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127 entries from December 2003

Mmm... TiVo

So I'm biding my time before plans for the evening later on, and flipping through my TiVo unit's stock of recorded programs from the last week to see what's playing and what seems interesting to me.

Somehow TiVo got the idea that I'd want an entire week's worth of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which I've never seen. Maybe I should try one episode and then tell the unit to tone down the gusto for such shows.

Anyway, I'm still getting the hang of how it works. But so far it roolz. :-D

Product complaints simmer as Macworld approaches

CNET Disgruntled Apple users get vocal as Macworld looms

Can a few bad apples—like product-quality complaints and potential lawsuits—spoil the bunch for loyal fans of Apple Computer ahead of their biggest party of the year?

As enthusiasts devoted to Apple prepare to descend on San Francisco next week for the annual Macworld conference, at least two online petitions have collected hundreds of signatures from potential plaintiffs seeking to file lawsuits over claims of defects in the iBook laptop.

Another growing source of complaints surrounds Apple’s wildly popular iPod line of digital music players, which many enthusiasts believe will get an upgrade at Macworld with the introduction of smaller, less-expensive models and a range of case colors.

In California, a lawsuit seeking class-action status is expected to be filed in January against the company over the claim that Apple's warranty does not run long enough to cover problems with the player’s battery.

I’ve had my iBook for about a week shy of two years, and though I have had a major failure—the hard drive died just four months after I bought the machine—I’m pleased with it overall. And my iPods (the 5GB I got two years ago, and the 30GB I got in July) have performed flawlessly.

The true meaning of this holiday

My take on the New Year's Eve/Day phenomenon, nicely summed up in an AIM chat snippet:

Don (16:33:04): and of course this holiday has always been a "woo, day off from work" holiday only... excuse to imbibe, blah blah blah
Buddy (16:33:39): uh ok ;)
Don (16:33:59): well really, does it mark any major milestone for you?
Buddy (16:34:08): nah, not really
Don (16:34:29): that's more what I mean, not a milestone or anything, but a ready-made "let's get drunk" reason
Buddy (16:34:36): lol
Don (16:34:37): (as if I needed that, but anyway)
Buddy (16:34:57): we may go get some champagne when he gets here
Don (16:35:05): "hey, it's Wednesday! let's get drunk!" "hmm, I'm 6'3"—let's drink a lot!" "wow, I wore shoes today! ::guzzle::" etc.
Buddy (16:35:14): lololol

I'm not actually this cynical. This has a great deal to do with the fact that I spent today on the road dealing with the silly drivers who had no clue how to handle the 2" or 3" of snow that accumulated overnight in the Puget Sound region. I got back to the lab with a stabbing headache centered directly behind my left eye, always such a pleasant way to celebrate a holiday....

If you’re going to get sick on an airline flight, this is the one to choose Sick airline passenger had many doctors

LONDON, England (AP)—A flight in the United States proved lucky for a British woman who suffered a heart attack.

Fifteen heart specialists, all bound for a medical conference in Florida, stood up to offer help when a cabin attendant asked: “Is there a doctor on board?”

Dorothy Fletcher, 67, who had been on her way from Britain to her daughter’s wedding, said Wednesday that she owed her life to the doctors.

“I was in a very bad way and they all rushed to help,” said Fletcher, who was stricken on a flight from Philadelphia to Florida.

“I wish I could thank them but I have no idea who they were, other than that they were going to a conference in Orlando.”

Fletcher, who lives in Liverpool, northwestern England, spent two days in intensive care in a hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina following the heart attack on November 7.

She spent three more days in the hospital, but still made it to Florida for her daughter Caroline’s wedding.

Light snow after all

Perhaps 1.5" at my apartment, and it had mostly melted off my car when I left for work at 07:45. The parking-lot pavement was pretty slushy and slick, but the roads were okay for the most part, and very little traffic volume to deal with.

Happily, my commute's entirely by surface streets and back roads, so even though the freeways are in pretty good condition—just wet, no ice reported, according to the radio traffic doods—I had no trouble getting here on time anyway.

Huh, it actually IS snowing

Puget Sound weather radar snapshot 12/30/03 22:36 PSTStarted about 20 minutes ago, stuck to the grass and cars right away and now sticking to pavement and sidewalks.

