“If people have to choose between George Bush and a crowd of furious bicyclists whose biggest claim to fame is that one of their blogs was mentioned in passing by Al Franken on that one AM radio station nobody turns on because it’s about as exciting as listening to NPR at 50% speed, they’ll either choose George Bush or they’ll choose to look away when the riot police start caving in skulls with their nightclubs.”

— SomethingAwful takes on those wacky Leftists

A Stargate Christmas


Stargate, the movie. Not what most people would think of as a typical Christmas Eve film, but I’m a bit burned out on anime after the ending of Mahoromatic (although I didn’t feel nearly as betrayed as Steven Den Beste, partially because I’d read the spoilers and they were even worse than the reality. But I digress). After polishing off my traditional Christmas dinner (pizza with pepperoni, onion, green peppers, and extra cheese, with a $20 tip for the delivery driver), I went through my piles of DVDs and picked this one.

Stargate holds a special place in my heart as one of the most godawful big budget science fiction films ever made. Magnificent visuals, but plot holes you could drive a truck through. I am constantly amazed that the producers of SG-1 managed to salvage a mostly coherent backstory out of this turkey.

It was quite a remarkable feat, really. They didn’t just keep the visuals and the names, they managed to use almost every element of the story, jettisoning only the most ludicrous aspects, and subtly tweaked what they kept. Better still, their new material fit in almost seamlessly, creating a rich universe ripe for exploration.

The biggest achievement of SG-1, however, was that it hit the ground running. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another SF series where the actors slipped into character so quickly and believably, and did things that made sense. Even with the occasional weak episode, the on-and-off casting, the rare slip into handwaved technobabble, and the Sci-Fi Channel’s habit of jerking the schedule around, it’s one of the few tv shows I actually look forward to.

I sort of follow Smallville (the first time in history that Lex Luthor has actually had a personality!). I mostly follow Angel (where do they find those women?!?). I usually watch Good Eats. I never miss Stargate: SG-1.

I’m told that the producers of the Stargate film felt horribly betrayed when MGM turned the property over to the people who developed SG-1. They wanted to make a feature-film sequel, taking the story in a completely different direction. To that, I can only say, “thank you, MGM”. I can’t shake the feeling that their sequel would have had all the charm of a flashback to the planet Zeist.

[much like the final episode of Mahoromatic; guess I can’t stop that digression after all. I suspect I’ll be gathering and extending the comments I’ve been exchanging with Steven on this one; I think I can beat his 5700 words and explain why I initially told him that the last five episodes “didn’t suck” :-)]

Epicenter imagery


Quote from someone who ran a business in the Paso Robles building that collapsed during the recent quake:

“My roof basically jumped onto the street and landed on cars with people in them.”

You’ve been in California too long when…


…your reaction to an earthquake is disappointment that the USGS Shake Map hasn’t been updated yet so you can submit a report on how it felt.

Biggest quake in the last four years, just in time for my sister’s birthday!

By golly, Linux still sucks!


Just tried to install nVidia’s Linux drivers for the onboard ethernet on my new Shuttle box. After transporting them on the only available media (USB keychain drive, which I had to mount by hand as root from the command line; love that user-friendly Gnome desktop!), I was greeted with a long string of syntax errors in the make output. Of course, I’d already had to abandon the build instructions provided by nVidia, because the version of rpm in Fedora doesn’t support the command-line options they used. It also apparently doesn’t support the C compiler they used.

So, to play with Linux on my shiny new PC, I once again have to play Goldilocks with multiple distributions, until I find the one that’s just right. Fuck that; it’s not worth the headache.

Update: Okay, I gave it another try. Seems I actually could get the network driver to install with Fedora, if I ignored the default OS install options and added the kernel sources. It seems they don’t expect ordinary users to own hardware they don’t provide drivers for. Still, after going through three or four “modern” Linux installers, my new slogan is “Desktop Linux: it’s like Windows without the QA”.

Dear Linux Community,


If you’re going to make Linux into Windows, could you please try to match the behavior, not just the window decorations?

Love, J

[translation: I just installed RedHat Fedora, and was astonished to discover that after it popped up a little dialog asking for disc #2, it didn’t detect the presence of the correct disc and continue on its own. It sat there for twenty minutes, patiently waiting for me to click ‘Ok’ to confirm that I had, in fact, inserted disc #2.]

Building a decent PC


There are still a few games that aren’t available for the Mac or the Xbox, so I finally broke down and cobbled together a new Windows PC. Here are the parts I used:

  • Shuttle SN41G2 --- This is my second Shuttle barebones box (the other runs OpenBSD), and I love them. Everything has to be arranged just so during assembly, but the layout is clean inside and out, the fan is fairly quiet, and the motherboard is chock full of first-rate features. I see no reason to buy a larger case for a home or office PC.
  • AMD Athlon XP 2800+ --- The 3200+ was too pricy, and I was persuaded to go with AMD over Intel this time. I'm mostly agnostic on the processor wars.
  • Kingston HyperX DDR400 DIMMs (2x 256MB) --- They recommend filling both memory slots on this motherboard for best performance, and 512MB is enough for gaming. Today.
  • TDK indiDVD 440N --- reads, writes, and rewrites CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, and DVD+RW, at 4x for DVDs and 16x for CDs. The software bundle seems reasonable, too.
  • Hitachi Deskstar 200GB hard drive --- (don't expect that URL to work for long; ick) This looked like a decent drive, especially with the very aggressive rebate currently being offered. ATA100, but I'm building a gaming box, not a video workstation (that's what Macs are for).
  • ATI Radeon 9600 XT --- I actually haven't installed this yet, because the builtin GeForce4 MX on the Shuttle is not only pretty good, it supports dual monitors. Hmmm, maybe I'll build another OpenBSD box soon...

Software is Windows XP Professional. I left an empty 4GB partition near the front of the disk in case I want to dual-boot, but like I said, it’s for games. The only real reason to install OpenBSD or Linux is to image the Windows partition for disaster recovery backups. I’ll probably start by using BitTorrent to grab the current Red Hat Fedora distribution.

Update: since a few folks have asked, I bought all this stuff at Fry’s for $1,194.83. The $100 in sales tax was offset by the $120 in mail-in rebates ($90 for the hard disk, $30 for the DVD burner).

John Rhys-Davies


I knew there was a reason I liked John Rhys-Davies. I mean, apart from the fact that he’s a damn good actor who livens up anything he chooses to appear in.

Quoting…

more...

Quick pantry meal


My recent bout with the flu has left the refrigerator a bit bare, and I haven’t restocked yet, so I needed to throw dinner together from what was left. This worked out nicely:

  • half a ham steak, cubed, from a Costco bulk pack
  • half an onion, chopped large
  • half a package of Simply Potatoes hash browns
  • a small can of diced green chiles
  • a fifteen-ounce can of diced tomatoes

I put three tablespoons of ghee in a 10” pan, put it over high heat, tossed in the ham steak, onion, hash browns, and chiles, seasoned liberally with my usual Lone Star Steak Rub, and cooked it all until the potatoes were nice and brown, stirring occasionally. Then I added the tomatoes and their juice, turned the heat down, put a lid on the pan, and let it all cook together for a while.

Pretty tasty, and quite filling. If I’d had some bacon, I’d have cut it up, fried it first, then used the grease to cook the rest (sprinkling the bacon bits on top at the end), but I was out. Next time.

“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”