Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tech Support

Me: How's your computer holding up? No more random shutdowns? Did you end up moving it so it gets better airflow?

Lady at work: No, it seems to be okay. I didn't move it, though. Well, I may have shoved it back in a bit. It was out all yesterday, it's fine.

::shoves computer back into unventilated corner::

For those of you at a loss, a computer is neither a child nor a dog. It does, in fact, need fresh air constantly, and cannot be kept in a small box. Wait, what?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Yay Friday

Alright, I'm off my political soapbox, I promise. Today, actually, I want to talk about movies.

Last night I went out to see In Bruges before going to dinner at a contemporary pizza kitchen (something I will get to later). Now, Nick makes me a little crazy when it comes to movies, as he well knows... he's just so much more experienced with the medium that he's got a lot of interesting and well-thought-out things to say, and I certainly felt like my comments were a little lost. Not to mention, he always knows a guy who knows a guy in the business - or really, not even, because his entire family are editors and sound techs and award-winning costume designers. Oh, those crazy LA Jews. To his credit, he doesn't at all blow off the things I have to say - he's good conversation, or more often, good debate.

Anyway, In Bruges. The movie started out on a single, decidedly poignant track. Two hit men are exiled to the fairy-tale town of Bruges, in Belgium. The younger of the two has made a serious mistake that obviously upsets him deeply, which is why they were sent to an out of the way "shithole", as Ray keeps calling it. His conflict is the really interesting and moving part of the beginning of the movie, and watching him try to deal with it while forced to interact with unfamiliar and often outlandish surroundings was, for me, the most interesting part. Then all of a sudden the movie hits a bump in the road, and the story seems to become a lot less coherent. It fragments into a few different narratives and it's hard to see how they affect one another at all. Everything comes together rather neatly at the end, though. Looking back on it, I had insisted that it was an incoherent and inconsistent narrative that I thought could have been done better. But I think now that after a second watching, I would be just as in love with it as I was the first time through, and on top of that, would find the storytelling brilliant. I think the thing that caught me off-guard seeing it for the first time was that the movie led me to expect one thing from it, and then it clicked over to a completely different kind of story just when I thought it should have ended.

In summary, I love this movie. I loved it when I saw it and I still adore it. The story was complex and unpredictable enough that it took a day of mulling over to pull itself together in my head. This is what usually happens when a movie does something I wasn't expecting, and tends to make them all the better on second, third, fourth, nth watching. Go see it. It's an artistic movie, but supremely accessible and fundamentally moving. Ray (Colin Farrell's character) is such a child that you can't help but love him. The sense of humor in the movie is very dry and not overdone, and it never plays for laughs. I think what impressed me most was the balance of the film. It walked between black comedy, drama, art, and self-indulgence, without ever tipping too far. It was something else entirely - a mostly-new animal in film. Go. Just go see it now and save me from sounding any more like a pretentious ass than I already do.

After that, we went to La Madia? I think that was the name of the place. Anyway, it's down Grand, past State. Looks like a swanky little place, and really, it is a swanky little place, but very relaxed. I had a $24 glass of Chateau Montelena Chardonnay with an arugula, chicken, walnut and apple salad and a white clam and tomato pizza. Chocolate cake gelato with a touch of Sambuca for dessert. The food was excellent and, continuing the evening's theme, not overdone at all. It was very simple - the flavors were all fresh and blended well, and there weren't large amounts of unidentifiable spice or sauce involved. I wore a t-shirt and jeans and didn't feel out of place. That in and of itself would get the place high marks in my book. :-)

Anyway, yes, I recommend both In Bruges and La Madia (spelling?). Thinking about it, these picks both make a lot of sense coming from Nick - they seem to embody his tastes pretty well. Good show, Mr. Simmons, and Readerland, I expect your reports when I next see you.

Monday, February 11, 2008


A few more things. I told you about Scientology and the power of the 'Net to actually get stuff done. Well, keep it up kids, because the Pirate Bay are being prosecuted under trumped-up charges that don't even really exist under Swedish law. Friday was 'wear yellow to free the Pirate Bay' day. Keep awareness up. Let's demonstrate that the old system isn't working anymore. We've had some serious victories lately, with the Big Four turning DRM-free. Keep up the momentum.

The administrators of the Pirate Bay (Brokep, Anakata, and TiAMO) were interrogated about the site and their views on its legality several days back - Ars Technica has some of the transcripts. The argument seems to be that since they are hosting links to copyrighted content, they are "promoting copyright infringement".

I am a stereotype

Here I am, blogging from a college coffee shop. It would be better if the shop were one of those independent, student-run jobbies, but I couldn't find a seat.

I haven't blogged in a while, and I feel like there's some catching up that needs to be done.

My social circle has shaken up a bit. I think it's partly because of my OCD and partly just the way I am, but when something painful happens, I have to abandon the familiar. I go looking for new friends, new locations. Jim and I split up 2 Fridays back. Asking me why is a pointless question, I feel. Anyone that knows me knows I don't get into knock-down drag-out fights, and if I do, they don't end the relationship. I don't make heated decisions, I just say stupid things. So if he and I split up, just understand that there was a fundamental problem in the relationship, and move on. It's what I'm doing.

