Tuesday, September 30

pre-bowl feeding

I had the puerco con zucchini (¿como se dice zucchini en EspaƱol?) last night at Mario's Chiquita (kinda sorta behind Circuit City at Central/Parker). Then, it was off to be swept at bowling (the rest of us generally bowled above our averages, but Todd wasn't there).

Earlier in the day, I wandered around columnist Dan Gillmor's blog and had to laugh when he opined about Arnold-as-governor ("Terminal Stupidity"). California's my home state, and I lived there for 10 years, so I feel comfortable in saying: Californians Get What They Deserve. Personally, if I still lived there, I'd vote for Gary Coleman. I wonder how long after the election it'll be before they reform the absurd process which allowed 120 or so candidates on the ballot.

Lately, I've been following a discussion group about the deaf/HOH (hard of hearing) community. They mentioned a telephone which does automatic speech-to-text conversion: the Ultratec - CapTel phone. I also spotted an article entitled "Who is a big D in the Deaf Community?" which says "small d"(eaf) people align themselves with the hearing community (reading lips) while the "big D"(eaf) people use sign language to communicate among themselves.

I noticed that the local Mail Boxes Etc is becoming The UPS Store™ and was surprised to see that this is a system-wide change. Wow.

Sunday, September 28

where do I sign up?

There is an organization which supplies judges for those eating contests that are common at the summertime fairs: the International Federation of Competitive Eating. This afternoon, they'll be at the World Corny Dog Eating Championship at the Texas State Fair, but I doubt there'll be a contest to see how many Original Key Lime Pie Bar™s (a slice of key lime pie, dipped in chocolate, on a stick) can be eaten in a single sitting. It wasn't that long ago that the fare rage was "fried BBQ" .. yes, indeed .. you deep-fry something and then barbecue it (or was it the other way around?).

Fair food worth sticking with describes the food available at the Minnesota State Fair: (somehow I doubt that "Smoked Norwegian on a Stick" would go over well in Dallas). I remember seeing Egg Rolls On A Stick at a fair in Orange County, California .. what is it with stick food anyway? What's next - Jicama on a Stickama? There are 54 listings for "food on a stick" on the Minnesota State Fair's web site, including macaroni and cheese. Hmm .. do they supply the rubber bands needed to hold it in place?

I've mentioned The Straight Dope™ (a column by Chicago's Cecil Adams) before, but maybe not his fan website: Teemings. Chicago is larger than Dallas, so is probably listed somewhere on Sprawl City (which I found via Cool Site of the Day). Dallas is just behind Los Angeles when it comes to sprawl! Then there was the link to the Sustainable Dallas web site, where they describe "sustainable business practices such as conservation, pollution prevention and the use of renewable energy". Bah! Heresy!

And finally, with all the talk about the validity of the National Do-Not-Call List, I stumbled across one of the websites for those telemarketing vermin: TelSearch. Sadly, there are probably hundreds more of these bottom-feeders.

Wednesday, September 24

urushiol: just say no

I continue to be amazed by the amount of damage a little urushiol (best guess) inflicted on me. Urushiol is the oil in poison ivy/oak and I'm guessing this found its way onto my face when I innocently wiped a bit-o-sweat from my brow, while weeding the flower beds. But, I could have just as easily gotten this from my dog (according to one web site) which says the dog could rub against it, pass along the urushiol oil to you and not be affected itself. I suspect this didn't get on my hands because I washed the dirt when I came indoors, and the urushiol went down the same drain.

While my face doesn't look awful, it feels awful. I don't have a huge urge to scratch, but I've noticed sharp, unpredictable stabs of pain in the affected area in the past couple days. Then there's the weird stuff: I feel as if a drunken insect is crawling under my skin. Or the sharp pains I get from just touching my eyebrow.

I'm still waiting for this to run its course, having decided it's much like the common cold: if you treat it, it lasts for 3 days. If you don't treat it, it'll last for 3 days. Caveat: most web sites predict 1-2 weeks of joy re: a poison oak rash.

From what I understand by nosing around the web, if you get this stuff on you, you have between 10 minutes and 2 hours to wash it off. Cold water is recommended since it doesn't open the pores the way hot water does.

cats and bananas

I've come to the conclusion that my cats would starve if they were locked in a fruit store. On occasion, I've tried feeding them grapes, bananas, apples and they simply turn up their feline noses as if to say "as if !". this led me to wonder about how bananas grow and I learned about blue plastic, and banana hands and banana fingers. Even low tech (bananas) has its own vocabulary. This web site is based in the UK and offered this insight: "Buyers of fruit in the UK want unbruised bananas" (wow! how weird!), and has the wrong spelling (!) for common words like center (centre) and pounds (kg).

