Sunday, March 27, 2005

I Double Dare You

Even when I was a kid, it never made any sense to me why there was a "dare," and then a "double dare" and then things like "D-dog-double dares," when in reality there was no difference in the outcome of the situation if accepted. It puzzled me why there was an aura of augmentation around these successive terms, which was not at all unlike the use of swear words to communicate the gravity of a situation.

Today, something clicked, and it all makes a little bit more sense.

I had Easter dinner at the Tanner's house, and among the guests was an elderly lady who, after WWII, had traveled to Japan and then Germany as a school teacher for the children of U.S. servicemen. This is how she described the situation that led to her continental switch: "A friend of mine was thinking of making the transfer, but she was timid, so I made it a double dare."


Ah, so a double dare used to be an "I will if you will" proposition, and hence a big step up from a simple dare, which is more like "it would be awesome if you did this and you won't regret it." As far as the D-dog-double dare thing goes, it's my personal theory that that was tacked on by some group of little boys for whom the original sense of the expression had already been lost, and for them it was simply a transition from a 2-point scale to a 3-point scale. But I have no evidence to back that part up, it just makes the most sense to me.

So, mothers, whenever your children use these terms, please do me a favor by preserving the richness of the English language and inform your children of the true nature of a double dare. It also might help in spreading the culpability for certain 'crimes' committed on dares to those who egged on the offender.

I dare you. No, I double dare you!

Friday, March 25, 2005

I See Penguins

Okay, okay, you've all been clamoring for a post. I give. So here goes.

I am going to build a computer. I've wanted to do this for quite some time, but lately, it's all been coming together, and I've gathered enough momentum to see it through. The first event on the chain was my acquisition of a monitor. Slickdeals had a 17" flat screen CRT for $30 after rebates and I bit. I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to do with the monitor at the time, but I figured I could always find a good use for it. It's a pretty good monitor0, and I've thought of a use for it.

This all fits into my larger scheme of building a Linux1 box that provides all the good functionality of a TiVo, but without the annoying parts (like the ads, the fact that they disabled the 30-second skip and don't delete commercials, and the fact that your recorded shows are stuck on your TiVo, and you can't really do anything useful with them). I don't just want a TiVo replacement or a Media Center PC. I want a server. I want to play with utilize Linux (because it will help me in my career/hobby), which brings me to the next event on the chain.

I spoke with my sister Sazzly on the phone the other day and I mentioned that I was considering building a Linux box. I remembered that her roommate had one, and I asked what distro she was running. I use Red Hat at work, but really I didn't know that much about what the different distrobutions had to offer, or for that matter how to go about setting up a system. I know and use a lot of the every-day commands, but I don't know the ins and outs of administrating a Linux system. She said her roommate ran Gentoo2, and then mentioned that it was really easy to install programs "because there's this one command that you type followed by the name of the program, and it installs automagically [paraphrase]." So naturally I had to do some research. Among other distro sites, I went to and looked around a bit. Apparently, Gentoo is the ultimate roll-your-own distro. And get this: when you install a program, you do it by downloading the source code and compiling it yourself! Oh, sure, this is possible on every Linux distro, and sure, you don't have to do it this way: you can also install from binaries, but the minute I read this, my jaw hit the floor and I began to salavate. Okay, not literally, but I was instantly hooked. This, you see, my young grashopper, is the path to ultimate optimization and customization.

Processors can only be as efficient as the compiler that built the programs they're running tell them to be (this isn't 100% true, but bear with me), so if I bought a 64-bit processor and ran programs compiled for a 32-bit perocessor, it would still work, (because the 64-bit processor is backwards compatible) but aside from a few optimizations built into the processor, there wouldn't be nearly as much of a jump in performance as if the program were compiled for a 64-bit system.

It gets even better than that. Suppose you had a Pentium 4, in fact, you probably do have a Pentium 4 if you bought your computer in the last couple of years. Most of the software that you run on your computer does not take advantage of all the bells and whistles that come with the P4 processor. This is because not everyone has one, and when you distribute your program in binary form, you don't want to tell everyone without a particular processor that they can't use your software unless they upgrade your system, so you go with the lowest common denominator, which is x86 (Remember those 386 machines? Running DOS? Yeah, I didn't think so. That's how old this technology is.), or you stipulate a set of system requirements for a more recent processor (The Pentium II is common nowadays), but you can't use the latest hardware enhancements, because you want your product to be useable for "most people" on their current system.

