Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Big 101000

See that?  I really don't see what the cultural fuss is about turning 40.  In binary I won't need another bit 'til i'm 64.

Well, the house gave me a present this year.  Not mice, like when we moved in.  In early spring we had water come into the basement.  So did plenty of others, which meant the waiting list to have people come out and put in drainage tile took us to yesterday.  Today they're taking care of under the stairs, where...  Actually let me show you under the stairs as of two days ago:

Yes, this house came with a pool!  We just didn't know it until it started spilling up through the carpet.  Somebody in 1980 saved themselves a couple hundred bucks by not running drainage there or in the crawlspace, so now we get to spend a few thousand fixing it.  In the spring and summer, we wet-vacuumed and carried up bucket after bucket of water, until I rigged up and cat-proofed an aquarium pump with a long tube snaked into the furnace room's drain.

Today, we learned that the entire wall leading to those stairs had never been set up with drainage.  That had always been a possibility, as it isn't technically an outside wall due to the odd split-level-ish main floor.  But it means more work.

This all seems fitting, though.  Turning 40, doing something responsible for the home, soothing cat-shaped embodiments of cowardice and anxiety (Book and Autumn, respectively) as jackhammer sounds and vibrations fill the house for two days, and paying through the nose for the privilege.

It could be far worse, after all.  For what these guys are charging, you couldn't get me hunched in that crawlspace with a jackhammer.  My 40-year-old back hurts just thinking about it.  Or maybe that means a storm is coming; at least the rain won't end up on the floor now.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Chair

For the fifth summer in a row, some friends and I made a short film in a weekend as part of the 48 Hour Film Project.  We were, and are, pretty proud of last year's effort (The Smell), but didn't think we'd be able to live up to it, let alone win any awards from the festival.  We do this for fun, after all, and because we love the process.

The Chair:
(Watch before reading; spoilers below.)

Well, we did win some awards.  Including the big one, Best Film!  We were thrilled and genuinely shocked.  It still feels surreal.  Since that wild night, we have been accumulating stories like this one, pasted from a multipart text message Mike sent to the rest of us:
I was filling in as an usher tonight at work... a guy who's a bit distracted walked up to me to have his ticket torn. He looked up at me and blurted "the chair! You're the chair!"
It was really busy and there were people all over the place in the lobby. I smiled and said hi, yes I was in The Chair. The dude lost his mind! He was like... " I love that movie! You're hilarious! Holly Cow! you work here?" I was like... thanks yeah, I work here. He then told all these strangers in the lobby about how I was in this "funny movie that just won an award"

Well that piqued the interest of everyone waiting to get into Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. This guy is telling the lobby of people all about our film and the puppets and how they have to go out to the 48hr film project website to see it. Then two other groups of people step up to say hi and to tell me they had seen the film and loved it! Then!!!... two actors from the runner-up film who lost to us are in the lobby and they come to say hi and say how great they thought the our film was! Needless to say I a little overwhelmed by all of this! What a wacky night! It's really fun that this film is connecting with people 😊
We've had some time now to detach from the movie and examine it, and think about why and how this really strange little film of ours has resonated so well.

Perhaps I've thought about this too much, but here's what I've come up with:
For such an outlandish movie, there's a lot of relatable honesty in The Chair.  Life, metaphorically, is constantly putting chairs in your bedroom door while you sleep.  You can't understand it; problems you've already solved keep coming back.

Wouldn't it be fun if the nonsense that gets in your way was caused by some misfit puppets?  And speaking of, they just want to put on a show, to take their shot and make their mark.  That's all they ever wanted, but they never got the chance.  What percentage of human life does that describe?

But say you get lucky, and you're offered a deal, a map for moving on.  Build the stage, do the show, and life will quit haunting you with recurring obstacles.  So you do it, you put in the work.  You even find some joy and pride in it.  Then what?  Well, it's never enough.  You're stuck with that metaphorical chair.  Forever.

