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60 entries from September 2004

Driving back to SLC

About to hit the road for a straight-through run to Salt Lake City. It's been a fascinating week here in Seattle, a lot to think about.

I'm planning to snap photos and such as I drive along and send them when I can. Oregon has a lot of dead spots on my AT&T Wireless service, but I'll try to send images in bursts as I reach service areas.

Have a good Thursday. :-)

Jumbled thoughts on the last night of this Seattle visit

I visited the lab where I worked before I left Bothell for AZ in April. Wandered the building saying “Hello!” to my former co-workers, talked about what’s been happening in my life and the thousands of moves I’ve made, blah blah blah.

Many of the people there asked me if I’d yet spoken to Brad, the lab director. They asked this with a sardonic half-grin plastered across their faces, the kind of grin that means, “You definitely want to talk to Brad before you leave,” but no one would tell me WHY he was so interested in talking with me. The half-grins could’ve meant something good or bad, and I started wondering if perhaps I’d screwed something up in a major way before I left the lab in April.

Couldn’t think of a thing.

I found out why yesterday afternoon when I stopped by the lab again to catch up with a couple of people who weren’t there during my short visit Monday.

Continue reading "Jumbled thoughts on the last night of this Seattle visit" »

I’m a student again

Got the word via the University of Utah’s admissions web site—application’s processed, I’m admitted for spring 2005 starting in January.

I figured I was probably in when I got a letter Thursday informing me I’d be considered non-resident for tuition-calculation purposes for at least the first year I attended the U. I wouldn’t imagine they’d send such letters to applicants who were about to be denied, but with state institutions, one never knows.

200 questions

New location: This page now maintained here:

I was going to try to track the path of sites through which I saw this series of questions, but it got to be too big after only a couple clicks. Suffice it to say I saw it first at Chasing Daisy. Go visit her site, because she’s funny and I like her, and then you can backtrack it from there.

In the list below, I’ve done the things in boldface. I’m not including details—if you want ’em, leave a comment.

Continue reading "200 questions" »

Seattle Times: Quakes beneath Mount St. Helens concern seismologists

Mount St. Helens is closed to climbers and some hikers following a "notice of volcanic unrest" issued yesterday by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Seismologists think there's an increased likelihood of a hazardous event because of recent changes in the mountain's seismic activity.

"The key issue is a small explosion without warning. That would be the major event that we're worried about right now," said Willie Scott, a geologist with the USGS office in Vancouver, Wash.

Officials with the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument yesterday closed the mountain to climbing and closed three hiking trails north of the volcanic crater.

Initially, hundreds of tiny earthquakes that began Thursday morning had slowly declined through Saturday. By yesterday, the swarm had changed to include more than 10 larger earthquakes of magnitude 2 to 2.8, the most in a 24-hour period since the last dome-building eruption in October 1986, Scott said.

Some of the earthquakes suggest the involvement of pressurized fluids, such as water or steam, and perhaps magma.

The quakes have occurred at depths less than one mile below the lava dome within the mountain's crater.

I heard about this as I was driving over Snoqualmie Pass Friday afternoon. I had flipped my radio to 710 KIRO for traffic reports and the news briefs were covering this at that moment. There'd been some 200 microquakes to that time, and in the next hour's newscast they had an expert who said the quakes could be caused by groundwater seeping into the mountain and flashing into steam, but they just didn't know for sure.

I've been gratified each morning not to be shaken awake nor to see the ground not covered with a fine layer of ash.

Made it!

10.5 hours driving time, or so my car's trusty GPS unit tells me. It must be about that long, though, because I also set up an 11-hour playlist on my iPod and there are 7 songs remaining.

Now to relax for a few minutes, make phone calls to let everyone know I'm here, and then off to dinner somewhere with Katharine.

Damn, I-90's cutthroat

Amazing how the mood changes at the interchange of I-82 and I-90. I-82's pretty laid back, more of the "We'll get there when we get there" attitude, but I-90 becomes a race track, everyone has to be at the forefront, everyone has to pass and get ahead and be in the lead and make it to Issaquah first.

