Unmistakable Marks

Warranted Genuine Snarks


What with buying a house and all, I needed a lawnmower; so I did my standard canvassing of review sites, and I started to come away with a rather odd opinion: A whole bunch of places were recommending reel mowers. If you're not up on your lawn mower terminology (and why would you be?), a reel mower is the old-fashioned, unmotorized mower that they used to push around back before the invention of the internal combustion engine.

I was initially dismissive, but the more I thought about it, the more advantageous it seemed like it could be: Much cheaper, better for the environment, better for the lawn (or so they say), lower maintenance, fewer things to possibly go wrong, quieter, and no need to worry about that stupid oil/gas fuel mixture. So, we picked up the Scotts Classic at Home Depot, a bit nervously.

I got a chance to use it today, and I'll be damned: It cuts the lawn just as well, and just as easily, as any gas mower I've ever had. And the mowing experience is about a billion times more pleasant than it is with a loud, smelly, vibrating, dust-and-stone-blowing gas mower. All of which makes me wonder, why the heck does anyone even have a gas mower? For a standard urban lawn (relatively flat, relatively obstacle-free, and relatively small), there are no significant advantages, and lots of significant disadvantages, to a gas mower; yet the damn things are ubiquitous.

Which means that I get to be the ahead-of-the-curve, trendsetting type when it comes to lawnmowers. Sweet.

Comments | May 28, 2003

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

PNH asked for an RSS feed, and now I have one.

I'm afraid it's probably a bit clunky right now; it's a quick first pass (oh, how I love XSLT), and I'll clean it up later. Let me know if there's anything I'm doing wrong, or anything I could add to it to make it more useful.

Comments | May 22, 2003

TV Time Translation

I've been living in the Land Of Eastern Time for over a year now, and I've adjusted pretty well, except for one thing: For the life of me, I still cannot get TV schedules straight.

See, I spent 25 years of my life in Central Time, and for as long as I've watched TV, the times have always been off by an hour. I can't hear 9:00 without appending "... 8:00 Central" to it mentally, and treating it like 8:00. This isn't a conscious or rational translation; it's done in the instinctive centers of my mind. If you say to me, "It's 8:00 right now, and The West Wing comes on at 9:00," I'll say, "Quick, turn the TV on!" before it occurs to me that 8:00 and 9:00 aren't really the same thing, here.

I wonder how Easterners moving to cowland handle it? Is it easier to get used to doing a translation when you've done nothing before?

Comments | May 19, 2003

Unix Defined

The Wall Street Journal's online edition has a story blurb which reads:

Microsoft agreed to buy rights to Unix technology from SCO, a boost to SCO's efforts to get royalties for a predecessor to Linux.

After endless debates about whether Linux is really Unix, it's amusing to see Unix join SGML and the B language in ignominious predecessorhood.

Comments | May 19, 2003

Quicktime Movie Previews

So I'm looking at Apple's trailer page, trying to figure out what non-Matrix, non-LOTR movies are coming out this year, and here's the year in movies as I see it through the lens of Quicktime trailers.

Okay, I almost just clicked on "Rugrats Go Wild". I think that's my cue to be done now.

Comments | May 18, 2003

A Browser for Grandma

I have the sneaking suspicion that the intersection of a) the set of people who read this blog, and b) the set of people who don't know that Mozilla Firebird 0.6 was released, may be the empty set. Nevertheless, I feel like I've got to mention it here.

Firebird 0.6 is still only pre-alpha software, and there are a few rough edges to it; but it's a lot more solid than you'd think from the version number. Already, even at this early stage of development, it's the browser I'd install on my grandma's computer. If you're on Windows, and you haven't tweaked your Mozilla installation to within an inch of its life, this is the browser you want to be using.

Unless you're one of those weird Opera cultists, I guess.

Comments | May 17, 2003

Somehow, It's Completely Different


Of course, it all started with DOOM 3. The lights dimmed and once more crowds were awed with footage. Whereas last year we got a taste of what's to come, this year we got a gulp. DOOM 3's darkened, flickering corridors were now populated with 36 flavors of horror. Along with zombies, we had zombies with chainsaws [emphasis in original].

Comments | May 15, 2003

Kids These Days

Back in 1995, the folks at the College Board decided to rescale the SAT, in order to force the mean score back to 500. Irritatingly, this meant that it was impossible to compare scores across the 1995 barrier, thereby preventing valuable trash-talking between me and my younger sisters.

But it turns out that they have a conversion chart available. Interesting. It looks like I pick up an extra 80 points, which would have given me plenty of gloat-ammo, back in the day.

These days, of course, my college performance can't reasonably be predicted by abstract numbers, inasmuch as it's rather fixed on the ol' transcript. Based on the differential between my SAT scores and my actual college grades, and the reason for that differential, I propose that the College Board should add a new "Waking up before 11:30 AM in order to get to morning classes" section.

Comments | May 10, 2003

So We Did That

As of 11:28 this morning, Ms. Bethany Willick and Mr. Michael Kozlowski are officially... well, they're still Ms. Bethany Willick and Mr. Michael Kozlowski. But they're married, in a romantic court ceremony.

