Ric Bretschneider

My thoughts in your brain…

Archive for June 2005

Neighbors

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The last of the "Five New Homes in Willow Glenn" finally sold so we’ll soon have new neighbors over the back fence.  Lovely home, often thought about buying it myself, would have made the move very easy…
 
Anyway, they’re starting to landscape today – bringing in a back-hoe to dig out a sprinkler system and other things.  Good day to start a week’s vacation if you ask me.
 
Will try blogging from the road via the phone.  If you see blog entries that mention photos that don’t actually show up, that means they’re still messed up in Spaces ability to do that trick.

Written by ricbret

June 30, 2005 at 9:20 am

Posted in Random thoughts

Herbie

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My friend Chuck Farnham is an eccentric.  Certifiable, he made a living and reputation off being eccentric for about a decade. Now it’s just a hobby.  I may get back to that history some day, but let’s talk about last night.
 
Chuck most recently worked for, I’m not making this up, a branch of US Homeland Security.  Again, not going to get into that any deeper than to say due to an on-the-job injury he’s got some time on his hands.  (He’s talking about retraining with the CIA… actually the Culinary Institute of America.)
 
So he bought a 1968 VW Beetle, renovated it, and made himself a Herbie. He drove it over last night.
 
We’ve done a lot of whacky stuff, from videotaping dumpster-diving excursions in Cupertino to some stuff in Las Vegas that will have to wait for the memoirs.  So let’s just say that when he told me he was going to do it I wasn’t really on board. "Yeah Chuck, that will be fun, sure."  However, seeing it… I’m very impressed.  He’d done up all the details, even the custom headlight hoods.  
 
If there’s one thing Mr Farnham knows how to do it’s draw a crowd, and this thing draws a crowd. There were people standing on their lawns checking it out, coming over to admit their love, we have’t had that much neighborhood activity without a patrol car involved in quite a while! In the fading light of evening it was neighborhood photo op time! 

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June 29, 2005 at 7:44 am

Posted in Geeking around

Cat

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Even if you’ve visited, you may not be aware that we have a cat. Shadow is notorious for not being around when strangers are in the house. This morning she was actually being friendly and let me take a picture with my Smartphone.

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June 27, 2005 at 9:13 pm

Posted in Geeking around

Diary

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Lots of recently discussions with friends about the purpose of a blog.  It’s kind of asking about the purpose of a letter, or maybe even paper. There’s the question of what makes blogs real, and interesting when the whole act of observed composition seems likely to make them unreal and by that uninteresting or interesting but false.  I’ll try to approach my feelings on it two ways.

First, there’s the whole Truth and Completeness thing.  Nobody is going to be entirely truthful in a blog. They’re self-censoring just as if they were talking to you face-to-face. In one sense, it’s part of being polite. But deper, it’s an honest defense. The best psychiatrist can’t easily get the real truth out of anyone, so why should this even be a factor in our evaluation of blog content.  And completeness simply isn’t a possibility or a necessity. You couldn’t possibly write down everything you did, you’d have to draw the line at some point.  Evaluating your daily bowel movements is probably way below the include line, although I have no doubt someone out there is doing it. It does prove the necessity of the line, at least in polite company.

Then we’ve got the "interesting" aspect.  Your blog needs to be interesting to others to have value.  Now there’s a real bullshit line of reasoning.  I’ll give two examples of why you can’t evaluate "uninteresting" data.

When my grandmother died we were in her house looking at what of her possessions we wanted to take home, just like all the other in-laws.  A painful experience of greed and politeness.  Anyway, there were all these little books full of tiny clear handwriting on one shelf.  Diaries dating back to the 1920s.  I read two or three pages of one and in my callous youthful evaluation I decided that the details of my grandmother’s lunch and afternoon cribbage session just wasn’t interesting.  Now cut to some 15 years later, and one of the clearest recollections of my grandmother’s life is my fractured memory of reading those pages. I’m pretty sure the diaries were tossed, I’ve asked relatives about them to no avail, but I’d sincerely love to be able to sit down with them and read more about her.

