Get off my lawn.

Friday, January 27, 2006


Today's affirmation is about baking:

Baking may be regarded as a science,
but it's the chemistry between
the ingredients and the cook that
gives desserts life.
Baking is done out of love,
to share with family and friends,
to see them smile.

There are a few assumptions here that might not
always be true. For one thing, baking is not always
done out of love. Take, for example, the person
baking a file into a cake to break a friend out of
jail. Is love the motivation there? Maybe partly,
if your jailbird friend is a good friend as opposed
to a casual acquaintance. But the main motivation
for baking in this scenario is subterfuge, not love.

How about the guy at the bakery at Panera Bread?
Is he baking those asiago cheese bagels because
he loves me? Nope.

The real question here is, why is there some crap
about baking on the back of a starbucks cup? This
does me no good at all.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Without good food, you're hosed

Here's another bit of wisdom that appeared on a Starbuck's cup:

Desire, patience, dedication, hard work,
good food and a little luck
are all you need to succeed in life.

Good food? Yes, folks, that's right. Most of you are laboring
under the impression that hard work, dedication, patience, etc.
are the keys to success, all you need to accomplish something
good in life.

But you're wrong! Most miserable
failures are such specifically because they're leaving
out one of the magical ingredients in the recipe
for success: Good food.

My advice: Go ahead and work long hours, and be
patient, long-suffering, dedicated, and a bunch of
other noble-sounding adjectives. Oh, and keep eating that cheap
junk out of the candy machine.
Meanwhile, I will sit in my huge office,
occupying the position you covet, and enjoy a
nice bowl of pudding.

Dale and the Lost Minutes

Here's a little story about a guy named Dale. I saw him and his wife at a bar last night.
He said he had had a long hard day hoisting a Coleman Camping Flask. He smoked a cigarette, which isn't normal for him. (He's not even a social smoker!) There was a TV in the bar playing videos, and I liked the song that was playing. I said "I like this song". Dale just sat there and didn't say anything. He had a look on his face that WWII vets used to call "The Thousand Yard Stare". It's as if the guy is staring at something 1000 yards away. Anyway, he didn't say a word. I thought "Well, I do like this song. Just because you don't like it doesn't mean you have to just sit there and stare like that. Jackass." I snapped a picture, holstered my camera, and assumed a Kung-Fu pose, expecting a fight to break out. He just sat there staring.

About 30 seconds later, he started to nod his head. Not exactly fore-and-aft, and not exactly side-to-side either. Kind of unusual. I thought maybe he liked the song after all, and was grooving... After all, the name 'Dale' means 'Black Stranger' in Scottish. I thought "if he's a Scot, his black-guy rhythm genes might be taking over". I didn't know for sure.

Then, all at once, he got funky. He said "Blooooorg". I said "what?" Dale repeated: "Bloooooooooorg!", and slopped something on his shirt. Then he jumped off the chair he was sitting on, dropped to his knees, and performed a dance move I like to call "Smack the pool table with your head." He scooted around on his face a little bit. People around him were freaking out on his groundbreaking moves.

His wife jumped into the fray and joined him for some kind of close-dancing action, even though it was kind of a fast song. She grabbed him and hoisted him to his feet, just as the song ended. Pretty cool. She and Dale went outside to chill on a bench. Someone said Dale might perform a few tricks, so I headed out to watch.

By this time, I had figured out that Dale knew some language I wasn't familiar with. He said "Pflugh", and his wife quickly presented a bucket for his close inspection.

He said that same word ("Blooooorg") into the bucket. Based on observation, I think that "bloorg" means "I approve of this."

Although I didn't get a picture of it, he and his wife did a trick called "The Human Milk Shake Machine." It was a pretty good trick: She was the operator, and he was the machine. She'd put the bucket in front of his face, and pull on his head like it was a handle. He would shout "blorg" into the bucket. It was weird. I wonder if they're from eastern Europe or something? This stuff would be popular with people from that area.

Then, as soon as it started, the show was over. A white minivan appeared at the curb, and Dale was escorted to it. We tagged along and took pictures of him with his "towel-hat" on after he fell asleep.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

dorazils in the dark

the coopers

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Had a latte from Starbizucks today, and almost forgot to check the daily affirmation on the cup.


