I got the best letter from the US Postal Service!

This arrived in my mailbox on Friday, August 12:

2016-08-13 19.06.16

 

Lemme zoom in on the first graff:

postalfiregraff

And just one more time:

postalfire

A postal truck “experienced a fire.”

My God, I love that!  We have sentient postal trucks, out there having new and interesting experiences, and yet they don’t have the damned sense not to play with fire.  It’s a self-aware 80,000 pound truck with the executive function of a toddler; O brave new world that has such people in’t!

At any rate, this does tend to explain the errant check for several thousand dollars I’ve been waiting for.  *sighs* Guess I’ve gotta call a client later today.

Anyway, for the curious, here’s my mail burning up last month:

-077dab07e6c61c86

(source)

DUNGEON!!!

My son has been at “Rocks & Robots” camp this week (mostly building

"You are likely to be eaten by a grue..."
“You are likely to be eaten by a grue…”

sumo-wrestling robots with Mindstorms, plus two half-days of rock climbing), and apparently he and several other kids have developed a species of spoken-word text-based adventure that they play over lunch, called “Dungeon!!!”  The game starts with someone saying something along the lines of “You are in a cage hanging from a rusted chain, and realize the cage door is not actually locked. What do you do?” Whoever else is sitting around is in the party and starts asking questions and making decisions. No gold, no XP, no dice, no pencil, no paper—just you and the Dungeon.

But the best thing, IMHO, is that in order to look around the room you say ls (the *nix command to get a list of the contents of the current directory, like dir in DOS).ubuntu-cp-demo

Why?

“Because it’s easier than saying ‘I look around the room,’ or whatever.  And sounds cooler.”

And, yes, he did indeed “Get the idea from computers.”

*headshake* Poor lil nerd don’t even have a notion of the basic framework of what is and is not cool.

Running his Ruby scripts from the command line
Running his Ruby scripts from the command line

Maybe Just Don’t Be a Dick About Grammar?

This is a little video about dropping the pretensions and just returning to using “They/Them” as the singular non-gendered pronoun.  It’s a fun video, but the Big Picture is this:

English is a fantastically error-tolerant language.  You can construct fantastically agrammatical sentences and still be sufficiently understood to get things done.  Optimizing around tiny matters of correctness (e.g., “unique can never take a modifier,” “never end a sentence with a preposition,” and so on) usually fails to bring any substantive increase in the clarity of your speech or writing. Insisting that others do so as well–especially when there is no legitimate confusion created by their chosen construction–usually means you are acting like a classist dickweed (plausibly because you are one).

THE TAKEAWAY: At best, perfect “grammatical correctness”—like taking a good long shit—is (and should be) an entirely private pleasure.  It’s not for polite conversation among civilized people like you and me.

My 10yo asks “Want to see me use the Force?”…

… I nod.

He sticks his finger in his mouth, then draws the spit-slick digit out and, swift as a fencer, pushes it into my face. I instinctively rear back, as though moved by some sort of mystical energy field, perhaps one created by all living things—the sorta thing that surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.image

Touché, tiny nerd. You win this round.

The Art of the Not-Making-a-Total-Putz-of-Yourself

If nothing else of substance, the last couple days of RNC Trump Speech brouhaha have offered a pair of very important business lessons.

art by DonkeyHotey https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/
(art by DonkeyHotey)

My initial impression was that we were looking at this kind of fantastically gobsmacking paradox:

A candidate renowned for his wealth and business acumen is either unable to afford or incapable of selecting competent help.

But according to this article, that doesn’t seem to be the case.  Skilled workers are perfectly happy to hold their noses and accept Trump dollars, but their employer is totally unable to actually use the tools he purchases.

This puts me in the mind of a business aphorism (which I believe I first heard from Ramit Sethi):

A students hire A students; B students hire C students.

