We've been working hard on M's job applications. We're applying to about a zillion places, some she doesn't stand much of a chance at, some she should be a shoo-in for, some that are in places we'd never want to live (Utah; most of the American South), some that sound idyllic (New England) or just cool for various other reasons (Washington State). One thing's for sure, it's a lot of work.
February 3, 2001 (Sat)
While I'm at it, I want to put in some words of praise for our utterly fantastic printer. This baby churns out letters, CVs, teaching statements, research interest statements, and even envelopes at a crisp, clean 1200 dpi, complete with our fancy multiple-master fonts. It's great. Of course it's also been discontinued, but its replacement is almost certainly just as good. If you do a lot of writing, you might want to go get yourself one. (It's good to see that HP still has one of the worst websites out there.)
Needless to say, I haven't been spending a lot of time reading the web, or anything else, either. (I have started reading the Oxford University Press edition of A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens). So far, I've read the end notes, and if the book's half as interested as the notes, it'll be great.
Today, though, I had a chance to read a bit while I was waiting for gv to show me some letters (it's very slow when it comes to dealing with multiple-master fonts). Anyway, Graham had a pointer to an article about the swooshtika, which was fun and interesting. (My dot.com had a swoosh in their logo, too!) I spent a while poking around, between reviewing letters, and came across an article about the Situationists. More to the point, about the idea of the derive, which I've been fascinated by since I first read about it in Greil Marcus's Lipstick Traces.
I've always practiced the derive—when I would get depressed, I'd walk the streets of whatever town or city I was in until I was either less depressed or too tired not to sleep. Things (usually) looked better in the morning. In the process, I would often be amazed by the things I came across—odd signs, strange happenings, bizarre juxtapositions.
The article also talks about Archigram, an architectural movement that
coalesced around the idea of the Instant City—cities constructed
from modular components that could be put together for one purpose,
then dismantled and reassembled in some other configuration for
another activity. The best known fictional version of Archigram's
dream city is probably the “plug-in lifestyle” described in John
Brunner's The Shockwave Rider.
via Virulent Memes
well-reasoned call for impeachment of the five members of the
U.S. Supreme Court who acted to hand George W. Bush the election.
(If you didn't know, the five are Scalia, Thomas, Rehnquist, O'Connor,
and Kennedy.) Also, the
Vincent Bugliosi article from The Nation outlining
the case for impeachment.
Via the Red Rock Eater mailing list list.
February 5, 2001 (Mon)
Whoo-hoo! We got almost fifty applications off in today's mail (it would've been 50, but we were rushing to assemble, fold, insert in the correct envelope, and seal, so we accidentally included two letters in one—luckily, I happened to choose that one to demonstrate that all the envelopes weighed less than the 50 g cutoff for the cheapest rate, and it failed). Plus around 20 by e-mail. That leaves us with roughly a dozen that either need additional components or some fine-tuning. We're getting good at this stuff, although if there's any justice, we'll never have to do it again!
My brother sent me a really
nasty, funny slam on Bush that's worth a look.
February 6, 2001 (Tue)
testing distribution still appears to be broken (courtesy
of X). A couple of days ago, when we were in the thick of things,
apt-get dist-upgrade -s claimed that I could upgrade
safely. Except that I think I probably typed
upgrade instead of
dist-upgrade. I did
decide to do an upgrade, which was fine except that
chose to attempt an ill-informed and
disastrous upgrade of some of the X support packages. Luckily they
died before any real damage was done, and I reinstalled my old
packages and set them to hold.
I also got mail this morning telling me that my
wishlist bug against
exmh was closed
because a new version had been uploaded. Because it won't filter down
testing for a couple of weeks, I decided to track it
lynx. While I was poking around, I checked to see if
there was a newer version of Emacs, realized I hadn't
looked for information on version 21 for a while, checked Google, and,
It's not officially out yet, of course, but there are unofficial packages, including Debian source. It wasn't compiled for PPC (again, of course), and it won't compile out of the box, but I'm getting closer... at least I'm getting different error messages....
I also came across this article about LinuxWorld 2001 and how all the companies that have jumped onto the Linux bandwagon are dragging it down.
