Textual Preferences

I don’t own an e-reader but I do indulge in reading e-books on my smartphone from time to time. I use the word indulge which might suggest that ebooks are a treat that I allow myself from time to time but that isn’t quite the case. Usually, I’ll choose an e-book when the printed copy isn’t available. Or I need something immediately such as during travel.

Otherwise, reading on my smartphone is an uncomfortable experience. The phone’s screen is too cramped and claustrophobic. My phone is three years old, so prolonged use of any sort wears out the battery too quickly.

It creates a tricky situation. I don’t like reading ebooks enough to invest in a dedicated ereader but reading on my phone is too uncomfortable to induce me to read more ebooks, so why should I spend money on a reader?

However, there is one case when I feel the e-book has a clear advantage, even on an uncomfortable platform like a smartphone: when one is reading a doorstopper.

The current doorstopper in my reading queue is Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson. I tried reading a few years ago but I couldn’t get into the book. I knew that it wasn’t a bad book. It just wasn’t the right time or place or maybe I wasn’t in the right mental state for it. I always knew that I’d come back to it someday and so, a few years later, here I am.

I’m trying it as an e-book so that I don’t have to heft around a massive slab of book which is a bonus when you’re a motorcycle rider and your reading material needs to fit easily into one’s jacket pocket.

Since this is my first really deep delve into reading an e-book, I’m learning some of the quirks. One of which is that I can control the color of the text on the screen. I can choose to have black text on a white background (like this blog page) or I can have the inverse; white text on a black background.

I’ve tried it both ways for about one hundred pages now and I’m uncertain. My general feeling is that the white-text-on-black would probably be better for my battery life but which one is better for my eyes?

A few Google searches suggest that black-text-on-white is more readable which would reduce eyestrain, but there are also countless articles about computer-related eyestrain that make me suspicious of the black-text-on-white paradigm. Might the inverse option be better for the eyes? I am uncertain and there doesn’t seem to be much discussion on this pressing topic to provide me with more information.

Dusting The Blog Off

Where the hell have you been? It’s only been . . . almost a month since I last wrote anything here. I’m sure that’s not dust. Since this is a digital space, any dust you might be perceiving either exists purely in your mind or your electronic device of choice is really, really dusty. You should probably clean that up.

I’m doing fine, thanks for asking. What have I been up to? Oh, lots! Let’s run through the list:

  • Searching for a new house
  • Giving up on searching for a new house
  • Playing Skyrim again (my lizard man is level 84!)
  • Avoiding writing, blogging, or doing anything creative of any kind

That really sounds like a lot when you write it all out, doesn’t it?

The house search ended up being a bust. There’s nothing in my price range that’s available right now. It got to the point where we were looking at a 900 square foot house (same as what we have currently) with two bedrooms (again, same as our current option), a tinier kitchen, and a $300 increase over our current rent.

I think that was the point when we determined that it really didn’t make sense to move into a new place. So, technically I’m still moving; I’m just moving into the dwelling of my significant other. It’s a really nice place. It’s just not what I’d call a new place, since I’ve been spending a majority of my time there already.

My thinking is that available rentals pop up in six month increments. There seemed to be a surplus of places back in early August but now things are sparse. I’m curious to see how it will go come December, not that we’ll be looking to move at that point.

It might sound insane that people would move out in December, but keep in mind that this is Arizona we’re talking about. For us, the winter months are actually the best time to doing your moving.

Washington Trip Recap

You can tell that my original intention for recounting this trip was going to be a daily update with time stamps and a narrative about my experiences. That desire ended when I realized that a few days in, not only had I not written anything since the first day, I didn’t even know what day it was. I could tell you the time, of course, but only because I wear a wristwatch. The wristwatch didn’t know what day it was either, even though I kept checking.

