Monday, May 29, 2006

A Day at Target

So, to set this up, I need to head back to last night. Last night, Bria graced my dreams. Considering how much time we spent together, I'm surprised that she hasn't appeared before in recent memory. I was meeting her husband and we were getting along well. Later in the dream, she and I and three others were working together for my two previous bosses. Someone else and I were returning from a team-building retreat and she and two other colleagues were about to leave for it, so I was telling her what she could expect if their retreat was the same as ours. For being one of my dreams, it was pretty normal and pretty unmemorable, which was weird. But, it often seems that someone specifically appearing in my dream who hasn't been part of my life for a long time often precedes my actually connecting with them in some way by a week or two. I don't know how that works... I'm not suggesting I have ESP or anything (though that dream I had that I died a day or two before 9/11 was pretty freaky) but I'm also convinced that if we only use 10% of our brains that there's a lot of stuff we don't necessarily understand about how the mind works.

Anyhow, that sets up the first part. Now, let's set up the second part. I'm in Target with Rachel. I've been charged with tiring her out so she'll take her nap earlier in the day because we have plans when she would otherwise be napping. In addition to being weary, she still hasn't fully learned the valuable lesson of really being aware of her surroundings. She was a few steps behind me and a guy was coming down the aisle with one of those large carts that holds several kids in the back. Rachel starts saying "Look out! Look out!" The guy, amused, starts weaving, like he's coming after her. I didn't think he meant any harm. She, though, occupied by the cart, is not looking forward at all. And before I can stop her, she walks smack into a stopped cart in the aisle. She's startled, scared and probably a tiny bit hurt and starts shrieking. There were others around who realized that it was completely unintentional.

I had parked my cart around the corner and was already trying to get back to her when she smacked into the cart so pretty quickly she was in my arms crying and calming down.

All the sudden I hear from behind me "Excuse me." I'm thinking 'Oh, great, some woman is about to yell at me for being negligent.' But when I turn around they say "Are you James? James Lamb?" I respond that I am and they give their name, but I can't hear it over Rachel and ask them to repeat it, thinking I had heard "Barbara" and for a moment 'Barbara Beckinghausen?' flashed through my brain. I am so bad with faces, that I was wondering when she did repeat her name, Barbara Kanouse. Not Bria, but another redhead from my past. (Loosely, that is. She was pretty cool, but way out of my league. Can't really remember much of high school, but hers is one of the names that stand out.)

We chatted for a few minutes, I learned that she was married, had three kids, the youngest six, and that she lived in Tacoma, just a mile from where we live and had lived there for three years. I was still shaken up by what had happened to Rachel, combined with my own crappy ability to communicate socially with people that I am still kicking myself for not having done a better job of talking to her. I am still thinking of things I could have asked.

So that's going to be something that's gonna bug me. Here, another opportunity to catch up with an old friend, blown because I'm still just as socially inept as I ever was.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Cool City Thing

I have to admit I don't exactly understand what the point of the link above is, but I know it looks pretty cool, especially the video (until the end when all the cars start spiraling on the screen for no apparent reason.) As near as I understand this, this is a program that takes a bit of land and produces organic and organized urban growth and planning using mathmatical calculations. In their example, it's using wierd circular roads, but the way it's rendered is pretty cool. I hope that future versions of Simcity look this great. I'm tired of roads that can only run due east-west or due north-south.

Escape from Cubicle Nation

Awesome article. She's (Pam Slim) now a added item under "Who I'm Reading"

Life Lessons?

I was looking for something else and came across this...


  1. Don't over-engineer a solution.
  2. There's a whole game of Chinese whispers between what the customer asks for, and what is delivered.
  3. Don't forget to check files into source control.
  4. Over-estimate how long something will take.
  5. Code simply, so the next person can read it.
  6. Comment what the code is for, not how it does it.
  7. Frequently check with the customer that what you are writing is what they think they want.
  8. Learn how to use Google for samples and bug fixes.
  9. Whilst writing software, you need to picture the people who will use it.
  10. Keep up to date with technology.