As I wandered across this site, I found numerous mentions of Fair Trade and wonder whether that will ever be successful given that most consumers buy whatever is cheapest, and care little about the product's origin. This spans everything from coffee to electricity (clean, wind-powered electricity costs more than coal but how many people will pay 50% more to have a cleaner conscience?).

I tried to locate a business using the new Google : Search by Location thing, but it just didn't work for me. Part of this may be due to the ZIP code split (1 July 2001) when the post office horizontally split my old ZIP code into 2 (due to projected growth). They gave us one year to inform everyone who mailed us, and most of the large companies automatically discovered my new ZIP all by themselves. But, it seems a LOT of people still haven't gotten the message. I commonly encounter web sites which tells me that my ZIP code does not exist (I then feed it the old ZIP code and it's happy).

Perhaps I should organize a large-scale revolt by those of us with the new ZIP code! We refuse to buy anything from someone who is too cheap to update their ZIP code database! I could use Meetup: Organizing local interest groups or any of the myriad web sites which do this stuff.

Finally, I was amused to see a pinwheel Tractor Spinner .. I've always been soothed by kites, wind socks, and such and have bought from Into The Wind in the past.

Sunday, September 21

Ja ist das Oktoberfest!

Oktoberfest in Munich is a bit different than the one in Addison, Texas (which ends today).

If you're into "mid-century" memorabilia, you may find USA Yesterday (Old sites around the USA) entertaining. I've always been amused by this kind of stuff, but not enough to want to drive Route 66 (what remains of it). I've been on Route 66 when the family made the pilgrimage west (I think I was 12 years old), but I didn't have the appreciation of the kitsch until years later.

I bought a CD with Route 66 songs, and have a replica metal roadsign, along with several photo books on the subject. Ah, yesteryear!

Saturday, September 20


On Thursday, I went outside to do a bit of weeding. While out there, I must've wandered across some poisonous plant because I now have an itchy spot (complete with a red rash) on my right temple, as well as the area between my eye and eyebrow. Since I still have the grass and weeds, I looked for the obvious ("leaves of 3, let it be") poison oak but didn't see any. There are dozens (hundreds?) of poisonous plants, so I may never know which one got me.

When I went out today to do some more weeding, I wore gloves, and was careful not to even think about wiping any sweat.

I nosed around the web and decided to treat this by (a) thoroughly cleaning the area with isopropyl ("rubbing") alcohol and (b) applying Calahist™ (a Walgreens™ product) to relieve the itching. We'll see how well this does.

Friday, September 19

and we're not talking [Hormel]

How do we get spammed? Read Phil Bradley's Great SPAM Experiment or this related site: How do spammers harvest email addresses?

I found John Leyden's Net censorship hits 'all time high' article interesting. It's a good thing we still have some free speech, even if it does sound like a Pirate (and we're not talking Pittsburgh). Real Pirates didn't play games, especially The Grid Challenge (I've been part of a grid for several months, running the UD Agent, seeking smallpox and/or cancer cures).

another sign of the impending apocalypse: JB is now a blogger!

Zagat Guide Lists Top Wireless Internet Hotspots is not the same as the article (see my 16 September blog entry) about the airport hot spots, where DFW was #2.

.. and finally ... just when you thought NASA had the market on rocket scientists cornered, read Bernhard Warner's article: Deluged Telecoms Boss Bans Staff E-Mails.

Wednesday, September 17


Following Saturday's regional meeting of MaGaW, I searched the web for Closed Caption Bloopers. This is when the onscreen text does Not Exactly correspond to the spoken words (invariably during a live event, such as a news broadcast). Example: TV reporter says "4-vehicle accident" and the caption says "FOR FEE HICK SEDAN".

Closed Captions for previously-recorded shows are done with much less time pressure and are more accurate. I've heard that many live events are done by a contractor at the other end of a telephone line, who uses a machine similar to that of a court reporter. TV reporters sporting a regional accent provide for the most entertaining closed captions.

speaking of closed captions: the August 2003 "winner" of FUM BEYOCH was written before Wesley Clark (Arkansas) entered the race for Democratic presidential candidate (making him the 10th candidate in a field led (for now) by Howard Dean (Vermont)).

I never did find a Closed Caption Bloopers site, but I did wander across Movie Bloopers Online which has potential, but it'll be a long time before it becomes a classic.

