Pyramid is a fun album

photo of great pyramid of giza
Photo by Simon Berger on

Yes, I used the F word.

Pyramid is the third album from The Alan Parsons Project, released in 1978. It’s one of their best and here’s why, in no particular order:

  • Released at the height of disco, it exists completely outside of disco, achieving a timelessness so many great albums have.
  • At a mere 37:46 minutes long, this is an amazingly compact album (especially by prog rock standards), yet even in its economy it manages to pack in nine songs that include six vocalists, three instrumentals, a choir, tolling bells and a tuba solo.
  • Speaking of tuba solos, Pyramid isn’t afraid to go from the sublime to the ridiculous. The epic centrepiece, “In the Lap of the Gods”, an instrumental featuring the aforementioned tolling bell, choir and lush orchestration, is followed by “Pyramania”, which includes a tuba solo and lyrics like, “I consulted all the sages I could find in Yellow Pages/But there aren’t many of them.”
  • The concept (more a theme, really) comes through more directly here than on other APP albums. Every song echoes fears of death, of inevitability, regret and loss. The one exception is the final instrumental, “Hyper-Gamma-Spaces”, a trippy reprieve that focuses mainly on keyboards.

It’s a zany, mysterious grab bag of doom. Give it a listen on your favorite streaming service and soak in the experience of vocals without autotune.

I’m not always polite and mild (or witty)

When you get a spam message on an iPhone, you can report is as junk and have it block the sender and delete the message. If you also have a Mac, it will not mirror this, so you will still see the message there, until you delete it.

This morning, I was reminded that I broke one of my rules yesterday morning when I replied to a scammer. I haven’t done this in years. I don’t enjoy “the game” and appreciate having a single button I can tap to make them go away (it would be better if these messages never got through at all, of course). But yesterday morning I was apparently a bit cranky from being up extra early due to Mouse Incident™ and I did reply, before blocking. Behold my early morning sass:

Today, I asked my AI pal ChatGPT to come up with some sassy replies written in the style of Shakespeare that I could use instead. They’re actually not that bad!

Oh, treacherous fiend, whose wicked scheme is laid,
In the realm of cyberspace, a villainous charade,
Thy words, like honeyed poison, doth beguile,
Yet beneath thy deceit, a serpent's guile.


Thy message o'er Apple's channel of delight,
Doth seek to rob me blind, in broad daylight,
A plea for gold, a promise to repay,
Yet, in truth, thou art but a wolf at bay.

But I will probably just Delete and Report Junk like I normally do.

In 18 days, Summer 2023 will be over

And I will be sad. The transition from summer to fall is the only seasonal change that makes me feel a bit glum. Days get shorter and colder. Trees lose their leaves, vegetation withers. It rains more. It rains on top of the rain. Sometimes it floods. Yes, you get a few weeks of nice weather and fall colours right at the start, but that’s it.

By the time fall changes to winter, it’s already effectively been winter for weeks, so it doesn’t hit me the same way.

Here’s to Summer 2024! Only, uh, a lot of days to go. I could look it up, but I’d rather not know the precise number just now.

Summer comes to an end once more…

What I want AI to do

Two things:

  1. Not start SkyNET and destroy humanity
  2. Use its smarts to come up with YouTube thumbnails better than these:

If anyone in the future ever wonders when the fall of civilization began, I’m pretty sure it will be answered with, “When everyone on YouTube thought goofy faces on thumbnails would make people watch.”

A look back to August 27, 2021, via August 30th, 2021

It makes sense, trust me!

August 27th, 2021 was my last day of employment at Langara College. I worked in IT Support, on the service desk as a CST1Computer Support Technician. I started there as a contractor in November 2012 and was hired on permanently in January 2013, so I worked there for a little under nine years.

All of it, and many years of tech support work before that, was a mistake. This isn’t to say it was all horrible, or an unmitigated disaster, or that I didn’t do my job well, it just wasn’t what I should have been doing.

Since leaving, I have lost weight, gotten in better shape, renewed my creativity and feel I am just generally a better, and happier person. It’s not perfect, nothing ever is, but it’s a huge improvement over where I was.

I wrote about leaving tech support and my job of almost nine years three days after my last day. Everything I wrote then is still valid today. You can read what I said here:

A brief essay on how my broken logic mired me in the wrong job for years

Genesis in 1974: Very Serious Art

Yes, another Midnight Special video is posted below. Apparently, YouTube’s algorithm is pretty simple:

- Watch Video A
- Get recommendations for anything remotely like Video A for the rest of your natural life

So I now get a lot of Midnight Special video recommendations.

