Friday, December 17, 2004

Pepsi Elementary School.

Today my workout was accompanied by Cory Doctorow reading his short story To Market, to Market, The Branding of Billy Bailey, available for download in mp3 form here. Excellent little story.

Cory was an early adopter of Creative Commons licensing, which means his recent work is made available, free, a short time after release. The licensing makes things like a collaborative audio books possible, which I think is extra cool.

I paid for and thoroughly enjoyed his first Creative Commons work, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. I should get around to checking out Eastern Standard Tribe as well.

Tuesday, December 7, 2004


I recently resurrected my elderly (by gadget standards) Archos Jukebox 20 mp3 player. It's one of the earliest hard drive players, which I bought in 2002.

The interface on the device is terrible, most notably because it doesn't support playlists larger than 999 songs. This is silly considering that it holds 20 Gigs of music.

Well, today I discovered Rockbox, an open source firmware replacement for several players, including mine. Rockbox adds all sorts of features and, most importantly, raises the playlist limit to 20000--much more reasonable and, importantly, larger than the total number of songs I own.

Even cooler, Rockbox supports speaking menus, which means it says aloud the name of the current menu entry. With some effort, you can get it to speak filenames as well, which means you can navigate your playlists without looking. When I have the player in my pocket--or more importantly, in the car--that's going to come in real handy.

And Rockbox is open source. Unfortunately, that means I now have to resist the temptation to modify the firmware and write my own plugins for the thing.

Monday, December 6, 2004

Cleanliness is next to Wiggliness.

Yesterday I was sitting next to Emma on the couch. She was sipping juice from a cup which I had just washed, filled, and given to her.

She was watching The Wiggles--a show for very young kids, roughly on par with Barney, slightly less obnoxious, but slightly more cheeseball. The Wiggles were sitting around the kitchen table, talking about germs and dirt, and why it's important to wash your hands and whatnot.

The dirt on dirty dishes is particularly germy, one of them said, which is why it's so important for us to wash our dishes.

Emma, whose second birthday was two weeks ago, turned to me and said, "Thank you washing Emma's cup, Daddy."

So as to avoid the reputation of a braggart, I hereby provide a second Emma story to counter the first one.
Last night I was laying next to her, trying to get her to sleep. (She still needs one of us in the bed to fall asleep.) It was taking forever, and my patience was running thin. Emma was almost asleep for the umpteenth time when she turned over and said, "Stop it. Stop it." She then breathed heavily through her nose to illustrate the problem. She wanted me to stop breathing because it was keeping her awake.
I explained, not very pleasantly, that her request was unreasonable, and that I would not comply. This hurt her feelings, which made the whole falling asleep process take that much longer.

Lucite dreams, or something like that.

In response to my NPC dream the other day, Talia said

Dude, how can you be so self-aware in your dreams? Doesn't that mean you automatically break out of the dream or something?

To this I say "Ha!" And also "On the contrary..."

At some point in my youth, I started being able to recognize, as I dreamt, that I was dreaming. At first it was just an awareness, but soon I was able to influence the dreams, mostly to steer them away from nightmarishness. The influence turned to control, and eventually I got to the point that I had complete control over my dreams.

In my dreams, I could do anything I wanted, and everyone else did what I wanted. I could steer events in any direction I pleased. I could transition from one theme to another, and as an adolescent boy, a particular theme ended up dominating. I won't mention it directly, but it's one with which roughly 100% of boys are obsessed. No, not fighter jets. The other one.

I'm not sure if complete control over an alternate universe is a healthy thing for a boy with no worldly knowledge, but that's what I had for a while.

Lucid dreaming is not unheard of. A moment's googling yields all sorts of information, some pages more, um, grounded than others. A lot of the pages are about trying to acquire the skill. I came by the skill naturally, or at least on my own. It wasn't until years later that I learned that there was a term for it. I'm not sure how common it is.

As an adult, my dreams aren't nearly as vivid, and I remember them less often. Sometimes I'm aware that I'm dreaming, sometimes I'm not, but I don't generally have the level of control that I once did. This is probably because I don't care anymore, and I don't put any effort into it. On occasion, if a dream becomes particularly nightmarish, I'll will myself awake. That's about the extent of my control these days.

To me, the most interesting thing is that dreams contain conflict at all. Why do bad things ever happen in dreams? It's just the mind screwing with itself. I still have those stupid didn't-study-all-semester dreams, or those can't-find-my-locker dreams, and sometimes during the dream I'll think "This is ridiculous! Brain, you suck!" Sometimes my dreams become self-fulfilling and self-defeating: worrying about something ensures that it'll come to pass. Those dreams are the worst, particularly when I'm lucid enough to realize it's my own mind doing it.

Nightmares are the Sadistic Bastard Prankster in your brain, picking at scabs and poking at shadows, trying to make the scary things come out. Lucid dreams are, essentially, the complete absence of the Sadistic Bastard. When he's gone, all that's left is a world that you control.

Friday, December 3, 2004

95 Octane!?!?

Since I added octane boost and then started using premium gas, my car is running great again. So insufficient octane was the problem. Crazy.

Since then, several other sources have confirmed that modern cars do this, though almost nobody I know had heard of knock sensors. And today I ran across an article that describes exactly what happened, and even mentions my car specfically.

High-octane gas isn't just for tuners though. Plenty of stock cars depend on the stuff, including a Celica GT-S with its 11.5:1 compression, or a turbocharged WRX or Volkswagen 1.8T.

What more, my car's manual says they recommend 95 octane, which isn't even sold at gas stations. (In California they only go up to 91 these days.) So the question of the day is: if I boost the gas up to 95 octane, will I notice a difference? A couple months ago I'd have said "no way". Today, I'm thinking about trying it.

Thursday, December 2, 2004


In a dream last night, I was running through a big, unfamiliar office building, lost. After a while my friend Noah was running with me. We found what we'd been looking for (I think it was a coke machine, for whatever reason) and eventually made our way out of the building.

I apologized to Noah. "My dreams are often like this--pointless searches, lost somewhere that's supposed to be familiar, but that's really being generated on demand by the dream. I'm just sorry you got dragged along."

Noah grinned. "It's not a problem."

I then went on to talk about the people we'd encountered in the building, and without thinking I used the term NPC's to refer to them. Noah nodded, agreeing with what I said about the NPC's.

Then, after a moment's thought I looked at Noah and said "Hmmm, I guess that would include you as well."

Noah's grin faded, and he looked hurt. He sulked off, unhappy with the suggestion that he was just another NPC in my dream.