Saturday, March 01, 2003

"Bad Luck Band" is an interesting look at the Rhode Island fire. Via Access Radio.

My How Times Have Changed

News of my Alma Mater:

My sister had mentioned this shortly after it happened. She hears about things like this, and local opinions on same, courtesy of working in a local coffee shop. I'd forgotten all about it until I saw Misha's mention of it. Guess I didn't think it was that big a deal, but I can't imagine it happening back in my day. Not on the bus anyway.

Condi for President

I agree with Acidman. Condi Rice would be a fine president. Rather than a deviation from that possibility, I suspect exploring the idea of the California governorship is calculated at making the presidency a more likely eventuality.

Friday, February 28, 2003


Currently getting the office ready for a get-together of former colleagues tomorrow. We used to do VB support and automatically get training for new releases. Since that's no longer the case, we're banging on VB.NET to get exposure to it and learn how it's different in a helpful peer environment. Dotnet is definitely a big departure.

Ginger or Mary Ann?

In reference to my previous post on this topic, one of my friends pointed out that I forgot "Betty or Veronica?" Of course, Betty all the way.

She also suggested Wilma versus Betty and Lucy versus Ethel, which is certainly different. On those I don't know what to say.

Ginger or Mary Ann?

The question has long been "Ginger or Mary Ann?" My answer is Mary Ann, no contest. But is there a newer equivalent?

How about Lana or Chloe? Definitely Chloe.

Hoshi or T'Pol? Hoshi for sure.

Buffy or Willow? This one time, at band camp, I said Willow.

Dare I say Rory or Lorelei? Dare I answer "both"? Heh.

Are there any others I'm overlooking? Without going outside the same shows or films, that is.


I was inspired by my previous post to say more about my German professor, which will involve comparison to others generally and encourage digression.

He was such a mellow guy, very easy. I always felt bad I didn't put more effort into his classes, where I got A and B grades without trying. Then again, it would have taken a lot of independent effort to learn much more. Anyway, he stands out in my mind for two reasons:

In a campus populated overwhelmingly with leftist instructors - liberal at a minimum - he was one of the few who was conservative. Refreshing. I did have one accounting professor who also qualified, being active in local republican circles and a friend of my uncle's. Eventually he was sleazed out of the management science department by internal politics as practiced by a couple of other accounting professors, one of whom, wrenchingly liberal, I suffered through having for five courses and as my advisor. But my accounting professors are a whole other topic. Not sure why this seems so immediate to me, having been out of school for 15 years.

The other thing, back to my German prof, is I always imagined him the mild-mannered guy who had a secret life as a government agent, especially when he lived in Germany. Can you say "overactive imagination"? That's me. Speaking of his having been in Germany, one time a student asked if he'd learned German fluently in school. He said "hell no, I went to Germany for that."

To this day it amuses me, picturing him as a spy, yet it's an easy thing to imagine of the guy.

Thursday, February 27, 2003


So there's this new concept, audioblogging, where you can phone in commentary. This follows closely on the heels of video blogging. I haven't seen actual examples of either, but since I hate hearing my own voice and lack photogenic quality, I can't imagine doing either. I usually have to record my outgoing answering machine or voicemail messages several times before I'm happy. Actually, if I turn on my best public speaking voice and don't have a sore throat or mucky sinuses, it's not as bad as I make it sound.

Sometimes I even have fun with voicemail greetings. One time, many years ago, I freaked people out by composing an answering machine greeting in German. I had to look up about half the words, and kept it fairly simple. All I remember is it ended with "nach der klang," which was as close as I could come to "after the beep." Google translates it as "after sounded." People would call me and immediately hang up, thinking they'd accidentally dialed another country. Heh. Probably confused a few telemarketers.

Not that I really speak German. I had four semesters of it in college, with an easygoing, pleasant professor who didn't really lead us to learn much. It doesn't sound or look alien to me when I hear or see it. If I see a word, I can generally figure out more or less how to say it, but we never learned much vocabulary, and most of that I've long forgotten. I used to debate with fellow students whether it was better to learn each word and how to pronounce it, or to learn the general rules of how letter combinations sounded. I preferred the latter.

Nor do I really speak French, and that goes even more so as we're reaching to the dark recesses of 7th through 9th grades for my other foreign language exposure. The same applies, only less so. It's simply less alien than would be the case, and the signs seem natural when I am in Quebec. In the case of both languages, I found learning something of them added to my grasp of English, much the way studying Latin is supposed to do. That alone makes it worthwhile.

I had an awful thought though. Realizing which two languages they were, I said to myself "I speak Weaseltongue!" Horrors.

This is what I mean by verbosity. I've digressed merrily without beginning to approach my point yet. Still with me?

While I drive, shower, or even have more useful things to do, I am often taken by internal conversations and flights of fancy. There I am, having my best ideas, generating the coolest plans, composing fascinating text, all in my head when I am in no position to externalize the inspiration for posterity. It all bursts like an overwrought soap bubble when reality steps back into focus. Oh sure, sometimes I remember later what I had been thinking. It's just never as smooth or eloquent.

