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Journal: I'm dreaming of a secular Christmas 1

Journal by mcgrew

I'm dreaming of a secular Christmas
In these modern secular days
With a secular tree with secular lights
And a Santa in a secular sleigh

I'm dreaming of a secular Christmas
With lots of secular snow
With a secular wreath and some secular lights
And some secular mistletoe

No baby in a manger
No wise men at his bed
No thought of Jesus Christ at all
Just get him out of your head

I'm dreaming of a secular Christmas
With lots of secular snow
With a secular Santa in a secular sleigh
And a secular HO HO HO!

No baby in a manger
No wise men at his bed
No thought of Jesus Christ at all
Just get him out of your head

I'm dreaming of a secular Christmas
Have a Happy Holiday!
Don't forget the secular eggnog
Just forget just whose birthday...

---

The above is of course sarcasm, but I think that ironically, antitheists might embrace it.

I am offended by the Honda commercials, where toys given to adults when they were children as "holiday gifts" are attempting to sell cars.

There are no "holiday gifts". Only Hebrews and Christians; it's Hanukkah gifts and Christmas presents. and only 1.8% of Americans are Jewish. Damned Japanese! Then I had a second thought -- is there a Japanese holiday where gifts are exchanged?

It turns out that there is a Japanese holiday, this year on the last day of Hanukkah. It's the Emperor's birthday, but gifts are not exchanged; the emperor's palace is open to the public on that day.

Honda ad agency people, you are idiots. 1.8% of Americans are Jewish, 77% identify themselves as Christian. Guess what, morons? You just offended half the Christians in the US while trying to not disenfranchise the less than two percent who are Jewish.

If you're trying to use Christians' second most holy day to further your worship of mammon, you better damned well mention Christ, or risk pissing off half the population.

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Journal: New Story

Journal by mcgrew

Sundays at noon an old friend has a blues show on a local college radio station, WQNA. Of course, since the blues and booze go so well together, Sunday is my "drink too much" day. So by eight I was too drunk to edit. I put the book down and picked up the notebook and started typing.

It's only started, with only a few more than 600 words so far. The title is "Voyage to Earth". It starts in John's bar five years after arriving at Mars. He's gone to college, learned chemistry, and is brewing the most popular beer on Mars.

Meanwhile, They're going to Earth so Destiny can collect a Nobel in astrophysics for her paradigm-shifting results from her new telescope, John is going along with a shipload of beer to export to Earth ("Earth is buying beer from Mars? Even with the shipping costs? What the hell?"
        "Rich dumbasses trying to be cool. Mars is cool now, I could piss in a can and theyâ(TM)d buy it.").

Tammy is getting an award for her work with drug addicts, not the Nobel and will be accompanying them.

I have no idea how long it will be. It could be a short story or a novel, I don't know yet.

I sent for another copy of Mars, Ho! yesterday. I'm hopeful I'll be able to release it for publication this round, but I doubt it will be on sale in time to buy them for Christmas presents. Bummer.

Saturday I'll post a secular Christmas carol I wrote back in 2005 that almost nobody has seen.

User Journal

Journal: Slimy 1

Journal by stoolpigeon

Having to carefully unselect crap I don't want installed on every Java update? Slimy
Rechecking the "stay logged in" button on facebook for me? Slimy
There's so much slimy stuff. Found a new one today. That Win 7 VM I mentioned, it wanted me to upgrade IE. Which I want to do - no problem. As I'm about to hit the Download button I see a small line further down "Download non-enhanced version." My gut tells me I don't want enhanced - do a quick google and I'm right. Non-enhanced means just the browser. Enhanced means that I'm selecting bing and some MSN junk. It used to be a check box and you had to unclick it. Apparently too many people did.

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Journal: Storage is Cheap but Come On Windows 1

Journal by stoolpigeon

EDIT: I cleaned up restore points and that got the space used down to 27.4 GB - still crazy.
 
I have a Fedora 20 vm that I run in VirtualBox on my Mac. It gives me access to some tools I like, and it lets me run a web server that's closer to what a production environment would look like.
 
Yesterday I got around to setting up another VM. This one is Windows 7. I started the same as I did the Fedora image, with a 25 GB hard drive. That was fine for the windows install but I thought I'd check out the new community edition of Visual Studio. When I went to install it, it told me I didn't have enough free disk space. So I made the "hard drive" bigger - I bumped it up to 30 GB. The install worked then, but I have under 600 MB of free space on the drive. I have only installed Chrome and VS. That's it. WIndows 7, Chrome and VS are 30 GB. I've installed a bunch of stuff on my Fedora VM - Apache, MySQL, KDevelop, QT and the QT tools and so on. Lots of stuff and it is sitting at 18 GB right now.
 