The next time I need a culture fix (assuming I'm out of yogurt) I will peruse a listing of local art dealers here: Dallas Art Dealers Association. I wonder if this place (Cooper Aerobics Center - Clinic) has any art? Maybe a guy named Arthur?

Finally, kudos to Eric for this pointer: SlashNOT - Satire for nerds. Geek humor that matters. A parody of Slashdot.

Tuesday, September 16

even more glamorous travel !

While looking for a web page that deals with the Miami metro (which does not include TSP (Tampa-St Petersburg) - hey, it's early in the morning!) I wandered across m-travel.com which includes an article: 50 US airports ranked by use of mobile technology. It says that DFW is highly ranked (2nd) for the number of wireless access points at the airport.

I tried to tell m-travel about the error on their chart (SAN = San Diego, not San Jose) but got a mailer-daemon saying their account is over quota. Oh well .. maybe they'll figure out the error on their own.

I haven't gotten into wireless networks yet, partly (primarily?) because of all the stories I read about security. My home is wired for 10BaseT and gigabit Ethernet, which allows me faster-than-most-wireless access in nearly every room. I saw some gizmo (or was it a gadget?) which detects WAPs (wireless access points) without a computer .. it's about the size of a "USB disc drive", costs about $25 and saves the time involved in powering up your laptop at the local Starbucks or wherever looking for an 802.11 network.

Note to self #1: watch for the 802.16 networks, which span a 31-mile(ish) radius.

Note to self #2: wait for version 2 of this gadget-gizmo, which will undoubtedly determine
1) if there are multiple WAPs; and
2) if the WAP requires a password, or if it means that you can use this network for free. Yes, I've seen the stories about McDonald's bundling an hour's worth of wireless access with your Happy Meal™ ...

Saturday, September 13

those 3 little words: Travel Is Glamorous

I spotted a series of links from TravelSmith (yes, their paper catalog) that could be useful: Travel Center and Unique Journeys.

when seeking the best airfares, sometimes you can find better fares by using multisearch which looks for nearby alternate cities .. not just a single airport. there are apparently only 7 metropoltian areas in the world that work this way:

CHI Chicago (ORD, MDW & CGX)
LON London (LHR & LGW)
NYC New York (JFK, LGA & EWR)
PAR Paris (CDG & ORY)
QDF Dallas (DFW & DAL)
QHO Houston (IAH & HOU)
WAS Washington (IAD & DCA) .. what about BWI (Baltimore)?

so .. QDF-LON would search for DFW and DAL flights to LGW (Gatwick) and LHR (Heathrow). Granted, you won't find any flights from DAL (Dallas Love Field) to LHR (due to the wonderfully antiquated Wright Amendment), but that's a topic for a future blog entry.

No clue why the Los Angeles basin doesn't have a multisearch code for it's 5 airports (LAX/BUR/LGB/SNA/ONT); San Francisco doesn't have one for SFO/SJC/OAK; and Miami doesn't have one for MIA/FLL/PBI; I guess this just makes too much sense.

Friday, September 12

The Brights <> Light Bulbs

If you read my other rainy day missive (9 August 2003) about all the light-emitting devices in my home, you'll have to do a context switch when you read about The Brights, who have nothing to do with light.

The Brights also have nothing to do with synthetic motor oil. The most frequently mentioned (on the local car club alias) are Amsoil™ and Red Line™, who do not like each other at all. The "hot oil" a few months ago was Royal Purple™, although they're no longer mentioned (hmm).

The most-marketed Mobil-1™ is not the most-recommended synthetic oil by this car club (this is based on the results of an Oil Analysis Kit [OAK]). Who sells OAKs? Amsoil; Blackstone Laboratories; ExxGard (from Exxon Mobil-1); Filtroil™; MotorCheck™; Oil Analyzers; others. If you have your oil analyzed, you'll want to know about TAN and TBN (to bore your friends to tears)!

BTW, word is that 7500 miles is about right for a synthetic oil+filter change (the Corporate Average Fuel Economy [CAFE] standards are mostly useless). I didn't find a lot about CAFE and oil changes on the web, but I did find mentions of the Sequence VI and Sequence VI-B tests.

I did a (semi-routine) traceroute today and was curious to see a strange name prominently positioned between my ISP and the rest of the Internet. So, I went to their website and was amused to see that AboveNet™ is a renamed Metromedia Fiber Network (aka MFN, fresh out of Chapter 11). There's an AboveNet Press Release explaining it all.

