Late Night Visitor

When it comes to ghosts and other supernatural critters, I'm skeptically open-minded.  By that I mean, I acknowledge the possibility that the souls of the departed sometimes wander yet on this side of the veil, but it's unlikely I'll believe any particular ghost story.  Except my Grandmother's. And, more importantly, my own.

When I was a sophomore in college, 19 years ago, I took the job of yearbook editor.  I learned a lot on that job.  Namely that I wasn't cut out to be a yearbook editor.  But I took the job, had deadlines to meet, and no matter how much I didn't want to do it, I had made the commitment and was going to live up to it.

The yearbook office was in St. Albert's Hall, a small building that was maybe 100' away from my dorm.  St Al's was the campus student activity center.  Level 1 had lounge space with a full kitchen, and level two was long, narrow coffin like offices.  It wasn't a lot of room, but it was enough.

Decades earlier, St. Al's was home to the nuns who used to work at the college.  Stories passed from student to student had it that one of them had hung herself in her room.  Did it actually happen?  I don't know.

What I do know is that if it did, I nearly met her.

Late one night, at about 3:00 AM, I was working on a bunch of layouts.  I was alone in the building; the front door was locked.  I sat in the upstairs office along the long hallway with my door open and the radio playing.





I heard someone walking down the hallway from the far end,  got up from my chair, and peeked my head out.  I was sure it was the night security guard just checking on things.  But no one was there.

I was shrugged my shoulders, figured it was nothing, and returned to my work.  I turned off the radio in case that's what I heard.  I pulled out a fresh sheet of layout paper.





This time the steps were closer.  They came from the middle of the hall.  "Hello?" I called out, but no one responded.  I got up, looked up and down the hall, and saw no one.  I stepped out of the office, and took a quick look around downstairs.

No one.

By now, I was getting a little nervous.  I could sense the goose bumps just below the surface of my skin.  But I was still alone, and there was work to be done.  I sat down at the desk and tried to focus.



Definitely closer now.  Definitely not some animal or rodent in the building. And when I looked out, there was still no one in the hall. 

I sat at the desk and began collecting my things.  I figured I should probably go to bed soon since I was having trouble focusing, what with the phantom walker in the hall.







The mystery walker slowly walked right past my open door! 

I had no doubt these were footsteps, but still they came from nothing.  Now officially scared and making the sign of the cross, I grabbed my stuff, and got the heck out of there. 

I barely remember shutting off the lights.  I don't remember walking to my dorm; I have just flashes of the lobby in my memory.  The next thing I knew I was back in my dorm room, my heart rate starting to fall back below 500 beats per minute. 

And I never encountered that dead nun again.  But for whatever reason, that one night, she decided to check up on me. It would be a few weeks before I spent another really late night in that building.

There may be a rational explanation.  And I know few people will believe this story.  They/you are right to be skeptical.  But if I close my eyes, I can still here those steps coming down the hall.

If you've made it this far, I hope I haven't caused you any nightmares.  If you want more scary stuff, here's Jonathan Coulton's Creepy doll.  Listen and enjoy. If you dare.


Changes for Heroes?

It's been a long day, and I'm a little slow on my TiVo fast forward button.  I had to actually watch a commercial.  It would have been appalling under most circumstances, but this, well.  This was different.

Sure, it was still appalling, but for a different reason.  This commercial featured a shockingly exuberant Greg Grundberg, better known to many as Matt Parkman, the powerful telepath from Heroes. Grundberg was bouncing around the stage of a game show promoting the McDonald's Monopoly game.

So does this "in your face" ad mean that Grundberg is leaving Heroes?  Or does it mean he looked at the ratings and realized he was not going to retire on this show?

Or did he look at upcoming scripts and think being a fake game show host for McDonalds was his only chance to preserve some dignity or acting integrity.

Or is this just the latest indignity Sylar is inflicting on poor Matt Parkman?

One of the annoying things about Heroes is that they take the characters with the most potent powers -- the greatest potential to have a major change for the better (Matt Parkman and Hiro Nakamura) and just strip them down, humiliate them, or play them for comic relief. They are squandering some great opportunities with these characters.

