December 13, 2004

How to find cheap gas prices in your city - Find cheap gas prices in your city "170 gas price information web sites that help consumers find low gasoline prices."

I just found out about this site, and I'm intrigued enough to try it out for a while. It looks to be a grass-roots, non-profit effort to disseminate gas prices on a timely basis.

The first site that had this functionality was MSN, believe it or not. But they never had any information about my area, and as far as I can tell, they still don't have much of a database.

GasBuddy on the other hand has prices listed for 7 gas stations in my hometown alone. The site itself seems to just be a gateway and jumping off point for the 170 individual sites (,, etc.) that actually list the prices in their respective areas.

I'll be keeping an eye out to see if the prices are up to date. As a grass-roots effort with what seems to be a vibrant community, I would assume that they will be.

December 08, 2004

Defense Department Admits Failure of Policies in Iraq

Report of the "Defense Science Board Task Force" on Strategic Communication"American efforts have achieved the opposite of what they intended. American direct intervention in the Muslim World has paradoxically elevated the stature of and support for radical Islamists." -- Department of Defense, "Defense Science Board Report on Strategic Communication", October 2004, pg. 40

It's nice to see the administration finally admit what millions of American citizens and citizens of the world knew back before the Iraq invasion: That the invasion would do more harm than good.

I know I wanted to steer clear of politics, and I said so in an earlier post. I did so mainly because I believe each person should vote their own conscience free of proselytizing and the other media hype that surrounds presidential elections. Now that the election is over, I thought I'd start posting about the reasons why I did not vote Republican for the first time in my life.

And this is the first one. The report I linked to is not a left-leaning blog, not the product of the so-called liberal media, nor of a liberal think tank. It comes straight from the Defense Department. I don't think you can get any clearer than the two sentences at the top of page 40 (page 48 of the PDF file) (and I paraphrase): "Our efforts have failed. The invasion has actually given the terrorists more support in the Muslim World."

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that sending troops into a Muslim country without provocation is not going to win the hearts and minds of the Muslim world. And the argument that possible Weapons of Mass Destruction mandated our preemptive action has been shown to be false. Our military personnel on the ground in Iraq, with task forces whose sole purpose was to find these WMD, has still not been able to find any evidence of WMD for over 18 months.

I've heard the arguments: "Those WMD may still be there, we don't know for sure" and "I didn't see the intelligence, but it must have been persuasive enough to justify the invasion." At some point, you have to call a spade a spade.
1. During the Afghanistan campaign to oust the Taliban (which I fully support), there was initial confusion as to why Iraq was targetted.
2. When so-called "evidence" was presented for the case to go to war, millions in this country and around the world still were not convinced.
3. When we were finally in a position to definitively determine whether there was any evidence WMD, whether or not they were removed, no evidence was to be found.

This sequence of events has removed any moral authority the US had in waging war. You can say "but Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator. The world is better without him." Yes, you can say that, but that's not what this administration advanced as the justification to go to war. The justification was the possibility of WMD. The fact that Saddam was a brutal dictator was a convenience, not the main reason. Colin Powell did not go in front of the United Nations with evidence pointing to Saddam's brutality. He showed evidence that purported the existence of WMD. Now that none have been found, how can you not assume that the rest of the world thinks the war lacks moral authority?

It looks more and more like the evidence was "manipulated" to support the foregone conclusion of the administration that Iraq needed to be invaded. And once people start thinking that, you've lost the war for hearts and minds, which -- in case you've forgotten -- is the real war on terror.

December 01, 2004

Pediatric Medicine of Wallingford

Pediatric Medicine of Wallingford
Here's a plug for a friend's pediatric practice in Wallingford, CT. Hopefully, this will cause Google to crawl the page and include it in its index. Hopefully, it'll also help to increase its PageRank.

Just so you know, the practice is called Pediatric Medicine of Wallingford in Wallingford, CT, which is located in Central Connecticut. They are a group of pediatricians offering services in vaccination, hearing screening, vision screening, physicals.

Yes, you webheads are probably seeing that I'm including many of the site's META keywords to try and increase relevancy ranking.

They also have pages that describe their staff, location, as well as a page of Frequently Asked Questions.

September 30, 2004

New home for Miranda photos

I've moved the photos of Miranda to a new location. Some of you may have seen the photos of Miranda that I posted online at At the time, I thought it was an adequate online service to allow people to view photos, and also order prints if they so chose.

I also dabbled with posting photos to a free hosting service. However, I had to create the interface for viewing the photos, and the process was somewhat cumbersome and time consuming. Each time I decided to add a photo, I had to recreate and upload the entire photo album: photos, pages, thumbnails, and all.