But if you can let go of the anger that comes with that, there's still charm to be found, and fun to be had.  Embrace the nonsense, sing an ad-libbed song, stumble towards harmony when you can, and have a laugh before life fades out.

Thursday, November 22, 2018


I have plenty, and I'm surely thankful for it.  I also surely wish everybody had what I have.

I'm thankful that my home's water and heat and preposterous amounts of computational power are all available anytime I want them.  I'm thankful for shelves full of books, for anytime I need to unwind and/or sharpen up my brain.  I'm thankful for a garage full of tools and scraps, for anytime I decide I need to create or augment or fix something.  Things!  So many things.  Perhaps too many.  But I'm thankful for having so much literally at my fingertips.  Kim wanted to remove an unusual-shaped security screw recently, and I didn't even need to leave my desk to hand her the tool and bit she needed.  Everybody deserves agency like that.

I'm thankful that I went to school before Columbine and all the shootings since.  Anybody who complains about the cushy lives of modern children callously ignores the truth that a generation has now attended school on a goddamn battlefield.  Kids get interviewed on the news after each of these commonplace tragedies, saying things like "it always felt like if, not when", and I'm at a loss to imagine something more heartbreaking.  I'm thankful that I still have a voice and a vote, I have a set of elected officials to harass, I have fists to clench and feet to march.  I'm thankful that I, that we, still have the chance to reverse insane mistakes and oversights that have been made.

I'm thankful that even as the macro scale of human society is thrashing around in chaos, cracks are forming in the corrupt disorder, and daylight is reaching some of the layers of dirty lies and secrets.  Whether or not we can figure out how to sustainably live in mega-societies, we may at least be fumbling our way through to exposing and removing toxins, both literal and figurative.  Hope is sometimes reduced to a terrifyingly small flicker, but I'm thankful that it feels as though it may be growing brighter.

I'm thankful that I have not gone numb; there is a paralyzing amount of worry to take on, and my wife and I each find it challenging to keep anxiety at bay.  But we've got each other, we've got supportive friends and family, we've got laughter, and sarcasm, and enough disposable income to drink the good liquor.  I truly am thankful for all the bright spots.  I married one, we've adopted some fluffy ones, and we're friends with and related to plenty more.  Speaking of which...

I'm thankful that this year, Kim and I got a new niece and a new nephew!  I'm thankful that they have committed and loving parents and grandparents, good stable homes and everything a person could want by way of family.  Right from the start, these children have all doors open to them, just as I did, and just as all children should have.

Clearly I'm ill at peace with the state my home planet and nation are in, but that takes nothing away from the things I am truly glad of and the real gifts that I have been given.  I am thankful.  As we all deserve to be.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween

Sure, we live in an upside-down surreal hellscape.  We inhabit the darkest and dumbest timeline, where my collection of H. P. Lovecraft stories has been rendered unreadable since they describe such idyllic worlds.  In this so-called reality, even the most gruesome and psychologically-scarring Halloween celebrations are nowhere near as frightening as reading the news.

...But I'll be damned if I'm not going to craft decorations and carve jack-o-lanterns!  These are joyous moments, not to be surrendered!  We will not cede agency over the spooky and/or cute stuff that surrounds our tiny corner of this planet.

Tonight, we fight to reclaim fiction.  Our myths, our ghost stories, our haunted houses deserve better than to be novel distractions from a heartless dominion.
On November 6th, we fight to reclaim non-fiction.  Our streets, our states, our nation deserve better than to be further befouled by power-hungry and hate-fueled madmen.

Happy Halloween, may it bring you glimpses of a more idyllic world, and may we claw our way there together.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Late Late Thirties

So, the last of the thirties is upon me.  In hex, that's "27".  In binary, no new bits are needed, so really by all accounts except for base-10, there's nothing scary going on numerically.  Anyway, here's a brief post to celebrate that another trip around the sun has gone by and I'm still here.

