Browse Month: December 2004

12/30/2004

Q: Why did the chicken cross the Moebius strip?
A: To get to the same side.

12/28/2004

I’m working on a web project that requires a little teeny “warning” icon for users who don’t enter their credit card information properly. Lacking such an icon, I did a cursory search of the web and got a kick out of the Big Scary Laser warning sign. Too bad I can’t use it on the site…

12/27/2004

The airlines suck.

Everyone knows that their pricing model is some form of black magic that no mortal can comprehend, and the prices you get for tickets vary based on, I don’t know, rainfall in Peru or something. But this was a first for me: the price of my ticket jumped $25 while I was purchasing it!

I was in Travelocity, making my reservations for a jaunt to a business meeting in California, and got the message shown below. Holy cow.

12/27/2004

Today’s fun spam subject line:

Database containing a list of every registered domain and email in the world for sale!

The message goes on to brag about how they have every .com and .net domain in a big list (generated with their special “whois extraction software”) and of course some 600 million e-mail addresses. Whee!

1) It’s illegal to extract information from the Whois database for marketing purposes.

2) It’s illegal to run repeated, automated queries against the Whois database at all.

3) The 600 million e-mail addresses are undoubtably generated by adding common names to the domain suffix, such as “info@domain.com”, “webmaster@domain.com”, “jeff@domain.com”, and so on. In all likelihood, a huge majority of them are going to be invalid… not that spammers really care.

4) The message comes from someone named Mike Luthan, whose e-mail address is roy.durrands@telinco.co.uk, and who tells me in the message to write to him at sales@bulkemailmarketing.org. Hmm, I wonder if Mike is his real name?

Argh. The whole spam thing is so idiotic, and so wasteful of time and bandwidth. One wonders if these guys really think they’re doing the rest of the world a service peddling their wares. In the end, I suppose the people who we should really blame are the scores of morons who actually buy the stuff… without them, the business model would collapse. But when one of every hundred thousand spam recipients buys the product, the other ninety-nine thousand of us have to suffer.

12/26/2004

Alex got a really cool toy from Aunt Kathy. It’s a set of little colored magnetic rods and a box full of marble-sized steel ball bearings. The fun begins when you take them and assemble them molecule-style into all sorts of fun shapes. The kids and I spent a solid hour tonight building and having fun with the magic of magnetism.

Of course the mathematician in me came out, and I built a little icosahedron. Sweet.

12/26/2004

“Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped.”

— Elbert Hubbard

12/25/2004

Merry Christmas!

(And beware of drinking too much nog…)

12/24/2004

Last night we went over to hang out with some friends in the neighborhood. Since they live about three streets away, it seemed reasonable to walk (which we always do). Unfortunately it was a bit chilly last night: below zero, in fact.

In scientific circles, this is known as “booger freezing cold”.

12/20/2004

‘Tis the season for Christmas cards.

As usual, Laralee and I are sending cards to pretty much everyone who’s anyone, which includes about 150 friends and family. I’m also sending the usual cards to my clients, and this year that’s about 40. Yikes.

Of course, when you’re looking at making and mailing nearly 200 cards, you’re also looking at pretty much anything that will streamline the process. Instead of buying cards at the store, printing a Christmas letter that no one really reads, and then writing in all those cards (even if it’s as simple as “Hey, Bill, hope you have a good one!”) we decided to print our own cards. No letter this time– just lots of fun pictures. No signatures– they’re scanned. Buy some card stock and some half-page-sized envelopes, and you’re in business. Print, fold, stuff, stamp, send.

It’s sort of sad, really, to consider how much of an assembly-line process it’s become. But at the same time, there’s simply no way to give all of these cards the personal attention I’d like. Thus, when I was stuffing all these cards late last night (Laralee was feverishly wrapping gifts), I felt a twinge of guilt. But only a little twinge.

12/18/2004

“All science is either physics or stamp collecting.”

— Ernest Rutherford

12/17/2004

Hoo boy!

I’m featured in an article on NewsForge, which is a popular site that bills itself as “the online newspaper for Linux and open source”. Along with two other Colorado Linux consultants, I dispense advice about working with Linux and how it helps me succeed as a business. Of course I’m always evangelizing Linux to my clients, even though most of them don’t really understand what I’m talking about. The only thing that matters to them, at the end of the day, is whether their shiny new system will be (1) secure, and (2) cheap. Luckily I can do both.

I don’t expect to get a sudden rise in work from the article– after all, who reads news stories about companies and then immediately calls them to do a project? But it’s a nice addition to my publication portfolio.

12/17/2004

Once again I’m sitting in bed, working on my laptop in the wee hours of the morning. As usual I’ve got my headphones on, jamming to some random music while I work.

For whatever reason, Meat Loaf showed up in the playlist and I’m listening to “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”. It’s such an interesting and fun song… and it reminds me of the ol’ college days, when I first heard it (and other selections from the Meat Loaf discography) because a bunch of friends of the female persuasion really liked the music.

Boy, there’s nothing like listening to stuff like this at 1:30 in the morning…

12/13/2004

How to have fun in old Ireland:

Step 1: Drive car off dock into water.

Step 2: Get crane truck to lift car out of water.

Step 3: Oops, bad call on weight distribution; crane truck falls in water too.

Step 4: Ahh, get bigger crane truck to lift both out of water!

Step 5: Uhh… anyone have a bigger crane?

12/12/2004

Kyra’s homework assignment is to write about one wish she has for Christmas. After a moment of thought, she very carefully wrote

I want a baby sister for Christmas.

Yikes!

