Friday, March 20, 2009

Music (for): I'm a Steampunk, pt 1

Here's some steampunk music for your Friday (and to go with my first "I'm a Steampunk post from last night/today at lunch).

By the way... I think I have to go to the Edison someday. Everything I've seen about it is awesome. I just hope they have high-quality craft beer. It seems a little cheap to "dump and run" on this post, but there's more steampunk stuff coming soon.

(really only 4:07 long, so you can stop watching at that point)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I'm a Steampunk, pt 1

Have you heard of steampunk? If you haven't, I'd say now is your chance!

To me, it's a lifestyle that pays homage to an era that never was but should have been (and could have in many respects). There's this part of me that is absolutely obsessed with steampunk. It's in my blood and comes out in subtle ways every day. I don't dress the part like many a steampunk cosplay afficianado--though the thought has crossed my mind for certain "special" events or holidays. There's something more elegant about the Victorian industrial design motif, especially when compared to the smooth and sleek modern design with all the mechanicals hidden behind a faux metal skin of simplicity.

I think my mindset has a lot to do with my father and his father (and by extension, both sides of the whole family). They are complete train nuts... or perhaps steam technology nuts... to the extent that they both have built multiple fully functional 1/8th scale live steam engines (that's a separate post). I also grew up around large steam tractors at the Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum in nearby Vista. In fact, my father and grandfather did the initial restoration of this 75-horsepower Case steam tractor. At the AG&SEM, we worked with several other club members and volunteers to restore all kinds of steam engines, equipment, and tractors.

Heck, my "first car" was an 1889 Advance steam tractor (60 horsepower)... well before I drove a car. This is the one (right), from an old mid-80's photo I found on the web. How odd is that? I bet I even parked it next to the sawmill and Case (in background to the left and right respectively) just before this photo was taken. I suppose the photo could also be from the time period when I shared the engineer/fireman duties with Randy Chase (great guy), but I can't tell.

An odd note about the "mere" 75 or 60 horsepower--back in those days, that meant these were equivalent to hitching up 75 or 60 draft horses to one piece of farm equipment. The horsepower of a draft horse was recently calculated at 14.9 horsepower for a short peak period (declining to less than 1 over prolonged periods (for the math geeks, I suppose that would be jerk, acceleration, velocity, and inertia all playing together). This means these two steam-beasts theoretically generate an estimated 1,117 and 894 h.p. if I understand the "then versus now" calculations correctly. Even if I misunderstand them, I've seen these things rip a barn off it's foundation, so I know they have more power than the measly two-digit numbers imply.

So, in a way, there's actual "steam" experience flowing in my veins.
To be continued...

Monday, March 16, 2009

All a-twitter-ed

So there I was today, working with Mike (the Art Director/Webmaster) and Bill (the Web Programmer) on inserting some RSS feeds onto the company website ( and I was having some difficulties... mainly with the feeds from twitter and WordPress blog not... well, feeding into the Google AJAX feed API ( It was coded, it just wasn't working right. The feeds were there, but the window was blank. What the heck?

"How hard could this be?" I asked myself. "I mean, really? This should work." So I get the source code and host it on the web server a couple of meters* away from my desk. "There, that should eliminate some variables." Right?

Wrong! The same problem. The window is there, but the message says "waiting for feed" So... I'll look into the possible sources of the problem... the feeds. Well, the WordPress blog is working fine (again, on said server in the server room). Let me double check that somehow... aha! Feedburner is reading everything fine. Maybe the other feed is somehow breaking the JavaScript or Google's aggregator. Who knows?

Off to the next problem feed: twitter. So I Google the issue and find a document on twitter's site. I click the link and... ::RRRRNNNNNNTTTTTT:: (in my best Dr. Steel buzzer impression) Wrong answer! Thanks for playing. I got a crappy copy of the login screen game! You have to be a member of twitter to look at twitter content. That includes any solutions to tech issues you might have. Seriously? W... T... F, huh?

