Monday, July 30, 2007

...and the women aren't all that attractive, either

From the "This would be funny, only it's happening to me" department:

A private e-mail address, linked to a pseudonym that I use for occasional print and Web articles, has been helpfully subscribed to an "online dating" site.

The word "dating," in this case, seems to have the same euphemistic meaning that the transsexual hookers in New York City's Meatpacking District always understood: "...honey, want a date?" (a line not infrequently delivered in a disconcerting basso profundo.)

Even better: Having logged in with the credentials provided by the semi-literate prankster who set this up (since he or she used my e-mail address, I got all the notifications of account creation, as well as the many "special offers" that begin pouring into my inbox this morning)... there is no way to delete the account from the site via the web interface.

Okay. Scratch one e-mail account, set up another, add some random characters into the name.

Good thing they're disposable these days.

(crossposted from enrevanche)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Sack up

I've gone hiking in bear country before, and a standard practice there is to hang your food (and the clothes you wore while cooking!) up in a tree, some distance from your camp, so that you don't invite bears into your tent.

(The reason that you hang the clothes you've cooked in, and don't sleep in them, is that if a bear wanders into your camp at night, you, smelling of food, in your sleeping bag, will appear to be something that was packaged by Kraft.)

Anyway... meet Ursack.

(crossposted from enrevanche)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

"The cat's here; call in the family"

When Oscar the Cat visits residents of the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island, the staff jumps into action -- Oscar can sense within hours when someone is about to die.

In his two years living in Steere's end-stage dementia unit, Oscar has been at the bedside of more than 25 residents shortly before they died, according to Dr. David Dosa of Brown University in Providence.

He wrote about Oscar in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"It's not that the cat is consistently there first," Dr. Joan Teno, a professor of community health at Brown University, who sees patients in the unit. "But the cat always does manage to make an appearance, and it always seems to be in the last two hours."
Nursing home cat can sense death, ease passing (Reuters via Yahoo News)

The staff don't believe that anything supernatural is going on; rather, they posit that Oscar is sensitive to some kind of biochemical change that is taking place in the unit's patients as death approaches.

However, definitely check out Oscar's picture in the Yahoo News article cited above. He appears to be a very wise cat, with a great deal of Buddha-nature. You can just tell that the little guy has quite a bedside manner.

Related: Dosa, David M. A Day in the Life of Oscar the Cat N Engl J Med 2007 357: 328-329

(crossposted from enrevanche)

Friday, July 20, 2007

How Find Good Barbeque

"One place is sort of expensive."
"Tell me how to get to the other one. Good barbeque is never expensive."

That's how I knew which one of three barbeque restaurants was the real thing in Cookeville, Tennessee. The other clue was, "Well, that place only does pork."

You have to understand, though, I was getting these directions from my innkeepers, both of whom were from Michigan. They had all the right information; they just didn't know it.

The real reason I logged on here tonight was so that I could print the blog from a couple days ago, and the Gazette article it links to. That should help them make some sense of all my babbling about "real" barbeque.

And this is likely to be my last post for a while. I'm glad to see Barry's keeping the keyboard warm though. Thanks cuz. Hope to see you in NC soon.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Spot of trouble on the commute

(Hi. Barry here. While Doc is on travel, I will be posting here occasionally. I'm kin to him, but please don't hold that against me.)

As I'm sure anyone within reach of the Intertubes already knows, there was a teensy spot of trouble near Grand Central Station last night... a massive steam pipe exploded, sending a geyser of live steam, "mud" (more on that in a second), rocks and miscellaneous debris twenty stories into the air and blasting a huge hole in Lexington Avenue.

I can't hope to add anything to the voluminous coverage of this incident, except to relate another incident that took place in my office last night. The explosion occurred just before 6PM, at the height of the evening rush hour, and shortly thereafter a number of us gathered in the Network Operations Center, where a local news channel was tuned in and patched through to the overhead projector.

The initial images were really startling - the steam-geyser was achieving some incredible heights, and it was evident that the steam pipes had taken out quite a bit of additional infrastructure with them when they blew, as there was an enormous amount of debris in the mix.

