Saturday, December 31

Restricted Sites == Less Spyware

running several PCs gives me the chance to try things in parallel to see which approach works best. with that in mind, I've noticed that one PC almost never gets infected with spyware, while another is hit frequently. yet, i access the same sites from both computers.

it dawned on me (!) that I'd once added a long list of Restricted Web sites to one PC; I should probably do that on the others. Sadly, the Firefox browser lacks that feature (although it's available as a Plug-In) - their Adblock Extension tries to do the same thing, but it's cumbersome to add a list of sites.

Next, I ran SpyBot and it found The Usual Suspects (ignored by Microsoft AntiSpyware), which I've blogged about before. I deleted the spyware, and will run SpyBot again in a week or so to see if the Restricted Sites change made the expected impact. Worth noting: I populated it automagically using IE-SpyAd.

Aside #9/7: It appears that Microsoft has decided their AntiSpyware product isn't ready to exit Beta test yet (it was due to expire today). Now, I see:
Session.TimeBombDaysRemaining: 213
Session.TimeBombExpirationDate: 7/31/2006

Friday, December 30

Flip-Flap Paddy Wack

Today, I went in search of a Flip-Flap. I didn't know if I'd find one in Dallas. By 2pm, I had found one, in a real, live B&M store; now it's sitting by a window, waiting for sunrise.

For those of you Uncultured Dolts (!) who don't know .. a Flip-Flap started as a solar-powered flower pot. There's an artificial flower in the middle, and two petals which move slowly and quietly when exposed to sunlight. It's a simple design; now I just need a few hundred more to give the illusion of my horticultural skills.

Now, they have branched out .. Daniel (now in Los Angeles) emailed an MPEG of one which looks like a frog nodding his head left-to-right. I suspect those are part of The Next Wave, which will make their way to Dallas by 2008. He says the first one he saw was at a duty-free shop at Narita Airport ~3 years ago, and now they are widespread (he claims to have given about 50 of them as gifts).

I found mine at Bonane Gifts (2558 Royal Lane, slightly east of I-35E), after making a brief stop at Hong Kong Market Place (where the clerk said I wouldn't find one in Dallas, and that I should just go to eBay). I first spotted this stretch of Korean-owned stores and restaurants on Royal Lane, when trying to bypass the LBJ traffic (en route DFW Airport).

By the way, this was the last Flip-Flap at Bonane today, but the store's owner said she has ordered more. I'll be back.

Aside #8/3: I was actually looking for "Sam Moon's", which was at 11635 Harry Hines, but recently relocated to 11826 Harry Hines (just north of LBJ-635). There are lots of buildings under contruction in that stretch of Harry Hines (between Royal and LBJ), so it may become even more of an ultra-cheap shopping destination, Real Soon Now.

Aside #8/7: An Indian shopkeeper directed me to a place called "Shopper's Alley" (dozens of stores, 11422 Harry Hines) .. it's perpendicular to Harry Hines (north of Royal) and easy to miss, unless you're looking for it. I wasn't brave enough to get out of the car; parking is precarious at best, and many cars were in dire need of body work. I wasn't about to add mine to the list.

Thursday, December 29

your battery backup last intervened on ...

Today was the first annoyance with my shiny new ADSL 2/2+ modem ..

My home took a "power hit" this morning, around 8:45. All my computers are attached to a UPS; the local electric current is too unstable for computers, otherwise. In addition to providing backup power, all modern UPS provide a clean, filtered power source. Power here is interrupted once a month or more .. durations between a few milliseconds and a few minutes. APC PowerChute says:
Your battery backup last intervened on 12/29/2005 at 8:46:26 AM.
When the power blipped this morning, it interrupted the DSL circuit. It took me a few minutes to realize that the DSL modem had not restarted the WAN (PPPoE) interface, and I needed to relogin via the mini-webserver on the modem. It only took a few seconds but .. will this happen each time power is interrupted? Or, did I neglect to write my login/password to the modem's flash memory when I installed it? (I'll add this to "Things That Make Me Go Hmmm In The Night")

Regardless, now I'll prowl the house, seeking devices with a blinking [12:00] indicating no battery backup.


Addison, TX at 7:47 am CST
Sunny , 43ºF
Hi: 72 Lo: 51

Just another chance for me to dig at whoever provides Yahoo! with weather .. can't your programmers adjust the high or low to coincide with the current temperature, if it falls outside the forecast range?

