Wednesday, March 30

energy ... who needs it?

Not that the Radical Right™ cares, but I've heard this report repeated several times, so It Must Be True! :

Tuesday morning, I attended a meeting at Dallas City Hall; the primary topic was how to make money in the post-oil economy. Sustainable Dallas apparently helped plan this event. Some interesting (?) observations:

Texas must be (!) the leader in per capita SUV ownership, and restaurants.

Dr Richard Wasserman, representing the Dallas Asthma Consortium, spoke briefly about the ozone impact on children in particular.

Greg Cook (a former regional EPA administrator) observed that environmental compliance and enforcement come after the violations; hence there's no incentive to alter behavior. His best line, when he explained how he acheived his best work when he was a lame duck in the EPA:
"the lack of fear of failure is important in a bureaucracy."
There was a brief mention of TERP (the Texas Emissions Reduction Program) along with some successes, including one where Caterpillar used some tax incentives to buy some "Type 3" (apparently less polluting) heavy equipment. They also mentioned AirCheck Texas, which pays people to take old vehicles off the street ($1000/car and rising).

The featured speaker was Dr Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute (in Snowmass, Colorado .. near Aspen). He's written many books, including Natural Capitalism and Winning the oil end game. Both are available as free downloads, as well as traditional paper books.

Lovins predicts that companies we now think of as oil providers will evolve into generic energy providers, using a mixture of renewable and non-renewable energy.

Random topics/insights:
  1. Before 1859, when the Drake oil well was discovered in Pennsylvania, the world survived on whale oil;
  2. primary reasons to reduce our dependence on foreign oil: national security, and national competitiveness;
  3. saved natural gas;
  4. largest civic energy savings: rubberized asphalt is made from recycled tires;
  5. CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) gridlock
  6. we can achieve superefficient transportation via breakthrough engineering;
  7. nearly 99% of gasoline fueled energy is wasted - only 1% results in passenger movement;
  8. carbon composites versus light steel (& aluminum);
  9. carbon composites allow for radically simplified engineering, as well as better vehicle strength/occupant survivability;
  10. carbon composites are very strong and lightweight: bicycle helmets aren't made of steel!;
  11. 2003 Europe already uses 17 times as much biodiesel energy as the US;
  12. the Pentagon's GDP is greater than Russia, and can influence significant amounts of energy savings;
  13. the market cap of US Big 3 automakers is less than Toyota;
  14. Toyota sold almost 1,000,000 Prius (hybrid) cars in 2004;
  15. Feebates : combines a fee and a rebate;
  16. as with everything, people initially resist change;
  17. 96% of hydrogen fuel is derived from natural gas;
  18. so-called "pay at the pump car insurance" would ensure that everyone is insured
As you can see, there was much good information at this session, earning it a rare GeBo Thumbs Up Award.

Tuesday, March 29

tough shibboleth

Last night, I saw Seventy-8 at the Angelika; it's another one of the Texas Filmmakers Series, as explained on the Video Association of Dallas website:
The series highlights the excellence and diversity of film projects being made by Texas-based filmmakers and combats "film flight" (to Hollywood and Canada) by building audiences and recognition for Texas-based films through word-of-mouth and repeat exhibitions. Presented in cooperation with the Angelika Film Center and Café, the series exhibits a feature film by a Texas-based maker on the second and fourth Mondays of each month.
There's plenty of information about Seventy-8 on their website (specifically: the Press information) so there's nothing I can add, other than a Touch With Greatness: I shared the elevator with one of the actresses, en route to the screening. Sadly, this was before the film, so I didn't know to ask for her autograph!

Today's word: shibboleth (if you have to ask what it means, you didn't watch the recent Law & Order: Criminal Intent show with this title). Basically, it's someone who has a pronuncification disorder (like President Quagmire).

Monday, March 28

flyover territory

Once in awhile, I see a letter to the editor advising not to listen to someone else, because (quote) "they're from New York City, and you know what that means" (unquote). It's interesting that those same people don't want to be shut out themselves, and would cry foul if the New Yorkers offered the opposing advice:
they're from Texas, and you know what that means
Sadly, the latter comment insinuates that we're all non-thinking, Get-Behind-The-Puppet-No-Matter-How-Stupid-He-Is morons. Memo to New Yorkers: some of us have brain cells (but not all).

That said, I see where Ken Paxton (a Texas legislator who lacks brain cells) is championing (House Bill 137) the placement of signs at the major roads leading into Texas, proclaiming "Welcome to Texas - Proud to be the Home of President George W. Bush". If it passes, the signs would have to be changed between September 1 and the end of 2005.

