Previous month:
July 2004
Next month:
September 2004

108 entries from August 2004

Tuesday-night randoms

If you go to a brew pub and order their “vegan mushroom” soup of the day, expect to receive a bowl of paste they claim at some point contained mushrooms, but which cannot be reliably identified so.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

It was warm today. We enjoyed high 60s and low 70s over the weekend in Denver, but today in SLC we hit the high 80s according to the thermometer readings on bank signs and such throughout the city. It’s 74° now, in fact. Supposed to be another warm day tomorrow before cooling off to the 70s Thursday.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

Flushless-urinal technology makes for fascinating reading while one is using the urinal to which it applies.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

The nearly full moon means my great room is brightly illuminated as midnight approaches. The nearest electrical light (apart from the computer screen) is the night light in the bathroom, the one intended to keep me from pitching headlong into the tub should I need to use the facility at 04:00.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

iChat has this annoying habit of resetting my away messages now and then, so for the last several hours I appeared available even though I was miles away from my computer.

IM forwarding is a handy thing sometimes, but when its proper function relies on an occasionally wonky away-message setup, it’s of no use whatsoever.

Of course by no means do I get any forwarded IMs that are of anything remotely approaching earth-shaking importance. It is nice to get replies to the messages you send, however, when you send them from your phone.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

I was registered under SETI@home from about five years back. Stopped using the software on all of my machines a year or so ago and then forgot what email address I’d used to register for it, so I started it up again a couple weeks ago. Processed 53 work units since, average of 11 hours and change per unit. Anyone got a SETI team to which they need contributing?

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

It’s another night of crazy radio-waves-bouncing-everywhere, as I use my laptop to serve music from my desktop Mac through my stereo and control the whole setup with both my cell phone and my handheld computer via Bluetooth.

One of these days I’ll wake up with softly glowing letters spelling “RADIATION” across my forehead.

I hereby declare “Unknown” callers The Scourge of the Earth

For the last several days I’ve been receiving calls that show up Unknown on my cell’s caller ID. I’d been ignoring them by hitting the “busy” button on my phone, in theory sending them to my voice mail, but never got a message. So today I answered the calls that came in that way.

The first three were disconnects. The fourth and final was a robotic voice: “We have an important call for you. Please wait and a representative will be with you shortly.”

A few seconds later my ear was assaulted by the high-pitched voice of a whiny operator who asked to speak with Don about opportunities for reduced-rate mortgages.

It’s too bad cell phones don’t hang up like regular corded phones. I couldn’t jam the phone down hard enough (after demanding they remove my name from their calling lists) to drive shards of her headset deep into her brain.

Amusing Utah State Fair billboard

Picture of a steer with the legend:

Hundreds of Atkins-friendly exhibits

Unfortunately it was too dark for a photo, and in any event we flashed past the billboard too fast for me to do anything but chuckle and then whip out my phone to fire up its email client.

Posted near 1100 W North Temple (on the cab ride home)
Salt Lake City, UT
via Sony Ericsson T616

In the air: DAL 3892, DEN-SLC

Flight attendant Mary, who looks like <spoiler>Nancy Allen from just before her death scene in RoboCop 3</spoiler>, is having a great deal of difficulty reciting her usual airplane-safety-features and no-smoking-allowed spiels and keeps stumbling over her own tongue, including briefly forgetting the captain’s and first officer’s names.

This flight originated in SLC and was late arriving in DEN, so left the gate ~10 min late. We also taxied for what seemed like 3 hours—I’m pretty sure we actually took off from Kansas.

Flight’s been uneventful so far. Mary’s just started the beverage service after reminding us that we’ve received credit for this flight if we’re Delta SkyMiles members, and that beer and wine are available for $4.00 each, correct change always appreciated.

Even though I rarely drink anything but water on airplanes, I think it’s time to hit up my mom’s neighbours, both Delta flight attendants, for some drink coupons.

Trip to Denver, Day 4

Back at the airport, waiting for our 20:27 flight to SLC on a CRJ50. We’re at gate C44 and concourse C is nearly empty—a couple airport employees here and there, a few other passengers on this flight in this waiting area, but otherwise there’s no one around.

We spent the morning and early afternoon at the gift show, making several final stops in various showrooms that had been too busy before now. Lunch at Wynkoop Brewing Company on 18th and Wynkoop—their RailYard Ale is a pretty tasty copper-colored ale, goes well with the cheesesteak and fries—and then we wandered up and down the 16th Street Mall briefly. Headed on I-25 to Northglenn to run a quick errand, and off we went to the airport to turn in the rental car, make our way through check-in and security, and get to the gate area 90 minutes ahead of our flight.

