Previous month:
November 2004
Next month:
January 2005

34 entries from December 2004

New Year's Eve

Muted this year. I'm having dinner with my friend Julie Anne and then we're hanging out as midnight approaches, nothing earth-shaking at all.

Mostly I've been reading and watching with mounting horror as the tsunami death toll approached and then zoomed past 100,000 to the estimated 135,000 as I write this. I haven't written much else about it, beyond quoting a couple articles from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, because I can think of nothing to say that would be of any help whatsoever.

Of course if I only wrote about things I thought would offer someone any kind of help, I think I'd have perhaps four posts on this site. But in any case, other sites are doing a much better job talking about the disaster and ongoing aid efforts, and rather than quote them all I've decided to stay out of it.

It certainly is making celebrating the holiday seem wildly inappropriate. I'm not all that big on new-year celebration anyway, so this year can just leave as far as I'm concerned.

If you're traveling or visiting friends or family tonight, best wishes for your event and a safe trip there and home.


Woman knocked unconscious by Disney parade float

I hadn’t planned to post this when I saw a snippet about it early Tuesday, but I’ve had enough hits from searches for it that I figured I might as well oblige people seeking it.

The link in the post title leads to a registration-required version of the article on the latimes.com site.

Los Angeles Times: Disney Float Knocks Woman Unconscious

A 25-year-old Guatemalan woman was knocked unconscious by part of a float during Disneyland’s Christmas Fantasy parade Monday, officials said.

The woman, whose name was not released, was one of four people struck by a simulated carpet on the Aladdin float, a park spokesman said.

The incident occurred about 8:15 p.m. near the end of the parade route. The three others were treated at the scene for minor injuries.

The woman was treated at Western Medical Center-Anaheim. Disney spokesman Rob Doughty said park officials were trying to determine how the accident occurred and who was at fault.

“The Aladdin’s magic carpet extends out the back of the [float] with tassels,” he said. “We believe it’s that portion of the float that made contact with the guests. It was not raining at the time, but the pavement was a little slick, so that may have contributed to this.”

Disneyland removed the float from the parade to examine it and found it in proper mechanical condition, park officials said. They said it would return to service when its safety was fully established. The state said it was not investigating the incident because it did not occur on a ride.

The Anaheim Police Department filed a report but deemed the incident too minor to investigate.

All posts about injuries or deaths in Disney theme parks (most recent listed first):


Seattle newspapers' 2004 "Pictures of the Year" galleries

Seattle Times Pictures of the Year | 2004 offers 25 images judged most important for the year, with links to the stories behind the photographs.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer Photos of the Year: The P-I's photographers pick their top images of the year.

I always wonder why media outlets do their "best of year" lists before the end of the year. Why not wait until the first week or two of January?

In any case, some interesting and powerful images from the year quickly coming to a close.


Turns out I can't do simple math

The eight 2-quart bottles of apple juice I bought last week?

I only needed four. We wanted two gallons of juice and Wal-Mart had two 1-gallon bottles, but when the idiot store director (ha ha!) wouldn't sell me a whole case of candy canes in one transaction, I abandoned the other purchases I had ready.

So when I got to Kmart and saw they had a whole shelf stuffed with 2-quart bottles, somehow my fuddled brain came up with the conversion that four of those bottles would equal a gallon.

I know what I'll be drinking for the next couple of weeks before I leave SLC....


Post-retail-hell randomness

My Wal-Mart adventure ended at Kmart, which seemed strange to me. Especially when I ran into Ronda, a former coworker whom I hadn’t seen in, what, the 9 years since I left Kmart for bigger and better things.

I ended up buying a case of standard-issue white-with-red-and-green-stripes peppermint candy canes. 48 boxes, 12 canes each, for a total of 576 canes. More than we needed, but the extras can go into the giant Christmas stockings they raffle off to employees each year as another token of thanks for their service.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

I also bought eight 2-quart bottles of apple cider, which we’ll use in the gift shop to make wassail customers can sample so we can sell more of the wassail mix.

Eight 2-quart bottles of apple cider weigh a lot when you try to grab them all out of the cart and put them into your car’s trunk. And when two bottles leap out of your arms, you look pretty silly chasing them as they bounce merrily across the parking lot.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

I found myself answering two other Kmart customers’ “Where do I find ___?” questions as I walked through the store to find the candy canes and apple juice.

I was wearing jeans, a green shirt, and a long black coat, looked nothing like a Kmartian, but they accepted my help as though I were some authority figure.

