Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Ok, so I've been feeling really bad lately. Late last week my brother Brian, who's a paramedic, checked my blood pressure and it was about 210/130. I went to the emergency room the next day and it was still 180/120. I went to a doctor for the first time in about 3 years today and he started me on a drug called Lisinopril. I'm also weighing 316 lbs today, which is a new record for me. Time to lose it. I'll be posting my weight loss results here, so stay tuned. I'll be doing the Atkin's Diet for now until I drop about 30 or 40 lbs. An exercise program will also soon be announced.

Monday, December 23, 2002

Who says the Internet never gave us anything useful? Now you can cat-proof your computer with the amazing PawSense software.

Friday, December 20, 2002

Ok, I love visual illusions, especially ones like this one which can be done over a computer. To help prove it to yourself, save the image and open it in Microsoft Paint. Copy a small section from each of the two squares and paste them off to the side.
I went to see The Two Towers last night at the IMAX screen here in Nashville. It was absolutely amazing. I was numb at the end of it, and not just because it was 3 hours long. Seeing it at the IMAX was nice. It wasn't in the large format, but the screen is in really good shape and the sound system is awesome. Of course, my only problem with the film is that now I have to wait a year to see the next one. Well, they could also put a short intermission somewhere in there. Even if it was just a 60 second stand up and stretch break.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

As my faithful readers know, I recently took the plunge and bought a house. I've always had a habit of sending in a little extra on any payments that I have, and for the first mortgage payment I sent in a whopping extra 10 bucks. I wasn't sure how much that would save me in the long run, but I finally found a tool that lets you simulate a mortgage. It's a shareware program called Mortgage Wizard Plus. Using it, I was able to figure out that sending in an extra 10 dollars every month will cut 9 payments off the 360 payments in the loan. Saves over 4000 dollars or so in the long run. Now if I could just pay off Falkner-Mynutt before they send their goons after me...

Monday, December 16, 2002

Here's the web site of one of my favorite skeptics, James Randi. He's been waging a non-stop battle against ignorance and rip off artists for quite some time now. Here's my favorite quote from his web site:

Herewith the 3000-year history of alternative medicine in 30 seconds:

1000 BCE: "Eat this root."

100 CE: "That root's heathen, don't eat it. Say this prayer."

1800 CE: "That prayer is superstition, don't say it. Drink this snake-oil."

1900 CE: "That snake-oil is phony, don't drink it. Take this pill."

2002 CE: "That pill is artificial, don't take it. Eat this root.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Ok, I realize that professional sports have basically been "family-ized" in the last few years, as opposed to the days when I was a kid when it was mostly men and their sons watching them. Eventually it can just get a little silly. Take NFL football. It's 22 men beating the hell out of each other for several hours! It's a violent game. It's supposed to be a violent game! Sure there are such things as dirty hits, but everyone out there in a uniform knows this when they go into it, or you would think they would. This article talks about the recent Packers-Vikings game. Brett Favre's quote at the end of the article pretty much sums up my feelings on this one.

Monday, December 02, 2002

Here's something very cool that I want to do to my house someday. I want to be able to interact with my house basically the way they do on Star Trek (yes, it's sadly cliched and geeky.) Using MisterHouse, it looks like you could get pretty close to it. If I could just hook it all up to a small robot that would shock the cats when they're chewing on our loaf of bread or breaking Christmas tree ornaments, it would be perfect. I guess I could take the cheap route and shoot the cats, though.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

This is just sad. Using terminally ill people to send messages to the afterlife. The Internet is a great thing, but it's potential to exploit stupid people seems to be almost limitless.

Friday, November 22, 2002

Space elevators rock. Hope this isn't just some crazy scheme someone came up with.

Friday, November 15, 2002

I've been trying to work on some of my grammar skills lately since I've been teaching ESL on Wednesday nights and since I want to start doing more writing. I've been exploring grammar sites on the Web and found one which seems to be fairly useful. It's a list of Common Errors in English. The error that I see the most that drives me insane is the misuse of the phrase "begs the question." If you start looking for it you'll see it misused very often.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Looks like the University of Alabama is getting ready for the seasons ahead by having a really good recruiting season this year.

