Friday, January 28, 2005

Criminal Mind: Ideal Virus

If I were creating viruses, for a living or whatever, here's the virus I would create. It would be more apt to thrive in a business environment than a home computer, so it might have a short life since a lot of companies have good virus programs. But, here's how it would work.

First, it would look through your inbox and figure out who you correspond with most often. Then, it would scan subjects. Thirdly, it would look to see what attachments were most commonly used. Then, it would respond to the e-mail in your inbox with a short message like "I'm not sure I like where this is heading. I've attached some of my own figures." or "I'd go a different route. Take a look at this idea." or "Oh... before I forget, check out this out. My friend sent it to me. It's pretty funny."... something like that. And sign their name at the bottom.

Maybe even a variant that identifies e-mails that were forwarded multiple times and then pass it on to a bunch of people in the address book. Then it would just look like they were forwarding an annoying joke or something.

It would include an attachment that when opened, appeared to be blank. You would be infected at that point, but you would just think your colleague or friend sent you a blank e-mail and you'd write back going "Uh, what did you send me?"

I think it would spread like wildfire.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Sad People

Ok, so GM had some dumb marketing campaign idea to put billboards up all over the country. Well, more specifically, apparently mostly just the edges of the contiguous US. Screw the middle and Alaska and Hawaii. But it was kind of dumb. Each billboard only contains a single word and the website address. The website itself is kind of sad, because it simply serves to point out where all the billboards are, or will be. And that makes it a little sad because it seems a little too self-congratulating. In any case, not all the billboards are up yet but the website tells you where they eventually will be. But that didn't stop hackers from looking into the website and figuring out all the words already.

To make things weirder, GM added a message board where people can talk about what they think the message will be, or what it all means. It would be a little more interesting if GM didn't slather its logo all over the place. Kind of takes away a lot of the mystery.

Anyhow, looking at it today, I came across a sad exchange between two people. The first is a person living in the Hollywood Hills and doesn't own a car, yet admits to spending two hours on this site. That alone worries me, there isn't enough on this site to hold anyone's interest for 2 minutes. Secondly, they seem to be having a mental fight with themselves and trying to somehow stuff capitalism into a liberal construct and getting hopelessly confused. And finally, there's the conservative isolationist who takes the time to accuse them of ADHD and other fun stuff in this rather interesting, or sad interchange.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Friday, January 21, 2005

Shania, what happened?

Some would say she never fell because she never flew.

Back in college, there was a great radio station called "Young Country" in Seattle. Actually, it was one of those national brands that I think flopped. But they had this advance release of a song called "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under" which was a fun, catchy little song and the DJ predicted big things for the new artist. I remember hearing that one day and remember them making the prediction.

Although much cooler was the unauthorized "Whose Bed/Pour Some Sugar On Me" (Def Leppard) remix that they would play. Not your average country station, that. I think Shania was married at the time to the guy who did the sound editing for Def Leppard or something.

Anyhow, she has this new song called Party for Two. I haven't really been interested in much of anything she's put out lately and each time this song would come on MusicMatch, I'd hit the skip button and queue up the next song. I was in the car the other day and thought I'd give her the benefit of the doubt.

Remember in the 80's they'd get as many sitcom stars together as possible for a Made-for-TV movie? The plot was always the same. The prom/big party/etc. is at the end of the week. Exposition is people hanging out talking about it. Then the thing happens. And then the next half the movie takes place between the end of the event and the next morning. Lots of the kids end up in a restaurant talking, some kids regret nearly having sex, some parents finally track down their kids after a wild night of missteps, and parents and kids come to a better understanding and respect for one another. Invariably in those movies there would be one or more made-for-the-movie songs. Often performed by a "band" at the dance/big party/etc.

Well, this song "Party for Two" sounded like it had been written for that purpose. To be background noise, occasionally potted way down as character spoke to one another in the foreground while the "band" was out of focus in the background and people acted like they were dancing even though there was no beat for them to dance to since the music was added later. That is, this song stunk really bad.

Now I know Shania Twain has become VH1's "Awesomely Badder Fashion" go-to gal, never letting them down, but why does this song suck so bad? And why have all recent songs been stinkers propelled only by her bizarre fashion statement at awards shows and her former rapid rise?

