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102 entries from July 2004

Laundry and Italian food

Laundry day again, every two weeks like clockwork. The days are just flying by.

While the washer and dryer spun up, I fired up the second disc of Sports Night from Netflix. The more I see of it, the more I’m sorry it lasted just two seasons.

Biaggi’s logoHad lunch at Biaggi’s, a new Italian place in The Gateway, the couple-years-old shopping/dining/entertainment/living complex a couple blocks west of the main downtown area. Their minestrone’s pretty tasty, and the house salad with the house balsamic vinaigrette another good choice. Tiramisu for dessert, my favorite.

Their menu listed it as Tirami Su. I’d never seen that before.

The men’s room had a stainless-steel air-freshener dispenser with the logotype First Impression.


Salt Lake Tribune: Husband's fate after hospital in question

"Person of interest": The police and prosecutors consider their possible actions when Mark Hacking is released

Tucked away on the fifth floor of University Hospital, Mark Hacking has received psychiatric care since the morning after he reported his wife, Lori, missing 12 days ago.

That hospital stay is expected to end soon, according to a hospital official.

The question is: Will police let Hacking, the only "person of interest" in his wife's disappearance, go home?

The University of Utah has an all-hours security force that is keeping tabs on Mark Hacking, but no U. police officers are on the psychiatric floor, said University police Sgt. Earl McKee. "If doctors feel he is able to leave the hospital, he is free to go," said Salt Lake City Police Detective Phil Eslinger, adding that he doubts Mark Hacking would be arrested upon his release.

If Hacking is taken into custody, prosecutors would have 72 hours to file criminal charges. But that seems premature in a case where investigators have not found Lori Hacking and are awaiting forensic testing on evidence seized from the Hackings' apartment, including small amounts of blood and a knife.

Authorities also could assign an officer to trail Mark Hacking.

Or they could do nothing and trust that their "person of interest" does not flee.

As police and prosecutors weigh their options of what to do when Mark Hacking is released, detectives, with the help of cadaver dogs, will continue boring through the Salt Lake County landfill in search of a body.

For the second night in a row on Friday, the landfill search was suspended to give the dogs a rest.

Eslinger said he did not know when the search will resume or how long it might continue.

Using backhoes, landfill employees have dug trenches up to 45 feet deep. The methodical search could take months, say police, who equate it to the proverbial needle in a haystack.

"It is a huge task," Eslinger said. "For us to be spending as much time and effort as we are, I have to say it is a fairly credible tip."

Despite the deliberate nature of the search for Lori Hacking, investigators say the case is moving forward.

"They feel comfortable with what they are doing and the direction [the case] is heading," Eslinger said.

The case is being handled by the homicide squad along with a few detectives from other units. Eslinger said these detectives are focused on building a meticulous case, not a quick outcome.

Maj. Stu Smith from the state crime laboratory lauded police for their thorough work in handling evidence and for involving forensic experts from the beginning. A good portion of that evidence was collected in the search of the apartment, which started July 19.

Mark Hacking called police that morning to say his wife never returned from a run up City Creek Canyon. Police now say they have no evidence that Lori Hacking, 27 years old and five weeks pregnant at the time, was ever at the canyon.

Investigators started to focus on Mark as they uncovered a series of deceptions. That propensity to lie was underscored in a videotape aired Friday by "Inside Edition," in which Hacking spoke to a documentary filmmaker from California two days before Lori disappeared. The footage was intended for use in a film about nurses.

First Hacking plays the "Addams Family" theme by making squeaking noises with his palms, then he talks about his college education.

"I started off in social work. No, I lied. I started in sociology," he says. "I finished my degree in psychology and yes, I do love it. And now I am moving on."

But Mark Hacking never graduated from the University of Utah. He dropped out in 2002.

He also told family and friends that he was accepted to a medical school, also a lie. He lied to his wife about the reason he was sent home early from his Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints mission in Canada. And he told police he searched City Creek Canyon the morning of July 19, when he actually was at a South Salt Lake furniture store purchasing a mattress.

The families of Mark and Lori have stopped making public comments, but on Friday they observed a day of prayer and fasting.

They say they are planning aerial and all-terrain searches for Lori in areas where a foot search would be dangerous. Those searches, organized with police, have not yet started.

Anyone interested in assisting in the search can find information on the family's Web site, www.findlori.com.

100 million songs

Apple’s 100 Million Songs campaign makes a point of saying

100 million songs have been legally downloaded from the iTunes Music Store.

Which leads me to ask:

How many songs have been illegally downloaded from the iTunes Music Store?

'Tis done!

Spreadsheet's finished! No more possible scroll-lock nightmares, no more Excel v.X "unexpected quit," no more tearing out my hair as I try to get numbers to reconcile to known formulae!


Deseret Morning News: Certain cases grab more attention

Race and class can affect coverage, media experts say

OREM—A day after Lori Hacking was reported missing, another Orem girl disappeared.

While Hacking's story garnered national media attention and an outpouring of community support, the disappearance of Felicia Young, 19, barely registered a blip on the public-awareness radar screen.

On Thursday, Young's absence was reported in a newspaper for the first time. Her family complained that despite their best efforts they could not enlist the help of neighbors or news reporters to help find her.

Wednesday afternoon, perhaps because of the news article, Young called her mother to report she was fine and didn't want to be found.

To be sure, the disappearances of Hacking, who is from Orem, and Young are two very different stories—police suspected from the beginning that Young had vanished of her own accord—but they raise an important question: Why do some missing persons cases draw more attention than others?

"We put the same information out on every missing persons case," said Springville Police Lt. Dave Caron. "Why the press picks up some cases and not others, well, that's something to ask the press."

When Elizabeth Smart disappeared from her Salt Lake City home, some news analysts, such as the Poynter Institute's Bob Steele, wondered if her case was receiving too much attention. After all, there are some 2,000 reported cases of missing children per day, according to the National Crime Information Center. Why was her plight more important than that of Alexis Patterson, a 7-year-old Milwaukee girl who disappeared a month before on her way to school?

"Some suggest that race is a key factor. Smart is white. Patterson is black," wrote Steele, the institute's Nelson Poynter Scholar for Journalism Values. "I do believe that race, as well as class differences, can factor into how journalists cover the stories of missing children. But the issue is much more complex than that."

"There are a number of reasons why news organizations choose to cover some missing children and not others, and why they devote more attention to some cases."

Steele said much of the media attention a story generates depends on how it breaks. If there is an emotional plea from the family to help find the missing person, as there was in the Hacking case, it is much more likely the public and the media will pay attention. In the Young case, her family didn't report her missing for days because of her history of vanishing for days at a time.

Some police officers are more forthcoming than others, Steele said, which also affects media coverage. The same goes for the families of missing persons—some are media savvy, while others are not.

And some recognize the importance of media attention but do not know how to go about getting it or lack the connections to do so.

"In the end, journalists make decisions on what stories are more interesting," Steele said. "If the story has an edge to it, if there are unusual or sensational details, it's more likely to be covered. I think the Hacking story would have (been a big story) anywhere."

Karen Mayne, spokeswoman for the Provo Police Department, said in her experience the media are helpful in finding a missing person even when the story isn't gripping. A few years back an elderly man wandered away from a Provo rest home and the media aired his story, Mayne said. As with many missing persons cases, the man eventually turned up dead.

Initially in a missing persons case, media attention is helpful, said Springville's Caron, but over time the scrutiny can become burdensome. Caron said he does sense a bias in the types of stories the media choose to cover.

"It's sad, and I hate to say this, but if you have a really cute kid, it's going to get more attention than a kid who looks like his mother is a troll and his dad is a gargantuan with a third arm," he said. "If a black woman in Chicago turned up missing, it's not going to make the news, unless there is something spectacular about the case."

The story goes on to talk about how such things as the way the story breaks (pleas from the family or information from police?), how forthcoming the police are, and even the missing person's own history (has the person been gone for days at a time before?) can affect the way a disappearance is covered by the press.

Orem is about 43 miles from my house, and this story was the first I'd heard about Felicia Young.

It's sad race and class are ever factors in coverage of any news story. I was distressed when I remembered one of my first reactions to Lori Hacking's disappearance—before I knew anything about her background, I thought:

This is just like the Elizabeth Smart case. It's made the news because the missing person is a white female.

The descriptive information at FindLori.com lists Hacking's complexion as "dark," and she looks Hispanic to me. Or is that Latino? I don't know which word to use anymore, and I certainly don't want to offend anyone. But my point is simply that when I saw the photos on the "missing" posters and on the various news stories, my first thought was that she was white, and that's why the story was being covered.

And I'm ashamed by that.


Thursday-night randomness

need directions? (1.9MB MOV, possibly NSFW) (link via AskBug)

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

I stepped into the bathroom a few minutes ago and nearly went into cardiac arrest when I was attacked by a huge transparent slick-feeling object. When I managed to get the light on, I saw that the shower curtain had billowed outward somehow and had been lying in wait for God knows how long, determined to scare the shit out of me.

