Saturday, April 30, 2016

I Guess It's Just Crappy Old Invisibility for Me

By the way, I forgot to mention it in the last post, but you know what's really annoying about having very poor visualization skills? My absolute number-one most desired superpower, with no question, is teleportation. I frequently long for the ability to just be places without having to deal with all the incredibly tedious, frequently expensive, and, in the case of cars, genuinely dangerous traveling in between.

And, of course, every time I've heard a description of how teleportation works in fiction, it inevitably starts out with, "OK, first you picture the place you want to go..." Sigh.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Maybe It's Because I Can't Put Glasses On My Mind's Eye

I recently stumbled across this article, "Aphantasia: How It Feels To Be Blind In Your Mind", and got kind of a kick out of it, partly because this guy's realization, astonishingly late in life, that other people's brains are doing a weird thing his doesn't is strangely hilarious, and partly because it's incredibly gratifying to be able to say, "Finally! Someone who's even worse at visualizing things than I am!"

Because I don't get pictures in my head, either. Or not much. When I try, I might get something really vague. Maybe something a bit like seeing a scene through thick, not-quite transparent glass, where you can get a sense of colors and where things are, but not actually see any details? Except even that seems like too visual a description. Once in a very, very, very great while, I might actually get something like a photograph flashing across my mind, but it's always gone in a split second before I can really look at it, and it always leaves me kind of weirded out. I can imagine colors well enough, though. It's not exactly like seeing them, but I can remember what they look like, if that makes any sense. And other senses are no problem. I can imagine smells and tastes and touches, not perfectly, but well enough. And my auditory imagination is great. I can recall or imagine voices in great detail and at will: pitch, pauses, and everything.

But visuals? I took the quiz linked to in the article, and found it immensely frustrating. OK, I might be able to come up with something vaguely resembling a mental image for some of what they're asking me for, individually -- the color and texture of storm clouds and flashes of lightning are surprisingly doable, by themselves, although the sunset they start out asking me to imagine is almost just an abstract idea of a circle on a flat horizon -- but to ask me to imagine a picture, see it in detail, focus on those details and then change them? Yeah, I'm kind of with this guy: How do the rest of you weirdos do that? (The quiz, by the way, told me I was part of only 5% of the population who sucked this bad at visualization tasks and asked me if I wanted to be part of a study when I was done. I'm not sure if I do or not.)

I do think this is at least part of why I'm not great at faces and why I'm really, really bad with directions and navigation: I don't have a good visual referent in my head to match a person or a street up with.

He also mentions people asking him about whether he's a good speller, which seemed like a weird, out-of-left-field question to me a first, but apparently, when a lot of people are trying to remember how to spell a word, they see the letters in their mind? When I need to think how to spell a word, I imagine myself either typing it or writing it, often with my fingers twitching slightly. So, like the guy says, it's muscle memory.

And now, suddenly, all I can think of is how I read that book called What We See When We Read a little while back and spent the entire time indignantly going, "Whoa there, buddy, what do you mean we?!" Speak for yourselves, you mind-picture-makers, you!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Real Life Is Annoying. I'd Rather Just Sequester Myself Somewhere And Read.

I seem to have reached one of those not-infrequent points in my life when I've got a bunch of things that need to be done all at once, all of which have to be scheduled around each other and my weird work hours. I'm working on getting the ball rolling on my driveway replacement, and I need to get my swamp cooler up and running, and I have to make a dentist's appointment (because I still have a filling that needs to be replaced, and although I really wanted to just blow that off for a while after the root canal, the dentist is bugging me about it), and I have to go in for my semi-annual blood test before I run out of my thyroid medicine, and I've got the exterminator coming soon (because it's spring and attempted roach incursions have begun).

