I’m taking a personal day

I’m taking a personal day from work today. Let’s see if I can get all the following done:

 Vent the gas dryer through the ceiling of the laundry room and out to a new soffit vent

Half-done. I had to go to Home Depot, a local hardware store, and Loews, and still wasn’t able to find this vent. So I contented myself with routing the new aluminum vent into the attic (through a plastic gasket so it would look neat). Step two will be to route the vent through the eaves.

 Pay my outstanding West Chester parking tickets, as there has now been a warrant issued for my arrest

Done. The West Chester District Court is reached via a loading dock(!) behind a travel agency and a Mar-Tile store. But I paid my fines successfully, and the warrant for my arrest was recalled. Phew!

 Get my direct deposit transferred to the joint account

Done. I had [My employer] HR e-mail me the form, then I went to the local Internet cafe, printed it out, attached a check, and mailed it! I did have to bug Kate for a stamp, so minus one half-point for spousal dependency (“Honey, where are my socks? Honey, do we own olive oil?”), but overall I’m glad to get this one taken care of.

 Pick up new litter for Squeaky the Cat

Done. I got forty pounds of litter (he’s a big cat,) the big bag of Active Maturity Hairball Care, some Extra Giant Cat Pan Liners (op. cit), and a catnip pillow, which gave him an exciting kitty freakout session in the middle of the day.

 Attend a website development meeting for Westtown School

Done. Dan had done a great job of putting a *lot* of content into the site. Someone fed the middle school faculty ‘ludes for lunch, though — there were looong, meditative pauses to look at each new page. On the plus side, the sun came out and I rode my motorcycle over to the school, so plus one point for putting miles on my bike.

 Buy an obscene amount of candy for trick-or-treaters tonight!

Done. This was the first errand I ran, actually. I now have approximately one cubic foot of full-sized Butterfinger bars, paid for with the pocket-change stash on top of my desk, which I took to the bank. It’s a nice, poetic purpose for pocket change, I think, and in a remarkable feat of engineering, I was able to exchange the pocket change for about the equivalent weight in sugar. I wonder what you could do with the amount of energy stored as calories in the Butterfinger bars. Put an extremely tiny mass into orbit? Will Ronco, I bet you could handle this calculation.

Okay, it’s 7:34 AM now… GO!

I’m taking a personal day

Mormons create Household Google for

Mormons create Household Google for the 1880 census. It rocks!

After 17 years of typing (seriously!), the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has finished data entry of the 1880 Census, in its entirety. It’s online now, at http://www.familysearch.org. I found my great-grandmother Anna Thomas (whose travel diary is on this site), as well as her three sisters and brothers, her father and mother, the schoolteacher who was living with them, and their two Irish servants: Thomas Family household page

I pulled the link above out of a frameset, so if you click it you’ll notice there’s no navigation. And that’s why.

Mormons create Household Google for

It’s not a phone, it’s

It’s not a phone, it’s a wedgie machine

Also: help me choose a ringtone!

I drove down the Fairfax County Parkway to the Fair Oaks mall yesterday evening and stood for at least half an hour looking at all the phones. The sensible choice would have been a Nokia 3390, which after my longtime-customer discount would have been mine for about twenty-five bucks. I like Nokias: the software is easy to use, they seem to have a long battery life, they’re usually pretty indestructible.

So: $25.00 price point + good software + long battery life + indestructible equals…

That’s right, I avoided the Nokia like the plague, hauled out my corporate card and plunked for the Samsung S105 (the T-Mobile version of the phone shown below.) Hey, it’s the dogs’ balls, what can I say? I actually wanted to like the Ericsson T68i, but I held it in my hand and it felt really, really cheap. Plus my experience with Ericsson software has been awful.

