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104 entries from January 2006

Today is one of four or five days per year when I utterly hate my job

We’re under a contract with one our clients to provide a semi-annual reporting of the amounts we invoice for analytical work versus the amounts we’re supposed to invoice according to the agreed price list for the analyses. The report periods are Jan 01 to Jun 30 and Jul 01 to Dec 31, and the report for each period is due one month following the period’s end.

Today’s major task is clearing up the last-minute questions or concerns about the Jul 01-Dec 31, 2005, report, which of course is due to the client tomorrow.

So I hate today. I have a stack of invoice copies through which I must comb to determine what actually was invoiced; what turnaround time was requested and what TAT was really achieved; and, if any rush charges applied, how they were calculated.

To be fair, the initial data set covers about 1500 line items and I’m only having to review 31 invoices which total a couple hundred of those items, but then there’s a wrinkle.

The prices under which this work is completed changed midway through 2005, and the pricing applicable to any given invoice is determined largely by what can only be described as voodoo.

I have an Excel spreadsheet into which I’ve rammed various magic formulae and conditional-formatting routines and incorporated both pre-2005 and post-2005 price lists. The formulae compare what was invoiced against both of the contract price lists and the conditional formatting highlights the differences so I can spot them easily and figure out just WTF is going on.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

I don’t know how anyone does accounting work full-time. The four or five days I spend on it each year drive me right up the damned wall.

Trivia: Jan 31, 2006

  • Today in history: 1865 House passed amendment to abolish slavery—1940 First Social Security check issued—1958 U.S. launched its first earth satellite

  • News of the weird: LONDON, England—A museum-goer tripped on his shoelaces and crashed into a set of ancient Chinese vases, shattering them. (Reuters)

  • Strange fact: There was once a college football game known as the “Cement Bowl.”

  • Daily quote: Calamities are of two kinds: Misfortune to ourselves and good fortune to others.—Ambrose Bierce

  • Daily word: suitor—one who asks or petitions for something, one who courts another for the purpose of marriage

  • Daily trivia: What is the sports team nickname for Kent State University? (Golden Flashes)

  • Celebrity birthdays: Nolan Ryan (59)—Minnie Driver (35)—Justing Timberlake (25)

Links: Jan 30, 2006

Hilltop Ale House, Queen Anne: In a word, “cozy”

If I had to choose a single word to describe Hilltop Ale House, perched atop Queen Anne Hill a couple doors down from Queen Anne Café and across the street from Firefly (or is it Lumette? Lumette Firefly? Firefly Lumette? eh, whatever), that word would be “cozy.” A small establishment, the Ale House exudes friendliness and delicious smells from its small kitchen. It could almost be a bricks-and-mortar manifestation of anyone’s best comfort-food memory: Warm, a bit gooey, probably slightly more than you need but well worth it when the weather’s kinda nasty and you want easy unobtrusive service in a clean and bright environment.

My next descriptive choice would be “selection”—close to 20 beers on draught, mainly from Puget Sound-area breweries—and after that would be “fascinating menu,” thus breaking the single-word-descriptor mold and freeing me to wax babbly.

The Ale House is a narrow but deep establishment with a dozen or more 4-person tables up front and another (apparently less well-known) six or so tables with a fireplace in the rear past the kitchen. The entire place is a monument to efficient use of space; even the restrooms get into the act, with the tiny spaces laid out to make the best use of the walls and the angles and so on. It makes for a tight squeeze in some places—don’t try navigating the corridor from front to back when anyone’s going into or out of the kitchen with a tray. I imagine it must get pretty dicey for the servers when the place is packed to the rafters with imbibers catching a basketball game or seeking shelter from the rain.

I visited Hilltop Ale House with my friend Julie Anne by way of her thanks for my picking her up at the airport Sunday afternoon. Unusual for the times I’ve patronized any businesses along Queen Anne Ave at the top of Queen Anne, we found a parking space with almost no difficulty, albeit a block away—itself no problem, really, because the blocks atop Queen Anne are smaller and easily navigated. Our dash through the rain left us a bit drenched on top, all the more reason to seek out a table by the fireplace—we didn’t even hesitate as we marched through the main seating area in front, the bartender and the couple of servers we passed bidding us welcome.

Our server, whose name I did not catch, immediately brought us menus along with flatware and napkins. She asked if we knew what we’d like to drink but we hadn’t even opened the menus yet, so she said she’d check again in a few minutes. We glanced over the list of draught beers, there must have been 19 or 20 on there, and then started talking about other things, so the server had to check back with us probably four more times before we finally made a choice.

Hilltop doesn’t brew its own beers; it serves beers brewed mainly by regional microbrewers, with selections rotated occasionally. Yesterday the list ran the gamut of styles: Ambers, porters, a Bavarian-style wheat, a few IPAs, a couple ESBs, some cask-conditioned and nitro choices. We both chose Hale’s Ales’ Cream Ale, which Hilltop served on a nitro draft in an Imperial pint glass for an absurdly smooth head and easy drinkability.

