Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Loony Idea: Metering Tables

In my opinion one of the problems with a restaurant or bar as a 'third place', somewhere other than work or home for people to hang out is the inadequate correlation between consumption and the occupying of seats. The establishment needs to sell a certain number of drinks or meals, but there is a limit to how much a person can healthily consume.

So my crazy idea would be to put an old style coin operated parking meter (they can be purchased quite inexpensively right now) on the table and let the people there stay as long as they want as long as they feed the meter. So instead of getting falling down drunk at the local bar a patron can consume as many drinks as he will enjoy and separately pay for the space.

Since they're disappearing or gone the old style mechanical parking meters would also add to the decor or atmosphere of the establishment, I would think. But since this would be a new/different way of doing things I suspect it would not catch on with patrons.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Six Hundred Fifteen Dollars

That is how much I owe myself right now. I think I'll be brave and transfer the money to my savings account sometime today. It if for driving my car around as I figure I need to start saving money towards eventual repairs and/or replacement of my vehicle. I am trying to save 50 cents per mile, but that's rather severe given how much I am ending up having to drive for my job. Still, it must be done either now or later when something bad happens and I have to replace my car.

Still, ouch. No more fun purchases this month. I'm not broke or anything (far from it), but I'm going to delay certain purchases until after my next payday so I can maintain my 'zero balance' in my checking account. If I can I always keep a certain amount of money in my checking account in case of emergencies and so that if I make a minor error in the balancing of my checkbook it does not matter. Never an overdraft for me! It is one of those little strategies I recommend to anyone as a way to reduce stress. If you always have $200, $500, $1,000, or even $2,000 in your checking account it does not matter the exact timing of your paycheck deposit vs. expenses like rent on the first of the month.

But I used up my cushion when I was unemployed (of course) and I've been working on getting it back up to where it should be over the last two months. I will be $70 short, or so, once I pay all the start of the month bills for May, but that's pretty darn close and it happens with our biweekly pay that I'll have three pay dates in May. That should put me well over the top for June. Little things like that really make me happy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Shameless Self Promotion

I am, contrary to some indications, rather introspective. Often my very flightiness is wrapped up in introspection where I go off on some tangent because I'm busy living in my head where one thing has already lead me to go off in some other mental direction instead of finishing what I had intended to do.

So long after the very minor brouhaha over giving a negative review in response to someone promoting his work in my journal I kept poking at why I few off like that. It isn't as if the internet is some sort of pristine no advertising zone, after all. Or that most of us are not out looking for some sort of validation or a minuscule shard of fame. After all if we're not interested in at least some attention from people we do not know we'd be posting in locked journals, if at all.

So what is different about posting a comment on a journal entry? I think in my case it seems like a violation of one of those messy unwritten social rules. There are exceptions, but if a person promotes his or her own work or is doing so for pay, I expect it to come through pay channels rather than through channels reserved for two way communication. A person might get around this rules by being sneaky about it, cheeky about it, or even brazen, but that's a delicate act. If you're not willing to take at least a few tomatoes along with the roses it is a very bad idea to use personal communication channels as a way to seek gain. It is part of why Amway has such a bad reputation, it trades on friendship.

So, what route is open for a person who's an aspiring self-publishing artist on the internet? Short of spending actual money on advertising anyway.

One route is to contact your actual friends and then just keep plugging away. If you're good or getting better you'll connect with an audience somewhat naturally. Friends will tell their friends and so on. If what you're doing is more blog than free book/comic/art on the internet it makes sense to offer up links to other blogs you read when you feel inspired because this will tend to lead to reciprocation if it is honest.

If that's too passive cultivate a great facility for feigning interest in other people and posting comments on their blogs/journals/whatever. You cannot do this with a canned comment saying, "Hey you're neat, come check out my work." You've got to let people make up their own minds to check you out. And if you are not actually interested in the person then expect someone to figure this out at some point and be even more outraged than if you'd been up front about what you were doing. I did a bit of this when I was first on livejournal, but I was actually interested in the people I commented on their blogs.

The third option is to just not care that you're going to attract negative attention. Plenty of people get away with this, but you're going to need a thicker skin.

That's everything I know about self promotion. It isn't much, but I thought I'd share. I should do another post later about how my view of friendship is somewhat similar to this. Reciprocation, dishonesty, and strange methods.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Don't Do It Man, It Ain't Worth It

Important life safety tip: Don't steal. Ignore moral implications for a minute, stealing from a large corporation is a bad idea because of the low reward to risk ratio.