Then, Ofoto recently informed me via e-mail that unless I purchased a print from them, they would shut down my account and delete my photos on September 30.

Bye bye, Ofoto.

I then came across Flickr, a promising new service that combines photo sharing abilities with other social networking type features. So, I've moved the photos that were on Ofoto to Flickr.

I find it's best to use the "next in set" and "prev in set" picture buttons on the right hand side to navigate, as that will take you through the pictures in the order that I've specified. The forward and backward buttons above the photo take you through the pictures in the order I've uploaded them in Flickr (what they call my "Photostream"), which may or may not be in any sort of logical order.

Let me know if you like using Flickr, there are some things I really like about it (like a cool slideshow feature), and some things that I find confusing (like the above mentioned navigation).

September 24, 2004

Chinese Grand Prix

Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit []

The inaugural Chinese Grand Prix kicks off this weekend as the newest race on the Formula One calendar, joining Bahrain as first time races on this season's calendar. As an American-born Chinese (ABC, Banana, Twinkie, what have you) I can't say I am that closely tied to the land of my ancestors, but there are still some residual feelings of nationalism whenever China is mentioned in the world arena. Or at least in an apolitical world arena. It's times like these when say "Hey, China and the Chinese can [do|be|put on] a kick-ass [whatever]." It's like how we all rooted for Michael Chang in the late 80s and early 90s, even if we had no previous interest in tennis whatsoever.

I continue to be amazed at myself for feeling as I do about Jacque Villenueve's return to F1. I've never really rooted for him, and despite his World Championship in '97, never gave much respect to him as a driver, either. I didn't follow F1 back then, and when I did start following it in 2000 he had signed with the nascent BAR team and was struggling to score points. Still, I find myself cheering his return, and anxious to see him do well this weekend. Maybe it's just the terminally robotic Schumacher always giving his slight grin while answering questions at press conferences, but F1 has sorely lacked personalities ever since JV left. We could use Eddie Irvine back, too, but I don't think that'll be happening anytime soon. Anyway, it's good to see JV back in action. And in a Renault!

Anyway, back to the Shanghai race: The circuit looks really interesting. I've only looked at the map and at some photos, but the drivers have been giving it raves. The first corner (or two) in particular looks very different from any other first corner on the F1 calendar, and while the first complex (turns 1-3) is slightly reminiscent of Malaysia, the steadily decreasing radius turns 1-2 (>270 deg. !) will certainly make for an interesting first corner at the start. The Turn 5 kink will prevent any serious overtaking opportunities at 6. Then it's a couple of high speed sweepers before what look to be essentially a double apexer at 9-10, although it's hard to tell from the map.

Following a short straight comes a critical complex at 11 and 12. You probably have to get these just right, as turn 13 is a slightly banked increasing radius turn that opens up onto the back straight, the longest straight on the circuit, capped by the tightest hairpin. This is probably where most of the overtaking will take place, but you won't be in position unless you get turns 11 and 12 right. Turn 13 is a blind apex left hander that leads onto the start/finish straight.

I don't know how much overtaking will happen at the end of the start/finish straight into turn 1, because, as I've said, it's a couple of turns with profiles not seen before in F1. If it's wide enough through 2 and 3, you could see some inside/outside maneuvering for position.

I'll end this by saying all my comments here are based on track map inspection, grainy photos, and driver comments only. I've yet to watch Friday practice broadcast on the Speed Channel.

Trivia note: The Shanghai circuit, penned by Herman Tilke, the architect of Maylaysia, Bahrain, and the emasculated Hockenheim, was designed to mimic the Chinese word "Shang"(), which is the first word in Shanghai and means "above" or "up."

September 20, 2004

The Home Computer of 2004

A picture of a "typical" home computer in the year 2004 "...with teletype interface and FORTRAN!"

Brain Teaser of the Day

Petals Around the Rose Figure out how the score is calculated, and "become a member of the Fraternity of Petals Around the Rose. Also, read what happened when Bill Gates was introduced to Petals Around the Rose in June 1977. How he tackled this brain teaser is an interesting insight into the man at the helm of Microsoft."

I'm pleased to note that I figured it out in much less time than Bill Gates.

Note: It is disappointing that this version does not work on Mozilla Suite or Firefox. I'll have to adapt it. Google for other versions of this game if you run Mozilla or Firefox.

September 17, 2004

JV to test for Renault

Renault: 'Jarno's out & Jacques is in' [] "...the team finally admitted on Tuesday evening that [Trulli's] departure is imminent. And that Jacques Villeneuve could be his replacement."

