Thursday, November 30, 2000


Okay, the holidays saw several mentions of this dish on the various websites I haunt, but I just gotta mention it here 'cause it's so goofy. The turducken is a dish composed of a "15-16 pound semi-boneless turkey stuffed with duck and chicken with layers of delicious stuffing between each bird". Paul Prudhomme is one of the chefs credited with it's creation, and it is often referred to as a Cajun dish, though there are variations, such as the X-treme BBQ III turducken.

One site says it takes about five hours to cook, and feeds 20 people (so it's not quite the pigfest it seems to be [further digression: "[Chef Herbert's] most memorable creation was for a customer from neighboring Texas: a pigturducken, which is basically a turducken in a boneless pig."]).

Oh, and you can order one frozen (not yet cooked) from Cajunstuff second-day delivery for $114.95.


Okay, the holidays saw several mentions of this dish on the various websites I haunt, but I just gotta mention it here 'cause it's so goofy. The turducken is a dish composed of a "15-16 pound semi-boneless turkey stuffed with duck and chicken with layers of delicious stuffing between each bird". Paul Prudhomme is one of the chefs credited with it's creation, and it is often referred to as a Cajun dish, though there are variations, such as the X-treme BBQ III turducken.

One site says it takes about five hours to cook, and feeds 20 people (so it's not quite the pigfest it seems to be [further digression: "[Chef Herbert's] most memorable creation was for a customer from neighboring Texas: a pigturducken, which is basically a turducken in a boneless pig."]).

Oh, and you can order one frozen (not yet cooked) from Cajunstuff second-day delivery for $114.95.

Wednesday, November 29, 2000

Paul Prudhomme vs. Larry Flynt

During my walk in the woods I let Jean know about the turducken news item I'd posted (I told her about turducken this morning and she'd seemed curious about how safe it was to cook, etc.) and that I'd sent her a link to the turducken FAQ. What ensued was a hilarious conversation.

I still maintain that my main reaction to turducken is that it is goofy. Jean mentioned in the morning that it sounded 'disgusting', but I had no idea! During our walk, we were cackling and chuckling at the extremity of our viewpoints. With some thought and probing, she concluded that it was:

  • "Filthy excess"
  • "Culinary Incest"
  • "Culinary Pornography"
  • "Roman Orgy Food"

Of course all of this was said with a hyperbolic sense of humor, but I was amused and surprised at the same time by her degree of offense. I'm hoping she'll write up her feelings as a rant, and let me post it here as a "Musings" article. "qbullet.smiley"

Back Pain Sucks

I don't always know how these things get started, but today I have serious back pain (right around the floating ribs extending halfway toward the front), and I think I know what caused it.

Last night I moved a drafting table to the kitchen from the den, so there'd be a place to put the iBook where Jean could work. It is a lightweight thing, and folds, so it isn't that awkward to move. But I must have picked it up or carried it wrong anyway, because the pain it comes, yes it comes!

I didn't feel more than a dull ache this morning, but it continued to escalate until, by the time I was walking back to my car after dropping Kelly off at Bridgeport, I was hobbling slowly, and had trouble getting into the car. Shifting gears was a pain as well.

It's times like these that I really appreciate my Leap chair at work, which I've mentioned in the past. I've taken two Alleve, which helped enough that I was able to go for a gingerly walk with Jean in the woods just now. But I'm seriously debating going home and reclining with the laptop (I can get into work via a SSH connection). Keep your fingers crossed!

Election Night

Kelly and I have evolved a ritual as part of her bedtime
preparation. After her bath she has to pick up her toys, get her teeth
cleaned (toothbrushing, flossing, and flouride pill), then get ready
for bed. As part of getting ready for bed she must choose a pair of
clean underwear. Here is her new ritual:

Kelly will open her dresser, pick out two pairs of underwear, and ask,
"okay, which do you vote for, this one or this one?" I'll pick a pair
and she'll discard the loser. Then she selects a new candidate and
repeats her question. This goes on until she's exhausted the entire
collection of underwear, with the giggles getting more and more
crazed. Sometimes, she'll try to discard my choice, in which case I
protest vehemently about vote rigging.

Recently she took to dumping all my choices in a pile, which she
claimed were the potential candidates, but which she promptly
ignored. I as a rule refuse to vote for green underwear, so when she
holds up two pairs of green underwear, I say "offer me another

I swear that this has been going on since before the election, and
that I haven't directed or influenced her in any way. Testified this
day, Wednesday, November 29, 2000, by Donald P. Wakefield

Conversations Out of Context

Overheard while walking down the hallway:

We have breathing room...until someone runs out of patience. Then we have no breathing room.

Sorry, it just tickled my weirdbone.

Double Bust

This is just too hilarious not to mention. I'm not sure it's a good deal when spot prices of silver are $4.60 an ounce, but the Washington Mint is offering a "Pre-Inauguration Price Only $29.95" for a one-ounce silver two-headed coin. On one side is the bust of George W. Bush, on the other, that of Al Gore. Hurry though, after the inauguration, the price jumps to $45. And there are "only" 100,000 of these suckers in the pipeline!

Heads, you lose, heads, I lose!

Sleep With The Fishes

Here's where I'm hoping fate is on my side. I've been to the gym, done my exercise, and changed into the only clean shirt I've got left here at work. Then I go back to my office and start to eat some haddock for protein. Oops! Spilled fish juice on my shirt. Now I smell like a haddock.

So I just left a message at home asking Jean if she can bring a shirt down for me when she comes down to walk. It all depends on if she stops at home before meeting me <crosses fingers>.

I have soaked the offending spot and sponged it off, but I doubt I've removed all lingering hints. In the meantime I'll just close the old office door. Thank goodness we don't have cubicles here! "qbullet.smiley"

Last Week's Buffy

The cool thing about the ReplayTV is that I can have a backlog of things to watch. Last night I watched Buffy, the Vampire Slayer from last week, an hour after I recorded this week's episode. So today's 'best line' is from last week, folks.

In Giles' magic shop, they are discussing how to locate Buffy's latest nemesis, an ancient evil manifesting as a val gal, who mops the floor with Buffy every time they meet. Xander and his girlfriend, Anya, who is now mortal but used to be an evil demon, have an exchange:

[Xander]: Why is it always a cult of evil-reptile worshippers? Why can't we just once be fighting a cult that worships cute bunnies?

[Anya]: Well, thank you very much for those nightmares!

Tuesday, November 28, 2000

Corner Desks

Office supply stores are a good place to find a middling-cheap task chair, as I can testify sitting here typing away. But they seem to suck pretty good at supplying any other furniture.

My search for a corner desk has skidded to a halt for now, since I've tried every name brand office store in a reasonable driving distance, and found desks that were either too small or too expensive. In a lot of cases, I'd find a price tag that was in line with my expectations only to discover that it was for a fragment of the assembled desk. Sheesh.

Jean has suggested that we also check the local Target and Fred Meyer, as well as branching out to the "real" furniture stores. But since I want to keep the price to $200 or less, I think the "real" furniture stores are out of the loop. Maybe I'm just being unrealistic. But this attitude does come from a guy who once built a computer desk out of particle board, 1X4's and screws. Go figger.

[That desk was the computer desk for my first computer, a Commodore 64, which served me well as an introduction to Computer Science]


I got email from Brenda today, just read it. She's got a clean bill of health on the polyp front, but is still suffering from GERD and general intestinal unhappiness. I've had my share of injuries, illnesses and curious new conditions in the past few months, but I feel I've pretty much cleared the woods for now. So I'll be trying to muster my psychic energy and send her a burst of what my wife and I call Chi (our cheap Western corruption of an Eastern term which we take to mean life force).

I Got It

I got the walk, thank goodness. And tomorrow I'll be doing strength training and a walk, no matter what. Since I'll be spending the majority of the day closeted with the HP-UX 10.20 OS and the C++ compiler and linker, trying to get packages to compile and link which compile and link just fine on every other stinking system we support, thank you very much, I don't think I'll have problems walking out of the office a couple of times (no ambushes by coworkers with interesting problems in other words).

My Kingdom for a Walk!

I'm dying for a simple walk! Saturday was just errands and watching Kelly. Sunday, while my wife was walking at Mentor, I did chores, then went down and worked over my bike, bringing the tire inflation up to spec, just so I could go for a ride when she got back. But then the cat thing happened.

Yesterday, I went over to the gym and did strength training for my back, but didn't do any treadmill work because I was planning on going for a walk with Jean when she came down in the afternoon. But around 1:30 I was walking down the hallway when I heard "say Don?"

That 'quick question' turned into a two hour meeting that stomped all over the time Jean was down here, so no walk yesterday. So today is when it's gonna happen. Even though Carsten is back after a week's vacation and I need to work with him, even though Ed and Mike want to talk about product stuff for their group, I'm drawing the line, I'm going out when Jean arrives! Carpe Diem!

Monday, November 27, 2000

Rugrats In Paris

I went with Kelly to see Rugrats In Paris this Sunday as well. It
certainly had more plot than Red Planet, and if it had had
Carrie-Ann Moss in it as well, it would have been the hands-down winner

The true horror of the movie is that I realize that I'm beginning to
recognize names of folks who work for Nickelodeon and Cartoon
Network. For instance, I spotted the director, Charlie Adler, and
knew that he was the voice actor of Cow, Chicken and the Red Guy
on the Cartoon Network show, Cow and Chicken. More pleasantly, I
was reminded that Peter Chung had played a part in the character designs
of Rugrats (surprisingly, since the art style is not at all
characteristic of him). And of course the original music for the series
is by Mark Mothersbaugh, originally of Devo fame.

