Thursday, December 29, 2005

bank froud

I got an email from "Chase Alert" yesterday that was telling me someone used my account from different locations, and I had to log in to verify legitimacy. Of course, since I don't have a Chase account, this stuck out like a sore thumb. I followed the link, and noticed that the site I was taken to had NOTHING to do with the bank. The URL was "http://staindlyrics.com/chase/..." Apparently these phishers didn't want to even attempt a URL Spoof. Anyhow, I chuckled a bit at the URL, and threw the email away.

Today, I got another email, this time from "Chase Notification". It claimed that there was "possible froud." Yes, froud not fraud. I followed the link and ended up at "http://wallstreetens.com/chase/...", yet another funny URL. Makes me wonder about the phishers -- though I suppose they're just using the means they have.

Monday, December 12, 2005

more shoe trees

It appears that the shoe tree on IU's campus isn't the only one! Someone's been planting seeds around the world. (Link) Thanks, Frank!

Friday, December 09, 2005

karma

We ended up with about six inches of snow in my neck of the woods.

Tonight, I decided to test my faith in carma (spelling intended, see car implications below). I went out and bought a shovel, then shoveled the six inches of snow away from four of the eight parking spaces in front of my building. I made paths to the drivers' side door of the other four spots that contained cars. Don't ask me where I get the motivation to shovel the white crap.

As I was finishing up removing a snow bank from behind one car (that had pretty much been plowed in), one of my neighbors pulled up and parked in the *one* empty space I had not shoveled. He gets out and says, "you must have a lot of energy." I told him that I intended to do that space next, and he said he parked there so I wouldn't have to. I told him I had personal motivation: my car has low clearance, and there's no way in hell I can get in or out of most of the spots in our lot. He didn't seem to care.

Maybe it's just because, growing up in Minnesota, I'm used to removing snow ASAP so that it won't either get too deep to shovel or turn into a nice packed sheet of ice. On a side note, I saw another of my neighbors' boyfriends come over earlier in his huge Chevy truck. He had a good deal of difficulty getting into a space with rear wheel drive and an empty bed. I was amused that my little rice rocket is more agile in our parking lot.

A bit later, as I was finishing up, another one of my neighbors came home. The first thing out of her mouth was, "where did you get that shovel?" I told her that Menards had LOTS of different kinds in stock. I also had some fun in their mostly un-plowed parking lot while there. Apparently she gave up looking when she found out that Target was out of them. Why someone would go to Target for shovels (when a Menards is closer) is beyond me.

Anyway, the initial reaction from my neighbors was not to care that I cleared roughly two hundred cubic feet of snow from the parking lot and sidewalks so they have an easier time getting to their cars. we'll see if what goes around really does come around. To show the world my good faith, I left the shovel outside my door (as one of my neighbors does with their really tiny shovel). Perhaps someone will use it to clear more snow -- or maybe steal it.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Sn*w

Yeah, my favorite four-letter word fell all over the Bloomington today. I read the weather reports last night, and decided that I would stay home if it was sn*wing when I woke up. It was just cold, no snow, so I went in.

Had class, went to a talk, came out of the talk and there was white shit all over the place. Went to lunch with this guy, this guy and this guy. Came outside, walked through four inches of sn*w.


The first snow of the year is hell on drivers and pedestrians. All the drivers with rear-wheel drive cars and empty trunks end up sideways. People forget that it's hard to stop. You can walk places faster than drive. The picture shows one of the main drags through campus at about 2pm.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

pointer rap

I think I want to go teach at Columbia now so I can do crazy stuff like rap in front of a CS class. (Link) Kudos to Eric Siegel at Columbia University.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

super mario marimba


Pure genius!


These guys (and gal) are amazing! Why don't we have more bands like this who play up the nostalgic nintendo game themes? (From BoingBoing)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

what the duck?

(No that's not dandruff on my shirt.) Today the cold weather put me in an off mood. Mostly because I like to forget how cold it is when I'm inside. If white sh!t is falling from the sky, it's hard to forget that it's cold. Yesterday we got some nice thunderstorms (and tornadoes) and 60 degree weather. Today we got 24 and snow flurries. "In like a lion, out like a lamb." Does that mean we'll have an early, pleasant spring?

So apparently my neighbors are into decorations. They had a nice hay bale with "Colts" Jack-O-Lanterns and maze for Halloween, now there's this Christmas-light duck on the porch. (Mind you, we share this porch, the space used for decorations is between our doors.) I don't so much mind the decorations ('cause I wouldn't know how to decorate, that's for sure), but this one's strange. It's a duck. In 3-D. And there's a motor that makes its head bob back and forth slowly to make it look kind of like its waddling. Why?

Since I'm in a picture-posting frenzy, I might as well throw this one in there. A few weeks ago, Palila, Cheech and I went to The Evil Empire to find a frisbee or football. We found a nice football, but without a price tag so we went looking for one of those scanner things. We found this sign pointing to ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. It pointed at an empty floor. Needless to say, the price gods did not come forth and give me a price under the sign.

skeletons


A skeleton got up and walked out of my closet this weekend. As a result, I spent a bit of time clearing my mind at the most peaceful spot in West Lafayette. I stood on the bridge and watched a family skip stones from the beach below. The little one (probably 3) was throwing in handfuls of sand, the father was just throwing rocks as far as he could, and the mother was trying hard to make them skip.

Edit: No, I don't live there... I was visiting RAM.

kung foo

My kung-foo is the best. I just gutted a php script to make a new (similar) one in 90 seconds, sent it to someone who installed it and it worked on the first try. Rock on.

Friday, November 11, 2005

the 'bu

TV sucks. That's why people parody it. Check out "The 'BU" by the Lonely Island people.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

leaf zen

This morning, as I was walking from the bus stop to the cafe (yeah, I know: hard life) I saw a couple who were about my age having a leaf fight. (This is kind of like a snow fight, but warmer.) Outside the public library are about ten large maple trees which have coated the ground with a beautiful red-orange blanket. I wanted to stand and watch them or take a picture, but I did not want to appear stalker-like. Perhaps I'll update this post with a literary picture later.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

apple power supply repair

My power adapter for my little bitty powerbook decided to attempt a slow suicide. The wire that goes from the brick to the computer had become weak and seemed to have broken in the casing. If I wiggled it carefully, it caused pretty sparks.

So I decided to attempt bypass surgery, or at least crack the sucker open and see what was wrong. Surfing the web, I found one site where some dude had fixed a similar problem in his. His instructions called for a hammer and screwdriver.

I pried at the seams with a very small screwdriver, but couldn't get the sucker to budge, so I took a hammer to it and made a hole in the side big enough to insert a large screwdriver. With the big poppa in there, I twisted and cracked it open along the seams. This took quite a bit of time, but eventually I got the case to come apart.

Once I had the case apart, I plugged it back in to see where the wire was shorting. It was easy to spot, since when I flexed the wire it glowed and sizzled in a specific spot. After identifying it, I cut out a one-inch segment of the wire and proceeded with figuring out how to put it back together.


I noticed that there was a small wire that was encased and essentially shielded with stranded wire. The shielding and the smaller lead split off inside the case and are actually separate wires. Because of this, I stripped the wire all the way to separate the two for repair.

I also stripped the other newly-cut end of the wire after realizing there was just two wires (and not three like the end of the plug suggests). The internal one was pretty small, and I had to look at it through a magnifier to separate the wire strands from the kevlar or whatever the strengthening cord inside was. To avoid polluting my solder (and smelling bad), I removed the non-metal cord from the exposed parts of the wire.