"Damn," one of our senior engineers observed. "Looks like it took out a sewer line, too."

One of the new guys objected.

"The news says that's mud."

The senior guy said, "Dude, I've worked in IT for over 20 years now. Don't you think I can recognize a fountain of shit when I see one?"

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

NC BBQ in Colorado

Damn. Damn. Damn. I picked a helluva weekend to actually be in NC. Probably the one weekend there'll be something resembling a real NC pig pickin' (the last of which I attended was thrown by our Association of Graduate Students in the English Department at UNC-CH, back in 1989) here at the base of the Rockies.

“My wife thinks I’m slightly obsessed about barbecue,” says Smith, who lives in Monument. “I love to smoke meat and make it like I grew up eating in North Carolina.”

That’s why he often throws parties for friends, especially for a gathering of hard-core North Carolina transplants — most with ties to the University of North Carolina — who are nuts about his barbecue.

13 Ways of Looking at a BlackBerry: Number 4, BlackBerry Smoothie

Over at Enrevanche, (okay, so you can tell what blogs I visit regularly), Barry posted a link you have to see to believe (unless you know about this site).

So, after visiting, I made a suggestion:
We'll see what comes of it. Either way, I think this will stand as #4.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

13 Ways of Looking at a BlackBerry: Number Three: "Outmoded"

Also from Barry, at Enrevanche:

Here's my entry.

I call this piece “Outmoded.”

Pictured, left to right: Research In Motion’s new BlackBerry Curve, generously provided by my employer, adjacent to Apple’s new iPhone, generously provided by me, both displaying a favorite blog.

And again, if you haven't been there already, here's the photo that started this.

13 Ways of Looking at a BlackBerry, Number Two

First up with a contribution to the series was Barry, over at Enrevanche, with a comment that, while not a photo, I'm going to count nonetheless. Certainly, "through poetry" is a valid way of looking, given where I pilfered the title of the series. So, moving from the comment box, where it was prefaced by, "I'll see your Wallace Stevens and raise you a William Carlos Williams," to front page, here's number 2:

so much depends


a blackberry


vibrating in its


like a way-too-expensive

marital aid

Touche! Frankly, I think that's going to be hard to beat.

He also posted a photo, but I'm off to a picnic, so I'll post that when I return, or you can pay it a visit over at his place in the meantime.

And if you haven't been there already, check out the photo that started this.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

BlackBerry Coaster

Confession: When I was younger, I never really knew how to enjoy the company of other men. Perhaps it was insecurity, and a sense of every situation being a competition of sorts. But I'm inclined to think that wasn't it, given that in many respects, that's an aspect of male relationships that never wholly goes away. Or perhaps it was a surplus of testosterone that drove me always to be looking for a person of the opposite gender with whom to spend time. God knows that's less of a problem as we age. Or maybe the problem was that I used to care, overmuch, what others thought. Heaven knows I still care, but sooooo much less.

Whatever the reason, in the last five years or so, I've finally begun to enjoy the company of my fellow alpha males. I say alpha males, because, for the most part, they are. You'd think we'd clash. But for whatever reason, age, nothing-left-to-prove confidence, manageable hormone levels, whatever, we get along. We all have wives or significant others. We enjoy their company, most of us. But we also enjoy one another's, and take pains to find time for it. Breakfast, runs, bike rides, horseshoes, skydiving, lunch, or, to use last night as an example: a couple glasses of St Remy in snifters, a couple of great cigars, a pair of Adirondack chairs on top of a hill overlooking the city with the sun setting behind Pike's Peak, and stories of snakebites, almost snakebites, switchbacks, and the trout that got away, until sunset and the rapid Colorado chill sent us in. Now that is the kind of evening that will get you through the week. If you spend part of it planning a weekend guy getaway to a cabin on a trout stream with cigars and reserve whiskey for sustenance, it's the kind of evening that will get you through the month.

