Monthly Archives: March 2008

An Artist

My grandmother is many things. She’s a seamstress, she does flower arrangement, and if you listen to her increasingly boastful proclamations, she’s also an olympic level ice skater, a singer of the highest caliber, and one of the greatest political minds of her (or any) generation. All of these are open to debate, but there is one thing, one subtle art that she has mastered beyond dispute.

The backhanded compliment.

She is such a master… I’m not even sure she’s aware she’s doing it.

I sat in front of her, trying to gather some of her perfect formulations, and I caught this beauty.

We were visiting, and it happened to be easter weekend, so we were, naturally, going to St. Tim’s (Pederasterium) so everyone brought nice clothes to wear. My sister brought a dress and high heels, her boyfriend brought slacks and a shirt, and though I did not bring anything, Grandma Mickey herself bought me an outfit. This dress was somehow found lacking, so Grandma took Sami out to buy a pair of slacks. They came home, and Grandma asked what top would go with the slacks. Upon seeing it, she replied.

“Well, the boys have nice clothes, anyways.”

Samantha was visibly crushed.

Later that night, Samantha was dressing for a party, and Grandma came over to inspect. She looked at the pants, shirt, sweater, and jacket combo that Sami had on and was visibly impressed.

“Samantha, you look very cute.”

The uninitiated would imagine that this was her making amends, but those nearest to her know the truth. She waited a perfect beat, and continued.

“I think the more you cover up your body, the nicer you look. Skinnier.”

Samantha turned and left the room, fuming.

The look on Grandma’s face at this point was… beatific. You could sense the satisfaction of a job well done. A child saved from a terrible life of being comfortable with her body.

Raleigh To-Do

1. Pull cranks, measure spindle. See if I can mount it with the 52 tooth ring at 42mm chainline. If so, I’ll buy a 20 tooth cog to whack on there and that’ll be that. The cranks are good looking enough, especially if I can shed the inner chainring.

2. Triangulate rear frame, triangulate fork. Just want to make sure it’s not off kilter. The q/a specs when the frame was new probably weren’t stupendous, and I’m sure time hasn’t made them any better.

3. New saddle. I have a bid in on a Brooks B5N, we’ll see if that works out. I could always throw the B17 on there, but I want something a little different, plus new Brooks saddles are expensive as hell right now thanks to the freefalling dollar.

4. A bag. I don’t know what, exactly, I want. Something small for the back, to hold a wrench, some allen keys, a patch kit, a spare tube. Something larger for the front to hold my camera, my phone, my wallet and keys.

5. Put the fatter tires on. I have a set of 700×32 Urbanmax’s right now, one that I think needs a boot and one that is brand new. I should be able to toss those on and improve the ride considerably. Those 700×25 Armadillos just aren’t cutting it in the comfort department.

6. New wheels. As for rims, I’m pretty much sold on the Mavic A119, they appear to be a decent bang for the buck option. But on hubs – while I’m plenty happy for this to be a fixed gear for right now, I’ve still got the jones for an 8-speed internal gear hub. The Sturmey Archer has some interesting historical links and whatnot, but I think with it’s design (bottom gear is direct drive, all others are step-up gears), a 52 tooth chainring would be a death sentence (even with it’s stock 25 tooth cog), so that is something to think about. I’d hopefully be in the position to buy some nice cranks for this bike before/while this wheel build was going on anyways, but it is still a consideration. The Shimano Nexus has 5th as direct-drive. With a 52 tooth ring and a 21 tooth rear, that would make direct drive 68-ish gear inches, right where my fixed gears hover. Very interesting indeed. I will note that right now, the Sturmey hub is cheaper, but not by a factor which would include a new set of crankarms.

The compelling case for God…

So, there were some big name balls-out atheist tracts that hit the papers and the sales charts lately. The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins. God is Not Great : How Religion Poisons Everything – Battle for the Longest Title :: Thunder Revolution Blue by Christopher Hitchens. This has led to the inevitable backlash of religious tracts which prove the “undeniable” or “indelible” case for religion as a pure and untainted and as human and natural as shitting between your ass cheeks and mortgage law. They bring up the same handful of points every time, and they are as true now as they are each time.