Lost Cat

On weekends, Jean typically drives down to Mentor to go for a walk. This
is because Mentor has a nice nature trail loop on campus. Each loop
takes six to eight minutes, and it's fairly idyllic. This Sunday, I was
doing my chores around the house, when I heard Jean on the phone, urging
me to 'pick up'. It turned out that while walking the nature trail, Jean
discovered a cat which appeared injured, and she wanted to take it to a
vet clinic.

Of course, the vet clinics are all closed on Sunday, but less than ten
minutes from our house is the Emergency Veterinary Clinic of Tualatin,
open twenty-four hours seven days a week. So she brought the cat home,
we got Kelly suited up, and we recovered one of our cat carriers and
headed out with the cat. When Jean found it, it had a collar, but caught
around the armpit of it's left foreleg. She cut it free, but found no
tag. The vet said that it had been lacerated by the collar under it's
arm. His assessment is that the cat is very old, and may have only a
month to live regardless of what care we give it.

Jean's plan is to contact the Wilsonville vet clinics to check their
lost pet lists, then drive the Wilsonville neighborhoods looking for
'lost cat' fliers. She'll post a few 'found cat' fliers on top of
that. We plan to wait a couple of days, then take the cat to a shelter,
since we can't keep it long term, due to already having Grendl, our own
'very old' cat.

Currently, the stray is living in our laundry room, where it is warm,
since the vet said it's temperature was too low. Also it's weight was
about half that expected for it's build. Jean says she thinks fate or
God or whatever directed her to take the cat and see that it's last days
were not spent freezing and starving. I hope we can reunite it with it's
owner too, but at least it isn't dragging itself through the bushes like
when Jean found it.

Sunday, November 26, 2000

Musically Minded

A few weeks ago I was at Fry's Electronics and I saw a DVD for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Naturally, I had to buy it. This is one of my two most favorite musicals, the other being The Music Man.

Friday I started watching it, with Kelly. I'm often surprised what she'll find interesting. You might think I shouldn't let her watch it, since it has a rather dated sexist motif, but it is generally a classic farce, so I explain to her that the sexism is just part of that other era, and that she may encounter it in her own life, so better to see it now.

My two favorite roles from this show are Zero Mostel as Pseudolus, and Jack Gilford as Hysterium. Many other roles are cool, but these guys have most of the comic power. Phil Silvers has his moments as Lycus too.

We are about one third through the show, and I don't know if Kelly will sustain her interest. If not, I'll watch it myself, but I think she would enjoy most of the music. Funny, but though I've seen this show several times over the years, I never realized that the music and lyrics were by Stephen Sondheim. That would explain why the songs are so much fun.

DSL Again

The 30th is supposed to be the day they turn on the DSL. I'll send them mail tomorrow evening to see if it is happening, or being postponed to the millenium. Any bets?

Got Milk?

Nothing like getting up in the morning and discovering there's no milk. Of course in our house, this doesn't mean making a trip to the store. It means getting out the powdered milk and making up a new batch. The plus is that you are never very far away from having milk, but the minus is that you still have to do some work. Would I prefer getting dressed, getting into the car and driving to the grocery store and back, to making a pitcher myself? God, it's hard to choose...

Fortunately for me, I've started buying a bunch of Rubbermaid fluid containers, 1 pint in size, with screw-on lids which have a pop top. Taking one package of powdered milk, I can make two of these containers, with far less effort than making up a pitcher. In about three minutes, I had milk for my breakfast, and milk for Kelly's cereal and chocolate milk. When Jean gets back from her walk, I'll make more. Honest!

Saturday, November 25, 2000

SNES Purchases

I got the bright idea of looking for used videogame shops in the Yellow Pages, and found a few. One close by said that they had lots of game cartridges for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, the console Kelly has been playing with. So I drove over, and ended up buying three games. Here's a synopsis:

  • Street Fighter II - a one-on-one martial arts game. I figured it would at least be similar to the Ranma 1/2 game Kelly has been getting a kick out of.
  • Mario Kart - a go-cart racing game, using the Mario Bros. characters.
  • Populous - A "God Game" where you build a civilization and attempt to gain 'manna'. I bought this one for me, as I had read that it was a very popular game when it was first out. Since most of these used cartridges have no instructions, I don't know if I'll be able to figure it out, but at $7 it was a cheap experiment.

I tried playing Mario Kart first without Kelly, and at least for me, it was hard. When Kelly tried it, she got frustrated and gave up. Conclusion: she's too young for games requiring real coordination -- and I'm too clumsy "qbullet.smiley".

Kelly tried Street Fighter II, played a few rounds, but I had a few more wins against her than I usually do with Ranma 1/2. She didn't like that, and so she ended up wanting to play Ranma 1/2 again. The difference between SFII and R1/2 seems to be that R1/2 allows a player who just mashes buttons fast to win frequently. SFII seems to require some level of dexterity and skill. Again, for the five-year old, too much too soon.

I'm not disappointed by this experiment. It was a cheap way to let me know if Kelly would be joining me in my PS2 experiment. Now I'd say the answer is no. In fact, I am happy that the games she really enjoys, such as Freddi Fish, involve thought and creativity. Let's leave it at that for now. As for Ranma 1/2, getting my butt whooped by my five-year old daughter occasionally is good for the soul "qbullet.smiley".

Just Six Numbers

Just finished this book, by Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and a professor at Cambridge. Among other things, it takes the anthropic principle one better. Demonstrating that six simply described constants can measure the complexity and habitability of our universe, he reviews the history of physics in the light of the 'fine-tuning' necessary for our species (and indeed our universe) to exist.

While not confining himself exclusively to the question of 'why are we here?' and referencing the anthropic principle, it is one of the main thrusts of the book. The kernel is that he feels there may be indirect evidence (if not now, then eventually) for a plethora of universes, where the six numbers all vary, with the majority of universes being sterile. Given this, it is not so far-fetched to say, "if our universe was inhospitable, there would be no sentient life to ask why it is special".

Next in the queue: Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue Lagoon: Joe Queenan's America. I've got this on request with the library, and found out about it while browsing weblogs. I think I saw it on The link above contains the quote:

Queenan sets out to find music, movies, books, and TV that transcend awful, and the most remarkable thing about this book is that one never doubts for a moment that he actually subjected himself to all of the horrors he describes (including the literary efforts of Joan Collins).

Friday, November 24, 2000

More Games

I was in the bedroom talking to Jean to help her get sleepy (ain't that a terrible talent to have?) and I was telling her about my last log entry. She reminded me that at the arcade I used to try to get her excited about Asteroids, but she would always prefer Zaxxon:

[Jean] "I wanna shoot things!"

[Phin] "You can shoot things in Asteroids!"

[Jean] "I don't like that, it's too abstract."

And when I told her about the study that stated that women didn't like games that involved shooting, preferring games like Pac-Man, she just shrugged.

Other games we played:

  • Burger Time.
  • Dig Dug.
  • Centipede.

Games and Me

Way back when I first met Jean, we were of course both poor college students (or in my case, poor college dropout "qbullet.smiley"). We'd go see a movie occasionally, for which I'd dig into my old stock of albums and sell a few. Eventually I ran out of albums, but by that time, Jean realized I was serious about her "qbullet.smiley".

One of the other things we used to do for entertainment was to each take five dollars, go to the game arcade and buy as many tokens as that would fetch, then play games until the tokens ran out. As we got better, the tokens lasted longer. Jean and I played more games of Zaxxon than I care to remember.

When we became more financially secure, we bought a Super Nintendo Entertainment System, or SNES. We had some Mario game, Donkey Kong Country, and my Ranma 1/2 fighting game. Jean played DKC all the time, until she quit because she realized just how much time she was sinking into it. When she got pregnant, I bought her a Sega Gamegear (color handheld game system) to play at the hospital, but of course she wasn't in any real mood to do it.

So the arcade games faded into the past, and the consoles went into the closet. As I got older and my reflexes got rustier, I played fewer games of this type. Instead, I've gotten more into Web design, software engineering, trolling the Internet, and so on. When I did play regular computer games, they tended not to be shooters like Doom, but strategy games like Warcraft. But even those held my attention less than learning a new programming paradigm, like functional programming.

As I've been hanging out with some friends at "NOVA", they have shown me all their neat games, and the cool new game consoles that have been coming out, such as the Sega Dreamcast. It was when they showed me the game "Bust A Move" on the Dreamcast, that I began to think that there might be hope for gaming after all.

The game is a dance competition, either between two players or the player and the computer. The computer shows on the screen what dance moves you must do, and the player who keeps closest gains points. When you are winning, your image shows up on the Jumbotron behind the dance stage. Eventually a winner is decided, and that player gets to do a solo freestyle dance.

This was just so much fun that I decided that game consoles might be worth something after all. I found out that Sony was coming out with a next-generation game console called the Playstation 2, or PS2. When I heard that it would also play DVDs, I resolved to get one. The release date recently arrived, and all the units sold out immediately. You can't get one, and might have to wait until Spring.

