Archive: February 2004

« January 2004 | Main | March 2004 »

Feb 27 04: strike four

I keep trying to articulate why I am so damn angry about the whole “Queers are icky and the Constitution should say so” thing. There are any number of perfectly valid reasons. There are so many ways to explain why this is…so stupid…

But every time I try to write this I get so angry that I can’t string sentences together anymore, let alone pull together the elegant flaying that this abomination, this slap in the face, this utter betrayal of the promise this country makes to its citizens, deserves. I find myself with my jaw stuck out and my lips clamped together and my hands clenching into fists over the keys. Maybe tomorrow, or this weekend, I’ll be able to be more centered. Not tonight.

Feb 24 04: something bad happens

While I was writing that last entry, Something Bad started to happen across the street. At first I thought it was some small child throwing a tantrum. Why on earth do so many people drag their kids around NYC at all hours of the night? And then it stopped sounding like a small child throwing a tantrum, and started sounding more and more like an adult screaming in fear, or in pain. I went to the window and couldn’t see where it was coming from, but now it really sounded like something that you called the cops about. I got the phone, dialed 911, and rushed back to the window. Somebody—a man in a green jacket—crossed the street. He looked down into the darkness beneath the stoop of an old brownstone, down where the garbage cans live by the door to the basement apartment. I saw him go into the darkness, duck down, and then get back up. Somebody very large stood up as well. The large man arranged his black coat and his grey cap and started to saunter away. Green Jacket followed him. Large Man picked up his pace; others, also drawn by the sound, were zeroing in on this guy, and soon all of them were running west towards Tenth. I was on 911 trying to give a play-by-play, probably sounding a little frantic as things escalated from “I hear screaming” to “They’ve turned north on Tenth; they’re running, please hurry.” And then they were gone from my field of vision, and the street was quiet again. My 911 call ended. A man in a red jacket, walking his golden retriever, had stopped by the stoop, was looking down into the darkness. Another person stood up. A woman? Black coat? Was her face bloody? She didn’t look steady: was she hurt, or just freaked out? I could see cop cars pulling up along the avenue. I heard shouting. Green Jacket returned for a moment, which made me think that Large Man was under wraps somewhere. The woman, the man in red, the dog, wobbled off towards Tenth.

…And now here I am, back at my desk, and it’s three hours later. Our neighbors Alex and Molly had made a 911 call as well, and we all went down to the street to give statements to the police. Green Jacket and a friend of his were there too; they’d tackled the guy in the middle of Tenth Avenue and held him there until the cops showed. Eventually—finally—the people who live in the brownstone whose basement entry had been the setting for all this came to their door. At the cops’ request Alex and Molly and Green Jacket and his friend and I went up to the precinct.

Things I learned on my trip to the precinct:

  • Squad cars are like taxis inside, only much less comfortable.
  • Cops don’t get enough sleep.
  • The guys from the Special Victims Unit dress like they’ve wandered in off the set of Law & Order. Nice grey wool overcoats.
  • The arresting officer was 24. He was seven minutes away from the end of his shift when he got the call. He’ll be doing paperwork until at least 4AM.
  • Police officers have computers, but they still use typewriters for much of their paperwork.
  • Midtown North’s Precinct Room has a podium that makes you think immediately of Hill Street Blues.

I also found out little bit more about what happened. It was an attempted rape. Large Man seems more than a little nuts: when initially confronted by Green Jacket, his response was “This is none of your business,” but (after he was pulled off his victim and chased down the street) he was aware enough that what he had done was wrong to try to convince the cops that Green Jacket and his friend were trying to rob him and that’s why they were pinning him down in the middle of Tenth Avenue. The man with the dog convinced the victim to talk to the police—apparently she wanted to just go home—but he didn’t stick around to make a statement.

How much more do I want to know? I’m not sure. I’m angry at the big crazy man who decided to hurt somebody: angry for what he did to that woman, another human being; angry for how he has shaken up the neighborhood; angry for all the sleep I’ve lost by now. I’m relieved because the detective I spoke with was quite sure that they’d get a conviction on this case, although he also expected that questioning the perp would be a long and challenging process. I’m frustrated to have seen that the lights had been turned on above that basement entrance when we got back onto the block: if they had been turned on at dusk, this might never have happened. I’m relieved and proud to see that so many people in the neighborhood were willing to sound the alarm—hell, and to get in there and tackle a big crazy person—when it became necessary. I’m sick at heart for the victim. Wherever you are, whoever you are, I hope that eventually—that soon—you’ll be okay.

