« September 2006
November 2006 »
Use DreamHost, foolish humans!

I've just discovered that DreamHost has a referral program that allows me to get a discount if I trick you into signing up for their service.

But there's something in it for you, too! When you sign up, enter the promo code THANKSRUS and you will get 20% off the first payment of the service, up to $50.

So don't ever say I never gave you nothin'. (Mostly because that's terrible grammar. You talk to your mother with that mouth?)

Jotspot Acquires Google's Free Snacks

Today JotSpot announces it's acquisition by Google. (Press Release is here.) This deal has been in the works for quite some time, and has been a lot of work to get things ready. So if I've seemed to be a bit crazy recently, that's why. (Okay, who am I kidding, that's not why--- I'm just naturally neurotic.)

It's a big relief to all of us to finally see it close and get announced so that we can discuss it and start to explore all of the possibilities that we think this new direction will open up for us. Unfortunately Google is a secretive place, so going forward there is little I'll be able to discuss with folks outside Google about what I'm doing.

This also means that starting next week I will be a real honest-to-heck Google Employee, reporting to the main Mountain View campus, fighting over parking spots and eating free bananas. (Truth be told, the free bananas are all I ever really wanted out of this.)

Arizona Pictures

Pictures are up:

Peaceful Solitude
The Desert View Watchtower, built in 1930, offers a breathtaking view of the Grand Canyon. In addition to the view it offers, the tower itself is a beautiful structure, artfully designed to blend with and compliment the wild, untamed surroundings of one of America's greatest natural features.

I find it to be an interesting photo subject, so I took a number of pictures of it. This is one of the more dramatic ones:
But later I looked more closely at my serious, dramatic photographs, and discovered an unexpected twist to my subject matter:

Ah, tourists. Gotta love 'em.
Be EXTRA careful

As part of the Grand Canyon National Park's sophisticated forest fire prevention program, they've instituted this highly informative public education campaign. I wonder if it's working?

Fantasy Goat

I know I've said it before, but if you don't read Fantasy Goat you need to start. Each post is a picture so it will never take you more than a second or two to read it. And it's always been worth it, I would say maybe the highest enjoyment-per-time-reading ratio of anything I read.

Stranger in a strange land

The Southwest Impreza Club meets at a bar in Phoenix every Thursday night, and since I wanted to do some activity that I wouldn't ordinarily do, I swallowed my intense fear of strangers and showed up. I didn't know what to expect; I wasn't sure if I'd be explaining what a "modification" is, or if I'd be enduring scowls because my car was so dirty. I even half-imagined that someone would ask me to give them a ride in my setup. Ha ha.

It turns out that of the 15 kids who showed up, none of them gave my car a second look, and not just because it was dirty. You see, my Subaru was the only one in the parking lot that was 4 years old. Also, it was the only one with more than 80,000 miles. Also, it was the only one that put less than 300hp to the wheels. Also, it was the only one that didn't have any plexiglass or LEDs in the engine compartment. And it was definitely the only one that still had all 6 stock stereo speakers. Oh, and it also had the quietest exhaust. The quietest by far.

After some dutiful engine revving and and stereo-listening, we adjourned to the bar, where the various characteristic insanities of each of the club members was revealed. Oh, and were they ever crazy. After a couple hours of sipping Sprite and not saying much to the stream of bullshit that was spewing forth from the mouths of everyone there (which increased in force with each beer), I quietly asked a couple of the guys "So, do you guys autocross or do any driving events or racing?" This query resulted in a dismissal of autocross as "way too hard", and then a bunch of kill stories about how this one dude totally walked this Dodge Charger this one time, even though there were 4 people in his car and he was totally like in top gear and was barely trying. And while there was much talk of software, exhausts, and intakes, neither suspension nor tires were mentioned the entire evening.

At the end of the night I finally asked someone "so, where are there some roads around here with some curves, like where do you go for canyon runs?". After some scratching of heads someone said "South Mountain Road has some turns, but it's not open at night." And that's when I realized that none of these people ever turn. They only talk about street racing because what on earth else is there to do in a city that's made out of a giant grid of straight streets?

