What it’s like to work in I.T.

This is my job. Every day is just like this. This is a wholly 100% accurate depiction of what it’s like to be an I.T. Jedi:

You’re welcome, America.

Adam Savage’s love letter to Cosplay.

I’m a huge fan of the show Mybusters and, in particular, Adam Savage and I’m sad that the series has come to an end. Thankfully, Adam is still quite active with his own YouTube channel and other projects that keep him putting out content. Recently he gave a TED Talk that was an open love letter to Cosplay and the people who participate in it:

My days of attending anime conventions are well behind me, but I remember well being impressed by the cosplayers who attended each one and the time and attention to detail in their costumes. There was more than one time I contemplated making my own attempt at a costume, but I never could decide on a character or concept and had neither the space or the skill to have done a proper job of it. To this day, however, I love watching YouTube videos of cosplayers from recent conventions around the world as well as the various galleries that get posted to the geek related blogs I read. To hear Adam speak so highly of the community makes me think perhaps I should have given it a go back in the day.

Science History: Celsius didn’t invent the scale that bears his name.

Here’s a video from Veritasium that was quite a surprise to me. It turns out that what we know as the Celsius temperature scale we use today wasn’t invented by the man whose name it bears. At least, not entirely:

Despite having lived through the big push to learn the Metric system in the 70’s, like most Americans, I never really got my head wrapped around it. Thanks to Reagan the United States Metric Board (USMB) was disbanded in 1982 bringing an end to any official attempt to make the Metric system the U.S. standard. Outside of the popularity of the 2-liter pop bottle and the 9-millimeter bullet, the vast majority of measurements in the United States is still done using the United States customary system (USCS or USC) which is a mish-mash of different systems none of which are as elegant as the Metric system. There’s been a couple of half-hearted attempts to get adoption going again over the years, but they’ve been mostly voluntary efforts that no one wants to volunteer for. Sure, you’ll find it in use in various science-y professions, but the average American is largely clueless on whether they would need to wear a coat when it’s 32°C outside*.

*Hint: No, most definitely not.

Feel the Christian Love: Ye shall know them by their fruits edition.

Jesus is love, right? That’s what they keep telling us. God is love. Jesus is love. So on and so forth. Love thy neighbor as thyself. We hear it all the time from folks trying to sell us on Christianity. Sounds good, except that it seems there are a lot of Christians who either don’t understand the message or don’t actually believe it.

Events like the mass murder of 49 people at the Orlando gay nightclub Pulse often bring out the true nature of some self-professed Christians. One only has to turn to Twitter to see it first hand:

The parade of tweets like these just goes on and on and on, but it’s not just individual Christians showing their true colors. Whole churches are getting in on the act. It goes without saying that the asshats at Westboro Baptist Church have been celebrating the Orlando massacre, but they’re not alone. There’s people like Pastor Steven Anderson in Arizona who has been putting out hateful videos on YouTube for awhile now. He wasted no time responding to the Orlando shooting:

Anderson is really just one step removed from the shooter. He isn’t upset that a bunch of gays were killed so much as how it was done. He doesn’t condone vigilantism. He thinks killing homosexuals is a job the U.S. Government should be doing itself. Because Jesus is love or something. Oh, and you shouldn’t sympathize with the victims either:

He’s right about at least one thing. There’s plenty of passages in the Bible to justify what he’s saying. You don’t have to look hard to find them and he even provides a couple in his videos.

Then there’s Pastor Roger Jimenez of the Verity Baptist Church in California. He had this to say:

Again, he has plenty of material in the Bible to back his views up. This is the “good” book so many Christians claim to follow. This is the “loving God” they claim to believe in. For all the shit that the Quran commands of its Muslim followers that so many like to point to as proof of it being a wicked religion, there’s just as much in the Bible that you could make the very same argument about.

These people acknowledge that and celebrate it. They take glee in the idea that the victims are burning in Hell. It justifies their hate. It grants them permission to treat anyone they don’t like as less than human. As unworthy of life. Be they gay, atheist, a different race, a different religion, or what have you. They will insist that Jesus still loves you as they call for your death over your perceived sins and while they themselves may not kill you, you can be damned sure they won’t be upset should someone else do it for them. In their perfect world, the government would be taking care of you for them.

This is that famous Christian love they want to sell you.

Links and YouTube mirrors via Hemet Mehta.

