Monday, December 31, 2007

Evil is a Long Distance call...

I have a big interest in the phones and the phone company. I have always wanted to work for the phone company in a central office, and I would love to get my hands on a central office an AT&T 5ESS or Nortel DMS-100. Sure, playing with my Nortel Meridian PBXes at work and my Asterisk VoIP switch at home is cool, but I want to learn how the big boys do it. I try to learn all that I can about telecommunications technology, and any time I come across any news about telecom issues, I try to find out as much as I can about what is happening and how things work so I can get a good idea of what is going on.

There is a minor news story circulating about a town in Louisiana that was assigned a telephone prefix of 666. This seemed to be upsetting to a number of people in this small town, so they forced the phone company to get a new prefix. Their justification is that the number "666" is the mark of the beast. That is, the Devil.

This is not an old* a new story. I remember some years back a bible college in a town, I think in Virginia, got new phone lines and were assigned a 666 prefix. They didn't want it, so they asked their phone company for a different prefix, and the telco obliged.

NANPA is the North American Numbering Plan Administration. This is the company that is tasked with keeping our phone numbers straight, assigning new NPAs (area codes), handing out new central office codes (prefixes), and making sure there are enough numbers in an area code to cover the explosive growth of cellular phone users and what to do if an area code starts to run out. Their website is chock full of interesting information, and if you have any interest in how phone numbers are made, this is where to get your info. While NANPA covers the US and its possessions, it works closely with the CNA, or Canadian Numbering Administrator, to make sure everything is kosher since Canada is a plain old long distance call and has been fully integrated with our dialing plan since the late '40s.

I was bored, so I went to NANPA and CNA and did a little research on where there are active 666 prefixes in the US and Canada. I was surprised to find that there are 107 places that have 666 prefixes that are actively assigned. There are 115 records in all. Most of the remaining records have a status of "Unassignable", for whatever reason. This could mean that the people under the telco that wanted it in the first place found the prefix to be distasteful, so the telco returned it to NANPA and had it marked unassignable to prevent this from happening again.

It is just strange to me that some people go ape over the numbers "666" appearing in places. Phone numbers are more or less permanent, so I can kinda understand the issue there for believers since they don't want to be associated with the beast. But there are a number of stories out there of people coming unglued over a purchase at the megamart coming to $6.66. It is strange to me how people attach such significance to a number and/or its appearance. If the mark of the beast is "666", even though some are now suggesting that it is in fact "616", does this mean that it is six hundred sixty-six? Or is it a collection of three individual sixes? Why, then would a number 6.66 be construed as being evil? How about 6 33/50?

The UPC barcode was developed by NCR here in Dayton, Ohio** IBM and first used in a grocery store in Troy, Ohio...a town a few miles north of Dayton. The barcode has three check stripes, one on either end and one in the middle, that assure proper orientation of the barcode to the computer. It just so happens that the spacing of the check codes is the same as the number 6 in the rest of the code. This, of course, proves that barcodes are evil and they they will surely be used as the new, futuristic mark of the beast. I have even seen a Christian-themed movie about the rapture and second coming that depicted the use of tattooed barcodes as a tracking mark required by the antichrist. Of course, everyone knows that UPC barcodes are not evil because they contain "666", but simply because they were developed here in Dayton. Duh!

I have been in numerous buildings, especially hotels, where there is no floor 13. Here we have again another superstitious phenomena attaching some type of spiritual significance to a number. In Asian cultures, the number 4 is considered bad luck, whilst 9 is the greatest of luck. People in Asia and other parts of the world have been known to shell out huge fortunes for license plates for their cars featuring strings of lucky numbers..."9999999" and so forth.

It is just strange how such spiritual significance can be attached to a number. And it is stranger still how the concept of lucky and unlucky numbers vary from culture to culture. How long have we been programming ourselves to consider 13 quite unlucky, and that 666 is the number of the beast?

I could understand that someone might be a little perturbed if they moved to a new town and were assigned the Devil's old phone number. Imagine the wrong number calls you'd get to that number! It is, though, seemingly apropos that 666 is a prefix assigned for use in Salem, Massachusetts, the site of the Salem Witch Trials back in late 17th century.

For a list of the locations in the US and Canada of the most evil phone numbers, check out a synopsis of the NANPA and CNA prefix data I have compiled at

EvilTel would be a great name for a phone company...

* not an old story? Then how have I heard of one before? Corrected 12/31/07. Duh...I'm such a dingleberry...I guess I need to start proofreading.
** it was not, in fact, developed by NCR as I found out. I guess I should check my facts, too!

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Impending Alien Invasion

I complain to damn much about everything, so I've decided to try to not complain in my blog entries. Well, not complain as much. Like I said in my last post, I guess I am turning back into the unpleasant old curmudgeon that I used to be.

Anyhow, I read on CNN today...after reading about Benazir Bhutto's assassination, which came as a terrible and saddening shock to me and could thrust Pakistan back another 100 years politically...about the asteroid heading for Mars.

There is a 1 in 75 chance that the asteroid will hit Mars. And thankfully it is Mars and not Earth, which is a planet close to all of our hearts and our current optimal choice for a galactic residence. Astronomers are all excited about seeing an impact like this (maybe if it happens, perhaps) since they have not really seen one before. Sure the Shoemaker-Levy comet impact on Jupiter was cool, but that is a gas giant. There would be no crater left behind to look at and study.

Mars is awful close to us, and there are observatory satellites in orbit spying on our little red neighbor, so scientists and the general public alike are in a good position to see the impact and study how it affects the Martian environment. It has been said that the Tunguska blast in Siberian Russia around 100 years ago was an asteroid about this size. That blast flattened trees for 25 miles in every direction. If a similar event happened, say over New York, that could be very unpleasant indeed. By the asteroid hitting Mars, astronomers should get a pretty good idea of how a similar impact would affect our planet and what might be the best way to avert such an event.

Scientists are putting a lot of effort and money into looking for potential space-borne threats to our little planet. This, in my opinion, is a good idea. We can recover from certain threats, like wars and global warming and all that. These are things that we have brought upon ourselves, and we should be able to get ourselves out of these messes in relatively short order. A comet or asteroid...well, that is pretty much game over. Like in the movie Deep Impact, there would obviously be sort of a feeling of dreaded, depressing doom that there is not one thing that we can do to stop our eventual destruction. That would be a bummer of a feeling. I think if I was faced with this kind of situation, I would go out and buy a really expensive BMW because one of my goals is to have one before I pass from this earth, and with the Earth no more somehow I don't think bill collectors will be hounding me for the payments.

I remember back in high school I did an oral report in history class about UFOs and how they relate to conspiracy theories. It was a convenient subject, being that I live so close to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base...our area is rife with stories and theories about UFOs. "Hangar 18" on base being where they perhaps took the alien bodies and pieces of spacecraft after maybe crashing in Roswell and taken to "Area 51", and the supposed "nuclear reactor" that was "built to provide power" perhaps but never actually saw even a single atom of uranium because it was maybe built as a convenient cover for the alien tomb or perhaps not. In my report, using the principles of physics and optics, I explained how light can be manipulated by natural phenomena to appear to be alien in nature. I showed several video demonstrations involving lasers and interference patterns that can cause the light waves to bend, spread and converge in interesting and unique patterns...sort of conveniently explaining away what some people can believe are UFOs as tricks of the light.

In the many years that I have lived here, I have seen lots of weird stuff around the base. Strange lights floating around, bizarre "aircraft" taking off and landing, that kind of thing. But for those of us that have lived here for a while, it is all rote. We see these weird things and it doesn't faze any of us. I remember driving home from work one day, and as I exited the highway to get to my street, there were four stealth bombers on maneuvers over the base. It was great to see these huge planes flying around so gracefully with each other, the pilots being quite adept at some slick handling. But, again, while many that don't live so near the base would find this to be extremely exciting...something that they would only see if they lived in a war zone or at an air show...for us it is something that we see almost every day. It is old hat, status quo, same old same old. Meh.

I am a huge sci-fi fan, especially Star Trek. I'd like to believe there are aliens, and that one day we will all live in relative harmony with each other. Even though I would like to believe there are aliens, I have never seen anything that would serve as my mind...that aliens really exist.

