Sunday, September 30, 2007

Recommended Reading

Today's Thomas Friedman column. I'm recommending it to everyone. I think it ought to be required reading for all politicians, and tattooed on the corneas of most of the presidential candidates until the message soaks through their auto-response mechanisms and into their brains:
9/11 has made us stupid. I honor, and weep for, all those murdered on that day. But our reaction to 9/11 — mine included — has knocked America completely out of balance, and it is time to get things right again.

Friday, September 28, 2007

State of the Penguins

A while back, I alluded to the decline of penguinal dominance of pop culture. To whit, my Swiss Colony catalog arrived yesterday, and I went for my annual eye-binge of overpriced sweets and meat/cheese packs. There was exactly ONE penguin in the entire catalog, and that was on a tin of sugar free butter toffee popcorn. Two years ago, they had gummy penguins, chocolate penguins, penguin jammies (yes, I bought a set), and more penguin gift tins than you could shake a tailfeather at. This year, the sole penguin is relegated to the sugar free section, which, considering this is the Swiss Colony catalog, exists solely for the benefit of people who do all of their gift giving from the Swiss Colony catalog but still need a token item to send to the diabetic relatives.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Note the The History Channel

I realize the documentary is titled "Hillbilly: The Real Story" and as such, we should expect a certain amount of backwoodsiness in the narration. However, at least one person on the production crew ought to be non-hillbilly enough to realize that having Pentecostals and "upwards of eighty separate Baptist faiths" does not count as religious diversity.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Amusing Plant Picture of the Day

This has been my first year of serious, in-the-ground vegetable gardening, and I've learned a few things. One, that no matter what the seed packet says about "days to harvest," vegetables will be ripe whenever they darned well please, so don't plan on them being ready at any particular time. Two, that vegetables are very good at hiding on the plants. Particularly if that plant is in a vine formation. For example:
Possible you may recognize the green striped thing as a watermelon. For scale, the melon is about a foot in diameter, to the extent that it has a diameter. It's hard to tell, what with the melon wedged between the generator, the concrete pad the generator sits on, and part of the generator's natural gas feed pipe and all. I've been checking my veggie patch daily, and this is the first I've seen of this guy. I had to cut it into three pieces to get it out.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Almost forgot

Happy belated equinox. I'm about an hour late. Autumn has officially hit the northern hemisphere.

Counter Intuitive

I came into possession of a decent quantity of Concord grapes recently, and did what anyone would do with two sinkfuls of the 'nummiest seeded grapes on the planet: I made juice. Concord grapes make the most mouth-wateringly delicious juice ever to grace a glass. They also make purple blotches on the counter everywhere a drip lands and sits for more than half a nanosecond. The color itself is an improvement over the current yellow and generally quite pleasant. In fact, the only thing keeping me from getting a couple gallons of Welches and dying all of my countertops purple is that I would have to repaint the kitchen. Which brings me to the question: does anyone out there know how to get grape juice out of Formica? The counters don't fit in the washing machine.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fair Trade

We just got back from Emp. Peng.'s first experience with a county fair. His community band was playing, and--mercifully--most of the concert was upwind of the livestock exhibits. The wind shifted during the Porgy and Bess Suite.

I've been to many a county fair in my time, and they don't seem to have changed much in the dozen years since my last trip to one. There is still the bison burger stand, examples of the domestic arts, purveyors of everything fried on a stick and the aforementioned livestock. I'm still trying to figure out if it was marketing genius or just plain wrong, having the steak-on-a-stick stand next to the cattle exhibition barn.

I have a more pressing fair question, though: should we have noticed the elephants before we all but walked straight into them?

Gotta Know...

Whose brilliant idea was it to make pie plates round? I just tried my hand at making homemade piecrust, and I am convinced that dough would make every other shape before it rolled out into anything resembling a circle. I fully expect it would make an irregular dodecahedron and a geodesic dome before it consented to being rolled into a circle.

Weird Science Headline

Mars "Pregnancy Test" Orbits Earth
A new experiment similar to a pregnancy test but designed to search for signs of life on Mars is now exposed to the vacuum of space above Earth.
It's a lab-on-a-chip style experiment to pick up traces of compounds necessary for life. As to why it is orbiting Earth, where we are fairly confident of the presence of life, rather than any other planet in the solar system, where that question is still up in the air--the scientists want to make sure that space won't barbecue the cosmic EPT en route. No word yet on how they intend to get an entire planet to pee on a stick.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Adventures in the Land of Interminable Hold

I've been on hold with a web hosting company for an hour now. Every...

