Slow Day at Work

I was at work until around 6:20 on Tuesday. Everything was pretty much wrapped up at that point, so it was a natural point to leave. Besides which, the power had gone out.
My PC has a battery backup so I don’t lose my work every time the lights flicker and it’s paid for itself several times over. Tuesday was another such time with the battery giving me enough time to finish the email I was writing and then shutdown my PC in a controlled manner. Almost.
The computer shutdown OK, but something must have got through to affect the power supply. When I tried to boot up on Wednesday, the only thing that happened was the lights on the front flashed endlessly.
I called the helpdesk and eventually someone came to look at my computer. The final conclusion was that my computer needs a new power supply. Evidently the Dell Optiflex systems the company bought a few years ago had some problems across the entire model line. In addition to my problems, the fellow across the aisle needs both a power supply and a new motherboard, a fellow in the next aisle just had his power supply and motherboard replaced two weeks ago, one of the project managers wasn’t able to get her system running for nearly two hours and a number of other people have reported similar problems over the past six months.
My computer is due back on Thursday. For Wednesday, I got some reading done. 🙂

Putting the "gross" in groceries

I’ve never really understood some of the non-grocery products sold at the supermarket. Most of the general merchandise (shampoo, toothpaste and such) inside the store makes some sort of sense, but lately some supermarkets are branching out and carrying more "non-traditional" items that you’d usually look for somewhere else. Picnic tables, plants, mulch and potting soil top this list.
I stopped off at the supermarket on my way home from the church this morning. At the checkout, I noticed that someone had taped up a cheat sheet next to the register, listing the price codes for some of those less traditional items. The list was made up of four items: Top soil, hardwood mulch, pine mulch and hummus.
That last one took me by surprise. Hummus is a Greek dip made primarily of chickpeas and generally (in the US anyhow) served with pita bread.
Garden centers (which, unlike my local supermarket, don’t generally carry Greek food items) frequently sell something called "humus." It’s essentially what’s left after the worms get done digesting the contents of your compost heap. You probably don’t want to get these two items confused.
There’s already a compost heap located next to the garden, so I don’t really see a need to buy humus. If the circumstance ever arose where I did need to buy the stuff, my first choice would be to buy it at a garden center.
I no longer know where to buy hummus though.

My head exploded

My head started aching this morning around 10:30 or 11:00. Not the sharp “needle behind my eye” pain I associate with a migraine, this was more of a dull pressure on the temples. Probably more to do with allergies, it’s that time of year after all. Things weren’t any better by 3:30, so I told a couple folks I was going home “before my head explodes.”
I got home a little after 4:00 and stretched out on the bed, thinking that a short nap might help. The next thing I knew, it was after 9:00! My head felt better for a while, but the pressure’s building up again.
On the plus side, I’ll have no trouble sleeping tonight. The “non-drowsy” allergy medicine puts me to sleep every time.

The joke's on me!

I kind of played a practical joke on myself a couple days ago.
For the past couple days, I’ve been hearing a soft beeping noise coming from somewhere in my bedroom. Not like the smoke alarm, this one’s much softer and much less frequent.
One of my nephews is preparing to graduate from High School and getting ready to live out on his own, so I bought him an alarm clock. The clock has a special feature in the form of a built-in battery backup in case the power goes out. (It’s about time someone did that! I’ve wanted that feature for several years.)
I heard the beeping again this morning and finally tracked it down. It’s coming from the wrapped package containing the alarm clock. (I never opened the box, it must have been doing this at the store too!)
Can you imagine the chaos if a wrapped package at the post office started beeping?

Congressional (knee) jerks, pt 2

This was so predictable….
The FTC investigation has concluded that incidents of post-Katrina gasoline price-gouging were few and isolated. There was no widespread conspiracy by the oil companies, just the laws of supply and demand. Several members of Congress immediately declared the investigation flawed and denounced the FTC as a stooge to the oil companies and an enemy of consumers.
So, who do you believe? On the one hand, you have an FTC which is part of an administration which arguably favors business over consumers. On the other hand, you have members of Congress who want you believe supply and demand somehow doesn’t apply to gasoline and want to be able to blame someone for high gas prices so they can use it for their re-election campaigns.
My prediction: Both sides will continue to flap their gums about it until they find something else to grandstand about at which point this will all be forgotten.

Too many asterisks

There was a time not so long ago when someone asked me if I knew anyone who’d had cancer. I replied that I didn’t. Then I got to thinking about it. One of the people I didn’t know was my grandfather. He died before I was born. Another, who I knew too briefly, was a friend out in Nevada.

Larry Borino *
David Dahlman *
Karen Donnelly
Lee Hodge
Blair Learn *
David Learn
Allyson Mann *

Those are all friends or relatives who had cancer. I’m certain the list is incomplete. The ones with asterisks didn’t survive. There’s too many of them, and that doesn’t even count the friends and relatives of my friends.
On June 10 I’ll be participating in the Rockville Relay for Life. It’s a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. If you’d like to sponsor me in the event, donations can be any amount, it’s a fixed donation, no “per lap” or anything like that. There’s also an option to have luminaria lit either in memory of someone who didn’t survive, or in honor of someone who did. There’s a suggested donation of $10 for those.
Drop me a line if you’re interested.

