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89 entries from June 2004

The power was out briefly. I think.

I've been using my PowerBook for a couple hours while my desktop G4's backup-volume OS X 10.3.4 update was in progress, so when the desktop machine shut itself down a few minutes ago, I didn't think twice about it. I thought I was finished with the updates around 19:30, because the Java post I wrote at 19:29 I did after the last reboot from the Java installer, but I wasn't paying attention too closely.

I was surprised when after 15 minutes or so, the desktop G4 still hadn't restarted itself. I first wondered if I'd run into a firmware problem, but the machine wasn't on at all, and I'd been careful to make sure it had all applicable firmware updates before I started any OS X update procedures.

So I thought perhaps the monitor had blown out, but I didn't hear the fan sounds from the tower, and the power switches on the tower and the monitor weren't illuminated—neither steadily to indicate power on, nor pulsing to indicate sleep.

After the power flicker
My microwave in its post-power-failure throes
I walked first into the kitchen for some water and that's when I realized what must have happened. The microwave's display showed all the elements illuminated followed by PF, its silent protest about a power failure.

Walked back into the great room and sure enough, the receiver on the entertainment center was flashing through its entire "demo mode" production, illuminating all the switches and display sections one by one to show off how awesome it is.

And my alarm clock flashed "12:17" repeatedly. Its battery back-up must be dead.

I hadn't noticed any of this because it wasn't dark yet, I wasn't using my Internet connection, and the PowerBook hummed along happily on its battery.

I hate it when I'm distracted so much that I miss out on things like that.

Java grinds me

My backup volume needed no updates in OS 9.2.2, so I fired it back up in OS X 10.2.6 and updated that to 10.2.8 via Software Update.

Then I figured, what the hell, might as well update it further to 10.3, so both volumes are running the same system configuration. So in went the Panther install discs and I waited patiently while the process played out.

Mac OS X 'Panther'I'd never done an upgrade in OS X before. Every other time I've used the archive-and-install or erase-and-install options, the better to ensure a good install from the start. But this time I used the straightforward "upgrade" option just to see how it worked, and it worked beautifully until the third Software Update go-round (the series of updates required to get the volume to 10.3.4), when it spotted the Java 1.4.2 update.

The Java update flatly refused to run because it thought Java 1.4.1 wasn't installed, even though it had been installed by a previous Software Update run-through (and I also installed it twice manually to be sure). I briefly considered banging my head repeatedly on the desk but I remembered something: My PowerBook was sitting on the desk right beside me, playing the part of stereo and web browser while I did the desktop-machine updates. And the Apple Support site was only a few keystrokes away.

And voilà, a quick search yielded an article specifically covering my problem. I had only to move a single installation receipt out of /Library/Packages, run the Java 1.4.2 installer, and put the package receipt back before restarting.

All's good now. But I still wonder why I, a mere mortal, had to move a package receipt that an installer couldn't deal with.

::mutter during final reboot::

Salt Lake Tribune: Tribune site suffers AM outage

The Salt Lake Tribune's web edition,, went offline for  the first time in its 9-year history this morning. The site was uploaded  to a new production system late Tuesday night, which crashed under the  morning traffic load. An edition was created using the original software  and uploaded late this morning

The new production system is being tested and the staff will evaluate when, and if, it is working well enough to move the site. In the meantime, will be created using the previous system. If you have questions or comments, please e-mail

Typos and odd word spacing left intact. The Tribune's site has always had a goofy layout. Whatever method they use to get the story texts into the web pages exhibits a propensity to add extra spaces, to drop punctuation, or even to repeat whole story segments at random. The online-edition editors have never been good about checking their work to make sure they're remotely presentable, which makes the already-bad newspaper look positively childish online.

It's too bad they're bringing it back up. It serves the public better when it's unavailable.

Booting into old operating systems

My desktop machine, a dual G4 I've had since 2000, just experienced a kernel panic as I tried to set the startup disk I wanted to use via the System Preferences Startup Disk pane. So I thought, no big deal, I'll reboot and choose the startup disk again.

Worked fine the second time. My original plan was to boot on my backup system volume and apply several software updates—it's been probably 6 months since that volume saw any updates at all—and then switch back to my primary volume and be done with it for another 6 months.

On impulse, however, I set the machine to start up using the OS 9.2.2 installation on the backup volume. I'm not using a machine booted into OS 9 for the first time since June 2003, if that OS's Software Update control panel is any indication.

OS 9's still so familiar and comfy in many ways, even though I adore OS X (and especially since the Panther release in October). All the little icons and the menus and the screen fonts, the Control Strip, all of it brings back so many geeky memories.

More on Apple's Dashboard technology

Via, a post on Dave Hyatt's Surfin' Safari offering a bit more info on the difference twixt Dashboard widgets (or "gadgets" as they're apparently referred to in the developer documentation) and Konfabulator widgets:

I wanted to blog briefly to clear up what the widgets actually are written in. They are Web pages, plain and simple (with extra features thrown in for added measure). Apple's own web site says "build your own widgets using the JavaScript language", but that's sort of misleading. The widgets are HTML+CSS+JS. They are not some JS-only thing.

In other words, each widget is just a web page, and so you have the full power of WebKit behind each one... CSS2, DOM2, JS, HTML, XMLHttpRequest, Flash, Quicktime, Java, etc. I'll have a lot more to say later on, but I thought it important to clear that up right up front, since a lot of people were asking me about it in email and such.