I slunk back to my hotel in disappointment. Apparently there aren't "turners" in Phoenix.

Highway Jack

I followed this man half way to Phoenix. Based on his license plate, his personal appearance, his choice of car, his driving style, and my intense boredom, I concocted this elaborate story:

Highway Jack roams the highways of Arizona, maybe the highways of all of America. Jack likes to be comfortable, and that's why Jack drives a car with a bit of power, that's comfortable, and has lots of room. Jack knows every road, every gas station attendant, every cop, every passing zone. And Jack isn't afraid to pass. Jack doesn't drive crazy, but Jack has been driving long enough to know that the miles tick by at a much more comfortable rate when the needle is above 90. Not above 100, that would be ridiculous. But 80, 90, that's a good speed for Arizona's roads. Jack has a radar detector, and knows when to slow down to avoid getting a speeding ticket. Jack doesn't hate cops, mind you; Jack has a certain sympathy for them, since he chose his car for the same reasons that the police choose that car. But it's a gentlemanly agreement that if Jack doesn't drive too fast around cops, cops won't have to mess with Jack.

Eventually Jack's taste for going 20mph over the posted speed limit was more than I could stand, so I stopped following him. But I can't help but feel that I encountered a legend today. Admittedly sort of a dull, mediocre legend, but in this day and age this is what legends have been reduced to. I blame the Republicans.

It's almost 300 miles from Mojave National Preserve to Phoenix. That's 300 miles that I really did not care to drive, after putting in 500 yesterday. The route looks like this:

Fortunately my sat-nav has a "shortest distance" mode that was able to suggest a tempting shortcut, a route that knocked almost 100 miles of distance off the trip. That's too much distance to ignore. On the map, the shortcut follows "Alamo Road", and it looks like this:

Unfortunately, "Alamo Road" turned out to be this:

So while it was fun to involuntarily discover my car's latent rally abilities, and it was extremely beautiful, and it got me thinking seriously about how long I could survive in the desert with the crap in my car (I had bought a lighter earlier that day), the shortcut was definitely not faster. Good thing I'm not on a schedule.
Middle of Nowhere. Really.

Did you know that it's possible to be 187 miles from the nearest Starbucks? Inside the state of California, no less?

An honest business

If you were to Google for the town of Fenner, California, you would find less web presence for it than most laundromats have. That's because there is nothing near Fenner for 150 miles in any direction, and there is nothing in Fenner except for this gas station (which is actually quite nice inside):

I stopped because I needed coffee (see Oh, the Darkness). I didn't even look at the price of gas at this station, especially not after seeing this sign posted on the door, and posted again inside next to the cash register:

Oh, the darkness

One of the very first and most important inventions of mankind is fire, and you might think of it as an uplifting, spiritual component of camping.

But I now think of fire as a single point of failure of camping. Having remembered to bring coffee, mocha, water, a stove, a car, a cup, a can of soup, a spoon, and even propane, you might think that the consequences of forgetting a lighter would amount to at most a 10% reduction in the fun-ness of camping after dark. But folks I'm here to tell you that it causes problems all out of proportion with the amount of space that it takes up in the car.

So on my first night of camping I had no way to start a fire to heat soup or even warm my hands. (Well, no practical way. My car's cigarette lighter is sitting at home in my garage, but something else on my car does heat to over 451 degrees F. And I almost did it, I almost kindled a fire by touching a paper towel to my turbo, but then at the last minute I realized that an engine compartment fire is exactly the sort of thing that I wouldn't want to trade for hot soup. So I went to bed.)

However, one piece of ingenuity that I did execute was to make a lantern out of my drinking water and my flashlight. That's what this is:

So I was at least able to read and use my camera.

