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Read Me A Story, The Meme

I’d have titled this “TMI Thursday, Storytime Edition,” if this was still Thursday. In fact it’s Friday, and there’s not even much of that left.

1. Describe your favorite place to cozy-up with a good book.
Once upon a time, the answer was the lunch table. Things have changed and I don’t bring reading to work with me any more. I wish my answer could be a big comfy chair, but while I do have a recliner, it’s kind of in the dark, so that’s no good. I do most of my reading in bed.
2. What do you read when you’re on the toilet?
I do not understand the bringing of magazines and newspapers onto the toilet. Maybe it’s different for parents who have no other refuge from their horrible children, and maybe it’s different for those who suffer chronic constipation, but I just don’t see any need for lollygagging over the crapper.
3. Do you read when taking a bath?
They say that it’s delightful and relaxing, but I’ve only ever ruined books that way. “They say” is a great liar.
4. If you can, do you read when at the gym?
How would that even work? I guess if you sort of propped up a book on the treadmill console, maybe. I doubt that would be any good. The movement would make it easy to lose your place, and you’d easily knock the book down when turning the pages.
5. Do you still read newspapers and or magazines?
I have one magazine subscription, and that’s to Make magazine. Sometimes weird industry periodicals show up at my desk, and I feel just a little bit guilty throwing those away unread, so I sort of skim through those, you know, just to be polite.
6. What are your favorite genres to read?
Science Fiction, cyberpunk and space opera. Fantasy is nice, too, but it has to be the good stuff. Humorous memoirs. Science, technological history.
7. Do you read one book at a time or can you read several?
I prefer to just stick to one, when possible.
8. If you start a book, do you finish it no matter what?
There is a thing called the fifty-page test, that says you needn’t continue reading after page fifty if you can’t stand what you’ve read so far. I’ve only canceled a few readings at page fifty. It’s usually in the middle third that I usually start to question a book. But if I’m more than halfway through, I will usually plod on to the end, just to find out what happens. There could well be an astounding payoff that would make the trek worth it. (There just as easily could not be.)
9. Did your parents read to you when you were growing up?
Yes, they did, until I could read for myself.
10. Have you read to your kids/nephews/nieces?
I have a picture of myself with a niece holding a book, so I must have done.
11. How do you feel about reading books vs. using electronic devices? Have your feelings evolved from one or two years ago?
Electronic devices have the portability aspect nailed down. However, you can still have any number of paper books open at one time, they don’t automatically dim to save battery life, and they won’t just vanish if things happen with software.
BONUS
When was the last time you looked at or read an adult magazine to satisfy yourself? When was the last time you even saw one?
It was long ago and far away, in a magical land called the Pre-9/11 World. This was back when the Web was all in Times New Roman and full of speckly GIFs, so of course printed media was king. As we all know, that reign didn’t last for much longer. I think the last time I saw such a publication was probably in a liquor store, just a glimpse of the discreet corner, and its rows of prurient, yet primly-wrapped, publications.

TMI Thursday, Stinker Edition

THERE’S SOMETHING IN THE AIR

1. Do you have a sensitive nose?
Is there such a thing as being smellerblind? I may well have once been so. For a time, I worked in the printing industry, infumed in a pervasive miasma of pungent inks and solvents. After a while, I stopped noticing the chemical reek. By then I often had to explicitly be told when the trash or refrigerator or fish tank at home needed attention. That eventually went away after a change in career.
2. Do you have allergies?
If so, I don’t know to what.
3. Do you have a big nose? =}
I… guess? We can’t all have the late Michael Jackson’s anime nose.
4. Are there any smells that trigger memories for you?
Orange peel. A particular herb that grows in the country, whose name I don’t know. A closet full of old books. The almondy hand soap you sometimes find. A particular type of refrigeration. Rain and solder. Jasmine flowers. Pool chlorine.
5. What are some of your favorite food aromas?
Diners used to smell of a combination of: coffee, beef gravy, and a puff of cigarette smoke. I find it oddly comforting when a restaurant’s restroom smells just of Pine-Sol. As for cooking, everyone seems to love the smell of sauted garlic and onions and grilled beef. I do, too. Oh, and pizza.
6. What are some of your favorite smells in nature?
The rain on the parched earth. Freshly cut grass.
7. Do you use air fresheners?
Sometimes, but they usually just smell hokey and fake for a few days, then they just sort of evaporate. Better just to have good ventilation.
8. Do you like scented candles?
Not often. They usually just smell like soap, or cheap candy.
9. Which food smells make you want to hurl?
One time, I was walking past this restaurant, and I seriously could not tell if I was smelling their food or their garbage. They have since closed.
10. What is the absolute worst smell for you?
Melted insulation, burned metal, charred phenolic: something bad has happened.
BONUS
What smells or aromas turn you on?
I really had to think about this one, but I’m not sure there is one particular cologne or funk or other aroma that would really raise my eyebrows. But then again, maybe there is, maybe it’s something from long ago or maybe it’s something from just recently, but I won’t know for sure until I encounter it again, and those molecules in the air trigger a connection in my brain.

