You've reached the LiveJournal of Rowan Lipkovits, renaissance man of letters about town. I don't maintain A Homepage (typically in its place leaving a link to a Google search of my unique name combination) (to say nothing of its frequent misspelled permutation), but this LJ most likely is the closest I get.
Someone asked me
recently in the Fall of 2006) "what I do" (with that weighty implied subtext for a living), and I had to take a few moments to ponder my various cultural (mis-)adventures, literary and musical, through inception, promotion, production, and performance. Finally, I remarked that while I do a number of things, their sum never seemed to quite pay the rent1. "Ah, then you must be an artist." I don't know about that, but I'm certainly no businessman.
First and foremost these days, consider me a musician. It's been a long and winding road that's delivered me back here (video games -> ANSI art on BBSes -> poetry slams -> event production -> Britney Spears on the accordion) but if you see me about town, there's a good chance I'm heading to a rehearsal or gig of
a) the Joey Only Outlaw Band or b) Trev's "Good Rockin' Tonite" for the '80s at 8 the Creaking Planks, the jug band of the damned. (Truth be known, the majority of my performances are solo guerrilla mindbombs on the accordion, but how tacky does it look to be hyping yourself on your journal? Hey guys, you've gotta come visit my website! It's ... uh, oh, you're already at it. Never mind, then.) My performance adventures have taken me to hundreds of stages across three countries, six provinces, one territory, two states and the District of Columbia, and I've also recorded and performed in a backup capacity with Sight Unseen, the Devils With Blue Dresses On, Leah Abramson, Shane Koyczan's Dangling Participle (with Jaron Freeman-Fox and Jess Hill -- what a dream team!), That's My Brain... And You're Killing It!, da Bjorkman, Monsterdinosaur, Adriane Lake, David Roy Parsons, Bobby Richards, Peppersprey, Gunshae (... and informally with dozens more.) One of my medium-term goals (of admittedly mixed value) is to become personally synonymous with accordion use in Vancouver -- a stiff row to hoe in the home turf of Geoff Berner! (First step accomplished: now one half of the proud team behind the weekly Accordion Noir radio show, 2-3 am 9:30-10:30 pm Fridays NOW 10-11 pm Wednesday nights! on CO-OP 102.7 fm (or at your leisure via podcast!) Update! Now also the host of the Main Squeeze monthly accordion circle 2nd Tuesdays 1st Thursdays at the Little Mountain Studios the Salt Spring Coffee Co. at Main + 27th also Spartacus Books!!) Please note, as of Jan 2011, I am now taking students to follow in my idiosyncratic accordion footsteps, about which more can be learned at the no-surprises url http://accordionteacher.blogspot.com (and see also the music portfolio at eastvanaccordion.blogspot.com) On the third After a 5-year run, 57 Varieties is on hiatus. (In addition to my various roles at the Butchershop (I like the title "mascot"), I also enjoyed a long stint as performer coordinator for the Living Closet. I spent a spell helping to run the Vancouver Song Slam at Cafe Deux Soleils with Trevor Spilchen, was the Vancouver agent for the Perpetual Motion Roadshow, and also helped to produce Jeff Younger's Alternative Worlds series of improvised music. I had hopes to get together some like-minded people and do more, more, much more in 2007. But 2008 may just have to do.) ('09? Okay, '10 for sure!) [har har] Friday now Tuesday of every month I host(ed) the long-running unplugged "57 Varieties" open stage / variety show, 8-10 pm at Spartacus Books
I write, have written and will write, for among other places the Capilano Courier, Terminal City, Momentum Magazine, the Columbia Journal, everything2, MobyGames, and BeyondRobson. It started with poems but thank goodness seems to have settled into the self-indulgent (vestiges of the poetry background) essay style known as "creative non-fiction." (Most recently up
06-02-12: dig my cover story on the B:C:Clettes in the Dec/Jan issue of Momentum 07-01: review of Reading the Riot Act in the Columbia Journal!) 07-04-12: a survey of homelessness as played in videogames up at the Cultural Gutter!) 07-05-31: a history of speedrunning, also at the Gutter! (more to come from there) (edit: -- or not!) 07-06: Piece on UNARC's Tipping Point potlucks in the Tooth and Dagger to complement my T.Paul obit the previous issue! Not quite at my goal of a published piece per month, but I have a good chunk of the year to try to even out that disparity. Two more pieces just sitting in the queue! (And, it seems, stubbornly stuck in that hopper. So much for that resolution!) Somehow clattering back into motion I snuck in the end of 2008 with a profile on Trike in the Dec edition of BC Musician magazine and you can find my memories on Rusl + Jane's bike wedding in the January 2009 edition of Momentum! And now in Jul/Aug 2010, you can find me penning a review of Joanna Chapman-Smith's "latest" album again in BC Musician, and then another review of Scotty Dunbar's double album in the Sept/Oct issue.
2012: Well, my print publishing career withered on the vine (writing: more fun than pitching to editors is), but presently I have two blogging projects elsewhere (you may have noticed things are a little sparse here these days): analysis of video games scanned from old comic books at videogamecomicads.blogspot.com and wholesale choose-your-own-adventure HTML conversion at turntopage4.blogspot.com! One more trip around the publication gauntlet once again, January 2nd 2013 interviewing Jim Munroe for the Society for the Promotion of Adventure Games.
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I rid(e) my bike most everywhere I can (2007-2008: that's a big fat lie), and in the interest of being reachable by anyone who might want to find me (why hide from opportunity?), have similarly (all right, not so similarly) strewn the internet with half-completed profiles and half-baked presences on as many sites as I can -- Wikipedia, FaceBook, Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn, MySpace, Last.fm, Tribe.net, Orkut, Nexopia, Tagged, Buzznet, hi5, Hyves, Bebo, Plaxo, FotoLog, OKCupid, 43things, Deviantart, SITO ... etc. Mashable seems to do a half-decent job of consolidating those furtive scatterings, if you're a lumper and not a splitter, or the distressingly-titled Profilactic if you prefer.
... and so, if you would like to, uh, connect to me in some fashion... please feel free to. (Stalkers... start your engines!) Historical nicknames include Cthulu, Pseudo_Intellectual, UnwashedMass, Rasputin and, well, a plethora of others. I was one of three charter members of the Work Less Party, and sit on the board (albeit nominally) of the Vancouver Poetry House! (mascot, again.)
(anything you need to know about this journal? the short answer is: heck no! It's all available to the public (this is what I mean by "extimacy") and you certainly don't need to justify your existence or qualify your appearance to me. You want to read what I have to say? Great: I want to talk to interested people.) (Doesn't hurt when they're interesting, too, but don't let your doubts hold you back -- I can judge that for myself well enough 8)
That'll have to do for now! (oh, "that's all")
(follow-up: the livejournal name and quote; then the potted bio explication.)
( Would you believe he's using footnotes now?Collapse )
In the meantime, we will comparison-test some flavours of free website traffic counters.