Yes, everyone does it. But you shouldn't not because you're a better person, but because it could potentially screw up your life.

Let me spin you a little story based in reality of something I saw happen, but where I have changed all the details and give no names. Girl works for company that is a subcontractor with a retail establishment. One day when girl is out and about she impulsively chooses to put jar of face cream into her pocket and then pay for some other minor item thinking she's clever. Unfortunately store security is on the ball that day and one of them spots her slipping the makeup into her pocket. They stop her just as she's outside the door and they have her dead to rights.

Worse it happens that this one item is on the expensive side and so she's over the limit where they have discretion on if they call the police on her or just give her an expensive warning. Even if the loss prevention people wanted to be nice and just let her go they would be risking their own jobs to do so and they're not willing to do that for a stranger in this economy. So they call the police. It isn't as bad as it could be because she's cooperative and has official identification and nothing else against her like chronically unpaid parking tickets or something. But she's still cited and given a trespass admonishment.

What does that mean? It means that she's banned from the property of the retail establishment for one year from the date she was caught on. So she's likely to be put in an awkward situation. She's going to be sent back to this retail establishment by her job and if any of the security people spot her she'll go to jail. Plus there is the court costs and civil restitution so that she's going to end up paying nearly one thousand dollars and not even get to keep the makeup she bought so dearly.

So she can be out of work or run the risk of going to jail. Don't shoplift kids.

This is a sort of worse case scenario where someone loses a job over shoplifting, but that's the problem. You don't know when everything will go wrong for you. Sure, you'll probably get away with taking that CD, but what if you don't and it happens to get much worse than the minor problem of not being able to go to one store and a $100-250 civil restitution (in Colorado). And this is not completely made up, I got a ringside seat to seeing it go down.

By the by, civil restitution is a thing where retailers can charge a person for shoplifting. Never heard of it? Relatively new and if it goes unpaid they turn into actual arrest warrants and criminal charges later. It is so that the police do not have to deal with every case of shoplifting a candy bar and to let the store get back some money for all the times a person took something and did not get caught.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lights and Dinner

I forgot to mention that I did get my LED light strings and put them up in time for my party. They work really well for giving enough light, and in a pleasant color, for parties or just walking around in the evening. Personally I'm just as happy using them as any of the brighter twisted florescent lights. I think they may not be rectified though as i do detect a bit of a flicker when they are on. And, as is usual with such things, I could have used just one more string. But they'll last a very long time and I'm happy with my purchase.

I turned them on again tonight as things got dark and I was finishing up dinner. Lamb, white asparagus, and spring mix salad. Lovely things and I'm quite happy to have tried white asparagus. It has an earthy taste quite different from the wonderfully bitter flavor of the more common green variety. It makes me think of a radish without the bite. I'd just as soon have the regular green kind (especially considering the price), but it was very neat to try the other. And I might have it again next year on my birthday.

The leg of lamb was simply lovely. I'm going to have lamb sandwiches and other wonderful things the rest of the week. And plenty of salads on the side and asparagus (of the regular sort) with dinner every night. What a wonderful spring! Today was a particularly fine day, the sort that makes you happy to be alive even if you are loading boxes into a truck for your parents. Yes, still helping with that though it should only last one more week and I have some hope that I won't have to go out again on Wednesday. Only a little though. There will probably be a last minute crazed push in a week. They might even call upon me to help after work some other day. We'll have to see.

It is part of the nature of things for a job to fill up as much time as is available. Speaking of which I'm off to do a few dishes before bed.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Results of the 32nd Birthday Party

So now I am 32 years of age. I suppose I can deal with this. The final result on the orange chiffon cake was another fall. Having been very scrupulous about making sure that everything besides the different ingredients was exactly the same as the lemon chiffon cake I think it is clear that it is a problem in the recipe rather than something I have done wrong. Two cakes using the same ingredients and methods and one came out just fine and the other fell (though not as destructively as the one last night) so it is clear that the recipe needs further adjustment.

I am going to proceed on the assumption, possibly wrong, that what is needed is slightly more baking to cause the structure to hold together better. If this hypothesis does not work out I shall try reducing the amount of sugar to see if that will cause it to hold together better.

The party has been a great success in that I have given away a great many books and everyone drank and ate as much as they wanted. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and the last guest left at about a quarter past eleven at night. As far as I am concerned the only way it could have been better is if there had been someone who was interested in me sexually in addition to someone to have a good conversation with. I did not meet anyone new, but I had plenty of wonderful guests. Three bottles of champagne have been consumed and I'm flying higher than a kite. I'm now going to try to get some real food into myself (salad) and do some more hydration so that I do not regret today's excess upon the morrow.

