Wednesday, March 30, 2005

I Really Like the Show, but
You Know It's Going to Happen


The Fleet will encounter an alternate timeline fleet which looks much like Galactica I. Female Starbuck (BG-II) and male Starbuck (BG-I) will have sex. At the big moment, both will cry out "Oh, Apollo!" Male Boomer (BG-I) will have an orgy with all the female Boomers (BG-II). Apollo (BG-I) will wonder why he's considered a terrorist (BG-II), and why both Starbucks are looking at him like that.


After watching Battle of the Bulge on PBS's American Experience last night, I just had to look up the famous offical communique. I found it on The Drop Zone, and I'll repeat it here:

December 22nd, 1944

To the U.S.A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne.

The fortune of war is changing. This time the U.S.A. forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong German armored units. More German armored units have crossed the river Our near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hompre-Sibret-Tillet. Libramont is in German hands.

There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S.A. troops from total annihilation: that is the honorable surrender of the encircled town. In order to think it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the presentation of this note.

If this proposal should be rejected one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A. A. Battalions are ready to annihilate the U.S.A. troops in and near Bastogne. The order for firing will be given immediately after this two hours' term.

All the serious civilian losses caused by this artillery fire would not correspond with the well known American humanity.

The German Commander.

To the German Commander.


The American Commander.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

We're On Blogwise

This blog is now listed on Blogwise, yet another directory service. Not that I can find it by searching, but we're allegedly there. The keywords I picked are

computers, politics, science, linux, baseball, jokes, Jayhawks

See if you can find the blog. The blog listing is up, but it says that there is "no preview" as yet. Whatever that means.

Ready for Opening Day?

A New Version of an Old Song

Saturday, March 26, 2005

When They Said "Down East",
I Didn't Think They Meant This

Actually, I've eaten at the Yin Yankee Cafe in Annapolis a couple of times now. The food is excellent, though somewhat odd, as the name and website suggests. The downstairs looks like your standard Sushi bar, though the staff is dominated by college kids. Upstairs is a small room, not completely painted, but with an under-the-sea decor and black lights, seating about 20. We got there early for a birthday party and had the room to ourselves for a couple of hours. Oh, did I mention that to reach the room you either walk thorough the kitchen or enter through the service gate in the wood fence out back, and then climb stairs onto the roof of the kitchen?

I had Crab Chops, basically Maryland crabcakes on a stick of sugar cane, served with wasabi mashed potatoes, with a garnish type salad in a peanut oil. Sounds weird, but it was all delicious. Spousal unit had tea-infused duck served on coconut rice and Asian vegetables. She said it was all good. The rest of the table had a variety of sushi and noodles. The staff was very helpful, describing the meals and scheleping things out the kitchen, through the back yard, up the stairs, across the roof, into the room, and back down again.

The place is highly recommended, but I'd say you should go early so the staff can concentrate on you, not everyone else in the place.

And if you like to see and be seen, they have four seats in the front window, facing out onto Main Street.

Channeling Freddy Mercury

TmsT's Zero Wing Rhapsody

I Love LA

The APS March Meeting has certain scheduling problems: with 6,000 plus attendees every year it needs a city with a large convention center and hotel rooms. However, the rooms can't be too expensive, because the attendees are mostly college professors, postdocs, and students, with a smattering from the National Labs and industry. Expense accounts aren't very large. Furthermore, the meeting takes place around spring break, so the entire state of Florida is out, what with having the "No Vacancy" sign up and all.

This doesn't leave a lot of places. New York is out: too expensive, and no convention center. Madison Square Garden would be about right, but it's on the pricey side. Washington, Chicago or San Francisco? Again, too expensive. New Orleans? Maybe, but you've got to schedule around Mardi Gras. Pittsburgh? Ever tried to park there? They don't have room for another few thousand cars.

Las Vegas would be perfect: cheap hotels, lots of meeting space. We did it once, in 1986. And were asked never to return. Quite persausively, I might add. Physicists don't gamble much, being able to calculate odds. The games they do play tend to be poker and blackjack, which don't give the house all that much profit. So for a week the slots at Caeser's Palace were mostly quiet.

What's left? The middle level non-touristy cities: Indianapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City, occasionally Seattle or Baltimore — and downtown Los Angeles?

You'd think LA would be a tourist mecca, right? But downtown LA isn't very interesting. OK, they now have Staples Center there, but mostly downtown LA is a strip of hotels and banks. Also a few hundred panhandlers. It's perfect for the APS meeting: a big convention center, reasonably priced hotels, and no distractions.

