Healthcare Reform 04: EMR

Electronic medical records are becoming increasingly possible.  And it makes sense.  So much medical history and documentation is scattered about the country on paper getting lost and damaged n decades old filefolders in non-descript medical facilities.  Significant cost reductions and the potentila for better, faster, and cheper healthcare are possible by replacing much of that paper with standardized, electronic documentation.

This article from the Seattle PI is brief discussion about this field.  The VA is the medical organization making the most progress on this front.

The electronic medical records system at the Department of Veterans Affairs' Kansas City Medical Center gives Sanders and his staff almost immediate access to medical histories, allowing them to seamlessly treat veterans from other states. But when patients aren't in the VA's system, it could mean hours or days before doctors have crucial information to properly care for patients.

"It's increasingly frustrating for us and other providers that it's difficult to find a workable interface," said Sanders, chief of staff for the Kansas City veterans hospital. "Our systems don't talk to each other."

Interoperability, or allowing providers to share records and view them from anywhere, is a requirement for facilities to receive some of the more than $17 billion in stimulus funding that the government is offering to encourage the adoption of electronic medical records. Congress will likely penalize providers who aren't doing so by 2014, cutting their Medicaid and Medicare payments, the Obama administration said.



Star Trek Anti-Drug PSA

Apparently, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and Nichelle Nichols reunited in the 70s to record an anti-drug PSA.  The video is a collection of still a fan applied to the audio.



Victoria Part 06: Royal Wax Museum

After a visit to the Undersea Gardens, The GF and I headed to the Royal London Wax Museum, also on Victoria's Inner Harbor.  It was my first visit to a wax museum and a I enjoyed it, though not as much as I had hoped.

The museum is two levels, and people file through the exhibits almost like they're on a conveyor belt.  The limited space makes it challenging to step out of the flow and contemplate a piece.

Of course, with something at kitschy as a wax museum there's not going to be a whole lot of deep contemplation anyway.

That pace, combined with the darkness, makes it challenging to take pictures.

The other thing I noticed is that the figures don't appear as lifelike in person as they do in photographs.  I didn't get the eerie sense that I was looking at an actual person; there was no doubting the artifice of it.

Yet when I looked at the pictures later on I got the sometimes creepy sensation that I was looking at a picture of a real person.  I guess since I am used to mostly seeing famous people in pictures, seeing pictures of their wax doppelgangers would seem to be the more genuine experience than seeing the wax live.

They had their assortment of British Queens, of course.

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Anthony and a topless Cleopatra made an appearance.

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American figures were well represented.

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Canadian heroes like Gordie Howe are enshrined with wax, too.

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The original Commander Adama showed up dressed as a cowboy.

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And they include both Jesus and the Pope.

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On the lower level, they have a section depicting torture. Some of the wax figures are pretty grotesque, but still well done. You receive plenty of warning so you can skip that part of the museum if you'd rather not see that. Among other items, it includes a basket of severed heads.

But it was outside the torture wing where they had one of the creepiest statues. This portrayal of Walt Disney is the one I'm most likely to have nightmares about.

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I think its the mustache.

The museum is worth seeing if you're okay with the crowds. Visiting at a more relaxed pace is a great way to pass some time.

Unless, of course, those glass eyes staring back at you send shivers up your spine.

2009-08-26 Wax Museum posting (2)

More of my pictures are here.


5 things I like about Windows 7

I experimented with Windows 7 for a few months on older, secondary hardware. For the past couple weeks I've been running it on my primary personal machine. I'm liking it more everyday.

When I last wrote about Windows 7, I was having trouble with mapping network drives. A few days later, the problem went away. And it has stayed away to the point where I now call it fixed. Of course it seems to have fixed itself all by itself. I have no idea why it started working right so I'm worried the problem will resurface, but for now, things are working.

Aside from that misadventure, though, I'm getting used to all sorts of neat Windows 7 stuff. Here are 5 things I like about Windows 7.

  1. Aero-snap: Move a window to the right side of the screen, it maximizes to half your screen width. Move another to the left side, and it does that same. It makes it really easy to arrange multiple windows on the desktop.

  2. Multi-monitor support: I'm using a laptop with both an HDMI port and a VGA port. I have two monitors plugged and in and Window 7 handled the extended desktop setup better than any other Windows config I've used.

  3. Taskbar: The enhanced previews are really helpful, especially when I'm using multiple displays. Plus, the "Show Desktop" feature in the lower right is pretty cool.