  1. You can only work with what you have, so make the best of it.
  2. Being genuinely enthusiastic is good.
  3. Find out exactly what criteria you will be assessed against, and make sure you do those well.
  4. Training courses aren't all they're cracked up to be.
  5. See what mistakes other people make, and learn from them.
  6. Each company I have worked for has been better than the previous one.
  7. Don't write an email while you are angry. Don't even make any decisions while you are angry. Calm down first. Leave it a day or two.
  8. Don't say "yes" to everything.
  9. You will make more difference getting better at things you are rubbish at than the things you are quite good at.
  10. Keep learning.


  1. At least one of your colleagues will think they are better than you. Hopefully they won't tell your other colleagues.
  2. You spend loads of time with your colleagues. Much more than with your family and friends.
  3. People keep cropping up when you think you won't see them again.
  4. Be helpful.
  5. Be careful with first impressions. They are often wrong, so don't trust yours. Other people may judge you on their first impression of you.
  6. Don't be smug, arrogant or lead people to believe you know more than you do.
  7. Being a gossip is bad.
  8. Don't belittle yourself or your colleagues in front of your customer or boss.
  9. If you're not very good at one aspect of your job, find someone who is good at it, and ask them to help you.
  10. Everyone has good points and bad points. You will be happier if you focus on people's good points.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Cool News: Girls in Afghanistan

WORLDVISION.ORG -- In the past two years, the number of girls enrolled in school in Afghanistan has doubled, thanks in part to efforts and funding from World Vision and the United States Department of Agriculture. More...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Weird Survey

Ok, this was an actual question on a survey I was taking about TV. I guess
these people need DVR's, or at least a second TV. Forgive me, but does stuff like this really happen?
Have any of the following resulted from disputes in your household about what to watch at a given time? (Please check all that apply.)

Remote control tossing
Drinks or food thrown
Long silent treatment
Glass broken
Icy stares
Withholding of affection
TV toppled or smashed
Furniture tossed or knocked over
Shouting matches
Storming off to another room
Physical altercations
Heated discussions
Cable cords ripped from the wall
None of the above

Monday, May 22, 2006

Updated Google Wish List

I've started the process of putting these requests on the more appropriate
Google Groups, but they actually ought to have a "Suggestions/Feature
Request" category within each section.

(1) "Map" link in contacts if address is stored
(2) "Add to Contacts" link on recognized address or phone number
(3) Ding noise for new messages, like what's now available for Google Talk
(4) Remember Chat/NoChat/HTML lite by computer, not by login (w/chat is blocked at work so I elect for NoChat version at work, but want Chat version at home)

(5) I cannot mark an e-mail address as "inactive" - If I can archive e-mail forever, then eventually someone's going to give up an old address, but I still need it tied to their contact so that when I view e-mails from them, these old e-mails show up.
(6) If a website address is added, it should be parsed out and available as a clickable link.
(7) Tabs - a long list is no fun to scroll through but sometimes search isn't the best option (sorry!)
(8) Ability to merge contacts

(9) "Identify" option on maps, that can give you the address of the location you've clicked on. And then can search Google for that address. (big brother? maybe. Zillow uses Google Maps and offers the addressing part already.)
(10) doesn't refresh/update the search results as you move the map (see Live Local and Yahoo! Maps Beta)
(11) doesn't offer categories (see Yahoo! Maps Beta) - hopefully new deal with Verizon Superpages will solve this
(12) no way to close/hide the search results panel

(13) Allow me to select an address from my list of contacts -- even if that contact isn't on the invite list.
(14) separate the "location" into two parts... a written description and a actual address.
(15) parse the comments so that maps and links are live
(16) allow for the deletion of comments

