Wednesday, December 31, 2003


From What NOT to do during "Return of the King.":

# 6. Finish off every one of Elrond's lines with "Mr. Anderson."

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Curse of the Bloody Puppets

As is my wont occasionally, I bought a videogame out of the bargain bin at Fry's, to have something to noodle with during the New Year's holiday. This time out, it was Devil May Cry, by the creator of Onimusha and Resident Evil. With a pedigree like that, you can imagine that it's a bit disturbing.

So Kelly was in the bedroom when I watched the initial video cutscene, and when I first started walking Dante toward Mission One: Curse of the Bloody Puppets. After awhile, the atmosphere got a little too spooky and she left. No monsters yet, she was just doing a preemptive strike. So I played on until I met the first batch of puppets and got killed. Of course. I had no idea what I was doing, as I hadn't read any directions, and was just fumbling with the keys. Even when I know what I'm doing, it's touch and go if I'll move fast enough to survive.

After the killing, I put the game away, and wandered into the living room. Kelly was by this time taking a bath. Jean looked up and reported the following. Kelly came into the living room, and Jean asked her what she'd been watching. "Something called 'Curse of the Bloody Puppets'."

"Was it gross?" asked Jean.

After a pause, Kelly gave her 'that look' and replied "well, the name says it all, don't you think?"

Big Fish

I took the afternoon off, and Jean and I went to see Big Fish together. I'm a fan of Tim Burton's work, so I was looking forward to it. It was interesting and colorful, as are all Burton's movies, but it certainly wasn't one of his best. I'd rank it around Edward Scissorhands, which was a colorful movie without a lot of direction, full of imaginative imagery, that stalled out by the ending.

In Cold Blood

It snowed yesterday, the second time this year. Ugh.

But Kelly really liked it, as witness this tableau, repeated in the current banner. I'm not sure the snow corpse was originally laid out as I saw it today, but I like it better this way. When it starts melting, I'm going to go out and outline it in chalk.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Urban Planning

I've just started reading The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs, written in 1961. It's a seminal work in urban planning, which exploded several myths about what made a city successful. I was doing a little background research on the book and came across a review where the reviewer suggested viewing a film stored at the Prelinger Archive, entitled The Dynamic American City. This film was created in the early 1950s by the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, and reflects some of the prevailing attitude of the time on urban planning.

I watched it, and the key phrase here is 'urban renewal', a code phrase for bulldozing old neighborhoods, and building high rises and parking lots in their places. There also seems to be a strong support for urban sprawl. Modern-day Los Angeles in the making.

Now I'm better prepared to read the book in the context of it's times.

If that's all too grim for you, you might want to view The Relaxed Wife, which is an educational film on how to manage stress using stretching and relaxation exercises, and if those don't work, Atarax, a tranquilizer produced by Pfizer. I found it pretty amusing, especially after my bout with Lorazepam (curse you Doctor Wynans!). Download it and give it a peek.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Altered Carbon

Well, I managed to finish Altered Carbon. The conceit is to produce a hard-boiled detective novel set in a future where brain recording and cloning are commonplace technologies. If I had to guess, I'd say that Morgan was aiming for a world similar to Raymond Chandler's, and indeed he is quite successful at channeling Philip Marlowe, whose voice in my head is distinct from the one created by Humphrey Bogart (who did a great job, but whom I saw after I was fortunate to read a few Chandler stories).

The sequel, Broken Angels, is coming out in paperback in March. I may buy it then, though I think I'll want to wait a bit before diving into another story in Morgan's literary universe.

Atom Heart no Himitsu

So I spent a little time scanning the 'net looking for translations of the instructions for this game, and found none. I found a few reviews, and it sounds like an interesting game, but I still want a bit more info. I scanned a few of the pages and blew them up to 8X10 size to allow my aged eyes to see the kanji without exploding. Now I have to look up a few. I'm truly stale on my Japanese, as I accidentally selected the hard level when I saw the hiragana for 'muzukashi' and thought "I know that word! It means easy!"

So Tom, James, if you know where I can get translations of the booklet, lemme know!

More Israel History

I returned The 50 Years War: Israel and the Arabs to the library today, after a few days of cramming it into the interstices of all my other holiday activities. This is a five-hour miniseries containing interviews with key figures, when alive, and actual footage from events as they happened.

I was fascinated by this documentary, and came away with an even greater impression that there is no good side/bad side dichotomy, no absolutes of good and evil. There are in fact some pretty nasty characters on both sides, but the average people on both sides are caught up in a cycle of violence and territoriality which seems to magnify the darker aspects of human nature.

Between this and what I've read so far, I don't really see any resolution to the conflicts in that region of the world during my lifetime. Sure, temporary solutions that seem to be the lasting peace, but nothing that will last several generations. Still, I suppose that's kind of a trite observation, considering how short a time ago the last battles in Europe were fought...

Friday, December 26, 2003

Low Rider

Featured in this banner are two of Kelly's Christmas presents from this year: a Bratz doll (for some reason she really likes these things) astride an RC truck. I don't even want to get started on the mountain of toys she got, between us and her grandparents, aunts, uncles and distant friends, but thanks to all you contributors out there! I swear each year, that she gets more toys in one holiday than I recall getting in my entire career as a Christmas child. Probably not true, but it surely feels that way.

Most of my presents to Jean and Kelly went over well, with the exception of a book-on-CD, which she had just checked out of the library this week! So she gets to take one thing back to the store. Oh well, not too bad a ratio.

Jean and I bought each other an early Christmas present, the Roomba vacuum cleaner. We've been using it for the past week, and it fulfills my expectations as an interrim light vacuum. We bought it using some of the money we'd set aside for tests my doctor ordered for my annual physical, which turned out not to be needed. So, found money, as I like to say.

I opened all my 'rebagged' gifts from the NOVA Christmas party last weekend. I got a great cookbook from Lisa, many goofing toys from Alan (two Star Wars Lego kits and a foam ring 'gun'). Tom gave me the Season One DVD from Red vs. Blue, which turned out to be a great gift, as I have watched the entire season, the Outtakes, the P.S.A.s, and the Directors' comment track on Christmas day. Good choice, Tom!

James gave me two cool gifts. The first was a Japanese import game for the Gameboy Advance, based on the current remake of Astroboy, which James knows I consider my first 'anime', having seen it and practically worshipped it as an 8-10 year-old in Washington, D.C. (UHF! UHF! UHF!). The menus, printed manual, and everything else are in Japanese, and since I put my Japanese studies on hold until Kelly gets out of the house, it's all 'Greek' to me. So it'll be a challenge to work through some of it. I even got stuck in the introductory training level as the key combos started scrolling past too fast and poor little Astroboy got creamed by the sample monsters.

The other gift I got from James was a Hot Wheels model of the Mach 5, or Mach Go Go Go!, from Speed Racer, another cartoon from that childhood era which included such gems as Ultraman and Eigth Man. Boy, I'm tearing up here with the nostalgia. . Last but not least, John got me a DVD. Rather, he offered me a choice of one out of seven or eight different movies and anime. I finally settled on Boondock Saints, as I'd seen it but never owned it, and I have heard that there will be a sequel, so best to refresh my memory.

Gifts from the family were limited to stocking stuffers and a couple of personal gifts, as I'd already spent my gift money on buying an upgrade to Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther). All the computers in the household are running it now! Cool!

I just ate one of my presents, vegetable curry, with my dinner. Other presents include a Skeptical Inquirer magazine, a terrycloth pillow for soaking in the tub, some Chinese spicy sauce, and another personal favorite, my own DVD of Strictly Ballroom. Jean and I rented this movie many years ago, and it is just a pleasure to watch, both for the dancing, and for the drama and comedy of the storyline. I can't wait to watch it again.

The final present I'll mention was a minicase for my Gameboy Advance SP. I've been using the case for my old GBA, which is oversize. It has the advantage that I can fit most all of my games in the same case, but it is bulky. The minicase can fit two games, if you count the one in the GBA. I expect I'll use both, on different occasions.

I got money too, even though I spent the money Jean usually give me on the OS upgrade. So I put most of it in the bank to cover my expenditures for everybody else. Funny how that works!

And now, I'm being summoned to help my daughter brush her teeth (braces and all), so I'll just wish you all happy holidays, and post something more tomorrow...

Sunday, December 21, 2003


Saturday evening was the NOVA Xmas party. Much food, lots of fun, and friends exchanging prezzies. I swear I left with more presents than I carried in! We unwrapped them at the meeting, but I decided that it'd be nice to reprise 'em on Xmas morn, so I rewrapped them and put 'em under the tree. That is, if you can call stapling them into paper lunch bags rewrapping. So sue me!

Saturday, December 20, 2003

'Tis the Season

Today's banner change is brought to you under the auspices of Haggen's Groceries, and their 'Breakfast with Santa' program. Have your child visit with Santa! Have your child's portrait taken with Santa by a helper using a crappy Polaroid Instamatic camera! Scan same photo into your computer on a flatbed scanner to render lovingly each flaw in said photo!

