Monday, July 31

Hell-o, Costco!

My Sam's Club membership came up for renewal today, so I decided it was time to make the switch to Costco, so I did. Here's the result:

On the surface, you might think I've lost my mind, since the two Costco locations (in Plano) are about 10 miles away, while the nearest Sam's Club locations are only half as far. But, I decided many months ago that it was time to cut the cord to Wal-Mart, which donates way too much to the Bush Regime. Now, (due to the distance) I'll simply plan my Warehouse Shopping Experiences more carefully .. no more impulse trips.

It's also pretty well documented that Costco pays its employees better, and is considered a much better place to work. I've strolled through their warehouses before and the product mix is similar (well, okay, Costco has more organics, far fewer unhealthy foods .. stuff I couldn't find at Sam's Club) so .. I made the switch.

I already did that with my gasoline purchases, when I started buying only Shell products (they also contribute too much to the Bush Regime, but it's much more equal than the others). See for details, if you're curious.

Friday, July 28

The quest for the elusive Dilly Bar

Yesterday after work, Jill-Bob [JB] & I went in search of a simpler time: we were hunting Dilly® Bars. You know, Day-ree Queen. It wasn't as easy as you'd think.

For those of you uncivilized city-dwellers who don't know the history behind the name "Dilly Bar", it's absurdly silly.

Plan A

Since it was still technically rush hour, we took "the back road" (partially) toward Van Alsytne, TX, where JB remembered seeing a Dairy Queen. Sure, there was one in Plano, but this destination - away from The Big City - offered a spirit of adventure, and a return to Simpler Times.

Needless to say, what we found was not quite what we expected:

the abandoned Dairy Queen in Van Alstyne, Texas. Our hearts sank. We pulled into the parking lot and just stared. In disbelief.

Some of you might say we should've checked the web first .. either Dairy or the lesser-known DQTexas, Home of Texas Dairy Queens. In hindsight, that would've been a Real Good Idea. But, we both knew that every small town has at least one Dairy Queen. How else would small towns conduct their official business? In Texas, the mayor, city council, police chiefs, and other city staff gather with the ordinary citizens at Dairy Queen for breakfast.

Plan B

After we found the DQ in Van Alstyne closed, we decided to continue north on US-75, since there'd be another DQ in the next town. Well, that didn't happen. We got as far as Sherman, then Denison, then Durant. Up ahead, we could see the Red River and the promised land that is Oklahoma. It was time to turn around, and try some of the small towns, away from the freeway. That almost worked; we found another closed Dairy Queen, this one converted to "Queen Burger" (206 W Texas St) in Denison. Okay, that was the last straw.

Plan C

The goal now was to find most anything edible. JB suggested haute cuisine, in the form of the Snuffers location in McKinney, not far from where we started. Along the freeway exit, the GAS/FOOD/LODGING sign came into view. JB gasped for breath, and pointed. I was caught offguard, and didn't immediately understand that she had spotted .. The Holy Grail. On the roadsign were the two simple words: DAIRY QUEEN. Probably 10 miles from where we started. Oy, vey.

Exiting the freeway, we spotted the arrow directing us to The Destination. Just ahead on the right. A row of pickups were queued at the Drive-Thru. It was time to park, and go inside. To experience The Joy That Is Dairy Queen. JB wanted a soft serve cone, and she plucked a Dilly Bar from the freezer. We sat down to enjoy our find, and share a moment with Every Screaming Child In McKinney, who had come there to dine. It was nothing short of Fabulous.

on the left, the paper-bag version (made in the store). on the right, the plastic-encased version (made by child labor in Malaysia, no doubt).


Today, I ventured onto their website and found a DQ a weeee bit closer to home: like, uh, 4.2 miles away. Throwing caution to the wind, I drove over and bought Another Dilly Bar. This one was wrapped in a paper sack of sorts. It wasn't precision cast, like the plastic-encased one last night. But oh, the smooth, creamy goodness was all there. I even spotted a machine to make a Mister Misty, although it wasn't on the menu marquee. The only thing missing were the Squealing Rugrats.

Wednesday, July 26

Stephen is watching

It's patently obvious that Stephen Colbert reads this blog on a regular basis. Why else would he respond to last week's "White Paint" posting with this short piece (3:24) from last night's show?

Sunday, July 23

tweaking the old PC

It started out as an exercise to improve Google Earth's performance on my oldest PC (a Sony Vaio PCV-J150, which came with the SiS 630 video chipset - no longer made).

There are two tiny, almost insignificant problems:
1- This PC randomly reboots every few weeks, and XP points to "an unknown driver" causing the problem.