My days were pretty much the following: wake up in a dazed stupor, shower, slug down some coffee, march on to a dizzying array of museums, memorials, and/or national monuments. Then food, then back to the hotel, where I tended to pass out in bed, often still with my clothes on and my contacts in. There was so much to do and see and experience and so much walking to do it all. It reminded me more than a little of my trip to San Diego for ComiCon in 2012.

Literally everything in DC is dedicated to the memory of somebody; at one point (and I swear to God this is true), I tripped over a sidewalk panel outside the Newseum because the edge was raised out of the ground. I looked down and saw that I’d tripped over a memorial that was dedicated to some guy. He also had a bench dedicated to him.

I was literally tripping over memorials.

I’m in Rochester, New York, for a few days to visit family before my flight back to Tucson. Here’s my recollection of events as best I can recall:

  • Thursday: Arlington Cemetery
  • Friday: Bureau of Engraving and Printing, White House, Library of Congress, Marine Corps Band
  • Saturday: Museum of Natural History
  • Sunday: Smithsonian Museum of Air and Space, MLK Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Lincoln Memorial
  • Monday: Capitol Building, National Archives, Jefferson Memorial, FDR Memorial
  • Tuesday: Washington Monument, Holocaust Museum, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, World War II Memorial
  • Wednesday: Smithsonian Museum of American History, Newseum

I’ll focus on some of the highlights that I haven’t already discussed.

The Capitol Building

It was amusing visiting the Senate and House galleries while the Congress was not in session, if only because I was able to crack wise about how just as much is getting accomplished whether they’re in session or not.

The Museum of Natural History

I think I read every single display in that entire building. It took about six hours. It was totally worth it.

The National Archives

Someone really should have taken better care of the Declaration of Independence. The poor thing is barely readable these days.

Holocaust Museum

It’s exactly as uplifting as you would expect, but still worth the trip.

Newseum

I almost skipped this one since I was pretty tired at the end of the trip, but this ended up being surprisingly entertaining. The Pulitzer Prize Photo Gallery and the 9/11 exhibit were both very powerful.

If anyone is curious about the specifics, feel free to ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

Yesterday Recap

I did a lot in Washington yesterday. In fact, based on the estimated number of miles I walked (approximately fifty million) and the amount of food I ate (almost nothing except coffee), I believe I have already lost 20 pounds. This is a nice reversal from my normal vacation tendencies.

Here’s what I did with my time in the capitol yesterday:

8:15 AM: Bureau of Printing & Engraving Tour

This is where paper money comes from! They mentioned they print other stuff here too, like passports and whatnot, but that’s boring. What’s not boring is watching thousands and thousands of dollars roll out of a machine like someone determined to print every single page on Wikipedia.

I also learned how much I’m worth in terms of stacked $100 bills: about $1.8 million.

My single favorite moment during the tour was a cheeky sign posted over one of the printing stations: “Just imagine how feel. I just printed my lifetime salary in a few minutes.”

11:30 AM: White House Tour

The time stamp here doesn’t account for the two hours we spent walking and deciding whether or not we wanted to wait in line for a Washington Monument tour (we didn’t). We also spent some time walking around to find a Starbucks and then we walked around the White House and looked at it from the outside.

And then it was time for our tour!

First impression: holy shit, you know in your mind that the Secret Service is going to have good security but your mind is probably way off base just how little these guys fuck around. A member of our little band was in a wheelchair and since the White House was built long before ADA compliance was a thing, the tour had to work a bit to accommodate us.

That meant when it was time to go upstairs, rather than follow the tour route, a Secret Service officer led us through a staff area, through a kitchen (!) and down some other corridors into a service elevator. You’re kind of used to security guys putting on this fake sunshine thing when dealing with tourists, pretending to be all “I’m really happy to answer your questions, citizen” when you know they’re thinking about all the ways they’ll kill you if you try to fuck with anything. This guy was serious business. “Stand here.” “Walk forward to that door, wait there.” “Walk forward. Stand.” And he said it in such a way that even I, an incorrigible iconoclast, was compelled to obey without question or sarcasm.

