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October 2003

148 entries from September 2003

Stupid Laundry Tricks

I just remembered I'd put a load of towels in the washing machine this morning, figured I'd toss them in the dryer overnight.

Opened the folding doors to the laundry space, saw the washer's lid was up and started taking out the towels and putting them in the dryer. My mind registered that the towels seemed wetter than usual after the spin-cycle-from-hell the machine inflicts upon them. Then I saw the Downy ball in the bottom of the washer and since I don't like leaving it in there, I reached in to grab it. Then I noticed it hadn't opened during the rinse cycle like it was supposed to.

Then it occurred to me. I didn't have to lift the washer lid to remove the towels, and the towels were much wetter than usual after the wash cycle.

The washer did its entire cycle, minus the spin at the end, because the lid was open.

I wasted a wash cycle, dammit!

The bounce-off-the-door scene

I think part of the reason I find this scene so funny is that I've done the same thing at least twice.

The first time, I was at a barbecue in Sandy, Utah, at my then-girlfriend's house. A group of probably 15 of us, most in the back yard but a few of us in the kitchen preparing the food. I turned to walk outside to ask the rest of the group some question (probably "Who wants a cheeseburger?" or something, I forget), and strode purposefully through the door to the deck.

Forgot to check for the screen door, however, which was closed. When I hit it, the screen gave just enough that the entire door popped loudly off its track, and I was so surprised that I grabbed at the door and managed to snag it as it shot outward. I stood there, the impression of the screen on my nose, holding the door and grinning like a fool.

The next time it was a glass door and I walked into it with enough force to leave a full face print on the glass, but not enough to break the door or knock it off its track. Since I was at work, I immediately did the look-around-quickly-for-witnesses maneuver and, spotting none, I turned on my heel and walked away rapidly, my face burning red.

Silly physical comedy

I’m watching The Whole Nine Yards for perhaps the fifth time, and laughing uproariously at a few bits of stupid physical comedy.

  • Matthew Perry bounces off Michael Clarke Duncan, stumbles and takes out a floor lamp as he crashes down behind a couch....
  • Perry gets clotheslined by an anaesthesia mask in his office as he tries to make a quick escape....
  • Perry (again!) bounces off a sliding glass door at full speed....

Yeah, all fairly stupid examples of low-brow physical comedy.

Gets me every time!

More fridge hockey

Kids upstairs banging around again, actually knocked one of my photos off the wall and destroyed its frame. I walked up there with the frame bits in my hands and pounded on their door.

As before, instant silence from within, followed about five seconds later by whispering voices I could hear clearly through the door:

"Shhh, if we don't make noise they won't know anyone's in here."

I knocked again, more whispers from within:

"How long do you think we should wait?"

"I can hear you through the door," I said.

There was the scrambling of feet, and then the door opened about one half of one eight of an inch. A child's voice: "Our dad isn't home right now."

"You kids are banging around way too much, and you broke one of my photo frames," I said. "When does your dad get home?"

"I dunno," the kid said. I realised it was the boy, the older of the two kids. He's about 8, I think.

"When he gets home, ask him to come see me downstairs, or if it's after 11 tell him I'll be stopping by to talk to him tomorrow."

It's been absolutely silent since. I haven't seen their dad arrive home yet (he walks right by my office window from his parking space), imagine I'll see him tomorrow.

I remember when I was a kid and the inescapable logic of things like the whispering the kids were doing.

Oh, to be young again....

Stupid shows

OK, so in a horrid turn of events, some plans I had for tonight fell through. I already viewed the two Netflix DVDs I had on hand, so right now I'm passing a bit of time flipping channels, and I came across NBC and a repeat of an episode of one of their new shows, "Happy Family" with John Larroquette and Christine Baranski.

Now, I like both of these actors, and even though I'm sick of sitcoms, I figured I'd give this one at least a single viewing. And only a few minutes into the episode I can tell this show will make a quick exit, and should never have been given the green light to begin with.

First, the two leads have absolutely no chemistry. The actors who play their children are all bumbling idiots, and the writing simply isn't funny. The fact that there's a laugh track to cue the viewers on appropriate laugh responses speaks volumes about the producers' own thoughts on this show.

I'm sure they'd say there's a live studio audience, and there very well may be. But I wouldn't be at all surprised if the laugh track is played there too, probably at high volume to wake the audience up.

