Thursday, April 21, 2011

What the what?

Right about a year ago the family went to Paradise India, a restaurant in southern JoCo. The food was fine, but the service was a touch over-solicitous. I got a kick out of being greeted with "namaste" at the door, but then I was watching a lot of Lost at the time so that might have had something to do with the entertainment value. On a more negative note, the waiter / maitre d' / maybe the owner hovered over us for much of the meal, providing a running commentary about the food. It was interesting but at the same time sort of unwelcome.

At the end of the meal he asked us to fill out comment cards, and the cards featured a blank for an email address. I have an address that I use specifically in cases where I might be giving it to someone who wants to send me something useful (such as coupons) or might just be lining up to spam me. So I jotted it on the form and didn't think anything more about it.

Then yesterday I get an email from Paradise India. It had some info on the restaurant's recent appearance on KCPT's restaurant show. It had some general chatty stuff. It had a coupon (good move there). But it also included the "Joke of the Day."

I reproduce it here in its entirety and defy anyone to decipher it. About the only part that gave me a snicker was "heads off to a great meal."


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The long march

Today I began in earnest to get the site caught up. I decided to start with the most recent updates and make my way back to the middle of January (which was where I was before the crash). Though I only got a week's worth of reviews loaded, at least it was a start.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

More cows

Okay, actually not more cows. Just more boxes. I figured if I built some blank spaces in, later I could come back and add some text, something that might make initial navigation a little easier. So now the design parallels the splash page I put together for the Mass Comm Notebook web site I worked on a few years ago (and which I fear fell victim to the laptop crash). However, that notebook was in turn based on the Photographer's Notebook, which still exists (and someday will be added to 8sails College once I've had the chance to add content and remove some copyrighted images from it).

That said, I promised myself I wasn't going to spend the whole day tinkering with the MSG. Other work is piling up.

I've been good, but I can't last. So hurry, sabbatical. Hurry fast.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The site is born

Not much there at the moment. Just 16 Survival Cows in a four-by-four grid. For now I'm focusing on keeping the "active" part of the page set up as a 1024 x 768 box in order to keep things simple if/when I convert this to an iPad app. So I'm sure I'll have a lot more adjustment work to do.

But at least now it officially exists.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Enter the cow

Yesterday Amy downloaded some copyright-free, derivative-work-ready photo clip art of cows and gas masks. After producing five or six variations, I came up with one that I'm happy with. So the next mission will be to clean it up and then get to work on the variations. I need 16 of them, one for each section of the MSG. For example, I'm going to create a version filtered with a really chunky half toning patter for the newspaper section. The movies section will probably have fancy sunglasses and a beret. The radio section will be sepia-toned with an old-timey microphone and maybe a fedora.

It's a relief not only to be making some progress on the site but also to have taken a bite out of such a key element of the design.

In the spirit of the occasion, now would be a good time to tell the story of how the Survival Cow came to be (for anyone who doesn't already know it). Many years ago I worked for Academic Computing at the University of Kansas. One of my duties was to work at the Engineering CAE Facility, a computer lab with a couple of Harris mainframes over at the School of Engineering.

Most of the work was fairly boring, but once we got the chance to do something fun. We got permission from the powers that be to come up with an instruction book covering basic computer use, some of the more common applications, just about anything a new user might need to know. The book was to be patterned after a similar book -- a First Aid Kit -- from one of the state schools out in Nevada. We didn't want ours to be an exact copy either in word or in spirit. And of course back then I was somewhat heavily into the whole survivalist thing. So a Survival Guide was only natural.

In keeping with the light spirit we intended for the project, I came up with some offbeat illustrations. One that was prominently featured early in the book was "Survival Cow." This was a stippled ink drawing I made based on a photo from the cover of Soldier of Fortune (or perhaps it was SOF's survivalist-oriented offshoot, which I think was called Survive). The photo was of a cow wearing a gas mask, supposedly a graphic illustration of the Soviets' commitment to surviving a nuclear war with even their livestock industry intact. All I really cared about was that it was a weird image, that it fit with the survival guide theme, and that the cow thing had a nice tie-in to Kansas.

