Friday, April 30

Sinclair Broadcast Group

I became aware of the Sinclair Broadcast Group when I heard about their planned censorship of tonight's edition of ABC News Nightline:
The ABC Television Network announced on Tuesday that the Friday, April 30 edition of "Nightline" will consist entirely of Ted Koppel reading aloud the names of U.S. servicemen and women killed in action in Iraq. Despite the denials by a spokeswoman for the show, the action appears to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq.
There's an interesting explanation on Sinclair TV: "Good News" Stories About Iraq? .. and then there's another story: Sinclair Broadcast Group: The Death of Local News. Looks like their nearest affiliate is in San Antonio .. a long way from here.

Thursday, April 29

midnight Ding Dong

Someone rang my doorbell after midnight last night. Beta The Wonder Dog (BTWD) immediately barked, and probably caused the perp to head for the car (on the street, with parking lights on). I flipped on the porch light, but the car turned on its headlights and sped away. I called our neighborhood patrol, and then watched the same car speed by going in the opposite direction. When the patrol arrived (maybe a minute later) he asked why my house had been targeted (for this non-crime) and I had to scratch my head. Usually crooks look for low-hanging fruit, and my well-lit house is not a prime candidate. Alas, there was no "letter under the doormat" or other non-nefarious indicator, so I can only thank BTWD and my porch light for foiling a robbery attempt. Or was it? Beta will get an extra chewbone today, for a job well done.

When I told this tale to a few of my neighbors, several responded with their own tales of mysterious cars parking at their curb, or even in their driveway, near midnight. One report specifically mentioned a Chevrolet El Camino: well, that leaves out anyone I know!

I don't get a lot of phone solicitation at home (ever since I signed up for the Texas No-Call List, superseded by the National No-Call List) and I am always leery of anyone soliciting money on behalf of phony law enforcement charities (notorious scams), so I was surprised to see TSTA on my CallerID, followed by a prepared schpiel delivered on behalf of something called the Texas State Troopers Association. A few hours later, I decided to search for "scam" and TSTA when to my amazement, I found that the TSTA is real (although a reverse phone lookup showed them to be a pool service). In addition, this line on their website gives me pause: "Donations to TSTA are not tax deductible as charitable contributions". Hmm .. why not? I tried to find out what percentage of donations becomes usable by the troopers, but that wasn't published. I then Google'd for "Texas charities" and found the Texas Attorney General's page on Charities and Non-Profits.

Wednesday, April 28

protest THIS !

Ah, it must be a national election year, as I'm seeing more and more messages about protesting something (anything?). So it was no surprise that there are those working to disrupt the political conventions (still a few months away). Still, I think the way to do this would have involved a bit more secrecy that a public web site! See Shadow

Coming next week: the annual property tax bill. There is no state income tax in Texas, so the government has to make up that shortfall somehow. That usually takes the form of property and school taxes (in my case, school taxes are higher). And every year except one, they have raised my taxes by the statutory maximum (10%). Last year, I decided that Enough Was Enough so I filed a protest and made my way down to the Dallas Central Appraisal District, only to find out that somehow I had written down the wrong day (doh! - my appointment was for the day prior) and had to accept them as submitted. Well, I'll try again this year. There's lots of good advice on Ben Dover's website: How to Fight Property Taxes. Time to cozy up to a local realtor and get those all-important Neighborhood Comps (list of homes sold in your neighborhood, of comparable value).

Tuesday, April 27

patent THIS !

I've scribbled here before about the problems with the US Patent Office. I predict that this will become a bigger issue in the coming years, when people start realizing that giving patents for almost anything does have repercussions. In that light, it was interesting to read an article about the Electronic Frontier Foundation's work: EFF Launches Patent-Busting Campaign

Last week when I rented a "car" I was given a Ford Escape for the day. So it was a surprise when I saw that a recall has been issued against it: Ford Escape SUVs recalled because they may stall at moderate speed. That would've been nice to know, had I experienced the problem. When I rent a car, I'd like to know (a) what recalls have been issued again that model and (b) if the car rental company has made the repairs.

Sunday, April 25

you can't buy these in stores!

Okay, I think I understand. You slide your (not yet available!) Chameleon Card into one of Chameleon Network's Pocket Vault™'s and push a button to program the card to appear as one of your many credit cards. This is supposed to make your wallet thinner, since you only carry one credit card. But, the size of the Pocket Vault looks to be about 20 credit cards thick. Hmmm. I suppose if it were integrated into my cellphone or PDA, but I'm not thrilled about carrying yet another device.

