Saturday, December 31, 2005

Yay, a step in the right direction

Nutrition labels must now show the amount of trans-fats in the food. This is great stuff, people will now be able to more closely watch what they are eating.

Most of the big food manufacturers have already switched away from trans fats (note: no increase in prices, no decrease in taste). Betcha didn't even notice that the Oreos you've been eating are now less bad for you. woo-hoo!

Finally, the general public will become aware of what pig farmers have known for years (they stopped feeding their pigs trans fats a long time ago because their pigs died).

Friday, December 30, 2005

Church Sexual Abuse Lawsuit

The latest ruling in the bankruptcy lawsuit came down, basically saying that all the parish property belongs to the Archdiocese.

Now, the whole issue is really disgusting - people in power, especially those of the church, abusing their power by abusing kids is horrible. And unfortunately, not amount of money will make things right.

I don't normally agree with going after those with money, but in this case it does appear that the Archdiocese did have a hand in concealing the problem from the public - which in my mind is actually worse than the original charge of child abuse. So, given that, I'm all for sticking it to the church for the whole thing.

Sadly, if the parishes' properties end up being liquidated, it's going to really hurt their communities. The people who belong to those churches will likely be disillusioned and the good services that the churches provide will be disrupted (if not completely discontinued). That's the potential downside to this ruling.

But in the end, I think it's the right course of action. The Church so completely controls all the parishes, it is only right that the Church lose the parishes. Perhaps this will be a wakeup call to the people attending the Church that still seems to be covering child abusers. Perhaps it's time to find a new church.

Just Stop It

I've gotten pretty accustomed to using my MS Windows laptop. But it occasionally pisses me off.

Right now it's the fact that when I want to kill a process, it just doesn't die. It takes like 5 minutes and freezes up the whole system.

In Unix, if I want to kill a process, I can do it. It happens instantly. No fuss, no muss.

Hot Fudge Sauce

Mmmm.... hot fudge sauce.

There's a recipe in my favorite cookbook I'd been wanting to try out. Hot fudge sauce.

Growing up, my favorite ice dish was the Hot Fudge Nutty Nutty at Farrell's (there used to be one in Portland). Why did I like the Hot Fudge Nutty Nutty? Because it had two (yes two) sides of hot fudge sauce. Wow.

You can always buy fudge sauce at the store, and the sauce at the co-op is top-notch. So far my cookbook has not led me wrong, so I put it to the test tonight.

I won't bore you with the recipe, let me just say that the fudge sauce was much tastier than the all-natural strawberry ice cream (which I normally groove on). Now I've got two batches of it stored in my freezer. Just stop by with some good ice cream and I'll show you how tasty the hot fudge sauce is.

Law Shows

I've watched a number of different law shows on TV and one thing is always bugging me.

The people hauled into jail almost never get a lawyer. "Close to Home" "NYPD Blue" "Law & Order (all 23 variations" etc. I just don't get it. Sure, some people are dumb and ignorant and don't know to get a lawyer. But come on, are the defendants always this clueless? People need to know they should get a lawyer as soon as they realize they're under investigation. So don't you forget it.

Oh, and I really dislike how the cops and prosecutors are often "bending" the rules or even breaking laws to go after people. There was one where the lady prosecutor completely ignored the defendant's right to an attorney to get some information. And while the show gave a small nod to the fact she was breaking the law, the whole scenario was set up as justified because a woman's life was saved (as though they couldn't have done both at the same time). Miranda Rights are pretty much guaranteed by the constitution (indirectly, but interpreted from the Fifth Amendment).

It's this kind of mentality that's lead to this attitude.

Classic Bush

As this Yahoo news story says, the administration is looking into the person who told the world that the NSA was spying on U.S. citizens without any oversight.

Classic "shoot the messenger" mentality. They never admit doing any wrong and just try to find and destroy anyone who reveals anything negative about what they've done.

It's not ok for Clinton to lie about a personal matter (sex), but it's ok for Bush to lead us into war on false pretenses (making us less safe), it's ok for Bush to spy on U.S. citizens (what Constitution?), detain people indefinitely (it's just a piece of paper), torture (what Geneva conventions?), and behave very non-Christian (cuts to benefits programs, tax cuts for rich - i.e. help rich, screw poor).

And what is Congress doing for us? They're the ones we've elected to represent us. They're playing politics. Democrats are remaining useless because they don't know how to run a unified party, and Republicans are so busy toeing the political line that they are blind to the atrocities committed by our commander-in-chief.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Golden Slippers

Mary gave me a wonderful gift for Christmas, a hammered dulcimer. I was totally blown away by the gift. Over a year ago I rented a hammered dulcimer for several months and used the John McCutcheon Hammered Dulcimer Instruction Series CDs and book to learn how to play a couple of songs. After a couple of months I had to return the dulcimer - I wasn't playing as much as I should have, and it didn't make sense to continue renting.

Anyway, I've now got this beautiful musical instrument. I sat down yesterday and spent an hour getting re-acquainted with the dulcimer. I can now play the first version of Golden Slippers (one of the two songs I learned over a year ago). That's one thing that is nice about hammered dulcimers, they're relatively straight forward to learn. I'd put up a recording, but a couple of notes are pretty out of tune.

Anyone know how to tune an instrument with 62 strings?

Saturday, December 24, 2005

War On Christmas

Happy Holidays everyone!

That's my little mini-war on Christmas.

I don't get the whole uproar. It's not as though those big companies are turning their backs on Christmas (just look at all the stuff they're selling), and "Happy Holidays" is just a little more generic, more inclusive. Isn't that what Christ was all about? Bringing religion to those shunned by the popular religion (Judaism)? How hypocritical.

Oh, and there was one thought I had recently that's related to the whole fundamental religious movement. Teaching abstinence as the only method of "safe sex" doesn't work for many reasons. Ironically, Christians believing in the Virgin Mary also know that abstinence doesn't work either. :)

Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Well, looks like we've failed yet again. The Iraqi election appears to have resulted in a fundamentalist Shiite dominated Iraq. I don't think this was the "freedom" that we were promised by our leaders when we entered Iraq. Oh, right, we weren't promised to give Iraq freedom, but to rid it of WMDs. Good thing the Iraqi constitution guarantees freedom of religion ... oh, wait, it says that clerics can be in the courts.

But that's ok, it's not as though our own Constitution has been violated. Ah, but it has.

I do like Benjamin Franklin's quote on the subject of freedoms, "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Scott Adams on Intelligence

Leave it to a comic strip writer to have deep insight into intelligence and God.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

For What It's Worth

I've put the contents of this blog under the Creative Commons license. Not that people have been scrambling to use my writings elsewhere. I could have chosen the GPL, but ... I don't know that I care about imposing that set of restrictions/freedoms on my blog contents.

If you don't know what those are, don't worry, you really only need to know if you were planning on using my text somewhere else.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Embarrassing display at work

I came across a display in the conference center at work last week. The goal of the display is to show the history of the area, and ultimately how great it is to have Intel in the "Sillicon Forest."

There happens to be a quote in the display that I found disgusting. This is what I wrote in my weekly status report. Only one person responded.

"[Native American] numbers were greatly reduced by the disease and aggressive expansion visited on them by European newcomers."

This is a quote from a prominent display in the JF Conference Center. The display provides a brief history of the area (Washington county in Oregon).

I'm a bit ashamed that we (Intel) would put up something describing the history of Native Americans and so drastically minimize their loss of land, culture, and lives.

First of all, the sentence is in the passive tone. Basic writing 101 tells you not to use this, so it must have been used purposefully.

Second, there is no hint of intentionality in the sentence. The European newcomers knew exactly what they were doing when they did it.

The "disease and aggressive expansion" is further removed from the "European newcomers" by the phrase "visited on them". And, this phrase has a transient sound to it (visited - not permanent).

It would have been better had the display not mentioned the decline in Native American population at all. At least then we wouldn't be propagating the idea that the Native Americans either died off of natural diseases or were crowded out.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Couple of random links

Here are a few links I found interesting/aggravating this week.

The first is a humorous look at ID, and it is titled Designing Women. And Men. Made me laugh. Why? Because it's true.

The next piece of news really pissed me off. The national park service is considering a plan to allow corporate sponsorship of national parks. Please read this summary and sign the petition against the proposal. Can you imagine it? "Alaska arctic refuge, brought to you by Exxon, Mobil, and BP!" Or a big "Anaconda" sticker on El Capitan (Anaconda is (was?) a huge strip mining company).

The last link is an interesting twist on environmental activism that sounds like a good idea once you think about it. It is titled, How Prius drivers are gross polluters and other lessons of carbon credits.


Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Train Mountain

Growing up, my family occasionally went to Shady Dell, a mini-railroad club with tracks that cover 4 acres. You'd show up with a picnic, hang out, and hop on and off the trains - riding around the park. There were big bridges, streams, and an honest-to-goodness roundhouse.

I thought it was pretty big, but it turns out there's a similar thing called Train Mountain somewhere between Crater Lake and Grants Pass. They've got 25 miles of track, freight trains (carrying 7,000 pounds of cargo), mountain grades, everything. I've got to check it out sometime.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Mexico Follow-up

Two things I forgot to mention about the Mexico trip.