Point of fact: President Quagmire was not born in Texas, nor was His father. The only two U.S. Presidents born in Texas were LBJ (Lyndon Johnson) and Dwight Eisenhower. So, if I had a vote (and I reckon' I don't) I'd be happy to see
"Welcome to Texas: Birthplace of LBJ and Ike!"
while leaving Connecticut to put up the "We Love Rove's Puppet" signs.

Anyhoo (back to the "don't listen to them .. they're from Whatever" argument): those divisive points of view are blatantly wrong, seeking to dismiss the other's view without cause. Much of that happened during the name-calling of the last election, where the Republicans branded any Democrat as a Liberal, and you know what that means. Prediction: (yin being yang) that tactic will eventually be used against them, and they'll be the first to cry foul.

Then again, anyone not living on the coasts is summarily dismissed as living in Flyover Territory, which is increasingly (10% ?) composed of Undocumented Immigrants (see Number of people of Mexican origin in the U.S.). Now, if Ken Paxton modifies his bill to be bilingual ("Welcome to Texas —- Proud to be the Home of President George W Bush / Bienvenidos a Texas - Orgulloso ser el Hogar de Presidente George W Bush") then I'd back it, if only for the guffaws it would induce.

Sunday, March 27

Life's a bitch female dog

Okay, I can cross another item off my Checklist Of Life Events: attending a Dog Show.

I don't remember where I first saw the notice, but I made plans to attend the Fort Worth Kennel Club Dog Show with HayJax. Sadly, her water heater didn't cooperate, so she spent the weekend sucking water with a wet vacuum.

This brindle Bull Terrier reminded me of a dog I owned a long time ago. Getting candid shots of dogs wasn't hard, although the fluorescent lighting at the Will Rogers Memorial Center made flashless digital photography a real challenge. I could've used the flash, but that that's frowned upon; it distracts the dogs as they're performing their routines.

As expected, the vast majority of my photos were blurry. An examination of the EXIF data (captured as part of the JPEG) shows that my camera's automatic mode took the photos at 1/8th second @ F/4.0; no wonder they are blurred! The few that were sharp enough for "keepers" were shot at 1/15 second @ F/2.8. Had I thought about it (!) I'd have set the digital camera for manual aperture at F/2.8 to at least give me a fighting chance at more usable photos. Compare this to an outdoor photo at 1/400 second @ F/7.1 and it's easy to see the difference.

I should've learned this lesson when I tried taking digital photos at the Mesquite Rodeo a few years ago. Next time (?) I shall take one of my film cameras, which is much better at capturing motion in bad light.

This Golden Retriever and his/her handler Posted by Hello were still just long enough for this one to appear reasonably in focus. In the background, you can barely make out one of the many "show booths" where dog accessories were being sold. I can't imagine that's profitable; the number of people who were there to buy leashes and brushes were probably one in 500, if that.

While scouring the web for information about dog shows, I wandered across Greg Hlatky's voluminous Borzoi Blog which had a 32-part Dog Shows Explained (starting in July 2002 and ending in April 2003). Being the Anal Twit that I can be (at times!) I converted this to a PDF and printed it on standard paper; even at 10 point type, this took 23 pages (using both sides)!

In comparison, there is no way I can do more than convey some first impressions, based on conversations with those particpating:
  1. given a 2-day show with the same dogs, yet different judges .. you can have two wildly different results;
  2. American Kennel Club (AKC) rules are apparently not as rigorous as United Kennel Club (UKC) rules;
  3. today's show was a minor one; only 1 point is earned by the winners;
  4. major shows earn 3 points;
  5. even in the dog world, the males go first (and bitches second);
  6. breeds for whom there are fewer entries have a much better chance at a ribbon (than popular breeds);
  7. in many categories today, there was only a single entrant, guaranteeing a blue ribbon just for showing up;
  8. some people spend as much (more?) time at dog shows as Plano Soccer Moms spend at the athletic field!

Saturday, March 26

pie charts

It's interesting to compare the pie charts of religious changes between 1999 and 2002:

If you can believe the percentages gathered by, there are 4% more Muslims than 3 years before, all at the expense of
  1. non-religious people (-2%)
  2. Hindus (-1%)
  3. primal-indigeneous (-1%)

Friday, March 25

Jerry! Jerry!! Jerry!!!

