Friday, September 21, 2007
That said today's post relates to my favorite aquatic activity...2nd favorite if you include this.
That means swimming! For perspective I will include a rough diagram of how the pool at the local Y is set up.
So thats the pool. Primarily I swim in lanes 1 or 2. It should be noted that Lane 1 sucks it with two people because there's metal stuff sticking out from the side. The hollow squares are lifeguard 'towers' which I included only because the text feature of mspaint is so freaking clumsy.
Yesterday I was cutting it up in lane 1. A larger female was swimming to my right in lane 2. (the bottom of the picture is where I orient myself.) Part of swimming etiquette is that when you're in a lane by yourself you are obligated by common courtesy to allow exactly one other person into your lane. That way 2 people can swim and only marginally get in each other's way. Usually when you're the person who wants to jump in on another lane you hang out at one end and wait for the person to hit the wall and then belt out heymancanisharealanewithyourealquick!?
They say yes, you jump in, and huzzah.
Yesterday this woman was standing at the foot of my lane wearing normal clothes speaking directly to the woman next to me. I thought it an odd mix of postures (keep in mind 93% of the time I'm under water and only glance up for breaths every few seconds) but I had a few laps to finish so I went on my way. If she really wanted to swim in my lane she could just put her feet in.
Now as I came to a halt at the (bottom) wall I took a rest between my 1000 yd freestyle and my 400 yard mixed stroke sets for a drink of water and some stretches. As I did this the women to my right conversed in all manner of 'technical' speak relating to swimming strategies. Strategy in the pool to me usually means that you're up to no good but hey, different strokes.
After a few minutes I deduced that this CHARLATAN was none other than a sports psychologist from the other woman's church. For ease we'll call them Swimmer and Talker. Talker had a lot of interesting ideas and I wanted to slap out a few tidbits in case any other would-be sports psychos feel the need to dispense this tripe as advice.
Shitty Statement the First: "Some people swim a length freestyle and then get out of breath so they just swim the next length doing backstroke to catch their breath."
I might agree with this if you were talking to a 4 year old. To someone so small a 25 yd pool looks like an underwater football field. To a six foot tall woman...not so much. I watched this woman breathe just fine with the usual 'turn your head out of the water and inhale method.' Why switch to backstroke?
Unfortunately I haven't been able to find anything to prove that breathing in swimming is almost as important as your stroke technique and physical fitness. During my early days as a swimmer I would just breathe whenever I could or felt compelled to. When you're using a majority of the body's slow-twitch muscles you want to pant like when you're running hard but you cannot do it.
That sucks but then again swimming for an hour burns about 900 calories (for me, for you its different and there's a lot of leeway for temperature, time of day and all that mess.) It isn't a good idea to base life decisions on personal experience *but everyone does it so I can too!!* but I strongly believe that part of swimming's overall efficacy is due to simulated altitude training.
Think about it!!! Most of the time you're breathing in-out-in-out all day every day. When else do you have to wait a few seconds between breaths? Never. There's plenty of analogies I could use but lets think about Milk. Thats right milk.
2% milk has more calories because its 2% milkfat. Skim on the other hand is more or less calcium water with some lactose thrown in for color and opacity. The body is a very deterministic system and you can only usually get it to change by forcing change upon it. That said sealevel air is like 2% and high-altitude air is leaner skim. By spacing out breaths you're diluting the available air (milkfat in this example) with water. Adding a little water to 2% doesn't change the milkfat content but the calorie density lightens.
Its not a very good analogy but it still seems logical to me that a broken supply of rich air balances out to similar levels of rarefied air *at altitude.*
Shitty statement the 2nd: "Lifting weights and doing aerobics will help your swimming."
I do not disagree with this statement. I can't. It is without doubt a true and honest configuration of words.
Despite that I still consider it bad advice for several reasons. I have known swimmers my whole life who tear a hammy or blast out their shoulder or something terrible happens to a part of them that ought to remain firmly affixed to bone or muscle. And these bad things almost ALWAYS happen outside the pool
Now consider this. You're a newb in the fitness world. You are asking advice how to maximize the safety and effectiveness of your aquatic workouts. If you don't know about basic principles of fitness then you're probably unaware of certain fundamental differences between cardio and weight training or aerobic vs anerobic exercises. It's a good way to get hurt.
Shitty Statement the Third: "A lot of people forget to keep kicking no matter what. Even if you're just doing your cool off make sure you're still kicking at least twice per stroke (during freestyle and back stroke)"
Where to begin. I'll throw in a caveat that girls swim differently than boys. Doodz have a lot more upper body strength to rely on but men and women alike are held to certain principles of physics and biology.