For those of you Just Waking Up, this means that instead of forecasting a low of 51 today, it should say 43 - the current temperature. Is that so hard?

Wednesday, December 28

life after David

Looks like TiVo found back-to-back episodes of The Office Christmas special (2002). For a series that had only 14 total episodes (2 of which comprise the Christmas special - more like a movie unto itself), this is a remarkable piece of thespian delight. If you're a fan of this British TV series, you'll probably adore the special, as it's an update on what happened to David Brent (played by Ricky Gervais) after being sacked .. not to mention how the rest of the Slough office is carrying on without him. No wonder it won a Golden Globe (best TV comedy).

Gervais' performance in the 2-part special was also, without a doubt, spot on. Sadly, there are indeed managers like that.

Tonight, HayJax and I moseyed to Lucky's Cafe (3531 Oak Lawn) for some comfort food. I did broccoli and squash, alongside a Swiss mushroom chicken breast, not to mention a hefty dose of blackberry cobbler. {burp} Supposedly their breakfast is also worth trying; perhaps I'll mosey to their Frankford Road (@ the Tollway) location sometime and try it.

Monday, December 26

reading, writing and .. aw, who cares?

The National Center for Education Statistics recently conducted a study, the results of which show that only 31% of college graduates are proficient in reading comprehension. Apparently the study involved reading a complex book, and being able to extrapolate from it.
For those of you who can't do math, either .. this means that 69% of college graduates are not proficient in reading comprehension.
At last .. something which explains how President Quagmire could have been re-elected in 2004.

We must stop these (illiterate) college graduates from voting in future elections.

Unrelated: environmentalist Kristi Chester Vance of San Francisco is alleged to have said
"Allow me to put in a plug for Hanukkah, which celebrates the miracle of a little bit of oil lasting eight days ... You've got to love a holiday that's all about energy efficiency." (San Francisco Chronicle)
Merry Hanukkah/Chanukah, if that's your cup of eggnog.

Sunday, December 25

Metroplex Mystery

There must've been something going on today; many stores were closed and the parking lots were empty. Maybe there'll be a story about this in tomorrow's paper?

Judy-Bob and I started the day at Kirin Court (Richardson, dim sum) which was packed, as usual. Ran into Billy Bob and Lay Wah Bob on the way out. Next, we stopped at Sarah Bakery (Richardson, Islamic grocery/bakery/restaurant) for some pistachio baklava; Medjool dates; baba ghanouj (ghanoush/ghanoosh); and a can of Unium's "Luncheon Loaf" (looks suspiciously like Spam®, but without the pork). Then, it was off to scan some photos for a promotional thing that J-B's doing, then back to watch To Kill A Mockingbird (1962), followed by a little TiVo. At about 10pm, I realized that I was supposed to go to Plano to see Trish-Bob, but I suspect she had her hands full with a visiting FIL and her new friend, the walking cane.

All in all, it was a productive day. If only I can figure out why the parking lots (except movie theatres) were empty, and why the highways were unusually free of vehicles. Maybe the Dallas Cowboys were playing, although I thought they were officially out of the playoffs. Hmmm.

Saturday, December 24

Red State Translation

Yesterday's Dallas Managed News included a letter from a Red Blooded Texan, axing [sic] them not to use The New York Times as an information source:
"The Times is a radical, liberal, anti-American newspaper originating in an area that is totally out of touch with the rest of the nation. Too many of its writers are feminist, racist bigots. It is past time for you to stop trying to brainwash us with Times propaganda. We are not East Coast liberals. Would you please give that some priority when deciding what to print?"
The problem is that he was too shy (!) to write what he really meant:
"I don't never want to read no opinions other than my own or my TaliBaptist preecher. Everybody Knows™ that everbody outside Texas is a JEW who don't worship The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, so they're all surely goin' straight to H-E-Double-L, just like it says in The Good Book. Anyone who doesn't believe the way I do is probably a Nigg-ro or a Mekse-kin, too. If yew don't agree, c'mon down to the Flea Market (I make a livin' sellin EarWax Cleaning Supplies) and I'll fight ya out back.
Hmm .. and the NY Times articles were the only ones I consistently read, in what would otherwise be Just Another Fascist Republican newspaper.
Everybody Knows is a trademark of Fox "News"; Rush Limbaugh Productions; and the CFRP.

Friday, December 23

FeSTiVuS 2005

Today's The Big Day. Merry Happy Joyful Fabulous FeSTiVuS, everyone. Pardon me, while I raise the FeSTiVuS Pole.