In following Formula 1 for the past few years, one thing I've come to realize is that no sport offers more in the way of media spin than F1. You think MLB or the NFL is bad with disingenuous injury reports? That's nothing compared to the spin that F1 teams put out.

Just yesterday Renault was adamantly denying that Trulli's race seat was in jeopardy, and dismissed it as "pure media speculation." Now, it appears that Trulli is done with Renault (he's off to Toyota, I believe, in 2005), and that Jacques Villeneuve is being fitted for a race seat and will test this week. If he performs even just competently, expect to see him in the R24 for the Chinese Grand Prix on 26 Sep.

Renault's line-up for 2005 is confirmed, so this isn't a prelude to a long term deal between JV and Renault. But it could be the springboard for JV landing a race seat elsewhere in 2005. If BAR lose Jensen Button, they'll need a driver, but I can't see JV going back there after they sacked him at the end of 2004. He probably also won't want to go to backmarker teams such as Jordan or Sauber or Minardi.

One interesting possibility is Jaguar, which has been totally underwhelming this season, but is rumoured to be rebranded as the Ford team for next year. I'd be willing to bet Ford would like to have one of only two F1 drivers recognizable to North American race fans, the other being Juan Pablo Montoya, moving from Williams to McLaren next year.

I know F1 would like to have more of a North American presence, and there has always been talk of a North American-based team with North American-based drivers. You can't get a better start on that than Ford + JV.

UPDATE (Sep 15 2004, 12:00PM): Jacques Villeneuve has signed to drive for Sauber for 2005! Could this be a calculated attempt to land Michael Schumacher's Ferrari seat after his contract expires in 2006?

Also, it would appear that Jaguar will not be re-branded as a Ford factory team next year. Instead, they are looking to Ford for a budget increase to allow them to be more competitive with the front runners.

UPDATE 2 (Sep 17 2004, 11:00AM): Well, Jaguar is no more. Ford is pulling the plug on the Jag F1 team (see bottom of press release) as it seeks to shore up the flagging Jaguar brand. So much for the hope of Ford's involvement in getting an American-based F1 team up and running. I have to say I'm pretty disappointed by this action. Ford is undoubtedly the US' most admired racing marque, and to see them pull out of F1 (as well as cut its sponsorship to Cosworth) is depressing to see.

September 14, 2004

Getting Ready For The Addition

While we haven't committed to anything yet, we do believe we're getting close to signing a contract and having work begin on our new addition.

To this end, we've cut down 3 trees in the backyard to make room. It's made the backyard much sunnier, yet at the same time there's a more desolate feel to it compared to the intimacy that the cover of the erstwhile 3 trees provided.

We had talked to some people about the bid process, and one acquaintance of mine said that the 3 bids for his remodel project all came back at pretty much the same number. Not so with us. There was a pretty wide variation in terms of the bids we got back.

All the advice we've read (like This Old House magazine) have said to reject the lowball bid. Bit our low bid was so attractive price-wise that we could not ignore it.

The premise behind rejecting the low bid is that the contractor is probably taking some shortcuts to arrive at that price point, or is desperate for work. However we don't believe that to be the case here. We know that he is in the early stages of another sizable project. Also, in our dealings with the bid process, he has been the most detailed and organized of the 3. He was previously an engineer, so we believe that his meticulous preparation allows him to spec a job with more detail and accuracy than the others, who have probably built in a sizable safety margin to protect themselves.

If things go according to plan, we probably will start the project in a matter of weeks. Check out a previous post for details on what we're going to do.

September 11, 2004

Tribute In Light Panorama

Tribute In Light to honor victims of September 11, 2001 - Fullscreen QTVR Panorama

Here's a Quicktime panorama of the Tribute In Light, taken from street level looking straight up. Pan up from the initial view to get the best view.

September 07, 2004

Having Kids Lowers Your IQ

Indiana University study: having children significantly lowers parents’ IQs []: "People who before were intelligent and open-minded turn into raving lunatics who want to blame a teacher or coach every time their mediocre child fails"

As if it wasn't bad enough that I feel I am half as smart as I was in high school and college, now comes word that being a parent lowers one's IQ even further. The article has a kind of The Onion-essay parody flavor to it, so it's hard to know whether to take the Hoosier Gazette seriously. I'll have to look on i's site to see if there's a press release on the research findings.

It would be interesting to see if it is merely the loss of objectivity that is the basis for the reduction in IQ, or if there is a psychological effect that lowers IQ across the board.

