Ads and Cultural Imagery

Nike ad with Purity
Nike ad with Purity

Today I saw the ad above which is part of an ad campaign that includes the ad in the header. As you can see by comparing these images, the photographer had many permutations of clothing available for the athlete, Purity Kirui, to wear. But I think each of these images reaches into the viewer’s mind differently. The header image is a standard athletic image. Purity seems to be enjoying her incredible athleticism and the implied advantage of doing so in Nike gear. It’s been shot in such a way as to make it seem as though she’s almost literally flying through the air or jumping as if she had Flubber on the bottom of her shoes. It’s a good ad and a great photo. (Note: I have cropped image horizontally – original photo here for as long as Nike keeps it up) On the other hand, let’s look at the image I saw at the mall today. At first glance it seems a less dynamic and less powerful image. Yet it kept my attention for longer than the header image. Why is that? Because the photographer is reaching into the zeitgeist – super heroes. The way her shirt is pulling behind her is evoking the current super hero trend. Even though the other image has her in the air, this one seems as though she’s running to go save someone. By tapping into this feeling, she seems even more powerful and as though she’s running even faster. It’s almost implied that Nike’s the shoe of power and integrity and even, subconsciously, that it’s the only shoe that can withstand the speed. This is the power of imagery and it’s one of the reasons we are more censorious with images than we are with words.

WP Super Cache and the New Theme

Because I’m using WP Super Cache to reduce the strain on the server, there’ll be a lot of older posts and pages with the old theme. I didn’t notice this until I loaded up my blog at work. The main page was fine as it’s incredibly dynamic, but many of the pages (as opposed to posts) were stuck with the old theme.

I also noticed it’s often stalling before it can finish, so I changed it from every 12 hours to ever 24 hours. If that works well, then at most a few days from now everything will be on the new theme.

Review: The Pen & the Sword

The Pen & the Sword (The Ballad of Nick & Mina 1)The Pen & the Sword by Jonathon Wolfer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think all the problems I have with this book can be summed up with one sentence. This book needed an editor. If it had an editor, it needed a more experienced one. I am not going to fault someone for small spelling errors and grammar mistakes -I make them all the time in reviews and blog posts. But there were a lot of grammar issues, especially apostrophe use. Still, what an editor would have done is tighten up the story a bit.

Now to what I enjoyed about this book. It was fun to see a book take place in the eighties. This also allowed the main characters to be without the net, cell phones, or social media. All of those would have complicated the story inn an unnecessary way. The conceit is pretty interesting – a two-person Buffy story. In fact it’s almost Buffy and a gender swapped Willow, but that wouldn’t do justice to the creativity in display here. After all, Nick has powers in his own right. Once I start thinking of it in those terms, however, the school scenes seem less superfluous.

This book didn’t see me in fire the way Wool did, but the world is interesting and I really like Mina’s personality. In the real world a teen me would’ve wanted to befriend her and wish we could get together.

Additionally, the pacing issues I felt were less is an issue once I got to the end. This is clearly meant to tell the entire story over a trilogy. The sequel is not “More adventures with Nick and Mina”. It is the climax to a sorry begun here. Not my favorite style, but the pacing is probably ok over three books.

The significance of Mina’s name was not lost on me.

Well, on to the sequel.

View all my reviews

Let’s Do the Theme Change Again!

Almost exactly two years ago, I changed to the Twenty Thirteen theme. It was a breath of fresh air after what I’d used before. The font is beautiful and it was much less cluttered than the themes I’d used before. One of the things I like is that the color scheme quickly tells the user what kind of post I’m making. In practice, the post types made a bit less sense for the way I blog than if I were a Tumblr refuge, but it does make for a nice, colorful theme.

Of any theme I’ve ever had, I was most proud of my header image. Took me about a day’s worth of time over a couple weekends to get it right. I based it on another website I’d seen at the time.