And my brain was shrieking, “No! Don’t do it! NOOOOOOOOO...!!!” as I spoke each time.

I really should listen to my brain.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

The Wal-Mart had a vast quantity of peppermint candy canes but the store manager (“I’m the store director,” he haughtily informed me) wouldn’t sell me more than two boxes (24 canes) in any single purchase. As if making 21 separate transactions was even remotely a possibility.

The guy had a guaranteed sale but did everything in his power to subvert it.

Some people shouldn’t be in positions with any authority.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

They make bubble-gum-flavor candy canes, I discovered today.

These candy canes are hideously pink, such that I could tell they’re hideously pink, despite my trouble with colour vision.

When I first saw these candy canes, I thought: “Who’d have guessed they’d make Pepto Canes now.”

I half-expected those idiot Pepto Dancers to appear down the aisle.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

The Mill Creek apartment folks called me today, everything’s ready for Jan 01 availability on my apartment.

Woo hoo!

Time to fire up the phone and get utilities and such connected, and then I must decide if I want to switch my cell phone to a Cingular plan (which I’m sure would require a new phone, something I’m not ready to do yet) immediately when I arrive in WA or keep my UT number for a period of time.

All my family and friends have cell phones too, so they’d be able to reach me without long-distance charges. (I think. I guess I shouldn’t make that assumption because I don’t know the details of my friends’ cell plans.) It’d only be work and similar entities who’d have to pay to call me. So keeping the SLC number for a while longer appeals to me.

I wonder if I can have a Mill Creek-area number assigned to me now, while I’m still in Salt Lake?

Then again, I don’t want to cause Cingular’s employees grief, especially since they’re probably AT&T Wireless employees who are still wondering if their jobs will continue beyond the next few months.

So wait I will. And I know how fascinating this little debate has been with myself, hence my need to publish it to the world.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

I was invited to a holiday gathering at Red Butte Café in Foothill Village, a strip mall on Foothill Boulevard on the east bench. Red Butte Café is located directly beneath a TGI Friday’s we used to frequent before they stopped with the striped shirts and the buttons and hats and general fun and went serious and all-black and stupid-menu. So we don’t go there anymore, also because the server who knew us so well, Donna, has long since left there too.

But anyway, there were 12 or so in our party at Red Butte and I was the only man. We were all from the hospital, so we knew we all had that in common, but they’d established a “No talking about work!” rule. So we didn’t talk about the hospital at all until about 17 minutes into the event.

I hadn’t been to Red Butte Café in years, since the time my sister and I took our mom there for brunch on Mother’s Day sometime in the 1990s (no idea what year). I had carne asada tacos which were delicious; nearly everyone else had a salad. I had a draft beer; nearly everyone else had dainty little margaritas, with the exception of a glass of wine here and there.

And we all exchanged little gifts. We were required to take a holiday ornament wrapped for exchange, which we did by way of a Fun Holiday Story with characters named RIGHT who did things that LEFT them in certain circumstances blah blah blah. Every time the storyteller said the words RIGHT or LEFT, we’d pass the gifts the indicated direction. The bags and small wrapped packages must have made four or five complete trips around the table before the story ended.

The other restaurant patrons certainly enjoyed the spectacle. I think we scared the hell out of the server.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

My ornament is a little frosted acrylic snowman. All I need now is a tree upon which to hang it.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

Speaking of trees: My friend Julie Anne’s tree, which is barely six feet tall, has 22 strands of small white lights on it.

I’m pretty sure it’s the lights holding up the tree now, and the ornaments are just kinda floating along with it all.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

Note to Red Butte Café: If it takes the server 5 minutes to describe a Pasta Salad of the Day that would take just two minutes to eat, the salad has too many ingredients.


Into the fire

I have to go to my least favorite retail establishment on my way to the hospital this morning.

I must do this because we need 500 candy canes and two gallons of apple juice or cider in order to inflict the spirit of the holiday season properly upon a large segment of the hospital's employee population, the unfortunates yet to receive their small tokens of appreciation from management for a job well done.

Please send help.


Follow-up: Mac OS X 10.3.7 Update (Combo) installation notes

No problems still, and I've seen two improvements:

  • Safari no longer chokes briefly on URLs with a "site not found" error (or however it's worded).

  • I'd had quite a bit of trouble the last couple months maintaining network connections between my G4 tower and my PowerBook over my AirPort network. Ethernet connections were fine, stable as hell, but the AirPort connections dropped usually like clockwork about 3 minutes after the connections were made. So far, I haven't encountered that tonight, and I've moved a couple GB between the two machines.

