Thursday, November 30


Today was a good day not to travel. For once, I found myself being The Local Guy while everyone else was sweating the Joy which is Travel during a Texas Weather Event.

By 10am today, everything looked normal outside, but the weather radar painted a bleak picture .. freezing rain turning to snow. Several of them were watching the various airline websites, and watching their flights switch from [ON TIME] to [DELAYED] to [CANCELED]. It's no fun spending the night at an airport, so I advised anyone who couldn't get out of town to call me, and I'd supply lodging for the evening. By the time the evening arrived, there were no calls so the Gene Bob Motel went unused. Too bad - Beta was looking forward to someone to play with.

It could've been worse .. looks like this storm's gonna dump a load on Chicago, Detroit, and places northeast. At least they'll get it in the form of snow, and not our local delicacy: ice.

Speaking of delicacies, I discovered Cracker Nuts at a local Asian grocery, and fear I may be hooked. Nagaraya makes several flavors of this "crispy peanut" treat; I've already sampled the garlic and plan to fetch a pack of butter flavored next. Yumm.

They also have a flavor called "Adobo" but I'm not sure what that is - probably different than its mud-inspired namesake "Adobe".

Wednesday, November 29

impending doom!?

(local radar at 7pm Wednesday)

I'm 2 days into a 3-day class; several visitors have flights tomorrow and are in a mild panic, given the local weather forecaster's tendency to exaggerate. By this time tomorrow we'll know, but I'm expecting this to be yet another non-event. Today's high was 73F or so, and with the ground that warm, I doubt anything frozen will stick tomorrow. Sure, there'll be some thunderstorms tonight (see the radar above) and then the cold front moves through, dropping temperatures by 30-50 degrees as tomorrow wears on.

Naturally (in the class), i'm doing my best to incite a riot calm folks down:
"2 inches of snow? THOUSANDS WILL DIE!"
In Dallas, a Winter Storm Advisory (not even a warning) tends to send the locals scurrying to the grocery stores, where they're programmed to buy ANYthing remaining on the shelf, as if Hurricane Katrina was coming to visit.

(tomorrow's forecast)

Sunday, November 26

bring back the draft!

I have to wonder if this is a stunt: Congressman Rangel Will Seek to Reinstate Draft. I've read about this gent, and it seems as if this is the third time (?) he's proposed returning to compulsory military service (unless your daddy has enough money to sneak you into the Alabama National Guard, like some POTUS we know). Then again, it could be that Rangel (a Democrat) is using this tactic to force a debate on whether we should recall the troops in Iraq (and presumably send them to Afghanistan to fight the resurgent Taliban, or to Tehran to put an end to Iran's Nuke Bomb Program, or to Pyongyang to say hello to Kim Jung Il). With all these Wars On Terror that we'll be fighting for the next hundred years or so, it just makes sense to mandate military service again, although I'd be strongly in favor of only sending Republicans (see Operation Yellow Elephant).

I recently watched a 2-hour PBS show about the 1960's, and it brought back memories of the Vietnam-era draft, along with the anti-war (actually anti-draft) protests, the rise and fall of LBJ and Richard Nixon, and so forth. I was still a bit young to appreciate those days (I entered the 6th grade in 1969 as the decade closed), and was more interested in tricking out my bicycle than what was happening in Hanoi.
Deep thought: Although the Brooklyn Dodgers became Los Angeles Dodgers, it's odd that Draft Dodgers never became Dodger Dogs.
It's only a vague memory, but I recall the periodic "lotto ball" where draft numbers were called by the Selective Service System. I seemed to recall a large drum with 366 balls, one for each day of the year. If your number was called, you had a certain amount of time in which to either report to the local recruting office, or plan your extended vacation to Canada.

Saturday, November 25

By the Time I Get to Phoenix ...

Paula finally headed back to Phoenix on Friday and was "home" 25 hour later, after spending the night in Las Cruces, NM. Now she has to install all the networking toys (wireless-G; gigabit switch; NAS appliance) that she bought while here. It should be easy, but .. (as Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say:) "there's always somethin".

I recall that the approximate distance between Dallas and El Paso (635 miles) is the same as the number of the Interstate highway which loops around Dallas (I-635). Beta's been asking permission to update her blog so I guess she has something to say about the last couple weeks.

Friday, November 24

either way, it's still $20

I typically use a tire (tyre, to you Brits) pressure gauge in the car, when I remember to check the air. Often that's about once a month, unless I notice the car's a bit sluggish taking a corner.

