Friday, July 17th 2009

Feminism fail
posted @ 5:21 pm in [ Tech ]

I know, I haven’t posted in a long time. Blog fail too.

I’ve been somewhat active with LinuxChix. About a year ago, someone posted this to the mailing list:

Quotes from the bloggers attending the BlogHer conference reiterated that feeling that female bloggers don’t believe they are taken as seriously as male bloggers.

Ya think?!

Apparently they aren’t taken seriously by the NYTimes either because everyone knows that the first place you go for serious technology news is the Fashion and Style section. (!?!)

At the time, I was very upset about this, to the point where I actually wrote an angry email to the New York Times editor. Of course it went unanswered, and I thought perhaps it was because they get so much email from readers that they don’t bother.

While cruising around the Internet recently, I found a more likely answer:


I bet the media is willing to take this conference seriously as long as the little ladies are willing.

Saturday, October 4th 2008

Two weeks on the L.A. Metro
posted @ 12:48 pm in [ Los Angeles ]

I have now lived in Los Angeles for 11 years. Somewhere around the time of my wedding I decided I was very sick of driving in L.A. traffic. It’s inescapable, whether on the freeways or on side streets. Crumbling infrastructure, mis-timed lights (with many busy intersections lacking left turn signals), and an ever-growing population has made driving anywhere in Los Angeles a living hell.

We moved from L.A.’s west side to North Hollywood. We decided on an apartment not too far from NoHo’s red line station. I can walk there from my apartment now within 20 minutes. My husband’s commute to Burbank has been reduced to a 15 minute drive.

My wish to not drive ever again has intensified. I had to drive to work downtown a few times from North Hollwyood, and I have to say I’ve never quite felt like people were actively trying to murder me in my car like I have since moving here. There is a complete disregard for other drivers here in the Valley, and it is truly disturbing.

The metro has made it easier for me to skip out on driving. The trains are quite comfortable and air conditioned, fairly reliable, and very fast. With the walk to the station, my commute is about the same as the drive, but without the frustrations and dangers of driving.

Not to say this system is perfect, however. The lines are extremely limited. Compare our L.A. subway map to New York’s. Manhattan alone has more lines than all of Los Angeles. Los Angeles’ light rail lines are only 73.1 miles total. The metropolitan area alone covers 4,850 square miles, not including the wider boundaries of L.A. County. Considering that Los Angeles County has a GDP that would put it in the top 20 nations in the world (according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors), this is a sad state of affairs. Cheerleading literature from the MTA states they are starting to extend the rail system, but the next extension will open in 2010, and only stretching to Culver City. It’s too little, too late. The city is groaning under the weight of 10,363,850 residents needing to move around right now.

I received a leaflet asking me to support Measure R. I am of two minds about it. It calls for a 1% sales tax increase to fix roads and traffic light time, and extend bus and rail lines. But what has happened to the money poured into the Metro over the years? Why hasn’t the Metro kept up with the needs of the population?

Apparently part of the blame falls on residents who love their cars and have a view of public transportation as belonging in the realm of the poor. Historically Westside residents have vehemently opposed a rail line stretching to Santa Monica, afraid of the influx of disadvantaged to their front doors. I guess they don’t notice the throngs of homeless people sleeping on the streets around 3rd Street Promenade. It’s only been recently that public advocacy for light rail expansion has been strong. Rising gas prices, choking smog, and unrelenting congestion has done much to change minds, thankfully.

A general distrust of the Metropolitan Transit Authority has been another obstacle. When I first moved to Los Angeles, there was an article in the L.A. Weekly about a Metro whistleblower who had come forward with stories of corruption, mismanagement, and the use of public funds to line private pockets. Memories run long with that story, and trust is just starting to rekindle in the MTA.

It’s a shaky trust. A few months ago, NPR was reporting the MTA holding public meetings regarding cutting the number of bus routes running in poorer neighborhoods. This caused a great deal of fury, as bus routes in those areas were particularly under-represented, and the poorer neighborhoods have the greatest need for public transit, especially during these times when gas prices make car travel a reality for the upper middle class only.