I'm trying to let my attitude be, "Yay, look how much I am getting done!", rather than "Aargh, too many things! Too much stress! Want to hide from the world!" I'd say I'm having maybe a 65% success rate.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Windows And Driveways

Oh, right, I forgot that thing Windows 10 did the last time it upgraded, where it kept constantly telling me I had to re-enter my "most recent credential" for my Microsoft account. I'm trying to remember how I dealt with that last time. I think, after trying everything the internet told me to try, I just finally told Windows to ignore the message. Oh, Windows.

In other news, I now have an estimate for my concrete work, and I'm possibly more surprised than I should be by just how close it is to my own rough guesstimate for how much this was gonna cost me.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

WTF, Computer?

After all the wailing and gnashing of teeth that Windows 10 caused me last time, until I finally gave up and went back to 8.1, my PC has suddenly decided, with no permission and no warning, to "upgrade" itself again. What the hell, Microsoft. What. The. Hell.

Sigh. Dare I hope it'll behave itself better this time? Dare I?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Sunday Is TV Night

I've been watching the Walking Dead spinoff, and it's... Well, it's not awful, but, I have to say, some part of my brain is tempted to just skip it and watch the aftershow, because the episode they're talking about always sounds slightly better than the one I just watched.

Also, they keep showing ads for Preacher, which intrigues and bemuses me, because I'm pretty sure one of my main thoughts after reading the comics was that, of everything I have read in my life, that was the least likely to ever be filmed.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Maybe I Need A Beryllium Atomic Clock.

Speaking of Doctor Who... It was just brought to my attention that next month marks the 20th anniversary of the Paul McGann TV movie. Which I am having no small amount of trouble wrapping my head around. How is it that I am so constantly blindsided by the steady, predictable passage of time?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Welcome Aboard The TARDIS!

Although there's not going to be any new Doctor Who until Christmas -- *sniffle* -- the BBC has just announced that they've cast the new companion. (Apparently they made a big announcement during halftime at a soccer match, which seems a little odd, but, I guess, very, very British.)

They've also provided a little snippet of video for us, in which we don't learn a whole lot about the character, but do at least get to see that she is amusingly irreverent towards the Daleks:

I'll be looking forward to getting to meet her for real! Even if it won't remotely be soon enough.

Friday, April 22, 2016

RIP, Grunk. Or Not.

My half-orc barbarian only lasted a few weeks, after all. She went down last night, fighting an annoyingly well-armed vampire. And then, just to add oddly hilarious insult to injury, the creepy sorcerer in the party re-animated her as a zombie, so her corpse is still following us around.

I really need to finally bother learning how the magic system works in this game, so I can be the one standing in the back throwing fireballs.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

I Ant That Impressed

Yesterday's viewing: Ant-Man. I have to say, I didn't find this nearly as engaging as most of the other Marvel movies. A lot of the humor felt like it was trying too hard, and the "dramatic" dialog was terrible. Plus, the whole concept is so silly that even acknowledging up­front how silly it was didn't make it feel less silly. Well, at least it did have one or two fun little action-y moments. Unfortunately, though, mostly it just made me think about how much I hate ants.

I really, really hate ants.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Random Things I've Been Up To

Some random things I've been up to:

  • Our team won the pub quiz last night! Apparently our perfect knowledge of fictional orphans made up for our pitiful inability to name more than three Denzel Washington movies from the last decade.

  • I watched the season finale of Better Call Saul yesterday, and it was fantastic. You know, on one hand it's not remotely surprising that a Breaking Bad spinoff, brought to us by the same people, would be really, really good. On the other hand, though, elevating your comic relief to the status of tragic anti-hero in his own prequel drama (even one that also features a lot of humor) seems, on the face of it, insane. So I'm still impressed that it works as well as it does.

  • I had to go into work today, on my day off, for a lecture on cyber security, which they require us to do periodically. So now I can warn you all: don't pick strange USB drives up off the ground and stick them into your computer. You're welcome.

  • Tuesday, April 19, 2016

    This Just In: Customer Service Is Not Entirely Dead, After All.