It worked.

Continue reading "Thursday-night randomness" »


Excel scroll lock. Or: HOW TO DRIVE DON NUTS.

Somehow I managed to engage scroll lock while I was working on this spreadsheet in Excel v.X, and I could not for the life of me figure out how I'd done that, nor how to disengage the damned lock.

Twenty minutes of checking Excel's help files, of looking at Microsoft's knowledge base, blah blah blah, nothing.

I finally just started hitting keys while holding down various modifiers and finally stumbled over the answer:

Ctrl+F14

For your reference should you encounter this incredibly irritating situation.


Knock off the overlaid ads, goddammit!

Will somebody please explain to me what the logic is behind showing a little advertisement superimposed over the lower-right corner of a broadcast, and then playing the ad's sound louder than the actual show's sound?

Is this meant solely to irritate the living FUCK out of viewers?

If so, TNT's got it down pat!


Misleading headline of the day

CNN.com: FBI: Trace amounts of ricin found in baby food

IRVINE, California (AP)—Authorities found ground-up castor beans with trace amounts of the poison ricin in two jars of baby food that had been tampered with, officials said Wednesday.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials who tested the baby food said the ricin was not in the purified form that can be deadly. Rather, it was a less toxic, natural component of the castor beans.

"It's unlikely there would be serious injury with the level of castor bean found in those two jars we tested," said Dr. David Acheson, chief medical officer with the FDA's Center for Food, Safety and Applied Nutrition.

Small amounts of the food were eaten, but the babies had no symptoms, he said.

The FBI and Orange County District Attorney's Office were investigating the discoveries as cases of food tampering. No injuries or arrests have been reported, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.

Authorities have not disclosed a possible motive. In Washington, two federal law enforcement officials speaking on condition of anonymity because of agency policy said there was no evidence of any widespread ricin contamination of baby food.

Ricin is made from castor beans and can be fatal if swallowed, inhaled or injected. A dose about the size of the head of a pin could be enough to kill an adult, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On June 16, a man told Irvine police that as he was about to feed his son, he found a note inside a jar of baby food warning that it had been contaminated. A similar case was reported by an Irvine couple on May 31 involving the same baby food, Gerber Banana Yogurt, police said. A note was also found inside that jar.

Investigators were testing Gerber Banana Yogurt removed from the store where both jars were purchased.

Authorities did not disclose the contents of the notes but said they referred to an Irvine police officer.

The Gerber Products Co., based in Parsippany, New Jersey, is working with investigators. Authorities told the company the contamination "absolutely" occurred after the food was manufactured, said Gerber spokeswoman Terry Boylan.

Gerber baby food jars are vacuum sealed and should pop when opened. If they don't, it could indicate they have been tampered with, Boylan said.

The FBI still is trying to determine how ricin turned up in a U.S. Senate mailroom. The February 2 discovery led to the shutdown of three Senate office buildings for several days and forced some staff and police to undergo decontamination procedures.

Also still unsolved are two letters found last year in postal facilities that contained vials of ricin and were signed by a mysterious "Fallen Angel," who objected to new government rules for longhaul truckers. One of those letters was addressed to the White House and was intercepted by the Secret Service.
link via AskBug

Salt Lake Tribune: Hopes dim for happy ending

Lori Hacking's family 'strong and united' despite fears of the worst

Article last updated: 07/28/2004 11:01:36 AM
Eight days after Lori Hacking was reported missing, her family is holding out hope.

But they also understand this harsh reality: Long-missing women do not often come back alive.

No one knows that better than police detectives, which explains why their actions have more closely resembled an investigation of a homicide, rather than an abduction, as was the general assumption when Hacking first disappeared.

Among the clues suggesting police are intent on finding a body and solving a murder:
  • Police support the family's decision to limit searches of the area in which Mark Hacking, the primary "person of interest" in the case, claims his wife went missing on July 19.
  • The only place police are searching, with cadaver dogs, is a Salt Lake County landfill.
  • The homicide squad is leading the investigation and has not requested the assistance of the FBI, which usually aids in abduction cases.
  • A judge has signed a secret subpoena and approved a search warrant in the case.
  • A knife gathered during the investigation has been sent to the crime lab for analysis.
"It is Day Eight. We know what that means," family spokesman Scott Dunaway said. "We know what the statistics are about that."

The dogs returned to the landfill late Tuesday in an effort to finish searching a quadrant where police believe they may find evidence.

Detective Dwayne Baird said the search was prompted by a credible tip received last week. He said police were not actively looking in any other area of the valley, but continued to comb through a "couple hundred leads."

Investigators and cadaver dogs already have been over the area once, several days after Lori Hacking's disappearance. By that time, the landfill plot already had been covered by approximately 15 feet of topsoil.

In spotlights set up to aid the effort, a backhoe could be seen moving rubbish and dirt. Though numerous officers were at the scene, Baird downplayed the significance of the lead.

"We have to look at everything we get," he said. "We can't ignore these things." Homicide Detective Kelly Kent, the lead investigator, said her team includes more than 10 other detectives, some outside of the homicide squad. Homicide detectives don't normally handle missing persons cases, but Baird said depending on the evidence, such cases may be assigned to different units.

Among the evidence police are evaluating is Mark Hacking's claims that he was searching City Creek Canyon for his wife, while he was actually buying a mattress at a South Salt Lake furniture store. Police on July 19 asked permission to remove a mattress from a Dumpster behind a church near the Hackings' apartment.

Police are also are investigating Mark Hacking's lies involving his past and future educational pursuits, a series of deceptions his wife may have discovered three days before she disappeared, according to co-workers.

Mark Hacking said his wife, who was five weeks pregnant, went for a jog in the canyon about 5:15 a.m. on July 19. Her car was later discovered at the entrance to the canyon, but police now say they have no evidence she was ever there on that morning.

Salt Lake City investigators have turned down offers of help from the FBI, West Valley City and the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office, and have even limited information about the case provided to officers involved in the search.

In other developments Tuesday:
  • The family placed the search on hold, worried that remaining search areas are too rugged and treacherous for people on foot.
  • The family will place a link on their Web site (http://www.findlori.com) where those with all-terrain vehicles, planes and other possible search equipment can volunteer to help in what they are calling "the next phase of the search efforts."
  • Police asked the public to stop reporting found mattresses, saying they already had what they needed.
  • The family will dismantle the search center today and have not scheduled any future news conferences. Dunaway said the family will hold news conferences only when they have new information to impart.
  • Relatives emptied the Hackings' apartment, allowing new residents to move in. The Hackings' possessions will be kept in storage.
Dunaway characterized the family as strong and united, a statement further evidenced by the actions of Hareld Soares and Janet Hacking, who were holding hands during Tuesday's news conference.

"This is an amazingly courageous family," Dunaway said. "I am confident they will be able to endure any trial they have to."

Ready to Wear

If you're even remotely interested in designing weblogs and your blog is hosted on TypePad, you simply must check out Colleen's Ready to Wear blog.

Colleen includes some step-by-step instructions, including ideas for visually separating posts using CSS, that are fantastically helpful. I haven't delved too much into CSS yet beyond making color, border, and other basic design changes on this site, but with Ready to Wear's help I'll be futzing around with it more.

Some months back I asked Colleen about her rates for design jobs. I should take her up on it after all this time; her services are very reasonably priced.

Check it out.


More foody goodness (?)

Three Utah cooks made the finals (of a total field of 100) in Pillsbury's recent 41st Bake-Off® Contest. None of them won the $1 million grand prize—that went to a concoction called Oats 'n Honey Granola Pie, submitted by an Ohio woman and also declared winner of the "Weekends Made Special" category.

Somehow a pie made from granola bars doesn't seem all that weekend-special to me, but I'm not from Ohio.

Gloria Rendon: Corn- and Cheese-Stuffed Peppers
Gloria Rendon with her Corn- and Cheese-Stuffed Peppers
Utah finalists' recipes:

So yeah.

All recipes in the contest were required to use at least one General Mills product, which is why something like "Oats 'n Honey" is inflicted upon a recipe name in such a contest—it specifies Nature Valley's Oats 'n Honey® Granola Bars as one ingredient. I think they're also under some federal law to have at least one recipe with the oh-so-cute 'n version of and, because that's Homey 'n Reminiscent of the 1950s or something.

Oats 'n Honey Granola Pie
The 2004 Bake-Off winner: Oats 'n Honey Granola Pie
The Oats 'n Honey Granola Pie recipe also specifies "1 Pillsbury® Refrigerated Pie Crust (from 15-oz. box), softened as directed on box." I imagine if you don't soften as directed, your recipe is disqualified, your sifter is confiscated, and your apron is shredded.

It's amusing to read these recipes in the Salt Lake Tribune story where I first encountered them. The Trib, in another lame attempt at trying to maintain a semblance of editorial detachment, rewords the recipes—instead of outright demanding the appropriate General Mills product as on the Pillsbury pages, the recipes merely "suggest" the products. Like the granola bars and Yoplait yogurt and Green Giant Mexicorn. (!)

