Saturday, July 30, 2005

The Girls of Summer...

Everyone has their own preference when it comes to certain things. Fast-food, architecture, art, movies. Web-browsers are no different. Some people like Miss Blue, Internet Explorer. Others prefer the younger and cute Firefox. Some like Opera. For those that like 'em petite, there is OffbyOne. And, just to prove I support alternative lifestyles, there is a whole slew of options for Linux web-browsers. Whatever your tastes run, just take care of her. Patch her. Get to know her. Look out for her and be aware of her likes and weaknesses. That's all.

Girls like to get new clothes. Lavie and Alvis taught me that. Have you ever thought of getting some new clothes for your web-browser?

Internet Explorer has two very nice "supportive" applications that can enhance its features. I generally avoid tool-bar enhancements like a plague having spent way too much time cleaning up workstations with spyware/malware trickery that got installed along with a tool-bar. However, these two applications are solid performers. Avant Brower and Maxthon. Both build on the IE engine and wrap it in additional features that many users will find useful. Enhanced pop-up blocking, tabed browsing, additional search features. They are worth a try if you date Miss IE exclusively. Word on the street is that Miss IE is going to be coming out with a whole new look soon.

Firefox has a ton of enhacements that it refers to as "extensions." The browser is slim and cute. You can add as many of these as you like--or none at all. Here is a list of the ones I have tested and fly with Firefox (my preferred web-browser).
Lastly--if you are like me and carry a flash-drive memory stick just about everywhere you go, there are some good portable packages (Firefox/Thunderbird/Nvu/OpenOffice) just for you. Check out these Portable Mozilla Versions. John Haller also has some other cool things too.

See you in the skies.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Road Thoughts...

Yesterday, I was driving to the local mega home-improvement store when I counted a total of 3 red-light runners. You know, you see the light change yellow, you slow down to stop, and the car/truck/vehicle in the lane next to you (or even worse-behind you) hits the gas and guns through the intersection after the light has turned red. As I have gotten older (and my insurance company happier) I have become more aware of these things. Yes, the responsibility of car payments and Lavie and Al have helped that. I've been on the recieving end of a few fender-benders.

Other rants--people who merge onto freeways using on-ramps at high rates of speed and then feel they have to merge in front of you, rather than ease off the gas and slip in peacefully behind. I try hard to watch for these. It seems that if you are in the freeway and slow down to let these drivers have their way, the vehicles behind you may not adjust (got rear-ended this way). I accept that drivers will speed. Fast. In any weather condition. I can deal with that. It's the blatant red-light running, refusing to yield right of way, using the median turning lane as a merge with traffic lane. Those little bits of road-courtesy that we are loosing more and more that concerns me. We should be following traffic laws to be safe and kind to each other, not to avoid traffic enforcement officers the the hassle of tickets. Maybe we don't respect each other any more--insulated in our cars. Maybe we just don't care.

Sometimes I wish I had the money to buy a full size hummer-not an H2 but a real-Marine Corp hardend one, but the fuel would be a lot as well as the enviromental cost. (This one is cool and enviromentally friendly.) But then while a large, hardened vehicle might protect us, it could be too dangerous for the occupants of the other vehicle involved in a hypothetical collision. Oh well. I guess being a defensive driver is the safest bet--and praying a lot--and maintaining my patience and goodwill to man....

Anyway, I didn't mean to rant. The Texas Highwayman has a link to some good Texas Road-Rules. Don't forget the Texas Department of Public Safety as well. When I used to travel the summers with my grandparents in their big red Lincoln, pulling their AirstreamJunior Brown song springs to mind.

I mentioned in my previous post. I really like the old road-maps he has collected and posted. It is very strange to see most of the major interstate roadways we depend on missing. The clip above is taken from this 1952 Humble Oil map (warning, big file!). There are also tons of historic photos of the Houston area roadways, such as this traffic tower
trailer across the country, Grandpa would alway be working the CB radio checking out where the "smokies" were with the other CB'ers. He was a retired federal special-agent in law-enforcement so I always thought that was funny--I wish I could remember what his "handle" was. Every-time I see a black and white state trooper, a certain (we run over those rubber tubes stretched across the roadways now), Houston's Sea-Arama, an historical article explaining why civil engineers created that railroad span above I-10 west just before the 610 Loop that looks 5-times bigger and wider than it really needs to be that I always wondered about driving under, and stuff on the 610 ship-channel bridge construction. Wow.

Finally, there is the quintessential document of the glories and granduer of all that we know and love about Texas--Texas Highways magazine.

See you in the skies.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Abandoned in Place...