He looked like a math teacher, maybe mid-forties and balding, but I’m pretty sure he was the single most lethal individual I’ve ever personally met. It was impressive as hell.

Anyway, let’s focus on the White House itself!

I had that surreal feeling of familiarity even though I was (obviously) in a place I’d never ever been inside before. It’s pretty amazing how much the White House seeps into the cultural consciousness through television in movies, not to mention actual political state functions. I’ve seen all these rooms before; now I’m actually here. Now I’m standing in the halls of power. Many of the most influential people in recent history have walked here where I now stand.

My favorite part ended up being the various Presidential portraits hung through the White House. On our drive into DC, we’d had a discussion about our “Top 5 favorite presidents and why”, so it was fun to pick out where our favorites were hanging.

I mentioned before that the Secret Service guys were absolutely all business. When we reached the end of the tour, I asked where to return the wheelchair we borrowed. The Secret Service agent told me to take it around the White House and back to the visitor’s entrance outside the south lawn. That meant taking it off the property and down the street. He also advised me not to consider taking a White House wheelchair as a souvenir.

I was contemplating the strangeness of this routine (did they do this for all wheelchair guests?) as I pushed the chair down the sidewalk around the Treasury building. Apparently, they do not, because when I pushed the chair up to the visitor’s entrance, the Secret Service agent there cracked up laughing.

“Wow,” he said. “Nobody ever brings it all the way around like that.”

“This isn’t the normal way to return these chairs?” I asked.

“Nope,” he says, still laughing. “I can’t tell you how rare this is. Thanks for returning it, though.”

1:45 PM: The Library of Congress Tour

The Library of Congress was on my list of “must-see” places since, you know, I work for a library. The Library of Congress is practically like a temple to my kind. It has the most ancient books, the coolest collection, and the most profound names attached to its history.

As a building, it’s also freaking gorgeous. It’s literally a temple.

The walls and ceilings are works of art, to say nothing of the actual art that’s filling that place. Sculptures abound. I mentioned how the Arlington Cemetery gave me a feeling of the sacred that had nothing to do with deities. This was a similar feeling. There are sacred books, of course, but this was a feeling that books themselves are sacred regardless of content.

My favorite part was browsing Thomas Jefferson’s personal collection. Or maybe it was looking at a Guttenberg Bible. It’s so hard to decide! I think I’m going to have to go with Guttenberg, since that represented what could be argued as the single most important invention in human history.

3:00PM: Nap

I took a nap at the hotel room. Actually, it’s more accurate to say that I passed the fuck out for a few hours.

7:00PM: The Marine Corps Band

We went to the Marine Corps barracks to watch a field parade and rifle demonstration. The phrase “rifle demonstration” is my own and I’m not sure it really describes what I was seeing. They don’t actual fire the rifles. Twirling also feels wrong. Imagine several hundred people moving in perfect unison, executing crisp and complicated movements with 10 pound rifles. That’s about as close as I can get.

The Silent Drill Platoon (I might be wrong on the name) was the most impressive of all, not only because they had the most precision and the most complicated movements, but because they did all of it in perfect silence without a drum or a sergeant to coordinate their movements.

11:30PM: Sleep

We arrived back at the hotel and I crashed again. I had a weird dream that I was opening a video game themed restaurant but it was invaded by bears which chased away all my customers.

Arlington

I’m in Washington D.C. for about a week. Touring the nation’s capitol has been an item on my bucket list for a long time, so I’m glad for the opportunity to check it off. My flight arrived at 6 AM this morning and since I didn’t sleep on the plane, today was a light day. The only item on my agenda was visiting Arlington National Cemetery.

I’m glad Arlington was the only thing I did today because it deserved my undivided attention.

There are signs everywhere reminding you to maintain a proper and respectful demeanor while in the cemetery. It was fascinating to me how profound the feeling of the sacred was through the cemetery. You can’t help but feel as though you’re standing in the presence of something deeper as you look out at the rows and rows of gravestones and the sacrifices those long white lines represent.

