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October 2003

148 entries from September 2003

"Good Morning, Miami"

Why does a show like this make the air at all?

And why in God's name does it not only last a whole season, but get renewed for a second season?


"I'd like a plain bagel, toasted, with some political extremism"

I forgot about the deli just down the road in this same business park. Been there many times for lunch, but never think about it for breakfast even though I have had bagels there before.

Ed Meese was on NBC's Today show while I was there, which is strange because he was also on Today while I was at home getting ready for work. And I wondered, were they repeating a segment, or was I in a time warp, or what? He was talking about the Patriot Act, how it's a fine upstanding law and won't be abused and is absolutely necessary to maintaining our security and the American Way of Life, and how anyone who wants to repeal all or part of this fine law is obviously a left-wing nut bent on the downfall of America, starting with putting pornography into the hands of 6-year-olds.

Ed Meese is a world-class fucking idiot.


Adventures in OS installation

I'm in the middle of installing OS 9.2 and OS X 10.2 on my iBook. This became necessary after OS X 10.2.8 rendered my iBook nearly dead. To wit:

  • Battery life went from a respectable 3 to 3.5 hours under normal use to barely one hour in many circumstances.

  • My AirPort range went from "anywhere in my apartment" (my furthest wall from the base station is about 75 feet no more than 50 feet straight-line, and I had full signal strength at that distance) to "about 12 feet, assuming continuous line-of-sight." Not good.

So I'm wiping it clean and reinstalling the two base OSes, and then going through the updates to the pre-10.2.8 versions of each. The 9.x OS isn't quite so important, since I never boot into it, but I do have a couple of Classic apps still and I need access to them on my laptop now and then.

Ah, the joys of computing!


Stupid Work Tricks

I work in an environmental lab. The biggest hazard I usually face is that my stapler might run empty or my pen might leak.

Today I managed to draw blood twice:

  1. Slammed my left knee into the corner of my desk hard enough to split the skin. Hurt like hell when it happened, didn’t notice the blood until I tried to brush off what I thought was just a smudge on my jeans but noticed it was wet and came from within.
  2. Looking at a sample bottle submitted by a client. Glass bottle with a plastic screw lid. Twisted off the lid but didn’t notice the glass was cracked until I managed to embed a fragment in my thumb, and when I jerked back in response to that, opened up a goodly blood flow.

I knew I should’ve stayed in bed today....


Hit count dropping somewhat. And, back to the daily drudge

Hit count down to an average of 450 per day over the last 24 hours, and the search-engine hits now come in about every 11-12 minutes on average.

Back to the daily routine this morning. I was out of town over the weekend in addition to holding off posts to see what happened with hit counts, and I haven't yet crammed my mind into go-to-work mode. Blah. And since I was out Thu and Fri, I've used all the paid time off I had accrued to this point, so gotta let that build up again before I take any more long weekends that aren't centered around Monday-holiday weeks or Thanksgiving.


Quiet couple days

I've been quiet on the posts the last couple days to see if the hit frequency would decrease, but it hasn't. Still getting anywhere from 500 to 600 hits per day over the last few days, the vast majority from search engines on the terms hurricane isabel photos.

What a strange world....


Strangeness in the Land of Blogs

TypePad allows users to see hits stats for their blogs. I admit I'm vain enough to check them now and again, to see if anyone actually reads this and to get a line on other blogs I may be interested in reading, and I've found some good ones as a result.

Yesterday and today I've logged close to 500 hits from Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL, and other search sites, all searching on the terms hurricane isabel photos (or minor variations of plurality, word order, etc.). These hits come at intervals of from one or two minutes to no more than 10 minutes, and they started yesterday at 13:00ish PDT.

The post I have dealing with Hurricane Isabel photographs is simply a link to another TypePad users's blog with a couple of photos of the storm's advance. I don't even say anything substantive about the hurricane.

I can't figure it out. Surely a week later there isn't really that much interest in photos of the hurricane?

For kicks I just searched at Google, Yahoo, and MSN on those terms. The link to this blog appears 6th on the list at Google, 5th at Yahoo, and outside the first 50 at MSN.

Amazing what a single link can do to move your site around the search engines.


