Random Friday Thoughts

  • Marillion should have a bigger American following.  They’re better (and less arrogant) than Oasis, less commecial than Coldplay, and about as good as Radiohead.  Hell, they sounded like Radiohead before Radiohead did.  Plus, they’ve got that great prog backlist with Fish as the lead singer.
  • I could take the Tea Party Movement more seriously if they’d stop letting in the jackasses who say things like “Keep the government out of Medicaid!”  Um…  It’s a government program, dumbass.
  • Likewise, the longer guys like Tim Pawlenty and and Bobby Jindahl are criticized by the GOP’s base as being “not conservative enough,” the faster the United States will become a one-party nation.  Lighten up, wingnuts.  You don’t have a monopoly on the truth, and you are being heard.  We’d just like you to quit screaming so we can hear what the other 80% of Americans have to say.  How about this?  The GOP jettisons the base and gets back to their real core principles, which, incidentally, bear little resemblance to the average wingnut’s manifesto.
  • I like flying Delta so much better now that Cincinnati Airport is now a hub in name only.  I’ll like CVG even more when they get Air Tran, Jet Blue, or Southwest to take over Terminal C.
  • Florida is a great place to be in October for those of us in the Midwest.  Even better in February.
  • Adam Lambert will likely be the next David Bowie if he ever puts American Idol firmly in his rearview mirror.  Thanks for the start, Simon.  Now get out of the way.
  • Why is it whenever the anti-gambling ads here in Ohio say “Fact!” they follow it up with a bald-faced lie every single time?  If opponents to Ohio casinos object to gambling on moral grounds, shouldn’t they also object to their own dishonesty on those same grounds?  Sure, it’s politics, but I’m used to candidates lying.  Those supporting issues should be held to a higher standard.
  • I switched my loyalty to the Bengals about three years ago (after living in Cincinnati for fifteen years).  Great to see that finally pay off this year.  Still don’t regret using my Ocho Cinco shirt to clean the condo with last year.
  • A couple of weeks ago at Starbucks, two Ohio State fans stood in line in front of me aghast that people in Cincinnati would root for anyone besides the Buckeyes.  “That’s cute,” one of them said.  “They think the (University of Cincinnati) Bearcats are going to a bowl game.”  His friend responded, “Yeah, no one will ever eclipse Ohio State.”  This week, Cincinnati is ranked 8th.  Ohio State?  17th.  And Cincinnati’s QB is a contender for the Heisman.  Monopoly’s over, kids, unless you want to lure Brian Kelly to Columbus.  Chances of that?  Slim, meet none; none, slim.
  • Ford:  No government money, rated better than Honda and Toyota, still in business.  GM:  Took the government loan, did everything they planned to do before Wall Street nearly destroyed capitalism (and they aren’t done screwing themselves yet), put out a decent line of new cars.  Chrysler:  WTF?  Maybe Fiat will keep Jeep alive.  Someone always does.
  • Winter sucks. It’s cold, wet, and dark.  Why couldn’t I have called myself “Sumner” or “Fall” instead?  “Spring” is too much like “Springer.”  Not happening.  Oh, well.  Too late now.
  • Heard about the controversy surrounding the Chris Farley clip from Tommy Boy in the DirecTV ad?  People, get a freaking grip!  It’s a clip from a movie used in a commercial!  It’s not like they turned Farley into a meat puppet to dance around on stage during Saturday Night Live.  Another example of the dumbing down of America.
  • Happy Halloween!

UPDATE:  Aw, are Buckeye fans upset Cincinnati is ahead in the polls?  Too friggin’ bad!

Dear PC Makers: No More Crapware. ‘Kay?

During development of Windows 7, Microsoft decided to try a novel approach:  Ask the manufacturers what Windows needed.  They listened.  They also listened to consumers.  The consumers told Microsoft to send the PC makers a message:

Enough with with the crapware already!