I haven't slept at my apartment in days - actually, since last Tuesday night. I've been sleeping at Millikan, and I went down to Dad's townhome in Austin this weekend. I needed a change of scenery, and for whatever reason I felt like I needed to reinforce connections with new people. The only way I have of describing things right now is that the scene seems to have changed, and I like that. Where I had settled had gotten a bit too uncomfortable, and with change comes opportunity. So I'm happier now. Those of you that know me know that I like having every chance in the world in front of me and not knowing what I'm going to do with it. So I'm enjoying that for the moment.

Now, on to business. I know, I haven't posted pictures yet. I don't have digital copies of the ones I've mentioned previously; I should remember to get a CD next time. Since then, I haven't been out and about too much. The weather got cold, and it's very hard to feel okay about toting around a 22-year-old camera in the snow, when you can't feel your hands. I have visions of it tumbling onto the concrete in slow-motion. It's horrifying.

In the meantime, I have been focusing on bolstering my l33t computer skilz. Working in tech support will teach you a lot. I spent my time setting up a wireless network, learning about WEP encryption, etc. This, of course, prompted a lot of private research, which then led to getting a lot more active in the politics of technology. I decided, with my roommates' approval, to open access to our wireless network (for those of you for whom this might be relevant, the SSID is 2WIRE746). Now, I have some slight concerns with this. I don't want people exploiting our bandwidth; I don't want BitTorrent going down over our humble network (unless it's me). So I've been studying up on bandwidth throttling and router firmware. I'm going to try and download some new firmware for the router that will allow me to filter for MAC addresses and choke the bandwith for non-residents. That's really my main concern. Legal issues aren't so much a problem - if you look at the law, we won't be liable for anything that happens on that network, for the same reason that telco's aren't responsible for anything that happens over their wires. Also, that worry is a small price to pay for knowing that I am a tangible step closer to free information. It sounds idealistic, but free wireless is just _so_ nice. I ran into a friend who had been in my building, and one way or another we found out that he had been using our free wireless, and he thanked me for it. It's become such a central part of the culture that it seems just basic hospitality to offer wireless. Unless you hit the bandwidth cap, it isn't really a limited resource, either. I paid for it, so I get to use it. Other people using it (so long as they don't interfere with my use) is completely situation-neutral. No cost, high benefit. The answer is clear.

My other computer concern is finally getting my network set up. I'm not sure what the role of each beast on the wires will be... I'd like Pixel (my Dell workstation) to be a headless media server, but I'll need to boost her storage for that. I'd like her to run linux, also, but I don't know if storing protected files in Linux will allow me to retrieve them from a Windows box without trouble. I can't imagine that there would be a problem with that, but I have vast amounts of DRM-infected iTunes music, so it is a concern. The other solution is just to Tunebite all that shit - but the system isn't perfect. Sometimes it damages the files. I'd have to set up the computer to run it dedicated for a good couple days at real-time speed, so that I'd know for sure the files would turn out okay. Before March rolls around, I'm going to ask Dad if we can transfer my monthly music allowance over to Amazon, if possible - DRM-free is the way to go. Pyrrhus will be the gaming machine (that's the server). I need a new motherboard for him. I was in the process of transferring media files over to him, but I think I'm going to consolidate them back on Pixel. Pyrrhus will run Windows, dedicated. I know, I know, but the fact remains that for some things, you need a Windows machine. For Ping (the laptop), I think I'm going to pull all media files back over to Pixel, and maybe - maybe - go full Linux on it. I was thinking it would act as a wireless router for the two desktops, but now I don't know. I might just go ahead and get another router for personal use that I can hook the desktops into. That way I can keep using my laptop out and about, and maybe even serve media through Pyrrhus. The Asus, newly named Pepe, is, of course, Linux, and I think it'll stay that way. I've got a nice transFlash in it that adds a good chunk of storage, so it's becoming my new main portable. I doubt it will play any major role in the network. It's mostly my "I'm going to need wireless when I'm out and about" machine.

Phew. You can see I've got a lot of work to do. I will be so happy when I get this set up and clean, though. My data is scattered everywhere - I want it consolidated on Pixel, so that Pyrrhus can be my processing power, Ping my data portability, and Pepe my wireless portability.

Anyway - sorry for the scatterbrained post, I'm a little sick, I think, and I've got Manau blasting in my ears. If you're still reading, I'll catch up with y'all a little further down the road, when I've accomplished some of this shit. Perhaps with pictures.

$cientology Part II

Rundown from the higher-ups at Anonymous about the Feb 10 protests, and plans for the future.


I deeply, deeply regret that I was unable to attend the protest against Scientology in Austin yesterday. But I just want to let everyone out there know that I firmly believe it is a cult, and a scam, and as an institution it is doing monumental harm to the lives of thousands of people. As a sufferer of OCD, I do believe in psychiatric treatment, or at least the right to choose it. As a Catholic, I believe in the institutions of men, guided by God - but truth should not have to be paid for. I believe in family, I believe in common sense, I believe in hope regardless of one's circumstances. These are all things that the church of Scientology, given the evidence, fundamentally opposes.

For more information, google or Wiki

Elli Perkins
Lisa MacPherson
Operation Snow White
Operation Freakout

Spread the word.