Thursday, December 11, 2008

Catching Up

And a week flies by while I try to finish off Infinite Jest. The book covers a lot of ground, then just sort of ends on page 981. OK. Well.

So today was catch-up-on-everything-I-haven't-been-doing-for-a-week-because-I-was-plowing-through-a-book day.

Yea. One of those posts.

Anyway, human-caused global warming continues to get hammered. And even really smart people who think there is something to it argue that there are more important things to spend resources on. Not that any of it will make any real difference. I do find that news of layoffs at Yahoo! and Google getting more attention than the world ending in 20 years hysterical. Nothing like the threat of having to use the same PC for 18 months to knock that whole everyone-will-die thing right off the national agenda. Good to see we still have our priorities right.

A guy invented a robot wife that can cook, clean, hold up her end of a conversation and slap at anyone other than the husband who tries to cop a feel. Apply Moore's Law. Factor in sex-selection abortions and China's one-child policy creating a generation of men with no hope of marriage, and it's pretty easy to see where this is going. (No place good, if you were wondering.)

The EU is starting to fray a bit about the edges. As the most entitled-feeling generation in human history gets pinched harder and harder in the next 12-18 months, we'll see much more of this. Realizing of course that "pinched" in this generation's estimation means Basic Cable, a Dell instead of an Alienware PC, and making due with last year's 40" LCD instead of a new 60" plasma TV.

Scott Adams is a god:
Comic strips are supposed to be an exaggerated world, but lately it has been hard to concoct ideas for Dilbert that are more absurd than reality. For example, when Dilbert's company develops a new product, I want it to be worse than any product you have ever seen in real life. I thought I was ahead of the curve until I saw my dog's reaction to her dog food. Let's start by saying she doesn't care for it.

Now you might think this is not the least bit unusual. Pets have preferences just like people, so it should be no surprise that she wouldn't like a particular brand of dog food. At least that's how I saw it until I reflected on the things she DOES like to eat, including every other type of food, the cat's food, mud, twigs, bugs, cat vomit, and her own turds.

If you ask me, the bar has been set low. How bad does your company's product have to be before your target market prefers eating its own poop? If I wrote a comic along those lines it would be too absurd to work even as comedy.

Remember that line as you Christmas shop: "How bad does your company's product have to be before your target market prefers eating its own poop?" That pretty much expresses what I feel walking through any store at Christmas.

Did I mention that Scott Adams is a god?

And just in time for Christmas:

Speaking of preferring to eat my own poop, I bought something at the Apple Store last night. See, I've been in the market for a decent video player that supports MPEG-2 (the encoding used on standard DVD's). I have been gradually building up a movie collection for a couple years now. At first, I watched them in Windows Media Player. It worked, the video was good, blah, blah. Somewhere along the line, Microsoft "improved" the software so that it gets all confused because the video's have 5.1 surround sound and our laptop only has stereo. The movie plays, but the only sound is left-front and right-front. Given that 99% of the dialog is on the center channel, our movie watching began to lack something. Although given Hollywood's typical output, some movies were improved.


The first try was VLC, an open source project that gets a lot of positive geek chatter. And installing and using that did indeed solve the audio problem. The downside is that the video quality is, to be charitable, slightly less visually appealing than WMP. So for several months now, I've been on an on-and-off quest for another media player. I found several mentions of a Quicktime (Apple's video player/format) add-on that would allow Quicktime to play MPEG-2 videos. But it costs $20. Not a lot of money, but still. I kept poking around, not finding alternatives and ending up back at the Quicktime add-on. So in a moment of weakness, I bought it last night. Download, install, fire up a movie. The video is gorgeous.

And amazingly silent. That may work for Charlie Chaplin, but not for The Dark Knight.

There is, even in the universe of paid software, nothing that remotely resembles a help desk. So I hit the forums, and, not finding anyone with my particular problem, started a new thread. The answer was a link to a FAQ page in 6-point text, with an oh-by-the-way buried two-thirds the way in saying that the add-on doesn't support AC3 audio.

Which is what every movie made since the invention of the DVD is encoded with.

So the add-on will work with any MPEG-2 file other than all of them, excepting (some) home movies.

So I'm still watching movies that jerk around like the camera man has uncontrolled epilepsy and my wallet is $20 lighter. Merry Christmas to me.

Work has been up and down. Since firing the manager, sales have increased dramatically, food costs are much lower, we don't run out of things nearly as often. I've gotten most of my hours back on next week's schedule, although we still have at least one and more likely two superfluous kitchen staff. The owner is still injecting cash to keep the paychecks from bouncing, which wouldn't be bad in a two-month-old business, except I don't think he has enough cushion to do it for much longer. And, as is natural when something like this happens, there are a lot of babies getting tossed out with the bathwater. Inevitable, but unfortunate.

And I'm off to bed. Enough for now.

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