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Thursday, March 31, 2005 
interface? i just met her!
so i've been running windows xp at home for awhile now (still on win2k at the office). and i must admit, i rather like luna, which is the "new" interface introduced with xp, the one with the big rounded buttons and corners. i think it's a lot spiffier than the "classic" interface (though i much prefer the classic start menu and control panel, etc). but one thing that really truly sucks about luna is that there is no functionality built into the OS to customize it.

windows users have been spoiled since the days of 3.1 (maybe earlier) by an interface that was super easy to customize... even if you didn't download "power toys" such as microsoft's unsupported tweakUI (or a superior third-party product like tweakxp), windows always gave you tons of choices for tweaking out color choices, etc. if you wanted a black title bar, black windows, and black text, you could do it... it would be impossible to read, but hey, that's your problem.

however microsoft took a big step backward when designing the luna interface: there doesn't seem to be any built-in functionality to allow you to change your color scheme if you want to use luna. either you use one of the built-in color schemes (the default blue one, a silver one that's all gray [and admittedly better looking than the blue one], and a hideous olive one), or you must disable luna and go back to classic if you want to change your theme around any further. if you go back to classic, you can change the colors like always or even apply themes designed for older versions of windows... but you're stuck with all the quaint square boxes and such. if giving your money to microsoft really gets you excited, you can buy plus! for xp, which gives you a couple more xp themes, but still no tools for truly customizing the interface from what i can tell.

i find this to be extremely disappointing. we are living in the age of skins: programs like winamp have hundreds and hundreds of skins to choose from, with devoted fans designing new ones every day. same goes for browsers like mozilla or firefox. shit, even windows media player is skinnable, with many choices out there. so why doesn't microsoft provide a tool for users to customize luna? do they think we're too stupid to do it right?

fortunately, there are alternatives... and you don't even have to hack the system (though you can do that too, if you know how). i found a way when my search for xp themes took me to it's chock full... no, it's overflowing with themes for xp, icons, "visual styles", and much more. though, because microsoft has never provided a tool for doing this stuff, you must install a third-party program style xp from tgtsoft to get any of the themes to work.

i think it's worth it, though, because with style xp you get a level of customization that microsoft would never give you. i just wanted a visual style that looked like luna but with darker colors: black menu bars and such. and there are many such visual styles available on themexp (i think the one i installed is called "dark xp", though i can't find it there now... still, there are other black luna-esque options there). but using style xp you can change everything: colors, buttons, window shapes, and even add stuff like transparency. if you want your winxp machine to look like you're running mac os x panther, there is a visual style to do so. there's tons of stuff there: in fact there are currently 1,996 visual styles on the site! and that doesn't include the other neat stuff like icons, boot screens, wallpapers, etc. if none of those almost-2000 visual styles suit your fancy, you can customize your own. it's pretty neat.

i haven't had quite as much luck with firefox themes because there just aren't as many. i prefer "compact" browser themes that take up the absolute minimum amount of screen space, yet i also want one with dark colors. alas, there is no such theme available for firefox. for example i adore the silver skin firefox theme, but the damn thing's toolbars take up too much vertical space... that means i have to scroll through my pr0n or browse full-screen (and even at full screen with small icons, it still uses more space than i'd like).

i managed to find instructions on for how to design/customize themes (can't find a link because the developers section is currently down for maintenance), and you know, i could do that. it looks complicated, but not really that hard. i could build an awesomely complex theme with nice dark colors if i wanted to. but because it is complicated, that would probably be a big project. and i have too many other projects going on, what with web design, databending, and making new tracks for my audio projects. so i won't be building any firefox themes anytime soon. i'll just have to settle for what's available. maybe i should contact the silver skin designer about creating a more compact version; that would be pretty cool...

Tuesday, March 29, 2005 
i'm brandin' it
one of my favorite duran duran duran songs has always been "pilldriver", which starts out with a ridiculous sample from a mcdonald's commercial: holla! mcdonald's big n tasty burger is a dolla! i was very glad to find that track on the new duran duran duran cd released by cock rock disco.

but future producers looking for samples with both hip-hop and mcdonald's flavor will have it easy. mcdonald's has begun a new marketing initiative to get product placement for big macs:

McDonald's has partnered with the marketing firm Maven Strategies in a plan to recruit hip-hop artists to mention the fast food chain's signature burger for pay, according to Advertising Age magazine's Web site.

The goal is to have a handful of songs flogging Big Macs on the air by summer, and Maven — which has reportedly had discussions with a number of artists, labels and producers — has already received an unidentified number of songs that are candidates for the promotion.

McDonald's will get final approval on the lyrics — which only need to mention the sandwich, not the parent company — but they'll have no involvement in writing the rhymes.

i know there's a school of thought in the hip-hop community that selling out is okay, or even to be encouraged... i recall seeing ice t on some movie or tv show saying that the idea of saying "no" to a paying job offer was alien to him, coming as he did from a life of poverty where legitimate paying work is near-non-existent. but how can any mc think this won't hurt their street cred?

i'm reminded of the destiny's child lyric: if your status ain't hood, i ain't checkin' for him. better be street if you're lookin' at me. which is supremely ironic, since not only is no group in all of hip-hop/r&b less street than destiny's child, but because destiny's child have officially signed on (sold out) as mcdonald's spokeswomen. i mean, i'll happily admit that i'm crazy in love with beyonce, but let's get serious, girlfriend. any guy who was truly "street" would not be able to get past your security entourage to get within 100 yards of you.

as soon as i saw this story i started thinking of busta's "pass the courvoisier", and i wasn't alone:

Product placement in hip-hop songs is not new: Busta Rhymes' management company famously reaped financial benefits for his hit song "Pass the Courvoisier" (see "Push The Courvoisier: Are Rappers Paid For Product Placement?"), and Kanye West's Grammy-winning The College Dropout plugged no less than 19 different brands.