Genesis of the 1970s is a very different band than Genesis of the 1980s, which is probably what most people think of when they think of Genesis. In the 80s, they were led by Phil Collins and produced a string of pop music hits. When Gabriel was the lead singer, they were about Art.

There is a lot of Art in the performance for “Watcher of the Skies”. Peter Gabriel, dressed as a kind of sad space clown vampire, is soaking in it. On the one hand, you have to admire the dedication to the act. They bought into it, and played it to the hilt. And it was the early 70s. People were into prog rock. Everyone took it Very Seriously.

But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that when Peter Gabriel picked up the tambourine and starts holding it over his face, I lost it. I laughed harder than I have in a long time. It felt good.

My apologies to Peter Gabriel, sad space clown vampire.

The video:

The tambourine in question:

“How do I play this thing?!”

One way or another (I did not expect this)

Generally, critics seem to agree that Blondie’s best album was Parallel Lines, released in 1978. It featured a number of hits, most famously “Heart of Glass” but also “One Way or Another.”

The Midnight Special YouTube channel has recently started uploading a bunch of clips from the show, and I watched the performance of “One Way or Another”, curious to see if it was actually live (though The Midnight Special has a reputation for showcasing live performances, sometimes you would get a mix of live vocals/recorded instruments or recorded vocals/live instruments or just a big old bag of fake everything). In this case, the song is actually performed live and just over a minute in, it cuts way from the band to a couple dancing in that funky 70s way they did back then. And I thought, “Is the guy wearing see-through pants?” and the answer is yes, yes he is. I did not expect this.

It looks supremely silly, of course, and it’s also a cop out because he is not wearing underwear underneath, but what appears to be a pair of shorts or a swimsuit. He could have at least worn a Speedo.

As someone who was already a teen back in 1979, I can verify that see-through pants were not a big thing. Big hair was a big thing.

Here’s the video, so you can see him shake his booty in full glory (two other things: He and the woman act like they’re “fighting” each other, but it was the 70s, so who knows if they were acting or high on, uh, life. Yeah. Also, the song takes kind of a weird turn for the last minute and a half):

I am a Sr. Gemfinder

I made a terrible mistake. Actually, I made two terrible mistakes:

  1. I got into a creative funk. Technically, this isn’t a mistake, but it still feels like one.
  2. I re-installed Bejeweled 3. This was definitely a mistake.

On the other hand, I’m now a Sr. Gemfinder1This is kind of a dumb rank. I mean, the screen is literally filled with gems. Or maybe it means I’m a senior, age-wise, and because of my old and ailing eyes, I should get an award for just seeing the gems at all., see:

I mean, I don’t need to be solving the climate crisis or brokering world peace here, but I feel like I should be doing something more substantial.

I have a solution! I’ll switch to the Mac. There’s no Bejeweled there!

Right after just one more game…

Boring cars, boring people

The picture below is the parking lot at Hume Park. I normally walk through here three days a week, going to and from my run at Burnaby Lake. But focus not on the park or scenery, take a look at the vehicles. What do you notice about them?

There is an assortment of cars, SUVs, plus a truck and a van. What else?

They are all either:

  • Black
  • White
  • Silver
  • Gray
  • Some other colour so muted you can’t really tell what it is

When did cars become so incredibly dull-looking? Why does everyone choose a non-colour instead of actual colour? I did some research and for a new vehicle, choosing a real colour (red, blue, etc.) usually only adds a few hundred dollars to the total price, which in terms of monthly payments is virtually unnoticeable. So it can’t be cost.

I asked ChatGPT (because of course I did) and while some of its answers made sense, others were a bit silly or even self-contradictory (they improve visibility?!). Here is a spoiler with its answers:

ChatGPT on people avoiding colourful cars
The choice of vehicle color is influenced by a combination of personal preferences, cultural trends, and practical considerations. While it’s true that neutral tones like white, silver, and black are often more popular than bolder colours like red, blue, or green, there are several reasons for this phenomenon:

  • 1. Resale Value: Neutral colours tend to have broader appeal and can be seen as more timeless, making vehicles with these colours easier to sell in the used car market. Bolder colours might be less attractive to a potential buyer, leading to a longer wait time or a lower resale value.
  • 2. Practicality: Neutral colours like white, silver, and black are often considered more practical because they are less likely to show dirt, scratches, and minor imperfections. They can also be easier to maintain and keep looking clean.
  • 3. Professionalism: Many people choose neutral colours for their vehicles, especially if they use them for work or business purposes. These colours can convey a sense of professionalism and seriousness, which might be important for some individuals.
  • 4. Temperature Control: Lighter colours like white and silver reflect more sunlight and heat, helping to keep the interior of the vehicle cooler. This can be especially important in hot climates.
  • 5. Visibility: Neutral colours tend to blend in better with the environment, making them potentially safer in terms of visibility on the road.
  • 6. Cultural and Social Factors: Different cultures and societies might have preferences for certain colours based on symbolism, cultural norms, or perceptions of luxury. Neutral colours might be associated with elegance and sophistication in some cultures.
  • 7. Personal Taste: While bolder colours can be eye-catching and express individuality, some people prefer the understated and classic look of neutral colours. Others might feel that bolder colours could become tiresome over time or might not match their personal style.
  • 8. Color Trends: Automotive manufacturers often follow color trends based on market research and consumer preferences. If neutral colours are in vogue, manufacturers might produce more vehicles in those colours.
  • 9. Customization Options: Some individuals prefer to keep their vehicles in neutral tones because they plan to customize them with aftermarket modifications or wraps. Neutral colours serve as a blank canvas for these customization options. It’s important to note that while neutral colours are often more popular, the choice of vehicle color is ultimately a personal decision. Bolder colours can be a great way to stand out and showcase individuality, and some people do opt for them for precisely those reasons.

I think the ones where the AI comes closest is in terms of blending in and wanting to conform. Car companies probably push bland colours, too, because it’s easier to make 1,000 white cars than to make 250 white cars, 250 red cars, 250 green cars and a couple of hundred covered in polka dots. I just find it a little sad and off-putting. I know, this is the definition of a first world problem and cars are destroying the planet, etc. But they could at least look pretty while destroying the planet!

Vacantly staring (bonus: UI discussion and Mastodon clients)

For the past week or so, my brain has just not been cooperating with this blog. Giving myself permission to write about anything I want here was liberating, but even that freedom hasn’t been enough the past few days. I stare at the blinking cursor, and then I feel my mind drifting off, not to some great blog topic, but just weird little mundane things and thoughts. Nothing that I’d want to share in this space.

I do have a backup–a collection of blog ideas saved in Obsidian. But a lot of the topics I’ve jotted down no longer appeal. A lot of them are Apple kvetching, and I exceeded my quota on that at least 50 years ago.

So I end up doing these meta posts.

Oh, I just thought of a topic: Mastodon clients!

Mastodon is the only social media I use semi-regularly right now and I like it because:

  • No ads
  • No “reels” or other unavoidable short form videos
  • No algorithm–I only see the people/orgs I choose to follow
  • Not overwhelming. I like that I can easily keep up with what I’m following. It feels cozy and approachable.

I also don’t visit Mastodon on mobile. It’s strictly on my Mac or PC. On the Mac, I use the Mona app, which is a one-time purchase (hooray) and works well. On Windows, I use an alternate web version currently in alpha called Elk. It improves on the web interface and is pretty good, with only a few minor shortcomings. Still, I’d rather use a dedicated client, but all the Windows clients seem to have some flaw, the most common of which is they are ugly as butt. Windows apps don’t have to look ugly, but so many do. Every Mastodon client I’ve tried has been butt ugly. So I use Elk.

I don’t know why, exactly, the odds of a Mac app looking better than a Windows app is so high, but I suspect that it has something to do with the Mac GUI always being “good” and remaining fairly consistent over the years, with few dramatic changes. There’s a polished kind of consistency.

With Windows, well, just look at the GUI for different flavours:

  • Windows 1.0. I mean, yikes. But it was also 1985.
  • Windows 3.0. Pretty slick for the time, but crude by today’s standards.
  • Windows 95. Pretty decent, really.
  • Windows XP. Changed pretty much all UI elements in a way some liked, but others didn’t, feeling it was too “cartoony.”
  • Vista. Ignoring the initial quality of the OS, it again completely revamped the look, giving everything a pseudo-3D effect and having a glossy, reflective sheen to it.
  • Windows 8. Another complete change, flattening everything and subbing in garish colours and simplified icons.
  • Windows 10. A hybrid of 7 and 8 that reverses some of 8’s design.
  • Windows 11. A refinement of 10 that again changes the look of many elements, though perhaps not as dramatically as before.

Basically, if everyone followed the design language of Windows 11, apps would look pretty good. But a lot of apps seem to be weird hybrids of older versions of the OS and that’s when you get butts meeting the ugly.

Oh well. In the end, we’re seeing fewer native apps on both Windows and Mac as more devs use tools like Electron to make apps that look and feel the same (and don’t feel particularly native) on all platforms. I guess that’s the future.