When it comes to UFOs and aliens, I think there are six types of people:
1. The Non-Believers: These people don't believe in aliens, UFOs or the possibility of life elsewhere. Period.
2. The Agnostics: These people don't know what to believe, having no compelling evidence either way, and don't really care.
3. The Doubting Thomases: These people doubt that aliens exist, but are open minded enough that if they have compelling evidence presented to them, they could believe.
4. The Blind Faithful: These people like to believe that life exists elsewhere, but have never experienced anything truly bizarre and unusual and are generally on the lookout for proof that aliens exist...or at least an alien society slightly less screwed up than our own.
5. The Believers: These people believe that life exists elsewhere, and that UFOs are real, and have had one or more unusual experiences that they consider to be proof of same, but are not wholly and completely fanatical about it.
6. The Zealots: These people believe that UFOs and aliens are real, they have been here and contacted humans or have claimed they have been abducted by aliens and want to make sure everyone knows about their alien anal probe down to the last detail.

It isn't really a scientific approach to the issue, but something that I have been thinking least inasmuch of trying to write an amusing blog entry. I like to think that I am in category 4. Nothing strange has ever happened to me, at least that I would consider to be alien contact, but I would like to think that we are not alone. I would certainly think that no sufficiently advanced civilization outside of our solar system would actually give a damn about us; in fact I would go as far to say that if there were alien societies elsewhere, they would probably want to stay as far away from us as possible.

One of my favorite all-time flicks is Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In one scene you see the inside of what is supposed to be Indianapolis ATC (air traffic control), with a controller (played by the always great Carl Weathers) managing a few flights. All of the sudden, radar indicates a signature with no transponder ID heading straight into the flight path of two commercial aircraft. The object is described in detail by the pilot, and the object does a close fly-by of the leading aircraft. The event is witnessed by the pilots of a second, trailing aircraft. Afterward, a seemingly important, Isaac Asimov-looking gentleman asks the controller to contact the pilots of both aircraft and ask if they want to report a UFO. The pilots eventually respond with what seems like a lot of trepidation that they would not like to file any reports of any kind.

I have to wonder how many unusual events like this go unreported by pilots. Certainly strange events like this have happened, and there have been reports few and far between. I think it may be taboo in the realm of airline pilots to talk about incidents like this. Is it because of the possibility that they may be made out to be freaks? Could their reports of strange incidents like this be construed as mental instability that could put their certification at risk? Since this is a pretty high-level connection to the government, how much does the government know about incidents of an alien nature? How much has been covered up? Somehow, I don't think we will ever know the truth...some people wouldn't be able to handle it.

I certainly hope that I now don't seem like a wacko or a freak to anyone that reads this diatribe, but I find all aspects of the UFO phenomenon, from the truth to the lies, the conspiracies, the zealots that preach of alien encounters and bizarre medical experiments, infinitely interesting.

Really, I'm just all about the BMW.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Things I Can Do Without

I got up this morning and got dressed for work. When I put on my socks, one had a hole in the big toe.

Just a great start to the day.

In this day and age of technological achievement, how can we not have wear-proof socks? I mean, come on. There is fabric out there that can absorb the shock of a roadside bomb, fabrics that can take a bullet without so much as a fray. Yet we cannot make toe-resistant socks. Unbelievable.

My friend McA got me a bluetooth earphone for Christmas. What a thoughtful gift! I would not have gotten one myself, I would just suffer along with using my phone like normal. It is a great little device, and I think I'll get a lot of use out of it.

I can, however, do without those people that wear their bluetooth earphone like some kind of status symbol. You've seen the type. They wear it all the time like a piece of jewelry, like they are so utterly important that they cannot take it off for one second lest they miss a call. Oh, woe is us!

Just call me a curmudgeon...or something like that.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Huge Television

I am such a ridiculously lazy person. It is pretty disgusting, actually.

I initially had my beloved great big TV in my living room, because that is supposed to be the central locus of the typical home. In the living room, one is supposed to entertain visitors and generally use it to relax. The bedroom is supposed to be used to sleep, period.

Many people argue that the bedroom is for sleeping only. You are not, under any circumstances supposed to have a TV or other entertainment devices in your bedroom since it can interfere with sleep patterns.

Bah, I say.

Last night, I retired my old, little 13" analogue Sony TV from my bedroom and moved my beloved 40" Sony LCD digital TV in. Now, 40" is not that big of a TV, really...there are many, many larger TVs...Panasonic has a 103" set for goodness sake. I never realized how big this TV was. It takes up nearly my whole dresser. I got rid of my old home theatre receiver and tiny little speakers that flanked the miniscule 13" TV and only connected up my satellite receiver and old DVD player. The speakers built in to the big TV actually sound great, and the picture is superb.
Fig. 1: Huge TV

I love my big TV, and now I will enjoy it more. I am considering removing all the stuff from my living room (my good, fairly new home theatre receiver, my satellite DVR and good DVD player) and putting it all in my bedroom. I would mount the TV to the wall opposite my bed, and I would just have to get some little speakers, like the Bose Acoustimass 16s or similar, to enhance the experience. There isn't really room for the big speakers I have in the living room in my bedroom, since my bedroom is rather small. Just do I want to spend the money? Not really, but I might, I just haven't decided yet.

In the winter I rarely use the dining room or living room because they stay rather cold. My bedroom stays toasty and comfortable, so I spend most of the time in my bedroom. Not to mention that I would rather lie down and watch TV than sit up on the couch.

My goodness I am lazy.

Cancer Update

My afternoon snack consists of two tabs of Ibuprofen and two Vicodin. Yum.

Fig. 2: Pills (Left: Ibuprofen, Right: Vicodin)

It does help, really, my severe jaw pain. My oncologist, Dr. M1, prescribed an anti-inflammatory arthritis medication that I have to take regularly to try to take care of my jaw pain once and for all. Its side effect is overproduction of acid, so I have to take Zantac as well.

[sarcasm] Oh, I just love being sick! [/sarcasm]

My weight is now steady at 220 lbs., and Dr. M1 is still pleased with his skill at being a radiation oncologist. The remaining scar tissue in my mouth is slowly going away, though I still have problems with my tongue. Other than the dry mouth, tongue sensitivity and jaw, I feel great!

I should be hearing any day now about when my PET scan is scheduled for, so I will update everyone once I get the results!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Dinner

Christmas Day was pretty lousy. Well, not was a beautiful day. We had a great breakfast of ham and egg and toast (my favorite!). The crappy part is that dad had to leave at about 2 in the afternoon to get to Joliet, Illinois for a pickup. He is a truck driver, after all, but it still sucks that he has to leave on Christmas Day.

Mom didn't want ham again for dinner, so we decided to go out. This was an unnecessary trip, because nothing was open. We drove all over the place looking for something to eat. I wasn't real hungry and had a stomach ache, but it was probably more hunger than anything else. I would just as soon have stayed in bed, but mom was hungry. We had no food in the house, save for leftovers, and mother has a big aversion to leftovers. It is a strange phenomenon that dad and I have yet to understand.

After looking around for all our usual places and finding them closed, we drove up to our local Waffle House. It was open! Hallelujah!

I had a double waffle with lots of butter and syrup and an order of bacon, and mother had a cheeseburger and hash browns. I have to admit that I like Waffle House a lot, and tonight's meal was terrific. It was better than the alternatives, macaroni and cheese or a McDonald's hamburger.

We had our Christmas Dinner on Monday, Christmas Eve. This is because dad had to leave on Christmas Day. This sucks. He always has to leave at inopportune times, usually sometime in the early afternoon on Sundays, and usually on a holiday day. It is, unfortunately, part of the job since he has to be where he needs to be in order to get back home sometime Friday, otherwise he might run out of hours and not be able to get back until sometime Saturday.

Being a truck driver is, actually, a pretty complicated job. Sure, the driving is pretty easy, and it can be real easy if it is no-touch freight. But truck drivers have to follow the rules of the Federal Transportation Administration. They have a certain number of hours that they can drive per day and per week before they have to take mandatory breaks or a mandatory length. The rules even cover their "off-duty but working" time. How he, or any truck driver, can figure his schedule around these rules is beyond me. Truck drivers are also required to keep log books of their trips, and even have to account for their off time on weekends and holidays. How invasive is that?!