Maven is one of the pioneers of this kind of embedded product placement. Last year, according to Ad Age, it scored placement for Seagram's gin in songs by artists including West, Twista and Petey Pablo. In Pablo's "Freek-A-Leek," one of the most played hip-hop songs of 2004, the rapper proclaims, "Now I got to give a shout-out to Seagram's Gin/ 'Cause I'm drinkin' it and they payin' me for it."

who would jesus exclude?
bush is currently touring the nation pimping his "plan" for social security (in fact he has offered no plan whatsoever, only the idea of "private accounts", which even he admits will not do jack to actually make social security solvent... the majority of the public knows this is a big swindle, and bush's numbers on social security are awful, hence the need for a tour in the first place).

if you've read anything at all about bush's "public" appearances, you'll surely know that although they are totally funded with taxpayer money, they aren't really public at all... they're meticulously screened and quintessentially private, and the gop can and will kick out anyone who strikes them as remotely non-reactionary. "young democrats" t-shirt? sorry, young democrats don't deserve to get to hear their president speak. anti-war bumper sticker? get outta here!

bush lives inside a bubble, shielded from those who so much as disagree with him on policy issues. this is probably why he was so awful during the presidential debates: it was the first time in four years that he'd actually been challenged face to face, and he didn't know how to cope with it.

dkos has a great letter from three people who were kicked out of a recent bush pep rally in denver... and who actually got some answers as to why they were booted:

The Secret Service revealed that we were "ID'ed" when local Republican staffers saw a bumper sticker on the car we drove which said "No More Blood For Oil." Evidently, the free speech expressed on one bumper sticker is cause enough to eject three citizens from a presidential event. (Similarly, someone was ejected from Bush's Social Security privatization event in Arizona the same day simply for wearing a Democratic t-shirt.)

The Secret Service also revealed that ticket distribution and staffing of the Social Security event was run by the local Republican Party. They wanted us to be clear that it was a Republican staffer - not the Secret Service - who kicked us out of the presidential event. But this revealed something else that should be startling to all Americans.

who would jesus execute?
you might recall that i served in a jury a few months ago. it was not the most fun day in my life, but i was glad to be fulfilling my civic duty by participating in the judicial system.

when it was time for us to start deliberating, we were given very explicit directions on exactly what we were allowed to consider and what we weren't. basically, a jury is told "these are the questions you're supposed to answer, and these are the points of law that you're allowed to consider while you're answering them. don't consider anything else." and we most certainly were not supposed to bring in religious tracts like the bible during our deliberation.

Ruling that juries cannot turn to the Bible for advice during deliberations, a divided Colorado Supreme Court threw out the death penalty for a convicted murderer because jurors discussed Bible verses.
Harlan was sentenced to death in 1995, but defense lawyers learned that five jurors had looked up such Bible verses as "eye for eye, tooth for tooth," copied them and discussed them while deliberating behind closed doors.

as someone commented on dkos, the irony is that 'the jurors used the Bible...but didn't "err on the side of life."' it's interesting that the jurors apparently didn't bother to consult what jesus himself said about capital punishment (and the j-man was very clear about this): let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

naturally, the religious right is up in arms about this. for them (and really, for anyone who uses the term) "judicial activism" means "judges who make decisions we disagree with"... just as in the terri schiavo case, which i intentionally avoided blogging about because you can hear about that travesty everywhere. but let it be said: the radical right thought they really had something by pushing the schiavo issue, but the american people are almost uniformly disgusted by the gop's attempts to politicize this matter, and most people do not want to be trapped in a hospital bed with a good chunk of their brain turned to liquid while a bunch of hypocrites (and a few well-meaning but mistaken people, like her parents) deny them the right to die peacefully.

and then the hypocrites have the gall to sell the mailing list of schiavo supporters, further cheapening the story (as if that's possible) by transforming it into yet another opportunity to collect marketing info. how very christian-like.

Sunday, March 27, 2005 
the robot bunny rabbit will eat you up this easter
it's time for a new mp3 of the week... and because today is the easter holiday for many, i've posted a very special spring-themed track called "robot bunny rabbit". it's about a robot bunny rabbit.

Saturday, March 26, 2005 
second bends
recently i've been going back through my rr8 bent photo gallery so i could create new posters using them at the bad taste cafepress shops. (large posters are now up, though i can't vouch for the quality of the large size yet because i haven't seen one)

getting these images big enough to put on posters required upsampling, so naturally i wanted to use the highest-quality source images possible. i started looking through the source photoshop files (the files i actually bent in an audio editor, rather than the exported jpeg versions available here on the site).

you probably know that recently i built myself a brand new computer, light years ahead of my old one (which served me quite well for about 5 years). these files were all bent on my old machine, but i moved the second hard drive (the data drive) off my old machine, bringing all my documents over to the new machine.

so when i started opening the psd files, i was surprised to find that some of them looked unfamiliar. in fact, they looked totally different than the images i'd previously posted.

i suppose it's possible that i bent the images to this point way back many months ago, and just never exported those particular bends to jpeg format. but a more romantic explanation (in a bending sense, anyway), is that moving the files to my new computer and opening them up here actually bent them further. i suppose there's really no way to know, so i'm going to believe the latter.

here they are: click the pic to goto the full-size version:


Thursday, March 24, 2005 
striking out at the bowling alley
i was way out of practice when bowling yesterday. my first game i bowled a 67. sometimes i could knock down 8 or 9 pins, but then i'd get 2-3 gutterballs in a row. and i would keep getting gutterballs on the first throw in a frame, and then get a bunch of pins when trying to pick up the "spare". i was 2/3 of the way into my second game before i got the hang of sending the ball down the middle of the lane and actually knocking pins down. finally, in my third game i was on a roll (or maybe i need a certain amount of alcohol in me to bowl well), managed to pick up a few spares, and even got a couple strikes. so i got 135 on my third game, literally double the score of my first game.

the academy awards shorts were pretty good, though some were more interesting than others. in a couple of them, not much seemed to happen at all (such as in birthday boy, a 3d-animated short about a little korean boy who puts a bolt on some train tracks so that the passing train will flatten & magnetize the bolt... then proceeds to wander around and play with his toys for another 5 minutes. the animation was lovely, but it came off more like an animation exercise than any sort of actual story). then others were really far out, like ryan:

Ryan, directed by Chris Landreth, is based on the life of Canadian animator Ryan Larkin. Thirty years ago, at the National Film Board of Canada, Ryan produced some of the most influential animated films of his time. Today, Ryan lives on welfare and panhandles for spare change in downtown Montreal. How could such an artistic genius follow this path?