Archaeological find refutes long-held notions about Amazon rainforest

Seems humans' penchant for modifying the environment to suit our needs goes much further back in the Amazon region than previously thought.

Amazonian find stuns researchers

Deep in the Amazon forest of Brazil, archaeologists have found a network of 1,000-year-old towns and villages that refutes two long-held notions: that the pre-Columbian tropical rain forest was a pristine environment that had not been altered by humans, and that the rain forest could not support a complex, sophisticated society.

A 15-mile-square region at the headwaters of the Xingu River contains at least 19 villages that are sited at regular intervals and share the same circular design. The villages are connected by a system of broad, parallel highways, Florida researchers reported in yesterday's issue of Science.

The Xinguano people who occupied the area not only built the complex towns but also dramatically altered the forest to meet their needs, clearing large areas to plant orchards and cassava while preserving other areas as a source of wood, medicine and animals.

full story

CNET Eolas suit may spark HTML changes

As anxiety builds throughout the Web over the patent threatening Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, the Web's leading standards group is considering modifying the medium's lingua franca itself, HTML, to address the same threat.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is on the verge of forming a patent advisory group, or PAG, in response to the Eolas patent suit, according to sources close to the consortium. That group would conduct a public investigation into the legal ramifications of the patent on Hypertext Markup Language, the signature W3C standard that governs how most of the Web is written, and other specifications related to it.

The W3C declined to comment on the PAG, but a representative acknowledged that the group had yet to conduct any formal investigation into the legal issues surrounding the patent and HTML.

Eolas' $521 million patent victory over Microsoft and its Internet Explorer browser has sent shockwaves through the Web and the software industry as a whole. While Microsoft has pledged to appeal the ruling, it has already prepared for a worst-case scenario, as have companies such as Macromedia and Sun Microsystems whose technologies rely heavily on IE's ability to play plug-ins--the capability found to infringe on the Eolas patent.

Now the W3C is said to be contemplating changes to HTML, considered one of the consortium's more mature and settled specifications.

The potential problem for HTML is that it describes a way of summoning content located on a server other than the one serving the page in question. The "object" and "embed" tags in HTML, consortium members worry, may fall under the wording of the Eolas patent.

Silly Quiz: Are you addicted to the Internet?

Are you addicted to the Internet?
57% (41%-60%)
You seem to have a healthy balance in your life when it comes to the internet and life away from the computer. You know enough to do what you want online without looking like an idiot (most of the time). You even have your own Yahoo club or online journal! But you enjoy seeing your friends and going out to enjoy life away from your computer.

Financials double-speak

Just attended a brief presentation about the financial condition of my company. The director who gave the presentation is a master of double-speak:

We’ve had our best year ever. This is the first year we’ve not only broken even during the first half, but our net income is X dollars. Fantastic job, everyone!

In the next breath:

We need to cut costs in order to survive.

Yes, I’m sure there’s more to any company’s financial picture than two simple statements. But it slays me that such presentations are always given in a very black-and-white manner, and senior management wonders why such presentations lead immediately to rumors of layoffs or other changes.

The Friday Five: 09/19/03

  1. Who is your favorite singer/musician? Why?
    I have a few who share equal "favorite" billing: Steve Winwood, 10,000 Maniacs, October Project, the fat lady sings, Grey Eye Glances. Each of these artists'/groups' music means a lot to me. Some reminds me of friends and family, others I can sing pretty well, and all of them are on my "can listen to these whenever" list.

  2. What one singer/musician can you not stand? Why?
    This is a difficult question, I'll have to ponder it awhile.

  3. If your favorite singer wasn't in the music business, do you think you would still like him/her as a person?
    I've seen most of my favorite musicians in interviews, and they all strike me as talented people who know they're talented but aren't arrogant about it. I think any of them might make good acquaintances.

  4. Have you been to any concerts? If yes, who put on the best show?
    Sting's "Ten Summoner's Tales" tour in the early 1990s was very good, as was the Steve Miller Band's mid-90s tour. The only of my favorites I've seen perform live is Steve Winwood, but the venue was a really poor choice for the concert type, and the crowd was very sedate.

  5. What are your thoughts on downloading free music online vs. purchasing albums? Do you feel the RIAA is right in its pursuit to stop people from dowloading free music?
    I think they're within their legal right to try to stop illegal file swapping, but I disagree with their tactics. And I think their biggest problem is the stupid pricing structures and contract arrangements they have.

Random tomatoes

Got back from lunch a little while ago.