1) The best deal of the trip was a little juice stand we found a couple of blocks from the hotel in Mexico City. On our way to the airport we stopped there and got a large orange juice. 32 ounces of fresh squeezed orange juice for less than a dollar. Mmmmm....

2) Everywhere you go in Mexico, people are sweeping the sidewalks and streets. And they're all doing it with brooms that look like they're straight out of a Harry Potter movie. I wanted to grab one of the brooms and try to fly away on it. But I figured I probably exceeded the weight capacity...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Mary and I just returned from a ten day vacation in Mexico with my parents. We went spent time in a few days in Mexico City, a couple of days in Cuernavaca, and the rest of the time in Oaxaca. There was far too much to try to detail, so I'll go over the highlights.

The market in Cuernavaca has an entrance you'd never guess. Some innocent steps off a regular street lead you down some stairs, around a corner, and past a ton of singing Christmas lights, up more steps, down steps, up steps, down more steps. It was like walking on a serpents' back. You then enter the market - past guys selling live bugs as appetizers. The vegetable stands don't show the food as prettily as the stands in Oaxaca, but the spice stands have very nice displays - often in very nice wooden cases. The entrance (if you could ever find it) and the pretty spices make this market a winner.

The main cathedral in Cuernavaca was also pretty cool. Unfortunately, most of the frescos were pretty badly damaged. However the ret of the church is very simple yet modern. The baptismal pool is huge (the babies could swim laps), and the main altar is in front of a large metal cube that has half a dozen beautiful, modern, red glass candle holders hanging. The podium and actual altar also look like (tasteful) modern art. Worth checking out.

In Oaxaca, Mary and I took a cooking class at El Naranjo. Iliana, the chef, takes great pride in traditional Oaxacan cuisine. Before this class, I never thought I liked mole. In this class we made one of the 7 traditional local recipes, Amarillo. Iliana explained the history of moles, their importance in Oaxacan cuisine, and showed us how to make them. Oaxaca is in the area where there are more varieties of chilis grown in the world - and when you go through the markets - you cannot avoid noticing the prominent role chilis play. The stands in the Oaxaca market have more chilis than the stands in any other markets you'll find in Mexico. Anyway, the class was a bunch of fun - 4 hours of in-depth discussion of cooking. We got lots of hands-on experience with most of the dishes - dry roasting the dried chilis, blending the salsas and the soup. Mary was having flashbacks to sitting in lectures (the stools were remarkably not-comfortable), I was on cloud nine. After cooking everything, Iliana took us on a tour of the market and then the chocolate shop. Then we sat down to a meal of everything we had just prepared - a huge, delicious meal.

Fun food facts: before the Spanish came, the people of "Mexico" only cooked using the methods of dry roasting, steaming, and grilling - they did not cook using fat. The meat used in mole sauce is generally very bland (boiled) so as not to compete with the intricate flavors of the mole sauce. The Amarillo mole is not yellow (amarillo means yellow). The mole negro is not the darkest mole - Chichillo is (mole means black). The cinnamon used in Mexico is not the same as the cinnamon used in the U.S. and Mexico uses 80% of the cinnamon produced by Sri Lanka (the Mexican version isn't as hot, but is more complicated and yummy). The corn meal (masa) is made by cooking the corn with lime - which greatly increases the available protein content in the corn. In Oaxaca, black beans are often flavored with avocado leaves (not your regular avocado - whose leaves are poisonous) which tastes quite a bit like anise.

We later ate an actual dinner at the restaurant, which was delicious and very reasonably priced. Highly recommended. Not quite as good, but very tasty as well, was Grandma's (La Casa Abuelita) on the Zocalo. Both restaurants turned mom and me to moles.

The other high point in Oaxaca for me was the Ethnobotanical Garden. From the current entrance, the garden appears pretty boring. The four of us took a tour right before sunset on a Friday night with a Spanish-speaking guide. I picked up a little bit of what was going on, but not too much. We were all amazed by the beauty of the garden. I decided to come back the next day when an English speaking guide gave the tour. Very much worth the return. The tour lasted 2.5 hours and it zipped by so fast I didn't realize how long I'd been following the guy around. The garden is right next to the Museum of Oaxacan Cultures (worth a visit) and is intimately tied to the museum and the history of the region. The guy who led our tour was personally involved in getting convent and the old grounds turned into the museum/library/garden, and he was obviously proud. Turns out, about 12 years ago, the government was considering turning the whole thing into a high-end hotel and large parking lot. The state of Oaxaca is unique in Latin America in that over 90% of all land is communally owned (i.e. not private), and turning a piece of its history into a hotel would be a slap in the face.

The highlights of the garden tour were all the ways the garden had been organized to reflect the history and art of the region. The layout of the garden is intimately tied to the architecture of the convent, and makes as much use of the archeological findings possible. All rainwater from the convent and church is gathered in a cistern system to water the grounds. Unique and attractive water aqueducts water tie the entire garden together. Neat things I learned during the tour were: the natives made rubber from cactus (Spaniards never saw balls that bounced before), they domesticated squash for the seeds (protein source), several species of cacti (to make fences and dyes), a species of insect, and most importantly they domesticated corn. The insect, Cochineal, is used to die fabric, paints, and cosmetics. The dye is the reason Oaxaca exists: just after the time the Spanish found the dye, it became the most expensive agricultural product in the world, and the wealth brought in by the dye is the reason Oaxaca is the cultural and artistic center of Mexico that it is. It was also too expensive to gather the by slave labor - so the Spanish let the natives keep their freedom and land and simply imposed a tax on their sales - this is the root of the reason that Oaxacan's own over 90% of the land in the state to this date. The natives domesticated three varieties of prickly pear cacti - partially to eat, and partially to grow these insects. The Cochineal were then bred to produce more dye (and less wax). The most amazing feat of domestication is, of course corn - which was bred from a simple grain (with a single row of seeds) into a plant having 10's of rows of seeds around a central cob. And corn is gearing up to be the most important grain in the future: it can be grown at all elevations, and from the equator up through the temperate zones. The guide talked about how people in Mexico want the government to assert their property rights over corn and demand a portion of the profits Mansanto is starting to gain from privitizing corn.

Anyway, the tour was great. The garden is simply beautiful, and very impressive since it was an barracks for the army just 10 years ago.

The trip ended with Mom hunting down a guy selling a painted, wooden burro she seemed to have taken a liking to just before our last lunch. We had a little time to kill before catching the bus to the airport, so we tried to find the seller. No luck. Mere seconds before we hailed the cab, Mom let out a shriek when she saw the guy. Needless to say, she bought the thing and smuggled it through customs.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Music Critic

Last week I bought my first two CDs in months. I used to buy a lot of music when I was going to grad school in Berkeley. There are great used stores in Berkeley, and I must have gone into them a couple of times a week. That was where I finished out my collection of Depeche Mode. You see, they released a 6-piece boxed set (that's 6 boxes, each with 4-6 discs) completely filled with remixes. I ended up buying all the singles by themselves - the boxed set was pretty rare and hard to come by.

Anyhoo, they released another album this month, Playing the Angel. So I picked it up. I wasn't expecting much, and I wasn't surprised by the songs. Well, let me rephrase: the songs weren't that interesting. I was surprised by the noise level in the first song - it certainly started off like some angry teenager might. The songs are reasonable in the middle of the album, and by the end ... not so remarkable - I can't even recall what the end sounds like. They use a lot of distortion, which was never my favorite musical effect.

Overall, the band appears to be moving toward a "hard" image, with aggressive sounding music. And that's not my thing. I prefer music with a good beat - more pop or electronic. I'll probably warm up to the CD after a few more listens, but it'll only be passable.

But wait, I mentioned two CDs - what was the other one?

I had been humming some tunes for a week or so before going to Everyday Music - the Talking Heads "Stop Making Sense" album. For years I've noticed that all movie rental shops (yes all) seem to have that video. Finally I couldn't resist the temptation, and I rented the video. That was a kick @ss concert - I wish I'd been there. So I scoured the EM shop and found the only copy of SMS they had (a scuf in the recent arrivals). I've listened to it more than the Mode album, and it's a sure winner.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


One of my favorite restaurants in Eugene is Lucky Noodle. They have an awesome version of Khi Mao (drunken noodles). For Thai food, what Pad Thai is to most people, khi mao is to me. I can't get enough of that dish.

Mary figured she'd look up a recipe - which got me all excited. I looked at a number of the recipes on the web, and a lot sounded like just soy sauce and fish sauce. I've done a combination of soy and fish sauces, and while it can be tasty, it definitely doesn't have the richness I've found in the drunken noodles. Two of the recipes happened to look pretty similar (see the link above) - both having some fun new ingredients. One is black soy sauce, a thick, molasses-like soy sauce. The other ingredient, Golden Mountain Sauce, a very light, not-so salty sauce. To me, the Golden Mountain sauce tastes very much like Bragg Liquid Aminos and that could be used in a pinch. For the black soy sauce, you could probably use a mixture of half low-sodium soy and half molasses. The other vital ingredients are fish sauce, Thai chills, and basil.

We have a small Thai chili pepper plant in the back garden. It produced about a dozen very cute, and very hot, chili peppers. I've made a little bit of hot sauce that's aging in the fridge - but I did get to put a couple of them into the Drunken Noodles. It's nice to have a good use for the peppers.

