Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The Asian Disaster

On the homepage of is a banner asking you to donate to the relief efforts of the recent earthquake and tsunami in South Asia. The death toll is over 80,000 people right now. Most of you already have accounts. Just type your password and donate. It's easy, and it's worth helping out.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Digital prints at Meijer

Meijer offers a service called Print @ Store from Home. You download their software (which has a terrible interface), pick your photos, select your print sizes, submit the order, and then go to the store and pick up your prints. It's a pretty good idea, I must say. And for $0.20 4x6 inch prints, it made for a pretty good experience.

Sunday, December 26, 2004


I'm in St. Charles, Illinois, at my parents' house for the week. I've been here for a few days. Since I'll be here for so long, I brought my laptop and my wireless router. I finally set it up today. It's nice being able to sit in their living room with my laptop and be on their cable modem. It's just like being in Champaign.

Christmas was today

Today was my fourth Christmas gathering, and the first one at which I exchanged gifts. The previous ones had been with step-family or cousins with whom I no longer exchange gifts. Actually, that's not entirely true. My cousin David (the one in the Peace Corps in Tanzania) is back for a few weeks. He brought back some souvenirs, including "tire sandals," which are flip-flops made from used car tires. Today was for the real gifts. Highlights of my giving included the cute pink outfit for my two-week-old niece, some nice clothes for my sister and mom, a Smartwool top for a brother-in-law, and a camcorder for the new parents (a combined gift from everyone). Highlights of what I received included a guitar from a sister, a great cookbook (The New Best Recipe, by the editors of Cook's Illustrated; it's bigger than most phone books), and a set of nice kitchen knives (Forschner by Victorinox, the Swiss Army Knife company) recommended by Cook's Illustrated (surprise!). It was a great day, full of great gift exchanges. I hope everyone out there is having a nice time with the people in their life that they care about.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Coyote Linux rocks

Coyote Linux transforms your low-end PC into a NAT/Firewall/Gateway box. The last time I tried it, it was a crude application. Now it's gorgeous. It has an elegant web-based configuration UI, as well as a barebones SSH interface. And it fits on a single floppy! My gateway box no longer hosts services! Yay! It only took me a year to realize that goal!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


I was buying some groceries today and I stopped to buy some eggnog. (A former roommate describe eggnog as "The Prince of Drinks.") I was comparing the Schnuck's brand to some other non-store-brand that was ten cents more. I was looking over the ingredients list and they were identical, even in the hyphenation of "mono- and diglycerides." Then I saw a "processed at plant x" number on the Schnuck's brand. The non-store-brand had the same number on it (but different wording). I'm convinced that they're the same, identical product that came from the same production plant.

(Yes, my life is this boring.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Return of the King

I went to Best Buy over lunch and purchased the Return of the King extended edition. I'm nearly sexually excited about the new 50 minutes of footage.

Upcoming Downtime

I've requested a transfer of this domain ( to a new registrar, so over the next week or so there might be a few days of downtime. Not that that's a big deal :)

Friday, December 03, 2004

128-bit storage

How much energy would it take to fill a 128-bit address space with data? More energy than it would require to boil the oceans. Fun read.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Oh, General Tso, how I love your chicken!

I made some General Tso's Chicken tonight from scratch. I like to read multiplerecipies when I make something new. I think it gives me a better general feel for how the dish is supposed to be made. Sometimes I pick one and follow it. Other times, I just wing it, using the recipies as a guideline. Tonight I winged it. I was pleased with the results. If you're curious, the Washington Post has an article, Who Was General Tso And Why Are We Eating His Chicken?

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Firefox tweak

By now, everyone reading this knows that Firefox 1.0 has been released. Firefox is, of course, the best web browser currently available. Let's reflect. First it was Netscape. At the version 3 point, IE was preferred. I stuck with IE through 6. And now Firefox my preferred browser. The reasons are countless and frankly I don't care to list them all here. What I do know is that when I'm forced to use IE, web browsing is a much different, much less pleasant experience. Of course, a good deal of that is the result of Adblock. But I've gotten off topic.

My tweak: If you go to about:config, you can set browser.block.target_new_window to true, which prevents web sites from opening new windows. If I want a new window (or tab), I'll do it myself, thank you very much. But after upgrading, it stopped working! A little messing around found the answer: set to 1. I'm not sure what that means, or what other values of it do, but it works. So if you're struggling with this issue, give this a shot.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

May I help you find something?

As we all know, Internet search is big business these days. Recently, A9 was launched. And today, Google announced the Google Desktop.

A9 is a search engine with a twist: you log into it using your account. It is then able to keep your search history and your bookmarks on their servers. Which means that you can log in from anywhere, on any computer with Internet access, and get to your bookmarks. It's beautiful! It has some cool drag-and-drop features (drag a link from your search results into your bookmarks). The best part is that it uses Google for results, so you don't have to give up the quality that you're used to. You just get these value-added features. It also has buttons to include movies (IMDB), images (Google Images) and books (searching inside via (and a few other things) in your results.

The downside? No Google Calculator, no maps, no phonebook, no package tracking, no Google Local, no define: (though I usually use Merriam-Webster), no Froogle, no Groups, no News. And now, no Google Desktop.

Google Desktop builds a fast, searchable index of the hard drive on your computer. I installed it today and I already know that it will be indispensable. It searches into Office documents. It builds an index of your Outlook email. The slowness of Outlooks searches has been something that I've grumbled about for quite some time. Today, just to prove a point, I did an advanced search in Outlook for the word "twice" in the subject and message body of all of my email (about 90 MB). It took 45 seconds. In the era of Google, I'm sorry, but that's just absurd! With my newly-created Google Desktop index of my email, I searched for the same word. It took 0.8 seconds. I rest my case. (As an aside, the admin of the Exchange server turned on full-text indexing for my account on the server...I'll post here with results of that comparison.)

Google Desktop's results are tightly integrated with Google. When you search for something, if there are results on your computer, they show up in the top, just the way news results or Froogle results show up. Google Desktop is incredibly useful. It fills a pretty big hole in my computing life. It does what Indexing Service failed to do. It does what WinFS is promising to do. I think Google Desktop will be an indispensable tool for me until WinFS rolls around.

As for A9, I really like the server-side search history and bookmarks. I don't have to email myself links anymore. I just put them in A9. But knowing what you give up with Google, you have to know when to use it. For my average web search, A9 is king. For things I'm less certain about (especially programming-related, where answers are likely on Usenet), Google is the way to go. I guess that makes me a flip-flopper.

In summary: try A9, try Google Desktop. I like them both a lot, and I bet you will, too.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Voting Records and the Safety Rock

I made a mistake today. I read the comments on a story. There were a few worth sharing here. The first one is about how bills get passed in Congress.

I write a bill. It is good. It goes through committees and ends up with a hundred unrelated riders.

