Monday, September 29, 2003

The Return of the King trailer is now online

Go, watch, and weep at the beauty and magnificence of the last movie in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. If it doesn't win Best Picture, there is no God.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

The World Outside the Web - Neal Stephenson's new book upends geek chic. By Paul Boutin

Neal Stephenson's latest book, Quicksilver, is out. My friend James told me about this review on which is quite complimentary. I got through Cryptonomicon's 900+ pages without any lasting damage, so I think I can handle this latest tome. James also tells me that Mr. Stephenson will be appearing at a Manhattan Barnes & Noble in October to sign copies of the book. Date and time, please? You know I'm there. And I never go to book signings.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

By the way, the Nokia 3595 has turned out to be a champ. No dropped calls so far, and I've found excellent network coverage here and in the Baltimore/DC/VA area. Even the funky keypad doesn't annoy me. It's a keeper, and I'd recommend it to anyone who's looking for a cheap GSM phone from AT&T.

If you liked "Badgers," you'll love "Scampi"

Gene Weingarten's chat produced this link this afternoon. I think this one is even better than "Badgers," though the song isn't as catchy.

I wish I'd been in on the chat, with all the references to bad baby names. My afternoon radio show of choice, Drake and Zeke on Rock 103 in Memphis, have featured a different bad baby name every day for years. Some of them are astounding, others dumb, most of them just plain funny. Apparently it's too much trouble to use normal names anymore. Though things can go too far the other way. One of my standard jokes at Georgetown was that if you were trying to get into a keg party and someone challenged you at the door to name one of the house's residents, you stood a good chance of guessing correctly if you said Dave or Jen.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

More power to me

Since my last message, I've been at my dad's house in Bowie without power. We had just hooked up his new computer and his cable modem+wireless network when the power flickered for the last time and went out. I'd been able to surf at high speed for about 30 seconds total before everything went off. The neighbors across the main road from his house never lost power, and the neighbors directly across his street got their power back Friday afternoon, but as of 1 PM Saturday, my dad's side of the street was still dark. As much as I enjoyed visiting with him and my stepmother, tonight I'm at my brother's apartment in Baltimore, where he's had power the entire time. On Sunday I'll be out in Virginia with some friends who also have power and whom I'd hoped to see earlier in the week had Isabel not screwed up my entire plan. I've got some good pictures of the non-flooded areas of Baltimore that I'll upload sometime, probably Monday afternoon when I'm back in NYC.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

My plans to visit friends and finally tour the Holocaust museum are on hold now, as the governments and businesses of the DC area and the Metro system are shut down for Thursday and presumably Friday as well. I have no idea if I'll get to see anyone while I'm here, aside from my family. I'm already sick of the storm coverage. They've hyped Isabel to the point that if it isn't an earth-shattering cataclysm of a storm, people will be disappointed. They're all going to be at home, waiting to be impressed, and if all we get is some rain and a little wind, people will complain about the time and money lost. OTOH, if it flattens everything in its path, I'll feel better being stuck out here in Bowie instead of being caught downtown out in the open. Maybe I'll get out to Virginia on Sunday to see some people. Who knows? Virginia as we know it may not be there by Friday morning.

Since my father hasn't gotten his cable modem installed yet, I've been reduced back to dial-up. I hate "narrowband" Internet access.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

I've gone back to school

I'm back at Georgetown University today, the first stop on my five-day vacation trip to DC. After a dull early-morning bus ride here, I hauled my luggage across campus to my father's office in St. Mary's. Those of you who lived there once would not recognize the halls -- they've gutted and renovated it into an entirely new office space. My dad gets a cubicle at one end of the 4th floor, where the ceiling is mostly exposed concrete and steel beams. I had a bacon cheeseburger at the Tombs for lunch and then I checked out the new addition to campus, the southwest quad. I took some pictures that will be online as soon as I can get them uploaded to the laptop. It looks good from the outside, and architecturally fits in with New South and Village C. I couldn't get inside, of course, so I can't speak for what the dorm rooms themselves look like, but it's a quiet corner of campus with a brand-new two-level dining hall. Apparently the students walk up Tondorf Drive (the road behind Harbin and Village C) to classes on the upper part of campus, instead of climbing the Village C steps and walking through Red Square. And they trip on the stairs in the cafeteria while carrying their food from one level to the other looking for friends. Now I'm sitting in the Leavey Center lounge surfing wirelessly on the campus network, which is blessedly open to the public. My firewall "shields" are up, however; there's no telling what manner of worms and viruses are buzzing around me. Speaking of which, MSNBC is reporting that another Blaster-like worm is about to spread. Just in time to foul stuff up with a hurricane coming. This should be a fun couple of days.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Gadgets to drool over