You see, this is even better than having my operating system and most of my programs compiled for my "generation" of processors. They will be optimized to take advantage of features and optimizations unique to my specific processor (and even system configuration).

Then he got an idea!
An aweful idea!

"I know just what I'll do!" The Geek laughed in his throat.
And he made a quick download, and boot disc he wrote.
And he chuckled and chuckled, "What a great Geeky trick!
With this chip and this board, my system'll be slick!"

My plan, naturally, is to buy an AMD64 processor and build a system, piece by piece, around it. I'll need a motherboard, video card, memory, and a case, as well as all the other usual stuff. I also plan on getting a TV tuner and running MythTV. My goal is to configure it to run MythTV on my projector as a second monitor, while using my CRT as a primary monitor. That's why the keyboard I got is wireless, with an integrated pointing device (ideally suited for sitting on a couch, not at a desk). This is all subject to change, but I've already ordered a keyboard, so I'm pretty much committed.

Lately I've been running lots of Open Source software on my laptop (Firefox, Gaim, Azurus, Vim, OOo, GIMP), and it's partially because of this that I've had enough faith in the quality of Linux to do this.

0 I recently paid a visit to my company's surplus outlet, of which I was previously unaware. If anyone wants a used 15" - 19" CRT (non-flat) for about $10, let me know. The flat-screens are $50. Actually, it's open to the public, but as an employee I get a discount.
1 If you're wondering what Linux is, it's an operating system. "Umm..., what exactly is that?" you were probably going to ask. Windows XP is an operating system. You may have heard of OSX, which is an operating system that runs on Macs. Linux is just another way to run a computer. If you don't know all about it, it's because you're probably not geeky enough.
2 In case you're wondering what it looks like (or rather, a few of the ways it can look), here are some screen shots.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Victory Is Mine!

I am pleased to report that on Tuesday, March 15th 2005 AD I watched the movie Bride & Prejudice.


It was everything that I hoped it would be and more. It was hilarious, first of all, which leads me to my second point: it did an excellent job of conveying the spirit of Pride and Prejudice,0 although set in a completely different place, time, and culture.2 Most of the adaptations of Pride and Prejudice to the screen have (in my humble opinion) been a bit lacking when it comes to the personalities of the Bennet family3 (or in this rendition, the Bakshi family). (Oh--and the Mr. Collins character: toatlly nailed!) The BBC miniseries comes close, but it suffers from the script's faithfulness to the book4; you can't convey all of the same things in the exact same ways in print and on screen. In this film, all of the characters are accurate to the original, as well as believable in and of themselves, and you get a glimpse (even if it's a cow-path touristy glimpse) of India and its culture.

I was warned about this movie. Well, make that, Bollywood movies in general, because I don't think anyone who warned me had actually seen it. There is singing. And dancing. And when you walk down the street, the shopkeepers and onlookers (and a few transvestites) might all spontaniously break out into both. A romantic walk down the beach in L.A. might take you past a gospel choir belting it out, while the surfers sway to the rhythm and the lifeguards sing along. All this is a perfectly normal occurance.

And I thouroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Not only was the choreography and music well done artistically, it was also entertaining and funny, as if they realized how rediculous it was, but didn't care, because they were enjoying it so much. It reminded me that America has lost an entire genre of movies: the musical.5

I love this movie. I plan on seeing it again if given the chance and buying it on DVD when it comes out.

0 I here refer to the novel1. You know, the one by Jane Austen.
1 A novel is a book. Like with paper. And letters.
2 Although one could argue that modern Indian culture is at least partially decended from that of Victorian England.
3 At least, the way I pictured it in my head.
4 Hence its greatest asset becomes a liability.
5 It has stuck around in a smaller way through theater and theater ports6 to cinema, but the audience is not as broad as it once was.
6 I realized after I typed it that this is a software term. Ask your favorite code monkey (preferably one who deals with Linux) what a port is in this specific sense. What? You don't have one on speed dial (besides me)? Okay I'll tell you: a port is the result of taking the code for your favorite program from one platform (like Red Hat 7) and getting it to compile and run on another platform (say, Win32).

Monday, March 14, 2005

Blast! Foiled Again!

Cursèd0 be Tonnski, for she is the bane of my existence!

