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April, 2009:

A Fine Day Off

Well, we got here late yesterday afternoon, as planned. Still, as relatively painless as the drive was, it took its toll. Somewhere in the Great Big Illinois Nothing along the western reaches of I-88, I started to get a scratchy throat. By the time we got to Downer’s Grove, I was sniffling–but there’s no way to blow your nose while attempting a transition onto I-294, trust me. Carol gave me a Zicam as soon as I could take one hand off the wheel for a few seconds, and half an hour later, we go to the condo intact.

That last forty minutes was some of the gnarliest driving I’d done since we left Phoenix six years ago.

We didn’t feel much like prowling for supper after a drive like that. My sister came to the rescue by ordering a take-out Italian feast from Salerno’s on Wolf Road in Mt. Prospect, and once a little of their superb chicken tetrazini went down the hatch, I was a far happier guy. Julie is walking now, and big sister Katie is very close to carrying on coherent conversations. Kids grow up fast when you’re not looking, even if you stop looking for only a month or so.

I was in bed by 9:15 and slept until 6:30. I’m still sniffling, but don’t panic: It’s the same damned cold I always seem to get after a period of intense stress and expenditure of energy. There’s a lot to do this trip, and I’m by no means done with my book, but I’m taking today off, and in a moment I’m going back to bed for awhile. If I can keep my butt in bed and not expend any more energy than I already have, the cold will be gone tomorrow morning. That’s the plan, at least. I’ll let you know how well I do.

If That’s a Wind Farm, This Must Be Adair

yorkwatertowerI pretty much know this route by heart. It’s gotten to the point where I know with complete certainty that when I see the York, Nebraska rainbow water tower, we’re at Mile 350 and thus three quarters of the way across the cornfields to Iowa. I know where the wind farms are. I know where the weird transparent barn is. I know where the Heartland Museum of Military Vehicles is. (We stayed near there in Lexington, Nebraska last night.) I know where the really clean restrooms are. (Sapp Bros.) I know where the guy selling oil leases out of his back yard (which faces I-80) is; and I know his phone number: 1-800-DRY-HOLE.

Heh. Have I been this way before, or what?

Yes, we’re crossing the prairies again, on our way to Chicago for our younger nephew Matt’s graduation from the U of I School of Accountancy, and the Bichon Frise Nationals in St. Louis next week. We’re spending the night in Iowa City, right downtown at the dog-friendly Sheraton, which isn’t dirt-cheap but has marvelous beds.

We worried about the weather, but the weather’s been great: Sunny for the most part and completely seasonal. It snowed heavily in Colorado Springs yesterday morning as we were leaving, but once we got off the mountain things warmed up and dried out, and in the 850 miles since then we haven’t seen any wet pavement at all.

I’ve always liked Nebraska, but Iowa’s a great state too. We stopped outside of Des Moines to gas up ($2.09/gal) and when I went in to get some bottled water, the store clerk asked me if I’d like some free popcorn. She was cleaning out the popcorn machine according to schedule, and the boss always told her to dump whatever was left over before popping another batch. The boss was gone, and in consequence I walked out with an immensity of still-warm popcorn in a plastic bag. Carol and I munched until we couldn’t stand the thought of any more popcorn, and I think we put away maybe a quarter of it.

Carol brushed the dogs as I drove, and we sang along with the CD player and discussed how to evaluate the literature on nutrition and health. Driving this trip has become almost painless. It’ll never feel as good as sitting in my comfy chair reading a good book, but there are times when you just have to be somewhere, however it is to be done. We’ll be in Des Plaines by suppertime tomorrow. I’m not sure when we’ll be back. That’s how it goes with trips to Chicago. I’ll keep you informed.

Henley’s Grimoire

Forty three-ish years ago, Uncle Louie gave me a Geiger-Muller tube. I tried to build a Geiger counter with it and failed, and I had this notion that if I could find the tube, I would try again. I haven’t seen the tube for quite a few years, but I don’t recall giving it away or breaking it, so the damned thing may still be down in the pile somewhere. I dug around yesterday, digging through some boxes I haven’t looked through in awhile, including a few that have been sitting in the closet unopened for all the six years since we left Arizona.

