This makes me want to set up a faux production company just to get them to build things for my new house. Warner Brothers Studio does custom work for non-Warner clients, provided you qualify as a customer and have a need for a twenty-foot tall vacuform bas-relief elephant, an exploding airplane, or a hundred Edwardian costumes.
Followup: Remember the time-traveller ad? Somebody's making a movie about it, with that one guy, and the chick, and the other guy. It apparently thinks it would be a better story if the ad was written by a real time-traveller rather than a bored typesetter at Backwoods Home Magazine. (Via)
Remember Destiny Floor? Today is the tenth anniversary of my having bought naming rights of part of a building at MIT, and against all odds they've kept that name the whole time. Here's a recent blog post about Destiny Floor, lovingly named after my kindergartener at the time. The namesake of Destiny Floor is now a sophomore in high school, thinking about driving and graduation and summer jobs, while Destiny's bathrooms have been vacant for a couple of hours.
New project: Dakota Death Trip. I've been saving weird story ideas since I started writing for Dakota Datebook, but these tend to be creepy rather than newsworthy. In the model of Michael Lesy's Wisconsin Death Trip, I'm putting them online, one a day, with a picture from my collection every Sunday. You can read sample pages from Wisconsin Death Trip here.
Turned turtle: To flip a car onto its top. I've seen this reference several times in pre-1930s newspapers and found it amusing. The US apparently stopped using it by the 1950s, but Asian and African newspapers of British ancestry still use the term today.
If you were unsure of how large the scale of oil production in North Dakota has grown, here's something to put it into perspective. Ths ISS released a video showing it screaming across the sky over North America, and one person noticed that there were thousands of square miles lit up as bright as any city where there shouldn't be anything so significant. It turns out the worklights from oil-rigs in the Bakken Formation are so numerous and dense that they're visible from 200 miles up, dwarfing metropolitan areas like Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Chicago.
I'm not sure how I missed this, but I love the forward-imagining of Fargo. The city itself has come up with the Go 2030 program, an open-organized civic planning thinktank designed to brainstorm what Fargo will be in twenty years. Their "Town Hall" is where citizens have offered their suggestions, and while the urban-artism is heartening, a city is more than an advanced recycling program and public arts. If these plans continue to be to eliminate living spaces and increase boutiques, as the current downtown 'planning' did, they're not going to be doing the town any good. Towns are both a place for living and a living place, and the solutions seem too sterile for real humans to live in. If you want to redevelop West Acres to be more 'walkable', devote time to making practical living spaces within a quarter-mile of the building, not planting trees and pouring fake cobblestone paths.
Sad news today: Tom Keith, aka Jim Ed Poole, passed away due to a heart attack on October 30th. He was the ever-talented sound-effects guy on A Prairie Home Companion, and I remember him more from the Minnesota Public Radio Morning Show he hosted with Dale Connelly. When I was a kid I often started the tape recorder when I left for school, to catch the end of the Morning Show, which included Dr. Science. Destiny and I got to see him perform live -- wearing that same sweater-vest and bowtie as always -- in 2002; here's the old post.
Most of what people call "texting-speak" today really hails from the days of BBSes and Usenet groups; as long as people have had to convert words to electricity, they've been abbreviating, all the way back to the days of morse code telegraphy. The more 'colorful' abbreviations, like WTF, would seem to hail from a more modern time, but the Old English Dictionary has traced the abbreviation of OMG all the way back to 1917. Source, here.
We're going to be upgrading servers around these parts within the next week, but this part makes me a little sad. One of the servers in the rack has been doing such a good job that nobody has rebooted him in a while:
14:37:53 up 927 days, 5:45
Yes, when I installed that SQL server two and a half years ago, I booted him up and didn't look back. Over 900 days is a long time for a server to be online; older versions of Linux would even fail after a point, automatically resetting to zero once they hit their limit. This server might be my personal longest uptime, but it's not the longest uptime ever, however. There's computers on the internet that haven't been rebooted in over four years. Still, 927 days is nothing to sneeze at. It's sorta nice to have machines that simply work, without complaint or errors.
Oh, the 'sad' part. The server is keeping up fine, but it's beginning to run out of memory. Right now it has an anemic 512mb of RAM -- that's half a gigabyte -- which was OK when it started, but the number of Wordpress blogs we're hosting has grown and the memory usage is getting up there. Two gigs of memory are on their way...but you can't replace RAM without shutting down the computer. So, those 900+ days will be erased, and I'll have to start counting all over again. I had been hoping to hit 1000 days of uptime, but I can't hold out for another two months. Sorry, Little SQL Engine Who Could: to help you get up that hill, I have to push you all the way back down.