Resting on my desk, in the center of the workspace about 2" from the keyboard, was a single tomato about the size of a golf ball.

I have no idea where it came from. None of my coworkers will admit to placing it there, nor to seeing it placed.

It's a firm tomato, the perfect ripeness, obviously from someone's home garden. I can't figure out why the perpetrator wouldn't want credit for so fine a specimen.

The only problem: I'm not in a tomato mood today. At least not at this moment, maybe later.

Anyone have any good tomato recipe ideas?

Windows XP design theory

I have this theory that the reason Windows XP’s interface is so richly graphical, much more so than the Windows versions leading up to it, is not so much to make using the OS easier but to fool people who walk by into thinking the user isn’t surfing the web.

I just walked past two XP users who both had non-work-related web sites loaded on their screens, but it was only after a double-take that I realised what I was seeing. At a glance I just assumed they had typical Windows XP displays of folders or whatever, what with XP’s graphically intense sidebars in most windows. It’s hard to tell where the OS ends and the content of the windows begins, no matter what program is running.

The wonder of electronics

My iPod's sitting on my desk in its cradle, the "charging" animation dancing happily across its screen.

Nearly 4000 songs—18 days of music, if continuously played—in this little deck-of-cards-size package. Durable, too, as I've dropped it twice (once on carpet, the other time on tile) and it doesn't even have any dings to show for it.

Of course to play it for 18 days straight, I'd have to charge it up close to 40 times. Battery lasts about 10 or 11 hours with each full charge, which is more than enough time to last through the longest airline flights I've taken or the majority of the road trips I've done. Back to capsules in space exploration?

Apollo-like capsule may replace shuttle

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters)—NASA may replace its troubled fleet of space shuttles with a new generation of Apollo-type space capsules, a top space agency official said.

"Certainly we have considerable amount of experience flying with capsules," Dr. John Rogacki, director of NASA's space transportation directorate, told Reuters on Wednesday. "One might say on the capsule side it could be that design experience may lead to a capsule being available sooner than a winged vehicle."

Unlike shuttles that land like airplanes, capsules splash down in the ocean and must be recovered by ships.

The resurrection of space capsules, which last launched three decades ago, is gaining favor among astronauts, space agency officials and congressional staffers after the shuttle Columbia disaster that killed seven astronauts on February 1.

I wonder if we'll see multiple-stage rockets like the Saturn V again.


Sounds like a substance used in horror movies to induce the female character’s flight in skimpy clothes to the upstairs corner of the house, thus ensuring either

  1. the messy death of the female character, or
  2. the ironic death of the maniac, followed by his mysterious disappearance to set up the sequel.

Horrifying chemical names

I work in an environmental lab. I don’t do lab work; I work in the project-management group. Mostly that means preparing and sending out analytical results reports, documenting problems with the analyses, invoicing, and about ten million other things I can’t recall right now.

As part of this job, I deal with chemical compounds that sometimes have Evile Names.

Some, such as benzene and hydrochloric acid, no problem. Easy to pronounce, I’ve encountered those names before, I know what’s up with them.

Then there are compounds such as 1,4-Dichlorobenzene and Benzo (a) anthracene, which are beyond my knowledge (my educational background is business and communication, not science) but which I can still pronounce.

Beyond these are the chemical names that leap headfirst into the world of Satan and/or would fracture the jawbone of an elk:

  • Hexachloropentadiene. This one is pretty easy, actually. You just have to sound it out. But they get much worse.
  • 1,2-Dibromo-3-chloropropane. Another easily pronounced (after a few tries), but heading rapidly into “Huh?” territory.
  • N-Nitrosodi-N-Propylamine. At the edge of pronounceability, and God forbid I ever have to describe this compound.
  • EDB/DBCP. This is the acronym for ethylene dibromide and dibromochloropropane. In my experience, when people pronounce this acronym, they sound like the robot Twiki from the ’70s TV show Buck Rogers.

I think the reason chemicals get names like this is to make it easy to weed out the mentally unprepared. If you work in a lab and you can’t utter a chemical-name acronym without chuckling at the memory of a cheesy 1970s sci-fi show, you probably shouldn’t be responsible for anything more important than greeting clients when they walk in the door.

Fun stuff in other blogs

Lately I've made a habit of checking out as many other blogs as I can find. TypePad's "recently updated" list is a handy way to do this, and since a lot of blogs link to still more blogs, and I'm a member of a TypePad webring, I've found some really fascinating reading this way.

