July 31, 2006

Microsoft Mouse for women

Yeah, it's a repost, but what can you do?

Yes, this post is likely to get me whacked by some humorless people out there.

Stuck for the perfect gift for your female friends?

Then try the new and improved ‘Mouse for Women’.

Given the difficulties with the utilisation of the standard mouse experienced by women, the leading computer companies IBM and Microsoft have joined forces to try to find a solution to the problem.

Both companies, after many years of research and experimentation into the needs of women of all ages, have created a new mouse (ergonomically designed for female hands) and it has already had a great impact among the female population of computer users, finally ending years of problems caused by previous designs.

Introducing the new ‘Mouse for Women’…..


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July 27, 2006

25 is a good age

Feel like celebrating a birthday? The Great American Beer Festival turns 25 this year, September 28-30 at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver. This will mark my 8th pilgrimage to the holy festival during the last 9 years. I missed one year because my daughter was born that weekend which, I felt, was a pretty good reason to stay home. I didn't miss it 10 days after returning from my honeymoon, though, because my wife was fine with me going.

Am I a lucky man or what?

Anyway, if anyone's heading to Denver that weekend, I'd be glad to meet up for, umm, some beer drinking.

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A holiday for all of us

At least, for those of us who like alcohol. I give you Mead Day, courtesy of the American Homebrewers Association. Excerpt:

How to Celebrate

Before the event
• Invite non-brewing and brewing/meadmaking friends to help make mead.
• Hold a special pre-event mead dinner for Mead Day friends or family.

During the event
• Brew the Official Mead Day Recipe
• Tell friends and family about other American Homebrewers Association fun events – Big Brew, National Homebrewers Conference, Teach a Friend to Homebrew Day
• Bring out meadmaking literature for your friends to read– Compleat Meadmaker other meadmaking books
• Drink mead, pair your mead with food and HAVE FUN
• Bottle the mead you made together
• Buy an American Homebrewers Association membership as a gift for new homebrewers or meadmakers
• Have new homebrewers or meadmakers check out www.beertown.org for up-to-date brewing informatio

I have some bottles of mead that are about 14 years old now, so they're just rounding into shape. For the record, smoked tea(lapsang) is a poor mead additive. Bleah.

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July 26, 2006

Did I miss something?

Or is it 2007 already? The only reason I think so is that Bill Whittle has posted again.

So I wonder when this book goes on the market. It'd make a dandy Christmas present.

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July 23, 2006

Bringin' on the pain

Well, it looks like two the blogs that I read regularly are engaged in a flamewar. The comments here at Q&O contain some truly priceless excerpts, including this one from Mean Mr. Mustard 2.0:

I’m embarrassed for you, Dale. This is like 3:00 a.m. USENET masturbatory obsessiveness.

Really, I’d suggest you get a life, but there doesn’t look like there’s much hope for you.

Patterico and Jon Henke have tried to play peacemaker. Alas, it appears not to be. Anyway, more here from Ace, if you're so inclined.

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Found the following buried in an email from about 10 years ago. The author is purportedly John Scalzi, author of Old Man's War and The Ghost Brigades, both of which I highly recommend. In any event, here goes:

With the possible exception of Santa Claus himself, there is not a busier mammal on the face of the earth than the Easter Bunny. Once a year, the Easter Bunny hops into the home of hundreds of millions of boys and girls all over the globe, dropping off chocolates, candy and eggs as part of the celebration of Easter. America Online spent a few minutes with the Easter Bunny as he was preparing for this year's task, for a tell-all, no-holds-barred interview. If you thought you knew the Easter Bunny, you just may be surprised.

America Online: Thanks for talking to us.

Easter Bunny: No problem. Do you mind if I eat while we talk? (takes out a packet of small green pellets) I've been in a rush recently.

AOL: Go right ahead. We've got a list of questions here, compiled from our members, and I'll just go down the list if you don't mind.

EB: Ready when you are.

AOL: The first question comes from Ted, in Dayton, Ohio. He writes: "We all now that Santa's Workshop is located at the North Pole. Does the Easter Bunny have a workshop, and if so, where is it located?"

EB: Well, Ted, the answer is yes, I do have a workshop. It's located in San Bernardino, California.

AOL: San Bernardino?

EB: That's right.

AOL: You have to understand that most people would have figured some place like Easter Island.

EB: Have you *been* to Easter Island? What a rock! It's the single most isolated piece of land on the planet. By the time we shipped fresheggs there, we'd have chickens. Besides, San Bernardino has the sort of motivated labor pool we need.

AOL: Elves?

EB: Laid-off aerospace workers.

AOL: They would seem to be a little overqualified.

EB: Maybe. But now we have some lovely chocolate stealth bombers.

