Rah-rah Rasputin!

In response to Ketan:

Is it me, or does Boney M sound a lot like Dieter Meier?

Posted in Freaky | 1 Comment

Harry Potter and the Deathly-Looking Mom

So I’m looking just a wee bit on the haggared side today. I took Griff and a friend of hers to the Borders Harry Potter release party last night and it ran — *yawn* — just a tad later than my usual bedtime these days. I did get caught up in the excitement and fun of it all, though, and so I was able to avoid snapping anyone’s head off for acting like a freaking IDIOT over a damn BOOK. (I mean seriously, there’s no need to push, shove, or make snotty remarks. We’re all in this together, no? And if you keep being a jackass, I might have to kill you.) No, I remained calm and composed, and you know what? We got our books within a few minutes of midnight, and then we GOT THE HELL OUT OF THERE.

I have to tell you how very cool it is to see all these children desperately clamoring to get their copy of a 759-page book. My daughter’s a voracious reader, so it’s not unusual to see her lugging around some hefty tome. But some of the people with whom we interacted last night? The ones with the hicksville drawl? Reeking of cigarettes? Many of them I never would have suspected of ANY kind of reading, educational, for pleasure, or otherwise. Really — some of those people were clearly from East Yeehaaville. But I’m just tickled freakin’ pink to see them reading something other than National Enquirer.

Anyway, my daughter has her copy, which was one of the first 20 or 30 sold at that store, and she screamed with delight when she got it. On the trip home, the girls used flashlights to read in the back of the car. We dropped off her friend, and then Griff stayed up who-knows-how-late reading (I checked on her at 5 a.m. and found her asleep on top of the book, with the light on). Then she was up bright and early this morning reading some more, taking a break only for a quick bagel for breakfast.

Griff came somewhat late to the Harry Potter party. She was in kindergarten or first grade when the first book came out, and initially I set out to read it to her at bedtime. Her active imagination quickly put that to a stop, as I do not particularly enjoy being awakened in the middle of the night by a terrified, screaming child who’s been having nightmares about Harry Potter bad guys. So, our copies of the HP books languished for a while, and it wasn’t until 5th grade that she decided she was ready to dive in and finally read them, long after many of her friends had. Like everyone else, she was totally drawn in, and quickly plowed her way through the first six books. Then she went back and re-read a couple of her favorites. Ever since, she’s been breathlessly awaiting book seven, even marking its release date on her calendar months ago, and making me promise to take her to the release party.

So last night I filled my parental duty, and took her to get the book that she’s been so desperately waiting for. She even dressed up in a Griffyndor costume, and she took part in the “Snape: Friend or Foe?” debate, the costume contest, and the trivia contest. She and her friend ran around, acted silly, and generally had a fabulous time. Me? I just wanted to find a chair. (At one point, I went and sat in the kids section on a low little bench, with my knees up next to my ears. And at my age, contortions like that have the potential to be fatal. But by that point, I would have happily parked my ass on a bed of nails, if it meant I could take my weight off my feet for a while.)

But now I’ve made my daughter happy, and I get to watch her delight as the final chapters in the Harry Potter saga unfold before her. How cool is that?

Posted in Kids, Oh my gawd! She blogged! | Leave a comment

Chertoff Farts for a Safe Society

I have, in fact, laughed out loud at this:

Homeland Security Response To Ron Paul

Posted in Photography | 1 Comment

Total Geek

I’m at the Apple store writing this post on an iPhone. It is very cool but the pricetag is a bit much. The technology, however, is most wicked!

Posted in Geek, Macintosh, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Taco Perrito

or: How Millionaires Make Money While Puppies Suffer Texas Heat.
or: How Austin Isn’t as Blue as It Pretends to be.

If you’ve been living under a rock, then you might not know that a local animal shelter has a problem with its air conditioner.

That’s news to you?

What about the $750,000 loan from the city to a local restaurant to relocate down the block? Oh, and it’s not so much a loan as it is a $700,000 grant established under the Texas Local Government Code. And, the restaurant is moving to a building the owners already own!

