Bill Eccles: January 2008 Archives

Dell Closes Retail Kiosks

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As reported here.

Translation: It’s now a lot harder to sue Dell in small claims court.

The Incredible Shrinking Bill

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The last year saw me balloon in weight and diameter. I went from a relatively-acceptable 240lbs to a hugely porcine-like 279lbs. There are all kinds of reasons for this expansion, but suffice it to say, it sucks having to carry around an additional 16% of me. And when I went riding… once… last year (it was a bad year all the way 'round), I realized I was carrying around two additional bicycles around my waist. So all that money I spent on buying a beautiful sub-20lb, all-carbon Felt F3c (with DuraAce components!)… waisted. (Heh. Waisted. Wasted. Whatever.)

39lbs is two additional bikes. Or one tandem bike, probably with saddlebags, even.

I did what any sensible person would do: I resolved, as of the new year, to lose weight!

But, unlike most of the masses who try this every year, I’m succeeding! I’m down 15lbs! That’s nearly one Trek Madone!

How? Well, I’m exercising at least three times weekly. Granted, I’m not doing a whole lot yet, as I’m just riding the stationary bike and only consuming 300 calories per session, but I’m going to up that significantly as the weather warms and I get the hankerin’ to go out and test my mettle against hills and traffic.

And I’m also watching what I eat. I suspect that’s where the biggest difference has been made. I don’t eat in between meals anymore, and I don’t eat after 7pm, so dinner’s the last thing I shove in my face. (Well, I’ll have a bag of popcorn with a movie occasionally.) As for the alcohol, I’ve decided not to drink much at all, having a martini about once this month, and that even felt sorta’ odd, as if I shouldn’t have been having it. (But it tasted soooo good. And I make a killer appletini, which, of course, isn’t a martini at all but it’s served in that funky glass so it is, for some reason, called a “flavored martini.” Now if I could find a recipe for that Oatmeal Cookie martini that Acqua serves…)

15lbs! Another 1.5ish bikes to go! And then another bike to go to get to my ideal weight (or thereabouts).

Oh, guess I should have mentioned that I’m 6'6" tall, so I don’t look like (insert name of really fat person here).

Article here.

Translation: If you were stupid enough to buy one of their overstyled, overwrought cars x years ago, you likely haven’t gotten any smarter since then.

On the other hand, all three of the US car manufacturers have pretty much sucked for some time now. Maybe this rating means that owners of Fords and Chryslers aren’t that smart for having bought a Ford or Chrysler in the first place, and regret the purchase.

Aw, who the heck cares…

Article here.

Translation: Vista sucks less.

An O.-ism

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Upon O.’s asking for another pancake on Sunday morning, I asked, “Do you really need it?”

O.: “Yes. I’m still hungry!”

Me: “OK, but you have enough syrup on your plate for this one. You don’t need any more.”

O. (pointing at his plate): “Yeah! I have enough to drown a duck!”

T. and me: (gales of laughter)

I Love Seven

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Well, to be completely truthful, six to seven is really cool.

(Er, “six to seven” what?)

My younger boy turned seven in October, and though he’s growing up, he still hasn’t lost a bunch of wonderful characteristics of this age.

  • Absolute wonderment at the smallest things: baking soda and vinegar is amazing, the way gears mesh together is delightful, and bugs are cool.
  • Independence, but not so independent as to not hold my hand when we’re walking down the driveway from the bus, or so independent that he won’t crawl up into my lap to watch some TV but fall asleep in the middle of the show.
  • A power to pretend which defies any explanation I can come up with: this age is endowed with the most powerful ability to pretend I have ever witnessed.
  • Real-world oblivion: though it drives T. and me crazy sometimes, he’s able to focus so tightly on what he’s doing (whether it’s pretending, reading or playing) that he becomes totally unaware of the real world. This has led to some very entertaining moments.
  • Simple is better: whereas his brother, age 9, is getting into the phase where his Lego contraptions need more detail, a few blocks and plates are enough to elicit the essential characteristics of a Tie Fighter, X-Wing, or, with a few more blocks, a whole Imperial Starship Destroyer. Some of the most elegant models I have ever seen are these simple models.
  • The beginnings of craftiness: On Christmas morning, T.’s message to the kids (she was downstairs with them already) was, “We can have Christmas if Dad says it’s OK.” His message to me was, “Mom says it’s time for Christmas.” And the other day, he and two of his friends sprung a plan to get the three of them together at a local game place. Of course, they each decided that the idea was another kid’s idea. The parents felt both “had” and proud of their scheming.
  • Childlike faith: his understanding of the Bible and what God and Jesus mean to us is so much more concrete in him than it is in me. He takes these things as absolute truth, without question. There have been many times over the past year that I’ve wanted to be like him.
  • Physical prowess, master of his universe: I don’t have to worry too much anymore about him and whether or not he’s going to fall, trip, or otherwise take a spill. He’s comfortable in his body and it shows. Every time he (or his brother, for that matter) run and fall on their knees to skid into the kitchen, my knees scream in sympathetic pain. Of course, it doesn’t bother their knees.
  • Cuteness: first graders are just about at the peak of their cuteness, something which starts at birth and continually increases until some of the awkwardness of eight, nine, etc., kicks in. I love picking this guy up at school and watching the herd of children, all of them miniature humans, running, playing, interacting, laughing, and, generally, being cute. And there’s nothing better than watching a game of huddleball (you and I know it as “soccer”) or seeing this age in other competitive activities.
  • Irrational Exuberance: This kid is just as likely to sit at the dinner table, waving his arms around in the air, singing to himself as he is to cry at the least of infractions, which is just fine. Emotions come and are expressed easily, whether through wild armwaving or something akin to a dance, or verbally with nonsense syllables, or in song, or through more visceral means, such as laughing, crying or yelling. There’s no doubt what is going on in that mind of his, and it’s wonderful to witness.