One such blog,, is now on my check at least daily list of links. The cookie recipe alone would be worthwhile (must stop at grocery store on way home!), but other links I've found there are absolutely fascinating.

In particular, the dialect survey link goes into my favorites list. They've finished collecting data for now but the site indicates a new survey is starting soon, so I'll have to watch for it and participate.

Give soapy's place a read. You'll enjoy yourself.

Instant quiet

I went upstairs a few minutes ago and knocked lightly on the door of the apartment above me. The kids' noise stopped instantly, and their father yanked open the door and apologized about the noise even before I got a word out. Said it'd be quiet the rest of the night, I should come right up and let him know if the kids are being too loud at any time.

Here's the thing. Slamming and thumping and banging around don't bother me if it's before, say, 22:00, and if there's little or no danger of items being knocked loose from my walls or ceiling. However, doesn't matter what time it is if there are thudding sounds strong enough that I'm worried about plucking bits of drywall out of my hair, or worse still that I might suddenly find a body on my floor as the sun streams through a newly created skylight. That's simply outrageous.

We'll see if the quiet lasts several days like it did last time.

More refrigerator hockey, and a midnight move-out

The kids upstairs are bouncing off the walls, floor, ceiling, etc., again. Hard enough that I keep worrying about the glass cover of my dining-room light, which is shaking alarmingly with each thud from above. I'll be heading upstairs shortly to ask them to keep it down a bit.

The last time I did that, I heard not a peep out of anyone upstairs for nearly three weeks.

And the family that lived across the corridor from me moved out overnight sometime during the weekend. They were Indian or Pakistani, the two parents with three children and several other adults who, if not living there, spent a lot of time there anyway. I was gone most of Saturday and didn't hear the kids outside Sunday, but I have no idea which night they actually left.

When I got home from work Monday, the door to that apartment was open and the sound of a Shop Vac blared out. The living room was empty and the cleaning crew was just finishing up. A couple hours later I went outside to take some recyclables to the bins and saw the door was closed, cleaning crew finished. When I went outside one last time to take a bag of trash around 22:00, I saw there was a folded paper stuck behind my apartment-number plate. I grabbed it on my way back in.

It was a note from the apartment management informing the residents of building 21 that one of the residents had left over the weekend, breaking the lease, and that if any of us knew anything about the departed residents' whereabouts, please contact the office. The office phone number was at the bottom of that paragraph.

Below that was the non-emergency number for the Bothell Police Department and below that the non-emergency number for the Snohomish County Sheriff's Department.

So I'm wondering....

Is the police information included because they're going to try to prosecute for breaking a lease (which isn't a criminal offense, it's a civil matter), or because the former residents were from a certain part of the world?

NYSE chairman resigns over pay package

You wonder why no one's calling for the resignations of anyone else on the NYSE board, since in theory they were the ones who'd approved the actions that led to this whole brouhaha.

Grasso resigns as NYSE chairman

Big Board chairman resigns after outcry over his $140M pay package.

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Richard Grasso quit as chairman of the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday, offering his resignation after the board held an emergency meeting to discuss his fate and his pay, the exchange announced late Wednesday.

"Dick offered to submit his resignation if the board requested, and the board did so and accepted that resignation," said H. Carl McCall. "Dick called a special meeting of the board this afternoon in light of the recent discussion surrounding the exchange and his compensation."

Meanwhile, Larry Sonsini, another NYSE board member and a celebrated Silicon Valley securities lawyer, has been asked to be the interim chairman, an aide to Sonsini told Reuters.

full story Feasibility of in-flight repairs on space shuttles

NASA engineer casts doubt on in flight repair order

JOHNSON SPACE CENTER, Texas (AP)—A top NASA engineer said Tuesday the next space shuttle crew may not be able to fix a hole the size of the one that brought down Columbia, despite accident investigators' insistence on a repair kit for astronauts.

It was the first time that someone so high within the space agency expressed uncertainty about the possibility of equipping future shuttle astronauts with the necessary materials and tools to patch potentially deadly holes in spacecraft wings.

"We're working to the best of our ability to have a capability for repair," said Steve Poulos, manager of the shuttle vehicle engineering office. "There's nothing off the table" for developing a patch for the thermal shielding on the leading edges of the wings, he said.