Sunday, September 7


I maintain a large abbreviation/acronym list at work, so it shouldn't surprise me when there are duplications in The Real World. An example is AIP, which can be either the American Institute of Philanthropy ("Charity Watchdog Helping Donors Make Informed Giving Decisions") or the American Institute of Physics

I have 3 pets @ home, each of which could be considered a charity! I try not to overfeed them, so I was amused at all the recent hoopla concerning Nutrient Requirements of Cats and Dogs. Somewhat related was my recent discovery of a new Purina cat food: Indoor Cat Formula (I suppose it contains cricket parts, grass clippings and other weird stuff upon which outdoor cats feed).

Is the Valentine One really the best RADAR detector? Some people get really bent out of shape over the voracity of RadarTest.com .. and what about LIDAR (basically lightwave [laser] RADAR)?

Just when you thought Texans couldn't git no stupider, there's The Chronicles of George which documents a (former) helpdesk moron in Houston. He's probably now employed as a greeter at Wal-Mart™.

Cheap Identity Theft Deterrent?

picked up one of these today: Sight & Sound Wireless Alert Mail Guard System partly because it was very cheap ($7 versus catalog price of $30). It uses two watch-style batteries and a photocell on the mailbox side. Early tests show why it was cheap: it doesn't work (requires line of sight between mailbox and receiver).

Friday, September 5

got guanabana?

Each time I go the grocery, I like to try at least one new thing. This week, when I was buying Jumex juices, I spotted an unfamiliar one: Guanabana Nectar. It's a tropical fruit with a hard-to-describe flavor .. kinda like pineapple, kinda like apples. Yum.

Just for grins, I bought pear nectar from both Jumex and Kerns. The Nutrition Facts label provides an interesting comparison:

                   Jumex - Kerns

serving size: 355 mL 340 mL
calories: 190 220
calories from fat: 10 0
total fat: 1g 0g
sodium: 75mg 20mg
total carbs: 45g 54g
dietary fiber: 2g 4g
sugars: 49g 35g
vitamin C: 25% 100%
calcium: 2% 15%
spotted in the Sep 2003 [Nutrition Action] newsletter from the CSPI: Calorie Restriction Society

Thursday, September 4

Alzheimer's Battery

The Nickel Cadmium (NiCd, NiCad) battery on one of my cordless phones gives me about 20 minutes of talk time lately, so I'll waddle over to Batteries Plus® in Addison tomorrow to get a replacement. NiCads are the batteries where you must fully drain them before recharging (the so-called "memory effect"). There are equivalent Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries; they don't recharge as quickly as a NiCad but otherwise are much friendlier. I checked the battery on the other cordless extension and (surprise! surprise!) it uses an NiMH battery. Hmmm.

A friend in Germany returned from holiday (why do so many Europeans take off the entire month of August?) and mentioned South Tyrol .. sounds like a relaxing place. Which reminds me of a question I asked of a friend who lived in Hawaii .. where do Hawaiians go for vacation? (Answer: Lake Tahoe)

With all the talk about identity theft, one of my neighbors pointed me to a gadget sold by Radio Shack™ which remotely alerts you when someone opens your mailbox. You could then peek out the window to confirm that's it's the postman (hopefully). In the case of this neighbor, it was not the postman; he got the license plate of the thief, who now has a new address at the Dallas City Jail. Seems it would've been easier to go to the website for Police Auctions - Repossessed and Confiscated Items - StealItBack.com

My second job after college was as a radio news reporter (long before the Internet) .. I was amused to find this website for journalists: The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Radio Shack sells telephone taping gadgets (perfectly legal in Texas and many other states). See
Catalog Home-> Phones & Radio Communications-> Phone Accessories-> Recorders & Ringers-> Recorders. I started down this path after reading Can We Tape? (mentioned in Ben Dover's DMN column)

note to self: Ben's parents were cruel. I can only hope his parents didn't name his sister Eileen (Dover).

Cable or satellite? Ben [finally] cut the cable: Here's why you will, too! was amusing. I subscribe to basic cable (mostly for the local weather radar and the frequently guffawful local access channel 27 (Dallas Community Television)) but my primary connection to the televised world is via DirecTV satellite (except during a thunderstorm).

Wednesday, September 3

los perros grande

Something you will not find at Gloria's (Salvadoran restaurant, in Village on the Parkway) are Jumex Juices & Nectars, but they are available in such ethnic groceries as Kroger y Tom Thumb! I was shocked to find that (via the hierarchies.org website) Kern's Nectars (my favorite from California, and a competitor to Jumex) is owned by Libby's which is owned by Nestle.