Nitnatsnoc's interview of Cthulu from Kithe e-mag #2, 1994, screen-captured and run through optical character recognition at Google Drive:
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I see my personal history as a period with clean demarcations and, basically, a Dark Ages dead zone between my feckless youth and my failed adulthood. (What we are in now would be I suppose a third era, a golden age of being both functional /and/ productive.) The youth was characterised at its zenith by me, as Cthulu, organizing computer artists on dialup BBSes and releasing Mistigris artpacks, while the first great (not great as in awesome but great as in, substantial) activity as an adult was going gung ho and getting on board with everything.blockstackers.com, an episode of my life that only lasted a few years (five, from the looks of things -- not an insignificant chunk of life change, granted) but casts a large shadow across everything that followed.
I'm conducting some digital archaeology in regards to the old Mistigris artpacks as this coming October we will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of its first release back in October of 1994 by, hopefully, gathering up the old crew and releasing a commemorative artpack. November of last year was the 20th anniversary of TABNet which I also celebrated: it's a number that stings. 20 years since DooM and Myst, 20 years since Second Reality. Along the way I've uncovered a vast quantity of unreleased material -- so the past will be bolstering the present. But I'm also finding in the infofiles and tangential remarks hints at the person I was becoming. Especially in the early years, these are nascent and largely incoherent, with glimmers of a forming ideology burbling beneath the surface, but no consistency or central thesis: they are the words of an insomniac who throws verbiage in a text editor with whatever focus can be brought to bear in whatever time remains after chronic self-stimulation while waiting to hear a modem connect tone. There's a winging tone of someone with abandonment issues: textmode artists keep on parting ways from him for more esteemed textmode art groups where he, as a writer who is not a visual artist, cannot follow. He settles in for the long wait, thinking that if his group can outlast those groups, they will return, but his abandonment compounds as they go to university and leave the BBS world behind completely. To ice the cake, the BBS world itself hollows out and crumbles away, and our little lord is left wandering the halls of his empty fiefdom in his memory only.
I've observed before that I have far too great a tendency to remain committed to a project or a mode of thinking long beyond when it stops being useful: I ran my open mic series for 5 years in an attempt to recapture the magic of its first two months, which was itself an attempt to recapture the magic of my time at the Living Closet, which was in itself an attempt to recapture the magic of Mistigris. The tendency provides me a great deal of grist for the abandonment issues: when literally everyone else moves on and I fail to, it does look like rejection by the entire world, but probably what it is more akin to is dropping anchor in a river and watching the entire world drift on by carried by a current that, for whatever reason, I have opted not to be moved by. It's a tendency I have made good progress in leaving behind, but you see shades of it in my band's upcoming 10th anniversary, my good intentions to implement a text adventure game I've been designing with a friend since 2002, and of course the Mistigris reunion business, which ties into the textmode art retrospective exhibition I've assuredly discussed here at some length in the past.
Anyhow, I hate to wind up nostalgic free-association, but what got me is that in the infofile for the final Mistigris pack, back in 1998, I mention a girl I'd been preoccupied with -- Laura, who I officially dated for two months after a year of pitching woo, before she dumped me citing not seeing that I had a future. (Incorrect: my future just happens to look a lot like 1994.) My little heart was broken and basically I spent quite some time self-fulfilling her prophecy. I discussed her in some very early daylog posts I made at the proto-wiki at h2g2 before committing to everything2, where I daylogged for some four years before finally finding my way here (note: just as the party was leaving) in October of 2003. Ignoring the fact that LiveJournal itself has been a dead letters office for most of the over-a-decade since, it draws a direct chain, a complete sequence of autobio chronology continuously from the end of Mistigris through h2g2, everything2, and LiveJournal through to the present day. My point (he has a point?) is that in my mental model, that chain is not unbroken: between Mistigris and everything2 I'm supposed to have some "lost years". Well, wasted years will have to come close enough. Maybe I had depression (I proudly beamed how I'd tested a single point on the safe side on national depression screening day: like going up to the abyss, peering in, then deciding not to proceed) or other undocumented mental health issues. I'd invested a lot of my conception of self in my activities in the BBS world, and when it went away, I didn't really know what to do with myself. (Now at 35 I have figured it out: earn enough money to cover your costs.)
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Sorry for the going in all directions simultaneously nature of this post: I don't know if it took us anywhere but in 2014 on livejournal we have to take what we can get.
While rocking my toddler to sleep, my mind began wandering, and led me to an unexpected place: a hex-like scheme to compress large numbers by using alphabet letters to express prime numbers, and just rendering all numbers by how many primes they were made up of. That would allow you to write any of the first 26 prime numbers (and many numbers reducible by primes following, minus the 27th prime -- 103 -- and all subsequent primes) using just a letter or two. So to pick a random example, 70 would be constituted of primes 7 * 5 * 2, and could be notated as ACD, signifying the first, third and fourth primes all multiplied together. (Except: where is the compression? 70 is two characters, and ACD is three. Would the savings kick in for larger numbers? 10609 would just be ZZ. Anything larger would require at least three characters.)
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It is difficult for me to envision an application for this system, but maybe if I was programming for a gutless microcomputer of the early '80s it would have helped me to generate Elite-like universes solely using short words as seeds. This system has probably already been devised by someone with a firmer maths grounding than mine.
That is all for now, abandoned LiveJournal! Hey, I am hosting another retro video game party on Saturday, May 10th! I will probably discuss it at somewhat greater length here after May 1st, but you have official early notice.
In 1995, in my first 3-Day-Novel, I wrote the following:
Clark recognized the name, but it only conjured up images of glasses-sporting buck-toothed geeks programming their calculators to play Pong during a particularly unenlightening segment of high-school math class. Curiously enough, this image wasn't so far off the mark, although our beloved Willy had skipped Pong altogether and had managed to code a full game of Konkey-Dong on to his extended calculator, Konkey-Dong being the most graphically violent and sexual video game to come out of the early '70s. As such, Willy's electronic equipment was confiscated often to provide some entirely out-of-place chuckles in the teachers' lounge during the recess break.And now, in 2014, we have this. I suppose it was only a matter of time, given that I am not the only one around able to make spoonerisms. All the same, though it is an adequate prototype of its concept (You Are The Bad Guy), I regret they left out some of the more suggestive territory I had indicated the name suggested. Oh well! If you sit on an idea for 19 years, that's what you get.
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But nobody will see it on LiveJournal, I protest!
The saga of Jen's phone service:In short, review your bills before paying them, because if problems arise if you are found to have overpaid, you are not getting that money back. Probably it would have been cheaper for us to hire a nanny to help enable us to get the sleep needed to review the bills in sound mind.
For most of its ten years, the relationship between my partner and her phone company, Fido, was straightforward enough: she paid a fair price for services that she received, and both parties were satisfied that a fair deal was being conducted. Then Jen got the smartphone. The story with this particular phone seems to be that a seemingly innocuous operating system update somewhere around a year ago resulted in parts of the phone "running hot", actually damaging the part of the phone that permits wi-fi use (or otherwise put, the gateway to the cheap smartphone internet access a mother on a leave of absence would typically use.) This left the phone with no option for its "smart" activities but to go online at all times using its pricey LTE network access, to which it seamlessly switched by default, and for which she was reflexively paying dutifully for the better part of a year (because paying bills on time at all when you haven't slept through the night in 20 months is a steep enough challenge in itself) before doing an end-of-year audit and realising that phone costs had gone up by $900 this year. Say what? Let's take a closer look... gee whiz, what were all these data charges?
