Speaking of Pac Man

When Pac-Man needs a break from his endless cycle of hunger and pain, there is a simple trick he can use. When a new level starts, move Pac-Man one space to the right and three spaces up, then stop; the ghosts will leave him alone for about fifteen minutes or so. So when you’re feeling like life is completely hopeless (and it is), find yourself a cozy little corner to cry in. I can’t guarantee that your demons will leave you alone for at least fifteen minutes, but you’ll feel a lot better regardless.

~ Syd Lexia from, http://www.sydlexia.com/pac-nihilism.htm

Turns out… Pac Man is an accurate simulation of your meaningless life.

My dad and I dropped bajillions of quarters into cabinet games back in the day. I can still vocalize Pac Man’s little jingle… bloo-dee doo-dee doodle-eedle doodle-eedle doo! wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka wa ka bee-ooh ee-oo ee-oo ee-oo ee-oo oop!

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White-with-orange

white-with-orange, orange
white-with-green, BLUE!
white-with-blue, GREEN!
white-with-brown, brown

I have probably said that sequence—sure, aloud many times, but mostly muttering under my breath, always moving my lips—about 9 gazillion times. If you know what that is, I weep for you; and we have a support group which meets at the bar and the first round is on me.

I’m reading—literally just this moment… I have my arms stretched around the book as I type—On Writing by Stephen King. (Highly recommended by the way. In parts deeply useful, deeply touching, deeply funny, just all-around deeply.)

John Grisham, of course, knows lawyers. What you know makes you unique in some other way. Be brave. Map the enemy’s positions, come back, tell us all you know. And remember that plumbers in space is not such a bad setup for a story.

~ Stephen King from, On Writing

POW! my brain muttered “white-with-orange…” And I was yanked, much in the way I’ve yanked L I T E R A L L Y miles of wire through ceilings… hell, I know what a plenum is and why you can pull that cable through it and not this other cable. POW! “white-with-orange, orange, …” Yanked back to good old, kill-me-now I’d forgotten this and hoped I’d never remember it: T568B.

B. BEE! mind you. omgbecky don’t go all white-with-green on me to start the sequence ‘cuz that’s T568A and if you we do B on this end, but A on the punch-down blocks back in the squirrel closet we won’t even get link lights let alone have the tester [magic box of circuitry] be happy.

Never mind when they started using Category-5 cabling and I stripped off the jacket… Actually, with Cat-5—or was that 5+? or Cat-6… I need a drink—where the jacket is sort of partly heat-shrunk on so you need a special tool just to get the jacket cut before you can pull it off. And then you discover not only are the pairs of wires twisted—bro’ that’s so Cat-3, right? No, now in Cat-5 the pairs are twisted at different rates—the number of twists-per-inch is different on each of the four pairs to reduce the magnetic inductance coupling—no, I’m not making this stuff up; pay attention, kid. Oh, and they’re not only twisted, but the pair is actually in a stuck together jacket—so you need this other little tool that you shove onto the end of the pair and it has a teeny razor blade in it that cuts the wires apart like—sorry for this metaphor—like a razor cutting the skin between your fingers, as you push and spin the tool to separate the wires.

Then you can wrestle the pairs, in the right order (see above!) into the shape, like a whale tail. Eight tiny wires that you VICE-finger-pinch flat, then cut ’em all off in one go. Wizards could shoot those eight tiny wire snips into a little trash catch we had with us so we didn’t leave ’em in the ‘ol office carpet. Then—hey, don’t slip!—slide the plug on the end, and stuff it in this special tool… When you grabbed it, you had to exactly judge where to grab cuz if you’re too far from the end it’s not good, too close to the end and you can’t get the plug on fully, and you can’t move your fingers at all because it takes full-strength to pin 8 tiny wires perfectly in the right place after you cut them off in one go.

Or if you’re making up a wall-jack or a punch-down panel you can just sort of lay the wires in the v-grooves—but don’t untwist them too far, each one is a tiny radio antenna—and “punch” them down with a tool that trimmed the ends—which always managed to ping, pong, bing, bong right into anything that you couldn’t get into to retrieve them. Ever wonder why vents on computers, and everything are on the sides?

One. That’s one. This office has 150 more wall jacks, and the other ends of course, and all the wires have to be labeled cuz the rat nest has to make sense…. and then you have to test it and if one single wire isn’t perfect.

So yeah, that was fun. Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?!

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Nostalgic

All people have a “tact filter”, which applies tact in one direction to everything that passes through it.

~ Jeff Bigler from, http://www.mit.edu/~jcb/tact.html

A short and startlingly insightful idea about— …well, no. I’m going to make you click.

Also: Cue my misty-eyed nostalgia. That’s what the web looked like in ’96. Back when I proudly wielded the self-selected job title of “spyder.” (Do I have to explain that? Please tell me I don’t have to explain that.)

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Gaming the System

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

~ From https://fs.blog/2013/02/gaming-the-system/

A long time ago, a social studies teacher had been giving the same multiple-choice, high school, final exam, every year, for [as I recall the story] decades. The catch was two-fold: First, each year he cut the exam into strips separating each question. Yes, by hand, with scissors. He then shuffled the strips, scotch taped them onto a new sheet which did have sequential numbers on it already, and then ran it through the mimeograph machine. There was no way to create a “cheat sheet” for this exam based on previous years (even if we could have gotten a previous test.) Second, the test was insanely long; hundreds and hundreds of questions long. In fact, it was—intentionally—impossibly long.