Somehow I still managed to be in the middle of a big empty space, no cars for half a mile ahead and behind, as I flashed down the west side of Snoqualmie Pass at 75mph. And when I got to Issaquah, drivers relaxed a bit. The rest of the way to the I-90/I-405 interchange and north on I-405 to Bothell was pretty relaxed.

Crazy driving.

Road trip to Seattle

I'm off to the Seattle area for a few days for some training in the point-of-sale register system we'll be installing in the hospital gift shop next month. Driving straight through: I-15, I-84, I-82, I-90, I-405 to Bothell. I'll be on the road in about 30 minutes, should be to Bothell by about 19:00 PDT.

Back Thu 09/30. I'll be making some mobile posts and probably posting from my trusty laptop while I'm there, and I'll be updating my photo gallery as I move around as well.

Have a good weekend!

Notes from all over

At 17:21, the tabby cat suddenly developed a pathological fear of my TiVo remote control. The cat stood in the middle of the great room, staring intently at the remote where it lay on the arm of a chair, and then she hissed and rushed the remote, batting it off the chair and onto the floor. Then the cat ran the other direction to the kitchen as if her tail were on fire, and when I picked up the remote, she hissed again from her new vantage point under the kitchen table.

Since then she's been unwilling to approach the TiVo remote without raising her hackles and growling in that squeamishly determined way of most young cats who are still finding their "I'm ominous. Really I am!" instincts.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

Spent a few hours last night at a couple of bars (Tavernacle and a little dive bar called "Cheers to You" in downtown SLC) with my friend John, and tonight with John and his brother Phil—I've known both of them for nearly 15 years now, damn!—at John's apartment in Heber City.

A bit chilly up there, 'twas. And their Arby's offers incredibly speedy service, even though it does help to be the only customers in the store.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

John and Phil are both major Star Trek: The Next Generation geeks, so many times we watch an episode or two of the series on DVD while we're hanging out. Tonight I found out, while we played cards and watched the "Ethics" episode in which Worf's back is broken and he ends up getting a spine transplant, that Caroline Kava, the gonzo doctor in this episode, bears a passing resemblance to an actress (!) in the porn flick "Taboo 2."

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

The felines' colds continue, though they are both breathing a little more easily. They're also sleeping a lot more in the daytime, so they reserve all their "Let's dance on Don's cranium!" energy for the 03:00 hour, the better to roust me from sound sleep.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

I actually wore a long-sleeve shirt tonight. The KSL-TV weather dude helpfully informed me on my drive home this afternoon that last night was the coldest it's been in 145 days, and tonight would be colder still, so I figured I'd be prudent and dress accordingly.

Naturally I was hotter than hell all night.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

On my way home from Heber City I came down Foothill Drive to 500 South by the University of Utah and was stopped for about 10 minutes by an improperly configured UTA TRAX (light rail) crossing. The arms were down even though the last train had been by God only knows how much earlier.

I was on the phone with 411 trying to find a 24-hour number to report the problem to UTA when one of their trucks magically appeared in the Rice-Eccles Stadium parking lot (the crossing and the TRAX station occupy the western edge of the lot), and a minute or so later up went the arms and we were all on our way.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

If you have a chance, I recommend getting your hands on a copy of "Taboo 2" solely for the hysterically inane theme song.

My cats have colds

Sneezing and wheezing.

I've never heard this before in cats, and the black one in particular has it bad. He rumbles when he breathes while he's awake and he's developed a spectacular snore to keep me apprised of his whereabouts when he's snoozing.

The tabby weighs only four pounds but has expelled a combined total of nearly 300 pounds of Feline Mucus in the last few days. She does this by depositing charmingly unnoticeable Snot Dots all over the place when she experiences her fits of perhaps 10 or 12 sneezes at a time.

Only later, as they dry, do the Feline Mucus drops become apparent.


High winds and Blues & Brews

I spent a good chunk of the afternoon at the third annual Blues & Brews Festival at the Gallivan Center in downtown Salt Lake City. This was my first visit to the festival—in fact I don't remember even hearing about it before now, but I was in Seattle the last two years anyway.

