Thursday, November 01, 2007
Friday, October 19, 2007
Last night I was bored. To be clear I don't really get bored. It was once said of me that if I were to be locked in a rubber white room for 10 years I'd come out a little hairier but otherwise much the same. I chose to take it as a compliment. A testament to my ability to keep myself occupied and amused with nothing but my brain.
Regardless of this, I had nothing to do. I was kind of tired and my brain came up with an activity that required little actual work on it's behalf. It suggested Scouta.
I don't hop onto Scouta as often as I should which is a shame. Scouta is a recommendation engine for online media which personalizes it's recommendations to by observing your viewing behavior. It was started by our very own Internet deity Richard Giles who I am sure will correct my definition in comments [Hi Rich :)].
The basic upshot of this is that rather having to scour the Internet for good stuff, it comes straight to you. It's very good at it. Last night I was complaining that it had never shown me anything I didn't like. Ha! Is that a bad thing?! Wake up man.
Anyway, I was watching this awesome video featuring Guy Kawasaki chairing a panel of some of the webs biggest success stories. I was about 45 minutes into the 1 hour video and then suddenly I was waking up. I had fallen asleep in that achingly familiar and yet still quite painful position of sitting in a chair with your chin on your chest.
The previous paragraph sounds like the video put me to sleep. To be clear, the video was really good, I was just that tired.
Time for bed, I told myself. All the kids are asleep, the dog is in, the cat is in (See I pay attention to those Channel 10 ads), and I'm obviously tired. In my sleep-addled state I struggled with the bedroom door for about 15 minutes before realizing that my wife had locked it. This is likely to prevent her suffocating in her sleep under the pile of children that like to sleep on top of her. I got into the room and beheld the glory that is my bed.
My bed is big. It isn't huge, it isn't palatial, it's just big. This is good because I am a big guy. I appreciate my bed. Not just because it is big, but because I don't sleep in it very often. There are a couple of reasons for this.
Firstly, the pile of aforementioned children makes it incredibly uncomfortable. They are very snuggly, just not with me, which means I get faced with a bed full of kicking feet.
Secondly, I snore. Apparently I don't just snore, I make a noise that sounds like a herd of sheep being sucked through a Boeing engine (what a great visual). As my wife is a light sleeper and I am an Olympic gold-medalist sleeper I tend to allow her a good nights sleep most of the time by sleeping on a fold-out at the other end of the house. That is, she gets the best nights sleep one can get under a pile of children.
But tonight I wanted my bed. As I said I love the bed. It came to us from my mother-in-laws house where my sister-in-law used to sleep on it. Before that the beds origins are lost in the mysteries of time. It could be that it spent 14 decades travelling through Europe as part of a circus troupe, entertaining the mighty and meek alike with it's death-defying antics once catching the eye of a beautiful czarina and being chased out of Russia across three continents before finally finding a hiding place here in Perth. It might have just sat a shop waiting to be bought. I choose to believe the former. It gives the bed character and makes life more interesting.
So anyway, I climbed into this wondrous bed and settled in to sleep. After a few moments I heard a weird a grating noise. That's weird I thought to myself. It was a softish sort of noise and I thought that maybe my wife was snoring. As I'm a heavy snorer I had no real right to complain. I closed my eyes and decided I could live with it.
A few seconds later I heard it again. It didn't sound like someone snoring anymore. It sounded like metal being dragged through wood. I had a few seconds to contemplate this and then the scream occurred.
It wasn't a particularly blood-curdling scream. It shouldn't have had the heart-wrenching effect that it did even if it was coming from the woman I had chosen to spend the rest of my life with. The reason it affected me so badly is because I was also falling the 3 and a 1/2 foot to the ground that she was.
After spending several seconds checking to ensure that I was still alive, that my wife was still alive, that our house hadn't been magically transported to some demon dimension of agonizing shock and pain, I got up and switched on the light to determine what had happened. It turns out that the weird noise I was hearing was actually the sound of the end of the bed shearing off.
