March 2004 Archives

ptui_3.jpgVery few were readily available on the open market. The embargo in effect by our parents made their import quite difficult. On occasion, the inspector (my mother) would act on suspicions and and swoop in. We weren't left with much choice. We had to institute our own secret Weapons of Personal Destruction (WPD) program.

WPD were fairly common back then. Just about every kid on the block had or used them at one time or another. The goal was simple � inflict pain and suffering on the other guy while he/she was trying to do the same to you. This was a common aspect of our play activities. If the super-power (parents) wouldn't let you have an open program of acquisition, you had to develop your own.

Our program consisted of three lines of weapons:

Dirt Bombs � Crude, but effective. A clod of dirt about the size of a walnut, hopefully pretty dry to enhance the smoke effect when it struck a person or the ground near them. The mobile launch system was your own arm, a rather crafty solution as it masqueraded as a normal limb during non-aggression periods. Thrown with the proper accuracy, it would strike the opponent and cause a modicum of pain and a very satisfying puff of faux explosive smoke. A secondary result was a nice dirt stain on their clothing.

Pea Shooters � Perhaps the original �you'll take your eye out with that thing� WPD. The ammunition was dried peas. They either came with your store-bought (�No Mom, I spent my allowance on candy!.. really!�) shooter or by the bag from the supermarket. The delivery system was a large diameter straw. This was not easily acquired in those days as plastic straws for thick shakes were not the norm. Most straws were made of paper and of small bore, but a commercially acquired shooter could last several years if hidden properly. All you has to do was put a handful of dried peas in your mouth and shoot one (or if you were really good � two) peas at your opponent. At close range these things really stung. They were easily capable of temporarily blinding a person in one eye and inducing real cries and tears (as I found out from painful experience).

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Rubberband Guns � Sophisticated but poor accuracy. The ammunition was a piece of cardboard about 3/4� x 1/4�. The delivery system was wooden gun with a rubberband attached at the front. (see illustration) Stretch the rubberband to the back of the gun and loop it over the notch at the rear. Slip the cardboard bullet between the two strands of the rubberband. Use your thumb to push the band off its notch, propelling the cardboard bullet at your opponent. This was a tricky WPD. The cardboard bullet had a tendency to slice off to the right or left like Frisbee and was very susceptible to wind. This was primarily an indoor WPD. Modern versions of this WPD have dropped the cardboard and simply shoot rubberbands.

I have to make another confession here. I never made one of these things. My supplier was a traitor to the superpower cause (no he wasn't French..). He was my father. While building the upstairs bedrooms and adding the downstairs den, he rewarded our ineffective help with these clandestine weapons. We swore ourselves to secrecy. Now that he is safe from prosecution, the truth can come out.

Obligatory Cat Pics

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It's time for an obligatory blogger's cat picture posting.

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Here is Muriel showing off her luxurious tail. She's just getting past the chasing phase and may actually now realize that it belongs to her.

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Callie continues to feel superior to the young whipper-snapper.

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Can't skip Muriel's extremely hairy paws. These make for some very humorous trips across the hardwood floors when she tries to run. Shades of Soupy Sales' pet, Black Tooth...

Off On a Geek Bender

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geek_1.gif The first step is to recognize the problem. Thats not too difficult for me. Ive been there before. This time the symptoms were just a bit different. Id decided to investigate switching over to Linux a few weeks ago. I picked up a couple of Linux distributions and figured Id load them on new partitions on my hard drive and play a little. Yeah, a little

The first installation went okay but didnt recognize my scanner or my firewire printer so several hours of tweaking, downloading, reloading, and re-reloading went on over the next couple of days. Eventually, they were up and running. In between, the new email client had to be configured, the browser set up with all the spiffy extensions and plug-ins, and the graphics program deciphered to see if it could handle high-end digital photo printing - more hours at the computer.

Once that installation was running okay I moved on to the second. Ill spare you the gory details - more tweaking, arcane Windows network connections, learning foreign languages like SAMBA and CUPS, and deciding on dektop themes. Then it began to go downhill.

- I got new eyeglasses on Monday and immediately had this flash that they might look better with adhesive tape on them. I fought that one off.

- I laughed out loud at something the cats were doing yesterday and noticed a nasal-intake snort. I began to become concerned.

- I fell asleep last night with terms like grep, bash, and grok floating through my head. It was disconcerting.

- I got dressed this morning and noticed discomfort in my armpits. It was the belt around my pants waist. I got scared.

Im on my way back now. This is being typed in MS Word on my XP setup. Im going to the bookstore this morning and getting a new book to read. Maybe Ill even walk down to town.

