Wednesday, December 31

Angry Bovines

I spotted an article on the Consumer Reports web site, regarding TSEs (Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies) .. there's some good information about mutant proteins and prions in their article : Mad cow update: How to limit your risk.

I read yesterday that the government is considering mandating RFID tags (along with retina matching) for cattle, instead of those easy-to-change ear tags. The Canadian program is called NLID (National Livestock Identification for Dairy). I think that's a really good idea; there's far too much risk that an errant rancher will try to bypass the law when one of their cows turns sick (so-called "downer cows") and they risk the loss of income. Something should be done so that the ranchers don't lose their investment if they have to dispose of an animal, rather than butcher and sell it.

Jill-Bob elaborated: "sometimes downer cows are as such because they have a broken leg or other affliction completely unrelated to Mad Cow or some other illness. Heck, maybe it just has a cold and doesn't feel like getting up and walking. "

I suspect we haven't heard the end of Mad Cow quite yet. For example, there's an article in a Singapore paper about the health risks of all US beef, given common (lax) slaughter practices: Muscle cuts are mad-cow safe? Bull!

Tuesday, December 30

Feed Me, Entertain Me

Several years ago (when I lived in the suburbs of Los Angeles), I went to a restaurant called Ed Debevic's. It was a recreation of a 1950's diner, where the staff was encouraged to act the part, in addition to just getting diner-style food. The neon sign said "Eat at Ed's"; they were always busy. A plus was the local talent pool: many of the staff were aspiring actors and actresses (but this one was located in Torrance, which is a long way from Hollywood and the hiring directors). I remember a gum-chewing waitress "named" Shirley who sat down and had a (50's era) conversation with us. I wish there were more places like that; life is too boring.

The only apparent web presence of Ed Debevic's is on the website, so I'm not sure if they changed their affiliation, or if I never had it right in the first place. Sadly, the only remaining location is where Ed's started: Chicago. I thought they were part of the legendary Lettuce Entertain You (Let Us=Lettuce, get it?) group, but I could be wrong. Here in Dallas, the only representative of that group is Maggiano's Little Italy®, which has two locations.

I nosed around a website listing restaurants in Torrance CA to confirm that Ed Debevic's isn't there any longer. I did spot a few places that I fondly remember, including El Pollo Loco ("the crazy chicken") which was an excellent chicken QSR (Quick Service Restaurant). I deem them excellent because they actually seemed to care about delivering a healthy product.

Saturday, December 27

John Lewis? nah, too plain ... let's try Jona Lewie

Last night, I watched an old movie on VHS (does anyone remember tape?) : The Graduate (1967) .. on my new Sony DVD-VHS deck. I like the way that new VHS decks do a "smart rewind" of the tape, going very fast until it nears the end, at which time it slows, so as not to rip the tape apart. The new deck will work better with my other Sony stuff, but its arrival created the need to shuffle things, so I moved the Sharp DVD-VHS to the bedroom, and now the Sony VHS-only unit (from the bedroom) will be seeking a new home.

I now have 3 electronic gadgets to dispose (others are a first-generation satellite receiver and another VCR, all of them working but just older stuff). I found the old remote controls and manuals; now I just need boxes. I should list them on eBay, which is better than paying the newspaper for a classified ad (they don't refund if it doesn't sell).

Deep Thought #20: classified advertising used to be a cash cow; I wonder how long that'll last, in this age of the Internet?

I no longer have any VHS-only units in the house, which suits me just fine. I'm also happy to see how prevalent the combo units have become; even a year ago it was rare to see them in the stores, and now they're everywhere. Heck, I even mailed a letter (remember those?) to Consumer Reports a few years ago, asking them to review these dual-purpose units, since they had not previously done so (I received a form letter thanking me for my suggestion).

I remembered that I even owned that tape of The Graduate after doing a periodic "removal of duplicates" from my movie collection. No matter how much I try, I seem to buy DVDs of movies that I already own on VHS, so I end up with duplicates. Somehow, I ended up with 13 of those, so I took them to Half-Price Books and sold them for about $1 each (I should go back to the store today, to see how much they were marked up).

Rather than take the cash, I bought 2 CDs and my first-ever book-on-tape (it's for a book that I already own, but will be referring back to, so I wanted the quick way of finding out everything that's in the book). Once I got the cassette tape home, I nearly panicked when I didn't remember if I still had anything other than a portable unit on which to play it! Fortunately (!) I'd forgotten that there's a "dubbing deck" in my stereo component rack (allows quick copies of cassettes).

