Friday, June 30, 2006

Friday (foo) Blogging

A pic of Saturn's weird moon Hyperion, taken by Cassini on Wednesday.

A NASA radar image of the asteroid 2005 CR37, taken when the asteroid passed near the Earth in February.

A few more blogs I came across with the aid of random "Next Blog" users or similar means:

A few (primarily) local items of note:

  • Two posts at Welcome to Blog debunking Portland's so-called "Shanghai Tunnels ". I can't blame people in town for wishing we had a cool underground netherworld beneath our fair city. I can't blame people for wishing our city's early history was more interesting. Everybody knows that real cities have vast networks of centuries-old catacombs beneath their streets. Also, caves rock.
  • But lest you think that it's all fun and games underground, you might want to read this cautionary tale over at K5 about getting food poisoning at Carlsbad Caverns. Yikes!!!
  • A whole category of funny posts over at Jalpuna! about the fun of owning cats.
  • A post at Loaded Orygun bashing Bojack. Aww, c'mon, Jack's a local institution. Rumor has it Matt Groening actually based the character of Grandpa Simpson on our very own Mr. Bogdanski. (Well, I'm trying to start this rumor, anyway.)
  • It's official, our neighbors across the Columbia are a bunch of dorks, and I mean that in a good way. Really. The governor of Washington has issued a proclamation declaring today and tomorrow "RSS Days". No, seriously. For the sake of comparison, it doesn't look like Oregon government uses news feeds much at all. So far I see exactly one: The state Department of Revenue, of all people. All other departments apparently release their news in PDF form only. If there are any other feeds, they're cleverly concealed. Multnomah County is just as bad that way. You'd think governments would care more than private sector firms about using open, non-proprietary formats, but at least in this state the opposite is usually true. A few entities have mailing lists, which is fine from a practical standpoint, but it's not exactly geeky these days, and I demand geeky. At least Portland city government's holding up its end of the deal, feedwise. I love the city's news feed. I'm serious.
  • Local reaction to the latest Tour de France doping scandal. I was going to root for Basso too, and now I can't. Society needs to accept that bike racers are a bunch of freakish mutants, drugs or no drugs, and just let them have at it. The same goes for jockeys.

    We have a household tradition that when Le Tour rolls around, we hole up in front of the TV with a couple of baguettes, a wedge of Pierre Robert, and a jug of cheap rose (which we avoid the other 11 months of the year). We were already lamenting not having Armstrong to root against this year (yes, you read that right). Now most of the riders I've heard of won't be in the race either.
  • Forget everything unkind I ever said about the Portland Aerial Tram. It's official now: the tram is my friend. Yay!

A few articles examining MySpace and its "walled garden" model. I was going to write a post about this myself, but these and other articles are pretty good, so I think I'll just pass some links along instead.

My new Crackberry addiction

Believe it or not, until a month or so ago I'd never owned or desired a mobile phone. Then I got a Blackberry, and I quickly learned where the "crackberry" nickname comes from. Hell, I'm using it to blog right now, as I have on several past occasions. What makes this time so special is that right now I'm at the gym, on a stationary bike. I've also got the iPod on, too, and I'm sure I look like a total clown. But I find that I simply don't care. You'll get this thing away from me when you pry it from my cold, dead hands, understand?

Now if only Crackberries were waterproof, so I could do this from the pool and be an even bigger gadget dork. Yeah, that would be just fabulous, I'm totally sure of it.
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Reason #641 why modern art is dangerous

So I was walking over to the Thursday market in the Pearl District, and I saw what appeared to be a green purse hanging in a tree, with a paper tag attached. Hmm, interesting, I thought, that must be someone's conceptual art installation. Next week is First Thursday, maybe someone's getting a head start or whatever. So I stopped and reached up and grabbed hold of the thing, to get a better look at the tag and see what it was all about. Most of the time they don't bother to explain the concept behind the art, but you never know. Maybe the real art's inside the bag, waiting for an inquisitive person to find and discover it. I've heard of people doing that, so it wouldn't be all that surprising. Or maybe it's an invitation to a really super-elite art party that only the cool people know about, and looking at the tag is the test to see if you're cool enough.

So I got a look at the tag. It read BAITED INSECT TRAP! Gaaah!!! So I hurriedly let go of the thing, brushed my hands off, and went to look for somewhere to wash off all the nasty chemicals. Drat! I hate not being able to tell when something isn't art.

The worst part is that now that I think about it, I still can't be sure the thing isn't someone's conceptual art. Maybe "Baited Insect Trap" is actually the name of the piece. Maybe there's even a secret camera trained on it. Maybe the whole episode was caught on film, so absinthe-guzzling art snobs in black turtlenecks all across the globe can snicker condescendingly at my distress, and call me a rube for not immediately intuiting what was really going on. Maybe it's even on YouTube now. Artists can be incredibly vicious that way, and I woudn't put it past 'em. The effete little bastards.



I was going to call this something along the lines of "TEH MOON", but I've already done two tech posts in a row.

ESA's SMART-1 probe (which, um, isn't visible in this photo) is now scheduled to crash into the moon in just over 2 months. Here's a recent photo of the moon taken by the probe. I realize the moon isn't exactly the most exciting corner of the solar system, and I agree it's a real shame. But the pic's sort of newish, so here it is. At least the moon's got lava tubes, which might end up being useful someday. So anyway, enjoy!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Linux Genuine Advantage

Everyone's been wringing their hands lately over the new "Windows Genuine Advantage" program, which Microsoft uses to determine whether your copy of WinXP is legit or not. But did you know Linux has had something very similar for years and years now? It's true! Chances are it's already on your box, perhaps without you even knowing it was there.

So here, for the first time ever, is the super-secret way to tell if your machine has a legitimate, authorized, legal copy of Linux or not:

1.) At a shell prompt, type /bin/true. You won't see any immediate output here, but don't worry. Linux Genuine Advantage (LGA for short) does its thing quietly, and you don't need to enter any serial numbers off any cds, or go register on some random website, or enter any personal information, or provide a credit card number. The state-of-the-art LGA system is able to figure out all the info it needs without ever interacting with you. It's clever that way.

2.) When step 1 completes (which should take almost no time at all on any modern PC), type this at the shell prompt: echo $?. This command will let you see your super-secret LGA authorization ID code. If your copy of Linux is legal, this ID should be 0. Otherwise, you will need to contact SCO headquarters and purchase a new Linux license. (Please note that a nonzero ID may also indicate a causality violation, so prior to contacting SCO you may want to try rebooting the universe you currently inhabit, and then retry step 1. Be sure to exit universe before rebooting.)

And remember: If you don't participate in LGA, your box *will* stop working on January 19, 2038.

Be careful who you share this information with. If people find out about this trick and learn the secret ID code (and quite possibly even if they don't), they'll be able to get their own "legal" copies of Linux, absolutely free.

[Originally posted elsewhere.]


SCO loses again, bwhahaha!!!!

If you've been following the SCO saga like I have, you've been waiting for this day for a very, very long time. Today's ruling (which Al P. has here [PDF]) throws out nearly all of their allegations about those evil commie Linux hippies stealing their precious secret code. There are a few assorted charges left, so we haven't seen the last of Darl McBride and his merry pirate crew just yet. I doubt that what little they've got is enough to make all those big federal court cases worthwhile, but they'll pursue it anyway, of course. No sense in suddenly growing a brain this late in the game, after all.

A lively and well-deserved round of gloating has started over at Y! SCOX, but the story's only just now showed up on GrokLaw, and just as a comment thread, not a story yet (see here). It'll probably make Slashdot sooner or later, too, although as usual the comments will be all about Soviet Russia, Natalie Portman, and Beowulf clusters, instead of the topic at hand, whatever it is.

This may be bad news for SCO, but it's probably going to be great news for SCO investors, since the stock mysteriously jumps up every time there's bad news, defying all known laws of economics, gravity, logic, and common sense. So somebody's going to make kazillions tomorrow.


Updated: Here's a fascinating item I ran across today, one man's memories of Darl McBride from back in the old days at Franklin-Covey (you know, those "synergize proactively outside the box" guys).


First off, I'd like to give a mad shout out, or mad props, or proppy shouts, or or shroppy pouts, or whatever the current term is, to the nice folks over at alt.portland, for linking to my rant about the Essential Forces fountain over at the Rose Quarter (among other things).

