Study resolutions

2019-Jan-09, Wednesday 11:36
mindstalk: (Default)
As mentioned in my poll, I usually don't make New Year's resolutions. But I recently did make resolutions, and it's near New Year's, so hey. Anyway, there are various subjects I've wanted to become better at: Spanish, Japanese, physics (Feynman lectures), machine learning (Ng course), drawing. Many of which I started an embarrassingly long time ago, with limited progress or even effort. So my new goal is to spend at least 10 minutes a day on each. Or if that somehow feels too much, 1 minute. Something. Also, at least one new word a day of Spanish and Japanese.  Emphasis on "at least"; going longer is fine, but aim to do at least that much a day, every day.

This doesn't sound like much, and it's not, but it's something. The key idea is that I feel it's easier to keep doing something than to start doing something, so lower the mental barrier to starting as much as possible. Arguably a more efficient plan would be to budget 40 minute 'class periods' to each subject, maybe 2x a week. But beyond the fact that I'm not used to keeping such a regular schedule without outside structure, there's also that it's a lot easier to go "ugh, I don't have the time or energy for 40 minutes, I'll make it up later", with that later becoming never. And I'm speaking from experience. Whereas 10 minutes is like an extended potty break. 1 minute should be doable for anyone not feverish or critically depressed.

10 minutes a day is 60 hours a year, which still isn't a lot: a class at Caltech was budgeted for 90 hours (3 class, 6 homework a week, for 10 weeks.) But again, more than I've managed apart from Spanish. 1 minute a day is 6 hours, which is more than I've drawn most years.

Nice ideas; do I have any evidence? Yes: I've had the 40 minute class periods idea before, and not gotten far. Conversely, my daily Duolingo budget is a measly 10 points, on a scale of 10 to 50, and I have a streak longer than a year. I also use Anki flashcards for Spanish vocabulary, and going through them takes about 10 minutes a day, and I've been pretty regular with that. So: aim low but regular and hope for spillover, rather than aim high and miss and get discouraged and stop aiming at all.  And while my Spanish progress has been slow, there has been some detectable progress.

SCAish Thanksgiving

2018-Nov-22, Thursday 21:44
mindstalk: (Default)
In Boston I used to go to vegetarian Thanksgivings organized by the acetarium crowd. That seems to have faded, but last year there was a filk Thanksgiving. Or maybe just a filk meeting near Thanksgiving with appropriate food, I forget. This year, my early attendance of SCA dance practice without being in SCA paid off again, as I went to something held by someone I know there. Twas fun. So much food, though with like 16 people the turkey got demolished and I didn't get as much dark meat as I wanted. (I could have taken a whole drumstick, as the last person served, but I didn't feel up to it.)

So many desserts, multiple kinds of pecan pie, super sweet brittle... "maple pie" which was like pie crust with maple goop in it.

I've never had a Thanksgiving side dish in my repertoire, and being in a new Airbnb place isn't good for being comfortable cooking, so I brought a couple packages of nice sausage. They didn't evaporate but did mostly go away, so that works.

So cold. My outfit apparently isn't proof against -10 C and wind. But soon it should be up to 10 C.

On the way home I missed Downtown Crossing due to re-reading Celebrimbor+Annatar fanfic. I found the Park to Downtown corridor hinted at on maps so I didn't have to go outside. It's kind of neat: the walls and pillars are painted orange and green, such that you mostly see orange if you're facing the Orange Line, and ditto for the Green. There's also a bit of Red on the Orange end which is weird -- Red actually is at both stations. And a wee bit of blue, for no good reason; maybe someone ran out of paint.

Back at home, I am sadly reminded that I can walk more quietly in boots than some adults do barefoot.


2018-Jul-08, Sunday 20:01
mindstalk: (Homura)
Current earworm:
Actually there's a whole genus of earworms, but that's in the lead.

Ongoing entertainment: episode-per-day group watch of Higurashi on reddit. It's like watching newbies watch Madoka, but four times as long!

Recent (since late April) book-length reads, selected from my CSV file:

