Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Researchers to resolve the big bum dilemma

I guess there's research money for everything these days!

One of the greatest female sartorial dilemmas - does my bum look big in this? - is to be answered by a team of researchers.

Now why didn't I think of this?

Upgrading my computer

Thanks to a holiday gift in the form of a gift card from my sister, I have upgraded my four-year-old Vaio computer.

I have several older peripherals that are connected using the older USB 1.1 technology. My sister gave me a Staples gift card and I purchased a USB 2.0 5-port PCI card and a 7-port USB 2.0 hub. I inserted the card rather painlessly and the computer recognized the new hardware without any problem. Same for the USB hub. I then reconnected all the peripherals (digital camera docking station, PDA holder, scanner and a printer) and everything worked fine.

After ensuring the connections were right, I ventured over to our local Best Buy and bought a Maxtor 100GB external hard drive that is currently on sale. I plugged it in and it was recognized by the PC. I then proceeded to back up my important files such as photos, music files, Word documents and the like. The increase in the transfer rate is very noticeable. Now I’m set if my hard drive crashes again like it did a couple of years ago. Plus if I ever buy myself a laptop, I’m set.

Thanks Sis!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Politically-correct holiday wishes

Merry Christmas

Happy Hanukkah

Happy Kwanzaa

Oh, and a jolly Festivus celebration too!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

New blogging extension for Firefox

I've found an interesting new Firefox extension that can be used in conjunction with Blogger. It's from and the extension allows you to blog directly from within Firefox. The extension can also be used with Wordpress, TypePad and LiveJournal. Firefox 1.5 is required.

This post was created using the extension.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Fair is fair

I heard somebody talk about this on the radio the other day. I honestly never thought about it before.

Why is it that men are always chastised by the women in their life for leaving the toilet seat up? Seems to me that we should demand the same respect. Why do they leave the toilet seat down?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Return of family values?

After reading about the 37-year-old woman who became pregnant by, and subsequently married, a 15-year-old boy; the hot blonde teacher who is trying to cop a plea after admitting having sex with a 14-year old boy; the 41-year-old woman who gave parties and admitted buying alcohol for teenage boys and having sex with them and the 30-year-old woman who was sentenced to eight years in jail for having sexual contact with her daughter's 8-year-old playmate, it's refreshing to note the return of old-fashioned, traditional family values. A 22-year-old man faces 50 years in jail after pleading guilty to sexual assault after impregnating and then marrying a 14-year-old girl.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Sunflower mosaic

Here’s a little creativity that I came up with. This is a single photo of a sunflower that I took three years ago when I was visiting my family in southwest Nebraska. I passed a sunflower field and got out and took several pictures. This one of a single sunflower turned out to be the best picture. I then manipulated it using a filter in Paint Shop Pro. The filter (Red Prince Flip ‘n Rolls) basically takes the reds, greens and blues within a color picture and then flips them around.

Friday, December 9, 2005

Big busts at San Antonio airport

The real world is much more interesting than anything fictional. You really can't make this up! What's with all the catfights lately?

Yahoo acquires

Yahoo announced that it has purchased social bookmarking site

read more | digg story

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

My Netflix history

In mid-April I began a subscription to Netflix. I opted for the 2-DVD rental plan. I have unlimited rentals, but can only have up to two discs out at any one time. My monthly cost is $14.99.

I checked my rental history recently and was surprised how many movies I have rented since April. The following is my list with the most recent at the top:

  • Batman Begins
  • Mr. and Mrs. Smith
  • Surviving Christmas
  • Cellular
  • The Old Dark House
  • The 39 Steps
  • Out of the Past
  • Christmas with the Kranks
  • The War of the Worlds (1953)
  • House of Wax
  • Texasville
  • The Interpreter
  • Nosferatu: Original Version
  • Bewitched
  • Vertigo
  • Sahara
  • The Great Ziegfeld
  • The Last Picture Show
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
  • They Drive by Night
  • Sherlock Holmes: The Scarlet Claw
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  • The Shawshank Redemption: Special Edition
  • Windtalkers
  • L.A. Confidential
  • My Man Godfrey
  • The Bridge on the River Kwai
  • Ed Wood
  • Libeled Lady
  • The Third Man
  • Run Silent, Run Deep
  • The Enemy Below
  • Psycho
  • The Forgotten
  • Closer
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
  • The Pride of the Yankees
  • De-Lovely
  • Advise and Consent
  • Sherlock Holmes: The Pearl of Death
  • Sherlock Holmes in Washington
  • Sherlock Holmes: In Pursuit to Algiers
  • Film Noir Collection: Scarlet Street
  • Call Northside 777
  • Film Noir Collection: The Stranger
  • The Alamo
  • The Country Girl
  • The Thin Man
  • Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
  • Brother, Where Art Thou?
  • The Pianist
  • Deadwood: Season 1: Disc 5 (5-Disc Series)
  • Deadwood: Season 1: Disc 4 (5-Disc Series)
  • Deadwood: Season 1: Disc 3 (5-Disc Series)
  • Deadwood: Season 1: Disc 2 (5-Disc Series)
  • Deadwood: Season 1: Disc 1 (5-Disc Series)
  • The Aviator
  • Ken Burns' Civil War: Disc 5 (5-Disc Series)
  • Ken Burns' Civil War: Disc 4 (5-Disc Series)
  • Ken Burns' Civil War: Disc 3 (5-Disc Series)
  • Ken Burns' Civil War: Disc 2 (5-Disc Series)
  • Ken Burns' Civil War: Disc 1 (5-Disc Series)
  • National Treasure
  • The Phantom of the Opera: Special Edition
  • The Notebook
  • The Bourne Supremacy
  • The Bourne Identity
  • After the Sunset
  • Schindler's List: Disc 2
  • Schindler's List
  • Cold Mountain
  • Ocean's Twelve
  • Sideways

I currently have 40 movies in my queue with The Searchers and Collateral on their way.

Monday, December 5, 2005

Scientists unveil new discoveries from Titanic

The History Channel sponsored an expedition that appears to show the Titanic broke into three pieces -- not two as earlier believed. Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreckage in 1985, was quoted as saying:
"They found a fragment, big deal," Ballard said. "Am I surprised? No. When you go down there, there's stuff all over the place. It hit an iceberg and it sank. Get over it."
Scientists unveil new discoveries from Titanic - Science -

Saturday, December 3, 2005

Ex-Panthers cheerleader sued for assault

This is great -- plus I don't need to give anyone my credit card number!!!

Ex-Panthers cheerleader sued for assault

Congress calls hearing on 'deeply flawed' BCS

I've been reading that Congress is now getting involved in the Bowl Championship Series, also known as the BCS (or just plain BS, for short!). According to this Sports Illustrated article:
A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, charged with regulating America's sports industry, announced Friday it will conduct a hearing on the BCS next week, after this season's bowl matchups are determined.

I was all for Congress stepping into the baseball steroids controversy. Steroids are very dangerous and the professional leagues were doing very little to control the problem. However, I think there are other problems in which Congress should involve itself -- the energy crisis, the Social Security system and that nasty situation in Iraq.

The "flawed" BCS system just doesn't compare to these other issues.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

It's Christmas time in the city...

Photo of my home with all of the outside lights illuminated. I took advantage of the Wal-Mart "Black Friday" frenzy and bought myself a new digital camera -- a Kodak Easy Share Z760. It has a night setting so the temperature was still warm enough to take it outside with my tripod. Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 25, 2005

Pulled the plug

As mentioned in Wednesday's post, I pulled the plug and purchased a new digital camera at Wal-Mart today. Even if it doesn't turn out to be a great camera, I still can't beat the price.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

To bite (or not to bite)

We were watching Lost this evening and saw a Wal-Mart TV ad about their after-Thanksgiving sale. What caught my eye was a Kodak 6 megapixel digital camera that will be on sale for $199. A little online research found out that the camera is a Kodak Easyshare Z760.


Thanksgiving snow?

Eerily similar to last year, overnight the Chicago area received its first measurable snowfall of the season. This photo of my backyard was taken Wednesday morning around 8:00 AM. I don't know if the snow will still be on the ground Thanksgiving morning.