When I was growing up, we lived across the street from an undeveloped area we called "the woods." It was really just a couple hundred acres of undeveloped property bordered on three sides by a neighborhood and the forth by a major street. But it had heavy enough vegetation made up of trees, vines, brambles and poison-ivy to make any kid feel a million miles away from civilization. We would cut trails, build "forts", make treehouses that were the nightmares of OSHA and our parents. It was great. Back in there was the remains of something. I don't know if it was a one-time hunting cabin, or maybe a very small barn. It has gotten fogged up in my memories, but it was definitely a structure. Larger than a garage but smaller than a house. One story, dirt floor and falling down. It wasn't near any roads, paths or anything. It still fascinates me. Who built it. Did someone once live there? What stories did it hold. It was in too bad shape even for the youthfully stupid and adventurous like I was to try to make it into a "fort" or play-place. We cut trails by it, but never went in. When I checked back a few years ago, the "woods" were gone, replaced by the neighborhood expansion, clipped yards and imposing cookie-cutter houses. The kids living there no doubt now having their adventures in virtual worlds of X-Boxes and PS2's. Oh well.

Thus began my fascination with places and things abandoned in place. Roads, buildings, cars, sunken ships, archeology (my college minor) doesn't matter. Oh the stories... To be honest, we could sadly include people--especially the elderly, the poor, the homeless, the orphaned, as well as those in the third world as abandoned in place (sociology--my college major) in too many instances to be comfortable as well. Let's save that for another blog posting.

I came across an interesting website that outlines highway development in Texas. There are lots of pictures and such about abandoned roads. A new update shows the burned out bridge to East Orange-Old US90. Who drove across it? Who made the decision to leave it there and just move on with a new one in a different location?

Here are some pictures of NASA space facilities that were also abandoned. Wow. (Side note--Google now maps the moon!). In one NASA storage room, they found some abandoned space-spy suits. One was numbered 007. More abandoned places pictures. How about an abandoned asylum? Nice collection of images at the Lost Destinations

On a visit to Galveston, Texas as a kid, I remember seeing a strange ship in the bay. Turns out it was an abandoned concrete-ship called the S.S Selma. More pictures of the Selma. I had all kinds of wild spy headquarters possibilities for it that were no doubt fed by the James Bond movie (The Man with the Golden Gun) where they had an ops center hidden in the sunken hulk of the RMS Queen Elizabeth out in the Hong Kong bay. (It has since been salvaged.)

Just got done updating to Firefox 1.0.6. I just put 1.0.5 on this weekend. Something about some code problems with the extensions. I really like and trust Firefox. It is not perfect, but I like the fact they come out with patches pretty soon after problems are found.

Cool keyboard. This has to be totally awesome. Except for the planned MSRP. Oh well.

Beware e-mails with links to on-line greeting cards. Clicking on links in e-mails is always dangerous if you don't know the sender. Bad things can happen--virus, trojans, malware--oh my!

Passings: James Doohan, best known as the chief engineer of the Starship Enterprise passed away. Gerry Thomas--the man who brought us TV dinners has left us. The multi-talented woman who composed "I'm in the Mood for Love," Dorothy Fields also left us last week.

See you in the skies.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

And the Half Blood Prince is....

I really don't know. Yet. Last night (this morning?) we got the latest Harry Potter book. It worked out something like this... After a long day of work battling a nasty trojan attack spreading in the system as well as addressing the usual vanship maintence, I got home and Lavie, Alvis and I planned the attack.

We went to a local area book-store around 8:30 pm. Masses of people, employees doing head-counts at the door to ensure no fire-code occupancy limits were exceeded, long lines at the Starbuck store inside, masses of people, Alvis and Lavie getting "tattoos" painted on them, more masses of people... At 11:oo pm everyone was moved outside...time to make the lines. (Thank goodness the rains had let up!)

There were two categories of people where we were at. Yellow banded people and Orange banded people. The blessed and the cursed. The haves and the have nots. The pure-bloods and the half-bloods. The Wizards and the Muggles. Ok, too much drama. The Yellow Bands had made reserve purchases for the book while the Orange Bands (like us) just showed up hoping they didn't run out of books before all the Yellow Bands got their chance first. (We cleverly came up with a backup plan. It they ran out, we would make a dash to the local grocery store that also was selling them at midnight.)

There must have been over 500 people there. It was like a strange block-party. Kids, adults, seniors. Some in costume (Alvis had her cape and wand), some in pink hair (Tonks?), some in knee-highs, white buttondowns and plaid skirts (Hermionie). A smattering of Harry's and one small girl in a "we love Ron" shirt.

Things were not looking good. We were Orange Band #81. The 400+ Yellow Bands had to go first. I was confident we would be getting a book, but it might be at 2 am. Fortunately, we ran into one of Lavie's friends from her day-job who was a blessed "Yellow Band". She had reserved 3 copies in advance and the owner of one of them was a no-show so she GRACIOUSLY!!!!! offered Lavie the 3rd. She was also a blessed "Yellow Bander" who had a number under 100. In no time flat she was in and out and by 12:30 am Alvis was dancing under the misty half-moon in the sky twirling around, HBP clutched to her chest. Pictures taken, 1000 thanks given. We loaded up and flew home. Orange Band #81 now used as a bookmark instead of its original purpose.

I read the first chapter out loud this morning upon arrival in our burrow. Alvis was asleep 1/2 way through the first chapter. Lavie was falling in and out of awareness. Lights out at 1:40 am. Lights on at 8:30 am and I got breakfast tacos going (and coffee!). Now we are three chapters further along. (We read the story aloud to each other.)