I whipped up the ingredients as directed, and voila! A pretty kick-butt dish of noodles. I recommend undersoaking the noodles - they cook quickly in the heat of the wok - and it's better to start with undersoaked noodles.

The other fine discovery of the weekend (again, thanks to Mary) is a new gin: Desert Juniper Gin. They make their gin with fresh juniper berries - no extracts. They're like a micro-brewery, except for liquor. I made myself a number of gin and tonics with lots of lime. Very tasty.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Legislate from the Bench


What the hell does that mean?

With all the hubub about the supreme court nominations, the conservatives often throw out this bullsh*t about not wanting judges to "legislate from the bench." They've never said what it is, other than not liking certain "liberal" judgements.

It just comes across as people meaning that they want things to be like they were in the good old days, when men were men, women knew their place, and blacks were slaves. Strict constructionists should probably agree that blacks are not full citizens, and neither are women. Those pesky amendments weren't in the original document, so why the heck should we pay attention to them?

Let's try actually listening to what people have to say w/out creating these stupid sound bytes. Listen and actually use your brain.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Mary and I went to Carl and Jana's wedding this past weekend. I've known Carl since 2nd or 3rd grade (that's currently under debate), but it was nice to see him tie the knot. We haven't been close since high school (mostly due the the fact we haven't been in the same city for more than a couple days since then), but I always get a kick out of seeing him.

Neither Mary nor I had ever been to Chicago before. We found a B&B called the Nyberg B&B which happened to be real close to both the church where wedding took place, and our friends Paul and Luaren.

First, the Bed and Breakfast. It was a neat old Victorian house, the hosts were nice, but they didn't seem very into the whole "hosting" thing. They were never around for breakfast (a continental one), and the house was oddly set up. For one thing, the house was full of odds and ends (antiques and art and the such). It all looked like someone had paid some kind of money for it, but most people don't usually cover every surface with a trinket/figurine/chair/painting. Anyway, it was a bit odd. Which is fine for Mary and me - we were sort of expecting it, but I don't know that I'd recommend it to others. Mary may have hit upon the real purpose of the Bed and Breakfast - a tax write-off for the home-owners.

The wedding was very nice - good singing (as long as you didn't listen to me), a touching ceremony, all that stuff. Carl looked sharp in his tuxedo, and Jana wore a beautiful dress. About the only other thing I can say about the ceremony was that weddings mean a little something to me now that I'm married. I didn't understand them before, but now I do.

The reception was at a cool old barn that was relocated in the mid 1990's as a community center. The bar was in the silo - which was lit solely by a dozen large white candles - very neat. We stuffed ourselves with too much food, listened to some good live folk music - and some of us did the folk/square dancing. I was happy to see Carl and Jana getting to spend a little alone time during the reception - hopefully the remember some of it.

The rest of the weekend was spent bouncing between various places in Chicago and Paul and Lauren's condo. We had a great time hanging out with them (it'd been since our own wedding that we'd seen them). Paul let us drive El Nino (his old car) which was fun - though not as much fun as the Porsche GT we saw outside of the pizza place.

We also got to meet the twins (Elise wasn't feeling real well but put on a good show, and Mark impressed us with his agility jumping off the padded blocks), and reunite ourselves with their cat (whose name escapes me at the moment). Friday night we even got Paul and Lauren out for an adults-only evening - which it sounds like they hadn't had in quite a while.

Of course the trip was accented by all sorts of good food. Sage on the first night with Paul and Lauren provided some good food and nice wine, in a very casual atmosphere. While wandering around the local neighborhood, Mary and I lunched at Coobah, an awesome restaurant serving eggs benedict to die for and a mojito that was the best I'd had this year. Sunday morning started off with a good breakfast at Kitch'n - a groovy breakfast place I'd hold up against any of the groovy places in Portland. While wandering on Michigan Ave, we stopped into the Signature Lounge for a drink and an awesome view of the city. Women - go to the bathroom there, the view is awesome. Men - our bathroom is tiny, windowless, and purely functional. I highly recommend their signature drink, a sidecar - it was awesome - almost as good as the mojito at Coobah. Paul picked us up and picked up a deep-dish pizza at Pizzeria Uno - another awesome meal. Lastly, on our way from the art museum to the subway, we picked up couple of tasty sandwiches at Au Bon Pain. The pastries were a little lacking, but the sandwiches held us through to Portland.

There was far too much to do and see in Chicago - we'll have to go back for more. If for no other reason than to check out some new restaurants.

Oooh, even better

Just saw a "Direct TV" ad.

Cute little black kid comes up to his dad and asks the him to read a story.
The dad is torn because he's watching TV. The dad realizes that he can pause
the football game on TV with a push of a button (Direct TV must have Tivo-like
capabilities). He amazes the kid with his powers over the TV. They then have
a great time starting and pausing the football game at will.

Wow, what a wonderful thing. What a role-model for all fathers.

Screw reading to your kids, just show them TV.

Global Knives

Odd coincidences.

I'd lost my global knife for a few weeks - I'd really missed it - it's our nicest small knife. I found it lurking in the bottom of the butter knife drawer. Glad to have it back.

And, I was just watching "Law and Order" - the murder weapon was a global knife. Odd thing for a poor family to own.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

More Fysh

Sadly, this is the best photo I have of Fysh on my laptop. She wasn't very photogenic, as we found out trying to take pictures. She was kind of like a little kid, always squirming and making faces. So this photo is rather apropos.

A more classic pose of hers can be found here, but she's small in the picture. She loved laying on the bricks of the patio - she soaked up the heat they gave off from baking in the sun.

Mary and I spent the afternoon sharing fond memories of Fysh: her chirping, playing with the catnip-filled eggplant, jumping after the flying feather toy, sitting for hours curled up in the same spot, baking in the sun all stretched out, her bare belly and near-bald hind quarters (when she had allergies), her reverse-sneeze, the way she drooled, her wild and crazy eyes, love of tuna, when she took walks with us around the block, how she always sat on paper, and so much more. We stroked her fur, hoping she'd just wake from the sleep it looked like she was taking. But in the end we could only say our good-byes.

A friend of Mary's came over (two friends actually) and made us tea and lunch and gave us something special to help lay Fysh to rest. That was very sweet.

We buried her this afternoon in a sunny spot in the side yard, on top of a flannel pillow case (she loved flannel pillows) and beneath the friend's grandma's embroidered pillow case. She's resting with her toy eggplant, a sprinkling of catnip, and a small bundle of flowers gathered from our yard. In a few weeks we'll plant a pretty flower to watch over her, but for now it is a simple grave.

Thank you all for your kind words.

Fysh 1995-2005

Fysh was hit by a car this morning around 9am and killed immediately. Mary found her just minutes afterwards. We loved her very much and will miss her always.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Rust Spots

Funny story.

Well, amusing story.

Last night after work I walked with a friend to my car. As we neared the car I saw him start to look around in confusion. You see, it was late and most people had gone home - so it was the only car around. But, Tim figured it couldn't be my car because he didn't see the huge rust spots in the roof.

Yes, I painted the Mazda.

Of course I didn't take before and after pictures, but you can imagine a 1992 Mazda Protege with about a dozen rust spots on the roof, a few of which were salad-plate sized. I can't find any stories on the web (well, interesting ones), but it appears that there was a change in the paint formulas in the early '90s that made the paint not so hot. If you keep your eyes open, you can see a lot of older cars with white paint that is peeling off in sheets. For whatever reason, our Mazda had the good fortune of rusting as well.

It's been rusting for two (four?) years now, and I'd kept on saying, "yeah, I'll paint it..." But never did. A real paint job would cost a few grand, and I wasn't about to drop that much money on a beater car. It runs well, and we'll keep it for a long while, but it doesn't need to look great.

I finally got around to doing the job. I was getting worried that the roof would rust through, and then I'd have to deal with an actual hole - which I knew I couldn't fix myself. I went to the hardware store and bought a can of primer (lovely grey) and a can of semi-gloss white paint. Figured the "Rustoleum" brand would do the trick as I was covering rust spots. A couple of hours of sanding later (that rust was thick) I was able to begin painting.

Mary had the brilliant idea of moving the shiny black car across the street from the house so none of the paint would land on it. As a result, we still have a black car.

I taped up the windows and various pieces of trim and began painting.

The semi-gloss matches the dirty-white color of the car pretty darn well. There's obviously a difference in the finish of the painted portion and the non-painted, but the color is pretty close. And, "no," I didn't repaint the entire thing. I only did the patches. I kept some of my lazy attitude.

Monday, October 10, 2005

A Moment of Silence Please

According to this CNN news piece, a fire broke out and burned down the Aardman Animations studio, which is (was) home to the "Wallace and Grommit" creators.

All their sets (except for the latest) are presumed destroyed.

A sad day indeed.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

'arry Potte

(That's supposed to be a Brittish accent)

I just finished book #6, the Half-Blood Prince.

I'm not a huge fan, but I've been entertained by the books so far (except for #2
being pretty much a copy of #1).

This book has to be the best of the series so far. It ends ... well, I won't spoil it because I hate that ... it ends with more stuff in the air than ever. The kids finally seem to be maturing somewhat, and the message finally changes from "adults don't listen to kids" to "adults sometimes listen to kids."