Some less-than-scrupulous companies and drivers will keep multiple log books. One for themselves and one to show the authorities. If a driver is found to keep multiple logs, this is an extremely serious offense and can lead to prison time. The FTA is very serious about this stuff and for good reason. Tired truck drivers are very dangerous...they are, after all, hauling 43,000 pounds of freight. Luckily, a number of companies are beginning to use technology to combat this problem, and have computers on-board the trucks to automatically log events so the driver doesn't have to.

But, I digress, as usual.

Our Christmas Dinner this year was exceptional as usual. We had ham from our favorite local butcher, mashed potatoes, creamed corn and mom's famous Pineapple Stuff. We don't make a big deal of holiday meals since it is just us. What remains of the family have their own things they do for holidays, so we don't usually get together with any of our relatives over the holidays like we used to.

I love mom's famous Pineapple Stuff. It is weird stuff, it kinda smells like feet, but tastes absolutely divine. I will have to get the recipe and post it, but here is a synopsis of its contents: Pineapple chunks, crushed Ritz crackers and shredded cheddar cheese combined in a casserole and baked. Serve it hot, and it is the perfect accompaniment to pretty much any dinner. We eat it quite regularly.

So, Christmas this year was kinda boring. I took Monday and Wednesday off from work because I felt that I needed the time off. It would not have really mattered because nothing ever really goes on at work around Christmas, so we pretty much use this as some well-deserved downtime before ramping up for projects after Christmas. I used most of the time to sleep and get things organized at home since I have not had time to do it recently.

We didn't make a big deal of gifts this year, either. I got two shirts and some drawers and a gift card. Mother got dad some cologne and a new pair of work boots and a couple of gift cards, and father got mom a Nintendo DS, a new Blue Jackets hockey jersey and a couple of gift cards. Mother got a small bonus at work, so she shared it with us dividing it three ways. It wasn't a huge amount of money, but it certainly helps.

I kinda like the low key Christmas, to be honest. I prefer to spend time with my family and try to eat well rather than fall into the consumer trap of buying, buying and more buying.

I hope all of you have had a blessed Christmas, Hanukkah and/or Kwanzaa, which ever or any you might celebrate, and have a happy and safe new year.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Let's Go

I have a lot of memories from when I was a child...some good, some bad. Everyone does, so I am not unique. It is funny how some things that you come across in life trigger long buried memories that you didn't even realize that you had.

I have had an iPod for a long time. I love my iPod, and I am not sure how I would survive without it. It comes in really handy when I need to concentrate at work. I just put on my headphones, flip on my favorite play list and sink into my own little world where I can actually get some work done. I even have a little adapter that I bought for my car that plugs into the back of my factory stereo (since the one in my Impala sounds pretty great for a factory unit) and allows my iPod to emulate a CD changer so I can enjoy my favorite music in the car.

When I started loading up music, I loaded up everything I could find. I ripped all of my CDs, all of my mother and father's CDs, and even all my friend Chris' CDs. I have bought copious amounts of pre-owned CDs from a local music and movie resale store, rediscovering music that I loved in my a child of the 80's...and adding them to my collection in iTunes. Right now I have over 4,000 songs taking up over 20 Gb of space, though my "Super Favorites" play list only has 235 songs in it.

Fig. 1: The Cars Greatest Hits

I bought a used CD, The Cars Greatest Hits, at the secondhand store. I like a lot of the songs on this CD, but one song in particular, the 1979 hit single "Let's Go", triggered a deep memory within my brain that I did not realize was there. This song I strongly associated with a car accident.

I was born in Indiana. My mother moved there, got married and had me. She worked at Elkhart General Hospital as a respiratory therapist, and this is the hospital I was born in. After a few years, she and my biological father divorced and we were going to move back to Ohio. Before everything was complete, mother took me to Fairborn to live with my grandparents while she finalized everything.

On the trip back to Ohio along US 33, we came upon an accident involving a single car, a Ford Mustang, that landed in a field nose down. This was a very serious single car accident. The driver of the car was very drunk, but thankfully still alive though badly hurt. A number of people were stopped to help, and my mother was the only medically-trained person there at the time. Mother took my pillow...I always travel with a comfort the driver of the car and assist until medics arrived.

The thing that I remember most clearly was that the stereo in the Mustang was still operating, and the song playing quite loudly was none other than "Let's Go" by The Cars.

It wasn't until a few years ago that I heard this song on the radio. I did not know what the name of the song was, but I remembered it somehow. The memories of the car accident flooded back, and I asked my mother about it. She was shocked that I could so clearly remember what had taken place. I was very young, something like four years old.

It is funny how we go through so many things in our lives, yet our brains weed out much of the fluff, but can store some of the most interesting and unique events. They say that we use only 10% of our brains, but I have to wonder how much our brains can store and how much might be there, yet we can't access these memories for want of a trigger. Sometimes the strangest, most off-beat things can bring back memories that we didn't even know we had.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Marshmallow Fluff

Would you believe that Australians don't know what Marshmallow Fluff is?
Fig. 1: Marshmallow Fluff

Marshmallow Fluff is great stuff. You, obviously, can't make rice krispie treats without it. Well, you can melt down standard marshmallows...but why go through the trouble. My mother has some friends in Australia and on one of their many phone calls, she mentioned that she was making something (I forget what) in which one of the main ingredients was "Marshmallow Fluff".

They asked what Marshmallow Fluff was.

Mother was silent for a minute. She could not believe that they did not know what Marshmallow Fluff was. Dad was shocked, too. She tried her best to explain what it was. They do have regular marshmallows in Australia, and they also have rice krispies and know what rice krispie treats are. They just don't have the fluff!

As a gesture of international good-will, we decided to introduce Marshmallow Fluff to Australia.

Mom bought three tubs of the fluff, and boxed it up and FedEx'd it off to her friends. In about a week we got a phone call. It was "J" and his wife calling from Australia. They received the package OK, and opened one of the tubs with some trepidation. They were afraid to try it because they didn't know what to expect.

The fluff did not last long.

They thoroughly enjoyed the Marshmallow Fluff. They said that their rice krispie treats were better. The fluff tasted better than their standard marshmallows. They introduced it to all their friends in Australia, and they all enjoyed it as well. They even shared one tub around at a party, raw! They thought sharing unusual foods like this was a great idea. It helps to introduce a little something of other cultures to others. They decided to reciprocate by sending us something that we don't have.

Fig. 2: Vegemite

I have seen Vegemite before. They stock it regularly at a large grocery in Cincinnati called Jungle Jim's...a great store with tons of foreign foods. The store complex covers 6 acres!

They FedEx'd us three jars of Vegemite. We got it with in a week, and were really excited. They said to just eat it like a typical peanut butter sandwich, and that we will absolutely love it! So, we got it and opened it and slathered it on some bread and munched it down.

We are now at war with Australia.

Vegemite is the most vile, awful tasting substance that I have ever eaten. It was a poor trade for the Marshmallow Fluff. Dad, who has eaten plenty of strange stuff, even had problems with it. Mom called her friends and they asked how we liked it. She didn't quite know what to say because she didn't want to offend them or their Australian heritage. They goaded her into telling them what she really thought, and she had to admit that we all didn't like it and that it was the worst thing ever.

They said they didn't like it, either. In fact, no one in Australia actually eats this stuff.

We all had a great laugh about that! Even though it was a wholly unpleasant substance, it was great fun to try something from another country. Every country has something different, or a lot of something different, that people from other countries would find alien and strange. People should be much more willing to try strange and wonderful stuff, especially foods, from other cultures. Obviously I don't mean stuff that would make you physically ill just seeing bugs...but branch out and try something different. You never know what you might like.

For example, I love sushi, especially sushi rolls. My favorite restaurant, Thai9 in Downtown Dayton's Oregon District, serves a great sushi roll called a "JB Roll". This is a seaweed and sticky rice-wrapped piece of raw salmon with a piece of cream cheese and scallions. I know it isn't really totally Japanese, but it is absolutely terrific. One evening, mom and dad and I went to a local restaurant that serves food hibachi-style, and they also have an extensive sushi bar. I ordered their version of a "JB Roll", which was great. I coaxed my mother into trying one. She has an aversion to raw fish, and would never try anything raw and "strange". She really liked it! She was shocked and never knew that sushi could be so good. Now she doesn't go out of her way to get sushi, but she will eat it.

