Saturday, August 30

Burger Wars

California: In-N-Out Burger
Texas: Burger Street

There's really no comparison between In-N-Out (privately owned by the Snyder family) and Burger Street (privately owned by William R. Waugh), other than the fact that you can (optionally) order from the passenger window at both. In-N-Out is busy ALL the time, partly because of their attitude (and well, okay, the burgers and fries ain't bad either). Their restaurants have a much larger staff, and the greeting at the drive-thru microphone is "How ya doin?" rather than "What can I getcha?". I remember their bumper stickers, where hormonally-challenged mutants would change (with the help of scissors):

In-N-Out     to     In-N-Out

Burger urge

24-Hour Comparison
Texas: Whataburger
Kansas (and points east): White Castle

Whataburger is also a joke; sadly, there's little intent to do anything other than deliver SoggySaltyBurgers as fast as possible, although they are open 24 hours, like White Castle (which does have an entertaining culture). Go to a White Castle at 3:30am, order 20 White Castles (about 3 bites each) and play your harmonica. Here in Dallas, the only White Castles are available in the frozen food section of Kroger, and it just ain't the same. Not sure what Kroger would do if you showed up with your harmonica in the frozen food aisle, middle of the night. I suspect the word is "jail".

Taco Cabana
Dairy Queen

There is one area where Whataburger has it all over White Castle: their fine breakfast cuisine (it's enough to make your cholesterol pop right out of your veins). The pinnacle of breakfastdom still rests with Dairy Queen, though (where the bulk of civic business is conducted, outside the major Texas cities). Some would argue that the only real Tex-Mex fast breakfast can be had at Taco Cabana (try getting huevos rancheros at McDonald's!).

Unrelated spot: Texas Twisted - How the West Was Weird

Friday, August 29

Mama Mia!

on Tuesday night, I posted this to our neighborhood discussion group:

Is anyone missing a female basset hound? I posted the particulars (including a photo) on
well, several days later, I now know the basset is named [Mia] .. she and her owner have been reunited. Seems she had only wandered about a dozen houses away! The owner posted a LOST DOG sign on some telephone poles, which we spotted.

The day after she was found wandering (after a thunderstorm), I took her to my vet (a 2-minute drive); I asked them to scan her for a microchip (none present). She was wearing a harness, but had no ID tags. The vet said they think she's the same one that's been brought in before, so I suspected she needed a better home (where the owner will watch her more carefully). She's a really friendly dog, about 2 years old (I'd guess) and after a rough night with my black Lab, they couldn't stop playing with each other.

There are many breed-specific animal rescue groups all around the Metroplex, and even some "generic dog" rescue groups (example: Animal Guardians of America) .. and the dogs are not subject to euthanasia. I found this one by entering [dallas rescue "basset hound"] on
Google which took me to which took me to the Basset rescue site.

After talking to Liane at the North Texas Basset Rescue (metro 817-366-5649) , I decided to take the critter to the Richardson Animal Shelter (1330 Columbia, 972-744-4480). On the way there, I found myself wishing I could keep her (sweet disposition, great companion dog, and too smart for her own good) but .. I have 3 pets now and don't need any more in The Zoo. Liane asked me to tell her where I'd taken the dog, so that anyone interested in adopting her would be easily able to locate her (assuming her owners didn't claim her) .

Liane advised me to try Operation Kindness (a no-kill shelter which was full, as usual) or the Richardson Animal Shelter (I adopted 2 pets from there). Richardson keeps strays for 5 days, and after that they call the Basset Rescue folks to arrange for an adoption; the North Texas Basset Rescue folks said they have at LEAST 5 applications from people wanting to adopt a basset now, so I didn't anticipate a problem. Turning any animal over to a public "dog pound" makes me queasy; what if something goes wrong .. somebody makes a mistake? It's like I sent the helpless critter to their doom. {sigh}

The folks at Richardson said that small breeds such as beagles and bassets adopt quickly; larger breeds are the hardest to find adopters. The first thing they did, after snapping on a leash, was to scan for a microchip. Since my own dog has a microchip, I was very pleased to see that this practice is followed.

A theory of mine: the ideal number of pets is three: 2 dogs and 1 cat. Dogs are pack animals, and cats tend to like the solitude.