UPDATE 13:43: See also the Daring Fireball post related to this discussion. It delves back into the early ages of the Mac OS, when "desk accessories" were little mini-apps tailored to provide a single function very well without requiring close of the main application (since the early Mac OS only allowed a single app to run at once).

What an idiot am I

Fridge door ajar
The refrigerator door mocks me
I just went into the kitchen to get some water from the filter pitcher in my fridge. Grabbed the door handle and pulled, expecting the slight effort needed to break the seal, but when my hand touched the door I immediately heard the unmistakable sound of the door's closing.

The damned door had stuck open, a gap of about 4", and the inside wasn't very cool at all.

The last time I opened the fridge was at 01:30 when I filled my water glass just before I went to bed. It must've been open for at least six hours, dammit. Dogs attacked with fireworks

Veterinarian Connie Wright with puppy injured by fireworks
Veterinarian Connie Wright holds on to a puppy recovering at the Tulsa Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
TULSA, Oklahoma (AP)—Six puppies were killed, apparently by fireworks placed in their mouths, shortly after teenage boys were seen carrying Roman candles in a north Tulsa neighborhood.

Animal control officers said they were following leads Tuesday but had no suspects in Sunday night's attacks, during which one person told police they heard a puppy yelp.

An older dog, a 4 1/2-month-old black Labrador mix, suffered burns on her muzzle and hindquarters from apparently being used as a moving target for fireworks.

The Tulsa Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was caring for the injured dog and for the puppies' mother, a 1 1/2-year-old black-and-tan heeler mix that was not harmed.

The injured dog had begun to eat and was expected to survive, said Laurie Myers, executive director of the Tulsa SPCA.

The SPCA believes the puppies died from fireworks that exploded in their mouths.

A woman, Tonya Curry, 27, found all the dogs Monday among the remains of fireworks inside a vacant house and took the two survivors to the SPCA. When an animal control officer arrived later, the dead puppies were gone.

"Somebody probably went to clean up their mess so they wouldn't get in trouble," Officer Charity Curtis said.

The SPCA has raised about $1,000 and other organizations were undertaking similar efforts to reward people who provide information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible, officials said.

Serial killers in the making, perhaps.

If there is a Hell, may there be a special place there reserved for bastards who do this type of thing. A dream of a 1,000-year camera

Sam Raimi wants to document a millennium

CULVER CITY, California (AP)—Sam Raimi hopes to remain in film a long time after he's through making "Spider-Man" movies. For about 1,000 years.

Raimi wants to build the "Century Cam," a network of cameras that would document the United States' urban landscape for a millennium.

The proposal: Position cameras above all major American cities and shoot one frame—a 24th of a second of film—each day at noon. The frames would be strung together gradually to create a continuous chronicle of each city's development.

"It's the same idea of all time-lapse photography, but over an outrageous amount of time," Raimi told The Associated Press in an interview to promote "Spider-Man 2." "So you could watch the city of Los Angeles rise, and maybe an earthquake might come in 300 years or a tidal wave."

Along with natural disasters, the cameras would capture human rebuilding and demolition. Viewers could watch decades of change in minutes, much like the hero in George Pal's "The Time Machine," who saw landscapes radically altered as he shot forward in time.

At a frame a day, a year's worth of shots over a particular city would add up to 15 seconds of film, a decade would blow by in two and a half minutes and a century would run 25 minutes. A full 1,000 years of film would last just over four hours.

Fascinating idea, but I'm not up to waiting a thousand years to see a four-hour movie.

For related material, take a look at Playing With Time. Some amazing movies using time-lapse photography to show various phenomena either much more rapidly or much more slowly than they occur in nature. QuickTime movie clips with time scales to give you an idea of relative times, worth a visit or two.

Bad newspaper writing

I was perusing the Salt Lake Tribune this morning and had to chuckle after I saw two examples of atrocious writing and editing from today's edition:

  • Barzee's release is sought
    Release sought by whom?

    The story involves defense attorneys' attempts to secure the release of Wanda Barzee, one of Elizabeth Smart's kidnappers. Barzee's been institutionalized as part of an effort to determine if she is (or ever will be) competent to stand trial for her part in the kidnapping.

    A much better headline for this story: "Defense seeks Barzee's release," because that's exactly what the story is about—and it avoids the annoying passive construction.

  • The UHP is targeting speeding in work zones
    How about "UHP targets speeding in work zones"? Fewer words, same meaning, cleaner construction.

    This story also highlights the Tribune's frequent omission of hyphens in adjectival phrases, as in this example from the story's first paragraph:
    Motorists are still driving too aggressively and routinely flouting construction zone speed limits in the Interstate 15 corridor through Salt Lake County.
    (emphasis mine)

There are a few other examples in that story alone, and several others throughout today's edition. It's a daily problem, however. The Tribune's writing and editing are atrocious.

Pardon my drooling

Thanks to my friend Chris's comment on a previous post, I received a link to a stream of the Apple WWDC 2004 keynote, which I just finished watching.

I'm still picking up my jaw after seeing the demos Steve Jobs performed of some of the slicker technologies coming in the Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" release early next year.

The Core Image demo alone was simply spectacular. All the little effects it enabled—small puddles when Dashboard widgets opened, the entire idea of applying an edge-detection on video in real-time, many other small touches—just amazing.

