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100 entries from January 2004

Machine invents toothbrush, takes over the world

Brian Chin at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer writes in his Buzzworthy blog about the Oral-B CrossAction Toothbrush's invention by a computer program.

Brian's blog entry cites a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article about the computer program's inventor, Stephen Thaler, whose computer programs also write music, design ultra-hard materials, and simulate death.

Does The Terminator's Skynet have its humble beginnings in music and dental care?


A Note to VH1

Sheryl Crow's "The First Cut is the Deepest" is not the only video available for rotation during your Insomniac Music Theater show. This video sure as hell does not merit showing twice in a 3-hour block as has happened several times on that show.

Same for Christina Slutulera, that chick from American Idol, and Dave Matthews.

Stick a crowbar in the video vault and put a greater variety in rotation, for Christ's sake!


Poison and guns scare you? Scoff!

aaiieee....

CNN.com: Cyanide, arsenal stirs domestic terror fear

NOONDAY, Texas (AP)—William Krar and Judith Bruey assembled a frightening arsenal in three rented storage units in this East Texas town, and federal authorities are trying to figure out why.

A raid in April found nearly two pounds of a cyanide compound and other chemicals that could create enough poisonous gas to kill everyone inside a space as large as a big-chain bookstore or a small-town civic center.

Authorities also discovered nearly half a million rounds of ammunition, more than 60 pipe bombs, machine guns, silencers and remote-controlled bombs disguised as briefcases, plus pamphlets on how to make chemical weapons, and anti-Semitic, anti-black and anti-government books.

The findings have led to one of the most extensive domestic-terrorism investigations since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Federal investigators believe conspirators may remain free, and one question lingers: What did the couple intend to do with the weapons?

"There's no other reason for anyone to possess that type of device other than to kill people," said Brit Featherston, a federal prosecutor and the government's anti-terrorism coordinator in Texas' eastern district. "The arsenal found in those searches had the capability of terrorizing a lot of people."

Suspicious storage
In November, Krar, 62, pleaded guilty to possessing a dangerous chemical weapon. He could go to prison, but the law does not specify a minimum or maximum. Bruey, 54, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess illegal weapons and could get up to five years in prison. The couple remain in jail. Sentencing is expected sometime in February.

Krar and Bruey moved to a house in Tyler from New Hampshire about two years ago, though federal authorities do not know why.

They soon rented space at Noonday Storage and for more than a year visited their units each morning, spending hours unloading U-hauls of military surplus items or picking through piles of bathing suits and beer coolers they said they resold at shops and markets.

"We never had any problems out of them and never suspected anything out of them," said Teresa Staples, who owns the storage business in this community of 500 people about 100 miles southeast of Dallas.

A mistake led the FBI to Krar two years ago.

Krar mailed a package to a self-described militia member in New Jersey. The package included several phony documents—U.N. and Pentagon ID cards, a Social Security card, birth certificates from three states—and a note: "We would hate to have this fall into the wrong hands."

But that was exactly what happened.

Peculiar past
The package was mistakenly delivered to a man in New York City, who notified authorities. It was traced back to Krar, and the intended recipient, Edward Feltus, 56, of Old Bridge, New Jersey, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the transportation of false identification documents. He could get up to 15 years in prison.

Krar's attorney, Tonda Curry, acknowledges that Krar owned illegal weapons, but said there is no evidence he planned to use them.

"It was not a situation where they were at arm's reach, ready to respond to some invasion. They were miles away stored," she said. "Nothing I've seen from the government or from him indicates that the United States as a country had any reason to be afraid of Bill Krar."

But federal investigators believe Krar's past behavior indicates his potential for domestic terrorism.

In 1985, Krar was arrested in New Hampshire for impersonating a law enforcement officer, according to the FBI. He stopped paying federal income taxes in 1989. His ties to New Hampshire's white supremacist and anti-government militia groups in the mid-1990s were investigated by federal agents.

Firefighters battling a blaze at a New Hampshire storage building in June 2001 discovered thousands of rounds of ammunition and four guns. Some belonged to Krar.

An employee at another New Hampshire storage company told investigators she feared Krar because he was "wicked anti-American," often ranting about government corruption and how he hated police officers and Americans in general because they were "money-hungry grubs," according to an FBI affidavit.

Last January, a Tennessee state trooper stopped Krar for a traffic violation and found in his rental car two handguns, a grenade, handcuffs, a gas mask, 16 knives and 40 wine-like bottles filled with an unknown substance.

Most curious were handwritten notes that listed "meeting places," including hospitals or Wal-Marts in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana. The notes also outlined a code for referring to the level of danger, from "Lots of light storms are predicted" to "Tornadoes are expected in our area—Things very hot. Lay low or change your travel plans."

Krar told investigators the code was part a plan to help his girlfriend escape her ex-husband.

Domestic dangers
Despite the warning signs, Krar was not fully investigated until the fake documents went to the wrong address. And even that red flag may have been ignored if not for the heightened attention after September 11, Featherston said.