We are taking a short break (lunch and short nap for Lavie). Then back again. Will keep you posted. (--Chapter 2 was a real surprise! Or was it?) In the meantime, check out Mugglenet to see more of the madness!

See you at Hogwarts!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

So tired Tonight....

I got the privilege of leading a team of specialists in the "decommissioning" of one of our offices today. Good work guys! You know who you are. What a professional team. I have mixed feelings about it because it was one of the first field offices I got to help do a major network technology upgrade at as a "newbie." Now many years later we are pulling it down. The staff are all getting relocated to other offices so I guess it seems ok for them now.

There is a small Jewish family cemetery next door to that office I looked out over during my many service visits to the location. It always looked so nice and peaceful. I never stopped long enough to go over and see how old it was, but seeing how it is squeezed in between some major-big office buildings on some prime real-estate I always guessed it had been there for a very long time. Going into cemeteries where I don't have a family connection always made me feel like a trespasser for some reason. I don't know why. I had a buddy once who liked to go to one of the nicer very large ones around the area during his lunch hour and eat lunch. Said it relaxed him....Hmmm. Don't know about that, but I must confess I can relate to the sense of tranquility and peace.

Speaking of tranquility and peace, check out this Japanese garden. I'm feeling better already!

I'm thinking about going to work for these guys! They do stuff. I figure I can do stuff at least as good as the other guy, so maybe I have a chance here. Seriously, this is a spoof website. It looks very professional, just read all the fine print..."Our main consulting strategy is to convince clients that we do stuff they can't do themselves, and that we deserve lots of money for it. The best way to do this is to always look good, and always sound like we know something you don't. Because we do."

See you in the skies.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

It's Raining!

Lavie and I cannot believe is raining! We haven't seen a good downpour here for several months. Yesterday it came down in big heavy drops that went "splat" when they fell. This morning another long soaking thunderstorm rolled by. Alvis wanted to go outside and do a celebration dance in the yard. Not a good idea with the lightning and thunder, but we couldn't blame her.

The picture above is that of Naru and Keitaro from Love Hina. I haven't seen any of the anime versions yet (series and movies) but Lavie is building up her collection of the manga books. It is one of her favorite series.

Lavie and I have been overwhelmed by the senseless suffering our mates in the United Kingdom have been going through. I cannot begin to imagine how horrible it must be to the families who are still waiting news on their loved ones. We both have chosen careers that require us to work in areas that are "high-risk" for attack. But we cannot imagine what it would be like to be going about your daily morning business and then.... Paperghost had some defiant comments about it all in his blog entry. I agree.

Yesterday I was flipping the tele while trying to recover from a pounding headache. I came across coverage of the John Deere Classic golf tourney. Imagine my surprise to see Michelle Wie competing with the men. Now, let me be very clear. I have no issues with any lady competing in the "men's" PGA tournaments. What was shocking to me was that there had been no news coverage at all about it. Last year when Annika Sorenstam made her run, it was on every media outlet there was. Now Michelle Wie (did you know she is just 15 years old?) tries and no mention--what's up with that?. Michelle ended up missing the cut by only 2 strokes, but good for her.

Thunder has stopped....Alvis and I have some puddles that require jumping in.

See you in the Skies!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Keeping an Eye on the Grand Stream

While persuing "Last Exile" Lavie and I are challanged to cross a destructive barrier of winds and storms known as the Grand Stream. The closest thing most people will get to experiencing them will be an encounter with a hurricane. Since it is hurricane season here in the States, I thought it might be a good time to remind you of some good hurricane links.

Hurricane Tracking at Terrapin (simple, fast, great storm plotting), T-Storm Terry (lots of great radar and satelite images, lots of color), and NOAA (the government agency charged with keeping an official eye on them all).

Of couse, what good vanship pilot would fail to know and recognize the pilots who take their aircraft into the Grand Stream are our heros. Take a look at some of the brave men and women of the Hurricane Hunters here. See what it looks like in the Grand Stream with them with this photo site. Finally, get some historical information and pictures about the U.S. Navy's Hurricane Hunters.

For a historical reminder on why they are dangerous, take a look at the devistation of the 1900 storm in Galveston, Texas.

Hope you have clear skies!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

While wondering why my toast falls butter side down on the floor.....

may not qualify as one of the world's most pressing scientfic questions in the world, there are some that actually seem to rate as being really important. Here are 125 deep questions posed by the staff at Science Magazine. The answers might really make a difference if we can figure them out.

War is a terrible thing. I love peace. However there are times when a person, a family, a country, a people must take a stand to defend those things they hold dear and sacred and the path of war must be walked. Sometimes the cost is great and the impact echos on forever. In time, enemies may become friends and allies. I think that by remembering the past we honor the spirits of all who fought and died (civilians and soliders), as well as those who are now able to live--a little better and hopefully wiser--because of their sacrifices. Come spend some time with their ghosts....

Gettysburg Area Civil War Battlefield panoramas.
WWII battlefield remains in Kiev at The Serpent's Wall.
Price of technology gone wrong in Chernobyl.(not war-related, but ghosts are here as well)
Hayao Miyazaki's film Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no Haka). (picture above)

See you in the skies.