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73 entries from June 2005

It's like crack

My cable Internet connection's been flaky all night, and it's driving me up the goddamned wall.

In the summer months I tend to be online a lot less anyway when I'm at home. I usually have the stereo on while I do other things around the house, or I'll catch up on a DVD or read or walk the neighborhood or I'm out with friends, whatever, but the computer doesn't get as much use this time of year.*

But tonight my Internet connection was interrupted, so much of the night I've been fixated on getting online. It's been spotty at best and it's driving me nuts.

It's stabilized in the last 30 minutes (knock on wood). Which is good because I'm trying out iTunes 4.9 and its podcasting features, and if I get one more "download interrupted" or "network connection timed out" indication I'm going to have to kill something.

And the cable modem's looking like a good target about now.

* This may be the first year I'm in this habit, in all actuality. Last summer I was out of work so I was home more in the day but at night I still tended to be away from my computers and out of the house.


A little while ago when I went into the men's room I suddenly noticed that I'd been saying my actions all day.

I noticed this when, in the act of lowering my zipper as I stepped to the urinal, I said, "Zip!"

Flooding back to me came the realization that a little before that when I'd been at my desk working on some Crystal Reports format changes, I'd been saying things like "Type type type..." as I hammered away on my keyboard and when I called the Washington State Department of Ecology a few hours ago, I clearly remember saying "Dial dial dial" as I did so.


MacInTouched again

MacInTouch's home page today includes a note from a reader about the lack of Mac OS compatibility for Google Earth, Google's new whole-globe mapping application that allows some nifty zooming and flyover effects.

When I checked out the download page for Google Earth yesterday, I found that it's Windows-only at this point, with a statement that Mac OS support was in development. No timeline given, but the statement that a Mac OS version was coming was all I wanted to see. So I was annoyed when I read MacInTouch and saw the reader's disingenuous statement flatly claiming that Google Earth "doesn't support Mac operating systems" with no mention of the support under development.

Fired off a quick email and didn't copy-edit it very well, as you'll see from the quotation below the cut....

Continue reading "MacInTouched again" »

Late-Wednesday randomness

98011 is the ZIP code for my office. It is also a prime number, I found out just now by way of


Utah's official cooking pot is the Dutch oven. I discovered this in The Plates of America, a article I've quoted below the cut because it includes an amazingly comprehensive listing of the food-related symbols of all the states.

Though in some cases their take on "food-related" is a bit... thick.


There's an Atlas Van Lines tractor-trailer that's now circled the block seven times. I can't imagine anyone would really be moving in at 22:30 and I wonder why the driver and his (at least) two helpers don't stop and knock on a door to ask for directions if they're having trouble finding the address they need, but then again they are men, and we don't ask for help.

Or so I'm repeatedly told by the women in my life.


I spent much of today being annoyed by a dully throbbing and persistent headache which started about half an hour after I woke up as a mild pressure and by 10:30 was pounding away just behind my eyes. By then I'd partaken of a few Advil tablets to no avail; did that a couple more times throughout the day but the damned ache lasted until around 21:00. Now it's been about 90 minutes gone and I'm hoping it doesn't return before I go to bed sometime soon.


Hmm, I thought I had more to say but I've just screeched to a halt, random-thoughts-wise.

Have a good night.

Continue reading "Late-Wednesday randomness" »

Why last night sucked

Flickr photo sharing: Early-morning fire alarm
Early-morning fire alarm
From Don Nunn’s photo stream
Or: How Don got only about 2.5 hours sleep and still functioned reasonably well the next day.

You may not be able to tell from the spastic motion displayed in this photograph, but it’s a fire truck. Specifically, a big ladder truck belonging to Snohomish County Fire District No. 7. The truck responded to a fire alarm at one of the buildings west of mine sometime around 02:00 today.

I’d had tremendous difficulty getting to sleep because of someone’s goddamned dog and my two felines. The dog was barking just loudly and annoyingly enough to intrude on my consciousness a few times as I drifted toward sleep, and my cats took my stirring to mean it was time to play Indy 500 on the Don’s Bed Speedway. By the time I’d evicted the cats from the bedroom and closed the window all the way, the alarm sound had penetrated my awareness, and a few minutes later the fire trucks appeared.

Of course my camera was at the opposite end of the house—I was upstairs in the master (back) bedroom, camera was in the Escape in the garage—so by the time I got back to the bedroom the fire truck had started a slow circling of the parking lot as the fighters tried to locate the emergency. I’m wondering why they didn’t fire up their spotlights and look for building numbers, but oh well.

In the end, I only saw two firefighters leave the truck and only long enough to walk into the building northwest of mine. They weren’t in there long enough to put out fires or even knock down a door; I imagine they just checked on something and, finding nothing wrong, returned to the truck, which circled once more and left shortly after.

The alarm shut off a minute or so after that, and I was wide awake with my digital camera and a load of adrenaline and irritation surging through me.

So I shot some other photos too, to fiddle with the camera’s various manual and automatic modes. You can see the other shots in my Flickr postings for 06/28/05.

Apparent from this photo: My hands aren’t very steady. And my bedroom windows are really dirty.