Anyway, decent book. Though you have to wonder, when the sh*t finally hit the fan in this book, the professors are pretty weak in magic, and the 6th year and yonger students seem to be able to hold their own with the Death Eaters (ok, slight spoiler). It all seems a little to rosy at that point (though Harry's interaction is appropriate).

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


PBS has a show on OJ Simpson's murder trial. It's pretty interesting. They're talking a lot about the race-card, both in the trial and in the public perception of the trial.

With almost no exception, the black folks were happy he was found not-guilty, and the white folks were dismayed.

One of the law students on the show summed it up nicely, "the LA police framed a guilty man." And reverend Sharpton also said something that also rings true, "OJ, when we clapped when you were acquitted, we were not clapping for you - we were clapping for Johnnie Cochran."

I think he was guilty. And for that, I think he should have been found guilty. But I can totally believe that the jury did the right thing in acquitting him because the police screwed up royally.

And while it's a shame that a guilty man is walking free, it seems fair for a high-profile case involving a black guy killing two white people to go free. Us white Americans are so used to things going the other way and are never outraged when it happens. It was good to see the opposite happen.

Hopefully the police have take more care in gathering evidence since then.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Cinnamon Rolls

Mary had the hankering for cinnamon rolls yesterday. And I'm never one to turn them down. My favorite are mom's (of course). She makes a simple cinnamon roll, with nuts and raisins and cinnamon sugar. And they're baked with a caramel glaze - no nasty frosting. But mom was a hundred miles away in Portland, so even with a best-case scenario, they'd be cold by the time we got them.

What's a guy to do?

I called mom and she was able to recite the recipe from memory - what a mom.

So I began my first excursion into the world of making cinnamon rolls.

I'd made bread before (though it's been a few years), and the rolls are really just a rich bread (eggs and sugar) with extras.

I didn't have any brown sugar for the caramel glaze, and it calls for a little Caro syrup. So I used sucanat, which I'd always been a bit wary of. It doesn't smell like brown sugar, and it's drier than brown sugar. But it's sweet and Mary has used it a lot. And instead of the Caro, I used some grade B maple syrup. I knew I was playing with fire because mom's turn out so tasty, and I didn't have the required ingredients.

I baked the rolls a little too long, the outside ones were a tiny bit too brown, and when I turned the rolls out on a plate (to expose the caramel yumminess), the caramel sauce was dark brown (as opposed to the normal golden color). I got a little worried until I tried it - YUM! An actual improvement over mom's recipe.

Now I'll share this improved recipe with you. Try at your own risk - they're super tasty, you might eat the whole batch.

For 2 loaves of bread, or about 3 dozen cinnamon rolls.

1/4 C water (warm)
2 pkg yeast

proof the yeast in the water for 5 min
with a touch of sugar

1.5 C water (or milk)
1/2 C butter, melted
1/2 C sugar
1 Tsp salt
3 ea. eggs
7-8 C flour

mix all together, kneading until it's done

let it rise until it doubles in size (1.5 hours)
punch down, shape, let rise again (45 minutes)
bake at 350 for 45 minutes until golden brown

if you're making cinnamon rolls, roll the dough out,
spread soft butter, cinnamon sugar, chopped walnuts,
and raisins.

roll the dough up into a log, cut into 2 inch rolls
and place in two 9x13 pans, *each* of which have a mixture

1/3 C melted butter
1/2 C brown sugar (sucanat)
1 T Caro syrup (maple syrup)

I'm making a second batch right now. I'm hoping the rolls turn out even better because I've already finished the first batch. And my stomach is rumbling.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Everyone asks, "Why?"

I have half a mind to answer, "I've got cancer." But I know that someone that hears that will actually have cancer, or their mom will have cancer, and then I'll be an @ss, and I don't want to do that.

Here are the answers to my bald head FAQ.

I didn't lose a bet.

Mary does like it, in fact she was the one who jumped up and down and said, "Can I shave your head? Can I? Can I?"

I shaved my head because I got tired of my hair. I was too lazy to get out of the house and go to the barber shop. I didn't feel like sacrificing 2 hours on a Saturday to wait in the barber shop to get my hair cut. So I shaved it off.

I've no idea how long I'm going to keep it shaved. Probably until I get tired of it. Actually, I grew it out for 2 weeks because I was too lazy to shave it. But then it got too long and wasn't quite as cool to play with. So I shaved it again.

I shave with a razor, though after two weeks I used the clippers to get it short, and cleaned it up with the razor.

It takes about 15 minutes to shave the whole head, and I wear out a razor each time (kinda spendy) (offtopic - this review leads me to believe I should try a new razor.).

I get a small nick here and there when shaving, but only when I'm trying to get real close. It's a lot easier to get a close shave on my scalp then my face - probably because the skin on my jowls is loose, but my scalp is still still nice and tight.

It's still pretty new to me, I find myself rubbing my head a lot (kinda like my buddha belly). And I have a new found connection with other bald guys - it's kind of like being in a secret club.

You can join the club if you want. I've got the clippers.

I am master of my dojo.

Remember the Seinfeld episode where Kramer says he's master of his dojo?

I felt like that last week. We had a team lunch at the park next to campus (pizza), and a few of us played a game of pick-up basketball afterwards.

The teams weren't fair - NN and I were on the same team, and we were definitely the best players. I was a good 6 inches taller than the other team. I'd actually played organized basketball at some point. And even though I hadn't touched a basketball in a good 12-16 months, I dominated the game. If I'd just hit 30% of my layups, the game would have been over in half the time. I even drove on people (and if you knew the way I played, the defenders had to be bad).

Of course, after not playing in over a year, I ached the next day. My hands and forearms were sore the next day from dribbling. And I actually jammed my hand and the ball into the support saving a ball from going out of bounds. Just yet more proof that I'm old.

The whole time I couldn't stop thinking of Kramer.


I watched Scratch a few weeks ago. I figured that I should get some insight into the music that surrounded me while I grew up in the hood (now almost completely gentrified).

I'm not a big fan of the scratching itself found in Hip-Hop music, but I was a huge fan of Rockit by Herbie Hancock. Most of the DJs interviewed in scratch said that Rockit was the first time they heard someone scratching a record, and it was often their original source of inspiration.

I won't give you a blow-by-blow account of the movie, but I'll hilight the most interesting parts.

First, the skill of these DJs is amazing. A lot of the time they are scratching and making kind of odd sounds (which is harder to appreciate), but a couple of times they focused on someone mixing a record (actually, two of the same record) right in front of you. No scratching, just a re-mix of the original music using a couple of turn tables and a fader. The result sounded like a regular recording that was mixed in a studio, simply amazing. Other times, guys would provide a beat with one of the records and add the chorus from a second record. To do this right, they had to know *exactly* where the beats started and stopped and be able to just flip back with a quick flick of the wrist.

Hard to describe, but just amazing what these guys could do with a turntable. It was kind of like watching someone sitting down in front of a couple of plastic buckets and start belting out an amazing drum solo. Or like watching a really good beatboxer.

Speaking of beatboxing, they showed a minute clip of some guys beatboxing, but didn't go into what it was or how it fit in. Plus, the clip they showed had 3 guys who weren't very good (well, the first half of the clip shown was bad and the audience was not at all into it). So I thought that portion fit poorly with the rest of the movie.

They did talk a lot about the guys who dig for music, and interviewed one of the DJs in the basement of some record store that was literally filled with records. Stacks upon stacks of records, floor to ceiling. And this guy (among others) just goes through and finds no-name records to use in his mixing.

One issue they touched on in the extras, but not in the regular movie, was the impact of the studios clamping down on sampling and how that has affected DJs. In the extra the couple of guys asked were very passionate about the issue, but it was not explored very deeply. Perhaps that was the point (as both sides were presented) - perhaps the intention was to raise the issue and let you think about it. Dunno.

Anyway, I recommend the movie for anyone interested in hip-hop.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Kryptonite locks

I got a replacement Kryptonite lock because anyone could open the old one using a ballpoint pen.

My new one seemed nice enough - it has a little cover that rotates to cover the keyhole and keep the elements out. It's a little heavier than my last one, but no big deal.

Last Sunday, Mary and I biked down to the Fall Festival to see all the crafts. It's kind of like Portland's Saturday Market only the crafts are all really nice, and the live music is really good.

We pull up to the bike corral and get ready to lock the bikes up. I put the key in, turned it, and turned it, and turned it. At first there was a little resistance, but then nothing. The key now spins freely around, and actually, I cannot pull the key out. And, the lock is just as locked as it's ever been.

Luckily, the lock is just locked on my bike, right near the handlebars, and not locked to a bike rack or some other immobile object. But what a pain in the butt. A young woman in the bike corral said she had the same problem, only her bike was stuck to some pole somewhere.

I called Kryptonite, and to their credit, they'll cover the cost for the locksmith to get it off the bike, and they'll replace the lock for free. But I'm a little worried now that I'll lock my bike up again and never get it back. At least this was the single-speed, if I'd permanently locked my new bike to something I would have been really torqued.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Tim Burton Woman

Just met a woman who was straight out of an animated Tim Burton movie.

No, she wasn't freaky or anything like that, and no she wasn't dead or a skeleton.