Strangely, I wasn’t in much of a beer mood yesterday, so I had just the one pint and ended up nursing it a bit. My beer lasted longer than our server, in fact; we were there through a shift change and our order was taken and served by a new efficient, friendly, and unobtrusive server whose name I also did not catch.

We were there about two and a half hours and were never rushed at all; in fact, every time our server checked on us or refilled our water glasses, she made a point of reminding us to take our time. So I heard the story of Julie Anne’s trip to Utah over the weekend and the silliness of Utah drivers who deal with snow every year but are completely befuddled by it not just every year but every time it snows, which made getting around to various client appointments a bit irritating. Through all the chatter and whatnot, we didn’t place a food order until we’d been there about 90 minutes, but our food arrived no more than ten minutes after the order went in.

Julie Anne selected the Southwestern Steak Sandwich, flatiron steak seasoned with chili powder, garlic, black pepper, and salt and grilled and served on a sliced baguette with mayo, Jack cheese, lettuce, and Hilltop’s house-made pico de gallo. She had chosen the tabbouleh as an accompaniment, thinking it would be a smallish side serving, but she received rather a large mound of it and left about half on the plate at the end.

I chose the Chicken Breast Sandwich: Lightly breaded chicken with mozzarella served on rye with a little cream cheese, some mayo, sliced tomato and red onion, and lettuce. Seattle Weekly apparently dubs this “The best chicken sandwich in Seattle!” and I’ll say it definitely ranks high among the chicken sandwiches I’ve had.

I had Hilltop’s house-made potato chips with my sandwich, mainly because I’ve never been a fan of tabbouleh (reminds me too much of couscous, which I despise utterly), and I was pleasantly surprised. Most restaurants’ house-made chips are thick enough and are cooked to such absurd crispness that they taste burned and too salty to me, with the crunching effort annoyingly loud in my ears—difficult to hear one’s tablemates when one has the sound of gravel under tires playing at 130 decibels in one’s brain. Hilltop’s chips, however, were just thick enough, and were smaller overall, with the exact right level of crunch and salt for the best flavor, and they complemented the sandwich quite well.

Julie Anne quite liked her sandwich and the bite I sampled was very tasty. The steak tasted just shy of medium rare and the spice was the right level, not overpowering the meat flavor nor too strong initially; it built up a bit as I continued to chew and lingered briefly but pleasantly as I swallowed the bite.

Our server checked a couple of times to see how our meals were, if we needed anything else, and she kept our water glasses full with nearly appalling skill. No attempt to rush us out the door, either, though most of the other tables in the back area weren’t occupied the entire time we were there.

The place has television screens mounted in several places around the seating areas so it would be a good place to catch a game. In fact, as we were leaving, the front area was crowded with spectators for the Washington Huskies men’s basketball team’s eventual loss to the Stanford Cardinal, and no matter which directions the patrons were seated, there was a TV screen in view.

All in all, very relaxing with a nice friendly local flavor among the pubs I’ve tried.

Trivia: Jan 30, 2006

  • Today in history: 1862 Union ironclad ship Monitor launched—1933 Hitler became Chancellor of Germany—1948 Mahatma Gandhi murdered

  • News of the weird: KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—Government officials are sending scientists into the rainforest to look for evidence of a giant ape. (Reuters)

  • Strange fact: Statistically, women’s eyes are better than men’s eyes at detecting gradations of color.

  • Daily quote: Statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.—Aaron Levenstein

  • Daily word: reluctant—unwilling, not desiring to

  • Daily trivia: For what sport was Fireball Roberts best known? (Stock-car racing)

  • Celebrity birthdays: Dick Cheney (65)—Phil Collins (55)—Christian Culkin (19)

Trivia: Jan 29, 2006

  • Today in history: 1861 Kansas became the 34th state—1963 Robert Frost died—2002 President Bush gave his “Axis of Evil” speech

  • News of the weird: READING, PA—Rather than sign his real name, a man signed his voter registration form “God.” The form was rejected. (AP)

  • Strange fact: France’s per capita would rank it as the 5th poorest state in the U.S.

  • Daily quote: When you cannot get a compliment in any other way, pay yourself one.—Mark Twain

  • Daily word: improvident—lacking foresight, not planning for the future

  • Daily trivia: A quintal is composed of how many grams? (100,000)

  • Celebrity birthdays: Oprah Winfrey (52)—Edward Burns (38)—Heather Graham (36)

Links: Jan 28, 2006

I was fourteen then?

Earlier this week my PDA reminded me that today marks the 20th anniversary of the Challenger disaster. In typical American fashion—we seem to identify ourselves in no small part by our national tragedies and successes—I started thinking about Where I Was That Day.

To my surprise (though I’m not sure why it surprises me), my memory of that day is still quite clear. It was a typical 8th-grade school day at Bryant Intermediate School and I was just arriving for my third-period English class.

Challenger STS 51-L mission patch
Challenger (STS 51-L) mission patch
(Source: shuttle mission archive)
It was still early enough in the Space Shuttle program that the launches made big news and most teachers at Bryant had their TVs on so students could see the coverage. I walked into Marjorie Coombs’ classroom and saw immediately the shuttle was on its way to space—and that I was the first student to arrive as the class periods change.