It was a beautiful day until the wind kicked up. Even then it was nice enough, just became an exercise in slapping one's hands down quickly to prevent flyers and t-shirts and beer cups from blowing away. The wind blew steadily at about 20-30mph and gusted higher, but it was sunny and warm otherwise.

I got to the fest at 12:30 and left around 17:30. They offered 4-ounce samples at $1 each and 16-oz pints at $4 each. I sampled several beers from Salt Lake City-area brewers I've not yet visited (must take care of that soon, obviously) but did it slowly so I wouldn't get buzzed, to say nothing of drunk.

I'll say right now that I'm neither a beer nor a music critic. I know what I like but I don't delve into the depths of why, so I won't be prattling on about hints of banana or spice or blah blah in the beers, nor about some odd detail about the musical performances beyond "good" or "didn't like."

That said:

I like fruit beers, so I was pleased to see Eddie McStiff's was there from Moab with their Raspberry Wheat. They also had their Blueberry Wheat but I didn't try that one; blueberries are an in-their-natural-form-only fruit for me.

Tried a good IPA, Grand Teton Brewing Co.'s Sweetgrass (Victor, ID), as well as Red Rock Brewing Company's Nut Brown Ale, which I'd considered several times in their restaurant but never tried before. Moab Brewery's Dead Horse Amber is the best Utah-based amber I've yet sampled.

The only beer I nearly choked on was Hoppers' Orange Honey Wheat. I asked the server if you could taste the orange, because I like most honey wheat beers but wasn't sure about an orange flavor if it was pretty strong. By way of answering she poured about an ounce for me to taste. I sipped at it and managed to keep my face from registering my distaste but had a hell of a time swallowing the stuff down.

The blues artists I saw were pretty good. I'm not a huge blues fan to begin with, and what blues I do like is typically acoustic. The first singer, Hans Olson, was fantastic: Acoustic guitarist, amazing harmonica player, gravelly voice perfectly suited to the genre.

I didn't care for the next group, The Todd Tijerina Band, however, because they were much more amplified and annoying. Their music's trance-inspired as well, and while I like trance in general, I don't think it's a good basis for blues.

Joanna Conner plays a mean slide guitar and her band's rock-based style appealed to me. I'll have to check around for CDs and such.

I left a little after Terry Hanck and his band went on-stage, but I didn't listen to them well enough to know if I liked them beyond not wanting to rip my ears off when their set began.

Very pleasant afternoon. I like brewfests of this type, where it's not just beer nor just music, but a good mix of the two. There were also a few crafts vendors and some beer- and wine-making supply houses represented, which surprised me; I figured Utah's inane liquor laws would prevent that.

Check back in 10 years

In August I requested transcripts from my previous schools so I could get going on the admissions process for the University of Utah for the January 2005 semester. Simple enough; fill out a couple forms, mail one with a check and the other (the local school) by itself, no charge for transcripts, blah blah blah.

I checked the U's admissions-status page a little while ago.

The local school, Westminster College—a small private school with somewhere over 2,000 students—doesn't charge for transcripts. They processed the request and sent the transcript in less than a week.

The other school, University of Southern California—a huge private school with enrollment in the 20,000-plus range—charges $8.00 per transcript. They processed the check in less than a week but apparently didn't send all of the transcript information in a format the U of U would accept as "official."

So I fired up the USC web site and found the number to call to check on the status of my transcript request. The first time I called, I listened to roughly 300,000 rings before a nasally voice informed me the call recipient wasn't answering—as if I couldn't tell that myself—and that the call would now be disconnected, I should try again later. CLICK

Called back a few minutes later and only two rings in, a pleasant woman with a thick accent answered. I told her I needed to check the status of a transcript request.

"How did you order the transcript?" she asked. They only handle by-phone status requests for transcripts ordered by mail, by fax, or in person.

"By mail in August," I answered.

"All right, give me your student ID number or your Social Security Number," she said. I rattled off the SSN and waited while she typed.

"According to this record," she said, "you requested a transcript on February 14, 1994, and it was mailed out on February 16, 1994."

Her accent was thick enough that I wasn't sure I'd heard her correctly. "What was the date of that request?" I asked.

"February 14," she answered. "Of 1994."