  4. Desktop Gadgets: The gadget sidebar is gone and now I can have gadgets strewn about my desktop. I like the execution; now I'll just have to see if I use any of the them.

  5. Performance: It definitely feels faster than Vista. It's tough to compare to XP. XP always felt clunkier. Windows 7 feels smoother. It could just be in my head, but whether its real or placebo, it makes me happy just the same.

I'm fairly impressed with Windows 7. And now that my networking problem healed, I can do everything I could under Vista, only better.


Logo hate

I've been a Flickr member for more than 3 years. It's a great service for displaying, sharing, and organizing digital pictures. The forums are also interesting and shockingly civil.

Which is why this thread was so shocking.

Yahoo! bought Flickr a couple years back, and there was much grumbling. But folks seemed to get used to it.

Now, though, Yahoo! has done something unbelievably sinister. They added the Yahoo! logo to the Flickr logo.
Okay, I'll grant it's ugly and just looks thrown together. And maybe "from" is overstating it since Yahoo! had nothing to do with creating Flickr.

But I was shocked at the anger bile directed at Yahoo! for this decision. From reading this thread, you would think Yahoo! was doing bad things to puppies.

It seems wildly disproportionate.

What's really interesting about this (besides the cheap laughs at the expense of people are so angry about this logo) is that it demonstrates how much a strong core of Flickr users loves Flickr. They don't just love it, they are in love with it.

It's almost as though they see the Yahoo! buyout as some sort of adulterous defilement. And the new logo serves as an everyday reminder of that affair years ago.

Many companies never anticipate the problems that can come from having customers love their product so much that they connect in such a visceral manner.

Still, though. I think some folks in that thread could really use a vacation.



Back in my day Part 01: Bubbles

When the GF and I went to the Puyallup a few days ago, and sat down with our gyros, we did some people watching.

A little boy, maybe three years old, sat in his stroller with a bubble gun in his hand. He held the trigger and a continuous stream of small soap bubble floated out of the end and across the walkway. Some of them caught a light updraft and drifted higher; others clung to the ground and wrapped around people's feet. That boy filled the roadway with a thin curtain of bubbles while we finished our warm-up to food-on-a-stick. And really, a gyro is food-on-a-stick in spirit if not in fact.

Anyway, that boy kept his finger on the trigger and stared with mild interest and his soapy projectiles as people smiled and walked through this 4 feet of wonderland. They boy's face had that odd combination that said he was both fascinated and bored to tears at the same time.

But he didn't seem frustrated. And why is that?

It's because of people like this.

2009-09-21 Bubble Stand

These people sell all manner of bubble wands, bubble guns, bubble flowers, and bubble accessories. Kids can effortless make the fair a wonderland.

What a ripoff.

Back in my day we had little plastic jars to make do with. Blowing bubbles isn't supposed to be a relaxing, magical experience. It's supposed to be frustrating. It's supposed to be struggle to get that bubble blown.

The short double ended wand is supposed to hurt your fingers when you hook it. You're supposed to spill soapy water on your shirt and struggle to make sure you get the right color bottle.

You're supposed to blow too hard and too light. You're supposed to fuss over just the right about of air, and how hard you blow through that sudsy ring. And that's if you're lucky enough to get just the right amount of soap on that tiny wand that is now threatening to remove all remaining circulation from your fingertip.

You're supposed to fight for every bubble and then finally get that perfect one only to have someone pop it right in front of you.

Then you try again.

It's an early childhood lesson for life. Bubbles are supposed to be hard, stressful, frustrating and painful.

Aren't they?


Salsa, Mojitos, Jasmine, Space Needle, and Focus

I wasn't happy with any of these individual shots. I couldn't quite get the focus I liked. After staring at them a bit, I suddenly found them more interesting as a series than as individual shots.

(The GF made the salsa using tomatoes and other things from my garden. The mint in the mojitos also came from the garden.)

Salsa, Mojito, Jasmine, Focus

Salsa, Mojito, Jasmine, Focus

Salsa, Mojito, Jasmine, Focus


PAX 2009 -- A cultural celebration

I spent about 6 hours at the PAX show on 2009-09-05. PAX, or the Penny Arcade Expo, is a computer, roleplaying, and board game convention held in Seattle each year. Next year there will be one in Boston in the Spring, too.

It's more than an opportunity for game companies to show new products and for industry pundits to speak their punditry. It's not a show primarily targeting industry people. It's about the fans.