Americans have some odd ideas about cancer

About the disease itself but more tellingly about its treatments: Survey: Many believe cancer myths

WASHINGTON (Reuters)—More than 40 percent of Americans surveyed in a study falsely believed surgery can allow cancer cells to spread through the body, researchers said Monday. And up to a quarter believed there is a drug industry plot to cover up a cure for cancer.

The survey, published in the journal Cancer, may mean patients with cancer may fail to get treatment or may fail to stick with it, the researchers said.

The telephone survey of 957 adults was designed to represent the general U.S. population, said the researchers, led by Dr. Ted Gansler of the American Cancer Society.

"The most prevalent misconception, 'Treating cancer with surgery can cause it to spread throughout the body,' was endorsed as true by 41 percent of the respondents," the researchers wrote in their report.

"The second most prevalent misconception, 'The medical industry is withholding a cure for cancer from the public in order to increase profits,' was identified as true by 27 percent."

I imagine the "surgery makes cancer spread" myth probably started with people who assumed (or were improperly assured by their doctors) that surgery would cure their disease, and the cancer had already metastasized to other parts of the body or something similar.

It's too bad most people have such blind faith in doctors. When I worked in a pharmacy for a time in 1994 and 1995, I was always just stunned when patients would ask us what a drug was for when they were picking up the prescription.

Why weren't they asking the doc what the drug's purpose was?

Just astounding.


Flickr photo sharing: Cornerlight
From imperterrito's photo stream
Was browsing through my Flickr photo favorites and came across this one.

I have limited color vision—depening upon which eye doc you believe, I'm either strongly red-green deficient or totally color-blind (and I hate those godforsaken little color-spots-in-a-pattern tests, bah)—but what color I see in this image I find just brilliantly striking.

It's probably just the light, the contrast and the shapes. That's why I like sunsets. Tonight's sunset was absolutely beautiful, in fact, and I didn't think to whip out the camera until too late.

Anyway, I like this photo a lot, and not for its color. Next time you're looking at a beautiful image, try to imagine how a color-blind person might see it.

I like it but it irritates the hell out of me

That’s how I answer when anyone asks me if I’ve ever seen Rescue Me on FX.

It’s just so godawful annoying, but I find myself enthralled by an epsiode about a minute into it. And I made the mistake of setting up a TiVo Season Pass for it, against the possibility I might be annoyed if I missed the new season and anyone I knew started talking about it.

But damn, it’s just so.... aggravating.

Big Fish (2003)

DVD cover: Big FishA son sits by his dying father’s side but has little patience with the old man’s fables, because he feels these stories have kept him from knowing who his father really is.

My take:

Didn’t hold my attention at all, and the DVD I received from Netflix had some serious scratches that resulted in a disjointed viewing experience as it skipped around a few times.

I ended up keeping the movie playing as background noise while I did some laundry and washed a few dishes and other domestically blissful things.



Cartoon-character porn?

I haven't yet decided what I find more disturbing: That my site appears among the results of a German Google search on the term simba and nala porn or the fact that anyone actually searched on this term.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

UPDATE 06/28/05 21:58: This entry's now the No. 3 result in a Google search on cartoon character porn; the No. 5 result on a Yahoo! Search query for the same term; and No. 2 result on a Verizon Online search for a similar (though vulgar) term (the Y!Search and Verizon URLs are too monstrous to include here).

So, welcome to you visitors who are here for entirely the wrong reasons, and now off you go to the dark corners of your mind wherein lie your fantasies. Because you certainly won't find fulfillment here.

Latter Days (unrated version) (2003)

DVD cover: Latter DaysElder Aaron Davis, a 19-year-old sexually confused Mormon missionary, moves into an apartment complex in West Hollywood with a fellow group of missionaries. There he meets a neighbor, Christian, who, on a bet, tries to seduce him. When Christian exposes Davis’ secret desire, Davis rejects Christian for being shallow and empty. As each boy’s reality is shattered, the two are drawn into a passionate romance that risks destroying their lives.

My take:

This movie was nothing like I expected. I found it via recommendation from Netflix, apparently based on my ratings for 10 Things I Hate About You, 3rd Rock from the Sun, and (of all things) Treasure Planet. All of these count Joseph Gordon-Levitt among their casts but otherwise they’re wildly divergent genres spanning a number of release years; my ratings for them varied quite a bit as well.

I grew up in Salt Lake City but I’m not a Mormon, so I find the LDS Church’s portrayal in movies fascinating. This movie’s depiction of the missionary experience looks spot-on, though, from what little direct knowledge I have. From the goodbyes at the airport (mom crying, dad emotionally distant and awkward) to the proselytizers’ knocks on the doors and the doors immediately slamming in faces (I’ve done that to LDS missionaries a time or three) to the stories I’ve heard returned missionaries tell about what they’re allowed and forbidden to do while on their missions—all a bit, well, insane to non-members but accepted with little or no question by the kids going on these missions.

