Just too big for a tweet

Posted by admin on Aug 1, 2015 in Uncategorized

You know the only thing worse than a huge tank that can outrun the Batmobile at full boost, outmaneuver it, withstand any attack from it and kill you just about instantly? A huge drill machine that can outrun the Batmobile at full boost, outmaneuver it, withstand any attack from it and absolutely kill you instantly. (Edit: oh yeah, and that DOESN’T SHOW UP ON RADAR, somehow.)

How in the hell did this piece of shit ever get out the door? How in the hell did it get made in the first place? And why did it take four years and yet no one ever said, “Yeah, this whole thing is a bad idea”?



A Couple of Quotes

Posted by MrTact on May 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

… in response to President Obama’s announcement that he supports same-sex marriage:

This means that parents are now going to have an extremely difficult time teaching their children that marriage biblically and traditionally is between a man and a woman, when the President that many love and admire is now on record endorsing sodomy. This is painful and shameful. The Black Church should galvanize, mobilize and address this matter with the same (if not greater) intensity, velocity and resolve as we did the Civil Rights Movement. If we don’t, our children and grandchildren will pay a far greater price in suffering from a governmental sanction of same-sex marriage than we would have under segregation.


A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.

Martin Luther King, Jr.





A Perfect Storm of Technology With Which to Hose Yourself

Posted by MrTact on Mar 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

Several months ago, I informed my wife that I was in the market for a new laptop. We started shuffling a few bucks each paycheck over to the savings account for this purpose, and in February I stopped by the Apple store on my way home from work and picked up my shiny new MacBook Air.

At home, I made sure to cleanly back up my old laptop (2007-era MacBook Pro with a lot of miles on it). I was going from a 320GB hard drive down to a 128GB SSD, so space would be at a premium. The one thing I knew I didn’t have to worry about, though, was the stuff in my Dropbox.


What I did, in fact, was discover a really neat way you can TOTALLY HOSE YOUR LIFE using Dropbox. This is a cautionary tale intended to save you from shooting yourself in the dick like I did.

First, kill all the lawyers. Then, do this.

If you are initializing a new Mac from a Time Machine backup, then before you make your final “clean” backup which will be used to set up your new machine:

  1. Open your Dropbox preferences.
  2. Go to the “Accounts” tab.
  3. Click (and confirm) “Unlink this computer”

Basically, this completely removes that machine from Dropbox.

What heinousness be this?

I didn’t do this, and here’s what exploded when I logged into my new machine.

First, at startup I got errors because Dropbox couldn’t find its folder. It had inherited the path from the backup restoration but that folder didn’t exist, since I wasn’t using Time Machine to back it up. (It was already “backed up”… by Dropbox. See?) So I went and created that folder.

WHICH CAUSED DROPBOX TO GO “OH SHITZ, LOOK AT THAT, YOUR DROPBOX FOLDER IS EMPTY. YOU MUSTA DELETED ALL YOUR CONTENT.” And being the obedient little whelp that it is, to propagate that deletion up to the cloud.

It was immediately obvious to me that I had done The Wrong Thing(tm). I hastily killed Dropbox, went to the dropbox.com site and undeleted the folders that had gotten wiped. No harm, no foul! Yay, Dropbox!

But wait, it gets worse

Deleting and restoring a folder that you have shared with other people does something really neat: it creates two entirely separate clones of that folder that enjoy shared history but no shared future. That is to say, YOUR copy of the folder is no longer the same as THEIR copy of the folder. So, say, when you put the file for your writers group meeting in the folder, and everyone in the group sends you hate mail about how you’re a complete moron because you don’t even know how to use Dropbox? They’re right.

The only way to fix this is to have one of them re-share the folder BACK to you. Which results in two folders called (e.g.) “Writing Group Files” and “Writing Group Files (1)”, which as we all know is super-cool and not at all confusing.

Still not finished with the getting worse, btw

Then there was tonight’s debacle. The complete pants-shitting moment of sheer dread. This is what happens if you commit all this stupidity AND you happen to use Scrivener.