I have to stop talking about it now. It's making me itch to drive to San Francisco and pick up the SDK.


CNET Developer calls Apple's Tiger a copycat

Apple Computer is predicting that rivals will mimic Mac OS X Tiger, but one developer says it's the new Mac operating system that is doing the copying.

Arlo Rose is outraged at the similarity of Apple's Dashboard, previewed earlier Monday by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, to his Konfabulator, a $25 Macintosh program. Both programs allow easy access to small programs called Widgets, which can perform a number of useful little tasks.

"It's insulting, is what it is," Rose said in a telephone interview. "They could have at least offered to work with us or to buy it."

Apple, for its part, maintains that Dashboard is the company's own creation, noting that Widgets have long been a part of Mac OS X and the NextStep OS.

"The goal isn't to be like anything else," Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller said in an interview. "It's not his stuff. What we've done is ours."

Rose and co-creator Perry Clarke released Konfabulator in February 2003. "There really wasn't anything like it when we came out." Now, Rose said, a number of copycat programs are on the market.

By treading closely on outside developers, Rose said, Apple risks killing the incentive to write Mac software. "Why should developers want to work on their platform?"

The controversy comes as Apple is itself showing a series of posters at the conference here that assume Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., will copy Apple's features for Longhorn, the next version of Windows. Slogans include "Redmond, start your photocopiers."

It is not the first time Mac OS X has stepped on what some see as other's turf. Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., previously expanded its Sherlock search tool to add features such as movie times and yellow pages in a format that closely paralleled a third-party tool called Watson.

Rose is trying to make the best of the situation, taking advantage of the fact that Tiger won't ship until next year.

"Cupertino: Start your photocopiers," reads a newly erected Konfabulator home page. It also asks, "Why wait until the first half of 2005, when you can get the original Dashboard now?"

In the long run, though, Rose knows that he will have a tough time competing with something that is a built-in feature of the operating system.

"We're either going to have to move to another platform or work on some other project."

Well now. This answers my question from a previous post.

I tried Konfabulator a few times but was annoyed by memory leaks and strange widget behaviours. Konfabulator also sucked CPU at an alarming rate for some widgets. In the end, the widgets I tried—AirPort signal level, iTunes song info and controller, alarm clock, AIM buddy status—I was more than happy to return to either Apple's versions or not having them at all to avoid the CPU and memory trade-offs.

Leaping into the fray

Rather than do a point-by-point droolfest over the new products and services Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced in his WWDC keynote, I'm listing a few links and a couple of my own comments, and you can drool or not for yourself.

Apple 30-inch Cinema HD Display
Apple 30-inch Cinema HD Display. Yum.

The name they chose for this release just kills me. I think of a baseball park full of 8-year-old Little League players running around not catching fly balls, not of technologically advanced operating systems.

Tiger's Dashboard feature sounds exactly like an Apple implementation of Konfabulator, right down to the terminology (little JavaScript-based applets called Widgets). I wonder if Apple licensed the idea or just developed it themselves and figured they'd deal with any lawsuits etc. if/when they came up.

Features I'm most looking forward to using regularly:

  • Spotlight—search all files, email messages, contacts, images, etc. on your computer

  • Safari RSS—newsreader functions built directly into the browser

It'll be nice not to need third-party apps to achieve these two functions, presuming they're as elegantly implemented in the Tiger release as they appear from the preview movie clips.

I must now away to begin plotting acquisition of a top-of-the-line G5 with the 30" Cinema Display.


Supreme Court affirms detainees’ right to use courts

NYTimes: Supreme Court Affirms Detainees’ Right to Use Courts

Requires free registration. When I can get a permanent link that doesn’t require registration, I’ll edit the post to reflect it.

I was pleased to see this story. Immediately following the September 11 attacks, when Bush’s speechwriters were cranking out blood-boiling speeches that caught me up, I agreed with the “enemy combatant” policy simply because it was part of the U.S. martial strategy. However, as the entire basis for the war on terrorism has unravelled bit by bit, it’s become clear to me that the Bush administration has tried to operate beyond the law, and when that hasn’t worked to change the law to suit their purposes.

Good to see a rule of law affirmed, and done so by Supreme Court rulings that aren’t 5-4 every time.

UPDATE 07/04 21:57: Edited the NY Times link to a permanent, non-registration format and removed story text from this site.

Random tunes 06/28/04

The when-I-remember-to-do-it "open iTunes, hit random, hit play, copy the list it produces" list.

About music sharing

Music I'm willing to share is linked directly from this page. No link, no sharing—don't email asking for files.
This time with 20 items instead of the 10 or 15 I'd listed previously, because I know you all care so deeply about my music library at all.

