Monday, December 30, 2002

In PA through Wed. Staying up all night, playing video games, losing money at poker, feeding deer, and otherwise generally goofing off. Much fun.

Friday, December 27, 2002

Off to Lord's Valley, PA to hang out with college friends for New Years. My friend is looking for fun things for us to do -- so far the options include a cement museum and a fishing lure museum.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Christmas Tree

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 23, 2002

Urgh. Somehow it has fallen to me (again!) to go pick up the $#@*!%$ Honeybaked Ham. For those not familiar, this is a cherished holiday tradition that involves standing in a long outdoor line in a suburban Maryland strip mall to retrieve a hunk of meat. I'm just bubbling over with holiday cheer about this, if you can't tell.
Stayed at work until 4:30 AM on Saturday finishing up odds and ends, then slept for a while, packed, and left town Saturday evening. Drove as far as Bristol, stayed at a hotel, then drove the rest of the 675 miles today. (Of course I had to stop at my Mom's favorite barbeque place on the way out of Nashville and load up a cooler for her!)

The sky was absolutely beautiful driving up the Shenendoah valley on I-81 -- there was bright golden sunlight coming from the west with highlighting fluffy white clouds. But to the east of the mountains you could see a solid wall of black clouds. Every once in a while the ridgeline would dip and you could see brightly colored clouds underneath it all.

I'm in DC for the next few days, then heading up to a friend's place in the boonies in Pennsylvania for New Years, then back here for a dentist appointment (fun!) and back to Nashville sometime roundabout the 6th.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Now that I actually have some time, I'm trying to decide if it's worth it to put up Christmas lights for the 2 days I have left before I head north. I like the way they look, but, man, that's a lot of untangling and stuff.

I've managed to con my 12-year-old neighbor into taking care of my cat while I'm gone. (I plan to pay her, but I think I probably could have pulled a Tom Sawyer -- she was just excited about playing with the cat!)

This is kinda cool. Yamaha has a CD burner that can use the unburned area od the CD to burn text into the data side of the disk, creating a permanent label.

On an unrelated technology note, it seems that DirectTV DSL (née Telocity) is being closed down by Hughes. (My 30-day warning arrived via e-mail at 4:30 this morning.) I originally switched to Telocity after Comcast@Home (née Intermedia@Home, aka Excite@Home) gave me crap about running a web server on my connection. So it looks like I'm back in the market for a provider. At this point, I think the top contenders are SpeakEasy and Butler. The second one seems to be run by some local guy out of his garage, but then again, there's something to be said for knowing where your ISP lives. And I really like the fact that he's actually encouraging people to set up open-access WiFi access points using his service -- that's a refreshing change from network nazis who run some of the big-name providers.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

As of 4:30ish this morning, I think I'm finally done with classes for this semester! Now to deal with the other parts of my life that I've been ignoring for the last month. Including this blog.

Sunday, December 15, 2002

A sad day...

They just demolished the Capital Center, also known as the US Air Arena. It was an ugly building, and the new downtown arena in DC is in a much better location. But the Cap Center was part of growing up in Prince George's County. It is where I went to my first rock concert and where I graduated from high school. And I remember going there with my family a number of times to see "Spirit of America" pageants put on by local military units, and one time I was part of a chorus that sang the National Anthem before a hockey game.

The arena was built in the early 1970s, and I grew up along with it. It was probably of limited use with no hockey or basketball team to fill the seats. But it's still sad to see it go. They're going to build a shopping mall on the site.

Argh! My professor from hell did it again. While this exam is not as bad as the 35 hour midterm, it is still nuts. He seems to think that as long as he tells us to limit each response to three pages, we shouldn't have a problem. But the problem is that each question has 4-5 subquestions, and each subquestion could easily take up 10 pages on its own. I mean, "What factors were responsible for GM's and Chrysler's problems?" isn't exactly a 5-word answer, let alone "Compare the roles played by information systems at Chrysler and GM. How did they affect the structure of the automobile industry?" And these are just two of the four answers I'm supposed to cram into three double spaced pages. And then there are four more broad questions each with 4-5 subquestions where this one came from.

And I haven't even started the final for the database class.

Oy. I need a beer.

Saturday, December 14, 2002

Update on the Harry Potter clue auction. The Leaky Cauldron raised enough for a $24,000 bid, but was beat out by an anonymous American bidder who pledged $45,231. The good news is that between the winning bid and the $24,000 the Leaky Cauldron raised, somewhere north of $60,000 is going to buy books for kids in Eritrea. But the elusive Potter clue is still secret...
Sorry I've been so quiet lately. Lots going on at work, and all sorts of end-of-the-semester madness with my classes. Two finals in the next few days, then I'm done. (And can start thinking about all the other stuff I've been ignoring lately...)

Sunday, December 08, 2002

Charity. Fans. Book Five. Get a Clue. Find out about Harry Potter's Next Book and support charity! The Leaky Cauldron, a Harry Potter fan blog, is raising money to bid on J.K. Rowling's 93-word clue to what's going to be in the next Harry Potter book. If successful, the clue will be posted on the site for all to see -- their worst fear is that some rich collector will score the note and keep it secret.

Sotheby's has estimated that the note may go for as much as $9,400 in the auction next week. It's all for a good cause, though. The proceeds are being donated to Book Aid International, a charity that distributes books in third-world countries. And Leaky, Inc.(as the newly-incorporated Blog is now known) will donate the proceeds of its drive to charity whether or not it is successful in getting the note.

Saturday, December 07, 2002

Some guy tried to FedEx a letter to Santa, and according to the company's online tracking system they delivered it to a ski resort in Colorado. With the big day coming up in less than three weeks, you wouldn't think the sleighmeister would have time for a snowboarding jaunt in the Rockies! Shouldn't he be making a list, checking it twice, and finding out who's naughty and nice? Not to mention figuring out how to get lumps of coal and sugarplums through airport security. What a slacker.

Then again, maybe he's just attending a Santa Convention.

Or he could be on the lam because of his criminal record.

We had a charity auction at work today, and I picked up a bunch of books including Dreamland, The Map That Changed the World, Gumbo, The Ford Century and German for Travelers. Not that I need any more reading material -- I already have books stacked on every available surface. In fact, I really need to get more shelves or I'm going to run out of living space.

I also had the winning bid on a Mr. Coffee Espresso machine. (I can sense the coffee purists turning up their noses, but I figured for $8.50, what the heck?) Tried making my first shot tonight, but I still have some kinks to work out in my technique. While looking for tips, I came across this site. I had no idea you could actually buy a $1800 coffee machine!

This weekend is all about finishing up a paper and getting ready for two finals. Plus laundry and grocery shopping. All sorts of fun.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

The tree in front of my house was coated with ice this morning. It was beautiful, but since I am unfortunately lacking in the digital camera department, you don't get to see it. I've got to do something about that.
As of 1:00 this morning, I have consumed 34 of the requisite 200 beers to get my own plate on the wall at The Flying Saucer. According to their patented BrewTron computer, if I continue my current rate of alcoholic beverage consumption my name should go up in tableware sometime roudabout 2013. Luckily the bar is strategically located not too far from my office, and has comfy couches. We've tossed around the idea of setting up a wireless network and actually conducting business over there.

I think I'm finally telling the folks from the out-of-town job to take my name out of the running. They wanted me to give them references, and ironically one of the folks I called to set up as a reference ended up helping convince me to turn down the job.It just didn't seem like a good fit for me career-wise or company-wise. I'm still not sure I won't up and move out of Nashville one of these days, but I'm staying put for the moment.

The rest of Thanksgiving weekend was fun. We went and got a load of firewood for the newly-reconstituted fireplace, and then my brothers and I spent the afternoon playing lumberjack and splitting it with a sledgehammer and wedge. Amazingly there was only one incident involving blood.

The Salvadoran restaurant turned out to be really good -- it's one of those little holes in the wall you might not think to try.

My parents gave me a framed 1930s Fortune magazine cover as a belated birthday present -- which is very cool. I've been into these ever since I came across one in an antique shop on vacation. The depression hit soon after the magazine lauched in the late 20's, and they were able to hire first rate artists for dirt cheap. So they published all sorts of nifty art-deco design. Here are some examples, although I don't think they're the best ones.

Got a call from a recording of the "Rockin' DJ" at work, who it seems was trying to pitch some sort of voice mail service. I hit the button like I was going to order, and then gave the telemarketer a hard time until she disconnected me. Then I used the web to track down the company in Texas and file a complaint with their local better business bureau. I know these little crusades I go on every so often are futile, but they help break up the monotony.

Sunday, December 01, 2002

You should read this Thanksgiving post by Media Minded about why, despite its blemishes, America is still a great place to live.

Thursday, November 28, 2002

I'm at my parents' in DC for the next two days, and my two brothers are also visiting. Today we did all the the typical Thanksgiving things. We also -- for the first time in at least a quarter century -- lit a fire in the fireplace. The damper broke sometime roundabout 1974, and they just now got around to having it fixed. So we got to play with fire 'n stuff.