The problem was brought to Fido's attention. Because Fido felt they had provided a service and it had been paid for, they felt that there was no problem. Obviously we disagreed -- first things first, axe the data plan completely so the problem wouldn't continue to compound, leaving her with a helpfully useless smartphone that cannot go online. (Wish I hadn't made such good use of the App Store Boxing Day sales!) After quite some time and several phone calls, Fido suggested that action could be taken if we could get Apple to confirm that its device was faulty... something that was understandably difficult to pull off. But after a few conversations with a few Geniuses, we were able to obtain a document indicating that Apple's phone was indeed broken in just such a way that the device in question was only capable of going online the expensive way. The end seemingly in sight, a Fido representative promised that the mischarged fees would be reimbursed. Their superior later observed that this rep was not qualified to make such a promise, but after reviewing extensive back recordings of Jen's Fido travails (estimated by her at some 30-40 hours over the past couple of months -- Did You Know that if the call centre closes at 5 pm, even if you are still on the phone with a representative at 4:59 pm and have been for hours, the line goes dead the moment the minute hand hits 12?) found that the pledge had indeed been made and would be respected by the company -- and that a cheque would be sent.
Apparently this superior was also not qualified to make such a promise, as when the next billing period rolled around (still no cheque) we observed we had instead been granted a kingly $900 of Fido credit -- their way of saying: sorry for the misunderstanding, here's some scrip only eligible to be spent in the company store. (Also we found a mysterious $100 charge for a data plan which had been cancelled and never used.) This marked an exciting new return to the Fido support phone lines and its many long hours whiled away on hold. The data plan charge was found to be fishy and reversed; as for the cheque, the support rep observed that no note on her (by now extensive) file had been made to that effect. Well, um, is there any mechanism by which we can get the credit converted to cash? Though we did spend that $900, it was found to be in error and reimbursed, right? We could put it toward rent or, uh, collect interest on it in the bank instead of making an interest-free loan to Fido against future phone services. (Surely there's no reason Fido needs to collect interest on our money! Their business must already be lucrative enough!) After a long hold session, she was informed that the best offer -- if she accepted it immediately -- is that a cheque for $376 would be issued (subject to approval) but that the rest, as "goodwill credit" from them, could not be converted into legal tender -- a well-established business tradition to do whatever it takes to keep the customer happy short of actually giving them their money back. They suggested that she could use the credit to purchase an iPhone 5 from them. Jen pondered whether the only remaining option to get paid out the remaining $524 would be to take Fido to small claims court and if she could speak to the service rep's supervisor. No, now that the threat of legal action is on the table, the only people you can talk to are our legal team. And that $376 cheque is no longer an option. No, I'm not refusing to transfer your call to my supervisor, I am just no longer able to do so.
Fido is prepared to spend well over $900 for its room full of lawyers to demolish the claims of a customer it has had for ten years to recover payments she made which they have admitted were issued in error due to malfunction of equipment they sold her.
I have no doubts that any other major telco would behave exactly the same; the name Telus is practically synonymous with poor customer service and my own experience with Bell is that they planned to retain my $600 deposit (which they needed in hand before agreeing to take any of my money for actual services) for a year and a half because my monthly payments, which were paid in full, were made late.
After we moved I made the mistake of paying our final Shaw cable bill before we were able to locate the Shaw cable modem we had packed and moved with us, for return to them. It was returned, and a $90 credit was added to our account with a utility we will never be using again. This mistake was only one tenth the magnitude but it's still a good example of fundamentally antisocial behaviour from a major utility company. There is no real reason these corporations have to be portals that only allow the one-way passage of money. If only they were also in the business of providing living spaces, it's possible the credits might be divertable to rent expenses! But I would not want to live with a utility company as my landlord.
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Whiz bang, what a year! Raising a baby is very different from raising a newborn, and raising a toddler is very different from raising a baby. (To wit: you get to have a lot more fun two-way interactions, but you can kiss goodbye your ability to put the kid down somewhere and expect them to still be there in a moment.) Belatedly last year, I ... manifested some intentions for 2013. (Takes a momentary break to throw up a little in his mouth, then proceeds.) Many of them have come to pass! Let's review...
* Regular employment in my field? It's "regular" with a star, but since we entered the 2nd half of 2013 the problem has not been not getting enough shifts, but rather getting the majority of my shifts in the 11 pm - 7 am timeframe. I'm still only a casual, but one with growing seniority and, now that I've been moved downstairs from the one-shift-every-3-weeks OR to the MDRD, enough work to get my bills paid. (Let's celebrate by moving to a more expensive rental property!)
* The Accordion Noir Festival is achieving greater success every year. Last year's wasn't sufficiently successful to make it worthwhile for my relief festival administrator (someone with medium but growing fluency in grant-ese and sponsor-lingua -- as an impoverished Marxist, on the other hand, I was eminently unqualified to speak to the people with the money) but then after the festival wrapped and she had basically tendered her resignation, a surprise grant came through months late -- promising to cover the festival expenses which we had already managed to come up with other ways of paying. (The old folk wisdom apparently runs true, that you can't get a grant without being able to prove that you don't need it.) This resulted in a great deal of huff trying to shuffle around figures in ledgers, as the grant money was earmarked to be spent under supervision specifically on the line items in the budget we had submitted. Meaning -- here's more money, but all we can do with it is pay the same people twice for the same service?! 6th annual Accordion Noir festival, part 2! Or maybe we get them to send back our cheques and then cut them new ones from this account... it's true, even a big pile of free money was a big steaming headache. There is no aspect of success in the arts that the bureauracy cannot sully. Anyhow, the growing funding success appears to have made her reconsider resigning for the 2014 fest, but I imagine to keep her on board after that we'll need to see some sort of big, lucrative development in the next six months. That or the fest will revert to me calling in favours and desperately scraping together whatever free venues I can book nights at -- which was fine when I was unemployed and living out of a van, but things have changed a bit since then.
* Good Creaking Planks shows? We definitely managed to condense the quantity of performances, from 28 in 2012 to 17 in 2013. There were some highlights, including our anniversary show (this year's is coming up, Sunday the 19th!), a totally impromptu awesome gentrification set for the Rent Assembly at the Dogwood Centre, our first time breaking even playing on Vancouver Island at an astounding farm wedding, our contested reinterpretation at the Rio's Tom Waits night, and our unprecedented (albeit half-baked) musical-gamebook performance at the Accordion Noir festival. That's 5... many of the remainder were just kind of random engagements, people's parties or openings plus an uneasy suite of rendezvous with the Electro Swing Club crew, whose bookers seemed much keener on us than their audiences were. This year summer festivals will once again be an option, but actually getting to play them will be a double-edged blade of being accepted to them and actually having the bandly wherewithal to make ourselves available and get ourselves there.