Now, my friend, he doesn't mind those 100 riders, so he votes on the initial bill. The bill doesn't get enough votes, gets sent back to committee.

In that committee, it gets reworked, a few more riders. Gets sent back to congress. It gets voted for debate (my friend votes for the debate to happen), and then in the process a few more motions get approved that tack a few more provisions on that bill.

Now, one of those provisions says that some state can take more water from the Colorado River than it already does. The Colorado River is already under huge pressure from water users, and my friend is a representative from CO. Therefore, when the bill comes up, he votes against it because he can't approve a legislative measure that would deprive his already drought-conditioned constituents of even more water.

The problem is that the bill would have provided affordable housing for 250,000 families across the country.

So, when my friend is up for election, his staff pulls the voting records and--presto! My friend is "against affordable housing for working class families". Even better, he flip-flopped on the issue, because "he voted for it before he voted against it."

And another one, referencing a Simpson's quote on the notion that America is safer since we started the War "on Terror:"

Homer: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a charm.
Lisa: That's specious reasoning, Dad.
Homer: Thank you, dear.
Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
Homer: Oh, how does it work?
Lisa: It doesn't work.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: It's just a stupid rock.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: But I don't see any tigers around, do you?
Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Adrenaline Rush

I almost rear-ended some guy tonight. I was driving in the rain. I noticed a pedestrian on the sidewalk. She was wincing, riding her bike in the rain. That sucks, I thought. I turned my attention back to the road and the guy in front of me was stopped (the guy in front of him had stopped to turn left). I hit the breaks. Too hard. The car slid. Oh shit. I pumped the breaks, thinking Oh-shit-oh-shit-oh-shit with every pump. I was able to stop in time. But afterwards I was all adrenaline-shaky. My feet and legs were all wobbly. Phew!

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Dinner and Sharp Knives

I made a great dinner for myself last night. Following the recipe in the current Cook's Illustrated magazine (I can't link to the recipe, you have to pay to join their website), I made American Potato Salad. The recipe uses russet potatoes, which are a little crumbly, but absorb vinegar better than waxier potatoes.

While that was cooling in the fridge, I used the "Spice Rubs for Grilled Steak" article to guide me in making a rub. I made a mix of 1 t. ground chipotle, 1 t. ground cumin, 1/2 t. allspice and 1 t. black pepper to rub on a strip steak. I used my in-oven digital thermometer to broil it to a perfect medium-rare. The juiciness of the steak really blended those spices together.

For my vegetable, I had some green beans tossed with a fresh diced tomato and red onion, drizzled with just a touch of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. (Actually, I learned that what I call balsamic vinegar isn't really balsamic vinegar. Only 3,000 gallons of the real balsamic are released annually. It costs about $150 for 8 oz.) I had a plum for my fruit and a chocolate malt for desert. It was a delicious dinner!

I got that issue of Cook's Illustrated for free when I signed up for the Americas Test Kitchen web site to get the pad thai recipe. I really like how they explain the process they use to get to the recipe. It's not just "here, do this," it's, "here's what I did, here's what didn't work, here's what tasters didn't like, so here, do this." Considering that, plus how delicious dinner was last night, I think I'm going to subscribe.

In somewhat related news, I sharpened my two "best" knives this afternoon (they're crappy knives, but the best in my arsenal of hand-me-down, cast-off knives). Yesterday I was getting frustrated cutting a tomato. Sliding the blade along the fruit would not bite. The blade just slid along the skin and left a little dent. I had to stick the point into the skin to break the surface. Then I could saw through it. But of course it squished the fruit and squeezed the juices and seeds out. How frustrating! Today, I remembered that I had a whetstone in one of those boxes of tools that I got when we cleaned out my grandparent's estate. To make sure I knew what I was doing, I watched a Food TV video on how to sharpen a knife. My whetstone has two grits, one on each side. Rough first, fine second, then finish the edge with a sharpening steel. I then plucked a tomato out of my garden and set to work slicing it. It was effortless. The blade just slid through the skin and eased its way through the flesh. I had clean slices with no squishing from a dull knife. This will buy me some time until I eventually buy a new, nice set of knives. Right now, my sights are set on Forschner/Victorinox knives. They were rated best by Cook's Illustrated.

Olympic women's beach volleyball is on the TV right now. They're hardly wearing any clothes. I'm going to watch it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The Gift of Freedom

In a speech that President Bush made this afternoon, he had this to say in regard to America's current foreign policy: "Freedom is not America's gift to the world, freedom is the Almighty God's gift to each man and woman in this world."

Since America is Iraq's liberator and since we gave freedom to the people there and in Afghanistan, is Bush implying that his actions are sanctioned by The Almighty? Is he implying that he's carrying out God's will?

How can anyone argue with that? If you're acting on God's behalf or carrying out divine will, well, that's it. There is no higher power, no one to answer to. Your actions are not only right, they are the only morally responsible actions.

Islamic Jihadists also claim to be on God's side. It is God's will that the infidels be brought down. It is God's will to create a Muslim the barrel of a gun if needed.

I'm not trying to say that Bush is a terrorist. Far from it. But Bush does seem to have a belief in right or wrong, black and white, with us or against us, saved or damned. We need to remember that there are grey areas and that there is room for doubt. We should not claim that we're spreading The Almighty's gift to the world...especially when it's by the barrel of a gun.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Garden Fresh Tomatoes

Tonight, I had BLT's. Made with home grown tomatoes. It was the first BLT I've had this summer and first tomatoes I've picked. It was amazing. I think I'd forgotten, over the course of the previous year, what a good tomato tasted like. I've gotten used to eating Santa Sweets, which are very good, but they're no where near what I had tonight. Big, sweet, juicy, meaty slices of tomato laid on top of romaine lettuce and fresh-cooked center cut bacon with just enough mayo to complete the sandwich. I enjoyed the first one so much that I made a second.

The only down side is that I only had three red, ripe fruits on my one tomato plant. And I ate two of them tonight. There are three green ones still growing, but I'm worried that the plant won't get enough sun for them to turn red. We'll see.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Healthy Disagreement

"A man never tells you anything until you contradict him." -George Bernard Shaw

I came across that quote a few years back and I think that it has really shaped my life. If we all go along in life agreeing with everybody and stroking each others egos, no progress can be made. You only get superficial rhetoric until you put someone on the defense and make them back up their statements.

It is for this very reason that I subscribe to a few Bush/Cheny '04 RSSfeeds, as well as a Kerry/Edwards feed. The feeds are great at rebutting each other. It is also the reason that I check out Rush Limbaugh's web site every now and then and see what his current rant-of-the-moment is. I don't always disagree with what he initially says. But by the time he expands on the time he's really told me what he means and his thought process to bring him there...I seem to always be shaking my head in disbelief.