Even though I no longer play nearly the volume of computer and video games that I used to, and even though it's been years since I threw a 10-sided die in my soak roll (Vampire: The Masquerade FTW!), and even though I only made it to one of the panel discussions, I had a great time.

These are my people.

PAX wasn't just about seeing the toys, it was about celebrating Geek Culture.

The celebration of intelligence, of game, of technology is something we don't see often. At PAX, a nerdy obsession isn't mocked, it's praised. When someone walks around dressed as their favorite cartoon character, people don't cross the street to get away, they ask to pose for pictures.

The show filled the convention center with a weird, bizarre, and positive energy.

Sure there was a little bit of Swine Flu and post convention illnesses, but many of those suffering a PAX-pox will say it was worth it.

I'm only sorry I missed the Jonathan Coulton concert that evening.

Below are some pictures from the show.

One thing that amazed me about the show floor was all the lines. It seemed every booth had people lined up to get into it. More that 60, 000 people attended the three day show and yet the lines were orderly. By way of comparison, 110,000 people attended CES 2009, the largest computer trade show in the country. And CES is a 4-day show instead of 3-days. The scale of attendance at PAX in mind-boggling.

Here are some of the lines.

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It wasn't just the booth lines. The one presentation I made it to featured Hal Hapin from the ECA and Adam Sessler from G4 talking about issues facing the computer game industry, including the recession, gaming models, and the ratings system. When they opened it up for questions, dozens of people flocked to the mic.

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There were plenty of impressive booths, including one from the folks at Darksiders who opted to make plantiffs' lawyers salivate with a bucking steed.

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The Rock Band folks had a great setup for the release of the Beatles version of the game. They set up stages so that not only could you imagine your were on stage in front of your fans, now you could actually be on stage "performing" Beatles music in front of dozens of (sometimes) screaming fans.

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Peregrine demonstrated an upcoming product -- a gaming glove. It works like a keyboard so you can program your own keyboard shortcuts into it and activate them with different hand positions.

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I also had the chance to try on some gamer/computer glasses at the Gunnar Optiks booth. They did seem to improve the image on a computer screen. Until I can get an HDMI interface to my visual cortex I may have to take a look at that product. I didn't get any pictures there, but the booth folks were nice and friendly.

There were plenty of fake swords about the floor, including Edward waving one about for some reason or other.

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And even guys with swords sometimes have to get places.

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And if you wanted to get your favorite autographs, they had stations set up for that in main lobby.

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This may be the most played video on the 'net from the show, but if you haven't seen it (or even if you have), here is Jonathan Coulton singing a new version of "My Monkey," now called "Wil Wheaton."

It was a great show a great experience. Time to buy my tickets for next year.


Victoria Part 05: Reasons to go back

More posts and pictures from my recent trip will be coming over the next few weeks. But the GF is ready to go back know. There are four reasons she wants to return:
  1. To have tea
  2. To do more shopping on "the neat little streets"
  3. To visit a Canadian Wal*Mart (they're oddly compelling)
  4. To visit a castle
The Visitors' Bureau should put that in the brochure.

A lucky shot

I like to keep my camera close. It may seem a bit dorky to walk around with one on my belt, but is anyone really shocked that that's just the sort of thing I would do? I like to keep one close, because you never know when you'll run into a scene like this.

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Book Review 46: Lamb. The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal

When I'm in charge, if someone knocks, they will be able to come in. Making someone who is seeking comfort stand out in the cold is a crock of rancid yak butter."

Page 215

But because the Divine Spark resides in all, does not mean that all will discover it. Your dharma is not to learn, Joshua, but to teach."

Page 300
"Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal" by Christopher Moore is an intelligent, funny, and engaging book. It's not as knee-slappingly funny as Moore's other novels, but that's because he takes the material more seriously. The book is an irreverent, yet respectful look at what Jesus's life may have been like growing up. Moore paints strikingly real characters. The last third of the book isn't as strong as the rest of it, and I'll address that later in this review.

The New Testament offers scant details of Jesus's early life. We see Him in the manger, we see one incident with Him in the temple as a boy, and then we see Him starting his mission at about age 30. The bulk of the Gospels focuses on the three years of Jesus's life between the time He began performing miracles and teaching, and the time He ascended into Heaven, 40 days following His resurrection.

Moore's looks at those other years. It takes place while Jesus, who goes by Joshua in Moore's book, is a little boy playing with friends and sibling, while he's a teenager, and his time as a young adult. Throughout it all, his best friend is Biff. Biff travels with Joshua, shares his experience, and tells us the story.