I’ve enjoyed it for the past two years, but there have been some small drawbacks. For one thing, if I used the theme as intended, many things go in the footer, but that essentially means I can’t use an infinite scroll. Also, the sidebar, with its background, makes it a little ugly over the beautiful colors. Finally, my theme doesn’t quite work as it should on phones. It’s very, very close, but not quite right. See the image below.


Blog on Phone - notice the header causes a huge white empty space
Blog on Phone – notice the header causes a huge white empty space

I’ve decided to once again go with Automattic’s default theme, Twenty Fifteen. It was designed by a professional and it uses a beautiful font. The other things I like about it are the focus on content and post header images and the cleanliness of it. It’ll probably take me a few weeks to get it customized exactly how I want it as I’m not dedicating a lot of time to it now – I’m trying to finish up grad school.

So, as usual, here’s a few screenshots of my current theme (for posterity):

Blog Twenty Thirteen Theme 1 Blog Twenty Thirteen Theme 2 Blog Twenty Thirteen Theme 3 Blog Twenty Thirteen Theme 4 Blog Twenty Thirteen Theme 5 Blog Twenty Thirteen Theme 6 Blog Twenty Thirteen Theme 7 Blog Twenty Thirteen Theme 8 Blog Twenty Thirteen Theme 9 Blog Twenty Thirteen Theme 10

As is traditional, here are previous posts about theme changes:

The MPAA members know damn well there are legit uses for bittorrent….

….but pretend there aren’t.

Main quote:

In some ways, this is so incredibly shortsighted. Here Sony is so committed to the idea that torrents can’t be shown to have any legal, non-infringing uses (even though there are plenty), that it won’t even allow its own staff to experiment with ways to use the new technology to their own advantage. But just the admission in the email alone shows that Sony’s top execs know damn well that there are legitimate, non-infringing, uses for BitTorrent, and they’re deliberately trying not to use them just to make BitTorrent look much worse than it is.

The Long-lasting damage of cop misbehavior

The lives lost are tragic, but the constant police misbehavior has an even worse effect on society. I came across the following today on an article about Stingrays:

Well, the supposed “good guys” (cops) no longer really care what is legal and what is not, so why should I?

Once this type of sentiment becomes entrenched, civil society is in danger. Just like paying taxes, we need people to believe in the social rules or the illusion comes crashing down.

The Socially Awkward Questions Have Begun

Scarlett has become hardcore obsessed with the BBC show Octonauts. Nothing she used to care about – Mulan, My Little Pony, Beauty and the Beast – can be put on the television for her. All she wants to watch is Octonauts. So for Easter we got her all the characters. She has two favorite characters/toys: Shellington, a koala bear, and Kwazii, a cat descended from a long line of pirates. This is what Kwazii looks like:

Kwazii from the Octonauts
Kwazii from the Octonauts

So, two days ago we went out to eat and Scarlett saw a veteran on a wheelchair with an eye patch. Silly me – I thought she was going to ask me about the wheelchair. She has a wheelchair-bound toy, but doesn’t see too many people in wheelchairs. Nope. She asked me, “Daddy, is he a pirate?”


And that’s all I had to say because they called us to go to our table and I don’t think the guy heard us. But, based on my memories of my brother David, I think we’re in for a slew of “Look, he’s fat!”, “Is she a witch?”, etc. Time for her to start learning public interaction manners, I guess.

Concerts 2015: Anamanaguchi

Anamanaguchi Show - First Opening Act
Anamanaguchi Show – First Opening Act

Originally my first concert of 2015 was going to be a little later in the year, but with Danielle away for the weekend, the email letting me know about a concert in just a few days seemed quite fortuitous. I’d had a couple chances to see Anamanaguchi in concert, but the timing was never right. This time it was perfect – weekend and wife out of town. So I decided to go.

