Monday, August 24, 2009


I've been remembering my dreams very vividly of late. And they all have ties to actual thoughts and experiences, so I remember them during the day. It makes me pause and think, "was that real?" It's sometimes hard to tell.

Yesterday I awoke still humming a song from a dream. It took me a few hours to figure out whether the song was real or just a figment of my dream. Preliminary Google searches suggested "figment," but then I remembered the words to a verse and it was real after all.

Two days ago I awoke from a dream that I was taking a long cross-continental train ride, and throughout the thing, gross wet stuff (dog pee, rotting milk, etc.) kept getting splashed on me, in one way or another. (Perhaps this was a mental echo of being sprayed with lobster juice during the day.) Also, the dog in question had untrimmed nails and kept standing (painfully!) on my feet. I think this was because (in real life) my sandals had worn raw spots on the tops of my feet during the day, and the pain came through into my sleeping brain. I tried to get off the train to escape, but it was in the middle of Siberia or the arctic -- very cold and snowy -- and as the train blew its whistle to leave, I realized, "I won't survive here!" I had to sprint to catch up and then leap onto the train. Only to be promptly hit with a drinks cart, soaking me in cups of flat soda and strangers' backwash.

Last night, I had a dream. I was going back to Japan, with a friend, to stay with my host family again. My topology professor showed up and tried to teach me game theory, insisting, "If you don't know this, you're unemployable!" -- but we couldn't find any empty blackboards. That's saying something, because three of the four walls in my bedroom were covered in blackboards, but E. had left notes and lists and diagrams all over them that I couldn't erase.

Robin Williams was in Japan, too, with a cockney accent, trying to pull off some movie-heist scheme involving my friend. (Note: some parts of my dream were close-up shots of his face while speaking & emoting, and I remember thinking, "This was shot with an HD camera! Look at that detail! Nice camerawork." in my dream.) He had a huge, cavernous lair with a concrete floor decorated by the imprints of tyrannosaurus footprints (laid in wet concrete). There was a rough layer of pebbles scattered on the floor, and at some point he gave them a verbal command and they self-assembled into a tyrannosaurus! -- starting at the footprints, and building upward. The pebbles were actually tiny robots! Eeeeek!

So we ran and ran and ran, while I wondered what algorithm the little robots were running to coordinate so well. And I woke up.

This post's theme word: ecumenical, "having a mix of diverse elements" or "universal; general" or "pertaining to the whole Christian church; concerned with promoting unity among churches or religions. "

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pictures on Ubuntu, update

I've been playing around with Picasa. It's missing some features I really liked about iPhoto.
  1. I can't import my albums from iPhoto. This fact is still incredibly irksome, and will continue to be so for as long as it persists.
  2. I can't make folders of albums. This means that if I have more than 20 albums, they clutter up my sidebar and I have to scroll through the entire list to find the one I want.
  3. There's no way to scroll through ALL the pictures in full-screen mode; photos are sorted by year, then month, then day. And full-screen mode will only allow for scrolling through a single day's pictures -- then to jump to the next day, I have to exit full-screen mode, pick the next day, and re-enter full-screen mode. Yuck.
  4. Although Picasa is set to recognize .avi files, it doesn't.
The struggle continues. On the positive side, Picasa is not terribly slow. And lets me see my photos. That's nice. Standards lowering... lowering...

This post's theme word: moue, "pout or grimace."

Monday, August 17, 2009

District 9

"District 9" came out this past weekend, to many accolades. My inputs have been overflowing with praise -- oodles of positive tweets, the question "District 9 best sci-fi movie of 09?", reccommendations from friends -- and I'd like to add my two cents:

Don't watch it.

It's sad.

Really sad.

It's the saddest movie I've ever seen with that many explosions and aliens.

The preview, and the word-of-mouth praise, set up my expectations for a well-done science fiction/action movie: I expected aliens, guns, and explosions. The ad campaign (which started four or five months ago with "humans only" signs posted on bus stops) made me expect a little bit of alien/human segregation, you know, as a light topic in an otherwise science-fiction film. Let me clear up your confusion if you have similar ideas:

This is a movie about apartheid, racism, and humanity's (and individual human beings') limitless abillity for xenophobia, racism-based murder (think: holocaust) and even genocide.

Sound like heavy topics? They're given a heavy-handed treatment, too. Set in Johannesburg, the aliens are confined to a slum surrounded with barbed wire. I don't think anyone ever said "ghetto," but the words "concentration camp" were used.

This has been widely discussed online:
The CG was good, and interesting -- they have figured out a way to insert digital characters into Blair-Witch-style shaky-cam footage. But so depressing. Boo.

This post's theme word: abrogate, "to put aside or treat as nonexistent, especially by an authoritative act."

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Managing pictures on Ubuntu

I have amassed 30,000+ pictures since I got my first digital camera six years ago. For the past few years, I have been using iPhoto to organize these. (It is now very slow, since it tries to preload thumbnails of every picture on startup, or something similarly unreasonable.)

I like four features of iPhoto:
  1. Photo files are stored in directories by YEAR/MONTH/DAY . This makes sense.
  2. I can use albums to group together photos of the same event taken on different days.
  3. If the camera date was set wrong, I can change the metadata on the photos.
  4. My entire library is in iPhoto and organized in a way I understand.
I am trying to find a similar way to manage photos on Ubuntu. I have so far been unsuccessful. F-spot satisfies (1) but there doesn't seem to be a clean, working way to grab the albums from iPhoto. (Manually re-creating the albums for thirty thousand photos is not an option; I haven't found a hack that works yet, either.) Also, I can't figure out how to change the metadata with F-spot, or with any other Ubuntu software, for that matter.