During the tale we learn about the Roman occupation of Judea, get a look at the local politics, learn about Jewish customs, explore other religions and mystic traditions around the world, and go over philosophical concepts.

It's helpful to know the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to get some of the concepts in the book and to understand some of the references. But if you don't know Bible stories, there's still plenty to appreciate in Lamb.

Who would have thought that Joshua would find his first apostle among the dirt and dogs of Nazareth. Bleh.

Page 41

The Angel Raziel, acting on orders from God, bring Biff back from the dead in the late 1990s to write a new Gospel of Jesus's life. The goal is to tell the untold story.

There were fifteen of us—well, fourteen after I hung Judas—so why me? Joshua always told me not to be afraid, for he would always be with me. Where are you, my friend? Why have you forsaken me? You wouldn't be afraid here. The towers and machines and the shine and stink of this world would not daunt you. Come now, I'll order a pizza from room service. You would like pizza. The servant who brings it is named Jesus. And he's not even a Jew. You always liked irony. Come, Joshua, the angel says you are yet with us, you can hold him down while I pound him, then we will rejoice in pizza.

Page 9

This of course is a recipe for controversy. This book is different from some other retellings of Jesus's life, though. The book starts with the assumption that Jesus is the Son of God. That's never questioned. Mary was visited by Gabriel, told she would be the mother of God. Joshua performs miracles as a little kid before he even realizes what he is doing. His best friend Biff readily accepts this.

It had been getting darker by the minute in the olive grove, and I could barely see the shine in Josh's eyes, but suddenly the area around us was lit up like daylight. We looked up to see the dreaded Raziel descending on us from above the treetops. Of course I didn't know he was the dreaded Raziel at the time, I was just terrified. The angel shone like a star above us, his features so perfect that even my beloved Maggie's beauty paled by comparison. Joshua hid his face and huddled against the trunk of an olive tree. I guess he was more easily surprised by the supernatural than I was. I just stood there staring with my mouth open, drooling like the village idiot.

Page 37

Raziel shows up 10 years after Joshua's birth to tell the Shepards in the field the Savior has been born. Obviously, he's late. Biff, when he's not telling the story of Joshua, reminds us that Raziel is an idiot, and he is not a Raziel fan.

(Did you know that in a hotel they bolt the bedside lamp to the table, thereby making it an ineffective instrument of persuasion when trying to bring an obdurate angel around to your way of thinking? Thought you should know that. Pity too, it's such a substantial lamp.)

Page 132

Biff grew up with the powerful Joshua. It's the only life he's known, and he is much more comfortable with the supernatural. He is more comfortable with Joshua's divine nature than Joshua is.

Biff isn't the only one who believe's in Joshua. As kids, thye meet a girl in the neighborhood, Mary of Magdala, and three form a strong friendship. As they get older, Mary falls for Joshua, but of course can't have him. Biff falls for Mary, but of course her heart is elsewhere.

"Don't worry, he'll be a mess tomorrow: 'Oh, what did I do wrong. Oh, my faith wasn't strong enough. Oh, lam not worthy of my task.' He'll impossible to be around for a week or so. We'll be lucky if he stops praying long enough to eat."

"You shouldn't make fun of him. He's trying very hard."

"Easy for you to say, you won't have to hang out with the village idiot until Josh gets over this."

"But aren't you touched by who he is? What he is?"

"What good would that do me? If I was basking in the light of his Holiness all of the time, how would I take care of him? Who would do all of his lying and cheating for him? Even Josh can't think about what he is all of the time, Maggie."

'I think about him all of the time. I pray for him all of the time."

"Really? Do you ever pray for me?"

"I mentioned you in my prayers, once."

"You did? How?"

'I asked God to help you not to be such a doofus, so you could watch over Joshua."

"You meant doofus in an attractive way, right?"

"Of course."

Page 77

Eventually, the book shifts to at buddy/roadtrip story. Biff and Josua leave home to go explore the world. Joshua wants to learn more about his divine nature and how to be the Messiah. Biff wants to protect Joshua. They head out on a quest to find the Three Magi who came to visit Joshua in the stable.

They aren't pursuing the same things in their quest. While Joshua works to understand the nature of divinity and the metaphysical realm, Biff's studies are more about the corporal realm.

"Exactly," said Joshua. "I think Lao-tzu is correct. Blindness precedes justice. As long as you seek justice by punishment you can only cause more suffering. How can that be right? This is a revelation!"

"I learned how to boil down goat urine to make explosives today," I said.

"That's good too," said Joshua.

