Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Sunny Saturday With the Sandboxers

Warning to those with a slow connection: Graphic intensity ahead. Go grab a coffee whilst the pictures load.

Sal's sur L'Esplanade is open again! Woohoo!

A few of us from the Winnipeg Sandbox decided to get together for breakfast this morning, and what better place than Sal's on the Bridge? I'm a huge Sal's fan (and not dead yet!), so of course this idea appealed to me.

I've also been meaning to head to The Forks, in order to snap a few pictures of the river, so I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone. Had I been more awake, I probably would have worn my nigh-invincible winter boots instead of my dress shoes, but Hell, I gotta learn to swim eventually anyway...

The meetup was great. Got to see some of the Sandbox regulars/fellow bloggers again (and met one member for the first time), we had our usual fascinating conversations, and even got to watch Fargo float on by as we ate! (Not my joke!)

I didn't come home empty-handed, either. My pal DeanK gave me an old Panasonic tape recorder, an IBM Thinkpad 380D, and a nice ring of sausage from Metro Meats. Rather nice of him, I must admit. Hopefully I can return his generosity with a few beers, once I finish converting my garage to a four-season gazebo.

By special request, I'm posting a few of the snapshots I took this morning. As I said before, if you're on a slow connection, you may want to put the coffee pot on while they load... Oh, and if you're thinking of using my pictures for whatever reason, I'll remind you to read the Copyright Notice at the bottom of this page. You especially, CBC and CTV!

Under the bridge downtown, I gave my life awaaaayyy: Wearing dress shoes with little to no grip, this is about as close to the river as I intended to get.

Hmmm, guess taking the stairs is out...

Mistimed this one by a few minutes. I wanted to catch the sun when it was just over the church...

I wasn't sure how this one would turn out. I waded through ankle-deep snow on a steep incline, holding onto a tree (so I didn't fall into the drink) with one hand, and trying to take the shot with the other.

So, there you have it! Just a small sampling of the fifty-or-so shots I took before the meet-up. One of these years, I'll have to start a new site for my pics. Maybe once I've improved my technique...

In other news, I'm quite excited about the prospect of having another laptop. I've been without one (apart from my Model 100) since my beloved Nadia died, and I haven't been around my usual haunts much because of it.

My "new" IBM Thinkpad 380D. Vital statistics and functional state unknown. Power adapter and new battery currently en route from reputable supplier :)

Wedged in the PCMCIA slot was a Xircom RealNet 10/100 Ethernet + 56K modem card. My first ever Type-III PCMCIA card. Nice to have, but not sure how much use it'll see because...

... I imagine these two amigos (my Orinoco WIFI card, and CF card reader) will be occupying the PCMCIA slots most of the time.

So, once I have a better idea of the machine's functional state, I can plan its future. Will likely turn it into a dual-boot system, running Debian Linux and OS/2 Warp 4, but I'll cross that bridge later.

On a final note, this week the Winnipeg Sandbox saw the addition of a few new features, my personal favourite being the "Sandbox Cred" feature. It works in much the same way as the old "Thank You" point system that we enjoyed on New Winnipeg in its previous incarnation, the only difference is that a "thumbs down" will decrease your "cred" by a point.

So far, I'm the only member with a negative Sandbox Cred!

I was at "zero" cred, and wondered aloud if it were possible to have a negative cred rating, so I asked someone to give me a "thumbs down" so we could find out. Pavolo obliged without much arm-twisting, and now we know it's possible to go into a negative.

At any rate, I gotta get going. I'm gonna be late for a lunch date...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

It was only a matter of time...

Last year, I blogged about the pedestrian/vehicle "near-misses" I observed while waiting for a bus.

This morning, this story arrived in my RSS feed reader.

A lapse in common sense, and you've ended your life and ruined another's.

Truly sad, but it was only a matter of time.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

On Microcosmic Fair Trade, part one

I received a package in the mail yesterday...

The package contained a couple of books I'd bought online. I perused the first one, but that's the extent of it's involvement in this saga. Our story really begins with the second book.

The second book was supposed to be an instructional DIY course on how to build a catapult.

I'd bought it as a lark, figuring it'd be good for a laugh or two, and would have my coworkers (further) questioning my sanity... and Hell, I'd be well equipped should I ever have to lob boulders, flaming pitch, appliances, or small vehicles in defense of my home and neighbourhood. Unfortunately, they sent me the wrong book. No, I didn't get my catapult book, but what I received could prove to be equally devastating at medium-long range...

It was a book on barter.

