Quest of the um, wait, *what*?

I recall somebody commenting, long before I found out that I'm autistic, that I was focused on so many things intently at once that I gave the appearance of having ADD.  (The appearance, that is, because I have all of those things going on because I never entirely drop an interest.)

So I just spent some time copying lines out of Shay Addams' Official Book of Ultima for my mother, because we somehow ended up talking about... Actually, I'm not even sure how we got to it, but I ended up trying to relay a vaguely-recalled section about how the Dead Sea Scrolls claimed Jesus Christ wandered to India and became a Hindu yogi avatar.  I was kind of annoyed that I couldn't just find it online, so I shall excerpt the relevant part (because the book is now 18-20 years out of print):
"But while Christians say Christ was the Son of God, the Hindus say, no, you misinterpret it: he never said he was the Sun of God, Christ said he was one with God."
"[A] television documentary about the Dead Sea Scrolls [was] talking about the life of Christ, and digressed briefly into a period of time when he apparently traveled to India and other Hindu areas and studied with them for a while... The Hindus believe Christ was a very powerful yogi who, when he studied with them, attained the most powerful level, the avatar...the culmination of yogis...someone who has purified themselves in all 16 [described] ways."
 Now I need to go find out why the heck Pidgin keeps crashing, and research various things I need to obtain/replace as they're either frustratingly limited (newish cellphone bought on Black Friday), dying (external backup hard drive), parts to repair something that failed (monitor capacitors),  or my parents' Christmas gifts to me ("I don't know anything about __ but I know you need one, so here's the money, go do research and buy one").

Sod it.  I think I'll go find downloadable copies of the old Apple II disks to Legacy Of The Ancients  CRPG Addict is playing the DOS version and I don't recall it being quite that ugly on my IIgs back in the day...

Autism Buzz...kill

Just spent way too long writing a long reply to an irritatingly wrong article on autism on a site that styles itself as "intelligent" (HA HA HA), so I might as well share the results here...  What sucked the most was that until I submitted the damn comment, I couldn't see that responses aren't visible from the article, so I basically stayed up until almost 8am for nothing! 

Why be serious when I can have fun with it?

Out of all the sites I frequent, SFGate definitely has the highest ratio of people whose heads are firmly wedged where the sun doesn't shine.  One topic that tends to bring out the worst in people, for example, is fast food -- the whole Bay Area as a whole has a high ratio of jackarses in that regard, but I saw the worst example yet a little bit ago:
"Ugly" to describe fast food? I'm pretty sure it's the result of consuming that garbage that makes someone ugly. Inside and out.
At first, I only noticed the first 90% of what had been said -- the sheer magnitude of idiocy in such a small space was too much for my brain to handle -- and posted this in response:
Right, because people that eat only the "right" food are always much nicer than ones that would ever go near a fast-food joint, and would never ever do something vulgar like judge how good a person is by their restaurant choices.

(That was sarcasm, in case you were too busy enjoying your superiority complex to notice...)
After pasting his words here, I realized my mistake, and knew I had to fix my oversight, so I added this:
I overlooked the and-on-the-outside aspect of your bizarre comment... Without making the obvious insult, I'll just give you some "advice" -- you shouldn't make comments suggesting you can't see other human beings while sounding like a troll, or eventually you'll be asked whether you suffer from cranial rectal syndrome...

Autistic acceptance infinity ribbon images

Original "Autistic Pride" symbol/ribbon
I've looked many times in the last few years for a new image of an autistic advocacy/pride/acceptance ribbon... The official design for the movement is a rainbow spectrum chasing around an infinity symbol, but the lone accurate graphic I keep finding just doesn't feel right, and specifies "autistic pride" which tends to be a big turn-off for newbie parents.

The alternatives all boil down to taking an infinity symbol, then having a linear rainbow gradient run across it... That's nothing at all like how a ribbon or even how the infinity symbol works (it's not flat!), and I'm kind of picky about things like that, so it wasn't quite enough.

Last night, while writing a comment at Slate's Dear Prudence column, where a woman had written for advice on ensuring her newly-identified-AS daughter gets to enjoy Thanksgiving, I felt frustrated at the inability to find an appropriate avatar. I liked the spectrum Moebius Strip one that Oddizm made many years ago, but few people would realize it wasn't just a pretty picture

Just blurring it didn't look quite right even with the edges sharp. I tried using it as a guide for the Path Tool (which I'd then Stroke with a rainbow), but I never did master Paths and soon gave up.  I ran through all of the available filters that looked remotely applicable, but didn't get results I liked.  Eventually, I tried Gaussian Blur + the hand-controlled Smudge tool to mix colors.

A while of working later, I had an acceptable (not gorgeous, I'm not an artist!) ribbon in both original proportions & a more condensed version that fits in a square, plus had one square version with text (shown).  I'm picturing the basic image here, and clicking on it will bring you to a gallery of the other variants/sizes. Feel free to use it as an avatar online, to edit it, or whatever you want.

Ignorance isn't curable by living naturally

I just ran across this comment by a bozo at SFGate:
Medicine? LOL.
What, like Pry-zagothon-D, for mind worms?

Or "the little purple pill for little purple... problems?"

Eff all that JUNK.

Live naturally, live well. Aspirin is white willow tree bark, in nature.

TV is for selling things. Remember that.
Yeah, you know me, I couldn't just sit back and keep quiet in response to that... Thankfully, it was one of those moments where I've written many similar comments in the past, so I was able to easily rehash the idea with this:
Wow, so if I just 'live naturally' I'll stop needing hormones for my lost ovaries, asthma preventative & treatment, pain control & meds for birth defects? So all of those war veterans with PTSD, depression, pain from injuries, etc. would be just fine with no meds needed if they 'lived naturally'?

Because of attitudes like yours, I spent a YEAR trying every natural treatment for depression I could get info on, thinking I'd be 'weak' or 'drugged' if I took a single pill, and slowly getting worse the whole time. I finally asked for help when the pain was unbearable as suicide would put my pets in the pound.

Check out this NYT article - when an author did intense research to write a book on overmedicating kids, she found the ones on meds needed it as nothing else was helping: We've Got Issues by Judith Warner

I don't have TV & I block web ads; I read, write, and learn. Maybe you should do the same: living naturally sure isn't fixing your ignorance!

Nooo, not my monitor!

When I was using Fedora, one of the more bizarre issues that started cropping up is that when -- and only when -- it was left unattended for several hours, my external/only monitor would shut off and refuse to come back on for several minutes.  The power light would flicker for about two seconds when I asked it to turn on, and my sharp (likely autistic-linked) ears could hear all kinds of weird (and now predictable) electrical fluctuations, but no picture.  Turning the screensaver off, turning it on, changing it, etc. didn't help.

I switched back to OpenSuSE, left it overnight, and to my shock, the monitor was still on the next morning.  I figured that I'd just solved the problem, saving me the very real possibility of having a dead monitor, especially since I can't afford a new one and don't know how to fix it yet. That is, until today, when I found the monitor in "sleep" state and it shut itself off for several minutes when I moved the mouse to bring it back up. This is really frustrating -- there's a ton of non-optional expenses in the next few months (and I don't mean presents), and this was the second Westinghouse to pull this on me in a row.  Bleep Westinghouse.

Time to do some serious research on fixing LCD monitor power issues, I guess.  Well, I had planned on learning how to fix electronics via soldering iron sometime, and I'll be thrilled for a week if I pull it off!!

OpenSuSE, Fedora, argh

I wrote quite a while back that I'd settled in OpenSuSE 11.3 Linux, and was extremely happy with it.  Well, I'm not sure if I mentioned it, but a couple of months or so ago, a stupid mistake on my part updated it to 11.4 Alpha, breaking my ability to run a huge number of programs and generally making me unhappy.

