a pretty basic requirement
Wednesday, December 3 2014
Overnight, Newz Crawler proved to be useless as a podcatcher. Supposedly it can automatically download podcasts, but there's no documentation of how to make that happen, and everything I saw in its menus seemed to be about downloading the relatively trivial (and, for me, useless) metadata related to each podcast. So in the end, I was forced to return to Juice, a program that does precisely what I need, but which had broken in a way that had proved impossible to fix. The key to getting it working again was to empty its configuration folder in AppData and its application directory in ProgramFiles and then do a reinstall. After that, I had to reimport all the pointers to my podcasts feeds as an OPML file. But Juice is fussy about the format of such files, and one exported by Miro could not be imported. I had to fall back to an old OPML file exported from Juice back in 2010 and then manually add all the subsequent podcasts I've started listening to since then. I really don't understand why getting a good, functioning podcatcher running reliably is so hard; why can't these programs just work? I feel like I could write a reasonable headless podcatcher in VBS, and if this shit continues, I might end up doing that. (I am never going to use iTunes for this; that bloated application behaves too much like an operating system.)
Gretchen drove off to the City late this morning; she'd be attending an Ask Me Another taping on which our friend Stacy the Abortion Doctor would be a contestant and spending the night at our friend Erica's house. (Erica is the woman who hosted our recent Thanksgiving dinner and who we occasionally visit at her multi-house compound near Palenville.)
In the early afternoon, I drove to the rusting heart of the City of Kingston, in this case a few blocks northeast of Broadway on Cornell Street. That area used to contain a number of glorious old brick factories back before the rise of Japan and Taiwan as industrial powerhouses. One of these was an teeshirt factory, and of late it's been repurposed as dozens of artists' studios; in fact our friend David (of Susan and David) has a studio there.
The reason I was going there was to meet with one of the seed library guys as well as a few others (including someone who knows how to do stop-action animation, a carpenter, and a seed libary factotum) to plan the construction of a booth to be placed at the Philadelphia Flower Show. I hadn't really gotten any coherent single message of what the project was or what my involvement would be, but I figured it out gradually over the course of this meeting. This year, the theme is movies, so the seed library guys wanted to set up a booth wherein various artists would compose seed-library-related stop action animation. I was there mostly because the seed library guys have decided that I am good at devising technical solutions. In this case, it would be my job to arrange the technical details of a desk where an artist could sit and compose animations. I don't have experience with the software or techniques an animator would use to do this, so that was where K came in. She's made these sorts of animations before, and while the others went off to talk carpentry, she busted out her Mac laptop and a small 720p camera mounted on a plastic arm and showed me how she does it. The software she uses (and she uses several different packages) are helpful in that they display a shadow of the previous frame superimposed on the live view from the camera, thereby helping with positioning objects for the second shot. Because these animations would be promoting the seed library's products, the initial idea for the animation was that they would involve seeds and seed packets (the latter of which have all been produced by local artists, not including me; my design for a packet of catnip seeds two years ago was rejected). I asked if there was any idea of perhaps including the sprouting of seeds in the animations (since that's a form of stop action animation I've actually done), and that seemed to excite the seed library guy a little.
When I returned to the Subaru, I saw that Ramona had completely destroyed the cup holder I'd painstaking reglued multiple times. Evidently she'd put her weight on it and snapped it off completely. Thanks, Ramona! I drove us out to 9W, where I had some purchases and pickups I needed to do. I have a great little automotive snow shovel and I wanted two more: one for each car, and one for the solar panels on the roof. They're good for these applications because they're all plastic and cannot scratch surfaces made of metal or glass. I also went to Sears and picked up the brand new injera-capable microwave oven we'd bought on Black Friday. The guy working in the warehouse talked like he was either mentally challenged or had cerebral palsy, though he seemed to have no trouble lifting and moving a big heavy box.
Soon after I returned home, I sat down at my computer and soon realized that the NAS hard drive hanging off my Buffalo router was unreachable. It had been very reliable for three or four days, but now it wasn't working again. I really need my NAS storage to work 100% of the time, or it's not worth doing. So I went and pulled the little Seagate external drive off the router and plugged it directly into Woodchuck to see if I could get it to work. I couldn't. Something very bad had happened to it. It wasn't making scary noises, but it wasn't readable. Being readable is a pretty basic requirement for a computer hard drive, sort of like downloading podcasts is a pretty basic requirement for podcatching software. For a third opinion, I took the drive downstairs to attach it to Badger (the computer Gretchen uses), but damned if that computer wouldn't even start because of some problem with its operating system installation. I'd just like to pause for a moment to reflect on the rarity of these two problems. I don't think Badger has ever had a spontaneous problem with its operating system so bad that it couldn't start, and though I've occasionally had problematic hard drives, I've never had trouble with any drive that I had been depending on for everyday usage. The fact that I was have two such problems at the same instant actually made me a little paranoid. Had some terrible malevolent software been unleashed on the local network? Had there been an EMP? Fortunately, Badger was fairly easy to fix, though it this involved booting from the installation disc and initiating a repair. The repair reset the Windows Activation bullshit, something I made the mistake of trying to fix with a crapware-installing application (one that installed crapware even after I explicitly told it not to). So then when I went to remove the crapware, I was overly-zealous, moving to the desktop some files the computer needed to boot. The easiest way to fix that was to pull the SSD out of Badger, attach it to Woodchuck, and move the files back.
By this point, I'd given up on the 2TB Seagate drive. But as a last measure, I cracked open its plastic case, removed the USB 3.0-to-SATA adapter, and plugged it into Woodchuck directly (as I had the SSD from Badger). Surprisingly, it connected right away. This was a good thing, since there were some files on it that I didn't have any copies of. I immediately began copying its contents to the 3TB 3.5 inch drive that had been my original candidate for use as a NAS device. Despite the fact that it was now working, the Seagate drive continued exhibiting signs of flakiness, occasionally unmounting and disappearing, and, on one occasion, even making that clicking sound that is to hard drives as smoke is to semiconductors.
I've been observing very restrictive rules on my drinking of late, and those rules forbid all non-social consumption of alcohol. There is, however, one big exception: days when Gretchen is spending the night elsewhere. So I'd begun drinking a Genesee Cream Ale immediately after getting out of the meeting at the Teeshirt Factory. By the time I'd dealt with the pair of computer crises, it was time to move on to scotch. At some point I took a break to devour a burrito I'd bought at Chipotle. It wasn't as good as the last one I'd had there; perhaps guacamole is an essential ingredient in all vegan Chipotle burritos.
Later on, I smoke some marijuana for the first time since the terrible experience over at Eva and Sandor's place. I was careful not to smoke too much, and it certainly helped that I had a good basic drunk going on as well, and overall I had a good time. For some reason my guys in Los Angeles decided to have a couple Skype meetings with me after I'd gotten my drunk on (at 10:00pm my time), and though I wasn't at 100%, I was nevertheless able to do some technical things in a putty window in preparation for a big website deployment scheduled for tomorrow morning.
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