Maybe switching to McDonalds isn't such a bad idea.


A comment from a NW Connection Flight Attendant

I boarded the a small plane for my connection out of MSP yesterday and clambered to my seat in the far back corner.  It was a regional jet so it's not like all the way back is that far back.  But  I got there and scrunched myself into the corner, lauding silently the comfort of using a scrunched up sweatshirt as a makeshift pillow against the plastic wall.  That's the real reason to travel with a sweatshirt on a plane.  The impromptu pillow uses.  That and by wearing it, it makes is less likely people will talk to you then when you dress business casual, but that's another matter.

As I waited to drift off to a fitful sleep for the next 45 minutes, the Flight Attendant gave her safety speech, which I could probably recite from memory at this point.  And then, just as we were getting ready to take off, gave us the other important piece of information:

"Ladies and gentlemen, you'll be happy to know that neither of our pilots are asleep, arguing, or using their laptop computers."

Thanks for the update, NW!


HWY 99 potential collapse

Seattle has an elevated roadway that runs along the downtown water front.  It was contructed with state of the art budgets decades ago.  That means it's loud, ugly, and dangerous.  It sustained serious damage in the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake and, while it's still open to traffic, it needs to be replaced.

Seattle's pathetic track record on civil engineering continues to rear it's head.  After the quake, everyone agreed something needed to me done. It's not just the Viaduct at stake, but also the seawall that prevents downtown from flooding.

So the people of Seattle and the state of Washington talked about it.

And talked about it.

And talked about it.

And reached a decision.

And talked about it some more.

Finally, it looks like the decisions are in place, but what to do about those decisions is once again popping up in the Mayor's race.

What it comes down to is you can't get real, quality infrastructure in place with the excessive democracy we have in this city.  Somebody needs to stop listening to the people and just build something.

I favor the expensive tunnel option of a few years ago, and even the new, smaller tunnel option that is the likely replacement.  It's not worth it to cheap out.  And by building now, in a recession, labor and material are cheaper.  Financing for the city  cheaper.  Now is exactly the time to spend on infrastructure.

But if that doens't happen, I'll be satisfied if we just take some action already.

Our Light Rail system is years behind schedule, not because of the bureaucrats can't run it effectively, but because we have to keep stopping and revisiting already made decisions.  Our Monorail project won in three elections in the space of 7 years, and was cancelled in a fourth election because I guess we weren't Really Really Really sure.

What the coolest thing to come out of this civic paralysis?  The DOT makes awesome disaster simulations. They did this for the SR520 floating bridge (pretty much the same rant).Here is their demonstration of what will happen to the Viaduct in the next earthquake.


Shatner-Palooza: Lust and Licentiousness

Shatner, continuing his quest to depose Howard Stern as King of All Media is now doing comic books.  Here, he talks about his new project. When he talks about frames and text, he almost makes sense. And the back of his toupee starts to come up. Plus the video has an awesome random tribble section.

Of course someone else is rewriting it for him.

"It's not your grandfather's comic book."


My future with Entrecard

I last wrote about Entrecard here.

Within the past couple weeks, however, I accidentally changed my Entrecard habits.

I had been able to hit my 300 drops in about 1.5 hours if all worked well. Often it would take longer, but that didn't mean I was just doing card drops for hours on end.  I would open about 50-80 tabs at a time, and let them load while I went and did something else.  After 10 minutes or so, I would come back and skim some sites, read others, and just drop and run on others that did not have fresh content.  But for several days I didn't quite have the energy to do that, and once I stopped for a few days, I no longer felt compelled to get back into that rhythm.

I'm not leaving Entrecard.  I'm not angry with them.  Their new approach to paid ads makes more sense than their older one; I don't like it, but I understand it.  I still see value in the service.  I'll continue to drop cards on the blogs I regularly read anyway, and will need to update my bookmarks so I can visit other favorites that I usually just get to by finding them in my Inbox.