Protection from Nargles -- Arpad Hrunta
_A Certain Droll Hivemind_ -- Earthscorpion
Enlightenment Now -- Steven Pinker
Hellas: A Portrait of Greece -- Nicholas Gage
Return to Aman -- bunn (Ao3)
Quenta Narquelion -- bunn (Ao3)
Hadrian's Wall -- Adrian Goldsworthy
_Issola_ -- Steven Brust (re)
Orca -- Steven Brust (re)
These Gifts That You Have Given Me -- arrogantemu (AO3)
Rise Again From Ashes -- Independence1776 (silmarillionwritersguild)
Lessons from the Mountain -- MithLuin (Sil Writer's Guild)
The White Devil of the Moon -- bissek (AO3)
How to talk to girls at parties -- Neil Gaiman
The world of the dark crystal -- Llewellyn and Froud
_Conflict of Honors_ -- Lee and Miller (re)
Brokedown Palace -- Steven Brust
Ada -- Vladimir Nabokov
Who we are and how we got here -- David Reich
The Will to Battle -- Ada Palmer
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil -- J. R. R. Tolkien
_A Captain and a Madman_ -- Raziel (fanfic)
Vignettes of the Blessed Realm -- Anna_Wing (AO3)
Tales From Watership Down -- Richard Adams

productive day

2017-May-29, Monday 23:20
mindstalk: (Default)
Today feel long and full. Possibly partly because I woke up at 6, sadly. But I cleaned up, moved stuff to my new place (10 minute walk from the old one), went back, studied Spanish waiting for someone to show, bailed, moved in fully, walked out for shopping, watched videos of how to draw (previous post), watched more Coursera videos on Mars, started a Coursera on machine learning, got in a bit of Japanese.

I'd say a killer feature of Coursera is being able to speed up video playback, but I think I've seen that on other video players. Still, it's nice, I can take in what they say faster than they speak naturally.

I'm way ahead of my Duolingo friends for the week! Probably because they were at some burn thing in the woods and couldn't get online, mind you. But ahead! Briefly!

I'd also removed the freeciv and freecol packages. I can feel the withdrawal from freecol, my fingers twitching toward the easy game, engaging enough to feel like the brain is working but not challenging enough to be tiring. But the package stayed removed, and I did Spanish and planetary science instead, so that's a win.

Malden has a bunch of nice small parks and lot of not-nice big intersections.

life stuff

2017-Apr-23, Sunday 16:57
mindstalk: (Default)
I'm still nomadic in housing. Since leaving a friend's free basement, I've stayed in a downtown hotel, near Oak Grove (tip: prefer Malden Center), a Cambridge co-op, Orient Heights (a bit too quiet), and now in JP. I sample a range of housing as well as neighborhoods, from "motels have more character" to "totally decorated in plants and Buddha statues". In May I'll be by Malden for a month; be nice to stay somewhere long enough to make it worth buying olive oil.

Job progresses. Friday not so much: I put in some USB sticks, wanting to extract my VM image. Two of these I know worked in this laptop before. But one never became visible, the other had most of its structure missing. I tried rebooting... and the Windows laptop refused to reboot. "Required device not available". My co-workers had never seen that before, though some people on the Internet had. Unclear why it happened. My boss had been diligent in saving and labeling stuff, and was able to launch a repair process, though I had to make a trip to Braintree. (Too suburban for me.)

I can say proudly that the only thing at risk was a tool to work with; I've been good at ending the workday with no information uniquely on my laptop.

Entertainment: slowly re-reading Hodgell. Wikipedia pages on Catullus and Ovid, and linked pages on various forms of rhetoric. Watching episodes of Ghost Stories (the black comedy anime dub) with people.

life stuff

2017-Feb-25, Saturday 21:33
mindstalk: (YoukoRaku1)
I might have good news finally, but I feel reticent until things solidify more.

All the manga I follow feels in slow hiatus, with a couple exceptions. I got to read two Citrus chapters at once, by dint of discovering a new translation group that's a head of my earlier source; of course, Citrus itself seems in a slow burn of dancing around the putative relationship. And Mousou Telepathy is an odd thing that comes out with two pages every day, or maybe the translators do, kind of like a webcomic with a weird origin.

I've read six Dresden Files novels. I wouldn't call them deep, but they're fun. Necromancy + dinosaur skeleton went exactly where I thought it would.

I've been doing lots of RPG theory reading, specifically most of The Alexandrian. Kind of makes me want to run an old-fashioned dungeoncrawl (or a new-fashioned reconstructed one, where the 'dungeon' is justified as some high-magic weirdness like a Madoka Witch). Beyond the "prep situations not plots" that's like the Lazy GM advice I've seen elsewhere, he's got interesting ideas about game structure, and how dungeoncrawls have natural structure to keep the players moving. (Check room, deal, check next room; seek treasure), as well as how to make interesting dungeons.

I was talking with a friend about how kids make amazing amounts of noise for their weight, by stomping around; he opined that parents wouldn't want to train their kids to be stealthy, since noise is how you can keep track of them. Another parent disagreed, he'd like his to be quieter. I just know that it took S's kids years to figure out how I was so quiet and surprising in our chase games, if they even have, yet. (I think G2 has, she's crossing the threshold into adult models of causality and manipulation, like spotting how I distract the younger kids when they're being pains, and thanking me for it.)