I didn’t know the city was also a bank!?! I’m reminded of a sign at the motorcycle shop where I bought a bike I used while in college. It was hand-written, and scribbled above the main desk. It said:

The Bank and I have an agreement:
I won’t lend money to my customers,
And they won’t sell motorcycles to theirs.

The City of Austin is so scared of its constituents, that it can’t do anything but make concessionary agreements like this. The Keep-Austin-Weirdophiles would die without their yummy tacos from Congress Avenue! We mustn’t inhibit the little guy! It’s just not right to push them out of business so a giant hotel chain can build “the largest hotel development in Austin history.”

It turns out there’s a lot more involved. Mostly what’s involved is money changing hands. But one thing is certain… the owners of Las Manitas surely don’t need a forgiveable loan to upgrade the kitchen, right?

Ah, but there’s more to the story. It’s seems there was a bit of an impasse.

Why is it that in these situations, such negotiation always seems to make everybody else in the world upset. I’ll stop with all the linking (mainly because I’m tired of doing the searches and my browser is getting slow from all the open tabs), but you don’t have to look far to find apologists and rationalizers who talk about how this is “good for the city”.

Mostly, I think it’s good for the rich people who were already rich when the negotiating started. Sure there will be more jobs, and yes, an iconic part of Austin is saved (Oh, yay). But I’m guessing Las Manitas is not really in any sort of real, financial trouble. According to some accounts, the owners of the restaurant are millionaires. Of course they are. They’re shrewd business people who’ve been operating for over 25 years.

But enough griping about that. What really bugs me is that these businesses seem to fall into piles of money and all the while, non-profit organizations such as the Austin Humane Society have to beg and plead for every single penny they receive. The news from their website says that the AHS has managed to scrounge together temporary cooling and they might have some idea of how much the repairs to their HVAC will cost sometime this week.

Are there any such economic development programs that are going to grant the AHS a $200,000 forgiveable loan to replace its chiller?

I doubt it.

Posted in Polyticks | 1 Comment

Hi-ho, Hi-ho, a-geocaching we will go.

Because we were going to be renting a boat while we were at Lake Buchanan, I decided to take my GPS. It’s an older model that doesn’t have a whole lot of memory and doesn’t do place maps. Nor does it jack into a computer. But it does do waypoints and tracks and navigation and that makes it easy to set a point on the GPS (“here, now”) then wander around for a few hours. When you’re ready to go back to that point, you just say, “take me there.” and it gives you bearing and distance. It’s very handy. We used it a few years ago at White Sands. We parked the car in the middle of the proverbial “nowhere” and set a waypoint. Then we did literally wander for hours. When we were ready to get back to the car, it turns out we were only about 2 miles from it over a couple decent dunes. We walked pretty much straight-as-the-crow-flies right back to the car. I love my GPS….

Oh, but back to our story — we were going to be on the lake in a boat, so I thought we’d do the same thing — set a waypoint at the dock where we got on the boat. Then we could tool all over the lake for the day and not have to worry about keeping track of landmarks (yes, I’m fully aware that a GPS is not a replacement for quality orienteering; we’re on vacation — NOT hiking the Andes).

Except that as we drove through Marble Falls on our way to the cabin, the display on my GPS went all wonky. Well, Meredith did not want to go on the lake without the GPS, and I’ve been itching for a new one ever since my dad got the top-of-the-line Garmin eTrex a few months ago. It does maps and jacks into the ‘puter and all that jazz. So, yeah, I picked up a new GPS at the local Mart of Walton (Sam, that is). It’s a Magellan eXplorist 210 and it does maps and connects to the PC.

Flash forward to today (oh, in case you’re wondering it did a yeoman’s job of navigating on the lake)….

I did a little poking around at geocaching.com and found about a dozen caches near our house. I even downloaded a file with all of them as waypoints. Then I had to figure out how to get them onto the GPS; I really didn’t want to have to enter them all by hand. I remember how well that went over a few years ago, when I got my first GPS. I spent several hours hand-entering several geocache waypoints into the GPS and then went out to find the caches, but didn’t actually find any because by that time it was dusk and I was a complete newbie to the whole ordeal. Talk about off-putting!