But a loss in objectivity in one particular area does not necessarily have to point to a lower IQ. I once listened to a lecture from Nobel Laureate Daniel Chinaman, a cognitive psychologist who observed that most people over estimate their abilities. This was borne out by a question he posed to the audience: "All those who think they are better than average drivers, raise their hands." About half the audience did. Then he asked, "All those who think they are below average, raise their hands." Not one hand went up.

The obvious lesson is: since empirically there must be an equal number of above and below average drivers, this simple experiment proves that people overestimate themselves, or at the very least their driving abilities.

Does this loss of objectivity necessarily have to manifest itself as a lowering of IQ? Does the fact that I think my kid is the best ever have some bearing on my abstract and visual reasoning capabilities? Like I said, it seems very suspect.

UPDATE: According to the Kinsey Institute site [], the article is a hoax. Also, just a little digging by me would have shown that the Hoosier Gazette "was created by a couple of guys who thought it would be fun to create a website that uses both real and fictional news stories to provide a humorous look at life and culture in the state of Indiana." So my "The Onion-esque initial characterization was right on. I still feel dumber than I did 20 years ago, though. :)

September 03, 2004

Revolutionary New Type of Nuclear Reactor Being Built in China

Let a Thousand Reactors Bloom []: "... a new nuclear power facility that promises to be a better way to harness the atom. A reactor small enough to be assembled from mass-produced parts and cheap enough for customers without billion-dollar bank accounts. A reactor whose safety is a matter of physics, not operator skill or reinforced concrete."

Nuclear energy in the US and much of the industrialized West is very much a pariah among energy sources. Accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, not to mention many a Hollywood movie plot, have cast nuclear energy as an inherently dangerous method of generating energy: an operator misstep away from turning the entire planet into a glowing ball of radiation.

It turns out that it didn't have to be that way. From the very beginning of atomic research, there have existed ways to harness power from atoms without the danger of meltdown and radiation release. But historical decisions and inertia, not physics or science, are what have made all nuclear power plants in the US as dangerous as they are.

Traditional water-cooled designs have fuel rods which are essentially time bombs, prevented from going critical through the use of cooling water and control rods. If you fail to manage the controls rods properly, or let the cooling water drop to expose the fuel rods, you have a major problem.

Essentially, the new reactor design places great emphasis on the design and creation of the fuel elements themselves. The fuel elements are designed and arranged in such a way such that they physically cannot go critical, no matter what. From a safety design perspective, this should be a no-brainer. But for various reasons, this design was not adopted for nuclear power generation.

One beneficial side effect of this design is that it can also be harnessed to generate hydrogen from water. Think of it: an inherently safe, non fossil-fuel, non-greenhouse gas emitting energy source that can also be a catalyst to drive the adoption of non-fossil fuel energy for automobiles and fuel cells.

Yes, there is still the matter of nuclear waste disposal. And it's no small matter. The public also will need to be acclimated to the fact that nuclear energy can be much, much safer than it currently is. But with so many potential positives, I think it's definitely worth pursuing.

Even pre-eminent British environmentalist James Lovelock agrees: "We have no time to experiment with visionary energy sources; civilization is in imminent danger and has to use nuclear, the one safe, available energy source, now, or suffer the pain soon to be inflicted by our outraged planet."

September 01, 2004

Backup Your Backups

Is your data really safer stored digitally? [] "I popped the CD-RW into my PC with the same expectation one gets when cracking open a time capsule. And I got -- I got -- nothing but a Windows error message offering to format the unformatted disc in my PC. Everything I had saved, everything I had disposed of because it was supposedly safe, was gone."

This article highlights a fact for which many people have misconceptions: "digital" does not equal "forever." When CDs first came out in the 80s, people said, "Oh, they're digital, they'll last forever. Not like those pesky vinyl albums and magnetic tapes."

What they really meant to say was: "Oh it's stored in a digital format, so it'll be lossless for the life of the medium." Yes, you won't lose any information as long as the storage medium remains intact.

But now we're coming to realize that CDs and DVDs don't last forever, and this is especially the case with recordable CDs and DVDs: CD-R, CD-RW, and the myriad recordable DVD formats. The dyes in CD-Rs will eventually break down, as will the crystalline recording layer of CD-RWs. Recordable DVD have similar physical degradation issues. The optical media industry itself has estimated recordable optical media lifetime of between 20 and 200 years, though there have been reports that some become unreadable after just 5 years.

The current recommendation is to re-copy those backups to newer media every few years or so. Don't just assume that because it's digital, it's forever.