Monday, November 11, 2002

I stumbled across this website today that features biographies of famous British authors with just a touch of smartass humor. Funny stuff.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

I've been using Google lately to find things related to distant childhood memories. Today I dug up a website that has mp3 recordings of an album I used to have as a kid. There was a whole series of Singing Science Records, and I had the Weather one that I listened to on our old huge phonograph over and over again. I still remember most of the lyrics, but some have become a little spotty. "Why does the wind blow" has been stuck in my head for years, and I still find myself singing it as I'm driving or in the shower.
This is what happens when most of the citizens in a country don't possess shotguns or other firearms. Squirrel rampages! Hell, a kid with a slingshot could fix this problem.
Ok, so here's a long mostly boring saga about my home phone. Back around August I switched my local and long distance service over to MCI's Neighborhood program. It took a while for my request to go through, but I didn't think much of it at the time.

Today I called MCI to have them transfer my phone service over to the new house that we're moving into this weekend. It took me almost 20 minutes to even reach the correct department since their touch tone menus were screwed up and would send you to the wrong department. I finally connected with the service department and they said they could get me transferred with no problem. It would cost about $130.00 and take up to 60 days. I was stunned into disbelief at this point, both by the cost and the amount of time it would take. I told the guy "Why in the world would I not just call Bellsouth and switch back to them. It would have to be cheaper and take about 1 day."

His reply was "if you can do that I would recommend it, sir. We're new at doing the local service and it just takes a while to get things going."

I hung up and called Bellsouth. They said it would cost $40 to get my service turned on at the new house and I'd have to change phone numbers unless I waited about a week for MCI to free-up my old number. "Fine," I said, just wanting to get it over with. The guy types in the background for a bit and then tells me that I still owe Bellsouth $39.37 and that it has been turned over to a collection agency.

"What the hell," I said, "I paid that like a month ago!" He replied that there was nothing he could do and I would have to talk to the collection agency.

So I hang up and call the collection people. She says they just got the deliquency last week. I had checked my bank account and the bank had electronically transferred the payment 22 days earlier. She said I'd have to call Bellsouth and have them figure it out.

So I call Bellsouth again. They have no record of the payment and said I've have to get my bank to fax over a proof of payment statement with some bizarre little 3 digit "customer code" on it, since it's probably "just a billing error."

I called Netbank, and they seemed to be very helpful. They're faxing over the information to Bellsouth. Now I have to hope that someone picks up the fax at Bellsouth and does something about it. Bleh.

My current plan is to get hooked back up with Bellsouth then do the ole switcheroo with MCI again. MCI won't charge me to switch from Bellsouth and once I have a phone hooked up again I won't care if it takes 60 days for MCI to get their crap together. It's pretty sad that MCI isn't trying harder to retain customers, though.
Here's a link to a site called Bad Astronomy that attempts debunk a lot of the silly astronomy related myths and urban legends floating around out there. My favorite has always been the one about standing an egg on its end on the spring equinox. I was actually a victim of this for a long time since back around 4th or 5th grade my elementary school had a school gathering in the gym on the spring equinox so that our 4th grade science teacher could demonstrate this "fact" to everyone. I kept trying for several years afterward on the equinox to stand an egg up. Apparently I just sucked at standing eggs up since I was never able to really do it very well.

The author also attempts to debunk the tired old story about the moon landings being faked. This whole idea is just so ludicrous that I'm not sure any sane person can go about debunking it well. They seem to just get frustrated and start frothing at the mouth. People that believe this need to be sterilized and sent to live in the wilderness somewhere.
You've got to love the Internet if nothing else because of the sheer amount of mostly useless information that is stored on it. I recently stumbled across the Andy Griffith Show (TAGS) Searchable FAQ while on a quest to find the lyrics to the theme song for the show.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Marissa and I would like to extend our condolences to my best friend Paul Clemons and his family on the loss of his grandfather, Mr. Elvis Clemons. I met Mr. Clemons last year when Paul came home from working in Saudi Arabia and again at Thanksgiving when the Clemons family graciously invited me to spend the holiday with them. He was a kind and gracious man, who seemed to enjoy his life and his family.

