09-30-09 - The Olympic Peninsula Sucks

The Olympic Peninsula is a load of crap. It's touted as this wilderness wonderland, but it's really all pretty boring. Yeah the coast is nice, but if you've seen the Oregon coast or the Northern Cal coast or Big Sur it's pretty much all the same thing. Big rocks and waves crashing, yeah it's starkly beautiful and all, but it's such a kleeshay. Can't you do something more creative, nature? That said, the various beaches are beautiful in comparison with the incredible letdown that is the Hoh Rainforest. Ooo look it's a bunch of trees with slightly more moss than other places. And there's a mob of tourists and no good trails or views. It's ridiculous.

There are some outstanding sights on the OP, but they aren't the nature :

1. Just driving the 101 around. It's usually pretty low traffic and not many cops, so you can really let the car run free. The roads are swervy and hilly enough to be fun but not dangerous and the pavement is pretty solid. It becomes a real treat at twilight as the sun starts to go down. Because of the rolling hills and our northerly latitude (longitude? what-the-fuck-itude?) the sunset lasts for hours and makes the tree-covered hills like spiky sillhouettes against a field of color. The biggest risk is deer.

2. The Satsop "Development Park" (the cancelled nuclear power plant). There are the huge cooling towers that you can get into and they're just gorgeous; it's a magical place, the echo of sound on the inside is eerie. Oddly they are trying to convert the site into an office park for high tech companies (lol, good luck with that goofballs, it's in the middle of butt fuck nowhere) ; the sweet thing is they are leaving the cooling towers in the office park : About visiting it ; NY Times article on it ; Satsop Development Park Property Map

3. Some neat little poor country towns like Blyn, Discovery Bay, or La Push. I like the way these places look like time is not passing at all in them. There's a dog wandering around between houses (is it a stray?) , a boat upside down in the front lawn that could have been there a week or ten years.

4. Aberdeen. This town is just gorgeous if you like sad urban decay and the glories of yesteryear. It was obviously a thriving harbor town around the turn of the century, but now literally the entire downtown is boarded up. There are some great old iron bridges, stone buildings, and a palpable feeling of loss in the air. (Port Angeles has a bit of this too, but Aberdeen shines because it was actually nice before it fell). I keep just passing through and always swear that next time I'll spend more time here.

If you do have to go to the OP for some reason, go to those places and just ignore that national park. If you want to come to WA and see some natural beauty, I recommend North Cascades, perhaps off Mountain Loop Highway or up off Mt Baker Hwy.

Theoretically in season you should be able to get some good Dungeness crab somewhere, but I can't actually figure out what the season is or where to get good ones. What the fuck, that should be a major draw.

The trip was a great joy just for the little random moments together in odd situations, but it did a fucking number on my back. Sitting in my car is really bad for me, and the fucking shitty hotel beds hurt me really bad. It's a few days later now and I'm still suffering from knots and a pinched nerve that's really fucking me up. Oddly backpacking was far better on me than road tripping. Actually just taking my thermarest sleep pad and using that in a hotel room would be better than these awful hotel beds that sag in the middle and have wierd pressure points.


09-29-09 - Aliasing is Pretty

I made some images of aliasing/moiray patterns : (BTW inherent to these images is the fact that they don't look at all right except at full zoom since the image structure is created by the pixel grid sampling aliasing, so click through). You may be surprised to know what these are an image of.









Answer : these are pictures of sin( x^2 + y^2 ) , that is, sin( r^2 ) a very simple radial trig function. You don't see the function at all, the images are 100% aliasing as the radial sin is scaled to very high frequency.


09-28-09 - Clubs

We went out to a club for Decibel Fest. A few thoughts :

One is : my god, most DJ's fucking suck so bad. All you have to do is play some banging tracks and string them together smoothly and the crowd will be happy. That's just the basics. Anything above that is gravy, but instead people try to be fancy and unique and just fuck it all up with long silent pauses and crazy annoying screeching noises or long breaks where the beat disappers. WTF DJs get your shit together. I have zero experience but I'm sure I could do better with about 24 hours prep to get tracks together and just fucking play them on my laptop and do beat-matches crossfades. The headliners were the Wighnomy Brothers who I guess are pretty famous and reputed, but good god they sucked balls and it took a real force of internal positive energy for us to keep the good vibes cranking.

(of course you see the same thing in coding all the time; it's a classic blunder for people to assume that the obvious easy solution is not good enough. To accelerate a lookup, of course you should just use std::hash_map and spend your energy making sure you use it well and have a decent hash_function for it, instead people will right off the bat jump into making a custom structure which is much worse in many ways, slower and buggy. Almost all the time you should just take the simple obvious solution and focus on executing it well rather than trying to be really different).

The other is : my god Seattle fucking sucks so bad. The people here are fat and ugly, they don't dress up, everyone's wearing flannel and jeans and they're all beardy and sweaty and gross and worst of all, they're not dancing, they just fucking stand around and act all emo. God you all suck so bad. Fucking make an effort, go to the gym, dress up, and just have fun and dance. It's very comfortable here, it's easy, and I have a nice life and I like my friends here, so some times I get lulled to sleep and forget how lame it really is. Whenever I try to go out to the clubs it reminds me how much I miss SF. I miss the crazy Saturday night at the The Transfer (which I guess is gone) where the gays and the hipsters and all the wacky people from the neighborhood would come together in a tiny space and get all sweaty and dance like their life depended on it to awesome cutting edge indie electro that was smoothly mixed and always pumping.

I think a lot of people who try going out and don't like it have the wrong attitude about it. It's never going to be some amazing extravaganza that whisks you off your feet. It's always what you make of it. It's also not a big deal on any given night. If it sucks, just bail out, and who cares. It's way more fun if you just go to check things out, if you like it then kick it, if not, then leave and go somewhere else or try another night.

I also ran into another aggressive skeezer and wish I would have handled it differently. This is a very common occurance because clubs are infested with a virulant swarm of skeezers; it's happened several times with various different girlfriends in the past. The basic move of the skeezer is something like this - they come up to your girlfriend ostensibly to ask some question or make some "funny" comment, and they use the excuse of the club noise to stand way too close, and often even put an arm around her waist as they whisper in her ear. Often they will even hold her close so that her boob pushes into their body. They act all casual and small-talky, but they blatantly ignore the fact that you're standing right there and pull some dominance game bullshit. My usual lamer reaction is to give them the stink eye and subtly pull my girlfriend away from them after it's clear they're sticking way too close for way too long (they try to stick like velcro so it often takes a push to their chest to actually get them to separate). But it always takes me a minute or two to react because I spend the first minute in a state of shock thinking "WTF, really?". Anyway, I wish I'd just punched the guy straight in the nose. Or maybe not that, but perhaps grab him by the ear and pull him off her. Fucking skeezers.

