stuck?

Two things about the supposedly sticky new song in The Lego Movie 2:

1. What really stuck in my head after the movie was “Everything Is Awesome.”

2. “Baby Shark” fits melodically and rhythmically over the new song just fine, and then takes over your brain completely.

3. When a thing you do goes viral, it’s really hard to follow it up with a second viral thing on purpose.

4. That’s more than two things.

on repeat

I’ll be Quite pleased when the theater on the second floor of my workplace is done with its run of Avenue Q.

They have a TV monitor facing into the atrium that continuously loops a loud 63-second long ad for the show. ” sQueaky clean (loud buzzing noise) Winner of the Tony award for Best Musical, Best Book and Best Score (snippet of a chorus for about half a second) …warm and fuzzy neighbors as they face the cold hard realities of modern life…
‘It Sucks to Be Me,’ ‘Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,’ and ‘The Internet is For Porn’ …seats are limited so do it Quickly… it’s furry fun, no strings attached!”

63 seconds. That means, on the trek from the parking garage to the elevator I get to hear more than one complete loop. When I get up to take a break, I hear it again. If I walk around the atrium to stretch my legs and get some pretend exercise, I hear it some more.

Now, I actually like… some musicals. Most of the StarKid ones, for instance. But I’m long past sick of this one and I’ve never seen it. They’ve been promoting it since approximately June of last year and it is the only thing they’ve been promoting for the past five weeks.

It’s playing through March 25, which I know because they keep shouting it at me multiple times every day. On March 26, I will celebrate.

control freak

Another weird dream: an online roleplaying game where parties of four players each try to synchronize their characters’ magic powers and/or kung fu with a 4×4 set of knobs. I was playing it with my Doepfer A-138m Matrix Mixer, and someone else on my team had a Midi Fighter Twister.

Each column of knobs corresponded to a character, and each row a different category of ability (e.g. fire/air/water/earth, or attack/evasion/deception/defense, etc.). Each player mainly had control over their own character, but the closer other players’ knobs in that same column are, the more effective the ability is. (Or in some cases, you’d want the other three players to set their knobs opposite yours — it was complicated.) For maximum effectiveness all four players had to vary their own settings to match the rhythm of the combat or puzzle, and all four players had to coordinate with each other to maintain a defense or to attack as one to exploit an opening, and so on. Trying to have all your knobs turned up all at once would tire your character, and uncoordinated movement would hinder your teammates. And of course the knob settings affected the music too.

It was fiendishly difficult, required a very well-coordinated team and lots of practice, would never catch on and I have no idea how all this could translate in real time to something less abstract in terms of movement and choice making. My subconscious mind is creative, but is not a great game designer.

back to the salt mines

Last night I did not dream of Michelle or Barack, but of my boss.

In the dream he was throwing a party in his magnificent mansion / evil lair. It was built over, and included the entirety of, a former salt mine. Wide, high-ceilinged halls lined with exotic woods, with signs pointing the way to different “galleries” and “villas” within the… let’s face it, the man owned his own underground city. Shafts wide enough to contain a normal-sized house, with staircases wide as a city street, led down to museums, art installations, and stockpiles of building materials and booze.

So much booze. Everyone at the party was given a sizable bottle of Bombay Sapphire and we were downing it like water. There was a storehouse of it below in case the pyramid of bottles in one of the ground floor rooms wasn’t going to be enough. Impressive storehouses of really good rum and whiskey were below. In the waking world I would never choose gin over rum…

He also had his own cult in residence — well, not his cult but he was their benefactor. They had a village in one of the “galleries” with a natural salt floor; they dressed a bit like Mennonites but specialized in performance art and glass blowing. I watched them putting on a play about the misinterpretation of a dying woman’s advice and instructions to her children, who were going to run the village after her passing. The main character was represented by a carefully arranged pile of clothing, which they alternately shuffled around, removed from, and poured water onto to make it sort of sink into the ground as the character let go of life.

…I’m pretty sure IRL, my boss is a teetotaler, fairly well off but not obscenely rich, and doesn’t live in a salt mine or sponsor a cult. But I don’t know him that well; who knows?

super blood wolf moon!

I did not get a good photo of the eclipse. We saw it with our own eyes though, despite the 13 degree weather, and it was really nifty. Not quite Great Solar Eclipse of 2017 awe-inspiring, but still… nifty.

I named a song after it. Of course.

My dad did get some good photos, so maybe one of those will become the cover art for the next album? We’ll see.

Last night was the finale of Steven Universe. Not the end of the series, but the end of the five seasons they originally planned for.