All that taken care of, I twisted together the internal wire ends (grey), put a clip around it, crimped it, soldered the end, then sealed it shut with stretched electrical tape. Then I twisted and soldered the other pair, and taped it then taped the whole bundle together as best insulated as I could. Fitting that sucker back into the case was a trip (as you can see it's large) but I was able to weasel it back in and almost re-winch the wire in the round grommet thingy that holds the wire tight in the case. That stupid grommet thing caused the wire to weaken, but at least the wire didn't pull out of the circuit board.

Finally, I took a deep breath and plugged 'er in! No smoke, no strange noises. I wiggled the wire, no short, no sparks. Plugged it into the laptop and the power light turned orange! Yay for charging my battery. It charged my battery all night and didn't explode -- in fact, the power brick didn't even get as hot as it used to. Perhaps that weak wire was causing it to heat up in the past. After all, it is just a 45W supply (Apple currently sells a 65W supply that works on all of their laptops).

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

cingular cucks


Cingular has this online tech support chat thingy where you can ask techs chat in realtime. I thought, hey lets give this a shot and see if the wait time is less. They do in fact have a holding queue for their techies.

The thing they do not tell you is that the service is useless unless you call about how to operate your phone. EVERY phone comes with a very detailed user manual. RTFM. There is no other purpose for the online chat: they know nothing about service plans or deals. I logged on to ask if I could use my formerly-at&t phone with Cingular customers, and get their free "mobile-to-mobile" stuff. I'd love to talk to RAM for free before 9pm now that she's got a Cingular phone. Click here to see what resulted of my online chat session.

After being frustrated, I called their number and they surprisingly picked up the phone almost immediately. Some guy who sounded twelve helped me out and had to get his supervisor to hold his had during the conversation, because he "didn't want to give me wrong information." The answer was no.

So I asked another question; could I cancel my phone and then re-activate it in six months with the same number? Apparently (according to the kid's supervisor) not. He says they used to have a plan suspension option (where you could pause your service for a while), but that's been discontinued. He recommended buying the cheapest plan and just not using my phone. How much is the cheapest plan? $19.99. Eat me Cingular. You've forced me into losing my number while I'm studying in Oz.

On the light side, I won't be paying the $35 set-up fee to switch from an at&t contract to a Cingular one: I will be paying it to activate a new account. Bastards. And I refuse to go back to Verizon.

Monday, October 17, 2005

oz

It appears I will be spending some time studying in Australia. Not sure how long, but at least a semester starting in February...

tally (update)

Paper reviewers: 3
Sid: 0

(See April post for context)

Friday, October 14, 2005

facebook is a drug

overheard in dormitory elevator

girl1: "I don't use facebook."
boy: "It's so awesome. I waste all my time there."
girl1: "Yeah, that's why I'm scared of it."
girl2: "Facebook is a DIRTY DRUG! I love it."

later, outside I heard:

girl1: "Did you see? She friended [guy] on facebook."
girl2: "Aaah! What a bitch! She keeps stealing all my cute friends."
girl1: "How well do you know him?"
girl2: "Oh, he just messaged me once yesterday."


Notice, the college student vernacular has been amended recently with terms such as "friending" (a verb that means listing as a friend in one's social network). And people are oh-so-posessive about their friend lists!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

cnn

Media coverage on cnn is funny.

Of all places, CNN has an interesting video on their front page. I'm not going to watch it because I don't want to see more than a minute eleven of "horses shot to death." The video is probably just reporting the incident (not showing it) but I really don't want to risk watching that.

Jim Bob! This guy's name is actually Jim Bob! He has a last name too, but this is too much. Not only that, but he's from Arkansas and has 16 kids. WOW.

Update: CNN is now rotating this "free video" too... I hope to god that the vikings in question are football players and not Norse warriors! (though it would fit their M.O.)

samurai suit

Ceremonial or not, artist or not, there is something wrong with this samurai suit. (Link to artist info and more pics)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

the power

On a urinal mat: "You are holding in your hand the power to stop sexual abuse."

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

clever card

Someone sent me an e-birthday card and the notification email was neat: the sender's address was set to a clever value so that when gmail displayed it, I laughed.



Subtle cleverness always makes me grin.

Monday, September 26, 2005

bug sex

Grasshoppers are dirty too. AND IN PUBLIC!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

emacs and AUCTeX

Warning: I'm a nerd. Also, I don't want to start a holy war about Emacs vs VI. They're both good, I had my reason for learning Emacs first, so shaddup.

So today I opened up my trusty text editor to do some work, but to my dismay it crashed! Funny thing is it worked before I installed the latest Mac OS X security update.

This made me really angry since I just recently figured out how to get AUCTeX properly working with Emacs on my computer. It turns out there was a problem with me having some certain utils in /sw/bin... I'll discuss the fix later. (For those of you who don't know, AUCTeX is the greatest thing imagineable for Emacs based LaTeX editing). Pissed off, I tried reinstalling Emacs from the binary I made last week, but that TOO crashed! Steamrolling, I retreived the source and built it again from scratch. This gave me an opportunity to upgrade to the latest CVS build, although slowly, and I had a meal while it compiled.

I had trouble remembering how to get AUCTeX to install with the OS X binary I built, but once I figured it out I was very pleased -- the preview-latex package works now! I can preview my equations and figures right inside the text editor! This is naturally as close as I want to get to WYSIWYG.



Anyway, I'm going to post my steps here so I can do this much more quickly next time -- that and for the people who want it.

0. Set up global environment variables
This step is confusing. The emacs binary won't adapt AUCTeX properly unless the global environment knows where a few needed tools are. If you're a FINK user (like me), these utilities are in a nonstandard place: /sw/bin.

[sid@lappy] ~% mkdir .MacOSX
[sid@lappy] ~% cat<<EOF > environment.plist
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist
SYSTEM "file://localhost/System/Library/DTDs/PropertyList.dtd">
<plist version="0.9">
<dict>
<key>PATH</key>
<string>
.:/usr/bin:/sw/bin:/usr/local/bin:
/sw/local/bin:~/bin:/bin:/usr/local/sbin:
/usr/sbin:/sbin:/sw/sbin
</string>
</dict>
</plist>
EOF
[sid@lappy] ~%


1. Get Emacs and build it

[sid@lappy] ~% cvs -z3 -d:ext:anoncvs@savannah.gnu.org:/cvsroot/emacs co emacs
[sid@lappy] ~% cd ./emacs/mac
[sid@lappy] ~% ./make-package --self-contained
[sid@lappy] ~% open ./EmacsInstaller.dmg

Then run the installer.

2. Get and configure auctex.

[sid@lappy] ~% wget
http://ftp.gnu.org/pub/gnu/auctex/auctex-11.81.tar.gz
[sid@lappy] ~% tar xzf auctex-11.81.tar.gz
[sid@lappy] ~% cd auctex-11.81
[sid@lappy] ~% ./configure
--with-emacs=/Applications/Emacs.app/Contents/MacOS/Emacs
--with-lispdir=/Applications/Emacs.app/Contents/Resources/site-lisp
[sid@lappy] ~% make
[sid@lappy] ~% sudo make install


3. Append .emacs file to use AUCTeX and preview-latex

(setenv "PATH" (concat "/sw/bin;" (getenv "PATH")))
(require 'tex-site)
(load "preview-latex.el" nil t t)


4. Launch Emacs, and enjoy.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

sunbelt

I got my housing deposit refund check today from the evil empire, and it had only one deduction on it: $75 for contract cleaning.