(In typical Trib high-quality copy-editing fashion, they list the grand-prize recipe thus: Oats on Honey Granola Pie.)

Finally, to get a taste of corporate America at its finest, take a look at General Mills' Brandscape page. It'll make you feel like you never left the grocery store.


Salt Lake Tribune: Rolling in dough: Specialty bakery catches on in Utah

LOGAN—Some say bread is the staff of life. For Bill Oblock it is much more. It's art, it's science. It's what he loves.

The only problem is convincing others to love it too.

John Reichert, head baker and one of the three 'Crumb Brothers,' shaping bread dough at Crumb Brothers Bakery in Logan
John Reichert, head baker and one of the three 'Crumb Brothers,' shaping bread dough at Crumb Brothers Bakery in Logan
"The biggest challenge for us is to get people to try something different," Oblock says of his newest venture, Crumb Brothers Artisan Bread.

Considering the popularity of the handmade bread, with its hard crust and chewy interior, Oblock is addressing that challenge. The business sells out daily, shipping fresh bread to the Salt Lake Farmers Market and restaurants throughout northern Utah, such as Bambara and Fresco Italian Cafe.

Creating a niche with high-quality, all-natural bread has been the key to success, according to Entrepreneur Magazine Group.

"Run-of-the-mill bakeries have a tough time making it, especially in larger cities," the group's guide to bakeries says. "You have to have a 'hook,' offering more to the public than a typical bakery."

In an increasingly tight market, bakeries have to differentiate themselves, adds Peter Franklin of PeterBread Consulting. Of the 80 bakeries he has advised, including Crumb Brothers, no two business plans have been alike. "It's just like starting any business that is relatively high risk," Franklin says. "For those people like Bill, who has done his homework... it is still not blue sky because you never know what reality will bring."

In March, Oblock opened his 4,600-square-foot, environmentally conscious bakery in a historic part of Cache Valley and is producing between 500 and 600 loaves per day. Not bad, considering all the bread is made by hand. But Oblock says this solid start is just the foundation of a bigger plan.

By next year, he and his "Crumb Brothers"—head bakers John Reichert and Josh Archibald—hope to sell 1,500 loaves a day. Designs also are in place to use more of the bakery as a retail store, where customers can enjoy a pastry with juice or coffee.

Before venturing into the bakery business, Oblock worked for 20 years in the restaurant industry, including ownership of Logan's Grapevine restaurant.

He says his million-dollar investment in the new bakery—including $50,000 for an oven capable of baking 300 loaves at once—came from a desire to move from the high-paced demands of being a restaurateur to the more specialized, low-key business of baking bread.

Now he and his partners spend hours perfecting various recipes.

"We are serious about bread, but we don't want to come across as being above everybody," Oblock says.

That attitude may be the drive behind two other Oblock goals: Making as little impact on the environment as possible, and creating a space his employees can enjoy.

To meet those goals, Oblock and architect Joyce Popendorf have strived to develop an energy-efficient operation. Their building's large windows are designed to reflect sunlight onto high ceilings and a geoexchange system uses energy from groundwater to heat and cool the structure. Oblock also uses natural gas vans to transport his bread around the state. "I wanted to have the architecture come through in what we do," Oblock says. "It is about being responsible for what you do with your resources."

Tasty stuff—I've sampled the products of a few bakeries of this type, one in Seattle, one in Phoenix, and the one in this story. That they consider 300 loaves at a time to be "low-key," however, seems pretty crazy to me, but then baking a single loaf would probably make me feel insane.

Great Harvest may not fit the "artisan bakers" mold specifically, but their honey wheat bread is simply insanely good. If there's a location near you, stop by and enjoy a sample slice in the store, free for the asking whether you buy or not.


Language double standard?

On July 6 I posted about TNT's reluctance to allow the word asshole in their repeat episodes of NYPD Blue. They still do that—bleep out the "hole" part of the word, or make a quick scene cut to avoid its utterance.

So tonight I'm watching TNT's The Grid, their limited series about counterterror agents and the terrorists they're after. Dylan McDermott and Julianna Margulies argue in an elevator about McDermott's somewhat hot-headedness, and as part of that discussion he utters the word asshole.

What, they only allow cursing in their original series but not in the several hours of other networks' one-hour dramas they repeat each day? Why the silly double standard?


Tuesday is Tuesday again

iTunes Music Store New Music Tuesdays mail sample shot, brazenly swiped from Apple's siteI was right when I said two weeks ago that Apple would have a couple weeks of "Wednesday is Tuesday" and then would finally get their New Music Tuesdays newsletters out on Tuesday.

They did it today, although only by an hour and six minutes.

This one even has info about a couple artists I care about, so I didn't automatically delete it after I checked the date.


FOXNews.com: Cops: 'Rage Killing' in Hacking Home

Police believe that a "rage killing" took place inside Lori and Mark Hacking's apartment hours before Lori was reported missing, FOX News has confirmed.

Authorities also said they believe Lori Hacking (search) was attacked and killed inside the apartment.

Police confirmed that a bloody knife with strands of brown hair on it was among the numerous pieces of evidence they removed from the couple's apartment.

There were also unconfirmed reports that authorities were testing a clump of brown hair found in a trash bin just a block or two from the store where Mark Hacking purchased a mattress minutes before he called police about his wife's disappearance.

There were additional rumors that authorities, using blood-detection techniques, found a significant amount of blood inside the Hackings' home.

Detective Dwayne Baird wouldn't confirm the reports about the evidence, but didn't deny them either.

This story appeared on FOXNews.com between reloads about 20 minutes apart. Exactly where I figured the case was headed, but still disappointing to see it actually turn out that way.


Salt Lake Tribune: Update: Hacking family calls off search volunteers

Article last updated: 07/27/2004 12:34:57 PM
SALT LAKE CITY—The search by volunteers looking for missing jogger Lori Hacking was temporarily called off today, but will resume later with specialized teams, a family spokesman said.

Scott Dunaway said the decision was not related to any change in the direction of the police investigation into Hacking's disappearance. Hacking, 27, has been missing since July 19, when her husband Mark Hacking reported she had not returned from a morning jog in City Creek Canyon.

Lori Hacking, a Wells Fargo employee who was five weeks pregnant, is now feared dead, and her husband has become the focus of the police investigation. Hundreds of Utahns have volunteers to help search for her in the week since she vanished.

Dunaway said this morning the length of time Lori Hacking has been missing has dampened the family's hopes of finding her alive. "They understand the reality of eight days," he said.

Meanwhile, police returned with night lights and cadaver dogs Monday night to search the Salt Lake County landfill, which already had been searched before.

At the time of Lori's disappearance, the couple were packing to move to North Carolina. But after she vanished, police and family members learned that besides lying about being accepted to medical school, Mark Hacking had not even graduated from college. Mark Hacking, a 28-year-old nightshift hospital orderly, has been at a psychiatric hospital since police found him running around naked in sandals the night after the search for his wife began. Police refused to say whether he was being held involuntarily.

His family has hired defense attorney D. Gilbert Athay, who said Monday he has spoken to Hacking many times since being hired Thursday. He refused to characterize the conversations.

Three days before she disappeared, Lori Hacking may have uncovered her husband's deceptions.

She received a phone call at her work, started crying and went home early, said a colleague at Wells Fargo Institutional Brokerage and Sales.

"I could hear her say things such as, 'But he's already been accepted. He's already applied. This can't be correct,' said Darren Openshaw, a Wells Fargo employee who overheard the phone call about 2:15 p.m. on July 16.

Openshaw said he believes the caller was from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Lori Hacking update: Tue 07/27/04 morning

Three stories—one CNN.com link and one from each of the Salt Lake-area morning newspapers—discuss Lori Hacking's co-workers' recounting details of a phone call Lori received at work Fri 07/16. Co-workers who overheard the call believe it may have been from the University of North Carolina, where Mark Hacking said he'd been accepted to medical but in fact had never applied. Lori Hacking had been trying to arrange for on-campus housing through the school and was upset when they told her Mark Hacking wasn't enrolled there and in fact had never applied. Upset by the call, Lori left work early that day.


Lori Hacking update: Mon 07/26/04 evening

Two items tonight.

First, The Salt Lake Tribune now offers a special section on the case: Missing: The Search for Lori Hacking.

Second, CNN.com's story discussing the hiring of an attorney to represent Mark Hacking: Attorney hired for husband of missing woman

Police call Mark Hacking 'person of interest' in case

Paul and Valeria Soares, Lori Hacking's brother and sister-in-law
Paul and Valeria Soares, Lori Hacking's brother and sister-in-law, comfort one another during a candlelight vigil Sunday
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (CNN)—The family of a man whose wife has been missing since last week said Monday that an attorney has been hired to represent him.

Salt Lake City attorney Gilbert Athay will represent Mark Hacking, who has been hospitalized in a psychiatric ward since shortly after his wife disappeared.