And on top of all of this, he absolutely loves and adores his parents and brother. I am glad that he absolutely trusts us with his well-being, even though he wants to take care of himself more and more.

It’s a delight, this age.

Where Are All the Christians?

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I continue to see websites (blog entries, news items, etc.) on Digg which make me wonder, Where are all the Christians?

I got to digging around in the 2004 census data (an interesting read, by the way) and discovered that about 75% of adults in this country are self-described Christians (Item #67).

So when I see Digg link after link after link after link… you get the point… about Mike Huckabee, who is standing firmly on his belief in a benevolent God who created the world in seven literal days and sacrificed His own Son to save us from ourselves (loose interpretation), I have to wonder, where are all these supposed Christians? Why aren’t there any articles getting “Dugg up” about how there’s a presidential candidate who is standing up for the beliefs of the vast majority of Americans?

Are you one of the silent majority? Have you read the Big Instruction Book (you know the one) and thought, I wish someone would stand up for what’s in here? And even if you disagree with Huckabee in some area (evolution/creation, for example), can you find enough that is right with him that you could defend him to the loud, vocal minority?

Your political affiliation doesn’t matter here: whether you align yourself with Democrats or Republicans or something else, this isn’t about how you’ll vote this coming November. Rather, this is about one of many candidates who is very forthcoming regarding his faith and religion. And it’s time for you, silent majority, to stand up and ask the other candidates the tough question: What are they doing to represent the vast majority of their fellow countrymen, that 75% of our country who believe in God and His Son, who aren’t offended by prayers at public events, who enjoy seeing nativities at Christmas, and who wish everybody a “merry Christmas?”

I’ll bet that their carefully-crafted-so-as-not-to-offend answer boils down to one word: Nothing.

In a country that professed from its very inception to be one nation under God—and not just God, but Jesus Himself!— it’s time to stand up for what you believe, to become vocal, to shout it from the rooftops, We are Americans, and we believe in God!

…of the plain brown wrapper.

IMG_0341.JPG

It used to be that Lego Shop at Home Service would ship in a plain brown box with absolutely nothing on the outside of the box to let you know it was from Lego. Pretty soon, the kids learned to recognize that a package from “LDMI” (Lego Direct Marketing Inc., I assume) was Lego. But until they caught on, there was, indeed, no way to tell the box contained Lego without shaking it.

I think this labeling used to be on the inside of the box or on the receipt or something. Then, it made sense.

I Couldn't Have Done This

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The g33ks over at Gizmodo pulled a buncha’ fast ones at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show, a large conference hall with zillons of electronic gadgets on display. And what better to use to display the gadgets? TVs, of course.

Give the g33ks a couple of TV-B-Gones, let them into the show. Hilarity ensues.

Check this out.

Why couldn’t I have done this? Do I not have the intestinal fortitude? Well, sure I do! It’s practically impossible to spot the perpetrator. Unless that perpetrator is me, in which case the perpetrator would be the very tall g33k laughing uncontrollably in front of a bunch of offed TVs.

Deanna Favre to QB for Packers

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In a news conference Deanna Favre announced she will be the starting QB for the Packers this coming Sunday. Deanna asserts that she is qualified to be starting QB because she has spent the past 16 years married to Brett while he played QB for the Packers. During this period of time she became familiar with the definition of a corner blitz, and is now completely comfortable with other terminology of the Packers offense. A survey of Packers fans shows that 50% of those polled supported the move.