Second off, a brief program note: I've acquired another colony in the ever-growing Cyclotram multimedia empire. Please bid a hearty "hi" to cyclotram3, my infinitely humble blog over at MySpace. Yes, that MySpace. I figured I ought to check it out, even though I think it's teh st00pid. Don't expect a great deal of thrilling excitement over there; the idea is that people can find me over there, and then find their way here. In the end I think MySpace will be the AOL of the 21st century. It'll be acceptable for a lot of people for a limited span of time, but ultimately the "walled garden" model always loses out. Every tech CEO would love to be in charge of an MSFT-style predatory monopolist, but MySpace-style social networking is only going to be cutting edge for a few short years, and then something else shiny and new will come along, and MySpace will go the way of Lycos, Excite, and friends. It'll be one of those things "Generation Y" people will reminisce fondly about once they hit about age 27 or so, sort of the way people my age did about archaic things like playing outdoors without constant and extremely strict adult supervision. Oh, and about Madonna, if we're being brutally frank here. But only the early stuff. Like all right-thinking citizens, I stopped being a diehard fan around the time of "Papa Don't Preach". Now that was a dreadful, dreadful song.

So without further ado, here are a few selected referrer pages I got lately, since it's hot outside and I'm unable to think of anything to write about. Or more precisely, I have a few ideas to write about, but it's hot outside and I'm inclined towards sleeping instead of writing.

  • Tabitha's Blog, about live in rural Alaska. Pretty fascinating, at least for me. In the Pacific NW we tend to have a sort of inferiority complex about Alaska. We have nature, sure, but they really have nature. We have salmon, but they've got the good salmon, and lots of 'em. We're rugged and independent and all, and we defy the elements, yeah, yeah, whatever, but we're a bunch of wimpy East Coasters compared to Alaska. Read this blog, and look at the photos, and weep, puny lower-48-ers. And those of you in my (somewhat) sizeable UK contingent, I just don't know what to say to you guys. You can talk about remote northern Scotland all you want, but in Alaska everything is bigger than Scotland. I'm not exaggerating here. Everything. Especially the mosquitoes.
  • Productos Brain-Team. I haven't run this through Babelfish to see exactly what it's about, but it's a tech blog of some sort, and the name's fantastic.
  • ohime nana
  • Esculturas de lury Pinto. It's sort of like Claymation, except in Portuguese, and in blog form. Other than that, it's kinda like Claymation.
  • VIM in Belize. A blog from freakin' Belize, already. I don't care if it's mostly about church stuff, it's from freakin' Belize. (Note to oldsters: "Belize" is the place formerly known as "British Honduras") I also got a search engine hit from Belize a couple of days ago, FWIW. This visitor must've been bored to tears by the way I write, because s/he clicked on the link to translate this page in to Pirate. Yarrr!!!! Stereotypes are a terrible thing, but maybe sometimes they exist for a reason. I mean, with Belize being on the Caribbean coast and all.
  • Four Corners of NY Photoblog from NYC, with lots of baseball photos.
  • 4th Avenue Blues Interesting, somewhat New Agey blog.

And a few referrer pages from earlier that I never got around to posting:

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


So I was looking at those photos of the tram tower I posted the other day, and suddenly it reminded me of something (a bit), and suddenly I was inspired (sort of) and wrote this song (more or less):

[To the tune of Stonehenge, by Spinal Tap]

Tramhenge, where they all read Dwell
Where the boomers live and they do live well
Where a $cam is a $cam and spoiled pugs dance to
the pipes of pan
Tis a magic place where the condos rise
With a smug yuppie face
Where the bureaucrats lie
And the prayer of developers fill the midnight sky
And you my love, won't you take my hand
We'll go forward in time to that mystic land
Where the tapas fry and the cats meow
I will take you there
I will $$$how you how

It's not a very good song, is it?

Don't hold your breath for an mp3 of it or anything. If you thought the lyrics were bad, oh, you haven't heard me try to sing it. And you won't. Oh, the humanity...

It's not a very good blog post, is it?

Ok, fine, here's some cute prosimians to look at, so you don't go away feeling cheated or anything.

Thx. Mgmt.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Those tram tower pics I promised


As I mentioned earlier, today I walked down and had a gander at the new tram tower. I haven't yet found the perfect adjective to describe the thing. The closest I've managed so far is improbable, which is true, but doesn't really convey a lot of information. Maybe I'll be inspired once they bolt on the top segment.


Ok, phallic is a fairly apt (if overused) description as well. I think it's awfully amusing that the city added the big middle segment on Midsummer's Eve, as if they were raising the, ahem, maypole or something. I guess I really don't mind the occasional state-sponsored pagan fertility ritual, just so long as there's no mead, and no Morris dancing. You have to draw the line somewhere, after all.


Hot Sunday Moblogism

Ok, I managed to drag myself outside after all. It's really hot out today. Did I mention that already? I wandered down to the tram tower to take a few photos (which I'll post when I get to a box that speaks Camera). I decided that was enough pointless, geeky exertion for the moment, so I'm on the streetcar now. The heavily air-conditioned, non-walking-about-in-the-sun streetcar. Mmmm.... Transit...

So a few days ago I was out getting rained on, taking pictures of roses for you people, and now I went out and risked a slim but nonzero chance of heatstroke on your behalf, and has anyone thanked me yet? Anyone at all? Umm, no. Maybe I ought to start just making stuff up and saying I did it, without leaving the comfort of my own home. It would probably work out just as well in the end.

The streetcar is full of tourists, plus the sort of locals who aggressively seek out tourists to yammer at. The sort of people who work really hard at cultivating their quirky local vibe, and want everyone on earth to hear all about it. If that wasn't bad enough, today's Oregonian ran another of those "You Know You're From Oregon If..." articles this morning, celebrating the fascinating folkways of our little tribe. I guess maybe some of us were slacking off in the smugness department and needed reminding about our truly special uniqueness, which isn't like anyone else's uniqueness, nosirree.

In reality, all these articles accomplish is to help rich Californians learn how to pass as natives. Well, they try, anyway. The cologne and gold chains are dead giveaways, and in all history no real Oregonian has ever used the word "babe" as a synonym for "buddy".
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld

Hot Lazy Sundayism

So it's hot outside, and I'm too lazy to do much of anything except blog randomly. (Please recall that I only promised not to ever use the word "random" in titles of blog posts.) Here are a few things I came across while feedgrazing today, which I'm doing instead of enjoying the sunshine like a good Oregonian.

  • A cool photo of a dragonfly.
  • An article about the proposed "Oregon Wine Train" running between Portland and Grand Ronde, which would double as a commuter rail line, and triple as a train to the Spirit Mountain Casino. I'm all in favor of passenger rail, and I think this would be pretty cool, even though in practice it would end up being packed full of pretentious Californian (or wannabe-Californian) wine twits and geezers heading for the nickel slots. The initiative seems to be unrelated to the upcoming Beaverton-Wilsonville commuter line. Seems as though Portland-area commuter rail is being done in a piecemeal fashion, with no real central leadership taking place. I've gotten the impression that the bureaucracy at Tri-Met sees commuter rail as a threat to the expansion of light rail, which may explain why there aren't commuter rail routes between downtown and the other existing train stations in the metro area at Vancouver and Oregon City. But I'm not a bureaucrat, so what do I know?
  • It's a bad year to be a pelican here on the West Coast. Either you're starving, or you're getting poisoned by algae. And when the latter happens, humans just say you're "drunk" and laugh about it.
  • This very blog right here, translated into Pirate. Yarrrr!!! Shiver me timbers!!!! Blow the man down!!!

