For some time now I have wanted a cat that fetches.
This desire came to light after meeting our friends Jaunthie and Fisherbear‘s cat Milo, who is not a cat at all but rather a four-month-old puppy in a cat suit. Milo is slavishly devoted to people, which is why I assert that he is basically a dog in drag.
Now, I’m not one of those people who claim that cats are cold, distant creatures with no regard for humans unless they’re wielding a can opener; that’s bunk. A conviction espoused primarily by those whose entire history with cats comes down to the undersocialized, possibly abused/neglected pet of a psychotic former roommate. On average cats are, in my experience, as loving and sociable as the average dog. It depends partially upon their baseline personality, but mostly on how they are raised, just like everybody else.
I don’t want to speak at too great a length on the subject of dogs and dog lovers, but it seems to me that a good chunk of the reason that dog aficionados feel that cats are not as affectionate as dogs is that cat do not make overt, service-oriented demonstrations of their affection. Cats do not, as a rule, bring one one’s pipe and slippers. Cats do not express their territoriality by charging to the door and emitting an avalanche of cacophonous bellows whenever the UPS guy rings the bell (a trait the absence of which is a source of boundless joy and celebration for me). Cats do not in general enjoy long walks tethered to their owners, during which they may disseminate their biochemical autobiography upon every bush, car tire and telephone pole within reach.
And, again in most cases, cats do not play “fetch”.
It was only when I saw Milo charging across the living room floor after a toy and trotting back to his owners with it in his mouth to drop it at their feet that I ever really thought about teaching a cat to play fetch. And, in fact, no one had taught Milo to fetch: he came up with it all by himself. How cool is that?
Now our newest pair of cats, Flit and Pogo, have learned the game as well. Only thing is, having a cat that fetches can also have its drawbacks, something I had never suspected. Chief among them being that they never ever ever get tired of it. A cat will gambol headlong after its favorite jingly ball or catnip mouse, and canter back to you with it, head and tail held high, to drop it at your feet again and again and AGAIN, until your arm muscles grow slack, your joints freeze and you pass out from dehydration or sleep deprivation. Then the cat’ll probably nom on the webbing between your thumb and forefinger until you come to and throw the thing again.
This can be a real time-consumer when you have other things to do, like earn a living, prepare a meal, craft a life, etc. Case in point: I was stumbling around the kitchen this morning trying to figure out which was the coffee maker and which was the toaster, lest I end up toasting my beans and soaking my bagel—again. Flit had found her Day-Glo pink jingle ball—an Xmas present from us—and was batting it around the kitchen floor, trying her very best to get stepped on so that I would feel guilty and throw the ball down the hall….or better yet, down the stairs.
For the moment, I was having none of it. I had more pressing things like nutrition and stimulants on my mind. She kept at it gamely, eeling around my feet, swatting the ball back and forth between her paws, making insistent little beeping noises as if to say, “Gosh this is fun! I’m having a blast! Don’t you want to come play too? It’s ever so enjoyable! Oh just try it you won’t regret it just pick up the ball and throwitthrowitthrowit JUST THROW THE BALL DAMMIT—”
Finally I’d had all I could take. “What’s wrong with you?” I yelled. “Can’t you amuse yourself for even twenty minutes? When I was your age I could play with myself for hours at a time!”
At that point I should have just gone right the hell back to bed until 2009. Thank God no one was around to hear me. So keep it to yourself, okay?
I was nosing around my Netflix account the other day—somewhat off-topic, I really hate what Netflix has done to their user interface. Someone needs to tell the giants of the Internet that, amazingly enough, it is indeed possible to overuse Flash. Sometimes plain old HTML, or some hypertrophied variation thereof, is just fine. Amazon seems to get that; just I wish more companies would. I don’t need my DVD selections to whip past me on a virtual conveyor belt; static pictures with text-box mouseovers work just fine, thank you, and they take up less bandwidth and fewer processor cycles. See this article for a good list of reasons why Flash should be avoided for many if not most Web sites. Funny how an article dating back to 1999 can still be mostly relevant today….though I do think that many sites have reigned in their slavish and superfluous Flashification. And no, I am not just saying this because I am so antiquated that I still use nested tables instead of <div> tags, so shut up! 😡
Anywho, that’s a completely separate gripe. Back to the post. I was looking around the Netflix site and spied this entry in the New Releases section:
After I’m done renting some Newly Released Classics, I’m going to mosey over to eBay and see what’s hot in the field of freshly-minted antiques.