The "aha" moment was in summer 2013 when we played a random gig at the Slocan Park field house to an audience of a handful of pseudo-suburban friends deep in a purely residential neighborhood. It was completely unhip and had no reason to succeed -- and yet despite middling (but very welcome) attendance, it yielded a higher per-player payout after passing the hat than our hotly promoted anniversary show at one of Vancouver's premiere live music venues did after the house took its cut of the admission fees (ah, but where was our cut of the bar sales? That old trick only plays in two-bit burghs like Frisco, apparently, not world-class cities like Vancouver.) That and we just had to roll in and play a set rather than hanging around for six hours and waiting for the bar to close before getting paid out. You know what, I'm getting too old for hipness; the show in a park with old Chinese ladies doing line dancing outside was both easier to put together and better-paying than the exhaustively-hyped prestigious gig at a happening bar. The full significance has yet to be fully digested, but it's profound.
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* You heard me right; I managed to write enough of a musical gamebook and conduct just enough rehearsal for the Planks to present a moderately polished half-hour suite of totally new (and as best as I can tell, totally unprecedented) interactive music, whose prototype regrettably required the narrative flow to oppose the audience's will at just about every juncture. It was presented to a receptive, if somewhat confused, audience at the Accordion Noir fest and I hope to ... complete it and take the work on the road as part of our festivular gambit this summer.
* The Creaking Planks book has had a few pages added but things are looking like it will indeed be a 10th-anniversary release, if we're lucky! The problem is that the more time goes by, the more anecdotes I have to recount.
* Did I write songs? Well, as I said, there was the bi-flexible half-hour of choose-your-own music, but that was just a few hot riffs repeated as needed (cellist Chris snickered at my crude-but-effective composatorial shorthand: "insert 'Hey Joe' chords here") with enormous quantities of homework-exercises lyrics (with admittedly sporadic flashes of unmitigated genius, cf. licking ravers and sharting Skittles.) But all the non-experimental song-songs remained stubbornly simmering on the back burner, by now surely reduced down to a syrupy, caramelized stock. Jen on the other hand had another good year, the result of lots of hard work and discipline: as I pointed out to the Planks, in the time it took us to schedule one rehearsal, she made two animated music videos. Some people have a fire lit under them and others are, it turns out, just gliding on a thermal.
* No chapbook -- not even any poemlets, I think, barring the occasional fresh Twitter flow -- and the Choice of Games article was sufficiently low priority that by the time I was able to hunker down and set up my interview, my second computer of the year (after my long-suffering netbook began spontaneously producing the letter "w", a difficult problem whenever Ctrl was being held down for any other key combo... one night I left the notepad open and in the morning were over 25 thousand "w's), a free donation from a generous ex-roommate, spontaneously... ceased to boot or register a charge. It gave up the ghost (if not the magic smoke) mere hours after completing my last-minute quixotic solo project of the TABDisk 3 distributed at the swell retro trip TABNet 20th anniversary concert. Virtually all of my precious, precious user data had been committed to cloud storage, so I didn't lose much. I did, however, lose my extensive and exhaustively-researched list of questions for the Choice of Games folks; my target date to have them pondering my queries was the end of November and now by the end of January they should finally be in-hand. The delay is regrettable but considering the endless possibilities of devastation resulting from unexpected data loss, this loss -- while intensely irritating to me -- was admittedly pretty small beans in the grand scheme of things. Due to my peculiar gamebook nostalgia, I was one of the company's first fans immediately upon the lanuch of their first game (and even its predecessor -- you may recall its fouder's decade-earlier re-implementation of Alter Ego) and I've stuck with them through every release, making me perhaps the foremost authority on the company outside their staff. I like to think that having to write my questions twice has resulted in some really prying, insightful questions and I am very much looking forward to their answers, merely as a fan -- getting to publish the results is just a perk. But I do need to finish the questions off and submit them first 8)
* Much Inform 7 code written -- thousands of words -- distributed among several wonderfully whimsical interactive fiction projects, none of which have yet come to fruition, and none of which were The Looming Monolithic Game Design Challenge described in last year's post and ultimately dating back to 2002. I figured it would be more prudent to take on a small project or two in which I am less invested first and make little mistakes before getting elbow-deep ass-backwards in an enormous project of huge personal significance (or as significant as a video game about giant radioactive reptiles and jazz-era criminal masterminds in terrible gorilla costumes can be.) Good thing I did -- until you really know what you're doing, and the correct way to "phrase" what you want to happen, even a small game can still be an enormous pain in the tuchus to implement, especially if you are as... thorough and rigorous as I am. (You can make a project happen, or you can wait an extra decade and get it done right! Having the option of implementing something completely is really a case of being given enough rope to hang yourself.)
* The Accordion Noir podcast has enjoyed a partial recovery, with the old feedburner account redirected to the radio station's automatically-generated podcasts. Surprisingly, after a couple of years of silence, a few old subscribers were still in a position to resume delivery of our weekly episodes to them. Mostly, however, it needs to be "pushed" at listeners through social media -- if I skip a week crowing about it on Facebook or Twitter, online listenership takes a steep nose dive. Insert diatribe about the end of the RSS era thanks to Google's boneheaded discontinuation of Reader. Similarly, the Planks website remains bafflingly drug-fuelled in Google returns. Both of these sites are under the nominal custody of a friend and colleague in the Planks who's understandably become somewhat absentee this year after finding a ladyfriend. There may be nothing for it; life goes on.
* And yes, hanging out with my daughter has been a thrill and a half. Like her mother, she loves animals; like her father, she loves noodles and cheese. She eschews toys and insists that we read her virtually every book she owns every day, over and over again. I think she'll turn out all right.
Now isn't it kind of a cop-out to report on a previous year's resolutions without issuing another batch of them? Well, I've already touched on many of them -- basically, to achieve creative satisfaction by finishing -- or at least, furthering -- my unfinished business (songs, the book, game development), derive greater enjoyment from my hobbies (not just band tours to music festivals, but also the retro gaming parties I started throwing this year with the awesome collection I've inadvertently accrued -- this year welcoming a SNES, a SMS, and a working C64 to the fold), work enough to continue fulfilling my humble financial goals (this year, now, with ... higher rent and steeper savings targets, but tempered with dual incomes.) If the radio program (I'm now down to one; I passed along the folk music show this year and it's still running in new hands) and the festival manage to pay for themselves, so much the better! I failed to anticipate that 2013 would be the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the 2008-defunct TABNet echomail BBS network and that I would be compelled to commemorate it in some way; similarly 2014 will be the 20th anniversary of the first MiSTiGRiS computer art release. If there's not a riper, more resonant time for my computer artwork retrospective exhibition, I don't know when will be. I don't know how much local interest there is, but my international colleagues have really demonstrated a resurgence of interest and enthusiasm in their onetime hobby. Actually, I need to wrap up this LJ post and finish writing some "lit" for some awesome textmode art the Belgian host of my 1999 European visit has recently whipped up, celebrating the last few years of civilian activism in the face of an inflexible power establishment. A steep order, but it beats finding a rhyme for "Grindoris" to accompany a picture of Grifter.
