February 28, 2006

Why I Hate Flying, Part the Thousandth

Scene: Me, Ontario airport, this morning; I've just put my computer and carryon bag onto the conveyor belt for the X-ray machine, and am waiting for the traffic jam in front of the metal detector to clear so I can take my turn.


SIR? SIR? I suggest that you take off your shoes before you go through the metal detector.


Why? I've flown with them and they've never set off the detector before ...


Just in case there's some kind of problem, sir.

[I walk through the metal detector, wearing my ordinary white tennis shoes; nothing happens]


[Immediately after I pass through the metal detector]

Sir, you're going to have to stand over in that area — BEHIND THAT BARRIER, SIR! — until we can get someone over to inspect you; DO NOT touch your posessions or remove ANYTHING from the conveyor belt!


What's wrong? The detector didn't go off ...


You have suspicious shoes, sir. They fit a profile.


Does this make anyone feel safer? As I've said before, I can't wait until we have the Padded Bra Bomber, or the Codpiece Bomber ...

Posted by Kevin at 12:16 PM | Comments (2)

February 26, 2006

$3500 o.b.o.

Our Ford Contour marketing onslaught begins with an ad in Craigslist and a couple of big signs posted inside the car itself. Maybe we'll get lucky and the signs will catch the eye of somebody playing in the permanent pickup basketball game that's always going on in the park across the street — they look like members of our target demographic ...

Things removed from the car while it was getting a head-to-toe vacuuming this afternoon:

  • Those four cassette tapes that have sat at the back of the center console ever since I replaced the tape player with a CD player in August 2000
  • Five (mostly empty) disposable plastic water bottles; two Nalgene bottles (any car that Shelby sits in for any length of time will start attracting water bottles — you should see her car ...)
  • A fast-food receipt from 1997 that had fallen underneath the driver's seat
  • A Spring 1999 schedule of dance lessons at the Cubberley Pavillion in Palo Alto (from a pre-Shelby, post-dumping phase of trying to throw myself into as many activities as possible)
  • Digory's first travel harness (the one he figured out how to get out of)
  • A nice pocketknife
  • About eighty cents in change, plus a Bicentennial Kennedy half-dollar
  • Two cell-phone chargers for phones that we don't have anymore
  • A twelve-volt (plug it into your cigarette lighter) air pump
  • Road maps for places where we don't live anymore: San Jose, "Silicon Valley", San Mateo and the Peninsula, San Francisco, Oakland

Driving the car around (today it got a bath; tomorrow it gets a cheapie oil change) without its normal layer of deritus and dog hair felt strange — like sitting around in your empty apartment while your friends stuff that last load into the moving van.

Posted by Kevin at 09:37 PM | Comments (0)

February 24, 2006

Sugar Sugar

I've written before in this space about two of my great candy loves — Haribo and Smarties (both the European and American versions). Now, as yesterday's Valentine's candy fades gently into being today's lingering 75%-off clearance-sale item: candy hearts!

I know that most people think that they taste like chalk or solidified wallpaper paste, but I can't get enough of them. My favorite is the Necco 'tart' variety, as shown to the left. Unless I exercise self-control, it's possible to eat an entire bag (forget those wimpy little boxes) in one extended sitting. I know that you can buy what's essentially the same candy in its Necco Wafer form year-round, but it's just not the same.

Being an introverted geeky type to whom girls were a mystery, the coming of candy hearts was just about the one reliable thing that I had to look forward to every Valentine's Day. And even now, I still buy a box as soon as they show up in the grocery store.

[Travelogue: Necco used to have their main factory on Massachussetts Avenue in Cambridge, MA, about a block from the MIT campus. (On top of the factory building was a water tower painted to look like a roll of Necco wafers.) When I visited MIT in 1997, the whole neighborhood around the plant smelled like Necco wafers — heaven! Now, though, Necco has moved their operations farther out into suburban Boston, and the old Necco plant is being renovated into a biotech 'campus'.]