TMI Thursday, Sochi Edition

I spaced out on doing the 12-on-12 photo challenge yet again. To be honest, it would have been an extremely boring twelve photos, as I spent almost the entire day at my desk. I’d claim I didn’t even see the sun, but I now recall that I did, in fact, buy a bag of junk food at Seven-Eleven.

As a consolation prize, please enjoy this TMI Tuesday Thursday meme instead. Or don’t.

THE WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES

1. In general (we’ll get to the politics in a few) do you watch the Winter Olympics?
I can’t say that I’ve ever really watched the Winter Olympics, and this hasn’t really changed this year. I saw a few minutes of ice skating, and that was only because the restaurant where I ate had it on all the screens.
2. Winter or Summer?
I can’t say that I’m a big Summer Olympics fan, either. I know, this is the point where one is expected to make a lascivious comment about swimsuits and/or wrestling singlets, and I certainly would not argue with such comments in general, but scanty sportswear is not quite enough motivation to get me to tune in.
3. What are your favorite winter events? Do you follow any of them outside the game?
This may come as a shock, but I don’t follow sports in general.
4. Which sport needs to stay and which one needs to go?
I just tell you that I don’t follow sports and now you ask me to pass judgment on them? Even if I could name more than ice skating and snowboarding, I still would not. The fact that anyone would train so hard to try and be the best in the world at any sport should give it some legitimacy.
5. Which is the weirdest sport?
I heard there was an event that consisted of cross-country skiing and target shooting. The idea’s more amusing to me than it is weird.
6. What is your POV on boycotting The Olympics by countries and or athletes?
As with boycotting anything else, it’s a gesture, but like any gesture, it probably won’t solve anything on its own.
7. Are you boycotting NBC or any Olympic sponsors?
Yes, my total disinterest in the games has really been a carefully calculated political statement all along. Moo hoo ha, moo hoo ha.
8. Do you think boycotts are effective?
Almost never. An effective consumer boycott requires a critical mass of participants, and there are just too many consumers today. It all just sort of averages out. Now, a sponsor boycott or a vendor boycott can be quite effective.
9. If you were an athlete what would you do?
It would probably be something that was equally obscure, ridiculous, and manly. Caber toss, maybe, or that thing where you run on a barrel floating in the water, or maybe the Biathlon.

TMI Thursday

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY:

1. What do you think of Valentine’s Day?
I believe that there are two kinds of holidays: gift holidays and party holidays. Gift holidays are created or commandeered by marketers in order to manipulate consumers into buying products. Not surprisingly, I prefer the party holidays.
2. Are you romantic?
Romantic is a word that is used so often that it’s lost any clear meaning. One might expect the definition of romantic to simply be a list of things such as scented candles, rose petals, champagne, a fireplace, and some funky bucka chicka wow wow from the hi-fi. But it is not. In fact, the definition of romantic boils down to something like impractical idealism. So in that sense, no, I do not consider myself romantic.
3. Candy or Flowers?
Candy. What good are flowers? You look at them for a few days before they shrivel and have to be thrown away, and they generally aren’t very tasty.
4. What is Valentine’s Day like when you’re single?
On one hand, one doesn’t suffer the obligation of paying tribute to one’s sweetheart, but on the other hand, one is constantly reminded of the lack of the sweetheart to pay tribute to. I’d call it a wash.
5. What do you plan on doing this Valentine’s Day?
I shall do my part to deflate the Valentine’s Day juggernaut by not buying any gifts, nor patronizing any restaurants or amusement parks. Call it Buy Nothing Day, Part Two.
6. Your relationship is ending, do you break up before or after?
Before would be better. That way he could at least return any expensive gifts he’d been planning on giving. I’d expect the same courtesy.
7. What was your WORST Valentine’s Day?
I’d just transferred into a new elementary school. The teacher had the idea that I should deliver the valentines to learn the other students’ names. Sure, it sounds like a sensible plan, but I apparently got a lot of students mixed up, and of course, little children are not tactful when giving criticism.
8. What was your BEST Valentine’s Day?
I was going to list this as WORST, but after thinking on it, it actually was a good day. A while back, I was talked into going on a zombie walk. My pack of zombies and I had a bit of trouble finding the route, and ended up wandering through downtown far from the main zombie horde. We never found the main horde, and instead ended up attending a concert and eating late-night waffles while still coated in gray grease paint and fake blood.
BONUS
Do you expect to have sex because it’s Valentine’s Day?
Not unless I’ve also been treated to expensive gifts and a fancy dinner, and then find myself surrounded by scented candles, rose petals, champagne, a fireplace, and some funky bucka chicka wow wow from the hi-fi.