    More translators and such here.
  • The latest creepiness from our local bike subculture.
  • The Friday (Foo) Blogging thing has finallygone too far.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Friday Multimedia Semi-Extravaganza

  • An update on the Washington Park reservoir grand opening, which is now scheduled for July 10th.
  • A way cool optical illusion.
  • The Two Coreys are reuniting. Yes, those two Coreys. I have to admit I was never a fan back in the 80's, being, you know, a guy and all. Sometimes I think the Powers That Be are trying to arrange things so we'll all welcome the Apocalypse when it finally happens.
  • Harriet, the world's oldest tortoise, has passed away at the ripe old age of 176.
  • New episodes of Futurama are on the way, for real this time, allegedly.
  • Lyrics for a song about Cthulhu.
  • Yet another LOTR DVD set is due out in August. This time each film comes with a new feature-length "Making Of" documentary. Just how many of these things am I going to have to buy? And will I have to do it all over again once the HD-DVD or Blu-Ray versions come out? Sheesh...
  • If you haven't seen it already: The New Orleans Times-Picayune's animation about the Katrina flooding. Yikes! It just keeps coming -- bam, another levee goes out, and another section of the city turns blue, again, and again.
  • Awww, kittens!!!!
  • More feline cuteness, although I can't provide any more details about the site without invoking Godwin's Law.
  • Ooh, yet another local beer blog to pass along. Mmmmm.... beeer....
  • I wasn't planning to do an extended rant about Ann Coulter's latest circus freakage, and I'm still not going to go there. But I would like to pass along this nice lil' video rant on the subject from Henry Rollins. Now that he's had a go at it, there's really no point in anyone else trying.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Meet Nix & Hydra

The two little moons of Pluto discovered last year now have official names: Nix and Hydra. Sounds like a twisted Nickelodeon cartoon, or maybe an almost-famous indierock emo duo. "Nix" should not, not, not be confused with "Nyx", which is an asteroid, not a moon. Get it right, silly.

Hydra, meanwhile, should not be confused with the alcopop of the same name. Also I can't very well say "Hydra" without mentioning my Hercules vs. Hydra post, part of my recent foray into total math geekage, in which I sought to bore readers out of their minds -- and I often succeeded. Yay for me!

If I wasn't sick to death of the word "blogosphere", I'd say that's where these four N&H links came from:

  • Laura Elizabeth looks at the mythology behind the names.
  • More mythological musing at ryusen
  • The comments at shsilver feature the first lame joke I've seen about the new names.
  • And The Empty Space In My Head uses the moons in a nice post, which occasions me to wonder when my posts became so prosaic. Oh, wait, they've always been this way. My bad.

The tram tower grows taller!

tram tower construction, 6-22-06

The middle segment of our shiny new tram tower was bolted on sometime late last night, and here it is. Compare this to the photo I posted when the first segment went up.

My previous post just got a link from a guy who's working on building the thing, to illustrate what it is that he's working on. How cool is that?

So do I like the thing? Do I hate it? I haven't made up my mind yet, despite what all my carping and complaining might lead you to believe. Maybe it'll be totally fantastic once it's up and running, for all I know.

The most common complaint you hear about it is over the ever-growing cost. The public originally got a bargain-budget $15M figure, and now we're at $50M and counting. I don't really see why anyone's surprised the city & friends lowballed the initial estimate. You do that to get all the key players on board, and get construction started. Then it's easy sailing the rest of the way, because nobody wants a partially-built tram just sitting around gathering dust. It's the oldest trick in the book. I'd be shocked if it didn't happen when the great pyramids were built. And when people say nobody will care what it cost 75 years down the road, I'm sure they're right. Look at the St. Johns Bridge. The city spent way more than it needed to, and built what's still more or less a bridge to nowhere. The taxpayers were stuck with a huge bond debt right in the middle of the depression, and we could't afford to build any more bridges again until the mid-60's. But it sure is pretty. There's no denying that.

While I'm at it, I'd like to dispel a couple of common misconceptions about the tram. One, it is absolutely untrue that the tower grows -- poof, just like that -- every time the city lies about what it's going to cost. Two, there were no magic beans involved, here or anywhere else in the South Waterfront district. Those are just fairy tales, and they aren't even the right fairy tales. The thing would be much cheaper if magic beans or lying politicians were involved. No, the correct fairy tale is that we in this city are going to build an enlightened new economy where everyone is rich, upscale, thin, liberal, and ultra-educated, and nobody makes anything more complicated than a half-caf soy mocha. For everything else, we'll rely on the hard labor of cute little six-year-olds in China (but we'll try our hardest not to think about that part, because that would mess around with our precious inner calm).

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

three relaxing(?) video clips about water

The beach at Pacific City, Oregon, right outside of the Pelican Pub & Brewery. The audio is more wind than waves, which is unfortunate, but that's the coast for ya.

A fountain known simply as "Untitled", downtown Portland. It's often called the "Car Wash", but don't be fooled. If you try to wash your car in it, a nice policeman will drop by and shoot you full of holes. I mean, not to detract from the relaxing(?) tone of this post or anything, but the fuzz really will do it. Go ahead and try it if you don't believe me. [Legal Disclaimer: Don't!]

Balch Creek, Macleay Park, Portland. You can't actually see the creek very well in the clip, but at least the audio's better than the other 2 clips. It's probably obvious by now that I won't win any Oscars anytime soon. And the clips aren't exactly box office gold either, not unless I CG in a few big explosions or something unrelaxing like that.

The creek contains a native, isolated, and threatened population of cutthroat trout (image), so the trail's plastered with signs hassling visitors to please fer chrissakes stay the hell out of the water already, this means you, and your little dog too, dammit. The signs work really well, too, except for children, and dogs, and people who don't read signs, and people who don't feel the rules apply to them, and people who don't think anyone's looking, and people with fishing poles, and so forth. I'd say this was a damn shame, except that the creek's fish are a bunch of little bastards who have it coming. They're everywhere and are easily seen, except if anyone else comes to the park with me, in which case they all go hide somewhere, so that people think I'm just dreaming or hallucinating or something. Which, for the record, I'm not.

Three Wet Roses


Three roses, captured during a bit of drizzle a week or so ago, in the South Park Blocks, downtown Portland.

a wet yellow rose

A group of schoolchildren was touring the park around the same time, and they were somewhat less enthusiastic than I was. I got absolutely soaked on your behalf. Yes, you. Now you owe me, big time.

red rose, south park blocks

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Misc. Items 6-20-06

  • Just started playing with Opera 9. Seems nice so far, except that my collapsing menu sidebar comes out horribly mangled. Instead of one little arrow graphic next to each menu item, the browser delivers 30-some arrows per item. I have to say I find that a little excessive. So I guess it's back to the Javascript salt mines again.
  • Here's someone's homebrew recipe for "Echidna's Barleywine". I couldn't resist linking to this because it involves both beer and echidnas. Which is unusual.
  • The latest idiocy from SCO. (Y! has the press release here.) "Biztones" are a clueless PHB-ism for the ages, and SCO's entire wireless initiative is teh st00pid. Yeah, I'm really going to pay for the right to receive spam on my phone, and I'm going to rush out and buy the one model of phone that can run the Me, Inc. software, catastrophic system bugs and all. And I'm going to love it so much that I'll run out and sign up to resell all those super-advanced Me, Inc. services under SCO's MLM scheme, which is most definitely Not A Scam. And I'm also going to rush right out and join their developer program, in hopes of scoring that ultra-desirable Bimmer with the V10 under the hood. Because nothing motivates programmers like a pretentious new set of wheels. I need that there Bimmer so bad I'm going to give SCO all the rights to my work, even if I don't win the grand prize, because it's an honor just to be part of the Revolution. Yeahhhh... Not.
  • A new survey claims that New York is the world's politest major city. Clearly they've never observed the curious ritual practiced by Oregon drivers at four-way stops: "After you", "Oh, no, you go ahead, I'm in no hurry", "No, no, you were here first, please, be my guest", and on, and on. Well, it's either that, or they simply don't consider us a major city, the bastards. I'll key their cars for that, dammit. It should be noted that the survey was conducted by Readers' Digest, which is based in -- you guessed it -- the New York metro area. So really what they're saying is that New Yorkers do a rather good job of resembling themselves, and people in other cities don't pull it off quite so well. Seems that Mumbai does an especially poor job of it, causing a bit of hand-wringing in the local media.
  • If you've been in downtown Portland in the last few days, you might have noticed that the parking lot next to the Fox Tower is being torn up. Seems we're getting a brand new Park Block. This is the last vestige of a once-grandiose plan to tear out a bunch of buildings and connect the north & south park blocks. The plan went nowhere, even though it was being promoted by a now-disgraced Ex-Governor Who Shall Not Be Named. Certain power elite types thought it was a fantastic, visionary plan, but everyone else saw it for what it was: A horrible throwback to 60's-style urban renewal. But this one block was just a surface parking lot, so there's no harm in putting that parking underground and sticking a park on top.
  • I seem to have missed this year's Oregon Eel Festival, which celebrates the local lamprey population. (And yes, I know lampreys technically aren't eels. Tell it to the people who run the festival.) I'm not joking here, I really would've gone if I'd known about it. I keep hearing about how Northwest Indian tribes consider them a delicacy, and I'll try just about anything once or twice. An article in the Portland Tribune claimed lamprey tastes something like a cross between liver and duck, which sounds kind of promising. There's always next year, I guess.
  • Speaking of liver, the local food fascists (and we have a rather large contingent of them) are hassling a local French bistro for serving foie gras. And if they win, no doubt they'll keep expanding their jihad until we're all making do with vegan raw food, the blander the better. Um, but I have to drop in a little qualifier -- one of the comments mentions a substance known as casu marzu, which is basically cheese full of wriggling insect larvae. I know I just now said I'd try just about anything, but I draw the line here. No thanks, guys. This is why I always say "just about", in case something like this pops up. Ugh!