I figured the movie would be about Aaron’s resistance to Christian’s advances and the comedy and drama resulting from that, but I was flat wrong. Aaron’s already uncertain about his sexuality when he arrives in Los Angeles and he responds passionately to Christian, but with tremendous guilt (almost Catholic-level guilt, in fact). Eventually the two experience wrenching loss and must learn to cope with the huge changes in their lives.

I’d only heard about this movie from its good buzz on the festival circuit a couple years ago. I’m not a film-festival attendee, so I never thought about it again until it appeared in my recommendations, but I’m certainly glad I took a chance on it. I was completely caught up in the passion and romance of the lead characters’ first encounter and later as their lives changed, I found myself actively caring about the directions they took. I was surprised by how much it mattered to me.



Queer as Folk: Season 4: Disc 1 (2004)

DVD cover: Queer as Folk: Season 4Following the journeys of a group of gay friends and lovers living in Pittsburgh with mature stories about the challenges of same-sex parenting, discrimination, AIDS/HIV, cancer and morality. This disc had the first three episodes of the season and covered Brian’s debt troubles and the possible loss of his lifestyle; Ted’s rehab and reactions to his friends on his release; the custody fight over Hunter, the young hustler who’d been staying with Michael and Ben; Brian’s decision to open his own advertising agency; and Justin’s entry into the Pink Posse, a vigilante group determined to stop hate crimes against gays and lesbians.

My take:

It’s been over a year since I saw an episode of QaF—I rented the Season 3 discs from Netflix in April 2004 while I was in AZ—and I was afraid I might not remember where things had left off, but no such trouble at all. A few minutes in to the first episode and I was caught up. The show is largely exactly what I remember: Seems like realistic (if sometimes campy or overwrought) story lines and characters, moves at a brisk but easily followed pace, holds my attention very well.

The one thing that most irritates me about the DVDs is they don’t offer a “play all” option. Drives me absolutely insane to have to grab up the remote every 45 minutes or so and fumble through their dipshit menu structure to move from episode to episode.



Google down? for tried to load Google to do a quick search and ended up with a page labeled SoGo, captured thus:

What the...?

DNS problems or the like, perhaps?

UPDATE 21:52: Working fine again, after I rebooted everything—laptop, cable modem, Wi-Fi base stations, blah blah blah.


This Is Broken - ATM language choice

From This Is Broken, "A project to make businesses more aware of their
customer experience, and how to fix it":

Broken: ATM language choice

Why does my ATM ask me what language I speak?
Why doesn't it know?
Why doesn't it remember next time?

Hear hear. And why can't I specify one time that I don't want receipts for the $40 "quick cash" transactions?

For that matter, why do ATMs offer receipts at all? Most people leave them behind, in my experience anyway. I usually end up throwing away the receipt from the previous transaction when I arrive at the ATM. Doubtful if anyone could steal your money with the info on the receipt, but if they're going to ask about it, why not ask if you WANT one and make the preference stick while offering a (non-intrusive) way to change the pref on single transactions later?

I won't even start on the rapacious fee structures.

Silly banks.

Back from Portland

Uneventful drive, which is the best kind.

The work day was interesting. Met a slew of people I'd only talked to by phone until now. It's funny how you form an image of the way a person looks and far more often than not (for me, anyway) that image is exactly wrong. What a wonder is the human mind, its ability to determine a person's looks by voice alone.

Anyway, I was there to train the local project managers on a new type of electronic data format and uploading method, but first we had the Whirlwind Tour and Meet'n'Greet. After that came their daily status meeting, a 10-minute gathering where each area supervisor explained their capacity and any problems that might affect their ability to accept rush work and the like. And then I retired to the conference room with a few of the project managers to go over the new data format.

This new method means we can load the data directly out of our LIMS and into their database, so we eliminate most sources of transcription or data-entry errors. The hard part is making sure our data match their valid-value requirements, which is difficult at best because, well, they don't tell us what the valid values are.

That's right, we have to load our data into their system and view the error status in order to see what we already have matched to their valid values purely by chance.

A pretty cockamamie process, in my opinion. It seemed much more so before they'd given me a chart describing common data-loading errors and responsibility for fixing them, and it turns out we're not the responsible party for the valid-values errors. It's up to the consultants who manage the work on the client's behalf.

Still a bit disconcerting to upload a data set of 4,000 records and get 12,000 error notices about that set, but oh well.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

In other news, the Escape got 22-24 miles per gallon on the drive down and back, which pleased me greatly. I usually keep an eye on the fuel gauge closely the first few times I take a new vehicle on a road trip so I get a feel for how far I'll be able to go on a tank of fuel. The Escape's fuel tank allegedly holds 16.5 gallons, giving a range of 360 to 410 miles per tank at the mpg ratings I've seen, but I take those with a grain of salt.

We also encountered a downpour from hell in the Beaverton area. End of our lunch break and we walked outside to sheets of water, the kind of rain that drenches you utterly if you stand in it for five seconds.

Coincidentally, that's how long it took us to get to the car from the restaurant door. We steamed up the car windows almost immediately, it was unreal.

Off to Portland for a day

Heading to Beaverton, specifically, to train that lab location’s project managers on a particular type of electronic-data format and its associated web-based database upload procedures.

What joy and wonder is my life!

