Archive for August, 2006

Oh Deer

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

Wylie and I were about 2/3 of the way through our evening walk, we saw a car turning onto a side street and slowing down. I thought they were slowing down to look for a parking spot, but it turned out that they were watching a group of pedestrians.

There were five of them. As Wylie and I watched, three adult deer and two fawns crossed the street and went into the park on the other side.

For the next half mile, Wylie looked in the backyard of every house we passed, looking for more deer.

Radio Shark Bites

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

Wow. Lots of comapnies talk about how their employees are their “most valuable assets.” And every so often, you hear about companies demonstrating how they really feel about them.

Radio Shack has taken the idea of treating their staff with respect to new lows. (I’ll bet they also jumped on the bandwagon a while back and started referring to people as “resources”.) For crying out loud, does anyone – except Radio Shack’s senior management – actually think firing people via email shows the least bit of compassion?

That sure doesn’t give me the warm fuzzies about doing business with that company.

Not Quite Poetry

Monday, August 28th, 2006

“I am a leaf on the wind. Watch how I soar.”

Granted, that’s a very quotable line (and no doubt intentionally so), but when Wash said it, you knew you were about to see him “In the Zone,” flying like nobody else.

I really like that line. To me, it’s all about staying nimble and getting through, no matter what the opposition throws at you. I find it downright inspirational. (Learning from Wash’s example however, I try to avoid declaring victory too soon.)

A co-worker recently asked why that quotation was written on the whiteboard in my cubical. I tried to explain why I found it inspiring, but she got hung up on the literal text.

“Leaves don’t fly!”

“Sure they do. Haven’t you ever seen how the wind can carry them?”

Jing’s next words made it clear that she’d never spent the afternoon raking leaves, only to have the wind deposit a new batch from the neighbors’ yard.

“Leaves just fall down.” And then, brightly, “But I’ve seen plastic grocery store bags fly!”

Somehow “I am a grocery bag on the wind” doesn’t sound nearly as poetic.

From the Earth to the Moon

Saturday, August 26th, 2006

Tom recently passed along a few notes about a theory that a large body striking the Earth formed the Moon, when a large piece broke off and stayed in orbit.

I’m not sure why there’s any doubt about this. It’s pretty easy to prove that’s what happened.

The moon has a decaying orbit. Over time, the moon’s average distance from the earth is increasing. Eventually, the moon will break away altogether. (Whether this will be accelerated by explosions in the nuclear waste dumps on the far side remains to be seen; that’s nearly seven years overdue at this point.)

Following the trend backward then, you can see that the Moon must have been closer to the Earth at one time. Follow it far enough and you’ll eventually discover that some 65 million years ago, the average distance between the Earth and the Moon was about 10 feet.

This coincidentally is why the dinosaurs are extinct. They got clobbered.

(I’m not sure where that comes from, I don’t think it’s a Blair original.)

Ponch being Ponch, he wondered if it might be the other way around. Why couldn’t it be that the Earth broke off from the Moon?

Well, as Einstein would tell you, it’s all relative. Specifically, it would be his older cousin, the well-known baseball player, Victor Gahverguen. Victor got his start at baseball at the age of six, playing in the streets of Rock Island Illinois. By age 10, Victor had put so many baseballs through so many windows that his father, Paul Phillip Gahverguen decided he’d be better off just opening his own window company (I’m sure many of you are aware of the Paul Phillip Gahverguen, or PPG for short). By the time Victor was eligible to play baseball in High School, his glass shattering record had gone to new heights, making well known throughout Illinois that if something was broken, it was probably something to do with Victor.

So the question of whether the Moon broke away from the Earth or vice versa really is relative. Either way, Victor was probably involved.

One of our planets is missing

Saturday, August 26th, 2006

It’s pretty much old news at this point. The International Astronomical Union has made up criteria for what it takes for a body to be counted as a planet and Pluto didn’t make the cut.

One impact of this decision is a lot of people wondering how long it’s going to take all the schools to get their textbooks and curricula up to date. It’s a bit of cynicism on my part, after all, it’s been 70 years since Pluto’s discovery, but I can’t help wondering how many schools have text books that have suddenly reverted to being correct.

