Wednesday, August 30

Blogger's Block

spotted on Non Sequitur a day or so ago:

Unrelated: I've been to GoFish (seafood restaurant) twice now. For the past 18 months or so, they're been in that awful location behind the Addison Improv, where many restaurants have failed due to being inconspicuous.

In Texas, "inconspicuous" is defined as "can't see it from the cab of my F350 travelling 30 miles above the posted speed limit"

Saturday, August 26

You're On Notice!

Oh, this is just so kewl. My very own customized ON NOTICE board.

Thursday, August 24

Sony's flaming batteries

Looks like I'll be getting a new battery for my laptop Real Soon Now:
"Apple has determined that certain lithium-ion batteries containing cells manufactured by Sony Corporation of Japan pose a safety risk that may result in overheating under rare circumstances. The affected batteries were sold worldwide from October 2003 through August 2006 .... Apple is voluntarily recalling the affected batteries and has initiated a worldwide exchange program to provide eligible customers with a new replacement battery, free of charge".
These 1.8 million batteries are apparently made using the same technology that inspired the recent recall of 4.1 million Dell laptop batteries, some of which burst into flames. I guess that would kind of wreck your day. As luck would have it (?) the spare battery I bought is not covered by the recall, only the one that came with it. I wonder if I should wait by the front door until the replacement arrives?

5:30pm update: Apple's support website gives me conflicting advice. On one page, it says that any battery whose serial number starts with 6N601 (along with others listed) should be exchanged. I have one of those. Yet, when I enter that in their online tool it tells me
"This serial number is invalid or does not qualify for the program."
Invalid? Uh, no ... Argh! I tried phoning them; after a brief navigation of the voicemail system, I got a busy signal. Someone at Apple needs to Get A Clue. Or a better database.

26 Aug update: Well, it looks like I won't be getting Fresh New Batteries after all. Apple changed the serial number description to read "6N601 ending with THTC" which no longer matches either of my batteries. Now I don't have to worry about them Spontaneously Combusting. Right, lawyers?

Tuesday, August 22

The Price Is Right

I don't know why so many people are complaining about gas prices. Here in Dallas, all grades of gasoline are now less than 1¢/gallon.

Unrelated: had Bulgogi at Korea House (Royal @ Harry Hines) tonight, when Pat-Bob came to town for 3 days of training.

Thursday, August 17

the simple things in life

In the interest of Closing The Loop, several thousand of you are undoubtedly clinging to the edge of your seats, wondering how my appliance repair proceeded yesterday afternoon.

Can you say "perfect"? Good, I knew you could.

The repair guy (Appliance Rescue Service) showed up about 20 minutes after I spoke to the dispatcher, in an unmarked late-model minivan. He came inside, listened to my diagnosis, and went outside to find The Part (a "start relay") in his van. Came inside, installed it, waited a few minutes for the refrigerator to cycle, detected that cooling had started, briefed me on what to expect (full cooling within 10 hours, but allow 24) etc.

For my own amusement (and yours, my faithful readers) I documented it:

3pm: 78F (room temperature)
5pm: 60F
7pm: 50F
10pm: 45F
6am: 30F

Yes, I'd say things are working normally again. Ah, the simple things in life: indoor refrigeration.

I guess I should call Sears and tell them not to bother with the Saturday appointment, assuming they were planning to come anyway.

Wednesday, August 16

Sears .. Service .. Sucks

The RRG [Refrigerator Repair Guy] was due here today, but he didn't show up. When I called to inquire, Sears said the best they can do is reschedule for Saturday. Well, isn't that special?

You'd think that when they miss an appointment, they'd try to Make Things Right by putting you to the top of the queue, but Sears seems to think the best remedy is to make you go to the back of the line and start over.

Let me repeat:

Sears Service Sucks
Sears Service Sucks
Sears Service Sucks

I turned my refrigerator off on Sunday night since it was obvious that no cooling was taking place. There was some food loss in the freezer side, since the Beer Fridge couldn't hold everything. Oh well, it could've been worse. Now, the inside smells like .. uh .. an old, unused refrigerator. Not very pleasant.

