the ugliest thing in the world

I really enjoyed the February 2005 issue of GUNNEWS, a publication of “Guns Save Life” in Downstate Illinois, which I picked up on my recent road trip. I understand from this newspaper that the group is organizing boycotts of businesses which post signs like”[this business] prohibits firearms of any kind upon company property and/or vehicles”. The quasi-libertarian mindset that the “right to bear arms” overrides other people’s property rights just amazes me. I had no idea southern Illinois was so dangerous that it’s not safe to enter the bottling facility of Central States Coca-Cola without packing heat.

Possibly the most disspiriting thing I see everyday is a hand-written sign in the window of a local restaurant which states, “Restrooms are for customers only.” It just makes me sad on so many levels. Clearly, my quasi-libertarian mindset holds that the “right to pee” overrides other peoples property rights.

another way to make chicago stars

Building on previous work:

a basic pentagram
A regular pentagram

pentagrams have golden triangles for points
has golden triangles for points.

pentagrams have five points
There are five of them,
when you strip off the points
and if you peel them back,

and wrap it around a hexagon
and wrap them around a regular hexagon,
it starts to look..
and add one more point,

like a chicago star
you end up with a Chicago star.

sad news

The Detroit Free Press:

February 7, 2005, 10:15 AM

DETROIT (AP) — Karl Haas, who brought classical music to millions of daily listeners through his syndicated radio program, “Adventures in Good Music,” has died, according to the station that produced his program.

Karl Haas was a regular guest at my family’s dinner table when I was young. Usually when we’d just finished eating, just after clearing the plates, we’d sit at the table and the opening chords of his show’s theme would begin to play. There’d be a moment when the three of us would fall silent and just listen.

getting the hourly news in mp3 format

Recipe for downloading the five-minute top of the hour news stream from NPR and converting it into mp3 format. Relies upon mimms, vlc, and lame. I had to use mimms because vlc won’t terminate upon reaching the end of an mms stream. I’m using lame’s phone preset, but you may find --preset voice to sound a little better. The hard part was getting VLC to output WAV format audio in faster than realtime. Unfortunately, NPR won’t stream the audio much faster than realtime, so the script takes about five minutes to run.

On OSX, you’ll want the path /Applications/ instead of just vlc.

mimms -o /tmp/news.asf "mms://" 
vlc -I dummy /tmp/news.asf \
  :sout='#transcode{acodec=s16l}:std{access=file,mux=wav,url=/tmp/news.wav}' \
lame -S --preset phone /tmp/news.wav /tmp/news.mp3
rm /tmp/news.wav /tmp/news.asf

Coming soon, an AppleScript that will pause iTunes at or near the top of each hour and play this (or another) mp3.

boots for the winter city

In my ongoing efforts to make this blog as simultaneously uninteresting and strangely fascinating as possible, I am know going into detail about my thought processes concerning appropriate footwear for snowy days in the city.

l.l. bean 6'' rubber boot

This is the boot I currently own. It’s a 6″ L.L. Bean rubber/leather boot, in tan and brown. It’s waterproof, but it’s uninsulated, it’s too big for my foot, and it’s not tall enough. The lack of insulation and size do not bother me when I’m wearing crazy, over-thick socks, but the height bothers me whenever the snow is more than three inches deep.

Growing up, I used to have “moon boots”, which I understand are back in a big way, but let’s assume they’re not for me. I also used to have a set of nice black rubber galoshes, with about a dozen buckles, which I would wear over my sneakers. They weren’t very warm, but they were waterproof, black, and shiny.

Now, my Dad had some pretty sweet winter footwear. He had rubber overshoes, which he’d pull on over his nice dress shoes. These seemed cheap, though. I don’t think I’d want to walk a mile in them. He also had these great lace-up leather/rubber winter boots, with removable liners made of what I remember as felt, but what may have been some kind of wool. I wonder what happened to those when he moved to Florida. Gone, I’ll bet.

A man with my background and upbringing immediately thinks of L.L. Bean when it comes to this kind of thing — and they present a panoply of boot options, including hunting boots! I don’t know anything about hunting, and I’m hard-pressed to tell you how hunting boots might differ from hiking boots. Maybe it’s easier to wipe blood off of hunting boots, or perhaps these are the boots in which you can hide your bowie knife.

Columbia’s got something called a “Titanium Ice Dragon Winter Boot”, which frankly scares me.

I think I’d like something around 8″ tall, preferably with a real sole, not a rubber sole like the Bean boots. Those soft rubber soles don’t work so great on slick city pavement. You know who probably has good boots for walking around in the city in the winter — letter carriers! Can the internet and the U.S. Postal Service lead me to decent boots?

…to be continued!

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