Monday, October 29, 2007

Of foul language and naked oxen

First, I assume that you can read English. Secondly, I assume that you know how to swear in at least one language, regardless of your cursing habits. Thirdly, I think you should read Steven Pinker's article subtitled "Why We Curse." Astonishingly, the title has a number of asterisks, but the editors did not censor any word in the article itself.

I've had a huge problem with Yak-Shaving these days. I want to go to the bank before it closes, but first I want to write this article, and to do that I need to research and re-read the articles I want to link to, and I need to find which tab I've saved those links, which reminds me that I forgot to read my webcomics for today, and one includes a link to a book I want to check out, which reminds me that I need to go to the bank so I can get money if I want to buy a book. For example.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I hunger

I have absolutely no idea why I didn't have this book on my radar sooner.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, delivers exactly what you'd expect.

"You got your post-apocalyptic survival tale in my zombie horror! No, you got your zombie uprising in my alternate-history war memoir!" I picked this up on a lark at Maple Street Books, and almost missed it. Cat wanted a new crosswords book, and I was just noodling around. On our way out, World War Z leapt off the shelf at me, demanding to be read. I pretty much read the whole book in one sitting, stopping to eat. No, not brains.

This is a strong buy reco, especially if you like zombies, war, alternate history, speculative fiction, or any kind of post-apocalyptic tale- and it's all presented seriously. What would happen if we found ourselves in the middle of a real zombie plague? I found the tale very compelling- as an "oral history," the narrator is collecting tales from people across the world, assembling the whole narrative in chronological order.

Evidently, the (sadly abridged) audio version has a whole host of character actors reading the different parts, adding to the verisimilitude. I might check it out from the library, or obtain it on the 'tubes.

I haven't picked up a book in too long. Partially this is my fault. I mean hey, they have these things called libraries, you know? But when you've got your entire library in boxes in the attic, you don't really have the opportunity to stroll past the shelves and let something catch your eye. I've spent a good amount of time jsut thinking about reading a particular scene in a particular book.

I need to read this one again.

Friday, October 26, 2007

These things come in, er, fours

What a week. I've got one friend going in for gallbladder surgery today, another friend sliced his mouse finger open and needed five stitches, another friend of mine's father went in for a quadruple bypass earlier this week, and my grandfather was admitted for pneumonia yesterday.

Don't run with scissors, yall. There's something going around and tonight's a full moon.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Weather mine love

I love the rain.

Right now, we're in the middle of light showers moving from the Gulf across to Mississippi and beyond. I can hear the rain falling on the air conditioner and the roof, the wind blowing stray drops against the windows, the ebb and the flow of nature. Inside we have it cool, almost cold, and outside is warm and deliciously comforting. I watch insects flying between the raindrops, smell the damp earth and the wet, feel the near-subliminal spray of water on my arm as drops hit the fresh gutters above. If I had shoes on, I'd walk further than just the feel of damp mud-and-grit brick under my toes. I want the slick grass under my feet, but I know the dog craps in the yard. I'm breathing clear now, but the pressure and the mold or pollen kicked up by the water will hit me tomorrow, and I know I'll wake up with nearly-solid sinuses.

The weather reports that we got about a third of an inch of rain today, with a humidity of 91%.

There's a saying, older than but popularly attributed to Regan, about the causal value of the outside of a horse wrt the inside of a man, but now I can only kick back in five-dollar white lawn furniture and stare out into the night. I just am, blissful and content.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Got Potter?

We do. J. K. Rowling made New Orleans one of three stops on her book tour. NY to NO to LA. The Picayune has pix.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Tubes, Tracks, Trades and Sudoku

For the infovore, a lack of net access does not a happy camper make.