Setting aside for the moment the travails of work/lessness and parenthood as typically populate this blog (OK, there is never anything typical about the population of any LiveJournal) I'd like to revisit some territory we saw back in April (hm, not all that long ago actually in LJ-post time), when I was hatching with Jen's benificent guidance a plot for a retro video game party. It was big fun, and we had the thought that maybe we should do it again. Quarterly! Well, that might be too much. Twice a year seemed like a good start however and October was just about at that sweet spot. In deference to Mr Putter's travel availability (and perhaps with some strange cosmic connection to the TABNet 20th anniversary), I'd like to propose a second evening of Old Video Games On Old Equipment On Many Screens Including A Big Projection, in my living room again, with some new (to me) systems and an ever-growing game library...
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We were looking at Saturday, November 9th. Does that work for interested parties? Last time we ran something like 4-10 pm officially but actually stretching on to 1 in the morning; I work at a Unitarian Church Sunday mornings so that acts as a built-in event terminus of sorts (hit pause on the joystick, head to church... no, just kidding, unsurprisingly a good night's sleep beforehand is very useful for challenging the sleeping-during-sermon cliche.) Maybe we will get things started a little earlier; maybe I will confer with my next-door neighbours about setting up a few machines over there for afterparty chill-out. (Oh, this is the Sega house; Nintendo games are across the way.) To accommodate the surprising demand, instead of running later we may start earlier.
I have ... a pile of games. Well over 600. So many that it is difficult just to locate a specific game to play. (And now, thanks to the reviled MobyGames redesign, it is difficult even to look at the catalogue.) After the apocalypse and I hole up in a root cellar with a wind turbine to wait out the zombie plague, my entertainment needs will be well-satisfied. In the meantime, I get to play these with you a couple of times a year. (I entertain notions of being the coolest Dad in Grade 3, but I maintain no illusions that kids expecting a PlayStation 5 won't be disappointed by my big pixels.)
Of course, I have that particular pile of games, and you might have at your disposal better games -- The Games We Kept, instead of my pile of thrift store, garage sale and pawn shop finds -- and if you'd like to ice the cake of my collection with your Games We Wanted, not just the Games We Found that I ended up with, then you're encouraged to bring them along. Just don't forget to keep tabs on them and pack them along when you leave! (Of course, donations of games and peripherals, especially working Xbox and GameCube joysticks for multiplayer chaos, are always welcome. But never required. I already have too much.)
Working machines with modest libraries of at least, say, a dozen games we expect to be in attendance include a Microsoft Xbox, a Nintendo 64, a Nintendo Gamecube, a Super Nintendo (that also hypothetically plays Game Boy games through its adaptor), icecreamemperor's original Nintendo Entertainment System we hope to help us hit that sweet spot of genuine retro-ness without needing to go so far back that the games aren't fun to play, a Sega Genesis, a Sega Dreamcast, and a Sony PlayStation 2 (which, of course, plays PlayStation 1 games by the bucketload.) There is an Atari Flashback and a few "TV game" consoles-on-joystick, if we end up with surplus displays. Also on tap but perhaps unlikely to be hooked up without expression of special interest are a gameless 3DO, a Commodore VIC-20, C64 (sans disk drives), and Amiga (if someone wishes to curate some Psygnosis on floppy), a Nintendo DS, a Sega Game Gear (small screens for group enjoyment), my latest find a gameless Sega Master System, and a Sega Saturn. Also there's the MS-DOS laptop, an old Mac, etc... there are only so many power outlets. (Edit: tlf has suggested his ColecoVision could be available for the party if only we had some games for it. I believe I have one.)
You may feel: you don't know me well enough to attend this party. Some people ran up against that social barrier last time, when we were celebrating my birthday. This time, we are celebrating enjoying old games. Basically if you're interested in the retro gaming experience and are reading my LiveJournal, I'm satisfied that you know me Well Enough to attend. If you need further details, write me and I can let you know eg. where I live as a kind of RSVP.
Historically some interesting things have happened very shortly following the Accordion Noir festival, whose 6th annual instalment wrapped last night. One year, I departed the morning after to Europe. Last year, I began my Sterile Supply training.
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This has me more or less on track with my hopes for the year; the fest ran with relatively little involvement from me, our choose-your-own-adventure song indeed was debuted, if not entirely finished, my daughter is an endless source of wonderment and getting on a second casual line at the same facility, in the field for which I trained, has kept me working regular hours full-time through the summer, singlehandedly earning enough to support my family of three. How did I ever achieve that situation?
But the pessimist is ever anticipating zigs and zags in the road ahead. Junior casual = vacation relief in the summer, and now that vacation season is wrapping up (after hilariously offering me unfeasible overtime shifts just about every day of the festival), the calls from my portfolio clerk are suggesting that my current job situation is going to instead look like "sporadic graveyard shifts", which I can hack but have concern over its impact on my home life (Jen at home with Clara all night while I'm at work, then at home with Clara all day while I'm passed out -- when does Jen get her break?)
We'll see what we'll see, and we'll do what we have to. Plans and aspirations and zigs and zags are afoot on all sides, from Jen's career ambitions to arranging things to accommodate the two of us commuting to jobs at very different places, simultaneously, to family childcare provision complicated by health problems. It's a roller coaster, and there's no hump without another hump behind it, but the ride continues unabated and it's a thrill regardless.
Because I'm trying to maintain only one major upcoming project at a time these days, now that we've "wrapped" the hard part of the Planks' interactive song (still lots of work to be done, but it's plenty of "easy" work for the kid who couldn't stop stringing couplets together into sonnets while waiting for busses), I should start strategizing my next retro videogame console party -- we're thinking of perhaps hosting two annually, at six-month intervals. There will be a couple further (and retro-er) machines on the menu this time around, plus, as always, more games. I'm thinking of Saturday, October 19th, the week after the big annual Portland party (which, I am happy to report, my family will be attending in defiance of my dry spell over the past few years.) I can't have it all, but I can discriminatingly pick a few highs and then we can just plan and strategise to make them happen. It's work, but satisfying.
Only three weeks delayed -- the official report: icecreamemperor, you missed out. Things got off to a good start with large-scale Katamari Damacy. I got to subject my bandmate Heather to Wizard Games' outstanding simulator Rockstar on the MS-DOS laptop, before my old roommate Travish hacked away on it playing Barneysplat (You could be, I told him, the only person other than myself to have played this game in the last 15 years), Scorched Earth (singleplayer!) and Avoid the Noid, then moving on to see what Goldeneye on the N64 really warranted with only one controller. (It is not really renowned for its singleplayer campaign.) Chris #2 got Sonic the Hedgehog 2 running (!) on the Sega Genesis, which also impressed Big Sandwich dev Cory with the huge levels of its Aladdin platformer... though he was ultimately sucked back into Amplitude on the projector. (Or, I joked, we could play Bully...)
