Fair-weather Fiends

My new neighbors are still in the process of painting and such before they move in. They hadn’t thought about trick-or-treaters until they saw me putting out a couple decorations this afternoon.
Mom can probably tell you exactly many how many kids came by their house any year for as long as they’ve lived there. But when the neighbors asked me, I had to admit that I don’t really know. When the husband asked whether four bags would suffice, I allowed that it probably would.
The skies have been overcast for most of the past week. Right around sunset, it finally rained. Not a heavy downpour, and it only lasted a short time. But it was enough.
So far, fewer than two-dozen kids have come by this evening.
The new neighbors will probably never believe me again.

Cancer Awareness Month

October is, of course, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
According to the CDC, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women, and twice as prevalent as lung cancer, which is in the #2 position. (Regrettably, I can’t link directly to the stats, you’ll have to play with the selectors near the top of the page.)
Of course, even though Breast Cancer gets more press, it is (of course) important to remember that there are many other other types. The media seems to be picking up on that.
Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma on TV.
Early in the month, Angela discovered that on the show “Brothers and Sisters,” they’ve added a cancer storyline where one of the characters has Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. (This touches particularly close to home for Angela since that’s the type of cancer she beat two years ago. She’s been comparing it to her own real-life experience.)
Lung Cancer in the comics
Also early in the month, I was surprised to find a cancer story line in User Friendly in which one of the characters is diagnosed with lung cancer. UF is an online comic strip following the adventures of a small Canadian Internet Service Provider, so a lot of the humor is geared toward techies. Illiad has occasionally touched on serious subjects, so I was curious what he’d do with this topic.
I was quite pleased by how the subject was treated respectfully, yet Illiad still managed to sneak in some geek humor including (so far) a Monty Python reference, a Star Wars reference, and a few others.
Collected Links:


Talk Like a Pirate Day was (of course) back on September 19. I’m just a wee bit late posting the photos. Time for me to get with the program and take care of not only this, but a number of other things which have been on the back burner.
First up, we have Wylie demonstrating that he can still get the girls.
Wylie getting skritched by a pretty girl.
Blaine recently had a birthday and spent some time trying to blow out anything that looked like a candle. And since at the time it was still mosquito season, there were tiki torches all over the place.
Blaine attempts to blow out a "candle."
Wylie agrees that the name “Wylie and the Pirates” has a definite ring to it, but his band will be keeping the name “Wylie and the Coyotes” for the other 364 days of the year.
Wylie and the band of pirates.

Safer Online Banking

I’ve been following the Washington Post Security Fix blog for the past year or so. Recently, Brian Krebs has been writing a series of post about businesses are having with thieves stealing their banking credentials, and then the subsequent financial problems since businesses don’t have the same protections as consumers.
One place where I do disagree with the author is the idea of the Macintosh as a safe-haven. In some of his other columns, he’s mentioned that Apple is actually less secure than Windows, but because Windows has more marketshare, that’s what thieves will mostly target. I agree with that much, but the logical leap of “therefore Macintosh is safe”…. I’m just not a big fan of “security through obscurity.”
Three recent articles dealt with the idea (including a How-To) of using a Linux Live CD for online banking.

Just to be clear: I don’t think Linux is any more of a panacea than Mac, it’s just a bit more obscure. What I like about this particular solution is that you’re booting from a read-only copy of the operating system. In effect, every time you boot the computer, it’s brand new. Once you’re done with the banking stuff, turn off the computer (you don’t even need to go through the normal shutdown!) and next time you fire it up from the CD, it’s back to the exact same state as when you started it the last time. Even if something does get on to the computer, it can’t save itself to that read-only OS.
I currently do my banking from a virtual machine which I use for absolutely nothing but banking. But I’m definitely digging this as an alternative.

Watch This!

I bought a new watch a year or two back and it’s mostly run well. A few months ago, I started having problems where it would periodically lose several hours, but it wasn’t a constant thing. Last Wednesday though, the digital date display stopped working and by Friday morning, the entire thing was dead.

Taking the back off took about 20 minutes work a couple small screwdrivers, finding a replacement battery wasn’t overly complex either and swapping the new battery for the old was 10-15 minutes work.