When I moved to Dallas from Los Angeles (1993) the movers asked if I was a history professor (due to all the books). No, I replied .. just fascinated by the Mistakes of the Past. In that light, this 5-pager by Thom Hartmann was a breeze to read: When Democracy Failed: The Warnings of History.

I've never been a fan of Jerry Springer's TV show, which panders to the Trailer Trash crowd. That said, he has a radio show that's showing promise: Springer on the Radio. Word is that he'll be picked up by the Air America radio network next month, appearing prior to Al Franken. This could be interesting.

Thursday, March 24

Netscape: the tradition continues

After reading about a security fix, I updated my user agent (web browser) today, to Firefox 1.0.2, but I have to wonder how many people will do this? Many of my software applications have a "Help/Update" menu which seeks out updates, but in Netscape's infinite wisdom, that's buried in:
Tools / Options / Advanced / Software Updates
so the user has to really want to do this. I hope that most Firefox users have the "Periodically check for updates ..." box checked, but it would be foolish to think that's universal.

Unrelated: I was at a traffic signal yesterday, and noticed it was programmed for a 3-second delay after the cross traffic's light turned red. I don't think that's universal. The Texas Legislature will certainly vote down this (HB 259 and HB 1347), thereby endorsing continued carnage.

What's that you say? You need a dose of SUNDRY? Well, okay .. the Sundry on Thursday blog is now updated.

Wednesday, March 23

coming soon: YEEEE HAAAA!!

Only a few more weeks until the Mesquite Rodeo opens for the season. They're closed after October, presumably because the critters (bulls, horses, mules, etc.) can't function when the temperature drops below 22C(72F). The rodeo in Mesquite is a bit different than the one sponsored by the TGRA, held annually in Fort Worth. I once inquired about the difference between a gay rodeo and a .. uh .. standard rodeo, and was told that the gay cowboys are cuter. To each their own!

The last time Walter (not a -Bob) was in town, we moseyed over to the rodeo. Since I didn't think this would be a Regular Feature for me, I chose seats on the front row. Little did I know that's like sitting in The Blue Seats at Sea World (where you're certain to be Splashed By Shamu). Indeed, when the chuckwagon races started (and I had returned to my seat with a full cup of Co-Cola) I ended up with an inch of dirt (and .. uh .. related stuff) atop my drink. Lesson learned.

Changing the subject to flora and fauna: indoor plants and I have never gotten along. I suspect I overwater them, but the end result is always the same: no matter how much I try, any plants that I bring into the house will be toast within a week.

Tuesday, March 22

beware the canyons of Big D

It took 25 minutes to reach the downtown Dallas Public Library this morning. I suspect traffic was light because the signal for Air America (KXEB-AM 910) is pretty weak in the canyons downtown, and all the Radical Righters were using their radio direction finders to track down the source of the signal (Frisco, Texas) so they can blow it to Kingdom Come. Having a local Progressive (formerly "Liberal") talk radio signal must be driving the regressives crazy, even though they now outnumber it only 17:1 (okay, that's a guess).

I travelled downtown to listen to Jeff Crilley (of the local FOX-TV affiliate fame) speak ("How to Get Free Publicity for Your Nonprofit") where he gave us good advice, and concluded by hyping his book (appropriately named Free Publicity).

unrelated #0: today's word: currycomb

unrelated #1: telecopy == fax. Apparently I missed another memo.

Monday, March 21

.. and you can KISS my ASBO!

After a visit to Lucas to visit TC and Buddy (while Jill-Bob was out and about), I began to think about how best to celebrate the holiday today. It's hard to believe that another year has passed since the last anniversary of Benito Juarez' birth.

Now that we've been overrun (!), it's best to celebrate only Mexican birthdays, right? Yesterday (as part of the impending celebration) I made my first-ever visit to Fiesta Mart, and was shocked to find the vast majority of signs in English! That's not the case down the road, where the Michoacana Meat Market is located. Fortunately, no comprendo Inglés.

Unrelated #0: ASBOs (Anti-Social Behaviour Order) are becoming increasing popular in Britain, as judged by the various news reports on the subject. No idea why, but the Brits seem to prefer NOT abbreviating the term, which is why they call them Asbos.
Entertaining find: Neighbours From Hell (UK).
Oddly, there's a related term [ABC] which they seem to think means Acceptable Behaviour Contract and not Authentic British Cuisine (curry).

Unrelated #1: Air America is finally on the air in Dallas, although a lightning strike took them off the air for 3+ hours this morning (the Radical Right undoubtedly will say that's Divine Intervention). They're located at 910 AM (after KXEB switch formats).

