last modified: 2008-03-01; 2008-07-30





September 7, 2004:

Weather in San Jose/Milpitas/Silicon Valley -- 104 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade today.
Since that's about the same as last year, I guess September is regularly a hot month here....

August 2004: blog

  • This is a very good resource for quitting smoking.

July 28, 2004:

Many of the speeches at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) are not shown on the standard channels. If you're interested, the absolute best way to watch either of the conventions is via C-SPAN. They play the whole thing without moronic commentary (such as that provided by CNN and Fox) and WITHOUT COMMERCIALS!

The most important speech today, which you probably didn't see, was by Robert Kennedy, Jr. on the environmental threat posed by Bush and his administration. RFK Jr. is the president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, an organization dedicated to protecting American waterways and bodies of water.

Kennedy said in his speech that the Bush administration has promoted 400 changes that render some federal environmental laws unenforceable. He also said the Bush team has pulled back on Clinton administration moves against companies that were accused of illegally using old, coal-fired power plants and that gave millions to Bush and other Republicans in 2000.

Kennedy, in a speech in Alabama on Tuesday, said that the Bush administration is "treating the planet as if it were a business in liquidation" to allow "a few years of pollution-based profits."

You can read the transcript of Kennedy's speech here.

Further transcripts and videos are available at http://www.dems2004.org/podium.

June 29, 2004:

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating and complex disorder characterized by profound fatigue that is not improved by bed rest and that may be worsened by physical or mental activity. Persons with CFS most often function at a substantially lower level of activity than they were capable of before the onset of illness. In addition to these key defining characteristics, patients report various nonspecific symptoms, including weakness, muscle pain, impaired memory and/or mental concentration, insomnia, and post-exertional fatigue lasting more than 24 hours. In some cases, CFS can persist for years. The cause or causes of CFS have not been identified and no specific diagnostic tests are available. Moreover, since many illnesses have incapacitating fatigue as a symptom, care must be taken to exclude other known and often treatable conditions before a diagnosis of CFS is made.


Chronic myofascial (my-oh-fass-shall) pain (CMP) is a neuromuscular chronic pain condition with Trigger Points (TrPs) that can cause muscle weakness and dysfunction, and pain. TrPs can also cause extreme dizziness, migraines, buckling knee, clumsiness and calf cramps. Pains in localized parts of the body — the back, hands, neck and other areas — are a symptom of CMP Trigger Points.


Sciatica is pain along the large sciatic nerve that runs from the lower back down the back of each leg. Sciatica is usually caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve from a herniated disc (also referred to as a ruptured disc, pinched nerve, slipped disk, etc.). The problem is often diagnosed as a "radiculopathy", meaning that a disc has protruded from its normal position in the vertebral column and is putting pressure on the radicular nerve (nerve root). Any condition that causes irritation or impingement on the sciatic nerve can cause the pain associated with sciatica. The most common cause is lumbar herniated disc. Other common causes of sciatica include lumbar spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, or isthmic spondylolisthesis. Over-the-counter or prescription medications may also be helpful in relieving sciatica. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or oral steroids can be helpful in reducing the inflammation and pain.

June 21, 2004:

The X-Prize: Do we have a winner?

Private U.S. Rocket Plane Soars Into Space [Reuters, 6/21/04]

Private craft makes space history [BBC, 6/21/04]

SpaceShipOne descends to earth during the 

		historic flight beyond Earth's atmosphere, over the Mojave Airport in California, June 21, 2004. 

		SpaceShipOne, the first privately-funded rocket plane, flew to outer space and into history books on 

		Monday after blasting 62 miles above the earth, marking the world's first manned commercial space flight. 

		The flight marked the first time that a non-government spacecraft reached the altitude considered the boundary 

		between earth's atmosphere and outer space. (Jim Campbell, Pool/Reuters)

Full coverage at CNN

A baby green sea turtle is seen in this Feb. 27, 2004 file photo in Marathon, Fla. A global decline in sea turtle populations is threatening jobs, tourism and coastal economies, particularly in developing countries, the environment group WWF said Tuesday, May 24, 2004. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

June 8, 2004:

There's a little black spot on the sun today.

June 8, 2004:

Yahoo News Tech Tuesday: Flat-Panel TVs
LCD TVs may finally have a leg up on plasma displays. Digital projectors can turn a wall into a dream theater. Take a look at the Top 10 LCD monitors for sprucing up your desktop.