Maybe we really will get the 3" or so forecast by all the weather wonks and covered relentlessly by the afternoon news-radio talking heads.

It's funny watching the traffic passing by in the parking lot. At the first sign of the snowflakes, the drivers began slamming on their brakes at the slightest provocation—anti-lock brakes make an amusing chattering sound from outside the car—and now there's a trail of fishtailing cars passing my bedroom window.

If this sticks around until morning, the commute will not be pretty.

Another quick move-out

The man who lives directly above me moved out tonight. I was home briefly at 16:30 and when I got home again at 20:55, I noticed the apartment above mine is now empty.

I did see a small truck when I pulled up earlier, and two kids carrying armloads of loose small items, but didn't make the connection immediately.

I wonder if I'll have a letter from the management on my door in the next couple of days, asking if I knew anything about the resident and where he went and such. Although this guy was Caucasian, so I doubt it.

Woo hoo, found me dark lenses

Yesterday I was on the road for a few hours making stops at various clients' offices (the lab's full-time courier is on vacation) and when I got back, I took off my coat and unclipped the dark lenses that fit over my glasses.

Promptly lost those lenses, of course. No big deal last night, since it gets dark at 16:00ish, but for today and onward I was pretty distressed. Looked everywhere: My desk, the lab's truck, my car, the ground around the vehicles, my apartment, etc. Those last four even though I clearly remembered having the lenses on when I was taking off my coat and talking to my boss.

So this morning as I walked around looking once more, one of our senior analysts happened to be in the project managers' work area and he looked up at the cubicle wall near the coat rack and spotted the lenses perched atop the wall, right where I'd left them (and have left them many times before) while I slipped my coat off.

TIME Magazine's Year In Pictures

TIME offers its own take on the most memorable photographs of 2003.

The cover photo haunts me powerfully. It depicts Ali Ismail, the Iraqi youth who lost both arms in the initial American attack on Baghdad earlier this year.

Unfortunately, only the first four photographs are viewable without registration, which depends upon subscription to the magazine.

Americal Online members: Load the story link in the AOL browser to view the entire series.

(See also TIME's 21 Days to Baghdad photo essay.)

And the Kia shall go forth

So by the time I got outside a few minutes after that first post—had to finish my Rice Chex, yum—there was a flatbed tow truck parked behind the Kia, with the winch line already attached to pull the car up the ramp. Since I had to walk right past the area on the way to my car, of course I stopped to watch.

The truck driver turned to the woman and said, "You'll have to release the parking brake before I can pull the car onto the bed."

An expression of sudden understanding followed instantly by embarrassment flashed across the woman's face, and she turned away for a second or two. Then she said something I couldn't hear, and the driver smiled a bit knowingly, unhooked his winch line, and pulled his truck about 20 feet away.

She got in her car, fired it up, released the brake, and voilà: Movement!

You have to release the brake!

A Kia sedan is parked regularly in one of the spaces right outside my bedroom window. The woman who drives this Kia is having a great deal of difficulty getting it to move this morning. She started it and let it warm up while she scraped ice from the windows—but only enough ice from each window to allow her a roughly 10"-by-10" viewing space on each side of the vehicle—and then she climbed into the car to drive away.

Then I heard frantic revving and gear-shifting and more revving, and looked out the window to see her distraught countenance as she struggled with the vehicle. The obvious question on her lips: "Why won't this damned thing move?!"

She jumped out of the car, looked right at me as she did so, and went into one of the apartments for a few minutes, and now is back, going through the same thing all over again. I mimed releasing the brake while I mouthed, "You have to release the brake..." ...doesn't seem to be helping her, but another woman just appeared at her car. I'll ask if they need help on my way out the door shortly.

SLC snow wreaks havoc on travel schedules

My friend Sonya, who spent the last week with her family in Colorado, was on her way back to Seattle tonight on Delta flights by way of Salt Lake City.

I say was because her flight out of Grand Junction was delayed, so she missed her SLC-SEA flight, and now can’t get a confirmed seat on a flight to Seattle before Monday night.

So she’s staying overnight at my mom’s house and as of now is scheduled to arrive at SEA at 23:30ish tomorrow. A late night at the airport, certainly, but on the plus side, I’m thinking SEA won’t be all that busy at that hour, so maybe the vehicle security checkpoint won’t be a pain to negotiate. U.S. mad cow traced to 8 states, Guam

(CNN)—U.S. Department of Agriculture officials have traced beef from a cow diagnosed with mad cow disease to four more states and Guam in addition to the four states already announced, the department said Sunday.