No spoilers, but it moved FAST. We had an intriguing villain, a possible sinister hidden conspiracy, a dire situation, and a kingdom that could have been ripe for revolution. We could have expected a full season, if not more, from the setup we had. Instead, a zillion things all happened at once and wrapped it all up (*) in a big damn hurry. It wasn’t a bad ending, though.

Oh, there are implications — worlds of implications. All kinds of uncertainty about how things are going to proceed from here, and potential drama and turmoil. Quite a few mysteries and loose ends. But it was still a conclusion.

After the episode there’s a teaser (which they’ve already seen, but now there’s more context) for a full-length movie featuring a new villain (about whom there are already fan theories), which has apparently been in the works since 2015 (!). But we won’t see that until next fall. They say there’s going to be at least one more season, too. I feel like it’s going to be a long wait…

vision thing

In dealing with some health insurance garbage — the intentionally and increasingly obtuse system we have to deal with for getting refunds from our employer for a portion of the horribly large deductibles we have been stuck with for the past couple of years — I found some interesting messages in my account:

So is that… visions, as in premonitions of the future? Grand insights, perhaps? Because there’s got to be an upside to this thing…

Also, I was checked for eye in December. The optometrist confirmed that I have eye.

Not very good ones, but they still count.

I figure for all the stupid forms I have to fill out, get rejected, re-submit, appeal and finally get approved, there are four people getting paid a pittance to do the bullshit job of rejecting and/or approving them (who also are submitting their own claims and having them rejected by someone else), a manager to tell them they’re not rejecting enough, investors telling them all they need to be more profitable this quarter, a consultant paid by my employer telling them once in a while that they have to not reject claims so much, and time wasted by my employer’s accountant and president dealing with the consultant and getting their own forms rejected. Medicare For All now, please.

Anyway, I figured out a pretty good option for synth 2.0: synthracks.com makes many different custom cases; and a particular unpowered portable one that will be perfect. The power supply and busboards I put in the rack will be more than adequate. With some luck and perhaps a cheap studio rack box I may even fit all of my synth gear (except the Maschine) on one side of the desk; if not I can still get most of it together and just have the Microbrute on the other side perhaps.

Of course if I had better woodworking skills I could build my own case, but… I’ve seen the stuff I’ve cobbled together. It’s not pretty, or sturdy, or the right size, or lined up correctly, or attached properly or… yeah. The wood semi-frame I built for the back of my rack is attached with wire ties because I split the wood twice trying to put it together. So I’m leaving this to a pro.

I do not ap-provel

I’ve been working in this place for nearly 6 years now, and take walks around the plaza on most workdays (weather permitting) and I was surprised to discover today that there’s an Imo’s Pizza location here.

I mean, in retrospect, I have noticed it before, and then dismissed it from mind and memory. If you asked me to list all the outdoor plaza businesses on this property, or all the places one could get food, I would not have recalled its existence. That’s how much esteem I have for St. Louis style pizza and Imo’s in particular.

On a recent visit, my brother’s wife was excited to try our local pizza because she’d heard about how terrible it was and wanted to experience that for herself. We ordered Imo’s, which I hadn’t touched in years because it’s terrible. And yes — it was still terrible. You literally could turn it upside down and lose track of which side was the top, because the “cheese” looked identical to the crust. It does technically count as food because there are carbohydrates and fat in it. But the nicest thing you could call that pizza is “non-toxic.”

I’m firmly in the Pi Pizzeria camp when they say:

Provel is our local alleged “cheese.” It’s a processed blend of provolone, mozzarella, and cheddar. Somehow, it tastes like nothing and has a very non-cheese texture. I don’t know why it’s popular here, but according to Wikipedia and personal experience, it is a rarity outside of St. Louis. Couple this with a cracker-thin crust and overcook the whole thing, and you’ve got Imo’s. Add a layer of lubricating grease to it and you’ve got Cecil Whitaker’s. If you’re ever in St. Louis, I recommend the pizza at Pi, Dewey’s or Crushed Red instead.

It’s almost unfortunate that I wrote this post though, because now whenever the landfill stink drifts this way, I will remember that there’s an Imo’s here.

*not* incoming so much

How to Crush Your Habits in the New Year With the Help of Science

I particularly like that idea of having a “theme” for the year. An online acquaintance does this in almost a literary sense — determining the books he reads, the directions his imagination goes and so on, even giving years names. For that article’s purposes though, I think “improve my blood sugar” works as a theme, because there are multiple angles I can approach that from.