After getting over my initial disappointment, I thumbed through the book (Survival Bartering, by Duncan Long) and ultimately decided to keep it. I emailed the seller to let her know the situation, just in case they'd sent my catapult book to someone wanting the book on barter. She asked if I wanted to send the book back in exchange for the one I'd paid for, and I told her I'd keep this one if she'd refund me the difference, as the catapult book was five bucks more than the book on barter. She acquiesced and all was well. Five bucks ahead, and I hadn't even read the book through yet!

I took the book with me to work this morning, so I'd have something to do on my lunch hour. One of the guys saw me and asked me what kind of "hippie bullshit" I was reading this time, so I enlightened him.

"What the Hell kind of commie crap is that?" he asked (he's not too bright).

"Ok, here we go," I thought to myself... but instead of berating him with words that have far too many syllables for his brain to process, I opted to explain the concept of barter to him.

Barter, as I see it, can be explained thus: You're trading something of value to someone in exchange for something else of value. He seemed to catch on, so I elaborated.

"Even working is a form of barter," I explained, "You're trading your time and effort to your employer in exchange for money. Then you turn around and trade your money for other goods and services."

"Oh," he said, "I get it."

"Good!", I smiled, "But that's an oversimplified explanation. It gets more and more complicated, but that's a story for another lunch hour."

Now, I've been bartering for years. I had a home-based "business" for ages (trading old video games), and in recent years have been bartering my computer skills in exchange for other goods and services (but never money). I have fixed more personal computers over the years than I'd care to count, but never made a cent doing it. Instead, I'd exchange my skills for other things like old computer hardware, alcohol, artwork, tools, and the like. I made it absolutely clear that I didn't want money.

When asked why, I always explained, "Because money is the only thing that can cheapen something of value". Most people understood that the "something of value" was our friendship, other times I had to explain.

Of course, not everyone thinks in the same sentimental manner as I. The barter system is alive and well on the fringes of society, too, with an underground economy that is flourishing. People are routinely exchanging stolen goods for guns, drugs for sex, guns for hostages, sex for money or drugs, etc. It's also alive and kicking in the flea market/farmer's market circuit as well...

But more on that later.

I'm about a quarter of the way through the book, and it's been an interesting read so far.

Will post my final thoughts on the book once I'm done, and explore a few ideas I've just had on how bartering can help me in my goal of living minimal.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Listen to the Rockingbird, Listen to the Rockingbird

(^Flintstones reference)

So, I bit the bullet. I'm now on Twitter (as conceitedjerk).

It's mildly interesting so far, my first impression is that it's a form of blogging (or RSS?) for people with short attention spans and/or ADD (which seems to be the norm nowadays).

Perhaps my opinion will change after I've used it a while. Perhaps not.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Practical Retromoblogging

(Article originally written 03/16/09)
My old TRS-80 Model 100 (aka "Gibraltar") just became more useful.

Today, after a week of edge-of-my-seat anticipation, my latest peripheral arrived, one that will make my mobile blogging life a lot easier.

My NADSBox arrived.

"What the Hell is a NADSBox?" you may ask, "What does it do, apart from invite puerile comments as to its name?" (Including, I might add, an officially sanctioned one...)

So good of you to ask! The NADSBox, or New Age Digital Storage Box, is a modern replacement for the aging Tandy Portable Disk Drive. It basically emulates the TPDD, using SD, MMC, SDHC cards in place of floppy disks.

The main benefit is storage capacity - my old TPDD2 could store 200K on a single floppy. The NADSBox can handle memory cards up to 16 Gigabytes! Not that I'd ever need that kind of storage, mind you, but it's nice to know that the capability is there. Heh, I doubt that I'll ever fill the 512Mb card that came with the unit...

Another added benefit (and this was the deciding factor for me) is that the cards used in the NADSBox can be read in any old card reader, so I can blog with my Model 100 to my heart's content, save my work to the NADSBox, pull the SD card, pop it into my USB2 card reader and transfer all my work onto my Linux box (or iMac) for uploading to Blogger.

Of course, this works both ways, too. I can download a bunch of Model 100 apps online using my Linux box (etc) and simply write everything to the SD card for transfer to my Model 100!

No more fighting with null-modem cables or slooooowwww modem transfers anymore! Wooohoooo!

My heartfelt thanks to Ken Pettit for designing the singularily most useful computing product I've bought in the past decade or so, and a special "Thank You" goes to Rick Hanson of Club 100 for being the sole distributor and all-around nice guy.

I'd also like to extend a big "Hello" to all who have come to my little corner of the blogosphere via the link on the Club 100 site. Welcome!

