Monthly Archives: February 2009

Politics… Gotta Love It

Pardon the politics but I have to say that I’m feeling quite smug after reading this and this.

I am feeling smug because this is exactly the way I expected things to go. And my smugness is not directed toward the Democrats or the Republicans but to the Very Political People on both sides – those Democrats who have been demanding the immediate withdrawal all troops from Iraq and expected that they would finally get their way when a Democrat was elected President and those Republicans who predicted that an inexperienced anti-war President would quickly and recklessly withdraw the troops regardless of “conditions on the ground”.

And neither group is happy now. But I am. It’s a pretty good show even if I do already know what’s going to happen.

Word Looking for a Definition

Once in a while I come across a CAPTCHA* that looks like it really should be a real word. A few minutes ago I saw this one: ausyogic. Sounds like some kind of medical or psychiatric condition doesn’t it?

*Those security words that you have to type in to prove you’re not a spambot.

Quotes From Here and There

I know that truth is usually stranger than fiction, but it’s not this strange.here

Get this app to a nunnery, and don’t try again until Patrick Stewart, Stephen Fry, or Ian McKellan has agreed to voice the insults.there

Deep in the antipodean wilderness one man struggled to find the reason as to why he was constantly compelled to find new ways to join old brass and steel machine parts together to create spectacularly useless mechanical devices.here

Having the party of Bush lecture you about out of control spending is like having a heroin addict chide you for putting too much sugar in your coffee.there (via)

It’s kind of too bad (but kind of not) that we don’t have visible odometers like cars or else it would be tempting to take a picture.”here

Rain, Please

Today is one of those days that makes me actually like Oklahoma’s crazy weather. It’s still February and this morning at about 6:30 it was already almost 70°F. (hasn’t gotten a bit warmer since)

It looks like it could start raining any minute but there’s only a 20 percent chance. I’ve seen days like this before. Dark clouds and we just know it’s going to start pouring rain any minute but it doesn’t. In two or three hours most of the clouds will move on and we’ll have blue skies again.

UPDATE: Sometimes I hate being right. Ten minutes after I post this and the sun is peeking through the clouds.

Quilt Dreams

I have to make a quilt like this. I found that yesterday. At first glance it looked a little bit complicated but it’s not at all. As soon as I realized how it goes together I fell in love with the geometry of it.

Last night (or this morning) I dreamed a quilt. It was this pattern in red, green and cream – a Christmas quilt. Now the last thing I need to be doing is planning another quilt (or sewing project of any kind) but it was such a lovely quilt it seems a shame not to make that dream come true.

I’ve been thinking about making more quilts to give as gifts but rather than using up some of the ideas I already have it has made me think of even more ideas because I’m thinking about what would be appropriate for the intended recipients. Looking around for more ideas I don’t need, I found this page full of quilt blocks.

The quilt I’m working on now is coming along nicely. It’s the first queen size quilt I’ve ever made and the idea of it was a little overwhelming at first but now that I’m up to my favorite part of the work (the actual quilting) it’s going faster than I expected though I still have a long way to go. I need to start cutting and piecing for the next one, which will also be a queen size.

Random Linkage

Great quote!

Botanical illustrations – Beautiful!

Double positive – Heh

Habitable infrastructure – fascinating architectural speculation

A Square – Very small parks in South Korea (via Dark Matter)

Art Glass Doorknobs – Wow. (via Grow-a-Brain)

NeoCube – cool toy

More abandoned places

Rolcats – Eastern Bloc lolcats with English translations. Very strange. (via Nag on the Lake)

Stairwell fossils – interesting

“Entertain me… NOW”

Byzantium’s Shores quotes John Scalzi on the subject of impatient fans. Well, not merely impatient fans but actively, angrily impatient fans.

I suppose it’s unnecessary to say that our modern way of life makes people impatient. We are used to being able to go to the store or get online and buy anything we want when we want it and to have to wait more than a week for anything is an intolerable inconvenience or even injustice. But it seems highly bizarre to me that there are people who expect writers to crank out stories with the speed and consistency of a modern automated factory.

