2013-09-26

Free tarot readings for all

I want to get better at tarot, and I don't have that many ponderous questions of my own to ask. If you want a shitty tarot reading from someone who has no clue, drop me a note. :-)

Post mortem

I hate Atlanta already.

First, it's the reason I'm here. It shouldn't have to be like this. I hoped to win back the heart of the person I came for. Instead, I've had to flee Birmingham, so she could no longer feel threatened by my presence.

Not that she even has a way to know that I left. But I couldn't in good conscience stay, after she reluctantly reached out to me while drunk, only to tell me how much she now hates my guts; how much it scared her I was there; and how she wants me to suffer...

Second, the room is a dump. Compared to the comfortable suite they had for me at the Meadowbrook Hampton Inn, this Holiday Inn Express is a cramped, poorly ventilated shithole, at a higher price. The desk is tiny and it shakes when I type. I shouldn't have chosen downtown.

I would write more, but I'm dead inside. Maybe tomorrow. In the meanwhile... I wonder if I can read tarot.



At my 5'7", I never thought I'd find a hotel bed in the US that feels too short for comfortable sleeping. Well, there's a first time for everything.

Jana asks me if I'm sad. That word does not quite capture my feelings correctly. A better expression would be terrified. I find myself in the worst possible outcome I could have imagined. How could my good intentions lead to this? It reminds me of the driver from the advertisement who was texting "I love you", only to run over three kids.

I had an opportunity to experience something I very much wanted to experience. If I had seen the other person for who she is, and acted on her terms, we both would have been able to do it. Instead, I saw her for what I wanted her to be, and I wanted it to happen on my terms.

I wanted it too much. I could not keep my desire in check; and over time, it only kept growing. I did not want to keep it in check because, for one time in my life, I wanted to be utterly in love, and consume it. I wanted this to be the opportunity for that; I thought it was the opportunity for that; but it wasn't.

Then, there's a side of me that seeks fairness and justice; a side whose passion is passing judgment, and making sure that things are righteous, and correct. On multiple occasions, this indignant side of me has sabotaged what I wanted. It is perfectly willing to harm my goals, even my cherished goals, if it means adhering to a sense of justice.

The cards spoke with surprising clarity. "Study the failure." "Concern yourself with money." "Work, prosperity, success." "Move on."

There's nothing else to do now.

2013-09-20

Some things are worth it

I did something that might be considered creepy.

Okay, super creepy. I traveled 1,700 miles to another country, in a desperate attempt to win back someone who had already expressed intent to change her phone number so she would no longer be contacted by me. I had other reasons that compelled me to travel, but I could have gotten that done somewhere else, if not for this.

I was humiliated and failed miserably.

I expected that. I hoped for a different outcome, but I really couldn't have expected something other than what I got. I did it anyway, because to do otherwise would be to betray what I value most.

I believe emotion gives meaning to life. Most people try to control it, repress it, make it tame. I think emotion is to be experienced, and an opportunity to experience it should be cherished. It should be cherished like a unique opportunity to taste a new and mesmerizing dish - but more so, because emotions are much harder to come by.

Many people think emotions should be restrained, so that reason can prevail. I think this is a waste of life. Reason ultimately needs to serve what we feel. I see no other purpose for it. The only thing to avoid is lasting damage. Otherwise, emotion should be experienced unrestrained.

Why do we watch movies and TV, and play games, and read stories, if not for the emotions they make us feel? We don't do it just for the nice feelings. We watch comedies, tragedies, dramas, even horror, because we enjoy the entire spectrum of experience. We watch it because without these experiences, our lives would be poor.

I don't know if it's age, or it's just me, but I have reached a plateau where few things in the world are new to me, and storytelling gimmicks are having less and less of an impact. I've almost finished reading the trilogy His Dark Materials, and I find it boring. I read Machiavelli's The Prince, which some people consider abominable and shocking; I found it an insightful booklet by a candid writer pointing out obvious things that few dared say. Amusing for its frankness, but not shocking. If you're shocked to learn that politics, in the Middle Ages or today, involves murder and betrayal, you have things to see.

Blood doesn't move me. Gore doesn't move me. Death doesn't move me. I've traveled the world, and seen it. I sometimes feel like I'm 90 years old, and I've seen it all. It is hard for me to pick up a newspaper, or watch news, or see a movie, and feel something powerful. I'm rarely surprised. The events of the world unfold according to my cynical expectations. Most news and stories laid out for our consumption are forgettable crap.

You can imagine, then, how much I would value something that genuinely made me feel. And she did. For the first time in a decade, someone - something - made me feel so intensely, I could hardly work, or think about anything else. For the past 146 days, and counting, she has been on my mind every day. She made my days giddy with expectation, trembling with uncertainty, beset by despair. We fantasized, we talked, she broke off contact. I won her back, we talked again, we fantasized, we fought, she broke off contact. I could not believe she would do it for good, based on what seemed like a petty principle. She did.

