Sunday, December 30, 2007

Potential spy gear

While watching Rush Hour 3 (I know, I'm going to get in trouble over my movie selections soon), I had a thought for a great spy device: an implantable GPS tracking device that also monitors health or brain activity. That way, if the spy with the GPS brain tracker is killed, the trackers (i.e., the ones tracking the tracking device; humans) will know the precise location (and time) where the death occurred.

It could also be a nice deterrent to prevent killing of the spy: "I have a brain-scanning tracking device; if you kill me here in your secret headquarters, then my organization will know exactly where you're located!" Then again, that might prompt the movement of the spy elsewhere before the killing. It would be useful to perhaps have it keyed with Bluetooth such that the spy could mark various spots and send messages (e.g., location names, descriptions, etc.) along with the coordinates.

Of course, being fitted with such a device might be less than pleasant...

PS: if you don't know the meaning of "i.e.," "e.g.," or "etc.", see this post.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

English part II

Hey, that doesn't make much sense: "English part II" using Roman numerals... :)

Some more phrases that irk me with their incorrectness:

"could of" vs. "could have" - example: "I could of written this correctly." I think this stems from the contraction "could've" being miswritten (and previously misinterpreted), since "could've" often sounds like "could of" - even though it's not. "Of" is not a verb! The verb is "have."

The various confusions of "you're" (meaning "you are") and "your" (meaning "belonging to you"). "Your speaking you're words incorrectly" for instance - should be, "You're speaking your words correctly now."

Similarly the confusions between "their" (belonging to them), "they're" (they are), and "there" (not here). "There taking they're confusions their" for instance - should be, "They're taking their confusions there."

And "it's" vs. "its" - "it's" is "it is" and "its" is "belonging to it." (Wasn't that a fun sentence to read, with all the quotation marks, ises, and so forth; I think I made up "ises" to mean "the plural of is.") This one really bugs me, and I've seen this mistake made in a Toyota web site (I contacted them to let them know they had it wrong, and asked for a Sienna as a reward for finding their mistake, but they never even bothered to say "Thank you" in a reply!)

There's of course the various possessive pronoun variants, and plural vs. possessive vs. plural possessive. And contractions (such as "there's"). There's... while that typically would mean "there is" I wonder if there's a situation where "there's" could be the possessive of "there" - that is, a possessive of not here, not a belonging to them. Let's see... "Here's a car lot and there's a car lot; this car lot is here's and that car lot is there's." (Confused yet?)

Too, to, and two are also frequently confused, as are let's and lets, but let's (not lets) move on.

Then, of course, the Latin abbreviations... etc., et al., i.e., e.g., etc. (That last was the conclusion of the list, not a repetition of the first item in the list, by the way.) My favorite is the confusion between "i.e." (which is Latin "id est," meaning "that is") and the lesser known and used "e.g." (which is Latin "exempli gratia," meaning "for example"). All too often people simply use "i.e." without knowing its (not it's) true meaning. I.e. should be used to clarify a statement, not to offer a single example that doesn't fully qualify the entire subject matter; in the latter case, "e.g." is appropriate. Let me offer an example:

Take your medicine three times daily in even intervals, i.e., eight hours apart. - this is the correct use of "i.e." in that it explains (or more fully qualifies) the preceding statement.

Take your medicine three times daily, at least three hours between doses; e.g., 9 am, 12 pm, and 3 pm. - in this case, "i.e." would be incorrect, because 9, 12, and 3 is only one example of a valid way to take the medicine, not the only example. In this sentence, had "i.e." been substituted for "e.g.," the statement would read: "Take your medicine three times daily, at least three hours between doses; that is, 9 am, 12 pm, and 3 pm." - but the recipient could equally as well take the medicine at 9 am, 1 pm, and 5 pm.

Note: this is not a medical post - please do not follow these instructions for taking any medicine (especially for taking Mountain Dew to help clear up a cold; feel free to take the Mountain Dew as frequently as you desire, but not so frequent to cause death by caffeine, which in my case would be roughly 230 cans).

Also, "etc." is Latin for "et cetera," meaning "and so forth" (although that definition is strangely not given at the Merriam Webster site). Thus it's (not its) incorrect to say, "and etc." - that would be "and and so forth" - and sounds really dumb. Similarly, "et al." is Latin for "et alii (masculine), et aliae (feminine), or et alia (neuter)," meaning "and others," so "and et al." would be "and and others" which, again, sounds really dumb.

Another thing: punctuation. A period goes within a closing quotation mark. An exclamation point or question mark goes within if it's part of the original quote, but may (often should) be put outside for clarity when the original quote wasn't a question or exclamation. And apostrophes are often horribly misused.

Ok, enough for now (one reader will note that I often don't capitalize or punctuate "ok" in my writings, too). Go write or speak something correctly and make this whole thing worthwhile! :)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Cars and English? What do they have in common?

Probably not much, unless you're reading this blog post. (Read on, past the automotive gibberish, to get to the real content of this post: modern English.)