AOL: Our next question comes from Cindy, in Tempe. She writes: "Why is the Easter Bunny a bunny? Why couldn't it have been the Easter Kitty,or the Easter Puppy?"

EB: That's a very good question. In fact, in the late 70s, we as an organization decided to play around with the whole "bunny" thing by recruiting prominent local animals to deliver Easter baskets. In 1978, when the experiment was at its height, we had an Easter Bunny, an Easter Coyote, an Easter Manatee and an Easter Komodo Dragon.

AOL: What happened?

EB: It just didn't work out. The komodo dragon ate the eggs, the coyote just flaked out, and the manatee, if I may say so, was just about as dumb as a stick. There were some other problems with the program, too. The less we talk about the whole Easter Man-Eating Bengali Swamp Tiger episode, the better. Now we stick with bunnies. We know bunnies. We can work with bunnies. Bunnies don't eat anyone.

AOL: Bob in Honolulu asks: "Is there is just one Easter Bunny? Moreover, has the same Easter Bunny been the Easter Bunny for the last couple of millenia?"

EB: The fact of the matter is that there are quite a few Easter Bunnies, and we've never made a secret about that. Unlike the Santa Claus operation, which works under the improbable assumption that one guy delivers all those presents -

AOL: Are you saying that Santa is a sham?

EB: I didn't say that. I never said that. What I am saying is that *we* don't work under the same sort of constraints. I mean, think about it. One bunny delivering baskets to several hundred million homes across the planet? The friction from the atmosphere alone would turn the poor guy into a bunny briquette. There'd be hideous charcoal smudges all over the baskets. "Easter Bunny" is a job description, not a proper name. It's like "Postal Carrier," except our employees very rarely become disgruntled.

AOL: So why are you THE Easter Bunny?

EB: Because I'm boss. You're not an Easter Bunny until I say you are.

AOL: How does one become an Easter Bunny?

EB: Well, it's not just hopping down the bunny trail, I'll tell you. First, for reasons already explained, you have to be a bunny. After that, we have a psychological evaluation and a battery of physical tests you have to pass. We can't afford to have an Easter Bunny cramp up at the beginning of his run.

AOL: Any famous rabbits turned down for the job?

EB: I don't want to name names. But one bunny who's making a living in the breakfast cereal industry, we had to let go. Any time a child would try to get an Easter basket from him, he'd back away and start snarling. He was a silly rabbit. Easter baskets are for kids.

AOL: He seems to have gotten better since then.

EB: Prozac helps.

AOL: Albert from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, wants to know what are the occupational hazards of being the Easter Bunny.

EB: There are several. Large dogs are always a problem, of course: one moment you're delivering a basket of goodies, the next, a rottweiler named Pinochet is on you like a meat-filled sock. Nervous homeowners with guns wing a couple of bunnies a year, as do edgy cops and private security guards. We don't even bother trying to deliver to the children of militia members anymore; first they'll plug you for being on their land, then they'll make you into jerky and a pair of gloves. But you know what our number one problem is?

AOL: What?

EB: Sliding glass doors. Sometimes we'll just forget they're there. Man, that's embarrassing.

AOL: Here's an interesting question, from Amy, in New York City. She writes:
"How does the Easter Bunny get along with Santa Claus? It seems like Santa gets all the attention."
And I have to say, I did notice some tension earlier, when you brought him up.

EB (Looking uncomfortable): Well, you know, look. I don't want to say anything bad about the guy. He does what he does, and I do what I do. Professionally, we get along fine.

AOL: But privately?

EB: Is that tape recorder turned off?

AOL: Uh.....sure.

EB: He's a big ol' pain in this bunny's bottom. For one thing, he's a prima donna: always me, me, me, where's my highball, where's my corned beef sandwich, tell this dumb bunny to get his own dressing room. I'd rather be trapped in a sack with Joan Crawford. For another, he's totally paranoid of other large men. He thinks that Luciano Pavarotti is trying to move into his territory. Last year it was John Goodman. He actually danced when Orson Welles kicked, waving his pistol and bellowing "Rosebud!" from the top of his lungs.

AOL: Wow. He seems a little scary.

EB: You think? And yet he gets all the publicity. Why? We do the same job. Mine's actually tougher, since I'm moving perishable stuff. You can't have bad eggs or stale chocolate, you know. Folks wouldn't stand for it. I have to maintain strict quality control. The only food product he has to worry about is fruitcake. You could tile the Space Shuttle with fruitcake.

AOL: We're sure you have your own fans.

EB: It's like opening for the Beatles, is all. And he *is* the walrus, if you know what I mean.

AOL: One final question, from Pat, in Rockford, Illinois; "Does the Easter Bunny actually lay eggs? How does that happen, since the Easter Bunny is both male and a mammal?"

EB: Well, platypuses are mammals, and they lay eggs. So it's not impossible.

AOL: That still leaves the male part.