34 years later, I still don’t understand Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman”.

I was 14 years old when I first heard O Superman (For Massenet) by experimental musician Laurie Anderson. I don’t know if it qualifies so much as a song than as a spoken word piece with some musical bits to it. I remember being entranced by it and not being able to explain why. It’s eight and a half minutes long and the one constant is a “ha” that serves as the beat, in as much as it can be said to have a beat.

If you’ve never heard it, you can watch the video for it right here:

I had completely forgotten about it until this morning when it showed up on my Thomas Dolby radio station on Google Music. I was immediately taken back to those days in 1982 when I listened to it repeatedly trying to figure out what it was supposed to be about and understand why it had such a hold on me. Not just a hold, it affected me deeply. Particularly when it gets to the lyrics about mom.

Today, 34 years later, it was a jolt to hear it and realize that it still deeply affects me to listen to it. So much so that I had tears welling up as I sat here at my desk, which is really out of character for me. I love a good song as much as the next guy, but it’s rare that any music moves me to tears. I’m not a huge fan of the artist; I’ve never bought her albums and the copy of this song I had was taped off of a local radio station as we were wont to do back in the days before MP3s.

Reading the lyrics does little to help me understand it:

O Superman. O judge. O Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad.
O Superman. O judge. O Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad.
Hi. I’m not home right now. But if you want to leave a
message, just start talking at the sound of the tone.
Hello? This is your Mother. Are you there? Are you
coming home?
Hello? Is anybody home? Well, you don’t know me,
but I know you.
And I’ve got a message to give to you.
Here come the planes.
So you better get ready. Ready to go. You can come
as you are, but pay as you go. Pay as you go.

And I said: OK. Who is this really? And the voice said:
This is the hand, the hand that takes. This is the
hand, the hand that takes.
This is the hand, the hand that takes.
Here come the planes.
They’re American planes. Made in America.
Smoking or non-smoking?
And the voice said: Neither snow nor rain nor gloom
of night shall stay these couriers from the swift
completion of their appointed rounds.

‘Cause when love is gone, there’s always justice.
And when justice is gone, there’s always force.
And when force is gone, there’s always Mom. Hi Mom!

So hold me, Mom, in your long arms. So hold me,
Mom, in your long arms.
In your automatic arms. Your electronic arms.
In your arms.
So hold me, Mom, in your long arms.
Your petrochemical arms. Your military arms.
In your electronic arms.

A good chunk of the song is a phone conversation between someone who initially claims to be the mother of the person they’re calling, but then reveals that to be a lie. Then it gets surreal with statements like being the “hand that takes” and something about planes coming and so on.

When I was 14 I thought it was very deep and I was just too stupid to figure it out. I’m not sure I’ve gotten any smarter in the time since. Today we have the Internet and Wikipedia article on it offers up the following explanation:

As part of the larger work United States, the text addresses issues of technology and communication, quoting at various points answering machine messages and the slogan “Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night shall stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”. That line is inscribed over the entrance of the James Farley Post Office in New York and is derived from a line in Herodotus’ Histories (8.98), referring to the ancient courier service of the Persian Empire. This line is also interpreted in the accompanying music video into American Sign Language by Anderson wearing white gloves, white sunglasses and a white coat.

The lines “‘Cause when love is gone, there’s always justice / And when justice is gone, there’s always force / And when force is gone, there’s always Mom” derive from the fourth sentence of Chapter 38 of the Tao Te Ching: “When Tao is lost, there is goodness. When goodness is lost, there is kindness. When kindness is lost, there is justice. When justice is lost, there is ritual. Now ritual is the husk of faith and loyalty, the beginning of confusion.”

All of this is in the context of an attack by American planes and arms. In an interview with the Australian magazine Bulletin in 2003, Anderson said that the song is connected to the Iran-Contra affair, but she meant the Iran hostage crisis which took place in 1979-1980. Anderson appeared as a guest co-host on WFMT Chicago to say the song is directly related to the crash of the military rescue helicopter outside Tehran — a disheartening incident where U.S. military technology essentially let down the government. This equipment or pilot failure, she continued, was her primary impetus for the creation of the song/performance piece. When it became an emerging hit in the U.K., she was as surprised as everyone else, and the need to press more singles to meet emerging U.K. demand was what led to her first multi-album record deal.