    So, I called the concrete company back, and they said they'd tried to call me but hadn't gotten through. I'd given them my cell number, and didn't have any missed calls, so I think what happened is they had my phone number wrong. This time, I was able to talk to the relevant person right away, and he actually apologized for not being able to come down today, because he had to go to Santa Fe. But he's going to come on Monday. Whew! Maybe I'll finally get this done, after all. (And then I can move on to all the other things that need to be done around this house.)

    Monday, April 18, 2016

    My Concrete Is Abstract

    I've been needing to get the deteriorating concrete of my driveway and some areas around the side of my house replaced for ages now, and, needless to say, it's just getting worse with time. Last year, I tried calling a concrete contractor here in town. The guy told me he'd be around the next day to give me an estimate, then never showed up, and every time I tried to call, I'd either get no answer, or I'd basically get blown off with "We've been busy, I don't know who you are, the boss will call you back later." Which, of course, he never did.

    So, on the basis that the rainy season was coming and that seemed like a bad time to pour concrete, I put it off until, well, about now. Last week, though, I finally got off my butt and tried contacting a different contractor. This one is in Albuquerque, but the person I talked to said she thought they'd work down here, and that someone would call me back about an estimate. That was Wednesday. It's now late Monday afternoon, and, guess what? Yup, nobody's called. Sigh.

    I'm starting to entertain paranoid ideas about having been blackballed by the state's entire community of concrete contractors for some reason unknown to me. But when I mentioned this to a friend, he suggested an explanation that's, sadly, much simpler and more believable. Namely: "Eh, it's New Mexico."

    And again I say, sigh. Well, I'll try calling them back tomorrow. But, really, you'd think it would not be this difficult to get someone to take a few thousand dollars from me.

    Sunday, April 17, 2016

    Admittedly, I Read This Book 20+ Years Ago, So Mostly All I Remember Now Is That It Was Great.

    Not much to talk about today, this being one of those weekends where I don't really have much time to do anything but sleep and work. But I figured, for anybody who might be interested and hadn't heard this yet, I'd pass along this recent bit of news that made me happy: Neil Gaiman has said he'll be wring a TV adaptation of his and Terry Pratchett's novel Good Omens. That article also talks about some other Pratchett-based adaptations currently in the works, which I am feeling pleasantly optimistic about.

    Now, I just need to do start that Discworld re-read I keep saying I'm going to do sometime...

    Saturday, April 16, 2016

    Our National Ordeal Is Over For Another Year.

    I hope all my fellow USians got your taxes done in good time and in good order, and didn't encounter any nasty surprises. Me, I hate filing my taxes beyond the telling of it. Something about those forms just makes me feel colossally stupid, as if I will never understand money at all. Even though my taxes are really, really not that complicated.

    I was afraid it was going to be even worse than usual this year, too, as I have an HSA now, plus the e-file site I used last year closed down. But it turns out that H&R Block has free federal and state filing for people who make as little as I do, and their interface turned out to be mercifully easy to use and generally really well put together. So it was at least much less painful than it might have been. Whew!

    And now I am not going to think about this again until 2017.

    Friday, April 15, 2016

    No Images For You!

    Fortunately someone pointed out to me that they weren't seeing the picture I included in my last post, or I might never have realized that, in the process of all my uploaded pictures being transferred automatically from the now-defunct Picassa, everything that was once shareable became inaccessible to anybody but me, as does anything new that I upload, unless I specifically put it into a shared album. Which makes sense from a privacy point of view, I guess, but, man, that was not a graceful transition. And figuring out what had happened and what I needed to do about it was just confusing, since the description made "shared albums" sound specifically like albums other people could upload to, not just ones whose pictures you share with others. Turns out, when you make one, it asks you if you want to allow that uploading by others as an option. Would have been nice if that were clearer upfront.

    Anyway. I think everything is working now. If you have any problems seeing images here, though, including in older posts, let me know.