Yesterday, I bought a new flatbed scanner. Years ago, I would have pored over the specs, read everything and after a few agonizing weeks, have chosen a model. Now, I just pick up PC World or PC Magazine, flip to the back and see which ones they liked best (it takes much less time, and the writers presumably know more about this stuff than I). The Joy Of Specs is long gone.

From experience, I know that specific models (as listed in the magazines) are seldom found (perhaps it's because of the long lead times needed to put something in print). So, when I go to my local retailer (MicroCenter or Fry's), I know to look for similar models. If it was a big-ticket item, I might use a webbot, but this is for a $50 scanner, and not a $1000 digicam. So, that's how I ended up with my Canon CanoScan LiDE 30; the store didn't stock the LiDE 50, and this one had similar specs (along with a $30 rebate). So, I bought it, took it home and plugged it in, and began scanning.

.. and then there's the story (WAIST CASE) out of New Orleans, where they're considering a law against low-riding jeans. Word is that the Louisiana Plumbers Union will sue. One place where you won't see low-riders (ha!) is in Plano today, at the Blackland Prairie Festival. They say "rain or shine" and the rain ended just before the festival started.

Gene Bob's First-Ever Boring Website of the Year Award goes to: Tabatchnick Soups. At least one of their suppliers -- -- has photos of a few of their products.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't provide a link to the coffin photos from Dover Air Force Base. The site is very, very busy and you may have to revisit. Also, don't miss Russ Kick's blog.

Friday, April 23

I Can Get Satisfaction

Not sure why, but somehow I wandered across Armored Fist Paintball which led me to seek out paintball fields in the Metroplex. I only participated in this activity once, during a team building event near Austin, Texas. Memories include:
1) hey! that smarts!
2) lots of bruises
3) uh oh .. another jam
4) it's hot inside this helmet
5) if i can't see them, they can't see me, right?
6) satisfaction in sighting a co-worker (on the other team) who thought himself safe in camouflage. pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop .. nailed him!

Every few months, politics rears its ugly head, so it didn't surprise me to see a brain-dead, right-wing email making the rounds, which makes John Kerry's wife out to be a villain because she has money. This email attempted to vilify the Tides Foundation (charity). I'm happy to see that they saw fit to rebut these claims.

Then there was the unrelated pointer to DriveDemocracy.Org (guess they thought would be too hard to spell). I was very amused to wander across Yellow Dog (billed as "The Official Weblog of the Texas Democratic Party"). For added amusement, I found Yellow which defined a Yellow Dog Democrat.


Wednesday, April 21

self serve

2 fascinating articles: Weblogs gaining maturity, becoming more useful and The future of Weblogging

speaking of which, Jill-Bob is on a roll, having updated her blog twice (yes, twice!) in one week. Do I hear another horseman of the Apocalypse saddling up?

.. and .. there are some great dog photos here (on this Friendster takeoff): dogster. don' miss the "Site Favorites" .. recommended.

enable rant
i never did ack "midwest" in the way most people do. i've heard midwest refer to Ohio, even. so, i drag out a map of the United States. east and west should assume a dividing line, halfway across (let's ignore Hawaii and Alaska for the moment). same goes for north and south .. halfway between Maine and Key West. so, midwest should be (in my mind) Colorado. Ohio is thus in the mideast. along these lines, southwest = southern California, and not Texas.

Sunday, April 18

safe, but late

The 2004 Safety Fair was held at the North Central substation of the Dallas Police Department yesterday, from 10-2. I waited until 1pm to go: that was a mistake. Many of the vendors had already packed up and left town, although the ones who remained said it was busy in the morning hours. I arrived in time to watch one of the DPD helicopters take off, from about 20 meters away; it made for an interesting MPEG. I spent some time talking to the MARK-9 Search & Rescue group; they have a hard job.

I have never gone to the 3rd Saturday Nerd Sidewalk Sale, under a bridge (fair dinkum!) in downtown Dallas. I attended a few "Computer Swap Meets" when I lived in Los Angeles, but found the ones here to be poor imitations, and not well advertised.