Slug on a Fungus

slug on a fungus

A slug oozing over some sort of random tree fungus in Macleay Park, NW Portland.

Monday, June 19, 2006

More Miracles of Modern Technology


An ancient bus converted to a (sort of) double decker using part of an old van. This is on NW 29th near Nicolai, in a weird old industrial corner of NW Portland. It's on the hike to/from Portland, er, Pyramid Brewing up at NW 31st & Industrial, in case you're wondering what I was doing up there. There's probably a fascinating and eccentric story behind this beast, but I have no idea what it is, or why it was made.

In other thrilling technology news:

  • MEJ mentions the latest tech conspiracy theory rippling across the blog 'verse. If you open Notepad on WinXP, type "Bush hid the facts", save it, and reopen the file, you see gibberish. Frightening, no? A little government censorbot right there in your own PC. And Windows probably reported you to the NSA, as well.

    Ok, well, no, that's not really what's going on. As the comments to that article note, it's really an artifact of the flaky international language support in Notepad, and a lot of short text snippets trigger the same behavior. Also, the text itself isn't actually mangled. If you open a command prompt window and do a "type bush.txt" (or whatever you named the file), your computer will tell you that Bush hid the facts, exactly like it was supposed to.

    I spend an inordinate amount of time in my RL job dealing with ugly internationalization (i18n for short) issues, primarily with Japanese language support on Windows and a few Unixes. And this is one of the rare situations where I'm forced to say that Windows is not worse at it than the Unix world. Convincing iconv to do what I want, reliably, across umpteen different platforms is a freakin' nightmare.
  • Both Slashdot and Groklaw both took the recent "Caldera OpenLinux X" hoax seriously at first. I'm sorry, but when something defies all evidence and all common sense, a little skepticism should be in order. It wasn't even a very good hoax. Is this why people keep falling for phishing spam? They just believe anything that looks vaguely legit after a brief couple of seconds' inspection? C'mon, people.
  • Another blog spammer managed to get past Blogger's word verification, and posted an ad for aquariums to an old story of mine about Saturn's moon Rhea:

    Hi I was searching for some information on Aquariums - some tips and Tricks and sites which have great resources and came across yours.
    Great site - I will bookmark it !

    h t t p :// hckpublishing . com / aquarium /

    I imagine the spammers think bloggers are so needy and insecure that they'll be thrilled to receive insincere compliments from spambots. And maybe that's actually true for some people. I just get curious about who's behind it. Unfortunately these spammers have taken a few steps to cover their tracks. The domain's registered through Domains by Proxy, so there's no useful domain contact info. And the site is hosted through a "reseller hosting" firm called HostGator, so there's several layers of obfuscation here. I can't figure out who to complain to, which I'm sure was the whole idea. The site itself is puzzling: a few low-value filler articles, and a few ads. Do people actually make money doing this? That's what I really don't understand about the spam business. Other than stealing credit card numbers, the spam business model is a complete mystery to me. Are there people out there, in this day and age, who still try to buy stuff from spammers?
  • It's time to jump on the viral video bandwagon again. Here's that ultra-cute Kitten vs. Powerbook video, if you haven't seen it already. Awwwwwww....
  • A post about our fair city's shiny new tram tower, arguing that the tram is cool and artistic and architecturally adventurous. Also, did you know that we're now officially the Best European City in America? It's true, at least so far as anyone knows. We don't get across the pond that often to see things in person, but we have cobblestones here, and sidewalk cafes, and Vespas, and the Europe you see in the movies looks a lot like that, so we must be on the right track.

    What's more certain is that we're the most Caucasian city in the country, and getting even more so every day. Surely that can't be what our leaders are really thinking when they say "European", can it? I mean, not consciously thinking it, anyway. (Actually, these days genuine European cities are probably more ethnically diverse than we are, come to think of it.)
  • An article about the current architectural fad of figuring out how to use surplus shipping containers as housing. Seems that in the Glorious Future, we really will live in bitty little boxes, er "modules", and we'll love it. Also, we'll subsist on nothing but vitamin pellets, and ride flying cars to the office. Resistance is futile.
  • Anything that's large and shiny counts as technology, even if it's art. This is doubly true if said object is on the cutting edge of "intellectual property" legal insanity.
  • This is even more of a stretch for a technology-related post, but here's a photo titled hops plant transplanted from a local park. Hops growing wild in our city parks. How cool is that? (I figure this item fits here because hops go in beer, and making beer involves technology, so there you have it.) Mmmm.... beer....

Friday, June 16, 2006

Some news and stuff, 6-17-06

A couple pics of the asteroid 2002 JF56, taken by New Horizons a couple of days ago. Color pics with higher resolution are due next week some time.

In other news:

  • This comment takes the place of an extended rant that used to be here. I'm not pleased about yesterday's "don't bother knocking" ruling from the Supremes. But the rant didn't really fit here, so I'll save it for later, probably.
  • All of this (i.e. the aforementioned supreme court ruling) makes me want a beer. And here's yet another local beer blog I just ran across. Lookit all them hops in that there carboy. Mmmm, tasty.
  • I don't know if Portland's ex-mayor Vera Katz is a beer drinker or not, and I kind of suspect not, but her new statue seems to like the occasional brewski.
  • A fun little piece about Crazy Crab, the most hated sports mascot of all time, hands down.
  • The "OMG PONIES" thing may have run its course, but Portland's tiny plastic pony thing is still going strong. More photos here. I was thinking about taking some photos myself and posting them, but now everybody's doing it. And as I've said before, I'm not much of a joiner.
  • In Ireland, even mad scientists have literary leanings. "Bloomsday device". I love it.
  • The OLCC's jackbooted thugs are at it again. Like I said before, I'm not a libertarian when it comes to the economic side of things, but I'm all in favor of abolishing the OLCC. Never give puritanical power-mad busybodies their own funding source and their own law enforcement arm. Everything they do would be handled better by local governments (licensing), regular state & local police (enforcement), and the private sector (liquor retailing). There's no need for them to exist. If we ever did abolish the agency there'd be no need to shed a tear for all the unemployed OLCC bureaucrats -- with their experience, they'll have no trouble finding similar jobs in Saudi Arabia.
  • A couple of lists of the world's worst beers. If the OLCC really wanted to perform a public service, they'd establish minimum quality standards for beer and wine, as a consumer protection measure. But noooooo....

Precambrian Blogging

(in which a decade-old short story of mine gains unexpected new life out here on the Interwebs.)

I found a box of my old Atari ST floppies the other day, and after a bit of finagling, I was able to read files off of most of them. Which is surprising, considering that some of the disks are close to (gulp) 20 years old. And by "finagling", I mean using Hatari, an ST emulator that runs under OSX, and firing up trusty old 1st Word. It wasn't Emacs or anything, but it did the job at the time.

Anyway, I was browsing around my old documents and came across one that read remarkably like a blog post, dating back to some time around '96 or '97 ( I used to keep computers a long, long time, you understand ). Of course there was no such thing as a blog posting back in that primitive era, when wild 486 DX4s roamed the earth, and laptops were a luxury item, reserved for millionaire CEOs and marketing VPs. And even then, these laptops ran MS-DOS. A blogger today would be sitting in the coffee shop, typing things up as they happened. But back in my day we had to remember stuff, and wait until we got home to type it in to the computer. Also, every day we walked to school through the snow, uphill, both ways. And we were grateful. Kids these days, they never believe you when you try to tell 'em.