Don't get me wrong. I love my wife. I love my daughters. I love my two big female dogs (Husky and Newfoundland). I even love our one completely uncatlike female cat. But I love not having to explain myself. Guys understand guys things, guy likes, guy angst and guy anger. With guys, you can simply describe a situation--note, that's describe, not explain--then wrap up the matter in three short sentences (okay, one sentence, one phrase, and one word):

"Dude, that's f___ed up."
"Damn straight."

That's it. No need for explaining, hugs, tears, 13 ways of looking at a blackbird. It's taken nearly half a century, but I'm finally able to really appreciate that.

All that said, this blog opens with a guy photo from a guy friend taken on his guy vacation. With apologies to Wallace Stevens, I'm going to issue an invitation to my readers to contribute to a series, with this as entry number one. We'll call the series, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a BlackBerry." E-mail me your photographic entries and I'll post them here with appropriate credits. Entry number one comes courtesy of Robert. The e-mail that brought it to me came with the following note: "Please see my recent vacation photos for detailed proper usage of a Blackberry and Corona." We'll call it "BlackBerry Coaster."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Yeah baby . . .

We all know this sounds just like something I would do . . .

BEND, Ore. — Last weekend, Bend gas station owner Kent Couch settled down in his lawn chair with some drinks and snacks — and a parachute.

Attached to the lawn chair were 105 balloons of various colors, each 4 feet around. Bundled together, the balloons rise three stories high.

Couch carried a global positioning system device, a two-way radio, a digital camcorder and a cell phone. He also had instruments to measure his altitude and speed and about four plastic bags holding five gallons of water each to act as a ballast — he could turn a spigot, release water and rise.

Destination: Idaho.

My favorite line:
Even at two miles high, Couch said, he could hear cattle lowing and children talking. He heard gunshots, which worried him.

Who knew you needed to prep the route with a SEAD mission? :-)

Source: Yesterday's Seattle Times.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Survey Generation

Things survive on the internet. Nothing really ever goes away. Sometimes, it gets harder to find, but your best bet is to assume that, once there, it'll stay there. Forever.

Surveys are a good example. They can be fun. They can be revealing. They can be dangerous. They can be dangerously revealing.

Got kids? No, this is not a survey question. Well, actually, it is, but not in this instance. In this instance, it's rhetorical. In a survey, it would likely be followed by "How many?" "What are their names?" "Birthdays?" Now, next to each other those questions look pretty suspicious. But a survey will get you to drop your guard by interspersing innocuous questions like, "Do they ever eat macaroni?" "What was their last injury that required a bandaid?" "Are they walking yet?" etc.

In this instance, it's prelude to saying, Get online and watch what they're posting on their personal sites, like MySpace and FaceBook, and the like. They may not have bank accounts yet, but one day they will. And when the bank asks security questions like "What's your mother's maiden name?" "What town were you born in?" "What was your first pet's name?" "What was your first car?" "What's your favorite color?" (all of which I've seen as security questions at one time or another), do you think they'll remember that they've answered all of those questions for the world to see (or at least all of their "friends"--who for most kids, number well into the hundreds) on MySpace or FaceBook.

I took the title of this post from one of the hits I got when I typed "myspace surveys security" on Google. Ethan Kaplan, had an interesting blog post about the same tendency, but less from a security perspective than a psychological one. It's worth reading though.

Meanwhile, our children are likely to be challenged, when the time comes for them to set up security questions for online financial accounts; that is, if they're web-savvy enough to remember that the purpose of those questions is to ask them things that only they would know the answers to, and then to remember that, oh yeah, several hundred of my "friends" and by means of "extended networks" their "friends" and so on, know those answers too. Because, as I said at the beginning, nothing on the web ever dies, and just because you can't find it anymore, doesn't mean that even a poorly skilled hacker can't.

So, think twice about answering all those survey questions, or try to get your kids to, or at least try to school them in which ones are best answered, "None of your beeswax." And then, after you've schooled them, plan to remind them, and remind them, and remind them. Nothing on the web dies, but good advice has a half-life shorter than most man-made elements. Good luck.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Move over Stanley Kubrick

Even Eyes Wide Shut was only rated R.

This is not an adult blog, by any means. But an online rating site seems to think differently. This is pretty funny.
Online Dating

Mingle2 - Online Dating

Here's why: