You can kill the background for speed, if you wish.[x]

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Craigslist Double-takes: Part 1

I was surfing the Seattle craigslist today, and came across a couple entries that made me do a bit of a double-take...surely not the strangest craigslist entries, but they made me chuckle a bit.

Firstly, under the "event" category was Christian Pastor Needed For Wedding Ceremony:

We are being married on August 29th, and would like a Christian Pastor to perform our ceremony. It is a laid back, backyard wedding, and we are seeking a professional, warm person to marry us.

First of all, I don't understand how you could not have someone that you would want to perform the ceremony - if the Christian community is that disconnected, we have a problem. Oh wait. I have a whole nother blog on that topic. But even if you didn't have a church per se, what brings you to post on craigslist for a pastor for your wedding? Looking for someone to mow your lawn? Sure. Write a website? Great. Maybe even walk your dog? That works too. But legally bind you in holy matrimony to the love of your life? Really? It boggles the mind.

The other was less outrageous, and more of a double-take. It was in the writing section, and the title was Science Blogging. Okay, I figured, I don't exactly feel like writing about plants and animals and cells and chemicals and stuff, but I could...heck, I could even write a good bit about DNA and enzymes and more complicated stuff like that. But then I read the body of the ad:

Looking for self motivated computer savvy person to write a number (2-3) of blog posts for the site:

The site's primary focus is on macromolecular crystallography.

If you are interested, please send us an email including your experience in crystallography and a writing sample.

Now I checked out the blog and all, and it's interesting enough. But it's that last phrase that got me..."please send us an email including your experience in crystallography...and a writing sample." Now I only have a vague idea of what crystallography is. It's what Watson and Crick basically stole from Rosie Franklin and went and discovered DNA with, leaving her to die of ovarian cancer, probably exacerbated if not caused by those selfsame X-ray crystallography efforts.* To just casually throw that out there alongside a writing sample, as if it were "please include your experience in operating an automobile" or "detail your accomplishments in the field of eating dinner" is jarring, to say the least. Not to mention simply titling the post "Science Blogging" when the subject of your site feels comfortable sitting around the table with phrases like "electron spectroscopy", "nanolithography", "photonuclear experiments", and "synchrotron radiation source" is just plain mean.

*There are two things you should know about this sentence: firstly, it's a terribly cynical and pessimistic view of events (but not wholly inaccurate), and secondly, it may or may not be gramatically sound. But it's 3:30am, and I'm blogging about a nasty bit of politics surrounding the discovery of DNA because of a craigslist post. At this point, I relax my standards ever so slightly.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A long-overdue explanation

So my girlfriend asked where the name "CommaCommaCrash" came from, and I was dismayed to find I hadn't already written a post on the subject. The name comes from a poem I discovered back in high school, during Web Design A, a class which mainly consisted of sitting in the back row, downloading music with WinMX, and playing ridiculous flash games. Web Design B, by the way, which was the Flash [read: fun] portion of the course, never fit into my schedule, much to my chagrin. But I digress.

The version of this poem that I came across (don't ask me how, it takes me a few attempts at Googling to find this particular version every time) is at the self-proclaimed "Definitive Tech Humor Collection", whose design, in retrospect, is a blight upon the internet (link later, I don't want to ruin it yet). To my credit, I had never actually visited any page except for the text-only poem anecdote, and besides, there are much worse offenses out there.

But more to the point, the poem is a punctuation poem. It goes as follows:

<> !*''#
%*<> ~#4
As you can tell, this is no ordinary poem. Which is perhaps why I like it - I am no ordinary person. In fact, I did a metric analysis (is that even what you call it? Nope, Wikipedia says it's scansion) of this poem for A.P. English, since its discovery coincided with the poetry unit in said class. But anyway, it is read as each character's name - sometimes rather arcane, arbitrary, or archaic names, but it only works if you read it out loud, to wit:
Waka waka bang splat tick tick hash,
Caret quote back-tick dollar dollar dash,
Bang splat equal at dollar under-score,
Percent splat waka waka tilde number four,
Ampersand bracket bracket dot dot slash,
Vertical-bar curly-bracket comma comma CRASH.
Seriously. If you got here and haven't read it, read it out loud. Go somewhere where no one will give you funny looks if you must. Then read it out loud, go back up to the punctuation version, and see that it actually does read that way. After a few times, you can read it straight from the punctuation. It's magical. Or maybe it's just me.

Anyway, as you can see (helped by my tasteful emphasis), I lifted the name of this blog straight from the last line, because it sounded vaguely geeky, and is an allusion to a poem that I find quite amusing, and which you do too, now that you've read it out loud. Right?