That's when I started thinking that I'd buy a PS One and use it to try out a few games before the PS2 was available again. But in the back of my mind, a PS1 wasn't worth it unless it gave value to Kelly too, who is having a blast whooping me on the SNES playing the Ranma 1/2 game. So when I took her to Fry's today, I playtested her on the PS1. She obviously enjoyed the idea, but just as clearly was overwhelmed by the complex controller and confusing action. So I've resolved to hold off on getting a console until the PS2 is easier to get. Then the first game I'm gonna buy is "Bust A Move" "qbullet.smiley".

Today's Activities

I went down to Mentor after Jean's morning walk, to exercise and do a little work. In the afternoon Jean dropped Kelly off at my office so she could go for her second walk of the day. Kelly played in the office, and didn't distract me too much. When it came time for Kelly to go home with Jean, she said she wanted to stay with me. I told her that she could if she let me work.

That worked out okay especially as my last few chores included burning a CD Rewritable of a few things I needed on my home machine:

  • Emacs 20.6 for the Macintosh.
  • Fonts to accompany Emacs.
  • A demo of Diablo for the Macintosh "qbullet.smiley".

She played patiently in my office as I ran from office to office swapping CDs and checking files. All the while this was going on, she was listening to my Japanese soundtrack album to Bubblegum Crisis, an anime that was popular about the time I was first getting into it.

Afterwards I dragged her with me to Fry's Electronics, which is just south of where I work, to look at corner desks to replace the old one in the den as a computer desk. While we were there, we fiddled with the PS One (Playstation, compact edition), and I concluded that she wasn't ready for it, although she does enjoy the Super Nintendo Entertainment System we had buried in the closet, and the single game we still have, Ranma 1/2 Hot Fighting Action! "qbullet.smiley".

After that I took her home and went to Staples to check out their selection of corner desks. No good deals there. We'll try out Office Depot this weekend if time permits.

Thursday, November 23, 2000

The Return of Flower Girl

We had an interesting Thanksgiving Day meal this year. Instead of Jean and Kelly and I sitting down together to eat our afternoon meal, Jean and I were joined by Flower Girl. She had come in from the cold to visit Kelly, and Kelly decided that Flower Girl looked too thin. So Kelly stayed in her room, and Flower Girl joined us at the table. Flower Girl looked remarkably like Kelly, except for the petals surrounding her face. And the petals surrounding her face looked remarkably like a ring of pink fabric formed by placing the remains of a lycra skirt on her head. But there you go. "qbullet.smiley"

After enjoying her meal, which consisted of:

  • Turkey with mashed-potato gravy
  • Mashed potatoes with butter
  • Part of a yam
  • Homemade chili
  • Blueberry muffin
  • Vanilla icecream and pumpkin pie

Flower Girl visited with us for awhile. Jean then drove down to Mentor to go for a walk in the woods, and Flower Girl and Kelly took turns watching cartoons on the couch with me. I thought it strange, but I never saw Flower Girl and Kelly in the same room together.

[puts on glasses] "I'm Clark Kent!"

[takes off glasses] "I'm Superman!"

[puts on glasses] "I'm Clark Kent!"

[takes off glasses] "I'm Superman!"

[puts on glasses] "I'm Clark Kent!"

[takes off glasses] "I'm Superman!"

[with a peeved look] "HellOOOooo!"

Anyway, Jean returned, and I went out for my exercise. When I returned, Kelly was in the room with Jean. Kelly informed me that Flower Girl had gone home. It turns out that Flower Girl visits but once a year, during the main meal on Thanksgiving Day. I look forward to her next visit.

Radio Userland Nausea

Well, much as I love this weblog (i.e., the free editing interface, the free server, the free filespace), I have to say once again that Dave Winer's software is not for the casual user. I tried downloading and using the (yes, free) beta of Radio Userland as a remote editing tool tonight. I had read on Scripting News that it was an easy way to edit a Manila site (which these weblogs on are).

After about an hour of reading all the most likely documentation, and trying and failing to proceed, and watching Radio Userland repeatedly pop up a dialogue to inform me about a missing file (why would I care?) I finally gave up. Into the trashcan with the RU folder. No, I didn't search the Radio Userland mailing list archives. I said casual user, remember?

It really isn't that big of a surprise. Documentation on Userland software has always trailed functionality, at least when I followed that sort of thing. And I'd guess you have to have a huge commitment to learning the system, since when this thing comes out of beta, it'll likely cost something similar to Frontier (another Userland product), which goes for nine hundred some dollars a year. Too rich for my pockets.

So I'll just keep using the forms interface to, and accept that that's going to be the only way I'll be editing this weblog (that and precomposing articles in BBEdit). Unless you are a professional webmaster, or a young person with lots of time and energy, you probably should too.

Tuesday, November 21, 2000

QOTD and Editorial

Installing Mailman, by the way, was a barrel of laughs. Like most open source software, "it's only free if your time is worthless." Sob.

Joel Rosenberg

I partially agree with this sentiment, but it isn't that bad. I tend to side with Cameron Barrett, who linked to an article whose headline was "Free Software Isn't Free". His one-word editorial comment: "Duh!"

I don't think I'll be giving away any secret advantage to say that IC Station uses an open source XML parser, called expat. That was painless. I'm currently evaluating a scripting language with GUI bindings which are all open source, and there is a bit more work required on our side to make this commercially robust on all the platforms we want to use it on. But I expect this much when there is no organized vendor driving things.

And commercial software is no better. We have more headaches with HP's workstation OS, HP-UX, than I care to enumerate (note to lawyers, this is my opinion [and a lot of other peoples'], get over it). So open source is just more of the same.

I'd say the key distinguishing trait of open source software is that the documentation is often less than complete. If you were looking to volunteer on an OSS project and make your name, would you choose documentation? Of course not. That's boring. It ain't glamourous.

So if you're preparing to use OSS, be prepared also to dig for documents. Scour DejaNews, search for mailing lists for the software in question, especially archives. Generally, just dig. You'll probably even end up looking at the code. Gasp! "qbullet.smiley"

Holiday Early Start

I'm at home right now, waiting for my whole wheat bread to be done. It's been too long since I last did this. The bread is going to be flatter than it should. I think I killed the yeast during the first rise cycle with a too-hot oven (I usually set it on 'warm' to give the yeast a nice home). Even so, it will still be a rich bread, meal-unto-itself, but it won't be crumbly, fluffy stuff as well. Too bad.

The chili is done, and Jean had some with her lunch. She says it was good, but needs to 'marinate'. The spices and juices soak into the tofu and mix with the beans and tomatoes to give a much richer taste after 24 hours in the refrigerator. I look forward to eating it tomorrow.

After the bread comes out, I'll head on down to work to spend about ninety minutes doing strength training in the campus gym. I find it helps my back, forestalling and sometimes even preventing back problems. It definitely reduces generic chronic pain. When that is finished, I'll stop by the office for a couple of hours to do some self-study work. I think I'll also add a builtin to IC Station to query the application's window and visual IDs (under X Windows).

Thanksgiving History

In my continuing effort to include some authentic history into the mix of commercialism surrounding most U.S. holidays, here are a couple of links to historic Thanksgiving documents:

Kindergarten Peeve

Every morning I drop Kelly off at Bridgeport Elementary School. And just
about every morning, I get annoyed with people who don't think, or only
care about themselves.

Bridgeport has a large traffic circle, lined with lots of parking
spaces. The traffic lanes themselves are narrow. At the time I am
arriving, schoolbuses are arriving, and other parents are dropping off
their kids who don't use the bus. Invariably, several parents decide
that they'll stop in the middle of the traffic lane to drop their kid
off. The car will stop, with several cars behind it, the kid will
begin to gather up his or her stuff, climb laboriously out of the
car, then open the front door and give their parent a kiss or
hug. Finally, they will move on, and the parent, once certain their kid
is out of the road, will trundle slowly off. Then it repeats again
with some other jerk

Why oh why can't these idiots just pull over out of the traffic
into one of the parking slots if they are going to eject their kid from
the car instead of walking them into the school? Answer, it wouldn't be
as convenient for them. They think it might add all of two
minutes to their time at the school. But the idiots don't realize that
since they and all their idiot friends do this, they spend five or
more minutes queued up behind the other selfish jerks
stopping in the middle of the traffic lane. What a bunch of maroons!

Monday, November 20, 2000


Thanksgiving is coming up. Mentor gives me both this Thursday and Friday off to celebrate. Jean and Kelly and I will be staying home for the holiday, with no visitors. In the last few years we've always flaunted tradition, preparing Cornish game hens and something light for the Thanksgiving Day 'feast'. This year we are not to get off so easily.

Apparently Kelly has been getting an education on Thanksgiving, including all the traditional trappings. So she is insisting on a real Turkey, real cranberry sauce, real yams, and so on. Jean has volunteered to make all of this, so long as I make a few items which are not traditional.

So I'm digging out my two favorite recipes:

  • Scratch-made Whole Wheat Bread. Made properly, this loaf is dense, rich and a meal unto itself. It actually takes about five hours to prepare, given multiple kneading and rising cycles. I originally got the recipe from Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book - A Guide to Whole-Grain Breadmaking. By the way, this is an excellent book if you like varied bread recipes, emphasizing whole grain breads.
  • Blue Ribbon Chili. Actually made with tofu rather than beef, this is also a made-from-scratch recipe. But it only takes two hours to make "qbullet.smiley". I got this one from the Marilyn Diamond cookbook: The American Vegetarian Cookbook - From the Fit For Life Kitchen. This book has a lot of nice recipes with an emphasis on low-fat, low-salt cooking.

