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Friday, July 22, 2005

Seven brain farts in under two minutes:

I'm packing, doing laundry, listening to a German language course on the iPod, and writing code for my business trip to München (Munich, Germany) later today. This time around I'm trying to avoid jet lag by getting myself on Central Europe Summer Time now, before I leave. I've been up since midnight. My guess is they'll find me on the men's room floor at O'Hare around noon.

Anyway, let's get this over with quickly, shall we?


Astute observations from our friend The Covert Comic (never travel to Europe without a quick status check from your favorite CIA spook):

"Isn't it neat the way home improvement stores will let you spend the whole day there practicing sawing lumber?"

"Whom the gods would destroy, they first grant security clearances."


Today's National Temperature Index is 937°, yet another all-time record. How can this be, you ask, when none of the ten secret cities' individual temperatures are themselves records? (Or you would, if you knew what the ten secret cities were.) Because now six of the ten secret cities have forecast high temperatures in the 90s today. Sort of the way Lance Armstrong can win the Tour de France without actually winning any individual stages. Dogged persistence pays off.


There are some things you don't expect, like noted historian Doris Kearns Goodwin using the term "cocksucker" on Don Imus' radio and MSNBC cable show yesterday. She was quoting the late Republican Senator Barry Goldwater in historical context, which makes it respectable, I guess. So, as they say in Australia, don't get your tits in a tangle, which is, come to think of it, rather sound advice in any context.


Germany's a nice country and Munich is especially attractive. The city's in Bavaria, which is sort of the German equivalent of Texas, in that the natives wear boots and big funny hats. I think the only reason Texans don't wear lederhosen is because they'd get terribly chafed on horseback.


I've given up on modern hair care products and reverted to Brylcreem. Now I look like a younger, Slavic Paulie Walnuts with a thyroid problem.


One thing I remembered from my prior trips to Germany is that the hotels provide towels, but not washcloths. I'm taking my own underwear, too. Hey, we learn from our mistakes.


The guy in the bar told me that if I want to impress my German customers, I just need to memorize the phrase "Ich habe ein großes Gehirn, aber meine Zunge vibriert gut nicht auf Deutsch." I have to remember to look that up on Babel Fish before I use it, though.

Auf Wiedersehen!

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Perceptions of a pre-caffeinated mind

There are some questions best left unasked. This is one of them.


It's hard to believe that Chiller Theater has been off the air for 22 years. I dunno. This may be good news, but it'll be impossible to top Chilly Billy Cardille. Fans of SCTV should be aware that the name of Monster Chiller Horror Theater was inspired by Cardille's show. Joe Flaherty, who played Count Floyd, is a Pittsburgh native.


"Heidi" notes on the alt.quotations newsgroup that there are lots of things that make America grate.


According to this, if you really, really concentrate, you won't need the tv remote.


Congress, apparently with nothing better to do, is about to vote to alter Daylight Saving Time, starting it a month earlier, the first Sunday in March, and extending it a month later, to the last Sunday in November. This means that in Pittsburgh, the sunrise won't be until about 8:15 am. I suspect we're going to discover why the Arctic Circle has such high suicide rates.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Goodbye, Scotty

Actor Jimmy Doohan passed away today. Doohan, 85, portrayed engineer Montgomery Scott (Scotty) on the various Star Trek series and films.

It's kind of appropriate that he died today... July 20, the anniversary of the moon landing.

The last of my role models is gone. A friend observed that means I have to become one. Okay. I'm heading to the bar. Hope they have something green.

See you all there.


(from 8/30/2004):

With Jimmy Doohan's final public appearance as Montogomery Scott, I thought I'd rerun some stuff from a May 1999 KGB Report...