The two new (used) servers that will replace the email and webserver have an interesting past, though. Each arrived with a "Property of Shopping.com" asset ID sticker on the side. Per our usual hardware rotation, I consistently buy 5-year-old used servers, so thank you, Shopping.com (an eBay company), for upgrading your servers and passing the old ones on to an electronics liquidator -- who then sold them on eBay to little old me. These servers are a magnitude of power faster than any other computer I've had; hopefully that means I'll be able to leave them on, chugging away, until they hit their own 900+ days of uptime.
I've got an article in this week's High Plains Reader, too: North Dakota students and financial literacy.
My first story for Prairie Public's Dakota Datebook aired yesterday. It's online now, including audio, all about the heroism of a teenaged Boy Scout in 1934.
Just because I like to share, a 180-degree panorama of the 2011 Fargo flood, viewed from the alley behind my house. It's pretty much all water any direction you look. Taken with my celphone camera, which isn't the greatest quality camera to begin with, but you get the gist of it. Just look at everything with a reflection; that's something sticking up from where it's dry the entire rest of the year.
Cool photos from MPR: before and during pictures of the Red River flooding. Note the "slider" in the middle of the pictures for switching back and forth easily.
This afternoon, I offered assistance to a fine old gentleman who was looking for the Social Security offices at the Post Office. I pointed him in the right direction, and he shook my hand and called me a "gentleman and a scholar". I thanked him, feeling good for being helpful and glad for the compliment, and although I was familiar with the phrase I thought it best to look it up. The phrase is from the Robert Burns poem Two Dogs: A Fable, and then later it appeared in Catcher in the Rye. In neither place is it truly a compliment; Burns muses on how more worthy the workingman is than the elite, and Holden Caufield uses it as a sarcastic insult. As I was leaving the post office, I saw the same man helping his wife struggle up the curb and to the sidewalk, now that he'd properly scouted their destination and confident that she wouldn't need to exert herself too much to get to where she needed to be. There's no doubt he meant it complimentary, and knowing I was helpful brightened my day.
There's a new paper in town - the Metro Weekly has launched, and they're giving away a cool grand! Well, by "new" I mean the same old paper rebranded yet again; The Metro Weekly is an extension of the Valley Midweek Marketplace, which evolved from the Midweek, a line of shoppers going all the way back to 1971. The content looks the same, but the $1000 is something new, so they've got that going for them, I suppose.
Yeah, it's no fun to be the butt of jokes, but there's something endearing about The Mike & Ike guys being banished to Fargo for failing to meet sales goals. The twenty-four members of the salesteam would have gotten Hawaii if they made a 4% improvement, but the state of the economy meant they got the boobie-prize: a trip to Fargo. From what I heard on the radio yesterday, not only is this giving them some publicity, but the Fargo visitors' bureau is using it to their advantage, too - every article about the talks about how it's not like the movie here, and how everybody's so nice. Sure, being sent to Siberia for failure seems like a joke, but everyone seems to be making something Good and Plenty out of it!
Kia hamsters? It started with this commercial, where wheel-running hamsters are jealous of their Kia Soul-driving brethren. It's just one clear joke, drawn out a bit too long, but effective - it even won a bunch of awards and accolades. You know what it needed? Maybe subvert the 'not getting anywhere' for the Sci Fi Channel. Or, humans and a giant hamster! Nah, that kinda sucked, and the obvious man-in-a-suit didn't really sell it. No, it needed a gallon bucket of anthropomorphic absurdity and frantic rotoscoping, and some snazzy dance moves that get everybody on the couch pointing madly around the room, challenging anyone to get with "this" or "that". There's some info on the filming about halfway down there. (ps: The original Black Sheep version, which has nothing to do with hamsters or cars). Oh, and this is just a little too silly, but you can play it here.
About the only place you see typewriters today is Mad Men or Harlan Ellison's desk. You, however, may be one of those people who sees them when doing the laundry or unpacking their Christmas decorations. If you've got a typewriter stashed away in the attic or basement -- and especially if you use it regularly -- Frank wants you to let him know. Send Typewriters Around the World a letter, a real letter on paper and everything, and tell him you're still clicking and clacking away on one.
Well, today is 10/10/10, or as the Romans would say, "XXX". Three Xes (as opposed to two Xes) had long been a standard "end" indicator for wired information like telegrams and news stories, and today it has been corrupted even further to three 'hashes' at the end of press releases.All of those are corruptions of the original telegraph code. XXX is 'thirty' in Roman numerals, and according to a 1860 book of morse code shortcuts, 30 means 'no more - end'. Part 1 and Part 2 of the shorthand are online, too, and might start showing up in Tweets if enough people learn about it.