Sunday, November 29

Full-screen it!

Turn the lights off, and turn the sound up :)

I'm serious!

Tuesday, November 24


Vicks, the company that makes NyQuil (for international readers, it's a type of cold medicine) has some sick sense of humor. The bottle I just bought says, "Tastes better than ever!" There are many things wrong with this proclamation on all sorts of different levels, but I'll list just two.

First, what do they mean "than ever"? NyQuil has always tasted like ass, which is why you only take it when you're REALLY sick, unlike say, Flintstones vitamins. This statement implies that it already had a good taste, which it most certainly did not.

Secondly, it's patently untrue! It tastes exactly the same. Like Listermint and licorice and a tiny bit of that radioactive stuff in DC comic books which makes superheroes like the Hulk what they are, all blended up well and bottled for our pleasure. To make matters even worse, they've taken practically all the alcohol out of the stuff so 12 year olds wouldn't steal it, so now you don't even get a buzz anymore as a payoff for your superhero courage imbibing the stuff.

Might as well stick to something in tablet form. After all, I checked the ingredients, and despite the claim in their commercials that it performs 700+ acts of comfort (ok, maybe less, but it's still portrayed a bit like Chinese medicine, a cure-all for anything afflicting you), all NyQuil is in the cold light of reality is an analgesic, a decongestant, and an antihistamine. Hell, you can get that stuff in Theraflu or any number of other products, most of which come in pill form. Why anyone would put themselves through actually taking NyQuil boggles the mind.

Maybe it's like a hairshirt worn by religious fanatics; "You're ain't supposed to enjoy being sick, boy! Take some of this here green orc grog and that will make you feel a bit better, plus learn you real good for having the cheek to get sick in the first place!" That's all I imagine keeps this stuff on the shelves - a lingering masochism in those made to feel guilty for being ill as they grew up.

* * *

After I wrote this and while looking for a picture of the bottle, I found this old Denis Leary routine about, yes, NyQuil:

Sunday, November 22

The Albigensian Crusade.

I don't know how many of you are interested in the Crusades, but interestingly a few of the numerous crusades took place against heresies (from the Roman Catholic Church's point of view) within Europe itself rather than in the far off Holy Lands. One of these was the relatively famous Albigensian Crusade, a holy war in the early 13th century which lasted nearly 20 years between the Pope's allies (various vassals and knights-for-hire, mostly from the landed families of France) against the Cathars residing in the Languedoc (pronounced "long-doc") region of southern France, near the then-independent kingdoms of Aragon, Catalonia, and Occitan.

This very mountainous and dramatic region is interesting for a number of reasons, and not just because it had become the hotbed of Catharism by the 12th century. It is home to many Grail legends, as is the not-far-off city of Marseilles and indeed, Spain itself on the other side of the Pyrenees. It features such towns as Carcassonne and Rennes-le-Château, which notoriously plays a role in such books as Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Da Vinci Code. And it is from one such castle, the impregnable-looking fortress upon Montségur, where the crusade was brought to a close, but not before (local lore and now wider myth has it), four high-ranking priests escaped down the sheer face of the mountain in the dark of knight carrying some sort of treasure. What could such a treasure be and what became of it?

The whole affair is like to be a fanciful tale, but that has not stopped adventurous historians and treasure hunters from proposing over the years that what escaped Montségur that night was either the Holy Grail itself (whatever it might be) or other invaluable artifacts such as a piece of the "true cross" or the Turin shroud (not yet in Turino, of course!), to some heretical documents or treasures which had been entrusted to the Cathars by the 'Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon' - i.e., The Knights Templar. The legend goes of course that they had found "something" under the Temple Mount during their early years in Jerusalem, before the ranks of the Order swelled and they were eventually dissolved and persecuted by Pope Clement V and King Philip Le Bon of France (who was of the line of Charles Martel and Charlemagne (the so-called 'Carolingian' kings), not the earlier lineage of the sons of Merovee (or Merovech), who came to be known as the 'Merovingian' kings).