In Ryan we hear the voice of Ryan Larkin and people who have known him, but these voices speak through strange, twisted, broken and disembodied 3D generated characters... people whose appearances are bizarre, humorous or disturbing. Although incredibly realistic and detailed, Ryan was created and animated without the use of live action footage, rotoscoping or motion capture...but instead from an original, personal, hand animated three-dimensional world which Chris calls 'psychological realism'.

that "psychological realism" is wild: heads and bodies are deformed, warping and collapsing as their moods shift. it's surprisingly surreal and yet very linear at the same time.

and perhaps most oddly of all, two of the shorts involved parents who go out to a bar and leave their kids waiting in the parking lot... when i was watching the first one (two cars, one night) i was thinking "what kind of parent leaves their kids in the car while they go get drunk?" then later, wasp came on and the parental behavior there is much worse... is this some kind of weird coincidence, or do a lot of parents behave that way?

overall i would definitely recommend seeing this if it comes to your town. i'm glad i went.

now we just have to wait until the animation show comes to town next month... that will be awesome. and while i'm thinking of it, i really need to pick up the dvd from last year's animation show as well... i totally loved those don hertzfeldt cartoons.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005 
the great graphic switch
is this confusing?

over to the right, you've surely seen the great big turntable, which i originally designed for the bobby vomit blawg. bobby has a new, different graphic on his blawg.

i never would've thought to reclaim the turntable. i designed it for bobby vomit, and i expected it to stay there, though i admit i was jealous that it was on his page and the graphic on mine wasn't as cool. i complained about that a little here, but i simply planned to design a new, better image for myself when inspiration struck.

but he emailed me a picture the other day, a collage he had made of a three-tonearmed turntable. he thought, because of the multiple tonearms, that this new image was more appropriate for bobby vomit than the big numark ttx1 animation i'd already made. he suggested i animate the new image and take back the other turntable for my blog.

so check out the new graphic bobby vomit blawg... the animations are actually out of phase, so they only sync up every 60 seconds.

and the old bobby vomit graphic is now on my blog. it really does reflect my style more than his, and the new vomit graphic is indeed more his style. but it might be a bit disorienting at first for those of you who have been reading both blogs. you'll get used to it.

bowling for oscars
not much time to blog today: in less than an hour it'll be time to leave for our 8th annual bowling tournament. yes, each year a bunch of us publishing types take the afternoon off and go bowling. it's kind of silly, but it's fun, and because the bowling alley (northland bowl) has a bar, it's also an opportunity to drink during office hours.

i'm not a good bowler. most years that i've participated i've won the "worst technique" award; one year i also got "most gutterballs". last year i didn't get to participate because i was on vacation when the bowling trip was scheduled.

after bowling it's home for dinner, then drbmd & i are going to key cinemas to see academy award nominated shorts 2005. it should be cool.

so yeah, no more blogging from me today, although i might incorporate a minor design change, and post about that if i do. (if that happens, it'll be pretty obvious)

terminating fake news
VNRs (video news releases)--basically video press releases dressed up to look like news reporting--have been one of tv's dirty little secrets for years. but ever since the karen ryan scandal broke last spring, people have finally started to look into it (well, people other than prwatch and the center for media and democracy, who've been following the trend for a decade and have an fcc petition to stop fake news).

recently ahnuld, the governator, has also gotten in trouble for producing VNRs. but if these people have anything to say about it, that trend will end.

The California Labor Federation, the California Nurses Association and a division of the Service Employees International Union claim the segments produced by the state labor and health agencies violate the state's law against using government resources to produce propaganda promoting its policy positions.

california actually has a law barring the government from producing propaganda with public money? wow.

The administration has defended the segments, saying they were little more than press releases formatted on video for television news. News media experts have said that production of such segments is common and that responsibility rests with media outlets to use them responsibly with balancing material, but also acknowledge there is a temptation with limited budgets to simply use the material as-is.

of course, this is true to an extent... VNRs are extremely common, and once you know what to look for you can even start spotting them (especially on local news). much of the fault does lie with news producers who air these things uncut and unaltered, without so much as a paid government propaganda crawler at the bottom of the screen. but that hardly excuses those who create the VNRs from responsibility. that would be like selling biological or chemical weapon tech to a foreign nation and then getting pissed when they actually use it. (oh... wait...)

Monday, March 21, 2005 
databent posters! my art on your wall
one part of the bad taste pantheon of sites that we don't mention much is the bad taste shops at cafepress. i initially set them up years ago, simply so that we (bad taste artists and management) would have some merchandise that we could buy for ourselves. i didn't expect that anyone else would ever order anything, and indeed so far i'm the only one who's ever placed an order (though i have bought several items for other people, buying in bulk to cut down on shipping costs).

but now that could change, as i finally realized something very cool that i could create on cafepress: databent posters! cafepress has a line of paper products, including posters, postcards, and stickers. so i uploaded six images from my rr8 databent image gallery and created some small-size posters and postcards that you can buy online.

cafepress has three poster sizes: "mini poster print", "small poster", and "large poster". i had to upsample my images simply to make them big enough to fill the mini and small sizes, so i haven't set up any "large" posters yet ("large" is standard poster size: 23"x35"). i wanted to buy some of the smaller posters and see how good they looked before coughing up the change to buy a possibly ugly larger poster.

