Monday, May 29, 2006

Space and Sky, Shipwrecks and Spooks

One of the things they teach you about blogging is to come up with a snazzy title to attract attention. So, looking into the pile of links I have been sitting on this week I found those seemed to fit nicely; both with alliteration and attention.

Space and Sky:

Captain Picard's Journal - One of the most hilarious blogs I've come across in a long time. I'm not pulling pages right now so hopefully the Paramount lawyers haven't been sic'ed on the the dude. A more realistic (and whiny) account by the Starship Captain regarding life on board the Enterprise--for example. A recent post accounts what happened when the crew found the laundry machines out of service. Clever stuff!

Lego Sky City - Another really awesome site I came across is BLDGBLOG. Kinda a fusion of the worlds of architecture and design and science. Anyway. Dude built one of those "Flash Gordon" sky cities of the future out of Legos. Good work. (I truly wish I had studied to be an architect in college...oh well...)

We Feel Fine - Not really space and sky, more of an "inner space" thing--but does cover in a magnificent way the world of the net. Billed as "An exploration of human emotion, in six movements." Specifically, it uses Java or Flash to track emotions and feelings on the net. It is really clever and beautifully done. I kinda wish I could stick this as my Active Desktop for a while. Go visit it and tell me what you think. It's very addicting and has a rich depth to it. Well worth the time to fully explore and get to know.

Shipwrecks and Spooks:

ROAMER - So what do you do if you are a bunch of MIT geniuses, have a Senior Design Project staring you in the face...and want to go play in the water? Well grasshopper, you go and convince your professors to let you design and build a "cheap" remotely operated aquatic motorized explorer. What? A remote viewing robot for undersea exploration. It is really cool. These guys give me hope in our science programs

Shipwreck World - that site led me to this one. I've been a fan of Clive Cussler for a long time. So much so I took archeology in college as my minor and had brief dreams in a career in underwater archeology...alas, I couldn't work out getting into SCUBA lessons in college. Anyway, this site highlights recent shipwreck discoveries around the world. Fun.

Five-Digit Spam - I've seen some patterns in some Spam I've gotten. Usually with a really weird foreign name in more than a few. I've pondered if there was some strange connection or conspiracy going on. But figured it was probably just an attempt to work around Spam filters. Peter Kaminski noticed a similar weird Spam trend. He saw that more than a few Spam in his comments contained arbitrary five-digit numbers in the body. Weird. Take a look--sinister or silly? You be the judge.

Numbers stations - I first heard about these number series shortwave radio broadcasts on NPR a long time ago. Listening to these things is very haunting. It is the stuff of spies and spooks and cold-war. Some are just downright creepy. Kinda reminds me of LOST and the whole numbers thing on that show.

Disney Haunted Mansion (via - This has to be my most favorite ride in all the world. I've been on this ride both out in Disney Land and Disney World. It is fantastic. If I could ride just one ride ever in a Disney park, it would be this one hands down. Ever been curious to look behind the Haunted Mansion's curtains? Check out the The Haunted Mansion Cast Members’ Manual of Standard Operating Procedure and take a secret backstage tour of what makes the ride tick. Warning: this is kinda like pulling back the curtain of OZ. Lots of stuff to see here on this site. It's gonna take me a while to get through everything.

Oh, despite my Dwight Silverman inspired "no-tech" holiday challenge weekend, I succumbed. Friday night I installed a DSL account at the home of a family-friend I give "tech-support" to--that is a story for another day!

I also got a really neat pc toy. I can't wait to share this one with you. But it will have to wait for next week when I can finish setting up the "other half." Nothing expensive or flashy. And definitely not attainment of my dream D-SLR camera. Although I found that Best Buy carries it and showed Lavie--she oo'ed and ahh'ed over it with me. So there is hope yet I might score one by the end of the year.

It's good to have your wife on your side when you are looking at Tech.

See you in the skies!

Only the dead have seen....

"....The long gray line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses, thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country.

This does not mean that you are warmongers. On the contrary, the soldier above all other people prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers: "Only the dead have seen the end of war."

The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished - tone and tints. They have gone glimmering through the dreams of things that were. Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday. I listen then, but with thirsty ear, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll.

In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield. But in the evening of my memory I come back to West Point. Always there echoes and re-echoes: Duty, Honor, Country.

Today marks my final roll call with you. But I want you to know that when I cross the river, my last conscious thoughts will be of the Corps, and the Corps, and the Corps.