Two of my favorite "Christmas songs" are upbeat-yet-dark: one is a 1980 diddy called Stop the Cavalry, by Jona Lewie; it caught my attention on a Doctor Demento collection. Not knowing anything about Jona, I Googled and found: Jona Lewie's biography. Turns out he was a member of Terry Dactyl & The Dinosaurs, producing a one-hit wonder called Sea Side Shuffle. My other favorite is Weird Al Yankovic's Christmas at Ground Zero. After listening to them both, I am a happy camper.

Will go to the Angelika tonight to see Bubba Ho-Tep (a story about what really happened to Elvis and JFK, when they collaborated in a west Texas nursing home (obviously a documentary!).

Friday, December 26

Friday Five

What was your biggest accomplishment this year?
stringing together a bunch of small things into big things. this goes for both work and home. at home, it was combining lots of small projects, when added together, making for big changes overall (wow .. is this the same house?). this includes complete repainting; conversion of one room to a real exercise room; re-roofing (after the April hailstorm); gutter covers; removal of the old phone jacks, cable TV jacks; garage cabinet installation; etc.

What was your biggest disappointment?
not hitting my target weight by year's end. i came within 10 pounds, then would slide back to 14 over, then back to within 10, but can't yet break the barrier. it has got to be mental, at this stage. i've seen numerous plateaus over the course, and they seem to disappear rapidly, in search of the next (lower) mesa.

What do you hope the new year brings?
it won't happen, but .. i'd like to see Usama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda group Get A Clue. Osama: your bullying tactics (yes, including mass murder) make you worse than the perceived wrong you are seeking to right. My suggestion? Change your tactics. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi were on the right track .. non-violent change of thought is the answer, but much harder. IMHO, life's most difficult lesson is tolerance.
Deep Thought #19: what happens if you meet extra-terrestrials, compare notes, and find that (insert name of random religion) doesn't exist on that distant planet? Doesn't that make your religion a sham? (and yes, this requires faith that We Are Not Alone)

Will you be making any New Year's resolutions? If yes, what will they be?
no; they're a waste of time. this doesn't mean i won't have goals to meet, but resolutions are intended to make other people think you're serious about stuff.

What are your plans for New Year's Eve?
no plans yet .. i typically won't decide on anything until i'm within 48 hours of The Big Event, anyhoo. maybe i should do something radically different this year? hmm.

Wednesday, December 24

Speaking of suspicious ...

An out-of-state relative forwarded a long, boring story about some yo in Houston who got a $200 ticket for not slowing down while passing a parked (flashing lights on) ambulance.

Those emails commonly smell of being fake, so I tracked down the reference to Senate Bill 193 (SB193) and found that there is a new law on that issue. Along with many others, SB193 is conveniently explained on the web site (they're affiliated with the National Motorists Association (NMA)); the specific page is New Laws and Announcements - NMA Texas.

Although is a decent web site with good, factual information, I'm a suspicious guy. I wondered about the National Motorists Association, so I used one of the web tools to find who owns the domain name, and found it registered to James Baxter of Waunakee, Wisconsin. The web site lists him as President, and someone else as a Communications Director, but few other details.

The home page of the NMA goes so far as to taunt MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) to prove that their figures are correct (the exact quote is: "NHTSA and MADD proclaimed that 17,970 people were killed by drunk drivers in 2002. We say prove it!"); this will not win the NMA any friends, except amongst those who willfully drive drunk. For all I know, the NMA is a guy working out of his basement, and his Communications Director is a drinkin' buddy who lives down the street (hey, I could be wrong).

Sunday, December 21

of BodPods and El Toro

The BMI calculator says that I should weigh between 129 and 173, to be in the [normal] range for someone 5'10" tall. That's 151 ±22 pounds with an associated BMI of 18.5-24.9. Okay .. I like precise numbers for which to aim.

The George told me about the BodPod, but I suspect those are outlawed in Texas; it doesn't look enough like El Toro (the bucking bronco machine @ Gilley's).

I agree with the BodPod's premise: "The scale cannot tell the difference between a pound of fat and a pound of muscle" but I have one of those body fat analyzer scales (from Measurement Specialties, found at the local Bed, Bath & Beyond) which uses a small electrical impulse to make those measurements. Caveat: it doesn't work if you're wearing socks (darn!).

Saturday, December 20

and while I'm in the neighborhood ...

Yesterday was the annual Last Friday Before Winter Break, Let's See How Much Meat We Can Consume at Texas de Brazil (one of 3 Brazilian steakhouses in the Metroplex). I felt like I was attending a study group of Atkins dieters.