Things To Do

Although it’s now the third fourth of January and I am now quite extremely late to the party, I’d like to talk about New Year’s resolutions, or lack thereof. I’ve said before what I think of resolutions.

Some people have since suggested setting New Year’s goals rather than making resolutions. I think this is a step in the right direction, but the word “goal” just seems too loaded. I think of sports and salespeople, and high pressure to achieve.

On the other hand, a list of “Positive Visualizations for the New Year,” would go too far in the opposite direction. I don’t mean to sit around wishing for things all year, without also helping those things to happen.

Therefore, I have resolved to make a New Year’s To-Do list:

Finish the Wall
One of the walls in the living room once hosted a shelf which nearly collapsed. After the shelf was removed, I tried to find some other way to decorate the wall. It’s almost done, but it’s been “almost done” for quite a while, now. I need only print some pictures to put in the frames already on the wall, then hang a mirror and some other bits of décor. Then it will be “mostly done.”
Clear the Room of Doom
The floorplan lists the Room of Doom as a bedroom. I used to call it “the office.” It has since turned into something more akin to a giant closet, thanks to a collecting hobby or two. It’s time to get this stuff better organized. Heaven forbid I suggest getting rid of any of it, but maybe renting a storage unit would be a good idea.
Return to Diet
Most people put on weight during the holidays, what with the abundance of pies, egg nog, and liquor. The shorter days and the colder weather surely discourage exercise. Regardless, the fact that I have more pants that don’t fit than do is a sign that enough is enough. I had a diet that did work (if slowly but steadily) so it’s just a matter of getting back into the habit.

Notice that these all have clearly defined objectives. I suspect that the reason that many people flub their resolutions is that they make them too vague or lofty.

Year in First Lines

The “Year in First Lines” meme comes to me via Cygnoir, another Holidailies participant.

Apparently, all one is to do is repeat the first line of the first post of the listed month.

January
Even though it’s now the second of January, and I am therefore a little bit late to the party, I’d like to take a moment to talk about New Year’s Resolutions.

January was a quiet month, probably because I was unemployed. As the holidays were over, I began to fling my résumé into the digital void with new vigor. The winter is the worst time to look for any kind of work (except for retail, and I wasn’t about to do that.) I also resolved to learn the C# language by translating examples from the 1979 classic, More BASIC Computer Games.

February
Has anything thrilling happened since Hourly Comic Day?

Oh, yes. I was still doing Illustration Friday, because I had the time to spend on such things. Time to spend on decorating, house cleaning, grocery shopping in the afternoon. Being a house husband was fun while it lasted.

March
I find myself in an uncomfortably familiar situation.

They say that agreeing with the statement “I want to sleep forever,” is a sign of depression. It may also be a sign of having to get up too early when one isn’t used to it. And if one still stays up as late as one is used to, and one also puts in 100% effort all day just to demonstrate to his new employers that they made the right choice, and if Daylight Saving Time kicks in, then the sentiment is excusable.

April
One bit of advice that career counselors like to give is “do what you love.”

Although I am not quite as frustrated now as I was then, I stand by my metaphor of pipes and sewage for a network of computers.

May
Erik R. has called my attention to the “Pic a Day in May” challenge, so I figured I’d give it a shot, too.

During May, I accepted a challenge to post a new photo every day. I had great fun with this, and learned some new things about the buildings and landmarks that I see every day.

June
So, the Supreme Court finally decided the DOMA and Prop 8 cases.