Mrs. Coombs—quite likely my all-time favorite teacher—was walking up and down the rows of desk/chairs, picking up loose bits of paper and other small debris as she made ready for her next class. She was watching the TV the whole time too and took a moment to greet me by name, as she tried to do with every student who entered her classroom.

I asked her when the launch had begun and she said it was only about one minute ago, and we both turned our attention to the screen. Somehow, with my eyes glued to the TV screen, I managed to make my way to my usual desk without stumbling or knocking anything over.

Moments later, just as a few more students were about to enter the room, Challenger disappeared into destruction, and my jaw dropped nearly to the floor, and my stomach jumped into my throat, and my heart skipped a few beats. I was young enough that my next reaction was to turn to Mrs. Coombs and I saw her standing there, her hands at her mouth and her eyes clearly broadcasting her horror at what she had just seen. I turned back to see the SRBs emerged from the cloud of burning debris, each booster tracing its own erratic patch into the sky.

We spent the class period watching the coverage and talking about it at length, though mainly we were all silent as the images unfolded before us. When they cut to the families’ reactions on the grandstand, several students choked up, and Mrs. Coombs comforted them, and didn’t try to minimize their reactions nor the enormity of what we were all watching.

When the bell rang at the end of the class period, none of us moved, and the principal came over the public-address system and told us all we could stay in our third-period classes if we wished, and we stayed there until our lunch break. Mostly the unbelievable reality of it was all we talked about, and then they cut to show pieces of Challenger and the SRBs and the external fuel tank crashing into the Atlantic Ocean, and it became evident that whatever scant hope there may have been for the seven crewmembers’ survival was now gone.

We all teared up and the principal again got on the PA system to try to give us some meager words of solace and encouragement, but we were experiencing our first national moment. We were all alive when Ronald Reagan was shot but that hadn’t been anywhere nearly as enormous an event in our minds as this was. It would be our moment, the single event with which our generation first identified in any meaningful national way, and the enormity of it was still far beyond our grasp and well outside any comfort the school’s leader could give us.

The rest of the day was something of a daze, and that afternoon when Ronald Reagan’s scheduled State of the Union address had been postponed and instead he spoke directly into a camera from the Oval Office, I caught another brief glimpse of the horror of what we’d seen, what a blow it was to Americans’ view of their national identity.

I had never heard the poem High Flight before Reagan’s speech that night, but his paraphrasing of the poem’s last lines is etched forever on my memory as a perfect tribute to Challenger’s crew:

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”


Woo hoo McMenamins Mill Creek’s wireless Internet access. They had a sign up for it some months back, probably about a year ago in fact, but I hadn’t seen a thing for it since. Until today when I have my laptop with me and decided, what the hell, I’ll fire it up and see if I get a signal.

And I did, but it was password-protected and it took a few minutes to figure out what was up with that. But here I am, connected and sippin’.

Ah, a good life.... :-)

Trivia: Jan 28, 2006

  • Today in history: 1915 Congress created U.S. Coast Guard—1986 Space Shuttle Challenger destroyed 73 seconds after launch

  • News of the weird: LOS ANGELES, CA—A Los Angeles public school has been named after the late criminal defense lawyer Johnnie Cochran. (Reuters)

  • Strange fact: Of every dollar produced in America, 20 cents goes to fund the government and its programs.

  • Daily quote: A good marriage is that in which each appoints the other guardian of his solitude.—Rainer Maria Rilke

  • Daily word: aurous—relating to or containing gold

  • Daily trivia: If I eat a bolete, what have I put into my mouth? (A mushroom)

  • Celebrity birthdays: Alan Alda (70)—Joey Fatone, Jr. (29)—Elijah Wood (25)


Food science fascinates me. It’s just amazing we’ve discovered food colorings that can be extracted from the crushed bodies of insects.

It’s also amazing that a petition filed in 1998 is just now resulting in a proposal (not even a specific action!) from the FDA:

Seattle Times: Red dye focus of labeling proposal

WASHINGTON—Food and cosmetic labels soon may be required to list the presence of widely used red colorings made from insects but will not have to disclose the dyes’ origins, according to a proposed rule made public Friday.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed requiring that manufacturers flag the presence of cochineal extract and carmine in products. The colorings are extracted from the ground bodies of an insect used since the time of the Aztecs.

The proposed rule comes in response to reports of severe allergic reactions to the colorings, the regulatory agency said. A 1998 petition by the Center for Science in the Public Interest asked that the FDA take action.

Carmine is used in ice cream, strawberry milk, fake crab and lobster, fruit-cocktail cherries, port wine cheese, lumpfish eggs and liqueurs such as Campari, according to the FDA. Carmine also is used in lipstick, makeup base, eye shadow, eyeliners, nail polishes and baby products, the agency said.

Cochineal extract is used in fruit drinks, candy, yogurt and some processed foods. The extract has long been made from the dried and ground female bodies of a cactus-sucking insect called Dactylopius coccus costa.