2- Everytime I'd do something "interesting" in Google Earth (zoom in, pan around, tilt to 3D mode) the app crashes, and the video goes into a minimal mode (640x480x16 maybe). A reboot is needed to fix things.
I was in the mood for a better video card. I waddled up to Fry's to look around. Eek! There must've been more than 100 cards from which to choose .. maybe 200. I hate making a choice In The Store, and decided to come home and research: which card will be my best option? I'm fairly sure I'll be choice-limited given the age of this PC (800 MHz AMD Duron - and maxed out at a whopping 512MB memory).

I dug out the Sony's manual and noticed two things:

1- indeed, there is no Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) - PCI only.

2- the (shared) video memory is adjustable via the BIOS! The default (current setting) is 8 MB; the User Guide says I can bump it to 16 MB. Once I'm in the BIOS setup, I see a third option: 32MB video (so much for updated docs). That'll drop the memory available for applications to 480MB (512-32), but I'll try it.

Reboot Windows XP and start the application:
Google Earth: Strongly Recommend 'DirectX'
(x) Upon investigation, we find that your particular graphics card does not support Google Earth in 'OpenGL' mode. You are likely to encounter severe problems with Google Earth if you proceed. We apologize for the inconvenience but we would like to switch you to 'DirectX' mode. Do you want to follow this recommendation? (Yes or No)
I accepted that invitation, then updated the video driver, and relaunched Google Earth. The message eased to:
Google Earth: Recommend 'DirectX' mode
You are starting Google Earth in 'OpenGL Software Emulation' mode, which will work but runs more slowly. We recommend you try 'DirectX' mode for the bext Google Earth experience. Would you like to switch to 'DirectX' mode? (Yes or No)
"Probably just a little slower," I thought and tried OpenGL. Egads: it's now Pig Slow! Slowly, I'm getting the message that DirectX is The Way To Go, and I should forget the OpenGL (Google Earth default) setting.

Now, I'm not sure why, but something told me there's a more recent driver. I found version 2.09, available as a ZIP archive. Extracting the file took a lonnng time (15 minutes?), but eventually I installed it and see this correlation:
dateWindows XP
v1.08 29 Jul 2001
v2.03a 8 Jan 2002
v2.09 11 Dec 2002
The most recent driver is still over 3 years old, but that's 16+ months fresher than my old one. Odd: the most recent 630 driver on the SiS website is version 2.08d. Hmmm .. where'd 2.09 come from?

Throwing caution to the wind, I tried the app in OpenGL mode, and it's back to the "Strongly Recommend DirectX" message. Okay, okay .. enough already; at least now I can pan and zoom and rotate without a crash (knock wood). Also, the dxdiag utility confirms I have 32 MB of video RAM. I'll try this for awhile and see if it's stable.

RANT: Every month, I've been a Good Little Soldier and ran Windows Update, but not once was I advised of a more recent video driver. Whose fault is it? Did SiS forget to tell Microsoft they have updated drivers - over 3 years ago? I can only hope this exercise fixes my tiny, almost insignificant problems.

Now that the video adapter's updated, if the PC continues to periodically reboot, I'll waddle over to the local computer store and buy a replacement video adapter, assuming they're still made for PCI (non AGP) relics. Argh. That'd probably occupy another Sunday afternoon. Maybe I'll wait. And wait some more.

Saturday, July 22

those 4 little letters every girl wants to hear

Trish-Bob and I rendezvoused at Escapé (an Internet cafe+bakery in Plano) last night after I taunted her with an IM: "boba".

Rumor has it that Trish lept out of her PJs into something fashionable (leopard?) and sprinted out the back door .. and I still beat her there by a minute or two (the traffic lights know when I'm coming).

Escapé was out of lychee (although the adjoining grocery had a fresh basket of them), so I opted for a MANGO boba -- "easy on the pearl" -- which was waaay refreshing. Great way to end the week, eh?

I thought seriously about a white bean pastry, but ended up with one of those weird corn pastries instead (fresh corn baked in, on top).
Deep thought: I wonder what my Mifipi relatives would think of this kind of corn bread?
This northeast corner of Coit/Park has an interesting mix of Asian food-related stores, interconnected (not obvious from the street): Shabu Shabu restaurant; May Hua grocery; Emma Bakery; Joy Luck BBQ (freshly baked ducks - with heads intact - hanging in the window); a Korean food court; Escapé (a Lollicup boba franchise). And oh yes, a gift shop, which had a few of the new Hidamari No Tami solar-powered people. Too bad I already have one, from Bonane (next to Korea House restaurant on Harry Hines/Royal).

