Thursday, January 29, 2009

Follow that PDA!

While on vacation, we dined at a restaurant that is in the Shamash restaurant data base. While we enjoyed our meal, I took out my N800 Nokia PDA and camped onto a nearby wireless network. I connected to the Shamash data base and brought up the one review of this restaurant, which was very positive.

When the owner came to our table, I showed him the review. He got quite excited and asked if he could show his wife (the cook). She was sitting just a few tables away at that moment, so I said “sure.” He took my PDA to her, and then took it to yet another table to show some regular patrons. It was kind of sweet, watching my PDA parade around the room, bringing so much pleasure with it. I kept an eye on my PDA, wondering if it was going to stay in sight (it did). Eventually, I even got it back.

The restaurant, which is a lot of fun and has good food, is: Sabra, in Tucson, Az.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Chivalry dies again:

I'm just back from a vacation, on which I rented a car that did not have a remote-control key. Only the driver's door could be opened by a key. From there, I could lock and unlock all the doors by pressing buttons on the inside of the driver's door.

This arrangement struck me as really dumb. In part, I had to get used to it. Our old car was entirely manual, but it had key locks on all four doors. Our new car has a remote control key to unlock any door. But the real problem with this rental car is a matter of chivalry: it's impossible to unlock and open the passenger door first, which is often exactly what one wants to do. (Call me old-fashioned if you wish, but I'm also thinking of bitter wind and rain.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Grand mA:

Boats are the most varied of vehicles. From kayak to aircraft carrier, there are distinctive classes of boats of every size, and incredible variety in every class. Perhaps that's why most boats are individually named. Still ... why not cars? Why don't most car owners want to detail a name on their car?

I'm trying to think of a good car name right now. It's not easy, but when I do ...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

What is a Seminar?

Every once in a while, you see a word so badly misused that you can take pleasure in knowing that the speaker (or writer) has no idea what he's talking about; or alternatively, that a word has acquired a ridiculous new meaning. I felt that way years ago, when I received a spam email from a porno web site that boasted: "we only use professional amateurs."

Well here we go again: I received a four-page ad for a course on estate planning and retirement. The glossy says, in big bright letters: "This 3 session course is not a seminar!" Now what could they mean by that? The next sentence of their brochure explains: "No companies or products will be mentioned." Now that's a seminar.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Imaginary Hardware:

I blogged once before about how I needed to imagine the existence of unseen hardware, in order to turn my Archos player on and off. The ON button tended not to do anything until I imagined that there was a contact beneath it that was loose inside the case, that had to be pressed by pushing the ON button at just the right angle. I have no idea what is truly under that ON button, but my imagination enabled me to control the player.

Well, my newer Zen player also has unseen hardware that I need to press just at the right angle. This player has a common feature: you turn it off; then later you turn it on, and it picks up playing where it left off. The player is turned on and off by sliding a switch to the left. Recently this feature stopped working. I would turn the player on and it would start playing from the beginning of the current track. I could not imagine what had gone wrong. I had no choice but to manually bookmark the track before turning the player off, an infernal nuisance.

One day, as I turned the player off, I noticed that before losing power, it went back several tracks. For example, let's say I turned the player off in the middle of track 5. Before the display shut down, I saw the player go to the beginning of track 5, track 4, track 3.

I had the inevitable inspiration. The “left arrow” hardware button must be right next to the “on/off” button, inside the player's case. When I moved the on/off slider to the left, it touched the “left” button on the way, because that button had somehow scrunched up a little beyond where it ought to be.

The player is working fine for me now. But every time I use the on/off slider, I'm careful to slide it without pushing it down at all. That way, I avoid touching the unseen “left” button. Once again, I've conquered my player by learning how to operate its imaginary hardware.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Rush, Rush, Rush!

I blogged before about my adventure in ordering business cards from Vista Print, a company that claims that everything they sell is free; and then they tempt you with options and add-ons. Someone at Vista Print has a wicked sense of humor. How else to explain that they have offered me 25% off my next order, even though that order will be FREE!

Of course, no order is free, you have to pay for shipping. I bought 25 magnets for my novel, Raven's Gift. And once again, I took the cheapest shipping option, “21 day shipping”, to keep my costs down. (The 21 day shipping price is very reasonable.) And yes, I called their buff again! It took them three days to process my order, and three more days to ship it. But here's the fun part: my “21 day shipment” package had two words printed on it that you just won't believe. Here's what they said: Time Sensitive.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Physical Therapy, lots of stretching exercises:

Could you make a good guess regarding the five most common words in your speech and your thoughts? I'm pretty sure I know mine. Here they are: A an the and Mississippi.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Raven's Gift -- online and complete, plenty of text:

Way back on July 20, 2008, I announced that the first five chapters of my novel, Raven's Gift, were online. The entire novel is now available free, in 29 audio downloads, at PodioBooks, in their fantasy category. And here's the RSS feed. I've also published the text of the first seven chapters at As my wife will tell you, keeping to the schedule of one recorded chapter per week turned me into a regular grump. Currently I'm not driven by any self-imposed deadlines, and oh, how relaxing that is. Worse, I know perfectly well that some of the "todo" items in my personal life ought to have deadlines. Oh well...

Monday, January 05, 2009

Little nibbles of Web Info:

A nice NYT piece by Michael Lewis and David Einhorn on the sad state of US finance has appeared in the online Times in little chunks. You can start it here, and then follow it through three more short web pages, and on to the rest of the article. I've read many short stories that are segmented into shorter webpages like this one, and I just don't get it. The short pages don't make me click on more ads, they just waste my time. What's the point? Does the NYT think that everyone who wants to read about finance has a 1,200 bps dialup modem?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The wrong tattoo:

Plaxico Burress, the NY Giants receiver who shot himself in the nightclub, has now crashed his car when it was uninsured. Burress has a tattoo that reads:
Everything happens for a reason.

I think he made a mistake. His tattoo should say:
Everything happens to me.