The other strange thing is that my mother has continued her longterm slow-motion campaign to convert my old room into a guest room. This started out slow, but has picked up momentum and has proceeded to the point where it no longer feels like my room. (I think this happened when I got home and realized that my old penants had been removed from the wall, flowered wallpaper had been applied, and an antique china shelf had taken up residence in the corner. My middle brother's room has become my mom's office, and I think my dad is circling like a vulture over my youngest brother's bedroom when he officially moves out. (He's graduating from college in May, but is pretty vague about his plans after that. They may involve going to seminary and/or doing some sort of service program for a couple of years. Earlier he was talking about moving to Salt Lake City. )

Tomorrow we're having a very belated celebration of my birthday and my brother's birthday by going out to a nearby Salvadoran restaurant that my parents apparently begun frequenting. This should be interesting -- I'm not sure I've ever had Salvadoran food before.

Unfortunately I have to go back to Nashville on Saturday night. I used a frequent flyer award to come up for free, but the tradeoff was that I had to travel today and Saturday to avoid the holiday blackout periods. Oh, well. I think I'm going to drive up and take more time around Christmas.

I should be working on schoolwork, but I figure I'm exempt since this is a holiday. Am going to try to be good about this tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Seen on the back of a new keyboard:
WARNING: Feeling the discomfort, Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI) caused by the long periods had habits & repetitive motion at improper working environment. Please cease to use consult your professional immediately.

Monday, November 25, 2002

Q: What skitters and scurries and makes strange noises in the early morning?

I don't know either, but I think it may be living in my attic.

Saturday, November 23, 2002

Living, on a Jet Plane

Max Power Aerospace, a company in nearby Smyrna, TN is apparently selling "Airplane Homes." They are made of out decommissioned Boeing 727 aircraft mounted on pedestals, and can even be mounted to swivel in the wind!

The best part? You can bid on one on E-Bay.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Profiles in Frustration

Today has been a very strange day. First I got roped into a last-minute project that would have waited until tomorrow if I worked in a democracy. Unfortunately, it seems I actually work in a dictatorship, and the work had to be done tonight.

When I finally escaped, I headed over to a party a work friend was throwing for some of the college kids I spoke to last week. (They followed me back and are visiting our office this week.) Hung out there for a while, then headed home. I managed to scatter the contents of my CD case all over the interior of my truck while I was driving, so I was a bit preoccupied when I pulled up in front of my house. Which is my excuse for why I locked the truck up with my keys sitting on the front seat.

I had another key to the truck in the house, but it was utterly useless since the house key was in the truck. So I started evaluating my options. I thought about knocking on my neighbors' door. But since it was around midnight and they have small kids, I felt really bad doing this, especially since I'm not 100% positive they have a current key.

So then it occurred to me that I keep a spare house key in my desk drawer at work just for situations like this. SoI grabbed a cab and headed across town to my office. When I got there, I ran in, figuring that I could just grab the key and be out in two minutes. But I had forgotten one thing: the door to my office was also locked, and the key was... in my truck. So then I had to tear around the building to find a cleaning person with the right key to get into my office, grab the key. That probably ate up ten minutes or so on the taxi meter.

Then I headed back across town, opened up the house, found my spare truck key, and retrieved my key ring. Total cost: 45 minutes and $15. Better than the hour and $60 I would have spent calling a locksmith, but still not exactly what you'd call a good use of time or money.

And now I'm compounding the damage by blogging about this instead of working on my class project that's due tomorrow...

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Hometown in the news

My hometown got a big story in the Washington Post because of its decision set up a corn silo to support residential corn stoves. You heard that right: corn stoves! Apparently corn makes a great environmentally-friendly heating fuel.

Takoma Park, a town of about 17,000 people on the outskirts of Washington, DC, has also been a nuclear free zone since the mid-1980s. And unlike Nashville, they've had a well-run mandatory recycling program for years. (Don't get me started on Nashville's expensive new program that only picks up once a month, requires the use of minivan-sized 100 gallon drums, and doesn't even take glass or plastic!)

Monday, November 18, 2002

I have heat now, although I'm not convinced it's not going to cut out again the next time it rains. But at least it's toasty inside.

Margaret over at MightyGirl linked to, a highly (but subtly) satirical website making fund of various racist attitudes. Reading the letters received by the site, it seems that about half of the people get the joke, and the other half are utterly outraged by the whole thing. I was curious as to who the prankster was, so I did a whois on the domain and found out that it was owned by one "Jonah Peretti." I then did a google search on this name and hit paydirt. It seems that Peretti is the guy who tried to order customized sneakers from Nike with the word "sweatshop" stitched on them, and set up a "rejection hotline" in New York City as an experiment in spreading news by word of mouth.

He's was talking about the rejection line phenomenon when he made the following statement in this article:

People think of media as this monolithic thing that chooses to cover one thing or another. But really, it's people who make media, and they hear stories from friends of theirs. Social networks tie into the way mass media works.

The subplot is I'm trying to demonstrate that the Internet hasn't become totally corporate. Individuals with very little money can still reach millions of people.

This is along the lines of the point I was trying to get at with my little "media" diatribe a few months back (here and here).

(Argh! In looking for those last two links, I discovered that Blogger had shredded all but two weeks worth of my archive! One of these days I gotta move this sucker off to a better publishing system. All the cool kids seems to be using Movable Type these days, so maybe that's the way to go.)

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Update: The repair guy they sent this time isn't exactly what you'd call "articulate." He just wandered through my living room and said something along the lines of "ahbeleete module gwetijh ahnf." I just nodded -- it sounded like furnace-fixin talk to me...
Cold house update: Gas logs in fireplace have provided some heat, and repair guy is now poking around in the furnace. Am temporarily holding off mailing box of spiders to landlord.
It's very cold in my house. Am comtemplating torturous deaths for my landlord.
Random Snippets

The small college town where I just spent the week had a number of cable access channels -- including two for local high schools, one for the college, one for the city, one for the county, etc. One was apparently the "Error reading drive A" channel. This error message on screen for the entire week. I watched it for a while, figuring that something had to happen eventually. I probably doubled their audience.

I was apparently outside of the coverage area for both my pager and my cell phone. Which was great until my office fedexed me a replacement phone on Wednesday. So much for escaping the leash.

Took an unplanned side trip to the quilt museum in Paducah, Ky. Which I have to say was pretty incredible, despite what you might think. Quilting is apparently big business there -- not only do they have the museum, but they have quilting magazines, quilting suppliers, and an internationally-known quilting show. Also got to see the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers, and got a quick look at the nifty historical murals on the flood walls along the river.

Got home to find my heat broken again, for the third time this fall. My landlord is not my favorite person right now.

It's cold and rainy. The guy at the little health food market seemed amazed that I had left the house -- apparently he heard a rumor of a possible snowflake this weekend. In Tennessee, it's customary to hole up for a week whenever someone uses the "S" word. Once again, I'm just not fitting in...

An old friend from high school pointed out this great site.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Ugh. 8:00 AM classes were bad enough in college. And back then I could always stagger in at 8:05 and settle in the back with an emergency coffee ration!

Now they're expecting me to get up and talk coherently to dozens of students at that hour. It's inhuman, I tell ya!

Monday, November 11, 2002

People keep googling me looking for "pictures of kumquats." Here.

Now leave me alone, already!

Sunday, November 10, 2002

I confess to getting sucked into the Harry Potter books after constant harassment by a friend. But in Harry Potter Pampered jock, patsy, fraud, Chris Suellentrop debunks the cult of Potter, claiming that the young wizard is just another quidditch jock skating by on his parents' money and reputation. hehe.

The most amusing thing is how seriously some of the people commenting on the article are taking it.

Pulled an all-nighter on Friday fighting with a brand new $20,000+ Dell Linux server that kept freezing up. It has now gone 22 hours under load without keeling over, so hopefully I'm done with the danged thing. On the other hand, the $1000 Linux server sitting under my desk hasn't gone down since I installed it in July. The IT gods can be a fickle bunch.

I'm going to be out of town this coming week -- I've been recruited to speak to college students about my job 'n stuff. Should be an interesting change, but it's also a bit intimidating. (Like all of a sudden I'm some sort of role model or something!)

Right now I'm busy straightening up the house -- don't want the catsitter to know what a slob I really am...

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

In election news from Tennessee, it looks like we're going to have a lottery and a democratic governor. (But a Tennessee democrat isn't that different from a Republican anywhere else.) Lamar Alexandar won Fred Thompson's old senate seat, which was vacant after Fred quit to pursue an acting gig on Law and Order.

A constitutional amendment to repeal a $50 limit on fines imposed by the government without a jury trial did not pass despite receiving a majority of votes cast. The limit was written into the state constitution in 1796, when $50 was a much bigger deal. I waffled on this a bit, but eventually decided that slumlords and other scum should have to pay a meaningful fine if they violate city ordinances.