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Scream Like You Mean It

This is interesting... a scream was recorded and used in a movie in 1951 and then added to Warner Bros.'s sound effects library. A few sound editors have turned it into sort of an inside joke or something and use the sound whenever they can in movies. It's kind of cool, but on the other hand, explains why screams all sound the same. I mean, when you try to run over people in Carmageddon (a video game), they scream and I've heard that same scream in TV ads. Maybe it's that a scream is hard to make distinct from another scream, so it becomes pointless to waste the money recording new ones? Link is in title.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Failed Cards

My tire was thumping.
I thought it was flat
When I looked at the tire...
I noticed your cat.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Looking back over the years
that we've been together,
I can't help but wonder...
"What the hell was I thinking?"

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Congratulations on your wedding day!
Too bad no one likes your husband.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

How could two people as beautiful as you
Have such an ugly baby?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I've always wanted to have
someone to hold,
someone to love.
After having met you ..
I've changed my mind.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I must admit, you brought Religion into my life.
I never believed in Hell until I met you.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

As the days go by, I think of how lucky I am...
That you're not here to ruin it for me.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Congratulations on your promotion.
Before you go...
Would you like to take this knife out of my back?
You'll probably need it again.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Happy Birthday, Uncle Dad!
(Available only in Tennessee, Kentucky & West Virginia)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Happy birthday! You look great for your age.
Almost Lifelike!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

When we were together,
you always said you'd die for me.
Now that we've broken up,
I think it's time you kept your promise.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

We have been friends for a very long time ...
let's say we stop?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I'm so miserable without you
it's almost like you're here.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Congratulations on your new bundle of joy.
Did you ever find out who the father was?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Your friends and I wanted to do
something special for your birthday.
So we're having you put to sleep.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Heard your wife left you,
How upset you must be.
But don't fret about it...
She moved in with me.

Who Da Man?

It's amazing how many people, out of ignorance, laziness or I don't know what, seemed unable to actually refer to yesterday as "Martin Luther King, Jr. Day." I heard radio stations refer to it as "King Day" and "MLK Day," SNL referred to it repeatedly as "Martin Luther King Day" and I even saw a sign on a building that said "Closed for Martin Luthar King Holiday"

Friday, January 14, 2005

What's Next?

Fill your truck up with BioWillie instead of foriegn diesel the next time you're at a truck stop that offers it. That name is wrong for so many reasons.

The Indian on the Tootsie Roll Pop

I was eating a Tootsie Roll Pop (helping to support a kid wanting to go to space camp) and saw the indian shooting the star on the wrapper and thought I would find out what was on the internet about that, since I'd heard as a kid about something about collecting them or something. And I wondered, since I seemed to always get ones with the indian, if maybe they were on all wrappers now and that there was no longer any point in collecting them.

Turns out that sometime in the 1930's a rumor got started that the ones with the indians were special or valuable because not every wrapper had one. About one-third of all wrappers do, based on the design. It would suggest that some lack certain other children but I guess they aren't as distinctive or obvious as the indian.

Anyhow, the rumor has never been true and the company used to send out apologetic letters saying that there was no such contest. Then in 1982, they invented a short story about the indian and now that's what they mail to kids. Personally? I think they ought to make the indian less likely to appear on the wrapper (change the design slightly, of course) and then actually have a candy giveaway, like two tootie roll pops for every 25 redeemed or something. (Or is it bad to encourage kids to eat lots of candy?)

But, and I thought this was pretty cool, some grocers (most likely small mom and pop stores) would allow young children to redeem the "indian wrappers" for free candy, subsidizing it out of their own pockets.

Hey PeopleSoft - You've Got Mail

Over the weekend, apparently all of the 11,000 PeopleSoft employees will receive something in the mail from Oracle. But they won't know until they open it what it is... for 6,000 of them, it will be a pink-slip. For the other 5,000, a new contract for continued employment with Oracle. Apparently Oracle is run by cruel and sadistic bastards. We've known for years that Larry Ellison(sp?) was a jerk, just from the soundbytes that he gets quoted as having said. But apparently everyone at Oracle lacks any sort of dignity or human spirit. I would love to see a lot of the 5,000 say "hey, bite me" and I'd love to see Microsoft and SAP rush a motorhome to the area full of HR people to hire a bunch of them. (The way the Red Cross and insurance companies mobilize to an area after a natural disaster.)

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Frustrated Beyond Belief

Hi, my name is James. I watch Lost.

They Can Track You...