These days when cochineal extract or carmine are included as ingredients, their presence can be noted simply as “color added.” They’re also sometimes listed as E120 on labels, the FDA said.

As of February 2004, the FDA said it knew of 35 cases of hypersensitivity to carmine, cochineal extract or carminic acid. Carminic acid is what gives cochineal extract its dark purplish-red. The acid is used to make carmine.

The FDA said it ruled out banning the colorings since it found no evidence of a “significant hazard” to the general population. It also declined to require that labels disclose the colorings are made from insects.

Comments on the proposed rule are due April 27.

I think flames were about to spew forth

I had to take my Escape in to have its rear suspension checked—random weird car noises drive me up the damned wall, argh—and they had an 08:00 appointment today, so I figured cool, I’d drop off the car and walk across the street to the Starbucks at 200th and Highway 99, where I could curl up with a book or (much more likely) fire up my laptop and geek out whilst I caffeinated. That location had the advantage of being directly across the street from the auto dealership, which rocked utterly.

Turns out that Starbucks is a drive-thru only, no seating area. So instead I walked about a mile and a half south on Highway 99 to their Hwy 99 and 220th location, which is in what looks like a former 7-Eleven.

Nice walk although the traffic on Hwy 99 was annoyingly loud, and the south wind was pretty brisk (I had on my leather jacket but nothing to protect my face), so when I got here I was ready for a hot drink. I ordered my usual, a triple venti nonfat no-whip white chocolate mocha—I fool myself pretty well into thinking this is remotely healthier than, say, a direct shot of adrenaline to the heart—and stood aside to wait while they prepped the drink.

The woman ahead of me had ordered a something something something non-something half-something else “extra hot” something or other. As I understand it, “extra hot” merely means they serve it hotter than a typical drink, usually in the 170°F range (I guess their regular temp is 150°ish, but I’m not sure of that). I’ve never ordered anything “extra hot” because the regular heat is plenty toasty for my tastes, so it didn’t make much of an impression on me until they called out her order and she reached for the beverage cup.

The steam was pouring off the top of it so thickly that I wondered if perhaps it was still surreptitiously attached to the steamer nozzle, and the woman reflexively jerked back when she touched the cup, which had no protective sleeve nor was it doubled up.

And I wondered why they hadn’t put a lid on the thing too, unless she requested it lidless. But she was already telling the barista the drink was too hot and could she have it cooled a bit?

I moved a few steps away to avoid the splashing and the scalding and the screaming agony should she pick up the cup again and drop it because it was fresh from the fires of Hell. They called out my order at that moment, so I was still around for the exchange:

Barista (apologetically and as she slipped the drink into a second cup): I’m sorry, it was marked “extra hot.”

Customer: Yes, I ordered it “extra hot.” I thought that meant with more caffeine.

Barista: ...

Don: ::pick up drink, slink away chuckling::

Links: Jan 27, 2006

Friday-night news round-up

After a pretty busy week at the office, I’ve been looking forward to a quiet evening at home, so I foolishly loaded The Seattle Times to catch up on the news:

  • Bomb threat shuts down Seattle’s Colman Dock
    Colman Dock is the main ferry terminal in downtown Seattle. A threat phoned in to a 9-1-1 operator around 18:45 shut down the terminal; unknown when it will reopen.

  • Exxon demands court reduce $5 billion Valdez award
    Exxon thinks it should only be liable for $25 million on punitive damages and claims it’s spent $3 billion on clean-up. Exxon recently reported earnings of $10 billion for the third quarter alone.

  • Spokane residents object to proposed Wal-Mart super store
    Residents oppose the store mainly because they believe it will increase traffic to absurd levels. In my experience visiting several Wal-Mart stores in two states, traffic does go absolutely bananas, and that’s before the economic effects of the low-price insanity kick into gear to drive other establishments out of business.

  • Two FEMA employees indicted in kickback scheme
    Each is accused of accepting $10,000 in kickbacks from a food vendor. They conspired to inflate the number of meals taken by FEMA employees in a work camp in order to increase the vendor’s revenue.

It’s a happy day in the news, as usual.

I’m so glad it’s Friday.

10,000 miles

I passed this milestone in my Escape at 17:42 on my way home from work about a thousand feet south of 180th St SE and 35th Ave SE, a few miles short of my townhouse.

I got the Escape on Jun 10, which means I’m averaging 43 miles per day. My round-trip commute is just 16 miles; the rest comes from all the driving when I’m out with friends or family.

Just 231 days to reach 10,000 miles, and not even including a round-trip drive to Salt Lake City (I usually do that once or twice a year). So far the longest trips I’ve taken in the Escape are three separate jaunts to the Portland area and one to each of two British Columbia destinations, Vancouver and Victoria.

Thank God for full-coverage extended warranties!


Flickr photo sharing: Cupcake!
Flickr: Don Nunn
Katharine made cupcakes for the IT folks upstairs, but I had the in because I’m the brother. :-)

Yellow cake with white frosting and sprinkles, per one IT minion’s specific request. Apparently he’s allergic to chocolate or some other nonsense. I think it’s really that he’s sensitized his system from the ions bouncing around his house with its crazy PC network and stacks of servers.