I think the best way to experience another culture is to eat what they eat. Food truly is a great way to bridge the gap between different cultures.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

House Numbers & Water Softeners

House Numbers

I bought these cool little neon letters at ThinkGeek and I am using them as my house numbers. Pretty cool, huh?

They are bright enough to see over the street lamp and porch lights. I sent the picture along to ThinkGeek's "Customer Action Shots", with the caption: "The geekiest house in the neighborhood gets geekier!" LOL!

They are little, low-voltage (relatively) cold-cathode fluorescent tubes like what is used in a scanner or laptop LCD panel. I put them on a timer so that they are off during the day. I didn't want them to wear out prematurely.

Water Softener

I found an image on my water softener that I took after I completed it on my digital camera when I downloaded the house numbers picture.

The round container is the salt reservoir, the tall device is the resin chamber and the blue items are the pre-filters. The copper network behind it is the wacky setup of bypass valves. With this setup, I can divert water away from the filters for changing, divert water from the softener in case of a problem, or both. Very exciting...LOL!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Being Shot in Downtown Dayton

I made a comment on one of my favorite blogs that I read regularly about the supposed terrible state of Downtown Dayton. I decided to expand on that a little bit...mainly because I want to bitch about it here rather than at work.

I have worked in Downtown Dayton for more than 10 years, right on the Third and Main corner that is the focus of most of the attention. Many organizations in Dayton, which will remain nameless (because they know who they are!) are intent to blame the RTA for the problems of youth congregating at Third and Main.

Why are they there? Because we deliver them from school, and they transfer there. That is the main transfer point in Dayton. It is what we do, we are a bus company after all. Sure we have limited service routes running from the large high schools and middle schools direct to the neighborhoods they serve, but since Dayton is the Charter School* Capital of the World, we have to contend with students coming and going at all hours of the day.

*Charter Schools, n., a government instituted vehicle that enables people to steal from the government under the guise of delivering an adequate education to students that meets or exceeds that which is delivered by the incumbent public school system.

The public school district has to provide transportation under state law. That is all well and good, but they cannot afford to run buses everywhere they need. So they ask (demand) the RTA to transport students. So we negotiate with them, and sell them transportation at a pittance. So, there are more students in the system, and our planners have to pull out their hair to contend with the headway adjustments and routing needed for all this transportation.

The city, the school board and the "others" that don't like "that element" downtown, because it is causing people not to want to come downtown, have brought this upon themselves. These are also the same organizations that see the RTA as a cash cow because we have the Federal Transportation Administration to get grants from. I have no power at the RTA, but if I did I would come down pretty hard on these organizations and shut off the flow of cash. I, however, have no tact and would probably be run out on a rail.

I am just getting so sick of these organizations blaming their problems on "that element" and using the RTA as their scapegoat. And yes, they have actually used the phrase "that element" in public meetings and press conferences. It disgusts me.

Bitching over. I hope that no one at work reads this, because I could probably be in deep shit for my opinions, but whatever. The RTA isn't perfect, but I am growing tired of us being walked on.

Now for the good part...

I have worked downtown for a long time. I once was the IT manager for a very respected law firm in Dayton. (Read: NOT ambulance chasers) During the summer months, it is very common to see everyone and their brother walking around downtown, especially on Courthouse Square. Numerous local restaurants and mobile vendors set up shop on the square to sell lunches and drinks to the crowd. Dayton, regardless of what many people say, has a very walkable downtown. There are a number of great little restaurants that I and my colleagues from the firm would go to, some pretty much every day!

I once was crossing the street at Third and Main heading back to the office after a trip to the library. As soon as I stepped into the shadow of my building, I felt a "tap" on top of my head. I thought it was a splash of water...silly me! I reached up to it and my hand came back with a nasty, viscous, white slime. I was so embarrassed! I tried to be as nonchalant as I could, holding my head to cover the massive dollop of pigeon dookie just deposited on my cranium. Imagine some idiot walking along holding his hand to the top of his head, for no apparent reason, just as if it was completely normal...what a doofus.

I passed security, with some stares. They, of course, just thought I was an idiot. I managed to secure an empty elevator rather quickly and rode up the 17 floors, hoping that no one needed an up elevator just now. In the mirrored elevator car I could clearly see the nastiness.

Still holding my head, again still trying to blend in, I exited the elevator and tried to hurry along to the restroom to wash out my hair. The receptionist, unbeknownst to me, was paying a great deal of attention and panicked after I disappeared into the restroom alcove. She called one of the lawyers and the office manager saying that I was hurt, and that I had possibly been shot in the head!

All hell started breaking loose. One of my attorney pals, M.S., came into the restroom (the office manager, a great lady G.C.R., was...well...a lady) and saw that I was washing out my hair. When he found out that, yes, I had been shot in the a pigeon...the whole office found out in about 30 seconds. I had to live with the ridicule for about six months.

But I have to admit, it was quite funny. Every time I think about it I have to laugh!

If you are ever in Downtown Dayton and need to eat, call me. I recommend the Sesame Chicken from Mandarin Kitchen, the Bourbon Chicken from Lucky Dragon, everything at Thai9 and, of course, the pride of Dayton...Flying Pizza!!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Shopping and Other Random Things

I did my Christmas Shopping on Saturday. All of it. I did it online. I've done the online Christmas thing every year. I generally get people gift cards or gift certificates because I cannot figure out for the life of me what to get anyone.

I had an exception this year. I got my good friend McA a new HP35 scientific calculator. HP re-released a modern, enhanced version of the HP35, which was their first handheld scientific calculator. McA told me about how he and many of his colleagues used to have these mini-marvels of technology, and how they were built like tanks.

He told me about one of his peers had lost his HP35. He didn't know where it went at all. It was wintertime and drifts were pretty tall, so he figured it was rotting in the snow someplace. He found it a few weeks later after the snow cleared. He charged the battery and it worked just like normal. All of the early HP calculators were tough as nails. I doubt the new one will be this tough, but he was thrilled to receive it. McA has, traditionally, worn out calculators about once a year. He has a small stock of HP20 calculators, just in case he loses, wears out or destroys the one he is using at present.

Just for interest, the original HP35 was list priced for a low, low $695. The new HP35 was only $59. The new one also included a limited-edition DVD of the history of HP calculators. Yay!

Everyone else got gift cards, even my parental units. My mother, likewise, was wholly unsure of what to get father. What DO you get a man that has everything? A gift card. It was either that or a box of bullets. Mother and I were going to put our money together and get him a laptop, but we couldn't find one suitable that was within our budget. Before I buy a laptop or computer for anyone in my family, since I have to work on them and maintain them, I have a number of specifics that have to be fulfilled...such as a decent warranty, good driver support, etc. It is similar to my requirements at work...this is why I buy Dells. (No flames, please.) Dell may not be the most reliable or the best, but I can always...ALWAYS...get parts, and I have never had any serious problems with any Dell I have ever had.

Since father is an ex-Navy Seal, he likes his little shooting games. He is a truck driver, and is gone all week and comes home on the weekend. He plays his computer games on the weekend and has a PlayStation 2 in the truck hooked to his TV. This makes a gift certificate a perfect gift, because we have no clue as to what games he would like, and what he has beaten. I swear I should get him into the pro video gamer circuit! He could take out most of those snively little video gamer punks!

Gift cards are wholly impersonal and show a complete lack of trying. I can't help it. Neither can mom or dad. We usually get a surprise gift or two for each other, but nothing very extravagant. Well, the TV last year was an exception. Most of the effort we put into gifts at Christmastime is directed into baking bread, making fudge, coated popcorn and other treats for the neighbors and people we work with. I believe that mom made 10 loaves of bread this year. Last year she made about 35. She had to cut down, lest she become burnt out.

Christmas is a very hectic time for all of us. For me, there are numerous projects that I have to make sure that are completed before the end of the year. But I do like Christmas, even though I would not admit it. I have a lot of fond memories of spending time with my beloved grandmother during Christmas break, eating vast quantities of food, candies, cake, pie and other assorted delights. I miss my mamaw terribly, and Christmas usually brings with it a certain amount of sadness. You cannot have one without the other, that is what makes us human.