Beaming In Scotty: NBC, the television network responsible for the popularization of color television in the 60s and 70s and stereo television in the 80s, introduced the first regularly-scheduled high definition television program last month, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Commercial viability of the digital format notwithstanding, the network and Leno deserve credit for launching the new service with an appearance by actor Jimmy Doohan, portraying his Star Trek character Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott. In an inspired bit during the opening monologue, Doohan's Scotty struggled with "overloaded high definition generators" in the bowels of NBC engineering, and solved the problem by "diverting power from one of the many NBC Datelines." We suspect there may be a closet Trekkie on Mr. Leno's staff- aside from the comedy angle, it's somehow appropriate and a little bit touching that Scotty would play a role in the first NBC HDTV broadcast. NBC, of course, originally aired Star Trek from 1966 to 1968. Doohan and the late Greg Morris, who played technical wizard Barney Collier on CBS' Mission: Impossible, are responsible for launching thousands of geekish techno-nerds into careers in computing. Imagine how much better we'd get along with technology today if Scotty and Barney ran Microsoft and Intel. Sigh.

My Scotty Story: I heard Doohan tell this at a convention. In gratitude to NASA for its assistance on the Trek movies, Paramount sends series stars to various space agency sites for publicity junkets. One problem with being Scotty, Doohan noted, is that real technicians think of him as the ultimate expert. During a tour of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, an engineer was showing the actor a radio receiver that processed data transmitted from a deep space probe. "We've noticed a frequency drift that seems to be induced by thermal variations on the antenna emitter circuit, and we haven't been able to devise a compensation schema. Do you think a dynamic beat frequency oscillator would be effective?" Aware that scores of technicians were breathlessly awaiting his diagnosis, and not wanting to embarrass the engineer who posed the question, Doohan smiled, cocked his head, and said in his lilting Scottish brogue, "Ah, laddie... sorry, but I dinna ken a thing aboot antiques."

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Thought of the day

Long ago in a computer lab that I frequented late at night, a white mouse lived. It had escaped from the biology people. As I labored over a keypunch, the wee beastie scurried about behind the line-printer. It seemed to know where to find water, where the fragments of potato chips lay, and where it could sleep warmly.

I reflected that it probably thought it understood its world, which consisted of power supplies, magnetic-core memory, address buses, and the arcana of assembly-language programming. I'd estimate that humanity just about knows where the potato chips are.

-- Fred Reed, "Of Knowing And Not Knowing",
bruce (The Sanity Inspector)
The dignified don't even enter in the game.
-- The Jam
(from the alt.quotations Usenet newsgroup)

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Headline of the Day

Bush Awaits
Orders From Rove
On Handling Of
Rove Scandal

(from The Onion, July 20, 2005)

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Roberts? Uh oh.

"In the unanimous ruling last October in Hedgepeth v. WMATA, Roberts upheld the arrest, handcuffing and detention of a 12-year-old girl for eating a single french fry inside a D.C. Metrorail station. “No one is very happy about the events that led to this litigation,” Roberts acknowledged in the decision, but he ruled that nothing the police did violated the girl's Fourth Amendment or Fifth Amendment rights."

She should have been eating a Freedom Fry, I guess.

(from Damon Boughamer on the ABC World News Now Discussion List.)

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Baby, it's officially hot outside...

Today's National Temperature Index of 935°F (501°C) is a record, the highest it's been since we took over the NTI from ABC's World News Now on January 9, 2003. Today's reading exceeds the 915°F set yesterday, which tied the NTI high previously set on July 21, 2003.

Note that it's still two more days until July 21, which is, on average, the hottest day of the year in the United States. It'll be interesting to see whether we've peaked early, or if we'll shatter another record on Thursday.

Today's NTI is particularly impressive because one of the secret NTI cities had a forecast high of only 75°-- you can imagine how high the temps in the other nine cities were to pull the NTI all the way up to the 935° average.