Trivia: Jan 27, 2006

  • Today in history: 1756 W. A. Mozart born —1880 Thomas Edison received patent for light bulb—1945 Russians liberated Auschwitz concentration camp

  • News of the weird: LEXINGTON, KY—A high-school Spanish teacher was suspended for showing the R-rated move The 40-Year-Old Virgin to his class. (AP)

  • Strange fact: The United States has the most Internet DSL broadband subscribers, followed by China and Japan.

  • Daily quote: When the President does it, that means it is not illegal.—Richard Nixon

  • Daily word: baguette—a long, narrow loaf of bread; also used in jewelry to describe the shape

  • Daily trivia: In professional drag racing, how long is the track? (A quarter-mile, or 1320 feet)

  • Celebrity birthdays: Mikhail Baryshnikov (57)—Mimi Rogers (49)—Bridget Fonda (41)

Utah is amusingly backward in many ways

Cases in point, via email from my mom a couple days ago. I added the links.

Salt Lake Tribune: Rolly: Recycling ad joke is trashed

Salt Lake City’s recycling campaign recently won the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ award for the most creative recycling program in the nation for the second year in a row.

But local censors were not as impressed as the nation’s mayors, apparently.

The promotion was the idea of local Girl Scouts who scripted and acted in TV spots promoting recycling. The city then partnered with KUTV Channel 2 to produce the ads.

One spot shows a young boy dancing at a prom with a girl dressed in an array of aluminum cans.

“Nice cans,” the boy says. “Thanks,” replies his dancing partner. “I recycled them myself.”

Some parents who saw the spot complained, so that line was changed locally to “Nice dress.” The original line is kept in the ad when it is shown outside of Utah.

Speaking of censors: During the week of Jan. 9, KBYU-TV repeatedly ran promos for an episode of “Secrets of the Dead” titled “Voyage of the Courtesans,” the story of the women who were among the first settlers of Australia.

The promos, as well as the TV listings, said the program would air at 5 p.m. on Jan. 14.

The “Courtesans” episode was even promoted again on KBYU the afternoon it was to run. But when the program aired, the episode being shown was the “Black Death,” an episode about the plague that had run several times before.

One reader e-mailed and called KBYU to get an explanation, but never got a response.

Perhaps someone at KBYU looked up the word “courtesan” just before air time and decided the station’s audience would be better off watching a program about slow, painful death among the masses than about prostitutes who played a role in settling Australia.

Remedial education: After reading my column item Monday about all legislators but one declining an invitation to take the same test they require high school seniors to pass, Marni Ambrose, a University of Utah student, would like to extend an invitation of her own.

The anthropology major wants Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, to be her guest in her class on Human Origins and Evolution, which meets every Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Stuart Building.

“If he is too busy, I take great notes and would be happy to send him a concise class summary,” she wrote in an e-mail.

Buttars, you may recall, is sponsoring a bill that would guide teachers on how they should discuss the theory of evolution in their science classes.

“Our Legislature is so concerned that Utahns be properly educated, perhaps they should set the example and know what they are talking about when they feel the need to write school curriculums,” Ambrose wrote.

A higher law: Discussing the evils of tobacco and strong drink, Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, uttered this quote on the floor of the Utah Senate on Thursday during his argument for a ban on smoking in private clubs and bars:

“President Grant went to his grave disappointed that Utah was the last state to cast the vote to end Prohibition.”

That would be Heber J., not Ulysses S., and his authority was, at least officially, over his church, not over the state.

I was (sorta) right

Dawdling in the kitchen, longer-than-usual shower, stop for gas on the way to work, and I end up arriving later than usual....

Headache-free but annoyingly wide awake

Snapped awake about 10 minutes ago, no idea why. I was pleased to find yesterday’s full-day headache gone but annoyed to discover I was wide awake enough that I decided to get up.

Ah well. This early rising won’t translate to an early arrival at work, even though right now it’s my goal. But I know me well enough to know I’ll dawdle a bit here and there, so I’ll probably get there at my usual 08:30ish.

Happy Friday. :-)

Don Nunn’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

I left work at 17:25. I’d been eager to get the hell out of there because of the headache I woke up with this morning—it hadn’t abated at all, and though it was just a dull ache with occasional several-minutes-long periods of throbbing, none of that was conducive to happily productive work hours.

If I had known the stupidity I was to encounter when I arrived home, however, I would have stayed at work all night.

In the order they occurred:

Continue reading "Don Nunn’s A Series of Unfortunate Events" »

He took the dare

One of the lab folk—we’ll call him A.D. in an attempt not to protect his identity at all by using his actual initials—was just dared by two of his own coworkers to ingest a full tablespoon of the seasoning salt that’s available in the break room.

Some people, it seems, never really get out of junior high school. His reaction to the dare: “What’ll you give me for it?”

“Money for crackers,” one coworker answered.

I had no idea what he meant by that—I’d just walked into the room and was washing out my lunch container, paying little attention to the world around me—but I turned at this exchange so I could watch the event unfold.