I’ll be on the road at 07:00 and should be back in town around 19:00. Quick turnaround, but I didn’t think the training will require more than a couple of hours, and that’s only if the trainees are utterly clueless, and I expect nothing like that at all.

Happy Wednesday. :-)

Still no sign of missing 11-year-old in Uintahs

I just can't even imagine the horror these families must be experiencing. Barring foul play, how does a boy just disappear so completely in the space between heartbeats?

Salt Lake Tribune: Few clues on Day 3 of search for Scout
Where’s Brennan? Mild weather keeps the family hopeful, but the lack of traces frustrates rescuers

EAST FORK OF THE BEAR RIVER—The search for 11-year-old Brennan Hawkins covered new ground Monday, moving onto mountain ridges surrounding the Boy Scout camp from which he disappeared and combing the river that winds through it.

But after the third full day of probing the high country here, 60 professionals and more than 600 volunteers found no trace of the Bountiful boy, who was last seen alive Friday evening at the East Fork of the Bear River Boy Scout Reservation.

Searchers and members of Brennan’s family remained optimistic, however, citing favorable elements and inspiring tales.

“We have every reason to believe Brennan is fine. We still have great hope and believe Brennan is still here,” said the boy’s father, Toby Hawkins.

Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds noted that water is plentiful, making thirst a nonissue, and the weather relatively mild.

“There are stories of kids his age being gone for 10 days before being found.... It isn’t out of the reason of possibility that he is still out there alive.”

The search for Brennan will resume today, with nobody talking about when it will end.

Still, Edmunds warned Monday that his crews were working on the premise they had an “unresponsive subject” and to find him, they likely would have to “walk right up on top of him.”

Veteran searchers remain haunted by two similar tragedies that have occurred in the western Uinta Mountains in the past 21 months.

Last August, 11-year-old Garrett Bardsley, of Utah County, disappeared from a Boy Scout outing near Mirror Lake, about 15 miles southwest of here. He has not been found and is presumed dead.

In September 2003, a mother and daughter became lost during a hike near Crystal Lake, not far from Mirror Lake. Their bodies were not found until the following June.

“Once again, we’ve had someone vanish into thin air,” Edmunds said.

But in the earlier incidents, cold weather was a major factor as was the steep and rocky terrain. It was likely the victims in both cases died within the first 24 hours of disappearing, Edmunds said.

With national news media and satellite trucks swarming the area, Edmunds worried that the Uinta Mountains, home to the largest federally designated wilderness area in Utah, were quickly gaining a bad reputation.

“It’s been a crazy three years,” he said. “Everybody wonders how you get lost. But I’m here to tell you, I’d get lost in a heartbeat out here. Without a GPS unit, all these mountains can begin to look the same.”

The sheriff said Monday’s searchers were trying to move beyond the 6 square miles around the camp that had previously been combed and onto the ridges and other surrounding areas. Also on Monday, recovery crews intensified their focus on the Bear River.

The river runs about 100 yards from where Brennan was last seen and workers believe he might have tried to cross it and been swept away.

Melting snow from the mountains has swollen the river and raised it over an adult’s head in some places.

On Monday, swift-water rescue crews from Summit, Davis and Weber counties probed the icy waters without success.

“When you get in the current, the water will do with you what it wants,” said Steve Petty, of Davis County Search and Rescue. “It can pin you against rocks and branches and the pressure is relentless.”

And the water is cold. “It’s 40 degrees today,” Petty said. “If we did not have [dry suit] protection, we’d lose our strength fast.”

Edmunds said the emphasis on the Bear River should not be interpreted as a sign his office believes Brennan is dead. But he acknowledged that if the boy did fall into the river, he would not have survived.

The sheriff’s office also has not ruled out a kidnapping, though there is no evidence of foul play. Investigators are conducting background checks on all adults who were in the camp on Friday or who have visited cabins in the surrounding area. The sheriff said there were about 1,500 people in the vicinity when Brennan disappeared.

“With the Bardsley disappearance, I didn’t believe there was a chance of foul play. He was up in the middle of the wilderness,” the sheriff said. “This is different. When you have so many people, it’s a little suspicious.”

Brennan’s sister, 19-year-old Mariah Hawkins, said the criminal investigation is fine, but she is not distracted by it.

“I’m confident he’s here somewhere,” she said.

Brennan arrived at the Boy Scout camp on Friday with the family of a friend. The family was participating in a weekend of camping and activities for varsity Boy Scouts. Brennan is not a varsity Scout but was allowed to scale the camp’s climbing wall.

According to Brennan’s family and investigators, Brennan and the friend climbed down the wall. The friend went to dinner at the main campsite and told Brennan to meet him there.

Brennan asked for an older boy’s help in removing his climbing gear. The older boy asked Brennan to wait while helping another camper.

When the older boy turned to help Brennan, he was gone and his climbing gear was lying on the ground. No one has seen him since.

Brennan was last seen wearing a long-sleeve blue T-shirt and black shorts.

An estimated 3,000 people participated in the search on Sunday, but most of them had to go back to work on Monday.