So instead of a blog entry, I viewed this piece as a "slice of life" short story. I really can't say at this point how much of this is strictly accurate, and how much is artistic license, but it's based on a visit to the coffee bar at a big-box chain bookstore in Augusta, GA, about ten years ago. I'd like to apologize in advance for the missing capital letters. I thought that was ultra-sophisticated at the time. But then, I recently altered this blog's title from a capital 'C' to a lowercase one, so maybe some things just never change.

I've cleaned the post up a little and fixed a couple of ungrammatical bits, but otherwise this piece is unchanged from when I wrote it all those long years ago. I figured, hell, it's not like I'm ever going to make a cent off this thing, so I may as well just post it here.

If you prefer to wallow in present-day computing trendiness instead of going all retro, you might enjoy my imported OPML full of RSS feeds, courtesy of SYO.

Anyway, here's our story, which I originally titled simply Capuccino. Ok, the file was actually called "CAPUCINO.DOC", since you were limited to 8.3 filenames back in the day.

so i'm in the bookstore and i decide i need coffee. i first
hunt down a book to read. this takes a while. i think there's an
art to having coffee properly, and part of it involves having a
book on hand. first, so you don't drink too quickly. a bad habit
of mine. second, for something to do instead of stare into the
middle distance trying to look thoughtful. third, so people can
see how intelligent and literate you are, supposing they care to
look at what you're reading. this is both difficult and a sign of
being insecure, maybe. or just pretentious. so is dropping
capital letters, maybe.

so i've tracked down an overview of surrealist art and i'm
standing in line for coffee. it's memorial day and there's a
line. the woman ahead of me is making trouble, and it's not even
her turn yet. at the corner table, a clean-cut mid-twentyish
black guy asks if anybody's got a watch. i don't. hardly anyone
does. finally somebody has the time. fifteen something hours. this is
an army base town. black guy says this is what he gets for not
wearing a watch. the accent says educated, middle class. the
body language says outgoing. you know, like on tv. maybe gay, also, it's hard to say.

so the woman ahead of me is ordering now. it's taking a
while. she's whining about the coffee not being fresh enough.
it's like if it's been in a thermos it turns to bat guano, she
wants it fresh. and gripes about the grounds, too. look, i
know coffee, this place has good coffee, i don't see what her
problem is. plus, i want it to be my turn soon. she's talking
like she knows the staff here. i wonder if she's an employee off
duty, or a regular, or what. it's not clear. the barista's
making quite a show of humoring her caprices and not getting
sucked into an argument. i admire that. i've done that job. i
know how it can get sometimes. she says hello or something to
the black guy without a watch, i can't hear exactly because
there's a bunch of noisy middle-aged men behind me. so she
knows the guy in the corner. are they together? i wonder.
and then one of the guys behind me talks to her. i just make out
a few words and they're greek to me, seems they know each other
too and have the sort of conversation people who know each other
have. you can't very well listen in because you had to be there
and see what happened in person to get it, and i hadn't done so.
somehow she manages to also heckle the barista some more. oh, and
the barista says a few words to the black guy in the corner. i
have a sudden feeling of being tied to a balloon and launched
skyward, floating, moored to nothing solid. everybody seems to
know everyone else, in ways i seem destined never to discover.
all this time i'm clutching the book about surrealist art, trying
to look nonchalant, and trying to avoid eye contact. with anyone.

so the woman ahead of me seems to be wrapping up her order.
she's changed her mind a few times now, and the barista's trying
to placate her. she's scored a couple free samples with promises
that she'll enjoy them. now, i'd be quite satisfied with a few
free samples. but does anyone offer any to me? no. this is her
reward for making trouble. so finally she decides to get coffee
out of a thermos. you'd think the guy was trying to sell her a
syringe full of rat poison the way she's carrying on. he rings
her up, and then she needs a cookie, too. he gets her a cookie
and rings her up. and quickly leans around her and loudly asks
what he can get for me. i tell him i need an iced capuccino and
she tells him she needs something else too, when he gets a chance.

the barista seems like an ok guy. asks me if i want ice in
it. huh? my surprise means yes, i do, and he explains that some
people like it without ice. i'm a coffee snob, and bantering with
the guy i try to get the fact across. so i ask him if it's
unusual for people to order iced capuccinos, hoping it is. he
says people often change their orders in the midst of him making
the thing - seems they also have this coffee drink that comes in a
mix that people in these parts seem to like. probably full of
sugar. i think i'm detecting that he's glad somebody knows what
they want, and that it's something worth wanting. i think that's
what it is. but i can't explore this. the way he says it all
seems like an apology for asking if i wanted ice. this is how you
get when you're harried. i know how it is. plus, those noisy
guys are still behind me in line. so i get my drink and go find a

the only table open is next to the one that woman is at.
seems she's got a son, eight or nine years old, and she's fussing
over him. oh, and she's unhappy about something and goes to
discuss this with the barista. meanwhile the guys behind me want
to know what i'm having. the barista is trying to explain what
the different items on the coffee menu are. one of the men has
gone to claim a table, maybe twenty feet from the counter.
without deciding what he wants first. so we've got this forest-
father-granola looking guy at the table and this swarthy fat guy
in line shouting a confused dialogue on what the guy at the table
wants, in his heart of hearts, to drink. it goes something like

"how about a 'caffe latte' ?"

"What's that?"

the swarthy guy confers with the barista for a moment.

"espresso and steamed milk"


"espresso and steamed milk"

"i thought that's what a capuccino is"

the swarthy guy confers with the barista for a moment.

"it's the same thing with more foam and less milk"

"what else they got?"

this goes on for a while. finally the swarthy guy decides
to prove he's a take-charge, bottom-line, take-no-guff type by
making an executive decision. the woman is impatiently waiting
for another go at the barista.

"what's fast around here?" says the guy.

"excuse me?"

"to make. what's fast to make. you got just plain coffee?"

"yes, sir."

"okay. four of those."

the barista starts pumping four coffees from the thermos.
the woman interrupts. she's brandishing the half-eaten cookie
like a district attorney with crucial evidence.

"are you sure this doesn't have peanut butter in it?"

"pretty sure, yes"

"pretty sure?"

"i'm sure there isn't any peanut butter in it"

"absolutely sure?"

"yes, ma'am."

"my son is very allergic to peanut butter"

"does it taste like peanuts?"

"i don't know. maybe."

she comes back to the table and sits down. looks very
frustrated. i don't think she asked about peanuts when she bought
the cookie. and while she was asking, the kid was happily
munching part of the cookie. during all this i'd been sitting
there at my table failing to get into the book but turning pages
anyway by force of habit, sneaking peeks at the commotion.

the men walk by loudly. the footsteps aren't loud, they
aren't talking noisily, there's just something loud about them.
as they pass by, the woman (who had just sat down) turns to

"hey, have you been to that new church?"


the feeling of tumbling through space returns. i don't
know what the hell is going on here. i like watching people.
it's like putting a puzzle together. you pick out bits and pieces
of information from how they act, and a picture of who they are
starts to emerge. not this time. it's like a puzzle, but none
of the pieces fit together, and if they did i wouldn't recognize
the picture.

the woman takes a sip of her coffee, gets up, and interrupts
another customer. it seems she likes her coffee. not too strong
like it usually is. chatters about this for a while. the barista
ignores her. she comes back and fusses with her son. she gets up
again and interrupts someone else. her son needs chocolate
sprinkles for the whipped cream on his drink. the barista
measures some out for her in a little cup. she sits down
muttering about not being trusted with the jar of sprinkles. she
gets up again to fetch sugar for her coffee. this doesn't involve
even going near the barista, but she still returns angry and
frustrated. there's just no pleasing some people.

"can i sit here?"

i look up. the black guy wants the seat across the table
from me. i say sure and go back to my book. somehow he strikes
up a conversation with the woman at the next table. i thought
they knew each other before. now i really couldn't say.

"Don't I know you from somewhere?"

"Could be. I was on TV."

"You were on TV?"

"No, not really."


"Actually, I was. See those Desert Storm books over there?
I was in a foxhole."

"You were in Desert Storm?"

"Yeah, didn't do anything too special but don't let anybody
tell you they didn't use chemicals over there. Here, look at
this. This is a chemical burn" he says, showing off his shoulder.