Some contend the government is so focused on foreign terror threats that it overlooks domestic dangers.

"I have no doubt whatsoever that had these men been affiliated with al Qaeda, we would have heard more," said Daniel Levitas, author of the book "The Terrorist Next Door: The Militia Movement and the Radical Right." "There is something of a blind spot within the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., when it comes to the violent potential of America's own homegrown version of al Qaeda."

Featherston said hundreds of subpoenas were issued and the Texas case was investigated just as thoroughly as foreign cases.

"There's international terrorism and domestic terrorism, but they're all terrorism," he said. "I don't care which one it is or what color their skin is. If their intention is to do harm to the citizens of this country, then all the resources necessary from the local level to the federal level will be put into the case."

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: The Mac lovers of Microsoft

I'm an avowed Mac user, and this article immediately grabbed my attention.

The Mac lovers of Microsoft
In the most surprising place: 'I Don't Do Windows'

By Todd Bishop, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reporter

People sometimes stare when Microsoft Corp. executive Tim McDonough opens his laptop in meetings. But that's probably to be expected when someone uses a Mac PowerBook in the center of the Windows world.

"I can get challenged to see my employee badge," he says.

McDonough works in Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit, one of the closest things to neutral ground in a computer world divided into technological factions. The Mac BU, as it's known, makes Microsoft software for Apple computers, bridging the gulf between the companies' operating systems and linking their respective followers in the process.

It may be the only place at Microsoft where someone can be spotted wearing an "I Don't Do Windows" shirt. And nowhere else would a Microsoft employee, recounting a speech where he captivated a crowd, liken himself to Apple's Steve Jobs, rather than to Microsoft's Bill Gates.

Not to imply that the people of the Mac Business Unit are disloyal to their employer. Far from it. But as one observer put it, it's as if they were working for a division of General Motors making parts for Volkswagens.

Seattle P-I article link

Interesting how a blog's purpose changes

When I started this blog in September, I figured I'd talk about news a lot, some politics, the day-to-day mechanics of my life.

Shortly after I started it, I moved the news content to a now-idled blog, currents, and used it exclusively for snippets of news stories, editorials, any content that got my attention from news sources like CNN, Yahoo! News, BBC News, and the like. I kept the personal stories and ponderings and rants in this blog.

Around the turn of 2004 I idled currents and moved its content back to this blog, figuring that since I'd be making posts talking about my own political thoughts in spiel, I might as well have the news clips here too.

But I haven't talked much about politics, or even offered much beyond a snide comment or two on most of the news stories I've clipped, along with a few stories of my day-to-day existence.

I read some other blogs and think, damn, these folks have a distinct purpose in their writings, and they make salient points and inspire further debate among their readers, and here I'm complaining about the nasal voice of some auto dealer owner's radio commercials.


CNN.com: Meet the inventor of 'Ctrl+Alt+Delete'

Amazing how a single small event can become the defining moment of a man's career.

David Bradley: Microsoft's Bill Gates 'made it famous'

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, North Carolina (AP)—David Bradley spent five minutes writing the computer code that has bailed out the world's PC users for decades.

The result was one of the most well-known key combinations around: Ctrl+Alt+Delete. It forces obstinate computers to restart when they will no longer follow other commands.

Bradley, 55, is getting a new start of his own. He's retiring Friday after 28.5 years with IBM.

Bradley joined the company in June 1975 as an engineer in Boca Raton, Florida. By 1980, he was one of 12 working to create the IBM PC. He now works at IBM's facility in Research Triangle Park.

The engineers knew they had to design a simple way to restart the computer should it fail. Bradley wrote the code to make it work.

"I didn't know it was going to be a cultural icon," Bradley said. "I did a lot of other things than Ctrl+Alt+Delete, but I'm famous for that one."

CNN.com article link


eTaiwanNews.com, Yahoo! News: Sperm whale explodes in Tainan City

Oh dear God.

And the additional horror of this is that the burst occurred along the whale's back—you can see from the photograph (click for larger image) that the whale's flippers are on the opposite side, and if you take a look at the slideshow available at Yahoo! News, it shows the whale's mouth on the left side of the trailer.

Blood and guts of 17-meter long 50-ton mammal splatter sidewalks, automobiles parked nearby

A 56-foot sperm whale's insides lie strewn about after its belly burst due to decompositionA dead sperm whale being transported through Tainan City on its way to a research station suddenly exploded yesterday, splattering cars and shops with blood and guts.

Certified by authorities as the largest beached whale on record in Taiwan, the 17-meter 50-ton carcass was being transported by a flat-bed trailer-truck to a special research location after National Cheng Kung University officials and security guards refused to allow the whale on campus.

The whale was to be preserved and an autopsy performed at the "Shi-Tsao Natural Preserve" in Tainan County by a team of marine biologists and taxidermists.