Anamanaguchi Show - Second Opening Act
Anamanaguchi Show – Second Opening Act

It was an interesting scene and an interesting concert. Lots of men with eyeliner and girls with blue lipstick and pig tails. But also people dressed like they were going to a rave, complete with glowstick fingers and people dressed like every other concert. The only negative was that there were four opening acts so while the show started at 2100, Anamanaguchi wasn’t up until 2300. The selection of opening acts was well-aligned given the sound of Anamanaguchi – pop, dance, and chiptunes. So they had lots of DJs open for them – some with more conventional dance music and some with more chiptunes music. But, given that Anamanaguchi plays with real instruments, I thought a better complement would be a band like I Fight Dragons.

Anamanaguchi Show - Skrillex Hair Opening Act
Anamanaguchi Show – Skrillex Hair Opening Act

Of the opening acts, I thought the best vibe came from the duo in which one of the guys had Skrillex hair. While others were grooving, these guys were jumping around and really having a good time. It made me want to have more of a good time, myself. I usually go to concerts with bands, so it was interesting to see the 2 two-man DJ groups at this concert. While I understood the gains from a two-man group – one can control the knobs while the other looks for the next sample and/or they can jump back and forth between their tastes, I’m more used to groups like the one between those two where it was a one-man DJ set.

Anamanaguchi Show - Anamanaguchi Crazy Clip Art Video
Anamanaguchi Show – Anamanaguchi Crazy Clip Art Video

Then came Anamanaguchi. I had a feeling for what they’d sound like live as I have their Live at the Knitting Factory album, but they weren’t nearly as chatty as they were on that album. I didn’t know this going into the concert, but it was the last show on their Endless Fantasy tour. So I don’t know if they were tired after a long tour or if the Knitting Factory album is just an unusually chatty set for them.

Anamanaguchi Show - Anamanaguchi  guy on the right
Anamanaguchi Show – Anamanaguchi guy on the right

Since a good chunk of any song involves a lot more than the instruments, I was wondering how they were going to perform. Would they have a computer playing the music? So I was surprised to find 3/4 of the band come out with guitars or guitar-like instruments. From what I could tell, the guy in the middle with the white guitar-like instrument was playing the non-instrumentals. I’m not sure exactly what that meant – was he modulating a pre-recorded track? That seems to be the most likely scenario. But I’m not sure.

Anamanaguchi Show - Anamanaguchi guy in the middle playing what I think wasn't a guitar
Anamanaguchi Show – Anamanaguchi guy in the middle playing what I think wasn’t a guitar

The most interesting aspect of the set was the video screen behind the drummer. Somewhere between a quarter and half of the bands I’ve seen perform use some kind of video in their performance. None have ever matched the trippiness of what Anamanaguchi had going on. For at least one of the songs (Pop It) the video was a remix of the music video. I’m not too familiar with most of their videos, so I can’t say if that holds true for the rest of the songs, but the overall feeling was that of a sentient Internet having seizures and displaying some representation of everything we geek out about. There was povray-looking 3D renders, clipart, anime, and VCR nostalgic recordings.

Anamanaguchi Show - Anamanaguchi crazy background and topless drummer
Anamanaguchi Show – Anamanaguchi crazy background and topless drummer

There was one seemingly over-zealous fan at the front who I wasn’t sure what to make of until the end of the night when I found out that this was the last stop on their tour and that guy had been on every stop on that tour.

Anamanaguchi Show - Anamanaguchi  enthusiastic fan
Anamanaguchi Show – Anamanaguchi enthusiastic fan

Overall, I had a very good time and I was jumping and dancing and just enjoying the crowed vibe that is the entire point of going to a concert. It took me a while to warm up to the opening acts and I think that was only partly due to their unfamiliarity. I’d definitely go see Anamanaguchi again. Although, according to Wikipedia, their next album will be chiptunes-less. So I’ll have to see if I like the next album.

Anamanaguchi Show - Anamanaguchi guy on the left rocking out
Anamanaguchi Show – Anamanaguchi guy on the left rocking out

Sorry the photos weren’t so good, I only had my cell as my wife had the nice compact camera.