    (P.S.: Anybody know how to correct Google's mistaken identification of lots of non-car things as cars?)

    Thursday, April 14, 2016

    Goodbye, Gareth Thomas. No One Else Could Have Pulled Off Those Puffy-Sleeved Shirts Nearly As Well.

    Has this really been a much, much worse year than usual for hearing about the deaths of people I've never met, but whose work I care about? Or is it just that I've been paying attention more, after a couple of especially hard-to-ignore examples early in the year? Or maybe just that I'm reaching an age where it's beginning to be inevitable? Probably some combination of the three, I suppose.

    Anyway, today it's a sad farewell to Gareth Thomas, aka Blake of Blake's 7, a show that reached the coveted status of my #1 fannish obsession for a surprising number of years, long after it went off the air. (And now I've got the last scene of the series playing over and over in my head. I can't decide whether that's appropriate or awful, but I suppose it's pretty much inevitable.)

    Thanks for fueling my imagination, Mr. Thomas, and for helping to bring me so much fascinatingly grim-yet-campy entertainment, ever since that first day I saw you on PBS.

    Gareth Thomas as Blake, in the first episode I ever watched.

    Wednesday, April 13, 2016

    I May Feel Less Self-Conscious About People Looking At What I'm Reading Now.

    And today's random thing, just because it made me laugh way more than it probably should have: fake book covers on the subway. (Warning: some of these are pretty crude.)

    Tuesday, April 12, 2016

    I Suspect It May Be Very Different If You Play It In A Reasonably Sized City.

    Today's time-waster: Corpseburg, which lets you enter an address and then uses a map of the surrounding area as the basis for a simple zombie survival game. I tried playing in my town, and discovered that apparently my strategy for the zombie apocalypse will involve ransacking a bunch of churches and then wandering around in the desert at the edge of town looting abandoned cars until I get bored. Good to know.

    Monday, April 11, 2016

    Yay, I'm Only Twelve Years Behind On My TV Viewing!

    My current Netflix watching: The Wire, season 3. And this show continues to be a constant cavalcade of, "Hey, it's that guy from that thing!" Look, it's Littlefinger from Game of Thrones as a smarmy, scheming politician! Well, nice to see that he's not being typecast at all...

    Sunday, April 10, 2016

    Welcome To My Library

    This is pretty cool! LibraryThing, where I catalog all my books -- because how else am I going to keep track of them? -- just came out with a spiffy new interface that makes searching through a collection of books really simple and easy. It's mainly aimed at lending libraries of various kinds, and they have to pay a fee to use it, but they've made it available for free to people who use the site to catalog their personal book collections. Which means that if you want to search through my books, say to check if I have a particular volume you'd like to borrow or to make sure I don't already own a book before you get it for me for Christmas, you can go here and pretend I'm an actual library!

    Saturday, April 09, 2016

    Sorry, But The More Often I Blog, The More Likely You Are To Hear Me Complaining About My Sleep Schedule.

    Ugh, I've been having some stupid sleeping patterns this week. No matter what time I go to bed, I have some trouble falling asleep, and no matter how long I sleep, I have trouble getting up. Days when I'm able to, I keep falling back to sleep once or, more likely, twice before I make it out of bed and end up oversleeping, which often makes me groggier than if I'd just gotten up. This was annoying on those days off when I was trying to get things done around the house, as it meant fewer hours up and about to accomplish things. It's even more annoying days like today when I have no choice but to haul my butt out of bed stupidly early for a day shift.

    I think this is yet another manifestation of the fact that the older I get,the harder it is to switch myself off night shifts. And, once again, I find myself missing the days when we had enough personnel that it was possible to make a schedule that would let us stay on the same shift for two weeks in a row.

    Friday, April 08, 2016

    Not That Axe-Murdering And Characterization Are Necessarily Mutually Exclusive.

