Monday, December 31

batting 4 for 5

Sensing the need to continue enriching the pockets of them wild-haired Hollywood Libberuls, I waddled over to the local AMC megaplex today to see Juno (2007), which is about as close as I'll come to seeing a Chick Flick in 2007. I was mildly surprised to find that the lead actress (Ellen Page) has 20+ films under her belt. Verdict: good, not great. Mostly predictable.

Hmm .. what to see tomorrow - New Year's Day? Hmmm ...

Sunday, December 30

3 for 3

Daniel-Bob recommended that I see No Country for Old Men (2007) so I did that yesterday, making it 3 movies in 3 days.

Old Men was certainly a warm, caring movie; I wasn't expecting a chick flick.

Friday, December 28

a movie a day keeps the doctor away?

Second movie in two days .. I waddled down to The Angelika to screen The Rape of Europa (2007) .. a documentary about the treatment (theft and destruction) of art during World War II.

Daniel-Bob wants me to see another movie tomorrow. Hmmm.

Thursday, December 27

Payback's a bitch

In today's (New York Times) ON THIS DAY:
"On Dec. 27, 1979, Soviet forces seized control of Afghanistan. President Hafizullah Amin, who was overthrown and executed, was replaced by Babrak Karmal."
and then there's an Associated Press story yesterday:
With those items in mind, I suspect Vlad Putin (the one who Dubya looked into his soul) is hoping to shoot down a few hundred US missiles/helicopters/aircraft that will be launched against Iran's nucular [sic] bomb factories. Payback's a bitch, ya see.

This afternoon, I waddled down to The Angelika to watch Charlie Wilson's War (2007) which explores the events of 1982-1983 when the US (covertly) armed the Afghans with enough firepower to drive the Soviet Union out of their country. Mild surprise: there was no mention of Osama bin Laden's role in that conflict. Oscar prediction: they should just give Best Supporting Actor to Philip Seymour Hoffman now, and avoid any pretense that anyone did any better in 2007.

Tuesday, December 25

Christmas musings

Why is the Christian religion the only one that gets a US Postal holiday all year? Can't they staff enough Heathens on the 25th of December to make deliveries, or is this like the periodic addition of "In God We Trust" to our currency, that would've left Our Founding Fathers spinning in their graves? And .. if today's holiday is that important, why is there a newspaper delivery?

Alas, it's now past noon and time to investigate which retailers have reopened after yesterday's partial holiday, when most closed early. Hmmm. To be fair, I must take the same route as last night, right?

4:30pm update
Okay, here's what was different: some (not all) of the groceries reopened; El Rancho and Tom Thumb were doing a brisk business. The church parking lots that were overflowing for Christmas Eve (during the daylight I can see the signs advertising their multiple services) are empty, as are the Finer Steak Houses (Rick Stein's; III Forks; Ruth's Chris; Del Frisco's). A few restaurants that were open last night (Blackfinn; Burger Street) are closed, while others (Humperdink's; Sonic Drive-In; Furr's) have opened - mostly the Asian ones - Thai, Chinese. Some Starbucks locations are open while others remain closed. The movie theatres are open. Blockbuster and Hollywood Video are open - presumably to put something inside all the Shiny New DVD players that were under "the tree" this morning. It was warmer (14-15C). Gas prices $2.75 unleaded, $3.28 diesel.

weekend redefined

The local newspaper - supposedly the fount of all knowledge - doesn't know what a "weekend" is. A few years ago, after I observed that I no longer had time to read a daily (paper edition) newspaper, I switched to "weekends only", which arrived on Saturday and Sunday. At some point, that evolved into Friday also and then Monday was added to the mix, so that weekends became 4 days long. Since the Monday paper is always the lightest of the week, it didn't bother me as much as the Friday edition which weighs about thrice as much due to the ads and the double sports section.

Now (a few days ago) I got a robo-dial from the paper saying that (effective immediately) my weekend edition would change to Thursday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday. I suspect it has a lot to do with declining ad revenues but there's apparently nothing I can do to stop the Thursday-Friday editions from going straight from my sidewalk to the recycle bin (I still don't have time to read those days). Today - a Tuesday - there's a newspaper on my sidewalk. So I guess "weekend" == "Thursday through Sunday + US Postal Holidays"?

KVAM on the fritz .. wait, no .. it's okay now

Every once in awhile, the mouse attached to my KVM switch locks up. The cure is to unplug the mouse from the switch, count to 4 and reinsert it. This doesn't happen with the keyboard, audio* or video - only the mouse. Today is one of those days.
* (Deep Thoughts:) should mine be properly called a KVAM because it switches audio, too, in addition to Keyboard Video Mouse? Why is there a radio station (Weatherford, Oklahoma) with the callsign KAVM, yet none with the callsign KVAM?

Monday, December 24

Nothing says Christmas Eve like a thick, juicy steak

Between 10 and 11pm tonight, I drove around to see what businesses were open, now that the bulk of Texas is shut down for Christmas Eve - a Christian holiday.

What was open: every gas station; 7-11 stores; drugstores (CVS and Walgreens); liquor stores and at least three of the finer steak houses (although they appeared to be closing around 10pm .. the valets were handling the last cars). One local bar was doing a brisk business at 11pm. Not surprisingly, a few churches were holding late-night services and had full parking lots. I spotted a couple "24x7" restaurants -- IHOP and Denny's -- open, but the only fast-food drive-thru doing business was Burger Street. The hotel lobbies were open (of course) - probably for people who were banned from their relatives' homes for the holiday.

It'll be interesting to see how many of these businesses will be open by noon tomorrow. Yesterday - Christmas Adam (a/k/a Festivus) - everything retail was open.

During tonight's trip, my car thermometer registered between 1-7C (colder as I neared the various creeks), and I noticed regular gasoline averaged $2.80, $3.10 for premium (and diesel selling for about $3.50).

Saturday, December 22

numerology: from 12.2 to 9.2 (with a stop at 14.5 en route)

Ah, the joy of electricity deregulation. My provider waited until 1 picosecond after my contract expired to raise my electric rate from 12.2¢ to 14.5¢ (per kwh). So, I logged onto Power To Choose and switched providers - again. I think this is about the 5th time I've changed since deregulation happened here. Now, I have a rate of 9.2¢ per kwh but that's expected to fluctuate, and since there was no contract I can switch without penalty if they get out of line.

The fact that my new provider uses about 50% coal is irrelevant. If it was important that we conserve resources and use renewable sources of energy, the Texas legislature would mandate it, right?

Thursday, December 13

cascading ...

Last Friday, Trish-Bob sent me to Benbrook to deliver Rambo to a foster family (long story, don't ask). Naturally, I couldn't leave until 4pm because Justin-Bob -- Tim-Bob's son -- had to go back to Lowe's for more stain (he was supposed to be there 10 days earlier but it turns out solid-core 1-3/8" doors are a special order item).
If I haven't lost you yet, I will ...
While I was waiting for Justin-Bob, I noticed the pop-up message on my PDA saying that it was Daniel-Bob's 50th birthday. Hmmm. I phoned Judy-Bob to inform her of the fact and she suggested we all meet at Ed's Deli on Sunday for a Breakfast Birthday Event [BBE]. Since I'd never been to a BBE before, I agreed (5 of us would eventually be there, including Mark and Joe-Bob).
The nicely-wrapped gift of Faux Spam wasn't the highlight; that honor goes to the plain-white-cover on the Sexaholics Anonymous book (lest I digress)
As I was leaving (did I mention it was Cold & Rainy?) I spotted a pour soul with an EVENT jacket standing in the intersection at Preston/LBJ-635 with a "sandwich sign" saying that Petco was having a G.O.O.B. sale -- not to be confused with a GOOB(er). "Whaaat?" (I shouted to myself as I clamped on the brakes). "Petco's going out of business?" (turns out it's limited to the location at Preston Royal, where the Mean Old Landlord has raised the rent to the point it was unprofitable to remain open .. now Tom Thumb -- owned by Safeway -- will expand into their space starting in January).

I can no longer pass up a CLEARANCE sale (thank you, Judy-Bob), so JACK (Just Another Car) ferried me there post haste. I was checking out the "ALL SALES ARE FINAL" merchandise (did I mention this is where Jill Wazabob found Marvin?) -- I've learned that while the (currently 20%) discounts certainly will increase, the only thing left at The End of the Going Out Of Business sale will be those poor orphan items that Only A Mother Could Love -- I ran into an Australian with dreadlocks, shopping (with his Dallas-originated girlfriend) for one of those multi-level cat houses. I noticed his Aussie accent and asked if he was from Melbourne. "No," he said, "The Great Barrier Reef". Since I didn't know that any humans actually lived in The Reef (I strongly suspect he lived nearby) I asked him if a news report I'd read about the coral being bleached due to Global Warming was true. He said "yes, it's true .. it's still not widespread but the early effects are obvious and it may all be gone in our lifetime - the next 50 years or so".

So there you have it. If Trish-Bob hadn't done The Intervention (again, don't ask) I wouldn't have confirmation from an Aussie-with-dreadlocks that our American excesses WRT power are bleaching/killing the coral halfway across the globe. I silently wondered if Jill - who dived there years ago and met Paul The Divemaster - knew about that Catastrophe In The Making, and the cascade effect it will have.