Kicking uses a lot of energy which is good for burning calories. However kicking has a very low ratio of energy use to actual forward motion. In fact unless you're wearing fins or you're at a swim meet where not kicking will get you in trouble its wise to barely kick at all. I'll come back to this sentiment with the fourth and final statement.
Suffice to say I have done my fair share of swimming. Kicking actively belongs during sprints and when you're using a kickboard explicitly to increase leg strength. During laps or medium paced exercises the legs are more useful for balance and stability than for speed.
Shitty Final Statement: "The most important factor in swimming is strength."
Even typing this makes me want to link to Penn and Teller Bullshit just to hear Penn's loud bombastic voice screaming about how inane this is. Maybe for some 'elvis never did no drugs' action also.
The fundamental principle of swimming is not physical strength. The greats of any sport will naturally have great strength but it is technique that really defines just about any athlete. Think of how great dancers and gymnasts would be with their bodies but without the years of training for the balance and rhythm that coincide.
Swimming takes balance, it takes grace and it takes an extreme measure of focus to do it right.
Lets analyze these things. Balance seems a little silly in the water. After all you're being supported completely by a buoyant force equal to the mass of water that your body displaces. That force is uniform. Your body however is not.
Side note: Its actually easier for chubby people to swim than well-muscled types. With a wad of belly fat your pool profile looks like --- that. If you're muscle-dense your legs sink and your torso tilts like / so you have to swim at an upward angle. Granted once you start moving your body acts like an airfoil but lets not digress.
Grace is not something often attributed to me. If you've seen the bizarre flailing ineptitude of my dancing you should know what I mean. However pathetic I may appear above ground my fluidity underwater is lovely. Not one percent of all the people in the world can swim like I can.
I take pride in that.
Focus is key for the usual reasons and a few unusual ones as well. Timing strokes, breaths, kicks and turns takes a lot of mental dexterity to do well. Its not hard to not to do well but if you want to coordinate a smooth approach to the wall, an artful turn and all without having to break stroke for a breath well that takes something special.
Yes of course I am biased but only because I love to swim and I know what benefit it can hold for both myself an others.
I'm nearing the end of sane posting limits (actually I've gone on typing all the way around the world and I am coming back to the starting line now) so I will sign off.
09.18.2007 - 2 Miles
09.20.2007 - 1.5 Miles
09.22.2007 - 1.66 Miles.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
I say 'suck it jesus' almost every day! Why aren't I being interviewed by Larry King?
Now normally in situations like this I would say that its just a bunch of celebrity hype but she's not even worth calling a celebrity. She's a crappy comedian with a really bad show. And you all know how I feel about female comedians.
So what sparks these bullshit 'controversies?' Really if some dude on the street said 'hey suck it jesus' you might either think 'hey that guys an asshole' or maybe 'fine just don't tell me you need gas money and then get all pushy.' There would not be a huge press conference or any of that crap. One person's opinion is not to be trifled with.
Now if you got 2 million people to sign a web petition saying "Jesus is my favorite fictional character" or something that might be news worthy. But really a single sad excuse for a celebrity rejoicing over a much undeserved award that actually makes a non-conventional statement?
Allow me to explain. Every human on this planet grows up slightly or radically different than every other human (same planet.) Now these differences in upbringing, weather patterns, language and regional differences (also ethnicity, wealth, religion and 3490347 other little bits) lead to differences in character. No one comes out perfect. Statistically everyone on the planet has had something weird or flaky happen to them at least once. Most people get this more than once.
I got assaulted in middle school by a black kid who tackled me down a small set of stairs into an old radiator with flaking lead-based paint. For a while I hated black people. I really thought of some awful shit because this stupid assed kid had believed his dumbass friends who said 'hey man that kid called you a nigger.' Now believe it or not I didn't even call the kid a nigger. I was in 6th grade he was in eighth. I didn't want any trouble, I didn't even know who he was or anything about him.
After a month or so I realized that it didn't really square with my beliefs. I was good friends with Eddie Vick so I knew I didn't hate all black people, just the stupid violent and impulsive ones. But then again, I didn't like stupid violent impulsive people of any race. So after a while I cooled down and realized that I don't hate any other race, just the assholes of all races.