Last year we had a White Thanksgiving. Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 21, 2005

Turning 80!

November 20 was my mother's 80th birthday. We had a party for her at a local restaurant and a total of 48 friends and family attended. I checked Wikipedia to see how November 20 fared in world history. Besides the usual group of celebrities who were born or who died on November 20, it turns out that Sen. Robert Kennedy and Mom were born on the same exact day!

I can't imagine turning 80 years old!

Friday, November 18, 2005

ING Direct now pays 3.5% APY

To update this posting from September, ING Direct has increased the interest rate on their Orange Savings Account to 3.50% APY. If you are interested in receiving a $25 credit just for opening your account, just e-mail me. I'll send you an e-mail containing a special link. If you use the link to set up and fund your account (minimum $250 initial deposit required), I get $10 for the referral. You get $25; I get $10...not a bad deal for either of us.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

First snow

The Chicago area had its first snow of the season today (Wednesday). It was cold and windy with drizzle part of the day. The drizzle finally turned into light flakes mid-afternoon that provided an ever-so-light dusting of snow.

I heard yesterday that the average first day of visible snow in the Chicago area is October 30th. Seems like the first snow comes too early, but it was really about three weeks later than average.

New book!

Several months ago my mother was contacted by an author who was writing a book about the servicemen from the Ravenna, Nebraska area who served in the nation's wars. The author, Valerie Vierk, knew of my grandfather, Edward Kostal, who was wounded in France in World War I and my uncle, James Kostal, a pilot who was lost in a non-combat training accident off the Sea of Japan in 1953.

My mother spoke to Valerie and offered her memories of both her father and brother. I have also been in contact with Valerie to supply family photographs, including some from this humble family weblog. She has also been kind enough to provide me with some photos and newspaper clippings that she has accumulated.

I just received word that Valerie's book, Gold Stars and Purple Hearts: The War Dead of the Ravenna, Nebraska Area, is now available for order online. Here is the link in case someone from the Ravenna area would like to order a copy. When you get to the site, click on "Book Store," then the down arrow to see "ISBN" and then enter the ISBN number which is 1420876074.

We've already ordered our copy!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

King Kong theatrical trailer

I'm looking forward to seeing this one in the theaters!

King Kong - Theatrical Trailer
King Kong for the new millenium, a group of explorers and documentary filmmakers travel to the mysterious Skull Island to investigate legends of a giant gorilla named Kong.

Courtesy of IFILM

Monday, November 14, 2005

Netflix Local Favorites

In an earlier post, I offered some tips to maximize the value of your Netflix subscription. Since then, I learned of a neat little feature called "Local Favorites." By clicking on this link, you can see the 25 most popular Netflix rentals in your area. I lived in Hoffman Estates, Illinois (a Chicago suburb) and the most popular DVD rental is Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

By clicking this link, you can also see all of the DVDs you have rented and returned.

E-mail subscriptions

I have several friends, colleagues and family members who read my humble blog. I either tell them about blog additions or they subscribe to the blog feed through Bloglines, My Yahoo! or some other RSS-enabled newsreader. (There are buttons on the right sidebar that let you easily subscribe to this blog.)

I have now added the ability to subscribe to this blog via e-mail. Look again on the right sidebar. Just enter your e-mail address and, once you confirm the subscription, you will receive blog updates by e-mail.

New blog publishing site

I'm testing a new blog publishing site to compose this blog entry. The site is called Writely and if you are reading this, then the post worked.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Time overtaking World War I vets

Hard to believe there are some World War I vets still with us. My grandfather, who fought and was wounded in France just weeks before the Armistice, would be 112! God bless them! - Time overtaking World War I vets

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Veterans Day 2005

It's hard to believe a year has gone by! It seems like I just posted this Veterans Day message the other day.

Owens's clash with the Eagles grips U.S.

Why? We have war in Iraq, tension elsewhere in the Middle East, energy prices at an all-time high and a possible bird flu pandemic. Why does anyone, besides ESPN, really care about Terrell Owens?

Owens's clash with the Eagles grips US - Yahoo! News

Always a Husker

Interesting comments from former Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost. He was quarterback on the most recent national championship team in 1997.

Sometimes I think that I care too much. I was in Lawrence on Saturday and I saw our guys go down in defeat at the hands of a team that we had beaten every year for almost four decades. I can’t tell you how hard it was to watch. Seeing Jayhawk fans yelling and jeering and storming the field made my stomach turn.

Always A Husker


Several months ago I signed up for Netflix. I was tired of buying DVDs of movies I had little interest in owning and was also tired of going to the local Blockbuster to rent a movie. There were a lot of movies I wanted to see and thought that Netflix provided the solution. They had a special introduction offer and I decided to go for it.

I've been happy with my decision. I've seen many movies and TV shows that I had not seen before or would not have otherwise rented. Netflix offers a number of pricing plans and I chose the plan that allows me to rent two DVDs at a time for $17.99 a month.

As a customer of several months, I've discovered a couple of ways to speed up the return and delivery of DVDs. I was returning my movies using work mail and was experiencing odd delays in having Netflix receive the movies and then sending me new ones. I suspected that Netflix was "throttling" or otherwise delaying my send/receive cycle. I was not sure if the delay was with the mailroom at work or at Netflix. I experimented by sending the DVD back from home rather than from work. I did notice that Netflix was receiving the DVD sooner than before. I also discovered another trick. The Netflix return envelope contains a small slit in the back. When you place your DVD sleeve into the envelope, position the sleeve so the bar codes show through the slit. This makes the return process even faster as the bar codes are scanned at the Netflix distribution center and you get credit for returning your movie right away. Otherwise, the envelope has to be manually opened, the DVD removed and then scanned for you to get credit. The manual process adds time to the cycle.

I also found out that you can add movies currently in theaters to your Netflix queue. For example, today I added Derailed and Pride and Prejudice to my queue even though they are several months away from being available on DVD. Whenever they do become available on DVD, my queue will show the release date and I can move them to the top of my queue to receive them. As I see movie previews that seem interesting, I can add the movie to my queue. A number of times I'll see a preview...and then forget the name of the movie when it does come out on DVD.

Hacking Netflix and Netflix Fan are also great resources for Netflix users.

Saturday, November 5, 2005

It's official!

Hell has, indeed, frozen over. My beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers lost a football game to the Kansas Jayhawks for the first time in 36 years (1968). Posted by Picasa

Blogging void

I've found myself in a blogging void recently. With the exception of the local excitement over the World Series, there hasn't really been anything I've felt compelled to write about.

I also find myself in that hollowness between seasons. The calendar says it's fall, but the high in Chicago will be near 70 today! Halloween has just ended and Thanksgiving is fast approaching meaning Christmas and New Year's Day will soon be here. I love this holiday season, but it seems to come (and go) so quickly. As a child I remember how slow it all seemed.

There have been several movie releases on DVD that we will be watching over the next night or two. Star Wars III was released on Tuesday. I never did see it in the theater, so I'm looking forward to watching it tonight. We also bought the "collector's edition" of The Wizard of Oz. It's a great movie, but, as a child, the flying monkeys always scared me. Lisa bought the new release of Titanic which contains an alternate ending. I'll probably pass on that one.

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

The final word

Lest people think this is a sports blog, this is the final post regarding the White Sox until spring training begins. This photo of the Wrigley Field marquee was sent to me at work by a Cubs fan. They've got to hate that! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Halloween at our house

Once again it's Halloween time. At this rate, Christmas is right around the corner! Posted by Picasa

Sweep Home Chicago!

Yes, the White Sox are 2005 World Champions...and it seems very strange writing those words. I hope I don't wake up and find out I dreamed the whole thing. The Sox swept the Astros and claimed their first title since 1917. Now it's the Cubs turn to end their title drought dating back to 1908!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Sweet emotion

I was trying to come up with a clever headline to use with this post. The Chicago White Sox won the American League pennant Sunday night and advance to the World Series for the first time since 1959. In fact, I was going to use "Party Like It's 1959" as my headline, but a couple of the newspaper headline writers had the same idea.

