Monday, May 31

if it moves, salute it. if not, deep fry it.

There was one Truly Amusing Food Booth at Artfest this morning (in Addison Circle Park):
Fried What!

If you can't read it, the sign says "Fried .. cheesecake, pickles, Key lime pie, green tomatoes, etc." This just goes to show that in Texas, we will deep fry most anything. I remember when Deep Fried Barbecue was offered at the Texas State Fair. You heard right: first, barbecue something, then deep fry it. No wonder we're so high on the scale of Most Obese Cities. 

It's getting close to the time of year when going to outdoor festivals is a bad idea. Fortunately, the humidity wasn't awful, but the crowds were light today, and the vendors said the same of Sunday. I guess Saturday was The Busy Day.

Silly me .. I deep-scratched my good (Maui Jim) sunglasses last Monday, so I bought 2 pair of "who cares if I lose them?" sunglasses today for $20, but didn't see any art that knocked my socks off, so came home otherwise empty-handed. All the good stuff must have sold on Saturday, huh?

In the afternoon, HayJax and I moseyed up to Plano, where I got a free facelift:

A special treat was a guest appearance by Rambo (The Wonder Dog) who was incredibly well behaved, not taking any queues cues from the ferocious canines at Trish- and Scott-Bob's. I should've snuck him some of Beta's favorite morsels: Grreat Choice Healthy Treats ("Biscuits with Shark Cartilage") which are sold by PeTsMaRt.Posted by Hello

Sunday, May 30

biodiesel: a new use for McDonald's?

Definition: Biodiesel is a vegetable oil based fuel that can be used as a replacement for petroleum diesel in any diesel engine with little or no modification to that engine.

Trivia: the original diesel engines ran on peanut oil.

Biodiesel is new technology to me (this diesel substitute should be on every front page, and that absence is yet another indication of the conspiracy launched by the Bush administration and their oil cronies, no doubt). It couldn't possibly be due to (a) an inattentive media; (b) an inattentive Gene Bob (note the 1997 dates on many of these items) or (c) any inherent problems with biodiesel technology itself.

Deep thought #34: imagine a future where you pull into Wendy's to fill your fuel tank.

During Sunday morning's insomnia, I wandered from the National Biodiesel Board to The Veggie Bus (gotta love the paint job) to the Veggie Van (history lesson) to Grass-o-lean (rhymes with gasoline, eh?) to Boulder (Colorado) Biodiesel.

Update #1: Eric Bob reports that biodiesel's problem is cost: $3.20/gallon in California (making their $2.27/gallon cost for diesel seem attractive). I suspect availability is also an issue; just how much vegetable oil is available for refining? An article in today's Dallas Managed News said that even with $2/gallon gasoline here, it's much less than in Europe (where taxes take a larger bite). The highest price noted was $5.40/gallon in London.

I have not yet found a comparison in miles-per-gallon. Gotta wonder if vegetable oil is more|less efficient than diesel fuel? Interesting development: German-developed Sensor Improves Biodiesel Efficiency (September 2003)

Update #2: Biodiesel Boom Well-Timed (June 2004) highlights a guy making his own biodiesel for 41 cents a gallon. Okay, okay, a nearby restaurant gives him free cooking oil, rather than pay $1.50/gallon to have it hauled away. Yes, you caught me.
Aside #1: I lived in Boulder in 1982-3 while attending CU. I never found out why the University of Colorado is CU and not UC.

Aside #2: While spell-checking this posting, I was suggested [bedazzle] instead of [biodiesel]. Must be a lesson there.

Unrelated, except that it's in that "save the planet" category: Sustainable Resources (which will solve world hunger): kewl!

insomnia? put it to good use

It's been years since I looked at Web Pages That Suck ("learn usability and good Web design by looking at bad design") and was happy to see that it's still regularly updated .. now added to my RSS feeds.

Bad insomnia last night, so I waddled into the home office in an attempt to bore myself to tears with what's happening in the world. Thinking that traffic would be light (RealPlayer can be bursty during prime time) I listened to The O'Franken Factor on AirAmerica for a few hours, while doing other stuff. I heard several Public Service Announcements [PSAs] and interviews, many mentioning websites. Some of the more memorable ones: Punk Voter; Underground Action Alliance; Wax Bush (main goal: sell T-shirts). Lesson learned: opposing views are good for the soul. Conservative talk radio (Rush Limbaugh and his ilk) must outnumber liberal talk radio 25:1 so this was a very welcome change of pace.

Memorable interview: Chan Marshall (she's in the band Cat Power), which made the (legendary?) Farrah Fawcett/Dave Letterman interview sound like a nanotechnology briefing.

I tried to print the PDF newsletter from Circle Of Life (environmental) but it rendered in 50% kinda-Chinese and 50% English. Lesson learned: don't waste trees by printing brochures about environmental causes.

Finally, an idea that hasn't gone anywhere since the August 2001 unveiling: Purple. I read the spec, which immediately made me very, very sleepy ...

Saturday, May 29

heart palpitations

Saturday afternoon was so very exciting: a guy from TXU Gas replaced my 30-year old gas meter; he had a pickup truck full of meters and was making his way through the neighborhood. When he finished installing and spray painting the new meter:

he came inside to re-light the water heater's pilot light, and turned off the one for the furnace. The $10/month savings (turning off the pilot light to the furnace) will be redirected to pet food! Posted by Hello

To counter this much excitement, maybe I should mosey over to ARTFEST in Addison (Tom Thumb has $4 admission coupons .. it's not worth a trip there just to save $1). I've been looking for a mural of either Charlize Theron or Geena Davis; wonder if they'll have one of those?

Deep Thought #33: 3-day weekends lose their meaning when you're out of work.

and then (from the "we weren't there but we are certain what happened" department): Dinosaurs Fried Within Hours of Cosmic Collision, Study Concludes.

Friday, May 28

polka? did someone say POLKA?!?