I didn’t find the Geiger tube. But I found something else that I thought I’d lost: My 1928 copy of Henley’s Formulas, which I bought at some used bookstore or another in the ’80s and had used as padding (!) in a box containing sweep tubes, 807s, 811As, 829Bs, and other peculiar and outsized specimens. This was a helluva coincidence, as I recommended the book to a friend of mine a few days ago as a handbook of “barn technology” as it was understood and practiced circa WWI.

Henley’s reminds me of nothing so much as John Markus’ 1968 Sourcebook of Electronic Circuits, which Markus apparently assembled by photocopying every schematic he could grab and slapping it between two covers. Gardner Hiscox did very much the same thing with Henley’s, which consists of thousands of short and very short items much like the following:

A Grease for Locomotive Axles. Saponify a mixture of 50 parts tallow, 28 parts palm oil, 2 parts sperm oil. Mix in soda lye made by dissolving 12 parts of soda in 137 parts water.

That was under Lubricants, where there are literally dozens of recipes like the above, for greases and oils of every conceivable use. Not every entry is a recipe; some relay a sort of lost wisdom that was mostly lost (at least to cityfolk) even a hundred years ago. E.g.:

Bear Fat. Fresh bears’ fat is white and very similar to lard in appearance. The flank fat is softer and more transparent than the kidney fat, and its odor recalls that of fresh bacon. Bears’ fat differs from the fats of the dog, fox, and cat in having a lower specific gravity, a very low melting point, and a fairly high iodine value.

There is a recipe for “Dog Soap” calling for 5 parts petroleum, 4 parts wax, 5 parts alcohol, and 15 parts “good laundry soap.” This doesn’t sound like a good scrub for white dogs. (QBit just dove under the bed.)

What we have here, as with Markus’ book, is a grimoire: A magician’s memory jogger set out by categories, containing enough of the details to get you back in the groove without providing enough context to do much with them if you’d never done them before. There was a day when certain people did things like this all the time, out in the barn or the shed, and mainly this book was parked up above the buckets and barrels in case we couldn’t recall how many parts of caoutchouc went into that great rubber cement we whipped up a batch of last spring. If you needed a step-by-step, it was ask gramps or sit by Nellie.

Life used to be messy, and this is definitely a very dangerous book for boys. The Explosives section runs several pages, and explains at length how to make gunpowder, guncotton, dynamite, explosive chlorates, and smokeless powder. Some of the recipes are nonetheless exaspiratingly brief:

Fulminating Bismuth. Take bismuth, 120 parts; carbureted cream of tartar, 60 parts, and niter, 1 part.

Take it, sure–at least when I figure out how to carburate my cream of tartar. What one does with it after one takes it; now, that’s the trick. I’m not sure you just grind it all up in the mortar. I guess people knew how to make their own fulminates back then. Today, you’d just sink a pipe into the blogosphere and stand back.

A lot of the recipes are for personal care products, including cosmetics, perfumes, many kinds of soaps, treatments for rashes and lice, and even odder things, like one short entry entitled “Skin Bleach for Negroes.” The largest single section in the book, as best I can tell, explains the details of making alcohol of many kinds, including calculations of yield per bushel of corn, sugar, or potatoes, and even fruits like bananas. There are pages and pages on dyes, paints, and inks, and a surprisingly large section on metal plating.

Much of the trouble with Henley’s is the endangered terminology. I’m sure people used to know what “saponify” and “carburate” meant, and I had a vague idea in both cases. But I thought a “lute” was a medieval guitar; in fact, it’s also a kind of putty. I had heard of caoutchouc but had the spelling wrong. I had not heard of iodoform, though I bet I used to smell it down at Dr. Pierce’s office in the 1950s. Kefir used to be called “matzoon.” “Menstruum” isn’t what it looks like; it’s actually an archaic term for “solvent.” I haven’t looked up “red bole” yet, and I thought there was more than one color of vitriol. I’ve heard the word “tragacanth” but it’s been a long time. Ditto “putz pomade,” though it sounds like the nickname of a third-string hockey player.

And that was just my first hour of flipping pages and reading random snatches. This is a fascinating book, not so much for whipping up your own matzoon as getting a sense for what people were willing to do in the days before Wal-Mart and Home Depot, before safety became a religion and milkfat became radioactive waste. Back then, skimmed milk was considered dross, suitable only for the making of casein. (It is an “article of slight value, and cannot even be employed in feeding hogs.” Bravo! What he said!) Back then, I guess, we made it do or did without, and we were willing to go to a lot more trouble to make it do, assuming we had enough tragacanth powder out in the shed.