Anamanaguchi Show - Anamanaguchi best, clearest image (during the song Pop It!)
Anamanaguchi Show – Anamanaguchi best, clearest image (during the song Pop It!)

Post Script to yesterday’s btrfs post

Looks like I was right about the non-commit and possibly also about the df -h.

Last night at the time I wrote the post:

# btrfs fi show /home
Label: 'Home1' uuid: 89cfd56a-06c7-4805-9526-7be4d24a2872
 Total devices 1 FS bytes used 1.91TiB
 devid 1 size 2.73TiB used 1.99TiB path /dev/sdb1
$ df -h
Filesystem Size Used Avail Use% Mounted on
devtmpfs 3.9G 0 3.9G 0% /dev
tmpfs 3.9G 600K 3.9G 1% /dev/shm
tmpfs 3.9G 976K 3.9G 1% /run
tmpfs 3.9G 0 3.9G 0% /sys/fs/cgroup
/dev/sda3 146G 52G 87G 38% /
tmpfs 3.9G 296K 3.9G 1% /tmp
/dev/sda1 240M 126M 114M 53% /boot
/dev/sdb1 2.8T 2.0T 769G 73% /home
babyluigi.mushroomkingdom:/media/xbmc 1.8T 1.6T 123G 93% /media/nfs/xbmc-mount
babyluigi.mushroomkingdom:/fileshares 15G 6.5G 7.5G 47% /media/nfs/babyluigi
tmpfs 795M 28K 795M 1% /run/user/500

And today:

# btrfs fi show /home
Label: 'Home1' uuid: 89cfd56a-06c7-4805-9526-7be4d24a2872
 Total devices 1 FS bytes used 1.80TiB
 devid 1 size 2.73TiB used 1.99TiB path /dev/sdb1
$ df -h
Filesystem Size Used Avail Use% Mounted on
devtmpfs 3.9G 0 3.9G 0% /dev
tmpfs 3.9G 600K 3.9G 1% /dev/shm
tmpfs 3.9G 976K 3.9G 1% /run
tmpfs 3.9G 0 3.9G 0% /sys/fs/cgroup
/dev/sda3 146G 53G 86G 38% /
tmpfs 3.9G 248K 3.9G 1% /tmp
/dev/sda1 240M 126M 114M 53% /boot
/dev/sdb1 2.8T 1.9T 862G 69% /home
babyluigi.mushroomkingdom:/media/xbmc 1.8T 1.6T 123G 93% /media/nfs/xbmc-mount
babyluigi.mushroomkingdom:/fileshares 15G 6.5G 7.5G 47% /media/nfs/babyluigi
tmpfs 795M 24K 795M 1% /run/user/500

So whether or not this ends up functioning better with database programs, I have freed up some space from some snapshots so old I probably wouldn’t have thought to look through them for an old version of any particular file.

Review: Wool Omnibus

Wool Omnibus (Silo, #1) (Wool, #1-5)Wool Omnibus (Silo, #1) by Hugh Howey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hugh Howey does a masterful job in this book. It is definitely a contender for my favorite book of 2015. So much of what makes this book great is how Howey subverts all of our expectations. It is technically a dystopian book, but it is unlike any I’ve read before. One of the ways in which it’s unique, for example, is how the dystopian element is almost irrelevant to the story. I found early on that it reminded me of the video games Analogue: A Hate Story and Hate Plus with many of its elements. The video games take place on a generation ship that’s had so many generations removed from its initial launch that some of its early history is viewed as perhaps just stories. Additionally, there’s the erasure of a previous uprising from the computers. There’s also a dictator-like government masquerading as a democracy. That’s not to say that it’s entirely irrelevant to the story. After all, it is essentially the MacGuffin, in a way, setting the story into motion. But the story is more a character study than a treatise on the dystopia.