In this weekend's Weekly Radio Address by the President, Bush said, "And although teen birth rates have declined, about 3 million of our teenagers contract sexually transmitted diseases each year. So we've requested a doubling of federal funding for abstinence-only education programs."

Ahem. You're going to prevent the transmission of STDs by telling teens to not have sex? What about the 40% of 15 year olds that are already having sex?

It's fine for people to have conservative values. You may abstain if you want to. But you can't ignore the facts. A surprising number of teens have sex. Sure, you can tell them not to. But many of them are going to do it anyway. You need to inform them of the options. Abstinence is the only 100% effective way to not get pregnant or an STD. But condoms can really help. So can a committed, monogamous relationship. If you're going to choose to have sex, you need to know how to be safe about it.

Does President Bush understand the science behind his abstinence-only desires? Do you think he was a virgin during his coked-up, alcoholic years? Is he making these speeches simply to appease his base? I don't know the answers. But I do know that I think abstinence-only sex ed is ineffective and valueless.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Puppy Sitting

This weekend, I puppy-sat for Murray, Brooke and Paul's (my sister and her husband's) yellow lab. They're moving from Chicago to Memphis for what is planned to be a short term job change for Paul. Brooke is "working from home," and it doesn't really matter where home is since she flies to most of her client meetings anyway. Paul was playing golf in some tournament in Springfield yesterday, so they needed a place to drop off their puppy that was en-route. I was fairly close.

Friday night was spent puppy-proofing my living room. I moved everything that would fit in a lab's mouth into my spare room and closed the door. That took a lot longer than I had expected.

They stopped by Saturday morning. After they left, Murray paced around neurotically for about a half hour trying to find them. I decided that some exercise would be good for him, so I took him for a lap around Centennial Park. That's over two miles. I jogged off and on. It's more difficult to jog when you have a dog pulling on a leash and breaking your rhythm. When we got back, he was pretty worn out. I ate some lunch and watched a little PBS, including America's Test Kitchen which featured Pad Thai. The key flavor is tamirand, a fruit native to Africa.

Then I took Murray over to Tim and Holly's place. Tim helped me change the oil in my car and rotate my tires. Murray hung out in their fenced back yard. I had never changed any oil before, so I needed a guiding hand. It wasn't too bad, really. The worst part was reaching the filter, which was in a very awkward spot. There was oil dripping on my mouth, so I kept it shut tight. I was determined to finish unscrewing the damn filter before I crawled out from under the car again. There was oil everywhere. Rotating the tires was cake. It just took a little muscle. Having two sets of jack stands helped, too, since we could prop the car up off the ground to rotate the tires.

After the car work, I came home and showered. Then Murray started getting some energy again, so I took him out for another walk. This time we went around Kaufmann Lake. That's around 1.25 miles, round trip. I think he wanted to go in the water. I had to really lean away from him pulling on the leash just to walk straight.

After our walk, I did a little work on my Africa web site (yes, it's still being worked on). Then I tried to scavenge up some dinner from what I had on hand. Here is what I learned: balsamic vinegar and coconut milk are disgusting together. I threw out my concoction. Instead I had egg noodles with diced, canned tomatoes on top. Simple, boring and satisfying.

After a little more time on the web site, it was time for bed. After a bit of puppy-proofing, I pulled Murray's bed into my room at the foot of my bed. While I was brushing my teeth, I heard a clunk in the kitchen. He had his front paws on the kitchen counter. When I told him to get down, he had a towel in his mouth. We had a standoff for a good five minutes. He managed to get a table in between us so that I couldn't get to him. If I went to one side, he'd go to the other. Eventually, I just sat down so that he was stuck in the kitchen. I waited him out. Eventually he just stopped having fun and I was able to just snag the towel from his mouth.

He was restless at night and kept me up a little bit. He kept peeking his nose up through the blinds to try and see outside.

I was awoken by a whimpering dog licking my face. He needed to go potty. I tried to ignore him, but he persisted. It was pretty sweet and it made me smile. A puppy licking your face is a much better way to wake up than an alarm clock.

After trying to go back to sleep again, I took him for another Centennial Park walk. I knew that he had a six hour car ride ahead of him, so I thought Brooke and Paul would appreciate it. Back in my apartment, he and I played a little catch with his oversized tennis ball. That is, until he realized that he could pull the covering off of it. Which then exposed the rubber which he could then chew into little bits. He worked on that tirelessly for a good hour....

When they showed up, Murray flipped out. He was so excited to see his mom and dad again. I was a little sad to see them go. It's always comforting to have family come visit.

The rest of my day was spent mostly working on the web site. I went to a few grocery stores (including Am-Ko, the Asian import store on campus) to buy the things I needed to make Pad Thai. I've got to say, I did a damn good job. I used chicken instead of shrimp, and I used the tamirand concentrate option (not the pulp). The girl at the store said that the concentrate is a ton easier to work with. I also used a fresh, grated radish instead of the preserved option. Pad Thai isn't that hard to make. It's just that when you start cooking, you have to add everything very quickly. So you have to have everything ready and you can't really split your time cooking and rereading the recipe. But it turned out great. I can't wait to show off my leftovers at lunch tomorrow at the office. As a bonus, I'll get to make a TV joke since I got the recipe from over-the-air PBS.

And that, my friends, is all.

P.S. What does it say about my life if I was worried that I was boring the dog?

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

It Continues

I'm still getting settled back into my normal life after my trip. It's been a week and a half. I balanced my books today (it's been almost a month!). I'm still working on the web site. I finally finished the safari portion of my trip, which was the most picture-laden. A few more days should do it. Once I finish it, I can finally clean my apartment. And put away my laundry (it's folded and sitting on sofa). Not enough free time!

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

I'm Back

I'm back, safe and sound. I got into Chicago Saturday afternoon...I'm still piecing my life back together (bills, cleaning, laundry). It was an amazing trip, to say the least! I'm working on a web site. I took over 1,000 photos (using the burst shooting mode when a cheetah is walking across the road in front of you, for example, leads to lots of pictures).

Actually, I haven't worked on the website tonight. Instead, I went to see Fahrenheit 9/11. I was in Africa when it came out, and I just couldn't wait to see it! I mean, I've always believed that this war was about economics and oil, but Moore presents more facts than I could ever dream of uncovering. Weapons? Liberation? Nope. Just a guise. Hopefully John Edwards can give the Kerry campaign the boost it needs to get Dubya out of office. (BTW, Edwards announced his presidential candidacy on the Daily Show. He won my support right there and then!)