Maybe if I'm feeling industrious, and not too worried about copyright infringement, I'll copy the recipes out here before Thanksgiving.

I make the chili recipe infrequently, and we always enjoy it. The bread recipe used to be a regular staple in our household before Kelly was born, but alas I've not made it for years. When something takes five hours to make, you have to be very motivated. But since this is Thanksgiving, and Kelly seems to be getting into it, I'm starting to get motivated. In fact, I've decided to use some of my vacation time to do the food prep on Wednesday, so that Jean can have the kitchen free and clear on Thursday!

Hmmm, wasn't it just a few News Items ago that I was fretting about being unable to get below 207 pounds?


I was looking at this Web site's referer logs, and was surprised at the number of links from Google. I didn't think that their search engine bots crawled this site. All to the good, I suppose. Maybe I'll start using Google for my own searches.

In reality, I was checking the logs to see if I could recognize my sister's ISP accessing this site. But I don't know what it is, so I'd be guessing. Moreover,'s referer logs only look at the last 24 hours, so unless I checked it every day, I could very well miss her visit. Therefore, I'll just say, "Hi Brenda!" "qbullet.smiley"

A Handful of Dust

I just finished reading this book (by Evelyn Waugh) last night. It was late when I finished, and moreover I wasn't sure I knew what I wanted to say about it, so I decided to sleep on it. After approximately 22 hours, I don't think I've clarified my thinking. The book was by turns a comedy and a tragedy. At times I believed I was reading P. G. Wodehouse, and at others, Joseph Conrad. The ending was positively bitter in the fates meted out to the main characters, at least to Tony Last. Brenda Last got less than she wanted, and more than she deserved.

On the whole, it appears to be a portrait of a society of drones, sometime after the Great War. Many of the characters are likeable, but on closer inspection have far too little self-awareness to supply enduring charm. I chose this book over Brideshead Revisited because I wanted to see something of Waugh outside his most popular work. Now I think I'll definitely add BR to my list, but I'll certainly want to read a few books in the interrim to give it freshness.

Books currently open, which may or may not get finished:

  • The Arrogance of Power - Anthony Summers. A not-so-friendly biography of Richard Nixon.
  • A Deepness Upon the Sky - Vernor Vinge. A 'prequel' to his award-winning series 'A Fire Upon the Deep'. I don't think I like this one as much, but I'll probably finish it. Science Fiction.
  • Just Six Numbers - Martin Rees. From the library, I have to get cracking on this one. Rees is a Royal Astronomer. This book explores how different our universe would be with tiny alterations of any of six fundamental constants.
  • GTK+ Programming Bible. I'll be working my way through this one for a year, at least. For work.

There are others that I pick up now and then, such as the book on the Haskell programming language, which is a functional programming language. I read this to stretch my mind. Then of course we've got the subscription to Scientific American now, and I'm gonna buy the next issue of Atlantic Monthly to continue evaluating it for a potential subscription (at $10 per 12 issues it's cheap, but if I don't read it, not that cheap).

Ankle Curse

After I wrecked my ankle (second-degree, not enough for surgery, but good enough to debilitate), going to the gym became an iffy proposition. I was very good about it for awhile, doing strength training as a substitute for running. As I recovered, I began to tape up my ankle and go running lightly. Continuing pain in my ankle led me to reconsider this. Dr. Selby's Physician Assistant told me it would be six to eight weeks to a full recovery. But at my physical last week Dr. Selby himself said it would be more like six months, and I'd never have full strength back. Pee yoo!

I began shifting over to walking about three weeks ago, which has become a great boon to me, since Jean comes down to Mentor and walks with me for 45 to 50 minutes each day. During these walks we get to talk to each other in a depth of detail which just doesn't happen at home anymore. Kelly is a natural interruption machine. She'll sit watching cartoons silently for an hour, but within moments of Jean and I starting a conversation, she is butting in asking silly questions, sharing imaginary incidents, and otherwise breaking the flow of our conversation. We now tell her "Mommy's talking to me" or "Daddy's talking to me", but by then, we've already lost our concentration.

So the walks are beneficial in two ways. The first keeps my heart healthy, and the second keeps my relationship with Jean healthy. The downside is that I don't feel right going to the gym for a full workout when I'm already walking close to an hour a day. But I really need more vigorous exercise to shed some of the extra weight I've gained since wrecking my ankle. I was up to 218 pounds. I've managed to get down to 207, but I've stalled there for the last two or three weeks.

So I went to the gym today, and the plan is to work up to a regular two or three days a week, doing just strength training. I'll monitor my weight, and if this doesn't cause a dip, I'll start taking my bike down, and skip one or two days of walking with Jean to do more vigorous biking. Frankly I hope the weight training suffices, since I really enjoy the walks with Jean.

Sunday, November 19, 2000

Sunday Activities

Not much going on today. We went for a walk down at Mentor, or rather Jean and I did. Kelly rode in a stroller which is several years too young for her. That was additional exercise, since the area we walk at Mentor is a gravel nature trail. Try pushing a stroller with small wheels along a loose-gravel path and you'll get a workout too.

When we got back, Kelly decided that she wanted to warm up with a hot bath. So though it's only 4:30, she's already had her evening bath. She just tried to get me to help her make a sock puppet, but I bowed out. She said, "okay, I'll do it myself". Good for her. I don't have the patience for craft projects. Not that kind of patience anyway.

I don't know if there'll be any truly significant activity between now and bedtime, but I'll be sure to post here if it does! "qbullet.smiley"

Red Planet

I went to see Red Planet after "NOVA" last night. The movie is not so memorable that I'd write a full review, but I do have a few comments:

Some reviewers have been attempting to throw this movie a bone by saying it is scientifically accurate, but I don't think so. A character who is supposed to be a geneticist spots a large crab-louse/cockroach critter on the surface of Mars and refers to it as "some sort of nematode". Sorry, but nematodes are worms.

In the climax of the movie, Carrie-Ann Moss gives Val Kilmer CPR, and after successfully resuscitating him, the computer says "stand him up, Commander Bowman". I'm sorry, but in zero gravity, which way is up?

The plot is on the whole very predictable. Some of the special effects are fun, such as the robot, AMEE, and the 'nematodes'. The biggest draw in the movie for me is Carrie-Ann Moss, whom I've had a crush on ever since The Matrix. But as she plays the role of the commander stuck on the ship while the other crew bumble around on Mars, she doesn't really get enough airplay.

Probably the nicest thing I can say about this movie is that when I take Kelly to see Rugrats in Paris I'll think back fondly on Red Planet "qbullet.smiley".

The Chair

We went to Office Depot yesterday, and got a chair. It is labelled a 'Super-ergonomic Task Chair', and works reasonably well. It of course can't compete with my Leap chair at work, but it didn't cost $750 either.

Next on the agenda, perhaps next weekend, is the location and purchase of a 'corner desk' for the kitchen. Corner desks, if you haven't seen them, are made of two sections at right angles, which fit into a corner (Duh!). The type I have in mind also has a keyboard tray in the right angle between sections. If we find one, I'll permanently move the laptop computer charger there so Jean can use the laptop without us having to both be in the den crowding each other.

Longer term, I hope to find a somewhat larger corner desk for the den, to replace the aging computer desk that is there now.

Friday, November 17, 2000


Lemurs are my favorite primates. Don't ask why, it's encoded in my bones. Jean has jokingly suggested that we should have a family crest whose animal (rampant, I presume) would be the lemur. For my birthday, Jean and Kelly bought an Oregon Zoo Zooparent sponsorship for a lemur.

As such, I thought it worth noting that scientists have found three hitherto unknown species of lemur in Madagascar:

'It is incredibly rare to discover a new species of primate, let alone three new species,' said Steven Goodman of the Field Museum of
Natural History in Chicago, who participated in the study. Other participants were from Germany and Madagascar.,2107,500279404-500438292-502803831-0,00.html

Election Patter

On the way in to work today I heard two amusing tidbits:

New Mexico has flipped several times, and is now in the Gore camp. This could change again. In the event of a tie, New Mexico law requires a drawing of lots to decide the winner. A state position (governor? senator?) was a tie a few years ago, and was settled by each side drawing a hand of five-card stud poker. Not playing, just drawing. The winner had two pairs.

Advocates of the Electoral College say that direct voting would concentrate all political campaigning in the most populous areas, and that small states and outlying rural regions would never receive visits from the candidates. This might not be a bad thing, however, as it costs regions which are visited.

Portland, Oregon spent $400,000 to $600,000 on police security, traffic control and administration of the various Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates' visits this year. Since, according to Mayor Vera Katz, the city budgets around $200,000 for this sort of thing, the city is feeling the crunch. Portland has in the past tried to bill the campaigns for such expenses, but historically they don't pay.

Thursday, November 16, 2000

Today's Word Is Gingham

Tuesday night, while watching Red Dwarf with my daughter, one of the characters, Arnold Rimmer, was wearing (for comic effect) what he referred to as a 'red and white checked gingham dress'.