My Entrecard use could turn into one of those old flame relationships.  You break up with someone, but still promise to be friends.  You both make the effort, and have a few awkward coffee shop visits.  Eventually  you start to miss phone calls and forget to return one another's voice mail and before you know it, a decade has passed and you find yourself wondering, "What ever happened to her?" You Google or Facebook them and find they have a new family and smile broadly in their pictures, and think, "That's nice." And your genuinely happy for them, if at times a little wistful.

From time to time, I'll still drop a lot of cards, visit new blogs, and hit my 300 a day.  On occasion.  I think. Or is that just awkward coffee shop banter?

What brings this on?

Basically, I  got tired of visiting 300 blogs a day.

It had been a habit for over a year.  And by visiting 300 blogs nearly every day, and placing ads on Entrecard every day, I was able to secure that top 3 spot.

I didn't decide to change my habits -- it just happened.  The triggering event was likely my rant on CSI: Miami where I commented about how I tend to ride things into the ground.  By writing that post, I lost my desire to ride Entrecard to the bitter end. That, combined with increase work schedules, and some spotty broadband performance made opening 50 tabs at once an unpleasant experience at best.

Once I stopped dropping regularly, my rank fell pretty quickly. Over the past couple weeks I dropped from the top 5 most popular EntreCard blogs down to the 60-75th place range.

My daily blog traffic dropped from 350 visitor per day to about 225.

And you know something? Some how the world didn't end.


Wicked in San Francisco at the Orpheum

Look familiar?  About a month and a half ago The GF and I saw Wicked in Seattle.  I wrote about it here.  It was a great show, and The GF liked it so much, she wanted to see it again.  So when w00tstock was announced for San Francsicso, we decided two shows made the trip worthwhile.

The show was essentially the same, as you would expect, but there were some subtle differences.  The stage didn't seem quite as wide. Some of the scene transitions seemed to overlap a bit too much.

The big difference was in the portrayal of Glinda.  I don't know if it was an acting decision or a directing decision. But it's interesting how a subtle change in actions and intonation can really change the way a character is perceived, even with the same script.

The Glinda in the Seattle version was more chipper, shallow, and ditzy.  She started the show as utterly clueless and unaware of the impact she had on others.  She was spoiled and self-centered, but didn't seem malevolent. The character was definitely a bully, but it was more because she didn't really know any better.

The Glinda in the San Francisco show was still chipper and ditzy, but she had a bit of a mean streak.  At the beginning, the character was played for exagerated comic releif, in addition to moving the story forward.  Despite that, it was a darker portrayal.  And she seemed to have more questionable motives.

The Seattle Glinda tried to get what she wanted and didn't really give any thought to the people she hurt along the way.  The San Francisco Glinda tried to get what she wanted and seemed to delight in other people's pain along the way.

Sure the San Francisco Glinda grew through the story, and became a better person, but the transition seemed less genuine than the one in Seattle.

I'm not complaining. The show was fantastic with powerful music, transformative songs, and excellent live effects.  Regardless of where you are when it comes to town, go see the show.


I just have some brief comments.  w00tstock was an awesome show tonight.

Paul and Storm were hysterical (even if no one threw panties).

Molly Lewis did a great musical piece about the death of Abraham Lincoln.

Adam Savage showed us 100 things he wants.  He is more of a geek than is evident even on Mythbusters.

Kid Beyond did some amazing stuff with just his voice and a synthesizer.

And Wil Wheaton  was as funny as ever, and despite being the biggest star there, also seemed the most like the audience and is a great embodiment of the geek culture.

If you are in the LA area on 2009-10-21, there is one more w00tstock show, and I think tickets are still available.  Flex your inner geek and go.


Musicians hear better due to better internal CoDecs

Monday afternoon, All Things Considered featured an interesting story about how musicians hear better than non-musicians, not because of their ears (hardware) but because of the way the brain processes the audio (software CoDec (well, kind of -- it's my analogy, not NPR's)).

Musical training can improve your hearing, according to several studies presented in Chicago at Neuroscience 2009, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

The studies found that serious musicians are better than other people at perceiving and remembering sounds. But it's not because they have better ears.