National Cheng Kung University marine biologist, professor Wang Chien-ping, was on the scene and said he had he instructed the truck driver to move the carcass so the whale could be used for educational purposes and an autopsy could be done.

The beached whale was found on along a stretch of coast in Yunlin County on Saturday.

"The animal was close to death when someone found it beached on shore on Saturday... Because of the natural decomposing process, a lot of gases accumulated, and when the pressure buildup was too great, the whale's belly just exploded and spilled blood and the innards on the street," Wang said.

Continue reading "eTaiwanNews.com, Yahoo! News: Sperm whale explodes in Tainan City" »


NYTimes: In Online Auctions, Misspelling in Ads Often Spells Cash

It'd never even occur to me to search for misspelled items to enjoy lower prices at eBay. But then again, I'm a grammar-and-spelling wonk who uses eBay maybe once per year, and for selling far more often than buying.

When Holly Marshall wanted to sell a pair of dangling earrings, a popular style these days, she listed them on eBay once, and got no takers. She tried a second time, and still no interest.

Was it the price? The fuzzy picture? Maybe the description: a beautiful pair of chandaleer earrings.

Such is the eBay underworld of misspellers, where the clueless—and sometimes just careless—sell labtop computers, throwing knifes, Art Deko vases, camras, comferters and saphires.

full story (free registration required)


Yahoo! News: Nuclear Plant Cheated During Drill

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.—Security guards at the nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge stunned inspectors in June by successfully repelling four simulated terrorist attacks—a feat computer programs predicted wouldn't be done.

That apparent success was tarnished, according to the Energy Department: Employees of an outside security contractor were tipped off about the impending simulations, making the tests a costly waste of time.

A broader investigation uncovered more evidence of cheating during mock attacks at the plant over the past two decades, including barricades being set up before the test to alter the outcome and guards deviating from the established response plan to improve their performance.

"There's no point in doing them if you have people who are going to cheat," said Richard Clarke, a former senior White House counterterrorism official. "That's ridiculous. It kind of defeats the whole point of having these tests."

Yahoo! News article link

"Kind of defeats the whole point"? KIND OF?

Gee, ya think?

And why are private security guards responsible for security at government-run nuclear facilities, for Christ's sake?


Guardian Unlimited Film: Introducing the Oscar Predictor

For those of you who simply can't get enough of the Oscars, here's a handy Excel file to help you with your predictionizing on awards night.

Looking for a sure-fire way of predicting the film that will win this year's best picture Oscar? We think we've found it.

The Guardian Unlimited Oscar Predictor (GUOP) works by weighting the relative importance of a range of other awards and using some complicated (i.e. very simple) maths to calculate the most likely winner in any given year.

We've tested it for the past five years. In every instance it correctly predicts which of that year's nominees was most likely to win the best picture Oscar.

You can download the file at the story's page (click this post's title).


My photo

I've posted a new photo at the upper right corner of my site, replacing the clouds-and-ocean image I'd been using since this blog's inception.

don_face_bwThe story behind the shell-shocked look on my face:

In March 2003, I went to Walt Disney World with my sister Katharine and her roommate and our good friend Sonya. Our flight left Seattle at 06:15 for a stop in Salt Lake City before continuing to Orlando. We planned to arrive at the airport by 05:00 to allow for parking and check-in and so on, which meant we'd have to leave our apartments by 04:30. Rather than sleep for maybe 3 or 4 hours, I decided I'd stay up all night and try to sleep on the planes. So as we waited at gate B5 in Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, I'd been awake about 28 hours.

That's when Sonya snapped the photo.

I ended up not sleeping on the flights, and by the time I finally did go to bed in Florida, I'd been awake 41 hours. Crashed hard but woke up feeling great the next morning, and we had a spectacular time at the resort.


Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Sometimes, the No. 1 problem with traveling can be going No. 2

This has the potential to become my new favorite news story of the month:

Could there be a worse combination than the love of travel and the possession of a small bladder?

On a recent evening I stood startled in the corner of a Laos loo pondering this very question. A cockroach the size of a house slipper had taken up a resolute position between me and the means of my relief, and so the answer that occurred to me was an emphatic "no." This is a terrible combination, equaled in horribleness only by the love of travel in tropical countries and the fear of creatures for which the word "scuttle" most accurately describes the way they move.

It was during a family road trip to Disneyland that my mother first dubbed me "thimble bladder." It was a two-day drive and the needs of my digestive system demanded that the full crew—Mom, Dad, two sisters, a truck and camper—come to a halt at the nearest toilet every half hour or so. I was 10 years old and perhaps the first non-sanitation-department employee ever to visit all 224 public rest areas between Idaho and California.

Little has changed since that prophetic journey except that these days the facilities I frequent tend to lack the comforting familiarity of the American pit stops of my youth. My husband, Richie, and I have spent the past 13 months on an epic global journey during which the dueling influences of a hyperactive waste management system and an incurable case of wanderlust have elevated me to the title of International Commode Connoisseur.