Here’s a big news flash : Hitler was an atheist. Through all I can be bothered to learn about the man, I have seen compelling evidence that he was raised a Christian, lost his faith at some point, and became convinced that religion was a palliative for the masses, a convenient way to herd the easily herdable. To this end, I agree with the man, in the same sense that I can look at a broken watch and agree it is displaying exact time twice daily. Of the mans many failings as a human being, a psychopath, a sociopath, a paranoid with delusions of godhood, a monster, a racist, a bigot, the singular voice which drove a screeching machine that threw innocent men, women, and children – screaming and afraid – into rooms full of carbon monoxide and then burned the corpses to hide the crime. I state this not to damn atheism, but instead to make clear that I understand what the man did, and address the issue without the dismissive hand-waving of Dawkins. I know Adolf Hitler was a monster. I also know he was an atheist. We have all our facts out in the open.

Where most of these case-for-god books and scholars and I get on opposite sides of the issue though is this: I don’t think that being an atheist led him to be a monster, and I don’t think that being a monster is directly linked to his atheism. Let me make the case with another monster, another clearly insane murderer. John Wayne Gacy. Gacy was by anyone’s measurement a monster. He was also a KFC manager, a Jaycee, and later, a painter of clowns. Or should we go with Jeffrey Dahmer, who was, amongst his crimes, a member of the US Army. In order to discuss these folks, one must state these facts. I do not, however, see a lot of folks casually tossing out the allegation that delicious original recipe combos, membership in entrepreneurial clubs, or service in the armed forces somehow precluded these folks to serial murder. Certainly, I don’t see a lot of books called “The Case Against The Three Piece” or “Cult of Murder: The Jaycees Break Everything Always”. The logic that links atheism to monstrous acts is roughly as powerful as the link between masturbation and blindness. (side note: Who was it that was always throwing around that masturbate and you’ll go blind line… I can’t remember)

But religion is a touchy issue, unlike reasonably priced fried chicken. So we have fights over religion, with, currently, the same two sides. “Religion is Bad” versus “Yeah, Islam is Totally Bad We Agree But Christianity is Really Really True and Important”. It’s amusing to me that there is always a compelling case for a white-bearded Christian God and Jesus Christ the Redeemer. No pastor goes to the books and comes back with compelling evidence, nay, a gaping rent in the human psyche that can only be filled with Frigg, or Buddha, or Zeus, or Quetzalcoatl. There’s always this wink-and-a-nod implication beneath the waves of a “case for God” essay that underlines each case for “religion” with “you know, WORSHIP OF THE ONE TRUE GOD, the real one, that CATHOLICS believe in”. That self-aggrandizing written sneer is what always leaves it’s greasy smear on these books, and levels them cleanly in the realm of thought free kneejerks like the banana delusion.

Bike Update 2

So, I rode the new bike to work today. Aside from this Concor Lite saddle being a total fucking ass hatchet, and the fact that I was way too optimistic about how warm it was? Worked out great. Here she is in her final form.

I won’t be putting any lights or fenders or stuff on her, she’s going to be a fair weather bike. The black wheels do not work for the look, I’ll be building up some wheels later for it. I’m thinking about making it a geared bike, like I said, I have a hankering for an internal gear hub. A set of nice, bright silver rims would complement everything. Something wide enough to set some 28 or 32’s on it without looking lame, I’ve been treated very well by my Salsa Delgado Cross rims on my IRO, but I think I’d like to try something different, maybe a Velocity Dyad or a Mavic A719? 36 3-cross front and back.

Oh, and a saddle better suited to my wide ass.

It’ll be beautiful.

More Linuxy Goodness

So, I was having some bluetooth issues and some ATI issues with my Ubuntu Gutsy install on the laptop (Dell Inspiron 6400), and after proving that I am not quite “ready for prime time” on troubleshooting obscure issues in Linux, I went ahead and acquiesced to the “rebuild” mentality that served me so well in the Windows world. But, unsatisfied with the install process on Gutsy (the ATI video in my laptop is not really super duper supported by the drivers on the install CD, so you have to do an alternate install and then run scripts and shit to get stuff working). Never one to shirk from beta software, I decided to install Ubuntu Hardy Heron alpha 6 (8.04).

The install? Flawless. Not a thing I would change. I got one error on startup, because an existing “session” entry called for an app I hadn’t installed yet. No problem, fixed easily. The kicker? xrandr automatically grabbed my correct screen resolution. Even without the restricted ATI drivers installed. Mind blowing. Bluetooth picked up automatically. The multiformat card reader on the side? PIcked up automatically. Just wonderful

What didn’t work? Well, the wireless. I had to manually remove and re-install the “b43-fwcutter” package, because though it was installed, it had no firmware to… cut, I guess. The manual install from the command line pulled down the firmware and it immediately sprang to action, enabling my wireless. And shutdown causes a squawk of network manager errors that vomit forth just before the final shutdown., but nothing show stopping.