Though I had dread and wanted to quit before thing started happening I am glad at how things worked out. Score one for being determined to enjoy myself rather than giving into the old demons of despair trying to escape from my past. Even though my second cake went wrong it did not bother me as much as the first one going off did. Interesting. Perhaps I am getting better at managing my own life.

Lunatic Baking

Update on condition. Still crazy, but there is a lemon chiffon cake in the oven. Now I need to decide what to do next. I have 58 minutes while it is baking and then another two hours while it is cooling to do other things. Should I try to mix up some cookie dough or clean? And when should I take my shower? And should I attempt the orange chiffon cake again? Decisions, decisions.

Further Update: The cake has been hanging for about an hour now and has yet to fall so I'm cautiously optimistic that this will work out. I've been moving things about and started in on my vacuuming. If I could get oranges delivered to me by some kind soul I think I would make the attempt at a second cake.

Final Update before Tea-Time: I am making a run to the store to get oranges. This may not be wise, but I am determined to make good on my attempt to get the orange chiffon cake to come out. Positive thinking and getting back on the horse that threw you and all that.

The Perfect Cake, Destroyed

Mel Brooks explained the difference between comedy and tragedy as this, "Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when somebody falls through an open manhole and dies."

Today I am a comedic figure since I am dealing with some petty tragedy. Last night I baked a cake. It was going to be light airy orange chiffon perfection, but I was an idiot and did not pay attention to the warning signs that it was not ready to come out so when I turn it over to hang and cool it fell with a disheartening plop. A beautiful wreak of wonderfully orange scented slightly undercooked cake chucks. Being the sort of person I am this lead to quite a bit of self recrimination and this morning I'm somewhat nuts, on the edge between buckeling down and trying again with mad determination to make things as pin perfect as a 1950s Republican housewife and throwing up my hands and screaming, "I don't want a party!"

Right. Well I feel a bit better for writing this. Time to try again with lemon chiffon and then seeing if I can get three more oranges to try, try again on a second cake. I'm still nuts but for right now it is taking the form of insane baking.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Progress Continues, But No End Yet

It has been a day with some degree of accomplishment. Not nearly as much useful work as I would like, but real progress. I see a path towards being able to host a birthday party on Saturday despite having recently brought in all the books I used to have in storage. Long term the solution is both to have bookcases I would not be unhappy to have out in my living room and only one bookcase worth of unattractive books hidden away in my bedroom.

This is all part of the plan to move forward after my breakup with Richard. After all at some point he will no longer wish to be my roommate and at that point I have limited options. Move to a much smaller space, get a roommate, or support the whole cost of a two bedroom apartment by myself. I think at least the possibility of having a roommate and supporting the place myself is the better option.

Additionally the current living arrangements are not fully comfortable. If I can move the books into the living room in some tasteful cabinets/bookcases I'll be happier in what is turning into my room. Because as much as I like books as decor I need my full bedroom set with both dressers for clothes more than I need books in my bedroom.

Most of this is all way off in the future, but right now I need to reduce the size of my collection to what I can reasonably keep as single person earning a very basic living wage, and as a book collector who is narrowing his focus quite a bit. Even more importantly as someone who does not want boxes of books lining the hallway when people come over to party.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Gay Marraige Moves Forward 4%

Slowly, but surely, we're winning. Vermont has overridden the veto of its governor and passed same sex marriage. I don't know that we can hope for any more states this year, but this is real progress. It is particularly gratifying since this comes so close on the heels of the Iowa Supreme Court decision.

With all of this going on I have real hope that in 2012 the ban on marriage in California can be overturned by amendment to the state's constitution. I mean it could shame 2% of voters into changing their mind and with the death of older voters that too favors same sex marriage.

I also think that it is realistic to think all of New England could legalize same sex marriage by 2012 when the Republican governor of Rhode Island has to retire. For that matter it could be the year that we get the first openly gay governor given the competence and popularity of the gay mayor of Providence. Though that's more of a long shot than getting gay marriage on the books.

A long ways to go yet, but progress is being made.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Do The World A Favor And Stop Writing

Hey, howdy - no need to buy anything from me. I came across your blog as I was looking for fellow nerd-ish Denverites, and was thinking "Hey, this guy should really come check out my blog"

Howsabout it?

-The comment "Joel Wyatt" left on my blog entry enthusing about Lackadaisy.

