GLaDOS Bakes a Cake

Being the person in the family that bakes is fun, except on my birthday. Then I have to decide if I am going to bake my own cake or if I am going to save the time and mess and buy one. I have until Wednesday to decide. Perhaps, I will just listen to GLaDOS sing me a song about a cake.

Best end to a game ever.

–Jane, to the people who are still alive

2010 Census

The Rochester household received our 2010 Census form last week. In true geek fashion, we were excited to add out numbers to the count. Numbers are thrilling to my engineering husband and I like participating in the research aspect of it. Looking over the form, though, brought to mind this classic Christopher Walken SNL skit.

–Jane, lives with two humans, a dog, and a sugar glider

Things I Learned From My High School Band Director

You jocks may seek to argue with me, but the class that taught me the most in high school was not Geometry, Chemistry, or even English (though that was my first love). The thing that taught me the most, the things I remember and use even now, was band and it was mostly due to one person. Mr. Johnson.

First, perhaps I should explain something to those of you who may live outside of Texas. There is one thing that rules high school: football. Football and all things related. High School band, whatever it was where you lived, is serious business in Texas. We practiced as much, and often more, than the football team. We received more standing ovations than our team did and they went to the playoffs almost every year. We gave sweat and tears to our field. You have to love something a heck of a lot to practice it in 100 degree heat on an asphalt lot.

So band was not something we just did. It was something we breathed in High School.

Mr. Johnson shepherded us from a fairly crappy band into something great. A band that won awards nationally. It was amazing to be a part of that transformation. Mr. Johnson taught me some lessons I will never forget.

Mr. J taught me how to win. He taught me that winning was hard work involving hours of toil, sometimes heartache, for one shiny moment. I learned that in order to be good, I also had to be on a good team. To be on a good team, I had to help people around me be better. In band, you are only as good as your worst player, and to be really great, you have to lift up those around you and be willing to learn from others. Teamwork was winning together.

Mr. J also taught me how to lose. One year, we went to a competition and gave it everything. We were, in our minds, far and above, finally good enough to break into the top ten finalists. We knew it. Felt it. But when the results came down and we had failed, according to the judges, I was angry, incensed. Mr. J though, he said he was proud of us. That we had never been better. That we had done our best and THAT was the best part of the day. Then, I only felt bitterness at something denied, but now, with years behind that memory, I know that I learned that day how to accept failure when your best is not good enough. Mr. Johnson taught me to be humble and feel blessed by my opportunities, regardless of the outcomes. I did not appreciate it then, but I surely do now.

Mr. J also taught me that adults in my life truly cared about me. He did, truly, deeply care about his students. I will never forget the day I sorely disappointed him in a way I have never disappointed another adult growing up. I still think about that day and I hope he knows that it was the folly of youth that made me reckless. Later, it was his anger that made me rethink my choices. What a fool is youth!

Lastly, the most important thing I learned: how to fold pants properly. This may seem frivolous, but I assure you, it is not. As a girl, I did not have occasion to fold dress pants as a kid. Why would I when I could so much better show off in a skirt? In band, the seam on your pants is critical. It is a uniform because you are all supposed to be uniform. A wrinkled uniform, an unruly plume, a step out of line, these are all things you strive to banish. For the first few weeks every year, Mr. J would patiently stand up at the front of the group and demonstrate how to fold pants.

Put the seams together at the cuffs. Tuck under your chin. Grab the seams farther down the pants, towards the waist, with your fingers and flip. Place carefully on the hanger and clip them in. All the while making sure the seams are all lined up.

I never fail to remember those demonstrations every time I fold pants. I also remember the “I don’t want to hear that you forgot ‘fill in the blank’ “ discussions we had every Friday before loading the buses. If you left something behind, it was your fault, your responsibility. And for those of you doubting, A missing “fill in the blank” let everyone down. Your failure impacted everyone.

Band made me a better person. The people I am still friends with in high school were all in band. Mr. Johnson taught me a lot about life. Things I never appreciated until I had some years past high school behind me. I am blessed that during that time in my life, I was shepherded by a caring and Christian man.