Anyway, no bah humbug here. Seasons Greetings and all that.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Return of the King

I took the afternoon off to see Return of the King. At three hours and twenty minutes, I'm uncertain that I'd get to see it as a regular NOVA post-meeting outing. The earliest we'd get to see it that way would be 10pm, which after trailers, would let out around 1:30am, and I'd be lucky to get to bed by 2am, which nowadays is a bit too much for me.

So I went. It was excellent. If you've seen the first two, you're probably going to this one anyway. If you didn't see the first two, then nothing I say will make you see number three. But it was a great culmination of the series, and within the framework of a movie trilogy, this is as close as we are ever going to get to a faithful realization of Tolkien's books.

There. Go see it.

Thursday, December 18, 2003


More of an excerpt of the day, as this article by Clay Shirky on experiencing lutefisk for the first time reminded me of my own encounter with sea urchin sushi...

The moment every traveller lives for is the native dinner where, throwing caution to the wind and plunging into a local delicacy which ought by rights to be disgusting, one discovers that it is not only delicious but that it also contradicts a previously held prejudice about food, that it expands ones culinary horizons to include surprising new smells, tastes, and textures.

Lutefisk is not such a dish...

How to describe that first bite? Its a bit like describing passing a kidneystone to the uninitiated. If you are talking to someone else who has lived through the experience, a nod will suffice to acknowledge your shared pain, but to explain it to the person who has not been there, mere words seem inadequate to the task.

Ode to Lutefisk (found via BoingBoing

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Battlestar Galactica

Okay, I know I made fun of this 'reimagining' before it ever came out, but the SciFi Channel's miniseries of Battlestar Galactica wasn't half bad. The preoccupation with sexy Cylons was pretty stupid, but overall, the characters were more believable in four hours than the originals were in several seasons.

There's been talk of extending the new version, either as a series or with more miniseries. I wouldn't have a problem sitting through another four hour block, but I think a series is a bad idea, as it would eventually devolve into the same sort of clunky mess that the original did.

Okay, one 'innovation' I do have to make fun of: Star Battle Shakey-Cam!


I recently finished Warchild by Karin Lowachee. Not much to review, just that it was sufficiently interesting that I bothered to finish it. I might hunt up the sequel when it comes out in paperback.

I'm now back to reading Altered Carbon. I had to return it after a single library signout because there was a long line of others waiting for it. It's due to return this weekend, so I may have to requeue again, though I'll try to renew...

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Sunday Double Bill

In addition to my usual Sunday errands and chores, I attended two social events today.

Event the First: Kelly's Sunday School Performance. Kelly was Mary (the mother, not the sidekick), and acquitted herself well. There was a rough moment when she mounted a platform and tripped on her robe. I could tell she was deeply upset, and felt she was the center of negative attention. We spoke with her afterwards, and it took awhile to convince her that 'these things happen', but she came around, especially after we pointed out some other flubs her castmates had experienced.

Event the Second: I had the mixed pleasure of taking Kelly and her friend Parker to see Cat in the Hat. It wasn't nearly as painful as the reviews had led me to believe, but it was a weak movie overall. I think I set a record for number of times I escorted a young lady to the restroom, since they took turns, rather than going together.

And I ate entirely too much popcorn for my own good. I've tried to counteract it with a dinner of oatmeal. We shall see if my stomach forgives me, or aches vindictively...


Jean had that nightmare experience that only a poor teacher can give. She was taking her final exam, on which her future in nursing hinged, and very few of the questions had anything to do with the material covered in class. In addition, questions were ambiguous, to the extent that sometimes they were phrased to deliberately confuse. Jean checked the answers after the exam against the master sheet, and she thinks she still managed to pull an A, but I for one am furious with her 'teacher'.

I had a teacher like that at O.G.I., for a computer architecture class, and his tests were execrable. My friend Burr was taking the course with me, and we actually met with the Dean to complain. Again, we both managed to pull A's despite the dolt's incompetence, but we felt others shouldn't have to suffer because this guy wasn't willing to do the work.

I don't think Jean is going to do anything, but I think someone should tell her teacher to at least have somebody review her tests before she gives them.

Pizza 'n' Pins

My division at work had it's annual Christmas outing this Friday. We started at Pizza Caboose for lunch. Why? Because our build guy, Stacy, is married to the mob Seriously, his wife's family owns the restaurant. They have such good pizza that Jean, Kelly and I went there Saturday.

I went to my 'Core Strength' class before lunch, which is the short-form Pilates class at work. I also do the Monday-Wednesday long-form Pilates classes, and it's a good thing, since the activity after lunch at Pizza Caboose was bowling! I don't bowl, and don't have the muscles for it, but my back is much stronger now, thanks to the class, and I made it through the three games with only minimal strain.

We went over to Tigard Bowl which is next door to the pizza place. There were three games, two high score and one low. The first game, we were each given an automatic strike on the third, sixth and ninth frames. The second game, seven, eight or nine pins counted as a strike. I had quite a streak of strikes there for the second game!

The third game, you had to try for a low score, but missing all pins counted as a strike (missing all pins on the second ball was a spare). This made the third game into the most skill-based game of the three, and I stunk, of course. Still, it was just for fun, and I got a See's chocolate turkey to take home to Kelly, and a baseball cap to take home to Jean.

Our final activity was to go back to Pizza Caboose and sample from a dozen cakes and pies from Papa Haydn. These were rich desserts, and even though I served myself only a sliver each of the pumpkin cheesecake (kind of disappointing, after all the build-up I've had) and the chocolate mousse, I was in sugar shock for an hour.

I managed to drive home safely, and stayed with Kelly while Jean went to take her final exam in her most recent nursing class. More on that in a later post.

Anyway, that's how we did office Christmas this year!

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Musical Night

Tonight was Kelly's 3rd grade concert. Luckily I was able to make it, and witness the splendor of "The Unity Tree", a tale of conflict between cats and dogs, which ends, happily enough, in Unity.

Seriously, it was fun watching Kelly sing, and even deliver lines in her one sentence speaking role. She was one of the few kids to actually emote and put some body language into her lines. Someday she'll be a star...


On visible expression of emotion while performing music:

James Brown swiped his whole end-of-concert collapse and resurrection bit from preachers and ministers of the Gospel. It's really not cool to be too emotive in Hip Hop or R&B these days. In fact, classical music may be the last place this type of face-making still hangs on. Someday, we may be treated to the spectacle of sweaty, exhausted Yo-Yo Ma collapsing onstage, being led off by his attendants with a regal robe around his shoulders, and then suddenly reviving, and running back on for a rousing reprise of a Bach cello suite.

Faze, a Metafilter poster

Uncanny Valley

If like me you were unfamiliar with the phrase "uncanny valley", you can get a great introduction by reading this paper (pdf document) by Dave Bryant:

Stated simply, the idea is that if one were to plot emotional response against similarity to human appearance and movement, the curve is not a sure, steady upward trend. Instead, there is a peak shortly before one reaches a completely human "look" ... but then a deep chasm plunges below neutrality into a strong negative response before rebounding to a second peak where resemblance to humanity is complete.

If you get creeped out by zombie movies, or see a face in the fog on your bathroom mirror and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, Dr. Masahiro Mori would explain it this way: these are things which seem very human, but off-kilter, uncanny in a way the brain can't explain. Dr. Mori was a roboticist, interested in what made humanoid robots more effective. As it turns out, making them too human creeps people out, because they end up in the 'uncanny valley'.

The conclusion drawn by the good doctor is that designers of robots or prosthetics should not strive overly hard to duplicate human appearance, lest some seemingly minor flaw drop the hapless android or cyborg into the uncanny valley -- a fate to be dreaded by all concerned.

Sunday, December 7, 2003

Moving Target

This Scientific American article explains Flynn's Effect, the observation that scores on IQ tests rise over time. It's a good article, and gives useful background for Eliot Gelwan's notice that the tests are being revised (as they are, apparently, every 15 to 20 years) to correct for this effect.

So if you think your child is smart, don't be disappointed if their IQ score seems lower this year...

Ceci and his current and former graduate students, Tomoe Kanaya and Matthew Scullin, found, for example, that the number of children recommended for special services for mild mental retardation tripled during the first five years of a new test compared with the final five years of an old test, despite the fact that there were no real changes in underlying intelligence.

Cornell News

All Mecha Are Equal

Relatives and friends with no interest in anime can stop reading here. But my anime friend James will be pleased to hear this, as he's a big mecha fan, and knows more about Gundam than most 'mundane' folk would consider healthy

Kelly and I were downstairs exercising together today, and watching Big O while we did it. Big O is an interesting show, where the main character 'pilot's a fighting robot known as Big O. In the show, all piloted robots of it's kind are referred to a MegaDeuces. Kelly knows this, and even that a pilot is called a Dominus.

Regardless of that, her mecha world map seems to have blurred at the borders. During our cooldown, we were talking about the latest episode we'd watched, and Kelly kept referring to Big O and Big Faux as Gundams. Tom, can you make sure James hears this one?