She was a very petite woman, with huge, dark eyes. She was really thin, with long fingers and very expressive hands. Her eyelashes must have been a good inch long (no, not Tammy Fae freaky - stop going there), and when she looked from one person to the next, she'd often look down in between - closing her eyes in between the people, and opening them when she looked at the second person. She moved kinda slow - nothing jerky, just slow, flowing motions. Oh, and her hair was in an odd hairdo with not a single hair out of place - similar to a doll's.

You'd totally understand if you saw her next to a TV showing one of Mr. Burton's animated films. You'd wonder which was the original.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Bad Movie

Lazed around this evening after taking a nap to recover from our day in Eugene. We saw some really cool things in the Saturday market down there - even picked up a couple of early Xmas presents.

Anyway, after watching the classic, 48 Hours, we caught the end of Armageddon.

Horrible movie. Absolutely horrible. If I'd worked on it, I'd ask the church for an annulment.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Mmmm.... fish oil

I've been taking a variety of pills ever since I had my gall bladder attack. They are general vitamins for good health, and a couple of pills that specifically target my digestive system.

Well, one of the pills I take is a fish-oil pill. Gotta get those omega-3 fatty acids.

Turns out that the car was hot enough on Tuesday to cause the pills to explode, so my little pill box leaked fish oil on my clothes and generally made a mess.

So - just to let y'all know, do not store your fish oil pills in a car.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Thai Iced Tea

I like Thai iced tea, but I'm usually to cheap to buy it when we eat out.

I finally followed through with my thought of, "gee, perhaps I can make it."

It's super easy to make, just get the right bag of tea. Brew it strong, filter out the tea leaves, sweeten, add cream/half-n-half/condensed milk, and serve.

The trick is (of course) to get the right tea leaves.

Your local asian market will likely have the tea leaves (ours is Rice & Spice). And, the tea leaves are likely to have food-coloring in them. Traditional Thai iced tea comes from certain red tea leaves, which are probably near impossible to get outside of Thailand. So, the tea leaves are colored with food coloring.

Once you've found the tea leaves, you'll have to figure out how you want to sweeten the tea. The guy at the market told me to use sweetened condensed milk. As sweet as that stuff is, by the time you've added enough to make the tea taste appropriately sweet, the drink is too milky. So I add sugar to the tea, and will probably just use half-and-half (or evaporated milk) to give the right amount of creaminess.

Lastly, some of the recipes have you brew the tea for a long time - making it super strong (which is partially why you add cream and lots of ice - to water it down). I've only let mine brew for a couple of minutes, but I'll try the next batch for an hour or so. Regular tea normally gets bitter, but perhaps it'll work out for the Thai iced tea.

FWIW, my tea mix looks remarkably like this one:


The path and patio are done.

Two weekends ago, my parents came down on a Saturday and put in a long 8 hours of work. Mary and I had started earlier - Mary was laying the remaining bricks, and I picked up the last of the gravel we'd need. After offloading the gravel, it was time to pick up the saw. The saw that was to be my companion for the next two days.

Mom and Dad spent the whole day measuring bricks, marking them with crayons, and then placing the cut pieces into the path. Dad's idea of using crayons for marking was perfect. The wax held up well in the water from the brick saw, and the bright colors made it easier to see the cut lines.

So we cut and placed bricks all day, like a big jig-saw puzzle. Mary finished laying down almost every last whole brick in the patio and helped mark and place bricks. All I did was ferry bricks to the saw, cut them, and ferry them back.

The saw was noisy and dirty and wet. I didn't use gloves because they would have been soaked - big mistake. By the end of the day my fingers had holes in them and were very painful. I put my gloves back on, but it was too late, they hurt as though I had sharp needles poking in them.

The saw came with its own power cord (well, I rented it) because it takes so many amps. I tripped the breaker pretty early on, or I thought I had. None of the circuit breakers actually showed being tripped. I flipped all of them on and off, but no luck, that circuit was dead. We were using the plug on the front deck, which is also the same circuit as the socket on the back patio, and the sockets in both of the bathrooms (but not the lights). So we switched to a plug inside the house. We tripped that breaker several times throughout the day, but that was easily remedied by flipping the breaker back on.

Fast forward two weeks to today (we'll get back to the patio shortly), I replaced every 15 and 20 amp breaker in the box, and nothing helped. The only two breakers I didn't replace are the two double breakers (30 and 40 amps each), which I doubt are the problem as they're labeled the stove and the dryer. What the hell? I've no idea what to do now. But, back to the stone cutting.

We took Mom and Dad out to Mexican because we were all starving, and it was the least we could do to repay thank them for their help. They drove home afterwards, and left us with just a couple hours of work left for Sunday.

As luck would have it, Mary got a call in the middle of the night - a family went into labor, and the midwife couldn't cover it because another client was in labor at the same time. So Mary threw on her cape and headed out to catch a baby.

I slept in some and took my time eating breakfast. I wasn't really looking forward to using my painful hands, but the bricks called.

Because I was solo, things moved a lot slower than the day before. I tried to gather up 10-15 cuts at a time in a wheel barrow, then head over and cut them all, then back to the patio where I tried my luck at re-assembling the jigsaw puzzle. Progress was slow - my fingers hurt, and my thighs were killing me because of all the crouching I'd done the day before while cutting the bricks.

Mary got home from a healthy birth, very tired. So she took a nap until I hit my thumb with the sledge hammer. I tried not to yell too loud, but she was in the spare bedroom and the window was open. My loud mouth and throbbing finger were right outside that window. My thumb still hurts today - I think I could have given myself a hairline fracture.

I finished the edging along the south side of the patio, and Mary joined me for a few hours until it got dark. With her help, we finished putting in every last bit of stone. We even did some fancy off-angled cuts on the bricks that abut the asphalt. All in all, a very nice patio.

All we had left to do was put some sand in between all the stones.

That brings us to last weekend. We rented the vibrating plate compactor to help set the bricks in the sand. Now, it'd been over two months since we started laying bricks, so many had already settled, but we figured we'd try to do the "right thing."

It turns out the vibrating compactor helps out quite a bit by setting the sand that you've swept between the blocks. We swept sand over and over in the same spot, trying to force it into all the little cracks. Just a few seconds of the vibrating plate and the sand all settled down.

One of the downsides of the vibrating plate is the potential of cracking and breaking one of the stones. I only broke one - an uncut stone (thank goodness). Plus it was on the edge of the path, so replacing it was very easy. That, and the fact that this plate compactor smoked like a chimney and stunk to high heaven when running. Other than that, it saved us tons of time sweeping.

The only other thing we did was to glue down the edge pieces sitting on the cinder blocks. Now you can stand on the edge of the cinder blocks without fear of the bricks flipping over from your weight.

That was it - nothing left to do for the bricks. With all the sand in place, the patio feels as solid as poured cement, and it looks awesome.

This weekend I finished the downspout we relocated by the back patio - it looks pretty good now because the pipes are all painted.

Now it's time to plant the plants.

Here are some pics of our lovely patio.

curve of path to front yard

view 1 of patio from back yard

patio detail with jade

path from front yard

path in back yard

patio from front yard

patio from back yard

patio from the curve

the y in the path

Whole Grain baby

A couple of weeks ago we were walking through the Safeway when I spied the new whole grain Lucky Charms. Now, Lucky Charms happen to be my favorite junk breakfast cereal. I'd read the advertisements way back when GM announced the move to whole grains. It's just a marketing gimmick, I know, but I had to try them.

So I bought a box, the largest box they had (because it was cheaper than the smaller one).

The next morning I ate two full bowls of the stuff, and boy didn't I feel great. Mary even joined in and had a bowl full herself.

They tasted exactly like they did before the transformation. I think the fact that there are more marshmallows than sugar coated cereal probably contributes to that. Oddly, the sugar content is not the highest of the crappy cereals. I've no idea how a cereal that's more than half marshmallows can't be off the chart on the sugar scale. Especially considering the fact the remaining portion of cereal is sugar coated.

Now that they're gone, I miss them. My friends: the blue moons, purple horse shoes, the shooting stars, the pots of gold. sniff...

Saturday, September 10, 2005


That's what's annoyed me lately. The clueless.

There are the obvious "driving slowly in left lane" clueless, but I'm mostly over my road rage. And there are the people who just don't know how to merge onto the freeway.

But I'm noticing even more cluelessness.

I was trying to park for CostPlus in NW Portland last weekend. The parking lot is a tiny square - and you park along the edge of the square. It's not big enough for parking lanes, it's really more of a cul-de-sac where you park along the border. I started to pull in, and stop in the driveway to wait for the two different guys who were pulling out of their spaces. The little Tercel gets out first, pulls into the middle of the lot, and sits there. The big Blazer can't pull out without running the guy over, so he waits. Mr. Tercel just sits there, picking his nose or reading his book or something, I don't know - but he's totally out of touch with the fact that other people are waiting for his dumb @ss to move. Mr. Blazer and I stare at each other wondering what to do, we shrug our shoulders and wait for each other to ram the Tercel. But neither of us follows through. Eventually Mr. Tercel starts to drive again, and the Blazer and I move on with our lives.

That little episode happened after I attended a team building event where we kayaked on the Willamette. The kayaking was fun, everyone had a good time. The cluelessness began when we were finished. Everyone had to haul their kayak up from the dock onto the grassy knoll. There were about 25 of us, so there were 25 kayaks. Everyone except for the admin was a highly paid engineer - you'd think that logic would be a strong suit, but you'd be wrong.