Most of the thunderstorms blew north of me yesterday, but I did keep an eye on The Weather Channel (thanks, Jill-Bob), just in case. While watching, I spotted an ad for Danny Lipford's web site, especially as it relates to air conditioner maintenance (basically: keep the unit clean by cleaning the coils with a low-pressure hose a few times each year, and don't let plants grow within a foot of it). That's the same advice my HVAC repair guy gave me, years ago. Today, Gene Bob's Rain Gauge says I got 2.5 inches of precip.

Don't let me be responsible for Wasting Time At Work, but ... check out the photo collection on Tim-Bob reports that he was transfixed for an hour or more (and I had to admit I was equally seduced). I'm sure this was off-hours.

I donated another pint of whole blood this morning (at Carter BloodCare's office - much more comfy than those converted Winnebagos), and apparently unemployment agrees with me: my blood pressure [BP] was 118/78 (pulse 80) which is better than it's been in years. I doubt my new "avoid fast food forever" phase can be attributed to these good numbers, since I just started it at noon on Monday.

I may waddle down to Ennis this weekend to take in the street fair that's part of the The National Polka Festival®. Polka is a Czechoslovakian thing, and The Czechs of Texas reminded me of the dance locations in Ennis: Sokol Hall; KofC [Knights of Columbus]; KJT [Katolicka Jednota Texaska]. Do I recall a 4th hall last year? Last year, I dragged Jill-Bob there, so this would be a repeat for me. I remember arriving in Ennis about 15 minutes before the kickoff parade, expecting to park a block away. Wrong!! This is a huge event for a small town, and people begin gathering much earlier, lawn chairs in tow. I'm not motivated to fight the crowd for their parade at 10am Saturday. Last year, I was shocked to see that there were no vendors selling Polka Dots, which I thought would be a natural. They do have a poor guy (girl?) forced to wear a silly "Polka Dot the Chicken" costume, but it just ain't the same.

PJ said that a Confederate group was denied a permit to have a booth, and set up on someone's front lawn instead (and I thought the Civil War ended in 1865: silly me).

Thursday, May 27

who is watching the watchers?

I spotted 3 "watch" sites recently: MooreWatch "Watching Michael Moore's every move"; Allergy Watch and GasPriceWatch. I'm surprised that there haven't been front page stories about how inflation is becoming an issue, given that 2004 is proving to be the year of $3 milk and $2 gasoline. Fond high school memory: President Gerald King Ford's Whip Inflation Now campaign. The lack of "inflation news" must be the work of the "liberal media" that the conservatives write about in their Letters To The Editor (some putz today whined about too many liberal comic strips, and wanted more balance).

Speaking of inflation, the bargain matinee at The Magnolia cost $5.50. One of the trailers (when I saw [Super Size Me] on Monday) was for [Coffee and Cigarettes] which piqued my interest; perhaps because it's filmed in black and white, so that I'm forced to concentrate on the content?

HayJax asked if I knew of any restaurants that serve gazpacho soup. Hmm: perhaps Fresh Choice? Trivia: gazpacho means "soaked bread" in Arabic. While Google'ing I encountered a recipe for watermelon gazpacho soup; as Trish-Bob would say: ewwwww.

GoogL'ost #43: TBOH (for those in/near Technical Support)

Finally, Analogia is a "what movie star do you look like?" site; I uploaded a photo of Pandora (calico housecat) and it said she looks like Judy Garland; Tyra Banks or Andie MacDowell. Hmm .. maybe I should start dating my cat? Here, kitty, kitty ...

Wednesday, May 26

Hi, my name is Ty Ming, and I'll be your server

On Monday night, PJ came by to watch us bowl (sweeper week == Just4fun). Problem is, her timing was a bit off: she arrived just in time to watch me pick up a spare, after the 10th frame. That's right: 36 weeks and she saw me hurl exactly one ball: the last one in a season that's as long as a human pregnancy. One ball, out of (way?) over 2100 balls. Oh well ... Then, it was off to TGI Friday's veranda for liquid refreshment and tasty orange peel shrimp. Ah, bliss.

PJ's mostly packed and ready to move to Phoenix, and I wish her well. The new home environment won't be a cup of tea, that's fer sher. Not to mention that timing (Ty Ming?) thing again: the heat of Phoenix in the summer has to be felt to be believed. It's one of the few places in the US where hospital emergency rooms are trained to remove drivers hands which have seared into the steering wheel. Then again, here in the Dallas summer, we scurry from air-conditioned homes to air-conditioned SUVs to air-conditioned restaurants. Cowboy Stadium may have a hole in the roof, but it has a good supply of air-conditioned luxury boxes (I've been to one .. it is THE way to watch football). Pazme `nother wun of dem jiggin weengs, Bubba ...

GoogL'ost #42: Drowsy Driving via Parents Against Tired Truckers

GoogL'ost #41: Area 51 - Dreamland Resort

GoogL'ost #40: Travel Photos of Galen R Frysinger, Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Tuesday, May 25

Geek Syndrome ?

I was reading kuro5hin and spotted an item about Geek Syndrome; I thought it was a joke, but decided to Google for Asperger Syndrome (first described by Hans Asperger in 1944). I like the NIH's site, describing symptoms, treatments, and so forth: Asperger's syndrome, Medical Encyclopedia, National Institutes of Health. It makes me wonder how many people I've known (in the high tech biz) who are "infected".

Monday, I went to the West Village to see Super Size Me (2004). It's about obesity in America, but is not in wide release. There's a scene in the movie where Morgan Spurlock literally faces the amount of sugar he ingested during a month of 3-McMeals a day. It's a pity that this isn't required viewing in every school in America. The last time I encountered something so in-your-face was when I read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle (1905), which made me "go veggie" for several years. Gotta wonder if the PETA Nazis have any plans to buy out entire cinemas and give away the tickets (taking a cue from Mel Gibson).

