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Despite what the junkyard operator had been telling me all these years, the cars which I had successfully been “using up” were in fact not crushed, but sold to a spectrum of new suckers. I found this out recently when one of the new owners tracked me down through the internet, most likely because of the extremely unique lifestyle blog, Dieseling In Front Of The Library, which I had kept running as a dare.

When you drive cars like I do - poorly, but with even worse maintenance - you never think about keeping things nice for the next guy. Once, I thought this way, but a parade of high-achieving beaters had dissuaded me from the notion of ever trying to make the world a better place. Until the internal combustion engine died out, there would be an endless series of other trash-grade automobiles to run into the ground and leave for dead.

Back to the angry new buyer. The scrappy operator, Improvised O’Toole, had told him that it was only owned by a little old lady who used it to get to and from church. I could see how someone would be fooled by this. If you ignored the supercharger jutting out of the hood and the leftover nitrous bottle heater that sat where the back seat used to be, it would be easy to believe that Grandma O’Toole had taken nothing but the utmost tender loving care of this ‘91 Chrysler Imperial.

There is, however, a silver lining in this. If this guy was dumb enough to buy one of my old cars, then in theory he would be dumb enough to buy a lot more of them. “Let me make it up to you,” I said, walking around back to the killing fields. “We’ll get you a nice new econobox.”

What they say in the world of high finance is that there’s always a greater fool. For my entire life, I had expected myself to be that greater fool, “liberating” half-cocked garbage from the backyards of trailer parks across America in order to give these poor cars one great last chance at life. Now I realize that the world is full of more economic opportunity than I had imagined, and that idea warms my heart even more than to see this guy drive off with that Cadillac Cimarron where the spark plugs got a little melty.

Apr. 24th, 2019 09:34 pm

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[syndicated profile] modgethanc_spray_feed

seasons turn; dirt turns to mud under storms. everything's coated in a fine layer of pollen. cleaning seems futile. strangely, my immune system has not rioted against it this year.

i feel as if i'm fighting a losing tide against the wall of objects i've deliberately stacked, carefully, to be dealt with later. weekends come and go, and i punch down the stack as if that will do anything. as soon as i mend one pair of pants, the other pair of pants rips open.

i'm itching for change, i'm itching for change. but it never seems like the right time. that's the point; it's never the right time.

i don't know what i'm so afraid of.

#spring

[syndicated profile] seatsafetyswitch_feed

Come down to Home Depot this weekend. Bring your children to the Kids’ Workshop, where they learn to use tools to build arts and crafts with their parents’ help. It’s fun for everyone, and you get to take home what they build at the end of the day. 

I know what you’re saying - local Home Depot #637, you haven’t done Kids’ Workshop for quite a few years, maybe several decades. We’re gonna be honest with you: we kind of ran out of ideas, and got a little bored of the whole thing. Part of it was because we got feedback from parents saying that they didn’t need another napkin dispenser, or a birdhouse, or a little makeup case for Momma Bear. It was just more clutter that took up room in the house, and it’s much harder to throw away woodworking than it is paper.

Now things are gonna change, though. Oh boy, are they ever. There’s a new Special Helper working at our store, and he specializes in making your kids build projects that are useful to the whole family in today’s unpredictable times.

This Sunday, take your kids down to the ol’ Depot, and for a mere twenty dollars they can build themselves a real genuine French guillotine. Yeah, just like they use in France! It’ll build their confidence, and when you take it home afterward, everyone is going to get a turn beheading the usurious monsters who slowly destroyed your way of life.

You’re gonna need to help them, of course - power-routing the handsome finials isn’t covered by our insurance, and neither is sharpening the severing blade to a mirror finish. You’re not just making some bullshit birdhouse anymore, for some freeloading swallows. No sir - this is a memory they’ll never forget!

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“That’s it, buddy, your time is up,” said “Stefan,” my guide to the wide world of exciting Mitsubishi product here at the local auto show.

“What do you mean, my time? The show is still open,” I protested, and swept my arm through the booth, hitting nobody, and pointed in the general vicinity of where I thought a wall clock might exist. Stefan was being a real downer, but what he had for me next was a big letdown.

“Read the sign, bucko. I’m free.” His voice broke on that last word, and saying it seemed to change something inside him. Without another syllable, he turned on his heel and ran out of the booth, never to return.