Athay told CNN by phone that he had been retained by the Hackings on Thursday and has been visiting his client daily at the hospital.

Meanwhile, the search continued for Lori Hacking, who last contacted her mother in an e-mail message sent July 14 or 15. Dunaway said at a news conference that Lori asked her mother to take care of the couple's cat as they prepared to move to North Carolina.

Mark Hacking told police his wife never returned from an early morning jog July 20. Her car was found near the park where she often ran, and a witness reported seeing a woman fitting Lori's description stretching that morning in the same area.

Mark Hacking told police the couple recently found out Lori was pregnant, but Thelma Soares, Lori's mother, said her daughter had not told her the news.

Although authorities have not called Mark Hacking a suspect, they have labeled him a "person of interest" in his 27-year-old wife's disappearance.

Monday, two police technicians and a detective searched an empty trash container outside the hospital where Mark Hacking is a patient.

Police said Sunday that an arrest warrant could be issued in the case if forensic test results expected in the next few days confirm investigators' suspicions.

Saturday, police investigated the discovery of a clump of brown hair in a trash container near the store where Hacking, 28, is reported to have bought a mattress before reporting his wife's disappearance. A detective told CNN that someone called police and reported finding the hair at a car wash less than a block from the store.

Lori Hacking has brown hair.

Suspicion mounted against Mark Hacking when his family revealed Wednesday that he had lied about graduating from the University of Utah and being accepted at three medical schools in other states. He was checked into a psychiatric hospital Monday night.

Police last questioned him Wednesday but haven't since because they don't feel they're getting good information from him.

"As far as his telling us the truth, I think everybody has a question about his telling us the truth," said Salt Lake City police detective Dwayne Baird.

"To go back and re-question him about the same issues when we don't feel that he's been truthful the first time, I'm not certain that that would do us any good," he told reporters Monday.

Police said last week they had learned that Mark telephoned friends around 10 a.m. Monday to say his wife was missing and, about 50 minutes later, telephoned police. During the interim, he bought a queen-size mattress, without a box spring.

On Thursday, police confiscated a box spring from the couple's apartment. Authorities also impounded Mark Hacking's car and searched the couple's apartment, and a trash container was removed.

Thousands of volunteers have searched the park where Lori's car was found and the neighborhood in which the couple lived.

Week 77: Unconscious Mutterings

Said... :: Thunk...
  1. Sleep :: Wake
  2. Stats :: Site
  3. Portfolio :: Stocks
  4. Lipton :: Tea
  5. Telly :: Lollipop
  6. Immigrate :: Customs
  7. Viable :: Embryo
  8. Serene :: Relaxed
  9. Mountain :: Green
  10. Natalie :: Portman

Tech news quick hit

While I'm at it, might as well post a couple of CNET News.com links that caught my eye:

  • U2 vows iTunes release if album pirated
    Irish rock band U2 might rush release its upcoming album as a legal download on Apple Computer's iTunes music store if unfinished material from a CD copy that went missing ends up pirated on the Internet, a source close to the band says.

    While U2's label, Interscope Records, insisted it had no plans to change the intended November debut of the album, the source said an early iTunes release "is certainly one of the alternatives" should an unauthorized version appear on free file-sharing services.

    U2's lead singer, Bono, was quoted in the Daily Telegraph this week as saying, "If it is on the Internet this week, we will release it immediately as a legal download on iTunes, and get hard copies into the shops by the end of the month."

    Such a move, contemplated as a response to the presumed theft of a U2 compact disc in France last week, would be unprecedented, experts said.
  • RealNetworks breaks Apple's hold on iPod
    RealNetworks announced Monday that it has unlocked some of Apple Computer's most tightly held technology secrets, giving its music a way onto the popular iPod digital music player.

    The announcement is part of a broader release of RealNetworks software, which will let songs sold from the company's online store play on a variety of portable devices, including the iPod and Microsoft-compatible rivals. RealNetworks has been selling songs from its digital song store since January, but the files could previously be played only on a few portable devices.

    The new Harmony software, which RealNetworks said mimics the proprietary copy protection used in Apple's iTunes store, is sure to be controversial. Apple has previously refused to provide licenses to companies seeking iPod compatibility, and RealNetworks did not seek permission before releasing its own version of iPod-friendly software.

Early-morning randomness

Børn Footwear: CLASSIC: Blast
Børn Footwear: CLASSIC: Blast
New shoes today.... Børn rules.

At 09:30 I’ll be meeting with an academic advisor at the University of Utah to hammer out my school life for the foreseeable future.

I set my alarm for 08:30 to be sure I’d have plenty of time to shower, dress, drive to the U (it’s maybe 10 min. away, including finding parking and wandering around campus until I find the right building). So of course I snapped awake promptly at 05:49, for crying out loud.

On the plus side, no bad news about Lori Hacking—but then, no news of any kind yet either, and still no sign of her. No summaries of these stories today, links only:

And finally, a spot of good—nay, INCREDIBLE—news:

Astounding accomplishment after surviving testicular cancer in the 1990s. Bravo!


Fairly uneventful Sunday

Spent the evening at my friend John's parents' house, celebrating the Utah Pioneer Day holiday with a bunch of old friends, so I didn't get home until around 03:00 today.

Got to bed about 04:30, and in usual fashion, I woke up four hours later. So I spent the morning around the house doing various domestic things (read: nothing) and then I had dinner with my mom at Macaroni Grill in the Peery Hotel downtown.

First time I went to Macaroni Grill was in Denver several years ago. We ordered the house white wine, which they brought to the table in a roughly 2-gallon jug.As often as I talk about beer, my four or five regular readers (and almost certainly any first-time visitors) might get the impression that I'm some raging dipsomaniac. A few hours later we'd drained about half the jug and the meal was over. The next day, I had one of the most horrifying hangovers in the history of the world.

Ouch.

But anyway. Tonight I had their create-your-own thing: Bowtie pasta, alfredo sauce, slice olives and mushrooms, grilled chicken. Delicious. Even more so because it was the first thing I'd eaten since Friday night's artichoke cheese dip at Squatters, the reality of which came crashing in on me later this afternoon—I guess two days' slow alcohol consumption will do that to you.

It occurs to me that, as often as I talk about beer, my four or five regular readers (and almost certainly any first-time visitors) might get the impression that I'm some raging dipsomaniac. I suppose that's probably true one weekend a month, and to further that impression, one of these days I'll have to scribble down the story of the tequila shots, the La-Z-Boy chair, and the new GameBoy Advance.

For now, I'll say only that the tile bathroom floor is by far the most comfortable location in the universe when you've spent two hours dry-heaving into the toilet.

Back to our story:

We had a pleasant dinner. Restaurant was pretty uncrowded and our server did a good job. I have to wonder why restaurants in a city experiencing its sixth year of drought insist on serving diners water immediately when they're seated—why not ask if your diners want water before plunking it down on the table?—but otherwise, it was a nice time.

I should've asked the manager on duty about the water thing. I must make a point of that any other time it happens, no matter where I am.

I'm rambling now, so wrapping this up. It's been a nice weekend, hope you all enjoyed yours too.


CNN.com: Family of missing mom-to-be clings to hope

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP)—The family of a missing pregnant woman said Sunday they were clinging to diminishing hopes of finding her alive, and appointed a spokesman after a week of nearly constant media coverage.

"We are all exhausted and we feel we need to concentrate our efforts and our energies on finding Lori," said Thelma Soares, Lori Hacking's mother.

The family had been holding as many as two news conferences a day since the 27-year-old woman was reported missing a week ago. But they have been more reluctant to face reporters since questions arose about the credibility of Hacking's husband, Mark.

Scott Dunaway, a leader in Soares' church and the family's new spokesman, said they had learned little as far as new developments in the investigation.

A clump of brown hair was found Saturday in a trash bin at a gas station less than a block from the store where Mark Hacking bought a mattress before reporting his wife missing last Monday. But police say they don't know whether the hair was Lori's.

Detective Dwayne Baird, a police spokesman, wouldn't confirm or deny a Desert Morning News report, citing unnamed sources, that a bloody knife with strands of hair was among items taken from the Hackings' apartment.

"We took a lot of things out of that apartment," Baird said. He said police were still waiting on test results from a search of the apartment and surrounding area.

Baird said Mark Hacking, 28, was still a "person of interest" in the case, but he would not elaborate.

Mark Hacking reported his wife missing just days before they were to move to North Carolina, where he had said he was going to attend medical school. But he had lied to his wife and family—he had not been accepted to any medical school and never even graduated from college.

He also had initially said his wife did not wake him up after coming home from an early morning jog, as usual, and never showed up to work. But police confirmed Friday that Mark Hacking was at a furniture store buying a new mattress just before reporting to police that Lori was missing.

He has been under psychiatric care since police found him Tuesday running naked around a motel not far from his home.

Lori Hacking's family and her in-laws have said they want to keep the focus on finding Lori, not Mark's inconsistent statements.