Jill-Bob mused at joining the 50 States Marathon Club but she can't be serious! However, a sample would be kewl .. heck, I'd go with her to the Brookings Marathon in South Dakota next May, if only to see nearby (412 miles) Mount Rushmore. Brookings is a mere 950 miles from Dallas, with easy directions: take I-35 to I-29. I wonder if I could squeeze my KPS - 1800 in the boot of Ziggy Z?

Unrelated: Modern Kids Don't Smile When They Visit Santa is fundamentally flawed; the sample size is a mere 30 children.

Friday, December 19

Friday Five

List your five favorite beverages
lychee boba (slush w/tapioca balls);
Coldbuster® (Jamba Juice);
cold cow's milk (1% milkfat);
Iced Tazo Chai (Starbucks®);
Snapple® Kiwi-Strawberry

List your five favorite websites
Yahoo!; Google; Reuters; DVD Universe; (Internet Movie DataBase)

List your five favorite snack foods
any fresh fruit; trail mix; spicy turkey jerky; original SunChips®; Sonic tater tots (that last one was a stretch)

List your five favorite board and/or card games
Clue®; poker; Dallasopoly®; Trivial Pursuit®; Scrabble®

List your five favorite computer and/or game system games
I don't play computer games any more. Well, except for Turkey Shooter

Wednesday, December 17

of coffee and SUVs

The nearest Caribou Coffee store is about 820 miles away (in Atlanta), according to the web site. That'd be a long haul for a coffee; it's a good thing that I'm not an SUV driver. At 13 miles per gallon (average for an SUV) that would cost about $190 (126 gallons) for gasoline (assuming $1.50/gallon, round trip) not to mention wear-and-tear. Lee Czarapata (of Runzheimer International) estimates that a GMC Yukon with V-8 engine costs 78.64 cents a mile to operate. In comparison, my 2-door (2001 model) car would drink about $80 (53 gallons) of gasoline for the same round trip.

Before last weekend, the last time The George came to Dallas was in 1995 (I think). That time, she wanted to see the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth (this was before The Fort Worth Herd was paraded down the city streets each day).

Tuesday, December 16

vampires in orange Winnebagos

I spent 45 minutes giving blood and debugging a portable printer today.

originally, i thought the Carter Bloodcare "mobile unit" was due on 6/12 (6 December) instead of 16/12 (16 December), but their email reminders changed that. since i was the first appointment of the day, i unexpectedly found myself helping the staff-of-3 "fix" the printer that's connected to their Windows 2000 based laptop. Okay, I merely advised them to move the printer a bit, so there wasn't so much strain on the parallel cable .. at which point it worked perfectly (instead of spewing junk). If only all technical support issues were that easy.

the blood donation was almost painless .. the nurse did a great job of minimizing the pain involved with the needle prick, and things seemed to go much smoother than my last donation (late July). and this time, i didn't make the mistake of letting them take blood from my right (bowling !) arm.

the "mobile unit" is a specially-designed RV painted orange (inside there is a private consultation room and 4 or 5 couches where you rest while the blood is drawn). there's also a bench on which to sit, after the donation (where you drink some juice and eat a couple cookies) .. this is to make sure that help is available, if you begin to pass out (i have learned not to lie when they ask if you had a good breakfast). and yes, I Got the T-Shirt for the effort.

Monday, December 15

5 movies in 3 days

Friday night, The George forced me to watch a chick flick (my limit is one per calendar quarter): so, we saw Love Actually (2003) before riding the elevator up Reunion Tower to watch The Prom Parade and look at the city lights from 500+ feet in the air. Then it was Taking Sides (2001) on Saturday, followed by Elf (2003) on Sunday. This does not include DVD viewings of Blade Runner (1982) and The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2000).

Sunday, December 14

Major kudos, Jill !

Major kudos to Jill-Bob for finishing her first marathon! She did it mostly on pace, and is now resting a few days, before training for her next marathon (I'm betting on Prague in May 2004).

The George (in town from Chicago) commented that Dallas' White Rock Marathon is very different from The Chicago Marathon (October), which does a lot of self-promotion. In Dallas, there were no obvious (promotional) signs that a marathon was even taking place. Want a positive? Parking was a breeze.