For the two or three of you who sporadically tune into Uncle Andrew dot Net from outside the Puget Sound area, we’ve been in the grip of one mean mother of a snowstorm for the last few days. It started off peaceably enough with one of our typical bouts: two inches of snow on the ground, during which the local news outlets shit themselves and plastered the air/eyewaves with “STORM WATCH ’08” coverage.
But instead of washing away in a subsequent and wholly typical thaw, the cold—and by association, the snow—decided to stick around. In fact, it decided it was having such a great time that it invited a mass of frigid air down from Canada and dumped another five, six, ten inches on us. Margaret and I took a brief constitutional around our neighborhood amidst a torrential down—uh, drift—this afternoon, and it was quite a sight to see. Brisk winds last night formed distinct patterns in the snowdrifts, like the wind-sculpted sands of a desert dune. The temperature got just high enough to cause the top layer of flakes to collapse into a substantial crust of ice that the foot punches through with only grudging capitulation. It’s a veritable Winter Wonderland out there. Thank God we don’t have to go out in it, at least until tomorrow. Margaret has her usual gig in Renton, while I have to travel down to Olympia to get some last-minute computer wrangling in at work and go to a doctor’s appointment. I’m hoping that either the rain will come in early this afternoon and start the process of washing this all away by the wee hours of Monday, or barring that, that the snow will continue to fall well into tomorrow morning, providing a reasonable barrier against the compacted snow and ice on the highways and encouraging as many commuters as possible to take a snow day. I’m cautiously optimistic about my chances of surviving the trip—all-wheel-drive, plus four years of living in Pullman—but driving under such conditions is rather stressful, even when it isn’t one of the three remaining days before Christmas and the highways are likely to be thrombosed with insane last-minute holiday shoppers. I’m going to bring my extra-warm parka, a thermos of coffee and a sack of Ibuprofen. And maybe a gun.
I wanted to throw out a little addendum to my last post about beer and beer substitutes. One of the underlying themes of that post was the concept of “drinkability”. Well, imagine my surprise when I came to the realization that Anheuser Busch has already incorporated that buzzword into the campaign for their signature reduced-calorie astringent, Bud Light.
There a more than a few ads in this campaign, but this one amuses me for a couple of reasons. One, because two of the three examples of why Bud Light is more “drinkable” than other beers use a metaphor involving water—hoses, rain, hail—and the third of the three is about the shape of the delivery device allowing for easier drinking….a problem addressed years ago by the pioneers who brought you the Mickey’s Big Mouth.
Given that this particular brand purports itself to be the front runner in the very arena to which my last post was largely dedicated, it seemed only meet to give the stuff a try and compare it to the other contestants.
Like the other macrobrews we tested that day, Bud Light’s self-styled drinkability would seem to be based directly on its uncanny resemblance to fizzy, lightly adulterated water. It is by no means the nastiest-tasting of the bunch (that honor continues to rest on the capable, 24 fluid ounce shoulders of the Miller Lite), nor is it the fizziest. It has more flavor than the Rainier or the Pabst—primarily a yeast note—but less of a chemical tang than the Miller. All in all, not a horrible experience, but nothing I would pursue again. Margaret used a lot of the leftovers from the last taste test in a mammoth batch of cheese sauce, which was probably the very best use to which it could be put. Not sure what we’re going to do with the rest of the Bud. Sidewalk de-icer, maybe.
To summarize: if your idea of a fine beer is one that will almost totally bypass your taste buds and just get right down to the business of blurring your vision and distorting your sense of physical attractiveness (both your own and others’), I would say Rainier is the way to go. It tastes damn near like distilled water and goes for about the same price.