Law enforcements have a new tool in tracking suspected criminals, but complaints are suggesting that it goes beyond the realm of what should be legal without a court order.

With the costs now only a few hundred dollars each, it's now cheap enough for law enforcement to hide GPS transmitters on suspected criminal's vehicles and track their movements via satellite. The law enforcement argument is that when you're driving, you are out in public and have no expectation of privacy.

The other side of the argument is that you're also being tracked when your vehicle isn't out in public, but so far, courts are siding with law enforcement.

Wonder how long before you'll be able to buy devices to help you locate those GPS devices. I always loved in movies when they would find the device and attach it to someone else's car and suddenly this old couple would find 200 marines with machine guns pointed at them.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

They Can Hear You...

A few years ago during a winter storm, I spent a lot of time on hold with Southwest Airlines. Their on hold recordings were enjoyable because they were funny. I remember one in particular that asked "Did you ever wonder if we were listening when you were on hold?" or something to that effect. Anyhow, apparently, when you call a company and the recording says "Your call may be monitored for quality control purposes," well, that includes the time you spend on hold. Pretty much every call is recorded now and of that, about 2% of them are listened to, from the time you connect, to the time you hang up the phone, even if the operator is long gone.

The story tells of someone who called up to turn off his cable because he had been divorced. After the call ended, he didn't hang up the phone and told his buddy that he had actually just cancelled his ex-wife's cable.

So the next time you're on hold and you think it's been too long, or you're unhappy that you're on hold, feel free to say so.

Friday, January 07, 2005

James and Barkley's Excellent Adventure

Ok, first off, let's get a few things straight... (1) it was not excellent, (2) there were actually two separate adventures that finally crossed paths and (3) the whole ordeal further cemented my dislike for dogs and preferences for cats. I've told Lori I will not have another dog as long as I live. I will not walk, feed, pet or care for another dog.

Two nights ago we returned home, unlocked the gate and backed into the carport area in front of the garage. Usually, our dog, Barkley, half great dane, half golden retreiver and half idiot, is standing at the gate to welcome us home. But that night, she was not. We called and called, but no response. So, unlocked the gate and went into the backyard. She wasn't in the laundry room, and that's when I noticed the gaping hole in the back fence, covered from the other side by lattice and boards. Fine, so where was the dog? Then I saw the second hole. So we got back in the car and spent 30 minutes driving around before deciding it a waste of time and heading back home.

Upon returning home, I went into the backyard where I heard the neighbor from behind hailing me. She explained that the dog had broken through the fence, they chased her, pushed her back in and then nailed over the hole and went to work. The dog broke free again. Another neighbor caught her, tied her up and she was there almost all day. When she chewed through the tether, they called the humane society. Lori was listening to a similar voicemail from another neighbor. Shortly thereafter, the woman's husband knocks on our front door. He cleans pools, so he said he drove by our house several times during the day to see if the dog was still in the backyard.

So the next day Lori and I take separate cars to work. I am able to find out that a shelter in San Gabriel has a black dog with a frayed red collar and no tags and that the kennel opens at 10. I'm having stomach discomfort from stress over this whole situation so I go to the bathroom before I leave work and a bug falls from somewhere onto my leg and the falls into the toilet. A decent sized one. Made me jump straight up I was so startled.

I go home to get the leash and paperwork on the dog and cannot find most of the paperwork. I try to get to the shelter, but I have a hard time finding it. Here's a thought... I know that the shelters are county run, so the cheapest thing to do is to stick them into the little slices of craphole that none of surrounding towns want to incorporate, but why not either (a) make them look nicer or (b) operate pet adoption centers in nice parts of incorporated towns where upper-middle class people live so that the issue is right in front of their face so that maybe they'll come and adopt some pets? They had some really nice looking pets there, it was kind of sad.

They took me back and sure enough, it was Barkley. I went up front and the first thing they ask of you is picture ID. They start filling out forms without telling you anything. She eventually presented me with a boarding bill for $54. $20 for the night and $30 because Barkley is still able to produce children. Gotta fix that, do not need any more Barkleys. Also, a notice to appear in L.A. County Superior Court. Yes, that's right, I got a ticket from the City of Monrovia to appear in county court in Pasadena. The first two offenses deal with city tags and this is a county dog who is licensed (though not wearing tags because she ate them), so they should be thrown out. As to the third -- unrestrained dog -- who knows? One would have thought a fence would have been sufficient. So I have to go to court. I paid the fine (cash or check only), took the dog, put her in the car and drove to Petco.

As soon as we got out of the car at Petco, she wiggled out of her collar and went running off through the parking lot. She made a big old mess right in the middle of the driveway, harassed some people, jumped up on an old lady and made her spill coffee on herself and just made me completely hate that dog before I was able to catch her and drag her by her collar and ear into the store, while she talked on her back legs, her front legs wrapped around my arm trying to bite me.

I bought a training harness that was to wrap around the front of her and go between her legs, hoping that it would allow me to better control her, long enough to figure out exactly what I wanted to buy as the final solution. $12. cha-ching. Another customer held her while I tried to get it on, but could not do it. Another employee with gloves on came up and tried to help and we had limited success. I spent a lot of time in that store being embarassed as I repeatedly shoved that dog to the ground and sat on her, or held her face to the ground. Then back over to the collars where she terrorized another employer who was fooled by her excited nature. She helped me find a "pinch collar" that I could use with the long tether I was buying. We put the pinch collar on and immediately noticed a difference in the dog's behavior. Part of the collar has a spike-like apparatus that lays flat against the collar. As the dog pulls, the collar tightens and the spikes turn inwards towards the dog's neck. Spike might not be the best description as they are pretty thick rods and not pointy. But they provide discomfort and pretty much stops the dog in her tracks. (Found out later from my boss who has one of Barkley's siblings that they've had a pinch collar all along. sigh.)

I get up to the register and cannot for the life of me find my credit card, the one I used to buy the first harness. So I had to use my ATM card and I know it had to cut into the safety cushion (money in the account I pretend isn't there) because I don't think the money was there. $50. cha-ching.

Got her home, got her tied to the tree. Approaching 2-1/2 hours away from work, all sweaty. Leticia is there cleaning the house, so I cannot take a shower. In the process, I've stepped in dog doo in the backyard, so I've abandoned those shoes for another pair and end up tracking dirt into the house. I didn't notice until I saw that Leticia who had been sweeping is following me around with the broom. I apologized and she said it was ok. She speaks very little English, but I think she could just tell that it wasn't a great day for me. Those shoes, however, weren't appropriate for work, so I had to grab my dress shoes and some dress clothes. Throw them into a bag and now I cannot find my keys and spend 10 minutes looking for them. Then I'm off, and the shower at work has only cold water. I get all dressed up and realize I've grabbed a pair of pants that don't fit and have to spend the rest of the day with them zipped up as high as possible and a belt really tight and the pants unbuttoned. Fortunately, I had grabbed a sweater so I was able to just keep it low enough to hide the fact.

So I'm now firmly a cat person. There's no dog in the world that will make me change my mind, unless someone gives me one that can clean cat boxes. (And not the way Barkley does by eating the offending material.)

Sunday, January 02, 2005

In a word, rain

In more words, it's raining. Pouring. There's a point in Douglas Adam's So Long and Thanks for All the Fish when a character ponders rain. This particular character drives a lorry for a living and has categorized all the types of rain and by his count, so far he's encountered 231 different kinds of rain. The point is actually all of chapter 2. This post is not really about him. Except to say that in Sleepless in Seattle Niles from Frasier says "It rains nine months a year in Seattle." I've lived there, I've lived here. And when we do something here, it's all or nothing. In Seattle, there are probably at least 231 different kinds of rain. It may take days to get the kind of overall volume that we can get down here in 30 minutes of rain. In L.A., there is but one. And when it rains here, there is no mercy.

Usually, that suits me fine. When I'm indoors and warm, I'm happy to watch the rain. I'm bummed when it rains at night and Lori's fan drowns out the rain, or when I'm at work and I can't see out the window from my desk. I really love the rain.

I love it even more now that I've moved from the San Fernando valley to the San Gabriel valley. I'm not sure why, but people out here don't seem to suck nearly as much at driving in the rain. When I first moved here, it was a big shock when it rained. One, brilliant people had built a major thoroughfare through a flood plain. Two, since it rains so infrequently, and when it does rain, it rains so hard, the rain has nowhere to go. It cannot seep into the ground, nor can it drain from the freeways fast enough. To make matters worse, all the dirt and grime and oil and stuff on the roads rises up to the top making a really slick surface. I have been at a complete stop on an offramp that sloped down and felt my car slide forward a few inches. Three, the rain seemed to scare those idiots. My five-minute drive on a normal day would suddenly take 45-60 minutes.