The article also highlights another less publicized issue: that of format obsolescence, as opposed to physical obsolescence. Got any documents in WordStar format? Or pictures in RLE? What can you use to read them now?

In addition to making sure that your physical media isn't degraded, you also need to be sure that your files can be read by existing software. Sure, JPEG seems like it's been around forever, and will always be here. But can you be so sure that it'll be a standard 50 years from now?

August 24, 2004

Die Neue BMW 3'er

New 3-series spy shot Posted by Hello
Bimmer Skinny: We take the wraps off BMW's next-generation 3 Series [] "The basic form of the 3 Series is long established," said recently promoted design boss Chris Bangle. "It’s the proportions that are important; we have worked hard at getting them right. We want to make a new statement on an old theme."

Fresh off the heels of the new 6 Series and the European introduction of the 1 Series, comes word of the next iteration of BMW's 3 Series.

This is BMW's bread and butter, their volume leader and main bread winner. A car they can't afford to screw up. Spy photos of the 3 Series show a car that is firmly in the mold of the new Bangle design idiom, with many of the design vocabulary that is present in the new 5 Series and the Z4: The concave portion of the hood bulge from the 5, the flame surfacing of the side panels from the Z4, the relationship of rear deck treatment to the rear quarter panel is straight from the new 5. The kidney nacelle brows are from the new 7. And interestingly, from the rear quarter view the roofline and the character combine to give the new 3 a Jaguar-ish look.

Pages from a leaked brochure of the new 3 Series have interior shots that show the design themes continuing in the cockpit area: double binnacle dash, iDrive center display, and conventional HVAC controls.

Will the new 3 be capable of being the standard-bearing sports sedan that it has been the past 20 years? I like the exterior design. If the driving dynamics are well sorted out, then the only thing capable of holding it back will be iDrive. It seems BMW is sticking with it come hell or high water, and if unimproved from current iterations, could well mean the end of the road in terms of sport sedan dominance for the 3 Series.

Click here to read about the Performance Center Delivery of my 2005 M3.

August 22, 2004

Cold Brewing Coffee

My coffee is cold [MSNBC]: "I can serve hot or cold coffee at the same time, and I can serve a large group without standing in the kitchen for a good 30 minutes pouring hot water through a drip filter." - Kristin Yamaguchi

Think of brewing coffee and what do you think of? Usually it's some combination of coffee grounds, and bubbling hot boiling water. Intuitively, it seems as if hot water is necessary to the coffee brewing process. Even the dictionary entry for the word "brew" contains the word "boiling," although the definition does not indicate that it is required.

Now comes the idea of cold-brewing coffee, which, according to its proponents, preserves the full flavor of coffee, while reducing the acidity and caffeine content.

This seems to fly in the face of the opinions of many a coffee connoisseur, who maintain that precise temperature regulation of approx. 200 deg. F is the optimal water temperature with which to brew coffee.

To my knowledge I have not tasted a cold-brewed cup of coffee, nor am I obsessive about water temperature in the hot-brew method. But if a cold-brew concentrate can remain stable for up to a week after the brew, it might be something worth looking into.

August 18, 2004

Using Lake Ontario to cool Toronto

The Globe and Mail [] The water's cold will be extracted and used to lower the temperature in downtown buildings. The water will then be treated and enter the city's drinking supply.

From the Department of Why-Hasn't-Anyone-Thought-Of-This-Before, comes the idea of using near-freezing water from the depths of Lake Ontario to use as the cooling agent for air-conditioning in Toronto's office buildings.

Here's a site that explains how it works.

Basically, super cool water from Lake Ontario is pumped to a heat exchanger before entering Toronto's water supply system. The cold extracted from the heat exchanger is then pumped via water pipes to Toronto's buildings, and is used to cool the buildings' cooling systems via another heat exchanger.

Posters on Slashdot, known haven for geeks, then wondered if this heat exchange process would -- in obeying the laws of thermodynamics -- cause the temperature of the lake to rise, causing other unforeseen environmental effects.

I think it would not, since the water would be going through the water supply system anyway, the heat gain (cold loss?) probably would have occurred anyway, in the form of waste.

August 05, 2004

Party Like It's 1954

Popular Science | Tech '54, Where Are You? [] "As the final minutes ticked away until the start of my experiment, I had Piper hide my cellphone, kissed my Sharper Image CD shower radio good-bye, tried to ignore the fact that I would soon be sacrificing 242 TV channels, took a last peek at the Paris Hilton video, and tapped out the following e-mail autoreply:

'I will be offline from 1/1-1/10 ... because I am doing a story on living the low-tech life for a high-tech magazine.'"