"I don't see it, but I believe you. What kind of chemicals?"

"I think it was mustard"

"Like in food? I didn't know..."

"No, mustard gas. It's a poison."

"Oh." She marvels at where the scar would be if she could
only see it and then asks: "What was it like over there? I heard
it was really dirty."

"It was really sandy, if that's what you mean"

"You know, like Iran, Iraq, India, that whole place is dirty.
I heard somebody say they were in Israel, and there were
Christians, Jews, and Moslems all in this one neighborhood, and
you could tell where the Moslems lived because they just threw
their garbage out into the street."

"You want to see dirty, you should see the people I have to
deal with through work"

"Where do you work?"

"I reposess things."

"Oh." she says, with a deer-caught-in-the-headlights look.
she's been following along in a dull way, inert except when her
wrath is aroused.

he starts talking about the filthy conditions people live in
here in this very city. none of this surprises me. she's doing
the same "Oh" and nodding. there is nothing behind those eyes
except a bundle of needs that god and all his angels and the
denizens of the nine circles of hell and everybody on mount
olympus couldn't fill. so he talks away unimpeded by serious
questions. more and more this seems like a real advantage for
him. something about the way he's saying all this makes me
wonder. whatever the conversation snakes around to, he's done.
how convenient. he happens to mention in passing he was in haiti
with the army too. i think he says somalia too, but i'm trying
to read a book here.

during all of this the barista fusses over the bright
bronze tubes of his espresso machine. like the average
person here would notice. he could use the same grounds
all day and let the milk sit out every night and people
would think that's how it's supposed to be.

he says his name is marcello. she says hers is leona. i
think it's leona. i'm trying to be inconspicuous here, so i
can't listen too closely. she asks where he's from. california.
makes sense, she says, it didn't seem like he was from
around here. yes, he says, leaning close, people around here
are a bit, you know, he says, whispering, stupid. she agrees. i
agree too. i could jump in to the conversation and say some
very witty things at this point, but i am who i am, so i don't.
accent says she's not from around here either, but he doesn't ask
about it.

seems marcello's from huntington beach. ooh, orange county.
just moved here a month ago, lives in a little rural town just
outside our fair city here. came to be near his mother. hates
it. the town police are always pulling him over. playing rap
too loud, they say. i hate rap, he replies, don't stereotype me.
hey, that would bother me a lot, too. southern police make me
upset, and i'm not even black. inwardly i'm cringing, though:
we're in the south, and the race thing has come up in
conversation. i can't put my finger on what i'm afraid might
happen. maybe a guy at the next table is in the state aryan
militia or something and starts lobbing grenades. i dunno.
but this time it passes. she's too eager to be regaled with
tales of exotic locales:

"what's california like?"

"it's wonderful. you have to go sometime. you just really
have to go. it's unbelievable."

the adjectives seem to do the trick for her. she nods in
agreement without having learned anything about california. it
might as well be somewhere on the moon of pluto.

leona doesn't have the accent, but she's got the southern
way of being an idiot. it's like if you haven't been somewhere
or seen or done something personally, the place, the action, or
whatever, is just inconceivable. not knowing isn't a character
flaw in my book; not wondering certainly is.

to be fair, there's a northwestern way of being an idiot,
too. instead of having no imagination, the crucial piece missing
is basic common sense. a few years back a bunch of guys were
having a party in the woods and had just polished off a keg of
beer. lacking basic common sense in addition to being drunk, they
got to wondering what would happen if they put the keg in the
campfire. it heated up, exploded, and killed a couple people.
the worst thing with having no common sense is that you'll never
realize it until it's way too late. thus, people think they
can get away with all kinds of weird things. like trying to
outrun cop cars like they do on tv. or hiring some trailer park
tough to break an ice skater's leg so you can be champion.
or robbing banks. oregon has the highest number of bank robberies
in the country, and the crooks almost always get caught. and
every single time the offender is absolutely shocked that they
didn't get away scot-free.

"i think you should be a police officer."

"you know, i tried out for that, but i didn't pass some
psychological test they had.", says marcello, not missing a beat.

"oh, really? how come?", says leona, not missing a beat.
whether it's worse to buy the brooklyn bridge or to sell it is
an open question.

"when they asked me questions i told the truth. i told
them i didn't believe police should have special privileges, and
like, they have to obey the law just like anyone else.", like
those would be actual test questions or something.

"i think you're right about that", she says. if the planet
ever runs low on sympathy so that it's worth money, i want
drilling rights to leona here. she's like an artesian well of
moral support. except if you don't make her coffee right.

"besides, there's more money in reposession work."

"are you going to school?"

"i'm trying to get into the local college, but now i'm
not sure. credits don't transfer to other schools very well.
i think it's because people in this town are stupid and the
courses are designed for them."

"do you have friends here?", she says. my, isn't she

"just tammy and john here", he says and points. seems
john is the barista. and the plot thickens. oh, did i mention
i'm trying to read a book here? really, i am. so maybe morbid
curiosity is getting the best of me, but i'm having a go at a
bit of art history. i have to say that pictures of birdcages
full of marble "sugar cubes" aren't helping my mental state
at all. i look up for a moment and sip my coffee. nobody's
paying any attention to me. fine by me.

they chatter on a bit more. she's starting to act restless.
just about done with her coffee, and i guess that means time to
go. and i notice that would leave empty tables all around this
one, so marcello might decide to talk to me. somehow that holds
zero appeal for me, so i start sipping my coffee faster. i try
to be nonchalant about it, though.

and now the kid's gotten up and he's peering over my
shoulder. i look directly at him figuring that'll shame him
into going away. but no, that only works on adults. i put a
marker in the book and close it, and take a couple gulps of
my coffee. hey, this is the south -- exposing kids to modern art
is probably a felony. he gets bored and starts toward the big
section full of children's books based on violent cartoon shows.

she says she has connections and could probably get him a
job with the city police. that's interesting. marcello seems
to think so too, but begs off, giving the recent pay cut for city
employees as a reason. she nods like this is some kind of small
town and everybody knows the inner workings of city hall. or at
least they both do. and he allegedly just moved here, too. she
says this while getting up and they exchange pleasantries i catch
snippets of in between mouthfuls of iced coffee. she wanders off.

she's walking off, sip, sip, sip, marcello goes back to his
magazine for a bit, and then turns to the barista.

"hey, could i get a glass of ice water?"

there's a woman behind the counter with john. Must be
tammy, his other friend. I think.

"there's a drinking fountain over there, see it?", she says.

"let me rephrase that. i need a glass with cold water and
ice in it."

"do you want ice in that?", he asks. i hope he's not making
fun of me. why would he? maybe i'm paranoid. sip, sip, sip.

"no, and make that warm water."

"okay, sure."

i'm almost done here. sip, sip, gulp, done. cool. i'm
outta here. i stand up quietly and do a studied saunter over to
the trash bin and deposit my cup nonchalantly.

"can i get that with soap?"

"the customer is always right."

"yeah, that's what i need. a cup of hot, soapy water."

yeah, right. a real master of wit there. i wander off and
don't look back. all i want is to find a nice quiet part of the
store so i can immerse myself in magritte.

on my way there, i pass the customer service desk. leona is
there. it seems she's unhappy about something.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


Ok, so I'm ruthlessly exploiting the "Snakes on a Plane" meme for my own purposes, to drive page views and see who shows up here. If I was really organized, I'd be selling t-shirts, or at least banner ads, but I'm not. This is being done out of sociological interest, plus the sheer thrill of seeing the ol' sitemeter ticking over, plus I saw an article about the mini-fad somewhere today and then I caught yesterday's Daily Show, which also had a SoaP reference, plus it turns out that a recent Colbert Report also had a veiled reference that completely escaped me at the time. I hate it when I'm that not up on the current internet fads, even though I'm technically still boycotting pop culture (just so we're all clear on that). It makes me feel old. I'm starting to think that even frivolous and irrelevant things like SoaP now operate on 24 hour news cycles, just like real news stories do.

Oh, also I'm posting this because the creaky old "OMG PONIES" meme is so ten weeks ago. It's done. It's, like, totally paleolithic. And don't even get me started about furry lobsters or silky anteaters. They may be cute-n-cuddly and all, but their 15 minutes are up.