I was prompted to write this by an exchange I had with my friend Mike on these very pages a couple of weeks ago, in which I lambasted his taste in beer. Mike is a highly intelligent man with a great creative spark; a spark which at one point got him into the craft of brewing his own beer. From what I am able to glean he hasn’t done it in a while, and in the interim has taken to pursuing libations of a more, shall we say, domestic variety. This fills me with endless wonder as well as sick dread. Or perhaps it’s sick wonder and endless dread. As far as I was concerned, when you’re talking about Miller Lite, neither sickness nor dread can be far behind.
I should start this off by saying that I am not a big drinker. I despise the psychoactive effects of alcohol under practically any and all conditions. And even in my my turbulent salad days, when there was basically no drug whose psychoactive or physiological drawbacks were too great to ever warrant abstaining from same, beer was not really my thing. I drank to get drunk, and that meant imbibing preparations that delivered as much alcohol in as little time as possible….or, barring that, beverages that were both sufficiently tasty and cost-effective to be downed quickly and in large quantities. Boone’s Farm wines; Peppermint Schnapps; that sort of thing. Beer hardly ever entered into the picture.
Now, in what must finally be acknowledged to be middle age, I have rediscovered beer as a thing to be savored and enjoyed. I find the complex flavors of a good beer to be entertaining to my palate, so we always have a few bottles of something interesting on hand.
Right now I am kind of stuck on a dark ale from Black Toad Brewing Company that I found at Trader Joe’s. In a couple of weeks it’ll be something else. I’m not married to any one brand, and because of this—coupled with the fact that I’m not drinking the stuff to catch a buzz and therefore almost never drink more than one beer at a sitting—I don’t keep a lot of suds around the house at any given time.
Despite my aversion to both ethanol intoxication and the flavor of bargain-basement brews, I don’t have any particular policy against other people joyously pursuing either of these things. A person of (or near) legal age, drinking one—or many—of our nation’s fine domestic, NASCAR-ready beverages, can be a expression of good-natured sybaritic pleasure as forthright and genuine as any other. There is certainly no inherent moral hierarchy that can be assigned to various alcoholic beverages….or, for that matter, to any recreational mind-altering substance. There are gradations of common sense that can be gleaned from one’s actions, for sure, and fractally interconnected filaments of responsibility and causality that arise and depend from the substances one decides to put in one’s body. But these vast webs are so dense as to make only the most obvious and blatant cases of poor judgment easy to quantify and condemn. Compared to that, a half-rack of Budweiser—much like a few joints, a vial of coke or a pack of Camels—holds no inherent symbolic moral value whatsoever.
So this isn’t about the perceived social or aesthetic value of one drink over another. But I have great trouble understanding the rationale behind the fact that many members of my family, and a few in my circle of friends, gleefully tuck into beers Margaret and I use solely for trapping slugs.
I first really noticed this last Christmas, when as many of my family who could manage to make it converged on the Hawaiian Haole Hale Homestead for the holiday. As was to be expected, there was nary a decent beer in the house. Margaret and I grabbed some personal stock during a trip out for groceries—as I recall, it was a six-pack of Kona Brewing Company’s Pipeline Porter. Turned out that a sixer worked just fine; no one else wanted to touch the stuff. Not even my sisters were up for it, and when Mike dropped by to offer up his Christmas well wishes, he eschewed our nice micro-brew as well and instead selected a Miller Lite. Frankly I was a little dumbfounded.
One theory I have entertained is that indulgence in cheap beer represents a kind of anti-elitist backlash, a way to separate oneself from the effete snobs with their organic soy milk, composed microgreen salads and handcrafted microbrews. This theory holds some attraction for me, but I have yet to be able to really lock it down, using the majority of my see-through-brew-drinking family and friends as a representative sample (well, most of them, anyway). Of course there are cliques of all sorts—even cliques for the slavishly nonconformist—but I think that someone who refuses to do something pleasurable because people they don’t like also do it is not necessarily making a statement about beer so much as a statement about their own inability to mature past the emotional age of thirteen. Saying that the market for low-cost brewskis exists primarily for the delectation of the emotionally crippled is farther than even a snotty wiseass like me is willing to go.