I bid you farewell."

--quoted from General Douglas MacArthur's Farewell Speech
Given to the Corps of Cadets at West Point
May 12, 1962

Thank you soldiers, for your sacrifice.


Sunday, May 28, 2006

When a Blogger Drops Out

The other day, I noticed the RSS feed was getting for one of the bloggers who I regularly follow was generating an error. That happens sometimes, so I didn't think much of it.

After a few days of the same, however I jumped over to her website "gillianic tendencies" and got a "page not found" error. Hmmmm.

So now after quite a while...I have to assume either she didn't pay her hosting bill (not likely) or has dropped of the Web's blogging world for now. She had mentioned previously that she was going to put the blog in hiatus for a while. I suspect that she has taken some time off to regroup and refocus. Some of the last posts seemed to reflect some fatigue.

This event has really caused me to ponder the meaning and attachment I have towards some of the regular bloggers out there. I have really come to rely on them being there; for laughs, for insight, for leads on new things. I hadn't really considered what it would be like to loose one.

I've considered dropping off one of my blogs before. It wasn't a decision I took lightly. I have a private blog I keep for Lavie. Mostly sappy romantic poetry. I almost deleted it once after a commenter went to town using ugly talk. It really took the inspiration and tenderness away from the whole site for me. I seriously toyed with the idea of just deleting the blog entirely and starting a new one. Lavie eventually convinced me otherwise, but I find it much harder to blog there now. Kinda like it got "tainted." I turned off the comments...but it just doesn't quite feel the same.

Most of us blog for ourselves...cheaper than professional therapy. But if we are lucky, we might attract a small following of strangers who become surrogate "friends" in a way. We learn about each other's lives, families, likes and dislikes...humor and bitterness. When someone leaves the group a void appears. all you fellow bloggers out there thanks for sharing. And for those who decide to bow out...thank you for your time and openness.

We need more of that.

See you in the skies.

Friday, May 19, 2006

CSI: English Style

So....I just couldn't pass this one up...

Last November, someone stole the Ford Anglia featured in the Harry Potter films.

It didn't have an engine, and was stolen from out in front of the gates of the South West Film Studio where it was kept under a tarp.

Acting on an anonymous tip, it was found and recovered in a parking lot outside Carn Brea Castle, described as bearing a "striking resemblance to the Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft." You be the judge of that: Hogwarts vs Carn Brea Castle.

Anyway, quoting from an article published in The Scotsman,
"Forensic experts examining the car said vital clues to who stole it could lie in a length of rope found attached to the back. Gayle Manvell, a crime-scene technician with Devon and Cornwall Police, said the engineless car was probably towed to the castle and whoever dragged it there left a small part of the tow-rope tied to the bumper.

She says the rope could contain fingerprints or DNA."
Really? You really think so?

Where are Catherine and Grissom when you really need them?


Link Dump and Cowgirl with Gun

Hang on is some wacky linkage...time for Claus to empty out the hopper again.

But first, a public service link announcement:

Microsoft Fixes Windows XP SP2 Laptop Battery Drain Problem: (via DailyTech) Get your patch directly from Microsoft's Help and Support download page.

Ok, now off to the fun...

Josie Maran "waiting" desktop. Something about this shot just strikes me as Gorgeous. Warning..kinda racy.

Spatulatta: Cooking for Kids. I was listening to NPR the other week and they had a wonderful interview with the stars (and recent James Beard Award winners) from Spatulatta. They were so precocious! Their site is fun as well.

Flaming Hot Cheetos. A related story on NPR was the issue facing schools regarding "Frito-Lay's Hot Cheetos." Alvis is a big fan of these things, but they have been placed on her "banned substance" list. She was eating a (big) bag of them one day at school and ended up getting an asthma attack so bad, we had to take her to the Emergency Room. No warning label on them... Lavie called the company later and we got an envelope full of free snack coupons. We were eating Frito-Lay products for a number of months. is running a fun gallery called "Superman is a Dick." Featuring the covers of Superman comics, this site illustrates just how hilarious some things can be when looked back from a future time/culture context. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm a respectful admirer of Superman. However, I must confess. My favorite iteration of him had to be in the Lois and Clark TV series. Well, Terri Hatcher as Lois had to have impacted my feelings kinda...

FreeAsInBeer. A frequent phrase that somehow comes up often around me is "Free As In Beer." I've always wondered about this--as have some others, as where I live, beer costs $-$$$$. Free doesn't quite figure. So...research time...