As I was thinking Do they actually get enough 10-years-later status requests that this doesn't seem a bit odd to her?, I heard a couple more mouse clicks and then she sucked in her breath. I could almost hear the click of the light going off over her head.

"Wait, you said you requested a transcript just last month, yes?" she asked. Frantic paper-shuffling, a few hurried mouse clicks.

"Yes, the check was dated about August 18, and it cleared my bank a week later," I said.

"Oooohhh," she said, the light dawning. A few more mouse clicks: "We do these alphabetically, yours would be handled by Margaret," she said. "She's out to lunch but I'll have her call you when she's back if you'll give me your phone number?"

That info passed over, she apologized several times for the misunderstanding and assured me we'd get this straightened out posthaste.

Rest well, good friend

Jake in the dining room
Inquisitive in the dining room
Yesterday was Jake’s last day.

Nearly 13 years old, the purebred yellow Lab had the trouble with his hindquarters that’s so common among older dogs of that breed. He had developed muscle and nerve problems over a few years and had experienced some ups and downs in the last few months.

Jake lived at my mom’s house. He was a gift to my sister Katharine and me at Christmas 1991. He was a couple months old when we got him, wrapped in a huge red ribbon with that adorable puppy “What the hell?” expression as he saw everything for the first time. He house-trained pretty easily, as I remember—but then things of that type we all manage to gloss over because, hey, who dwells on the wet newspapers and mad dashes to the back yard when the pup gives a little whimper?

Jake was our dog at first. Katharine and I looked forward to getting home from school or work so we could run around the back yard, take him for a walk, teach him to sit or stay, just watch him grow into his ears and paws and into the world around him.

Jake lounging in the living room
But within a couple of years both Katharine and I had moved out of the house, and Jake became Mom’s dog. He knew all of us, of course—he was true to the sobriquet “man’s best friend” to the very end—but he was Mom’s shadow, knew her moods and her routine, waited anxiously for her at the door each afternoon. He was leash-trained but didn’t need one for walks... though at times it would’ve been nice not to have to chase him across the neighborhood when he’d wander away from the front of the house when we were mowing the lawn or checking the mail or just standing on the porch.

In the last few months as Jake had more trouble moving about, he also stopped eating regularly, and Mom knew his time was approaching. She scheduled a veterinary appointment for Wednesday afternoon and left work at midday to spend those last few hours with Jake at home.

Then she drove with Jake to the vet’s office and stayed with him to the last. Instead of the cold stainless steel of an examination table, they had an area set aside with a comfortable blanket. They had to weigh Jake to make sure they had the dosages correct so he wouldn’t be hurt. He weighed a little over 70 pounds, well off his peak of just over 100 pounds in his prime.

The veterinarians described the procedure to Mom, telling her there might be muscle twitches for some time after Jake’s heart had stopped and his brain function ceased.

Jake and Sam on the back-yard patio
Jake didn’t react that way, however, and it was very quick.

I talked to Mom tonight. She’s unbelievably sad—but sad is a wholly inappropriate word, does absolutely no justice to the magnitude of her emotion. She made a difficult and necessary decision at the right time, which does absolutely nothing to lessen the pain. Makes it worse, in fact, in many ways.

I had no comforting words for her on the phone 30 minutes ago and I have none now. We had a good many years with Jake. I’m sure he knew the joy he brought into our lives too.

Strange how the end of a life so well lived brings with it such deep sadness.

Hurricane Ivan on my mind

Ivan seen from the Intl Space Station
Hurricane Ivan viewed from the International Space Station
On NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day site, I found an awe-inspiring (and fear-inducing) photograph of Hurricane Ivan as seen Saturday from the International Space Station.

The image to the right is a scaled-down version of the small image at the NASA APoD site; go to that site to view the full-size image, 3032x2064 pixels, for the best detail.

That image got me to thinking about other sources for news and imagery related to Ivan in particular and hurricanes in general.

In no particular order:

Lori Hacking update: Wed 09/15/04

It's been just shy of one month since I made any new entries about the Lori Hacking case. Included below are two stories from today's Salt Lake Tribune with the latest developments: Thelma Soares' appearance on Oprah Winfrey's talk show; and changes to methods used for searching the Salt Lake County landfill for Lori's remains.