After a righteous bout of Marvel Super Heroes, for a long time the projector was being stunk up with Simpsons Road Rash (or: Diluted Crazy Taxi), while Chris #3 and I nipped around the corner to try some multiplayer games on other machines -- From Russia With Love with the hilariously septuagenarian Sean Connery reprising Bond's voice, Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge (an interesting wrong turn for FASA) and Goblin Commander, before we returned to commandeer the projector for an epic spree (primarily epic in the quantity of player deaths) of Eric Chahi's beautiful but brutal forgotten follow-up to Another World, Heart of Darkness, which we determined... was scratched, and didn't want to save to the PS1 cart in the PS2. But we had to progress to the scratch three times to determine this conclusively. It was a real spectator sport. I shouted an expletive (but the good kind) when I saw Mike had gotten Space Channel 5 beaming live from the Dreamcast, which he appeared to have gotten going. There was something for everyone: Chris #2 from #3 (er, it's complicated) enjoyed a Buffy Xbox game until the vampire slayer got caught halfway through a wall, and Monica managed to get some mileage out of Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour and Yoshi's Story, so there pretty much was something for everyone. And a good time was had by all.
And here is where I tried to embed Chris #2's excellent in-a-nutshell Vine video report of the party, unsuccessfully.
The good news is: much to Josh's dismay, I have plenty of eminently worthwhile games (and even a substantial subset of them suitable for arena play, not just 350-hr RPGs to grind through in solitude!) and all the hardware we tried seemed to still be in good working condition. Setting up the equipment wasn't as much work as anticipated (putting it away fully, on the other hand, is an ongoing project) and we got really good results with the projector and the band's PA system powering the sound effects. I look forward to setting up some outdoor gaming against the neighbours' wall when the evenings get a bit warmer. There was even speculation of packing the hardware along to Portland for Horace Phair, though of course the gear assuredly already is present there. (They're having a vintage gaming fair the weekend before HP!) Also, probably it is no coincidence that previous parties there have been videogame-free. (But is that really so different from three rooms of M:TG?)
Unfortunately, because my collecting has been largely angled toward solitary enjoyment of forgotten lore (it really never occurred to me that this hobby could conceivably be of any interest to anyone else), I'm lacking in controllers for same-machine simultaneous multiplayer gaming. I could use more (and more reliable) ones for the Xbox, Nintendo 64 and Gamecube. There was a time when I could find these cheapie at thrift stores and garage sales, but now you only ever see them as part of a package deal with a complete boxed console with three games you don't want for $40. If you have one, or find one, or have a friend who is taking theirs out of storage to throw into the dumpster, please consider sitting on it for me for my next games party.
(And when will that be? Definitely for my next birthday, but now that I realise that some of this can be appreciated by others, especially ones essentially on-tap who can visit without having to put on shoes, can I bear waiting so long? Should I put these on quarterly? (Jen might say: oh, let's not.) mrputter, I suggested I might take a machine or two out of deep freeze in the event of your visiting town -- which itself appeared to be on ice, but now it seems is on again? Feel free to look us up here if you want to meet a cat and a baby and a dog and probably several cats and a few other dogs and perhaps play a game or two and who knows, maybe line up some company for a trip to the Po Kong.)
It turns out that most of my viable gaming equipment, with the exception of a handful of winners for the Genesis, hits the sweet spot from the Playstation 1 / N64 era (circa '95) through to the Xbox / Gamecube / Playstation 2 era. I have older games, and one or two working older machines, but nothing of that vintage is actually of compelling play value to visitors. The big pixels and "arcade classics" are all part of the basic identity iconography, but largely we appeared to be playing games from 10 years ago which aren't actually part of our specific nostalgia. Curious.
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Sometime around age 1994, a business opened up on Arbutus just south of 41st avenue. Named "Good Nintentions", it was akin to a library for video games. Rather than just renting games out for overnight play as Blockbuster Video would, they had consoles on-site and you could simply rent the use of a gaming station and sample from their extensive library. I only went once, tasting Populous and Moonwalker on a Sega Genesis, but it left its mark on me.
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Over the years it became apparent to me that if I wanted to read an old book, I could go to a library, and if I wanted to see an old movie, I could go to a video rental store, but if I wanted to play an old video game I'd missed, I was up a creek without a paddle, and so in the early '00s, after experiencing impressive retro Atari 2600 collections in New York and Toronto, I began picking up old consoles (often piecemeal) and their media at garage sales and thrift stores when they could be found at a good price. This pathology could be characterised as an aggressive form of nostalgia except that I never had access to a game console when growing up: this was rather instead my opportunity to hypothetically "catch up" some day, and enshrine access to this category of leisure culture into the future -- perhaps a post-apocalyptic future in which such digital culture is no longer produced and can only be operated while pedaling an exercise bike/generator, or a chronic illness future that confines me to bed rest indefinitely, or just a pessimistic and lonely future where thousands and thousands of hours of long-past-their-shelf-life video games are the only companions in the killing of my free time.
Can you tell yet that this is lead-in to a party invitation? My partner Jen has suggested that in honour of my birthday this year, I exhume some of the curious entertainment machines from their living death in our basement and set them up for retro nerdy fun with such friends as would have any interest in such pursuits. There's a wide variety of options -- strong representation of the Dreamcast / Gamecube / Xbox 1 / PlayStation 2 generation (and plenty of games -- ~250 -- from those last two on tap), plus earlier machines such as the Segas Saturn and Genesis and a softwareless 3DO. Old computers we also have a-plenty, including a VIC-20, Commodore 64, and Amiga 2000, plus a neat little MS-DOS laptop (even if you're waiting for a turn at the Xbox, you can always take a turn in the Scorched Earth arena) and a classic Mac desktop machine from 1994.
This is a chance to break in our projector; generally we're going to be low on displays and outlets on noncompeting circuits, so if you'd like to enhance the fun by packing along a screen of some sort and maybe an extension cord and power bar to poach sweet gamer juice off our neighbours' grids, that could be handy. Of course, if you have other esoteric devices or unusual games to demonstrate, please feel free to pack them along.
We're looking at hosting this weird function from 3-10 pm on Saturday, April 6th. We haven't figured out snacks yet -- potato chips and J0lt cola would be period-appropriate, but who wants to handle greasy gamepads? Probably we'll organize some variety of mass take-out order from Tandoori Palace up on the Drive. RSVP? Then you might even get my address!
Everyone knows Etsy. And many of us know Regretsy. Once a year, I go and shake the site down to produce one post of ... Accordionetsy. That website belongs to my Accordion Noir radio co-host Bruce (the one with the accordion music collection, who doesn't actually play squeezebox himself) and is intended for entertaining tangents and digressions he can't pass up but doesn't know if he can include in the course of his research into The Accordion History Book. Probably soon I will join him there, sharing minimal commentary on hilarious album artwork from accordion records released during that 50-year dead zone for the squeezebox.
