“These are your father’s parentheses”

Posted by me on Tuesday, the 31st day of July, anno domini 2007 at 11:58 PM, local time.

Wow. Sorry guys, I know how you all hate it when I make a blog entry saying how awesome dinosaur comics or xkcd happen to be today, but seriously folks, this is why I love xkcd: I just read it and had to comment.

Seriously, with lines like “These are your father’s parentheses. Elegant weapons, for a more… civilized age.”, while an Obi-wan stick-figure carries out a stack of parentheses to a bewildered Luke, few things could make me laugh harder. This is just great stuff!

Wow, three new posts in under an hour. Now I’m just tired and should go to bed. Goodnight!

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Downtown Rochester

Posted by me on Tuesday, the 31st day of July, anno domini 2007 at 11:48 PM, local time.

So I was downtown this past weekend, at the bookstore (as usual), and noticed a few things.

Downtown Rochester was actually pretty busy! It was in the early evening on a Saturday, so probably lots of people going to restaurants or whatever. But there were tons of people walking around downtown, eating on the sidewalks, siting on the benches talking, looking at books in Barnes and Nobles. It was nice.

I also went by the old Extraordinary Bookseller shop to see if they had changed their hours or whatnot. Nope, still like 11am-6pm weekdays only or something like that. A couple months ago, we all noticed that they had downsized drastically, and a nail salon or something took up most of their space on 1st Avenue. I think they still have a little nook there yet, but I haven’t been in there since they shrunk. However! I saw a sign that said what actually happened was that they were moving! So, my main worry of what had happened to all the great old books they had that could not possibly have fit into what was left of the store is now laid to rest! I tracked down where they said they moved to, and walked 3 blocks to get there. Apparently they are now located in the lower floor (we’re talking basement level here) of the old Barrister Hall on 1st St N. They were closed when I was there (it was Saturday evening after all), but there was a rudimentary sign on the window that indicated they really were there now. I’ll have to go check them out sometime in their new location. Maybe they have the whole basement of that place and they can fit even more bookshelves and books! Wouldn’t that be exciting! Probably the rent is a lot cheaper as well. It can’t have been cheap on what has pretty much become the new main street of downtown Rochester (1st Ave W). So that is good news I think.

Also, Kristen’s Knits is now open again. They relocated further down 2nd St S from their old location, but now they are in a huge old Victorian house, with ample parking (always a problem at the old place). I think their hours are longer now, also. Weekdays 10am-6pm, Thursdays open till 8pm, and Saturday 10am to 3pm. Apparently they are in the old Restless Leg Syndrome House. Where will I go if I get Restless Leg Syndrome? No where, apparently. One nice thing is that its closer to downtown proper now, actually walkable, I think. Also, its right across from Just Rite Foods, so that’s kinda cool, too.

One other thing I noticed around Rochester lately: all the strip malls are getting renovated. They all did look pretty bad, so I guess they needed it. I think some of them will look pretty nice once it’s all done. I wonder if it will help them get more businesses to flesh out the vacant premises. I hope so, I guess. More little shops is always good, I think.

That’s pretty much it. Though I must say the 1st St promenade demolition looks pretty much finished and now they are repaving things for walkways and planters and benches and whatnot. It might actually be usable by winter! That would be kind of amazing actually. We shall see. Also, since it will connect Peace Plaza with Annenberg Plaza, there should be quite a nice area there that is walking only with hopefully lots of nice art and nice stuff to do.

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Broken Weltanschauungen

Posted by me on Tuesday, the 31st day of July, anno domini 2007 at 11:27 PM, local time.

Please, no one hate me.

From time to time, I come across a worldview, that just seems broken to me. I feel slightly bad using that terminology, but there it is. (Many feel that worldviews are something that can not be inherently “broken”, just different… If you choose to view things that way, then the worldview I am about to describe is just so contrary to my own worldview, that I have to describe it as broken to make my own worldview seem self consistent. There. Feel better? Anyway…)

So, I have heard phrases like, “Oh, I am really excited about seeing this new French film, you should see it.” When I inquire as the subject matter of the film, I merely get “I don’t know… it’s French” as the only response.