Now, I'm looking for another appliance repair service. One that can get here sooner than Saturday.

1:45pm update: I noticed Mark-Bob online so I asked him (via IM) if he knew of a good appliance repair place. He recommended Appliance Rescue Service, so I called them. They said they can have someone here TODAY between 4-6pm, so I agreed. They called back a few minutes later (obviously eager to impress me) and said their guy can come by NOW. Uh, well .. okay (as I'm jumping up and down with glee).

Tuesday, August 15

my spam filter can beat up your spam filter

I have emails accounts on both Yahoo and Google (Gmail) and it's interesting to note how much better the Gmail Spam Filter is. It appears to be nearly 100% accurate in separating the Spam from the Ham, while Yahoo's filter is getting worse by the day - lots of stuff is seeping through lately.

Easily 75% of my email is now spam (on one mostly-dormant account, it's more like 99%), so it's important to trap as much of this stuff as possible. I've been training the Spamato extension to Thunderbird for a few weeks, and it's only moderately successful so far (remember that it's a second line of defense, since either Gmail or Yahoo has already tried to identify the stuff).

One of the puzzling things is that email from several large companies is consistently marked as Spam, when it's not. I gave them my address. Since some of the filters depend on how many other users "vote" if a certain message is spam-or-ham, that means there are a LOT of incredibly stupid users out there, who proclaimed an email to be Spam when it clearly is not. All they have to do is [unsubscribe]* and it goes away.
* yes, I know there are some hairball companies out there who don't tell you how to unsubscribe, or tell you that you're off their list when you're really not. I'm not talking about them. I'm talking about the large B&M (brick and mortar) operations that are reputable. When their messages are marked as Spam, something's wrong.
Spamato's interesting in that it has six (6) filters in this open source product: Bayesianato; Comha; Domainator; Earlgrey; Razor; Ruleminator. The product has a nice bar-chart which shows the effectiveness of these filters; in my case the "Ruleminator" is the most effective and the "Bayesianato" is the least effective. That said, there's a nice ability to add additional rules - if the spam that wasn't already trapped fits certain patterns. I haven't tweaked it yet, but that's coming Real Soon Now.

Today's mandatory read: Molly Ivins' latest column. As always, she's dead on.

Sunday, August 13

do you hear that clicking sound?

Sometimes, I amaze myself by how slow I am in recognizing when something's about to break.

Such was the case this weekend when my 10-year old refrigerator stopped chillin'. I think. The first sign was that one of my new Mochis (found at Saigon-Taipei supermarket in Garland) was unusually soft, not like this frozen concoction is supposed to be. I thought maybe this flavor was different from the others, but didn't think much about it. That was Friday night.

Tonight, I decided to try another one, but noticed that some of the stuff-in-cardboard in the freezer compartment was soft. And there wasn't as much noise coming from The Box as usual .. just an unusual clicking sound. I rooted around, found the thermometer and took a look. About 40F in the refrigerator side, probably about the same on the freezer side. I suspect either a bad compressor or global warming. It might be neither. Call made to repair, but they can't get here until Wednesday morning. {sigh}

So, I took as much stuff as possible into the garage where The Beer Fridge sat underused. Some stuff in the refrigerator won't spoil : soft drinks and such. The rest of the stuff in the freezer may/may not survive the ordeal: mostly vegetables. We'll see.

Friday, August 11


I wonder how many teenagers were out in their backyards last night, mixing toothpaste with their mom's makeup, trying to effect an explosion?

Noteworthy: it appears that The DecaPlane Plot was discovered by British and Pakastani intelligence. I heard a US politician commenting about the swell job that "American and British intelligence" had done, while it appears that Americans weren't involved, except to receive the information (thanks, blokes!) after all was said and done.

Thursday, August 10

The DecaPlane Plot: overreaction

Okay, there's no need to rehash The DecaPlane Plot: you can read about it on every major news website. Suffice it to say that there's a lot of overreaction at the moment.