i received my order today and everything looks great! i got one "small" poster (this one) and it's hella cool. if you look really closely you can kinda see the grains, but it's not that noticeable, and with art like this it might not even matter that much. i also got some mini posters and stickers and stuff, and they all look really nice. they will look great on your wall, as well as mine.

also new are the "recycle" bumper stickers, based on the popular t-shirt design. i bought two and they're pretty slick. one of them is going on my car. i'm sure someone in the crew will want the other one.

all the old, original cafepress bad taste merchanside is still there if you want some of that... the thongs are even made in the usa, so if you like the thought of having the stAllio! name pressed against your pubis as much as i do, you can buy them knowing they were only touched by american hands (or maybe immigrant hands on american soil).

the cafepress t-shirts aren't really that great. sure, they're full color, but they're pricey, they fade, and worse, some are subject to a weird warping wherein one corner of the image will start to bend and the rest of the image stays still. (at least, that's what they were like a couple years ago, when last i bought any.) if you want a shirt, i would prefer you buy a "recycle" shirt from the awia shop (and you'll get a better deal, too).

but that doesn't mean all the old merch sucks. i've always been a fan of the animals within animals mug, which is really pretty handsome. the mousepads are kind of nice, too, though mine has had so much ash and soda spilled on it that it's just kind of a dark gray now. the please sample coaster also looks great (and reminded me to create stickers with that image).

so yeah, there's lots of stuff worth buying there. there are actually six shops (because you can only have one of each item in a shop when using the free service), and each shop has posters and postcards featuring a different databent image (as well as some other stuff).

the stickers are marked up $0.50. posters, postcards, and bent mousepads are marked up $1. that's how much i will make if you buy one. nothing else there is marked up at all. the cafepress base price is high enough already on most of that stuff. (although if a bunch of people start buying mugs or coasters, i might have to mark them up slightly so that i'll get a taste of that money). ... easy enough to remember?


like a template time machine
while reading the political blogs this morning, i followed a link on atrios to roachblog. looks like there's some good content there. but what immediately caught my eye was that it uses the same blogger template that i originally based this blog on. surely, this is just one of hundreds or thousands of blogs that use that template, but it's the first one i've come across, so that's that.

so i found it interesting simply to look at the design and see at-a-glance just how much i have modified and rewritten it. i haven't actually seen the original unaltered template in many months, so i find this informative. very little of the original css is left; most of what's still there relates to formatting: date at the top of each post, then post-title, then post-body, followed by a paragraph sign (¶), followed by comment-link and permalink.

the only design elements that are the same are the font choices, the fact that it's a two-column design with the secondary column on the right (though i've redone how those columns are implemented: my version is much tighter and looks better), the use of 2px dashed rules (though i've really expanded and improved on that), and i guess the paragraph mark....

anyway, i find it somewhat interesting how fundamentally similar they still are yet how much better mine looks... especially how sloppy the original design looks compared to my revised version.

well, maybe you think i'm full of shit and that my modified design isn't really that different. if so, that's why there's a comment link at the end of each post.

Sunday, March 20, 2005 
feeling low? try the new mp3 of the week!
the new mp3 of the week is up! it's another never-before-heard track that was cut from maura's milk chocolate bath and it's called "feeling low?"

so if you're in need of a pick-me-up, put down the 8-ball and download this mp3 instead.

it should be pretty obvious: i've redesigned the stAllio! site & blog a bit. mostly just a color change.

i was never that crazy about the original color set. that whole design hinged around the animated wrist brace graphic, and the colors were all chosen to match that. it's a great graphic, but its colors demand a pastel design. and the old colors looked good enough, so i dealt with it. but after tweaking out the bobby vomit design and seeing just how cool the design could look with better colors (and then designing the montana and mcdeviltoast blog) i really had to wonder why my site was still all whites and baby blues.

i'm not in love with the new right-column graphic. it's not as cool as the old one, and definitely not as cool as the bobby vomit one. but i had simply had enough of the old color scheme, and i needed something new to put there. i'll come up with something better.

[edit: i made an error on the original right-column graphic so since i had to go in & change it anyway, i added a bit more to it. i like it more now, but i'd still drop it in an instant for something that looks as cool as the graphic on the vomit blawg]

Saturday, March 19, 2005 
tiger toys
though i do the vast majority of my work these days, i'm still somewhat interested in recording and audio toys: actual kids' toys. they aren't that great in the studio, but in live situations they can be pretty fun to play around with.

while watching my saturday morning cartoons i saw an ad for the tiger play-it-now. tiger has been pretty much the name in children's recording toys, from the "talkboy" used in the movie home alone to the "yak back" series, and i guess this is their newest toy. in a sense it's supposed to be like a kid's mp3 player.

instead of a mic, play-it-now has an 1/8" plug attached: the idea is to plug that into the headphone jack of various gadgets. it has 30 minutes of recording time, headphones with headphone jack, and a few built-in games.

i would have preferred if it had a built-in mic as well, although you could get around that by using a coupler... but if you're going that far, why not just use something like a minidisc recorder?

this seems like a cool enough toy, but what i really want is something more like the yak back line. those were like mini samplers with built in effects: i've played with a "yak backwards" and the reverse feature was what really made that thing rock. the play-it-now seems cool enough, but i already have stuff that will do what it does, do it better, and are not much bigger.

still, with a $30 list price, it could be pretty neat. so i figured i should at least mention it, in case any other audio toy enthusiasts are in need of something new to tinker with.

if only i knew where to find some of the old yak back line. i couldn't even find them on ebay or google... in contrast, it was fairly easy to find talkboys on ebay. am i even spelling "yak back" correctly?

