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august microblog digest
minutiae Posted 2009-09-02 00:14:24 by Jim Crawford
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This is the one with the Italy travelogue in it. See August 10th through August 18th, but don't trust the dates.

Aug 2nd

  • Looking into getting better running shoes. These guys are looking really tempting:
  • Was needlessly blaming individual sites; turns out Skype silently installs a Firefox plugin to turn phone numbers into un-selectable images.
  • Got the Vibram Fivefingers. I'll let you know how they are after building up the muscles and callouses required to run essentially barefoot.

Aug 3rd

  • -- Nirvana weren't too happy about not being permitted to play their instruments live at Top of the Pops.

Aug 4th

  • -- Latest Wipeout HD patch increases level loading time so you can watch the entire homeowners insurance commercial.
  • -- Make time in your music to remind listeners that you recorded on expensive gear, so they can hear the difference too.

Aug 5th

  • "Chicken fries are chicken nuggets shaped like french fries." -- They ought to make hamburger and coca-cola fries too.
  • -- Is it sexist? It's not easy, is it? It might be sexist, but then again, maybe I'm sexist for asking.
  • At this point I would be ecstatic if Penny Arcade quit doing Penny Arcade and started alternating Lookouts and Automata strips full-time.
  • They can keep their existing audience by posting a "gaming joke of the day" on the front page. Everybody wins!
  • -- Two interesting things here: both the level design and the play are procedural. More info:

Aug 6th

  • "[Starcraft 2] delayed until 2010" "This was part of the Clinton deal with N. Korea."
  • -- Where Chip Delany writes: a non-euclidean hell dimension, evidently.
  • For the anniversary of Braid's release I attempted a celebratory speed run. 52'21". I keep forgetting you have to practice for speed runs.

Aug 7th

Aug 10th

  • Internet access is sparse, so pretend everything I'm about to twit was dispersed relatively evenly over the past three days.
  • Finished one book and ran down batteries on two game systems and an MP3 player getting from my home in El Cerrito to the hotel in Sarteano.
  • As far as I can tell there are no drinking fountains in Europe.
  • At Roma Termini I ate at Mr. Panino, an Italian fast food chain. They served me what was perhaps the driest chicken sandwich I've ever had.
  • English language graffiti: "One Year of Love in Rome."
  • Every single road in Sarteano is slanted. Drop something round, you'll never see it again. Probably makes garbage disposal trivial, though!
  • Visited a castle filled with bowls of flowers and pictures of Tibetan kids. Tiny helical staircase made me feel like I was encased in rock.
  • The cats here go about their business nonchalantly until they notice you're paying attention, then they take off running. None want hugs :(
  • The best part of Italy might be the tiny doors.
  • Visited a swimming pool filled with water cycled in from a nearby spring. No need to chlorinate because it's not standing water. Neat idea!
  • Man, I think I might start having stewed prunes and croissants for breakfast back home, too.
  • A lot of sloped staircases, including one at the pool. Like they couldn't decide between a slope and a staircase, so they made a compromise.
  • You can't swing a hug-averse cat in Florence without knocking over some street vendor's tray of cheap plastic Davids.
  • It just occurred to me that it's weird that they drive on the right side of the road here.
  • "Coffee Shop" charged us 47 euros for a pretty goddamn light lunch. The 16oz Coca Cola was 6.50.
  • They handed out disposable blue shawls at the entrance to Duomo, so women could cover their unseemly exposed shoulders in the house of God.
  • In the gift shop in the basement of Duomo, I saw a tourist take a photograph of a Duomo-themed 2010 calendar they had in stock.
  • 4:25pm in our hotel room. Every bell in the city has been ringing for the past two minutes.
  • 6:15pm. I think they've finally stopped with the bells.