Friday, December 12

Friday Five

Do you enjoy the cold weather and snow for the holidays?
Snow? In Dallas? Yeah, right. I think the average snowfall is 2 inches .. yes, all season. I enjoy the change of weather, but don't mind living in a place where I don't have to shovel the sidewalk. Which reminds me, I still haven't raked any leaves (maybe next week). And on the rare occasions when it does snow, watching North Texans "lay in supplies" at the stores is great fun (you'd think they're preparing for 30 days without food, water, electricity).

What is your ideal holiday celebration? How, where, with whom would you celebrate to make things perfect?
Not sure I have one; I'm not big on traditions since (by definition) it means doing the same thing, time after time, year after year. How bo-ring. Then again, the thing I do at work involves consistency: making information available in the same format, as new products and technologies are introduced. Hmm. As to who I'd willingly spend the holiday? Well, I think you know who you are (no, I'm not naming names on The Blog).

Do you do have any holiday traditions?
After Thanksgiving, I stay away from the shopping malls until one hour before closing.

Do you do anything to help the needy?
Most years, I make a sizable contribution to the North Texas Food Bank (affiliated with America's Second Harvest). In years past, I've donated unused coats, and added to the toy collection at work. I also try to help the critters by donating to the SPCA of Texas.

What one gift would you like for yourself?

Thursday, December 11

click to continue

William pointed me to this Christmas tree light gadget (he found it at a local hardware store): LightKeeper. It's supposed to fix/find burned out bulbs, and William advises that clicking the LightKeeper is great fun. William, perhaps you need to Get Out More! :-)

Curiosity of the week? Understanding the difference between the black and red blindfolds on Talk Sex with Sue (Oxygen channel)

spotted: the Texas Music Project (including the Don't Mess with Texas CD)

Tuesday, December 9

yes, it's my alma mater .. wanna make something of it?

I bought a sweatshirt from these guys about a year ago: Electoral College Sportswear & Accessories. Am happy to see they're still around. Am also happy that the vast majority of the people who see my apparel don't get the joke.

Speaking of not getting the joke, this one wasn't obvious to me until .. well .. the last line: Squishy Yellow Elegy

Saturday, December 6


Newspeak (1984, 1956) is not related to Nadsat (A Clockwork Orange, 1971) and I won't even mention the Klingon Language Institute.

Following this morning's 6am haircut (don't ask), I spotted an article in the DMN, along with a photo of two protestors (who probably follow her around the country) at Hillary Clinton's book-signing in Austin. This duo had placards listing their web site (aka FReep). FREEP reminds me of CREEP (Nixon's Committee to RE-Elect the President) .. who was in charge the day that acronym was suggested?

Finally, there was another DMN article entitled Salivations from Santa which listed several pet-related gift sites. Hmm .. what to get Beta (the wonder dog); Samantha and Pandora? My favorite site from that article? Hard to say, but I'm leaning toward Political Pet

Thursday, December 4

another day, another word

Had a major domestic emergency tonight: Pandora ran out of cat litter! Since Pandora uses a LitterMaid™, she has a different brand of litter than Samantha. So, I went to Target® (open late for The Season) and purchased two boxes of Arm & Hammer® Super Scoop®. Now, Pandora can purr easier, knowing that she has a backup box onsite.

I signed up for a blood donation tomorrow (those who frequent the Gene Bob Blog know this is the 2nd one for me this year: see the July 29+31 entries). I look at it as way to get a free cholesterol test! While on the blood donation web site, I spotted an unfamiliar word: autologous. defines autologous as: derived or transferred from the same individual's body. Well, okay, yeah.

Got an email from the woman who runs advising that there will be no list this week. as a resulI, i will preserve numerous brain cells.

Another tidbit I learned today: buzz marketing (no relation to seagull management)

and then there was an interesting article titled The RFID Imperative.
Deep Thought #18: I wonder if McDonald's will put RFID tags in every Quarter Pounder?

Tuesday, December 2


I continue to be amused by Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy but I have to wonder how many episodes they can do before we've seen all there is to see? I started thinking about what spinoffs they could do:

Queer Eye for the Bowler
(their makeover revolves around the haute couture Which Is Bowling)

Queer Eye for the Mime
(they do a makeover of his tiny invisible box)

Queer Eye for the Sociopath
(as they work, they find body parts throughout the double-wide trailer)

Queer Eye for the Farm Guy
(the Fab Five travels to Arkansas and have no access to anything but Wal-Mart)

and the ultimate spinoff:
Queer Eye for the Queer Guy
(for those gay folks who have no sense of style: you know who you are!)

GoogL'ost: The Foot in Mouth award (oddly enough, on the British Plain English Campaign web site)