So I learned my lesson. What does this have to do with an over entitled twat saying suck it jesus? Neither my story nor her comment change the reality of who jesus was or what black people do. Maybe you felt a little empathy for me but its very unlikely any will read this (period, haha) and say 'hey, now I am going to be racist because of that story' or 'well I guess I learned something about racism and its not for me.' Even if it does change your opinion just wait a few days.
A few days later you're probably back to normal and you've forgotten the whole thing. See, beliefs can weather bumping into other beliefs without shattering into a million pieces. You can take a healthy normal, or abnormal, person and say something extremely awful and they will not shrivel into people-raisins nor will they explode into founts of chaos and despair.
Kids might take things more to heart but adults just don't have the plasticity issues that kids do. Beliefs are resilient, people. Someone could walk right up to me and say 'Jesus is your lord and master and to disagree brings eternal damnation' and that is ok with me. I know that just because someone says it doesn't make it true.
Or does it?
Monday, September 17, 2007
Today's subject falls in between the normalcy and extraordinary qualities of my day. Shit went down. Events of significance cascaded and swirled. Actually it was like trying to climb up a greased ladder while being bombarded with sting rays. Significant sting rays but flat flabby marine animals all the same.
I don't really have the heart to share it here but I'm going to miss Sean.
This will cheer you up though.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
See when you hover your mouse over that nifty little scrap of code and command left index finger dominant to exert downward pressure than the world as you know it will change forever. (Dial up users may have to wait a long ass time for the world to change but its your own fault and don't try to squirm out of it!!)
I'd like you to meet Peter Watts. While I cannot consider him a friend in any real sense I can tell you that without doubt if you're capable of both reading and partially understanding any of his books your conscience mind will realize what a terrible burden it is on the rest of you and you'll learn to curse your own intellectual deficiency.
I recommend Blindsight, available online, as a good starting point. All his novels are subject to creative commons licenses but as long as you don't alter or sell the work it should be ok. Trying to write a good synopsis strikes me as being a futile effort. I'll not even try.
Suffice to say that once you read a little bit about the brain works (you will probably need a biological psychology book just to get through Blindsight) then a lot of other really hokey nonsense becomes transparent for just what it really is.
Another example of the under achievement as far as intelligence goes.
Consider a bit of text. I'll use my first woefully overlong and under-inspired book "Fair Coin" as an example. I spent over one year, in many sessions over hundreds of hours, crafting this 200,000 word novel into what it is today. (Half-baked and unlikely to ever see the light of day)
Still the virtue lay in the effort not the result. If you sat down and started typing 60 words a minute then it would still take 2.315 days to hammer out the whole thing. Now thats just the typing. I didn't have anything to read from except my own thoughts. Words had to weave and dance together, plot lines had to stretch and twist and interconnect. Fat beads of imagery and scenery demanded to be woven and glued to this dynamic canvas as it developed and I put down was two dimensional renderings that I could.
Two and a half days without sleep or bathroom breaks clackity clack-clacking away. The end result was a paltry 2.47 megabytes (in MSword) When I think of how my brain compares to a USB flash drive I begin to get a little offended. You see though every single character came from a single digital motion via my fingers on my rusty ol' dell keyboard thanks to my brain and when I reread I still hit parts and think 'holy crap I wrote that' or 'WHISKY TANGO FOXTROT what was I thinking?'
2.5 megabytes. Thats not even 2 floppy disks. Its paltry, its pathetic. And less than 1% of the world could memorize even a significant hunk of that data.
Think of the last time someone told you a phone number and you had to write it down. Twelve Ascii characters and you needed a slip of paper!! Yes you did! Good god that amount of raw data just doesn't even compute. We can store flickers of high-res video with surround sound and smell and pain and stuff like that but 2.5 megabytes of text with any reliability?
Not yet, dear humans. But one day soon.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
For the OS install and part of the end game (cable management...you really didn't miss much) you may have to use your imagination.
Here's the boxes!!! Aren't they...cardboardy?
This is my budget Case. I wanted to put a twenty dollar bill next to it for comparison but all I had was 16 ones, 12 quarters and one of those stupid buffalo dollars. The case is way sweeter.
Here's inside the case. Note the PSU to the left. The side panel with the black CPU vent is leaning on the old Dell. More on that later.
Check out the inside of the case. I know my hairy ass arm's in the way but you can see the detachable 120mm fan on the back and all the little case wires. They have to be connected to the Mobo so that the external USB ports, audio and power button all work.