Continue reading "Lori Hacking update: Wed 09/15/04" »

Salt Lake Tribune's coverage of Nancy Workman, Tue 09/14

Two stories from today's Trib.

The first, a column by Holly Mullen—I normally consider Mullen a stellar nitwit, but I agree with her 100% today—takes Nancy Workman to task for her recent tactic of calling the charges against her politically motivated, and incorporating that sentiment into her reelection campaign advertisements. Mullen also chastises Workman's bitching about not getting a speedy trial when it was her own tactics that required the special-prosecutor appointment that is now delaying her trial even further.

Workman's run the county goverment with a gross sense of entitlement, and it's caught up to her.The second story (updated this afternoon) gives details about the special prosecutor appointed to handle the case by District Attorney David Yocom, and touches on the ethical reasons the appointment was considered necessary by Yocom's office.

I readily admit that I'm following this story with something close to glee. I don't like Nancy Workman for several reasons, not the least of which is her propensity for slapping her name on any building even remotely related to county business—do golfers hitting the links at the county-run courses really give a damn who the county mayor is, for crying out loud?—and I've found her "This entire prosecution is politically motivated" tactics reprehensible.

Workman's run the county goverment with a gross sense of entitlement, and it's caught up to her. I'll be watching developments closely.

Incidentally, I was interested to see the link to Mullen's column moved off the Trib's home page after they posted the story update about the special-prosecutor appointment. Mullen's an opinion columnist, but apparently her opinion was no longer welcome for easy dissemination once the prosecutor was named.

Trib drives me freakin' nuts.

All that said, on to the stories:

Continue reading "Salt Lake Tribune's coverage of Nancy Workman, Tue 09/14" »

Salt Lake Tribune: Update: Yocom Seeks Special Prosecutor In Workman Case

District Attorney David Yocom announced early Monday he would appoint a special prosecutor to try Salt Lake County Mayor Nancy Workman on felony charges of misuse of public money.

Workman who made an initial appearance in 3rd District Court this morning says she wants to go to trial before the Nov. 2 election, and her attorneys decried Yocom for delaying the court hearings by opting for a special prosecutor. Defense attorney Greg Skordas attempted to waive all other court hearings and go straight to a jury trial.

"To wait 'til now to do this is wrong," Skordas said. "It's absolutely wrong."

Workman made only one public comment: "I want a trial before the election."

The Republican mayor, now on paid leave while facing the charges, has repeatedly said Yocom, a Democrat, is politically motivated in the case. The attack ramped up in the latest Workman campaign commercial, which features supporters essentially saying the charges are political. "It's just politics. They should let her do her job," says one woman in the ad now airing on area TV stations.

Yocom, citing those ads and other comments by the mayor, said he had to step aside.

"I realize that the appointment of a special prosecutor will be an added burden on the taxpayers, but when the defendant in a criminal case alleges, as the mayor has alleged here, that I and my office have engaged in unprofessional conduct and that the investigation and prosecution of this case is being done for partisan political reasons, I have no choice but to take this action," Yocom said.

Yocom charged Workman with second- and third-degree felonies of misuse of public money after a bipartisan panel of prosecutors found "sufficient credible evidence" to sustain the criminal charges. Court documents allege that Workman illegally used Health Department funds to hire two successive bookkeepers to work at the South Valley Boys and Girls Club, where her daughter, Aisza Wilde, is the chief financial officer.

Skordas, who is also the Democratic candidate for Utah attorney general, says his client is innocent.