Does this sounds idiotic and unbelievable to you? Well, Hillary Clinton makes the same claims as to why she is qualified to be President and 50% of Democrats polled agreed. She has never run a city, county, or state.

When told Hillary Clinton has experience because she has 8 years in the White House, Dick Morris stated, “So has the pastry chef.”

(Lifted from the Intertubes. Dunno’ the original source, but it’s a good one. /Bill)

here. But perhaps we can forgive him as he’s just echoing James Fallows in TheAtlantic.com. So I’ve decided to call them on it.

Here are the cliché’s I’ve found in William Kristol’s piece:

  • “snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory”

And that’s it. I’m at a loss to explain where all the other supposed clichés are. And yet Fallows somehow thinks the entire piece is cliché after cliché. Perhaps I’m confused about the definition of cliché. So I looked it up, and you can, too.

Where are the trite or overused expressions? Can Fallows (or Gruber, who might give it a try) show me where Kristol’s expressions are used elsewhere? Is Kristol’s writing really that trite as to deserve condemnation?

OK, so he’s no Andy Rooney (thank goodness), but I’d have to say, Sorry, I just don’t see it. If I want more colorful writing, I’ll read the comic, thanks.

Guess I’d better get back to reading some real literature now.

There are two pretty-good websites devoted to spreading the word of what’s popular on the web. Digg and Reddit both allow their registered users to submit webpages on which other registered users vote. As users declare the site to be popular, it moves up the list of sites displayed by these two sites. And, of course, users can also declare the site to be unpopular, which has the effect of moving the site down the list.

So far, so good.

But I’ve noticed that the pages which are most popular are those that cover one of several topics:

  • how (insert derogatory adjective here) President Bush/Vice-President Cheney/(insert other government official here) is,
  • how some Congressman is pushing for impeachment of (insert government official here),
  • how Ron Paul isn’t getting a fair shake,
  • how stupid Mike Huckabee and other creationists are, and
  • how Fox News is a pawn of the GOP.

Very, very rarely does a page “make it” to the top on Digg or Reddit which could be considered to be biased towards a conservative viewpoint, and even then, they’re usually not brought to the top because of their conservative viewpoint but because of another liberal agenda.

So, my question remains: Where are all the conservative Diggers? There are obviously a lot of liberal, or pacifist, or something, Diggers.

Are there other conclusions that we can draw from this? Is the web primarily occupied by liberal viewers? Or are conservative web users much less vocal about their views? Or, because it’s a conservative administration, will we see a shift in the popular pages when Obama/Hillary wins?

Just wonderin’. Don’t have any other thoughts beyond that.

Whither "Pretend?" A Theory

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I am blessed to be able to watch my two sons, ages 9 and 7 right now, play every day. They have mountains of Lego, lightsabers, and all manner of toys with which to play. And each and every day, they pretend something new. Just the other day, I noticed Owen (7), running around, jumping over imaginary things, hacking away at other imaginary things, and making noises to accompany the whole scene. From past experience, I know that Owen is busy pretending he’s in a video game. And William (9) will often play right along with him. Sometimes it gets so involved that they declare to each other that they get points, get special abilities, and whatnot.

I used to be able to do that kind of thing, though I’d never heard of a videogame at their age. (Or pretending to be “Pong” didn’t make much sense. One of the two, I’m not sure which.) I used to build spaceships with Lego and pretend my way through storylines, too.

And yet here I am, almost 38 years old, with no power to pretend whatsoever. I sit down to play with them and get lost in the technical details of how these pieces fit with those pieces or, if play involves lightsabers, I usually just end up loosely copying what they are doing because I, for the most part, can’t pretend worth a damn.

What happened between 12 and 38? Did someone reach into my head and pull out my ability to pretend, à la the Haitian? Or did it fall out, like baby teeth? Did it rot away, sloughed off like dead skin? Just where the hell did my ability to pretend go?

I see others who apparently haven’t lost the capability. My mother-in-law, for example, seems to be able to play cars and trucks with the kids just fine. (Just don’t ask her to pretend with a Star Wars storyline.) I struggle to hold my own interest for more than five minutes. What’s up with that?

Upon reflection, I’ve concluded that my ability to pretend turned into something else, what we in the adult world call “inventiveness.” It might also be called “creativity,” but I think that in my context, that of being an engineer, it’s morphed into an ability to invent, something that does require creativity but is usually associated with the making or building of things. Poetry requires creativity, but not as much inventiveness. Designing a new interconnection scheme for your test systems requires inventiveness with a sprinkle of creativity.