Sunday, March 20

peak oil: blow like the wind

I was mildly amused to see free-roaming peacocks on the Greenhill School campus (where the Sierra Club meets). There were 3 speakers this month:

Patrick Kelly (with the EPA) gave a presentation called "Partnering with Energy Star" and had some interesting insights. In no particular order:
  • it takes up to 3 yrs to get an Energy Star rating;
  • 50,000 Energy Star homes in Texas;
  • success story: Midlothian Independent School District;
  • R410A (new) vs R22 old: CFC 11/12
Next, a geologist in Addison - Jeffrey J Brown - spoke about "peak oil" where he explained the theory that world oil production has peaked (and consumption has not), to the point that we're now faced with a future of (much) higher prices for the remaining supply. Apparently this is hotly rebutted by the oil companies, and the SUV Owners of America (their theory is: the more we drive, the more oil we'll find).
Suggested reading #1: Peter Huber & Mark Mills co-authored The Bottomless Well

Suggested reading #2: M King Hubbert's Hubbert's Peak
Among the other Oily Terms I'd not heard before:
  1. Tar sands
  2. MMBOPD (millions of barrels oil produced per day)
  3. Light, sweet crude
  4. heavy, sour crude
Finally, Tom "Smitty" Smith is the Director of Public Citizen, and spoke at length about peak oil, and windmills (their footprint is 1/20 acre). Smith stated that if 1/16 of all Texas land used windmills, it would supply enough power for all of the United States. Naturally, that won't happen anytime soon (problem: lack of big transmission lines from west Texas wind farms. Interesting site: Renewable Texas (Texas has dropped to 14th in renewable energy).
worth a glance: Texas Carbon Dioxide Emissions Data
Several cool projects were mentioned:
1. Germany's target: 100% renewable energy by 2025
2. City of Austin - plugin hybrid car program

George Ure's How to Live on $10,000 a year (or less!) costs $10. I wonder if the author suggests writing a book?

Friday, March 18

In New Mexico, it's your Right

It's good to know that Texas is not the only state which has insane politicians.

I was nosing around today when I came across Offbeat bills - the lighter side of legislating which mentioned New Mexico's proposed "Right to Eat Enchiladas Act". Thinking this may be a joke, I A9'd and indeed found the full text for 2005 New Mexico Senate bill 291.

What's next? Tamales? Chalupas? Tater tots?

Morgan Spurlock (of Super Size Me fame) must be having a cow. Er, salad.

Speaking of Politicians ... under the pretext of a survey that Trish will jump on like a CLEP Study Guide, I spotted this on Geoff's blog:

Thursday, March 17

A Quarter

Well, I had to do something Irish today (being St. Patrick's Day and all) so I decided to try a loaf of Irish Soda Bread that I found at Flagship (Tom Thumb) yesterday. It's not your typical rectangular breadloaf; rather, this one is an odd shape (as seen on digs magazine). Irish Soda Bread doesn't use yeast, and contains raisins .. so it tastes like raisin bread. Because of the odd shape, it doesn't toast well unless I'm careful with the knife.
Trivia: I've heard the term "Pot Luck" since I was a child; it meant a gathering where people bring their favorite recipe and others get to sample many different foods. Yet, an Irish website suggested the term's origins point to the specific use of a 3-legged iron pot!
I'm one-quarter Irish, having had an Irish maternal grandmother. The rest of my ancestors are also (presumably) from the British Isles, which accounts for my light complexion (which has been known to blind airline pilots, and the source of an FAA investigation in the late 1980's).

What else can I do today to celebrate my 25% Irish heritage? Hmmm ...

Also, for those of you who are seeking a leprechaun ... the Sundry on Thursday blog is hereby updated.

Wednesday, March 16

Two Baker

Today is William-Bob's birthday (well, actually it's the anniversary of his birth, but I digress) and he, Todd-Bob and myself fed face at Café Express. I had the Grilled Tuna Nicoise Salad (yummy).

After that, I moseyed across the street to see what the inside of a Flagship (Tom Thumb grocery) looked like (answer: what most any other big grocery looks like). I'm unsure if they're trying to compete with Central Market but if so, they have a lonnng way to go.