The woman who answered the phone at Wynkoop (we’d called to make sure they had outdoor seating) pronounced it WINE-koop, not WIN-koop as I’d expected. None of the other pub employees said the place’s name, however, and we forgot to ask about it while we were there. Any Denverites know if the long-I pronunciation is correct?

That’s all until SLC, then....

THIS CLOSE to sleep

and the hotel's damned fire alarm starts squawking.

then a voice announcement on the p.a. system: "an alarm was triggered on the 5th floor. fire department has been notified and is responding. please stand by for further instructions."

we're on the 6th floor, and "stand by" means "don't leave your rooms yet," per the hotel operator.

a couple minutes later, another p.a. announcement: "fire dept. investigating the alarm. please stand by for further instructions."

another couple minutes: "the fire dept. has investigated the alarm on the 5th floor and the situation is under control. all areas are returned to normal status. thank you for your cooperation."

alarm stops, all quiet, but i'm wide awake now. i was JUST getting into bed when the squawker started, scared the shit out of me.

damned adrenaline.

Trip to Denver, Day 1

Pretty simple day so far. We were on a Delta Connection flight operated by SkyWest, so we left SLC from the E gates at the extreme west end of terminal 2. No problem there; we all had carry-on bags and made it through security with plenty of time to make our 08:40 departure.

Then I got a flight-notification update via SMS: “Departure now 09:25.”

Seems one of the flight crew had experienced a scheduling goof of some sort, so they’d had to call in someone else and delay the flight. Strange, though, that I had to go to the departure gate to verify this; the flight no longer appeared on the Departures monitors, no Delayed indicator or anything. Just gone.

Our plane was a Canadair Regional Jet, their 50-passenger model. Four-abreast seating and a cabin ceiling low enough that I had to crouch all the way down the aisle to my assigned seat 8A. I also had to endure the flight attendant’s “You’re on the exit row, feel up to it?” lecture, no big deal as I’ve done that many times before. We left the gate at 09:30 and arrived at the DEN gate at 10:40, only 38 minutes after our originally scheduled arrival.

Did the usual airport shuffling—onto the trains from the DEN C concourse to the terminal (I learned that the main terminal’s roof material covers 15 acres and reflects 90% of sunlight), onto the Hertz bus, into the car, into the city via I-70 and I-25 with a bunch of silly and/or insane drivers.

Denver Merchandise Mart logo
The Mart’s logo is a stylized representation of the escalators inside the main building
We stopped first at the gift show, where we had lunch in their little quick-service cafe. Then it was time to wander the first floor of the Mart, whence I left to find a coffee shop for a caffeine-and-Wi-Fi fix. Thank God for the ubiquitous Starbucks locations.

Tomorrow it’s back to the gift show to find out about the point-of-sale information the various suppliers can provide, and I’m sure we’ll try out a brew pub or three while we’re in town through Sunday afternoon. We’re also considering the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster and a quick trip to the Denver mint gift shop so my sister can add to her coin collections.

DEN weather forecast for 08/26-29/04The weather looks to be pretty cool and stormy the next day or two, pleasing signs that autumn’s approaching rapidly, and then it’s back to SLC to plunge head-first into the point-of-sale fray.

I’m not looking forward to teaching the hospital volunteers how to use new registers, yargh....

Salt Lake Tribune: A father weeps as hopes dim for boy

This situation began Friday morning, but this is the first time the Trib's online edition has deigned to include a photograph of the boy in one of its articles. A story in yesterday's online edition included a view of a photo that was part of a MISSING poster taped to a hiking-trail sign or something similar.

Lori Hacking's "missing" stories included direct photographs of her (several different shots, in fact) from the first day. I wonder why the differences in coverage?

I've included the entire text of the story, along with the photos in their approximate locations from the Trib's story page.

Continue reading "Salt Lake Tribune: A father weeps as hopes dim for boy" »

LDS Hospital parking lot

LDS Hospital from 7th Ave at C Street
LDS Hospital from 7th Ave at C Street
I stopped by LDS Hospital on my way home from the Saturn dealership this afternoon. I wanted to visit the hospital's gift shop to see what kind of point-of-sale system they use, part of ongoing efforts at converting the gift shop my mom runs in St. Mark's Hospital from older manual registers to a POS/scanning system to simplify the shop's operations.