Aside: some time ago, a chocolate Lab found it's way to me (also after a big rainstorm), and was adopted by one of my neighbors (a few streets away) I called him [Waldo] because of the "Where in the world is Waldo?" comic. As far as I know, his original owners never surfaced.

Monday, August 25

but .. but .. but ...

I have a new Most Prized Possession : I am now the proud owner of a red Swingline stapler, just like the one in the 1999 movie [Office Space]. Woo hoo: life is good.

In case you're wondering, I ordered it on Aug 19th along with those 3 new pieces of Daytime Apparel (and a coffee mug). See the blog entry below if you want one of your very own.

Sunday, August 24

Festival in the Pit

had I only known, I would've gone last weekend : Battle Mountain, Nevada's Festival in the Pit (aka Old Spice Festival) was 15-17 August 2003. Battle Mountain was named the "Armpit of America" by a Washington Post reporter in 2001.

Saturday, August 23

Charleton Heston couldn't be wrong! says it's all about (quote) "Natural products like organic food, hemp, organic cotton, recycling, natural baby products, environmentally safe, chemicla free, organic gardening." I'm not sure what "chemicla free" is, but it must be a good cause if it's in the same sentence as "natural baby products" (and "hemp"). is apparently connected to the Starbucks - Fair Trade Campaign but not to the site. I found after I saw who owned the Organic Consumers Association website, which I found after Google'ing for GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) which I spotted (and didn't ack) in a poll on the website. And you just thought I had ADD!

I had to shake my head when I read the comment from the city dweller who said she'd buy Fair Trade Coffee if it was cheaper than the rest. She must be either a rocket surgeon, or a brain scientist.

who owns a domain? it's easy to find out by using the Sam Spade website (I had trouble with today)

PS: the reference to Charleton Heston relates to the 1973 film [Soylent Green] which is now available on DVD (yes, I have a copy). On a whim, I tried the URL and .. it does exist (!) as the Soylent Green Biscuit Company. woo hoo!

PPS: Blog On!

Thursday, August 21

Sobig: so what?

I've received several dozen emails containing the Sobig.F worm (various .PIF attachments), but none have infected me. Just did a full system scan, which took almost 45 minutes (result: clean system).

Wednesday, August 20

Vision Quest

today was my annual visit to the eye doc, and while it was better than most, it was still frustrating. every year, it's a 3-step process:
1) see the doctor, get a modified prescription;
2) go back in about a week to pick up new lenses;
3) walk into a wall with the new lenses.

in the 10 years since i've been in Dallas, I've seen 3 or 4 different eye doctors (optologists). i've been seeing my current doc for about the last 6 years, so i must be relatively giddy.

some of the mistakes of the past:
1) seeing a doc whose main attribute was a convenient location (he offices in a designer sunglass store, and spent more time describing his upcoming golf outing to Bora Bora than my eyes);
2) seeing a doc who rotates between multiple locations of a chain (oh, it's Tuesday .. your doc is in Boise today)

years ago (in another city), i went to an opthalmologist but (for whatever reason) i was unable to locate one in Dallas. i know, i should've looked harder, yet I digress.

my uncorrected vision is 20/400, so says the doc. In case you don't ack that number, it means that I see in 20 feet what the rest of you see in 400 feet. Like an oncoming car, 133 yards away. i have moderate astigmatism, hence the gas permeable lenses. i've considered LASIK surgery, but would prefer stable vision for a few years before doing that.

query to self: since "perfect vision" is widely thought of as "20/20" vision, and this is based on the number of FEET to a target, do other countries translate this to metric? does Canada consider perfect vision to be "6.1/6.1"? (metres)

amusing tidbit: the doc told me that they get multiple patients who are getting lenses for the first time after a trip to the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), who failed them on the eye exam and wouldn't issue a license. They come in "hopping mad", are tested, and are found to have 20/200 vision! Yikes!

i like this vision practice because they run several tests, don't seem to be rushing me around just to maximize throughput, have a large staff, and a trio of (seemingly) competent doctors. the routine is usually:

  1. sign in

  2. sit down, complete an updated medical history (not as detailed as when I donated blood last month)

  3. sign the form saying that i received the Notice of Privacy Practices (mandatory as of 14 April 2003)

  4. take some tests (administered by an assistant):

    1. focus (automated: a cartoon of a hot air balloon at the end of a long road)

    2. the "wavy lines" (peripheral vision)

    3. depth perception (about 12 lines of 5 objects/line; the object is to pick out the one which appears nearest

    4. pressure (a "poof of air")

    5. quick eye chart (remove your contacts; read the lowest line on the chart; "What chart?")