In the What Can I Blog About That Will Most Amuse Trish category, I now tell you what was on the exterior of yesterday's Pizza Hut box:*
    10 fun questions for kids to ask their parents
  1. What was your favorite subject in school?
  2. What's your favorite day of the week?
  3. When you were my age, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  4. What did you do during summers as a kid?
  5. What was your first car?
  6. What's your favorite holiday, and why?
  7. Where's your favorite place to travel?
  8. What's your favorite sports team?
  9. What were your first words?
  10. What was the first concert you attended?
followed by
    5 questions parents can ask their kids
  1. Who is your favorite character from a book?
  2. What is your favorite animal and why?
  3. What do you want to be when you grow up?
  4. What's your favorite song?
  5. Who has been your favorite teacher?
* those among you who are mirthy will be amused to know that I attempted (and failed) to scan the pizza box, rather than retype the questions.

Tuesday, March 15

the downside of B&M

After meeting Robert-Bob for lunch at Chuck's Hamburgers, I moseyed over to the Barnes & Noble (acceptable because they're blue) bookstore to look around. To be honest, I don't buy much from any B&M (brick and mortar) bookstore other than Half Price Books lately.
Aside: there's a new restaurant next to Barnes & Noble (SW quad of Preston/Beltline) called Tall Boys Deli which could be worth a look-see. It's in the place where two prior restaurants have failed, so I'd better go quickly before this one goes under, too.
When going to a B&M bookstore, I gravitate to the LOCAL section. Today .. in the Texana section .. I spotted titles by Molly Ivins (doesn't care for the Bush Regime) and Kinky Friedman (now candidate for Texas Governator).
recent Molly Ivins quote: "I must confess, I have sadly underestimated the Bush administration's sense of humor. Appointing John Bolton ambassador to the United Nations: boffo!"
Back when I was traveling the world, the guidebooks I consistently liked the best - by far - were the Lonely Planet Travel Guide Books. There are lots of travel books, and I suspect there's a certain personal taste at work when choosing one. So there, in B&N's Texas section, was a shiny copy of Lonely Planet: Texas; I thumbed through it but didn't buy it. Texas is such a huge place that the concept of a "day trip" is usually futile, since it can take a full day to reach your one-way destination (think Dallas to El Paso).
Deep Thought # 62: I wonder if that's how the LBJ Freeway got the number I-635 .. it's 635 miles to El Paso from Dallas!
While online, I spotted a Lonely Planet guide that I must have: the Lonely Planet - USA phrasebook. I suspect it contains many phrases I've never used, but must learn in order to fully appreciate this Land Of Milk And Honey. Perhaps there are regional sections: How To Speak Texan, How To Speak Boston, How To Speak Californican, etc. Hmm .. times for a trip to Half Price Books to see if they have a copy. Guess I'll have to wait for them to open at 10am or so. Hmm .. the downside to brick and mortar are Store Hours.

Monday, March 14


Judy-Bob and I watched Osama last night. Judy's friend told her that this film succinctly defines why we went to war in Afghanistan (Everybody Knows™ the justification for the Iraq war was those huge stashes of WMDs). Lemme clue in Judy's friend: protecting the women who lived under the Taliban regime was not why we went to Afghanistan. We went there to find Usama bin Laden. So far, the Bush Regime has failed to do so.

Back to the movie: the plot (better acted than Moolaadé) was something like this: blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah and then ... blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. After that, they blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah and then there was the part where blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. This was the part that really held my attention: blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah.

Hey, it was all in Pashto (one of the languages spoken in Afghanistan) with English subtitles, so it's possible I missed some of the plot elements.

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

Sunday, March 13

a bent piece of wire

Just watched [Paper Clips] at the Angelika. Last week, it was sold out multiple times by busloads of high school students. I'm happy that some teachers understand tolerance enough to take their students on a field trip to see this documentary. There's only one or two lines in the film which explain why there are now 11 million paperclips in the collection, versus the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust, although that shouldn't diminish the film itself: it is very positive that they recognized that a lot more people were killed by the Hitler regime.

Near the end of the film, I couldn't help but wonder if this project - born out of an 8th Grade class about the Holocaust - has made any inroads into the political fabric around Whitwell, Tennessee.

I guess I'd be surprised if the local townsfolk failed to side with the intolerant Bush regime in the 2004 election, or if the 125 or so students who've been in that class (over 5 years) have made enough townspeople draw the parallel to what happened in 1930s Germany.

A posting on a website (months ago) still causes me a lot of heartburn. It documented a conversation between some Plano soccer moms, who complained that our society is too tolerant of others, and how we should restrict those people. I suppose that they don't realize how tolerant others are of their intolerance. Perhaps one day, their SUVs, pastel dresses, and shined Sunday (only) shoes will be seen as something to be vilified; odds are they'll be baffled by why they are targeted for hatred.