Designers work on pedestrian-safe autos

I witnessed a car/pedestrian accident many years ago, a 10-year-old child vs. a small hatchback. No serious injuries, mainly a good scare, but the sound of the boy bouncing headlong off the hood of that car, and then the sound of him hitting the pavement 25 feet away... still clear in my mind.

Better cars to get hit by
New regulations require carmakers to think about protecting people their cars run over.

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - As you step off the sidewalk, chatting on your cell phone, you look to your left and notice a new Mazda RX-8 speeding towards you.

The new Mazda has a 1.3 liter rotary engine that produces 238 horsepower and has no cylinders. But the thing that really concerns you is the car's hood. Because your head is about to slam into it.

Carmakers are thinking a lot about this sort of scenario because of new European safety rules. On Monday, regulators there signed into law a series of measures designed to help protect those who are hit by cars. Under these new rules, which codify an existing voluntary agreement with carmakers, cars sold in Europe will be tested and rated in special pedestrian crash tests.

full story

Final Cold Update

Over it, for the most part. Still minor cough now and then, but the congestion's so mild at this point that I don't even notice it.

My lips, however, are chapped right to hell. I tend to get a bit dehydrated when I have a cold and I didn't realise I was doing that again this time until I ripped a chunk of flesh off my lower lip with my toothbrush yesterday morning. What a pleasant experience that was.


I am a report-creating MACHINE

Part of my job is preparing reports of analytical results for nearly all the clients of this laboratory. A good bit of this process is automated, but the emailing/faxing/mailing portion of it is a series of manual steps.

I have it down to a science. A specific series of mouse clicks and keyboard shortcuts to generate the report, save it as a PDF, print the second copy we keep in our files. Then other series of clicks/shortcuts to prepare an email, a fax, or a printed cover sheet for mailed reports.

That's when the high-speed printer decides to misfeed the letterhead, and in about a tenth of a second five sheets are shredded and the interior of the printer is coated with fine paper dust that gums up its entire workings.

Day screeches to halt.


Inane commercials in my morning news fix

An Aleve advertisement where the woman smiles maniacally as she explains that her doctor told her the pain she feels when she moves at night is arthritis!

And she should use Aleve!

Because Tylenol can wear off and the pain might come back!

And oh look, she has this little bottle of Aleve in her purse with the label helpfully turned toward the camera!


CNET News.com: Glitch prompts Apple to pull OS update

Apple Computer on Tuesday withdrew a system software update it had issued a day earlier, saying the software caused a networking problem for some Macs.

On Monday, Apple released version 10.2.8 of Mac OS X, a minor update to its system software, and posted it on its Web site. The company pulled the software off the site on Tuesday, after owners of some Power Mac G4 machines complained of problems with their Ethernet networks.

"We have temporarily removed the Mac OS X v10.2.8 software update while we resolve an issue affecting Ethernet networking on a small number of Power Mac G4 desktop systems," the company said in a statement provided to CNET News.com. "We anticipate that the issue will be resolved soon."

Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., had said the update was designed to offer improvements in reliability and in performance for a number of different system components.

The original version of Mac OS X was delivered in March 2001. The current Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar release came out in August 2002, while another upgrade, code-named Panther, is due out by the end of this year.

I installed this update and had some minor trouble, but nothing with networking. Mine was more the minor-disk-repairs variety.


Cool blog idea

This seems like a cool idea for a blog. An easy way to keep a reference list of the DVDs you own: DVD Library

It'd be even better when (if?) TypePad allows sorting posts by other than chronological order, such as title or category or whatever.


Gotta love network outages

We're all hanging around chatting or playing Solitaire or staring into space because our network burped and took down the lab's information system database in the process. Corrupted it, so it has to be rolled back to the last good incremental backup, which was at 12:50. So we've lost a couple hours' work anyway.

Ah, to be back in the IS world again....


The end of phone tag?

Soon your phone will be able to keep track of what you're doing and decide for itself if you can take a call or not(!).

Putting Your Calls Into Context

Incessant calling and voicemails might become a thing of the past.

In Pittsburgh, a research team at Carnegie Mellon University's Institute of Technology, or CIT, has developed a new context-aware mobile-phone technology called the SenSay. The SenSay cellular phone, still in prototype stage, keeps tabs on e-mails sent, phone calls made and the user's location. The phone also adapts to the user's environment.