That said, I've got the wireless bridge back up with a smokin' hot bleeding-edge new third-party firmware for my Linksys WRT router (v24 RC-4, for the curious) and once again have the wireless up, this time with the device acting as a repeater for a signal across the street. If you like teh hax and you've got a compatible chipset, check out the DD-WRT firmware and really open up the possibilities with your existing hardware. Do more with less, I say. Even so, I won't stop you if you have a few thousand lying around and buy me something nifty from Fluke. (NB: PLEASE BUY ME SOMETHING ELSE INSTEAD)

Coming back from the store (now local Rouse's and no longer national Sav-A-Center), I saw two streetcars on the St. Charles line. The Picayune says that the RTA plans to have half the line open by November first, and the entire line open by Q1 2008. For those of you following at home, that's two and a half years before an icon of the city is back to its pre-LAMRON state. As a city, as a nation, we will all feel the aftereffects of Katrina for generations. Back in the day, I had a job and an apartment where I could streetcar downtown every day if I wanted. I enjoyed that kind of commute.

USPS by way of BGG tradings brought me three new-to-me games: Ta Yu (BGG, BUY ME!), Oltre Mare (BGG, BUY ME!), and Senator (BGG, BUY ME!). Ta Yu is an aesthetically savory abstract game of laying tiles and connecting rivers, diverting their flow to where you choose. Senator is a political bidding game I recall a a light bit of enjoyment after one play. I've not played Oltre Mare, but it looks to be a interesting Venetian trading game. Hopefully, I'll get these to the table soon. Current reco for these games: Buy Ta Yu, Play Senator first.

Cat does her crosswords, and I've started to get my shirt handed to me by the daily Sudoku puzzle. I'm still developing solving skills for this kind of puzzle- but I do so enjoy seeing people solve puzzles as a kind of insight into their thought patterns. I'm barely an armchair neurologist, it's not even funny. Maybe an ottoman neurologist.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Night the second

We have moved into the mother-in-law's cottage! Now we are out of Bennett and Leslie's hair (sort of) and have our own 500-square-foot 340-square-foot space. Tomorrow, after an interview, I plan to start schelpping some of my fourteen-ish boxes of boardgames out of their living room and into the guest room.

One of the guiding principles of decluttering is to have two things go out for every one thing that comes in. Dollars to donuts, if you've got something you want to get rid of, someone on Craigslist or Freecycle will take it off your hands.

Today I threw away three spoons. We have a complete set of decent silverware, but these last three spoons came from an absolutely ancient set of flatware. Plus, they can't stand up to my hitherto unknown feats of strength, since they constantly bent under the simple pressure of my thumbs.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Serendipitous Interactive Fiction discovery

I've recently started reading up on Inform 7, a natural-language approach to writing and coding up interactive fiction.

When I think IF, I think Zork ("You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox here." So familiar, and so evocative). Right after Zork, I usually think Zork II and Zork III, but also the other classics of Infocom: Planetfall and Suspended, the Enchanter trilogy and Wishbringer. All of these I played on my trusty Commodore 64, but I distinctly remember playing the first Zork on a Compaq luggable in the mid-80s at my aunt's house in Houston, running off five-and-a-quarter-inch disks. I know I owned and never finished Stationfall, the Hitch-Hiker's game (briefly played on an Amiga), Ballyhoo and Hollywood Hijinx. Thanks to the wonderful series of tubes and Bittorrent, I can play all of these and more. I'm primarily using a great multi-game engine called Spatterlight for Mac OS X, which rules- I'm a big fan of using one app that pulls double (or triple, or quadruple, or quintuple, or...) duty instead of several.

I've also started searching for other, good, IF to play. As much as I love the old classics, they have a tiny bit of roughness around the edges- lack of UNDO and the inability to use X for EXAMINE keep cropping up out of habit. Save early, save often. But the medium has evolved in the last score years.

While doing research for game suggestions, I started at the no-frills but hugely complete Baf's Guide. I wandered into one of the IF newsgroups and happily discovered that the thirteenth annual IF Comp is in full swing. It's too late to submit an entry, but it's not too late to donate a prize or play and vote. Who knows what this year brings?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Harry Lee, dead at 75

The sheriff of Jefferson Parish died earlier today. The Picayune has some good coverage. Hell, his Wikipedia article is worth reading.

He held that office for almost thirty years, nearly as long as I was aware of the word sheriff, and certainly one of the first times I ate Chinese food at their family restaurant.

UPDATE: The New York Times paints an unflattering picture, NPR also weighs in.