Today's affirmation:

Wild salmon are the canaries in the
coal mines of our own world.

-- Bill Taylor
President and CEO of the Atlantic Salmon Federation

Um.... Huh?

Bill is either infinitely smarter than most people, or he's really clumsy with metaphors. Trying to extract the true meaning of this message is giving me a headache. I'm going to try to dissect it, but I'm not sure I'll be able to get anything.

Canaries were used in coalmines a long time ago. The miners would put them in cages, and take them down into the mineshaft. If a poisonous gas was present there, the canary would die, hopefully before miners did. Observant miners would notice that the canary was dead, and know that it was time to get out of the mine.

The connection between salmon and canaries, and coalmines and "our own world" is obvious. Thus, the meaning is:

If you carry a salmon around in a cage and it dies,
don't waste time: Get off the planet as soon as possible.

Thanks Bill, that's really helpful.

Come to think of it, what is an "Atlantic Salmon Federation" anyway? Those words give me a mental image of thousands of uniformed salmon marching across the US from the east coast.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

SuSE killed my wife's machine

I decided that today was a good day for Windows to die, at least in my household.

I have a copy of SuSE 9.3 Enterprise that I got a good deal on a few months back (probably because it was, like, two days before SuSE 10.0 became available). I had read and heard great things about SuSE's hardware recognition, appearance, ease of use, and general German-engineered goodness. My wife is a Windows user
(well, not anymore), so I thought SuSE would be a good choice for her machine. Here's how it went:

The installation program is a sight to behold. It's really cool-looking. It started up, and probed the hardware (a fairly lame Celeron-based machine with 30GB of disk, 224MB of RAM, integrated video/ethernet/USB, etc.). It gave me an error message about not being able to read the partition table for /dev/hda, so I aborted the process and booted off of my Linux Rescue CD. It couldn't read /dev/hda's partition table either, and fsck couldn't seem to make any sense of it.

So I booted back to Windows, and used the Disk Manager to check things out. It said, basically "Everything's good, but there are two partitions of an unknown type on here." Okay.. I couldn't remember if I had messed around with Linux on there before, so I backed all the data files up, and went back to the SuSE installation.

It complained a second time about the partition table, so I opened the "rescue" panel to see what I could do. It didn't offer much in the way of help, but did assure me that I could go ahead and install, and it would try to work around the problem.

In SuSE-speak, "work around the problem" means "crush it and overwrite it"... Uh, okay. That's why backups are a good idea, I suppose...

The install disk I used was a DVD, and the installer just selected every package on the DVD and started copying. Then it hung, and said "Unable to complete installation." Crap. I started over. This time, it worked better for some reason, and started copying files numbering in the millions. I left, helped Alissia tear the christmas decorations down, washed the car, played with the kids, had a few cups of coffee, wrote a novel, went for a walk, donated a kidney, spent a few months recovering, got caught speeding, outran the cops, went to prison for 8 years, and waited... and waited... and waited. Finally caught a ride back from MorningWood Penetentiary, and checked on the installer's progress. "50%". Dang it!

It finally got done with the copy process, and progressed into the "configuration" section. Then I started getting error messages: "Media did not contain [package-name]", for about 8 important-sounding packages. I pressed the "Ok, whatever, just keep going" button on each of the messages (like there was anything else I could do). Then it said "Unable to load inst-network. Unable to load inst-config. Unable to load inst-you. Unable to load inst-network" and a whole bunch of other stupid cop-out sounding messages. Whatever. It kept going, and let me put in a root password.

Then it put me into YaST, the important-sounding configurator for SuSE. It was beautiful to look at. I messed around with the "Internet Answering machine", "Firewall" and other toys. They were interesting,
and cool-looking. Then I clicked on "Online Update", and YaST locked up. I killed the X server, and it came up to the login screen. Oh my! Somehing wasn't right. There was a "kernel log" visible, and the login dialog looked like some kind of crap from a 70's-era X terminal. I logged in, and went into the KDE desktop. Dad gum, that is a cool looking desktop. It's covered in glittering crystal icons, shaded gradient panels, nice tasteful colors... It's dead sexy, probably one of the best-looking UIs I've seen on any OS, even a Mac.