The City of Dallas held an unofficial FeSTiVuS celebration today: a Tuba Christmas Concert @ Thanks-Giving Square.
(aND mANY mORE ...)
Should I quit my day job now?

Thursday, December 22


Ah, it's so nice to have a (relatively) snappy Internet connection again.

The DSL field tech was here this morning, ran some tests, and decided that my DSL problem is due to an old modem. "Really?" I asked. "Just yesterday, the front-line support guy (in India) told me that all DSL modems operate at line speed so they can easily process data as fast as my ISP could send it!" As it turns out, that was wrong.

The Efficient Networks SpeedStream 5360 (part number 060-5360-002, for those of you who enjoy Google'ing obscure stuff) is apparently a real dinosaur. The tech actually laughed when he saw it. He called one of his co-workers and said something like "you won't belieeeeve what this customer still has installed - remember those old silver-and-black modems, about the size of a VW bug?". He says that DSL modems seem to grow obsolete every six months.

The old modem (Siemens bought Efficient, apparently) maxes out at a 1.5 Mb downlink, explaining why I experienced lots of packet overflow (and the backoff retransmissions - slowing me to sub-56 kb speeds) when a large datastream (up to 3.0 Mb downlink) was thrown at it.

I'm still trying to find the tech specs for the 5360 to confirm the 1.5 Mb limitation, but my replacement (a Zoom 5654) quickly clocked a 2.5 Mb downlink, mid-afternoon. That's the first acceptable speed I've gotten since The Upgrade. The specs say it's good for download speeds of up to 24 Mbps .. so it'll be obsolete slower than the Efficient 5360. Perhaps the 5360 specifications are only available on papyrus?

Wednesday, December 21

pushing the envelope

Being in a major city (ha!) has its rewards sometimes. Then there are other times when I'm left to scratch my head. Today's one of those days.

A few years ago, when DSL was first offered, I signed up with DirecTV's (wired) unit. That worked okay .. in the winter months. But when summer arrived and the temperature hit 90F the DSL circuit would dive, like a cheerleader at a silent auction. Each day, the circuit would tank earlier (I learned to do more of my work in the wee hours of the morning). Turns out that was because of the physical route my phone line takes to reach the CO [Central Office]; although I'm about 2 miles ("as the crow flies") to the CO, the route taken by the phone lines stretched that about 2500 feet past maximum. Technically, I was in "denial range" (a term which still amuses me).

That debugging experience allowed me to become conversationally fluent in DSL, spewing terms like NID and DSLAM as if they were my children. I never determined why the temperature had anything to do with it, but it aided my ability to predict when the circuit would fail each day.

Eventually, DirecTV got out of that (wired DSL) business, and sold the remnants to my current provider, who gave me a shiny new DSL modem (SpeedStream 5360) and a dynamic IP address. That's been mostly fine.

So today, it didn't surprise to understand the Indian (who are we kidding? .. his name isn't really "John") tech's suspicion that the "DSL Pro Package" (1.5-3.0 Mbps down and 384-512 Kbps up) is stretching the ability of my circuit to hold a carrier. Small files (most email, web pages with small-medium graphics) transfer fine, but if I try to grab a PodCast, or watch a streaming video, or (POP3) fetch an email of more than 75 kilobytes, I'm seeing frequent timeouts. Most of the time, I use WebMail to inspect and delete messages before downloading them (if at all). I've already tweaked the settings on my POP3 client (I think a 3 minute timeout is waaaaaaaay overly generous) and nosed around my IP settings (PPPoE, MTU of 1492, etc) so am confident the problem's not on my end.
Thursday update: turns out the problem was on my end - but it was hardware! See the 22/12/5 post.
So, tomorrow morning a Real Live Technician (complete with meters) is due at my NID to see what kind of signal I'm really getting from the RT. If it's marginal, I may regress to the DSL Standard Package (assuming they can't tweak the latency for the packet timeout). I'm happy they're staffed to have someone here that quickly .. now, I'll see what they uncover.

Tuesday, December 20

Excitement reigns while it rains

Pure joy. Unparalleled excitement. Yeah, that describes today .. spot on.

I called Bruce The Barber at 9am, asking if he had any appointments. Yes! If I can be there at 10:30 I'll get the only appointment left this week. SOLD! So now, I have a shiny new 30-minute haircut. When I left, it was raining .. looks like it has "set in for the day". Hmmm.