Weather here has been freaky warm, as high as 24 C. Boston. February. Well, the snow went away fast! Oh yeah, being buried in snow seems to have been really bad for my bike, the right brake doesn't work well and the left brake squeaks. I'd thought I might ride it to filking last night, but aborted after a few blocks and took the T.

Really bad typo

2017-Jan-07, Saturday 22:45
mindstalk: Tohsaka Rin (Rin)
Typos happen. Usually they don't change meaning too much. But I just caught one of my worst ever: I looked back at e-mail with W about meeting up for something, and where I meant "That works for me", I'd sent "That's work for me". I am mortified, and worried she's been feeling hurt the past couple days.

Re-reading is your friend. And your friends' friend.
mindstalk: (food)
(I'm not trying to 'win' Iron Blogger, I'm just having lots of thoughts.)

I'm still bugged by the expenditures. You can live on like $5-6/day, surely I shouldn't be spending more than that per person for one meal? I spent $40 hoping for six people, that's nearly $7/person. In hindsight, given 4 people and what was consumed, I could have skipped the cashews, chips and salsa, less popular sausage, and one bag of pita, bringing cost down to $24, or $6/person, and we've probably have scoured everything clean except the chicken, due to lack of enough carnivores.

But, I guess it depends on what you get: eating frugally means stuff like pasta and rice and beans, or bread and peanut butter. Cheese, (good) crackers, and tomatoes are comparatively expensive: e.g. the crackers were about $5/lb. They're nutrient dense, being dry and fatty, but still twice the $/calorie of even overpriced whole wheat pasta. The tomatoes were $6, or $4/lb, which might be expensive even for tomatoes -- it's been a while since I bought any other kinds -- though as we ate nearly all, I have no regrets.

So basically, yes you can feed people cheaply if you prepare normal staple-based meals, but if you go for savory finger food, it'll be more expensive. Which is fine, it's just good to know and set my expectations accordingly. We probably still came in under restaurant cost, and finger food has advantages in prep (good for me as host) and not tying people to a table and large plate (good for guest circulation and freedom, though that's more relevant for larger parties.)

(Conversely it may be easier to overeat with finger food, if you just keep eating until it's gone or you feel dangerously stuffed.)

(I have a dim possible memory of realizing my old parties were more expensive than I expected, too.)

job update

2016-Dec-10, Saturday 23:32
mindstalk: (Default)
Search continues. I'd expected to hear back from a couple places this past week, but did not. I'd been optimistic enough that I'd slowed down on applying. I've got a couple new interview processes starting Monday and Tuesday. I got a bunch of recruiter calls, including two within 30 minutes from different people named Brandon for local contract opportunities. I've also discovered multiple recruiters saying they'll e-mail me info after a phone call but not doing so. While I'm getting paranoid about mail from my linode server being received by others, I have no reason to believe I have any problem receiving mail myself.

If the current leads don't come through I'll probably transition to bumming on friends' couches, I'm pretty much at the final limit.

Studies and practice continue; I know a lot more than I did a year ago.

party retrospective

2016-Dec-10, Saturday 21:39
mindstalk: (squeee)
Back in SF and Bloomington, I was decent at throwing game-and-talk parties, with a good layout of hors d'oeuvre. Here in Boston, I fell out. Partly because the direction of my social life didn't lead to making close friends in the way I was used to, partly because my stuff spread out so that I didn't feel happy about having people over much. A couple years ago I got my living room clear enough for short term house guests, and then to have W over for dinner and anime, but I still didn't try anything party like. More recently I turned my second bedroom back into such instead of a storage room, which came at the expense of my living room, such that I didn't even have W over this summer.

But there's this Iron Blogger thing, and our last two or three parties were at Sacco's Flatbread, which is loud, and eating out eats into our budget quickly. We were debating what to do for tonight's party, and I decided damn it, I was going to get things into shape, so we could save money and have a quiet environment.

And I did! Not even by punting stuff problems too much: some stuff went into empty boxes in a perfectly sensible way, though I do have one box newly labeled "junk to sort through later". I could have deployed all nine of my chairs in the living room, though as it happened I only needed four. At this point I could have house guests in *both* rooms.

Of course, if I don't get a local job soon, this will have been a last hurrah for the place, but still, cool.

It's also an object lesson in the negative value of having too much stuff; I'd have been happier with more parties or tete a'tetes and less stuff I barely touch.

As mentioned, I've got a distinct style; I've never cooked much for more than 2-3 people (including me.) Instead, lots of snacks, leaning toward the savory; any cooking is more like "boil dumplings" or "fry some sausage to cut up". It generally works well.