  1. They - Jem - Finally Woken
  2. This Love - Maroon 5 - Songs About Jane
  3. Sure About It - Hanson - This Time Around
  4. There - Grey Eye Glances - Eventide
  5. Far - Grey Eye Glances - Painted Pictures
  6. Galileo - Indigo Girls - Rites of Passage
  7. Here's Where the Story Ends - The Sundays - Reading, Writing and Arithmetic
  8. River - Natalie Merchant - Tigerlily
  9. Truth in Soul - Paul Spaeth - Cobalt Blue
  10. Flora's Secret - Enya - A Day Without Rain
  11. Shasta (Carrie's Song) - Vienna Teng - Warm Strangers
  12. Noah's Dove - 10,000 Maniacs - Our Time in Eden
  13. Never Going Back Again - Fleetwood Mac - Rumours
  14. Mission Street - Vienna Teng - Warm Strangers
  15. Tears in Heaven - Eric Clapton - Unplugged
  16. Diamond Music - London Philharmonic Strings - Palladio: Diamond Music
  17. Carnival - Natalie Merchant - Tigerlily
  18. Possession - Sarah McLachlan - Fumbling Towards Ecstasy
  19. I feel - The Sundays - Blind
  20. The Bonny Swans - Loreena McKennitt - The Mask and Mirror

How many categories?

Another test post... seeing if I can use all my categories (roughly 80) on a single post. I think before this I had a single post in 10 or so categories, but I'm just nerdly enough to want to know if there's a maximum per-post category count.

UPDATE 07/28/04 19:31: I've removed the categories for now, but here's the list in which it appeared previously:

Current Affairs
Daily life
Field reports
First Four
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Lori Hacking
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News: Arizona
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Referrer Answers
Source: BBC NEWS
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Source: Popular Science
Source: SF Gate
Source: Salt Lake Tribune
Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Source: Seattle Times
Source: Wired News
Source: Yahoo! News
Sunday Brunch
Thursday Threesome
Unconscious Mutterings
Web sites
Wednesday Whatevers
Weekend Wonderings
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What the...

Seafood and thunderstorms

Market Street Broiler logoDinner at Market Street Broiler on 1300 East near the University of Utah. The clam chowder and broiled Alaskan halibut were delicious, and the two old ladies at the table next to ours were determined to repeat every terrorism-related urban legend they'd heard in the last couple of years, much to our general amusement.

We'd been there a couple hours when the thunderstorm blew in. Rained for maybe 15 minutes, by which time many of the other outdoor tables had emptied, their patrons rushing inside the restaurant. We'd scored an umbrella-covered table, however, so we were fine, and enjoyed as the storm moved through and the temp cooled pleasantly.

Altogether a wonderful way to spend a few hours on a Sunday evening. Market Street's one of my favorite Salt Lake restaurants—all the Gastronomy restaurants are high up there, in fact. If you're in Salt Lake and have some time for a good meal, definitely stop by whichever of their locations matches your tastes. You won't be disappointed.

Random thoughts for June 25

People truly will buy anything, and thank you for it. Case in point:

I spent five hours this afternoon clearing old merchandise out of the gift-shop storeroom and packing said merchandise at random into 70+ sealed "grab bags," which we put on sale for $10 apiece. The first 25 sold out in less than an hour; the remaining bags were selling at the rate of about 6 per minute when I left the hospital at 16:00.

When word spread throughout the hospital's volunteer corps that we were putting together grab bags, they all clamored to know when the bags would be ready, and which had "the best stuff!"

And also, could they open the bags to see what was in 'em before they bought 'em? Please please?

Crazy. And of course I forgot to take my cell phone with me, so I couldn't get any photos of the insanity.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

Really looking forward to spending tomorrow at the Utah Arts Festival. I almost never buy anything other than beer and lunch, but it's fascinating just to wander the artists' booths and see what ideas they've come up with. A couple of years ago I bought a stainless-steel rectangle that had a photograph of a tree lacquered over it, a beautiful design by Chris Dahlquist from Missouri.

So many amazing things to be seen there, the browsing alone's too much fun.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

Night-time thunderstorms that are far enough away so you only see the lightning flashes but never hear the thunder are kinda cool.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

My apartment is the basement of a house that once belonged to a good friend of my parents'. When she died in the mid-1990s, her children assumed ownership, and now the main floor is unoccupied except for a week or two when they vacation in Utah and use the house as a base of operations.

This week the owners lent the upstairs to some friends of theirs who have a 5-year-old daughter. This child is constitutionally incapable of standing still for more than 27 seconds. This by itself presents no particular problem; I remember being young and hyper. But the house transmits sounds very well, so I can tell exactly how many laps the child has made around the upstairs in the three days they've been here, and when she threw a tantrum just after I got home tonight, I enjoyed every splendid moment as I dodged bits of plaster sifting down from the ceiling.

So I went upstairs to introduce myself:

Hi, how are ya? I'm Don, live downstairs. Thought I'd drop in and introduce myself so you'd know who this strange man was wandering about the yard at different hours of the day and night. Enjoying your trip? And oh by the way I can hear EVERY GODDAMNED MOVEMENT YOU MAKE. Would you mind not stomping around so much?

That's what I thought, anyway. What I said was much more polite: "I don't know if you've heard me down there when I've had my stereo on, but I can plainly hear you when you walk about. I don't use the grassy area of the back yard much; if your daughter could do her running around out there, I'd appreciate it."

They were nice people, very sorry, apparently hadn't made the connection between rattling main-floor walls and possible basement-tenant irritation, but it was still daylight and I was in a forgiving mood.

They're here until Thursday, but they're probably going on a short camping trip in the middle of their visit.

Hallelujah. Although I bet the bears won't be so forgiving of the stomping about.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

When I was composing this post, I was going to include a link to my high-school home page, but decided against it. However, I noticed the page includes a countdown timer to the end of the school year, and it's only 348 days away.

School officials are evile.