I read the sign. “Customers who stay longer than five (5) minutes at the Mitsubishi booth become official employees of Mitsubishi Motors and must remain in the booth either until A) someone buys a car, or B) another guest stays long enough that they fall under this contract and replaces them.” I guess I was the “case B.” Stefan had used me, I realized, deliberately slowly reading the pamphlet to me on how good the Mitsubishi Eclipse was, trying to involve me in a little story about the photos of the stock family enjoying their fantasy forest cabin getaway. His banter was just to buy time, and now I was doomed.

Blaming Stefan didn’t really make sense. He wasn’t entirely at fault. There was probably a reason I didn’t leave that booth when I still had the opportunity. Canadian politeness? No. A part of me was sympathetic towards him, upset that he would be doomed to sell the last three or four models of a dying brand. Nissan bought them. Nissan, for fuck’s sake. Panic rose in my throat as I began to realize that if I didn’t get out of here, soon I would be selling Versa Notes too.

How did I get out? I would like to tell you that I found some clever loophole in their contract. Maybe I fooled one of my fellow auto enthusiasts into staying within the confines of the booth a little too long, with a sob story about a dropped contact lens or a lost puppy. Nothing of the sort happened. Nobody even came close to the booth, except for some kids that walked past, pointed, and laughed - shrieking lilts of pre-adolescent mockery. It was like seeing a dead body. Nobody else wanted to join the corpse on the floor.

No, what I did was simple. After analyzing my standards for an automobile: weird number of cylinders, not very much horsepower, rusty as hell, and very, very used-up, I realized a brand new Mitsubishi Mirage hatchback qualified. It didn’t even cost me much more than a salvage-title Neon. And then I just drove the fuck on out of there.

Later, I got a letter from Mitsubishi corporate. “Congratulations on escaping the booth,” it said, “and becoming our first customer of the year.” I was smiling, having already dissolved the half-painted Mirage into parts for a dozen Soviet econoboxes, but then I got to the last line of the letter. “Please come to the closest Mitsubishi dealer this weekend for your rebate cheque.”

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Americans have this picture of Canada as being the land of diversity. It’s partly true. Yes, we accept all people under the sun, race, creed, sexual orientation, mittens/gloves preference, and favourite hockey team. Everyone should do it, even though that means more people are stuck in traffic with me when I really just want to go fast and do donuts in the work parking lot until my start time. Where Canada falls down is acceptance of deviant products. Yes, I speak of the many forms of knock-off snack foods that exist in America.

A Wal-Mart in the United States is a rich tapestry of snacks inaccessible to us Canucks: Mr. Pibb (hasn’t gotten his doctorate yet, but has crushing student debt), Cheez-Its (not sure what the “it” refers to), and Fentanyl Crunch Doritos are just three of them. Maybe once in awhile, one of the subsidiaries of a snack food overlord will decide to offer something new to us, but only for a limited time. That’s not even getting into the humble junkyard taco truck, which is virtually nonexistent here. Our population, it seems, is simply too small to allow the demand for a new and untested product to become profitable.

This means that a lot of our “special offer” foods are actually stereotypically Canadian. One of our wealthiest citizens is at the helm of a multi-generational grocery food empire that makes more money than most of our provinces. As part of that empire, they offer pandering “Poutine” potato chips. I stand in the aisle, watching consumers snapping them up, and I wonder to myself: where is your individuality? Is the Canadian identity just grabbing too-greasy limited-edition potato chips because it sounds like a joke that you might want to make to an American?

I started a snack-food importing business a few years ago, to try and provide some much-needed competition in the market. You’d think it would be all the government red tape that brings you down, but no. It turns out that there was in fact so much demand for Trader Joe’s that huge bands of warlords came out of Lethbridge and kept capturing my trucks as they rolled across the border. Border guards, bought off by stolen Ho-Hos and Count Chocula, were perfectly willing to look the other way. My business insurance skyrocketed, and I never did get a chance to eat a Funyun.

So when you think about which deserving foreign country to send aid to this Christmas, you can tell most of the third world to cram it with walnuts. Tell the United Nations to provide armed escort for American snack foods today.

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As you may be aware, when you call people on your phone it actually travels through a highly advanced telephone network. Yes, that’s what phones were originally for. I found out that most people weren’t really cognizant of this whole abstract “network” thing. This was on my mind recently when I visited my old buddy.

