted to look up a recipe I'd seen, so I reached for the iPad. I didn't do it to use the device, I reached for it because I didn't want to leave the room and break up the conversation.

I fired up Safari and started searching, finding the first candidate. J--'s mum perked up, but that wasn't the one. I search again. Closer, but she was sure she'd seen it somewhere else. I searched again but got further away.

J--'s mom got frustrated. She knew was it was, but couldn't articulate it. So I handed her the iPad. I pointed out the search bar in Safari, made her tap to open the keyboard, and watched as she searched up the recipe. She emailed it to me, then proceeded to spend 20 minutes surfing various sites, zooming, opening multiple windows. She was a power user in less than half an hour. Her husband had to ask if they were leaving anytime soon to get her to stop.

And I knew. This was something different. I'd bought it out of lust, but fallen into the trap laid two decades ago by Douglas Adams. My Nerdself craved the interactive, ubiquitous ability to conjure up knowledge with my own fingers. Apple's device isn't magic, as so many marketing videos claim. But it is a visceral fulfillment of so many subconscious wishes. It can't fail because we want it to succeed so much.

It is also the harbinger of how things will be. As with other things, it's the first of many similar things. It may not be the most featured, but it is the more polished. There will certainly be Android touch tablets to follow, maybe even a Palm OS or Windows version. But Apple is defining the experience right now.

In 10 years, we'll all have devices like this and wonder how we put up with things like mice, possibly even wondering what kind of idiot would have a 40-pound box stashed underneath their desk. Apple may not win the battle for market ($DEITY knows they've blown it many times before). But the model for how to interact is being changed and the future is being redefined. It's an exciting time.

Blue mozzarella balls

WTF kind of contamination do you have to have for this to happen?

BBC News - Italy raises alarm over blue mozzarella.

Back up, finally

Another host move, another messed up install. Things will be broken (again), but I'm not going back to fix them this time. If you find something broken that you really, really need, email me and I'll dig it out of a backup.

Thanks to Dreamhost for great customer service and a really nice admin back end.

links for 2010-05-20



  • The Google Font Directory lets you browse all the fonts available via the Google Font API. All fonts in the directory are available for use on your website under an open source license and served by Google servers.

    View font details to get the code needed to embed the font on your web site.


links for 2010-04-28



  • The Codex Seraphinianus is a book written and illustrated by the Italian artist, architect and industrial designer Luigi Serafini during thirty months, from 1976 to 1978.[1] The book is approximately 360 pages long (depending on edition), and appears to be a visual encyclopedia of an unknown world, written in one of its languages, a thus-far undeciphered alphabetic writing.


Citizens in action... to protect themselves

The latest hot-button issue in Chelsea (brace yourself) is the building of a new Police station. The current station is infested with rodents and black mold, undersized, and generally not the kind of place anyone, much less a police department, should be working in.

But that won't stop the NIMBYs from rallying around... their property values. Nope; this middle-class town can't see past its own yard to fund a new station, with City Council chambers, for a growing city. They're not even hiding it:
Robert Daniel, who lives within a block of the proposed location.

He admitted opposition started because he and other neighbors didn’t want a police station “in their back yard.”

You even used the words? Come on.

Nevermind that the City has been trying to get this station built since 1993. 17 years. And where would this site be? 305 S Main St. On the busiest street in town, at the current site of the City offices. You know, the street that is backed up from 3:30 to 6 pm every weekday. The street that every emergency vehicle going to or from Chelsea Hospital or I-94 uses every single day. But the opposition group cites "traffic concerns".

As a voting citizen, I resent having City services hampered by a group who has a conflict of interest in the construction of a new station, who then cloaks that interest in the guise of fiscal responsibility. Their opposition is only adding expense as, now, the City has been tossed into yet another legal battle with its own citizens.

I urge City Council to ignore the planning commission's vote and issue the $2.5 million in bonds needed to move the project forward. And if this issue does go to a vote, you can be sure I'll be whipping up support in favor of it.