And now that I’m actually using it in my day to day, I can say I’m exceptionally interested in the final product. They’ve done a great job of incremental progress towards a really clean user experience. The fonts all look great, the screen really pops, and the icons have been nicely smoothed and worked over.

Plus, it includes Firefox 3 Beta 3 out of the box, the only problem I have with it is that it ties into Network Manager somehow, and if you’re using a non-network manager connection (I use wvdial to get internet by cellphone on my laptop, I use a bridged connection on my desktop not managed by Network Manager), there is an additional step every time I launch a new Firefox session, to turn off “work offline”. I have not seen this with Firefox 3 Beta 4, but I haven’t had much time to play with it yet.

I installed fusion-icon (now in the repos!!!) and now I have a beautiful, accelerated 3D desktop without having to resort to crazy aiglx/fuck around in the xorg.conf/new sessions bullshit. Life is pretty good. As long as the network manager stuff gets sorted out, and I can disable the work offline stuff in Firefox, I’d be happy even if they don’t get more of the goals finished before launch.

Confessions of a Rivendell Whore

I admit it, I really, really, really wanted an Atlantis, or an A. Homer Hilsen.

But I can’t afford that shit, so here is my Technomic and my Noodle bars freshly installed on the Raleigh. Coming together very nicely. You can see the lovely Dia Compe non-aero levers installed but not yet cabled.

I am, as ever, about 20 seconds from breaking out and buying every slick-willy part I can find on ebay (sugino super mighty cranks are the current squeeze, but that could change any time), but for now, it’ll sit with the crappy raleigh-branded whatevers that are on there now with the perma-52 ring. One day I might even get up the gumption to grind it off. The ATAC pedals will go on tomorrow, and if I get the brakes set up, it might get its first ride to the office on Wednesday. The old bars will go in the parts pile, and probably end up as a flop -n- chop set. Someday.

Using Plugins with Gnome-Do (but for real)

I’ve been using Gnome-Do for a little bit (it’s a Quicksilver workarlike – like Launchy, which I had a brief love affair with before I gave up Windows), and love the fact that I can rapidly launch stuff that I don’t necessarily remember the capitalization of without having to resort to my mouse or move from home-row. So naturally I was thrilled when I found out it was extensible with plugins! Of course, I followed the instructions on the site (copy the plugin.dll file to /home/user/.local/share/gnome-do/plugins/) and restarted Gnome, and… nothing. No new functionality. So I kind of meandered around and found another suggestion on the Ubuntu wiki, to copy to your /home/user/.do/addins directory. WRONG AGAIN. So I decided to do a little mental leap and created a /home/user/.do/plugins directory, and lo there was Connect with SSH and Tweet. Hooray.

Hot tip to all you plugin folks out there, you could include instructions on how to install your plugins in the readme! It’d be like… 1996 and shit, with annotated instructions.

Raleigh Update

The Raleigh is looking much nicer now, with my somewhat-discarded Concor Lite and a Kalloy 25.4 post (it was all I could find at Citybikes, and it holds my ass up). I pumped up the tires, put a lockring on there, and took it out for a spin.

Decided the bars were too low for me to be comfortable on it, and they were too narrow to begin with, so I eBayed a nitto technomic and a set of B177 “noodle” bars in 44cm width (I was tempted to go wider, but they were much more expensive because of the heat treating), and the janky Nashbar aero levers I used to replace the even jankier safety levers weren’t cutting it, so I found a set of Dia Compe non-aero levers. They came in the mail and I’m just waiting for the bars so I can get this show on the road.

Pictures when the sun comes back out again.

Pimping Freak Angels and Mur Lafferty

I don’t know how Warren Ellis is capable of generating the sheer volume of work he’s putting out these days, but Freak Angels is pretty compelling. Speaking of which, I should go find Fell again and finish it.

Another person who is generating quality content at a rate faster than I can consume it? The talented Mur Lafferty, who I mentioned previously for her self-produced and self-recorded audiobooks Heaven and Hell (fantastic, in case you can’t be bothered to click on the link). She’s still doing her personal podcast, plus a new project that is so huge in scope I don’t even really know what to call it. A comic novel audio blog journal sketchbook? Possibly. She has named it Playing for Keeps.