The parking spaces on the streets around the hospital fill up quickly each day, and the streets in the surrounding residential areas are permit-parking only. I have a guest-use permit for the resident-parking areas east of the hospital about a block away, but I would've had to negotiate my through the building via the emergency-room entrance. I figured the gift shop is probably near the hospital's main entrance on 8th Ave and C Street, so I drove into the visitor-parking structure directly across the street from that entrance instead.

LDS Hospital parking garage: When Signage Attacks
LDS Hospital parking garage: When Signage Attacks
The lot was full and I ended up driving to the 6th floor. As I rounded the corners, it occurred to me this was the first time I'd been in this garage in a car. I've been in the structure hundreds of times before, starting shortly after it was built in the early 1980s. We used to carry our bicycles up the stairs to the top floor and rip down the ramps at insane speeds. This was possible because just after they completed the garage, there were rarely more than 40 or 50 vehicles using it at any given time, and they all stayed along the first two floors. That left us with four floors of high-speed insanity before we encountered traffic, usually.

On my second loop of the 5th and 6th floors I found a space, parked the car, made my way down the stairs, wandered into the hospital (I hadn't been in there in probably 20 years either), found the gift shop and saw what I needed, headed back to the structure and my car. Total time: 9 minutes.

That's when I saw an amusing signage goof on the garage's fifth floor.

I imagine some poor sign painter was rushing along and slapped the template on the crossbeam without paying much attention to what he was doing. But he certainly immortalized his efforts. Lost your way in the city?

Boston, D.C. hardest to navigate, survey says

NEW YORK (AP)—You stop every pedestrian you can flag down for directions. You struggle with maps and printouts. And still, you're hopelessly lost, driving in an unfamiliar city.

If this has happened to you in Boston, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Baltimore, New York City, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Seattle, Providence, Rhode Island, or the Virginia cities of Norfolk, Newport News and Virginia Beach, don't blame yourself.

A new study says these cities are the most difficult in the country to navigate.

Among the places you are least likely to get lost, according to the survey, are Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Texas, and Las Vegas.

The study was conducted by Bert Sperling, whose company "Sperling's Best Places" produces city rankings on the best places to live, retire, work and make other lifestyle choices.

The study also found that when it comes to asking for directions, the old stereotype holds true: Two-thirds of women say they are the ones who stop and ask how to get from here to there, compared to 41 percent of men.

Two-thirds of those who responded to the survey also said that getting lost causes tension with others in the car. (For some of us, that may be an understatement.)

I grew up in Salt Lake City and the address system here is so simple, so easy to understand, it slays me when I hear people talk about how hard it is to get around this city. It is true that sometimes you hear odd addresses like 500 East 400 South, but when you look at a map of the city and see it's a straightforward grid system based on the location of the LDS Temple downtown, it makes sense immediately.

The first time I went to Seattle, I was flummoxed. I understood the idea of the address system, the NE and SW and streets and avenues and whatnot, at least on the maps. The reality of it was much different. It's a good thing we stayed in downtown Seattle while my sister moved into her apartment in Kenmore; made us learn our way around so we could get into and out of downtown when we wanted to meet somewhere for dinner or our touristy activities.

It slays me when I hear people talk about how hard it is to get around Salt Lake City.Boston, only been there once. I was 16 and just half a year into my driver license, but didn't do much driving in Boston proper, primarily in Maine and New Hampshire. Even though I paid attention closely as we moved about the city, I wasn't navigating. We usually drove just long enough to get to the general area of our destination and then struck out on foot, and Boston's a wonderful walking city.

San Francisco seems easy enough to me too. The hardest part is the one-way streets, but anyone who tries to get around downtown SFO by car only is just insane.

Car repairs and lunchtime wanderings

Saturn L300 with matching buildings
Saturn L300 with optional architectural appointments
My Saturn L200, which will be 3 years old in October, experienced a couple of annoying failures last week. When I called for a service apopintment, tne Nice Scheduling Lady first told me, in the Voice of Doom—what Voice of Doom a 5' blonde twig could muster, anyway—that they had no appointments available until late this week, and then immediately scheduled me for today at 11:10.

The air conditioner had stopped functioning. It was happily blowing all the warm air I could possibly want, but the cooling process wasn't happening. No worries, though; the only driving I had planned to do on the weekend was the Deer Valley jaunt for the Utah Symphony performance Saturday night, and in any event a dead A/C unit isn't a showstopper for auto operation.

The other problem, the one that had me a bit more concerned, was an odd groaning sound the power steering was making. Irregularly, of course. It had always groaned a time or two immediately after starting during cold weather, as the power-steering fluid warmed up and circulated through the system adequately. But for a week or so it's been making that groaning sound a lot more, and in the summer months it had never done that before. I'd been checking the fluid level and it hadn't changed, so I wondered if perhaps I was about to experience some catastrophic system failure. Better to have it looked at and preventives completed than to blow it out during some highway jaunt or other.

Continue reading "Car repairs and lunchtime wanderings" »

Weekend Wonderings: Fri 08/20/04

A couple days late this week.

  1. Do you consider yourself a healthy eater?
    For the most part. I go through stages of junk, though.

  2. How many meals do you eat a day?
    Two usually, lunch and dinner. I rarely have breakfast and probably won't for a while after last week's milk problem.

  3. Do you watch your calories, fat, carbs?
    I'm aware of them, but I don't watch them closely nor choose specific food items based on these contents.

  4. Do you eat all your veggies?
    Certainly the ones I prepare for myself, since I live alone and can make only what I like. Otherwise, the only veggies I won't touch are eggplant and some squashes, and I'll deal with cauliflower only reluctantly.
Weekend Wonderings

Reached voting age? Have a free razor!

Mach3 18th-birthday package front
Mach3 18th-birthday package front
I received this package in Saturday’s post.

It’s addressed to a previous occupant of this apartment. The addressee’s first name is “Brecca,” which sounds feminine to me, but this razor is clearly aimed at 18-year-old males. I know this because Gillette offers a razor marketed specifically to women, and this isn’t that razor.

What I wonder:

Where did they get the addressee and age information? It could be from Selective Service records, but if so the registration is a mistake. But then I’m going by memory on that; I know I had to register when I was 18, and I think it’s compulsory only for males, but maybe that’s changed too. And it may be optional for females, for all I know. I could’ve read about it at the site, but I’d rather speculate endlessly.

Mach3 18th-birthday package back
Mach3 18th-birthday package back
More likely it was some consumer survey or a magazine subscription or the like. I wonder if Brecca’s really just turn[ed][ing] 18 or if that was a fake bit of info in whatever form she filled out.

Anyway, the box indicates a standard-issue Mach3 Turbo razor, but I was surprised when I opened it to find Gillette’s new “M3Power” “shaving system,” complete to a AAA battery that’s obviously of the “made in Asia with instructions in English by Germans” nondescript variety.

Gillette M3Power propaganda image, swiped from
Gillette M3Power propaganda image, swiped from
So I figured, hey, free razor, I’ll give it a try in the shower this morning. Which I did, and while I will say I got a close shave, I’ve been using Gillette's Mach3 razors for years now and I’ve always had good results with them. I don’t know if the little blade vibrator had anything to do with it, although it did set my gums to tingling as I did the area right by my lips. Made me laugh a bit, in fact.

I’ve seen elsewhere people speculating on how soon it’ll be before someone offers a sex-toy attachment for this razor, and based on my tingly gums, I can say, “Probably not long, if one’s not already available.”

This is cool though

This next episode of Unwrapped is all about peanut butter, and shows how they make Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

In case you can't get enough of Reese's in the real world, they offer wallpapers and screensavers for your computer too:

Reese's Zone Out.
I've always wondered how they made those. It's a chocolate squirt in the cup, then a peanut-butter plug (!), another chocolate squirt, and a run through a cooler to firm it all up.

I'm a bit disillusioned. I'd throught it might have been some magical process, but no, it's merely another mass-production bonanza.

Oh well. I like the miniature peanut butter cups better anyway; the chocolate/peanut butter ratio's much better.

Peanut butter slices?

On this episode of Food Network's Unwrapped, they're talking about packaged sliced peanut butter.

That's right, peanut butter, sliced and wrapped individually the same way Kraft's been doing cheese slices for years.

I'm sure this must not be completely new, and I'm amazed I haven't seen it before now. Still wouldn't know about it, in fact, were it not for TiVo's Suggestions feature.

Technology's just astounding.

Don't miss the P.B. Slices Fun Facts page.UPDATE 23:28: I followed the links on FoodTV's site and found the P.B. Slices home page.


Crazy markets

I had no idea there was enough demand for old beer cans that

  1. I'd see a fair number of hits on search terms from people seeking sources to buy such old cans, and
  2. I'd also see a fair number of varying ads in the Google program I use as a way of offsetting some of the costs of this site.

beercanswanted, beercanman, oldbeercans.

Doesn't anyone want new cans (or better yet, bottles or kegs) that actually have beer in 'em?


Somehow, it seemed a good idea post-symphony to fire up the TiVo and filter through the several episodes of Whose Line and one Rescue Me it had grabbed over the last few days.

And now it’s trying to record some paid-programming thing which seems to be hawking an oxygen-enhanced cleaning solution. I wonder if it has that obnoxious OxyClean guy... if it does, I may have to put a sledgehammer through the cable outlet.

Or I should go to bed. Yes, I think that’s the answer.

Watch those dates

Here's a hint for your dairy-products consumption:

If your quart of milk has both a SELL BY date and a USE BY date printed on the bottle, pay attention to BOTH DATES.

I had some cereal yesterday morning. Took a quick look at the milk bottle, saw it was couple days past the date, didn't think a thing about it. It tasted okay, anyway, and in my experience that's been the best way to tell.

Only by midafternoon when I was experiencing stomach cramps from hell, along with some other less dainty effects, did I look at the bottle closely and see it was the USE BY date that was a few days ago. The SELL BY date was a week before that.

I poisoned myself. Most uncomfortable afternoon and evening, followed by a night of tossing and turning in between fitful periods of sleep.

I think I'll stay away from milk for a while now. Stick with the dried stuff for cooking, make it as I need it, no cereal for breakfast for who knows how long.

I'm still at that stage where when I feel like I have to burp, I get tense, because who knows what might happen.


Tailgate Party from Hell

(Today's big on "What the..." posts, it seems)

Bug was browsing around various web sites for stock pots and found this monstrosity at Sam's Club.

Tailgate 48" Mobile CharBroiler

Tailgate 48-inch Mobile CharBroilerJust hitch up the tailgate and take your cooking skills anywhere there's a road or trail. The tailgate is a mobile 48" stainless steel charbroiler with two built-in insulated stainless steel beverage/meat coolers. This roll dome unit has six stainless steel burners, stainless steel cooking grates, removable stainless steel side shelves, dual 30 lbs. propane tanks and removable trailer hitch/tongue. The trailer conforms to all applicable motor vehicle safety standards and the grill is NSF, AGA, CGA approved.

It can be yours for just $6,896.00, shipping included.

And that's not all of it. The features and specs go on....

Continue reading "Tailgate Party from Hell" » Winfrey, fellow jurors convict man of murder

CHICAGO, Illinois (AP)—A jury that included talk show host Oprah Winfrey convicted a man of murder Wednesday after a trial that turned into a media frenzy because of the billionaire in the jury box.

Jurors deliberated for more than two hours before convicting 27-year-old Dion Coleman of first-degree murder in the February 2002 shooting death of 23-year-old Walter Holley. Coleman is scheduled to be sentenced in September and he could face 45 years to life in prison.

"It's a huge reality check, there's a whole other world going on out there. ... When your life intersects with others in this way, it is forever changed," Winfrey said outside the Cook County Criminal Courts Building, flanked by other jurors.

Winfrey, who was paid $17.20 a day for her civic duty, said she plans to do a show about the trial next week with other jurors.

Winfrey's selection as a juror Monday drew loads of attention to the trial. Television cameras chronicled her moves outside and inside the bustling lobby of the courts building because cameras weren't allowed in the courtroom. Filling many of the seats in the cramped courtroom were more than a dozen reporters and sketch artists.

Wonder how long it'll be before the defense claims "undue influence" or something, especially if Winfrey was the jury foreman?

New gas bill arrives....

Questar corrected bill: 'do not pay,' just what I like to seeand they owe me $2.49.

Not only did the meter reading get goofed entirely, but the estimate they used for last month's $20 and change was incorrect too.

This month's actual usage was 5 decatherms for a total of $8.67. Last month's bill was corrected by -$11.16, leaving a balance of -$2.49 and a big Do Not Pay notation in the Amount Enclosed section of the "return this stub with payment" coupon.

I like it when utilities fix their mistakes and end up owing me money. I was half afraid the new bill would show a corrected "amount due" of $2,300 or something evile like that. Bear guzzles 36 beers, passes out at campground

SEATTLE, Washington (Reuters)—A black bear was found passed out at a campground in Washington state recently after guzzling down three dozen cans of a local beer, a campground worker said on Wednesday.