The Metro has work to do before it can consider itself a modern transit line. It needs to post timetables at its stations, and the maps, timetables and trip planners need to updated on its website. Right now much of the information is in PDF format, which is not really accessible on smart phones, and the purple line timetable PDF is not available at all – it links to the red line PDF. This was extremely frustrating when we found ourselves stranded at Wilshire/Western off the purple line this morning at 1 a.m. The online trip planner is next to useless as it can’t parse half the information you put into it. I usually have better results calling their trip planning line. I do have to say that their staff who answer these calls have always been courteous  and knowledgeable.

The Metro light rail system, however, is much better than the bus system, and it always beats driving. I’m always delighted when I have an opportunity to take the subway rather than driving or the bus, and my commute to and from work is stress-free compared to the driving I used to do on a daily basis.

I look forward to seeing the improvements and expansion of the light rail system. Please vote for Measure R this November. Los Angeles is way too big to not have a modern rail system akin to New York’s.

Tuesday, July 29th 2008

Put away your emergency kit
posted @ 1:59 pm in [ Uncategorized ]

Look, we had a bit of a shaking and then we went to the pub for a beer or three. It’s not like we had shambling hordes roaming the street punching each other in the face. I didn’t even have to break into a gun shop and steal a sawed-off shotgun.


Tuesday, July 22nd 2008

posted @ 3:33 pm in [ General ]


Just so you know.

Wednesday, July 16th 2008

The Tech of Personality
posted @ 9:51 am in [ Tech ]

I’m a Reddit fan. I also like Digg, but my circa-1996 Internet brain likes a clean, uncluttered interface. Today on Reddit, I found this gem. Any tech news day is a good one when one highly respected member of the community calls an entire group a bunch of “masturbating monkeys.”

Ok, maybe my circa-1996 Internet brain is also 12 years old for being amused by the slur, but aside from the amusement I’m getting from the imagery, there’s also the shock that’s emanating throughout the Internet from this.

Linux makes everyone get a little bit of a warm fuzzy inside. It’s free, and thousands of independent tinkerers and hackers around the world have put their minds to it, tearing it apart and putting it back together. It’s just so…hippie and happy! So of course the man behind it all, the one who still works tirelessly to make sure the kernel is as perfect as can be, he must be a nice guy, right?

Wrong. Linus Torvalds is a brilliant man. I definitely admire him, as he should be, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a nice person. The man himself has expressed befuddlement when people expect him to be a nice person. Anyone who has followed the kernel lists for any amount of time has seen Torvalds lose his cool any number of times.

So what? Let he without flame cast the first snark.

Open source figures are routinely getting in the news for bad behavior. Last year, Ulrich Drepper decided he needed to get paid to fix a bug in an open source project. Or explain himself. Then there’s Dan Bernstein, who while never being one to win the chipper award, is a brilliant member of the community. He pointed out a BIND vulnerability back in 2001 which was handily ignored until Dan Kaminsky recently brought it back up along with a proof of concept.

Then there’s Hans Reiser. ‘Nuff said.

If you put anyone on a pedestal, they just have further to fall when they do. These are people who don’t always have a legion of PR and legal staff to shield the world from their day to day realities (read: Jobs and Gates). Their reputations as smart, competent programmers has already been established, and fuck you if you can’t handle it.

There is another side to that coin, of course. It can make developing within that sphere difficult. When you’re working in a paid team, you either work together and make the project happen or you’ll get canned. However, if you’re working on an open source project and it has to play nice with other open source programs, dealing with prima donnas can present a challenge that can be disheartening when focusing on writing good code is the ideal. Dealing with multiple personalities is part of working in the open source community. Thankfully, there are helpful people in the community, and I gather that is a big part of why it works so well.