Final Fantasy X

With Final Fantasy X-2 now out, I finally stirred myself to work through the DVD set Tom lent me. This set of DVDs captures the storyline elements (cut scenes) from the game, as a sort of prolonged movie. As I had a four day weekend over Thanksgiving, I started to watch it then. I just now finished the first disc.

I appreciated Tom's offer, because, as you may recall, I got stalled in the game at some point and couldn't progress any further. In fact I gave up in disgust after succeeding in the defeat of a flying worm only to be thrust into a battle without any save point. Bam went my characters, and I just didn't have the energy to try again.

So having finished the first DVD, I think it's fair to say this probably represents about half of the actual game. And guess what? I played all the scenes on this disc. So I was at least halfway through when I stalled out. Too bad.

Now it turns out that I didn't even have to keep the DVDs. My iLamp and VLC software are able to play the DVD VOB files after they have been copied to my hard drive. So I'm going to give the discs back to Tom next NOVA meeting, and watch the VOBs as I have time. I'm deleting them as I go, since each VOB is about a Gig, and I don't want to eat up that much hard disc space for files I'll never watch twice.

Sorry for keeping things so long, Tom!

Monday, December 1, 2003

The Scottish Song

My new favorite song to obsess over and play continuously is The Light Before We Land by The Delgados. It actually took me a little while to figure out who did the song, as I heard it in the opening credits of Gunslinger Girl, a new anime making the rounds. It must be in vogue among anime creators to use Scottish groups, since these guys are Scottish, and I've been hearing a lot of bagpipes in anime lately (cf. Last Exile).

Now I know who did it, which album it's on (Hate) and that it's available on Amazon. Next batch of orders will include this CD!

Sunday, November 30, 2003

Punch Drunk Love

Paul Thomas Anderson wrote and directed Punch-Drunk Love, which debuted at Cannes and earned him the Best Director prize. I don't think I've seen any of his other movies (which include Magnolia and Boogie Nights), but after this one I'm gonna have to look into them.

This is one of those small movies which is just about perfect in every way. Jean chose it when she picked up The Fast Runner, so she scores twice in one round. Anderson apparently called it "an art house Adam Sandler film", which is true, but only part of the story. I've seen a few of Sandler's films, and I never knew he could do such an understated, nuanced acting job. His character is messed up, sure, but not the frat boy loser he so often plays.

Emily Watson is wonderful, again in an understated way. The visuals are perfectly united throughout the film, and the arty transitions make the picture more surreal.

I have to close by noting that I must get the song "He Really Needs Me", which was written by Harry Nilsson for the musical movie Popeye and sung by Shelley Duvall. I don't think I'm ready yet to buy the entire Punch-Drunk Love soundtrack to get this one song, so maybe the iTunes Music Store will stock it someday soon. I really like that song.


Now Kelly knows why you're not supposed to put your tongue on a flagpole in winter. We were all at the grocery store yesterday, and while Jean was off looking for something Xmassy, I was with Kelly in the frozen foods aisle.

I asked her what she wanted, and she tried to be cute by pointing with her tongue. You know how you can see something coming and just as surely see that there is not enough time to stop it? I started saying "whoa Whoa WHOA!" and moving toward Kelly. Her tongue touched the metal shelf, her eyes swiveled toward me, and she realized that something was wrong, and jerked back.

She left a little bit of herself behind that day, and tasted blood, not for the first time, and probably not for the last. But at least she knows a little bit more about the physics of physiology firsthand.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Holiday Movies

Wednesday, I left work early and went to see Timeline. It's based on the book by Michael Crichton. It's a measure of the studio's confidence in this latest Crichton vehicle that when I searched for an official website, I couldn't find one (not in the top Google picks, anyway).

Like most Crichton movies, you can read the book and feel like you just saw the movie, or watch the movie and feel like you just read the book. I did both, and after reading the book, I knew the movie was going to be one of his lighter efforts. And I was right. Just the right size to fill out a holiday afternoon, no greater impact.

Yesterday evening, Jean and I (with occasional participation by Kelly), watched The Fast Runner. This is a movie I wish I'd seen in the theatre, but as I've griped before, Regal Cinemas does not see fit to show many art/independent/foreign films in the 'burbs. And I find it difficult to make it to downtown Portland for the few they show there.

The Fast Runner seems a not to distant cousin to Italian for Beginners, another film Jean introduced me to through video rental. This was, you might recall, a Dogme 95 film, one of a collection of movies made by directors who have bound themselves to 'The Vow of Chastity'.

The Fast Runner had the same sparse presentation, intimate concern with everyday lives, and generally simple production values as Italian for Beginners. It departs from Dogme 95 in that there is occasional music overlaid onto a scene which is not produced by the characters themselves (very infrequently), and there are one or two video effects. But it otherwise felt very much like a Dogme 95 film, including the effort needed to absorb the story.

Timeline requires no effort, and in fact is fed to you with such eagerness that at several points I was shaking my head wondering who their target audience was. The Fast Runner requires your attention and doesn't talk down to you. It is a very absorbing film, and I'm glad I saw it.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Ah Lahk Pah

Yum, that was the best Pumpkin Pie I ever had. Kelly found it too spicy, Jean found it too rich, so it's all mine! Mwah hah ha!

And I made real whipped cream. That's about the easiest thing in the whole world to make. I'm never gonna buy Cool Whip again (not that I buy it more than once a year anyway...).

What'll I make next? I'm psyched!

New Mini-gallery

Kelly and I did a quickie photo-shoot to commemorate her ninth Thanksgiving (she's creeping up on eight and a half years of age now). Just click on the banner photo. I didn't polish it, just a few rough shots run through Photoshop's Web Gallery option.

While I'm at it, let me take a moment to wish my family and all my friends a happy Thanksgiving. I'm grateful to know you all. That includes all you 'web only' folks as well. Kylanath, Pascale, I enjoy reading your weblogs, and appreciate that you take the time to comment on mine.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Da Craw, Da Craw!

Damn I love the Internet! I went down to check the ReplayTV for tomorrow's television sloth (hint, no football), and discovered that due to a glitch it had cleared all the program guide data (not my recording requests, just the 'TV Guide' menu).

Now I already knew about this but had to go to the site again to look it up. All ReplayTV boxes have a secret menu, named humorously by it's developers the "Clawfoot Portal". Just start viewing live television, and enter 2-4-3-Zone. Bingo! Secret Menu. Then I used this to force a phone connect and had my program guide updated in less than twenty minutes.

Did I mention that I love the Internet?

Food Is Afoot!

Seriously, what else did you expect on Thanksgiving Eve? Kelly and Jean made mini-muffins (blueberry) and tapioca pudding. I just finished putting the tofu chili into the refrigerator to stew in it's seasoned juices. And Kelly helped me do the non-sticky part of preparing dough for the pumpkin pie crust.

On tomorrow's menu of scratch and not-so-scratch prepped entrees are Freedom Loving Turkey (died in a hospice with soft music playing, "go to the light!"), also known as free-range turkey (Kelly's suggestion), pumpkin pie (pur�ed pumpkin from a can, everything else done from scratch), and yams. On the convenience front we're having cranberry sauce (canned), baked beans (canned) and sparkling grape juice.

I'm sure you more sophisticated types are gonna have the fancy stuff, like Pumpkin Cheesecake and flan, but that's it for us!

Tuesday, November 25, 2003


New banner photo! Actually an old digipic, but I thought it was about time to bump Dad off the roster, and I was too lazy to scan in the pics from the last coast trip. So ya get to see Kelly snoozing. How old is that pic anyway?

Funny thing is, it's been sitting on the compactflash card I use in my Nikon Coolpix 950 forever. I let my wife use the camera to take pictures of Kelly during her horseback riding lessons, and downloaded them to the kitchen computer for her. The kitchen computer, Haruko, is still running Mac OS X 10.1.5, and the older flashcard reader I've had since Mac OS 8 days, works with it fine. [unfortunately, the horsey pictures were all kinda fuzzy, so you won't see them in the banner for now]

I then tried to grab the one banner photo shown above by downloading it to my den computer, Megumi, which is running Panther (Mac OS X 10.3.1). No go. Not even after reinstalling drivers, rebooting, etc., etc.

After some research on the Internet, I find this is a familiar problem with some USB card readers, in fact with any which require you to install drivers to use them. USB 1.1 is a standard device API, and any modern OS is supposedly able to work with any compliant device. No drivers required. So the older gadget ain't compliant. A round of email with the manufacturer, who shall remain unnamed and hence unpromoted, informed me that they had no plans to supply drivers for Panther. "I have no plans to buy your brand again", I thought.

A trip to Fry's got me a new Lexar USB card reader, this one labelled Mass Storage Compliant, which are the magic words assuring compatibility with the USB 1.1 spec. By the way, buzz on the web is that Lexar knows how to do this right. I fussed with whether to buy a $20 no-name card reader, $10 cheaper than the Lexar one, but decided to go with the known quantity. As it turns out, there was a markdown on the Lexar item, and I only paid $9.90 for it. Cool!