Mr. J has been directing bands for 27 years. He is retiring this year. I hope he knows that he is well loved and has impacted more lives than most of us could dare to hope for.

–Jane, Thank You Mr. Johnson for everything you do

Net Neutrality Needs a Cooler Name

I have been listening to TWiT, The Week in Tech podcast, for a little while now and I really like the banter on the show. I am a couple weeks behind, but show 219 had a great discussion of net neutrality. The transcript is available, but here are my two favorite quotes:

Jason Calacanis: But for the leadership [of Comcast and AT&T], gosh how do you sleep at night knowing that you want to take something that’s been so valuable to so many. You don’t need to corrupt this, I mean you are making a lot of money already, last time I saw Comcast, Verizon and AT&T are crushing it, I mean how much more money do you DBs need to make? F you guys, greedy bastards. Really, I mean what..[ph] No, seriously these greedy mother effers (1:34:02) are going to, now they will start like oh, by the way, yeah, which level of internet service did you want, or do you, oh you haven’t subscribed to the voice over IP channel, we will get you HBO and VOIP and oh, there’s an extra fee for gaming packets and oh, you are a level 57…

Patrick Norton: It’s so scumbaggy. That’s the problem. It’s Internet – it’s the ‘Internet large ISPs Right to Take You Anyway They Can’ Act. That’s what this is all about. This is about AT&T wanting to be able to restrict VOIP access. It’s about Comcast wanting to rake it in on crushing P2P and other traffic they find annoying like video traffic. And what it comes down to is that in many cases they don’t deliver the level of service they want or they feel they are incapable of delivering a level of service the customers think they have paid for. You’ve got 16 megabits except we only want to give it to you when you are downloading one webpage at a time. Not for video, not for software downloads, certainly not for peer-to-peer. And you look at what’s going on and it’s really depressing. I mean how much money is AT&T spending on technical economists – I love that name. Well, if people actually really want to have this level of service 24×7 for downloads they would need to be equivalent of corporate account and that’s a $400 a month fee. We can’t afford to do this.

I liked that Patrick Norton pointed out that many people turn to the Internet to fill gaps in the services provided by Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T. The Rochester house used to have Comcast everything and we got tired of being fleeced by them while being provided a sub-par service. We now have TiVo and no cable. Sadly,we still have Comcast Internet because there is not other alternative in our area that doe not require a phone line.

If you would like more information on Net Neutrality and the oxymoronic named Internet Freedom Act, please do some research. Here are some places to start.

Save the Internet
: you can send a letter to your rep

What is Net Neutrality?

Daily Show on Net Neutrality (from 2006! This issue is not new!)

Internet Freedom Act (official govt. page where you can indicate your support or not)

Also, the above act should not be confused with a similar bill, the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, which does support net neutrality. Net neutrality needs a better name so that ordinary people know what it means.

–Jane, the Internet should be an equal playing field

I Broke Up With Windows

I have an Alienware laptop that I love. I mean I really love this laptop. Her name is Inara (not Vera, sorry, Jayne!) I think geeks feel about their computers the way some people feel about cars. Seriously, Mr. Rochester just built a computer, which we dubbed Nightcrawler (we have decided to go with an X-Men theme from now on), that I am fairly certain he would marry if we were not already legally joined.

I bought Inara about 4 years ago because I needed something small to take to conferences and she has served me very well. I was running Windows XP on my system. Somewhere in there, I had some issues and had to partition the hard drive and install a second instance of Windows. From then on, things went down hill. There was increasing slowness, the CMOS battery died on me, and bootup and shut down time was like pulling teeth.

Mr. R has been wanting me to try Linux and I have considered going open source but that was such a big step; I was not sure I was ready. I love technology, but I hate coding. HATE. IT. It requires more patience and rational thinking than I believe I possess. I just want someone else to build the guts and GUI and let me play with it and teach other people how to play. I know what I want, but I want someone else to build it.

This is the general reason why I have resisted Linux, but I kept hearing how fabulous Ubuntu was and really, my computer was in the throes – the I might throw it out the window throes.