Recent DVDs I've seen: Gentleman's Agreement (1947) (about anti-Semitism); American Splendor (2003) (about EveryMan Harvey Pekar) ... and then there is something to really help my insomnia: a Blog Reader Survey (long). In the "other stuff to see around Dallas" column, there are the Studios at Las Colinas; and the Texas Factory Tours. Woo hoo. If either of these tours proves to be too exciting, I can stop at a nearby doc-in-the-box: CareNow and PrimaCare.

Monday, May 24

light the blue paper and retire immediately

I've thought Game Theory is a useful tool for most of Life's Situations, and will surely blog on that Real Soon Now. There appear to be a sizable group who believe that what happened in Abu Ghraib (Iraqi prison) was little more than a college hazing prank, to which I would reply: would it bother anyone if those were American prisoners being held naked, made to pose in front of enemy troops while performing lewd acts, now played on TV for their families back home?

Once again, I suggest reading the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. Have we decided those rules (about torture) don't apply to us? This Turn The Tables thought process is also useful when talking about anyone's rights, whether it be a domestic minority, or foreign insurgents.

GoogL'ost #39: Republican Unity Coalition (found this while looking for a recent Ann Richards quote about same-sex marriage). For those who don't know: Ann Richards was the governor of Texas until she lost to Karl Rove and George W. Bush. Personally, I admire any woman on a Harley, especially if she has white hair.

Saturday, May 22

off we go, into the wild blue yonder

C.R. Smith was one of the pioneers behind American Airlines [AA]; there's a museum (open 3 days a week) bearing his name, southwest of DFW International Airport This afternoon, I went to the C.R. Smith Museum and (before even getting inside) this sign in the museum parking lot struck me funny:

What is it trying to tell me -- that someone is angry (cross) "over there"? Perhaps it relates to a religious artifact ahead? Hmm. Posted by Hello Inside, among many other things, there is the DC3 Flagship Knoxville [NC-21798]:

Those DC-3 aircraft were American Airways [sic] first passenger planes in 1936, carrying only 21 passengers (trivia: the first flight attendants were required to be Registered Nurses). The smallest jet in their current fleet is the Fokker-100 (not considering the Regional Jets flown by American Eagle). Posted by Hello  I wasn't aware that Fokker ceased production in 1997.

There's a theatre inside which shows a 10-minute movie entitled "Spirit of American" which was very cool. In one scene (apparently taken from a biplane) you "experience" an airplane roll (I felt oddly weightless). The theatre seats are from a first class section of a 767, complete with seatbelts. There are several 9/11 related items, including a memorial quilt with the names of the AA crews who died in the attacks.

Friday, May 21

calling all nerds ...

I see that this month's Slashdot Meetup will be held at a sports bar on upper Greenville Avenue : Ben's Half Yard House. In theory, a group of 5 or more readers of Slashdot (/.) will gather to trade Tales of the Nerd. In the past, many of these MeetUps have been cancelled because they couldn't draw a minimum crowd.

Where to find stuff (aside from Yahoo! or Google): Vivisimo; GigaBlast; ResearchBuzz ("Search Engine News and More Since 1998"); Librarians Index to the Internet; (for local news, including Dallas); Findory News and Crayon (personalized newspapers); Compaq's SpeechBot (research project)

Deep Thought #32: what if I buy one of these mega-DVD units (like the Kenwood DV-5050M DVD Changer) and am audited? If I don't have 400 DVDs in my collection, can I be fined?

amusing nameSpot: KenTacoHut (merged fast food operating under one roof, ala KFC+Taco Bell+Pizza Hut). One of these KenTacoHuts operates at the northeast corner of 75-Central and Forest Lane. Also nearby is a TacoHut (Taco Bell+Pizza Hut), a KenTaco (KFC+Taco Bell) and a KenBeer (KFC+A&W Root Beer). This is precisely why UCC [UpperCamelCase] was designed!

Meanwhile, my paper copy of The Cluetrain Manifesto arrived: time to settle in for a read of its 183 pages. Sure, I could've read it online for free, but I'm still unconvinced that eBooks will dominate (Project Gutenberg advocates are undoubtedly rolling their eyes).

Why I pay my credit card balance in full each month: Making the minimum payments on a $3,000 balance carrying an 18% APR will take 431 months (almost 36 years) to pay off, and cost $7,511.74 in interest.

memo to Lanett: I do indeed have the DVD of American Splendor (someone beat you to the referral) and I'll watch it tonight.

In "the stuff you learn at lunch" category: Simethicone is the generic name for Gas-X; Mylanta Gas; Mylicon; Phazyme. Gas-X is available in Cherry Creme and Peppermint Creme flavors. It works after eating; if you want a preventive, consider Beano.

Thursday, May 20

Competence is a rare commodity

I met John Keohane only once, at a Dallas/Fort Worth Unix User Group [DFWUUG] meeting. John had been DFWUUG President from 1995-7, and had since moved to Austin. I arrived before the February meeting to grab a slice or two of pizza (as is the custom with this group) and was chatting with Dale Young, who was President of this group after John. I remember John coming over, and posing a few trivia questions (about US Presidents King and Blythe - aka Ford and Clinton) and the original derivation of the word "geek" (biting the head off a live chicken).

John had been in academia for years, and it showed. Even in our brief encounter, it was obvious his mind was in constant motion. John had recently (2003) published a 9-page biographical essay about Paul H Douglas, of which he was quite proud (he gave me instructions on how to easily Google it). I remember John asking for my email address, and I was surprised never to hear from him again.

Context Switch #1
I often watch The Daily Show on Comedy Central, hosted by Jon Stewart. It was easy for me to read Jon Stewart's Commencement Address at the College of William and Mary. My favorite line in his speech? Competence is a rare commodity.

