Monday, January 31, 2005

End of January

Let's see, this is the month that gave us an ice storm which coated everything with half an inch of ice and pretty much paralyzed the area for several days; hard on the heels of that, we got several inches of snow; then day after day of subzero temperatures, including a couple of nights where it got down to worse than 15° below zero; and then another snowstorm which dumped a good ten inches of snow on us.

This is the most January-like January we've had in several years.

I love living in the Midwest. But native Midwesterner though I be, I've never gotten used to the winter weather in these parts.

Only Seven Planning Years Till 2012

The cycles of the Mayan calendar will come to an end in the year 2012. And so will the world as we know it.

Didn't I hear this on the final episode of The X-Files, too?



Near my home town over in Wisconsin, they've got a state game farm where they've got all sorts of animals. I remember going out there when I was a kid. It was like going to the zoo.

In later years (after I was grown up and gone) they got some buffalo at the game farm. These buffalo were in this large open pasture, surrounded by a fence. Though I heard from a friend of mine who worked at the game farm one summer that, if the buffalo really got riled up, that fence likely wouldn't have kept them in.

On this fence there was a sign, for the benefit of visitors:

Please Do Not Annoy the Buffalo

Well, duh.

Though can't you just imagine some adolescent slacker who was too stupid to read (or heed) the sign? Can't you just imagine his final screams? It would've been almost as good as Jurassic Park.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

And the Name of This Supper Club Is...

The other day, I was driving by a place where I occasionally eat. And I noticed there were two signs on the building. One read, "So-and-So's Dugout." And the other one read, "So-and-So's Supper Club."

And I thought to myself, so which is it? Dugout or Supper Club?

Actually, this is a phenomenon of the small-town Midwest which I've noticed for years. Often a supper club, bar, tavern, restaurant will not have a single consistent name. You'll see various signs posted on or around the establishment, and often these signs won't carry the same name.

That supper club down on the highway by the edge of town, with two signs on it... one sign reads Doc "n" Jo's. The other sign says The Blue Pheasant.

Or, more puzzling yet, one sign says The Blue Pheasant, while the other reads The Golden Pheasant.

So which is it? Blue or Golden?

Or then there's the restaurant which is styled on one sign as the Dew Drop Inn, and on the other sign as The West Side Cafe.

I even know of one eating place on a winding, twisting road over in western Wisconsin, that has two names on the same sign. In big letters above, it says The Hawk's Nest. On a little placard hanging right underneath it reads Whipoorwill.

Don't look for a reason. Don't look for an explanation. This is simply one of the enigmas of life in a small town.


Friday, January 28, 2005

What a Headache!

Yesterday toward the latter part of the morning, I came down with one of my wondrous, legendary headaches. At first I hoped it wasn't going to get worse: vain hope! So I did the only thing I realistically could. I canceled out of my afternoon commitments, got down what lunch I could with my headache-related nausea, and went back to bed. Spent the afternoon just lying there, with a damp washcloth over my eyes.

I've had these headaches ever since I was a kid. For more than forty years now. It's always on the same side of my head— always on the right side. When I get a headache, it feels like the right side of my head is lifting right off into the air. At its worst, it feels like railroad spikes being driven into the fissures on the right side of my skull.

And there's also often a sense of nausea that goes along with it. With a stripe of nausea running down the right-hand side of my throat.

I've never had it checked out (some other time we'll get into the disconnect between me and doctors) but it sounds like a migraine to me.

Actually, yesterday I was lucky. Usually when I get a headache, I wake up with it in the morning, and it hangs on for most or all of the day. Yesterday, like I said, it didn't overtake me until the latter part of the morning. And it let up by late afternoon, so that I was able to attend a committee meeting in the evening.

Though I was quite spaced out at that meeting. Feeling all spacey, loose, lassid, drifting. A rather pleasant feeling, actually, almost like being on something, this odd spaced-out mode that I often drift into in the aftermath of a headache. Though it's hardly worth going through all the pain to get there.

Aspirin, which is so effective for my other aches and pains, doesn't do a thing for my headaches. Nor any other pain reliever. Though extra strength Alka Seltzer will sometimes help somewhat with the nausea.

My headaches were at their worst back when I was in my twenties and thirties. Used to get them several times a month, and they were much more severe, too. Nowadays they strike only about once a month if I'm lucky, and the pain, though it's bad enough, doesn't begin to compare to the transports of agony of twenty years ago.

Oh well. At least I don't have to punch a time clock. Certain items on my schedule are penciled in on my calendar; as for the rest, as long as I get it done, I can do it at my own pace, and at a time of my own choosing.