Page 167

"The magus wasn't teaching us about action as in work, it was action as in change. That's why we learned Confucius first—everything having to do with the order of our fathers, the law, manners. Confucius is like the Torah, rules to follow. And Lao-tzu is even more conservative, saying that if you do nothing you won't break any rules. You have to let tradition fall sometime, you have to take action, you have to eat bacon. That's what Balthasar was trying to teach me."

"I've said it before. Josh—and you know how I love bacon—but I don't think bacon is enough for the Messiah to bring."

"Change," Joshua said. "A Messiah has to bring change. Change comes through action. Balthasar once said to me, 'There's no such thing as a conservative hero.' He was wise, that old man."

Page 202

"I'm using the calligraphy techniques we learned in the monastery, only using them to draw figures. Josh, are you sure it doesn't bother you? Talking about [sex] when you'll never be allowed to do it?"

"No, it's interesting. It doesn't bother you when I talk about heaven. Does it?"

"Should it?"

"Look, a seagull!"

Page 296-297

During his time with Balthasar, the first of the magi, Joshua studies Confucius, Lao-Tzu, and more. Balthasar's servants inlcude 6 Chinese women who are the one's to instruct Biff in more terrestrial concerns.

They are there for several years and to celebrate Joshua's birthday, they cook a wonderful Chinese feast, marking, as Moore points out, the "tradition" of Jews eating Chinese food on Christmas.

"Oh Joshua, my poor little Messiah. I'll bet no one made you Chinese food for your birthday this year either?"

Page 305

It's also in this part of the book, that Moore establishes that this novel takes place in the same universe as his others, like Practical Demon Keeping and The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove.

Eventually, they have to leave and continue their journey of growth.

"Lao-tzu built this wall,"Joshua said.

"The old master who wrote the Tao? I don't think so."

"What does the Tao value above all else?" "Compassion? Those other two jewel things?"

"No, inaction. Contemplation. Steadiness. Conservatism. A wall is the defense of a country that values inaction. But a wall imprisons the people of a country as much as it protects them. That's why Balthasar had us go this way He wanted me to see the error in the Tao. One can't be free without action."

"So he spent all that time teaching us the Tao so we could see that it was wrong."

Page 201

Joshua and Biff study more and have more adventures. Then they return to Galilee.

Josh nodded, then climbed on his camel. "Go with God, Joy," he said. As we rode through the gates of the palace the guards shot fire arrows that trailed long tails of sparks over us until they exploded above the road ahead: Joy's last good-bye to us, a tribute to the friendship and arcane knowledge we had all shared. It scared the bejeezus out of the camels.

Page 306

As Joshua assumes the role of Messiah, things start to change. He performs miracles, though not everyone is always impressed.

Then Joshua climbed down from his camel, laid his hands upon the old men's eyes, and said, "You have faith in the Lord, and you have heard, as evidently everyone in Judea has, that I am his son with whom he is well pleased." Then he pulled his hands from their faces and the old men looked around.

"Tell me what you see," Joshua said.

The old guys sort of looked around, saying nothing.

"So, tell me what you see."

The blind men looked at each other.

"Something wrong?" Joshua asked. "You can see, can't you?"

"Well, yeah," said Abel, "but I thought there'd be more color."

"Yeah," said Crustus, "it's kind of dull."

I stepped up. "You're on the edge of the Judean desert, one of the most lifeless, desolate, hostile places on earth, what did you expect?"

"I don't know." Crustus shrugged. "More."

"Yeah, more," said Abel. "What color is that?"

Page 331

We see Joshua baptized by John, we see the Transfiguration, and we see Joshua build his flock and perform healings. But he's now longer the same Joshua. Moore stops writing him as close friend for Biff. As Joshua's prominence grows, the relationship with Biff becomes less intimate. Joshua is not the same person. He no longer belongs to the Biff/Joshua friendship, he belongs to the world. Biff (or rather Moore) writes Joshua more in the way the traditional Gospel authors do.

I'm not sure if it's intentional, of if it's just the inherent challenge of what Moore is trying to do in this book. Because now he is no longer making everything up. Now the narrative is retelling the stories Christians are already familiar with -- the loaves and fishes, the storm on the fishing boat, the Sermon on the Mount, the recruitment of the Apostles, the Wedding at Canaan, etc.

That all leads up to the Passion story and the Crucifixion.

It's still compelling story telling. Even more so now that Moore is referencing events familiar to many of us. But there's an intimacy that is lost.

That said, it's still a great book.