Here's the bulk of the new parts. Even though they are laying on top those pieces on top of the Biostar mobo are going into Build I and their weaker cousins will inhabit Build II
This is the 500 watt PSU that came with the case from Build I. All that junk on the back part is the silicone noise killing kit that I ordered but never used for Build I. The point is that the fan on the PSU is going to be noisy and if its directly touching metal then it only gets worse. With a little buffer I can save an ear gnawing rattle from ruining my pseudo server.
This pic looks like crap but this is the front panel. The fan (top) is actually already placed but screwing the thing in was such a hassle that I forgot to accurately document it. No Pulitzer for me I guess. As you can see to the right the front panel of the case detaches and is more of a grate than a sealed edge. Air will pull through here over the HDD's and get spat out the back via the provided 120 mm fan.
So here's Build I. You'll immediately notice similarities to Build II. Thats because most PC mid tower cases look like this on the inside. Some will have little conduits for routing cables, see through side doors or separate chambers for the PSU. All that crap costs extra so...here's the basic stuff. Take it as you will. Also make a note of the small black tiny fan that came with the CPU.
Back to Build II where you can see the two HDD's have been mounted. The bumps on the case are actually built in standouts for the screws that hold the motherboard to the case interior.
This is just a shot of the IO port on the Biostar. Note the onboard VGA connector. Makes life so much easier!
I give you BIOSTAR (Galactica) The CPU is already attached as well as the big butterfly inspired copper heatsink. Its basically a series of pipes filled with liquid that boils at 35c and a shit load of surface area. Why copper? because its thermal conductivity is unparalleled for the cost. That doodad weighs about five pounds. Arctic Silver thermal paste was from Build I.
This is Build I again. The CPU cooler here is much rounder and heavier and looks so badass its not even funny. Getting the thing on was two and half pains in my buttocks but oh well. The thing rocks out 2,600,000,000 operations per second. Strike that. It does that on both cores at the same time!!
This is my stable temp speed fan reading. I made AVG chase its own tail for 30 minutes or so while doing a little folding at home. It topped out about 5 degrees higher but as I adjusted fan speeds and resealed the case it leveled off in this neighborhood. I made the icons to the left from WoW spells and items. Don't tell Blizzard!
So thats where the pics get scarce. I know this isn't much help for a first time builder but that was not my intent. I don't recommend my style of building to anyone else because it takes forever, uses marginal experience and I had to pull a Mission Impossible style head dodge to keep sweat from dripping onto my Mobo at one point.
I do feel compelled to share a few tips. These are the points that I feel most confident about.
-Research your components to death.
-Try to find others who have built similar systems or used some of the same parts you want.
-Don't just look at manufacturer specs. Read reviews and see what other people think. Take good notes and if someone says something is bigger or wider than it appears take that advice to heart. (In this case my cpu cooler was huge beyond reckoning. That was fine for me but if this had been a slim case build it would have been impossible.)
-Make sure your PSU has the right types of connectors for all your needs.
-Make sure everything fits.
-Try to dry dock all your components before they are installed. Take a look at all the pieces to make sure you can install them in a convenient order. Don't work yourself into corners. I had to take out the PSU for Build II to fit in the CPU cooler. That cost 20 mins and a lot of sweat time because it was already connected to a few other components.
-Cables will be messy no matter how well you plan your build. Tame them with zip ties and make good use of empty spaces. Even tucking a few stray wires can mean a big difference. Plan to spend some time tidying up. Before that plan which cables have to go where and try to get a feel for them. Don't zip tie until the end in case you make mistakes.
-Finally be prepared for things to go wrong. Hopefully all your parts will work correctly and better than that they will all synchronize well. If they don't then the world does not end. If the case looks cluttered or messier don't let it bum you out. Perfection isn't something you have to achieve to make a decent system.
(This how Alex reacted to the post. Two seconds later a bunch of pea soup hit me in the back of the head.)
Bring on the good shit!!!
Speaking of which, this post relates not to the usual pontifications but more of a practical sort of lesson. Today we'll investigate (in depth) the nifty details of building your own PC.
Consider the project of upgrading one PC, we’ll call it Build I and with the spare parts create another PC for a minimum of cost. Call that Build II (gawd damn I am original) Lets take a look at the original PC and where it could and COULD NOT be upgraded.
Motherboard: MSI K9N4
CPU Socket: AM2 (Athlon and Athlon X2 type chips)
Ram: 2 Sockets rated for DDR2 533, 667 and 800
GPU Socket: PCIe x16
4 Sata II ports
1 Ultra ATA controller *2 devices*
3 PCI slots
1 FDD (floppy controller)
Actual Components: (same order)
CPU: Athlon X2 4600 (2.4 ghz dual core, 90nm manufacturing process)
Ram: 2x 1-gigabyte sticks of DDR2 533
GPU: EVGA Geforce 8600 GTS with 256 mb DDR3 Ram
2 Sata HDD’s: 160gb and 320gb
(empty SATAII socket x2)
1 ATA DVD Burner
5.1 sound card
Tv Capture Card
(empty PCI slot 1x)
No Floppy Drive.