Scrivener saves its files in a Mac bundle, which looks like a file but is actually a folder. Inside that folder are various sub-files that comprise your document–some rtf files that contain the “chunks” of your doc, and various indexes and things that describe its structure. One of these (in the newest version of Scrivener) is the .scrivx file, which is like the master project file that ties the whole thing together.

Earlier tonight I decided to reopen the novel that I was working on last year until my 5k short story for the Armadillocon workshop blossomed into a 20K novella for whenever I manage to finish it. And it wouldn’t open, because that .scrivx didn’t exist. Apparently, when I restored my writing top level folder, for some reason Dropbox did not restore the nested .scrivx files (although it appears to have restored everything else inside of the .scriv bundle).

Brief cardiac incident ensued, as I tried to remember whether the wipe and restore incident had occurred within 30 days, because Dropbox keeps your deleted files for 30 days. If those files weren’t recoverable, then my options for restoring a huge chunk of my writing files was, in descending order of apocalyptic nightmare:

  • Rebuild by hand from old PDF reference
  • Retype from old printed copy (if I had one… not likely)
  • Rewrite from memory

Fortunately, it was within the 30 day window and I was able to recover all of my files. HOWEVER, this was the impetus I needed to finally upgrade my Dropbox account to paid. Not because I need the space–still have plenty of that–but for the “pack rat” add-on, which causes Dropbox to retain every version of every file for ever and ever, allowing you to easily recover any file from any point in its history… even if you deleted it umpteen years ago. That’s well worth $15 a month to me.

So the moral of the story is: if you use Dropbox… and Scrivener… and you’re transitioning to a new machine: DO the thing I described at the top of this article, or you may find yourself sorely regretting it.


A Farewell to Spankers

Posted by MrTact on Nov 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

(Note: I started this back in May of this year and couldn’t finish it. Having gone back to re-read it now, I find it’s not nearly as flawed as I thought it was, and it captures my feelings about the subject very well. So, seeing as it’s a week for being thankful for things, now seems like a pretty good time to put this up — TK.)

In 1996, I bought a brand-new car I could barely afford, then quit my job, packed up my shit and drove three days (through a blizzard; good thing I bought a sports car) from the Green Mountain State of Vermont to the Brown, Flat State of Texas. The plan was to take up residence for a few years, develop something resembling a career, and make a little scratch before returning home to the northeast. I left behind my fiancée, who I would see only infrequently until our wedding, the better part of a year later. I arrived in Austin more or less broke, with no job, knowing exactly two and a half people.

Not long after my arrival, I found work, the first step onto a path that would lead to the rest of my life. My professional life was shaping up, which was a relief. On the personal side, though, I was staring down the barrel of a nine-month separation from my fiancée. Despite how well things were going during the day, my nights were kind of miserable.

One evening, my friend John took pity on me and dragged me to see the Gourds. It’s been so long, I don’t even remember the venue. I do recall that they were so shitfaced they could barely play, and they really didn’t make much of an impression–the first and only time I’ve even heard anything by them. The opener, however, a young man by the name of Guy Forsyth, was startlingly good. He was fresh-faced, and he had this big, goofy all-American farmboy grin that was apt to appear at any moment with no provocation whatsoever. He played a resonator guitar, the first I had ever seen, and he just hammered that damn thing. I remember he played “Pennies From Heaven,” and it was enough to make you weep.

“If you like him,” said John, “you should go hear his band.”

Ladies and gentlemen! I must remind you that we are an absolutely, positively all-acoustic band!

Those were the days when the Asylum Street Spankers were the Guy Forsyth Band, at least so far as I was aware. They had not yet become God’s Favorite Band. Most Wednesday nights, throughout that year, I found myself drinking Shiner down at the Electric Lounge. It’s gone now–it used to reside at 302 Bowie, a ramshackle building stapled up at the end of a cul-de-sac. There were, ironically, not a lot of streetlights there, and you could see, off in the distance, the City of Austin sign on the landmark Seaholm Power Plant (now, equally ironically, a music venue, hosting Psych Fest as I write this).