The first display of cluelessness was people just stopping in the middle of the relatively steep ramp to rest. Fine, your wimpy engineer hands can't handle holding on to a handle of a kayak for more than 30 seconds. But to just stop, abruptly, in the middle of a narrow ramp, with other wimpy engineers behind you hauling their kayaks? Totally clueless to the plight of others.

But wait, it gets better.

After you climb up the ramp you reach the grassy patch where we found the kayaks when we started. I happened to be the 3rd person up the ramp and I noticed that the people before me had dumped their kayaks right where the grassy patch started. I nimbly picked my way through the kayaks and deposited mine further back, ensuring that my kayak wouldn't be in the way of others. Well, the next few members of the clan of the wimpy hands dropped their kayaks right at the start of grass, completely blocking access to the grass. The remaining 15 people had to walk their kayaks a much longer route to put them on the grass.

We weren't little kids dumping our bikes in the middle of the driveway trying to get to the ice cream. We were adults. Engineers with supposed logic skills. It was like they boarded the bus and stood in the aisle right at the front. Hell (I'm gonna get a little racist here), half the folks are from India where they should be used to being jammed into busses and trains. The rule is to walk to the back of the bus. I chalk the cluelessness of the white guys to just being just dumb Americans.

Guess I'm clueless too, because it's sunny out and I'm typing on a computer.


We have some neighbors... the woman we've dubbed "crazy lady" and the man is just her husband. They had names at some point, but I've forgotten them because I've not spoken more than a couple of words to them in years.

The husband had some medical problems, and so did crazy. They seem to be back on their feet now (they were out of commission for most of the year). So their yard has gone to pot this year.

If you've seen our yard, you know that I'm not one to complain about unruly yards. Ours is getting nicer, but certain parts (the lawn) go unattended for long stretches. Because of their health issues, crazy's yard is not what it normally is - no big deal.

Last night, crazy's husband (guess I'll call him Mr. crazy) decided it was time to start trimming the hedge that had gotten out of control. Great. But why did he start at 7:30 pm, and then fire up the gas-powered trimmer around 8 or 8:30? Noise doesn't usually bother me, but come on - no work all YEAR, and 8:30 at night you're using a loud piece of equipment?

Whatever, I blew it off. I spent last night just relaxing watching a couple of movies since Mary is at a conference. I stayed up a little later than I should have, but figured I'd sleep in.

Mr. crazy decided 8:30 AM was a good time to fire up the air compressor to powerwash the garage he exposed by trimming the hedge.


I'd go buy some Public Enemy and turn on my stereo real loud, but our house is just too soundproof to make it effective retaliation.

Maybe I'll just toss the dead mice over the fence.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Dead mice and live snakes

Now that we let our cats outside, we have the joy of watching them chase critters around the yard. Of course, since our cats are some of the finest felines around, they catch most of what they chase. And give it to us, dead.

Most of their prey are mice (perhaps voles?), and that appears to be their favorite. The mice are quick and keep the chase going for a lot longer than other animals. Of course, most of them end up dead. Right now we have two on the back patio, on by the front door, and one in the garage. I really should dispose of them, but, being a guy, I can step over and around the dead carcasses without even noticing them. It's kind of like dirty laundry. I'm thinking that we need to invest in a dead-animal-only pair of tongs.

The other common prey is snakes. Growing up in the big city of Portland, I didn't have much exposure to snakes. But, in the sticks, we get a lot of garter snakes. And many are pretty large - well over two feet long. Luckily, the snakes know how to play dead - and the cats must lose interest quickly because none have shown up dead on the doorstep (yet). I've rescued three or four snakes so far, and only one had any visible damage (a pea-sized chunk of flesh hanging from its tail).

It's even more fun when the cats bring their catch into the house and let it go. So far we've been able to avoid finding a snake in our bedroom, but I"m sure it'll happen some time soon.

I'll give you one guess

A friend scanned this old picture of mine. It's my high school basketball team, way back in the winter of 1988. Even if you don't know me, I'll only give you one guess as to which person is me.

high school basketball team picture

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Late Nights

So, I'm working late. Again.

Mary was a dear about the whole thing - understanding an all. I hung out with her for a bit this evening, but tucked her into bed and went back to the computer.

I'm not pretty much done with what needed to be done tonight (big release happening, our team/department/all-of-Intel hangs on the quality of this), but I've gotten to the point of tiredness where I don't really care if I go to bed or not.

It's a really odd state to be in.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Dan hooked me up!

I've admired a friend's (Dan's) t-shirt for a couple of years now. It's got a picture of some dancing trees. Well, I mentioned I really liked it and wondered if he'd be able to get me one if he ever saw it again. His was too small for me to "borrow."

Well, at the Country Fair he found one. It turns out they're made by a nice little company that supports local artists and all that stuff. And, it's made of hemp - my first article of clothing made of hemp.

This is the design:

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Bridge and Bricks

A very full weekend, if I do say so myself.

Mary and I woke up at the crack of dawn on Saturday and began laying pavers. We got in a good four hours of work - finishing the path to the first patio, and getting about half of the second patio done. It went really fast - partially because we didn't have to think too much, so we could just lay things down.

We only worked for that little bit because we were meeting some friends at Silver Falls for lunch/dinner and some hiking/swimming. Portia and Gordon hung out for some food and chit-chat, but had to leave early due for a poker night. So, we spent the rest of the time hanging with Carol and her two kids Jess and Paul. The kids played in the water and we adults waxed poetically about life. Good times.

Our plan after that was to head up to Portland and crash at Ron/Cyndi's house. Why? Because at the last minute, we'd decided to ride the Bridge Pedal. Mary had been wanting to do it for a long while now, and we'd totally spaced out on the fact it was this weekend. Originally, we were going to be in Napa Valley for a friend's wedding, but due to the drawn out nature of our project, we passed.

So, last minute, we hung out in Portland, waking up at 6am to ride over all the bridges in Portland. The views are pretty amazing, and it's cool to ride on bridges that are normally full of cars driving 70 miles an hour (the Marquam and Freemont). My favorite bridge is the St. Johns Bridge. It was designed by the same guy who did the Golden Gate (and he liked the St. Johns better). One of the really neat things about it is that when your crossing it heading east, Mt. St. Helens is perfectly centered in the bridge.

The weather was beautiful, and the ride a lot of fun. There were a bunch of people whining about it being the "Bridge Walk" or the "Bridge Crawl" because there were some traffic jams, but I'd expected that. What else would happen when you have 18,000 people doing an organized ride? My only real gripe (other than the gripers) was that people had no clue how to ride in a group - they would swerve suddenly and erratically, and they had no idea how to stay right when riding slowly.

This was Mary's longest bike ride ever (just a little longer than her ride when we did reach-the-beach a few years back).

After cleaning up and eating some yummy food on Hawthorne, we drove back home and worked on the patio again. We finished up the second half of the round (2nd) patio and worked a little bit on swapping out stones in the first patio. Because of my mis-order, we ended up with two shades of bricks, and they didn't get mixed as well as we wanted. So we swapped some of the darker stones for redder stones. It's a pain in the butt to fit the stones back in, but we think the overall effect will be really nice.

We were just too busy to get any pictures of the progress on the patio, and I'm just too lazy to put up the couple of bridge pedal pictures. So you'll have to wait and hold your breath.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Our cats are smarter than yours...

Well, the cats have figured out how to open the sliding door.

We went to bed last night with all the doors closed nice and tight. We woke up, and the sliding door was open way wide and Jade was outside dancing through the tulips.

In the past, our cats have been able to open regular, hinged doors by either pulling or pushing them to open. But the sliding door is pretty heavy - it's got glass in it. I'm just waiting to find where they've hidden the crowbar - and the opposable thumbs to use it.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

A Weekend Off

Mary and I took the weekend off. There were several reasons for this.

For one, we were a bit worn out from working on the path.

Secondly, the local stone place didn't get the right stone in stock before the weekend (they actually don't know if it'll be available next week either - it's starting to border on incompetence).

Third, we were invited by Mary's parents to hang with them in Bend at the Thousand Trails campground. It's a part of a chain of campground facilities (kinda like KOA, only nicer (I suspect)).

So, we drove over to Bend and hung out for a couple of days. We lazed in our lawn chairs, read books, grilled steak, swam in the pool, etc. Life was good.

But now the week begins, and back to work we go.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Another Weekend, A Few More Stones

We worked some this weekend to complete the path. Saturday started off a little slowly and we had a lot of little decisions to make. It's surprising how many little things you have to decide when planning the patio. And the little things really matter down the line.

We also took a nap during the hottest part of the day. mmm... nap.

On Sunday we got a late start because we went to church, and then picked black berries with Gin (mother-in-law). Of course, by the time we'd finished, it was the heat of the day, so we took another nap.

The actual work on Sunday flew by, we got a lot accomplished in relatively little time.

This view shows the patio in front of the house. Note that we've left a lot of the bricks out until we get the brick saw in a week or two. We figured out the fastest system for laying the bricks - I hand them directly to her from the wheel-barrow, thereby avoiding an extra touch for each of the bricks. With another person helping, we would have been able to go much faster - using the third person to do the final path prep in front of our brick laying.

