Monday, July 31, 2006


Ok, I've been in the office for 3 weeks and it looks like I'll be here for at least one more. But I did manage to get the cable for my Palm Pilot so I could grab the images off my camera's memory card. So I'll start telling 3 week old stories.

A month ago I was supposed to be getting on a plane heading for Wichita via Dallas. Why? Because Dallas airport has better dining establishments than Chicago and flying through Chicago almost guarantees delays.
After waiting in line for two hours I finally get to a ticket counter with 15 minutes left to get through security before boarding starts. This is when I found out that as of March they (either the govt or the airline, not sure which) was too scared of bird flu so my parrot couldn't come with me. What this means for me is that if I want to take Gandolf the African Gray back to Kansas with me I have to drive. What it meant for me right then was that I could either tell the airline to take a hike or I could find someone to take her. Most everyone I know lives so far from DC that it'd take them an hour to show up. The closest person I knew of was Bruce and he was 20 minutes away in good traffice. So the ticket lady, who was convinced I had plenty of time, let me use the phone to call Bruce. Luckily he was in town that weekend. The ticket lady got me on a later flight and Bruce was on the way. I gave him house keys, office keys (I thought), food, toys, etc., thanked him, and headed for security.

The new flight was through Chicago. I tried 4 different phones before finding one that would take money and would admit that my parents have a legit phone number. Got food, called to see that Mom got my message, and went to wait to board. I was there about 10 minutes when a couple of people decided to use the seats next to me. I noticed that she looked familiar. Then I noticed that she looked really familiar.

"Hello?" I ask. She turns around. "DOUG!" It WAS Jenny! She and her hubby were on the same flight as me AND had the two seats across the aisle from me.
Jenny was the sister of my freshman year roommate, the roommate of my (now ex) girlfriend, we ran in a lot of the same social circles, we worked together for a couple of years after graduation, and I had a thing for her on and off until she got married. Now they live in New Jersey.
I'll grant that our families both live in the Wichita area and it was a holiday weekend, but what are the odds that someone from DC and someone from Jersey would both end up on a flight out of Chicago, especially when one was really supposed to be going through Dallas?

See? Proof. Airplane contents and two people you don't know from a talking rutabaga.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

movie review

The Ant Bully
I'd rank this one in with the early Pixar stuff. It was nearly as good as Toy Story or A Bug's Life. Not as many jokes that you have to have to be an amature entomologist to understand, but it also didn't have the flood of pop culture jokes that many CGI movies rely so heavily on.
What I thought I was going to see was a bug version of "Open Season". I thought the bully would be someone like the neighbor kid from "Toy Story". Instead he's just some kid being picked on by the neighborhood bully and his gang who needs someone to take it out on. The ants just know that this kid, "The Destroyer", is trashing their home. So the ants find a potion that will shrink the kid to ant size to face trial. In the course of the movie the kid learns to stop being a loner and become a part of a community and that lots of little people can bring down a giant.

The story was good, it came with a good message, I didn't feel like I wasted my money.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Tiger Foam

Well, that was a mess.
It all hooked up pretty easy. Two big tanks, one hose to each, nozzle on the gun. Me in my goggles, mask, and suit. Turn the knobs to open up the tanks and watch as the contents of the tanks come boiling out the gaps between the hose and the twisty part that connects to the tank. More came out of there than could ever come out of the nozzle.
I call the company and they say, "no problem, just e-mail a picture to this person." But I've moved out. My computer is in bits so I can't access my camera. Besides, I've cleaned up. I'd have to make the mess again in order to get the shot.

p.s. - I can get a disposable camera and head to the nearest 1 hour photo. But that's a few miles beyond where the subway can take me. And the guy I'm supposed to e-mail that to doesn't exist.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I've almost got this shaving thing down.

Watch any old movie, or cartoons based on old movies, and you'll see someone going to the barbershop for a shave. Sometimes the barber will make up some shaving cream in a cup and apply it with a brush. Other times the barber will take a hot rag and toss it over the guy's face. The idea being that the hot water will soften the stubble so that it can be cut easily.
Since I typically shave in the shower and haven't touched shaving cream in years I've had to come up with a creative way to shave while camping in the office. So I'm using the old hot rag approach. I suppose I should mention that when they needed a strand of Superman's hair for Superman III they came to me. This is coarse stuff. I haven't found an electric razor that lasts two months before it burns out. But the hot rag treatment, along with a Mach 3 Turbo razor, seems to work well. You just have to make sure to leave the rag on long enough.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Cardboard table

As promised, my cardboard table.
The office has a unisex bathroom. My last boss provided a nice table to take up some of the room's vast emptyness and give us a place to set things. But when she left she took her table with her. Since we had just gotten 5 new Macintosh G5s I decided I'd use the remaining boxes to build us a new table. There's lots of glue and a couple of bolts. I probably could have gotten by without the bolts. I wanted different bolts anyway.
It's really strong, but not terribly stable. That is, it can take a good deal of crushing weight, but the legs would give if I pushed to the side too much.
I've got a place in my eventual bathroom to put it when I leave this place.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

movie review

My Super Ex-Girlfriend
There's been a trend recently of making shows with superheros doing their mundane life stuff. The sitcom "My Hero" in England shows someone with powers living his life, running his shop, keeping his secret identity, and occasionally flying off to save mankind. "Sky High" showed superhero high school. "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" shows what happens when you try dumping someone with superpowers. Boy meets girl, boy gets girl, girl has super powers, girl also has major jealousy issues, boy dumps girl, girl ruins boy's life, boy hooks ex up with someone else.