EDIT 3/19/09
So far, the NADSBox has paid for itself with an increase in productivity. I've been writing a lot more than usual, and I've been transferring a bunch of my other work from my old TPDD disks onto the NADSBox, so I can upload them to my Linux box for later archiving onto CD or DVD.

I've also been poring over some of the Model 100's technical documents online, so I can have a better understanding of the machine and how it works - but more on that later. I have twenty more disks worth of material to archive, tomorrow's blog post to finish, and a spreadsheet to update.

Gonna be a late night...

UPDATE 12/01/13:  There's now a second part to this article!  You can find it here.

Two for Two!

*edited 3/19/09 18:35h*

Just noticed that Drinksmixer has accepted my personal Martini recipe, the same one I shared with you all back on St. Patrick's Day.

Of course, they omitted everything else such as the inventor (me) and the backstory behind it, but c'est la vie. It's not just my recipe anymore, it belongs to the world!

... or to CraveOnline Media LLC, if you read the fine print...

Not that it's a big deal in the grand scheme of things. One gets the impression they'll publish anything, judging from some of the vile concoctions on the site (and their respective titles).

I have a lot more recipes in my repertoire, perhaps enough to write a book..? Perhaps one day. For now, I'll simply enjoy my Pimm's No.1 Cup and ginger ale.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Beannachtam na Feile Padraig! Part Two

*** Coarse and Objectionable Language Warning ***
If you're easily offended, I wouldn't read past this line if I were you.
If you do, you accept full responsibility for your actions (a new concept in this society), and as such, I will NOT apologize for any offense you may take.

Just got back from Tavern, and I'm still thirsty. Lucky for me, I still have a bottle or two of beer in the fridge.

As much as I love Erdinger Dunkel (an excellent dark Bavarian Weißbier), it's not the same as a nice, thick, creamy Guinness. But hey, any port in a storm, eh?

Me an' Fry left Tavern United at 8pm. Ordinarily, I could have gone another hour or two before even THINKING about heading home, but I had to get out of there. Some dolt at the table across the aisle from us ordered his first Guinness ever. The kid, probably about nineteen years old and decked out in the requisite baseball cap and jeans, took a swig and loudly proclaimed "Wow, this Irish beer sucks!".

My blood began to boil.

He followed it up with "I thought this shit was supposed to be good?"

Suddenly, the tavern stood still - frozen in time - and I found myself in the deeper recesses of my mind. The darkest corner, where the three main portions of my ancestry were seated at a booth.

They beckoned me over.

"Room for one more, me lad," smiled my Irish side, making room on the bench and sliding a pint my way.

"Yeah," laughed my Metis side, "join da fockin' party, eh!"

My English side smiled, as though welcoming an old friend.

"CJ," my English side started, "we know what you're thinking."

"Oh?" I asked, "and what is that?"

"Ya wanna go over dere and beat the shit outta that little focker!", my Metis side explained.

"Yeh, and rightly so!" proclaimed the Irish side, "The li'l maggot wouldn't know good beer if ye smashed a bottle of it over 'is 'ead!"

I laughed, "Guilty as charged!"

"Well, don't do it," said my English side.

"Huh?" my Irish side, Metis side, and myself exclaimed.

"He's a young kid with no life experience, still very ignorant about the world... and frankly doesn't look very intelligent, either..." explained English, "You have to ask yourself if he's really worth the effort, or potential legal trouble for that matter, to avenge your favourite beer."

"Easy for you to say!" Irish screamed, "It's not your beer he's insulted! Oh no, it's not like he said anything like 'Oh, that Boddington's tastes like horse piss', now did he? Nooo. What would ye have done then? Just stood there and taken it with yer 'stiff upper lip'? No! You'da gone an' batted 'im round the ear 'ole! So spare us this pansy 'Don't do it' crap just 'coz you've got the majority of 'is ancestry."

"Oh please," said English, his tone becoming more and more annoyed, "spare me this 'majority' crap. He's got your temper!"

"And yer red hair!' laughed Metis.

"Oh shut it, half-breed!" Irish screamed, turning a lovely shade of purple, "At least we know what good beer is, not that Lucky crap you suck back!"

Metis stood up and screamed, "You wanna go?!", motioning for Irish to stand up. Irish obliged.

English got up from the booth and separated them, pushing Irish slightly back.

"Oh, yer takin his side, are ye?" Irish said suspiciously to English, "Just 'coz he's half English and half Ojibwa? Feckin' limeys stickin' together!"

"Who you callin' a half-breed, ya Loyalist Prod mothafucker?" yelled Metis, trying to get at Irish through English, "The only reason you got red hair is 'coz da fuckin' Vikings raped yer great-great-great-grandma! And from what I hear, she wasn't really that fuckin' great!"