I need to work on my car - the negative battery cable is loose - I can wiggle the cable off the battery post, and recently it's started not, um, starting - but I'm not sure if I can tighten it. I ought to give it a try, though, before I try something else (like adding a metal shim around the post or a new cable connector to allow me to tighten it more). However, since:
  1. It's raining;
  2. I don't have room in my garage to bring the car inside to work on it; and
  3. I don't feel like working on it in the rain...
I guess I'll do something else, like post on my blog. And I'll post about English... hence the connection between English and cars (and, I guess, rain) if you're reading this post.

Recently I came across a great blog post about the overuse of superlatives and how they lose their meaning when used too frequently, especially in regards to ordinary, mundane things. It's the absolute, greatest, most amazing, awesome discourse I've ever seen on the subject! :) I have to agree (see my comments over there). We're allowing the English language to be degraded into meaninglessness. The way things are going I could see American English being reduced to a sequence of clicks and grunts within the next one or two hundred years (internet shorthand acronyms, for instance, which are showing up in hand-written schoolwork nowadays).

How do we, as a nation, and as a minority of those who really care about proper English (my mom and aunt are both college English professors, so I come by this naturally), make a difference? How do we correct the inconsistencies, the incorrect grammar, the mis-use of words? How do we save the English language? I don't know. This is my small attempt at getting the word out (so to speak) about words. Hopefully my reader (I think I have one) will read this (and perhaps the post linked above) and spread the word. Quit ending sentences in prepositions! Quite using objects where subjects go! (E.g., "give it to John or I" - NO! NO! NO! You don't say "give it to I" do you? Then don't say "give it to John or I" - say "give it to John or me"!!!!!) Quit using shorthand in everything you do (shorthand is fine for short notes to yourself, but come on, say what you mean when you're talking to someone else! I rarely use things like "LOL" or "L8r" or stuff like that, even when I'm sending a text message on my phone). Preserve the English language so that future generations will be able to read and understand writings such as this one!

Thanks for listening; now spread the word!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Slower Traffic Keep Right

My friend Dean posted about "Fido the Peeve" over on his blog. He asked about the reader's peeves; I left a comment, but have since decided to expand on this a bit on my own blog. After frequent travel during the Christmas holidays (down to Pensacola, back to North Alabama, down to Birmingham, back to NA, back down to B'ham, back to NA, and we're not done yet: a trip to Atlanta is coming in the near future as well), I've realized that inconsiderate drivers are among my biggest peeves. Especially those who can't seem to read this sign:

I mean, how hard is it to figure out what that means? I've joined the "Slower Traffic Keep Right campaign" (I don't fully endorse that site, but it is where I got the image of the sign, so I figured it only fair to give them credit; I haven't read much beyond that page on the site, and there is some language there, so please use caution if you venture over there). These signs are scattered around Alabama's interstate highways (you know, those divided, controlled access freeways whose names start with "I-" and then some numbers). And ignored by seemingly 95% of slow drivers who decide that the left lane is an appropriate place to drive whatever speed they want. Or, when there are three lanes per side, the middle lane is an appropriate place to drive under the speed limit (last night, on the way home from Birmingham, I came upon a driver who suddenly slowed to less than 40 mph in the middle lane of a 60 mph highway; this caused aggravation and hazardous conditions as traffic quickly piled up in that center lane). I saw another guy's blog post about this issue on I-85 in Atlanta, but due to excessive language there, I won't post a link to it here.

Anyway, it is common courtesy to allow people who are driving faster than you to pass. In fact, it's more than common courtesy - it's the law. From the Code of Alabama, Section 32-5A-80:
Upon all roadways any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
This isn't really that difficult to understand: if you're driving, and traffic is moving faster than you are, you should be in the right-hand lane. It's also much less dangerous to allow faster traffic to move along in the left lane than to force it to weave between lanes and vehicles. Courteous, safe, smart. And it's not hurting you to drive in the right hand lane, anyway.

I've also noticed something else: people don't seem to know how fast they want to drive. I hate playing "leapfrog" with other vehicles because they're periodically change their speed by 10 mph or more. I'll pass a car, then shortly down the road they'll pass me at 5-10 mph faster than I'm driving, then they'll slow down to 5-10 mph under my speed (which is fairly constant, having my cruise control set to a specific speed and left there). This will go back and forth until I finally (in frustration) speed up to 10-20 mph above the speed I've been maintaining, drive like this for a while (in order to get well ahead of the offending vehicle), and then slow back down to my previous speed.

Another thing: people seem to have a tendency to speed up to catch a vehicle in front of them, then slow to about the same speed when approaching the vehicle, then only speed up again once well past the vehicle. This often causes problems since the vehicle being overtaken may need to pass a slower vehicle, but someone has moved up to their rear bumper in the left lane and then stays there for a while until the first vehicle has to brake to avoid hitting the slower vehicle. I think this is a subconscious thing, as I've found myself guilty of this at times. I try to keep my speed constant as much as possible (this reduces fuel consumption as well, which I'm sure the environmentalists enjoy; I enjoy the savings in fuel cost, although that's not really a big deal to me).

Anyway, here's a proposition: if you're passing someone, and that person is approaching a slower vehicle, why not accelerate yourself a little so you're not holding up the person you're passing from moving into the left lane to pass the slower vehicle? That way the one you're passing won't have to tap the brakes, slow down, move over, press "resume" on the cruise control, and speed back up. Again, a little courtesy goes a long way into making the roads a nicer, and safer, place to be.

