Thursday, January 31, 2002

Why Do I Live Here?: We've been having a sort of freezing rain blizzard - winter storm warnings, etc. My five minute commute took me twenty yesterday. I waited until after moring rush hour today so it wasn't so bad. I truly pity people who have a real commute to get to work.

I despise winter. Why do I live here? Why not move south and be done with it?

Because depsite what I think now, when spring comes around I won't be able to imagine living anywhere else.

You see, what I need is a winter vacation home. Somwhere I can go after Thanksgiving and come back around early April. That's about four months. I could handle four months a year in, say, Key West. Oh well...

Winter Home: Speaking of winter, my bud Kimba took this picture of her home during a previous storm. That's what it's like here now.

It's featured in our company calendar. Great picture. Lousy weather.

Great Pictures: I'm not going to write an essay on my recent jaunt down to DC, but I do want to share a bit of what caught my eye at The National Gallery this time.

First was the famous painting of Watson and the Shark by Thomas Copley. It is quite striking and there was always a bit of a crowd around it. Sort of like an early version of Jaws.

More intersting to me were a couple of works by George Bellows: Both Members of the Same Club, which is a very powerful boxing themed work that stood in contast to the more delicate aesthetics of the impressionists of the day, and New York which, remarkably, has the same look and feel of the New York you might see today.

The National Gallery site is good spot to click-about a little.

Tuesday, January 29, 2002

My Blue Heaven: I continue to be amazed by The Blue Planet. Last night, an episode entitled The Deep kept me away from doing anything productive again. If there weren't any commercials I would've never got my laundry done. As you may have guessed from the title, in this epsiode they went exploring as deep as possible. So little is known of the very, very deep ocean (we're talking one to three miles down) that every expedition turns up multiple unknown species. The footage is incredible; bizzare, bio-luminescent creatures (one of which was the inspiration for Alien), that are beyond anything Dali could have imagined. There was the carcass of a Grey Whale calf, killed but only partially eaten by Killer Whales in the first episode that had drifted to the bottom and ended up feeding the entire ecosystem for nearly a year. There were vents of toxic, sufuric gas that super-heated the surrounding water to beyond four-hundred degrees, yet some creatures had found a way to use them to survive in the complete absence of any sun-dependent life forms. And strangest of all, there was a lake at the bottom fo the ocean. At the very bottom of the sea, where the water perfectly transparent, there was a lake of brine, heavier and darker than water so it had settled to the bottom and looked just like a lake, with waves and a beach. Except the beach was actually a huge colony of mussels living off methane that was being emitted from the sea floor. Amazing: life surviving off methane and sulfur, in the complete absecnce of photosythesis. I don't know how they are going to top that episode.

What's Up, Doc?: My gym crony, The Pixie, is going to be doing her Ph.D. defense soon, so I figured I had better give her a list of Ten Things Not To Do In Your Thesis Defense:

  1. Start a reply with "According to the prophecies of Nostradamus..."

  2. Point to your thesis and ask, "Did you want fries with that?"

  3. When asked a particularly difficult question, respond by patting the professor on the head and saying, "Aren't you a precocious little one?"

  4. Ventriloquism.

  5. Play the Theme from Rocky on a boom box as you enter.

  6. Ask for a short recess because you "gotta go drop a log"

  7. Respond, "I know you are but what am I?"

  8. Belch your answers.

  9. The Hokey-Pokey.

  10. Flick boogers on the committee members.

It's My Party: There's a new worm floating around. It will arrive as an email with the topic "new photos from my party" or something like that. It contains an attachment named Note the .com at the end. A web address will not have a .com at the end if it is an attachment (it will probably say .url), but this might fool you into thinking it's a web site - it is not. It is an executable program that will infect your computer with a worm if you open it. So don't open it. Never opened unsolicited attachments. Especially if that arttachment ends in .com or .exe. Never.