"We continue to entertain all possibilities and we are prepared for whatever the outcome may be," Douglas Hacking, Mark's father, said in a written statement given to The Associated Press. "We would like to think Mark had no part in it. Our love for him has not changed and our ultimate goal is still to bring Lori home."

Pub crawls and parades

Spent much of last night with my friend John, first at Squatters—try their Chasing Tail ale, ’tis a good brew—and then at the Tavernacle, a private club at 300 S and 200 E.

Days of ’47 Parade float
Days of ’47 Parade float. You can’t see the cheesiness unless you’re a bit closer
200 E was part of the route for today’s Days of ’47 Parade, held annually on July 24 (unless that happens to be a Sunday, because the only thing that’s allowed to happen on the Sabbath is the church-goin’ and also the cooking of large meals) as part of the state’s Pioneer Day celebrations. Pioneer Day commemorates the day in 1847 when Brigham Young led the Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley and uttered his immortal line:

This is the place?!”

So they have parades and a rodeo and general merriment of the teetotaler type. Mostly this involves many people camping out along the parade route the night before so they can see the whole thing, as if that’d be difficult—KSL-TV is a major parade sponsor and televises it up the wazoo, but then you don’t get to enjoy the fun of being there and smelling the cotton candy and hearing the bands’ uniforms rustle as they saw and tootle their way along the route.

We got to the Tavernacle at 23:30 and stayed until 01:30, and the crowds outside grew the entire time. Parents sat in lounge chairs or on blankets with their ice chests full of milk and cookies and probably a couple dozen cans of Coke, while bushels of children ran hither and yon, including into the roads, much to the chagrin of the police officers patrolling nearby.

There are two things Utahns do very well:

  1. Procreate
  2. Ignore their kids’ godawful irritating behaviour

Tonight there will be fireworks displays by various government entities, as well as the endless pops and whistles and screams of incendiaries in the neighborhoods around the state. So sensible to have to big fireworks-centric holidays in July, when the fire danger is sky-high. In fact, fireworks are prohibited above 11th Ave in my district and anywhere near the bone-dry foothills in other parts of the valley, but that prohibition will likely be unenforced as it was on Independence Day—there were more fireworks being set off north of my house than south of it, for crying out loud. Thank God nothing went up in flames.

I’m not the least bit cynical about this state’s holidays.

No way. Not remotely.


Lori Hacking update: Sat 07/24/04

Only one story worth quoting this morning; it covers the content of most other news sources' stories very well.

Deseret Morning News: 'Never clear' about jogger

S.L. woman not certain she saw Lori on Monday

The woman who said she saw Lori Hacking outside Memory Grove early Monday now says she is not certain that was the case.

Joan Mullaney says she saw a woman running toward the park gate, not one stretching next to a car, as early reports said. The woman was fit and was wearing a red sports bra and a gray T-shirt and had a long brown ponytail. But Mullaney said she never saw the woman's face.

"It was never a sure thing," Mullaney said Friday, explaining that she noticed the woman about 5:45 a.m. when picking up a newspaper from her front porch. "I was never clear that it really was her. I just said it could be. I really wish I could be clearer."

Mullaney's Canyon Road home is three doors south of the entrance to Memory Grove park where Hacking, 27, allegedly went missing during a sunrise jog. Repeated searches of the area by police and volunteers haven't located the young woman, whose husband reported her missing at 10:49 a.m. that day.

Salt Lake City police detective Dwayne Baird said he would not speculate as to whether Mullaney actually saw Lori Hacking, or some other jogger, entering the canyon. Nor would he say that Mullaney was recanting an earlier statement.

"The woman who was the witness in the Memory Grove area indicated she saw a woman that morning who matched the description fairly closely to the woman we were looking for," Baird said. "However, she realized it was early in the morning, not much sunlight, and she wasn't certain that it was (Lori) because she didn't know who she was."

Witnesses statements, Baird added, are "just part of the investigative process, and we have to look at all aspects."

Mullaney's neighbor, Nancy Becker, saw Lori Hacking's gray car parked under a tree in front of her home, but she said she never saw the young woman. She did see Mark Hacking, Lori's husband, run out of the grove and join several friends who were knocking on residents' doors asking if anyone had seen Lori or anything unusual.

"He was very distraught, he was saying, 'I should have been with her,'" Becker said. "He was crying."

Possible evidence
But Becker and others are now wondering about Mark Hacking's tears. In the days since his pregnant wife disappeared without a trace, Hacking has been admitted to a psychiatric unit at the University Hospital, and it was discovered he had lied about plans to begin medical school in North Carolina this fall.

Other questions have focused on Hacking's purchase of a new mattress Monday morning and a late-night "disturbance" during which Hacking was found by police near-naked on the grounds of a local motel.

"It really makes you wonder," Becker said. "Something about the timetable doesn't add up."

On Friday, crime lab technicians added some possible new pieces to the evidence being collected in the case. They took pictures and swabs of liquid from the inside of a trash can at a house across the street from the Hackings' apartment building. Monday night, the plastic green can was found lined with a pungent brown liquid and maggots, resident Devan Hite said.

"It was definitely a protein-rich substance, it was very pungent . . . ," said Hite, adding that stains and residue from the liquid in the can made it appear as if something had been poured from the can. "It's just awfully curious. We eat very little meat, we eat chicken, and what we do eat wouldn't leave that much liquid."

Hite said he put the garbage can out late Sunday night in preparation for Monday morning collection. His family, he said, questioned what might have been in there and how it got there. Then, on Thursday, Hite concluded that the can might contain a clue for police.

After about an hour at the Hite home Friday, technicians removed residue and left, he said.

"They were a little disappointed, I think," he said. "I actually tried to clean it with (bleach), so they didn't have as much to look at."

Mattress purchase
In their attempts to follow leads and collect evidence that might help find Lori Hacking, Salt Lake police have seized numerous items from the couple's home, including a set of box springs, computers and a Dumpster from behind their Lincoln Street (945 East) apartment. Police are also looking at the couple's financial situation in order to determine if there were problems that could have caused any serious marital discord, Baird said.

Of particular interest in the case on Friday was the mattress Mark Hacking bought 26 minutes before calling police to report Lori's disappearance. Hacking's credit card was cleared for the purchase at 10:23 a.m.

Chad Downs, owner of Bradley's Sleep Etc., 2255 S. 300 West, said he didn't notice anything unusual about Hacking's behavior during the purchase. Downs said he helped tie the mattress to the top of Hacking's car before the 28-year-old left the store.

Within 30 minutes of leaving the store, Hacking was reportedly jogging the trails of Memory Grove looking for his wife, who failed to show up for work Monday at 7 a.m. The route was three miles up and three miles back.

Family support
But even as police call Mark Hacking a "person of interest" in the investigation and as questions and contradictions mount, the families of both Mark and Lori Hacking publicly displayed support for him Friday.

Douglas Hacking, Mark's father, said he visited his son at the hospital, looked him directly in the eye, and asked him if he had anything to do with Lori's disappearance.

"He looked me in the eye and said, 'No,'" Douglas Hacking said.

Nevertheless, many unanswered questions about Mark Hacking's behavior and apparent lies to his family over the past two years hung over the family Friday.

Until Tuesday, Hacking's family thought Mark had graduated in May from the University of Utah with a degree in psychology and had been admitted to medical school in North Carolina. In reality, Hacking dropped out of college in 2002 and had never even applied for medical school.

Hacking allegedly sent out invitations for his graduation but then said he was ill on graduation day.

Douglas Hacking said the events of the past week had been tough on the family.

"We didn't see it coming. We got completely blindsided by this," he said.

Hacking also said Friday that were it not for the suspicion surrounding his son, the case might not have received as much media attention as it has. But he said he was leaving questions concerning his son's behavior to police.

"The police are doing a thorough job. We wouldn't want anything less than that," he said. "We want (the investigation) done well, and we want it done right. We think the authorities are attempting to do that."

Hacking said his family has decided not to ask Mark many questions about the case. However, Douglas Hacking said questions about whether he had anything to do with Lori's disappearance and his schooling were something he wanted "straight answers" from his son. Everything else he said he would let police handle.

"We want the truth to come out, no matter what the consequences, and I think it will," he said.

Focusing on Lori
Rumors circulated that signs of dissension were starting to show between the families of Mark and Lori Hacking, but all members of the Hacking and Soares families appeared at a press conference Friday morning arm-in-arm in a show of unity. Their message seemed to be that despite what was happening with Mark Hacking the focus should still be on Lori.

"I'm sorry all of the attention that has been toward our son, Mark, has hindered our efforts to find Lori," Douglas Hacking said. "I hope everyone won't assume Mark had anything to do with her disappearance and it's fruitless to look for her. We are not going to be diverted by all the other allegations and other things of interest."

Thelma Soares, Lori's mother, offered a tearful plea to keep the focus on her daughter.

"We know where Mark is. We don't know where Lori is," she said. "We're aware of all of the rumors and speculation surrounding this case. I'm removing myself from all of that because my baby is still out there somewhere, and we need to find her."