I still don’t understand the shock. It’s like we’ve elevated certain people who code to celebrity status, and that’s just odd to me. It’s like walking into the local grocery store one day and seeing a picture of Paul Graham in a compromising position with Lindsey Lohan on the cover of the Enquirer. To me, the “ZOMG” nature of these stories is more shocking than the statements themselves.

It is possible to admire Linux and other open source projects along with their creators and not expect them to be the sort of person you’d want to share a beer with (although I’d still want to have a beer with Linus). Just sit back and enjoy the product.

Friday, July 11th 2008

Apple Epic Fail
posted @ 10:50 am in [ Tech ]

I began the day excited. A new iPhone 2.0 update! My baby will be like new again with exciting new applications! Shiny!

Step 1: Update iTunes.

Step 2: Attach iPhone.

Step 3: Watch update download and install.

Step 4: Let it restart your iPhone to factory defaults.

Step 5: New protocol has iPhone need to contact iTunes before it can restore all of your settings, as well as your phone number, to your iPhone.

Step 6: Watch iTunes servers scream for mercy because everyone is trying to do the same thing.

Step 7: Cry as you realize your phone can only make emergency calls. Effectively bricked.

Step 8: Find iPhone developers and beat the snot out of them.

Another Machead friend of mine is telling me to try repeatedly, as he had the same issue and he eventually was able to reach the activation servers.

But the developer in me is asking WHY would you have existing iPhone owners re-activate their phones? They’ve been building up buzz on this for months, didn’t they forsee this clusterfuck? This just strikes me as abject stupidity.

I’m somewhat tempted to sell this thing now since it has been wiped of all my details, except it’s a truly useful thing when developer brain fartery isn’t getting in the way.

Wednesday, July 2nd 2008

Sony, you whores
posted @ 5:54 am in [ Games ]

It’s been a tough couple of weeks. My wedding is in a month, I still have loose ends to tie up, I just had my gallbladder removed last week, I’ve been only able to sleep sporadically, I’m on a forced diet due to aforementioned gallbladder, I’ve been on Vicodin, and it’s been two weeks since I’ve had a cup of coffee.

This is going to be an interesting post.

This morning I decided I couldn’t sleep after 3 a.m. My inner five-year-old said, “It’s my birthday! Stuff to do! Whee!!!” and that was the end of blissful slumber in my big comfy bed.

What better way to piss away a few hours than to do my nails and play Pain on the PS3?

I haven’t played Pain in awhile. It’s a neat diversion, but after awhile, the novelty of lobbing a character at a finite backdrop of stuff that breaks loses its luster. Sure, they add some fun games to mix it up, and I’m enough of a drooling idiot to have been amused by a good physics engine for quite awhile, but even drooling idiots move on to the next shiny object eventually.

But, my fiance being the good man that he is, downloaded the latest character to be released for Pain – Nigel. As with all the Pain characters, he has a gimmick. He’s a punk rocker, complete with mohawk, leather, and attitude. Cute, let’s try him out and see what his special moves/bitchiness is all about.

Since I hadn’t played Pain in awhile, there were updates. Oh, were there updates, and those of you who have PS3s undoubtedly have encountered the pain that is waiting for anything to download from the Playstation Network. There is thumb twiddling involved, sighing, maybe a few scratchings of the ass. After the Pain update download, it threw an error letting me know there was a general system update I would need before continuing on with my game. Fair enough, I sit through another update download, wait for it to restart, install update, restart again. Ok, can I play my game now?

Nope! Whoo boy there were updates. I think I counted nine or so. Then it finally started, and I thought I’d give old Nigel an airing in the general Paindemonium area.

Oh, Sony. Oh oh oh. You filthy little whores.

The downtown of Pain has a few billboards. In the beginning, these hawked nonsensical products, and the billboards were funny. The side of the bowling alley, I believe, had an ad to try out Pain bowling for multiplayer. That was acceptable.