Success to this point. I think I'll wait another day before I sic the update on my G4 tower, since that's where my music files and photos are stored and I don't want to futz with backups tonight.


Week 98: Unconscious Mutterings

Said... :: Thunk...
  1. Plot :: Thickens
  2. Farce :: Slapstick
  3. Unexpected :: Windfall
  4. Siren :: Song
  5. Ben :: Cousins
  6. Freshman :: Red-shirt
  7. Quicksand :: ROUSes
  8. 24 hours :: Exhausted
  9. Spunky :: Every under-5-year-old character on television in the last 20 years
  10. Vicious :: Circle

Mac OS X 10.3.7 Update (Combo) installation notes

Installation (including the optimization at the end) completed in about 5 minutes on my PowerBook. Restart went smoothly and now I'm looking at the desktop of the updated PowerBook with no problems.

My several startup applications (StarfishX, Synergy, Quicksilver, ThermographX among them) all started up without trouble. I've just initiated a permissions repair via Apple's Disk Utility program, and then I'll launch my usual apps (Safari, Entourage, Firefox, some others) and run through the "what's fixed" checklist for the 10.3.7 updater to see if I still encounter any of the problems there.

More updates if warranted.


Back after several quiet days

I haven't been around my computers much the last several days. I spent most of the weekend at holiday parties and had a great dinner at a friend's house Sunday night. I also stayed up way too late that night and again last night—didn't drag myself into the house until 04:00 today, urk—and then I spent much of today making arrangements first for a new apartment in Mill Creek, WA, then for the moving company that will do the labor of the move from Salt Lake City to Mill Creek early next month.

This moving thing gets so old the third time you do it in less than a year. Less so when it's being done by a moving co., but still, it's such a hassle.

I was on the phone long enough today that I had to charge my cell phone's battery twice in a single day, a first for me. Moving-company folk and insurance-company folk and apartment-management folk certainly do talk a lot, although I think if I'd had a fax machine it would've been a bit easier. For now we're relying on the mails and FedEx/UPS to move documents around when we need signatures and the like.

So if all works out as planned, I'll be leaving Salt Lake on or about Jan 05, driving straight through to Mill Creek, and then waiting anywhere from one to 9 days for my belongings to arrive at the new place. I've never worked with professional movers so I'm spending time the next couple weeks cleaning out items I won't be taking and organizing what's left into some semblance of order. I'm moving from a three-room apartment (kitchen, great room, bedroom—I suppose it's four rooms if you count the bathroom) to a two-bedroom apartment, so I'll have to tell the packers where each box should be placed because it won't be obvious from my current place's layout.

Somehow the idea hit me that I should celebrate all these arrangements by installing the just-released Mac OS X 10.3.7 combo updater (via). I rarely do such things before at least a couple of days have passed so I can see how others' installations shook out, so here's hoping it goes well on my laptop.

In fact, the installation's just completed and the PowerBook's restarting, so I'll make another post after the restart with details of any problems I encounter.


Week 97: Unconscious Mutterings

Said... :: Thunk...
  1. Delightful :: Pleasing
  2. Impact :: Overused buzzword
  3. Consolation :: Prize
  4. Donation :: In-kind
  5. Blue moon :: Rare
  6. Grinner :: Dopey
  7. Smoker :: Toker
  8. Muse :: Poet
  9. Tweet :: Sylvest
  10. Guitar :: Pluck

Marine 'hostage' to be charged with desertion

Interesting to me that KSL 1160, the Salt Lake City news/talk radio station I keep tuned in the car for the drives to and from work, made no mention of this story during their repeated-every-10-minutes news blips as I was on my way home about 40 minutes ago. When the Marine disappeared and before he turned up safe, it was all the broadcast media around here could talk about most days.

The Salt Lake Tribune put up their story (new window) before 16:00; nothing on the Deseret News site as I publish this posting.

CNN's entire story below the cut.

Continue reading "Marine 'hostage' to be charged with desertion" »


Various notices

To the brewmistress of one of my two favorite brewpubs in downtown Salt Lake City:

  • Yes, we get it. You're selling your house and you like talking about the fact that your real-estate agent is in Park City but also has an office (or at least deigns to set foot) in the Salt Lake valley.

    However, the 7th time one of your audience had to ask you what you meant by "PC" should have been a clue that your attempt at hip storytelling was failing utterly.

  • It's pronounced REEL-tur. Not reel-uh-d'r.

    And that's presuming the person really is a REALTOR® and not just some schmuck real-estate agent, though the two are not remotely mutually exclusive.