Thursday, March 17, 2005 
news: breaking and broken
if you've been anywhere near a media outlet in the past 24 hours, you've surely heard that scott peterson was sentenced to the death penalty. in fact, you might not have heard anything else... and if you did, chances are good you heard that robert blake has been acquitted.

so scott peterson is a white dude who killed his wife. robert blake is a white dude who apparently did not kill his wife. judging from the amount of coverage, murder must not happen very often around these parts, right? it's not like thousands of people are murdered each year.

meanwhile, while you were hearing about peterson, you probably weren't hearding that the senate moved one step closer to drilling in ANWR. it was a vote to strip the ANWR provision from the current senate budget bill, and it lost by a 49-51 vote, so you know that pretty much all senate democrats and even a few republicans voted against. but that wasn't enough... there's a chance the budget bill won't pass the senate, but if/when it does, it goes to the hosue... and the house has repeatedly voted in favor of drilling in ANWR. after years of fighting on this issue, it appears bush will have his way and the seals will be replaced by drills. but clearly that's not as important as scott peterson, who killed his wife. or robert drake, who didn't. or michael jackson, who likes porn and little boys.

also seemingly overshadowed by the peterson and blake cases is the fact that bernie ebbers was convicted the other day. ebbers was ceo of worldcom, a company that defrauded millions of people out of billions of dollars. ebbers's defense was basically: "the buck stopped before it got here." he claimed that he was totally ignorant of the massive fraud that took place under his watch. that's a defense that bush has used quite a lot in the past few years, although bush has enough resources and cronies to keep him out of court. that's fortunate for bush, because the ebbers jury responded by effectively saying "how fucking stupid do you think we are?" now he's convicted and he faces up to 85 years in prison... though it could be 85 years before he finishes the appeals process.

but who cares about some corporate criminal with millions of victims? i mean, it's not like he killed his wife or anything.

it's not easy
it's st patrick's day and there are a lot of people here who are not wearing green. it makes me want to go on a pinching spree. alas, most of the people i've seen who aren't decked out are not people i would want to touch anyway.

we also have one guy wearing full leprechaun regalia. but he's the kind of guy who spends months working on his halloween costumes, so seeing him in a silly getup is not very surprising.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005 
the incredible beatallicas
the incredibles came out on dvd today. like a true fanboy i ran out during my lunchbreak to get it. i had already done some price comparisons online, so i knew that circuit city seemed to have the best price out of anyone: $14.99. but what i didn't realize until i was about ready to check out was that circuit city was also giving away free incredibles-branded mini-basketballs with purchase of the dvd! i suppose it makes sense: this is indiana, and march madness has begun. still, what a value... my nephew ian used to love those mini-basketballs, so maybe he'll get some enjoyment out of this one until he's old enough to actually watch the movie.

after circuit city i stopped at guitar center; i still needed to get more dual-1/4" cables for use with my new sound card. i got two 1-meter rca-to-dual-1/4" cables (i wanted longer, but 1m was the only length they had), a stereo/male-1/8"-to-dual-1/4", and a stereo/female-1/4"-to-dual-1/4". they totalled more than $25! i was sorely disappointed with the price. but i'd needed the damn cables for weeks, so i grudgingly completeted the transaction. finally, i should be able to use headphones again, as well as hook up my external cd burner.

i stopped by ckick-fil-a for lunch: the drive-thru was crazy long so i went in and got my food to-go. because naturally, the drive-thru line was long but there were hardly any customers in line inside. i got out with my food licketysplit, and the rather cute cashier even told me "it was a pleasure" to serve me! that's a bit of a change from typical fast food service.

on my way back to the office, i was listening to npr's "day to day" program, when suddenly they aired a segment on beatallica! i was totally surprised.

i haven't really blogged about the topic, under the assumption that many of my readers are probably already subscribed to snuggles, rumori, or some other forum that surely would've mentioned the story by now... but anyway:

beatallica (site currently down) is a cool cover band that mixes the songwriting of the beatles with the sound of metallica. seriously: the singer, who goes by jaymz, has james hetfield's voice just perfect. it's really uncanny. dr. david dixon (aka stark effect) is their "webmaster of puppets".

recently they received a cease and desist order from sony, alleging, what else?, copyright violation. never mind that parody is legally protected, as declared by the supreme court in the "2 live crew" case. the cease and desist actually came from the owners of the beatles' copyrights (not the beatles themselves, as they sold most of their rights away long ago), and not from metallica as you might think. in fact, metallica are on record as being huge beatallica fans, and according to the npr segment, lars ulrich actually put in a bunch of work trying to end the case so that can go back online.

word is that sony has agreed not to prosecute beatallica. but sony itself has not publicly made any such statement.

it was a good segment; there's a great quote from lars about how all ideas come from mashing up older ideas. and you can even listen to some beatallica music on the npr site (which is good because is still down!)

Monday, March 14, 2005 
"no rational purpose"
a california judge has deemed that california's gay marriage ban is unconstitutional.

Judge Richard Kramer of San Francisco County's trial-level Superior Court likened the ban to laws requiring racial segregation in schools, and said there appears to be "no rational purpose" for denying marriage to gay couples.

The ruling came in response to lawsuits filed by the city of San Francisco and a dozen gay couples a year ago after the California Supreme Court halted a four-week same-sex marriage spree started by Mayor Gavin Newsom.

The opinion had been eagerly awaited because of San Francisco's historical role as a gay rights battleground.

Gay marriage supporters hailed the ruling as a historic development akin to the 1948 state Supreme Court decision that made California the first state to legalize interracial marriage.

"Today's ruling is an important step toward a more fair and just California that rejects discrimination and affirms family values for all California families," San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said.

damn right: family values for all families. because some families actually have gay people in them. but some people don't like those families:

Conservative leaders expressed outrage at the ruling and vowed to appeal.

"For a single judge to rule there is no conceivable purpose for preserving marriage as one man and one woman is mind-boggling," said Liberty Counsel President Mathew Staver. "This decision will be gasoline on the fire of the pro-marriage movement in California as well as the rest of the country.

of course, that's not what the judge said. he said there is "no rational purpose." there could be any number of conceivable purposes. it's just that all those purposes are totally fucking irrational.

don't rent your tux just yet, though.