EB: We're quibbling on details, here.

AOL: Maybe there should be an Easter Platypus.

EB: Sorry. We tried that in '78.

Update: John Scalzi dropped by the comments and verified that he is indeed the author of the piece above. I'm going to send him an email asking if it's okay for me to leave the piece posted here, as long as I give him the appropriate credit.

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Top 18 signs that you've hired the wrong clown for your child's party

18. By the end of the party, he's got every damn kid doing the "pull my
finger" trick.

17. Clown car must be started with breathalizer device.

16. Keeps screaming, "My name's not BO-zo, it's bo-ZO!"

15. References to Kierkegaard and Nietzsche are lost on most 5 year olds.

14. Props for his "disappearing" trick: a moving van and your wide-screen

13. Scares the holy hell outta the kids during the "Severed Limb" trick.

12. Tells the kids he killed Barney in a blood match in Newark

11. Didn't bring balloons but managed to twist your dachshund into other
animal shapes.

10. Prefaces each trick with, "Here's a little number I learned in the

9. NOt exactly the Peewee Herman impression you were expecting.

8. Wears a t-shirt that says, "Drug-free since March!"

7. More interested in squirting seltzer into his Scotch than in his pants.

6. Those huge ears look too darn life-like, and the entire act consists of
showing charts and
complaining about the deficit.

5. A sad clown is one thing - a clown who spends the entire party with a
gun to his temple is another
thing entirely.

4. Only balloon animals he can make are a snake and a "snake on acid."

3. Business cards include the phrase, "From the mind of Stephen King."

2. Price list includes "lap dance" and "around the world."
and the number 1 sign you've hired the wrong clown for your child's party
. .
1. All the balloon animals are ribbed and lubricated.

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July 16, 2006

Backup that data!

This article describes everything that you should do before installing a new OS. Of course, I think that it's great advice, period. Excerpt:

So, you want to try out a new operating system. Good for you! But, before you pop in that CD or DVD, there are a couple of things you need to know. Some of these may sound like an unnecessary pain. Trust me.

There may be some people out there who've installed more different kinds of operating systems on most computers than yours truly, but I haven't met them.

First, back up your data. OK, everyone tells you that. Let me take it one step further: Make certain you can restore your data.

While it's not as big a problem as it used to be for PCs, when backups usually meant tape rather than CDs or DVDs, it's still a heck of a mess when you try to restore your system and you find that your backup disk contains unreadable garbage.

If you're making a big change, say Windows to Linux, and you think you may want to go back again, you should move up from a simple backup program to a system restore program.

These programs essentially take a photograph, an image, of your hard drive. With them, you can restore your entire system even if the new operating system doesn't leave a trace of your old system. For Windows users, the programs I recommend are Acronis True Image 9.0 Home and Norton Ghost 10. For Linux, I like Ghost for Linux.

The Linux option isn't as easy to use as the Windows-based tools, but Sanjay Majumder has written a handy guide to using Ghost for Linux. With it at hand, you shouldn't have any problem mirroring your system.

I spent the better part of a Saturday helping a friend recover data from a crashed/corrupted Windows XP hard drive. He actually backs up his data on a regular basis, but this time, he'd neglected the task for about a month. No biggie, of course, since we were able to recover the data, which is a story that I plan to tell soon, as it proved quite instructive to me. Short version: I used a Knoppix Livd-CD to recover the data because every Windows based OS failed to recognize the drive.

I know that I belabor the benefits of Linux around here, but I don't actually care which operating system you use. What I do care about, and beat my students over the head about, is backing up your frigging data. DVD burners cost less than $50-if you look hard enough- and external 160 Gb USB 2.0 hard drives can be had for around $105. You have no excuse for not backing up your data.

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July 14, 2006

Cool news

Looks like the Alliance Fitness Instructor has a new workout buddy.

Stop by and congratulate Heather and Brian.

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July 12, 2006

Technical difficulties

If you've left me a comment, or tried to send me an email, I'm not ignoring you. My account went kaboom and I'm trying to get it resolved. I just changed jobs and didn't notice until tonight. Whoops. Anyway, I'll have the issue resolved as soon as possible.

Update: In answer to Frank's polite question in the comments, I will state that I'm finally putting my graduate degree to use. More than 12 years after graduation, I've finally become a nuclear engineer. What this means is that I've dropped to the bottom of the totem pole and have tons of training to attend and lots of catching up to do. But I'm pleased at the turn of events. I'd pretty much given up on every doing this.

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July 06, 2006

More hardware problems

And open source is still the solution

Interesting article that discusses-and links to- some tools that will help you debug some common hardware problems. Excerpt:

Like all pieces of electronic equipment, computers have a tendency to malfunction and break; if you have never experienced kernel core dumps or unexpected crashes, consider yourself lucky. Many common hardware problems are caused by bad RAM modules, overheated or broken CPUs, or bad sectors or clusters on hard disks. In this article we will introduce you to some open source tools you can use to trace these problems, and thus save time, money, and headaches.