"Hold it," I thought, "isn't that redundant?" I always thought gingham was a red-and-white check fabric. But apparently it isn't. The best online definition is at, but their interface doesn't allow for linking a URL directly to a definition, so if you want theirs, you'll have to type in the word yourself. Instead, you can check out this definition from

Midsection Report

I had my consult with Dr. Selby today, and considering all the factors:

  • one definite colon cancer in the family, one possible
  • a flex-sig last year, with subsequent identification of an internal hemmorhoid
  • clean Hemacult test recently

we agreed that I do not need to rush out today and get a colonoscopy.

We also agreed that my next visit to the Snake Doctor "qbullet.smiley" should be for a colonoscopy rather than flex-sig, and that it should happen on my 45th birthday, two years earlier than he had scheduled my next flex-sig. Then every five years thereafter I get a colonoscopy.

So while most guys have a midlife crisis, I get to have a midsection crisis!

Wednesday, November 15, 2000

Busy, Busy, Busy

I've mentioned before how weeks can go by doing routine work and everything is slow, and you hardly ever see your coworkers, then suddenly the dam breaks. This has been one of those weeks where the dam broke. No emergency situations, just Fearless Leaders deciding that we need to ship our next release in January. Ugh.

Monday, November 13, 2000

Lost Weekend

This weekend was very dissipated. I did all the usual chores and errands, but other than that, I was very unmotivated, skipping the work I brought home from work (work work) and simply reading. Jean said she was feeling tired too. She wondered if the flu shot we'd gotten on Thursday might have had anything to do with it. I still have my doubts, but for hypochondriacs everywhere, consider this from the Red Cross Flu Shot FAQ:

Are There Any Reactions to the Shot?

The most common side effect is soreness of the arm and/or injection site for up to two days. Less common side effects are fever and some fatigue. Allergic reactions are rare; most are commonly associated with an allergy to eggs.

Sunday, November 12, 2000

Boys, Girls and Rules

I wish I could remember the source of this, and a search of the Internet yielded nothing. But I recall hearing this report, which summarized a study of the game-playing habits of boys and girls in semi-organized games on a playground. The study centered around conflict resolution by boys and girls.

The research concluded that whenever there was a conflict relating to the game, boys and girls reacted differently. Girls it seemed, preferred to resolve differences in a personal way which removed the source of the conflict. Boys, on the other hand, faced with conflict, preferred to argue about the rules "qbullet.smiley".

Over time, I've realized that this is totally on the mark. For an example from my own life, read my musing, "Boys, Girls and Rules".

Boys, Girls and Rules

Twice a month of a Saturday, I attend a meeting of "NOVA", a club for the appreciate of Japanese animation. It is a social club, and I meet several friends there and go out for a snack as well as watch anime. Some evenings we go to see a movie afterwards.

NOVA has two membership rates: $15 per year, or $1 each meeting. Some members find it more convenient to pay by the meeting, especially if they don't come to every meeting. Recently, we discovered that a video rental store which rents anime would be willing to give a discount to members of our club, but members would need to present a membership card. This is the first time we've seen the need for a membership card.

There was just one problem: how to handle membership cards for people who pay by the meeting. The officers initiated a discussion on the NOVA Mailing List, and a multitude of solutions were suggested. I liked my own: issue a card each meeting, good to the day prior to the next meeting. I even worked out the economics of printing up cards which would be discarded in only two to three weeks, versus the income of $1 per meeting, and showed that we would not operate at a loss.

Other members suggested cards that could be stamped with a date. There were objections that the merchant would find the multiple time stamps confusing. Still others suggested that only yearly members might be allowed to have a card. Some suggested that membership be charged only for access to the archives, or for renting from area merchants. The fine points of each alternative were debated in great detail, with occasional quotes from the club charter. As near as I can tell, all this discussion was driven by our male members.

Then one member, a woman, in fact the woman responsible for the NOVA Web page artwork, suggested that we just give a membership card to everybody, good for one year, whether they paid by the year or the meeting. My first response (which I didn't post, just spoke to my computer monitor) was, "that's not the point!" But of course, on reflection, it was just as good a solution as any other proposed. The difference was that it cut to the central issue, provided a workaround which dismissed the importance of total equity and observance of the rules, and worked.

I wish I could remember the source of this, and a search of the Internet yielded nothing. But I recall hearing this report, which summarized a study of the game-playing habits of boys and girls in semi-organized games on a playground. The study centered around conflict resolution by boys and girls.

The research concluded that whenever there was a conflict relating to the game, boys and girls reacted differently. Girls it seemed, preferred to resolve differences in a personal way which removed the source of the conflict. Boys, on the other hand, faced with conflict, preferred to argue about the rules "qbullet.smiley".

Over time, I've realized that this is totally on the mark.

Chair Trek

While at Costco, I looked at their chair offerings. They basically had three chair choices. Two were unadjustable 'manager' chairs. The third was adjustable, but uncomfortable to me. As it is already 3pm, I'll be postponing the next leg of the search until the following weekend. We'll see what Staples has to offer.

On another front, Jean is beginning to get tired of waiting for Carr Subura to locate the exact perfect car for her, and is beginning to research Honda Civics and Honda Accords. If we went with one of these, she'd probably order it from Frey Automotive, an automobile broker whose services are available to members of our credit union. We had good experiences with them when getting our last car, so the Subaru guys had better watch out "qbullet.smiley".


Kelly is in the dog house with me right now. She has had a variety of treats today, and yet behaved badly:

  • This morning, Jean bought Kelly a bunch of Croisandwiches at Burger King, so she could have something interesting for breakfast a few days this week. Jean also bought herself a frozen coke. Kelly's response: How come I didn't get one?

  • I took Kelly with me to Costco, wove my way through all the aisles letting her get all the free samples her little heart desired. When she expressed great interest in the apple cider, I asked her if she wanted any, she said yes, so I bought her some.

  • For lunch, I took her to Burger King, bought her a kid's meal (including a toy), and a frozen coke. I played with her while she ate. On the way out, I bought Jean another frozen coke, since she had asked me to. Kelly began to frown and grump. "It's not fair that Mom gets two frozen cokes and I only get one.

The problem we have here is that Kelly honestly believes that this is her due. She has only to ask, and it is hers. I'm sure this is partly a function of being a five-year old, but it also has to do with growing up in an affluent society. She has more toys now than I had in my entire life (thanks mostly to grandparents). I'm sure I had more toys than my parents ever had.

But it's hard to explain things like the Great Depression to a five-year old. In the end, with days like today, I just get frustrated, tell her she's being selfish, and let her know she's in the dog house for the rest of the day. Maybe someday we'll communicate more clearly, or she'll grow out of it. This sense of entitlement is not attractive.

Rereading the above, I can see that it might seem that I am catering to her sense of entitlement, but it isn't so. She has chores which she has to do, and the treats are usually clearly associated with doing her work. But I will admit that this is all part of fine-tuning our permissiveness...

Back Pain

I went to bed last night with back pain. Tight muscles around the floating ribs near the spine. This morning I woke up, they were worse. After having a light breakfast, I'll draw a hot bath and soak for awhile, then take some aspirin. I'm pretty sure I strained it lifting Kelly wrong a couple of days ago, but it doesn't really matter. I don't think it is going to blossom into a full fledged spasm. The most disappointing aspect is that I was going to work out at the gym at work tomorrow, but that level of activity is out of the question for now.

Coincidentally, today was going to be the day to shop for an office chair to use with the computer in the 'den'. Jean has been saving money to that purpose, because she knows I have a bad back, and we currently have a mere folding card chair. We don't have enough money to buy an Aeron, or the Leap chair that I have at work (both on the order of $750 MSRP), but anything is bound to be an improvement over the cheap thing we have now.

We were going to go to Staples, and it's true that they have a wide selection of office chairs. But I suggested that since I was going to Costco anyway, Jean and Kelly might want to come along and check for chairs there. The selection will be smaller, but the prices will be lower as well. Since my premise is that any office chair will be an improvement over the card table chair we have, I don't think a huge selection will be much of an advantage anyway.

I'm off to draw my bath! "qbullet.smiley"

Saturday, November 11, 2000

Home Work

I brought home my book, the GTK+ Programming Bible to read this weekend. So far, I haven't had the time, or when I've had the time, I haven't had the inclination/energy. Which is a shame, since I think this will be pivotal to some of the work I'm going to be doing in the next few weeks.

Carsten and I have been doing research and prototyping for extensions to the functionality of our product, and Ernie, our once-again manager, seemed really excited by the demo we gave him on Thursday. On Friday morning when I came in late (after watching Kelly while Jean worked), I found that he'd been dragging various people over to show them the demo in Carsten's office as well. So now we are greenlight to develop the techonology. The only problem is that they would like to ship the minimal implementation in January. Gaaahhh!

This is so classic and typical of work at Mentor. I go for weeks working on routine stuff, doing research on the side, then the avalanche comes and I'm swamped for several weeks. I can go a month with no interaction with most of my coworkers, when my taskload is light, and then, when the storm hits, I have tons of work, and everybody needs me to interrupt it to help them. Such is life.


Watching the news this evening I was seeing all the reports on Veteran's Day Parades throughout the state and I got to thinking: just what is the deal with parades? It seems to be a holdover from small communities where nothing much ever happens. In that context it makes sense: half of us will dress up and march down the street, and the other half will stand on the sides watching us go by.