It could be months or years before the state actually sanctions same-sex marriage, if ever.

Lockyer has said in the past that he expected the matter eventually would have to be settled by the California Supreme Court.

Two bills now before the California Legislature would put a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage on the November ballot. If California voters approve such an amendment, as those in 13 other states did last year, that would put the issue out of the control of lawmakers and the courts.

mp3 of the week is a healthy part of a balanced breakfast
the new mp3 of the week is up, a day later than usual (which isn't really that bad, though i don't have a good excuse). it's called "a good breakfast" and it's a "b-side" from maura's milk chocolate bath (meaning it was recorded for that album, but cut).

relive the wonder of breakfast-time by downloading it now!

montanatoast katakana-iroha & cjk-ideographic
i'm curious just how many users out there can actually see the fancy asian list bullets i used in the montana and mcdeviltoast blog. i only have two browsers installed on my new computer (IE6.0 and firefox 1.0.1), so those are the only ones i tested it in (OS is XP SP1).

in firefox it renders beautifully, with each list taking on a different exotic bulleting style from out east. i honestly don't know what any of them are really supposed to mean: i'm sure some of them are numbers, but maybe not all. they look great, though.

in IE, none of those rendered, but the lists all came in with a default "round bullet" style that looks perfectly presentable, so i decided it wasn't a big deal. the previous designed used a custom bullet graphic, but i wanted to avoid creating any icons for this design if possible, because every graphic the page must load slows down the page that much more. standard ascii/unicode bullets render that much faster.

but today i went in to work and checked it from there... at first i didn't notice anything wrong (so i have to wonder, was it always wrong, or did it originally render correctly and break sometime later in the day), but eventually i saw that the bullets were all rendering as question marks. i glanced at the source code and didn't see anything wrong with it. my work computer is also running firefox 1.0.1 so theoretically it should render the same. but the operating system is different (win2k). was that the cause of the question marks, or is something different about my work firefox installation than my home install? (this being a new computer, it's a totally fresh install, whereas the work install has been upgraded several times.)

i don't know, but i have to wonder whether there's much point in leaving the bullets as-is... how many people can even see them? i don't mind if IE users just see round bullets, because it doesn't look bad that way. but if lots of people are getting question marks or other funky junk, maybe i should just design new bullet icons after all.

this is what it's supposed to look like, in an ideal world:

if you're using IE, my guess is that you'll see round bullets.

go to the momcd blog and if you see something other than round bullets or the icons above, let me know. or if what you see in any way differs from what i predicted that you would see, i'd like to know that too.

Saturday, March 12, 2005 
pink on black
i spent most of the day working on a new design for the montana and mcdeviltoast blog (maintained by my friend dj empirical and some of his friends) and half-watching tv.

when i redesigned the bobby vomit blawg, dje wondered in the comments whether i could make the columns on his blog look like mine. well i couldn't, not easily. the fixed width on his current design is truly fixed. it was also ridiculously unnecessarily complex, laid out using dozens of <div>s (at least twice as many as i would use) and several background images that were hosted offsite. before you know it i was offering to a whole new design for him.

his only request was that he wanted it black on pink. so i built a new design, structurally based on the two-column design used here, incorporating a couple of the colors and some of the formatting of the current monmcd design. it's not quite as fancy as the current/previous design (which is just a preset blogger template), but it's simpler, more flexible and fluid, and i think it looks pretty decent.

you can check out a draft of my design here.

please let me know if you see any bugs.

Friday, March 11, 2005 
here's sending some good vibrations out to connie, who will take the GRE (graduate readiness exam?) this afternoon, so that she can move to indiana and start grad school at IUPUI this fall!

i know she's going to do a kick-ass job on the test, but let's send her some love over the internet to keep her spirits up.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005 
"my name is bobby vomit"
i took a half day yesterday, left work, and made a couple stops at target & radio shack looking for audio cables: specifically i need several dual-1/4" cables of various types. neither store had them: i'll need to go to sam ash or guitar center or someplace like that. but i got some printer paper and a couple dvds at target so it wasn't a total waste. then i drove up to muncie to bobby vomit's house, and we chilled out in the attic for awhile until it was time to load up his truck & head to columbus.

a storm was brewing. typical midwest pre-spring weather: it was 63 degrees sunday, 52 monday afternoon, then a thunderstorm, then snow flurries that night and today. bobby's truck had a broken driver-side windshield wiper, and it held up for awhile but by the time we reached columbus we had to get off the road and stop at meijer to buy a replacement. minutes after it was installed, we were at the venue, but it was very early so we went off in search of a place to eat.

we stopped at someplace called tai's asian bistro, which had cheap pan-asian food: the kind of place where you order at the front counter, but designed more like an upscale sandwich shoppe (note the pe) than a strip-mall chinese joint. it was tasty enough, and lots of food for the price. i saved my leftover pad thai and it made a full lunch for me today!

after that we stopped at starbucks (need caffeine so we can stay up through the show & the drive back), then to half price books, all within a block or so of each other. at half price books, bobby vomit picked up a promo record price guide an a 7". i got a couple cheap hip-hop cds and a copy of catman in lethal track on dvd: finding the other catman movie alone made this trip worthwhile.

then off to the venue. the place was a studio in an old industrial complex. in fact the primary entrance was through a garage door and loading dock around the back of the building. everyone was there. the plan was for the first three acts to set up (bobby included), then they would play, then a sort of "intermission" while the others all get set up. there was much setting up of gear. in fact, i was convinced that these two japanese dudes, take (tah-kay) and gonzo, had already performed their set when in fact they were only setting up. i thought it was a full performance, only with a lot of "sonic tension". i was wrong. then at 9:30, the show actually began.