Monday, November 04, 2002

Dude...ninja's rock!

Friday, November 01, 2002

I want this book, the DeskRef. It looks really cool. It would be the perfect book to leave lying around in the Mallet Drawing Room to help settle arguments about all the goofy crap that Malleteers argue about.
We closed on the house finally yesterday afternoon. We're supposed to take possession today sometime after Noon today. I hope to have some more pictures to post soon, so stay tuned.
I'd like to wish my beautiful wife Marissa a wonderful and Happy Birthday! You're the best thing that's ever happened to me baby.
Most junk emails get deleted by me without even a first glance at them. This one caught my eye however, and this may be one of the greatest products ever invented. My friend Jeff definitely needs to pick one up for his casa de queso.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

For 10 bonus points, guess which industry will jump on the ability to feel things over the Internet first.

Monday, October 28, 2002

Live from Tuscaloosa, it's BamaCam! Actually, the spot where they've set up the web cam doesn't seem to be very interesting. Maybe we can recruit some Malleteers to draw something interesting on the sidewalk or moon the camera or something.
Ok, so fellow fatboy Paul Clemmons and I went to see "The Ring" last night. I didn't really know a lot about the movie, so I didn't know what to expect. It turned out to scare the bejeesus outta me. They definitely did a really great job setting up the suspense and the mood of the film. Paul told me today he had a few nightmares last night about it, so if you like this kind of film, check it out.

Friday, October 25, 2002

Several law schools got together and created a web site to track Cease and Desist letters sent to owners of web sites. This particular Cease and Desist order is pretty funny. Mensa is asking a parody site, Pets or Food, stop claiming that it's fictional owner, Sydney Zwibel, is a member of Mensa. Petsorfood.com is a disturbing, yet humorous site. I can't believe Mensa would be this heavy-handed over what is obviously a joke.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

A skeptic's view of Baseball's Greatest Moment. I'd have to agree with the writer that Ripkin being voted #1 over Hank Aaron's homerun at #2 is pretty sad.
Thought you knew everything about Microsoft FreeCell? Think again. Check out the F.A.Q.
Terrorists everywhere better run for cover! They've got Gene Simmons pissed off and he's not afraid to sound off a few juicy soundbites on the subject. For more funny Simmons quotes, check out this announcement of their upcoming concert in Australia.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

A cool web site that tracks trees that were grown from seeds that orbited the moon on Apollo 14 back in 1971. They're scattered all over the globe now.
My friend Kevino sent in this link for a new "Cool Person Test." I already know how my friend Jeff is gonna score.

Friday, October 18, 2002

Public Hearings Set on Freight and Passenger Rail Cost Benefits
Well, it appears there is at least some work going on to get more rail service going in Tennessee according to this press release (Note: scroll down a few articles). Of course, the major caveat is that now they'll have to identify "possible funding sources." Anything that gets some of the massive amounts of trucks off the Interstate would definitely be worth it.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

The lack of passenger rail service in the Southeast is a real shame, especially in the Middle Tennessee area. Here's an old article that reveals that there's actually no existing rail connection between Nashville and Knoxville anymore. Even to haul freight you have to go to Atlanta to connect them. Sad. There's a group trying to get rail service restored between Louisville and Nashville, but I wouldn't hold my breath.
One of my favorite authors, Stephen Ambrose, recently passed away. He'll be missed. His WWII books were some of the best I've ever read.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Ok, so the wife and kid talk me into going to see Tuck Everlasting last night. It's not a bad movie, and the lead actress, Alexis Bledel was really cute. I can't believe she's 21 years old. I really bought into her being 15.

Even though the movie was OK, I had to make up my own ending so that it would be absolutely perfect. The movie is about a family that can live forever and are invulnerable because they drank from a small spring at the base of a big ass tree. At the end of the movie, the 17 year old Tuck, who is actually about 189 years old, walks into the clearing around the tree in the present day and finds a gravestone at the base of the tree with Winnie's name on it. It seems that she took William Hurt's mumbo jumbo advice about being "part of the wheel" and didn't drink the water and died at age 100. In the real movie, Tuck kneels by her grave and stares in wonder as the credits start to roll.