Nearly all of the stuff that TSA is confiscating from carryon luggage will turn out to be benign. I question the decision to ban all amounts of liquids - an ounce or two of nail polish here, an ounce of two of mouthwash there. The fact that the same liquids may be stowed in the hold of the plane (presumably with a timer or pressure-sensitive detonator) means they haven't thought this through. The last time al Qaeda tried this apparently involved larger bottles of explosive disguised as contact lens solution (much larger bottles).

I'm incredibly ignorant of explosives - but doesn't it stand to reason that a certain minimum amount of this stuff would be needed to blow a widebody jet out of the sky? I've heard that small amounts of C4 explosive can be used, but suspect those fancy detection machines can sniff out trace amounts of that. I've watched the TSA guys swab the handles of my laptop bag, place it in a tester and wait for the green light.

This strikes me as about as effective as banning nail clippers from flights, unless there's a new model which can clip its way through those reinforced cockpit doors.

Maybe the next step will be to fly the passengers luggage on a cargo flight 30 minutes ahead of the passenger plane, and not have it onboard at all? Conceivably it would also contain everyone's shoes, PDAs and Personal Liquids.

Also, since both an explosive and detonator (reconfigured iPod, etc) are needed, it stands to reason that if all liquids are banned, then portable electronics can be (re)permitted? -- what good is a detonator without something to detonate? Don't I recall hearing that El Al (Israel's airline) has a long list of the precise weights of Personal Electronic Devices? If a laptop is too heavy or too light, it merits further inspection. If not, I suspect there will be a lot of really bored passengers crossing The Big Pond, unless the quality of the movies improves substantially.

Wednesday, August 9

the curse of Joe Btfsplk

It's gotta be JB's fault.

Today, we met for lunch. We decided on Souper Salad in Plano: a place we'd been before. Or so we thought. Using hindsight, we'd met previously at a Fresh Choice salad place, which has closed* and is now a Potbelly location (maybe split with a T-Mobile store). When I arrived and saw Potbelly's sign, I called 411 and soon connected with Souper Salad. "Did you move?", I asked. "No; we've been here 12 years."

It was only a mile or so away, so our rendezvous at Souper Salad - behind a Chipotle on the 75-Central access road - wasn't painful. Even so, I'm starting to wonder if JB has a curse on places - this is the second time within a month that we've found a restaurant destination closed!
*The Fresh Choice in Addison (in front of Sam's Club) converted to a WingHouse several months ago, so I assume their Plano location went away at the same time.
A couple of us used to meet at Big Dog's in Addison for lunch - until they stopped serving lunch. Then we'd meet at LongShots, until it was gutted and replaced with .. uh .. something else. Maybe it's just the fickle nature of the restaurant business. Or maybe JB is a distant relative of that infamous character from Li'l Abner after all?

Monday, August 7

you snooze, you lose

Jury duty today. Downtown Dallas. Not even exciting.

Instructions said to be there by 8am, so I arrived in the parking structure at about 7:45. A leisurely stroll across the street, through the metal detectors and into a waiting room with 350 or so of my closest friends. Then, wait. and wait some more.

The first set of 50 jurists wasn't called until after 10am. My group was called at about 10:30. We herded ourselves upstairs to wait in the hallway. On what amounted to uncomfortable church pews. To wait some more. And more.

Fortunately, I took plenty of reading material. Even so, I found myself nodding off at times. Finally, the bailiff emerged from the courtroom and said the attorneys had settled out of court. I'm used to this routine; of the 4 times I've been called for duty, 3 of the "trials" ended this way. I never heard a word of testimony, nor saw any witnesses, nor was eliminated through the voir dire process (where the attorneys handpick a jury of their liking).

On the way home, I stopped by Pokey-O's for an ice cream sandwich (the exterior provided by cookies!), then to Kuby's for some German potato salad, now chilling in my fridge.