"SenSay is a huge productivity boost," said Dr. Asim Smailagic, a senior researcher at Carnegie Mellon's Institute for Complex Engineered Systems. "Because people can see when you are available, the time it takes to hand off or receive information is greatly reduced."

In addition to automatically manipulating ringer volume, vibration and phone alert, SenSay (PDF) can give callers the capability to communicate the urgency of their calls, Smailagic said.

full story


Designing electronics? Look to nature for help and ideas

Stories like this amaze me. Saw a Discovery Channel show with similar information (how bees, which are fairly simple creatures alone, cooperate in huge numbers to build hives etc.), was riveted by it.

Termites Inspire Paper Pusher

Scientists at the world's leading research establishments are tapping millions of years of evolutionary dynamics to help them build the next generation of electronics, components and materials.

By copying the way termites make independent decisions to achieve a common goal such as building a nest, Palo Alto Research Center scientists are building a device with thousands of air jets that can act independently to move paper through a copier or printer.

full story


“The Core”

A single word perfectly describes this movie about a bunch of scientists who journey to the center of the earth to restart its stalled core:

STUPID

I actually watched this tripe, this utter crap, this unbelievably lame wad of cinematic putrescence, on Saturday. At least I was using my DVD player so I could skip past the laughably inane dialog and completely predictable plot points, so the two-hour movie only required about 20 minutes of my time.

Honestly.

The Earth’s core stops spinning?

They devise a way to restart it using 200 megatons of nukes?

Aaron Eckhart pronounces it “nuke-yuh-lur”? (Though in that he did a fine job of channeling our commander-in-chief.)

Please!


NASA safety panel resigns en masse

Interesting development.

All members of NASA safety panel resign

WASHINGTON (AP)—Nine experts on a NASA space safety advisory panel have resigned in the wake of sharp criticism from the Columbia accident investigation board and by Congress, the space agency said Tuesday.

The members of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel and two staff members of the panel sent letters of resignation to Sean O'Keefe, the administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Glen Mahone, a NASA spokesman, said the ASAP chairman, Shirley McCarty, said in a cover letter to O'Keefe that the resignations "will give you and the Congress the freedom to revitalize the panel and reshape its charter and mission."

full story


Mac OS X 10.2.8 released

UPDATE 10/03/03 17:49 PDT: Apple has posted a new version of the 10.2.8 update, build 6R73, available at http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=25524.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

UPDATE 17:49 PDT: Apple has pulled the 10.2.8 update after many users reported problems with Ethernet networking, and some reported trouble with battery life and AirPort connectivity.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

Posted yesterday, available via Software Update. For G3- and G4-based Macs only, not for the new G5s.

Apple’s technical note describes what’s new.

I had a little trouble with permissions and orphaned nodes after I ran this update. I’d recommend, as always, making sure you’ve backed up important files before you install this update.


You know it's a sad day

when your last three blog posts are cold updates that no one cares about, including you.

So, enough of those for a while.

I have to go Phoenix Wednesday night, to Salt Lake Friday night, and back here Sunday night. Three Southwest flights in five days. I don't particularly mind their boarding process so long as I'm in the first group to board, but anything else and it sucks utterly.

Kids upstairs have been quiet all night, which is a relief.

I think my dishwasher is about to give up the ghost. It took nearly 15 minutes to work up the gumption to run its standard-wash cycle tonight, and usually it's nearly to the "dry" part of the cycle in that time. They're doing a fire-code and smoke-alarm inspection Thursday and Friday, so I'll leave a note asking them to check the dishwasher sometime as well. Make it easy on 'em when I'm out of town.


Cold Update: Hour 49 and a bit

Yeah.

So now it's just low-level sniffles, and an occasional cough.

And my throat is bone-dry no matter how much water or juice I suck down.

Maybe I should switch to beer....


Cold Update: Hour 46.5

Feeling better already. Still dosing on cold meds and will go to bed earlier tonight because right now I feel pretty damn tired.

A couple years ago I had a cold that lasted nearly two weeks. Gotta love the mysteries of the body.