In June, the fair came to town, and I had any-time passes. Of course the usual novelty food vendors were there, but this year’s offering wasn’t as memorable as years past. I did enjoy an exhibit of Star Trek props and costumes, and, best of all, a performance by Weird Al.

As for the Supreme Court decision, I continue to wait for a proposal.

July
So, the feedpocalypse came and went.

San Diego has its Pride festival in July, so that was pretty much the highlight of the month. (Though I also saw Nobuo Uematsu at the Summer Pops.) Now, San Diego Comic-Con is usually the week before or after, and many people go to both, but it’s such a hassle to get tickets that I didn’t bother. Maybe I’ll try again in 2014, if they haven’t sold out already.

August
Happy Blogaversary.

By August, I’d been pretty well ensnared in the sticky tentacles of the Big Project. At the time, it didn’t look so big, or even sticky, and certainly not in the least bit tentacular.

September
The autumnal equinox has passed, and so fall officially has begun.

September was highly unremarkable. The highlight of the month was almost certainly the weekly game night. Yes, that’s more like four highlights, but whatever.

October
In about a month, we’ll see this…

For a birthday treat, I arranged a trip to Disneyland to coincide with Gay Days. I even stayed in the Grand Californian, something I’d always wanted to do.

November
I’ve been using an Android app called SleepBot to track my sleep patterns for a while now.

Another boring month. At least there was Thanksgiving to break the monotony. A chilling thought now occurs to me: there may still be leftovers lurking in the back of the fridge.

December
It is now December already, and time for the nation to snuggle comfortably into the iron grasp of Christmas Mania.

And that brings us up to the present.

Metablogging

As the year draws to a close, I think it might be fun to use a couple of online tools to look back at this year of blogging.

Wordle is a Java app that combines statistics and typography to give one a visual representation of word frequency in a sample of text. The app can download an RSS feed as a sample, or text can be pasted in. Since I wanted a representation of the entire year, I exported my posts from WordPress, and wrote a very basic C# program to extract the text and clean out HTML tags. (Yes, I could have done it in Perl in about ten minutes, but it’s important to continuously improve one’s skills.) I then pasted the output into Wordle and was rewarded with this.

Wordle

What does this tell us? I suppose it tells us that I apparently use an unfortunate number of filler words. Also, I’m likely to say something like, “Well, now, think something, people!” I may also be interested in “another Christmas challenge,” subjects such as “Doctor Space,” and may agree that “Big GOOD!”

Fortunately, another site called Urlai can perform a more meaningful (if less beautiful) analysis of blog posts. Last time I visited that site, it guessed my posts to have been written by an elderly female. Let’s see if it’s changed its opinion!

electronic-replicant.com is probably written by a female somewhere between 66-100 years old. The writing style is personal and happy most of the time.

Nope!

The analysis is 54% sure that I am a female, which is both wrong and only slightly more precise than a totally random guess. It further calculates a 30% chance that I am in the 66-100 age group. The correct age group, 36-55, scored only a 15% chance.

I’m curious as to how the site arrives at an age estimate. Is it based on vocabulary, sentence structure, or keyword frequency? One might assume that someone who says “one might assume” would find oneself toward the far end of the age continuum.

As for the happiness score, it is specific: electronic-replicant.com is the 9756th most happy blog of 17663 ranked. This puts my apparent happiness score somewhere near median happiness. A good thing?

A new feature on the site is an interactive tree that shows which words influenced the site’s decision.

Notable masculine words are: Ayn, android, atlas, Gibson, goggles, leaks, recursively, and sleuth.

Notable feminine words are: blankets, baking, catsup, mania, museum, shampoo, Victorian, and whitening.

I don’t mean to accuse Urlai of being sexist, but it seems to believe that men are more likely to discuss Objectivist Cyberpunk detective stories, and women are more likely to discuss household products.

I wonder about the overall accuracy of this site’s algorithm. For example, words that it identifies as happy are: honor, peace, and gift. That sounds about right. However, words that it identifies as upset are: sleep, doubt, air, if, and to.

So, maybe Urlai doesn’t tell me anything I don’t already know. There’s one more tool I’d like to try on my extracted text, I Write Like. Last time I tried it, it told me I wrote like Douglas Adams, but that’s probably because I said “Zaphod Beeblebrox” a few times.

This year, it says I write like H.P. Lovecraft.

Ugh. Mention but a single time the closed timelike curve of non-Euclidean geometry under my bed, and now it’s apparently all shoggoths all the time.