A little more banter among the three of them, and then A.D. stood, walked to the cabinets and took out a plastic tablespoon, scooped a heaping measure of the seasoning salt out of its Costco-size container, and snorked the salt down with a quick water chaser.

His two coworkers laughed while I shook my head and wandered out of the room.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

One day I’ll have to relate the story of A.D.’s method for catching hummingbirds and the 30 seconds of stunned silence that followed his story, followed by the three years (and counting) of amused chuckling by the people to whom he told that story.

Trivia: Jan 26, 2005

  • Today in history: 1837 Michigan became 26th state—1950 India became a republix—1988 Phantom of the Opera opened on Broadway

  • News of the weird: HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ—A male high-school senior has won the right to wear skirts to school. (AP)

  • Strange fact: The largest book in the world is about the landscape of Bhutan. It weighs more than 130 pounds and costs $15,000.

  • Daily quote: Doing easily what others find difficult is talent; doing what is impossible for talent is genius.Henri-Frédéric Amiel

  • Daily word: clangor—loud uproar; a cacophony

  • Daily trivia: Singer/actress Madonna played the title role in Evita; what was the character’s full name? (Eva Perón)

  • Celebrity birthdays: Lucinda Williams (53)—Ellen DeGeneres (48)—Wayne Gretzky (45)

Links: Jan 25, 2006

We saw the sun for a few hours today

And most of yesterday, actually. So I’m exaggerating a bit in my whining.

We had a couple days with no forecast rain but now we’re back to the cycle of 40% to 80% chance of rain on any given day, at least through the weekend. I left my house in blinding sunlight this morning but the clouds came in a while ago, ushered in by breezy winds that are distracting me by their rustling of the leaves on the shrubs right outside my office window.

Ah, winter in Seattle.

(I’m ready for summer)

Trivia: Jan 25, 2006

  • Today in history: 1882 Virginia Woolf born—1898 Battleship Maine arrived in Cuba to protect American citizens—1947 Al Capone died

  • News of the weird: PORTLAND, OR—In a fit of rage, a man threw both of his prosthetic legs at a police officer. (Reuters)

  • Strange fact: A sailfish can swim at rates approaching 70 mph.

  • Daily quote: No matter how long you have gone on a wrong road, turn back.—Turkish proverb

  • Daily word: eyas—a nestling baby bird, usually used with hawks

  • Daily trivia: The only National Football League team to go undefeated and win the championship was the Miami Dolphins. What year? (1972)

  • Celebrity birthdays: Corazon Aquino (73)—Mia Kirshner (30)—Alicia Keys (25)

Links: Jan 24, 2006

Trivia: Jan 24, 2006

  • Today in history: 1908 First Boy Scout troop organized in England—1922 Eskimo Pie invented—1965 Winston Churchill died

  • News of the weird: CHICAGO, IL—After a woman was arrested for drunk driving, she slipped off her handcuffs and stole the police officer’s car. (Reuters)

  • Strange fact: Sharks can sense a drop of blood from over a mile away.

  • Daily quote: Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out if alive.Elbert Hubbard

  • Daily word: solon—a lawmaker, member of the legislature

  • Daily trivia: What is the mechanism called that measures miles traveled in an automobile? (Odometer)

  • Celebrity birthdays: Nastassja Kinski (47)—Mary Lou Retton (38)—Tatyana Ali (27)

Trivia: Jan 23, 2006

They really do pick odd groups of celebrities for the birthday part.

Trivia: Jan 22, 2006

  • Today in history: 1901 Britain’s Queen Victoria died aged 82—1953 Arthur Miller’s The Crucible opened—1973 Roe v. Wade legalized abortion

  • News of the weird: SYDNEY, Australia—A woman redeemed a winning lottery ticket 14 years late, but still received the prize of nearly $100,000.

  • Strange fact: There is a town in Pennsylvania known simply as Eighty Four.

  • Daily quote: Gentlemen, it is better to have died as a small boy than to fumble this football.John Heisman

  • Daily word: meticulous—exacting, precise, careful, deliberate

  • Daily trivia: When cider ferments, what is the white froth that forms on top? (Mother)

  • Celebrity birthdays: Michael Hutchence (46)—Diane Lane (41)


Fred Meyer for a few last-minute things for tonight’s poker game in my dining room. I bought butter because I like to have it on hand and I knew I was nearly out.

I picked up a package of Land O’ Lakes butter, which I usually buy because the sticks are long and narrow and fit my butter dish properly. I don’t use my butter dish very often but when I do, I don’t like it when the butter gets smashed by the lid.

I noticed as the cashier rang me up that the receipt which only allows about 12 characters for an item description, showed the first item rung up as LOL BUTTER.

My first thought was: The butter is laughing.

My second thought was: Yesterday happened to mark the 13th anniversary of the creation of my AOL account and I’ve chatted online way too much.

Trivia: Jan 21, 2006

Links: Jan 20, 2006

Trivia: Jan 20, 2006

  • Today in history: 1892 first basketball game played in Springfield, MA

  • News of the weird: LOS ANGELES, CA—Legendary Star Trek actor William Shatner sold his kidney stone for $25,000. The profit will be donated to charity. (Reuters)

  • Strange fact: Statistically, men’s eyes are better than women’s eyes at tracking movement.

