Thursday, January 31, 2008

what "where there's fish there's cats" means

The title of this blog means that there will always be a predator for every prey. Or, more generally, some thing or some one will eventually find a way to exploit every possible opportunity. Where there's cheese, there's rats. Where there's fish, there's cats. Where there's money to be made in selling access to botnets, there's websites devoted entirely to selling access to botnets.

That is what the phrase means, if it was in the dictionary, but that does not explain why I use it. Here's why.

Once when I was about 16 my dad sent me and my brother and my cousin to go check on the minnow traps he'd set in Bayou Cateau (a tributary of Bayou La Batre, pronounced something exactly like "Bikey Toe").

Dad's minnow traps were made out of mason jars and window screen. I can't remember what he baited them with. Cat food would have been awesome for this story, but we didn't have a cat at the time, so it wouldn't make sense. The traps were sunk into the bayou just above what is now the Crumb Schambeau Memorial Bridge, tethered to the bank by string.

(Crumb Schambeau was still alive and employing the youth of the town as well-tipped bagboys at his grocery/hardware store, crunching the numbers on a calculator made before integrated circuits were invented, the effects of the Wal-Mart at Tillman's Corner on his bottom line displayed in glowing nixie tubes; so the bridge was at that time nameless)

As we approached the bank, we were suddenly surrounded by feral cats. Ok, I'm sure memory exaggerates and "surrounded" is probably too dramatic of a word, but I swear there were definitely more of them than there were of us. It was like something out of a zombie apocalypse movie. Lean, hungry, bony felines raised their voices in a chorus of "braaaiiiiinsssss.." "mmmmeeeeeeooooowwwwww!".

Knowing that it was going to be difficult to complete our mission with these animals dogging (sic) us, wanting to get rid of the cats without having to hurt them, and being too ignorant to think about the fact that they might be rabid, one of us (I really can't remember which one) grabbed the nearest cat, picked him up, and tossed him into the bayou. As far out into the bayou as we could throw him; far enough that the magic power that cats normally have to fall sideways and avoid going into rain barrels did not work. He plunged into the tea-like water like a stone.

Several seconds later, he scrabbled back up onto the bank like something that had escaped from the netherworld. Dripping, muddy, sniffling, he looked even more like some kind of horror movie creature, and he was still as hungry as ever.

But it had bought us a few seconds of time. So two of us ran interference, tossing cats into the bayou right and left, while the other checked the minnow traps. I don't recall if there were any minnows in them in or not.

I'd like to think that we finally fed the poor damn things before we left. But unless we got any minnows, I'm not sure what we would have fed them that day. I do believe we came back with food for them on other days.

A lot of people find this story really funny, especially the part that comes right after they ask me why there were so many cats there in the first place. That's when I point out that the mouth of Bayou Cateau is smack in the middle of Bayou La Batre's industrial heart, where shrimp, crab, and fish of many kinds are unloaded, processed, and packed by a multi-ethnic corps of people in very white clothing. People with clear plastic bags over their hair and white rubber boots on their feet.

That's when I say, "where there's fish, there's cats". Why, exactly, this is considered hilarious I don't know. To me it just sounds true.

These cats were the latest of untold generations of feral animals that survived on the droppings, leavings, and spoilage of the factories that feed us all people who buy Wild American Shrimp. They shared this food source with dogs, racoons, and (on the more rural side of the Bayou) pigs. People who shot and ate those pigs said that they tasted like rotten shrimp hulls.

I actually don't tell the story so much anymore, because even when I try to justify it by overstating the numbers of cats, and even when I explain that we had nothing to feed them, and even when I claim to have gone back and fed them later, it sounds just plain mean. We wouldn't have repeatedly thrown them in the bayou if it wasn't fun. No, defending oneself from feline assault is not inherently mean, but having a gay old time doing it and hooting about it for years afterward? I'm afraid it is, if only just a little bit.

So I don't tell this story much anymore; but I still tell it sometimes because you really need to know it if you want to be able to say that you know me.

To end this on a more positive note:

At some point later in time, I may or may not have tried to write a parody of the song "Johnny Freedom" (warning: lyrics sites are mostly evil), in which the words "tossing tea in Boston Bay" were replaced by "tossing cats in bikey toe". But I believe that's the only line I actually came up with so its a pretty lame parody. Nevertheless.. Johnny Horton FTW! Hit the decks a-rrrrrunnin' boys an' spin them guns arrrrround!

man, the stuff I've missed

Sometime during the period when I refused to read it, has changed from mostly stories about technology ("news for nerds, days before /.") to a lot of general news and politics. Mostly about Obama.

Mixed in with stuff like this:

(click for discussion)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

yeah, whole new day alright..

This morning, noting that the end of the month approaches with quite a bit left to spare in my monthly "restaurant" budget, I decided to stop by Krystal and pick up a sackful.

Unable to contain my glee at the hot steamed-bun goodness, I ate four in the car on the way to the office. The last one, I consumed with such abandon that a drop of mustard fall from my mouth and landed squarely on the front of my pants.

Efforts to remove it have been only partially successful.