(17) doesn't show events from the calendar

Just What I Needed

Turns out that was just what I needed. Some angry Melissa Ethridge, a longer than normal drive, and some great rain to drive in. My, oh my oh my, what a joy is it is to drive in the rain with a bunch of other competant drivers. I was able to get some decent speeds in, and push the
car hard. It handled remarkably well and cinched another question that's been bugging me for a few weeks.... For my next vehicle... mid-sized Chevy pickup, Chevy Trailblazer or a German/Japanese Sports Sedan? I'm now really leaning towards sticking to what I know... a four-door sedan, smooth and refined, which belies many unexpected horses under the hood. Which brings up a new question... do I stay black, or am I ready to be trusted with silver? I'm thinking I gotta go black for one more round, I'm not yet good enough a driver to be trusted with a silver car. If cars had brains, I wonder what the Intrepid would have thought, it's never had the chance to really have fun in the rain. I only made it twice around the pond once I
got here, but other than a brutal killer headache, my spirits have been well-lifted.

Ani Difranco Kind of Day

I'm in a really foul mood and I don't want to go to the trouble of plugging in the CD player to get to the D section, so I'll have to stick with the Melissa Ethridge CD that my two-year-old was using as a frisbee last week. Looks fine enough. If I leave now I can figure out how to take the long way to work, not easy when you only have a six mile drive, and still have time to walk around the park at least three times before going ito the building.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Raise a Glass

Today in history... 10 years ago today, I slipped behind the wheel of the UHaul and began my third trip to California, my second in three months. Graduation 90 minutes earlier and the hot, wet gowns finally off. It had rained while we all stood outside waiting to process, but now it was clear and dry and the sky blue. This would be the longest trip. Not just the drive down, which took an entire extra day due to the truck never exceeding 60 miles an hour even as the spedometer read 90. But, the trip would ultimately last just shy of 10 years. I'd leave for California all my possessions in a tiny UHaul, my future ex-girlfriend behind the wheel of my Audi. (I was thinking about this today... not only did she drive my car all the way down, including backtracking to find me when I ran the diesel truck out of gas - never do that! - but she actually also helped me unload the truck into my apartment. That was above and beyond.)

The return trip was slightly quicker, though much more of a production. This time, I had my car and four cats, my wife in her truck with the baby and the horse-dog and my mother-in-law with her cat in yet a third car. All of our stuff now taking up a considerable portion of a gigantic North American Van Lines truck heading up on its own schedule.

But what happened in that almost 10 years will be much of my memories for a long time to come. A party that ended at a Denny's long after the beer was gone, a church that met at a Dave and Busters, friends who stuck by in stupid times, a life ended too soon, palm trees and crisp, hot dry air, an apartment that should have been condemned, a house that should have been condemned, thankfully failed dating relationships, an internet start-up, a major movie studio, a video chain, a large non-profit that has no right to be that large, a sadistic cop. A comedy club, a little TV show and a million fans, data entry at a worker's comp. processing facility, websites for an audio/video company, a youth runaway shelter and a Christian research firm. Ventura, Sepulveda and Van Nuys Blvds. Encino, Van Nuys, Sherman Oaks, Burbank, Studio City, Pasadena, Arcadia, Anaheim, Monrovia, LOS ANGELES. 5, 405, 101, 134. Dating, proposal at Disneyland, wedding, joy. Doctor's visits, late night race to the hospital at full speed down a thankfully empty freeway secretly hoping to get pulled over and a police escort the rest of the way, beautiful bundle of warmth in my arms 9 hours later. Stress, traffic, smog, torrential rain, expensive.

What a ride it's been. To the 10-year anniversary of graduation. Salut and thanks.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Brain Trust

An article I read this morning said that "Estimates are that anywhere from
50 percent to 80 percent of a company's institutional knowledge is inside
of its employees' heads." That's pretty amazing to me. Even as people and
companies strive to work smarter and with more efficiency, that time isn't
being taken to properly document everything. I mean, I know that was the
trend at my last job, to their serious detriment. Every new person had to
reinvent the wheel. And I've seen some of that here, but myself and the
next newest guy have had enough and we're creating documentation for
everything, if for no other reason than that from now on we'll be able to
work faster with our handy dandy checklists.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Bowing Out Gracefully

Open Letter to Everyone Involved with Malcolm in the Middle
Thanks for years of entertainment, but thanks especially for such a well-done final episode. It was graceful, classy, hillarious and a fitting closure to our little look into the family whose last name we never learned.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Redefining the Speed of Light

Weird - apparently someone's slowed down light so much that it travels backwards. They can't yet explain it, but it's repeatable in test after test. Link above.