I've become a weather weenie

When I first moved up here in March 2002, I laughed at people who wore long sleeves into the middle of June because the temperature occasionally dipped into the 50s. To me, that was pleasant sleeping weather in the summers of Salt Lake when we'd often have tens of days in a row in the high 90s or low 100s.

Today it's raining. The high temp is forecast at the mid-50s somewhere, and I'm wearing long sleeves because the thought of wearing short sleeves made me shiver, even with a t-shirt underneath as I usually do.

Of course now I'm hotter than hell in this long-sleeve knit shirt with a t-shirt underneath. So I have the sleeves pulled up anyway. Defeats the purpose, I suppose.

The effectiveness of political advertising

It's primary election day here in Washington state, and a lot of candidates for the various city, county, and state offices are out doing their last-minute stumping. I saw an example of this on my way to work this morning.

I live in the Thrashers Corner area of Bothell, so I drive through the intersection of Bothell Everett Highway (aka SR 527) and Maltby Road every day. For you area folk who are also landmark navigators, that's the intersection with the Safeway and Fred Meyer occupying the northeast and southeast corners, respectively.

In the strip mall that's next to the Fred Meyer building, there's a Quizno's sub shop. Never been there, but I know it's there because it opened near a dry cleaner I used to patronize.

This morning, as I waited at the traffic signal to turn left onto Maltby Rd., here's what I saw.

Northeast corner: A political operative for a candidate whose last name, if I read the sign correctly, is Judge. Or I suppose that could be the office for which the person was campaigning, but that's not usually how campaign signs are set up, and the rest of the lettering on the sign was too small for me to see in my brief glance that direction. In any event, this person, a woman who looked to be in her mid-20s, wore nondescript grey and black clothes and a knit hat, and held up her political sign as she waved at passing traffic.

Southeast corner: A person of indeterminate sex wearing a giant inflatable Quizno's soft-drink-cup costome, with only the legs and arms sticking out. This person also held a Quizno's Sub banner and waved at passing traffic.

I chuckled as I made my turn, and about 30 seconds later when I was maybe a quarter-mile away, I realised:

I still remembered the cup clearly.

The candidate/operative was a rapidly fading memory.

Obviously political candidates and their operatives should dress in inflatable costumes so the whimsy of the moment makes its impression on constituents.

More chaos in the California recall

Appeals court blocks California recall

Voting equipment 'defects' cited

SAN FRANCISCO, California (CNN)—A federal appeals court Monday ordered California officials to halt preparations for the October 7 gubernatorial recall election, citing concerns about a "hurried, constitutionally infirm" process.

Specifically, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the state needed to upgrade its voting equipment first.

"The inherent defects in the system are such that approximately 40,000 voters who travel to the polls and cast their ballot will not have their vote counted at all," the court ruled, citing voting machines that the secretary of state's office has declared unfit.

full story


Two years ago today, my grandmother died.

It was a long time coming. She'd been suffering from senile dementia for quite some time, starting with a hysterectomy and radiation treatments for uterine cancer in her mid-80s, followed by another major abdominal surgery when the radiation led to a bowel blockage. She never really recovered her faculties, fell into depression and more medical problems and slipped away from us over a period of years.

I'd made my peace with the idea of her death a long time before she died. When I visited, her face would light up the room, and I think she knew who I was. I'm named after my grandfather, her husband, and the connection we had was strong enough to shine through the mists that blurred her memories and perceptions in her last few years. But the woman I knew as my grandmother was no more, and so when her time came, I was ready for it.

I was also in Chicago, traveling on business the week of the terrorist attacks. I arrived in Chicago on September 10 and planned to return September 16, and I stuck to my original itinerary even when I knew my grandmother was near death because civilian airspace was still shut down and driving to Utah wouldn't get me back in time either.

I found out about her death when my cell phone rang at 10:00 Central time that Saturday. My mom spoke only a few words, and I spoke back what words of comfort I could summon from 1200 miles away, the detachment of the moment further wrapped in the horror of that entire week. And when I was done with that call, I went into downtown Chicago with my friend Matt and we spent the day wandering the art museum and the shopping areas and took a trip up to the observation deck in the John Hancock tower.

I celebrated her life on my own that night, at one of my favorite brew pubs: Taylor Brewing Co. in Lombard, just down Butterfield Road from my company's headquarters in Downers Grove and further down the road from my hotel.

I celebrated her life again when I returned to Salt Lake. Our family gathered on September 17 to share in the memories of my grandmother's long life. We passed around photos and played favorite songs and I gave a toast that I cannot for the life of me remember, but for which I still get compliments from my mom and my aunt and cousins.

