Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Hello Hewlitt-Packard

I finally bought a new computer this October.

My old one will be in the trash as soon as we bother to film its farewell video. Don't buy Dell; it's cheap junk. The scroll bar stopped working, the touch-sensitive keys along the top stopped working, the left mouse clicker stopped working. The real mouse plug-in stopped reading. The monitor kept flickering, eventually degenerating into a black screen of nothingness. Due to the cheap build and my constant fiddling with the monitor to make it work, the hinges broke and exposed the wiring. The battery failed completely, so the power cord always had to be duct-taped in (It was about this point in time that I covered the Dell logo on the machine with duct tape and a drawing of a barfy-face). It was barely three years old.

Also, it ran with Vista, which I wasn't a fan of, but that's hardly Dell's fault. And it got several viruses, but that arguably wasn't Dell's fault, either. Probably my own.

Suffice to say, it was time to switch to something that didn't make me want to huck it out the top floor window every time I tried to use it. So I have a new one, an HP. So far, things are better. I mean, the DVD drive didn't work, so I had to have that replaced, but at least it was covered by warranty.

I spent over an hour on the phone telling the HP techie that there was a hardware problem with the disc drive. His thick Indian accent contributed to the length of the call, with one or the other of us asking "Pardon me?" after almost each sentence. And I don't know how long it can possibly take to write "CUSTOMER IS CALLING AND STATING ODD IS NOT READING DISC. CHECKED WITH DIFFERENT DISC STILL SAME ISSUE. RESEATED THE ODD STILL SAME ISSUE. HENCE SHIPPING THE ODD," but apparently it can take the better part of 15 minutes. Even the "hardware supervisor" seemed surprised by how long I'd been on the line by the time it was transferred to him. Oh, well. They did send me the replacement part in the end, which works just fine. And it shipped here in just over a day (almost less time than the call itself!)

Though I'm laughing that they STILL spelled my name wrong, despite my using the NATO alphabet multiple times to spell it for them over the phone. Yay Indian accents and computer help lines!

"It is difficult not to wonder whether that combination of elements which produces a machine for labor does not create also a soul of sorts, a dull resentful metallic will, which can rebel at times." Pearl S. Buck

Monday, 21 November 2011

Castle on a Keg

I've wanted to write a life-changing novel for a long time. Today I tried to outline the plot. Instead, this happened. No, I have no idea what it is. And no, I don't fancy that it has a deeper meaning. It's just weird.

* * * * *

“You mustn't ever light a fire here,” says Sergeant Quinn. “In fact,” he clarifies, “You musn't ever light a fire within a league of here. And pick up your feet when you walk. Don't drag them along the carpet, now.”

Sound advice, when the imperial palace is perched on top of a powder keg. Ingo, son of Monterick, picks up his feet and carefully crosses over the shag carpeting of the gatehouse. Most people from other nations, upon hearing that the Krossinger Palace is sitting atop a powder keg, assume that the political situation is an extremely tense one, and that the slightest misstep could result in a massive war of some kind. They find it rather odd when they are informed that actually, the political climate is rather warm, it's not a metaphor, and that the palace is literally built upon a massive barrel of black powder.

All Krossingese castles and palaces have been built on explosive foundations since King Ulim-Hankor six hundred years ago. Some of the more modern castles have been built on sticks of TNT or nitroglycerin tubs instead of black powder, and the law requires that one in every five new castles use a propane tank as the base. And the infamous renegade King Pommosam build his country villa on a stink bomb. Most castles, however, are still built on black powder.

Ingo is glad this is the case. All the statistical analyses say that black powder foundations result in fewer explosions than the other bases. His friend Jingo had gone to perform for some troops at Hopstead Fort. Hopstead had been built on propane, and it exploded when Jingo came in wearing a new sweater made of pashmina goat hair. Pashmina goat hair sweaters had since been outlawed in all of Krossinger due to their static-electric properties, but it was too late for Hopstead and for Jingo.

Another one of Ingo's friends, or distant relatives, rather, a messenger boy, had been sent to the northern border, where most of the TNT and nitroglycerin foundations exist. Had he arrived any earlier, he would have died, but he had been lucky. The castle to which he had been headed exploded without any apparent reason when he was but a stone's throw away. Some scientists attributed it to the natural instability of nitroglycerin, and though the government has issued several statements assuring everyone that nitroglycerin is just as safe as black powder, Ingo has his doubts.

“Well, Sergeant Quinn, sir,” Ingo says, glancing quickly about the guardhouse. For today, the flint rock doorstops hold the steel doors open wide, a safety precaution. He's heard stories about how sometimes when the doors are closed, people fling them open too fast, thereby striking the doors against the flint rock doorstops that are haphazardly left lying around behind them. Ingo feels a little more secure knowing that pains have been taken to make sure the doors stay open to preclude this possibility. “I'm a professional dancer, sir, and I'm looking for Prince Rangulf. I've got these summons, see?”

