mishapened aluminum ingot
Friday, February 6 2004
One of the many pleasures of being an adult living in my own house is that I get to do all the things I was forbidden from doing when I was kid living in my parents' house. Back when I was a kid, if I wanted to do interesting things like melt aluminum bike parts in the woodstove, burn concoctions consisting of sugar and salt petre, or experiment with running 120 volts through straight pins, I had to wait for the rare occasions when both my parents were gone.
Mind you, I share this house and its responsibilities with another adult whose interests I have to consider, but it's a big house and much of my time here is spent all by myself. Furthermore, Gretchen never seems terribly concerned when I'm playing with fire, mixing strange chemicals, or plugging queer things into the wall. She just figures I know what I'm doing, whether I actually do or not. I guess she figures that by now I've made and learned from all the really stupid mistakes.
This winter the woodstove has proved more entertaining than expected. One one level, it's a hooded fireproof laboratory table, suitable for all sorts of experiments involving burning and melting. Yesterday I did my part to further George W. Bush's "Clear Skies" (or was that "Clear Forests"?) ambitions. Today I managed to do some basic metallurgy without injuring the planet too much. I salvaged the scrap aluminum from all the Iams wet food cans I've melted over the past several months and put it in one of the steel bean cans I'd used yesterday to burn motor oil. Then, once I had a hot wood fire burning in the stove, I put the can of aluminum scraps in the fire hoping it would act as a crucible and mold me a nice hockey puck of aluminum. What I got instead looked like this:
(Yes, my keyboard really is that filthy. I've used it to write over 900 Randomly Ever After entries and I've never really cleaned it. Before I used it for my writing, my old housemate John used to use it for surfing porn sites - enough said!)
I have a plan to use the computer named Badger (the one in the first floor office used mostly by Gretchen for checking her email) as a back-up location for my enormous quantity of media files. I want to protect them in case something should happen to the only hard drive they currently live on. But first I had to substantially increase the size of Badger's hard drive. This entailed replacing the old 40 Gigabyte drive with a new Seagate 200 Gigabyte drive (model THD-200A2-P) and reinstalling everything from scratch. I expected that this would occupy my entire day with unexpected consequences and meta-consequences, but I did the whole thing without any problems. Since that computer is mainly used to run Mozilla, I first backed up the Mozilla configuration and data files and later restored them to the new Mozilla's configuration folder. (These folders are buried in the normally-hidden folder "Application Data" within the folder "Documents and Settings."1) The only thing in this process that pissed me off was the discovery that the new "200 Gigabyte" drive only had a formatted capacity of 137,363 Megabytes. That's about 128 Gigabytes. (How would you like to buy a property claiming to be 200 acres only to discover it was actually 128 acres? That would definitely alter the plans for the high energy particle accelerator you were thinking you could build!)
I was watching some music videos today (videos I'd downloaded as MPEGS back when I'd had broadband) and reaching some conclusions about both the music and the musicians. For starters, I'd like to say something about Alien Ant Farm. They're a "Nu Punk" band I first heard about back when I was single-handedly developing the website for Warped Tour 2001 (you didn't know I did that, did you?). Anyway, I'd heard something by AAF on the local mega-consolidated "modern rock" station and was struck by the strange anachronism of Dryden Mitchell's (the frontman's) voice. He sounded like some sort of late 70s glamster (say, Manfred Mann), nothing like the vocal offspring of Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder (the unchallenged model for hard rock vocals still in fashion after all these years). In the videos, I found the musicians' easy-going take-it-or-leave attitude toward their music extremely refreshing. By contrast, the cultivated angst delivered by most modern "nu rockers" makes me want rock to be dead.
I think, though, that Alien Ant Farm take their "lack of susbtance" schtick a little too far and, if they also made the mistake of wearing baseball caps, would run the risk of being mistaken for goofy fratboys. While lyrics to their songs seem aggravatingly-devoid of grounding2, it sure is nice to hear them sung. I especially like the way Mitchell sings (in the song "Movies"), "In our short years, we come long way." (There's an "a" before "long way" in the printed lyrics, but he has such command of what he's saying that he doesn't even bother to say it.)
I also saw the video for "Today" by the Smashing Pumpkins and, for the first time, completely decoded what was being conveyed. For anyone who hasn't taken the illegal drug MDMA (known on the street as "ecstasy," "e," or "x"), you can get a good sense of what it's like to be on that particular drug by watching this video.
1I'm constantly irritated by the Microsoft paradigm of putting files that users should really be backing up in folders that are hidden from view (unless the user explicitly turns off file hiding). Now I know that in this case the fault lies partly with Mozilla, which should make it very clear to users where it stores their data. But it seems in this case that Mozilla has an attitude of "when in Rome" and is just following the general Microsoft example. After all, Outlook Express stores its mailboxes in hidden folders. I think Palm stores its address books within a hidden folder. The first thing I do whenever I'm given the task of backing up such data for a client is turn off file hiding and turn on the display of known file extensions. (The default behavior of not displaying file extensions for known file types has been the cause for plenty of virus infections, when files that claimed to be aPictureOfMeNaked.jpg turned out to be aPictureOfMeNaked.jpg.exe. It's just another example of how the mentality of "don't worry your pretty head" pollutes the internet for everybody.)
2By grounding, I mean a reference to something in the material world, something more concrete and specific than pronouns, seasons, and feelings. The absence of such grounding is a serious defect with the lyrics of a lot of music.
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