LCD vs. Plasma: "Plasma screens initially seem to be the better deal because they offer the best bang for the buck ... [but] the plasma degrades slowly over time (so you don't even notice it). LCD screens are immune to screen burn in and fade, which means they offer a significantly longer useful life than their plasma counterparts."

"engineers have [mostly] solved [the lag] issues [with LCDs], but consumers need to do their homework when buying a LCD TV. Many models currently offer response times of 25 to 30 milliseconds, but the best ones will refresh pixels as quickly as 16 milliseconds."

Sony 50" Grand WEGA™ LCD Rear Projection TV - $3,300
Sony 34" CRT TV[ KV-34XBR910] - $2,500
Samsung 30" Widescreen CRT [TXN3075WHF]- $ 800

May 29, 2004:

Yeti Sports! [flash games to waste your time]

May 28, 2004:

Median Home Prices Pass Half-Million Mark; Figure Reaches $520,000 In Bay Area

Bay Area home prices have crossed a new threshold with the figure reaching $520,000.
Source: San Jose Mercury News


News from the Field:

Security Update: Stolen Cisco Code Runs On Most Game Consoles!

In a startling revelation today, industry insiders admitted that Cisco's Proprietary IOS Software has been ported to Sony Playstation and X-Box game consoles.
This was learned after 800 MB of raw code was recently stolen from Cisco's San Jose Headquarters.
Apparently the new IOS allows administrators to manage Cisco devices via a "first person shooter" interface.
We discovered that "God Mode" could be accessed by entering the command: ccie

Cisco Unveils HFR!

Cisco unleashed the massively expensive CRS-1 on an unsuspecting populace today.
Heralding a new level in the arms race between Cisco and Juniper, Cisco easily takes first prize in the Carrier class router contest.
The HFR stands 7 feet tall, weighs 2300 pounds and can bench press 750 pounds. It has already
undergone field tests in Iraq where it survived a direct RPG hit and still could forward traffic at unprecedented rates.
The CRS-1 has a base sticker price of $450,000 but with options such as GPS navigation, Caterpillar tracks
and Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) system, it could exceed $1,000,000.

(FYI, internally HFR stands for Huge Fucking Router, as in "That's one HFR!" ).

Bush takes XTC, goes to rave

New York Times - 12 hours ago
"He was jumping around, blowing a whistle, and kept asking me if I had any chewy," says Alison, 19,
who danced with the President and his team of advisors at an unnamed club until 4am. "Rumsfeld gave me a kick-ass back rub."

Rumsfeld 'a bit tired' the next day but otherwise okay, say doctors CNN
Bush "satisfactory" after swallowing glow-stick Christian Science Monitor


May 17, 2004:

What's the deal with phones? Not cell phones, but regular phones.

All I know is that I bought a 900 MHz Panasonic phone (which is supposed to have good quality) and the answering machine quality has gotten steadyily worse and worse; now it's at the point that the messages are so "digitized" as to be incomprehensible. And the volume (even when you hit the "loud" button) has always been too low.

To buy a new one (or to buy almost anything electronic these days) you have to become a certified expert in everything about the technology just to make a decision.

I swear they make these things with planned obsolence. And "digital quality" is a joke. Guess what folks: analog has always been better quality. Just saying something is "digital" is meaningless. What's the sampling rate? What's the Hertz? If you've lived long enough, you can remember that phone audio quality was much better before the nation made the move towards digital connections using digital phones. E.g. tape answering machines were much clearer than the majority of digitial answering machines available today. But you can't buy tape answering machines anymore.

And I don't want to buy a 2.4 GHz phone: it will interfere with my wireless home network. But 900 MHz phones are getting more and more scarce. They're going to force you to upgrade to 5.4 whether you want to or not.

And what's with the single hole mic on phones? Instead of all the crap features they add to phones, I'd just like something with a quality mic and a quality earpeace and an analog volume control (intead of a two or three level soft-medium-loud button: it's always too low). And the audio range these new phones give you is pathetic.

The Cisco IP Phone is actually a good phone, that has audio quality through quality components (if the underlying network quality is good). And it has a volume control that actually goes from really quiet to really loud. Good simple design too. (unlike those garish 2.4 Ghz phones)

Cisco 7960 IP Phone:


The Perfect Phone:
- Wireless (900 Hz or 5.2 GHz)
- a traditionally shaped handpiece (such as the Cisco IP phones)
- full range audio, with full-range volume control
- integrated high-quality answering machine and speaker phone
- mute button on headset, mute button on base

This one is close, but's it still ugly and it doesn't have a mute button.