And this morning I'm still feeling a bit spacey and loose and strung out. Fortunately, today looks like a not terribly hectic day. Busy enough, yes. But not hectic.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Revolving Foreign Trade Credit Debentures

I have no idea what revolving foreign trade credit debentures are. I have no idea whether there even is any such thing as revolving foreign trade credit debentures.

Years ago I made up the phrase "revolving foreign trade credit debentures" to indicate some vague dulldust technical topic which nobody but a policy wonk or a grey-haired news commentator could possibly be interested in. You know, somebody who's in contention for the Eric Sevareid Earache Severehead News Pundit Award of the Year.

(I remember, from back probably 35 years ago, Earache Severehead delivering some dull-as-dust commentary on TV in which he used the phrases "revolving non sequiturs" and "plutonium by parcel post." That latter doesn't seem quite so droll in this day and age.)

Anyhow, if you want to sound really up on the sort of current-events coverage that could put Sominex out of business, you can go around nattering and grommishing about "The G8 Nations Meet to Discuss Revolving Foreign Trade Credit Debentures." Or "Activists Gather to Protest Revolving Foreign Trade Credit Debentures."

Or how about "The Blogosphere Snarks and Chatters On about Revolving Foreign Trade Credit Debentures"?

The Gantry Launchpad Is One

Yo, listen up! My friend Casey Tompkins is celebrating his first blogiversary over at The Gantry Launchpad today. Go and wish him a happy blogiversary. Go and say hi. Go and put him over the 6,000 visit mark! :-)

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Clack-Clack Bird

The Clack-Clack Bird
Several years ago I had this nightmare, and it was one of the most terrifying dreams I've ever had. It was the nightmare about... the Clack-Clack Bird.

I was sitting in this room with a bunch of people, on a Thursday afternoon. It seemed like a classroom of some sort. And we were going to watch a movie. The film projector had been set up behind us, and in front of us, up on a stage, was the movie screen.

And then the projector started up. And there was some problem adjusting it, and there was harsh buzz of static over the sound system, and random flitting shapes and snow (like a dead TV channel) being projected up onto the screen.

And that was when it happened.

Because suddenly, up there on the movie screen, we could see this image of a horrible angry cartoon bird pacing back and forth. A surreal, patchwork cartoon bird, impatiently walking back and forth on the screen, in front of the flickering, shifting shadow-shapes and the random TV snow. The bird was puffing on a cigar. And it was mad. Mad! And the bird was making angry clicking and clacking noises, like wooden blocks being struck together; and the bird was making angry electric static buzzing noises, amidst the clicks and clacks.

And the room was filled with fear. We were all struck with horror, at this angry cartoon bird which had suddenly appeared up there on the movie screen.

The Clack-Clack Bird was pacing back and forth, jerky and quick, up on the screen, bzzzzzt, kzz'szzzzz! clack-clack-clack! And then suddenly, with a loud pop, the bird was no longer on the screen. No, now all of a sudden the Clack-Clack Bird was angrily pacing back and forth, back and forth, right there in the room with us, up on the stage. And the zzzzzzz, click-clack was no longer coming from the movie sound system, now the sound was live, right there in the room.

And we were all panicking at this angry cartoon bird which was now right there in the room with us, puffing away, buzzing, clacking, back and forth, jerky, quick, angry, filled with mad random rage. And some people were getting up out of their seats like they were going to flee. Only then the Clack-Clack Bird commanded us, amidst its random electric static buzz and clacking, that no one would leave the room.

And now our horror was redoubled, because we realized that none of us had the power to disobey. If the Clack-Clack Bird commanded us to stay in the room, we would stay in the room, no matter what.

No matter what! Now, pacing back and forth, back and forth, furious, clack, zzzzzzt, clack, the Clack-Clack Bird was telling us in its harsh radio-static voice that it was going to eat one of us. The Clack-Clack Bird was going to select one of us to eat.

And I was filled with fear. Not me! Not me!

And now the Clack-Clack Bird was commanding us, that every Thursday afternoon from now on, all of us would come back to this room. And the Clack-Clack Bird would be there, and each Thursday afternoon, it would select another one of us to devour.

And the horror of it was, I knew, I just knew, that I was going to obey. We were all going to obey. We had to. We had no choice. Each week, we would come back to this room, willy-nilly, in spite of ourselves. Drawn by the irresistible command of this angry pacing cartoon bird. Drawn back to the room, knowing that the Clack-Clack Bird was going to eat one of us. Drawn back, helpless and drenched in fear.