  • The appliance that heats water for your home is a water heater, not a hot-water heater. It's not hot water until the heater's heated it, for crying out loud.

  • If you were mispronouncing appliance as apple-eye-unse for the hell of it, you didn't sound funny. You sounded stupid.

  • Same for calling it Milce—after several people asked what you meant and you repeatedly explained you were talking about the multiple-listing service (a.k.a. MLS), perhaps you should have realized that turning it into a cutesy word wasn't the best way to go?

To the clueless clerk at the OfficeMax in the Brickyard (1300 E near 3300 S):

A digital camera does not use QuickTime and a microphone "to make it transfer your photos faster to your computer," as you told the equally clueless customer while I was waiting for your coworker to locate an item for me.

QuickTime and a microphone allow the camera to record short video clips with sound.

To the clueless customer at the Brickyard OfficeMax store:

Run, don't walk, to any other store to buy a camera. But first do some research so you know what the hell you're looking for and won't have to ask questions of clerks who have no idea about the products they're supposed to be selling.

To the wonk Local Persons of Weather who forecast snow for Sunday and Monday:

It barely rained. I was disappointed when I woke up Monday not only to no new snow, but to significantly reduced snow from the previous storm. I can't wait to get back to Seattle where they can say with reasonable certainty year-round that it might rain sometime in the next 72 hours.

To the real-estate professionals who may take offense at my statements above:

You have your opinions of other professions too. So shut up about my opinion of your profession.

To the whining Starbucks patron yesterday:

First, ordering a decaf triple espresso is just stupid.

Second, whining because your espresso has no froth is just jaw-droppingly unreal.

Third, your bitchiness when the barista explained that the froth came from steamed milk and thus you probably wanted a cappuccino or other beverage—you know, a beverage with espresso and steamed milk to provide the froth—was just amusing to the rest of the patrons.

Please come back with the hystrionics, we enjoyed it very much. And the baristas couldn't keep from smiling for several minutes after your Drama Queen exit.

I think that about does it for this round. Tune in again for more randomness when the mood strikes me.


Less-restricted (or even UNrestricted) online alcohol sales coming?

I'll be watching closely to see how Utah's political leaders react if the Supreme Court strikes down state laws barring interstate liquor shipments:

CNET News.com: The uncorking of online alcohol sales

Juanita Swedenburg is an unlikely Internet revolutionary. The owner of a small family winery on a 130-acre cattle farm in Middlesburg, Va., she admits she doesn't browse the Web or even own a computer.

Juanita Swedenburg inspects wine
Photo credit: Don Wilson, Institute for Justice
Juanita Swedenburg, who is suing to overturn a wine shipment ban, inspects her winery in Middleburg, Va.
"That's for the younger generation," she said.

Yet a lawsuit that Swedenburg has filed could revolutionize the way alcohol is sold over the Internet. On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court began hearing arguments in the case, brought jointly by the Swedenburg Winery and the Lucas Winery in Lodi, Calif.

Dozens of states have slapped strict rules on interstate shipments of beer and wine, effectively erecting a formidable barrier that prevents out-of-state wineries like Swedenburg's from shipping directly to residents of those states.

Critics charge that such laws are little more than protectionist measures backed by local liquor distributors that enjoy fat markups and don't have room to stock less-known brews or vintages.

If Swedenburg prevails, the high court's ruling would likely doom state laws outlawing direct shipping and provide a tremendous boost to online and mail-order sales of wine, beer and perhaps hard liquor as well. A decision is expected by early July 2005.

While alcohol sales currently occupy only a small e-commerce niche, they're a sizable portion of the U.S. economy. The Beer Institute estimates the brewing industry employs about 1.7 million Americans and pays $47 billion a year in wages and benefits. Approximately 595 million gallons of wine were sold in the United States in 2002, according to the Wine Institute, up from 337 million gallons in 1972.

The economic stakes could be even higher. States have been claiming the authority to impose hefty regulations on out-of-state shipments of everything from cars to funeral caskets and contact lenses. A victory by Swedenburg could go a long way in overturning those laws as well.

At the heart of the current dispute before the justices is the 21st Amendment, which ended Prohibition and awarded states broad authority to regulate sales of "intoxicating liquors." States with legal barriers to out-of-state wine and beer shipments insist that the laws are needed to guard against unscrupulous vendors and against minors ordering booze online.

Amazon.com experiences site outages and slowness

I had some trouble much of the day while I was trying to redeem a gift certificate, didn't think much about it until I was getting "System error!" every time I clicked any Amazon-related link.