February 7, 2001 (Wed)
The National Network (formerly The Nashville Network, hence the domain name) started showing Miami Vice a couple of weeks ago. I always liked that show, and it's kind of interesting to see it now, almost twenty years later, when I'm a completely different person. One bizarre/annoying thing about their presentation is the compression scheme they're using—some of the Canadian satellite networks use a method that results in the image becoming jerky before a dramatic change (cuts between scenes, mostly). TNN's compression scheme is less obvious, but more disturbing: So long as you aren't carefully watching, everything looks fine. Pay attention, though, and you'll notice that people's faces pulse and throb as they speak—the compression creates a lag that you can really see with small movements.
Salon has an article about a new documentary about William Gibson, the man who (with the help of Tom Maddox) finally allowed us to stop watching The X-Files about halfway through the last (horrible) season. Gibson, it seems to me, is all about style. You don't read his stuff for the plots or for the science, but for the haircuts, the clothes, the martial arts moves. He can describe strikingly beautiful visual scenes—panning across Farside, a machine assembling a Cornell box from pieces of floating detritus—and he can get moods right, too—the atmosphere in the Rastafarian space station, the tension in a love hotel. But those ideas don't seem to translate well into film or television. Somehow the wonder and power of a scene that his words can evoke in the mind of a reader manifest as tired old sci-fi cliches when handed over to actors, directors, and special effects technicians.
Yay! My car works again. We took it down to Canadian Tire after charging it for about half an hour. It started twice for us (M was worried about the cables getting caught in the engine, so insisted I turn the engine off before she disconnected the cables), but not in the parking lot. They tested it, and it came up BAD. So we got a replacement at a prorated cost (a bit more than half the cost of a new one), installed, and the car seems to be happy again.
February 8, 2001 (Thu)
Salon has a review of Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, which we're reading right now. (It was in SFU's slush pile until I thought to check and see if they had it, resulting in their deciding to acquire it after all.) Good—if scary—stuff. I've never been a huge fan of fast food, and this book provides me with all the ammunition I need to just stay away. (Made all the easier by the fact that there are no Carl's Jr.s north of Oregon, and thus no Western Cheeseburgers. Oh, yes, and my violent intestinal reactions to consuming most beef.)
We first heard about Schlosser's book from The Atlantic Monthly, which printed an excerpt, “Why McDonald's Fries Taste So Good”, in its February, 2001, issue. (There's also an online-only interview, “Unhappy Meals”.)
There's also an e-mail conversation between James Fallows and Joseph J. Ellis, author of Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation, which I've just requested from the library. I am weirdly fascinated with periods of history I never cared about when I was in grade school of late....
Part of it, at least, is that once M has a job, I have to start thinking about what I want to be doing. I could go back to doing systems administration, or maybe some more editing, but I'm really wondering about going into some historical field—either just working at a museum or perhaps going back to school, to do, well, what? Historical archaeology is always a possibility (you can bet I'd try to get a job at Historic St. Mary's City (where I spent the summer of 1989) if M got hired by St. Mary's College—although that might be a little too weird), but architectural history is also appealing (since it brings in my interests in architecture). Or maybe pure history. Or folklore. And I have occasional moments of interest in geology and cartography. And design. No doubt you can see why I didn't just go on to grad school in the first place.
February 9, 2001 (Fri)
Not much happening here or on the Web. I'm spending some time reading (Fast Food Nation) and working on some backend scripts for the blog. By the time I'm through, I should be able to have archives and permalinks. Not sure about adding date stamping for individual entries, although that probably wouldn't be that hard, either.
February 11, 2001 (Sun)
Hmm. Something seems to be amiss with the new version of
exmh. There are a couple of pretty serious bugs open
against it, and it seems to be the most likely suspect in crashing my
machine. (It looks like something that was happening when it was
trying to read a particular message—most likely to do with getting
or checking a GPG key—led to a huge memory leak, causing
kswapd to run continuously, making the machine completely
inaccessible. I've had this problem with
ages; although I thought it had been fixed, it seems like maybe it was
just fixed so that the number of things that tickle the problem were
reduced. Oh, well, back to
February 12, 2001 (Mon)
Hey, look, they're at it again! Yes, big surprise, you put 'em in power, and they try to take your rights away. Senator Tim Hutchinson (R-AR) and Representative David Vitter (R-LA) have introduced legislation (S.251/H.R. 482) to impose severe restrictions on the use of mifepristone RU-486 to induce miscarriages.