Now can I go back to reading the prose on my breakfast cereal box?

Wednesday, December 5

genealogical deep thought

does anyone know: are Dad Gummit and Dag Nabbit related? If so, how?

Tuesday, December 4

Messing with Texas

I just turned in a litterer (anonymously, since the website [Don't Mess with Texas : Report A Litterer] didn't ask who I was). I wasn't sure what he threw out - chicken bones, cigarettes, papers .. all I saw was a pile-o-stuff being launched, about 10 feet to my right.

What will happen next - he'll get a postcard saying "someone saw you"? I'll bet he frames those as trophies. (actually, he'll probably just toss them out his window at the next opportunity).

Sunday, November 25


okay, will someone explain to me why there are no (zero) 2-line DECT phones?

I am baffled why there are dozens of 1-line phones, but ansolutely none that meet my needs - of a second phone line. This cannot possibly be an oversight - is there something in the Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications 6.0 standard that says "single line only"?

Thursday, November 22

sniff, sniff ...

I've had the A/C off for over a month, and last night I flipped on the heat (thermostat set for 20C in the winter, 26C in the summer). Indeed, there was that unmistakable aroma, as in years past ...

Watching Dallasonians (Dallasites? Dallaseneans?) is entertaining this time of the year, as they pull their Heavy Winter Clothing out of storage when it drops below 20C outside. It seems to affect Our Latino Friends the most, who appear .. well .. paralyzed. I can only image the trauma affecting those who migrated farther north .. like (gasp!) New Hampshah.

Weather watchers (Jill, are you listening?) will be entertained to know that rain is predicted for the 2nd half of this 4-day weekend. And you know what that means, right? Free Car Wash!!!

The South American Loophole

Honestly, if a retailer's not open by 7AM Friday, why bother?

I suppose getting the "weekend only" edition of the local paper entitles me to mid-week holidays, too. So, this morning I waddled out to the front yard to fetch the paper, and quickly noticed that the ads outweighed the news - by a substantial amount. They could have saved their money with me, since the last place I'll be tomorrow is anywhere near a B&M.

As usual, they're outdoing each other to see who can open the earliest on Black Friday. This year, the prize goes to Circuit City, who will open from 9PM-Midnight tonight. Sure, you purists will say "but that's cheating! - it's still Thursday" but I say "Huzzah! for thinking out of the box". As Everybody Knows(tm), 9PM Central Time is midnight in Santiago and Buenos Aires (both are in America, albeit South), so it appears the Circuit Cityfolk are taking advantage of the average Texan's ignorance of geography.

Anyway, according to the ads, here are the opening times for those stores who didn't take advantage of The South American Loophole:
4 AMJC Penney; Kohl's
5 AMBest Buy; Circuit City; Fry's; Linens-n-Things; Old Navy; Pepboys; Sam's Club; Sears; Toys-R-Us
5:30 AMDick's Sporting Goods; Sports Authority
6 AMBed Bath & Beyond; JoAnn Farbics; Macy's; Radio Shack; Target
7 AMAcademy; Burlington Coat Factory; GameStop; OfficeMax; the great indoors; Ulta; World Market
Note that I'm simply ignoring anyone who opens at 8AM - like that's early.

Observation: two sporting goods stores - Dick's and Sports Authority - bucked the even-hour trend and will open at 5:30. Their rival - Academy - doesn't open until 90 minutes later. By then, the shelves at the former will surely be barren, with nothing left but mismatched pairs of Chinese-made tube socks.
Everybody Knows is a trademark of the state-run media (Fox "News"); Rush Limbaugh Productions; and the Christian Fascist Republican Party.

Saturday, November 17

Yellow Elephant of the Year: T. Boone Pickens

The Why Am I Not Surprised Award goes to Firedoglake for this gem:

Swift Boat Funder T. Boone Pickens Reneges On John Kerry Million Dollar Offer

I suppose the curious reader could also search the web for "Pickens renege" .. which are soon to be synonyms.

Friday, November 16

somebody please hand my my cane ...

It's weird being suddenly part of the "you don't matter anymore" crowd.

Today, I got an email from Wired magazine, asking me to complete a 10-minute survey. Once I told them (in the first 2 questions) that I'm a 50 year-old male, it said "no thanks" and sent me packing:
"Thank you very much for your interest in our survey. Unfortunately you did not qualify for today's survey. Because our research was targeted at individuals that match a particular profile, not everyone who receives an initial email will qualify to take the survey. Please be assured that information is not recorded unless a survey is successfully completed."
Does anyone know what Cod Liver Pills taste like?

Wednesday, November 14

an observation, and a question

From afar, it appears to me that Benazir Bhutto is the Rudy Guiliani of Pakistan.

She did a miserable job when she was prime minister, and still has a huge corruption scandal with which to contend. Other than a pretty face and a mostly comprehendable English accent, she appears to have no credibility.

I don't get it -- why are so many Pakistanis rallying around her?
Is this an ABM (Anyone But Musharraf) backlash?

Didn't the USA try that with ABC (Anyone But [Bill ]Clinton)?
Uh, and how did that work for ya?

Wednesday, November 7


In checking this morning's email, I spotted one from Jill, who says she arrived home in Hoosierville at precisely 12:20am Wednesday (after leaving Dallas around noon Tuesday). I guess she didn't stop in Arkansas for boiled green peanuts, as I recommended.

The last night here, we split a pizza (delivered by a member of the Russian mob) and watched Infamous (2006) which came out one year after Capote (2005) and 39 years after In Cold Blood (1967). Hmm .. I wonder why the sudden refascination with Truman Capote (who died just short of his 60th birthday)?

Meanwhile #1: I found out that the local business where I bought my lawnmower makes house calls (sorta). Since the boot (trunk) of my own car is too small to accommodate a lawnmower, I asked them to pick it up for service yesterday. When the gent arrived and I explained the problem, he said he could probably fix it on the spot, and did so in about 30 minutes. The last time I used it (Saturday) it sounded as if the engine was on its last legs, but that wasn't the case .. it just needed someone to give it a swift kick in the bum.

Meanwhile #2: Samantha (my 14-year old black cat) spent the night at the vet, for observation. She's been under the weather the past 3 weeks or so, having "trouble" with the litterbox and generally acting lethargic. The vet suspects some dehydration, although I watch her saunter to the water bowl many times throughout the day. I'll call them when they open, later this morning, to see what they found.

Saturday, November 3


Jill's been in town for a couple days, crashing my guestroom (she's not couchsurfing), but that's no excuse for not updating my blog, right?

We took the train to watch the Stars lose to the San Jose Sharks 2-4 on Monday night, then (at The Saucer on Friday) got invited to last night's game where they lost to the Phoenix Coyotes 0-5. Jill and Brian watched them lose to the Chicago Blackhawks 4-5 on Wednesday night. So, while Jill was in town, the team was 0-3. Coincidence? I can't think of a more logical correlation!

Melinda bought the tickets (platinum seating!) and her 13-year old daughter was there for comic relief. At least she wasn't texting the entire game, as I saw at a Stars game last year.
Deep Thought: why would you spend $100 to sit in an arena (the American Airlines Center), with the sole purpose of Texting Your Friends the entire game? Couldn't you do that in the parking lot outside and save the money? I'm sure the conversations were something like "Hey, Britney - I'm at the STARS GAME!!!!!!!!!!" I suspect these are mostly Park Cities (or - gasp! Plano) teens who are so self-absorbed that all they can think of is impressing their friends that Mummy and Deddy were stupid enough to spend money to send them to the game (which is probably cheaper than bailing them out of jail after being arrested at an underage party at the home of that SMU lawyer who's on a monthlong vacation in The Canaries). Oops/sorry .. I'm digressing ...
At any rate, I was very proud of Melinda and Carson, who (after buying Stars jerseys and putting them on) started dancing and ended up on the JumboTron, about 2:30 before the game ended (woo hoo). I grabbed this still frame from one of the movies I took, which nearly used up my 2 GB memory card. Pretty amazing that the photos/movies I took in 2 hours could easily fill about three CD-Rs (which turns the "could you email me the pictures?" into a monumental task).

Anyway, tomorrow, Jill's running the DRC Half Marathon so I'll provide Limo Service at 7am. Maybe I'll park my car and Text all my friends: "Hey, Britney - I'm at the MARATHON!!!!!!"

Friday, November 2

All Clear

I had my two-week eye exam this morning, and the doctor/surgeon gave me a clean bill of health. I can now stop most of the water torture (one week to "come down" off the corticosteroid drops, and then I'm done) and don't have to go back until January, when he'll tell me that I can play the piano again.

It's too bad that I didn't get a cataract in my left eye at the same time, since it'd be nice to have perfect vision in both eyes. As it is, I can wear my (gas permeable) contact lens several hours a day, but the eyeglasses I wore at home are now completely useless; the resulting double-vision is unworkable. It's something like wearing stilts on one foot and flats on the other -- but I was told that before the surgery so it's not a shock.