We all returned to routines over the next few days: Back to work, to school, traveling back home for those few who didn't still live in Salt Lake. The immediate pain faded a bit, but the deeper sorrow lingered for my mom and my aunt.

We scattered her ashes near Monterey, California, on October 18, 2002, returning her to one of her favorite places in the world.

We were fortunate to go on that last journey with her. NASA plans to crash Galileo into Jupiter

PASADENA, California (AP)—NASA plans to crash its $1.5 billion Galileo spacecraft into Jupiter next weekend to make sure it doesn't accidentally contaminate the planet's ice-covered moon Europa with bacteria from Earth.

After Galileo's orbit carries it behind Jupiter at 3:49 p.m. EDT Sunday, the aging probe will plunge into the planet's stormy atmosphere at a speed of nearly 108,000 mph. Its suicide dive comes at the end of its 35th orbit of the planet—far longer than the 11 orbits the spacecraft originally was planned to complete.

The heat generated as it streaks through the atmosphere will vaporize the nearly 3,000-pound Galileo and the untold millions of microbial stowaways lurking since its 1989 launch.

full story Are shuttle flights worth the human risk?

A discussion that should have started many years ago. It's unfortunate that human nature requires a disaster before we consider alternatives.

Are shuttle flights worth the human risk?

Some officials in Congress say 'no'

WASHINGTON (Reuters)—There's little doubt that NASA can get its space shuttles flying again, but seven months after the deadly Columbia accident, there are plenty of doubts about whether it should.

With no clear vision for why the United States is pursuing human space flight, a tight national budget and a scathing critique of the U.S. space agency's "broken safety culture" coloring the debate, some in Congress wonder if sending humans into space at this point is worth the risk.

full story

Bennifer splitting up? Horrors!

Gotta have the occasional pop-culture tabloid trash fluff piece in here.

Report: Affleck, Lopez split

NEW YORK (Reuters)—Hollywood celebrity couple Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez have split up, at least temporarily, after postponing their wedding over a media frenzy, People magazine reported on Sunday.

The magazine's Web site quoted unidentified sources as saying Affleck decided he wanted out of the relationship, but it was not certain if the break-up will be permanent.

full story

Israelis won't rule out killing Arafat

I'm sorry to admit that I haven't followed this closely enough over the last year or so to be able to comment on it intelligently. Everything I know about it comes from the sound-bite news style of the American press, so I'll have to read up on it in the international press to get some perspective, I think.

Report: Killing Arafat is option, Israeli official says

RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN)—Israel's deputy prime minister told Israel Radio on Sunday that killing Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat is an option.

"We are trying to eliminate all the heads of terror, and Arafat is one of the heads of terror," Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in the interview, according to Israel's daily Haaretz.

"In my eyes, from a moral point of view, this is no different from killing others who were involved in ... acts of terrorism" Olmert said. "It's only a practical question. What is the benefit? What will the reaction be? What circumstances will allow this?"

Israel has come under international condemnation for the decision Thursday by its security Cabinet to remove Arafat because he is an "obstacle" to peace. Israel has not specified when, how or if the government might remove him.

full story

California recall candidates at state conventions

The circus that is California state government continues. And now, in Ring 3...

Recall players pair up and square off at state conventions

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN)—Players on both sides of California's recall election greeted audiences at the state's Democratic and Republican conventions on Saturday.

Republican candidates Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom McClintock addressed the state Republican convention separately, while at the Democratic convention, Gov. Gray Davis and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante appeared together on stage for the first time since Bustamante entered the race to replace his boss.

full story

Age and disease weaken the Pope

Perhaps it's time for the pontiff to step down.

Pope appears weak on Slovak tour

ROZNAVA, Slovakia (Reuters)—A weak Pope John Paul II struggled to celebrate a mass for tens of thousands of people on Saturday, including many who crossed the border from his native Poland fearing it was the last time they would see him.

The 83-year-old pope, who suffers from Parkinson's disease and can no longer walk, had difficulty pronouncing the prayers at the mass on a field in the far eastern part of the country.

full story

CNET News site redesign

CNET News celebrates its seventh anniversary by unveiling a site redesign, the third I can recall over the years I've considered the site a regular news source.

At a glance, I like the new design better solely because it reduces the amount of yellow on the page. I have a form of color-blindness and some bright colors like yellows and blues make viewing pages almost painful, both on monitors and in print.

Indiana governor succumbs after stroke

Indiana governor dies five days after stroke

O'Bannon had been in critical condition since Monday

CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN)—Indiana Gov. Frank O'Bannon died Saturday, his spokesman said. The governor was 73.

O'Bannon, who was in his seventh year as governor, died at 11:33 a.m. EDT in the neurointensive care unit of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, five days after suffering a massive stroke, according to a written statement from his office.

O'Bannon suffered the stroke Monday and has spent the week in critical condition and on life-support in Chicago, where he had been attending a conference.

full story

The Friday Five: 09/12/03

  1. Is the name you have now the same name that's on your birth certificate? If not, what's changed?
    Yep, same all around.

  2. If you could change your name (first, middle and/or last), what would it be?
    I'd change my last name, Nunn, to my grandfather's, Hills.

  3. Why were you named what you were? (Is there a story behind it? Who specifically was responsible for naming you?)
    Named after my maternal grandfather, who died a few years before I was born. My parents agreed on my name.

  4. Are there any names you really hate or love? What are they and why?
    Many of the popular names for kids nowadays annoy me, like Brittany (or variants), Tiffany, Bree, etc. for girls. I also don't like unusual spellings of names, like Samual (Samuel) or Darek or whatever.

  5. Is the analysis of your name at / / astroexpert accurate? How or how isn't it?
    Haven't tried them yet. I don't place much value in name analyses except for the purely etymological.

John Ritter dies at age 54

Unexpected—an unknown heart ailment claimed his life after he collapsed on the set of his ABC television show.

Actor John Ritter dead at 54

(CNN)—Actor and comedian John Ritter, who gained stardom in the sitcom "Three's Company," died Thursday night after collapsing on the set of his current TV series. He was 54.

Ritter was rushed from the set of the ABC series "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter" to Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California, after suffering from aortic dissection, an unrecognized and undetected flaw in his heart, according to a statement from his publicist Lisa Kasteler.

"Surgeons at the hospital tried to save the Emmy Award-winning actor but, sadly, were unable to do so," the statement said.

full story

He's married to Amy Yasbeck, the actress who played Maid Marian in Robin Hood: Men in Tights and was on the last few seasons of Wings on NBC.

Johnny Cash dies

I wasn’t a major fan of his music, but I’ve seen the effect his death had on fans and other musicians. Amazing how a single person can have such influence over so many things and remain so humble and accessible.

“Man in Black” Johnny Cash dead at 71
Singer a towering figure in music history

(CNN)—He was a poor sharecropper’s son from Kingsland, Arkansas, who sang to himself while picking cotton in the fields—then later sang to millions through recordings, concerts and his late-’60s TV variety show.

He became a country music statesman who found a home with rap-rock producer Rick Rubin's American Recordings.

He was called the “Man in Black,” who once sang “I shot a man in Reno/Just to watch him die,” but opened his concerts with the friendly, modest greeting, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.”

Johnny Cash—legend, model, icon—died Friday. He was 71.

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Isabel: First Category 5 hurricane since 1998

I've never been in a hurricane, and from the footage I've seen on the Discovery Channel and the Weather Channel, I'm glad I live in a place where we rarely even get thunderstorms.

Isabel strengthens to Category 5 storm

MIAMI, Florida (AP)—Hurricane Isabel intensified Thursday into an extremely powerful Category 5 storm as it rolled westward across the Atlantic.

Isabel's maximum sustained wind speed began the day at 145 mph, but by 5 p.m. the winds had grown to 160 mph with higher gusts. A hurricane becomes a Category 5, the top of the scale, if its winds reach 156 mph.

The five-day forecast places Isabel roughly 550 miles east of Miami and closing in on the Bahamas, should it maintain its westward course. Forecasters said they would know more about the potential direction of the storm late this weekend.

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Two years later

Two columns of light stream skyward where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood. The lights appeared as dusk settled in New York City and the lights will remain on through sunrise tomorrow.

These last two years have flown by. I so clearly remember wandering around in a daze this day in 2001, catching brief views of the television coverage of the buildings’ collapse, the Pentagon crash and fire, the Pennsylvania crash, the shutdown of US airspace. The endless repeat of horrifying images, the networks’ unfathomable need, it seemed, to replay the crash of the airplane into the second tower.