It turns out that he had recently inherited an escape room business from his least-favourite uncle. Business was shitty, and he needed an innovative new dungeon to throw type-A undergraduates into at forty bucks a head. Since I had been thinking about it so much, I proposed a telephone company adventure. If nothing else, it would give me an excuse to clean out my garage and also finally splash out someone else’s money on shipping that half-ton crossbar switch rack I kept eyeing on eBay.

The puzzle was simple: the telephone network was down because some dipshit used a fibre-seeking backhoe in an alley without calling ahead. After donning Bell System hardhats and reflective vests, it was your team’s job to restore the integrity of the network before someone in the federal government noticed. It was a pretty popular game, and visitors started coming in to specifically ask for the “angry customer one.” Soon, we had to open a second version of the game, this one with a misconfigured networking switch in a local monopoly cable company’s back office. That’s the one that really caught fire, and then we thought - maybe we’re onto something here.

Within a month, we had demolished all the other escape rooms and were hurriedly trying to reinstall the cubicle walls, motivational posters and mouldy server racks that were thrown out of this office space when it was first taken over. It seemed like the customer didn’t care about abstract puzzles like being caught in a zombie apocalypse or trying to repair an underwater submarine; what they wanted was to chase those five nines.

And chase them they did. We realized that our best teams, the ones who came back week after week after week, could solve the game in mere minutes. If anything, we were actually more dependable than the real phone company. That’s when they took notice. It started with drive-by harassment: call one of the senators they’re bribing and tell them it’s a “pirate telephone company.”

We spent a lot more of our time explaining patiently at government inquests that we were in fact a recreational telephone company, if anything, and our staggering uptime was due to a competition between the two best teams, Ligma Balls and Phone Fuckers of America. The resulting press drove our attendance even higher, and soon retired phone phreaks were flying across the country to get a chance to once again strip twisted-pair with their teeth and red box to their heart’s content.

Most of these phreaks brought their own equipment, and a few of them left it behind, further bolstering the gritty authenticity of our seventeen different theatres of telecom competition. One team of high schoolers got confused about which phone box was which, and went out into the parking lot to climb a pole and splice our shit into the public grid. Now we actually could put the real phone company out of business.

That was probably a mistake, because as soon as we began to offer cellular phone service, a lot of the interest evaporated. That crunchy, dirty, analogue of the 1970s was what our customers truly craved; not changing configuration files on an Ericsson switch and hoping it would come up properly. My buddy, losing interest himself, shut the entire place down. He said he was burned out, but I knew that he was just sick of fielding calls from all the other phone company CEOs, asking them how the fuck any of this actually worked.

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I think biker gangs get a bit of a bad rap. They’re just motoring enthusiasts, same as you and me. Sometimes - just like us - they only want to slowly drive through town, a gear or two too low, bellowing full-throated hatred out of their Costco-sized-tomato-can mufflers. And we should let them do that, because we live in a land of ideas, and - by nature of being an idea - “holy shit this sounds totally bitchin’” has equal merit to “my newborn baby’s ears should not be bleeding.”

So when the city announced that they had paid a local crackpot inventor a few thousand dollars to use his loud-exhaust-detecting robot, I took umbrage. This was unfair discrimination against my two-wheeled friends. No, not bicyclists, although if that same mad scientist invents a lycra detector, I’m going to be writing a letter demanding that my councillor pay for it out of his office budget if necessary. Motorcyclists have to be loud, because - and it says this in the Bible - “loud pipes save lives.”

Don’t believe me? Look now to the case of Australia, which decided to start using “bikies,” as they call them, in cancer wards. After a laboratory accident a few decades ago, where a researcher accidentally introduced a four-thousand-RPM Harley Davidson to an agar plate of skin cancer cells, it was determined that loud pipes could indeed halt and even reverse the spread of many kinds of cancer. As a result of this program’s stunning success, Australian life expectancies are longer than ever, although it is still up for debate about whether doing so constitutes a war crime.

Even now, Harley’s finest engineers are hard at work on the next generation of life-saving engines. They accidentally ran into a drunk Honda engineer at the bar and learned what “camshafts” are, so now they’re trying for an unheard-of redline of six thousand. I, for one, salute these miracle workers, and I will try my hardest to figure out what the theoretical decibel limit of Loud-O, The Exhaust Sensing Robot’s horrid mechanical ears are.

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I can’t stand to have a “parts car” lying around. It’s like having a “parts dog,” or a “parts toddler.” Every car deserves a second chance at life. Just because someone else has neglected the car to destruction doesn’t mean that you have to hand over a shit ton of storage room, just in case you want to carve off a chunk of it in the future like a side of beef in a walk-in freezer.