Henley’s has long been in the public domain (its copyright was never renewed, even for the post-1923 editions) and there are plenty of recent reprint editions for sale on Amazon. (You can also get a free PDF facsimile on the Internet Archive.) Mine is an original, and I like that. I stuck my nose in the gutter and caught the scent of…something old and mostly forgotten. But no! Of course! On page 509: Take 1 ounce orris root, 60 grains terpinol, 4 drams tonka…

Odd Lots

  • SRWare Iron was doing a peculiar thing: When I used it to view my junkbox.com main page, the title image was broken. This was not the case using IE, FF, or Opera. Nor was it true of the several other images on that same page, but only that big main one. An intuition led me to look up the name of the image file: junkboxmainbanner.png. I renamed the file “junkboxmain.png” (that is, removing the substring “banner” from the filename) and the image began rendering normally. I guess there’s a downside to adblockers as twitchy as this one.
  • From Bruce Baker comes a nice chronological screenshot survey of computer GUIs since the primordial Xerox Alto in 1973, up through Windows Vista and KDE 4. No judgements are passed on the products, and not much history is offered, but it’s unusual to see them all lined up in one place, and one definitely gets a sense for the way it all evolved, and especially for the immeasurable debt that Apple owes Xerox.
  • On a tip from Pete Albrecht, I’ve learned that the Progressive Insurance girl Flo and one of the Geico cavemen shared a scene in the short-lived 2007 TV sitcom Cavemen . Here’s a YouTube clip of the scene. This was sheer coincidence; the Progressive ad campaign did not happen for at least a year after that and Stephanie Courtney just happened to get the part. I tried to like the series and failed, but I’ll admit that it had some surreal moments, a few of which we evidently didn’t appreciate at the time. Now, cavemen ate geckos. (Cavemen ate anything they could catch.) Dare we hope…
  • Here’s an old article from Popular Mechanics on building your own Geiger counter. Michael Covington reminds me that there was a circuit in Alfred Morgan’s book The Boys’ Second Book of Radio and Electronics, though it had a peculiar power supply and didn’t work when I tried to build it in 1966. (I may still have the G-M tube somewhere, but I can’t find it and in truth haven’t seen it in decades.)
  • Yet another one, this time from Popular Science, March 1950.
  • Todd Johnson suggests using scrounged or surplus fluorescent lamp supplies from computer scanners for homebrew Geiger counters. I’ve got two defunct scanners on the woodpile downstairs, but if you don’t, Todd also sent along a pointer to a surplus source, for only $5.
  • Today is Ubuntu 9.04 day. It’s like the Day after Thanksgiving at Marshall Fields up there, so don’t expect much in the line of download performance. I’m going to wait for the dust to settle a little (and maybe for my assembly book to be done) but it will happen here sooner or later. If you want it, look for torrents. And come with a backpack of patience.
  • Do you have Linux running on an Intel DQ35 motherboard. If so, be careful.
  • Finally, this clever food hack reminds me vaguely of something. I don’t know what. That’s probably just as well.

The Moon Eats Venus

occultation500wide.jpgI had a tough time sleeping after 4:30 AM this morning, probably because I slept so well the previous night. (The Powers seem to ration my sleep for reasons I’ve never understood. Maybe if I got a complete night’s sleep every night I’d be unbearably perky, like that retro 60s babe Flo on the Progressive Insurance commercials.) So I finally gave up about 5:15 and got dressed. I went out on the back deck to see what I could see of the Moon and Venus, to find that the positioning was optimal bad vis-a-vis the huge pine tree behind the house. My eastern horizon is very good, where I have an eastern horizon–and alas, the Moon was rising right behind the tree.

However, by 6 AM the pair had cleared the tree, and were getting very close. I put my Canon G-10 on its greatest zoom, propped the camera on the deck railing, and took some shots. The sky was getting pretty light at that point and I knew I wouldn’t get much contrast, but there’s something a little subtle and spooky about what I did get, and I’m quite happy with the shot overall. When I knew that the occultation was only a few minutes off, I went back in and got Carol up. We both watched it from the deck, passing my 8 X 50s back and forth and marvelling at the terrific weather.