Fortunately it's easy to give the Windows VM more space - it just surprised me I'd need so much.

User Journal

Journal: Things I Can't Avoid Knowing 5

Journal by stoolpigeon

I spend a decent amount of time at Reddit. The key is finding good subreddits. I usually hop on Facebook a time or two a day as well. As an expat it is a good way to connect back to home.
 
Anyway what's interesting to me is that sometimes things happen and those sites just go kerbonkers. Like, for example, if it rains in Phoenix my facebook feed will be absolutely full of it and I'll see it about a million times.
 
With reddit it is more noticeable because certain events will show up in multiple subreddits multiple times and on other sites like Slashdot and Hacker News. Yesterday I'm pretty sure a probe landed on a comet and MS open sourced .net. I'm not sure, but I think I saw something about it - about a million times.
 
Not totally related - the other site I spend a lot of time on is youtube. I watch a lot of starcraft and some different shows like tabletop and I enjoy music videos too. I should write a post just about youtube now that I think about it. Anyway - yesterday I saw something there for the first time where I recognized another user. I guess the real surprise is that with g+ it didn't happen sooner, but still it was funny.

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Journal: Semiliterate professional writers 7

Journal by mcgrew

This story on Slashgear about net neutrality showed up in Google News this morning. I was appalled.

Not at the story, so far I've only read the first sentence. "Today, President Obama sided with you and I."

What the God damned FUCK?! I don't know what uneducated moron wrote that sentence... wait, I found a byline: Nate Swanner. Nate, you show about a fourth grade reading level. Nate, you uneducated moron, QUIT YOU JOB, go back and get your GED and learn the English language before you present yourself as a "journalist".

And you who run slashgear, have you not thought about just maybe hiring an editor who's spent a semester or two in college?

One more question: how do these rank amateurs wind up in the Google News feed?

Oh, and Nate, for your information, it's "you and ME." Would you say "Today, President Obama sided with I"?

Moron. I hear McDonald's and Wal Mart are hiring.

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Journal: Wierd... 3

Journal by mcgrew

Before S/N opened, I spent a lot of time commenting at /. Any more, I check messages and read little of /., partly because stories have been showing up at S/N before /. and partly because there are so many more short bus riders at /. Oh, and slashdot's "stupid quotes" annoy the hell out of me.

I hadn't had mod points at /. for years, despite being at karma cap.

So two days ago I had five /. mod points. Today I had fifteen. I guess heavy posters don't get points.

User Journal

Journal: Grommler 4

Journal by mcgrew

This story takes place in a bar on Mars over a century later than "Mars, Ho!". Kudos to slashdot for finally fixing its handling of smart characters.
        âoeJoe? Is that you? You're still tending bar? I thought you'd be retired. How you doin', you old rascal?â
        Joe frowned. âoeSorry, son, I must be getting old, do I know you? And can I get you a drink?â
        âoeIt's Dave, man. Give me a Knolls lager, draft.â
        âoeSorry, Dave, we're sold out of Knolls. We have some Guinness, that's almost as good. But I'm sorry, but I still don't know who you are. Memory ain't as good as it used to be.â
        âoeDave Rayfield, Joe. Of course it's been a lot longer for you than me. Yeah, Guinness will do.â
        âoeDave Rayfield? I haven't seen him since I was twenty. You his grandson?â he asked, pouring the beer.
        âoeNo, Joe, I'm Dave. Same Dave you knew back then.â
        âoeBut you're so young!â
        âoeIt was the trip. I piloted the science expedition to Grommler while you were throwing rocks from the asteroid belt at Mars.â
        âoeThe terraforming is still going on here. I'm a little old for space hopping. Hell, if I spent any more time traveling through space I'd live forever. But how the hell did you stay a damned kid?â
        âoeSame way you're not dead at a hundred twenty five. Time dilation. Most Earthians die before they're ninety five, but speed stretches time. You'd be dead by now if you hadn't been a spaceship captain. It's been a hundred years since you've seen me, but it's only been ten years since I've seen you.â
        âoeSo where have you been for the last hundred years?â
        âoeTen years to me. We went to Grommler.â
        âoeWhere's that?â
        Dave laughed. "It orbits Sirius, but it was the least serious place I've ever seen! Really weird place.â
        âoeWeird how?â
        âoeEvery way weird goes. First off, there was no fauna at all, not even insects. Only flora, despite having more oxygen than Earth. The geologists said it was because of the CO2 from volcanoes that there could even be any flora.
        âoeBut the weirdest was the plants. We were there for two years, and that's in real time, and every single plant the biologists tested had cannabinoids and other psychoactive components. There were a lot of brush fires because of the wind and lightning, so every time you went outside you got stoned. Hell, some of the guys practically lived outside!â
        âoeNeed another beer?â
        Dave eyed his glass and downed it. âoeYeah. Jesus, Joe, things sure changed in the last ten years.â
        âoeIt's been a hundred years since you left, Dave. It only seems like ten to you.â
        âoeI guess. But you know what, Joe? I'm going to clean up!â
        âoeWhat do you mean?â
        Dave pulled out an envelope. âoeThese. Grommlerian tomato seeds. Grommlerian plants have a completely different ordering than our plants, it's something different than DNA and the scientists are still trying to figure it out. But they make seeds like Earth plants.â
        âoeTomatoes?â
        âoeNot really. They look like tomatoes but taste way different, but they taste really good. And they get you really stoned.â
        âoeWell, okay, you found a reefer planet. When you find a beer planet, let me know.â