"Sherman, set the WABAC machine to two weeks ago."*** I am quite sure I stated at the time that I didn't have a use for twitter. Furthermore, if I could get into twitter to see what was there, I would find my suspicions confirmed, by a bunch of "ooo, me too" and "::giggle-giggle:: he's a q-t." chatting, texting, googly-eyed, teen-ager nonsense. I'm too old for this new "digital note passing" part of the social web. I didn't like it in high school and I don't like the idea of it now.

On the other hand, people say I should be more social and not "hate people" so much. As I've explained to many people along the way, "I don't hate people. I hate stupid people." For clarification's sake, when I say stupid, I am referring not to someone with less... um... "processing power" in their "CPU". I mean people who know something, choose to ignore it, and do what they want anyway. I digress... where was I? Ah, twitter and work.

For business purposes, what could possibly be there that doesn't show up on a company's main web site?

Well, as I've learned in the ensuing two weeks, a lot. It's essentially "micro blogging", something even I could get into because I don't always have time to write or read a blog in depth like this. I've seen everything from CNN and other news agencies talking about their twitter pages and (wherever) blogs. Heck, I even found out about a name change to a book I'm looking out for via a web page link to a blog that referred to a twitter account. That name change happened quite a while ago and I could have known about it if I was I twitter.

::sigh:: "Am I the last computer/web techie to use twitter or what?"

So... I was sitting there, staring at a twitter join/login screen separating me from an answer to my RSS feed difficulty. "Alright, alright, alrightalrightALRIGHT. Fine. I'll do it. I'll do it.I'll do it.I'll do it!"**** I created an account.

It didn't even hurt.

I didn't find exactly what I was looking for, but I will now have access to all kinds of information, delivered in short bursts.

Oh, and Mike found a better looking twitter RSS feeder anyway. Now we just need to get one for the WordPress feed.

* Hey, why not use the metric system in this case? I like the system, though I sometimes have to do a little conversion in my head to really 'get' how far away something is.

** Dr. Steel. He's better than Dr. Horrible any day! I'll share... just not today. Or, you can look him up yourself. It's worth your time.

*** If you don't understand the reference, I'm sorry. You're too young to read this blog. Oh, all right... here's the requsit wiki link:

**** That's one heck of an obtuse and bastardized "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" reference.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Writing: Distracted by distracting distractions

It's one of those nights...

I'm trying to be productive, yet everything is standing in my way, drawing my attention this way and that. A few nights ago I moved from the studio over the garage to the library in the house. Yeah... that photo to the right is essentially what it looks like right now. Me hunched over a folding table. My glass is currently empty though... no tasty barley wine left to enjoy. As far as my choice of fine furnishings goes, I won't intrude upon Andie's desk in here... I've got the oak rolltop desk in the studio which will someday find its way in here below the the tapestry to my right (out of frame) or perhaps in the corner behind me and to the left. All that happens after I complete my bookcase... after I complete the bench seat for the breakfast nook. ::sigh::

Oh, by the way, the color/hue of that photo above was achieved purely by accident, taking a picture in very underlit conditions. In normal circumstances, I'd delete it for the "garbage" it is. However, in this case, the photo exudes the right mood.

Anyway, someday the library bookcases might look something like this, if I ever get the chance to work on them:

(by the way, I have no idea why the photo is turned sideways at the moment... it's correct on my computer... I even resave the photo and it comes out like this... dunno... not wasting any more time on it tonight.)

Hey, there's a strange noise outside. An owl or bat? Hmm...

What was that about being distracted?

Good night everyone.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Music: Chiptune Music

Select people used to get an email from me about the music I was listening to at the time. I had to stop sending it though... something about needing to "practice what I preach", or something like that. Lately, I've had a few people tell me they miss the "Friday Music" email, with my brief story, comments about music, narratives about the experience (perhaps watching Babyland at the Poway Rodeo Grounds way back when), and even what the artist is up to today (especially if they were big in the '80s, but aren't really noticed anymore).