In local Nashville news, term limits were once again upheld for the Metro council. (In most cases, I think term limits are a bad idea. They just reduce the number of choices available to voters and lead to a lot of lame duck candidates who don't care what the public thinks anymore. If you don't like what a politician is doing, it's your right to vote them out. You don't need a term limit for this.)

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

I'm stuck at work working on programming for a project that has to be done by tomorrow. To test it, I have to fire the scripts up and let them run for a few minutes before I can tell if they're doing what I want.

Problem is, I have no attention span, so I keep firing them up and then going off and reading blogs, writing e-mails, staring aimlessly into space, etc. Then when I make it back to the real work, I've forgotten exactly what I was trying to test in the first place. This has happened repeatedly tonight. Urk. Think I need to go home.

Sunday, November 03, 2002

Well, I just turned 27. So far I've celebrated by, um, working on a paper for my database class. The fun never stops, I tell ya.

Friday, November 01, 2002

This is actually from yesterday, but I'm in the mood to rant a bit, so... It appears that the nut jobs found out a few kids were actually having FUN in school, so they got right to work making sure that sort of silliness would never happen again. See Schools no longer embrace holiday from yesterday's Tennessean. I have many fond memories of dressing up and going to school in sometimes horribly uncomfortbale costumes that my parents spent hours on. I remember one year my brother wanted to be an ear of corn, so my parents put together the costume complete with a ski cap with tassles hanging out of the top. (I think that's still around somewhere at home.) Why are we trying to take away these sorts of memories from our kids? I find the fact that people call Halloween a pagan holiday to be especially laughable. A number of our modern Christmas traditions are rooted in pagan solstice rituals, but I bet these folks have no problem whatsoever with having a Christmas tree in their house. Cultures have always mixed and melded, and the meaning one culture places on a celebration may be totally different from another. In the case of Halloween in 20th century America, we basically have a secular celebration that's mainly about dressing up, scaring people, carving pumpkins, and getting sick on tons of candy. To attach any deeper meaning to it is just plain nuts. I really hope this is just a Tennessee thing and not a nationwide trend...

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Couldn't find my good pumpkin caring knife, so my jack-o-lantern looks like it got hacked by some sort of ghoul. Then again, I guess that's kind of the point.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Back in Nashville now. The interview with "Company X" went ok, I think, but I really don't know if the job is a good fit for me. Seemed like the place wasn't necesarily very open to new ideas, and I didn't get sense that there was a whole lot of excitement about what they do My stress level in my current job was near an all-time high this morning, but as I went through the day I began to appreciate some of the things that we've done since I got here. I feel strongly about the way certain things in our business are going, and I wonder if these ideas might clash with the culture at Company X. On the other hand, it's in a part of the country I'd much prefer to be in. And there may be some interesting advancement and networking possibilities involved in the job. And it would be an opportunity to learn some new things. And it might pay better. I've had this little argument going on in my head ever since I walked out of the interview, and it's driving me to distraction. Which is bad since I have a midterm due tomorrow and have barely started it. Ack!

Sunday, October 27, 2002

Out of town for afformentioned job interview. Visiting some friends while I'm at it. Still waffling - we'll see how I feel about this after tomorrow.

Friday, October 25, 2002

And now a tale of technological woe...

So there I am in coastal North Carolina, and I have to hop a plane and fly home to decidedly noncoastal Nashville in about 6 hours. Wanting to avoid this unpleasant reality as long as possible, I grab the bare necessities (towel, sunglasses, and, of course, cell phone) and head down to the beach. I arrive at said beach. I set down the towel. I take off the sunglasses. And I head for the water. (Those reading carefully have probably already noticed the problem here.)

I dive blissfully into the ocean, enjoying the crashing waves and salt water. I get in about chest deep when I notice a strange sensation coming from somewhere in the depths of my bathing suit. (No, not that kind of sensation, you perv!)

Always alert for sharks and other precursors to the loss of vital anatomy, I swat at it, only to realize that it is rather rectangular, and is vibrating in a rather mechanical way. Sort of like, well...

CRAP! Grab for pocket, and retrieve a very wet cell phone that is shaking like it's about to self-destruct. That would be bad, I figure, so I attempt to remove the battery from the back of the phone. Only the battery is spring loaded, and immediately flies off and disappears beneath the waves. I make a brief attempt to dive after it, only I'm still trying to hold the drowning remains of the phone above water. At this point people on the beach have noticed the strange dance I'm doing, and are probably considering calling in the coast guard for a maritime rescue.

After a minute I give up on the battery and head for shore to deposit the phone. Then I head back out to the area, and remarkably find the battery with my foot.

I retained some hope that my poor little flip-phone would come back from the dead after a few days of rest. After all, I've seen computers get doused and come back to life. (Although the salt water was sort of a new twist, I have to admit.)

For the first day or so the cell phone would vibrate in a sickly way if I reattached the battery. But now I like to think it has passed on to a better world. And I've temporarily reverted back to my previous cell phone (circa 1999) which weighs about 20 pounds and will come in handy if I ever need to take out a mugger.

So I guess I'm in the market for a new phone one of these days. (And as my pennance, I'm giving mocking the stupid things my users manage to do to their laptops. At least for a week or two.)

Page says I don't post enough. And she's right. Truth is I have a horrible case of Blogger's guilt about this. So I hereby resolve to increase the level of inane crap I post on this page. When I get around to it, anyway.

Monday, October 21, 2002

Guilty pleasure of the day: Last week, I ordered several books for my Organizational Performance class from I had a coupon for $10 off my order, but only if I spent more than $50. So naturally I had to buy a few "bonus" items. (After all, I have to do my part to support the American economic recovery.) So I threw in a copy of Home by the Dixie Chicks, and the DVD of Amelie, which I saw in the theater when it was released in the US.

So instead of flowcharting and analyzing, I spent the last few hours watching the whimsical Parisian flick. Which, I have decided, is one of my favorite movies of all time. It is just a beautiful film in every respect, and the story appeals the closet romantic in me.

So I finished the DVD, and had pretty much decided that I needed to take a trip to Paris. Then I clicked on the director's commentary while I burrowed back into my laptop. Suddenly, I heard director and Montmartre native Jean-Pierre Jeunet tell me just how bad an idea this was:

Dont come to paris. It's a nightmare for the French people. And this film is a big lie, believe me. Paris is very different. We have a lot of dog shits on the street. It rains every day. And we have a lot of traffic jam. This film is a big cheat.

(pregnant pause)

Except Montmartre . Montmartre is very nice.

And later, admiring a shot:
It's a little bit like a real set. Look at this set, it's amazing. You know, Paris is very nice.
Sorry, Jean-Pierre, I'm not buying your "Paris sucks" routine...

Friday, October 18, 2002

When I got back from vacation, this little gem was waiting on my work voicemail. Note that while my company has a telemarketing department, I have absolutely nothing to do with it.
Look here as soon as you return October frickin 14th. This is [NAME OMITTED TO AVOID LITIGATION]. I have a letter from you that says you will not telemarket me again. I've had some of your crappin people call me today and I don't appreciate it. OK? Why don't you wake up down there. Why don't you get somebody to happen. And find out what you're doing. If... if... if... I am called one.. more.. time.. I will turn my attorney over to you and we'll deal with it then. So why don't you shake some crap up down there boy. Punk sissy. <click>
I thought this was pretty amusing, but it's nothing compared to the voicemail received recently by one of the Tennessean's music writers. (Scroll down until you see the headline You're not going to (expletive) believe this!)
The Last Page asks a thought-provoking question:
Which would be better? If the sniper stopped now, with this last killing, and got away, never to be heard from again, or if he killed just one more person and got caught.
You can read my answer here. Scroll down -- as usual, I'm late...
Got back from vacation on Monday, but have been dealing with accumulated piles of crap at work and midterms for school. So haven't had a lot of time to post. The beach was great, despite a near miss from Tropical Depression Kyle one day. In other news, the loyal readers will remember the out-of-town job I've been stewing about lately. I now have an interview scheduled for it, but I'm still just as wishy-washy as always. We'll see what happens. Will try to spend a bit more time posting this weekend...

Sunday, October 06, 2002

Currently on vacation with my parents on the North Carolina coast. And, while I have my laptop with me to do classwork, it appears that the closest internet access number is long distance. So expect few postings this week...

Thursday, October 03, 2002

The Washington Post has a profile of the historian at Arlington National Cemetery. The piece closes with this:
One time, he was making his way through the cemetery, when he spotted what he thought was a discarded soda can. How could anyone be so insensitive, he wondered.

But as he walked over to the headstone -- the grave of one of the casualties of the Persian Gulf War -- he realized it was an unopened can of Iron City Beer and that there was a note attached: "John, we said we'd share a beer when you came back. Welcome back." Sherlock left the can where he found it and walked away.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

I have a friend in medical school who has basically furnished his department with drug company freebies. (pens, glasses, clocks, towels, etc.) Unfortunately for him, looks like the gravy train is leaving the station...