User Journal

Journal: A World Clock with an Analog Face 2

Journal by stoolpigeon

I'm still learning a lot about my Mac and getting better at using it. Today I was going over trackpad gestures and learned that there is this "Notification Center" that I can pull out by swiping in from the side with 2 fingers. I had no idea it was there. It's mostly useless. I don't care about stock quotes. I don't use any of the Apple calendar, reminder or other stuff. But I did think that the world clock thing was a good idea.
 
On my living room computer that is hooked to my TV I have 3 time widgets I keep up. It's Win 7 and each widget is set to one of the 3 time zones where we have family. I figured I could have something similar in the notification center on my laptop. The thing is, as far as I can tell there is no way to change the way it represents the time. It does it with little analog clock faces. I can't think of a worse way to do that. There is no way to look at it and know if the time displayed is AM or PM. It makes me have to think too much.
 
I read somewhere that third parties can create widgets for this space. I'll have to look into it.

User Journal

Journal: Missed Deadlines 1

Journal by mcgrew

I "finished" writing Mars, Ho! early in the summer, and since it became a horror story I was aiming to publish it by Halloween. Well, that didn't happen.

I wanted it to be done by then so it would show up in bookstores by Thanksgiving. I still had hopes of getting it at least for sale on my web site by then, especially since a fan wrote with news he was planning to buy several copies as gifts.

It doesn't look like that will happen, either. I just finished making the changes I'd made in the second printed copy (the first goes to my daughter Patty, the second to Dewey, who stirred the muse) and sent off for a third. It will be a couple weeks before it shows up on my porch, and if there are no more changes, which is doubtful, it would be at least another week before I cleared it for publication.

I'll be lucky if it's for sale this year. I'm frustrated.

Oh, well. I'm not in it for the money, just for the satisfaction of writing novels and actually have people read them. It's a good thing I'm not in it for the money because I'm barely breaking even, after copyright registration, ISBNs, and buying copies, many of which are marked up in pencil, not completely edited, and not for sale.

However, even though I'm not in it for the money, I'm still planning to sell the e-book on Amazon. If I got on their best seller list it would get more people reading, and many might read other of my books from the web site. Mars, Ho!'s HTML and PDF will still be free. Few are downloading the free e-books of the first two books, most are either reading it online or downloading the single HTML file.

Anyway, I guess I'm on vacation again... oh, wait, there's Random Scribblings.

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Journal: The Sixth Stage of Grief is Retro-Computing 2

Journal by stoolpigeon

The Sixth Stage of Grief is Retro-Computing
 
This is just a beautiful piece of writing. It doesn't match my experience perfectly but so many notes really resonate with me. It's funny, I've been on this Steve Jobs video binge lately and this just fits right in.
 
I had to scroll down to start reading the piece, which threw me for a second, but again - I really recommend reading this. It's so well done. I will be thinking about it and quoting it for a long time to come.

User Journal

Journal: My Spine 4

Journal by stoolpigeon

I have a herniated disc (disk?) (Apparently disk if I follow AMA guidelines. huh.) in my neck. Apparently in a common place. It's protruding pretty far into my spine and pushing on my spinal cord. I think it's also in contact with nerve roots. I don't know all the right terms. I make my wife crazy because medical stuff doesn't interest me. It's like car maintenance. I just want to hand it off to people who know. But since it looks like I need surgery, I have to be more involved in this as it's somewhat serious - people digging around in your neck and spine.
 