Now I need to go to bed.

Feb 23 04: casting our net wide

We had TimeWarner Cable over today to try to fix some problems with the TV and not only did they not really fix them but we are now also without our internet connection. God knows when it will be fixed. We are not amused.

Fortunately for us and for them, I have discovered that our apartment is within range of at least three unsecured wireless networks. I’ve patched us into one of them. I can’t decide whether I should feel guilty about it or not. I think current ethics dictate that if a WLAN hasn’t been secured, the owner doesn’t care. What do you think? It’s not as if we’re going to be downloading multi-terabyte files, or kiddie pr0n. Just our email.

Anyway, we’re spared the horror of netlessness. Phew. Now I’m more likely to be civil when TimeWarner calls to rectify the situation. Maybe. Plus now I can surf around and avoid finishing “Slow.” (Note to self: next time, call the story something like “Brilliantly and Rapidly Completed.” This was just begging for trouble.)

Feb 22 04: ready, set

For those of you in search of diversions, here’s a peculiar little Flash puzzle called Grow. It’s one of those puzzles in which the first step towards solving it is figuring out what the hell you’re looking at—a form to which I am particulary vulnerable. Enjoy.

There are at least three ‘best answers,’ which all take you to the same end result and a score of 20,000. If you’re tired of banging your head against the wall, though, here’s the one I figured out: Cube, ladder, sun-ball, egg, mountain, pipe, propeller, tornado, gear, dish, rocket, screen. But don’t peek until you’ve given it a good whack. It’s worth the experimentation, and some of the ‘wrong’ answers are themselves entertaining.

Feb 20 04: room for boards

I have a deep love for games. I wish I got more chances to play them, but I don’t. There’s a group of folks down in the Village who meet every week for game nights, and I’d attend in a heartbeat if they didn’t meet on Wednesdays. Which is rehearsal night. I can’t do Wednesday things.

Anyway, if I were able to con my friends into semiregular game nights, which I’m not, I’d want to play games like this one. It looks like entirely too much fun. (Thanks to Long Story, Short Pier for the tip.)

I want to have a game night. Who’s with me? Oh, come on. It’ll be fun.

Feb 19 04: a good idea

And now, something to restore your faith in the fundamental decency of other humans. It all started sometime yesterday afternoon, when some folks in Minneapolis had this great idea.

The idea was simple and elegant. They wanted to reassure the nice boys and girls lined up outside San Francisco City Hall, waiting to get married, that there were people out there who believed in what they were doing, and who felt that love and commitment were a good thing and always worthy of celebration; that not everybody in the country had bought into the lie that queers tying the knot would lead to the general collapse of Western civilization; that there were Americans who recognized that all citizens are created equal, and that as such all citizens should be treated with equal respect by their nation. So they called a florist in SF, and bought a bouquet, to be delivered to a couple selected at random from those in the line. The card would simply read “With love, from Minneapolis, Minnesota.”

One of these folks wrote it up on her weblog. By this afternoon, I was seeing references to it all over the place. The idea has caught on. Apparently there are now bouquets streaming in from around the country.

Brave souls standing in the San Franciscan rain to get married, I salute you. Unknown Minnesotans with the generous spirits, I salute you. Multitudes of websurfers who decided that this could be a movement all in itself, a way to stand up and be counted and make a splash in the name of love and goodwil, I salute you. My heart is full to bursting.

Here’s the whole story.

noms de spamme

A few weeks ago there was an article in the Times about how spammers use random name generators like this one to try to circumvent your junk-mail filter. Because mail that has an actual name in the From: line could never be from a sleaze with something to sell you, right? Sure.

I’d noticed the phenomenon, but hadn’t given it a lot of thought before I read the article. I was intrigued, though, so as an experiment I culled my favorite bogus spammer names from the ~350 pieces of spam that I received between Friday evening and tonight. (It appears that none of them sprang from the generator above, which doesn’t do middle initials.) Anyway, let’s give it up for our winners:

Promulgates D. Pepping
Delusions I. Mont
Stepparents V. Caution
Belabored H. Comprehension
Teammates D. Sulawesi
Rhythmic B. Drum

If you’ve got any gems in your ‘junk’ box, feel free to post them for our amusement.