Revenge is for the birds.

About 12 years ago, one of the Karens pushed all the wrong buttons and got me annoyed in her general direction.
I’ll skip the details as there were (somewhat) innocent third parties involved, but suffice that it wasn’t the sort of thing you end a friendship over (We still exchange Christmas cards to this day). But some sort of response was clearly called for.
Several days later, Karen received an unexpected package in the mail. She recognized the return address as mine, but didn’t think about the implications. My planned revenge went even better than expected when she opened the package while sitting on her bed. (Silly girl, she should have known better.)
That evening, Karen had to explain to her husband how it was that their bed came to be full of birdseed.

Twisted TV

Digging through an old web site I’m planning to decomission "Real Soon Now," I found a story synopsis that Dave and I came up with some time ago.
It was the mid-90s, The popularity of The X-Files was on the upswing and Angela Lansbury was still solving a new muder every week on Murder, She Wrote. A collision was perhaps inevitable.
I’d been thinking for a while that it was very strange how there was a murder every week in Cabot Cove, and it always happened in such a way that Jessica Fletcher was nearby. Sometimes it was a friend of a friend, once in a while it was someone she knew personally. Even when she went out on book tours, she’d wind up getting involved in the investigation.
I’m no statistician, but it always seemed unlikely that one person would encounter that many murders that frequently. A homicide detective in New York or LA might, but "Mystery Writer" just doesn’t seem the sort of job description where people would be dropping dead around you on a regular basis. Clearly something else was going on.
The idea that something else was going on in Cabot Cove had been bouncing around the inside of my head for a while, so one evening I let the idea out and sent Dave a short email detailing how an FBI agent had been sent to investigate.
Neither Dave nor I watched Murder, She Wrote with any regularity, but he liked my twist on the show well enough that he decided to send it out to the usenet newsgroup. (This was, of course, back before the spammers took over usenet.) Evidently there are a few other twisted minds out there, because an anonymous usenet reader wrote back to Dave saying how funny it would be if the FBI agent in question was Fox Mulder.
Dave sent that back to me and the wheels got to turning. Adding Mulder and Scully was simple enough, but even though I’d only seen the first season of The X-Files, it was clear that Mulder and Scully’s appearance couldn’t be anything straight forward. There had to be a twist of some sort.
The story never grew beyond a brief summary with only a few sentences of dialouge, but that’s really all it needed to be. Of course, if one of the studios wants to do something with this, I’m all ears. 🙂
Read Murder, She Caused.

Happy Star Wars day!

Today is Star Wars Day.
Sometime today, greet a friend, loved one, or even a deserving co-worker, with the phrase “Happy Star Wars day!”
And when they respond with the inevitable blank look, simply explain, “May the Fourth be with you.”
Afterwards, be prepared to run.

Eek! I've been Googled!

A couple months back, I got an e-mail from someone I knew back in college. For whatever reason, they’d gone onto Google and started looking up people they’d known “way back when.” I hadn’t seen this person in nearly two decades (Wow…18 years since college…. Damn, I’m old!) but I was one of the people they looked up.
I’ve known for several years that anyone who wanted to could find me through Google. In fact, sometimes it comes in handy like last fall when my brother was on a business trip, needed my e-mail address, and found me via a Google search for Terry Dactyl. The difference is that this is the first time a stranger (or someone from my distant past anyhow) tracked me down this way.
Having someone find me that way doesn’t bother me too much, but I can’t help thinking that the Google results give a somewhat skewed view of my interests.
A simple search for the name “Blair Learn” doesn’t immediately show anything about me. Instead, you get a bunch of stuff about Tony Blair and ads for someone named Preston Blair who offers drawing lessons.
Digging down a bit, you’ll find a number of pages where I’m mentioned for my participation in the Science Fiction fan community (mostly stuff from several years ago), but there’s very little about things I do with the Jaycees, Oktoberfest and other community groups.
Much of what we know about ancient civilizations (or even the early years of own nation) is based on what few records have survived the centuries. A lot of what we know about anything where no records exist comes from digging up trash. (As a child, I recall a tour guide at a house in Philadelphia where Benjamin Franklin once lived explaining that many historic artifacts were found by excavating privies. Evidently kids have always been kids and if, for instance, you broke a plate, what better way to conceal the evidence than to toss it in the privy?)
I sometimes wonder how accurate our historical knowledge is. Interpretations of trash just don’t seem likely to give you the full story, just some broad generalities.
Likewise, how much can a Google search tell you about me? Sure, you’ll find places where other people have mentioned me, but that tells you more about their interests than mine.
Even if you slog through and find this site, you’re still only getting a partial view.
Though after reading the blog, you’ll probably agree with the comparison to Benjamin Franklin’s trash heap.