Now in the Hatch version, he would have walked into the clearing and knelt by her grave. After a few poignant moments, a sound eerily similar to a pack of dogs barking is heard. He quicky turns, stands up, and a sword has almost magically appeared in his hands. Out of the bushes steps a tall figure with long, dark hair. He also has a sword, a katana, in his hand, with a smug smirk on his face.

The stranger speaks. "Tuck."

Tuck stares at him for a few tense moments before replying, "Highlander, wait."

The Highlander rushes into the clearing and a 5 minute sword fight ensues. Eventually, Tuck's head is severed and a massive quickening takes place, which ends up toppling the oak tree and destroying the method of creating new immortals.

The crowd in the theatre, (all 5 of us), goes wild! Cue the Queen music...

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Scientists have found a new method of cave formation that involves microbes creating carbonic acid that eats away the limestone.

Friday, October 11, 2002

I've been watching a lot of CSI lately, and last night's episode featured a case where a young girl was partially eaten by two teenagers high on PCP. We had a discussion about it at work this morning and I made the statement that the story seemed far-fetched. After doing a Google search, however, I came up with this article about a rapper who got high on PCP and then killed and partially ate a woman. The CSI episode must have been based on this story since there are so many similarities. If that doesn't give you the heebie jeebies then I don't know what will.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

Ok, so I knew most insurance companys were evil. I did some work a few years ago for one of the big ones (Hint: It's in Bloomington, IL), so I saw first-hand what kind of fartknockers they could be. This story has to take the cake, though. I don't claim to be a math whiz, and anyone is welcome to rebut this, but I don't seem to recall any stories of the insurance industry having any troubles making money the previous couple of hundred years using basic actuarial tables. Maybe the information explosion is actually damaging them. They're using the massive amounts of data they collect to cut their margins so thin that a few good round of claims can put a serious hurting on them. Now they're turning their relationship with their customers into even more of an adversarial one.
Further anecdotal proof of my friend Jeff's cheese factor in his home. Jeff constructed a massive wooden bar between his kitchen and his living room.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

There's finally an Xbox game coming out that will be 1080i resolution. I'm not sure how good of a game the new Dragon's Lair will be, but at least I can finally use the Xbox to show off my high definition set, which is one of the reasons I originally bought the Xbox for in the first place. Hopefully there will be more Hi-Def games coming out soon.
The latest news on the new home saga is that the inspection we paid for was completed yesterday afternoon. The only problems he found were that there's a small hole in the siding and there's a stain on the linoleum in the upstairs bathroom. Everything is looking pretty good so far. I also locked in the proposed rate on the 5/1 ARM that we're going with. Everyone seems to think I should be scared of using an adjustable mortgage, but right now I'm more concerned with keeping the payments low. I'll have 5 years to figure out what to do next.
I've been trying to spend less money lately, so I've been finding books around the house that I haven't read yet or haven't read in quite a while. This week I finished reading Once a Hero by Elizabeth Moon. I picked it up several years ago in an airport somewhere and never got past the first few chapters. On a scale of 1 to 5 I'd give it a 2.5 or so. It had an interesting premise and a very cool location of a huge repair spaceship, but Moon goes too far out of her way to create a lot of strong female characters. The male characters are almost completely uninteresting and many times come out looking foolish. I'd also have to credit her with coming up with one of the most boring final chapters ever in a novel. We get to sit in on the main character, Esmay Suiza, talking to her psychologist in therapy. Moon also has a strange way of using expletives in this book. Almost no one curses for long stretches and then someone will drop the F-bomb at a place that seems almost awkward. I don't really mind authors using expletives, but they need to at least make it sound natural. The book made for decent late night reading, but I would never recommend someone actually buying it.
Here's a depressing article for anyone around my age (34) in Generation X. A lot of it rings true, but I'm in slightly better shape than a lot of the people they describe.
The wife and I watched Dragonfly last night on DVD. I'd have to mostly agree with Mr. Cranky's review, but maybe only give it 3 bombs. They did manage to set up some very suspenseful scenes, which managed to cover up a lot of Kevin Costner's bad acting. I managed to figure out the "surprise" ending before it happened. I think it was their strategy of avoiding giving clues about the ending that allowed me to figure it out. The picture quality of the DVD was pretty good. So good that Marissa even noticed that Costner had too much makeup on in one scene, which was also mentioned in the DVDFile review. All in all, unless you really like supernatural suspense movies a lot, you could probably get by with skipping this one.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Sigh. The Braves suck so hard in the post-season. Apparently if I take an active interest in a team and start watching them it's the kiss of death for them winning a game. I hadn't cared at all about Alabama football this year until this past weekend when I sat down to watch an entire game. Bleh.