Now, I'm learning to ignore the complete blur in my left eye (home during the day) and 20/20 vision in my right eye, when I'm not wearing my contact lens (not lenses).

Sunday, October 21

next Smart stop: Austin

The Smart Car Roadshow is in Dallas this weekend (Mockingbird Station), so I waddled down to take the car for a quick spin. Sadly, that's about all I got, as they're cranking up to 500 people/day through the five (5) cars they have available for test (four Passion models and one Cabriolet).

First reaction: at $13,590 it's almost like having a disposable car (compared to my normal wheels - a completely unfair comparison). While standing in line, they show you the Crash Test Video which is a must-see, especially here in Texas where F350s and soccer-mom-powered SUVs have a tendency to tailgate with abandon.

The Smart US models have a 33 liter (8.7 gallon) fuel tank, which gives it a 300 mile range, more or less. The engine is a 3-cylinder, 1-liter gasoline powered engine. Don't expect the G-forces to whip your neck off, but for a city car .. I'd buy one. If nothing else, because they're Just So Dern Cute.

Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. (repeat)

One of the more annoying things about my recent eye surgery involves The Next 30 Days, which involves a lot of eye drops. Four times a day, I'm supposed to use Vigamox (antibiotic); Econopred Plus (corticosteroid) in addition to the Travatan-Z I take before bedtime.

I calculated 270 drops in the next month, all to be taken a few hours apart. While it's not the same as Chinese Water Torture it's as close as I care to get. Time to develop a 30-day spreadsheet.

Several of the nurses noticed my long eyelashes and said that's common among people who take Travatan (to keep my IOP - intraocular pressure - in check).

Not shown: Systane lubricant eye drops (I was cautioned that they are preservative-free so each tube must be used immediately).

Earlier (in a comment) Geoff asked "why all the Tylenol?" and my answer is that I had a dull headache for a day or so after the actual surgery. It really wasn't a lot of pain - more like the dull throb I get when listening to most VP-level conference calls.

Both my ophthalmologist and eye surgeon warned me that I may want to have surgery on the other eye, and today I understand why. Everything's dandy (!) when I wear my contact lens in the non-operative eye, but wearing eyeglasses (now a clear lens on the right) is a bit like wearing flat heels on one foot and stilts on the other. It's truly odd that I can see clearly out of my right eye when I wake up - for the past 45 years I've always reached for my eyeglasses before even getting out of bed.

Odds are that I will have the same surgery on my left eye, since I can't wear contact lenses all day (they're gas permeable - hard - due to my astigmatism) and the double-vision with the glasses is unacceptable. Right now, I'm entering this blog by closing the right eye, which is now great for distance but lousy for reading or computing. Looks like a new set of Reading Glasses is in my future: oy.

Saturday, October 20

We're #2! We're #2!

Finally .. something where Texas isn't Dead Last:
"A review by The Associated Press shows Texas is No. 2 in the nation in the number of teachers sanctioned for sexual misconduct. Texas Education Agency records indicate at least 200 teachers have active sanctions on their certifications for sexual misconduct that occurred between 2001 and 2005. At least 50 more certified teachers faced sex crime allegations, but had their sanctions lifted or have decisions pending."
I'm sure that George W. Bush, Karl Rove, John Cornyn, Kay Bailey Hutchison, and Rick Perry and all brimming with pride today over this accomplishment. I'm sure these Texas Republicans will do everything in their pahr (power) to make Texas #1 in that statistic Real Soon Now.

Meanwhile, here's another case where Texas is No. 1: "Percentage of People Without Health Insurance"
In 2006, the percentage uninsured ... among the 20 largest states ranged from 7.7% in Michigan to 23.8% in Texas. (CDC)

Friday, October 19

eye surgery update

I'll add details later, but .. my eye surgery ("cataract extraction and intraocular lens implant") was yesterday, and today I return to get the bandage (patch) removed. Then, I'll know whether this was a success or not. The discharge paperwork said I could take Tylenol for the pain, so I've been doing that every four hours.

From the time I checked in (07:15) until the time they wheeled me into the surgery area was two hours, so I was mostly annoyed, although the COLORS during surgery were very impressive (yes, they keep you awake during the procedure).

Tuesday, October 16

your name will be "Out of Area"

It's taken nearly two years, but I finally found something about my cellphone provider that annoys me. This reply should be self-explanatory:
"Verizon Wireless values your business, and we apologize for the inconvenience of your phone, not displaying your name on the caller ID. I regret to inform you that we do not currently provide the option to personalize the caller ID, for the calls that you place. Currently we only provide the option to display your mobile number and an "unknown, or unavailable caller ID".
Still, the alternative could be far worse. I could be one of those blokes with an iPhone, helplessly wedded to AT&T Wireless. Oh, the horror.

Wednesday, October 10

limited attention spans

I completed my screening of Ken Burns' The War (thanks, TiVo). Some people said this 7-part miniseries (17 hours total) was too long, but .. 17 hours is 70% of 24 - which would be a daily dose of The History Channel, so .. I'm not sure what they're complaining about. I suspect Limited Attention Spans [LAS] are involved here.

My only complaint about the series: they didn't use subtitles whenever a Southerner was interviewed. I couldn't understand about half of what they said.

Speaking of LAS, I took the freeway en route to this afternoon's doctor visit, and only had to travel 3 exits. Before I got to the onramp, I flipped on the AM radio to catch the traffic report (in case I had to use the surface streets). Since AM radio is dominated by talk radio (100% of which is CFRP in Texas - probably a state law) I thought I'd be able to listen long enough for one traffic report, since they update every ten minutes. No such luck. I could only stomach the lies and distortion for about 3 minutes before the blatant stupidity made me turn it off. Pity there's no more Fairness Doctrine, which would require the airing of both sides. Good thing I didn't need a traffic report, as it was moving smoothly during my lengthy exposure.

Remember the V-chip? I think there's a market for an S-chip: a Stupid-Detecting Radio. When enough Right Wing BS is detected, the radio would either change to NPR or (if there was no local NPR affiliate) play electronic cricket chirps. Ideally it would be mandatory in all SUVs - and could not be turned off or muted if there was only one occupant (98.4% of the time).

Thursday, October 4

rechargeable AA and AAA batteries

I've had mixed success with rechargeable batteries, but that's due to my early use (and ignorance) of low-capacity cells. I assumed that all 1.5V batteries were the same - not even.

I've been trying to use rechargeable batteries whenever possible and am experimenting with different brands. AAAs max out at ~900 mAh .. some are only rated at 500 mAh and drain at 2%/day! I have some (Sanyo) Eneloops en route and have higher hopes for their shelf life, although they're only rated at 800 mAh - Rayovac's Hybrid brand also promise better shelf life, too.

AA rechargeables can be had in 2500+ mAh flavors but they're not yet commonly available that way in retail - I spotted mostly low capacities when visiting the nearby MicroCenter and had much better luck (2500 mAh Nuon brand) at the (chain) Batteries+ location.

I took my Digital Audio Recorder (an Olympus DS-2300) out for a single 5 hour session a few weeks ago, and the batteries held up nicely. Odds are I'll always keep a spare set handy, though -- lesson learned with digicams, which tend to powerfail on me at The Most Inopportune Moment.

I'm using LaCrosse Technology's BC-900 (AA/AAA charger, NiCd/NiMH) which provides real insight into the charging process, although there are web reports of overheating (to the point of melting!) so I won't leave it unattended (those reports are dated early 2006 -- so it's possible mine has better firmware).

My preferred travel charger is the Energizer (NiMH) CHDC-CA although I'm not thrilled with its performance .. only the size (not all chargers can charge both AA and AAA). They have a new USB model which has onscreen monitoring, and hence shows promise (assuming I'm packing my laptop).

History lesson: my first battery charger was the (Radio Shack) Archer 23-122, which belongs in a museum somewhere. It charged NiCad AA, C and D cells. Years later, I favored Olympus' BU-100 which charged Ni-MH AA cells, but the required power cord is unwieldy for travel (it's since been upgraded - the latest model appears to be the BU-500 and there's no cord).

If you travel internationally, you'll need a power converter for the models with integrated US power prongs (115 VAC), but .. that goes without saying.

Wednesday, October 3

today's POTUS translation

This story is all over the web today:
"Bush vetoes child health insurance plan"
.. but it really deserves a translation, straight from His own lips:
"Your parents am Democrat. So, it's just gooder if you DIE DIE DIE."
.. as he says with a Cheney-inspired smirk. I've completely lost the ability to be surprised by the depravity of this regime.

Friday update: Today, President Quagmire repeated the "This government does not torture people" lie. What he meant to say was: "We Outsource Our Torture" (probably to the Albanians, Chinese, etc).

Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing his reaction to the use of "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" on his daughter Jenna .. on her (upcoming) wedding day. Since he's confirmed that EIT<>Torture, I'm sure he'll be okay with that.

Double-bonus points if her sister Barbara is drafted to fight in Iraq on the same day, along with 25,000 of her CFRP cohorts.

Friday, September 28

shopping online: observations

I read an item on the Usability Sciences site: Shipping Options positively impact Retail Websites which attempts to explain why so few people (7%, in their study) who enter a website make purchases. I'm not sure they got it right.