For all I know, the film could be great. Or it could suck. But this has nothing to do with its “Frenchness”. Or it shouldn’t have anything to do with it. But if someone uses “Frenchness” as the only reason for seeing a movie, (or “Japaneseness”, or “German”, or what-have-you) then the worldview of that person seems a bit broken to me. I think the movie should be judged on its own merits.

What’s ironic is that such Weltanschauungen are likely caused as a backlash of an older worldview that some people call “Nationalism”. By deciding that America is such an evil nation, or run by evil people, or whatever, then deciding that all things not-American are obviously better than all things American. Its a simple leap from that point to saying that because it is “French” it is more worthy of being seen than another movie that is “American”. A further irony is that most movies made in America are made by people with a similar worldview as those not wanting to watch American movies because they are American.

Anyway, maybe I’m wrong. Certainly there are degrees here, but if ever you start thinking about how you’d like to do something merely because its French, then maybe you should rethink things a bit, and start objectively analyzing your motivations. Unless you happen to be French. Then its OK. =)

I don’t mean to offend anybody with this, just making an observation about people, and I was trying to figure out why I got mad when such people made such statements. I think I know why. Their Weltanschauungen are broken, and it makes me sad to see a broken Weltanschauung.

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That which probably should not be said
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Treacle, or, what not to put in the refrigerator

Posted by me on Saturday, the 28th day of July, anno domini 2007 at 12:47 AM, local time.

So, last week, Jim and Pam held a pot luck at their place to bide the time until we all tromped down to the Galleria Barnes & Nobles to wait in line and buy our Harry Potter books. The thought was that people should bring Harry Potter related dishes to the pot luck. I don’t know that a whole lot of them were really mentioned in the books, but there was Butterbeer, Shepherd’s Pie, ice cream, etc.

I attempted to make Treacle Tart, which, is apparently Harry Potter’s favorite desert (or so the books lead us to believe). First of all, for those of you who don’t know, treacle is a byproduct of the sugar making process, also known as molasses. However, as it turns out, the Bri’ish make Treacle Tart not from molasses at all, but from another byproduct of the sugar making process, Golden Syrup.

After a lot of searching around town, I finally found some golden syrup at the local Hy-vee. Great place, that Hy-vee. Anyway, right on the jar in big letters it says: “Do not refrigerate golden syrup!” With the exclamation point and everything. (That’s a lie. There is no exclamation point… But it should have one!) So, I was mixing everything up and it was going great, except that I was late for the pot-luck. So I walked over to Jim and Pam’s house and baked the tart in their oven, as they are nice understanding people and weren’t currently using their oven anyway. After it finished baking and cooling, before any of us thought to eat it, it was time to go get book wristbands (trip 1 to Barnes and Nobles that night). Not thinking at all, before we left, I was like, oh I should probably put this in the fridge till we get back…

Well, when we did get back, we completely forgot to eat the tart. Then after trip 2 to actually go wait in line and get our books, I don’t think it was on anybody’s mind to eat anything more when we got back, and so it slipped my mind again.

Three days later, it was still in Jim and Pam’s fridge. We tried it. Rock solid. With some prying and sharp knives, we managed to get some out of the pan and try it, and it wasn’t too too bad, but I don’t think it was quite what the Bri’ish, or Harry Potter, usually ate when they ate Treacle Tart (for a variety of reasons, mostly mistakes on my part, including the refrigerator bit). Anyway, later when I was trying to clean out the dish, I almost gave up. Some of that stuff was almost permanently embedded in the glass pie pan.

Long story short, don’t put treacle in the refrigerator. It’s just not a good idea.

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My Mediocre-ly Bad Day

Posted by me on Wednesday, the 25th day of July, anno domini 2007 at 9:06 PM, local time.