Of course the project died a premature death. Some jackass in the Chemical Engineering department got wind of what we were working on, called our boss and told him that in his opinion computers weren't funny. The truly strange part -- and a good illustration of the insane bureaucracy that is KU -- is that they pulled out all the funny text but left most of the illustrations (including Survival Cow) intact.

Thus it's a genuine pleasure to return a new generation of Survival Cows to the stage in a production over which I have absolute creative control.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Not the "fix" I had in mind

The laptop is dead. Or to be more precise, the laptop is fine but the hard drive has been completely erased.

Jesus. All that data gone. Photos. Stories. Diaries. Financial records. And more to the point for the purposes of this blog, the last three months of 8sails. Plus all the notes and drafts for upcoming postings.

On the one hand, that's what I get for falling behind on 8sails stuff, not to mention what I get for not regularly backing up the computer.

On the other hand, damn.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I need a fix. Now.

I've already griped about the laptop being out of commission, right? Well, apparently griping angers the Computer Gods, because now my desktop computer is out as well. I'm typing this blog entry from my iPad, which I hereby humbly beseech the Computer Gods to spare as it's the only private computer I have left.

Needless to say, this hasn't been a big step forward in the getting-8sails-caught-up effort.

And it's weird just how addicted I've become to the computer. Or to be more precise, what I really need is a fix of connectedness (assuming that's a word). I feel like I've been cut off from the rest of 21st century America, relegated to peering in from a tablet-sized hole in the wall. This is also seriously messing with my work routines.

So I guess until tech support does something about the problem, I'll just go sit in the corner and read The Odyssey on the iPad.

Friday, April 1, 2011

And the Moon turned to blood

Last week I watched a documentary (for want of a better word) about the Rapture and the End Times. It brought me mindful of the self-defeating nature of the whole Rapture thing. These guys always ascend to their pulpits (figuratively if not literally) and proceed to assure us that we need to give our hearts to Jesus right away because the end is near.

If the end is so near, wouldn't it be smarter to just wait for it? I mean, if the Rapture snatches away all the fundies, the Sun turns black, the Moon turns to blood, the temple gets rebuilt, the plagues hit and the whole Book of Revelation nine yards, I'm absolutely willing to believe in the literal truth of the whole thing. So when the Rapture-ready squad absolutely assures me that the End Times are imminent, all they do is give me a strong incentive to adopt a wait-and-see attitude. If I end up Tribulated, I've every reason in the world to accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. But until what they say is going to happen actually happens, skeptics are entitled to our skepticism.

I will say this for the show I watched: they're the only Rapture-ready pundits who ever tried to address this. "You can wait," they warn, "but if you do, then God will cloud your mind so you still won't believe in Jesus." Nice try. However, this ignores two major problems. First, it violates the scripture they're preaching, which specifically says that people will come to Christ after the Rapture (not to mention that the "clouding your mind" thing is an extremely strained interpretation of the verses they cite).

Second -- and more important -- it turns God into a deceptive jerk and the End Times into a big practical joke on the human race with eternal damnation rather than a jock strap full of itching powder as the ultimate consequence. Perhaps it's just natural for people who are themselves deceptive jerks to want to remake God in their own image.

And of course all of this as usual side-steps the actual important value of the Christian faith in favor of stupid, pseudo-theological parlor tricks.

Sorry about the religious rant. That isn't really the function of this blog.

Speaking of which ...

After my flurry of MSG activity yesterday I have nothing new to report. Still waiting on news one way or another about the hard drive in the laptop I've been using for years to work on 8sails. Fingers still firmly crossed.

In the meantime, I'm waffling back and forth about the current background art for this blog. I can't decide if it looks like an extreme close-up of Turner's "Sunrise with Sea Monsters" or an extreme close-up of Serrano's "Piss Christ." So if you're looking at it and it doesn't look like either one, that means the Serrano impression won out and prompted me to change it to something else.