On my last doctor’s visit, he upped my Trulicity dose. There’s an effect it has where, when eating, after bite N you feel fine but after bite N+1 your guts say “okay, stop now.” It’s a somewhat different feeling from what I think of as fullness — less nausea-like than what Byetta did for me at first, but still quite effective.

I’ve also been taking Gymnema (“sugar destroyer”) for a while, too. If you taste it, it’s sort of the opposite of “miracle berry” — it ruins the taste of sweet things for a short while. It may or may not also have some appetite suppressant effects but that seems doubtful. It also may help lower blood sugar a little through a separate effect.

But beyond that I feel like my appetite has decreased, and that is very welcome. Yesterday was my first day back at work after an 11-day break; I picked up the same food I often do for breakfast on the way in and it was too much, and I wasn’t super hungry at lunchtime either. A couple of days ago, I got up at about 6 AM, didn’t eat anything until 2 PM, and still wasn’t too cranky. I’ve been wanting snacks and desserts a lot less. When I do feel like snacking on something, I ask myself if I’m actually hungry, and can usually answer no. For the times when it’s yes, I’m trying to keep interesting varieties of small tomatoes around, and raw almonds and that sort of thing.

I’m not declaring victory here yet by any means, but I’m at least hopeful that it will keep working. I haven’t measured my actual blood sugar and I don’t know how long these effects will last, or if the broken dials in my body will misadjust themselves again and I’ll start getting hangry. But I hope to cement this stuff as a habit first. Not a diet, but a new normal.

I have mixed feelings about checking my blood sugar. It’s often more painful and more of a hassle than giving myself injections. When the numbers are bad, it can be super frustrating and worsen my emotional state, to the point where I give up on it. But it also does help show what’s going on and what changes in diet might be effective. But my new endocrinologist doesn’t insist that I test it regularly and only has his diabetes patients visit every 6 months for A1C testing instead of every 3, so perhaps the emphasis on that was a bit much. Hmm.

group does not include living sandwiches

A short story I really enjoyed:

When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis

Nitpick: the Loop is near Wash U, and there are some pretty swanky houses on one edge — but mostly it’s a funky, diverse historic district street with cafes and international restaurants and bars, music venues, interesting-ish shops etc. Blueberry Hill and a monument to Chuck Berry are there. Lots of foot traffic, lots of panhandlers and people being fashionable and whatnot. Drum circles on weekends, street musicians, etc. It’s a lot more interesting a neighborhood than the story makes it out to be.

I wonder if Janelle in the story is named after Janelle Shae (who keeps the AI Weirdness blog) or Janelle Monae (queer futurist singer/songwriter/producer/actress/visionary) or both or neither.

the true meaning…

I guess I’m of the school of thought that says things don’t have inherent meaning, beauty, or purpose; we find them ourselves. (Likewise, things don’t have inherent meaninglessness, ugliness or pointlessness.) But so much about the way we think is transmitted socially, we can take that for granted.

Our society obviously attaches a very large accumulation of ideas and traditions to Christmas. It’s an important marker of the year, with far-reaching effects even for those who don’t celebrate it. Sometimes the reach is too much — “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” comes over the speakers while it’s still 75 degrees out; big hardware stores dedicate acres of space to trees and lights and inflatable Santas in mid-October; the whole economy rearranges itself.

I’m not feeling the wonder as much this year — partially because we’re staying home rather than visiting family as we often do, I expect — but I really don’t want to be too cynical. I do enjoy some of the decoration — when it doesn’t take the form of suburban homeowners competing for the brightest display or the largest number of inflatable light-up Santas. The lights at the plaza where my office building is — strung expertly in the trees, suspended above the plaza, and in the Christmas tree — are a lovely contrast with the dark early morning sky.

Some of my favorite childhood Christmas memories were of simply sitting next to the decorated, lighted tree, gazing at it in reverie. Not thinking of Jesus or of gifts so much as the… specialness, I guess, of the season. The feeling of people united in celebration, making something of this particular time. Hanging up some lights to change a dreary scene into a colorful glowing fantastical one. Interrupting the normal everyday flow of things in small ways or big ones.

So while I don’t think Christmas needs to take up three or four months every year, and particularly not with endless covers of 80 year old children’s songs, way too much artificial pine scent, hordes of shoppers not demonstrating peace and goodwill as everyone gets in everyone else’s way, and a little too much of the mandatory about things… I do wish our culture had more actual celebration. More holidays that count. More whimsy, more reminders that love and charity should be commonplace. More color and light. (But not too much light pollution…)

Whatever you celebrate, I hope for happiness and peace for you and yours. And the same during all the rest of the year.