And then it came to me, as if in a word of knowledge, that this horrific bird was more ancient than we could imagine. For it was the Clack-Clack Bird which had wiped out the Swiss Lake Dwellers, many long thousands of years ago in neolithic Europe. The Swiss Lake Dwellers, gathered around the fire at night, had played at casting finger-shadows in the dark. And, forming just the right finger-shadow combinations, they had accidentally unleashed the Clack-Clack Bird, which then devoured the Swiss Lake Dwellers, one by one.

Now, thousands of years later, our movie projector had accidentally projected the correct sequence of flitting images to unleash the Clack-Clack Bird once again. And now we were under its power, and we could not disobey, and this horrible striding cartoon-image bird was going to eat us, one at a time...

(Picture of the Clack-Clack Bird, courtesy of my brother Steven)

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Monday, January 24, 2005

K-Meleon 0.9

I was writing the other day about the K-Meleon browser, a swifter, geekier, and virtually unknown cousin of the excellent Firefox.

Well, I just seen on Slashdot that K-Meleon 0.9 has just been released. Woohoo! Now if only I hadn't gone and repartitioned my hard drive so's I ain't got Windows on my computer no more...

Ben Schumin

Ben Schumin is an ordinary young twenty-something dude who works at Wal-Mart. He's got his own website, The Schumin Web, where he chronicles ordinary stuff. So how did Ben Schumin become something of a web celebrity? You'll be asking yourself this question, as you keep returning to Ben's site again and again and again and again...


Link Reciprocity Non-Policy

My blogroll is more or less a reflection of those blogs which I've got bookmarked in my browser. Most of them, blogs I visit regularly. Some of them, blogs where I sometimes leave comments. No, there's no neat, tidy principle or criterion behind my blogroll: some other time we'll get into what I think of those misbegotten hyper-rationalists who fondly imagine that everything in life either can or should be reducible to neat, tidy, principles or criteria.

Anyhow. I never ask anyone I've blogrolled to reciprocate, except perhaps in the occasional case where they state explicitly on their blog that if you link them, they'll link you. But I'm always happy if someone I've blogrolled does return the favor.

Likewise, if you'd like to trade blogroll links with me, drop me a line. Long as your blog doesn't unusually churn up my stomach acid, I'd be glad to do that quid pro quo thing.

Accidental Verbosity

Over the weekend I dropped by Jay & Deb's Accidental Verbosity. And instead of a blog, I was greeted with one of those generic search/portal sites, "Home Page for - Coming soon"...

Try the following popular searches:
  • Winter Vacation

  • Discount Travel

  • Ski Vacations

  • Cheap Flight

  • Personal Finance

  • Mortgage

  • Real Estate Investing

And I was like, "Oh, shit! What in the world has happened here?!"

Caltechgirl has word of what's going on. Jay says:
Could you do me a favor and let people know that we have discovered our blog is down and have a support request in to Hosting Matters? As far as we know, either the domain was hijacked, or Hosting Matters allowed exactly 2 days for a check to be mailed, get to FL, and be credited before pulling the plug after billing us on the 19th. Since that is not like them, I am assuming it's something worse.

FWIW we are in Boston at Arisia, I got told about the outage by my brother via cell, and I managed to get computer time in the internet room to confirm it. There's a blizzard that could drop as much as 25" and we'll be lucky to get home tomorrow. Hell of a time for site antics. So much for leaving the laptop home and taking a couple days off from the addiction.
Here's hoping that things get straightened out without undue complications, and that Jay & Deb are back soon!

Update: 2:45 PM Central time, I find Accidental Verbosity back up and running again. Whew!

Friday, January 21, 2005

The Unbearable Lightness of Living Right Next to the State Line

I grew up in a small town in southern Wisconsin, up north of Madison. Which meant we were safely situated in the bosom of Wisconsin, and nowhere near a state line. The Illinois state line is something like an hour's drive south of Madison, so throwing in the time it would take for us to reach and then get past Madison, we were probably almost two hours from Illinois.

When I was a kid, I always viewed Illinois as something of a den of iniquity. Wisconsin was not as squeaky clean as Iowa or Minnesota, but Wisconsin was an arcadia of virtue compared to Illinois. I mean, Illinois, lottery tickets, the Daley machine, Al Capone, tommy guns, street gangs, bookies and horse racing, a general atmosphere of shiftiness and graft, and condom dispensers in men's rooms at service stations along the tollway! (This was back in the days before most states had given in to the temptations of lotteries and casinos.) I could not imagine living in the sordid state of Illinois.

