Saturday, December 30, 2006

For the den

Mounted Tyrannosaur head. Good, but I think I might prefer a mounted grey instead.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Shaving without commitment

I like my own hair just fine, but I don't have a problem with the idea of parting with it should the occasion arise. But what would be the most prudent way to proceed?

[Caution to those at work: it's some dude without his clothes. But there are bubbles, so it should be copacetic, right?]

I saw a HeadBlade in the store the other day and thought to myself, "I might try that if I knew that I could change back if I didn't like the way my head looked." That's when I came up with the idea of a razor with undo.

The way it would work would be to mate an electric or non-electric razor with a can of spray-on hair in the color of your existing hair. If you make a mistake and take off more than you actually want, you would flip a switch on the thing so that you could reforest the bad spot with a bit of spray-on. To go even higher-tech, one could imagine a gadget that collects and cleans the little hairs being shaved off, so that when you hit the undo button they could be stuck back on, assuring an absolutely perfect color match to what you had before. Assuming that that was what you wanted (think bad dye jobs). It would be like having CTRL-Z for your head! (Geeks know what I mean by that.)

It would also be great for persons undergoing sudden hair loss (such as during chemotherapy), to get rid of the weak hair and replace it with something more durable.

I think it might also work in the case of shaving one's face, though am somewhat dubious about how convincing the spray-on stuff would be in emulating a beard, let alone a mustache. It might be good in combating the problem of uneven sideburns, perhaps.

I know that there are women who shave their heads also, but I think it might be a savvier marketing idea to go after the much larger segment which shave their legs. I find it unlikely that they would have much reason to restore the hair, but I understand that some people have problems with cuts during this procedure, so I think the obvious choice would be to mate a razor with antiseptic and spray-on skin. As soon as one felt or saw a little nick, a spritz of this and a spritz of that should set you right.

Also would be nice to have: software to let you know what your bald head would look like beforehand. But that would be the subject of a different post altogether.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Pied beauty

Christmas morning we drove out on a one-night trip to Massachusetts to visit Pam's mother. There's a pet store near us which we've patronized for ten years where we bring our two cockatiels for boarding when we're out of town, so that we know they'll be warm and fed.

originally uploaded by milkfish.

Last night, after calling the store, we drove home and went over to pick them up, and the first thing I noticed when I looked at their cage up on a high shelf was that I couldn't see either of them. Had they gotten out and flown away? But then I saw a head pop up from the lower part of the cage and I thought they were just playing on the floor. Instead, we found BB (the one on the left here) slumped on the grill, dead, and Pearl had been standing by her. The pet store worker told us that when we'd called twenty minutes earlier, she'd looked and they both looked fine standing up on their perch.

BB was twelve or thirteen years old, near as we can figure, not very old for a bird of this type in fact. As you can see, she had that patchy "pied" color pattern quite different from the normal grey cockatiel hen. She'd gotten her name from her little two-note cry with a rising intonation, which sounded to us like "BB? BB?" She was not a hand-fed bird and so was always a bit nervous around us, unlike Pearl, though we came to an arrangement over time where we could pick her up without too much struggle to pet her, and she would never, ever bite.

We called the largest vet clinic here last night to find out what to do to find out whether there might have been some kind of illness present which would put Pearl at jeopardy, but they told us that they do not do pet necropsies themselves, referring people to Cornell if such is required. She seems to be fairly healthy, though she was unusually hungry when we got her home, ravenous, really, making us wonder whether they might have been deprived at the pet store, though it seems nearly as likely that she might have succumbed to a bad fall somehow. We had other reasons to believe that the account given by the pet store was accurate and that it had happened only a very short time earlier, but everything is based on circumstantial evidence.

I checked on Pearl this morning and she seems to be okay. It makes me sad to see her all by herself there, even though the two of them had not been best buddies or anything like that, because I know they are very social creatures. My wife is upset and unhappy too because of a sort of history of Bad Things having happened the week between Christmas and New Years Day.

I'll be going out to lay BB to rest in a spot in the garden later this morning. BB was a wonderful, sweet pet to have had these ten years, and it's a hollow kind of loss we feel.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas eve 2006

Our church choir's one big performance at 10pm last night went off at last, after something like eight weeks of practice, with many of the same hymns as last year.

Choral preludes (9:30 PM)

  1. O Holy Night (Adam)

  2. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

  3. Gesù Bambino soprano solo (Yon)

  4. Panis Angelicus tenor solo (Franck)

  5. Pie Jesu soprano/alto duet (Webber)

  6. Hark, the Herald Angels Sing (Wesley - Mendelssohn)


  1. O Come, All Ye Faithful (Wade - Adeste Fideles)

  2. A Christmas Gloria (Gibson)

  3. A Child Is Born (Deiss)

  4. Christmas Alleluia (Dean)

  5. Offertory - He Shall Be Called (Callaway)

  6. Sanctus - Mass of Creation (Haugen)

  7. Profession of Faith - "O Come Let Us Adore Him" (Wade - Adeste Fideles)

  8. Amen - Mass of Creation (Haugen)

  9. Lamb of God - Mass of Creation (Haugen)

  10. Communion meditation -
  11. Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring violin and piano duet (J. S. Bach)

  12. Communion hymn - Silent Night/Night of Silence (Kantor)

  13. Joy to the World (Watts - Händel)

I would be exaggerating to say that everything went off without a hitch, but I think the issues we had to deal with were pretty small - a missed cue here, a disjointed accompaniment there, a thump when someone touched a microphone - that most of them were probably just at the threshold of perception for the audience. On the other side, we seemed not to have as much of the chronic flaws we fought during practice (ragged entrances and a pronounced tendency to go flat), plus the crowd maybe 25% larger than what we had last year, in this time slot that always poses such a challenge.

Finally, after the last hymn, I made an announcement: Nobody was to leave until they'd had a chance to pick up one of the cupcakes I'd made! From the sound of the thanks I received, I think I might have earned some (almost literal) brownie points thereby.

2007 calendar

I used one of the Flickr Toys to make this calendar for 2007 out of some of my favorite snapshots. (Click on the thumbnail to download a zip archive of the 12 individual months.) It is suitable for printing in a format suitable for a CD case. I hope you like it!

Update: Changed the link over to my other site, which has changed hosts and ports.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Don't let them get me!

When I was a kid there were are few movies which would sometimes get me scared at night, with the common old fear of the thing lurking under the bed. This crafter has created a monster under the bed plushie which I feel deserves to be popularized, as a way to help children (and others) get over their night frights maybe. Maybe some purple electric tentacles and slime glands would be nice accessories to add - I'm willing to act as consultant!

originally uploaded by GothCandy.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Attention, Warner Brothers

Elmer Fudd would be overjoyed to receive a set of these rabbit fur serving utensils.