Just like last year (see my 22/12/4 blog entry) I found two SBC telephone directories (a/k/a phone books) on my front stoop. Makes me want to reenact the great thespian scene where Steve Martin ran onto his lawn, shouting
"The new phone books are here! The new phone books are here!!"
Pity there's no obvious way to opt out of this distribution. Each year, when the new phone books arrive, I dust off the prior year's copy and toss it in the recycle bin. The chance of me picking up a paper phone book to seek a number is so remote as to be laughable.

Maybe if I was the POTUS? I'll bet He could stop the unwanted phone books. After all, He is Above The Law (as shown in Sunday night's speech where He effectively proclaimed that He can do anything He wants to, anytime He wants to). Splendid. Just bloody splendid.

Speaking of waste products, I emptied Samantha's litter box into the rollcart but am not brave enough to roll it to the curb. After all, it's raining .. and I might melt.

DSL update: web browsing and email is still slow (although a speed test at 2am showed acceptable speed). I've traded a half-dozen emails with Tech Support on the issue, yet nothing's changed. I'm wondering if I should call the billing department, asking that I be allowed to pay dialup rates while my DSL is slower than dialup?

Saturday, December 17

snug as a bug in a rug

Earlier this week, I mentioned that I returned the PalmOne hard case for my shiny new* Tungsten|T5. Yesterday, the replacement (from RhinoSkin) arrived and I'm giddy!
* well, okay .. I got it from The Big O and it was listed as being "blemished" but I'll be hornswaggled if I can tell the difference
Not only does the PDA not rattle in the RhinoSkin case ("Palm Tungsten TX/T5 Aluminum Hardcase") but there are openings for:
1- the charger/HotSync cable (argh! did they have to change the connector from the Tungsten|T ?);
2- the stylus;
3- the power switch;
4- the audio (MP3) connector;
5- the SD card slot;
6- the reset button.
The PalmOne hard case had no openings of any kind. Did I mention the PDA rattled when inside the case? Conversely, the RhinoSkin case has slots for two SD cards, and holes in the rear to provide speaker access (although the quality ain't great .. good MP3 earbuds are better for audio than the built-in speakers)

I also acquired a "Multi-Function Cradle" (charging base - model TT5-FC) made by Insten which appears more durable than the one sold by PalmOne. I wonder how many other people are so displeased with the (relative poor quality) peripherals from PalmOne, that they buy third party ones, like I did?

Unrelated #aleph_π: HayJax and I moseyed to the Magnolia for the 5pm showing of [Good Night and Good Luck], the story of how Edward R. Murrow and CBS battled "commie hunter" Senator Joe McCarthy. The timing of this movie cannot be a coincidence, in that the FCRP is acting much like McCarthy did in the 1950s, using their USA PATRIOT Act as a way to suspend Habeas Corpus, convict people without a trial, torture people in secret gulags, and so forth. Also, if David Strathairn doesn't get an Oscar for his portrayal of Murrow, you'll know the vote was rigged. HayJax says she remembers Murrow's live broadcasts, from the time she was 7, until 17 .. and confirms that Strathairn's performance was perfect.

Amusing sidenote: the parking structure at the Magnolia was full .. all 6 levels (including the roof). We overheard most people buying tickets for Brokeback Mountain (GN&GL is nearing the end of its run, and only a dozen or so people were in our theatre).

Unrelated #4: My DSL provider contacted me via email, and said (as I predicted) that there is nothing wrong with my broadband connection, and that I'm imagining it all. Meanwhile, I have resorted to started a download (file, email, whatever) then going to another room to watch a 30-minute episode of something on TiVo. When I'm done, I now come back in to see if the task has been completed. Sometimes, to avoid monotony, I go take a nap instead. At least I'm catching up on my sleep.

Friday, December 16

political realities, and Murphy

One of the realities of politics is: there are some things you simply cannot admit in public. Certainly, one or more of Murphy's Laws must be at work here.

One of those realities is the real reason why President Quagmire started the latest Iraq War: American's Affluenza Infection. One of the things that makes us Americans is our need to constantly overindulge - in everything. We eat too much, consume too much, and waste too much .. and because of that, thousands of our soldiers are fighting and dying many thousands of miles from here. Gotta protect the American Way of Life, ya know.

I have a personal goal which includes a healthy dose of "Voluntary Simplicity" but I'm still a long way from there. I've grown past the phase where lifetime success is counted in the number of Things I own, and I've made serious attempts to orient myself to having better stuff, but less of it. The Affluenza film (mentioned above) really hit home for me. Americans comprise 10% of the world population yet consume 25% of its resources: eeeek!

