A mostly sucky morning

Oh, you know you all love it when I go on a rant. It just flows so nicely … so buckle up 'cause here goes:

Today I met up with Ali's dad at her house. She had bought a new tub and surround but it wouldn't fit up the stairs. It's a complicated 3-D geometry problem to determine just how big something is that can fit up the stairs. There's a staircase corner above the stairs (for the stairs to the attic), and the shortest distance from the upper corner to the opposite-side line of the stairs is 60 inches — so the tallest thing that fits is 60 inches. Well, if it's flat. If it's a rectangular extrusion, then you lose some easily calculable length on the staircase-side, and some other, not-so-easily-calculable length on the upper corner. I know there's a way to know for sure, but let me finish the thought that if you are intrigued, beware of nerd sniping.

Anyway, the short version of the story is that the tub surround wouldn't fit. So we went back to the big-box hardware store that-shall-remain-nameless and looked to see if they had one that had a 4-piece surround. That way, each segment would only be 3-feet wide or so and easily fit. No such luck, except for crappy adhesive ones — which would probably fit up the stairs anyway even if they were three pieces. So we're looking at a different one and it's 6 inches shorter than the first one. So I ask Ali's dad, "do you think 6 inches would be enough?" He's not sure but it was so close last time that he figured it'll work. We pick up the tub and surround — which is both more expensive and more heavier — schlep it back to Ali's house, take it out of the box, and find that the big part of the surround won't fit up the stairs. It needs to be an inch shorter.

Fuck.

We go back to the store and return it then stop at the other nameless big-box hardware store. The guy there almost got choked to death by me when he asked, "are you sure it wouldn't fit?" Apparently I needed food badly. Coffee, too. And I didn't need someone giving me a nice Southern insult which, translated to Brooklynese is, "what, are you fuckin' stoopid?" — clearly a chokeable offense.

By the time we get back — empty handed — it's closing in on noon. I want to get to The Rochester Public Market (280 Union St. N.) before it's too late so I decline a surely commiseration-filled burger lunch. Then to start off, a new friend of mine isn't home who lives right by the market. Then I realize I lost my mitten somewhere — and, if you don't recall, on one of the coldest days of the year so far. So I get my apples and go to O'Bagelo's (165 State St.) It's strangely quiet and I discover the door's locked with nobody apparently inside. I don't know what's going on but I figure I'd get something at Open Face (651 South Ave., right by the corner of Hickory) instead.

Finally a reprieve. The chicken dumpling soup was excellent. The brie and pear sandwich was excellent. The toasted Havarti was excellent. The coffee was excellent. Whew.

So then I headed out to an estate sale on Baird Road. I had actually stopped there yesterday, but they said everything's half-off on the second day. I picked up some neat stuff — an old Craftsman belt-drive table saw, a CB, metal thread taps, and a Smith-Corona manual typewriter which works and is also quite attractive.

The trouble was that it was a tinkerer (like myself) who had died (not like myself yet) and the family hired Hidden Treasures to handle the sale. Well, they don't know when something just isn't worth anything, so they wouldn't take a couple bucks for the electric boat-trolling motor that wouldn't work at all, insisting that the $40 base-price necessitated a better offer. I liked the 12V cooler (old-school refrigeration, not those Peltier-based ones you get these days) but I was glad to have left it behind. Well, except that I'm sure it ended up in the garbage. I'm also sad that I didn't bite on the floor-model drill-press because its cast-iron-ness would make it too heavy to move around and I don't have the space for it right now — of course, at only $50, it would have been an absolute steal and worth every penny five times over.

Oh, and later that night — at Ali's birthday dinner at her parents' house — I did get my mitten back. It was in her dad's truck.

But then my bad luck continues from there. The snowstorm had started and I tried leaving early from Ali's dinner to see if I couldn't make it to "The Bunker" to see the show there. Unfortunately, I took my time getting out of there, and then it took longer than I thought, so by the time I got to the secret location downtown, nobody was at the door to let me in. They had said the show started at 10 p.m. and since it was in a secure warehouse building, you had to be there between 9:15 and 9:45 when they had somebody hanging out by the door to let people in. Crap.

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California Rollin' and Colonel Sweeto

Since Ali was working her second job, I had the night to myself. And since she's not a fan of sushi, I decided to take the opportunity to once again give California Rollin' at Village Gate Square (274 N. Goodman St.) another try. And once again it's fine. I had a nice time talking with Giancarlo and Brenda and the meal was great. Afterward I headed over to Boulder Coffee Co.MySpace link (100 Alexander St.) I picked up a copy of Nicholas Gurewitch's new book, The Perry Bible Fellowship: The Trial of Colonel Sweeto and Other Stories. There was a big line of people waiting to have him sign it so I decided not to, figuring I'd probably run into him again at some point. I perused the book and was greatly amused, even though I'd already seen about half of the comics. I really like the dense, perverse, twisted style and look forward to what's new. I chatted with some people I knew then Ali came by and we called it an early night.