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

This is old, but very amusing.

As you may know, Clippy the Paperclip was ostensibly killed as a marketing gimmick to promote the launch of Microsoft OfficeXP last year. The company actually set up a website complete with an animated movie portraying the delivery of the clip's pink slip. Clippy's voice is done by (who else?) Gilbert Gottfried, and his favorite saying through the piece is "HEY! YOU! WOULD YOU LIKE TO WRITE A LETTER???"

The site also features a "kill the paper clip" game, a link to Clippy's Amazon Wish List and Clippy's Resume (he's job hunting now).

<sigh> If only they could put that much effort into writing secure code..

Sunday, September 29, 2002

I am utterly amazed by the efficiency of spambots. My kumquat301 e-mail address has only been around for a few months, and it's already getting dozens of offers for Viagra, University Diplomas, Hot Young Teens, etc. In the interest of closing the barn door after the horse has been made into paste (or something like that), I just obfuscated the e-mail address on the left -- hopefully that will prevent things from getting any worse!

Saturday, September 28, 2002

As I'm sure you've noticed, thus far I have chosen to remain more-or-less anonymous on this Blog. This was not an easy decision -- I've always thought that people should be willing to stand behind their viewpoints. But the problem is that this blog is more than just a collection of political or social views. It contains musings of all sorts about my daily life, my job, my coworkers, etc. I don't have a problem with the rest of the Blogosphere reading my little rants, but I'm not too thrilled about the idea of a coworker logging on and discovering that they've just been skewered in full view of everyone on the Internet. And as you may have seen recently, I have some doubts about whether I'll even be in my current job a year from now. I'd rather not broadcast the details of my job-hunting exploits to my boss, at least until I figure out what my real intentions are.

Being anonymous hasn't been the perfect solution, since I've found that I self-censor some things to avoid giving away information that would let people figure out my "true identity." (This is not as difficult as it sounds -- I recently stumbled on an anonymous blog written by someone who I've dealt with professionally, and was able to figure out who was writing it by looking at clues scattered throughout the writing.)

As a compromise, I've decided to post some information about who I am in a very general sense. Loyal readers are unlikely to find anything new or scandalous here, but I figured I'd at least you can confirm your suspicions about what sort of nutcase I really am.

I am a 20-something male, currently living and working in Nashville, Tenn. I grew up just outside of Washington, D.C., and went to college in upstate New York where I majored in English. (I still have a lot of friends in the Northeast, which accounts for some of my intermittent scheming to get out of Nashville, and for the number of frequent-flyer points I've managed to accumulate.) I moved here about 4 1/2 years ago, and work in the technology field for a somewhat recognizable company in the "communications industry."

Off the job, much of my free time right now is spent working toward a Master's degree in Technology Management -- a longterm project that began in January 2001 and will probably conclude sometime late next year. The idea being to prove that someone who spent college reading Foucault and Faulkner can have at least a passing clue about Apache and aggregate database functions. I'm taking classes online from the University of Maryland's University College. I have mixed feelings about the online format. On the one hand, it is definitely a boon for people with unpredictable work hours or travel schedules (I have had classes -- and even done group projects -- with military personnel stationed overseas). On the other hand, since almost all interaction is done via the web, you lose some of the social aspects of a traditional classroom. And you have to be very disciplined to force yourself to do all of the reading and writing.

Politically speaking, I guess I'd probably stake my claim in the Liberal/Progressive camp, although I try to avoid blindly subscribing to any one viewpoint. I honestly believe that Bill Clinton, while admittedly a schmuck in his personal life, was a very good president in terms of domestic policy. (And I thought that wasting millions of taxpayer dollars to essentially prosecute him for gettin' it on in the Oval Office was a travesty.)

Well, that's a start. Perhaps I'll make an effort to reveal more details about myself in the future. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on the good and bad points of online anonymity...

Friday, September 27, 2002

The Washington Post has a profile of Mike Flugennock, an ultra-liberal poster artist whose work is commonly seen on lamp posts in Washington. Whether or not you agree with his politics, you have to admit that his posters are striking. His website ( includes downloadable versions of most of his posters free for posting by the general public.
I am endlessly amused by the creative ways people can come up with to screw up their computers. Had to do emergency surgery today after an executive secretary discovered that it's actually possible to slide a CD-ROM underneath the CD-ROM drive so that it drops down inside the case. This, my friends, is why they pay me the big bucks.

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Some loyal readers will have read my earlier ambivalent post about applying for a job in another city. Since doing that, I've been alternately depressed about not hearing back from them, and relieved about not hearing back from them. Well, I finally got "the call," and after playing phone tag for a day or two spent an hour on the phone with my potential possible maybe future boss. Not that I've decided to go through with this. Then again...

Anyway, despite my inner turmoil about actually quitting my job and moving, the whole "pre-interview" thing went pretty well. We chatted about all sorts of things, and I got the sense that an actual interview was a definite possibility.

To my mind, the oddest part came up at the end, when he pointed out that the job would involve at least one trip to a small northern-European country well known for its fairy tales. He wanted to know if I was OK with this, given that several applicants had said they would refuse to travel overseas in "today's climate."

My feeling on this is pretty straightforward, and it hasn't changed a whit since September 11: If someone -- anyone -- wants to give me a free trip to Europe, I'm totally down with that. I'll meet you with passport in hand, anytime, anyplace!

That said, I'm still not sure how I feel about the whole job thing...

Monday, September 23, 2002

Spam subject line of the day: "Diplomas from prestigious, non-accredited universities!"

Wow. Not only can I get a diploma from a "prestigious" university, but it's also non-acredited! Isn't the Internet great?

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Danielle just blogged this very cool project, wherein volunteers take pictures at the confluences of latitude and longitude lines around the world. Turns out that one of them is across the street from a greocery store near my parents' house.
See, I always knew there was such a thing as too clean!

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

The closed streets and helicopters in my neighborhood this morning turned out to be because George W. himself was stopping to say the pledge of allegiance at a school up the street. Actually he was in town for a big political fundraiser for senate hopeful Lamar Alexandar , but the pledge shindig apparently made it count as a "business trip," allowing the government to pick up part of the tab.

Lamar happily accepted $800,000 in contributions from the Bush fundraiser, plus another $300,000 in soft money contributions to the state Republican party. This despite the fact that a few years ago Alexander accused Bush of holding an auction for the presidency on the White House lawn. Guess he's over that now...

Word is that Spanish porn giant Private Media Group (which is traded on the Nasdaq exchange), has made an offer of $3 million worth of stock to acquire the twitching remains of Napster. The company says it plans to create an adult-oriented peer-to-peer file sharing network featuring premium contentat additional cost. The RIAA, I expect, is happy.

I was never a Napster junkie, but I'll confess that I used it on occasion. The great thing was that you could try out all sorts of music without risking spending $15 on a totally lousy CD. I found a lot of music that I never would have discovered this way, and I've purchased CDs because I heard the music first on my computer. I think if the record industry had tried to come up with a fair and reasonable way to make this sort of service work, they would have done well. Instead, their knee jerk reaction just forced Internet music to be more furtive and ultimately less controllable.

Singer/Songwriter (and Nashville resident) Janis Ian wrote a great article earlier this year about how internet downloads are actually a good thing for most recording artists. In it she methodically debunks the assertions of the RIAA about how downloadable music hurts musicians and the music business:

If you think about it, the music industry should be rejoicing at this new technological advance! Here's a fool-proof way to deliver music to millions who might otherwise never purchase a CD in a store. The cross-marketing opportunities are unbelievable. It's instantaneous, costs are minimal, shipping non-existant…a staggering vehicle for higher earnings and lower costs. Instead, they're running around like chickens with their heads cut off, bleeding on everyone and making no sense.
One of these days, the big record labels are either going to get with the program. Or they're going to decline as cheaper and fairer alternatives emerge. It's their choice.

Sunday, September 15, 2002

A rainy night in Nashville
Rainy Night in Nashville
The rabbit has a charming face; Its private life is a disgrace. I really dare not name to you The awful things that rabbits do; Things that your paper never prints -- You only mention them in hints. They have such lost, degraded souls No wonder they inhabit holes; When such depravity is found It can only live underground.

Friday, September 13, 2002

After an extensive Internet archeology project involving retrieval of 20-year-old 9-track tapes from a warehouse in Pittsburgh, Mike Jones has traced the origin of the ubiquitous smiley :-) to a post on a Carnegie-Mellon computer system in 1982. Here's the idea that started the revolution:
19-Sep-82 11:44 Scott E Fahlman :-) From: Scott E Fahlman I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers: :-) Read it sideways. Actually, it is probably more economical to mark things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use :-(
It appears that the idea for a "joke mark" emerged after someone caused a panic by joking that one of the physics department elevators was contaminated with mercury. (There had been a previous discussion about what would happen to a blob of mercury on the floor of the elevator if the cable snapped.)