A related theory spun off from the aforementioned is the idea that at least some blue-collar beers have a sort of bohemian, pseudo-hipster appeal to them. This theory grew a few more legs when I discovered that portions of National Public Radio’s Morning Edition were underwritten by (drumroll please) Pabst Blue Ribbon. If there were ever two corporeal aggregations in the space-time continuum that would seem to be in all things diametrically opposed to each other, it would be those two. With the runner-up award going to Morning Edition and one of their other sponsors, no shit, the Department of Homeland Security.
The term I heard thrown around a lot that day was “drinkability”; according to their fans around the table, the big-box beers were just more drinkable. We didn’t get into the real nuts and bolts of the definition at the time, but I think I would not be distorting their intent too grossly to describe it as follows. Drinkability is a quality that allows one to drink at one’s own pace, little sips or lusty chugs, without straining the senses with a lot of extra, fussy side-notes and aftertastes; a clean and consistent character that imbues the imbiber with a sensation of refreshment.
I don’t think that’s putting a sarcastic or acerbic spin on it. Maybe a serious liberal-arts-major writes-copy-for-a-living floweriness, but I think most of the folks involved would agree that this is a decent definition of what they look for in a beer. And like I said, that’s just fine. Arguing with people about their choice of beer is exactly as productive as arguing with them about their choice of religion. But just as with religion, that still doesn’t mean I understand it. At all.
As near as I can divine, the concept of “drinkability” I have described above might well be more succinctly described as, “water content”. It would seem that what is being sought is a situation in which the bare minimum of ingredients is added to mollify and modify the presence of the primary constituents, water and ethanol. This would also lend some credence to the idea of beer as “refreshment”. Ethanol does not “refresh”; it is a diuretic, causing increased urination and potential for dehydration. Chugging a beer or two after strenuous activity is exactly as “refreshing” as quaffing a couple of Mountain Dews, with 46 grams of sugar and 54 grams of caffeine per can….which is to say, not at all. But all other things being equal, the more watery the beer, the closer to “refreshment” one might expect to get—while never actually hitting the target.
I don’t drink beer for “refreshment”, so I don’t appreciate a brew that is chiefly noted for its water content. I don’t drink beer to catch a buzz, so I don’t pursue products that offer an optimal price-to-brain-cell kill ratio. I drink beer for the taste, which for me means something with complexity, body and character. Be it the crisp, almost fruity taste of a Widmer Hefeweizen, the snap of an Alaskan Amber, the dark broody depths of a Black Butte Porter or the silky indulgence of a Young’s Double Chocolate Stout.
But in the spirit (heh heh….”spirit”) of fairness that plagues all good liberals, I wanted to challenge my own assumptions. After all, it has been a good while since I put a mass-produced industrial-grade can of domestic suds to my lips. Perhaps I’m remembering it poorly. So I went out and procured several samples of products that could be considered standards of the industry and sat down with my wife to conduct a non-scientific comparison. The results can be viewed below. Requires QuickTime and some patience to view; it’s about 15 minutes long, and 22 megabytes fat. 😉
So yeah, you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t posted in almost two weeks. Sorry about that. My delinquency, while not justified, is at least explainable. See, I wanted to play Left 4 Dead.
That’s a gross oversimplification, of course. It’s not as though I have spent the last 13 days playing L4D 24/7. But that’s how this sordid tale begins.
So I was all hot to start playing Left 4 Dead, the new team-based, zombie-centric survival horror game from Valve Software. Not a problem: not only is my hardware already well up to the task, but my buddy Gary got me a free key to play it over Valve’s content control/distribution server Steam. All I needed was a good headset and a few friends and I was ready to go. The friends were a crucial element: not only is the game somewhat repetitive when played with bots as your teammates, but frankly, I wasn’t going to be able to play this thing by myself. The game scenario—you and your team stuck in a zombie-infested city, struggling to survive and find a way out—was entirely too much like the stress nightmares I have when I am seriously overworked or otherwise overwhelmed. Seriously, when my waking hours are too stressful I am all too likely to spend a good chunk of my REM sleep fleeing boundless swarms of the living dead. The only way I was going to be able to play this sucker was in the company of a few friends, present both as avatars and via voice chat, to remind me that it was only a game.
So that’s why I haven’t posted a new entry in two weeks.
No, wait, that doesn’t make sense, there must be more to it….
So I played a few rounds online with some chums, and it occurred to me that I could get another friend in on the game by setting up my currently-mothballed ex-blog server as a second gaming machine. The thing is pretty wicked fast—it’s based around the same motherboard as my gaming rig, and was initially purchased in an act of desperation when my original motherboard decided to expire right in the middle of playing Bioshock and I couldn’t wait until the thing got RMAed to finish the game. I used it to serve out my blog for a while before deciding that a big overheated blowtorch like this was a bit of overkill for this purpose, at which time I replaced it with a much humbler machine I had lying around and set it aside for a while. I have been contemplating hooking a PC to the big TV upstairs for some time now anyway, so faced with an excuse to do so I picked up a few components and put together a decent gaming computer for the living room, complete with connection to our surround sound home theater system. You can practically feel the zombies taking bites out of your ass!
Thing is, this put the number of active computers in the house up to a quantity bordering on the redonkulous. I by myself already run a design workstation, a gaming computer, a laptop, a web server and a combined camera server/Unreal Tournament server/spam trap. Adding another gaming computer to the mix seemed like conspicuous consumption….or conspicuous power consumption at the very least.
I decided it was my duty to eliminate one computer from my cluster and fob its job(s) off on another machine. The obvious choice was the web server, an antediluvian Power Macintosh G4 Cube I had sitting around and decided to employ as an Apache training exercise as well as for the fun of it. Well, fun’s over, everybody out of the pool. 😐
So I deked the Cube and moved my blog over to the Shuttle I’ve been using for my camera/UT server.
For anyone keeping score (oh let’s not fool ourselves; no one is keeping score, not even me), this is the seventh computer I have used to host my blog in the approximately five years I have served our site out of our home: four Macs and three PCs. I’m back on the PC again this time ’round, only this time, I’m running the thing under Apache rather than IIS. I figure, as long as I’m throwing another gooey bucket of chaos over the gears and cogs of my home life, I might as well try to learn something new in the process. And as I’ve mentioned before, between Apache and Windows Internet Information Services, my preference definitely skews towards Apache.
For anyone contemplating setting up a home Web server with minimal fuss, I would heartily recommend a free program called XAMPP. XAMPP offers a full meal deal for Web serving: Apache, MySQL, PHP5, Perl, FTP and mail servers, all in one distribution. This package is designed for development on a home machine, inaccessible from the Internet, but locking it down to a reasonable extent for public consumption is pretty easy, and there are a host (heh heh, get it?) of tutorials out there for making XAMPP more secure. I was able to get my blog ported over and ready for testing in short order.
At that point, however, things took a bit of a tumble. Something that I have come across before but have never been able to fully explore got in my way; namely, that Windows XP seems to have a real bug up its ass about multihoming. I prefer to run my Web server in its own network address space, with other network-oriented tasks taking place on a second WAN and LAN address range. I ran my Mac Cube server on two discrete networks without a single problem, but both times I have attempted to run a Web server on an XP box—IIS or Apache—I’ve run into insurmountable problems. Traceroutes from one interface to the other (out one router, across a switch and into the other; just as easy as walking out the front door of your house and re-entering from the back porch) would just disappear somewhere in the middle, causing all manner of bizarre timeouts and other unproductive behavior. After hammering away at the problem for a couple of days, I gave up and consolidated all of my network activity to one IP address range. Sloppier and more stressful on my router, to be sure, but way less stressful for me. Any more trouble with this project and I was going to start having zombie dreams.
Anywho, so that’s the main reason why I haven’t been posting. Overall this project has had me wrangling with three different computers, including two different copies of my blog, and anything new I put up on one would inevitably have to have been updated on the other. I figured it was just easier to let you all think I was on a major pill jag or something. On the other hand, this whole thing did help to fulfill my deep-seated need to fuck around with stuff that’s working perfectly well until it no longer is, then find new and interesting ways to bring it back from the edge of the abyss. Anyways, now I’m back, and hopefully you’ll be reading from me on a more regular basis.
Oh, and if anyone knows why Windows Xp is such a turd about multihoming, drop me a line, wouldya?