Monday, October 07, 2002

I've found the disc reviews at dvdfile.com are consistently useful, especially if I'm considering buying a DVD. Of course my wife just uses the method of buying any DVD that is remotely a "chick flick." Heh. Her latest acquisition was Britney Spears' Crossroads, which I will hopefully never have to watch. The purchase did send our nine year old daughter into a happy epileptic fit when she found out my wife had bought it.
MSN.com tricked me into clicking on this article today. Very bizarre stuff. Especially the part about the 'ghost child.' Too bad I actually have some moral scruples, or I could make money off dumb people as well.
Here's some details on the latest acquisition by my friend Jeff, the King of Cheese:

"Over the weekend, I did acquire a "Pipe Carousel" from a dead guy's estate, however. It will, of course, be located on the bar. It's got about 10 classic pipes in it with a glass jar in the middle to hold pipe cleaners, filters, and pipe tobacco. The next time you're down, we'll have to fire up some "Black Cherry", my favorite pipe tobacco."

Friday, October 04, 2002

Ok, just as I published that last entry I remembered that I'm also distantly related to Tom Huston, who founded Tom's Peanuts back in 1925.
I only have one relative who could be considered anywhere close to being a celebrity. His name is Harry Stinson and he's in the music business here in Nashville. He's currently the drummer and backup singer in a band called the Vinyl Kings. I've seen them play live three of four times now and I must say, they are very talented musicians with a really good sound. Every time I've been to see them it has been standing room only. They've just released a new album that is a tribute to the Beatles. I'll try to check it out soon and let you know how it is.
Anyone that wants to do some early Christmas shopping for me would be my best friend forever if they got me the Babylon 5 Complete 1st Season on DVD from my Amazon.com Wishlist. It sure took them long enough to come out with this. The best news is that every episode will be released in widescreen and the sound is being redone in Dolby Digtal 5.1.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Everyone has probably heard of Kurt Schilling, the pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks. I'm sure most people wouldn't know that he's an avid player of Advanced Squad Leader, which I consider to be the best tactical board game ever. When he was still playing in Philadelphia, he and some others started the small company that's keeping ASL and lots of other Avalon Hill games alive. They've even released an updated version of the ASL Rulebook. I just need to find time to play it. Sigh.
There's a new annotated version of my non-famous poem "An Ode to Safe Sex" on my website in the Mallet Literature section. I apoligize in advance for all men who read this poem.
My current favorite bumper sticker of all time: "I want to die in my sleep like my Grandpaw did, not screaming in terror like his passengers."
Well, we finally signed the final contract on the house we want to buy last night. The closing date is Oct. 31 and we take possession on Nov. 2 at 4pm. Next to come is the inspection and I'm working on the financing still. The only crappy thing is that I'll have to move again. Second time this year. Bleh.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Ha, ha, ha, ha! I love it. Barbra Streisand, one of the great pseudo-intelluctuals of our time, quoted something that's been floating around on the web for weeks now. It's attributed to Shakespeare, but ole Willy never wrote it. I first read about it here on www.snopes.com last week. Apparently Barb missed the article.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

This article gives hope to white men everywhere.
My friend Brian Spisak, who lives in Chicago, is currently ranked in the Top 100 players for the League Play "Player of the Year" Competition for Golden Tee Fore! 2002 player of the year contest. Last time I visited Brian, he kept a dishwashing glove with the fingers cut out in his pocket to help him get more grip while he was playing. I don't think he does that anymore, but he's still pretty hard core for a video game golf player.