Citizen opposition may stall plan to build new Chelsea police station

links for 2010-03-29

The Answer! (An Anniversary)

Today is the day we learned the answer to Life.

The Universe.

Everthing!

(It's 42, by the way.)

On March 29, 1978, the BBC Radio series "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" aired the episode that revealed the answer.

And we still miss Douglas Adams.



This Day in Quotes

links for 2010-03-12

Get rid of that stupid Slashdot comment section in your RSS feed

Slashdot recently began embedding this ridiculous comment section in their RSS feed. To get rid of it, add this to your favorite ad blocking extension:

http://slashdot.org/slashdot-it.pl?op=discuss&id=*

I'll click through if I feel the need to read or spend karma.

How Times Change

Steve Jobs, 1996:


Steve Jobs, 2010:
"We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it. We’ve decided to do something about it. We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."

I love your products, Apple, but it's hard to continue promoting your stuff when your strategy for a market is to patent-troll everyone else. If you can't beat Androids on your own, maybe it's time to innovate. And stop acting like that other huge monopoly; remember how that worked out for them?

Apple Sues HTC

The Apple Patents Cockpunching All Smart Phones: An Illustrated Guide
(best headline of the year so far)

The (Second) Happiest Place in the Country

Holland, MI was recently named the 2nd "Happiest Place in the Country". Technically, they included Grand Haven, but who am I to ignore a golden opportunity like this? I'm not going to get into the methodologies of the survey, the definition of "happy", or the value of this survey. As a former resident, I feel, however, that it's my obligation to tell you (yeah, you) it's unlikely you'll be happy in Holland. (Full disclosure, I technically grew up in the confines of Zeeland, MI, not Holland itself. However, I spent much of my youth in Holland as it was, believe it or not, "town" for Zeeland kids).

I had started a long, whiny rant, but I'll just recycle/re-purpose a comment I made somewhere else here as a commentary.

Holland has a special flavor of suck. It's comprised predominately of middle-aged Internet noobs who think a "funny" username (e.g. HesAKenyanLOL) is cover for any racist, homophobic, fundamentalist bullshit they care to peck out with their ham-sized fingers into the comments section of a news article (see MLive, GR). They'll invoke Ronald Reagan, the Bible, or Jesus H. Christ himself as they attempt to justify not helping someone because a single representative of that lower caste committed a crime, isn't Christian, or is a Commie. It's the land of not just the blatant double standard, but the land of reveling in your own hypocrisy. The area is a breeding ground of Palin-esque ignorance, the variety that smirks at its own stupidity, daring you to stoop to its level.

tldr; Living in Holland is like living inside Idiocracy.

Stupid OS X tricks - window management

I'm still getting used to my Mac, and one of the things I ran into recently drove me nuts. For a company that prides itself on the user experience, Apple sure does drop the ball in odd ways.

My annoyance was window sizing when switching from docked to not-docked on my MacBook. When docked, I'm running on a larger monitor so I have my windows sized to use more real estate. When I go mobile, the windows remain that size, which is far larger than the MacBook's monitor size.

Here's the thing though; you have to get to the bottom-right of the window to resize it, which I couldn't do. iTunes in particular was giving me a headache because none of the tricks I found were working.

Finally, I stumbled onto this page that revealed the fix (someone else found through guessing it appears). It's simple when you know it (hold Alt while toggling Window > Zoom), but so esoteric to be confounding. (Side note: for other apps, you can switch the dock location to another edge and then back and the windows seem to come back. Again, really? This was the intended UE?)

Anyway, windows now back to their working sizes, but what a stupid thing to have to deal with. At least Windows let's you grab any side of the window to resize.

Twitter has pushed me too far

Inspired by Matt Haughey's stand against Twitter , I re-logged into Mastodon on all my devices and shelved my Twitter access. I haven&#...