Wednesday, October 29, 2008

VYSW: Nukewrap


Vent Your Spleen Wednesday

The thing that really ticks me off is traffic and those damn drivers who...oh...I already blogged about that.

Alrighty, what drives me nuts are those stupid stat-counters that inevitably fail when you...fooie, did that one too.

Nothing can match the feeling when I turn on the radio only to find...sigh.

Nukewrap! I haven't blogged about that yet!

OK, you know that hard, plastic wrapping around some computer stuff like headphones that you have to practically take a hack-saw to in order to open? I hate that stuff. Not only is it ridiculously hard to remove, not only do I often times cut myself on an edge, but when I finally do get the thing open, it always renders the item in "non-salable condition" so that I can't return it.

I'm sure there's some smug SOB, sitting in a lab somewhere, being very pleased with himself over having had invented the stuff. I just want this guy to be put in a box made of the stuff. I'd want the cell to have some air holes of course. Wouldn't want him to suffocate, oh no! I'd want him to be in there a long, long time...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

BYBS: Adaptability

Adaptability is one of those things that I know about intellectually, but that I don't think actually applies to me. Specifically, when I started on a more healthy diet a few years back I did not expect my tastes to change the way they did.

When I stopped eating as much red meat and added more fruits and vegetables to my diet, I was about as happy as a condemned man. The odd thing was that over the course of a year or so I found that not only did I not miss meat but that I came to like the stuff I was eating.

Me? Enjoying the taste of oatmeal? And looking forward to eating beans? Something is clearly wrong. The true absurdity of my situation struck home when last Friday someone offered me some chocolate and I turned it down. Strange. Very un-whatever-like.

I'll write more later. Right now I need to go get some oatmeal...with cod liver oil.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

VYSW: NPR Membership Drives


Vent Your Spleen Wednesday

Like everyone this time of year, I look forwards the Fall and the change of colors in the trees...who am I fooling? I look forward to getting an hour back with Daylight Savings time.

OK, best to start again.

One of the things that really ticks me off is turning on the damn radio and getting an NPR fundraiser. I realize this is public radio and needs the dough after a rather long period of (ahem) leadership in various funding areas, but the sheer tenacity of these people is just...annoying.

To add insult to injury a while back I donated a vast (OK, rather large) sum of money to my local public radio and my reward? I still get to listen to them. Sometimes I wish I were extremely wealthy just so that I could pay for a day of programming where the local announcers have to wear gags.

Ah well...there's always next year.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

BYBS: Ian M. Banks

I recently started reading Iain Banks and have been pleasantly surprised. I've read his Player of Games, a bit of On the Use of Weapons and right now I'm reading The Algebraist. So far I think Player was the best read, but I haven't finished Algebraist yet so you never know.

The books I've been reading by Banks have had a "Space Opera" style to them. That is, planet hopping human beans off on some epic quest of epic-ness. They usually have a backdrop of some gigantic, ancient, over-reaching organization that is vastly older than, and presumably superior to, humanity.

I can quickly become bored with a story in that sort of setting: the character's goals are obviously unimportant in the larger scheme of things, so to keep my interest, the author needs to make an interesting story or characters or whatever. Player achieved this by mixing the description of a game and using it as a metaphor for a society.

As the title may indicate, Player of Games is about a person who is a master of various sorts of games. These are "big, serious" games like chess (as opposed to something along the lines of "go fish"). He is able to quickly master just about any game, no matter how alien or convoluted, but has become bored recently due to a lack of challenge.

The huge, ancient galaxy-spanning society (called "the Culture") is trying to find a less violent way of dealing with a smaller, aggressive empire society. Put another way, they want to find a cheaper alternative to an all-out war.

The shadowy rulers of the Culture feel that a particular tournament holds the key to subjugating the empire with less violence than would be required: if the Culture can demonstrate their superiority by winning the tournament then the empire types may well let a more protracted, far more devastating conflict slide. This is where the big, galaxy-spanning Culture meets the individual protagonist to bring things to a more personal level.