'Tis the season. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a Blessed Kwanzaa everyone!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Happy Fun Poetry

Here is some silly, funny and patently naughty poetry that a friend sent me. I hope that it will lighten the mood from my last post...

Mary had a little pig,
She kept it fat and plastered;
And when the price of pork went up,
She shot the little bastard.

Mary had a little lamb,
Her father shot it dead.
Now it goes to school with her,
Between two hunks of bread.

Jack and Jill went up the hill
To have a little fun.
Stupid Jill forgot the pill
And now they have a son.

Simple Simon met a Pie Man going to the fair.
Said Simple Simon to the Pie Man,
"What have you got there?"
Said the Pie Man unto Simon,
"Pies, you dumb shit!"

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the kings' horses,
And all the kings' men,
Had scrambled eggs for breakfast again.

Hey diddle, diddle the cat took a piddle,
All over the bedside clock.
The little dog laughed to see such fun,
Then died of electric shock.

Georgie Porgy pudding and pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry.
And when the boys came out to play,
He kissed them too 'cause he was gay.

There was a little girl who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good, she was very, very good.
But when she was bad...
She got a fur coat, jewels, a waterfront condo, and a sports car!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Descent of Humanity

Early this year, the City of Dayton finally got approvals to tear down the abandoned Admiral Benbow Hotel behind our building in Downtown Dayton. They, of course, demanded that the RTA pay for it. We did have a grant to do it, and the land we will use to enhance our downtown hub and allow the buses to be off the street. It will be easier and more convenient for our customers.

Before the teardown began, our favorite engineer, RDW, was tasked to find a company to do the teardown and run the project. During the pre-proposal meeting and tour, RDW asked if Chris and I would like to join them for a tour of the abandoned hotel. We, of course, said yes. We both brought cameras, of course, in case we find anything interesting. And, boy, did we ever!

Fig. 1: Exterior Balconies

We saw many things that were startling. Before the Dayton Police boarded it up, people had broken out the windows and would actually live in there! If you are homeless and have no where to go, then this might be your only option.

Fig. 2: Entrance from Market Street

The building was in bad shape. It was build in the 60's, and has sat empty since 1986. Some time around 1988, whomever owned the building had done asbestos abatement on the building. Since it was abandoned, there was no need to clean up the mess that was left behind.

Fig. 3a: 8th Floor Hallway

Fig. 3b: 4th Floor Hallway

The rooms were no better.

Fig. 4: 9th Floor Typical Room

We found some unusual stuff, too.

Fig. 5a: Chris with a weird 70's porno mag

Fig. 5b: Human Poo (in the back corner)

Fig. 5c: Toilets in the Lobby

There have been people living here off and on for a long time. Before the police boarded up the building for the last time, I actually saw some young people...a young man and woman, younger than I, in ragged clothing and a couple of backpacks filled with what I would assume to be all their worldly possessions...squeeze through a fence in front of the Market Street entrance, and climb in to the building through a jagged, broken window. They looked like they were tired and ragged, like they had not eaten in a few days.

Fig. 6: Makeshift Lobby Living Room

The one thing that was most shocking to me was the lack of electrical wiring in the entire hotel. It is not because it wasn't built without wiring, but because the homeless had removed every bit of it to sell. Copper prices are traditionally high, especially now, so this was a veritable gold mine for those with the gumption to make the effort to remove it. There's been no electric service to the building since 1986, and the stairwells we traversed were very, very dark, even with flashlights. These people were desperate to do all this.

Fig. 7: Circuit breakers strewn about

Next to every circuit breaker box on every floor there were breakers strewn all over. The homeless left them after removing the copper wiring. They also removed the copper and aluminum buss bars from the breaker boxes, and the main electrical cables going to each floor.

Fig. 8: Elevator motor sans copper coil

The homeless had also removed the copper coils from the elevator motors. This hotel had four elevators. The motors are huge, about the size of a typical V6 automobile engine. The coils from them would weigh several hundred pounds. This would net someone a nice chunk of change from a recycling center...but to remove it and then tote it down 14 floors?

Fig. 9a: Miscellaneous Filth (2nd Floor)

Fig. 9b: Miscellaneous Filth (3rd Floor Restaurant, with Chris)

Fig. 9c: Miscellaneous Filth (3rd Floor)

Fig. 9d: Miscellaneous Filth (Lobby)

This building was in absolutely atrocious condition. After we left I went home and immediately showered and washed my clothes. While it was filthy, it was an interesting study in how some people can be so desperate as to invade a filthy, abandoned building to use as shelter when they have no where else to go. So desperate that they have to rip out copper wiring to get enough money to survive, or for their next dose of "recreational pharmaceuticals".

It is a shame, really, that in this day and age people have to descend to nearly the state of animals to try to survive. I guess it is a primal instinct to want to survive, and do all that it takes to do so. I was shocked and appalled to see this place and would never, ever want to set foot in it again. I was, however, not in a desperate state...I have a car to drive, a house to live in, a job to work at, friends to have fun with. I'm sure if I was homeless and had no where to go and had to do whatever it takes to survive, it might just look like paradise.

Thankfully, I cannot set foot in it again, because it is gone. Congrats to RDW for a successful project!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Humor of Sri Lanka

A friend and colleague of mine, APK, is from Sri Lanka. He sent me the jokes below to give me some insight into Sri Lankan culture and humor. I hope one day to travel there, and he said that he would be glad to show me around and we would stay in his family's home.

Udurawana's Getting Married
Udurawana's Girl Friend: "I'm one year elder than you....will it be effected badly to our marriage?"
Udurawana: "No, not at all. We'll marry next year."

Hidden Cameras
Mrs. Udurawana caught Udurawana searching high and low all around his living room.
Mrs. Udurawana: "What are you searching for?"
Mr. Udurawana: "Hidden cameras!"
Mrs. Udurawana: "And what makes you think that there are hidden cameras here?"
Mr. Udurawana: "That guy on TV knows exactly what I am doing. Every few minutes he keeps saying, 'You are watching Rupavahini channel'. How does he know that?"

Udurawana was enjoying the sun at the beach in America. A lady came and asked him, "Are you relaxing?"
Udurawana answered, "No, I am Udurawana."
Another guy came and asked him the same question.
Udurawana answered, "No! No! Me Udurawana!"
A third one came and asked him the same question again.
Udurawana was totally annoyed and decided to shift his place.
While walking he saw another Sri Lankan soaking in the sun.
He went up to him and asked, "Are you Relaxing?"
The other man was a lot more educated and answered, "Yes, I am relaxing."
Udurawana slapped him on his face and said, "Stupid idiot. Everyone is looking for you and you are sitting over here!"

Udurawana died and went to heaven. When he got to the pearly gates Saint Peter told him that new rules are in effect due to the advances in education on earth. In order to gain admittance each soul must answer two simple questions:
1. Name two days of the week that begin with "T".
2. How many seconds are there in a year?

Udurawana thought for a few minutes and answered:
1. The two days of the week that begin with "T" are Today and Tomorrow.
2. There are 12 seconds in a year.

Saint Peter said, "OK, I'll buy the Today and Tomorrow answer, even though it's not the answer I expected. But how did you get 12 seconds in a year?"
Udurawana replied, "Well, January 2nd, February 2nd, March 2nd, etc..."

Saint Peter opens the gate without another word.

The Wash Basin
Udurawana goes to a hotel in Colombo and eats heartily. After eating he goes to wash his hands but starts washing the basin instead.
The manager comes running and asks him, "Sir, what are you doing?"
Udurawana replies, "Read this board here, it says 'Wash Basin.'"

English Exam
Udurawana finished his English exam and came out. His friends asked him how he did on his exam. He replied "Exam was okay, but for the past tense of THINK, I thought, thought and thought, at last I wrote THUNK!!!"

Answer the Following Questions in Brief
Udurawana is appearing for his University final examination. He takes his seat in the examination hall, stares at the question paper for five minutes, and then in a fit of inspiration takes his shoes off and throws them out of the window. He then removes his shirt and throws it away as well, followed by his pants, socks and watch.
The invigilator, alarmed, approaches him and asks what is going on.
"I am only following the instructions here," he says, "it says here, 'Answer the following questions in brief.'"