Ill always have the geek lurking in the back of my psyche. I can live a productive life as long as I keep him under control. Its just a matter of recognizing the symptoms. I bet there is a Linux program out there that helps you keep track. I could just download it and compile in a few minutes. Then I could create a cool desktop icon for it.

See, Ive got this under control.

A Jug & An Urn

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A couple have opened a "boutique crematorium" called Vermont Blessings at their 200 acre dairy farm in the southeastern Vermont town of Guilford. With ecomonic pressure on small farms rising, they have decided on a rather unique supplement to their business.

I can't help looking at another side of this. If these folks need to diversify their business in order to make ends meet, let's go all the way.

You see, it's sugar mapling time in Vermont now and this would bring a whole new meaning to "grandpa's maple syrup". Yup, just bring poor old grandpa and a few buckets of sap to Vermont Blessings (& Sugar Shack) and you could walk out with a jug and an urn. Nice way to remember him too, drizzled (not sprinkled) over your pancakes in the morning.

(Thanks to Michael P. for the heads-up on this.)

Back in the Saddle Again

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tux.jpgI spent the last week or so migrating my computer from Windows XP to Linux, which meant spending an inordinate amount of time twiddling with things like video, scanner, and printer settings; setting up email software; and getting used to a new browser. I'll spend the next month or so seeing to how things are done in Linux and figuring out of there is anything I used to be able to do in XP that I can't do here.

I hedged my bet by making a dual-boot system where I can still get into my old Windows XP drive if I need to, but even that can go away soon as Linux has the capacity to run Windows software such as MS Office and Photoshop under emulation.

The cool thing about Linux is that just about all the software is free- word processors, image editing, you name it. In fact, ALL of Linux is free. The Linux open source concept means that thousands of programmers work on their own to develop and refine the Linux operating system and all of that free software as a cooperative effort.

The bad thing about Linux is that just about all the software is free - without the commercial incentive to produce polished installation packages, etc., it can be quite an adventure getting the software up and running. This is complicated by the fact that there are several "distributions" of Linux and you have to find the software bundle that has been packaged for your version. It takes me back to my earlier days of computing. Linux still leans toward the geek end of the spectrum, which may be it's appeal to me now.

The advanatage to all this is that Linux is incredibly stable and bug-free. Systems have been known to run non-stop for years without crashing and viruses are virtually unheard of. Since I no longer have a professional need to be married to Microsoft, and can't ake advantage of getting software through my job, this is a good solution.

Besides, Microsoft doesn't have a cool mascot like Tux, the Linux penguin.

Ring of Fire

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ring-o-fire.gifIt seems that the Cash family has objected to the co-writer of the famous Johnny Cash song Ring of Fire agreeing to have it used in a Preparation H ad. The family feels that the song would be "demeaned" if used this way.

Perhaps they are afraid that it would become the butt of jokes.

Too bad - it would have made a really funny ad. Negotiations are still in progess. I hope that their distress can be eased and they can be made more comfortable with the idea. Maybe more money will salve the pain.

It may still work out in the end.

Let's hope.

Thank you, Gregg, for pointing me to this story.

Muriel's New Noise

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the_girls.jpgOur kitten Muriel is getting bigger every day. No longer the little thing she was when we brought her home in October, she is now almost as long as her older sister Callie.

But up to now one thing has stayed the same - Muriel's voice, or lack thereof. She doesn't meow, howl, growl, or cry. She just opens her mouth and this little aspirated noise leaks out. It is best described by having you do a short sample yourself. Say the word "kick", but leave off the "ck" sound at the end. This aspirated "ki.." signals everything from "Hey there!" to "I'm hungry" to challenges to Calllie over food.

Not so loud that it is annoying, the noise can easily be ignored if the situation warrants. This has been a good thing because Muriel loves to talk. Start preparing dinner and she saunters into the kitchen with a stream of "ki..s". Her fixation with the bedroom ceiling fan would be a problem if the stream of utterances that she unleashes while standing on her hind legs had any volume or power, but fifteen "ki..s" in a row just end up sounding silly when you realize that she is trying to threaten an electrical device.

Yesterday she came up with a new sound. Being consistent, this is not a yowl or a mew. It is more like the sound of a door that is just beginnng to need oil on its hinges - a short, soft, plaintive, high pitched, whimper - sort of an "eep" without the "p" on the end. It comes out in twos and threes when she is perturbed or excited. She gives it to Callie when she wants her to play but Callie doesn't want any part of it. She gave it to me today after she was expelled to her time-out room (under the couch) for losing her head and jumping up onto the bookshelf during a particularly enthusiastic chase session with her sister.

I hope that this is the end of her vocabulary development. She's just at the age where she might begin to talk back. I'd hate to have to head into that problem again. Corie spent an awful lot of time under the couch as a teenager and I think that she still resents it.

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