Oh, and in case you didn't know, it's illegal to coast down a hill in neutral.

Enough ranting for one night... drive safely, and equally as importantly (in my mind), courteously! Do to others (even when on the road behind the wheel of a moving vehicle) as you would like them to do to you (not how they've done to you already, but how you wish they had done to you!).

Monday, December 24, 2007

Remember Christmas

Just a friendly reminder: Christmas is about Jesus; it's the celebration of His birth. It's about giving, not receiving - God gave us His son. We give as a reminder of God's great gift to us. Merry Christmas to you! (If you want to read more about Jesus' birth, you can check it out in the Bible, such as Luke chapter 2 on, a great, free resource.)

And as a gift to you, my reader, I'll share an amusing story. We gave each of our children a Bible for Christmas (no, not from the Giant Book Sale), and let each have it early (last Tuesday night, actually). The youngest, who is 9, opened his, we removed the cellophane protective wrapping, and he began looking through it. Turning it to the back, he said, "Dad, there's someone's name on it!" Having just removed it from the cellophane, I wondered how it could possibly have been imprinted, so I asked to see it. He brought it over, and on the back were the words: "Bonded Leather" - see the picture, below. (Sorry, Alex, but this story is too wonderful not to share!)

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Giant Book Sale

I left the local Atlanta Bread Company after again having lunch there (I had the chopstix chicken salad - minus tomatoes - and baked potato soup in a half-and-half). As usual, the building across the parking-lot street had the "Giant Book Sale" sign on it (this building used to be a Tweeter audio/video store, but they closed a while back). Anyway, I'd been wondering, for quite a while, "Where are all the giant books?" I'd even been inside the store once, but no giant books. But today, when I came out of ABC, there they were - and apparently they had too many to fit in the store! Giant books everywhere! It was rather an amazing sight. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

If I'd been in the mood, perhaps I'd have taken another look at the giant books for sale, but unfortunately I had to get back to work. I did snap this picture before leaving, though. Oh, and I don't think the giant books would have fit in my trunk, so it's probably a good thing that I didn't get anything. I didn't have my stash of bungee cords to tie a book to the roof of the car, so I wouldn't have had any way to get my purchase home.

Anyway, if you live in the Huntsville/Madison area of North Alabama, wander over to University Drive (AKA US-72), towards the Madison end of town (i.e., west from Huntsville), and you'll see the giant book sale* (it's in the parking lot of the Target shopping center), and stop in to ABC for some lunch or dinner. Just remember to bring your truck if you plan on purchasing any giant books.

* note: this blog is purely the fantasy of the author - you won't really see any giant books, but there is a giant book sale; the author was somewhat disappointed in the selection, but then again maybe he was in a bad mood the day he went into the giant book sale, and really did want to see giant books...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmastime birthday

Today marks the 36th time the earth has been in about this same position in its orbit around the sun since the time of my birth. That is, today’s my birthday. Well, technically you could argue that it was last night, since I was born in Japan (my dad was in the Air Force at the time). Funny: he called my granddad where it was Sunday night in the US (it was Monday morning in Japan) and said, “Tomorrow at such-and-such time your grandson will be born; he’ll weight 6 pounds and 6 ounces and be 21 inches long.” But no one seems to want to let me celebrate two birthdays (it was the 19th in the states, where I am now, but the 20th in Japan, where I was born), so I just celebrate on the 20th (after all, that’s what my birth certificate, driver license, etc. all say).

People have asked or commented about being born so close to Christmas. When you’re a kid, though, those last 5 days leading up to Christmas seem to take 3 or 4 weeks, so it has never been a big deal. Sometimes, though, there are advantages (or disadvantages, depending on your point of view). On my 16th birthday, my parents gave me a set of luggage (which I still have, at least some of it; at the time, I though, “great, luggage…” but, you know, it’s been exceptionally useful over the last 20 years – my parents are pretty good about that – giving gifts that at first you think, “What in the world?” but after having it for a while you think, “How did I ever get along without this?”) and a set of keys to all the vehicles in the household (I didn’t get my own car until later; but it was worth the wait: my first vehicle was a 1978 Alfa Romeo Sport Sedan – it was cream in color, had the same basic driveline as the Alfa Spider, and was exceptionally fun to drive – if you’ve ever seen “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off”, if you remember Ferris’ friend’s “junky” car at the beginning of the movie, the brown sedan in which he goes to pick up Ferris, then you have seen an Alfa Romeo Sport Sedan, or something very close to it; I’m still a huge Alfa fan, by the way). I immediately went to “try out” all the keys, which included the trunk key for my dad’s Ford Taurus. In the trunk were all our Christmas presents for that year; I immediately closed the trunk, but I had seen them: a pair of Sears “Super Lobo” remote control cars for my brother and me (I still have mine, although the battery no longer charges) - this guy's page has a picture of the Super Lobo - it's about the 3rd picture on the page; it was fun to chase cats at my grandmom's house with the RC cars. Anyway, sorry, mom & dad; I don’t think I’ve ever admitted that, but I knew what our “big gifts” that year were.

One of my cousins happens to have been born on the 21st, but two years earlier than I. However, I won’t let him say he’s two years older than me: he’s only 1 year and 364 days older (ok, 365 days on a leap year, but that’s still not a year since a leap year is 366 days).