So, after a lot of frustration one day, I decided to try something else entirely: Fedora 13.  Aside from some initial hassle, and a few things I hadn't managed to puzzle out yet, that went quite well, enough that I recommended it to a fellow novice.  So I was quite pleased when it turned out that, hey, Fedora 14 was out!

I used the little updater that runs in the background, then does its magic after a reboot.  The next morning, I merrily rebooted the computer...and was told I didn't have enough disk space -- but not which partition it wanted space on.  It also, as I soon learned, did something so I couldn't boot into the still-untouched 13; fixing the free space issue didn't help.  Meanwhile, the Fedora 14 Live CD I'd downloaded for kicks inexplicably makes the screen go blank after filling the "F" logo in.

So much for that idea. I didn't know how to fix 13, or if it could be fixed, so I put the OpenSuSE GNOME 11.3 live CD in -- and installed that instead.  I'm typing from it now, noticing the interesting mix of things it does better than Fedora & things Fedora definitely has a huge lead in.  I can't figure out for the life of me how I got their bizarre problem with Firefox's failure to respect the font hinting settings (a non-issue in Fedora) fixed last time, and the solutions I've found/tried aren't the one I used last time.

It's at times like this that I actually do understand claims that Linux will never conquer the desktop, or why Ubuntu is ahead (though it has the same stupid Firefox font issue, they also have a ready-made fix). Arrgh.  Maybe I'll just find a fix so Fedora 13 will boot, or the way to forcefully reverse the screwed-up "upgrade" from OpenSuSE 11.3->11.4alpha, since both installations are still sitting peacefully in their own partitions on my drive...

Research what you care about -- before writing it!

One of the interesting writing blogs I read, Writerly Life, has a routine feature called the Mailbag, where the author quotes some of the responses that were left in an article's comments section.  I missed the original piece Write About What You Care About, but I did catch the follow-up for it.  Most of the advice people referred to (or offered) sounded spot-on right, but there was one little issue that left me uncomfortable, so I felt compelled to offer a response...
I agree with all of that, with an added bold-faced addition about others' perspectives: ensure that your research centers around what people in that situation have written & said about their lives. That especially applies if the character has a disability, as "experts" and parents can only describe their conclusions based on what they see from the outside or what we tell them, and can't actually give you the internal viewpoint one of us has.

To get back to the point of the article/letters, I was passionate enough when writing about being autistic firsthand to read everything I could find by others on the spectrum. Their perspectives significantly improved the quality of my work, based on the feedback I was getting, as they had quite different ways of describing (and sometimes percieving) things, which let me see some of my own assumptions about the topic.

One favorite I recall, which I've used to help my writing in general, was the idea of distinguishing between how a person/we sees their/our traits, and where they/we have internalized others' opinions. Simple concept, but it's interesting and useful to go over one's characters (or self-perceptions) that way and see what pops up. (For example, offhand: does Suse hate her lingering accent on her own, or perhaps that boy that's overly friendly in chapter 6 was vicious about it when they were little, until...)

Quote borrowed from Estee Klar

Catching up with parent-ally Estee Klar's recent blog posts, I got to see this great quote:
“An individual having unusual difficulties in coping with his environment struggles and kicks up the dust, as it were. I have used the figure of a fish caught on a hook; his gyrations must look peculiar to other fish that don’t understand his circumstances: but his splashes are not his affliction, they are an effort to get rid of his affliction and as every fisherman knows, these effects may succeed.”
– Karl Mennenger
I view my depression & anxiety as afflictions, but they're the symptomatic reaction to how our society & its people handle people like myself or my mother. They're a response to knowing that no matter how sick I am, my non-disabled brother can't be bothered to drive Mom to the doctor, and that Mom's oldschool sexism makes her believe that it's totally normal for young men since "normal" men aren't nurturing.

The depression and anxiety, to veer more towards Estee's commentary, are from the nightmare of trying to seem "normal" throughout my first relationship, being mistreated without understanding what I was doing wrong. Dating a fellow autistic seemed like the perfect antidote -- but the emotional problems were only deepened tenfold, beacuse the autie had been trained harshly to fit in, and felt it was his job to 'helpfully' point out all of the tiny ways I didn't, to tell me what a freak his friends thought I was, and impress upon me how he didn't want to be unemployed as that would mean he's a worthless, useless "eater" undeserving of love.

Being autistic and having my physical disabilities aren't afflictions that I struggle to break free from... No, I was a very happy girl as I was, proud of being myself rather than trying to fit in, dedicated to honing the talents that I was also proud of. It wasn't until people I looked up to (or at least thought were worth listening to) started communicating their bigoted, hateful thoughts that I was afflicted with anything or started feeling like I was flailing ineffectually against an invisible monster determined to eat me alive. Hopefully we can find some way to keep future generations from being threatened similarly -- perhaps with some targeted "early intervention" of non-disabled kids & their parents, to make sure they don't become some other innocent's nightmare affliction.

Old myths don't die, do they?

I was hanging out at reading responses to the latest Dear Prudence column, when I saw the return of an old myth. Their autistic father had put up with decades of nastiness from his wife, then when she became severely disabled late in life, he carefully took care of her -- and, after that bittersweet tale, the person commented that "Autism often involves the absence of major emotional reactions to life situations."

Sigh. I'd had other plans for what I was going to do on the computer this evening, but when no other "advocates" responded to the post, I had to do so. I'll share here what I said, with an added footnote:
[Person], speaking as an autistic we're wired to show emotions very differently, and it's an old myth that we have none. (As one of us* wryly put it years ago: we can't read non-autistics, so they think we're unable to read anybody; NAs can't read us, so they assume we're incapable of expressing anything.) My father's autistic as well, and while we can seem enigmatic to non-auties, we have no problem sensing one another's feelings.

I can easily understand your father staying & taking care of your mom after she became severely disabled. Most auties hold very tightly to the ideas of right & wrong we learned as kids, to the point that how someone else acted towards us is often irrelevant. The right thing to do, if one's partner becomes severely disabled, is to take care of them; the wrong thing to do would be to use it against them or leave.

I keep bookmarks for educating folks on autistic minds, I'd be honored if you use them to understand your dad & other auties in your family:

I hope you have a great week!

*The person that made the wry observation was Frank Klein. He ran a wonderful site of personal essays, which is now only available through the Wayback Archive: Autistic Advocacy.

Autistic breath of fresh air

It must be Interesting Article Month or something, since I just saw another on Salon that I had to share my reply to.  This one had the interesting title of How My Son Has Taught Me About His Autism; while it repeated some common misconceptions, it was very unusual in that it was about a mother listening to her young son and other autistic people, not running around crying that autism ate her baby.  Here is what I replied with:

Seeing an article by a non-autie parent of an autistic-spectrum kid, I immediately became anxious from too much experience... 99% of the time, such things boil down to: my child is broken. Being autistic, with an autistic father I'm really proud of & a ton of other autistic-spectrum relatives on both sides, seeing our kind of person referred to that way is upsetting.
It's good that you're listening to your son, doubly so that you're listening to autistic people, not just "experts" making guesses from the outside! I was interested to see his description of his mind isn't far from how my mother (not sure what she is) describes hers; mine is more synaesthetic like moving textured swirls of color, but when translating my thoughts into words, I use a similar computer/dictionary kind of method.
You have to be careful, though: most of today's young spectrum folk were raised to see everything about themselves as dysfunctional, and to view bullying/mistreatment from the self-blaming perspective of an abuse victim. They make it seem logical to figure "if he seems more like them, they won't hit him" instead of the way we'd handle it for anyone else: "hitting kids for being different isn't acceptable."
The theory of mind idea is actually wildly inaccurate. To begin with, everyone interprets human behavior based on their personal, cultural & neurological background; the way you politely show appreciation for a home-cooked meal in Italy, for example, is really offensive in America. Also, non-auties as a group are much worse when it comes to reading us than vice-versa, so that most of the literature on autism and how to treat or help us is wildly inaccurate as a result.
I'll tackle another couple of misconceptions... We don't find life itself confusing, just things (social structures, room layouts, etc.) designed for non-auties. We have our own ways of interacting, communicating nonverbally, and socializing that work great with other autistics. We also have hardwired ways of relieving stress & anxiety like the steam in a teakettle -- stims (repetitive actions), perseverating (intense studying of a favorite subject). The best way for us to avoid isolation isn't to put on a big act to hang out with non-auties, it's to find others of our own kind that share one of our interests.
With that in mind, if you want to help your son and protect him, seek out our wonderful parent-allies like Estee Klar & fellow auties that (like me) perseverate on understanding & accepting autistic neurology. My namelink points to my autism bookmarks on that topic, including ones going to Estee's blog.
Good luck to you and your son... I hope you two, as well as all of the other autistics & parent-allies (allies are the ones that don't want to cure, normalize, or abort us) have a good week!

Can horses goose-step?

This might have been the weirdest movie-review debacle I've heard of... First, Salon's Andrew O'Hehir posted a what-the-hell-was-he-on review of Secretariat (seriously, it has to be read to be believed), to which I replied:
First, a side FYI: "Sham" was the name of one of the three stallions that all thoroughbreds can trace their ancestry back to, who was also known as the Godolphin Arabian.

Anyway... Several years ago, my brother gave me a copy of a bestseller about one of the great racehorses. The big problem was that the book was completely focused on the people around the horse -- the horse was more like a vague far-in-the-background plot device -- so I found it painfully boring.

So chances are that I won't bother with this movie... Sounds like it's mostly about the people here, too. Meh.

That said, what you described is how virtually all horse stories work -- they're supposed to tell of how the horse went from being a nobody to something great. Somebody (often a kid or cynical adult) gets a horse that's supposedly unsuitable for whatever it was bred for, stick with the long days of training through various small crises or setbacks, and emerge victorious.

That that narrative is precisely why Secretariat, Man O'War, and other top racehorses were so beloved back in their day. While you sneered at it for not focusing on current events, the reality is that Americans saw the horses as symbols of their own ability to potentially succeed, and focused on racing to escape the events around them.

The reality is also that for many people, the turmoil of that time basically didn't reach them. My parents were hippies, and from the many stories they've told, their siblings, parents, and grandparents *were* isolated by their upper-middle-class communities. It was the equivalent to what the Haiti disaster is for most of us.

I'm definitely curious whether the movie mangled the facts about Secretariat or his handlers. I'll have to look into that... For what it's worth, I'd say that for a female protagonist, an industry that refuses to accept women *is* a significant obstacle -- it's unclear whether you dismiss that issue, or if the movie did a poor job of depicting it.

Slate's Dana Stevens agreed with him, but added more interesting information with Bio-pics of Lennon & Secretariat an oddly fitting pairing .  I figured I'd toss in my ten cents there as well:
Actually, I like your review a lot better than the one at Salon that you referenced... Among other things, he didn't mention what the woman's obstacle was regarding the farm, just that there was a tax problem, which is different from losing her father's farm. I get the feeling that before commenting on specific things, you'd look up a little about it first. (Like "Sham": anyone that read Margurite Henry's books as a horse-crazy kid can explain that "Sham" was one of the 3 stallions that all thoroughbreds are descended from.)

It sounds like "Secretariat" is designed the way virtually all horse movies are -- the problem is in the current tendency to market them as being for general adult audiences, when horse movies are almost always basically for horse-crazy types, especially kids. That's why the genre focuses on the bond between the horse and a human or two: that's why we watch. Or put another way, when I watched "The Black Stallion", I wanted to be reminded of how amazing animal-human bonds can be; with "Phar Lap", I was curious about the life of a famous race horse in historical Australia and his bond with his caretakers.

Back in the mid-20th century, Americans adored racehorses because the horses were both a symbol of the ability to become one of the greats through talent & effort, and of their own ability to use knowledge & dedication to succeed. In other words, their obsession was a way of escaping the reality of their lives; they didn't want a reminder when watching related movies. Also, according to my SF Bay Area former-hippy parents, an affluent mother back then would hear about some of the events through gossip or the news, but it was like far away problems we're not directly affected by today.
Here's where things swung towards weirdness straight into really funny.  Evidently the cluster of readers at Salon & I that disagreed with O'Hehir's weird review weren't quite alone, because Roger Ebert felt the need to post a grand, extremely funny smackdown, called Secretariat Was Not A Christian.  (Muahahahaha!) My two favorite quotes:
I question if a single American, right-thinking or left-thinking, thought even once of Secretariat as a Nietzschean Überhorse. Nor did many consider the Triple Crown victories as a demonstration of white superiority, because race horses (which seem to enjoy winning for reasons of their own) are happily unaware of race. Does a horse think of a human as belonging to another race? I speculate that a horse considers a human as a differently-abled horse. A cat, now, may belong to another race. ...

I am so totally not kidding if I ask, must a man who does indeed look like Pancho Martin therefore be "villainous, swarthy and vaguely terrorist-flavored?" And as for the hapless Sham, the horse with the evil name, for Christ's sake, O'Hehir, that was the horse's damn name.

Dogs sure didn't teach him to research...

I just wrote a letter in response to an interview with an author on Salon that really drove me batty, Did Dogs Teach Us To Love? Rather than try to explain, I'll reprint the relatively small amount I tackled in More errors than I could shake a stick at...aaargh!!!:
Anybody that finds this interesting should read Do Cats Speak? by Paul Corey. It's out of print, but worthwhile & dispels old stereotypes about cats.

I don't think there's any animal in the wild who [makes friends].

Dogs aren't wild... Among domestic animals, it's a matter of whether it's raised to regard others as a threat. As owners of cats and horses can attest, they'll befriend all kinds of creatures if they feel safe.

I could believe that [it's all about being fed] about cats.

It isn't the case. Kittens show attachment while they're still nursing, and cats don't stop because there's no food around.

I mean, they can become affectionate but it's not like they just love us, whatever we do to them.

Socialized domestic animals (dogs, cats, horses, etc.) all act remarkably alike about this. They'll react with shock/confusion if a person they've bonded with strikes them, but won't reject the person unless they're beat enough to decide the person's a threat.

[Cats were very solitary but] they've overcome that.

All kinds of wild & feral cats are born and live in hierarchical groups; they're healthiest/happiest with other cats, preferably ones they grew up with. Nothing to overcome there.

[Dogs & cats] are part of the human family in a way that no other domesticated animal is.

Currently in America, yes, because that's how our society is structured. It's different in other times/cultures: Arabian horses lived in the tent with their masters, some cultures don't see dogs/cats as pets at all. the ability to trust us, dogs have achieved something that no other animal has achieved.

With horses, it's less common as only a percentage of trainers use the methods that allow for that, but they & cats are capable if humans let them.

Benjy would be fine around a newborn. ... I would hesitate before allowing my cats in there. You just never know what a cat might do.

Your dog would be fine; that doesn't mean dogs as a group are. A cat might try to sleep with/on a baby, but that's about it -- some dogs will bite, though.

I must say, there's a gender difference here. I think that women tend to be, the minute they see something like that, oxytocin begins to flow and then the kind of maternal protectiveness, a nurturing instinct.

*gag* A lot of men are nurturing, a lot of women aren't; it's a stereotype! AFAIK, oxytocin's released just during labor -- women don't just randomly pump it out upon seeing young; a lot of us lack maternal urges towards babies or any urge to reproduce.

...people who work with pit bulls say, yep, [they're vicious despite upbringing].

All of the people I've encountered that specialize in rehabilitating pit bulls say the opposite: that their bad rep has been a recent issue from being raised to guard/fight, and can usually be overcome. *All* breeds have bad seeds, regardless.

...cats are so aloof.

People that feel cats are "aloof" have no clue about how to read their body language, or have cats that aren't used to people that can. That's from a lot of experience with even abused/feral cats.

And [cats will] bring back rabbits and rats and birds ....

Cats are like that IF they grew up outside with a mother that taught them; they bring prey home to nourish their human family. Cats raised safely indoors have no clue about hunting, often don't realize prey is edible (or know how to eat solid meat), and are more likely to just be scared if they get outside.

So dogs ...will not hunt because they know you don't like it.

No, a dog that doesn't have a strong prey drive can be trained to not attack. If the dog isn't well-trained, or if it inherited a strong prey drive, it will be too dangerous with a small species no matter how their owner feels.

I would choose a dog...because a dog would go wherever I go.

Well, provided it's well-trained, not aggressive, not afraid of cars/dogs/ many dogs.

[My cats] like walking on the beach at night...

I partly had to chuckle at the mental image of a huge litterbox that conjured up! Sadly, going outside cuts the average lifespan of a cat from 15 to 4. Like I said early on, read Do Cats Speak? by Paul Corey; this is one of the things it illustrates all too well.

[Cats] aren't going anywhere near [car rides].

No, your cats aren't. I've heard of people whose cats think it's great fun.

Benjy goes to the vet and lets them do whatever he needs to do.

...and plenty of dogs are the polar-opposite.

And the cats won't. The cats will maul [a vet].

I can only figure that maybe your cats are fearful or mistrusting. I've never run into a problem, not even with ones that were repeatedly hospitalized with chronic problems.

Sounds to me like this guy should have spent a lot of time researching other species and their places in historical societies before spending a book & interview spouting off about them.

Glee, Cop Rock for the millenium

To my surprise, Salon's TV reviewer actually posted a slightly confusing article criticising the show "Glee" for some of its flaws, in an article called "Glee" could be great -- if it weren't so awful. (Isn't "weren't" for plural subjects, and "wasn't" for singular ones?) I decided to throw in my ten cents, much as it might piss people off, with a letter called Cop Rock For The Millenium:
I tried watching an episode of Glee last year, and also had to sit through an episode or two of a soap opera that mimicked it earlier this year. I've heard the songs often enough to know the notes/timing, but they weren't my favorites, and I'm not picky enough to reject how they sound performed live or as a skillful cover -- yet they sounded butchered enough on those TV shows to make me cringe. I mean, much as I disliked its predecessor Cop Rock as a kid, at least it wasn't near-intolerable in the background.

So I'm stuck wondering how on Earth others *can* enjoy those renditions. Is it that you have a vague nostalgia for the tunes that comes from hearing them at central points in your past without listening routinely since then? Or are you hearing them, but not the sort of person to really pick up on the exact notes & timing? Or is it more because you're swept up by the excitement of the latest big "in" thing on TV?

Maybe Heather can explain in a future column, or Salon could post an article on the topic...

So much for playing this, that or the other Ultima.

Well, Flash Ultima 4 turned out to not last half as long as I expected... Back in '86, a release with the best graphics & music available to consumers ran well on computers even 2-3 years old.  Upgrade it to VGA (i.e. graphics for 1990), same music, convert into Flash, and combat is unplayably slow on a 1.6GHz/512MB machine. Lest you forget, that's the same speed as a current netbook.

I looked into the updated version of Ultima IV for modern operating systems, which is called xu4.  It appears to be one of the many projects that began as a Linux conversion that gained a lot of steam in Windows. Unfortunately, they stopped updating the binaries for Linux five fucking years ago (though they find the time for OS X).

So I tried the Windows release in Wine... DOSBox happily let me set up the old music/graphics upgrade, and running the old (updated) DOS version went well.  However, hitting any key during the xu4 startup sequence crashes it, and even if I do get all the way into the game, there's no fucking sound.  I triple-checked my audio settings, but no luck.

I decided on a whim to head for Ultima VI instead, and after very little DOSBox tinkering, had it running really well.  I soon found, annoyingly, that it won't let me start a new game or delete my ancient one.  It wants me to create a new player disk, which is difficult considering it's all based on files, and I haven't sorted out how to do that.  Tried an old utility for the purpose, but being based in DOS, it wanted a hard drive, I don't want to do that much setup.

So I'm going to fucking make Ultima V run; so far I have the game in DOS, plus sound -- just no music.  Just not going to get all the way now, because after a night of increasingly hating people and computers, it's now fucking time for bed. AARRGH.

Hopefully this will obsess me

Unable to stop thinking about the string of (hopefully non-ongoing) disasters this year, I started wandering the Web in search of a distraction. I was originally figuring that I'd find the quote wiki that has almost no Garriott quotes and update it, but I couldn't track it down and forgot that I (probably) have it in my bookmarks. Eventually, I looked for an online Flash version of an Ultima game, and found Phi Psi Software's rewritten/enhanced Ultima 4: Flash Version.

It seems stable (though having my laptop's fan going constantly might drive me batty), but I'm slowly building a list of tiny things that aren't quite as they should be, in hope the developer doesn't mind me sending them to him. For example, the inability to control capitalization or use a space in creating the player's name...

Long ago in fourth-grade, my teacher began the tradition of calling me by my initials (D.D.) rather than my actual first name; since everyone adored the guy, I spent the next year referred to that way, and thought it was the coolest thing ever. When I started playing Ultima V the following summer, I needed a name that would sound a bit more mature & medieval than that, so Lady D.D. came into existence. I spent the next school year on home study, which meant a lot of hours exploring Britannia as my more powerful alter-ego. I wasn't happy that I had to change it to Lady DD for Ultima IV, but it wasn't intolerable.

So I wasn't terribly happy to discover that not only can I not be Lady D.D. for this new Flash version, I also can't be Lady DD as it won't allow for a space, or LadyDD since I can't capitalize some letters. Sigh. I'm playing as Xyzzy instead, but plan on writing the poor developer.

Still, I was thrilled to see the huge improvement in graphics, and that there was music -- I knew that there was an enhanced copy or patch for DOS, but never made myself actually try it. I seem to recall that the Apple II version I played had the moongate in the intro actually sound high-pitched, however... I'll have to download an emulated copy and try it; I'm not about to set up my Apple IIGS and ancient Ultima IV up in this mess just to find out.

Hopefully the game will keep my interest and give me something new to be excited about, even if "excited" means "keeping track of the tiny things that could be improved upon with hopefully minimal effort for anyone capable of programming"!

The Dreaded SuSE Connection Failure

I went down to my computer this evening to discover that clicking the mouse no longer did anything, rebooted...and found myself saddled with an infuriating bug a few SuSE (and possibly other distro) users have been encountering.  In it, the wireless adapter can see other routers, but attempting to actually connect to them basically stalls out and fails. Same happened no matter whether I told it to use Network Manager or the traditional ifup approach.

I remembered that much of the problem is that SuSE forgets that it's supposed to access the network through a router. I looked up the "route" commands in the must-own Linux Phrasebook, and managed to at least connect to the router this way:
ifdown eth1 && ifup eth1
route add -net default gw my-router's-IP-here dev eth1

That let me access things that use an IP, like most Internet radio stations, but it didn't let me access anything that required a site name.  Well, at least now I didn't have to drain the batteries on my iRiver H10 to have something to listen to...