Apparently 5 years of worrying that the door was going to burst open revealing an angry Russian monarch accompanied by an armada of woodcutters had left the bed in no position to take my weight.
At least that is my daughters theory. I think it has more to do with a pile of crazed children jumping on it frequently but she's five and knows everything so who am I to argue.
And that is my tale. Anyone else ever had furniture collapse on them? Or been woken by a blood-curdling scream? Let me know.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
470 years ago - The first English-language Bible was printed.
212 years ago - Napolean Bonaparte first rises to national prominence with a "Whiff of Grapeshot" (this one is just for Cameron Reilly)
124 years ago - The Orient Express ran for the first time.
76 years ago - Dick Tracy first appeared.
57 years ago - Snoopy made his debut appearance.
50 years ago - The Russian Empire first chucked a beeping dustbin named Sputnik 1 into orbit.
In response to this the American nation launched their own trash in the form of a TV show called Leave it to Beaver.
22 years ago - The Free Software Foundation was founded.
And 2 years ago - my son was born. Happy Birthday Will. I love you heaps.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Today I got to meet Kevin J. Anderson, who has authored a fair count of books on my bookshelf from Star Wars, to Dune, to his own unique series. He was in Perth for a book signing with his wife Rebecca Moesta, also a writer, and it happened that the store they were at is across the road from where I work.
These guys are some of the nicest people you would ever have the chance to meet. They chatted amicably with their fans, even keeping the kids occupied while I snaffled some books, and signed everything people threw at them. One guy got Kevin to sign his PDA with the stylus!
We were invited to go for a drink afterwards but the kids have been ill and were getting a little cranky so we took this quick photo and said our goodbyes.
When we got home we were shocked to discover that Robert Jordan, author of The Wheel of Time series passed away today. Jordan, born James Oliver Rigney Jr, had been ill for some time, at least since his announcement in Locus Magazine that he had been diagnosed with amyloidosis, early in 2006.
I don't have the words to eloquently express my sympathy for Robert Jordan's wife and family. He will be sorely missed both by those who knew him personally and the millions of others he had touched through his writing.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
I was eating my lunch at Subway in the city. They have a few tables inside but most are outside in an area cordoned off and labelled appropriately for use by "Subway Patrons Only". They pay for the space so they want to make sure it is benefiting those who support them by purchasing their goods. Fair enough.
And fair enough to the purveyor of Japanese sustenance next door who has a similar set up.
As I sat inhaling a foot-long meatball sub and quietly cursed the crazy old lady who had just fed the pidgeons practically under my feet I saw two handicapped guys ride up on those miniature golf cart thingies they sometimes have. I'm not going to guess at how they were handicapped and if handicapped isn't the PC term then I apologise. That isn't really the point of the story.
With some difficulty they managed to get out of the golf carts and make it through the Subway sandwitch factory until finally they were standing outside, eachwith a sizeable sub in their hands. Cleaning those miniature golf carts must be a major pain and so presumably to prevent sub/cart related incidences the gentlemen looked around for somewhere to sit. I was about to offer them my place as the Subway area was full up and I was practically done anyway but they noticed a table off to their left and went and sat down.
And that is when the shop keeper of the Japanese place noticed them. They were clearly sitting in an area she is lord over. An area she has to clean and pay for.I was watching her face as she saw them sit down. I saw her as she came around the counter and strode purposefully toward them . I watched intently as she checkedand saw that the Subway area had no empty tables. That her area had approximately 12 free tables.
You could see the schizophrenic dialogue going on in her head as ambivalence was written cleanly upon her face:
How dare they? Who were they really hurting?
The turmoil. The indecision.
And then she turned around and went back into her shop. She chose to leave them be. Who were they really hurting after all. No-one. I was touched by this not becauseshe was a nice person. A nice person never would have considered asking them to move. I wasn't touched because she did the right thing. I was touched because of the conflict. Because this lady faced the most dangerous of foes and won. She managed to face herself.