Aug 11th

  • Nothing but Italian food in Italy. Pizza, pasta, lasagna, panini, gelato. I like it too, guys, but not *every day*!
  • Lots of boys with spiked-up cowlicks. There must be a football player with that hairdo.
  • Italy namechecks Leonardo Da Vinci every chance it gets. I bet in 50 years we'll be naming our rail systems and cafes after Michael Jackson.
  • More David-themed swag: boxers and aprons printed with a man-sized photograph of David, cropped to the anatomically appropriate regions.
  • Well, I don't feel any drier now, but this paper-thin hotel towel is wet. The water must've come from somewhere.
  • Still can't figure out how to properly open our hotel door from the inside. We've been depressing the tongue with a flat object every time.
  • I watched confounded, hands already soaped, while others magically summoned water from restroom sinks. Found out later there's a foot pedal.
  • Dudes, I am not going to sign a petition I can't read.
  • I hope Sigg doesn't mind that I filled their water bottle with "Arancia Rossa" rather than water.
  • Navigating a maze of ancient alleyways to find a laundromat, I wonder why maintaining legacy code doesn't make me think "Old World charm."
  • It's not just street vendors trading on the image of David; there'a full-sized replica in front of Palazzo Vecchio.
  • Had to wait outide the American Consulate for 45 minutes while my mother got a replacement passport. The armed guards kept giving me looks.
  • One eventually spoke to me. He didn't speak English, but gestured animatedly for a while. After I shrugged enough, he thanked me and left.
  • I can see six clocks from where I'm sitting in this Internet cafe. They're all stopped, and they're all showing different times.

Aug 12th

  • Woozy from heat; forgot to copy twit.txt to USB drive before going to net cafe. But, good to see I'm helping the world:
  • In my stupor I thought this place was AC'd. No dice. But after drinking that gatorade-equivalent I'm sweating again, so I think I'll be OK.

Aug 14th

  • By my count, if you look through any given doorway in Florence, there's a 20% chance it leads into a church.
  • Saw an ad that was part 1950s pinup, part Renaissance painting. 1500s influences must be current because the city is still immersed in them.
  • So as it turns out, the doors in Sarteano are only tiny because Florence hogged all the door-making material.
  • Today's beverage: "Fruit & Vit." Which doesn't look Italian at all. Theory: they didn't have a word meaning "fruit" and had to borrow one.
  • The hotel said this room had a bathroom. Shower, sink, *bidet*, but *no toilet*. Pretty sure it's not April 1st; the weather would be nicer.
  • Maybe "bathroom" is moon-man for "Nobody in this country has a colon. Enjoy the hidden cameras!"
  • Must be two dozen nude men in this mural, but I've been playing Where's Waldo for five minutes and I don't think I'm going to find one dick.
  • Oh god, the mural is of a torture scene. Well, I'm already surrounded by crucifices, so maybe torture is the new blank canvas.
  • Hm. I'm going to have to find another aid to help me focus in places that don't permit photography.
  • My beard has been a big hit. I don't know whether Italians are really into beards, or its length recently crossed a tipping point, or what.
  • Every time I step out of the hotel room, Duomo smacks me in the face. What must it be like for an edifice like this to be business-as-usual?
  • Europeans know how to live. In this weather, spending midday doing anything other than napping is madness.
  • Make that spending the entire rest of the day doing anything other than napping. Maybe I'm coming down with something.
  • The register displayed "Christ the Lord" for a transaction I saw; I figured "well, it's a Catholic country." But no, that's the book's name.
  • Japanese tourists are adorable. Especially the one knocking repeatedly on the shared bathroom door, saying "toilet please."
  • Is it me, or do I have to pump this button to get the toilet to flush? Like a Super Soaker? Just pressing it once, even hard, doesn't work.
  • Today's beverage: gatorade gatorade gatorade.
  • English language graffiti: "Fuck Sistem [anarchy symbol]"
  • Florentine street vendor sold us dead batteries. I actually discovered the scam within meters, but didn't feel up to arguing in Italian.
  • I wouldn't have thought someone would have had to invent linear perspective, but browsing Gallery degli Uffizi, someone totally did.
  • Other things they had to invent: babies that don't look like malproportioned adults; pubic hair; smiles; subjects besides Madonna and child.
  • Somebody remind me to write the essay about how paintings with 3D elements, e.g. indentations to catch the light, are like pinball tables.
  • I hoped I would remember the name of the painting of the ape in a jester outfit doing a caricature of a lady with a parasol, but I don't.
  • The train to Venice is banking like a fucking X-Wing.
  • Took a boat to our hotel. Maybe you guys didn't notice, but building a city on a cluster of unconnected islands results in an awkward city.
  • Getting off the boat, saw a sculpture of a pack of cigarettes embedded in a chair to the right, and a car printed with nude women ahead.
  • The plaque for the roped-off car sculpture said it was under constant video surveillance, so I refrained from slashing its tires.
  • As epiphanies go this is pretty banal, but walking the street drives home the idea that life really is the same damn thing wherever you go.
  • One table over: "I'll have the roast chicken." "Where are you from?" "Paraguay." "You came all the way from Paraguay to have roast chicken?"
  • I figured, when I'm settled in and comfortable, I'll start eating weird shit just for the experience. But I'm never going to be comfortable.
  • (Sample menu item I decided against: "Typical Florentine tripe.")
  • This room is a palatial estate by comparison. My takeaway from this experience: if you can pay twice as much per night for a room, do so.
  • This toilet is engineered for as much splashback and volume as possible. But it's hard for me, now, to complain about a toilet that exists!
  • Today's continental breakfast included a single-serving tub-and-foil packet of Nutella whose tub part was shaped like a Nutella jar.
  • Something I wish I could bring back: the two euro coin. Two euros feels like just the right amount of money to toss around in coin form.
  • Something I wish I could bring back: adjustable-height showerheads. Showers in America are optimized for dwarves and gnomes.
  • Found an art installation with screens displaying webcams from all around the world. Art in Venice trumps art in Florence.