Context Switch #2
Searching the web for information on frequency scanners isn't as easy as it sounds, since by default a search for [scanner] will also find information on OCR/photo scanners. Once you fine-tune the search, you'll find several Uniden Bearcat Scanners, or one of their resellers (such as Scanner Pro : The Uniden Police Scanner Specialists"). Beta (the wonder dog) has complained about my old [Radio Shack] Pro-2010 scanner, first made in 1986. I've been known to listen to it at night, to combat insomnia (almost nothing will put me to sleep faster than listening to "Cop Radio").

Wednesday, May 19

oh, what wicked Web Services we weave ...

Deep Thought #31: Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) was obviously off base when he wrote "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when at first we practice to deceive" because he couldn't have known about all the Web Services standards bodies (WS-C; WS-CAF; WS-CF; WS-CTX; WS-I; WS-T; WS-TXM) in the early 1800s.

For years, I've been amused by's Purchase Circles. Not only can I find out what books are being bought by employees of various companies, but by geography (including Dallas); military branch; charities; etc. Since doesn't list individual purchases, they're not subject to privacy laws (such as the Robert Bork-inspired Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988 [VPPA]).

I thought about this as I read a posting about sites which cater to the technical book market: (Roseville, California); Opamp Technical Books (Los Angeles, California); and of course, the Big Dog: O'Reilly. There is no dedicated technical bookstore in Dallas (of which I'm aware); Taylor's Technical Books has long since gone out of business (effectively killed when Border's moved in, down the street). Now, the best selection of technical books is at MicroCenter (BTW, their location across the freeway from Texas Instruments will keep them in business, versus the ever-expanding Fry's Electronics chain). For used (pre-owned?) books, there's also (meta-search engine) and another Really Big Dog: eBay.

Last night, I attended a meeting of the North Dallas Neighborhood Association, and one of the topics was water conservation (water restrictions are 4 months long here). There's a common misconception that the storm drains are part of the sewage system (they're not). Allowing organic matter (grass clippings, etc.) into the storm drains is not okay (they use oxygen as they rot and result in even more organic matter in the system).

Related Item #1: smoke testing is being done to locate leaks in the "sanitary sewer" lines. The Dallas Police notified the neighborhoods, so the smoke coming from vent pipes on our homes wouldn't scare anyone. A private company called RJN is doing the work: their Upper White Rock East Sanitary Sewer Evaluation Study eventually led me to the Water Environment Federation, which has been around for more than 75 years.

Related Item #2: had some great information to see the sources of [USA] pollution - just feed it your ZIP code and voila! I was surprised to see that the #4 polluter in an adjoining county is an ice cream manufacturer.
Unrelated Item #1: CardWeb ("Tracking Bank Credit & Payment Cards for the American Consumer") has various trivia for those of us who carry faux money (aka plastic) in our wallets. For the year 2004: January | February | March | April

Unrelated Item #2: CarbWire ("low carbohydrate news") points to Low-Carb Losing Steam (free registration required). Pity the VC who funded a low-carb business with the idea that a fickle America could focus on something more than 12 months at a time.

Monday, May 17

groundbreaking, revolutionary ... words escape me

A short article about telecommuting (Faceless colleagues sparking office mistrust) led me to Texas shoppers become remote working guinea pigs (which led me to the Internet Home Alliance). Apparently, the IHA have embarked upon a 4-month "Mobile Worker Pilot" trial : a 2400 square foot environment at a local shopping mall (the Shops at Willow Bend in Plano, Texas) where they study these guinea pigs remote workers using such ground-breaking technology as (drum roll) wireless Internet access. Hmm .. I must see if cameras are allowed.

Unrelated: RealAge says you can "look younger, live longer" .. but at what price? Life without trans-fatty acid is like a day without sunshine, right? Perhaps I should re-read the cluetrain manifesto?

Deep Thought #30: why haven't bank check printers reverted to
Date: _____ 20__

instead of simply

Date: ___________
in the last century (5 years ago, for those not keeping score), checks commonly read
Date: _____ 19__
After all, the benefits are huge: think of the energy saved by millions of people not writing the digits 2 and 0 for the remaining 95 years of this century.

Sunday, May 16

virtual tourist

Yesterday, I took 8 seconds to convert an old MyNetscape RSS [Rich Site Summary, or Really Simple Syndication (depending on who's talking)] channel to a "modern day" RSS feed on our neighborhood website. I added the pubDate element (in the RSS 2.0 specification) but it's loosely based on the RSS 0.91 file I hacked by hand in 1999. I also used OPML [Outline Processor Markup Language] to export SharpReader's subscriptions to something that Bloglines (web-based RSS) can use. Now, I can read email and follow subscribed blogs via any web-connected PC, and it was all so terribly trivial. Next stop on my learning vacation? PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor.

I'm sure I've seen Discover DFW before, but since I'm playing like a Dallas tourist for the remainder of May, it's a helpful reminder of stuff I'd like to see. One of the things not on my list is Southfork Ranch (made famous from 1978-1991 by the Dallas primetime serial). When PJ and I went searching for Southfork (soon after moving here) I drove past it (never thinking to look for a barn with [SF] on the side). They also don't tell you that it's across the street from a trailer park.

Deep Thought #29: I once watched an episode of Dallas dubbed into French (in Montreal). Bobby Ewing's voice was about 2 octaves too high, and sounded like Bobbí.

I was flipping DirecTV channels and spotted an hour-long show (on Discovery Times) about Easter Island, which would be a restful 5-day vacation, if it weren't (a) so far and (b) off season down there. You fly into IPC (Easter Island) (Lan Chile Airlines) via either PPT (Papeete, Tahiti) or SCL (Santiago). Getting from DFW-PPT requires a stop at LAX (Los Angeles) but DFW-SCL is a direct flight (9.5 hours) and it's another 5.5 hours (not counting layover) to Easter Island. Wow: 15 hours in the air reminds me of my trip to Australia in 1993 (DFW-HNL is 5.5 hours and HNL-SYD is another 9.5).