Friday, July 21

stem cells == white paint

Since my post on Wednesday, I've been trying to think of an analogy that a 3rd grader (and hence, Our Beloved President) could understand regarding ESC [Embryonic Stem Cells]. While it may take additional work, I'm thinking the example of PAINT may be workable.

For the moment, let's equate ESC with white paint. If you've ever had a custom color mixed, you know they always start with white and then add stuff to achieve the desired color. ESC and human tissue appear to be a little like that. Start with an ESC, mold it this way or that and it becomes bone marrow, or lymph glands, or a pancreas.

If you don't use the white paint in a certain amount of time, it drys up and must be thrown away. The ESCs at the heart of The Argument are leftovers, from couples who used the frozen embryos to conceive a child. Once that task was done, the remaining embryos (400,000 at last count) are either kept until they're no longer wanted by the couple, or thrown out. Like garbage.

Here's the rub: President Quagmire and his ilk don't seem to be concerned when they're thrown out with the trash, but they don't want that "garbage" used in ESC research, either. Maybe they're assuming that frozen embryos are, by definition, future liberal voters. Using my analogy, they don't want anyone to use their white paint to make shades of blue; they'd rather the paint dry up. That's what I don't understand: what (quote) "ethical" statement that's making.

Does my analogy work? Do you think it's too complex for Rove's Puppet (President Quagmire) to understand?

Thursday, July 20

(paint)brush with greatness

It's not often that I spot an old friend (longevity, not years) on national television. I was watching a few weeks old episode of Queer Eye with the Straight Guy, and who do I see but a high school chum: Marty! I paused my TiVo, played it back - yep, it's her (but only for about two seconds).

Gotta love any woman who knows about the Takilma hippie commune (southwest Oregon).

After living in Ahrland [Ireland] for a few years, Marty's now a gallerist*, and runs the Trifecta Gallery in Las Vegas - just a few blocks west of The Strip.
Gallerist: (n) "A fashionable new word bubbling up in the New York art scene: gallerist, as a substitute for art dealer. Not, of course, just any art dealer. A gallerist is directly involved with the care and feeding of artists, rather than with the quick turnover of art objects."
- New York Times 2005
Unrelated #0: A few months ago, I blogged about the RhinoSkin case for my PDA. Last night, it came in handy as I dropped my PDA onto the concrete garage floor (not recommended). I was afraid to even open the cover for fear of seeing glass shards where the display had been. No such luck: the RhinoSkin kept everything intact, and all is well with the world.

Unrelated #eleventeen: Had dinner with HayJax, Tim-Bob, Jill-Bob and Brian-Bob last night at Two Rows Classic Grill in Allen. It's basically a big, smoky, noisy bar .. for those of you who are into that sort of thing. I played it safe and ordered the fryde catfeesh, which was edible.

Wednesday, July 19

Stupidity in the White House

Deep Thought: the important things in life aren't covered in the TAKS [Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills] test. If anyone ever graduates not knowing the difference between "your" and "you're" they should not receive a diploma.

Speaking of the Biggest Morons of All Time, this News Flash just landed in my inbox:
"In the first veto of his presidency, President Bush has vetoed the ESC [Embryonic Stem Cell] bill", which would've allowed for federal funds to go to ESC research.
This just goes to show what an FTE [FunFilt Texas Edjacation] will do for you. The Moron doesn't understand what an ESC is (i.e. can't distinguish between that and a fetus) so he condemns millions of Americans who could benefit from such research to their deaths. Just bloody brilliant.

20 July update: I checked the Official G8 Website and it doesn't include the lead story by the American MSM .. namely that President Quagmire said The S-word to His Pet Dog, Blair. Fascinating.

Sunday, July 16

Whatever happened to Jerrold Ladd, the writer?

I spent part of the weekend reading, finishing one book: Jerrold Ladd's Out of the Madness: From the Projects to a Life of Hope, published in 1996. It appears to have been published - at least in part - as a series of magazine articles prior to that.

I then searched for his next book, and found .. nothing. So, whatever happened to Jerrold Ladd?

I searched the local white newspaper - the Dallas Morning News - Ladd was an intern there in the early 1990s, but his last byline is from March 1992, over a year before I arrived here.

Likewise, I can find no mention of him in the local black newspaper - The Dallas Examiner, although their website lacks a search engine, so .. anything's possible.