Crazy wind

About half an hour ago I heard a roaring sound I didn't think about much. When it continued for a few minutes, I first assumed it was the friends of the owners of this house who are using it while they're in town for a week or so; they've a young daughter who's partial to running back and forth across the house, and the THUMP THUMP THUMP makes it easy to tell where she is at any given moment.

Then I realized it was wind. The weather dudes had forecast gusty winds, but when they hadn't started by 22:30 I assumed they'd passed me by. But right now I'm watching the trees whip back and forth and listening to a low rumbly noise as the wind shrieks across the Avenues.

I hate wind.

Point-of-sale displays from hell

I spent 5 hours today putting together and then stocking a point-of-sale display for the gift shop my mom runs at a Salt Lake-area hospital. The display holds these charming stone/resin coasters and magnets with fun and/or deep-thought-type statements on them.

Assembly was fairly straightforward, even if it did irritate the living hell out of me because of the poor machining of the various parts. The stand is made of that compressed-wood-and-glue material that's formed into whatever shapes you need, so it also weighs a goddamned ton compared to similarly sized actual-wood pieces. But it's inexpensive for mass production, so that's what I had. Several of the main components' pre-drilled holes didn't line up at all correctly, however, but after some muttered cursing and a fair amount of pounding and drilling, the thing finally went together.

I was building this thing in a side hallway that contains an elevator bank, one elevator of which is used for patient transport. I was constantly scrambling out of the way of wheelchairs, IV trees, and fully motorized beds that would come screaming out of the elevator with little or no notice, pinning me to the corner where I was working. My blood pressure must have gone up and down like a damned roller coaster this morning.

Anyway. Display stand finally built and in place in the shop, it was time to stock it.

The magnets hang from small pegs that like to leap out of the slotted mounting board at the slightest provocation. And since they're magnets, they stick together while they're hanging there, so when people try to pull just one off the rack they get the whole stack of several on the peg, and the peg in turn makes a jump for freedom off the damned board.

The coasters rest on shelves, eight shelves to a side of the double-sided display. The coasters fit six deep and five across and are packed in small boxes, six coasters per box and eight of those boxes packed into a larger box. When I was finished unpacking and stocking them, I was stuck in a corner behind a four-foot wall of shipment and packing material, and a woman who'd contracted a flesh-eating-bacteria disease that had resulted in the amputation of her left thumb (!) stood in my way as well, buying every damn thing she saw. Fine for the shop (she walked out with $130 in merchandise), sucked for me (I couldn't clean up my mess or even move out of the corner for nearly 20 minutes).

Ah well, 'tis all done. Tomorrow's Rearrange the Storeroom Day, and Saturday's Spend All Day at the Utah Arts Festival Day.

The Arts Festival's one of my favourite things about Utah. I'm glad I got back to town in time for it. :-)

Chocolate-chip coffee?

Stopped in at the Starbucks at 9th & 9th—it's kitty-corner from the Coffee Garden which offers Wi-Fi at a signal strength more than adequate to reach to Starbucks, but I don't like Coffee Garden's coffee.

It's the first time I've been to this Starbucks in a few years, but in the roughly 30 minutes I've been here I've already observed several folks who could only be regulars:

  • Conspiracy Theory Cabbie
    He accosted me as I walked in. I parked next to his cab and he wanted to be sure I wasn't using any of the altered fuels the government's trying to foist on an unsuspecting public to destroy our cars and make us buy new ones, since all of Congress is in the automakers' pockets.

    The baristas just rolled their eyes knowingly as I tried to extricate myself from CTC's presence.

  • The Screaming Brood
    A mother with her six children, all under the age of 7. (!) The baristas are offering samples of some sort of chocolate-chip frappucino thing; these kids have gone through two trays of the samples and are now bouncing of the goddamned walls, to the manager's consternation and other customers' annoyance. The mother is of the "If I ignore them, they'll behave!" ilk, and has not responded to her kids' "MOM MOM MOM MOM MOM MOM" for several minutes now.

    The barista who took my order muttered "They do this every flippin' time!" as she rang me up.

  • The Morning Kaffeeklatsch
    A matched set of five wizened older men, four with round canvas hats and the fifth wearing a frayed Salt Lake Gulls baseball cap, all discussing the politics of the day. They've had their coffee cups refilled 7 times each and have already started discussing their plans for meeting here again tomorrow morning.

  • Actually, We're Actually Not Coffee-Drinkers, Actually
    Two graduate students near the main door who are discussing some sort of academic trip they're taking later this summer. They're drinking water and/or some fruit-punch thing and using the word "actually" a few times per sentence.

I seem to be attracting more than my fair share of conspiracy theorists of late. When I was at Squatters on Friday, their resident conspiracist wanted to talk all about the government-created diseases ravaging the world: AIDS, SARS, West Nile, mad-cow, various cancers, an almost endless list he rattled off several times. The bartenders did a fair bit of eye-rolling that day too....

Oh, this movie is SO bad

S.W.A.T. DVD cover imageReceived S.W.A.T. from Netflix this week.

Perfect action-movie motion-never-stops direction combined with such horrifyingly bad dialog, it's almost a classic.

And every action cliché is in here too. It's astounding they managed to work all of these in, but here they are, one after another. I'm not going to bother listing them—they were too good about getting them all.

Even the soundtrack gets in on it, endless deep-bass thumping timed to the actors' foot movements.