  5. return to the waiting area

  6. go see the eye doc .. he does the "which is better: A or B? 5 or 6? 1 or 2?" tests while tweaking the Big Pair of Glasses machine. he listens to me kvetch about how the last set of contacts aren't working any more. he issues a new prescription, says they'll call me when they arrive.

Every few visits, I agree to an additional step: the dilation. This is where they squirt some Miracle Liquid into my eyes (causing the pupil to dilate) and then they take some retinal photos which temporarily blind me. This year, it was much better than before. The 2003 version of the Miracle Liquid is different: it takes longer to dilate the pupil, but wears off much faster than before. That way, you are not Blinded By The Light for nearly as long, and standard sunglasses seemed to allow me to drive without a lot of worry about hitting anyone/anything.

another improvement since my last dilation is moving from an instant ("Polaroid") photo to digital .. each of the 6 exam rooms has a networked PC with a 21" flat-panel display, which allows saving/viewing/inspecting your retina photograph. way cool. doc says my retinas's fine, no sign of glaucoma, etc. however, he's still undecided on my ability to ever play the piano again.

Tuesday, August 19

got root? I'm blogging this. No, I will not fix your computer.

went to and ordered some new clothing. well, sure .. you may call them T-shirts, but I call them Daytime Apparel.

it is now time to mosey over to and enter my bills. First thing in the morning, I will mosey over to the petrol store (aka Gas Station) and purchase some dinosaur distillates for my lawn mower. Must be back by 0830 for another exciting day with The Painters. Woo hoo.

Deep Thought #15:
Offline NT Password & Registry Editor Bootdisk

Monday, August 18

he's dead, Jim!

no Bones* about it, this house painting job (now ending Day 7) has become annoying. i'll probably look back at it (years from now) and think that this was a simpler time. I truly thought today might be The Last Day, but (as on Saturday) a large crew in the morning does not translate to a large crew all day. by the time the day ended (today and Saturday) there were only 2 painters .. down from a gaggle of 6 or 7.

it's a good thing i'm not paying them by the hour, or i'd be really upset. i suppose it has now crossed the line into Amusementville, although I may (secretly) be cringing when the last painter leaves each day and says "see you tomorrow!" (in a broken English accent).

at least (as of this morning) my office is back together, and the pets are happier when they can camp out with me all day, while I do my real job atop a VPN/DSL connection. so, my day is mostly normal, excepting that i have to keep the door closed all day, lest my critters become part of a bewildered mosaic of oil-based white paint (door frames).

* in the Star Trek [1966-9] TV series, Dr. Leonard McCoy was also known as Bones. His trademark line was (as he checked one of the newly-deceased red-shirted security team) "He's dead, Jim!" (speaking to Enterprise Captain James Tiberious Kirk). After a couple episodes, I felt sorry for anyone who beamed down to a planet while wearing a red shirt (28 died during the 3-year series run). I certainly know that I would be kicking and screaming before anyone put me in that matter transporter while wearing red, because it was fairly certain that I would not be back for the next episode.

Friday, August 15

mea culpa bimmer

I emailed this pointer to a few friends: BMW nightmare site ... to which a friend replied: check out the rice boy page to which another friend replied: "a slight correction: Rice Rockets are the 4 wheel kind; Crotch Rockets are the 2 wheel kind". I Google'd for [rice rocket] and found many hits, among them:

Rice Rockets... Got Rice? | Rice Cop | Rice Street

Thursday, August 14

worms: they're not just fish bait anymore!

I was at the post office yesterday morning when one of the computers crashed, taking down one of the 3 open stations. the frustrated clerk waited for it to reboot, and since I was next in line I helpfully commented, "oh, it's probably that Microsoft worm that's going around!" (she grimaced). the screens at the other stations looked suspiciously like OS/2 (touch screen) but I couldn't tell without seeing more.