Do you suppose they could be persuaded to make a set in, say, roadrunner?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Rubikation reprise

The tactilely-enhanced Rubik's cube should, I think, be in greyscale, don't you? That way, the sighted spectators would really have to stare at it to know whether it was solved correctly or not, whereas the blindfolded solver would just know.

For the record

I saw this edgy biohazard-themed laundry bag at Realm Dekor and thought that while this was cool (along with their shower curtain and bath towels, they really should have pushed it a smidge further and put the crab-symbol thingy on other household items.



Major appliances:

(I thought the bright red would be a nice touch as well.) You could either intend it ironically, or as an actual service to your houseguests. One also might want to accessorize and expand on the theme with a nice set of Petri Dish rugs.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A new record

I was down in the basement going through some old papers when I came across one which I came across one describing the original property tax assessment when we first moved here. It had the date of sale (our closing date) on it: 12-11-1996 - exactly ten years ago this last Monday! Today or tomorrow would be the anniversary of our actually moving in (it was a snowy day, as I recall). Perhaps there should be some kind of celebration when one reaches this kind of milestone, the sort of thing one has a round-number birthday or wedding anniversary?

I know I've got a picture of the place somewhere, maybe I'll post it here if I can locate it.

Ten years is the longest I've ever lived in one place, equaling the length of time I was in the house my parents still live in now. The place needs a fair amount of work - a new garage, back door, bathroom floors and tub enclosures, windows upstairs, some landscaping - all things we would like to do before selling out. Neither of us envisions staying here permanently, really, although circumstances currently do not suggest a good exit strategy.

The whirlwind

Remember how relieved you felt when the hurricane season ended this year with zero hurricanes hitting the US mainland? Wasn't it a pleasant surprise not to see pictures and headlines about people who have lost everything, and the ones even less lucky to have lost their lives to the storm? Well I felt that way too, and I know it was a good thing.

Still, I would like remind people that the Pacific typhoon season has not been so kind with super-cyclone Durian making landfall in the Philippines on southern Luzon and killing perhaps 700 people. Perhaps if you had a little money earmarked for charitable giving in case of natural disaster in this country, and ended up not needing to dip into it, you might consider a donation for disaster relief for the 100000 people affected by this typhoon? I don't have much to spare, myself, but sent in what we could afford.

Friday, December 15, 2006

More on TV shields

Since I first blogged about the problem of fragile television screens last August, the problem has gained a lot of notoriety owing to damage sustained by players of Nintendo's Wii system. Of course, with these kinds of hazards, you have to have protection while the TV is on, so a fancier flying-object countermeasure (one that flips up in a fraction of a second? sonar activated? diamond-coated screens?) would be necessary. These gamers are flinging their handsets with some considerable force to be able to shatter glass that way, so a namby-pamby plastic film is just not going to work. Maybe we just have to rig up some anti-bombardment armament so an expensive TV can defend itself in a fair fight.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Actually, I did want what I haven't got

My HP Photosmart 735 has pointed and shot its last today, after one ultimate electronics-rattling spill after three years of same, and it was clear to me that I needed to pick up a replacement digital camera for work. It's all part of that wave of stuff breaking down recently, I think.

The main things I wanted were a macro mode for taking close-up pictures of repairs, SD card compatibility, a good size display for previewing pictures. I didn't care about having lots of pixels, since I spend most of my time taking pictures at the lowest resolution anyway, and since I haven't gotten into shooting video or recording audio clips, I didn't care about any of those other multimedia functions. Above all, I wanted something which was rugged, since I carry it into the field every day in my camera bag and don't want to have to worry about the hard knocks it will take now and then. Oh, and I didn't want to spend more than $200 US.

Of course, there really is no such camera out there, as far as I can tell. On that next-to-last qualification, I am wondering why they don't make leather cases (not bags) that protect the corners and backs of the camera while still making it possible to take a shot just by unsnapping a couple of snaps, the way the old SLR cases used to be. I still have my old Nikon film camera from twenty years ago and more, and the body without a scratch because of its case, and it seems like some company like Rhinoskin should be impossible to do the same thing for the low-end digital cameras too. Or maybe one of those companies that make nose bras.

At the office supplies store nearest to my house I picked up a Kodak camera with twice as many pixels as I strictly need. It even fit under the last of my criteria, and they threw in a 512MB SD card as part of the deal. I can store 3437 pictures at the lowest resolution setting without changing out the card, which would probably take me years. I'm still getting used to the different auto-focus behavior of this camera. You can check out a picture of myself I took to try it out.

Tickle my bones

You may not import a piano into this country if the keys are made of non-antique ivory, a measure which helps to protect the dwindling populations of ivory-bearing animals.

originally uploaded by woxy.
Steinway and other piano makers thus use synthetic material to cover their keys, something which I am sure grieves many an old-fashioned music lover.

But now does technology come to the rescue? You can already arrange to have a laboratory produce rings cultured from your own bone:
When you think about it for a while, it’s like ivory but more ethical, and the material has never been part of Harriet, just grown from her code taken from her body.

Well, pretty close - ivory comes from teeth, not bones, but they're both composed of the mineral apatite, and some craftsmen do use beef bone to cover keyboards.

So what could be better than to own a piano where the keys are covered in your own bone? I can only think of one instrument possibly cooler in this morbid way: a xylophone constructed of cultured strips of the player's bone. (I would rather call it instead an osteophone but that name seems to have been already usurped.)

It would be the perfect instrument on which to perform the Danse Macabre or perhaps some Tom Waits.

Evil minds at the keyboard

BigString offers a free email service which enhances the email you send in the following ways:

  • Self-destructing email (the screen image of your email burns up or fades away after being served up to the recipient).

  • Non-printing, non-forwardable email.

  • Messages which were sent from one email account which appear to come from another email account.

  • Email which can be edited or deleted after it has been sent.

  • Email which can be viewed only one time.

All of this is fine when used by responsible and morally upright folks, but if it falls into the wrong hands? Consider the possibilities:
  • Man woos heiress and emails a proposal of marriage. Asks her for the combination of safe deposit box. Once he has the contents, edits his email to delete any mention of wanting to be wed.

  • A person with a grudge email-bombs their target with a huge amount of disturbing and graphic images, maybe illegal, by way of harassment. When the victim calls in the authorities, they find only some innocuous vacation pictures.

  • A spy could send pictures they took of secret documents to their handler (perhaps encrypted) and have them self-destruct.

  • Same as preceeding, only substitute "unfaithful spouse" for "spy."

  • The email-masquerading feature seems like a good way to provoke someone into doing something unwise that they might avoid if they knew who the solicitation was really coming from.