Tonight required some adaptation: I was hoping for two vegans (got one), two vegetarians (check), and one other omnivore (who forgot we were happening), so I aimed for a pretty vegan spread, plus one wedge of camembert, and some drumsticks I fried for the two meat eaters. Most of the food got eaten, which means I'm pretty stuffed -- probably bought too much for six people, and four people put a big dent in it, so... I dunno about the vegan sausages, that's not something I'm used to. I boiled one per the package, which led to it falling apart, but people ate almost all of it anyway; I microwaved the other, which mostly remained, though the vegan took the leftovers home. First choice would have been grilling, but my cast iron was busy with chicken, and I didn't feel like wrangling with my older pans.

Some years ago I'd discovered Mary's Gone Crackers for a party, as a wheat-free cracker for my wheat-free friend lyceum. They're actually really good in their own right, though pricey.

There's some selfishness mixed into my consideration: I aim for things that I'd be happy to have as leftovers. As a corollary I tend to be weak on drinks.

Introducing people to foods I've found is also fun. The 1.5 pound box of "Wild Wonders" tomatoes was almost completely finished. This is something Star Market has been carrying for a while: they're cherry-tomato sized (more or less) but heirloom in variety; the label just says "greenhouse grown cultivar tomatoes" but they're a lot tastier than a lot of greenhouse tomatoes are.

Setting up is pretty easy, at least when not doing a year's worth of de-cluttering in a couple hours. Afterwards... I could almost be tempted to use my dishwasher for the first time since the landlord installed it. Almost, but not quiet. Probably don't even have the right soap. And four people's worth of small plates isn't that much.

As for the party aims: success! We could all understand each other without fighting a loud restaurant's worth of noise. And I spent $40, which feels like a lot for 5 people (RSVPed) considering groceries) but probably still less than what four people would spend in a restaurant. Our budget was $60, so...

I dunno about vegan protein next time, if there is one. My first plan had been various flavored compressed tofus from Trader Joe's, which I know from experience are pretty tasty, but I balked at the price/lb. Though I guess they're about the same as the cashews. I guess at least one of the 'sausages' was mostly devoured, even if I feared otherwise.

We ate 90% of a 10 oz bag of pita. Yes, I weighed the remainder, and it's 1 oz. Also I cut the pita into 24 pieces and 2 are left. Though the other bag isn't quite 10oz, so the weights are a bit weird.

Oh right, one new thing! Usually I don't worry about healthy veggies for these things. Maybe baby carrots and cherry tomatoes, maybe occasionally a store tray of crudités. But this time I microwaved a pound of frozen broccoli, and added oil salt and pepper. I'm not going to try weight the wet remainder, but I'm sure we ate more than half. That's neat.

Tangentially, I don't know why both sets of parents I've seen close up try to get their kids to eat unadorned steamed broccoli to earn their desserts. It's much tastier with a bit of seasoning.

Tonight's crackers were TJ's Some Enchanted Cracker, tasty in its own right if totally different from Mary's Gone Crackers, and significantly cheaper. Also, totally consumed, along with the camembert.

The hummus isn't gone but greatly diminished (and it wasn't even the really good TJ hummus, which wasn't on the shelves); the chips vanished faster than the salsa. This is something I'd observed at ohanami parties: if I brought hummus it would get inhaled, while salsa would sit around, especially the hotter varieties. Some of the chips tonight were used for hummus, at least before that reminded me I'd been warming up pita wedges in the microwave but forgotten them.

Actually, yeah, I should make a distinct list of what hit and didn't:

+: pita and hummus (but maybe less pita... though if we'd had the fifth person we could have opened the second bag), runny cheese and good crackers, good cherry tomatoes, well-prepared broccoli, the dark vegan "Italian sausage" from TJ.
-: hot salsa, cashews (hard to judge, but I think I may have eaten most of what did get eaten, which wasn't a lot), the lighter colored sausage.

Plus there's various other things I could have tried. Dumplings, bread+oil, bread+butter, veggies and yogurt+dill dip (TJ European yogurt would work great for that), bread and salsa "bruschetta", frozen samosas (experimental), seasoned chickpeas (though not a finger food), chips and queso (not classy, but hey, not unpopular... dunno about this crowd, though), dates, or any other form of dessert.

I'd thought about just salt-and-peppered hard boiled eggs, but the TJ pre-boiled eggs felt too expensive, and I didn't want to peel a whole bunch myself, it's pretty hit or miss whether they peel easily.

One drawback of the evening: everyone coughed a lot when they came in, and I'd been coughing before then, though it faded. I suspect it was smoke from the fried chicken. But it wasn't that smoky: I really suspect cayenne powder on a high dry heat (I put some in the pan to get the underside of the chicken, but didn't bother adding oil.) Accidental chemical warfare...