Cold Update: Hour 43

The cold medicine I took a couple hours ago is knocking me on my ass, and it's a non-drowsy formula.

The med is Suphedrine, the Fred Meyer house-brand equivalent to non-drowsy Sudafed. Active ingredients pseudoephedrine hydrochloride (decongestant), dextromethorphan hydrobromide (cough suppressant, although I haven't had trouble with coughing), and acetaminophen (pain relief/fever reduction).

None of those ingredients has caused me trouble in the past but right now it's all I can do to keep my eyes open.

Must. Go to bed. Early. Tonight.


Restroom craziness

A couple things I just noticed when I went to the restroom to wash some ink off my hands.

  1. Apparently the men who work in this lab are incapable of dispensing liquid soap from the sink-side tap without spraying gallons of water all over the counter. They obviously have never heard of putting the soap on one hand and turning on the water with the other, the better to avoid all the wetness.

  2. The hot water, which at its hottest used to be quite comfortable, is now routed straight from the fires of Hell to the faucets. I have a mild first-degree burn on my right hand because I didn't check the water temp before I started the rinse cycle.

  3. If you want a chuckle, watch germ-conscious persons as they attempt to make their exits from a public restroom. The machinations of not touching door handles, of not touching paper-towel waste, of avoiding other restroom users... all quite amusing.

Late start to a Monday

Everyone came in late today. I usually start my day at 08:00, didn't get in until 08:40. Jeff and Sandra arrived after I did (Jeff is usually already here when I get here) and Jeanne isn't here yet.

Amar and Cherie were both here, but Amar got in about an hour late (he usually arrives between 06:45 and 07:00) and Cherie arrived just before I did, only a little later than her usual time.

We're all dragging. blah....


Hmm, I just noticed

UPDATE 09:01: Nope, doesn't change the post's on-blog display at all. Must be meant for catalog and/or syndication etc.

I guess I could check the FAQ or something, but that's too... I dunno, too easy.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

There's a Keywords field available in the Customize the display of this page window on the TypePad posting page, and I have no idea what the field does. Is it a way to provide keywords for searching, or a secondary category method, as it were, or...?

So this post is meant to test what, if any, display changes occur with keywords entered for a post.


Cold Update: Hour 37 (almost)

Woke up with a clear nose and a bit of sinus pressure. Since I wasn't stuffed up, I didn't take my usual cold/sinus med right away. Got in the shower, shaved, dressed instead. By that time I was a bit stuffed up and so I took the med as I walked out the door to work. It's just kicking in now, so my nose is running a damned river and I'm about to wipe it into rawness.

Ouch.


Foolish me

I'm still up. I'll be crashing momentarily, but of course I had to document my still-up-ness for the world to see, because it's the type of yammer I'd except to publish.

Since I rarely have anything good to say, might as well spout whatever's going on at any particular moment.


Cold Update: Hour 28 and change

So anyway. I meant to make that last entry an update but submitted before I remembered.

Still light congestion and mild runny nose, nothing worse than that. I think this may just be over with by tomorrow night, knock on wood.

Speaking of wood, while I was in my kitchen earlier tonight getting a glass for water, I closed the cabinet door with my usual amount of force—that is, not too hard, because if slammed the doors tend to bounce right open again—and I popped the cabinet door right off its hinges.

Both hinges popped clean off the cabinet facing. I bobbled my glass, a tumbler with the Squatters logo etched into it, because I didn't want to break it, but somehow I managed to catch the door without injuring myself.

Got out the toolbox and had the door up again in no time. The screws didn't strip their holes when they came out. I can't figure out what the deal was, but all better now.

Okay then. That was off-topic, maybe bedtime's closer than I know...?


If I were smart

I'd go to bed.

I'm not smart, so I figure I'll be up another hour or so anyway.

Although the cold med I took a short while ago is rapidly creeping up on me, I think....


Craving

About two ours ago I was craving a Caesar salad from, of all places, Red Lobster.

What the hell?

They’re evile for their alleged seafood, but I consider their Caesar among the best in any silly chain restaurant like that. It’s probably not a true Caesar anyway, at least according to the recipes I’ve found on the web (see link above). But I like theirs still.

I’m so ashamed.