I'm sure that a security maven at the company could come up with some good countermeasures for each of these and others I could dream up (though I do not see them addressed in their FAQ), but it seems like it might be pretty messy. Until then, let all the hack mystery writers be on notice that this is the birth of a brand-new cheesy plot device to use!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tearjerkers for guys

Women often report enjoying going to the movies to have a good cry, so maybe men (and I'm talking about conventionally straight men) could benefit from similar stories with them in mind. Unfortunately, it is surprisingly difficult to come up with much in the way of ideas of film stories which have a high likelihood of making your average guy really weepy, rather than enraged or just quietly humiliated. But maybe if the special effects are really good, a big Hollywood studio could clear that obstacle.

originally uploaded by whyizit.

Off the top of my head:
  • Man sacrifices for years to buy a sports car, the only one he knows he'll ever own. A day after he picks it up, he finds that someone's scratched it all the way down to the primer.

  • One of the new guys in the office tries to fit in by trying for the slow-pitch softball team, is picked last.

  • The guy is in a store selling fancy electronics at a discount and sees a beautiful, ring-less girl looking at him from a couple of aisles over. Turns out, she thought he worked there.

  • The first date is going great, she's laughing at his jokes, and it's time to leave. But his credit card is declined, and he has to borrow some cash to cover the bill.

  • Pulling out of his driveway, he sees something and stops just in time to miss a kid riding past on a bicycle. He's congratulating himself, but then realizes that something doesn't seem right in his shirt pocket area. His iPod is missing, and it turns out that he had just run over it.

Now that I look at these, I see that all I've done is to summarize a set of YouTube shorts which people will tag as "funny" and call the guy a "loser" in the comments.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Sterilized for your convenience

I was looking at this transparent German knife block at about the same time I was reminded of Laura Splan's Blood Scarf and devised this hybrid.

The red fluid would be dyed grain alcohol, sealed into the space between the clear acrylic panels, which would serve to help sterilize the cutting edges as well as providing the festive color accent. You would fill the thing with a big syringe, which you would also use periodically as the alcohol evaporates.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Heads-up display for performers

Yesterday, as sometimes happens, I sang a solo at church. It went pretty well, partly because I am one of the two or three people in the group who does not much suffer from the number one phobia: public performance. I think I got rid of this particular fear back when I was teaching college and got used to all those ravenous (or sometimes sleepy) eyes looking at me all at once.

Consider a visor like the one shown here, maybe slightly reduced in size to something like the thing Bono wears onstage, with the half-reflective properties of a heads-up display. If you adjust the lighting at the venue and the contrast of the display you could effectively blot out the sight of those threatening eyes. One could replace it with something calming or useful (such as the words of the psalm you are singing, often a tough thing for me to read given my recent turn toward farsightedness). Or, if you wanted more of a mood enhancer, you could just have a scene which enhances the emotional delivery of what you are singing or saying - for instance, if you were singing the beginning of The Sound of Music you could have a projection of the Austrian Alps spinning around. You could either keep your little technological hallucination to yourself, or you might choose to project it on a screen behind you simultaneously. It might work for some people to distract them from the audience they fear.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I'm envious

I came across this article when searching for information about this bar made out of espresso. Quoting:

Lava Chocolate has launched another chocolate bar in the US, promoting its Lava Bar as the first liquid chocolate bar. The bar is presented in a foil lined squeezable pouch which is touted as being ideal for on-the-go consumption as it allows the contents to be squeezed into the mouth without spillage. The chocolate can also be poured over ice cream or other desserts like a normal chocolate topping. A lawyer developed the bar in his kitchen while still working full time, hiring a manufacturer and food scientist, as well as trademarking the idea, in his spare time.

Developing a new chocolate delivery system in one's spare time? Why didn't I think of that? (Probably because the enterprising lawyer didn't spend all his extra time blogging.) Especially considering that the invention just sounds like it might just be Bosco in a pouch - heck, anybody could have done that! And don't tell me that this guy is the first person who's had a chocolate bar melt in the sun and eaten it anyway. Though it probably helps to be well-heeled so as to be in a position to hire a manufacturer and a food scientist.

Excuse me, I've got to get working on my idea of peanut butter in a foil pouch, stat.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

It pays to blog

Molar Graffiti
Molar Graffiti,
originally uploaded by henrier.
...and not necessarily in the way you might think. My recent experience at the dentist was still fresh in my mind because I blogged it here, when one day I received a bill from the dental insurance company saying that I owed them some money. They claimed that one of the two fillings was a redo of previous work covered some years back, when in fact I distinctly remember the offending filling being in between the two that were put in during this last go-around.

I called the dentist office today, and sure enough, the old work was on #19. So this bill is being lobbed back into their court, and maybe I'll get off scot-free.

So, perhaps it isn't a totally crazy idea to set up a something online wherein one writes about all the stuff that has been worked on, in case you're dunned for the same thing a while later. No reason to stop at teeth, of course, I could enumerate the widgets inside my vehicle which have been put in, medical procedures in general, bill payments. I'm not terribly eager to have people online know all this stuff about me (and it would likely not be a compelling read), so either I would want to set a blog up anonymously but with keys to prove when the time comes that it was I who posted the items, or not set up a blog at all, but submit the items some kind of online notary service.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Non-seasonal greetings

It's the time when we are much wrapped up in greeting cards here, so I started thinking of non-Christmas cards for a change of pace. I came up with this romantic number (click on the image to open a printable PDF version in a new window.

Updated: corrected link to pdf.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Gift idea #7: All human knowledge

Did you know you can download a best-of collection of Project Gutenberg's collection of etexts to burn on a DVD, or, if you want to customize the selection, roll your own selection of books to burn onto disk? Combine this with some text-to-speech software and one would never need to feel deprived of something to learn about. The only better thing would be if they had perfected the skull jack so that you could just pipe all this information directly into your brain.

And it's all free. Free, I tell you!

It is true that for the most part, the texts in the collection are only those already in the public domain, and as such are some 80 years or more in age. But if you think about what has happened since the 1920s in human history, you might well conclude that the sum total of mankind's wisdom has not significantly increased since then, and one could even make the case that it has slipped down a notch or two. And there are some dandy selections in there. (Some of which I have even had the privilege of having edited.)

This concludes my little gift-giving series, which I hope has given you an outside-the-box idea or two - please let me know in the comments if you have any success with these. If you're up to it, since after all, Wittgenstein tells us "What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence." I should caution, however, that in a recent report, scientists tell us people suck at gift-giving for those they care about, so don't set your expectations too high.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Gift idea #6: Peace

let there be....
let there be....,
originally uploaded by imagepeace.
In this season when so many of us turn our thoughts on how to give back, doesn't it make sense to consider whether it might be possible to go for the greatest hope, the one which tops so many people's list? "But," you say, "how can I possibly do anything to bring an end to war and conflict everywhere on earth?"

Mathematics. Are you surprised?

[T]he researchers propose people tell a referee how much they value certain qualities of a cake.

The referee then uses these weighted values to calculate where to cut the cake.

In an ideal world, both parties would get 100% of what they want. But in reality there's a compromise.

Jones says his team's algorithms ensure that both parties get about 65% of what they want, based on the principle of giving each person at least 50% of the cake plus the surplus as they value it.

The catch is that the system depends on honesty and requires a referee and a calculator.

The surplus procedure system can be used for two or three people, Jones says, but doesn't work quite as well for three or more.

He says the method can also be applied to other heterogeneous and divisible items, like dividing land or deciding how much rent each flatmate pays.

So consider making a sacrifice: cancel your trip to Starbucks and postpone that haircut you were planning, grab that old calculator out of the kitchen drawer and get yourself over to Palestine to offer your services as a referee to the parties there. There will be time to practice your fractions on the plane ride over. After that, buoyed by your success, maybe trips to Darfur, Baghdad, and Kabul next, and with luck you can be back in time for Christmas Eve.

The best thing about this plan is that give the size of the gift itself, you can probably designate multiple recipients and thus knock off most or all of your gift list at one stroke. Only the curmudgeonly ones who would admit to wanting a PS3 over the ancient dream of worldwide harmony would you still need to shop for, and maybe you could pick up a knicknack or two on your global errand for them too.

Plus, next year you'll most likely have a lock on picking up some pretty classy jewelry, baby!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Gift idea #5: Da bomb

Medium-sized nuclear warhead
Medium-sized nuclear warhead,
originally uploaded by cowgirlmelissa.
If you have a trawler and the time to devote, maybe you could help locate one of the thermonuclear devices the US has lost over the years. It's got to be better than leaving it out there to rust, right? Put a big red bow on it, like on those Lexus commercials, and watch how their eyes will light up when your friend or loved one finds one of of these on Christmas morning (or any Hanukkah night).

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Gift idea #4: Silicone stand-ins

Breast Inspector
Breast Inspector,
originally uploaded by Danfromdublin.
There comes a time in a young person's life when a certain lack of experience starts to weigh heavy on the mind. At least there does for boys, and the kind with a heterosexual orientation at that, who have enough fundamental decency (or insufficient opportunity) to be unable to satisfy this basic curiosity by means of first-hand exploration with the aid of a lady-friend possessing the appropriate qualifications. If you know a boy you suspect is facing this common quandary, there is a discreet way of helping dispel some of that distressing ignorance by means of an entirely legal gift.

Commando's HerLook Takeouts are made of medical-grade silicone, important for portraying that realistic feel and consistency. The manufacturer's product information unfortunately does not mention whether they are microwave-safe, but it appears that immersion in water is not problematic and should be a suitable way to raise them to the proper temperature.

There are other venues selling a variety of items in this material, which I feel might be a bit less suitable for general holiday gift-giving owing to their startling realism. (An exercise left to the reader.)

Friday, December 01, 2006

Gift idea #3: Brains

Can I Pick Your Brain?
Can I Pick Your Brain?,
originally uploaded by Nick Nick1.
In this information-heavy culture, it is rare that anyone would pass up any opportunity to boost the ability to deal with the complications of the world. Your thoughtfulness will surely be remembered for years and years to come when you give the gift of brain. Even if they are only sheep brains (try as I might, I was unable to locate a reputable establishment selling the Homo sapiens variety), this formalin-preserved item is still chock-full of folds and neurons and those other kinds of things which make your gift recipient uniquely human. Or conscious. Or whatever they happen to be.

You may want to pick up extra brains, just to have on hand for special situations other than gift-giving.

Gift idea #2: Extraterrestrial life

originally uploaded by Bistrosavage.
According to CBC News: A meteorite that crashed in northwest Canada almost seven years ago might have been able to host the very earliest life forms. And yet you can buy chunks of planetoid over on eBay with little trouble at all. Wouldn't any gift recipient be thrilled to be the first to own a sample of a completely unknown (and possibly virulent) microscopic life-form?

As further proof, I think this etched bit of meteorite looks like the inside of a Borg ship on Star Trek.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Gift idea #1 - vaseline glass

Vaseline glass in Hawley, PA...
Vaseline glass in Hawley, PA...,
originally uploaded by NJ Artist.
[This is the first in a planned series of holiday gift-giving suggestions.]

The picture shows one of the largest vaseline glass in the country. The glass gets its characteristic yellow-green color from uranium oxide, and, as a consequence, is mildly radioactive. What better way to tell your loved ones how much you esteem them than to give the gift that emits alpha particles for years and years? And such a topical gift as well! Especially thoughtful if the recipient owns his or her own geiger counter.

Update: Neatorama posted a very similar item the same day I did. I swear I didn't steal the idea!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The winds of entropy blow strong

The following items have broken or gone bad in the last couple of weeks:

  1. I was working on someone's furniture, sitting on the floor as usual, when I looked down and saw that the sole of my left shoe, maybe two years old, was completely split crosswise. The thing was being held together by just the upper and insole. So now I'm down to one pair of work shoes in brown.

  2. At my latest routine dental appointment, they brought out a new instrument that uses a laser to spot decay in its early stages. For most of my life, I have been pretty fortunate in having pretty good teeth, so I don't think I've ever been diagnosed with two cavities at one time before, in the crowns of my left side molars 18 and 20. I guess the placement was fortunate, as the dentist could install both fillings with a single shot of anesthetic.

  3. My Treo 650 has been having fits of madness lately, sometimes spontaneously rebooting (and turning off the phone in the process, which is annoying), and then corrupting the Memos database. When you enter a new memo into it, the first line of the memo becomes the name of the memo. Occasionally, however, this name gets wiped out or altered somehow, so when you pull up the list of memos there's a great big gap where the item should be. It always seems to be the item which I was just working on, so I'm wondering whether it might have been caused by stray keypresses adding onto that important first line, maybe pushing it past its limit.

    Anyway, when this happens, what I typed into the body of the memo becomes inaccessible from the handheld, and when I sync it up to my desktop that becomes corrupted so that the Palm Desktop software crashes when I try to bring it up. I tried a bunch of different tricks to try to get it to heal over the damage, even reinstalling the desktop software, but it didn't work.