Um, OK. So it was inspired by the Iran-Contra affair, but I’ll be damned if I understand how you’re supposed to glean that from the lyrics. Nor does it explain why I am so affected by something I simply don’t understand. I love this song in spite of it. I’ve listened to it several times while writing this entry. I don’t know why.

I can’t say for certain whether my reaction today was because of the song itself or the feeling of being transported back to 1982 and being on the verge of adulthood. The year 2000 was less than 20 years away and I was going to experience “the future” first hand. My cynicism hadn’t fully developed and the future looked promising even if I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do as an adult. I was still ignorant enough of the larger world around me that I could be optimistic without any good reason for it. The future! It was coming and I was gonna be there for it. Looking back it’s not quite what I thought it was going to be, but it could be a lot worse than it is so I’ll take it.

Still, this damned song. Do you guys have anything similar or is it just me?

Nature show host Coyote Peterson attacked by playful ocelot.

Coyote Peterson hosts a nature show on YouTube called Breaking Trail. Recently they were filming at night down in Costa Rica looking for snakes and other creepy crawlies when they had a close encounter with a young ocelot that took an interest in what they were up to. Here’s what happened:

Peterson ended up with a few scratches and nips, but was otherwise unharmed. Right now this ocelot is still young, but a full-grown one can do some serious damage. This one is known for frequenting the trail and not being afraid of humans so hopefully she doesn’t become a problem when she hits maturity.

The “Assassin’s Creed” movie trailer has arrived.

While there have been cinematic video games for a long time now, Hollywood hasn’t as much luck turning video games into cinematic successes. Arguably the best so far was the couple of Tomb Raider movies that came out a few years back and those were hardly blockbusters. Personally, I’ve a soft spot for the two attempts to turn the Hitman: Codename 47 games into movies despite their flaws.

That lack of success hasn’t caused anyone to stop trying, though, and among other upcoming films based on games will be Assassin’s Creed featuring Michael Fassbender. The first trailer for it just hit the Internet:

It’s impossible to say if this will be any better than past video game movies just on this one trailer, but I’m intrigued. There’s been some minor changes to the plot — such as the protagonist being a recently “executed” criminal and there apparently being a whole shitload of people in the program and the Animus has transformed into some sort of robot arm that holds you aloft instead of a pod you laid down in — but most of the aspects of the video game appear to have made it into the movie.

Well, if nothing else, he certainly looks the part.

Well, if nothing else, he certainly looks the part.

Not that I really have a clue what the plot of the games is anymore as I’ve only played the first two to completion on the PS3 and a little bit of the most recent game, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, which I somehow ended up with on the PC. There’s a total of six other games in the series that I’ve not played yet and somewhere along the lines they dropped the parts that took place in the future. In the first two games it seemed like the mysterious company you were kind of a prisoner of was using the sessions in the Animus to find some mysterious artifact, but it was having the side effect of teaching you the skills of your ancestors whose memories you were reliving. I assumed that eventually there’d be a story that takes place in that future setting where you’d finally become the badass your ancestors where, but it appears they dropped that whole plot line. I should check to see how cheap the older games are on Steam these days and get caught up. I hear AC IV was pretty cool.

Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see if the movie can break the Video Game Curse and be a success. That is, if Warcraft doesn’t manage to pull that off first in June.

China has an amazing non-firework fireworks display.

Fireworks originated in China so it’s easy to see why they’d be a big deal there, but back at the beginning they were reserved for rich people to enjoy. What do you do when you live in a poor rural part of the country, but still want to ring in the Chinese New Year? Well, you get the local blacksmith to put on a show by hurling molten metal on the city’s wall:

This is amazing both for its beauty and its absurdity. My favorite part of it is the fact that the blacksmith holds no illusions about how stupidly dangerous this is and makes no grandiose claims that it’s the most beautiful form of fireworks. Just that, hey, we’ve been doing this for 500 years so why not?

And now for something completely different: The Wintergatan Marble Machine

I cannot begin to imagine how one would begin to build something as amazing as this is.

Wintergatan’s YouTube channel has a number of videos of the build process if you’re curious.

Not Today (The Building Is on Fire)

The folks at Songify The News (previously Auto-Tune The News) have a new hit out:

Here’s the original video they made this out of:

If you’d like to help Michelle Dobyne, the woman in the video, as she tries to recover from the fire that prompted her awesome interview, there’s a GoFundMe page for her here: https://www.gofundme.com/cyhnqkpw