The ACLU has more
information and a way to send faxes to your legislators. Maybe
you could suggest that they support the Saving
Women's Lives through International Family Planning Act of 2001
(HR 361, introduced by Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) and James
C. Greenwood (R-PA)) instead.
Via Rebecca's Pocket.
about Hunter Thompson and Fear and Loathing in Las
Vegas from Los Vegas CityLife. I did a book
review of F & L back in high school. Ah, those were
Via Pith and Vinegar.
t1utils package I maintain for Debian.
February 13, 2001 (Tue)
“Don't look now, but the various recounts under way in Florida are determining that the wrong guy is in the White House.” So says an article in The Nation. Seems the recounts that have been underway for the last couple of months are leaning heavily in Gore's favor. Anyone surprised?
February 14, 2001 (Wed)
February 16, 2001 (Fri)
Ooh, (not) big fun: upgrading to XFree86 4.0.2. Ugh. But, hey, it
only took me a couple of hours to get X working again, not to mention
a lot of poking around, gratuitous use of
dpkg, and so
on. And I even managed to seriously crash the machine.
But it's running now. It *might* be more stable. I can use the delete key in the login box. My fonts are too damn big. And, maybe, just maybe, I'll never have to do it again.
February 19, 2001 (Mon)
- Bis ans Ende Der Welt, AKA Until the End of the World (1991)
- The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension (1984)
- Home of the Brave: A Film by Laurie Anderson (1986)
- Animalympics (1979)
(Number five was originally True Stories (1986), but it's actually available! (And, hey, I already taped it uncut from Bravo...)
February 20, 2001 (Tue)
February 21, 2001 (Wed)
But they hate their customers. Their prices are so low that their margins must be razor thin, and everyone knows that low prices attract poor people, and poor people, well, they're scum, aren't they? Certainly can't trust them not to steal you blind. So they force people to leave any bags they're carrying at the front of the store. Not check their bags, mind you, just leave them where anyone can take them. (Better to have those poor people steal from one another, they think!)
These are also the kinds of places that give you a hard time if you pay by check or credit card. After all, if you're shopping there, you must be a loser, and probably a thief, so they have to scrutinize your credit card and your signature very carefully, and goddess help you if you try to write a check. You'd better remember your birthday, mother's maiden name, the name of your first family pet and maybe be ready to give them a DNA sample, too.
I can only imagine what they do to their employees.
Why anyone who doesn't desperately have to would shop at these places is beyond me. Why not pay a few dollars extra and be treated like a human being? Even when I was desperately poor, a few years ago, I avoided these places like the plague—the “savings” just aren't.
Anyway, some of these schools have similar attitudes. The crappiest schools want transcripts all the way back to your undergrad degree. They want you to prove to them that you're capable of teaching their courses before they tell you anything. They fully expect you to believe that it's reasonable for you to teach three or even four courses a semester—every semester. And no negotiation, either. They want you to fill out a McApplication, even though you're applying to become a professor and all of that information is on your C.V. or in your application letter—oh, except for the bit where you assure them that you've never been convicted of a felony. The very worst ones have everything handled by human resources—perhaps they're afraid that having a faculty member call would result in whispered warnings to “get out now, while you still can!”
The best schools, in contrast, have long since figured out that it's an applicant's market this year. They have someone from the department call and sell the department—maybe several times. They tell you how nice the area is, how small the class sizes are, about the awesome new 16-processor machine the department just got. If you express reservations, they try harder, stressing their pluses. They're willing to negotiate on teaching load and benefits.
Sure does make the decisions a bit easier, doesn't it?
While I waited for M to finish up some slides for her talk for me to
look at, I did a
dist-upgrade, which included a new
lintian. I decided to check over my packages, and found
two minor problems in two of the packages. I fixed them, and, as long
as I was at it, I also checked the Build-Depends and made some
changes, and updated the Standards-Version, rebuilt the packages,
checked them again, and uploaded them to master. So there are new
the pipe, but they don't really have any significant changes from an
end-user perspective. On the other hand, they might actually get into
February 22, 2001 (Thu)
February 23, 2001 (Fri)
M and I had gone downtown to look for clothes for her trip. She found a top and a pair of gloves in Eddie Bauer, but after wandering through several other stores and finding nothing worth more than a laugh, we ended up at the Kishu restaurant on Seymour. On our way to catch a homeward-bound bus on Hastings, we passed an alley, and as we passed, a transparent purple balloon dodged across our path, heading for the street. Noticing a long trailing ribbon, I stepped on it and stopped the balloon. I don't know exactly what its message means, but it did have a tag reading “4”....