It’s a highrise full of condos now, has been for going on a decade. But what the hell. Back then, the beer was cold, and the Spankers rocked it, forget about the lack of amps (a virtue as far as I was concerned; I had a head start on a long career of telling those damn kids to get off my lawn).

The first time I saw them, I was flabbergasted. They crammed ten people up on that stage–how the hell do they make a living? (Now, of course, I know the answer–they don’t.) They had three guitars, all different, a clarinet, a uke, a slap bass, and a snare drum. (Not even a kick drum!) Occasionally, they supplemented with a harmonica, kazoo, washboard or saw. Later, a fiddle (and he didn’t use his accent to pick up chicks!). Most of them sang. It was a ridiculous combination that shouldn’t have worked, but did. They played blues, country, jazz, and Wammo’s unclassifiable concoctions. They covered anything and anyone, provided it was recorded before, oh, about 1970, and the older the better. (They covered a little a capella number by the Clovers that remains one of my all-time favorite novelty songs.)

I went back, week after week, rarely missing a Wednesday night. (It is, in fact, one of my few regrets in life that I worked a long day, was tired, and skipped out the night Quentin Tarentino showed up at the Lounge.) I dragged everyone who would let me to see that show, sometimes multiple times. My friend Judy remarked how amazing it was, in this day and age, that Stan Smith would get up and sing “Walkin’ and Whistlin’ Blues” with his hand cupped around his mouth so the audience could hear better… and it made a difference.

If you wanna get into my britches, you’re gonna have to show me more than that three inches

I went back time and again. There are Spanker tunes I probably heard live thirty times that year. It kept me sane, and (mostly) out of trouble. It wasn’t the only Spanker action in town, of course. I caught their gospel brunch at La Zona Rosa a few times. That was okay, but my passion for it was not the same as for my Wednesday night ritual. I saw other live shows–some good ones, including David Garza, though I never did get to see Hamell on Trial–but I was spoiled. No one else was as consistently, reliably entertaining as the Spankers.

Eventually, I got married. As anyone who’s married can tell you, the dynamic of your life changes once you incorporate another person into it. I saw less and less live music, less of the Spankers. A year or two went by, and I stopped seeing them live altogether, although I still bought the albums. Then came kids, and before you know it, the kids were in school, and life had mutated into something unrecognizable. Like if an angler fish surfaced from the depths, stopped enticing little fish with his bioluminescent lure, got himself a suit and a laptop and a well-paying consulting gig–is he still even an angler fish?

When the tradewinds come blowing home…

Around 2003, the studio I worked for was shut down by its parent company. Some of us had the option to relocate to Redwood City, CA and keep our jobs. I chose to move, big chickenshit that I am. That lasted about two years, and then I beat feet back to Austin, pissing off a few people in the process.

Sometime either right before my departure, or right after I came back, was, barring recent events, the last time I saw the Spankers live. They were playing at Jazz, a ‘nawlins-style supper club on Sixth Street (also sadly defunct). They were a double header with Matt the Electrician, whom I hadn’t seen before, and loved.

They were no longer an all-acoustic band, and many of the original Spankers (my Spankers) had moved on. I got a little drunk that night, and I’m pretty sure I said some stupid shit to Christina–like why didn’t they still play any of their classics, and similar inanities. I’m a little shocked that even as recently as eight years ago (or maybe five–who knows?), I was unaware that you can’t recapture lightning in a bottle. It was great to see them again, but it wasn’t the same, wouldn’t ever be the same, and I should have known that going into it. They were stellar as ever, but I just wasn’t prepared mentally to enjoy it.

From there, they once again fell off my radar, although their star was on the ascendant. They were just about to, or had just, gotten national attention with “Stick Magnetic Ribbons…” through the wonder of YouTube. They were touring as much as they ever did, and audiences all over the place loved them just as much as I had. I’m glad. I only wish we had all loved them a few more bucks’ worth, you know?

