December 2006 Archives

Happy Winter Solstice Holiday

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Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all;

PLUS

A fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great, (not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country or is the only "AMERICA" in the western hemisphere), and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform, or sexual orientation of the wisher.

Disclaimer: By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher who assumes no responsibility for any unintended emotional stress these greetings may bring to those not caught up in the holiday spirit.

Seasons Greetings

It's only a few days until Christmas and the festivities are in full swing. I've been keeping busy with various holiday parties, shopping for presents, and putting up decorations that will likely stay up until sometime mid-March.

I'm satisfied my shopping is finished, save picking up one thing and waiting on another to arrive in the mail. Now all I have left to do is wrap the presents. I don't mind doing this so much because it doesn't take much concentration, at least not the way I do it. I use actual wrapping paper (not, say, the funny pages from last Sunday's paper), but being the cheapskate that I am, I bought a gigantic roll of Santa & Friends paper years ago and have been using the same stuff ever since. I can't imagine anyone has noticed. The final challenge is to wrap the presents I got for my niece before I give in to the urge to open them and play with the toys myself.

Decorating worked out nicely at the office as well as at home. We even have a tree up in the living room, but we took the easier route and went plastic this year. This didn't have to be the case--I saved the live tree that we put up last year, but my plan reuse trees didn't gain any support. Alright, I didn't so much save that tree as I never got around to disposing of it; and I'll admit it's not looking so good anymore. Okay fine, even Charlie Brown's tree looked good compared to that thing now.

Pig Out

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I like doing things that normal people generally haven't done. It gives me something to talk about when I'm invariably asked what I did the previous weekend, and whenever I start feeling too ordinary I have activities to look back on to get myself out of that rut.

Spit Roast PigThe kind of things I'm talking about fall neatly within the moral boundaries held by all but the most conservative people, so don't think I'm going to have stories about theft or assault or removing mattress tags. I'm talking about small stuff like raising ducklings, flying around in prop planes, hiking in Oregon, and most recently participating in the spit-roasting of a pig.

Now ordinary people might question the practicality of this method of pig preparation. Even more normal people might suggest just buying a precooked packaged ham from the grocery store. While it's undeniable that would be the most efficient and quick way to get ham into your belly, the whole cooking experience is going to pass by without any risk of remembering it or even a hint of fun, unless of course you forget to turn the oven off and burn down your house.

For the uninitiated, I'll describe briefly the idea behind spit roasting a pig. The first thing you need is a whole pig. Ours, which came from a butcher in a bad Dallas neighborhood, was complete with eyes, snout, feet ... everything you would expect on a pig but the hair. The underside is sliced open, kidneys removed, and stomach cleaned and filled with stuffing. Then the spit is run through the tail end all the way through to the mouth. At this point the animal is more-or-less ready to be cooked. After being rotated occasionally for about seven hours over a fire, dinner is served. For best results beer should be consumed during the entire cooking process.

I don't take pictures of my quarter ham after I take it out of the oven, but I did take pictures of this. Click the photo if you'd like to see it bigger.

Searching With Ms. Dewey

When you spend as much time on the Internet as I do, you run into some truly bizarre things in the dark corners of the Web that make you wonder just what the designers were thinking. Then every so often, you find out that a major corporation sponsored the effort and you're left to struggle with the idea that important people in suits thought some such website would be a great idea.

Janina GavankarI really don't know what to make of this, but it looks like Microsoft has developed a new search site called Ms. Dewey. In a move reminiscent of AskJeeves (now just Ask), Microsoft Live Search is slapping on a face and a personality to their product to lure in more visitors. However, instead of a British butler cartoon, the site features the eponymous Flash-drawn female character that makes snappy and derisive comments based on what you're searching for.

The Ms. Dewey character is played by actress Janina Gavankar, who takes the role of librarian of the Internets. When she isn't shooting rubber bands at you or tapping on your screen, she's encouraging you to type things in the search box so she can return some results. The whole concept is unnecessarily goofy. I don't think Microsoft actually believes anyone is going to give up their Google searching or even Live searching for this site, but it's somewhat impressive how many scenes they have prerecorded from the actress. If you go to the site, I recommend searching for the term "blockbuster video" and sitting back. For some reason, she totally flips out over the idea of movie rentals.

The experience I took away from the site was a mix between amusement and annoyance. Ms. Dewey is everything that Google isn't, and I don't mean for that to come across as a good thing. Google is plain, fast, and simple. This site is none of these things (nor does it attempt to be), and the animated character doesn't add value beyond mild entertainment. At worst it actually makes search much more difficult because of the limited screen space for results to be displayed.

None of the comparisons really matter. But if the Ms. Dewey site developers decide to copy just one thing from Google, I would suggest they add their own "I'm feeling lucky" button.

Time Enough At Last

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From the Scott's Inventions series.

You know how I keep talking about the things I want to invent, but never getting around to doing so ? And then eventually someone has the same idea as me and actually follows though, and I get all upset I didn't act ? Well, this time is no different. But I'm going to share with you my new idea right now, and I'm pretty sure it doesn't exist already.

Here it is. The somewhat random time clock. It's so brilliant, it's going to require some explanation (and convincing).Clocky

I was in someone's car the other day and noticed her clock was set 15 minutes fast. In fact, I've known several women that have their clocks set around 15 minutes fast, the idea being that it will somehow trick her into thinking she has less time to get somewhere than she actually does, encouraging her to hurry. (It's always women, but I'm not making any jokes--it's just an observation. If you're a man and have intentionally set your clock wrong, please let me know). I think this is a fantastic idea, but it doesn't work for me because I know the clock is set incorrectly and my brain automatically corrects the time before I apply it.

Now my idea comes into play. I'm going to create a clock that knows the correct time, but each day (sometime during the sleeping hours) it randomly changes the display time to be between 0 and 15 minutes faster than what the time really is. That way, you have no way of knowing if you're REALLY going to be late or not ! The idea, of course, is that you have to assume the clock is actually at the extreme edge of incorrectness or you risk being late.

We all know the best solution is simply better time management, but who has the time for that ?

Missing Persons

I'm following the story of the disappearance of James Kim, CNET news editor, with uncommon personal interest. In fact, the whole country seems to be waiting somewhat anxiously to hear how this one plays out. The amount of media coverage the guy is getting is refreshingly uplifting, considering Mr. Kim is not a young, hot blonde teenage girl lost at an island resort.

To recap the story so far, James Kim and his family were driving in Oregon when they somehow became stranded. They survived for seven days by first running the heater in the car until it ran out of gas, then by building campfires from the car tires. Mr. Kim left to go look for help a couple days before search helicopters located his wife and kids, who are doing well. Mr. Kim is still lost, but has in his possession two lighters and a heavy coat. Earlier today rescuers found his pants, which he either left behind as a marker, or that he took off perhaps suggesting the onset of hypothermia. Most recently, a brief cell phone signal has helped narrow the search.

It's very likely he's still alive, and that he'll be found tomorrow. Until then, good luck man. The cold wilderness is no place to be without Toastie Toes and the right equipment.

UPDATE 06-Dec-2006: Better luck next time. RIP.

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