Monday, January 28, 2002

Lacking Focus: I probably shouldn't admit this, but I had loads to do last night and I ended up getting totally distracted by The Blue Planet, a nature documentary about the oceans. Absolutely incredible footage, some of it rather harrowing. I have a very dim view of nature documentaries in general, this is an exception. Worth checking out the upcoming episodes.

The Best Restaurant: I have visited the Outer Banks of North Carolina on a number of occasions - specifically in and around Duck and Corolla. While there, I have ever eaten perhaps the best food of my life at a little place called the Red Sky Cafe. It's a small restaurant (a counter and maybe ten tables) located in the front of an associated wine shop. I guess you might call the cuisine fresh-mex or southwestern style. I don't know for sure - I just know it rocked. Everything on the menu was great, and I oughta know, I bet I tried it all. It was so good that every time I was in town I made multiple visits and got to know some of the staff by name. Now I have heard a viscious rumor that it might be closed down. I would definitely shed a tear if that were true. I may have to protest and find a new Atlantic coast summer beach location. Surely one of you wonderful readers must live down in that area. I need to know for certain. Drop me a line, woudja?

Incommunicado?: I have a report that the email link over to your left is not working properly. It seems OK to me, so if you try it and it doesn't work please manually address a note to me at and please mention what your OS and email application are. Danke.

Sunday, January 27, 2002

Almost There: I'm back from spending the last four days in Washington DC. It was a pretty smooth trip all the way 'round, so I may not write anything about it. Everything is pretty much the same as it was last time I was there in October. With luck, tomorrow things will be back to normal (but give me a one day grace period just in case).

I got some fiction done - specifically, a thousand words or so on novel #3 - while I was gone, which is good 'cause I have a whole bunch of smaller writing projects that are going to occupy my time over the next couple of weeks. I will share them in due course.

I also got my taxes done; now I just have to file them. I'll be filing on-line, using direct deposit for my refund so I'll let you know how that goes. It should be interesting. I may even complete the process in time for you to benefit from my experience - that is, if you don't already have your taxes finished and filed (guffaw).

And then there' s still stuff to do on this site. A new pay service called Blogger Pro is available; I'll need to invesigate that. And I've found that blogger offers Micro Ads as a cheap source of exposure, another interesting option.

Then, of course, there's that little thing called my career the requires eight-hours of attention each weekday (and some weekends).

Sorry. The whining will end now.

Friday, January 25, 2002

Short Shrift: Just a quick post to let you know I haven't died and I'll be back to my regular antics by early next week. In the meantime, why not check out Yahoo's Site Picks for some distraction. Also, the latest issue of Forbes has a fascinating article on how memories are formed chemically and the research going on to boost memory retention through drugs. Better living through chemistry. It's print only unless you are a Forbes subscriber, but it might be worth the magazine purchase. In any event I'll try to give you a heads up when/if it becomes available on-line.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

So Little Time: Don't panic. Updates will be sporadic at best for the next week. But as always, I will return with lots of new material. Fear me.

Sleazebag Watch: No sooner do I post that ridiculous piece of spam I posted yesterday than I get another one from them:
You urgently should send 535 $ to the address
Details for transfers (in USD):
Beneficiary:acc.# [[account number censored]]
Personal datas: [[name censored]]
Beneficiary's Bank account: [[account number censored]]
Intermediary Bank: THE BANK OF New York SWIFT: IRVTUS3N
Question of life and death!
Your destiny and destiny of many people depends on you!
So it turns out that $535 is the exact amount that will save lives. Whodathunkit? Morons. No wonder they lost the cold war.

Band of the Year: Since I've been commenting on CDs I've been listening to, let me just say that the Band of the Year for 2001 was Pizzicato Five. I know they've been around forever (long enough that they broke up before last year), but last year was when I discovered them and that's all that counts. The music is part j-pop, part sixties movie soundtrack style, and a bit of manic jazz. The lyrics are mostly Japanese with smatterings of French and English. You ain't gonna hear it on the radio. The correct CDs to buy in order are: 1) Playboy Playgirl, 2) The Fifth Release From Matador, 3) Happy End of the World. I'm going to rip all three and just set Winamp to shuffle mode.