Just a few notes I took while in LA

  • How laid back is California? In the mile-and-a-half between my hotel and the convention center there were only three Starbucks. OK, six if you count the two in hotels and the one in the convention center itself. That's a really low number.
  • I got off of Figueroa and walked in the actual downtown shops one night. The only major store was a Macy's. Not a bookstore in sight, and the hotel gift shops weren't exactly bursting with books, even Clancy novels. What do these people read?
  • Sign on a bank flashes "4.00% Percent". That really low, you know. But the next screen said "4.00% Yield". Which makes me wonder how they compound interest in southern California.
  • Just about every tall building was a bank. Every national bank seems to have a building in LA.
  • The don't show you all of the Figueroa Hotel in this picture. It is, however, interesting.
  • It may never rain in Southern California, but on Tuesday it did, indeed pour. Otherwise the weather was decent, and the ground didn't shake while we were there.
  • Overheard scalpers offering $40 for $65 Clippers tickets. I guess there is not much demand. Didn't hear what Lakers tickets were going for, but it can't be all that much these days.

The March Meeting

I just got back from the American Physical Society March Meeting in Los Angeles. This meeting is one of the wonders of the world. This year, there were over 6,500 talks, so the attendance was probably near 7,000. (We're supposedly allowed only one talk per attendee, but there are sometimes multiple talks anyway. On the other hand, some people concoct other reasons for going to the meeting, so I'd say 7,000 is about right.) At any moment from 8am to 6pm, Monday through Thursday, there are 40 talks going on, not to mention several hundred posters being displayed. On Friday it slacks off, with meetings ending at 2pm.

It's impossible to take it all in, of course. You pick the talks you want to hear, listen to them, possibly stay for the next one to be polite, then go out and wander the halls. If it's known that you can hire postdocs you'll be greeted by students you've never met, asking about your institution. If you've been going to these things for some time there are also friends, colleagues, and rivals to talk to and about. Special sessions are held on Sunday and every evening, not to mention business meetings.

And then, suddenly, it's all over. Fridays at the APS are like a ghost town, as almost everyone's left and the convention center staff is tearing down the sets and putting up the stuff for the next group. So we all go home. Worth it? Yes, but exhausting. Next year's in Bawlmer Murlyn, come on out and visit, hon.

A Rather Long Lament

What can you say about being Kansas fan? Mind you, I'm not just talking about the rather abrupt end to the latest KU basketball season, though that's what prompted this particular missive. I'm talking (whining?) about years of frustration for all teams, all sports. Let's, shall we say, go to the video tape:

Once upon a time, basketball was invented. The inventor of the game, James Naismith, moved to Kansas and became the coach of the fledgling University of Kansas basketball squad, even though, as he told one of his students (they were really students then), "you don't coach basketball, you play it." Probably because of this attitude Naismith had a losing record as a coach.

Naismith's student, however, was one Forrest "Phog" Allen. Phog went on to become the coach of KU, and during the 1920s and 1930s was instrumental in making college basketball a national sport. His teams included players Adolph Rupp and Dean Smith, who later went on to become outstanding coaches in their own right. Though there was no NCAA tournament until 1939, several of Allen's early teams are now recognized as National Champions, though of course that's just a vote of journalists far removed from the actual event. However, the success of Phog Allen's teams is the cornerstone by which all college sports in Kansas must be judged.

Eventually, of course, the NCAA started holding a tournament, and, after some years the winner of the tournament was recognized as the National Champion of College Basketball. (For a time there was quite a bit of competition from the NIT, now a mere shell of its former self.) In 1952, only a few months after I was born, Allen's team, lead by Clyde Lovellette, won the tournament. A few years later, Allen recruited Wilt Chamberlain out of Philadelphia. Allen then retired, figuring all would be well. After all, with Wilt how could any team lose? (We now pause for the fans of several NBA teams to finish laughing.)

Chamberlain's team lost the 1957 title to North Carolina in triple overtime, perhaps the best college basketball game ever played. And then, Wilt moved on to the Globetrotters, and then into the NBA, becoming Kansas' most famous college non-graduate.

Hope didn't die, however. While the basketball team puttered along, winning Big 8 titles but not many tournament games, a new phenomena appeared - Major League Baseball. In 1957, as Wilt was leaving, the Philadelphia Athletics moved to Kansas City. Here we are, real major league baseball. True, it was in Kansas City, Missouri, but it was only a few blocks from the state line and you could even order something stronger than 3.2% beer by the bottle.