Reminds me of an ATM that I wandered across, several years ago; instead of the usual [INSERT CARD] ASCII screen, it was sitting at an OS/2 boot prompt. Eeeuooops! Needless to say, it didn't respond to my touchscreen commands, so I had to go elsewhere. I can only assume that they had to dispatch a technician to manually reboot the ATM.

An article in this morning's Dallas Managed News says that 60%+ of the targeted systems (WinXP; Win2K; Win2003, etc.) have never been patched! I even saw a story yesterday where a schoolteacher routinely said [NO] whenever the WinXP message "A Critical Update Has Been Received. Install now?" appeared. She assumed this was always a virus, so she had a completely vulnerable, patch-free system. Another reader complained that he spent several thousand dollars on his PC and wasn't about to spend more money (and time) maintaining it!

Yikes! I sit behind a router and a firewall, update my Win2K system whenever a Critical Update is available, and suck down the anti-virus signatures about twice a week. The DMN article says that many people are still on dialup (I'm on DSL) and don't get the patches because it takes too long. The article did NOT say how long it will take to repair the damage, only that many stores are selling anti-virus software like crazy (but again, didn't mention that any fresh installs should be IMMEDIATELY accompanied by a download of updated virus signatures -- those CDs on the store shelves are months old and mostly useless without a recent update).

since DSL now costs $30/month and dialup is still $20/month, I cannot understand why anyone would still subject themselves to (pig slow) dialup 56k if they're in an area covered by DSL or (often faster) cable modem.

Wednesday, August 13

6 degrees of separation, part deux (see Thu Aug 07 post)

my house was built in 1962, but has been added onto twice. it's a pier-and-beam construction, and has 3 separate crawl spaces. yesterday, i learned that the additions probably happened in 1974 because of the date on the attic furnace. yes, next year my attic furnace turns 30 years old; it will be time for a party.

ever since the roofers were here (July), the central air conditioner (AC) on the north end of the house has been acting odd. during the daylight hours, i've been smelling something unusual, like burnt dust. well, since i'd like to keep my painters cool and fresh (!) i called the AC guy yesterday. told him it was no emergency, but when he had some time ... well, he came yesterday afternoon and quickly spotted something i'd never noticed: my furnace blower (also the AC blower) has both a front and rear access panel. i've known about the front one for years; i have to remove it to access the 16x20" filter, for cleaning about every other month.

well, he quickly figured out that the rear access panel wasn't snug .. about a 2" gap was there, allowing the hot (130F ?) attic air to enter the system, along with any dust, thus accounting for the smell. since it's been about 6 years since the AC was serviced, i asked him to check the refrigerant and, while the 2-ton system on the north end was fully charged, the 5-ton system on the south end needed some R-whatever, so a few pounds (?) were added.

today, he'll return to relocate the thermostat for the large AC unit; the temperature in my home can vary 4-6 degrees F(ahrenheit) from the thermostat to the end of the house, and i'm hoping that this can be cut to a 2-3 degree difference by moving it to an interior hallway. I will notice this more in the winter, when the temperature drops from 72F (at the thermostat) to 66F (master bathroom). 66F is a bit chilly for my taste. (summer variants go from 78 at the thermostat to 82, so it's not as bad).

Tuesday, August 12

oh wow, man .. the colors!

this week, i have a gaggle (defined as between 2 and 7, so far) of painters here. outside, they're power-washing, scraping, and caulking (in between rainstorms); inside, they're removing wallpaper, patching drywall, tweaking sheet rock, taping light switches, applying textures, etc. before they actually lay the first brushstroke (other than a few samples -- to make sure I was sane when I chose the colors).

apparently 80% of the paint sold for interiors is still white (of which there appear to be 7,417 shades), so I decided to do something -- anything -- other than white (excepting the ceilings of all but one room). I spent the last few days before the painters arrived, thinking about color schemes.

I suppose I'm looking for part pastels, and part earth tones: something relaxing, for the most part. A friend of mine summarized that idea: "oh, you mean southwest". after getting over the initial shock of such a sane interpretation, I realized she was right. So, I have about 5 colors (hopefully matched) going on various walls of the 13 rooms. only one room is purposefully southwest; the others are whatever they are. more details on this as I become color literate! I feel like the target of an episode of NBC's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. There must be some hidden cameras somewhere ...