The English teacher told all the students in the class to write an essay on a cricket match. All were busy writing except Udurawana. He has written. "DUE TO RAIN, NO MATCH!!!"

The Postman
Postman: "I have to come 5 miles to deliver you this parcel."
Udurawana: "Why did you come so far? Instead you could have posted it."

Coffee Shop
Udurawana and his wife went to a coffee shop.
Udurawana said, "Hurry up! Drink quickly!"
His Wife asked, "Why?"
Udurawana said, "Hot Coffee Rs. 5 and Cold Coffee Rs 10!"

Letter to his Son
Udurawana was writing something very slowly.
A friend came and asked: "Why are you writing so slowly?"
Udurawana replies, "I'm writing to my 6 years old son. He can't read very fast."

How I Look When I'm Sleeping
Udurawana was standing in front of the mirror with his eyes closed.
His wife sees this and asks: "What you are doing?"
Udurawana replies, "I'm seeing how I look while I'm sleeping!"

38 Things You Wish You Could Say at Work

I was cleaning my mailbox out at work and came across this list that someone sent me. It is 38 things that you wish you could say at work, but can't. Unfortunately, I have said a few of them...

1. I can see your point, but I still think you're full of shit.
2. I don't know what your problem is, but I'll bet it's hard to pronounce.
3. How about never? Is never good for you?
4. I see you've set aside this special time to humiliate yourself in public.
5. I'm really easy to get along with once you people learn to see it my way.
6. I'll try being nicer if you'll try being smarter.
7. I'm out of my mind, but feel free to leave a message...
8. I don't work here. I'm a consultant.
9. It sounds like English, but I can't understand a word you're saying.
10. Ahhh... I see the screw-up fairy has visited us again...
11. I like you. You remind me of when I was young and stupid.
12. You are validating my inherent mistrust of strangers.
13. I have plenty of talent and vision. I just don't give a damn.
14. I'm already visualizing the duct tape over your mouth.
15. I will always cherish the initial misconceptions I had about you.
16. Thank you. We're all refreshed and challenged by your unique point of view.
17. The fact that no one understands you doesn't mean you're an artist.
18. Any connection between your reality and mine is purely coincidental.
19. What am I? Flypaper for freaks!?
20. I'm not being rude. You're just insignificant.
21. It's a thankless job, but I've got a lot of Karma to burn off.
22. Yes, I am an agent of Satan, but my duties are largely ceremonial.
23. And your crybaby whiny-butt opinion would be...?
24. Do I look like a people person?
25. This isn't an office. It's Hell with fluorescent lighting.
26. I started out with nothing & still have most of it left.
27. Sarcasm is just one more service we offer.
28. If I throw a stick, will you leave?
29. Errors have been made. Others will be blamed.
30. Whatever kind of look you were going for, you missed.
31. I'm trying to imagine you with a personality.
32. A cubicle is just a padded cell without a door.
33. Can I trade this job for what's behind door #1?
34. Too many freaks, not enough circuses.
35. Nice perfume. Must you marinate in it?
36. Chaos, panic and disorder - my work here is done.
37. How do I set a laser printer to stun?
38. I thought I wanted a career; turns out I just wanted paychecks.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


If you have been following along, you already know that I dislike driving. It is an aggravation that I wish I did not have to deal with. I work for the local bus company and I get to travel on our coaches for free. The only problem is I live in a town in another county, and the bus doesn't gome anywhere near my house. If it did I would use it rather than drive.

I love having a car, though. If I need to go anywhere, I can. While having a car is great, I constantly wonder if it worth the aggravation. Since I live in a distant suburb, I have no choice. With gas over $3 per gallon, it is getting expensive. It would be great if I did not have to drive to work every day, but when I have to travel long-distance to visit friends or run errands a car comes in very handy.

I used to drive a big old SUV. I had a Ford Explorer with a V8 engine. This was a very nice vehicle...except for the bane of all SUV drivers everywhere: horrible gas mileage. I was only getting 13 mpg, which with gas prices the way they are makes it an expensive vehicle to feed. I was contemplating trading it off for a more economical vehicle for a while, then the display on the radio went out.

Now it had to go.

After taking it to the dealer, and them telling me that they would not replace it even though it was supposed to be covered under the extended warranty, I got really really pissed. I was still seething and I went straight away to a local Chevrolet dealer, since I had been looking at Impalas, and traded it off. Surprisingly, not only was the payment less, the mileage was better and they gave me a good price for the Explorer.

But I still hate to drive. I have carefully mapped out a route to work that is not only quick, but has very little traffic. I rarely have an issue with other drivers on this route, and I can get to work in about 20 minutes.

I am thankful, though, that even though some drivers are lousy and inconsiderate, we have comparatively few issues. I am reminded of a story told to me by my friend RDW. He is an engineer that was in the Air Force for a number of years, and he worked and lived in Saudi Arabia for a number of years. (With his fiery Mexican wife, L, which made for interesting times!)

When he was there, there was an intersection in the middle of Riyadh where two, ten-lane roads met. The speed on each road was 100 kph...about 62 mph. This intersection had no traffic signals, no signs, no control devices of any kind. It was constantly busy with traffic. He said that no one ever stopped, ever. The best way to traverse this intersection was to just drive fast and go straight through. If you pause to look around, you are liable to be hit from behind. If you look at another driver, they interpret that as you are letting them go, and they will. He said there were a number of nasty, deadly accidents at that intersection...but not as many as you would think.

Two years before he left, they installed traffic signals.

We have it pretty lucky.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ubuntu Linux

I am a computer geek. I have been for a thousand years. I like to think of myself as a lover of all operating systems. I've run pretty much everything at one time or another. I once had a computer that I could multi-boot with a half-dozen operating systems. Windows, DOS, OS/2, the vast number of Linux flavors, BeOS...they all have their uses and they all have their strong and weak points.

My favorite OS (no flames, please) is MacOS. I'm old school... OSX is great and all, but the best was System 7 through MacOS 9. They will always be near and dear to my heart. In high school I was a volunteer in our school's very advanced Macintosh Lab, commanded by the always lovely Charlene Campbell. She is the person that kickstarted me into the computer industry and my love for old-school Macintosh. I still have a PowerMac 9600MP (upgraded to a G3 processor) that I like to use, and it runs MacOS 9.2.

Mrs. Campbell, if you ever read this....thank you.

But I digress, as per usual.

I have played with a lot of Linux distributions. My favorite has been the Fedora Core series, based on the RedHat Enterprise series. All of the servers I run at home are running Fedora Core 6 (as of right now). It, to me, seems to be the most stable and easiest server Linux to deal with. I have never had any serious problems with this distro, and it is very easy to configure for a headless server with no X-windows or other unnecessary packages.

I have tried Fedora Core on my laptop as a desktop to dual-boot between Linux and Windows XP. I use both quite a lot for a variety of tasks. Fedora Core was just not "IT" to me. I could never get it to connect to my wireless correctly (I use WPA security on my home wireless, which requires additional packages and configurations). It just didn't have a great look and feel, and programs that I would install from packages would not run or would not run correctly. It is just not ready for prime time as a desktop operating system, in my opinion. It just doesn't "feel" right.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not an idiot, I can follow directions, I know how to compile programs in Linux. I run seven servers at home connected in some fashion to the internet, for everything from web services, database management to voice-over-ip with Asterisk.

Last night I downloaded the install CD image for Ubuntu Linux. I installed it just this morning. I tell you this was a the easiest installation of any distribution I have ever used. The installation was quick and the Live CD installation environment recognized all of my laptop's hardware. The system is very easy to configure to your liking, and it has fully integrated international language support, even in the terminal. Support like this is part of most Linux distributions, but I have never actually experienced it as completely as I have with Ubuntu.

Installing software is a breeze...and the packages actually work once installed. The installation recognized all the hardware, including the "WinModem" which required special drivers. The Intel 2200b/g wireless card in the laptop was instantly recognized, and the WPA access on it works like a charm.