Discover DFW is done by the Dallas Managed News, which prints neighborhood sections to keep the smalltown newspapers from gaining a foothold. The only noteworthy group of competitive suburban papers is the Star Community Newspapers which is behind the Plano Star Courier; Allen American; Carrollton Leader; Frisco Enterprise; McKinney Messenger; Coppell Gazette and others.

Need a job? How about a date? has some interesting info about the VC (venture capital) behind the various social networking sites (including my current favorite: LinkedIn).

Also, if you have time, you can read the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War; unless you live under a rock, you'll recognize that the Geneva Convention has been in the news lately.

Friday, May 14

A Day in The Life

I should make listening to A Day in The Life a part of Gene Bob's Daily Routine. Key lyric: "woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head ... "

routines are when your mind slips into neutral to accomplish the tasks du juor. my relatives worked in a factory, performing the same task over and over and over .. for years. not me. now that I've had to learn all about Alzheimer's disease, the issue of routines has become .. well, interesting. Many scientists seem to think that a key to preventing Alzheimer's is to avoid routines. Heck, even putting your shoes in a different place in the closet can help (makes your brain kick into gear).

aaanyway .. here begins The Day: first thing: turn off the alarm. (wait? did i forget step zero? decide whether I wanna whiz!) second: let the dogs (yes, plural) outside to defecate. next, fetch the newspaper. next, mosey to the refrigerator to grab some liquid with which to take my 2 pills (aspirin, vitamin E). then, My Routine Is Disrupted; you see, today (and Tuesday) are trash days. but since it's Friday, that means it's also Recycle Day. so, i had to add 2 (oops .. 3) additional items to The Routine (1-take out trash; 2-put out recycles; 3-check+clean cat litterboxes).

Miles (born 1997) arrived Wednesday night for a visit Posted by Hello

Beta (the wonder dog) probably born about October 2000 Posted by Hello

trash day means cleaning Samantha's litter box and adding the "artifacts" to the trash collection. Pandora is still spellbound by her LitterMaid, but even that must be checked once a week. I use clumping litter in both, which makes cleanup easier (not to mention that I read somewhere that cats prefer clumping litter). Not sure what poor sap did that survey, but I'm glad it wasn't me.

My snail mail arrives early (sometimes by 9:30) and I like to fetch the incoming mail soon after it arrives (identity theft paranoia?). Staring at the mailbox never struck me as a good use of time, so I prefer a signal. Most days, I will have one piece of outgoing mail, so I feel safe putting it in my unlocked mailbox, raising the flag, and looking outside every hour or so. Such is the case today. I have one of those dorky "PC rearview mirrors" on my monitor, but it's not good enough to see the postal worker parked at the mailbox.

I purposefully kept one PC at home Microsoft-only. I felt it gave me a better appreciation for what 95% of the world has to go through. Patch management, weekly virus updates, cleaning the Registry, defragmentation, disk cleanups, and all the other joys which comes from being both a system administrator and a user.

I started to download the Eudora email client, but didn't. That would be admitting that Microsoft's Outlook Express wasn't The Answer To All My Email Needs. I kinda sorta miss Mozilla's tabbed browser: MS-IE has yet to catch up. Microsoft no longer sees Netscape (or Opera, or other browsers) as competition, so why add features (unless they're trying to sell me an upgrade)? It's part of the yin-yang of software. Eventually most software becomes so overbloated with features that it collapses of its own weight. Trying to predict the interaction of the application's own components (DLLs, etc.) is difficult enough. Then factor interaction with other applications, and it quickly mutates to a Calculus problem.

Yesterday, I installed SharpReader (an RSS Aggregator). I remembered this morning, when various notification windows begin rising and falling near the Windows taskbar clock ("3 new items on"). By default, once an hour it checks for new ATOM.XML or RSS.XML (or whatever) files on web sites to which I subscribed. It's not as bad as that Yahoo! bell, so I suspect I'll learn quickly to Deal With It. Well, as long as it doesn't disrupt my routine.

Wednesday, May 12

comments, anyone?

it appears that the New! Improved! Blogger interface allows comments! I've been using HaloScan for a few weeks, and thought I'd see how the built-in Comments worked, so I enabled them in the Settings menu.

initially, I am not impressed. Of the last 5 posts, only 3 may be commented upon. Huh? maybe i have to hold the new interface over my head and shake it? (an old Dilbert joke about the boss rebooting his Etch-A-Sketch)

At the end of each post where the day+time is shown, there is now a (0) comments after some entries. Note that one says: "posted by Gene @ 9:24:30 PM" and another says "posted by Gene @ 1:49:52 PM (0) comments"

Maybe we're alpha testers of this stuff?

Truly weird: Didn't I already blog Burger King's Subserviant Chicken website? One of my "Bob friends" suggested these commands:
Die; Strip; Dance; Lay egg; Sing; Eat; Elephant; Read; Fly; Clean Room; Eat Chicken; Beg; Play baseball; Play basketball; drink; Roll; Touch your toes; Hop on one leg; Throw me a kiss

to which I added (after experimenting):

fluff the pillow; rearrange furniture; do the hokey pokey; do the cha cha; hide; cartwheel; handstand; splits; push ups; jumping jacks; look at camera; parade; watch TV; walk the dog; urinate; lights off; sleep; eat at Burger King
And yes, this site really is sponsored by Burger King.

Alas, enough mirth for the week .. gotta take Beta and Miles to the vet for their annual vaccinations (rabies, bordatella, distemper, etc.)

Tuesday, May 11

my first photo ...