CNET News.com article.

At first I thought it might have been Safari acting strangely, but when it happened in Firefox and Camino as well.... ::shrug:: I see others had similar thoughts too.

I would like to make sure my order actually placed, however. Guess I'll check tomorrow.


Playing with a new toy!

I received a Canon PowerShot S500 camera for my birthday yesterday, and for an hour or so now I've been playing with its various features to see what it can do.

I also installed the image-browsing and photo-stitch applications and fiddled around with them, to wit:

I give you the great room of my apartment in JPG format, 23,062x1,263 pixels and 2.5MB: View this photo!

I was going to try a QTVR version as well, but I'm still fuddled on that, so I deleted the link I had.

I'm thinking, how cool is this, and how utterly nerdly am I, and how much fun? Woo hoo!


"Viral marketing" becoming more common

Story snippet below; the entire article is available without registration at the link in the post title.

New York Times Magazine: The Hidden (in Plain Sight) Persuaders

Photos of some word-of-mouth marketing participants; click for full-size view in new window
Photo credit: Michael Edwards for The New York Times
From left:
Unpaid Endorsement: Jason Desjardins, one of BzzAgent's most effective volunteers.
Trendsetter: Janet Onyenucheya, chosen to spread buzz for one reason: She's cool.
The Honest Opinion: Karen Bollaert talks up only products she likes. (This eye gel, for instance.)
In the 'Hive': Dave Balter, the founder of BzzAgent, in his office in Boston.
Over the July 4 weekend last summer, at cookouts up and down the East Coast and into the Midwest, guests arrived with packages of Al Fresco chicken sausage for their hosts to throw on the grill. At a family gathering in Kingsley, Mich. At a small barbecue in Sag Harbor, N.Y. At a 60-guest picnic in Philadelphia.

We know that this happened, and we even know how various party guests reacted to their first exposure to Al Fresco, because the Great Sausage Fanout of 2004 did not happen by chance. The sausage-bearers were not official representatives of Al Fresco, showing up in uniforms to hand out samples. They were invited guests, friends or relatives of whoever organized the get-togethers, but they were also—unknown to most all the other attendees—"agents," and they filed reports. "People could not believe they weren't pork!" one agent related. "I told everyone that they were low in fat and so much better than pork sausages." Another wrote, "I handed out discount coupons to several people and made sure they knew which grocery stores carried them." Another noted that "my dad will most likely buy the garlic" flavor, before closing, "I'll keep you posted."

These reports went back to the company that Al Fresco's owner, Kayem Foods, had hired to execute a "word of mouth" marketing campaign. And while the Fourth of July weekend was busy, it was only a couple of days in an effort that went on for three months and involved not just a handful of agents but 2,000 of them. The agents were sent coupons for free sausage and a set of instructions for the best ways to talk the stuff up, but they did not confine themselves to those ideas, or to obvious events like barbecues. Consider a few scenes from the life of just one agent, named Gabriella.

At one grocery store, Gabriella asked a manager why there was no Al Fresco sausage available. At a second store, she dropped a card touting the product into the suggestion box. At a third, she talked a stranger into buying a package. She suggested that the organizers of a neighborhood picnic serve Al Fresco. She took some to a friend's house for dinner and (she reported back) "explained to her how the sausage comes in six delicious flavors." Talking to another friend whom she had already converted into an Al Fresco customer, she noted that the product is "not just for barbecues" and would be good at breakfast too. She even wrote to a local priest known for his interest in Italian food, suggesting a recipe for Tuscan white-bean soup that included Al Fresco sausage. The priest wrote back to say he'd give it a try. Gabriella asked me not to use her last name. The Al Fresco campaign is over—having notably boosted sales, by 100 percent in some stores—but she is still spreading word of mouth about a variety of other products, and revealing her identity, she said, would undermine her effectiveness as an agent.

The sausage campaign was organized by a small, three-year-old company in Boston called BzzAgent, but that firm is hardly the only entity to have concluded that the most powerful forum for consumer seduction is not TV ads or billboards but rather the conversations we have in our everyday lives. The thinking is that in a media universe that keeps fracturing into ever-finer segments, consumers are harder and harder to reach; some can use TiVo to block out ads or the TV's remote control to click away from them, and the rest are simply too saturated with brand messages to absorb another pitch. So corporations frustrated at the apparent limits of "traditional" marketing are increasingly open to word-of-mouth marketing. One result is a growing number of marketers organizing veritable armies of hired "trendsetters" or "influencers" or "street teams" to execute "seeding programs," "viral marketing," "guerrilla marketing." What were once fringe tactics are now increasingly mainstream; there is even a Word of Mouth Marketing Association.

