Monday, February 28

gadget: isn't that a French word?

The Buzz Report says the best life-changing gadget of 2004 is TiVo and .. who am I to argue? TiVo has erased the following phrase from my vocabulary: There's Nothing Good On TV! because the stuff it records are the things I truly want to see. I'm not sure if I'm watching more television than before but I'm certainly finding my viewing time to be more useful. And that in itself is Toasty Goodness. I'm especially amused by the ability to give multiple ThumbsUp! verdicts on stuff I really like, and multiple ThumbsDown! on stuff I never ever want to view.

Today's word of the day is fetid (meaning: foul smelling). There's no relation to feta cheese.

Today's not-yet word of the day is catastrophize (meaning: to create a catastrophy). There's no relation to trophies.

Biggest surprise of the weekend (in the Fine Dining Category): Waffle House makes waffles, too! Their 2005 menu is in the stores and the servers are still coming up to speed. I had a bowl of Ben's Extreme Chili (or something like that) which contained beans, cheese, onions and jalapeƱos. Good thing I ordered some Raisin Toast with which to "wash it down," huh?

Sunday, February 27


I was asked to fetch the DVD of either Motorcycle Diaries (2004), or Ray (2004) from Blockbuster and I was able to score the last copy of Ray last night. We watched the version with the excerpts which made it a bit longer than usual, but most of the scenes (save one -- some lame outtakes) added some plot dimensions. Jamie Foxx did a good job as Ray Charles, but I still think Don Cheadle out-acted him, as the lead of Hotel Rwanda (2004). I guess we'll know Sunday night when the awards are handed out.

I spent the bulk of the day driving the back alleys of my neighborhood, installing some 6x12" aluminum signs which identify the house numbers. Because the streets here are not in a precise grid, finding the exact alley which corresponds with a street address isn't always easy. It took us 3.5 hours to install 25 or so signs (almost none were consecutive), with a large part of that time spent figuring out how the alleys work. Bizarre.

It's now almost 1:30am Sunday and I'm just numb. Part of this numbness is due to my mom's yo-yo health (at one point last week her BP was 42/23) and part is .. well .. something else. Is blogging about it therapeutic? Doubtful.

Unrelated: the email reminders of this year's Scarborough Faire Renaissance Festival have started landing in my inbox. Last May, I blogged about my Texas Renaissance Festival thoughts and they haven't changed.

Saturday, February 26

how (not) to buy cat food

I ran out of cat food (again!) and made a grocery store run, which cost about $60 for 3.5 pounds of dry food. In addition, I got about $56 of free groceries. Well, that's one way to look at it.

I stopped at the Tom Thumb grocery and used my monthly "$5 off $50" coupon from the Entertainment Book. Those coupons alone make the Entertainment Book a good deal. The trick to maximizing that $5 coupon is to have $50.01 after the other coupons (including those doubled if less than 51¢) have been deducted; it's not always an easy calculation. Most of the time I end up guessing way high - like $75 or so - and I have never guessed below $50. Today (after coupons, before tax) I had about $53 in my basket, so I am Very Pleased With Myself. The grocery carts used to have calculators built into the handles, but they're not as common as they once were, and I never found them very useful.

The best grocery POS (point of sale) system is the Shop 'n' Scan that's in the Albertsons stores; you can keep a running total as you shop (but I'll admit, I've not tried scanning coupons into that device). Their system ain't perfect; if you use it in conjunction with the self-checkout lane, the voice system will nag you -- multiple times -- with "unexpected item in bagging area" while you bag your items. That feature is very annoying.

Anyway (back to today) .. Tom Thumb didn't have Purina Cat Chow - Vitality Formula, so I had to stop by Kroger for only the cat food. While checking out, the coupon printer saw that I bought cat food, so it printed a $3.19 off (!) coupon for Iams Savory Sauce, which is the equivalent of nutritious (?) gravy for your canine. I wonder if Beta (the wonder dog) would like it. Silly question, indeed.