I knew what I felt was infatuation. I knew it was irrational. That wasn't any reason for me not to feel, or make it go away. If you're going to discard the one thing in the world that makes you feel like this, why do you live? For the unchanging routine of daily life? To go to work every day in the morning?

So I did this, for a 5% chance, nay, a 1% chance, that it might have ended differently. Because I could continue to feel so strongly. Because we both could feel.

In the last few days, I was hit by the full pain of irrevocable loss. This was almost too hard to bear. I always knew it was going to be; that's why I tried so hard to avoid it. If it wasn't for Jana, I could have done something to myself. Thanks to her, I didn't.

Honey - you've been there all along. Thank you for supporting me, and standing next to me. Most any other partner would not have let me experience this. But I was able to share everything with you. You were happy for me when I was giddy from the adventure. You lit my way when my despair was at the most dense. You did not stand between me and where I wanted to go, even when you were worried about the ending.

You are wonderful, and the most perfect life companion I can imagine. I owe you so much. I love you.

2013-09-17

Elysium

Elysium is an awesome movie. It's worth seeing. A sci-fi spectacle with Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, William Fichtner, and lots of blood splatter. What more do you want?

Like most such movies, of course, it has a fundamental flaw that completely undermines its premise. It makes heroes of the wrong side.

Spoilers below.


The real villain of this story isn't Elysium; it's a lack of population control. The real hero aren't the people of Earth; it's life-saving technology.

The movie's naive conclusion is that, when all the billions of people on Earth are made citizens of Elysium, the life-saving technology miraculously becomes available to all.

This is not how things work. When a resource is only available to a few people, it's usually because it's scarce. What makes a resource scarce usually isn't a decree from government, but a law of nature that we have not yet learned how to overcome. In order for a major new technology to become more cheaply available to more people, scientific and technological breakthroughs are needed. If you don't solve the scientific and/or technological bottlenecks, the resource remains scarce, regardless of legislation.

So the movie, really, is depressing. The protagonist helped prolong the lives of many people; but his effect on the world's population had to have been negligible, and ultimately disappointing, because the life-saving technology of Elysium would not be available in sufficient quantity to help more than a fraction of people on Earth. If it were, the technology would not have been restricted to Elysium in the first place.

Meanwhile, the real tragedy is no population control, and it continues unresolved at the end of the movie.

Oak Mountain State Park

Went hiking today. These are from Oak Mountain State Park, minutes out of Birmingham. There ought to be more water in the falls, apparently it hasn't rained in a while.

2013-09-16

Photos from Birmingham, AL

I never thought I'd sing praises to a place in Alabama. As recently as half a year ago, I didn't think I'd ever visit here. Based on what little I heard of the state from the media, I imagined Alabama as a backward place populated by country hicks who sing corny songs and believe in a flat Earth that's 6,000 years old. Sadly, such people do live here. But for the most part, I had preconceived ideas which, in hindsight, were as accurate as the education about Kazakhstan that can be obtained from Borat.

For one thing, I didn't expect Birmingham to be this wonderful. I may have had excellent luck with weather - sunny every day I've been here - but it stands to reason this place would be lovely all year. Everything is so green. There are trees everywhere! Forests in the middle of the city! And everything is so well maintained. Wherever you look, the grass is manicured, flowering bushes adorn intersections, and elegant homes are gently nestled under the trees.

I've seen a fair number of cities in the US. I've been to New York, DC, Miami, Seattle, Las Vegas, L.A., San Francisco, and more come to mind. Birmingham is easily one of the nicest, if not the nicest city I've seen. It doesn't have much in terms of attractions - there isn't a Seaworld here, or an Eiffel Tower, or a Sydney Opera. But it is so pleasantly liveable.


Downtown




Neighborhoods




Botanical Gardens




The Zoo


2013-09-14

Songs for broken hearts

Aside from the gut-wrenching emotions that make you want to take a knife and cut open your abdominal cavity to release the debilitating pain that resides there, having your heart broken has one advantage: all of the songs on the radio suddenly seem to be about you.

Half the music you hear seems to be written to investigate every possible facet and aspect of emotion that might arise after losing someone you didn't want to lose. Longing, despair, anger, resentment - every possible way you might feel is expressed for you. And you will feel all of these ways.

Take this, for example. It's Maroon 5: Payphone. When I first heard it, I liked the tune, but I didn't think much of the lyrics. Today, it seems every word is about me.

Or how about Adele: Someone Like You. Strikingly moving, even if you don't identify with the lyrics. More so if you do.

Then the radio might play Simple Minds: Don't You (Forget About Me), and you smile to yourself bitterly, because it says what you wish you could say.

Optimistic, encouraging tunes also play. So Try comes on, where Pink recognizes your pain, and nudges you to pick yourself up, and give life another go.

The radio is full of this. Never does it seem so much like one song after another is speaking directly to you, as when you're not yet over someone.

MSI GT70 Blues

My beloved Alienware M18x recently died on me after 22 months of service. Other than its premature demise, it was the best laptop I'd ever had. I was supremely happy with it.