To mansplain: An A student knows what good work looks like, that good work is hard, and is confident that they can reliably produce good work through the judicious application of hard work.  A students want to see good work, and do not want to look like putzes, so they choose subordinates who are as capable as themselves (if not more so).  B students may occasionally do good work, but since they don’t know this other stuff (about how to judiciously apply hard work to reliably produce that good work), they can be pretty insecure.  They hire down the ladder to shore up their ego.

But, of course, Trump is proving to not even be a B student; the B student is insecure and frustrated because he or she knows what good, consistent work looks like—they just can’t produce it.

Trump is a C student wallowing in the depths of Dunning-Kruger Syndrome.

So, to revise:

A students hire A students; B students hire C students.  C students hire an A student, a B student, two C students, a guy on Craigslist, their cousin, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Mike Tyson, six doctors, and a personal trainer, follow none of their advice, and then scream at them when they get the C they earned.

Drawing with Sound on an Oscilloscope

No CGI, no digital effects, no computer even; just some electrical testing equipment and an audio recording.  Pretty neat and a lot of fun to watch—so neat and fun that I was, in fact, pretty dubious at first.  So I borrowed an oscilloscope from my local public library and tried it out—AND IT WORKED!

Here’s Jerobeam Fenderson’s explanation of the effect, and another article with several neat videos.

Here’s Fenderson’s older “Drawing Mushrooms” video, which is the one I tested myself:

WATCH ME: “8 1/2 Mile”

[WATCH] CLASSIC INTERNET THEATER: THE ‘8 ½ MILE’ TRAILER

I basically 180-degree disagree with H. Perry H on the watchability of such a film—I would watch the shit out of this!—but love the opening graff of his post:

The internet is a Sarlacc pit of information: stuff goes in and it never comes out, the bodies just keep piling one atop another until they’re all digested into a sludge the individual elements of which are indistinguishable, it’s just a big, messy, congealed pile of videos, social media posts, other assorted viral moments, and mostly porn.

And I love the trailer itself:

Thing I Learned: Check Your Damn Gas Cap!

Vw_engine_check
Yikes! Scary light!

After a long trip, the dashboard of our Scion xD lit up like a Non-Denominational Gift Giving Holiday Display.

🙁

Since this is our “good” car (in contrast to our Prius with the bum AC, which is miserable for summer road trips), I high-tailed it to the mechanic, terrified that we’d done Something Bad to the car that we’re relying to get us through at least another two years (at which time our youngest can enroll in public school, freeing up $1200/month for an auto payment on something big enough for us all to not drive each other to the brink of murder during every damn road trip).

Fortunately:

  1. Our mechanic (Rons’s Garage, God-of-yr-Choosing bless ’em!) is fantastically honest and
  2. It was nothing

So why the light display?

We’d left the gas cap off.

We fueled up as we rolled back into town, as my wife needed the car for work the next day (a ~30 mile drive).  And we hadn’t screwed the cap down all the way.  A loose cap makes the car’s computer believe there’s an air leak somewhere in the fuel system (’cause there is–around the lose cap. If you’re wondering why the car gives a damn: To ruy efficiently, you need to maintain a proper fuel-air ratio in the engine, and it’s easiest to control this if you have a sealed fuel system.  On top of that, petrol fumes are bad news for the environment, so many car’s additionally check for leaks just to make sure you aren’t wrecking up the joint with stray hydrocarbons).

The car can run basically fine like this, and there’s no real danger of damaging the engine.  Put the fuel cap back on, reset the warning light, and all is well.

The lesson:  If your car is throwing a CHECK ENGINE light, make sure the gas cap is tight.  If it’s loose (or you lost it), then tighten it down (or replace it), and keep driving.  If there’s nothing obvious wrong (no sluggishness or weird noises) and it isn’t nearly time for an oil change, you’ll be fine, and the light will reset itself within 100 miles.  If it stays on, then go to the mechanic.

Ron didn’t charge me, because he’s a solid dude (which is why I keep going there).  But plenty of guys would charge you for figuring it out (they did spend time pulling the code from the car’s computer and troubleshooting my dumbassery), and a few would even use this as an excuse to “repair” some “major problem.”