As you can see, we decided to keep the center pattern (the square bricks) simple - all the bricks are lined up straight, and the path curves in spite of the straight squares. We figured this would look nice (and it's shaping up like that), plus it makes laying the bricks a lot easier.

This shows the path extending down the side yard toward the semi-circle patio. The square bricks are now "pointing" straight down the side path which was a nice side-product of choosing the straight pattern (as opposed to trying to curve those lines). Mary also added several rows of bricks on the semi-circle - almost out to its final radius.

The whole project is going to look very nice when it's done. A beautiful path, bordered by beds of pretty flowers and plants. You just have to close your eyes and imagine.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Hot Hot Hot

Good thing I cut my hair because it's a hot one today. A high of 103. And, since it is a Tuesday, I'll be riding with the folks from Cyclotopia. Hopefully I won't die of heat stroke - my camelbak is already in the freezer, cooling off.

Of course, it didn't help that I had the oven on for a part of the afternoon, baking pavlova for Mary's book club that is meeting tonight. Hopefully it'll turn out yummy. It's my first attempt (well, actually it's my second as I baked last night's too long and it turned brownish - which I think was also due to too much sugar).

Monday, July 25, 2005


I don't have the earlier pictures handy, but here are some pictures of the patio in progress. Captions are below the picture shown.

This above is a view of the front yard, showing the curve of the path as it turns south to go down the side yard.

This above is a view of the patio-to-be from the backyard, just gravel.

What an action shot of Mary using the tool carrier (horrible name) to move gravel around our yard. Look at the concentration! Mary got pretty good at whipping that machine around our yard. We moved over 15 tons of gravel in one day.

This view is from the front yard down the side yard to the back yard, freshly graded gravel.

This is the raised step just outside the sliding doors.

The result of our weekend - a finished step and over 7 feet of semi-circle. The cats are enjoying the pavers warmed from the morning sun.

Jokes from someone upset with the current administration

Come to think of it, these sound like me - if I were funny that is.


I went for a jog this morning. I'm still pretending that I'm going to do another triathlon this summer, but I've not been very consistent with training. Work has interfered (well, I've let it interfere), and I've been mentally weak.

So, I jogged my standard 3 mile loop. One word: s l o w

I may still be able to get away with a weekend-warrior approach to biking, but I should know that I can't do that with running. Gotta stay consistent.

Sunday, July 24, 2005


We rented the Aviator - Mary fell asleep to it twice. A decent movie, there was a lot I didn't know about Howard Hughes.

One thing in the film came to me - Leonardo really reminded me of Brad Pitt. Especially Howard Hughes began wearing a mustache (to cover the nasty scar on his lip from the crash in Beverly Hills). I'm not sure if it was the look, or the mannerisms, or what, but he really reminded me of Brad.


First Pavers

This weekend we lay our first pavers. Yay.

Mary and I started actually laying pavers down in our side yard, creating this thing we've just talked about for several months now.

Saturday went a little slower than we'd hoped. We had to start the job with putting in the large step-building blocks (80 pounds, measuring 12x16x6) down to build up the raised step right outside the sliding glass doors. I didn't realize the blocks were just 16 inches long, I thought I read 18 inches - which means the 8 blocks I ordered was 1 short of what we needed to fit the 12 foot span. So, in the middle of all this I have to head out to buy the missing step. Of course, the gap is no longer 16 inches because there are small spaces between the blocks, it's actually 15 inches. How the heck am I going to fit a 16 inch block in a space of only 15 inches?

I had the brainstorm to stop by Corvallis Rental to get them to show me how to use the brick saw I'm going to rent a little later on. So, they showed me how to use the saw and took off the inch I needed from the side of the block. Yay for quick thinking.

We got all the blocks in place, leveled out, and only slightly off the original measurements (they're about 1/2 inch low on one side).

One thing we did have to muck with were the large screw-thingies poking out of the foundation (which were used to support the wooden deck I tore out). I did end up removing the board that was under the sliding doors - it poked a little higher than we could handle. I was able to get the board off by chiseling out the wood right above the screws and letting the board drop down. However, we had two of these 5 inch puppies poking out of the foundation exactly where we wanted to put the large step cinder blocks. Mary cut most of the protruding screw off with our trusty hacksaw. Unfortunately, the siding on the house prevented her from cutting it flush. What to do?

The hardware store had the sledge hammer I wanted to buy (gotta have one handy, don't know how I survived without it - oh yeah, I just used two hammers at a time). I was really there to buy a manual tamping tool because we just weren't going to cover enough ground (pun intended) to warrant the motorized one. While there I also picked up a cold-chisel, which the hardware store guy said was always handy - it could be used to cut through metal (knock off stubborn, rusted-on bolts and the such). I thought, "great! I can just chip off the remaining inch or so Mary won't be able to cut off." Nope, the cantilevered screw just acted like a spring-board and absorbed 99% of the force. All I could do is bend it a little bit.

The hardware man was right, the chisel was invaluable, and I got to act like Mr. Caveman and chip away at stone. I chipped a hole in two of the cinder blocks to fit around the little bit of the bolt. Because we didn't get the blocks perfectly level, and as a result one side is oh so slightly lower than where it should be, some of the pavers actually hit the bolts poking out of the house under the sliding doors. Again, the handy cold chisel was used by Mr. Caveman, and the pavers were made to fit.

All of this effort, and more, led to use paving 36 square feet of space. Yes, it took us nearly all day to lay nearly 150 pavers. But it looks good.

Sunday went much faster. We'd tamped down the gravel the night before after getting it graded just right. So we started with screeing off some sand and laying the first paver of the big semi-circle that is to be the main part of the patio. Mary laid all the pavers, quite nicely if I do say so myself. And I provided all the grunt work of hauling sand and pavers to the job site.

Considering the fact I'd mis-calculated the number of 80 pound stepping blocks, and I'd mis-measured the level of said blocks on one end, oh, and I'd mis-measured the locations of the holes in said blocks for the protruding bolts (requiring chiseling the holes twice), it shouldn't be a surprise that we don't have enough of the so-called 3/4 stones to finish the patio. You see, the pavers needed to create a circle come in "circle packs" and they have enough stone to create a 10' diameter circle. We're going to have a semi-circle with an 11 foot radius, and then another circular pattern 8 feet in diameter. If you'll notice, most of the stones in the circle pattern are either "Large Circle" (LC) or "3/4" stones. The LC stones are slightly wedge-shaped, while the 3/4 are completely rectangular (and are about 3/4 of the size of the 6x6 stone - 2/3's is actually more accurate). Anyway, we have enough stone to cover the entire are we want to pave, just not enough of the 3/4 stones to finish the job nicely.

So, we cannibalized the second circle pack and completed 7 1/2 feet of the diameter. We'll need to get about half a pallet of the 3/4 stones to be able to put in the 8 foot round.

But, running out of the stones provided us with a nice stopping point for our day. We cleaned up the yard somewhat, put away the tools, and sat on our new patio, admiring our handiwork.

We've got a lot left to do, but we can actually see what it'll look like, and it looks good. Plus, we're doing a pretty nice job of it ourselves, especially considering that we've never done anything like this before. It doesn't feel like you're walking on a roller coaster when your cross the patio - which is more than can be said about the gravel that makes up the base for the yet-to-be-installed path.


Let me be the 72,419th blogger to congratulate Lance on yet another victory in the Tour de France. Go Lance!

Lots of people wear the yellow wrist bands to support Lance's cause - which I think is great. Lots of other causes have taken up wrist bands, for example Find Brooke sells pink wrist bands. While in Puerto Rico we saw lots and lots of people wearing all sorts of writst bands - it was very fashionable. However, on the streets you could find every color of wrist band you wanted - with none of the money going to any good causes, other than the pockets of the street vendors. Thought that was kind of sad.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Customer Service

I don't think I'd run a business very well. I have a feeling I'd get fixated on a few of the things that needed to get done, and all the other little things wouldn't ever get the attention needed.

However, that being said, I'd always have my business name and hours on the answering machine. And I'd have either call waiting or multiple lines.

Nothing pisses me off more about a company than when I call and just get a busy signal. There's no excuse for that, get another phone line and put me on hold. If I'm looking for something I've never done/used before and I get a busy signal, I immediately look for a competitor's phone number.

And when I get the answering machine - which is an acceptable alternative to a busy signal - I should hear the business hours and company name. There's one place I've recently called who has two phone numbers listed in the phone book. The first one has an answering machine that simply says, "delivery ... beep." eh? Whose delivery? The other phone at least says the company name - but no business hours. That way I was completely left in the dark - I didn't know if they were open on the weekend or not. Someone else got my business that day.

Seriously, it only takes a couple of seconds to record the proper message, and it's a couple of dollars a month for voicemail.

Oh, and while I'm ranting about business practices, I was talking with someone from one of the local companies just two days ago. During the conversation she said, "Well, almost everyone has gone home by now because we close at 5." For one, nobody answers their phones at a couple of minutes to 5. And two, it was 4:30 when she said that! Closing at 5 does not mean that everyone is gone at 4:30 - that would seem to imply you close at 4:30, correct? Maybe everyone leaves 10 minutes early, but half an hour? I don't care if you close at 4:30, that's your perrogative - I'm sure the folks there work harder than I do, but don't tell me you're open until 5.