  • Daily quote: Shallow men believe in luck, wise and strong men in cause and effect.Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • Daily word: caustic—acidic, corrosive, deteriorates through chemical reaction

  • Daily trivia: What was the last name of the man who invented Caesar salad? (Cardini)

  • Celebrity birthdays: David Lynch (60)—Melissa Rivers (37)

Links: Jan 19, 2006

Trivia: Jan 19, 2006

  • Today in history: 1807 Robert E. Lee born—1861 Georgia seceded from the Union—1903 first radio message transmitted from United States to England

  • News of the weird: ROME, Italy—A new Italian study has shown that couples with TVs in their bedrooms have sex half as often as couples without TVs. (Reuters)

  • Strange fact: Per capita, Belgium has more assaults than the U.S.

  • Daily quote: Nothing is a waste of time if you use the time wisely.Auguste Rodin

  • Daily word: greengage—a small greenish plum

  • Daily trivia: Can you name the three territories in Canada? (Northwest, Yukon, Nunavut)

  • Celebrity birthdays: Desi Arnaz, Jr. (53)—Al Joyner (46)

Two things

Got home about 17:15 and immediately two mildly evile events transpired.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

I got my two cats in September 2004 and neither has puked while I’ve owned them. Until today, that is.

When I climbed the stairs to the top floor, I was greeted at the top by rather a spectacular arc of vomitus. I don’t know how long it had been there, but it cleaned up easily enough. Both cats looked a bit guilty the entire time so I have no idea which of them it was, but neither seems the worse for wear.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

I use a Road Tools Podium CoolPad with my PowerBook to tilt the keyboard up a bit and to ensure adequate ventilation at all times. Keeps the fan from having to run so much, nice side benefit. When I move the laptop from one part of my house to another, I typically lift it from below via the CoolPad if the computer’s lid is open or I grip the computer and the CoolPad in one hand at the computer’s hinge end if the lid is closed. The hinge end is on the tilted-up end of the CoolPad, so it’s a wider grip, easier to control in one hand.

Until tonight, when I picked up the closed computer to move it from my office (a.k.a. second bedroom) to the kitchen. Laptop and CoolPad in hand, I turned to walk down the hallway to the stairs, and as I reached the top of the stairway, the computer slipped right out of my hand and fell four feet or so to the floor.

You know how when life-threatening situations occur, time goes into this weirdly plastic Super Slo-Mo mode and you can feel every molecule of air bouncing off your body as you watch, horrified, while events unfold around you? Like when you’re riding with four or five others in a Pinto station wagon on the way to a youth-group ski day and you’re nearly in a head-on collision with a Winnebago and only a last-second swerve saves you all?

I experienced a low-grade version of this sensation as I watched the laptop tumble through the air toward the floor, and I’m pretty sure I actually went into cardiac arrest briefly when the machine bounced HARD off the floor and skittered into my bedroom. The impact knocked open the lid latch, so the machine was trying to wake up as I somehow restarted my heart and stepped quickly over to make sure there were no flames or blood or other visible signs of doom.

Happily, nothing. The PowerBook woke up just fine, though the lid latched again and for a moment refused to UNlatch, but once I checked everything out it was all good. I’m using it now and everything’s working fine. The only indication of the crunch is a very minor ding at the latch on the lid, and another minor flexing of the aluminum case near the battery on the bottom of the computer.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

For the record, after the Pinto-vs.-Winnebago episode, the four or five us in the Pinto were laughing hysterically and shouting: “We cheated death! We cheated death!” in the way only teenagers can when they still think they’re immortal.

And yesterday marked the two-year anniversary of the day I acquired this PowerBook. I guess it’s my own experience of the start of the Terrible Twos.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

I wonder if it’s possible to dial 9-1-1 for one’s own heart attack?

Trivia: Jan 18, 2006

  • Today in history: 1778 Captain Cook discovered Hawaiian Islands—1788 English settlers arrived in Australia’s Botany Bay

  • News of the weird: OAK PARK HEIGHTS, MN—A convicted sex offender from Florida created a fictional identity for himself as a member of the British nobility. (AP)

  • Strange fact: It takes almost five years for an oyster to produce a pearl.

  • Daily quote: Eat vegetables and fear no creditors, rather than eat duck and hide.—Hebrew proverb

  • Daily word: minikin—a very small and delicate creature

  • Daily trivia: If you gave a CMA to Martina McBride, she’d be getting what? (Country Music Association Award)en.

  • Celebrity birthdays: Kevin Costner (51)—Jonathan Davis (35)

The streets are dry tonight

Only one (mostly) dry day in a row and already I miss the rain.

The good thing about it: I didn’t get dripped on when I checked my mailbox tonight, nor did I track a bunch of dead-leaf bits into the house when I got back from the property manager’s office to attempt to finalize my lease renewal.

The moon’s very bright tonight, too. It’s casting a typical pale glow through the blinds, for the moment anyway; looks like clouds moving in to obscure things in the next hour or so.