Anyway, the meme-starting blog entry is here, the IMDB page is here, a good shot of the movie poster is here, and and MSM story from the SF Chronicle (with an impressive link farm) is here. I'm sorry, but they can all go on all they want about how this is a leaderless, viral, emergent phenomenon, but I don't believe it for a minute. Hollywood marketers don't make the big bucks for nothing. They know the net's plagued with needy, gullible fanboys who jump on every bandwagon that lumbers by. So long as you let them go on thinking they're being "subversive" and they're in control of the meme, they'll do anything for you, absolutely free. And they'll never admit to anyone, even themselves, that they were had. Remember the Blair Witch Project fad, anyone? Or was that before your time?

I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize in case this post is a little on the loopy side. Allergy season kicked in in earnest late this afternoon, and right now I'm self-medicating with two kinds of generic allergy medicine plus a bit of cheap Cabernet. So really, I'm not 100% responsible for any of this stuff you see here. It's not writing, it's typing

While we're talking about snakes, a blogspammer somehow got past Blogger's "captcha" a couple hours ago. I've heard the spam industry's somehow figured out how to defeat captchas now, but this is the first spammer I've gotten since I turned word verification on. It's an impressive bit of pattern recognition -- someone's come up with an advanced technique and they aren't using their powers for good.

But two can play at that game. The spammer hit my semi-obligatory Christmas '05 post twice in just over an hour,both times shilling for a customized greeting card company. I guess associating Christmas and greeting cards isn't a big stretch, and for all I know the sort of person who buys custom engraved holiday cards just might order them in June. That world is opaque to me.

So I did a quick WHOIS search on the domain the spam was advertising ( personalizedgreetingcards . com ), and here's what it returned:

Domain Services Provided By:

Peter Wilson
2316 E.Sycamore St
Anaheim, CA 92806

Registrar: 000DOM
Created on: 18-SEP-00
Expires on: 18-SEP-06
Last Updated on: 12-JAN-06

Administrative, Technical Contact:

Domain servers in listed order:

The domain info for the "executivegreetingcards" domain is identical. More information from their website:


158 N. Glendora Ave.

Suite T

Glendora, Ca 91741

Tax ID # 33-091655

This Google Map shows that the Sycamore address is a residential address, presumably of this Wilson guy. Now, he may just be the hapless IT guy whose name shows up on the domain registration, and he may have nothing at all to do with this evening's spam. But he's still associated with spammers, so there's a real limit to my sympathy here.

The first "714" phone number maps to:
Executive Greeting Card Co - (714) 533-4560 - Po Box 6108, Anaheim, CA 92816. A November '05 press release of theirs can be found here.

They've also got a big Better Business Bureau graphic on their page, which is a little unusual. That plus the tax ID suggest they're trying to go to extra lengths to convince people they're legit. I'm sorry, but if you spam someone's blog twice in an hour, just because they posted about a major national holiday half a year ago, you are not a legitimate business. Also, I've tried looking them up by the tax ID they've provided and it doesn't seem to be valid.

And yes, I didn't lift a finger to obfuscate either email address, so that any friendly neighborhood spambot that wanders by can parse them easily. What's good for the goose is good for the gander, after all. I'm not a spammer, and the guilty parties won't hear from me directly, but if someone else happens to see those email addresses and then see dollar signs, I can't be responsible for what they choose (of their own free will) to do with that information. It's totally out of my hands at that point.

Updated 7/13/06: Finally, something to knit this post together cohesively. Turns out there is such a thing as a "Snakes on a plane" greeting card. I just got a search hit for someone looking for 'em, and at the moment Google's actually ranking this page higher than the one where the greeting cards are for sale. Go figure. So I thought I'd link to that page, in case anyone else shows up here looking for the same thing. Because you know how I hate to have anyone leave here disappointed. Well, except crazy fundie conservative types.. They can all go to hell, so far as I'm concerned.

More news from here, 6-15-06

  • Bloglines is having issues right now. It's kind of surprising how quickly you come to depend on a service like that being available all the time. My precious RSS feeds are nowhere to be seen. Even this blog's mini-sibling, cyclotram2, is unavailable right now. Last time Blogger was down, I popped over to the other blog and whined about it. So I figure it's only fair to do the same thing now that the reverse situation's occurred. Once the thing comes back up, I think I'll need to use Bloglines' "export as OPML" feature just so I'll have an offline backup around somewhere.
  • I've gotten a lot of search hits in the last couple of days because of a brief reference (towards the end of the post) to a Portuguese celebrity named Merche Romero. I'm not sure why. But she does figure in this juicy British tabloid story. I don't actually care about any of this stuff even a tiny bit, but it seems to be driving page views at the moment, so I may as well milk it while I can. I guess I'm just cynical that way. Here's a photo of Ms. Romero, if you're curious. Probably safe for work.
  • Our Glorious Leader has done an unusual thing, bestowing national monument status on a huge, uninhabited chunk of the Hawaiian Islands. It's one of those things presidents are allowed to do by unilateral executive order, without consulting Congress (which may explain his attraction to the idea). It's worth noting that the R's freaked out when Clinton used this power to create vastly smaller monuments out of unhabited chunks of southwestern desert. But as usual it's ok when Bush does it.
  • Yet another testimonial about why Windows Mobile / PocketPC / Windows CE is teh sux0r. I've had three or four WinCE PDAs dumped on me over the years, by vendors who I guess hoped I'd write some useful code for 'em. I got them all for free, and I still felt I overpaid. They were all useless junk, not worth the rather generous amounts of electricity I lavished on keeping them charged up. The hardware itself is often pretty impressive, but then they stick this nightmarish botch of an OS on top, and the result is always so slow it's practically unusable. It's a sad fact about the tech industry that while Moore's Law gives a fairly good idea of how quickly processor power is likely to increase, there's no equivalent law that places an upper bound on the speed of software bloat. The more money you've got to play with, the faster it happens, and MS has a lot of money.
  • Now that Zarqawi's out of the picture, Congress is finally going to have a "debate" about Iraq. Well, it's actually just a political stunt, like everything else they do anymore. They may complain a lot about Bush usurping their authority with his "signing statements", but their actions suggest they've accepted their new role as a toothless debating society with barely a whimper. I can understand their feelings of relief -- knowing that nothing you do or say matters really takes the pressure off. We already know the end result of this pointless debate: This time it's Congress's turn to haul up the big "Mission Accomplished" sign, and it's bound to work out just as well now as it did the first time around.
  • A NewScientist article about Neptune's family of Trojan asteroids. Only four have actually been found so far, but researchers are estimating there must be a huge number of them out there. More info plus images here.
  • This was probably accidental, but a brand new form of graffiti has been invented. Check out this pic from Google Maps. This area is a fenced-off former industrial site south of downtown Portland, and in all likelihood nobody would've ever seen this if it wasn't for the magic of Google. So I'd just like to say hello and congratulations to the mysterious "GPK". You're way more famous than any of those small-timers who go around tagging dumpsters and abandoned buildings. If Google can see this, the aliens probably can too. Someday maybe they'll probably up at your door looking for an autograph, or maybe a tissue sample, or whatever it is they do.
  • Two referrer pages from folks Blogger sent my way when I posted this baby: Walaykinha and Dysdiadokinesis & Mosaicism. FWIW.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Behold, the Tram Tower!


The angled whitish bit you see in the picture is the lower half of portland's exciting new aerial tram tower. Over the next few weeks it's supposed to get a little over twice as tall as it is now, and then sprout cables from the top some time in August.

Updated 6/22/06: The second segment just went up, and I've got a photo of it here.

Parts of the South Waterfront district are now open for people to go and wander around in, which I did a couple of weeks back. I've been meaning to post some of the photos but (like today's Washington Park post) I just didn't get around to it until now. So here we are. As usual, clicking on any photo will take you to a larger version:

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Two pics of the twin Meriwether condo towers. The whole area's still a construction site, but people are already living in the finished parts of these buildings. The city's promising a public pedestrian walkway next to the river for the full length of the South Waterfront district, sometime in the near future, but that part's still closed off so far. In the second photo you can also see OHSU's new clinic building, and the lower tram station directly in front of it, plus the Zidell Marine barge factory in the foreground. The barge factory is supposed to go away sometime soon, to make way for more condos. This absolutely must happen ASAP, because people who actually make things are icky and non-upscale, and need to be shooed away so they don't alarm the idle rich (and their darling weimaraners). Your tax dollars at work.