I remember the hours I spent at Taylor Brewing Company that night. The phone call with Mom that night and the next day when she told me Gammy wasn’t doing so well, there wasn’t much chance she’d make it more than a few days. Our discussion that I wouldn’t be able to get back to Salt Lake in less than three days, and that I was planning just to keep my originally scheduled return flight for the following Sunday and would take my chances.

I remember the drive to Milwaukee Wednesday, the uncertainty that I may be turned back at the state border and I wasn’t even sure if anyone would be at the Milwaukee office when I got there. The drive back that afternoon, another stop at Taylor Brewing and ongoing imagery of the attacks.

The phone call early Thursday from Mom, confirming that Gammy was slipping away and probably wouldn’t last more than a day or two. Talking again about not being able to get back before Sunday anyway, and planning to spend Saturday in downtown Chicago because I hadn’t been there before and since there was nothing I could do from 1300 miles away, and since I’d already made my peace with Gammy’s absence from my life, it made no sense to me to change those plans. Mom’s agreement, through tears, as I asked her to call me the moment anything changed.

The numbness of ongoing coverage Friday morning, and the anticipation of meeting a good friend that night. The giddiness as the end of the workday approached—I was meeting this person for the first time, and we had no idea what we were going to do. Uncertainty as I made my way into Downers Grove to find the train station, and when I spotted him standing on the sidewalk waiting for a blue Ford Escape to appear. The small talk as we made our way to dinner, and over dinner, and after as I drove to my hotel. We were going to downtown Chicago the next day and decided we’d both stay in my hotel room because it had twin beds and no point in driving all over the western suburbs when we could both sleep in the room and just hop the commuter train in the morning.

Starting awake when my cell phone rang at 10:00 on Saturday. Gammy had died about an hour before. Katharine was on her way to Salt Lake with her friend and coworker Heather. They’d work on funeral arrangements and so on when Kat arrived, and I would stick to my originally scheduled flight the following day, with greater confidence now that air traffic was beginning a slow return to normalcy. Our discussion through Mom’s tears that I would be following my original plan, spending Saturday in downtown Chicago, that if anyone needed me I would have my cell phone on me all day.

Getting up and showering and being quiet about it because the phone and my conversation hadn’t disturbed my friend, and finally heading for the train station around midday. The train ride into Chicago and the walk from the train station to the El, and the walk from the El to the John Hancock Tower, and the exit from the observation-deck elevator to the corner of the building facing O’Hare, where the crowd gathered to make sure no airplanes swerved toward the downtown area.

Walking along the downtown streets to the art museum, and the return to the train station, where we parted ways with a handshake and a smile.

The express-train ride back to Downers Grove, a welter of emotions and images bubbling up within me. The need to lose myself in mindless entertainment, and another trip to Taylor Brewing, the hours of NTN Trivia. I won about a dozen games, lost another dozen or so. Returning to my hotel around midnight and crashing into bed, up early the next day to check out of the hotel and go to the airport to deal with any schedule problems and to have plenty of time to get through security. And the ensuing breeze through security, the flight on schedule, the return home, and the arrangements for Gammy’s death.

Seven days that felt like five or six years at the time.

Now two years later it seems like it was over in the blink of an eye.

Animal Control strikes again

On Seattle NBC affiliate KING's local news, the teasers aired before the commercial break that just started included a snippet for a story about a bear in a residential-area tree. The animal-control folks' novel approach:

  1. Locate bear in tree.

  2. Place trampoline under tree, directly beneath bear.

  3. Shoot bear with tranquilizer dart.

  4. Watch bear fall out of tree in drugged-out stupor and bounce amusingly on trampoline, land face-first on the lawn.

Wash. State Patrol officers take the school bus

I see school-bus stop sign violations all the time on my daily route through Canyon Park into the North Creek area. Here's to a successful program to get drivers to slow the hell down.

School-bus ride-along in Bellevue has troopers monitoring motorists

Bellevue schoolchildren got a lesson in crime fighting yesterday after State Patrol officers climbed aboard their school buses to nab bad drivers.

The uniformed officers rode on school buses in several districts around Washington, including Bellevue %u2014 the only local test area %u2014 so they could get a bird's-eye view of drivers who ignore school-zone road rules.

During the ride, the officers watched for drivers who sped through school zones and didn't adhere to the extended school-bus stop signs, or "paddles."

When a violator was spotted, the on-board officer called an unmarked unit behind the bus to chase the driver down.

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