Free As In Beer -- related to software distribution.
Gratis versus Libre -- Free (no cost) versus Freedom

I ended up deciding (for now) that it means things that are available at no monetary cost (like free beer at a party). In that it still costs something to someone (to make and provide) but is offered free to consumers for the spirit of collective enjoyment (both of giver and receiver).

Firefox Sidebar Madness
: I'm a heavy user of the Firefox sidebar. Usually I display my Sage feeds there, but will occasionally switch it to view my bookmarks especially when looking in my "To Blog" folder as I blog on topics/links I've accumulated. So while I haven't found an extension that allows me to keep more than one sidebar open at a time, I have found some useful sidebar extensions:

Ez Sidebar -- really cool as it allows you to undock your sidebar and float it as an independent window. Handy if you have dual monitors.
All-In-One Sidebar -- similar to Opera's feature. Lets you quick-switch between available sidebars as well as Firefox dialog windows.. Nicely customizable. Also lets you place the sidebar on the right, rather than the left.
Sidebar on Right -- just a single option to place your sidebar on the right side.

Ohio University: vintage print advertising archive -- So old it's cool. (thumbnails)

Look at This -- (go on. I dare you to click! You know you want to Look at This!)

Land Rover ran an ad during the 2006 Super Bowl of their Range Rover vehicle in some really awesome looking concrete cavern. I didn't realize it, but that was really the Tokyo's "G-Cans Project" underground water system.
(more here at BLDG BLOG). Anyway...more awesome and mind-boggling high-def pics of the place. (via g-cans project site)

Vintage Popular Mechanics Magazine covers. Dad's dad had a basement full of these things. My brother and I would get lost down there reading all the old science and technology articles. The future seemed to be a lot cooler place to want to be back then then it actually is now that we are here...sighs..

Podsville -- just found this one. Dude is making some of his retro vinyl record transfers available. Don't know if he is on any RIAA hit-lits, but I doubt the artists and producers would be too worried about them. Worth a look and listen...

Roadside Travel pictures at flickr. Nice.

Long live the 50's! -- photoscan of the 1956 Better Homes & Gardens Decorating Book (just not in my house).

Ant Stuff: I've recently laid down some seasonal ant-killer product around our house. So far it's working great. No nests for over two months. But as much as I hate having fire-ants around the house (or in it) I really think ants are cool creatures.

Ameising 1 - video that shows "a pheromonal portait made by Argentine ants" - or - how ants make their tracks.
Nest-casting - pictures and links related to the casting of ant-nests in a solid medium preserving the beauty and structure of their nests. Cool.

Finally, DannyChoo was recently kind to give me permission to (respectfully and occasionally) use some of his pics here on my blog. One of the most fun figures in quite a while he has captured is Meg, from the anime series BurstAngel. What Texan wouldn't be proud to see a gal like this at the Ranch?

See you in the skies!

Eating with the Sticks

Last weekend, Alvis and I were running some errands while Lavie spent some time with her parents and grandmother.

For lunch we stopped by our local Japanese restaurant. We shared some sushi (shrimp and salmon). I had a nice beef appetizer for my main dish and Alvis stuck with her regular salad, rice cup and miso soup. It was a really nice dad and daughter moment. We laughed and talked and had a relaxing good time.

I frequently eat out at Asian places. One of the fun things I like to do is eat with the chopsticks. We almost always end up using the disposable wooden ones (waribashi) you snap in half. I don't really care for these for several reasons. One, they are a little small and are not quite as comfortable to use. Second, it seems kinda wasteful.

Apparently, the waste issue is touching a nerve in China and Japan as well where taxes imposed by the Chinese result in a higher cost now for waribashi in Japan. No word on how this may impact American fans of waribashi, but I'm guessing it won't hit most American's nerve like, say, gasoline costs are.

Anyway, around the Valca home, we have quite a few non-disposable sets of chopsticks we use. Lavie has an elegant set of highly polished lacquered wood ones. We also have a few larger, heavy-duty wood ones as well. I'm frequently found in the kitchen using these to stir pots instead of silverware. These sets are much more comfortable to use.

I've seriously considered keeping a pair of our own with me so when we dine out on Asian foods, I can have my own set with me...but that seemed kinda, well, nerdy. However, I now have a renewed sense of enthusiasm.