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

More Stuff

Let's go over what I've packed. I've got Tylenol PM packed. I also have a few yards of twine and about 7 feet of duct tape. 5 boxes of crayons and two bags of candy to give away to kids. Bug spray, Wet Naps, hydrocortisone, Neosporin, band aids, Pepto-Bismol and toilet paper. Malaria meds, "Third World Travel Formula," probiotic, Imodium and a follow-up antibiotic if Imodium doesn't do the trick. Enough clothes, socks, underwear, flip flops, running shoes. Some meal-in-a-bars. A flashlight. Three books. A map of London, all my flight info, printouts of some key emails and a notebook for journaling. My camera and extra batteries. All the regular toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, floss and deodorant. Passport, proof of yellow fever vaccination. Feels pretty thorough...but what am I forgetting?

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Too Much Stuff

We spend our lives working so that we are able to acquire stuff so that we can eventually die and leave all of our stuff for our families to clean up.

Monday, June 14, 2004

No Private Methods

Jaybaz writes about a programming concept that intrigued me: no private methods. If you ever need to encapsulate something into a private method, you should make it an object instead with a public interface. He describes it as performing Extract Class until there are only public methods left. Private fields are okay, but methods must be public.

It's intriguing.... It would be a little bit of overhead, extra work, sure, but it leads to some cool ideas. It pushes the idea of design encapsulation. It should lead to better code reuse. And better reuse means less bugs over time: you fix it in one spot and everything that uses that object is fixed, too.

Of course if you define your object boundaries poorly, refactoring might become a nightmare. But if they're defined well, refactoring might become a breeze.

I haven't made up my mind on this yet. I want to try it and see if I like it. Will I stick with it? Will the overhead and extra work be outweighed by the encapsulation and reusability prospects in that code? Will it be an end to or a cause for refactoring?

Thursday, June 10, 2004


This weekend, I spent time with my family for an early Father's Day celebration. Here's my step-nephew, Jack. I should mention that my sister made it officially know this weekend that she's expecting. I'll be a "real" uncle around Christmas time! Near the end of the night, a few of us sat around a fire.

Today I cut into a PureHeart seedless watermelon. It's great. It's a honeydew-sized watermelon with more meat and less rind. Official homepage.

We've had some crazy weather today with plenty of thunder and lightning. Lightning is incredibly hard to capture on film. I only got this one picture.

Friday, June 04, 2004

New Lens

After a week in San Diego, I decided that my 18-70mm lens wasn't quite enough for me. I want to be able to get even closer to safari subjects...without endangering my life. I set out to get a new lens. I found Ken Rockwell's site, and he reviews (and uses) Nikon lenses. He spoke favorably of the Nikon 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens. I like that the lens is mostly made from metal (not plastic like most newer lenses). As someone who is used to how rapidly computer technology becomes obsolete, I'm fascinated that this lens, which was introduced in 1989 (and discontinued in 1999), works with my camera. In fact, it supports every function except 3-D matrix metering (but supports color matrix metering).

I won an auction on eBay to get this lens. I think I got a good price. I actually computed the average price of all of the (still visible) completed auctions for this lens and made sure I paid less than the average. I got it today.

I took an extended lunch to meet the UPS guy. At about 1:20, the truck pulled up. I was sitting there waiting and, ten minutes later, the truck pulled away. I was thinking to myself, Is this a joke? I check out the tracking online and it said that the package couldn't be delivered because no apartment number was specified. What the hell. I looked at what I sent them and, sure enough, my apartment was given. I put on my shoes, grabbed a pop and left to go back to work. But just for the fun of it, I decided to drive around a little bit and see if I could catch the UPS guy. I went around the next block, and as I was heading back up a street (completing a U), I saw a UPS truck stopped and delivering a package to some house. I put the car in reverse and then headed down to meet the UPS guy. As he walked back to his truck, I asked him if he had just been unable to deliver a package because there wasn't an apartment. He asked me my name and address. Yeah, he had it. I asked him if he wanted to see my driver's license or anything and he said no, if I knew that much about a package he believed me.

After that debacle, I went to work. When I got home, I was finally able to try it out. the subject matter here is pretty boring, but it illustrates the point quite effectively. The top two pictures are at both ends of the lens that came with my camera, the 18-70mm. The bottom two shots are the opposite ends of the new lens. All of these pictures were taken at f/6.3 for 1/1250 of a second. As stated on the image, none of the images were resized, only cropped. If your web browser automatically resizes images, you may want to view it at full size. So far, I'm happy!

Thursday, June 03, 2004

2 Weeks to Africa

You know what's crazy? 14 days from now (to the hour), on the 17th of June, I'll be departing O'Hare on my way to London. Three days after that, I'll be on my way to Tanzania. I can't believe it will happen so soon!

Friday, May 21, 2004

Follow me... San Diego! Tomorrow morning I leave for Microsoft Tech Ed 2004. All next week my blogging and picture posting will take place at I was the primary developer for that blog app. It has some cool features. It supports image entries, so you can attach a picture to the blog (not just text). You'll start seeing that tomorrow I bet, when we get to our room after traveling. The batch uploading of pictures is slick. You can upload a zip and it thumbnails them and allows you to view all pictures that don't have entries yet. It reads exif and stores it in the database. Customizable CSS for everyone, too (click down all the names and see what everyone has chosen). It's a pretty cool app. I'm amazed at how much I got accomplished in one week. I guess, when you enjoy what you're doing (and especially when it benefits you), you're willing to be more dedicated.

Again, this blog will fall more or less silent for the next week. Check out the above link; There will be a lot of traffic there as everyone will post regularly.

Monday, May 17, 2004

New Camera, Part 5: First Pictures

Of the 168 photos I took today, I ended up touching up and keeping 14 of them. Check them out! My favorite is the close-up of the clover with the very narrow depth of field. Cool shot. Originals are available; feel free to ask. My fees are reasonable :p

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Encouraging Divisiveness

I came across this news story this weekend and I just thought it was terrible.

Vatican officials, in an official church document released Friday, discouraged marriage between Catholics and Muslims -- especially Catholic women and Muslim men.

When "a Catholic woman and a Muslim wish to marry," the document says, "bitter experience teaches us that a particularly careful and in-depth preparation is called for."

With the current world situation, I am forced to wonder why the Catholic Church would make an official statement that would help to drive a bigger wedge between Christianity and Islam than already exists. Aren't there enough problems with relations between the two religions? This kind of sentiment will only widen the gap and worsen already trying relations. The implications of this statement sadden me. We need to encourage tolerance and unity. We need to celebrate the similarities rather than dwell on the differences.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

New Camera, Part 2

I got an email from Best Buy today saying that my camera will ship today. It's coming second day, which means Saturday should be the Big Day. That's nice, since I'll be home to sign for the package. Wait, does UPS deliver second day on Saturdays? The tracking number isn't "live" yet, so I can't check online. Patience....

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

The Wrong War

A friend of mine made a comment about "the link between al Qaeda and Iraq." I about blew up at him. Then he clarified what he meant: that there was not a link before the war, but now there is. I was relieved to hear him say that. But I still feel compelled to write a bit about my feelings here.