I stayed up late (for me) Sunday night to watch the game and some of the postgame coverage. I had "threatened" my 10-year old son that I would wake him up and pour champagne over his head if the Sox won. I didn't do it, but I might do it if the Sox win the World Series.

I went on the Internet today at noon to see if I could get Series tickets. They sold out after 18 minutes and I never even got into the site. The cheapest seat has a $120 face value and I've seen tickets on StubHub and eBay go for thousands. Guess I'll watch it on TV.

I've already seen a World Series game anyway. I saw Game #7 of the 1985 World Series with the Kansas City Royals beating the St. Louis Cardinals 11-0 at Royals Stadium in Kansas City.

The Sox have four more games to win in order to be world champions. I wonder what the Vegas odds were last March!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

It's starting to get exciting around here!

As I posted several days ago, The Chicago White Sox are in the American League Championship Series playing the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (are the Sox then the Chicago White Sox of Bridgeport?). The Angels won the first game of the 7-game series and the Sox took the second game Wednesday night on a controversial umpiring call. The series was then tied at one game apiece as the series moved to southern California.

Last night the Sox won 5-2 as pitcher John Garland (above) threw a magnificent complete game. The Sox now lead the series 2-1 with Game #4 scheduled for tonight. Game #5 will be played Sunday night with the series moving back to Chicago for games 6 and 7 if necessary.

These are exciting times for White Sox fans. As I wrote last July, I'm a Chicago baseball fan with a leaning towards the White Sox. I was born in 1952 and don't really remember the last World Series played in Chicago in 1959. The Chicago Cubs were only 5 outs away from bringing the Series to Chicago in 2003 before the infamous "Bartman Game" which, ironically, was two years ago yesterday.

The Sox now are two games away, but they are playing a very good team at their home park and a lot of things can and will happen before this series has concluded. Hopefully the Chicago White Sox of Bridgeport will bring the series back to Bridgeport/Chicago for the first time in 46 years!

Saturday, October 8, 2005

The Joy of Sox

On Friday, the Chicago White Sox won their first postseason series since the 1917 World Series. The Sox (White) beat the Sox (Red) three games to none. They next play the winner of the Yankees - Angels series for the right to play in the 2005 World Series.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Internet savings accounts

While doing some online research recently, I came across several Internet banks that are now paying relatively high interest rates on savings accounts – all accessible online. With the Federal Reserve’s recent discount rate increase, banks are now raising the rates they pay on savings, money market and certificates of deposit.

Two Internet banks stood out -- ING Direct and EmigrantDirect.

ING Direct is an online bank that now pays 3.40% APY on an FDIC-insured savings account. Opening an online account is easy and takes just a few minutes. The website was organized very well and instructions were easy to follow. I opened an account on Thursday and the process was very easy.

The best deal that I found was with Emigrant Savings Bank in New York. Their online bank, EmigrantDirect, just raised their interest rate to 4.00% APY on a FDIC-insured savings account. I opened my account this week and the account-opening process was pretty simple, but a little more involved than ING's. Because of the government's requirement of "knowing your customer," EmigrantDirect asked me some simple personal questions to verify my identity.

The ING Direct and EmigrantDirect accounts both have no minimum deposit, but do require a checking account to be linked to the account. Make sure you have your Social Security Number handy along with your bank's routing number and your driver’s license or state ID. The account usually takes about ten days before you can access it. Both companies test the linking process by depositing small amounts (each under $1.00) into your checking account. Your responsibility is to view your checking account history online (or calling your bank's telephone banking department) and then verifying the amounts with ING or Emigrant. This is for your account safety and to make sure the checking account is linked properly. No, you can't keep the extra money!

Once you have completed the testing and the savings account is established, you simply go online, log into your account and indicate the amount you wish to transfer from your checking account into the savings account. Do the opposite to withdraw money from your savings account. The money is deposited into your checking account and is then available to withdraw by check or ATM withdrawal. The deposits and withdrawals take about two days to complete.

Note: I am not in any way affiliated with either financial institution nor am I being compensated to promote either bank.

Update #1: Now that my ING Direct account is set up, I can refer people to ING to open their own accounts. If you are interested in receiving a $25 credit into your account, please e-mail me. If you set up and fund your account (for whatever minimum amount you wish), I get $10 for the referral. You get $25; I get $10...not a bad deal for either of us.

Update #2: ING Direct now requires a $250 minimum deposit to receive the $25 bonus. Earning $25 for a $250 deposit is still a 10% return. E-mail me if you are interested.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Hurricane Rita

Here's an amazing satellite shot of Hurricane Rita as it approached the Gulf Coast. This image was taken on September 21, 2005. Click on the picture for a large high resolution view.

More photos are available from this site.

Saturday, September 17, 2005


My stepson, Michael Jones, and his girlfriend, Danielle Anderson, were married last evening, September 16th. Here are some photos of the happy couple.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Family weblog

In addition to this weblog, I also maintain a family photo weblog. I recently received several outstanding family photos from my second cousin in Nebraska and have been on a posting frenzy. Click here to check them out!

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Free copy of Opera!

The folks behind the Opera web browser are celebrating their 10th anniversary by providing free registration codes. The free version of Opera is ad-supported and the paid version normally costs $39. As of Wednesday morning, the registration codes are still free.

I got mine last evening.

Update (9/01/05): The free offer has expired!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Sunflower picture

I'm having some fun taking a color photo, changing it to black and white and then creating spot color by restoring the original color by "erasing" the black and white information from the picture. It can be done in both Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro 8 which I have at home.

Here's how it's done in PSP according to a recent forum posting:
A very simple method is to make a duplicate image (layer) of your photo...In PSP 8, activate the top layer and go to ADJUST -> Hue and saturation -> Hue/Saturation/Lightness and move the left slider all the way down to make a B&W image. You now have a B&W image on top of the color image. Make the top image active and use the ERASE tool to remove the B&W data from the areas that you want to be colored.
You can then save the file "as-is" in the PSP file format or flatten (merge) the layers and save it as a JPG file.

The above steps can also be followed in Photoshop. The wording is slightly different, but you go to Layer -> Duplicate layer (accept the default background layer name) and then IMAGE -> Adjust -> Hue/saturation and then follow the rest of the above steps. (Tip: use a small brush to "color" the outside edge and a larger brush for the inside.)

It sounds more complicated than it really is. I tried it out on this sunflower photo from a couple of years ago.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

I went to a baseball game yesterday...

I went to a baseball game at Wrigley Field yesterday. This was my second Cubs game of the season and the second time I’ve seen them lose this year. The Braves beat the Cubs 3 to 1 -- yet another loss in yet another season without a World Series championship…or even a World Series appearance. (The Cubs last played in the 1945 Series and last won the Series back in 1908.)

It was a beautiful day. The kind of day that the chamber of commerce people like to crow about. The sky was blue with just a few feathery clouds. The temperature was in the mid-70s with a low humidity reading.

I went with a friend from work. We met a colleague from a company subsidiary and a prospective vendor who was our host. We had a nice lunch and then walked across Waveland Avenue to Wrigley. Our tickets were in the far right field corner, but we had an excellent view of the playing field and could see every play. An added bonus was we were out of earshot from the PA system so we missed all of the commercials between half-innings! The only problem with that is that we missed pitching changes and pinch hitters. It was still refreshing though.

There was a reminder that it is late summer because shadows caused by the 3rd base side of the grandstands started coming into play in the 8th and 9th innings. It's hard to believe that it's almost September.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Babes of Flickr

You knew it would happen eventually!

There’s now a site that posts pictures of, uh, healthy young women from the Flickr photo-sharing site. “Babes of Flickr” is now available. (I may have to bookmark it for further study!)

New Blogger add-in

I’m trying out a new add-in for Blogger. This entire post has been created in Microsoft Word and I’m finding it very easy and convenient to use. I have a pretty extensive dictionary saved in Word and I’m finding it much easier to conduct my spell checks from within Word before posting to Blogger. In fact, I just had to educate Word that “Blogger” is the correct spelling.

The new Word add-in can be found here.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Today is my birthday!