Just astoundingly bad. So of course I'm utterly glued to it.

And oh yes, the FBI and Secret Service train with LAPD S.W.A.T. because they're so professional and the best at what they do. I believe that. Airliner lands at wrong airport

Passengers told not to peek

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (AP)—A Northwest Airlines flight that was headed to Rapid City, South Dakota, landed a few miles off course at Ellsworth Air Force Base, and passengers had to wait in the plane for more than three hours while their crew was interrogated.

Passengers on Northwest Flight 1152, an Airbus A-319 from St. Paul, expected to be welcomed to Rapid City Regional Airport on Saturday, but after about five minutes they were told to close their window shades and not look out, said passenger Robert Morrell.

"He (the pilot) hemmed and he hawed and he said 'We have landed at an Air Force base a few miles from the Rapid City airport and now we are going to figure out how we're going to get from here to there,"' Morrell told the St. Paul Pioneer Press by cell phone during the delay Saturday.

Eventually, the captain and first officer were replaced by a different Northwest crew for the short hop to the right airport.

Northwest confirmed that the crew made an "unscheduled landing."


The "don't peek" directive truly nails this story.

I hate adhesive bandages

Hate 'em.

Understand that when I say hate, I mean despise utterly. I mean loathe with every fiber of my being. I mean abhor beyond all rationality.

I just don't like 'em.

My primary dislike stems from the fact that the adhesive part of their names is woefully incorrect. When I was donating platelets regularly, the little round bandage they'd give me for the finger stick would always fall off no more than five minutes later, before I was even attached to the donation machine. I'd usually find it adhered to my pants leg or some other annoying place several hours later, or worse still someone else would tell me where it was stuck to me. Usually to my ass or the back of my neck or something, because that's much more amusing for others and embarrassing in that stupid way for me.

Continue reading "I hate adhesive bandages" »

These ads are creeping me out

TNT has remade Salem's Lot.

Salem's Lot on TNTThe first one scared the hell out of me when I was a kid. I clearly remember the scene of the kid's burial, the cemetery worker shoveling dirt into the grave, but suddenly becoming obsessed and jumping into the grave and scraping the dirt off the casket, opening the top part to expose the dead kid's body. The guy looks up at the sky as clouds swirl and wind blows, and when he looks back, there's the now un-dead kid, fangs bared in a hideous snarl, and then WHAM! he bites.

I jumped backward so hard at that scene, there was a Don-shaped cutout in the wall of the living room.

Now TNT's running these ads for their remake, and they're creeping me out again. There was a brief snippet of a vampire scuttling along the ceiling of what looked like a bus just now... egad.


Chicago Tribune: 50 best magazines

What makes a magazine great? The writing. The ideas. The photography. The design. Sure. But more importantly, a magazine's worth depends on how it catches readers' glances, and then their hearts. Here, Tempo presents its second annual 50 Best Magazines list. Our selections reflect the periodicals that we pay good money to buy, that we pile on our nightstands, that we devour on trains, that we consider to be the best at what they set out to do. There are more than 17,500 magazines published in this country, so choosing the 50 best was daunting. We argued, we concurred, we scoffed. And we welcome you to continue the debate.

Their first 10 choices follow.

Continue reading "Chicago Tribune: 50 best magazines" »

NYTimes: In New Tests for Fetal Defects, Agonizing Choices for Parents

Lying in the darkened doctor's office, Kate Hoffman stared at the image of the 11-week-old fetus inside her on the ultrasound screen, a tiny ghost with a big head. It would have been so sweet, Ms. Hoffman said, if something had not been so clearly wrong.

Ms. Hoffman's first three children had been healthy, and she was sure this one would be, too. She was not planning to have the amniocentesis procedure often used to test for fetal health problems, preferring to avoid even the slightest risk that the insertion of a needle into her uterus would cause her to miscarry.

But when her doctor told her there was a new way to assess the chance of certain abnormalities with no risk of miscarriage—a blood test and special sonogram—she happily made an appointment.

The result, signaling that the child had a high chance of having Down syndrome, thrust Ms. Hoffman and her husband into a growing group of prospective parents who have learned far more about the health of their fetus than was possible even three years ago.

I can't imagine having to make a choice like that, but I firmly believe it's the right thing for parents to have access to the tools and information they need to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.

Link via bug

Cooler's installed

It was much less a production than I feared it might be, and only required two trips to Home Depot.

Yesterday I picked up the water-supply tubing, connectors, and float valve I'd need to ensure a good (and easily maintained) water supply from the nearby outdoor faucet. When I got to my mom's house at 11:30 today, we manhandled the cooler into place in her dining-room window, plugged it in, and switched it on to test the water pump and the fan motor, both of which had corroded quite a bit over the cold months. And both were dead.

I decided to run the water supply first before I ran to Home Depot again. That took maybe 10 minutes—15 feet of 1/4" poly tubing, a couple of poly-to-brass-fitting converters, screw the new float falve into place, and voilà, water spraying everywhere.

It was time to go back to the store.

Picked up a new 1/2-horsepower motor, a new water pump and filter basket, and returned some of the supply-line connectors I didn't need.