Friday, February 25

Cover of the Rolling Stone .. sorta

I don't know whether the story about Dan Rather, or Kinky Friedman makes me wanna head down to the Barnes & Noble and git me a copy of Texas Monthly .. but either way, I mo'go-gitme one. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, February 23


The doctor called with my blood results from last Friday .. and the cholesterol is now within striking distance of normal. Ideally, it should be less than 200 and is now at 213. This is a huge drop (120 points) from the October measurement. Bad news: those other numbers are still too high, so I've been advised to add another pill each day, and see Doc in a month to compare. Meanwhile, I trying a new tactic: counting daily carbs instead of calories.

as seen on

Tuesday, February 22

Hurry! Al Hurra!

I see that the Bush Regime's Al Hurra satellite TV station has gone on the air. Unlike President Quagmire himself, it doesn't appear to be universally loved (see Al Hurra - The Middle East hates its new TV station). For those of you Not Paying Attention, Al Hurra is the Middle East's equivalent of Fox "News" (i.e. the CFRP's Interpretation Of Reality).

Personally, I find Dubai TV to be far more fascinating (even more so than Al Jazeera).

Monday, February 21

target: granny

oh, this is rich .. the front page story in today's paper version of the Dallas Managed News says that Karl Rove's (hey, Everybody Knows™ He's behind it) Swift Boat Liars for Bush (now having nothing to do) are turning their venom on the elderly - specifically the AARP - and will now proceed to smear them in order to pass The Puppet's Social Security Reform boondoggle.

I can hardly wait to see the format their TV ads will take .. probably showing that granny's:
  1. not really 72 .. but 42 instead
  2. not a woman after all!
  3. uses hair color - i.e. that blue tint isn't natural
I'm amazed how most of the people don't know that The Puppet's ham-handed proposal doesn't really allow for private investment. YMMV, but the way I read it: you get to invest your own funds until retirement, then you turn your gains (or losses) over to the Social Security Administration who then pays you. If you die before your portfolio is paid out, the government (not your heirs) gets the remainder. Anyone who thinks those funds are theirs are sadly mistaken.

Everybody Knows is a trademark of Fox "News"; Rush Limbaugh Productions; and the Christian Fascist Republican Party.

Saturday, February 19

... sdrawkcab

Friday ended with my first-ever foray to the AMC Valley View 16 - a mainstream theatre, to see one of the 5 films nominated for Best Picture of 2004. Although I signed up for AMC's MovieWatcher card, I didn't think to take it with me when Judy-Bob suggested this location. I suppose I missed out on some Points or something: hmmm.

Sideways [2004] was also showing at the (independent) Magnolia and I suspect the audience would've been different. Several of us found more humor in one of the audience member's laughter, than that of the plot (which struck me as Thelma and Louise Meet The Werewolf); I rate the film a Ho-Hum. Others up for the Oscar are The Aviator; Finding Neverland; Million Dollar Baby and Ray. Since I didn't see any of those others, I'll be kind and allow the Academy to make their own choice.

Mid-afternoon, I went to the doctor (followup) and he said he'll keep me alive as long as I continue to pay his bill (this could go on for several decades if I'm careful). They did the usual blood test; updated results will be back next week sometime to see how well The Meds are working.

At midday, I lunched with 6 members of The Saucer Crowd (including Eddie and Jill-Bob; HayJax; Tim-Bob; Nona and Chuck [not sure of their -Bob status]. I don't mind The Flying Saucer about once a year or so. The healthiest thing I could find on their never-changing menu was a chicken wrap and a side salad.

Friday began with a session on coping with medical insurance during unemployment. The presenter developed the website. Did I learn anything else? Probably. For whatever reason, I chose to take notes on a (paper!) legal pad versus my PDA. Now I have to spend extra time transcribing those notes, lest they be eaten by paper moths and lost forever (not to mention the fact that You Can't Grep Paper).