July 27, 2004

Bloggers at the DNC

As my personal experiment in blogging continues, proof that the blogging phenomenon is gaining traction comes with the
admission of bloggers to political conventions with full journalist credentials

Since blogs are very much a grass roots endeavor operating on a much more personal, individual level than mainstream media, it stands to reason that those bloggers committed enough to apply for credentials and travel to the DNC are going to be those with a leftist bent. I would imagine that the same will be true of the RNC.

Even more so than with mainstream media, one needs to keep this in mind when reading these blogs. They are partisan, but unlike traditional media, often make no attempt to hide behind objectivity.

Therefore, I've tended to concentrate on the blog named
Centerfield, from the Centrist Coalition, a group which mirrors my own political leanings of late: conservative on fiscal matters and the role government should play, while advocating an inclusive social agenda that seeks to limit governments' role in that arena as well.

The last thing I want to do with this blog is turn it into some sort of political soapbox. As the saying goes, if you don't want to argue, don't talk religion or politics. I just wanted to shed a little light on blogging, and bring to mind the upcoming elections. It promises to be a close contest, so learn about the candidates and the issues, and make sure you're registered to vote!

I'm Patrick Lien, and I approve this message.

July 22, 2004

House Plans

As some of you may know, we've finally decided to move forward with the addition/renovation that we've been talking about for the last 4 years. There was always something that prevented us from moving forward: job security, pregnancy, what-have-you. We finally said, "Enough! Let's just do it!"

So we've been working with a designer the last few weeks, hoping to put bids out next week, with the aim of selecting a builder and having him start in the fall.

By popular request, here are some scans of the designs that we've come up with so far.

Tech note: They are in PNG format, which most modern web browsers should be able to display.

EDIT: And for context, here are some photographs of the house.

UPDATE [22 Jul 2004]: Revised plans have been uploaded. These incorporate changes to:

  • Window arrangement (thanks, Ken)
  • Master bath changes
  • Slight enlargement of master bath and walk-in closet
  • Revisions around the fireplace
  • Slight enlargement of family room and master bedroom

July 19, 2004

Dad tracks his preemie baby on his blog > ex machina

Part of becoming a new parent means that you become hypersensitive to stories about and images of babies. I can't count the number of times Wendy and I have been watching TV and a baby appears on screen in the show or in a commercial, and we both involuntarily blurt out "Baby!," rewind the TiVo, and watch the baby again.

And one of my colleagues recently brought home his 8 weeks prematurely-born son, and I've listened to his stories about keeping the baby on oxygen, and stimulating him to breathe through apnea episodes.

So when I came across this blog of little Eric, born on the Fourth of July, I was "primed" so to speak.

It really is amazing that the advances in medical technology not only give a preemie like little Eric a chance to survive, but that the baseline survival rate for a 24-week preemie is around 65%. I find that really amazing.

Anyway, this blog chronicles it all (he's currently at Day 14) with photos, video, comments from friends and family ("this update made my whole office cheer!") and lots of "tearability."

July 14, 2004

Prophetable Colors

Hello icon
Making Light: Prophetable colors []
"Twice a year they get together in Alexandria, VA, to come up with long-term and short-term color predictions. The long-term prediction is a set of sixteen colors that will be profitably marketable two years hence. That is, the 2003 palette was distributed to manufacturers in 2001. The short-term prediction is a palette of colors declared to be currently the thing."

Since marrying Wendy, I've come to have a much greater appreciation for color. Previously, I never would have given much thought to what colors complement me.

Like most average males, my thought process as it related to color and fashion was limited to a once yearly prediction on the local newscast that said that "red is in this year," or "green is so last year."

Well, it turns out that what colors are "in" or "out" aren't determined simply by the fickle whims of the general consumer public. There's actually an organization that meets every year to define the upcoming "Consumer Palette":

"The 2004 Consumer Directions Palette includes rich reds, innocent pinks, therapeutic blues, soft greens and a jolting neon yellow," just so you know.

July 13, 2004

Miranda Gets Her First Teeth

Miranda has gotten her first teeth! The lower two incisors are just poking through the gum line. This might have been the reason why she was so cranky 2 nights ago, waking up in the middle of the night 2 times.

It's hard to see the new teeth in the picture, although it might be easier if you enlarge the photo (click on it).

I'll try to take more pictures of the new teeth and post them to the Miranda photo album, which you can view by clicking here.

July 12, 2004

Eight more gored by Pamplona bulls - Eight more gored by Pamplona bulls - Jul 12, 2004: "Another American, from Georgia, was gored in the scrotum, in the bullring, in what the government spokesman said was a 'slight injury.'"