Actions don't matter. Neither does intent. As with all things it is about the journey. This is a tribute to one ladies journey. Well done lady. I salute you.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
I finally got around to getting a broadband Internet connection for home. Even I am laughing at me about me on this one. During the sign-up procedure though something odd happened.
I needed to enter my address (for provisioning and billing purposes) and so the ISP had presented me with a very nice form for doing so. Unfortunately I can't get back to that form to present a snapshot so I'll describe it.
It had a drop-down list for location-type which would alter the form when you selected something from it. If you selected unit it would ask for a unit number, if you selected caravan then it wanted to know where it was parked, etc.
The real fun came when I selected House. I live in what I would consider to be a house. It's no castle, but it isn't a cardboard box either. Apparently a house needs three numbers associated with it to uniquely identify it on a street.
My house has only been allotted 1 number by the shire so I entered it 3 times and clicked next. No such luck. The form was smart enough to realize that the numbers were likely wrong but still no clue as to what they were all for.
I tried only filling out one of the fields and leaving the other two blank. No such luck on any of them.
After trying several different ways to figure this out I eventually cracked and rang the support line for the service I was trying to sign up for. I calmly related the problem and got a very helpful answer back:
Don't select House on the menu. Try something else instead.
How obvious. So now I live in a cottage according to my ISP. It might have just one number but it's still home to me.
Monday, June 25, 2007
If you're one of those people whom I have been ignoring on MSN Messenger over the last two months then you'll no doubt be aware from reading my personal messages that I have gone into the ring for a few rounds against none other than heavyweight champion, The Universe. The universe had a bit of a weight advantage (just a bit) and had a few heavy hitters in his camp such as Number Theory and Newtons little known Thirteenth Law of Thermodynamics which states quite clearly, Mike is not as hot as he thinks he is.
I was essentially updating my personal message every hour or so to show my score versus that of the universe in a virtual battle for supremacy. Something along the lines of "Universe 1364, Mike 21". You can see that I was doing okay here considering that I was extremely outclassed by my opponent.
In hindsight this rather fun distraction from what was otherwise a soul-crushingly debilitating period of my life would have been better on Twitter. After all, this is exactly the kind of insanity that it is for. But alas, while I have a twitter account, it just isn't as convenient yet (unless I am missing some awesome twitter tools).
Anywho, while the ragged wounds from this story haven't yet healed, it does bring to mind at least one other occasion when I have behaved like an idiot and somehow survived (there have been so many). So without further ado, I give you Let me tell you a tale #3: Man vs. Metabolic Rate
It must have been in '97 or '98. I stalked down the corridor with my shotgun out, ready for anything. Just then McKenna comes screaming around the corner with his Chaingun rattling rounds off faster than my GPU can render them. This is unfortunate as it meant that my poor 486 DX4 100 pretty much locked up while McKenna hammered me into a mushy collection of Red Pixels.
I quit out of doom 2 and headed back into Windows 95. It seemed as if I had finished copying all of the stuff that I wanted from the vast network of 5 computers that we had organized at the LAN, or at the very least this crazy wicked cool looking OS had failed silently and I would curse it for hours afterwards. I hit Start->Shutdown in a move which was becoming increasingly familiar and began packing up cables in the incredibly intricate LAN-leaving ritual.
My neighbour was there also packing up. He wasn't actually my neighbour but he lived within walking distance of my house. For the purposes of the story he can be my neighbour because it will make the narrative flow easier. Also, his name isn't Bob but I'm going to use it anyway.
"Hey", said Bob. "Are you heading back up the hill now?". It is worth mentioning that the hill was Greenmount and it was also where we both lived. At that particular moment, we were somewhere down in the 'burbs about an hour away.
What followed was a lengthy conversation about whether or not this was a good idea given the activities we had previously engaged in followed by an agreement whereby I entered into Bob's service to take his computer home to his parents house as they needed it for work.