So the crusade to switch all our machines over to Panther proceeds apace. And printer sharing over the Airport works great too! Can't wait for Christmas season when I finally transition Jean's machine to Panther.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Anti Flan Clan

Friday I was hunting up recipes for pumpkin pie, so that Kelly and I could make one for Thanksgiving. I'd thought I had one in my cooking magazine, but it turned out to be a recipe for pumpkin cheesecake. Riffling through our cookbooks, my mind was taken by a random thought (at least it seemed random at the time). "You know what I wanna make? Flan!"

"Eeew!" Jean cried. "Flan is so bland!"

Kelly took up the cry, because to Kelly, there are really only two or three edible foods, and I usually don't suggest them. Soon I was overwhelmed with protest, and what had been an idle thought became a resolve. "I'm going to make flan!"

So yesterday I made flan. I cut the recipe in half, improvised on some of the ingredients, and sorta guessed on some ambiguous wording in the recipe, so what came out wasn't really flan as it is et in Espa�a. The texture is rather coarse, it tastes too much of cinnamon, and it 'weeps'. Still, it is recognizable as flan.

This afternoon, I gave Jean a sample, and she made a kind-hearted attempt not to scowl. Then I held a forkful out to Kelly, who, distracted by television, allowed it to get into her mouth. Moments after that she jerked her head back, gave me a dirty look, and ran into the kitchen to spit and rinse her mouth out.

So no flan for this clan.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Journey Beyond Selene: Remarkable Expeditions Past Our Moon and to the Ends of the Solar System

I neglected to write this book up when I finished it. It was pretty good. It's basically a history of all the robot spacecraft launched by NASA since it's inception, and what we've learned from them thusfar. Already out of date, as we now are hearing about Voyager 1 and it's potential journey beyond the heliopause.

What else have I been reading? Lots of 'toe-dipping', as I'm trying to find a few books on the Middle East in modern history. I did a global search of the library for books on Israel, and reserved about eight. I narrowed it down to two, Israel: An Illustrated History by Daniel J. Schroeter, and Israel: A History by Martin Gilbert, for purchase sometime later. For good measure, I added Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power by Daniel Yergin, to my Amazon wish list. Next comes a search for a book from the Palestinian perspective, but I'm pooped out from the last search...

Currently, my library book du jour is Warchild, by Karin Lowachee. I read a review of the sequel which made it sound good, so I snagged it. Let ya know how it is later.

Thursday, November 13, 2003


The great project has begun. Today over lunch I bought the Panther release of Mac OS X. I'm mostly done with the install on my iBook. The plan is to complete the install, give it a week to stabilize, then move on to the iLamp in the den. After that one's taken care of, I'll wait until Christmas vacation to overhaul the kitchen computer.

So far the only snag is some irregularity with Mail. As that's one of the main jobs of the kitchen computer, I'll have to unkink the other boxes first. But I've already got printing working from the laptop! It's always fun to learn the ropes on a new OS release.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Anime Everywhere

For anime dilettantes only. Check out this screenshot of the Finder Live Search feature in Mac OS X Panther. The top search entry should be obvious to the most casual anime fan

Now I know that John Siracusa is an anime fan!

Sunday, November 9, 2003

Field Trip!

Ooh! Ooh! I gotta be there! Maybe I can get a T-Shirt. Nah, I need to take my daughter to swim class that morning, so by the time I got to the Apple Store, I would surely not be one of the first 1,000 people in the store. Still, I wanna go ho-ho-ho!

Wednesday, November 5, 2003


Keep your broadcast flag out of my property. Innovation hating, fair use fearing, morons...

Saturday, November 1, 2003

Bloody Halloween

Halloween is over, so sad. It was a cold night, but lots of fun. The only event worth mentioning is that Kelly took a tumble and chopped a divot out of her knee. Her candy went flying, and we had to pick it up in the dark. I asked Kelly if she wanted to go home right away, and she said she wanted to finish out the block.

From that moment forward, she was sure to point out her knee to everyone who answered their door:

"Trick or treat! See my knee? That's real blood, and don't touch it because it hurts! Thank you, Happy Halloween!"

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Twas the Night Before Halloween

And all through the haunted house...

Gaggles of teenagers were dressed in robes, fright wigs and rubber masks...

Kelly's school was doing a fundraiser by running a haunted house, and Kelly, never having been to one, but having watched about a thousand episodes of Scooby Doo, decided that she was willing to try it. So we went this evening. It was set up in an old house which has served as a church in Tualatin since I've been here. They divided up the house with plywood partitions painted black, draped everything in 'cobwebs', filled the halls with fog, played loud spooky sound effects, and had an annoying passage lit with strobe lights.

Kelly and I entered, paid our $8, and ran the gauntlet. Kelly's only question as we paid, was "where's the bathroom?" Unfortunately for her, it was halfway through the haunted house. We began our tour, and Kelly kept asking for the bathroom. Some costumed geek jumped out behind us, and I gave a faux shriek. Kelly turned around and said "hello, we just want to find the bathroom."

She repeated this performance a couple more times, and at first I thought she was unimpressed by the whole situation. But the farther we got into the house, the more agitated she became, and about halfway through, she began sobbing and started repeating, over and over, "I just want to go home!" I assured her that we'd be out soon, and held her hand. We wove through the maze of plywood partitions, and eventually got out.

Total time in the house, about five minutes. That's even more expensive than those parking lot 'carnivals' that pop up outside K-Mart. For five minutes, Kelly and I could ride the mini-roller coaster for a couple of bucks.

Kelly's verdict is that she never, ever wants to do a haunted house again! She blames the fact that she needed to go to the bathroom (even though she went before we left) for her emotional overload. She could have handled ghouls if she hadn't been drained already by bodily distractions.

Oh well, I'm proud of her for trying something new. Looking forward to Halloween tomorrow night!

Through a Glass...

One benefit of age seems to be improved vision. Recently I went to get a vision checkup since I wanted to replace my eyeglasses (required for driving by the State of Oregon). The old ones were scratched and worn.

My eye doctor commented that my vision had changed, and was good enough to pass the vehicle vision requirements. "This often happens in the mid-forties." So she suggested I retest, but filled my prescription for new driving glasses anyway.

Several weeks passed, me wearing the new glasses and getting used to them. But this morning before work, I drove to the DMV and waited in line. When I explained to the clerk what I wanted, she fairly tread on my words: "put your head here, read the letters on the fourth line." I did, and she jumped in again: "that's it, you pass."

So after a bit more work, and $21, I got a new driver's license: eyeglass restriction removed. I'm still getting used to not reaching for my glasses. Even after I drove down to work without them on, when I got out of the car, I tried to take them off! Wonder how long it will take to get used to them not being there?

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Ice Cream In A Bag

Awhile ago I made some sorbet for Kelly using this technique, but I guess I forgot to write it down. So here it is for my reference, this time producing ice cream (the physics and chemistry are the same with sorbet):

Ice Cream in a Bag


  • 1 tablespoon Sugar

  • 1/2 cup Milk or half & half

  • 1/4 teaspoon Vanilla

  • 6 tablespoons Rock salt

  • 1 pint-size Ziploc plastic bag

  • 1 gallon-size Ziploc plastic bag

  • Ice cubes


  1. Fill the large bag half full of ice, and add the rock salt. Seal the bag.

  2. Put milk, vanilla, and sugar into the small bag, and seal it.

  3. Place the small bag inside the large one and seal again carefully.

  4. Shake until mixture is ice cream, about 5 minutes.

  5. Wipe off top of small bag, then open carefully and enjoy!

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Baker Baker

I'm not much of a baker. I have one or two bread recipes I really enjoy, but my favorite takes all day, and I just don't have 'all day' any more. Besides, I can't find my favorite bread book (Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book)!

But for the past three weekends, Kelly has been pulling me in to the world of baking. It started one Sunday when I was resting downstairs after digging around in the garage and breathing too much dust and dander. She'd asked Jean if they could bake something, but Jean was studying. I think Kelly knew I wasn't a baker, but she's eight years old, and the world if full of possibility.

So we hauled out her Easy Bake Oven, dug through a few recipe books, and ended up making some kind of crispy chocolate chip sheet cookie. Two cookies were made in the Easy Bake, and the rest in the conventional oven. They turned out great, and I'm almost through the lot (two weeks later).

Last weekend, we decided to make a cake. I looked through The Best Recipe, and we found a chocolate cake to make from scratch. We also made a vanilla butter creme frosting from scratch, which, by the way, is mostly butter.

This recipe took a lot of time, and a lot of effort. When we were done, Kelly had a mini-two layer cake made in her Easy Bake, and I had a regular-sized two layer cake made in the oven. It was delicious, and I admit to eating two pieces in the last week. Kelly's been eating the rest, and Jean is putting a ban on cakes like this one. Not that we'd make another, given all the fuss and bother.

This Sunday, we decided to make something different, and tried out a croissant recipe. The recipe was confusing, ambiguous in several places. Still, we forged ahead, and managed to bake the suckers. The Easy Bake did not play a role this time, as a risen croissant could not be pushed out of the narrow slot in the side of the oven. I told Kelly if she tried, she'd have a petrified croissant forever in her Easy Bake.