Someone forwarded an old-but-good joke, which turned out to be from a Dave Barry column. I found dozens of copies of the joke (by Google'ing) but did not find it on the Dave Barry Official Website; hmmm. And then there's Dave Barry's Blog (here on blogspot).

I see that the annual TV Turn Off has a web site, and there's one specific to Dallas: TV Turn Off Dallas. I tried to check the registration info for the Dallas site, but there are at least 3 instances of repeating keystrokes, so I have to wonder if it's not bogus - perhaps done by the local newspaper? I did like Steve Blow's column today, although I'm sure he'll catch flak for it: If they turn off the tube, could their lives improve? (where he opines of a direct relationship between poverty and TV-watching).

There's certainly a lot wrong about Dallas; the local newspaper has a special section in today's paper: Anyone who lives here will probably say "duh!" to the articles. Sadly, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has a miserable circulation this side of 35-E. To read the DMN, you'd never know about the huge Main Street Arts Festival .. said to attract the 2nd largest audience in the Metroplex (behind the Texas State Fair).

Yet another (unrelated to anything else) blog is David Edmondson's uncollected thoughts

Saturday, April 17

How many ways are there to prepare (chicken) eggs? I can only think of about 6.

I heard someone order theirs "over hard" (must be the opposite of "over easy"), but (by themselves) I've never had my chicken eggs prepared any way but boiled, scrambled, over easy, deviled and (once) poached. Strangely enough, I didn't locate a single page which told about every way to cook an egg; the best sites were the American Egg Board and What's Cooking America's Learn All About Eggs and How To Cook Them.

GoogL'ost: Putzmeister America

Thursday, April 15

Travel Is Glamorous, Part 2

I took a day trip on Tuesday, and by the end of the day, I remembered that even short flights can be tiring, in the maze.

I woke @ 6am to finish packing (!) and start the journey to DFW. Since I used to travel frequently on business (pre-bubble) I decided to slip back into that routine for the day. I'd need to leave home 2 hours before my flight, allowing time for the rush-hour commute to the Park N' Fly lot, where I'd leave the car. Good thing I allowed a little extra time: there was an accident on LBJ near 35-E and the going was slow. I'd already moved to the far left lane, hearing the accident report on one of the AM radio stations. The airline says I should arrive at the terminal 2 hours before the flight, but I've seldom found that to be necessary, unless you want to sit and wait. And I'm not a patient waiter.

Once at the remote parking lot, timing becomes predictable: 15 minutes later I'd be in line to get a boarding pass (years ago, I learned that parking at the terminal was risky; I once drove around for 30 minutes and still didn't find a space).

Once inside the terminal, I see that a few things have changed. First is the row of self-service kiosks; swipe your credit card (for ID) and verify your flight, and out spits your boarding pass (I had no bags to check). My premium frequent flyer account is long gone, but that wouldn't have mattered: the many kiosks mean you're (nearly) always first in line. Then, wait in line to pass security; I was amused at the Disneyland-style signs saying "you are now 10 minutes from the security checkpoint". Next, the TSA scans my bag (X-ray? or something more colorful?) and asks me to put my shoes on the belt, to be scanned. Thankfully, I left my laptop at home (avoiding another scan).

I arrived at the gate 15 minutes before boarding, so my "leave home 2 hours before the flight" timing still worked. At DFW, the American Eagle regional jets (RJs) depart from a remote terminal (necessitating a short bus ride), but returned at a main B-terminal gate. The remote terminal was modern; I grabbed a breakfast sandwich (akin to an Egg McMuffin) and an OJ before the flight. Turns out that would be all the food I had time for, until nearly 8pm; it was a busy day.

I've flown in RJs before, and do like them; both flights today used the Brazilian-made Embraer ERJ-145 which I prefer to the MD-88 jets that are common in AA's fleet. The RJ's are quick and nimble, and since they seat less than 50 passengers, you're in and out quickly. It's also nice to see them using jetbridges instead of walking across the tarmac. The flights were uneventful (just the way I like them). American Eagle's flight attendants introduce themselves by first name only, and the in-flight announcements (fasten your seat belts; bring your seatbacks and tray tables to their fully upright and locked positions, etc.) are almost all tape-recorded. I was amused to see them turn off the tape before the Spanish translation.