So Basically it was a HUGE advance over my ding dong Dell Dimension 8250 with its pitiful 2.66 P4 and 1 gig of RAMBUS!!!! The old video card was a 256 mb Radeon All in Wonder. I will not say anything bad about it. Total HD space was 160 gigs.
Build I was pretty awesome. I applied a lot of the lessons learned from Wade’s build to create a very solid workstation with enough muscle to mess up some games if I so chose but without shelling out 6 grand for an alienware or voodoo PC.
Now it was pretty close but I had some hardware and accessories leftover and I realized that with a few upgrades to my current build that I could slap together a whole new box. Originally I was hoping to make it a Server 2003 box but the drivers didn’t jive with my ‘trial version’ of Server 2003. Microsoft, surprisingly, did not provide much help.
Naturally all these parts have to fit on the motherboard and there is a difference between them all so they don't always jive correctly.
Operating System (already had it)
PS All my parts came from newegg.com natch.
Since I got such a great deal I decided to experiment with a new bit of technology (new to me at any rate) so I picked up a Zalman CPU cooler. There was a combo deal so I basically got another (awesome) CPU cooler for 15 bucks plus tax and shipping.
Now the Pics begin so I will segment here to prevent UBER length posts.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Following that link will take you to one of my newer online hangouts (sort of) and introduce you to one of the most bizarre and arcane works of Fiction known to man. Consider the story. Millions of years hence the entirety of humanity inhabits an eight mile tall metal pyramid that rests at the bottom of an immense valley that is home to hundreds of varieties of weird critter and downright evil.
Also the sun has been out for a few million years.
The world is immense beyond the usual heave-ho and a sci-fi landscape. Vast details paint a dark and morbid picture of the world to follow. Night hounds, tall as horses bay and prowl. Fixed giants, lumbering behemoths, giant gray people who eat armored men whole stalk silently. Grotesque ab-humans mock and defray all that humans hold sacred across the entire poisonous landscape of cold air and haunting voices.
Looming over these minor creatures, "like hills of watchfulness" are the watching things. There are 5 in all. To the Northwest, northeast, southwest and southeast. Largest and newest of these is the watcher to the south. It is huge beyond reckoning, destined to rend the doors of the last redoubt *big metal pyramid protecting all humanity.* All that stands in its way is the vast bubble of the glowing dome.
In addition there are the Silent Ones who are always veiled in gray. Sometimes they walk along the great roads built by the ancestors of those who reside in the Great Redoubt. They dwell in the House of Silence far north of the last redoubt and not far from the road. The doors to the House are forever open and unmoving. In all recorded history no sound has ever escaped from the house nor have any lights wavered or gone out.
Now that's pretty MFN wild as is but on top of that there's the Ulterior Powers. These are immaterial things that twist and writhe in the darkness. In one story a great black bell materializes over a handful of men and pulls them helplessly to their deaths. In others mists and clouds wreak havoc upon not only the minds but also the souls of men.
Alone in the barren, bleak and mostly static world humans are only able to distinguish themselves from the monsters by use of the 'master word' which can be spoken aloud or sent through 'brain elements.'
Again, this was all conceived and written about in 1912 before WWI had troubled the landscape of europe and turned so many men *including the original author* into so much kibble.
Nowadays if you were to visit the site in question you can see where others have taken up pens and word processors to continue fleshing out this most disturbing world. Bear in mind back in 1912 the premise upon which the book rests is that the sun has totally died and people are alone in eternal night.
At this time the mechanism for how the sun works, namely fusion, was not fully understood. Some theory proposed that the sun's radiance came about as a result of magnetism and that based on calculations at the time would burn brightly for a scant 20 million years or more.
Also telephones, let alone computers, were not mainstream at this point. When extrapolating into the future you're sort of screwed because technology flails about in unexpected directions.
Computers are the most dramatic example but there are other subtler things to bear in mind. As a child of classic sci-fi even in youth occasionally stumbled onto stories where odd hunks of technology mangled together. In one such, a satire about technological 'progress' an entire war was lost because the superior side attempted to develop new tech to fight the enemy and the other side simply just built a shitload of ships and space lasers. My favorite part of the story involves a BATTLE COMPUTER with over a million vacuum tubes. For the youngsters out there early computers were built with these huge stupid glass doodads that were each as big and hot as a light bulb. A .39 cent calculator now has more processing power.