    Followup to yesterday's post: I went to the D&D game feeling like I'd made my peace with the kind of game we were playing and ready to just enjoy pretending to hit things with an axe for a while. Two minutes after I arrived, everybody was deep in a conversation about how maybe we wanted to do something with more role-playing instead. I'm honestly not sure if it's me that has terrible timing, or everybody else.

    Oh, well. I did do a lot of hitting things with an axe after that, anyway.

    Thursday, April 07, 2016

    I Might Finally Have Enough Hit Points

    Tonight's social activity: Dungeons & Dragons. I haven't really done much tabletop gaming in years, and D&D was never my favorite game to begin with, but a co-worker wheedled me into joining his game a few months ago, and, hey, at least it gets me out of the house, right? It's also not the sort of campaign I usually like: very hack 'n' slash dungeon-crawl-y, with characters that are essentially disposable. Very video game. I was always much more into unfolding stories and actual role-playing, but, alas, my crazy work schedule makes trying to participate in that sort of game an exercise in frustration. I've tried.

    I feel like I'm finally getting into the spirit of the thing, though. After playing a series of doomed half-assed rogues -- half-assed in part because I found the Pathfinder character creation a little confusing and tended to err on the side of screwing myself over -- and a couple of fighters who could dish it out but not take it, I got some help from some handy character generating software and rolled myself up a half-orc barbarian who is easily the most munchkin thing I've ever played. We'll see how long this one lasts!

    Wednesday, April 06, 2016

    Almost But Not Quite As Good As Finding A Big Stack Of Money

    Story of the day: Mysterious Stacks Of Books In NYC! Well, they're not all that mysterious. I mean the article includes the name of the guy leaving the stacks of books around and some quotes from him about why he did it. So... Kind of the opposite of mysterious, really.

    Anyway. My bookish heart finds this utterly delightful and is thrilled to know that there are such things in the world. My practical brain, however, can't help kind of agreeing with the people in the comments suggesting that leaving books sitting around outside is probably not the best thing in the world for them.

    Tuesday, April 05, 2016

    April Currentlies

    I got nothin' else today, so let's go with this.

    Current clothes: Gray sweats, Rush concert t-shirt, black socks.

    Current mood: Not bad. Halfway between being happy at how much I've gotten done lately and mildly stressed about how much I haven't gotten done. But I'm leaning slightly more towards the positive, moodwise, I think.

    Current music: Norm Sherman by Norm Sherman. Which is... an interesting album. Let me put it this way, I listened to it for the first time immediately after an episode of Welcome to Night Vale, and I'm pretty sure it was the weirder of the two.

    Current annoyance: No matter how much time I have, the amount of time necessary to do all the things I need or want to do is always greater.

    Current thing: I'm taking a little time off this week, since my schedule easily allows it for once, to try to get caught up on various things I've fallen behind on... Housework, yardwork, etc., etc. And I am making progress, but... Yeah, see "current annoyance."

    Current desktop picture: Still the same Doctor Who image. I suppose it may actually be time to change it up soon. Even if it is pretty awesome.

    Current book: I just read The Adventures of Tintin: Explorers on the Moon, which a friend lent me, earlier today. I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to read next. Something non-fictional.

    Current song in head: The "Whalers on the Moon" ditty from the second episode of Futurama. I blame Tintin. Mostly.

    Current refreshment: Orange spice tea.

    Current DVD in player: Most recently, Spy. Which was cute. Not amazing or anything, but cute, and worth a watch. Also, man, is it nice to see someone who looks like Melissa McCarthy starring in a movie like this. Hollywood generally not only doesn't let us ladies of the rounder persuasion do any ass-kicking (even of the comedic kind), it generally prefers to pretend we don't exist at all.

    Current happy thing: Not being at work.

    Current thought: We're whalers on the moon! We carry a harpoon!

    Monday, April 04, 2016

    I Don't Think The Spinoff Is Going To Help.