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Ali's Birthday

As the wisest of you all know, today is a special holiday because it's my Ali's birthday. [And in case you're wondering, she turned (2006 age)+1.] So we started things off with blueberry pancakes in the morning. And then she got some cake at work. And then we went to Paola's Burrito Place (1921 South Ave., formerly Big Dog's Hots) for dinner at her preference. Then she opened her gifts but we didn't have any of the pumpkin pie I made because we were stuffed from dinner. Finishing things off we went out to Solera Wine BarMySpace link (647 South Ave.) and had some wine, meeting up with a group of friends from all different places in her life. In all, she had a great day.

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Olshefsky's Rule of Behavioral Policy-Making

You know, I think I'm going to just define this right now. Like Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies, I seem to have stumbled upon another online truism. I'll call it Olshefsky's Rule of Behavioral Policy-Making. It goes like this:

During a discussion of behavioral policy-making, stating the challenge, "given any rule to control the behavior of others, I can show a way (1) how it can be circumvented, and (2) how it can be used to grab power" will inevitably lead to the parties-in-power proving it.

I realize it throws causality in a blender — one would never utter the challenge if the course of discussion were not already showing signs of heading in that direction. However, it seems uttering that specific challenge causes fate to intervene and ensure that a rule is used in both ways.

As proof, I offer two citations:

  1. in the Burning Etiquette Yahoo! Group on October 4, 2007 (with an earlier reference to an informal prototypical version on September 27, 2007 that said "it is impossible to create an algorithmic definition that prevents abuse-of-power and that has no loopholes. You can do it as an academic exercise yourself or try me — I'll tell you a way it can be abused and a way it can be worked around.")
  2. on RocWiki on December 11, 2007.

In the former case, the discussion was centered on changing the moderation techniques of the Colorado-bm Burning Man discussion list. As it stood, the regional Burning Man representative Ronnie Nelson had taken action to censor one of the members — according to him it was at the request of several members of the community for "posting too much", although there was a clear conflict-of-interest in that he had an established personal disagreement with this particular member. A debate of policy ensued and he suggested that a separate discussion list be created for those parties interested in a new moderation policy. On September 24, 2007 he made a public promise to implement the rules created by the Burning Etiquette group — specifically that it was not a case of academic masturbation.

However, once we agreed on moderation guidelines, Nelson ignored the request to implement them. He then let the few detractors of the proposed changes run wild on the Colorado-bm group, making it seem that free speech needed to be restricted. Several people complained that the junk traffic was too much and quit the list because of it, but Nelson did nothing. In the end, he proved that a rule of responding to complaints of "too much traffic" could be circumvented (that detractors were allowed to run wild) and that it could be used to grab power (by holding it close to his chest as a threat to selectively silence voices supporting the guidelines.)

In the second, more recent case, a discussion began on a formal "acceptable use" policy for RocWiki. The author of the proposed policy, Phillip R. Hurwitz, had drafted it in response to then-undefined rules applied against him: specifically that comments could not be construed as harassing, offensive, or off-topic for the page. His claim is that you can't both be an open community and also have secret "admin" police who claim authority through secret rules. To force the issue, he tried to change his Acceptable Use Policy draft to state that it was a formal policy. RocWiki Administrator RottenChester reverted these changes and locked Hurwitz from further changing the page. Another administrator, Dave Mahon went further and banned Hurwitz from changing the site at all for 48 hours as a "cooling off period."

There is a secret rule against threatening or harassing comments and edits as demonstrated above. However, this can be circumvented — for instance that veiled threats by BadFish on December 7, 2007 on Hurwitz's RocWiki page went unpunished. The administrators tend to believe that RocWiki is truly Democratic and the one person airing the hypocrisy of that notion is Hurwitz — and he has been conveniently silenced by Mahon's "cooling off period", demonstrating a grab for power.

It will be interesting to see how all this plays out in the long run, but as far as Olshefsky's Rule of Behavioral Policy-Making is concerned, it seems to be holding up.

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Ali's Christmas tree

Ali and I got the wagon hitched up and headed to Country Pines Christmas Tree Farm (2481 Huber Rd., Fairport), right around the corner from her parents' house. We picked out a nice tree for her new house and new library and new front window. We got it set up that afternoon and Ali pretty much did all the trimming so it's just like she wanted.

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Bands at the Bug Jar

After the movie, Ali and I went to The Bug Jar (219 Monroe Ave.) and met up with our friend Stacie to see the bands playing that night.

I got in to see a few songs from Tiger Cried BeefMySpace link and they always impress me. They're like gourmet vanilla: at first, you're like, "oh, I've seen this before," but then you get into the subtleties and think, "oh, yeah, but this can be really good." I also noticed that good ideas sprout from my spot leaning against the right-side speaker [with earplugs, by the way, which happen to serve two purposes: not blowing out my eardrums, and drowning out the distracting chatter.] It's not with every band or every time, but I find that poetry makes me think of stuff — you know, new things to do or work on.