Once at the destination, I rented a car (well, I was "upgraded" to a Ford Escape (an SUV of sorts)) which drank $21 of gas in 244 miles. The gas might've been less, had I been able to fill it before returning it to the airport with 1/4 tank remaining. I stopped at a gas station near the airport, but couldn't find the release on the Escape (even the guy at Hertz had no clue, when I arrived at the airport, less than an hour before my flight). Also, I continue to be appalled by the amount that municipalities add taxes to car rentals; in my case, an extra $16 was added, making my 6-hour rental just under $100. Word is that it've been worse at DFW, which has some of the highest "visitor taxes" in the country.

On the return, the TSA guy asks to see my shoes (still on my feet) and says I can walk on through. Hmm. So much for consistency; these are the same ones I was asked to remove at a different airport. Other passengers weren't so lucky; I fully expect changing rooms to be a standard part of future airport security.

While looking for the Embraer website, I wandered across Airliners.Net which has a LOT of photos, if you're into that kind of stuff.

Wednesday, April 14

Sundry, Part IV

Another day when I blog stuff that landed in my PDA in the past month. Hmm.

Burgess Seed and Plant Company;

Elder care:
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (Prescription Drug Patient Assistance Programs);
AARP magazine;
AARP Bulletin (news);
AARP Financial Planning

WXVT (Greenville MS channel 15);
WTVA (Tupelo MS channel 9);
WREG (Memphis TN channel 3).
Someday I may blog extensively about my commercial radio "career" (of 2 years). Then again ...

Ontel Products

General Aviation Serving America

Pets: (Dallas clearing house for pet adoptions);
Richardson Humane Society;
Man's Best Friend

Davis CarChipE/X can silently log where your car has been driven, and at what speed (can you say "teenager"?);
2003 BMW Photo Contest Winners

The Conversation (1974)

spotted in Technology Review's archive: The Witch of Yucca Mountain (nuclear waste storage).

On The Road:
George Payne Cossar State Park; Clark Freight; (on most every Georgia license plate).

Health / Medical:
Stop Hospital Infections;;
Local Drinking water quality;
The Natural Pharmacist: Safe Supplements?

Nolo (self-help legal);
Washburn University School of Law;
Legal Information Institute (Cornell Law School);
Jurist (U of Pittsburgh School of Law)

decent pedometers for $15-30:
Walkers Wearhouse

very cool rocking chairs: Klein Design

Best Fares;
World Wildlife/Buyer Beware (products made from endangered or threatened wildlife);
Semester at Sea (learn about other cultures while taking a cruise);
See has a nice clickable map of all 50 states' official travel sites;
100 Reasons to See North America; (the official Las Vegas site);
Tour Pike County (Kentucky);
Tour Yukon (Canada);
Ghirardelli Square (San Francisco).

Monday, April 12

eBay made easier

An item in the newspaper ("Drop-off stores making eBay easy for customers") pointed me to Cash It In; and QuikDrop, each of whom will take your stuff, auction it on eBay, and send you a check for the proceeds (minus their 35%+ fees).

I spotted another site (TransLingo) that claims to "Make your Web Site Multilingual" but I haven't been impressed (yet) by any of these auto-translators, except as a source of amusement. I've blogged before about so-called bi-directional translation experiments, where you translate from English to another language, then back to English. The results are often bizarre. You'd be better off getting results from The Subservient Chicken

Another high-definition satellite image service is at; many cities, including Dallas, are available in enough detail to spot the weeds in your backyard.

and finally, there's the Fort Worth German American Club (if you're in an office, the background audio may not be recommended).

Friday, April 9

RSS and Methuselah

Want to live to be 123 years old? I hope your 401(k) and/or Social Security doesn't run out. This is Really Nothing New, but a recent article entitled Methuselah Man was good for a laugh. It may take all those extra years to keep up with changing web pages. Although it's not unique, this could work as a starter: The Rocket RSS Reader is listed as "A Free Personal Web-based RSS News Reader"


It's been a busy week at work, and in the evenings, I've been hand-carving a 42 foot totem pole for the backyard, so not much time to blog. So, I'll take the easy way out and weave these seemingly unconnected pointers together:

While sitting in my La-Z-Boy, wishing to sample Air America Radio (so-called Liberal Talk Radio) here in Dallas (other than via an Internet feed), I remembered the yummy taste of Bawls Guarana. I wonder what a mix of Bawls and dnL (upside down 7up : green & caffeinated) would taste like? The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) is not a codename, but what if it was a code name?. Guess I should find out more about Osteoarthritis (OA) .. what if it's a Jeopardy question someday?