Good movie, well performed. The acts of revenge are very imaginative. Luke Wilson seems to be hired for his utter nobodyness. 20 years ago they'd have used John Ritter. Several times in the movie Wilson seemed to be channeling Ritter.

I'd like to see it again, but I won't buy it on DVD.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

movie reviews

Lady in the Water
M. Night's movies so far have been known for the unexpected twists near the end. The main character spent the movie dead, the hero's friend is the villain, the village is in the middle of a wildlife refuge, etc. In this one they have to try to convince you there's a twist in the commercial because there isn't one in the movie. So the twist is that there isn't one.
Still, it was a good movie. Bryce Dallas Howard's legs did a wonderful job. The basic plot is that there's a race of aquatic muses that come to Earth on occasion to inspire humans to be better people. This happens just often enough for there to be some old folk tales/bedtime stories about them. Besides the water nymph there are a cast of supporting characters that help her get home each time. So in the story the groundskeeper has to figure out who is filling those roles this time while protecting the nymph from the monsters until the other monsters can show up to protect her.

I won't get it on DVD, but it's still worth seeing.
Clerks II

If you haven't seen the original you can still see this one and understand what's going on, but if you haven't seen the original you're probably not the sort who would enjoy this movie.
The original was a low budget, black and while movie that was set almost entirely in a real quick-e-mart and filmed after closing. The subject matter was the guy who worked the counter, the guy who was supposed to be working the counter at the video store next door, and the characters around them. It was dialog heavy and launched the career of writer/director Kevin Smith.
This movie picks up ten years later and focusses on most of the same characters plus a few. It's still dialog heavy and gives much the same feel as the original, but has a bigger budget and more sets. There some bit parts played by people whose careers were launched by being in other Kevin Smith movies.

I won't get it on DVD, but I'm glad I saw it. Both this and the original Clerks were movies that my parents might enjoy and you might enjoy, but you wouldn't enjoy seeing it together.

I need to see "An Evening with Kevin Smith." Kevin can be hired to come give a talks. I saw him in Emporia, KS back on election night 2000. His talks are great. "An Evening with Kevin Smith" is about 5 hours of clips from his various talks. Here's one about his work on one of the failed attempts at Superman V.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

it took you 3 days to paint?

I had to return home today to do some laundry. I managed to last a week and a half so I think I did well. The bathroom doesn't look like it's been touched since I showed up Sunday. And they painted the brick wall. That's really too bad. The wall looked great. But the paint water proofs it so they might as well do it. I'll strip the vines off the side of the house and get the side done myself. It'll be next week at least before I can apply the insulation. And I'm out another $4,000 for bathroom materials. I'm gonna have to order more checks.

Due to the humidity in the bathroom I'm gonna need a different plan to seal up the walls and ceiling. They just wanna to sheetrock again. Anyone have more inspired ideas?

The camper awakens

I know, I should post more. But when you're camping in your office you find little to write about and time seems to move in funny ways. Particularly in my office where they neglected to add ways for air to get out... or in. Oxygen deprivation, weeeee! Seriously, they've come in with sensors and done tests. We have all these fans to move oxygen into areas where it wouldn't normally flow and still have to get out into the hallway every few hours to wake up and let the O2 count in the office return to normal. As stupid as oxygen bars seem every so often they sound like really good ideas. We want to mug one of those old men we see wheeling an oxygen cart around the hospital.

Well, I still can't get at the pictures from my trip home so let me tell you about my experiments in prickly pear preparation. There's a large patch out in the pasture across from my parents' house. It's about 1/3 of a mile in. Ask nice and they'll probably let you go pick some. They were looking pretty bad back in December, but they were healthy and fairly fat in early July.
The first task was peeling them. A potato peeler doesn't really work. Potatoes are nice and hard but prickly pear pads have a lot of give and tougher skin. I found that taking a pearing knife, cutting off the edges, laying the rest on a hard surface, and then using the knife to cut off the skin worked ok. But then you turn it over and things get harder. By then it feels like you're trying to cut the skin off a pancake.
Then I took it in and washed it off. I should have washed it better. It has this unpleasant slime that causes one to make silly faces as it goes down your throat. I sliced it into strips and threw them in the same vinegar and water solution Dad uses for his cucumbers. It wasn't bad except for the slime. I'm gonna have to find different instructions on how to prepare them.
There was one that I tried burning the needles off of. There were websites that claimed a gas flame should do the trick. So I turned on the stove and waved the pads over the flame. Sure enough, the needles lit up and about half burned off. The rest was too close to the pad and wouldn't burn. So we moved the pad closer. That got a little more to burn but mostly it caused the internal fluids to turn into steam so that the pad suddenly inflated like a balloon.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