Since you can't get a decent laptop with a high-end graphics card in Costa Rica - or at least I don't know where to get one, and you can't get one delivered directly from the US - I had to jump on a plane to the US, and order a new laptop as soon as possible. I would have wanted another Alienware, but Dell takes a good 2-3 weeks to ship anything, and they don't take non-US credit cards, so that was out of the question. Instead, I found the MSI GT70 on Amazon, which I could get in 2 days. Great!

Then the laptop arrived, and the blues began.

MSI GT70 sucks

The model I chose already came with a 256 GB SSD for the OS, but I find that too small. My intention was to replace the 1 TB HDD that also comes with the laptop with my Vertex 2 solid-state drive that I used in the Alienware. Hah.

The design of the MSI GT70 requires you to pull off the entire cover if you want to replace the hard drive. Or access RAM. This necessarily involves destroying the sticker that invalidates your warranty. Yes, in order to replace a hard drive, or a RAM stick, on this piece of shit laptop, you have to void your warranty.

Second, the laptop didn't seem to play well with my Vertex 2 SSD. It works fine as an external drive in an USB enclosure, but when installed internally, it often wasn't available when Windows booted. When it was available, it kept going offline - it disappeared from both File Explorer and Device Manager on a whim, and didn't reactivate until a reboot. I had to order a new SSD, a Samsung 840 Pro, to see if that will work better.

Third, the laptop crashes about 2 out of 3 times when it boots. I'm using the original Windows 8 installation that came installed on the laptop as delivered; the only change I've made was to apply Windows updates. Literally, two out of three times, the laptop will either freeze or blue screen when booting - sometimes with MACHINE_CHECK_EXCEPTION, sometimes with CLOCK_WATCHDOG_TIMEOUT. This is with my SSD, or without. I have to keep trying to reboot until it works, and I'm never quite sure it'll run this time.

Fourth, the Page Up and Home key are one key, so you have to press Fn + PgUp to access Home. Likewise, the Page Down and End keys are one key, so you have to press Fn + PgDn to access End. This was a genius choice by some incompetent keyboard designer that needs to be fired. Imagine how this works with text editing. Want to press Ctrl + Home to get to the start of the text? You better get used to Ctrl + Fn + PgUp. Want to press End to get to the end of the line? You better get used to Fn + PgDn.

Fifth, there's only one Windows key, and it's on the right side of the keyboard. You got used to Left Win Key + E for Explorer, Left Win Key + R for Run? Too bad. Get used to using two hands.

Sixth, fairly often the H key doesn't work, and as to be pressed extra ard before it does.

Seventh, the BIOS on this laptop is intended for Windows 8, and it's hard to install Windows 7 on it. Several BIOS options need to be changed, and then, the Windows 7 installer complains that a DVD driver is missing. Frustrated by these problems, and to be less of a dinosaur, I decided to try the already installed Windows 8, and I found...

Windows 8 sucks

I have never said this about any version of Windows. I was a fan of Windows Vista, even when everyone hated it. But Windows 8, I have to say, is the biggest pile of dog shit ever to come out of Microsoft. I'm aware that Steve Ballmer was fired, and I can only hope that this crappy new Windows is part of what he was fired for.

First of all, the OS doesn't boot at least half of the time. This might be a problem with hardware - in which case, see above how the MSI GT70 sucks. But seeing as it works well after booting, it's probably because of Windows.

Second, Windows 8 is fugly. Its flat, minimalistic design is a step 20 years into the past. The logo is ugly, the new Start screen is ugly, the window frames are ugly. Everything is ugly. And it's non-functional: with the new flat borders, it's much harder to tell where the boundary of a window is, compared to Aero on Windows 7. I truly miss Aero. That was a beauty.

Third, mobile apps on desktop computers truly and utterly suck. Windows 8 takes the style of your mobile phone, which works on your mobile phone, and puts it on your desktop, where it doesn't work, and doesn't belong. Programs that are designed to function as apps function non-intuitively. And the apps are forced down your throat. When you double-click to view an image, it opens in an awkward, full-screen, app-style viewer, instead of a normal Windows application. Click on a PDF, and it opens in a clunky Reader app.

Fourth, Microsoft seems to have abandoned the philosophy of improving on what already is, and seems to have set on a course of removing features. Aero is one example - gone and replaced by the ugly flat interface. The transactional filesystem is another - not yet gone, but deprecated and scheduled for removal.

Fifth, it is buggy. For one thing, the textual console subsystem was redesigned; as a result, major bugs were introduced that we've had to work around in our software.

Microsoft might feel threatened by Apple, and seems to think it needs to go in the Apple direction in order to retain market share. This is not the case. There's a reason Windows users stick to Windows, and it's that Windows is not like Apple. By making it similar, Microsoft is alienating users who were previously committed to Windows, and removing reasons that discouraged them from using an alternative.

2013-09-06

Side Effects

Side Effects is a very good film. I recommend.