Monday, January 21, 2002

Spam-o-gram: Spam is undoubtedly the most annoying aspect of on-line life. I can categorically state the all spammers are sleazebag dirtball snot-nosed loser finks. My Hotmail account (which is published on gets something on the order of 30 spams for every valid piece of mail. I have the spam guard (or whatever they call it) set up and other filters to automatically delete messages with naughty subjects, but multiply me by millions and think of the horrible, hateful waste. There has been some good news, states are beginning to pass protective laws and other options are available. The best place to get the latest on spam news is over at Pete Moss's Spam News Page which will hook you up with the 411 (that's some def talk).

Aside 1: I also have to say that it is a brilliantly designed site too. If I ever get around to redesigning this place (don't get me started) I wouldn't hesitate to steal as much of it as I could get away with.

Aside 2: What up with that name - Pete Moss? Who's he kidding?

OK so here is a real piece of spam I got the other day. It came from somewhere in Russia:
Are you healthy and wealthy? You are lucky! Sick children who are considered to be incurable live near you. They parents refused of them and nobody can help them except you. Nowadays contemporary medicine can completely treat them, but it requires
money, a lot of money. Together we can help them. Universal Children Relive Fund asks you to provide an adequate material assistance.We will be appreciating for any of your donation from private person or from organization.Remember, transferring money you are saving thousands of children life's.Please, help us and you will find a lot of young friends, who became happy thanks to you. Don't delay your assistance; don't think that it can be done without you.

Regardless of the contribution size your name or the name of your organization will be forever written down in our Helping Book. Show your name or name of your organization in details of payment of your transfer.
Details for transfers (in USD):
Beneficiary:acc.# [[account number censored]]
Personal datas: [[name censored]]
Beneficiary's Bank account: [[account number censored]]
Intermediary Bank: THE BANK OF New York SWIFT: IRVTUS3N
There is a class of scam of which you can reasonably say if anyone was stupid enough to fall for it, they deserve it. But this is so lame that the only people who would fall for this are the mentally impaired and frankly, they don't deserve it. See what I was saying about sleazebag dirtball snot-nosed loser finks?

Good Mail: On the other hand I may actually subscribe to the Net Surfer Science email e-zine. Looking through the back issues, it seems to be a treasure trove of science links of all sorts. I could handle that kind on mail. Peruse you heart out.

My Name is Lyman Zerga: Listening to the Ocean's Eleven Soundtrack. Eclectic selections from kitsch to funk. Vegas, baby. Vegas.

Sunday, January 20, 2002

Take Pity On Me: For I am spending the afternoon doing my taxes.

Are You a Slow Reader?: This is something I would like to see expanded. Classic Novels delivers an entire classic novel to you via email. You get an email each day containing about 1500-1800 words. Roughly a five minute read. You can jump in anytime, but that doesn't make much sense. The thing to do is subscribe before a mailing starts. It looks like Oliver Twist is next up starting on Feb 1, then Celtic Fairy Tales on Feb 4. You can also vote for what you want next. (I voted for The Man Who Was Thursday.) I'll try to alert you to anything interesting that may come up.

Of course, the copyright on all these novels has expired, so if you just wanted to download the entire text you could probably find it at Project Gutenberg But I like the idea of getting a little every day. Sort of like disciplining yourself to a single piece of candy from the jar each day; it makes it that much sweeter. Granted that only works until your boss dumps on you or you get caught in traffic and miss your favorite TV show and then you have to eat the whole jar just out of spite for the world, but you see what I'm driving at.