To be sure, there are many cases where I (virtually) wandered around an online store and didn't buy anything. There are other times where I've bought something and never returned (example: Uneetee's low-quality T-shirts). I suspect one thing online merchants aren't considering is how easy it is to compare vendors while online. This is something that's much harder in the B&M world, absent an army of friends with cellphones shopping for the same item simultaneously.
A friend of mine explained The Secret of Retail to me this way: If you don't have it, get it. If you do have it, sell it (quickly). Unwritten: if you can't sell it, get rid of it and make way for something that will sell. All sounds simple, but it's not -- consumers are fickle.
I've often browsed an online store and found something I like. My next step is to open a new browser tab to compare bottom-line prices (shipping plus sales tax). Some shopping bots make this easier than others (I continue to admire the simplicity of the "Total price" column on; the savings can be significant. Nor do I always buy from the lowest-price vendor: a low rating will send me scurrying away, while a seller in a nearby state may get my business versus one at either coast (shipping times). Frequently, I will wait for The Exact Model to be in stock.

Once I'm convinced the merchant is reputable and the final price is acceptable, I make my purchase and abandon the e-shopping cart in the other browser tab. I'm then nothing more than a Lost Business Statistic, since there's no analysis of why I didn't buy (odds are high that I wouldn't take the time to explain myself - life is too short). The online merchant is left bewildered (often "clueless"), but no more so than most B&Ms (absent the rare occasion where a clerk asks "did you find everything you want?" -- and really meant it).

One of the most egregious examples of this has to be Amazon Marketplace (the "used and new" merchant selector). Example: given a random shopping cart full of ten books I'm left to attempt combining - manually - my orders so as to minimize the default impact of paying ten shipping charges to ten different vendors. What would be Real Sweet (are you listening, Geoff?) is if I could automagically find a bottom-line price for all books in my cart. IMHO, Amazon Marketplace got it backwards - I'm left to choose the vendor first, then the product. Honestly, I seldom care who's selling to me, as long as they meet my reliability specs.

True, some books may be a dollar more here than there, but this is offset by a reduction in total shipping charges, and presumably fewer parcels en route to me. I would much rather get one box than ten, scattered across 5 days. There's a market out there for an aggregator for Amazon Marketplace, to fix this problem.

Bottom line? I suspect what I'm seeking is some sort of [x]Minimize Vendors button which would give me no more than 3 options:

$100 gets 5 books from Vendor A, 3 from vendor B and 2 from vendor C;
$110 gets 8 books from Vendor D and 2 from Vendor B;
$120 gets all 10 books from an aggregator.

Unspoken Fourth Option:

$140 gets 10 books from 10 vendors (the Amazon Marketplace default)

Granted there is a lot of work to be done here, since the quality of those Used Pre-owned Books may vary wildly by vendor, depending on inventory - yes, I understand that. Would (m)any people other than me find this useful? Unknown. For many years, I have used an e-merchant's Wish List to hold books or CDs for which I didn't want immediate gratification. In some cases, I'm waiting for the price to fall (why pay $75 for a new book when I might find a used one for $25 in 2 months' time?) while in other cases I'm simply trying to minimize the total shipping costs.

Anecdotally, I've noticed that shipments to me via FedEx has become erratic in the past few months; their predicted arrival date is often off by two days or more, while UPS has been spot-on. Is this a trend?

Wednesday, September 26

what is is?

Last night, Judy-Bob dragged me to a biweekly session of the Dallas Philosopher's Forum which meets at a local IHOP. My last exposure to philosophy was a Philosophy 101 class I took to satisfy a freshman college requirement. I decided not to pursue this field then, and now - 30 years later - I remember why. To document last night's excursion, I made a few notes:
  1. IHOP doesn't tolerate meetings well - they had no way to independently turn off music in the meeting room without shutting it down for those who dined in the main room

  2. this group has been meeting for many years; they take a summer vacation partly because "it's too hot to meet"

  3. $4/meeting or $25/6 months (a $48 value - WOW!!!)

  4. tonight ~25 people (including 6 women)

  5. The lecturer was a professor from the University of Dallas, whose topic was "Religion and Aesthetics"
    "Both religion and aesthetics follow from the bipolarity of human existence, grounded in the sensory and ontologically referred to the Whole. Religions provide the umbrella of meaning by showing how we fit into the Whole. From ontological distance, we can learn to appreciate sensory surface aesthetically either by itself or as mediating wider meaning. The interplay between the sensory and the space of meaning is where art occurs. We will examine a few specimens of how religion and aesthetics interpenetrate in the work of art."
  6. it was a discussion of art, without any visual aids - he had trouble with a photocopier, apparently

  7. the microphone had an apparent "speaker filter" which amplified others' voices, but not his

  8. the overhead projecter (remember those?) pointed to the ceiling during most of the lecture

  9. the speaker read his ~20 page paper, but encountered noticable delays when changing pages. Didn't he number them?

  10. Wikipedia has lots of pages on philosophy, according to a pre-lecture discussion we overheard. I confirmed that later - see Wikipedia's philosophy page for example

  11. most used word: ontological - 31 times

  12. least used word: teleological - zero (I remembered it from my Philosophy 101 class)

  13. most unexpected repetition: putative - used 5+ times

  14. NeoPlatanism ("the synthesis of Christianity and Platonism into a single system")

  15. Unexpected outburst of the evening
    • Speaker:"we are conceived in (something) of animal lust"
    • YEAH!! shouts a woman

  16. Philosophers referenced: Martin Heidegger; Jean-Paul Sartre; Augustine; Aristotle; Søren Kierkegaard; Friedrich Nietzsche; Socrates; Aquinas ("a philosopher and theologian in the scholastic tradition"); Herocles of Ephesus

  17. Literary references: Walter Pater ("English essayist and art and literary critic"); William Blake ("an English poet, visionary, painter, and printmaker"); Plato's Republic

  18. Stuff it would've been handy to know before the lecture: Apollonian and Dionysian; Byzantine; Pythagoreanism; Galen; The Whore of Babylon

  19. Art references: Piet Mondrian; Matthias Grünewald's "The Crucifixion"; LeRoy Neiman

  20. Music references: Richard Wagner; Socrates and "the study of harmonics"

  21. Speaker's big laugh for the evening: "you can't stop rock and roll" related to the Berlin Wall (this had the crowd rolling on the floor)

  22. Q & A

    • q- "where would you publish this paper?"
      a- (baffled)

    • q- what do you mean by "heart of hearts?"
      a- "fundamental orientation of self to the whole"
    • discussion of "inate sense of perfection"
    • "notion of a heart" - metaphoric analysis
    • ancient iconoclasts and destruction of religious symbols
    • European cathedrals as a "portal to the divine"
    • observation: philosophers can't do basic math (4/3 v 3/4) or standup comedy
    • visible/intelligible dichotomy

Conclusion: the chicken sandwich at IHOP was edible.

Monday, September 24

hard to believe, but ..

... after reading reports of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's appearance at Columbia University, I can only conclude that there's at least one world leader with an IQ lower than that of George Walker "Dubya" Bush.

Friday, September 21

the Googleplex is (back) in the house ...

It's a good thing I have 9+ Internet devices at home. When one fails, I often just mosey to another, since the outage is frequently very temporary.

Such was the case with my Mac mini, which .. about a week or so ago .. inexplicably stopped accessing anything related to Google .. the search engine, Google Reader, Gmail, Blogger .. you name it. I could get to everything else, just not Google-anything.

This happened on the 2 browsers I have installed in addition to (the default) Safari .. namely Camino and Firefox .. so it had to be something lower in the stack. So, I used Yahoo! search and typed "unable to access google" and wandered across a suggestion to use a different DNS server (than the one my ISP thoughtfully provides). Okay, worth a try .. so I changed that preference in OS X .. waited a few minutes for the Mac to absorb the impact (ha!) and now I'm happily browsing again.

I suppose I should credit the nice folks at OpenDNS although I'll be derned if I know why the rest of the boxes on my LAN can see the Googleplex and not the Mac mini - presumably they're using the same DNS -- go figure.

Unrelated: my 500 GB LaCie disc/hub arrived today .. setup was uneventful. Now I have more than enough space for my iTunes collection. Good: the price was right, and the extra (very accessible) ports are a nice touch. Bad: both the Mac mini and the LaCie have the old Firewire 400 interface, so there's a perceptible lag when I fetch video from my iTunes library (although the audio seems okay).

Wednesday, September 19

Representation without representation

One of the more annoying problems about living in Red-State Texas is that there is no US Senator who will listen to reason. Both Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) are both lock-step Republicans, and simply will not listen to any constituent who has a thought which isn't shared by President Quagmire Bush.

So, when issue-upon-issue makes it to my desk, and I'm asked to call or email my representative, I've concluded that it's a Waste Of My Time to make my views known to either Hutchison or Cornyn, since they're going to vote against my best interests regardless of how nicely I ask.

Does this mean the fascists have won? In a sense, yes .. because I've grown weary (in my advanced age) of wasting my time, calling a senator who simply doesn't care what I think. Ditto goes for Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who barely fogs a mirror over on the House of Representatives side of the hall.