So: now I must choose a ringtone. The S105 has polyphonic ringtones; it’s got a little Casio keyboard built in, basically, and it can play music instead of ringing. In fact, it has to play music instead of ringing; it only comes installed with one “ring” (the T-mobile jingle), and the rest are all “Cuba fusion” and “Valse Fantaise” and “Please come beat me up now because my phone is so poncy.” I was actually despairing last night until I found the theme song to The Great Escape on a UK mobile phone site. Now instead of ringing, the phone plays a cheerful, bouncy, “Let’s outwit the Nazis and jump BMW motorcycles over barbed-wire fences” tune. Which is about all you can ask from a phone, really.

Here’s the page where I got my ringtone at www.mobiletones.com. If you click on the songs, you can hear the previews (and they basically sound exactly identical to that coming out of the phone.) Any suggestions for good ringtones? I can actually divide up callers into groups, so the phone plays different songs for different categories of people.

Note: I asked fellow [My employer] technologist Eric Savage for advice about what the coolest phone out there is to buy. He got so excited about the Danger Hiptop that he actually went out and bought one last night (in addition to his existing stable of phones.)

It’s not a phone, it’s

I dropped my trusty Nokia

I dropped my trusty Nokia 6100 phone over the weekend; it still works, but the display is now blank. Hurrah, time for a guilt-free new phone! The coolest one out there seems to be the Samsung T100 (T105 in the USA), and with a review like this, how can I resist?


Review by: OWEN


The dog’s balls! Perfect for the poser! I’m all over it!

If you have any other suggestions, I’d be glad to hear them.

I dropped my trusty Nokia

I had a terrible, horrible,

I had a terrible, horrible, very bad, no-good morning yesterday, as I got to the Exton train station just in time to see the Amtrak train pulling out — I’d missed my train for the first time in two years! So I decided to drive in, but forgot that you have to carpool into the Holland Tunnel before 10:00 AM, so I had to talk to the cops at the tunnel entrance, who bounced me out of the tube and gave me instructions through Secaucus to the Lincoln tunnel. Blah blah blah, I got lost, late for my meeting, et cetera.

I did, however, drive past what I thought was the audition line for the new season of American Idol, except all the women were in their twenties and thirties and looked fairly nondescript. (Working as a studio teacher, I learned that open calls for national TV are always packed with teenaged Jersey girls in plastic pants.) This line was on 28th street, between 10th and 7th Avenues. It was entirely women, and looked way too long to be a theater call.

So I’m not sure what the line was for, except that it might have been the end of the world. Evidence of this as I drove past the Ricky’s store on 23rd street: what the hell is that? That’s just wrong. Open call for brides of the Antichrist?

Also, I need help. Currently, I’ve been waiting until 7:00 PM to leave the offices here in Herndon, so that I can avoid the horrific Beltway traffic. Last week, it took two hours just to get as far as Silver Spring — ugh! Here’s the route I usually take — 267 to 495, 495 to 95, 95 home — but the 495 part is brutal.

What if I left at 5:30 and took White’s ferry to 70, 70 east to Baltimore, 95 home? It’s a longer trip, but would it be worth skipping the beltway traffic? I’d love some advice. Right now, I’m just a coupla miles from Dulles airport.

I had a terrible, horrible,

I left for Washington, DC

I left for Washington, DC from West Chester at 6:00 AM this morning, hoping to beat the worst of the morning traffic around the beltway. Sadly, however, a bus driver was shot in the city just before I left, and by the time I came through the Harbor Tunnel in Baltimore, entire sections of 95, 495, and other major arteries had been entirely shut down for police checkpoints.

So I took a detour out route 70 towards Frederick, and cut down towards a tiny and cryptically marked “toll fery” on the highway map. It turned out to be White’s Ferry, a small car ferry across the Potomac river that was, for the very first time in its existence, choked with commuter traffic. It was a beautiful morning, though, and I was much happier to be stuck for an hour in the middle of a country road in a cornfield than stuck on I-95 with police helicopters buzzing overhead.

