30 December 2008

My Generation

My generation was among the first to grow up with television and certainly the first to grow up with satellite and cable television, and lately I've been thinking of what an impact this has had on me and my peers. It's made some of us very unique people but it's spawned a generation of people who are capable of carrying on entire conversations completely comprised of quotes from 1980s and 1990s television shows.

I don't feel like I need to apologize for that though. My generation's appreciation of campiness and irony is part of what I love about it, not just an annoyance to me. People in my generation are extremely comfortable relating to each other via television shows they watch. At first I found this revelation disquieting, but now I realize maybe it's not that bad. I might say the same about previous generations and sporting events or soap operas. I really wonder what my generation's "who shot JR" would be. Maybe the "who shot Mr. Burns" cliffhanger from The Simpsons? Remember that episode?

Stay tuned, space cadets.

28 December 2008

Looking for Toynbee idea tiles with my mom

I spent the few days before xmas at my mother's in Saint Louis, and in the process I got out for a while with my mom to look for Toynbee idea tiles downtown. I'd previously, through my own research here in Chicago, learned of a handful down there, and my mom had photographed some. 


Pictured above is a particularly wrecked up tile. There are more photos available on my mom's flickr set, and in particular I think it's fascinating how the older tiles seem to have decayed. Here's one that's a little bit more intact:


This one's missing the paragraph at the bottom but it's completely together as if it was meant to be there. That's what's so striking about them: they fit in perfectly but they're so alien. Walking around downtown Saint Louis you might never notice them, but your eyes glance downward and you see that what you thought was just random schmutz on the pavement is actually this colourful tile full of bizarre nonsensical rhetoric.

They are all placed in such busy places though, which is the most frustrating thing about the whole affair for me. The only one I could find in Chicago was in one of the busiest areas of Chicago—at least as far as foot traffic goes. So not only does this mean that whoever placed these tiles had ninja-like powers of invisibility, but it also means they are very difficult to examine in much detail. They're all in the middle of the street, usually on crosswalks, typically visible easily from the curb, but I've still never really been able to get really close to one. Partly that's because I'm not really into squatting down and closely examining parts of crosswalks while I'm supposed to be walking across them.

I took photos of my own which are available on my flickr page, too. More info here or on my flickr page as I look at the photos some more.

Stay curious, space cadets.

16 December 2008

New Car

Bought a new (to me, anyway) car over the past weekend, a 2006 Suzuki Aerio. So adorable. It even behaves itself pretty decently in the Chicago winter, with the exception of a couple of ice-related glitches. Next investment is definitely one of those little scraper doohickies. Paid for part when I got it on Friday and the rest today. It was no easy job, either; the roads and the sidewalks are extremely treacherous today.

( continued the following day )

The roads have been cleared mostly so I think tonight is a good night to go to Fry's and buy a new hard drive for Biscuit. I need one of those doohickies for clearing snow off your car first though! Little Suzi's pretty well buried out there and I dunno if I can dig her out by hand so effectively.

Already having a car has afforded me a level of freedom that, honestly, would have been totally worth the hassle of keeping my Mercedes in the first place. C'est la vie, I guess, and many lessons learned. Living in a city is absolutely wonderful until the Winter hits. Chicago's winter is a grand equalizing force in that she inconveniences all of us the same no matter where we live. The hardest parts of your commute are always getting to and from that train station, and you either trudge through snow or make your way across vast sheets of ice that seem to love to cover sidewalks especially. If someone were to make a sort of "urban crampon" for urban exploration on ice, they'd make billions probably, 'cause nobody ever salts the sidewalks. Worst yet, a lot of people salt them and don't clear away the dirty melty snow byproducts. Chicago's winter has already claimed at least one pair of my shoes (my first pair of Doc Marten boots, being not of the steel toed variety, were far weaker).

Here in the Chicago winter only the strong survive, and it's only just now beginning. Stay warm, space cadets.

04 December 2008

New Eee PC

Got an Eee PC 900 (linux) the other day and I've been tinkering with it since then. Mine's the 900 (nine inches wide, 900MHz processor, 2GiB RAM, 16GiB SDD, cute as nails).

I have to come right out and say it, the operating system that comes with the linux Eee PCs is absolutely terrible. Xandros, as it is known, is such a failure in every possible sense of the word. It's clearly intended for either small children or extremely casual PC users (web and email, mayyyyyyybe a document written every once in a rare while). Changing anything about the operating system or it's programs is difficult to say the least. Programs are categorized according to "work", "play", "internet", etc., but the taxonomy is hardly specific enough to be useful, nor generic enough not to get in your way. One example of many questionable choices, the filesystem browser is filed under "work", for some reason (presumably because Xandros's committee of architects have never had to move files around for non-business purposes). 

Don't get me wrong. Xandros's simplicity could be its strength. It is based off Ubuntu but uses its own apt repository, which for such a special-purpose computer as an Eee is a great idea. Seriously. Maybe the trouble is that Asus hasn't really put a lot of thought into what should go into that repository. While I recognize that the desktop UI, which looks straight up lifted from something Apple tried back in the bad old times of the mid-nineties, is good for newbies, it leaves a lot to be desired from the power user. The main advantages to Xandros are that it comes with working Flash, sound, and Wifi drivers.

Which brings me to the resolution of my adventure: Xubuntu Eee. Super ridiculously easy. You boot from a liveCD on another computer, use a program included on the liveCD to load the operating system and installers onto a USB drive, then boot the Eee from the USB drive. Amazing. Details courtesy of Ars Technica.

Later, space cadets.