As anyone who has used Blogger knows, it doesn't do photos. Well, maybe if you upgrade to a paid service, but I am ignorant, in the true sense of the word (meaning, I just don't know). Anyhoo, it was with amusement that I spotted a mention of Hello BloggerBot. A minute or so later, this gem is online:

Gene Bob, December 2002 Posted by Hello

I checked the Blogger Knowledge Base to see if I could fix the Atom XML feed (autogenerated), but it's probably not broken, just not visible on which doesn't support Atom. But, I did see the link to FeedBurner which appears to translate an Atom feed to RSS, so .. I did that. Now we wait to see what happens.

lip smackin

Today, I participated in a taste test. Normally, I wouldn't have time for this stuff, but being unemployed allowed this luxury. A few days ago, I got an email inviting residents of my neighborhood to the nearby Junior High School Gymnasium (the Athletic Department makes money from hosting this event). No training was required, but a reservation was (although I noticed the volunteers asking anyone walking by if they wanted to participate .. the more the merrier, I suppose).

When I arrived, I was asked to complete two brief surveys: one concerned our preferences for the types of snack products we were about to taste; the other survey was demographics (age, ethnicity, gender, etc.)

Today, the gym was filled with lots of people from DFW Product Research and a bevy of food samples, networked laptop computers, tables and chairs. Staffers at the entrance guided us to one of 7 stations.

At the first station, the man explained how the testing would work: follow the directions on the laptop. He went to fetch two packets of product, and was mildly peeved when he returned and I was still staring at the laptop. Turns out there was a 3-question sample I was supposed to complete. Was I paying attention? Obviously not.

Anyhoo, the procedure was simple: try some of Sample A, then cleanse your palate (bite a cracker and sip some water), then try some of Sample B, then answer some questions (about color and texture and taste), then tell which one you liked best. When done, tilt the laptop screen backward which signaled the volunteer. Then, proceed to the next station and repeat. At the last station, they asked my visual preference for a related product (something you would see on a grocery shelf).

All done, thanks for coming, now go home. I can now check off another item from the (x) Stuff I've Never Done column.

Monday, May 10

almost perfect ...

Many people have asked "what are your plans?"; offhandedly, I suggested that I'll become a Professional Bowler. To which a co-bowler replied "I'm sure that Walter Ray Williams had a 126 average at one time in his life." Ouch -- that hurt! Especially since my high games are 206, 193, 177, 166 ... now, don't ask about consistency!

I wasn't able to publicize Todd-Bob's awe-inspiring 299 (bowling) a few weeks ago. About 6 or 7 frames into the game, we noticed that he was still hitting strikes on every ball. Along with most others, I began giving him some breathing room .. and when he finished the 10th frame and was still bowling strikes, most Everyone Knew Something Was Happening. A crowd began to form. I told someone: "hey, anyone can bowl 9 strikes in a row .. then "hey, anyone can bowl 10 strikes in a row .. then 11 .. knowing full well that this was indeed Art On Display. Finally, it was time for the last ball .. down the alley and WHAT?! the 4 pin was still standing .. Todd had bowled a 299 .. best game in his career. Very, very cool.

It reminded me of that day in Los Angeles when PJ and I watched - in person (28 July 1991) - Dennis Martinez of Toronto throw a perfect game (baseball) against the Dodgers (I moved to Dallas in 1993). Even though we lost 0-2, we knew that we were watching history being made. When he struck out our last batter .. 27 up and 27 down .. we all cheered. Very, very cool.

Not to take anything away from Todd's near-300 game, but .. perfect games are very rare (over the past 120 years, there have only been 16 of them) .. and there have been a lot more 300 games in bowling. Then again, there are many more bowlers than baseball pitchers.

trust is a 2-way street

Although it'll be a few more weeks before I seriously begin The Big Hunt, I'm a big believer in infrastructure. When you architect things right, from the start, it's just a lot easier later. It is with such thoughts in mind (plus the independent recommendations of two people I trust) that I started developing my network using one of the latest tools: LinkedIn. I like their approach for a variety of reasons. When I meticulously perused my contact list, I chose (one by one) people with whom I've worked over the years, and thought "do I trust this person enough to give a recommendation?". They also make it easy to see how many degrees of separation is involved between you and someone else. This is akin to the proverbial cocktail party introduction: "Biff, I'd like you to meet Moondoggie ..."

One scary thing about this process is realizing (literally) how many thousand people I have worked with personally over the years. Some have been quick tasks, while others involved months (and even years) working together. After a few hundred (ha! I must be a slow learner) you begin to size up people quickly. Can they deliver? Are they reliable? Do they give everything their best shot? All of those things factor into the equation, and most don't make the cut.

One of my managers offered an inspiration once: trust is a 2-way street. If you don't trust someone, odds are very strong that the reverse is also true. It didn't dawn on me that I might not be always trustworthy; fascinating!

LinkedIn doesn't pretend to be all things to all people; other of these Social Network tools try to be a place where you arrange dates, golf partners and spelunking adventures, all at once. That tends to spread things too thin, IMHO. Heck, I don't even like a cellphone that also combines a camera and a PDA. I tend to want the best of each discrete component. Camera-PDA-phones make for the worst of all three.

Sunday, May 9

good porridge

When I couldn't interest anyone else, I went by myself to the Dallas Asian Festival, and the weather cooperated nicely (not too hot, and not too cold). The many nice shade trees in the Annette Strauss Artist Square (in the Dallas Arts District) didn't hurt. Trivia: Annette Strauss died in 1998, and was the Mayor of Dallas from 1987-1991 (before I moved here).

Candid shots of children are not always easy; most of the time they want to clown for the camera. So, I have learned to pretend that I am adjusting the camera, and they don't look. Snap! Posted by Hello

One of the things to see was the Dallas Koi Kichi Group which had 15 or so tanks of koi (only one was gold colored), many from Louisiana's Purdin Koi Farm. I asked one of the Booth Guys what questions people asked (a Koi FAQ of sorts). He said "1) how much do they weigh? 2) how old are they? 3) how do they taste?". I think that last one was in jest, but ...

There were various foods for sale (including Roly Poly which is Tex-Mex, not Asian); a green (coconut) boba from the (Filipino) d'Kusina restaurant; Fun Asia; and a new place: Korean Bistro SURA (Royal Lane, west of I-35E).

