Inhuman Swill : June 2008


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If you haven't heard already, Paolo Bacigalupi was on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday yesterday discussing his excellent collection from Night Shade Books, Pump Six and Other Stories. Way to go, Paolo!

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Ice ice puppy

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Ice cube day!
The only thing Ella loves more than an ice cube... a whole bowl of ice cubes!

(more cool photos)

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Netflix stumbles

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Netflix is going to eliminate account profiles this September. If you don't know, that's the feature that allows you to maintain separate DVD queues under one account.

YMMV, but to me Netflix is taking a giant step backward with this move in terms of serving its customers. This feature was a godsend when they first implemented it. Until then, if I wanted to be sure I always had a Bill-movie on hand (as opposed to a Laura-movie or a Laura-and-Bill-movie), I had to work hard at managing my queue, moving a new Bill-movie to the top every time I sent a Bill-movie back. Profiles took all the effort out of that effort. I'm used to it now, and it pisses me off that they're taking it away and sending me back to the Stone Age.

Good customer service is about continually making things easier for the customer, not harder. It's about giving the customer good new stuff without taking good old stuff away. I hope Netflix has some killer features they're planning to roll out instead, because otherwise they've just made the first move that would make me reconsider how useful my subscription is to me. And they didn't even ask me first.

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Just when you thought it was safe to come back to my blog, I'm going to start talking about Egypt again. I've been uploading more of our Flip Videos to YouTube, and here's one Laura took of me just after (as I've mentioned earlier) I emerged from my journey to heart of the second pyramid. She, of course, is conducting the interview from off-camera:

A few new video playlists are also available, including five short videos from around the pyramids and the Sphinx, and four videos from our overnight train to Aswan. (But not that video.)

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A parabolic tangent

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It's not hard to understand why I got so caught up yesterday in the drama of the U.S. Open. Rocco Mediate is in his 40s, he's damn good at what he does, and he's had a little success in his twenty years in the game, but he's toiled in relative obscurity while watching younger, more prolific players rise up after him and dominate the field. Nonetheless, for a few holes there, he outplayed and even rattled the best player in the world, and it looked for a while as if he might actually pull out a once-in-a-lifetime victory.

Yes, even hurt, Tiger Woods still could not be beat. But I don't think Rocco really lost yesterday. With good humor and grace under pressure, he showed the world that, even if he doesn't have the juice to fly steadily at Tiger's altitude, he always had the potential in him for one mighty leap that at least grazed that height. I admit it—I had to wipe my eyes there at the end. He won one for me, and maybe he won one for you too.

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Live playoff

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I'm happy to discover that you can watch the U.S. Open playoff live online at:

(And Rocco just made a hell of a tee shot on the third hole.)

This means I don't have to run back and forth between the office and the television.)

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I wish Tiger Woods no ill, but I'm rooting for Rocco Mediate today in the extra playoff round of the U.S. Open. Even with Tiger hurting from his knee surgery, you still have to figure Rocco as the underdog. Can you imagine being practically over the hill (in golf terms), not ever have won a major tournament, and suddenly finding yourself playing one-on-one all day against the greatest player in the history of the game? It's just my opinion, but it seems obvious to me which victory today would be more meaningful to the winner.

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Remembering Algis Budrys

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Algis J. Budrys
It was a simple drive twelve miles north this morning to get to Skokie for Algis Budrys's memorial service. Laura was unable to join me so I went alone, and I found when I arrived at the funeral home that there was no one there I knew. Actually, I did meet Ajay's dear wife Edna back in 1985, but I wouldn't have expected her to remember that brief occasion all these years later.

I don't do very well in crowds where I don't know anyone—heck, I can get intimidated in crowds where I do know people—so I sort of slinked around at the back of the room, feeling somewhat like an intruder. Two display tables helped me occupy myself. One was covered with an arrangement of various editions of Ajay's books. The other displayed a selection of interviews with and articles about him, both from print sources and online. On a widescreen television ran a slideshow of photos of Ajay and his family.

The service began not long after I arrived, and I found a seat toward the back. There were fifty or sixty people in attendance, I would estimate, and the number of chairs for everyone was almost exactly right. A pastor spoke for a few minutes about Ajay's greatness as a husband and a father and a writer, and offered a prayer. Then she turned the time over to Ajay's sons.

Jeff shared remembrances and appreciations of Ajay he had gathered from people online over the preceding few days. Among the poignant, funny, and just simply factual snippets he read, I was startled to hear a line I had written in a brief post on Monday. Tim expressed his good fortune at being able to spend many of his adult summers with his parents' house as a home base, and shared an observation an associate at a Renaissance fair had made—that no wonder he seemed so even-keeled, with parents who had always stayed together. Dave recounted the last years and final days of Ajay's life, when despite setback after setback, Ajay had remained cheerful and become even more of a sweet man. All three sons credited their parents with giving them the space to do their own thing—as long as they did something. There was also much talk of Ajay's prowess as a bicycle builder and mechanic—the boys grew up having by far the best bikes around, at a time when 10-speeds were still exotic—and stories like the time he singed his eyebrows off cleaning bike parts with gasoline.

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Photographic wrap-up

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William Shunn and Laura Chavoen at Great Pyramid, Giza, Egypt
Finally, for a little closure, clicking this photograph will take you to a Flickr set of my choices for the best pictures from our trip. Relax, there are only 148.

But if you want to see more, way more, you can sample this collection instead.

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This page is an archive of entries from June 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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