I returned to the proverbial drawing board and opened the YaST Network Settings, which I experimented with for a painfully long time.  Arrgh. Eventually, I discovered that I could get online with these settings -- each boldfaced & underlined area is a tab in Network Settings, italics is the name of something to change:
Global Options: Network Setup Method is Traditional
Overview: click on Edit for your adapter, go to the Address tab:
Choose "Statically assigned IP Address"
IP Address:, Subnet Mask: /24, Hostname: your pick
Click Next to get to Wireless Device Settings, click "Expert". Set Access Point to your router's name, Power Management: off, AP ScanMode 2. Click "OK", then "Next".
Hostname/DNS: Hostname & Domain: your pick, Name Server 1: your router's IP**
Routing: Default IPv4 Gateway: your router's IP, Device: -, Enable IP Forwarding ON

**If you don't know your router's IP, it almost certainly begins with 192.168.1 and after another period, has either a 0 or a 1.  If one doesn't work, try the other!

I'm sure that some (possibly most) of the settings I've specified have nothing to do with fixing the problem, but those are the certainly-not-default ones I altered.  Hopefully this will help somebody else frantically searching the web for help through another computer/distro, since I didn't find a whole lot that was useful last I looked.

I need therapy. No, really...

Well, in upbeat news, I just finished sending a description of the main blogging/journal sites to someone on a local YahooGroup looking to get into it.  I now realize that I completely forgot what abilities the "compose" windows offer, like that Blogger acts like a word processor while some others (LJ?) require the user to manually type the HTML code in... Oops.

The past several days have left me so stressed that I'm amazed I can think at all...  We suddenly lost a seemingly-healthy cat without warning over the weekend, then another (that had at least been sick with renal failure for a while) crashed permanently on Monday. We're both now terrified that something in the house is causing this nightmare and will steal another one of our beloved kitties... Especially since another one had a seeming seizure in early July, and another died in March of abnormal renal failure. I dealt with it today by driving to Target and wandering around grabbing things we needed, then throwing myself into computer stuff after I finally got home. 

Damn, I intended to write a negative review on Cat Hospital of P--- and forgot... We called over there while IN the car, said our cat needed to be seen immediately and driving to another city wasn't an option as it was an emergency; they refused to see her anyway, and when Mom asked if they could please recommend another place, the receptionist said "nope" in a tone clearly conveying she was too bored by the request to bother looking or asking or anything. It's not the first time we've had that kind of rude experience with them, but I'd read that cat hospitals are the best in an emergency, so I gave it another go.

I also need to write a good review for Central Animal Hospital, which treated us very kindly when we showed up unannounced, and handled every step of the nightmare that way.  I hate the outcome, but I don't think anyone else could have done better, either.

But I don't know, I don't know, I don't know what the fuck could be causing this, and that terrifies me beyond measure if I let myself think about it.  I normally don't believe in the "deaths come in threes" superstition, but maybe if I'm really lucky, it will turn out to be true so we won't have any more crashes.

It's about time for my medical stuff & bedtime, plus my anxiety is skyrocketing out of control, so I have to get moving... Anyone reading this, please keep my clowder (and my sanity) in your thoughts...

Another anti-hospital/medicine nut...

Well, once again, some nitwit's wildly illogical commentary got me going. This time, among other things, the person said that "medical wisdom is an oxymoron" and far more that was harder to make sense of. Here is what I wrote in response:

Well, back in the olden days before 'evil' medicine came along, the mortality rate for mothers AND babies was horrific. It wasn't uncommon for the woman to hemorrhage to death or die of organ ruptures, babies to die of all kinds of things -- cord wrapped around the neck, birth defects, prematurity...

One heartbreaking case I read several years back really showed the truth. A woman did the home-birth, and as labor dragged on abnormally long, she pleaded to not be brought to the hospital. Her husband did get her there, but it was too late; the newborn died shortly after birth of some treatable problem that would've been detected with basic fetal monitors.

Such tragedies happen because some people put their fancies ahead of the well-being of their offspring... They forget that the important thing is to keep mom and infant alive & unharmed, not create her dream "birth experience"... *After* that fundamental basic has been planned, prospective parents should look into the delivery/labor options at nearby hospitals, so they can find one that is as close to their preferences as is possible. Deaths are rare, sure, but even one is too many, isn't it?

The idea that "medical wisdom" is an oxymoron is the most mind-bogglingly absurd thing I've heard in a long time, by the way. Thanks to medical science, I never knew anyone with vaccine-preventable disease as a child, and many things that used to be death sentences are now controllable for decades & often curable. Since the early 90s, they've even been able to fix major formerly-deadly cardiac defects in the womb -- can a midwife detect & fix that?

I'm not saying medicine is infallible; hospitals have caused me to suffer & very nearly die repeatedly over the years. I'm saying that most of the time, things are done correctly, so medicine spares us exponentially more pain & death than it causes. If the cost for that is being held in a room with mauve walls & eye-crossing privacy curtains, it's worth it.

PS. In case some are figuring this: no, people are not better off dead than with virtually any birth defect, disability, or disorder. Look up "Not Dead Yet" for more info if you are curious.

New Template, new distro

I just logged in primarily so I could post a link to some files that I bundled up the other day, mostly so I can find them again in the future (but also to save others the trouble in the future)... I installed OpenSUSE on Mom's computer, having fallen for it myself, and then, since the wifi adapter she was using was bombing out, I added a Netgear WPN111 USB wireless G on for her.  As it turns out, the darn thing needs ndiswrapper, which in turn required driver files...which weren't available on the install CD or shared on the web anywhere. Only way to get them was to run the setup in WINE (or Windows) and copy them myself. Meh.  So, for future reference, I shared the files here.

So, I logged in, as I said, and discovered that there's this fancy new "template designer" for Blogger.  I flipped through the various options, unsure what to go with...until I encountered this brightly-colored tye-dye theme. A few minutes of customizing text colors later, I had a much more individualistic blog -- a huge improvement, if you ask me, over the blah generic green thing I'd been stuck with.

Oh, and now I just need to figure out how the heck to solve ONE small problem in OpenSUSE... For some reason, at random times the first 2 keys I type don't register visibly, and the following one comes out accented. I've tried disabling the control key (or whatever it's called) that normally does that, but no luck so far.

OpenSUSE, Nautilus' location bar fix

Well, after having a few too many problems with GNOME within the otherwise-awesome SimplyMEPIS, I ended up switching distros yet again... After a lot of research & trials, I ended up settling on OpenSUSE, which runs faster & cooler than any other distro has on this computer by a longshot. Its version of Nautilus also offers both tabs and an extra pane for working with files, which should come in really handy.

I heard earlier this year that the "new look" for Nautilus, mostly available through custom designs, was an overly-minimalistic (aka "let's blindly mimic OS X") approach that disables the text-based location bar without giving any visible way of turning it back on. OpenSUSE seems to come with the latest of everything, and sure enough, the change was there. BLEAH.

Thankfully, a quick web-search has shown me how to fix it... First, you can use control-L to switch quickly from text-based to buttons... If you want it to always start up with text, start the GNOME Configuration Editor, go into the /Apps/Nautilus/Preferences area, scroll down to Always Use Location Entry, then set it to true.

Voila, no more clicking to get everywhere, which is a huge improvement for those of us that can touch-type rapidly & have a variety of folders/drives active. If they're all within a home directory, clicking is easy -- but if you have a large organized folder hierarchy, it won't. (Do the people that prefer the buttons-only approach not know how to type, or just throw everything into a few directories? Enquiring minds want to know...)