As a result, I am almost always devoid of parts for my Volare, despite having bought at least six of the things over the years. Blame Chrysler; their massively shitty engineering landed these brown-and-avocado barges in my yard in the first place, but their vastly cynical design made it possible to bodge in other, better, manufacturers’ parts in order to allow them to leave.

I’m sure almost all of the cars I’ve saved now have succumbed to the tinworm and been scrapped, because let’s face it, most people aren’t willing to go to Home Depot and cut up a steel snow shovel to use as a new floor pan. Or weld in a whole rear half from a crashed car. The cars I “saved” were maybe only given a scant few years more of life, but isn’t that what we all will want, when we ourselves near the end?

Sorry, got a little philosophical there. Didn’t mean to drop a memento mori for you. The intern left a few cans of the really good structural adhesive open and the fumes are kind of getting to me. As I was saying, there is no real reason to have a “parts car” you aren’t willing to immediately return to driving status, as quickly as possible.

Why am I telling you this? Well, officer, in order to get a new glovebox lid for my Volare, I had to get enough so-called “parts cars” that I couldn’t hope to fix them all myself before I had a chance to pull it from one of them. If you look the other way on this whole inconvenient “parking violation” thing, though, I’ll put you on the top of the list for when I get this ‘77 Aspen to run again.

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Lately, I’ve been undergoing what the politically correct among you might refer to as “house arrest.” In my defence, the cop wasn’t really using all the AOD, and I almost had my busted one back into his patrol cruiser before he got back from the Timmies. If you ask me, just being able to route that transmission’s speed cable through the retaining clips on top in less than fifteen minutes is worthy of a medal on its own. The courts, as they do, didn’t see it my way.

As I sit in my home, wondering if the ankle bracelet has any useful components inside it, I notice that the neighbours go by at all hours of the day with their canine companions. Dog-walking is one of those activities that unites us all, unless you’re some kind of asshole who doesn’t like dogs, and even Hitler liked dogs so you can climb aboard a rocket ship marked “To Mars” and fuck right off our planet. That means all these people are walking past my house, probably bored out of their mind, desperately reaching out for stimulation, and that opens them up to being prime advertising consumers. I rented out my front lawn to some nice billboard people, and started raking in the dough.

By “dough” I mean, like, twenty-five bucks a month. It’s hard to be a good negotiator when the counterparty’s lawyer has to get on the “approved visitor” list by the defence attorney. The middleman was getting a super fat cut off me. So I told them to take down their implement of capitalist hypnosis, and I’d take care of my own ad sales. If anyone was going to get rich off of destroying the social fabric of my community, it had to be me.

The first few weeks were pretty rough. As it would turn out, very few of the suburbanites walking toy-model dogs past my home actually wanted to buy the front bumper cover from a ‘93 Miata. Unbelievable to me, but you can’t argue with the objective reality that my neighbours really didn’t give a shit about getting their hands dirty, or keeping cars out of the junkyard and by doing so, saving our planet. Bastards. I had to get into their heads, really think like the customer.

We turned a corner after that. I say “we,” because with the profits I was soon turning, it only made sense to hire more people in order to expand my growing advertising empire. Who was the big client who revolutionized my business? It turns out that my next-door neighbour was also under house arrest, and needed some fresh members for his new startup cult. As you can imagine, it’s very difficult to attract even extremely naïve people to a seedy-looking house. I asked him if he would consider helping me sell all these car parts in my basement in trade, but he was really a cash-only kind of guy.

I also would have called animal control about all the loose dogs that are running around in his backyard, but I was pretty sure my parole said I can’t be within 200 yards of a Panther platform anymore.

Apr. 17th, 2019 12:00 am

NEC PC-8300 pickup

[syndicated profile] leadedsolder_feed

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When I was much younger, one of the first portable computers I was exposed to was a Tandy TRS-80 Model 100. It was a surprisingly useful 80s portable machine. A real mechanical keyboard, modem capability, real ports, an okay screen, 20 hours of battery life on a set of AAs: it had everything. As a result, they were really popular with journalists (upload your story from a payphone!), scientists (take readings of your instruments at the site!), and industrial use (what’s wrong with this plane?)