(And, when you read this, Tonnski, because I know you will, please note that I am merely expressing my feelings of frustration in what is to me a humorous way, and that I hold absolutely no grudges or negative feelings whatsoever against you over this matter (or any that I can think of at the moment). If I really wanted I could have seen it today, but I elected (of my own volition) to spend time with you (among others).)

For over a month, I have plotted, schemed, and otherwise attempted to organize an outing in which I, with at least one other person, view the movie Bride and Prejudice. I regretfully report that today the plans of mice and men (okay maybe just me and some other humans), irrespective of how they were laid, have yet again gone awry.

It all started Friday, when I made some calls. Well, really it started over a month ago, but the short version started Friday. On my lunch break, I called Tonnski, Doogle, C-dog2, OtherTim, and Jenny2 hoping to meet up in the evening when C-dog arrived in town in the evening. It was determined that we would wait and see when C-dog was going to arrive and make plans accordingly. After work, I made some calls, and it was apparent that that evening wasn't going to work out, so we decided to reschedule for Sunday. On Saturday, while on hold with Dell tech support3 I had several calls from Jenny, who had apparently been scheduling her weekend aroud the outing. It was determined that Sunday after church we would form a coalition of the willing and go.

Sunday rolls around, and the plan is further firmed up (using rather strong language, which I later had to swallow--keep reading) that we would meet at Jenny's at 4:00 and from there drive to the theater. So I head over to Oz's house, where we feasted on steak and artichoke, and then more shuffling of the plan ensued. Apparently this thing called the "Sun" is a rare commodity here in the land of eternal dampness, and so it was put forth that said celestial globe (and the fabled lack of nebular occultation) should be taken full advantage of. I ceded the point, and it was agreed that we would go to Seattle, soaking up the rays and ogling the setting Sun, and then catch an early evening showing in Seattle somewhere. I then bit the bullet and called Jenny, apologizing for the schedule change, and explaining. She said she would probably see it by herself, and so we (after a bit of dilly-dallying around an xbox game) left. It was then determined that, this being a three-and-a-half-hour-long Bollywood movie, and a chick flick at that, it would probably prove tedious to some of those present.4 Moreover, Tonnski had slept during Lord of the Rings5 and that was a long movie... bla, bla, bla *garr* *mutter* *mumble* *bane-of-my-existence* *...*

And so it came to pass, that my attempt to see the movie was once again shelved for the greater common good at the will of she-who-must-not-be-named. I called Jenny and explained the yet latest in an evolving stream of new situations, and she informed me that I needed to grow a spine, a diagnosis to which I redily assented. However, she also graciously areed to forego seeing it by herself today in favor of a yet-to-be arranged rendesvous sometime this coming week. Tuesday is looking good. Wish me luck.

0 Not really. (Prov 26:2)

1 He hates that name and he won't tell me why. Yet, it's so fitting: his name means "Dog"; it starts with a "C"; he loves wooden boats and sailing. I'm guessing there's some sort of history here.

2 Sorry, I'm out of creative aliases at the moment.

3My "F" key on my laptop keeps falling out. One of the four prongs that holds it onto the keyboard is broken off, so I can sort-of stick it back on, but it inevitably comes loose again after a few minutes of typing (unless I should manipulate my diction to avoid that particular letter). They're sending me a whole new keyboard. Gotta love Dell.

4 *cough* Oz */cough*

5 I, on the other hand, was kept on the edge of my seat for the duriation of all three extended-cut DVDs, but I guess if you haven't read the books, such movies can be a bit hard to follow. Oz certainly hasn't read Pride and Prejudice.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

A Short Post

I think that last one was my longest yet, so I'm going easy on you.

Work has been a bit stressful lately, but it's improving as I discover that I am actually capable of accomplishing what I've been assigned to do.

This week, I discovered that it was warm. The moment of realization came when I walked out the door Monday morning, realized that I had left my jacket hanging in my closet, shrugged, and went to work.

Today I'm loafing off. I didn't go to the Food Bank like I usually do, even though I remembered to stick the Dr. Seuss books in my car in the morning. I normally arrive late (it starts at 5--I get off about then--when, that is, I arrive at 9, which is most of the time), and entertain the kids or help take bags of food to people, then help clean up. Today, I felt lazy, or tired, or that life was getting a bit too hectic, so elected to just go home.