I don't know about you, but I don't classify any goring of the scrotum as a "slight injury."

July 08, 2004

Monty Python LEGO

Monty Python LEGO (iFilm)

For those of you who can't wait for the Holy Grail Broadway musical to get their fix of Alternative Medium Python, check out this LEGO film!

Traffic Waves, physics for bored commuters

Traffic Waves, physics for bored commuters
"Don't think of it as a stupid f@#$% traffic jam. Think of it as a pressure wave which has approached your car and engulfed it."

We've all had this experience when caught up in a traffic jam that seems to have had no cause: you are sure you're going to see some reason for the traffic jam, but when traffic starts moving again there's no reason to be seen anywhere! "Where did that come from?" you ask. But then, happy to be on your way, you don't give it much more thought.

Well, this amateur traffic dynamicist has. The site is a bit of a read, honestly. But he has linked to some interesting sites, some of which are rooted in real academia. Don't miss the Traffic Simulator Applet.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail to be Broadway musical

Article (CNN)
Article (Daily Llama)
David Hyde Pierce as Sir Robin! Perfect!

One has to wonder how such ideas ever make the light of day, but some big name stars are signed onto the project: Tim Curry, Hank Azaria, Mike Nichols to direct.

The article mentions that two songs from the original movie will be included in the music. If I were to guess, I'd say they'd be: 1. "Camelot" (of course, perhaps changed to "Spamalot"), and 2. Sir Robin.

Of course, I think there were only 3 songs in the entire movie, those 2 plus "He's Going To Tell!" from the Swamp Castle segment ("No singing!"), which is the most "Musical"-like of the 3 songs. ([Herbert] "Well, I'll tell you" [Chorus] "He's going to tell!")

July 07, 2004


A Wasted Journey

Have you ever seen short, animated Lego® films? They're usually a parody of some film or genre, most commonly Star Wars, The Matrix, or some other geek-friendly oeuvre.

There's a whole site devoted to them,, and here I've linked one of my favorites - A Wasted Journey. Like the page says, it helps to know something about StarWars and Monty Python.

July 06, 2004

The customer is always right? Not anymore

Article (San Francisco Chronicle): "Filene's banned two sisters from all 21 of its stores last year after the clothing chain's corporate parent decided they had returned too many items"

The trend in retail the last 15-20 years seems to have been: Cater to the customer whatever the cost. Whether it's no questions asked return policies (which I took advantage of in college with my innovative College Student Rental Plan, or CSRP) or razor thin margins on top of sales or even Talbot's Don't Confront A Shoplifter policy, it's gotten to the point where I wonder how stores can make a profit.

Well, with the advent of data mining technologies and processes, the tide seems to be turning. Companies are now actively identifying customers that are "not profitable" and turning them away. Sometimes subtly, sometimes overtly.

We return a heck of a lot of stuff at places like Marshall's and Linens 'n Things. We're also aggressive sales shoppers and coupon users. A lot of people are. To us, it's just smart shopping.

But might we one day be turned away from Linen 'n Things for using one competitor coupon too many?

July 03, 2004

Colin Powell goes disco for ASEAN forum

"Mr Powell donned a hard hat and stuffed a hammer in his belt for the Village People's YMCA"

A new foreign policy strategy for the US? Video included....

July 02, 2004

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SUV takes plunge in Hawai'i Kai

"Pat and Mimi sat inside the 2001 silver Toyota Highlander as it filled with water."

This will not do any wonders for the stereotype of female driving abilities.

Cassini-Huygens Reaches Saturn

Posted by Hello
The Cassini-Huygens spacecraft has penetrated the rings of Saturn and returned some spectacular photos.

3 years after Arthur C. Clarke's fictional manned mission to Jupiter, mankind has sent a spacecraft to probe the Saturn system. For the next 4 years Cassini-Huygens will orbit and investigate Saturn, as well as drop the Huygens probe onto the surface of the largest Saturn moon, Titan.

Check out NASA's Cassini-Huygens site for more info and pictures.

July 01, 2004

Is Coach K ready to become 'Coach L.A.?'

From the category of "I'll Believe It When I See It" comes this article which indicates Duke's Coach K is in "serious discussions" with the L.A. Lakers about their coaching vacancy.

Somehow, I can't see Coach K in the Land of Showtime...

Floyd Collins

My sister, Mimi Lien, is a set designer based out of New York City. Her most recent project was Floyd Collins, a musical by Adam Guettel being produced by the Berkshire Theater Festival.

There have been a number of very positive reviews, which I'm going to list here because I'm her older brother and I'm very proud of her.