Shine on, shine on harvest moon, high up in the sky

Two weeks ago this Saturday, I saw the last Spankers show ever. It was both electrifying and sobering. I am not their number one fan–I might have made that claim a long time ago, but the band has evolved since then, and I didn’t really evolve with it. It was the Spankers, nevertheless. Not the same musicians I knew, but the spirit, the core of what made that group really unique, still shined. They made me regret not keeping up, and coming so late to the table to enjoy the talents of Charlie King and Nevada Newman.

The Guy Forsyth Band opened for them, which was only right and proper.

In a big way, the Spankers were Austin for me. And now they are gone.

So don’t wave your flags, just wave your beer
As we slowly turn to clay
And we’ll all get drunk and sing this song
‘Til there’s nothing more to say


Just to illustrate what a terrible person I am…

Posted by MrTact on Sep 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

This morning I came downstairs and found an envelope with my name on it. Aw, I thought, my wife went and got me a card for no reason whatsoever. How sweet. Then I opened the card.

Yeah, today is my 15th wedding anniversary.

Thank you, Lisa, for putting up with me for so long. I love you! Clearly I’m not worthy.


I censored myself today

Posted by MrTact on May 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

A friend of mine today posted “Got Christ?” as his Facebook status update. I immediately replied “Not yet, but we have men on the ground in Pakistan combing the countryside for him.” Shortly thereafter, I went in and deleted it.

Why? I decided that comparing Jesus to the world’s most notorious terrorist, no matter how hilarious, could be construed as offensive. Not to Christians at large, an issue I really don’t concern myself with overly–whatever you do, someone somewhere can find a way to take offense about it–but more directly to my friend. And the guy didn’t ASK for me to come in and snark all over his wall post. Although if you’re going to friend me on Facebook, it’s implicit in the contract.

On the flip side, I didn’t ask for any Christ in my Facebook stream either, although I really ought to expect it by now.

Bottom line, I had a chance to be a jerk to a friend of mine because we have differing beliefs, or to avoid saying something I thought was really funny. Ultimately I opted not to be a jerk, and I’m OK with that decision.

I just hope it doesn’t mean I’m becoming an accommodationist.


Funny, yet true

Posted by MrTact on May 5, 2011 in weird

There’s another Tim Keating. I know, you’re thinking, “We don’t know what the hell to do with the one we already got.” Alas, it’s true. He lives less than a mile from my house, as the crow flies. His birthday is one day different from mine (albeit he’s 16 years older than me). And he goes to the same dentist as me.

That’s important.

I had a teeth cleaning at 7:30 this morning, only I hadn’t gotten any calls or emails to remind me of the appointment. Strangely, I still managed to make it, a testament to my ever-accelerating slide into adulthood. I walked in and told the receptionist I had an appointment. She asked my name, and I told her, and then gave me an extremely peculiar look.

I stood there watching the office staff have a minor meltdown. I was very confused. Then finally it came out that the guy sitting in the reception area was the other Tim Keating, who had been put into their calendar by mistake, and had received my reminders.

It all worked out. We both got our teeth cleaned.

Seriously, if this shit happened in a movie, no one would believe it.


Another one bites the dust

Posted by MrTact on Apr 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

… another game series that is dead to me due to some shortsighted game design, that is.

The culprit this time: Dead Rising 2. Smashing zombies with street signs and lawn chairs–what’s not to love, right? Well, it’s a pretty good game, I have to say. It has an annoying habit of cutting away to a non-interactive in-engine scene right before a big fight, which is very disorienting, and frankly, a waste of my time. If I want to see a movie, I’ll rent a DVD; if you want to MAKE movies, game designers, then go work in the film industry and stop foisting your bullshit on us.