Given that incumbents win 99% of the time, and there are no term limits for the House or Senate, this trio will likely stay in power until their deaths. Maybe Texas won't always stay this way, but for now .. there's nobody in Washington who represents me. Nobody.

Tuesday, September 11

another 9/11

I turned 50 today. I skillfully avoided anything remotely resembling a celebration (who would choose a birthday on 9/11?) so .. I can now start checking the (x)50-54 box on all those surveys which land in my lap.

The only recent good news (?): my eye surgery's now scheduled .. for late October. The surgeon tells me that, after it's done, and presumably for the first time in my life, I'll have near-perfect vision in my right eye. Because of my severe nearsightedness, I may elect to have the same procedure done on my left eye, because it will be such an imbalance. They won't do them any sooner than two weeks apart, and due to the popularity (!) of this clinic, and how long it takes to make an appointment for anything, it'll be a minimum of six weeks, if I decide that's what I want to do.

I was told the imbalanced vision will be a little like walking on stilts .. but only on the right leg. I can hardly wait.

By the way, those Travatan-Z eyedrops I'm taking each night appear to be Doing The Trick, as my IOP [intra-ocular pressure] has dropped to 15 ("average") in both eyes, down from 24-26 before. Woo hoo. Will I be on these the rest of my life? Time will tell. Per gallon, this stuff must cost well over $1 Billion .. the drug companies are making out like bandits, fer sher.

Thursday, September 6

A pleasant experience at the DMV? Really?

<-- Can you spot the DMV in this shopping center?

A few days before my driver's license expired (and this was an "odd" renewal so I couldn't do it online) I called the local(*) Texas Department of Public Safety office and asked, simply "which days are the least busy?" and was told "Wednesday and Thursday". Armed with that information, I proceeded to the DMV at 10am this morning - a Thursday - and saw a line snaking out the door. Not a good sign, I thought. They opened at 7am - I should've come then, I thought - but that would've conflicted with my 8am dentist appointment (another joy in life).
(*)Perhaps doing my homework helped - I determined that the nearest office was [Dallas East] so I Google-Earth'd it and reckoned that I knew the intersection: Northwest/Jupiter. My plan involved not driving downtown to face The Main DMV Office (queue scary music).
So, I whipped out my iPod and proceeded to listen to Yet Another Podcast. However, the line was moving. Quickly. Once inside the door, I could see the signs - in both Spanish and English - advising me not to mean against the walls. As if! It was also entertaining to see the ethnic mix: I was one of only two whiteys in a 15-person line. I soon found myself in front of the Triage Clerk (my term) and I explained that I was there for a renewal. She handed me a number and a 12-question (?) form, and waved me toward a counter. No pens were anywhere to be found, but a Latino gent sensed my plight and let me borrow his. I finished in about 60 seconds and returned his pen - he seemed surprised for two reasons: (1) I returned his pen and (2) I completed the task in less than 10 minutes.

The questions were simple - basically asking if I had any condition that would keep me from getting a renewal - it was very transparent. Once done, I sat down and waited for my number to be called. The paper slip said "WAITING TIME 5min." and it was right, more or less. So much for listening to my podcast - there wouldn't be time! My number soon flashed on The Big Board and I proceeded to the designated clerk, who asked me to (a) read 3 lines of numbers-in-a-box; (b) submit my left+right thumbprint; (c) pay the $24 renewal in cash; (d) sign my name; (e) smile for the photo; and (f) don't let the door hit you on the way out. My license will arrive in 4-6 weeks from Austin TX and meanwhile-hang-onto-this-document-it-shows-you've-renewed.

Fast and easy? Surprisingly (shockingly) YES. The hardest part was just finding the place - it was listed on the DMV's website, but I wasn't expecting a hole-in-the-wall in a strip shopping center. I guess at my next renewal - in 2012, I think - they'll have valet parking.

Friday, August 31

what Geoff said ...

as we're wont to say in email circles:

+1 (I agree)


Wednesday, August 29

taking public transit? make sure your iPod's full of podcasts

I was dinking around with Google Transit tonight (mass transit planner) and made a few trip estimates. The total times are in minutes:
 public (walking)car
friend's home (Plano)65 (21)23
Dallas City Hall72 (7)20
DFW airport153 (5)25
Love Field airport122 (21)21
The numbers in (parenthesis) are the walking components; the rest is via bus and/or (light rail) train. Naturally, this also assumes that all trains/buses are on time and (conversely?) there are no delays via car. Add the joys of public transportation: exposure to the elements (40C heat, rain), not to mention Air Guitarists. Still, the (subsidized) cost will be much less than buying /maintaining a car.

Tuesday, August 28

Rudy's has come to town!!! (yawn)

Today's lunch at a customer site was catered by Rudy's Bar-B-Q of Frisco, TX. While that didn't mean anything to me, one of the people started salivating when she heard that Rudy's (apparently of Austin, TX fame) has come to Dallas (actually, a suburb 25 miles north of downtown).

I guess I ain't no BBQ purist, since it tasted like most every other BBQ I've had here. Hmmm.

Unrelated: an article in the Dallas Managed News (Sunday) said that the new foods available at this year's Texas State Fair -- coming Real Soon Now -- are all Deep Fried. That mimics the past few years, where Fried Coke and Fried Avocadoes reigned. Supposedly this year's Most Desired Food will either be
  1. Deep Fried Latte
  2. Fernie's Fried Chili Frito Burrito
  3. B.W.'s Original Fried Banana Pudding
  4. Mama's Fried Sweet Potato Pie
Why doesn't this Fried Food Fascination not surFrise me?

Friday, August 24

passport renewal - arrived!

My renewed passport arrived in today's snail mail. I applied for the renewal in June. Total time required, door-to-door: 9 weeks and 1 day.

Monday, August 20

The Perfect (August Baking) Storm

Got a call from Judy-Bob on Saturday, muttering something about Baking On Sunday. I may have been comatose at the time, and don't recall understanding that this would be an all-day effort. When the temperature's flirting with 100 (Fahrenheit). And the humidity (thanks, Tropical Storm Erin) is Off The Scale. Oy, vey. Couldn't this have waited until February?

The day started innocently enough, with Sunday breakfast. I decided to try sliding into Cindi's New York Deli which often has a long queue, but today we were lucky* and were seated immediately, although they were full soon thereafter.
* there were two firetrucks outside; we were told there had just been a "minor event" in an air conditioning vent but there was no danger. Despite the lack of air conditioning (did I mention this is August in Texas?) the meal was near-perfect, nicely assisted by a rare Perfect Waitress.
After sampling latkes for the first time ever (yes, there are still some unsampled foods out there on My List) we moseyed to the remaining Albertsons location in the area (2 of 3 have closed within the year) and fetched some fresh fruit for The Baking. In this case, we opted for bananas; blueberries; dates and walnuts which are required by the recipe targets (banana bread; blueberry coffee cake; date-nut bread; applesauce cake; molasses-ginger cookies).

While we waited for the oven to do its magic, we watched two classic DVDs: The Terror of Tiny Town (a 1938 western with an "all midget cast") and The Triumph of the Will (the 1935 Nazi propaganda film which still reminds me of a Republican National Convention).

We didn't finish baking (and cleaning up) until 8:30p or so, having made good use of many of the kitchen gadgets in my collection. Judy-Bob brought some stuff I didn't have -- a bundt pan; small loaf pans; sundry spices -- but I suspect she was mildly shocked to discover that my kitchen is as well-equipped as it is.

Alas, it's now Monday morning and I need to find a Good Home for these baked goods. Maybe I'll waddle over to the office and leave them in an unsuspecting break room?

Thursday, August 16

dead Samaritans

I don't know if I'd ever try to assist a motorist in need; there are too many chances of something going wrong. It's safer and easier to dial 911 from my cellphone and summon professional help for them.

Nick Anthony Salinas' toxicology reports aren't back yet, but Dallas police say he must've been high. After an accident on I-35E a few nights ago, he apparently panicked when some guys stopped to help him, and he pulled out a shotgun and fired 7 blasts (the last one was saved for himself). Two men are dead as a result, and the police officer (Jerry Poston) is now blind in his left eye.

The police can cite you for FSRA [Failure to Stop and Render Aid] but I think that's only if you caused the incident. After reading the news about Salinas, I can't imagine ever stopping to help anyone, unless it's in the desert and they're without water or if there's only one of them, or if I'm with some friends and there are more of us than them and ...

Monday, August 13

but .. how will he THINK ?

Word out of DC this morning that Bush's Brain will leave the building at the end of this month. Perhaps then Rove won't be able to claim executive privilege for everything including what He had for breakfast, and He'll be packed off to Gitmo with the rest of the 9/11 Conspirators?

Unrelated: Texas: really, really doomed (in the "Bad Astronomy Blog"). Sadly, this isn't news, as Governor PrettyHair does His best to turn Texas into a White Christian Theocracy.
Update: there's a splendid rumor that Rove will now toss his hand into Rudy Giuliani's campaign for the 2008 election. I can't imagine Rove staying out of politics, but also can't imagine that anything he now touches won't be (rightly so) perceived as Pure Poison.

