Feed Me, Seymour

Here is a boring story about RSS feeds I felt compelled to share.

For a while now, I have been using Bloglines to manage my RSS feeds. I’ve been using it because I potentially check up on my feeds from any of three computers—my laptop, my home desktop, and my office computer—and I want to make sure everything stays easily synchronized. It’s kind of a pain sometimes, though, so I’ve been thinking about switching.


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Philly Weekend

Over Saint Patty’s weekend, Jordan and fellow Doombot bloggers Dan and Tony came to visit me here in Philly. A couple incidents seemed worthy of note.

First, while walking down the street, we passed through a group of drunken guys in green shirts. One called us fags. Dan commented, “I feel like I just walked through Xbox Live!”

Later, when we piled into a cab, the cab driver asked if we were going to Woody’s. No, we said, we were going to Pat’s (to get cheesesteaks). I forgot to tell the guys later that Woody’s is a gay bar.

I blame Dan (for being too pretty).

The Ghost Hair of Destiny

Tonight, I yanked out a very thin, white hair—maybe a quarter of an inch long—from my face, right near my eye. It had been hovering in the periphery of my vision for days. After repeated unsuccessful attempts to brush it out of my face, I realized it was connected to me, and dealt with it. This, however, made me very bitter. You see, it was not the first time I have had to do this.

Mild physical deformities always seem perfectly fine as long as they are a sign of something bigger. A lightning-shaped scar, a couple missing fingers, even a robot hand that reminds us of our dark side—all of these signal something about our destiny.

I have plenty of weird scars, oddly-shaped lumps, miscellaneous aches and pains, and ghostly hairs growing from the area around my eyes and forehead. But where’s my frigging destiny? When people ask me about the mark on my neck, I want to answer something about an ancient prophecy, maybe how I survived a sacrificial ritual. “Partial thyroidectomy” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

But I refuse to give up hope. In particular, I hold Teen Wolf in my heart. The movie is about a guy who is beloved for being ridiculously hairy, and ultimately revered despite that he is a nerd. I will cling to this.

The Geek Olympics: Now With DRAGONS!

A couple years back, I wrote a post about the MIT Mystery Hunt. I called it “the geek olympics,” as this is an event for people with esoteric knowledge and a predilection for thinking very hard. This was my first year that I actually got to experience being part of a team in person, though, and we had a very friendly team indeed, so I felt a little less like a “cog in a massive puzzle-solving machine.” Also, we all had t-shirts (which I got to design!), so that was exciting too. Check out the few, generally blurry photos I took here. (Did you know Flickr limits free accounts to only three sets? Hmm.) Please feel free to post in the comments a link to your photos, or a link to your own blog post on the Hunt; thanks to Jordan for reminding me to blog about this.


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Jason’s Xbox Saga

Updated, 3/16/08—see below.

As some of you who know me personally may recall, I have rotten luck, especially when it comes to consumer electronics. Luckily, my Apple products have given me no trouble since my iBook debacle of years past—this time, it’s Microsoft’s turn to screw me.


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Philly vs. Boston

Jason: damn it’s cold out
Dan: What’s the weather there?
Jason: 28 now … supposed to get warmer
Dan 21 here.
Jason: I’m really not looking forward to that
Dan: We’ve got a high of 30 today. Great. Bring warm clothes. And boots.
Jason: why must I return every year to the godless north
Dan: I feel like fuckin Odin ought to be showing up any minute now.
Jason: “Dan! Get in the goat-drawn buggy! It’s time for an adventure!”
Dan: Høøray!

Morning with Lee

The following conversation transpired not long ago with my roommate.

Jason: Do you mind if I take a shower?
Lee: You fuckin’ dick.
Jason: I’m not in a hurry. You can go first if you want.
Lee: Okay, thanks. I just have lunch with Eran.
Jason: Okay.
[Pause.]
Jason: You know, you could’ve opened with that rather than starting with “You fuckin’ dick.”
Lee: That was my concession speech.

How not to get your question answered

[Updated 12-05-07: the story continues! Jump to the end to read the latest.]

In the course of my job, lots of people email me with questions about their Macs, Mac software, and—more recently—their iPhones. As someone who writes publicly about these topics, I’m expected to be conversant with many of their intricate details, and in most cases I am.

But what I’m not is a personal tech support guru. I try to help out people who email me, because, well, I spent years working in tech support and I like to do what I can to make sure people have a good experience using technology. As someone with specialized knowledge, I feel an…perhaps obligation is too strong a word, maybe call it an inclination to help out those who don’t possess that knowledge, just as people with more money often feel an inclination to help out those who are less fortunate. Again, to be clear, it’s not my job, and I don’t respond to every email, but I try to when I can.

