Well that sure takes me back

I assume by now many/most of you have seen The Internet Arcade that the fine folks at Archive.org pulled together. It is amazing, and you should go look, I'll wait. I know, right?

But people: they have Megatack.

For all I know, this was actually a common game and everyone on earth played it back in the days when TimeOut, the arcade at the local mall, was a place people would actually hang out and spend money and try not to spill Orange Crush on the machines. I never saw one anywhere around the DC Metro area, or anywhere at all really, except once.

My grandparents owned a cottage on Conesus lake in Geneseo NY, the pinky finger of the Finger Lakes, a lake so small I swam across it for the first time when I was…10? 11? Younger. We spent a week or two there every summer and it was perfect in the way that vacations are when you are young. Among the local attractions was Long Point Park, a rec area during the day and mini (MINI) amusement park at night. Maybe 10 rides; a Scrambler and Tilt-A-Whirl, a really small Ferris Wheel, single loop stomach-churning roller coaster, those kind of rides. Plus Skee-ball and Bingo and a skating rink, and a small arcade across from the rink, next to the fried-everything food stand.

The games were different every year; not necessarily the latest and greatest, more like: this one was cheap and the other one broke down over the winter. Megatack was only there for ONE summer, when I was 13 or 14 or something like that, and I played it TO DEATH. Look! It's like Space Invaders, except when the aliens reach the ground, you don't lose, they hop sideways at you like crab-frogs. Oh, and your weapon fired somewhat randomly in 3 directions, up, and 45 degree angles to the sides. So with some clever handiwork you could zip sideways under an army of hopping aliens and still escape the level. By the time you got to say, level 25 things would start with aliens raining down as fast as the screen could draw them, then hopping around with a soundtrack apparently designed to make you lose focus from laughing.

I must have played that game 80 or 100 times over those 2 weeks. Then I never saw it again. Guess what I've been doing for the last half hour?

I hope they get sound working some day…

Thinking out loud

So I have been thinking of ditching WordPress for Ghost as a primary blogging platform (some of you are reading this post reflected on LJ or Dreamwidth; hold that thought for a moment). WP always bugged me because I am resolute in my refusal to learn PHP. Friends don't let friends, etc. Same reason I won't ever use MongoDB. I backed Ghost on Kickstarter, and the team has delivered a lovely, Node based blogging platform. Now Node…seems like a thing I could get into. WP has other problems: it presents a large and appealing target to hackers and comment spammers, for example, and no combination of plug-ins has been able to sort that out. But WP also has many…good? handy? features, like the ability to automatically reflect posts to LJ/DW, tweet links to posts, handle comments (spam notwithstanding), handle various media, embed SoundCloud players, etc. Ghost has the benefit of being new and shiny and Node-y. It's media handling is primitive at best at the moment; that seems manageable in the short term and will blossom eventually.

Ghost doesn't handle comments, though. At all. They recommend incorporating Disqus (NO). I have looked into Muut, which can be built into a Ghost blog with some straightforward hackery. All this got me thinking: don't read the comments, right? Almost every comment I have seen from posting has come in through the reflected posts, not here on the home blog (lovely exceptions from RW and HSL excluded). So does the lack of comments at the source actually matter?

Ghost lacks a lot of the post-reflectors that WordPress offers. The version of me who imagines that he has a lot of free time sees each of those as a project opportunity. Ditto the ability to import all existing comments, images, categories, tags, etc. into Ghost for continuity.

How the day began…

Walking with Calvin and Rose to the bus stop, C. notices something on his leg.

Calvin: What's this?
Me: It looks like dried paint.
Calvin: We didn't paint in school yesterday.
Me: No?
Calvin: What could it…Oh! This is toothpaste, because Rose squirted toothpaste on me last night!
Me: and how, exactly, did this happen? Do I even want to know?
Rose (In a small, faraway voice): Now is not the time to talk about such things…

Back at home, feeding the dogs. Bert finishes his one scoop first, big sister Ellie is still crunching away at her larger helping. A jogger goes past. Bert sees his opportunity. He dashes to the front door and gives one big warning bark. Ellie rushes over to see what the commotion is. Bert runs back on the other side of the kitchen island, out of sight, and steals two or three quick bites out of Ellie's bowl. She catches on halfway between her bowl and the door, spins around and chases him off again, but it's too late, I saw it all. Score one for the small clever dog.

I like big pedals and I cannot lie…


After uncountable variations and exchanges, this is my pedalboard. Dare I say, my final, stop-dicking-around-and-play pedalboard. I have tried consolidating, tried smaller or different versions of most of these, but nothing sounds better, singly or in combination, than this collection of gigantor pedals.