Sunday, August 12

Dallas finally hits 40

In the Texas summer, it's traditional for the TV weather forecasters to bubble with glee when the temperature reaches 100F for the first time each year. That happened a few days ago, I think.

For me, it's a little different ever since I started my self-imposed Year Of Centigrade. For me, it ain't hot until the mercury reaches 40C (104F). That happened earlier today, just barely. Now, it's heading back to a more comfortable overnight low of 26C. This is the same as I have my summer thermostat set; in the winter I back it off to 20C (68F).

The good news is that I can't remember it ever getting hotter than 47C here, so .. we have a few more toasty days until it starts to autumn (er, fall) back to the 3 weeks of pleasant temperatures.

Unrelated: the sun had finally bleached my windsocks, so it was time for a refill. I ordered several from Into The Wind and they're now installed and spinning away .. colorfully.

Sunday, August 5

comparing multivitamins (male)

My doctor hands all patients something I'll call This Year's Health Recommendations - at the Annual Physical Exam [APE]. One of those bullets includes "daily multivitamin" and I've gotten into the habit of buying Bayer's "One-A-Day Men's Health Formula". Honestly, I never thought much about it.

Recently (at Costco), I spotted a different multivitamin: Nature Made's "Multi for Him" and thought it was probably a clone of the Bayer product: not so. A closer examination showed significant differences between the products. Should I switch?

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I'm just trying to make sense of this stuff.

I was mildly surprised to see that there's disagreement between what the Feds (US Department of Agriculture) and the supplement manufacturers place on their label. The most recent USDA info I found is dated 2002 and I suspect those are current recommendations. I further suspect that this stuff is examined by Real Experts, but I couldn't find it anywhere on The Internets. So, I made my own chart (the numbers are for men age 31-50 and don't apply to anyone else).

Supplement100% DV
100% DV
(USDA, 2002)
Nature Made
Vitamin A5000 IU900 µg50 (60% beta carotene)70 (14% beta carotene)
Vitamin C60 mg90 mg300150
Vitamin D400 IU5 µg250100
Vitamin E30 IU15 mg167150
Vitamin K80 µg120 µg10025
Thiamin(B1)1.5 µg1.2 mg10080
Riboflavin(B2)1.7 mg1.3 mg100100
Niacin20 mg16 mg10080
Vitamin B62 mg1.7 mg200150
Folic Acid400 µg400 µg100100
Vitamin B126 µg2.4 µg300300
Biotin300 µg30 µg1010
Pantothenic Acid10 mg5 mg10050
Calcium1000 mg1000 mg1621
Iodine150 µg150 µg100-
Magnesium400 mg420 mg2530
Zinc15 mg11 mg100100
Selenium70 µg55 µg100150
Copper2 mg900 µg100100
Manganese2 mg2.3 mg200100
Chronium120 µg35 µg100100
Molybdenum75 µg45 µg100-
Potassium4.7 g4.7 g-3
Lycopene (no RDA)650 µg  600 mcg (no DV)

So what did I learn after making this analysis (remember, I Ain't No Doctor)?
  1. The USDA (2002) and the supplement manufacturers don't always agree on RDA [Recommended Dietary Allowances];
  2. The Nature Made product is better in 10 categories;
  3. The Bayer product is better in 5 categories;
  4. Not all categories should be weighted equally (Vitamin C is more important than Molybdenum?)
Bottom line decision? I'll buy whichever is on sale.

Saturday, August 4

USAA - attaboy!

It's not often that you read Good Things about an insurance company, but .. golly gee whiz .. I'm quite happy with mine.

You may recall that I was sideswiped last month, the very day Addison was holding its Kaboom Town celebration (July 3, for those of you who track such things). Although our schedules didn't initially mesh, I finally got a call from my claims adjuster - on a Saturday afternoon - and after describing what happened, she offered to use the Uninsured Motorist deductible ($250) versus my Comprehensive deductible ($1000). She was even so nice as to wire transfer the $750 difference into my checking account.

Woo hoo! I think I'll spend this windfall by adding more insulation to my attic. Oh wait, I already did that. Maybe I'll have my trees trimmed (required every 4 years)? Oh wait, I already did that, too. Hmmm .. maybe I'll treat myself to a Sno-Kone™?

Kudos to USAA (insurance and other Financial Stuff) - above and beyond the call.

Monday, July 30

Mmm .. doughnut !

Although it was a Dark And Stormy Day yesterday, I moseyed about 6 miles south to take in the conversion of a local 7-Eleven to a Kwik-E-Mart. This is proving to be quite a marketing coup, as even the rain couldn't keep the crowd away from the Squishees; Krusty-O cereal; Buzz Cola and (of course!) the pink Sprinklicious doughnuts.

Outside, a local radio station (Mix 102.9) has setup a Simpsons couch complete with the main characters, where you could have your own photo taken, provided you had a camera of your own handy.

Inside, the clerks were wearing green uniforms and one of them had an [Apu] nametag. Sadly, they were completely SOLD OUT of Krusty-O's and Buzz Cola, although Squishees and Pink Doughnuts were still available. But not for long.

Only 12 locations across the country were converted, and apparently only for the month of July (when The Simpsons Movie debuts). I suspect one of their competitors (Circle K, etc) could have come up with this idea first, but they didn't. Kudos, 7-Eleven.

Sunday, July 29

changing another shopping habit

Wow. Very cool .. I may never shop at Home Depot, ever again. Thanks for giving me a good reason to pull the plug on them, Lowes.
Lowe's pulls advertising from O'Reilly show.
Everybody Knows™ that the last time Bill Orally at Faux Noise (kudos to Keith Olbermann) told the truth was when Adam & Eve were riding their dinosaurs to church.

Meanwhile, Texas lawyers are apparently Licking Their Chops after the 2007 Texas Legislative Session. Why? Concerns Abound Over New Religious Laws Passed By Legislature

Saturday, July 28

a drop a day keeps the doctor away

Partial good news from my ophthalmologist yesterday: the prescription eyedrops I've been using since my last visit had the desired effect. In my right (control) eye, my intraocular pressure [IOP] has fallen into an acceptable range (10-21 mm Hg).

I've been seeing this doctor for 2+ years and my IOP's never been below 24 mm Hg, and had risen to 26 mm Hg in my right eye (the one where the cataract is developing). So, he asked me to try one drop/day of Travatan Z. It worked; in 30 days my IOP dropped to 18/19 mm Hg (left/right). Presumably, continued use of these Magic Beans will bring it closer to the middle of that range (15.5 mm Hg if my math skills are intact). Noteworthy: while I only applied drops to one eye, my IOP fell in both eyes; the doctor explained that this proximity effect (he had some Fancy Medical Term for it, but I fërgôt) is not unusual.

The bad news is that I now have Yet Another Prescription and will have to add this to The List. Now that my IOP's controlled, the next step is to contact a cataract specialist (they're not open 24x7) and undergo an evaluation. {sigh} Getting old isn't as much fun as getting young.

Saturday, July 21

Texas 34, Kansas 2

Entertaining spot today on the Red State Rabble blog: Somewhere in Texas. Indeed, it's been my experience that Kansas is waaaay behind Texas when it comes to religious zealots making educational policy.

Don McLeroy's appointment is just another example of Governor PrettyHair's pandering to His base. Kansas is starting to look saner and saner all the time.

Friday, July 20


I got an email from the local blood bank, who said their supply of my blood type (O+) was low, and they needed donors. So, I waddled over at 6:30pm and gave them a unit (my last prior donation was 3 May). Nurse One missed my left arm vein, whispered something about "hematoma" to Nurse Two, at which point Nurse Two took over, switched to the right arm and proceeded. 15 minutes later (not even enough time to catch up on one podcast) I was out of there. Nurse One had disappeared.

I didn't notice anything unusual on the drive home, but about 3 hours later started feeling überwüzy* when walking|standing and decided to crash early. This morning, I'm still feeling the effects a little, so will take it easy (I usually spend my Fridays operating heavy machinery).
* take that, Google whackers!
Aside: they always have some article of (promotional) clothing when leaving - sometimes a ballcap but most often, a white T-shirt. Yesterday, it was a brown T-shirt .. whazzup wit dat?

Monday, July 16

10 years, $141

My car's back from The Body Shop and looks as good as new, mostly. There's a scrape on the rear (plastic) bumper that I don't remember .. it could've been there before The Tragic Event (3/7/7). My cost was the same either way (the deductible) but I noticed the cost rose from $3100->$4400. Good thing it was only the door!

Since Paula was in town, I didn't need to rent a car while mine was being repaired. Why rent a vehicle when it'll be parked the bulk of the time? That changed yesterday, when I decided to slay two birds with one stone. There's been a Herd of aluminum cans in my carport which have Bred over the past ten years or so, and become a Sentient Life Form. It was (past) time for them to GO.

So, I rented a (Dodge Ram) pickup (about 1pm) and proceeded to load bags full of cans into the bed until the pile became One Less Than Unwieldy. It was then time to take them to the recycler in Dallas - about 15 miles 20 minutes away. Amazingly, it netted to 177 pounds of cans (and at 65 cents/pound became $113.75 in my pocket - including a couple $50 bills and one $2 note).
The scene at the Dallas recycler was amusing - about a dozen vehicles unloading various metals - including several suspicious characters selling copper (it's become a high theft item in the past few years). For some metals they asked for photo ID but waved me off when I offered mine.