It is difficult for the modern fan to realize how truly dreadful the Kansas City A's were. As Bill James noted in his 1986 Baseball Abstract article, "A History of Being a Kansas City Baseball Fan," from 1957 to 1967 the A's had six months with a winning record. That's right, out of 66 months playing baseball in KC, the team was only over 0.500 in one sixth of them.

Other sports in the 1960s fared better. K-State (1964) and Wichita State (1965), the other two Division I schools in the state, each went to the NCAA Final Four. Once each, and each team lost in the semi-finals. They played third-place games back then, and each team lost those games as well.

But in 1966 KU did even better. Led by JoJo White, the team defeated Texas Western University on a last second shot in the MidWest regional and went on to win the national championship.

Oops. White's foot was on the out-of-bounds line on that last shot, and Texas Western won. They went on to defeat Kentucky for the championship in a game I suspect you've heard about.

Football wasn't all bad. Gale Sayers fled the dreadful (I'm not making this up) football program in his native Nebraska and went to KU. A running back named John Riggins, along with his two brothers, ended up there, too. The teams were reasonably successful during that time, though there was one year where KU and K-State played to see if they could avoid a winless season for the state. (It wasn't impossible then, in college there were still ties.) But the biggest success of a football team was in the 1969 Orange Bowl, where KU stuffed Penn State's two-point conversion try to win the game.

Oh, wait, KU had twelve men on the field. On the replay, Penn State scored and won the game. My insurance agent, who played on that Penn State team, still reminds me of that every chance he gets. (He wonders why I don't call.)

In 1971, Kansas, coached by Ted Owens, had its best team since Wilt left, loosing only one game in the regular season and having a perfect season in the Big 8. Unfortunately, there was this team called UCLA from someplace out west. They won a lot of games that year, and defeated KU in the semi-final game. You can look it up, it's somewhere in the middle of all those other NCAA games UCLA won.

Meanwhile, Charley Finley bought the As and in 1967 moved them lock, stock, and mule to Oakland. (The one in California, not the college with the basketball team.) The As in the 1970s were very good, and Finley was never forgiven. There was, however, salvation at hand. A Kansas City drug-store owner named Ewing Kaufmann bought a new American League franchise, the Kansas City Royals. They won the American League West title in 1976, 1977, and 1978. Each time, of course, they lost the American League Championship Series to the New York Yankees, already hated in KC for the perception that they'd once treated the A's as a AAAA minor-league team.

During the early part of the 1970s KU basketball was still pretty good, going to the Final Four in 1974 and having the privilege of playing in Bill Walton's last game, which, unfortunately, was for third place (remember David Thompson?) and was another KU loss. The basketball program went into decline until Owens was finally fired in 1983.

The Royals, however, kept winning. In 1980 they finally beat the Yankees in the ALCS and went to the World Series. Where they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies, who won there first championship in memory.

In 1985, KC finally won the World Series, beating the cross-state St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. Of course, the Royals probably wouldn't have got to game seven had not umpire Don Denkinger had his famous mental hiccup in the ninth inning. So the joy of winning was tempered a bit, even though James in his article tries to cover it up.

In 1983, as I said, KU fired Ted Owens as basketball coach, after 19 years of moderate success. They'd hoped to hire Dean Smith away from North Carolina, but the "click your heals three times"* thing didn't work. Smith recommended Larry Brown, who wasn't doing anything at the moment. KU locked Brown into a five-year contract. Brown brought along his assistant, Ed Manning, who had a son, Danny, who was an incoming high-school senior. Y'all know what happened then. KU went to two Final Fours, and defeated Oklahoma for the title in 1988.

After which, Brown quit. The NCAA studied his work at KU and put the school on probation. No major college coach would touch the program. Even in success, there was failure.

The KU powers that be went back to Dean Smith, who didn't offer to come home but did point out that he had a pretty good assistant coach named Roy Williams. Roy came to Kansas and had a fair amount of success early, going to two final fours, in 1991 and 1993. However, Roy's teams lost games they shouldn't have, especially when they were a number one seed in the tournament. Lost to Rhode Island in the second round. A loss to Arizona in the regional finals. Lost to Duke in the Final Four. Every year, Roy ended the season in tears. And, in many years, saw another coach who had never won a national championship go on to win one. Mike Krzyzewski, Lute Olson, Gary Williams and Jim Boeheim all won their first title after beating KU in the tournament.

While all this was going on, I should mention, the K-State football program was declared to be the worst ever by Sports Illustrated. Since then, KSU hired Bill Snyder and has had moderate success, meaning that they occasionally beat Nebraska and/or Oklahoma, but not all that much. Better than KU, which hasn't beaten Nebraska since 1968 (the above-mentioned Orange Bowl season).