Some meat was sent to Alaska, Montana, Hawaii, Idaho and the U.S. territory of Guam in the Pacific, said Kenneth Petersen, a spokesman for the department's Food Safety Inspection Service, on Sunday.

The cow was slaughtered this month in Washington state, and its meat was sent to two processing plants in Oregon. Some meat also was shipped to California and Nevada, the department had said earlier.

The department has recalled about 10,000 pounds of beef that originated from the Vern's Moses Lake Meat Co. in Moses Lake, Washington, where the infected cow was slaughtered December 9.

Risk to consumers from the meat was "virtually zero," according to Petersen.

"The meat per se, because it did not contain any spinal cord material, we think is a very low risk to consumers," Petersen said, adding that the distribution was "limited."

full story

Another example of government officials' penchant for speaking immediately to minimize a risk, and later having to backpedal furiously as the story changes.

In this case, they said immediately when the news broke that the meat from this animal hadn't entered the food supply, and now several days later they're listing four additional states and a territory where the meat did, in fact, get distributed.

It would have been much simpler for them to say they didn't know the full effects yet, because they hadn't traced the distribution of the meat, but were still confident the affected tissues (spinal column, brain, etc.) hadn't entered distribution channels.

AirPort base station go boom

My dual-Ethernet base station just went belly-up for the better part of an hour. Out of the goddamned blue. It took me four tries through the usual series of reset-and-reload steps I follow before I got it to wake up again, which has never happened before.

But all seems well now, so it must've just been my time.

Speaking of wireless networks, there's another network name of Blitzz somewhere in this building. I get fairly good signal strength off it, and it's not protected, so I can connect to it whenever I want. But its name reminds me of the irritating team-naming scheme most sports organizations used in Utah, with a double-Z ending following the Utah Jazz. So the WNBA team was the Starzz, the baseball team was the Buzz, the hockey team was the Grizz (shortened from Grizzlies).

Most annoying. And off-topic, so off this goes....

Major snowfall in Salt Lake City Friday

Got a call from Mom around 14:00 yesterday. She'd just come in from shoveling two feet of snow off her front sidewalks and stairs, and another inch had accumulated while she shoveled.

Today The Salt Lake Tribune offers a photo gallery (update 03/05/04: link inactive, Tribune's archive requires paid access) of the storm's accumulations and effects.

Beautiful and scary images there.

It's amazing to me how it takes a huge snowfall to snarl lives in a city like Salt Lake, but here in the Puget Sound area a snowfall of only an inch or two can bring things to a standstill.

All what you're accustomed to dealing with, I suppose.

Well, that took care of the vermin, all right

Note to infestees: One bug bomb is enough for a 600-square-foot house.

This reminds me of an incident that occurred years ago in an apartment house my parents used to manage. The house had been renovated into four apartments, which the largest on the main floor and extending through to the back of the house. The tenants in that apartment had abandoned their lease after not paying rent for some time, and when we went in to clean the place up, we found all manner of trash and dead things throughout the house, including the remains of probably 3 dozen mice and untold hordes of roaches and other insects.

No signs of bug bombs in that apartment. I think all the critters had died from the wads of trash and other crap piled everywhere.

For a while there, I didn't think we'd ever be clean again. That place was just a nightmare.

Link via Gina Smith

Tech support folks should NOT sell services

I just called GoDaddy, my domain registrar, to find out what was up with my domains.

Mark, the Helpful Support Representative (and he actually was helpful), informed me there was already an escalated support case and the NOC minions were working on it. It was marked for resolution "within 72 hours," but, he hastened to inform me, they did not expect it to take anywhere nearly that long—in fact, my domains started functioning again while I was on the line.

But then Mark wondered, in this off-hand manner, why wasn't I hosting my site(s) at GoDaddy? Because right now, today only, and only for call-in customers, GoDaddy is offering a hosting special for just $some-amount-I-didn't-catch per year for sites up to 150 megabytes! And by the way, would I like traffic tools and email accounts while I'm at it?


Military wife gets $500 gift of kindness from stranger

It was in the post-office parking lot, of all places, where Karin Santos rediscovered her faith in humanity.