I chose stark contrasts for 2 rooms: the kitchen and the exercise room. Both color schemes are intended to keep me awake and/or motivated. and after all, it is just paint, which is easier to change than furniture.

they estimate the project will take 5 or more days. don't get me wrong, these guys are doing a terrific job .. they're professional, and painstaking in cleaning up each day, but it's still so disruptive. i'm sure i'll be finding small items (that were atop countertops) in weird places for weeks to come. in the interim, i've moved my computers out of the office and into a small room in back, out of the way until the office is done, then .. switch places.

i've got the pets sequested in the master bathroom. it's cool, dark and isolated from the rest of the house. so far, they're reasonably happy with the arrangements. at night, they can come out and sniff to their heart's content.

Sunday, August 10

not a breakthrough

I was out taking pictures of stuff this morning, and stopped at Sonic for a breakfast burrito and OJ. They supplied a packet of Salsa del Sol with the burrito, but it's already in the CPM. Argh! Foiled again.

Note to self: I didn't think about it at the time, but that's probably not the low-fat breakfast I should be inhaling if I want to get my cholesterol in check. Gotta make low-fat a serious habit.

Saturday, August 9

Let there be light !

there are at least 165 light-emitting things at my house: this includes night lights, floodlights, light bulbs, and more. the obscure ones are inside the oven, and 4 inside the refrigerator-freezer.

why do I know the exact number? (queue digression) it's overcast this morning, and has started to rain (gauge total: ¼"). the low 90's will be a welcome relief from the 100F+ heat. it rained yesterday, but there wasn't significant rainfall where I live. so, i'm inside, counting lightbulbs for the pure glee.

well, okay, the truth is that it all started when I went outside (under cloudy skies) to fetch the DMN (7 paces off the sidewalk .. no tip today) While moseying down the sidewalk, I noticed that one of the floodlights which illuminates the front of my house has burned out. this isn't uncommon, given the large number of floodlights: 20 outside and 76 inside. so, it makes sense that I should buy them in bulk.

there are different types of bulk floodlights (they come in cases of 12). most of the time, Home Depot™ stocks 2 or more brands. the most visible ones are sold in a white box; they are Philips' "Value Pack" and located near the front of the store. during one visit, an employee pointed out a cheaper alternate: Contractor's Choice™ bulbs (they come in a brown cardboard box, and are shelved several aisles away). i opened the individual boxes from both, and see that they are identical! they're made by Philips in Mexico, are rated for 2000 hours @ 120 volts. same bulbs, same store, yet cheaper; go figure.

i nosed around the Philips Lighting web site, and noticed something about a longer life bulb marketed under the name of DuraMax™. I wonder if they're manipulating the numbers; these bulbs are not rated in hours, but in years (with a disclaimer "Based on a minimum of hours usage per day / 7 days per week"). this makes it impossible for the consumer (me) to compare apples-to-apples. What's the chance of me buying a DuraMax, based on their advertised specs? Z-E-R-O

I've tried some of the full-spectrum lights such as Verilux' [Compact Fluorescent Natural Daylight] which is rated for 10,000 hours, and GE's reveal™ bulbs. These lights are easier on my eyes but the filament ones don't last as long as standard bulbs.

In case you're wondering, here's the descending count:
65-watt indoor floods: 76
60-watt white bulbs: 17
100-watt white bulbs: 10
ceiling fan (chandalier) bulbs: 8
halogen tubes (only 1 is indoor): 8
120-watt outdoor floods: 8
45-watt (halogen) outdoor floods: 5
indoor spots (R-20): 5
60-watt bug-foiler (yellow) bulbs: 3
3-way (50-100-150 watt) bulbs: 1
miscellaneous, specialty bulbs (high pressure sodium; garage door (vibration resistant); globes (chandalier); fluorescent bulbs; fluorescent tubes; microwave oven; refrigerator door (water/ice); infrared heat floods): 14

alas, this (anal-retentive) task is now complete; in a future blog, I will count the different types of batteries in my home. Please try not to get overly excited while you wait for this thriller.

