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Tue, Apr. 2nd, 2013, 01:20 am
required and paid in kind.

Doin' my taxes like a responsible adult. I'm getting kind of used to it -- I know what forms I need to file, so I don't get flashes of outrage anymore at having to do schedule SE, or the momentary frustration of checking the flowchart and finding I'm not able to file 1040EZ. Hard to believe, though I guess it's just more proof -- "you can get used to hanging if you hang long enough."

Of course, as previously documented, I'm not actually very good at filing my own taxes, and should probably leave it to professionals. Or at least software. But I am pretty stubborn, and every year I think, "Well, this year I'll get it right." Hasn't happened so far.

Mon, Dec. 24th, 2012, 04:05 am
piece suggesting a dreamy or musing state.

Sitting up and listening to the rain. As amusements go, I've partaken in worse. Drink some tea and marvel at the texture of the rain, the subtle rhythms as it waxes and ebbs. Eat some Basler Leckerli. Listen to the wind. It's difficult at times like these to remember that I suffer from any ambition at all.

I think it's having grown up in LA -- I could wander in perfect sympathy with the Dune Fremen, marveling at the water falling from the sky. It always surprises me somehow. No matter how often I see it, in however many different places, it's still a little bit magical, and it's difficult to shake the feeling that it is magic, and furthermore a bit of magic assembled purely so I could experience it.

And besides, there's something ineffably pleasant about knowing that the rain's outside, and you're snug at home, safe and warm. (In my case, equipped with tea and cookies.) I think everyone's had that feeling.

Sun, Nov. 4th, 2012, 01:45 am
authorization to carry out specific activities.

I'll be glad when the election's done.  Not as glad as the voters of Ohio, I trust, but pretty glad.  If someone would just firebomb CNN, that would be really helpful.

I don't personally vote, for reasons best described as rampant tinfoil-hattism, but I think it's a good idea in general.  I was also amused to find that, on all the ballot entries I had any interest in, I was entirely in agreement with the LA Times endorsements at http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/endorsements/ .  I'm not sure what that says about me.  I prefer to think it's because there aren't any truly radical positions on the ballot -- if there were, my more outre policy views would make themselves felt.

Thu, Sep. 20th, 2012, 11:29 pm
object used to indicate a position or place.

Last time the Space Shuttle will ever be in the air is tomorrow -- Endeavour arrives at LAX tomorrow around noon on the back of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.

Still not sure exactly what I'll do.  Probably try to get to sleep early and wake up early.  Might watch from work, might watch from the hill near the apartment.  Both have their advantages -- work has a better view of the approach, Clutter's park is closer to the end of the runway.  Lots of choices.  Sleeping through it isn't really one of them.

I was never a huge fan of the shuttle program, but they solved a bunch of impossible engineering challenges, and the orbiters did everything they were designed to do.  And they've been the U.S. manned space program my entire life.  It's the end of an era, and it seems right to mark its passing.

And then build something better.  We know a lot more now.

Update: The Endeavour has landed.

Watched it from work.  Pretty much everyone there did the same, sort of a party.  It's parked outside by the end of 25R right now.  Amazing.  And the low-altitude flybys were doubly so.  Definitely looking forward to seeing it move in a month or so.

Sun, Aug. 19th, 2012, 01:12 am
well known from close association.

Now I have a pet mouse.

This wasn't something I planned.  It just happened in some grand show of universal perversity, as so many things do.  Last week, I was sitting on my couch, enjoying a beer, playing Final Fantasy 4 on a borrowed Super Famicom, and I saw a mouse amble across my field of view.

Amble.  Nice casual stroll.  Rather unmouselike behaviour.  I look at it, it sniffs the ambient piles of electronics and studiously ignores me.  It's not quite friendly enough for me to pick it up, but it's also not savvy enough to figure out that boxes with peanut butter in them aren't naturally occurring.  Ten minutes later, it's in a box and eating peanut butter.

Ordinarily, in this situation, I would bike it a few miles and let it go, but this mouse plainly has no survival skills worth mentioning, and it's bright white to boot.  Life expectancy of a suicidal mayfly.  So the next day I go out, buy a cage and some proper food, and declare it my new pet.  (I put up some flyers, just in case it was someone else's pet.  5 days have passed, no response, so I think my conscience is clean.)

