Friday July 30
Today while waiting for a meeting with a professor, I picked up a several-month-old copy of the U of C newspaper, the "Maroon", from a nearby desk. There was an article in there about something that could only happen at a private university full of people far too intellectual for their own good. I swear I am not making this up: A student activist group was campaigning for gender-neutral bathrooms because "being forced to choose between two stereotypical gender-based self-images [i.e. the stick figures on the bathroom doors] causes students of non-traditional gender identity to feel uncomfortable".
Later I told Jeremy and Isaac about this article, thinking they could have a good laugh with me, but to my chagrin, I found that they have been so indoctrinated with the politcally-correct liberal academic dogma that they actually took said campaign seriously, going so far as to compare the current bathroom-door icons to seperate-but-equal laws and accuse me of being in favor of institutional discrimination, which I absolutely am not. I just don't think it's possible or desirable to engineer a society where nobody ever sees anything that makes them uncomfortable. And I think that certain student activists are reeeeally reaching in their search for new places to play the Oppressed Minority card. "Hey! I'm an obscure minority and the sight of mailboxes deeply offends me! The government must remove all mailboxes from public places!"
This led to some fascinating dinner discussion of politics. Asked where I stood on abortion, I put forth my controversial "Pro-Death" position: "I think everybody should have abortions! Then soon there won't be any more people! Problem solved!" Thorny moral issues have become so much simpler ever since I decided I'm in favor of the extinction of humanity.
Maybe later I will put up a page with my political philosophy. It's basically Libertarian except that I disagree with the Libertarian position on almost all issues. That's the great thing about the Libertarian party: no two of them agree on anything.
Unrelated: There's this amazing piece of software called fink. Its purpose is to install other software. Say I decide I want the program called pine. I just say
fink install pine
and fink finds the source code for pine on the internet, downloads it, compiles it, and installs and configures the program for me.
Unix is power.
Sunday July 25
Last night we went to a Vietnamese resturaunt. For dessert, against the protestations of my dining companions, I ordered a durian milkshake.
The durian is this huge, spiky, heavy, incredibly evil fruit from Southeast Asia. Armor-plated on the outside, slimy goo on the inside, and you can smell it from twenty paces. I encountered one when I was in the Philippines and never forgot it.
(picture from Durian Palace)
The shake came, and the whole table could smell its aroma, which was (as Isaac so poetically put it) "like a burning catbox". I took a sip and my eyes bugged out... Jeremy said "You're passing that sucker around now"... he took a sip and said "it TASTES like a burning catbox!" We were driving home in the car and I was still drinking it and everybody was like "Just throw it out the window!" and "I can't believe you're putting that into your body!" but I was all "I paid for this and I'm darn well going to finish it!"
And I did. By about a third of the way through, my sense of smell had gone completely dead, and then it tasted pretty good. I want to develop a taste for it, like I developed a taste for natto, because I enjoy grossing people out with exotic delicacies.
By the way, I read that if you eat durian and then drink beer, the resulting chemical reaction releases so much gas that it can cause your stomach to explode. Be careful!
Friday July 23
The apartment downstairs is partying noisily. Sleep is elusive. I write.
Both Austin and Jeremy have comprehensive game collections, both legit and emulated. With virtually every game of the last twenty years at our disposal, there are just four which we have been playing regularly:
- Super Bomberman
- Mario Kart
- Tetris Attack
What can we deduce from this short list?
- Playing against your friends is more fun than playing alone.
- A well-designed game is fun forever, even when its technology is obsolete.
- Although I enjoy story-based games, I tend not to go back to them after I've finished the quest. Skill-based competitive games where I can improve indefinitely have more staying power.
- Although simpler, Starcraft has better balance and more strategic depth than Warcraft 3.
- The SNES was a thing of great joy.
- 3-D graphics are an unneccessary distraction or worse. None of these games would be as good if you had to mess with the camera angle.
Tetris Attack is a sadly unknown gem. It's actually not Tetris at all, except inasmuch as all "puzzle" games are the spawn of Tetris. Stacks of colored blocks move up from the bottom of the screen; you can swap any two adjacent blocks using a cursor; line up three of the same color to clear them. Completely irrelevant characters from Yoshi's Island were thrown in to improve marketability. What makes this game great is that as your skill at recognizing patterns improves, you become able to set up more and more elaborate chain reactions of clearing blocks, which cause garbage to drop on your opponent's screen. Between two good players, it's a harrowing test of concentration and endurance under intense pressure.