In 2000 the North Carolina basketball coaching job came open. Williams was the leading candidate and he wanted to go, but loyalty to his players and the school that had given him a chance kept him at KU. Kansas went to the Final Four twice after that. In each case, of course, the team lost, to eventual champ Maryland in 2002 and to Syracuse in the finals in 2003. More tears, and a declaration that Roy "didn't give a @^*% about Carolina." By this time, in fact, Roy Williams didn't have Dean Smith's job, in Kansas he was Dean Smith. Maybe we should have pushed for a name change, or at least the order of the Buffalo.

Then the Carolina job came open again. For whatever reason, Williams decided that being Dean Smith wasn't enough, and left. KU hired Bill Self from Illinois. Self led KU to the regional finals in 2004, where KU lost to Georgia Tech in overtime. I'm going to assume that you know about what happened in 2005. Number 3 seeds don't lose to 14 seeds very often, especially if the Number 3 was a pre-season pick to win it all. Meanwhile, Self's old team and Williams new one are probably going to meet for the National Championship. (ew, I didn't think I could write that.)

So, Red Sox fans, you thought you were jinxed? Cubs? Don't make me laugh. At least, when you win (OK, Cubbies, you may have to wait a while), you win. In Kansas, you mostly can't win, and even when you win, there is always a footnote.+

*I can make Oz jokes. You don't, unless you've got proof of Kansas citizenship.

+Consider the use of color film in a certain movie.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Highlights of the Madness

If you, like me, don't have the proper computer to watch all the NCAA tournament, the NCAA is kind enough to put highlights on the web. You'll need the Macromedia Flash plugin, and maybe a magnifying glass.

Downside? Yes, there are commercials, from Dell, the announcer wants to be Chris Berman, and the highlights are local news quality, not ESPN.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Picturing Oz?

This Blog's Site Meter is showing a lot of hits on searches for the "Surrender Dorothy" sign I mentioned in The Beltway. Glad to have piqued your interest.

Now, for the $64 question, does anyone actually have a picture of the "Surrender Dorothy" sign? If so, can I get a copy?

Don't Go Out And Take a Picture While Driving. However, if you have a picture, post it online or send it to me and I'll put it on the web for posterity. There's a lot of interest.

The Picks

OK, as promised, here are my picks. I didn't pick the play-in game, since I didn't even know that Oakland was in Michigan, and I still don't know who won. ( Oh.) It doesn't matter anyway.

I was going to put these in bracket form, but that's too hard for me to do in HTML, so I'll just list the winners of each round. If you want to fill it into a bracket see CBS's form. Note that I have no clue whose going to win, these are just picks taken from what little I know of each team coupled with a bit of hope and some historical necessities. If you use these picks for your pool you are in big, big trouble.

And with that, here we go:

Midwest Regional (Chicago)
First Round: Illinois, Texas; Alabama, Boston College; UAB, Arizona; Southern Illinois, Oklahoma State
Pod Finals: Illinois, Boston College; Arizona, Oklahoma State
Sweet Sixteen: Illinois, Oklahoma State
Elite Eight: Oklahoma State
West Regional (Albuquerque)
First Round: Washington, Pittsburgh; Georgia Tech, Lousiville; UCLA, Gonzaga; Creighton, Wake Forest
Pod Finals: Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech; Gonzaga, Wake Forest
Sweet Sixteen: Georgia Tech, Gonzaga
Elite Eight: Georgia Tech
East Regional (Syracuse)
First Round: North Carolina, Iowa State; Villanova, Florida; Wisconsin, Kansas; N.C. State, Connecticut
Pod Finals: North Carolina, Villanova; Kansas, Connecticut
Sweet Sixteen: North Carolina, Kansas
Elite Eight: Kansas
South Regional (Austin)
First Round: Duke, Mississippi St.; Michigan St., Syracuse; UTEP, Oklahoma; Iowa, Kentucky
Pod Finals: Duke, Michigan St.; Oklahoma, Kentucky
Sweet Sixteen: Duke, Kentucky
Elite Eight: Kentucky
Final Four (St. Louis)
Georgia Tech, Kansas
Championship (St. Louis)
Georgia Tech

Next week I'm going to be at the ever-popular American Physical Society March Meeting in beautiful downtown Los Angeles. (Didn't know there was one, did you?) If Internet access doesn't cost an arm and a leg I'll post something about the meeting and the, ahem, sights. If not, see you in a week or so.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Bracket Day

I think when the NCAA selection committee meets, it goes something like this:

Ohmygod!! We've only got one ACC team as a number 1 pick!!! What will Billy say? What will Dick say? What can we do?

