May 18

My accent

I wrote a couple of years ago about my bland, generic American accent. It seems to defy all attempts at classification; people who listen to me talk and then guess where I grew up virtually never get it right. So I couldn’t pass up an online quiz titled “What American accent do you have?” Here is the result I got:

What American accent do you have?

Your Result: The Northeast

Judging by how you talk you are probably from north Jersey, New York City, Connecticut or Rhode Island. Chances are, if you are from New York City (and not those other places) people would probably be able to tell if they actually heard you speak.

The Inland North
The Midland
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

The Northeast? That’s just bizarre. I never lived there or even visited that region for more than a few days, and neither have my parents. Notice also that the quiz gives me only a middling grade for being Southern, even though I have lived my entire life in the South. Either this quiz is highly inaccurate, or I am just weird.

May 15

Name change

Metablogging (writing about your blog in your blog) is usually boring. But the name of this blog has changed, and I probably should explain why — even if that means I have to metablog a bit.
I’ve retired the Logopolis title. It didn’t really mean anything, and it wasn’t memorable or easy to spell. In addition, I want to make the blog less anonymous. The domain name is my name, and so is the address used in the “E-mail me” link. Why should the blog title be different? Consequently, as of May 12, the title is Pat Berry dot net. It’s just simpler that way.

May 07

The Horseshoe

Bob’s tale of escaping from The Towers to a much better room in the Horseshoe reminds me of my own experience a few years earlier. Ironically, I tried to get into the Towers, and later strove to get out of the Horseshoe.

When I was accepted at USC in the summer of 1978, I listed The Towers as my first-choice dorm on my housing application. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I was an idiot. I hadn’t actually visited The Towers and had no idea of how squalid they were. I picked them solely on the basis of their central location. Fortunately for me, there were no open slots in The Towers. In fact, there were no open slots in any dorm, and for a while it looked as if I wouldn’t be able to go to USC.

But a couple of weeks before classes were scheduled to start, I received a letter telling me that a housing slot had become available, and of course I took it without quibbling about which dorm it was in. Purely by chance, I ended up in the Horseshoe.

Specifically, I was in a room on the second floor of Legare, the building next door to Pinckney (where Bob would end up living a few years later). But Bob’s Horseshoe wasn’t the same as mine. In 1978, the dorms on the Shoe were better than the Towers, but they were shabby and in need of renovation.

My suite in Legare housed three people, including me. It consisted of one bedroom for two people (which I shared with George), another bedroom for one (occupied by Bubba), and a common room. The common room had three built-in desk/bookshelf units with chairs, a washbasin, and some empty floor space that Bubba filled with a sofa and a stereo set. No other furniture was provided. There was no kitchen, no bathroom (we had to go downstairs for that), and no air conditioning. Heat was provided by a radiator located against the front wall of the common room, as far from the bedrooms as possible.

Despite these flaws, my Horseshoe suite might have been an OK place to live. Bubba was an excellent roomate, very friendly and easygoing. But George was the opposite: unpleasant, disagreeable, and drunk most of the time. I was stuck sharing a room with him. (Why couldn’t the housing gods have put Bubba in the same room with me, and George in a room by himself?)

I gritted my teeth and put up with the situation for my first year at USC, but when it came time to apply for housing assignments for the following year, I was determined to move. I checked out the other dorms to see what the possibilities were. By this point, I knew to avoid The Towers. The men’s dorm called Preston was also not an option. If anything, it was worse than The Towers. There was actually a T-shirt that said “In Preston, no one can hear you scream . . .”

Bates West was one of the newest dorms on campus. It was located on the periphery of the campus, but I no longer cared about central location. The rooms were actually suites for four people: two double-occupancy bedrooms with desks, a full bathroom, a furnished common room, and a small but fully-functional kitchen. The building was a 14-story high-rise with elevators, central heat and air conditioning, a trash chute, and a laundromat in the basement. What more could you ask for?

I didn’t have to camp out like Bob did, but I requested and received a reassignment to Bates West. I lived there for the next three years, leaving only when, in my senior year, I obtained rent-free living quarters near the center of campus. (But that’s another story.)

The year after I left the Horseshoe, the university closed Legare and Pinckney, gutted them, and rebuilt the interiors. The renovated Horseshoe dorms were similar to Bates West internally, except that each four-person suite had four private bedrooms. Each suite had a balcony, too. So I can certainly understand why Bob was as eager to get into the Horseshoe as I had been to get out. His timing was much better than mine.