I suppose there is some scientific merit to having a formal definition for what makes a planet. But there’s also a lot of sentiment for keeping Pluto on the books as a planet. Small wonder then that there are groups protesting.

Life Imitates Python

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

Squish wrote this morning to let me know about a fellow over in England by the name of Ben Fillmore, who in order to raise money for charity, re-enacted Monty Python’s fish slapping skit. I don’t think I’d be willing to pay $400 to hit someone with a fish, but I congratulate all involved on their willingness to do something offbeat for a good cause. (Between this and the toilet decorating contest which Z mentioned, it looks like there’s still plenty of room in the world for “unusual” fund-raising efforts.)

The article goes on to say that Mr. Fillmore has plans in the works to climb Mount Everest. This is clearly someone who’s familiar with Monty Python, so I’ve gotta wonder… Do you suppose he’s planning to climb the actual mountain? Or is he more likely planning to do the equivalent, scaling a city street?

Fairly Insane

Friday, August 18th, 2006

Laura and I headed over to the Montgomery County Fair on Saturday. It was pretty much everything I’ve come to expect from a fair – a midway filled with carnival rides and games, tents with local merchants selling their goods and services, and a variety of farm animals raised by members of the local 4H club.

This fair also included an exhibit which demonstrates that the world has gone stark, raving bonkers! I’m not speaking of the various “freak show” entries they included (Even the five-legged sheep was understandable, though animals with that sort of birth defect are usually culled early on). No, for me, the proof that the fair’s organizers are insane was their decision to include – and there’s no way I could ever make up something like this – restroom attendants.

Yes, that’s right, the Montgomery County Fair has restroom attendants. Complete with professionally made signs (not hand-lettered, somebody actually planned this out) asking for tips.

Perhaps I’m old-fashioned. I’ve always felt that what goes on in the bathroom is strictly between you and the plumbing fixtures, no need for any third party involvement. Definitely have someone check now and again to make sure everything is clean and in order, but do you really need to have someone hanging out there the whole day?

I’ve occasionally run across stories that this sort of thing is all the rage at upscale nightclubs and bars, but nobody’s ever explained why they think this is a good idea. Several years ago, I encountered a restroom attendant on one of my rare nightclub outings. This fellow was holding court at the sink and had an assortment of colognes, hand lotions, breath mints and other items covering every square inch of counter space and approaching the sink felt like a pricey toll road.

I can’t imagine why the county fair would want to recreate that environment. Nobody I’ve spoken to understands it either.

By comparison, the trees scattered around the fairgrounds seem quite inviting.

Wylie’s Big Win

Sunday, August 13th, 2006

When Wylie first came to live with me, he came with a note of caution. He also came with a number of signs on his kennel inlcuding, “Live Animal,” “This Side Up,” and the classic “I’d rather be fishing” (I don’t doubt for a moment that he would have preferred fishing over air travel). But what Steve told me over the phone was, “He’s gonna trash your house.”

For the first ten months, everything went splendidly. When I left for work, Wylie would watch me out the window and when I returned, he’d greet me at the door. After a few weeks he even started imitating Snoopy, but instead of sleeping on top of a doghouse, he’d sleep on top of the couch with his head strategically positioned so he could see out the window. It was a good arrangement and I soon forgot about Steve’s warning.

Over the course of the summer I became increasingly busy with work and the planning for the Jaycees’ participation in a series of events that became known as “Pumpkin Season” (with three back-to-back “Paint-A-Pumpkin” events in under a month, the label certainly fit). All this activity necessarily left me with less time at home and Wylie noticed. When I came home from Oktoberfest, one of the sofa cushions was in ruins with pieces of stuffing scattered throughout the first floor.

There was no point in getting angry with Wylie, he wasn’t going to make the association between his actions and my anger, so I did nothing. Assuming it was a one-time occurrence, I left him loose in the house the next day while I went to church. It wasn’t a one-time occurrence, when I got home a second cushion had met its fate.