Friday, February 18

remembering why MBNA sucks

About 8 years ago, I had an MBNA-issued credit card, and I cancelled it a few years later. I should've written down why I cancelled the card, because I just cancelled another of their cards and vowed (again!) to never go back. It's a shame, because this was one of those cards tied to AAA which had a 5% rebate on fuel purchases, but those savings evaporated quickly when I was 3 days late with a payment.

MBNA's payment website is kinda-sorta integrated into my banking program, but it requires a separate login and a separate download and was never convenient. Also, it's the only card I carried which didn't automatically draft my checking account, to prevent those late charges. Perhaps they have a bank draft program, but it's so hidden that I could never figure out how to enroll.

I was a loyal MBNA customer for several years, although they probably hated me because I always paid my full balance every month. This time, I let their recent bill slip into The Pile Of No Return, and I didn't find it until 3 days after it was due. The balance wasn't huge (maybe $200) but they socked me with a $39 late charge and refused to budge an inch when I called to complain. They don't call it "interest" because then they'd be subject to usury laws, but if my math is correct, that $39 charge is equivalent to nearly 240% interest! Actually, it's far more than that because I was 3 days late, and not an entire billing cycle (30 days or so).

So, I cancelled the card and vowed (again) never to do business with them. When nosing around the web for complaints against MBNA, I found several mentions of their political support of the CFRP (including the The Bush Regime) so that gives me an even bigger reason to cast them aside.

Thursday, February 17

all men are pigs dogs

Here's another one of those online tests that Trish-Bob enjoys so much:
What kind of dog am I?

The test says that I am a Bracco Italiano:

The Bracco Italiano (aka Italian Setter, aka Italian Pointer) is a very old breed and may be one of the earliest gun dog types. It has a most attractive hound-like appearance with pendulous ears and a kindly expression. This is a good natured, intelligent dog. Docile yet powerful, it makes the ideal combination of family pet and working animal.

Finally, a notice to all cafeteria workers: please have your green cards (I-551) ready for inspection; the Sundry on Thursday blog was updated.

Tuesday, February 15

Canadian Flag Day - one of my favourite holidays

It's Flag Day in Canada! How shall I celebrate this most joyous of holidays, eh?

1) Use "eh?" a lot at the end of sentences, eh?
2) Spell the words like a Canadian would spell them (e.g. "favourite")
3) Say "God save the Queen!" when I'd normally say "Yep."
4) Say aboot (about) a few times.

Perhaps I could celebrate by reminiscing aboot one of my adventures to the Great White North? Okay, here goes (eh):
Sometime in the late 70's ("if you say you remember the 70's, you really didn't live back then") three of us went camping in Ontario province. The trio was composed of myself, Wayne and what's his name. Yes, I've purged his name from my long-term storage. I remember he was one of Wayne's friends, and was from Pittsburgh. We joked aboot how we'd answer the "where are you from?" question by the Border Patrol as we drove into Canada, from Michigan, since the three of us were from different parts of the country.

BTW, "camping oot" is a relative term. As I recall, we slept in the back of an enclosed pickup. We hiked a lot, and got lost in the woods (when we came upon a memorable object twice). We came across a weird copper-coloured lake, and the apparent remnants of a moose which had met it's demise in a most unfriendly way.

The defining moment was when we canoe'd to a small island, and decided to have lunch. The weather was perfect, the water was pure blue, and there was a crisp stillness in the air. We sat on the shore, munching our grub, taking in all that nature had to offer.

Then -- we heard a tremendous rustling in the leaves, and began to panic. We talked aboot how we'd get back in the canoe quickly, leaving the food for The Bear (undoubtedly the same one who made that Moose Sandwich described above). The rustling got louder, and then .. THERE IT WAS! Just a few feet away from us was the biggest, brownest thrush we'd ever seen! After checking our underwear for stains, we switched the subject to American Football, to reassure ourselves what manly men we were.