Now normally I don't give two whiffs of a shit about anything that invokes the supernatural, paranormal or pseudo-(adjective) because unless its supposed to be funny its usually a waste of time. I love fiction. I have loved reading fiction for as long as I have been able to read but my tolerance for bullshit wanes like Britney Spears' Popularity.
Why then am I, who lusts for what is true or plausible, so enthralled by this utterly implausible world and all its demented monsters?
I will tell you why. I have a soft spot for Tolkien and his errant beliefs in the nobility of the ancient man. There is something sexy about the idea that everything used to be just fine and dandy until we modern types came along and fudged it up. Nearly any work of 'fantasy' fiction or role playing game owes some or most of its inspirado to good ol' JRR.
Despite its outward incompatibility with my preferences there is something that counts for a great deal. Originality. Anyone reading this blog, or anyone's blog, who was used the internet for a few years *just long enough to get tired of pr0n* should be familiar with that desperate groping mentality of people lashing out into an electronic vista with the same greasy tentacles as everyone else.
Human experience is like water it gets peed out, evaporated and then rained back down good as gold to be consumed and peed out all over again for all time.
Also important, as noted by the omnipresent counter in the subject header, quitting smoking/starting to swim again on May 19 also of this year. But what is next?
What new Important Event can I bring about for the end of the year? I believe that it will be a return to that mental jujitsu of literary prose. I don't just mean this blog, though I intend to make it last a little longer than the last two. However does one begin anew entirely or should we all retain some of that which has shaped us.
Below is a hunk of a former blog entry from the days before Natalie and Alex I will ponder it as I muster the next post.
I have not been angry for far to long.
Hopefully my mental contours are not so treacherous as they used to be. When I think back about that particular time period I somberly wonder over which details I have forgotten. I know I was unemployed, rolling my own two-pinch fatties from an aquamarine can of bugler tobacco with zig-zag papers and tooling around with a huge chunk missing off the front end of my duct-taped wrapped civic.
I was still wearing my sunglasses full-time and weighed about twenty pounds more than I do now. Only a thousand days hence and everything just seems so different.
Also in case anyone actually reads this I am considering this training for bigger and better projects. Expect some shitty roughness at first but just remember: Bad athletes burn more calories per second (due to inefficiency) If you actually like some of this brain bashing then stick around. Things will only improve...
Friday, September 7, 2007
Its a well-known fact that bogeymen do not have qualms about eating pork products.
Now if you're like me, and statistically that will be the minority of you, the last time you saw a movie and called it scary was probably due to its horrific production values rather than any salient value capable of rendering some chillies or some willies. (I was going to say heebies and jeebies but I didn't want any insinuation of anti-semitism. I'm a big fan of the Jews. Jesus is my favorite fictional character.)
Battlefield earth was scarier than any 'horror' movie that I have seen in the last decade. Wing commander with Freddy Prinze junior was probably just as bad. Ghosts are lame. Zombies are only scary when they can run fast and aliens are all portrayed as lamers. I mean if they could be hacked by a Mac laptop from 1996 that's pretty sad.
Now having mentioned some type of computing device I will proceed with something that truly scares me. The power of distributed information processing. There, I said it. Folding at Home and Prime95 (maybe GIMPS is a better target) are like big industrial mechanisms crunching through glacial amounts of data. Like any piece of heavy machinery there are hazards that only become obvious when you hear about someone losing a hand to a bandsaw. Much more dangerous, potentially, would be the effects of drawing the ire of a botnet.
In case you haven't heard of a 'zombie' network then here's a crash course. Think of some jerk running a multi-thousand dollar PC with no anti-virus or anti-spyware software. (Mac's don't get viruses, muahahaha, neither do virgins) Modern Pc's are now at the point where, when combined with ubiquitous broadband internet, that anyone's unprotected PC can become infected with some nifty stuff that turns their hp, dell or toshiba retail box into a renegade spam server. Individually these things don't serve much of a purpose for a very long time. However when massed groups of PCs are simultaneously under the control of nefarious types they can be wielded to great effect.
Think of one lone person with a machine gun. How much damage could they do to say...a big brick building. Sure they could ice a few people if they caught them in the windows but you'd need a really long time to break down the walls and stuff before you got caught. Now imagine ten thousand people with an AK-47 and a robotic urge to keep firing it at this building no matter what.