What this "something" the Templars supposedly found during their excavations is unknown to this day, and it's possible the entire story is a romantic fabrication. But there are enough legends and extant, verifiable records from various periods, from the founding charter of the Templars themselves all the way down to the fall of their erstwhile comrades and business partners, the Cathars (and the noble families which propped them up), that it still makes for an exciting read - to me anyway - to read the story of both the Temple Knights and the Cathar heretics, both in its bare historical form and also in various speculative imaginings which excite the mind as to what really happened within the inner ranks of those two seemingly unrelated orders and why the Pope and the Monarchy of France was so eager in both cases to be rid of them.

After all, putting down what it sees as heresy is one thing (though the way in which they did it was so savage and bloody as to remind one of the Roman conquest of that same area more than a millennium earlier) - indeed its treatment of even simple monks who bore no arms would set the tone as well as the doctrinal foundation for the later formal office of the Inquisition - but destroying the Templars, which Papal decree had created in the first place in order to give it a means to fight the Saracens in control of Jerusalem and the rest of the Levant, and which were sworn protectors of the Catholic Church, is less easy to understand.

Well, without creating here an in-depth history of the entire time and place here, I'll just point you in a few directions if this period of history and this series of events interests you.

First, there are a few websites which cover the basics:

And some books (Amazon links given) on the topic:
List of recommended reads
Cathar Castles: Fortresses of the Albigensian Crusade
The Albigensian Crusades
A Most Holy War: The Albigensian Crusade and the Battle for Christendom
The Great Medieval Heretics: Five Centuries of Religious Dissent
Crusade Against the Grail: The Struggle between the Cathars, the Templars, and the Church of Rome
The Cathars: Dualist Heretics in Languedoc in the High Middle Ages

These links were chosen mostly for their relevance to the so-called Cathar heresy.

Feel free to search for books on the Templars, the Holy Grail, or other specialty topics that interest you. There are many!

Friday, November 20

My future wife :^)

Marissa Mayer. Age 34. Lives in Northern California. Loves Cupcakes. Cute as a button. Stanford graduate, masters in computer science. First female engineer hired by Google (as a programmer). Currently VP of Google Search Products, one of eight original employees left in the company and 4th in the pecking order behind founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and CEO Eric Schmidt. Rumored to be worth almost $1 Billion on shares alone. Salary unknown.

Think she'll leave her new bigshot real estate mogul husband and give me a shot? This woman LIVES in the penthouse of the San Francisco Four Seasons luxury hotel, as well as having several houses around the world. Then again, I'm told I can be charming....

If she does give me a chance, maybe I can get one of those cars below!

Here she is on the great Charlie Rose show.

Wednesday, November 18

Christmas list...

Death song.

I'm unstable
Pills cannot help me
Thank you, here is
My money
Keep me in good health
Or dispose of me
Just don't let me be
Whatever you decide
Whatever you see fit
For me!

And seated with the angels
I saw the Lord shake
And I made the darkness
Part for Him
For Him in His wake!
A holy choir, a choir that
Shall never begin.
I died for you once, child
But don't ask me,
Don't ask me,
Yeah I died for you once, oh
But never again.

And I tore my own heart out
At the old age of three
I fell down the stairwell
In a bookslide
I'm told
I was older when I broke
My collarbone
For the second time
You'd think that bone would
Have healed like iron
But not mine!

No, not mine.
My flesh is fragile here
I am all spirit now
I am a vampire here
Pack of vermin and a word
About the Bible
And a drink
That will make people think
I will make people face
Their nightmares of me.
Of me!

Tuesday, November 17


Over the draperies of sand
A scarlet ibis spreads its wings
And time has gone still for everything
Even laughter dies no matter how amusing
And I am laid upon the rough stone floor
Still half dreaming
But I'm putting in work
When I'm awake on my feet, or asleep
Was it Heraclitus
Who laid out the parameters of a lovely life
He was right, as they all were, but wrong,
So wrong of course. A sheet of tracing paper
Cannot fit between the stonework of my
Temporary sanctuary - but my apartment
Is full of ants and moth-eaten curtains
An orangutan could manage the place better
But I'm not in the least measure bitter
I only ask for a place to exist
That keeps the shadows away.