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The other day I came up with another "excellent" video game idea, a typing speed challenge. Here's how it works -- the full text of William Gibson's "Agrippa" gradually displays on one side of the screen, just as it did in its original 1992 Macintosh program, and players try to keep up with it, reproducing it character for character, line for line. Then when it reaches the end it catches its breath and does its notorious little trick, deleting itself, and the player also must reach the end of the course and then undo their steps. First one there and back wins. Players can be rated as what speed of modem they would personally be able to fill in as if they had a time machine and were pressed into service as a human hardware replacement. Somewhere I currently have a tabulation of my varied game ideas over the years (like, dating back to '89) and may be starting another blog (likely on Wordpress) where I, one by one, flesh out their designs. Ultimately, one or two of the sixty-odd may find themselves actually implemented. One thing I've found with Turn to Page 4 is that re-implementing the designs of others is enough work that I might be better served just making and sharing original games there.
Why is our place so hot? We'd hoped that the installation of the new windows last winter would help this summer, and I suppose they did, but only so much. We catsat next door and determined that it was so much cooler there we hung out there for a while longer than was entirely necessary. Why would this be? The leading hypothesis is that as an end unit on a row of townhouses, we present two faces to the sun for broiling while our neighbours have only one at a time in the line of flare. (You win some, you lose some: that's the con to the pro of us having only one shared wall.)
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Anyhow, talking about the weather is boring. This is just setup: to escape the heat, we set up lawn chairs in the shared yard out front and decamped with baby and dog to a shady patch of grass, where we took turns reading passages out loud from Leah Hager Cohen's 199x book Glass, Paper, Beans: Revelations on the Nature and Value of Ordinary Things, a volume that lends itself extraordinarily well to recitation, which we haven't done much of in these parts since trailing off from Tim Richardson's splendidly tangent-chasing Sweets: A History of Candy -- a topic near and dear to hearts here. I'm terribly guilty of being primarily a screen-reader these days (after years of being primarily a newsprint-reader -- one lonely step above illiteracy here in Vancouver) and having a good book before you reveals that they're really just fundamentally different animals.
(And now, for no apparent reason but to break up the text, a photo taken in the same place a day before, of a happy baby and a growler of 49th Parallel watermelon beer -- not related.)
Packing prose with lists of things is a flaw I've often found in my own work, a trait celebratedly exaggerated in eg. Bok's Eunoia, but admittedly as this work is entirely occupied with reveling in the meaning of material objects, it places them tastefully in context, even in bulk, and makes the most of them. I can't remember finding so many details about nouns on a per-page basis since bpNichol's 1982 3-Day-Novel Contest winner Still, where the real story told is one of what is conspicuously absent from the account, just barely beginning to leak through in the closing sentences.
It makes me feel good about perhaps writing again someday (not just journaling: obviously they're the same business, but obviously different also) and I had a feeling that icecreamemperor would enjoy it, though I have no idea what his literary backlog is looking like at the moment.
Now that we have succeeded at installing two sets of excellent friends in the units immediately adjacent to ours, even sharing a front yard, we are preparing to move. To where, we don't know yet. Under the basic premise that even market-priced co-operative housing rentals can give us more bang for our back (or at least an equivalent bang for fewer bucks) we've thrown our hats in the ring for placement at several co-ops.
This can take a while. It can take years. That's all right, I'm patient to a fault. I've only just gotten notice that I'll be coming out the other end of the educational wait list I've been on for over a year and a half for training for the hospital work. That meant it was time to take my leave from my prior job, which I've been merrily tweeting about, and just this week I surprised my co-workers by handing out cake on the occasion of my last day there. None of them knew it was my last day there, and they kept wishing me happy birthday. I set them straight and ensured that a few dozen people I'll never see again, if only for scheduling reasons, will have fond memories of me. And along the way I managed to clear a cake-shaped space in the freezer to help stow 30 pounds of fresh organic blueberries to enjoy in January.
Jen's mother kindly prepared for us all manner of pre-cooked food courses prior to the birth, under the premise that with a squalling newborn training us with brainwashing techniques (sleep deprivation, etc.) we might not have it quite together enough to have the wherewithal to serve three nutritious squares a day. But somehow, due to some dietary Brazil Nut Effect, what we ended up with was a freezer full of desserts. Ah, but I digress -- from my digression!
The basement freezer is not the only area where we are trying to make room. Anywhere there is fat to trim is eyed as suspect, and nothing is sacrosanct. Since moving in with Jen I've amassed a couple of unusual collections piecemeal at thrift stores and garage sales (as part of her tribe's unusual initiation rituals), and as a consequence now I have an enormous collection of choose-your-own-adventure style gamebooks (anyone want some of my duplicates? If so, turn to page 4...) and last-generation home video games. But these need to be beaten back with a weed wacker, because (and he comes around full circle) we are preparing to move.
The books can only be shrunk down so far, but Jen devised a strategy to save us some space where the games' keep cases are concerned -- removing the discs and cover artwork (because I'm just that kind of archivist) for separate storage, junking the jewel cases and keep cases and filing the contents away in thin paper sleeves, in stylish cardboard boxes. Knowing that I was being thrown a life line by even having the option of keeping the games at all, I humoured her attempts to nickel and dime us into having more room available now (for eg. baby paraphernalia: what is it they say about childish things?), with less total volume for later packing and transporting for our someday move. Even though we only save a relatively small amount of space per repacking, when you multiply it by ~600, it adds up. And so that is how we spent my first unemployed day. (Well, that plus I played a very nice outdoor Creaking Planks concert at Trout Lake.)
We were really quite surprised by the space savings. Before (colossal nerd included for scale. The shirt was chosen due to its ressemblance to video game imagery; apparently it's actually a piece of reviled Invader Zim merchandise, but that has not prevented the colossal nerd from someday pledging to incorporate the artwork, which looks as though it belongs in a video game, into a video game):
(Was I really that happy? Well, maybe not.)
And all it cost us was several dozen dollars in materials and two man-days. And thanks to this work, even in my next residence I'll continue to be able to "enjoy" playing horrible PlayStation 1 games, should I ever find the time or inclination to do so.
Jen compared the process to husking ears of corn; I thought of it somewhat like shucking oysters. Because you will never hear it until you are in a similar circumstance, I have captured for you the wholly unique sound of a whole stack of mostly-closed keep cases being fully-closed. The whole stack finds itself depressed several cm. (The worried dialogue at the end of the recording is a reaction to the now-compressed stack beginning to fall over.)
We went through all of my disc-based media: PS1, PS2, Xbox, Saturn and Gamecube games, plus some PC CD-ROMs and the most bizarre extension of my collecting, the game-based movies on DVD. (Well no, the most bizarre extension would be the "music from the Carmen Sandiego TV show" CD. Or maybe the Q-Bert board game? In any case, we're still looking (OK, I confess: "we" is shorthand for "just me") for a cheap copy of the Super Mario Bros. movie, at which point we can mount the most terrible film festival in the world.) Then we went through all of Jen's CDs -- formerly stored in an album of little pockets, requiring alphabetical re-sorting of the entire collection every time a new album was bought (unless, as I pointed out, she bought her new albums four at a time). In the end, we went through all 900 of the paper sleeves we ordered and we have been left with three garbage bags of bulky and empty jewel and keep cases and this optimistic Craigslist ad.