So, when it came time to replace a front floor mat, I spotted (nearby) an acceptable price on a set of Indicator Valve Caps for the tires (Tire Check, by Kleen Wheels). Now, as I'm approaching my parked car, I can glance down and see when one/more of my tires has lost enough air to merit a stop at the air pump. The indicator is difficult to master: green=good and red=bad. Golly, I hope I can remember this. The set of four was $20.

Speaking of air, I recently asked the "experts" about the trend of some car service places to fill tires with nitrogen instead of "plain air". The merchants claim that the nitrogen molecules are larger, and hence won't leak as fast. For $20 (i.e. $5/tyre) that should be true, but my local experts say it's basically a marketing ploy (i.e. "crap"). Maybe if I was driving a racecar around Texas Motor Speedway, but not on the way to the market.

Thursday, November 23


I have to wonder if the transition to ISBN-13 will cause the crumbling of western civilization.

Recently, I noticed my newest books now sport TWO (2!) ISBNs: ISBN-10 and ISBN-13. The new ones are needed in much the same way the phone companies had to adapt new area codes to deal with the plethora of cellphones and other communication devices (does anyone remember the pager? - now we just use Text Messaging instead). Since I keep an online list of all my books (so I don't buy duplicates) I'll have to adapt them to ISBN-13 which arrives 1/1/2007. I guess this is good; that means that more books are being published, and the demise of The Paper Book (to make way for e-Books) is still A Future Event.

I haven't been this excited since I started getting 5 different phone directories every year.

What makes this a sad event is that I was just getting the hang of the ISBN-10 system. I figured out that the first digit always seemed to be a 0 or 1; followed by a hyphen; followed by a code (of semi-random length) indicating the publisher; followed by a number for the book itself; followed by a final hyphen and what I assumed was an edition number (which sometimes became -X). Turns out the last digit was a "check digit" and had nothing to do with the edition: wow.

Yes, I could read the ISBN FAQ but that would suck all the joy out of deciphering the scheme. I suppose by the time They transition to ISBN-next (inevitable) I'll have it all figured out.

The ISBN-10 scheme would conceivably produce duplicates when the hyphens were removed (0-13-123456-4 is the same as 0-1312-3456-4, right?) but the online bookstores seem to remove them (for URLs, etc.) without consequence. The new ISBN-13 appeared to be an ISBN-10 with a prefix "978", but there's more to it than that (which I discovered after reading another ISBN explanation). It turns out the conversion of ISBN-10 to ISBN-13 digits requires a re-calculation of the check digit, which is done programmatically. Bummer.

Worth noting: my oldest books don't have ISBNs : only Library of Congress book numbers. I suspect there was a transition back in those days, too, although I don't remember civilization collapsing. I may have been in class that day.

Ref: International Standard Book Number = ISBN. This has nothing to do with the DDC (Dewey Decimal System), for which I am eternally grateful.

Tuesday, November 21

in search of L-tryptophan

There's a new QSR chain in town called Raising Cane’s that's not far from me (NW corner of Campbell/Coit). Their specialty? Chicken Fingers. Yes, you heard right. Every time I've driven by, there's been a long line at the drive-thru, so I tried it at 3pm today and was only 3rd in line (tolerable).

My verdict: not half bad. The "fingers" seemed larger than most, and the fact that they were made from fresh chicken left them juicier than expected. Also noteworthy: they have the old-style "crinkle cut" French fries. I'm sure I'll return, but have to wonder how well they'll do with such a limited menu. Reminds me of the original McDonald's, or White Castle, or In-N-Out Burger (all of whose menus experienced creeping featurism as the years passed).

Anyhoo, Turkey Day's coming soon, so I'll have to stop by the grocery and fetch some turkey hotdogs or turkey bologna, to get my dose of L-tryptophan. Cane's ain't got no turkey on the menu.

Saturday, November 18

a smoking turd blossom behind every tree?

There was an interesting item over on Texas Kos today: Is MSM Still Spinning For GOP, Against Democrats? which did resonate with me.

For many years (12?) the mainstream media [MSM] have been using the Republicans' code words (see George Lakoff's splendid book "Don't Think of an Elephant") at every opportunity, and now, just a few days after the election, CBS News (which I've been TiVo'ing for awhile) was ready to write off the Democrats - specifically incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi - after her pick for House Majority Leader was voted down. Sure, maybe she could've smelled the votes and then backed only the likely winner, but isn't that just catering to Ochlocracy?

I'm not sure if the other MSM outlets (NBC; ABC; CNN) were parroting the same talking points, or if A Sinister Force was behind it all. Am I turning into a Conspiracy Nut who sees Karl Rove behind every corner?