Maybe I just don’t understand. I’ve never been really hooked on a series. I’ve started a few and I’m almost always disappointed with the later books. Three seems to be the perfect number but sometimes a series will start sucking as early as the second book. I am wary of continuing series. I wasn’t very interested in Scalzi’s Old Man’s War books but the fact that he’s not planning to write any more actually makes them more attractive to me. That and the fact that they are each standalone books, something I wasn’t aware of before. (I haven’t been paying attention.)

Standalone books that just happen to be set in the same universe and have some of the same characters are something else and not what I’m talking about. I was about to say, if you can’t finish a story in one book make the book thicker, but I have read several trilogies that I greatly enjoyed and it made sense for them to be trilogies instead of having it all crammed into one book.

Anyway, this is drifting off topic. What it comes down to is this: Some people need to get a life and realize that other people, even writers, also have lives. Read something else for crying out loud!

A Handful of Links

Abandoned camper – great story and series of photos (Bifurcated Rivets)

Interesting and amusing nature photo

Periodic Table of Cupcakes – No no no no… I didn’t need to find that. From this great collection of links. It’s probably a bad sign that I went for the cupcakes first.

A Tribute to Fallen Sodas – I’m a little annoyed that I never got to try most of these. (via David Thompson)

Northern Lights 2009 Gallery (via Quiddity)

“Stimulating” Activities

I’m making pretty good progress on the quilt but I didn’t get to work on it any this weekend. (Here’s one of the blocks in case you missed it.) Now, as if I don’t already have enough planned (another queen size quilt that I want to get done this year, the quilt that’s already started that I keep putting aside to work on other quilts, several more quilts I’m thinking about, lots of other sewing) now suddenly I’m excited about curtains.

That’s right, curtains. Normally, I don’t especially like making curtains. They’re boring to work on and always take longer than I expect. But this weekend we started talking about installing new windows. We’ve been talking about it almost since the day we moved into this house but the tax break in the new Economic Stimulus Package is an even better incentive than just hating our windows. Our windows are single pane aluminum frame windows and they have these very inconvenient and not very efficient storm windows that go on the inside and we can’t open the windows when the storm windows are in place. Throughout winter and the first part of spring here it can be 15 degrees in the morning and 75 in the afternoon so we really need to be able to open the windows.

We want to put in larger windows in place of the two front windows in the living room because the ones that are there are too high off the floor. We have a lovely view out front but when we’re sitting down all we can see are the tree tops. That means new curtains are absolutely necessary because the ones we have only come to a couple of inches below the window. Now a reasonable person might say, “Why don’t you just go buy new ready made curtains since you don’t even like making curtains?” to which I would respond, “Are you kidding?! Ready made curtains are boring and not unique.”

I’ve been looking at these fabrics. I think I have the choices narrowed down to only about half a dozen. We might even drive all the way to Guthrie some weekend to pick it out in person. Or if I finally make up my mind I might not want to wait. I don’t know when we’re starting the windows – soon I hope – and it would be nice to have new curtains ready to put up as soon as the windows are in.

I like the curtains we’ve had for 10+ years. They’re fading on just one side of each panel. I like the fabric so I’m thinking of recycling the unfaded part into a quilt. (Yay! Another quilt.) It would be (heck, will be) a quilt to go on the sofa and continue the southwest theme. Not that my house is in any way actually decorated but, you know, I can at least play at decorating. We have always talked about having a Native American theme to go with a couple of pictures we have, like the print I wrote about here. Anyway, this means I will need even more southwest fabrics. Yay!

It’s all about the dresses

So that whole Oscar hoop-tee-doo was last night, right? I didn’t watch any of it. It used to be a big deal to me when I was about 14 but I long ago got bored with watching Hollywood pat itself on the back every year. The best part about it – what has always been my favorite thing about the Oscars – is the clothes. And now, thanks to the Internet we can see what they wore without having to sit through four hours of actors, writers, directors, producers and all sorts of other movie people stammeringly thank their mothers and their hairdressers.