Click through for signal routing breakthrough (For guitar nerds only):
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Time/fun ratio: really high

On Wednesday morning I went down and got my fishing license for the year. It's still catch and release season, but that's because the bass are all on their spawning beds in the shallows and they are, shall we say, easy pickins. I have spent maybe a total of 90 minutes on the water in the past two days, with results like this: (Pix behind cut)
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Here we are, about two weeks into the latest spasm of house remodeling, the final push to turn the shack on the lake into the perfect house on the lake.

Ok, not really. We had to exclude some desired changes to the 2nd floor for cost reasons, and we won't be doing any of the landscaping or back deck/grill work this round. But pretty much every major exterior and 1st floor thing is getting done!

Last week, we dispersed to the four winds to let the team come in and dismantle the first floor. Calvin, Rose, and I went down to my folks' place in VA, Nina spent some time with James, Anne visited her mom. More on that later. Here's a little flavor of what went down while we were away. (Cut for big pix) Continue reading

Happy belated 20th birthday to a classic: _Excursions in Ambience_

I am a couple weeks late for this, but no matter. People of Earth: it has been 20 of your years since the release of this, the one and only single most wonderful desert island compilation of ambient house music to ever echo lazily forth from a small, plushly decorated chill out room.

Excursions in Ambience: A Collection of Ambient-House music

Let's discuss…

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"If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace." — Lennon

What I'm thinking about just this morning is that Lennon was the person who really introduced me to the concept of pacifism in a direct way. Maybe that sounds funny. As I grew up and became aware of recent US history, sure, there was plenty of talk of the Peace movement and the 60s but by the time I was even partially self-aware of such things, the 60's had been largely co-opted and commercialized, peace-symbol shaped air fresheners for your car and all that. I was in Virginia and in a Catholic school so– pardon me if this isn't as obvious to you as it is to me– there was zero chance of me learning about Dr. King, the Civil Rights movement, and nonviolence in my day to day education. Same for the various nonviolent aspects of other religions or historical figures like Ghandi. And while we got plenty of "Turn the other cheek" and "Love your neighbor" talk, I also recall a test on the Crusades. So the message from Catholicism was mixed, to say the least, and the pacifist element of it was almost completely embodied by Jesus, not any modern Christian movement or person.

Lennon was still out there though; he was in the news advocating for Peace all through the 70s in various ways, both through his music and in interviews. His talent plus the immense cultural inertia of the Beatles continued to offer him a stage and he took advantage of that stage to repeatedly call for peace. Even the AM radio stations my parents still listened to at the time played his songs and reported on his latest protest or statement. The shocked news reports on the night of his murder mentioned the deja-vu irony; another one of the ambassadors of peace of the modern era, cut down pointlessly and violently. I was only 11 at the time but I remember; the more I learned and older I got, the more tragic it became.

Which brings me to this: Is there anyone playing this role today in popular culture? The Dalai Lama comes closest, but let's face it Buddhism isn't going to suddenly replace Protestant churches in the South (or help his message much in China, for other reasons). And arguably, HH just doesn't have the kind of reach or appeal to a middle school audience in quite the same way. So is there someone out there, a global personality, pushing for peace? I'm not seeing it. Partially, I think our 24/7 always-on culture has made our entertainers bland as hell; I am just cynical enough to assume that most provocative or controversial statements or actions are a publicity ploy these days. But even in that context, I'm not seeing anybody carrying the torch and appealing across age groups. Why not?

The weekend that was

Just capturing a delightful weekend before we start up another one…
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Bert and the Barf-o-nauts.

As we may have mentioned, our small dog Bert came from a hoarding situation, where he was raised in a house with 40+ other dogs.  He grew up worried, and hungry, and worried about being hungry, and so forth.  He knows he has it good these days; he's your typical slightly spoiled, overly eager to please, well-fed and well-exercised terrier mix.  But god help you if you leave food unattended.  I doubt we will ever cleanse his tiny brain of the primal fear that he may never eat again.  He's had his stomach pumped for Easter chocolate once already, steals mice from the cat as previously noted, and once pulled down a half loaf of french bread from the edge of the table and chowed it down, hard crusts and all.

This week there were other complications, though.
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Belated: SOON.

Anne's birthday was back on the 15th and during the normal course of events, dinner/presents/cake and ice cream, this pic was completely unavoidable.  Nina took a handful of variations, this was the keeper.  And yes, every birthday is like this at our house.

A visitor

This great blue heron– or multiple herons of nearly equal size– took up residence in the trees overhanging the creek for several weeks here in the early fall.   Anne got some good shots of it too, looking upstream from the bridge; this is in the back corner of the yard, behind the well cap.  Ms./Mr. heron presumably hung around to feast on the abundant frog population this year, but with the onset of the rains it seems to have moved on.

