Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday Morning Blue Screen of Death & Other Signs of the Apocalypse

Error Code: 0x5000d64. That can't be good.
This morning I was greeted with the infamous 'Blue Screen of Death' when I logged in to my work station. And for the next hour while IT looked into my shit, I was powerless, paralyzed, gun shy that here was notice the general abundance of chaos and bad news had finally trickled down to the level of the you and the me.

This on the ominous heels of yesterday's blackout in my building after I'd just come home with a couple hundred bucks worth of groceries that required refrigeration and couldn't keep my meat, cheese and other perishables chilly amidst the onslaught of the hottest summer in history.

And I kept ruminating on how fragile we are and how dependent on each other and the technical advances we somehow manage to keep up to make our standard of living possible. What would I know if asked to fix the power grid? Sad to say without PECO I'd be sweating it out by candle-light eating what nuts, berries and vermin I'd be lucky enough to scrounge.

In the 100 degree heat on Saturday, as another example of my existential thinking lately, I'd remarked to CW that it's amazing what a thin band of temperature we can tolerate as human beings, where 32 is cold and 92 is hot. That's a mere 60 degrees difference and it's so important and makes us seem like wimps (and/or miracles) if you take a cosmic view of toughness. On Mercury the temperature swings from -300 to 800 degrees Fahrenheit between night and day.

To which he said, 'well, we're so much more complicated than rocks.'

Friday, July 23, 2010

Gulf Oil Spill DIY Web Clip

Not to assign any kind of higher, cosmic meaning to the Gulf oil spill (cause who believes in that shit?), but the time of the free-flowing gusher neatly coincided with the duration of my brother's unemployment. He was laid-off in late April, just as the Deepwater Horizon oil platform burst into incandescent plumes of gas and literally took a new job this past Monday, just after Top Hat Number 10 (a Flange Transition Spool and  a 3 Ram Stack) corked most of the leak. 

As significant events in both the macro and micro experiences of our lives, the two events will serve as markers for one another and ensure the duration and dates of these chaotic storylines stay clear in memory. Strange how that works. Everyone around at the time remembers where they were when Kennedy died. We'll always have Deepwater Horizon.

Anyway, if you're morbidly fascinated with this disaster as I am, you will find the New York Times excellent interactive oil spill tracker a compelling and sobering little tool. In the Internets abiding spirit of plagiarism and copyright infringement, I  paired it with another of my favorite tools, SnagIt!, to create the clumsy 9MB animation above and call it my own content. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What's Wrong

As an occasional exercise, typing open-ended questions into Google seems a great way to tap into the troubled minds of a people. Google Suggest will let you know that it's okay, you're not alone in worrying about mostly useless shit by offering up temporally and contextually related searches compiled algorithmically from other users like you. Here in Philadelphia, users like me appear to have one overriding concern - the plight of the punch-less Phillies. Pretty dead-on accurate.

While it's fun to look at this and say, how shallow we are, I actually take it as a good sign that most of the list is comprised of blather and fleeting concern like Spencer Pratt and Kelly Bensimon because it means we generally know which trough to seek for dirty water. What's more troubling is question #3 in the list. How should Google know? And why are you asking? Doesn't this suggest a major reshuffling in the spiritual leadership ladder? Or maybe I'm the one underestimating the Search Engine's ability to provide answers.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

Nasty Nestling

The creative process of blogging is probably something like a comedian's in gathering notes on the absurdities and adventures of life and revisiting those at a later date to apply a coating of thought. Combing through the photos I email myself from my phone as part of this process, I found this shot from just a few weeks back that I'd almost forgotten having survived: rescuing a nestling robin.

Jill and I went out to play tennis during one of the rash of hot, dry days we've been having around Philly this summer and as I approached the baseline, this clump of gray detritus shot it's head up in the air, mouth agape and let out a shrill salvo of peeps.

Lying just court-side of the hurricane fence and a bunch of neighboring hedges, this little nestling had escaped his tipped-over nest, which lay on a broken branch at the top of the hedge, and crawled onto the court as a last act of survival. And there he collapsed in an awkward heap, prone with nonworking legs and wings outstretched frying on the hardtop court. Without intervention he wasn't long for this world.