Every time I've ordered a boba (Taiwanese slush with tapioca balls) it has been at a restaurant where they had a machine. At this festival, d'Kusina improvised and made them by hand! The green one is coconut; there was also a purple one (flavor forgotten). Posted by Hello

There were many, many booths; one that caught my eye was the Made In Bali one; their nice stuff reminded me of my trip there, years ago. Balinese males have one of only 4 given names: Wayan, Made, Nyoman or Ketut (meaning first, second, third and fourth). When the fifth child is born, they start over. So, when mom sticks her head out the back door to call her son (Wayan) a large part of the neighborhood responds. You'd think they'd develop a better way.

Also interesting: Purple Signal (1150 AM) broadcasts to a Chinese audience, but only between 6pm-6am weekdays, and 8pm-6am on the weekends. Their handout says there are 100,000+ Chinese living in the Metroplex.

There were also banks; realtors; medical groups; phone companies; the Dallas Police recruiters, and even the Dallas Summer Musicals. I think I even spotted the Islamic Association of North Texas, but it was standing room only there.

Verdict: a restful afternoon, in the middle of the city. And yes (of course) I took many photos.

Saturday, May 8

Mother's Day weekend

Last weekend it was the Cottonwood Art Festival; this weekend The Wildflower! Arts & Music Festival! is on tap. Woo hoo. Each year, the City of Richardson plants millions of wildflowers (you heard right: they plant wildflowers) along the city streets.

Geoff commented:
"So if they plant wildflowers each year, how come next year there aren't lots of wildflowers already in place? Those little autonomous self-replicating systems have been doing it without human intervention for what we scientists call "a very long time".... Of course they could plant the wrong wildflowers. Or they could hose down the city streets with anti-wild-flower chemicals at the end of each Wildflower! Arts! &! Music! Festival!..."
all excellent questions, none of which I have an answer. perhaps they are high-tech wildflowers, designed to be obsolete at the end of the fiscal year? perhaps these wildflowers are not native to Dallas (and live only in quiet seclusion near Lady Bird Johnson's ranch near Austin, Texas) and hence are nuked by a combo of the summer Texas sun and overly-zealous mowing crews?

Deep thought #28: What better way to celebrate motherhood, than with wild flowers?

Vying for my attention is the Asian Festival (today only) and Scarborough Faire: the Renaissance Festival (weekends through Memorial Day weekend).

I've attended Renaissance Festivals in Colorado; California and Texas, and me thinks the others are better. The Renaissance Pleasure Faire and Artisan's Market (southern California) was the most entertaining due to the availability of quality actors (roaming the grounds, working the booths, etc.) but the mountain scenery in Colorado (south of Denver) was mind-blowing. In comparison, the ones in Texas are just boring (not to mention hot), but I suspect most people don't know, since they have no point of comparison.

There is no joy in Mudville
Another side-effect of spammers is .. you can't even say goodbye. During Tuesday's RIF, I didn't have a lot of time to "say goodbye" (email) to co-workers of the past 15 years. I caught a lot of folks by mailing 4 aliases (while I still had a address) of recent (last 2 years) co-workers, but that left out another 13 years worth. Not to mention casual (twice a year, but still important) contacts.

So, it was painful to see all the email bounces via, whose trigger I obviously pulled. The first few went out, but the rest were bounced by syntegra's filter. Too many messages from the same sender in too short a time, I guess. No clue if I'm now on their permanent filter list, or I'll just have to send no more than (insert arbitrary number) messages at a time.

Friday, May 7

of legacies and cappucinos

it's with a certain sadness that i heard that Heather broadcast that The Friday Five has come to an end. Part of this sadness is due to my not becoming aware of it until November 2003 (it began in September 2001). She's disabled the archive; I was planning on visiting every Friday, to answer a different five questions, from the years before. Heck, I even tried using The Internet Archive (the Wayback Machine) but that access has been (inadvertently?) blocked via a robots.txt file.

In a sense I am jealous that the Friday Five was allowed to go out under its own terms, unlike the OneStop project I started at Sun (which achieved critical mass years ago, and now is permanently in the hands of others). Such is the extent of a legacy: another lesson learned.

Tomorrow, I will visit The Great Outdoors (my backyard) and Commune With Nature (overdue pulling of the weeds). BTWD will assist.

Also, I'll rendezvous with TopDog for a vente mocha latte cappucino on-the-half-shell. One topic will be First Worthing, and what went wrong (a small group of people who pre-determined and overruled the future of their (cough) constituency). Where have I heard this before?

Thursday, May 6

what to be when I grow up?

I'm off for a late breakfast with Renegade, to hear the news of his horse barn and to catch up on life after Sun.

Jill-Bob (ever-so-helpful) suggested a blended opportunity: management at Waffle House! Now why didn't I think of that? It would combine my managerial talent (huh?) with that of my keen insights into the QSR business (see? I even know an acronym in another field!)

I spent much of yesterday trading emails with former co-workers, many wanting to know What The Heck Happened? Apparently [Gene Being RIF'd] was about as unlikely as [Scott Throwing In The Towel]. Many are dumbfounded, thinking that I'd be the last one to Go Down With The Ship. As Bugs Bunny opined: "He don't know me very well - do he?". I wasn't surprised, since I was an easy pick (the only remote member of a small [albeit very visible] team). I suspect the remnants are now expunging the fact that I ever existed. Heck, I'd do the same thing for [to?] them if the tables were reversed.

Honestly, I wish the best for everyone who's still there, but .. it's as if I've been able to breathe pure air for the first time in many, many years. It's nice not having to Drink The Kool-Aid every morning.

American High-Tech means living with layoffs. It was about 16 years ago when I found myself unemployed (in Los Angeles) and not really knowing what I wanted to do when I grew up. So, I turned on the autopilot and tried to make use of the lessons I learned, years ago.