It had been an emotional few months. Her husband Alberto had left for Iraq in November with the rest of the Stryker brigade, and her co-workers had surprised her with a care package of goodies to help him through a holiday overseas. The Woodinville couple had been married only a few months, and Santos was feeling pretty alone as a military wife so far from the support at Fort Lewis.

But a kindhearted man at the post office changed everything for her when he said he knew the sacrifice a couple makes when a husband goes to war, blessed her, handed her a roll of money and walked away.

full story

USDA: British lab concurs with mad cow test results

(CNN)—Scientists in Waybridge, England, confirmed the test results done by U.S. scientists on a cow presumed to be infected with mad cow disease, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Thursday.

The Department of Agriculture considers this confirmation of the disease, but the British laboratory must conduct its own tests on the tissue before reaching the conclusion that the U.S. cow had Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE.

"The UK veterinary pathologists concur with our interpretation of the December 22 positive test conducted by USDA pathologists at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa," the department said in a statement posted on its Web site.

The department expects additional tests "will be consistent with the earlier finding," according to its Web site.

full story

20,000 feared dead in Iran quake

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN)—Iran has appealed for international aid as the death toll from a devastating earthquake climbed to 4,000 and officials warned that thousands more are likely to be found dead.

At least 30,000 people have been injured in the quake in southeastern Iran, local officials said.

The Iranian government said as many as 20,000 people may have died in the quake, which was centered near the ancient city of Bam about 610 miles (975 km) southeast of the capital, Tehran.

The quake struck at 5:27 a.m. Friday (8:57 p.m. ET Thursday) as people were sleeping.

full story

UK lab confirms mad-cow finding

Heard this on the TV news this morning, the insanely chipper Today Show newsreader grinning like a fool as she reported this.

The USDA folks all spouted off their "We're certain this cow didn't enter the food supply, we're back-checking to determine where it came from, our food is safe, etc. etc." line once more.

I'm not afraid of this—I like a good steak or burger too much to let it futz with my day-to-day life at this point—but I am curious to see what the investigation turns up.

...and back to the grind!

Been at work about 10 minutes, looked up a list of what's reportable for the day and it came out at 18 items. That'd keep one person fairly busy, two people busy in spurts with some lulls, and it'll keep 3 of us occupied for perhaps two hours total each.

Ah well. Was a nice holiday and just the one workday before the weekend.

So far my nebulous weekend plans include seeing The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and exchanging a sweater that I mistakenly listed as a size too large for me (the same sweater I decorated with syrah earlier this month). Oh yes, and we pick up Sonya Sunday evening. Otherwise, 'twill be a quiet weekend, really looking forward to it.

French flights resume after alert

PARIS, France (CNN)—The French Foreign Ministry says all passengers from canceled Air France flights to Los Angeles have been questioned.

A spokesman said 13 passengers were questioned by police. All others were questioned by airport security.

All were sent home, the ministry said, adding there will be no official investigation or follow-up.

Air France said its fights were resuming Friday.

France agreed to cancel all Air France flights between Paris and Los Angeles Wednesday and Thursday over security concerns expressed by U.S. officials.

full story

A nice holiday

My sister and I got together this morning to exchange gifts and spend a couple hours on the phone with our mom in Salt Lake City, and then the two of us spent the remainder of the day at some friends' in Fox Island, eating a lot and drinking some too.

This friend of ours is a maniac in the kitchen. A damned fine cook, and she loves to do it. She prepared a turkey and prime rib, along with the usual side dishes. I think she managed to get every single cooking utensil dirty three or four times over.

Got home about 22:30 and now about to hit the sack since I have to work tomorrow. Should be a fairly quiet day at the lab, since most of our clients are closed. Probably only be sending out results to our clients whose projects are due tomorrow, since we don't consider the day after Christmas a non-business day.


Report: Mountains grew a foot in Calif. quake

LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters)—California's largest earthquake in four years struck on Monday, causing planet Earth to ring "like a bell" and mountains to grow a foot (30 cm) taller, geologists said.

The magnitude 6.5 quake hit near the coastal city of San Simeon almost exactly half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles, setting high-rise buildings swaying in both cities.

Earthquakes relieve pressure between clashing continental plates. The plates float on the earth's mantle, which has a putty like consistency and moves as the earth's core heats it.