There were lots of shirted-and-tied workers watching the ferry go back and forth, taking a tiny fraction of the traffic load each time. One guy nodded at me: “Ni hau”, he said, greeting me in Mandarin chinese. Startled, I returned the only Mandarin I remember from college: “Hen hau. Nin hau ma?”.

He nodded again, and we both went back to watching the ferry cross the river.

I left for Washington, DC

It’s a demographic, demographic, demographic,

It’s a demographic,



demographic world.

I’m back on the train to NYC today, after driving home from Herndon last night. It feels like I’m back home; the woman at the Cookie Cafe in Thirtieth Street Station said “Where have you been? I haven’t seen you!”, and one of the familiar faces on the train (a stockbrocker who commutes in from Downingtown several days a week) gave me an invaluable tip about the ride home: you can take the 5:09 train from Penn Station, then transfer to Keystone train 653 in Philly, which gives me half-an-hour more at my desk in the afternoon, and will keep me away from the giant crush of Princeton Junction commuters squeezing on to my train with NJ Transit tickets.

Also, my motorcycle hasn’t been towed from the Septa parking lot where I’ve had to leave it for a week, due to never having my helmet in the car at the right time when Kate and I are close to the Exton train station, so it’s a pretty good morning, overall. Also, Amtrak put a Business Class car on my train: BC cars have folding tables at each end, and I’m spread out in the lap of luxury with my wireless antenna up and my force-feedback mouse attached. Laptop without mouse:Laptop with mouse::Slivers of bamboo under your fingernails:something much better than that. So, all in all, a good morning.

Amtrak carries a great deal of third-class bulk mail for the US Post Office, and there are usually a large number of cardboard shipping palettes down at the end of track 4, where I switch to train 180. Sometimes, the palettes are tightly wrapped and nondescript, but today the magazines were loosely bundled and piled in aluminum carts, so you could read the covers, the destinations, and the tare weights. Today, there was 1450 pounds of Vanity Fair magazine going to an army base in Bear Mountain. Also, there were three carts of brightly colored “TVyNovi[something]des” magazine going to Flushing and Queens. You couldn’t read the [something], as a latin soap star had her frosted hair in front of it. Two carts of “Star Wars Insider: Creature Feature II!” were going to Michaels and Johns in Hicksville and Teaneck, and one palette of “Outside” magazine was going to guys named Craig in Manhattan.

So, to review the two samples I recorded of each magazines:

  • TV y Novi[something]es: Alvarado, Carmina: Flushing, Queens
  • Star Wars Insider: Michael, John: Hicksville, NY, Teaneck, NJ
  • Outside: Craig, Chip: New York, NY

    Dear God, the demographers are right. Add to that the fact that my Downingtown stockbroker friend just used the words “sales force automation”, “systems integration”, and “thin client” in his cellphone conversation, and I’m starting to feel shrink-wrapped in my cultural niche. Okay, that’s it! I’m going to break out of my demographic, by, uh…

    …er, any suggestions? You can use the “comments” link below!

  • It’s a demographic, demographic, demographic,

    I’m in Herndon, Virginia most

    I’m in Herndon, Virginia most of this week (like I’ve been the past coupla weeks.) No one’s talking about anything but the local sniper attacks on the radio, but I’ve heard very few actual people talking about it. Anyhow, [My employer] has actually been very nice about it: our head of Technology for the company actually came down and passed out handouts that he had printed out about how to deal with it. Just the fact that they had taken the time to make sure we were okay was pretty touching, actually. So that, plus the really, really great gym by my hotel, is nice. But I miss being home! A lot!!!

    I’m in Herndon, Virginia most

    I’m gonna let this man

    I’m gonna let this man look at my log files. Possibly, he will go blind.

    I was driving back from DC last night, scanning the radio stations, when I came across a slow-voiced Christian preacher (Chuck Swindoll, pictured at left) speaking about the deadly… dangers… of… online… pornography. Hot damn! Unfortunately, he didn’t get into interesting specifics (“Sinners, stay away from the perils of the Mexican Donkey Show!”), but he started giving an online product the hard sell: Net Accountability, which is kind of a distributed NetNanny program that is powered by the Christian Third Rail: Shame.