One year I (and my wife) managed to forget my birthday. I graduated from Naval Nuclear Prototype Training in December, and knew I was next headed to Newport News, Virginia (I was part of the pre-commissioning crew for a Nuclear Aircraft Carrier). We thought, we’ll pack up our stuff for the movers to take, get the things we’ll need to live until our stuff is delivered, head up to Virginia, get an apartment, dump our stuff there, then continue our two weeks’ leave to have Christmas with the families in Atlanta and Pensacola and Birmingham. Well, we were frantically trying to find and lease an apartment in a three-day visit to Newport News, and finally we had decided on a place. As I was writing out the check for the deposit on the apartment, I wrote the date, laughed, and said, “It’s my birthday!” I’d forgotten in all the rush of finding an apartment. So had my wife. She was mortified, having forgotten my birthday, but I thought it was hilarious. I think we went to dinner at Red Lobster that night or something, but the memorable part was simply the forgetting. How many people can say, “I forgot my birthday one year”? (On a side note, I suppose it would be sad if you didn’t know your birthday; probably doesn’t happen in the US, but in other places of the world, you simply might not know, for instance if you were orphaned at a young age and they don’t have documents about your birth.)

I guess, besides my 16th (when I got my driver license on the first try; I took the test in my mom’s 1987 Mazda 626 GT (turbo, five-speed), a car which also was tremendous fun to drive and which I unfortunately totaled a couple of years later in a one-car accident – my mom still hasn’t quite forgiven me for that, I think), my 30th birthday has been my most memorable (besides the one I forgot, and the current one, which is of course fresh on my mind). That year I had a “surprise” party which I helped to plan (heh-heh), and my uncle Brad gave me his 1967 Mustang GT (which he’d bought new off the showroom floor in late 1966) – I still have the card which says, “I think it’s time for the Mustang to come live with you” (written by my aunt). But those weren’t the most memorable parts… the most memorable part was the week leading up to my birthday. Every day that week I got a call from the front desk and had to walk down from the second floor, and there was something little, special, just for me, that my wife had dropped off sometime that morning. One day it was beef jerky (yum, yum!). One day it was a six-pack of IBC root beer, with the label that says “Still the best!” on the box underlined and “Tony’s” written above it (I still have that label sitting on my desk here at work, right under my monitor where I can see it every day). That was the most memorable part of a wonderful birthday “season.”

Tonight we’re going to look at Christmas lights, a tradition that my grandfather (the one who unfortunately was a victim of Alzheimer’s Disease) and grandmother started with my brother and me a long time ago. We’d go looking at Christmas lights and then stop for Krispy Kreme donuts and coffee. One year, after I was married and had my daughter, when we could still get him out of his nursing home, we took him (with my grandmother) to look at Christmas lights, and drove through Dairy Queen soft-serve ice-cream (easier for him to eat at the time) on the way back. (Now there’s a memory!) Anyway, now we take our kids out to look at Christmas lights every Christmas, and this year we’re doing it on my birthday (heading out of town tomorrow). We usually get Chick-Fil-A nuggets on the way, but tonight we might do McDonald’s or something. Note: I think Chick-Fil-A and Gateway should have co-sponsored a NASCAR team - I can see the cow-spot-painted car now!

Unfortunately, I have to get back to work. If anyone wants to make birthday donations, let me know and I’ll give you my pay-pal account number so you can contribute there. But, rather than that, consider donating to the Tori Wilhoit account at Redstone Federal Credit Union (she’s the premature baby who’s currently at Vanderbilt and, while not out of the woods, is faring better these days; her parents could use the donated money for medical and other expenses). And, if I don’t post before then, have a very merry Christmas! After all, that’s the only birthday really worth celebrating this time of year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Illegal Target

I was at the local target and found this tag- and several more like it- in the skateboard area. Wonder what it means.. "not legal for store".. You can't buy the thing, only look at it and see what it would cost if you could buy it? You can be arrested for trying to buy it? Maybe it's some secret agent thing, like a hiding place for super secret stuff, maybe like NBC's "Chuck" or something, CIA and NSA working undercover at Target. (Ok, I know it's probably just that the tag was not supposed to be used on a real store display, but that's kind of boring, don't you think?) Anyway, seems like Target forgot to proof their displays. You'd think they were really busy or something.. :)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Pickle, anyone?

I don't like pickles, but I do enjoy Krystals. I always remove the pickles. When I opened up my krystal just a moment ago to remove the pickle, I was greeted by this monster.. The likes of which I've never before seen on a krystal, and figured it would be worth sharing with the world. If you don't know what krystals are, check out Or, if you know what White Castle burgers are, Krystals are about the same (except krystals have mustard on them, while the only time I had White Castle burgers they were dry).

Hope you enjoyed the pic.. Blogging this from my Samsung t429, which I also used to snap the pickle pic.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


I own a minivan. Minivans are great.

I found an interesting blog post about the Peyton Manning "so you're bummed about driving a minivan" commercial (go here to view the commercial - select "I drive a minivan" as "what's got you down" - and, note, that should say "what has you down" - not "what has got you down"). You can read it here. (Note: there is a slight amount of foul language on that page, and be careful about reading any of the guy's other posts, as they seem to contain some more language.)