Kat Follies

Bug: and how are the kitties?
Don: The new black one is still in HyperDiscoveryJamHimselfUpMyNose mode, with a side order of Incredible Klutziness. The little tabby’s been asleep for a few hours now, quite a bit more settled down since the t-storms rolled through a few hours ago
Don: I found out at dinnertime tonight that the black cat is a potato and/or cheese whore... he nearly took my head off trying to swipe an au gratin spud off my fork :D
Bug: LOL!
Don: It’s amazing to me how these lithe creatures with all these legs and whatnot can be SO utterly clumsy at times... lol, Magic just nosedived off the desk when he misjudged the edge of the keyboard drawer :D
Bug: whooooopsie. ;x
Don: Of course his reflexes kicked in and all 2000 claws extended, so I’ve now a loverly scratch down my right leg, and that charming sting from such a minor wound that happens to be 2 feet long ;x
Bug: Oh yes, indeed. ;)
Bug: though.. I suppose it’s no more clumsy.. age-wise, as when a baby starts walking and sometimes.. just goes.. *down*. Like a lump.
Don: Yes. Thank God the kids don’t try to climb the drapes.
Bug: Well.. some do, but yes. ;x
Don: (When we were kids, my sis and I climbed the outside edges of the stairs from the main to the 2nd floor. I look at those stairs now and think, “Damn, it’s amazing we made it to 10, to say nothing of adulthood”)
Bug: Oh dear god, yes. I’m amazed too. ;)
Don: I just looked down at my clothes and thought, “You know, when I dressed this morning, my t-shirt was white....”
Bug: LOLOL, cat hair much?
Don: It was funny, the other day during the refrigerator madness, I was stroking Jake (mom’s dog) while the workers trundled the fridge out the back gate on their hand truck, and I inhaled one of his hairballs (he sheds insane amounts as he gets older)... and I thought, as I made the classic “Hairball!” KACK sound, “So *this* is what it’s like to be a cat”
Bug: hehehe. :)

Second addition!

FlexSay hello to Magic Flex, an 8-month-old domestic shorthair just home from his early-morning neutering and microchipping.

Now if I could just get him to stop trying to jam his entire head up my nose, and further to realize that he really must not consider me a 6-foot-3 climbing apparatus.


Odd/nifty catalog du jour

west elm logoIn today's post I received a catalog from west elm, one of many e.e.catalogs I've received in the last few years. west elm don't believe in capital letters except for disclaimers. Many of the pages are laid out with little or no contrast among elements because it's soothing or cool-looking or supremely irritating.

So I'm finding it difficult to read at the same time I'm thinking, "Yeah, that'd be a handy cabinet for my bathroom."

Then I wondered how I got on their mailing list, but immediately saw on their web site that they're a Williams-Sonoma brand. I already do get an occasional W-S or Pottery Barn catalog, some left over from the previous occupants of this apartment and now magically changed over to my name.

It's like a cancer.

Come on: PBTeen? PBKids?

Fridgectomy with a side of sprinkler repair

Utah Power's taken custody of the 40-odd-year-old fridge that used to haunt the basement of my mother's house. In six weeks or so, she'll receive a check for $40, and today the pick-up crew left behind a "Bonus Pack" with a bunch of Utah Power propaganda and a single compact fluorescent bulb as an immediate "thank you!" for the horror of this entire ordeal.

The pick-up window was 12:00-17:00 and the crew, the same two people as the first attempt (which was exactly one month ago today, I just realized). The driver recognized me as he walked up to the front porch and greeted me thus (imagine odd accent):

You musta got da frij up from da baseemt, eh?

We chatted about it as he filled out the paperwork and I led him around the house to the garage, where the raising of the refrigerator ended last Wednesday. He noticed the scuff on my right wrist—I came away with only the scuff where the 400-pound fridge jammed me against a brick wall, and a mild case of nausea after a sudden lift-and-shift of the machine resulted in a comical hit to the groin that left me dancing in mingled fury/pain/horror as I tried to balance the fridge on an 8-inch-wide stair.

And then he and his partner, with no fanfare whatsoever, heaved the fridge onto their appliance hand truck and trundled it out the back gate, down the gravelled alleyway, and into their truck. Lucky bastards with their hydraulic lifts. I followed with the shelves and crisper drawer we'd taken out to avoid falling-objects injuries, and the two of them returned to grab the doors we'd taken off to gain some grab points, and that was that.

But anyway. When I got up this morning, I had an email from my mom asking if I would repair one of her sprinklers while I was waiting for the fridge guys. Her lawn-care guy apparently takes a childish delight in lopping off a sprinkler head or four during each summer season—this was his third for the year, he has one more to go—so after the fridge folk left, I hied myself out to Home Depot at 2100 S and 300 W and grabbed a few extra sprinkler heads and risers, so we'd be prepared the next time it happens. 45 seconds of teflon-tape-wrapping on the riser followed by three minutes of obscenity utterings under my breath resulted in a newly installed sprinkler head, and the system was both hunky and dory once more.