At which point, all Hell broke loose.

I sat back and watched in sheer terror as my inner being fought it out. I couldn't tell who threw the first punch, but the descent into chaos was rapid and complete. Glassware was broken, cutlery flew all about, beer was spilled, there was glass everywhere... when all was said and done, our table was reduced to splinters.

After what seemed an eternity, the three amigos stood up, wiped the dust, glass, and blood from each other, let out a hearty cacophony of laughter, and fell into a group hug. We had our happy camaraderie again.

"Same time next week, lads?" asked English. The others laughed their hearty approval.

"Hey bro," Metis said to me, "You'd better get back, Fry's looking for you!"

Next thing I knew, I was back at Tavern United, with Fry staring incredulously.

"Did you hear that?" he asked.

"Yeah, I did," I replied.

"I'm surprised you didn't get up and kill the guy!" he said.

"I wanted to," I explained, "but, well, he's a young kid with no life experience, still very ignorant about the world... and frankly doesn't look very intelligent, either... not worth the effort."

"I'm impressed", Fry said.

"Sometimes you have to listen to those little voices in your head," I laughed.

Dysfunctional though they may be.

Sometimes beer is cheaper than therapy.

Or a lawyer.

Beannachtam na Feile Padraig!

I'd been planning a good old fashioned dose of drunken behaviour today, actually planning to blog once I'd returned from my outing at Tavern United McPhillips tonight.

However, upon further thought, I probably won't be able to type. So, with that in mind, I figured I'd get it out of the way now, while I'm still reasonably sober.

My pal Cherenkov has asked the following:

Now ... Got any ideas on how I can make a decent orange-flavoured martini?

What? Do you have to ask?

In the spirit of St. Patrick's Day and the noble pursuit of drunkenness, I will share three of my recipes with my "loyal" following:

Basic recipe:
2oz Gin
1/2oz french vermouth
2 dashes Cointreau
1 dash Grand Marnier
(adjust levels of Cointreau and Grand Marnier to taste)

Alternate recipe:
2oz Stolichnaya Ohranj vodka (you can "get away" with using Absolut Orange if you must)
1/2oz Noilly Prat vermouth
1 dash Cointreau
1 dash Grand Marnier
drop Angostura bitters
(adjust levels of Cointreau and Grand Marnier to taste)

Finally, as my gift to all of you, here is my personal, closely guarded, BRAND SPECIFIC recipe I call "The Hundred Years' War" (which I've also submitted to Drinksmixer):

3oz Plymouth Gin
1oz Noilly Prat vermouth
1/4oz Cointreau
1 drop Angostura bitters
(Keep the level of Cointreau the way it is, or I'll break your legs!)

Pour vermouth and Cointreau into a martini shaker half-full of crushed ice and swirl for a second or two. Pour gin into shaker and shake vigorously.

Pour into a chilled Martini glass and add a drop of Angostura bitters.

All these recipes are meant to be "shaken, not stirred". Some connoisseurs will tell you that you should always stir a Gin martini to avoid "bruising" the Gin.

Being a temperamental sort, I enjoy bruising things, so all my martinis are shaken regardless of ingredients.

Of course, a request for an orange flavoured Martini is especially funny on St. Patrick's day, considering I'm part Irish as well as a Protestant (therefore an Orangeman)!

Incidentally, if you find yourself at or near Tavern United on McPhillips around 5:30pm today, stop by and say hello! Look for the thirtysomething redhead wearing green (that should narrow it down, eh?)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

On the True Nature of... Collaboration?

Notice anything missing?

What started out as a recap of several conversations about religion (entitled "On the True Nature of God and Man") has taken on a life of its own.

Originally slated to be a brief four-part series (that I'd planned to have wrapped up by now), it has now grown to over a hundred pages of raw material - and we aren't anywhere close to being done. There are now eight of us (of varying beliefs and non-beliefs) working on the project, and we're constantly butting heads, but so far our collaboration is bearing fruit.

We haven't decided on a medium yet - we may present the project as a blog or website, we may publish it as a book, a video, or podcast, we're not sure. However, one thing is certain...

It won't be appearing here.

That's right - Conceit and Sociopathy's first (and likely only) meaningful subject has been removed from the bills, and it's business as usual from here on in. It was my decision to pull the plug out of respect for the others' contributions - a serious discourse on religion seemed a tad out of place on a blog about old computers, alcohol, and questionable behaviour.

That said, I deleted the original post from C&S. It'll appear in the finished piece (regardless of medium) as the opening.

In any case, I'm back to blogging on a semi-regular basis.

We now return you to our regularily scheduled program.