I would have liked to’ve been a musician. But at some point in my teens, I plateaued at a place that really wasn’t good enough and figured I’d hit the limit of my talents. I’ve just widdled around and played for fun ever since.
A year or so ago, I decided to see if I could push back the boundaries a little. I started practicing, not necessarily for long periods, but in a focused and disciplined way. And, um…sonofa bitch. Practice works. I can almost hear new neural pathways sprouting like potatoes. I’ll never be great, but is sure does scratch an old itch.
I never knew until recently, reading up on it, how many hours the average professional musician puts into practicing. I had just assumed they were crazy talented. I know that’s a simple thing not to grasp until late middle age, but my universe includes whole galaxies of stupid.
So I started meditating. I figured if I could make new brain channels for difficult scales, I could practice being happy and get better at it. When I read that the US Marine Corps was looking into mindfulness training for stress reduction, I thought, “fuck yeah! It’s not just for hippies any more.”
And son-of-a-bitch! It works! The most tangible and measurable benefit is, I’ve seen a dramatic improvement in the hell that is insomnia. Most noticeably, it’s easier to fall back asleep in the morning after the light wakes me.
There’s a shit-ton of free stuff on the web, including guided meditation MP3s — very helpful at first. I started about the beginning of the New Year, twenty to thirty minutes every day (I miss some days). Basic mindfulness meditation, no chanting or anything. Just focusing on breathing mostly. And then sometimes, when monkeybrain is quiet, sneaking in some happy thoughts. Picturing my chickens running up to me. It’s a chicken-based meditation practice, basically.
So, anybody else want to cop to this? With or without chickens?
April 1, 2013 — 11:01 pm
For those of you for whom this weekend has religious significance, happy Easter.
For the rest of you, here is a chicken eating pasketti.
Oh, it’s from last year, when there was a big, warm, yellow thing in the sky that made me want to eat my lunch in the garden (we had a heat wave this time last year, no lie).
And no, I didn’t just toss my ‘skettis in the grass for the chickens. I was sitting in my chair tucking in when Lucia, Leader of all Chickens, flapped up and landed wetly in the middle my plate, like a sack of feathery oatmeal. Chikkens really like paskettis.
Sure, it was kind of cute. But I remind you that chickens will stand around in their own shit burbling happily, given the opportunity. There really wasn’t any question of eating the rest.
Anyway, Brits take Easter seriously (I know, right?), so everything is shut until Tuesday here. Not including this blog, of course. Have a good weekend!
March 29, 2013 — 10:08 pm
I don’t like to view things in stark dichotomies. While I certainly recognize the existence of plain good and undeniable evil, I think our tendency to apply these terms to every conflict in our lives — from politics to that lady in Accounting who questions my time sheet Every Damn Week — is stupid monkeythink.
But I keep stumbling over things that make me think Right and Left are now so far apart that we simply aren’t able to talk to each other. Right and wrong aside, our core beliefs are too different to find common ground.
Example. I happened to be browsing Slate earlier for some reason and I came across this. It was the most read article on the site at the time.
Go. Read it. It’s short.
Shit, dude. Three months ago. Oh, I know the guy is in a really awful position and the relationship might not survive the test, despite his best efforts. But, damn. Three months. That’s his best effort?
I especially like the suggestion that it’s not fair to his own kid. What, not fair to make him watch his dad stand by the woman he loves? Damn, man. Is this really no-big-deal discourse on the other side of the argument?
Oh, read the other one, too. It also is a doozy.
— 12:11 am
News junky + interesting times = I’m on the web a *lot* lately. And not in a real good mood. And now is the time — apparently — to try to sell me something by really pissing me off.
Have you noticed that? Online presences cranking up the annoyingness, maximising the intrusiveness and generally imposing on whatever relationship you thought you had with them?
Popovers. Popunders. That thing where an ad opens up at the top of an article, shoving the text down while you’re trying to read it, then closes itself, jerking the text upwards again. That thing where the whole screen goes dark and you think your computer is about to croak, and then a cheery ad appears in the middle of the screen and holds it to ransom.
Audio that auto-plays. Ingeniously hiding that little X that closes the ad window. Getting rid of that little X entirely. Running big, bright, colorful ads down the full length of the page on either margin. Ads disguised as newsletters from places where I have actually signed up for newsletters. Articles that should be a single page broken into twenty-page slideshows (every click is a hit!). Firewalls that are trivially easy to get around, but add an extra unnecessary dollop of ass ache to the reading experience.
Or that thing where there are a bunch of semi-interesting pictures at the bottom of an article linking to stuff on other sites, and you click one and it doesn’t take you to the article, but to a whole nother page with a whole bunch of links, and you find the one you wanted and click it and it doesn’t take you to an article but to a page that freezes while it pretends to download content and now you have four useless windows open and you think, “what just happened to me?” I don’t even click out-links any more.
Web ads have always been annoying, but these extra-specially asshole techniques are all pretty new. I know times are tight and people are desperate to make money, but making me want to burn down your office and piss on the ashes is probably not the best way to get your hand in my pocket.
p.s. That illustration was originally animated, but the animation really got on my tits. You’re welcome.