We visited 21 different countries and hundreds—perhaps thousands—of foreign restrooms. Yes, mistakes have been made. And yes, hard lessons have been learned. Still, I've waved my pale moon above the very maw of hell and come back with nothing more than toilet paper stuck to my shoe.

full funny/scary story


massive indifference

when the highlight of one's blogging day is a morning post about urinal decor, one knows one's having a fairly detached day.

one spent one's day working on a set of spreadsheets from hell. one hates these spreadsheets because they must be done in an hysterically stupid way that requires one to type in formulae with minor variations (due to the layout and calculations required) and one cannot use excel's most handy multiple-entry features to make formula entry easier.

ah well. one has $30,000 of computer and stereo equipment to keep one occupied this evening.

one wonders why one is writing in third-person fuckwit, however.


Lab Men's Room Update

No P-Spot news today, but I did notice there's a new floor mat under the urinal. The mat is in the shape of a typical home plate from a baseball diamond.

There's also a new urinal-cake holder in the urinal, in a matching color to the floor mat.

'Tis a good thing we're coordinated in our urinal decor. Can't have anyone distracted by clashing colors or incompatible motifs whilst eliminating, after all.


Back home in the (relative) warmth....

Got back to Seattle around 15:00 PST. Flight was delayed an hour by a bad drain in one of the lavatories of the originally scheduled plane. According to the gate agents at ORD, originally they were going to have us fly in that plane with one of the lavs shut down, but they thought it over and determined flying an overbooked plane short one lavatory probably was A Bad Idea.

So we waited for an inbound flight from Sacramento. It arrived shortly after 12:00 CST and the arriving passengers fairly ran off so we could dogpile on, and we were in the air shortly after 12:35.

It was Screaming Kid Airlines, of course. The row ahead of mine included a woman with a 2- or 3-month-old baby; across the aisle on my own row was a mother, her 2- or 3-month-old child, and her parents. The across-the-aisle kid was by far the more vocal of the two, emitting several ear-shattering screams at various points in the flight. Thank God both babies were relatively quiet during the descent, which in my experience is the time when kids have trouble with flying from the pressure changes.

Anywho. Flight was pretty calm, only mild turbulence a few times. I had my laptop out to watch a couple DVDs the entire time, so I have no idea what was playing on the in-flight entertainment. Otherwise, it was a typical flight, with a silly snack (chips, crackers, cookies) and two rounds of beverage service to keep us all occupied.

And that’s it for now. Must away to bed soon; this last load of laundry should be finished any moment now.


A wonderful discussion among children

Just before I left the coffee shop, two women came in with six children, all 10 or younger—most in the 5- to 7-year-old range, it looked. The adults parked all the kids in a large booth near my table and the kids immediately started talking at high volume about The Important Topics of the Day.

In no particular order:

  • Toys R Us is a cool store, and they have a birthday program where you get a free present for your birthday, and [pause for hasty breath] I don't know what the present is yet but maybe it's one of those cool VISA things, you know the cards like Mom uses to buy us toys?

  • Shoes are hard to tie but Velcro shoes are just nerdy, and those ones that light up are kinda cool but the kids at school think they're sorta dorky so I don't wear mine anymore but I can't tie my new shoes. [breath] But I'm learning how tomorrow! [wild applause from the adults listening intently from nearby tables]

  • It tickles really bad when you get your toenails cut, but it's kinda funny too, but it's hard to stay still and Mom has to say "Sit still!" like maybe 200 times cuz it tickles so much.

  • I don't like vegetable soup and chicken noodle's okay but I really like black-bean soup and it gives you good burps.

  • So what do you think you get from Toys R Us for your birthday?

  • What kind of bread is this? It tastes funny.

  • Pokémon's so stupid now. I have all the cards and the toys and the shoes and sox and two t-shirts but I never got the belt but [breath] I don't want the belt now because I never wear the other stuff and it's all so lame.

  • I didn't wan't black-bean soup. I told you I wanted chicken noodle!

Et cetera. This all took place in about 40 seconds, which is maybe an eighth as long as it took me to type it up.

Kids talk fast.


Saturn of Lynnwood feels slighted by my web site

UPDATE 04/27/04: I'm no longer living in the Seattle area, so I haven't had any direct experience with Saturn of Lynnwood in several months now. I note this because I see my site is still appearing relatively high in many Google searches for terms such as saturn of lynnwood. My unsatisfactory experiences with their service department occurred between 2002 and late 2003, nothing more recently than that.

UPDATE 01/14/05: I'm back in the Seattle area but haven't been to any of the Saturn dealerships this time around. When I've had an appointment, I may make another update.