Salt Lake Tribune: Update: Salt Lake hub spared from Delta restructuring

I quote this story partly because it's interesting news (and good for the Salt Lake economy in general), but mostly because it's a stellar example of how poorly The Tribune is written and edited.

I'll have to check tomorrow's print edition to see if they've managed to write and edit this story any better in the next 12 hours.

Continue reading "Salt Lake Tribune: Update: Salt Lake hub spared from Delta restructuring" »

New York Times: Circuits: Tunes, a Hard Drive and (Just Maybe) a Brain

Published: August 26, 2004

ipod_slot_machineWHILE Bob Angus was presiding over a summer dinner party at his Upper West Side apartment in Manhattan, his Apple iPod decided to reveal its softer side.

Mr. Angus, a second-year graduate student at Columbia Business School, had selected the Shuffle Songs mode on his iPod, which was connected by an adapter cable to his stereo receiver. By doing this, he relinquished control of his 1,300-song music library—and, as he would soon find out, of his party.

The Guns N' Roses song "Paradise City" blared from his speakers. It was followed by the melodic piano solo at the beginning of Elton John's "Your Song." Mr. Angus's 10 guests burst into laughter.

"Everyone was rocking out," Mr. Angus said. "Then Elton comes on and kills it—it was like strike No. 1 against my manhood."

Such are the perils of using Shuffle, a genre-defying option that has transformed the way people listen to their music in a digital age. The problem is, now that people are rigging up their iPods to stereos at home and in their cars, they may have to think twice about what they have casually added to their music library.

Shuffle commands have been around since the dawn of the CD player. But the sheer quantity of music on an MP3 player like the iPod—and in its desktop application, iTunes—has enabled the function to take on an entirely new sense of scale and scope. It also heightens the risk that a long-forgotten favorite song will pop up, for better or for worse, in mixed company.

There is an unintended consequence of the allure of Shuffle: it is causing iPod users to question whether their devices "prefer" certain types of music.

Revere Greist with iPod (NYtimes)
WORKOUT - Revere Greist, an amateur bicycle racer in Los Angeles, has concluded that his iPod's Shuffle mode knows how to motivate him. (Alex di Suvero for The New York Times)
Revere Greist, a doctoral student and amateur bicycle racer in Los Angeles, has concluded that his iPod's Shuffle command favors the rapper 50 Cent—and perhaps more important, that it knows exactly the right time to play 50 Cent's biggest hit, "In Da Club." He finds the dramatic beat, coupled with the lyrics "Go Shorty, it's your birthday," inspirational.

Mr. Greist rides his bike 15 hours a week, often more than three hours at a time. To get him through the tedium of this workout, he created a 40-song mix called "What It Takes," a name derived from a quotation on a documentary film about Lance Armstrong's training for the 2000 Tour de France. (After Armstrong defies his team manager's orders and races up a snowy mountain, his team manager says into the camera, "Now, that's what it takes to win the Tour de France.")

The iPod "knows somehow when I am reaching the end of my reserves, when my motivation is flagging," Mr. Greist insisted. "It hits me up with 'In Da Club,' and then all of a sudden I am in da club."

For Mr. Angus, though, Shuffle can be a workout killer. He said that while working out at the gym, his portable music player invariably drifts toward the Billboard Top 40.

"It really likes Ruben Studdard," the winner of "American Idol's" second season, Mr. Angus said. This, despite the fact that he only has one song of Mr. Studdard's—the soulful ballad "Sorry 2004"—stored on his 20-gigabyte player. "There's nothing worse than when you are having an intense workout and Ruben comes on," he said, "but it seems to always happen to me."

I haven't noticed this penchant for knowing my moods with my iPod, but then again I use Smart Playlists to set up music for the moods I might be feeling. I've never just used the full-library function because I have enough classical music that hearing parts of classical pieces amongst my Top 40 and classic-rock songs would be jarring, to say the least.