Interestingly, in reading the followup thread, many people began using doing it the other way (-:, which doesn't look very familiar to us now.

Thursday, September 12, 2002

And now, an excerpt from Pumas on Hoverbikes at
We've all heard the "herding cats" analogy with regard to managing programmers. Managing sysadmins is like leading a neighborhood gang of neurotic pumas on jet-powered hoverbikes with nasty smack habits and opposable thumbs. Oh, and as a manager you're a neurotic junkie puma too, only they cut your thumbs off and whereas all the other pumas get to drive around on their badass hoverbikes and fire chainguns at the marketing department, YOU have to drive a maroon AMC Gremlin behind them and hand out Band-Aids and smile a lot, when all you're REALLY thinking about is how to get one of them to let you borrow his hoverbike for a few minutes so you can show those fools how it's DONE. This is because managers are usually people who proved that they were handy with a chaingun and were thus rewarded by having their thumbs cut off and their weapons handed to some punk college hire.
Hehe. Very true, I think. Except that some managers weren't very good with the chainguns in the first place.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

The Tennessean has posted a collection of almost 500 reader essays about September 11th. They are written by a wide variety of people -- 5th graders to retirees. Some are pretty out there -- one guy claims that he tried to warn NYC officials about the attacks based on what he read in the book of Revelations. But other are well written -- and taken as a whole the project is a notable cross section of the way people dealt with the tragedy. Here's one:
Why do people hate each other so much? I don't see why people hate each other so much that they would kill people and destroy buildings. I think they don't know what love is or have never felt love in their lives. I think we should all find ways to spread love around to other people. Some things we can do is be nice to all our friends and enemies, help feed the hungry and poor, give homes to the homeless and help our neighbors. Since Sept. 11, people have been nicer to each other and more helpful in their communities. To remember those who lost their lives, we should all try to do something every day to make the world a better place to live.
--Caleb Pease
Westmeade Elementary School
Here's another good one about living in fear. (The section also contains more than 400 drawings done by area school children.)

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Check out Peeling the Onion, an interesting look at the making of The Onion. (Link via Scrubbles.) Includes this interesting observation:
Stalberg says he particularly liked Siegel's [Pulitzer Prize] nomination letter, which ended with a George Bernard Shaw quote that Stalberg wrote down and saved: " 'Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.' "

That, says Hanson, is what the Onion is all about. "Some people see comedy as a venue to provide light distraction, put a smile on other people's faces," he says. "And yet if you really understand what comedy really is, I believe, it's not about lightheartedness at all. It's about very harsh and terrible things that were really horrific. It's sort of a way of processing horror and misery. That's where comedy comes from."

I just applied for a job in another city. This is not a new thing. It's actually the third out-of-town job I've applied for in the last three months. The difference is that this is one I'm actually qualified for. The others were more "no way in hell they'd hire me, but if they really want to give me a lot of money to come work there, it would be cool." Crossing the line into jobs that I actually have a chance of landing is a bit of a leap for me. The thing is, I'm not even sure I want a new job. I came to work in Nashville just over four years ago. I never thought I'd end up this far south, but I was out of school and needed a job, and there was one here. By all rational standards, it was a pretty good job. It paid well, had a passing relationship to my undergraduate degree, and was a great opportunity to learn. The first year was a bit crappy, but overall I've learned a lot and I've gotten to do some very interesting things. But I'm not sure I've ever truly become a Nashvillian. Not that I have anything against the city. If anything, it's grown on me. And I think great things are happening here. Since I arrived, two pro sports teams have come to town, and a agreat new art museum and central library have opened. I think it's definitely a city on the upswing. But I continue to spend too much money flying back to places like Washington, New York, and Boston to visit friends and family. And when I am in Nashville I feel like I spend way too much time working. Perhaps, I tell myself sometime, it's just time for a change of scenery. This is not a new thing -- I've been telling friends that I'll be out of Nashville in two months for about 4 years now. But I now I'm actually considering doing something about it. But then there's my job, which for the most part I like and would have no real problem with if it were located elsewhere. And I don't think they'll go for the full-time telecommuting thing. So I'm totally not sure what I'd do if I were to be offered a job elsewhere. But mulling it is certainly keeping me up nights.

Sunday, September 08, 2002

Where have I been?

Newton's Kumquat has been on something of a summer vacation for the last month or so. I'd like to reassure my dozens of loyal readers (well, ok, two) that this is not permanent and should not be taken as anything more meaningful than a fit of inexcusable laziness.

As some of you may know, I'm taking online classes from the University of Maryland University College toward a master's degree. Since this involves a lot of typing, I tend to end up glued to my computer for hours on end. (This isn't always welcome, since I spend most of my time at work also glued to my computer.) Blogging provides me with a way to avoid school work while pretending that I'm still busily slaving away.

August, however, was a month of no classes and hellish hours on a project at work. Since I didn't have to do school work, I tended to avoid the computer when I got home. (My real-world accomplishments included skipping town to visit friends in New York, watching strange late-ngiht TV movies, and actually reading books that didn't appear on a syllabus.)

But, now that classes have started again, I'm once again glued to the computer and looking for ways to procrastinate. And so, gentle reader, be assured that you can look forward to more of the quality prose you've come to expect from Newton's Kumquat.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

How 'bout this? I wonder if they'll come out with "Six Feet Under" brand caskets next...

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Biologist Jennifer Purcell, considered one of the top Chesapeake Bay jellyfish experts, says the difficulty in generating money for jellyfish research may boil down to one simple truth. "It's best to get funding for something that people want to eat," said Purcell. (from this WaPo article.)

Thursday, July 25, 2002

Bad Penmanship Foils Holdup OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (AP) — It might have been the third bank holdup this month in Ocean Springs, Miss., if the would-be robber had had better handwriting. Police say an attempted robbery was foiled yesterday when a bank teller couldn't decipher the writing on a holdup note. When the man handed the teller the note, she told him she couldn't read it. The man ran.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Check out the story of Ozzy the cat, who racked up 63,000 frequent flyer miles after stowing away on a British Airways plane.

Monday, July 22, 2002

Turns out Tennessee gets back $1.20 for every tax dollar it sends to the federal government, at least according to the Tax Foundation. Sucks to live New Jersey -- they only get 67 cents.
Well, my mom just left town on Saturday after spending 5 days here in town. Among our exciting activities: shopping for new cell phones for her and Dad. Apparently the fact that I deal with computers for a living somehow makes me more qualified to decipher the intracacies of daytime minutes, nighttime minutes, and service contracts. She decided to switch from Sprint to Verizon, but apparently they can only activate phones locally. So for the moment both of my parents have Nashville cell phone numbers. Supposedly they can get them switched easily, though.
We also went and saw "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," which was pretty funny. But it's one of those "lonely 20/30 something finally stumbles across the right person and lives happily ever after" flicks. <sigh> I'm still waiting...

Saturday, July 20, 2002

The Washington Post had a great article about Pierre L'Enfant's original plan for Washington, DC, and how it survives today.

Friday, July 19, 2002

Google! DayPop! This is my blogchalk: English, United States, Nashville, East Nashville, Male, 26-30!

See the BlogChalking page for more on this idea.

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

I just realized that the Starr Report (detailing Bill Clinton's alleged dillydallying with interns and cigars) was released to the public on September 11, 1998, exactly three years before the terrorist attacks. It kind of makes you long for a time when the most pressing issues facing our nation revolved around the president's sex life.

Saturday, July 13, 2002

Worst Response To A Crisis, 1985:

From a readers' Q and A column in TV GUIDE: "If we get involved in a nuclear war, would the electromagnetic pulses from exploding bombs damage my videotapes?"

As quoted by Wanda the GNOME Fish

Friday, July 12, 2002

Too much Disney is bad for you. Need proof?
TOWNSEND, Tenn. (AP) -- Bears sometimes attack deer -- it's what bears do.

But a Florida tourist apparently could not accept that, rangers say, and he took nature into his own hands by kicking and slamming a young black bear that had pounced on a fawn in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

“He probably thought he was saving Bambi,” park spokeswoman Nancy Gray said yesterday.

Michael Shaw, 38, of Grand Ridge, Fla., was charged with disturbing wildlife and disorderly conduct — federal offenses carrying up to $5,000 in fines and six months in jail.

“He seemed to be quite put out that we were charging him,” ranger Kent Looney said. “He thought he was doing the right thing.”

According to a ranger's report, Shaw and other visitors became distraught when they saw a 45-pound yearling bear jump on the young deer in Cades Cove on June 28.

Shaw ran toward the animals and began kicking the bear. When it refused to let go of the deer, Shaw picked up the bear and threw it down, the report said.

The bear released its grip and ran back into the woods, “probably pretty confused,” Gray said. The injured deer was euthanized.

But park officials said Shaw interrupted nature.