A record player is a wonderful gadget -- relic of an earlier age, when machines were all analog electronics and ingenious moving parts. Big, heavy, and prone to break down, but unlike modern electronics, you can easily get inside them and see exactly how they work. We still have the schematics for the amp, even. There is a used record store down the street. It is like a bazaar of wonders from the Arabian Nights, where marvelous treasures can be found for a few pieces of silver. I have been grooving to the scratchy, skippy sounds of Yes, the Talking Heads, James Brown, the Alan Parsons Project, the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, and David Bowie (we found a Bowie album on top of the fridge when we moved in!). But the most-played and clear favorite album among everyone here is the following masterpiece of twentieth-century composition:
FUNKENTELECHY vs. the PLACEBO SYNDROME by PARLIAMENT
And here is the poster that came inside the album sleeve:
Wednesday July 21
I just saw something scurry across my floor and into a hole in the wall. It was either a mouse, or the biggest cockroach I've ever seen. It was moving too fast to tell.
I had a dream last night that Scooby-Doo became a minister at a Southern evangelist church and presided over a religious revival. Scooby-dooby-hallelujah! And that Jacob had a girlfriend. Which was far more unbelievable than the Scooby-doo thing.
From the glossary in the back of the OpenGL programming manual:
C : God's programming language.
C++ : The object-oriented language of a pagan deity.
Tuesday July 20
Austin's dad brought us a humongous box of fresh farm blueberries. He's a veterenarian, so I'm not sure why he has blueberies, but whatever. It is a blessed gift. Besides the usual blueberry pancakes and blueberries on cereal, I made a milkshake using blueberries, vanilla ice cream, and Calpis concentrate. (Which Yasu brought me back from Mitsuwa.) Some of my experiments turn out great and others are completely inedible. Calpis is dangerous stuff, so I was almost scared to drink this milkshake. But it turns out to be delicious! If you live near an Asian grocery store and can get Calpis concentrate, give this a try.
Monday July 19
Today I officially began my new job: I am a research assistant at Argonne National Laboratories! I am a lab monkey! Use me! For SCIENCE!
(Ahem.) I'm going to be doing Java programming for Grid computing research. More details later.
Sunday July 18
"I am a BEAUTIFUL ANIMAL! I am a DESTROYER of WORLDS! I am HARRY FUCKING POTTER!"
So says Harry Potter right after winning the Quidditch match in a hilarious fan-dubbing of Sorceror's Stone which we watched today. Somewhere there is a series of MP3s meant to be played along with the movie. Turn off the movie sound and, if you have got the syncing right, you have a parody dubbing. It's all one guy's voice -- a gravely, awkward, very very funny voice -- doing a non-stop narration. He's very literate and uses bizzare analogies to good effect. It's not exactly MST3K -- it's rather the opposite, in that the guy treats the movie with far more seriousness than it deserves, and that is the source of most of the humor. I highly recommend this, if you don't mind going through the effort it will take to download the mp3s, rent the movie, and sync them up together.
Saturday July 17
Went to Chicago Comics in Belmont with Isaac. I wasn't going to buy anything, since I am poor, but eventually Isaac, that seductive devil, convinced me to support the struggling comics industry. My new treasures:
- Sock Monkey by Tony Millionaire
- Monkey vs. Robot (And the Crystal of Power) by James Kochalka
- Goodbye, Chunky Rice by Craig Thompson
- Two volumes of Phoenix, by Osamu Tezuka
The first four volumes (out of twelve) of Phoenix have now been translated. Everybody, go out right now and buy them. They must sell a million copies so that the rest will be translated as well.
The main reason we went tonight was to see James Kochalka and Craig Thompson. To you, maybe those names mean nothing, but they are celbrities in the comics world. I had read a few things of Kochalka's online, but I hadn't read Craig yet, though I had heard great praise for his graphic novel "Blankets".
So before this, because Isaac and I had needed bus fare , all I had was 10s and the bus needs exact change, I figured I'd buy some food at the corner store and get change. I saw they had cereal, and hey, I was running low on cereal, so I bought a box of grape-nuts. "Made of Pure Neutronium" ought to be their slogan. Isaac said "What, are you going to carry that to the comic shop with you?". "Mayyyyybe", I answered. "Maybe I'll get them signed."
(Click to enlarge)
So, Craig and Kochalka are really cool guys. They were game for anything, including grape-nuts, and they did unique doodles for every single person in line, which was great! Both work mainly in the genre of real-life semi-autobiographical comics, so if you like that sort of thing, check 'em out.
On the bus ride back, this crazy drunk guy started talking incomprehensible jive at me. He was freestyle-rhymin' and everything. "If you give any to Lenny, Lenny will hit you with plenny." is the only part that I could understand. He wasn't threatening, just strange and overly friendly. I took a wild guess and said "Umm, I don't have any money..." (cuz I had just spent it all on comic books). Lenny started yelling "WELL SHOOT ME IN THE ASS! SHOOT ME IN THE ASS!". So I made my hand into a gun and said "Bang." What do you do in situations like that? You just sort of have to go with the flow. Lenny stood up and said "He's really gonna do it! This guy's dangerous!" and went off to bother somebody else.