It's fun to go back and figure out what news events occurred on the day you were born. Retrosheet has the boxscores for the baseball games played on my birthday. I was born on a Tuesday and both the White Sox and Cubs lost.

Like that's never happened before!

Happy birthday to: Porter Wagoner, Buck Owens, George Hamilton, Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits), Pat Metheny, Pete Sampras, Matt Clement, Antoine Walker, Plaxico Burress and Dominique Swain.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Meteor shower Friday and Saturday

The best North America viewing on Friday is, unfortunately, during daylight hours. The alternative is to watch early Friday or Saturday morning.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Sunflower collage

I'm having some fun this Wednesday evening playing with a sunflower photo I took in summer 2002. I created some dramatic effects using a plug-in filter in my Paint Shop Pro 8 software and then created this collage using Picasa 2. There are a total of 13 images in this collage -- the original photo in front and then 12 variations of the same photo. The whole set is viewable here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Discovery photos

NASA has some great high resolution photos taken during Discovery's recent successful voyage. They are available here.

This is my favorite shot taken when the shuttle was nearing the International Space Station. [The orientation of the picture is correct. A number of news organizations ran it top-side up.]

Here's another photo.

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

I HATE summer colds!

I caught a cold over the weekend and it's still with me. I absolutely HATE summer colds! Nothing makes you more uncomfortable than a cold in the middle of summer. In Chicago we're in the middle of a heat wave with temperatures in the 90s and the heat index is above 100 -- so, of course, I have my cold.

I think I caught it at work. Our building is kept very cool, but last week I noticed that I was getting a chill. I normally like cooler temps, but when I start getting a chill, I know something's wrong. I probably should have worn long-sleeve shirts earlier.

I had to work a golf outing on Monday because my company was a sponsor. I was miserable! Fortunately there were enough volunteers there so I could leave early. I stayed home from work on Tuesday but am back at work today. I'm still not feeling great, but I am feeling better.

Did I mention how much I detest summer colds!?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Clinton offered 40 goats and 20 cows for Chelsea

I heard about this on Tuesday and wanted to wait until I could come up with a good punchline to use in my blog. Nothing came to me and I just accept the fact that sometimes true life is funnier!

Can't wait to see what the current president is offered for the Bush twins!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Popular photography

With the popularity of photo sharing sites such as Flickr, you and I can now cover news events and post our own photographs. The recent London bombings were covered by citizen-journalists as was today's space shuttle launching.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Inventor of the TV dinner passes away

A truly great American has left us!

On a serious note, I'm old enough to remember when my mother would set up the trays in front of the TV in our rec room and we would eat Sunday dinner while watching the Ed Sullivan Show. That was actually a treat for us! I guess Mom felt "liberated" from setting up the dinner table and from washing dishes (we didn't have a dishwasher yet). Now it seems like eating at the dinner table is the exception rather than the rule.

Update (July 25, 10:39 AM): This from comedy writer Jim Barach: "Gerry Thomas, the man who invented the TV dinner has died. He had an open casket funeral. They just peeled back the foil cover."

Sunday, July 24, 2005

It's going to be 100 today!

I'm writing this around 9:45 Sunday morning. It's already 85 degrees outside and it's going to be at or near 100 degrees today! When I lived in Arizona, this was very common. However, 100 degrees in Chicago seems to be much hotter than in Arizona. It's the humidity plus the houses here are designed to repel cold...not necessarily the heat.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Drowning in LPs!

As I mentioned earlier, I spent the weekend in Columbus, Ohio. I brought an antique china hutch for my sister and returned with about a dozen boxes of my old record albums. It was kind of fun to see the albums again. They had been stored in my sister's house since she moved to Columbus in the early '90s.

I returned home Sunday and carried all of the boxes downstairs. I need to go to U-Haul soon to buy some more boxes to replace the ones that seem to be worn out. As I was going through the albums, I found the very first album that I bought. It was You Really Got Me by The Kinks. (The first single '45 that I bought, as I recall, was Tell Her No by The Zombies.) I also found an old Dave Clark Five album called Coast To Coast. When I first started collecting records, the British Invasion was in full throttle!

I also found Lynyrd Skynyrd's Street Survivors LP -- both the "flame" version and the "re-released" version. The "re-released" version came out after the plane crash that killed some of the band members and was minus the flame.

Of course, among these gems are a couple of Tom Jones albums and some disco music...but you can't be right all of the time!

I plan on selling my collection. I would like to find a buyer to buy the entire lot, but I will take several days and weeks to go through everything and then list the better albums on eBay and then hit the yard sale circuit!

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Antiquing this weekend

I'm leaving Friday morning and driving to Columbus, Ohio to see my sister. I'm delivering some furniture from my mother's house and will bring back several boxes of my old LPs from my younger years. I have some original Beatles albums that I'm interested in selling and will be looking for collectors in the Chicago area. While I'm in Columbus, we're going to attend a large flea market in nearby Springfield.

Monday, July 4, 2005

Deep Impact

This is amazing. NASA can send a rocket on a 268 million-mile trip to collide with 4-mile wide comet, but I can't make a freakin' three-foot putt!

Saturday, July 2, 2005

Friday, July 1, 2005


From comic Alex Kaseberg:
Tomorrow begins the Tour De France with Lance Armstrong going for seven in a row. Why do we Americans admire Lance Armstrong so much? Is it because of his miraculous comeback from cancer? That’s a factor. Lance’s amazing toughness and athletic ability? That’s part of it. Is it because, when Lance wins the Tour de France, it infuriates the French? Bingo.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Thai fishermen catch 645-pound catfish

Here's a story that seems hard to believe. Two fishermen in Thailand caught what's believed to be the largest freshwater fish ever caught.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

"Moonlight" Graham honored

In the movie Field of Dreams, there is a character named "Moonlight" Graham who plays a significant role in the storyline. Graham was a doctor who, as a young man, played in one major league baseball game, but never got a chance to bat. Part of the story involves getting Graham his one at-bat.

Many people, like myself, thought that Graham (played by Burt Lancaster in his last big-screen role) was a fictional character. However, he was a real person and the Minnesota Twins will honor him with "'Moonlight' Graham Day" today on the 100th anniversary of his lone baseball game.

Graham died in 1965 at the age of 88.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Shelby Foote passes away

Historian Shelby Foote has passed away at the age of 88. Foote was featured on Ken Burns' 1990 PBS documentary, The Civil War.

I recently rented the documentary from Netflix and watched it for probably the 4th or 5th time. He made the whole documentary more believable and more...human, if that's the right word.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Cubs and White Sox

The Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox play their second intercity series this weekend. They played each other for three games at Wrigley Field (with the Sox winning 2 of 3) and this weekend's three-game series is set for U.S. Cellular Field.

First of all, I'm a Chicago baseball fan, but you have to take sides when the two teams play each other. My wife is a die-hard (is there any other kind?) Cub fan and she wields influence over my 10-year old son who leans towards the Cubbies. I guess I'm on the "dark side of the Force" since my passion lies with the White Sox.

I can't explain my White Sox attraction. I was raised on the North Shore which is traditionally Cubs territory. All my friends in grade school and high school were Cubs fans. I was the "outcast." Growing up I would listen to Sox games at night, imitating the play-by-play announcer (Bob Elston). I probably became a Sox fan because my parents would take me to their games instead of to the Cubs games. For them, it was easier to drive to old Comiskey Park than it was to take public transportation to Wrigley Field. Who knows what factors into your decision.

As of this writing, the Sox have the best record in baseball so I'm enjoying the ride right now. The Sox haven't been to the World Series since 1959 (they last won in 1917 with Shoeless Joe Jackson!) so I'm hoping this is the year. I don't consider myself THAT old, but I don't want to wait forever!

Update: The White Sox won the first game of the series, but the Cubs came back to take the next two games. Thus the teams tied the season series at 3 games apiece.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Our flower garden

My wife loves flower gardening. I think she would do this full-time if she could. We built our house in 1994 and every year since she has added to the garden. Last year we made some substantial changes by moving her rose garden and then removed some bushes that were overgrown and were providing too much shade.

Check out this Flickr set that shows pictures of the garden taken "through the years."

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Frankly, my dear...