Crazy fan-motor wires
click for full-size
When I got back, I first replaced the pump, which took only a few minutes. It worked perfectly immediately, which pleased me, and then I started pulling out the old fan motor. That was a trick and a half; the screws and bolts holding the motor to its mounting had long since surrendered to rust and hard-water deposits, so I muttered a lot of curses as I clanged around in the cooler frame, trying to find the best angle to get the leverage I needed to loosen the damned bolts. Finally got them out and yanked the old motor, which was thoroughly siezed up.

I was happy to see when I pulled the motor out that the pulley wouldn't require the pulley extractor I'd picked up. Instead, I just needed a 5/32" Allen wrench, and it popped right off. Went onto the new motor just as easily, and that's when I realized....

The one thing I hadn't anticipated was having to rewire the fan motor to the power-supply cord. Happily, it's a simple task; the supply cord has little terminals that slide right onto posts in the motor's wiring bay. Unhappily, the wires are color-coded, so I had to ask my mom to stop her gardening work and point out which wires went to which posts. But that took no more than 30 seconds, and I'm used to asking about colors anyway.

Evaporative cooler installed!
click for full-size
That done, I put the motor back on its mounting, secured it in place, put the belt back on, and adjusted the belt's tautness by pulling the motor away from the fan housing and bolting it in place.

It was now The Moment of Truth.

We plugged everything in, turned on the water supply, and set the cooler to "Pump" to charge up the filters. A few minutes later, fired up the blower on "Low," and it kicked to life, immediately cooling the dining room and beginning to move air throughout the house (it's a 3000-cfm model, cools the whole house in only a few hours).

I was so pleased when it all actually worked after it was put together. :-)

Home Improvement Adventures

Time to install the swamp cooler at my mom's house.

For those of you who don't live in arid climates, a swamp cooler, a.k.a. evaporative cooler, is the desert's answer to the need for low-cost efficient cooling. Our low relative humidity means one of the easiest ways to cool the air is to dump water into it, and swamp coolers do that very well. They're typically large units, look quite a bit like big air conditioners, except they have filters through which water is dripped slowly. A large fan pulls air through the filters and blows the resulting humidified air into the house, lowering the temperature by as much as 30°.

It also makes the woodwork swell, so closing doors and windows becomes an Olympic event. But at least it's cooler in the house.

Anyway, I'm off to the hardware store for parts and such. Tomorrow we manhandle the cooler into the dining-room window and then run the water supply line from an outdoor faucet at the back of the house. Should be tons of fun!

And just how the hell...

I've loaded my page a couple times throughout the day to see what types of text ads are appearing in the Google AdSense block about halfway down on the right, and I must say, the process mystifies me.

As I write this, three of the four ad blocks mention Richard Dreyfuss.

This is the first post in my entire site, dating back to August 2003, that mentions Richard Dreyfuss explicitly. I don't recall if I've talked about something else related to Richard Dreyfuss, but I've never mentioned his name until now.

Ah well. I'm sure there's some logic to it. But I wonder if any of my six regular readers, or anyone else who stumbles over the site, would really be looking for Richard Dreyfuss-related products and services.


Got hold of Salling Clicker today.

It’s a small app that runs on your Bluetooth-enabled Mac running OS X and lets you control certain functions of the computer from a supported cell phone or PDA.

With my Sony Ericsson T616, I can:

  • Start and stop iTunes, skip tracks ahead and back, raise and lower volume, and browse playlists, among other actions

  • Start and stop DVD playback and skip around chapters

  • Browse my iPhoto library and control a slideshow on my Mac’s screen

(Good Lord, I sound like a saleswonk.)

Works the same way with my Tungsten T3 handheld, and it also displays cover art for albums in iTunes and thumbnails of photos from iPhoto.

Pretty crazy.

Of course I’m in heaven, bwahahaha..... Selling Wi-Fi presents serious challenges

Companies tinkering with business models for access sales

NEW YORK (AP)—Alas, wireless Internet may not be the technology sector's salvation after all.

Small companies, some publicly traded, are burning cash trying to turn Wi-Fi into viable business. Some have already shut down.

Faster than you can say "industry bubble," skeptics are asking whether wireless Internet connections will become similar to the wired Internet of the late 1990s—hot but rarely profitable.

"Anyone trying to build a stand-alone business on Wi-Fi access should be worried," said analyst John Yunker of Byte Level Research. "It's not a stand-alone business, it's an add-on to other communications businesses, the cable bill or the DSL bill."

I was disappointed when Cometa Networks went under. They'd provided the Wi-Fi access in the Tully's locations I frequented when I was in the Seattle area. They charged $2.95 per 24-hour period, which was a steal compared to the T-Mobile HotSpot service at $9.95/day in Starbucks. Even if I went to Tully's once a week, it cost far less to pay the daily rate each time than to use any of T-Mobile's monthly plans.

And I like Tully's coffees better anyway.

Of course now that I'm in Salt Lake and there are only a few coffee shops with Wi-Fi (and none of the Starbucks have it, amazingly enough), it's no longer much of a concern. But I do wonder which Wi-Fi provider Tully's will offer now.

Random News Round-Up

In no particular order:

NBC's Last Comic Standing

This is the only reality show I've ever watched, and that's only because it's allegedly a stand-up comedy talent search.

I say "allegedly" because Jay Mohr is hosting it, and I find him singularly unfunny in this show. I liked him quite a bit in Action, the short-lived FOX show in 1999, but it wasn't him so much as the show itself that I liked. And he was okay in Jerry Maguire too.