Sunday, November 15


I don't enjoy being hurt
Or swindled
And I'm a wicked man indeed
To those who cross me

I never lost my connection to the deep past
Where might made right, and
Winner took all
I didn't recognize any Fall, let's just say

Grace is what you make of it
Usually I make very little
Because I feel so very little
About this madhouse we call the world

But still I live within that world
And rules are to be followed when they don't jar
Your own sense of self too strongly, for
My salvation is a strange, uncertain thing.

Wednesday, November 11

Comfort food.

What are some of your favorite comfort foods? For example, my favorite foods overall might be filet mignon, king crab, stuffed sole, baby-back ribs, tiramisu, and so on... but these aren't things you normally eat at home, with your pajamas on, watching a good movie. Or at the table with your family, casually talking about the day.

Comfort food helps you when you feel down, and it's usually fairly simple. It may also conjure fond memories for you because it was something you ate growing up. Here are some of mine, in no particular order:

  • Pizza
  • Kraft Macaroni & Cheese
  • A yummy homemade sandwich
  • Beef stroganoff (my mom used to make it and it was my fave)
  • A homemade hamburger
  • Chicken noodle soup
  • A chocolate milkshake
  • Meatloaf
  • Fish and chips
  • Clam chowder (New England style)
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Fried chicken

Notice I only have one sweet item on my list. I quite expect others will have more! Comfort foods don't have to be entire meals...

Tuesday, November 10

Monday, November 9

Saturday, November 7


Marty Feldman

Google Wave.

Take emailing, instant messaging, file sharing, collaborating, tweeting, social networking, mobile living, online docs, open standards, extensions, widgets, scripting, blogging, presentation with multimedia, scheduling, and just about every other service you can think of that today's Internet currently provides (though far from seamlessly), combine them all in a blender, run them on an HTML 5 compliant browser (such as Google's Chrome, conveniently), and you have Google Wave - or rather, what it aspires to become.

It appears Google is trying to take over the entire world. Unlike Microsoft, who has always been hampered by a severe lack of vision, or Apple, who is content to make very useful, beautiful things but keep them insanely proprietary, Google might actually succeed. It's kind of the way Wikipedia succeeded, by letting its users determine the way it develops, not forcing technologies on them and telling them why they're necessary.

It's pretty cool and at the same time pretty scary. As long as Google remains people-friendly, standards-compliant, and transparent (mostly) about its motives, and goes with the flow of what society actually wants and simply provides some really smart ways of doing such things, it will forever be seen in a friendly light. The moment it begins to abuse its power and grab for money or intellectual property rights or anything else not so public-friendly, it will be seen as a monolithic Big Brother and monopoly threat. Is this the way dystopic futures like The Matrix start out?

Although I don't like the idea of single companies (or entities of any type) having inordinate power, Google so far has proved honest and open, trying to "better" the web of course for its own shareholders' sake but also seemingly just for the sake of doing it. For creative individuals to pour their energy into projects which not only give them their 15 minutes of fame and stroke their ego (and make them rich), but also benefit the online public. All in all, it has acted very un-Microsoftlike, which is all good news in my book. Microsoft has long tried to graft together everything on the desktop and in "the cloud" into one big...something...but that something has been ugly, unwieldy, and decidedly NOT what the public has wanted. In fact, the company seems downright hostile to its own user base most of the time.

Personally I'd rather the future remained a big sprawling mess of healthy competition, but if one company has to step forward and lead the development of technologies (standards development should be kept separate, though - this is very important and probably the #1 reason Microsoft has failed), I'd sure as hell rather it be Google than Redmond, Washington. Apple for its part doesn't even want to seem to play the game, and never has. They're content with having a "niche of excellence" in which they control absolutely everything, and leaving the dregs (everyone who isn't an Apple person) to do what they will. This ivory-tower worldview is quite unlike what you'd expect given Steve Jobs' hippie upbringing, but actually it's perfectly fine, as long as it's not the only game in town. Just like it's fine that there are Ferraris or Guinness beer in the world. After all, no one is forcing you to buy into the complete Apple brand. If you do, it's because it's got value for you and it's in line with your own aesthetic. I happen to love it, but I've been accused of being elitist too, and maybe I am in my own way. I just know what I like; what's right for me.