When he graded the exams, he noted the total number of questions each student attempted. To be clear: He’d note the number of the last question you answered. So if one skipped around, you’re doomed since you definitely get wrong, the ones you didn’t even try to answer. So the incentive is to start at the beginning and just work straight through; recall, they’re totally shuffled. He then computed the average number attempted, and that average was used as the total possible points on the test. If you scored above the possible points (unlikely, but possible,) the points got added to your semester’s total points. (So if you score +2 on the final, the first extra point, brought up your 9/10 quiz score to 10/10. That second extra point brought a homework up from 5/7 to 6/7.)

Have you spotted how you game this system?

Bonus question: I regret what we did, (there were 3 of us.) But, can you tell me why I regret it?

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Nearly ripped my heart out

Depending on how well you know me, you’ll have differing ideas about how much of a “softie” I am. I’ll be clear: I’m a big softie; all bark and no bite.

Here on the ‘ol blog—3,000 posts is coming up fast—I don’t normally bother even mentioning entertainment—”tv” colloquially… Well, I just finished watching Halt and Catch Fire (originally from AMC, but streaming on Netflix.)

Now, maybe it’s the fact that I basically lived through what the show is about. Maybe it’s because, you know, I was the Wizard behind the curtain who built those things and lived through those creations and wrote the code and pulled the wires and bent stuff until it caught fire. Maybe it’s because I’m getting up there in years. Maybe it’s because the thing just had to fucking end on Peter Gabriel’s, Solsbury Hill. Maybe because 30 years ago I made some life-long friends listening to that music… Maybe it’s because I still believe I’ve not accomplished anything and absolutely understand the pull… Or maybe it was just Gordon’s words…

Or maybe I’m not conveying the feeling at all.

…but perhaps—just maybe—you’ve caught a glimmer of apprehension…

So.

What are you gonna’ do with that, Craig?

And hey, what are you going to do next?

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25 years?

Twenty five years ago today [edit: August 25, 1995], Microsoft released Windows 95. It was undoubtedly a technical leap forward, but its biggest, most lasting impacts are about how it changed popular culture’s relationship to technology.

~ Anil Dash, from https://anildash.com/2020/08/25/what-windows-95-changed/

I had completely forgotten about Windows 95; I certainly never knew the specific date of its release. It certainly was a big deal at the time—not because I or the people I worked with used it, but because we were running an Internet Service Provider and our customers used it. So we had to know how to support it.

At the time we were in the midst of creating an “ezine.” It’s probably hard to explain how cutting edge this was—bear in mind that Wired started in ’93. (We had started publishing an online “magazine” in December ’94.) I’m bragging, sure, but also just trying to give you the context of the jaw-droppingly old web page I’m about to link you to.

Here’s my tongue-in-cheek article about drawing the short straw and having to go buy a copy of Windows 95 for our office: In a Plain Brown Wrapper, Please.

Granted, we moved that entire web site once when we sold the domain it was on along with the Internet Service Provider. But otherwise, those are literally, 25-year-old web pages.

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I would dazzle you with brilliance

I like this life just the way it is,
And the castles all around me have been melting now for years 
And it kills my brain to think of all the time I wasted here: 
All the efforts, sweat and broken hearts, the screaming and the tears.

~ Danny Elfman from, Change on the album ‘Boingo’

Coherent words fail me, but I’ll try to convey this…

I came of age—cut my teeth so to speak—as Elfman… The Mystic Knights of the Oingo BoingoOingo Boingo… and eventually just Boingo… blew the doors off what I thought music could be. Some of their later stuff is on par with Pink Floyd. Your mileage may vary; haters gonna’ hate and all that.

Visions— not memories, but visceral visions— Visions strike me when I listen to this music, (not just Change but a lot of it.) Riding in cars and trucks as a teenager… Going to bicycle races (both to race and to watch)… Lots of hard work with a boom-box or headphones… I once drove fence posts, by hand, around a small field powered by Oingo Boingo… I once saw them perform in a tiny hall, god-only-knows-where, in Manhattan, maybe in ’91 or ’92… I still have an Oingo Boingo shirt from, it might be, 1990?, that was given to me as a gift… I even have the double VHS of their final concert—and I know of noone with a VHS player any more…

Oh, God, here’s that question now! The one that makes me go insane!
I’d gladly tear my heart out if you never change!
Never change!
Never change!
Never change!
Never! Never! Never! Never!
Change…

~ Danny Elfman

Great music. Great memories.

Who do you want to be today? Who do you want to be?

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King of the sky

https://www.brainpickings.org/2018/08/13/king-of-the-sky/

Twelve hundred miles he’d flown, from somewhere far away he’d never been. Steered north and west, finding his direction from the sun and the force that guides a compass needle. Flown until he saw the shape of humpbacked hills, the lines of little houses and the chimneys, heard the clanking towers, smelled the soup and coal dust.

~ Nicola Davies

You know you are old when a summary of a stuipid story about a kid and a pidgeon tugs at the ol’ heart-strings.

Go ahead. I DARE you . . .

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I Stand, Despite

popehat.com/2016/08/30/i-stand-despite/

I stand loving America, aware that I often fall short of what that love should mean. When I say I love America I mean I love certain shared values and founding ideals like the rule of law and equality before it, liberty, and self-determination, and what people have done to achieve them. I love the values as lofty as the right to speak and worship and as humble as the right to raise a family and work and live as I see fit. I love it knowing that these ideals are more aspirational than descriptive, more a to-do list than a resume. They are what Lincoln called “unfinished work” and “the great task remaining before us.”

~ Ken White

I happen to be that sort of middle-aged-softie who is deeply moved by our National Anthem.

…but, when I stand for the National Anthem, I do not judge those who do NOT stand (even if they are in the row behind me talking loudly). I love America all the more for its ensuring their right to a freedom of expression; An America where they should never be forced to declare their adoration for the State as a precursor to watching some random sporting event.

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