I'd hate to be in the grocery business in Dallas, trying to make money. Within two miles of my home, there are 3 Albertsons; Danals; Fiesta Mart; Kroger; Neighborhood Market (owned by Wal-Mart); 2 Tom Thumb (owned by Safeway); and Whole Foods groceries. Just a bit further up the road is Central Market (owned by H.E.B.). They all cannot survive.

Several months ago, I saw that fresh tortillas (plain, wheat or salsa) are made at the local Kroger (signature) store. I asked about corn tortillas and was told they're harder to make in that environment, so don't expect them anytime soon. The Big Dog (locally) of Mexican groceries is Fiesta Mart which moved into the old Tom Thumb location (SE corner of Spring Valley & Coit). The parking lot of the Danal's Super Mercado (a few hundred yards east, and once a hotbed of activity) is now almost vacant.

I Google'd for Danal's but came up empty. I did find GoodExperience.com (a sad competitor to the Big Dog in that space: epinions.com)

Monday, September 1

Animal House

I watched a 90-minute (minus commercials) show on the History Channel called "Frat Boys" tonight, and it brought back a lot of memories. I could probably start a separate blog just on my high school and college years, just to amuse myself (as to what I remember). Such an epistle would be better than my memoirs, which would only sell 4 copies.

My father was a member of the Freemasons, but I don't recall him attending any meetings. He was a craftsman, and I dimly remember that he received one of their newsletters, and I remember the Masonic logo, but I never associated it with college fraternities. The History Channel show says that frats evolved out of Freemasonry and secret societies such as the Flat Hat Society (named after the mortarboard?). The show didn't say it, but the FHS evolved into Phi Beta Kappa (the first American frat). The early frats mostly had 2 letters; my distant ancestors usually had only two names (ala George Washington). It wasn't until later until it became common to have a middle name (ala Franklin Delano Roosevelt) and I suspect frats evolved the same way. I wonder if future frats will have 4 Greek symbols, now that George Herbert Walker Bush (a member of Skull and Bones, by the way) has been President? Hmmm ...

I didn't join (or even pledge) a frat in college; the university where I went was caustically referred to as a suitcase college, where most everyone went back to their hometown after Friday afternoon classes, and returned late Sunday. The only exception to this rule was (curiously) on Homecoming Weekend when a few alumni allegedly came to town.

I have no idea how many were in my university graduation (there were 330 in my high school class); I remember college graduation was held at the football stadium on a Saturday afternoon. My father died the year before, so one of my uncles drove down with my mother to watch the event. I stood with a few of my friends as the ceremony happened, and we threw our mortorboards into the air afterward (although I may still have mine tucked away somewhere). After the ceremony, I met my relatives at a prearranged spot on campus, and we went somewhere to eat lunch. I was starting a new job soon, and I suspect we parted ways after eating .. those are details I do not remember.

When I went to college, the fraternities and sororities were commonly thought of (by those of us who were independents) as little more than an excuse to hold parties and get drunk, under university pseudo-approval. I graduated before I turned 21, and I don't recall if the drinking age was 18 or 21 back in those days. I made friends quickly at the dorm(itory), but doubt I would've pledged a frat at that time of my life. My first roommate (an accounting major from Vermont) attended some of the parties and came "home" drunk a few times, but he wasn't much of a social butterfly .. he was just cheap and probably went for the free booze.

Even though the Independents didn't have a formal structure likes the Greeks, we occasionally referred to ourselves as members of Gamma Delta Iota (GDI : Gol Darn Independents). The student government was heavily Greek, and the few of us Independents quietly referred to it as Alpha Sigma Gamma (ASG was the Associated Student Government). Turns out that most colleges' student governments were Student Government Association (Sigma Gamma Alpha ?) but we had to be different (actually, we never thought about it until we formed a statewide Student Government Association, but that's another story).

In hindsight, if I'd known more about frats in those days (this was 25 years ago, before the History Channel), I probably would have pledged. Then again, this was a few months before National Lampoon's Animal House was released, but that's a subject for another blog entry, later ...

Depressing Grace

After a dry and hot (typical) August, where we got about 1.8" of rain, what's left of Tropical Depression Grace roamed through town, dumping a buncha (note the technical term) rain. Grace thoughtfully dumped 0.75" of rain at DFW (the official site) but my rain gauge says 3.5"!

A pseudo-wrong number (during the moring deluge) led me to check out the Pacific Domes site (Geodesic Dome Homes and Shelters) which led me to search for [tornado shelters]. As expected, there were numerous hits including:

FEMA: Safe Rooms
Storm Shelters of Texas
Storm and Tornado Shelters of Texas
The Tornado Project Online!