In brief, I don't really see the point.

I think it's different in the case of Mardi Gras and other such events, because then everybody joins in, and it's more like a street party, or a 'block dance'.

Kelly Items

Yesterday Kelly and I went to Pig and Pancake, a restaurant off the highway in Tualatin. It seemed like a typical truckstop restaurant, but themed on breakfast, namely pancakes. This is what Kelly and I had agreed to as our Veteran's Day treat (more properly Day-Before-Veteran's-Day, but since her school was closed, it was still a holiday to her).

I had a stack of sourdough pancakes and a glass of milk. Kelly had a half-stack of blueberry pancakes and cranberry juice. She ate half of her half-stack, and I ate all of mine. Digressing, I guess Friday was my day to be bad, since I had lunch with my friends Burr and Robin at a Chinese restaurant, and that afternoon was Friday Afternoon Club, serving potstickers.

Today, we had the usual rush of chores, grocery shopping and such. Kelly was being rambunctious, so I made her get wrapped up later in the day and we went for a walk around the block. Since she got stung on a walk in the late Fall three times by yellowjackets, this was quite an accomplishment. I made a point of steering her around a location I knew to have a nest. We finished the walk with no incidents, after stopping about twenty times to play "what do you want to buy", where she pretended to be a merchant and sold me goods for as little as one cent and as much as five dollars.

Later in the day we went to Fred Meyers to shop for Kelly's present to Jean for Christmas. She selected a couple of sets of earrings (shhhh!) and we took them home and wrapped them up. She spent the rest of the evening eating her dinner, and watching cartoons. I just finished reading to her from The Long Secret, which is a sequel to Harriet the Spy. Jean is in with her reading her another chapter. With luck, she'll be unconscious in another half hour.

Tomorrow, I'm probably going to take her to McDonald's Playland, which is a McDonalds hamburger restaurant with a large play area inside, suitable for Winter fun. I'm also going to try to drag her along to the mall while I do some of my shopping for Jean's Christmas presents. I have my doubts that that will happen.

Thursday, November 9, 2000

Veteran's Day

Tomorrow is Veteran's Day, the holiday in which we honor our soldiers who have served in wars throughout history. Some wars were worth fighting, some were stupid, but our soldiers put their lives on the line nonetheless. Veteran's Day has become less commercialized than some of our other holidays, which probably marks the respect many people still feel for it.

On a private note, this is a national holiday, and schools are closed, so Kelly is home today. Jean and I are splitting the work day (neither of our places of business is closed) to be with Kelly. I have the morning with her, though she is still asleep as I type. When she wakes up, we'll go out to breakfast together at a nearby pancake restaurant. After we come back, I'll play with her until Jean returns, then go to work.

At work, I'm meeting my friends Burr Shaw and Robin Albrecht to go out to lunch, thus totally blowing my dietary restraint for this one day! Oops, I hear the patter of little feet. I'll post more later.

Coming Attractions

I'll compare notes with a friend of mine who has Irritable Bowel Syndrome and has thus had more than one colonoscopy, but here is my sister's info on colonoscopies:

You've never had a colonoscopy done before. You had a sigmoidoscopy which is only half way up your intestine. A colonoscopy is all the way through. The day before the procedure I take two Bisacodyl Tablets and then two bottles of Fleets Phospho-Soda; one at 2 p.m. and the other at 7 p.m. The day before is the worst because you are cleaning yourself out. Plus all I can have are clear liquids.

As for the actual procedure, I imagine it is a lot like the flex-sig only moreso. I'll of course be getting the details from Dr. Selby next Thursday, but anticipation can be so much fun "qbullet.smiley". By the way, if all this talk of colonoscopy is making you uncomfortable, rest assured that this is as close to the edge as I'm going to skate in a News Item. If I want to get into sqeamish detail, I'll put it into a "Musings" story, and you can give it a miss if you want.


Here's a very good article on why 2.69 million people voted for Ralph Nader, and why the Gore organization is bereft of common sense to imply that Nader 'stole' Gore's votes (quite aside from the fact that I've seen quotes from several professed 'lifelong Republicans' saying they voted for Nader).

This, along with Michael Moore's open letter to Al Gore says it all better than I can...


Yes, that's the official title of my latest email from GTE/Verizon regarding my order for DSL. Recall that they postponed my activation from the end of October to November 10th. I queried them to see if they were going to make that date, and received the following message:

We are unable to process your order at this time. There is no available ADSL hardware in the central office. Your new estimated relief date is 11-30-00.

And I am so relieved to hear that "qbullet.smiley". Bets on the November 30th date?

Death and Politics

I'm not a one-issue, litmus-test voter. When considering the candidates, I explore the totality of their stands. This is why it is better that a candidate have some history in public life, so that there exists a record to which you can refer. Bush has been Governor of Texas, Gore a Senator and Vice President, Nader a consumer advocate responsible for many laws we now take for granted.

So this morning in the wavery minutes between waking and getting up (reading Evelyn Waugh's Handful of Dust right now, I wanted to say "between waking and ringing" "qbullet.smiley") I'm in that musing mood where random thoughts and memories are bubbling about, and I conceived the genesis of a musing on one of the issues which shaped my decision in this election. Henceforth, I present "The Death Penalty".

Wednesday, November 8, 2000

The Death Penalty

When I was younger, probably still in highschool, maybe college, I saw a
story on television which is just now resurfacing in my consciousness. I
don't remember the show, it could have been Alfred Hitchcock
, or The Twilight Zone or any of a crowd of others
which thrived on stories with a twist. Anyway, it went something like

A father discovers that his adult daughter has been brutally raped, so
severely that she has withdrawn and won't speak to anyone. He comes to
her at the emergency room in the hospital, watches her suffer in
anguish. Finally he resolves that he will do anything to help her,
avenge her, give her peace.

"If you can tell me who did it, I promise he will never hurt anyone
again." He speaks to her, and makes this promise, hoping to reach
her. Suddenly, she sits up, her eyes widen ever so slightly. In a dead
even voice she speaks. "That's him" she says.

"Who?" says the father, looking wildly at the milling doctors, patients,
visitors. "That's him" says the daughter, looking at a man leaving just
then. The father gives pursuit, follows the stranger into a parking
garage, and strangles him with his own hands. His fury at the violation
this stranger has wrought on his daughter is palpable, and the man is
unable to fight him. Soon he stops struggling. The father is horrified
at what he has done, but makes his way back to his daughter.

"I got him" says the father. "He won't ever bother you again."

After a pause, the daughter looks at her father, smiles. Then she seems
to lose concentration, her gaze attracted by movement behind her
father. He turns around to see what she is looking at. It is a doctor,
looking at a clipboard. He hears his daughter speak. "That's him" she

Okay, it was just a television show, but a story is not so far from a
parable. I have a five-year old daughter now, and I can identify with
that father more than ever before. But the point of the story is well
made. Death is final. Anger and fear can blind us to rational
decisions. If death is an appropriate punishment for a crime, can we be
certain that we will really exercise it wisely?

A black man who kills a white person is 11 times more likely to receive
the death penalty than a white man who kills a black person. And blacks
who kill blacks have even less to worry about.

Between 1973 and 1993, at least 48 people on death row were released
after they were found to be innocent, according to a Congressional
subcommittee on civil and constitutional rights.

In Texas in 1991, blacks made up 12 percent of the population, but 48
percent of the prison population and 55.5 percent of those on death row
are black.

Lifted wholesale from

"...Illinoisans have ample evidence that capital punishment is not being
administered properly - having seen a rash of cases in which inmates
sentenced to death have not only had their convictions overturned but
have been fully exonerated. The state came uncomfortably close to
executing innocent men. Other states have actually put people to death
despite grave doubts about their guilt."

-Chicago Tribune, 3 March 1997

Bush of course has an abysmal
on the death penalty, presiding willingly over at least 135 executions
including five retarded individuals during his service as Governor of
Texas. From the San Francisco Bay Guardian we learn that Al Gore is
little better:

BG: What do you think about the Republican governor of Illinois calling
a moratorium on the death penalty because there has been so much
evidence that innocent people are on death row?

AG: Well, I support the death penalty.

BG: Well, so does he.

AG: I understand, and I also understand that the high-profile cases that
have put a new spotlight on the error in capital convictions have put
this issue in a new light. In Illinois, I don't want to make a judgment
on what the circumstances are because I don't have the expertise.
Nationally, I would not be in favor of a moratorium. The "Hurricane"

BG: Are there people on death row elsewhere, or federal death row, who
are innocent? Isn't that something we should be worried about?

AG: I would hope not. But I'll tell you this: I think that any honest
and candid supporter of the death penalty has to acknowledge that that
support comes in spite of the fact that there will inevitably be some
mistakes. And that's a harsh concession to make, but I think it's the
only honest concession to make, and it should spur us to have
appreciation for habeas corpus, for the procedural safeguards for the
accused, and for the fairness that's a part of the American judicial
system and to resist efforts to take away the procedural safeguards.

BG: But what we've seen over the past few years from the courts and the
administration is an erosion, a decrease in the ability to file federal
habeas petitions. Does that bother you?

AG: I think that the pendulum swung so far in the direction of a flood
of habeas petitions that the decisions of some courts to weed out the
procedural abuses is justified.