Desert of bunnies

As far as I can tell, the desert is made of bunnies. For example, look at this picture of the desert:

It looks basically bunny-free, but if you were to walk or drive through this scene, some of the landscape would turn into no less than 50 bunnies, who would then run a short distance, briefly looking like terrified bunnies, and then turn back into the landscape, like so:

It's seriously uncanny how invisible they are when they're holding still. Even when I've spotted them because they've moved, if I look away and then look back I usually can't find them again. But there are so many that I'm afraid of being quiet for fear of stepping on one.

Beware the trans-cow

Eastern California and Arizona are dotted with these yellow signs warning of impending attack by trans-gendered cows that have both horns and an udder.

I thought this was hilarious and wanted to share it with you, until I did some extremely minimal fact-checking and found out that female bovines can have horns, too.

So instead, what's funny about this post is that I am an idiot city slicker. (And if you laughed at the first sentence, then I guess so are you. Venti no-whip half-caf, anyone?)

Mr. Moneybags

Lerdo Highway intersects I-5 on the way down to Arizona. That name may ring a bell for you if you've ever had to smell Buttonwillow Raceway up close. Since I'm not on a schedule I decided to stop and see if anything was going on that was worth watching at the track.

And there would have been something cool to watch, because this guy with a racing Porsche had rented the track by himself for the whole day to test his car (this is very expensive). But then spent the whole day working on the car instead, because it kept getting stuck and breaking down.

Such is racing.


Another October, another nervous breakdown, another soul-searching drive out into the desert before I start a terrifying new chapter of my career. This trip is longer, and further, and I'm doing it alone, which I think adds nicely to the Mystique of Crazy that seems to surround me more and more these days.

If I don't come back, you can go ahead and assume that it was bears or mechanical failure, and not that I decided to become a park ranger under an assumed name somewhere in New Mexico.

Less is More

I've been using a crappy tape-deck-adapter-plus-cigarette-lighter-charger to listen to my iPod, and the sound quality is bad enough that I finally got fed up. Unfortunately my stock stereo has no iPod hole, so I was forced to replace it.

In order to get the one feature I wanted (better iPod sound quality) I've had to tolerate a huge slew of sad compromises in other areas: the replacement (made by Alpine) has only a single CD, not a changer; it is too bright at night and not bright enough in daylight; and it plays bass too thumpy and treble too searingly.

But all of these drawbacks are a tiny spec on the Windshield of Inconvenience compared to Usability: man oh man, is it confusing. It has less buttons than my old unit, which looks like this:

In this diagram I've labelled each of the Subaru unit's 20 buttons with all of the things that it can do in all of the possible modes of the device. Note that many of the buttons only do one thing, and are labelled as such ("TAPE" only plays the tape. That's all it does.)

Here's the same diagram for my new Alpine, which has only 15 buttons:

It's ridiculous how complicated it is. You probably think I'm being unfair, because it has a "setup" menu that overloads the function of the buttons, but really it's not just that. Every different little thing you do (listen to the radio, choose a song) remaps the buttons completely, and there's little consistency in the interaction. Even the giant wheel (which is the biggest control by a factor of 10) is only sometimes used to select items in a list. Sometimes it's the vertical arrow keys on the left, and sometimes it's the tune buttons.

On the positive side, I feel safe owning my Alpine because who on earth would steal this thing? Or even figure out how to steal it?

They're all around you

Yesterday I learned a disturbing fact: at any moment you may be surrounded by spies from Ikea. Apparently they send plain-clothes employees to mingle with you while you're on the showroom floor, to watch how you interact with the displays, which products you look at, what you say, etc, to try to improve the sets and products. But really, who knows how they might abuse their incognito powers.

Isn't that creepy?

Crazy Josh's Bandwidth Emporium

Another month, another totally lunatic newsletter from zerotrickpony's hosting company, DreamHost. Apparently they have a breeding pair of Seagate 400GB drives, because they just upped my disk limits to 400GB, which is enough to do a complete offsite backup of my servers, including MP3s and movies. They also upped my bandwidth limits to 4TB/month, which is enough to transfer my entire porn collection to everyone I know 10 times per month.

Even I don't need that kind of bandwidth. What is wrong with these people?

The views expressed on this site are mine personally, and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.