This article over at explains why none of the cool stuff is out on the show floor at TECHXNY/PC Expo. Apparently the top manufacturers show their new toys to the press in closed evening events, and the public can't attend. I wouldn't be surprised if there's only one tech show in New York next year, and I'd be even more surprised if it were worth attending, even for free. For all my troubles today, I have magazines, a hat, and some sore legs. I would have liked one of those Siemens phones at the top of the page, though.

My old cell phone is dying (though it's been behaving for a few days) so I broke down and bought a new one at an AT&T store today. I got the Nokia 3595 mostly because it was free after a rebate. It's a GSM/GPRS phone, so I'm expecting to have some issues with the network now, but I'm hoping it will be a good choice. TDMA is on the way out, and GSM is the wave of the future. I'm on the hook with AT&T for another two years now, but I don't have any complaints about their service or the network so far. My old phone was the Nokia 3360, and the only reason I bought that one was for the infrared function that I never used. It cost me $30 and withstood almost two years of moderate use, so if the 3595 lasts as long, it'll be a good choice.
I'm coming to you live from PC Expo at the Javits Center, and you're not missing anything. This show gets smaller every year. Hardly anyone brought any hardware to the show, and the biggest crowds are at AMD's booth where they're giving away coffee and at a DLT booth with free popcorn. I'm writing this from the Olympus booth while watching a camera demo and borrowing Internet access from HP's booth next door. As usual, the best freebies are from the magazine racks out front. I've got plenty of reading material for my bus trip tomorrow. It's just sad that the vendor turnout and hardware selection is so sparse. This industry desperately needs an economic upswing.

And you thought your job was bad

Popular science has posted their list of The Worst Jobs in Science. The jobs themselves are terrible, disgusting, and just plain boring in some cases, but while you enjoy the descriptions, don't miss the icons that conveniently code the jobs for you. Where else would you find astronaut, barnyard masturbator, and stool sample analyzer on the same list?

Monday, September 15, 2003

This is how I spend my vacation?!

I am trying to figure out some formatting for the blog itself. I'm not ready to abandon this template entirely, so I'm just playing around with the links and trying to eliminate some of the whitespace at the top. The "what's Phil listening to" section is gone, since I've stopped using WinAmp in favor of the Quintessential Music Player and I haven't looked for a BlogAmp plug-in for it yet. The real problem is that I don't remember many of the tricks I learned back in the early days of HTML coding. Once upon a time, I designed web pages for a living, until it became the domain of people with visual arts skills instead of hard-core coders like myself. Futzing with Blogger templates involves much HTML manipulation, and I just don't have the time or inclination to worry about it. In the end, I'll probably just dump the template and use a new one.

Friday, September 12, 2003 - Page2 - The best time of your life

The Sports Guy's latest column is up on ESPN's Page 2, entitled "The best time of your life." He spent much more time playing dorm games his freshman year than I did, but it still brought back lots of memories. My freshman buddies and I played dorm room horse with a closet-mounted plastic hoop and foam ball, played catch in the hallways, and generally made fools of ourselves. The lacrosse players on my floor were far more destructive, and I vaguely remember some sort of contest involving cafeteria brownies and the hallway wall, ending with a chocolate mess of frosting and crumbs. Back then, it wasn't a good weekend for them unless it ended with the lounge locked up until they cleaned up the mess.