Anybody we can screw?

Yeah. Look at Kentucky. They didn't win their conference tourney. Give them the shaft.

OK, but look, put them number two in Austin. That's not too far from Lexington, closer than whoever we put number one. Tell Tubbs it's just like a number one, and if he complains, we'll move him to Chicago and he'll have to face Illinois.

That's good. Now. Which ACC team gets the number one? Wake Forest?


OK, that was a good one. Duke, right?

Everyone: Ah, Duke!!!

OK, that's settled. Now, really, can we move Gonzaga down from a two? Don't want them to get uppity.

Bracket selection day isn't all that big around here. I mean, I went to schools where not making the tournament is a firing offense. (Sorry, Mike Davis) Kansas made it about where they should be. You could argue a two, but Oklahoma State almost beat them at home and beat them in Kansas City (KU's home away from home) and anyway, KU hasn't played well since January. So a 3 is OK.

I'll put up my predictions later in the week, after I look at the brackets in detail. However, I'll make one now: When ranked number 1, Roy's teams always lose in the way that tells the best story. And what's the best story on the board this week?

That's right, children, KU's going to the Final Four.

Stengelese in Action

With a Congressional committee soliciting testimony from baseball players, the time seems right to mention when Casey Stengel addressed Congress -- not about steroids, but on the perennial issue of baseball's antitrust exemption. On July 8, 195, ol' Casey told the Senate Anti-Trust and Monopoly Subcommittee:

Well, I started in professional ball in 1910. I have been in professional ball, I would say, for forty-eight years. I have been employed by numerous ball clubs in the majors and in the minor leagues. I started in the minor leagues with Kansas City. I played as low as class D ball, which was at Shelbyville, Ky., and also class C ball, and class A ball, and I have advanced in baseball as a ballplayer.

I had many years that I was not so successful as a ballplayer, as it is a game of skill. And then I was no doubt discharged by baseball in which I had to go back to the minor leagues as a manager, and after being in the minor leagues as a manager, I became a major league manager in several cities and was discharged, we call it "discharged," because there is no question I had to leave. (Laughter). And I returned to the minor leagues at Milwaukee, Kansas City, and Oakland, Calif., and then returned to the major leagues.

and so on. You can get the entire transcript from Baseball Almanac at:

New Drug on Sports Scene: "Bubble"

It appears that the DEA is investigating many college basketball teams for being "On the Bubble". Our prediction here is that this investigation, probably started by someone in College Park, Maryland, will end at about 7pm EST tonight.

OK, it's an old link. But I hadn't seen it before.

US Geography

My High School History Teacher/Basketball Coach sent along this link:

It's an (verbally) animated history of the US, told via an ever changing map. In addition, you can stop the animation, click on a state or territory, and get a popup window telling you more about the place.

I've got a couple of high schoolers who could use this.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Protect Your Identity

A friend who wishes to remain blogless sent this article to me via email, so let me post the link here:

Attorney's Advice - No Charge!

It's a series of tips on what to do before your wallet is stolen, and who to contact afterward.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Phog at 50

What can you say about KU's Allen Field House? It's 50 years old now, the anniversary being celebrated with yet another win over K-State. I think I went to every game that was played there while I was in college. I even went to the 1970 NCCA Mid-West Regional, which featured K-State rather than KU. If I lived near Lawrence, I'd do my best to get season tickets there. And I hope they never, ever, tear it down.

But, let's face it, it's a barn. Made out of steel and stone, but a barn nontheless. Not nearly as fancy as Maryland's Comcast Center, and not a shoebox like Duke's Cameron, not modernistic art like Indiana's Assembly Hall, and not some multipurpose monstrosity like Illinois' Assembly Hall.

But being a barn, it's the perfect place to play basketball. You're immediately on the set of Hoosiers. They should have a hayloft in the place to add to the atmosphere. Since it's a barn, it's open on the inside, and there isn't a bad seat in the place (and I've sat in just about all of them). Contrast this to my next stop on my Basketball-crazed 14-year College Tour, Indiana, where there are more seats with restricted sight-lines than at FedEx field.

Of course, the history of the place is a bit more intense than your ordinary barn. Built for Phog Allen, they named the street its sits on for James Naismith. In later years, they also named the court for Naismith, though if Roy had won a title they probably would have named something for him as well. Wilt played there, as well as Jo Jo White, Danny Manning, Paul Pierce and Kirk Hinrich. If there's a place with more basketball history attached to it over a longer period of time, I don't know about it.