On the way oot of the woods (day 3) we stopped for a brewski, but were told that (due to local law) we couldn't have them alone .. we'd need to order food, too. We weren't really hungry, so asked what the least expensive food item would be. Answer: a bag of crisps (chips). So, we shared a bag-o-Lay's and 3 brewskis, then made our way across the border. The Killer Thrush is surely happy we left her eggs alone.
God save the Queen, eh.

Sunday, February 13

faux chicken is da bomb?

After hearing the story (at a party in Munger Place) of Victor's impulse buy of a black Jeep Liberty, I watched the DVD of Suicide Club (2002) last night with Judy-Bob. If Tonto had seen the movie, he would've undoubtedly said: Heap Strange, Kemo-Sabe.

Meanwhile, Miles and his mom are en route Phoenix, after taking the long way from Dallas (via San Antonio, and an overnight stop in Fort Stockton). Fortunately, all the motels in town appear to be pet friendly. They're both scheduled to return to Big D next month: stay tuned.

Unrelated: after sampling the (vegetarian) breakfast items from Boca Foods and Morningstar Farms, I'm giving a big thumbs up to Morningstar. I've heard good thing's about Boca's Chik'n products (especially the spicy faux chicken) but their breakfast products left me with a bad taste in my mouth, literally (Your Mileage May Vary).

Saturday, February 12

Acting School, 1970

TiVo found an old (1970) Gene Hackman movie titled I Never Sang for My Father which was a definite change of pace. In the movie, the character Gene was played by the actor Gene. I guess this was early in his career, and he didn't want someone to call out "Hey Stanley!" to which he'd reply "You Talkin' To Me??"

Note: Gene Hackman is not a -Bob.

I suppose he learned something from doing that (his 16th) film. The following year, he starred in The French Connection (1971) as Popeye Doyle. You Talkin' To Me??

Friday, February 11

The World According to Bill

The big positive that's come from being unemployed has been meeting a lot of people outside my formerly-insular life in high tech. Since I've been targeting a completely different field for my Next Twenty Years, my eyes have been opened to a whole world of people I never knew existed!

As an example (until January 27th) I'd never been inside a Cici's Pizza restaurant. I went there with a group of fellow job seekers, during the week when I attended a (moderately intense) Job Search Seminar led by the world-renowned (well, he should be) Bill Vidovic.
I found out about the TWC Seminar by attending a session at JFS, which I found out about during one of the Career Connections Networking Group's meetings, which I heard about via the official outplacement. Yeah, I know .. not exactly intuitive.
Cici's is a pizza buffet and their claim to fame is that they are Cheap (with a capital C). How cheap? All the pizza you can eat for $3.99 (plus tax). I didn't mind their spicy vegetarian pizza or their spinach pizza, but decided to pass on the others. Their side salad was truly uninspiring (compared to Fresh Choice or even Souper Salad), but at least it had some crunchy mini-carrots! I've been told by several people (including Judy-Bob) that Cici's is a mecca for soccer moms across Texas. Hmm .. will have to check them out after a game sometime!

.. anyway, back to The Seminar: Bill's been leading that Job Search Seminar every other week for many years. He's heard it all and seen it all, and his insights were more direct and useful than several months of outplacement. Not to say that some people got something from the outplacement, but (personally) I do better when the subject matter is concentrated, versus doled out over a multi-month schedule. The crowning achievement of the seminar was a tape of myself being interviewed! I'll convert that to DVD and make it available for $19.95 Real Soon Now.

The Job Search Seminar was comprised of 18 people, from all walks of life (everything from a warehouseman to a PCB designer to an attorney). One of the participants is training for a marathon in June and is raising money for the American Stroke Association (sadly, they're not listed on the Charity Watch website, so I'm not sure how well they're managed). Regardless, here's some data points:
• Every 45 seconds, someone in America has a stroke;
• In 3.1 minutes, someone will die of a stroke;
• About 4.7 million stroke survivors are alive today;
• In 1996, females accounted for 61.4% of stroke deaths;
• Per the NHLBI, 28% of annual stroke victims are under age 65.