Easily 80% of the workers and customers were Latino, so there was a fair amount of gesturing but nothing difficult.
Needless to say, I stopped at the nearby Dallas Farmer's Market on the way out of downtown, and got a small supply of fresh fruit, which I'm now happily consuming.

Alas, the place closed at 5pm and it was already nearly 4 .. so no time to bag and schlep the remainder - it'll wait until morning. Today, I decided to locate a different recycler and picked one in Garland. The last five bags were Problem Children - those bags were the oldest (dating to the Pleistocene era) and had begun to decompose - they broke upon lifting. I rebagged those cans and started the journey. Garland only paid 60 cents a pound, but the drive was easier (no freeways). These were Good Ole Texas Boys (with a trifle of An Attitude) .. very different than the day before.

Bottom line total for two trips: $141 for 223 pounds of cans -- and there are now NONE on the property! When I returned the pickup (11am-ish) I paid them ~$60 so actually made money on the exchange, and it only took ten years of can collecting.

Friday, July 6

UPS: $45. UPS battery: $1030

Tuesday afternoon, I bought a very expensive UPS battery, although that wasn't the plan.

After the Nth power outage this year (queue thunderbolt) I decided to replace the battery in one of my Uninterruptable Power Supplies, since it was only giving me about 5 minutes before shutting down the system (the others give me at least 15 minutes each). So, deciding that the light rain wasn't bad, I proceeded to drive west on Beltline and fetch a replacement from Batteries+. Big mistake. I should've gone to any of their other locations. Why?

Well, at the same time I was driving (35 mph limit area) so was one of those F250s pulling a welded-metal gardener's cart. He's in the left lane, I in the center, and .. well .. BOOM! My driver's side window just exploded - no warning. I can only guess that his Gardener's Cart veered into my lane, or he opened fire. Fortunately (tempered safety glass) I wasn't cut or injured, but
  1. my car door was gored;
  2. my mirror destroyed; and
  3. my window was GONE
Shaken, I tried to find a parking lot to pull into, hoping that the gardener would follow. He didn't. Technically, this is what's called a Hit And Run. The next day, I called the Addison TX Police, hoping there may have been a witness who got his license number - no such luck.

So, being only about 2 blocks from the battery store, I collected my nerves and got that %^&* replacement battery ($30). It was then that I opened the door and saw the 6-inch gash in the side of my car, and realized that this could've been much worse. Being 5pm on the day before a holiday, I had to wait two days to see the repair guys (I'd already called my insurance company to obtain The Procedure). I have a $1000 deductible, so that'll be my out-of-pocket cost. My last accident was in 1992 when I lived in Los Angeles, so I've forgotten some of the Subtle Nuances in the ensuing 15 years.

The repair guys say this will take 10 days and ~$3100 to fix. Happy happy joy joy?

Wednesday, July 4

raise rock. drop. document effect.

A few weeks ago, I checked the US Department of Energy's Insulation Fact Sheet and noted that I should have R-38 insulation in my attic, based on 3 factors:
  1. new or existing;
  2. type of heat (oil, gas, electric);
  3. location, location, location
A quick measure showed that what's up there was only R-16 or so and using recent-technology loose-fill (blown-in) insulation would be the best.

Playing with the Insulation Calculator was educational. For my ZIP code, they recommend R-38 in attics where the fuel is natural gas; oil or a heat pump but R-49 for electric or LPG [Liquid Propane]. For all new construction, they're recommending R-49.

The contractor said it would take one day to "install" the additional insulation, and they were finished on schedule yesterday. Now I can wait for my energy costs to drop like a rock, right?

Tuesday, July 3

Conflict of Interest

"Bush wipes away Libby's prison sentence"
There's something very wrong with a system where one branch (the executive) can pardon commute the sentence of anyone who commits a crime dictated by that same branch.
"Go ahead, lie to Congress. We'll pardon you. We ARE the law."
Sure, it's been done before by prior POTUS - (Republican) Gerald Ford pardoning (Republican) Richard Nixon comes to mind, where the employee pardons his former boss. While The Mob was clamoring for Nixon's head on a pole, Ford made sure that we got none of that, and Nixon was free to write books and make speeches to anyone who would listen. It still doesn't make it right.

I wasn't surprised when President Quagmire made certain that Cheney's Loyal Servant (Scooter Libby) wouldn't spend so much as an hour in prison, for his treasonous act of lying to Congress. In earlier times, Libby would've simply been hanged, but under the (über corrupt) Bush Regime, his "sentence" amounts to "Freedom without Remorse". I'm sure that Cheney made sure that Libby knows one of the requirements of The Pardon is that he cannot write a tell-all book or even speak about this, to anyone.

Footnote: I thought about titling this entry "The fox guarding the hen house" but suspect many of you wouldn't get the meaning, especially since Elvis has already left the barn.

Sunday, July 1

Mission Accomplished, The Sequel

According to Associated Press:
Okay, let me get this straight: in the past two months, 3571 people were killed in Baghdad, and we're supposed to accept this as a SUCCESS?

Compare this to the number of Americans executed by al-Qaeda on 9/11: 2819. Also note that Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks (unless you're one of those IDiots who thinks the Earth is 6,099 years old, in which case you're already a lost cause).

Lately (to amuse myself) I've been telling people that it's obvious (!) that Dinosaurs Never Did Roam The Earth - those (often large) bones were placed there by A Creator as a way to test the faithful! Most seem to accept that. Oy.

Saturday, June 30

the c word (lower case "c")

I went to my ophthalmologist yesterday to find out why my right eye's malfunctioning, and got the news that I have a cataract (early stage). Well, isn't that special? He gave me some drops (Travatan Z) to take each night and we'll decide what to do about this in 30 days. Until then, life's blurry on my right side.

PS: I'm posting this today using a Nokia 770, partly to see how practical it is (early verdict : a regular keyboard is much faster but the autocomplete feature is nice, and it's hard to beat the portability). I've used it to fetch email and do some basic web surfing, but had trouble with the (Pidgin) IM client.

Friday, June 29

The Buzz is Gone

I have two landlines coming into my home. One of those has developed an annoying buzz/humm in the past few weeks. Given the (near record) rainfall in June, I attributed the degradation to the weather. Also, there was No Buzz on the other line, so .. I had a workaround. Turns out the weather wasn't the problem.

Wednesday: finally tiring of The Buzz, I call TPC [The Phone Company - a/k/a AT&T] and they say they can have someone out tomorrow. Hmmm. "Okay," (I humor them) "that's great." They ask if I'd like a call from TPCT [TPC Technician] when he'll be aiming in my direction. "That would be spiffy," I reply.

Wednesday, early evening: automated call arrives, says TPCT will be onsite tomorrow between 8am-8pm (0800-2000 for you military types). Do they really expect me to hang around the house all day? That fish won't hunt. I have places to go, people to see. If they happen to arrive while I'm here, that'll be downright dandy. Otherwise, they can return.

Thursday afternoon: I return home from a Day Out There. No door hanger saying "sorry we missed you" and no phone call. Hmmm. So maybe 8a-8p really means "after 5pm"?

5:30pm: TPCT calls: "I'm en route, will arrive in 10 minutes." "Spiffy," I say.

5:50pm: DSL goes out (a 5x daily occurrence, so not remarkable). I wait a few minutes and it's still down. I wonder if TPCT arrived and is Working My Issue. I look in my driveway and see The Truck, and (in my backyard) a Giant Ladder perched against TTP [The Telephone Pole], and a small human at the top. I suspect it's TPCT, who arrived and silently went to work.

6:28pm: phone rings. Automated call says "sorry our technician didn't arrive today. We'll try again tomorrow." I am Most Puzzled.

6:30pm: knock, knock. "Who's there?" TPC Technician, to advise Your Problem Is Now Solved. "Huh?" says I. Turns out there was a short in the overhead line, from TTP to TGB [The Great Beyond]. Having replaced said cable, my world is now whole again. I check the dialtone (portable phone having been in my hand when TPCT knocked) and verify that The Buzz is Gone. I am now giddy.

Being the curious type, I ask "Might this also be why my DSL (which rides atop my Buzzing Line) burps N times per day?" "You betcha!" says TPCT (sounding Eager). I mention the automated call at 6:28 and TPCT says "they do that when we didn't meet The Window (recall: 8a-8p)" and he laughs it off. I make mental note that TPC doesn't know that 8a<6:30pm<8pm.

Hmmm. We'll see if my DSL now stays up all day. I'm not holding my breath.

Tomorrow: my visit to the eye doc on Friday (and -- the news wasn't grand).

Thursday, June 28

passport renewal, step 2

Today, this arrived in the snail mail:

What I found most amusing about this are the ten (10) questions on that web page. I wonder if you have to "get them all perfect" before it tells you the status of your application? What if I don't remember the exact date I mailed the application? (or does it want the date I signed the application?)