I called them up:
Me: WTF?
SB: Hang on, let me check.
Me: * whistles to pass the 5 minutes on hold *
SB: Apparently we had to call in the cleaners.
Me: Are you kidding? I was told it was perfect when I moved out.
SB: Yeah, the person who moved you out is here... she agrees. We'll cut you another check.
Me: Good. *click*

For the unix people:

[sstamm@world]% /usr/bin/smite --user=asbp
--refuse-deductions --with-bitchslap
> extracting funds ... 100% complete
> moving ~sstamm from /apts/asbp to /apts/ods
> creating /pub/asbp.reviews.bad
> slapping /apts/asbp/bitc.sh
> smiting complete!

good? press

Well I was mentioned on the first page of the IDS today! Apparently I was on the radio too, though I haven't heard that yet.

The IDS Article (Warning: there's a severe edit problem near the end of the article -- don't be confused)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

votes are in

The votes are in (what votes?) ... readers say I should blog more. Well, the last two weeks have been incredibly crazy. Here are the highlights from today:

  • My landlord installed a dishwasher for me

  • I met some people interested in my research, who seem to want to give me money

  • I solved an interesting mystery revolving around spyware, trojans, and porn sites

  • No, that mystery doesn't involve my computer or browsing habits

  • I got interviewed for the newspaper and the radio

  • I have yet MORE projects to work on


More to follow.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

hole digging

When I was a kid, my friends and I used to spend hours in the sandbox digging "a hole to China." I always wondered how that would work, when you poked your head out would you be hanging down out of the hole or up? Where would up switch to down, etc?

Well, lucky for us, now we can find out EXACTLY where we would pop out if we dug a hole through the center of the earth. (Link)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

mac phidgets drivers

Wow. These new Mac OS X phidget drivers are pretty nice. They're only in Beta, and they have pretty much all the functionality of the original Windows drivers. "You Rock!" to all those nice people at phidgets.com. This is a huge improvement over the drivers I hacked together last year! Granted, now I know how to write USB drivers (shudder). Kudos to Chris for bringing these to my attention.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

a sigh of relief

I passed my qualifier exam -- there's proof that I can pump amongst other things... Thank god, it only took me two years. Now I can relax a bit and jump through the next hoop.

Sigh.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

a citing

Playing round on the 'net, I found that someone Cited my senior thesis from Rose! Someone actually cares about my work... cool.

For those interested, the paper referencing me is here.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

law-ful?

I gave my cards talk to law students on Thursday. That was interesting... It appears that I will be the "TA" for a cyberlaw class this semester. Go me.

( Okay, honestly, the position is basically "lackey." I answer technical questions that the students have, help set up demos, make notes, etc. )

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

quals

I took my "last chance" written qualifying exam today. It's over. Amen. Have a good feeling about this one, but we'll see what the oracle brings. Perhaps a passing grade; perhaps a boot in my ass.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

desktop background

So today, the facilities people came in and stole my Sunblade 100, but they replaced it with a Dell Optiplex GX620. Now I have more desk space thanks to the brand new 20 inch dell flat panel!

Only one dilemma: I've been forced to switch window managers from tvtwm to vtwm (not a big diff), and xsetroot doesn't work anymore. This means I have to use xsetbg, which loads a background image.

Thus my dilemma! I don't know of any good background images, does anyone have a suggestion? I need it to be dark in tones, and 1600x1200.

Friday, August 12, 2005

dogbert is cool



That's where those *** **** "Bank of the West" emails come from! ( Full Strip )

Monday, August 01, 2005

vsop

I've been meaning to post this for a while now.



Around bloomington, I've seen a surplus of "vsop" markings on walls and stuff. I figured, "Hey, why not catalog where they are as an exercise to learn XML and Google Maps API?" Well, it was not exactly simple, but without too much difficulty I give you . . .

Bloomington VSOP!

Saturday, July 30, 2005

it's not really easy

Bottom line, couples that are truly right for each other wade through the same crap as everybody else. The only difference is they don't let it take 'em down. One of those two people will stand up and fight for that relationship every time, if it's right and they're real lucky.
Dr. Cox (Scrubs Season 1 Episode 15)

Unusual for Dr. Cox, but he has a good point.

Friday, July 29, 2005

kind sir

(yet another dialogue)

Landlord: "Hello, kind sir. What can I do for you?"
Assistant: "'Kind Sir'?"
Me: "Thank you for the 'kind' words."
Landlord: "I'm testing out being nice. I thought I might try it, but it's not permanant. Don't get used to it."
Me: "Kind words can go a long way..."
Landlord: "What can we do for you, kind sir?"
Me: (Rolls eyes knowing she's not known for being pleasant) "I'd like to make a move-out appointment."
What I wanted to say: "I want to move the FUCK off your property ASAP."

nuts

Me: "Hey, could I get some tuner-style lug nuts?"
Mechanic: "Yeah, twelve by one point five?"
Me: "Yeah, it's a Honda, but just four... got twelve others on my car. Suckers are expensive."
Mechanic: "Yeah, they are. Hang on." (time passes) "Here you go." (places them on the counter)
Me: "Those look funny, you got any with the driver in the middle instead of around the outside?"
Mechanic: "Nah, they stopped making those. Stripped off too easy."
Me: "Shit. Well can I get an adapter for these?"
Mechanic: "Hang on." (walks away, time passes . . . puts a bag of nuts and adapter on the table. There are clearly 16 nuts in the bag) "Here, how's this work?"
Me: "Uh..."
Mechanic: "Does ten bucks sound fair?"
Me: (realizing they usually cost at least $2 each from this place) "Yeah, sure, damn! Thanks man."
Mechanic: (blowing it off) "That way you can bring your car up to date."

I wanted to hug the guy. Last time I bought such "tuner style" lug nuts and an adapter it cost me fifty bucks (ten for the adapter, which is now obsolete).

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

a good day

Today is a good day. I have funding for next semester! YAY! I won't have to get a job and drop out of school!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

no purchase necessary

The common promotional giveaway line now mocks us, "No purchase necessary." What ever happened to the freebie giveaways? You used to buy a Pepsi (ack!) and get a chance at winning another Pepsi or a million bucks simply by redeeming a "winning game piece" or cap. That was always nice, now you have to go to some stupid website, give them your private info, and type in a code!

Is there really "No Purchase Neccesary?" I claim that you have to buy access to the web in order to win. You could argue that it's the same as simply buying gas or a bus ticket to the store, but can't you also walk?

Today the vending machine got the best of me. I bought a pack of Skittles, but it didn't drop down. So I bought a second one and (thankfully) got both. They're promoting a "use the force" Star Wars thing with "collectable packages" and codes inside to redeem. The package is adorned with "Win Instantly!" Frankly, aren't all wins instant? You are not-winning, and then SUDDENLY, you win. Only this time, I have to wait longer and give out info about me before I can determine if I won instantly, or rather ten minutes ago when I bought the snack.

And how do I know this code has even a remote chance of winning? It is a waste of my time to go fill out a web form. Shame on you snack and soda industry. Shame.

so rich

I'm the 676,688,228 richest person on earth!


Discover how rich you are! > >


How rich are you?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

bob's married

Another one of my friends (Bob) got married over the weekend, so RAM and I went to the Iowa wedding. It was a pretty nice (and huge!) service, with a rockin' party. Only sad thing about the party was the DJ: he didn't have any music that most Dee-Jays have, such as Van Morrison, the chicken dance etc...