Oh, and most of the pronunciations make sense, but why "waka waka"? It's an allusion to the sound that PacMan (whose open mouth is implied by the angle brackets) makes as he gobbles up dots. The page I found it on asserts that it was voted as the proper pronunciation, winning out over "norkies".

Also, sidenote: who knew that Pacman's name was originally pakku-man (パックマン), from paku-paku taberu (パクパク食べる), a Japanese onomatopoeia* for the same thing? Amazing the things you can learn on the internet.

You can find the full text over at the aforementioned Definitive Tech Humor Collection. I admit, I lifted the intro to the pronunciation straight from the description, but it's only because that is how I find it (really - I Google "punctuation poem to wit magazine"), and I like to think that I would, left to my own devices, introduce it similarly.

*I totally almost spelled that right on the first try. I just switched the last "o" for an "a". So close. Ah well. Thanks, Firefox spell check.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

On Installing

So I am doing a clean install of Vista on a professor's computer today, and there were a few things that, in and of themselves, are not worthy of a post, but together, are a few pet peeves worth mentioning:

That default beep. Laptop manufacturers, you really need to get on this. Every time I install Windows, it of course doesn't come with even the most basic of sound drivers, so when I inevitably do something to anger the computer gods, they let me know with a Thundering Default Beep from Hell. I'm not sure if it's just because I'm never expecting it, or because it really is as earth-shatteringly loud as it seems, but I'm just minding my own business, checking to make sure all of Office is installed, and when I close out of the install, BAM! this horrible noise comes booming forth from depths that I didn't know the laptop had. After almost having a heart attack, I recover to see that it's asking me if I really want to cancel the install. Yes. I do. That's why I clicked cancel. I understand protecting against the accidental click, but there is no need to aurally assault me in the process.
If there's anything good about the situation, it's that I only encountered it twice this time - the second, however, was when I inadvertently clicked the "Network" icon when trying to install the sound driver (the first driver I installed, to avoid these terrible missives), and it once again growled out a terrible warning that I'm sorry, I don't have my tentacles in any network yet. Which I informed it (with a click on the "OK" button) that that was quite alright, because you see, I haven't installed any network drivers yet, and was just trying to install a dad-gum sound driver so that you would stop trying to wake up my roommate when you blasted me with all your might because I accidentally clicked too low.
As a sidenote, I realized as I wrote this that I've never had this problem with Linux in the many times I've installed it, and then I remembered that it's the same reason Ubuntu doesn't come up at 800x600, 16 colors without Internet access or a decent browser. And that reason is because it doesn't suck, meaning it isn't Windows. And I'd forgotten how much better it makes things when you can hear, see, and download things without scurrying off to another computer to download half a dozen drivers. Thank you, Linux, for being awesome.

Speaking of things that come preinstalled with Linux, another thing that always comes up with a clean install of Windows is a PDF reader. Now, on my own machines, I just install SumatraPDF, Foxit Reader, or one of the other fine free, small PDF readers that are readily available. On a computer for a professor, though, I feel the need to actually install Adobe, so that if something goes wrong (they can't fill out a form or something), they can't blame my strange PDF reader.
And every time, I am newly astonished that Adobe Reader is still a gargantuan 41.1 MB download. And this is after being compressed by getPlus Helper, which requires the Adobe DLM (powered by getPlus(R)), a Firefox plugin that is (it assures me) a "sophisticated tool for an efficient distribution of digital goods." I call it bloat, with some nice buzzwords thrown in for good measure. Installing a PDF reader should NOT require a Firefox plugin, a helper downloader, and 41MB. There are plenty of readers that don't require a plugin, because they're small. I could understand 4MB. And 1.2MB is even better. And if someone can do it in 636KB, without a fancy decompressor Firefox plugin, you know Adobe is doing something wrong. And unlike Adobe, none of those dump and then leave installation files on my desktop. If only there were greater consequences for such crimes against computerdom.

Speaking of crimes against computerdom, I had to, of course, install anti-virus software, and then check for updates. Before forgetting that Vista has it built in (thank heavens, the click twenty times, restart the browser, download an ActiveX control or two, twiddle your thumbs, click twelve more times, restart again, and wait twenty minutes to be told you need to update to .NET 6.0 was getting tiring), I typed in Firefox, not thinking, and got an error page (it's from a redirect, so the link will work in any browser). A text-only, "thanks for trying, but you need IE" page. I would think Microsoft would make a little snazzier than that...but hey. At least it's not bloat.