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Jun. 20th, 2011

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Sale ends Monday

If anyone out there really wants to have my babies, now is the time to speak up. In a week that option will no longer be available.

Vasecto me!

Jun. 5th, 2011

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The Pruitt-Igoe Myth

I went to see The Pruitt-Igoe Myth yesterday at the Tivoli. The filmmakers were on hand to answer questions afterwards. A few people in the audience who had lived in the Pruitt-Igoe complex even shared some stories afterwards.

Pruitt-Igoe was an enormous public housing project built in Saint Louis in the 1950s and demolished in the 1970s. Public housing, welfare, and modernist architecture have all been blamed for Pruitt-Igoe's failure, but this film showed the reality was much more complicated than that. The film changed my mind about Pruitt-Igoe. I really recommend seeing this film if you can find it.

Jun. 4th, 2011

music

Arrington de Dionyso @ The Warehouse, 4-June-2011

It's hard to believe I haven't been to a show in months, I used to go so often. Last night I went to see Arrington de Dionyso at a South Jefferson club called The Warehouse that just opened about 6 months ago.

Arrington is the singer for Old Time Relijun, a fantastic crazy weird band that I've been into since college. Recently he started a solo project that sounds a bit like Old Time Relijun, but with lyrics in Indonesian. Last night he performed his solo work, singing and playing the guitar, bass clarinet, and mouth harp, backed up by a bassist and a drummer. He uses a lot of throat singing, and can also sing more than one note at the same time. For the finale it sounded like he had three notes going at the same time using the mouth harp and his voice. Here's an example of what the experience of an Arrington de Dionyso show is like:  



Yes, there were angels floating through the room last night.

When Arrington first got out the bass clarinet, he placed the microphone he'd been singing with onto the stand and adjusted the stand's height for the clarinet. The mike dropped onto the floor. He immediately grabbed the mike and shoved it into the bell of the clarinet and started playing. I wish I could have seen the sound guy's face at that moment.

Local bands The Union Electric and The Volcanoes opened. The Union Electric was very good. Everything Tim Rakel touches seems to turn to musical gold.

Feb. 27th, 2011

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Fill 'er up

Today I refueled my car for the first time this year. I don't care much if the price of oil is rising, it's just such an insignificant part of my budget when compared to things like groceries. One important reason is because I am lucky enough to live within walking distance of work, but even when I drove to work my fill ups were about once every three weeks. This is through the magic of diesel technology.

I drive a 2002 VW Golf TDI, which I bought new. For the life of the vehicle it has averaged 44.2 miles per gallon. When I first bought the car, my work commute was almost all highway mies so I got a consistent 50 MPG. After I moved and got a new job, my commute was almost entirely city driving and I got about 43 MPG except for long road trips. At some point my mileage dropped to 40 MPG for no apparent reason, probably coinciding with the check engine light going on. My mileage got worse and stayed at around 37 MPG for two years except for long road trips. Then I had a temperature sensor replaced, which made the check engine light turn off. Mileage went back to about 43 MPG average. I still get about 50 MPG on the highway.

How did I pass state inspection with a check engine light on? The check engine light didn't go on all the time, it would just turn on sometimes. I took the car to the shop, had them clear the codes, then drove it for the required time and hoped that the light didn't turn on during before I took took it back to the shop for an inspection. I got lucky.

Jan. 13th, 2011

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Depreciation we can believe in.

I had a dream last night that President Obama was running for re-election and I went to a political rally where the President was going to make a big announcement. There was some kind of raffle among the audience members and the winner got to go on stage to stand with the President for the announcement.

A tallish middle aged woman won the raffle. She went up to the stage, and President Obama told her that the US Government was going to send a check for four million dollars to her — and every other US citizen as well. She looked sad and started crying. The President looked uncomfortable. I think he was considering whether giving her a hug would be considered inappropriate touching that might hurt his chances for re-election. After a few uncomfortable seconds he asked her what was wrong. She said, "I wanted nine million." The President beamed and said, "you'll get your nine million." Then the President's handlers escorted her quickly off the stage. President Obama mumbled something about everyone else getting only four million.

The audience's reaction was mixed. Some people expressed concern that printing enough money to send every US citizen a check for four million dollars might lower the value of the dollar. The party faithful dismissed the idea, stating that the US dollar would always be seen as strong by the rest of the world.

tl;dr: My subconscious apparently thinks President Obama is an irresponsible choad.
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Jan. 5th, 2011

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Nuts

Possibly true personal factoid #1:

When eating from a bowl of nuts, I eat all the Brazil nuts first, then the almonds, then I pick at the rest. I avoid cashews.
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Dec. 8th, 2010

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Guess you only get one chance in life...

Go play this game now if you haven't already. It won't take long.

You have One Chance.

Nov. 1st, 2010

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My big dumb non-partisan voter's guide

Here are my non-partisan recommendations for tomorrow's election. By non-partisan I mean I'm not going to tell you who to vote for in any partisan race. If you are a Republican you will probably vote Republican. If you are a Democrat you will probably vote Democratic. If you are a Skepticrat who thinks they're all crooks you will write in "None of above" as you always do, despite the fact that write-in votes are not counted in Missouri.