Now, I think this guy is going a little overboard on the whole boycott idea. In fact, I, as a minivan driver, found the commercial funny. I don't think that either Peyton or MasterCard intended to offend anyone.

Why a minivan? Well, why not? They're more practical that most of the alternatives that people often want to drive. For example, the usual alternative is some sort of SUV. But most SUVs are built on truck platforms. Most SUVs have less interior room (both for people and for cargo) than minivans. Most SUVs are less comfortable on the road, don't drive as well, and are less fuel efficient than minivans. And even the loading - both of people and of stuff, is usually easier in a minivan. What advantages do the SUVs offer? Well, towing capacity is usually better with an SUV, and very few minivans are designed for off-roading. That being said, how many families actually do a lot of heavy towing (most minivans are sufficiently capable of light towing), or take their families on off-road adventures that would require the four-wheel-drive capability and ground clearance of truck-based SUVs?

I've had a minivan since about 1996. Three, actually: a 1995 Ford Windstar (bought used; transmission failed at around 67,000 miles), a 1998 Chevy Venture (bought new as an "end of year" clearance vehicle; nice inside, but horrible reliability both mechanically and electrically), and (my current family vehicle) a 1995 Mercury Villager (received used from my parents; my current family vehicle with a few problems, but fairly reliable so far). The Villager is a tad small for a family of six (at least for travel with bags or gifts; for everyday use it's fairly convenient). If you're looking for a new (or recent model used) minivan, check out the Hyundai Entourage (aka Kia Sedona, although the Kia dealers in my area haven't been very nice to me). If I had the money, I'd probably head in that direction myself.

So there you go: I'm a minivan driver. (Well, usually my wife is driving it, but I drive it when we're all together.) And, no, it's not a turbocharged, sport minivan - although the Villager actually handles pretty well for a minivan - and it doesn't have flames or a cool decal on it. Hope that doesn't make you think any less of me.


Interesting: I went to Merriam-Webster online and found the following definition of "serrated" (well, "serrate" actually):
to mark or make with serrations
Well now, that explains it all, huh? Ok, how about "serrations":
the condition of being serrate
Um... not getting anywhere! Ok, let's go back to "serrate":
notched or toothed on the edge
Finally! (Ok, technically that last definition is on the first page if you select "adjective" instead of "transitive verb" - but how could I have known that at the time?) Silly English language - I'm convinced that, if you really get down to it, there's no way to know what I'm saying - you'd find that, eventually, your definitions of words would eventually run you in a circle somewhere to the point that you find that all words are defined somewhat circularly, such that you can't really define the word at all. Thus, you don't really know what I'm saying (well, typing), you only pretend to know!

Anyway, that's beside the point. What I really wanted to mention was serrated edges... those little groves they cut perpendicular to your direction of travel on modern roads so that when you fall asleep at the wheel, and you accidentally start to go off the side of the road, it make a terrible vibration and horrible sound that startles you into being awake, jerking the wheel to get back on the road, overcorrect because you're still partially asleep and startled, and flip your vehicle. Much safer for all involved, including the guy behind you who's following too closely and, instead of getting to watch you run your vehicle into a ditch or something, now has to try to stop because your vehicle is sideways blocking the entire road. Woo-hoo!

Yeah, I found the serrations last night on the way out of town. No, I wasn't asleep, just sliding to the edge of the road. Thought the noise was cool, did it again, got frowns from the missus. And the children. Silly people... they need to learn to have fun on the road!

Ok, gotta go... maybe more later.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Phone #3

I'll be sticking with this one (T-Mobile won't accept returns after you've taken your third phone, even if you're within the 14-day return window). The battery life on the Blast turned out to be horrendous... went from fully charged, just unplugged the charger to "low battery" in less than 16 hours. And (like I said last post) the e-mail features weren't working for GMail or for my Bellsouth e-mail (well, I could read, but not send/reply/forward). And when I tried to use the TMobile "web sync address book" (which is supposed to allow you to edit and sync your phone's address book through the T-Mobile web site) to change something in the Blast phonebook, the phonebook broke. I couldn't enter any starting letter from "M" onwards, or scroll in either direction past the apparent broken location in the address book (in the M section). I decided that with all these issues, mainly the battery issue, that it really wasn't worth my time or the extra money for the Blast, so I got a Samsung t429 instead.

TZones will let me get to my e-mail. The camera, while still only a VGA camera (and not a match for the camera on the Blast), is better than the RAZR camera. Interface is familiar (to me) Samsung. Display resolution is not as good as the Blast, and it doesn't have the Suretype keypad (which I had started to get used to and like on the Blast), but the battery life is supposed to be much better (haven't fully charged the phone yet, it's charging now). As a note to anyone considering this phone: it does have Bluetooth, but it's only for devices... it doesn't seem to want to transfer files via the Bluetooth. Meaning you'll have to send your pictures via picture message to send it to your computer or somewhere. And you'll have to find another way to get your ringtones onto your phone (check out this site for a convenient way to upload your MP3 ringtones to your phone, and Audacity is a great, freeware way to grab a clip from your favorite MP3 file to use as a ringtone).