Reportedly, the ROM also contains some of the last pieces of actual production code that 90s supervillain Bill Gates wrote at Microsoft before he dedicated himself fully to management. The ROM features a standard-ish Microsoft BASIC, a little notepad program and a serial terminal application. You could socket in expansion ROMs to add more features.

You could write BASIC on the bus. What could be cooler? Of course I wanted one, but used ones always seemed to slip through my fingers in the intervening decades.

Now, the TRS-80 Model 100 isn’t really related to the TRS-80. Or the CoCo. Branding is fun! It’s actually an Intel-based Japanese computer.

What I didn’t learn until much later is that the Model 100 is just one of many related machines. Kyocera from Japan actually built this machine for Tandy, and they also built a bunch of other, very similar, models for other vendors. Tandy, Olivetti, NEC, and Kyocera themselves all sold their own versions of the machine.

When NEC made their variant of the Kyocera siblings for the Japanese market, they released it as the NEC PC-8201. I know, I don’t understand NEC product numbers either. The 8201 was a big success in Japan, and a few different variants emerged, including a cool red one:

Unfortunately, I didn’t have much luck tracking down either the 8201, or its less-colourful American variant, the 8201A. I figured one would show up eventually, and it did - in the form of a PC-_8300_ at the Vintage Computer Festival (PNW) a few weekends back.

An awesome member of a retrocomputing chat I’m in spotted a pair of PC-8300s in a corner of the consignment area, and snagged one for me at my request. Soon I had the machine on my door, and I was ready to start investigating.

As delivered, the machine is a little dirty

The 8300, as the numbers imply, is a slightly upgraded version of the 8201. System RAM was bumped to a massive 64K from 16K, it had an optional internal modem, and the ROM software got some patches (including X-Modem support!)

There are some interesting ports on this machine. Unfortunately, whoever used this NEC a long time ago left all this sticky tape residue on it, which also picked up gross hair and grime. Not my first nasty computer; it will clean up really nicely with isopropyl alcohol and elbow grease (which is not actually made out of elbows as I had previously assumed).

Look at all those ports!

Cool ports - AC adapter, a switch to turn write-protection off in the second bank of storage (still not sure what that means, it’s just what the manual said), a reset switch, a port for an external floppy drive, a “phone” port (do I have a modem?), a bar-code reader port, a Japanese-style printer port, an American-style DB25 RS232 serial port, and a “CMT” cassette data port for storing data on tape. So many options!

Side expansion slot!

If that’s not enough expansion options for you, there’s also a processor-direct slot with a little spring-loaded dust cover on the side. You can use this with the NEC PC-8241A “CRT adapter” to get external colour video. I know!

The underside!

On the underside of the machine, you can see the big outstanding problem with it. The huge plastic door that is supposed to cover the ROM sockets is missing in action. Also missing is the battery holder, because I removed it to put in some batteries (more on this later).

The main OS ROM

ROM0 is, I assume, the main system ROM. It’s aftermarket, which we’ll get to later. I’m not sure what kind of ROM chip this is, but I look forward to replacing it with one with a few more goodies installed.

Hand-cut RF shielding flap

What’s more interesting is this hand-cut hole in the RF shielding. It seems to go to some unpopulated pads on the back of the board, which I don’t yet fully understand the purpose of.

Considering the black goop around the edges of this door, I’m thinking there used to be some kind of industrial equipment that was glued into here, had a second ROM to drive it, and was attached to the motherboard somehow at one of these pads. When the machine was decommissioned, all this proprietary stuff was probably removed.

Weird electrical tape lump for bracing

Also on the back is this strange lump that seems to be made up of electrical tape. Not sure what’s going on here, but my best guess is that it’s a physical support for whatever equipment used to be part of this little computer.

German RF-certification sticker

This sticker from the German post office, declaring the machine as being RF-certified for operation in Germany, seems to indicate that this computer spent some time in Deutschland. How it got back to America is a question for the ages.

And yes, before someone asks, as a Japanese computer, it does use JIS screws to hold itself together. That Vessel set is going to make itself useful once again.

Now for the fun part - turning it on.

Since I had been told the machine worked prior to shipping, I went to fetch some batteries for the little guy. It takes four AA batteries in this little removable battery cartridge.

Battery cartridge with PCB

Once I put in some batteries and fired it up, I was treated to a screen full of garbage. Pushing RESET made the garbage go away and drop me into this screen, which I assume was made by someone testing out the keyboard. However, no keys seemed to do anything. The insertion cursor blinked, but otherwise it was frozen.