"We noticed a bear sleeping on the common lawn and wondered what was going on until we discovered that there were a lot of beer cans lying around," said Lisa Broxson, a worker at the Baker Lake Resort, 80 miles (129 km) northeast of Seattle.

The hard-drinking bear, estimated to be about two years old, broke into campers' coolers and, using his claws and teeth to open the cans, swilled down the suds.

It turns out the bear was a bit of a beer sophisticate. He tried a mass-market Busch beer, but switched to Rainier Beer, a local ale, and stuck with it for his drinking binge.

Wildlife agents chased the bear away, but it returned the next day, said Broxson.

They set a trap using as bait some doughnuts, honey and two cans of Rainier Beer. It worked, and the bear was captured for relocation.

Now this is newsworthy. Far more so than some oversexed socialite's missing dog, for crying out loud.


Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2?

It's really too bad that all a movie has to do to be considered for a sequel is make money. Baby Geniuses made $27 million in the US in 1999, and with its estimated $13 million budget, it was sure-fire sequel fodder. Doubling your budget in gross receipts is probably the single highest achievement in Hollywood these days.

Amazing the movie made that much. It's #29 in the IMDb Bottom 100, which of course is not a scientifically valid survey of all moviegoers. But I think it's indicative of the way the movie was truly viewed by the same public which shelled out all those millions to encourage the sequel.

Tribune mocks rival paper's spelling prowess amid Trib's usual editing foolishness

In the Culture Vulture column in today's Salt Lake Tribune, Brandon Griggs includes a brief about a series of spelling errors in a recent Deseret Morning News article:

Spell-check, anyone? We're not in the habit of poking fun at our rival paper, but a recent flub in the Deseret Morning News was too good to ignore. In a story on celebrity-signed guitars donated to a Huntsman Cancer Institute fund-raiser, a list of recording artists was filled with outrageously mangled names: Peter Frampton somehow turned into "Peter Formatting," Styx became "Stags," Sarah McLachlan morphed into "Sarah Michoacan," the Doobie Brothers switched sexes to become the "Debbie Brothers" and Fleetwood Mac became, oops, "Faltered Mac."

In a correction last Wednesday, the newspaper blamed the misspellings on an editing mistake. Yeah, like maybe someone overdid it with the spell-check button???

We here at the Trib aren't the greatest spellers either, but we know Brittknee Speerz and the Grate Full Ded when we see them.

I found this highly amusing, because in my earlier post about Mark Hacking's court appearance, I made several fixes to satisfy my own need for correctness.

Not the same level as spelling errors, perhaps, but I'm reminded of the adage: People who live in glass houses....

Salt Lake Tribune: Hacking appears in court; prelim hearing set

Wearing a bulletproof vest and flanked by seven bailiffs, Mark Douglas Hacking came to court for the first time Monday but did not speak as his preliminary hearing was scheduled for Sept. 23.

Mark Hacking, charged in the murder of his wife Lori Hacking, appears before judge William W. Barrett in Salt Lake City court on Monday morning alongside his lawyer D. Gilbert Athay for a brief scheduling hearing. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune)
Mark Hacking, charged in the murder of his wife Lori Hacking, appears before judge William W. Barrett in Salt Lake City court on Monday morning alongside his lawyer D. Gilbert Athay for a brief scheduling hearing.
Francisco Kjolseth, The Salt Lake Tribune
Hacking, 28, is charged with first-degree felony murder for allegedly killing his wife, 27-year-old Lori Hacking.

In an interview after court, defense attorney D. Gilbert Athay said there will be no quick resolution of Hacking's murder case.

"In all cases, plea bargains are something that are talked about, but we're certainly not in that position right now," Athay said.

"That decision will be made after a complete and full review of the discovery" evidence assembled by prosecutors, he said. "I don't even have it all, and probably won't for another three weeks.

"Until all the discovery has been examined, it's totally improper to be talking about plea negotiations."

Athay said he is also trying to find out as much about Hacking as possible.

"We need to know—from the time he was a little boy until today—everything about him," Athay said. "Who is this guy? What is he all about?"

Of particular interest to Athay is a head injury Hacking suffered earlier in his 20s, during a fall while working on a roof, because evidence of brain damage could support an argument for reduced charges.

After the hearing before 3rd District Judge William Barrett, prosecutor Robert Stott told news reporters he and Athay were not discussing a plea. "The only thing we've negotiated about was the preliminary hearing date," he said.

Mark Hacking, charged in the murder of his wife Lori Hacking, leaves court in shackles following his brief scheduling hearing before judge William W. Barrett in Salt Lake City court on Monday morning. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune)
Mark Hacking, charged in the murder of his wife Lori Hacking, leaves court in shackles following his brief scheduling hearing before judge William W. Barrett in Salt Lake City court on Monday morning.
Francisco Kjolseth, The Salt Lake Tribune
The purpose of a preliminary hearing is to determine whether there is probable cause to believe a crime occurred and that the defendant committed it.

According to charging documents—which rely heavily upon Hacking's confession to his brothers—Hacking shot his wife in the head as she slept in their Salt Lake City apartment on July 19. Hacking allegedly disposed of her body in a Dumpster, which was picked up that morning by a trash hauler and dumped at the Salt Lake County Landfill.

Police planned to continue to search the landfill for Lori Hacking's body Monday night, the 15th day that cadaver dogs and police officers have scoured the 2-plus acres of garbage that were cordoned off July 20. The search will be discontinued until Friday, primarily to allow the dogs to rest.

Prosecutors believe Hacking killed his wife because she had discovered his numerous lies, including false claims that he had graduated from the University of Utah and been accepted to a North Carolina medical school.

Hacking's use of a bulletproof vest during his court appearance Monday was unusual, said defense attorney Stephen McCaughey, who has represented several people charged with capital murder. "I've never had a defendant brought to court in a bulletproof vest," he said.

But Salt Lake County Sheriff's Sgt. Rosie Rivera called it "standard procedure" in a high-profile case where the defendant is also in protective custody at the maximum-security area of the jail.

Inmates are placed in protective custody when they are perceived to be a danger to themselves or could be targeted by other inmates because of intense media coverage.

"They are in their own cell and are let out one hour per day to take care of their business—shower or make phone calls. And when they go to court appearances, medical appointments or anything else, they wear bulletproof vests," Rivera said.

She acknowledged there have been few cases requiring such extreme precautions. "But this [Hacking] was a murder case that went nationwide," she said.

Athay said he knew of no specific threats against Hacking's life, but said the vest was "probably a smart thing."

Hacking showed no expression Monday. But while coming and going from the courtroom, he scanned the gallery, apparently looking for a familiar face. No members of his family attended the hearing.

Athay said he met with Hacking late last week, as well as before court Monday "to prepare him. He's never been in a courtroom before in his life, except on video" for an arraignment last week.

Athay added: "Under the circumstances, he's doing very well." He said they had not discussed the Saturday memorial service for Lori Hacking, but said Hacking has some television access and may have seen news coverage.

Athay said he will not be asking for a reduction in Hacking's $1 million, cash-only bail. "In a case like this, you're wasting your time," he said.

Reduced charges a possibility because of this head injury, when it seems plainly evident Hacking was in full possession of his faculties when he shot his wife and then disposed of her body, the mattress on which he'd killed her, and the murder weapon? To say nothing of then trying to replace the mattress and reporting his dead wife missing, then maintaining the fiction for a period of days?

Come on!

Here endeth the twitching

Called Questar about the wildly incorrect bill I received Saturday afternoon.

Questar 75th Anniversary insigniaThe call was a mix of mild annoyances and amazingly fast service:

  1. Their phone system is voice-activated. I felt like a fool as I stood in my great room shouting my gas account number into my cell phone, followed by random words like "Yes!" and "No!" and "Agent!" and "Billing!" to get to the right part of the queue.

  2. The initial wait estimate was 42 minutes. When I've dealt with Questar before, I've never had to wait anywhere nearly that long, but their estimates have always been lowballed. So I thought I'd be on the phone a good hour anyway, but seven minutes into the wait period, the estimate suddenly changed to ONE minute. The agent picked up the line less than a minute later.

  3. Agent Nancy's reaction: "Whoa!"Agent Nancy's first reaction when I told her I had a problem with the billed amount and she brought the bill up on her screen: "Whoa!"

    "That's exactly what I said when I opened the bill," I replied.

  4. She wondered aloud why their billing system, which is set up to catch discrepancies of this nature, didn't catch this one. In my experience, billing systems that are allegedly programmed to watch for mistakes NEVER catch them.

  5. She arranged for a special reading of the meter later this week and told me she'd call me back by Friday with the corrected bill amount. In the meantime, I should hold on to the bill I had now; she'd make a notation that the amount was disputed, and I should fill out a form to that effect on their web site.