Most of the time the people I deal with are polite and appreciative that someone has even responded to their emails. I don’t want to get into a position of saying “Hey, you should be glad you even got an email back,” but let’s face it: a lot of people whose positions are similar to mine don’t have the time or interest to respond to queries that will take hours away from their actual paying work. But the rule of thumb seems like it should be this: when you ask a favor from someone, you should be civil and gracious for any time they take to help you out. That goes for dealing with people in pretty much any walk of life, in my opinion.

My latest email help request started innocuously enough. It wasn’t sent to the catch-all for the iPhone blog, or through Macworld’s contact form, but directly to my work address:

hi,

i put a video on youtube.com and it worked fine. I listed it as global
event as the key word search and then I tried to view it on the iphone. i
couldn’t find it in the listing. Do you know why this is?

Matt [Just as a note, I’ve changed the man’s name.]

A valid question, but not one I was prepared to spend a lot of time on: the fact is that YouTube is a closed system and I don’t know the intricate details of how it works. But I’ve uploaded a video or two to the site and a quick check shows that at least one of them shows up on my iPhone when I search for it. Going on the basis of that, and my general knowledge on the topic, I jotted back a quick reply:

Hi Matt,
My first question would be how long between uploading and trying to find it on the iPhone? YouTube videos need to be specially encoded in a format for the iPhone, and I don’t know if YouTube does this when the video is uploaded or later on. My suggestion would be to wait and try again later. Hope it works out.

Cheers,
Dan

Admittedly, not the most in-depth reply I could have offered, but I did invite further information from Matt to see if we could try to approach this in a logical fashion.

Twenty minutes later, I got a response. I quote the entirety of the reply below:

this was a lame response. Do some digging. jeez.


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Write on

nano_07_winner_small.gifAnd so it is done. Tonight I met my goal of writing a novel in the month of November (where 1 novel = 50,000 words), and one whole day early to boot. This is the third consecutive year that I’ve managed to complete the contest, and it feels good. In some ways, however, this year was less satisfying, largely because of the story that I’ve been working on, which was not as close to me as the books I’ve worked on in years past. I decided to take a break from the science-fiction trilogy that I’ve been writing on and off for the past eight years and try something—in the words of Monty Python—completely different.

Was it a success? Not entirely: I had only the barest idea of plot and characters, and that clearly showed as I ended up writing myself in circles—sometimes literally (I started to get the feeling that my story resembled a scene from one of those classic comedy films where people are all running back and forth through the doors in a hallway). But my goal was to cleanse my palate and try to write something totally different, and in that sense, I feel much more energized about getting back to my other books.

Ironically, I looked back on my wrap-up posts from 2005 and 2006, and found that last year I wrote this:

I’m looking forward to finishing this story sometime in the next year, perhaps just in time to start with a wholly new idea for next year’s NaNoWriMo.

Well, I didn’t finish that story, but I did start something entirely new. Now I’m thinking that I’ve finally got a chance to finish what I started. Hopefully.


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How to Become a Rock God: Conclusion

I have beaten Rock Band.

Well, just with the guitar. And only on “Hard” mode. And only all by myself.

See, as the name implies, Rock Band wasn’t really designed to be played alone. The solo mode is amusing enough, but a bit anticlimactic and pared down. Touring from city to city, maintaining a fan base, participating in multi-song sets for the chance to win a private jet—all that stuff is in the multiplayer mode. And really, I played through the whole thing alone so quickly so that I could unlock more for online multiplayer with friends anyway. Playing online doesn’t have all that aforementioned multiplayer stuff either, but it is indeed more fun than playing alone.

There is, of course, plenty that can be done alone with this game to amuse oneself. I’m now sort of addicted to creating stupid little characters and outfits, treating my rockers like the residents of a doll house. Recent adjustments: “Jason” (created when Gen and I were modeling characters after ourselves) was renamed “Link” (because seeing my name onscreen was creepy, and reminded me of when I unknowingly renamed Link in some Zelda game and everyone was all, “Save the princess, Jason!”). I also attempted to rename “Link,” but I received this notice:

The name “Doc Cockatrice” is not what most would describe as “classy.” You can use this name locally, but it will not be visible on Xbox LIVE until it is changed.

Well then.

In my defense, I am simply a fan of mythical rooster-lizards. The character has since been dubbed “Doc Rockatrice” until I get around to renaming him again. Also, now he has a tattoo of a boat on his chest, something I have long insisted I would do just so when people ask me whether I was in the navy or a sailor or something I could reply, “No, I just like boats.”

I also created a character named “General Zod” (who sings) and I’m considering “Slam Chowder” for my next drummer. He will be from Boston.

I suspect you all are getting pretty tired of reading my endless thoughts on rock-based rhythm games, so I’m going to bring my series on this to a close. Not that my rock journey as ended, oh no—it was only tonight that I received my replacement guitar, so I must rock that much harder in order to test its fortitude. Wish me luck.