Sounds come in through the ears. But they travel through the nervous system and get interpreted by the brain.
That means your hearing can change even if your ears don't, says Nina Kraus, who directs the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University.

"Your hearing system becomes tuned by the experiences that you have had with sound throughout your life," Kraus says.


You can read the entire transcript here or listen to the report here.

I like to think of hearing as a processing issue in many cases.  Here's why.

I began noticing some years back, that sometimes I had trouble understanding what someone said.  I would ask them to repeat themselve, and while I was asking that, I suddenly understood what they said.

Or I'll hear something and not understand it a first.  If I think about the sound for a moment, I'll be able to understand it.

Have you noticed similar experiences?

What that tells me, is that my ears are delivering the appropriate data to my brain, but sometimes my brain simply requires more time to decode those sound waves into something that actually has meaning.  It just takes a few more CPU cycles.

To extend the metaphor a little further, it's like those grainy videos they show on CSI.  You'll see just pixealated blobs.  That's what my ears deliver to my brain. Then they press the "enhance" option on their keyboard, and suddenly the video is perfectly clear.That's what my brain does to the data my ears deliver.  Except that with hearing, this actually happens.

Musicians have better trained their brains than I have.  Their brains do a more efficient job of processing audio than mine because they live it.

And that's a fascinating process.


Alton Brown Book Signing at Third Place Books

I have made many futile effort to win a "What's that Wednesday" over at Kathy's The Junk Drawer.  While my refirgerator is still Junk Drawer magnet-free, it does inspire this opening.

Can you identify this? Don't worry if you can't; just scroll down and I'll tell you.

On Friday night, the GF and I headed up to Third Place Books to see Alton Brown and ask him to sign our copies of Good Eats: The Early Years.  Later in the evening, we met up with the GF's coworker Gus, his wife Lulu and their seriously large infant while they waited at the signing, too.

We got there at about 4:15 and there were already dozens of people in line.  The GF picked up our tickets and her book;  I went in to purchase mine (I also walked out with a copy of Marjorie Liu's "Darkness Calls"). They planned to shut down the store 5 hours early because of the anticipated crowd.

The line kept growing and growing, like the fireworks snake from an early South Park episode.  By the time they let the line inside, there were hundreds of people.  By the time Alton took the stage at 6:30, there were 900+ people there -- all for an evening of culinary geekery.

In case you had any doubts, the new, trim, Alton Brown is awesome.  Rather than read from the book, he just took questions from the crowd for about 50 minutes. He was funny, quick, informative, and thoroughly entertaining.

He mocked the Food Network website.

He praised his wife.

He mocked mini-vans.

He advocated chaining children in the kitchen so you can get some ROI from them.

He mocked vegans and said the only vegan dish he would make would be a vegan pie, and only if he could use actual vegans as the main ingredient.

He advocated eating pandas

He mocked molecular gastronomy.

He offered to by a woman's artificial chicken for $1,000.

He praised his two favorite foods: eggs and beer.

He was snarky, sarcastic, and smart.  If you get the chance to see him, do it.

He spoke for about 50 minutes (some of my favorite lines are here) and then began the signing marathon.

He started signing books at 7:30.  We finally got to see him at 10:10.

He looked tired.  No, he looked utterly exhausted.  He was desperately in need of a nap and a shave.  He had just flown in that afternoon and had to fly out to San Diego at about 6:AM the following morning.

Despite that, and despite already having spoken with hundreds of people, he was still nice and friendly.  He took a few moments to chat with us while he signed our books, and the object at the beginning of this post -- the GF's Kitchen Aide Mixer:

We got the idea of getting non-book objects signed some years ago when we saw him for the second time.  We brought wooden spoons to a presentation and he happily autographed those.

We then envisioned getting spoons signed by a number of Food TV personalities and famous chefs.

Of course, we never met any others.  So this time, I hauled the mixer around on my back until it was our turn to chat with him.

Apparently lots of people ask him to sign kitchen items -- mixers, blenders, and more.

When we left, he probably had another hour or more to go. 

Alton Brown may be snarkier on stage than he is on TV, at the heart of it all, he is a class act who genuinely appreciates his fans.