The first neurosurgeon I saw took a look at the MRI, did an exam and said I need surgery immediately. Normally that'd be it, but I've had it drilled into me that when it comes to surgery and stuff you always get a second opinion. (As much as I hate to do that.) So Monday I'll see another guy here in Budapest who is apparently one of the better doctors in the world for this kind of stuff.
 
If he agrees that I need surgery (and I think he will) then I have to decide where to do it. Hospitals here in Hungary are a little lighter on the care side than what I'd get in the U.S. There might be an option with a private hospital here, or I may look into having it done in Germany where there is another doctor who is pretty good at this stuff.
 
What's crazy though is if I did have it here, the doctor tells me the cost would be about 1800 euros. As an American, that is an insane number. Yes, during the hospital stay I'd have to provide my own medication and toilet paper - but dang, 1800 euros? I'm guessing the Germany route I'd be looking at a minimum of 20000 euros. My insurance would cover the majority of it. If I went home to the US I'm guessing it would be as expensive or more than the private hospital route in Germany.
 
I only have one spine - so I'm a little torn. Need to do more research, which I hate.
 
Oh - and here's the other thing I've learned. Hungarians aren't fans of pain killers. It took a lot for me to get some rather mild medication. They started me on what was the equivalent of ibuprofen. The doctor was worried about giving me something stronger and I was thinking, "Dude, back in the US I'd be knocking back 325 milligrams of Percocet." That was when it was really bad. I actually feel a lot better now, though I have to be very careful about how I move and I have constant numbness in my left hand.

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Journal: Amazon's Hachette fight 7

Journal by mcgrew

I ran across an interesting opinion piece in Vox while going through Google News today. The piece is by Matthew Yglesias. What made me sit up and take notice is that he's on Amazon's side in the Hachette fight.

What's interesting is that his piece got published at all, considering that (as he notes) the newspaper, movie, music, and book publishers are all owned by the same big corporations.

I mostly agree with him, but not about everything. He writes:

In the traditional book purchasing paradigm, when a reader bought a book at the store there were two separate layers of middlemen taking a cut of the cash before money reached the author: a retailer and a publisher. The publisher, in this paradigm, was doing very real work as part of the value-chain. A typed and printed book manuscript looks nothing like a book. Transforming the manuscript into a book and then arranging for it to be shipped in appropriate quantities to physical stores around the country is a non-trivial task. What's more, neither bookstore owners nor authors have any expertise in this field.

Digital publishing is not like that. Transforming a writer's words into a readable e-book product can be done with a combination of software and a minimal amount of training. Book publishers do not have any substantial expertise in software development, but Amazon and its key competitors (Apple, Google, and the B&B/Microsoft partnership) do.

My "manuscripts" are exactly like the printed books. I upload a PDF and they print it.

But publishers aren't just middlemen who only offer publicity, as I've found out from experience. The publisher has editors and proofreaders, and this aspect is (at least for me) the hardest part of writing a book.

What's more, a self-published physical book is far more expensive than a book published by someone like Doubleday. I can get a copy of Andy Weir's The Martian at Barnes and Noble cheaper than I can get a copy of one of my own books from the printer.

He also seems to agree with everyone that physical books will go away. I used to think so, too, but reality changed my mind. I used to think that old fogeys like me were the only ones who prefer dead trees to electrons.

First was my 28 year old daughter, who when she saw the physical copy of Nobots exclaimed "My dad wrote a book. And it's a REAL book!"

Second was sales. Most people read my books for free on my web site, but far more people buy them than download them, and far more download the PDF or single file HTML than the e-book version.

I also discovered that people highly value books that were signed by the author. When a Felbers patron bought a paperback copy of Nobots (I have a box of them in my car's trunk), the first thing he did was ask me to sign it.

How can an author sign an e-book? I do what printmakers do and sign in pencil, because pencil is far harder to fake than ink.

But I agree with him on Amazon vs e-book publishers. E-books from publishers are way, way too expensive, and there's no reason whatever why an e-book should cost fifteen bucks. As he notes, there is almost no cost at all for making another copy of an e-book.

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Journal: Can Capitalism and Democracy Co-Exist? 1

Journal by PopeRatzo

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/10/can-capitalism-democracy-co-exist.html

I'm going to say that no, finance-driven capitalism like we see in the US and UK cannot exist is inherently anti-democratic. Industrial driven capitalism has a better chance.

The key elements in human thinking are not numbers but labels of fuzzy sets. -- L. Zadeh

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