Why haven't we seen the black cloud "security feature" thing on Lost in so long? One of my colleagues theorizes that someone must have tripped over an extension cord in one of the hatches or something.

Cool VW Photos

First, a photo tour of the assembly plant,
second, where they put finished cars to hold them until you arrive to pick up your new car.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Scary Campus

Ok, the dates on these articles *seem* incorrect. But recently four PLU students were beat horribly by party crashers and last week twice students were victims of armed robbery. Of course, the joke's on the criminals. These kids don't have any money. The school's got all the money.

In all seriousness, I'm kinda pissed. I walked around that campus in late March and I let Rachel just walk near me, not even necessarily always holding my hand. I thought that place was safe.

Ten years ago I would walk around at night all the time. I didn't the neighborhoods were great, but I never felt unsafe.

Prediction: Google will buy...

I predict that within a year, Google will have purchased a small company called Jotspot that makes tiny little AJAX-based utilities. The coolest one is a collaborative Excel-like application. Would fit nicely with the Writely Word-like collaborative application they recently purchased.

This one is more "out there" but I wouldn't be surprised if they purchased Adobe. (I have no idea how much Adobe is worth or if Google has enough cash, but it makes sense... in order for Microsoft competitors to have more of an impact, there will need to be fewer competitors. It's like termites. They can do a lot of damage to your house, but if you're smart, you'll call Terminex and the problem is solved. Unless there was only one termite and he was as big as your house and he came and sat on it and your house fell over.)

You're Not Dead Yet, Jim

I was not at all surprised to see Det. Jim Brass get shot in part 1 of the season finale for CSI:Thursday. I've been expecting something major involving his character since he was getting more and more screen time and finally his own episode in Los Angeles. That episode really defined some characters, including one whom Jim had a past history with, not to mention that his daughter was now living in L.A. After that episode I'd been pretty much expecting that a CSI:LA (or would it be CalCSI:LA since they like to put Cal in front of everything down there?) was in the works to spin off his character.

In a related note, I was surprised to find that Mongomery wasn't dead. Montgomery Ward, that is. Turns out that when they closed all of the department stores, no one told the people in the corporate headquarters to go home and they've continued to plug along as an internet and catalog virtual retailer. We got some nice curtains from them when we couldn't find them decently priced anywhere else on- or offline.

Random Thought: Construction

If construction work causes delays or inconvenience to motorists and the project isn't something that the general public can enjoy -- for instance, a private office building -- then the inconvenienced motorists should be compensated. For instance, a guy standing out there handing out dollar bills to everyone while they wait for the traffic to move in their direction or something. No personal experience, just a thought.

Digital Spy Camera, Anyone?

I'm looking for a USB-key sized digital camera, preferably 2.5 megapixels or better. Has anyone seen one? I'd like to quickly be able to snap photos no matter where I am and without a big bulky camera. Photo quality doesn't need to be great, this is mostly for silly stuff I see that I want to blog. It would have a built-in USB plug so that the camera could charge from the computer and getting photos off it would be a snap.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Free Idea: Card Printer

Over 10 years ago, I remember going to a Hallmark store and having a birthday card custom-made on a computer kiosk. That is, I selected the design and then typed what I wanted to appear on the card. The colored design on the card was already printed on a piece of folded paper inside the machine, but it ran the paper through a printer and five short minutes I had in hand, a card with what I chose to write printed in black ink on that shell.

With the advances in technology and laser printing, I have a suggestion. Local Hallmark stores may not like it, but I think the added convenience would mean a lot of money for whoever implemented it first.