May 01

Creepy Doll

On March 4, I wrote that I had never heard of Jonathan Coulton before the previous week. But that turns out to be untrue. I listen to Jim Van Verth’s Vintage Gamer podcast, and in his Halloween 2006 episode, Jim played a Coulton song called “Creepy Doll”. I remember being impressed by the song, although my memory didn’t retain the musician’s name (which Jim did mention). But it’s the same guy who did “Code Monkey”.

By this point, you’re probably tired of reading about “Code Monkey” here. But I can’t resist pointing out this video of it, starring actual geeks. You don’t have to play it.

UPDATE: After posting this entry, I discovered that Coulton was mentioned in today’s episode of Buzz Out Loud (another podcast I listen to) because he recorded a song called “First of May.”

Apr 29

The seven stages

If you read a lot, you’ll probably have the same reaction to “The Seven Stages of Falling in Love With an Author” that I did — which was “That is so true!” I’ve gone through that process many times, especially the Worry and Denial stages. (For me, the Denial stage is mostly Withdrawal.)
Tamara has clearly discovered another aspect of the Acceptance stage. If you can’t read any more books by your favorite author, you can at least try to get your friends addicted to the stuff. That’s almost as much fun.

Apr 28

Getting rid of junk mail

A year or two ago, I noticed that virtually all of the paper mail addressed to me was junk, and I decided to find out what I could do about it. After researching my options at Junkbusters, I did two things:

  • I signed up for the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service, which is basically just a list of people who have asked that DMA members not send them any mail.
  • Because the vast majority of junk mail that I was getting consisted of offers to lend me money in some fashion (pre-approved credit cards, mortgage refinancing, home equity loans, and so forth), I thought it was worthwhile to also sign up for the Opt-Out list maintained by the four credit reporting companies. This list informs lenders that I don’t want to receive offers from them by mail.

I’m not sure what result I was expecting, but I was astonished to find that these two actions eliminated virtually all my junk mail. These days I receive almost none. So if you are tired of junk in your mailbox, these are a couple of things you probably should try.
Note: After I signed up for the Mail Preference Service, the DMA started charging a one-time fee of $1.00 for it. That’s mildly annoying, but I wouldn’t hesitate to pay it if I were signing up today.

Apr 27

No good deed goes unpunished

On the evening of April 25, while driving home from work, I accidentally strayed a foot or so onto the right shoulder of Highway 1. As luck would have it, there is a deep pothole in that particular stretch of shoulder. BAM! Flat tire.
While I was struggling to get the lug nuts off, a pickup truck stopped on the shoulder behind my car. It was a company truck bearing the logo of the construction firm that’s handling the I-540 project, and the driver was a construction worker wearing a hardhat and an orange safety vest. He brought tools from his truck and took over the task of changing my tire. In a few minutes, he was done. After I shook his hand and thanked him, he got back in his truck and drove away.
I didn’t get his name, but I wrote down the name of the company and the number on the side of the truck. The next morning, I called the company’s Raleigh office and left a message saying that I would like to find out who my anonymous benefactor was, so I could write a letter to his supervisor expressing my gratitude for his help.
This morning, they called me back. The caller was a very nice woman who explained that, while they appreciated my call, it’s best if I don’t write that letter. It turns out that their employees are not allowed to stop and help people. In the past, some people who were aided have responded by suing the company. So the company now has a policy forbidding that sort of rescue. The worker who changed my tire was breaking the rules by doing so.
I was stunned. I told the nice lady that I didn’t blame them for their policy, but I was appalled that people would sue them under those circumstances. She agreed, and assured me that I didn’t get the worker in trouble by calling. Her husband is the man’s supervisor and has told him, off the record, that he did a good thing by helping me out. But officially, he shouldn’t do it again.
I thanked her and agreed to let the matter drop.
What kind of person would repay a spontaneous act of kindness by filing a lawsuit?

Apr 20

Exit the Dragon

Dragon Magazine has been a part of the Dungeons & Dragons gaming hobby for over three decades. From its inaugural issue in 1976, Dragon was published every month — first by TSR Inc., then (after TSR went bankrupt in 1997) by Wizards of the Coast, and finally (after WotC outsourced its periodicals in 2002) by Paizo Publishing.
But later this year, the magazine will close its doors. Dragon and its sister magazine Dungeon will cease publication after their September issues. In its announcement, Paizo stated that WotC will be “moving to an online model” for publication of those kinds of content.

Apr 06

Bamboo saves the planet

I was pleased to read on the Cali Bamboo site that the problem of global warming has been solved:

It is believed that if bamboo were planted on a mass basis it could completely reverse the effects of global warming in just 6 years, and provide a renewable source of food, building material, and erosion prevention.

Sounds good to me. I’m glad that’s settled.