Posted by Kevin at 10:33 AM | Comments (1)

February 23, 2006

Looking At The Logs

I don't do it as much as I used to, but every now and then I take a look at happybeagle.com's server stats to see what our visitors are looking at and where they're coming from. The following two pictures have been the most popular items on our server for quite some time — and they've even achieved a certain measure of Google-popularity:
As of right this minute, if you search Google for "drag queen", the first image result you get is the one at left, which I took inside Karstadt (big department store, main shopping street) during Hamburg's gay pride parade in 2004.

Unfortunately, it's Google-popularity seems to come from people posting it as a retort in message boards that deal with manly-man topics: "OH YEAH??? U DON"T KNO ANETHING ABOUT NASCAR (football/college sports/muscle cars/whatever) BECUZ U R TEH GAY!!!!1! HERE"Z A PICTUR THAT I TOOK UV U AND YOUR 'GRILFRIEND' LAST WEEKEND!!!!!1!! HAW HAW!!!"

The image at right is often linked to by fans of the Hamburger SV soccer team who want to include a picture of the AOL Arena (where HSV plays) on their I'm-a-rabid-fan-go-HSV!!! webpage. The only problem is that this isn't the AOL Arena ... it's a model of the arena, a picture that I took during my first visit to Miniatur Wunderland Hamburg. Still, that hasn't stopped it from becoming Google's #1 image-search result for "AOL Arena"!
Posted by Kevin at 08:22 AM | Comments (0)

February 15, 2006

Geek Toy

If I hadn't found a job while I was up in San Jose last week, I'd have been sweating a lot harder when we went to our local Toyota dealer last Saturday night and wrote a large-sized check for this:
It won't have a license plate for weeks yet, but an essential accessory has already been installed:
Everyone I know at work who drives a Prius can't stop raving about it. It's a car designed by geeks for geeks. It's a geek magnet. Beyond the boy-wonder design and the obvious novelty of the hybrid engine, I think that a large amount of the geek appeal comes from the display in the center of the dashboard:
The GPS-linked map alone was enough to make Shelby want the car. It does all kinds of friendly things: it helps you find ATMs, fast food restaurants, museums, and other points of interest, and will guide you to a given address, calling out your turns in a very-slightly-Midwestern-accented female voice.When you're underway, this power-flow diagram shows you where the energy is travelling inside the car at any given time: whether the wheels are being powered by the gas motor, the electric motor, or both; and whether the battery is being charged through regenerative braking. A companion screen graphs your fuel consumption (and the amount of energy you've recaptured through the regnerative brakes) over the past thirty minutes.
Anyone interested in a pre-loved 1998 Ford Contour?

This weekend we need to get it spruced up and figure out how we're going to get rid of it (AAA auto insurance gives us a 30-day new car allowance before we have to officially put the Prius on the policy — it'd be nice to boot the Contour before then, so that we're not paying for three cars at one time).

Posted by Kevin at 02:20 PM | Comments (2)

Since Our Last Episode ...

It's been quite the past few weeks. Things all started at 9:30 in the morning on January 27th, when in an unpleasant early-morning phone call, I was told that I would be losing my job.

... in the original version of this entry, I'd followed that opening with a multi-paragraph story about what's happened between then and now — but after some reflection, I've decided that it's better (and more prudent) just to skip ahead to the happy ending: and now I have a new job! I'll still be working from home, and I'll still be working for Adobe. Starting March 1st, I'll be joining a team that's working on the next generation of the PDF file format. It's an exciting move: big problem space, small team, and (if we play our cards right, market forces work themselves out, and blah blah blah) potentially central to a big part of the company's business.

The downside: even though my work will only (for now) have a tangential relationship to Acrobat, and I'm not working on Acrobat or Acrobat Reader, that's not going to stop people I meet at parties from making drunken complaints about Reader as soon as they hear the word "PDF" in my response to "So, what do you do?" So let's get some things out of the way right now: yes, I'm perfectly willing to believe that Reader takes an incredibly long time to load on your (quite powerful, I'm sure) home computer, and no, I don't have any idea at all why Reader keeps asking you to download the upgrade to version 7.0.7, even though you already upgraded months ago. Any others? I've got to get prepared ...

Posted by Kevin at 12:55 PM | Comments (1)