UPDATE 03/10/05: See details of my most recent Saturn of Lynnwood experience—a good one this time.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

In a 12/24/03 post, I ranted—admittedly, ranted lamely—about Saturn of Lynnwood's difficulty in making call-backs to customers whose cars are in for service or awaiting parts or whatever. A few days later I noticed via my hit stats that this post was appearing regularly among visitors' results for searches on the phrase saturn of lynnwood. In fact, at the time of this entry, my previous post appears among the top five results returned by searches at Google and Yahoo!.

Last night I received a call from the Saturn of Lynnwood service department. My 2002 L200 is there this week while I'm out of town. The car needed a part for the drainage system that prevents water damage around the windshield and sunroof, and the part finally arrived last week after the initial service appointment on Christmas Eve when they determined they'd need this part.

So I dropped off the car Monday night and flew to Chicago Tuesday morning. I'd spoken with another service person, let her know I'd be back in town Sun 01/25 and would need to pick up the car that afternoon, figuring they'd do the work at some point during the week but not caring exactly when it happened since I wouldn't be using it. Thus when my regular "service consultant"—I think his name may be John; I've not paid attention closely enough for the name to stick in my mind—called me last night, I was surprised.

He told me they'd put in the part and done two days of drainage testing with fantastic results, and the car was ready for me to pick up at my earliest convenience. And then he shifted gears.

Continue reading "Saturn of Lynnwood feels slighted by my web site" »


Light snow, art museums, and coffee-whoring

It's snowing lightly, the kind of small flakes that blow sideways and upward in the slightest breezes. Nothing sticking, but I haven't seen a weather forecast to know how much is even expected.

I'm in downtown Chicago right now, just finished a long visit to the Art Institute of Chicago Museum. I visited the Museum when I was here during the week of September 11, 2001, but only spent an hour or so because I got there in the late afternoon and they closed early due to the security concerns of that crazy week.

I browsed around the majority of the galleries, spending most of my time around the more famous works but also lingering in the Arms & Armor gallery and in the Architecture gallery. A very relaxing way to spend a morning and early afternoon.

About to head back to the western suburbs, but first a stop at a WiFi-equipped coffee shop for my daily news-and-caffeine-fix. Gonna hang out here a while yet and catch a train in a while.


Amazing, a correct weather forecast

Chicago radar snapshot, 01/23/04 13:36 CSTFirst time in months that a weather forecast has proven pretty much true exactly as the weather wonks stated it. I'm amazed.

It's snowing lightly now, accumulating at about 1" per hour. They say we're to get up to 3" total accumulation and the snow should taper off between 15:00 and 16:00, which would be on track for the 3" total.

At least it's warmed up a tiny bit. 19° right now with wind-chill of 7°, much better than last night's 9°/-15° while we were walking to a nearby pizza place. Thank God I didn't have my earring in, I'd've frozen off my left earlobe...!


Wind-chill from hell

It's a balmy 9° right now, with a wind chill of -9°. Sun's out, nice and bright, but absolutely no warmth to it. I'm about to head out into the cold once more.

My lips are chapping even as I think about that frigid wind, brrr....


“Designer dogs”? WTF?

What the hell—we’re creating “designer dogs” at the same time we have so many animals being put down in shelters every day?

CNN.com: Designer mutts cost big bucks

WASHINGTON (Reuters)—Move over chocolate lab, the labradoodle has arrived. Why walk a corgi when you can have a dorgi? Or coddle a poodle when you can cuddle a yorkipoo?

Mutts, by any other name, are all the rage.

Mixed-breed dogs, once the domain of U.S. animal shelters, are being sought by an increasing number of Americans looking for special pooches. Intentionally bred and cutely named, today’s special-order mixes have newfound status—and a purebred price tag.

“When there were a bunch of them around and a lot of them were in the shelter, you’d call them mutts,” said Stephen Zawistowski, science advisor at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, about the popular mixes that used to accidentally appear.

Sought-after mixes, some of which can fetch up to $4,000, are the labradoodle, a cross between the Labrador and the poodle; the schnoodle, a schnauzer-poodle mix; the goldendoodle, a golden retriever-poodle mix; the cockapoo, a cocker spaniel-poodle match; and the yorkipoo, a cross between a Yorkshire terrier and a poodle.

Even Britain’s Queen Elizabeth is in on the mixing trend. She has owned more than 30 Welsh corgis since she was 18 years old and has bred several dorgis—dachshund/corgi mixes.

The bagel, a mix between a basset hound and a beagle, is typically found in shelters.

“Right now, there is a stronger interest in crosses than in registered breeds,” said breeder Jennifer Connell of Breezy Hill Kennel in Hartsburg, Missouri.

‘Doodle’ dogs’ popularity stems from the combination of the poodle’s non-shedding, allergy-friendly coat with the intelligence, temperament and size of Labradors, golden retrievers, schnauzers and Yorkshire terriers.

Intentionally bred

The labradoodle was first intentionally bred in Australia in the 1970s and has its roots there as a guide dog for allergy sufferers, according to Beverly Manners, founder of Rutland Manor Labradoodle Breeding and Research Center in Victoria, Australia.