Friends! Do you love small plastic boxes? If so you're welcome to hundreds of ours http://vancouver.en.craigslist.ca/van/zip/3177082626.html(now gone, read: "Over 300 Free DVD /Playstation Xbox Cases. Also have over 100 CD jewel cases you can take as well. Great for storing ... cd and dvds, obviously... also crafts! Come and get 'em!" Surprisingly, after determining that we'd have to travel to North Vancouver in order to recycle them, some homeless man did come and get 'em... from our dumpster, in three precariously piled garbage bags.)
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security-style luggage tags
No longer can someone sneak a peek at your name and address as you await your turn at the check-in counter when leaving for vacation, only to return from vacation to find your house has been ransacked.
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In the refrigerated dairy section at work, there is a special set of trays for fancy cheeses -- everyday hoi polloi organic cheese sits on the shelves with the milk and yogurt and acai kambucha and anyone who indicates that they want a piece on their invoice gets an undifferentiated hunk of it placed in their Rubbermaid tub before it rolls on down the line. But extraordinary orders demand extraordinary artisinal cheeses, which are ordered in precisely by the middleman warehouse to fit particular orders, and each is labelled with the name (well, hilarious customer code) and pack number of the customer.
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The pack number denotes on which van that particular cheese will be departing that day (each van following a route serving a different territory daily) and by eyeballing the special cheese racks you can glean a bit of information not otherwise shared with the blue-collar warehouse labourers: how many packs will be sent out that day. Some days are busier than others, following factors such as the weather and the day of the week. Days with lower quantities of packs send workers home early, while days with lots of packs are more likely to incur overtime -- so knowing the daily pack numbers can help with financial and schedule planning also. (Some packs also are larger than others.)
It's an inexact science; sometimes the first piece of fancy cheese isn't sent out until pack 4, but generally speaking if the cheeses (sorted numberically by pack) only go up to pack 13 there won't be four cheeseless ghost packs following -- it gives you a vague map, as if drawn from memory, of the territory of the work day ahead. Because of its lurching pace it's not entirely useful except to amorphously describe the proportion of the work completed that day -- like the notorious Microsoft progress bars (installed much MS-DOS lately?) which would read 5% complete after 5 minutes, 9% complete after 10 minutes, 9% complete after a half-hour, then suddenly jump to 98% complete after three hours -- but still on breaks staff members will ask each other about what time the "cheese clock" is reading.
The very concept of a (or indeed any) "cheese clock" is very satisfyingly absurd, opening the doors to varying uses of cheese to conduct measurements in all the sciences. I would like to live my life going through the seasons according to the dictates of a veritable cheese calendar. Mostly I like to think of it in French: l'horloge du fromage.
Here's one I've been sitting on since the first week, meaning to post but never quite having the time or wherewithal to collect my thoughts and put them into words. During labour, we used one of several competing free iPod apps to time Jen's contractions, and later, used another one of several similar free apps to time the newborn's nursing frequency (and, well, its inevitable outcome) for the first few days. I was confused on a couple of levels here. First, hackers from what I know of them are essentially lazy, and prefer to write programs to help automate what they anticipate to be repeat activities. Timing an activity once is some work, timing it ten times is ten times the work, and writing a program to time it is a vague substantial n amount of work... and over time, if the amount of work to time the full set of something is expected to exceed n, then the hacker writes the program and, eventually, saves work. But contractions only happen for a few days at most, and are only timed an hour here, an hour there. The work saved by automating that task is minimal, since by the time you've finished writing your program, the baby is already born and you don't even get to field-test it for another 10 months at least. (Or the programming to make the application is so slight that even though the work is small, automating it reduces a splinter to a sliver?)
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Admittedly the small work involved in timing contractions is both important and likely to take place when you are not at your sharpest, so perhaps the usefulness factor is amplified even though the tool isn't anticipated to see a great deal of use. (Timing nursings is quite similar: for a few days it's important to force them on the infant every three hours (whether the baby wants to feed or not, it's a bit funny shocking them to suckle with a cold cloth like some kind of bad guy, and no I'm not a sadist this was the midwife's direct order to me!), noting which side the feeding is on, how much number 1 and number 2 result, etc. -- but then after you have collected enough data to convince a public health nurse that your team has learned how to latch effectively and the baby isn't losing weight precipitously, you can make like the Harper Government and throw the data collection out the window... again, likely not to be tracked again for at least 10 months.)
So what motivated numerous iOS developers to bring these contaction / nursing timing apps through to fruition? Plenty of free ones means only chumps would opt to pay for one (I can't really imagine what kind of extraneous luxury features the paid apps offer) and the fundamental laziness suggests that it would be easier to use an existing free app rather than to make your own. (Of course, I know that hackers have obsessive and irrational holy wars to uphold also: yes, this program exists in Perl, but it doesn't exist in Python yet! That version isn't open under the GNU Public License!) Maybe they just think that they can do it better: one app author gave me a somewhat cold reception upon asking what made his redundant iOS port of Crowther & Woods' ADVENTURE so different from another, previously existing one.
In conclusion: I am not a software developer, though I am endlessly baffled and bemused by the programs they choose to write.
Nuggets: too long for tweets, too apropos of nothing for Facebook status updates.
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In the Commodore 64 computer lab at Kerrisdale Elementary (grades 4-5), I would write flashing, beeping and scrolling alarm programs in BASIC designed to alarm teachers, specifically that the machines' HARD DRIVES were BEING FORMATTED. I didn't know what a hard drive was but I knew that formatting it was a dire fate. (N.B. -- Commodore 64s being what they were, of course they had no hard drives.)
Later, at General Gordon, the librarians were quick to finger us whenever anything went awry with their equipment, but we were not hackers; our worst trespass was playing national anthems on PC Globe repeatedly, a gambit deflated of its hilarity after the canny librarians drew up a new policy requiring all library patrons to stand up and salute until an anthem had finished playing through.
What we were doing on the library lab was playing the splendid survival text adventure adaptation of Swiss Family Robinson, where the player needs to hunt and gather enough provisions for his shipwrecked family to survive the storm season. I imagined that cast away myself on a desert isle, I would fashion for myself a replica keyboard of sea shells and coconut fragments, that I could keep my touch-typing skills sharp. Imagine Rowan Crusoe being rescued from his remote exile after two decades to find everyone barking commands to Siri!
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Clara Anne Lipkovits Efting, June 2. Forget that nonsense about late May. Labour was what could be expected -- it was the protracted pre-labour that surprised us.
The conservative "Clara" won out over Ida, Maizie, and Oona in the "name of a future Chief Justice of the Supreme Court" department. Like KISS, she wants to rock and roll all night.
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Greetings, mass snail mail for which my mother subscribed me without my authorization. I see that, like many stereotypes of older, less computer-literate people, you appear to be writing in all caps.
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