Fast forward to today. That fiesty muse is pestering me again. She's grabbed a rolled up newspaper and is thumping over the head and shoulders with it. Fine, fine, fineFineFINE! I'll write something like I used to... except things are easier to link to on the web nowadays. So now I can show people as well tell them about it!

Chris walked by my desk at work one day and heard me listening to Beck. Specifically, he heard Ghettochip Malfunction (Hell Yes 8-bit remix) from the EP "GameBoy Variations":

He asked if I like the Atari/Gameboy/Nintendo "chiptune" sound. I told him "yeah, if it's done right"... or that's how I remember the conversation going. He told me to about a few bands and said I should definitely check out Crystal Castles.

So I did. Now I have the album... and now I'm sharing them with you:

There's a slightly different version of the song on their MySpace page I hope you enjoy the songs. Let me know.

Oh, by the way, speaking of "chips" and "tunes", did you know that Daft Punk is doing the soundtrack to Tron 2.0? Check the info out for yourself.


Tasting Notes: '05 Old Guardian

Okay, so I'm not sure if this completely qualifies as a "tasting notes" entry... let's go down the list:

Q: Good beer?
A: Yep, Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine 2005 vintage

Q: Beer:30?
A: Er... nope.

Q: Special guest(s)?
A: No. Just me.

I had just finished a dinner with the family (at the dinner table no less!), and I thought "Hey, I want a beer. Let's see what I have." Wandering up to the studio, I stood next to the bar. "Hmm... well, there's that case of IPA I forgot to put in the 'fridge. Nope, not gonna drink one of those. How about something cold? Well, this bottle has volunteered itself. What is it? Ahhh... OG... an old one... 2005! That'll do nicely."

So there I was, holding a bottle of beer I would normally share with friends, heading back downstairs to the house. I don't really know why I grabbed it, but I did. Here are my notes.

This beer is an amber color, a bit redder than a whiskey

(bear with me on this one... my nose never works right, the weather is changing, and I just ate a garlic-bombed broccoli dinner... excuses, excuses!) Hoppy! I am actually somewhat surprised at the amount of hops still left in this beer after four years. I think they have dropped off a bit, but they are there in the foreground, with some malty sweetness backing them up.

That hoppy character--flavor and bitter in equal parts--is the first thing I notice, but it is quickly balanced out by the malt flavor. Wait... the hoppy flavor lingers nicely. Perhaps the flavor of grapefruit.

The mouthfeel is nice, with a silky-syrupy feel. Not fizzy, nor champagne-like. Simply good carbonation.

This is good. In a way, I wish I hadn't opened it, as I think it would age nicely for a year or three more. Maybe I have a few more bottles.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Metapost: A Post About Posts

I have several topics I want to blog about, but just as I can't do them all in any given day, I also can't post about them as fast as I want to. In no particular order, they are:
  • Writing - not about the blog itself, althought it fits the description, but actually about the other writing projects I am working on
  • Beer Tastings - as they happen, rather than days or weeks later
  • Music - akin to the Friday email I used to send at work, and nods to the old Bryonics tapes I made ages ago
  • Woodworking - hopefully I can finish the breakfast nook bench and get on with the library bookcase and window seat
  • Green Efforts - I've looked into this one a bit. Living in SoCal requires that I conserve water and I have a few ideas about that. I also think I can make other "green" strides.
  • Travel - though infrequent, the little outings here and there fill things in nicely
  • New Year's Resolution Progress - hey... I don't want to forget this one!
As strange as it might sound, I would also like some feedback from you all about what I should post about. What do you want to hear about on this blog?

Quiet, but not forgotten

For the countless masses of... alright, who am I kidding? For the small handful of you who read the blog, I haven't forgotten about it. I have been busy on another writing project that has sucked away my free time. Since it's "on spec" and "unofficial" (and I don't want to jinx the thing), I won't discuss it here yet. I'll post something else here soon. I promise.