The player starts off feeling rather ambivalent about the empire but he becomes more involved because of the game he is asked to compete in. Partially because of the simple challenge to compete, and partially because of the depth and complexity of the game, he becomes more absorbed with the situation to the point where it becomes almost an obsession. It turns out that the game is an excellent allegory for the greater society of the Empire: in order to succeed, one must create temporary alliances, duplicitous relationships which are to be used and then discarded when no longer useful.

I found the crass, calculating nature of the interaction between the Culture and the empire to be especially relevant to the world of today, with its collapsing international markets and where expedience trumps morals on a regular basis. There are additional details, like how the Player cheats to try and win an especially important achievement and the nature of AIs in the Culture. All this combined to create a story that kept me occupied for a while.

Right now is a very stressful time for me. It is very much a blessing to be able to put my mind in neutral because if it were in drive I'd start heading for the nearest ditch.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

VYSW: Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves!


Vent Your Spleen Wednesday

Many companies think that they can improve matters by making their employees afraid; specifically by firing people and then pointing out that there are still more people left that they can remove.

This does not make a whole lot of sense to me because I cannot stay scared indefinitely. When I'm scared, my heart beats, I sweat, etc. but only for a little bit. The more I'm exposed to the cause of the fear, the less scary it gets. When it comes in the form of a company's constant attempts at intimidation, it ends up fading into the background for me. In my experience, the people around me rarely stay scared either.

I've also seen fear sabotage productivity. When I personally feel threatened, I am less inclined to help people around me. At one place I saw a group that was relatively productive systematically destroyed by its less productive brethren. I've heard coworkers remark that you always want a bit of "deadwood" in your group so that, when the yearly "Christmas Bonus" comes around, you have someone that is more likely to get the axe then you are.

Trying to scare people into working harder doesn't strike me as a very good idea. But as the creator of the Dilbert comic strip remarked, if nature ran on the same principals as business, you'd see a bunch of mountain gorillas being led by an "alpha" squirrel. And mind you, it wouldn't be the most skilled squirrel…it would be the one that nobody else wanted to hang with.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

BYBS: Ozark

A while back I had asked Ozark, the person who created the "Mind Flayed" webcomic, for an exchange: I'd write a short story about their characters if they would draw me a picture for one of my short stories. Recently I was saying hello the other day when they mentioned this and the result was the following pic:

This is "Grandpa Sith" from the story Deathtalker 2 – a silly yarn set in the Star Wars universe. For the curious, I wrote "Tentacle Luuuuv" in exchange. Hence my BYBS for the week is the opportunity to exchange art thanks to ye web.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

VYSW: Aggressive Drivers


Vent Your Spleen Wednesday

A major factor in the stress of driving for me are those drivers who seem to pounce on any opportunity to get cut in front of me. And what does this idiot get? 1 car length. Often times even that gain is erased since the other guy ends up at the next stop light or slow-down anyways.

The worst of the worst are the ones who seem to be racing someone else. It always seems like there are at least two of these clowns, dodging in and out of traffic.

If these fools were only risking their own lives it would be bad enough, but they're risking my life too.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

BYBS: Sleepy Weekends

This weekend has been especially sleepy for some reason. While one can argue about whether spending a weekend this way is really a blessing or not, my own opinion is definite: it's a blessing.

It's so nice to just rest as much as you want to once in a while, especially when you spend a good deal of your time…stressed. Part of it is the rest itself and part of it, for me at least, is the sheer decadence that comes from feeling like I can rest whenever I feel like it.

Now mind you, the whole stress business starts up again on Monday, but for now at least I shall rest.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008



Vent Your Spleen Wednesday

And my very first VYSW post is about, of course, --- the annoying twerp of a place that I first turned to in order to manage my blogroll!

In the midst of trying to launch a meme, the damn blogrolling site decides to be difficult. It times out, it decides to ignore commands...I'd say a bit about blogspot and how their editor works but I'm saving that for another post.

Well, I can't say that I'm surprised but I am annoyed. And in only the way that someone who is getting free code and whatnot can be!

There, now I feel better. At least a little.