You know:  All those “helpful” products you can’t opt out of when you buy from Dell, HP, etc.  No, it’s not good enough to ship you a PC with Windows and whatever software you ordered (usually Office).  Oh, no!  They have to load Real Player and 20 gazillion Internet service setups and a ton of organization tools that serve to clutter up your desktop.  At least with Compaq fully digested by Hewlett-Packard, we’re no longer subjected to Compaq’s unusable attempts to foist a confusing, useless interface on us.  Apparently, Compaq believed you, gentle user, were too stupid to know what a Start button is for.

The last time I wiped my HP tower’s hard drive and did a clean install of everything, I had to restore from the backup disks.  That took about an hour.  I had to spend the next day uninstalling and deleting all the junk software and free add-ons I didn’t want to get the machine back to where I had it before the wipe.

The one that aggravates me is Real Player.  Manufacturers not only install it (I can ignore it if I have to), they make it the default media player.  Gee, thanks.  I love being forced to use Real’s crummy interface and endure its balky performance.  No, please, put it on there and make sure it doesn’t easily go away.  No Win Amp or Windows Media Player or iTunes for me, thanks.  Not when I can have such a fabulous fustercluck for free!

Oh, wait.  Winamp and iTunes are free, and Windows Media Player ships with the OS.  Um…

Out, Foul Real Player!  Out!  Out!

Look, PC manufacturers, it’s simple.  Just load the damn operating system (like Apple), don’t clutter my desktop with links to AOL and Yahoo and Gmail.  I don’t want to use Bing as my search engine (Yes, I know it’s Microsoft’s baby.)  I don’t want your help organizing my desktop or default weather or news or stock tickers that bog down my broadband connection.  Just put Windows on it and leave me alone until I have a warranty claim.

‘Kay?

Thx

Bye

Rambling On My Mind

Been traveling a lot lately.  Bcon in Indy last weekend.  Ocala, Florida for BigHugeCo this weekend.  It used to be I loved to travel.  But then where did I go?

Toronto.  New York.  Philadelphia.  San Francisco.  Chicago.  Places I not only love to visit, but places where I know people.

Indianapolis was great.  It’s only 90 minutes away, so I drove.  It was great to see people I hadn’t seen in years and reconnect with the writing community.  This week, I’m in Florida, which, for an Ohioan, is not a bad place to be in late October.  However, I’m not traveling alone, so no Sunday afternoon jaunt down to Orlando or Tampa to check out the sights.  No trip to the Kennedy Space Center.

Also, it’s been a while since I’ve traveled heavily.   Some things had changed.

  • My coworker, who’s about my age, is single and wanted to close a bar.  Around midnight, I’m usually unable to stay awake.
  • I can’t really write in hotel rooms anymore.
  • It’s hard to be a part time college student and a traveling adult.
  • I don’t drink as much as I used to.  A few beers, and I’m done.
  • It used to be I could go on a trip for several days and not worry about who I was leaving behind.  The previous spouse and I were just that disengaged.  (Might explain the divorce.)  Now, I really don’t like being on the road without my wife, especially with a stepson.
  • Airports simply annoy me.  Not flying.  I’ve learned to deal with flying.  I hate airports.  My coworker’s flying pattern is to get to the airport an hour ahead of the flight.  I don’t blame him.  Security is a hassle.  I always seem to end up on Delta, which I consider the airline from hell.
  • Frankly, I’m living a different life now, one where home is a destination, not a place to sleep while I ponder where to go or what to do next.

It makes me regret not becoming a writer in my twenties.  Of course, I would have been a horrible writer in my twenties.  But in my twenties, I would not have cared if I had to sleep on friends’ couches, could stay out til 2 AM on a night when I needed to be at work the next morning, and had few obligations or responsibilities.

That’s also a big reason I gave up on standup.  When you’re young, naive, and a bit arrogant, sleeping in roach motels, drinking all night, and living by the seat of your pants don’t seem like problems.  I’d probably have lived out of a carry-on bag in those days.

I might have even done my road trip, though I doubt I’d have caused as much havoc as Jack Kerouac.

