the international language of spookiness

Torrentfreak says that Day Watch is the number one DVD rip on the internet. Weird! Not so much because it reflects non-US internet use (there’s a reason LiveJournal is still around, after all), but because Emily and I downloaded an English-subtitled version back in August that sure looked like a DVD rip. What gives?

While I’m mentioning potential Hallomedia (and before my chance completely slips by), give this track a listen — it’s the best of a well-intentioned but mostly-awful Halloween mashup compilation:

Cheekyboy – Halloween with Morrissey

Kyle is actually spending Halloween with Morrissey. This is the next best thing.

also, there was Halloween

Right, Halloween: it’s already happened, as far as I’m concerned. I’m exhausted, haven’t been to the gym in ages, and have a ton of work to finish. I intend to nod approvingly as Charles hands out the massive quantities of candy that he bought, but my holiday celebrations occurred last Saturday. I think I’m even skipping out on a fun-sounding bar outing.

But last weekend was pretty great. Here’s a shot of me as Dr. Doom, looking disoriented:

Doom, disoriented

And here’s a shot of me fighting Galactus.

A few things learned during the costume construction process:

  1. I think Dr. Doom probably makes his own outfits. If you find yourself in possession of a lot of green fabric, an enthusiasm for diabolical technology and little to no sewing skill, a Doomesque cape and tunic combo is a not-unlikely result.
  2. Dr. Doom’s enthusiasm for goblets is born of necessity: it’s really hard to hold onto a beverage while wearing gauntlets. Cupping your drink from beneath is really the only viable strategy. The fact that it looks good when paired with a menacing glower is just a happy coincidence.
  3. Negative ion generators are a nice idea, but they’re also likely to stop working pretty quickly. And you need to think seriously about electrical isolation if you want to build up any kind of charge — ancient sneakers spraypainted silver (and paired with a cape that occasionally drags) are not the best way to keep voltage from leaking into the ground. I managed to give a few people pinprick shocks before the whole thing stopped working, but it mostly served to gently electrocute my right foot. Overall, it was a bit of a disappointment (although thankfully not a very expensive one).

    But I got some late advice from Dan Rutter of, which may be useful for aspiring Dooms:

    You might like to try buying one of those “shocking” lighters or pens
    that’re all over eBay and joke shops these days; they’re basically
    just a little Tesla coil inside, I think, and it ought to be quite
    easy to hack one into a shock-glove.

    (A friend of mine made a rather higher powered version of the same
    thing years ago, and installed it in a small project box with
    external contacts, a button, and a label that said “DO NOT PRESS”.
    Needless to say, people picked it up, and pressed the button, and
    sometimes then smashed themselves in the face with the box. :-)

    Sounds promising. Next year: Electro?

At any rate, here are the rest of my photos from the evening. As you might notice, there are kind of a lot of shots of a jack o’lantern sitting in front of a smoke machine’s output hose. That’s because this is totally awesome and should enthrall the lot of you the way it does me. Some people will tell you that on Saturday night I could often be found stumbling around the shrubs, fiddling with the smoke machine. More responsible accounts of the evening will reflect the fact that A) it takes a lot of work to maintain an optimally foggy environment for the enjoyment of all and B) it’s pretty hard to navigate a garden while wearing a cape and cardboard armor regardless of how many beers you’ve just consumed.


take your medicine

Mom’s surgery went well. The radial nerves in her arm had to be moved, which is a bit worrisome and resulted in more post-surgical weakness than the doctors would have liked. But she’s not in too much pain, and she says she can already feel that her arm is better-aligned than it was. Everyone’s optimistic that with work, patience and perhaps another procedure she’ll recover her full dexterity.

This is no great revelation, but: hospitals are depressing. Everyone is just so helpless. The medical staff perform a strange pantomime of patient-empowerment, offering treatment options as if they’ll be met with thoughtful consideration rather than endlessly rephrased versions of “what do you think we should do?” You’re at the mercy of fate, the insurance company and your own ignorance.

It’s worse when you watch it happening to someone whom you arrogantly identify as less-equipped to make informed decisions. Although they do so gently and respectfully, the nurses’ approach toward their uneducated, unhealthy and generally unlucky patients resembles nothing so much as that of an adult who unexpectedly finds himself babysitting the lost child of lawyers. They’re very deferent, but their respectfulness comes from protocol, manners and professional fear rather than, y’know, respect. It’s hard not to wonder what these exchanges accomplish.

Of course, a paternalist with even a little self-awareness (a title to which I aspire) can’t look at this interplay for very long without realizing that he’s just as enmeshed in it as any of the people around him — it’s just that he has the problem of being an insufferable snob, too.

So I tried to put aside my pretensions and abjectly surrender myself to the situation. I stopped judging the wheelchair-bound smokers in front of the building. I watched Wheel of Fortune with interest. I listened to a sweatsuited manchild complaining to his elderly mother that the hospital firewall didn’t allow him to check Britney Spears’ MySpace page for news of her new album. I listened, identified, despaired.

Then I resumed doing what the doctors told me until I could return to a place where it’s easier to forget about free will.

it’s mostly just shots of the smoke machine anyway

I’m down in Charlottesville for a couple of days, helping my mom get around as she gets some more surgery on her arm (it never quite healed properly from her motorcycle accident 15 months ago). There are a bunch of restaurants and bars that I used to frequent as an undergrad just a short walk from the hospital, and the nurses assured me that hanging around the waiting room would gain me nothing except, perhaps, a deadly staph infection. So I wandered up to the Corner, had lunch at Bodo’s (now with official Jewish approval — he’s matrilinear & everything!) and then wandered over to Plan 9 music, where I’ve been sipping coffee and having very little luck using the free wireless.