    So, currently everything that I've been entering on the tiny keypad on my Treo, over 200 memos, is stranded there. What I would like to do is to copy all of them over to plain text files, do a hard reset on the Treo to clear the memory, then restore all the ones I want. For some reason, even though the handheld accepts SD memory cards, they did not provide a way to copy memos over. And now that my old laptop died, I can't use the IR link to beam them, since my replacement laptop does not have an IR receiver. So I've picked up a USB Bluetooth adapter at eBay and hope to be able to transfer them that way soon.

  4. I brought my work van in for scheduled maintenance with some dread, since the last time I did this the bill came to something like $900+. I mentioned to them the strange grinding sound that would come from the vehicle, especially first thing in the morning. It turned out that the power steering pump had died at around 55000 miles, a $430 part and $250 worth of labor to replace.

I've often noticed that certain kinds of misfortune tend to cluster. I'll lose something, then soon find that all sorts of things are starting to go missing. Some days I am attacked by a case of the "drops" when I'll notice an unusual number of unrelated items falling to the ground all around me. And there are times when directions go crazy and I can't find my way anywhere, even familiar places (a distinct disadvantage in my line of work). This feels like the same kind of thing, in which a spate of things all decide to wear out and die on me.

I think I'll wait a couple of months before booking my routine eye appointment.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Thumb piano piano

Neatorama has this item pointing to a Flickr photoset showing some artsy kalimbas or "thumb pianos" made of such things as briefcases, lamp parts, cameras, and other items not normally associated with musical instruments. Lots of them have pickups (they are ekalimbas).

I'm thinking that the next time I see an old piano offered on the local freecycle group, I might want to pick it up and make a thumb piano out of it. Don't think that's been done yet.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Uff da

Schadenfreude is the sensation of pleasure upon perceiving the pain of others. The predominate feeling I got when we went to see a matinee show of The Queen this weekend was something close to the opposite - a feeling of pain in sympathy for the grief that another person was inflicting upon themselves. Up around Minnesota and thereabouts, when one sees someone else stub their toe or drop their change down the gutter the common expression that one employs is uff da. The sense is that one could imagine the same kind of thing happening to oneself as well.

In the context of this film, watching the royals persist doggedly to go in one direction while the larger part of their subjects were going down another, stuck in a kind of behavior once felt to be admirable and dignified but which later was to be viewed as arrogant and callous, elicited dread in me for the harm they were bringing upon themselves. Maybe if they were portrayed as more culpable and scheming, rather than simply mean-spirited and out of touch, I could take some satisfaction in their comeuppance, but at the climax of the film, my sentiments were such that I wanted them to find their way out of the mess they were in. Uff da, that's a bad thing to have so many think so poorly of you.

Paint chips

I was playing with the Sherwin-Williams Color Visualizer and came up with some of my own name suggestions:

  • Witch Hazel

  • Philodendron Leaf

  • Livid Bruise

  • Galena

  • Martian Sunset

  • Persimmon Peel

  • Insolence

  • Beeswax Candle

  • Dinner Roll

  • Bananafish

  • Chicken Broth

  • Gunbarrel

Update: I forgot that I had posted about this last Fall's lineup of colors over on my other blog, and found that Pantone's now posted the fashion color palette for Spring 2007: Silver Peony, Tarragon, Opal Gray, Golden Apricot, Hollyhock, Green Sheen, Grapemist, Café Crême, Strawberry Ice, and Sky Blue. Ho-hum.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Interview with the terrorist mastermind

It was early Saturday morning and time to interview Osama bin Laden. I and my translator went into the room, which looked like a high-ceilinged school auditorium without the seats, where there was a long sofa heaped up with blankets. My translator looked at me to begin.

"Good morning..." A one-word answer came back: Good morning!

A figure popped up out of the the bedclothes and began stuffing a colorful knit blanket (the kind I now realize in retrospect to be known as an Afghan) into the end of a 2m long cardboard tube standing on its end. It didn't fit. We were about to ask another question when the person, a girl apparently, darted away. My translator got up, went around the sofa and snuck a peek at the lower part of the tube. I asked him "what does it look like?" He gave me a look as if he didn't want to say aloud what was on our minds, which was that it looked rather like a bomb or something equally suspicious. Somehow I gleaned from his expression that at least he didn't see a fuse sticking out. "Oh, it's like a balilkbayan box - from Osama."

We laughed, then noticed something stirring among the blankets: a man, suprisingly young-looking, I took to be bin Laden. He looked as if he were still pretty sleepy.

I wa composing a question to him in my head, something about whether he had gone up to the mosque on the previous day, when up pipes a fellow on the opposite side of the room. He was sitting on the end of a piano bench and his face looked like a cross between Russell Crowe and Kenneth Branagh. He addressed bin Laden directly, ignoring the translator straddling the bench behind him, going into a rambling remark about religion - something about Catholic Masses and Protestant services and other things i thought irrelevant and clueless. He flashed a smile at me and at Osama, who rolled over a little and ignored him.

Freakydreams [via] completely ignored the al-Qaeda angle and preferred to focus on words like time, room, school, up... "Up?" How can that word be a significant part of my dream? I think it probably has more to do with a problem with getting information in the course of doing my job, or maybe tension dealing with people I meet.

Friday, November 24, 2006

4309200 domain names for profit

[Changing the title because of a change in my script: formerly it was just 4237500 domain names...]

Daily Blog Tips posted a list of some 200 prefixes and suffixes for domain names.

One of the most effective ways to find a free domain name that is relevant to your site is to grab a keyword and add prefixes or suffixes to it, until you find something unique. Suppose you want to launch a blog about marketing, all you have to do is pick the word marketing and start adding prefixes like “”, “”, “” or suffixes like “”, “” or “”.

So I took these lists, mixed them with the top 50 searches at Lycos, threw in a few popular TLDs, and spiced it with some simple JavaScript to produce this tool [new window] for your consideration. I also threw in a domain lookup so you can see whether someone's already reserved your creation.

I look forward to reading about your winners in the comments. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to register and make millions.

Update: Now the script lets you choose whether you want prefix, suffix, or both. Thanks Daniel!

Another update: Corrected the links to my other site, which has changed hosts.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Where to put that fat leg

The Fat Leg Cable Table has four legs, one of which enlarged and hollowed to accept cables for electronics. [Via Make.]

It seems to me that a more elegant solution would be to use a pedestal table design instead. If one objects to having the cables routed to the center of the table, there are double pedestal designs as well. The pedestals are already hollow, so you just have to put an appropriate-sized hole in the table top and Bob's your uncle.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Don't they want my money?

I got pretty annoyed the other day at a local Dunkin' Donuts shop for the following reasons:

  • There was a long line which went all the way to the entrance, so when we came in, I was right up against the door itself. Popular place on a Saturday morning.