Somewhat related: I'm not surprised to see the 2005 Texas Legislature living up to their promises. So far, they have
  1. avoid taking responsibility for their votes (there's no record of how our representatives vote on a given bill);
  2. told us that it's okay to run red traffic lights (cameras have been banned);
  3. raised the state sales tax (in the guise of education reform);
  4. found more ways for the CFRP to help Big Oil profit at the expense of my wallet.
Then again, they should be allowed to run amok, lest I be labeled as being intolerant of their intolerance.

Saturday, March 12

AIM eavesdropping

I enjoyed the Thrashing Through Cyberspace blog, which I noticed after a posting on slashdot:
AOL Eavesdrops, Grants Itself Permission To Steal Your AIM Conversations
I wonder what rocket surgeon at AOL thought this was a good idea? Now (apparently) they can do whatever they want with your AOL Instant Messages, including posting them on the AOL Home Page, or in an ad campaign, etc. So much for an expectation of privacy. I wonder if that also adheres to the "AIM Direct Connection" which bypasses their servers (I think).
Tuesday (15.3.5) update: AOL To Modify AIM Terms of Service

Friday, March 11

My First .. Chainsaw?

A few days ago, I (along with dozens of my neighbors) was subject to an "alley sweep" by the nice folks at Dallas Code Compliance. There are thousands of rules which we're asked to Comply with, one of which concerns the growth of our trees and shrubs into the alleys, which makes it hard for trash trucks (and presumably other city services) to navigate. So, for the first time since I moved here, I was asked to trim things back to 18" from my property line, up to a height of 15 feet.

This meant I could either hire the work done, or bite the bullet and get a real saw (the pole saw is good for small limbs, but not a lot of heavier work). So, I became the Proud Owner of My First Chainsaw. After nosing through my back issues of Consumer Reports, I decided an electric one would meet my needs better. I won't be using this a lot (unlike Jill-Bob who has to clear 5 acres of brush just to access her mailbox) and a gas-powered saw isn't mandatory.

I've had problems before with two-cycle engines (the ones where you mix the oil and gasoline); I use them infrequently and the mixture often turns to lacquer and gums up the engine, meaning it must be serviced or replaced. I last learned this lesson with a gas-powered weedeater. While the gas version is more mobile, on a small lot like mine (half acre) it's not a huge inconvenience to schlep a long extension cord a dozen times a year for hedge trimming, edging, weedwacking and now chainsawing.

Anyhoo, I'm now the proud (giddy) owner of a (Sears) Craftsman chainsaw [model #34116], and will proceed to The Great Outdoors (not the sandwich shop) and rectify my (ever so slightly) overgrown brush situation. Hey, at least the weather's perfect.

On the way home, I stopped by Bed, Bath & Beyond and picked up a couple ramekins for use with my occasional salads (using the "put your dressing in the ramekin and dip your fork in it before spearing the lettuce" technique). I am determined to shed those last 20 pounds (after dropping 90 a few years ago) and this is a small price to pay. While there, I picked up a better toaster (one with an easier crumb tray, and special settings for bagels and frozen waffles, etc.) .. again after a consultation of Consumer Reports back issues. I settled on the Cuisinart CPT-160. Sadly, it lacks an Ethernet connection for direct attachment to the Internet, but somehow I'll struggle without that feature.

Unrelated #0: Today's word is ramekin (sometimes spelled ramequin)

Unrelated #1: the Sundry on Thursday blog is now updated. Please put down your chainsaws and back away from the property line.

Wednesday, March 9

dangerous oligopolies

Control of the American Comic Strip industry rests in the hands of four cartoon syndicates. Best I can figure, all cartoons are in the hands of one of these: United Media (; Creators; King Features; or uComics. Everybody Knows™ that oligopolies are dangerous, harmful, and full of Evil Doers.

Given the importance of The Comic Strip to 21st Century America, I'd urge you to join the campaign to free us from this tyranny. The first place to knock will undoubtedly be the Federal Trade Commission - aren't they the ones responsible for breaking up cartels?

Unrelated Head-Shaker of The Day: Esperanto Travel Phrases (also not to be missed: How to order beer in 47+ languages).

Also, not to worry .. I've completed gathering of this week's Sundry on Thursday items. Tomorrow will be a Red Letter Day for us all ...

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

Tuesday, March 8

The Inside Joke (Navajo style)

.. and in an email exchange, I wrote
woo hoo?
and she replied
yee haw!
to which I retorted
at which point both of us were ROF,L (Rolling On The Floor, Laughing). I suspect this is the ultimate example of an Inside Joke, which only two of us on the planet "get".