“If it was my kids, I’d be out here, and I hope others would join me,” said Jesse Buntjer, a 26-year-old father of three from South Jordan who took Monday off from his job to look for Brennan. “You’ve just got to keep hoping.”

Ron Whitehead, who took the day of his job at Hill Air Force Base to join the ranks of volunteers scouring the forested hills, said he had a bad feeling.

“I was up here last year searching for Garrett. That just eats at me,” said the career master sergeant, who does a lot of archery hunting in the Uintas.

Bountiful resident Jeff Waldron was searching Monday on his ATV.

“What I don’t understand is you have these high ridges on both sides. He must still be in this valley unless he was kidnapped.”

Camille Campbell, 23, drove up to the search site from her home in Erda, Tooele County.

“I saw people searching on the news and I just wanted to come up and help.”

How does this not violate the Geneva Conventions?

Wouldn't this somehow fall within the realm of displaying a prisoner of war for ridicule?

I mean, sure, I found it interesting in the prurient manner to which the article panders—and for which we Americans are unfortunately so well known despite our opinions of ourselves to the contrary. But I want to know why the Pentagon only "had no comment" and why none of the human-rights groups (hello, Amnesty International?) have Freaked Out! about it yet.

Seattle Times: Saddam devoured Doritos, dispensed advice, guards say

By Richard Pyle
The Associated Press

NEW YORK—Saddam Hussein loves Doritos, hates Froot Loops, admires President Reagan, thinks President Clinton was "OK" and holds dim views of both Presidents Bush. The former dictator talks a lot, worries about germs and insists he is still president of Iraq.

Those and other details of the deposed Iraqi leader's life in U.S. military custody appear in the July issue of GQ magazine, based on interviews with five Pennsylvania National Guardsmen who went to Iraq in 2003 and were assigned to Saddam's guard detail for nearly 10 months.

The magazine, which reached newsstands yesterday, said the GIs could not tell their families what they were doing and signed pledges not to reveal the location or other details of the U.S.-run compound where Saddam was an HVD, or "high-value detainee."

Iraqi authorities are gearing up to bring him to trial. He has been accused of the gassing of Kurds in northern Iraq in the 1980s; the massacres of Shiites and Kurds in 1991, when those communities rose up against Saddam at the end of the Gulf War; and the 1992 draining of southern marshes that drove many Shiites from their homes.

Saddam, who took power in 1979, was captured Dec. 13, 2003, while hiding in a "spider hole" behind a farmhouse near his ancestral hometown of Tikrit.

The five soldiers told GQ of their personal interactions with Saddam, saying he spoke with them in rough English, was interested in their lives and even invited them back to Iraq when he returns to power.

"He'd always tell us he was still the president. That's what he thinks, 100 percent," said Spc. Jesse Dawson, 25, of Berwick, Pa.

A Pentagon spokesman had no comment on the article.

Another boy missing in the Utah mountains

Brennan Hawkins, an 11-year-old Boy Scout, went missing over the weekend; still no sign of him.

Salt Lake Tribune article excerpt below the cut. This is another story about which I hadn't planned to post, but the vast numbers of hits I'm getting on searches for "missing boy Utah" or the like lead me to post a link and excerpt so people can find what they want.

UPDATE 10:21: Added a Deseret Morning News story link and excerpt.

UPDATE 13:39: The search effort now has a web site:

Continue reading "Another boy missing in the Utah mountains" »

Do-it-yourself facelift, of sorts

Easy way to tighten up your face:

Get your hair cut shorter than usual and then spend about 7 hours in the sun without head protection at a brewfest on Saturday, and another 4 hours with a hat at an arts festival on Sunday.

Scalp sunburns, skin tightens, draws face back into hideous rictus come Monday morning.

I have the weirdest mild/annoying headache today....

MasterCard announces security breach at third-party card processing company

When I first saw this story on a few hours ago, it mentioned only MasterCard and was vague about other card companies' accounts. I see now all credit-card holders should keep an eye on it.

Seattle Times: Security breach could affect 40 million cardholders

NEW YORK—A security breach of customer information at a credit card-processing company could put at risk 40 million cardholders of all brands, MasterCard International Inc. said today.

The credit card giant said its security division detected multiple instances of fraud that tracked back to CardSystems Solutions Inc. of Tucson, Ariz., which processes transactions for banks and merchants.

MasterCard said in a news release late Friday afternoon that it was notifying its card-issuing banks of the problem.

CardSystems was hit by a computer virus that captured customer data for the purpose of fraud, said company spokeswoman Sharon Gamsin.

MasterCard, which said about 14 million of its own cards were exposed, said it was giving CardSystems a "limited amount of time to demonstrate compliance with security requirements."

CardSystems officials did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment. Nor did officials from American Express and Visa.

The breach is the latest in a series that has hurt a number of high-profile companies—including Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp., and DSW Shoe Warehouse.

Earlier this month, Citigroup said United Parcel Service had lost computer tapes with sensitive information from 3.9 million customers of CitiFinancial, a unit that provides personal and home loans.


weather radar snapshot 06/17/05 00:09 pdtit's raining pretty heavily right now. it's also after midnight and i'm just feeling tired, so should go to bed soon.

but what i want to do is hop in my car and drive around a bit, just for the hell of it.

i am seriously messed up, sleep-schedule-wise.