this, that, and the other

My insulation was delivered friday. ( It comes in two tanks like you'd expect to get freon or propane in. And they're very heavy. Saturday I loaded one on my Segway, sat on the box since there was no room to stand, rode it to the subway, and used that to get me most of the way home. I repeated that today with the other tank. It comes with a spray nozzle with two hoses. Each hose goes to one tank. The contents of the tanks combine just after leaving the nozzle. I also have goggles, a ventilator, and a full body suit.

The house is coming along nicely. Remember when I went by tuesday the bricks had just been delivered. Well, the back wall is done now and looks great. There's a huge mound of dirt in the alley that was all the dirt and sand that fell out of my wall. The mound is about thigh high. The bathroom has been torn out. I should be able to put in insulation thursday so they can seal that wall up.

I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean 2. I had faith that the reviewer in the Wichita Eagle didn't know what he was talking about. He rated it 1.5 stars. The same rating he gave Garfield 2.
PotC2 isn't as good as the original, but it's still better than the Eagle said. You'll need to have seen the original to get most of the jokes and know who these strange people are who pop in out of nowhere. Capt. Jack isn't nearly as much the sunstroke victim as he was in the original. The story draws admirably from most of the great seaman mythologies and then twists them up enough that you shouldn't use this as reference material for those myths.
For example, the kraken is better known as the giant squid and isn't nearly that big. Wikipedia has a nice entry and several pictures. (

Warning: Don't play Silent Hill 2 for 3 hours then step into the darkened hallway of an abandoned office building at 11:30 at night. You'll find you don't need to use the bathroom so bad after all.

Friday, July 14, 2006

There's a pea under the carpet

They say you're supposed to get 8 hours of sleep a night. Who is they? Why the Sandman Local 516, of course. Sorry. I'm a bit loopy. The point I was originally supposed to make is that there's a difference between 8 hours in a nice comfy waterbed and 8 hours on what seems to be blue-black level loop cement.
I meant to bring more blankets in but never got around to it. I have a comforter here. The first two nights I just put it down, climbed on top, and pulled it over me. Then I left it folded over and slept on that for a few nights. I even tried putting a pair of jeans under the blanket to support my back. Last night I folded it 3 levels deep and slept on top.
Today I look at this stupid program I'm supposed to be working on and admiring the pretty colors because the code is gibberish and I can't begin to figure out how the graphical software works. Good thing it's friday.

Hey! The index for Recruit Medicine is supposed to come back today. I'll see if I can find the index template. That should kill a few hours in my current condition.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The roof, the roof, the roof is the only thing safe

Eric, the contractor or whatever, asked me to come my house by so we could talk about my bathroom. I was sure something would happen there. The wall was sagging. Sure enough. Problems.

First, let me say the good news. The back wall has been replaced, the bricks delivered, and they started laying brick today. I could legally move back in tonight.

Now the bad news. In order for a person to walk up and down the stairs without hitting his head is to elevate the bathroom. So a platform was built and the bathroom put on that. Perfectly sensible. Lay a base board to spread the weight over a great area, put 3 cross beams on the base board, put joists across the cross beams, then plywood, then tile, add a bathtub, toilet, cook at 375° for 45 minutes, rinse, repeat. Lets go back to the beginning and see where the last crew went wrong.

1) Lay a base board. [check]
2) Cut the base board in half and place the cross beams directly on the floor. [che... wait...]
That's right. Almost the entire weight of the bathroom is focussed on a single cross beam. And termites and age have had their way with what the cross beam is sitting on.
There is an easy fix, but it's not really a fix and I'd have to sign a liability waiver. Eric said that, we looked at each other, and we laughed. I told them to redo the back wall and it wasn't as bad as this.
It's a two week and ~$12,000 job. He says if I give him a days notice I can come back and use my washing machine in a week or two when I run out of clean clothes.

He's going to replace the bathtub with a shower so I can install a proper medicine cabinet and put in my cardboard table. (I'll post a picture of my cardboard table some day when I have nothing to say.) He'll also replace the toilet with one of those I saw in the 2005 Solar Decathlon. One with one button for solids and one for liquids.

Toilet picture

Sunday, July 09, 2006

no surrender, no retreat

I know, I know, you thought I'd be like 90% of bloggers who write for a week or two and give up. Instead I've been off visiting family.
While gone they've torn the back off of my house and partially rebuilt it, we took down my uncle's solar water heaters, I experimented with prickly pear cuisine, and set off some fireworks.
Details soon.