Thursday, November 16

remembering The Q

There is ONE photo on the Q Center's website which shows the type room I was in (The Q Tower) and I'm not sure how they got such a wide-angle lens (the facility is said to have been a former Catholic Girls School dormitory, before Accenture bought-then-sold it). While not palatial amenities, it's nice to have a room to yourself, not having to share with someone you barely know.

(some participants at The Q Center on a coffee break)

It was good to see so many colleagues .. many new faces and some from years gone by. There are enough of us (1300) that it was split into two waves (the second arriving within hours of our departure). The "memo on the pillow" said we had to vacate our rooms (roughly the size of the sleeper on a train) by 7:45.

The Q's food wasn't bad .. I pigged out on breakfast Tuesday and didn't even want to think about PseudoDinner (hors' de oeuvres at The Partner Pavilion) that night!

Worth noting: one of the buildings - 4 stories - has inverted the floor numbers, such that [1] is on top and [4] is at ground level. I suspect there's a logical explanation, although I had to resort to the elevator to figure out where my 2nd meeting was on Monday.

Wednesday, November 15

176 minutes late

(de-icers at ORD as seen from my seat on AA 2325)

Travel is glamorous.
Travel is glamorous.
Travel is glamorous.

If I repeat that to myself another 436 times, maybe I'll believe it.

The conference at the Q Center (about 45 minutes west of Chicago O'Hare Airport) ended at 10am yesterday, but I didn't get home until after 7pm. Even then, yesterday's travel could've been much worse.

When I boarded the bus, one of my colleagues said that some of the flights to Dallas had been canceled due to the high winds (25-40mph, with 50 mph gusts) .. great. So I quickly called the airline and they confirmed that mine had been canceled, but offered to put me on an earlier flight; I agreed. Once at the airport (after checking in and navigating security) I spotted 3 colleagues and grabbed a bite with them (Chili's Too). Three of us were en route Dallas, and one had to go through Austin* because all the Dallas flights were overbooked.
* Although his flight left Chicago on time, he was still in Austin waiting for a flight to Dallas, after we landed at DFW, nearly 3 hours late.
When it came time to board the flight, Brad-Bob and I wandered over to the monitors and saw our flight was now showing a 3-hour delay: splendid. So, we proceeded to try to find a WiFi hotspot and get some work done while we waited.

Although several networks appeared, only the SSID named [concourse] worked for me (banners confirmed that this was "official"). After too many (40?) minutes experimenting, I found a working signal next to gate H4 and was able to access email and a web browser (to keep an eye on my flight status). Maybe I should get a new WiFi detector which shows where the signal's originating. Mine can tell signal strength, but no more (even so, it was better than the guy walking around the K concourse with his laptop, searching for a usable signal). I've seen some detectors that claim to detect open WiFi networks, as well as cameras (which use a signal for their auto-focus).
Boingo AsYouGo is $7 at ORD (and Midway). It's cheaper ($5) at ATL and higher ($8) elsewhere. They also have a monthly plan ("Boingo Monthly Unlimited Subscription") for $22, but I'm not travelling enough to justify that.
I suspect the other SSIDs were there just to taunt me. Names like "Free WiFi" and "Public Access" were appealing, but I couldn't make a connection. There were also numerous other SSIDs being broadcast, which appeared to be individual laptops. Oh well .. there will be other flights, and more glamorous travel.

Tuesday, November 14

Fine! Just Fine!

On the way to the airport a few days ago, I stopped at the Subway near 635-LBJ to grab a bite before the flight (airline food .. never haute cuisine .. has become mostly non-existant).

While there, I watched one of the CAUSS volunteers rip down several signs placed illegally on a telephone pole. He did it quickly and efficiently - I watched as his car rapidly pulled up next to the sign, the occupant exited with a special tool-on-a-pole designed to reach those signs placed high off the ground, and promptly slashed one into pieces and gathered the remnants into his trunk. Just as quickly as he arrived, he was gone.

I thought about this after reading an article in today's New York Times about how states are clamping down on campaign signs - often placed by volunteers who don't return to remove them after the election. Dallas has a 70-day window: signs can't be up more than 60 days before an election, and have to be down no more than 10 days after it's over. That said, the law appears to be seldom enforced (at least, I've never heard of candidates being fined).