A second and slightly twisted example are TV video recordings.  When I bought my first VCR, I started archiving some loved TV series.  In particular, Star Trek:TNG was on twice a week, and during the second broadcast I would record, pausing out the commercials.  Years later, the shows are now all on DVD.  What’s interesting about the old tapes is not the actual shows, but the tapes where I gave up on the pausing; the commercials I didn’t cut out.  Sure most are crap, but it’s kind of like a time machine to go back and watch.  Announcements of upcoming news broadcasts (OJ, CA Earthquake, Iran/Iraq war) and nothing captures current culture like commercials. Tapes and DVDs of old commercials are available now.  Years from now you might end up buying a holo-cube recording of all that stuff you skipped over on your Tivo.

So what will the eventual value of Blogs be? I guess I’m saying I don’t know, don’t care. If it just ends up as a diary that our family can review, then that’s good enough for me. It might even be something more important than that.  I’ve seen enough weirdness pan out into greater things later on, and if my friends and relatives can more easily share in the time between events, so much the better.  It’s kind of like having everyone as your next door neighbor. You can choose either chat over the fence, or you can stay on your side, or both depending on your mood.

Written by ricbret

June 25, 2005 at 11:26 am

Posted in Random thoughts

Humans

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Justin and I have been playing "Destroy All Humans" video game some evenings.  He’s recently finished the epic rpg Fable, and is basically sitting nearby as I manipulate the small alien giving me advice like "what happens when you jump in the water" (I dissolved, restart mission) or "why aren’t you in your spaceship" (shot down by rockets, restart mission). It’s a bonding experience.

Overall, a fun game. Some of the manic aspects of Grand Theft Auto, but in this case the race issues are Human Race vs Alien Race, and that distances it from a Mature rating.  Frankly, having grown up in a pre-Bloods ‘n Crips Inglewood ("Center Park Blood – Represent!")  I’m not all that interested in the anti-heros of gangsterism and have never played more than two or three minutes of the game in stores.

So anyway, lil’ alien Krypto, Justin, and I should be having some fun as we slowly evolve our plans for world conquest.  News at 11.

Written by ricbret

June 24, 2005 at 7:45 am

Posted in Geeking around

UI

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I am the IT guy for my parents.  

A call from Mom, two issues: She needs to print out prescription information she got via e-mail, but the printer is shooting blanks.  Also, there’s something wrong with the answering machine, she’s unable to give me details over the phone.

Of course, arriving late last night, I discover the printer is out of ink, and the answering machine needs it’s time reset after every power failure ("How could Debbie been calling me at 4AM?  I would have woken up!")  I try to convince Dad not to print every picture of cute kittens he gets from the network of elderly who’s mission in life seems to be to forward such mail. "Dad, that’s $60 worth of ink I just installed.  Try and make it last a while."

Showing Mom how to set the time on the phone seems futile half-way through.  My real advice to her: "Just ignore the time stamp, it’s probably going to be wrong."  As bad as consumers think computer software UI is, as vocal as they get about not being able to find files in their operating system or how it’s necessary to understand the difference between RAM and Hard Disk space, where’s the backlash on the arcane UIs for standard utilities like phones and microwaves?

Of course this is when Brother Ron and Niece Michelle show up and Michelle advises that you don’t have to understand the utility, just play with it until it does what you want.  She is, of course, part a generation that has always had computer games.  Is that what it’s come to, that the tolerance for bad UI equates to some computer puzzle?  Can we enhance this, better motivate the user, maybe give the user a score every time they successfully navigate the menus to actually doing something with their phone or camera?  "Hey, I got 100,000,000 points and an extra life on Microwave last night!  Was having so much fun I didn’t notice it was 3AM when I finally went to bed.  Want some more popcorn?"

Written by ricbret

June 23, 2005 at 9:23 am

Posted in Random thoughts

Grades

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While we still haven’t seen grades, we did get two interesting school-related pieces of mail yesterday.  First, Justin passed both his CA State exams.  Passed is an understatement, he got 100% in 3 out of 5 math sections, with the other two sections ringing in with a 96% and 92%.  The English grades were similar, brought down by a solitary 75% in the "Essay" group.  Well, we kinda knew that already.  Still, great going J!

The other mail: A surprise certificate of achievement from his Computer Applications class stating he "has demonstrated readiness for employment."  We can only assume that means he’s fully qualified to move to India and start doing technical support script reading…

Written by ricbret

June 22, 2005 at 8:21 am

Posted in Random thoughts