I immediately spent time reducing expenses (lesson: do this early, not later). My DSL circuit is now $13 less (sign up for a year extension online to get a reduced rate). My cellphone is still $30 (okay, $29.99) but I have a much better plan (the only reason I had AT&T Wireless is because they had a feature allowing me to dial an internal extention with only 5 digits). Now that I won't use that feature, Cingular Wireless works better for me (a Nokia 3310 is en route).

I went to a different car wash and spent $5 instead of $15. You get the idea. I'm not hurting financially, but with an uncertain future (will I be out of work 5 days or 5 years?) I'm just Doing The Right Things.

Tonight, I'll feed on some bratvurst und schnapps (mit HayJax, Jill-Bob, Scott-Bob and Trish-Bob) at the Bavarian Grill. Rumor has it that a Special Guest may also attend.

Wednesday, May 5

one among many

well, yesterday sucked. after 14 years, 6 months and 3 weeks I'm out of work, along with 3,299 of my closest friends. The last time I was RIF'd (October 1989) I was out of work for exactly 7 days. There (@ Novell) they announced the lucky names one by one, over the intercom. We figured out the pattern after the 2nd name (when our co-workers failed to return). This time, I got the news via a phone call from my manager, 1500 miles away. Guess I shouldn't worry about the 15 year Gold Watch.

There are many pundits out there who are documenting it, so far be it for me to out-pundit anyone. If you want the details, this is as good as any: The ups and downs of Sun Microsystems and then there's the slightly less rosy view: Michael S. Malone's Silicon Insider column of April 29th . This stuff is surprisingly easy to find: just Google for ["Sun Microsystems" 3300].

There's good news in this:
0) my spam just went way down;
1) my inbox is at zero (0) for the first time in years;
2) I won't feel guilty about taking vacation (maybe I'll go to Comanche Peak!);
3) I'll be able to do yardwork during daylight hours;
4) I can catch up on the late-night infomercials;
5) My work voicemail now says "Gene is busy." Yeah, for a very long time.

My generic advice? (economic, political, religious .. you name it):
Read lots, sift the chaff, retain what your gut tells you is real.

Pardon me, while I make some lemonade out of this lemon. Speaking of lemonade, Geoff Arnold reminded me to listen to The Diane Rehm Show. Ah, bliss.

Tuesday, May 4

grids for good

i've been running the UD Agent for 300 days, and wonder if this background task has found anything useful. every few days, i open the status window to watch the molecules spin .. and to see if it's looking for smallpox cures, or cancer cures (it's always one or the other). the website says it also looks for anthrax cures, although i've never seen that one running. they claim over 2 million devices worldwide are part of this grid. they might get a lot more if the software ran on anything but Microsoft Windows 98, ME, NT 4.0 (SP5+), 2000, XP.

Alas, time for a few minutes of mindless diversion before beginning my work day (well, beginning again .. I nosed around email after bowling last night, and again this morning when I woke). Spam is now about 50% of my work email (Mozilla's Bayesian filters help a lot), and Yahoo! flags so many false positives (over and over and over again) on my home email that I have to wonder what good SpamGuard really is. You'd think that once I tell Yahoo! that something isn't spam .. well, that they'd get the message. Not even.

Anyhoo, mindless diversion == seeing what tossed into "Gene's Gold Box" today. I check that out about once every 4.2 weeks and sometimes click on an item for a deeper look, but i don't think i've purchased more than one item from there. My problem is that I like to minimize those shipping costs, so I commonly toss things into my Wish List and then buy them all at once. The Gold Box wants you to buy now so it doesn't fit my pattern.

My tax refund arrived in yesterday's snail mail. I've always chosen to file a paper return; I mailed this year's about April 3rd. So, the IRS held onto my money for about 30 days more. And to think The Boston Tea Party was held when the tax rate was 1%.

Sunday, May 2

it's all relative in West Virginia

sometimes it's entertaining to see what Google thinks is related to a particular website. Much of the amusement comes from where you begin the search. So, here I was, reading email when I saw a reference to an unfamiliar website (I interpreted stoptheftaa as Stop Theft AA);

it is with such vivacious glee that I went from Stop the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas);
to Get US Out (of the United Nations);
to the (notorious?) John Birch Society;
to a trio of anti-immigration sites (Secure America; Federation for American Immigration Reform; Hire American Citizens);
to Numbers USA (opposing agricultural worker amnesty);
to Better Immigration;
to Taller Puertorriqueño (promoting Puerto Rican art);
to ILLVIBE Collective (musical group);
to TRIM (John Birch Society's tax reduction arm);
to Capitol Advantage ("grassroots advocacy products and services").

The process reminds me of the Chinese Whispers party game, sorta. Yanks often know this as the Telephone Game.

Saturday, May 1

ah, to be a weather forecaster

The first Saturday in May is when The Kentucky Derby is held. That's not a big event in Dallas.

I wonder if there are any weather forecasters who are paid bonuses, based on how close they come to an accurate forecast? My guess is : not many. It is with such amusement that today's forecast is for rain, rain and more rain, although the wet stuff ended by 9am. I should swing by the Cottonwood Art Festival today (or tomorrow). Perhaps Beta will meet a nice boy dog? One type of "art" that won't be on display is graffiti: the Minneapolis Police Department has a good graffiti section on their website.

I finally bit the bullet and got a new bowling ball: the Ebonite Player and a new (2-ball) bag. My first game with the Player yielded a 75 game (it has a 25.5 hook rating); I guess i'll have to adjust my throw a wee bit. my best-ever scratch game in league play is a 193 (and i finally broke 200 a few weeks ago, with a 206). both of those was with my Hammer Blade Reactive.

it just goes to show that Humor Is In The Eye Of The Bee Holder [sic]: JumboJoke: Humor the Way You Like It (this appears new; we'll see how long it lasts)

.. and (if you're bored) check out Getting Rid of "Spam" and Other E-mail Pests which explains how these malcontents get your address in the first place.