Ubuntu is the most polished distribution of Linux that I have ever used. If you are interested in trying it out, I recommend that you download an iso and burn it. You will not be disappointed.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Pet Peeve: Single Blinks

An open letter to drivers everywhere:

I have a major pet peeve. I see it daily and it irritates the hell out of me. It shows total lack of courtesy and respect for fellow drivers and can be easily overlooked.

Giving a single, weak-ass turn signal blink to change lanes.

This ticks me off. Why even bother to signal a lane change? One pitiful blink is all you think I deserve before you pull directly in front of me? What if I did not see it and I was speeding along like a normal person?

Listen, I am not a perfect driver. I have gotten my share of tickets. I drive really fast. But there are two things that I always remember and always do: no tailgating, period, and always signal your intentions clearly.

When I change lanes, I always turn on my turn signal, look to see if the lane is clear, merge then turn the signal off. There must be about 20 blinks in there. Other drivers only give one? WTF!?

When I see people change lanes without signaling, I tend to write it off as they forgot or have something on their mind or are engrossed on a conversation with their travelling companion. If a person gives a proper signal, then I thank God for them being courteous and wish my best blessings onto them. But a person that only gives a single blink is the most discourteous of people. These are the kind of people that only do things in a half-assed way, they must have no inner life, and have an ego that is so huge it is overriding their very sensibilities. They feel that they are more important than anyone else, and that all the little people deserve is one weak blink.

When you change lanes, don't give me one measly little blink. Either be courteous and signal a proper lane change, or don't signal at all.

The punishment for single blinkers should be execution.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Of Vicodin and Tiny Laptops

I'm sitting here in bed after breakfast (egg and toast) contemplating my next dose of Vicodin. My jaw is killing me, and I mean that both literally and figuratively. Every time I move my mouth, I get shooting pains from my jaw up to my left ear. Thankfully, it is only the left side. I have been taking copious amounts of Vicodin to alleviate the pain. I feel like House.

Interesting fact, in case you weren't paying attention:
In the show, House lives at number 221, apartment B...
just like Sherlock Holmes.

Because of this, I have been limiting the amount of talking I have to do, especially at work. My friend Chris from work talks non-stop and I can't get a word in edgewise, which is good. Then my boss will call, and then I have to do all the talking to try to get out of whatever trouble I am in. But I digress...

Last night, mother and I went to Office Depot to get her some ink for her printer. While she was doing that, I looked over the new computers. I was shocked to see how much laptops have come down in price...and how big they have gotten. A laptop...with a 17" wide screen display? Puh-leeez! We are regressing to the days of the luggables...the Apple Mac Portable...the Osborne...the Compaq with the funny amber-text LCD... suitcases, if you will.

I have a laptop. My personal one, not the one from work. It is an old Dell Latitude X300. It is a tiny laptop that I bought from a company that refurbs old used and off-lease Dells. I love it because of its small size. 12" screen, only about 1/2" thick when closed. Ultra-portable at its finest. After I got it, I ordered some shell parts to replace some obviously worn areas around the track pad, and I shoved a 120 Gb hard disk into it and a gig of RAM, and made it my favorite machine to do everything. I've got both Windows XP Pro and Fedora Core 7 linux on it, so I can do just about anything I need to do.

The Dell Latitude X300 Ultra Portable.
Not a very flattering picture, though.

I usually keep it docked in the little "media bay" thing that it came with. The media bay has all the connectors out the back for network and printer and all that, but also holds an extra battery and the CD drive. That is the caveat with ultra-portables...they have to reduce size and weight, so it is usually the optical drive that suffers.

This laptop only cost me about $400. New they were quite a bit more. I have purchased many used laptops over the years. If I get a new one...well, a different used one..I generally sell the other on eBay. My friend McA, on the other hand, has about 50 laptops, so old that they all run Windows 95 that he uses for many of his projects at the research institute he works for. Well, I exaggerate...he really only has 5 or so, but still. The technologies he works on for the government are usually so out-dated that he has to have an old laptop to be able to work with them effectively.

I don't have a problem with buying old laptops, just as long as I get it from somewhere reputable. I don't have a problem with buying new, either, just I don't have that kind of money. And besides, as soon as you drive it off the lot it will become outdated. And I would rather have an older laptop since they are generally still usable, and won't end up in a landfill somewhere in China or India.

I have to wonder, how anyone with one of those huge 17" monstrosities of a laptop can use it effectively on a plane. Seats and tray tables are so cramped to begin with, how can they even get it out and open it? I have used my little lappie on a plane, and it worked great! Nice and small, the perfect size.

To each their own. I will be keeping my little lappie for a long time. Computers, as with cars, I eventually find one that is perfect for me. I've had IBM, Compaq, Apple, generic off-brand and Sony laptops in the past. Each have had their good points and bad points. Of all of them, I like this little Dell the best. It is too bad they don't make them any more. This one is what I would consider a reasonable laptop to have, not a huge monstrosity like what they make nowadays.

End rambling.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Another Travel Blog

I hate to travel, really. I like going by airplane, though. Most people think I'm crazy, and they would be right.

Years ago, a group of friends and I would travel all over the place. It was always a good time. We generally went to Louisville, Kentucky, or Columbus, Ohio for a weekend stay, usually at a Hyatt Regency.

One of our friends, "A", had a boyfriend that was in the Navy. He was due to stop into Charleston, South Carolina for a while and she wanted to visit with him. So, the group decided to take a road trip down to take her to him. They, however, told me that I could not come. There was a valid reason for this.

I am not good on car trips.

I tend to get antsy and nervous, unless I am the driver. Even then, I start getting very irritable. This was brutally evident on a trip we all took to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Travelling there with my parents was a breeze, no problems. But with the group, oy vay!

They did put a condition on me going with them. They all really wanted me to come, but not with them in the rental car. It would be too crowded, they said, and I get irritable and mad which becomes unpleasant. They said to check and see how much a flight would be, and if I flew down, I could come with them. I initially said no. They really wanted me to go, and I thought flying would be a great idea! So I checked online and found a great fare...only $150 round trip...and booked it. I would be leaving the evening that they left in a rental car.

I got packed and to the airport and waited patiently. We were told there would be a delay. An hour passed, our flight should have left already. Another delay. Another hour passed. We were finally told that our flight was canceled due to mechanical problems. Great.

A mob of people stormed the airline desk. The poor guy behind the podium was inundated with people hollering and threatening. I just sat there patiently and waited until the mob dispersed to go up and see what they would be doing. After all, I really did not have to go, and I could call the group and tell them I would not be going with them.

I went up after the crowd dispersed and started up a chat with the guy. They gave us all flights the next day, and an optional hotel stay for the night. Since I was local, I said that I would just go home. He thanked me for my kindness and understanding. I got booked on the next flight out, at 6 am, and left to try to get a reasonable night's sleep since it was now well after 10 pm.

I arrived at the airport the next morning and waited patiently for the flight. I saw a number of people there that were in the mob the night before. None seemed to pleased, but what can I say. They began boarding the plane with the infirm, pregnant, those that need help, and first class passengers.

I didn't know where I was to sit, so I looked at my ticket. I was in seat 1c, first class. WTF!? The agent last night upgraded me to first class. How cool was that! I boarded the plane and sat in the most comfortable seat I have ever sat in. In this section, there were two seats per side, not three like in cattle class.

We took off, and they served snacks and cattle class, that is. Us in first class...there was only me and one other guy who wasn't there the previous a real breakfast of cereal, a banana, toast, milk and orange juice. With a real ceramic bowl and real glass glasses and real silverware. I'm never flying cattle class again!

The trip was enjoyable. I got to Charleston about 6 hours ahead of the group, and boy did I have a story to tell. They were quite jealous of my experience! In the end, we explored Charleston, stayed at a rather nasty Howard Johnson's, ate very well and had a good time. "A" visited with her boyfriend, and had a good time, too.

On the way back, I was in cattle class like the rest of the little people, but I have fond memories of when I was one of the upper class in first class. So, if there are problems with a flight, keep your cool and be never know what you might get.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


Honest, I didn't realize how much I was going to enjoy blogging...

Recently, my boss asked us to let him know our plans for off time for the upcoming year. Nothing set in stone, just an idea so he can get a feel for staffing levels for big projects and so forth.