But this newest update…

There’s a billboard for Hancock. There’s a billboard for “Step Brothers.” There are two ads for Sony cameras. And that’s just what I’ve been able to catch so far in my sleep-deprived state. I’d love to smack the crap out of the genius at Sony who decided this was a great idea. These are ads for products I have no intention of putting any money towards (The movies look stupid as hell, and I’ll never even wipe my ass with a Sony camera), and now I just want to find the nearest Sony office and set it alight.

I’d understand if they were billboards for products that weren’t as visible, but you really can’t go anywhere without being bombarded by ads for these things. Isn’t enough that I have to watch the trailers for that crap when I go to a movie I paid for? I get that this is a cheapie little silly game with cheap character upgrades, and it’s gotta pay the bills somehow, but if that’s the case how about introducing me to something really cool?

Wait, no, that’s not right either. How about keeping your filthy ads out of the game entirely? How about not saturating my every waking moment with advertising? How about letting me doing something pleasurable, for once, without bombarding me with your marketing slop?

Maybe that’s too much to ask from a place that is obviously filled to the brim with shameless whores.

Monday, May 12th 2008

Capcom’s Guide to Pissing On A Franchise
posted @ 3:33 am in [ Games ]

I just put a game away in disgust, and I wasn’t expecting to do that with this game.

We had Okami for the Wii sent to us from Gamefly, and my busy schedule has been keeping my hot little hands from playing it for the past couple of weeks. Little did I know I’d give up on it before the tutorial section was finished.

As with the first Okami, the graphics are splendid, and the story is a charming blend of Japanese legend and mysticism. You play Amaterasu, wolf god, master of the brush. The idea is you paint on the screen to mend, break, etc. I thought the Wii’s game controls would make this much easier than with the PS2.

I am sad and disappointed. I was wrong.

Unfortunately the game designers thought that because of the Wii’s game controls, they would be able to add an element of precision – or, more to the point, demand precision from the player. I had an inkling I was in trouble when at one point in the tutorial, Amaterasu fell asleep as I tried to draw a perfectly straight horizontal line through a gate that had locked me in a room.

The final stopping point came at a point in the game when Amaterasu needs to “help” a “mighty” warrior train by slashing lines through two training dummies and a boulder. And by “mighty” warrior I mean “needs a sun god to fetch a crock of sake so he can get wasted enough to finish menial tasks.” This sounds easy until you realize that each of these items that need slashing is kind of a realtime event, and if you don’t hit the brush button fast enough, you won’t catch the outline of where you need to stroke. If you do not brush over the stroke perfectly, and I do mean with absolute precision, you are sent back to the beginning of the meaningless exercise whereupon you are treated to the same three lines of non-skippable dialog and take forever to complete because they are tediously spelled out in Okami fashion.

By the tenth time around I decided it was better to shelve the game for later (read: when Sam is awake and I can exclaim “can you believe this shit?”)

I’m not exactly sure where in Capcom’s game testing they decided that demanding precision out of this was a good idea. Drawing a straight line with a pencil on a piece of paper is already difficult, but when you switch that dynamic to where you’re waving around a stick in the air, it becomes impossible. Having to try the same tedious motion over and over again sucked the fun out of what was a very nice game.

I can’t quite express how horribly disappointed I am. I was very much looking forward to playing this game, and to see something so elegant and different botched up so badly leaves me quite speechless.

I can only hope that this is Capcom’s first try with porting Okami to the Wii, and that they sometime in the future release another version that isn’t quite as trying on my nerves.

Monday, May 5th 2008

I have been inspired!
posted @ 7:10 pm in [ Cooking ]

Last night we got back from BarCampSD3 pretty tired and not willing to do much, and that included foraging for food. Heck with it, I decided, I’m going to take the initiative and order a pizza. Unfortunately, my dead brain cells thought a chicken bacon ranch pizza from Papa Johns would be a good idea. Oof. Even Sam, the man who got excited at the idea of the Carls Junior double pastrami burger, felt quite ooky after that meal choice.

So today has been all about yinging that yang from last night. I didn’t even want breakfast, and lunch was very light. But what about dinner?

Taking some cues from @rocknrollgeek’s talk at BarCampSD3 about sandwiches, and a few hints and tips from Hungry Girl, I made a rockin’ sandwich wrap tonight.

  • 2 Morningstar Farms chik’n strips
  • light sprinkle of mozzarella-flavored veggie shreds
  • 2 Tbsp Wholly Guacamole
  • 2 tsp spicy mustard
  • some shredded mixed cabbage and carrots from a bag
  • thinly sliced cucumber
  • chopped tomato
  • 1 low-fat, low-calorie whole wheat tortilla
Cook 2 chik’n strips for about 1 minute in the microwave. Remove, top with veggie cheese, return for 15 seconds. On a separate plate, cook tortilla in microwave for 10 seconds (to make it pliable). Take out of microwave, spread on guac and mustard. Arrange chik’n strips. top with veggies. Wrap that bastard. NOM.

I served that up with a few organic oven fries, which were enhanced with some creole seasoning and ketchup. Overall, I kept my caloric intake under 500 calories, and less than 10 grams of fat. A total turnaround from last night, and it tasted a lot better.


I know there are those of you who are skeptical about vegetarian replacements. The thing to keep in mind about these products is that while they’re getting closer to their fully bad-for-you counterparts, they don’t quite taste exactly like them. However, they do stand on their own in the flavor department, and if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief and open your mind, they can be quite surprising.

Monday, May 5th 2008

The obligatory…
posted @ 7:23 am in [ Tech ]

I found an article giving a short history of Japan’s home tech evolution and how it differs with ours. It’s a fascinating article, and it is giving me a remarkable sense of perspective about my time with Sony back in the early 90s.

Back then, I was the webmaster for the Sony ERA group – Entertainment Robot America. It was the department that marketed the AIBO for the United States. What made the marketing bit so difficult is that all AIBO-related products were conceived in Japan, a much different market than the United States.

In Japan, the brains behind AIBO had a hard time understanding the community in the United States that had formed that loved to hack AIBO. We had an SDK probably only because we had one employee that acted as a technical liaison between the United States and Japan. But it became very messy when one AIBO hacker started releasing software that Americans wanted before Sony could get around to it – software that allowed the user to control AIBO from a computer, and see what it could see through its camera.

It makes sense now why we had to fight Japan on so many issues – while we had no problem conceptualizing things like controlling AIBO from a computer, they were probably left scratching their heads about why anyone would want to do that.

In the end, the death knell for AIBO wasn’t just that divide, but also that the majority of Americans didn’t “get” robots (there was also our very small budget, and it always surprises me when I meet people who don’t know that such an advanced robot was available for purchase). When I was roped into a sales event, the big question was “why don’t I just buy a dog?” (the answer I wanted to proffer was “because a robot doesn’t have vet bills, or need food, or poop on your floor – you dolt”), or “will it fetch a beer for me?” There was a small hardcore community who understood the product, and were beyond happy to have something like that to hack.

In Japan, the average consumer didn’t have the hacker mentality, but for many people there who live in very small apartments, a dog is not practical. This is also the homeland of the Tamagotchi – so the idea of virtual pets was already seeded and blooming. Add on a high cost of living, where younger people live with their parents for a much longer period of time, and you have a larger population with much more disposable income. So while people in America were confused with the $1500 price tag, kids in Japan were excited over owning a little robot pet.

The final axe came after 9/11, when the economy dived, particularly the tech sector. Our target demographic was out of work, and very shortly so was I. I keep getting pieces of the puzzle of what exactly happened during that time period, and the historical and cultural backgrounds that fed into that frenzy. I also keep wishing that we had hung on somehow, because I think if AIBO were released today it would be much more popular than it had been back then…

Well, I do still have three AIBOs sitting around here…