Basically, take the technology of the photo printing kiosks that you find in drugstores and marry that with the content of a card company. A compact machine holding varying colors of folded -- but blank -- cardstock. You walk up, select a card design and out it comes. For an extra charge, you can even personalize it like that Hallmark machine from years ago.

An internet connection allows it to constantly be offering new seasonal designs and allows it to "phone home" when it's running low on paper or toner. And it would take debit/credit cards. Maybe all it would take would be debit/credit cards - no cash stored inside the machine that anyone would have to empty.

But if I could sort-of do this years ago at a Hallmark store, how is this really a new and distinct idea? If I can find a vast variety at a Hallmark store or drugstore, what good is a little machine filled with even more designs?

Location, location, location. One, the machines would be installed in places where you can't display racks and racks of cards or don't have the staffing to sell the cards. Namely, every post office in the country for one. Also places like airport florists, regular florists, convenience stores, Home Depot, etc.

It would be simple. For people like me who are overwhelmed trying to buy cards, I could touch "Mother's Day" on the screen and then be able to go through sub-categories like "Top Sellers," "Mother-in-law," "Religious," "Child to Mother," etc., and drill down to where my choices aren't so overwhelming.

I know it would make cards cost more, but I'm at the post office four days a week checking my post office box and I'm at Home Depot at least 3-4 times a month, but I'm rarely at a convenience store or grocery store and certainly not when I'm by myself to buy a card.

Monday, May 08, 2006

What's wrong with Yahoo and Microsoft

PBS.ORG -- Still not sure why it's on, but I think Cringely is a genius. Jeff Jones loaned me his book "Accidental Empires" a year or so ago and while wildly outdated, still an amazing read. I discovered that Cringely had a weekly column and when I moved, forgot to update my subscription, but remembered last week. I've been slowly trying to catch up on why it's Dell's fault Vista's been delayed and other really insightful thoughts that really takes someone who's lived it as long as Cringely to make the connections on. Today, he ponders why Microsoft is on the way down and Google's on the way up, taking the time along they way to point out why a Microsoft-Yahoo! deal does nothing to save either company. More...

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Google is Slacking

Ok, Google is slacking.

(1) Google Maps - I cannot select an address from the Contacts in Gmail.
(2) Google Calendar - I cannot select an address from the Contacts in Gmail.
(3) GMail - I cannot mark an e-mail address as "inactive" - If I can archive e-mail forever, then eventually someone's going to give up an old address, but I still need it tied to their contact so that when I view e-mails from them, these old e-mails show up.
(4) Google Talk - doesn't show events from the calendar
(5) Google Calendar - doesn't refresh/update the search results as you move the calendar (see Live Local and Yahoo! Maps Beta)
(6) Google Maps - doesn't offer categories (see Yahoo! Maps Beta) - hopefully new deal with Verizon Superpages will solve this
(7) Google Maps - no way to close/hide the search results panel
(8) GMail - Contacts Management needs help. And A-Z buttons for filtering longer lists. And the ability to merge two contacts that are actually the same person.

I'm impressed by the chat built right into GMail, even though my employer blocks it.

I'd like to see Blogger connected to the Google system so signing into one signs me into the other. And maybe a way to post to Blogger from Google Talk.

Why am I posting this here? It's getting harder and harder to actually get stuff to where I think someone will read it.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Googling Myself

Was watching an episode of "Love Monkey" that we taped. They were googling each other. So I looked myself up. Difficult to find my actual name, but most TVJames entries came back to me. So many useless addresses like,,,, all now long gone, littering the landscape, stuck in Google's cache until who knows when. It would be great to get those all changed, but then who's full of themselves. Yeah, me.

Anyhow, made me nostalgic so it's way past time that I do this, but a shoutout to the Coffee Clubbers and LOSERS and all the other Buffy fans. (Yes, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Long story, but in the end, it's how I met Lori, so a worthy and terrific story. Funny, now that I think about it, was going through boxes in the garage today and came across the DVD of the musical episode. I should watch that again sometime.)