There are things I like about the Plantronics CT10 900 MHz Cordless Headset Telephone ....
Plantronics CT10 large image (zoom)
Plantronics CT-10 huge image (close-up of base module)

hears the headset I want: http://www.bit-tech.net/review/37/
Just get a combiner, then a 3.5 mm to 2.5 mm adapter? Is this possible?

April 26, 2004:

new entries:

RAM (memory types)

System Comparison : Dell 4600 vs. the Dell 8300
System Comparison : 8300 vs. Area-51
System Comparison : Dell 8300 vs. the Dell XPS
System Comparison : FragBox Pro vs. everybody

April 12, 2004: (some of these blog entries are just for me; bookmarks)
Windows Media Center alternative: "Beyond TV" ($60)
Subscribe IGN & gamespy package.

April 6, 2004:

Most popular page in my Eclectic Content subsite: pictures of Queen Victoria (victoria.html) with 12,689 hits since June 2002.

2nd most popular: A page on the history of Dungeons and Dragons (d_and_d.html), with 3,587 hits since July 2003.

Least popular pages include: a map of Brittany, Deiseil, and the Germanic language group.
Most visited page on lyberty.com: The Ogham Stone home page, with 17,770 hits since June 2002.




Date irrelevant:

Bilder - arekusu.de

sushi race (adult content)

Can't... stop... racing... sushi! Minimal beats... entrancing... causing me
to... powerslide puff-ah fish-ah! You know you've always wanted to
coast a piece of unagi around a hairpin at 120kph!

[from luke]

March something-or-other, 2004:

Have you heard of There? It's the virtual world that's better than the Sims. Well, the Army is having the folks at There recreate the entire world. If they open the There-World to civilians, I predict the birth of the second internet (that's how the first internet got started you know).

Speaking of virtual worlds and avatars... Adobe now offers a product for the creation of explorable environments, with a chat option. Adobe Atmosphere
here are some samples by students. See also atmospherians.com.


March 17, 2004:

If you ever find yourself on a dark country road in Ireland, bring along some salt, red thread, and a cross. That's what you'll need to protect yourself from "the other crowd."

Raidió na Gaeltachta [archives]

March 8, 2004:

Sony Adds Worm Support to SAIT Drives

March 4, 2004:

Just got back from my trip to India and New Zealand. Missing NZ already (post-trip blues, probably).

Ian Smith, I think, captures why you aren't going to see a lot of photos on my web site:

"Many years ago, when movies used to always have a supporting feature, I saw a documentary on Venice which featured a narrative written and performed by John Cleese. The film was a serious, rather turgid 'obvious filler' documentary that would have been instantly forgettable, save for one single commentary line that appeared without warning about ten minutes into the feature. In a scene that showed for the third time a shot of the local boats Cleese's dulcet tones said '..and oh look, more f***ing gondolas'. It brought the cinema audience to life, and today I feel I know how John Cleese felt as I take more and more shots of the local countryside that should probably be captioned '... and oh look, more f***ing mountains'!

The problem is that although the scenery is stunning, and subtly changing as [we] travel across the South Island, no photo can really capture what it's like to actually be here in the middle of it. A fellow traveller agrees, "I'm not showing anyone any pictures. It's pointless", he says, "I'm just going to tell them they have to come here to find out for themselves". "

By the by, this is a nice little personal "tip" sight (with photos!)

[ http://www.iansmith.co.uk/lotr/weblogs/images/NewZealand2003/Saturday6Dec/Small/ECCS3188.jpg ]

Monday, March 1, 2004:

GAS (petrol) in New Zealand -

Okay, so I got 22.66 Liters of Premium Unleaded for NZ$27.62 in Wanaka ... that's 1.219 NZD per Liter... to convert (british) Litres (liters) to US Gallons you multiply by x 0.2642*.. so.. (carry the one..mumble..over 4 decimal places...)
That's 5.986772 gallons for NZ$27.62, or US $19.20 (27.62 * exchange rate of 0.695) ...
that's $3.21 a gallon!
Can that be right? (USD$19.20 / 5.99 gal.s = USD$3.2053 per gal. )
Then there was tax ("NZ GST") added to that as well.