The American Film Institute today released their list of the 100 top movie quotes of all time. To probably nobody's surprise, Rhett Butler's "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" from Gone With The Wind was voted #1. In order, movies making the remainder of the top 10 included The Godfather, The Wizard of Oz, Casablance, On The Waterfront, Sudden Impact, Sunset Boulevard, Star Wars (Episode IV), All About Eve and Taxi Driver.

One of my favorite movie lines was not on the list...nor would I expect it to be considered. It was Bluto Blutarsky's line from Animal House:
Over? Did you say "over"? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!
Now that I think about it, a couple of lines from Caddyshack were not included either.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

What options?

I called my HMO this morning. I simply wanted to verify some information on my son's insurance card. I called the 800-number and got a sweet-sounding recorded voice announcing that I should "...listen carefully, as options have changed."

What options? I last called them a couple of years ago and I swear that everything was the same.

I've heard this same type of message in the past with other companies and I wonder if this is just a way to make people think that a change has been made when, in fact, nothing has changed. They just don't want callers to press zero to get a human voice.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there. My own father passed away three years ago so I'll be spending the day with my son.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Movie deal in the works?

I see that Jennifer Wilbanks (aka "The Runaway Bride") has signed a deal which may lead to the development of a movie based on her experiences. My only question is: why did it take so long?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Flower garden

I created a Flickr set with photos of our flower garden beginning with photos from 2000 through yesterday (Saturday, June 12).

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Another body part story!

A man's leg landed in the backyard of a home in Floral Park, New York. Police believe the leg belonged to a stowaway from a South African Airways jet that landed at Kennedy Airport after a flight from Johannesburg. A later inspection of the jet revealed another leg hanging from the wheel well.

They speculate that the stowaway was crushed while the landing gear was lowered as the jet made its final approach to JFK.

Hey, at least the leg didn't fall into anyone's chili!

Tuesday, June 7, 2005


The weather in the Chicago area turned summer-like over the past few days. We had thunderstorms rumble through the area over the weekend, but they wimped out and we got some rain for about 30 minutes.

Despite the rain, my yard still looks real dry. It seems strange to be running the sprinkler this early in the season.

The weather has gotten much warmer and the high today (Tuesday) is to be near 90 degrees with humidity. I don't care for this kind of weather. I find it difficult to keep cool, especially at night. I prefer temps in the sixties or seventies, but that's just me. We have ceiling fans going to keep the air moving. I'm too cheap to run the air conditioner, but I run the AC an average of 5-7 days during the summer.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

If anyone's interested...

...I've registered my humble blog on a list of local suburban blogs that the Daily Herald has put together. The Daily Herald covers the northwest suburbs of Chicago and has recently started this service. My listing went "live" Tuesday morning.

The list is available here. This blog is listed under Hoffman Estates.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Comiskey Park (1910 - 1990)

Here's a picture I took of old Comiskey Park, the home of the White Sox from 1910 through 1990. This photo was taken on July 11, 1990. I "Photoshopped" the photo to give it a more antique look.

The White Sox played the Milwaukee Brewers that day on "Turn Back the Clock Day." The Sox played in replica uniforms from the 1917 team, the last year the White Sox won the World Series. True to form, the Brewers beat the Sox that day.

1990 was a good year. Lisa and I began our relationship and we attended a lot of Cubs and Sox games. It was also the last year for Comiskey Park (the new park opened in 1991) so there were a lot of special games and promotions. The Sox even had a competitive team that season.

I recently established an account at Flickr and have posted pictures from this game as well as other pictures I've recently taken. The plan is to move a lot of my photos over there. You can access my free site here. Please visit often.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Talk about cranky!

An 86-year old woman in Charlotte, North Carolina has been jailed for calling 911 to complain about a pizza deliveryman who would not deliver a pizza to her home. The woman was charged with two counts of misusing the emergency telephone system. When police arrived to arrest her, the 98-pound woman attacked the officer resulting in an additional charge of resisting arrest!

A long time ago, I lived in Scottsdale and delivered pizzas for Domino's Pizza. (I was between "career challenges.") Nothing that strange ever happened to me, but we did have a regular customer who lived in a home with an elaborate security system. We had to ring the doorbell, speak into the intercom and then stand in front of a camera before he would open his garage door to claim his pizza. He never tipped very well either. I often wondered if he was a criminal or simply paranoid.

Another time I delivered a pizza to an attractive young woman who answered the door dressed in a bikini (not that unusual in Scottsdale!). She asked me to stay with her because she didn't like to eat alone. As tempting as that offer might have been, there was something really strange about her and I suspect she was drunk or high. Oh, I was also married and didn't need the complication!

I delivered some pizzas to a couple of attractive woman who were drinking wine. They said they were going to party and asked if I wanted to join them. For the same reason as above, I declined their offer (but I did get a decent tip).

I also had a celebrity customer. For a brief time, former pro football player Mark Gastineau was married to film "star" Bridget Nielson and they lived in East Scottsdale. They ordered a pizza and when I drove up to their house, they were out by the driveway having one of their famous arguments! Gastineau told her to pay me and I ended up with a $20 tip. I think they wanted me to leave so they could resume their argument! I'm not sure how much longer they were married.

I did this for a couple of months before resurrecting my "real" career. I bet others have interesting stories as well. Leave a comment.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Earth Wars: "MSN Virtual Earth" to take on "Google Earth"

This is getting to be interesting. Several months ago, Google added a search feature to their Google Maps. It was the ability to view satellite photos of the area you were mapping. For instance, if you were searching for a route from the suburbs to downtown Chicago, you could view the result as a map or as a satellite image. Last year Google acquired Keyhole Technologies, a company that produces satellite images. Google recently announced that the Keyhole technology was going to be renamed Google Earth.

Now Microsoft has entered the fray with technology called MSN Virtual Earth. The link shows screenshots which picture satellite images taken at a 45-degree angle. Virtual Earth is set to debut during the summer.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

To win in sports, wear red

Maybe this explains why my Nebraska Cornhuskers have done well in least until recently!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Fence from "Grassy Knoll" up for auction

Some sections of fence taken from the infamous Grassy Knoll will be sold at auction. This was the area in Dallas' Dealey Plaza where many claimed a second gunman fired at President Kennedy when he was assassinated on November 22, 1963.

The fence was apparently replaced in 2000 and four sections of the fence were retrieved by Dallas tour guide Ronald D. Rice. Each section is approximately six feet long and 4 1/2 feet high. Rice put the sections in storage for a few years until he stopped making payments. The sections were then sold at public auction to Daniel Moses who is the apparent seller for this upcoming auction.

There is some dispute whether these fence sections were actually standing in Dealey Plaza in November 1963. In the years since the assassination, a number of the wooden pickets have been replaced due to vandalism, souvenir hunters and weather. Several of the pickets have graffiti on them including one with the message: "Oswald Was Framed."

Friday, May 13, 2005

He'll survive

Tiger Woods' streak of making the cut in 142 consecutive golf tournaments over the last seven years ended Friday when he missed the cut in the Byron Nelson Championship.

Tiger still gets the last laugh. Instead of playing golf with the guys, he gets to spend the weekend with a beautiful Swedish model! (His wife is former model Elin Nordegren.)

Sunday, May 8, 2005

This is ridiculous!

My father passed away in January 2002. In April 2005, a letter addressed to my father came from the Circuit Court of Cook County. It was a jury summons for duty in May. My mother called the jury administrator and notified them of my father's death. She thought everything was straightened out.

Not even close!

In early May, she received the following letter:

This letter is to inform you that you have been excused from Jury Service on 05/17/2005 as a result of your request to participate in our Opt Out Program, which permits jurors who are 70 years of age and older to be excused from Jury Service on a specific court date. Your participation in the Opt Out Program applies only to the date for Jury Service noted above. Please be aware that your name will remain on the juror list and you may be summoned again for Jury Service at a later date. However, your ability to be excused from Jury Service under the Opt Out Program is always available to you, no matter how many jury summons you may receive.

Dad would have appreciated the humor in this bureaucratic buffoonery.

Saturday, May 7, 2005

House of Blues

With apologies to my wife (and all Cub fans), this is what Wrigley Field has become during the 2005 season.