Anyhoo, I'm now off to my next task: counting the number of Bad Movies I've seen.

Thursday, August 7

(queue music) It's a small world, after all ...

I've added Reuters™ (they describe themselves as a global information company) to my list of daily web visits. They have one of those nice push services where stuff lands in my mailbox without the use of my own brain cells. For now, I'm receiving the Technology feed, and nothing more.

.. and here's the Reuters item which predicated the title of today's blog: Six Degrees Experiment Proves It's a Small World (related site: The Small World Project). The idea is simple: get a message to a distant person (whom you do not know) by using intermediaries. Count the number of persons the message passes through (the average is 6, hence the popular phrase Six Degrees of Separation).

This reminds me of the game of "telephone", where you see how a simple message can be wildly miscommunicated as it passes from person to person. Trivia: this game may also be known as [Chinese Whispers].

Tuesday, August 5

Wikipedia evolution

I just added Orange curtain to the Wikipedia. While there, I nosed around my earlier submission (Metroplex) and was amazed at how much has been added, since I created it -- one month ago today. There is now a lot of what I consider editorializing in that entry, while it started very matter-of-factly. Since the Dallas crime statistics have been in the news lately, I added a line to the Metroplex entry: "Dallas' crime rate has ranked No. 1 among the nation's largest cities for the past five years (1998-2003)."

Note to self: return to my Orange curtain Wikipedia entry in a few weeks, to see how it has evolved.

Today (thanks to yet another Off-Topic pointer on Good Morning Silicon Valley), I wandered across the Periodic Table of Condiments (PToC, no relation to the Condiment Packet Museum, to which I contributed some stuff, several months ago).

The PToC reminds me of another potential roadtrip, this one to The Corn Palace (in Mitchell, South Dakota). I must be careful, though .. the idea of such a breathtaking place could send me into cardiac arrest. The Corn Palace Festival is scheduled later this month. Woo hoo!

Speaking of condiments, I considered going to Mount Horeb, Wisconsin last weekend to celebrate the joy that is National Mustard Day, but I didn't think about it until 9:30 that morning .. a bit late to fly to Madison (Gateway to the World), rent a car, etc.

and finally (mercifully?), I spotted an article on The Onion® that transects my love life: I'm Sorry, But I Only Date Men My Friends Are Afraid Might Kill Me

Monday, August 4

Keep them dawgies rollin' ...

If you're like me, you wonder what became of Mike. He & I met behind The Orange Curtain, back in the late 1980's *. Now, he has his own blog: Ramling Remblog. My life has suddenly become just a wee bit brighter.

* "The Late 80's". I love the way that sounds, so retro .. and sooo last century.

I'll sub(stitute)for the No Shows at bowling again tonight. Last week, I was [Kim]. This week, I was [Jeff]. Next week, I'm [Chris]. This is all so confusing ... I've never been able to control my own split personalities, much less other bowlers.

Saturday, August 2

leopards; pet meds; haircuts

Did you ever wonder what's in that glue you're sniffing? The Household Products Database links over 4,000 consumer brands. Kewl! Now when I eat a box of Lever 2000 Anti-Bacterial Moisturizing Wipes (for example), I'll know what's in them. (burp)

I'm still watching The Amazing Race 4 (CBS, Thursday night). Spotted which has 3 forums about the show. One speculated that they'll go from Seoul to Brisbane (Australia) next week.

In the "money is money" category .. while I like to support my local veterinarian, the Frontline Plus flea control stuff (nothing else seems to work for my critters) is expensive. I saved about $150 a year by buying it from The downside is that it took 5 days for the meds to arrive. I could've driven to the vet in 5 minutes. PetCareRX has a nice "automatic renewal" option, but I chose not to use it - yet.

I didn't even consider 1-800-PET-MEDS because I hate their TV advertisements. There are several commercials that make me reach for the remote every time they come on, and this is one of them. Others include the Video Professor (I'll mention others later, if my brain cells haven't blocked the images permanently).

Well, I have a haircut scheduled in another 3½ hours (yes, my barber's first appointment is 6am). It was either this, or wait until next week (and you know I hate to wait). Guess I should get some sleep now ...

Hair Trivia: hair grows twice as fast in summer, as in winter.