Locked up on the TEXT app

qwertZ - that’s interesting. This thing does indeed have a German keymap, as I had been warned.

I turned the “battery backup” switch on the back off for a few minutes and then on. My guess was that there was some kind of stuck state in the machine.

Success! The machine reset, and I was able to go into TEXT and write my own little notes to test the keyboard.

hello world, i am some notes. am i in german? zes the kezmap is wrong

It was definitely not a US keymap - not only was the Y key emitting Z, but all the punctuation keys emitted strange umlautted letters.

I cleaned the screen of some sticker residue, and then stepped back to admire my handiwork. Aside from a gouge in the screen, it was in pretty good shape.

Cleaned the screen

You can’t quite see it in this picture, but the ROM has been “Y2K-patched;” another indication that this is a custom ROM. In the corner of the ‘home screen,’ the computer is supposed to display the current date. Unfortunately, it assumes that it’s always the year 19XX. Someone else in the past has gone in and hex edited the string “19” on the current date to “20.”

In another 81 years, someone else is going to have to edit it to “21.”

This is a pretty neat little machine. In order, my goals are going to be:

  • Clean it. Clean it all so, so deeply;
  • Find, make or print something to cover up that missing door;
  • Replace the internal deep-sleep battery since it’s probably original;
  • Burn some new ROMs so I can have a US keymap at least;
  • Figure out what this machine was used for in its past life;
  • Hook it up to the PC-8801 for maximum NEC content;
  • Go to the park near my place and finally write that novel.
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For a couple years now, I’ve been going downtown and volunteering my spare time at the local socialist conspiracy to control the world. Just a little bit of helping out, you know, because I want to dominate and subjugate my neighbours to the almighty will of the collective. Also, they validate my parking, which is great because I don’t believe in the inherent value of capital.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: surely the socialist conspiracy has a big, cool office with lots of chuckling evil people in it, right? You’d be wrong. This media stereotype of all government conspiracies is unhelpful to our cause. In actuality, we rent out a floor of an old sewing-machine factory that’s been converted into an artist residence. It’s pretty cool, because we can meet with other like-minded individuals and use the awesome power of “spraying paint on canvas” and “coming up with funny tweets” to completely overwhelm all the ineffectual conservative opposition, which merely has the power of “billions and billions of dollars.”

The media’s on our side, too: just last week one of our guys got punched out by a cop. Old Bob was coming home from the grocery store, but now the footage of his prone body being stomped on by pipeline enthusiasts while cops looked the other way has branded him forevermore as a genetically engineered antifascist supersoldier. You can’t buy that kind of coverage. I’m sure he’ll appreciate it when he wakes up from his coma.

So there you have it. It is inevitable that we will eventually overthrow this degenerate, populist government. Together, we will embark on a new age of what society truly does not want: a fair wage for labour, and maybe a nice health care system as long as a newspaper doesn’t call us any bad names.

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Have you ever felt guilty for something you did in a dream? Perhaps you are a different person in your subconscious than you actually are when you’re constrained by the rules and ethics of objective reality? Here at the Switch Dream Institute, we work hard to study your dreams in order to make your best life possible. Also, we lever a bunch of cash out of your wallet, but that’s the price of progress. There’s also a price for parking.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t hire by-the-minute phone psychics to interpret your inner self. That’s not scientific. Instead, we rely on the greatest technological scam of our era: machine learning. That’s right, smart computers. Just like in that movie you didn’t watch but that everyone keeps referencing so you nod along and quickly change the subject when it comes up at parties. Do we know you or what?

Now, I also know what you’re going to say next: a half-hour-long boring description of what happened in your dream. There’s no need for this at the Switch Dream Institute, where we have a huge amount of old computers for some reason that make our offices look like some kind of intimidating commercial for men’s shaving lotion set in a post-apocalyptic turbofascist era. Also, we can’t run all these computers at the same time as the fluorescent lights without blowing a breaker, so that only adds to the effect. On weekends, we rent the place out as an escape room and give the cleaning staff zip guns. Somehow, you no doubt believe, these machines will suck the nocturnal happenstances directly from your brain and use a powerful algorithm to study them. Try not to pay attention to how many of the monitors are just running the “Flying Toasters” screensaver.