first up, i guess, was sword heaven as bok tower. this was a three-man group consisting of mike shiflet (who runs gameboy records) and two other dudes. mike had a bunch of electronics and i'm guessing a contact mic, because he at one point in the night he was "playing" the table his gear was on. another guy in a chair had a bunch of electronics and a handheld mic. the third guy had lots of props: a long rope with a bunch of cymbals attached to it, which he would shake, etc; a large blue bell that he would ring periodically, a kick drum full of drumsticks (which he would shake), and perhaps more. it was entertaining.

next up, bobby vomit played. his set started off harsh & fuzzy, dragged on for a couple minutes, then started getting crazy as usual. it was good; people were into it. i've seen the guy play dozens of times now, what else is there to say? bobby fucking vomit 2005, baby.

next, take and gonzo did their real set, with mike shiflet improvising with them. it was good, glitchy & rumbly with some nice tones. take had a guitar and apparently a large record that he played with a bow. gonzo had a bunch of electronics. shiflet seemed to use the same gear as before. i was walking to take later, and tried to get their "band name" and he said they're not a band: they just improvise, solo or together, so the only names i have to give are take and gonzo, which is how they were introduced. they were not on the flier, but they were worth seeing.

then there was a break while emil beaulieau and the rest set up.

emil beaulieau (aka rrron of rrr records) is one of the biggest names in american noise, and with good reason: he's pretty damn entertaining. his set was energetic and constantly changing, full of lots of good good grumbly crackly sounds and brief moments of near-clarity. he does this sort of twitchy, spastic dancing while he performs, looking like xanopticon having a seizure. he had a record player, a couple minidisc recorders, a mixing board, a contact mic, and a couple petals. he does wacky things like put his contact mic in his mouth and chew on it. he also has what looks like a taped-up tuna can, with a wire coming out of it (pretty clearly a pickup or contact mic): he would use this can and rub it on his hair or his face. very loud, very intense, very worth seeing. when he finished his set, he said "in case you didn't know, my name is bobby vomit." everyone laughed. (later on he continued the joke by saying chris from sickness was mike shiflet.)

after a few more mintues of setup, sickness played next. he had a big wooden board full of gear and petals and whatnot. he played for 15 minutes or so: an intense, glitchy, noisy assault with lots of distortion and skipping sounds. short and sweet.

finally came karlheinz. i had seen him once before when he played at a noise show in muncie, and this time was similar, but the studio wasn't in total darkness and he didn't turn on his strobe light at the end. i was very grateful for that. harsh, kind of industrial/power electronics. he kept his set fairly short also. when he finished it was only midnight: 6 acts in 2 and a half hours, with some gaps in between acts.

we packed up the truck, then went to see rrron and work out some last-minute trades. bobby traded a bunch of tapes and bought the special 20-year-memorial rrr box set (5x12"). i traded a t-shirt, a 12", and cds of maura & mono a mono for an emil beaulieau 12" and 5 cds. so we both went home with a good haul.

there were at most 30 people there, including 9 performers and the people who booked the show or worked for the venue, so not a big turnout. but bobby vomit got paid $10. then we drove back to muncie, where i crashed at bobby vomit's house before coming back to work today.

Monday, March 07, 2005 
colum or bust
taking a half day, so in a few minutes i'll be leaving work and heading up to bobby vomit's house... well, after a short errand run, anyway.

in a few hours we are leaving for the bobby vomit/emil beaulieau show in columbus OH. should be a great show and a good time. i just hope i get enough sleep before coming back to work tomorrow afternoon.

Sunday, March 06, 2005 
mountains of mp3s
new mp3 of the week: it's called "mountains out of dru hill" and you probably haven't heard it before. so check it out.

Saturday, March 05, 2005 
while working on the bobby vomit redesign i finally solved a css layout puzzle that had stumped me for awhile.

this design uses two columns, a primary left column and a narrower right column. using "float", the only way i could get the right column to stay on the right side of the screen was by setting a width for the left column. but i didn't want to set a width: i wanted the left column to fill the rest of the screen (the size of which varies depending on the end user's screen resolution, browser window size, etc).

using html tables you could do this by setting the width to "*", but there is no css equivalent for that function. and setting the css width to "auto" tends to make it fill the screen. so far, i had been settling for setting the left column width to "67%", which was set so that the layout wouldn't break at 800x600 resolutions and would scale out reasonably well at other sizes. but that meant that at higher resolutions, there would be a bunch of empty space at the right side of the screen.

while tinkering with the bobby vomit redesign, which you really should check out (and if you already looked, check again; it might have changed since last you were there), i noticed that if i placed the markup for "rightcolumn" in front of "leftcolumn", i could set its width to 200px without breaking the layout... but this left a bunch of white space in the middle of the screen. still, i was inspired to keep tinkering and researching.

soon i discovered the problem: you can't do that with "float". but by using absolute positioning, settting the right column to {right:0px} and setting the left column to {right:200px;}, i finally got the result i had been dreaming of: a narrow, fixed-width right column with a left column that fills the rest of the width of the screen. and it doesn't matter which one i place first in the markup.

now it's time to implement those changes to my own design! it's always exciting when you track down a bug and something finally works the way you want it to...

the new colors of vomit
did some minor redesign on the bobby vomit blawg. mostly i just changed the colors around, but i also tweaked out the comments section: i think at least that part looks a lot better than it did.

check it out and leave feedback if you like.

Thursday, March 03, 2005 
car bomb!
i have to mention this simply because it's gotten the negativland song stuck in my head...

indiana house democrats walked out of the legislature yesterday, breaking quorum in protest over some of new-governor mitch daniel's bills. in response, bush-buddy daniels likened them to terrorists. here's a quote:

Indiana's drive for growth and reform was car-bombed yesterday by the Indiana House minority. Any pretense notwithstanding, it is clear that this cynical action was planned from the start of the session.