So what we need is direct brain to blog transmission. Mental blogging. Mentablogging. Hey, it'd be faster than typing. I am blogger of borg, you will be updated.

Nope, I removed all the funky characters, blogger returned them. So I've restored the template prior to the changes. All I did was add a blurb saying feel free to e-mail me, but you may be published and attributed unless you request otherwise, and add a few line breaks to enhance appearances. Sheesh.

Well that was fun. The updated template was sprinkled with  characters, so I edited them out and am testing the change to see if anything else was mangled. Argh.

Troubleshooting modems is enough to drive anyone crazy. I've freshly reinstalled an HP Pavilion (I love HP printers but I would never buy an HP computer and cringe when I have to deal with them), but have had no success making it see the modem. You don't think HP would have straightforward information and drivers? Nope. Nothing they have works, and nothing I found online offhand works. Every indication is that it's either a Conexant or a generic who knows what. Might even be that the modem is bad.

I finally resorted to taking the modem out. This is easier said than done, because Pavilion is the computer design from hell. It should never be necessary to remove the power supply to get at the PCI slots. And wait! There are only PCI slots, and the never used, possible replacement modem I have kicking around is ISA. Oops. But hey, since I have the modem I can now find out the brand, get some numbers off of it, Google them, find the real driver.

If you look at the modem hard enough you find it's made by SMART Modular Technologies. Cool, we have a maker! Their web site is down. Are they still in business? Who knows. It's a 90094-1 or 90094-2, depending where on the modem you look. Excellent; there's exactly one driver for a 90094 apparent out there at the usual location. In fairness, I haven't put the modem back and tried that one yet.

Wanting to be armed with as many possibilities as I could find, I kept looking. It's a Lucent chipset, so let's lookup the number. Hmmmm... that's not much help. What about the Lucent site through that link to their driver page? Oops, that goes to the Agere site, since Lucent has a new name. Does the driver page URL for Lucent redirect to the driver page for Agere? No, silly! It redirects to the home page. But where there's search capability, there's hope. Or not. Agere has never heard of the Lucent chip numbered 1690A-T-BC. Period. Guess they're escaping more than their old name.

So I'm off, after posting this little rant, which should have the added benefit of forcing my template to update, to try the one and only remaining possible driver I have found. If that doesn't work, it's time for a new modem. In my experience, most computer parts just work; no problem, done. Modems seem to have an even chance of not working, or at least counteracting my blood pressure meds in the process of persuading them to cooperate.

Fred Rogers has died:

I loved Mister Rogers when I was little.
Russian Mail Order Spam

Have you ever noticed spam comes in waves? For a while there's a particularly large amount of Norton System Works sales pitches* and then there's a large amount of grants available. Do they think people don't notice that they're getting several of the same thing per day, often at the same time, and not take that as an obvious sign of illegitimacy? Granted, I have several e-mail addresses, but we're talking multiple e-mails with the same text to the same e-mail account at the same time. What a waste.

So the latest thing seems to be for where they offer mail order Russian brides, whom they insist are much better than American women. How do they know I'm single or might want a bride in the first place? I know, it's a numbers game; nobody's invaded my demographic privacy. It's the same deal as when my female friends are amused by offers of penis enlargement. Ironically, I just recently saw the video of Birthday Girl. Can I have a Russian mail order bride just like her? Please? Except with no scams attached. Heh.

* Why in the world would Symantec ever want their product marketed by or associated with spammers? Norton Antivirus is great, but after being pummeled by spam for Norton products I am far less kindly disposed toward the company or inclined to buy their stuff.


I was just reading and some of the associated comments. As people observed, Puerto Rico is a "colony" by most definitions people would apply. But that's not what I am here to say.

Just the other day I was thinking about how lousy my history education had been. In high school I had U.S. history and nothing else; with lousy teachers at that. I don't think we covered anything more recent than WW2, unless it was connected with labor union history, and whatever came after the Civil War was a blur crammed in as an afterthought. In college I had U.S. history to 1865 with a superlative professor. He taught Canadian history, in which a minor was offered. I actually considered taking that in honor of my Canadian roots, but ultimately I copped out. For my second required history course I took U.S. history since 1865, with a professor who hated me, was obsessed with Hawaiian history to the point of limiting coverage of anything else, but at least was a compelling lecturer.

If I covered any ancient or broader world history, it was prior to high school or entirely incidental. It's a good thing I like to read and am curious, or I'd be entirely without clue. I was one of those kids who'd have read the encyclopedia if we'd owned one. I can only imagine the fun I'd have had with the Internet had it existed in my youth.

Despite my lack of education, I enjoy lurking on the Soc.History.What-If newsgroup. Alternate history scenarios strike me as a great way to teach what actual history was. Also despite my lack, I knew or had a good idea of the points raised in Megan's post. Go me!
Those Silly Quizzes

I hate chain letters of the traditional "send this to your 100 closest friends and you'll have amazing good fortune" variety. However, I'm hooked on the silly quizzes of the "what kind of [fill in the blank] are you" variety. I was thinking last night that I would post a link to "what number are you" when I saw Glenn Reynolds had instalanched a "how evil are you" site.