I thought I'd try setting the machine up, but there no network. There was no clue as to how to set networking up. YaST certainly didn't do me any favors. The "kernel log" kept bitching about not being able to read /dev/fd0 (the floppy). I was losing patience, and the machine was acting weird. I thought I'd take the Windows approach and reboot. That went okay, until I got to the gross-looking login screen. I logged in, and went to a completely different desktop manager, one without anything but a blank desktop with a popup menu. No KDE, no GTK, etc. Nothing I recognized or at least wanted to use.

Think about how you'd react if you went to a car dealership and took a test drive in a car you had only a passing interest in. You get out on the road, it overheats, the tires blow out, the transmission won't stay in gear, warning lights blink on the dash, and the radio only plays Dixie Chicks songs. It dies, and you roll to a stop on the shoulder. Then, your wife pulls up behind you in your car. That is kind of what this was like. Right next to me was the Ubuntu CD I had used so many times before, with pleasing results. "Screw this!" I said, and started over with THAT.

I inserted the CD, rebooted, answered a few questions, and boom! An uneventful, faultless installation, everything working as expected. Ubuntu is the Mac of linux distros.

Really disappointing about SuSE though. SuSE was the first Linux distro I ever used, at version 7.0. I was expecting it to be difficult and annoying then, and it was. This later version of SuSE is a whole lot nicer looking, but there doesn't seem to have been any progress made in its usability. What's with those Germans? I thought they had this stuff figured out.

I'm an Ubuntu zealot now! Their slogan should be "Just say no to stuff that sucks."

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Something a bit different

I did something a little different tonight.

My dad is into choral music, and invited my brothers and me to go see the
Missouri State Concert Chorale, a group of college kids from MSU. There were about 50 of them in the group, led by Guy B. Webb, a Julliard-educated professor-type guy. They sang at a cool Spanish-styled Catholic church at 51st and Main.

I can't really say that this music isn't my bag. I've always been around music like this off and on, but I'm typically more of a rock concert type guy. This was really impressive. The music is totally different. It's fairly quiet (for the most part), and sung in different languages (Latin, Russian, German, French, Swedish). There
are no instruments. So, the normal things you lock onto in music (the groove, the lyrics, the guitar sound, etc.) are all missing.

But there's other things here that the other stuff doesn't have. It's a peaceful flow of notes that you just kind of soak in. Some of it was downright mesmerizing. One song they did, a Slovenian thing, was really chaotic and freaked out. It was kind of spooky. (If I was in a dark hallway and heard that noise going on at the end of the hall, I think I would run the other way.)

One interesting thing about this music is how the crowd responds during and after a song. At a rock concert, there are fists pumping in the air, and everyone's going "Yeah! Yeah!". When the song ends, everyone goes nuts and yells and claps. This stuff is different. You look around at peoples' faces while the music's going, and they're concentrating, really listening to it. The last note ends, and you hear the last echoes float through the room and die out. If it is a faster-paced song, people wait until the conductor's arm drops, and then they clap. Some of the slower stuff is so intense that when it ends, the room is dead quiet. It's like everyone's holding their breath trying to prolong the last note or something. Then you'd hear everyone start breathing again, and people would look at each other and grin with kind of a "Dude, that was awesome!" look on their face.

Something about this that interests me is how this music holds your attention so strongly, perhaps even more than rock-n-roll does. Good rockin music commands attention by towering over its audience and kicking up dust. It's all fire, fury, and bombast. This stuff commands attention in a different way, just as efficiently. I think it does it by being so quiet that it forces you to really pay attention in order to get anything out of it. Then, while you're focusing on it, it builds up and swirls around you until it drops you off at the end. And the end seems to be the point where you come to your senses and go "Wow! That rocked."

I've heard this kind of music ever since I was a kid, but never made any moves to actually collect it to, you know, listen to it on an iPod or something. I might do that and see how I like it!

Kind of disappointing

Starbucks is served in the cafeteria where I work.
I like that, but today I figured out that the cups
they provide don't have the inspirational sayings on the back.
Kind of disappointing, because I'm starting to depend on these
cups for general guidance! Dang.