Fascinating how quickly I got used to the sounds of rain. Tonight the silence is almost oppressive, but in a strangely comforting way even though I want the rain back for a while at least.

Trivia: Jan 17, 2006

I’m wondering why the Emmy bit constitutes a strange fact, but otherwise....

  • Today in history: 1706 Benjamin Franklin born—1945 Soviet, Polish forces liberated Warsaw during WWII—1994 Huge 6.6 earthquake rocked Los Angeles

  • News of the weird: NEW BEDFORD, MA—A two-year-old girl was mistakenly summoned for jury duty. (AP)

  • Strange fact: The Emmy Awards for outstanding television shows were first offered in 1949.

  • Daily quote: A good deed never goes unpunished.Gore Vidal

  • Daily word: reticle—the lines in an optical instrument providing for focus, such as a rifle sight

  • Daily trivia: What NFL team once sported a defense known as The Purple People Eaters? (Minnesota Vikings)

  • Celebrity birthdays: Muhammad Ali (64)—Jim Carrey (44)—Kid Rock (35)

Links: Jan 16, 2006

Trivia: Jan 16, 2006

  • Today in history: 1547 Ivan the Terrible crowned Czar of Russia—1991 Operation Desert Storm began

  • News of the weird: STOCKHOLM, Sweden—A new play that is geared for babies aged 6 to 12 months premiered. (Reuters)

  • Strange fact: The lubricant WD-40’s name comes from the 40th attempt made at a “Water Displacement” solution.

  • Daily quote: All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • Daily word: nudge—to push slightly, to jostle, sometimes to encourage

  • Daily trivia: In military parlance, what does SNAFU stand for? (Situation Normal, All Fouled Up)

  • Celebrity birthdays: Kate Moss (32)—Aaliyah (27)—Mason Gamble (20)

Seattle’s rainfall ends at 27 consecutive days

We had rain at my place in Mill Creek, but since the official measurement is done at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, what sprinkles may have fallen even in downtown Seattle didn’t matter much. (And may I say how stupid I find it that Seattle’s official rainfall is determined at a site that isn’t even in the city of Seattle?)

Damn. I was hoping we’d set a new record. There’s already a declared state of emergency in King and several other counties, so if we’re going to have the flooding and landslides and other crap, we might as well have the tiny historic glory with it.

Seattle Times: Sunny skies end 27-day run on rain

One day after the Seahawks broke a 21-year playoff-victory drought, Seattle-area residents welcomed the arrival of a dry spell of another sort.

The region ended its streak of 27 consecutive rainy days on Sunday, although the break was expected to be brief. Forecasters say rain was expected to return by early today.

People like Gail Whitty took to the outdoors Sunday to enjoy the respite from the rain. “I haven’t gone into a cafe today, because I didn’t want to waste any sunlight,” the Seattle woman said as she strolled through Gas Works Park.

Tim Haines wasn’t outside, but even at his table at a Fremont coffee shop he noticed the sun glaring through the window.

“You had to feel sorry for all the vampires,” he said.

However, the rain streak did bring out the competitive nature in others.

“I want it to rain, because I want to beat the record,” Renee Poulin said.

While she just moved here from northern Virginia in October, she already has adopted the ways of her new home. She has been fending off the rain with a jacket borrowed from a sister-in-law, rather than carry an umbrella.

Johnny Burg of the National Weather Service apparently had gotten swept up in the mood as well.

“It’s not looking very good right now,” he warned earlier in the day, when the forecast was that the chance of rain wouldn’t increase until after midnight.

For those hoping for a record, there could be some consolation: With the month only half over, January’s rainfall—now at 6.78 inches—could eclipse the month’s record set in 1953 when 12.92 inches fell at the National Weather Service station at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

[continues at links above]

stupid earworms

From the moment I woke up this morning, I’ve had the Pirates of the Caribbean song “Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pirate’s Life For Me” rattling through my brain.

And not just the vocal version. The instrumental-only version that plays in the Disneyland attraction’s loading area also keeps intruding on my concentration.

I didn’t dream about theme parks or anything like that, at least not that I remember, but from the first moment I was fully aware of my surroundings this morning, those same few song lines and/or bars have been floating around my braincase.


Trivia: Jan 15, 2006

  • Today in history: 1559 Coronation of England’s Queen Elizabeth I—1929 Martin Luther King, Jr. born—1967 Green Bay vs. Kansas City in first Super Bowl

  • News of the weird: ANCHORAGE, AK—A man who robbed a hotel with his face painted blue was arrested after police saw stains on his forehead and neck. (AP)

  • Strange fact: Canadians eat more donuts per capita than any other nation.

  • Daily quote: You can only be young once. But you can always be immature.Dave Barry

  • Daily word: indisposed—ill, unavailable

  • Daily trivia: What TV sitcom took place in a World War II prisoner-of-war camp? (Hogan’s Heroes)

  • Celebrity birthdays: Margaret O’Brien (69)—Charo (55)—Chad Lowe (38)

We’re free!

Off we go, running away from the lab before the inventory minions deem us necessary to some longer plot.

Have a good weekend. :-)