I have heard good things about Picasa (Google's answer to organizing photos) but also bad things (it's slow; too many bells and whistles).

Suggestions? I've been making myself cozy on Ubuntu, but this is really irking me.

[Update, two hours later: I installed Picasa to try it out. After an XKCD-like series of events, something -- possible a hidden preference file? bug reports online are unclear -- is quite borked about my entire setup. Also, Google now gives me search returns in French and Portugese, but not English. Now everything I try fails, not just with Picasa but also basic OS functionality. Aaaiiieee! But there are no sharks. Yet.]

This post's theme word: nidicolous, "nesting."

Ahab's Wife

I just finished reading Ahab's Wife, by Sena Jeter Naslund. It was recommended to me based on my enjoyment of Moby Dick, and amounts to a long addendum to that book. Or maybe it is fan fiction? Actually, it touches only tangentially on the characters and plot of Moby Dick; after all, Ahab spends all his time being haunted and stalking a whale at sea. He leaves his wife behind, and this is her story.

The book opens with the sentence:
Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last.
This is now one of my favorite opening lines. The promise of the story! It yanks our attention: we already know all about Captain Ahab's looney end, but his wife? Her mention in Moby Dick is brief and provides no explanation: how did a creepily-driven, single-purpose captain like Ahab end up married? We also wonder about her story: who was the first husband, and what happened to him? Who does she marry after Ahab?

The book fails to live up to the promise of this first line. What it satisfies is a modern, liberated woman's dream of an ideal, rustic-yet-intelligent, helpless-yet-self-determining, protesting-yet-permissive, whatever-yet-whatever life in the 1800s. Among the unrealistic things accomplished by the protagonist that irritated me:
  • As a 15-year-old girl with no education, she discusses the dilemma of whether light is a particle or a wave.
  • She singlehandedly invents/discovers guacamole, with the author going out of the way to call it "a mash or jam of a strange greenish fruit with a large pit" so as to avoid the historically inaccurate knowledge of the word "guacamole."
  • Despite growing up in rural Kentucky, she is an abolitionist.
  • Despite being an abolitionist, she is not in favor of temperance.
  • She singlehandedly frees a slave, in the middle of winter, in the deep South, while in labor, as her mother and baby are dying/newly-deceased.
  • She meets Nathaniel Hawthorne.
  • She meets and admires Frederick Douglass, and encourages all her correspondents to meet and admire him, too.
These little irritants accumulated throughout the book, so that big irritants (she survives 3 months without food or water on an open boat in the Pacific) don't even matter. And her first husband? Not even a meaningful plot point. Her third husband is, of course, Ishmael, who encourages her to write her book even as he is writing his. That explains the similarity of styles (one of the things I really liked: this book mimics "Moby Dick"'s long-winded passages about the ocean). But, blech. How uncreative. I didn't get any great insight into Ahab, Ishmael, Ahab's wife, the whale Moby Dick, or any other character from the original book or newly-fabricated for this spin-off.

My take-away feeling? Boo on Ahab's Wife. Write to the time! I want a first-person woman's story from this period of time to be full of chores and oppression, and I want her to be uneducated. (Understand that in real life, I am opposed to such things today. Of course.) I want my historical fiction with a little more history, and a little less fiction.

This post's theme word: maritorious, "to be excessively fond of one's husband."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Apple enthusiasts

This comic proves it: Apple products defend against screen-based cephalopod attacks!Doghouse via Gizmodo.

This post's theme word: neuston, "the aggregate of minute aquatic organisms that inhabit the surface of a body of water."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Hot hot hot

It's hot and humid and this looks like it would feel fantastic.
This post's theme word: adiabatic, "occurring without loss or gain of heat."

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Green rabbit

A wine name combining my favorite color with an animal that has nothing to do with wine? Why yes, it's
Green rabbit!
From organically grown grapes! And comes in a nice, cheap, recyclable box! (And yes, it's shelved next to a much less-agreeably-named wine.)

This post's theme word:rube, "country bumpkin."

Monday, August 3, 2009

Plant update

The basil is doing well -- some really well, some not so well.

Inspired by my success in keeping the basil alive, I tried to grow poppies. At a conference, I received this promotional card that was embedded with seeds and printed with instructions for growing them. It first they sprouted with great promise. Then they fell over and died (possibly in the reverse order).

Oh well. At least I have my delicious basil.

This post's theme word: saxicolous, "growing on rocks."

Sunday, August 2, 2009


I want a bike to explore the greater Toronto area. Last weekend I went around to a several bike stores and was appalled at the cost of a bike, even a used bike. R. suggested checking out police auctions, and we discovered that Toronto's police auctions are conducted on eBay. This is brilliant! It's easier for them to sell the items, and easier for us to buy the items. No one has to be co-located in time and space except the single buyer who wins the auction.

I won the second bike I bid on, a red mountain bike (that I plan to paint green). It was nice and cheap, and -- surprisingly! -- in rideable condition when I picked it up. The lock cost exactly as much as the bike, which I guess is a comment on the middle-to-good lock I bought and the ridiculous nature of retail. (And no, there weren't any bike locks available at police auction.)

Onward to bike-mounted adventures I go!

This post's green-Earth theme comic:

Green car

This car is often parked in Kensington. It's lovely. What a color.

This post's theme word: gramineous, "Of or relating to grass."

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Recursive blister

Awhile back I was on a Geometry Wars bender, and managed to get a blister on my thumb. Undeterred, I continued to play... and my blister got a blister, possibly visible in this blurry phone-camera picture:
My bender ended when I achieved "wax off."

This post's theme word: jactitation, "a false or boasting claim."