At the end of all this, a private consultant will lock you in a small cubicle, explain the nature of your dream, and then require you to pay in full before you can be released. What you do with this information is up to you. Naturally, we have somewhat of a conflict of interest. A scam organization, one that is just preying on your unease about the future and your role as a sentient being, why, such an organization would want you to keep giving them money for cryptic snippets of insight. At the Switch Dream Institute, however, we don’t want you to come back. Especially not with the police in tow. That’s why our head office is a car that never stops, and we are constantly hiring all new administrative assistants.

Apr. 15th, 2019 08:02 pm

those stickers

[personal profile] pyxy
I am fascinated with graffiti and especially stickers. Sometimes I'm just in a mood to look for and see them. I wander around parts of the city that aren't very familiar to me (or unfamiliar corners of familiar areas) and find these stuck to mailboxes and streetsigns and sometimes just walls. These are a couple of my recent favorites:

Decolonize This Place, in Washington Square Park - simple, to-the-point, and great. I adore leftist stickers.

Chemfem, in Williamsburg. When I first saw this one I thought it was an ad for something because of how good the art is, but I actually can't find anything about this online. I love the trans echoes of this one.

It Seemed Like Such A Good Idea At The Time, in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Melancholy stickers really resonate with me sometimes when I'm in a wandering mood - they're like little ghosts of feelings or relationships or sadnesses released out into the world but tethered to one place where passersby will run into them. (There Might Be A Way Out, I Conclude is another example)

Late Capitalism, on Houston Street in Manhattan. This is an exemplar of a genre of pointed descriptive sticker that I enjoy, like the "NOT ART" stickers found all around Somerville and Cambridge.

In non-sticker related news:


  • 50 problems done on Project Euler :D

  • Another great date over the weekend

  • My career is blossoming, admittedly accompanied by huge amounts of stress



so those are all awesome and I hope they keep happening.
[syndicated profile] seatsafetyswitch_feed

Are you familiar at all with land-speed racing? A couple times a year, a bunch of hardcore racers get together, head out to the salt flats (where it’s real flat) and then go super fast. There are all kinds of classes, so no matter what kind of car you have, you can probably make it qualify for and win a class if you remove a spark plug wire or drill holes in the body. Competitors get “salt fever” and keep coming back, year after year, to get a 0.1 mph gain over their speed from last year. It’s a blast, or so I’ve been told.

Thing is, those salt flats are pretty far away from here, so I’ve never been. I wanted that experience, and why shouldn’t I have everything I want? We certainly have enough salt, and I’m fairly sure that the abandoned mining road beside my buddy’s new house is flat-ish. And if it wasn’t, that just makes setting a land-speed record all the more impressive! 

Remember how I said earlier that there are all kinds of classes? I once read a story about some guy who hot-glued the equivalent of an ex-Soviet lawnmower engine into his drag Camaro. It’s not objectively fast, sure, but it is the fastest car in that configuration ever ranked, so he nailed the record. That’s basically what I do all day, anyway - and I’m pretty sure I could go faster.

My car? It’s a pretty standard 1988 Tercel coupe, you know, with the notchback. A lot of people in this era gravitate towards the Corollas, or even the Camry, but I think that the Tercel offers the same space-shuttle styling in a package that’s vastly more affordable. And, once you’ve removed enough vacuum hoses and e-carbs from the engine bay, quite reliable. A Princess Auto 3/4HP utility engine was swapped into its place (the exact brand of said engine is unknown - the manufacturer was apparently so embarrassed to have been associated with it that they angle-ground their own markings off of the block). Like my old mechanic used to say, every fraction of a horsepower counts. I mean, he was referring to it in the context of a car that “only” made 75HP, instead of two orders of magnitude fewer, but you know.

On the inaugural run, I broke the record, sure. It didn’t take much more than flooring the gas, ignoring every sensation in my traitorous brain to lift, and then pushing through the last-ditch adrenal fear response. A couple potholes shook up the steering, but my homebrewed aero mods (trash can lids attached to the wheels with drywall screws) kept me safe from any crosswinds. Soon, I was almost using half of the speedometer!

I was just returning to the start line when disaster struck. Somehow, the lawncare guys that my buddy contracts out to were also there at the time, and drove across his lawn parallel to the old highway as part of routine mowing. As a result, their John Deere is now the world record holder in the 49cc category.

[syndicated profile] seatsafetyswitch_feed

One of the most popular genres of videogame today involves being trapped on an island with a bunch of other people, and then you murder them to become the last survivor. A cynic would tell you this is a reflection of our own society, tweaked out on the pixie-stick cocaine of late capitalism. Me, I just wanted to figure out how I could trick billionaires into signing up to do it for real.