All these cups have on them is an advertisement. It says:

High up,
where the mountains meet the sky,
Starbucks journeys to find the best
coffee beans in the world.

Here's what that means:

We fly some of our employees around
in the corporate jet to meet with
coffee growers all over the world.
Some of the coffee we buy is grown
in the mountains. It's way up there.
The air up there is so thin it makes
our heads spin.
We'd like to say that this is the reason
we charge so much for our coffee, but the
fact is, we charge what we do because you
willingly pay for it. It's cool too, because
you get good coffee, and we get a corporate

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Another daily affirmation

Another day, another latte, another pound of Italian Roast,
another Starbucks affirmation. The text of this one:

Be exceptional. Make tremendous
efforts to be extraordinary.
What a privilege to be here on the
planet to contribute your unique
donation to humankind. Just make
sure you do so...

The message in this saying isn't quite as goofy as the one on the previous cup, and here's what I think it means:

Get off your butt and do something.

Pretty good advice, from a Starbucks cup.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Wisdom from Starbucks

This is what I discovered upon removing the "heat sleeve" from my Starbucks cup this afternoon after eating a nice lunch of spicy chicken with my buddy Cooper at Popeye's. Here's what it says:

Imagine we were all the same.
Imagine we agree about politics,
religion and morality. Imagine we
like the same types of music, art, food,
and coffee. Imagine we all look alike.
Sound boring? Differences need not divide us.
Embrace diversity. Dignity is everyone's human right.

I feel a bit queasy after that, so I think I'll translate it to
plain English to settle my stomach. This is what the text
on the cup means:

Imagine we were all clones. We would all like
the same bands and
coffee, which
would be Starbucks.

I bet you think it would be boring.
Good thing it's not true, huh?
It's okay for us to be different, as long
as you
don't disagree with what gay people do.
They're fundamentally insecure, and
get pretty upset when you look at them weird.
And don't smoke.

If you're wondering where I got the thing about gay people, the answer is easy: Whenever you hear someone talking about "diversity", "tolerance", and "dignity" these days, that's what they're referring to. The meaning of these words is being changed so that they mean the following:

  • Diversity: Gay people are around you. Get used to it.
  • Tolerance: Put up with it, and don't complain.
  • Dignity: Really sensitive people require validation from you. If you don't provide it, they feel bad about themselves, and when they do, it's your fault.
Over on Cooper's site, there's a debate raging about the relative merits of Starbucks coffee vs. cheaper brands. One side says that Starbucks is genuinely better coffee, and its higher price is justified. The other side asserts that it's all the same, and that coffee that comes in a yellow "always save" can is just as good (trust me, it's NOT). In any event, I know that the "yellow can" stuff doesn't go the extra mile and include inspirational sayings about "diversity" on the can. So there you go. The extra coin you pay for Starbucks at least buys you some instructions about how to act around gay people.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Linux running on an iPod Nano

I've been playing around with something called iPodLinux , a tiny Linux kernel that runs on an iPod Nano. This evening I got it running.

The idea intrigues me for a few reasons, the main one being the idea that you can run the same OS on a tiny credit-card sized music player/fashion accessory as the one that runs on a PC or a giant mainframe. In its home on my iPod Nano, it's tasked mainly with playing media files, running games, drawing Mandlebrot sets, and just showing off.

It's not totally without drawbacks; There seems to be a bug when trying to play really large MP3's (think Dream Theater-sized ones: really big). Sometimes I get a "malloc failed" message when it tries to open one. It doesn't lock it up though. Also, some of the handy features missing from the default iPod OS aren't there (Stopwatch, calendars, etc). It's still a work in progress, and besides the nano isn't one of the "officially supported" devices for iPodLinux (Lord, how I wish I had one of the older ones that could do hi-fi recordings through a line-in jack. Now that would be useful!).

Anyway, reliability and utility are kind of beside the point here. The point of this is to just get Linux on the device, so you can stand back and admire it. I do stuff like this for the same reason that other people put crap on their cars, draw pictures, and other creative stuff. Because there's a point where, having done it, you step back, look at it, and say "That's cool."