While we were there, RAM spotted a pizza spot:



The name of which was ironic, since we were at Bob's wedding, and the following day were going to visit RAM's uncle Bob.

So we visited him, and it was nice. Ames, Iowa is pretty much like Bloomington, Indiana. A college and a few other people. Granted, Iowa State has a rockin' agriculture program so they've got better food and scenery. We went to a garden and saw flowers and butterflies.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

lego turing

Wow. This dude made a turing machine out of legos! Brilliant!

Monday, July 11, 2005

a mind system

I tried an anagram generator on my name... ended up with
A mind system
Excellent.

book shopping

Went book shopping with RAM on Saturday. We found lots of good stuff, unfortunately we didn't buy anything. I guess I need free time before more books can enter the picture (I've got a stack of five to read already).

1. The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks.

Kind of a conspiricy/old society/mystical book, it looked to be one of those books I would get lost in, just like House of Leaves. This book looked pretty darn cool (add it to the paranoia category), but it was the back cover that really got me.


2. The Preservationist by David Maine.

This was a fun alternate look at Noah and the ark. I've always liked reading those books that re-visit a story from a different point of view (Grendel, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, etc...). This seems to take the Ark story from many points of view. I must pick this up sooner or later.

3. The Code Book by Simon Singh.

Yet another one I've been meaning to read for ages.

misspelling rebel



It looks like this "artist" forgot to bring OED with them. I found this spray-painted on the side of a Fifth-Third branch as I went in to cash a check.

Technorati Tags:

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

stop



Yes folks, that sign means you, in the car, should stop. I was walking home today and I almost got hit by a maroon Mercury Sable. I was crossing the street in a crosswalk at a 4-way stop and saw this car coming at the intersection pretty fast, so I paused in the middle of the road. Completely expecting the driver to blow the stopsign, I left enough safety room, but she slammed on her brakes at the last moment and skidded to a halt in the spot where I would have been had I not anticipated this. Hand over her mouth (aghast), she watched as I smiled politely at her and calmly walked around her car and continued on my way.

I know it's a Tuesday afternoon, and drivers are in a hurry to get home, but honestly. Stop if you see a red octagon, or at least when there's a ped in the road.

I swear, most drivers in this town have installed an SEP field on everything outside their car. Some stop at 2-way stops when they are the non-stop direction. Some blow through 4-ways. I don't care that they're not following the rules, I care that they're often not paying attention. I especially care when crap like this happens and the driver blames the person walking. Honestly, would I step into the road if I thought you would hit me?

Monday, June 27, 2005

Sunday, June 26, 2005

big frickin' pipe wrench

I need a BIG FRICKIN' PIPE WRENCH.



There are about 15 air conditioner units outside my window (I kid you not, 12 for my building and 3 for the neighboring ones). One of them is dying. About every fifteen minutes, it whirrs on, and then slowly grinds down. It sounds much like a prop plane's engine spinning down in mid-air. A friend of mine who is a pilot actually drew that analogy today while he listened in. He was then shocked to hear the enormous *THUD* that follows the down-spinning and sounds like something faceplanting into the ground.

Yes folks, I need that huge fricking pipe wrench to carry as I walk outside and fix that broken AC unit with one last final thunk. Okay, maybe thirty or forty thunks with a man-sized wrench.

Every day that I live in this apartment I am reminded how well off I've been for the first many years of my life. I've never had to live in an apartment like mine with the surplus of annoyances and evility. Inconsiderate landlords. People blasting Norteño (circus) music from their van and throwing glass bottles around at 2am (there are large shards in our parking lot). Car alarms. Windows that shake when wind blows. Parking on a 20 degree incline. Linoleum that sticks to your bare feet and lifts off the floor when you walk on it. A pit in the middle of my floor under the carpet. Two-inch walls (thinner in some spots). Bass-blasting neighbors. Frequent tours of my apartment by the leasing agents. Unresponsive maintenance. No parking-space lines (people park diagonally sometimes). Loose electrical outlets that don't hold onto plugs. A cable/internet company that my landlord contracted to cut my previous service and take 6 months to finish installing shoddy internet while entering my apartment unsupervised and leaving on all of my lights. Black soot all over my apartment from chimney sweeps that (they claim) didn't happen. An overflowing sink and accusations that *I* used draino to stop it (thus damaging my silverware). Paying $30 more per month than my neighbor with an identical unit. Three feet of counter space. And *NOW* a kamikaze AC unit outside my window that dives and thuds four times an hour.

Maybe when I'm done with that AC unit, I'll take the wrench down to the leasing office ... and that's probably immoral. 44 days left. Must hang on for 44 more days.

Friday, June 24, 2005

kung-fu

This is the cooles thing EVAR!



(Link)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

the onion

Occasionally I read The Onion (it's a newspaper), and it brings back fuzzy memories of actually picking up a copy at the U-Dub for laughs. Lately I stumbled upon a quite funny futuristic issue.
(Link)

Sunday, June 19, 2005

one ringy-dingy



I have a fiancee now!

cancun

So I spent some time last week in Cancun, Mexico. It was quite fun... we stayed at one of those all-inclusive places and I learned a few things.


  1. Beach is good

  2. Don't get Italian food in Mexico, even from an Italian restaurant

  3. Too much sun can hurt, but not for long

  4. I don't know enough Spanish



But seriously, the water is amazing. I want to live on a beach in a little hut. Maybe I should reconsider my schooling as a CS and just become a beach bum.

The story behind the Italian food is mildly interesting, so I will sum it up here. I ordered "Chicken Parmesan" and got a dry breaded chicken breast with some Parmesan cheese sprinkled on it. All the Italian chefs out there are groaning.

I like lists, so I'll make another list of funny things that happened:

  1. I forgot to tip our maid the first day, and we ended up with five hand towels and two bath mats. The next day I overtipped, and we had five body towels and no bath mats.

  2. I burned the top of my feet. I must have spaced out putting on sunscreen.

  3. A pelican swam up to us while we were playing in the ocean. Then he flew off, and dive-bombed face first (of course) into the water nearby. Diving pelicans look funny.

  4. I watched a man and monkey play tag

  5. Walking through a pool area, some random staff person ran up to me saying something in Spanish, holding a squeeze-bottle of liquor. He took a squirt-shot and then started squirting my face with it so I would drink. (News to staff member, no need to coerce me. I like liquor!)

  6. Outside the buffet they had 10 different bottles of types of tequila/mescal along with a dish of salt, limes and shot glasses. Hmmm... not so funny, but definitely a good idea. Appetizer sampler?



Okay, end of lists. Maybe I'll post more when I get pictures back.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

don't do this

Things not to do:

  1. Laugh heartily while eating stuffed breadsticks. A chunk of pepperoni may exit through your right nostril.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

new specs

New specs:



What do you think?

Monday, June 06, 2005

coffee and comfy chairs

I went to a coffeeshop on Friday to get some work done, and got assaulted by an overbearing and bored barista. He just wouldn't shut the hell up even when I started taking my work out and doing it. Go figure.

Anyhow, he left and I settled in a very comfy chair and got lots of work done. When I went to get a refill of coffee, the (other) barista just filled 'er up for free. Said he was having a bad day, which was too bad. Anyhow, when I went to school at Rose-Hulman, I took a film class and thoroughly hated it. While I was working at the coffeeshop, the professor who taught the class mosied by. That was fun, we chatted a bit and she recollected how crappy that class was and stuff. At least we're on the same wavelength.