MTM Monday: The Little Miami Railroad

Once upon a time, the Little Miami Railroad, named for the river that it follows, was Cincinnati’s land passage to the rest of the world.  Starting downtown, the railway eventually reached Xenia, Ohio, where it connected with other lines stretching to Columbus, Dayton, and eventually, Toledo and Detroit.  The railway was eventually absorbed into the Pennsylvania Railroad, which became Penn Central, and eventually Conrail.  Conrail no longer exists, and it abandoned the line in the 1980’s before it was consumed by the two big East Coast rail companies, CSX and Norfolk Southern.

Now?  It’s mostly a bike trail, but you can see the bones of the old railway if, as I am, you’re inclined to spend a few sunny Sundays walking long sections of the trail.

lilmiamirr

A plaque near Foster, Ohio, a forgotten rail crossing on Old Route 3, tells the story of the railroad.

lilmiamirrsign

A rusted rail sign warns of trains that passed decades ago.

old_tracks

In Loveland, Ohio, the tracks that used to be flanked by greenspace now are greenspace.

rr_signal

This signal near Milford was left in place as the Little Miami Bike Trail was built over the old rail bed.  The trail also reuses the railroad’s old bridges.

old_telegraph_pole

The telegraph poles remain in place for long stretches, though the wires have long since been taken down.  One time, about 25 years ago, I learned the hard way that those wires on the poles still in use do not connect to the phone system.  They are strictly for railroad use.  In fact, they’re part of the original telegraph system.  Didn’t help when my car broke down near a small town rail depot.  Some of these poles, however, have not survived the years very well.

fallentelegraphline

Forgotten Book Friday: Neuromancer By William Gibson

Pretty much every hacking movie you’ve ever seen, whether as elaborate as The Matrix and its sequels or as horribly bad as Swordfish, comes from this novel first published in 1984.  William Gibson projected the coming of the Internet with Neuormancer, his noir-styled thriller set in cyberspace (a term he coined).  Several terms from The Matrix come directly from its pages, such as “matrix” (what we now know as the Internet itself) and “jacked in.”

Neuromancer concerns Case, a former data thief whose nervous system is wrecked by his former employers so that he can’t directly interface with the matrix.  He’s relegated to living in a domed slum outside of Tokyo working as an errand boy for some future underworld.  Along comes Molly, she of the cybernetically enhanced eyes and fists (metal blades under the nails) and enhanced ninja skills.  Molly works for a strange man named Armitage who recruits Case to do what he was born to do – go directly into the matrix and steal data.  They’ll even fix his nervous system for him.  Case buys in and is soon on his way to a space station run by a secretive clan of wealthy aristocrats who make the Rothschilds look like the Brady Bunch.

Along the way, it becomes apparent that Armitage is not what he appears.  In fact, Armitage is a manufactured personality grafted onto a shell of a man who is a tad insane.  The real employer is an enigmatic AI named Wintermute.  Wintermute is smarter than most flesh-and-blood humans, one step ahead of everyone.  Case is confused, though.  His attack on the mainframe Wintermute wants cracked will destroy him.  Or it, though Wintermute presents himself to Case as a male, preferring the image and voice of an associate of Molly’s called “the Finn.”

A bizarre novel by even today’s standards, it was very far ahead of its time when it appeared in the mid-1980’s.  The only thing remotely resembling it at the time was Blade Runner, and Gibson even worried he might be seen as ripping off that movie.  Indeed, the way data is depicted in this novel was almost impossible to imagine back in 1980, when Gibson first conceived of the idea.

One thing Neuromancer does is shake the cobwebs off of science fiction, cut out a lot of the fat built up by Star Wars and Star Trek and throw a lot of its stodgy and more pretentious conventions out the window.  Gibson wrote a nasty noir novel involving a computing environment that barely existed back then.  (The first spammer actually typed in the name of everyone on the network manually.)  Gibson’s is a dirty, damaged future, dystopic to be sure, but lived in.