I haven’t seen a lot of planetary occultations, and there’s a fundamental difference between those of planets and stars: Stars are point sources of light. When a star goes behind the Moon, it blinks out instantly. Planets fade as their disks are covered by the Moon’s limb over a period of a few minutes. As I watched Venus dim, I realized that this was the first planetary occultation I’ve watched through binoculars. Every other occasion (I think maybe three) I was watching through one of my big scopes. I regret a little not having put the 8″ scope on the back deck last night, but experience has shown that the deck is not a very steady platform for observing. (And the driveway looks west, with the house blocking the eastern horizon completely.) There’s something to be said for brand-new experiences. Why always do everything the same way?

Odd Lots

  • 138,000 words in, out of about 175,000. Maybe a hair under 3,000 words left on this chapter, and then only two more to go. Whew.
  • I’m collecting pointers to print magazine articles about building your own Geiger counters. I have a few articles from Popular Electronics and one from Popular Mechanics on Google, and may do a survey article on the topic for Jeff’s Junkbox. The trick with most of the tube-era circuits is those 300V dry batteries. Somewhere in the stacks I’ve stickied a neat hack consisting of a 2N554 pumping square waves into a tube-era output transformer to put out at least 300V at a few mils. That would do it…
  • There’s going to be a very nice conjunction of the crescent Moon and crescent Venus just before dawn tomorrow morning. More here. West of Ohio and a line tilting southwest, Venus will actually be occulted by the Moon. Our weather promises to be good here and given that I’ll be up at 6 anyway, what’s another forty minutes?
  • Michael Arrington’s Crunchpad (which I mentioned in my January 19, 2009 entry) seems to have some recent quantum leaps toward reality. I’m watching it as an ebook reader, and while I doubt we’ll lay hands on it for only $200, I’d be happy to pay $400 if the implementation is good. E-Ink is just painful in bad light, like you get in most hotel rooms and the corner bed of your RV.
  • Suddenly I’m seeing more articles on polywell fusion; here’s the latest, courtesy Frank Glover. Most of the deep theory goes over my head, but people I respect seem to think it will work and can be scaled to useful outputs.
  • Cold fusion is hot again too, judging by several major items in the MSM, including 60 Minutes. The Navy’s in on it too. My take: The test of a true scientist vs. a phony scientist is the difference between “We don’t know what’s going on here” and “There is nothing going on here.”
  • I guess this may be Fringe Science Day. The Big Face on Mars is so 1980s…have you seen the Big Pac Man Game on Mars? (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the pointer.)
  • Finally, from Bruce Baker comes a link to a life-size status of Jesus in Lego. Nicely done, whether you’re a theist or not–but again, if you don’t glue the pieces together, how do you stop the parish’s munchkins from stealing Jesus’ toes?

Iron Filings

I’m a little disappointed in the new Chromium-based browser SRWare Iron (see my entry for April 18, 2009) or perhaps I should say a little disappointed in SRWare itself. The browser has worked extremely well the last couple of days here on my quad-core XP machine. After only a little sleuthing I made the ad blocker work: All you have to do is download a text list of ad sites into the Iron directory, and the browser runs with it. (The browser is shipped with an empty adblock.ini file.) However, Pete Albrecht alerted me to the fact that Iron won’t run at all on his Windows 2000 machine–even though SRWare hints that it might.

Google is quite firm about it: Chrome won’t even install under Win2K. XP and Vista are all you get. However, down in the German-language portion of the SRWare Web site, Pete (who is fluent in German and in fact translates engineering texts for a living) found this:

There is something new for users of Windows 2000 as well; for cost reasons, there are still many users of this system, for example, in business. While Chrome can’t even be installed on Windows 2000 systems, Iron has also removed the warning message that appears whenever it is started on a Windows 2000 system. However, installations under Windows 2000 remain unsupported, as there may be isolated problems.

(Pete’s translation; the item is not present in English.) Well, if the problems are isolated, they’re isolated in a peculiarly concentrated fashion. I loaded Iron Portable on a Cruzer Mini and woke up every operational Win2K machine I still have in the house. (This took some waking; my poor 2001 ThinkPad doesn’t work very well anymore.) Iron failed on all four machines, with variations on the following error message:

The procedure entry point <whatever> could not be located in the dynamic link library KERNEL32.DLL.

KERNEL32.DLL is one of several places where the fundamental Windows API lives. The API call that failed was not always the same, but in every single case, Iron failed to start.