There's no record of Jerrold owning property, but there is a pointer to him in the phone book, so he's still in Dallas (although there are five people listed at his address, near I-35E/Illinois in south Dallas, about 1 mile north of the IHOP).

So, why did Jerrold (apparently) give up writing after his book was published? Perhaps someone from the Dallas Observer (the local free newspaper) or Michael Davis' Dallas Progress blog will read this, and do an article in the "Where Is He Now?" tradition!

Anyway, I'm off to read the next Book In The Pile: White Metropolis, which I bought from the author earlier this month.

Thursday, July 13

Inbred: Bush, Cheney, and the Hummers

The article In Politics, Some Ties Are by Blood shows that President Quagmire and Dick "Shotgun" Cheney are relatives. Fascinating.

Speaking of inbred, I find it amusing that the [$125,000+] 2006 Hummer H1 Alpha now has a 51.5 gallon fuel capacity (range=570 miles). At today's prices, that means the H1 takes over $150 to fill the tank. If the Israel-Hizb'Allah War continues for long, and gas goes to $4/gallon, I wonder how many of these will be prowling the streets?

Worth mentioning: the H1 has been all but discontinued, apparently. The H2 (range=290 miles) and H3 (range=460 miles) models live on. Worth a look: The Green Hummer Project.

Tuesday, July 11

suburban wildlife

I was outside, capturing some photos of wildlife, when I encountered these savage beasts. Eeek!

Needless to say, I nearly always set my digital camera to disable the digital zoom, but I made an exception in this case, not particularly wanting to get 10cm away from this nest of paper wasps.

I also noticed a mud dauber nest nearby, but will wait for better conditions (!) for a photo.

Saturday, July 8

you can never have enough abbreviations

What kind of PC do you have? Did the officer have PC? That's a very PC thing to say. She's a member of the PC party. Did you have PC with the windshield? Who's the PC for Trinity? Join the PC!
PC  Packet Classifier
PC Peace Corps
PC Percent / Percentage
PC Personal Computer
PC Physical Contact
PC Piece of Crap
PC Player Character (see NPC)
PC Politically Correct
PC Post Card
PC Post Cibum (after meals)
PC Primary Center
PC Printed Circuit
PC Privileged Character
PC Privy Council
PC Probable Cause
PC Production Control
PC Program Counter
PC Progressive Conservative (Canada)
PC Project Coordinator
Who's designing the DAC for DAC? Have you flown into DAC before? Who has DAC for the DAC?
DAC  Data Authentication Code (FIPS 113)
DAC Design Automation Conference (CAO)
DAC Dhaka, Bangladesh
DAC Digital-Analog Converter
DAC Discretionary Access Control
DAC Douglas Aircraft Corporation
DAC Dual Attachment Concentrator (FDDI)

Friday, July 7

$75 of unleaded, and a bucket of wings, please ...

I'm sure it's just me, but this gas station sign I spotted (on a recent business trip to Houston) had me doing a double take.

What other odd sign juxtapositions exist Out There? Since there's a website for everything else known to mankind, there must be a site(s) for Sign Juxtapositions.

7/7 remembered

I wonder how many Americans are aware that 7/7 is Britain's 9/11 (11/9)? I suspect the answer is -- tragically few.

One of the better blogs on the subject: Rachel from North London

Thursday, July 6

appraisal porn

I had an early appointment today with Dallas Central Appraisal. They're the ones who estimate the value of your home, and then someone else sends you a tax bill based on that appraisal. So, it's to the homeowner's advantage to get the appraisal as low as possible. Texas law limits them to a 30% increase every 3 years, so I've been told. True to form, they routinely raise my appraisal 10% every year.

Cut to the chase: I got the same treatment as the last time I challenged the appraisal. Namely: There's the door. Don't let it hit you on the a$$ as you leave.

Anyhoo, one thing struck me funny during today's hearing. Soon after I made my case, the chairman of the tribunal leaned forward:
"Got any pictures?," he salivated.

I could tell this is what he lived for. He wanted photos of exposed plumbing dating back to the 1890s. Buckling foundations. Anything. He wanted closeups of lurid, gaping holes in cracked sheetrock. Peeling paint. The more of an eyesore, the better. And Repair Estimates, the more detailed the better. I could sense what he wanted: Appraisal Porn.

If I'd whipped out a photo of a hole in my roof, he might have climaxed on the spot.
When I told him I had no such photos, he sighed with an incredible sadness. I had single-handedly snuffed out his only source of joy in life.