Not five minutes later, my phone rang, the caller ID flashing "Questar." It was Agent Nancy: They'd found the source of the problem in their internal records and would be issuing a corrected bill forthwith.

After I picked up my jaw from the floor—I've never received service this fast from any utility company—I thanked her for the speedy response.

Total time spent, including hold time: 11 minutes.

Gotta be a record.

The Weekly Bit: 08/15/04: A Bit of Music

  1. What kind of music do you listen to?
    Wide range of musical tastes. The single most-represented genre in my music library is rock, followed by classical and then pop/Top 40.

  2. Who is your favorite music artist?
    Several vie for this, so I'm listing them all in alphabetical order: 10,000 Maniacs; eastmountainsouth; the fat lady sings; Grey Eye Glances; Sarah McLachlan; October Project; Vienna Teng; Steve Winwood

  3. How has your taste in music changed over the years?
    More classical as I've grown to appreciate a good symphony performance and wanted to include such music in my collection. I'm also much more particular about the music I'll buy nowadays, but with the various online music stores (iTunes and so on) I can be much more selective and not have to buy an entire album, say, because I like a single song I've heard.

  4. What is your favorite song?
    Another several-ways tie: "These Are Days" by 10,000 Maniacs; "drunkard logic," "providence," "arclight," and "twist" by the fat lady sings; "Between" by Vienna Teng; several of Steve Winwood's solo tunes; several October Project and Grey Eye Glances songs as well.

  5. What song do you think is just plain annoying?
    Much of what ends up getting airplay on mainstream radio irritates the hell out of me, primarily because it's repeated into the ground.


If you could write a song about your life what would you title it?
No idea, I don't have a song idea for it.

What style of music would it be? country? rap? ballad? etc.
See previous.

Has there been a song out there that has really moved you and changed your outlook on certain things?
Another "several" answer, this time too many to list. Many of the songs that are important to me I found by way of good friends, and each song has a particular place. None stands out enough to be listed specifically.
the weekly bit

Overheard in IM

Bug: Oh this is just getting more laughable by the day:
Don: hrm, so $50 million's the going "I'm straight but he came on to me and now I want my reward" price apparently
Bug: This is just making me want to *scream*.. he's about as straight as.. a parabola.
Don: foclol
Don: I believe that's the single best chat line of the month

Salt Lake Tribune: Airport airspace filling up

A longer-than-usual excerpt of this story, so I've moved it below the cut.

Briefly, the article discusses the increasing traffic volumes moving through Salt Lake City International Airport and the unique challenges that traffic faces. The nearby mountains and restrictions on which parts of the Salt Lake valley may be overflown mean air traffic has a 6-mile-wide corridor in and out of the airport. Combined with occasional routing problems because of weather and delays at other airports, it's rapidly becoming apparent that the SLC system needs changing to keep up.

Continue reading "Salt Lake Tribune: Airport airspace filling up" »

Nothing substantive

Apparently I'm not in a writing way today. I did my two news stories early this morning, and then I went to bed a while later, woke up after only a few hours, been kicking around for a bit, but haven't run into anything about which I care to write.

Two weekly themed posts in the last couple hours, and I have one more I may post this afternoon sometime. Then I have to decide if I want to try to catch up on NBC's "coverage" of the Olympic Summer Games—my TiVo's been quite faithful to me via the Season Pass I set up. From the listings, however, it looks like rowing and beach volleyball along with some swimming heats that don't sound too exciting to me.

Who could blame me, though, after the endless thrill of yesterday's nail-biter competitions in sychronized diving?

Sunday Brunch: School Days

  1. Did you like or dislike high school?
    The academic part was fine; I did pretty well with that. My social life, however, was nonexistent at school; I spent time with friends I'd met through a youth group, so the people I knew at school were mainly weekday acquaintances I didn't get to know very well.

  2. Walk to school, ride the bus or catch a ride with someone?
    Bus until I turned 16, when I drove myself.

  3. What was your favorite subject?
    A three-way tie: English classes; graphic arts (photography, press work, design); student newspaper.

  4. When it came to doing homework, did you do it right away, wait 'til the last minute or just do it whenever you felt like it?
    Whenever I felt like it. Usually based on how difficult I perceived a given assignment to be, and I'd give it what time I thought I'd need to finish without freaking out about being late.

  5. Would you go to your high school reunion?
    I ignored my 10-year reunion in 2000 because I didn't have any friends from high school who were close enough that I cared to see them in a reunion. I was still friends with the important people from those years; didn't need a reunion for that.
Sunday Brunch