Friday, November 10

how to boil a frog

Wednesday night, I watched the DVD of a new independent film called [Red State]* that wasn't exactly uplifting. It left me feeling sorry for the classic Red Staters, whose Christian religious faith leaves them with no ability to understand why their political party (the Republicans) lost the mid-term elections.
* not to be confused with Red State Roadtrip (2005)
Certainly they don't understand the subtleties of the right-wing propaganda they're fed everyday by Rush Limbaugh (in rural America, they have no choice but to listen to him, since local stations cater to the whim of the local bullies*). One valuable lesson about propaganda: it is subtle .. like the story of how to boil a frog by gradually raising the temperature of the pot so that the boilee doesn't realize what's happening.
* If yew don't air The Rush Show, I won't advertise my tractor bizness with yew, and yer radeo station'll go bankrupp!!
Why do some people remain in rural areas? I suspect that many start their lives there and see no reason to explore beyond the county line, since the Green Acres lifestyle is all they've ever known. Opportunities are limited in Rural America, and along with that often comes a limited educational system, where the people can be more easily propagandized into radical viewpoints. Others may have Seen The World, but find the slower lifestyle desirable. The fact that there are enough of these folks to have provided a base for the neocons for years is quite remarkable.

Now that they've been raised this way, is there a way to educate them out of this Moral Toilet they've been drawn into? After watching [Red State], the answer is "probably not". It reminds me of a 1986 book by David Shipler [Arab and Jew: wounded spirits in a promised land] that left me depressed with the knowledge that there is no way for those two sides to ever get along.

Wednesday, November 8

status quo no mo

As of late tonight, the news is that the Democrats control both the House and Senate, for the first time in many years. Now they face the challenge of acting responsibly so they don't find themselves with The Short Straw 2 years from now.

So much for my prediction last week, that the Republican Get Out The Vote Machine would flatten the Democrats again. At least my phone will stop ringing with those (anonymous) Out Of Area calls from Republicans wanting me to vote for their incumbents. Rick "Pretty Hair" Perry was re-elected as Texas Governor (39%), but Democrat Chris Bell won the Dallas County vote 40-35%.


Even the Right Wing Dallas Morning News (they back Republicans about 70% of the time) had this to say today:
"Voters swept aside years of Republican domination in Dallas County on Tuesday, electing the county's first black district attorney, dumping the favored Republican county judge and giving dozens of GOP judgeships to Democrats. The upheaval was probably a surprise for many Republicans, including Dallas County Judge Margaret Keliher, who lost a squeaker to Democrat Jim Foster."

These "4x4" signs were not uncommon during the election.

Bad news: I still don't have a state Representative, since the ethically-challenged Republican incumbent won 52-46% (after running a smear campaign). Well, he'll show his face in another 2 years when he runs again .. until then, we won't see him (he'll be hiding in his gated community, if anyone cares).

Heck, it looks like even the Virginia racists (led by incumbent Senator Macaca (R-VA)) will lose, while Santorum (R-PA) went down in flames Big Time. Tester (D) beat Burns (R) in Montana. It's too bad Tennessee didn't elect Harold Ford, but the Republican challenger's racist TV ad snuffed that chance: this goes to show that the Deep South still won't elect a non-white to the US Senate, 141 years after The War Of Northern Aggression ended (1865).

Jill-Bob was amused to hear that I voted for quite a few Libertarians yesterday. Turns out that there were only Republican-vs-Libertarian candidates in many local races, so I voted against The Rovians at every opportunity (in those races, Libertarians consistently got 20-25%). Their base remains small, though .. in races against a sole Democratic challenger, they got about 3% on average (only a handful polled more than 10% versus a Democrat).

Me, well .. I'm still in favor of abolishing political parties so that voters will have to choose based on the candidate and not the party. And I'd still love to see term limits for the US Senate and Congress. I know .. dream on.

Finally (not to be missed): Politicians Sweep Midterm Elections / Resounding Victories In All States, Counties, Cities, Towns. Oh, how I adore The Onion!

Monday, November 6

morally bankrupt

This would be amazing if it turned out to be enforceable:
GOP Dirty Trick Campaign May Finally Backrupt NRCC - Really!
... but the odds of the politicians finding a loophole to exempt them from the National Do Not Call list are very, very high. Still, this particular Republican Dirty Trick (pretend to represent the Democrats, make a very long phone call, with "paid for by the Republicans" at the VERY end) reeks.

Here's another article about it:
Republican Robocall Pretexting Campaign (thanks, /.!)

My state representative (another Republican - surprise, surprise) is running a similar dirty campaign; although his opponent has taken the high road, he's accusing her of saying all sorts of nasty (must be true!) things about him and his family. Although I've heard nothing from her (I guess I'm not on The A List), she's probably telling the truth: that the only time the incumbent's even able to Fog A Mirror is when an election rolls around, or when one of his contributors is about to make a "campaign contribution" (wink-wink-nudge-nudge). The poor dears (in their gated community, on a lake, in a $1.4M home) are probably unable to even face their servants. Oh, the horror.