One of these days I'll probably want to upgrade to a more data-ready phone, but I don't know when TMobile will unveil their 3G network, and when they do, most current phones won't work on it anyway, the exceptions being the Samsung T639 and Nokia 6236 (the latter of which is actually available at TMobile already, and the former apparently in some places like New York City). Perhaps I should have checked these phones out at the TMobile store (although I'm not sure either is available in my area; pretty sure the T639 isn't, not as sure about the 6236), but (even if available) they are more expensive than the t429 (and require a rebate to get the listed purchase price anyway). Plus they're still TMobile phones... meaning the Java interfaces are (probably) locked down and unable to access the network. If and when I upgrade to a 3G phone for TMobile, I'll probably get an unlocked version.

Anyway, enough of my phone(y) stories... I should get some sleep before I have to get up again and go to work in the morning. Oh, and my right pinky toe, which I think I broke about three months ago, is hurting me quite a bit tonight for some reason. Ah, well, until next time...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

New phones

Well I finally upgraded my old Samsung T209 for something newer when the t-zones quit allowing me to get to my gmail. First I tried a Motorola RAZR, but wasn't very happy with that one, especially when the ring tone for a contact played for text messages as well. Not even the nearly free price was enough to keep me in that phone. A little while ago I traded the RAZR for a samsung blast. In fact, I'm using it right now to write this blog while attending my daughter's choir concert. She's up, will finish this later.

Back at home now. Yeah, the RAZR (V3), the much (over-) hyped Motorola monster. It wasn't for me. The camera was kind of fuzzy, the WAP browser wouldn't sign into GMail with the "remember me" checked ("your browser's cookie functionality is turned off" - apparently this is a feature of Motorola's browser since the setting "accept cookies" was set to "all"), the battery life wasn't very good (based on my four-day trial of the phone), and the killer was the ring tone issue - when my wife's text message came, it would ring the same ringer ID as when she called, and there was no way to change this behavior (ok, MotoModders, I know there are ways around it, but not within the context of the phone as delivered and expected to work).

Now I have the Samsung Blast. This one wasn't free (well, $18 upgrade fee plus tax) as was the RAZR, but (after rebate) it's not overly expensive. I'm "used" to the Samsung interfaces, so this might be a better fit (since I've been on a Samsung of one kind or another for years now). Admittedly, I still don't like that T-Mobile cripples their phones (won't allow Java apps to access the network; ok, they'll allow "signed" apps to get to it, but there aren't a lot of signed apps, and things like Opera Mini, Google Maps for Mobile, and Mobile GMail won't work). Maybe I should buy something off ebay, which I'll probably do sometime or another, but not in the near future (assuming I'm satisfied with the Blast or can find another adequate phone at the T-Mobile store).

The Blast supposedly supports e-mail via a text-message interface, but I can't get my e-mail to send. I can view them, but not send. And I can't get that interface to log into my GMail at all (the Blast was, according to intial reports, supposed to support GMail directly, but it doesn't). That's not as big a deal, since I can get my GMail (and even my AT&T/Bellsouth Webmail) via the WAP browser, but it's a feature that doesn't work the way it should. It might be nice to have some document viewers available, and perhaps a Google Talk IM client (Java apps can't access the network, remember?), but I think this phone will likely suffice to fill my "staying connected" needs.

The camera on the Blast is better than the RAZR (but no match for a real digital camera, of course); compare the photo of the CHRISTmas tree (to the right) to the RAZR picture in this post (ok, maybe not a good comparison... but the RAZR was the best of a couple of shots, this was a single, quick snapshot of the tree with the Blast). The Blast photo is not retouched in any way (whereas the RAZR picture actually had a "zoom blur" applied to try to make the picture more appealing).

Anyway, there you go... new phone. Two, actually, within a week. Who knows... maybe if I'm unsatisfied with the Blast I'll get a different one, but we'll see. I'll (try to) keep you updated; check back for details.

Oh, yeah... the Blast has the "two-letter-per-key" Suretype keyboard. Frequently criticized, I think it's one of those things to which you just have to adjust. That may be one of the reasons I didn't like the Motorola... the typing interface (while still a standard phone keypad) was different in the way it handled "smart text input" than Samsung. The Blast is more similar to what I'm familiar with (Samsung's T-9 entry) - different due to the keypad layout, but actually not too difficult an adjustment from a standard Samsung. Oh, I did like the alarm system of the RAZR in that it appeared to have quite a number of available alarm entries, but I still like the Samsung "Wake-up Call" alarm feature. And the Blast accepts microSD cards to enhance its already-bigger-than-the-RAZR 11MB of memory.

Anyway, I think I'm going to be happier with the Blast (especially if they do integrate GMail into the e-mail interface and/or Google Talk into its IM clients). I still have 10 days (if from the original RAZR upgrade date) or 14 days (if from today) to decide whether I like and want to keep the Blast (or whether I want to return it and try something else). I'll probably keep it.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Why in the world...

Why do we ask questions as a way to state the obvious? Why are we so infatuated with making sure other people know we have observed something that is, well, rather easy to see and/or know? For instance, one of my children was cooking something in the microwave this evening, and I opened the door and threw in a bowl of chili to cook alongside the steak & mashed potatoes already in there (partly because I was hungry, but partly because I had to be somewhere before too long, so I didn't want to have to wait for the first meal to finish before cooking mine). I did this while the child was out of the kitchen. When the microwave timer had expired (and the microwave did that fancy "beep beep beeeeeeep" it does when the timer expires, drawing the child, who will remain anonymous for protection of the nearly innocent, back into the kitchen), the child opened the microwave, saw the bowl of chili (which I'd filled while the child was still in the kitchen), and asked, "Did you put your chili in there with my food?"