Given the number of trade journals I prescribed at, I've made many trips to The Paper Recycler, and need to make many more. Most paper gathers dust if I don't process it (read it, convert the useful items to properly categorized note in my PDA, discard it) with a week or so of its arrival.

I've found the best thing to do is to recycle. Meaning: grind it up, and morf it into Different Stuff - whether that be a new magazine filled with advertisements prompting us to Buy More Stuff, or an egg carton. An egg carton: ah, one of the few things in life whose goal is simple .. to protect a dozen delicate chicken eggs long enough for us to consume them.

Thursday, December 15

speedy DSL? not necessarily

There's probably a word for the sound made when tapping my fingers atop a desk, waiting. My thumb is stationary, but the finger strumming becomes faster and faster as my impatience rises. I'm about to place a copy of "War and Peace" next to the computer, so that I'll have something to read while waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

As William-Bob said, network speed is dependent on a pantload* of factors (well, actually he didn't say "pantload" - that's my interpretation).
* Blogger's Spell Checker suggested the correct spelling of "pantload" is "ventilator".
My DSL connection - once speedy - gets slower and slower every day. I'm supposedly on the "DSL Pro Package" (1.5 to 3.0 Mbps down and 384 to 512 Kbps up), but when I tested this morning it clocked at:

74.3 kbps (08:45) CNet's Bandwidth Meter speed test
54.2 kbps (09:45)
35.3 KB/sec down and 53.1 KB/sec up (09:30) DSL Reports

Slower than dialup? - sadly, yes. Sure, I could call DSL support and complain, but there are problems:

1- it'll require that I be on the phone for at least 30 minutes (probably to an ESL operator named Bambi - reading from a prepared script, somewhere in India);

2- odds are they'll then tell me that they'll have to order another - local - test, which will (undoubtedly) show there's nothing wrong, and that it's all in my head. Oy, veh!

Tuesday, December 13

is there a lawyer in the house?

Before dropping in on The Bowlers (Monday night) I stopped by The Toy Store (Fry's Electronics) to return a hard case for my (shiny new) PalmOne Tungsten|T5 (replaces a Tungsten|T). The problem with PalmOne's case is that it's poorly designed - the PDA rattles when inside! I was pleased that Fry's accepted a return from a different location (the one in Irving, near DFW Airport).

While there, I waddled over to the "power strip aisle" (!) and found a doohickey which solves my problem of too many power converters occupying the sockets on my UPS (they're bulky and often spill over to the adjacent socket's space). Fortunately, I didn't have to ask for help locating it; this is one of those things where I'd feel foolish trying to describe something, whose NerdName I don't know:
"Uh, it's a thing that plugs into an electrical socket and it's kinda-like an extension cord but much shorter. And the connector looks just like a regular 3-print power socket."
It turns out the thing is called a "Power Strip Liberator" (part # PWR-PSLIB-2) from Cables Unlimited. Geez, I hope that's not a marketing name for this thing. I'd hate to learn the NerdName, only to find out it's really a MarketingName.

Unrelated: There are times when I wish I were a lawyer. Yesterday, when SBC/Yahoo emailed their new Yahoo! Terms of Service, I wanted to compare the changes with the prior edition, to know what I'm agreeing to by continuing to use their service. As far as I know, there's a hidden phrase which says I agree to the (evil) USA PATRIOT Act.

keep your $10 and ...

Today, I got an email from SBC (becoming AT&T) saying that since I've been such a loyal customer, I was welcome to go to a special-gift website and "take $10 off any purchase of $25 or more!" .. yet, when I went there, the only things they have to offer are:

1- stuff I wouldn't buy, anyway
2- items priced mostly at $14.95 and $24.95
3- items selling at full MSRP

There are no items available for $25. I'd have to spend at least $39.90 to use this "$10 off" promotion, for stuff I don't need/want. I think I'll pass ...

Gee, I wonder why they didn't just credit my next statement by $10?

Monday, December 12

Fours Meme

this is stolen from Trish-Bob, who stole it from semantique ...

Four jobs you've had in your life
- Tennis racket stringer
- Radio news reporter
- AutoCAD specialist
- Webmaster

Four movies you could watch over and over
- Doctor Strangelove
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show
- Taxi Driver
- A Clockwork Orange

Four places you've lived
- Elizabethtown, KY
- Boulder, CO
- Manhattan Beach, CA
- Torrance, CA

Four TV shows you love to watch
- Law & Order: Criminal Intent
- The Daily Show (with Jon Stewart)
- P.O.V.
- Star Trek: Enterprise

Four places you've been on vacation
- Sedona, Arizona
- Poipu, Kauai, Hawaii
- Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
- Hong Kong

Four websites you visit daily

Four of your favorite foods
- cioppino
- organic brown rice
- blackened redfish
- banana pudding!?

Four places you'd rather be right now
- Point Loma, San Diego, California
- Tuzigoot, Arizona
- Evergreen (or Conifer), Colorado
- Murphy's Pub, Cincinnati, Ohio 

Sunday, December 11

the definition of "is"

A few months ago, I installed Microsoft AntiSpyware on one of my PCs, to compare its effectiveness with other spyware-detection/prevention stuff. I have yet to be impressed.

Today, I ran Spybot on this computer (used mainly to read email); it found tracking cookies from 10 companies on this PC "protected realtime by Microsoft AntiSpyware":; Avenue A, Inc.; BFast; CoreMetrics; DoubleClick; FastClick; HitBox; MediaPlex; ValueClick; and WebTrends Live.
I have a hard time believing that Microsoft is serious about spyware prevention, give this miserable experience. Granted, this wasn't written in-house; they acquired a company called "GIANT" (the process name is gcasServ - Giant Company Anti Spyware). You may recognize several of the cookies detected -- they're from infamous/notorious spyware purveyors that the whole world - including Microsoft - knows about. Then again, maybe Microsoft is defining "spyware" differently than the rest of the world ... or perhaps Bill Clinton (who doesn't understand the meaning of the word "is") -- is consulting for them.

Saturday, December 10

the space-time continuum

A few weeks ago (when daylight saving time ended) I set all my clocks to the same time.

Now, I noticed that the clock on my microwave is slower than the one on my toaster oven, which is slower than the one on the built-in oven. All of these clocks are within one meter of each other. I suspect a time rift is forming, and I've grown afraid of walking from one side of my kitchen to another, for fear of being sucked into this "rip in time" and never being able to emerge.

sound advice

I was never in the military, but my father made a career of it (30 years in the US Navy). On rare occasions, he'd jab at one of the other services, mostly the US Marines:
"if you're making your way from one compartment to another, and someone's standing in the hatch, odds are it's a Marine"
was one I remember. Craig (not a -Bob) is a Vietnam veteran, and after a brief negotiation, he and I agreed to these well-known platitudes:

If it moves, salute it.
If if doesn't move, paint it.*
If it moves and shouldn't, use duct tape.
If it doesn't move and should, use WD-40.
* Navy: .. stow it.

Friday, December 9

drip, drip, drip ...

Today's the day of The Big Melt. Temperatures are expected to soar to 43F or so. After Beta the Wonder Dog went out this morning (when it was 19F*), that'll seem like Indian Summer (whatever the heck that is). I noticed a bit of remaining ice in a shady parking lot, and some patches on the streets, but it's mostly dry pavement out there.
* It's good that I don't live at DFW International Airport; they set a new low for this date: 15F. Brrrrr.
Speaking of drips, I got an email from Carter Bloodcare at 9:46am, saying that my 60 days have elapsed and I can donate another unit of blood. So, I accessed their website and booked a noon appointment. When I arrived, the parking lot was full! I briefly envisioned standing in line for a donation, but then I realized (duh!) that the cars pickups and SUVs were there for Graciela's Mexican Cafe.

The blood donation was uneventful; all my numbers were in range (hemoglobin 16.6; pulse 72; BP 110/80; temp 98.8F) so now I just kick back 3 days and wait for the total cholesterol numbers to return.
Sunday night update: they posted my cholesterol: it's 191 (under 200 is good)
What's that? Did I update the Sundry on Thursday blog (week #79)? Why, yes, I think I did ...

Thursday, December 8

the pinnacles of success

Maybe it's because the servers are overloaded, but I couldn't get a decent download of any podcast Wednesday. I've been playing with iTunes & Podcasts for a few days, but honestly ... pig vomit in North Dakota in February runs faster than this. Several days ago, the podcast downloads were nicely quick .. not so anymore.

If there was a rational way to blame SBC's DSL speed on the sub-32 temperatures (Fahrenheit : a quaint scale), I'd do that.
Aside #sqrt(-e): the SBC Self Support Tool is about as worthless a piece of software as I've ever encountered (unless of course, your Internet connection consists of exactly one Windows PC directly connected to the Internet, which is another quaint remnant of the past).
Now, Dallas is virtually shut down due to the 0.03 inches of sleet that fell Wednesday. Grown men are shaking in their ostrich-skin boots, fearful of driving their F350s out of their driveway. Instead of road noise, I can hear crickets chirping (for the first time since gasoline hit $3/gallon).

Honestly, what a bunch of wimps. Texas is dead last in education in this country, so driver's education couldn't have been much of a priority. Certainly nothing like high school football, or being a cheerleader (the pinnacles of success in Texas). Then again, somewhere between 25-60% of the Dallas population was born in Mexico, and I suspect Driving On Ice wasn't even the subject of Science Fiction class.

Wednesday, December 7

quick alphabet quiz

Hmm .. what's missing from this alphabet? Oh wait, I see .. no Dubya!

Tuesday, December 6

preserving the timeline

I was a Star Trek junkie for many years, and suppose I still may be, although I've never dressed up as a Breen and attended a Star Trek convention! There were several spinoffs: The Next Generation ("the shark jumper"); Voyager; Deep Space Nine; Enterprise (bridging the gap between present day and The Original Series).

A Star Trek theme which recurs is the fantasy of time travel, and a subtheme is that of preserving the timeline (i.e. not doing anything while you're gallivanting through time that will change future events). I've thought about this a bit over the years, and find the concept of Timeline Preservation to be mostly absurd, as somewhat insignificant events can significantly change history.
An egregious example would be this theory: the 2002 bankruptcy of US Airlines is due to a pint of ale in 1836 Austria.
(History students will grasp this faster than others:) due to a chance encounter (let's assume a carriage driver was hungover .. one too many pints of ale the night before), Maria Anna Schicklgruber met a man at the carriage stop, "hooked up" with him and eventually gave birth to Alois Schicklgruber.

Alois Schicklgruber and Klara Polzl (Alois' niece!) were the parents of Adolf Hitler, whose Holocaust so enraged the world that the state of Israel (a safe haven for Jews) was mandated in 1945. Further, US support of Israel inspired Arab militants (including a Saudi named Osama bin Laden) to attack the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001, creating such havoc in the airline industry that several carriers were thrown into economic chaos, including US Airways.

If, in 1836, the bartender had sent the carriage driver home without that last pint, and he'd been on time the next morning, would that have kept Delta Airlines out of bankruptcy, and saved the lives of 60 million people (total deaths in World War II). Further, what if one of those 60 million had a descendant who developed an early cure for the 2006 Avian Flu Pandemic?

Such thoughts boggle the mind ... how many seemingly insignificant events will happen today that will forever alter human history?

Monday, December 5

holding out for the harmonica

Some things are more perishable than others. Meats & vegetables are obvious candidates for Science Experiments, if they're not consumed In Time. Also: airline seats .. once the plane pushes back from the Jetway®, it's hard to sell the empty seats. Airlines are big believers in Yield Management so they know to hold some seats for the last-minute business traveler who will pay Top Dollar to get on a given flight. Those of us who plan ahead can often get the same seat for a fraction of the cost.

Such is the case with calendars. Every day since Halloween, I've received an email from a calendar printer (who shall remain nameless) saying that I'd better order now. The next day, they're offering the same calendar (which probably costs them $2 each to produce) for 15% off .. now only $18.99 each! Eventually (February 15th?) they'll be selling them for 85% off and offering free shipping, I bet. If I hold out long enough, they're sure to throw in a free harmonica!

I've already received enough free calendars (non-profit organizations and my insurance company) so as not to have to buy any this year, although I may be forgoing Gorgeous Geeks or a similar piece of Inspirational 21st Century Artwork without coughing up the $$. There are a LOT of calendars that just aren't my cup-of-tea .. I suppose they make a Fashion Statement all year, so they're an even worse gift than men's neckties!

There's always the chance that the item I want may sell out early, never to be published/manufactured again. Ah, the risks we take in life!

Sunday, December 4


I'm not a rabid coffee drinker, but some days it's what I want for dinner. This morning, Beta asked me to fetch some breakfast tots at a local QSR (fast food) so I complied, given her sadness after Rambo went home.