This reminded me of the last vacation I took. Well...tried to take. Sure I have taken a week off to ready my new house, or spend time with mom and dad during their vacations, etc. But I traditionally nickel-and-dime my vacation days, taking one here and one there. There is a reason for this. My friends ask me all the time to recount this story to them, so I figured that I would put pen-to-paper, at least electronically, for all to see.

Vacations did not used to be unpleasant. For years we went to Gatlinburg (before it was wholly and completely touristy) and the Outer Banks of North Carolina (before it was wholly and completely touritsy). We usually stayed away from the typical tourist traps and spent time on the beach or in a rustic cabin...and eating at little known restaurants, which was always the best part for me.

One year, a couple of years back, we decided to take a cruise. I found a great deal online for a cruise package of the Eastern Caribbean. Mom and dad had taken a cruise before and thoroughly enjoyed it. They absolutely loved Jamaica, and I think they are planning a retirement to Grand Cayman. (Yeah, right!)

The day before we left, we packed and kenneled the dogs with our vet and secured everything. We were all prepared and left early the next morning for our flight. We arrived two hours before our flight was to leave, for security purposes. There was no one at the airport, just two or three lonely travellers and us. Eventually we were ticketed and passed through security with no problems. We could have arrived thirty minutes before departure and gotten through with no issues. Dayton airport is not exactly a big travel hub.

We left Dayton and got to Washington DC, and left Washington for Miami and arrived quite safely. This is where things took a turn for the worst. We went to the baggage hall and collected our bags and went to the cruise counter. There was an inordinant number of people milling around, many of them were very mad or crying. There was a lot of shouting and threats being thrown around. The cruise had been cancelled.

It wasn't until later that we saw CNN that we found out that after our boat arrived into Miami from the previous cruise, a boiler in the engine room had exploded. It killed two workers and injured several others. This, of course, meant that the boat was going nowhere.

I talked to the lady at the counter and got information on what we should do next, about refunds and whatnot. I think I was the only person that had not screamed at her that day, because she grew less agitated as I spoke with her. It was not her fault, after all. It does no good to yell and scream at a person that is only trying to do their job. People that do stupid things, yes, but not the innocent.

I relayed the information to my parents, and they went ape. My dad has a temper, and he was getting hot. The lady said that we will get a refund and a free cruise, and they will take care of the plane tickets and any associated charges, so we would not be out any money. We went back up to the terminal and I called the travel agent to see what I had to do to get us reticketed back to Dayton. They were aware of what happened, but there was nothing they could do, and we'd have to go to the airline desk to have our tickets changed. I called American Express, on which I booked the trip, and there was nothing they could do, either. I told my parents what was going on, and my dad got madder and madder. He started in on me. We got in each other's faces, and he raised his fist and had to really control himself to not knock me out. Mom told us to cool it, and left me to take care of the situation.

I got in line at the airline desk. While I was in line, I spoke to a very nice couple that had just been on the cruise where the incident happened. All they had with them was the lady's purse, the clothes on their backs and a bottle of Crown Royal. They said that it was very scary, but the ships personnel were very courteous and organized for a situation like this. Their baggage would be FedExed to them.

I got our tickets changed, and we went to a Chili's inside the airport for some lunch, and we calmed down. There was very little talking as we sat there festering. After lunch, we went through security. Mother accidentally carried her word search book with her through the metal detector. When the security personnel saw it, they told her that she cannot do that. Startled, she threw it back through the metal detector onto the x-ray machine belt. This pissed off the guard, and they put her into a corral to check her manually. This was a humiliating experience for her, but we actually got a laugh out of it.

Later on, while we were waiting for our departure, there was still no talking amongst us. It would be six hours that we waited in the Miami airport for our flight out. We finally boarded the plane, but there were issues. The plane had to be turned off and back on a number of times. There were mechanics going in and out of the plane constantly. We waited on the plane at the gate for three hours. So long that we missed our connection in Chicago back to Dayton. All while this was going on, I said quite loudly "What does this plane run? Windows?" which got quite a few laughs.

While we were waiting, the stewardess started a movie. I don't know what it was called, but I was antsy and mom and dad were irritable. We were allowed to leave the plane to get refreshments and whatnot while the plane was under repair. I left and enquired about getting a refund for our tickers and renting a car. The agent at the airline counter was rather rude and not helpful, and gave me a flat no.

We eventually left Miami behind, enroute to Chicago. Since we missed our flight, and had no baggage, the airline put us up in a hotel and we went to the gift shop and bought t-shirts to sleep in and went to the hotel restaurant to get something to eat.

The next morning, we got to our plane to Dayton and left for home without incident. We got home in the early afternoon and we all collapsed. Mom called the vet to check on our beloved Cocker Spaniel, Sassie, and our beloved Tibetan Terrier, Murphy. You can see Sassie's picture in the "About Me..." section, she is my little avatar picture. The vet said that Murphy was fine, but Sassie was a little under the weather and that he would like to keep an eye on her for a day. So we left them there and rested up. The next day mom and dad went to pick up the dogs. They were very happy to see us, and it was nice to have them back.

The next day, Sassie was not her normal self. She was listless and had trouble breathing. I picked her up and held her close to me and petted her to try to calm her down. She was still breathing hard, and mom said that she should go to the vet. I carried her and Dad drove us to the vet. On the way, she wimpered and passed away right in my arms. We got to the vet, but there was nothing he could do. She died of heart failure. She was 13 years old, which is a pretty ripe age. I sat in the vets office and cried, and stroked her soft fur for about a half hour. After we got home without her, mother broke down crying.

I went back to work the next day, and began the process of getting a refund for our trip. We did get the refund, but never took advantage of the free cruise. It was non transferrable, so we couldn't sell it, so that was out.

I think God was on our side, getting us back home to enjoy the last few minutes of Sassie's life. I loved that little dog. She slept on my bed every night and kept me warm. After I got bigger into the internet, and started to run my own servers, I registered the domain "" in her memory.

I was planning to take off the rest of the week, but decided to go back to work a few days early since I had little to do at home, and home was a bummer with all the crap that had gone on.

One of these days I will take a real vacation, something to get away from everyone. I have to take a few trips in my lifetime...I must see Israel, Australia, England, China and Japan before I die...not necessarily in that order. I especially want to see Japan. Ever since I saw the TV adaptation of "Shogun" when I was little, I have been obsessed with Japan and Japanese society. One of these days, I hope to visit, and it will probably be the first trip I take abroad.

It most certainly won't be a cruise.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


Smoking is a dirty habit, and a deadly one. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind if people smoke, I just don't like it to happen around me. I know a lot of smokers, too, and I don't complain when I go to their homes and they smoke. I made the choice to be there because I enjoy their company. And my friends are generally considerate enough not to smoke around me outside of their home, or in mine.

Anyhow, I digress...

Yesterday I was driving along...actually I was trolling for lunch...and passed by Miami Valley Hospital. Outside the emergency entrance, down along the street, were several nurses and doctors standing around smoking. Now, I don't get this. There is overwhelming proof that smoking is dangerous and yet these healt care professionals are out lighting up. These doctors and nurses are supposed to keep people healthy, yet they themselves smoke like chimneys? I just don't get it. Hypocrites.

A good friend of mine, whom I love dearly, is a smoker. I ask her a lot if she would quit. She complains of breathing problems, and thinks that she had a mild heart attack at one point. She could not go to the doctor because she has no insurance, so she is not for sure. Her response to me when I say she should quit is that the menthol in her cigarettes help her lungs to feel better and she breathes easier.

Excuse me?

That is some bullshit answer. I hate to see her smoke like she does, but there is nothing I can do. I think she realizes that her breathing problems are as a result of smoking for so many years. But, the nicotine addiction is just too much for her. To each their own. My grandfather smoked for most of his life and he died of asphyxiation due to emphysema. My grandmother smoked for most of her life, but she died of cervical cancer, otherwise there was nothing wrong with her. I guess every person responds differently to smoking. Again, to each their own.

Now that I have had cancer and survived, I am making a more conscious effort to limit my exposure to things like secondhand smoke, the nasty diesel dust from the vehicles at work and other possible carcinogens. I have too much to live for.