These creatures don't really taste like croissants to me, and their texture is more 'baking powder biscuit' than flaky pastry. But they taste goooood! They are evil, filled with much butter, and I think we will be skipping such foods entirely for a few weeks. Jean suggests muffins, so maybe that's next. I couldn't convince Kelly to learn how to make Eggplant Parmegian, for some reason.

Friday, October 17, 2003

So Atypical

Raffi Krikorian (author of Tivo Hacks) posted an article to PVRBlog listing the top ten Tivo 'Season Passes', i.e. shows folks have set to auto-record. I looked at the list, and I don't watch any of 'em.

Guess ReplayTV users march to a different drum

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Best American Science Writing 2001

I recently completed reading Best American Science Writing 2001, but haven't really had the time or inclination to write up a review. I got it from the library by mistake. I'd asked for the 2003 edition, edited by Oliver Sacks. Unfortunately, the library treats all editions as different copies of the same book, and I got the completely different book edited by Timothy Ferris.

Nevertheless, it was an interesting read, and I'd have no problem recommending it to others. Two essays I found particularly interesting:

Death of an Altruist - James Schwarz. A brief but fascinating biography of George Price, an eccentric polymath who proposed a theory of altruism in genetically related and extended groups which was more mathematically rigorous than anything which had preceded it.

Syphilis and the Shepherd of Atlantis - Stephen Jay Gould. Gould, one of my favorite nature writers, shares the story of how syphilis got it's name, including the politics of the era in which it was christened.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Kill Bill

One of the things that makes watching a Tarantino film so much fun is his tendency to sprinkle it with pop culture references, and to not limit himself to the pop culture of one country. Kill Bill is no exception, and I'm really looking forward to watching it.

I have watched a lot of Asian movies, from Shaw Brothers classics to modern Hong Kong flying people movies, but apparently not nearly as many as Quentin Tarantino, who would watch one or two of these movies a day while making Kill Bill.

Anyway, I found a neat interview where he talks about all the movies which influenced and are paid homage to in Kill Bill. Check it out!

I know one Director's Cut DVD set I'm gonna buy, just for the director's commentary track!

The Register

Not The Register, but rather a very interesting essay on the distinctions between Public, Private and Secret, by Danny O'Brien of NTK fame. Take the time to read it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Dad's Okay

I got a call from my Dad last night. He'd been scheduled for followup tests due to the irregular rhythm of his heart. They checked him out, and found that all chambers look healthy. Then they applied a shock designed to resynch his heartbeat. Apparently it worked the first time. So all is well on the paternal front.

Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Teen Titans Again

Okay, Sluggy Freelance nails exactly what's wrong with Teen Titans...

Friday, October 3, 2003

Pilates ... Sort Of

I really enjoyed taking that Cha-cha class with Jean. There's another class for Two Step that just started, but Jean's real classes are pretty much eating up all her time. So I decided to find another way to embarrass/hurt myself.

Today I started a lunchtime class in 'core stability'. That is, strengthening the back and abdomen. I've always been prone to back problems, and while I do strength training to help it, I think I tend to skimp on the waist, doing mostly sit-ups and Roman Chair. So when I saw this class was being held every Friday, I decided to try it out.

The instructor is of course totally fit, and she let slip that the exercises were modelled on Pilates, which I've heard of, but never investigated before. The session was one half hour, and I was sweating at the end.

There was no running, jumping, bouncing or any obvious exertion, but it was hard! Lots of slow motion gut crunching while your legs are up in the air. I actually gave up on perfect form, as it was making my lower back twinge dangerously. Maybe after a few tries...

I can't really reproduce most of the exercises she did, it's too new to me. So I'll have to let a week lapse without much practice, then hope I pick it up more next time. Wish me luck!

Update (Saturday morning): Good god am I sore!

Science Toys You Can Make With Your Kid

Linked to for my future reference. Of course a miracle must occur first, since I'm terminally lazy at home...

Science Toys

Wuthering Heights the RPG

I wish I still had the time to play old-fashioned pen-and-paper, multi-sided dice roleplaying games. This has got to be the most amusing idea for an RPG I've heard of in a long time...

Just in case I ever get that perfect group of people together, here are the rules.

And WHTRPG isn't alone, apparently. Search near the bottom of this page for some other truly odd RPGs.

Friday, September 26, 2003


Another 'I forgot to mention.' The small string of tests following my annual physical included a visit to a urologist because my regular blood test included higher than average PSA levels. The urologist ran a blood test specifically designed to scrutinize PSA, and just got back to me recently. Result, my levels are perfectly normal, and the original reading was in error.

So that's it. All my health metrics are normal, and I'm good for another year!

Which reminds me, I've got to call my Dad up and find out how his round of tests have been going...

Portland Art Museum

I forgot to mention that we went to the Portland Art Museum Sunday. My workplace negotiated a free day for employees, so the family unit headed into Portland to check it out. It was a nice mild day and I enjoyed walking from our parking spot to the museum. It'd been so long since I last went there I wasn't sure I knew where it was, but we got there eventually.

The visiting exhibitions were the painted sculptures of Joan Miro, and the medicine themed paintings of Norman Rockwell. There were really only six or seven paintings by Rockwell, but the Miro exhibit was pretty big, mostly because the sculptures were.

I was more interested in the paintings, as their American collection included several paintings by Childe Hassam, one of my favorites. In particular I liked "Sunlit Nude in Woods" (bad guess at title from memory). There were many more, and I spent a long time looking. I was disappointed however, that they no longer had the JMW Turner painting I liked.

Kelly vacillated between boredom and fascination, and perked right up at the museum store, where she bought a plastic 'tangle toy'. I didn't buy anything, but had fun looking. The capper was when I lounged in the 'sculpture garden' outside the museum while Jean and Kelly paid for their purchases. I watched the long line across the street at the Historical Society, where the Declaration of Independence was on display. Wish I could have seen that too, but our time was limited.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Times Tables and Tears

Kelly is enduring the times tables. She's got to know them for the state tests by the end of the school year, and so the teacher is asking parents to help. So far, Kelly hasn't broken out in tears over the ordeal. No, she is much better at passive resistance, audible sighs, and frustrated subvocalized monologues.

She's got my sympathy. One of my earliest memories is of sitting in my maternal grandmother's bedroom in Washington, D.C. while my mother grilled me with flashcards, over and over. I remember the sunlight streaming through the curtains with a subdued light. And I remember wishing I was outside climbing trees with Junior, my friend from across the street. I certainly cried. It was deeply frustrating to me, and felt like an inquisition, rather than a learning experience. Rote memorization is sometimes necessary, sometimes helpful, but rarely enjoyable.

But Kelly seems to get it more quickly than I did, so I'm heartened that she won't suffer too much. Retention is a problem, though, which means that she'll keep getting periodic quizzes long into the school year. Good luck, kid!


I went for my increasingly favorite bike ride yesterday, a loop from home out to 65th via Frobase Road, and back via Norwood. I've gotten so I can do the route in 33 minutes, which is not bad considering that my bike isn't really a road bike.

I was enjoying the fresh air and scenery, and cresting the final hill on Frobase before it intersects 65th, when I saw an old guy driving a tractor from his house out to a field. Feeling friendly and pumped up from my ride, I gave him a hearty wave. He slowed down, leaned out of his seat, and yelled "why don't you stay home?"

Well, I was non-plussed, to say the least. This was a dash of cold water on my happy little trip. Still, I was back in the mood within a couple of minutes, and completed my ride home without incident.

On reflection, I can only guess that he has seen the land around him claimed by McMansions (the stretch of 65th between Tualatin and Wilsonville has several large houses with what I call 'tax farms' on them -- the owners growing a small crop to satisfy zoning regs while allowing them to have a house with a lot of land around it), probably seen his own property taxes escalate, and is bitter.

It reminds me of a farmer with a dwindling plot of land in the middle of Lake Grove (offshoot of Lake Oswego). Jean and I would talk to him occasionally when we lived in the apartments there, and he was unabashedly bitter. He felt the encroaching city which was eating away at his farm was a (capital C) Communist plot, that the local government had been taken over by Reds, and generally ranted until we extricated ourselves.

I'm sympathetic, really. I don't like disruptive change in my own life, and these guys are the epitome of gradual change. Granted that the smart farmer is always evaluating new crop techniques, being a good steward of the land, and more than I have any insight into. But most of these small farm owners are members of farming families. I don't think too many folk today decide to buy a farm and start a business. So if you grew up on a farm, planned to do farming for a living, and got gobbled up by urban sprawl, well, bitter doesn't describe it by half.

My own profession is being encroached on by globalization. I hope firstly that I can continue to educate myself in a way that will keep my skills in demand as many software jobs shift overseas. I hope secondly that if I need to jump to some other job to meet the shifting demands of life, that I can do it without nursing a bitter regret.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Ghost In The Machine

Okay, now I know why Primal was on clearance at Fry's. There is a very annoying bug which only crops up when you are deep into the first level. Scree, the gargoyle sidekick, who is necessary for successful play, occasionally eludes a clipping plane and ends up in 'inside-out' world. He seems to be stuck behind the walls of the world, and while every once in awhile he can maneuver into the same space as Jen, he cannot interact with her. He flashes in and out of existance, but he just ain't there man!