So. First the judges. Long ago, before your mother and I met (illegitimate though you may be), Missouri adopted a judge approval method where every few years a judge would come up on the ballot as "retain" or "do not retain." This system was created to allow the public to get rid of judges appointed through the political machine of corrupt Kansas City boss Tom Pendergast. I checked, and it turns out that none of the judges on the ballot were appointed by Pendergast, who is long dead. Additionally, the Missouri Bar Association suggests retaining all of the judges on the ballot in St. Louis. So just vote to retain them all in St. Louis. I did notice there's one judge they don't like in St. Louis County, so if you live in the county go look up who that is. It's pretty rare for the bar to suggest not retaining someone so I think that merits study if you are a county voter.

Proposition A: Here's what happens if Prop A doesn't pass: Nothing, status quo. Here's what happens if Prop A passes: Next Spring the city of St. Louis spends my money trying to convince me and my fellow voters to re-approve the earnings tax because the alternatives are jacking up the property taxes or bankrupting the city. Of course we vote for it because it's the right thing to do and taxes always pass in St. Louis anyway. And we have to repeat these stupid shenanigans again every five years forever. Please please please vote NO on Prop A because the alternative is way annoying.

Proposition B: I'll leave this one up to you. If you love cruelty to puppies, go ahead and vote no, but you might want to keep quiet about it because you wouldn't want to be known as a puppy hater.

Proposition F: Amend the city charter to increase the maximum fine to $1000. Since I haven't ever done anything that would warrant a huge fine, I feel there's no problem with this. YES.

Proposition L: You get to vote on whether the city should be in charge of its own police department. The result of this proposition has no meaning whatsoever because the state gets to decide, not the residents of the city. As a matter of principle I think local control makes sense, although barber shop conversations have led me to believe the police themselves don't trust Slay too much. I can't say I trust Slay much either. The thing is, when the vote doesn't make a difference anyway the principle might as well trump the personal, so I'm going with YES.

Constitutional Amendment 1: Normally the ballot language uses weasel words to make you think what you're voting for is way better than it is, but I guess they couldn't hide it for this one. The language says we should amend the constitution to require something something blah blah for charter counties except counties with a population between 600,001 – 699,999. (Except they use a hyphen and not an en-dash on the ballot because our state Secretary of State didn't pay attention in whatever class they teach you that in). The point isn't the hyphen, the point is that this is obviously something special purpose designed for one county and it's a total crock that someone thought amending the state constitution was the right way to go about this. Just say NO to stupid democracy tricks.  

Constitutional Amendment 2: The ballot language implies you are a heartless person who hates disabled former POWs if you don't approve of this. See proposition B for rationale, not gonna type it again.

Constitutional Amendment 3: Should we amend the state constitution to further restrict what new taxes local municipalities can pass? When in doubt, I vote for local control. If the residents of a municipality or county want to raise funds through some new method, the state should mind its own damn business. Vote NO.

Finally, the board of education election. What's that you say, you thought the state took over St. Louis city schools with an appointed board? Ha ha, yes they did, but the really funny part is we're still required to have an elected board of education which has to have meetings and everything. No one has been able to produce a rational reason why this is the case. So now you get to vote for someone for the most useless elected position in the history of St. Louis politics. Write in "Undead Hitler" for all I care. (Not that it would be counted).
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Oct. 19th, 2010

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It is pitch black

I don't want to walk the kids to school in the dark anymore. I want Daylight Savings Time to end. Congress should do something about this.

Also, nerdy link of the day: Complete MDL source code to Zork. Search the source code to find out what the GWIM instruction stands for.

Oct. 6th, 2010

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Fixing P4V

At work we use a source control management software package called Perforce. If you don't know what source control is you can probably stop reading here.

There are three possible Perforce clients on Windows platforms: p4 (command line), P4Win (Windows-only GUI), and P4V (cross-platform GUI). P4V used to really suck, so I nicknamed it P4Lose. But it's gotten much better over the years and gained some features I really like. A while back Perforce announced that they weren't going to support P4Win any longer. Today there are actual Perforce server features that aren't supported in the P4Win client, so I'm trying to switch to P4V.

The file icon overlays in P4V all look very similar (very small and red) which really slows me down when reviewing a pending integration changelist with hundreds of files. I want to quickly tell where files have been added or deleted (since that may be a sign I integrated some part of the branch I shouldn't have). I want to quickly see where the files that didn't get auto-resolved are so I can do something about it. It all looks kind of the same in P4V. The icon overlays in P4Win are larger and are actually different colors. I want to change the P4V icon overlays to have more visible differences.

So, I found a file that looked promising in the P4V installation (images.rcc). I couldn't find any evidence that this is a standard file format used by anything, but I reverse-engineered enough of it that I think I can modify it safely. I just wrote a quick program to parse it and it dumped out 109 PNG images!

Next step, I'll try modifying one of the images and make sure P4V still works.

In case you were wondering, the images.rcc file consists of:
  1. A brief header with some offsets into interesting parts of the file.
  2. A series of resource chunks that all turned out to be PNG images.
  3. A series of UTF-16 strings that correspond to the original file names of the resources.
  4. Some more garbage at the end that I haven't bothered to figure out yet, but I assume I won't need to touch it.

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