February 27, 2001 (Tue)
According to this survey, I am a member of the “New Aquarians” tribe, meaning that I supposedly identify with people such as “Singer Sarah McLachlan, Author Naomi Klein, Singer/activist Jello Biafra, Rap-metal group Rage Against the Machine, Author/activist John Zerzan, Actress Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Dead Prez”. I mean, Jello, sure, he's cool, I'm against paying to advertise for corporations (let's be honest: I'm against advertising for corporations, period), and I like Buffy (although my fave character there is probably Willow), but who the hell are “Dead Prez” and “Rage Against the Machine”? From the pictures included on that page, they like two more corporate rock/rap groups designed to divert youth anger away from the corporate exploitation of youth culture.
As is true with so many of these surveys, though, the questions and the choices you can make are so vague that I often have a hard time choosing, meaning that for many questions I end up choosing an answer I'm not particularly enthusiastic about.
As for “everything changed in Seattle”, well, yeah, it did. What changed in Seattle is the attitudes of “democratic” governments to organized protests against their actions and policies and those of their corporate sponsors. Think I'm kidding? Take a look at the preparations for the Summit of the Americas in Quebec this April. (Which, of course, I can't find a link to, even though I watched Alexa McDonough (the leader of the NDP) and Svend Robinson (our local MP) give a press conference criticizing the suspension of rights associated with the conference yesterday.)
Meanwhile, Frontline redeems itself after last week's pathetic (Canadian) documentary on “hackers” with “The Merchants of Cool”, an examination of the way that corporate marketers steal and twist youth culture to sell their products. The scariest thing about this documentary for me is the marketing execs—thirtypluses who dress half their age and live to manipulate kids. They remind me of my last manager. (Over forty and dressing half her age in Hilfiger adwear.)
Doug Rushkoff & Co. do a wonderful job of exposing the way that the dominant cultural expression has become increasingly constricted to the offerings of a handful of transnational conglomerates that include television, movies, music, and books, as well as fast food, drink (soft and hard), clothes, and damn near everything else. The marketers trying to sell one of these products work with the marketers trying to sell the others until they've created a lifestyle feedback loop—what you read or see on television and in movies influences what you eat, drink, wear, and listen to, which in turn influences who you hang out with, which affects what you watch, read, and listen to, ad infinitum.
Especially interesting is the way that “anti-corporate music” is
absorbed, its energies redirected to “safe” targets (gays,
intellectuals), and sold back to the same kids who think they're so
individualistic for liking those bands. (Particularly sad is the way
that the “rebel” kids are already so much like their more sheeplike
peers in the way that they adopt a uniform look and attitude that's
ever so easy to coopt.)
Via /usr/bin/girl. Also, thanks to Rebecca's Pocket, which included a link to the Frontline site for “The Merchants of Cool”.
February 28, 2001 (Wed)
Wow. We just had an earthquake! That makes the first one I've actually felt, including the one in San Francisco when I was talking in a meeting and everyone else stopped paying attention to me and then started estimating its strength.
Weird feeling—I was in bed, going through the notes at the end of Founding Brothers, when I felt the bed jiggle a bit. I first wondered if I had somehow pinched a nerve and gotten my leg muscles to shake, then heard a rattle and wondered if it might not be me after all, then glanced up to see the ceiling lamp swaying back and forth. (In my defense, I was staying out of M's way while she was talking to a school on the east coast—ordinarily I am a wonder of productivity. ;) )
More information! Turns out that the earthquake was a 4.7 magnitude one (about the strength of the one I missed in the meeting). Its epicenter was near Olympia, Washington (the capital, just south of Seattle).
If you felt it, you can report your experience to the Pacific Geoscience Center of Natural Resources Canada (in Sidney, BC). (Assuming their server stays up long enough, that is....)
So, in the few minutes it took me to assemble the last entry, they've reappraised, and now the strength of the earthquake is up to 6.2, and they're reporting some damage in the Puget Sound area and Langley, BC.