One of the real dangers of self promotion is that you might run across someone who takes offense. Or someone like me who is just as self-centered and is annoyed not so much by the self promotion itself as the ineptness of the act. I mean really, "Hey, this guy should really come check out my blog"? That's his come on? Not even a patently false, "We have a lot in common"? If a person is to so brazenly self promote he should at least give the person he's trying to entice a little ego stroking in return.

So instead of the nice private brush off I have given to dozens of aspiring writers over the years who wanted me to promote their book for them I'm going to give Ted Campbell (the writer behind "Joel") exactly what he wanted, space on my blog's front page.

Ted Campbell has written sixteen parts of a blog novel that he conceitedly describes as, "One part "Soon I Will Be Invincible", one part "Wild Cards", a healthy dose of "High Fidelity" and just a dash of "Hitchhiker's Guide" for extra flava." Yes, Flyover City is just as bad as you might expect from such a description. It is a universal rule, I think, that books compared to other more famous works simply will not measure up. When the author himself, rather than some advertising department lackey, is so deluded as to compare his work to that of famous authors before it has even been professionally edited it is like a big writing toxic waste warning sign.

His writing wants desperately to be funny, instead it comes off like the pale and flabby imitation of his betters. This is not the worst writing I've yet to come across since I've been sent many self published novels over the years. That's one of the dangers of being the Director of the Denver Area SF Association, people with low reading comprehension think that it is a good idea to promote their 'cutting edge and revolutionary! science fiction novel' with your reading group even though it isn't a reading group. Since he's doing essentially the same thing as the people who think that self publishing will lead to fame and fortune without even paying a scam outfit to print the book it should come as no surprise that Flyover City can stand up proudly among the worst of the genre.

Boring, hackneyed, trite, and dull are all words that I would have used in the ad copy for this particular work. To say it sucks would be a monumental unfairness to all wonderful men I've met over the years who were fantastically good at sucking, not to mention myself. He wants to be some sort of Hunter S. Thompson of superhero writing, but instead of having punch or interest it is just boring. Take this first paragraph:

Existentialist philosopher, chain-smoker, and all-round party animal Jean Paul Sartre ended his 1944 play “No Exit” with the denouement “Hell is other people”. I don’t know whether or not JP ever worked in a call center for a global telecommunications company (his Wikipedia entry doesn’t say - har har) but sitting here, tethered to my cubicle by a telephone headset, musing over the details of his life while Mrs. Marci Duncomb of Lakewood, Colorado screams in my ear about not being able to find her “stories” among the 682 channels offered with the Vaig Broadband Deluxe Package, I can definitely say I feel a deep, profound connection to the guy. Is it bad faith to declare kismet with an existentialist? Sort of like the Dalai Lama announcing to the world that he was reincarnated from a Catholic saint?

After reading several more pages rather like that I felt deeply in need of a beer. This guy is less funny than I am, and that's saying something since my sense of humor was surgically removed during my youth. True story.

So the long and the short is that your writing is bad, go back and try again, and your self promotion style is worse. No sane publisher would touch you with a 10 foot pole. I don't say that no publisher will because I've read The Fifth Sorceress by Robert Newcomb. Quite possibly the worse novel to be professionally published.

To sum up: Don't waste your time.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Lackadaisy Vol.1

It isn't exactly charity, but as part of being employed I have started buying stuff from people who put neat things on the web free for people like me to enjoy as long as we have internet connections. Being employed helps with that too. As such I recently purchased Lackadaisy Vol. 1 from 4th Dimension Entertainment.

You should go read Lackadaisy. Go on. Trust me. Sure it is anthropomorphic cats, but it is neither self indulgent furies or Disney's Robin Hood. I mean these cats run around shooting at each other with machine guns and some of them actually end up dead. Plus there is lovely prohibition booze.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Butt Hurt Conservatives Talk Revolution

I think and expect that the right wing in America will calm down and stop spouting rhetoric like, "How much more will Americans take? When will enough be enough? And, when that time comes, will our leaders finally listen or will history need to record a second American Revolution?" A year or so and it will become apparent that it is just talk like the mutterings about escaping to Canada did for most liberals after Bush was elected.

Different people deal with disappointment in different ways, that's a key to understanding this. Some people think or talk about hurting the people they perceive as hurting them as a way to vent. I think what will actually happen is that most of the crazy people will go as far as buying a gun or two and making intemperate postings to the National Review Online about doing 'something' about gays, feminists, scary furrieners, blacks, and other liberal 'traitors'. A few people will take the rhetoric seriously and there will be some shootings and bombings with finally one getting so much attention that the movement will die due to backlash and the government doing something about it.