I’ve spent the last two or three days trying unsuccessfully to put the cover back in place. Finally today I took two pairs of pliers, put tape on the ends to prevent scratching, and tried squeezing the pieces back together that way. The only thing I achieved was to chip the crystal.

Going online, I discovered that I’m not the first to encounter this difficulty. The current crop of Timex watches are apparently notorious for this problem. It turns out that the preferred method of replacing the cover is to clamp the entire thing in a vise!!!

I don’t own a vise, but I do have a C-clamp. After a bit of digging, I managed to locate it (Now if I could only find my electric blanket!). I put the watch between two paint stirrers and tightened it up in the clamp.
That did the trick! Now there’s a much bigger crack in the crystal*.

But at least the back is staying on.

*I’ve had worse. The previous watch was scratched across the entire left side by the time it was replaced. But next time I won’t tighten the clamp so much.

Update: November 9, 2022 Looking back over the intervening years, I’ve moved away from battery-powered watches altogether. My preferred watch these days is self-winding or “automatic” (a strange adjective to be sure). By removing the need to replace a battery, I have also greatly increased the lifespan of my watches.

Mmmmm…. Crickets!

Got an email from Angela today to let me know that October 14 is National Chocolate Covered Insects Day.
This, of course, brings back memories of the “Exotic Cuisine Night” I celebrated with the Jaycees during the cicada invasion of 2004.
In one favorite photo, Angela is holding a piece of banana-nutcicada bread. The expression on her face, pretty much says it all:
Angela reacts to eating a bug.
“What’s that crunch? That’s not a walnut.”

The Butler Did It!

Every so often I hear a song on the radio with lyrics along the lines of:

Now I’m falling asleep,
And she’s calling a cab,
While he’s having a smoke,
And she’s taking a drag…

And so on. The song is called “Mr. Brightside” and it’s sung by a group calling themselves “The Killers.” The problem with this song is that one of the lyrics is, “He takes off her dress now.”
Every time I hear that line, I’m reminded of this joke:

Lady Brooks summoned her butler to her bedroom.
James arrived, she said “You know why you are here I assume. Take off my dress and do it with care. It cost a lot of money so do not tear it.”
“Take off my bra and stockings too.”
James diligently did what he was told to do.
“Take off my knickers, I know you have done that before.”
“If I catch you wearing my clothes again I will personally kick you out the front door.”

Now you can get that joke stuck in your head too.

Bombing the Moon

Many thanks to Squish for passing along a link to the news story about NASA’s plan to bomb The Moon. No, they’re not really going to “bomb” it per se, that’s just the spin MSNBC is using. What’s really going to happen is that they’re going to deliberately crash a couple spacecraft into a crater on the moon’s South Pole in order to verify whether the crater contains any water ice.
Boy, are they gonna be surprised when The Moon pops!
Of course, those of us with a sense of history remember what happened the last time there was an explosion on The Moon, ten years ago, on September 13, 1999…

The Ig Nobel Prizes

The 2009 Ig Nobel Prize awards ceremony was held at Harvard this past weekend.
Elena N. Bodnar, Raphael C. Lee, and Sandra Marijan (all three from Chicago) received the Ig Nobel Public Health Prize for their work on the “Garment device convertible to one or more facemasks” (U.S. patent # 7255627).
Pictured below is Dr. Bodnar. Standing with her, and modeling the award-winning garment are Nobel laureates Wolfgang Ketterle (left), Orhan Pamuk, and Paul Krugman (right). PHOTO credit: Alexey Eliseev.
Wolfgang Ketterle (left), Dr. Elena Bodnar, Orhan Pamuk, and Paul Krugman (right)
Yes. It’s a brassiere which can be converted into a pair of gas masks.
Likewise, the Ig Nobel Economics Prize was awarded to “The directors, executives, and auditors of four Icelandic banks — Kaupthing Bank, Landsbanki, Glitnir Bank, and Central Bank of Iceland — for demonstrating that tiny banks can be rapidly transformed into huge banks, and vice versa — and for demonstrating that similar things can be done to an entire national economy.”
I can’t help but think various US banking executives and central regulators may have been runners up for that one.
Finally, Javier Morales, Miguel Apátiga, and Victor M. Castaño of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México received the Ig Nobel Chemistry Prize for creating diamonds from Tequila.
A full list of winners (past and present) appears on the web site of the Annals of Improbable Research.