If you like his stuff, his recipes, or his show, go seem him if he comes to your area.

If you are still reading at this point, I'd also like to point out that despite the late hour and crush of people, the staff at Third Place was also great.  Especially they cheery, purple-haired woman who took the pictures for us.

You can see a few more pictures of the event here.


John and Molly Get Along

This is a bizarre and well done short about a brother who interviews his sister for a job.  It stars John and Molly Knefel.  You may recognize John from his performance  in The Negotiation.


FlashForward seems like a winner

I was skeptical at first, but FlashForward is winning me over. This ABC serial drama has an interesting premise, reasonably compelling plot, and a story line that's not too convoluted.  My enthusiasm is mildly dampened by the twist at the end of tonight's episode (don't worry, no spoilers) which seemed a bit too contrived but the show is good enough that I'll let it go.

The premise of FlashForward is that one day, everyone, everywhere in the world suddenly past out for 2 minutes and 17 seconds.  While the were passed out millions died as suddenly out of control cars wrecked, 800+ airplanes crashed, and similar problems popped up when people who operate machinery were as unconscious as everyone else.

But people weren't quite unconscious.  They actually saw 2 minutes and 17 seconds of a date 6 months in the future.  People saw where they were and what they were doing.  They ended up with a memory of the future. When they woke up, they corroborated there stories with one another.

So now the show is about how people deal with this glimpse of the future and the investigators who try to figure out what happened.

I've seen a lot of Star Trek in my time (I know -- shocking, isn't it) and time travel is often badly done with temporal loops and figure 8s that just leave me scratching my head.  Heroes has just gotten awful in its time travel stuff (I'm pulling for Hiro Nakamuara to succeed at what he wants but he's got to stop with the lousy year jumping -- it was a cructch for the show that has atrophied the leg.)

But FlashForward is getting it right so far.

You can debate whether this is a time travel show or not.I find is most interesting as a meditation on predestination.

Now that you know what your future holds, what do you do?  If you don't like it, can you do things now to make sure that future doen't come to pass or are you stuck with it regardless of what you do?  If it is a future you want, can you consciously do things to bring it about?  Or since you know the future, can you not worry about doing things to bring it about because it will happen regardless?

If it's not the future that you want, you may try to change things.  But is it possible to change things and alter the future at all? Or will all attempts to avoid an outcome?

When people know the future, are they compelled to do things they might not otherwise do just to ensure that future comes about?

In that sense, it calls to mind some of the ideas from Bad Monkees -- Omne Mundum Facimus  or "We all make the World."

These are the questions science fiction often tries to answer regarding time travel.  FlashForward is asking them the right way.

So did April 29, 2010 happen the way it did, or did it happen differently than it did?  I imagine we'll get some answers before then.

I can see them coming.

Oh, and be sure to visit The FlashForward Experience and connect with Facebook.  It's pretty trippy.


A little white thing you stand on

I stumbled across this video last night while looking for tips to improve my scores / performance on the Wii Fit.  The video may be a bit old, but I found it hilarious. Plus I spend too much time at Ikea, anyway.

There are also a number of sites dedicated to cheating on the Wii Fit. Seriously? Leaving a box of books on the balance board to score higher? What's the point? If you really feel the need to cheat on the Wii Fit, maybe you should just put it on Ebay.


Eco Roof Problems

Green roofs are becoming more popular.  They are a great way to minimize runoff and relieve the strain on storm sewers.  They can also help regulate city temperatures, when present in significant enough quantities, and reduce C02 output.

They also look really cool and put us on the path of turning out metropolitan centers into modern day Hobbitons.

As they become more popular, we'll here more about problems like this -- weeds.

City offices moved into the $9 million, two-story building at the corner of Harbor Point Boulevard and Cyrus Way a year later, just before last Christmas.

Invasive clover moved in some time after that.

Now workers are busy removing all the vegetation from the new City Hall's weed-infested roof, along with the soil and the contaminated seed-filled mulch. All the clover has killed most of the greenery the city intended to be up there.

... More

Apparently clover was in the mulch a contractor laid down, and it took over and replaced all the other plants.