Over here, it doesn't seem to be as big a deal. People give adequate space, people start using their turn signals and headlights and they don't hit the brakes at the sight of a raindrop on their windshield. And all in all, it makes for a commute that isn't too bad. Although I did get a rolling warning from a yellow-slickered CHiP on a motorcycle the other morning...

But I find it interesting that people down here underappreciate Seattle because of the rain. But as I write this, I can imagine Seattlites cursing me. Shut up! We don't want the California people up here! Shut up!

Tonight I was a bastard. I parked the SUV on the ramp area of the grocery store in an attempt to get less wet as I loaded in all the groceries. I think it worked. Unloading was no fun, either. I'm now designing in my head some kind of tarp-like structure to divert the rain between the carport and the house away so that I can get less wet going to and from the car. The weirdest thing this house... you cannot get from the carport to the garage without getting soaked in the two foot gap between the two. You cannot get from the carport to the grocery unloading window without going under four feet of open air. The carport to the back door's awning is about four feet. And the back door's awning to the laundry room is another five feet. I feel like I'm going to be stringing up a lot of tarps.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Eats, Shoots and is Ironic

At some point during the last year, I mentioned a book I had heard of called Eats, Shoots and Leaves and how it sounded funny. I never really thought of it again, but Lori got it for my birthday and I'm really enjoying reading it.

But I find it funny that they incorrectly refer to the movie studio as "Warner Brothers" where it should be "Warner Bros."

Ooops. Guess even Lynne Truss (not to mention all of the various editors) isn't perfect.

This year I resolve to...

I am happy to notice that in my little blog there is no mention of resolutions in the first post of the new year for any of the past years.

And I really don't think I should break with tradition. Actually, I've been thinking about it today and really hate that Christmas comes right before the new year. Why not August when there are no holidays? Granted, then there'd be no holidays in December, but the second December ends, you'd got one. (Kevin, if there's a holiday in December that I'm missing, please don't point it out!)

The word "new" always makes us look back and reflect. Because if it's new, then everything else is old. And old is bad. New, good. Old, bad. Often we don't look back as wistfully as we should, instead, we're trained to look at our faults and then resolve to do differently. It doesn't help that it comes after an overly-commercialized holiday chock full of gluttony... you cannot turn around without finding something amazing to eat. Something you will look back at with guilt sometime after the "new" year begins. (Disclaimer: I am riding the exercise bike as I write this. Disclaimer number two: I am drinking a glass of milk and just ate a chocolate chip cookie and one of those graham crackers that are dipped in chocolate repeatedly until the chocolate shell is several feet thick and then has chocolate drizzled on top of it.)

No, I will not resolve to get in better shape. I would like to be in better shape and only time will tell if I can even ride the bike consistently enough to maintain, or if we'll be able to find the time to start walking again. (Days without missing exercise: 1!) I'll keep that pair of 32" waist jeans in my bottom drawer. But, I did recently let Lori buy me a second pair of 34"'s.

Nor will I resolve not to make any resolutions. Because that's funny when you're a teenager but logically, it's just plain annoying.

Goals and objectives, however, are something I can subscribe to. While a resolution is usally vague enough that you can weasel out of or can simply forget about, goals and objectives make sense. While I'm not yet ready to make a goal to lose weight or exercise more, I am thinking about it. We all know every single past attempt have all ended in horrible failure, like the short-lived website, or every other time I've said I was on a diet.

Lori and I sat down for breakfast at a restaurant about a month ago and talked about our goals and objectives. Some were things we wanted to do this quarter, people we wanted to get together with. Some were big expenses that were coming up or events that were happening that we needed to make sure were on the calendar. And the part that I thought was pretty cool was after our breakfast, we returned home and walked through the house room by room, identifying everything we didn't like, everything that was messed up, every place where paint needed touching up, whatever, you name it, it all went on a list. Then we took that list and figured out which things we could reasonable accomplish this quarter. That's now on the refrigerator and I was actually able to knock a few of them out of the park today, or at least get underway. This will be a good year for us. It will not be another whirlwind, this year, the chaos will be managed. Because we have a plan. Not some vague, abstract resolution to be less busy, to be more organized, but lots of lists. And if there's something we do well, it's lists.

But, if I must, maybe I will resolve to be more awesomer than I was last year. I don't know how possible that is, but that's something I can shoot for.