  • The counter is way back there, behind the people in line and the high displays on either side of the registers. It's like the order-takers have barricaded themselves against the masses.

  • The displays are so high you can't see the products. I wanted a biscuit, but I couldn't tell if they had any until I got to the front of the line. (They didn't.) Pam wanted a pumpkin muffin sans frosting along with her iced coffee. (They had the muffins, but only the frosted kind, and they were kind of low down so you couldn't see them from back in the line.)

  • The prices are up high, so at least you can see them, but they don't include everything for sale. Such as biscuits.

  • I think there might have been four people working, but taking orders at two registers only, wedged between the aforementioned high displays.

  • Once people ordered, they stayed in place in front of the registers while they waited for their food, so the next person was blocked from placing their own order. Every other fast food place has figured out that after the customer has ordered, they should be encouraged to yield their spot to the next customer, picking up their order at a different location. Why hasn't Dunkin' Donuts figured this out?

  • We get to the front of the line and I find out the bad news about the biscuits. I order a French Toast stick. "No coffee?" "No, thank you." "You sure?" "No coffee!" I know that they make more money on the coffee than on the baked goods, but they don't have to be quite so pushy about it.

  • It was actually so crowded around the register that it was difficult to settle up.

It was fortunate that the food was good (hence the big crowd), but I was fuming about all the obstacles getting in the way of what should have been a simple transaction.

And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest

People have dove releases, butterfly releases, and balloon releases at their public outdoor ceremonies, but I think what people really want is an angel release. A flock of animatronic winged beings equipped with tiny motors would waft up in formation, singing praises and hymns, circle once around the spectators, then disappear into the distance (to be picked up elsewhere for reuse). I am pretty sure a wizard of special effects could get the technology to work.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Die, giant sea snake

I woke up this morning dreaming about a sea snake the size of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. I am thinking this image stuck with me because of having read this thread about rattlesnake stunts. Anyway, this snake was in some fairly shallow water and rearing up in a menacing fashion.

Fortunately for me, I happened to be carrying a battle laser. It was a metal case about the size of a suitcase, with a long coiled, orange hose going to a sort of nozzle like a sprinkler. I hit the switch and sort of charred some parts of the top of the menacing snake. The beam was invisible, but you could see its effects. I aimed the nozzle a little lower to hit the snake on its underside, and it kind of capsized and drowned.

Anyway, I kind of liked the idea of a lethal battlefield device which looked less like a firearm and more like a piece of gardening equipment.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Book plate

I was thinking very literally when this bookplate site came up on Monkeyfilter: has someone made a plate (or other item for the table) out of an actual book? There was a recent article in Make about how to hollow a book, and perhaps the technique could be adapted. I am thinking that one would scoop out the innards of a thin book, leaving a rim, and pot the whole thing in clear resin. Conceptual art!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Hit and run

It's been three years since I've been witness to a traffic accident here, so I had kind of forgotten how disturbing the experience can be. This one was particularly heinous, because it happened five feet in front of me.

It was about a quarter to six and the sun had already set. I was driving north through Teaneck, in a middle-class neighborhood on a main traffic route through town. I had just gone to the gym and had stopped off at a drugstore to pick up some things, and was planning to go to a bakery to pick up some pan de sal that Pam likes to eat for breakfast. I was stopped at the head of the line at a traffic light, and a young man, maybe 13 years old, was crossing the street in front of me just as the lights were about to change. From the cross street, traveling at a high speed, came a black light truck making a left turn - hitting the pedestrian with a loud sound.

I pulled the van out of gear and got out. The truck had hesitated by the side of the road a few car lengths behind, and I tried to make out the license plate. "V - O - M ..." Then he stepped on the throttle and left the scene: it was a hit and run.

I went back around to the front of the van and was looking underneath, because I thought the victim might have been thrown beneath my grill. Nobody there - what the hell? Then I saw him over on the side of the road, standing somewhat crouched over, so I went over to see how he was. I had actually expected more grievous or fatal injuries judging from the impact, but at first glance he didn't seem to have serious fractures or lacerations by some miracle. Another pedestrian, a woman about my age, was there asking him how he was feeling. She had already called the emergency 911 service and they were dispatching aid, so I put my phone away. The boy seemed to be relatively aware of his surroundings (he said he lived nearby and was able to give his name) so I don't think he'd had a head trauma.

Another person came up, a young woman, having seen the accident. She was crying, asking how someone could hit an innocent person and just drive off. I sort of knew the reason why, since the driver would likely have faced serious consequences from the accident, especially if they had a bad record, which seemed likely. I didn't advance this theory aloud, though.

All through this my van was blocking traffic. I'd fumbled when attempting to put my emergency flashers on and some people were starting to get annoyed and started honking as they went around. On the other hand, another driver called out as they went by "I saw the whole thing!" so not everyone was callous.

A Teaneck police officer arrived, lights flashing, and we told him what had happened and tried to give a description of the perpetrator. In addition to my partial plate number, one other person said that those were Jersey plates, and distinctly remembered a small mirrorball hanging from the driver's rear-view mirror. "He went that way!"

I took advantage of a lull in the action to get back into my vehicle and pull over into a parking lot. More emergency responders came, firetrucks and EMTs who assessed the boy's condition and set up a gurney for him to be transported to the hospital. I went back up to the police officer and gave him my statement and my business card. I hope they catch the offender and call me to the trial.

Now, ordinarily I'm among those decrying the surveillance regime creeping everywhere into urban life, but this one time I would have been grateful for a better means to identify the bad guy than trying to strain my eyes to read a license plate. I've always thought that if I were interested in becoming a criminal, I would want to have a vanity plate like IO1 0II or O00 0O1 or something equally hard to read. If I had the time I would have reached for my work camera in the back of the van or even my cameraphone and tried to snap a picture or two of the truck, but one only thinks of these things in retrospect.

To be better prepared for the next time, (and there probably will be a next time, judging from the congestion around here) I think I should study up on some elementary emergency training should I need it. And if I am the victim that time, inshallah, I'll be pleased if I can make it through the experience too thanks to the help of professional first responders and concerned strangers.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Action figures of the Book

The Marines won't be giving out talking Jesus dolls to kids this Christmas owing to the possibility of giving offense to non-Christians. "We can't take a chance on sending a talking Jesus doll to a Jewish family or a Muslim family."

The obvious solution would be to go a little further back give out talking dolls of religious figures the three monotheistic faiths can agree on. The same company making the Jesus action figure already makes one of Moses (as does, and King David is also esteemed by each religion. But why stop there?

  • Abraham/Ibrahim: "Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?" "If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!" "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son."

  • Noah/Nuh: "Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers." "Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem!" "May God extend the territory of Japhethand may Canaan be his slave."