On Monday one piece of crust shoved beneath another about 4.75 miles (7.6 km) beneath the surface of the earth and at the intersection of the Pacific and North American plates, U.S. Geological Survey seismologists said[.]

That sent tremors along America's west coast and beyond.

full story

Saturn of Lynnwood continues abominable service record

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

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

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

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

I had to call Saturn of Lynnwood twice to find out about my car, and even then when I showed up at the dealership just after 11:30 to find out what the hell was up with the car, the "service consultant" still looked shocked by my appearance. Completely unprepared for me.

They have a hell of a lot of trouble calling their customers back with updates at that Saturn location. And since it seems all the Saturn dealerships in the Puget Sound area are part of this one group, I don't imagine service levels are any better at the other locations.

I have my car back, anyway. Problem with the leaky windshield seems to be a clogged drainage mechanism for the sunroof, and the part won't be in until midweek. So my service order is still open pending a call from the consultant when the part arrives, at which time I'll take the car back in to have the installation completed.

Presuming, that is, the guy actually remembers to call me.

McDonald's Wi-Fi whilst I await the auto service

So I'm at a McDonald's on Hwy 99 near 174th St SE in Lynnwood. This is the first time I've been to a McDonald's in a year or so, and the only reason I am here is because of the Wi-Fi—no Wi-Fi–enabled Tully's or Starbucks nearby. Thank God this location doesn't have one of the ubiquitous Playplace monstrosities attached to it, and there are only a few other patrons at this hour, so it's relatively quiet. The loudest sounds are from the cooking equipment, which is squawking and beeping and begging for attention every 10 seconds or so.

My car's in for its scheduled maintenance and for a windshield leak check. The last several days I've noticed a wet spot on the driver's side floor, about parallel to the shifter, directly beneath the upper edge of the windshield. There was also a drip trail down the inside of the windshield, so they're checking the seals all around on both front and back 'shields.

The service dept. closes at noon, so I'll definitely have the car back by then. But if I spend all four hours here waiting, that's still open to question. I await the jingle of my cell phone.

Japan, S. Korea ban U.S. beef Countries move to ban U.S. beef

(CNN)—In the first wave of response to the U.S. mad cow scare, Japan and South Korea are immediately banning all U.S. beef imports.

Japan is the biggest export market for U.S. beef, importing $842 million worth last year, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation. South Korea is the No. 3 market behind Mexico, taking beef worth about $580 million.

The two East Asian nations said Wednesday they are taking action which effectively brings imports from the United States to a halt. Japan has temporarily stopped issuing import certificates, while South Korea has halted customs inspections of U.S. beef, effectively keeping it out of the country.

Singapore’s Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority said in a statement Wednesday it had suspended U.S. beef imports immediately.

Singapore imported only 988 tonnes of U.S. beef, valued at S$12.2 million, or $7.14 million of total imports of 18,393 tonnes. Most beef is imported from Australia, New Zealand and Brazil, the authority said.

Malaysia also suspended imports, but like Singapore it is a minor buyer of U.S. beef, taking only about 290 tonnes a year.

Shares in big Japanese restaurant chain Yoshinoya D&C are down more than 8 percent in Wednesday trade as the market reacts to the news. Tokyo’s broad Topix index is down 0.28 percent.

Fast food chain McDonald’s Holdings (Japan) is down 3 percent, following a similar fall for its U.S. parent in after-hours trading Tuesday.

McDonald’s Japan says it sources all the beef used in its hamburger patties from Australia, which has had no cases of mad cow.

But Cattle Council of Australia president Keith Adams said Wednesday the case was bad news for Australian beef exporters.

“This is bad news for everybody—there’s no upside to this,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Sources in Tokyo told CNN that Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries would formally announce the ban on U.S. beef later Wednesday.

South Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry said Wednesday it has decided to suspend customs clearance for all U.S. beef and beef products at the nation’s airports and seaports, Yonhap news agency reported.

According to Japan’s Kyodo news agency, Japanese Agricultural, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshiyuki Kamei told reporters that Japan would take ”a similar measure” as that taken after a case of mad cow disease was found in the Canadian province of Alberta in May.

Japan has banned imports from Canada since then.


U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said late Tuesday the country’s first apparent case of mad cow disease had been discovered in Washington state. (Full story)

Two tests have already been carried out on the cow, enabling Veneman to say it had tested “presumptive positive for BSE,” or bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

A sample is being flown to England for a third test to absolutely confirm the case.