After 9/11, both the FBI and CIA told Bush that Iraq did not sponsor al Qaeda and that Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks. But at the time of the war, 70% of the people in this nation believed that Iraq had something to do with it. Do you know why? Because that's exactly what the Administration wanted you to think! They didn't directly make the claim; they just talked about 9/11 and Iraq in the same breath to give the impression. The administration played on the patriotism and fear of the people after 9/11 and drove us into the wrong war. We should have gone after al Qaeda. We should have gone after their state support with diplomatic sanctions (Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are the biggest supporters). Instead we're making their anti-America case stronger. Now we have Iraqi's being abused in prisons and Americans getting their heads cut off. No weapons of mass destruction have been found. And people keep dying.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Least Privilege Shortcut

I've been running as a Power User on this laptop for as long as I've had it. In all, there are no real problems. A few programs don't work, but you can always shift-right click -> Run As. Then it takes two clicks: one to select another user, then another to focus the password box. I've created a faster, less click solution. In the directory %USERPROFILE%\SendTo, create a batch file (I called it "Runas Administrator.bat") with one line in it: "runas /user:Administrator %1" (substitute your Administrator user name). Then, on any "runasable" file (exe, mmc, cpl, etc), you can just right click -> Send To -> Runas Administrator, type your password, done! I should have thought of this sooner!

Sunday, April 25, 2004


This evening, I installed the Subversion versioning control system on my Linux server. This is more or less a temporary setup. I plan on rebuilding that box ( when Fedora Core 2 comes out. It's due out in mid-May. At that time, I want to shift it to more of a server role than a desktop. I want to build that server with a mirrored RAID. I need a place where I can (more) safely store photos, music, web content, a database server and a versioning control system. The Linux Kernel supports software RAIDs natively. Fedora Core 2 uses the 2.6 Kernel, so it will be nice to get to use that without having to compile it myself.

Back to Subversion. It wasn't too difficult to install. I had to upgrade Apache from 2.0.40 to 2.0.48. The Subversion download page had RPMs of everything I needed. I also got an upgrade of PHP while I was at it. The documentation was pretty good. It explained how to create a repository and configure Apache. One of the best features of Subversion is that it was designed to use DAV, thus it needs a web server. (Actually, Subversion can run a standalone server or even use SSH, though DAV makes it the most accessible from platform to platform.) The only problem I had was a stupid oversight I made: the web server process needed permissions to read and write to the repository (duh).

Once I got the repository up and running, I installed TortoiseSVN for Windows. TortoiseSVN is a Windows Subversion client. I have to say, compared to SourceSafe's client, TortoiseSVN wins. My use of Vault has been very limited, but I'm tempted to say that TortoiseSVN wins. Here's why: it's just an Explorer add-in. You browse using Explorer like you would any other folder or file. Files and folders that are under version control get little green checkmark overlays. When files change, they get little red exclamation point overlays. If any file underneath the current directory (recursively) is changed, the folder gets the red exclamation point. Right clicking on a file allows you to bring up a log, perform diffs across versions, rename or move files (Subversion tracks movements, they don't just get re-added under a new name)...all that good stuff. It even has a Blame feature (just like Vault). So far I've been impressed. Another thing I really prefer about Subversion (and CVS and Vault) over SourceSafe is that they use Copy-Modify-Merge instead of Lock-Modify-Unlock. If you've never used a Copy-Modify-Merge solution, I suggest you follow those links to learn about the differences (and why Lock-Modify-Unlock can create a false sense of security).

I haven't tried it yet, but there's also a Visual Studio add in for Subversion called AnkhSVN. The screenshots look promising. It seems limited compared to TortoiseSVN or the command line svn binaries, but it's off to a good start.

Thursday, April 22, 2004


Today was my 23rd birthday. It was a pretty standard day. I worked, I worked out, I watched a little TV and I made dinner...nothing fancy. I released WeatherCornerAlert version 2.0 this evening...a birthday gift from me to you. I cleaned things up a little, hid one annoying exception that no one on microsoft.public.dotnet.framework could help me with. Hopefully swallowing it doesn't cause any additional problems. It should be all good. Try it out; I think you'll like it.

For a birthday present to myself, I bought a MuVo 4GB off of eBay today. It'll be great when I'm able to store over 1000 pictures on a single medium. I'm officially back to the Nikon D70 as my camera of choice. My one day flirtation with the Olympus 8080 has ended. I think the extra money is worth the advanced flexibility of the D70. The difference in resolution is really a non-issue, especially since the D70 has better image processing. Those "prosumer" cameras like the 8080 tend to do a lot of image processing in the camera. I'd much rather have that fine degree of control that Photoshop provides than have an algorithm decide at snap time. Anyway, in a week or two I'll be purchasing the camera. I'm excited!

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Storm Chasing

I went storm chasing today! Well...almost. The NWS issued a tornado warning citing funnel clouds about 20 miles south-west of us. Kenny, who has a degree in meteorology, announced he was going to check it out. I asked if I could come, so he took me. We left and looked around and decided that the NSW was late issuing the warning and that the "good part" of the storm was already past us. Boo. Sure the time we got back (not even ten minutes later), the warning had been canceled for our area. Maybe next time! I have a life goal of seeing a tornado. I've seen dustdevils twice, but they were teeny. I actually saw one a little over a week ago. It was in a dry, empty cornfield on a warm sunny day. I was driving back to Champaign from the suburbs. I thought it was a flock of birds circling, but as it crossed the road in front of me, I noticed that the things in the air were actually bits of debris like corn husks. It was pretty cool, but I still want to see a tornado!

Since we had rain last night, there were worms all over the parking lot at work. I scooped a few up and put them in a paper cup. Then I took them fishing after work. At first, I just stuck the worm through the hook in one spot. I cast out the line. There was a nibble. I yanked. Then nothing. I reeled it in and the worm was gone. I did it again. Then I tried double hooking the worm. Eventually I tried feeding the worm over the hook like a tube sock over a foot. That worked a little better. I don't think the worms were as attractive to the fish since they weren't wriggling around. But I caught one little crappie, just a 4-incher. Not a bad day, but I wish I knew what I was doing. Does anyone have any (qualified) advice?

I was at Schnuck's yesterday digging through the spice rack. I came across a vanilla bean. I picked up the $10 glass jar and noticed that it contained one bean. It was a proportionally giant jar with one scrawny little vanilla bean in it. It looked so goofy, it made me laugh right there in the aisle.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Ignorance Isn't Bliss

In my never ending quest to browse the entire Internet, I came across a message thread in a board for a really cool app. Some misinformed kid was bashing .NET. I decided to set the kid straight. To save you the trouble if clicking, I'll reproduce the conversation here.