“The bear was doing what it was supposed to be doing,” Looney said. “Many of the people who gave me statements about the incident were incensed. ... If they had gotten hold of him, we might have had to save him.”

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Ok, since you asked, here's how I spent my fourth of July in DC:

•  Family tradition: Attended Takoma Park Independence Day Parade with entire family, including a brother home from college and another brother visiting from out of state.

•  Took metro to Union Station to meet visiting friend. He had been bumped from his flight the night before, but got a sweet settlement from the airline.

•  Walked from station to look for other friends. Stood in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue yelling into cell phone trying to figure out where they were.

•  Got searched (several times, actually) by dutiful police officers manning security checkpoints around the Mall.

•  Availed ourselves of free free food from the rather large Hare Krishna encampment on the Mall. Listened to repetitive chanting for about 20 minutes. Worried mildly about possible sedatives in the lemonade.

•  Visited the Silk Road-themed Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Were soon deterred by near 100 degree heat, so escaped to the (air conditioned!) Natural History Museum to look at Mammoths, Mastadons, and bugs.

•  Went and got less holistic food at the Old Post Office Pavillion. I remembered this place from school field trips, but apparently no one else did, since it was nearly deserted. We had to go through a metal detector and have our bags x-rayed to get in.

•  Hopped on Metro and, after some confusion over the bizarre holiday routing changes, took it to Arlington Cemetary. Then hiked a ways looking for the Iwo Jima memorial. (Turns out it's closer to the Roslyn stop.) Eventually found another friend, and decided to stay there to watch the fireworks. This picture is almost exactly the view we had. It's a pretty great place to watch from, although you don't get as much booming as you do right on the Mall.

•  Followed throngs of people to Metro, and went our seperate ways to retrieve cars and luggage. Then met back up on the Maryland side of town and headed to the Route 1 IHOP. Returned home sometime after midnight.

That's it for now -- more later...

Sunday, July 07, 2002

I haven't dropped off the face of the earth -- just got back from spending Independence Day weekend in Washington, DC. More later...

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

As you may know, government in the great state of Tennessee has come to a grinding halt due to an impasse over the state budget. Around 9:00 this evening, I drove home from work past the Tennessee state capitol. There were a fair number of people protesting and waving signs on both sides of the issue, but it wasn't exactly an out-of-control riot scene. I continued home, and about an hour later turned on the 10:00 news. They're doing live shots from in front of the capitol, and there are people coming out of the woodwork, cars stopped blocking the street, and plenty of other assorted mayhem.

Sort of makes you wonder if a lot of people are showing up just in time to protest their way onto the evening news. (I'm not the only one with this idea -- Danielle over at Missives Anonymous hatched a plot to head over there with signs promoting the band she works for! )

Oh, and as she very accurately points out, it's hot here!

Saturday, June 29, 2002

Wow, I've been Instapundited!
Lest we forget...
I stumbled across a link somewhere and clicked it. My browser responded by calling up a large image of a woman falling through space, one of the towers of the World Trade Center, blurred, in the background. iTunes was churning out music in a major key. I was in mid sip of a diet Coke. It was like running across a pleasant meadow, then falling into a deep, hidden well. The Coke in my mouth drained down my lips back into the glass. I didn't want to see this image, yet there it was. The light was so warm, falling on her falling body. I could see her black shoes and her beige skirt, the warmth of a sunlit arm. I felt seized with one wish: that I could reach out, reach through the screen, through the browser window, through the pixels and the 9 months and 18 days, through all the screens and space and days that separated us. I wanted to reach out with huge arms and catch her and bring her to my chest and tell her that she was all right, that everything was all right and she was safe.

Friday, June 28, 2002

Had to share my favorite message so far today from our tech support voice mail line:
We just discovered this amazing property on our intranet, where if you click a button on how to contact the fire departent, it actually links you to a site on how to find pornography! We just thought you might want to come see it...
Hmmm. We just assumed "" was the fire department's web page! (Actually, it appears that got hijacked by a porn baron. Don't go there, though, since it tries to install all sorts of spyware on your computer.)
Check out, a compendium of things overheard on the street in Berkeley, CA. A sample:
"...A really nice guy, and he just loves AC Transit. He's got a picture of every bus -- he even drove down to Freemont to take pictures of the busses there. If you're ever trying to convince him to go somewhere, all you have to say is, 'But think, you could look at the busses while you're there...'

"He better not be taking pictures of my bus."

--A passenger and the driver on an AC Transit bus
All very amusing. (Link via Laura at My Side of Things.)

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Sorry for the reduced number of posts lately. My project management class has kicked into high gear, so I'm spending most of my available time doing readin', writin' and 'rithmatic. Only a few more weeks of this torture, though!

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

How 'bout this. Seems violence against computers is now a misdemeanor! (Link via Macintouch.)
Here at Newton's Kumquat, we work tirelessly to bring you the latest and greatest advances in journalism. That's why we're proud to tell you about the Ticked Off column in the Orlando Sentinel. Finally, a place in print for all those anonymous curmudgeons and complainers. (Alas, we couldn't find a web version.) Basically, readers are invited to leave a voicemails or e-mails, and then the complaints are transcribed and printed in the newspaper. Sample content:
I'm ticked off at a tow-truck driver who showed up to tow the car -- then said he didn't want to get his feet wet so he couldn't tow the car out of the puddle. This is after I waited for him for three hours. If he can't tow the car, he should get out of the business.

To the person who said that trailer park people actually have money: Why do you live in trailers and not in a house like the rest of us? It seems to me you're lying.

Since nobody else wants to say it, I guess it's got to be me. You know what really ticks me off? All these guys walking around with their pants almost to their kneecaps. Heck, I've even seen a few girls doing it. You know what? You look like clowns! And I thought bell-bottoms looked stupid in the '70s. Boy, was I wrong.

You get the idea. What makes these people think that a bunch of strangers are going to want to read their ranting and complaining on a daily basis? Hmm. Come to think of it, I guess it's sort of like blogging...

Saturday, June 22, 2002

Don't know if you've been following the National Public Radio deep linking flap, but take that NPR! (And you can learn something about the tragic loss of the Wye Oak while you're stickin' it to The Man.)
Check out a great rant about television as a babysitter on The Last Page. I met a guy with kids recently who keeps his family's TV unplugged in the closet except for official family movie nights. In my current state of singleness, I don't have to worry about warping the minds of the kiddies, but I think this is a really great idea. I don't know if I could be quite this committed, but I certainly buy in to the idea that too much TV isn't a good idea.

When I was very little, we had a very small black and white TV, and I was only allowed to watch a very limited menu of shows, mostly on PBS and mosly involving a bunch of muppets who lived on a street named after a seed. (In fact, I remember that my parents went out and bought their first color TV so Mom could watch Princess Di's wedding.)

At the time I believed my limited TV access was a form of child abuse, but in retrospect, I think it forced me to find more constructive ways to use my time, and I'm probably a better person for it.

Traveling again, and chanced to pick up Southwest Airlines' Spirit magazine. That's where I found this tidbit:
79: Percentage of Americans age 18 and older who can identify Nike's "Just Do It" slogan.

47:Percentage who can identify the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as set forth in the U.S. Constitution.

Personally, I'm hoping the other 53% realized that there is no constitutional right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," since the phrase actually came from the Declaration of Independence. Sheesh -- if you're going to make fun of ignorant people, you should at least make sure you know what you're talking about!

Thursday, June 20, 2002

Just spent 26 of the last 30 hours working, and none of the last 30 hours sleeping. Not good.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

In response to my post below, Susanna wrote the following:
In this instance, about the blanket skewering of media - if you notice, I try to consistently point out that a lot of journalists are doing a good job, and that the possibility of a fair and honest media is within reach while they're still around. But in this instance BOTH WaPo and the Washgtn Times were on the bandwagon; apparently it was bad enough in the market area for Mundy to think it needed addressing. It's also evident in the Catholic priests case, and I've seen it elsewhere. So, I do think in this instance it's more pervasive than not.

But you tell me - are the majority of journalists strongly religious, and inclined to view the religious as just basic everyday people with a value system that is subject to the law just as everyone else's is? Or for most of them, is a go-to-church-three-times-a-week-or-more and really-believe-in-God-like-follow-the-Bible kind of religion some odd cultural quirk that is protected by the Constitution and sometimes causes people to do freaky things not understandable except in the context of their religion?

Well, I can't really generalize about most journalists -- that's sort of my point.

That said, though, I know some journalists who are intensely religious, and others who are borderline atheist. I suspect, however, that journalists as a group tend to be strong defenders of the bill of rights -- they'd be out of business without it. So perhaps they do tend to give some preferential treatment to defenses based on religion. (Remember, I said that for the most part I do agree with the original post.)

The "Media" thing was really a bit of a tangent -- but it is a of a pet peeve of mine. I think the term "Media" is an easily misused label, just like the terms "liberal," "conservative," and "Christian." (Leonard Pitts Jr. has an interesting take on the last one.) Attempts to pigeon-hole people into categories are often flawed, and I think the term "Media" is commonly used this way.