I think I'll try to play through the first level, saving frequently so I can go back to the last place where he wasn't stuck, which is tedious but doable. But if I try another level and this sort of thing continues, then it goes on the shelf.

By the way, I've already gotten my money's worth by the movie scale, so I don't feel gyped, or lured into a scam by that low price.

P.S. - Searching the Internet, I found this quote:

And then there were the lovely multiple instances of dropping out into a skybox (all architecture disappeared and I was left with just the background image that�s wrapped around the whole level), once with each character, and once simply by walking up to a wall. The first time this happened, I tried saving and resetting the PS2, but it saved the skyboxed character as well. If for some reason someone happened to save over their only savegame, they�d have to start over from scratch. Clipping issues that result in skyboxes are something that should be caught by QA long before the game ships, and it was utterly frustrating to see a game that otherwise felt very polished end up as such.

PSX2 Reviews

"Skybox", that's a word that's goin' into my gamer's vocabulary, right up there with "gibbed".

Tuesday, September 16, 2003


Ring is finished, in a marathon session this evening. While my clumsy description of the American remake of the Japanese movie adaptation left Jean cackling at it's stupidity, I enjoyed the movie and thought it was both a reasonably subtle story of fear in the face of the unknown, with a frisson of Lifeboat style moral challenge at the end.

Well, the book is about twice as good as the movie version I saw. It still has the classic ghost story notes I mentioned in the past, but it works very well as a detective story, and has a very nice science fiction twist at the end. I won't give it away to those who want to read the book, I'll just encourage you to read it.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Surrogate Pet

Or, "How Our Tuna Bill Doubled in One Week."

Kelly bugs us on and off for a pet. We say no. Allergies are the main problem, though I for one am still sad about Grendl passing away (even though she lasted a record twenty some years, outrageously long for a cat).

We tried a goldfish, and went through three before we acknowledged that we couldn't figure out the equation. We've talked about potential outdoor pets, perhaps pigeons, maybe a rabbit hutch, but no action has been taken. I really don't want to be stuck with most of these animals, and either Jean or I would end up taking care of them. So I feel, anyway.

We do get visits from the neighborhood cats, though. One in particular is a beautiful orange tabby. Rather large, I don't know the gender as I've not gotten close to it. I expected it to be skittish, so I never put out the effort to go outside and greet it. It has been napping under our apple tree, and whenever I see it, I point it out to Jean and Kelly.

Now Kelly has begun going out and visiting with the cat, and has gotten to the point where she will feed it some tuna, pet it and play with it. Today they were trundling about the back yard, Kelly dragging some string behind her, the cat following and occasionally making a grab for the string.

For now I'm totally happy. Kelly 'gets' a pet, we get to avoid our allergies. I'm hoping this will fulfill Kelly's needs, rather than aggravating them. Crossing my fingers!

True Note

Jean, Kelly and I went out to celebrate our anniversary. Jean's parents had sent us $50 to note the occasion, and after much debate we agreed to split the dough and go to the bookstore!

This really captures one facet of our relationship so well. Jean and I met at a bookstore (we both worked there), we have both been avid readers for all that time, and our tastes overlap and diverge like melody and harmony!

So Jean told Kelly she could have some of the money too. "How much?" Jean said $10. "How much are you getting?" Jean told her that Daddy and Mommy were getting $20 each. "That's not fair." It's our anniversary, Kelly...

How did Kelly spend her loot at the bookstore? She bought a Ty plush puppy for $6, and talked us out of an extra buck to get a packet of Yu-Gi-Oh cards at the register. She waffled over whether to get a book or the puppy, and she and I had a long and involved discussion of the utility of each. Turns out you can only read the book once (!) and you can play with the plush puppy many times. I pointed out that she could use the book as a doorstop too, but that didn't tip the scales.

Jean got a pocket nursing reference for her classes this Fall, then used her own money to buy another book she'd had her eye on for quite some time: Fluids & Electrolytes Made Incredibly Easy! Well, with a title like that, you can understand her enthusiasm!

I had amassed a pile of books from the computer, science and sociology sections of the store, and winnowed my pile down to two: The Best American Science Writing 2003, edited by Oliver Sacks, and Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World, by Bruce Schneier. I really couldn't decide, and Kelly said to me in a quite serious voice, "Dad, which one do you think you'll get the most out of?"

She worked it out with me, and I ended up getting the Schneier book. But I did look up the Sacks book once we got home, and have it on request from the library. In the meantime, Ring is turning out to be a rather good book, and a bit more subtle than the movie (the American one being all I've seen). It's sort of horror, sort of detective story, with offbeat characterization and a new twist on the classic campfire ghost story. I just breached the halfway point, and hope I can finish it before renewal comes around, as the library often says I can renew, then refuses to when I try (via the web). It's sorta "Psych! We really had someone else waiting in line to be next all this time, but we didn't tell you!"

Buns of Oatmeal

I took my bike out today, and on a lark decided to see how close to work I could get in a half hour. Once I reached 30 minutes, I thought, I'd turn back and do another 30 getting home.

Now my bike is not a road bike but a Frankenstein combo of mountain bike frame and hybrid road/dirt tires. I've been riding in a big loop outside of Tualatin, which if I do not dawdle, takes me around 35 minutes. So I was stretching a little to plan on a round trip which would take an hour.

Anywho, I took a nice backroad which had less traffic, and discovered that it's mostly downhill between Tualatin and Wilsonville if you take this route. I clocked 30 minutes, and was so close to my office that I just finished the ride. Thirty-two minutes total. I called Jean and let her know what I'd done (what have you DONE?!?!?).

Now I realized that the return trip would, by reversing conditions, be mostly uphill, so I let her know that I'd be a little late getting home. But. It wasn't only uphill, there was a strong headwind all the way home. My left gluteus had already been complaining, but I grit my teeth and pedalled away. And I got home in 39 minutes! I surprised myself. Total bike time, 1:11.

Now I'm listening to the gentle nagging of mah butt muscle, taking me to task for overstepping my bounds. Who knows what it will feel like in the morning. But for now, it feels great.

Friday, September 12, 2003


Over the Labor Day weekend, I went down to Fry's to buy a GBA game that Kelly wanted for Christmas. It was on sale, so worth the trip. Woe unto the geek, though, who travels to Fry's on a holiday. There were sales everywhere, and I didn't escape unscathed. They had a big rack of games on sale, and Primal was there for only $9.90! On my movie benchmark system, I'd only have to play for about four hours to get my money's worth. So I figgered, hey, why not?

It's creeping up on two weeks since I bought the game, and I've definitely racked up more than four hours. I'm about halfway through the first level, Solum. I'm pretty sure I'll finish that level, then I can either continue playing or put it on the shelf to gather dust.

Thing is, what's made it so easy to play is that I moved the PS2 to the den. When it was in the family room, I often had to pass, because Jean or Kelly would be using the television or the exercise machine down there, and so it would have been rude to play a game. Now, with it in the den, my 'official' hangout, I can play whenever time permits and I'm in the mood. To think I moved it up here to facilitate watching Region 3 DVDs!

If that isn't enough, I decided to ditch the cords, and got a wireless controller. Makes things a bit easier without having to watch for the cord every time I shift my legs.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

<A HREF=",2933,97064,00.html">Apple vs Apple</A>

I was wondering when this would happen...

iTunes Music Purchases

Next up on the musical purchase caravan (I just got my bill for the last load yesterday evening!):

Some Girls is possibly my favorite Stones album of all time. It seems more like a 'best of' album than just that year's output. In fact I just finished listening to it, and there is not one bad tune on there. Some better than others, but all winners.

Monday, September 8, 2003

Happy Anniversary

Today is the nineteenth anniversary of my wedding to Jean. We're going to celebrate in some fashion this weekend. More importantly to me, the fourth week of September is the period when Jean and I truly got serious about a relationship, and when I committed to love her forever. That anniversary is running twenty-one years.

Jean, you've made my life so much better than it would have been otherwise, and in fact, than it had been before I met you. Thanks for being my partner and my best friend.

Sunday, September 7, 2003


NOVA was this weekend. We had our annual elections, replacing the past year's officers (who had served their terms with honor and great effectiveness). Dan Baxter bowed out as President, yielding the reins to Lisa Eide. But before he did, he called me to the front of the meeting to bestow on me a lifetime membership. Seems that between running the club web pages and the club mailing list, and contributing a large amount of anime and art works to the club, I've contributed enough to earn the honor. I am truly touched.

I Are a Plumber

Our hallway bathroom sink has been developing a steadily worsening drip, until it got to the point that I was twiddling the knob to try to reduce the trickle to a drip. I'd come into the bathroom to use it at night and hear a sinister wheeze, like a tracheotomy patient hiding in a porcelain bucket. About that time I'd had enough.

I started working up to suggesting we call a plumber, as I hate, hate handyman jobs with a passion. But Jean asked a couple questions, I guess directed at fully informing the hypothetical plumber, and one thing led to another, and she ended up emailing her dad for hints on how to repair a leaky faucet.