Monday update: the folks at Charity Watch (aka the American Institute of Philanthropy) returned my email, and said: "The American Stroke Association is a division of the American Heart Association. AIP rates AHA a B-".
Alas, it's now time to take Bill's advice and send a hand-written thank-you note. I wonder if he'll be surprised?

Thursday, February 10

you say Rooster, I say Chick Fil'A

in yet another example of how TiVo has changed my life, I found a 22-minute show called CNN Student News that airs sometime in the wee hours of the morning. I now start my day watching that, which covers the Really Big Stuff that's happening (just in case a comet strikes New Zealand and I missed it).

Today's broadcast covered the Bush Regime's denial that it plans to attack Iran over their nucular weppins (Bush-speak) program; a couple Pop Quizzes (Shout It Out!!); some other Really Important Stuff; and closed with some photos of young'uns dressed as chickens, celebrating the Chinese New Year.
Deep Thought #61: I wonder if sales of fast-food chicken will increase in this Year of the Rooster?
Unrelated: Thanks to Deep Shirt for pointing out this gem (typical of the Bush Regime, which talks out of all 7 sides of their mouth): Bush press pal quitsover gay prostie link (and because the Gene Bob Blog is a low-carb, family-oriented website, I won't mention Jim Guckert's other sites: HotMilitaryStud, MilitaryEscorts and MilitaryEscortsM4M) .. you can read about those in the news article!

Tuesday, February 8

Denver 26 Philadelphia 4

Every few weeks, I check the quarters in my possession, to see if any of the new ones have arrived. The US Mint is on a 10 year mission to deliver all 50 states, and they'll be done in 2008 (assuming we don't buy Puerto Rico between now and then).

Here in Dallas, the vast majority of the quarters in circulation come from the Denver Mint, while the quarters making the rounds back east come mostly from the Philadelphia Mint. Today, I counted the ones in my possession and found a 26-4 favoritism for the Denver-minted coins. Since each state coin comes in 2 varieties (look for a D or a P in the 4 o'clock position) it makes it hard to collect the entire set, since so many Philadelphia [P] coins don't make it this far west.

I think this is a conspiracy; the last [P]hiladelphia quarter in my collection is the 2003 Maine. I'm still missing 12 of the 30 [P]hiladelphia quarters issued, but I have all of the [D]enver minted coins (through the end of 2004),

Unrelated: We're # 114! (according to the Milken Institute - Best (Economic) Performing Cities - 200 Largest Metros). This is a slip of 36 places -- Dallas was #78 last year. Dallas is the 8th largest city in the USA [2000 Census] - but San Antonio will bypass us in the 2010 census.

Monday, February 7

NEAT calories

I was tricked! On one of my email lists, there was a mention of the "Couch Potato Gene" so I investigated. In hindsight, indeed it didn't say "Couch Potato Gene Bob" so I shouldn't have been alarmed.

Biology May Keep Couch Potatoes Supine also introduced me to a new acronym: NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) which are "the calories we burn in all our normal daily activities".

NEAT calories, eh? Hmmm. Gotta burn some more of those. I've been able to hold my weight (after losing 90 pounds or so) but would like to drop another 20 as a target weight.

Saturday, February 5

Lone Star Larry

Texans need a red-state alternative to Punxsutawney Phil (the liberal Pennsylvania groundhog); I suggest Lone Star Larry which should probably be an armadillo. LSL would rise from his burrow each year on 2/2 and (if he sees his shadow) spit a chaw of Red Man into the air and hibernate for another six weeks.

In lieu of Lone Star Larry, PJ spotted a crocus sticking its head out of my flower bed, which means that winter is over. Kaput. Stick a fork in it. Bring on the summer heat. Texas has only two seasons: too dang hot, and too dang cold.