I have done all I could since arriving in office to work for change on a bipartisan basis. I have spent hours reaching out in meetings large and small. I have seen that bills the Democrats said they objected to were set aside. I have accepted a raft of changes in bills I proposed personally. Even through yesterday, I offered additional compromises, but every time, the goalpost was moved.

ah, the old "i'm trying to be bipartisan but f'n al qaeda over there pulled a 9/11 on me, suicide-bombing my economic platform and beheading indiana's chances for progress" routine. that old chestnut.

i'd expect that kind of invective from a bill o'reilly or an ann coulter, but from a sitting governor? and one who's only in his third month in office?

the walkout is a classic defense tactic used by minorities in legislatures when they want to make a stand: to say that they refuse to allow the majority party to simply railroad bills through the legislature without consulting anyone else. you might remember the story of the texas democrats who fled their home state in protest against an outrageous redistricting plan. in fact, just last year, when republicans were in the minority in the indiana house, they walked out when the democrats wouldn't let them vote on their precious gay marriage ban (never mind that gay marriage is already technically illegal here: they need an honest-to-god ban).

if likening the opposition to terrorists is what daniels calls "bipartisan", you have to wonder what he'd do if he weren't trying to work with the opposition.

the roof is caving in
naturally, the morning i finally decide to call in and get some rest is the morning when the roofers finally show up and start working on our house.

i did know in advance that they were coming, so i can't really complain. getting that damn leak fixed is more important than a few hours' sleep.

i don't really feel too bad today and might go in to work after all, going in around lunchtime for a half day. assuming i can get out the driveway.

since i'm here and being exposed to all the roofer noise anyway, i figured i should take advantage. so i got out my minidisc recorder and set it up to capture some field recordings. maybe i'll get some good pounding and scraping sounds. though they seem to be taking a break at this particular moment.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005 
so on friday i started coughing more than usual. i was more "flemish" than usual. the symptoms continued throughout the weekend, though i was always functional.

by tuesday morning it was pretty bad. i was sneezing or blowing my nose every 15 minutes. sneezing is unusual for me; i rarely sneeze even in the height of allergy season, so clearly i was infected with germs of some sort. i went to work, even though i wondered whether i should, and it just got worse. i would alternate between sweats and chills. the symptoms came in waves, and at the height of the waves my eyes would water so much that tears would stream down my face. but despite all this misery, i was still relatively functional.

i strongly debated whether i should go home sick. i figured that maybe i would go home around lunchtime, so i would only use up a half day. but when lunchtime came around, i figured, "well, i'm already here..." so i stuck around for the rest of the day.

i spoke to connie last night, and she insisted that not only should i have gone home, i should also call in sick this morning. but i wanted to wait until morning to see how i felt when i awoke.

i got up and felt noticeably better. not well, but better. so after sitting in my room debating for about 10 minutes, of course i got in the shower and headed into the office. connie would be so disappointed. but once i got there, i started feeling worse. i wasn't sneezing or nose-blowing as often as yesterday, but most of the symptoms were still there.

really i was just looking for some excuse to go home or call in sick. eventually i found one and prepared to leave work early.

i wanted to "ham it up" in a sense when telling my boss i was leaving: not invent symptoms or anything, but ideally it should be at the crux of a symptom wave so that tears were streaming down my face and snot pouring out my nose when i spoke to her. of course, when i wanted them, they wouldn't come. but it didn't matter: my bosses weren't in their offices anyway so i just sent them an email and left.

as you might have guessed (if you're as cynical as i), my symptoms hit me in full shortly after i got into the car and left my office. in my car, where i didn't have a lot of tissue.

i checked my office mail to see whether my bosses had replied, and while they hadn't exactly, my dept head (my boss's boss) did send out an email reminding all of us that "you should take a sick day when you're not feeling well. Our time off policies are in place to provide time for illness and it's really in your best interest as well as all the people around you to stay home when you're sick."

she also linked to this article about "presenteeism".
"Presenteeism" — going to work when you're sick — is as contagious as the flu. Millions of Americans are doing it. By one estimate, upwards of 75 percent head to work with the common cold or other problems.

Sure, sick employees keep the computer warm. But research shows that people sick with the common cold are not very productive. In fact, their lost productivity accounts for up to 60 percent of employer health costs — more than if they'd taken a sick day.

i have to admit that, while i don't know exactly how "sick" i am today, i have a critical case of presenteeism. i almost never call in sick: that time last month (right before my vacation) is the exception: i only call in sick if i'm vomiting profusely or shitting myself. i call in so rarely, in fact, that during a department meeting last year discussing time-off policies, they cited me as an example of someone who never takes sick time.

why am i wired to go to work every day even if i'm feeling ill? it's like going to work is my default mode and extreme circumstances are required before i'll consider taking an unscheduled day off. even when i was stranded in o'hare airport and didn't know if i would even reach indianapolis by morning, i was reluctant to ask for the whole day off. "maybe i'll come in this afternoon," i said to the dept head's voicemail as i sat on the floor of the airport terminal at 1am chicago time. granted, i didn't have any more vacation time left for the year, so taking that day off work involved either taking the day off unpaid or getting them to grant me a sick day when i wasn't technically sick. but then again, it was the week between xmas and new year's, and i probably hadn't taken a single sick day all year. when i finally awoke in my own bed many hours later, there was a message on my voicemail: "ben, you're so silly... don't come in this afternoon."

but here i am, officially home sick. will i be back at the office tomorrow? i wrote in the email to my bosses that i expect to be, though that's hardly binding. considering that i feel better today than yesterday, i'll likely be mostly recovered by tomorrow. in fact i probably won't feel too bad when i wake up, in which case i will definitely go as i always do. but maybe i shouldn't. i pretty much knew i shouldn't be at work yesterday, but i stuck around all day.

i think vomiting is the key: if i'm throwing up, i have no problem declaring that i'm ill and won't work. but because i have allergies, head/nasal symptoms don't seem like a big deal, even if they're severe and clearly not caused by allergens. vomiting is a good excuse. apparently having to get up from my desk every 15 minutes to drain the fluids from my head is not that good an excuse, despite drastically cutting down on my productivity and spreading germs to all my co-workers. i need to rework my priorities.

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