In other words I think sometime in the next three years there is going to be an event of the same impact as the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing. It is more or less inevitable given how much the conservatives are made nuts by the thought of a person with as much melanin as Obama in the White House. What will it be? No idea, but it is coming as sure as Rush Limbaugh saying something provocative.

It will fail because unlike in a Latin American country there are not a huge number of people with nothing to lose here combined with (and this is critical) an army that has a tradition of taking over/overruling the government. Because no matter what they might dream in their fevered imaginations militias cannot overthrow governments. Private citizens are just never as well armed or disciplined as units funded by the government. It is worrying how many right wing types there are in the army, of course, but the question is how many of them are led by officers willing to cross the Rubicon? Not many I suspect.

Could I be wrong? I suppose so, but unless things get much, much worse than they are right now the seeds of civil war will fall upon parched ground.

Reposted on Dreamwidth

Friday, April 3, 2009

FestiviTea 2009

If you are local to Denver and I have forgotten you in the sending out of invitations to my birthday party on the 11th I apologize. Drop me a note and I'll correct the oversight.

The 2nd Annual FestiviTea Extravaganza!

•What? A tea themed celebration of Mishalak's Birthday
•Why? Because he really likes tea.
•When? Saturday April 11th from 3pm until people drop dead from fun or go home.
•Where? My apartment (send an email for address directions, etc.)
•How? I intend to bake at least two cakes and some cookies as well as having brewed black tea on hand and at least one bottle of bubbly for later. Please RSVP, but you don't have to declare a specific time and you may bring anyone with you as a guest.

•Hobbit Presents? Yes! I will be giving away books because I have far to many. Take a book, I insist!

•Questions? Comments?
No, you don't have to stay the whole time. In fact I imagine the party you experience will depend upon when you come and how long you stay. I expect it to progress towards alcohol of every variety as the sun sets so for a tamer party come earlier. For debauchery come after eight.

Yes, my birthday is actually the next day but some of you might have plans to do things with family that you don't want to miss on Easter. So as tempting as it was to have an Easter themed birthday party I'm going to put off that plan. Though interestingly my birthday is within a week of Easter in two of the next three years and falls on Easter again in 2020.

Also there is a DASFA Dead Dog happening the week afterward at our place just in case you want to attend that as well.

Lemon Chiffon in the Afternoon Tastes Like Victory

I love tea and cake in the afternoon. You know, one time we had a half a dozen people over, for 4 hours. When it was all over, I finished off the last piece there in the warm afternoon light. The taste, you know that delicate flavor of lemon chiffon with the bitter tea, the whole afternoon. Tasted like... victory. -Lieutenant Colonel Tetime

Yesterday was wonderful. I cleaned and after a while Richard went out to deal with a parking ticket and pick up his friend Stacy. She's going to stay with us for a short while before she heads back to Georgia on a permanent basis and she's nice enough to help out a bit in return. A little later Sibohan, a friend from the library, arrived and I finished frosting the cake that I started while I was cooking. Lemon chiffon cake is my favorite and I'm going to bake one of them and an orange cake for my birthday party on the 11th.

We had a wonderfully wide ranging talk about adaptations of fantasies and which ones worked better in movie than in books. I mentioned The Prestige in this category as while the book is good I think the movie was better for having simplified the plot. Stacy mentioned that she does not watch dramas because she has more than enough drama in her own life, I wonder if that is true of most people. The Lord of the Rings was talked about again and that moved us on the the subject of when computer-generated imagery overwhelms a movie rather than serving the plot.

After all the tea and cake was done and over with I finally cooked up the pork loin for dinner with Stacy and Rose. It was good paired with some asparagus I got at Costco the other day. And now I'll have good leftovers for a few days that can be turned into soup, sandwiches, and the like. Double duty cooking as suggested by Cook's Illustrated. And after all this cooking the apartment was still pretty well put together. And I'm going to make a bit of progress on "spare 'oom" today. Both for Stacy's comfort and so that I can get people in here to start hauling away the books.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Five Buttons

I went to get a new pair of Levi 501s the other day and was very disconcerted to find that the pair I tried on had four buttons instead of the five that have been on them. I did not have a pair to compair with me at the time, but upon arriving home found that I'd been correct in thinking that all my other pairs have five. Is this an error on all the 30x34s at this particular store or some new standard they are going to? I don't know but it seems to be something no one else has noticed yet. But how could someone not notice, it was jarring to expect another button and not find it.