Friday, May 6, 2005

Photo quiz

Can you tell the difference between a real photograph and a computer-generated picture? I thought I could, but I was wrong. Take the quiz.

Thursday, May 5, 2005

Freedom Tower to be redesigned

I heard about this on the radio this morning, although the radio broadcast made it sound as if it were back to the drawing board completely. It appears the NYPD has issues with the first 150-200 feet of the building so the total height and the spire will remain.

I used to visit New York on a regular basis for business reasons in the mid '90s. My schedule would limit me to sightseeing and I never did visit the WTC or Lower Manhattan. I did get a chance to go up to the Empire State Building. I wish I could get my hands on the photos I took that day. It would be interesting to see them again.

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Monday, May 2, 2005

Field of Dreams

It's May 2, but there were snow flurries in Chicago today and there are freeze warnings tonight in the outlying areas where I live! It's certainly not baseball weather, but we have already completed one month of baseball. It's been a tale of two cities as far as our local baseball teams are doing. The White Sox at 18-7 currently have the best record in baseball and have had the lead in every game so far this season. The Cubs have suffered pitching woes and Kerry Wood is going on the disabled list with shoulder problems.

Baseball is my favorite sport. It's the perfect game because the clock is not involved. Here's my favorite line from one of my favorite baseball movies -- Field of Dreams:

...people will come Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won't mind if you look around, you'll say. It's only $20 per person. They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they'll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come. -- Terrence Mann [James Earl Jones] from Field of Dreams (Source: Internet Movie Database)

Maybe it will get warm soon so I can actually attend a game this season.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

School Mistakes Huge Burrito for a Weapon

As my dad used to say: "it's funny now, but at the time..."

New tenant

We have a new tenant on our property.

While cleaning out some old plants in the garden this morning, I came across a bird's nest in one of our back bushes. The "tenant" is a Northern Cardinal and she's laid at least two eggs...maybe three. I glanced briefly at her nest, but she was letting me have it so I didn't want to upset her and have her abandon the nest.

I haven't come across last year's tenants: two small garden snakes that made their home next to our garage.

John Rocker attempting a comeback

Former major league pitcher and recovering bigot John Rocker, who hasn't pitched in two years, is attempting a comeback with a Long Island minor league team. Rocker was a top relief pitcher with the Atlanta Braves, but incensed baseball fans, New Yorkers and several ethnic, racial and religious groups by slamming nearly everyone in a Sport Illustrated interview after the 1999 season.

Organized baseball has already proven that there is no such thing as a "last chance" so it's not surprising that the 30-year old Rocker is trying a comeback with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League.

Since baseball also likes to make a buck or two, I have a couple of suggestions for the Ducks to capitalize on their new player's notoriety:

  • "John Rocker Same-Sex Couple Night" -- Fans attending the game can bring their same-sex partner with them and he/she gets in free. A "lucky" couple drawn at random can take Rocker to a gay or lesbian nightclub at his expense. [Rocker hates homosexuals.]
  • "Ride the Subway with John Rocker Night" -- Fans chosen at random can spend an evening riding a New York City subway with Rocker. [He slammed subway riders.]
  • "John Rocker Bobblehead Night" -- The first 2,000 fans (regardless of their sexual orientation) get a bobblehead doll. [He probably hates bobblehead dolls too.]
  • "Welcome to America Half-Price Night" -- Fans attending the game who show their foreign birth certificate get in for half price. [Rocker hates immigrants.]

Can anyone else come up with a good idea for the Ducks?

Friday, April 29, 2005

Blogging support in the next version of Frontpage?

Hey Microsoft. Is this true? I would not be surprised if Macromedia [Dreamweaver] or Adobe [GoLive] incorporate blogging support into future versions of their authoring software, especially since they will be one and the same company.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Wendy's should give her the finger!

I've written about the woman who claimed to have found a fingertip in her chili while dining at Wendy's. As the story progressed, her account became less and less believable. Now it turns out that the whole tale was a hoax although the fingertip is apparently real.

I hope Wendy's sues her for not only the financial loss suffered, but for the damage to their reputation.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Free MP3 downloads from Amazon

Amazon introduced free MP3 downloads in 2001. Here's a list of the top 200 downloads available on their site. I picked up a few Alison Krauss songs.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Be careful what you wish for

Like most of the world, I use Internet Explorer as my primary browser. A few months ago, I downloaded the final version of the new Firefox browser from the Mozilla Foundation. I like it a great deal, but I still use IE as my primary browser -- more for convenience than for any other reason.

IE has long had security vulnerabilities which hackers and virus writers love to penetrate. Both Mozilla and Apple developers scoff at Microsoft saying their browser is much more safe to use and does not have these vulnerabilities. I've long assumed that IE is the target not because it's less secure than Firefox or Safari (Apple's browser), but because it has the largest installed base and a virus writer is more inclined to spend their time working with IE code than others.

Now that Firefox is making inroads into IE's installed base, it is also finding itself a target for hackers. Firefox just released a set of patches to fix some security vulnerabilities. This is on top of patches released several weeks ago. I'm not aware of any problems with Apple's Safari browser, but I also suspect that Mac's small customer base makes it a less attractive target than Windows-based browsers.

The point is that no browser is 100% secure. Companies stating that their browser is foolproof only serves to challenge hackers and virus writers who will eventually find a vulnerability.

Firefox, careful what you wish for!

Monday, April 18, 2005

Bradford Pear

I guess a sure sign of spring is when all the flowering trees begin to flourish. This is our Bradford Pear tree that just began to flower on Sunday. This picture was taken late Monday afternoon. The rest of the garden looks barren, but just wait...

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Angels and Demons

I succumbed to hype and purchased The Da Vinci Code late last year. I was pleasantly surprised to find the book interesting and thought-provoking. I say "surprised" because I'm usually disappointed by movies and books that are fawned over by the public.

In February I bought Dan Brown's prequel Angels and Demons. It's a prequel in the sense that the main character from Code, Robert Langdon, is introduced in Angels.

I actually enjoyed this book more than Code. It was more of a page-turner with an end result that I did not see coming. The setting for the book is Vatican City within the background of a papal conclave.

Ironically, I finished the book about ten days before the death of John Paul II. The pope's death has resulted in a flurry of interest in Angels and Demons. When I bought the paperback version of the book on eBay, I paid around three dollars. A quick eBay search reveals that prices have gotten higher. It's still a good book and highly recommended.

Aging octopus is finally a mother

This is a very interesting article. I guess I never thought much about how octopuses (octopi?) reared their young.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Southwest Nebraska sunflowers

During our August 2002 visit to Nebraska, my mother and I spent quite a bit of time commuting between Ogallala (where our motel was located) and Grant and Madrid. Grant is located 20 miles south of Ogallala and Madrid is 10 miles east of Grant.

There is literally nothing but farmland between Ogallala and Grant. Several farmers are growing sunflowers as a cash crop. Some of the fields were located along the highway. I stopped and snapped several photos of the flowers including this closeup.

A Roosevelt mystery

My 79-year-old mother tells me that, to this day, the death of President Roosevelt remains one of the seminal events in her life. (This from a woman who experienced a world war, wars in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq, 9/11, moon travel, the fall of Communism and the rise of Ashlee Simpson.)

The common belief was that Roosevelt (already in his fourth term as president) suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died at his home in Warm Springs, Georgia on April 12, 1945.

Coinciding with the 60th anniversary of his death, Newsweek Magazine has an article questioning the official cause of FDR's death. This is no conspiracy theory, but historians have always questioned the secrecy surrounding FDR's health. This report suggests that Roosevelt may have had cancer.

In this modern age of instant communication via the internet, 24-hour news channels and the Drudge Report, it would be difficult to cover up presidential health issues.

Saturday, April 9, 2005

Lake McConaughey, January 13, 2002

Here's a picture I took of Lake McConaughey north of Ogallala, Nebraska in January 2002. It was a cold, raw, bright and windy day. I think the colors turned out great. For a comparison, this is how the same picture looks when converted to black and white using a red filter.

It's quite dramatic.