Cat Got Your Tongue?: Speaking of reading, I'm cruising through When The Cat's Away, by Kinky Friedman, the world's only Jewish Country Singer and Amatuer Private Investigator. It would be tough to categorize Kinky's mysterys except that they contain a sort of hard-boiled, sarcastic, homespun, meta-physical bent. Plus they are very funny. Highly Recommended (but not for everyone).

Saturday, January 19, 2002

Doing Away With Creed: I would like to be rid of the band Creed. My pathetic car radio has six pre-sets and on my way home the other night three of them were playing the utterly vomitous My Sacrifice simultaneously. This is reminiscent of a year or so ago when they all were playing the merely nauseating With Arms Wide Open.

I would like to eliminate all evidence that the band Creed ever existed. Can you offer suggestions on the most efficient method for doing this?

Thanks in advance.

Take It Down a Thousand: I just bought a CD callled The Look of Love by Diana Krall. She is a fabulous Jazz vocalist, especially adept at torch songs. I bought the CD after hearing it broadcast in Best Buy. It is quite wonderful, her voice is velvety and sultry and emotive. Highly recommmended.

It makes me realize how truly bad the current crop of Pop and R&B divas are. They have two volumes: Loud and Earsplitting. And whenever they feel the need to express emotion, I get a vision of them standing at the mic wearing a truss which the record producer hitches tighter on cue. Seriously, it's like a competition to see who can express the most extreme variation of pitch on every single syllable of the song. Diana Krall expresses more genuine emotion in eight bars than Whitney, Mariah, Britney, and Christina have in their entire lives combined. And she does it without raising her voice.

Friday, January 18, 2002

Enough!: I went back to blue (it reminds me of the ocean, the good music). I changed the links so that visited links are the darkest green and unvisted links are the darkest red. They are both only subtly differnt from black on my screen, but that should do. I'm done playing with colors now.

Or am I? Corrin the Red from Couchgirls sent in a couple of .gifs that she made with her mAd sKillz, and I may experiment with them for background effects.

The Tao of the Couch: You could think of Couchgirls as the red-headed step-child of the shotgun marriage of E! Entertainment and South Park. You could also think of it as American Pie if it starred Roger Ebert. (Sorry, I know it'll be tough to shake that visual.) It is rife with skewed and ribald views on movies, TV and pop culture. It is weird and wild. It is twisted and terrifying. It features a lot of living room furniture. Yet I can't look away. Note: For Mature Audiences Only

When Godzilla Gets the Willies: P.J. O'Rourke explains in detail how to cope with the "vulgar" consequences of the War on Terrorism.
I can remember when powdery white substances of sinister origin were doing a lot more damage to Americans than anthrax has done so far.
Ah, perspective.

Fixed: Should be OK now. I copied my last post into Word to spell check it and it replaced the quotes in the links with "smart quotes" - the curly ones that look nice in print. Blogger displays those as regular quotes in the preview but mngles them in your browser. So much to learn....
More Problems: I have no idea why Blogger is adding the address of this site to the front of every link I post. That would be why you are getting "cannot find page" errors if you click them. I'm trying to figure it out. Sigh.

Thursday, January 17, 2002

Color Me Confused: My dear friend The Always Delightful Chrissy dropped a line to let me know that the color scheme of the new site just wasn’t quite right. There was not enough contrast in the links to find them easily. I also realized I needed more differentiation in color between the post area and the nav bar on the left.

So I started messing with the colors and I couldn’t stop. I ended up with the colors you now see. Don’t know if you’ll like them. Not sure I do. But I think things are a bit more readable now.

I’m pretty happy with the white background for the posting area. That’s where the new material goes and it pretty highly contrasted now. Un-visited links are highlighted in blue. The visited links are actually blue also, but they are so dark that they blend in with the normal black text. The effect of this, I hope, is that visited links will subtly blend in more with the normal text, under the assumption that if you have visited them, you already know about them so it’s less important that they stand out.