If one considers The Hunger Games or Mars Rising – the moral/message of the story is worn on its metaphorical sleeve. (Also see 1984, Farenheight 451, etc) Wool almost threatens to let us go without ever finding out why people are living in Silos. Oh, the metaphor with grain silos is plainly communicated. But we never TRULY find out why the population is in Silos – although Bernard’s explanation is pretty convincing. Speaking of that, if I may skip around a bit – his vitriol for the originators of Plan 50 humanized him in a way I wasn’t sure was possible. He wasn’t cartoonishly evil, but he wasn’t far off. The explanation he gives for why the Silos were built and how they could have gotten everyone into them in time is quite chilling. I could DEFINITELY see it happening in real like – the death throws of nations can be horrific. But it’s delivered so late into the story as to be mostly irrelevant – and one gets the feeling that was Howey’s intention from the start.

I don’t want to risk spoiling anything else, so I’ll go into a bulleted list of things I really liked about the story:
-Like George RR Martin (and many stories I’ve loved reading since I discovered the technique in middle school) the perspective of the story switches around to different characters. I always enjoy the opportunity to get in different character’s heads.
-Also like GRRM – no character is safe from death. This sets up stakes that make you really fear for your main characters and it’s nice to have stakes.
-I’ve mentioned on here and in various places that I’ve gotten pretty good at predicting narratives and so when a story can surprise me, it delights me – as long as it doesn’t feel like an M Night Shamalayan “it’s a twist”
-Related to that, Howey uses his chapter breaks like the best kind of cliff hangers – sometimes he doesn’t come back to a character for 1-3 chapters.
-Related to various things I wrote above – I’ve come to read a few literary criticisms that have been formative on me. One is the journey itself being a valid story. The other is that sometimes it’s better NOT to know. When an author leaves the source of the zombies (note: no zombies in Wool) unsaid it can often be more satisfying than a horrible reason that few find reasonable
-It seems mandatory for science fiction to have love interests and even sex scenes between main characters. It can fall anywhere between expository and revealing to lame and gratuitous. But what was awesome about Wool was that not only was the love/”sex” scene the former, but it was also between two elder characters. I know that gives away a plot point, but it’s telegraphed almost since the moment we meet the characters. It was so tender and awesome and genuine and we NEVER see that. (I’m sure I’ll be proven wrong when I read Old Man’s War) Still, it’s an important part of life – even for older people and it was awesome to see it portrayed rather than the sexy hero/heroine.
-Finally, I love that for about 2/3 of the book our main character is a woman. Sure, she’s ‘one of the boys’, but the voice Howey gives her sounds like a tomboyish woman. Not, as we often see in comic books, a man with lady bits. The ship is making a huge course correction and we’re starting to see a lot more women in fiction (including SF and F), but I always enjoy having a female perspective character for its freshness. For me it’s doubly neat – first of all, because women have been underserved outside the romance genre. Second of all, as a man it’s neat to get in the head space of a woman. It changes the way I see the world because I’m able to be more empathic with members of the opposite sex – to think about what is the same and what is different about the ways we see the world.

This book was great and not the dystopian book you thought you were getting – for better or for worse.

View all my reviews

A Quick Update on my use of btrfs and snapshots

Because of grad school, my work on Snap in Time has been quite halting – my last commit was 8 months ago. So I haven’t finished the quarterly and yearly culling part of my script. Since I’ve been making semi-hourly snapshots since March 2014, I had accumulated something like 1052 snapshots. While performance did improve a bit after I turned on the autodefrag option, it’s still a bit suboptimal, especially when dealing with database-heavy programs like Firefox, Chrome, and Amarok. At least that is my experience – it’s entirely possible that this is correlation and not causation, but I have read online that when btrfs needs to figure out snapshots and what to keep, delete, etc it can be a performance drag to have lots of snapshots. I’m not sure, but I feel like 1052 is a lot of snapshots. It’s certainly way more than I would have if my program were complete and working correctly.

So I went in an manually deleted March through June of last year. That dropped the number of snapshots to about 619. I’m pausing there because these deletions are “no-commit” deletions meaning the btrfs does not immediately delete the snapshots (as that would be computationally expensive). Instead it marks them for deletion at its convenience. I’d prefer not to break things, so I stopped at just over 400 snapshots.