I've also never in my life actually seen a girl step up and tell the guy to back off herself, like "hey easy with the hands bub", they always just laugh uncomfortably and take it because they don't want to turn it into a big deal. The skeezer exploits people's inertia and desire to be polite and unwillingness to escalate to a confrontation. Yeah, the skeezer's invasion of space and subtle groping is not a huge issue, so it's easy to just let it slide, but that's exactly his intention, that's how he gets you. It's like the guys who are subtle dicks to you, they drop half-joking put-downs, they try to slide right under the edge where it's not a big enough deal for you to say anything about it, and then they keep pushing that edge farther. Of course all the crooked corporations do the same thing, they charge you little fees here and there, they take away your rights and stick you with contract provisions, each one of them is too small for you to get too bothered about, so you just sit there and take it like a little bitch.

On a tangent, if you're a girl you should know the probability of a guy talking to you is directly proportional to his skeezitude. Obviously this creates a very bad sampling bias if you're trying to meet good human beings. It's pretty much a 100% gaurantee of skeeze if he touches you while talking to you. Most girls find it entertaining when the skeezer jokes with them and touches them, they like the fact that he's showing interest in them, making them feel desirable, they like the fact that he's energetic and seems to get the attention of many people in the room. I don't mean to imply that girls are unique in their failure to appreciate population filtering and sampling bias; I haven't met many guys who apply logic to probabilistic human selection in dating.

ADDENDUM : Seattle is the only place in the US I've ever seen people line up for drinks at a bar. It's really bizarre to me and I think emblematic of the repressed weirdness of this city. Like you have a long empty bar with a few bar tenders behind it. Normal behavior in 99% of the US is just to go up to the bar at any empty spot and make yourself visible to the bartender. The bartender sort of notices who got up to the bar first and will serve people first-come first-serve (or some approximation thereof).

In Seattle, people go up to the spot on the bar with the rubber pad and just stand there. If someone else wants a drink they stand behind that person. If a bunch want a drink, an actual line forms, like people waiting to order drinks at a coffee shop or something. It's incredibly bizarre. It freaks me out every time I see it.

I despise Toby Young but I thought it was pretty awesome that he was saying "pie ella" for paella.

WTF it's simply impossible to buy fish in Seattle. So far as I can tell there are only two places that carry even edible fish : Uwajimaya and Mutual Fish. Mutual Fish closes at 5:30 , Uwajimaya closes at 6:30 , neither of which I can make on my way home. (so far as I can tell the Uwajimaya fish counter actually closes at 7:00 but any time I've been there after 6:30 they're already shutting down and don't want to be bothered).


09-26-09 - Habits - Code Inlining

There's been an off and on discussion with some peers in email about the issue of putting small code functionality directly inline in a bigger function vs. splitting it out. I don't think it's actually an interesting topic so I don't want to repeat it here, but it made me think of something I want to write about.

Basically the contention is that even if you have a logically separate piece of work, sometimes it's better to go ahead and write it inline in the larger function, because it makes the code flow more linear and imperative and thus easier to read and debug. There are also obvious disadvantages to writing code inline - less strong separation of functional bits, temptation to copy-paste code, less ability to debug and test functions independently, etc. etc. All the pros and cons are obvious and thus not interesting.

The key point to me is the issue that while code inline may be a win sometimes - it's a big loss at other times, and it requires you to make a careful smart logical decision about which way to go.

That's very bad. I think most smart people as they get older come to the realization that you shouldn't put yourself in positions where you have to make careful logical decisions over and over. Instead you should craft habits and rules for yourself that help you do the right thing without having to make careful decisions.

One obvious case that most smart people figure out is diet and exercise, or booze or other indulgences. Yes, it's perfectly fine to have a some dessert once in a while, but if you open that door for yourself you're putting yourself in a situation where you are consciously making a decision "is it okay for me to have cake today?" and you will inevitably get lazy and make the wrong choice sometimes.

As usual the best analogy is poker, and it's how this point was really made real for me. Smart people often start out playing poker trying to logically reason out every single action and think they don't need to be constrained by simple rules or habits. That's great if you really are correctly thinking through every situation, but you inevitably get tired or lazy or make mistakes, and if you're not constraining yourself with rules, you can make huge mistakes.

For example, there might be cases where the best play is to limp aces up front, or to not reraise with aces, but correctly making that decision requires a lot of careful thought, and the upside to making that decision is pretty small, while the downside to doing it in the wrong situation is very big. It's best to just make a rule for yourself that you always raise or reraise. It simplifies things, it removes decision points and lets you focus on more important issues. It might be +EV to call raises sometimes with hands like 68o, but it's best to just give yourself a rule that you never do that.

To be clear - these rules are specifically non-optimal. By making rules for yourself you are intentionally choosing to not try to be 100% optimal, so of course someone can say "you could have done something better there". That's not the point. The point is that if you try to make perfect decisions all the time you will occasionally fail very badly.

Winning poker play (or good coding, or good life living) are largely about making it easy for yourself to do the right thing.


09-25-09 - Motion Search

I just read the paper on Patch Match and it makes me angry so I figure I'll write about the motion search method I'm developing for possible future use in the new RAD video stuff. PatchMatch is just so incredibly trivial and obvious, it's one of those things that never should have been a paper and never should have been accepted in a journal. It's a great thing for someone to write on their blog because you can describe it in about one sentence, and most experts in the field already know the idea and are probably doing it already. (I will say the good thing about the paper is they do a good job of gathering references to other papers that are related, such as stuff in texture synth and hole filling and so on which I find interesting).

Here's the one sentence version of PatchMatch : Seed your match field with some random guess or shitty initial matches; improve by incrementally propagating match offsets to neighbors and trying small random deltas to find improvements. (it's an absolute classic spin network magnetic moment relaxation kind of problem).

Here's what I've been doing : start with a match field set to all nulls (no match found yet). Then incrementally fill it in with matches and propagate them to neighbors. It proceeds in a few steps like this :

Step 1. Use computer vision methods to find feature points in a frame. Match feature points to the previous frame. This bit is a bit tricky and tweaky, you only want to make matches that you're pretty confident in. Note that this matching is done based on a "characteristic" of the feature point which has no distance limit, and is also somewhat immune to rotation and scaling and such. Sometimes this step finds some very good correspondences between the frames, but it's sparse - it only has high confidence at a few places in the frame, so you can't use it to find all the block matches (and you wouldn't want to even if you could). Generally this finds around 100 vectors.