Time for awards shows to end

I've had the Emmys show on as background noise and I've been absolutely appalled by the stupidity of it. Their "Let's have 11 hosts!" format is simply brainless, even more so for the inclusion of Wanda Sykes and Garry Shandling, both of whom are just not funny.

And when did they decide that awards shows needed PRE-shows, like football games and such? It's bad enough that sports shows have pre-games at all, especially the two- or three-hour monstrosities we see nowadays... but an hour of "Countdown to the Emmys"?

I think they do this just to make the so-called reporters look as foolish as possible by asking the dippiest questions.

I wonder what kind of ratings this telecast will get. Probably fairly high, I'd imagine.


Oh also—

I forgot to mention.

If you'd like to get a discussion going, by all means use the Comment features in this blog system so everyone can see what you have to say. Don't resort to email with forged headers so you can call me names and slink away into the night.

Who'd'a thunk an "I gotta get this mild rant off my chest" post would generate such fun?


Yes, most smokers ARE inconsiderate bastards

I’ve received a couple of indignant emails about my chain-smoking laundry-challenged top-floor neighbor.

These persons are obviously smokers, ranting about how cigarettes are biodegradable and birds can use them for nesting material and anyway FUCK OFF! because smokers have to go outside and stand in the rain or the air pollution or the sun or overcast in many (most?) states to enjoy their cigarettes, blah blah blah. And oh, by the way, I am obviously a communist bent on destroying the U. S. of A.

I don’t know if cigarette butts are actually considered biodegradable, and I don’t care. I don’t care if birds can use them for nesting material, although I will say that unless a robin emails me a rant about my tree-hugging ways reducing the amount of nesting material available, I’ll never be worried about a shortage for them. What does worry me is the people who think that they can flick their still-burning cigarettes out the window on the highways, who think they can drop their cigarettes and grind them into the ground and walk away, because somehow these acts are permitted to smokers.

But you know these same people would mutter under their breath (or just yell outright) at a passerby who dropped a candy wrapper in the middle of the sidewalk and walked away, or who tossed a half-eaten Big Mac out the window on I-405.

What is the deal with this? Many times I’ve seen people do this, they were mere FEET from one of those sand-filled ashtrays—would it kill you to take a few steps and deposit your smoke in the container, for Christ’s sake? Is it impossible to use your car’s ashtray or, God forbid, NOT TO SMOKE in your car if you don’t have an ashtray? And what kind of idiot smoker doesn’t get a car with an ashtray included, for crying out loud?


Seahawks 24, Rams 23

At least the Seahawks are doing well—they’re 3-0 on the season. They have a few games yet before they have to start screwing up.


Cold Update: Hour 20

Still only very mild symptoms. My right nostril is plugged up and there's some sinus pressure around my right eye, otherwise that's about it.

I think I may have lucked out on this one.


My chain-smoking laundry-challenged top-floor neighbor

The guy who lives in the top-floor apartment directly above mine is a champion chain-smoker. I’ve walked outside and seen him with three cigarettes going at once, in the act of lighting a fourth from one or more of the already burning smokes. Unreal.

He also seems to be completely unaware that the dryer supplied by the apartment management has a lint filter, and that this filter should be cleaned, if not after every load, at least once a week or so (based on the amount of laundry I do, anyway).

This leads to a couple of REALLY FUCKING IRRITATING THINGS for me.

In no particular order:

  • Like most smokers, this person believes the world is his personal ashtray. Specifically, he takes for granted that ashes and cigarette butts he flicks off his balcony somehow disappear into Ciggie Purgatory with no further effect on the environment. This is, of course, a wholly false presumption, as attested to by the coating of ashes and pile of cigarette butts I had to sweep up about 15 minutes ago.

  • I believe this person’s lungs are the biological equivalent of Swiss cheese, if his coughing fits are any indication. But he usually follows up a violent cough attack by firing up another cancer stick, as if he just completed a particularly satisfying sexual experience.

  • He has several Smokin’ Buddies with whom, twice now, he has engaged in loud and/or moronic arguments about politics or movies or cars or whatever at really irritating times of day, namely after midnight.

  • Occasionally I look out my living-room windows to see a charming lintstorm drifting down from on high. When it’s over, I have to grab my snow shovel and fight my way through the drifts accumulating on the patio so it doesn’t look like I was attacked by a vengeful cotton-candy machine on a PMS day.