I've named him "Nourishing," after one of the rats in Pratchett's The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents.  He shares with his namesake a certain lack of survival traits, but also enough luck to make up for it.

Mon, Jul. 23rd, 2012, 01:19 am
fine, acceptable, or normal.

Riding the train through Compton, glimpsed a man wheeling his horse away from Bunny's Liquor.  Good times.

Wed, Jul. 11th, 2012, 01:08 am
regulations or principles governing conduct.

Got a letter from the IRS advising me that I made an error computing my taxes, and would I please send extra monies posthaste?

This doesn't surprise me at all.  I did my best to read the instructions, but I'm not an expert, and I'm not even especially careful.  I made a good-faith effort and paid an appropriate ballpark figure.  The IRS decided I owed slightly more and politely asked me for that amount.  Not a big deal.  That said, I would have liked to discover my mistake before sending off my return.

In some countries the government produces tax software.  I can understand why the IRS doesn't do that.  (Instantly create the most tempting target in existence?  Sign me up.)  But it'd be nice if they released some kind of "constraint document" in an open, computer-parsable format, that said stuff like "schedule D must be filled out if line n is greater than amount y."[1]  It'd be like a set of business-logic rules, which is a well-defined area of software populated by extremely boring people.[2]  It wouldn't have to have any executable code, wouldn't have to submit returns online or collect any information -- it'd just be a set of constraints dictating the contents of a well-formed tax return.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constraint_programming is tangentially related.  The thing that I find most interesting about this is that it hints at an entire realm of practical software that I've never had occasion to deal with.

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_rules_engine If you're ever tempted to write something like this, drink until the impulse goes away.  (Or stop drinking, as applicable.)

Wed, May. 30th, 2012, 01:50 am
state of being preserved.

I had a nice break for the long weekend.  I actually feel much better now -- hard to say why exactly.  More myself, I suppose, even though I've never regarded a shortage of identity among my weaknesses.

So I got back to discover that my breaker tripped on Thursday and I was without power for five days or so.  I've just emptied my refrigerator, which was, let's say, unpleasant.  Surprising number of edge cases -- salted butter doesn't go bad at room temperature, but it absorbs odors.  Some kinds of pickles are probably fine.  Oyster sauce?  What could bacteria possibly do to it that they haven't done already?  If it doesn't say "refrigerate after opening" is it probably fine?

I wonder if there's a direct test for bacterial toxins -- certainly you could culture for bacteria count, but I can just cook that problem away.  I asked around, and got a bunch of answers, ranging from "nuke it from orbit" to "it's probably fine."

I'm mulling over my options now.  Certainly asking the landlord to change the breakers is going to be high on the list.  (I think the breakers may date to when the building was put up, in 1953, and old breakers tend not to make rated current.)  I could look for a new place.  But I'd really hate to move.

Tue, May. 22nd, 2012, 02:06 am
account of connected events.

A while back I resolved to "stop" reading fiction in English.  I never considered a complete moratorium, but I did drastically curtail my input -- a decision for which I blame Robin "trilogy of trilogies" Hobb.  They're impeccably written.  Can't put them down.  Suddenly I notice the sun's up again.

This has improved my Japanese a bit.  I've been reading a lot of manga, some with furigana, some without.  Occasionally reading stuff like A Game of Thrones (now autographed!  Quoth GRRM: "beautiful covers.")  It's an incredibly slow process in which I recall the original text and pretend I can read the Japanese translation.  Over time the pretense becomes less so, with help from frequent excursions to the dictionary.  (Gene Wolfe: "It is said that it is the peculiar quality of time to conserve fact, and that it does this by rendering our past falsehoods true.")

The downside's been that, in the absence of narrative input, my dreams seem to get a little unhinged.  I haven't really noticed that I have more free time than before either, which rather surprises me.  Nonetheless, an interesting experiment.

Of course, my ability to sustain this kind of thing is limited, so I've been reading considerably more fiction in English than I was.  Yesterday I read Gene Wolfe's Pirate Freedom, which was fantastic.  Pirate adventure story with involuntarily time-travelling protagonist.  Unreliable narrator, which is one of Wolfe's trademarks.  Some extremely difficult unresolved questions barely poking their heads above the narrative, which is another.  Recommended.

Tue, Mar. 27th, 2012, 01:57 am
brief, sudden, or intermittent.

Six word story:

"What fallout?" he asked, tail wagging.

skipped back 10