I often don't agree with Susanna's take on things. But here's an exception:

In a post earlier this morning, she writes about a child who died after being left in a hot car. The boy was the youngest of a Catholic family's 13 children, and Susanna points out that by focusing on the family's Catholicism, press accounts seemed to be shifting the issue away from the actual criminal act. The family's spiritual beliefs are being portrayed as valid excuse for criminal behavior.

The news media need to get out of this view of religion as a form of organized insanity that gives its practitioners some type of bye in criminal cases. No, no and no. The criminal law is what it is, and those who break it for whatever reason are still responsible to it. There may be mitigating circumstances, and the religious beliefs of the offender may serve as one, but to present this case of neglect as more than just that is a result of ignorance, media bias and an unwillingness to be clear-sighted about our modern society.
On a related note, I generally cringe when I read blanket criticism of "the Media" -- as if every journalist in the world gets daily marching orders from some sort of secret headquarters. In my experiece, there is often a lot of dissent and variation of opinion within a given newsroom, let alone among different media organizations. Just as religion shouldn't be used to explain away criminal behavior, being part of "the Media" shoudn't be used to explain away poor reporting. If there are problems, sure, point them out and loudly criticize the reporters and editors involved. But don't assume that every journalist would have done the same thing.

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

This is a week or two old now, but Lori McLeese has a great first-person account of the US soccer team's upset victory over Portugal. I've never been a huge soccer fan, but an account like this makes me reconsider.
There's an interesting piece by Charles Mann in Technology Review about why software is so bad. Unlike other industries, where companies with knowingly-flawed products can face massive legal action, people basically accept poor software as a fact of life. Mann thinks more lawyers may be the answer:
As software becomes increasingly important, the potential impact of bad code will increase to match, in the view of Peter G. Neumann, a computer scientist at SRI International, a private R&D center in Menlo Park, CA. In the last 15 years alone, software defects have wrecked a European satellite launch, delayed the opening of the hugely expensive Denver airport for a year, destroyed a NASA Mars mission, killed four marines in a helicopter crash, induced a U.S. Navy ship to destroy a civilian airliner, and shut down ambulance systems in London, leading to as many as 30 deaths. And because of our growing dependence on the Net, Neumann says, “We’re much worse off than we were five years ago. The risks are worse and the defenses are not as good. We’re going backwards—and that’s a scary thing.”

Some software companies are responding to these criticisms by revamping their procedures; Microsoft, stung by charges that its products are buggy, is publicly leading the way. Yet problems with software quality have endured so long, and seem so intractably embedded in software culture, that some coders are beginning to think the unthinkable. To their own amazement, these people have found themselves wondering if the real problem with software is that not enough lawyers are involved.

In case you missed it, the colossal, out-of-control wildfire in Colorado that has burned more than 103,000 acres so far was apparently started by a forest ranger while attempting to burn a letter from her estranged husband. You couldn't write a better beginning for a made-for-TV movie if you tried.
Check out Joe MacLeod's riff on noo-kyoo-lur explosions, Baltimore, and dust mites. via Alt-log.

Sunday, June 16, 2002

Writing in Slate, Mickey Kaus makes a good point about the "creepiness" of the word "Homeland" and the phrase "Homeland Security." He makes a number of points, but I think the most notable is this:
"Homeland" is un-American in another way: it explicitly ties our sentiments to the land, not to our ideas. Logically, this step makes no sense (presumably we want to stop terrorism even if it targets Americans and American institutions abroad). It also misses the exceptional American contribution that's worth defending. People throughout history have felt sentimental attachment to their land. We're sentimentally attached to something less geographic: i.e., freedom. Didn't Ronald Reagan make this point with some regularity?
In the end, he suggests calling it the "Department of Doestic Security," which makes a lot of sense to me. Before September 11, I certainly never thought of the U.S. as "the Homeland." Why start now?
Decided to get off the interstate and actually see things on my way home yesterday, so I spent part of the afternoon in Tennessee's Fall Creek Falls State Park. If you follow the link, you'll see a photo of Fall Creek Falls, but unfortunately I never actually found the vantage point of that photo. I hiked around both sides of the top of the falls, but most of the "overlooks" were blocked by foliage. (I suspect late fall or early spring would be a good time to visit.) At one point I ignored the "stay on the trails or you may die" warning signs and crept to the edge of a cliff where I could see part of the falls and also see people splashing around 250 feet directly below me. (I think I was just to the right of the smaller waterfall you can see in picture.) I think perhaps there is an overlook on a different trail that gives you the best view -- something to investigate on another trip. I didn't have the time or energy to hike all the way to the bottom of the gorge and see the falls from below, but there were people splashing around down there, and it seems like it would be spectacular.

I did get a pretty good look at another large waterfall on Caney Creek, which is near the nature center and a little more accessible. I took some pictures, but alas have not yet entered the era age of digital photography, so they are sitting on a roll of film in my backpack. Perhaps I'll post a few if they turn out.

On my way out of the park, I followed state route 30, which winds down off of the Cumberland Plateau and into McMinnville. I imagine it would be a blast in a smaller sports car, but the turns and switchbacks were fun even in my pickup truck. Almost drove off the road once when I was passing through a small town and all of a sudden the road just stopped (or, more accurately, took a sharp right turn with no warning.)

I drove most of the way back to Nashville on back roads, which was a lot more fun than the 75 mph interstate blur. I passed by a woman selling hand-made wooden rocking chairs from a shop behind her house. bought one to go on my patio once I get around to painting it.

Have been lounging around at home most of today, but will probably go out and run some errands tonight. Then back to the daily grind tomorrow. Ugh.

Friday, June 14, 2002

Kinder, gentler extortion

I don't know about you, but most parking tickets I've gotten in the past generally strike a pretty authoritarian note: "You are a violator. You are evil," they seem to say. "We will hunt you down and make you pay. You and your little dog too!"

So while I won't say I was happy about receiving a ticket in Asheville, NC, they certainly tried to make it as painless as possible:


No one likes getting a parking citation. But it's the most effective way we have to manage downtown parking. Time limits promote orderly turnover and make downtown shopping and entertainment convienient for everyone.

Avoid the frustration of receiving a parking citation by using one of the three parking garages noted on the reverse of this citation. The first hour is free Monday-Friday from 10:00 a.m. Until 7:00 p.m.

I may not agree with what they had to say, but they sure were nice about it!

Thursday, June 13, 2002

So I arrive in today's city du jour and present myself at the hotel for checkin. Only to find out that instead of the plain non-smoking room I reserved through Expedia, they have booked me into a smoking room for people traveling with pets. And there are no other rooms. (In case you were wondering, I have no pets with me. My cat goes into therapy for months at the mere sight of the cat carrier. It would be suicide to travel with her.)

According to one of the front desk guys, I should have called ahead and verified that my reservation was right, since they always screw up stuff like this.

Now I am not an anti-smoking fanatic. But frankly I don't especially like the smell. And I was a bit perturbed by how they didn't really seem to think this was anything out of the ordinary. So since I had a few hours, I figured I'd make a point by finding somewhere else to stay.

After calling several places and finding that they were also full, I found a prospect -- A major hotel franchise had a location only a few blocks from my meeting. (I won't mention the chain's name to protect the guilty, but it rhymes with Less Pesterin'.)

So I get to the hotel and go to the front desk to check in. I guess the avacado carpet and aged stucco should have been my first tip off. But, hey, the desk clerk was kind of cute, and I figured I'll try anything once. I got my room key and headed up the elevator. (Dark pseudo-wood paneling, circa 1970.) I got out of the elevator. (Flourescent fixtures circa home of future 1967 and more patterned avacado carpet.) But I figured, "Hey, I'm renting the room, not the hallway."

Then I went into the room. Picture scary looking lamps in a pineapple-battering ram motif. Picture a tiny porthole of a window, last cleaned circa 1982. Picture noisy air conditioning stuck on the "stuffy" setting. Picture cigarette burns on the couch of the nonsmoking room. If they were going for the fleabag look, they had it down pat.

Now I'm not opposed to roughing it every once in a while. In fact, when I was a starving student, I stayed in some places that made this look like the Ritz. But I guess my standards have gone up just a bit since then. Plus, I was on expense account, so I couldn't even really congratulate myself thriftiness. (For that matter, I've stayed in nicer places for half the cost.)

So I did what any self-respecting creeped out traveler would do: I lied to the front desk guy (the cute chick was gone) and told him my plans had changed, I was leaving town that evening, and could I please "un-check-in" my room. He bought the story. I skeedaddled and found a more expensive but less scary alternative.

I know there's probably a moral here somewhere. Like maybe "Be happy with what you get, because it could be worse." But I'm too busy enjoying my clean sheets and working A/C to worry about it.

