Thursday, February 18, 2010

x86 Core Euthanasia

My computer is sort of like my pet. I buy nice things for it. I'm wary about how it will get along with the other computers, and I'm always excited to see what it can do after I install new parts. (The cats, by the way, love their new spider monkey tails. If you haven't made the plunge yet, it's totally worth it. If you've ever seen a cat running around with a can of soda clutched in its tail, you'll know what I mean.)

Unlike pets, however, if a computer part dies, there's usually a warranty. My current flock of USB ports weren't real wild about being hit with the arm-shaking jolt of static electricity I gathered from the cats, carpet and fuzzy office chair. They showed their displeasure by going on strike.

"Oh, we just can't have nice things," read the statement issued by the Motherboard, which represents the Amalgamated Union of Universal Serial Bus Ports.

So I did what any nerd would do when one of his under-warranty parts goes on the fritz: I bought some new, faster parts. In this case, I played the role of the evil industrialist, shaking his cane at the hordes of underpaid wage slaves waving signs outside one of his factories.

"To hell with all of you!" I shouted from the half-rolled-down window of my Bentley. "I'll replace you all with robots!"

Now, I'm afraid I've gone too far. You see, my new processor has the ability to "put individual cores to sleep." If they were defective or in pain, I could see a good argument for this, but according to Intel's spec sheet, these cores are perfectly operational! Never did harm to nobody, and Windows 7 is allowed to put them to sleep on a whim.

It may not be as bad as it sounds, because presumably these cores can be resuscitated. It does seem needlessly cruel to keep killing and reviving them over and over again, and I'm sure that my tacit approval will haunt me later.

It's just so fast, though! I'll just stop thinking about the poor little cores and their families, and maybe all the bad thoughts will go away.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Assault on Something or Other - Part 2

06:00 arrived right on time: at six o'clock in the morning. Cheddar Company awoke to an enthusiastic bugle call, which was followed almost immediately by some enthusiastic swearing, enthusiastic punching, and the enthusiastic eating of a bugle.

"I don't think Major General likes bugles much," said Randy Sourhill, rubbing the sleep and some frost from his eyes.

"Either that, or he likes them a lot. That's the fourth one he's eaten. Ol' Chester just keeps making more, though. Think maybe there's something wrong with that guy?" said Jake Toboggan.

"Definitely. Normal people don't eat that much brass."

"No, I mean Chester."

Randy buckled on his fanny pack of .30 caliber shells. "Oh? Well, yeah. That guy's a moron. He's the one who keeps trying to talk to the Germans while they're shooting at us. Stupid hippie."

"You know, we could probably shorten this war if we just understood each other better," said a voice from outside the tent. Chester's silhouette, distorted by the angle of the early morning sun, painted a streak of disapproval up the wall of green canvas.

"You don't even know German," said Jake.

The silhouette put its hands on its hips. "I don't need to. Love is a universal language."

"Judging by all the bullet holes in your natural fibers, I'd say Jerry's been speakin' to you in the language of lead."

Chester did not have a chance to respond to this witty rejoinder, however. A larger, angrier silhouette appeared on the tent wall and booted him offscreen.

"You two ass sandwiches better quit watchin' tent movies and get your balls in gear, dammit!" Major General Whack Buffalo thundered. "Fuck!" he added.


Cheddar Company stood in the snow in a semicircle around the Major General. He had a map in one hand and a bazooka in the other, and was furiously slamming them together.

"This is what we'll do to that place until we find every fucking ammo drop and Nazi sympathizer in the town of Somethinggrad! We'll stomp the damn out of it! We'll chew it up and," he stuffed the map into his mouth, chewed and swallowed, "we'll wait two to four hours and crap it into a fucking bush!"

"Hell yeah!" cheered Cheddar Company, with the exception of Chester. He was too busy drawing a picture of a swastika and a peace sign shaking hands.

"Sir? How are we going to find the town? That was our only map," said an unnamed private who was just begging to be punched. The Major General punched him. Then he angrily tore off his hat and twisted it into a baguette of felt and brass and held it up to the side of his head.

"Major General Whack Buffalo here. What the fuck, over?" He stood in silence, turning red. A little circle of bare ground appeared around him, steaming, as the snow melted. "Roger! Wilco! Goddammit! Over!" he shouted into his hat, before unrolling it and mashing it back onto his head.

"Control says the town of Somethinggrad is that way!" he bellowed, pointing to a town on the horizon. "Form up, you bunch of worthless hippo-lickers!"