March 27, 2013 — 11:16 pm
Deep fried Mars bar. I always wondered if that was for real, but if the Scotsman is highlighting it as their Scottish Fact of the Week, then I guess it’s legit. They turned twenty last year.
Okay, I’m a fraud. I have been following the news. Oh, not American politics, which still makes me want to punch kittens. I’ve been watching, with an increasing sphincter-clench, the Far East hotting up fast. Wasn’t there a time when threatening to bomb the US mainland was an unequivocal act of war? But China has no intention of shutting Pyongyang up.
Meanwhile, they — China — are beefing up their drone arsenal, just as we have been telling everybody we’ll send our drones where we like and shoot whom we please. (Nice precedent, guys. Really, as an aside, we’d better litigate an individual right to shoot at drones before we don’t know whose drone that is over Mr McGregor’s barn).
Oh, skip all that and just read this one, an overview of how tetchy it is between Japan and China at the moment. All it takes is a slip of the finger in the danger zone and I smell history coming at us, fast.
So — fuck it! — candy bars it is. Near as I can figure it, a Mars Bar is what we ‘Muricans would call a Milky Way. Because — again I say, fuck it! — when you’ve got World War Yang coming at you, a 1,200 calorie snack doesn’t seem that big a problem.
March 26, 2013 — 11:12 pm
It’s not funny, you guys. Somebody got hurt, you guys.
Did you see this? Some kid in Essex got hit in the face with a flapjack, so his school has banned triangular food. I dunno. Sharp edges, I guess. Insert “assault snack” joke here.
Flapjacks are a kind of ancient British granola bar: oats, honey, raisins and butter baked together. They’re nice. And chewy. And LETHAL.
Eh. Palate cleanser. This lady is the widow of one of the actors who recorded “Mind the Gap” for the subway system. His recording was used on her local line. Sometimes, she went to the station just to hear his voice, after he died.
The last round of computer upgrades changed to a different announcer. So she got in touch with Transport for London. They not only gave her a CD of his recordings, but they’re going to put his voice back in her local station, just for her.
March 25, 2013 — 10:00 pm
Oh, I am so tired of this. Ohhhhhh, I am so tired of this. The long range forecast? Wetter and colder.
I have generally liked the weather in Britain. Our little corner of the island is drier and sunnier than the rest. But this year, Summer ended early for us and it’s been this — that there up there in the picture — for months and months.
The chickens are filthy and miserable, the garden is a muckhole, the chicken lady isn’t hatching any interesting chicks until it warms up and I’m wearing wellies everywhere.
Enough. Stahp. Go away.
It’s the weekend, I haven’t anything in particular to say for myself, so…how’s the weather?
March 22, 2013 — 11:38 pm
Heh. Sorry to do this to you two posts in a row, but I’ve been screwing around with Photoshop’s .gif animation tools. I’ve resolved to learn all I can about CS6, since paying for it gave me a nosebleed. They changed the interface a little between CS3 and CS6.
This, for those who haven’t been hanging out on my blog for years, is Damien. Isn’t he cute? Gosh, he was an evil fucker.
He disappeared when he was about two, causing my nice blog to go all emo and angsty for a while. Thing is, people all over the neighborhood said they’d spotted him. One lady even took him in and fed for a few days.
Anyway, here’s His Wickedness waking up from a nap when he was just a tiny wee slip of an evil fucker.
March 21, 2013 — 11:35 pm
Still playing with Blender. Sorry for the longer-than-usual download. And the fact the ball is turning the wrong way. And I messed up the front legs part of his walk cycle.
But the ears, they’re awesome!
March 20, 2013 — 11:13 pm
Not my graphic. That’s the Cat Signal from the Internet Defense League. The beacon is lit because that pack of puffed up mediocrities on Capitol Hill are once again taking up The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), a steaming pile of legislation that would essentially open up your emails and other data to anyone who could come up with a plausible reason for wanting them. It got knocked down last year, but — like so many dreadful ideas — refuses to die.
I have every faith that the pack of howler monkeys that is the internet will make this bad bill die again. But our lords and masters are so dim, they need to learn this lesson good and hard every time they try.
While we’re a-geeking, I blinked and missed what happened with this one. This morning, Drudge was all over the hacker that supposedly got his mitts on some of Sid Blumenthal’s emails to Hillary about Benghazi. Infuriatingly, the linked was totally about the hack, with nothing at all about the content of the emails.
Now those leaks are gone, and all I get is this Forbes article that says the only people publishing the content are Russian sources that (it strongly implies) aren’t to be trusted. FT said it’s trying to validate the authenticity before it publishes anything, and I haven’t heard a peep out of any other news outlets that were given the material. Hmmmm.
Oh, and if you’re into this story at all, you’ll surely know this already — but the individual who leaked the emails that came to be known as Climategate I and Climategate II has released the password for the whole 220,000 rest of the purloined emails, detonating Climategate III.
None of the new emails I’ve seen are all that interesting, but the cover letter was fascinating. The leaker is apparently an individual and an insider who did this because climate hysteria is racking up a body count. I wanted to stand up and cheer.
I know people in my little community who have gone without heat because they couldn’t afford oil. If that’s happening in my prosperous corner of the world, what is expensive energy doing to the miserable places?
March 19, 2013 — 11:55 pm