This weekend, the server that delivers my email went down (on a scheduled power outage) which isn't usually a problem for me. This time, however, I got lots of important emails DURING the power outage, a few of them about critical things that had to get done.

Blarhg. Back to the grind...

Thursday, May 26, 2005

CSD

Grr.

Why do all cellular telephone carriers suck? I've spent the last few months trying to figure out how to get my awesome Bluetooth-enabled T637 working as a modem. I've been able to get it to work via GPRS (for those in the AT&T world, mMode) but that's bleeding expensive. I just wanted a simple analog connection -- so what if it only works at 9600 baud, I can handle that with a text-only mail client.

Recently I discovered something I did *not* know about modems: when you issue an ATD command, you can choose if it's voice or should be interpreted as data. Apparently this is something in the modem to route the communications either to the speaker or serial cable. Anyhow, the difference is a measly semicolon:

ATDT5551212; (voice call)
ATDT5551212 (data/fax call)

Without the semicolon, the modem tries to create a direct circuit that is supposed to be less lossy than voice calls. Thus the use for a modem (and why we can use compression). In order for this to work, the telephone switch has to support Circuit Switched Dialing (CSD). Ironically, this is a feature built into the GSM specs, so it's no burden on a carrier to implement it. Unfortunately, to pressure people into using the higher-cost GPRS service, AT&T wireless has turned it off. Bastards.

I figured since Cingular and AT&T wireless merged, that they would unify their services, but they did not. Even though Cingular customers can use CSD, former AT&T customers cannot. Bastards.

At least two of my three choice features still work:
1. Bluetooth connectivity
2. Voice calls

I'll just have to fight for number 3... or wait for someone to tell me about a "fix" ... or just use WiFi hotspots until I can switch carriers.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

shifting gears

I've come to the realization that I'm broken: going to an engineering school has stuck me in the mode of "getting shit done." I need to shift gears to "making shit up" to get a PhD... Easier said than done. *sigh*

Friday, May 20, 2005

kenOOOHHHbi?

This week star wars geeks will be showing you their "o" face, you know:

stupid tv

I only get one TV station, and lately (dispite my lack of tv-watching) it's been annoying. PBS likes to re-air timely shows, and with the current StarWars III coming out they've decided to air the Charlie Rose interview with George Lucas CONSTANTLY. I swear, the last three times I've flipped on the TV it's been on. I just flipped it on again, that makes four. ARG. Play something more interesting, WTIU, I've already seen this show twice! It was enough -- the man isn't really that interesting, why don't you air Episode 4 or something...

Thursday, May 12, 2005

holy snowly

So I'm in Rapid City, South Dakota right now for a wedding, and the weather shocks me. It's may 12, and last night we got 10 inches of snow. Yuck. It's MAY! It was 30 degrees when my plane landed yesterday, and it was 70 or so in Indianapolis when I left! I was talking with a meterologist yesterday, and he too was confused about the weather -- confused, but not baffled. Of course he knew why it happened, but the explanation was over my head.

Weather, you are a strange thing.

Monday, May 02, 2005

squirrels

The IU squirrels say hi.

about midgley

On Friday, some students held an anti-Midgley rally on the Rose-Hulman campus. There's a ton of turmoil about the quality of the newly-elected president of the college, Jack Midgley.

I thought it was pretty tacky how they made shirts that said "Hit the Road Jack" on them and gave them out for free. Nonetheless, lots of people expressed legitimate concerns for his qualifications.


There were some offshoot protests that showed up, such as the anti-rally-protesters who carried large question marks and chanted "we don't know what's going on!" Also, one person walked around wearing a shirt that said "Fuck the man."



Some people didn't like the shirt, so they told him to take it off. Instead, he made a poster that said Censorship S*cks.

This event was amazing, mostly because this is the first time that students have publicly voiced a strong opinion about ANYTHING in public at Rose-Hulman. I guess there is one other time: there was a protest to get Captain Crunch back in the cafeteria, but that's trivial.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

nice

The phishers made news at slashdot!"

Monday, April 25, 2005

phishing at IU

Recently, a group of researchers at IU did a phishing experiment to see how many people would fall victim to a clever FaceBook scheme.

Lots of people got mad.

Get over it people, no harm was done. Waste your riotous energy on stoping the Phishers that present real harm -- the PayPal and eBay phishing schemes.

gmail phishing tactics

Apparently gmail helps prevent phishing attacks by putting an obnoxious notification on suspect emails ... and also removing clickable hyperlinks! This is cool, I must find more info about this, though their tactics are probably secret on purpose.

Also, it's good to see that along with spam headers on emails, there's also a new Received-SPF header.

(Link) Thanks, JD.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

discover sells phone numbers

For the last few days, once a day, some "unknown caller" has tried to reach me on my cell phone. I answered it tonight, and was asked if I wanted to take a survey. I said I would if they told me how they got the number... "Discover Card provided us with a list." I asked if they were aware it was a cell phone and they were spending my money as we spoke, and the guy on the other end kindly told me he'd remove me from their list ... and then hung up.

Could I have my ten cents to be reimbursed for the call?

Nah, it's not really necessary, but ANNOYING nonetheless. I believe a nastygram is in DiscoverCard's future.

the talk

I gave a lecture at the University of Minnesota on the 15th, and it was loads of fun. I was relatively surprised, though, that none of the faculty showed up for the talk -- if not only to heckle me. I talked about visualizing secure protocols... including a private polling method known as Randomized Response Technique (for the mathy people). This is kind of cool, being invited and all, I feel important.

Thanks to all those involved for throwing a plane ticket and free meals my way. It was a blast.

BTW, slides are available on my website.

Now to get off my high horse, I must add that my interest in the spoken area (privacy & crypto protocols) keeps growing, and I hope to submerge myself fully next year. I had planned to find a dissertation area this year, but yeah... that didn't work. We'll see how deep in it I can go next year.

reeses paper cups

I opened up a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup today (mmm) and it was triple-cupped. That is, it had three of those paper things holding the yummy chocolate and peanut phlegm together. Do I win a trip to the factory?

Monday, April 18, 2005

what could it have BEen?

Browsing the web tonight I found a couple of things from my past:

CyberDog! Any mac enthusiasts out there remember OpenTransport and all the magic-box component-architecture network goodies that Apple was pushing back in the day? I never fully understood what they did, but as I look back on them now they seemed to make sense.

That got me browsing. What ever happened to Copland? That was Apple's "revolutionary" new operating system that stopped revolving into Be around about '96, bit the dirt, and was ousted just before Jobs came back. I was a bit sad to see it go (and the genuine pure Gershwinesque Rhapsody too) but both technologies would have dragged Apple into the pit of dispair.

I kind of wonder what would have happened if Apple had gone the BeOS way instead of the NeXT way (notice the shady capitalization on both names? hm....) Would Apple still be around? Would I be typing this on a spiffy 12" PowerBook right now? Would my OS be a billion times faster (like Be) but still stable as hell (Be + OS X)?

Monday, April 11, 2005

simson

Today I stumbled across a couple of quotes from a talk I saw on March 10. Simson Garfinkel provided some insight to usable security.

"We can never make a system completely secure... but we can make the attacks more expensive and more difficult."

How true, isn't that the whole idea behind computer security? An arms race?

He went on to explain that all of computer security boils down to secure, authentic messaging.