For those of you who are still reading, Ya'at'eeh is a Navajo phrase which means "Howdy" (more or less). It's not the translation of the phrase that's so funny, but the background (a very long story) that makes it amusing. The nearest parallel I can think of -- which is in widespread use -- is "42!" which is from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

It's been many years since I visited the Navajo Nation (spanning northern Arizona, southern Utah and parts of 2 others states - hence the term "Four Corners") but I wouldn't mind a trip back there sometime.
Deep Thoughts: I wonder if ...
  1. Dion (our tour guide) still has that scar on his cheek (from a knife fight in the bar);
  2. the kids still sell turquoise-and-silver jewelry on hand-made blankets, in Canyon de Chelly;
  3. the Burger King (which seemed so out of place in Navajo Country) is still doing a credible business;
  4. the Thunderbird Lodge still has fry bread on the menu;
  5. it's still 50+ miles between gas stations in that part of the world;
  6. AAA still publishes a special map of Indian Territories;
  7. Pink Jeep Tours still operates in Sedona;
  8. they ever marked the trail better at Sunset Crater Volcano (near Wukoki and Wupatki) so that certain novice hikers won't get lost among the lava?
Ah, that was a relaxing vacation. Even if the motel (the Cliff Dweller's Lodge) didn't have either a TV or a phone. The pork chop and stewed apples (at the restaurant next to the motel) hit the spot, as we watched the sunset over the desert.

Here's a photo I took with one of those old-fashioned film cameras:

This was Tuzigoot way back in May and June 1993, during a vacation to Utah and Arizona (the Grand Canyon's north rim; Monument Valley; Canyon de Chelly; Meteor Crater; Sedona). Ah, peace.

Monday, March 7

staring down the barrel of the IRS

Every year at about this time, I sit down on an otherwise clean floor and sort all the stuff for my taxes, due April 15th. Why I wait until early March (when all the paperwork has certainly arrived by early February) is beyond me, but .. it's tradition. Maybe this goes back to the Days Of Yore when I'd have to write a check on 15.4?

At any rate, I shall now take my Bundle Of Joy and put it in my CPA's hands and then wait for them to call and say The Deed Is Done - Your Documents Are Ready. Yes, I could probably do my own taxes, but having a CPA as intermediary means that I don't have to concern myself with changes in the tax code and all that other stuff. I can just concentrate on making money so as to keep the economy going, eh?

Unrelated: in am email, William-Bob says (t)here's an old saying:
"It is better to keep one's mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."
I'm not sure what he's trying to tell me, but I'm sure it's real important.

Saturday, March 5

finally under 200!

The cholesterol from Wednesday morning's blood donation came back at 197, which is under the recommended 200 mg/dl. Carter BloodCare doesn't give the HDL/LDL/triglyceride breakdown, so I'll have to wait until the latter part of this month when my doctor runs the monthly complete blood panel.

Friday, March 4

Gene Bob gets a pedometer

A few days ago, I remembered to stop by Oshman's (becoming The Sports Authority) and buy a pedometer. Oddly enough, I didn't find any at the auto parts store, or the grocery, or the movie theatre, or the music store (all places that I frequent). After a brief inspection, I decided to get the Sportline model 353 which has an FM radio. This may be a new model, since it's not yet listed on the Sportline website.

Turns out it also talks at pre-determined intervals if you're not listening to the radio (stuff like "1,000 steps!" .. "10 minutes" .. "50 calories!" etc.) That has the potential to get old fast, and the manual says it can be disabled. In theory, I should be walking 10,000 steps per day, but I suspect it's quite a bit less now; I just don't know how much less.

The package didn't say that 2 AAA batteries were required, and not included. Fortunately, I keep a stash of common batteries in the house, so I didn't have to make another trip, but that could've been annoying.

It asked me to set my stride (22 inches is "average" so says the manual) and weight, and then all I have to do is start walking. It suggests doing my usual routine and then checking it 3 days later to get a baseline, so I'll do that.

Unrelated #0: The North Texas Irish Festival starts tonight in Fair Park, and ends Sunday.

Unrelated #1: The Texas Scottish Festival (and Highland Games) is the first weekend in June, at the UT-Arlington stadium.

Thursday, March 3

AC 360 (and a suggestion for TiVo software)

Please tell me that TiVo is a verb, as well as a proper (company) name. Because I'd like to say that I TiVo Anderson Cooper 360 without people tilting their heads to say "huh?"