    The idea is that you sign up for Net Accountability, download a spy applet to your computer, and use the Internet like normal:

    …Oops! Sinned, again, Lord!

    The Net Accountability spy applet watches the pages that you visit, then UPLOADS THE DETAILS of your hot, freaky, aberrant browsing to the Christian mother ship, where the people you choose (your “accountibility partners”) are invited to view the sordid details of your online experience. And that’s the idea: your access to lots of online porn isn’t blocked, but you won’t visit the porn because your pastor or your librarian or whatever will find out about it. (And, possibly, learn a number of hot new URLs.)

    Michel Foucault would have a field day with this! The power of the collective warm, sweaty gaze, penetrating the CRT, illuminating the phosphors of the screen with the power of righteous shame: long story short, I couldn’t pass it up. So I signed up for Net Accountability (at a cost of $12.00 for the next three months), and I’m sharing the Accountability password with you all, so you can see what kind of trouble I get into*:

    URL: http://www.netaccountability.com

    Click on “Current members log in”

    Username: tikaro_guest

    Password: guest

    So far, I have zero questionable sites in my log, which doesn’t make for interesting reading. So I sent them a bug report asking which sites I should visit to get a more interesting report, and have something to talk about when I stand up at the tent revivals. Let’s see what they say.

    * PS. Don’t worry, you’re not going to learn anything about me you don’t want to know: I’m guessing that the sites I already do visit will ring all kinds of Christian alarm bells.

    I’m gonna let this man

    I am become Shiva, Destroyer

    I am become Shiva, Destroyer of Worlds.

    (or, at least, Alex P. Keaton)

    I heard from Tony Robbins personal assistant: Tony loves the gun, even though he couldn’t use the helmet: apparently, Tony’s head is larger than the motorcycle helmet’s outside diameter. And he’s not using the silver firefighter’s close approach jacket, either. To my mind, this represents a sad failure of Tony’s to unleash his Personal Power, but I’d be happy to coach him through it for the right price.

    Tony’s going to use the Ultimate Water Gun to super-charge a Super Soaker on his tour through Australia and Singapore.

    Meanwhile, I’ve been continuing through the 12-CD Personal Power II series. On Disc 2, Tony reveals the Ultimate Goal of All Human Behavior: to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Which, of course, is hardly a revolutionary concept: this is well-traveled territory for the Greeks, and even our most used latin phrase (from Cicero, De Finibus Bonorem est Malorum):

    ‘Neque porro quisquam est qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit…’ [emphasis mine]

    ‘There is no one who loves pain itself, who seeks after it and wants to have it, simply because it is pain, but only in service of a greater pleasure…’

    Anyhow, it may be a cliche, but it’s a cliche that’s universally applicable, and Tony’s applying it to combat PROCRASTINATION: THE SILENT KILLER. I’m a world-class procrastinator (viz. this site), so I’m still nodding in the choir, and doing the homework assignments: “Write down something you’ve been putting off, the pain that you’ve been avoiding by putting it off, and the pleasure you’ve gained in avoiding it. Now reverse that: write down all the pain you’re suffering as a result of putting it off, and all the great things that’ll happen if you just take care of it, already!”

    No argument there.

    On the negative side, Tony tends to use the word “technology” to apply to practices designed to form good habits, which sets off my bullshit detector: The Church of Scientology likes to use the word “technology” to apply to their copyrighted religious teachings, and there’s no end of near-cult for-profit groups that like to package and sell feel-gooditude. Which, of course, isn’t new; philosophy-for-hire has been around since long before the Stoa of Athens.

    Still, the worst that can happen at this point is that I turn into some kind of ninteen-eighties briefcase-carrying, suspender-wearing type A personality!

    I am become Shiva, Destroyer