Friday, April 8, 2005

Wendy's diner finds finger in chili

Wendy's may want to borrow KFC's "Finger-lickin' good" slogan!

Update: (4/8/2005 1:38 PM) I originally posted this story on March 24. Since then, police have searched the home of Anna Ayala, the woman who claimed she found the finger in her food. I was interested in this quote from the article (emphasis is mine): "Wendy's maintains the finger did not enter the food chain in its ingredients. All the employees at the San Jose store were found to have all their fingers, and no suppliers of Wendy's ingredients have reported any hand or finger injuries, the company said."


I found this on Steve Rubel's blog and thought it was a belated April Fool's prank. It's actually very clever. Enter a search term in the search box and the window splits into two panes -- one showing Yahoo! search results and the other showing Google search results. Very cool!

Sunday, April 3, 2005

Google Ride Finder

This is pretty cool!

The folks at Google have done it again. They've announced Google Ride Finder which is a neat way to find a cab. The service is limited to a few cities -- including Chicago -- but the premise is pretty simple: use your computer to locate a participating taxi cab. By clicking on the Chicago site, you can see if there is a cab near your location. You can then call the dispatcher for that cab to have it pick you up.

Saturday, April 2, 2005

Spring forward!

Daylight Saving Time begins at 2:00 AM Sunday morning. Don't forget to set your clocks one hour ahead. Note the singular form of the word saving. The plural form -- which is common usage -- utilizes incorrect English. You are saving daylight; you are not savings daylight.

So there! :-)

Yahoo! 360 invitations

I managed to secure an invitation to the new Yahoo! 360 community. Similar to the strategy that Google used when introducing Gmail, Yahoo! 360 members have free invitations to use for anyone who wishes to join. Let me know if you want one.

Friday, April 1, 2005

Gmail expands to 2 GB with more on the way

Last week Yahoo! announced they were going to expand the limit on the free web-based e-mail from 250 MB to 1 GB. The move was rumored to be in response to Google's free Gmail service rumored to be coming out of beta status in April. Gmail's storage limit is [was] 1 GB. Maybe Yahoo! knew something else as Google is apparently expanding its capacity to 2 GB with more increases expected in the future.

April Fool's Day!

If you see something today that doesn't appear correct, it's probably because it's April Fool's Day. Bloglines, one of my favorite RSS aggregators, announced today that they now offer their service in Klingon in addition to other languages.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Double rainbow

The Chicago area is enjoying a respite from the cold March weather. I believe it got into the 70s today. The weather tonight is to turn stormy with thunderstorms predicted.

There was a brief storm late this afternoon and then the sun appeared for a short while creating a double rainbow. Here is a picture I hurriedly snapped out my back door. You can barely make out the second rainbow at the very left of the photo.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Will Spring ever come?

I've always associated the Easter holiday with Springtime. It obviously does take place in Spring, but to me it brings thoughts of warmer weather, flowers and so forth. Living in the Chicago area, our Spring doesn't seem to arrive until May.

Of course, Easter is early this year as determined by the lunar calendar. The Council of Nice decreed in 325 A.D. that "Easter was to fall upon the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the Vernal Equinox."

Two days ago (Thursday), the Chicago area again had snow. Just a dusting that never really lasted, but it's hard to think of Spring when you see snow falling. The early forecasts for Easter Sunday had it being in the mid-forties at best. Now it appears it will be in the mid-fifties and sunny which will be a vast improvement. The rest of next week is suppose to be relatively warm, but I don't take much stock in long-term forecasts!

The baseball season opens in Chicago on Monday, April 4th when the White Sox host the Cleveland Indians. If we get our usual opening day weather, it will be cold and gray.

Baseball -- now that's a sign of Spring!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Yahoo bolsters e-mail storage to 1 GB

Yahoo announced that it is increasing the storage limit on its free e-mail service to 1 GB. This increase will be phased-in beginning in April. The limit on the Yahoo service is currently 250 MB.

Although denied by Yahoo, this announcement is an apparent reaction to the rumor that Google will begin offering its free Gmail service to the general public around April 1. The Gmail service is currently in Beta and was the first free service to come with 1 GB of storage. (In the interest of full disclosure, I use both the Yahoo and Google e-mail services.)

Hotmail, Microsoft's free e-mail service, recently upgraded its storage capacity to 250 MB.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

What I want

In case someone is wondering what I want for my August birthday, here's a hint! I saw this beautiful red Ford F-150 on the dealer lot last Sunday.

Barry Bonds to miss the 2005 season?

Baseball player Barry Bonds says he might miss the upcoming baseball season due to his recent knee surgery. Bonds says he has a long way to go to rehabilitate himself and be ready to play baseball. He hints that mid-2005 would be the earliest he would return or even 2006.

Bonds, who has been linked to grand jury testimony in the BALCO investigation, is also the poster boy for critics who say that steroids has inflated baseball records.

You don't think his possibly missing the season has anything to do with the steroids issue, do you? And do you think he believes he can avoid it by sitting out this season?

Never entered my mind!

Update (7:13 PM CST): When this story first broke, I did not realize that Bonds went on to blame the media for hounding him and his family and for wanting him to fail. I guess it's convenient to blame the media, blame investigators and probably blame the general public for this mess. You left out the girlfriend, Barry. It's hard to believe, but he just made Sammy Sosa look good!

I hope he's through.

As far as I'm concerned, Hank Aaron and Roger Maris are still the recordholders for home runs hit in a career and home runs hit in a single season.

And Babe Ruth is still the king.

Monday, March 21, 2005

The Terri Schiavo case

I've been following this sad case from a distance. However, I have to disagree with the president and Congress getting involved in this matter. This case has dragged on for many years with Mrs. Schiavo's husband getting permission to remove the feeding tube and her parents then getting a court order to reinsert the tube.

Enough already!

This poor woman will never return to a "normal" life. It's been clearly shown that the husband -- as her legal guardian -- does have the right to make this hard decision on her behalf. It's not like he hasn't given it time or exhausted all medical opinions.

The parents also need to face reality. They are only extending their daughter's suffering -- and their own suffering -- by continuing to battle their son-in-law in court.

I'm disappointed in the president and the Republicans in Congress for getting involved. Aren't the Republicans the ones that keep saying that government should not be involved in peoples' lives? I guess it depends on if they agree or disagree with the course of action that people take. I'm a moderate Republican and I disagree with what the party is doing.

Let her go.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Compelling TV

I watched the evening testimony in front of the House Government Reform Committee. This is the committee looking into the baseball steroids issue. Normally these hearings are televised, if at all, on C-SPAN. Yesterday, they were also televised on ESPN and Comcast Sports Net (and perhaps other cable channels).

I was at work all day so I did not watch the first two sessions. The following is a synopsis of what I've read or heard.

The morning and afternoon sessions consisted of expert testimony regarding the danger of steroids. The Committee heard from parents of two teenage athletes who took steroids. Both teenagers committed suicide and the parents blame their deaths on steroids and, specifically, their childs' desire to emulate their baseball heroes. One parent laid the blame directly on the players.

Later in the afternoon, former players Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire and current players Frank Thomas, Rafael Palmeiro, Curt Schilling and Sammy Sosa testified. Canseco's "tell-all" book ignited controversy by naming names and revealing the whole steroid issue in professional baseball. He testified that baseball looked the other way and basically "promoted" the use of steroids by not cracking down on users. Interestingly, he backed away from some statements contained in his book. (This reminds me of Charles Barkley's assertion that he was misquoted in his own autobiography!) McGwire, named in Canseco's book as a steroid user, came across very bad in the testimony. He refused to answer questions regarding past use and wanted to look ahead to the future. His non-answers basically answered the question about using steroids. McGwire has taken a hit with several sportwriters' knee-jerk reaction to refuse to support his upcoming Hall of Fame candidacy. One of the representatives on the Committee also suggested his name should be removed from a stretch of Interstate 70 in Missouri.

Both Palmeiro and Sosa denied under oath that they ever used steroids. Palmeiro was adamant that he never used steroids while Sosa, through his attorney, denied taking steroids but nonetheless dodged direct questioning. Sosa conveniently forgot how to speak English and needed an interpreter with him to translate the Committee's questions!