2016-Nov-19, Saturday 14:28
mindstalk: (YoukoRaku1)
"I like your hair. How long have you grown it?" This would have been more flattering were the speaker not a short male bear, aka a random guy on the sidewalk, and I as straight as a fan of ultra-femme yuri. Still, it's a novel experience. The comments I expect on my "no hair cut" experiment" are "get a hair cut"; the ones I've actually gotten until now have been "huh, it's long". (I think the girls no longer in Chile are miffed that my hair is longer than theirs.)

On my walk I passed some "Shift 4" (Apple computer cloverleaf 'Shift') art space on the way to Union Square. I was told it would be ready in 5-10 minutes, some sort of video installation. Didn't seem to be after 20. Oh well. *Almost* saw something...

Reliable Market, an Asian (probably Korean) market in Union, had a mix of prices. Cheap red cabbage, normal tofu, expensive I forget... cheap sushi for a store, $6.50 for a decent 8-pack of maki.

Beacon street is being worked on today, a Saturday afternoon. I imagine that Somerville has suddenly gotten desperate to get the renovation finished before winter arrives. (And based on the past few years, I predict a nasty winter.)

A bar near Dali had some article taped in their window, extolling a new trend of fat-washed cocktails. "1) Fat tastes good and 2) why not?" Talked particularly about some cocktail with made with rendered beef tallow.

today's events

2016-Nov-05, Saturday 15:53
mindstalk: (juggleface)
Crisis! I was going for my measuring cup, and a wine glass fell out of the cabinet and utterly shattered! Oh no! Except, it fell into the large kitchen sink. Total shrapnel containment! Except maybe for one piece on the counter, I don't know if it leapt up there or fell off when I was picking up pieces to put in the trash. But yeah, as far as shattered glass crises go, this was about as mild as it could be.


I'm not experienced or bold with hardware. But I've been worrying about my laptop fan for a while. Partly the temperatures reported by acpi -t[1], partly the knowledge that I'm much better at washing dishes than I am at dusting my household, and between me or my tendency to live on mildly busy streets, the dust piles up amazingly fast. So I randomly decided today to see if I could clean it out a bit. My old set of screwdrivers doesn't have one small enough for laptop screws; fortunately, in cleaning a few months ago, I found another set of screwdrivers I got who-knows-how, which does. Sometimes, hoarding really does pay off.

So I carefully took out and arrayed the screws -- I could have been more careful, put them in a cup, but I trusted my careful habits, mostly correctly in this case -- and eventually got one part of the bottom off, exposing the fan. There wasn't that much dust, actually; either it's piled up in the internals, where I'm not brave enough to go, or the fan actually works. There was some dust on the battery grill, and a lot on the fan grill -- kind of a lot: enough to obscure vision, not so much that I was rolling off felted mats. Then again, I took a hand vacuum to it quickly enough.

Apart from that, meh. Put it all back together, cleaned the table, turned it on, and hey, it still works! *And* it's claiming a much lower temperature than it usually does. Success?

But, we have some screws loose -- literally. Most of the screws are pretty short, but two were long and deeply recessed. And a couple seemed to just fall out of the laptop, too -- one long, one short. I thought I had everything lined up properly, and I don't remember any holes being screwless in the first step, but in the end I was a short screw short, despite supposedly having an extra. I don't think it'll matter, the panel is secured by two other screws (but it's a dust hole!), but, weird. As for the spare long screw, I put it in a coin purse.

[1] Such as they are: it was alternating between 56.5 C and 62.5. And not in the course of operation: one boot would be at 62, the next at 56. Now it's claiming 36.5. So I don't have a lot of faith in the accuracy, but insofar as it's measuring anything at all, that may have improved.

Misc annoyances

2016-Oct-22, Saturday 22:45
mindstalk: (angry sky)
A while back my building's super replaced two of my ceiling fans (that were getting loud and wobbly) with new fans that... are also kind of loud and wobbly. Anyway, these come with light fixture, and the bulbs were burning out, which led me to discover that they take some tiny tiny screw base. "Candelabra" base, apparently. No CFLs for that size, though there are some LEDs, for considerably more.

I had minimal fruit flies this summer. Now, despite it being much colder, I have some again. The difference? I've been buying and eating bananas again. I think it is the fruit fly fruit. Oddly, they refuse to follow banana peels into traps.

Soviet apologists. Okay, I guess I should be annoyed with myself for trying to engage them.