I'm traveling for work, so updates will be less frequent for the next few days.

On the plus side, I think I'm finally indexed on google. I can tell by the fact that someone searching for "uncensored lingerie catalogs" hit the site a few minutes ago. I've never really produced such a catalog, but who am I to argue with popular demand. Any volunteer models out there?

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Susanna Cornett writes:
I'm for the death penalty, but I think it needs to be very narrowly applied, and more swiftly implemented. I think one of the reasons for the slow drag from sentencing to execution is the concern about whether the sentence is just. When it's used for situations where the crime is obviously egregious, and the evidence highly compelling, the public support for its logical follow-through will increase. Support for the death penalty is a two-step process: Is it morally appropriate? If so, is it fairly and appropriately applied? I think most Americans answer "yes" on the first question, but have been wavering - with good reason - on the second. More careful procedures, and a reduction overall of the types of cases allowed to be prosecuted toward a death sentence, will increase the "yeses" to the second question too.
When I was younger, I wavered a lot about the death penalty. After all, most of the people killed had committed egregious crimes. Wasn't this a good way to deter future violence?

During college, however, I became increasingly convinced that the government should not be in the business of killing people. There were many reasons for this. Books such as A Lesson Before Dying, The Chamber, and Dead Man Walking certainly contributed. So did the strong arguments against the idea of the death penalty as a deterrent, the fact that the inevitable mistakes could cost someone their life. and statistical evidence of the unfair application of the penalty.

But most of all, my feeling that the death penalty is wrong is based on the conviction that premeditated killing is never morally justifiable. This is a hard position to take, because you have to fight the urge to apply it selectively. Viscerally, I feel that Timothy McVeigh got what he deserved. But I think that moral principles have to take precedence over gut-level reactions. I just don't think the job of our government should be to kill people, no matter how much we think they deserve it. A true life sentence without the possibility of parole achieves the same societal goals without the moral ambiguity. And if the conviction turns out to have been in error (which happens with alarming frequency) imprisonment is reversible whereas execution is not.

I also don't think state-sponsored execution is justifiable from a religious point of view. (Whenever I see one of those "What would Jesus do?" slogans, I always wonder if the bearer thinks that Jesus would pull the switch on an electric chair.) Most Christians believe that sinfulness is inherent in the human condition, and that ultimately forgiveness, redemption, and judgement are between the individual and God. The murderer will answer for his sins before God -- what right do we have to take a greater action than necesary to protect society from further harm?

The United States is the only major democratic power in the world that still imposes the death penalty. Worldwide, there is an increasing concensus that execution is a basic violation of human rights. Abolition is the global trend. "In 1986, 46 countries had abolished the death penalty. By 1999, 108 had abolished it in law or in fact." (ref)

This is a very condensed version of my feelings on capital punishment, but I figured I'd throw them out there anyway.

Quote of the day, stolen from the .net guy, who in turn stole it from Penny Arcade:
I'd had enough political and theological discussions by the time I was nineteen to figure out that they are functionally inert. No-one convinces anyone of anything, everybody just heaps their baggage on the table and gestures at it wildly.
IMHO, not always true, but probably more often than not.
In the slightly patronizing, but still funny department:
Being single means being good at waiting. It means having patience and not settling for something because you're bored with being single. Being single is often both an opportunity and a commitment to learn from the mistakes of relationships past.

Of course, telling single people they should not fall into the first available relationship is a little like telling aging NFL stars they should not do phone commercials with Alf. They already know it's not a good idea, but they can't seem to control themselves.

From a story in the Orlando Sentinel by Eric Edwards (via the KRT wire)

Monday, June 10, 2002

In case you didn't know, the "frownie" is a legally-registered trademark of Despair, Inc.. The company plans to sell the devices to the public, but supply is constrained due to the fact that the company only has one copy of Microsoft Word.

In related (silly) government filings, check out this actual patent for a method of exercising a cat. If only I'd thought of that one first!

Sunday, June 09, 2002

Am very confused -- I edit my template, I save it, and then the edits are gone. I edit my template, I save it, and then the edits are gone. Blogger problem, I guess?
On the off chance that whoever keeps stealing my Sunday paper is reading this... I know who you are. I know where you live. I know how to put a curse on your great-grandchildren. So KNOCK IT OFF!
Just rented the DVD of Spike Lee's film Bamboozled, a biting satire looking at racial humor in popular entertainment. A very strange film. It centers on a black TV executive who, tired of prodding from his wanna-be-black boss decides to get fired by producing the most racially-offensive show he can possibly come up with. But instead the "Mantan: The New Millenium Minstrel Show" is a huge hit.

If nothing else, the film gives you a fairly in-depth overview of the history of minstrel shows, blackface routines, and pickaninny imagery. And it makes you think about the ways stereotypes are still used to get a laugh.

Interestingly, most of the action in the movie was shot using consumer-grade Mini-DV cameras and edited digitally. The idea that you can use this type of equipment to produce a studio-grade movie release is very exciting. Movie making is becoming less mystical and easier for anyone with an idea to try. Hopefully at some point this will result in a wider variety of material making it into the local multiplex.

An interesting comment is buried in the director's voiceover on the DVD. Spike Lee says:

In my opinion, this gangsta rap is the 21st century version of minstrel shows. And what's sad is these brothers don't even know about it.

Saturday, June 08, 2002

Susanna at cut on the bias points out this story about the refusal of the Birmingham News to cover or accept uncensored advertising for the hit off-Broadway play The Vagina Monologues, making it one of the only papers in the country to make such a decision. The reason? Advertising director Bob West says the paper "didn't want to risk offending anyone." Well, I'm offended by murder, but I certainly don't expect my newspaper to stop covering it. Grrr.
As you may have grokked out from a previous post, I am slowly working toward a master's degree in Technology Management. Right now I'm taking a class on Project Management, which is turning out to be pretty interesting. So far, I'm really liking the textbook, which seems to be much more down-to-earth than some of the other management books I've used. Here's today's quote:
To be frank, we do not know how to cure or prevent micromanagement. It is practiced by individuals who have so little trust in their coworkers that they most control everything. Micromanagers are rarely likable enough for anyone to try to help them. Our considered advice to PMs who are micromanaged is to request a transfer.
Came across a link to this amusing article on phobias at Missives Anonymous. Who knew there was such a thing as Papaphobia (fear of the Pope)!
Here's a little nugget gleaned from today's paper:
CROSSVILLE, Tenn. — A would-be rapper from Mt. Juliet has been charged with holding up the Alpine Lodge in Cookeville and is a suspect in two similar motel robberies in Crossville and Carthage, police said.

Earl Raymond Vantrese, 22, of Mt. Juliet, was pulled over on Interstate 40 Thursday after a clerk was held up at gunpoint at the Ramada Inn in Crossville around 6:30 a.m. that day, police said.

After stopping Vantrese's 1981 Buick Regal near Monterey, police said, they found numerous rap lyrics and a boom box in the front seat, along with a Victoria's Secret lingerie catalog, a video camera and pictures in the back seat of Vantrese stomping on the American flag, along with $812 in cash.

Now I know as an aspiring rapper you gotta keep up a certain image. But listen up, buddy boy... You got nerve stomping all over the American flag while still partaking of the cultural bounty of America! Do you think they even have Victoria's Secret catalogs in places like Iraq or Libya? Sheesh!

Friday, June 07, 2002

OK, this really ticks me off:
CHATTANOOGA (AP) — The Ten Commandments have been removed from Hamilton County court buildings, ending an episode that may cost the government as much as $80,000.

[County Commission Chairman Bill Hullander] said he believes a drop in Hamilton County's crime rate can be attributed to the posting of the Ten Commandments. [...] The ACLU submitted a bill this week for more than $50,000. Hamilton County's attorney estimates the county owes between $30,000 and $40,000 for outside legal fees.

Many of the quixotic chumps pushing this crap are the same ones protesting big government and wasteful spending. Well, here's a perfect example of waste in government. (the article goes on to say that the county commissioners who voted to post the commandments originally said public money would not be used to defend the decision, but it fails to state where else the $80,000 in legal fees might come from.)

Before the bible thumpers track me down, I should point out that I have nothing in particular against the 10 Commandments. But I also believe in the Bill of Rights, which is designed to keep government out of the religion business. Say we post the 10 Commandments. Well, what happens next week when Satanists want their manifesto posted in the courthouse?

And the idea that this is some sort of deterrent to crime is absurd. I can just see it:

HEAVILY ARMED ROBBER: Stick em' up. And gimme all the money from the register before I blow your brains out.
SCARED CONVENIENCE STORE CLERK: You know, according to the 10 commandments posted in the county courthouse, holding up convenience stores is wrong.
HEAVILY ARMED ROBBER: Really? I had no idea. I'll be off now -- I'm so terribly sorry for the inconvenience. Have a nice day!
I wonder what the $80,000 spent on this travesty could have purchased if it were put toward improving schools or building affordable housing...