This is one of a plethora of reasons why I voted for Ralph Nader...

MR. RUSSERT: Are you in favor of the death penalty?

MR. NADER: Since I was a law student at Harvard, I have been against the
death penalty. It does not deter. It is severely discriminatory against
minorities, especially since they're given no competent legal counsel
defense in many cases. It's a system that has to be perfect. You cannot
execute one innocent person. No system is perfect. And to top it off, for
those of you who are interested in the economics of it, it costs more to
pursue a capital case toward execution than it does to have full life
imprisonment without parole.

Ralph Nader on Meet the Press, Sunday June 25 2000

...rather than either of the candidates 'most likely to win'. When I say I
voted my conscience, it's not just some hand-wavy sort of vague eco-nazi
left-liberal wacko fuzzy opinion. I really thought about it, and made a
deliberate choice. Oops.


I know that voting for a third party, which is really what I was doing when I cast my vote for Nader, is probably pointless in our winner-take-all system. I don't care. The two-party system has reached a point where it produces nothing better than George W. Bush and Al Gore. Not good enough. The fact that what I'm voting for probably won't happen won't keep me from voting for it.

King Kaufman, for Salon

Nader and Others

While Nader did not make a sufficient showing to win Federal funds for the Green Party (I think enough people bought the line that it would be their fault if Gore lost and voted for Gore instead of Nader) I think it is indicative of a small shift away from the two-party system that we have had signficant candidates who were not Democrats or Republicans in the last decade.

Third parties continue to perform the function of forcing the Old Parties to recognize factions of their constituency that they'd rather just take for granted. The typical order of business is for the Old Party to promise the interloper some concessions in the Party Platform, thus allowing the disenfranchised to have their voices heard.

However, in the last few elections, the Democrats have moved closer to the Republicans on lots of issues which impact citizens' everyday lives. I don't know if I'm willing to speculate that the Republicans have moved closer to the middle, what with the occasional pull by Newt Gingrich and Pat Buchanan. The overall effect, however, is that some have the perception that the parties now offer insufficient differentiation.

More elections have gone by with a third party actually running, not to shovel a few concessions down an Old Party throat, but to achieve legitimacy for their own goals. Appearing on ballots as a peer, receiving Federal funding, in other words, becoming a real national alternative.

I don't think this will happen any time soon, but I do believe that there is a gradual shift coming about, where a small but growing segment of the population no longer believes that they must vote for solely Old Party candidates. As this trend grows, we'll see more examples of an Old Party candidate whining about having "his" votes stolen by an interloper. This is the cry of the dinosaur, watching the small but swift mammal out-evolve him.

Tuesday, November 7, 2000

STILL Teetering

What a surprising election. This morning it looks like we won't know the outcome until tomorrow afternoon at the earliest. Possibly not till the end of the week! What does such a tightly contested race (possibly the closest since 1960), coupled with high voter turnout, mean? I think it means that nobody was satisfied with the choices, and each group of people was desperately voting for their perception of the lesser of two evils. If only more folks had voted Nader "qbullet.smiley".

And to the Gore folks who are going to claim, if Gore loses, that it is Nader's fault, get over it. I voted for Nader, and I never in a million years would have voted for Gore. So you didn't 'lose' my vote, Nader didn't 'steal' my vote. And I wasn't irresponsible by voting for somebody in other than the two enfranchised parties. Jeez.

Another addendum on the Electoral College. As of 11:04am ET, Gore leads Bush in raw votes of around 234,000. In Florida the race is tight, and Bush may have the lead by as little as 2,000 votes. If so, Bush will win Florida, and the election. Despite the majority having voted for Gore (albeit by a pitiful margin). Ain't democracy wonderful?


As I get ready to turn off all the televisions and computers, Bush has 246 Electoral votes, Gore has 242. By the morning it will probably be decided.

Unfortunately, it looks like Nader will not get the 5% raw votes which would get the Green Party Federal funding in the next election.

By the way, the season premiere of the X-Files rocked! "qbullet.smiley"

Medical History Redux

I just got off the phone with Dr. Selby's secretary. I'd dutifully left a message with Dr. Selby's office to update my history with the fact that my grandmother definitely died of colon cancer, and his secretary just called back to say that he wanted to have me come in and talk about it.

There isn't much to tell, just that my sister said in an email that my grandmother did die of colon cancer, and my mother might have died of same. But that does put me into the statistically at-risk group, so he wants to talk to me, then possibly set up a referral to talk to a gastroenterologist about it.

Does this mean I get an early colonoscopy? I don't know yet. I'll keep y'all updated as I find out. Oh, and thanks again, Brenda. "qbullet.smiley"

Election Coverage

In case you are interested in following the U.S. elections, Presidential and otherwise, on the Internet, here are three links, courtesy of Scripting News:

Of course, all these links will be stale tomorrow "qbullet.smiley".

Please Understand Me

A Business Unit Director of days gone by was concerned that all the folks in his charge work together to ensure our mutual survival. He was sensitive to labels, as one may witness by the fact that he changed his own title to the noted one from Business Unit Manager. Unfortunately for me, he was into the 'touchy-feely' approach to team-building, and hosted an entire off-campus seminar series to 'build the team'.

One of the ways he chose to build the team was to help us all understand each others' personality types. He had a consultant direct the seminar with the help of the book Please Understand Me. This book promoted a Meyers-Briggs type of test for categorizing personalities. Quoting from a review on

Like the Myers-Briggs system, this test sorts your personality into groups of extraversion/introversion (E/I), sensation/intuition (S/N), thinking/feeling (T/F), and perceiving/judging (P/J). Unlike the Myers-Briggs system, Please Understand Me also presents four easy-to-remember temperament types--Dionysian (freedom first), Epimethean (wants to be useful), Promethean (desires power), and Apollonian (searches for self)--that underlie the 16 possible personalities identified by the test.

When I took the test, I found the questions confused, the categorization a crock, and I published my own interpretation showing how I could fall into any one of three categories depending on interpretation of the questions. I don't even remember the actual code, and I don't think it matters. But my behavior demonstrated an extreme introversion coupled with skepticism and antipathy to bogus touchy-feely testing systems "qbullet.smiley".

The Decline of Popular Science Magazines

I just finished reading the first issue of Scientific American to arrive after Jean subscribed. It has been years since I've sat down and read one of these things cover to cover. In recent years, the Internet has supplanted a lot of my science mag reading material. So now I've had a chance to pore over one in detail. Grade: B-

The Scientific American I recall was pretty dense. It didn't talk down to you, but the articles were within reach if you were willing to work a little. The current issue may be an anomaly, but I found the writing on the whole a lot more like that which I remember from Popular Science, another magazine I used to read.

On the whole, I think that the approach to science in mainstream magazines has become lighter, more entertainment oriented. When I was young, I used to go to the Wakefield library (over the firehouse) on a summer morn, and devour every science magazine I could find, including Popular Science, Science Digest and even Popular Mechanics. The more lightweight tone of some of these magazines was ideal for a budding science geek, but as an adult I want more meat.

I'll continue reading the Scientific Americans as they arrive, but I'm also looking forward to comparing it with the weekly New Scientist. And maybe in the future I'll spring for the far spendier Science or Nature.


Thinking about the Goofus and Gallant experience this morning, I realized (remembered, really) that I've always had a component of my personality which was not just introverted, but actively antisocial. A part of me bridles when I see such works of socialization as William J. Bennett's The Book of Virtues : A Treasury of Great Moral Stories, since they harken to a prior age which had as many things wrong with it as it had things right with it.

The Golden Rule is the best moral guide out there, and Bennett's book covers many instances of it. But it also strays into messages which are more arbitrary, in my opinion, giving subtle messages of class and place. Did we read the same book? I doubt it. This is just an illustration of that rebellious streak, that antisocial component of my personality which has not been snuffed out, merely submerged (and sometimes not all that well).

Monday, November 6, 2000

Goofus and Gallant

Kelly gets a magazine called Highlights for Children. One of the features is Goofus and Gallant, a four-panel comic which illustrates socially acceptable behavior. This morning I'm getting ready for the day and see the magazine open to G&G. The two lessons:

  • Goofus eats while others wait; Gallant serves others before himself.
  • Goofus ignores his friend after a fight; Gallant tries to find out what went wrong.

I guess I'm Goofus! I let my wife and kid decide when they are hungry (except on school mornings when Kelly must eat what we specify). And when I've had an argument with Jean, I generally need a while to cool down before discussing things rationally. Just call me Goofus "qbullet.smiley".

Medical History Surprise

New developments on the medical history front. While having my physical
today, Dr. Selby gave me the rundown on my various risk factors, given my age.
It seems that folks in their forties who are otherwise healthy have a risk
for colon cancer (low but measurable). Tests include:

  • a home-test kit called Hemacult, which checks for blood in your
    stool (aren't you glad you read that?). It is a passive test, simply
    drop a test paper into the toilet.

  • escalating, you can get a flexible sphymoidoscopy, which examines
    the lower third of your bowels.

  • finally there is a full-blown colonoscopy, which crawls the entire
    bowel system.

I had to have the second, since I had had periodic blood in my stool. It turned
out that I had an 'internal hemmorhoid'. Since flex-sphyg is indicated for
anybody over fifty (if I recall correctly), I just jumped the gun a little.