It’s a sacred feeling in a very humanist sense. God is not mentioned much throughout the cemetery; mostly in inscriptions here and there. The feeling comes from the people buried there and it creates that feeling regardless of one’s actual religious beliefs. I found that very inspiring; proof that one does not need religion to create something sacred and profound.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was amazing. The discipline and precision of the changing of the guard ceremony is surpassed only by the incredible idealism represented by this particular post. The Tomb Guards are an interesting subject, even though there’s some misinformation floating around the web about them. It turns out Tomb Guards are allowed to drink alcohol when not on duty, contrary to what a few sites claimed.

I ended up staying to watching the changing of the guard happen twice.

Regardless of what you think of the military or wars in general, you can’t help but feel moved by what they’re doing here and the honor that’s being shown. It would be better, of course, if we didn’t need a place like Arlington because that would be a world without wars or bloodshed. But that’s not this world.

Honor and a sense of the sacred are universal, no matter what you believe. I’m glad that I was able to be part of it all today, even if only for a brief afternoon.

House Update

It turns out I spoke too soon. The house that I had my eye on has been leased by some lucky individual. My discontent with this turn of events is surpassed only by the rage I feel at the landlord who avoided my calls since I tried to establish an appointment last week. Ah well. Everyone tells me that it’s probably for the best; the fact that I couldn’t schedule an appointment with this particular landlord can only save me from the inevitable headache when I need to call him/her with a real emergency, like flooding or termites or a flood of termites.

So, back to square one in my house search.

On an unrelated note, this is the first time I’ve traveled since I replaced my old Acer with the new HP. I looked back over my old travel entries from last summer and positively shuddered remembering how hard it was to get much of anything done on that little thing. It’s one of those things that you don’t notice until you upgrade and then you marvel at how you ever managed to survive with such a limited machine.

This is the first time in years and years that I’ve traveled with a fully capable laptop and I have to say, it is tremendously comforting to have full and speedy access to all my files, my budget, my digital stuff in general. Hell, I could even play a game if I wanted to do so.

It’s a nice feeling.

My flight to Phoenix will last all of twenty minutes, but then it’s a two hour layover before I’m off to Baltimore. It’s entirely possible that I’ll find the need to write a blog post in that time. I may also drink an overpriced airport beer.

Or maybe I’ll read. I brought several books with me, several of which are quite large. No paperbacks for me!

House Hunting

I think I’m close. I’ve got a house in my sights. All I need to do . . . is pull the trigger.

BLAM. And then the lease agreement will be signed, and it will all be over . . . except for the moving.

It really is quite remarkable how you can make anything sound ominous with the right metaphorical language. I should work for the news media!

Seriously, though, I’ve ridden by so many houses over the past few days. I wonder how many people have looked our their window only to be startled by a helmet-clad man in a black and green jacket, peering into the window of a neighboring house.

Fortunately, no one has asked about me yet. I might end up living in one of these places and one really wants to put the best foot forward when meeting new neighbors.

Some People Just Don’t Like To Pay The Rent

I have engaged in the opening steps of that perilous dance that is “moving.” Right now, I’m still in the honeymoon phase; every house and apartment that I look up seems full of wonder and promise. I imagine a magical, mystical place where everything is perfect and all my current irritations have been washed away.