Before TiVo I'd sometimes channel surf, and get frustrated since "there's nothing good on TV". Now, everything is good because I chose it (or TiVo thinks it's something I'll be interested in and automagically records it). That's how I started watching CNN's show called "Anderson Cooper 360". Well, actually I saw Anderson Cooper on Comedy Central's The Daily Show, which led me to TiVo it.

Today, I was skimming yesterday's episode which mentioned the so-called "Chapter 8 Word Puzzle" that's part of the BTK Serial Killer case. I located the PDF of the puzzle and scanned for words that were not on the "Known Solutions" list then emailed CNN to advise them of one I found. I got an automated reply:
"Thanks for your email. Here’s our problem. We want you to know that we really do read every single email you viewers send us. No, honestly. But reading your email is one thing, and composing individual answers to each one is another. That would be a full-time enterprise. In which case, there’'d be no AC 360. In which case, there'’d be no emails. You see where we’re headed. Anyway, the best we can do is to acknowledge that we have indeed received and will read your message, and this little note is to let you know that. It’s automatic, yes; fails to take into account whether you’ve patted us on the back or slapped us across the face; does not differentiate between praise, correction, fury, proposals of marriage, or invitations to get lost. But rest assured we’ll know that part when we read it!"
It's good to get feedback that Someone Out There Heard Me. That said, I wish it was easier to TiVo stuff when a reference is made on a show (example: during The Daily Show interview, a popup box would've appeared to say "record the show they just mentioned" rather than interrupt my viewing, find the "Choose Programs To Record" menu, specify the time and channel, then return to my viewing). Maybe that feature will be in the next revision of the DirecTV TiVo software?

Unrelated #0: I stopped by Carter BloodCare yesterday and donated a pint. Don't everyone rush out there for your elective surgeries all at once.

Unrelated #1: Word of the day: cathartic

Unrelated #2: Finally found Motorcycle Diaries @ Blockbuster last night .. the last 2 times I tried (on the weekend) they were Out Of Stock. Gotta get the soundtrack. Loved the scenery at Machu Picchu.

Unrelated #3: Please bring your seatbacks and tray tables to their fully upright and locked position. The Sundry on Thursday blog is hereby updated.

Wednesday, March 2

Texas Independence Day

A small article in today's Dallas Managed News was buried on an inside page ("Texans set to celebrate their independence"). Burying the article is illustrative of what's left of Texas Independence Day. Heck, there's not even a special sale at Whataburger! But -- you can buy a Texas Calendar where the year starts on March 2nd.

This is mostly a non-holiday where no banks are closed, the mail gets delivered, there are few parades and few people bat an eye. Back in 1836 (during the siege of The Alamo) a group of 59 Texans met at Washington-on-the-Brazos (northwest of Houston) to declare Texas an independent country (from Mexico). A few years later, we were annexed by the USA and the rest is history. The town of Washington, Texas (in Washington County) still exists as a wide spot in the road - population 262 - between Conroe and Austin.

The article talked about an Austin-based group called Celebrate Texas that encourages us to play Texas music, eat barbecue, drink "swee-tea" and watch a parade.

169 years after Texas Independence Day, a rising percentage of our residents are Mexican nationals who waded across the Rio Grande to work as non-English speaking cheap laborers -- roofers, gardeners, car wash attendants, maids, restaurant cooks. Both (Mexican General) Santa Anna and (Texas President) Sam Houston would be rolling over in their graves.

Tuesday, March 1

Promises, Promises ...

Went to the Angelika last night to partake in the Texas Filmmaker Series (the associated website is - the Video Association of Dallas). There were two films: a 15-minute short called Separated by Light (by Sai Selvarajan) and then the featured The Promise (by Jerry Miranda and Eddie Rodriquez). This film was produced and shot here in Dallas.

As stated in the promo:
"Aaron and Jennifer were best friends in high school when they made the promise. The two lost touch after graduation but became reacquainted at their ten-year high school reunion. Jennifer's ex-fiancé jumps back into the picture and Aaron doesn't like it.

As her 30th birthday approaches, Jennifer has to make a decision: rekindle an old flame with Jack or take the love of a friend to a new level. Aaron would do anything he can to fulfill his promise to her."
There's quite a bit more to the plot than that, but to say much more would Spoil The Fun. Certainly, this won't win any Academy Awards, but it was significantly better than a school project. Did I enjoy myself enough to want to return for the next Texas Filmmaker Series event (last Monday in April)? You bet. Just don't order The Hot Dog.