Store returns approved and denied like credit-card transactions?

Deseret Morning News: Retailers say 'no' to serial exchangers

Technology helps stores crack down on fraudulent returns but irks some consumers

By Stephanie Kang
The Wall Street Journal

As the holiday shopping season begins, retailers are deploying new technology designed to crack down on one of the industry's biggest frustrations—customers who abuse return and exchange policies.

NO RETURNSRetailers such as Guess Inc., Staples Inc., Sports Authority Inc. and Limited Brands Inc. are among those using software called Verify-1, a product of Return Exchange, based in Irvine, Calif. The closely held company helps retailers decide whether to deny returns or exchanges using a program that monitors a shopper's track record of bringing items back.

Such tactics are raising the ire of shoppers and privacy-rights groups who say the new technology is often an unnecessary and intrusive violation of consumer rights.

Retailers say they are on the lookout for various forms of fraud, including "serial wardrobers" who buy an outfit, wear it once or twice and return it; shoplifters who return stolen merchandise; employees who steal items and return them for cash; price switchers, who change price tags on items, then return one item for the higher amount; and shoppers who use fake or old receipts when making a return.

Return Exchange's Verify-1 system works like this: When a customer wants to return an item, the sales clerk asks for his or her driver's license or other form of state-issued identification, and swipes it into a machine much like those used to make credit card or ATM purchases. The shopper's name, address and birthdate is logged into a database. The program records details about the transaction, such as the store number, the amount of the return, the date, time and item description.

All that information is stored on Return Exchange's server in Santa Ana, Calif. Most transactions end there. But if a customer's "return behavior" seems out of the ordinary, the transaction is rejected and the consumer is given a receipt that instructs him or her to call the company's toll-free number for a copy of a report detailing their return activity. Shoppers can also request that Return Exchange investigate the rejected return. The program keeps tallies of the type of transactions, the total amount of the returns and the number of exchanges.

The company says the data are available only to Return Exchange, the customer and executives at the retailer. Other personal information, such as a shopper's physical characteristics, is not recorded.

I remember when I worked at Kmart in the late 1980s to mid-90s and we used driver licenses to try to recognize fraudulent returns. We'd type the license number into the register system and it would track the total number of returns by a customer, eventually denying returns based on some sort of total-transactions criterion about which we never got details.

I only saw two returns get declined. In both cases, the customers were well known to us as serial-return problem children, but in neither case did we have anyone freak out at us about it. Usually the only freak-outs were customers whose credit cards were declined when they tried to make purchases, and they didn't understand how the electronic authorizations worked.

Thank God I'm long since out of retail.

(Except of course for this stint at the hospital gift shop. ::twitch::)


Haven't been news-whoring much lately

So this afternoon as I'm sipping my caffeinated beverage(s) at the Starbucks on 400 S near 700 E (Google map), I'll be posting a few stories that have caught my eye as I've been surfing various news sites.

This Starbucks gets a varied and fascinating clientele. Right now there's a large crowd of university students arguing over the recent presidential election—the Bush supporters are far more vocal and belligerent than the Kerryites, in the defensive way of people who aren't sure their team's win was legitimate—and the man at the table right next to me is carrying on an animated conversation with the wreath hanging in the window he's facing.

I love people-watching.


Lori Soares’ family removes married name from headstone

Salt Lake Tribune: Name ‘Hacking’ struck from headstone
Her mother: Donates decorative angels sent to her to a shelter for abused and neglected children



image not available
The Soares family has replaced the name ‘Hacking’ on their slain daughter’s gravestone with ‘Filhinha,’ which is Portuguese for ‘little daughter’
Rick Egan, The Salt Lake Tribune
Lori Hacking’s family has changed her headstone at the Orem City Cemetery to remove “Hacking” from her name. It now reads “Lori Kay Soares.”

Police found Lori Hacking’s body on Oct. 1 at a landfill they had been searching since mid-July, shortly after Mark Hacking reported his 27-year-old wife failed to return from an early morning jog in City Creek Canyon. He later allegedly admitted he shot her in the head as she slept and disposed of her body in a trash bin.

“We just felt that Mark obviously didn’t want her anymore,” Lori’s mother, Thelma Soares, said during a phone interview. Where Lori’s married name once was on the headstone is now engraved the Portuguese word “Filhinha,” which translates to “little daughter.”