Friday, July 22, 2005

A thousand words

Happy Cats

As mentioned before, we're letting the cats outside now. It's been almost a week, and the results so far are good. The cats don't seem to roam very far - which is comforting. They appear comfortable outside now - not quite so jumpy. And, more than not, they hang out inside the house, or just outside the sliding doors - when given the choice.

The bonus feature is that they're usually too tired to run around like little banshees in the middle of the night - so Mary has been sleeping solidly through the night (I always do).

Now we just have to wait for the time that one of the kittens doesn't come in for the night.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Battlefield 2

My friend, Tim, plays an on-line game called Battlefield 2. I watched him for a little bit the other night - seemed kind of fun. You run around and shoot things - as a part of an army.

The demo version is available for free use - which is pretty full-featured.

Tim organized some friends who were going to get on-line and play at the same time, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

Long story short, 3 blue-screens, several un-install and re-installs of the software, a video driver update, and nearly 2 hours spent, I still can't play the game. It starts coming up - the little montage at the beginning works, but things freeze up right when it tries to log me into an account.

I'm gonna give it one more shot (download a patch for the demo version) and call it a night.

Good thing I don't have to support computers for a job.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Scarlet Letter


All musicals should have a scarlet 'M' stamped onto the spine of the movie, or, even better, plastered on the cover of all DVD/VHS cases, movie posters, any and all promotions.

Mary and I received Bride and Prejudice the other day and sat down to watch it. It started off a little slow, but seemed like it'd be a good movie.

Then everyone broke out into song and dance.

I almost left the room.

The movie had enough to keep me going, but we ended up fast-forwarding through a couple of the musical scenes.

Perhaps the dislike of musicals stems from the only movie I've walked out on, Little Shop of Horrors. What a waste of Steve Martin, and $3.25.

If you want to see a good musical, rent either this or this.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Who let the cats out?

We let the kittens out this weekend. It's a big step for us. Losing Milo was a very traumatic experience.

I'm glad to report that the kittens didn't immediately rush out into traffic.

Jade ran around so excited that she had to breathe with her mouth open the entire time. Her breaths had to be at 120/minute or more.

And Jupiter just rolled around and hugged the ground as much as he could. He's our special cat. Plus, he used to be white, now he's sort of ... cream colored. He's got a lot of licking to get the dust out of is coat.

Oh Man, What A Week

How to even begin?

Last weekend, Mary and I spread over 15 tons of gravel (3/4 minus). No, we didn't haul it by hand, we rented a bobcat thingy to do the heavy lifting. We still put in nearly 14 hours of work (each) over the two days. So, the base layer for the path and patio is almost finished. It takes a lot of work to get everything level, and we're not quite there just yet. We need even more gravel. We also buried some hoses out to various parts in the plant beds (a poor-man's sprinkler system).

We're also getting a cob wall with a fireplace on the south side of our patio. Mary is trading medical services for the cob wall. The guy who builds the wall stopped by and gave us some ideas - and told us what we need to do to get ready. That should be a really neat addition to our side-yard.

This weekend we took it a little easier - as the pavers we want are not all available. I ordered a little too late, and they don't have enough in stock to fill our order. So, we spent time planting some plants in the bed, and getting some round river rock for the base of the cob wall.

We're happy with the progress being made. This weekend isn't going to be a marathon work-session, which is nice. We worked a little longer today (Saturday) than we intended, but it felt more leisurely. Plus, we stopped for a nice lunch and watched a few of the kinetic sculptures pedal on by the house (right about where the people to the right of the elephant are on this map).

However, this was the work week from hell. I've ranted before about how work has been .... sub-optimal. But this week things sort of came to a head. It's odd, because in some ways the week went well, but in others, it was just horrific.

You see, we're just trying to release a version of our software to the customer. Sounds simple. You have a deadline, you stop programming a few weeks before the deadline and just test, test test - fixing any bugs that crop up. Well, we've had this moving deadline for nearly a month now. We're always going to release "two days from now." Plus, we're pretty much coding non-stop. It's all good stuff to have, but it's not generally what you want to do right before releasing.

An old boss of mine says this whole debacle is because expectations were set improperly. That could be. There's also a clash of personalities between some of the managers - and the relationships have become caustically confrontational. All of this leads to a pressure-cooker environment.

So, this week is the "drop-dead" release date. We can no longer push out a release, it's either all or nothing. Of course, we'd heard this kind of thing before, but this one seemed to be a little more true. Luckily, we'd gotten most of the problems fixed, and stuff looked promising last Friday (just over a week ago).

Murphy's law, however, was waiting over the weekend, and bit us full on in the arse. We had an inkling of a really odd problem that occasionally caused a crash. Over the weekend it became a little more regular, but Tuesday night it hit us full-on, causing nearly every run to crash. The odd thing was that it only crashed when you ran from the end tool. Running it with exactly the same input (but not spawned from an end tool) resulted in no crash. This pointed to a memory problem, which happen to be some of the more difficult to solve. I stayed up late getting all the regression runs going (and failing), documenting what the problem was and pointing people toward the steps needed to solve it. I'd already stayed up late Monday night, making the drive up to Hillsboro on just a few hours of sleep, and late Tuesday night I'm struggling to stay awake long enough to send out the email telling everyone of the stench of the pile of poo we were in. It took me over half an hour to send out that email because I kept on falling asleep while typing it. I blame Tim's comfy couch as a main contributor.

So, while the results of the runs all looked good (enough), we couldn't release because we were crashing when it counted. A couple of us all converged upon the issue at the same time and got it solved on Wednesday. We got a couple of other last-minute fixes in by 8pm, and after running a quick errand, I started the builds at 9:30pm. I had to do a bunch of administrative things with the revision control system, so the regressions couldn't start until those were done. Yet another last-minute fix came in at 12:30, so I patched that in and released another build in the middle of the regressions (causing one to die, but that's ok). Two or two-thirty in the morning I leave to catch some zzzz's, knowing that things looked pretty good for a Thursday release.

I wake up Thursday morning, roll into work, and the results look good. No crashes, the new features added in the day before appeared to work just fine. We're in business. The new guy finds an embarrassing bug that somehow didn't get noticed during the regressions, so we fix it quickly (one liner change, luckily very easy and very safe to make). And the release is ready.

My trusty intern finishes all the spreadsheets comparing our tool with the old one, breaking down the overall comparison into design-by-design. All of the outliers are examined and noted they behaved as expected. One lingering crash is discovered, I find the reason and make note of it in the release notes.

Thursday afternoon rolls past, things look great (well, good enough). I talk with the boss (who's about to hop on a flight and return from Santa Clara), and he says to release if I'm comfortable. I get a little nervous, but with some confidence I send out the email. I'm done. The release is made. I get to go home and see Mary. No more stress from work. It's been three months in the making, but we should finally be on good ground again.

I should have known better.

Friday comes along, and there's some problem. I don't even know what it is. It's not with my customer, it's with a different one. Some new requirement has cropped up w/out much notice, and of course there has been no testing of that scenario. So the boss is running around frantic, I'm supposed to help another guy solve whatever this issue is. Only thing is, he's not even testing the newest release because the customer doesn't want the new release.

Things get worse from there. I get all hypochondriacal (yes, that's a word). Plus, the customer with a problem sends out an inflammatory email saying, "[my] product isn't working for customers A, B, and C, we advise against using it at all." Which gets by boss even more worked up. I get pretty annoyed at that as well, b/c my customer (B) is actually going to be very pleased with this release (they've already seen an (unauthorized - don't even get me started with that) copy and were very encouraged with what they saw.

I piss the boss off twice (well, probably three times) and stop working at 3pm (later than the 1pm I'd expected and wanted). The third way I pissed him off was disappearing at 3. There was nothing I could do at that point, so I emailed him saying as much and logged off. There was no way in hell I was working this weekend, and I was more and more sure that I wasn't going to make any more "last minute" changes because I'd already made the release.

The second way I pissed the boss off was sending an email directly to one of the customers saying, "oh, what I gave you will work, but it'd be better if you add X to it - you'll be more comfortable with that." evidentially, he hadn't told them much yet and having this snippet out of his control was maddening. He told me that "this is the kind of thing that makes them think we don't know how to make releases." Huh? I don't think so, it was a small thing I was telling them about - they'd probably be relieved I told them about it - very minor. Unlike the fiasco my boss was trying to pull by getting some more "last minute" changes into the release. THAT is exactly what makes them think we can't do releases properly. And they're right.

The first thing I did to piss the boss off was tell him to talk to the guy I was supposed to be helping insert the "last minute" fixes. My co-worker wasn't on the same page as the boss was expecting - so there really wasn't much I could do. The boss responded, "don't tell me to talk to anyone." I could tell he was well past his boiling point. I think I straightened things out with my response, but who knows, and to some extent, who cares?

I think we needed to make this release. The team is going nuts. The pace is hurried and hectic, and nobody is happy. I don't expect work to always be a happy place - there's bound to be some stress now and then, but 3 months solid of stress is way, way beyond what is normal/healthy/expected/permissible.

Next week should be interesting. In my head, I've already gone over some of the conversations that will probably happen. Of course, they never happen how I envisioned.

We released, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Thanks for reading this far, I needed to vent (again).