Suddenly, I felt a sense of overwhelming grief. I stammered a promise to Return Next Year, with 8x10 color glossies, scenes reminiscent of Alice's Restaurant. That promise cheered him up; the sparkle returned to his eyes. I Just Knew that I had done my Good Deed for the day, and nearly skipped out of the building, happier than I've been in months.

Wednesday, July 5

Dallas: the White Metropolis

I can't say I make a habit of attending AuthorSpeaks. Tonight, I moseyed to the downtown Dallas Public Library to hear Michael Phillips, author of White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity, and Religion in Dallas, 1841-2001

This event was sponsored by Howard Dean's private club, Democracy For America.

One of Phillips' premises is that, if mankind began with one male and one female, there were no races. He suggests that the concept of "race" was concocted by Europeans in the 1500s, saying that 99% of human genes between Asians, Europeans, Hispanics, Africans are identical.

Phillips clearly has contempt for George F. Will, reading a passage from his 5 June 2006 Newsweek column: White Guilt, Deciphered which freely quotes one of the only black men that Will admires, Shelby Steele (a possible Oreo).

Other discussion ensued:
  • Does institutional racism still exist?
  • Another author's work -- Jerrold Ladd of the 1970s-era Dallas Morning News -- was mentioned: "Out of the Madness : From the Projects to a Life of Hope"
  • the 1865-8 Freedmen's Bureau in Dallas, when the whites sought to permanently enforce a black underclass.
  • the correlation between education & prosperity (premise: blue states are liberal, more educated, more prosperous than red/conservative/stupid states).
  • Says that, under the Jim Crow education system, textbooks used by blacks couldn't later be use by whites. Says the 1860s era school year sent blacks for 60 days, and whites for 100 days. Most school was oriented as a vocational effort, teaching the blacks to be servants to the white masters, effectively.
  • W.E.B. Du Bois' history books.
  • Texas textbooks 1890-1970, explicit racism throughout.
  • Historically altered descriptions of post Civil War Reconstruction.
  • Tarzan's movie lessons (where is this mysterious White Tribe of Africa?).
  • Why aren't Egypt and Morocco considered African, instead of Middle Eastern?
  • An assessment of FOX "News" target market: over 70, simpletons.
  • The fallacy of Atlanta's former slogan: "the city too busy to hate".
  • Mentions of TSU (Texas Southern University) - an historically black university near downtown Houston.
  • How Dallas white population were "better organized elites" than other cities, hence the huge racial divide present today.
  • Houston v Dallas' labor history
  • Example of the ILGWU (International Ladies Garment Workers Union)
  • Highland/University Park where the organized white elites live today, virtually Hispanic/African Free.
  • Prominent black Dallas leaders, historically: A. Maceo Smith; Juanita Craft
Finally, someone mentioned a Dallas Peace Center series on eliminating racism. And then, adjourned. Whew, a lot of ground covered. Maybe I should attend these Author Things more often?

Monday, July 3

the downside to TiVo

TiVo makes watching regular TV oh-so-tedious.

When I was in Houston last month, I spent one night in a local hotel. During my TV viewing, I kept reaching for the remote to FastForward past the commercials. {sigh} Then I read that some Rocket Surgeon at ABC wants that button removed from future DVRs (yeah, right). And then this gem (from April 2006) caught my eye: DVRs: Consumers Avoid Ads. Well, duh.

Okay, okay. There are times when I will stop and watch an ad; I admit it. Often, that's when it's one I don't recognize. There's a chance I might enjoy the ad, learn something, maybe even buy the product. It's the repetition that drives me crazy. After I've seen an ad once, I seldom want to watch it again. And again. And again. Ditto for movies, TV shows, books, you-name-it. Sure, there are times I want to Wax Nostalgic, but .. not often.

I don't remember when I started, but I like to play a game with TV ads. Once the ad starts, if I can recognize the sponsor, I get to bypass the ad. Sometimes the ads are so absurd - unrelated to the product being sold - that I have to watch the whole bloody thing. And even then, I may not remember what the ad is about. Some advertising genius (!) may say that is the perfect ad; I disagree. Several times a year, someone calls me about a survey where they ask if I've seen any recent advertising for a set of products (cars, cameras, whatever). Those ads that I watched all the way to the end, where I was left scratching my head .. well, they don't do well for me. Maybe they'll win a Clio. But odds are they won't win my business.

Sure, the ABC Genius (President of Advertising Sales Mike Shaw) is welcome to take away my TiVo. He'll just have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.

Unrelated: here's my Must Read Recommendation for the week, so you'll know what to expect this fall in the political races: TomDispatch - Tomgram: Chernus on Karl Rove's Bedtime Stories for Americans