Of course, when I was there we didn't call it "the Phog", at least not in everyday usage. And we didn't have to line up for tickets. If you were a basketball fan and a college student, you got a season pass as a God-given right, for maybe two bucks per game. You got to see players flying off the raised court, and chearleaders in short skirts and tight blouses. You got to know the Big 8 referees, like Jim Bain (who followed me to the Big 10 and later to the Atlantic 10 while I was at Rutgers). And, though you only chanted "Rock Chalk, Jayhawk, KU" right after the Alma Mater, you still got to "wave the wheat" at the end of most games and when someone on the other team fouled out.

Oh, and we got the Budweiser Theme when Bud Stallworth made a great play. Much better than "The Mighty Quinn" for Buckner at IU.

I was looking for something suitably maudlin to end this thing, but I don't really have anything. I just hope that someday soon we'll see another championship banner hanging up in the rafters, and that there will be many generations of Jayhawks who remember the time they spent in the Phog.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Microsoft Speaks 1337

Parents, Microsoft knows that you often don't understand what your children are saying. Especially on the computer. Why, they might even be talking to hackers, crackers, or (gasp) Linus Torvalds.

How will you know? Well, you first must learn to understand what your children are typing. And so, here's a helpful guide to 1337.

Did you know that some numbers look like letters of the alphabet? For example, ''1337'' => ''leet'' => ''elite''? Yes, you can learn that and much more from your friends at Microsoft.

Microsoft is a trade mark of Microsoft. Not valid in the EU, at least until we get a certain bill passed. Required where not prohibited. Taxes, tags, and viruses additional. Consult your local MSCE to learn about our frequent crash program.

Save an IT Manager -- Switch to Linux

This little Novell minidrama comes to us via a link at Linux Gazette (.net). You'll need to have the Flash plugin installed.

New Link

Down at the bottom of the bar on the right is what I call the NASCAR area, because it's covered with ads. There's a new one, for SciTech Daily, a collection of articles from the popular and popular science press -- meaning, it may have news articles from Nature, but not actual Nature articles. It's interesting and rather eclectic. I'm not sure if I'll let it keep taking up space or not, but it's there for now. See what you think of it.

Monday, March 07, 2005

I Want Mine With Mustard

Here you go, Abby: the Luther Burger, "a bacon cheeseburger served on a Krispy Kreme doughnut bun." Named after Luther Vandross.

Sound Recording

I've never actually tried to record any voice/music on the computer. I know it's possible, but I've never gotten around to it. One thing that would be useful is to transfer all our old LPs into MP3 or Ogg files and then onto CDs. Unfortunately, our Late (as opposed to current) cat broke our last turntable by landing on it in mid-song. That was about 15 years ago, and it's not the reason the cat is Late. Some day I have to get a new turntable. Cat proof.

We're also wondering how to get Sermons on the Church Web Page.

The ever helpful Washington Post has a discussion of sound editing software. Since we're all using Linux, the only game in town seems to be Audacity, which runs on Wins and Macs as well. It does need external support to play MP3s, but that's a previously solved problem.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Tell Us What You Really Think,
Secretary Rumsfeld

The Donald shows his appreciation of Fox News' support:

Just another reason to read Falafel Sex.

Well, there's this video as well.

Bonfire of the Vanities

OK, it's been about a month since I installed Site Meter on this blog. As of this minute, we've had 174 views. That includes 20 or so of my visits. Site Meter allows you to block posts from 2 IP addresses of the form XXX.XXX.XXX.***, where *** can be any number. It took me a few days to learn how to do this, and then we had the time of mourning. When that ended, Comcast logged me onto another location with a completely different IP address, so I had to block that.

Not counting me, then, it's about 5 hits per day. Since I only know of two people that check this blog on a regular basis, that leaves three random ones.

So, where are the random hits coming from? Site Meter has a "by referrer" link, so I can find out ...

Surprisingly, to me, most of the hits to this blog are coming from Working With Fedora Core 3, a summary of the Linux part of this blog. I remember putting the "Working With Fedora Core" (WWFC) pages onto some directory, but for the life of me I can't find it anywhere.

Anyway, given this information I decided to start another Site Meter for my pages on Comcast, including the Fedora Core stuff. I started it last night, about 6pm EST. So far there are 22 hits, which means over 1 per hour, and yes, I'm blocking this IP.

So where are the hits coming from? Mostly from Google searches. Interestingly, Google can't find any pages that link to WWFC anywhere, but people keep coming.