Then and Now

Steve N. skydiving into Burning Man, population ~5,000 IIRC, 1996









Unknown guy skydiving into Burning Man, population ~60,000, 2012





Scale is difficult, but if I am reading my proportions right, the entire playa population in 1996 would fit quite comfortably within center camp 2012, with tons of space between each group of tents. The random arrangement of tents in '95 and '96 made is easy to get lost and that is honestly how I saw some of the best art I ever found in the desert. I met Steve because he wandered randomly past our camp and stopped because he went to school with B.

Also: both are great shots.

This guy

…has been very busy.

A large red-headed woodpecker at work

For reference, that limb he is working on is as big around as my chest. Mr. Woodpecker is BIG. He has been working that tree since before we got here, and we've seen him down by the creek dismantling a couple other trees. The woodpeckers in CA, when I heard them, went pocka-pocka-pocka, fast and light. This fellow goes THUNK. THUNK. THUNK. He is impressive in every way.

So this is a thing that happens…

With the summer as long and dry and glorious as it has been, there have been changes in the critter landscape about the house and yard. Fewer mosquitos, yay! More spiders and, apparently way more mice. Our foundation work and insulation have done a great job of keeping the mice out of the house, but out in the meadow they are all over. Normal field mice, and these funny kangaroo-footed "field jumping mice" that can jump like 18" in the air when circumstances call for it. Hold that thought.

We already knew Ellie was an ace critter exterminator (all weight classes). Leroy Bear, as he has matured, has turned most cat-tastic; he fully expresses the feline genome in most every stereotypical way including being an absolute champion mouser. and snake killer. and frog-hassler. As for Bert, well he spends his every waking moment either looking for someone to cuddle or worrying that he will be dead of teh starves, plus he is quite nimble and fast, so it wasn't surprising to see him trotting around the yard with a mouse in his mouth.

Ah, but Truth will out.
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After a brief, late, bath-temperature swim in suddenly balmy Lake Champlain, Rose, Calvin, and I are slowly gathering things and drying off, as one does.

Me: Hey, look at those birds in the middle of the lake.
Calvin: Where?
Me: Way out there, see them? Flying in a long, low circle right above the surface of the water?
Calvin: Oh yeah, I see them!
Me: I wonder what could be hatching way out there that isn't hatching near the shore?
Calvin: They must have found a psychological nuclear monster.
Me: A what? They're birds, Calvin. It's probably food.
Calvin: No, a psychological nuclear monster! Getting into their brains and making them radioactive!
Me: You mean…Brainioactive?
Calvin: Yeah! I'm going to come down in the morning and take a picture of them! [He has a new birthday camera]
Rose: It's been nice knowing you.
Me: I hope you get a good picture because that's all that will be left.
Calvin: I'm not going to get into a boat! I'm going to take the picture from shore!
Rose: They're going to eat you.
Me: Mutants hate cameras.

[Later, recounting these events over dinner]
Me: …so that's why we're all done for. Mutant birds will be after us first thing in the morning.
Calvin: I think we should panic.


So I was down in Saratoga for some concerts this past weekend, and thanks to the vigorous dancing, late nights, and lack of anything else to do, I slept right through the morning coffee hour. Woke up in time for a super late lunch, then made my way to the venue to meet up with friends and find a spot. I didn't have any alcohol before or during the shows, mostly because I hate missing songs to pee and I drink so seldom that it runs right through me. So: thoroughly exercised and super-hydrated all weekend long. Sore joints and bones but no headaches.

Home again and: absolutely no need for caffeine.

I haven't yelled at the kids all week.

Go me.

In my dream, tiny little Holmes Creek that runs around our property and under the covered bridge has been infiltrated by a Russian nuclear submarine. The real life creek is so low it is almost cut off from the lake; the dream creek is substantially larger and deeper.

There is a smaller US sub that has just moved into position downstream. In the yard and on the embankment, Army brass– not sure why not Navy but the green uniforms tell the tale– are sitting in large claw-footed bathtubs, stage-whispering strategy back and forth. Because obviously, if the Russkies can get a sub into Holmes creek, they must have bugged the trees. Right? Right.

With the amazing unseasonable weather going down in New England at the moment, we were finally forced to install the screens on the new windows in the addition. This meant– in addition to the lovely cross breeze and bug-free enjoyment of frog sounds at night– that there was a large amount of spare cardboard laying about.

So of course, we now have a Transmogrifier.
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The Yard Battalion

Pro tip: you can dramatically improve the yardwork participation rate among 8y.o. males if you creatively reframe the exercise as a gamified combat simulation.

"Sir! Our robot laser rakes have completely wiped out all nano-Migs in this sector!"

"Carry on, Soldier."

…and so that mountain of leaves that was keeping the new grass from sprouting in the backyard– where everything got dug up to put in the well and ground lines for the geothermal system– has been forcibly relocated to another quadrant.

It was 75 degrees yesterday. What. The. Hell. This time last year the snowdrifts were taller than I am.