Step 2. Find "distinctive" spots in the frame. The goal is to find some spots that are not degenerate - eg. not flat patches, not straight edges. The idea is that these are places where we can likely find a good motion vector with high confidence, unlike degenerate areas where there are lots of equally good match vectors. I use two mechanisms to find distinctive spots : one is the computer vision feature points that were not already used in the first matching step. The second is to take the "cornerness" map of the image using a Harris or Hessian operator on the derivative of gaussians (this is a lot like an edge map, but it kills straight edges). Find the top 5% highest cornerness values that are local maxima, and use those as distinctive spots. All of the distinctive spots do a long distance brute force block match (something like radius = 16 or 32) to try to find a good motion vector for them.

Step 3 : Flood fill to fill in the gaps. We now have presumably good motion vectors at a few key points in the frame. Go to their neighbors and search for match vectors that are close to the neighboring one that we already found. Put that in the blank and push its neighbors to the queue to continue the flood fill.

Step 4 : Relaxation pass. (this is not critical). We now have a motion vector everywhere in the frame. For each match vector in the frame, look at its 4 neighbors. Examine match vectors that are near my 4 neighboring vectors. If one is better, replace self. Continue to next. Theoretically you should do this pass a few times, but I find 1 or 2 is very close to infinite.

The key thing is that motion is usually semi-coherent (but not fully coherent, because we are not really trying to find true motion here, but rather just the best matching block, which is a lot more random than true motion is). By finding very good motion vectors in seed spots where we have high confidence, we can propagate that good information out to places where we don't have as much confidence. This lets us avoid doing large brute-force searches.

BTW I really do not understand the point of all the "diamond search" type shit in the video compression literature. It seems to just find really shitty motion vectors and is not making good use of the possibilities in the bit stream. Especially with GPU video encoding in this modern age, doing plain old big chunks of brute force motion search is preferrable. (yes, I know it's for speed, but it's a poor way to optimize, and the high quality encoders are still non-realtime anyway, so if you're not realtime you may as well take some more time and do better; plus the vast majority of use of non-realtime video encoders is in an encode-once decode-many type of scenario which means you should spend a lot of cpu and encode as well as possible).

With this method I find motion vectors using local searches of radius 8-16 that are the same quality as brute force searches of radius 50-100, which makes it about two orders of magnitude faster (and higher quality, since nobody does brute force searches that far).

ADDENDUM : To give this post a bit more weight, here are some numbers on quality from my video coder vs. brute force search radius :

 -s16  : rmse : 9.3725 , psnr : 28.7277
 -s26  : rmse : 9.2404 , psnr : 28.8510
 -s48  : rmse : 9.0279 , psnr : 29.0531
 -s64  : rmse : 8.9171 , psnr : 29.1603
 -s100 : rmse : 8.7842 , psnr : 29.2907
 -s9999: rmse : 8.5294 , psnr : 29.5465

(-s16 means it's searching a 33x33 grid for motion vectors) (-s9999 means it searches full frame).

The above described iterative feature point propagation method gets

 -sfast: rmse : 8.8154 , psnr : 29.2600

BTW for doing full-frame brute force search you obviously should use a block-space acceleration structure for high dimensional nearest neighbor search, like a kd-tree, a bd-tree (box decomposition) or vp-tree (vantage point). High dimensional spaces are nasty though; the typical idea of "find a cell then walk to its immediate neighbors" is not fast in high D because you have O(D) neighbors.


09-24-09 - Indian Summer

We're having a little indian summer in Seattle. I keep thinking it's the last nice day before the drear kicks in, but we just keep getting more hot sunny days. I really wish I could get out and get a good bike ride in while the weather is still good, but I don't feel like I can take the hour or two off work, just fucking being alive and doing the minimum of errands takes so much damn time.

A few days ago when we had a nice hot night, I went late night skinny dipping in lake wash. (lake wash in the P.N.dub bitches). It's long been a dream of mine, and it finally just happened. All my fantasies are become reality these days, effortlessly, easily, they just happen.

My fucking phone continues to randomly decide not to send texts (they just go into pending state and then never retry). It keeps leading to bad social misunderstandings because someone will send me a text, I'll reply, but it doesn't actually go out, so they think I'm just ignoring them, and then I think they're ignoring me.

My continued boycott of Facebook and Apple is becoming more ridiculous by the minute. Aside from facebook being specifically designed to suck your time, my biggest complaint about it and Myspace is the fact that they are not open and try to trick you into registering by making them visible to members only. I try to boycott all web sites that are members only, so GORP, trails.com, etc etc shit that won't show you their content without registration can fucking suck my cock. There are bands that only list their tour dates on their facebook site now, restaurants that put their current menu on facebook, etc. Facebook is not part of the open internet! All of you need to get some balls and join the boycott with me.

I'd like to be able to set up Google to never show me results in protected sites like Experts Exchange (fuckers) or the IEEE (fuckers) or Facebook (fuckers). There should be a "free content only" option. We should have a "free the internet" movement.

I am a big believer in not trying to understand things that are too complex to be understood or that you don't have enough time to really dig into or that you don't have all the information about. If you try to reason about something without a full understanding, it's easy to make very big mistakes. In those cases it's much better just to back up and take an empirical holistic view.

(the exception of course is researchers who are trying to expand our area of understanding, but they should also not be taking cutting edge research and telling the public about it or making conclusions from it; basically my contention is that research into complex topics like the body should have a waiting period where the scientists can hash it out before we try to draw conclusions from it)

For example, I know sugar and fat are bad for me (in large quantities). My body feels bad when I eat it. I don't think we have a solid understanding of all the metabolic pathways involved in digestion and how the body's internal regulatory systems respond to various inputs and how that all interacts with your exercise schedule, and I think that paying too much attention to the limited set of details that you might know can only lead to skewed pictures and leaps of logic that don't match the simple big picture. I really don't believe in paying much attention to all the nonsense about lycopenes or omega-3's or alpha-stupidol or whatever. Maybe some of that shit would be good for you, maybe not, the science is incredibly weak. It's funny to me the exact same people who will make fun of the now-disproven food fads such as low-sodium and low-cholesterol are the same people who try to eat almonds and blueberries and believe that canard about red wine being good for you because it appears to benefit something in some specific pathway, without understanding how it affects feedback systems long term.

For another example, when the Fed was holding interest rates so low for a long time when we weren't in recession and everybody was convinced they could get rich quick by buying a house, you should be able to see something is going horribly wrong. You may not understand the exact mechanisms of the financial system that will lead to problems (in fact, maybe nobody understands all the factors at play and self-balancing mechanisms and positive and negative feedback loops in the financial system any more), but focusing too much on logical details and making risk analyses and macroeconomic models can easily lead you to false conclusions. I think you see the truth better by just ignoring all that rigor and detail and stepping back to the big picture and saying "something is obviously wrong here and it doesn't matter if whether or not I can say exactly what or how it will blow up".