What does this mean? It means that people are desperate for information about Linux. The link to WWFC is often on the second page of the search, meaning that the searcher didn't find the information in the first 10 or so links on Google. I've had this experience myself, though no so much as when I was starting out. Mostly I can find what I need to know on one of those Linux links on the right-hand side of the blog. If not, I know who to ask.

But it's obvious that Linux needs a more readily available help system than this blog. If anyone's got suggestions, leave them as comments here. I'll put the best links on the bar at the right.

Old Pictures on line

As found on Slashdot, the New York Public Library has opened the NYPL Digital Gallery

The gallery "provides access to over 275,000 images digitized from primary sources and printed rarities in the collections of The New York Public Library, including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints and photographs, illustrated books, printed ephemera, and more."

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Helix/RealPlayer Update

The Fedora Core 3 announcement list mentioned that there was a security update to HelixPlayer. It got loaded onto this machine by yum update this evening. This means, of course, that there is also an update to RealPlayer, so if you use RP download version 10.0.3 from the above link.

What You See Below

aka, the last post, was something I wrote in 1992 to welcome a friend to Washington. I've updated it a bit. Unfortunately, it didn't need much updating.

The Beltway

Planning on visiting or moving to our Nation's Capital? Then be sure to visit our most traveled tourist attraction, the Beltway, formally known as

THE %$@#$%%!@*&%@ * BELTWAY

Yes, the Beltway: 60 miles of "freeway" which proves that Washington politicians, engineers and drivers can cause problems like no other.

The Beltway. Slower than a snail on downers, cause of more delays than a plumber's appointment, able to stop speeding truck convoys at a single bridge; and who, disguised as a mild-mannered roadway around a great Metropolitan area, fights a never-ending battle for delay, overheated radiators, and the American (OK, Japanese) vehicle industry.

The Washington Beltway: Actually, almost all of it is in Virginia and Maryland. The only part of the Beltway actually inside the District of Columbia is the Woodrow Wilson Bridge (see Bottlenecks). The official designation of the Beltway was once I-95 on the east side of DC, and I-495 on the west. This confused some people, so now the I-495 designation applies to the entire road, but the east side is also I-95. This helps enormously when giving directions.


Terms used to described parts of the Beltway and surrounding roads:

  • Outer Loop: The part of the Beltway on the "Outside". Traffic on the outer loop moves in a counterclockwise direction around Washington, except, of course, for the occasional British driver.
  • Inner Loop: Obviously, the inner part of the Beltway. Traffic on the inner loop moves clockwise about DC, when it moves.
  • Maryland: The part of the Beltway in Maryland.
  • Virginia: The part of the Beltway in Virginia. (Duh)
  • Stuck: Woodrow Wilson Bridge and the American Legion Bridge at Cabin John, also Shirley Highway.
  • I-95. The intersection of the Beltway and I-95 in Maryland.
  • The Shirley Highway. I-95 in Virginia, which leads to I-395 into Washington, which would have been I-95 if they'd ever completed the road.
  • The World's Largest Parking Lot: The Shirley Highway
  • The Mixing Bowl: The intersection of I-95, I-395 and I-495 in Virginia. Now under reconstruction.
  • The Baltimore-Washington Parkway: Alternate route between the DC Beltway and the Baltimore Beltway. No trucks allowed on the south part of the road. This does not mean that no trucks are ever on this part of the road. Best feature of the Parkway: It terminates at Camden Yards in Baltimore. [Note: This road and its extensions are collectively known as I-295, DC-295, and Maryland-295. However, following the signs for I-295 north from the Beltway will land you in the parking lot of RFK Stadium, soon to be home of the Washington Nationals. Once on I-295 north, but before you get to RFK, look for signs which say "To I-95" (not "To Maryland-295", silly) to find the BW parkway.]
  • Southeast-Southwest Freeway: The parts of I-395 and I-295 that connect to each other in the District of Columbia, but not the part of I-395 from the Beltway to the Potomac River, nor the part of I-395 that goes under the Mall, nor the part of I-295 that starts south of the Beltway and leads to DC-295.
  • Exit numbers: Virginia exits were once numbered in order from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge to the Cabin John (sorry, American Legion Bridge at Cabin John). Maryland have always been numbered by mileage from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. One change that actually made sense.

Beltway signs:

Certain signs on the Beltway are sometimes misunderstood by new arrivals in the area. As a public service, we present some of them here, with the approved interpretations.