I actually tried taking the faucet apart following the general directions he sent back, and eventually emerged with a valve affair that channelled the water to the faucet. But I couldn't for the life of me see how it could be causing a drip or decaying in any way similar to that described by Jean's dad.

So I took the whole affair to the hardware store, only they were closed. Now my stubbornness gene kicked in, and I drove to Home Depot to see if I could find a replacement there. They had maybe five valves that looked similar enough to mine that they might do.

I waited around to talk to somebody from their plumbing department, and he pointed out that there was a rubber gasket and spring in each of the blister packages, that wasn't in my collection of parts. I bought one he recommended, and drove home. After a bit of fiddling, I discovered that there was such a spring/gasket in the faucet, just not readily apparent.

I pried it out, eased the new ones in, replaced the valve, and put the whole thing back together. The steady trickle was gone! After some careful watching, I noticed that there was still a drip, just much smaller and slower. Turning off the cold water supply made it go away. Darn, they were both leaking, with the hot water faucet making the majority of the racket.

Saturday after grocering, we stopped at True Value Hardware, and I was feeling confident enough to buy just the spring/gasket replacement, rather than the entire valve. And it worked! Sunday morning, the sink was bone dry, proof that the leak was gone, or so slow that evaporation outpaced it.

If this seems like a long and tedious tale of something trivial, bear in mind that I'm not the handy type. Besides learning how to do this simple task, I also learned one more thing. Some items at True Value cost more than twice what they do at Home Depot. Still, True Value is closer to home by ten minutes, so I'll still give 'em my business out of laziness.

Tuesday, September 2, 2003

Roomba Evolves

I am interested in the evolution of robotic appliances. We have a few, of the assisted variety, but then most people nowadays do. Ever heard of a dishwasher? Still, the Roomba is another step along the path. It doesn't empty itself, or charge itself, but in between, it apparently does a decent job of vacuuming by itself.

Here's a recent review of iRobot's newest and most expensive model.

<A HREF="">Six Easy Pieces</a>

Finished this one yesterday. Indeed the first five 'pieces' were easy. Only the section on quantum mechanics had any confusing bits, and Feynman went very far to improving my understanding of it (which was rudimentary to begin with).

For example, I could recite the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, but it was mostly by rote. Now, I really have a better comprehension of what it means.

He grounds his explanation in the classic 'two slots' experiment to show the wave/particle nature of electrons and photons, then shows how the measurements by sensor can determine which hole an electron enters, but only by destroying the interference. I won't recite the whole outline of the chapter, read it for yourself. By the time you're done, you'll understand that the Uncertainty Principle has physical manifestations which don't require a particle accelerator to show up.

Overall, worth the read. I'm looking at The Song of the Earth by Hugh Nissenson, next. It's a novel in the form of a journalistic biography, and thus far, isn't sustaining my interest. I'll probably give it about fifty pages, then bag it and move on to my next book, Ring, by Koji Suzuki. This is the Japanese novel on which Ringu and it's American remake The Ring were based. Dunno if it will grab me, but I thought I'd give it a try.

Monday, September 1, 2003

At the Drive-In

Last night we took Kelly to her first drive-in movie. It was at the Newberg Drive-In, the only drive-in in the Portland Metro area (if you call a half hour drive south of Tualatin part of the Portland Metro area). It turns out Oregon has quite a few drive-ins. This one was small, compared to ones I attended in my childhood and youth. One innovation I was unaware of is that they now use a radio transmitter, instead of the old speakers on posts.

We got there around 6:50pm, as they said on their website that parking spots would get crowded after that. Unfortunately, it wasn't until 8:30 or so that the movie started. Lots of other people around us had brought chairs, coolers, and what-not, and were making an evening of it. I saw lots of 'trailer picnics' and at least one portable television.

The movie we saw is the current retread of Freaky Friday. This version starred Jamie Lee Curtis as the mom, and Lindsay Lohan as the daughter. It was actually pretty fun. Not 'Finding Nemo' fun, but a painless way to spend an evening with our daughter. Both Kelly and Jean were disenchanted with the whole drive-in experience. Too much waiting around, long walks to the bathroom, and long lines once there. I had the good end of that stick. There was never any line at the guys' restroom. Overall, I think I enjoyed it all much more than either of my gals.

I tried hard to think when the last time was that I hit the drive-in, and I think it was in East Lansing, Michigan sometime in the early 80's. The movie was Roger Corman's Galaxy of Terror, which I saw with a housemate at the time. I remember that he got drunk during the movie, and I had to drive him home (though I didn't have my license with me). I tried to hide his keys from him when we got home, but he found them anyway and went for a drive when I wasn't looking. The cops nailed him within a block and threw him in the drunk tank overnight. Those were the days...

Before that, the only drive-in experiences I can remember hark back to my childhood in Washington, D.C. I seem to remember seeing Fistful of Dollars at a drive-in, and I have quite vivid memories of seeing Reptilicus there. I remember that one as I bawled through half the movie. My dad was really annoyed with me. Assuming we saw this first-run, I had to be four or five years old! I didn't think I had any memories from that time!

The Return of Weird Science

We had another blind taste test yesterday. This one catered more to Kelly's interests than mine, as it was a test of dark chocolates. Jean bought seven brands of chocolate at the store, and then chopped them up into anonymous pieces, each in lettered muffin cups. The choices were:

The Private Selection brand appears to be a no-name brand from Germany repackaged for supermarkets. The seventh flavor was Dove Chocolate, slipped through the cracks of the initial taste test, and was introduced 'unblinded' after the fact. Oops!

Jean asked Kelly if she wanted to write her name on the form, and Kelly decided that if the chocolates were to be hidden, she would be too, so instead she chose a pseudonym. Trouble is, I can't remember it now, and she didn't write it down. Here's her rankings, anyway:

  1. C 'very very'

  2. B 'very'

  3. A 'good'

  4. F 'sortu'

  5. G (the Dove)

  6. E 'is bad'

  7. D

Sweetest: C. Strongest chocolate taste: D. Which would you buy: B.

Jean chose the reviewer name 'Windswept' and ranked things this way:

  1. D

  2. E

  3. G

  4. B

  5. A

  6. C

  7. F

Sweetest: C. Strongest chocolate taste: D. Which would you buy: D, maybe E.

My reviewer name was 'Neo', and I my ranking was:

  1. C 'Another waxy, malty! Mild aftertaste'

  2. F 'Another trace of malt, more chocolatey, sweet'

  3. G

  4. D 'Mildly bitter, flat, no wax, some aftertaste'

  5. B 'Not so waxy, more "milky"'

  6. A 'Some degree of wax, aftertaste, but cocoa is there'

  7. E 'No real character, almost like eating chocolate "air"'

Sweetest: F. Strongest chocolate taste: A. Which would you buy: C, F, G.

There was a lot of variability, but there were two votes for C and two votes for G in the top ranks, so Dove and Private Selection Milk Chocolate seem to have the best standing.

This has been a Consumer's Union report.

Sunday, August 31, 2003

Atsa My Dad

Got a picture in the mail the other day, which moved me to get my flatbed scanner and copy of Photoshop 6 working with my iLamp. I did the scan, and now you can see him in the banner photo. Be sure to click on it to see the full image, taken at Lake Louise, Alberta, in July 2003.

Matrix Ping Pong

Okay, I missed this when it was making the rounds earlier (apparently around three months ago), but it's fresh to me, and well worth watching if you've got the bandwidth, even though the picture is really grainy. I wish there were a clean download I could get, it's that fun.

Here is the show, and here is a description of it. I found all this on Boing Boing.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Peek a Boo!

Okay, I decided a banner shot might be a little TMI, so instead, I've made you a little click-through in case you're the morbid type and wanna see my colon snapshots. Soooo, click here!

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Teen Titans

I had another one of those cartoon/videogame crossover moments just now. I was looking up the voice actors for Teen Titans because one of them seemed familiar. The character of Raven is played by Tara Strong, who has worked a lot in voice acting.

But one voice acting gig she has done stands out, and is probably where I recognized Raven from:

Always shocking and amusing to see the cross-over...

<A HREF="">Bringing Down The House</a>

Well this was tons better than Posiitively Fifth Street. I've already noted the flaws in that book (in my opinion, of course). Ben Mezrich makes none of those mistakes, and his subjects are all interesting enough to sustain the book.

This story about how a group of MIT students clean up in Vegas and other towns playing Blackjack ("the only casino game with a memory") is entertaining for it's dramatization of the mechanics employed by the MIT team, and the sheer nerve of the players.

After reading it I understand what is actually meant by 'card counting', and I agree that it is not cheating or stealing. But the casinos don't like to lose their edge, so they reserve the right to bar you if you win too much, no matter how.

Sometimes they cross the line of legality too, as Mezrich relates the ongoing tale of a private investigation firm specializing in tracking card counters, and one agent who uses intimidation and violence to achieve his goals.

Overall, at least three stars.

Current book on the active stack: Six Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman.