“I have not met another dog as gentle, intuitive, caring, and intelligent as the labradoodle,” said Caren Cioffi, a labradoodle owner and Stanford University MBA student who did a business internship with Manners last summer.

Ralph C. Richardson, dean of the veterinary college at Kansas State University, bought two schnoodle puppies, including one for his son’s family, and has ordered two more.

“I think the lack of shedding ... is a great attribute that a lot of people like,” he said. “In our case, we were looking for a very small dog. For someone who wanted a larger one, perhaps a labradoodle or the goldendoodle would be appropriate.”

Most allergists believe that no dog is 100 percent allergy-free, and often as dogs grow older their coats can change and become more troublesome for allergy sufferers.

Labradoodles, the most popular mix, can cost between $895 and $2,195, depending on coat and color, pricier than some of the 150 registered purebred dogs. Schnoodles and other mixes are considerably less, starting at $350. Shipping ranges between $375 and $1,690.

Breeders all over the world report long waiting lists for special mixes. Depending on Mother Nature and what specific criteria a potential owner wants, the wait can be anywhere from a few months to more than a year.

Breeding techniques

Mixed-breeding techniques vary from breeder to breeder. For example, some breeders cross labradoodles with labradoodles, occasionally adding in a poodle to “correct” the dog’s coat or disposition, while others mix Labradors with poodles once.

The labradoodle could be eligible for American Kennel Club recognition if there are at least 300 of them in at least 20 states with three documented generations of labradoodle to labradoodle mixing. A national breed club is also required.

“It’s still a developing breed,” Rutland Manor’s Manners told Reuters in a telephone interview. She has bred up to eight generations of labradoodles over 15 years and is passionate about breeding the best labradoodle possible.

Some animal experts believe cross breeding—either for one generation or for several—uses the best characteristics of two dogs to create one superdog. Occasionally purebred dogs inherit negative qualities if in-breeding occurs.

“Mixed-breed dogs are healthier,” Zawistowski said. “They aren’t as likely to have these inherited problems and people have gotten some of that message and so they’re buying mixed-breed dogs.”

On the flip side, purebred advocates relish knowing what to expect from their pup since the reliability of doodle dogs’ looks is not 100 percent.

“The problem is the lack of predictability,” Lainie Cantrell, spokeswoman for the AKC, said of labradoodles and other popular mixed-breds. “That’s the whole point of a purebred dog and the benefit of a purebred dog is that you typically know what you’re going to get.”

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

UPDATE Mon 09/26/05: Seattle Times catches a similar article on the wires from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; see my post about it.


Yahoo! News: Rabbi Offers Prayer for Web Porn Browsers

Uh... huh.

JERUSALEM (Reuters)—An Israeli rabbi has composed a prayer to help devout Jews overcome guilt after visiting porn web sites while browsing the Internet.

"Please God, help me cleanse the computer of viruses and evil photographs which disturb and ruin my work..., so that I shall be able to cleanse myself (of sin)," reads the benediction by Shlomo Eliahu, chief rabbi in the northern town of Safed.

Eliahu, quoted by Israel's largest daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, said he had responded to a deluge of queries from Orthodox Jews worried that the lure of Internet sex sites was putting family relationships at risk.

The rabbi recommends that Jews recite the prayer when they log on to the Internet or even program it to flash up on their computer screens so they are spiritually covered whether they enter a porn site intentionally or by mistake.

Yahoo! News article link

Link via bug

Standards for handling and storing CDs and DVDs

Some links to useful info about using, handling, and storing CDs and DVDs of all types, especially recordable media you want to keep around for several years (data archives and the like):

(Inspired by an item at MacInTouch.)


CNN.com: The importance of being Gollum

(CNN)—About three weeks' work.

That's what Andy Serkis' agent told the actor in 1999 when he was first offered the role of Gollum in the "Lord of the Rings" films. "They want to see you for the voice for an animated character," he was told.

More than four years later, Serkis' work as Gollum was finally done. And he was far more than a "voice for an animated character."

Gollum, in fact, was a groundbreaking computer-generated character, equal parts Serkis' strangled, haunted voice, his classical acting and the latest computer technology.

The actor's full-bore performance has earned talk of an Oscar nomination and a loyal fan base known to mutter "My precioussss" in Serkis' distinctive gasp (inspired by a hairball-coughing cat).

Although it didn't turn out to be a three-week lark—something Serkis knew from his first meeting with director Peter Jackson and Jackson's partner and "Lord of the Rings" co-writer Fran Walsh—he thought it would be something special. With the encouragement of Walsh, he started keeping a journal.

Brain balance!

Check out Mind Media's Brain Persuasion Test, a series of 20 no-right-answer questions that supposedly give you an idea of which side of your brain is dominant and the rough ratio of auditory vs. visual perceptions your brain uses.

My breakdown:

Auditory: 50%
Visual: 50%
Left: 61%
Right: 38%
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Chicago frozen

I'm freezing my ass off.