This is not an indictment of the Green Roof.  It's just one of those things that happens.  No matter what technology or process we use, things can go wrong.  And plants on roofs are no diferent.  But that's no reason to stop building them.

Workers began removing the old roofing material early last week. They expect the replacement to be finished in a couple weeks.

How much is the replacement costing the city?

Not a dime, said Niggemyer. It's all under warranty.

... More


Keep a lid on your Pepper Spray

This story struck me as odd:

Emergency teams rushed to a Seattle hotel and at least five people were treated when a chemical irritant was released into the air Sunday morning.

Dozens of police, hazmat teams and medics were dispatched to the scene, the Hotel Andra at Fourth Avenue and Virginia Street, at about 11:15 a.m.

The chemical irritant turned to be a pepper spray, according to a statement from the hotel.

"The can of spray belonged to one of our guests, and was accidentally tipped over by a member of our housekeeping staff while servicing the room," the statement said.


Presumably, the guest drove to the hotel  Or obviously, our highly efficient and effective TSA would have secured the Pepper Spray before they got on a plane.  Right?  Of maybe they just had less than 3.4 ounces of it.

But "tipped over"?  Was it in a cup?  Did someone fill their travel mug with pepper spray instead of coffee?  Is pepper spray really the kind of thing that can, if "tipped over," sicken 5 people and result in a full hazmat rollout?

In High School, Brother Paul Bernard opened the school year in Chemistry class by releasing a copper-based brown gas into the class room from an experiment.  That stuff poured out of the box on his desk and drifted towards the floor like a fluffy liquid.  Of course he reminded us, "THIS! is poison GAS!" but continued to do it for some reason.  I think he'd be considered a felon now.

So close the lid on your pepper spray.  You don't want housekeeping to spill it. I guess.


Java Junction in Boise, ID

This time of year reminds me of my 2.5 years in Boise, ID. The chilly air would put me in the mood for coffee and a hearty snack. Off I would go to Java Junction for a mocha and a bowl of chili. The 1 mile walk from my North End home to the corner of Harrison BLVD and Hill Road made that warm meal even better.

I always liked walking up Harrison BLVD in the fall. The trees were busy shedding leaves, and the fantastical, classy Halloween decorations adorned the million dollar homes. The chill in the air kept me walking quickly, while my mind wandered to the point in my life where I could live here, instead of the one room house I was renting.

At Java Junction I'd step up to the counter, find my frequent coffee card in their Rolodex (I wonder how many years it stayed there after I moved away), order a large, 2-shot Mocha, get a bowl of Chile, and sit down in a corner with my computer and sales magazines.

I don't know if they had a special recipe, or if it was all just out of a can, but that Chile was fantastic. It was warm, flavorful, and meaty. I warmed me right up from the inside out, forcing out the chill way a fireplace forces the winter air out of a lonely mountain cabin.

A few hours later, warmed, calmed, and freshly educated, I'd head back home, perhaps strolling a little more slowly this time.


Poetry Day?

National Poetry Day in Britain came and went a few days ago;  I imagine it was celebrated in the US, too, though we didn't actually have Ticker Tape parades.

But I'm not a fan of Poetry.

Sure, I can respect it when it's well-done.  I'd like to think I can even differentiate well-written poems from poorly written ones.  And in College I took my own stab at writing the kind or whiny poetry that can only come from the heart of an overwrought and self-important 18 year old (after all, isn't that what college is for?).

In High School and College I had plenty of exposure to poetry through competitive Forensics.  And I wasn't bad at presenting poetry pieces.

And I like prose to have an element of the beauty of poetry and respect and love for the lyrical magic of the words.

And Dr. Seuss is awesome.

But I don't like poetry.  And it seems odd to say that.  It's not because I haven't seen it, or studied it, or spent months and years working with it.  I have.  And I still don't care for it.  I can't read it for leisure.  I don't seek it out.  When I come to blog posts that are primarily poems, I skim and move on. 

So while I don't want to offend poets, I'm going to have to shrug my shoulders at National Poetry Day. But I hope those of you of the stanza-cle bent had a great one.