If you’ve never gone and looked, you wouldn’t believe how cheap islands are. Hell, most of them have never been visited by their so-called “owners.” You can just roll up and set up a village on them, and maybe fifty years down the line the United Nations has to set up a subcommittee to figure out the precise legality of who has a right to the land. Really saves the old pocketbook, which is good, because shipping eleven tons of Soviet machine guns certainly isn’t cheap.

Now, the next big problem in my plan: how to attract billionaires to willingly go to this island they’ve never heard of, and likely to die there? The answer is simple: just make it look like a prestigious conference. If you make it sound like there is a preassembled attendance of worshippers and news pundits, then even the most hardened titan of industry can’t resist flying his single-engine hobby plane onto the gravel pit we called a landing strip. To be honest, we lost a few of them already just on the landing attempt. It turns out the true meritocracy is gravity.

You would think that with all the private collusion they’ve been doing, it would also be very difficult to make these billionaires suddenly compete with one another. Generation after generation, this instinct has been bred out of them. They don’t even see each other as enemies, I don’t think. The solution is to not provide any food. It’s not a fast battle royale by any means, but the ending is quite decisive.

Why did I do it, if not for the money? I’m an environmentalist at heart. Spilled blood is fantastic fertilizer for the local flora, which everyone will appreciate when I fly the tenure board out here next month.

[syndicated profile] seatsafetyswitch_feed

I used to joke to my colleagues around the conference drinking table that I hoped the world wasn’t actually a simulation, because when I died and got kicked out of the damn thing, I’d probably end up having to fix it! Well, guess what happened?

So for starters, birds - what a hack. They’re actually a subclass of rocks, because both of them can fly. I had a conversation with the junior engineer who did this; apparently in the first release of our reality, rocks could also learn human language. She thinks maybe half the Bible is about this bug. Everyone was very happy to be told about all those religious books, actually, because they make for decent bug reports, you know, as far as users go.

Anyway, it turns out that the real big bug they wanted me to fix was that the large hadron collider broke causality or something. Apparently, we hit some uninitialized memory when it went off, because someone rubber-stamped the code review. A little bit better bounds-checking wouldn’t slow down the world render loop that much, I don’t think, but then again I think waiting in line at the DMV takes long enough already.

Yeah, I came back. Nothing wrong with cutting a deal for me to be able to be returned to our reality in exchange for fixing a few bugs. Plus, on the “outside,” they don’t have Slurpees. Technologically advanced parent civilization my ass.

[syndicated profile] seatsafetyswitch_feed

Have you ever seen that show, “Cribs?” It’s pretty popular. They pick a famous rich person and then root through their things, showing off how cool their taste is and what kind of awesome swag they surround themselves with in their off-times. It’s one of those artifacts of the spiralling death-cult of celebrity worship, the hot-goss train-crash that none of us can drive past without looking.

Problem is, nobody ever has any interesting projects in their homes. Shaq is never showing the camera the little plastic plane model kit he’s putting together in his spare time. No famous politician has a collection of 1980s record players. The houses don’t feel lived-in.

So naturally when I became super rich thanks to old Grandpa Racist Safety-Switch’s horrible demise at the hands of those bounty hunters in Argentina, the first thing I wanted was to be on Cribs. After all, with the way I spend money, it was best to get this out of the way quick before I ended up on one of those repo shows instead.

I thought filming went pretty well. Like the gracious host that I am, I took the presenter and the camera crew around my house, talked about the various unfinished projects that crowd every nook and cranny. We went out in the backyard and I showed them the pile of cars that were awaiting my loving ministrations. Other than one of the camerapeople getting airborne tetanus - I didn’t even know that was a thing - from a mostly aerosolized Accord Aerodeck, I figured it would be a shoo-in for their best episode yet.

When it finally aired, I was aghast. They kept calling it “boring,” and worse yet, cutting away from my 27-minute explanations of the historical significance of the three shreds of wet particle board in the corner of my room that used to be a Williams arcade machine. I’ll restore that pretty soon, but I just wanted to save it, you know?

On the plus side, the people from “Hoarders” have been calling a lot. Their production staff are really interested in getting to know every nook and cranny of my place. They say it’s going to be super cheap to shoot, too, because most of the footage is already on file. Sounds like a good deal. Maybe I should pick up a few of them, just in case.

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