Swell, my new vehicle may try to kill me Ford document shows millions of vehicles may be at risk for fires

KISSIMMEE, Florida (CNN)—Early this year, Laura Hernandez nudged her husband, Nestor Oyola, as he slept in their Kissimmee home and asked him to put the Ford Expedition he had bought her the day before into the garage.

She did not want to risk leaving it on the street, where it might be vandalized.

“That was my dream, to have a Ford Expedition,” she recalled to CNN about the $22,000 Eddie Bauer 2001 model SUV—green with gold trim and leather seats.

Oyola moved the Expedition and they went to sleep.

After years of sharing a single car, the couple—who moved five years ago to the United States from Puerto Rico—were finally living the American dream: They owned two vehicles and their home.

At 5 the next morning, half an hour after her husband had driven his SUV to work, Hernandez was awakened by barking from Chakuil, their Chihuahua mix.

“He saved our lives,” said Hernandez, who smelled smoke and roused her 15-year-old daughter, Rotsenmary.

They had time to grab only the dog and their pet birds before flames spread from the garage and engulfed the house.

Rotsenmary suffered a second-degree burn to her left leg; the charred remains of their 6-month-old cat—Beethoven—were found in a corner; the vehicle, the house and its contents were a total loss.

A fire investigator, hired by their auto insurance company, said the blaze was caused by a cruise-control deactivation switch in the SUV—a type of switch that Ford installed in millions of its vehicles from 1992 until 2003.

An Iowa family is suing Ford over the switch, claiming it was the likely cause of a fire in the family’s 1996 F-150 parked in an attached garage that spread to their house. A 74-year-old woman died in the fire and the house was destroyed. Ford, however, says the fire did not originate in the F-150.

Several fire investigators hired by major insurance companies and auto engineers consulted by CNN say the switch is causing some Ford vehicles to ignite.

Expanded investigation

The $20.57 switch shuts off the cruise control when the driver firmly steps on the brakes. The switch is located under the hood of the vehicle and is attached to the brake master cylinder on one end and wired to the cruise control on the other.

On most of its models, Ford designed the switch to be powered—or “hot”—at all times, even when the vehicle is off and the key is removed from the ignition.

Inside the switch, a thin film barrier separates brake fluid from the switch’s electrical components. Investigators say fires can occur when the film cracks and brake fluid from the master cylinder seeps into the electrical side of the switch.

Ford has already recalled more than 1 million vehicles in two separate recalls to replace the switch.

The first recall was in May 1999, affecting 279,000 Crown Victorias, Grand Marquises and Town Cars for model years 1992 and 1993. The second, issued in January 2005, affected 792,000 vehicles, including model year 2001 F-Series SuperCrews and 2000 Expeditions, Navigators and F-150 pickups.

But a Ford document obtained by CNN shows the same or similar switch was installed in a total of 16 million vehicles, far beyond what was recalled. Those vehicles include:
  • Mark VII/VIII from 1994-1998
  • Taurus/Sable and Taurus SHO 2.3 L 1993-1995
  • Econoline 1992-2003
  • F-Series 1993-2003
  • Windstar 1994-2003
  • Explorer without IVD 1995-2003
  • Explorer Sport/Sport Trac 2002-2003
  • Expedition 1997-2003
  • Ranger 1995-2003
In March, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an expanded investigation into more than 3.7 million of the vehicles.

NHTSA says it has received 559 complaints of spontaneous fires, 253 of them in unrecalled models, and its latest investigation includes the 1995 model years of the F-150, Expedition and Lincoln Navigator vehicles.

Ford says it has initiated its own investigation and is cooperating with the NHTSA probe.

“We have identified specific populations of vehicles in which the speed-control deactivation switches have had increasing rates of failures and fires,” said Ford spokeswoman Kristen Kinley in a written response to questions submitted by CNN.

“When we have seen the fire reports increasing, we have recalled those vehicles and replaced those switches. Ford has used the basic switch design in a large number of vehicles and the risk of fire related to the switch is much different in those certain populations that we have recalled.”

She added, “It is important to understand that all speed control systems are not identical in Ford vehicles. ... In those populations with an increasing fire report rate, we stopped using the switch through the recall process. ... The switch has performed well in many models for many years.”

In another statement to CNN, Kinley said “we have been asked why we have not expanded the recall. The last thing we want to do is make an important safety decision on incorrect or incomplete information.”

Kinley also said, “We have not determined at this time that there is a defect with the switch, but for reasons we still do not understand the switch is failing ... and we are trying to understand why.”

Ford no longer uses switch

But, in a recall notice to owners of 2000 F-150s, Expeditions, Navigators and 2001 F-150 SuperCrews, the company seemed less equivocal about the switch. The “switch may overheat, smoke or burn which could result in an underhood fire,” it said. “This condition may occur either when the vehicle is parked or when it is being operated, even if the speed control is not in use.”

The company stopped using the switch altogether as of the 2004 year model, and is now using a new design.