Aug 15th

  • The last person to use this Internet cafe computer in English mode set it to Dvorak. I'd like to shake somebody's hand.
  • One of the Pollocks at the Peggy Guggenheim collection: "Oil (and enamel?)" -- you're asking me?
  • To all the artists thinking they're edgy for splashing paint around at random: welcome to nineteen-fucking-twelve.
  • Roll of toilet paper in the Guggenheim gift shop: "Cloaca."
  • Saw a submarine docked in the Grand Canal. Hope they take it out on tours. They could build underwater attractions if none already exist.
  • English language graffiti: "Heath I swear..." :'(
  • I'm definitely developing a sense for Celsius, at least in terms of what ranges are comfortable to habitate in.
  • 1233 photos taken so far this trip. Now I wish I'd been wearing a pedometer.
  • In America, a bell tower ringing means "It's N O'Clock." In Italy, it means "Hey, it's bell ringin' time for the next five minutes!"
  • Some beggars wear all white (including white facepaint) and make kissing noises at you; others just lie on the ground in awkward positions.
  • Others stand too close while you're trying to operate a vending machine and say "grazie" over and over, then scowl if you don't give enough.
  • I actually do want some of this street vendor junk, but it wouldn't remind me of Italy; it'd remind me of being harassed by street vendors.
  • I bet now I'll be seeing Flying V ukuleles all over California, but I saw one here first.
  • One thing I'm not developing a sense for: measuring my food intake in kilojoules. (Probably because labels provide the kcal equivalents.)
  • Have yet to see any ruins! Maybe you have to get the timing just so and see the building right after it's ruined, before they can fix it.