I responded, flatly, "No."

That's just one example. I probably do this myself, but of course won't admit it. But why do we do that? What drives us to ask these questions? They're not really rhetorical questions (although, I guess, they might as well be). What is it in human nature that seems to require us to verbally expound on things which require no explanation? And why do I ask these questions, which really don't matter anyway?

Ok, here's another: why do some people feel it necessary to walk on the street when there's a perfectly serviceable sidewalk mere feet away? I mean, I'm trying to drive, but I have to wait or move out of the way (drive on the wrong side of the road, which, interestingly, in Alabama carries less of a penalty than speeding over 86 MPH... that is, the state of Alabama seems to consider it more dangerous to drive at speeds higher than 86 MPH than to drive on the wrong side of the road! more about that in a minute) to avoid the pedestrians who are not using the sidewalk that was deliberately built to provide a safe place for pedestrians to work. Come on, health freaks - use the sidewalk when there is one! Some poor neighborhood planning engineer is out there right now wondering if he should continue in his chosen profession, whether the sidewalks he has designed are so flawed that people would rather walk on the street than use such a horrible sidewalk. Or maybe it's a concrete pourer, wondering if his sidewalks are being avoided due to bad surfacing. Please, do these poor folks a favor... use the sidewalks, let them know you appreciate their hard work! And do those of us in a car or truck or motorhome or minivan or motorcycle or bus or semi or whatever else a favor, too... use the sidewalks, leave us our entire side of the road for driving our vehicles! Thanks, very much.

As for Alabama's Driver License Point System, here are some interesting notes:
  • speeding over 86 MPH is more dangerous than driving on the wrong side of the road
  • speeding over 86 MPH is more dangerous than disregarding traffic control devices (stop signs, traffic lights, etc.); note, however, that "failure to yield right of way" is considered as dangerous as speeding over 86 MPH (which failure could come from disregarding traffic control devices)
  • following too closely is rather low on the danger scale; depending on how closely this could be a very dangerous thing, often leading to an accident (note: this could conceivably be written up as "reckless driving" instead of or as well as "following to closely" - which is twice (or three times, if both are applied) the points on your license)
These observations are based on the assumption that the number of points assigned to a driving violation is an assessment of the hazardousness of that offense.

Gotta go... 'tis late, need to sleep some before the morrow comes and I have to head off to work.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

"avoid to play song dead turkey"

Ok, what in the world does that title mean? I have no idea, but I was looking at some of the Google Webmaster Tools for my blog site, and then I went to the "Top Search Queries" and this was the 7th entry (at that search page on Google my "Turkey Day Thoughts" post is currently in the #3 position).


Who in the world searches for "avoid to play song dead turkey"? And what does that mean, anyway? Sounds like someone who should be reading a post at the [LAPSE... brain dead] blog. But, ok, let's analyze it...

"Song dead turkey" - maybe this is referring to a goofy bird (or person) with a very poor tune...

"avoid to play" - hmm... "to play" may be referring to the action taken when inserting a quarter in a juke box and selecting a particular tune? With this in mind, perhaps "dead turkey" is the name of a song, thus "avoid to play song dead turkey" could be seeking guidance on how to not select the entry for the song "Dead Turkey" in a jukebox.

That must be it - "avoid to play song dead turkey" must be someone trying to find instructions on how to not select a song (which I've never heard; maybe I'll have to write one and add it to the Music of None Yet) when making choices at a jukebox.

You know, I'll bet the guy also drives a flex fuel vehicle to avoid depriving the yeti of his cold clime areas (as I discussed in this post).

We just finished decorating our CHRISTmas tree. Ok, not the best picture in the world, but I just snapped it w/ my phone (VGA-res., Motorola Razr V3 from T-Mobile; am too lazy to get up and get the real digital camera, and this one I can transfer to my laptop via Bluetooth, kinda cool... I also added a little bit of a "zoom blur" using Paint.Net, a pretty cool free photo-editing app - I know, I know, you're going to tell me to go look at Gimp... maybe I will, thanks). Anyway, we're perhaps a little late getting it up this year, but it's up, and it was a nice, enjoyable family time. But it's not a "Family Tree" like Lowe's "accidentally" called them in their 2007 catalog. I heard Rick & Bubba talking about this one morning... where Rick said something like, "Come on, you don't want to offend people? Who's going to be buying your trees anyway? The people who want them called 'Christmas trees!' That's basic marketing; if they are offended by the term 'Christmas tree' they're probably not going to be buying a tree in the first place" (I put that in quotes, but it's not a direct quote - it's my own paraphrased recollection/summarization of Rick's comments, with which I happen to agree). Lowe's wised up, fortunately... except maybe for this oddity. What is that? Supposedly it's to allow more room for stacking presents and to make the ornaments easier to see... whatever. It's just weird. Where is your tree-top angel going to sit? Maybe you put an army of angels on top... hey - maybe I do need that type of tree... my wife suggested that we need a new angel, but I love my 16-year-old angel that's been sitting on top of our tree since the first Christmas we were married. If we had an upside-down tree, we could put all sorts of angels on the "top" of the tree, and keep the oldie-but-goodie in there as well!