Meanwhile, the Oyola-Hernandez family has hired a lawyer to reach a financial settlement with Ford but have not filed a lawsuit against the company.

The company says it has not yet investigated their auto insurance claim, but notes that the insurance industry reports about 100,000 noncollision fires per year involving nearly all makes and models sold.

“Simply because we have allegations of fire doesn’t mean they are necessarily linked to the speed-control deactivation switch,” Kinley said.

The charred remains of their house were recently demolished. But, the family has not been able to rebuild.

After the fire, they moved in with Hernandez’s mother, who lives nearby. Since then, after reinstating their home insurance, they have moved into a rented house. Their insurance company sent them $120,000 but rebuilding their home is estimated to cost $185,000. They are hoping Ford will reimburse them for the difference.

They are, once again, a one-car family. This one also is a Ford—a 1997 Explorer—and it, too, contains the suspect switch, which has not been recalled. The family parks it on the street instead of the garage.

(Yes, I know the switch in question was no longer installed in vehicles after the 2003 model year. And that my vehicle isn't among the models listed as affected anyway. We at World HQ never let the facts get in the way of a lame attempt at humor.)

Busy weekend ahead

Planning to attend two big events this weekend.

Summer Brewfest logo, swiped from Brewers Guild web siteSaturday we'll be spending the day at the Summer Brewfest in Kenmore's St. Edward State Park. 100+ microbrews along with crafts and live music and such, can't go wrong.

Right? :-)

I've been to this festival a couple times before and usually ended up sunburned and drunk, the whole yin/yang thing going on. Katharine's playing the part of Designated Driver (they offer a discounted admission ticket to the DDs, along with free soft drinks), so we can stay as sober or get as wobbly as we want. Should be a blast even if there is a bit of rain here and there.

Edmonds Arts Festival Foundation logoSunday brings the Edmonds Arts Festival. I'm a complete whore for arts festivals but I'd never heard about this one until, oh, two weeks or so ago, when I stumbled over it somewhere online. Anyway, Edmonds is a nice little town on Puget Sound and one of my favorite waterfront restaurants, Rory's, is located there, right by the Edmonds-to-Kingston ferry terminal. The Edmonds Arts Festival is a few blocks east on Main Street, right in the heart of the small quaint downtown area. I'm pleased also to see that Jim Nilsen's photography will be featured on the festival's branded apparel items and that he's been accepted into the Edmonds festival's juried gallery; I really like his photography, bought a couple of his prints last year at the Utah Arts Festival.

And Sunday's weather is supposed to be nicer, at least according to the radio newswonks. Wunderground's forecast shows "chance of rain" for the next several days, but the local weatherweenies are saying the chance of rain should fade through Saturday with Sunday looking decent all day.

So maybe Monday I'll come to work emitting visible hangover rays while my skin peels off in sheets.

Must add sunblock to my grocery list....

What if they had used fake vampire fangs?

Seattle Times: Appeals court rules against dentist
By Maureen O'Hagan
Seattle Times staff reporter

It began innocently enough, with a dentist's joke about a potbellied pig named Walter.

Then came a set of fake boar's tusks—placed in a patient's mouth—and things got really out of hand.

Now, six years, two lawsuits and millions of dollars later, the battle of the boar's tusks is still simmering.

On Monday, the state Court of Appeals ruled that an insurance company had no obligation to defend dentist Robert Woo, whose idea of a practical joke was to photograph the set of teeth in the mouth of the anesthetized patient. The ruling overturns a jury verdict of $750,000—in favor of the dentist—but leaves intact a $250,000 settlement with the patient.

Confused? Let's start at the beginning.[…]

It's a Bigger Problem Than You Think.

One of the commercials I hear pretty regularly on KOMO 1000 on my drive to work is a notice of a medical study for a drug under investigation for treatment of Restless Legs Syndrome.

The advert's done in suitably cheesy style with sound bites from alleged sufferers of this condition, how it's difficult to relax and how the one guy ends up pacing more than half the night! and the other old lady can't get to sleep because she constantly moves her legs.

So I was about to write the whole thing off as a bit... well, nuts. And not a bit nuts but completely batshit insane. And then I fired up a Google search on restless legs syndrome (and I think it really should be restless-leg syndrome, but nevermind) and found out that

All of which seems like quite a bit of information developed about what I had assumed was some drugmaker's effort to create a new Condition of the Moment to Require a New Drug Therapy That Only We Provide.

I've experienced a bit of discomfort in my legs a few times in my life. I wouldn't have described it in the manner above, necessarily, but I tend to move my legs (well, my feet anyway) a lot when I'm in bed anyway. I don't lose sleep over it; in fact, I find if I can't move my legs or feet at least a bit, that's when I don't sleep well.

Maybe I need a study for Restful Legs Syndrome. Surely there must be a drug for that?

Of course if those sensations are real, I say screw the lifestyle changes and self-directed activities. Bring on the drugs, and not just the GRAS or proven-therapeutic ones. Hand me my bowl and lighter, man.

Or have I said too much?

Big earthquake off coast of northern California

Just saw on the beginning national news coverage; I've excerpted their story below.