Another great example is politics and world affairs; it's tempting for the smart rationalists to think "hey if we topple this regime or back these rebels or sabotage this political campaign then these other things will logically follow" , but it's just too complex a system and they fail to account for various factors, and through the blidness of logical reasoning without a full model they wind up making mistakes that are very large.

It's another thing that was really hammered home for me by poker. Yes if you really really understand what's going on, then you can reason from logical first principles and come to new conclusions (BTW you probably don't really understand what's going on, so don't do this). Failing that, you are best off using very simple empirical concepts aka "common wisdom" and "rules of thumb" and such. If you try to figure out how to play using logic and math without 100% understanding, you will be much worse off than if you just followed the wives tales.

Commuting fucking blows so bad. I've been waking up really happy recently, full of energy and peace. Especially after a night spent with N I wake up in a state of bliss with just a content glow. I have coffee, read the paper, eat eggs, and I'm in love with the world and the fresh air and the sunshine. And then it's all wiped away and replaced with weariness and anger.

I've been doing really shitty work for RAD recently. I go in and try to make myself focus, but my mind just wanders, I write a little code and just lose track of where I am. I'm sure a lot of it is just because I've been absolutely exhausted every day for the past month because of backpacking or camping or just because I'm staying up super late with N every night painting the town red. But it makes me wonder if my days as a productive coder are done. And even if they're not done now, maybe they will be soon.

I definitely find that the happier I am in my outside life, the more I take care of my body, the more I socialize and have hobbies and exercise - the less I want to work and the less I can focus on work. I'm most productive when my outside life just blows and I'm lonely and I neglect my body and just sit at the computer all the time.

There's this myth that happier more balanced coders are more productive. Bullshit. The family man with a social life who exercises is maybe putting in 4 solid hours. The nerd who slams caffeine and never leaves his desk and turns into a throbbing brain with an atrophied body (like a third stage guild navigator) is way way way more productive. Yes, the nerd might wreck his body or burn out and not be able to work at all any more, but that's not my concern if I'm an employer - at that point I can just fire him and get a new nerd. There's this myth that exercise gives you energy; yes, it does, sort of, but it's energy that makes me want to run around outside, not energy that makes me want to sit inside and write code. It doesn't even have to do with time necessarily, I can actually feel that when my brain is happy, when it's bursting with contentment and excitement like it has been recently, it can't think clearly and it's not interested in diving into deep contemplation.

I never want to manage people, I tried it, I can't do it. Some day if I can't code or manage, I pretty much have to leave software. But I have no idea what else I could ever do with myself. In some ways this industry feels like a dead end.


09-21-09 - Backpacking

Went backpacking over the weekend in the Cascades (Pear Lake to be exact). It was my first time ever backpacking and it went pretty well. I've never done it because 1. I didn't have the gear and didn't want to spend the $1k+ to buy all new gear, and 2. I was worried it would be bad with my fucked up back. It turns out I didn't need to worry about #2. A properly fitted backpack puts all the weight on your hips; my back felt perfectly fine the whole time. Also the modern sleep pads (Thermarest) are really cushy so there's no back pain from bad sleeping conditions.

After we set up camp, we scrambled straight up this face which was great dangerous fun :

And by pure luck we were at the right time for the masses of blueberries (*) everywhere, which were just becoming ripe :

They were all over in the understory; I guess I've seen the bushes before earlier in the year on hikes and had no idea what a bounty they would bear in the fall. Also the leaves turn bright red, which creates great patches of color contrast against all the evergreen trees.

(*) All the locals here seem to call them blueberries or "mountain blueberries", but I'm not entirely convinced that's the right appelation. Certainly they are a berry in genus vaccinium, but it seems very hard to tell whether a given vaccinium should be called "blueberry" or "huckleberry", the distinction appears to be pretty random. In any case, these things were vastly different from the commercial cultivated blueberry, which I find to be mealy and insipid. These were just bursting with flavor, with a twang like a sour apple candy or tropical fruit flavor notes.

Another random tidbit as a note to myself : the first night in happened to be a moonless night, so the stars were absolutely spectacular. That was unintentional and just luck, but it's so cool it's worth planning and doing on purpose.


09-18-09 - Ross Lake

Last week we went to Ross Lake in the North Cascades. It's a pretty incredible experience. You have to catch a ferry at Diablo Lake (BTW the dam and the water at Diablo are worth seeing even if you do nothing else; Diablo Dam is right off Hwy 20 so if you're driving the 20 for some reason, pull off and stop right in the middle of the top of the dam (the access road goes right across the top of the dam); the water is glacier fed and is this cool milky turqoise). Then you get taken by a truck up to Ross Lake above Ross Dam, then you get picked up by a water taxi from the Resort. They gave us kayaks and took us out to a camp site on the lake. The lake is huge and there's no boat ramp on the US side, which means everybody has to portage in boats or take the ferries like we did, which means it's very empty (not full of rednecks in speed boats like most lakes in the US). We were often all alone on the lake, or with just a few other kayaks or quiet fishermen around.

The result of all the effort to get in is you get a campsite way out all alone in gorgeous country, as good as anything you could backpack to, but you can take more gear and you don't have to carry it, because it's all ferried by boat, and you get your kayaks when you're out there. We had amazing adventures and a magical fantastic time out there; I won't tell you about it. It's definitely worth doing. Weekends in the summer are supposed to be pretty bad. You should go midweek, or the resort guys said the best times are actually June or October; the weather is not so great but it's very empty. In June there will still be snow on the craggy peaks all around and waterfalls of snow melt running off them. The best camp sites are May Creek or Roland Point where there are only 1 or 2 camp sites all by themselves. All camp sites are first come first served at the ranger station backcountry permit signup place; that's why you really need to go on an off day or you'll be stuck in the awful big group camps that completely spoil the point of the arduous journey (Big Bear camp looked pretty awful when we kayaked past it, for example).

N on Ross Lake :


Some external photos :

Diablo Gorge
Ross Dam
Ross Dam 2
Skagit Gorge power station

I've always wanted to have a 4x4 all pre-loaded with camping gear in the back, so I could just hop in an go anywhere. The worst thing about camping is having to get all the gear together and load up the car. The second worst thing is having to go to fucking awful car camping sites. I'd love to just be able to drive up mountain roads and stop somewhere in the woods.