Yep, it's gonna be a mustard crotch day.

inexcusable posting of half-finished song lyrics

..which I refuse to excuse.

no time to cry today
i got a whole new mind today
and i feel like a religious man
singing that he's just been saved
and he's never gonna sin again
and i know it all starts today

no time to mope today
i got a whole new hope today
and i feel just a business man
who's found a way to make it pay
who's lived to turn his dream to gold
and i know it all starts today

no time for shame today
i gotta make a new name today
and i feel just like a little boy
yes i feel just like a newborn babe
and i see the world just open wide
and i know it all starts today

no time to kill today
i gotta climb this hill today
and i feel just like a scientist
an explorer in another day
and i feel like i have just been kissed
and i know it all starts today

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


I am re-adding the long banished Boing Boing, Digg, Slashdot, and JWZ to my RSS reader.

The original reason for unsubbing was because I thought these things were a waste of time to read at work.

The reason for adding them back is because these are at least slightly techy in nature (most of them anyway), which makes them somehow closer to being work-related than say the Mallet Wiki or Songfight.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Metering and Gain Structure - IRN

This oddly formatted page is packed full of useful information.

a few more years..

.. before I am the same age as Homer Simpson, apparently.

In early seasons of the Simpsons, Homer was generally thought to be 36. You could figure this out by subtracting the birthdates briefly seen in places like shots of his drivers license, from the dates that the episodes generally aired.

Last night Bart categorically stated, in a non-Halloween (and therefore canonical) episode that Homer is "almost 40!".

Which means I have three more years than I thought I had.

Btw, anybody who thinks that last night's episode "That 90's Show" violates Simpsons continuity, go read up on the concept of Comic Book Time. The Simpsons has quite explicitly taken place in "comic book time" since at least the sixth season. And implicitly well before that. ("I Married Marge": Bart born in 1981. "Lisa's First Word": Lisa born in 1984. But in order to have been 10 and 8 in the Tracy Ullman shorts, they would have to have been born in 1977 and 1979).

(Note: that doesn't mean I liked last night's episode. Episodes that tie the Simpsons too strongly to one particular time period have annoyed me ever since "The Way We Was", because they run counter to the otherwise timeless appeal of a good cartoon; with only "Lisa's First Word" (an episode I loved so much that I forced my wife to re-watch it with me during the last week before our second child was born) being really good enough to rise above this handicap. Also, of all musical movements of the past 40 years, grunge was probably the least funny. The only person on earth who can make grunge music funny is Weird Al, which is why they had to have him in this episode to save it. (No, I didn't think "Homerpalooza" was all that gut-busting funny either, for all of the same reasons.. its one saving grace being Bart's line, "Making teenagers depressed is like shooting fish in a barrel"))

Thursday, January 24, 2008

big duh!

I've been a user of WinAmp for nearly its entire existence, and I never knew that buried inside it's preferences section is a whole damn programming language.

On the menu, choose Options -> Preferences -> Plugins -> DSP/Effect.

Select "Nullsoft Signal Processing Studio DSP" and click "Configure Active Plugin". Load a preset, and then hit "show editor".

Holy shit. I knew Winamp supported an entire plugin economy but I'd always just assumed that you had to use C to write them.

Editing the code changes the sound as soon as you type. It does not even wait for you to hit Save before it changes the sound. How many other coding environments in ALL of computing have that kind of instant feedback?

The obviously-not-coincidental similarity (look up "Justin Frankel") between this and the Jesusonic language built into REAPER means you could use Winamp as a rapid development environment for developing REAPER plugins. The fact that I knew about this stuff being in REAPER before I found out about it in Winamp is seriously ass-backwards.

This has been a surprisingly curse-filled post.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Arkansas: four stars!

Regardless of who becomes the next President of the U.S.A., the candidacy of Mike Huckabee has already accomplished one thing of major importance: it has drawn my attention to the state flag of Arkansas.

What a flag! Arkansas is not the only state that has its state name on the flag, but I think Arkansas is the one who puts the name closest to the center of the flag, with the fewest other elements to distract from it.

When people look at the flag of California, for instance, I bet most never even read the words "California Republic" (and all that that implies) because all they see is the bear. And then they start chuckling about how the state that contains San Francisco has a bear on its flag. Heh.

There are no such diversions with Arkansas's flag. It's basically a big sign saying "Arkansas", clearly meant to be actually readable when its up on the flagpole. I bet nobody traveling through Arkansas ever forgets what state they're in.

It also looks less like a flag than a mid-20th-century railroad company herald. Which also rocks.

Arkansans reading this blog: I don't necessarily envy your state, but I do envy your flag.

(yes, this has been a quasi-deliberate attempt to mimic the humor style of the old Book of Ratings website)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

random monster-related thoughts

As you may know, Monster Cable will sue anyone who uses the word "Monster" for anything. They've sued, for instance.

I wonder if they've gotten to the Monster Mountain MX park in Alabama yet. Every time I drive to Montgomery, I see this sign on I-85 a short distance outside of town:


Sounds ominous, doesn't it? Part of me is always tempted to point out that sign to the kids and tell them that if they don't shut up back there, I'm going to drive up to the top of that mountain and let the monsters get them.

The 6-year-old though has already seen enough episodes of Scooby Doo to know that monsters always turn out to be crooked old men in rubber costumes. (Or robots. There was that one where it was a robot. And before anybody gets started about the movies and versions of the show that have real ghosts and monsters, yes I am aware of those but I maintain those are non-canon.)

The 3-year-old, however, just might believe it.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Closures - Comparing the core of BGGA, CICE and FCM

In this blog I'm going to compare the core of the three principle 'closure' proposals. This is particularly apt following the recent surge in interest after Josh Bloch's Javapolis talk.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The story behind the Oracle DATE datatype | Dizwell Informatics

Ever wonder how Oracle stores dates internally?

Probably not, unless you're as cool as me.