To some people that sounds terrifying. Its true, that much destructive power could put a lot of digital hurt on just about anything. However the US government wouldn't waste a lot of manpower or say an armored division chasing down a common criminal (thats you, little fish) I think that kind of binary muscle is sexy. In the hands of a motivated black hat then there would be good reason to fear...if you were a target worthy of an attack. With me, I'd just hammer other spammers and shady online businesses that offer 'free' trials and then charge 250 in my name on the mom's credit card.
That kind of power would go to my head. And it brings me to an important point. Today is September 11th. I celebrated by eating a BLT for lunch...mmm, bacon. Every terrorist has a well known porcine bias.
As with any significant event the following days (at 365 day intervals, strangely enough [except for 2004, that was a leap year]) one is tempted to reminisce. It hurts to remember that day six years ago without a sense of hatred and revulsion at how badly things have happened since then.
I lament not the deaths of some 3000 Americans nor the great loss of morale of our nation. What killed me is what happened afterwards and I'll not belabor the tyranny of our goverment nor the speed at which greedy fingers stole our liberties and then raised our flag in triumph.
Hate. Hate hate and more hate come to mind.
In fact words fail on this rare occasion. I don't know whether i hate the shitty dickless power hungry fuck burgers that capitalized on the terrorist action against new york six years ago or the actual terrorist involved more.
Then I think of both sides being like malevolent hackers. We have a big nasty ass zombie network (we'll call that the army, republicans and our government infrastructure) and they have a smaller, leaner and arguably scarier little zombie network. The difference? Ours is dense and localized network packed into a slab of north america. Terrorists are not citizens of some other nation, nor even a single network. We are a blanket, they are fluffs of lint spread all over the world.
I don't have a real point except to remind you that in 2001 over 700,000 people died of heart disease. Source. How many people died of terrorist attacks?
Think about it. Then go exercise.
I quit smoking to prove a point. Now I know there were plenty of better reasons out there. Health reasons aside it really is a filthy habit and I applaud anyone with the fortitude to step away from such a vice. However there were some unforeseen side effects and I have yet to come across anyone who will admit to them freely.
The other day I found myself fresh out of the pool (I swim laps three times a week, its a related topic) Natalie had called me and asked if I could pick up something useful from the local drug store. I complied willingly enough. It's sort of a drag going out in public with your hair totally kinked and stiff with chlorine but the family comes first.
I got our items and wound up in line behind a young policeman and an older black woman. The cop did not carry anything to the counter so I knew what he was after.
Living through a habit teaches you a few subtle cues about others who partake. I could see from the way his fingers just danced worrisomely close to his pistol and talkie that he was dying for one. On the way out the cop didn't even pack his pack and I swear the flint of his lighter wheel was already spinning before his leading foot hit the sidewalk outside. I had a revelation at that moment and my customary reaction hit me like an angry monkey.
I laughed. I didn't belly out or guffaw or any such nonsense it was a single 'ha.' To an outside observer it might have sounded like a snort. My revelation was this: Being snide and snooty really sneaks up on you. I actually thought about saying something to the fellow about quitting or nicotine gum or one of the 1034920589427430958759084795 health hazards associated by it.
Twas shame that wracked my mind shortly after. I can't tell you how many times someone 'reminded' me just how awful cigarettes are for me. Yeah yeah, besides the stink and shortness of breath it can cause lung cancer, heart disease and spontaneous organ failure. Big deal. Its an abstract thing like being afraid of asteroids or voting.
You do it when you make up your mind. Or when some bastard decides to release this after I've done it the old fashioned way. Granted gum isn't entirely old school but oh well.
Now as I began this post I return to my original non-introduction statement. I quit smoking to prove a point and try as I might almost no one believes that. Here's how it happened.
Nat: You'll never quit (and exit)
Me (internal): Bullshit lady! I'll show you...
That's the gist of it. I swear that's almost exactly how it happened. Now granted I later got the gum and I had previously tried to quit once or twice and knew it was something on my to-do list but the catalyst was a petulant way for me to win an argument. It will be ironic if by quitting smoking I steer my fate into something like getting hit by a bus. Time will tell.
Its a good feeling knowing that the only thing actively killing me now is my caffeine habit and my undying love of complex carbohydrates. Do I feel better for quitting? Yes. Do I walk around with an undeserved sense of entitlement? Only on the weekends...natch.