A few links :

Tom's View From Ross Lake Resort How to get here
Ross Lake Resort Frequently Asked Questions Rockport, Washington
Ross Lake Recreational Area - Upper Cascades Dams
Ross Lake Kayaking with Anew Outdoors
Ross Lake - WA - paddling trip report
Paddling Ross Lake - WA - paddling trip report
Pacific Northwest Seasons Ross Lake Paddling in the Path of Beat Poets
NWHikers.net - View topic - Little Beaver-Whatcom Pass-Copper Ridge 813-17
NWHikers.net - View topic - Desolation Peak 9-11-04 (lengthy... with pics)
NWHikers.net - View topic - Canoeing on Ross Lake (and maybe some hiking)
NWHikers.net - s090819Lodgepole-Camp
North Cascade Mountains, Washington State, USA
Fortress of solitude The arduous journey to Jack Kerouac's onetime retreat
diablo love - a set on Flickr
big beaver zen - a set on Flickr
Bellingham Whitewater � Exploring Ross Lake Part 1 Lightning Creek
Backcountry Permit System Explained
Adventure Kayaking Inland Waters of ... - Google Books
A long weekend on Ross Lake Chattermarks
A little slice of heaven at Diablo Lake
5 days on Ross Lake - Alex Wetmore is always busy with something...


09-17-09 - Life

I returned a bunch of stuff to REI that didn't work well on our last camping trip. It's so great that you can use stuff out in the field and still return it for a 100% refund. Of course I have spent like $2000 at REI recently in a big fucking yuppie materialist douchebag capitalist ejaculation of money, so it's not like they're really doing me any favors. If you search for "REI refund" on Google you'll find site after site where people brag about how they abuse the policy. You fucking cock holes. First of all, it's a really nice thing REI is doing, they're showing trust in the customer, and you're just proving them wrong, taking advantage of someone being nice and trusting is such a fucking awful thing to do. Second of all, you're just stealing from all the other customers. You're not stealing from REI, you are literally stealing from the people who are honest and respectful of the policy. So many people think that taking advantage of a collective is something to be proud of. My god, you're not fucking clever or bold, we can all see how easy it is to get free rental stuff from REI, you aren't the first genius to come up with that. It's not something to be proud of. People love to brag about cheating on their taxes, or getting "free" stuff from health care, or how they avoided paying some tickets or fines. I remember in California lots of people at Oddworld would brag about they falsely claimed earthquake damage on their homes to get money from the government. You fucking tool, you're stealing from me. People are so disgusting, I hate you all so very much.

I wrote a while ago about the ridiculous speeding ticket I got for going 65 on the god damn freeway. Well, the lawyer that makes tickets disappear made it disappear. That's nice and all, and certainly that ticket was bogus and deserved to go away, but I feel bad about the whole situation. For one thing, the ticket disappearing had nothing at all to do with the fact that it was actually a ridiculous ticket. She just makes any ticket disappear regardless of merit; that bothers me; many speeding tickets are well deserved and people should have to pay. Instead the people with enough knowledge and money to hire the lawyer get no tickets (aka the rich) while the young and the poor get fucked. For another thing, I have been driving like an absolute lunatic recently, I've done 100 right past cops a few times and have made some very sketchy passes, and somehow I have avoided tickets in all those cases. I feel like I deserve a ticket, and even though that one was bogus it was my ticket for all the times I didn't get caught.

I think people who wear workout or hiking clothes around town are super ridiculous loser douchebags (particularly guys who wear compression shirts around town, though wearing hiking gear is pretty bad too; even the girls in yoga pants are pretty retarded). However, I wore some hiking breathable underlayer thing around yesterday and it felt pretty damn good. I was warm and yet not sweaty. I guess the thing I hate is that a lot of people wear that shit because they're trying to show off how fit or outdoorsy they are, oh look at me in my fucking hiking pants I'm such a good Seattleite, but it actually is pretty damn comfy and functional.

N is super idealistic. It reminds me of how I used to be. She doesn't want to use her name or sex or influence to get ahead. She wants communities and respect for all and bikes and pedestrians and help for the poor. She's anti-materialist and anti-capitalist; she believes in making do and doing things yourself. I've given up so much of that, I used to be such an idealist when I was young, I boycotted companies that I thought were evil, I refused to pimp myself, but I gave it up gradually bit by bit in the name of practicality. I used to rail against the system in hopeless self-defeating utopian ways; over time I gave into realism and realpolitik and reality. I love feeling like a dreamer again.

When I lived in SF during unemployed time, I wanted to intentionally live like a broke person (I actually was pretty broke, but wanted to try to live as cheaply as possible for the experience of it). We found furniture and carpets on the street, we shopped at thrift stores, ate at divey ethnic places, for fun we hung out in the park or took a walk. It was glorious. My girl was not really appreciative of the beauty of living like you're broke. I find it incredibly romantic. I have this fantasy vision in my head of being a couple of poor immigrants in the big city, struggling to get by, working horrible jobs, living in a rotten apartment, being cold and dirty, but getting through it all together, helping each other, and being happy because we have each other. She would rub out the horrible knots in my back that I get from working in the factory all day, I would rub oil in her hands that are dry from washing dishes all day. We would chase each other around the apartment and wrestle and tickle and fall in a heap and have sex and life would be grand.

Before I was 18 or so, I had magic powers with children. They would flock to me; I would go to a playground to play myself, and children would come up to me and talk to me and play with me. At family gatherings I would always prefer to sit at the kid's table and hang out with them the whole time. I couldn't really connect to people my own age or adults, but I felt natural with kids; they were simple and open and honest and fun. I was great with babies and was sure that I wanted kids of my own some day. At some point, I lost that. I imagine a cheezy movie where all the kids are in color and the adults are black and white, and up to 16 or so I was in color, but then it started fading until at some point I went almost coal black. N is a buzzing conflagration of rainbows; just being near her, I'm drawing color back into me.

Part of me getting my vibrance back is rejecting situations that beat me down. Over these many years I've let my spirit die by caving into tedious boring normalcy. Girlfriends and friends and everyone want me to do all these things that are just so awful, and I'm supposed to have a good attitude about it and find the fun in it and all that, and I could to some extent. I found ways to turn off my real opinions and just be open and appreciate the upside. That has been good for me in my personal growth, but it also just makes you constantly half alive. I feel much better when I can be wildly passionate, either madly love something or hate it; this "meh this sucks but everything sucks and I can tolerate it" is no way to live.