And then there's the judging panel: Brett Butler. Drew Carey—don't like him personally, but his show Whose Line Is It Anyway? kills me every time. This annoying guy from some CBS comedy, I don't remember which show nor what this guy's name is, but he's just irritating. And then one of the finalists from last year's version of "Last Comic Standing," which surprised me because I didn't know there was a version last year.

But anyway. They've managed to choose I don't even know how many comics for this Las Vegas finals show (I'm a night behind, I think; I guess this one is from last night, the magic of TiVo), and they've chosen many of the worst ones. This crowd is sitting here quietly now and then, looking around as if they expect to see a large neon APPLAUSE sign to cue them.

Father of the PrideOh, and here's an advertisement for NBC's Father of the Pride, a computer-animated show that parodies the lives of a pride of white lions that performs with Siegried and Roy at the Mirage in Las Vegas.

I guess they had to continue the S&R show one way or another after Roy's mauling last year.

Oh man....

Bluetooth cell-phone niftiness

BluePhoneMenu iconStumbled over BluePhoneMenu, a handy little Mac OS X app that puts caller ID and SMS functions right in your menu bar. It works very well with both my laptop, which has bult-in Bluetooth, and my desktop, which uses a USB Bluetooth module.

The first time I had it running and I received a call, it freaked me out. I'd left the phone on the arm of my sofa, about 15 feet away, and suddenly my laptop screen was flashing a HUGE TELEPHONE NUMBER, DATE/TIME, AND CALLER NAME (matched from the Mac OS X Address Book, which was cool—it was a number my phone didn't have stored in its own phone book), and the laptop played a ding sound about every 4 seconds.

I didn't know if I should answer the phone or the computer... was a bit disconcerting at first.

It logs calls and lets you place calls as well.

But I really like the unobtrusive but attention-getting way BluePhoneMenu lets you know about incoming SMS messages. A little window pops up with the message text displayed, along with reply and close buttons. You can browse the phone's entire SMS cache, in fact—pretty cool, you can look up a previous message and reply to it again if you want.

But enough nerdliness. Check it out, see if it your phone is listed among the compatible handsets, play with it a bit.

Filthy lucre

Well, I fell into it.

I applied for Google's AdSense program on a whim figuring that a personal site like mine, which covers no subject regularly but a great many subjects once or twice, might not be accepted.

But they did accept me, so I've added a block of Google text ads on the right side of the page, about halfway down. I also reinstituted the general link that credits me for any purchases made, as well as the Amazon Honor System PayPage I set up early this year but linked for only a couple weeks.

I don't expect much out of these, especially the Amazon links (I've linked to Amazon product pages in many previous posts, no sales yet). But I also figure I've nothing to lose, so why not?

Thanks in advance if you do click any of the ad links. I appreciate your support. :-) Pistons beat Lakers 100-87 in Game 5 to clinch NBA title

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP)—Utterly expressionless, Larry Brown walked down the sideline until he met a smiling Phil Jackson at midcourt.

One hearty handshake and a pat on the back later, Brown allowed himself a grin. After 21 years as an NBA coach, the championship that had eluded him had been earned—decisively.

Without a superstar and without being given much of a chance, the Detroit Pistons humiliated the mighty Los Angeles Lakers 100-87 Tuesday night in Game 5 of the NBA Finals for their first title in 14 years.

Motown can now be called Titletown, the descendants of the Bad Boys making sure of it with a stunning upset that was really no contest at all.

"Since this is toward the end of it for me, and the way we did it against such a quality coach and a quality team, it's a pretty incredible feeling," the 63-year-old Brown said.

With finals MVP Chauncey Billups and Ben Wallace leading the way, Detroit was at its very best in the clincher, defeating Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and the rest of the Lakers in every facet of the game. It was methodical—and shocking—the way the Pistons shut down the Lakers with their patented defense and pulled ahead and away for one of the biggest surprises in NBA finals history.

"We're on top of the world, man," Billups said.

I have to say I'm extraordinarily happy that Karl Malone has been effectively bitch-slapped by his own pride. He left the Utah Jazz last year to join the Lakers with the thought that it was his best bet to win an NBA championship ring before he retired.

Maybe next year, bwahahaha.

Man uses dead wife as bait to trap killer lion

The only thing I can say about this:

Oh. Dear. God.

BBC News: Dead wife bait traps killer lionTanzanian police have vowed to act after a villager laced with poison his wife’s remains to catch a killer lion.

The lion hid the woman’s remains in a bushPolice told the BBC they will wipe out the rogue lions that are terrorising villages in the southern Lindi area.

When Selemani Ngongwechile found his wife’s half-eaten body, he calmly poisoned it, knowing the lion would return for the rest of its “meal”.

His plan worked, killing the lion, but the police say they will use more orthodox methods.

Lindi local police chief Simon Dau told the BBC that “a few” lions remained in the area and warned villagers to stay inside after dark.

Lindi, TanzaniaAfter killing Somoe Abdallah near her home and eating her upper body, the lion might have gone for a drink, he said.

This is when Mr Ngongwechile found her remains hidden in a bush.

But instead of panicking, he put the poison in her corpse and waited inside his house for the lion to return, before informing the authorities.

“Nowadays there are very few animals in the area for the lions to hunt. So instead of starving they decide to kill humans rather than keep on looking for antelopes or deers which are scarce,” Commander Dau said.