If you've made it this far, you are unlikely to be offended by much of what's in it (though the Hinud faith does not fair so well in it). It can be taken as just a great story, or it can be used to spur additional thought and discussion about the life of Jesus. And it's highly entertaining.

The tone is different from other books by More, but it's still clearly his writing. And he strikes a great balance.

There's one more thing I want to mention.

Here at Cromely's World, we (and by that I mean "I") love our coffee. According to Biff, so does Joshua. And we have Biff to thank for introducing the world to the Latte.

We stopped at a stand and bought a hot black drink from a wrinkled Old man wearing a tanned bird carcass as a hat. He showed us how he made the drink from the seeds of berries that were first roasted, then ground into powder, then mixed with boiling water. We got this whole story by way of pantomime, as the man spoke none of the languages we were familiar with. He mixed the drink with honey and gave it to us but when I tasted it, it still didn't seem to taste right. It seemed, I don't know, too dark. I saw a woman leading a nanny goat nearby, and I took Joshua's cup from him and ran after the woman. With the woman's permission, I squirted a bit of milk from the nanny goat's udder onto the top of each of our cups. The old man protested, making it seem as if we'd committed some sort of sacrilege, but the milk had come out warm and frothy and it | served to take away the bitterness of the black drink. Joshua downed his, then asked the old man for two more, as well as handing the woman with the goat a small brass coin for her trouble. Josh gave the second drink back to the old man to taste, and after much grimacing, he took a sip. A smile crossed his toothless mouth and before we left he seemed to be striking some sort of deal with the woman with the goat. I watched the old man grind beans in a copper cylinder while die woman milked her goat into a deep clay bowl. There 'was a spice vendor next door and I could smell the cinnamon, cloves, and allspice that lay loose in baskets on the ground.

"You know," I said to the woman in Latin, "when you two get this all figured out, try sprinkling a little ground cinnamon on it. It just might make it perfect."

Page 126-127

"Glad he caught on. Let's find the old lady."

"Yes, then let's go back and get another one of those hot drinks," Joshua said.

Page 129

Meanwhile Joshua took to his studies with characteristic zeal, fueled in no little bit by the coffee he drank every morning until he nearly vibrated through the floor with enthusiasm.

Page 167

You can find more of my Book Reviews here.


Shatner-Palooza: Why is he climbing the mountain?

I saw this on Youtube.

The magic of Shatner is that even when someone does their own mashup, remix or short video,whether it mocks him or praises him, it still seems like something Shatner would do if he thought of it.


Windows 7 and network drive mounting

I've been testing Window 7 (now on RC1, Build 7100) for a few months now. So far I really like it, but there is one problem that is bugging me.

I just put it on one of my main machines. Actually, the one I'm typing on right now. And it is faster than Vista was. The upgrade process (without doing a clean install) went surprisingly smoothly. So I definitely like it. But...

I'm have all sorts of trouble with mapping network drives.

I store my music, pictures, older files, and other miscellaneous things on two 640 GB HDD that are attached to a Linksys NSLU2 NAS device.

Windows 7 usually won't connect to them, however. All I get is this:

When I double click on the drive to reconnect it, "My Computer" or "Windows Explorer" just hangs. And it won't connect.

I've been messing around with all sorts of network settings. I had some brief success earlier. I switched my network type from Home to Work. Then I turned off the Domain setting in the work profile. After a quick reboot, I had my network drives back.

I went away for a couple hours after syncing my iPod and they were gone again. Back to those sad looking drives with the big X.

And trying the same steps don't fix it.

Turning off the Windows firewall doesn't fix it.

What's weird is that I can reach the drives through the web utility for the NSLU2. I can see the data in there from this machine. I just can't map them.

I know it's an issue with this configuration. Another machine on the network (running XP) has no trouble seeing the drives, mapping them, and copying data.

And all the while I've been writing this, Windows is still trying to map that drive.

So I guess I've got a few more hours of trouble shooting ahead tomorrow.

Any suggestions?

Update: Well, the problem seems to have solved itself. Several days after that post, suddenly my mapped drives were back and working as well as ever. It's weird because it's not like another update to Windows came d0wn. The problem just seems to have healed, which worries me because it could some back. But it's fixed for now and I have no idea what I did.