BSE is linked to a similar form of the incurable and fatal brain-wasting disease in humans, called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, or vCJD.

There have been a small number of cases of vCJD reported worldwide, primarily in the United Kingdom, in people who ate BSE-contaminated meat.

Mad cow disease first appeared in the United Kingdom in the mid-1980s and resulted in the slaughter of millions of cattle.

BSE spread across the European cattle industry after that, but the first case in North America did not appear until May this year, when a diseased cow in the Canadian province of Alberta was found. Eighteen farms were quarantined, but no additional cases were discovered.

Japan stopped importing animal feed from Britain in 1996, and in January 2001, banned beef imports and processed beef products from 18 countries, including EU members.

Japan was the first country to find an infected cow outside of Europe. Its first case of the disease was reported in the Chiba area east of Tokyo in August 2001.

In November this year, Japan confirmed that a 21-month-old Holstein in Hiroshima prefecture in western Japan had tested positive for BSE on October 29.

It was the ninth mad cow case for Japan since the illness was discovered in the country two years ago and its second in less than a month.

First U.S. case of mad cow disease in WA?’s  BREAKING NEWS  banner caught my eye, and the Seattle Times web site had a bit more info.

The Seattle Times: Local News: Mad cow disease suspected in Washington state
:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

UPDATE 15:13: main page now has more information.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

UPDATE 15:38: This is getting widespread coverage and what I’ve seen so far mentions only briefly, if at all, that this is a “presumptive positive” result. The final result isn’t known, pending testing of a sample sent to the U.K.

So if the U.K. test comes back negative, how much play will that get in the news?

And what’s up with this quotation from Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, in the Seattle Times article?

“This incident is not terrorist related. ... I cannot stress this point strongly enough.”

Did that thought actually cross anyone’s mind until the moment she said that? I know it hadn’t occurred to me until then.

Today’s traffic wonkery

On my way to work this morning I was behind a MacDonald-Miller van whose driver seemed... uncertain, shall we say, about where he was going.

I stopped at Tully’s in Canyon Park for muffin and cuppa. Since I was on 228th St SE already, I headed east and turned right on Fitzgerald Rd, which runs along I-405 for a ways before turning east and becoming 240th St SE, exactly where I needed to be.

The MacDonald-Miller van was ahead of me on 228th and turned right onto Fitzgerald Rd ahead of me as well, and crawled along at 15-20mph, signaling at every curve in the road. At first I thought he wasn’t sure where to turn—there are several residential streets turning east off Fitzgerald—but he was signalling both left and right, every time there was any curve at all in the road.

He did this the entire way down Fitzgerald, including the last curve when it becomes 240th, as a line of cars about 10 deep piled up behind him. Finally he actually did turn right at 35th Ave SE, where I continued straight.

I’ve been lost in this metropolitan area before. It’s damned confusing when you come from a city like Salt Lake, where the addresses are based on a straightforward grid system, to the Seattle area’s system of which is also grid-based but refers to the directions differently, the NE and SW and E and so on. Especially right in this area where the Seattle metro address area meets with the Everett metro address area (in fact, the lab is only a few hundred feet south of the King-Snohomish county line).

But damn, man. Signaling every curve on a road? That’s just silly, to say nothing of dangerous! Pull over if you don’t know where you’re going!

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

As an aside, I long for a return to the days when people sold things other than “solutions” (see the MacDonald-Miller web page linked above).

These days it’s “commerce solutions” or “copier solutions” or “health solutions” or whatever.

Open letter to marketing persons:

You overuse a word like “solution” and people stop paying attention to it. It becomes a buzzword and eventually a late-night TV joke.

Kinda like “system” a few years ago. Everything became a “system”: Gillette marketed “shaving systems” instead of razors and blades, Mr. Coffee started selling “brewing systems,” blah blah blah.

Now, I hear the word “system” and I glaze over instantly.

“System solutions” or “solution systems,” anyone? ::fall into coma:: Ghostly image at Britain's Hampton Court

LONDON—Are there ghostly goings-on at Henry VIII's palace, or is that hazy image of a fellow in fancy robes just a bit of Christmas cheer?

Hampton Court ghostClosed-circuit security cameras at Hampton Court Palace, the huge Tudor castle outside London, seem to have snagged an ethereal visitor. Could it be a ghost?