  • Maximum Speed 55 MPH: Minimum speed 55 MPH (bicycles).
  • Minimum Speed 40 MPH: Maximum speed entering Beltway: 40 MPH. (Actually, as a point of courtesy to the other drivers on the Beltway, when entering the roadway one should always drive to the end of the exit ramp and stop, preferably with part of the car sticking into the far right lane of the roadway. Men may comb their hair, women apply makeup. After all cars have passed, the motorist may enter the Beltway. If you are entering the Beltway at a lane which serves as both an on and off ramp, please stop your car in a location which will prevent any driver from exiting the Beltway.)
  • No trucks in left lane: Along much of the Beltway, the left lane is reserved for automobiles. How you get from the left lane across three lanes of semis to the exit is your own business.
  • Frederick: The inner loop of the Beltway provides access to I-270 and hence to westbound I-70, which runs through the cities of Pittsburgh, Columbus, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Denver. Department of Transportation rules require that this information be spared drivers, however, and replaced with the nearest city of "significant" size. It's in Maryland, about 50 miles north of DC. The signs are in Virginia.
  • To I-95/495: If you follow these signs, you'll probably cross the Beltway. Eventually. If you are lucky, it will be near an on ramp. No promises, though.
  • HOV-X: Not on the Beltway itself, but on adjoining roads, where "X" is the minimum number of passengers allowed in an automobile on this road, and varies with political clout of local legislators. In some jurisdictions HOV restrictions are only during rush hour. On US-50 in Maryland, however, HOV-2 applies all the time. Similarly, driving a hybrid car may allow you to get in an HOV lane solo. Or not.
  • HAZMAT: Hazardous Materials are restricted to certain lanes of the Beltway. Most of the time. Except on bridges, where there might be some point to it. And always on the right hand lanes, so you'd have to drive through any spill to get off the Beltway.

Beltway etiquette

Turn signals: "Turn signals?! We don't need no f&$(ing turn signals!"

When a driver does signal, indicating he would like to enter your lane, you may assume that he wishes to enter behind your car. Accelerate until you are within one foot of the car ahead of you so that he has plenty of room to get behind you.

If someone does enter your lane ahead of you, flash your bright headlights to inform them they have completed the maneuver. Arm/hand gestures are also appreciated.

Beltway sights:

  • On the Outer Loop: The Mormon Temple, between Beltsville and Silver Spring. Also, the "Surrender Dorothy" sign spray painted on the overpass before the Temple.
  • Inner and Outer Loops: The raised drawbridge of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. This is an especially wonderful sight at 6pm.

You were expecting more? Sorry, that's it.


  • The Woodrow Wilson Bridge: Home of the only drawbridge on an Interstate highway. Source of many good excuses. ("Sorry honey, I was late because the drawbridge was stuck open. The lipstick? Oh, one woman kissed me when I showed the engineers where the power switch was.") Now being rebuilt into a twin-span, twelve lane extravaganza. With a draw bridge.
  • The American Legion Bridge (at Cabin John): Formerly known simply as the Cabin John Bridge. It used to be slow because it was only three lanes wide. Now it is because it takes the traffic reporters so long to say the name that they can't warn anyone of problems elsewhere on the Beltway.
  • The Shirley Highway: Coming from DC, the only easy way to get from the Pentagon to the Beltway.

How to avoid the Beltway

  • Take the Metro: If it is completed to where you want to go. If where you want to go is where people lived 30 years ago.
  • Take the (Metro)bus: Also referred to as "Metro" as in the real estate advertisement "House located near Metro". The bus will, eventually, take you to a Metro (train) stop, where you can take a train to another Metro stop, then take a (Metro)bus to your destination. If you've always wanted to read Stephen King's complete Dark Tower this is your chance. But what will you read tomorrow?
  • Drive on local roads: Fine, unless it is under repair. Or the scene of a drug investigation.
  • Move someplace with less traffic: Anywhere else except Los Angeles and New York. Maybe even there.
  • Investigate living at your office: There is one house/office in the heart of DC that changes occupants every four to eight years. Inquire at Democratic National Committee Headquarters (slogan: "Over 35? Live in Red State? Will you run? Please?")

And to think, I haven't even mentioned the truck fires, rolling road blocks, and the backups to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (20 miles to the east). Maybe another day.

Anyway, all of us in the Washington area welcome you, and devoutly wish that you will have a safe and enjoyable time on our Beltway.

* A 13 letter word indicating the extreme action which may accompany an Oedipus+ complex. (return)

+ Actually, I always thought Oedipus got a raw deal with this. It's not like he knew what he was doing.