Interestingly, the amount of space shown by btfs fi show /home did not chance. It continued to show 1.91TiB used by the FS and 1.99TiB used in general (perhaps taking metadata into account?) I’m not sure if that’s because of the no-commit thing and it’ll be drastically different tomorrow or if that’s because my file system usage is fairly static over the long term – in other words, there aren’t some large files I’ve deleted that are hanging around because of snapshots. Time will tell, I guess.

Also, I wonder if recent kernel changes have fixed the issues where df-h wouldn’t properly account for space being taken up by btrfs because I do see my Available space increasing from 766G to 768G. Then again, maybe df -h wasn’t necessarily fixed for snapshots, it’s just that since I store both snapshots and home under /home that somehow that’s making it fix itself? Alternatively or perhaps in addition to this, perhaps df -h responds more quickly to subvolumes being deleted. Listening Trends 2015 Q1

1. I Fight Dragons (179 plays) – Over this quarter I have continued to really enjoy the B Side to The Near Future and listened to them a lot after work. Scarlett likes quite a few of those songs as well.

I Fight Dragons Featured image
I Fight Dragons Featured image

2. Anberlin (74 plays) – For the concert last year I put all their albums on my phone. So when I listen to my music already on the phone, Anberlin comes up a lot.

Anberlin's Last Concert (Nov 2014)
Anberlin’s Last Concert (Nov 2014)

3. Celia Cruz (64 plays) – Been continuing to enjoy her hits.

4. Girl Talk (57 plays) – I don’t listen to Girl Talk as much as I used to, but I listened to it as I went through the artists in alphabetical order.

5. Jake Kaufman (52 plays) – from the alphabetical listens

6. Grits (51 plays) – from the alphabetical listens

7. Jim Guthrie (46 plays) – I got this as part of a Humble Bundle a year or two ago. I really enjoy lots of these songs.  He’s a great talent that not many talk about.

8. Hitoshi Sakimoto (40 plays)  – from the alphabetical listens

9. Fall Out Boy (39 plays) – As happens every quarter, I had an itching to listen to FOB.

10. Isaac Schankler (36 plays) – from the alphabetical listens

11. Jars of Clay (30 plays)  – from the alphabetical listens

11. Hannibal Buress (30 plays) – I really love his dry humor.

Hannibal Buress in Annapolis, MD (2013)
Hannibal Buress in Annapolis, MD (2013)

13. Christophe Beck (29 plays) – from the alphabetical listens

14. Taylor Swift (28 plays) – mostly for Scarlett

15. Gwen Stefani (26 plays) – from the alphabetical listens


Total Songs (in my collection):  15522 (Up from 15474) – just barely increased. With school and other things, haven’t spent much time trying to get new songs.

Total Artists:4560 (drop from 4562) – A slight drop – probably because I’ve been fixing tags as I go along.

Total Albums:3518 (drop from 3521) – Again, from fixing tags

Average Songs Per Album: 4.41 (up from 4.39)

Average Songs Per Artist: 3.4 (up from 3.39)

Total Scrobbles at End of Quarter: 85692

Total Scrobbles for this Quarter: 2060 – a lot lower than before.

Book Report 2015 Q1

A mixture of a growing Ebook library, tracking my goals in Goodreads, and Calibre’s ability to generate a catalog have made me decide to start tracking things quarterly in the book dimension as well. I’ll start off with a simple set of stats and we’ll see what comes to me as time goes by. (Ebook will include both books and Magazines such as SF&F anthologies)

Total Ebooks: 363

Total Unread Ebooks: 268

Goodreads 2015 Challenge: 22 of 30 books complete.

Goodreads Ratings:

5 stars: 4

4 stars: 11

3 stars: 4

2 stars: 3

Calibre Generated Stats:

314 Authors

360 Books

37 Series

462 Tags (Calibre calls them Genres)

My Calibre Catalog 2015 Q1