Hacking said his son was on medication at the hospital and undergoing psychological testing.

The search received a much-needed surge Friday with more than 530 volunteers coming to an LDS meetinghouse at 142 W. 200 North to join the effort. On Thursday, the number of volunteers had dipped to less than 300 after about 1,200 earlier in the week.

Search organizers plan to pass out fliers and buttons with Lori's picture on it before this morning's Deseret Morning News Marathon and the Days of '47 Parade in downtown Salt Lake City.

CNN.com: O'Connor disgusted by federal sentencing case

MONTEREY, California (AP)—Justice Sandra Day O'Connor told dozens of top judges and prosecutors Thursday that she is "disgusted" by a recent 5-4 Supreme Court decision that cast doubt on federal sentencing guidelines and could undermine tens of thousands of cases.

"It looks like a No. 10 earthquake to me," O'Connor told the annual conference of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Ruling in June on Washington state's sentencing guidelines, the nation's high court said juries, not judges, must consider any factor that could lengthen a defendant's sentence beyond the maximum the guidelines set out.

At present, federal guidelines let judges increase sentences based on facts that were not part of the jury trial—such as the quantity of drugs involved or the amount of money investors were defrauded.

O'Connor, who briefly discussed the ruling during a 45-minute speech, said she was "disgusted in how we dealt with it."

Judges and federal prosecutors at the Monterey conference agreed the opinion has thrown the legal system into chaos. Part of the problem is that it is unclear whether it applies federally as well—the 9th Circuit and one other federal appeals court have ruled it does, while another circuit has ruled it does not.

O'Connor spoke a day after the Bush administration urged the Supreme Court to rule quickly on the constitutionality of the two-decade-old system of federal sentencing rules that the court placed in legal limbo. Acting Solicitor General Paul Clement told the justices in the government's appeal that about 64,000 federal defendants are sentenced each year under the guidelines.

In their ruling, a majority of the justices said Washington state's sentencing scheme violated defendants' right to jury trials.

Dissenting justices including O'Connor warned that the ruling would undermine—if not destroy—federal guidelines, which were meant to reduce disparities among punishments handed out by different judges.

No comment on this one—the story caught my eye but I don't know enough about it yet.


People.com: Pregnant Woman Missing in Salt Lake City

In a case that is being likened to the early days of the Laci Peterson disappearance, searchers in Utah are knocking on doors and scouring canyons around Salt Lake City to find any sign of pregnant housewife Lori Hacking, who has not been seen since Monday.

Hacking, 27, who only recently learned that she was five weeks into her pregnancy, was last seen before she went for a jog. Her husband of five years, Mark Hacking, reportedly phoned police Monday after Lori failed to show up at work, the Associated Press reports.

He said he later found her Chrysler Sebring parked near the entrance to the park at which she ran.

On Wednesday, however, Lori's husband's relatives were stunned to learn the extent to which Mark had lied about his past and future. In particular he appears to have fabricated his educational record, after he had reportedly told the family that he was accepted to medical school at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Lori Hacking was said to have been making plans for the move to Chapel Hill next week. But Mark Hacking never applied there, reports now say.

In addition, the University of Utah says it has no record of Hacking having graduated from that school, despite his claims to the contrary.

"I have no explanation for this new development," his father, Douglas Hacking, tells the Salt Lake City Tribune. "I just can't understand that. It still doesn't answer the question of what happened to Lori."

The Tribune says Mark Hacking has been absent from the search all week and, as of Wednesday, was unavailable for comment, though police are aware of his whereabouts. Douglas Hacking said Tuesday that his son was "in a safe place, being given supportive care by family."

Salt Lake City Police were careful to point out to news sources that no links should be drawn between Hacking's purported misrepresentation of his academic status and any suspicions of foul play.

On Thursday morning's Today show, Lori's mother, Thelma Soares, said from Salt Lake City that she would like to know what, if anything, Mark knows about her daughter's disappearance. In the meantime, she said, she thanked Mark for allowing "the beautiful, sweet face of my daughter" to be shown across the country on TV, and asked anyone who might have an idea as to where Lori might be to please alert authorities.

People.com is a subscription-based site—access is limited to magazine subscribers, AOL users, and anyone who's bought this week's issue at the newsstand.


Got arthritis?

helloknees.com

Site referred in the latest of a series of stupid pharmaceutical ads that conveniently forget to mention the drug(s) name(s), so they don’t have to tell you any side effects.

Advertising blows.


Lori Hacking stories for Thu 07/22/04

Links to today's news on the disappearance of Lori Hacking, the pregnant jogger last seen Monday morning as she left for her daily run.

There's now a web site, Find Lori, with news, details of each day's search, and links to electronic versions of the fliers posted around the city. I've included the JPEG version of the poster below the fold on this entry (click the "Turn the page" link to view it).

See also my previous posts:

  • Tue 07/20/04 18:07: Summary of a CNN.com story and my comments about seeing no unusual activity when I was naer City Creek Canyon that afternoon

  • Wed 07/21/04 21:31: Stories from CNN.com and The Salt Lake Tribune discuss the holes appearing in Mark Hacking's stories (no medical school enrollment, didn't actually graduate from the University of Utah, etc.)

Continue reading "Lori Hacking stories for Thu 07/22/04" »


Walking the city

I spent a good part of today walking around downtown Salt Lake City.

Walked down I Street from 12th Avenue. When I was in middle school at Bryant Intermediate, I'd walk down 7th Ave to I Street, down I to South Temple, and over to 800 East.

I must have walked that route 500 times at least, and today I walked part of it again, and I was struck by how little I recognized much of it. Sure, it's been nearly 20 years since I was in 7th and 8th grades, but the sense of familiarity I felt was only the most general possible.

Continue reading "Walking the city" »


Favorite arcade games

Discs of Tron (click to enlarge)arcadecollecting.com has a page about Discs of Tron, which gives R-Type a run for my all-time favorite arcade game.

I'd forgotten about the "environmental" version of Discs of Tron, the larger version of the game where you stepped inside the game and were surrounded by lights and speakers to feel like you were immersed in the experience. I only saw a few of that version, mostly at Disneyland in the Starcade in the early 1980s.

Ah, memories....


Linkies

In lieu of original thought, I offer a few links I found interesting as I trolled the news and tech sites this morning.

In no particular order:

Wired.com: Inside Look at Birth of the iPod.

iPoding: AirPort Express dissection.

Opera released version 7.53 of their browser. I like Opera—it's speedy, renders well, complies with standards, blah blah blah—but the ad-supported free version annoys me, and I don't consider it worth $39 to remove those ads. So I typically install it, use it for a day or two, and then it just sits there. I also don't need its built-in IRC, email, and so on, so in fact I have no idea why I bother installing it at all. Especially since I really like Safari.

CNET News.com: Start-ups search for hard-drive replacements. Among the ideas under consideration: "Molten silicon, designer molecules, and protein globules from a cow." (!)

Also CNET News.com: Cell phone glitch throws off GPS. Some Motorola phones affected; possibly a Y2K-like bug.

Salt Lake Tribune: More than 1,000 join search. No sign yet of Lori Hacking, the pregnant jogger who disappeared early yesterday.

And more Salt Lake Tribune: Library user cutting 'bad' words from popular book series. "It seems a library patron has been busy crossing out the 'hells' and 'damns' in books based on the popular 'Murder, She Wrote' TV series and changing them to 'hecks' and 'darns.'"

In a state where one of the most popular expressions is "oh my heck," this doesn't surprise me at all. It's so charmingly... provincial.


CNN.com: Volunteers search for missing pregnant jogger

Lori Hacking
Lori Hacking
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP)—More than 1,200 volunteers Tuesday scoured the steep terrain surrounding a park and canyon in a search for a pregnant woman who apparently vanished while jogging a day earlier.

Lori Kay Hacking, 27, left her Salt Lake home around daybreak Monday to run in the Memory Grove Park and City Creek Canyon area, Detective Dwayne Baird said. After she failed to show up at work later, her husband, Mark Hacking, called police, Baird said.

"I'm just so grateful they are coming to look for her," the woman's mother, Thelma Soares, said as volunteers fanned out along an eight-mile grid in the canyon directly east of the Utah Capitol.

Among the volunteers were relatives of Elizabeth Smart, who was allegedly kidnapped in 2002 by drifters and found with them nine months later in a Salt Lake suburb.

Baird said Lori Hacking was seen by a witness Monday morning when she was stretching near the park; he said her car was found near the front gates of the park.

Police first searched the area Monday using dogs and helicopters; SWAT team members with infrared binoculars were stationed above the canyon Monday night.

Besides being a popular place for runners and cyclers, City Creek Canyon is also home to transients who camp in the brush. Several transients were interviewed Monday as they left the canyon, which has been closed, Baird said.

Mark Hacking also was interviewed by the police in what Baird called routine questioning.

"It's important that he be cleared of any suspicion from the beginning," said his father, Doug Hacking.