I’m less enthusiastic about the bright, light brown background color, but no matter what I did, I was unable to get a very strong contrast between the text in the nav bar, which is nearly all links and therefore not black, and my traditional blue or green background colors.

I’m learning a good deal about color in web pages. It turns out that there is a concept called a safe palette, which is a set of 216 colors (that are defined in hexadecimal format) and just about every web browser will display comparably, in theory. You can see all the colors and their hexadecimal values right here. (These are also sometimes referred to as non-dithered colors.) Actually the situation is worse - and by worse I mean more complicated - than that, as described in this very informative page. But I am loath to subject myself to further limitation.

So the problem I was having was that I did not use a strict color-safe palette for the old site. The downside to that was that it is possible that when some people with certain limited hardware tried to access it, they may have seen a fairly strange color scheme, certainly not what I intended. The upside was that I could make the scheme readable for most people. But all in all, it’s probably better to stick to the safe palette. So there you are.

I’ll be tweaking this for a while, I think. Also, please send in sugs and advice.

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Pop Stopper: It's sounds like one of those adult sites, but it's not. The weblog Technoerotica has done the world a great service by posting a set of links to where you can "opt-out" of those annoying pop-up ads. In case you didn't know, it is possible to stop all those X-10 and World's Largest Casino ads. The links here will give you instructions.

In the Interest of Safety: I once knew someone who was a solid environmentally concerned citizen. I naturally assumed she would hate those gaudy, gas-guzzling SUVs, so I was suprised when I found out she drove one. When I asked, she said, "It's OK, I just drive it for safety." Alrighty.

I'm not a big fan of SUVs - not for environmental reasons, but just that it's imposssible to see around them when you're pulling out into traffic. Coming out of Meijer's, and seeing my car surrounded by a pair of Chevy Tahoes can induce a cursing fit worthy of the father in A Christmas Story.

So I may buy an SUV. In fact, I may buy a Maximog, just to show them I am not to be trifled with. They will respect me. They will fear me.

For safety's sake.

Space Bugs: We often hear that there was the Age of Dinosaurs and now we live in the Age of Mammals or the Age of Man. All wrong. It has always been the Age of Bacteria, and probably always will be. Bacteria is everywhere, it covers everthing we see or touch or think about. I never realized how much this was true until I read this article about how bacteria left over from the Apollo missions has survived on the Moon. Amazing little creatures.

If anything ever does overtake bacteria, it might be the descendents of the Flying Robot Insects we are planning to send to Mars. The Martians may want to bone up on their Sci-Fi novels in preperation for the invasion.

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

Ready, Set, Go: Below is a bit of material from the old site. Still a little housekeeping to do, but new posting should begin in earnest within 24 hours.

Or so...
Darwin Redeemed: For the good of the species, no one should sell this man a helmet.

Slam The Spam: Being a spammer is bad enough; it's probably best not to draw attention to yourself and claim to be a victim when you are taken to task for it. Bernard Shifman did and was promptly turned into a world famous Moron.

Speaking of spam, the other day I got this one -

Date: Mon, 17 Dec 01 18:37PM EST
From: "Roni*"
Subject: Zoila Donati's resume

Hi! How are you?

I send you this file in order to have your advice

See you later. Thanks

- along with an attachment named Zoila_Donati' I have to laugh. First, I am not stupid enough to click on an unsolicited attachment (like I might have asked someone named Zoila Donati for his/her resume and not remembered it?). And even if I were, I would not be stupid enough to click on an unsolicited attachment that was an executable program (that's the .com part). Good grief. Naturally my virus scanner revealed a hidden worm. Idiots.

Geekology: Two articles caught my eye recently having to do with life in high-tech (aka Geek Life).