Mark Hacking’s parents were notified of the change, made more than a month ago, and understood, Soares said. Saturday, Soares donated decorative angels sent to her from all over the United States to be used as Christmas ornaments at the Christmas Box House, a temporary shelter for abused and neglected children.

“I tried to think of an appropriate way to share them and the love they represent,” she said.

Children at the Christmas Box House decorated a 12-foot tree, Soares said. A picture of Lori was also placed in the branches. Creating the angel tree memorial for Lori seemed appropriate because Soares’ nickname for her daughter was “Angel Baby,” she said.

“It’s gorgeous,” she said of the tree.

The Hells that have been my week

I had to go to Toys R Us a couple days ago to pick up a new Radio Flyer metal wagon for the gift shop. Their previous wagon was stolen by a hospital visitor who told one of the volunteers he was taking the wagon to his truck to carry something and then never returned, the bastard. I imagine this person also steals the money from those little “donate to get Billy a new kidney!” jars at the grocery stores.

But anyway. We’d called the nearest Toys R Annoying store to find out if they carried Radio Flyer items and if so, did they have the classic metal wagon with detachable wood sides to give the wagon greater carrying capacity. The clerk told us they had a few in stock and they were $120, about what we expected based on our previous experience of ordering a few wagons wholesale for the shop, but we needed one now! so the wholesale thing was out the window. So off I went.

The first person with whom I spoke, when I had some difficulty locating the wagons in the bicycles-and-other-ride-on-toys section of Toys R Big Biz, directed me to some plastic knock-off versions of the classic Radio Flyer steel/wood wagon. She also kept pronouncing it “baggins.” When I asked her where the wagons were, she said, “The baggins are back here by the bikes.” Several times, even, so I’m pretty sure she wasn’t just messing with my head. Also she didn’t seem with-it enough to do that.

So then. Eventually I found Oscar, who knew right where the wagons were. He first showed me the $139 “all-terrain” Radio Flyer wagon. They call it “all-terrain” because it has big rubber bouncy wheels and it’s all-wood construction. It’s the SUV of wagons, as it were. I told him we were looking for the steel-and-wood non–off-road model and he first told me they did not have any of those in stock, whereupon he immediately turned around and handed me the little slip of paper you take to the checkouts to buy such larger boxed items. The slip read:

RADIO FLYER TRAV-LER WAGON

$59 / $69 ASSEMBLED

CUSTOMER:
TAKE TICKET TO CASHIER
TO PURCHASE THIS ITEM

And he sent me to the cashier area, where I was immediately rung up (after refusing to give my phone number, which refusal sent the checker into a momentary fit of uncertainty) and directed to wait up to 20 minutes because it turned out the employee who was supposed to be retrieving the larger purchases for customers had just gone home immediately after he’d been given a list of items requiring retrieval, and they were scrambling to figure out how to get the items to the cluster of 4 or 5 customers standing in the waiting area.

They must have figured it out quickly enough because I was only there another five minutes tops. Classic red wagon in hand, I dashed from the store just as a symphony of crying children reached its crescendo, barely drowning out the nursery-rhyme songs and Happy Christmas Music blaring over the store’s public-address system.

Somehow I managed to finish that day without a headache.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

Yesterday was the hospital’s annual bazaar to support their Employee Assistance Fund, which provides financial assistance to employees who experience hardships (deaths, job losses, etc.). The bazaar ran from 08:00 to 13:00 in the main lobby and included some really nice handcrafted afghans and blankets which were sold by silent auction—amazing to me how many times I had to explain to people how a silent auction works—as well as some other more run-of-the-mill Christmas decorations and the like that were sold based on a marked price.

There was also a selection of baked goods, some of which looked utterly delicious. I find it amusing that foods can look like they taste good, it’s always been one of those sensory cross-overs I’ve wondered about. Anyway, the baked items were sold on a donation basis, people made what seemed like reasonable donations and we weighed those donations against our own ideas of reasonableness and either accepted and handed over the item or smacked the buyer about the head and neck while pointing and chuckling to induce shame.

I tried one of the cinnamon crumble muffins that were available and it was pretty tasty, but the bundt cakes and other items sold too quickly for me to make a donation offer on them.

But I’m a bit ahead of myself here.

We arrived at the hospital at 06:30 to set up tables and arrange the items and all that fun stuff. By 07:30 we had a crowd of excited hospital workers and a smaller crowd of visitors. They were all pawing through the items and shouting out price offers and we had to send them away because we didn’t have any money to make change yet. Nowhere near a riot but by the looks in their eyes, I could tell we’d have to be ready to go IMMEDIATELY!!! at 08:00 or we’d be overrun by herds of bargain-hunters.