And we complain about $2.00 a gallon here in California...

* "convert US gallons to litres, multiply by 3.79. Litres to US gallons, multiply by 0.264"

According to this page, petrol costs in NZ rose almost 70% (from $1.32 to $2.23) from Dec. 1999 to Sept. 2000...

"Gas is sold by the Litre, which is just over an American quart. For those of you who want to get really technical, one U.S. gallon is 3.786 Liters. (Note that the US gallon, for some reason, is different than the British (Imperial) gallon.)"

gas petrol prices in New Zealand

News Article (extra.msn.new_zealand):

Petrol Prices Drop Again
14/02/2004 08:46 AM - NewstalkZB

Petrol prices have taken another downwards step.

Shell is taking a further two cents off the price of petrol and diesel with immediate effect.

It is the second reduction in just over a week.

Retail manager Mark Nobilo says the reduction is thanks to an easing of the cost of imported petrol together with the continuing strength of the New Zealand dollar.

The new price at most Shell service stations throughout the country will be $1.059  for 91 grade, $1.10.9 for 96 grade, and 59.9 for diesel.

1.059 NZ is currently about $ 0.736 USD, so that's 0.2642 gallons for 74 cents, or $2.78 for a gallon.
For 96 grade that's ... $2.83 per gallon.

in 1 US gallon, there's 3.785 Litres.
NZ$1.059*3.785 = NZD$4.008315 * (exchange rate of 0.695**) = USD $2.78
NZ$1.109*3.785 = NZD$4.197565 * (exchange rate of 0.695**) = USD $2.92

**update Mar. 9, 2004: ex rate is now at 1 NZD = 0.6743 USD

Monday, March 1, 2004:

So I'm in Queenstown, New Zealand, taking my first early evening of the trip, and I turn on the telie and watch LOTR The Return of the King win Academy Award after Academy Award.... How cool is that? I do have to say though, that they didn't thank everyone in NZ, 'cause they forgot to thank me...


There ain't no party like a hobbit party, 'cause a hobbit party don't stop!

http://www.lordsoftherhymes.com [click the MEET THE LORDS link, upper left-hand corner]

(note: this is probably only really funny to you if you're the kind of person who's read the Silmarillion...)

February 28, 2004:

Stayed at Green Gables Deer Farm in Methven. Very nice place, I'd definitely recommend it.

Thursday, Feb. 26, 2004

Went on the Lord of the Rings sites-around-Wellington tour today. Very nice. It's actually hard to capture any of the scenes from the movie, due to the nature of close-ups, editing, and digital effects, but the locations are nice to go to anyway. For example, the place used for Rivendell backdrops doesn't look like anything I can remember, but the treck through the park was great anyway. Beautiful, fascinating trees everywhere.

Here's a quote from a guidebook:
"Kaitoke Regional Park nestles in the foothills of the Tararua Ranges,
12 km north of Upper Hutt. The park contains some 2800 hectares of mature native forest...
The position of Rivendell is signposted from the entrance of the park and at the location
itself there is an interpretative display showing the construction and final result. Although most exterior shots were digitally rendered, the set constructors built a large set here, including the bedroom where Frodo recovered from his knife attack. The impressive site included purpose-built scaffolding which continued out into the river, along with a man-made river and waterfalls to suit the film-maker's
exacting requirements. [Water was run in a closed loop in the river so as not to mix with the natural environment. Everything was removed and the site left as it was found after filming wrapped. If not
for the signs, you'd never know scenes were filmed there.] The temperate rainforest and river made this beautiful area an ideal representation of Rivendell."

Sites in the tour: • Mt Victoria ('Get off the road' & 'Escape from the Nazgul');
• Lyall Bay (Dunharrow- Aragorn riding in and looking out from the Rohirrim encampment);
Upper Hutt -- Kaitoke Regional Park (Rivendell and the Fords of Isen); Harcourt Park
(Isengard Gardens & the Orcs pulling the trees down); Quarry used for Helm's Deep & Minas Tirith;
& Hutt River (scene with Aragorn being awoken/nudged by the horse; scenes of the Fellowship going down the River Anduin in the elf-boats).
We also drove by the Weta Workshop; the offices are surprisingly small.