Wednesday, August 2

the F-word

I don't know if watching An Inconvenient Truth was the straw, but .. I replaced all ten R30 floodlights in my kitchen with "GE Soft White 65 indoor floodlights"; they're only 15 watts each and are fluorescent, although you'd never know that by reading the product description on the package (GE avoids the F-word completely - I checked the entire package and it's not mentioned at all).

traditional R30 (incandescent) floodlight next to a CFL (compact fluorescent) equivalent

For the first 30 seconds or so, they're not at full light output (720 lumens); after that they're fine (hard to tell that they're not incandescent, although I don't see the CRI [Color Rendition Index] listed). Also, there's about a half-second pause between the time I flick the switch and the light comes on. Either way, it's not a deal breaker. They're "no flicker-start" unlike the fluorescent tubes I grew up with (bathroom mirror), which required an odd cylindrical starter - behind the tube - that required periodic replacement.

It also brought a flashback of my college library (during the Carter administration) when they replaced white fluorescent tubes that burned out, with green ones. Someone told the buyer that we'd never notice the difference in color. Well, side by side they were very obvious (it might not have been so bad if they'd replaced entire sections at a time). Lesson learned, I installed CFLs in all sockets in one room so there's no side-by-side comparison.

Now I have to wait until 2011 when they burn out (yes, 5 year life projected, although I've seen statements that lead me to expect a 30% light drop toward their end of life).

Related find: Energy Star Color Rendering Index

when one wrong makes one right

They were in a box of 12 and I didn't notice at the time, but .. I bought the wrong size indoor floodlights. Turns out they were actually the right ones.

R30 = 30/8 = 3-3/4 inch diameter
R40 = 40/8 = 5 inch diameter

My survey showed that I have 71 indoor floodlights. A few days ago, I was at Home Depot and bought a box of 12 bulbs. Once I got home and opened the box, it was obvious they're physically much larger bulbs, and won't fit some of my receptacles:

The larger (R40) bulbs are 130volt (75 watts) and should last 2x as long, so say The Experts.

Although I've lived here 10+ years, I hadn't noticed that 21 receptacles (my electrician calls them "cans") are larger than the others (6-inch vs 4.5-inch). They're in 3 rooms and 2 hallways. All along, I've been putting R30 floodlights in all 71 sockets, so this was my golden opportunity to fix that for my new box-of-12. Some cans already had large R40 bulbs - they were installed that way - so only four have the smaller R30 bulbs now; when they burn out, I'll replace them with larger ones (just have to Read The Fine Print - inside the can - to ensure they accept R40).

Silly me, I never noticed that R40 bulbs were available; I just got into the habit of buying a box of 12 indoor floodlights and going merrily on my way. Now I have a stash of used R30 bulbs (from the 6" sockets), which will go into the fifty 4.5" sockets as those burn out.

Tuesday, August 1

Inconvenient Truth / Electric Car

I finally got around to seeing a double feature*: Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006) and An Inconvenient Truth (2006). Both are playing at The Magnolia.

As far as conspiracy movies (!) go, I'd give them both a solid A, since both try hard to stick to the facts (unlike most anything by Michael Moore, who is comedic rather than dramatic).

I moved to Dallas in 1993, so I wasn't in California when the EV-1 hit the streets (they weren't available in Texas). One tidbit they dropped in the movie is that GM only leased these vehicles; none were sold. At the end of the lease, GM took them to crushing yard and simply destroyed them, rather than sell them (residual lease value) to willing buyers. You'd have to see it yourself, but I came away with the sneaky suspicion that GM made certain this vehicle failed, despite the spindoctoring on their website: ("Who Ignored the Facts About the Electric Car?").
Amusing: Mel Gibson is featured a few times, talking about his EV-1. Given his .. er .. problems in California last weekend, I'm wondering if version 2 of the movie will leave him on the cutting room floor.
As to An Inconvenient Truth -- basically a movie where Al Gore gives a presentation (from his PowerBook) about Global Warming -- I didn't see the same kind of naming names that Electric Car did so openly. There were some interesting audio flaws in the film, so you get the impression that some of the late editing was a bit sloppy. Yet, the message is clear. Basically: here are the facts about global warming .. they appear indisputable .. now, do something about it. Yes, the movie ends by pointing us to so I just did likewise.

Too bad these aren't in wide release, but I suspect there's political pressure on the mainstream theatres (MST?) not to show them. No surprise.
* okay, so it's not a "double feature" where you see two movies, back-to-back, for one price. I don't know any theatre which does that anymore