“So you do,” says the sergeant. “I wonder what all this is about. I'd be careful if I were you. Everywhere he goes seems to crackle with tension lately.”

“Yes sir, thank you,” says Ingo. He walks in the direction Sergeant Quinn has pointed. It's a beautifully illuminated corridor, decorated with thin tissue-paper like drapery and numerous strings of incandescent lights. A few doors down, he comes to a giant ballroom, tiled entirely with more flint rock.

“Ah!” says Prince Rangulf, looking up from where he is seated on the ground. “Are you Ingo, son of Monterick?”

“I am, sire. How can I be of assistance to you?”

“Have you ever learned to tap dance, Ingo?”

Ingo has, in fact, learned to tap dance, but he prefers the artistic quality of ballet. Nevertheless, he responds to the prince that yes, he has learned to tap dance.

“Wonderful!” says the prince. “My betrothed wishes me to learn for her, but I have had poor luck in locating a teacher. A captain of a friend of a patron of a merchant that goes through your town said that you might be able to help me.”

“You wish me to give you tap dancing lessons, sire?”

“I do,” says Rangulf. “I fear that she may break the engagement if I cannot tap an impressive jig in short order. I've had this dance floor specially made, but it's of little use if I can't use it.”

Choosing not to comment on the prince's tautology, Ingo puts on the best smile his gritted teeth will allow and agrees to teach the prince to tap dance. As they put on their steel-toed tap shoes, Ingo smells bleach and notices that the ballroom is indeed newly constructed, and being adjacent to the main wing of the palace, is not sitting on top of the powder keg, after all. It's made in the new style, sitting atop of TATP, instead.

He sighs. This is either going to be the longest day of his life, or the shortest.

* * * * *

Don't ask. I really have no idea.

“The problem with having a cat is that if you die and no one checks on you for four days, your cat will eat you.” Miranda Lamoreux

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

On the Contrary

Certain religions and philosophies really open themselves up to jokes, or at least raised eyebrows, due to their inconsistent views. For example, relativism's ostensibly true claim that there this is no such thing as truth - that's a joke in and of itself. And tolerance's cry that we must tolerate everything... but jump viciously at the throats of anything hinting of intolerance? It's laughable, certainly. Extreme feminism, which advocates women's right to abort unwanted pregnancies, simultaneously heralds the importance of educating and keeping safe little girls in developing countries. When atheists talk about morality, my head starts spinning because their entire monologue collapses on itself.

Islam really makes a show of being inconsistent. Remember the incident where a nun was murdered by some Muslims because the pope offended them? By saying that Islam shouldn't be violent? Oh, that makes sense. Prove you have the right to be offended by proving the pope's point exactly? I've heard many Muslims claim that Islam is a religion of peace, but the killing the people who disagree doesn't exactly help their case.

Now, I know that not everyone who identifies as an atheist or Muslim falls prey to these issues. Some atheists acknowledge that ethics and atheism cannot coexist. And some Muslims are really nice and share many of the same principles I do. And, though I try to avoid it, I'm sure that some of my beliefs are at odds with each other, too. Or at least appear to be.

This summer, for the first time, I actually heard the words to a popular Christian kids' song that I've been singing for at least a decade:

"And the God of peace will soon crush Satan underneath your feet."

What?! Are we seriously tripping up on this? Is this actually a quote from the Bible? Sounds like it should be from the Qu'ran, if you ask me.

No, not really. I don't actually consider this a contradiction. "Peace" in Biblical terms doesn't quite mean "lack of fighting", but a wholeness, a oneness with God. Basically, it means peace with God, not a ceasefire with evil. And Satan is just that - evil, certainly not another human being. We can take non-human chickens, grind them into little pieces between our teeth and most people don't consider that an act of violence. If God grinds non-human Satan to dust beneath our feet, what's different from the chicken scenario? First, we won't eat Satan, though his death will still serve a very functional purpose, and second, Satan is purposefully evil rather than good-and-evil-less. Oh, and third, feet vs. teeth, but that's just getting pernickety.

Still, I can see how an "outsider" would think this is utterly ridiculous. And my chicken comparison and rationalization may not be the most rigorous defense, but I don't feel like writing a theological treatise at the moment.

Suffice to say, the main point of this post, which may have gotten lost, is that Christians say some pretty goofy-sounding things sometimes. We shouldn't think we're beyond that. And perhaps some of the goofy contradictions in other belief sets aren't quite so goofy when you understand them more fully.

Mark Twain seems to suffer from the opposite problem: “The more you explain it, the more I don't understand it.”