Oh, and we also passed Peter Jackson's house on the water. Apparently, he's working on a remake of King Kong now. In his bay window (viewable as you drive past) there's a little toy of King Kong climbing (for some reason) the Effiel Tower....

I've been having film trouble... Yesterday, after I arrived, I took the cable car up to get the high view of Welligton and the Bay. I brought my video camera with me, but when I got up there I found out
I had forgotten to replace the film after the trip here. Today, I was trying to rewind my camera film (at the Rivendell park) and inadventantly exposed the roll....

Tomorrow: taking the Lynx ferry across to Picton, on the South Island. Renting a car, then on to Nelson...

February 25, 2004, Wednesday:

Upon arrival in Wellington, NZ:
The most gorgeous weather I can remember experiencing.
Hard to describe, but it's warm and cool at the same time.
I think it would be hot like California but
for the cooling winds blowing from the sea in all directions.
Sunny, but with beautiful clouds scattered about.

Feb. 24th (sort of), 2004:

I would have to say the airport in Kuala Lumpur is the nicest airport I've ever been in.
Very clean & airy... with large flat-screen tv's in the waiting areas.

The following things strike me in my jet-lagged delirium as I wait around the Kuala Lumpur airport:

• I just realized I've never worked out the deal with Singapore being down on the tip of Malaysia...

• On customs in Kuala Lumpur: "Trafficking in illegal drugs carries the mandatory death penalty
in Malaysia.
• Sign on the Coke machine: "CHUP! Coca-cola"
• Written Malaysian looks a little like I'd imagine Klingon would look like if it was written with English letters.    Growl the following:


(No Smoking)




(Boarding Time)

Saturday, February 28, 2004:

Drove down the coast (actually, my driver took me), 58 kilometres (about 37 miles) from Chennai/Madras on the Bay of Bengal, to stop for lunch at Fisherman's Cove (the Taj), then on to Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram).


The Monuments:
This group of sanctuaries, founded by the Pallava kings, was carved out of rock along the Coromandel coast in the 7th and 8th centuries. It is known especially for its rathas (temples in the form of chariots), mandapas (cave sanctuaries), giant open-air reliefs such as the famous 'Descent of the Ganges', and the temple of Rivage, with thousands of sculptures to the glory of Shiva.

Thursday, February 19, 2004:

Staying at the TAJ COROMANDEL, Chennai.
"A Taj Luxury Hotel. Unit of: Oriental Hotels Limited. INDIA's first. SOUTH ASIA's finest."

Hotel Laundry (comes back ironed, folded, and with a rose on top)
5 shirts, 1 trouser, 2 "under pant", 2 socks pair: 890 Rupees = $19.90 USD


Warning Label On Beer In India:


Rs = INR = Indian Rupees

1 lahk = 100,000 Rupees (written as, for example, "Rs. 0.96 lahks")

(laksa in Sanskri means 100,000)

car price : starting around 4.00 lahks, so that would be about $9,122

newspaper: Rs. 3.20
large bottled water: Rs. 12
Pepsi : Rs. 35

So a basic evaluation of VALUE (similar buying power, when compared to the cost of US goods) yields

3 Rs = $0.25 value
12 Rs = $1.00 value

So 1 US Dollar buys you about $3.50 worth of buying power. (given an exchange rate of 1 Rs. = $0.023; i.e. 7 cents gets you 3 rupees, or a quarters worth of buying power.)

February 1, 2004:

Okay, I've booked the tix. Check it out: The Great Circle Trip

January 28, 2004:

"Come explore Middle Earth"

New Zealand Tourism Board (NZTB) --> now at http://www.newzealand.com/

NZ Ministy of Tourism

The Train Site

money calculator

travel agents

other info : location map

building a Make Your Own LOTR Tour site (okay, it's really just a place for me to collect notes for my trip); includes more links, etc.

The Motley Fool Introduction to Indexes: blah blah blah [could match the] S&P 500 by simply investing in the Vanguard 500 Index Trust mutual fund.

January 27, 2004:

Can someone please explain to me why I pay $50 a month so I can get 70+ cable channels with 50% commercials on most of those channels? The worst offenders (in terms of total time spent playing commercials) are MSNBC and the Discovery Science Channel. Actually, the Discovery Science Channel changed its name to just "The Science Channel".
They should have changed their name to "The Discovery Commercial Channel".