Firstly, a dad joke.  I'm not a dad, unless cats count, but still.  I'm middle-aged and appreciate cheesy humor.
My family got together recently and celebrated a bunch of fall birthdays.  I made the amateur mistake of giving others gifts I myself wanted to receive -- I didn't bring anything.
(That's an entirely true story, but I still want to sincerely thank my various relatives!)

Secondly, something the aforementioned cats gave me today.  I saw a magic trick!

I was feisting with Autumn using a flyswatter (we buy them actual cat toys; it's not our fault they prefer mundane objects and trash) and she ran around the corner.  Immediately she came back around and pounced the flyswatter again, except she had magically turned into Book!  I had to do a double-take and everything, it was pretty spectacular.

Magic trick not pictured, since I didn't know it was coming.

These two mostly get along now, but for a good while there was no chance whatsoever that one of them could magically turn into the other without at least a big hiss giving it away.  Little Autumn's big temper has come a long way, and her bigger-but-younger brother is comfortable enough to do silly things like this now.

Life around here is pretty nice.  One could drive himself crazy thinking about politics or even his own age, but taking it easy and maybe having a nice drink later seems like a much better plan.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

BIOS Cheat Code: SVM on Lenovo Legion Y720T

Occasionally I post things so specific I wonder if anybody but a future me will ever find them helpful or even mildly interesting.  This is perhaps the most esoteric one yet.

I recently got a nice new desktop computer.  Normally I wouldn't bother mentioning the make and model but it's relevant: this is a Lenovo Legion Y720T-34ASU.  It's a big beefy machine with much more plentiful and faster CPUs and GPUs than I've ever owned.  It's ridiculous how much computing power this thing has.

Also ridiculous is that the BIOS disables (and doesn't even surface an option for) virtualization.  KVM, SVM, AMD-V, whatever you call it, the tech is present in the CPUs but unable to be tapped due to an embarrassing and idiotic oversight by Lenovo.  For Lenovo's part, they claim that with Windows 10 Pro, virtualization can be enabled anyway.  I wouldn't know; the first thing I did with this computer was to put Linux on it so that it would actually be useful.  Regardless, omitting this BIOS setting in any modern computer borders on criminal neglect.

Now, I don't need to run VMs very often, so it took me a while to run into and trip over this oversight.  A flurry of posts and attempted support calls later, I had resigned to running VMs remotely on my old beater computer, and doing the old-fashioned X11 remote display routine.  Made me shake my head, but in a pinch, if I needed a virtual machine, I could deal with it.

Then, this morning, there was a reply on a BIOS hacking forum I'd posted to.  Some very clever and kind person figured out, somehow, a way to bypass the limited BIOS interface and enable SVM by force.  They'd done this sort of thing before, enabling locked-away features on various hardware.  I'm hoping this person can teach me to fish, so to speak, because I'd really love to know how they figured this out.

Here is the discussion where all this took place:

For the sake of multi-basket egg distribution, here are the steps:
  • use a Lenovo Legion Y720T-34ASU (AMD)!  (any other model is a risk I would not take!)
  • extract genius239's rar file to a FAT-formatted USB stick (most are already formatted this way)
    • verify the USB drive contains EFI/BOOT/BOOTX64.EFI folders and file
    • (if that rar becomes unavailable, search for how to make a GRUB EFI Shell bootdisk)
  • reboot and hit f12 at the Lenovo splash screen to enter the boot menu
  • choose your USB drive, UEFI mode (not legacy)
  • at the prompt, enter "setup_var 0x145 0x01" (no quotes, zeroes)
  • that's it!  ctrl+alt+del and boot normally.
And just like that, I could run 64-bit VMs at full speed.  (Or, you know, at all, in VirtualBox's case.)

It's still on Lenovo to deliver a BIOS update that fixes this properly.  Changing any BIOS setting or popping the CMOS battery will clear this change and it will have to be re-applied (which is actually good news to anyone who messes up and gets into trouble, but still).