Bob had decided to stay at the party. Not because it was a really lively and happening party, but because he was in dire need of sleep. You see, this particular LAN party had been going on a while and this was day three. None of us had slept since it started but we had ensured that Pepsi would never beat Coke in the Cola market.
I got both machines packed neatly away into my 1982 Toyota Celica Liftback. I loved that car. It's a funny thing but no matter what I forget as life moves inevitably along I always remember the good times I had with each car I've owned. With six cans of cold Coca-Cola on the seat next to me and two cups of coffee warming my stomach, I revved the mighty 2 litre engine and headed off.
I knew it would be okay. Coffee flowed through my veins like molten lead. I had the heater on keeping my windscreen from fogging up but my window was down and my head was poking out a little to keep the fresh air in my face (and to avoid the rapidly fogging windscreen). Besides, I was 18 and therefore invulnerable. Nothing could stop me.
Around 38 minutes and 4 cans of Coke later I was at the bottom of Greenmount hill. The last leg to go. I was going to make it. All those who doubted me were fools. I would sleep in my own bed while they suffered on uncomfortable couches. Yes, I would sleep. Sleep.......
I woke up to an odd sound. A sort of rough sound that normally accompanies a car driving on gravel. This was of course ridiculous because I was in bed wasn't I? I remember getting into bed. If only I could open my eyes I would see that I was in bed. Of course I was in bed. What was in my hands? Was that my steering wheel? Oh my god I'm not in bed am I? I am, in actual fact, in somewhat dubious control of a 1982 Celica doing 90 kilometres an hour and flying off the highway.
My eyes flew open and I reacted with catlike reflexes. Whipping the steering wheel around to right lock I hammered down on the accelerator to push myself back to the road. This is I believe the right thing to do as slamming on the brakes whilst coasting over gravel is a serious no-no. Unfortunately my experience in such situations is pretty limited and I overcompensated. Now I have a few new problems.
Firstly, and highest in my attention, I am now sliding towards the road facing the oncoming traffic which currently consists of a light-blue Holden Camira and a very large white truck. The truck had a few dents already in the grille and I was about to make a much bigger one. Kudos to adrenaline on this one because about 20 seconds ago I would have been too tired to pay any attention.
The second issue which I had yet to think about, is what happens when a vehicle which is travelling in one direction with it's wheel travelling in the other across gravel slides two of it's wheels gently onto a hard surface, like say, asphalt.
The car performed a neat reverse 180 trick which left a dangerous amount of caffeine in the back of my throat. At least I am now facing the right way and my view of the damaged grille is now reduced down to the tiny rectangle of my rear-vision mirror. I vaguely hear the truck horn blow somewhere (what did he think I was going to suddenly realize, Hey I shouldn't do that just now and then calmly straighten up and drive off) which is probably what distracted me from the fact that I was still right locked.
Now I'm headed for the other side of the road and I don't like my chances over there any better than right here. I quickly hard-left and again overcompensate shooting for the gravel again. I do another 180 degree turn and slide gently off the road and slam into a street sign. The horn changes tone as the truck storms passed.
I climbed out of the passenger door as the drivers side door opened into a sharp drop. In fact, the only thing that stopped me going over was the street sign I had hammered into. A few minutes later the light blue Camira showed up. They had done a U-Turn as quickly as they could. Possibly because they had never seen a dead body before and they wanted to get a look at one before it started to smell.
They offered me a lift home which I graciously accepted once they helped me put mine and Bob's computers into the boot. They might be door stops or boat anchors now but back then a DX4 wasn't to be left lying about in a car. I got home and set up the two machines. Once I had them both up and running the adrenaline finally wore out and I fell asleep at the kitchen table.
And that is my Tale. If anyone has any comments on content or style please leave them here. If anyone else has had an experience regarding vehicular sleep, you can also leave your comments here. If you have a tale you'd like to share, or if you'd like me to stop writing them, please email me at michael DOT minutillo AT gmail DOT com