I have my winter coat, which is good, but the two mild winters I've been through in Seattle have turned me into a bit of a cold-weather weenie. It's 26° right now and that feels fine, although last night's low teens with a clipped wind made me a bit uncomfortable.

Right now I'm in Glen Ellyn, using the free WiFi that accompanies my bagel and coffee at a Panera Bread location. About to head off into the world....


BBC News: Can you spell properly?

British exam watchdog finds that many 11-year-olds can't spell commonly used words properly.

How do you fare?

My results:

You got 8 right!
Well done. You're now good enough to start secondary school.

I'm widely regarded as a Spelling/Grammar Cop by my family and friends, so this result doesn't surprise me. And I was annoyed by the fact that they left out the hyphens in the phrase "11-year-olds" in their descriptive paragraph before the quiz.


NYTimes: As Consumers Revolt, a Rush to Block Pop-Up Online Ads

The boom in Internet pop-up advertisement may be about to, well, pop.

The big ads that flash in separate windows above or below Web pages are among the most intrusive, and to many people, the most obnoxious features on the Internet. Not coincidentally, the pop-up format is also among the most effective for advertisers and the most profitable for Web site publishers.

But the potential reach of these ads is starting to be sharply curtailed as major companies, like Time Warner's AOL unit, Yahoo and Google, distribute software that blocks pop-up ads from opening. This summer, Microsoft will put a pop-up blocking feature in the next release of Internet Explorer, the dominant Web browser.

"There is a consumer revolt as forms of advertising get more intrusive," said Rob Kaiser, vice president for narrowband marketing at EarthLink, the first big Internet service provider to distribute pop-up blocking software. The reaction to pop-ups, he said, is similar to the rush to join the government's do-not-call list to block telemarketing calls and the increase in the use of video recorders to block TV commercials.

Advertising executives, in television and the Internet market, note that consumers who block the ads are undercutting the economic model that provides them with free entertainment and information.

full story (free registration required)

The end of pop-up and pop-under advertisements can't come soon enough for me. They don't bother me so much on my Mac OS machines, because Mac browsers don't necessarily command your full attention and come screaming to the front when pop-ups open, but on Windows when browser windows start intruding on my regular work, GAH!


Healthy choices at the deli. Then, step on over to the cookie aisle!

On my way to work this morning I was treated to a Safeway advertisement on 710 KIRO. They were touting Safeway's "Signature sandwiches" for their low-fat content—6 grams of fat or less, according to the spokesvoice—and playing up the Safeway deli as a healthy alternative to fast-food drive-throughs when one is traveling.

The remainder of the ad included whole fryers and then Oreo cookies, buy one get one free, "limit two free."

Very handy. After you've selected a low-fat sandwich to keep yourself healthy, you can snork down twice the usual number of Oreos at the same cost!


God forbid we use simple words, eh?

Holiday info at Wikipedia:

Flag Day in the United States (June 14)
Labor Day (first Mon in Sep)

US Dept of Labor on Labor Day
This kind of language just drives me up the freakin' wall.

Seattle Times: High-falutin' jargon has self-actualized in U.S. education

At many schools, 6-year-olds don't compare books anymore—they make "text-to-text connections." Misbehaving students face not detention but the "alternative-instruction room," or "reinforcement room," or "reflection room." Children who once read now practice "SSR," or "sustained-silent reading."

And in Maryland, high-schoolers write "extended constructed responses"—the essay, in a simpler time.

Jargon has been a mainstay of bureaucracy for centuries, satirized in the works of Jonathan Swift and George Orwell. Education is particularly fertile ground: At school-board meetings, stakeholders gather to align curriculum to content standards; in class, teachers vertically articulate and differentiate instruction and give authentic, outcome-based assessments.

Now—with the teacher-training industry uncommonly influential, children encouraged to think in more complex terms, and new tests and reforms each coming with its own vocabulary—the vast menu of what's called eduspeak or educationese has oozed into the classrooms. A second-grade teacher announces "modeling efficient subtraction strategies" as the task of the day, while "selected response" has taken the place of "multiple choice."

"These are terms that will drive anyone to complete hysteria," said Robert Hartwell Fiske, publisher of the Vocabulary Review and author of the forthcoming "Dictionary of Disagreeable English."

Quiet Sunday... ahhh

I'm gonna go to my usual Tully's for a bit, charge up on caffeine, and then probably be boring and come home to do laundry.

Traveling from Tuesday through next Sunday so I have to be sure my laundry's done today for packing tomorrow night.

Oh yeah, must drag suitcase out of patio storage space....


Yep, these machines definitely rule

The 12" PowerBook G4 is definitely a sweet little machine. Small, easy to carry, simple to use, powerful for anything a home user would want to do... grand devices, every which way.