N loves to bike, perhaps even more so than me; she has a pure simple love of the feeling of moving freely in the air under your own body power. We roam the city like it's our own personal playground. Travelling together by bike has a wonderful equality about it; it's not like a car with a driver and a passenger, you are both under your own power and can take turns leading or separate briefly and come back together. Biking makes it so much easier to stop and start all the time and experience the world and explore. I feel like we're birds, flitting around, swerving, separating, chasing each other, flying along side each other, one racing off, the other catching up. It makes everything so much more fun, because instead of just going to X, we're going to X by bike. Sometimes we never reach the destination because we see something else along the way and wind up liking it better; it completely changes the feeling of every excursion from stressful type-A goal oriented to a fun open-ended ramble.

I like to yell at other cars when I drive. It really relaxes me, relieves the stress. Rather than chasing them down and cutting them off and trying to run them off the road, I just have a good yell and then I feel okay. When someone else is in the car, though, I can't do it, because it freaks them out, makes them all stressed. They take it the wrong way - they think the yelling is making me angier. Quite the opposite, *not* yelling makes me much angier, I have to bottle it up inside, and the small bits of rage pile up into a festering parasite that consumes my guts from the inside. The only other alternative is just to chill out and turn off my brain and not care, but that's just so soul crushing. It's like being some valium/prozac zombied out drone. "Oh, I was trying to turn left and pulled out in the intersection, but I couldn't go because some nice person decided to run the yellow going straight and prevent me from getting my chance to turn left across a busy street. la di da. that doesn't make me angry at all." No thank you. When I'm alone I can do lots of weird stuff to let out my rages. If some social misunderstanding bothers me, I might just go outside and do some sprints and pushups. If I'm with someone, now they're thinking "oh what a weirdo he went outside while we're in here talking" and it's now become way bigger of a deal, while if I was alone it would diffuse the problem for me. I constantly don't do what I want to or need to because the people around me can't understand it and respond to it right because they're closed minded and conformist. No more.


09-11-09 - Quit wrecking things

Levi's redesigned the 501 around 2003 and called it "The Original 501" and ruined it. (not only did they switch to much cheaper materials and worse stitching, but they also ruined the cut and fit of it, it's all bunchy and saggy now and fits bigger). (and god damn you and your fucking abuse of a product id number - if it's a different product, change the damn number). (ADDENDUM : if anyone knows where I can find a model-year 2000 501 in 34x34 let me know; yes yes I've tried ebay but as usual the damn retarded sellers don't label their products clearly so I can't tell what models they're selling, they just write "used 501" which is fucking useless - *which* 501 ?).

Some car-designer jackass decided a key in the ignition was too fucking simple and decided we should have to push a button too, and that turn signals you actually deflect and lock into place was way too obvious and clear and instead they should just be deflection buttons which toggle some invisible state variables.

And now Melitta has ruined the most beautiful and simple coffee making device in the world :

The Melitta single cupper dripper is an icon of product design. It's simple, elegant, straightforward, and works marvelously. I make better coffee with a Melitta dripper than anyone else in the world has ever made. It's a perfect product. There's absolutely no reason to change it.

So of course, they had to redesign it. We now get this monstrosity :

This thing is such fucking balls. For one thing, it's an eyesore. It has crazy swooping lines that don't flow and it's all off balance. It hurts me just to look at it. Functionally, it is worse in every way. The base of the cone is suspended up higher above the brim of the cup, which makes it very top heavy and easier to tip (tipsiness was the only flaw of the original product, so good job on making that even worse). It's got these stupid windows that are to let you see into the cup I guess, but their actual function is to let steam out so your coffee cools as you drip it. And it's got no fucking handle, you have to grab it by the dumb curved lip, which puts your fingers right next to the steaming hot coffee.

You fucking morons. Stop taking your products that are perfect and making them fucking suck. It might be my biggest pet peeve of all when people take something good and intentionally and willfully make it suck (like when people take delicious sweet potatos that would be marvelous if you just did absolutely nothing at all to them and tossed them in the oven, but instead they boil them into tasteless mush and then coat them with marshmellows and bullshit and turn them into disgusting insipid candy filth).

I'm tempted to turn into this weirdo hermit pack-rat. When I find a product that hasn't been ruined by the fucking feature adders or the redesigners, I want to just buy up a lifetime supply and put it in a storage locker.

In positive product review news :

I went camping the last fews days and wore my new "smart wool" shirts and sweatshirt. It rained quite a bit and I got soaked, and the wool did exactly what it's supposed to - dried easily and stayed warm when wet. It's all natural, it feels nice, it's not all crinkly and plastic and bullshit like most modern outdoor gear, it's moss and dirt and animals and sex. I haven't gone in for the wool underwear yet like the Rivendell loons , but given the great success of the wool shirts I just might.

In other "god fucking damnit" news, the dickwad morons who lived in this house before me were subscribed to like every catalog known to man. Of course the post office won't forward or even stop delivering catalogs that aren't addressed to me (I talked to my mail man personally too). Of course the dickwad morons won't change their addresses with all these catalogs. So I now get 2-3 catalogs every day from fucking Mail Order Teddy Bear Express and fucking Two Useless Gadgets Combined Into One Superstore. Anybody who ever gets any catalog is a fucking dick tree-killer moron time-waster with bad life skills and priorities. Hello, have you heard of the fucking internet !? Stop getting catalogs.


09-08-09 - DXTC Addendum

Ryg pointed out that there are a few very important little details that I took for granted and didn't mention in my original DXTC postings , or was just not clear about :

One is that when I try all ways of hitting two given endpoints, I try both 4-color and 3-color versions. That is, given two endpoint colors C0 and C1, I quantize them to 16 bits, then try the DXT1 palette that you get from {C0,C1} and also the one from {C1,C0} (order of DXT1 determines whether it is 3-color or 4-color).

The second and related crucial thing, is that in 3-color mode, the extra color is transparent black. If the texture has no alpha at all, I assume the user will not be using it as an alpha source, so I treat the transparent black as just black. That is, I do color palette selection with alpha just ignored.

Apparently this is pretty important. I suspect this especially helps with the "4 means" method; if a bunch of the colors are near black, you want them to be classed together and then just ignored for the endpoint selection, so that they will go to the hard-coded black in 3-color mode and your interp end points will be chosen from the remaining colors.


09-05-09 - Brownstripe Fail

DSLReports speed test : 68 kbps down, 657 ms latency.

I think I actually might be better off with a cell network internet card for my laptop. It would be nice if it was easier to multiplex bandwidth. Then I could just keep the cable, get DSL, get a cell card, and send my traffic over all of them. I might actually have decent speed and reliability that way; having two connections seems like a nice protection in general.

I had a dream last night that I killed a man and decided to flee the country rather than face prison. It's actually a pretty common dream of mine; I usually dream that some guy hurts my girl and I beat him up and get carried away and wind up sticking my thumbs through his eyeballs. I'm not quite sure if it's a nightmare or a fantasy; I feel pretty horrified during the killing part but then kind of exhilerated about having to go on the lam .