Doug Hacking said the couple, married for nearly five years, were not having any marital problems. He said his daughter-in-law had learned Thursday she is five weeks pregnant, and the couple had planned to move next week to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where Mark Hacking is to attend medical school.

The Salt Lake Tribune has an updated story as well, noting Wells Fargo's offer of a $10,000 reward for information leading to Hacking's whereabouts.

This would explain why I've heard helicopters all day. Strangely enough, the couple of times I had my television on to local news, there was no mention of Hacking's disappearance nor of the ongoing search. I find it difficult to believe I managed to tune things out quite that well, even though I do often have the news on just for background noise, as it were.

Stranger still: I live in the Avenues district, and a couple hours ago I drove down B street, which is just one block from City Creek Canyon (Memory Grove is at the south end of the canyon). I saw no signs of unusual activity or anything else out of the ordinary, certainly not groups of searchers or any police cars anywhere. Granted, B Street is a block away from edge of City Creek Canyon, and perhaps the neighborhood search teams just weren't in the area of 9th and 8th Avenues and B Street when I looked toward the west, but I think it's strange I saw nothing of their presence at all.


NYTimes.com: A Drive-Through Lane to the Next Time Zone

(Free registration required to view the full story on the NYTimes site. I'll update to a permanent non-registry link later if I can get one.)

PULL off Interstate 55 near Cape Girardeau, Mo., and into the drive-through lane of a McDonald's next to the highway and you'll get fast, friendly service, even though the person taking your order is not in the restaurant—or even in Missouri.

The order taker is in a call center in Colorado Springs, more than 900 miles away, connected to the customer and to the workers preparing the food by high-speed data lines. Even some restaurant jobs, it seems, are not immune to outsourcing.

The man who owns the Cape Girardeau restaurant, Shannon Y. Davis, has linked it and 3 other of his 12 McDonald's franchises to the Colorado call center, which is run by another McDonald's franchisee, Steven T. Bigari. And he did it for the same reasons that other business owners have embraced call centers: lower costs, greater speed and fewer mistakes.

Cheap, quick and reliable telecommunications lines let the order takers in Colorado Springs converse with customers in Missouri, take an electronic snapshot of them, display their order on a screen to make sure it is right, then forward the order and the photo to the restaurant kitchen. The photo is destroyed as soon as the order is completed, Mr. Bigari said. People picking up their burgers never know that their order traverses two states and bounces back before they can even start driving to the pickup window.

Once he found out about the service, Mr. Davis said, he didn't even need to think about signing up for it. He said he had dreamed of doing something like this for more than a decade. "We could not wait to go with it," he said.

Mr. Bigari, who owns 12 McDonald's franchises and created the call center for his own restaurants, was happy to oblige—for a small fee per transaction.

The McDonald's Corporation said it found the call center idea interesting enough to start a test with three stores near its headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., with different software than that used by Mr. Bigari. But the company added that it was more focused on other, continuing customer service improvements, like adding wireless Web access, or Wi-Fi, to restaurants, and introducing ways to let customers pay with credit and debit cards.

Jim Sappington, a McDonald's vice president for information technology, said that it was "way, way too early" to tell if the call center idea would work across the 13,000 McDonald's restaurants in the United States.

And there are obstacles to the spread of the system that Mr. Bigari now uses in all seven of his drive-through restaurants. The software works only with one company's point-of-sale system, and only 7 of McDonald's roughly 1,400 franchisees use that system. Because such systems typically cost $25,000 to $50,000 a restaurant, it may prove cheaper—though slower—for McDonald's or other big chains to develop their own systems.

Still, franchisees of two other McDonald's restaurants, beyond Mr. Davis's, have outsourced their drive-through ordering to Mr. Bigari in Colorado Springs. (The other restaurants are in Brainerd, Minn., and Norwood, Mass.) Central to the system's success, Mr. Bigari said, is the way it pairs customers' photos with their orders; by increasing accuracy, the system cuts down on the number of complaints and therefore makes the service faster.

In the fast-food business, time is truly money: shaving even five seconds off the processing time of an order is significant. Mr. Bigari said he had cut order time in his dual-lane drive-throughs by slightly more than 30 seconds, to about 1 minute, 5 seconds, on average. That's less than half the average of 2 minutes, 36 seconds, for all McDonald's, and among the fastest of any franchise in the country, according to QSRweb.com, which tracks such things. His drive-throughs now handle 260 cars an hour, Mr. Bigari said, 30 more than they did before he started the call center.

While Mr. Bigari has been eager to embrace technology—he and his robotic French fry makers warranted mention in the book "Fast Food Nation"—he said he didn't care much for it.

"I don't know about tech," he said. "I know about people who like to eat hamburgers." And he knows that people who like to eat hamburgers don't like the wait or the mistakes that often occur at drive-throughs, where many restaurants make well over half of their sales. One mishandled order can stall a line of cars, irritating customers and workers alike.

Mr. Bigari spent six years looking for a technology company that could meet his needs, including the ability to take digital snapshots of customers so employees could match them with their orders, reducing the potential for mistakes. He had almost given up when he met with a start-up company called Exit41 Inc., named for its highway exit in Andover, Mass. It sells point-of-sale software—the brains used to run computerized cash registers—to fast-food restaurants.

Working together, Mr. Bigari and software engineers from Exit41 put a small call center in the back of one of his restaurants in May 2003. Within a couple of weeks, the store was filling orders 30 percent faster and making fewer mistakes. Mr. Bigari quickly decided that he should set up an operation to handle other restaurants, and he now employs 53 people in the call center, which operates 24 hours a day.

Though his operators earn, on average, 40 cents an hour more than his line employees, he has cut his overall labor costs by a percentage point, even as drive-through sales have increased. He said the call center saved enough in six months to cover the cost of setting it up, in part because he no longer had to employ as many people on the overnight shift.

"This transforms my business," Mr. Bigari said. "It's bigger than drive-through."

Ron N. Paul, president of Technomic, a food industry consulting firm in Chicago, said he was not sold on the idea that call centers were more efficient than old-fashioned order-taking methods, but he noted that drive-throughs had three common and related problems: botched orders, slow lines and garbled communications. Merely improving accuracy, which might stop customers from thoroughly checking their orders while sitting at the drive-through window, "would be a major advantage," Mr. Paul said.

BY any of several measures, Mr. Bigari said, accuracy has improved at his restaurants. Tests conducted by outside companies found that his drive-throughs now make mistakes on fewer than 2 percent of all orders, down from about 4 percent before he started using the call centers, he said.

Mr. Bigari is so enthusiastic about the call-center idea that he has expanded it beyond the drive-through window at his seven restaurants that use the system. While he still offers counter service at those restaurants, most customers now order through the call center, using phones with credit card readers on tables in the seating area. Play areas at the restaurants have them, too, so a parent can place an order over the phone, pay with a credit card and have the food delivered.

The next step, Mr. Bigari said, is to use his call centers to take cellphone orders, something the futurist Paul Saffo said would become commonplace in the next two years. Mr. Bigari plans to test cellphone ordering this summer.

Beautiful lightning show to the south

SLC-area radar snapshot
SLC-area radar snapshot, 21:35
If the endless flashing I'm seeing toward the south end of the Salt Lake Valley and over the mountains in Utah Valley are any indication, there's quite a spectacular thunderstorm going on down that way.

The weather guys forecast thunderstorms for the entire area. Nothing here in the Avenues area—only clouds over the valley, looks like the storms are petering out as they move into the Salt Lake area.

I love a good lightning show when it's far enough away that I don't even hear it, to say nothing of getting hit by it.


The latest family-angst show

My TiVo picked up on a new ABC show, The Days, which tells (in Grand Cliché Style) the story of a Philadelphia upper-middle-class family and its various problems as seen through the eyes of the stoner middle child.

There's the all-American oldest daughter who's just learned she's pregnant and can't play in the Big Soccer Game—or she can, if she just conceals her condition (gasp!). The youngeset son, a Harry Potter lookalike, has a sky-high IQ—in true TV-and-film style, this is plainly evident because he wears glasses—but still experiences panic attacks during tests (gasp!). The father, a corporate lawyer, quits his job in disgust over the idiocy of the world, but of course he does this at the Worst Possible Time for the rest of the family (gasp!). The mother's the new creative director of a Philadelphia ad agency, but her kids always come first (gasp!).

And then there's the middle son, the stoner from whose perspective we see the action—even though he's not around for all of it, or even most of it—who's wise beyond his years (thank God for those network scriptwriters) and who apparently has a limitless wardrobe of black t-shirts and dark denim pants.

They're using the Handheld TwitchCam filming style, with a lot of sudden sideways shifts and quick zooms and pans, especially when one of the characters is in a close-up. Most annoying.

So it'll probably last a few years.


CNN.com: Decaf coffee brews ownership controversy

LONDON, England/SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters)—The discovery of coffee plants with naturally low caffeine and high sales potential has sparked an international tug of war over their ownership, according to legal and agricultural experts.