Our first instinct was to try to return him to his nest, but the nest was clearly abandoned as it contained the withered, maggot-ridden corpses of his two siblings. So we turned to the Internets which advised a shoe-box nest lined with an old shirt coupled with a tweezer-administered diet of warm water-mushed dogfood.

Within hours our nestling was responding well to our therapy and gaining strength. Every time we approached the shoebox, his little head shot up, mouth wide open, and the stream of peeps came out soliciting gobs of dogfood gruel. From then on he was literally an eating and guano-shitting machine. Which quickly became gross as the bloom wore off the rose of our do-gooding hearts.

Then he started to look ugly, sickly and skeletal without plumage and a voracious appetite and white, nitrogenous, toothpaste-like oozing guano in abundance sullying his shoebox nest and we started to wonder what kind of animal we had saved. Nestlings are hard to identify and we weren't sure if we had gone to so much trouble just to ensure there's one more crow or grackle in the world.

Plus which it was now Sunday and what would we do with our professional schedules with a bird who needs to eat three times an hour during daylight?

Rearing him in our Center City apartment wasn't a savory prospect, nor one that looked promising for the bird. Fortunately, a little more research on the Web revealed the Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research organization in nearby Newark, Delaware. They happily take in rescued nestlings, regardless of the bird's exotic appeal, or mostly, lack thereof. (They get 25 birds a day, mostly robins and grackles.)

We drove him in to this secret facility tucked into the woods surrounding Newark and found a rootsy, but seemingly well-funded little operation like you'd expect Jane Goodall to be running on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, only instead of chimpanzees it's suburban birds in plexiglass containers being nursed back to health and then released in netting-covered woods.

The receptionist confirmed that our nestling was a robin, which, better than a grackle, but by no means the rare exotic we'd envisioned when deciding to rescue. But hey, we did a good deed shored-up on some karma and went on our way.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

One Off

Do Swede's only seem clever?

Serving Mark Zuckerberg in Sun Valley

At the Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley last week, media luminaries from around the globe descended on the central Idaho mountains for a week of R&R and M&A. Many famous deals have been brokered at the conference over the years from the Google YouTube acquisition to Comcast's bid for a controlling stake in NBC/Universal last year.

This year the biggest news was Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg getting duped by a would-be autograph-seeker who turned out to be a process server notifying mighty Mark that he's being sued for an 84% ownership stake in Facebook.

The lawsuit may be frivolous (claiming Facebook was bought for $1000 back in '03 by one Paul Ceglia), but the rush experienced by the process server must have been as real as it gets. As depicted in Pineapple Express, process serving is a high-stakes game of cat and mouse, even when dealing with low-profile scumbags like drug dealers. Imagine when your quarry is Mark Zuckerberg, what kind of assassin's thrill that must bring when you realize he'll be in Sun Valley for the Allen & Co. conference and you head him off at the pass. A perfect plan meets perfect execution as your spring the trap and ambush the biggest name in Silicon Valley.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Having lived 4 of the last 5 years in San Francisco I got used to the relative boringness of Bay Area weather which consists mostly of non-seasonal coolish weather year round, with a mix of fog and sun wherever you go. The difference between day and night is 10-15 degrees and so is the difference between summer and winter.

Philadelphia has been a wildly different story so far. Last summer was like the European Mini Ice Age with highs cracking 90 only one week in August that I can remember and a pretty consistent track of cool temperatures and steady doses of record-setting rainfall. This continued in the winter with the all-time record setting 10 feet of snow that we got in Center City. And why stop there, thought Mother Nature, before besieging the city with it's hottest summer in a decade and the 8th hottest since regular temperature recording began as a second act.

Critics of global-warming would point to the 10 feet of snow and say, look, proof that the temperature isn't rising. Hah Al Gore!

But all that is anecdotal evidence and at that it may even be evidential support of the data. All we know is that we're putting more energy into the system and what that brings in the local experience of global warming is unpredictable, but more frequent and violent extremes, mood swings if you will, is a likely outcome.