He concluded his talk about digital signatures (specifically a usability study he did with email) by mentioning that people should sign mail. The general paradigm about signing mail is successful with a decent interface, even if people are not "cryptographically aware." Unfortunately, digital signatures are not an effective countermeasure for phishing.

He also concluded that people who use webmail or other web applications will have trouble switching to an interface that is event driven -- or vice versa. This creates a dilemma in the design circuit. Do we design apps for web application users or for classic window-based GUI users?

Interesting thoughts.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

thrashing

Wow. "New dual-core Pentium thrashes through speed tests." Is this good? This headline makes all the OS nerds out there cringe -- thrashing is a BAD thing, not a good thing. Anyway, do this: put a mental image into your head of an intel exec thrashing.

*shudder*

(Link)

Monday, April 04, 2005

tally

Paper reviewers: 2
Sid: 0

Thursday, March 24, 2005

holy dinosaur bones batman!

Wow. Michael Crichton might have been right. Apparently you can find soft tissue in 70-million year old dinosaur bones! Kind of a scary thought, especially considering where the tissue was found... (Link)

Monday, March 21, 2005

technicolor

Imagine if filmmakers had this technology before. They could have easily re-colored all the great black & whites from the past to spoil the film children of today! (Link)

plane cool

This rocks! Now to go waste some time making airplanes... (Link)

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

glutton

I feel like a glutton. I just prepared and consumed an entire box of Tuna Helper by myself. Unghhhh....

Monday, March 07, 2005

no way

This is sweet (Link). Now I just wish I had one of those 2005 powerbooks... Any donations?

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

holes

There seem to be some holes in my states-visited map. I'll have to fix that...



create your own personalized map of the USA

Monday, February 28, 2005

make a difference

I just got done watching Man On Fire (Denzel Washington) for the second time, and it really made me feel good. I've been feeling a bit blue the last couple of days, but that movie put things in perspective.

I'm not usually one to be affected that much by movies, but it's a really good one -- a good movie that makes me want to do something productive with my life.

Watch it if you haven't seen it.

Friday, February 25, 2005

ppt

Powerpoint is not the world's greatest tool.

"Nobody should be surprised that PowerPoint does not measure up to the great speeches of history, such as Lincoln's Gettysburg address. And it is certainly a shame when a potentially interesting presentation is dumbed down by another formulaic over-application of PowerPoint. But when PowerPoint leads not just to boredom but to bad decisions, it is a tragedy, not just a shame."

~ Peter Norvig

Check it out. (Link)

the concorde

"The Concorde Doesn't Fly Anymore," says Moti Ben-Ari's opening slide at this morning's SIGCSE keynote. Moti is an interesting story of a grad student who typed up an Igloo book on concurrent programming -- published twenty years ago. He thinks that in computer science, we are only tweaking our field just as the whole idea of airplane development. Thus the connection to the Concorde. In CS there are no longer many big new re-designs or epiphany, just small refinements.

Ben-Ari voices "a plea for maturity." In most fields, there are principles and artifacts. Principles are core knowledge (math, science, theory) and artifacts are facets of the field that specialists will study (such as AI, vision). Most CS curricula are half and half, but an engineering degree covers more of the principles. He thinks that maybe CS should mature to do this too...

With regards to older computing technology, Ben-Ari asks why in physics students learn Newtonian stuff first. If we taught CS students old languages first, we'd get yelled at, yet physicists come up with new stuff all the time. He says, "Pascal is a great improvement on languages that came later." Maybe he's right. Maybe we've forgotten the past and need to stop re-inventing things.

"We spend a lot of time trying to make computer science easy -- I think we should spend more time for some students to make CS hard." Amen.

Things for me to look at:
  • Ben-Ari and Burns "Extreme Interleavings." IEEE Concurrency 6(3), 1998, 90. Initialize a variable to zero. Spawn two concurrent threads to increment the variable ten times each. What's the resulting number? This article shows that it could not only be in the range of 10 to 20, but it could also be nine... Let me know if you find a free copy of this article.
  • Nasa Quote: There was an amazing technological advance that landed someone on the moon. How can we make another step like this?
  • Hobbes' Internet Timeline
  • Project Gutenberg
  • The Victorian Internet. Shows how the telegraph made as much impact on society as the internet.
  • Profession by Isaac Asimov. (Creativity only comes through long study of lots of areas. )

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

sigcse

I'm spending this week at a SIGCSE conference in St. Louis. I volunteered to help out with registration, so I get to see about a third of all the attendees. I ran into a couple of friends here so far: Paul, Steve Wolfman, Rhys Price Jones, Bob Beck (who is strangely teaching calculus for biology majors) and various other attendees who I befriended last time. This is fun, lots of cool people I see all too infrequently.

Tomorrow the real fun begins: paper talks!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

meetings!

I've been meeting lots of cool people lately, and it's fun! Last week I met Alma Whitten, then this week I've met Helger Lipmaa and Ken Shan (another Link). What's next? I get to have lunch today with Helgar, that will be a blast.

Friday, February 11, 2005

heartwarming story

This was just such a wonderful story, I had to share it.


Kyle was valedictorian of our class. I teased him all the time about being a nerd.He had to prepare a speech for graduation. I was so glad it wasn't me having to get up there and speak. Graduation day, I saw Kyle.He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than I had and all the girls loved him. Boy, sometimes I was jealous.Today was one of those days


(Link). Thanks gymdancer21!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

dippin' dots

Indiana weather is strange. I was walking to school today, and it started sleeting outside. By the time I got to my office, I looked like a walking cup of Dippin' Dots.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

poo

Well, a paper I've written on polling with crypto got turned down from a major magazine today. On the upside, one of the executive editors for that publication really liked the article and hopes I'll try again. Hm.

Monday, February 07, 2005

balls?

Great quote from the lab today. I was working on something and a Professor asks the room:
"Is that a variable number of balls?"

Took me a while to figure out that he was talking about a "juggling" screensaver on someone's computer...

stupid taxes

One of my office-mates brought to my attention that the payroll department is not withholding federal taxes from his paycheck. I looked at my stub and found the same depressing dilemma. This needs to get fixed. Why would they not do this? They have a copy of my W4 from last year (and this year) on record... they got it in September. Blargh.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

magical food

What is nougat? Why is it so yummy?

I just bought a bag of Munchies (classic), and there was a surplus of rye chips in there. That made my day -- they're my fav.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Beat me?


I am nerdier than 62% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!


Who is nerdier? I dare you. Post a comment. Do it.
(Link)


Wednesday, January 26, 2005

teapots

Frat boys are funny. Tonight, walking home at about 11pm, I saw about twenty of them gathering in the middle of campus talking about something. They were pretty loud, and eventually, they started jogging down towards kirkwood shouting (like a marines' cadence) "I'm a little tea pot short and stout. Here is my whistle, here is my spout..." over and over. It was rather funny. They marched right up to La Bamba's where another twenty or so were waiting on the terrace outside.

Little Teapots, huh?

Monday, January 24, 2005

epitome

This makes me laugh every time I look at it...

Dialog

This seems to me to be the epitome of all Windows XP error messages. I have the joy of doing work in many different operating systems (Unix, Mac, Windows...) and XP takes the cake with error messages. The only OS I've used with better error messages is BeOS (God rest its soul) with its haiku errors. Go make your own (Link).

hmph

As you've probably noticed, I've discontinued posting my costa rica travelogue. I don't think anyone's reading it, so it's not worth the typing (currently it's written in a hand-journal).