    Dear The Walking Dead,

    Congratulations! You are now a serious contender for the title of "most frustrating season-ending cliffhanger ever."

    I just cannot remotely decide whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.

    Sunday, April 03, 2016

    Yes, The Eggplant Thing Is A Real Book I Actually Bought.

    Yesterday was the local library's big (well, big-ish; it's a small library) Friends of the Library book sale. As always, I told myself I was going to be restrained, and mostly just look for stuff that was already on my wishlist, and, as usual, I left with a big pile of books I had no intention of buying, anyway. There's just nothing like a $2-a-bag price tag to make you suddenly convinced that if you don't go home with a copy of something called Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, you will somehow regret it for the rest of your life.

    Well, at least I can say that my books acquired total for the year is still smaller than my books read total. So far. I did intend to help that along by spending the rest of the day reading, but I was so tired from getting up at noon to buy books after working all night that I had trouble keeping my eyes open. Ah, well. I have the rest of the year to spend working on it, right?

    Saturday, April 02, 2016

    Sometimes I Think We'd Be Better Off If We Just Dropped The Mic On April Fool's.

    So, did everyone survive April Fool's Day? I have to say, it is not my favorite day of the year. I quite like jokes that are funny, clever, and creative, and most importantly obviously jokes, and which have no consequences of any kind. Think Geek's fake products, for example, are always good for a chuckle. (And when those have consequences, they're actually the good kind. I mean, enough people loved the idea of the tauntaun sleeping bag that they ended up making it for real, and how cool is that?) Pranks and deceptions, on the other hand, I do not like. Even the most harmless ones are mildly uncomfortable, and the less harmless ones can be incredibly bad ideas.

    On that note... Any of you guys get caught by the Gmail Mic Drop? In case you didn't and don't feel like clicking the link, they introduced this new "feature" supposedly for use when you were fed up with a conversation. It'd e-mail a gif of a Minion dropping a microphone and stalking off to all other recipients, then ignore the rest of the conversation forever. They yanked it pretty quickly, after a bunch of people accidentally hit the button on important work-related e-mail. Which isn't too surprising, as it was right next to the usual "send" button, and apparently actually replaced a "send and archive" button a lot of people habitually use. (I don't see that on my mail, myself, though. Maybe you have to deliberately set it up?)

    I damned near got caught by this thing, myself, actually. I saw the button show up (on, it's probably worth pointing out, the evening of the 31st in my time zone), immediately figured it was an April Fool's thing -- Google's actually done some really great ones in the past, of the harmless and obvious kind -- and went to their blog to see what it supposedly did. Mildly cute, I thought, if not exactly up to their usual standards. And I went back to click on the thing, because I was curious to see whatever funny "Ha, ha, April Fool's, obviously we wouldn't actually do that!" box would pop up. I damned near did it on a conversation I was in the middle of with a friend, but common sense prevailed, and I tried it out instead as a reply to some link I e-mailed myself ages ago and did not care about. Boy, was I taken aback when I realized that it actually did what it said it did. "Huh," I thought to myself. "That seems... dangerous." And very, very carefully avoided it after that.

    Making it all worse, even though they removed it quickly, once it was there for you it didn't go away unless you reloaded Gmail. I certainly saw it on mine all night, until I finally thought to try that.

    Just say "no" to stupid April Fool's pranks, boys and girls. Especially if they involve screwing with services used by people all over the world for doing lots of serious and important things. I wouldn't think this would need saying, but there you go.

    Friday, April 01, 2016

    April Showers You With Blog Posts

    So, the last couple of years, in honor (kinda-sorta) of this blog's anniversary month, I've run the experiment of posting at least something, no matter how short, for every day in April. It's a good antidote, I suppose, for my tendency to just wander away for weeks at a time and forget about this place. So, I'll be trying that again this month. Get ready for lots of posts about... things. Of some kind.

    Right. That's one day down! That was easy.