Back From the Maw

The actual procedure of a colonoscopy is much like a flexible sigmoidoscopy, only more so. Whereas the flex-sig was walk-in, bend over, walk out, this time I got hooked up to an EKG, an automatic blood pressure cuff, some sort of finger sensor, and an IV.

They gave me something that made me woozy but did not put me out. The procedure was uncomfortable, sometimes very much so, but it was over soon. It's a good hour and a half afterwards, and I still remember what went on, so I don't think I'm going to have the memory lapse some folks experience with this sedative.

The verdict: completely healthy colon, no polyps! Due to the family history, Dr. Lobiz wants me to do one every five years, but that may back off over time if they continue to find nothing. Anyway, that's behind me.

And I got pictures! If you're 'lucky' I'll scan 'em in and post them as a banner photo where you can't help but notice them.

I'd say that the prep-work (fasting, flushing the colon) was more irritating and inconvenient than the actual procedure. Now I'm rehydrating as fast as I can drink tumblers of water. So until next time, adieu!

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Not Even Stale Bread

It's now been over 25 hours since my last solid food. I've crammed a lot of fluids, including white grape juice and Gatorade, but not any good stuff. And tomorrow I only get water. And then only until noon. Why? Because tomorrow afternoon is my friendly colonoscopy. Or as I like to call it, a visit with the snake doctor.

Part of the prep work includes cleansing my system, so no solids, sodium phosphate drinks to flush the system, and lots of quality time at home! I surprised myself, however, and had a very productive work day, working remote from home. As I've experienced in the past, if I don't actually need to interact with anyone else, the distraction factor is really low.

I'll try working tomorrow a.m., if I'm not feeling too spacey. I've logged a backlog of hours just for this occasion, so I may not even need to declare any vacation time for this, though I'm keeping track...

I don't know if I'll be in any shape to write anything up tomorrow evening, and they tell me that the meds affect your short-term memory, so I may not even be able to give a first-hand account if I want to. Cross your fingers. I know you're all waiting with baited breath.

Britney Ain't Dylan

I'd recently shared with Alan and Tom about how computer tech has gotten good enough that engineers can correct singers' pitch in real-time, allowing Britney Spears to hit those notes even when she ain't havin' a good day. Here I present for your reading entertainment a decent description of autotuners.

Monday, August 25, 2003


I confess to feeling deliciously wicked this morning when I arrived at work. In my leather tote was my Blueberry iBook, on which I keep a copy of all my music (cheaper than buying an iPod, for now).

Posted at every entrance was a stern warning not to connect any laptops to the corporate network until you had gone to your building's virus triage center to get scrubbed.

Yep, I just got on the elevator and went to my office, carrying my 'unscrubbed' laptop with me. It isn't hooked up to the network, but I could, at any time...

MWAH Hah hah!

For the humor-impaired, my laptop is a Macintosh, and can't be infected by the SoBig.F or Lovsan virii. "Now Zoidberg is the popular one!"

Monday, August 18, 2003

iTunes Music Purchases

I've been trying to wait for my bill on a purchase before running off and buying more, and this time I managed. Here's the new stuff:

Apollo Four FortyStop the Rock
Bee GeesStayin' Alive
Billy SwanI Can Help
The CorrsBreathless
The CorrsDreams
The CorrsOnly When I Sleep
The CorrsRunaway
Fred AstairePuttin' On The Ritz
Jimmy CliffGive the People What They Want
Jimmy CliffThe Harder They Come (Reprise)
Limp BizkitBreak Stuff
Oak Ridge BoysElvira (Single)
Soft CellTainted Love (7" Single)
Three Dog NightNever Been to Spain (Single)
Tom JonesWhat's New Pussycat?

A fair amount of pop this time, though some of it's rather old. Stop the Rock was used in a music video at Anime Expo this year, and The Corrs were recommended to me by Alan Matzka while we were listening to stuff on our various portable players at Expo. The Limp Bizkit tune is used in the Red vs Blue machinima. Kiss is to complement my other copy, by The Art of Noise, featuring Tom Jones. Never Been to Spain makes a nice, slow cha-cha tune.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

<A HREF="">Freddy vs Jason</a>

Before today, I'd never seen a Freddy movie. I've only seen one Jason movie, and I only saw it because it seemed like a parody of itselt (this was Jason X, Jason goes to SPACE Space space! ...). That was every bit as cheesy and stupid as I'd hoped. Some of you remember me raving over the silly camp holodeck sequence and the great line as one character gets pulled out an airlock after Jason traps her ("this sucks on so many levels!").

Well, everyone at NOVA was chuckling when Freddy vs Jason started showing up in trailers, so I decided that I wanted to see it, and trundled off to the theatre today after we returned home.

I think Jason X was a lot more fun and silly, despite this one being directed by Ronny Yu. I had fun, don't get me wrong, but overall, it seemed sorta paint-by-numbers. Another one I really needed to see with the NOVA crowd...

<A HREF="">Masters of Doom</a>

The secret to increasing my reading quota is, it seems, getting away from home. I plowed through this book in just the three days we were at the coast. I had no Internet access, wasn't interested in watching television without the remediation of my ReplayTV, and had many idle moments when we weren't walking around Florence, so read I did.

I was in fact fascinated by this book, as I'd never really gotten in on the Doom/Quake phenomenon. It all happened during one of my quieter phases, gaming-wise, and besides, I didn't have an Intel PC during those years. I'm taking away two things from this book.

One, John Romero and John Carmack are both geniuses, but the mid-term success of id was as much survivorship bias as pure sustained innovation. I always got the impression that id was a flawless house of geniuses who never made mistakes. The book shows how far from true this is.

Two, I finally know what 'gib' means in a gamer context. The book refers to victims in Doom exploding, leaving around little bits "like human giblets." This became regular slang, and evolved into a verb. "I gibbed him when he turned the corner."

Now that this is finished, I'm moving on to Bringing Down the House, about a bunch of MIT students who clean up on blackjack.



I didn't hold out any hope that Driftwood Shores would have a broadband connection, and they don't. All they have is a 'data port' on the phone, which means, "dial long distance to your ISP", so I'll be keeping my notes on this trip offline and posting them in one big chunk when I get back.

We left for Florence around noon, and got here shortly after 3pm, as expected. The hotel is pretty nice, we're on the top floor, and have an ocean view. We've just been taking it easy, snacking in the hotel room. Kelly spent around an hour down on the beach diving into the waves, building sand castles, the like. I took around twenty pictures on the beach, including one of a person riding a horse, and a few of a genuine timberwolf, a domesticated animal from a local petting zoo. I knew when I saw it that it wasn't an ordinary dog, and when it came up, friendly as can be, I said, "wow, look at the shoulders on that thing!" Definitely not a dog's.

Kelly didn't get enough splashing in the water, so Jean took her to the hotel pool, and I stretched out because my back was bothering me. I ended up falling asleep, but I still woke up in time to walk over to the pool and watch Kelly swim for awhile. I brought a library book, Masters of Doom, about John Romero and John Carmack, the founders of id Software. Now we're just sitting in the room waiting for Kelly to konk out, and I just finished watching episode 23 of Groove Adventure Rave on my laptop. I'll spend a half hour or so reading, then konk out myself. Later.


Did the dunes today. We mainly went to the coastal dunes, rather than the ones frequented by the dune buggy crowd. I went for a walk in the morning to try to get some exercise, but it turns out I didn't need to worry, as Kelly had me running up and down steep thirty foot dunes most of the morning.

Then we went off to Old Town Florence and walked around for awhile, finally settling in for lunch at a little Italian hole in the wall. Kelly had the 'appetizer' pizza, but it was huge.

In the afternoon we went back to the hotel and let Kelly play on the beach. I'm so sick of bright sunlight, literally. I got a minor sunburn, but my constitution just doesn't sit well with all that sun. In the hour we were outside, I probably got a week's worth of sunlight.

Kelly didn't get enough water though, and ended up back in the hotel pool. After an hour of that, we went back to the room, where Jean and I practiced our cha-cha while Kelly relaxed. Now we're all zoning. After I help Kelly clean her teeth (new braces!) I'm probably gonna watch another episode of Rave...


We've enjoyed ourselves, and are nevertheless ready to go home. I am already half-packed, and planning on showering tonight so that I can just pop into my day clothes in the morning and leave.

Today we went to the sea lion caves, and I tried taking a few pictures. I expect that they'll all be either underexposed (the cave shots) or too far away (the cliff shots). But at least I tried. Then we went to Heceta Head Light House, which was just up the coast. It is named after Bruno Heceta (Heh SEE tah), a Spanish explorer who surveyed the Pacific coast. Finally, we visited the Pioneer Museum, which was more a collection of artifacts from the long history of Oregon and the U.S. than an organized museum. I even found an Osborne computer, a 'portable' I remember lusting after in my larval stage as a programmer. It ran C/PM and was considered a business computer, having a tiny screen which was sufficient for a few rows or columns of a spreadsheet.

This evening we had dinner at Mo's Seafood Restaurant, and now Kelly and Jean are down at the beach while I write this note. Next entry will most likely be back in Tualatin...