Anyway, let me know if you want to see more and I will post more.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

costa rica travelogue (6)

1/2/2005

It was the day of ultimate relaxation. We woke up and spent some time reading before heading to the lodge restaurant for our complimentary breakfast. It was raining when I woke up. Its still raining as I lay down for sleep.

Breakfast was festive -- the waitstaff remembered us from yesterday and joked around a bit. It was a buffet style meal, but there were six types of fresh fruit juice and one of the waiters made us omelets while the other cheered him on. It was hilarious!

After food, we went back to the room and watched the wet birds fly around restlessly. My favorites are the scarlet-rump birds. While birding, a little black weasel-looking thing started trying to get into the restaurant (just a few meters away). Poor little thing had bags under its eyes! I suppose I would too if I lived underground and it was raining.

A short while later, I heard some screeching outside my door, so I went out to investigate. A pair of parrots (big ones, Macaw sized) had flown into the overhang to perch on a limb out of the rain. They just sat and cuddled, vocalizing a bit at passers by.

Shortly after noon, we caught a taxi to Tabicon Resort for the hot springs experience. This magical water park is just high-flow natural springs flowing through human-coerced lava rock channels. But there are tons (> 15) pools and waterfalls, only two are cold. The brochure says that the springs top out at 102°F, but I think it gets hotter!

The buffet dinner leaves something to be desired but five hours in the springs & pools (with two bars, one you can swim up to!) made me very relaxed. Unfortunately we didn't have time to try out the spa services (Facials, massage, etc).

Mmmm.... Sleepy time.


The red-rump bird was called a "Red-rump Tanager."

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

sharks with frickin' lasers on their heads

Apparently the latest in high-tech anti-aircraft weaponry is, that's right folks, lasers. The FAA is cracking down on people who shine lasers on airplanes, possibly blinding the pilot. They claim it is a terrorist threat.

"... [the FAA] recommends that pilots immediately report any unauthorized laser events to air traffic controllers ..." (Link) A laser isn't a threat, a BOMB is a threat. A laser is something you can buy for $24.99 at Radio Shack (Link).

I'm beginning to think they're winning: our country is freaking out about every last thing! Isn't that the point of terrorism? Not killing, that's massacre, but instilling fear? Damn, we suck.

costa rica travelogue (5)

Happy New Year!

1/1/2005

I greeted this morning with a lonely but submersing hike on some trails behind our lodge. I got the full feel of a rainforest today (sans wild animals) since it was raining as I trudged down the muddy paths. Along the trail, I saw some damp butterflies and giagantic trees. The cloud forest really is beautiful on the ground and in the air.

Our time at the cloud forest lodge outside Santa Elena came to an end as we finished our coffee, checked out, and caught our 4wd ride towards Arenal. It took about two hours to go 50km -- up and down crappy pock-marked muddy roads. Luckily we had someone else driving (I would have quickly grown impatient) so after just a couple hours we arrived at a boat dock on the only lake in Costa Rica. I stepped out of the jeep and removed my two-hours-of-bumping-on-the-seat wedgie before we boarded the boat that would take us to our next stop: Arenal Lodge.

Throughout the whole 45minute boat ride, we were heading straight for the Arenal Volcano, but it was overcast so I could only see the bottom third most uninteresting parts. That's okay. We have 3 days in Arenal, hopefully one will be clear.

We got out of the boat on the other side of the lake after waiting for the people blocking the public landing to move. It was interesting how our tour boat was empty except for the two of us, the guide & driver. I think the boat could comfortably fit fifty. Unusual. Anyhow, once we were back on land, we were greeted with a pleasant surprise: a paved road!!! Haven't seen one of those in days.

We waited a few minutes for our next ground transport to arrive. It would take us the three kilometers up the mountain to our next abode. A roadside vendor had a huge knife and a truck full of fresh coconuts, so we bought one to drink. He whacked a small hole in the top and it was completely full of water! What a nice treat to suck down the natural canteen's contents after a long trip.

Our ride arrived and took us the remaining distance up past an entry gate really far up a long suspenseful driveway to the Arenal Lodge. The scenery was beautiful (again). I can't really say much other than we ended up with a marvelous room with french doors, a couch, coffepot, double sink and a private deck with rocking chairs to sit on while enjoying or own personal view of the volcano! It was just all right there: our room with a view. Awesome.

Through a bit of exploring, we really began to love this place. The restaurant had excellent food. I had a twelve dollar fillet that was HUGE and very melty. Not bad, considering my other steak encounters in this country have been quite disappointing. We found a little comfort in great wait-staff and receptionists.

Walking around the property, we discovered a butterfly garden and a mini-zoo. The zoo had a family of boars, some deer and a pair of lazy Pacas. We decided to save the hiking trails for sunnier times.

While in the remote edges of the property, we found a strange clearing that plateaued on top of the hill and housed three italian-style fountains. The area seemed to be perfect for weddings and stuff of the like since it was flat, remote, not too windy and had a breathtaking view of the lake and volcano.

All in all, today was exciting. I can't wait for the volcano to reveal itself. I've heard a few rumbles but not seen anything yet. Meanwhile, I will settle for the churps, burps, and squeels of the nighttime jungle outside my bedroom window.

I heard you can see the lava flows from the volcano at night... nifty.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

costa rica travelogue (4)

Bugs!

12/31/2004

Today we took a trip to a butterfly farm. I learned a lot about insects, bugs and arachnids--and I got to play with a praying mantis. The mantis is really a cool insect. I played with a (large) female and I was amazed at how her head could move: she followed my finger as it circled her head just as a cat might. During the pre-tour info session, I learned that cockroaches are actually very clean. they spend a lot of time cleaning themselves, much like cats. I also learned that they're only two percent water, so you can microwave or freeze them and they won't die.

Anyhow, the point of the tour was to see butterflies, and that we did! I got photos of transparent ones, striped ones, owl-looking ones, and iridescent blue ones. Butterflies are really neat -- we saw one who just finished coming out of its' chrysalis and the wings were still wet and unfolding. It's amazing how fragile these bugs are. On a side note, I learned that moths BUILD their cocoons from other materials (like the log-cabin moth that makes a cocoon out of sticks that looks like a log cabin) whereas butterflies grow a chrysalis like shedding skin. Anyway, I got some good pictures and walked away with lots of new knowledge.

The farm was run by a US citizen and volunteers from the states, so the tour was speckled with humor that made me feel right at home.

After the butterflies, we caught our ride back towards the lodge, but asked our driver to let us out early so we could explore the town nearby a bit. We had to verbally wrestle with him since he spoke absolutely no english at all, and eventually I had to open a door to show him what we wanted to do.

When we got out of the jeep, the coffee shop from yesterday was so close that we had to stop in for some coffee. There we saw a couple from our butterfly tour group and some of the zip-liners from yesterday (the Israelis). We sat and chatted for a while, and I decided I don't like Carajillo. Stick with coffee, Sid. Also, while we were there, I nerded out for a bit (ten minutes) and sent some emails from an internet station in the cafe. Only a dollar for ten minutes, not bad.

Afterwards, we proceeded on a hike to the bustling town of Saint Elena (really quite built up around a cobblestone road) and found a quaint little restaurant for lunch. The family-owned establishment had a huge menu, and mom and pop quickly fixed us up with some flat-fried chicken, rice, beans and pickled veggies that their six-year-old daughter served us with gusto. An amazing meal with huge portions, a glass bottle of coke and a banana smoothie (fruit, ice, water) all for about eight bucks. I have a new favorite place for tico food. After lunch we waddled down the road a bit to a second coffee shop where we played cards and drank extremely strong coffee. On our way out I picked up some cigars to celebrate the new year.

