Week of 20 December, 2009
Sunday, December 20
So, it is weird sleeping in when you expected to be on a train. New York City was a winter wonderland, very pleasant to walk around when the cars are driving slow, and the streets are filled with people shoveling snow. A Winter snow storm the weekend before Christmas hits the spot for people to rub shoulders with strangers in a friendly manner.
The snow also means no parking enforcement on Monday. It looks like we will have to move the car before Thursday, as Christmas Eve is not a parking holiday.
We went to brunch, then some light shopping, and back home for a relaxing afternoon. Mei has one last night shift this evening, and since the car is well and buried, I escorted her to the hospital on the train.
I like going out in the snow. Must be that Viking blood. On my way back I noted that in the working class neighborhood surrounding the hospital, there was less commercial activity, because there is less money to spend. Without a critical mass of people with sufficient disposable income, you don’t get the retail services opening up which help employ the working class, and that is why modern small towns tend to be somewhat dead. I started thinking about how in SimCity 4, commercial development always lagged in a new town until a certain point . . .
Later that night I looked up the new MMO city simulator, Cities XL. For $10 / 30 days I thought I would give it a try. I didn’t go to bed until 5am, though to be sure I didn’t get the game running until 3am due to download issues. The game feels pretty “beta” but from what I seen the interface is pretty slick, and the graphics are beautiful. It seems pretty close to the idea of a game I have been wanting to play for years, where you build your city on a planet with other cities, and cities have effects on each other. The first two things I have seen that have been missing from SimCity is that the very first thing you need is a road coming in from outside, and then a consideration for local natural resources, which give your new town a back story and a context, which is a more satisfying start than an abstract sandbox.
Monday, December 21
Brian: Okay, cats riding Roomba pretty much justifies Google’s purchase of YouTube.
Me: Amen! It is all about . . . the long tail!
Tuesday, December 22
Brunch with Mei. We ate at Tom’s which is this famous place that is never open. I ate there once before and enjoyed their French Toast, but this time through we found the food quality somewhat lacking.
After a relaxed day at home, it was up to Penn Station, and on to Chicago. Mei accompanied me to Penn Station to see me off, but as I was concerned with finding the Amtrak check-in kiosks and then a good place to wait for the track announcement I kept speeding off ahead of her. She wasn’t too pleased about that but was gracious enough in saying goodbye. I got a nice seat on the train and a Japanese Literature Post-grad named Steve sat next to me.
The train was running a little late, and they never did go through coach for dinner reservations, so as the train pulled out of Albany at 7:30 I walked back to the dining car, where a long line of confused and uninformed guests had gathered, knowing that they typically stop serving dinner at 8pm. I had a lamb shank, sitting across from a guy who had been in computer sales for the past half century or so. Right now he is retired but helping some guys in nano-fabrication get running in business. Cool stuff.
There was a fair amount of talk of politics. The guy was Republican who had voted for Obama, and the lady sitting next to me said her husband was a Tea Party protester. I started to laugh in sympathy then realized that hey, sometimes you have sat down to eat with Republicans. I listened as these business folks tried to make sense of the role of government in the modern world. They disdained the crazy right-wing types who oppose all government programs.
I slept better than I had the first time I rode the train in November.
Usenet’s big “problem” is that nobody ever wrote a user-friendly web interface for it. Instead, the people who really wanted to chat found it easier to hack up web forums filled with animated emoticons using PHP and MySQL, rather than figure out some bitchin’ gateway into the great gray world, ruled by curmudgeons content to seal themselves off from the hoi polloi.
Wednesday, December 23
We were repeatedly woken in the morning by loud announcements regarding the fact that breakfast could be had in the dining car. I took the L home through a landscape I most remember from high school. In the evening I showed Machinarium to the family, which everyone found to be adorable and engaging. I ended up playing the game until 3:30am.
Thursday, December 24
We headed down to Grandma’s house for Christmas Eve. There was less family around than other years but neighbors dropped by. A lighter year than usual, so we had a lot of leftovers.
Around 10pm we opened presents. I went to set up the webcam I had gotten Grandma, but when I plugged it in to her Mac nothing happened. Further investigation revealed that the UVC feature that enables webcam support was introduced in OS X 10.4 and that if you have 10.3.9 you’re just a sorry twat who can not use webcam software. Okay, so how much to upgrade? Well, the latest and greatest is only $30! That’s not so bad, let us do this! Woah there pardner, you can’t have the new Mac OS unless you have 1GB of RAM and an Intel processor. Your vintage Mac Mini just isn’t going to do! Uhhh, okay. How about 10.4? Well, Apple doesn’t publish that any more, that is a collector’s item, you see. The current market rate for a used copy of the old Mac OS on the resale market is around $150.
I guess if you keep spending money on upgrading your Mac everything will be dandy but if you’re the sort of human trash who only upgrades her computer maybe twice a decade then Fuck You, Grandma! If this were Windows or Linux someone would have figured out how to support a nice webcam. Hell, on Linux I can even use the cheaper “Windows” webcam because, unlike Mac OS, someone figured out how to get the auto-focus working . . . the fact that Microsoft can only manage to squeeze out a potentially mandatory OS upgrade once or twice a decade begins to seem more virtuous. Apple really should let you easily upgrade components of their OS without much hassle, but selling computers is how they make money.
Fuck you, Apple. Well, I’ll find her an upgrade to OS X 10.4 for non-Intel computers on CD-not-DVD and there may even be a store around that will happily get her a memory upgrade, because something tells me that even if the Apple Store has a Genius who could, by appointment only, fill out the form to mail the computer off for a memory upgrade because woah basic maintenance on a Mac Mini is effing rocket science I suspect that when they find out it is an old computer stained by a half decade of tobacco that they will just condescendingly laugh at my horribly backward Grandmother and I’d finally snap and go in there and beat the crap out of some wannabe-hipster douchebags.
Next time Grandma gets a PC.
Friday, December 25
Cleaning up Grandma’s house. Uncle John started to explore the netbook that we got him for Christmas. Janice came by, and we were all glad. John set up an old-fashioned 120mm “dual lens reflex” box camera on a tripod and some lights and took some family Christmas photos. We also looked over some rifles that had been sitting around in Grandma’s house from the previous owner, before heading back home.
Saturday, December 26
Mom treated me to brunch, and Jessica brought the posters she got me for Christmas to her shop to frame them. Then, Mom drove me down to Union Station, for my 9PM train back towards New York.