Is this right? Is it possible that “pretend” turns into other abilities as we get older? Do some people lose their ability to pretend entirely without having it change into a useful adult skill? And do other people keep the ability to pretend, or even gain additional outlets for pretending without replacing their ability to pretend?

For me, I’m pretty sure the answer is that my ability to pretend changed to the ability to invent, and that’s about it.

The dangers of blogging (for men) are explained by an expert.

I don’t believe it.

This image

greyaandb.jpg

which I discovered from Fromex.com absolutely amazes me.

Are squares A and B the same shade of grey?

Are you sure?

Yeah, I thought not, too. So I set about to prove that they are. Watch the progression below as I chop out the surrounding image which causes our eyes/brains to reach the wrong conclusion.

greyaandb5.jpg

greyaandb4.jpg

greyaandb3.jpg

greyaandb2.jpg

greyaandb1.jpg

Neat, huh? And, no, I didn’t retouch the colors at all. They’re just as they started in the original image. (Clicking on any image will give you the full size image.)

Oh, Crap: I am Breaking the Law

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I just pulled the last pages off my Zits 2007 Calendar and discovered to my horror that I have been breaking the law! The last page of the calendar says:

Zits 2007 Calendar ©2006 by Zits Partnership Inc. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this calendar may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of reprints in the context of reviews. For information, write Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, an Andrews McMeel Universal company, 4250 Main Street, Kansas City, Missouri 64111.

First, in order that I at least attempt to comply with this overly-restrictive license: The calendar was good. I enjoyed it.

There.

Second, I have been using the calendar pages as notepaper, and this use clearly violates this license.

For that matter, I’ve been reading the calendar pages each day. And that’s right out, too.

Do these people* even understand what they write?

Good grief.


* And by “people,” I mean “lawyers.”

Wolfe Den on copyright and the RIAA in InformationWeek

To further argue the point, which Mr. Den does pretty well already, I add these points:

  1. Providing copyright protection which extends beyond the life of the initial holder is unfair to anybody who earns money by working for it. My heirs will only inherit the savings that I have built up, and they are not entitled to “royalties” for 125 years from the work that I do for my company. So why should a copyright holder’s heirs be entitled to royalties from the creator’s work? At best, the heirs should be entitled only to the royalties earned by the creator during the creator’s lifetime, just like my heirs are only entitled to what I earned during my lifetime. (Or what’s left of it, anyway.)

  2. Copyrights which are handed down from generation to generation completely skip all forms of taxation, as best I can tell, thereby increasing the tax burden on the rest of us. If a copyright were held by someone who is deceased, let’s make the heirs apply for an assignment of copyright to them, and it should cost money to do so. Real money. Like several hundred bucks. Or a percentage of the earnings associated with that copyright. In any case, it wouldn’t last for 125 years. That’s just obscene.

  3. Copyrights should not be instant, or if they are, they should be severely restricted in their lifetimes. I propose that two forms of copyright exist: a 17-year copyright, which you could receive after application for copyright, and an instant copyright of five years, which you could receive just by creating the work. The 17-year copyright would cost money. Real money. Like several hundred bucks. If you haven’t milked everything out of your copyright by the end of the 17-year period, you could apply for an extension of 17 years, which would also cost real money. (This is how the patent system works right now, except there’s no such thing as an instant 5-year patent.)

  4. Speaking of patents, why is it that patents are so very different from copyrights? Both are designed to protect their creators/authors, and yet it costs significantly more to obtain a patent; copyrights are free for the taking. Both are protected by law, and yet (according to the “FBI ANTI-PIRACY NOTICE” at the beginning of each and every DVD I’ve seen in the past several years) the FBI/Government investigates and prosecutes copyright infringement, but not patent infringement; patent holders bear the burden of proof and must prosecute their own patent defense. Let’s get the government out of the business of investigating copyright infringement entirely and let them concentrate on investigating far more serious crimes, such as kidnapping, murder, drug distribution, spammers, etc. Let the copyright holders defend themselves—the ones who have the most to lose can certainly afford to do their own work.

With that being said, I think I will now go sing Happy Birthday.

In public.

It's That Time of Year...

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…when Blistex becomes a staple of my diet.

Lead and You: Not a Big Deal

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I heard some of the best advice I’ve ever heard regarding the so-called “Chinese Poison Train” from the Lovely and Talented Wife, T.

Her take?

“Do you really think the Chinese have changed their manufacturing process over the past few decades and that they’re all-of-a-sudden using lead-based ingredients? I don’t think so. So should you worry? Well, unless your kid is eating Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends, no, most likely not.”

In other words, if it wasn’t a problem about a decade ago, it probably isn’t a problem now, either. Relax. And if you really are worried, then get your kid’s lead level tested.

‘Nuff said.