Anyway, last night for the first time it occurred to me that it might not be so easy any more because of all the improved tracking post 9/11. It used to be trivial to drive across the border to Mexico, and then you could easily disappear into Central America and never return, but now they have the enhanced driver's license requirements - I wonder if they actually have the computer systems coordinated so that they can scan the bar codes at the border and see that you're out on bail and not let you cross ?

The other big issue is getting your money out of the banks. Again before 9/11 that used to be pretty trivial because law enforcement had no easy direct connection to banks, they would only freeze assets in extreme high profile cases. Now banks are doing way more reporting of large transactions. Most people know that banks report any transaction over $10k. That's actually been revised down to $3k, and the feds are pushing banks harder to examine and report suspicious transactions. I know this has given poker players some annoyance.

Even if you can get your money out, you don't really want to be walking around Central America with several hundred thousand dollars in cash. Again if you're on the run on bail, presumably American Express would stop cashing your traveller's cheques, though I doubt they'd actually get to that in practice. If you have a lot of money, you should of course keep a few gold bars in a safe deposit box in Antigua or some place. I guess a simpler compromise would be to keep one in your house and cross the border with it, but then you still have to deal with selling it and then having a mess of cash.

It seems to me that if you were a perpetrator of massive fraud like a Bernie Madoff or a Ken Lay or whatever, one of the first things you should take care of is getting yourself set up with some fake identities , a mix of various types of cash, some accounts in the fake person's name, so that when you finally get caught you can easily slip away.

I hate the idea of not being able to slip away and start over and change your identity. Not that I actually think I ever will, but feeling like you couldn't if you needed to is horrible.


09-04-09 - Bodies and Work

I've been super unproductive recently, and it's destroying my body. I've taken a lot of random bits of time off for dealing with various moving things (like meeting the fucking Brownstripe cable guy in the 8 AM - 5 PM appointment window) and even when I'm at work I feel like I'm not getting anything done. When I'm being nice and productive, I feel fine about taking time out to stretch and do PT and walk around and take care of myself, but when I'm not getting anything done, I feel like I need to force myself to keep sitting at the computer until I type some damn code.

Of course this is the exact opposite of what you should do to maximize utility - when you're in a good productive mode you should make the most of it and stay at the computer, and when you're not getting any work done anyway, you may as well get up from the machine and take care of your body.

I guess part of the problem is that I'm still stuck in the idea of the corporate "work day". I never used to think that way, but it was ground into me by overbearing producers in my past life in video games. The producers want you to get a certain amount done each day. If you're going slow, that means you have to work later, and conversely when you're productive and get everything done quick you can just leave (as long as the producers don't see you). Because they force you to stay sometimes when you don't want to, you have to compensate for that by leaving early whenever you can. Of course this is a horrible attitude, but it's beaten into you by the system. RAD has no real structured work schedule, and I believe it's much more natural for coders to work in a very spurty way. Coding at a high level is somewhat like an artistic endeavor, and many of us work best by spitting out a whole mess of work in a big flurry, and then taking perhaps a month with hardly any output at all. Of course in coding, nobody would believe that what you did in those two weeks of productive spurt was enough to justify taking it easy for a month, even if it was.

I'm extremely distracted by N. I can't stop thinking about her all day long at work, sudden memories pop into my head of our last time together, and fantasies and ideas and excitement about what we'll do next.

I went swimming today for the first time in quite a while. Every time I swim I think afterward : my god, that helps my back so much, I should do that more often. And then I don't. For one thing it takes so damn long because the pools are far away and you have to change and shower and everything. But it's also just really unpleasant, I hate chlorine and sharing lap lanes. If I lived somewhere with warm, clear, fresh water to swim in, I think I would be very happy. My body would be lithe and pain free, and a happy body is about all it takes. I sometimes have visions of me living somewhere hot and sunny with lots of fresh water streams and waterfalls to jump around in. I would just wear a speedo all the time and grow my hair long and get all tan and wear a shark tooth necklace like Manny Puig or something.

Fucking being on VS2005 / Visual Assist X has really slowed me down. Everything is so much harder, it fucking sucks balls at autocomplete. I feel like I'm walking through water. My mental flow is broken up all the time because I can't remember how to type a certain function name or keyword exactly and I have to go look for it. Back with VA.NET I could just jam, you go flow flow flow and the thoughts turn into code like magic. Now it's type, stop, type, stop, so awkward and jarring. It's hard for me to ever get any momentum. In fact I alt-tabbed over here to write this because once again I was in the middle of trying to write some line of code and fucking VAX failed to autocomplete for me and I had to go searching around to get the spelling right and it completely ruined my train of thought.

There was a point a few years ago, on Stranger at Oddworld, and also before that on Galaxy at home, when I felt like I basically had magical powers on the computer. I felt like code flowed perfectly and effortlessly from my finger tips, that I was some new kind of hybrid human whose brain had grown into the same patterns as C++; Homo Programicus. I could write good code faster than anyone in history ever had, and it came out bug free and fast and elegant the first time, everything was smooth and easy, thoughts became function. People around me were always complaining about the language or the compiler or whatever and it just perplexed me; I could never see their problems because code sprung forth from me like diarhea from tourists in India. That time is gone.

Feeling like your dreams will never come true crushes your soul. Feeling like you do the same thing every day crushes your soul. Feeling like you are putting great effort into something and it's not changing crushes your soul. Turning off your mind and shutting down your emotional response crushes your soul. Doing things that don't excite you and just faking it crushes your soul. Not saying what you think because the people you're with can't handle it crushes your soul. Having a routine of any kind, even if it's pleasant, makes you boring and bored. Doing only things that you're comfortable with and never feeling out of place or awkward or challenged makes you die inside. Without change something inside us sleeps and seldom awakens. N makes me excited to be alive. N makes me want to explore the world and see new things. N makes me feel like I can be myself and not be made to feel like a freak or have to apologize. N makes me feel a little bit out of control. When I'm with N I feel like anything is possible, we can go anywhere, do anything, and we seemingly do; I never know what's going to happen, and somehow it's me taking us off on adventures.

One of the wonderful exciting things about a new relationship is the uncertainty of each moment. For one thing just not knowing each other that well and learning new things, you keep getting new surprises. And each date there's a silent question in the air, not knowing where the night will go. On the first date that's the wonder in the air of whether you will kiss. Then you move onto the uncertainty of whether you will have sex. Then even after the first time you have sex it stays as a tense question on each date for a while, when you go out to dinner, or stay in for a movie, it's that much more exciting because you wonder "did she really mean come over and watch a movie or did she mean come over and watch a movie and fuck". Some people try to eliminate the unspoken tense question as quickly as possible by just talking about it or making it happen quickly. Those people are fools. (I've done that myself in the past, even in extreme ways; for example on first dates I've done the super early preemptive kiss to just get the tension out of the way from the end of the night). The mystery and tension is very enjoyable and should be savored, not rushed.