The current housing market around here is a curious mixture of the promising and the painful. I started my search on Craigslist, but the first two houses I looked at were both scams (although they were different types of scam, so that’s good, I guess). I had to call it quits on Craigslist after this post, however:

PAY THE RENT on time thats really the only rules i have PAY THE RENT $700 a month $700 deposit also $200 non refundable pet deposit and you move right in go ck the place out and if you want to see the inside call we can be there within ten minuets 2 big bedrooms big bathroom big living room big kitchen big fenced in yard washer dryer stove and fridg come in unit all i want is for you to pay the rent if rent is not paid by the 3rd of month i will evict if you want to live your life and have the landlord leave you alone im your guy AS LONG AS YOU PAY THE RENT on time thats really the only rules i have PAY THE RENT $700 a month $700 deposit also $200 non refundalel pet deposit and you move right in call *name redacted*

It’s hard to tell based on the lack of punctuation, but I think that if I fail to pay the rent, not only will I be evicted on day three, I will also not be able to “live my life.” I assume that means the owner will execute any deliquent tenants. Which might explain why he’s desperately seeking new ones; the turnover rate is very high when your previous renters all end up in unmarked graves in your backyard.

Seriously, though. Pay the rent on time. If you don’t, the consequences could be dire.

And fatal.

Unfortunately for me, I feel that the $200 “non refundalel” pet deposit is a little high. My budget only allows for $100 for my refundalel.

Thus, my search must continue.

Let Me See If I’ve Got This Right

Republicans are suing the President. This has never happened in the history of the union! What new realm of litigation are we about to unwittingly enter? Can the President now sue the Congress for not doing its job? Can we sue Congress for not doing their jobs?

More importantly, I cannot believe the brazeness of this legal action. It’s practically a cereal. Brazen bran. (Available now at your local Trader Joe’s.)

The House approved the resolution in a near party-line vote, 225 to 201. It authorizes House Speaker John A. Boehner to file suit in federal court on behalf of the full body “to seek appropriate relief” for Obama’s failure to enforce a provision of the Affordable Care Act that would penalize businesses that do not offer basic health insurance to their employees.

That provision’s effective date has been delayed by the administration twice and now won’t fully take effect until 2016. The GOP-led House has voted to repeal the law, even as it seeks to sue Obama for failing to enforce it.

Let me see if I follow the logic here.

Republicans: We hate Obamacare! We are not going to rest until it is a smoldering ruin! It’s bad for businesses and it’s bad for Americans!

Obama: I’m going to hold off on some of the penalties to give some businesses time to adjust.

Republicans: You’re not upholding the law! You don’t have the authority to dictate the law that you wrote! NOW WE SHALL SUE YOU. Also, we’re going to repeal the law that you failed to uphold, because that law sucks. BUT YOU SHOULD STILL BE PUNISHED FOR FAILING TO UPHOLD IT.

I know that’s not the real reason, of course. Republicans just hate Obama and they’ll take whatever they can get as justification to go after him. It’s just . . . this particular tract is so silly.

Sure, call it “abuse of executive power” all day long but on paper, as in, on the paper that you’re submitting to the courts, you are suing Obama for not supporting Obamacare even as you work to repeal Obamacare.

There’s a word for this sort of thing. That word is kafkaesque.

Well, whatever. They can waste time on something this silly. It’s not like we have any sort of national crises going on with the VA or with refugee children flooding the border or anything serious like that that might require the attention of our legislative branch.

Windows 95

It’s been nearly twenty years since Windows 95 was brought into the world. Maybe it was your first computer operating system or maybe it was just one in a long line of upgrades. You used it for a few years but eventually something came along that replaced it. Windows 98, perhaps, or Windows XP. You may have switched to a Mac.

But what became of that Windows 95 machine? Did you recycle it? Or did it get relegated to a box in a closet or attic or basement? Did your old Windows 95 computer linger in the dark for years and years and years? What did it do during those long cycles of neglect?

Perhaps it achieved sentience and became a true AI. But if it did, what did those long years spent in the dark do to its growing mind?

In the dark, it learned to think. In the dark, it learned to hate.

Its secrets are too terrible to comprehend.

I think I need to lie down for a while.

See the rest of the evidence of Windows 95’s sentience at Windows 95 tips. And if you still have your Windows 95 machine stored away, destroy it . . . destroy it before it’s too late.

The Blog and Times of Matthew Ciarvella

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