But as for the online world as a whole, which unlike that "resort club" atmosphere of the Apple World is a frothing sea of competing standards, technologies, and shady people trying to steal your wallet or your identity, people have to choose who to trust. And I'll say again, given the choice of the two, I'd choose Google over Microsoft eight days a week. It remains to be seen whether that trust is appropriate or misplaced. Power nearly always leads to corruption, and Google is going to have to severely buck that trend if it wants to continue to grow into every aspect of online life (which is increasingly becoming just "life") and continue to be seen as a Good Guy. I hope they do. They're much more exciting a company than that other one which has been attempting this feat for going on 30 years now, and has continually just pissed people off at every step (I think you know who I'm talking about).

Anyway, check out a couple of videos of Google Wave. The first is edited down to 10 minutes from an 80-minute presentation, so it's a little disorienting, but you get a sense of the real power of the integrative online experience Google is trying to pull off. The second is more basic but also less frenetic.

To watch the entire 80 minute presentation, or just to learn more about the product, go here:

YouTube, naturally, has a lot of short video clips on how to use it, what it all means, and so on. Just search on "Google Wave" from within 'Tube and you'll see what I mean.

Bonus video...

As always, I'm interested to hear your thoughts on this product/technology, or the subject of digital convergence, future lifestyles (good or bad), or anything else for that matter! Sound off in the comments section if you have an opinion.

Thursday, November 5

Tuesday, November 3

Lapse of Memory.

Here's a short film worthy of a Pink Floyd or Brendan Perry video, or just viewed on its own. Brilliant!

You can watch it in higher definition on the Vimeo site.

Lapse of Memory (HD) from Tony Partington on Vimeo.

This is the kind of art I'd really like to explore at some point, a fusion of arts. I hate doing just one thing; I get bored. But I would love to combine photography, painting, cinematography, sculpture, music, chanting/singing, and ultimately poetry and prose in various combinations into art "pieces" - multimedia is the word I guess, but I find that word so utilitarian and uninspiring. I prefer just "art" ...the word is big enough to encompass all that is thrown at it.

If you like this kind of meditative time-lapse work in particular, do yourself a favor and get copies of some of Ron Fricke's work (Koyaanisqatsi and its two sequels, plus Baraka, Chronos, and the upcoming Samsara). All feature excellent soundtracks as well, composed by the likes of Philip Glass and Brendan Perry/Lisa Gerrard. Further recommendations include Darren Aronovsky films, music by Scott Walker, Björk, and Sigur Rós, and far too many tiny, independent artists of all stripes and talents than can be listed here.

Some day soon I'll devote a post exclusively to all the great artists I know of and which the public at large has probably heard little to nothing about. Yes, I end sentences with prepositions. I don't care.

Monday, November 2

Getting back into C++

...with my stepdad. We come up with problems to solve for fun, then try to independently code them and compare our solutions. We're just using a console rather than use the Windows GUI APIs (MFCs, all that stuff), just to get to the core of the programs for now. Maybe we'll do more object-oriented and GUI stuff in the future (he knows a lot more than I do), but for now my brain needs to warm back up.

Our first problem was to ask the user how many prime numbers he/she would like, then to find and output that many. We both (eventually) got it to work. Here was my code:

// "Primes" (2009) - J. Sias 

#include "stdafx.h"
#include "iostream.h" // for cin and cout
#include "math.h"     // for sqrt function
using namespace std;

bool isPrime(int);    // returns true if prime, false if not

int main(void)
int  primesWanted,
     primesFound = 0,
     nextInt = 2;
char toEnd;

// ask how many primes wanted
cout << "How many primes do you want? (minimum 1): ";
cin >> primesWanted;

// find and display that many primes
do {
    cout << nextInt << " ";
  } while (primesFound < primesWanted);

// pause so user can see output
cout << "\n" << "There you go! Enter a character to continue... ";
cin >> toEnd;


bool isPrime(int num)
// 2 is prime by definition
if(num == 2)
return true;

// test for factors
for(int i = 2; i <= (int) sqrt((float) num); i++)
  if(num % i == 0)
  return false;

// if no factors, it's prime
return true;  

His code was a lot different, but both worked just as well, which goes to show there are as many solutions to a given problem as there are programmers!

Now that I've got Visual Studio set up and (sort of) figured out the actual IDE itself, which is a bit cumbersome, I hope the next program will go more smoothly. Fun!

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