This provides a handy excuse for why I haven’t yet completed my timesheet, but it also means that I just lost an entire batch of meticulously-tagged Halloween photos when the upload died partway through. This brings me to the putative reason for this post: there’s got to be something better than the OS X Flickr Uploadr, right? The goddamn thing has a single failure mode: catastrophic. I appreciate simplicity, but I kind of expected Flickr to take some of the savings it enjoys from vowel-related cost-cutting and reinvest it in software development.


If you’re at all interested in the latest developments in the battle between Comcast and Bittorrent users or, even more perversely, want to know what I think about the matter, head over to The Technology Liberation Front. The TLF folks have been doing a fine job on the issue (as usual), and I’ve been spending my Comcast-related energies in their comment section. Head over there and fight with me about the DOCSIS cablemodem standard, why don’t you?

attention LOLcats dead-enders

Gaze upon this and contemplate what you have done to our once-beautiful world.

Astoundingly, this is not the worst LOLfense I’ve seen. It’s just the worst one that I can bear to subject you to.

EVDO on the cheap

Have a VCast-capable Verizon phone? Like the idea of using your phone as a modem for your computer, but wary of dropping $59 every month for the privilege? Here are instructions that detail how to use a $15/mo. VCast plan instead. Via Hack A Day.

I’m going to blow this thing wide open

Yglesias prompted me to read David Brooks’ column on Mike Huckabee. America America aw shucks apparently-not-diabolical. Fine. But what’s this?

[Huckabee] tells audiences that the only soap his family could afford was the rough Lava soap, and that he was in college before he realized showering didn’t have to hurt. “There are people paying $150 for an exfoliation,” he jokes. “I could just hand them a bar of Lava soap.”

He’s right about one thing: Lava soap is pretty rough. My dad often had some of their products around the house for cleaning grease off of his hands, and it was definitely not something you’d use without noticing. But that’s because it’s supposed to be that way — it’s got little bits of pumice mixed in.

Anyway what’s this bullshit about it being cheap? Lava is a highly specialized utility soap, and one would expect it to command a premium. Clearly, this calls for some internet research. I compared prices for Lava versus Irish Spring — a nice, middle-of-the-road soap used by right-thinking Americans such as myself. A NOTE ON METHODOLOGICAL RIGOR: Lava is mostly sold as single bars. On the web, Irish Spring tends to be sold in 3-packs, so I’ve divided its prices by the number of bars. Surely a hardscrabble, cost-conscious family like the Huckabees would’ve bought in bulk.

  Lava Irish Spring $1.99 $0.88
Amazon $1.40 $0.81
CVS Only sells patriotic soap $0.83
Rite-Aid Only sells body wash, apparently.

The best price I could find for Lava was on Amazon — if you buy the 48-pack you can get it for $0.89/bar. But that’s still more expensive than retail amounts of Irish Spring, and the package is suspiciously green. If you’re really looking for budget soap you can do considerably better than that. Or you could simply pass horse urine through straw and mix with lard. You do slaughter your own pigs, don’t you?

So what can we conclude from all of this? I think there are two possibilities. Either Mike Huckabee is a compulsive liar and therefore completely unfit for office; or the Huckabee family has some sort of hereditary economic disability. The latter could perhaps account for his otherwise inexplicable enthusiasm for raising taxes sometimes, slightly. Either way, it’s important that he be exposed for the confused old man and/or transparent fraud that he is. Has anything been done with the word “Huckster” yet?

This is the most obviously despicable campaign trail behavior since John Kerry’s 2004 cheesesteak pandering. I expect the next Youtube debate to feature AT LEAST one soap-related question.

why yes, I do have the TV on in the background

A question: why doesn’t anyone put wind turbines on top of skyscrapers? Mythbusters just informed me that gusts at that height can reach 90 mph. Selling the produced electricity back to the grid might be problematic in a lot of places, but one imagines the energy could be used for the building’s heating and cooling plant. And it’d surely be a great marketing investment for a company looking to burnish its eco-credentials.

On the other hand, I imagine that “GIANT SPINNING BLADES” may be the sort of architectural feature about which zoning laws have something to say.

I got burgled!

I was sitting in a not-that-eventful software development event this afternoon when I got a phone call from an unknown number. I expected this — my mom was scheduled to have some surgery tomorrow and the hospital’s patient-wrangler was due to call and tell me where we needed to be and when.

But no! It was MPD on the line, wanting to confirm my identity and address and then informing me that Charles’ and my apartment had been broken into. I think I said something off-color like “oh jeez!” and set off on my bike.

Apparently some jerk had pulled up in a plausible-looking van from a HVAC company. I guess he had tried to pry open the front door, since some of the trim had been removed and the police found a prybar in a backpack in the garbage can. But that didn’t work. So he set up some not-that-official-looking cones and a ladder and used them to climb through a window.

The same thing happened to our neighbor Paul about a year ago. Fortunately, our neighbor Katie was home and kept an eye on the guy. She eventually decided that he looked shady enough to merit a call to the cops, who nabbed the guy as he was coming out. In his possession at the time: an iBook charger, a jar full of change and our beloved Nintendo Wii (no Wiimotes, though).

The cops took statements, dusted for prints, had me do a walkthrough and even gave us back our things. Throughout it all the officers and detective were friendly, professional, thorough and, in one case, kind of foxy.

Better yet, my mom’s operation has been rescheduled. So I’m currently sitting on my couch in the sun, home from work, sipping coffee and getting ready to take care of some coding that I thought I was going to have to sprint to finish. Getting robbed is great!

ALSO: Amanda tells me that she asked Travis Morrison my let’s-say-one-eighth-joking question about his preferred Javascript library during her interview with him. Awesome. This has turned into a pretty good day.