So today I was almost late for my meeting, it was quite hot and uncomfortable out, and one of my test machines at work didn’t seem to quite want to work right. Also, we got beaten rather badly at softball, I had to go back to work after softball, and didn’t get to eat supper until just now, at 9pm. Also, when I did get to go home, MPR decided to not work for the 6 minutes of my trip home, surely just to spite me.

And to top it all off, I forgot my shoes at work.

On the other hand, it was Roscoe’s catered food for lunch in the park, my tests did finally work, there is opera on MPR now that it works again, and my beer fermenter didn’t explode again today like I feared it might. Also, I remembered to blog today, which is good.

However, since I can’t think of an adverb to properly modify “bad” and thus had to fake one with “mediocre-ly”, I think that may tip the scales of the day slightly on the less than perfect side. =-)

I probably should just go to bed and hope for a better tomorrow. Right after I eat supper. At 9pm.

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Harry Potter, with a few days to think about it

Posted by me on Wednesday, the 25th day of July, anno domini 2007 at 12:18 AM, local time.

So, I told myself I would blog today, since I’ve been rather bad about it lately. And so here I am.

Harry Potter. That’s all one seems to hear about these days. That’s fine. I’ll contribute :) Warning: If you havn’t read the last book yet, and you plan to do so anytime soon, please proceed with caution. Things may be revealed below that you would rather discover through your own reading of the book. But seriously folks, you’ve had like 3 or 4 days already. Plenty of time to finish it!

Moving right along, halfway through chapter one of the last book, I almost stopped reading to blog/complain about how disappointed I was in some of Harry’s actions and thoughts, but I figured it would be better to finish the book and present my reactions fully tempered by time and results.

After finishing the book, I still can’t say that I am completely happy with all the choices Harry made, and I still think he is too hot-headed and doesn’t think things through enough to fully garner my respect. And the movie that just came out (The Order of the Pheonix) portrayed Harry at that stage in a very similar light, where at some points I almost hated what Harry had become. Now, I grant that he was quasi-possessed by Voldemort, but still. Your friends are there to support you and help you through these difficult times. You don’t turn your back on them when they offer to help! In the book, I don’t think I was as angry with him at the time (during book 5, this is), but in the movie they had to cut stuff and tweak things and what resulted is a slightly different piece.

Anyway, enough about Harry’s childishness. The other thing I can say after finishing the last book is that in no way was I displeased with how things turned out. Going into book 7 the way things were, I could not have asked for a better outcome, really. Given the constraints of how I knew Ms Rowling was going to have things go in terms of Ron and Hermione (seriously, Ron? Ron is a dufus for six and a half books, then becomes a jackass, and then some great leader. I don’t buy it. He still isn’t good enough for Hermione.).

Though, I must say that when Ginny was first introduced in book 2 or 3 or whatever, I wasn’t very impressed with her either. She seemed, at the time, a very week character with no interesting qualities who hero worshiped Harry to the point of embarrassment. But, by the time we got the book 5 and 6, I was completely happy with how she had developed, and her strength of character was very encouraging. Despite Harry’s faults, he is still the hero of the series and does deserve to live happily ever after at the end, and since Ms Rowling deemed fit to occupy Hermione with lesser interests, Ginny is certainly someone who could be lived happily ever after with.

A few more items here in short:

Snape. Best possibly way that all could have been worked out. Very predictable, but altogether good. I’m glad they didn’t spend 7 books making us hate his actions but learn surprisingly good things about him for no reason whatsoever.

Malfoy. In the end, I didn’t need him to live, but it did allow a few more things to play by doing so. I’m ok with it.

Fred. Eh, there were already two of them. How many jokesters do you really need in a fictional universe? His death served a purpose and throughout the story, while he and George were humorous, I never really got attached.

Kreacher and Dobby. Good show. The redemption of Kreacher made the death of Dobby kind of balanced. Maybe? I know a lot of people were torn up when Dobby died. That’s fine, that’s fine. It was a noble sacrifice. I can’t claim that eye moisture didn’t increase at that point. But people do die in wars. House elves included.