Over the next two years, any time I had to leave the house, Wylie spent the day in his kennel. First in the plastic travel kennel, and later, after he’d shown a talent for breaking the latch on that one, a metal cage. As evidenced by his frequent escapes and attempted escapes, Wylie never liked spending time in the kennel, but we at least got into a routine where Wylie would already be in the kennel before I came downstairs.

Although he accepted the cage, it was clear that Wylie didn’t like it. He had frequent anxiety attacks, drenching himself in slobber and more than once hurting himself. Needless to say, I felt quite guilty about it, but what was I to do? As much as I didn’t want him to have anxiety attacks, I didn’t want him to destroy the furniture either. So I did some experiments.

The first experiment, conducted a few months after the first couch incident, was to try leaving him out during the day. I started out leaving him alone and out of the cage for a few hours at a time over a long weekend. It didn’t work, when I came back from work on Monday there was another (mercifully undamaged) cushion in the middle of the living room.

Over the past couple years, I’ve tried the experiment a few more times. The most promising one was when I tried leaving him in my bedroom. That worked great for the first week. Then I went out of town for a weekend, leaving him at the kennel. I picked him up on Sunday, giving him the day to re-acclimate. It didn’t work. I came home from work and found that in his efforts to find me during the day, he’d tried digging out of the bedroom. There were shreds of carpet everywhere!

Back in May I decided to repeat the experiment with leaving him in the bedroom. This time there was more than a month before I’d be going out of town, giving Wylie plenty of time to get used to being in that room. Just to be safe, I decided to take a lesson from the previous experiment, bought the smallest chair mat I could find, and cut it down to fit in the doorway. That way there if he tried digging again the damage would (hopefully) be limited.

The experiment seems to have worked. I’ve been out of town twice in the past six weeks and Wylie hasn’t destroyed the house.

One of the results of Wylie’s anxiety attacks has been an incredible amount of drool on the floor and bars of the cage. The result is that over a short amount of time, the cage has rusted and become quite an eyesore. Wylie seems to be OK staying in the bedroom all day (no doubt the softer bed is as much of an attraction as the larger amount of space), so on Saturday I took the cage apart and plan to put it out for Tuesday’s recycling pick up.

Wylie spent most of Saturday smirking.

Overhaul

Friday, August 11th, 2006

Two years ago I created the web site for the Germantown Oktoberfest, basing it on a publicity flyer from a year or two earlier.

The problem was, from my perspective anyhow, it looked like something an engineer had created. It got the point across and people were able to find out about the festival, but I just didn’t like the appearance. The web sites I create come up quickly and – I hope – aren’t too hard to navigate. But they also tend to be more functional than aesthetically pleasing.

A couple months ago, after perusing a few other information sites, I set out to create a new Oktoberfest site. My criteria were that it had to A) have all the information from the old site, B) be easy to maintain and add to, C) be easy to navigate and find information on, and last but not least, D) look good.

It took a week or two, but I eventually came up with something that met my goals. I even managed to meet one of my secondary goals and do it without overusing HTML tables. (As a result, it even looks pretty good on a handheld computer.)

Naturally, right on schedule, life got busy and even with a week off from work I couldn’t find time to finish it and replace the old one. sigh

Thursday evening I decided that enough was enough and pushed everything else off my schedule. (Hey, I’m a guy! Who cares about a sink full of dirty dishes anyhow?)

It took five or six hours (part of the design involved an easily reused template or it would have taken quite a bit longer), but the new Germantown Oktoberfest web site is now open for business.

I kind of like it. :-)

Road Rage Revenge

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006

When it comes to the pain of commuting, it appears that someone out there really does share the commuters’ pain. And in a refreshing move, they not only reacted appropriately, but with a sense of humor as well.

Now that the first span of the new Wilson Bridge is complete, the government agencies responsible for the construction are searching for the commuter with the most frustrating story about their commute over the old bridge.

The winner(?) gets to push the plunger to demolish the unused span of the old bridge.

That’s awesome!