This reminds me that Humor is no laughing matter overseas, where they are less fortunate, and do not have The Traffic Cone Preservation Society. I suppose I could lookup the ZIP codes of traffic cones, using the Zip Code Finder with Zip Code Directory and Zip Code Map (a truly useful site).

I wonder if Fun Chain is a place where those of us who are traffic cone fanatics can gather? FunChain is billed as "The Semantic Social Network". What a deep thought!

Here's another Deep Thought article (see the PDF) : Searching versus Finding: Why Systems Need Knowledge to Find What you Really Want. Which reminds me of the article "Networking is a joke", about hi-tech standup comics (Don McMillan; Wayne Cotter; Dan St. Paul), some of whom use pi meson humor. And who could forget Alec Muffett's blogrant: RSS Considered Harmful.

Finally, if you have (what must be) 5 minutes to spare, check out Debian's 404 page (old, yet good, but you only have to see this once before it gets very old).

Sunday, April 4


Well, I waited until 4 seconds after 4 minutes after 4 hours after 4 months after (200)4 years, so the time was exactly 04:04:04 on 4.4.4 and phoned The George to wish her a happy birthday, but .. no answer (voicemail instead). Argh. I should've sent a guy dressed in a pink leotard, to dance & sing on her front lawn.

To while away the time, I nosed around an item that's been providing filler for CNN recently: Religion on the Southern Roadside. Also noted that a jury decide that Deanna Laney was insane when she stoned 2 of her 3 sons to death. As Spock would have said: "Fascinating."

Trivia Time! the Vulcan "Live Long and Prosper" hand gesture represents the Hebrew letter shin, as explained near the bottom of Leonard Nimoy's brief piece entitled What Being Jewish Means To Me.

... and then I was cleaning my email inbox when I ran across an item that Tim-Bob sent a few weeks (months?) ago, supposedly penned by Andy Rooney (the Chief Curmudgeon of 60 Minutes). It was easy to find out that Rooney never wrote In Praise of Older Women .. it was done by Frank Kaiser (the guy who writes a newspaper column called Suddenly Senior), in 2000. Not only did debunk the Rooney attribution, but Susan Reimer of the Baltimore Sun contacted Andy Rooney to hear him whine even more.

it'll be light one hour later than usual today, due to that throwback Daylight Saving Time (loathed by us Morning People). Guess I should stroll over to Whole Foods Market to see if they stock Baker's Breakfast Cookie. Before I ingest it, I will wash my hands for 20 seconds, after reading New Scanning Technology May Detect Dirty Hands. Hmm.

GoogL'ost: Celebrity Atheist List

Saturday, April 3

Final score: Blue 1, Yellow 5

I finally got around to drinking a can of dnL today (upside down 7up) and noticed that the green coloring comes from a mix of blue & yellow food coloring. This would've made a great St. Patricks Day offering. I was surprised to read about some people's (1 in 10,000) adverse reaction to Yellow 5 as explained on the Food Color Facts publication (on the International Food Information Council site).

.. and to think this came near the end of my screening of The Egg and I (1947) which is on the Ma & Pa Kettle, Volume 1 DVD. The movie stars Fred MacMurray & Claudette Colbert, who are upstaged by Marjorie Main & Percy Kilbride as Ma & Pa Kettle. This film debuted soon after World War II ended, and hearkens (did I just say "hearkens"?) back to a simpler time, of rural barnyard humor. Fascinating. Word is this eventually led to the TV series Petticoat Junction and Green Acres and (40 years later) to “The Simple Life.”

Thursday, April 1

Check your calendar

It was only a few minutes after midnight, when I ftp'd an April Fool's Day prank to a website that I run. I then IM'd a friend with a pointer to it. "Really?" he asks, then I wait a few seconds before advising "Check your calendar." Argh! First victim, at 12:03am.

Today's newspaper was mostly bereft of 4/1 humor. I only spotted 3 comic strips with humor on-topic for today. This is sad; we need to remember how to laugh. One item I spotted was all about payback pranks: Benjamin Dover At His Best! ... and then, there is the Top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes Of All Time (which reminds me .. I need to water my spaghetti tree, and re-brine my pickle bush, and ...).

random stuff : Pets By Mail; A Plan for Spam; Google's GMail