0 for 5 on Win2K, sigh. Iron won’t run on Linux or Mac either. (Nor will Chrome.) What bothers Pete and me is that SRWare suggests that the software should run under Win2K, with only “isolated problems.” Why not just be honest? If people get their hopes up that your software will run on their systems and then find out the hard way that it won’t, it only makes your software (and you) look bad. This is not the way to make a very promising software product catch on.

The Google Books Settlement

My miscellaneous low-priority do-it list has gotten mighty long since January, and every so often I set aside some time to knock off a few items. This morning something interesting bubbled up to the top of the stack: Claim my books under the Google Books Settlement. I’ve known about this for quite some time and haven’t had the mental bandwidth to look into it deeply, but having been roused by rowdy dogs this morning a little earlier than I’d like, I sat down here and read the material.

I’m not quite sure what to think. Google is helping to create a registry of old books that are still in copyright but no longer in print. This is a very good thing, and I signed up to support that effort if nothing else. What Google intends to do is create a legal framework for making those old books available as paid ebooks, and give authors (and where publishers still have rights, publishers) a portion of the take. Google has already scanned a great many books, including a few of my own, and if I can pick up a few quarters by buying in to the system, I will. (Alas, I doubt my 1987 work Turbo Pascal Solutions is going to be a hot seller.)

Mostly, I want the problem of orphan books to be finessed, and I want it finessed without Big Media’s copyright lobby shaping it so that it routes all the money to them and leaves the rest of us penniless in the dust. People gripe about Google’s interest in the whole thing–they could make an enormous amount of money here if this thing catches on, and in essence become the planet’s largest publisher–but the idea is sound and Google may be the best that we can do.

If anyone has any interest in this, go to the Google Books Settlement Site and read the sizeable FAQ. I especially encourage any of my author friends who have published books to decide what they think about the whole thing, and either sign in or opt out. Signing up can be done until January 5, 2010, but opting out must be done by May 5, 2009. I’m guessing that popular authors and their heirs will opt out, figuring they may be able to get a better deal somewhere, and the great starving writer masses (who know that there are no deals on their horizon) will sign on. And that’s actually a good thing: The great starving writer masses deserve a way to get whatever scraps may fall from the ebooks publishing table, as the publishing industry generally becomes more and more of a “winner takes all” kind of business.

The framework has not yet been completely created, but it’ll happen over time, and it will be very interesting to see if anything comes of it long-term. I’m watching the whole business closely and will report here from time to time, especially once I finish the Book That Ate 2009.

The Iron Sandbox

I’ve been pretty focused the last three or four months, so I mostly missed the whole discussion about Google Chrome and its pros and cons. Parts of Chrome are very impressive, particularly the “sandbox” security model–and parts are about what you’d expect from a monster company that makes its money on Web ads. I caught snatches of the debate here and there, but it wasn’t until I found myself at 3 PM today with 5,100 words’ worth of progress made since 7:30 AM that I decided, enough of this. (I’m now 133,000 words in and pretty much on schedule again, having lost some ground in March.) So I kicked back and started reading up on Chrome. In doing so, I found something I hadn’t expected, or heard about at all: SRWare Iron.

What Iron looks like to me is Chrome with Google’s business model stripped out. Chrome itself was based on a number of different technologies, most of them open-source, including Google Code’s Chromium browser framework and the WebKit rendering engine. Google built a number of tracking mechanisms into Chrome, including a unique user ID and a few other mechanisms for sending search statistics back to Google. These seemed relatively benign to me (perhaps I’ve seen too much of the really bad stuff, heh) but a lot of people got very upset over the Chrome privacy model.

Enter SRWare, a German software security firm. They took the open-source codebase for Chrome and stripped out whatever they considered dicey from a privacy standpoint. They updated the WebKit rendering engine, did a few other miscellaneous security tweaks, and re-released the product as Iron. This sounds presumptuous to some people, but that’s how open source works. (There’s nothing preventing Google from re-absorbing SRWare’s changes, but as the changes are mostly features removed, that wouldn’t be especially useful.) Basically, we have a Chrome variant that doesn’t track your searches and phone home.

That’s good, and as browsers both Chrome and Iron have reviewed well. Chrome (and therefore Iron) do well on Web standards, passing Acid1 completely and Acid2 with only minor glitches. But what I find best about Chrome/Iron is the security model. Each tab is a separate process, and each tab process has its system rights severely restricted. Even if the browser itself is running in an admin account, the tabs run as restricted users, with a few further restrictions. Malware may well run in a tab, but there is very little that the malware can do except run in the tab. It can’t install software, sniff other processes, write files, or survive the closing of the tab. It’s not a per-tab virtual machine (which is where I think malware will eventually force Web browsers to go) but it’s a giant step in the right direction. (InfoWorld has a nice discussion of the Chrome security model.) I’m still having a little trouble getting a technical grip on the merits and flaws of Chrome’s V8 javascript virtual machine, but I’ll keep sniffing around and will eventually figure it out.