As the relationship progresses, that mystery and tension and uncertainty goes away, which is a damn shame. Girls who are really flighty and fickle are sort of exciting because they artificially create some of that tension - every time you take them out, even after dating for years, you don't know if they're going to get into a crazy mood and yell at our, or if they'll be all sweet and gropey. But that's just too annoying and immature to really be a substitute. Another idea is to just keep upping the ante. In order to have that tense silent energy, you have to both know that a question is in the air, but not talk about it directly. The question of "will she have sex with me" might be answered, but you can move onto another question like "will she let me stick it in her pooper" or "will she let me double team her with my friend" etc.

Of course the mystery isn't just about sex, it's not knowing the person completely so you don't know what new thing you might learn about them, what they might say about something; you're excited to find out all these new things. Most people are incredibly simple and static, so once you get to know them, you know what they think about everything and there's no more excitement or mystery to talk to them. I think of the old couples that literally tell each other what they think about things ( "you like this commercial" ). The solution to this is easier, you just have to keep learning and changing, getting new opinions and worldviews and experiences. Stay young.


09-01-09 - Hukkle

Hukkle was a pleasant surprise; it's very peaceful and gentle. It of course is in the vein of "Into great silence" and "The tree of wooden clogs" (both superb and much better), being movies with basically zero dialog that try to depict the feeling of life in a certain time and place. It's not actually about a "hiccup that travels through the village" as the jacket description says, that sounds like an awful cheezy gimmick straight out of Amelie or some shit; rather one guy has hiccups and we see the village go past him and mainly the camera just wanders off and watches various different people go about their day. There's not much of a plot to speak of, but it's actually a very easy watch, there's lots going on all the time, he doesn't challenge you with real time pacing.

There are a few really bad tasteless moments, mainly when the director uses modern technology / computer graphics for the growing plants bit, the airplane bit, the skeleton bit, all really tacky and out of place. There are also quite a few cuts and fades that are rather too cute; oh look he panned to a house and then cross-faded to a photo of that same house inside a bar, how fucking not clever and fucking film-school is that bullshit . It would work much better if the camera was just still and quiet and let the scene do the talking. Actually overall the direction/camera choices are really awful, but what the camera is seeing is so touching it works anyway.

I watched the three special episodes of "The Thick of It" that you can get on piratebay (it's sort of the spiritual predecessor to the movie "In the Loop"). I'd love to see the whole series but can't find it. At first I was worried that it would be too fast-talking and weird-British-accenty and impossible to follow, but after about 5 minutes my brain settled into the flow and it was no problem. It's quite excellent. I'm not sure it's a comedy, I don't think I actually laughed at any moment, but it's very engaging.

Someone loaned me this awesome old french cookbook "Bocuse dans votre cuisine". It's quite fascinating because it's so out of touch with what home cooks want to know, it's from an era when proper cooking was still considered to be this incredibly difficult precise thing. The recipes are really interesting to me because in order to simplify them for the home chef, he didn't abandon any technical rigor, instead he just made the dishes very basic. It's the exact opposite of what cookbooks now are like - modern cookbooks will give you lots of fancy ingredients that you mash together, and they will abandon all concern for doing things right. The Bocuse book literally has recipes for things like "haricots verts" with absolutely nothing added, zero embellishments, it's literally fucking "boil your green beans", but it's still a full page of instructions detailing exactly the precise way you should do each step. There are instructions like "wash quickly and gently in cold tap water" for each ingredient different amounts of washing and different care steps. Every other instructions is specified to be done "soigneusement" (eg. with attention, with care).

Inspired by Bocuse I present : How to refresh day old bread :

Step 1 : make sure you bought a proper loaf with a tender gluteny interior and a crusty exterior. If you didn't, then just throw away your piece of shit.

Step 2 : store overnight in a paper bag wrapped in a plastic bag. The plastic bag should be one of those crinkly plastic bags from the grocery store checkout, not a zip-loc or sticky filmy plastic bag. The paper bag should be closed loosely but not sealed. Leave on the counter away from sun and heat and moisture sources.

Step 3 : heat the oven to 400-450.

Step 4 : remove bread from bags and slice in half. Spray the interior with a fine water mist, just one or two squirts depending on the mister. The interior of the bread should be damp to the touch but there should be no visible water drops. Put the halves of bread back together.

Step 5 : (optional) apply a very thin coat of fat to the bread; this will make the crust crispy instead of just hard. If it's an italion loaf, use an olive oil aerosol can. For a baguette, use a very light spread of butter.

Step 6 : place in pre-heated oven. Watch through window for doneness. Desired doneness is to your taste, but generally the crust should just start to pucker and crack but not brown.

Step 7 : Remove from oven and let sit on the counter to cool. Do not separate halves of bread, it should be steaming inside.

Note that most "artisan" (lol) bread you buy in an American grocery store is basically day old already, so this should be done on the first day and then it should be thrown out.

The cupcake place (Cupcake Royale) on Capitol Hill sucks pretty bad. The cake is too dense and bland, and the frostings are too heavy and sugary and excessive. It just is not made soigneusement. And we still have no real bakery on the hill that makes actually tasty things like loaves of bread or croissants.

I have no problem with cupcakes in general as a food form, though we certainly don't need shops that *only* make cupcakes. A cupcake is basically the lowest form of cake. It's just basic standard fucking cake batter and frosting. That's like basic cake 101. If you went to an actual bakery, you would never order the fucking yellow cake with frosting because it's too boring, you could get the fucking almond-flour olive oil cake or the lemon curd meringue cake or something actually fucking interesting.

The recent explosion of cupcake places in Seattle is another real "WTF Seattle" moment for me. Seriously, cupcakes? First of all, all these places suck balls, they focus on the "nostalgia" and cutesiness factor instead of just making things that are actually good. But, more importantly, can you be more fucking Sex in the City ten years ago? Have you heard of the fucking Magnolia Bakery? Have you no shame? This is of course the city that is still in the middle of the tapas craze (I'm sure Arnie Becker from LA Law would be excited about this new fun "tapas thing" that everyone's doing). I'm embarassed for all of us.

" *** There will be a Mariners game tonight at Safeco Field from 7:10 PM to 10:10 PM."

This is the new fucking bane of my existance. If I was rich I would buy up all the Seattle sports teams and just disband them.

old rants