ProfessorCRX: Can you tell me why .net has to be installed to make this work? I've got major problems with M$ .net.

In my eyes, Security > convience [sic]. Ms seems to see it the other way around. Is there ANY way possible to use this program without it? Or will there be? It looks pretty ill, but I just don't know about BS. I think that needs to be rethought.

Travis: .NET is all about security. In fact, it makes security extremely convenient. Microsoft is making a huge security push internally and with all of its developers. Every attendee to the PDC last October got a copy of Writing Secure Code, 2nd edition. Managed code (.NET) makes things like buffer overflows almost impossible. The app throws an exception if you go out of bounds in an array instead of writing into memory that it's not supposed to be able to write to. How many security exploits have you seen in IIS 6, one of their first releases since the security push?

Basically, your prejudices are unfounded and result from you being ill-informed. .NET is a great platform both to develop on and from a security-minded user perspective. Looking towards the future, MS Longhorn (the next version of Windows) will be largely written in .NET. Get used to it, buddy, .NET is the future. IMO, that's a good thing. Install the .NET runtime, try out the app, and enjoy the wealth of apps that can easily be written by using .NET.

I can't speak for the author, but I wouldn't hold your breath for a native version of this app. He would have to scrap everything he's written and start over in unmanaged C++. Not gonna happen.

It's funny to me that I didn't know anything about .NET a year ago. I thought C# was just created because of the Microsoft/Sun Java lawsuit (not entirely untrue). But now I think .NET is an amazing platform. It's so easy to get quality apps out the door. And the Visual Studio IDE makes life so easy. It's possibly Microsoft's best product. Either Studio or Office...I can't decide. But I like .NET enough to stick up for it when the masses bash it.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Quarterly Budget Review

I did my quarterly budget review this evening. (What an exciting way to spend a Friday night!) Here is what I have concluded: I spend way too much money. I mean, I have a good amount of money left over after I pay for my "lavish" lifestyle, and I can't fathom how I could possibly live my life and spend less money, but I still feel like I spend way too much money. I spend a lot of money on food. At least it seems like a lot. I guess I'm willing to pay for it. I compare what I eat for lunch to what a friend eats for lunch, and I'm not willing to make those kinds of sacrifices. He eats Aldi brand peanut butter and jelly on Aldi brand white bread (the kind of cheap bread that sticks to your teeth...yuck). Or he eats mechanically separated meat on the same bread. I eat turkey breast or a good quality ham or roast beef on a hearty bread (I like the Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse brand a lot). Sure, it's more expensive, but I think it's worth it.

Anyway, when I saved my data file after over an hour of work, something bad happened. I think I clicked quit while the file was still being saved. I thought all was lost. But I perform a nightly backup to a separate drive on my network. I was able to restore from yesterday's backup and then replay the transaction logs from today and get up to speed. Phew. Nothing lost...just a little spike in the blood pressure.

I went to a driving range after work today with Bud. Golf is a really hard sport. I need to learn how to swing a club. I feel like every time I pull back on the club it's different from the previous time. I have no groove. Maybe it's good. Maybe I'm more of a blank slate. I read a web site that talked about Ben Hogan, who supposedly has one of the best swings in the history of golf. I'm tempted to buy his book, Five Lessons, so that I can learn a little from a legend. The last five shots I took today, however, went where I wanted them to go. The swing felt easy and natural. I think I can pin down a few keys to that swing, but I need some serious practice and help. And not help from another guy who kind of knows what he's doing. Or someone who claims he knows what to do but just "can't do it himself." No, I need real help and real practice if I'm ever going to get good at this torturous sport.

Monday, April 12, 2004


That's the sound my checking account just made. All that work getting out of debt, saving money, getting myself a positive credit card/checking account all went bye-bye. I just bought tickets from O'Hare to London, then from London to Zurich to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. I'll be leaving the US on the evening of the 17th of June. I'll get into London on the morning of the 18th. My cousin will be there with his parents and sister. They have a bed and breakfast lined up, so I have somewhere to stay. Then on the 21st, David and I will make our way into Tanzania via a stop in Zurich. After a dusty bus ride, I'll stay in a small village with him for about two weeks. Maybe we'll go on a camping safari or something. Who knows. I can't believe I just did this. I'm so excited! I need to get a yellow fever vaccination and then a Tourist Visa for Tanzania. Then I'm all set!

Sunday, March 28, 2004

American Dad

Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy (the funniest TV show ever), is bringing a new cartoon to Fox: American Dad. I can't wait!

The Iraq War

This is an edgy piece about the war.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

More Produce

Friday's 8:30 bedtime of course led to an early waking on Saturday. That, in turn, led to an early bedtime on Saturday, which led to an early waking time this morning. (This might actually have been the shift I've been looking for...we'll see how long it lasts.) This morning, when I woke up at 8:00, I had to force myself to roll over because I didn't want to get up. I tossed and turned for a little while, but in the end, I was up making coffee before 9:00.

One of the side effects of waking up early is that you end up getting stuff finished earlier as well. This can be viewed as a positive; for me this weekend, it felt like a negative. I had too much time left over. Yesterday, I woke up, did laundry, ran a few errands, worked out and then got groceries. I was done before 3:00 or 4:00. Today, I woke up, read some of the current issue of Harper's and worked out. I was home before 1:30. I had accomplished everything I had hoped to do for the entire day before 1:30. What was I to do? I just read some more. Harper's is an interesting magazine. I saw the editor on The Daily Show a few months ago and really liked what he had to say. I decided that when I got my own place (this place), I would subscribe. The cost of a year's subscription was less than two issues at a newsstand, so I decided to take the risk. There's a lot to read. This month, there was a fascinating article about cadaver trade (or tissue banks). There was also an essay on how Globalism is reverting back to Nationalism. The magazine is filled with literature, politics and art. I enjoy reading it, though I never know quite what to expect.

Over the past two weeks, I read The World According To Garp, by John Irving. This was the third Irving novel I've read. The first was The Cider House Rules and the second was A Prayer for Owen Meany. Irving is a great writer. No matter what he writes, it always flows beautifully and is easy to read. Garp was no exception. It's hard to summarize the book. It's about the fears of a father and how he tries to protect them. But ultimately, his actions cause harm to his children. It's also about the polarization of the sexes. I enjoyed reading it, as evidenced by the fact that I read it in two weeks (pretty quick for me; I averaged almost 50 pages a day). I needed a new book, so yesterday I picked up The Da Vinci Code. I've heard nothing but good things about it, so I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy it. I'll start it sometime this week.