Custom Mounts In udev For Non-Techs

One of the only difficult aspects I've found about transitioning to SimplyMEPIS is that while Ubuntu relied on fstab (which sometimes did make me want to f*ing stab things) for mounting drives, SimplyMEPIS uses the evidently-more-popular method called udev.

I keep all of my music, photos, videos, etc. on an external drive partition named Biggus after the Monty Python character. ;) When I'm using the command-line or a program dialog that doesn't show individual drives, it's much easier if I know Biggus is always at /media/biggus than wondering which /media/sd* it's been stuck at this time. Same goes for things like my iRiver H10 media player, external backup partition, and so forth.

So, onwards to udev... I understood the basics quickly enough, but the way to really use it eluded me for a couple of days, in part because I was using a seriously-outdated guide. (Having barely passed C programming long ago, I knew I was in trouble when the howto made reference to one of its "easier" commands.) Thankfully I found Arch's Map Custom Device Entries with udev wiki article...

Since udev is capable of so many things that it seems dauntingly complex at first, I'll explain how I met success. I'll probably need the mini-guide in the future, and maybe it will help some other hapless end-user.

Evidently Merced's prisons are empty and free?

Yes, I'm at it again... SFGate has a short article that states, in brief:
"Homeless people in Merced have six months to leave their camps or face arrest. The City Council adopted that deadline Monday night when it voted 4-3 to enforce Merced's no-camping law."
I was the second person to comment, and gave this wholly disgusted response:

"Wonder how many have developmental/cognitive disability or major mental illness that has gone untreated for various reasons, and won't fully comprehend the 'warning' or remember it?

If that seems like overdramatizing, try reading this sadly-common account from a country with much more assistance than ours: [ Autobiography Of Anonymous]

If you're curious why some patients become too terrified to seek/accept help: [ Conversation On Institutions]

I've encountered far too many people that have been through the same sort of things. As anyone that has dealt with SSI/Medicaid can attest, handling issues with them is a failure-prone drain at best even if you're well -- let alone for people with mental/cognitive problems.

Merced should get volunteers helping those folk get the help they need, so they have a solid chance at *contributing* to society. Better than wasting $$ to fill our prisons with folk whose 'crime' is needing help society won't give."

An Author Whines About BCP

Another quickie, as it's late (and no, I haven't sorted out my font problem yet, arrrgggh)... Salon's latest "traumas of the privileged class" article, Why I Hate The Pill, annoyed me enough -- I've always hated it when people whined about piddly shit -- that I was inspired despite the late hour to write a fairly diplomatic response:
The author's focus on the age of various forms of birth control is a sad sign of our times. Like with furniture, new isn't always better: most advances in medicine have improved or saved lives, but others have been harmful or even deadly. If one has endured despite multiple competitors, it probably works -- and no matter how new something is, some patients will have unpleasant or fatal reactions.

Note: I've never been bothered by the issue I wrote about below; I shared it because otherwise my reaction to the article wouldn't make a whole lot of sense.

I've been on various hormone pills since my ovaries self-destructed at 13 years old. Each year, if I still didn't have sexual thoughts or interest in finding a mate, I was given a higher dosage, until I finally answered 'correctly' at 19. We've bumped it up repeatedly since then, and given my symptoms, will probably do it again around the 20th anniversary in a few months.

I've tried to quit a few times after reading anti-BCP rants, but learned even before my first doses that without the drug, I have intolerably severe perimenopausal symptoms. Big whoop if my libido never learned to notice anyone sexually/romantically, I'm less "womanly" in mind than my ex-BFs were, and I never have surges of hormones -- I'm not suffering from hot flashes, cold sweats, random crying fits, simmering rage, attention/memory deficits, etc.

So I really have to wonder what Geraldine Sealey would have done in my shoes -- or, if she eventually has peri-menopausal symptoms as horrid as mine are but reacts badly to hormone replacement, what she'll do then. She might have to handle any emotional issues with medications, as I do with my PTSD-induced anxiety/wariness & depression.

PS. Since she felt this was worth sharing in detail despite its relative rarity, the author should find a routine activity to keep things in perspective... It can even be upbeat: volunteer at a hospital's pediatric playroom, join a night class or seniors' group focused on autobiographical writing (plenty of great tales there), read some of the blogs at, etc. It's not about how good one has it -- it's about being reminded that we all have challenges that sometimes feel horribly unfair/burdensome if we don't see real evidence of others fighting along with us, and then getting that 'evidence' so we feel more determined/optimistic again.

I'm not saying that nobody gets to recognize that life's unfair (it is!) or that this fixes the really traumatic stuff. I'm talking about handling things more in line with my having to carry an asthma inhaler & spacer everywhere, her not being able to take BCPs, your team losing a big game, and so forth. As a really cool sociology teacher put it, "you have one minute -- don't waste it."

For Salon: you're not doing yourself any favors with the "traumas of the privileged class" series, especially since most aren't very well-written. If you want to attract readers with personal tales, there are quite a few on Open Salon alone (let alone other blog sites) that are more engrossing, hard-hitting, and well-written, plus some of the authors could use the money. Some blogs/posts I'd strongly recommend, shortened due to the absurdly long URLs OS uses:
As a bit of a side note, I have a slight suspicion that the author mentioned might have been experiencing a psychosomatic reaction to some degree. I noticed years ago that on discussion groups for self-identified asexual people, there were three very distinct groups:
-- never had sexual interest/awareness, no fantasies, no real sense the body is gross (like a kid before being told it is)
-- people that had been sexually abused or were virgin girls afraid of sex hurting the first time
-- people with strict religious or otherwise anti-sex upbringings that they internalized

I'm in the first group: I don't mind having sex, I can orgasm, but I just don't seem to notice anything/anyone as having sexuality. As far as I can tell, that is what it is to be asexual -- and I'm pretty damn sure people in the other two groups have a major psychological hang-up about sex in the way. Among friends of mine that didn't handle BCPs well in that way, there was a similar breakdown: some of them just became asexual, but others (who often had anti-chemical or anti-science parents, went that way in college, etc.) acted more like they had some kind of personal guilt/morality issue making the whole thing so horrible that they didn't want to even think about it. No need for BCPs if you're too disgusted/uninterested to have it, after all.

(I'm not saying that I necessarily don't have mental issues of my own in the sexuality department. With my medical history, I'm quite certain that I do... However, given I have no emotional reaction and a working libido that simply doesn't seem aware that living creatures exist sexually any more than doorknobs, I don't think the medical stuff is the culprit.)

OK, who stole the sub-pixel hinting...

Ever wondered how genuinely horrid fonts can look if the sub-pixel hinting (known in other OSes as Cleartype/Cooltype) is really out of whack?  Well, now I can show you:
Yes, that's not zoomed (unless Blogger edited my HTML...) -- it's actually how bad the Font Installer in System Settings looks at the moment. Bizarrely enough, not evverything looks remotely that bad, nor is there any consistency with what is/isn't affected.

I think I'm going to go take half of a migraine pill, finish ordering the case of Ringer's Lactate for the renal kitties

I upgraded Karmic to SimplyMEPIS

Yep, my title is a riff on the old sigline joke about upgrading Windows directly over to rival operating system Linux. I felt about the same in the day before the transition, too...

Anyway, after looking around and fighting with a lot of live discs/sticks, I finally picked a new distro to install and use. I heard about SimplyMEPIS from the LinuxOutlaws podcast, and saw that their community & wiki were the friendliest by a longshot. Compared to everywhere else I've been, they sound like they're on f*ing ecstasy, right down to naming the forums, if I recall, "SimplyMEPIS Lovers".