Those were the days.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

I'm sitting in on Gene Weingarten's weekly chat on the Washington Post web site, and someone posted this link about badgers. I'm not sure what it's about, but it's funny in a stupid way. I'll be hearing the "mushroom, mushroom!" bit in my head the rest of the day.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Today was my fourth New York City Century bike ride. It was my second time riding the full 100 miles, and this year went much better than last year's 12-hour debacle that ended at dusk as two weary riders (James and myself) straggled into Central Park to find the organizers packing up all the food and supplies. This year, I started at 6:20 AM from the park, crossed the Brooklyn Bridge just after sunrise (the sun on the bridge and Lower Manhattan may have been the most beautiful thing I saw all day), and got to the first rest stop at Prospect Park by 7:30. Last year, James and I started an hour later, took our time all day, and paid for it with our late finish. This time, I covered the 20-mile distances between rest stops in about 1 1/2 hours each. I got to Canarsie Pier at 9:10, Alley Pond Park at 11:20, and Astoria Park at 1:10. It took me about an hour and 45 minutes to get to Van Cortlandt Park from Astoria, only 17 miles away, but that time was lengthened because of the slow crossing of the Triborough Bridge. Climbing and descending the bridge path's stairs and negotiating the narrow path took about 30 minutes, but it was a good relaxing start to that leg of the ride. Last year, the route in the Bronx was longer, so leaving the Van Cortlandt Park rest stop we had 20 miles of bike paths and steep hills before we got back to Manhattan and a long coasting descent on Riverside Drive. This year, the organizers wisely eliminated about 9 miles of bike paths and changed the exit from the park so that we went straight to the Riverdale hills. After 90 miles, the hills weren't much fun, but they weren't as difficult as I remembered them from last year. My ride ended with a long coast down the east side of Manhattan, on the newly reopened Harlem River Greenway. When I pulled into Central Park at 5:05 PM (total ride time, including rests, was 10 hours 45 minutes) I had hoped that triumphant fanfares would play along 110th St. Unfortunately, the orchestra wasn't there, so I had to settle for music in my head instead. I hung around the finish for about 40 minutes, chatting with a few people I knew and enjoying a few more snacks. Eventually I realized that all good things must end, and I went home just before 6 PM.

Now my legs hurt, my ass is sore, and I'm sure I'll feel like crap tomorrow. But right now I'm still on an endorphin high that won't quit. I can't wait for next year's Century, and I'm seriously thinking about some long rides on Long Island in October. I'm definitely in for the Tour de Bronx this year; I had a great time on that ride two years ago.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Let's try using a title!

If I took the time to use all the Blogger features, this could be one heck of a blog. This time, I'm trying titles.
I've changed the domain pointer of to point to this blog, instead of my primary home page. There's not much there worth looking at anymore, and this is the page I want people to see. Now I need to fix my template to use the old link and put a link to my Webshots page on the side as well. Why am I writing this? Because I feel a need to update with only the most mundane information possible.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

My friend Jessica has started her own blog. It's much more interesting than this one. Check it out, and tell her I sent you. Then tell me, because I'd love to know that someone other than me reads this thing.

Monday, September 01, 2003

This week's New Yorker has an article on the past, present, and future of New York City's water supply. In case I didn't have anything else to worry about (finances, blackouts, terrorist attacks), now I can add the water supply to my list. The two main water tunnels are so old and decrepit that they may be leaking or ready to break, but the shutoff mechanisms are so old there's no way to shut them off to check them. City water officials are afraid that if they shut off the supply to check the tunnels for leaks, they won't be able to open the tunnels again. And any sort of break or serious damage to either tunnel would mean that most of the city would be without water for several years. Yes, that's years, not days or a week or two. There's a third tunnel under construction, with modern valves and cutoffs, but it won't be ready until 2020 at the earliest. On the bright side, I was fascinated as always by the subterranean design of this city. There's almost as much complexity below ground as there is above it. And I think that it would be difficult for terrorists to damage something that far underground. I'll use my worrying energy to focus on more blackouts, subway disasters, and other airline-related incidents.

Last night we enjoyed Memphis' best barbeque for dinner. We had ribs, pulled pork, chicken, and baked beans from Corky's, via the magic of mail order. I supplied corn salad, and our friends who did most of the cooking also made macaroni and cheese and biscuits. And we had Corky's fudge pie for dessert. I ate way too much but it was impossible to hold back. Today we're taking it easy. It's raining, so I doubt we'll even go out for groceries. And it wouldn't feel like Monday if I didn't spend most of my day in front of the computer.