For years I've tracked my finances with a bunch of ad hoc files and shell scripts. I thought maybe I should try the world of spreadsheets and databases, and wrote a python script to convert all the data into a CSV file. That wasn't annoying at all! (Apart from the usual debugging, plus data cleanup, but it wasn't that bad, really.) But then I tried loading the file into LibreOffice, and LO was having bizarre display problems. "rent" was rendered as "rdnt" for example, in the main sheet, though it had the correct value in the cell inspector. And dialog boxes came up totally unreadable.

Well, I upgraded and restarted it, and it was better the second time. But still, weird.
mindstalk: (Default)
I've been biking since 1998. Despite this, I've learned very little about bike maintenance. I haven't had to. I recall one flat tire ever, from a nail in SF, a few blocks from my bike shop. My chain popped off once but I got it back on somehow. I fill the tires with borrowed pumps, and I've generally taken the bike in once a year for tune-up. Generally I'd hear "wow, it's in great condition!" I'm a light utility biker who usually kept it indoors, so yeah. Pedals were making grinding sounds at one point, I got them replaced.

The past couple years I've been leaving it outside more, though, since bringing it in is a pain, and I've heard "you should bringing it in more often" as the rust builds up. And very recently I was hearing alarming grinding sounds as I pedaled. So I took it in, and got told my bottom bracket is "out" and loose. That's apparently not a big problem, though; the real one was my chain being dry, and looking fairly rusty. So I was persuaded to buy some oil and apply it myself. I got spray, thinking it'd be more convenient, then at home got alarmed by the warning label. Oh well. I did apply it, and woo! Huge difference today, no grinding sound.

So yeah, after 18 years, I've oiled my bike chain. Or, after 18 years, I've finally needed to.

Oil's weird. My one bit of self-guided maintenance was oiling the hinges on my folding shopping baskets when they got stiff. I'd apply some vegetable -- usually olive -- oil by finger to the hinges. Somehow it wicks in and everything becomes so much looser.


The local market had Cajun seasoned pork on sale. Pork what? It didn't say. I figured I'd take a chance. Put it in a frying pan, covered it, had it on decently high heat for 15-20 minutes. No additional oil, just what was in the cast iron already, so sort of baking it. Worked pretty well. On flipping I realized it was pork ribs; the hardest bit was cutting them apart so I could eat them.


I've known vaguely of Roald Dahl's Matilda for a long time; over Christmas I was exposed to the soundtrack of the musical, I guess. I finally checked it out today and read it. Mildly enjoyable, I guess. I was stuck by the long list of books Matilda had read by age 5, I wonder if Dahl was hoping to inspire some kids to go try Dickens and Austen themselves. I was surprised by the big twist.


Spam I just got: "Jesus's Lost Words Stun Christians (Not in the Bible)", from the "Laissez Faire Club". What.
mindstalk: (Default)
* A bunch of clothes that were probably too small for me when left in that box, let alone now
* My burgundy leather jacket, which seems to still look good despite my rounded belly
* My old everyday light tan corduroy shirt-jacket, which old Caltech friends would recognize, which seems to still hang nicely. It must have been REALLY loose then. Needs stitches and dry-cleaning to not be slobby, but worth it.
* The nicest of my old tie-dyes, which is full of holes beyond reasonable repair, but I should take a photo of it because it was a *nice* tie-dye.

Trees (botanical)

2016-Jun-04, Saturday 00:10
mindstalk: (riboku)
Wednesday while on a walk I had the impulse to start trying to ID trees. Pulled out my phone, looked up tree key websites, and got to work. It was somewhat successful. I don't remember everything I IDed, but I thought I found some sort of beech, a black locust, a thornless honey locust (which I confirmed with a resident emerging from the building behind), some sort of elm, maybe a dogwood? maybe a pear? and I think a couple others. Also something that so far has stumped my (California) botanist friend S, and reddit's /r/whatsthisplant, the first five photos at (the next 3 are some conifer, and the rest another; I thought they were pine, now I think fir.)

The various toothed leaves were annoying, as my key asked questions I had trouble answering. "Is this single or double? How fine a line counts as a vein?"

I've kept it up! Poked around a bit yesterday, including the conifers mentioned above, and today, on the bike path. I may have found a northern catalpa, though S seemed skeptical; it's got the right big heart-shaped leaves, though the shape of the tree didn't match catalpa photos. It might match northern catalpa photos.

Today's big project became "try to distinguish the three non-larch types of conifer". At this stage I don't care about getting precise species, I'd be happy if I can go "that's a pine" or "that's an elm." (I can already do 'maple' and 'oak'; there's a lot around here, which explains my allergies. With enough diversity that I probably *could* zoom in on species, but not yet, apart from the flagrantly obvious Japanese maple, in its purple-red leaf cultivars.)