Crimson Room


Yes, you can get out of the room. No, I don't know how, yet.

The Phone

The Phone

Not really a game. More like an experience.

Spyware Troubleshooting

Spyware Troubleshooting

One of things about being an IT professional is that all your friends and family come to you for computer help. Despite the fact that I'm a development manager and have never worked help desk, I help out as much as I can: 1) because they're my friends and family, and 2) because I enjoy tinkering and working on with computers.

My father-in-law's computer has become infected with spyware/malware that has hijacked his home page. My initial attempt was to install and run Lavasoft's AdAware. This successfully identified the culprit, but was unsuccessfully in removing it. All of this was done by me via XP's remote assistance, and my father-in-law is on dialup.

Let me tell you, that is some slow going.

Personally, I've never experienced much in the way of viruses, trojans, spyware, malware, etc., because I like to run a tight ship, so to speak. Yeah, speak to me all you want about Windows vs. Linux vs. everything else, and I've tinkered with Linux a bit, but my computing life still centers around Windows, and so does that of my friends and family.

So in an attempt to research what next steps I should take, I came across this site. It's pretty utilitarian in design, but it looks like it has good info. Unfortunately, the steps it outlines seems to be something beyond what I'd attempt via Remote Assistance/dial-up. I'll probably just skim the article for nuggets that I can perform manually, and if that doesn't work, it may have to wait until I'm up at my father-in-law's house again.

Knock 3 Times on the Ceiling (to Turn on the DVD Player)

The New York Times > Technology > Circuits > What's Next: Knock 3 Times on the Ceiling (to Turn on the DVD Player): "French physicists have figured out how to rap on tabletops to communicate with CD's, lights or most other nearby electric or electronic devices."

I see this going in one of two directions:
1. Either it revolutionizes consumer electronics interfaces, or
2. It's the successor to The Clapper

Rowland Resigns

Today, Connecticut Governor John Rowland, former wunderkind of the GOP, resigns from office amid bribery and corruption scandals, and an ongoing Federal investigation. A shame, really, as I've always thought he was doing a good job as the guv.

A couple of years ago, I struck up a conversation with a guy at a bar in Trumbull who told me he had all the inside dirt on Rowland, and that he was as dirty as they come. This was before any revelations came to light, and I thought the guy was crazy. Turns out he was right.

So now that Johnny Boy is no longer governor, I wonder what his career options are? Here's one possibility.

Thanks to Dana for the pic!

June 30, 2004


Posted by Hello
More pictures available here.

Firefox - The Browser, Reloaded

Firefox - The Browser, Reloaded
Before I get to anything else, I'd just like to put a plug in for Mozilla Firefox, the open-source browser that's been my web surfing tool of choice for the past few months.

In light of recent news regarding still more security exploits in Microsoft's Internet Explorer, this seems like a particularly good time to inform some of the less tech-saavy that a choice does exist in terms of which browser to use to surf the web. IE, in its current form, is just too bug-ridden and too much of a security hole, and I've decided that I'm going to try and switch people over, starting with Wendy. I prefer Firefox, but the Mozilla Browser and Opera are also worthy choices.

I've resisted moving people over to alternative browsers because there are still some sites which assume you are using IE, and code only for IE, with the result that pages might look weird, or might not function at all. But with recent exploits of IE, it's time to move 'em over.

N.B. folks: use IE at your own peril.


Note the pithy new name! I was getting tired of everything of mine being plien, so with one quick change, I now present... blien! This will work until I give one of my kids a first name beginning with 'B'.

I've given up the ghost temporarily on trying to publish this to HostRocket. Blogger says HostRocket doesn't support passive FTP. HostRocket says they do, even though I can't get it work work with FileZilla, and Blogger still can't publish. Gonna have to talk with HR front-line support again...

Speaking of front-line support, does it bug anyone else that front-line support is generally useless. You can tell they're all reading from a script, the suggestions of which you've already tried. Try as you might to try and get to a second level tech, they always fall back on asking you the same questions (did you log back off and on? Did you restart the app? Did you restart the computer? etc... You just have to answer "Yes" as quickly as you can and hope you can quickly get to someone who knows what they're talking about.

June 21, 2004

OK, this is my second post. I'm still not able to have Blogger publish my blog to an external web site. As far as I can tell, all of the connect information that I have supplied is corrct, but it still keeps failing with some sort of connectivity or I/O error.

I suppose I'll start publishing posts like this to try and grab a free GMail account. Oh, and I'l also keep trying the external publish functionality.

Maybe it'll work one day...