Dr. Selby emphasized that the idea was to find polyps (finger-like growths in
the intestines) early, at which point they could be nipped off. "A polyp
found is a cancer prevented", says Dr. Selby. So family history is an
additional helpful indicator. If anyone in your family has had colon cancer,
or had a polyp found, that puts you into the genetic predisposition category.
If two family members have had polyps or colon cancer, you get to go
to the head of the class and receive colonoscopies every five years.

So guess what my sister informed me of in my latest email from her? Two relatives,
specifically my mother and grandmother (we're not really sure about Mom), may
have had colon cancer. I will inform Dr. Selby by phone tomorrow, but my guess
is that he'll say it is okay to wait until 2004 when my next flex-sphyg will
be scheduled.

The good news is that colon cancer is 100% preventable, by just such
screening as I've mentioned above. The bad news is that I now get the
joy of colonoscopies every five years. Not a big deal, but really annoying.
Thanks Brenda. "qbullet.smiley"

Electoral College Redux

In my News Item of November 3rd, I talked about the mathematician who has published his proof that the Electoral College is a good thing. On the way in to work this morning, I realized that I'd neglected two things:

  • Most of the reportage, including the article I cite, only summarizes the notion of the proof (and discusses what the EC is supposed to do), so it still needs to be defined what Natapoff thinks is good about the the Electoral College that he has 'proven'. It is clear from the article that he thinks without the EC our country would be a chaos of opposing factions, but I would like a more precise definition of the proof's boundaries.
  • While the proof has been published, it has yet to undergo the rigors of peer criticism (other than the peer review of the journal editors). Several proofs of theorems, like the Four Color Theorem, have fallen in the past once the mass of mathematicians have gotten their hands on them.

So whether I agree with the EC or not, the jury is still out...

Sunday, November 5, 2000

Annual Physical

I just got back from my annual physical, which if you'll recall, got postponed and led to the detour of my WPW adventure. So now I finally have resolution. Clean bill of health for one more year. That's right, now that I'm over 40, I get one of these puppies every year. Well, most of the exam is a cakewalk. There's just one part I don't like. Most guys my age will understand "qbullet.smiley".

Sunday Is Runday

Despite having gotten less sleep than I like (probably logged four or five), I have had a busy day. I did all my prepwork for the week's meals (precooked and froze the fish, Alaskan Halibut, mmm MMM; predistributed the plastic bowls of oatmeal, the packets of corn tortillas, etc.). I put away junk from the previous night, ran two loads of laundry and ate a healthy lunch.

Then Kelly and I went to see the Digimon movie before it left the theatres. Kelly liked it, I thought it was unnecessarily confusing. I can summarize the plot in ten words (but won't). The problem was that they filled ninety minutes with exposition and flashback without adding anything to that ten word plot. Many other anime are a good deal more satisfying. But I shouldn't expect anything much from a Pokemon imitator and toy vehicle.

Once we got home I did all my chores (take out the cat litter, empty and take out the trash, fold remaining laundry). Now I am unwinding and giving you this report "qbullet.smiley". Don't worry, I won't recap this same routine every Sunday.


Went to the "NOVA" meeting last night, watched some Boogiepop Phantom, subtitled, not that that made it any more comprehensible. Went out for a snack with Tom, James and Alan, then got a demo of the Playstation 2 from Alan. After that we watched most of Prodigal Son. By that time, the meeting was closing down, so we went to see Charley's Angels. Totally camp and cheesy, but fun.

Remind me not to drink a caffeinated beverage at a late-night movie again snore... "qbullet.smiley"

Since I was going to be out late, Jean and Kelly hauled out the inflatable camp bed and had a camp-out in the living room. I think Jean got less sleep than she wanted too!

Anime Expo 2001

Information for Anime Expo 2001 is finally up. And I will be going this year. The funny thing is, the way I found out about it was that it was posted on Slashdot, "News For Nerds, Stuff That Matters". I read it when I woke up early Saturday morning, and was the first to post it to the "NOVA" mailing list.

Friday, November 3, 2000

Art Report

I came home from work yesterday evening, and got a treat. It seems Kelly was on a creation binge. I give a brief report in "Kelly's Art".

Kelly's Art

I came home from work yesterday evening, and got a treat. It seems Kelly was on a creation binge. Being a computer family, we don't lack for scratch paper, so there is always a stack available for Kelly to draw on. Jean told me that Kelly was downstairs with all her pens and crayons, working on her drawing style.

A little background. In years past, when Jean and I were still in Ohio, Michigan and parts beyond, we used to go on expeditions to used bookstores, back when momandpop stores were still numerous. Sometimes they'd have really nice blank books. That is, books filled with bright white pages, and a nice hardcover with some abstract but pleasing pattern.

I'd often buy one (even poor, we could usually afford these, since they never seemed to cost that much then), and present it to Jean. Jean would fill these books with line art. She has a really unique style, though she hasn't done much drawing in the last few years. Each drawing is a picture made without lifting the pen from the paper.

So Kelly would come running up with a picture to show her mom, then get Jean to draw one on the same page. This apparently went on for several iterations. When I got home there was an entire gallery of pictures to look at.

[Later today, when everybody is awake, I'll scan some of them in and post them...]

Kelly's pictures were pretty easy to distinguish from Jean's, but Kelly was frequently laying claim to pictures that her mom had clearly done. I didn't contradict her, just made some smartass comments about the level of detail. Later that night Jean made things clear. It seems that Kelly was so enchanted by her mom's style that she was trying to imitate it in her own 5-year old way, so she naturally thought the other pictures by her mom were her more successful efforts.

In any case, however primitive her drawings, she is showing a marked change in sophistication of her compositions and subjects. I'll keep posting instances of this in the future...

That Sucks...

Jeez, it looks like, when you promote something from a News Item to a Story in Manila, it actually jerks it off the home page. I was doing it because will index Stories but not New Items, and some of my News Items contained links I wanted to be able to relocate. So from now on, if I want to promote a News Story, I'll copy it instead. If you're the person reading my website, you might want to scan the Indexed News page for things you missed...

So anyway, here's a link to my news item on "Philip K. Dick".

The Electoral College

While I have read this article, and seen numerous references to Natapoff's supposed mathematical proof that the Electoral College is fair and actually "increases voters' power", nothing in the article convinces me. I doubt I'll take the trouble to learn all the math just to agree with or refute his arguments.

Moreover, this analogy is lame:

  • Candidate wins raw majority of votes, candidate fails to win majority of states...
  • Baseball team earns majority of runs, baseball team fails to win majority of games...

So it should be obvious that the Electoral College is fair, right? Wrong, for two counts. First, baseball has rules which judge ranking by games won. But most people will agree (at least I think so) that if a candidate gets 55% of the raw votes, they should be assumed to represent the will of the people.

The second problem is that the Electoral College is free to totally ignore the votes in their state. This is akin to getting the most runs in a single game, and having the Commissioner declare your opponents the winner of that game.

This is probably why I chose not to pursue a Masters in Mathematics, back when I was getting my degree in Computer Science lo these many years ago...

Vote Swapping

I'm amused by the vote swapping hubub. The idea is, some folks want to vote for Nader, so that the Green Party will get the 5% needed to allocate Federal funding in the next election. But in some states, voting for Nader can 'tip the balance in favor of Bush'. So these services hook you up with voters in states where Gore is winning by a clear lead. They will vote for Nader and you can vote for Gore.

The problem with this approach is not that it "corrupts the election process", as California Secretary of State Bill Jones imputes, but rather that they assume too much. What makes you think that if I couldn't vote for Nader, I'd vote for Gore?

And to those tiny minds among you who say voting for a third-party candidate who represents my views is a waste of my vote, how is voting for the 'lesser of two evils' not a waste?,1151,19890,00.html

Thursday, November 2, 2000

I Can't Wait!

One more week (says Verizon) until my DSL connection goes live! Uh-huh.

New Scientist

As I mentioned earlier, not to be outdone by Jean's subscription to Scientific American, I have now subscribed to the British science weekly, New Scientist. It is too early to have recieved an issue, but I'm looking forward to finding out how good it is (or isn't). I'll report here as things develop.


According to a new study by PC Data, Napster users do buy fewer CDs once they get the hang of using the tool. Either this is like the last RIAA-sponsored study, and slanted in favor of the record industry, or I am different than the surveyed folks. My own experience:

  • Radiohead - Sampled from Napster, bought Kid A, their new album.
  • Pink Floyd (Wish You Were Here), David Gilmour (There's No Way Out Of Here) - Have both albums, got samples off of Napster.
  • Ebola Music - Sampled off Napster, ordered direct from artist (sorry big-label middlemen).
  • FLCL - Saw the anime, sampled from Napster, CD on order from Kinokuniya. Still no money in the pockets of the RIAA, since this is an import album.
  • Leon Russel - sampled from Napster to play for Jean and Kelly, Saving money to buy Retrospective

Yep, there are also songs that I've sampled which have not resulted in album sales, but that's just smart consumerism. The RIAA doesn't like it that I get to preview the goods before I spend my money. Too bad. With the Bertelsmann deal pending with Napster, I may subscribe to Napster for legal digital copies (but not if they use a proprietary format that doesn't play on the Mac, or the Rio), and then I won't be buying the CD too.