too diminuitive to tactfully fashion
Sunday, October 8 2006
Last night I installed a 100 foot long USB cable running from my main computer at the north end of the laboratory down to the basement boiler room. 100 foot long USB cables are not easy to find, probably because they have a reputation for being unreliable and also because they cannot be expected to supply much power on their five volt line at that distance. The one I found is only rated for USB 1.1 use, which is fine for the slow communications that happen with Arduino microcontrollers. It only cost me about $25, which is a small fraction of the price of the alternatives (systems that work wirelessly or via a network).
The cable was, of course, a generic product of a Chinese factory. One of their cost-cutting measures had been to have a non-English-speaker proofread the verbiage on its extremely glossy (and graphically well-designed) packaging. The one review for the cable was terrible, but I took the chance and it worked fine for both reading data from the Arduino and also for reflashing its code loop remotely.
In order to do that latter activity, I had to run a telephone cord alongside the USB cable so I could access its reset wires. (The Arduino is reflashed by sending a program to it over its USB line in the few seconds while it reboots.)
In the process of installing the cable, I'd managed to tear an angry gash (and several parallel scratches) into my right forearm while reaching up through a hole in the ceiling above the boiler. Unlike most injuries, this one had happened slowly and deliberately after I'd discovered myself stuck. The alternative would have been hollering for Gretchen to get out of bed and get me some lubricant.
This morning there was a literary brunch at the High Falls Café, an event organized by our friend J. Gretchen, being a poet of some renown, was to be one of the participants. We showed up before I'd had my first cup of coffee and right away I was confronted by a number of my erstwhile computer housecall clients, one of whom needed to have a visit scheduled as soon as possible. It just so happens that most of my clients are either artistic or literary, so I tend to find them concentrated at events like this one.
Eventually there was coffee and food, but the latter was in units too diminutive to tactfully fashion a proper meal. Even if you can fit twenty spring rolls in one of your hands, the expectation is still that you will only take two or three.
The readings experienced something of a weak start with the impenetrable poetry of a college freshman reading from his laptop. After he'd been rocking the mike for awhile with his white-boy-does-ghetto stylings, I made a sport of listening for the utterance of a noun that referred to a real tangible object. Amazingly, there was none unless one includes a metaphoric reference to fire.
Things improved with the next guy, who presented lush (though not especially innovative) poetic depictions of India while a musician played an Indian flute. Next it was Gretchen's turn, and as always she was stellar, being simultaneously serious, focused, and funny. All the readers after her (including our friend Susan Richards) came bearing comic prose, and most of it was delightfully hilarious. This was perhaps the first literary event I've ever attended in which I didn't find myself looking for a copy of the program to find out when it would be over.
Ever since downloading Heavy Metal Parking Lot using Bittorrent, I've had something of a renewed interest in traditional heavy metal, the sort played back in the 1980s. My recent wave of interest was focused more on the kitschy and cornball than it was on any nostalgia or listening enjoyment. I'm finding much of that old music impossible to enjoy. Motörhead is fast, I suppose, but some of the songs seem to make use of only two notes played in patterns that would require serious damage to short term memory in order to enjoy. There was also an hour of AC/DC concert footage in one of my downloads, but I couldn't watch much of it either because it was nearly as repetitive as Motörhead and about a quarter the speed. I enjoyed parts of an Iron Maiden concert video, particularly the song "Wicker Man," but after awhile all the songs started sounding the same (and not in a good way) and the dramatic on-stage antics of singer Bruce Dickinson had me feeling embarrassed for the guy (the AC/DC guys had much more charisma on stage). Judas Priest was probably the best of the group, aside from Metallica.
One unknown band in my group of downloads was footage of a performance by a modern British hard rock group called "The Darkness." I use the term "hard rock" because The Darkness demonstrate few or none of the influences typical of most modern rock bands. Their sound is frozen in late-70s hard rock, with no contamination from hip hop, heavy metal, thrash, punk, goth, disco, or electronica. It's a little like the most accessible hard blues of Led Zepplin, with some Cheap Trick and maybe Bad Company thrown in. On stage, they do all the tired old tricks of the rock and roll trade, but the guys are young there are none of the paunches and stringy male pattern baldness one now associates with dinosaur rock. The crazy outfits, the pyrotechnics, the audience sing alongs, the raising of lighters during power ballads, they're all there. Even their equipment is old school; all the mikes and instruments are attached to long cords which go whipping about the stage as the musicians execute their crotch-ripping stage moves.
Part of the allure of this stuff is wondering if these guys are serious rock musicians or only playing them on stage. This is not to say that their music is complete rehash. The singer's voice is utterly unique, usually sung in a powerful falsetto. And the music is rather, I'm a little embarrassed to say, good, in a disposable pop kind of way. My favorite songs are the obvious ones: "Get Your Hands Off of My Woman, Motherfucker," and "I Believe in a Thing Called Love." They're catchy ditties, the kind you'll find yourself humming next time you wash dishes (despite all efforts not to).
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