Unrelated, but worth watching: Fareed Zacharia interviewed Andrew Sullivan on his Foreign Exchange program. Sullivan (there to promote a new book) is one of the few conservatives who really understands why so many of us loathe the current state of the Republican party. If you can find a few minutes, give this interview a look before it's purged (it won't be online until tomorrow).

Sunday, November 5

fish tacos

I finally got around to trying Taco del Mar in Addison (at the corner of Beltline and Quorum) and was pleasantly surprised with all the choices. I opted for a couple fish tacos with corn tortillas with shredded cabbage (think cole slaw) and pico de gallo. And oh yes, a side of black beans and rice. All for about $6. Verdict: yummm.

Since they are directly below Addison Improv, they have challenges with parking, especially on Friday and Saturday night. Fortunately, they have two reserved spaces that make it easy to slip in and out even when the nearby valets are charging $4 to put your car most anywhere - including violating the "no parking in fire lane". I guess the Addison Fire Department is just looking the other way.

Saturday, November 4

awkward !

Whaddaya bet Monday's call between Pastor Ted and President Quagmire is a bit strained? If you've been under a rock the past 36 hours, here's an entertaining missive: What Wisdom Did Haggard Share with Bush Every Monday?
Quagmire: So you let your peepee touch his peepee?

Pastor Ted: Yes, your Excellency. And more.

Quagmire: How much more?

Pastor Ted: I'd rather not say. I will say: "I did not inhale."

Quagmire: I won't tell Laura.


Pastor Ted: What's that clicking sound? Is this call being recorded?

Quagmire: All calls are being recorded, P.T. Welcome to America. Do you hate freedom?
Footnote: the MSM keeps repeating the claim that Haggard's evengelicals account for 30 million members. Since the USA just passed 300 million in population (it was in all the papers), this means that 1 of every 10 people belongs to Haggard's church. Sounds to me like he's also guilty of LYING. For shame, P.T .. for shame!

Interesting spot: "launched by the League of Women Voters Education Fund in October 2006, is a one-stop-shop for election related information"
(normally I'd toss that on my Sundry on Thursday blog but this is time-sensitive).

Thursday, November 2

domestic certification

It's too bad there's no standardization/certification in the home-cleaning profession.

Ever since I had my wood floors resurfaced (which included a thorough post-work cleaning) I've had 4 different maids. Before that, I had none.

Wanda* - spoke English, and minimal Spanish. Brought a helper most days. Easily the most competent of the lot. Showed her helper all sorts of tricks of the trade, including little stuff like folding a triangle on the toilet paper, so the user would know she'd been there.

Amazonia* - was Wanda's English-speaking assistant. She took over when Wanda decided to go all-commercial. She was tall enough to reach the tops of the doors, unlike the others. Things worked well for awhile, then she started showing up very late, or not at all. Lots of excuses about working multiple jobs, working the 3rd shift, etc. She became undependable, so I eventually had to show her the door. Too bad, as she really needed the money.

Juanita* - spoke little English, but her daughter was fluent (they worked as a team). Sadly, she simply would not set the alarm when she left (I heard she thought Immigration would be there in a few seconds after arming it). I gave her two chances, then fired her. Since then, I heard that her work's been slipping at her other customers.

Estella* - speaks little English, so I've resorted to online translation tools, and a bit of pointing/gesturing. Peculiar #1: after she finishes a room, she closes the door. Last week, this trapped my cats in one bedroom, and one of them had to go #2 (on the carpet) since it couldn't get to The Litter Box. It could've been worse: #1 (cat urine) is much harder to clean up. Peculiar #2: the first time she was here, she decided the heavy paper cleaning cloths were machine washable (they weren't -- I raked the pulp from the inside of the washing machine). I've tried to position the Real Cleaning Rags where she'll find them, but so far .. no such luck. Eventually I'll be working from home one of the days she's here, and will try to communicate that to her. Peculiar #3: she appeared baffled when my vacuum cleaner suddenly stopped working .. so, I demonstrated how to change a bag .. problem solved?
*the names are changed, to protect their identities
Most all of them (except Wanda) also have an annoying habit of putting things in (sometimes) nearby drawers, and never returning them to the top-of-the-table from whence they came. Often it takes several days (!) to locate them again, as "nearby" may be loosely defined as "within 10 yards".