I don’t have much to say about this year’s Hollywood fashion show except that there were many lovely dresses and I so wish I had an excuse to wear something like that once in a while. In particular I noticed a couple of pink dresses that were very nice and Miley Cyrus had on a lovely and interesting fairy tale gown. My favorite of the darker dresses is the one that Queen Latifah wore. There were some I didn’t like but nothing (at least in this slide show) that looked really ridiculous, except maybe Jessica Biel’s. I’m leaning toward that being ridiculous.

Quotes From Here and There

Ah, the symbol-laden symbolitic symboliticism of it! Paper out, digital in. here

I love a good epiphany.there

I found you in a kitchen drawer,
The one I use for bric-a-brac:
Loose batteries, old keys, and more.
You were in the very back,
here

I like to think that after firing this off, Dickens burst into tears, then got on the computer and played Web Sudoku for an hour.there

Race Relations

I guess a lot of people are a bit bent out of shape about Attorney General Eric Holder’s remarks about race relations. Well, people have to be bent out of shape about something or else they might stop watching the news and get lives.

Holder made some good points in that speech but he was wrong to say that we are “a nation of cowards.” We are mostly a nation of people who want to do the right thing but don’t quite know how. We listen when other people tell us what the right thing is and we try but then either we’re told that we’re not quite doing it right or they change their minds and decide that the right thing is now the wrong thing and we have to learn a new right thing.

It’s understandable that the right thing might change every decade or two as new generations grow up and decide they want things to be different but it would be helpful if everyone would be tolerant and I don’t mean the officially prescribed one way tolerance of the PC crowd; I mean real, old-fashioned tolerance. That means giving people the benefit of the doubt instead of always assuming the worst intentions. If we could all do that then perhaps we could have the “frank conversations about racial matters” that Attorney General Holder wants to see.

The “self segregating on weekends” issue is one that I have thought about for years but how does one go about changing that? It’s just a matter of habit and breaking habits is usually uncomfortable whether race is involved or not. But if we can get past the fear of rejection I think most of us are willing to make new friends without regard to race.

Speaking of Having It My Way…

Sometimes I think the techies keep making things more complicated just to keep us regular folks in line. I figured out how to do HTML, maybe not very well but well enough to create an adequate, not too ugly web page. Then along comes CSS. I never have really figured out all the nuts and bolts of CSS but I knew enough to cautiously tinker with style sheets that somebody else created. Until I was forced to switch from B2 to WordPress.

I really like this current theme a lot but lately I’ve had a hankering for a touch of pink. I’ve been thinking about switching to something like I had several years ago with an ivory background and just a little bit of light pink. Much as I like the blue and white and the lovely picture of Talimena Drive, ivory and pink is more me. So I looked at WordPress themes and found a simple one with no images. It looked very tinkerable. I would only have to change the colors. Simple. I can do that. But then I saw the style sheet.

Excuse me but what the hell?! First of all, it has several .css files. I took a look at the one named style.css, figuring it would be the main one. It’s a book length monstrosity! At first it looks almost familiar but then it goes on and on and on and on and on and… What is all of that sh… uh.. stuff?

Much as I dislike the idea, I decided that maybe I should give up and use a CSS editor. So I went searching for one. As usual with things offered for download, none of them tell me as much about it as I want to know before I download it but from looking at the screenshots it doesn’t look like any of them do what I was hoping they would do. I need one for real dummies. I want to see exactly what the page is going to look like before I put it out here on the Internet and to be able to drag and point and click and change colors and such just like using Paint.

I’m going to look a little more but I’m thinking what I’ll probably do is just look at some more themes and find one that I like pretty much as is. Either that or just forget it and keep this one. All I did with this theme was replace two images – the header and the background – and that made a huge difference in the look without having to edit the stylesheet. We regular folks just have to make do the best we can.

Why Can’t I Have It My Way?

Other than the fact that sewing is fun and that I love fabric, the thing I like best about sewing is that I can make clothes the way I want them. But sometimes it’s not easy. Even sewing patterns are rarely exactly like I want them so I often mix up pieces, swapping sleeves and collars and such and alter patterns in other ways. I’ve been doing this for years and it’s usually not a big deal but some alterations are trickier than others and I would prefer to find patterns that are already exactly right.