Dumbledore. This goes back a bit to Harry’s irrationality at times. Seriously, nobody is perfect. And imperfect people in the spot light can get misrepresented by the malicious media. It happens. Harry should have been more open minded in the beginning, allowing both for imperfect friends and for malicious journalists. But anyway, I am glad that Dumbledore got the chance to explain himself a bit to Harry. That was nice, if only for Harry’s peace of mind.

Neville. Yeah Neville! I only hope that he and Luna got together and had some very interesting children. Ms Rowling didn’t deem fit to tell us about anything on the Neville-Luna front, and that surprised me, seeing how pat she laid everything else out. I’ll just have to assume, I guess.

The Nineteen Years Later Bit. I liked it. I was quite glad she put it in there actually. I know, I know, maybe now its harder for her to write more books in the series, but really, its not. There is a large gap that can be filled in there, and seriously. Its not like they die after 19 years. More stories can be told afterwards as well! Some might even be really good if they skipped another 10 years and told some stories from the adult point of view of Harry and Ginny’s and Ron and Hermione’s (and Neville and Luna’s !) kids. But I digress. Anyway, I was happy that I didn’t just have to wonder and hope that the right people got together, or that they got to have children, or that they were trying to raise their children properly in a post-Voldemort world, or that Hogwarts was still up and running and producing well-rounded and well-respected young wizards and witches.

Wow. I keep meaning to stop and say that anyone wanting to discuss more is free to bring it up. So, here I will stop and say that anyone wanting to discuss more is free to bring it up.

I was just saying the other day that I think that even with no more stories in the series, and nothing else whatsoever to talk about, people could discuss this universe and the people in it for probably the rest of their lives. Discussion of motives, actions and reactions, logistics, really cool objects (seriously, I am a very hetero guy over here, who never once has considered carrying a purse or handbag or merse or what-have-you, but when I was reading about Hermione’s magic bag that occupied essentially no room but could expand as big as needed to fit whatever you wanted into it… woah. I’ll take two please. And Hermione’s choice to fill it with books was pretty much exactly what I would do, I gotta admit.), etc, etc, can continue for a long time. People are still discussing The Lord of the Rings, for crying out loud, and that’s only 3 books (or so… plus prelude, histories, legends, notes, letters, etc., etc.).

Anyway, as an emergency session of book club was called for later this week specifically to discuss the completed Harry Potter series, I should leave some of that near-infinite well of discussion topics for that time!

Good night!

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Harry Potter, Quick and Dirty

Posted by me on Thursday, the 19th day of July, anno domini 2007 at 11:45 PM, local time.

So, just a quick note to all of you out there scrambling like me to catch back up on the happenings in the Harry Potter series. I determined I didn’t quite have time to reread all the books (since I thought about it last weekend), but I found a site online that had some pretty good but short chapter summaries for the entire thing thus far.

However, the single chapter per page was getting annoying, especially since the site uses frames and whatnot. So, rather than waste my time clicking next every 20 seconds, I wasted it writing a quick script to simple collect all the data and reformat it into an RSS feed, suitable for Google Reader and the like. Point your favorite feed reader at http://www.sessrumnir.net/hpqd.xml.

No this is not actually the script. This is a copy of the output of the script. I thought I would be kind to my web hoster and not make it regenerate the same list every time somebody requested it. Since this was intended as a quick job so I could more efficiently read the summaries in time for the release of the book tomorrow night at midnight, any niceties you might wish from the interface to that feed are simply not there, nor are they likely to be added. Each chapter is an RSS entry, and each chapter was “released” into the feed on the chapter-th minute of each hour, and each hour starts a new book. Completely nonsensical, but RSS made the times all be different and this was a simple way to make them unique. :-)

Anyway, let me know if it is giving your reader too much trouble, I could probably break them down into per-book feeds if there was really that much desire for such things in the next 24 hours and 15 minutes.