I'd better quit typing now before I get in too much trouble... :)

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Do I exist?

Sometimes I get into interesting conversations with my children, like this afternoon. While driving home from a store, we passed by an area where something was being constructed, a bridge or something. My daughter asked, "What's that?" To which I replied, "I don't know." And she said, "But I thought you know everything?" To which I said, "I do." And she gave me a funny look, so I further added, "So that's obviously nothing, or I would know what it is."

This spawned a conversation about existence, as she said, "Obviously it is something." And I said, "No, it's not." And she said, "But it was there! It exists!" I asked her what it means to "exist."

"Um..." She tried to define existence as "being there" - well, I'm not there (obviously, since I'm here), thus I must not exist, since I'm not there.

"Ok, something exists if you can see it." Well, you can't see air, so air must not exist. And how many people see various illusions, such as the "water on the road up ahead" on a hot day that turns out not to be there? I'd say that simply seeing something doesn't define its existence.

"Ok, if it's made of matter, it exists." Light isn't made of matter; radio waves aren't made of matter; thus, they must not exist.

"Look, if we go back there, I can touch it, and prove it exists!" Perhaps; but you don't know that it exists. "Yes, I do!" No, you don't; you think it exists; you believe it exists; you have faith that it exists; but you don't actually know if it exists (since seeing doesn't necessarily imply existence).

In fact, think about the matrix for a moment: the "bad guy" in the first Matrix movie talks about his "steak" - the steak that really is only a set of electrical impulses fed to his nerves and brain to make him think he's eating a steak. The steak doesn't exist, but it feels, tastes, and looks real to him since his senses have told him it's there, it's good, enjoy! Similarly, your senses could be fooled (e.g., the aforementioned optical illusion that causes you to think something does exist - like the "water" on the road on a hot day; or doesn't exist, like when David Coperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear - see the video below).

I love the old lady's comment: "I have never seen a Statue of Liberty disappear the way this one did!"

According to Merriam-Webster OnLine, "exist" means (first definition seems most pertinent to this discussion):

1 a: to have real being whether material or spiritual <did unicorns exist> <the largest galaxy known to exist> b: to have being in a specified place or with respect to understood limitations or conditions <strange ideas existed in his mind>

Anyway, that's my deep thought of the night: do I exist, or am I a figment of your imagination? Do you exist? Apparently not, as I never seem to have any comments on this blog... :)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Dog saliva...

makes good glasses cleaner. How do I know this? By experience, of course! Once upon a time I had a dog lick my face and got it all over my glasses. When I went to wipe them off, they were really, really clean. So if you need your glasses cleaned, try some dog saliva.

What else do you use for cleaning your glasses? I've seen people breath on them, I've used my own saliva at time, I have a glasses cleaner kit with some special "glasses cleaning fluid" and a soft cloth, I've used paper products (tissues, paper towels, etc., although those are probably not the best since they have the potential to scratch your lenses), and various cloth products (cotton cloth products seem to do the best job of "dry cleaning" in my opinion), as well as various glass cleaners, and of course good ol' H2O.

What do you use? What's your favorite? Feel free to comment.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


I got to spend some of the MyCokeRewards points I've been collecting. 750 of them, to be precise. They had a Blockbuster gift card, and since my family tends to like to rent movies, I figure that's a decent reward to get. I'm just glad they finally had something on which I could spend the points (and not regret spending them). In fact, this is probably better than the "year of free rentals" for which I'd been saving since it's not a "use it or lose it" type of thing.

They did have some Best Buy gift cards, but alas, were all sold out of those. Likewise the Home Depot cards were out of stock.

Anyway, now my family and I can go a bit more [brain dead] watching movies from Blockbuster. Well, once the gift card comes in we can.

Do something nice...

Even if it's not necessarily the best thing for you, do something nice. From the NFL play-by-play of the Redskins/Bills game today,
1-10-BUF 32 (7:10) 22-F.Jackson left end pushed ob at WAS 46 for 22 yards (30-L.Landry). Redskins' defensive formation included only 10 men in honor of Sean Taylor.
What? An NFL team intentionally playing only 10 men on defense? Yeah, it was only for one play. And, yeah, Buffalo still had to punt on their opening possession. But they got a 22-yard gain on that first play. And Washington, I'm sure, still thinks it's worth it to honor Sean Taylor, killed during a botched robbery. After all, despite the opinions of the biggest fans, it's still only a game.

Will Washington win? I hope so (I'm a fan, remember?) - they're winning at the moment. But it's still just a game. [edit - Washington, sadly (for me), didn't win - another loss in the final few minutes of the game; but their act of honoring Sean Taylor had nothing to do with the loss] I notice that it seems a lot (maybe all?) of the NFL players are wearing the #21 (Sean Taylor's number) on their helmets. Point I'm trying to make is: take a moment and do something nice. Today, everyday. Make the world a better place, one "act of random kindness" (to borrow a line from Evan Almighty) at a time, like this one.

Sorry for the lack of amusing banter in this post... I think I slept too little last night. I'll try to be more interesting next time.