A GNU/Linux live CD distribution can come handy for hardware diagnostics. For this purpose, my favorite live CD distribution is GRML, which bundles the tools we're about to discuss, along with some other useful programs for both home users and veteran system administrators. Other distributions also include some or all of these tools.
Who's afraid of the big bad memory?

Bad memory can cause crashes that lead to system hard locks or even data corruption. Next time you try to compile a program and the compilation fails, check your memory before sending any bug reports to the program's authors. Memtest86+ is an excellent utility for testing RAM. It is based on memtest86, but supports most modern hardware, including the AMD64 architecture, whereas memtest86 is strictly x86-based. Memtest86+ is a boot image and thus is independent of an operating system.

To run the program, boot your system with the GRML CD and enter memtest on the boot prompt. The program is simple to use, since it starts testing memory by itself immediately. Pressing c shows the configuration menu, which you can use to select the test method, enter ECC mode (if your system uses that kind of RAM), restart the test, or refresh the screen; however, most people should be fine with the defaults.

Memory problems are usually tough to spot, so in order to be sure it's better to leave memtest86+ running for a long period of time and complete at least 10 passes of the test. If you want to quit memtest86+ and restart your computer, just press Esc.

And here's a link to the distro, should you desire to make a live CD for yourself.

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Mocking Microsoft

It's right behind mocking the French as America's favorite pasttime. Anyway, this guy has decided to post one IE flaw per day which, by my reckoning, should give him material for the next decade or so. Here's the initial post:

This blog will serve as a dumping ground for browser-based security research and vulnerability disclosure. To kick off this blog, we are announcing the Month of Browser Bugs (MoBB), where we will publish a new browser hack, every day, for the entire month of July. The hacks we publish are carefully chosen to demonstrate a concept without disclosing a direct path to remote code execution. Enjoy!

Update: Apparently it's not all Microsoft, all the time. Safari and Firefox have both been salmon-slapped.

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This week's sign that the Apocalypse is nigh

Do you miss your dearly departed loved ones? Don't you wish that you could give them just one more hug, but find grappling with the unearthed grisly remains a touch disturbing? Well now you're in luck, because we've got a product that grants you the ability to hold your dead ones until you too pass: Huggable Urns. God knows that everyone wants grandpa's ashes stuffed in a teddy bear and then given to the baby.

"Isn't that sweet?! She's playing with grandma."

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July 05, 2006

Stupidity on display

I'd like to thank Jonah for persuing the Democratic Underground for me; I value my sanity far too much to wade into the fever swamps. Anyway, the post in question proves that burning jet fuel could not have possible caused the Twin Towers to collapse.

I leave it as an exercise to the reader to point out the numerous holes in this dipshit's methodology.

Update: Of course I would mis-type a word in the title of post in which I mock the idiocy of others. Of course I would.

Update: Mike poses what is, I believe, the appropriate question:

Sweet leapin’ Jesus, can they really be this stupid? I mean, really?

It was, of course, a rhetorical question.

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Getting old

Two elderly gentlemen from a retirement center were sitting on a bench under a tree when one turns to the other and says:

"Slim, I'm 83 years old now and I'm just full of aches and pains. I know you're about my age. How do you feel?"

Slim says, "I feel just like a newborn baby."

"Really!? Like a newborn baby!?"

"Yep. No hair, no teeth, and I think I just wet my pants. "

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July 03, 2006

Band Aids

An Irishman staggered home late after another evening at the pub with his drinking buddies. Shoes in left hand to avoid waking his wife, he tiptoed as quietly as he could toward the stairs leading to their upstairs bedroom, but misjudged the bottom step in the darkened entryway.

As he caught himself by grabbing the banister, his body swung around and he landed heavily on his rump. A whiskey bottle in each back pocket broke and made the landing especially painful.

Managing to suppress a yelp, the man sprung up, pulled down his pants, and examined his lacerated and bleeding cheeks in the mirror of a nearby darkened hallway, then managed to find a large full box of Band-aids and proceeded to place a patch as best he could on each place he saw blood.

After hiding the now almost empty box, he managed to shuffle and stumble his way to bed.

In the morning, the man awoke with searing pain in head and butt and his wife staring at him from across the room.

She said, "You were drunk again last night."

Forcing himself to ignore his agony, he looked meekly at her and replied, “Now, hon, why would you say such a mean thing?”

"Well," she said, "it could be the open front door, it could be the glass at the bottom of the stairs, it could be the drops of blood trailing through the house, it could be your bloodshot eyes, but, mostly....it's all those damn Band-aids stuck on the downstairs mirror.

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