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Two photos of OHSU's new clinic building. The early PR led us all to think this was going to be a new advanced research facility, but no, instead it's going to house yoga studios and day spas and such, catering to affluent and otherwise healthy aging boomers. Because that's far more profitable than treating actual sick people, and that's the only thing that matters anymore.

The construction in the right foreground of the first pic is for a new city park spanning two blocks. There used to be a mini storage facility here, until the city decided it ought to be a park instead and forced the existing business out. More of your tax dollars at work.

The John Ross condo tower, which is supposed to top out somewhere over 30 stories when complete. This is the same building you see in the background in the tram tower photo. Yes, even more of your tax dollars at work.

The news from here, 6-14-06

  • Stephen Hawking says we desperately need colonies in space. Pharyngula is not so sure.
  • From NewScientist: A theory about why planetary moons seem to have an upper size limit. Several announcements of new extrasolar planets have noted that they lie in their parent stars' "habitable zones". The hope being that one of these planets just might have a big Earth-sized habitable moon or two. That may be impossible under the new theory.
  • One of the great things about the blog world is that one gets a window into the lives of people in circumstances utterly different than one's own. Here are two blogs by women from the Philippines who work in the Persian Gulf region.
  • This blog recounts the ongoing story of a large number of cats rescued from homeless camps in the Corvallis/Albany OR area.
  • Worldwide Pablo has the first post about Portland's shiny new tram tower. I would've thought Jack Bog would've had something unkind to say about it by now. Maybe he's waiting until they've got the whole thing installed, I dunno. I took some pics of it myself this morning, and I'll try to post them later on, if I get around to it.
  • A fun little bit of Python bashing. The language, not the snake. Bashing snakes would be cruel. Unless by "bash" you mean the shell, not the violent act. And if you do mean bash=shell and python=snake, you end up with a sentence that just makes no sense at all.
  • A good post at pdxleft about our Glorious Leader's recent heroic photo op in Baghdad.
  • The food fascists are now suing KFC. Gee, and all this time I thought KFC served healthy non-fattening fare, because if there are 3 words in the English language that I most strongly associate with healthiness, they'd have to be "chicken", "fried" and "Kentucky". (Note for the irony-impaired... oh, forget it, never mind...) Crap like this makes me want to run out and buy one of those "cheesy chicken bowls" they've been advertising lately. You know, the one with a big bowl of mashed potatoes, fried chicken strips, gravy, corn, and a layer of cheese on top. Who the hell are these people, anyway? Here's a great article about the clowns at CSPI, from the libertarian mag Reason. I'm generally not a libertarian on the economic side of things, but eating whatever you want without Beltway control freaks lecturing you about it is an issue of basic personal freedom. Especially since the food police also moonlight as the beer police. Grrrr!!!!!
  • FOX News manages to be "Fair and Balanced" for once. Seems the Fred Phelps cultists are so nutty even Rupert Murdoch won't touch 'em.
  • In sad news, Roseburg's Hawks Brewing is ceasing operations, at least for the time being. You can't really understand what an unfortunate turn of events this is unless you've tried their beer. The ESB can't be improved upon. Look for the beer with the boring-est logo.
  • At least the historic Yerkes Observatory isn't going to fall into the clutches of greedy developers.
  • Referrer pages of the two folks Blogger sent my way when I first posted this thing: Transglobal Permutations, an interesting blog from Spain with lots of pictures, and Really Nothing To Say, which is just a bunch of empty posts. It bills itself as the silliest blog on the planet, which I think is a bit debatable.
  • And then, three more visitors from when I added the previous item, arriving here from: Why Aren't I Famous, a blog mostly about hip hop music and culture; Disneyland2006, photos of someone's trip to Disneyland; and, which I haven't visited but the URL suggests it's probably not safe for work. So there you have it. Let's see if anyone new shows up here this time when I repost this baby...

Washington Park

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KGW's reporting that under a new plan, the area around the Washington Park reservoirs will soon be open to the public during daylight hours, similar to the longstanding arrangement at Mount Tabor. This is about the most unexpected news I've heard in a while, but the logic of the plan actually makes sense. The decades-old chain link fence around the reservoir area doesn't really do anything to secure the area against actual, determined evildoers. Letting the general public into the area means you've got a lot of eyes and ears there. The city could never afford to hire an equivalent number of security guards. After all, this is Portland -- we love our reservoirs here, and people will call 911 if they see anyone trying to mess with them.

I recently walked around the park a bit and took a few photos of the area, figuring there was a blog post in it. Then I got busy with RL work and didn't get around to writing the post until now. I was originally going to write about how it was a real shame the reservoir area's closed to the public, and how it didn't make sense considering the Mt. Tabor reservoirs are open. I was also going to say that opening the area would be the absolute last thing I could see happening, in the current climate. I sure wish I could stop being wrong about stuff all the time.

Updated: Here's the city's official press release about the reservoirs. Seems the local media didn't get the facts quite right: The Hazelwood, Texas, and Vernon Tanks mentioned in the KGW article aren't names for the Washington Park reservoirs, they're other Water Bureau facilities that will also permit public access in the future. Looks like this change has been in the works for a while now for these other locations, but it was all happening under the radar until the Washington Park reservoirs joined the list.

Updated II: The Water Bureau would like to set the record straight: The existing fences are staying up, it's just that the gates will be open during daylight hours so the public can visit the area. If I'm reading this right, they're also only doing this for the upper reservoir, at least for the time being.

This is a smart approach -- there'll still be controlled access to the area, with a limited number of ways in and out, and they can shoo everyone out in the evening. I just wish the fence wasn't so ugly, though. It doesn't fit the character of the park at all. I think a wrought iron fence similar to what's around the reservoir itself would look pretty good, if they can spare the cash at some point.

Anyway, here are a few more photos from around the park. I was originally just going to mention the reservoirs in passing, and I was more interested in the odd, neglected areas in the lower portion of the park.

(I was originally also going to remark about all the nonnative English ivy that covers the park, but it turns out the water bureau's already started tearing it out, so maybe I don't need to complain about that after all.)


This fountain doesn't really count as neglected, since it's right next to the main road and everyone sees it as they drive past. Seen from a distance, you tend to shrug and write it off as yet another fusty old Victorian-era fountain. To really appreciate it, you need to get close to it, and stop, and listen the the water dripping and pinging off of it. It's sometimes called the Chiming Fountain, if that gives you any idea. Other fountains in town are bigger, more famous, and vastly more complex, but this my candidate for the most soothing one in town. Well, except when a bus rumbles by behind you, but hey, we're in the middle of a big city, and you can't have everything.


These winding stairs are part of the multitude of weird pathways that meander down the forested hillside between the reservoirs and the vicinity of Burnside & NW 23rd. Despite connecting two rather popular areas, this stretch is usually pretty empty of people, and the surrounding hillsides block out most city noises. You see nothing but trees, and hear nothing but birds. It's great.

Rumor has it that once you reach the top of these stairs, there's a long, dark tunnel, with a gigantic hungry spider living inside of it. This rumor is untrue, so far as I know.


This is the main path through the same area. City noises are blocked out so well here because this part of the park sits in a sort of mini-canyon. It appears that this path lies directly on top of the stream that drains the area. You'd never get away with building something like this today, and the environmentally correct thing would be to rip this thing out, daylight the stream, and restore the area to a more natural state. Although you'd still be draining into a pipe at the downstream end, so I'm not sure how much good it would really do.


This is not technically part of the park, but it's nearby, and dates to about the same era. This is a detail from the north end of the Vista Avenue Viaduct. This could be a good, ahem, jumping-off point for the usual "they don't build 'em like they used to" discussion, but that's not why this photo's here. What I've always wondered about is the curved concrete bench on the right side of the picture. There's a similar one on the other side of the street, and I think on the other side of the bridge as well. I've never seen anyone sit here, and I'm a little confused as to the designers' intent. Is this something people used to enjoy back in 1925? Sit there and watch Model T's chug their way up the hill and over the bridge? Or maybe it's supposed to be purely ornamental, and actually sitting there would be incredibly ignorant and gauche. Sort of like trying to bite into the fake food in the window of a Japanese restaurant, or something. Who knows?