"We're baffled too—it's not a joke, we haven't manufactured it," said Vikki Wood, a Hampton Court spokeswoman, when asked if the photo the palace released was a Christmas hoax. "We genuinely don't know who it is or what it is."

Wood said security guards had seen the figure in closed-circuit television footage after checking it to see who kept leaving open one of the palace's fire doors.

In the still photograph, the figure of a man in a robelike garment is shown stepping from the shadowy doorway, one arm reaching out for the door handle.

The area around the man is somewhat blurred, and his face appears unnaturally white compared with his outstretched hand.

"It was incredibly spooky because the face just didn't look human," said James Faukes, one of the palace security guards.

Cell phone fixed. And more gnats. And blinding sun...

I called AT&T Wireless Cingular customer service and was on hold only 7 of the estimated 17 minutes before I spoke to Jackie, a pleasant woman who issued some sort of Double Secret Super Reset command to get the SeaTac-area cell tower to release my phone’s registry and allow the towers in Bothell to pick it up. Of course I had to disassemble the phone down to its basic end-user components to achieve this, so while we chatted about the insanity of the holidays, I had my phone, the battery cover, the battery, and the SIM card lying on the table, at least 6 inches separating each piece from the others. I’m not one to mess with technology I don’t fully understand, and who knows if the SIM card’s karma might not have funked things up again if it had been within a couple inches of the phone during this entire process.

Anyway, as I mentioned previously, just after midnight I received the 14 text messages that had piled up since noon yesterday. Including the series of test messages I’d sent myself from AOL and my Verizon email, and the two test messages the Helpful AT&T Wireless Cingular Agent sent. Most of the messages were flight-status updates from Delta for Sonya’s flights into SLC and thence to GJT, along with messages from Sonya herself to tell me she’d made it to SLC all right and was enjoying a beer at Squatters’ airport location. She didn’t say so, but I imagine she may also have been viewing one of the several DVDs she took with her for her new PowerBook.

Ah, beer and movies in an airport brewpub in SLC. Life doesn’t get any better than that. Although when we flew through SLC on our way to Florida in March, and we arrived at Squatters at 09:00 and asked for beer, it was quite a bit of fun to watch passersby give us sidelong glances because of our audacity at consuming intoxicating beverages at all, to say nothing of so early in the day.

So anywho. This morning we’re seeing more flights of gnats around the lab. We’ve yet to figure out where the hell the little bastards are coming from. A lot of people in the administrative areas of the lab do keep plants at their desks, but damn, we’ve all these nasty chemicals and such about, you’d think the gnats would've just... I dunno, dissolved or something, a long time ago. But still they keep appearing.

And the sun just peeked high enough over the hills east of the lab that I’m now blinded by a beam of light. ’Tis a good thing I touch-type.

Cell-phone problems since 12:00 Sunday

My phone’s been quiet all day, which is odd because Sonya usually keeps us updated by text message of her progress during travels.

Turns out she’s been sending me messages most of the day but AT&T Wireless Cingular’s towers have this unsavoury habit of locking a phone into a single tower near SeaTac airport—the woman with whom I spoke at AT&T Wireless Cingular Customer Service World HQ just confirmed this for me—and then the phone flatly refuses to register itself to other towers after that.

So all day while I’ve been getting SYSTEM BUSY when I tried to place calls from my cell, and Message send failed! when I tried to send SMS, and busy signals when I tried to call my cell...

All because of a stubborn cell tower in Tukwila and/or south Seattle that won’t let go of cell registries properly.

In the last 30 seconds I’ve received the 14 SMS texts that have piled up throughout the day, oh joy.


Holiday travel: Insanity at the airport

Took my friend Sonya to the airport this morning for her trip to visit her family in Colorado. Her flight left at 12:35, so we got there about 09:40 keeping in mind the two-hour advance arrival the airlines recommend (we met for breakfast at 08:00 but ended up finishing that by about 09:10). So of course she breezed through security by about 10:30 and had a couple hours to kill.

The traffic at SeaTac was insane. Cars everywhere, long lines at the curbside check-in stations. I imagine the lines at the inside ticket counters were pretty long too. Sonya wasn't checking any bags, and she had an electronic ticket, so she got through everything pretty quickly.

She gets back in a week.