Aug 16th

  • Something else that might be new to this place or new to now: Duff Beer. The beer from The Simpsons, right? It's using a Simpsons font.
  • "Animal Passports." I can't decide which idea makes less sense: your pet might need a passport? Or your passport might come in animal form?
  • I can imagine a variant of the urban legend in which a restaurant in Hong Kong mistakenly prepares someone's passport for dinner.
  • You would have to get a doggie bag for your plate of stir-fry so you could slap it on the counter at customs.
  • Our hotel in Rome has Internet. We stayed up later last night than at any previous hotel. Going to try to pretend it isn't there.
  • I thought it was just our hotel in Florence, but no, every elevator in Italy is the size of a phone booth.
  • I think what makes transactions so clean here is that the prices are even. No sales tax or "$9.99" trickery.
  • Aside from the occasional megalith, parts of Rome could just be any city. I'm not compelled to photograph every intersection and building.
  • Saw my first ruin! A disembodied statue foot on a worn pedestal in some random back alley. Not sure whether I should feel dirty.
  • Twisted my ankle in front of S. Andrea Della Valle's Basilica. I wonder what it takes to get somebody disbarred from the sainthood.
  • Saw some ruins for reals! Complete with cats lounging amongst them. I guess cats like Roman ruins. I bet nobody bothers them down there.
  • Oh. It turns out the ruins are attached to a cat shelter. I wonder how they set that up!
  • Spent a good deal of time visiting the cats. Also photographing them.
  • Ended up buying a bunch of souvenirs from the cat shelter. That way when I look at the souvenirs I can think of Italy and cats.
  • Despite what I said before about not being compelled to photograph everything, we filled up the memory card (about 400 photos) twice today.
  • Passed a restaurant advertising "Italian Food." What a change that would be!
  • @thealawson Thanks! I hope by the time I get back I'll still be able to think in long form.
  • Sign in park: "Forbidden to play with ball." I bet they don't have Ultimate Frisbee around here.

Aug 17th

  • The fake plastic plants in this hotel have fake plastic brown spots and fake plastic damage. Somebody takes mimesis seriously around here!
  • They won't let you into the Vatican museums with exposed shoulders or knees. I hope they like track pants.
  • First stop: Cripta Dei Cappuccini, where the bones of 4000 Cappuchin monks are laid out in tasteful wallpaper patterns.
  • Unlike the rest of Europe, Rome has drinking fountains: you drink from statues of spitting lions and pouring vases. No peeing cherubim yet.
  • No cats in The Forum. Looks like platformer terrain. Mario would fit right in, bouncing from column to column, collecting coins.
  • Alternatively, it's also just a few quarter pipes away from a skate competition.
  • It turns out that the long queue in front of Museo Palatino is for the drinking fountain.
  • All the tourists are really harshing my gorgeous shots of The Colosseum. And of pretty much everything else this trip, come to mention it.
  • I've been in Roma Termini three or four times now and I swear I've never seen the same part twice. Do they reconfigure it daily?
  • Say. This is the last day of the trip, and I haven't been robbed yet. Italian pickpockets must have respect for a quality beard.
  • Never made it to the Vatican, and we fly back in the morning. No regrets; every single day has been stuffed to bursting with awesome.

Aug 18th

  • Found what might be the only place in Italy serving sushi. They played "Arthur's Theme" on the radio. (I had the brie and walnut pizza.)
  • It was also the only establishment I ran across conscientious enough to put padding on the five-foot-high doorways.
  • Presumably they named the Tritone Hotel after the interval they pipe into your room at all hours.
  • Now that I'm leaving indefinitely, I think I finally have the hang of the Italian public transit system.
  • They gave me powdered milk with lunch on the flight from Rome. Not sure what I was supposed to do with it; they didn't give me water.
  • Plane banked startlingly seconds away from landing at Boston. Notable audience reaction. Unprompted applause after safe landing.
  • Missed connecting flight, stuck in Boston for 3 hours. Charge on everything dead or nearly, all books read.
  • Any recommendations for awesome Boston tourist attractions to visit in the next three hours? Already tried the Dunkin' Donuts in Terminal C.
  • Airport vending machine has Guitar Hero: On Tour for the DS for sale right next to the Nintendo DSi. These products don't work together.
  • (Yeah, I follow video game news like normal people follow the regular news.)