The management of the complex in which I live has asked that residents (we aren’t “tenants” anymore) who wish to complain about other residents’ behaviors/smells/noise/whatever do so to the management office, rather than to the residents in question. Normally I disregard this, but the time I did go up there to ask him to please clean out his goddamned lint trap and oh, while he was at it, stop flicking cigarette butts off his balcony, he didn’t answer his door even though his coughing clearly indicated he was home.

So off to the office I go tomorrow.


CNN.com: A smashing end for Jupiter explorer

$1.4 billion spacecraft collected data almost until its demise

Galileo arrived in Jupiter orbit in December 1995(CNN)—A daring robotic explorer that circled Jupiter and its moons for eight years plunged into the scorching atmosphere of the giant planet Sunday—a fiery end to one of the most productive space missions ever.

NASA charted the collision course to prevent Galileo, a heap of metal, plutonium and gadgets the size of a sport utility vehicle, from striking Jupiter's larger moons, considered some of the most promising sites to search for life beyond Earth.

Its propellant running low and its electrical systems on the blink, Galileo nonetheless kept a handful of instruments on during the final hours, giving scientists a chance to squeeze some final observations about Jupiter's upper atmosphere from the $1.4 billion mission.

"We're still collecting scientific data. I'm really surprised we haven't gone into emergency mode," Galileo project manager Claudia Alexander said an hour or so before impact. "This time last November, we were passing through this same zone, and we got clobbered."

The craft went silent just before 4 p.m. EDT, having slipped behind the far side of Jupiter. Minutes later, it presumably screamed across the cloud tops on the night side of the planet, just south of the equator, speeding at more than 100,000 mph.

The searing heat in the upper atmosphere, twice that of the surface of the sun, and the crushing pressure, which within minutes was more than 20 times that at Earth's sea level, likely vaporized the robot ship, according to astronomers.

The sacrificial death ended an expedition that spanned 14 years and almost 3 billion miles.

Since it left Earth in 1989, Galileo has managed to do quite a bit with a computer brain comparable to that of an Apple II.

"Chicago"

Just watched this movie on DVD. I've never been a major fan of musicals, but I liked this one. I'll never have to see it again, of course, but I'm glad I did see it.

I remember when I used to think musicals were lame because, honestly, did spontaneous coordinated song-and-dance numbers ever break out in real life? And then I was present when one did happen, and it changed my mind a bit.

Granted, the song-and-dance number in question was the Macarena, but I'd only heard a little about it and to see a group of 50 strangers suddenly assume a single position, start making the same set of moves, and start singing the same lyrics—this was a new experience for me.


Oh yeah, and the squealing kids

They're back. Buncha kids at the playground area, swinging on the swings or spinning around on the bars or whatever, doing nothing that requires squealing at airplane-engine-at-20-feet volume but squealing all the same.

What a beautiful day this is...!


Cold Update: Hour 15

I caught the cold that's going around my coworkers. First felt it at 20:00 yesterday. It didn't bother me overnight, thank God. Sleeping with colds, bah.

So far I haven't been completely congested, mainly a mild tingle in my throat and a mild runny nose. When I woke up this morning my nose was completely clear, which surprised me—usually when I have a cold, my entire head stuffs up when I lie down unless I dose up on whatever cold or allergy remedy I have on hand, but so far no trouble with that.

Maybe this will be another short/sweet cold, barely registered before it's gone....


Jumbled text read 'round the world

Amazing. In the past few days, I've seen the same snippet of mangled-English text in a couple dozen blogs, several forwarded emails, a CNN story, and two Reuters clips.

The clip begins:

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are [...]

Every email I've received with this clip goes on about how amazing it is, how the sender could read it without difficulty, how the sender really didn't even notice the letters weren't in the correct order until the second go-round, etc. etc.

Just think how even a few years ago, it might have taken several months for something like this to make the rounds.

Now it appears everywhere at the same time!

As an aside, the jumbled text I've received in the many emails misspells the word research—the author repeated the ch letter combination in the jumble. I saw this as I copied the line for use in this post.

I wonder what other mistakes are in there...?