The first is actually quite serious and has been bopping around the web for the last week or two, but I just got around to reading it. It seems in Silicon Valley and some other high-tech centers there is a marked increase in autistic children. This article in Wired supposes the answer is that autism is often linked with the sort of single minded creativity that is required to succeed in high-tech jobs (prototypically: software development) and that autism is what happens when the mind develops those capabilities to the exclusion of the other basic human faculties. The reason it has become more prevalent is that in past times people with just a little autism were often loners or outcasts and did not reproduce at the same rate as the general population. The growth of high-tech has changed those people from loners to folks in high demand and that has placed them in a position have kids more readily. The genetic predisposition gets passed on more often. Not exactly a mind blowing conclusion: that good and useful personality traits can be horribly detrimental when the DNA doesn't get it right, but it's very interesting when put in such a familiar context.

On a more light-hearted note, we have this story of the rise and fall of Wizards of the Coast, a company that had a huge gaming hit called Magic: The Gathering. Similar to the book/movie Mosquito Coast, the founder attempted to build the perfect utopia in the middle of the jungle. In this case it was a geek utopia in the middle of the commercial jungle. The cruel world took care of that short order, but it's an entertaining story nevertheless.

Like Sands in an Hour Glass: I cannot tell you how tempted I have been to get a game console - Playstation, GameCube, XBox - but then I remember how much computer games ate up of my young adulthood. You think it might be a nice diversion, and then one day, you realize you have been playing Civilization for 15 hours straight. In your underwear. With a full bladder. Home of the Underdogs is a site devoted to the then-slick-now-retro games of that time. What's really scary is that some of them are now free downloads. Must...stay...away...

At Least She Avoided the Woodchipper: Fargo, the weirdly gruesome Coen Brothers movie has just claimed a real life victim. Amazing. The sheriff on the case makes the perfect comment, "I haven't seen the movie. I don't need to, I live here." You sure do, buddy, you sure do.

Bad As I Wanna Write: First, I want to quote a passage from Apple Pie wherein Alex has an encounter with philosophy textbooks:

Clarity and readability did not seem to be high on the agenda of the various writers...each subsequent philosopher seemed to leapfrog the previous in the weight and density. There were lines like, “Negative dialectics continues in the face of the solid intrinsic ontology of dehumanization.” Sentences like that blur the distinction between highly educated deep thinkers and schizophrenic street people.

Now read this summary of the Bad Writing Contest sponsored by the scholarly journal Philosophy and Literature.

Life imitating Art imitating Life.

If It Makes You Happy: Another great issue of my favorite print mag, Forbes ASAP, has hit the stands this one with a series of terrific essays on The Pursuit of Happiness. The divine P.J. O'Rourke offers a comic one, Andrew Sullivan offers a brilliant one, Lance Armstrong (the only truly heroic sports figure I know of), George Plimpton and others chime in. Definitely worth buying if you don't want to stare at the screen to read it.

Doh! A Deer: I am sick and tired of people calling me callous because I don't go all weepy at the sight of the deer that infest this state. (You people know who you are.) Every time I drive down Dexter-Ann Arbor road in the dark - and it gets dark at about 3 PM these days - I'm mortified at the prospect of one of them jumping out of the bushes and damaging my luxurious 1993 Camry (180,000 miles). Well, at least one person agrees with me. Deer are responsible for more deaths in North America in one year, than bears and cougars have been for the entire century. And despite all the auto collisions and hunting, there are approximately as many deer now as there were when settlers first arrived. Fight the power! Eat venison!

Sony vs. Taliban: I've intentionally not posted items relating to 9/11/01 or the Afghan War for reasons I've mentioned before, namely you can get that info anywhere on the web - or TV, or radio, or the newspaper. But I couldn't let this little anecdote pass without mention. It is a description of a message sent to Jon Katz, a writer for Slashdot, which is prominent techie site. In it, a young Afghan who had been living under Taliban rule in Kabul until the Northern Alliance took over describes how delighted he is that he can listen to music again. Says a lot.
First Post!: So begins my journey with blogger. The next post will be a compendium of a few post at the old site, just to give this place some heft.