Monday, September 30, 2002

Ain't It Cool News recently released a review of the latest proposed Superman movie script that contained a plot synopsis. If what they say is true the script is a major, major stinker that has been heavily screwed around with by Warner Brothers. I used to keep up with the postings by the creator of Babylon 5, J. Michael Stracynski. He often complained bitterly about how bizarre of a company WB was. I don't really care that much about Superman, since I was always a Marvel fan for the most part, but hopefully they'll come up with a movie script with a more coherent plot. The action sequences sound cool at least.
I'm currently listed as #32 on the Top 100 Factoring Producers report for the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS) homepage. I've been at the relatively same position for quite some time now. Hopefully I can boost my computing power sometime soon and gain a few notches. It may be just me, but the list of Distributed computing projects has not seemed to be very interesting lately.
You know, sometimes you can get excited about a new computer game, but then you find out that one thing that makes you decide never to touch it. Earth and Beyond looked like it would be a really cool massively multiplayer space based game. I heard about it several months ago and was seriously considering buying it. Then I read the FAQ and it says that it does not support joysticks. I did a little more digging and find out that the spaceflight model is only 2 dimensional, so no Z axis. What kind of dumbass designers came up with this? Is the lack of a Z-axis supposed to help me with the total immersion factor? Hopefully the space flight portion of Star Wars Galaxies will get it right.

Sunday, September 29, 2002

The wife sent me out to the grocery store earlier tonight to buy "feminine products," kitty litter, and milk. If that doesn't hammer home the fact that you're married nothing does. Heh. It's a good thing I love her.

Friday, September 27, 2002

Well, I guess I'll have to disagree with Mr. Cranky on this one. "Sweet Home Alabama" was actually a pretty good movie. They didn't really make as much fun of rural Alabama as I thought they would. As far as movies that are mostly chick flicks, this one rates pretty high. On the Mr. Cranky scale I'd have to give it only 1 bomb. The only thing I didn't like was the cheesy pop remake of the classic Lynyrd Skynyrd song at the end of the movie.
My brother Brian and I have pretty even tempers for the most part. He loses his a little faster than mine. I ran across an email from him that was posted by the recipient on a web board today. I had to leave my cube and go out in the hall and laugh after I read it. I've rarely seen him lay into someone the way he did this lady. When you click on the link, scroll down or search for 'Hatcher.'

My brother, by the way, lives off a small rural "Highway" and has owned several Dalmations. I have to agree that keeping a dog with as much energy as a Dalmation has inside a house all the time is much more cruel than letting it be "a yard dog."
My friend Jeff Falkner thrives on finding the most cheesy of things to add to his house. His latest find is the Lime Bomber. Some day I'll have to create a virtual tour of his house so others can share in my stunned amazement of how he's created a monument to tackiness and the white trash dream.
Mr. Cranky has always been one of my favorite movie critics. He's definitely not for the faint of heart. Tonight I'm going with Marissa and Victoria to see "Sweet Home Alabama," yet another movie using my home state as a setting for a comedy. Mr. Cranky is giving the movie 3 bombs in his review. That's actually not too bad of a rating by him. The ones he rates with 3 bombs are usually at least stomachable. (Is stomachable a word?) I'm hoping it ends up being somewhat entertaining, but I'll know more later tonight I suppose. I don't really mind a movie making fun of Alabama, since I always love a good joke no matter how inappropriate.
My wife and I have recently taken the plunge and are actively pursuing the purchase of a house. It's unbelievable how may options there are for mortgages out there. Right now we're scheduled to close on the house on Oct. 29. I'm just working on the mortgage right now. Here's a bad picture of the house . It's a 4 bedroom 3 bath home with 3 levels and a bonus room in the basement. The lot is about 0.2 acres and the back and the left side are dense woods which are part of the common property of the subdivision which will never be built on.