So just for fun and for the record, here are a few recent quizzes I've seen and my results:

How evil are you?
I am Neutral: "Moderation towards all things! Although you do have inner demons, you can more than control them, and often find yourself in the position of the peacemaker, balancing things out."

What number are you?
"I am infinity. You may worship me, but from afar."

What flavor are you?

I am beef:
"I taste like beef. I'm probably made of beef. You are what you eat, they say, and if the title didn't mean something else, I would be a beefeater. I think red meat is good for you. Puts hair on your chest."

If I weren't beef, I would be acohol, oddly enough:
"I tashte like Alcohol. Heh. Heh. I taste like beer. I like beer. Buy me a beer. I'm not drunk, I can drink plenty without... What was I saying? Beer."

What element are you?

My answers were conflicted, so I took it twice, changing some answers to my alternate choices the second time. The first pass through I was Earth:
"You are are stable and practical, and sometimes thought of as stubborn. You can have trouble with non-tangible ideas."

The second pass through I was Air:
"You are are intellectual and adaptable. You are good at rationalizing things and dealing with ideas, but you can have a difficult time with emotions."

The second one makes more sense, even though I have been known to be stubborn.

There are two other quizzes from the same overall site. One is what kind of fruit are you? I am a pear:
"You are a Pear...juicy, sweet, and a tasty're a giver more than a taker, and other people's happiness is your ultimate reward..."

As I recall, the other was True Aura Color. The site seems to be acting up at the moment so I can't verify it. As I recall, my Aura was green, whatever that actually indicated. If I find the info I'll update this accordingly.

What type of poetry are you?

My result was:

A cywydd llosgyrnog; I'm one.
"A what?" Well, quite. There'd be no fun
In being understood; I
Thrive upon obliquity.
Don't comprehend or follow me,
For mystery's my ally.

My alternate result (must have been a close call) was:

I am the tanka.
The attention of others
Is unnerving, and
Since I try not to draw it,
I'm left alone. Which is good

Of course, I had never heard of either of these, but you learn something new every day.

That's it for now. I'm sure there have been more; these are just the recent ones I could easily dig up.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Pluto or Bust

Well, the Pluto/Kuiper Belt mission has been funded and will happen:

This means when I'm about 54, we'll get to see up close and personal pictures of Pluto. Very cool. Of course, I'd have expected people to be landing and even living on Mars by then. Mars will probably happen privately. That much unclaimed real estate has to worth it.

Yes, that's how it works. Change the template all you want, but nothing happens until a new post has been made. Now I know!

Very strange. I just added some initial links to my blog template, but they refuse to show up on the finished page. In edit mode, Blogger insists the changes are present. So this post is nothing more than a test to see if adding a post will force the template to change where it wouldn't otherwise.
Highway GUI

The ride home from the office inspired some commentary. Not something new, but something I'd thought about recently while driving around.

I live in eastern Massachusetts, which of course means in the shadow of the Big Dig, and in the consequences of poor planning way back when; especially being south of Boston. The Big Dig is winding its way down. Part of the idea is to manage traffic flow more closely than ever, provide drivers with information about trouble spots, and clear problems more quickly.

In conjunction with the central part of the project, centrally programmable signs have been put up in places on outlying highways. The theory is drivers can be warned of construction, traffic jams, etc. ahead of time enough to help. This is a good thing, and I can't help finding it analogous to giving the road system a better, friendlier user interface. I wonder if the engineers and planners involved ever look at it that way.

The thing that reminded me of this recent thought was one of those signs currently provides a shortcut cell number, # something, for reporting highway potholes. What a cool idea! You've seen the GUI, now here's how to contact tech support...
I run a small tech business, where we do pretty much everything. Despite having set out to do software development, we also build and repair computers, provide technical support (primarily to law firms), act as an outsourced IT department, and pretty much whatever will keep us going. My partners hold down day jobs and work on a law firm software product we expect to release this year. I wear many hats and try to keep things rolling. One of my jobs is to do the bookkeeping and taxes. This is natural, since I have an accounting degree and am the most business-oriented.

Which brings me to an observation I've made by having a foot in both worlds. Programmers will recognize the need to get in "the zone" to work most productively. Books such as Rapid Development by Steve McConnell ( talk about this concept, and the factors that promote and hinder it. I have found that I achieve a similar state doing accounting and bookkeeping work, and that it makes a similarly dramatic difference.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

This site is of some interest with respect to the tragic nightclub fire, and the whole verbal permission thing:
This is a lame, largely content-free first post for the sake of testing. I am known as verbose by some, but it's late and I am at a loss for something clever to say.

For now this blog has no particular theme; just whatever I feel like musing or commenting upon. Later it may become clear whether I can be called a thinker, a linker, or an unclassified mongrel.