Someone (a lover??) there linked to an article that mixed a new-release review with interviewing their leader, and this is what made me finally just install the darn thing:
First Glance at SimplyMEPIS 8.5

Incidentally, based on forum posts and the interview, the guy that began & leads the distro seems startlingly nice. Based on his attitude in the interview, I find it very hard to imagine him essentially telling the community to STFU. Then again, like I said, after many other attitudes I've seen recently (all of which boil down to "if you don't like it, too damn bad"), I want what everyone else involved has been on...

I had thought that their copy of Firefox couldn't properly do font hinting, until I remembered that I had to reboot it first. To my delight, ohmygod it isn't going to make me install a special Mozilla repo just to keep my eyes from bleeding! Woohoooo!

Then again, I'm ready to shout for joy simply because my fricking computer isn't crashing at every opportunity. It also isn't running like ass with multiple heavyweight apps open. In comparison, Ubuntu Karmic (installed only a few months ago) was crashing 4+ times per day, running slower than Xubuntu Hardy ran on my 600MHz system, and having bizarro glitches galore. While I like tinkering for fun with my computer, being forced to do it just for basic functionality sucks hairy goat balls.

In unrelated news, I was listening to a LinuxOutlaws podcast recently when I thought one said he imagined an evidently-well-known forum member "chasing meerkats" around my little obscure city. I replayed it several times before giving up and joining the forums so I could see the person's profile. Sure enough, the map link he used as a "location" pointed to the old part of downtown! So in filling out my profile, I admit that I wrote "Telecom Valley" rather than the city name, to avoid looking like a stalker or something.

Response To Yet Another Kevorkian Fan

Yet another comment to share... I found the article You Definitely Don’t Know Jack while searching for material I could use in my Salon letter and liked it even though it wasn't quite meaty enough. However, I really didn't care much for one commenter's clueless parroting of Kevorkian's bullshit, so I responded in case someone else might be educated in the future. (I really need to add some kind of little horizontal rule or other mark to show where the beginning of my quoted comments are...hmm.)

Kevorkian only began commenting on terminal patients AFTER he realized that it was his most likely path to legalize live human experimentation, since he wasn't having luck pushing through experiments on prisoners. Tellingly, 75% of his "subjects" weren't terminal, and he picked his subjects for their publicity value rather than their circumstances.

It isn't advocating for a rational adult's freedom when a person talks about performing live experiments on infants with birth defects, people with treatable mental illnesses or cognitive disabilities, etc. If he truly was about mercy, then why has he openly stated that his hope is to experiment on & then kill them legally?

Also notable is that disabled (severe or non) people and those doing hospice care of the terminally ill -- the folks with the most firsthand experience -- are his biggest adversaries. We know better than anybody whether one can have a good life with various problems, what the real roadblocks to achieving one is, and when death actually makes sense (like when pain is beyond merely unbearable *and* there's absolutely no way to control it).

Instead, his supporters are non-disabled, non-terminal folk that assume that our lives are so bad that only rare "strong" types can "tolerate" it. Their reaction is more akin to a child terrified of the dark: rather than try to find out what's really there or listen when one of us tries to show them (then help us all fight to make sure it's not made artificially worse), they fight for the right to run away screaming.

We Do Know Jack, Unfortunately

As is becoming my latest habit, I've decided to share the rather upset comment I posted in response to Salon's usually-good movie critic's naive review of the new bullshit movie about Jack Kevorkian... Only change below is that I'm integrating the links, rather than having them sit out separately.

It's rare that an article makes me literally cry out in frustration, but I have to admit that this one did it... The author clearly shifted from buying into one inaccurate myth about Kevorkian directly to the opposite based purely on what the movie (or its website) has claimed.
Reality is, first, that 75% of Kevorkian's 'subjects' weren't terminal; autopsies showed some (one report is 5) had no serious physical problems at all. Kevorkian has openly regarded assisted suicide as a "distasteful" tactical step in getting society to accept live human experimentation and thus "make it possible to conduct daring and highly imaginative research". His targets in order: disabled babies/kids/adults, criminals, and ultimately healthy young adults who "just don't want to live any more".
Some theoretical cases he described (below details on one real-world man whose body he dissected):
Salon should report on why the overwhelming majority of his patients were female. The links I have below cover the topic with info on the individuals, but a targeted explanation is here.
Some good sites with factual, easy-to-read information on Kevorkian:
Not Dead Yet's articles on Kevorkian

International Task Force on Euthanasia's JK section
Ragged Edge Magazine: The All-Too-Familiar Story

Direct quotes from Kevorkian (from above sites, which have sources cited):
"[T]he voluntary self-elimination of individual and mortally diseased or crippled lives taken collectively can only enhance the preservation of public health and welfare."
"Intense emotionalism engendered by the concentration camp atrocities of World War II has unfairly stigmatized [human experimentation] and cloaked it in silence...Therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude that a few of the medical criminals did the right thing..."
From his book 'Prescription: Medicide':
"helping suffering or doomed persons to kill themselves . . . is merely . . . a distasteful professional obligation. . . . What I find most satisfying is the prospect of making possible the performance of invaluable experiments or other beneficial acts."
His Goal:
He has described a process by which "subjects," including infants, children, even the mentally incompetent, would be used for experiments " of any kind or complexity." (30) Then, if the subject's body is alive after experimentation, "death may be induced" by such means as "removal of organs for transplantation" or "a lethal dose of a new or untested drug to be administered by an official executioner."
(I've tried finding the original full form of his statement -- I believe it was made to the court -- but I'm not having much luck. It's out there, though.)

[Edited to update links.]

Qemu could not open blah blah arrgh

I've been beating my head against the desk for WEEKS now trying to get Qemu to work with any friggin distro set up by UNetbootin, with or without Gujin to help.  No matter what I tried, the response was qemu: could not open disk image /dev/sdh

Well, after messing with ownership & permissions, I'm a lot closer -- and wanted to document the possible solution for the next person plagued by this issue. (Based on what I saw while searching the web, I'm nowhere near the first or the least-experienced.)  UNetbootin has an annoying little quirk, it turns out: every file it handles becomes owned by root, and evidently key files aren't marked as executable when Qemu thinks they should be. So first you have to give yourself ownership of everything (sudo chown -R yourusername) and then full permissions (sudo chmod a=rwx drivelocation).

With any luck, tomorrow I'll manage to get it to do something more interesting, like boot something...  Non-Ubuntu (and hopefully non-crashing non-slow-on-this-computer) distribution, here I come!

Books & being a second-class Linux user

Well, I'm writing this on my own system after going about 20 hours without being able to make the darn thing boot... My install has a bug in which the system stops responding, but still lets the cursor move around the screen, in which case I have to reboot -- last night, instead of booting right back into Ubuntu, Grub hung. I have a theory as to what "fixed" it (and that it's not fixed, actually) but I'll have to test it out.

At least today I had a nice time out at Borders... I picked up a newer, larger copy of DWJ's Tough Guide To Fantasyland, both pocket & desktop Roget's Thesaurus, Look Me In The Eye: My Life With Asperger's, plus the 2600 Hacker Quarterly: Spring 2010 & Arabian Horse World: Special Edition Winter 2010 magazines. (I was going to also get a nifty medical dictionary that was in the discount shelves out front, but forgot it. Darn!) The clerk looked at my eclectic choice of reading material, and asked me if I needed any of it gift-wrapped. I usually turn a bit red with embarrassment and say no, but since I had to take a full prednisone to control my asthma today, I replied cheerily "nope, it's all for me!"

