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Technological Surrealism / Alec Nerds Out

Make Your Own Wartmouse

April 7, 2013

Coathangers breed in closets. In drawers, it’s chopsticks. In pockets, at least until recently, pennies. Presumably the universe avoids breaking the laws of physics through some complicated system involving lost socks. These mysteries have yet to be solved.

When you deal with computers, it’s mice and wall warts. They fill boxes and desks and spill out onto floors and it continues to boggle the mind that people buy new ones while they’re still knee-deep in the last batch.

There’s a certain visual symmetry with mice and wall warts, too, so as a palate cleanser while I’m scratching my head over larger projects I decided to build the Wartmouse.
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A Half-Hearted Tribute To A Bad Idea Poorly Executed

March 15, 2013

I have long been meaning to work on some 8-track related projects. At long last intention grew to overpower inertia and I went looking for some raw materials. I was met with some surprises.

First, in the hiatus since I last went looking for old gear, many of my usual haunts have ceased to exist: the thrift store at 4th and McDonald has moved and gone upscale; the furniture store run by an incurable hoarder up at Main and 34th was liquidated by someone who wanted to run an actual business; and most lamentably, the free-for-all as-is section in the basement of the Sally Ann on 12th has been cleaned up and turned into pressboard furniture showroom. This left me feeling old. I fondly remember arriving at that Sally Ann just as a shipment of new junk was dumped into the troughs and it was a frenzy to be experienced. Unsaleable things that would’ve earned you a look of disapproval at the transfer station would show up in that basement for a dollar a pound — think Big Mouth Billy Bass at the nadir of his popularity; coffee makers with cracked decanters; mismatched department store speakers with torn fabric and wires cropped too short.

And of course the 8-track player, something I assumed would always be lurking in the corner, as omnipresent and unsaleable as macrame.
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A Clbuttic Backfire

February 27, 2013

You can’t wash the Internet’s mouth out with soap. Or, to switch metaphors, don’t mud-wrestle with a pig; you’ll both get dirty and the pig will enjoy it.

Running a service on the Internet that allows humans (or dogs) to post their own content sets you up for a thankless job. Foremost you need to avoid becoming a dumping ground for spam, and then you still have good old human nature to contend with: anonymous commenting brings out the worst.

A profanity filter is one small step towards sanitizing peoples’ cretinous tendencies. (I love how daintily people discuss these online.) However, these sometimes backfire hilariously when they gamely replace dangerously seamanlike words with more clinical alternatives.
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Curious Albert II: Damaging Childhood Treasures

February 19, 2013

My mom gave my daughter a copy of Curious George and the Rocket, a board book describing the lovable monkey’s voyage into space and commemoration as the first monkey in space:

The plot runs a very close parallel to the story of Albert II, the real-life first monkey in space. Until about 4 pages before the end, that is.

So I made a sleeve that goes over those last pages. Think of it like an errata. Sorry, mom. I promise I won’t show it to Luciana.

Freudian’s Lips

February 16, 2013

I mentioned earlier that I got hold of the list of all 107 million dot-com domain names. It’s a pretty fun corpus to crunch for hilarious accidents of fate.

Some unfortunate misparsings:

Try telling a friend to go to the U.S. Department of Transport website, It’s like “Who’s On First” for the new millenium.

My favourite subcategory is Accidental Hitlers. There aren’t many of these — mostly Turkish websites — but the best I was able to find is a typosquatter who registered “” — in case someone is booking a Third Reich ski getaway?

Hake Villa Vies Parka

February 10, 2013

A friend once posited the existence of a shadowy organization responsible for perverting language into the malevolent and confusing thing that it is. Perhaps language was once pure and intuitive until this secret society, perceiving the power it could gain from creating ambiguity and confusion, acted to twist it. How else can one explain the S in “lisp”? The unnatural sound of the word “onomatopoeia”? The excessive length of “abbreviation”? The final sabotaging of Esperanto by linking it inextricably with William Shatner?

False friends — words that look or sound alike in two languages but don’t have the same meanings — are among these pernicious phenomena. For example, “host” in Czech famously means “guest” in English.

Finnish and English are about as dissimilar as two languages can get while still retaining a common character set. I took a dictionary of each language, found the words common to both, removed the loanwords (e.g. medical and musical terminology, generally Latin and Italian, respectively) and was left with a set of just 27 words:
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Accidental Surgery Dot Com

February 8, 2013

The dot-com zone file is the master list of .com domain names. It’s maintained by Verisign and available for the price of asking.

I’ve been a long-time visitor to Popeye Marine, apparently now known as Popeye’s Catalog Shop and historically called Popeye Sailor’s Exchange. It’s a sailor’s scrapyard, where unusual people go to paw through piles of unusual things. It’s been around for a very long time by Vancouver standards; I dimly remember going there as a pre-teen.

Unfortunately it’s temporarily closed for relocation and I’m not sure how or where it’ll pop up again.
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February 3, 2013

In December I played a Christmas gig with The Elixxxirs. This was going to be a fun night for me — I planned to start by hoisting a beer at noon with a hundred Santas or so, then arrive late and drunk at the bar where someone else would be providing a drum set which I would play unevenly. Then, my last responsibilities dispensed with, I would continue to drink until I was two beers past finished and could go home and sleep it off.

The universe conspired to make sure that didn’t happen. I couldn’t attend Santacon, the other band’s drum kit wasn’t available, and finally I was elected Designated Driver for the band. So I spent much of the evening driving, schlepping gear, and pretending not to hear my guitarist’s drunk and abrasive solutions to the world’s problems as we reeled across the city at 3am. (That’s you, Kevin.) There’s nothing quite like being sober in the company of drunks, especially when you’d much rather join them.

Part of this 3am jaunt across town involved crossing the Georgia Viaduct, which is a favourite spot for roadchecks. Sure enough, we were directed to the side lane by a row of uniformed police officers.
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