Comic Alex Kaseberg had an interesting line about Palmeiro: "Rafael Palmeiro denied using steroids to Congress. Palmeiro, however, does commercials for Viagra but publicly denies that he takes Viagra. So why would we believe a guy we already know lies about using a performance enhancing drug?"

Thomas, who has never been associated with steroid use, said that baseball needs to clean up its act. Schilling, who has also never been associated with steroid use, came off looking bad as he backed off earlier statements regarding the prevalence of steroids in baseball and testified that he felt that stories of steroid use was overblown.

The real fun (and the real fireworks) came in the evening session which I watched. (My wife even missed The Apprentice to watch the testimony!) Executives from Major League Baseball and the players union appeared before the panel. To say they came off bad is an understatement. They were skewered and left hanging out to dry by the panel. I won't go into the details because there is too much good information to relate. Many news and sports sites have this information. In short, baseball's announced policy has not been completely written nor is it close to what was announced. At it stands right now, you can positively test for steroids five times before you are thrown out of baseball...and even that's not clear! Donald Fehr, the head of the players union, when pointedly asked several times if he would recommend that the players accept tougher standards, replied that he would consult with the players and relay the concerns of the Committee!

ESPN's Jayson Stark wrote an interesting piece on the hearing.

This is a story that will not go away -- nor should it. I think that Congress will eventually pass legislation outlawing steroids and other human growth hormones. The cloud of suspicion will follow Sosa and, of course, Barry Bonds. Bonds and Jason Giambi, by the way, were not subpoenaed because of the ongoing litigation regarding BALCO.

Baseball gets a black eye and fans are left wondering who is in charge of this mess. I would like to see, as one of the Committee members suggested, that there should be a wholesale change at the top of both Major League Baseball and the players union. It's obvious nobody can be trusted.

Two women want to marry Scott Peterson

I'm sure psychologists have an explanation for this.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Employee empowerment

I am a Comcast high-speed Internet subscriber. I am also a Comcast cable TV subscriber. We recently upgraded our subscription to digital cable and HDTV. Comcast has finally come out with a digital video recorder (DVR) service that allows users to record programs directly onto a hard disk rather than to video tape. Our VCR has begin giving us problems, so we thought it was time to take the plunge into digital recording. I was really interested in getting TiVo, but was told by someone at Abt that TiVo and Comcast really don't play together very well. TiVo has a really great service, but there are rumors of TiVo's imminent demise and I did not want to get stuck with a box I could not use. So the decision was made to get a Comcast DVR.

I called Comcast and made an appointment to have the DVR installed. The service is an additional $10 per month and, oh, there's a $32 installation charge. I questioned the charge, but was told that's what they charged to install the box.

Now the DVR is really a combination cable tuner and digital recorder. I already have the box so the installer will come over unhook my old box, hook up the new one, turn on the TV to make sure it works and leaves. Where is the "value" in the $32 charge? Anyway, I reluctantly said OK and the appointment was set.

That evening, my wife mentioned that a work colleague also had a DVR installed, but was able to get the installation charge halved to $16. I figured if he could do it, so could I.

I called Comcast this morning and they were shocked -- shocked! -- that I would request a waiver. The customer service rep put me on hold a couple of times and each time she came back and said that the $32 fee is correct and that's what I would be charged.

I cancelled the installation.

As a loyal customer with a number of services, I'm offended that (a) they would even consider charging a ridiculous fee in the first place and (b) this employee was apparently not empowered to waive a fee or at least waive 50% of it (which I would have settled for). I know this isn't just a Comcast issue, but an issue with all companies. What if I would have talked to a different employee? Would I have gotten satisfaction? Why should there be a difference?

Employee empowerment is not only right, it's good business.

Update 9:47 AM CST: Maybe this is all for the best as Comcast and TiVo have just announced a partnership agreement where TiVo will make boxes for Comcast. Unfortunately, it won't go into effect until 2006.

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

This should be interesting!

Former baseball player Jose Canseco's tell-all book continues to cause problems for Major League Baseball. In his book, he admits to steroid use and says he injected former teammate Mark McGwire with steroids when they played together on the Oakland Athletics. He also calls out several other players regarding their own steroid use.

I don't know if he's telling the truth or not, but it's obvious that baseball players have gotten much bigger the past few years.

A number of players mentioned in the book, including Rafael Palmiero, have threatened legal action. What's interesting is that they've threatened, but have not actually sued. This tells me that there's fire under the smoke and legal action will bring out things that players don't want brought out.

These threats may become irrelevant as the House Reform Committee wants to hold hearings on steroid use and has "invited" (subpoenaed?) Canseco and several other ballplayers to testify. The other players include McGwire, Palmiero, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa and Jason Giambi. For some reason, Barry Bonds has not been included. The testimony is voluntary and the players cannot be forced to testify. Canseco so far is the only one willing to testify under oath.

Too bad these players can't be compelled to testify. Wouldn't it be great theater to watch them testify? Can't you just see Sosa squirm under the bright lights when explaining how the source of his power is the Flintstone's vitamins he says he takes? Just seeing Canseco in the same room with these other players would be fun to watch. C-SPAN could make it a pay-per-view event.

Update (6:29 PM CST): There is now some disagreement whether or not the "invitations" are really subpoenas and thus the appearance is mandatory rather than voluntary. It was earlier reported that the players could testify on their own volition. (Canseco being the only one agreeing to testify; Schilling is considering it.) Now there is a question if it's Contempt of Congress should they fail to appear.

This is getting "interestinger and interestinger." Stay tuned!

Update (March 9, 2005 12:29 PM CST): Of the players invited to the hearing, only Jose Canseco and Frank Thomas have agreed to voluntarily appear. It appears now that the Committee will subpoena the other players and baseball officials (including Commissioner Bud Selig) to appear at the hearing on March 17.

Monday, March 7, 2005

I just don't get it

Cell phones and public restrooms, I mean. Are we that busy that we need to multitask by carrying on a phone conversation while, uh, attending to other matters?

When I worked in the city, I took a daily commuter train to and from work. One day before I boarded the train home, I went into the men's room at the Union Station to wash my hands. In this busy restroom were two guys talking on their cell phones...and, of course, they had to talk loud enough so everyone could hear they were talking business. Now a busy terminal men's room is not the ideal place to hold a business telephone conversation. Can you imagine what the person on the other end of the conversation must think! Is it our need to feel important -- or to make other people think we're important -- that requires us to carry on conversations in this most public of places?

As a male, my point of reference is limited to the guys' sanctuary. Is this just a "guy thing" or do women do this too?

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Tommy Dorsey story

On my family weblog, I just posted a story about how my mother sat in with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra one night when they played at the army air base where she worked.

Gmail invitations

I use Gmail (Google mail) and like it a lot. I have 50 free Gmail invitations that are available to anyone who wants one. Don't be shy, just ask.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Tsunami photos

A Canadian couple, on vacation at a beach resort in Thailand, took a series of digital photos as the Tsunami wave hit the beach on December 26. The couple was killed and their camera destroyed. However, the memory card was not damaged and photographs were printed from it. The photos were released today.

It's sad and eerie to see these pictures knowing it was the last thing they ever saw.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Primary election

Today is primary day for my northwest suburban community. The polls opened at 6:00 AM and I arrived a little after 6:30 AM. There were several election workers sitting waiting for me and I was surprised to see I was the only person there. I showed my driver's license, signed in and was assigned my ballot with #1 written on it. I asked one of the workers if I was the first one there and she replied that I had the honor.

Now granted that the primary election was for village trustees only and whittles down the number of candidates to six for the regular election in April.

This is still disappointing. On Election Day in November, I showed up at the same time at the same polling place and waited in line for over an hour. I'm not complaining about that. I'm glad people take the electoral process seriously. I'm just a little disappointed that people appear to be uninterested in these local primaries. To me the local elections have a more direct effect on me than state or national elections. Local ordinances and local taxes have a greater impact on my daily life than national laws.

The polls close at 7:00 PM and I hope a greater number of people make the effort to turn out. I really doubt it. Too bad.