Today was the first time I'd dined at Kuby's Sausage House; before I'd only visited their deli/grocery (at the south end of Snider Plaza), and marveled at the fresh German potato salad, dozens of varieties of mustard, pickles, and other European treats. I sampled the pork schnitzel sandwich, which was not too tough yet not exactly tender.
Deep Thought #60: horseradish is to schnitzel, as wasabi is to sushi.
Post-Kuby's, HayJax navigated a Tour of Homes (including University Park, Bluffview, and Preston Hollow). Some of the homes are inhabited by those with old money, which you can tell because the cars in the driveway are unpretentious: Ford station wagons instead of Mercedes and Lexuses (Lexi?). Those dot-com survivors with new money are building cheaply-made McMansions and parading their H2s in hopes of peer worship. Bah.

Thursday, February 3

safety in the palm of my hand ...

I made an impulse buy today. While strolling down the Computer Gadgets aisle, I spotted the Microsoft Fingerprint Reader and decided to cough up $40 and see if it will work for me.

It plugs into a USB port, and requires a brief installation from CD. After that, whenever you're surfing the web and need to enter a password, you lay your "registered finger(s)" on The Gadget and it enters the login+password into the browser and automagically clicks the button so you can move onto the next screen: very cool. It also works for the initial XP login screen, and [TBD] may work for other applications that ask for a login/password.

I've only configured it for a few sites (so far), but it's much nicer than using the Acerose Password Vault and probably a lot more secure since my fingerprint's significantly harder to "crack" than the password vault.

The software appears to be "DigitalPersona Password Manager" so I may trust them to have Had A Clue when they developed the software, and used triple-DES encryption or something equally formidable. If Microsoft were the author, I'd half-expect them to do something stupid like storing the passwords in an ASCII file.

Downsides so far:
0) Windows XP only. Won't work on my older Windows machines, Linux, etc.

1) the scanner is ON all the time, so there's now this weird red glow from the side of my desk;

2) although it tried to work with another browser (Firefox is my default) it appears to be reliable only with MS-IE (Internet Explorer): surprise, surprise.

3) the rear of my PC has 3 USB slots; all are in use (scanner, keyboard, Palm cradle) so I have to use the front access. Wait a minute! Maybe I still have that old 4-port USB hub around here somewhere ...

Tuesday, February 1

rotary: not just a civic organization

Sometimes, it's entertaining to watch a dysfunctional meeting. I attended one of those Monday night, where poor planning (by city planners, no less) made it much less effective than it could've been.

The first problem was the lighting : the controls baffled whoever was trying to use them, and at several times everyone in the auditorium found themselves (literally) in the dark, hoping the person next to them wasn't a closet pickpocket.
Lesson #1: learn how the lights work before an audience arrives.
Next, a series of 15 easels were setup (to display the results of digitizing the paper maps created in a prior workshop). There wasn't much room near the stage front, so people ending up breathing down each others' necks instead.
Lesson #2: Think about crowd control when setting up, whether it be a sign-in table or any sort of display.
Part of the presentation involved using a projector connected to a laptop computer (running PowerPoint) but the screen was one of those 4x4 foot portable ones that my parents used to display 35mm slideshows. In an auditorium that seats 300, it looked very amateurish.
Lesson #3: there are times when it's appropriate to spend a few quid, so you don't look like a Goober.
At one point, a suggested redesign of problem intersections (called Five Points) was put onscreen, advocating a rotary (aka traffic circle, aka roundabout) to replace notoriously confusing intersections where five streets converge:


When the rotary was suggested, an Old Fart™ next to me began spewing and gasping for air, saying
"Everybody Knows™ that traffic circles don't work anywhere on this continent ..."
I was really tempted to raise my hand and say "... but I love rotaries" just to see if the gentleman would effect Spontaneous Human Combustion, but decided not to, due to his proximity (I might get singed).

Deep Thought #59: Is it February already already [sic]? I just got used to writing January on my checks!

Closing muse: I am pleased that Jill-Bob commenced to updating her blog, after a long hiatus. I wonder what spurred this burst of literacy? Hmmm.

Everybody Knows is a trademark of Fox "News"; Rush Limbaugh Productions; and the Christian Fascist Republican Party.