Life in the Garden Part 34: Some pesto numbers

7 pots of basil

Grocery store basil price = $1 / ounce

4.25 pounds of basil

2009-09-12 Pesto Ingredients (6)

$68 worth of basil at retail price

2.5 pounds of basil leaves (after removing stems)

2009-09-12 Pesto Ingredients (5)

1 big bowl of pine nuts

4 lemons

4/5 bottle of olive oil

$14.56 worth of Costco parmesian cheese

2009-09-12 Pesto Ingredients (1)

3 hours

2 episodes of No Reservations

An apartment that still smells like herbs

All that adds up to a more than a year's worth of pesto

2009-09-12 Most of the Pesto

(And this is only 85% of it)


Victoria Part 04: Inner Harbour

During our recent trip to Victoria, The GF and I stayed at the Marriott by the Inner Harbour. It was a great location and a happy accident.

I booked the hotel because I had spare Marriott points in my account. I'm not sure how I keep accumulating the Marriott points; normally when I travel I try to earn Hilton points. I spend only 10-15 nights a year at Marriott properties, but they seem to accumulate.

It's a nice hotel. The bedding was comfortable and the staff was nice. Room service was tasty. The corner room was a smaller than some, but had huge windows. It was just a 6th floor room, so the view mainly consisted of the neighboring condos, But it was still nice to have. And the air-conditioner kept the room reasonably cool. Two nights at the property cost 50,000 points.

The location was fantastic. It was just a couple blocks from the Inner Harbour. The walk was actually shorter than it looked on the map, too, which is always a pleasant surprise.

The Harbour has a number of tourist activities, including the Undersea Gardens I talked about last week.

This is the Fairmont Empress Resort and Hotel. It's a beautiful building, with its back and sides shielded from the sidewalks with some lovely landscaping. It's well known for offering afternoon tea. We didn't try that; perhaps the next trip.

2009-08-26 Victoria Inner Harbor (5)

I probably have 5 or 6 versions of this picture. The challenge was to capture the hotel without capturing the traffic zipping along on the busy street.

I show this using a Sigma 10-20 MM lens. The wide angle was much more useful than I expected.

Nearby was a statue of Captain Cook who was the first European to reach British Columbia.

2009-08-26 Victoria Inner Harbor (8)

Around the corner is the gorgeous Parliament building.

2009-08-26 Victoria Inner Harbor (11)

Besides the buildings, though, the Inner Harbour area is just a pleasant area for wandering about. The vendors every few feet sell icecream, gelato, tourist goods, lemonaide, more gelato, and more icecream. On a beautiful, sunny day, it may be filled with tourists, but it is still infused with a light mood that promises the rest of the trip is going to be pretty darn nifty.

And if you get bored, you can always come back here and watch the water traffic. Or turn around and watch the human traffic. It's sure to be entertaining either way.
2009-08-26 Victoria Inner Harbor


Big Move

What do you do if you need to replace a big, obsolete, 100 year old bridge? If you're in Helena, MT, you put it on a truck and drive it away.

You can read more about the move here, in the Helana IR.

I think it's fascinating that they've taken such care to move the historic bridge rather than dismantle it in place. I've seen bits and pieces of this story as it evolved over the past year or so.

While it's awesome from a historical preservation standpoint, the move can't be easy on the local residents.


Seattle Fire Department recognizes 9-11

On Saturday, the Seattle Fire Department is holding a stair climb in one of our taller buildings to remember 9-11.

Here is the event description from the Fire Dept. website.

Firefighters from around the region will take part in Seattle’s First Annual 9-11 Memorial Stair Climb on Saturday, September 12 at Two Union Square in Downtown Seattle. As they climb, each firefighter will carry a photo of one of the 343 firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty in the attack on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.

Beginning at 9:30 a.m. firefighters will climb to the 55th floor of the tower twice, representing the 110 stories of the Twin Towers. The 9-11 Stair Climb was organized by Seattle Firefighter Melissa Woolsey and is sponsored by Seattle’s Bravest Charity and the Seattle Fire Department. All proceeds of the stair climb will benefit the New York City Widows and Orphans Fund.


New Idol judge

The NY Daily News (and nearly ever other media outlet ) is reporting that Ellen DeGeneres will replace Paula Abdul as a judge on American Idol.

"I'm thrilled to be the new judge on 'American Idol'" DeGeneres said in a statement Wednesday night. "I've watched since the beginning, and I've always been a huge fan. So getting this job is a dream come true, and think of all the money I'll save from not having to text in my vote."

I consider this theoretically good news. Ellen is great. She's funny and seems genuinely nice.

And I get kick out of Idol. I used to watch it regularly (Bo Bice got robbed), but lately, there's just so much of it. I Tivo it and build up a bunch of episodes.