12/12/2004

In a fit of boredom (after finishing the annual Christmas card-letters) I decided to poke around the ol’ cyberschroeder web site. I looked at the statistics for the month, and was surprised by some of the search terms people used to get to the site (see the screenshot following):

“Short stories for English class” — Okay, they were probably a bit surprised when they found my rather cheesy writing, but hey, maybe one of them will turn out to be a publisher.

“Journal entries by President Bush” — Well, ol’ Dubya hasn’t written any entries in my journal, but there are certainly some pieces about him.

“Wonder Woman stationery” — I can’t even imagine why someone would search for that, but maybe they know Sarah and her penchant for the lady with the magic lasso.

“Reality in a Box” — This is the title of one of my stories, and certainly an unusual phrase. Maybe my fame is sweeping the globe and people have heard of the killer story.

“UMR homecoming” — Hello, fellow Rolla grads, wherever you are!

“Craig chancellor” — Ahh, who can forget my good pal Craig “Chancellor” Wyzik, who is mentioned many times in the blog?

“Devastatin Dave Zip Zap Rap lyrics” — Whoa. This one is just plain scary, because it means there must be some Devastatin’ Dave fans out there. Too bad the only reference I have to Dave is the classic Worst Album Covers page.

“Annelise LeCheminant” — Fans of my friend Annelise; cool!

All in all, I guess it goes to show people look for some pretty interesting stuff on this thing we call the world wide web…

12/11/2004

Today’s Idiotic Spam Award goes to the lottery notification I just received, informing me that I’ve won the THUNDER-BALL UK INTERNATIONAL CHARITY lottery. Woo hoo! Now all I have to do is give them my bank account information and they’ll deposit my prize. What could be easier?

(How in the world do people really fall for this kind of stuff? Sheesh.)

The best is the guy’s signature:

Michael Foster,
Directors of Operations,
THUNDERBALL UK LTD,
Thunder-Ball House,
221 Albemarle Street,
London W1S 4BS,
United Kingdom

It would totally rock to live at the Thunder-Ball House.

12/09/2004

Last night Alex and I attended our first Pinewood Derby race. This is a Boy Scout tradition (no, Alex isn’t in Scouting) where the kids take a block of wood and some wheels and saw, sand, paint, and finish a race car. Then, in the spirit of male competition, the cars are raced.

There were 22 cars entered in the race, and probably 60+ people there. Before the race, while the “officials” were setting up the timers and computer software (!), a bunch of the kids were testing the track with their cars. Alex’s car consistently beat them– every single race he ran, his car zipped ahead of everyone else.

This struck me as pretty funny because according to tradition, when you build your car you’re supposed to file down the axles, sand the wheels with 600-grit sandpaper to remove any “imperfections”, use graphite to improve spin, balance the axles carefully to avoid a tilt, and so on. When I first heard about what other teams were doing, it made it sound like they were preparing for the Gran Prix or something. Alex and I took our block, sawed out a reasonable race-car shape, sanded it, and spray-painted it gold. We hammered the axles in place, glued a little Lego guy into the cockpit, and called it good. Yet our woefully unprepared car was crushing the fancy ones. Hmm.

Anyway, the races began and it was a lot of fun. Every car raced four times (once on each of the four parallel tracks) for fairness, and the computer system recorded times to thousandths of a second. At the end, everyone’s times were averaged so the final winner could be determined. Shockingly, Alex’s car placed third overall– an average of less than a tenth of a second behind the first-place finisher. He was thrilled, not least because he won a Hershey bar.

It was a real hoot, and amusing to watch the fierce competition.

12/08/2004

“When a person can no longer laugh at himself, it is time for others to laugh at him.”

— Thomas Szasz

12/06/2004

To hold elections, or not to hold elections… that is the question.

There’s no doubt about it– the Iraqi government is in a bind. If they postpone the January elections because of instability, they’re sending the message that the insurgents can push them around. If they hold the elections anyway, they alienate large sections of the country (who perceive themselves, rightly or no, to be unfairly represented) and risk civil war.

I guess George W met with Ghazi al-Yawar, and together they agreed that the elections will go as planned, regardless of how many people are killed in the next month. Although I offer no opinion on whether this is a good choice or a bad one, there are two comments from these leaders that give me pause.

First, let’s hear from Bush:

“You can never guarantee one hundred percent security. But the Iraqi people have the chance to say to the world, ‘We choose democracy over terrorism.'”

Part of the problem with the elections, from my perspective, is the simple fact that they’re “democratic” at all. Iraq– and the Middle East in general– is a place that hasn’t seen democracy in two millennia. They don’t really understand it, and they don’t necessarily want it. Of course they don’t want some despot running the show, but at the same time they’re accustomed to a theocracy and their very culture is so deeply ingrained with Moslem teachings that to expect them to shift gears to a representative democracy is naive at best.

So I think Bush’s comment is ill-founded. The Iraqi people probably want to say to the world, “Thanks for booting Saddam, and for helping with the terrorist thing, but let us decide how to run ourselves now.”

Then we’ve go al-Yawar:

“These are a mix of people who have one thing in common: Hatred to the Iraqi society and hatred to democracy, people who are trying to stop us from having our first elections.”

I doubt the insurgents got together a few months ago and said, “You know, we hate democracy– let’s blow up everything we can.” I don’t think they care much what the government looks like. It seems clear their true goal is to kill Americans (pronounced “The Great Satan”) and anyone who collaborates with them. A few innocent casualties are okay too, as long as they deliver the real message.

For al-Yawar to think the rebellion on his hands is about democracy shows that he doesn’t understand their purposes. They want America gone for good, and only after that would they be concerned with setting up a government (preferably run by them).

All in all, I’m fine with Bush and al-Yawar agreeing that the elections will happen on schedule. That’s their call (well, it’s not really Bush’s call, but let’s not split hairs). But when the messages they give have such obvious logical fallacies in them, it’s disturbing.