* Quick Update *
If you just use firefox (could be my old version) to click on the link above to the feed, it appears to only give you up through book 5, chapter 21. I’m not sure why that is, but if you view the source, it shows you up through book 6, chapter 30 (as it should). Also, google reader gives you all chapters as appropriate, too. Just grab the source and edit out the top bits if you think firefox just doesn’t like the 162 entries in the feed and needs to have fewer of them.

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Cracks in the sidewalk

Posted by me on Tuesday, the 17th day of July, anno domini 2007 at 12:15 AM, local time.

So, just a short note here to apologize for my laziness and mention the fact that I am way too old to be concerned with stepping on the cracks in the sidewalk. And yet, today, I found myself carefully altering my pace and each step to avoid walking on any sidewalk cracks. At work, walking back after Coffee Walk, the cracks were pretty regular, and I had to keep pace with my friends while at the same time avoiding bringing their attention to my strange gait. Later today, the sidewalk cracks were rather irregular, as it was more of a curb extension than a sidewalk, and the cracks were regular in some places but irregular in others, where the curb concrete needed to match other bits of concrete and to match gutter grates and the like. But, as I was by myself, I could be more erratic in my gait correction, as it were.

Seriously, I do probably have a problem here, but I don’t know how to fix it, or who to go to for therapy for such issues. Ah well, I’ll make do. Please don’t judge me. =-)

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Rollerblading, Berries, Music, and Country Traditions

Posted by me on Sunday, the 1st day of July, anno domini 2007 at 4:02 PM, local time.

Today I went out rollerblading on the Douglas trails, hoping to spot some blackcaps. I ended up going all the way to Douglas and back (around 11 miles round trip), and found lots of great blackcaps. I filled up half a nalgene bottle or so of them. I would have been able to get more, if I had proper bramble attire (jeans and boots… not shorts and rollerblades!). I may have also gotten more if I hadn’t noticed someone ahead of me picking all the bushes clean. Geez. These were clearly my bushes. The best spots right now along the trail seem to be between the 3 and 5 mile markers on the way to Douglas. There were a lot of other bushes closer to home too, but I left those for later. They will probably be pickable throughout the next week or so. Now I just have to think of things to use them for (ha! that won’t be much of a problem!). On my cereal is a must, berries and creme is always good, ice cream can be enjoyable topped with blackcaps, and I have a couple creme brulee recipes for berries that should be pretty good, too.

So, all those blackcaps, free for the picking. Yesterday, at the farmer’s market, I saw some for five dollars. I buckled. I just love berries so much! Those Amish though, always trying to make a quick buck off people, when they could just go pick the berries themselves. Seriously… I also missed out on an early raspberry opportunity yesterday, as Andy was mentioning that they had gone to the market earlier that morning and bought some of the last of the early raspberries! :-( But, more of those will be coming soon I’m sure. Strawberries are mostly done, too. Last week I got a nice big container of those and they were just spectacular.

While rollerblading, I was listening to some music on my phone music player thingy. Have I mentioned I like piano music in the background? :-) Some of Grieg’s Lyric Pieces, and then Handel’s Messiah. As always, they made me happy to hear. I don’t quite understand why some people thing classical music is boring, or puts you to sleep or something. It can be very exciting! Directing along, and singing along, can also be fun. Luckily Messiah is in English, but some other operas are harder to sing along to, and usually I just make up words that sound similar. How horrible is that! But, no one else along the trail can hear what I am hearing, and usually I quiet down when I am passing people. Heh. They might get a little frightened if they had to listen to me for long.

Speaking of things that other people might find a bit odd as they pass me while on the trails, I think I freaked out a few people today, since as they passed by, I nodded to them. To me, its just a reflex. You pass somebody, you nod. It’s what you do. It would be rude not to. People here either don’t get it, or just like to ignore me. There were people who got really confused looks on their faces, and some people said “Hi” (but thats too much effort, they really should have just nodded). Only a few old geezers nodded properly. I suppose when they were young, this area was all country, too, so they knew all the appropriate country responses.

Well, back to my ice cream.

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