Link via Bug

The link to the NYTimes story in this entry's title leads to a no-registry-required version; view the story's full text there

Macaroni, beer, and a cause for health

Squatters American Wheat hefeweizenDinner at Squatters tonight. Had a couple pitchers of their hefeweizen, one of my all-time fave microbrews, and then the four-cheese macaroni, one of my all-time fave comfort foods.

We were seated at one of the tables near the front of the restaurant, immediately behind the merchandise display shelves. Squatters was busy enough that there were quite a few people waiting for tables and many of them ended up crowding along the edge of the bar near our table. Probably half a dozen of them had T-shirts or polo shirts with some logo we couldn't see clearly, so I asked one of them what their shirts read, and heard about the Five Points of Life Ride 2004.

'Five Points of Life' logo
Visit the Five Points of Life page for details about the awareness drive.
It's a cycling project from Seattle, WA, to Kennedy Space Center (FL) to raise awareness of the need for donation of the "five points of life":

  • Whole blood
  • Aphaeresis
  • Bone marrow
  • Cord blood
  • Organs and tissue

The Ride began 08/25/04 and is expected to finish 10/15/04 at Kennedy.

I'm an aphaeresis donor already, which they were pleased to hear. I haven't donated since I got back to Salt Lake; must call the Red Cross and set that up again. I'd tapered down my donations when I was in Seattle because of the ineptitude of the technicians at the Puget Sound Blood Center locations I frequented, but the Red Cross folks here in SLC were always very good. At least they were two years ago.

Revelations among the Sunday news whoring

The couple of local news stories I found post-worthy today came from the Deseret Morning News.

I used to consider the D-News the less worthy of the two Salt Lake City newspapers. This is largely because with a name like “Deseret News,” I figured the paper would always experience improper influence from the LDS Church. However, in the few months I’ve been back in Salt Lake and have been reading both papers fairly regularly, I must say I prefer the Deseret News’ coverage of most events.

For one thing, the D-News’ reporters tend actually to ask pertinent questions of their sources as they’re putting together stories, so the stories have useful information in them. There’s also less of the If I were to subscribe to daily delivery of a Salt Lake paper, it’d be—I never thought I’d say this—the Deseret Morning News.tendency to go for the weepy angle in stories—although the recent Lori Hacking coverage was a bit on the heavy-handed, “we’ll tell you what your emotions are” side in the D-News’ later stories, it was pretty well balanced over its entire course, and by the time the stories got more weepy, that was the story anyway. The same is true of the later coverage in the Garrett Bardsley disappearance, but again that’s the story now, and the coverage has been tasteful without being intrusive or manipulative.

Ultimately, however, the Deseret News is simply a better-edited paper. I’ve spotted a few typos here and there, certainly—try creating a from-scratch publication every single day and see if you manage to avoid all typographical errors; it’s a gargantuan task no matter how many copy editors you sic on it each time—but the writing is better and the editors appear actually to read the stories they’re editing.

Furthermore, the online edition of the D-News isn’t an afterthought, unlike the Salt Lake Tribune’s horrible online edition. The Deseret News’ online edition leaves some things to be desired—every newspaper’s electronic edition is like this—but it’s not put together from the first round of electronic proofs the way the Trib’s online editions seem to be, so fewer errors appear overall anyway.

If I were to subscribe to daily delivery of a Salt Lake paper, it’d be—I never thought I’d say this—the Deseret Morning News.

Nifty satellite views on my desktop

G4 tower desktop with OSXplanet running
My G4 tower desktop with OSXplanet displaying an orthographic projection centered over Salt Lake City.

(Click image to view 1280x1024 332KB capture in separate window)
Check out OSXplanet, a program that puts a satellite image of Earth on your Mac desktop and lets you view current daylight shading, cloud maps (watch the hurricanes move across the Atlantic), tracks of some well-known satellites (the International Space Station figures prominently on my images now and then), and volcano and earthquake data.

OSXplanet gives you a choice of several map projections. You can also view other planets from Earth—the Saturn shot I had earlier was pretty cool—or view any planet from any other planet, for example Mars from Pluto or Venus from the moon.

Link via eclecticism