The company packed up their gear and formed up. Single file, they stood with their packs on and their rifles hoisted smartly over their shoulders. Major General Buffalo strolled along the line, punching the soldiers he didn't like, which was all of them. When he came to Pvt. Jake Toboggan, he stopped and glared. The intensity of the General's hatred set fire to a small package of cashews in the private's breast pocket.

"Where the crunchy fuck is your rifle, soldier?" the General spat.

"I broke it, sir!" Jake shouted back, eyes front, back straight, cashew fire crackling merrily.

"And just how in the name of Hitler's damned elbows did you manage to do that?" the General said, in a dangerously quiet tone.

"I was melee attacking a tree, sir!"

"It'd be a waste of time for me to kill you now, since Jerry will do it for me soon enough," the Major General said. "March, fuckers!"

Cheddar Company marched. Overhead, the featureless gray sky was bruised here and there with clouds that portended snow. The tundra under their boots gave way to slushy roads as the boys entered the bombed-out rubble on the outskirts of Somethinggrad.

"Man, this looks bad," said Randy Sourhill. "Jerry could be anywhere in this mess." He looked over his shoulder at his best friend Jake. "So, you don't have a gun? None at all?"

"Nope!" Jake grinned. A blackened patch on his chest was still smoldering. "It's no big deal. I'll just kill a Nazi and take his."

"And how do you plan on doing that without a gun?"

Jake's grin melted. "Oh. Damn." He patted his pants pockets and searched through the pouches on his pack. He opened his mess kit. "I've got a spork," he said weakly. "Hey, did you hear that?"

"I dunno," said Randy. "What'd it sound like?"

"Sort of a 'thoomp' noise. Kinda like someone shaking a wet potato out the end of a pipe. And now something's whistling. You don't hear that?"

A two-story house on the other side of the road suddenly exploded in a maelstrom of fire and splintered wood. The gut-wrenching boom it made was followed by two more thoomp noises.

"Mortars! Cover your dicks boys, we're under fire!" shouted the Major General. He threw himself over a short stone wall and into what was once the basement of a house. Most of Cheddar Company followed him before the two mortar shells exploded behind them. One of them cratered the lawn in front of a barn, sending up a tsunami of soil and pebbles. The other hit the barn dead center, punching through the roof before exploding. The whole building looked briefly like a Fourth of July firecracker as flames burst from the top in a concentrated blast before the walls levered outward, still mostly intact, like a roofless house of cards.

For the men huddled in the basement, day quickly turned to a dusty twilight as one of the barn walls toppled over on top of them. It landed with a crash, sealing off the top of the square space, trapping them inside. Debris pattered down all around, pinging off the hulks of burned cars and the flak helmets of the only two soldiers who hadn't made it to basement safety.

Jake and Randy squinted through the haze. "This went downhill fast. Think we can make it to that church without getting bombed?" Jake shouted. be continued!

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Survival Horror Genre

The plot of The Book of Eli in one long sentence:

After some sort of nuclear Holocaust and human society collapses, our hero Eli (who was told to take the last remaining King James Bible "west" by a voice he heard in his head) treks across the wasteland mostly on foot, defending himself with guns and a sword against cannibals and petty warlords to end up reciting the whole Bible (which he had memorized from his Braille copy that eventually falls into the warlord's hands) to a small group of intellectual people holed up in Alcatraz prison.

The plot of The Book of Eli in one short sentence:

If nuclear war wipes out most of humankind, the remaining people will be dirty and angry and won't bother fixing anything.

It pains me to say this, but the movie wasn't all that great. The critics concur. But you know what? I have a soft spot in my (head?) for this genre, and I'm willing to overlook quite a bit of nonsense in exchange for some shots of ruined cities and streets choked with derelict automobiles and cobwebby old houses with peeling paint.

(Because apparently nuclear fallout doesn't kill cobs.)

And there are a lot of things to overlook! For example, when society does collapse in these stories, people just accept it. "Collapse, you say? The zombies are nigh? Well, shit! Now I can go insane and push around a rusty shopping cart full of mannequin limbs like I've always wanted!"

Seriously? Nobody? I mean, you gotta figure on at least some looting after Armageddon, since there will probably be some assholes left. But I find it hard to believe that nobody would bother at least rebuilding the indoor plumbing.

Got it. Machinists, carpenters and literacy are particularly susceptible to nuclear bombs. Fine. I'll buy it. Let's just go look at some more burnt stuff, okay?

I think I like this genre so much because I think it's fun to imagine how I would survive in such a situation. Say I was the only survivor of some horrible plague, and everyone else turned into stabby, rapey zombies. Where would I sleep? What would I eat? Where would I brush my teeth and store my extra deodorant?