UPDATED: Generator link fixed.

Feb 17 04: pardon our dust

With the assistance of the ever-capable Sarita, I have rejiggered the code so that a wayward navbar no longer plagues those visitors using Internet Explorer for Windows. Furthermore, if you have a recent enough version of MSIE you may even be seeing the site design the way the rest of us have been for some time. (cough cough Mozilla cough cough)

I just love having to retool my code to compensate for Microsoft’s poor workmanship.

Observations, complaints, and requests regarding site design—well, or anything else, I suppose—are welcomed in the comments line below. That is all.

Feb 12 04: hey, what’s rss?

Right. Terribly pretentious of me. Sorry.

RSS stands for Rich Site Summary, or more popularly Really Simple Syndication. RSS is a way for you, and people just like you, to keep track of the huge quantities of data being added to the internet every day, and to easily find out about new entries of potential interest without having to visit your favorite sites over and over each day.

An RSS feed is a file maintained on a webserver. This file contains summaries of the articles published on that server. The articles may be blog entries (as is the case here); or they may be news articles, divided into various categories (as is offered by the BBC News); or they may be lists of the latest exciting items offered for sale in your favorite categories (as is offered by Amazon). There are three different formats in which the file may be encoded: RSS 1.0 and 2.0, and Atom.

How do you, the end-user, make use of an RSS feed? With a program called an aggregator, also known as a newsreader. The aggregator works something like a web browser, only it reads RSS-encoded files instead of web pages (which are encoded in HTML). You give your aggregator the address of any feed to which you want to subscribe. The program quickly downloads the feed to your computer, highlighting any entries you haven’t seen before. You can read summaries of these entries using the aggregator itself—and if you want to read the whole thing, you just click a link onscreen in the aggregator and it opens a browser window to whatever you’ve clicked on. The aggregator can be set to refresh its subscribed feeds at whatever interval you desire.

If you want to know more: the BBC’s summary is nice; Google maintains a huge list of aggregators for all platforms (I like NetNewsWire, myself, and eventually I may even upgrade to the version you have to pay for); Mac users can get a more Mac-specific introduction from MacCentral. Finally, there’s a whole controversy swirling around RSS and Atom that I haven’t discussed here. Don’t worry about it for now.

How’s that?

user survey

A recent comment (hey, look! somebody used the comments feaure!) suggests that links running within the main weblog are hard to spot. On the machines I use to create the site, they seem pretty obvious to me: they look the same claret-to-mulberry shade as the big header at the top of this box. But this is in fact not the first time it’s been suggested that on Wintel boxes they are hard to distinguish from the plain old body copy.

So I’m trying a new tack, implemented quickly and cleanly throughout the site via the wonders of Cascading Style Sheets. What do y’all think? Easy to spot? Easy to read? Are they too oppressive now?

for sale, cheap

Further Things to be Found on eBay: One (1) demon-haunted box. Actually, the auction has ended at this point, so if you’re at all curious you should check it out before the page is recycled into its component zeroes and ones. (Via Neil Gaiman.)

Feb 11 04: techno bandwagonnage

Okay, I’ve actually had RSS feeds running in the background ever since I went to MT (known to some as the Space Mango Incident). Judging by my traffic logs, they even get hits every now and then, even though I haven’t actually publicized any links to them. But now I’m announcing them, because, you know, RSS is the thing. And all. Here’s my RSS 1.0 feed; here’s my RSS 2.0 (XML) feed. Gentlemen, start your aggregators.

A friend of mine pointed out the other day that nobody really cares about what I have to say here, which I guess renders the whole syndication thing moot, but it’s one in the morning so I can ignore that if I please.

Feb 8 04: equivalencies

Hey, it’s time for the Cool Google Trick of the Week! Check it out: give Google a search query like, say, “6 cups in tablespoons.” Presto! Unit conversions, delivered to order.

How cool is that?