I promised this would be short, so I won't elaborate.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

All Aboot My Trip, Eh?

This past weekend I traveled to Canada for a Bible retreat. More specifically, I flew in a jet from Seattle to Newark, then to Buffalo, from whence I rode in a car thence past Niagra to Cambridge, and then later somewhere near Perry Sound to a place affectionately called the Lau's cottage0. We stopped at Tim Hortons on the way up, and I bought some hot chocolate and Timbits, which were excellent. Caleb went too; I expect you should watch1 this space for his story.

It all started with Erica, who concieved of the idea to hold a retreat specifically to address the questions that college-aged christians might have. I don't think this is the first year that they've held it, but it was the first year I'd heard about it, and it sounded like a great premise, plus, I would get to see my old friends and meet new ones, and see my parents (my dad was one of the speakers), so I took Friday and Monday off and I went.

First off, Erica's parents, Rob and Marg, are an awesome couple. They were missionaries in Hong Kong for a few decades. Rob is the most tender-hearted person I know, and Marg is so searvant-hearted. She cooked and washed dishes, etc. for the forty-five-or-so of us all weekend.

When we arrived at the cottage Friday evening, we couldn't drive down the steep driveway, because it was covered with snow and ice, and if we had there would be no way to get the van back out when we wanted to leave, so we parked the van so that it was blocking the driveway and carried all the food and luggage down the (long, steep) driveway and into the foyer. I'm not used to snow at all, so this whole thing was rather amusing to me. There was also this concept of boots and coats (and gloves and scarves and hats) that you leave by the door so you won't dirty up the house, roast inside, or freeze outside. For all the trouble it was, the snow was beautiful. It made everything so peaceful and quiet and white. Also, the lake was frozen over, except for where they had bubblers near the lake house to keep the ice from damaging the structure.

As more people began arriving, some got stuck on a steep part of the road, so all the guys went out to help them get unstuck. The Smith's van wouildn't make it up a hill, and while we were pushing it, it started sliding backwards. We all got out of the way and lifted it out of the snowbank that caught it. Then Tim backed it down the hill and around the corner to build up some speed and made it on the second try. We all got to bed a little after two O'clock, at least, those of us who had arrived by then. Gordie and I saved Tim and Caleb a room with queen-sized bunk beds. I had brought a sleeping bag, so I just crashed on the basement floor.

In the morning, my dad had a talk about Wisdom. He started in Proverbs 9 and read the first 9.5 verses, focusing on 7-9, and the idea that a wise person is someone who is teachable; open to correction or instruction: someone who will genuinely consider criticism of something he believes, no matter who he learned it from, or how much he thinks it's right. Then he spoke about Adam, and how he (and we, as his descendents) was given "double PR's." Priviledges that went with Responsibilities (which I've heard from him about a billion times by now--but it's still true and very apropos) and how he was created with a number of Purposes, which each came with a Relationship (which I had not heard put this way before, and which I think is an awesome perspective). We then broke off into discussion groups. I was in a group with Amy Jo, Marita, Jessica, Juanita, and (Jillian's) Jonathan.

After lunch, a bunch of us went out to play "football." Their rendition of football is... unique. First of all, we played it on a frozen lake. It was the only flat area, and it wasn't too slippery, since the ice had about six inches fifteen centimeters of snow on top of it. The ice was pretty thick, but when you would walk or run in certain areas, there was a cracking sound that made me think I was about to unwillingly join the polar bear club. This was due to the collapse of air pockets from layers of snow within the ice. The only places where there was no ice was near the lake house. It kind of freaked me out to walk on ice that a few dozen yards away was not there, but the bubbles only effect a radius of about 20 feet, and the rest of the ice was solid enough to drive a car on.

Second of all, everyone had to be told how to play. They had to be told what a "down" was, that there were four of them, and what the line of scrimmage means in relation to being off-sides and passing the ball foreward. Apparently in Canada (I'm really hoping it was just the guy who explained it to everyone who had it wrong, not the whole country), you hike the ball on a "hut", not a "hike", the progression from 1st to 4th down goes 1, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4 (although I'm sure this is due to the fact that no one was paying any attention) and when you score a touch-down, in stead of switching sides, your team has to go all the way back down the field to kick off to the other team. Initially, we were playing tackle, but then it was decided that only girls should tackle girls, so the guys tackled the guys, but two-hand touched the girls. Apparently this made it too difficult for the girls, so it was determined that no guy could tackle a girl, only girls. This of course led to a clever little trick, whereby the ball was given to a girl, while all the guys screened for her (not very difficult when all you have to screen are the girls). At one point I tripped and fell directly on my knee on the hard ice. It still hurts. Anyway, for all its chaotic faults, it was an enjoyable game.