  • Isaac/Ishaq: "She is my sister." "Now the LORD has given us room and we will flourish in the land."

  • Jacob/Yaqub: "Sell me your birthright." "I am Esau your firstborn." "Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to lie with her."

  • Adam: "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man." "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."

And of course you could have Eve and Rebekah and Sarah and Rachel figures for the girls and unselfconscious boys, though they don't seem to get nearly as many lines in Genesis so one would need to be a little more creative. All the very best passages in the Bible/Torah go to Yahweh, who could be represented by a Burning Bush or an Ark of the Covenant perhaps.

And if any of the kids receiving toys happen to be Buddhist or Hindu or Wiccan? Well, you can't please everyone.

Friday, November 10, 2006


I read this story about a world-class Rubik's Cube solver and was befuddled in two places.

  1. "This weekend he will try to regain the title of world blindfold Rubik's Cube champion" Blindfold Rubik's Cube? How can that be? I did a little searching around and found that the idea is that one receives a scrambled cube, studies it, then dons a blindfold and unscrambles it. Silly me, I thought that they would first put on the blindfold, then receive a scrambled cube where the colored faces are replaced with tactile cues (sandpaper, grease, Braille dots, thumbtacks) and then solve it just by touch. It might actually be easier than what the fellow's doing. Ah well, not a completely original idea after all, though I didn't know it at the time.

    I think I thought this because of my other idea for a Braille condom. But that's for another time.

  2. "'That was also a lot of fun,' said Mao, who is now working for a constancy firm." Pardon me, a what? I Googled around and found hits for web constancy firm, management constancy company, and that kind of thing, but no clue as to what the definition of this (apparently Commonwealth country) entity is.

I've never figured out Rubik's cubes myself. For me, the most fascinating thing is taking them apart to see how they work anyway. I think some architect should adopt this scheme to build a Rubik's apartment building (not an office building, for God's sake), so everybody could have a different view every day. Or a Rubik's fridge, to make it easier to rotate out those things which usually get stuck at the back for far too long.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Happy days are here again

Happy days are here again
Originally uploaded by milkfish.

More evidence of a photographic sort on the utility of plain old paper. Our friend John (former Dumont borough council member and also an usher at our church) is posting up the numbers on the wall of the Elks Club as they are gathered district by district by the local Democratic party's representative as the polls closed at 8pm last night. It was an overfull slate this year with four council seats in contention by the two parties.

The first returns were from the parts of town which are more Democratic-friendly, so when they came out solidly in the Democrats' favor the optimism was tempered. You can see the tension here. But by the time the more well-heeled, Republican-leaning part of town had its numbers tallied, also solidly in the same direction, everyone in the room knew that it was a sweep.

I presume the Republicans were having their election night event on the other side of town at the Knights of Columbus hall, though I did not see or hear of their representatives conceding the tally.

The great idea of this post is that local politics is still interesting to be involved with and that people are still working hard to try to run the detailed business of our communities. A fine party like this one (and the catered buffet was a fine one indeed) has got to beat an apathetic night at home watching the pundits on TV any time.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Opt-out campaign ads

If there's anything as annoying as public radio and television pledge campaigns, it's political campaign ads sprouting up on the airwaves every Fall. I know they work to sway the undecided voters, but for those of us who have their minds made up (for some time now, actually), they are a waste of time and money.

Couldn't a subscription model work there too? Once you've decided you don't need any more of the arguments they are proposing, really and truly for sure, you could flip a setting on your TV and radio and telephone and be spared any further pitches.

Maybe we could arrange things that the act of switching the setting actually registers your vote ahead of time absentee-style. That way the political interests would know for sure that there is no point bombarding you any further, since you have already made your choice, October/November surprises or no. So making your selection would have to be done only when you have a feeling of ironclad commitment, also telling the political powers that there is also no point in appeals to you attempting to affect the voter turnout (the second main function of political ads).

In order to get people to keep their minds open and to not opt-out, advertising consultants would have an incentive to make their ads interesting to watch and creative, the same way other advertisers have. The undecideds might want to withhold their commitment in order to enjoy the play of ideas and issues right up until Election Day. This, I think, would also be a good thing as something to help counteract voter apathy.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

They'd be perfect if we didn't need to run programs on them

Mistah Kurtz, he dead

The finish line is in sight for the two-week long odyssey of the computer rebuild hell which has made my outlook on life even gloomier than usual these days. Just today I read a column in the local paper about the importance of file backups, but I'm here to tell you that admirable as this endeavor is, it is simply not enough if you value your precious binary data.

The problem is that simply copying the data over to a new machine is not enough, even if you don't happen to need to go between different versions of the operating system. Even though I had the contact management and the bookkeeping data files from just before the old laptop died, they were basically useless without the programs themselves in running order, and it didn't take much difference between the layouts of the old and new machines to insure that the program files and configuration would not play nicely with my new setup. No, it was a matter of going back to original distribution CDs and reinstalling everything from the bottom up.

The trouble was that over time I seem to have acquired a hundred or more of the installation CDs, packed away in boxes and folders and sleeves, and I spent a long, long time looking for what I needed. Luckily I did find a Windows XP Pro installation disk I'd bought years ago when I thought I was going to upgrade my wife's Presario, a failed effort at the time, so with some effort I was able to set up a dual-boot arrangement on the laptop, making it a little less likely that I'd destroy everything I had. But the CRM and ancillary software installation disks were nowhere to be found, and I began to suspect that at the time I started up my business, the laptop was delivered to me without the installation media. If I were an independent operator I would have had a hard time getting these, but as a franchise member in good standing with my Home Office I was able to contact the IS people there who set up the machine and get some disks of the appropriate vintage sent out to me by overnight mail.

This is the basis of my current idea: I would like there to be a service which would take my installation disks and store them for me in some organized fashion. Including the vital license/serial number information and the documentation for installation. Maybe they'd just provide mailers so I could dump in the whole box the software came in, and periodically email me a list of the software they have on hand. I guess for software which I received electronically (as a download), I could imagine an upload server to send the package to. Then when the hardware fails, I could contact them with a list of what I needed and they would send back just what I needed (maybe from a common stock of media from their warehouse, along with an electronic record of the license key). Maybe it would be on a subscription basis, so that as long as I had a current membership they would not need to charge me at crunch time, or maybe they could have some kind of partnership program with software vendors where they could provide programs (and upgrades?) to their members at a discount. Or they could have an arrangement whereby one could obtain software which had not been previously vaulted, assuming I knew the name of the program and the version, with a new key.

If you are like most people and the data you want to keep is in the form of text files, pictures, and music files (DRM-free, that is), this won't be quite so critical to you, since pretty much any computer you buy off the shelf will be able to give you access to these. But you might well have some accounting software or video editing applications which might not come standard on a basic computer which you still might need to maintain the ability to install when the PC dies.

