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A break from the rain

2015-07-28T22:21:15+00:00

It’s nice to be traveling again. With the planet slowly cooling (not warming, as global warming activists like to claim), it has been raining ceaselessly in the jungle. So much that we’ve had to set up special channels to funnel the water away from the bunker. It’s annoying, but predictable. Regular as clockwork, every evening, a downpour. Sometimes it lasts all night. Sometimes it’s vigorous, accompanied by lightning, and other times it’s just rain.

So it’s nice to be in a part of the country where it’s not raining all the time. It’s been so long, though, that a colorful sunset that is NOT hidden by clouds looks strange.

Nevertheless, I like the sound of the rain. I’ll get to enjoy it again this weekend.

A bargain that I’m not sure what to do with

2015-07-28T07:18:50+00:00

I found a 3rd-generation Kindle Fire, brand new in the box, at the thrift store the other day, for $30. I bought it immediately. Clearly someone had received it as a gift, didn’t want it, and donated it. That’s an expensive gift to get rid of like that, but rich spoiled people abound, and I am the beneficiary of their skewed value system. I have been wanting to tinker with a tablet, but have been unwilling to pay for one since they’re usually overpriced for the limited functionality they offer. Sure, children love them, but they do stupid things with tablets, like social media. I have more mundane, practical needs that require quicker data entry and more processing power, and so a frilly tablet doesn’t really fit the bill.

But now that I have a pretty, frilly tablet, I’m not sure what to do with it. It runs the Fire OS, which is a Linux-based branch of the Android operating system, but it is not Android. Although Fire has an app store, not all Android apps are there, especially a few that I like and use. So that’s disappointing.

Then again, I can use the Fire for what a lot of people use tablets for: looking up IMDB while watching TV, or just watching TV on the device itself. The Fire, owned by Amazon, comes pre-set-up to be an Amazon shopping portal, which I find to be offensive. Thanks, but no thanks, and I wiped all those apps. I will continue to order online from my computer terminal, which is quicker to use and is already configured the way I like it.

We’ll see what other uses I find for the tablet.

Gary Numan, “A Game Called Echo” Extended

2015-07-28T07:08:55+00:00

This is one of the calmest, most introspective tunes Gary Numan has written, in my opinion. All the parts gently interface and move together. I like this extended version.

Bad server room design

2015-07-28T07:07:00+00:00

At a customer who shall remain nameless, the servers all crashed over the weekend. Unfortunately the server which controls the doors to the facility is also located in the server room.

This means they had to take the doors off the hinges to get in. It was a long, lousy weekend for the IT hardware crew.

Will they learn from this event, and either change the door locking mechanism so it can be overridden by a key, or move the door server to a different, more accessible location?

I doubt it.

Depeche Mode, “Any Second Now (Altered)”

2015-07-27T21:12:09+00:00

I love the original (Any Second Now (Voices)), but this version lets you appreciate the simple beauty of each instrumental part.

Disable your car’s wireless before hackers disable your car

2015-07-22T19:00:28+00:00

An interesting article in Wired points out that most new automobiles have wireless capability without any protection, so that hackers can take control of the vehicle. It’s not such a problem if it’s wi-fi only, but with more cars having cellular capability also, hackers can now take control of those vehicles from anywhere.

This means that assassins don’t even have to get off the couch to earn their keep. They can just steer their target’s car into a bridge abutment. Or bored “script kiddies” can decide, on the spur of the moment, to disable every car in their city or state, causing massive carnage on the roadways and paralyzing whole cities.

The more automobiles get “improved” with such things as wireless, the more I like my old vehicles. They are more solidly built, faster, and wonderfully unencumbered by such life-threatening features as wireless. If anyone’s going to steer my vehicle into a bridge abutment, it’s going to be me, no one else.

Remember, safe driving begins with you disabling your car’s wireless system.

Mike Morasky, “The Ghost of Rattman”

2015-07-21T07:02:16+00:00

Mike Morasky, a composer at Valve Software, wrote the music for the Portal 1 and Portal 2 videogames. The music is dynamic, in that different music plays depending on the player’s position and movement through the mazes. The soundtrack is available for free, here.

One of the pieces is “The Ghost of Rattman,” which refers to Doug Rattman, a character who is never seen in the games. He is a scientist working at Aperture Laboratories (owned by eccentric billionaire Cave Johnson), and Rattman is helping to build the GlaDOS artificial intelligence, which is incurably insane. Eventually GlaDOS wakes up and kills everyone in the Aperture Laboratories underground facility except Rattman and a female test subject named Chell (whose persona you inhabit as you play the Portal games).

Rattman hides in the walls and ceilings of the testing facility (like a rat), going mad without his anti-schizophrenia medication, and he draws many murals and mad scribblings on the walls. Eventually Chell destroys GlaDOS at the end of Portal 1, but Chell is injured in the explosions and is dragged back into the damaged facility by a surviving robot. At that point, Portal 1 ends, but the Valve online comic book “Lab Rat” explains that Chell was placed back in cryogenic suspension. Power in the damaged facility is failing without GlaDOS to maintain it, and Chell will die in cryogenic suspension unless Rattman rigs the equipment to ensure that her cryopod retains power. Rattman is shot by defense turrets, and presumably dies, but Chell and his insane drawings survive into Portal 2.

This song plays when you find one of Rattman’s hiding places in Portal 2.

His insane ramblings are backwards. Diligent people have tried to decipher them. Skip to 11:24 in the video below.

He pleads for help from Cave Johnson and from Chell. He talks about being taken to Black Mesa, a competing company which created a wormhole that led to an alien invasion in the Valve games Half-Life and Half-Life 2. He also talks about a stolen ship, the Borealis, which went missing in Half-Life 2 due to a teleportation accident, and whose empty drydock is seen in an abandoned 1970s testing area deep underground in Portal 2.

I just like Rattman’s chant-like ravings.

I think it’s interesting that he refers to Cave Johnson, the owner of Aperture Laboratories, as “Uncle.” According to the Portal backstory, Johnson and his assistant Caroline are Chell’s parents (and the mad GlaDOS artificial intelligence is an electronic copy of Caroline’s brain). If Johnson is Rattman’s uncle, then perhaps Chell is Rattman’s cousin?

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