Afterwards, we played hook tag, and then a game known as BK Football (a close relative of BK Frisbee, so named because it was invented outside of a Burger King). The rules are thus: You stand in a circle and toss a football around. If the ball touches the ground, the person who (1) threw an uncatchable ball or (2) failed to catch the ball gets tackled. The catch is, everyone in the game serves as judge, jury, and executioner. It's quite fun, although best played on the beach.

That night was "talent" night. I tried to come up with a song or something, but I had very little material to go on, and not much time either, so I ended up showing off my juggling talents with Tim Johnston, which were humorously pathetic: a success. Among the highlights of the evening: Gordie doing a traditional Jewish wedding song and dance, Caleb singing "I've got friends in high places" and this girl playing the piano.

Before the talent show, we had a Q&A panel, where some questions were asked and discussed. It was a good discussion, I thought, and the questions were well addressed. I wish there was more time for the questions, or better yet, more Q&A sessions, that way there would have been time for everyone to digest what was discussed and talk amongst themselves (this inevitably produces more and better questions). Come to think of it, the retreat was far too short. I wish it had been a whole week long, but then I might not have been able to come. Incidentally, I just got my Shallowbrook letter in the mail today. I can't wait.

It was good to see the Smiths there, and the Hannas, the Johnstons, the Pilkingtons, Jillian, as well as meet too many new people for me to remember all the names from just one weekend. I wish I had had more time to talk to people one-on-one, which I didn't get to do very much at all, and I regret that.

Sunday we had an awesome Breaking of Bread and then after lunch the guys went downstairs and the girls stayed upstairs for separate guy/girl talks. Both Rob and my dad spoke, my dad talked about the Rechabites, and how God honored their integrity and blessed them for it, and how he had experienced the blessings of God in his life. Rob spoke about godly leadership, and the Lord's mercies in his various high and low points. He asked us to meditate on 1Timothy 4:12 and Micha 6:8.

Then came the packing and leaving. We were the last to leave, because I was staying with the Pilkingtons. We lugged all the baggage and boxes of left-over food back up to the vans, and then drove off to their house. From there, the four Pilkington girls, Jessica, Caleb and I went out to a Chinese restaurant. If you ever get the chance to go to a Chinese restaurant with the Pilkingtons, go. Imagine the reaction of the waiters and watresses when four blonde girls start ordering and discussing the menu options with them in perfectly fluent Chinese. Now, to be fair, this wasn't their first time at that restaurant, and so it wasn't a total shocker, but the waitress told me it still weirded her out.

Back at the house, we popped in Napoleon Dynamite, which I had had the foresight to bring along, and then slept for six hours, and drove across the border back to Buffalo. From there Caleb and I had the same flights (by design) to Newark, and then Seattle. We sat together on the latter flight.

On the way home I slept a little, listened to some music on my laptop while showing Caleb some of the pictures that I have accumulated2, then I read more of that book about Calvinism that Larry lent me, What Is This Love? Calvinism's Misrepresentation of God. The initial chapters of the book were tedious, repetitive, and boring, but now that I got to the part where he discusses the five points, I find it to be a very good, very clear (although at times still a bit repeititve), very to-the-point book, and I recommend it, especially this portion, to anyone who is interested in the topic. I haven't finished it; I'm not even halfway throught the book, so we'll see what the rest is like. I'm sure you'll all be elated when I post a complete exposé in my blog. Oh, the comments I won't get! Speaking of which, this post is rather long.

0 Apparently 'cottage' is Canadian for 'three-story mansion with a lake house.'
1 Update: I wrote this part on Monday night, but as I had gotten up at 6:00 EST that morning, I decided with my last fragment of good sense to postpone finishing the post until later, during which time Caleb blogged on the subject. I have therefore changed the link from his home page to the relevant post (or at least the first post on this topic). I have not, however, altered this sentence. 2 He is now scared to let me have access to any of his data because he fears my pack rat-like archives of information.