Blue Lotus recently posted her consideration on this issue and introduced me to the term "myhashi." Myhashi are basically your own personal pair of chopsticks carried with you. She shows off her beautiful myhashi case. I really like this idea, but need to develop something of a more "tech-y" look. Something in a thin aluminum brushed capsule look. Maybe with rounded caps with a cool rubber o-ring gasket...hmmm.

More chopstick linkage:

The Waribashi Project Blog
Beautiful Myhashi products (translated link via Altavista)
Chopstick products , more, and more.
Osaka breaking the chops (Azumanga Daioh manga strip)

See you in the skies,

Sunday, May 14, 2006

History Passing

Earlier in this week, newspapers mentioned the passing of Lillian Gertrud Asplund. She was the last American survivor of the Titanic sinking back in 1912.

As a kid I as fascinated with the Titanic. My childhood was the period when it had not been seen or found. So I grew up on all those old movies about it and would read tons of books on it. It was a historic event I could puzzle out with my youthful mind: What did the ship look like? What really caused it to go down? What was the captain thinking? What were the last thoughts and acts of the men and women on board? Where was it resting? What did it look like? Could it be (should it be) raised or salvaged?

My imagination got a huge boost with the Clive Cussler novel "Raise the Titanic". The follow up movie was good, but a letdown from the novel.

Then James Ballard and his team found it and the veil of mystery was drawn back.

Lillian Gertrud Asplund's passing struck me, not just as a reminder of how close yet how far away we are from truly historical events is, but also about our own future.

What will the world be like when the media of the future note the passing of the last American survivor of September 11, 2001? It's hard to imagine such a time, but it will come....if we don't muck the entire planet up too badly before then. I think we take history too lightly--especially here in the States. We forget our brief past to easily and don't plan for our national future. I hope as we continue to mature as a nation, that we will gain some maturity and vision.

Mundane Linkage:

Paintings by Alex Kanevsky (fair warning--contains some nudes)
Comic artwork by illustrator Francesco Francavilla. I really like his inkwork.

The wikiHOW billed as "The How-To Manual That Anyone Can Write or Edit". Useful stuff here. I fear my skills around the house are more like Red Green level.

Ken Newsome got a new camera. I envy...

What I wouldn't give to have a romantic meal with Lavie on the deck under this giant tree in Japan at the Hibiya Matsumotoro restaurant?

Finally, the Download Squad points out that there is a new Firefox alpha 2 version released. I'm not messing with this one just yet. Doesn't seem to have a major feature upgrade yet. With the announcement of the removal of the Places elements from (at least the intial) v2.0 release, my enthusiasm has cooled a little bit more. I really have to agree with some of the commenters, that v2.0 is starting to sound like v1.5, but with many of our favorite extensions rolled in. I know there is much more under the hood, but it isn't getting me very worked up. The scale of change from IE6 to IE7 that Microsoft is pulling of is what I am looking for. Never thought I'd be saying that!

I've also noticed that this blog renders great in Firefox and IE7. Layout kinda sucks for you IE6 folks. Sorry about that, but I don't work for Blogspot and am not a master HTML coder either.

Happy Mother's Day, all you Moms!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Winter Sonata Madness

I had previously mentioned I was watching a South Korean drama lately. It's called (Stateside) Winter Sonata. I chanced across it a few weeks ago late one mid-week night. It really grabbed me and in 30 minutes I had been hooked.

Its a 20 part mini-drama of 1 1/2 hour episodes. Lavie kept asking me what I was staying up late watching (running from 10-11:30pm weeknights on AZN cable channel). I told her it was kinda like a soap-opera, but not really. As I explained the dramatic plot to her she thought it sounded like a soap opera--it is, but isn't.

I finally convinced her to stay up one night and watch it with me. Less than thirty minutes later she was hooked also. I had to tape it since she isn't a professional late-night TV watcher and before we knew it, Alvis was hooked as well. So now all three of us are living day-to-day on a emotional roller-coaster because of the crazy drama.

I follows the lives of a star-crossed couple. Tragedy separates them in high-school (he kinda dies--bummer), but 10 years later she runs into a guy who she feels instantly in her gut looks just like her former first love. Except it isn't. He is a famous architect who grew up in the US. She goes to work for him and soon loves is blossoming. Great, except for the fact she is sort-of engaged to this jealous guy. Except, see, it really is her true love after-all. He really was alive but just got horribly hurt in a car accident and his mother told everyone he was dead and moved away and had a false memory given to him (for her own reasons....). Wow. Now he has broken up with his girlfriend, At this point is gradually getting his memory back and she has broken her engagement off as well. Wow! And we are just two-thirds into the series. Yikes! Something "Shakespearian" is going on with all their parents as well. I think there is yet another layer to this thing we haven't peeled off yet.