I read this Tom’s Hardware article and took the plunge. I installed Ubuntu with a clean wipe. No partitions. No more Windows. No more pain. Mr. Rochester changed my CMOS battery (I think this bothered him more than me) and it was like I got a brand new computer.

Ubuntu has been a dream. Ubuntu comes with email, Open Office, Rythymbox, and a slew of other useful stuff. If I want more programs, I simply look at a list and click “Install” and it magically appears, for free. FREE. Need a program for screen shots with editing? Free. Need a compressor? Free. Need a flickr uploader? Click. Install. Need a program to convert all those pesky MP4 files from iTunes into a usable format? No problem. The Software Center makes installing plugins and getting other programs simple and does not require me mucking around in the /root and remembering what to type when, in what order.

The one thing I have not done yet is try to sinc my iPod shuffle with Rhythmbox. I have read articles on people’s various success with this. I only use it for podcasts and I figured if it did not work, I can use one of our other three computers for that.

Now I wonder what held me back. We will always have a PC with Windows in this house; we are gamers after all with triple the amount of computers and consoles as adults in the house, but I think my laptops will always run Linux from now on.

If you have hesitated to run a Linux machine, if you have a computer that needs to be freed from Windows, or if you simply can not afford the overpriced software on a Windows or Apple machine, I recommend taking the plunge. Install Ubuntu and never look back.

–Jane, all hail open source computing

You know you are a geek when…

You have a serious debate with your husband over what order is the proper viewing order for Star Wars when it is time to introduce them to your children.

Do you go with the traditional viewing, Episodes 4,5,6,1,2,3?

Do you show them chronology and run the risk of the special effects of the newer ones shadowing the campiness of the older ones? Will the crappy dialog and terrible acting of Episodes 1-3 completely turn off the young ones?

We came to the conclusion that Star Wars is best shown in the traditional manner, with the original trilogy followed by the newer movies. Besides the reasons stated above, we also feel that Episodes 1-3 allude to events and people in the older Episodes (4-6) which enrich the viewing experience.

–Jane, thinks the Jedi Drinking Song Prequel says it all

Friday Bits

I have realized that I put a lot of things on Twitter that I used to post in random posts here. I do not want to make all my tweets come here (how annoying is that all the time?), but I think I should try to put more of the random here for you, the readers I love.

The following link is NSFW because of language. This stand up bit by Louis CK about the differences between girls and women is hilarious. Fabulously, hilarious.

I am currently reading two books:
At Grave’s End by Jeaniene Frost (fluff with the undead)
Tribes by Seth Godin (be a leader already)

The new podcast that I am listening to and love is Slice of SciFi. Why have I not listened to this before? I do not always agree with them (they are not big fans of District 9 for instance), but the banter is superb and the geekery… it’s awesome.

Mr. Rochester and I are popping open the Trappist Ale we have had aging in the fridge. I think it is the perfect way to end the week. Next on the brew list is malted apple cider and some pumpkin ale.

–Jane, happy, content, may you be also

UFO Translations

While searching the Internets for founts of information Saturday, Mr. Rochester and I were perplexed by Google’s logo which featured a UFO abducting one of the Os. Apparently, we were not the only ones confused, as there was no text explaining the graphic.

Google, changed the logo in an homage to the classic game that spawned the All Your Base hilariousness.

If you have, perhaps, been under a rock for the past 10 years or you are not as geeky as the rest of us, you can read the Wikipedia entry on it.

–Jane, you have no chance to survive, make your time

DASH Puzzle Hunt

Some of my good friends are helping to organize the DASH Puzzle Hunt in Houston, TX on September 13th. If you have always wanted to do a puzzle hunt, there is no time like the present.

DASH will be simultaneously occurring in Boston, MA; Washington, DC; Houston, TX; Los Angeles, CA; Palo Alto, CA; San Francisco, CA; Portland, OR; and Seattle, WA.

I am not great with puzzle games. I am a better cheerleader and support person.

–Jane, requires patience, the puzzles