Anyway, I plugged the eXplorist’s USB cable into my Mac and lo-and-behold, the damn thing mounted as an external disk. I was able to see all the waypoints, tracks, routes, and et-cetera. VERY COOL! At that point, I just needed to figure out how to convert the geocaching.com waypoint file format (.loc) into a Magellan waypoint format (.upt). A quick Google search later, and I have Chimbisimo to thank for pointing me to GPSBabel! What an awesome tool it is! It instantly converted the .loc to a .upt and I was able to drop it right onto the eXplorist!

So, to make a long story short (TOO LATE!), Hays and Griffin and I went geocaching this afternoon. We hit nine spots; found four; didn’t find four; and had one inconclusive. These designations are all from the geocaching.com website.

Our four finds:
GCZH8V – Our very first geocache find, ever! Woohoo!

The four we didn’t locate:

The inconclusive one was GCXPNG, where we did find a non-permanent chewing gum box, but it was empty, so I added a short note to it and put it back where we found it (under cover, no the green one).

I downloaded the track log from my GPS and then ran it through GPSBabel again to generate a Google Earth kml file. I then loaded that into Google Earth and massaged it a little and cleaned things up and organized them a bit. If you’d like, you can download a KMZ file of our trek. It should load directly into Google Earth (I tested it on Meredith’s computer, and it worked fine).

I think maybe next weekend we’ll go hunting for GCRK4C, GCW71A, GCW970, and GCWP82.

Posted in Geek, Geocaching, Travel | Leave a comment

Photos from our mini-vacation.

So, as you probably surmised from my last post, we spent a little time at the lake last week. Scenic drive on Memorial Day, boating on Tuesday, and river frollicking on Wednesday. Here are some new Flickr sets of our trip…

photograph  photograph

More photos are at Flickr.

Posted in Kids, Photography, Travel | 1 Comment


Gravity at work…

We’re at Lake Buchanan for a few days. Today we rented a nice, giant pontoon boat. Here, I demonstrate the proper use of the swim ladder.

Fortunately, only my pride was hurt.

Posted in Travel | 2 Comments

Nerf Mod

Some time ago (months, I think), Meredith sent me a link to a site full of Nerf mods. I can’t remember the link, but you can easily search for it. The simplest of the mods was surprisingly simple — no overt changes to the toy and the only equipment needed is a sturdy rubberband. The only caveat is that the Nerf gun needs an external plunger, which many of them do have (they’re often the cocking lever). Just wrap the rubberband around the gun and over the plunger!

Anyway, I had a giant rubberband lying around. It came from one of those cheap balsa planes with the wind-up propeller. The gun was some new thing Hays picked up recently (just as I have to buy my own guns, so does he). Anyway, here’s the mod, cocked. The band is looped through the plunger and wrapped over the barrel. It adds a good 20 feet to the range and significant accuracy (and down-right uncomfortable at point-blank).

Nerf Gun

Some guys I used to work with would frequently decend upon our development team unleashing Nerf assaults and we got pretty good at defending ourselves, but I wish I’d known about things like this — an arms race of sorts with Nerf tech (it got to be a rather expensive hobby).

Posted in Geek, Kids | 2 Comments

Good Bull!

From the outside looking in, you cannot understand; from the inside looking out, you can’t begin to explain.

Last Saturday was April 21st. If you’re a Texan, you may recognize this as San Jacinto Day, also known as Texas Independence Day. But to a handful of folks who spent their time in College Station, it has a deeper meaning.

For a several years now, I’ve been an active member of the Williamson County A&M Club, and for the last two, I’ve had the privilege of participating in their Muster. While I hope it does not happen for a long, long time, I know that someday I will be memorialized at a Muster and somebody will answer here when my name is called, just as I did for Dr. Real Ransom in 2006.

The song embedded above is an excellent story that can provide some insight into the trials and rites many Aggies have shared for more than a century.

Posted in Gig'em | 1 Comment