While there, I ordered a cup of Joe and was given a sackful of sugar packets and three (3) containers of Half and Half. Normally, I'd just pitch the condiments since I like my coffee "black," but this morning I noticed (in red letters) this phrase on the Half-and-Half: NEEDS NO CHILL. I suppose, given the limited real estate on this container, that this phrase required less space than REFRIGERATION NOT REQUIRED .. but maybe there's a hidden meaning - a secret message they're trying to relay? I ran it through the Internet Anagram Server and found some promising interpretations:
CEO NELL HINDS (Nell Hinds will become a chief exec?)
CHILLS END EON (global warming is a hoax?)
ELLEN DO CHINS (Ellen is a plastic surgeon, for chins only?)

COIN SEND HELL ("money is the root of all evil"?)
DELL ICON HENS (Dell's icon causes avian flu?)
HDL CONES LIEN (good cholesterol? snow cones? lien against what?)

HOLES LEND INC (a hot stock tip?)
INCH NOEL SLED (a Christmas greeting?)
LEND COILS HEN (loan spiral objects to a female chicken?)

LINCOLN HEEDS (Abraham? Nebraska city? a Ford division?)
NEE LOCH LINDS (before a Scottish lake?)
SONIC END HELL (a drive-in QSR ceases pain?)
I suppose, without more information, the interpretation of this secret phrase may never be known. I wonder what the other secret messages are on this container:
UHT / Grade A / Homogenized. Includes Sodium Citrate, Datem, Tetra Sodium Pyrophosphate and Carrageenan.
Hmmm .. sounds like gasoline additives to me.

Saturday, December 3

of scorpions and ducks

Richard Clark was on The Colbert Report (hyping his latest book - The Scorpion's Gate), and offered some new terms that Donald "Duck" Rumsfeld wants us Red Blooded Americans to use:

old: War On Terra (as pronooncified by President Quagmire)
new: GWOT (Global War On Terror)

old: insurgents
new: ELGI (Enemies of the Legitimate Government of Iraq)

Please begin weaving "ELGIs" and "GWOT" in your everyday speech; America will be safer for it. Thank you.

We now return to your regular programming.

PM update: HayJax fetched Rambo, after we lunched at The String Bean (specializing in Comfort Food). Beta wandered through the house -- once -- looking for him, but quickly lost interest and settled in for a long winter's nap.

Friday, December 2

Costco: run by a human being?

There's an interesting story about a piece set to run tonight on ABC's 20/20 about Costco, which competes with Wal-Mart's Sams Club (a Radical Right Wing operation). When I lived in California, I shopped at Costco, but avoided it here because it's a bit out of the way (hey, who wants to travel to Plano if you don't have to?).

At any rate, the article has some interesting comparisons with their competitor: Costco CEO Finds Decency Is Compatible With Profitability. It's even more apropos given the recent release of "The Wal-Mart Movie" which was produced by a pro-union group (my copy of the DVD arrived prior to Thanksgiving, so it provided Turkey Day entertainment for a couple of us this year).

Unrelated # sqrt(-Pi): The Ctrl-Enter Browser Trick works in Firefox, just like MS-IE (Internet Exploder). Try it: pick any address and type ONLY the "FOO" part in the browser's Address box, then press Ctrl-Enter. Voila!

Unrelated # Zed: I did breakfast with HayJax at Deli-News, Too (southwest corner of Preston/LBJ-635) this morning. Ahh. There's nothing like a plate of eggs-and-spinach, with a salt bagel and hot cwah-fee, to start the day. Did I mention the waitress who migrated from Gilbert's to Bagelstein's to Deli-News? Small world ...

Thursday, December 1

Firefox: upgrade complete

After hearing good things about it, I installed the Firefox 1.5 browser last night. It's not like I had trouble with Firefox 1.0.7 .. just some web pages that had to load on Microsoft's Internet Exploder (FEMA application forms, etc.) and I thought this may lessen my dependence on that relic. I was also curious to see if the Shiny New Relationship with Google was wearing off on the (historic) Netscape programmers.

A cursory test showed that Firefox 1.5 ran, so .. I moseyed away for the night. Today, I began to use it for everyday use, and quickly noticed some problems: no elevator bar for scrolling, and the Tools/Options window was malformed and useless. Argh!

I thought: perhaps a reinstall will fix things (I didn't recall any installation error messages) so I tried that: no change. Then, a light bulb (incandescent) came on as I remembered that I was using a special Mozilla Theme (Noia Extreme) and that the old version wasn't compatible with the new browser. Bingo! I somehow found the Tools/Themes menu and upgraded the Theme; now, all is well with the world.