The security model prevents many plug-ins from working correctly, and this may bother some people more than others. Not me: Plug-ins are the 900-square-foot hole in browser security generally, and for basic Web research, I can do without, well, all of them.

I’ve only had a couple of hours to fool with Iron, and I’ll tell you right now that I like it a lot. I installed the portable version, which confines all of its files to a single directory and does not touch the Windows Registry. The rendering is very snappy, snappier than Firefox 3. (I haven’t touched IE in so long I didn’t even bother making a comparison.) It imported all my bookmarks without a burp, though it did not automatically place my Firefox toolbar bookmarks in its own toolbar. (I did that from Iron’s bookmark manager with one drag and drop.) I read somewhere that Iron had a built-in ad blocker, but I don’t see any controls for it, and I’m still seeing lots of ads.

Still, what attracted me to Iron is its approach to Web security…and over and above everything in the code, what may make Iron safest of all browsers is that it’s rare. Security exploits are often (if not always) app-specific or at least library-specific. Malware depends heavily on the density of the installed base to succeed, which is why so many exploits target IE, and more recently Firefox. As long as the software works well for me, I don’t care how few copies are out there–in truth, the fewer the better. SRWare has kept up with patches on both the Chrome code base and the WebKit code base (which Chrome itself hasn’t kept up with) and assuming they continue to do so, we may have us a breakthrough in the malware wars. It’s still early, but I’m already very impressed. (I’ll come back with “highly recommended” if I still think so in a few weeks. Stay tuned.)

Odd Lots

  • How about a steampunk Segway? It’s self-balancing as long as its rider is self-balancing, I guess–and certainly burns more calories.
  • Or (while you’re pretending to be King Edward VII) a steampunk snowboard? Are there any steampunk types who are my age, or is it all a twentysomething crowd? I recently saw an antique foot-powered dentist’s drill machine circa 1890. Nice ornate cast ironwork and bronze–and made me very glad I’m 120 years away from it.
  • If you use Linux, staythehell out of Boston. It’s considered prima facie evidence of criminal activity. Damn, those people need another invasion of the Mooninites. (Thanks to Bruce Baker for the link.)
  • Ah, the price of increasing popularity: There is now a Mac botnet launching DDoS attacks. (Or…I wonder…could Symantec be about to launch a new Mac security product?)
  • Our TV Guide listings stopped working on Comcast basic analog cable a few weeks ago. We thought it was our TV–and the Comcast people were less than helpful–but apparently it’s a consequence of the big move to digital TV. The TV Guide listings data rode in on an analog sidecar to the analog PBS signal, and now that PBS has gone all-digital, there’s no sidecar anymore. (Thanks to Bill Roper for digging this one up–he has a similar problem with his DVR.)
  • The low-carb thing is way bigger than I had originally thought, and the epicenter may be Jimmy Moore, who lost over 200 pounds by tossing refined carbs (especially sugar) overboard. His Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb blog is a good place to start if you’re looking for additional information, news items, recipes, and so on.
  • There is a pizza place in San Diego called Killer Pizza from Mars. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.) Interestingly, my best friend Art and I did some brainstorming about opening a pizza place in Rogers Park called Tranquility Base when we got out of college in recession-year 1974, but nothing came of it. (He would have been the cook. I would have been the waiter; probably the one thing that paid less than fixing Xerox machines.)
  • They do things big in Nebraska: The last full week of September sees the Nebraska Junk Jaunt, in which ten midstate counties hold a collective garage sale along a 300-mile route, with 500+ vendors participating, and that’s only the ones they know about. Start early, see them all! (Damn, I’m tempted!)
  • Finally, it’s April 17, and we’re in the midst of a blizzard here in Colorado Springs. The carpet cleaners had to postpone the job, and we had to cancel our gym session today. We may get a foot or more between here and Sunday, and peeking out the window I already see 3″ or so. This has been the damndest coldest, longest winter in our six years here. Has Al Gore been sneaking around the Springs somewhere?