One of the questions they did not ask:
"Are you going to blog about our incompetence?"
It would seem to make more sense to assign a tracking number to my request, and snailmail THAT to me along with a password, so I could "fetch the status" via a secure web browser. But no ... we're dealing with The Bush Regime, where common sense is not part of the equation.

For those of you keeping score, this is Day 16 since I mailed my renewal application.

Tuesday, June 26

yet another power event

Another thunderstorm moves through town and another power outage - this one, for about 40 minutes. It's been an unusually wet spring here with many more storms and resultant outages than normal.

So, I'm happy to have five (5) Uninterruptable Power System (battery backup) on my various PCs (and the TiVo - which is a Linux box, after all). The problem is keeping the batteries happy. One of my PCs did its graceful shutdown within about 90 seconds of the outage, so it's time to replace that battery. Several of the others went 30 minutes or more.

Sunday, June 24

Grading The Boss

Just when I think The Bush Regime can't sink any lower, comes news that (de-facto President) Dick Cheney has announced that He is immune from laws passed to harness the Executive Branch. And guess who gets to decide if that's correct? His hand-picked poolboy, Alberto Gonzalez.

Anyone want to hazard a guess how "Berto" will rule against his Boss?

I'm starting to wonder if there's any way to force a 2007 version of The Nuremberg Trials for these cretins. I'll bring the popcorn to the finale.

Meanwhile, President Quagmire's approval rating has dropped to that of Richard Nixon. I can't believe he still has ANY base, outside the Park Cities (where Radical Right Wing University .. er .. SMU .. is about to erect a monument to His greatness in the form of the Bush Pressidenshul Liberry). Those insular idiots worship His every breath (and still proudly displays those [W] stickers on their luxury SUVs). Unbelievable. They deserve a Nuremberg finale, too.

Thursday, June 21

passport renewal

I noticed that my passport is due to expire in September, and after hearing the Horror Stories of lengthy delays, I decided to apply for the renewal now - in June - rather than wait until the last minute like I usually do.

I downloaded the renewal form from their website (it creates a PDF with your info, so all you have to do is sign it and attach a recent photo). The local drugstore advertised -- on their marquee -- that they'd do passport photos for $8 (actually $7.99 but I still think that's nonsense pricing) I did that last week, then mailed it.

$67.00 renewal fee
  5.38 postage (certified, return receipt)
  8.65 photo + tax
$81.03 total

12 June - mailed to Philadelphia Passport Processing
21 June - return receipt postcard arrived

Wow .. nine (9) days to even get the receipt postcard! Normally, I'd expect that (roundtrip to Philadelphia) in 5 days - maybe even 4. I'll update this blog entry again when the renewed passport arrives - probably in September.

Sunday, June 17

homophobes? in TEXAS?!?

The Dallas Managed News headline reads "Leppert elected Dallas mayor" and the details are written between the lines. Several of my (Old White Christian Republican) neighbors voted for Leppert because the alternative was to vote for Ed Oakley, and they feared that Dallas would then be known as That Gay City. Unbelievable.

Certainly, Oakley had at least seven strikes against him:

1. He's gay.
2. He's a Democrat in a Red State.
3. He's gay.
4. He's spent 20 years in Dallas politics (excess experience).
5. He's gay.
6. His opponent's White Christian Republican phone banks were working overtime to instill fear - that Dallas was about to become the San Francisco of Texas.
7. He's gay.

Leppert clearly bought the race; I suspect he's simply seeking a legacy longer than that offered by his prior employer (a giant construction company). He has zero political experience and is a Loyal Bushie, so I'm expecting Absolutely Nothing from his term in office, other than to see what monument or building or bridge he wants named after himself. Political outsiders seldom (if ever) last more than one term, and start showing their frustration around Month 18 (set your clocks for January 2009 to see if I was right).

As I've babbled earlier, the Dallas Mayor's position is more ceremonial than anything else - it's really City Council Seat #15. I suspect Uncle Tom (Leppert) will find that out soon enough.

worth noting: one of the Dallas Managed News columnists whines that they didn't submarine Oakley's chances (of course they did). Amusingly enough, the columnist doing all the whining (Jacquielynn Floyd) has zero credibility of her own. Witness the laughable "baby photo" that has accompanied her column for years -- it was taken during the Carter administration, so say my sources.

Wednesday, June 13

Back Yard Burgers

I think I found a fast food burger that Jill Wazabob would enjoy: Back Yard Burgers. There's only one of these QSRs in Dallas, but it's not that far from me, so I moseyed down to fetch one from their drive-thru window. In a word: yummm. Rumor has it they're about to go private (like Burger King did). No clue how that will impact their expansion.

Trivia: an old-timer told me that there was once a White Castle location (maybe more than one) in Dallas. But, it didn't do well and has been Long Gone. I suspect that's why the White Castle Wannabe (Krystal) hasn't expanded beyound its outpost in Carrollton, Texas. "Dainty burgers" just don't sell well here, except in the frozen food section of the grocery stores (microwaved Sliders just ain't the same).

Unrelated: The Political and Selective Use of Data: Cherry-Picking Climate Information in the White House is an interesting read. Naturally, it Cannot Possibly Be True because Everybody Knows™ that no one in The Bush Regime would ever Distort Information, especially about Global Warming (or what the Radical Right Republic Party prefers to call "Climate Change").

Tuesday, June 5

spam fighters

For the past two months or so, I've taken a far more aggressive approach to all the spam (email) I get, which accounts for about 95% of what lands in my inbox. I started marking and reporting all the spams (using SpamCop) and this has resulted in a huge reduction in what wasn't already being filtered out before.

One thing that's become apparent is that the VAST majority of this stuff comes from eastern Europe. The bulk originates from servers in Italy; Poland; Turkey; Germany; Argentina and (lately) China.

Memo to spammers: your messages are not getting through. You are wasting your money.

Sunday, June 3

another winning speech by Bill Moyers

I finally got around to watching the (2 hour, including analysis) speech that Bill Moyers gave to the National Conference on Media Reform in Memphis in January 2007. This link gives you access to the transcript as well as the audio (MP3) and video (stream) .. well worth watching, if you have the cycles.

Tonight, I waddled down to the Granada theatre (south of Mockingbird) to watch PetFlix 2007 (the SPCA's 3rd annual) .. one of the workers told me that 500+ people attended, which ain't half bad. Most of the films (related to cats and dogs, natch) were entertaining, although a few missed the mark. I never was much of a film critic, so I'll wait for the inevitable "official review" in one of the newspapers (probably the Dallas Observer) later this week.

Earlier in the day (1pm?) Judy Bob came by with another can for my Award Winning Spam Collection (actually - canned meat collection would be a better descriptor, since only about 10 cans are made by Hormel - the other are .. uh .. Spam Wannabees). I simply must start documenting these .. perhaps they need a Blog Of Their Own? After making the delivery, we moseyed up to Richardson to sample the Burger Street Café, which is an upscale (?) version of the Burger Street drive-thru, which is sorta-kinda like the In-N-Out Burger chain out west (minus both the Perky Worker Bees and - thankfully - the religious overtones).

here we go again ...

IIRC, we got 21 days of rain in May. Now, in June, that wet trend continues. Already this morning, the UPS caught a power surge as Yet Another Thunderstorm moves through the area.

Pandora waddled down the hall to inquire if she should be concerned, and I told her "probably not". Beta's crashed under my feet, as usual. I wonder if I should give her the new password, so she can blog again? Hmmm.

Saturday, June 2

Yet Another Milestone

.. and then there was the article in today's newspaper about the happy people of Crawford, Texas .. now relieved that the war protestors (led by Cindy Sheehan) will no longer be coming to Crawford, interrupting their formerly-placid lives. Yeah, remembering those 3,480 dead soldiers is such an annoyance.

It seems like only yesterday, when the number of dead US soldiers from President Quagmire's Campaign For Glory passed 3,000. Now, we're only a day or two (at the current "run rate") of reaching the milestone of 3,500 dead.

A few weeks ago, I added the [US Fatalities] widgit to my laptop (running OS X) which keeps it in my mind ...

unrelated: another power failure @ 00:34 last night (shortly after midnight, for you time-challenged readers). this one lasted all of 90 seconds.

Wednesday, May 30

flipping the dial

I just might give up on the local TV news completely .. every few months I get fed up with one station or another.

This time, I'm fed up with the local CBS affiliate (KTVT-11). Just in the last month or so, they've undergone some peculiar brain surgery and are now offering "breaking news" for every car crash and/or domestic violence situation within 75 miles. I'm guessing some Rocket Genius read that those sensational stories help ratings, and perhaps they do - for those who didn't do well in school (and hence grew up to be Loyal Bushies). Maybe it's Sweeps Week and they'll regain their sanity, but I'm not holding my breath.

I've now done my part by removing CBS-11 from my (TiVo) rotation and am now sampling the competition (ABC, NBC, Fox, and a couple independents). It's surely a lost cause, because none of them provide much in the way of real news - that takes too much work, and must be lost on the Great Huddled Masses.

My least favorite is the way they handle severe weather .. when a storm is within 50 miles of here, they interrupt the entire newscast and "follow the storm" until it's 50 miles out of town. Needed a news fix that night? Sorry .. can't help you.