Aug 19th

  • Figured I'd find my account devastated by currency exchange fees, but I think they charged me exactly what the Euro is worth. Thanks, beard!
  • @polpo Huh, neat trick! Looks like it requires a tripod, though. And probably more patience than I have.
  • -- "Scientists in Israel have demonstrated that it is possible to fabricate DNA evidence."

Aug 20th

Aug 21st

  • Hm. Netbook won't start up. Going to try to boot Ubuntu from a USB stick to recover the ~8 gigabytes of photos from Italy.
  • Just got an IM from Lee for the first time in years. Out of the blue. It was a link to an article called "69 Ways You're a Douchebag."
  • "6. You own a comb." Really? I mean, I don't. But, really?
  • Photos safely recovered. Doing filter pass to remove those too dark and/or blurry to live.
  • Here's one of a street sign reading "Piazza di S. Pancrazio." That's right: I personally set foot in the Plaza of Saint Pancreas.

Aug 22nd

  • Trials HD is the best cartoony-physics-based motocross platformer yet. While that sounds specific enough to be a joke, it really is a genre.

Aug 23rd

  • -- Are atheists qualified to raise children? New Jersey Superior Court weighs in.
  • -- "At least 500 different systems based around [AY-3-8500 Pong-On-A-Chip] were released by hundreds of manufacturers."
  • -- They're still making Genesis games in Brazil. Here's "Mega Drive Guitar idol." I think this was a scene in Mad Max.
  • -- How bleeding on demand helps you win at rugby.
  • -- Infographic: how you spend your day.
  • Back from jog. Entire sky was rumbling around me. No rain, just thunder.
  • Not many people are willing to admit in their OkCupid username that they're going to compulsively eat the contents of your cat's litter box.

Aug 24th

Aug 25th

  • -- Huh. Grumman Aerospace also designed the ubiquitous mail truck. Not as romantic a project as the LEM, I have to say.
  • The 360 dashboard update must've increased my available bandwidth as well; I'm getting four Netflix streaming quality bars instead of two.
  • This time I got a Python traceback instead of a segfault! I hope this gives insight into the existing bug rather than being a separate bug.
  • Every 15 minutes or so I notice that that car alarm is still going. It's been, what, four hours?
  • Playing music with your heads: (Playing music with your slot cars:

Aug 27th

  • -- So much of my frustration with bad software would be alleviated by a button I could press to get an apology.
  • -- "People holding a heavy clipboard would value foreign currencies more highly than those using a lighter clipboard."
  • According to Steam, both "Stanier 8F Locomotive RailWorks" and "Diaper Dash" fit under the "simulation" genre.
  • @fistfulofsand For 3 years I've lived 2 blocks away from a Burger King. Just recently caved and ate there. Lord help me, it was really good.
  • -- More scenes from the post-nuclear waste land.
  • @pnewnan There's room for a lot of improvement. i.e., checking a window rather than the whole history, to detect when the rate drops to 0.
  • @prodigious It's important so you can hear all elements of the song clearly. Also so your batter doesn't have discrete ingredient lumps.
  • -- Oh good, I was looking for some light bathroom reading.
  • It's part of a series! E.g., and -- 60 milligrams isn't a very big container.
  • (5:35:09 PM) Craig: theme park idea: life size recreation of de_dust

Aug 28th

  • Protip: If you have a carton of that super-dry sand for drawing moisture out of the air, don't store it sideways in a drawer you never open.

Aug 29th

Aug 30th

  • -- "Anytime you lean your head against a wall or the back of your chair, you will dent your 'fro."
  • I guess the brick-shaped fro you sometimes see on homeless people is the hair growing into the shape of its container. I.e. the world.
  • -- "This place is not a place of honor. This place is a message and part of a system of messages. Pay attention to it!"
  • -- SkiFree creator's SkiFree web page about SkiFree.
  • Build your own super power:

Aug 31st

  • MP3 of John Carmack's QuakeCon 2009 keynote:
  • Dead Space was my poster child for so-so-10-hour-game-that-should've-been-an-awesome-5-hour-game, but replaying it, maybe I sold it short.
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