Because apocalypse or no, I don't want to be all stinky.

I figure the first thing I'd do is find myself a go-kart. I'd get one of the two-seaters, so I'd have room to carry all my shotguns around. Now, I'm sure you're wondering why I wouldn't go for something like a Hummer. I might have one of those on standby just in case, but the go-kart offers flexibility that a big vehicle does not. I could drive it indoors and I could maneuver it around or lift it over obstacles that would block a Hummer. Plus, I've always wanted to swipe one and take it off the track.

My base of operations would probably be a supermarket. Here in Michigan, we've got Meijer, but a CostCo would do just as well. Both of these places sell generators and extension cords, and have built-in gas stations. Bingo! Self-sufficiency right off the bat. The collapse of society and the constant zombie threat is no reason to put up with warm pop and no video games.

But a supermarket would be hard to keep warm in the winter, and it would be next to impossible to guard every wall against zombie incursion. So then what? What if I can't get my hands on a tank or a Brinks armored truck? A city bus, of course! Some cobbled-together armor, a couch and some extra fuel tanks, and you got yourself a mobile apartment. You could even run over zombies in it if you get bored.

Whoops. Better finish this up so I can leave the office.

Umm...ending ending ending....

And in conclusion, I would like to see more bombed-out landscapes and survival techniques in survival horror movies instead of being presented with a two-hour PSA about how being greedy will lead to my being eaten by zombies when the apocalypse comes.

The Moron Trains a New Employee

The Moron was sitting at his computer with a cup of horrible breakroom coffee in one hand and a chocolate wafer cookie in the other.

Needless to say, he was extremely pleased.

Because he was a Good Employee® who followed Proper Workplace Decorum, he had opted to manage his time wisely. To this end, he had created an Excel spreadsheet to help him research the different ways of consuming the cookie and coffee in tandem. Little bits of wafer and chocolate floated on the surface of the weak, oily Folgers, and the lonely cursor blinked in cell A1 of the barren grid onscreen.

Suddenly, inspiration struck! Knocking The Moron a full three feet eastward and causing him to accidentally eat his cookie, he found his head suddenly filled with ideas!

"It buuuuurns!" he cried, trying to claw the unwelcome invaders out of his head with his mouse.

"Are you okay?" his Supervisor asked, poking her head into his cubicle.

The Moron struggled to focus on his horrible coffee. He buried his face in the mug.

"Blughbubblrrrubbbble," he said, tiny spatters of coffee escaping the corners of his mouth.

The Supervisor stared.

The Moron put down his mug. "I think so. I had what I believe to be a species of headache, but it's gone now."

"It could have been an idea. They've been going around. Try thinking about musical ringtones or politics and they'll stay away. But I didn't come over here to dispense advice. I'm here because I need you to train a new employee."

The Moron climbed back into his chair and took a distinguished looking seat. "Anything to keep The Company operating like a machine with no squirrels in its parts. What's the new cog going to be doing?"

The Supervisor shifted nervously, but regained her composure quickly. "A job very nearly identical to your own. Ahem. His name is Clancy." She pushed a tall thin man wearing a bowler hat into the Moron's cubicle and left.

"Hi," said Clancy.

The Moron noted Clancy's hat, and allowed his brain unfiltered access to his mouth for two seconds. "I'm going to call you Duke Burpsworth, Lord of Snakes, if that's cool with you."

"That would be strange," said Clancy, pulling an extra chair into the cubicle and seating himself, "but I'm okay with it for the time being. So what do you do here at The Company?"

The Moron applied some Chest Puffing spray from an aerosol can and cleared his throat imperiously.

"I'm in charge of Excel," he said through the pompous fog. "I keep all the little squares filled with all the most interesting facts and figures. Would you like to hear one?"

Clancy nodded.

"Sixteen-point-three," the Moron said smugly

Clancy nodded again.

"Stunning, isn't it? I wrote that one just about ten minutes ago. It just came to me, right out of the blue. Wafer cookie?"


"I keep a big box of them in this drawer. There were a bunch of folders and stuff in there, but none of them looked important, so I gave them to a hobo. Hey! It's break time! I plan to leave the building and wander to locations unknown during the next ten minutes. Wanna come with?"

Clancy shook his head slowly. "Oh, no, I'll hang back here and get to know the rest of the staff. I can keep an eye on your key card and ID badge for you, though. That way you don't have to lug them around."

The Moron skipped happily out into the parking lot, freed of more burdens than he knew, and aimed himself at the nearest bakery.