What makes it worse is that for every commercial break, at least 30 seconds (one slot) to a minute (2 slots) is spent playing a commercial FOR THE STATION YOU ARE ALREADY WATCHING. Jesus, why do they have to advertise the same station I'm watching already? "We interupt this program to encourage you to watch another program, which we will interupt to advertise another show, maybe even the show you're watching now!" If they want to get me to watch another one of their shows, just play the ad for the other show ONCE AN HOUR. Not every fricken commercial break! (Bastards.)

Don't they see the irony of playing commercials for other commercials? Yet we still plop down our money. We pay for the privilege of watching commericals. Great scam. I'm not doing it anymore. Call me when I can pay only for stations with no commercials. Or at least commercials once an hour, like on PBS (non-commercial? Yeah, right.)

And don't get me started on those bottom-of-the-screen branding adds, which are getting bigger with more movement all the time. I can't count how many times I seen key parts of a program (like subtitles) obscured by station identificaiton and advertising crap.

January 26, 2004:

Interesting report from the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer today [episode #7850] ; new report (published in Science magazine) states that cancer causing elements are so high in farmed salmon (as opposed to open-water "wild" salmon) that people should not eat it more than once a month. For salmon farmed in Europe, this recommended period is increased to once every four months.

"A top scientific journal recently published a study that farm-raised salmon contained high levels of chemical contaminants. Eighty-six percent of fresh salmon sold in the U.S. is farm-raised, mostly imported from Chile and Canada. Shoppers ... can [usually] choose between wild salmon, which swims freely through Northwest rivers to the Pacific Ocean, and those farm-raised breeds. "
" The study in Science magazine was the largest of its kind. It analyzed two tons of farm salmon for 14 different organic contaminants, including PCBs and dioxins, which can cause cancer. It compared levels in those fish from more than 50 farms in eight regions of the world, to contamination levels found in wild salmon. It concluded farm salmon had ten times the level of contaminants of wild salmon. And eating farm salmon can increase one's risk of getting cancer."

"DR. DAVID CARPENTER: 'Our recommendation for the average consumer eating farm salmon is not to eat more than one meal a month ... unless you're willing to increase your risk of cancer.' "

"Study co-author Dr. David Carpenter says some European farmed salmon should be consumed only once every four months, and he especially advised females to reduce consumption, as dioxins and PCBs are known to interfere with the developing fetus. "

"The industry says consumers themselves can reduce risk by cooking farmed salmon before eating it, and removing the skin, where much of the contamination is concentrated. "



Also saw a report a month or two ago about a local (bay area) doctor who diagnoses a form of exhaustion as coming from high mercury levels in fish.

However, industry sites and the American Heart Association claim FDA statistics show that mercury levels in salmon are so low as to be "ND" (not detecable). [See the Amercian Heart Association page.]


Another odd news story found today [source: the Newshour "extra" website]
"Former President Clinton sent only two e-mails while in office

Out of the nearly 40 million e-mails that will be archived in the Bill Clinton presidential library, only two were sent from the former president himself.

One was sent to former Ohio Sen. John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth. Staffers helped Clinton send the e-mail to the space shuttle while it was in orbit. The commander in chief praised Glenn for returning to space after 40 years.

The other e-mail, which may not even count, was a test message to check to see if the president knew how to send e-mail.

"He's not a techno-klutz. I don't think President Bush sends e-mails, either," said Skip Rutherford, president of the Clinton Presidential Foundation, which raises money for the library. "Most of the decisions in the Oval Office are made through decision memos," he said."



NASA's second Mars rover, Opportunity, scored 'an interplanetary hole-in-one' by safely landing inside a shallow impact crater, coming face to face with the first exposed bedrock ever seen on the Red Planet, mission scientists said on January 25, 2004.

Spirit, the NASA rover than landed on Mars January 3rd, was having some software problems. "On Wednesday, January 21, Spirit was preparing to run its Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT), a grinding device that removes dust and weathered rock, on exposed fresh rock, when the robot came to a screeching halt. The leading theory is that the robot suffered a breakdown in software that controls file management of its memory." Shouldn't have used Windows. "Spirit mission manager Jennifer Trosper said the team may try to access that flash memory tomorrow, where scientific and photographic data is stored, to do a health check. The day after, she said, they may try to delete some files, believing an excess of data in memory may be part of the problem. "


I'm all for Bush's announcements about going to Mars and money for electric cars. But it's clear he can make this announcements because they're so far off, he doesn't actually have to do anything to work towards those goals. In other words, he gets political credit for committing to the goals, and no political backlash by having to put up money towards those goals.