Comments | May 8, 2003

Cynics are Chumps

Self-proclaimed cynics -- the sort of people who proclaim smugly that they know how the world works, and other people are naive fools -- know two great truths about politics:

  1. Politicians lie.
  2. When you get widely disparate facts, the truth is somewhere in the middle, because everyone gives you biased data.

In a world where cynics are rare, these might be useful views. In the world we live in, where everyone styles themself a cynic, these are views that allow people to be manipulated by whoever is willing to be the most dishonest. If you've got predictable and simplistic views, and politicians know what those views are, you can be gamed easily.

Let's say that a tax cut will cost $100 billion. Opponents of the tax cut honestly say this; but proponents of the tax cut, knowing that people are working under the assumptions of simplistic cynicism, go for broke: They say it'll actually bring in revenue of $100 billion. They'll try to wrap their number up in obscure reasoning whose truth can't be ascertained by the general public. All these clever cynics then split the difference between the estimates, and figure that the tax cut would really be a break-even proposition.

And let's say eventually it comes out that the chicanery is exposed: It becomes obvious that the $100 billion in revenue was a ridiculous number, and that the people promulgating it knew that all along. What then? Why, then the clever cynics nod knowingly and act coolly unsurprised: Politicians lie, everyone knows that; that's why you can't believe their numbers.

The end result is that in debates where the facts are too abstruse for most people (which includes most issues of economic and foreign policy), the middle-splitting cynics will consistently favor the guy who lies the most. And when the lies are exposed, that same cynicism will shield the lying politician from retribution or disapproval. In short, the simple-minded cynics have created a system where the best winning strategy is to lie frequently and to lie big.

Comments | May 6, 2003

Coolest Character Ever

Unicode character 0x2603 SNOWMAN:

Comments | May 4, 2003

Silicon Flowers

The TV is chattering idly in the background, when I hear it say something about flowers that "come in an attractive Linux vase." It takes a few seconds for my brain to hear this, but when I do, I start wondering why they'd bother to network a flower vase -- so it can email you when it's low on water?

With my curiosity piqued, I turn the full attention of my brain to the quandary, whereupon it comes to a simple conclusion: A Lenox vase.

Comments | May 4, 2003

Ari Fleischer would make a lousy Sith Lord

So I'm watching Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman From SPAAAAACE! with Unmistakable Boy (if I might steal and modify an affectation from Jim Henley), and Senator Palpatine is giving a horribly insincere speech about his deep fondness for democracy.

"He's a bad guy," I tell UnBoy.

(His three-year-old cosmology, you see, divides people into two classes: good guys and bad guys. The purpose of good guys is to fight the bad guys and win. The purpose of bad guys is less clear; possibly, they just exist so that good guys have somebody to fight.)

"No he's not! He's a good guy!"

"He just wants people to think he's a good guy, but really he's a bad guy."

"No! He's a good guy!"

Which just goes to show that, no matter how evil you are, you really can fool some of the people some of the time. But then, we knew that.

Comments | May 2, 2003

Enemy of the Good

Tim Bray, one of the creators of XML, has said:

At the end of the day XML's main technical contribution may turn out to have been that it dragged Unicode into the mainstream.

(Bray also has a great primer on Unicode; go read it if you're not quite sure what/why/how Unicode is.)

And Unicode is pretty cool: Putting the backward R (or, as it's really called, CYRILLIC CAPITAL LETTER YA) into the title of the last entry was trivial, and will work properly in any sensible browser. (For some value of properly, anyway -- Lynx, attempting to display a Cyrillic character on an ASCII terminal actually renders that character as "YA".) Universal Unicode is sensible, logical, and easy.

The problem is with fonts. Using the immensely cool BrowserCam, I was able to see how my page looks in multiple browsers across a number of platforms. The Я looks great on Windows, but on Mac and Linux browsers, it looks too big, too small, or just plain weird. On Linux, this isn't a problem, because everything looks weird (font handling might be the biggest obstacle to Linux on the desktop; it's just such an ugly operating system); but on the Mac, it looks glaringly out of place.

Obviously, the only conclusion we can draw is that, since it's slightly flawed, Unicode is a complete failure and we should all go back to using random character sets.

Or possibly that there's still some room for improvement in Unicode-using applications -- but then we would miss out on all the shit-kicking fun of pointless outrage.

Comments | May 1, 2003

Weddings Я Us

It's been said that "planning the average wedding takes organisational skills that would put a military campaign to shame." If so, I think I'm ready to lead our forces into whatever country we decide to invade next month, because planning our wedding has been a cakewalk:

Me: Hi, I'd like to set up an appointment for a wedding.

Clerk: Okay, do you have a day in mind?

Me: How about next Wednesday?

Clerk: Sorry, we're all booked up that day. We do have an opening at 11:30 on Thursday, though.

Me: That'll work. The last name is Kozlowski, K-O-Z...

It's moderately disturbing that it's easier to schedule a wedding than car maintenance, but I'm not complaining. At least, not until the next time I need my car serviced.

Comments | May 1, 2003

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