The nail in the coffin, though, is the *BIG SPOILER* mission where you find a crazy CURE protester in a bathroom. He wigs out and attacks you immediately. Unlike everyone else you’ve fought in the game thus far, when you whack him with your spiky bat, he betrays NO REACTION WHATSOEVER, so all the strategies you’ve learned to get you through the game this far (i.e. bash stuff away before it can get close enough to attack you) are useless. Worse, he’s RIGHT IN FRONT OF A SAVE POINT, so you can’t even save, then keep trying things until you figure it out. You have to fight your way all the way across the map only to insta-die. Repeatedly.

On top of which, I kept doing this mission right after the one with the two people in the arena dressing room trapped by a fire, and when they got there, all they did was stay close enough to me to get whacked by my bat. Just let the guy kill my ass, and were no help whatsoever.

I was just beginning to like that game, but life’s too damn short to put up with stupid design. This one was almost as disappointing as Prototype. At least I got this one from GameFly and didn’t BUY it.


The New and Improved “How to Back Up Like a Pro”

Posted by MrTact on Feb 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

Anthony recently suggested that I don’t post enough, and so here I am; your wish is my command!

A couple of years ago, I rebutted a post by Jay Lake that described his utterly Byzantine methodology for backing up his work. His directions were on par with that hoary old saw you hear from lots of newbie writers about protecting your copyright: seal a copy of your MS in an envelope and mail it to yourself. A more experienced writer–even many pros, I am sad to say–will chuckle at the ludicrousness of that notion, then turn right around and employ some kind of insane Rube Goldberg methodology just to feel safe that their work will never be lost. It’s enough to make you weep.

I am, after all, a software developer by trade, and as the saying goes, There’s an App For That. So I wrote my little diatribe explaining what version control software is and how it’s comparatively painless to employ, a better means of backing up, and gives you additional benefits the old “email-it-to-my-brother-in-Newark” method just doesn’t. This article, I’m certain, was profoundly inspiring to the five or six people that read it.

Well, six people, hold on to your socks, because I am about to bake your noodle: I don’t recommend you use version control software for keeping your writing safe anymore.

Instead, you should use Dropbox.

Dropbox is about as perfect a piece of internet software there is. It Just Works. You install an app on any computer where you wish to have access to your personal Dropbox. You designate a folder to be said Dropbox. That folder gets automatically replicated to every device you own, and is also accessible by logging into Dropbox.com.

Your writing laptop gets stolen? No problem, all your files exist on your spouse’s desktop machine as well.

What if your house burns down and both machines are destroyed? No problem, the files live on the Dropbox.com servers, as well. When the insurance check clears, buy a new laptop, install Dropbox and your files will magically appear within minutes.

Ah, but wait, you say. What if you live in the same state as the Dropbox servers and that state gets hit with some horrifying natural disaster? Okay, try this: get your trusted relative in Newark to install Dropbox and login with his own credentials, then share your writing folder with him. Every time you you update, he gets a copy of your files.

OK, how about this: say you get hopped up on cold medicine and decide it’s the perfect time for a rewrite. After you come down for your high, you see that you’ve replaced some previously fine writing with delirious ramblings about LOLcats. No problem. Dropbox tracks your changes going back 30 days, so you can, at any time, recover the state of any file you placed in there. For a relatively paltry fee ($140 a year), they will track your changes forever.

This is absolutely the perfect solution for writers. All the benefits of software version control, with none of the required technical know-how. If you’re a writer and you’re not already using this, you owe it to yourself to give it a look.

NB: I notice now as I checked the link back to Jay’s blog that the very first commenter suggested Dropbox. Doh! <headdesk>

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Your amusing odometer shot of the week

Posted by MrTact on Feb 23, 2010 in Uncategorized
Odometer rolling over to 22222 miles. Taken on 2/22 while driving RR2222

Odometer rolling over to 22222 miles. Taken on 2/22 while driving RR2222

No, I don’t believe this is a Message from God. Just an entertaining coincidence.

Still, maybe I should buy a lottery ticket…

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