Check out these websites: www.space.com ; NASA.gov (nasa's got kind of a cool flashsite, if you're broadband-capable)

January 19, 2004:

Here's the deal on the immunizations I needed for India:

I had my tetanus booster shot (Td) in Feb. 2002, so I didn't need that.

Got a Hepatitus A shot (aka immune globulin [IG]);
an MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubela ; assumed to be my second lifetime dose) shot
a Polio shot
and a prescription for oral Typhoid vaccine
(Viotif Berna ; 5 year protection; Typhoid Vaccine Live Oral Ty21a)

plus a prescription for an anti-Malaria (though you should still avoid mosquitos; get DEET), and a prescription for traveler's diarrhea (just in case I accidentally drink the water, or eat a salad)

[UPDATE FEB. 6]: If you get the oral Typhoid vaccine, don't make the same mistakes I did:
1. You need to keep it in the refrigerator, NOT the freezer. Putting it in the freezer will kill the live vaccine in the same way that leaving it out at room temperature will.
2. Start taking it no later than 2 WEEKS BEFORE you're going to leave for the at-risk country. Since the protection is supposed to last 5 years, there's no reason to wait; start taking it as soon as you get it. Note that the Malaria vaccination (which you start the week before you leave) will interfere with the oral Typhoid, so that's another reason to take the oral Typhoid early.

If you do mess up like I did though, you can get a Typhoid shot in the week before you leave. The shot (Typhoid Vi Polysaccharide Vaccine) is supposed to provide 2 years protection. However, waiting to get the shot reduces is potential effectiveness: you are supposed to get the shot "at least two weeks prior to expected exposure to S. typhi."

Interestingly, "no studies have been conducted ...to evaluate interactions or interference between the concurrent use of Typhim Vi and drugs (including antibiotics and antimalarial drugs), immune globulins (Hepatitus A), or common traveler's vaccines." In other words, they don't know if any of the other drugs will become less effective, or make the Typhoid vaccine less effective. Also the drug "has not been evaluated for its carcinogenic potential, mutagenic potential, or impaiment of fertility. It is not know whether Typhim Vi can cause fetal harm..." I thought all those tests were required in this country? [source: prescription information sheet]

Effectiveness: "3,454 subjects were vaccinated in Katmandu, Nepal to test the efficacy of this vaccine. The overall protective efficacy was determined to be 74% during 20 months of post-vaccination follow-up. Correlation of vaccine-induced antibody levels with subsequent efficacy, or levels that will provide protection have not been determined. Immunogenicity studies have shown that a single dose produces a four-fold increase in antibody levels in 88-96% of subjects within 1 month post-vaccination. "

Addtionally: "It gives protection in 83% to 98% of adults and children over the age of 2 years." (In other words, the vaccine gives no increase in antibody levels in 2 to 17 percent of people who receive it.) [source]

January 18, 2004:

Apparently, when people from the US go over to India for work related travel, the Indians go through some trouble to make sure that the visitors feel welcome and involved. But it doesn't seem to work in the opposite direction (for Silicon Valley). Here's what my company web site says:

So you’re visiting from India, and everyone in San Jose -

  • Works too much
  • Does not have time for social events
  • Seems pre-occupied with sleep/family/work
  • Cannot take you around to see the sights

We have tried to make a list of web-links and resources to make your time here more enjoyable...

This is followed by list of links for Transportation, Shopping, Sight-seeing, and so on, including links to local Hindu Temples and a local "Indian Movie Theatre" (sic)...
This just reinforces the perception of Silicon Valley folks as self-involved, overworked, anti-social, and just generally flaky.

January 13, 2004:

Beware the dreaded forest brigand of India!

I'm going to Chennai, India in a couple of weeks for business (to train some contractors). While reviewing the U.S Dept. of State Consular Info Sheet for India, came accross this tidbit, which merited its own section:

"CRIME IN KARNATAKA AND TAMIL NADU: For two decades, the forest brigand Veerappan has engaged in serious criminal activity, including abductions and murders, in the forested border areas between the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. U.S. citizens planning to enter these forested border areas should consult the Forest Department and local police authorities regarding security conditions."

date irrelevant:

DVD Regions

January 12, 2004:

I'll go on the record and say I thought The Last Samurai was great. Catch it before it leaves the theatres.