The NTI is calculated on weekdays and is available at, The page includes all the NTI stats since January 9, 2003. The complete NTI archive is available there; here's the listing of >90° readings:

July 15, 2005: 902°F / 483°C
July 14, 2005: 915°F / 490°C
July 13, 2005: 913°F / 489°C
July 11, 2005: 900°F / 482°C
July 21, 2004: 911°F / 488°C
July 20, 2004: 904°F / 484°C
July 12, 2004: 910°F / 487°C
August 22, 2003: 902°F / 483°C
August 21, 2003: 902°F / 483°C
August 20, 2003: 902°F / 483°C
August 14, 2003: 912°F / 488°C
August 08, 2003: 904°F / 484°C
August 07, 2003: 913°F / 489°C
July 25, 2003: 913°F / 489°C
July 24, 2003: 903°F / 483°C
July 23, 2003: 903°F / 483°C
July 22, 2003: 900°F / 482°C
July 21, 2003: 915°F / 490°C
July 17, 2003: 909°F / 487°C
July 16, 2003: 910°F / 487°C
July 04, 2003: 901°F / 482°C

Hmmm. Maybe this is punishment for slamming The Day After Tomorrow. Better watch out for those CGI wolves.

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Monday, July 18, 2005

Why I love the alt.quotations Usenet newsgroup:

From: Paul Brady
Newsgroups: alt.quotations
Subject: Re: Cliches
Date: Sun, 17 Jul 2005 09:21:49 -0400

On Sat, 16 Jul 2005 21:29:37 -0500, Amazing Grace

> Let's have some new clichés. (When told a script was full of old
> clichés) Samuel Goldwyn

You guys want some new clichés?

No problem.

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Sunday, July 17, 2005

Perceptions of a pre-caffeinated mind

The day after The Day After Tomorrow. I saw this turkey on HBO last night, and it's a miracle I can write this morning. One viewing caused my IQ to drop by about 50 points. Sure, Roland Emmerich has always made dumb movies- Independence Day, Godzilla, Eight-Legged Freaks- but we knew they were dumb going in. This one was supposed to warn about the dangers of global warming, which apparently include a suspension of the laws of physics, impossible meteorological phenomena, and badly-rendered, computer-generated wolves roaming New York City. I'm not afraid of global warming, but I'm terrified Emmerich will make another movie.


Placeshifting. If I hadn't kicked my habit of purchasing bleeding edge technology, I'd be ordering one of these puppies pronto. Aside from the dog, the thing I miss most when I'm in Chicago is watching Patrice King Brown and Stacy Smith stumble their way through the KDKA evening newscast. Watch it sometime... they make more flubs in a single newscast than anyone else I've ever seen. Somebody get them teleprompters with bigger screens, or prohibit them from drinking lunch.


Speaking of dropping IQ, the British Medical Journal reports that being smart won't make you happier in your old age. However, having a robust social life makes the inevitable decline into the abyss more pleasant. Which means the cheerleaders and football players you despised in your youth will again be happier than you. But their extracurricular activities will not be pleasant to watch.


Speaking of an active social life:

Words fail me.

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Violators will be prosecuted.
So there.  
The e-mail address is now something other than saga. used to be until December, 2007 when the domain name broker Trout Zimmer made an offer I couldn't refuse. Giving up and adopting created a significant problem, however. I had acquired the domain name in 1993, and had since that time used as my sole e-mail address. How to let people know that was no longer but rather which is longer than and more letters to type than and somehow less aesthetically pleasing than but actually just as functional as I sent e-mails from the address to just about everybody I knew who had used in the past decade and a half but noticed that some people just didn't seem to get the word about the change. So it occurred to me that if I were generate some literate, valid text in which was repeated numerous times and posted it on a bunch of different pages- say, a blog indexed by Google- that someone looking for would notice this paragraph repeated in hundreds of locations, would read it, and figure out that no longer is the they thought it was. That's the theory, anyway. Ok, I'm done. Move along. Nothing to see here...


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Laugh while you can, monkey-boy

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As a matter of fact, I *am* the boss of you.
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I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

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