As I mentioned, my shopping yesterday also included a trip to the local grocer. I picked up a lot of produce. I've been trying to reduce the amount of refined sugar I consume. I'm also trying to reduce my total fat intake. To achieve these goals, I'm trying to eat more fruits and vegetables. I got an eggplant, some spinach, fresh broccoli, Santa Sweets tomatoes, portabella mushrooms, carrots and some regular iceberg lettuce. I've really been enjoying how I've been eating lately. I made a sandwich tonight with portabella, eggplant and red bell pepper marinated in balsamic vinegar then cooked in olive oil. I got the inspiration from a lunch I had a Biaggi's recently. It was very tasty. Later this week, I'm going to make some eggplant parmesan. I'm excited for that.

I think I saw the baton girl at The Fitness Center today. She looked familiar to me, and I had the thought that it was her, but I didn't really think anything of it. But then, she and I left at about the same time. I noticed her license plate: TWRL UI 7. It must have been her. She was definitely decked out in orange and blue clothing, so I'm pretty sure it was her. I feel like I've seen a celebrity!

This has gotten long and it has no point. Just rambles. I enjoy when I write blog entries that are succinct little stories. When I started this, I used it mostly for journaling. Then I started reading Renice's blog and I loved how she told cool stories. Whenever I visualize very short stories like that, they are semicircles. They start succinct, expand enough so you get a body, then quickly wrap back up. I love it. I've done it successfully a few times, but tonight was not one of those times. Tonight was a need for something to do, so I filled it with a summary of my weekend. Conclusion: I need more to do with my time. Working out is a start, but it is just a start.

Saturday, March 06, 2004


Yesterday was Unofficial St. Patrick's Day. Unofficial was created by the campus bars years ago when St. Patrick's Day fell during spring break. They wanted the business that college kids would generate on St. Patrick's day, so they created Unofficial.

Bud suggested a week ago that we take the day off of work and go to campus bars. I thought that was a great idea, so I became the promoter and organizer for it. Bud's wife, Erika, dropped us off on campus. Tim then met up with us (after walking to campus, which took him an hour). At that point, Iffy was still in Savoy waiting for a bus, so we went to C.O.'s and told him to just meet us in the bar. I think Tim and Bud were nervous; they had never been to C.O.'s. I promised them good scenery and, at the very least, they would get to watch me be a drunken ass. So we drank green beer. When we first got into the bar, someone made a comment to the effect of, "So this is where all the good looking girls come. I guess they don't go to Murphy's or White Horse."

Anyway, we drank, and drank. Oh, it was fun. Iffy took some pictures of the day and published them to his moblog. Eventually, we got some food from Legends. Then we went to Kam's (where a girl walked up to me and told me that she thought I had a great ass). But by that time everyone was tired. So Patrick, our awesome designated driver, drove us home. I fell asleep (or passed out) at around 8:30 and slept for about 11 hours. This morning my poop was of the joys of drinking green beer. Yesterday was a great day, I'm glad we all took the time to enjoy the day the irresponsible way.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Small Goals

I don't normally work out on Mondays. In order to save some money, I joined The Fitness Center under their 5-days-a-week plan. I have full access to all facilities except on Monday and Wednesday. I've worked around it and I think the savings is worth it. Anyway, as I was driving home today with the windows down, enjoying the 60º weather, looking at the gorgeous pink and orange sunset and the partly cloud sky, I decided that I should go for a run around Centennial Park. Actually, I debated myself first. I should go for a run, I thought. But I don't usually work out on Mondays. But it's so nice outside. No, no, I'll just wait, I'll work out tomorrow. Wait, why am I talking myself out of working out? Ok, yeah, I'll go for a run! I hurried up and changed so I could get started while it was still light out. I was pumped up to run and I took off head first into the 15 MPH wind. I had to push pretty hard against it. The second half will be easier. After I finished going south down the west side of the block and turned to head east, the wind was finally on my side instead of in my face. Normally when I run, I go for about a mile, then walk a little, then run about another mile. But today, I thought it might be possible to run around the whole block. I ran in the grass just inside of the sidewalk; the ground was the perfect consistency. It gave just enough underfoot so that it was comfortable, unlike the concrete of the sidewalk. After I had covered two of the four sides of the rectangular block, I considered stopping and walking or stretching. But I didn't. I'll just run to that tree. But when I got to that tree, I decided to go for the fire hydrant, then to the parking lot, then to the sign, and so on. Next think I knew, I had come all the way up the long side of the block. Keep going. I kept setting small goals.

When I started running in earnest two months ago, my short term goal was to be able to run around Centennial Park nonstop. Today, by breaking up my larger goal into small, realizable chunks, I achieved my goal. It felt great today to be able to run over two miles nonstop. Some people might scoff at a measly two miles. But when I started, I was totally dizzy after running one mile. Near the end of my run today, I was pretty fatigued, so I was picking landmarks that were only 10 or 20 yards away. But I kept doing it, I didn't give up. I succeeded.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Sore legs

My legs are sore. I covered over two-and-a-half miles today on the treadmill. In response to Renice's comment, I don't pronate my feet when I run (though I did have to look up the word). I do the opposite. I come down on the outside edge of my foot and then roll inward. The past few days I've made a conscious effort to come down evenly on the front of my foot. I've felt some strain on my calves, but it's the strain of use, not the pain of misuse. Anyway, my long run has left my legs sore in a good way.

I made fudge today. Real fudge. The kind where you cook the ingredients to 234ºF, then let it cool to 110 then stir it with a wooden spoon until it loses its gloss. If you cook it too hot it becomes brittle. If you don't cook it hot enough, it stays soft. If you stir it too long it becomes rock hard. Not long enough, it never sets; it's just a fudge soup. My dad can do it perfectly every time. I think I'm getting there. I've blown a lot of batches in the past, but I think those days are over. I didn't have a thermometer, so I had to pick one up. I got a cool in-oven digital. It has a metal sensor attached to a long cord which plugs into a display unit. You can stick the sensor into a turkey or something and run the cord outside of the oven to the display. I think it's pretty cool. And my fudge is delicious.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Baton Girl

What's the deal with the baton girl? I went to the Illinois vs. Wisconsin game last night. It was a great game. Illinois started behind, but then took the lead near the end of the first half. They held their lead through to the end of the game.

Back to my original question. I remember being at football games and asking myself that same question. How does someone get started twirling a baton? What motivates them to keep doing it? I can see a little girl thinking she's a princess twirling the baton, ooh look at how sparkly it is, I'm so elegant, I'm going to dance around while I spin this thing! Then I imagine the girl growing out of it. Certainly they'd grow out of it before they went off to college. I don't get it. The baton girl just sort of runs around the court independent of everyone else. She's not part of the band, she's not quite a cheerleader and she's not part of the dance team. She is the baton girl. I don't get it.

In other news, I tried an elliptical machine today instead of a treadmill. I was able to cover more distance without that shin pain. Maybe I'll keep doing it. It doesn't feel as natural as running but I still burned a bunch of calories and worked up a good sweat. It kind of feels like running uphill but with an unnatural stride length.