I'm finding many very compelling things about this drama. First, it is filmed "real-world" style. Many of the shots take place outside on the street. You don't ever feel you are watching them play in carefully constructed sets like U.S. soaps. The actors covey a real sense of warmth in their roles. There is also a certain "sweetness" to the angst. Lots of melancholy. The conflict is written a little over the top, but the situations and pain and suffering and love seem very believable.

The dialog is slow paced, almost poetic. And the camera compositions are real works of art. This series is really pulling at our jaded American hearts and ripping them up. Lavie and I are hooked. We are both kinda weepy and been hugging on each other much more frequently.

It's a rare thing to find something that really portrays love and tenderness and the mixed up real-life conflicts that come with it in such a respectful and kind way. This one really hits the mark.

Here's some more linkage, in case you are curious:

Winter Sonata - Wikipedia.
Winter Sonata Fever
Why is Winter Sonata a Big Hit in Asia?

Moving on:

Google Cheat Sheets (Version 1.05) This is a very handy link that provides links to the mryiad of Google sites, tips, tweaks and little known "hacks" that can really increase your power-Googleing skills. Well worth printing out. As an added bonus, if you use the PDF version, all the links are "hot" and work.

Google released SketchUp, a 3D modeling software program. I haven't had a chance to download and play with it, but I can already think of many good uses for it.

Want to add a TV tuner to your laptop or pc, but don't have the room for the extra card? Take a look at the USB device known as the V-Gear MobiTV Global. Neat and for about $100, very attractive!

How does cramming 16GB of storage in the space of about two credit cards sound? Sounds amazing to me. Hope it won't break if you sit on it....

Since we are talking about small things....take a look at the "Space Cube." it claims to be the smallest pc on the market at a little over 2 inches cubed. I'd love to load a really stripped down version on Linux on it and see what it could do. Think carrying a USB stick on your keychain is cool? What if it was an entire PC?

If you are like me, you almost never read the manual for anything you buy. But then when you finally need to figure something out, you never can find it. archives a large number of manuals on-line. Now you don't have any excuses for not setting the time on your VCR...

How much do you love your blog? Do you love it enough to publish it in paper form? Some publishers are betting you and others would. "Blooks"--how lame is that word? I'm not wholly impressed with the idea. I can only think of a handful of blogs I visit that I would care to enjoy that much. And the whole linkage things kinda gets "lost in translation."

'Course, good old Kent Newsome points us to a new debate by the blogging elitists that seem to suggest that real bloggers shouldn't link. Sorry. Grand Stream Dreams blog will never be link free. I want my linkage! How else can I trick you into wasting your time with me?

Portable Freeware offers two freeware strategy games that port to your USB drive nicely: Battle for Wesnoth and Vega Strike. What the boss don't know.....

Paul Stamatiou shares up his ideas of Windows XP Must-Haves (free/$$). Coming from a Mac guy, the list seems pretty well-rounded. I like his selections and have used quite a few myself.

Do you like those "old-school" cartoons? The original Loony Tunes, Woody Woodpecker, Merrie Melodies stuff? If so, then you have to take the time to explore Golden Age Cartoons website. Man, there's some interesting stuff here.

Lifehacker passes on a tip for the bulk renaming of files in Windows.

I was visiting over at flagrantdisregard and ended up being shown the Wikipedia link to Rock, Paper, Scissors. Did you know there are actually rules, strategies, gambits, etc. to this thing? Wow! Maybe Condoleezza Rice should sit down with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and just have at it with this game. Looser has to back down and concede. Save a lot of time and energy wouldn't it....

Tokyo Times shares with us the latest thing in sending of a newly married Japanese couple: the Bear Blaster. I know I was picking white-rice out of socks, shoes and underwear for days...well, a couple of hours...after Lavie and I got married. At least the bears would haven't been as irritating on the drive to our honeymoon destination...

The AppleGeeks web-comic squad have been doing "guest illustrations" for Piro over at MegaTokyo for some time. I really like their urban style. Check em out. Then again, maybe you don't want might get hooked.

Now, do I want to play BLACK, watch some more Winter Sonata, or maybe Eureka Seven?

I just don't know....Decisions, decisions, decisions. Saturdays are great!

See you in the skies,