So right, conifers. Websites made it sound easy, if you can get close to the needles: pines have 2 3 or 5 emerging together, the others just individual needles; firs are 'friendly', soft and long, spruces spikey and short. Also flaky vs. furrowed barks, and that seemed to match the pine/fir needles I perceived. (No spruces.)

Though later with some short trees I wondered "is this a fir needle, or the "flattened leaves" I saw on my key and couldn't figure out?

I also looked up how to find the mythical pine cone seeds. New theory: what I think of as pine cones, with big wooden flakes, are after the cone has opened and dumped its seeds or been plundered of them by squirrels.

It's tempting to go to the Arnold Arboretum tomorrow and go look at labeled plants, though it's also really not what I should be spending time on right now. (Walks are one thing, half-day trips another.)

It's been fun, and a lot faster reward than taking up bird ID: trees are *right there*. So are other plants, I imagine I'll expand... IDing the various flowers I stop and sniff would have the advantage that they can't grow out of range; many of the taller trees don't present their leaves for examination.

Today I also got in a bit of unexpected squirrel watching: there was a squirrel lying on a branch, making odd sounds, reminiscent of though not the same as the squirrel mating sounds I grew up with (and can still imitate if asked.) It seemed focused on something but I couldn't tell what.

Obvious icon choice is really obvious, this time.

Christmas in LA

2015-Dec-25, Friday 15:02
mindstalk: (atheist)
Instead of six weeks in Chile, I'm spending three weeks in LA. Also, for I think the first time ever, I'm all alone on Christmas Day. This isn't a tragedy: for family reasons, my hosts celebrated Christmas up to three times already (including stocking morning) and have scattered for a fourth time elsewhere, leaving me holding down the fort. It was surprisingly lonely the evening they left -- I live alone normally, but I guess the contrast got to me -- but I've adapted back to the joys of sleeping in and other things you can do alone.

I went for a long walk today -- I think it's only twenty minutes to a spot where you can see the downtowns of Glendale, LA, and Burbank -- and I note that Glendale on Christmas is a lot less dead than Cambridge on Thanksgiving. I can't tell if it's similarly *relatively* dead, compared to normality, but even on obscure residential roads there was a fair bit of continuous traffic. Though I guess I can tell that Brand, the main commercial street, was probably deader than I'd guess even a Sunday would be.

Walgreen's was open, and there's a couple things I wanted. At first I was going to wait until tomorrow, so as not to reward them making people work on a holiday, then I thought that they sell medical stuff so have an excuse, and the stuff I wanted is loosely medical, though not urgent. As it happens, their pharmacy is not open, nixing that excuse, and the checkout girl said she's not being paid extra -- sounded like you have to work there a year to get overtime on a holiday. I'm pretty sure the girls at Trader Joe's have said they get overtime just for working Sundays. Walgreen's also seemed pretty busy, both from what I could see and what she said.

Lots of neat house styles, more diverse, or at least different, than in Cambridge. But everyone having a yard has an unfortunate knock-on effect: there are no public parks or spaces with benches, not like the ubiquitous playgrounds and parklets of Camberville and Boston. I sorely noted the lack after an hour in the hills.

Seeing all the cars somehow reminded me of a bright guy in high school making an observation about car colors. I think he'd noted a shortage of yellow or orange cars; anyway, I remember that making me count cars in dealer lots years ago, and IIRC finding that white > black > red >> anything else. (That's lumping various grays and silvers in with white and black.) Here, the grayscale spectrum seems overwhelming, with white leading; I don't think there was a single hue in the Walgreen's parking lot. I do wonder if white or silver are usefully reflective while parked in sunlight, or if the car soaks up lots of heat anyway.
mindstalk: (Earth)
I. Headphones
I keep buying cheap earbuds and they keep breaking mysteriously. I'm not sure this is avoidable, even if you spend lots of money. Well, there is some alleged "Rugged" model out there. I figure as long as they're cheap enough it's okay, but I searched anyway, and found good reviews for the Panasonic Ergo-fit TPM 125. Also some others. Not necessarily for ruggedness, but for sounding good and fitting well at a $10 price point. And Panasonic has a good reputation with me, I've liked all few of their products I've owned (a walkman tape player, a VCR) compared to alternatives. And Consumer Reports rated them very highly for reliability a while back.

OTOH I also like instant gratification, and when I popped into a Dollar Tree the other day, I found earbuds there (despite what the two employees I asked thought) for, yes, a dollar. I bought three different ones.

One is technically over ear -- not like a muff, just hooks that go over your fleshy bit. Sounds okay but not that comfortable, and pops out when I try to wear my actual noise muffs over them. The second one sounded okay but smelled of plastic so strongly that I got paranoid about cheap Chinese products and put it in my spare room to air out. The third one I opened too and left to air as well.