(I haven't managed to quite make that pronouncement when buying model horses; clerks get weird if I don't somehow indicate that it's supposedly for a kid. Better than the one at the drugstore that, upon learning I refuse to wear dresses and don't care for weddings -- hey, he asked -- gave me a very strange look.  I seem to be "unexpected" in most facets of my life!)

I also briefly visited Toys R Us to see if they had any Breyers (yes, but the paintjobs were so hideous I didn't get any). They had signs all over asking for donations to "cure autism" at the cash register...fuck that, I'll write them a note refusing to spend my money there. Between that and Borders moving all positive autistic autobiographies out of the hateful autism section -- I am seriously considering going back 'out of the closet' and wearing some kind of autistic pride shirt. (I went back "in the closet" years ago because of all the vicious bashing from curebies -- I was afraid that if I wore a shirt, their nastiness would start appearing in my real life, too. Last thing I need is some unglued parent screaming that I'm a fake in the middle of CVS...)

Anyway, while wandering through my newsreader, I found a link to a blog post agreeing with a troubling attitude that's hardly new, but seems to be growing in popularity... Namely, that anybody that isn't comfortable with a particular aspect of Linux -- ranging from Ubuntu's new button position to (in this case) advanced security procedures -- should just use another OS. My response:

"This reminds me quite a bit of a discussion that was going on a long time ago when I first tried Linux… Users that weren’t comfortable handling dependencies or compiling were often being told to use another OS — that is, until package managers were designed, refined, and integrated as a core aspect of how the system handled installation.

I think that a parallel approach would be the smartest one now… Find ways to integrate solutions into the system where reasonable, once the primary problems are identified. For the remaining issues, create a “security manager” that makes the fixes a normal non-threatening aspect of using Linux — just like package managers are today.

Taking that approach would also make life a bit easier for users at all levels of expertise… More importantly, non-technical users often have connections or talents that our community visibly needs more of. If they’re busy doing & learning admin tasks, it means they’re *not* using their abilities to improve Linux; if they’re treated as second-class users or made to feel unwanted, they’re less likely to offer their skills or explore projects that might need them."
Now, I really need to get to bed... Or rather, I have to go wash-out my cecostomy for an hour (ah well, at least it's decent reading/writing time), give a couple of cats their fluid treatments, take my meds, and then I can go to bed. Well, assuming nothing happens between now and then, I can.

Ink, ink, ink

I just found a useful little BlogThis bookmarklet, so hopefully I'll be kicking my butt into gear about actually posting things... Scary thought.

Anyway, today I drove down to Target (which, despite being in Marin County, is closer than the one in my county) and while wandering around, came very close to buying a printer for myself. Since my laptop refuses to acknowledge its own screen, the large volume of writing and editing I do away from my desk requires paper -- just like the old days, which is roughly the last time I was this heavily into creative writing.

The problem with that, of course, is that even working in draft mode, it eventually requires a heck of a lot of ink. I can't help wondering whether I'll save more over time if I stick with my current printer at $35 for a large black cartridge -- or if I'll get better mileage by dumping my HP in favor of a $65 Canon or Epson. It doesn't help that I need to replace my old scanner and have noticed that the only affordable ones are printer-scanner combos. Darn.

In any event, while I try to find out enough to make a decision, I've run across an interesting little experiment somebody did. Using ballpoint pens, they hand-drew large copies of several popular fonts at the same size in order to get a good comparison on how much ink each used up. Here it is: Save pens. Use Garamond

I can't win, glasses or none

The other day, I was at Target and decided to try out a pair of reading glasses in the lowest diopter (?) they offered, 1.0... Since I have to periodically enlarge fonts to compensate for migraine & Chiari issues messing with my vision, I figured that simple reading glasses would help. At the store, they magnified things nicely without warping them like all of the "Dean Edell" ones from the drugstore my mother usually buys.
Well, I just tried them for a lark, despite not having any problems... They still seem to do a good job at magnifying without warping, and my sight had no problem snapping back to "normal" once I took them off... However, I'm now nursing the early visual signs of a Chiari/migraine!
I'll have to talk to my mother about this, but for now I have to go give the cat his fluid treatment. Sigh -- I just can't win, can I?

Creative descriptions, mocp, teaching...

Well, I still haven't quite managed to set up an alternative to this as I basically crashed last night, but did get an interesting little console-based music player called MOC running.  Well, mostly running... Here is the original "creative" explanation I wrote to the blogger that recommended mocp:
I just tried mocp, and I'm encountering skipping with frequent 40-90% CPU use for 5 to 60 seconds. At one point it turned into a little epic battle... mocp locked up while seizing 98% of the CPU and valiantly fended off all of htop's attempts to kill it -- it only died when I shot the terminal app out from underneath it instead.
The above sense of humor, incidentally, is how I used to entertain myself while writing computer tutorials in the 90s for family members. It didn't take long for me to figure out that making the material amusing made learning a bit easier for them, and that using their favorite real-world objects/places as metaphors made an even bigger difference.
For example, I remember having to explain the concept of multi-tasking with the Program Manager in Windows 3.11 to my then-43-year-old mother after we got our first PC (an IBM DX2/50), as she couldn't comprehend any of it. After a few failed attempts, I succeeded by describing it entirely in terms of her favorite place, Disneyland, complete with a little hand-drawn diagram. She took Main Street (booted up) to reach Central Plaza (Program Manager), which she had to use to visit different Lands (programs); just as Central Plaza kept existing even when she was in Fantasyland, and Fantasyland was still there even if she went to Tomorrowland, the Program Manager & different applications stuck around regardless of which one was active.
I think that's enough for the moment; I had more to say, but I'm starting to feel hungry and remarkably distracted. Bye!

Argh at Blogger's Web Interface!

I was about to write all about the leap to WYSISWYG both as a kid & as an adult blogger, which was inspired by my frustrated fumbling with links in Blogger's web interface.
Unfortunately, Blogger's web interface mixed with Firefox 3.6 is literally migraine-inducing for me... Even with global Stylish CSS applied to keep it from being snow-blinding white, there's just something that really bugs my eyes about it.
Ironically, before I was going to rant about that issue, I was going to write about some interesting console apps I was planning to check out...and which I'm now likely going to end up using to write my next post.  So, I'll go check the applicable programs out, see if I can write/post with them, and then hopefully return (though likely after I act as chauffeur for my mother's errands).

The record industry said to do *what*?

Hanging out listening to the Grateful Dead's old album Workingman's Dead for the first time, I got an entertaining little surprise from the last "bonus" track... It started up with the song Easy Wind in progress, then a relaxed fellow's voice said over it:
"The Workingman's Dead, by the Grateful Dead. Available on Warner Brothers** tapes and records; you should be able to get your copy by May 15th. Workingman's Dead by the Grateful Dead."
The song continued for a few seconds, and then the guy came back to add:
"Steal one."

**which recently had YouTube remove all Frets On Fire videos that use Grateful Dead music.

Absurdity saves my sanity (or sense of humor)

I just spent 2-3 frustrating hours trying to sort out what was trashing my internet connection, only to discover that (surprise, surprise) it's a trojan on my mother's XP system... Well, after blocking the port it was hammering, I was irritably looking up overload on another port when I saw this comment from someone else with the same issue:
"Maybe its the aliens contacting me@#$%^!@#$!~"

Amazing how a silly little comment like that can do wonders for my mood...

(Listening to: Ultima 7 soundtrack)

Unexpected's Umpteenth Blog

Finally, I managed to come up with a reasonably anonymous username & blog title that I like enough to use... Hopefully I won't somehow decide to never come  back here, like the last few attempts I've made at returning to blogging this past year. :-p