On that theme, here are the Precepts of the Samurai, and some background.
For more, check out The Book of Five Rings.

I've been reading The Nobility of Failure (Tragic Heros in the History of Japan) by Ivan Morris. Funny name, sure, but an interesting book on the historical "failed heros" of Japan.

January 10, 2004:

Hey, if you haven't seen it before, it's new to you, right?


January 1, 2004:

This is interesting:
a peak inside the PS2 manufacturing plant.

mirror site

Die fertigen Hauptplatinen. = The finished motherboards.

EE = Emotion Engine
GS = Graphics Synthesizer (The 150 MHz Graphics Synthesizer serves as the PS2's GPU, or rasterizer.)

more tech specs on the PS2

December 30, 2003:

Link d'jour: Michi Online; A Journal of Japanese Arts

December 24, 2003:

About font sizes in web design & web browsers.

As an example, the page you are currently reading uses the following style definitions:

p { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 95%}
a { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; color: #FFFFCC; font-weight: bold}
/* the size for "a" tags should be inherited from the "p" tags */
.small { font : xx-small Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif }

December 22, 2003:

Today is the first day of Winter. Happy Winter Solstice!
The days will start being longer now (where "day" equals the opposite of "night").

Created a Bible entry for Eclectic Content.

December 17, 2003:

Meet the real star of Lord of the Rings - a 1,600-box server farm.

Got me wondering how they got the processors to run at "teraflop speeds"....

FLOPS are floating-point operations per second.

To get processors to run at teraflop speeds, you apparently need a
"scalable multicomputer architecture, which uses many microprocessors together
to solve a single problem".

The pentium 4 processor (when scaled to 1 GHz clock freq) runs at about 300 FLOPS.

megaflop: A million floating point operations per second
gigaflop: A billion floating-point operations per second
teraflop: A trillion floating-point operations per second

"The smartest supercomputer now in use is capable of only teraflop
speeds, which is trillion operations a second"

"Scientists have begun to envision computers operating at petaflop speeds."


December 16, 2003:


M-16 May Be on the Way Out


Dec. 15, 2003

Still working on updating "Learn to Sing Sakura Saku" (as a silly exercise in brushing up on my Japanese).

Dec. 11, 2003

At 12:03 PM 12/11/2003 -0800, Meredy wrote:
"For those of us who carry an Aquafina bottle with us at work everywhere we go and maybe even give floor space at home to a bottled water dispenser, there's a lot to think about here."

Good one.
Aquafina is essentially "tap" water that is treated through reverse osmosis (RO).
(Probably 2-pass RO.
RO removes approximately 98% of dissolved solids (sodium ions, calcium ions, chloride ions, etc.) from the water source.)

The biggest irony is that "many consumers think nothing of paying three times
as much per gallon of bottled H2O as they do for gasoline."

So much for the cars of the future that run on water ;-)

But I think the main factor for most people is convenience.
Which is why
"According to a report recently released by the California Department of Conservation (CDOC),
more than one billion water bottles are ending up in the state's trash each year."
(Just because we put the bottles in the recycling bin doesn't mean they're all getting
recycled either. See article.)

Decoding the Aquafina label:
"Purity Guaranteed" = If you can prove that this bottle of water isn't "pure", we'll refund your $1.25. Maybe. Define "pure."
(Note that aquafina.com defines "pure" in very scientific terms: "The smell of a baby's head, a white t-shirt fresh from the dryer....")

"Aquafina delivers a water so pure, we promise there is nothing but crisp, clean refreshment
in every bottle." = This sentence has no real meaning.

"Reverse osmosis for pure taste" = Note that it doesn't say "Reverse osmosis for water purity."

But I do think the tap water here [at work] has a "chlorinated" taste.

Prepare to feel old:

Reading: Child's Play
A bunch of today's youth rate classic computer games.

This article is extremely quotable. The best example:

"My line is so beating the heck out of your stupid line.
Fear my pink line. You have no chance.
I am the undisputed lord of virtual tennis.

[Misses ball]


" Oh, grab the umbrella. Those are cool.
but cool. "

"Brian: It's Princess Peach.
Kirk: It's a hooker."

"Kirk: I'm sure everyone who made this game is dead by now."

rebirth of hollywood?


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