Enough news whoring

I'm at work, switching between spreadsheet windows (I hate Excel array formulae) and news web sites. The Seattle Times occupied most of my news reading, as you can see from the several posts I made before this one. Now, to finish spreading sheets so's I can get the hell outta Dodge in the next little while.


Seattle Times: At Children's, no child turned away

Children's Hospital, by the end of this month, won't have to turn away any more children needing a hospital bed. Thanks in large part to $30 million in contributions, colorful zebras and giraffes backed by stunning original murals stand sentry as workers put finishing touches on the new Janet Sinegal Patient Care Building, a 100,000-square-foot building that contains 42 new beds. The first inpatient expansion in 25 years brings the hospital's inpatient beds to 250.

full editorial


Seattle Times: NASA to cut off Hubble telescope

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.—NASA yesterday announced it no longer will send shuttle missions to service the Hubble Space Telescope, likely cutting three or so years off the revolutionary machine's previously planned retirement date of 2010.

NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe told project scientists the decision was made to minimize risk to shuttle crews in the wake of last year's Columbia accident.

After the accident, an investigation board recommended that astronauts have the capability to inspect and make repairs to the shuttle's thermal protection system when not docked to the international space station. The difficulty of developing that capability for a single shuttle flight not bound for the station, combined with this week's decision to retire the fleet by 2010, helped drive the decision.

full story

Truly some of the most spectacular images of the heavens. Take a look at NASA's Hubble web site and prepare to gasp in wonderment.


Seattle Times: Pump prices rise as supply of gasoline is cut back

Bill Best has been out of premium and plus gasoline at his Kirkland gas station for the past two weeks. Yesterday he ran out of regular unleaded. He's losing customers to a station down the street that's charging 10 cents less a gallon.

And there's nothing he can do about it.

"We've run out of gas, and no one is delivering," said Best, who runs Yarrow Bay Shell. "We're dead in the water now. All my customers are unhappy, and the frustrating part is I don't know whether I'm going to get (gas) or when. You can't run a business this way."

Shell, which owns and supplies Best's station, cut by 20 percent the amount of gasoline it supplies to its stations. The oil giant says it limited supplies because of last week's cold snap and small fires at its Anacortes refinery Jan. 5.

Refinery fires happen four to seven times a year and wouldn't restrict gas supplies if the major oil companies kept gasoline in reserve, said Tim Hamilton, executive director of AUTO, a trade group of 500 gas-station dealers in Washington.

"Oil companies intentionally keep supplies low to keep prices high," he said. "When a refinery goes offline, they raise prices to keep consumption low. Dealers are helpless to do anything."

full story

Thankfully I only have to fill up my tank about every two weeks, but I drive past two gas stations on my way to and from work every day and had been watching the prices rise with annoyance.


EMP lays off 129 rock 'n' roll museum workers

Employees at Experience Music Project might be singing the blues right about now.

On Thursday, 129 full- and part-time workers—more than one-third of EMP's staff members—were given pink slips in the latest round of layoffs to hit the rock 'n' roll museum founded by Paul Allen.

EMP, a radical, 140,000-square-foot facility designed by Frank Gehry, opened with much fanfare in June 2000 at a cost of $240 million. The opening, which included performances by Metallica, Dr. Dre, Eminem and Taj Mahal, attracted national attention, as did the collection of iconic rock artifacts. But the museum has struggled to control costs. Last February, 46 workers were let go, on top of 124 staffers laid off the year before. Thursday's layoffs leave 214 employees.

Those laid off this time include full- and part-time employees in all departments, though most are administrative positions, said museum spokeswoman Paige Prill. The cuts in staff positions were necessary, Prill said, as part of the museum's overall aim to run more efficiently without compromising exhibits and educational programs.

full story

I haven't been to the EMP yet. The article says they aren't planning to close it, "even if only temporarily," but I wonder if I should make an effort to get down there just in case....


And speaking of annoyances...

The lab provided new cell phones to many of the management folks this week. A couple of them are playing with the ring tones today, to the extreme distress of those of us who think Beethoven's Fifth should only be played by, gee hmm I wonder, a full symphony orchestra...!


CNN.com: Gillette: New disposable razor hums, makes hair stand on end

Do we really need another "shaving system," for crying out loud?

BOSTON, Massachusetts (AP)—There's a new Rolls-Royce for the serious shaver.

Gillette rolled out a new high-tech, premium razor Thursday, a souped-up version of the Mach3Turbo featuring 62 patents and a tiny, battery-powered motor that emits pulses that work on the skin to prop up hair so it can be lopped off more easily.

The Boston-based company said the gentle, electric hum of the "M3Power" not only reduces the need to shave over the same skin surface repeatedly, but even produces an agreeable massaging sensation.

But the Rolls-Royce device, expected to hit North American shelves in May, will also come with a Rolls-Royce price tag: $14.99 for the shaving system (including a battery), compared to $8.99 for the Mach3Turbo. A 4-pack of blades will go for $10.99, a 15-percent premium.

full story

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