By the end of the bazaar, we’d topped the $1,000 mark, and that didn’t include the silent-auction items. We collected on many of those in the afternoon, but a few people were out of their offices (or the visitors who’d won the bids were gone home already), but based on the general numbers of the bids, I think the fund will receive around $1,600 or $1,700 total. Good haul for a five-hour effort.

In the middle of all this, the gift-shop volunteers had a couple of “I’ve forgotten everything!” meltdowns, so I was rushing from the lobby to the shop at about 40-minute intervals to help things move along. And we were taking credit cards at the bazaar by ringing them up in the shop and then transfering the funds over, so that helped with the bazaar haul but also caused some confusion as we tried to figure out how to ring up non–bar-coded items when we also didn’t want to put them in the shop’s inventory.

There was also a hot-dog eating contest, another EAF fund-raiser with sponsors paying a per-hot-dog donation for the participants’ efforts. The winner, who managed to snork down 12 (or maybe 13, I didn’t see it first-hand) dogs in 10 minutes, dunked his hot dogs (with buns) in water to soften them up and then gulped ’em down. The second-place finisher used a blender to make an Oscar Mayer Frappe and then drank the whole mess, but after the contest he ended up puking for several minutes. They raised a few hundred more dollars and got the glory of their success, but no prizes, for their efforts.

I spent the last part of the afternoon putting together the Radio Flyer wagon from the previous day’s Toys R Maddening experience. The assembly went pretty well, and the instructions, as much as I needed them, were actually very easy to follow. I was expecting some sort of written-by-Japanese-translated-to-English-by-Germans type of thing, but it was all pictures. Reminded me of the picture menus some restaurants use for the kids, or of the instructions that accompany LEGO toys, minus the pretty colors.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

Today’s laundry day, and we’re taking Julie Anne, the amazingly helpful hospital marketing worker who agreed to be the on-call person for the gift shop while we were in Seattle, to Squatters tonight to thank her for the trouble we inflicted upon her. If we play our cards right, we might even be able to make her forget about all of it, the better to ask her to do it again in the future.

Bwahahaha.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

Happy weekend!


Mac OS X Security Update 2004-12-02 v.1.0 (10.3.6 Client)

I usually wait a day or two before I install security updates, mainly to see what problems others report at sites like MacInTouch, but when Security Update 2004-12-02 v.1.0 (Mac OS X 10.3.6 Client) appeared in my Software Update check tonight, I installed it without thinking twice.

And I've had no problems. In fact, my PowerBook started up in record time after the update, and the permissions repair I did immediately following the install also seemed to complete quickly. I wasn't timing it, of course; it was merely my own impression.

I also installed the AirPort 4.1 for Mac OS X update that had been appearing in the Software Update window for a couple of weeks, and I've definitely noticed increased signal strenght in all parts of my apartment. My place is small enough that I rarely have trouble with signal strength at all, but I would sometimes see the menu-bar signal indicator drop almost to nothing, and I've yet to encounter that a couple of hours into the update.

Then again, that could just mean my neighbours aren't talking on the phone much tonight. Their cordless phone is usually the reason why I have any signal trouble at all.

Find more detailed information and download links for all recent security updates at the Apple Security Updates knowledgebase document.


For your holiday gift-giving needs

On my way to work this morning I heard a radio advertisement about a wonderful gift item for your Latter-day Saints ("the Mormons") friends and family members:

The Skousen Book of Mormon World Records offers a volume of 450+ pages of records set by members of the LDS Church. It includes Ken Jennings' recently concluded Jeopardy! run, along with a slew of other records for physical feats, superlatives (biggest/smallest, longest/shortest, whatever), and so on.

Rush right out to your local Deseret Book or other fine retailer and grab up several dozen copies to hand out and spread the world-record word.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

As an aside, I'm wondering why members of the LDS faith seem to need so much reassurance that their followers have, indeed, accomplished things. I've never heard of a Book of Jewish World Records nor of a Book of Catholic World Records. Certainly no Atheist or Agnostic World Records tomes.

And the ad for the Book of Mormon World Records does specifically mention how it's so helpful as a reference when you're in need of inspiration blah blah blah.

Must be the large families we have here, the parents needing to find ways to make their offspring seek higher and higher goals.

Which makes me wonder if the Mormon World Records book has an entry for Largest Brood, and how many dozens of families share that record.