It's a dual-boot device: I can reboot it, and it boots into the Apple iPod OS by default and acts just like a factory-fresh one. To the casual observer, it's just like any other iPod device. (It's kind of like Superman in that respect.)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Check out my new Mac!

Ha ha, made you look.

My buddy Dale Cooper bought his wife an iMac for Christmas. He liked it so much he went and got himself one a couple of days later. In a previous post, I mentioned a trip to the Apple store to pick up my iPod, and the desirability of Apple computers. They're cool. I want one.

However, Macs don't grow on trees, and neither does money. So, I'm sticking with my trusty Linux machine(s) for now. But still, I like the looks of the Mac desktop. So, here's a pic of my Ubuntu machine running the "I wish I had a Mac" theme. It looks pretty good, even though it's not the real deal.

One thing I like about Linux is how it gives you the ability to screw around with it until you like it. You're not stuck with a specific look and feel, or for that matter, a GUI if you don't feel like using one. I've mentioned before that Windows is like a minivan (not a cool one, either), and MacOS is like a BMW. I've heard Linux described as a no-cost battle tank that gets 40mpg, runs 250 miles per hour, and can carry 20 passengers. Uuuuh, okay... I guess that makes sense. I think the point is, it's configurable.

Now all I need to do is oil the noisy hinges on the lid of this laptop, and it will operate like the lid on a powerbook.

Kind of pathetic, isn't it?

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Pop Bottles Gone Wild

Maybe you've heard of the "Mentos n' Diet Coke" phenomenon lately, wherein a pack of Mentos is dropped into a 2-liter bottle of a carbonated drink in the interest of doing something obnoxious and funny.

I decided that my stupid stunt of the day would be trying this idea myself. I figured it would be a good opportunity to educate the kids on the principle of surface tension, and the potentially deadly effects of drinking too much pop and eating too much candy. "You never know what can happen kids. Your stomach could explode, killing you and leaving parts of your intestines in nearby trees." (Actually, none of that is true. I didn't tell the kids that, and I wasn't particularly interested in educating them about surface tension. I just wanted to try this.)

Conventional wisdom says you should use diet pop, since it has no sugar in it and thus dries to a dust that blows away. (As if anyone's going to spew pop all over the driveway and just leave it. No matter what I used, I planned to at least hose things down afterwards, diet or not.)

Anyway, I used Sam's Choice pop for this test, figuring it was just as good as the name-brand stuff for spewing. I stuck with the name-brand mints (Mentos, the Fresh Maker) as the... reagent or whatever.

The Event
I set the pop bottle in the driveway, well away from the house. I set up the camera a safe distance from the bottle, and recruited Alissia as the camera operator.

Proper detonation requires that as many Mentos come in contact with the coke as possible as quickly as possible. So, I rolled a piece of paper around a Mentos tube to get the proper diameter and taped the paper into a tube shape. Then I stacked the Mentos in the tube. I kept the bottom of the tube closed with an index card held over the end. This way, I could pull the index card out and drop all of the Mentos into the pop within about 2 seconds.

The camera rolled, and I let the Mentos drop into the bottle. The result is what you'll see when you click on the link to download the video (below).

My Impressions
In my opinion, the results were less than spectacular. The stuff shot up perhaps 6 feet into the air. Big Woop. There are other videos of this experiment on the web. Of those that I saw, Diet Coke and/or Diet Pepsi were used as the fuel. One of them made a horrible mess of a TV newswoman, and another totally splattered a car. It was cool. Mine? Lame. Next time, I'll just spend the extra 30 cents and get the real deal! You get what you pay for, I guess. Stupid Sam's Cola.

How does it work?
I'm no scientist, but I read somewhere that the "gum arabic" in the Mentos (which is what makes them chewy) breaks the surface tension on the CO2 bubbles in the pop, making them explode all at once. (Hmmmm... Something arabic, causing things to explode... How ironically non-ironic.)

Anyway, the Mentos all ended up in the bottom of the bottles with their white skins missing. Andrew ate a few and said they were pretty good. The dog drank some of the pop, which was totally fizzless by this time. I hosed the driveway down, concluding today's stupid stunt.

If you want to watch the video, here's the link to it. (Coke-spewing movie) Enjoy it...