Trading movies for pets in Boise

I find it hard to believe I spent only 2.5 years living in Boise, ID.  It's a great town, though it has grown and changed quite a bit in the last 12 years.

I found this story in the Idaho Statesman a bit disappointing.

For years, drivers exiting the Connector at Franklin Road and heading to the mall couldn't miss seeing the big, square, white building with the movie marquees near the railroad tracks at 130 N. Milwaukee Ave.
By next spring, they'll have an updated PetSmart to check out instead.
"It will just be a stimulus, and better-looking for the entrance of the mall," said Harold Hembree, vice president head of development at Rinker Co., the owner of the property.
Rinker, which owned most of the Boise Towne Square property before its development, built the movie theater in 1988.


I've been to a few movies in that theater, and I don't recall it being a particularly spectacular one.  By no means am I comparing it to the grand theaters.  But still, it seems kind of sad to watch a movie theater closed and be replaced by a retail store.

It certainly sounds like a nice PetSmart that will provide all sorts of awesome services for pet owners.  It will make for lot's of happy cats, dogs, and people.

It just seems like a movie theater should be different from another type of building.  It's purpose built and dedicated to story telling.  It's a modern temple to the hopes and dreams of America's teenagers.  It's a place to connect with others in a nationwide, shared, dream world.

It just seems like it should have a more dignified future.


Airport Furnishing

I flew to Irvine tonight on a mostly empty 737.  I think there were only 30 passengers on the plane.

When I got off, I had an exciting discovery.

SNA Gate 10 has a new Jetway! Or at least new carpeting and walls in the old Jetway.  It was like going to a new airport.

I'm not sure what's more disturbing:

The fact that I noticed a new jetway in an airport other than SEA.
That fact that I would notice a jetway anyplace.
The fact that I found it exciting.


Why do I watch CSI: Miami

Note:  Ranty SPOILERS ahead.  If you haven't watched the latest CSI: Miami, and don't want to know what happens, stop reading now.

I tend to get compulsive about certain things.  Once I start something, I feel the need to see it through to the bitter end (which may be why I'm still with Entrecard, but that's another matter altogether). I have trouble walking away from things like TV shows, projects, and more until they're done.

And once CSI: Miami cancelled is I'll likely be relieved.  I don't defend this show. It has some comic moments, and the over the top mellow drama is mildly entertaining.  And David Caruso gives the show some flair, but on balance, it's a bad show.  The story lines are way too convoluted.

Tonight's episode was a good example.  Three guys died on a beach volleyball court in a way that would make Rube Goldberg shake his head in shame.  The killer followed these steps:

  1. Cut the heads off golf clubs.
  2. Tape a bunch of headless golf clubs together to make a long lighting rod.
  3. Attach the rod to a shack on the beach. 
  4. Run a cable from the rod, under the sand, down hundreds or thousands of feet of beach to the volleyball court.
  5. Fray the end of the cable for maximum exposure.
  6. Spread copper sulfate all over the beach sand to make it more conductive.
  7. Wait for a lighting strike on a sunny morning.

And wouldn't you know it? Lightening struck only once, and only during the game (not in the hours leading up to it).  It struck just when the right folks happened to be standing there.

When the cops investigate, the see a cable, and what to they do with this visibly frayed cable in the middle of the crime scene?  They pick it up.

And of course no one tripped or fell over the cable in all that time leading up to it.  Even in the heat of a Volleyball  match.

I'm sorry, but this is too stupid to even appreciate on the level of silliness.

And yet, I'll keep watching this thing until CBS has the good sense to shoot it.  Surely they can replace it with something better.  How about another Criminal Minds?  Or even a new Friends spin off called Central Perk West featuring Gunther moving to Seattle?


Impaired Vision on the Road

Dust storms recently shut down I90 in Eastern Washington, near Moses Lake.  It looks like the road is now open.

MOSES LAKE, Wash. -- Strong winds that had whipped up dust and caused poor visibility in Eastern Washington have subsided, allowing authorities to reopen Interstate 90 between Moses Lake and Ritzville.