UPDATED: My god, it even knows about smoots. But then, of course it does.

sunday morning

beneath my window
crosstown traffic, sudden, loud:
horse at full gallop

Feb 7 04: food for thought

I’ve got another one of those things too noteworthy to simply put in the demure little Quarks list. This one comes from Beloved Cousin Erika, who has recently acquired an apartment in San Francisco and we’re so happy for her. By ‘we,’ of course, I mean ‘my aunt and uncle.’ Anyway, where was I? Right.

I am pleased to introduce to you the Weight Watchers Recipe Cards of 1974. Painfully funny. The sort of thing that makes your co-workers come over and say “What the hell is all the snorting and wheezing about? Hey, are you crying? Are you okay? What, already?”

Hoo. Funny. Just go read.

Feb 4 04: slow(er)

Okay, I now officially know better than to post ramblings about the upheavals of my story drafts. Not only is that last one incomprehensible but the fixes I’ve devised mean that when the story finally sees the light of day it won’t really resemble the weird tidbits I felt compelled to share.

(I have an actual plot now. That’s nice. I just finished banging it out in little cryptic notes to myself. I wonder if it’s going to work? I guess I’ll find out when I write it up.)

Feb 3 04: slow(ly)

Well, everybody is still in the bar, but I got Michael to start ranting about pop culture and the Slow, which in turn got Will to drop his little bomb and for Jake to spill his martini down his sleeve. Jake thus far is entirely too flighty. I’m going to have to fix that, but first I need to stop trying to go back and edit things and just write out the rest of it first.

Writing dialogue for three people at once is hard.

I worry that this whole story is just a way to describe the image I had when I started this: the accident that created the Slow, and what the Slow is. There may not be a lot of actual Things that Happen. Or who knows. Maybe there will. Or maybe I’m right but it’s not a big deal after all.

For any of this to go forward, sooner or later Michael has to leave the bar.

Once he leaves, he is going to want to come back eventually. I just have to make that convincing. More chemistry with the bartender will be required.

I will finish this. At which point this posting will make more sense, maybe. And then I’m getting back to that other idea I had.

Feb 2 04: film at eleven

Ladies and gentlemen, I am sad to have to announce that Satire is dead. Her last words are unprintable in this family-oriented blog.

In lieu of flowers, her family requests that donations be made to The Onion. Satire’s cousin Slapstick notes that the more donations The Onion receives, the fewer hair-removal and computer-dating ads it has to run: “Once you get past about the sixth page it pretty much looks like the Village Voice,” she notes. “If her death meant that the Onion could get its focus back, it would mean so much to us all. It would have made her so proud.”

[Via Neil Gaiman.]

Feb 1 04: superbowl blogging

Some random notes on the Superbowl, underway as we speak. Bob and John are here. Beer and nachos for all my men!

6:10pm First adblog entry, because what is the superbowl if not a supportive matrix for a series of high-profile advertisements? The cows were funny. I think this is the campaign that Mom has been talking about for while. We don’t know what Cialis is but we suspect it’s yet another penis pill.

6:15 That NASA tribute was well-intentioned but deeply surreal. About the time the “astronaut” popped up midfield and planted the flag on the “moon,” Bobbó remarked, “This is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.” Pretty apt. All I could think was that I hoped Josh Groban didn’t turn around, because if he’d burst out laughing it would have ruined his pretty song. (Did anybody else notice that you could sing “Danny Boy” simultaneous to the pretty song and it sounded good?) Oy.

7:21 This is getting ridiculous. Whatever Cialis is, Levitra is…um…taking the wind out of its sails. I was going to keep count of the male-virility-medicine ads shown tonight, but I’ve already lost track.

8:03 I was going to say something about, um, an ad that ran at 7:33? But by the time I could get the laptop from John 30 minutes had passed and now I don’t remember what it was or what my remark was going to be. Dang. It was going to be extremely clever, I tell you.

8:40 Why do they even bother with these halftime extravaganzæ? What the hell was that? A great deal of sound, fury, and fireworks, signifying nothing. With dancers and a marching band.

9:40 I am so bored. And that John Hedlund? He is mean.

10:30 Over. And, while the last 4 minutes were pretty exciting football, I’d say on balance my reaction is thank god. We may need to catch the final minutes of the Queer Eye marathon on NBC (now that’s brilliant scheduling) as an antidote.