Naturally decaffeinated coffee beans
Ethiopia challenges Brazil over ownership of naturally decaffeinated coffee plants collected from the East African country's forests
In an industry which the International Coffee Organization (ICO) estimated in 2002 generated some $70 billion in global retail sales, the stakes are high as Ethiopia challenges Brazil over the ownership of plants collected from the East African country's forests.

International conventions regulating the ownership of indigenous plants seem to favor Ethiopia, one expert said, but the caffeine-light plants appear to have been collected well before the rules came into effect.

"The convention is not retroactive, so the Brazilian may not be bound by it," the legal source said late on Monday.

Paulo Mazzafera of the Universidade Estadual de Campinas in Brazil announced his discovery of the first naturally decaffeinated arabica plant in the prestigious science journal Nature last month.

Ethiopian officials reacted angrily, saying they had not been consulted and urging Mazzafera to explain under what conditions he was able to take 6,000 coffee specimens from Ethiopia in the 1980s.

But Mazzafera told Reuters on Tuesday he "had never even been to Ethiopia" and that his find was based on plants collected by a United Nations scientific mission in 1964-65 with the approval of Ethiopia's King Haile Selassie I.

The area was being deforested and there was concern over the survival of the native coffee plants, said Mazzafera. "I doubt these plants exist any longer in the wild."

He said reproductions of the collected beans went to Ethiopia, India, Portugal, Tanzania and Costa Rica. "It was from Costa Rica's collection that Brazil eventually got its seeds in 1973."

Commercial coffee originated in the high forests of southwestern Ethiopia in a region known as Kaffa, which is the eponym of the modern drink in many languages.

Win-win solutions

Ethiopia is hoping for a mutually agreeable solution.

"We feel that it is possible for us to come up with a 'win-win' solution that would benefit both Ethiopia and Brazil," Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told Reuters in Addis Ababa earlier this month.

Mazzafera has been corresponding with Tsedeke Abate, director-general of Ethiopia's Agricultural Research Organization, to discuss possible research projects that could be carried out jointly by the two countries.

"I've proposed searching the remaining material in the collection that Brazil and Ethiopia still have for other decaffeinated varieties," said Mazzafera. "And I would like to see new expeditions in Ethiopia to look for more wild plants."

Experts say the find could have a significant impact on the world coffee market.

"Naturally occurring decaffeinated coffee, rather than something occurring through a chemical process, could provide an important boost to coffee consumption," said David Hallam, chief of the tropical and horticultural products service of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Decaffeinated coffee now accounts for about 10 percent of world's multibillion-dollar consumer market.

Experts say naturally decaffeinated brews could stimulate demand in today's health-conscious market, as decaffeination can involve treating green coffee beans with a chemical solvent to remove the stimulant.

The spat has underscored the potential money at stake over the rights to genetic material of the decaf plants, even though the commercial potential of them is unknown and a product could take at least five years to get to market.

Ownership is still unclear. By generally accepted standards, it is not possible to copyright a living organism unless it has been genetically modified, like Monsanto Co.'s Roundup Ready Soybeans.

But determining ownership of the new beans will be key to developing them into commercially successful products.

Legal and agriculture experts said that resolving the wrangle surrounding the decaf coffee find could also help settle the issue of compensation for developing countries for plant genetic resources found growing in their back yards by scientists from rich countries.

I'm a social coffee drinker, and the few times I do drink it specifically for the caffeine, the last thing I want is any naturally decaffeinated stuff creeping into my pot. But oh well, big business rules the world.


Radio signals everywhere

My cable outlet is in the southwest corner of the great room, so that’s where my TV/DVD/TiVo/VCR/etc. are as well. But that also limited my options when I decided I was going to use Comcast cable Internet service.

I didn’t want coaxial cables strung from hell to breakfast, nor did I want to deal with the annoyance of tacking said cables around windows and doorways. So I decided I’d place my AirPort Extreme base station in the southwest corner as well, and connect both of my Macs wirelessly.

This meant, however, that my stereo was too far away to feed from my desktop Mac’s music library. And I don’t have an AirPort Express brick, so using its AirTunes feature was out of the question.

So I came up with a rig that bounces enough radio energy around the room to thaw a Butterball:

  1. Set up desktop iTunes library for sharing.
  2. Connect laptop audio-out to stereo.
  3. Fire up iTunes on laptop, open desktop’s shared library.
  4. Use Salling Clicker to control, via Bluetooth, desktop library playback on stereo through laptop via 802.11.

Needless to say, I was most pleased when I saw Salling Clicker could see the shared music on my desktop machine through the laptop connection.

I’m pretty sure this is the most ludicrously cross-patched setup I’ve ever used, but the fact that it’s all so easy to set up pleases me greatly.

I like being a nerdly. :-D


CNN.com: Cigarettes and portable toilets don't mix

In case this wasn't clear to you....

BLACKSVILLE, West Virginia (AP)—A man smoking in a portable toilet lit up more than a cigarette.

The potty exploded Tuesday when a buildup of methane gas mixed with the lit cigarette, said a spokeswoman for Monongalia Emergency Medical Services.

The methane didn't "take too kindly" to the lit cigarette, she said.

Emergency workers said the man was not severely injured and drove himself to the hospital after the stinky, smoky mess.

Note to CNN (actually to Associated Press): The word you want to use is lighted. Flames, fires, matches, cigarettes, etc. are lighted.

Drunken people are lit.

(Yes, I know some dictionaries now list lit as an accepted past tense of light for flammables. I lke the old usages better.)

Link via Kat

Google search mystery

Browsing recent referrers a while ago, as I'm wont to do when I'm (1) awake at 03:00 and (2) geeky.

Saw a referral from Google on the search query beer with headaches.

My site—specifically, this entry from Feb 07, 2004—is the first result from this query. As usual, there's a little explanatory note atop the results informing me that "with" is a common term and was not included in the search.

So for kicks (I already mentioned my geekiness), I ran the search as beer headaches, and I got a different set of results. Many of the hits are the same, but the order of the results is wildly different. On this search, my site's the 18th result returned.

Seems odd to me that inclusion of a word Google claims to be ignoring as it runs its search would give such a markedly different order of returned results.


Week 76: Unconscious Mutterings

Said... :: Thunk...
  1. Nostalgia :: 1991
  2. Irreplaceable :: Photographs
  3. Odd :: Jobs
  4. James Spader :: The Practice
  5. Flamboyant :: Liberace
  6. Intense :: Stare
  7. Simple :: Easy
  8. Septic :: Toxic
  9. Ton :: Heavy
  10. Turkey :: Stuffing

Sunday-night randomness

Now these are Don's Cycles of Expressiveness:

I'll go days or even weeks at a time where I document the most mundane things for the world to see, and then I'll experience another period of days (none of weeks so far) where I don't feel like writing about anything. Haven't determined why these happen, or even tracked them to see if they happen with any regularity or predictability, but I started thinking about it a while ago when I noticed the only thing I'd written from Friday onward involved my subdomain geekitude, even though a bunch of other stuff happened.

Nothing this weekend struck me as remotely site-worthy as it happened.

Ah well. I hereby offer a new round of randomness, in no particular order.

  • Porch lights accumulate a lot of dead insects in a couple years' time, and those insects shower out in a most hideous protein storm when you attempt to change the light bulb.

  • Telemundo logoMy TiVo is once again displaying a fondness for Spanish-language programming. Early Friday, it grabbed 7 hours of Telemundo—looked like a few soap operas, a sports show, and a couple news programs, but since I don't speak Spanish beyond understanding a couple of very basic (and mostly crude) phrases, I was lost.

  • The sense of immense scale Peter Jackson achieved in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is just amazing. The battle scenes at Minas Tirith, unreal. I don't remember being struck by the sweeping vistas as much in the first two movies.

  • It takes a long time to do laundry when one stops between loads 2 and 3 (of 5 total) to make a several-hours stop at a nearby pub.

  • I was pleased to get through last night's spectacular thunderstorm without cringing even once. Of course if I'd been outside and away from cover, I'd have been quivering like a fool.

  • Rainy Saturday
    My car endures the onslaught of a sudden late-summer downpour
    Speaking of laundry, jeans don't dry so well outside in the pouring rain.

  • Note to credit-card equipment makers: Standardize your debit-card machines. If the clerks don't even know where the damned Yes button is, how do you expect customers to know?

  • Note to Smith's Marketplace (formerly Fred Meyer) at 500 East and 600 South: Renaming your store doesn't help a bit if you don't fix its problems. (Read: Fire the customer service folks, they're idiots.)

I think that's about it for now. I've been geeky with the site's layout as well, and I'm done for the time being.


Subdomains everywhere

So yeah. I was bored and I thought, I should log in to my domain registrar admin account and make a bunch of subdomains, and map all my photo albums and whatnot to various subdomains because, hey, you can never have enough subdomains.

Also it's fun to change links without telling anyone right away.

Unless you've actually viewed either of the two photo albums listed in the sidebar, you won't notice any difference. But that won't stop me from prattling on about this change for several paragraphs.

Obviously I should have been in bed hours ago.