Periodically, we hear about these conditions and the resulting 50+ car pile ups.  They've been known to happen on I-84 in northern Oregon, and in central California.  You get too much dust with too much wind, or you get too much fog, combined with people traveling too fast, following too closely, or just rounding a corner and suddenly encountering blinding conditions on the road and its a recipe for mayhem and insurance claims.

In my travels I've enoucountered some challenging conditions, but the worst was in the '93 or '94.  I was at the end of a long drive from New York to Helena, MT.  That last day I got my first taste of truly blinding rain near Gillette, WY.  The rain came down so hard, intense, and fast, that I could see only a few feet in front of the car. All I could do was slow to a crawl while the monster sized drops pounded the roof of my Subaru GL and look for a place to pull over.

The problem is you can't just stop, because you will get hit from behind.  And you can't really go on because of the danger.  So all I could do was crawl forward, try to follow the tail lights on the semi's in front of me, hope they don't screw up, and sneak down an exit to wait.  Fifteen minutes later, it was all clear, and I continued on my way.

I encountered the same type of rain in the mountains east of Bozeman, MT later that day, and again, followed a slow moving semi, watched the 10' of roadway lane marking, and eventually ended up in a rest stop (I think) until the rain again let up.

The amazing thing to me is that people kept going.  This wasn't the type of rain you can deal with by turning on the wipers; the blindness wasn't caused by an opaque windshield -- it was an opaque atmosphere in front over every vehicle. 

And yet people zipped on by. 

I know it makes me sound old to complain about the maniacs flooring it on the freeway, but this was genuinely scary blinding rain.  And that was back when I was younger and making decisions I might not make today.  And I still had the sense to get off the road.

I guess the points I take aware are:

  1. Dust of the Interstate sucks.
  2. Fog on the Interstate sucks.
  3. Waterfalls of rain blocking everyone's view on the Interstate suck.
  4. If you can't see more than 10', what they hell are you doing driving 30-60 mph?
  5. Rain is loud.


Haircut in the middle of the night

A late night, home-based room service order sent me to Jack in the Box at 11:45 PM on a Saturday night.  Fortunately, the local one down on 4th AVE in SODO has a 24 hour drive thru.

Of course there was a line because it's the hip place to be on a Saturday night.  What I didn't expect to see was a mobile hair salon. 

Parked on 3rd AVE, just past the drive thru bushes was a small flat bed truck with a camper attached to have the bed.  It had a big window and bright lights inside.

While waiting to place an order bound to be misunderstood at the drive thru speaker, I looked over at the van and saw a barber at work.  This wasn't just a random guy cutting hair with garden shears.  Inside the vehicle there was an actual barber chair, and actual barber shop blue liquid, and a guy sitting in the chair wearing an actual barber customer gown and an actual barber cutting his hair.  The barber finished and held up a mirror for the guy to see the results and he seemed pleased.  The barber then began sweeping up hair.

To many questions popped into my mind as I tried to wrap my head around this bizarre scene.  I thought about taking a picture but opted not to for a few reasons. One being that my cell phone does not take great night pictures.

But mainly because I didn't want to get shot.  I have no idea why someone feels the need to set up a random, mobile, professional barbershop with no outside signage.  Could it be performance art?  Could it be a money laundering operation?  Could it be an espionage meeting point? Could there be drugs involved?  Could it jut be an original entrepreneurial venture?  Could it be the kind of thing where I'm just supposed to not ask any questions?

If it was something unseemly, why would they choose something so conspicuous? So it must be legit, right?  Or is that just what they want me to think?

This is going to keep me up all night. Good thing I already do my haircut.


What's inside a cup of coffee?

In this month's issue of Wired (17-10), they give Cromely's World a treat and explain exactly what chemicals you will find in coffee.  It turns out to be filled with stuff that's good for you.  At least that's I how choose to read it.

Chemically, it's a molecule of niacin with a methyl group attached. It breaks down into pyridines, which give coffee its sweet, earthy taste and also prevent the tooth-eating bacterium Streptococcus mutans from attaching to your teeth. Coffee fights the Cavity Creeps.

... More