Then I decided to go by Panasonic. Never seen them in a store so away! to Amazon! Next day wasn't that much more compared to basic shipping, so I indulged, and they came tonight. Sound fine and fit well, yes; nothing's going on for me to judge their noise isolation properties. And they don't smell toxic.

Keep in mind I'm no connoisseur, so feel free to be skeptical about my ideas about "sounds fine."

II. Bikes and pedestrians
So when I'm a pedestrian, I hate it when a bike zips by me at speed. "What if I'd stepped to the side for some reason?" I wonder. So when I sidewalk -- which I do a lot, because cars are scary -- I try to pass peds considerately, with enough space that I'd miss them even after a big sudden step sideways. If I can't I slow down a lot; if they look particularly fragile or unpredictable (senior, child, dog) I slow down even more, to pushing with my feet if need be.

OTOH I admit that from the other side, sometimes you can model the ped so that they seem predictable and you don't have to be that chary. Today I had an example: I was taking my safety-cut (I'm not sure it's a short-cut) across Harvard's extended campus, and a woman was crossing from left to right. Totally unaware of me, but given the paths and visibility, it totally made sense that I could zip by her on the left with little risk.

III. The Martian
I read the book a while back and liked it. I've heard the movie is good and sort of thought I should see it. When I realized it had left the Somerville theater (which is nice and walkable) I realized it was starting to fade and I should go see it Now. Happily I got two friends to come with me to the Alewife/Apple Cinmea. It was pretty good. They cut out at least two crises from the book, and may have jazzed up the final intercept a bit, I'm not sure. I'm still skeptical that Martian storms are at all like that. But good. I cried. I was disappointed they cut Mark's boobies emoticon/leet after they told him he was live.

As for the theater, I miss Somerville. Or Kendall. We had to buy tickets from the concession stand, waiting for her to finish getting food for other people. While there's a certain labor efficiency, it's also inefficient for people not planning to buy stuff. And she refused to give me a cup of water. I don't know if they'd have let me bring in a backpack with a water bottle inside. Oddly, there seemed to be lots of other employees standing around doing nothing.

I'm fairly sure that Kendall gave me a cup of water when I asked, and I don't remember grievances against it or Somerville, so probably either got cups or brought my backpack in.

The three of us stood in the lobby talking about it for a bit; right after the other two split off a woman asked me what we'd just seen. I guess we sounded animated and excited, I'm skeptical she was randomly hitting on me.

A Winter Peril

2015-Dec-05, Saturday 22:38
mindstalk: (frozen)
I've discovered something, that I'd think I'd have noticed before, but don't recall. Maybe because I put away my bike by now, or slept through the day and only biked at night -- hell, by *now* I've usually been on a plane to Chile, in recent years.

The something being a an extra effect of the short days and low sun: it's hard to bike in daylight without sun in my eyes. There's like a couple hours around noon. "Winter sun in eyes" sounds familiar, "making it impossible to bike" doesn't.

I did find a fix of sorts. When I bought my current glasses, I got transition coating, but also clip-on sunshades. I've hardly ever used the shades, since the coating + hat + sun avoidance has generally sufficed. But they've always been quitely in their case in my backpack, so when I got frustrated today, I brought them out, and hey! it helped! Obviously doesn't if the un comes over the glasses, but it worked on this route.

Score one for hoarding.


As for what I was out for today, Harvard has an associated Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African & African American Art, on the same block as Grendel's. Through Dec 11th there's an exhibit of photographs of blacks from Victorian Britain.
Gallery is free. Also closed Sunday, so only readers who get get off some time T-F will be able to see it.

Wednesday adventure

2015-Nov-05, Thursday 21:28
mindstalk: (escher)
Dim sum!
Then Orange Line to the new Assembly Square station. It still looks underdeveloped, big empty lot by the station, though some transit-oriented development a block away, and work on a 12 story high rise. Nice river walk. Lots of swans on the river, and some I'd guess mated pairs of ducks.

Then, Orange Line to Ruggles, walk through Northeastern to the MFA. New special exhibit is "Class Distinctions in Dutch Paintings", which I found fairly interesting. Some photos, followed by a Native American gallery.
The exhibit story had a lot of books on American class issues, plus some Dutch books: Nickel and Dimed, and
dead end gene pool
class matters
the other America, Harrington
the American way of poverty, abramsky
low life, luc sante
oh the glory of it all
how the other half lives, Jacob riis
gospel of wealth, Carnegie
multatuli, Max havelaar
the nobleman, Isabelle de Charriere
in the city of bikes

Weirdness: today I posted a crappy kitchen photo of a friend, just for my own visual memory since she's gone away, and got a "Great capture!" comment from some stranger on flickr.

April 2019

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