We passed a grocer on the way back, so we stopped in and bought some wine and an apple to go with the fresh loaf of bread (US$0.35) we bought from a bakery. Fully loaded for a party, we slowly began our uphill trek of about 4km (very steep) back to the lodge. We took about an hour to do it, mostly because half of the road was on at least a thirty degree incline.

Back at the lodge, we made "reservations" for dinner and plowed through the wine, bread and apple over two more hours of card games.

We were the only guests left for the night, so we had the whole restaurant/bar staff waiting on us. I kind of felt bad that they couldn't take off and go celebrate with everyone else, but they seemed pretty happy to serve us.

After dinner, we played more cards (I'm beginning to think it's a compulsion) until we grew weary, then listened to a fireworks display before hitting the sack. We had a long day ahead of us: we were to set out towards Arenal to see a volcano the next morning . . .


Santa Elena is really a neat town, not as touristy as many of the other towns in Costa Rica.

Monday, January 10, 2005

costa rica travelogue (3)

In the Cloud Forest (Continued)
. . . Shouting "Adios!" I was projected out and into whiteness, although looking down at times, I could see the treetops 421 feet below me (honestly that far). Landing on the other side, water streamed out of the corners of my eyes -- I couldn't tell if it was tears of excitement, my eyes watering, or just water from the rainy mist I had just penetrated.

The next line, not quite as high (but close), supposedly propelled us at up to 40 miles per hour. I could believe it. This was rapidly followed up by the longest cable: 2500 feet long. That's about half a mile! We figure it took us about 35 seconds to go all the way across.

Our guides paired us up to go across with a bit more weight. That was a fun bonding moment with Mom. Unfortunately, we did not weigh enough! We stopped moving about ten meters from the platform so we had to spin around and pull ourselves the rest of the way -- this was surprisingly easy.

After our marvelous adventure, we were given free coffee and a chance to mill about in the souvenir shop. In our group of people, there were some interesting personalities. one older couple from Israel braved the speeds and heights so they could brag about it to their grandchildren. A lone guy (with a loud Hawaiian tee shirt) took hundreds of photos and talked smart the whole time. There was also a father with his daughter (he reminded me of someone from Back Home). I found out during the milling that he and his wife had their first date on a skydiving expedition! That's amazing.

I was a little disappointed that we did not get to see any wildlife on our tour, but it was neat to get a hawk's eye view of the cloud forest.

This was a Sky Trek tour (Link). I'll post some of my pictures later.

Friday, January 07, 2005

costa rica travelogue (2)

In The Cloud Forest
12/30/2004

Last night, the wind hissed through the forest with an intermittent comforting for sleep. The rain pattered down with the wind, but more lightly like in a cloud.

I woke this morning to a dog crying. Our neighbors (the cabins are duplex) had brought along a dog and had apparently left him alone while they ate breakfast. I felt bad for the poor little guy (alone in heavy wind and an alien place) but they came back after breakfast and all is well. The shower at our cabin is amazing. Water must be cheap here, because the shower pours out probably a gallon of water every five seconds for the drain to happily gobble up.

We went to the restaurant at the lodge for coffee around 10am, but they were closed so we took a fifteen minute walk to a coffee shop I saw on our way up. We sat and read, enjoying fresh coffee and treats, and soaked up the clean forest air.

Our next adventure was a canopy tour of the cloud forest. We caught a transport to a remote location where a company had set up towers and ziplines for people to fly through the canopy.

We strapped on harnesses and helmets then went outside to a fifty foot tower. After a dizzying spiral staircase climb, one by one we attached our pulleys to the line and zipped across to the first stop. On the other end, our comical guide said we had only five more "training" lines for practice.

After more hiking and more ziplines, we ended up zipping
through
the trees. Our guide called those two in-tree zips the "George of the Jungle" lines!

"George, George, George of the Jungle,
Strong as he can be!
George, George, George of the Jungle,
Watch out for that tree!"

It's truly a marvel to zip at thirty miles per hour past tree limbs that are less than a foot away.

The eighth and ninth lines were the most intimidating. It started to get cloudy, which meant (being in a cloud forest) we walked inside the clouds. After ten minutes of hiking, we reached a seventy foot platform. It was at the peak of a mountain. The climb up the platform had me unnerved since we could feel the clouds whizzing through us and the wind trying to push us around. At the top, all you could seed was the 415 meter cable disappearing into the clouds. Freaky. I stood bracing myself against the rail of the tower, resisting the urge to look down -- propped up to fight the ripping power of the wet winds. I was next . . .


To be continued . . .

Thursday, January 06, 2005

apple flavored monopoly?

Apparently someone is suing Apple because they can't play their iTunes purchased songs on non iPod MP3 players.

Honestly, I think this is rather odd that they're suing Apple. If they were too worried about this, they could subscribe to another service like Microsoft's music store. It's not like Apple is the only company that sells music you can play on your MP3 players. Apple does sell music with copy protection built in, but this is mentioned to all users when they sign up for the service. My MP3 player can't play the Microsoft WMA format stuff, so screw them.

If this is a huge concern, try this: use iTunes to burn the crap to a CD, then rip the CD to MP3 files. You haven't broken any laws (except maybe copy protection evasion, but you're not doing it with criminal intent) in doing this, and now you have the files in MP3 format and also in the purchased AAC format.

I haven't heard whether Apple has released information on decoding their AAC copy protection, but I think it's up to the 3rd party MP3 player makers to support this format if they can.

Finally, it's not really a huge deal. You can still play the music for free once you've bought it. The iTunes software is free. Don't bitch. Although there might be a case about not being able to play the music without iTunes. It might be a problem that you can't export the songs if you reinstall iTunes, but I believe they've fixed those two problems.

I'm not a legal authority of any sort, but these are my two cents. It'll be interesting to see how this turns out.

(Link - BBC)

costa rica travelogue

This is the first in a series of nine sequential journal entries written while I was in Costa Rica. I'll post one per day interleaved within my other posts (if I have any).

12/29/2004

Today we began our travels to Costa Rica. Arriving at the airport in San Jose was unique -- this was the point at which the Spanish letters became the ones on top, instead of the English ones.

The travel company who picked us up from the airport did an unfathomably good job of finding us: we didn't even have to think. Our driver (who took us on our first modest adventure) was eager to meet us.

"Welcome to my country!"

Our first destination was a cabin in the Monteverde cloud forest, and our driver said that it would take us maybe four and a half hours -- depending on traffic.

We pulled off the road about thirty minutes into the trip, and he said, "My friends, this is the best place to eat. You love it." And we did. They had awesome local 'tica' (Costa Rican) food at a great price (US$1.50 per meal).

We reached our lodge after just three hours of travel (traffic was good) although two of those hours were spent on rocky, potholed dirt roads. Our driver navigated these roads like a pro, even though most of the time there was barely room for one car, though it was not a one-way road. Along the way we saw some beautiful sunset views of a bay and mountains, making it hard to misunderstand the majesty of the Costa Rica countryside.

The lodge we stayed at has a restaurant and bar (limited in spirits, though with some local rums) and we ate a mediocre dinner of tough steak. I guess I should expect no less -- the steer they raise here have to graze on steep inclines -- the ones too steep for farmland.


Stay tuned for more!