I have been using the same pattern for elastic waist pants for years and it’s almost too ragged and worn out to pin to fabric. So I’ve been thinking I should finally give it up and buy a new pattern and I’ve been hoping that this time I could find one that is exactly right or at least closer to right than the old one I’ve been using. The problem is side seam pockets. I hate them. Pants with side seam pockets do not properly fit anyone except those strange, pencil-thin hipless wonders that the fashion industry is so in love with.

SewingPatterns.com lists 1859 patterns in the “pants” category. I haven’t looked at all of them, of course. Other than searching by brand you can’t narrow it down so all pants patterns are included in that – women’s, children’s, men’s, dress pants, casual pants, everything. It would be very helpful if I could narrow it down to only women’s pull-on pants. Another extremely annoying thing about the site is that you can’t bookmark the page where you left off or individual item pages. And that’s not all. I could go on and on with complaints about this site. But on the plus side they do have a lot of patterns so I keep looking.

I’ve been browsing by brand and so far all women’s elastic waist pants have side seam pockets. That is extremely frustrating and annoying! All those patterns and they’re all basically alike. I can alter a pattern to make elastic waist pants with normal front pockets and you can buy ready-made elastic waist pants with normal front pockets so why don’t they make patterns like that? I did see one but it had ridiculously wide legs so I’d still have to alter it. I suppose this proves the old saying, “If you want something done right you have to do it yourself.”

Thinking Machines

I love my commenters and I love the Internet. Robert of The Drawn Cutlass posted a link to Al Fin in the comments on the post immediately below this one. So I went to check it out and the first thing I saw was this quote about smart machines:

Markram estimates that in order to accurately simulate the trillion synapses in the human brain, you’d need to be able to process about 500 petabytes of data (peta being a million billion, or 10 to the fifteenth power). That’s about 200 times more information than is stored on all of Google’s servers. (Given current technology, a machine capable of such power would be the size of several football fields.) Energy consumption is another huge problem. The human brain requires about 25 watts of electricity to operate. Markram estimates that simulating the brain on a supercomputer with existing microchips would generate an annual electrical bill of about $3 billion .

Well, I suppose that means we’re not going to have an army of Datas any time soon. Or… who knows. Approximately 20 years ago when I was thrilled and impressed that we had a 386 with a 40MB hard drive (while at work we only had 286s with 20MB hard drives) I never imagined that we would in 2009 be able to carry 4 gigabytes on a keychain.

What will the world 20 years from now look like? I wouldn’t bet on super-intelligent androids but it would be nice if personal computers were smart enough to understand what we really want them to do even if we don’t know exactly how to word our requests. And a supercomputer that only uses 25 watts of electricity would be really nice too.

Hotels at Sea

A plan to convert decommissioned oil rigs into luxury hotels. It should work. If it’s anywhere on or next to the ocean people will pay truckloads of money to go there. I sort of like BLDGBLOG’s failure scenario though.

Of course, if the real Dubai is any model for what might actually happen with such a resort, then we’ll probably see dozens of oil rigs partially converted to luxury hotels only then to be abandoned by their construction crews and investors. As the lands of southern Louisiana continue to disappear into the Gulf, heavily armed refugees on fishing boats will move out to sea, recolonizing the derelict structures. There will be campfires at night, burning driftwood, and specialty gardens.
Within four or five decades of inconsistent contact, the Library of Congress sends out a new, 21st century Alan Lomax to visit those thriving offshore subcultures and record their folk songs and oral histories.

Either way, it’s probably better to put them some use instead of just destroying them with explosives.

Science Quote

“The non-scientist’s relation to modern science is basically craven: we look to its discoveries and technology to save us from disease, to give us a faster ride and a softer life, and at the same time we shrink from what it has to tell us of our perilous and insignificant place in the cosmos.” — John Updike

Found here.

Creepy White People

I’m not a big fan of The Onion but this article is pretty funny. For some reason I especially like this sentence: “To be honest, you people are kind of terrifying when you’re happy.

There are a couple of different ways one could take the article. First of all, nothing like that is happening so you could take it as making fun of high expectations for change. On the other hand, you could take it to be saying that no matter how you act a lot of people are still going to complain. And I guess both are true.

Thanks, Andrea.