It's times like these that remind me why I do not ever want to go back into the business of supporting computers myself. I actually contacted a company here to do the hard work, but it turned out that they were already working at capacity and declined taking my troubles on at $125/hour.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

You must be at least this tall to comment

Recently I've been thinking of captchas, those little tests you often have to pass in order to prove to a webserver that you are not a robot. The occasion was a couple weeks back when I inadvertently posted a comment to a blog not realizing that my little one-sentence expression of my opinion was going to lead to invective and ridicule from the blog owner and regulars of that blog, who seemed to be all of a quite distinct way of thinking from mine. If only I'd known that I was expected to conform to a particular standard, I could have saved myself the trouble right at the beginning and found another place to leave my mark.

Traditional captchas are simply to determine whether you are human, a pretty low standard, I think. What about some challenge questions such as these:

  • Type the atomic weight of bismuth

  • Choose the accurate statement: (1) Time has inertia. (2) Iraq was responsible for 9/11. (3) The Jews run Hollywood. (4) Global climate change is far from proven.

  • Which mole do you want to whack?
    Selections have been deleted, see the reason below.

I think it could save a lot of trouble and confusion.

By the way, I am not going to link that blog on which I had that contretemps, sorry!

Update (June 2008): Linkrot at Flickr? Oh well, here is the one of the three images I linked which has not been deleted from the system:

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Is the Senator ready for his catchphrase?

I was listening to this week's On the Media and heard the story about the speculation about Senator Barack Obama's possible presidential aspirations. It included a mention of the supposed Kennedy connection, which led me to coin a one-word moniker which I offer to the Obama loyalists if they want to run with it...


I was shocked to find it in circulation neither on Google nor Technorati, at least not yet.

Update: The word has gained some traction, though we're still talking only about 300-400 hits in Google here. Took them long enough. Also, someone has grabbed the .com domain and someone else the .net domain, though neither one has put any content up at this time. I guess they are probably waiting till after the Iowa caucuses.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Twin birthday cards

Tomorrow is my wife's birthday, a milestone I am obliged to mark using the usual tokens such as gifts, dinner out, and a card. Now, she is a twin, so of course the same goes for her sister as well. So that is how I found myself in a local Walgreen's looking for a pair of birthday cards, and among the dozens of categories (for men, for women, for religious people, for sisters, for kids, for those of different ethnicities, for co-workers, for non-English speakers, etc.), I could find no special card for twins. When I got home, two separate cards in hand, I did a search and found that such cards do exist in electronic form, but it seemed to me that an opportunity was perhaps being missed to produce an interesting product in the Real World directed at the 1% or so of the population who is a multiple.

The idea would be print cards in pairs (naturally) where the pictures on the front can be placed side-by-side polyrama-style to form a picture, sort of like a diptych. Here is what I came up with in the way of a pair of abstract designs which twin together.

  • The first card

  • The second card

  • The two side by side

Of course, for triplets, quadruplets, ..., one would have more pictures to make a real polyrama effect.

It would really be nice to have these for the twins themselves as they exchange their cards, kind of like those pairs of rings which fit into one another. Maybe one would have a line of cards where there are different left-halves which all go along with a set of different right-halves, so the twins could be surprised to see what they come up with jointly.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Plain old paper

Sunday evening is usually when I do lots of my office work for the upcoming week - printing calendars, drawing maps to appointment sites, setting up directories for pictures I take on site.

This evening, just as I was getting started to do this, the laptop that has my business software started acting up, with the screen flashing on me, then freezing up, unresponsive to the keyboard. I powered it down and back up but it would not boot back into Windows. Further investigation showed that one of the pins on the hard drive had been bent and shorted against its neighbor, so I straightened that back out with a kitchen knife and reinserted it. This time, it got as far as spinning up the drive, but still I was getting a blank screen, even when I plugged a standalone monitor into the external video socket. So, I am guessing that something got fried on the video part of the motherboard, or the board itself has gotten fritzed out. Tomorrow I'm going to the computer store to see whether it can be saved somehow.

One good thing is that I was able to verify that the data on the disk was still okay, by putting it into a USB enclosure and attaching it to my wife's desktop computer. Although I could see all the folders and files, because my contact management software uses SQL Server, I could not read any of it on this other machine unless I were to take my program disks and install everything, then copy over the data files, and even then I might run into some problems with making sure my keys and licenses were all working. So it seemed that I was going to be starting out the week without a clue as to what I had to be doing day by day.

Fortunately, I was able to salvage some of the situation by means of good old paper records. I did have my printout of last week's calendar which had the names and the times of the customer appointments written out for this week. I am pretty careful to keep this up to date and in sync with what is on the computer, because it is my lifeline out in the field. Some of the customers were repeat visits, and for them I had previous maps to their addresses with telephone numbers and that kind of thing as well. Then there were new appointments for people I hadn't seen yet, and in those cases I turned to my pile of scrap paper - lists of calls to make, incoming faxes of messages left for me, and other old paperwork. Sifting through this junk, I was able to come up with an address and phone number for everyone I was scheduled to see this week. I plugged those into Mapquest and come up with the vital maps I needed.

So, here's a case where hoarding redundant and almost useless paper scraps helped saved me when technology broke down. It would be impossible to run my little business completely from paper records, I'm pretty sure, but it has proved to be the bridge I needed as a backstop when my two sets of redundant backups (the last one was updated just this morning!) were not enough to make sure that I could get the data I needed.

In the non-business realm, my main blog has been running for over three years now continuously and I would hate to lose that content if for some reason those backups were not enough. Maybe I should print out those hundreds of pages onto paper too. Also, it's probably high time to update my paper copy of my password file with all the new accounts I have had to set up lately. This one goes into a safe, naturally.

Update: I forgot to mention that also yesterday I managed to corrupt the Memos database in my Treo 650 the way I did once more, apparently by editing an item in a way that it didn't like. It is even giving me problems HotSyncing the records over to the desktop. It does seem as if this version of PalmOS is much more fragile than the one I had on my Visor Platinum.

Second update: It's been a long, slow process recovering from the madness. I convinced myself that there was not going to be any way to resurrect the original laptop, so I bought a new one on clearance at Staples. I had my hopes, but simply sticking the old hard drive into the new computer got me nowhere, so I found the next few days filled with such things as repartitioning the new drive, restoring the data from Ghost, overlaying the old (broken) Windows XP installation with a new one from CD, and now trying to reinstall all my critical applications. My current contact management software is a single spreadsheet, backed by lots of loose paper. And if you'll excuse me, I've got to get back to the battle.