I learned a new way to tie my shoes today. I was reading a Slashdot poll and came across a link in the comments. For years, I've double-knotted my shoes. Whenever I would tie a single knot, it would come undone. The problem with a double-knot is that it's hard to untie. Just wearing shoes with a double-knot can tighten the knot, making it harder to untie. I'm hoping that this new knot, which is only slightly different from how I normally tie my shoes, is the solution I didn't even know I was looking for. It unties with a gentle tug and so far it's held well. I tied my running shoes this way today and the knots held. I must say, it's a little awkward relearning how to tie shoes.

And that concludes today's random entry.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Debt's a bitch

According to Consumer Credit Services of San Francisco, the average American now has $8500 in unpaid credit card bills. That number shocks me...$8500. Everyone in my family only puts on their credit cards what they can pay off that month. That's the way I was raised, and that's the way I live. I only know of one person who has that kind of credit card debt (in fact, that person has quite a lot more than that). I don't know how people can live with that kind of debt. The weight of it must cause an awful lot of anxiety.

My debt story is a relatively short one. When I graduated, I ended up taking on a fair amount of credit card debt that I could not pay off right away. I knew that I would be able to relatively soon, so I wasn't too worried about it. My parents loaned me a grand for a down payment on my car. I paid them back over my first two paychecks. That didn't leave very much left for living expenses. The answer was--you guessed it--credit cards. It was suggested to me that I find some "0% for six months" card and pay it off. I did, and it was a good move.

Paying off credit cards is hard. If I could have just stopped living my life and diverted my entire pay to credit cards, I would have been out of debt in no time. But it's impossible to do that. You end up living and buying more. The effective amount you debt pay off is limited by how much more you take on. The cycle is hard to get out of, and I can see how it would be possible to get into mountains of debt.

I am proud to say that my credit card debt is under control. Before graduating, I had never carried a balance. Getting started on my own, buying a car and buying things for my unfurnished apartment led me to take on more debt than I wanted. My total credit card debt never came anywhere near the "average" amount. And yet, it caused me quite a bit of anxiety. Whenever I would balance my books, I would cringe. My plans to get out of debt kept slipping. I kept living my life and putting purchases on my cards, pushing back the timeline that would set me free.

Today is a landmark day. I got my tax refund and I got paid. I was able to pay off my final carryover balance. I'll be able to pay off the balances that will be due before I get paid next month. I'm actually going to have money left over from this paycheck. I'll finally be able to save money. The weight has been lifted. I'll be able to purchase things outright. It feels good. I'm on my way to having a positive net worth...I just have to pay off those pesky student loans. So where do I go from here? Africa, of course.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Changing vowels

Every once in a while when I open my mouth and speak, I hear myself pronounce vowels in a manner that I do not recognize. "Ahs" come out like "awes" and "oohs" sounds like "ooes." Granted, writing a subtle difference in pronunciation is a little difficult. I think the easiest way to describe this slight shift in my vowels is almost as a drawl. It's too faint to really notice by anyone other than me, but I do notice it, and it bothers me.

I finished Touching the Void last night. I couldn't stop, even though I knew I had to get to bed. I read about fifty pages each Monday and Tuesday, then the remaining 100 pages last night. It is an amazing story. I mean, I knew he was going to make it (he wrote the book and I saw him on Letterman). But the story kept building. He was almost dead, he was delusional, rambling. He had been without food or water for four days. If he had delayed another few hours, stopped to sleep that last night, he would have made it back to an empty camp and died after all that struggling. But when he was rescued, it made me excited, happy, and relieved. I was filled with joy. A book has never brought about such emotion in me before. It was truly amazing for me. Maybe I should read one of those books with Fabio on the cover so I could experience a whole different kind of emotion. :p

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Brad's Boxers

Last night, I was invited to go the Illinois vs. Michigan State basketball game. It was a blowout, 75-51. I think this means that Illinois has a share of first place in the Big Ten. I don't really know. I'm not a big sports guy. Actually, last night was my first Illini basketball game ever. I was a student for four years, and I never made it. Only when a coworker had a complimentary ticket (I think he got it from another coworker who works for DIA; not sure) did I finally make it to a game. I'm glad I finally went to a one.

Right now I'm reading a great book. I think it might go down in the record books for me as the fastest read ever. It's called Touching the Void, by Joe Simpson. It's a true story about these two guys who are climbing a mountain in the Andes. On their way down, Joe falls and breaks his leg. He said that the bottom half of his leg went up through his knee, shattering it. His climbing partner, Simon, has been lowering him down the side of the mountain, 300ft of rope at a time. Eventually, they're out of rope and Joe is hanging from a cliff. Simon is falling. Joe feels jerking as he falls...inch by inch as Simon loses control of the belay. Simon had to make a decision to cut the rope. Either one of them dies or both of them die. Joe managed to survive the fall, but Simon doesn't know that, leaving Joe and his broken leg in the bottom of a crevasse. That's as far as I've read. It's very easy to read, and the imagery is pretty vivid.

In my previous entry, I wrote about laundry and how underwear is my litmus. Brad told me that he never washes his underwear. He just wears each pair once and then sells it on ebay. I thought that was pretty funny. How much would you bid for a pair of Brad's dirty underwear?

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Beware falling ice

The weather today, as many of you know, is bad. The temperature has been right around thee freezing point, and it's been raining. That, of course, leads to freezing rain. I was driving this evening and all of the sudden I saw this huge sheet of ice falling. I think it was about four feet by one foot in size, just falling down in front of my car. At first, I was confused. I thought the sky was crumbling. I slowed down to give it time to reach the ground. I looked up and noticed power lines. The ice had formed on the power lines and fell right as I drove past it. How crazy is that?

As I was turning a corner, I watched the person turning in front of me slide across both lanes and smack into the pile of snow on the far curb. Way to slow down for the ice, buddy. I let him back out and then head down the street. I kept an ample following distance. Fortunately, this was in a quiet neighborhood street in Savoy, so there was no real danger.

Iffy and I watched Friends, then he came with me to The Fitness Center. He's using a seven day free pass. It was nice having a friend there with me. I don't mind going alone, but it's a little better when you know someone.

I got home from working out after 9. I had some chili for dinner. Right now, I have some blueberry muffins in the oven. The only problem is that I don't have a muffin pan, so instead I'm using a bread pan. So I guess I should say I have a blueberry loaf in the oven. It should work just fine. If it does, I think I'll bring it into the office tomorrow. Otherwise, I won't. We have a meeting at ten, so I have to actually wake up at a "normal" hour. Yuck. I really like that most nights, I don't set an alarm; when I wake up, I go to work. Tomorrow, I have to get up at like 8:30 or 9:00. That's rough. Just kidding :)