Quake off northern CA coast
Map of quake's location
Click image for larger view
U.S. Geological Survey event-information page, with maps and technical data. Quake Hits Off California Coast

(CBS/AP) The U.S. Geological Service is reporting that a major earthquake has struck off the coast of northern California.

According to the USGS, the Tuesday night quake measured 7.0 on the Richter scale and was located about 90 miles west-southwest of Crescent City, Calif., and about 300 miles northwest of Sacramento.

There is no word yet on any injuries or property damage.

A tsunami warning is in effect from the California-Mexico border north to Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

CBS News Station KCBS reports residents of Crescent City are being evacuated from low-lying areas.

Stuart Weinstein, a geologist at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, says that if the quake does cause a tsunami, it is not expected to be as strong as the Dec. 26 killer wave in the Indian Ocean.

"We're not expecting anything huge from an event this size," adds Charles McCreery, the center's director.

Scientists were waiting for signs of any powerful ocean waves to reach tide gauges placed up and down the West Coast, Weinstein said.

"We're monitoring our sea gauges pretty carefully," he said.

Young boy dies on Epcot attraction

I hadn't planned to post about this but I see I'm getting a lot of hits on searches for the story, mainly because people are mistakenly including Disneyland in their search queries. But Epcot, dear friends, is at Walt Disney World. In Florida, not California.

On, then, to the story. Boy, 4, dies after riding Epcot attraction
Autopsy showed no trauma, more tests planned

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida (AP)—A 4-year-old boy died after a spin on a Walt Disney World spaceship ride so intense that it has motion sickness bags and several riders have been treated for chest pain.

Daudi Bamuwamye lost consciousness Monday aboard "Mission: Space," which spins riders in a giant centrifuge that subjects them to twice the normal force of gravity. The boy's mother carried him off the ride, and paramedics and a theme park worker tried to revive him, but he died at a hospital.

An autopsy Tuesday showed no trauma so further tests will be conducted and a cause of death may not be known for several weeks, said Sheri Blanton, a spokeswoman for the Medical Examiner's Office in Orlando.

The sheriff's office said the boy met the minimum 44-inch height requirement for the ride.

The $100 million ride, one of Disney World's most popular, was closed after the death but reopened Tuesday after company engineers concluded that it was operating normally.

Disney officials said in a statement that they were "providing support to the family and are doing everything we can to help them during this difficult time." No changes were made to the ride or in who is permitted to ride it.

"We believe the ride is safe in its current configuration," Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Polak said.

More than 8.6 million visitors have gone on "Mission: Space" since 2003, Polak said.

All posts about injuries or deaths in Disney theme parks (most recent listed first):

A hint: Don’t drive over bottles of water

Particularly not when you’re parked next to police cars, and absolutely not when the officers are standing by their parked cars.

That’s when you spray the officers with water from the bottle over which you drove as you’re backing out of your parking space at Starbucks Mill Creek Town Center, and you all freeze in stunned disbelief while you ponder

  • whether to drive away at high speed to avoid being seen laughing, if civilian
  • whether to draw your weapon and blaze away at the impertinent civilian, if police

I’m sure blazing away didn’t actually cross his mind, but I know the high-speed driving did cross mine.

Anyway, his hand didn’t go for his holster. It went for his face, to wipe the drops of water away, and he burst into laughter.

Or it could have been a heart attack or stroke, I guess. By then I was driving away.

Maybe I should just stop drinking coffee I don’t make at home, or find another coffeehouse between home and work.

That Starbucks is bad.

They were right!

20:03, we just drove onto the ferry (the M/V Spokane again, no less) and we’re due to get under way in a couple minutes.

This is the 20:00 sailing and it’s wall-to-wall cars, no wonder they’re a few minutes late. I’ll have to look up the vessel info when I get home to find out how many cars fit on this thing.

UPDATE 22:03: Maximum of 188 vehicles fit aboard this vessel, according to the link I added above. Yowza.

Nearing Sol Duc Falls

I’m using my digital camera more than my phone now, so I’ll post any good photos via my Flickr account sometime in the next few days.

It’s overcast but the sun is peeking out now and then. I didn’t bring a sweatshirt or any other outerwear, of course—I really am that stupid—so we may not do the falls hike today after all. We drove a bit past the Sol Duc turnoff and saw some smouldering brush and trees, got some photos I hope will turn out as they do controlled burns (yeah, right) to clear brush away from recently logged privately owned land in the area.

The Park Service and private lands mix really closely along parts of this road; hard to tell what land belongs to which entity moment by moment. But the pall of smoke is just unreal.

And I’m amazed this phone can do a message this long... hope this goes through!

Driving to the Olympic Peninsula today

Gonna take the new vehicle over to Olympic National Park today. Taking the camera too so I can try to get some shots of whatever catches my attention.

The weather’s a bit sucky, of course. I was hoping it’d be sunny all day but it’s supposed to cloud over at midday and remain overcast the rest of the day, so I’ll have the indirect light to fiddle around all day.

Anyway, where I have cell service that allows SMS and email, I’ll send a few camera-phone shots and brief text updates on what’s going on.

Have a good Sunday. :-)