See even though I did it there were many things that needed to have happened before my final attempt would really succeed. It was this confluence of events combined with some fractional will on my part that carried the day. I'm glad it happened when it did but I don't think that momentous incidents depend on individual moments.
However I have to snip that thread before it wanders into freewill and thats a can of worms I am not prepared to open just yet.
Here I am again confronted by my lack of coherence. The topic is smoking and quitting. I am a little more than insulted when I look around on the web or in the world at other people's attempts to drag others over the line.
First of all there is no real line. True there are some people who never smoke and still others who only pause for sleeping but there are MULTITUDES who sit between them. Some smoke only when they drink. Some prefer cigars and don't touch the little white filtered ones.
Some people dip. Fuck them. I will say that with no qualms dip is foul beyond words.
Now I challenge you, at this moment to open a new tab and google the phrase "quitting smoking" and brace yourself against the tide of misdirected propaganda. Everyone's different when it comes to quitting. Be prepared to lean against a lot of hot air. Now there are sound bits of advice tucked in there every so often but there is also some stupid crap.
I object to the subtle guilt trips people work into their testimonials. Read down until you find someone's list of 'benefits' to quitting smoking. I guarantee that sense of taste/smell and their bastard kids (no offense, Alex) will appear somewhere on that list. The reason I object to this is that many smokers' first reaction to moping is to...yeah, reach for one.
Simply writing horror stories and 'hey, life is grand' fairy tales just isn't drastic enough. If you want to help someone do something crazy. I fully advocate the use of Machiavellian tactics and corrupt psychology to accomplish this goal. However if you're going to coerce someone to quit smoking be prepared to wait for solid results. Patience will be your friend. It could be a long road. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Tip 1) Reject conventional scare tactics. Most smokers have developed a handy trigger for dealing with 'anti-smoking' speeches. They either stop listening or they'll nod in agreement until you leave and then talk smack about you. I don't think going for shock treatment is the best bet but if you're going with it then the crazier the better. My legal advisor has recommended that I don't list specific examples but creativity is something we all have to develop on our own.
Tip 2) Do not underestimate the power of the opposite sex. If you have, say, a male smoker friend as your target and you have a female acquaintance who is sympathetic to your cause then use her as a weapon. Guys will go to great lengths to impress chicks and girls...well they are statistically less likely to smoke any ways. When in doubt hire an escort *non-smoker* to humiliate them.
Tip 3) Take a cue from the evil geniuses of our time. Listen the person you are trying to help is your friend or loved one. Even if you have to brutally torture them it is still in their best interest to quit no matter what the cost. What're a few cuts and bruises next to another decade of life? Who's to say those fingers weren't worth the extra time with future kids and grandkids. Plus all the money you will save not smoking will nicely offset the years of therapy to overcome the collateral damage of the healing process.
Let me stop there. That's part of the sarcasm that pretty much defines me and my sense of humor (shoot yourself in the head if you didn't figure it out yourself.)
Ultimately it is futile to do anything except be helpful and supportive. Don't enable the habit. Encourage attempts and if they fail just remember that it won't always be like that. While I understand wanting to help others over familiar hurdles sometimes the best way to help is to just not be part of the problem.
And remember that no one is perfect. So lay off the war criminal vocabulary and be a friend.
This is about everyone who runs into me. Think about it. What is self but the culmination of countless frictions of other selves. Encountering others, nay merely feigning the embrace of life sculpts the soul like grit in a tumbler spinning and spinning.
Ok that's a hunk of poo and fair warning to all concerned: I will wax extremely verbose at random times.
I like to think of myself as a reasonable person. However my definition of reasonable is not, strictly speaking, the most reasonable one. For example let's consider enlightenment. I think some people believe that all problems can be solved without violence or profanity or any flavor of skulduggery one may learn through life. Well this may be true but I am of the opinion that sometimes its just easier to throw the punch and not worry about who's feelings get hurt in the aftermath.
Almost no one really impresses me. Its a sad fact but people are mostly products of chance. There are a few notable types I would like to mention so as to draw a few beads of interest.
Peter Watts is my current favorite author at this time. After you read some of my posts and feel your soul begin to bubble around the edges head over to www.rifters.com and watch it melt like the villain's faces at the end of Indiana Jones I.
Trying to describe or comment on broad swaths of the world give me headaches and its hard to focus because the bigger a situation I try to tackle the more variables I notice that I can't account for and just how complex this motherfucker of a world is and dear god I just noticed how long this sentence is. Stop me when I rant.
Meh. The head aches without narrow focus. This ends so I can pick a fun topic to play with.