Anyway, next up was The White DevilsMySpace link. This is Frank De Blase's band and for anybody who knows me, I have a mix of feelings about the guy. It usually comes out looking like disdain, but it's really more complicated than that.

See he's one of the main music writers for The City Newspaper so there's a certain amount of empathetic envy (or envious empathy) since I kind of do the same thing sometimes — the dichotomy comes from the fact that he gets paid for it, but I can see myself getting annoyed that it's often a shit job. I mean, sure you get paid to write about bands, but you also have to write fluffy pieces about bands you don't really care about, and you get slammed for being a critic by — in his case — your fellow musicians.

Now I've also met him a few times. A couple years ago, I remember having a nice chat about writing about music at California Rollin' at Village Gate Square (274 N. Goodman St.). He seemed like a nice guy, but either forgot who I was or didn't want to talk to me the next time I saw him. And again, I'm mixed on his response. On the one hand you can't be friends with everyone you meet, and not everybody can do that "such a nice guy front" (and I know I can't do it consistently). On the other, I think if you have a pleasant conversation with someone and you see them again, I kind of expect that there would be an inkling of recognition. But then I also know that it's hard to remember everyone. And then I hear from his friends that he's really a nice guy. And then I hear from his detractors that he's not a nice guy.

Worst of all is that I bother expending all this effort trying to accurately express how I feel about him when I don't really want to be friends with him [no offense, Frank, if you're reading this]. His band does a bluesy rock that I'm not a fan of. If I read him right, he's into pin-up culture and busty women; biker bars and greaser-chic. I'm just not into that stuff — none of it. It's just that we both happen to write about what's going on in town.

I guess the thing is that he's writing for City. And I assume there are lots of readers and most of them agree with Frank's assessment and preferences [logically I know this is a flawed assumption but I can't seem to convince my heart]. But I wish that this quantity of N readers (where N is really fucking large) would actually like the kind of stuff that I connect with. But then I think, "why? who cares?" I get unlimited latitude in what I feel like writing about and what I feel like putting on the events list. I'm not out to win any popularity contest because I'm unwilling to make that devil's deal trading "self" for "popular". I just figure there's got to be a way …

But anyway, his band is good, even if it's not the kind of music I'm into.

Closing things out that night was The Sadies who always put on a great show. It's all about the music although they look good doing it. And I really like them even though they play the country-cousin of bluesy-rock: rockabilly. Well, rockabilly with generous helpings of surf-rock thrown in. I feel bad because I don't have a lot of things to say about bands I like — I guess I figure it doesn't do much to try and explain in words what you hear-that-becomes-feel. Just sound and motion and an emotional connection, I guess. Oh, and fun. Lots of fun.

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Early Muppet films at the Dryden

Ali and I went to the Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) to see the Muppet Commercials and Experiments. Now I had pretty low expectations — in the past I've found that "early" and "experimental" means "boring except for a historical context". Thankfully it was all quite interesting and funny. I was once again amazed by Jim Henson's Time Piece. Ali and I had seen it before but we were surprised that we both forgot that we saw The Great Muppet Caper which was the only other time it's been shown at the Dryden in recent years — we were so certain that we actually argued that they must have played it some other time.

Anyway, Time Piece follows the abstract actions of a man played by Jim Henson as his life ticks away. It cleverly uses clockwork pacing and a snappy jazz soundtrack to bring humor, sexuality, and insight. It's one of those things that's worthwhile to check out if you ever should get the chance.

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Cavalcade and Old Boy at the Krown

I headed down to Monty's KrownMySpace link (875 Monroe Ave.) to check out the bands there. It's been a long time since I last visited — I think the last time was in July. Anyway, I had a great time … just like "old times". I talked with a friend of mine and he said that this was about as good as it gets. Usually it's just the usual crowd consisting of a fair number of heavy-drinking old metal heads. But even that has appeal and brings back memories — memories punctuated by missing parts, but memories nonetheless.

Anyway, the first band up was Cavalcade who played some solidly good hard rock. Old BoyMySpace link followed them and were fantastic as usual. So far I've seen them twice and both times I was really blown away. I guess it pays to front a hard acoustic-rock band with three excellent guitarists and back it up with electric bass and a solid drummer.

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Running, but not barefoot

I got out to go for a run this morning. I figured I'd try going barefoot in the snow that still covered the ground. Well, I barely made it three houses down the street like that. I had read on the Running Barefoot Yahoo! Group that you can use some very minor foot cover (like water shoes or special footwear for barefoot-like running) in such conditions successfully. Figuring I wouldn't be able to hack the snow I had brought along water shoes which helped a lot. I ended up running comfortably for 15 minutes or so (I took a short course to try things out) and found that my feet were a lot warmer than they have been.

I had thrown out the theory that, like the callousing from barefoot running in the first place which seems so counter to "conventional wisdom", that humans might be able to adapt to the cold weather as well. I know this kind of running — well, running in general — does improve foot circulation so it's not out-of-the-question to get to a point where I'm able to run in extremely cold conditions without danger or discomfort.

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