But American Idol is one of those shows I like enough to to Tivo, but don't like enough to actually watch the episodes I record. And eventually Tivo gives up and erases them.

What shows do you like well enough to Tivo but not well enough to watch?


Wicked in Seattle at the Paramount

I'm not sure how much of this is my memory and how much has been influenced by stories I was told, but when I saw the Wizard of Oz as a little kid, those flying monkeys terrified me. Especially as the ripped the Scarecrow to bits. Apparently we had to turn off the TV.

I think that's a healthy response. Not the turning off the TV, the being terrified by flying monkeys. Monkeys are not supposed to fly. Evolution has relegated them to running, crawling, walking, and swinging critters. Wings are not supposed to be be part of the equation.

Don't trust anyone who's not afraid of flying monkeys.

Fortunately, they don't terrify the 38 year old 27 year old me in the same way they did the 6 year old version. And I did not have to run screaming from the theater into the Seattle night as the curtain rose on Wicked.

Tonight The GF and I caught the national touring production of Wicked. It's a fantastic show, and the best Broadway production I've seen in Seattle in years.

The show is intense, complicated, dark, and amazingly funny.

It tells the back story of the Glinda the Good Witch and the Elphaba the Wicked Witch, from The Wizard of Oz. It's a show about moral ambiguity, the importance of maintaining a healthy skepticism of what others say, and how appearances are rarely what they seem.

In addition to the witchs' backgrounds, the show answers other questions from the Wizard of Oz, such as how those damn monkeys got their wings, why those ruby slippers were so important, how the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion got the way they are, and just what was up with that freak tornado.

The story telling is excellent. With everything that happens, you would expect the plot to be complicated -- and you would be right. Despite that, I had no trouble following it. It's well paced, and the complicated stuff was clearly articulated. It may have been a little heavy on exposition in parts, but I'm okay with that.

The music and singing were fantastic. Words did get lost from time to time, but not so much that it was impossible to keep up, and they did a better job articulating than in many musicals.

The sets were creatively and effectively used in a small space. Familiar elements changed into other elements over the course of the evening. Even when I knew I was looking at the same set piece used in a different context, it still became a different item.

One of the effects I did not care for though, and I'm not even sure it was an effect. Towards the big climax right before intermission, with noise, lights, and smoke machines going, suddenly I heard the "Whooooooooooooooooop Whoooooooooooooooooop Whoooooooooooooooop" and saw the flashing white lights at the exit signs that all scream "Fire Alarm!" No one moved.

I'm 90% sure that was the theater fire alarm going off. But no one stopped the show, no guests started to leave, and as the song ended, so did the alarm. There was no follow up announcement.

There are a couple things that seem likely to me. Either the smoke machines on stage set off the alarm somehow, or they actually used it as part of the show.

If it's the latter, I have two problems with that. First, it was distracting. Instead of focusing on the show, the fire alarm took me out of the play. I was looking for exits and watching the crowd to make sure we could get out without being trampled. And I was wondering what was going on.

The other problem is that they were, in fact, yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater, and we all know that's a bad idea. There was tremendous risk in doing that.

So I'm hoping it was just a coincidental false alarm.

But I got back into the show once the"crisis" was past.

The show is hysterical. Typically heavy shows will have one character or a couple scenes specifically for the comic relief. Everyone gets to take a break for a few minutes and laugh. In Wicked they don't quite do that. Instead, the puns, snappy comebacks, sight gags (Glinda has a great shoe collection) and one liners are spread throughout the show. It's a delicate balancing act and they did a fantastic job of being funny without being silly.

I could probably do a lengthy post everyday for a week discussing the different levels of meaning and themes entwined in the plot, but I'll spare you that for now. Here is a list of just some of themes in the show:

  • Animal rights
  • Value of friendship
  • Gullibility of the public
  • The challenges of getting what you want
  • Appearances can be deceiving
  • Kids can be cruel
  • The risks of following your conscience
  • Risks of jumping to conclusions
  • Following your heart versus doing the "right" thing
The last one is interesting. There are several romantic pairings in the show where one character chooses to be with another because they feel obligated -- not because they truly feel passion. And they don't even realize that's what is happening to them. It's not a main plot point, but recurs through the play. People give up what they want because they feel the owe someone their affection. It's not something you see in many stories and serves to make this one even deeper.

So go. This is a great show. I would suggest reading the story first. I looked it up here before I went to the show. You should be able to follow it without the back ground, but I still find it helpful.

Wicked plays in Seattle through early October.