My goodness, they're actually answering the phone! 63 minutes into listening to the same 5 minute loop of music, I'm less than two sentences into ranting about how a company should not be allowed to remind me that "my call is very important" if it is not important enough for them to actually answer in less time than it takes to roast a chicken, they finally answer the freakin' phone. I suppose this is the technology age's version of the repairman arriving the minute you give up on him and go drop trou.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Cool Tech

Emp. Peng.'s cell phone has never gotten terrific reception at home, but it has only been recently that the service started roaming in our living room. The oh-so-lovely folks at the Verizon Store with the handy computerized queuing system (which would work so much better if the inputs were not done by people who would have done Ellis Island clerks proud) suggested we might want to upgrade his phone if the software reset she performed failed to improve the situation. It didn't, so we did. While we upgraded the phone, we upgraded our carrier, too. Possibly, the carrier is just a lateral move. At any rate, it could hardly be worse.

On Wednesday, Apple dropped the price on the iPhone down to a slightly less insane level. And since we were in the market for both a new cell phone provider and a slightly belated birthday present to Emp. Peng., we went down to the Apple Store today and got what is by all indications the last 4GB iPhone in Ohio.

Once in a while, I come across technology that is so sci-fi, I have to double check that I wasn't zapped through time. Technology that is so sexy, so simultaneously ahead of its time and should have been invented earlier, that one just has to stop and think, "Wow." No, not the iPhone, although that is at least three different kinds of cool. I'm talking about what the sales folks at the Apple Store have. We went in, poked around the newest Apple offerings, and were pounced on in short order by a sales guy who is infinitely more helpful than the folks at the Verizon store. He fetched the iPhone from the back and helped Emp. Peng. pick out a case and a few other accessories. Then, he pulled out a doodad about the size of a brick from a holster on his belt and proceeded to scan the items and run Emp. Peng.'s card. He got the signature verification on the brick, and asked what I am sure is going to be the new millennium's "Paper or plastic?": Would you like your receipt printed or emailed to you?

That, I must say, is customer service. Forget going to the register. Each salesperson is a walking POS terminal, able to complete transactions from anywhere in the store. Printed or emailed? That, that is the future knocking on your glass-faced touch sensitive pocket computer and communicator.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Lesson Learned the Hard Way (and for once, not by me)

If you are going to attempt to restore the population of the endangered greenback cutthroat trout, it really helps to stock the streams with greenback cutthroat trout. Adding other, non-endangered, species of trout to the waterways is not really providing a material improvement in the endangered trout's situation. In a word: oops.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Today's Political Thought: Goose and Gander Edition

Senator Larry Craig, Republican of Idaho, pled guilty to disorderly conduct in connection with allegedly trawling for sex in an airport men's room (where, it might be noted, there is a decided lack of women to be trawled). In spite of pleading guilty to a misdemeanor stemming from what any objective definition would consider at least a prelude to homosexual conduct, the senator is maintaining the position that his is not, in fact, homosexual. Once news got out of the incident, Craig issued a statement that read, in part, "In hindsight, I should not have pled guilty." To whit, he has engaged lawyers in an apparent bid to have the guilty plea tossed out. Further, over the weekend, Senator Craig announced his intention to resign from the senate effective September 30. This morning, word from more of his lawyers is that he is reconsidering his resignation.

In sum: the distinguished gentleman from Idaho allegedly solicits gay sex in a men's room and decides he is not gay. He pleads guilty, then changes his mind and gets lawyers to try to make him un-guilty. He resigns from the Senate, and three days later changes his mind and decides he might stay after all. Now, my memory of the 2004 election cycle is a bit hazy, but wasn't there a term the Republicans themselves used to describe someone with this sort of history of changing one's stance? Except, of course, that the original target of that term changed his views over the course of years, not days.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Less Important Wars Being Fought In the Wrong Arena

With a few real wars going on, I don't expect many of you out there are paying attention to the hyped battles over the up-and-coming home entertainment technology. There is the "Format War" pitting Sony's Blu-Ray vs. Toshiba's HD-DVD over who will eventually get us to re-purchase our entire movie collection yet again. So far, on that one, it looks like they didn't wait long enough for people to forget about getting scorched siding with Betamax during the last Format War; the overwhelming consumer response has been "You pick one, then we'll consider buying movies we already own yet again."

The "Battle For the Living Room" has an ever-changing array of gaming and internet companies vying to get out of the computer hutch and into the entertainment center. The idea being, I suppose, that the living room is where the respectable amusement happens. One of the things these companies seem to be overlooking is that less and less of any sort of entertainment is happening in the living room anymore. The real prime real estate is not the entertainment center anymore. With people on the move all the time, the truly prime entertainment real estate is the pocket.

Monday, September 03, 2007