In fact, even less could I imagine living near the state line. One of the many quirky ideas my brother and I came up with when were kids was the notion of the horror of living right next to the state line. Imagine being able to see the state line right out your living room window, only a couple hundred yards away. Imagine pacing back and forth, back and forth, like a smoker deprived of his cigs; then peering nervously out the window with the thought that the state line is right over there, just across the road... There it is, just on the gravel shoulder of the road, or just slightly down into the ditch, and it's there just a stone's throw away, whether you're waking or whether you're sleeping. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. For the state line neither slumbers nor sleeps.

My brother and I used to think that living right by the state line could be enough to drive a person mad. I remember hearing or mishearing that it was illegal for a person under the age of 18 to cross a state line without parental permission: I had visions of young scofflaws who lived next to the state line, crossing back and forth in much the same the spirit as stepping on cracks on the sidewalk. Step on a crack, break your mother's back.

In fact, it seemed to me that crossing a state line was like incrementing some vast metaphysical odometer: cross over into Illinois, click, 192; cross over into Indiana, click, 193; cross over into Ohio, click, 194; cross back over into Indiana, click, 195. It was not to be done lightly, or too often. I could not imagine living next to the state line, and recklessly incrementing your state-line boundary-crossing odometer on a daily basis, click, click, click, click, click...

Now we move on to the early 1980s, when I lived for three years in Dubuque, Iowa. Dubuque, you understand, is right on the state line: on the eastern edge of Iowa, right on the River. (Dubuque was where I first learned that, along the Mississippi, when you say "the River," you mean "the Mississippi.") In fact, Dubuque is in the Tri-State Area: the Illinois-Wisconsin state line, if extended west across the Mississippi, would run right through Dubuque. I remember nervously examining city maps of Dubuque, to see whether this imaginary westward extension of that state line would run right through where I was living in Dubuque. Talk about a sense of horror and foreboding...

Somewhere in that same time frame, I spent a year living out in Washington State, the Cascade Mountains of south central Washington. I lived up into the mountains, just three or four miles off the Columbia River. Yes, the Columbia River: the state line between Washington and Oregon. Once again, I lived just a few miles from the state line. I remember I used to drive over to Hood River to do shopping, because there was no sales tax in Oregon.

Then, mid 1980s, I found myself living for two years in a river town in northwest Illinois. Yes, my front door was only three blocks from the River. I couldn't see the state line from my living room window: an apartment building across the street blocked my view. But from one corner of my front yard, yes, I could see the River. And the state line.

After that, I lived various places round about, but I did not live near the state line again until I moved here to northeasternmost Iowa, five and a half years ago. And now I'm really living on a razor's edge again. Because, you see, the Minnesota state line runs just two cornfields to the north of me. Once again, I can't quite see it from my living room window: buildings intervene. But if I step out into my front yard, I can see right into Minnesota. Just two cornfields away.

And Wisconsin isn't far, either. I live six miles west of town; the town is right on the River; and right across the River is Wisconsin. I've been told that on a clear day, if you know where to look, you can see the bluffs on the Wisconsin side of the River from my place. I'm not convinced of that, but I do know that from my house you can easily see the plume rising from the power plant over in Genoa, Wisconsin, not too many miles from here as the crow flies.

Yes, this is another Tri-State Area. Have you ever wondered how many "Tri-State Areas" there are in the US, in all? How many radio and TV stations across the country cheerfully report, day after day after day after drip-drip-drip-Chinese-water-torture day, on "Tri-State weather"?

I have never been to the American Southwest, where four states meet and the Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah state lines all come together in a single point. I've never been there, I don't think I could bear it. I don't know if out there they call it "Quad-State weather," or "Four Corners weather," or "Four Points weather," or what. I'm not sure I want to know. I remember many years ago reading a comic book story about these crooks who dumped a guy out of an airplane, aiming to land him right where those four states meet. Idea being, there'd be no way to prosecute the murder, because whose jurisdiction would it be in? Yeah, that sums up my feelings precisely. Except (criminals are always so stupid about these things, aren't they?) it turned out to be a federal case.

Well. Actually, these days, I've pretty well gotten used to living right next to the state line. I know people around here who have an Iowa mailing address and a Minnesota driver's license, or vice versa. In fact, I even know someone who was born in a house that used to stand right on the state line. Half of the house in Iowa, half of the house in Minnesota. Which state would you put on the birth certificate? Or if this were one of those state lines that also was a time zone boundary, how would you set the clocks in the house? Clock in the living room an hour earlier than the clock in the dining room?

I can hardly imagine it. Tick, tick, tick, tick... How can you come to lunch, when it's noon in the dining room, but still only eleven o'clock in the living room? Staring, staring at that invisible state line which cuts right across the oak floorboards in your house. Pacing, pacing back and forth, like a smoker deprived of his cigs; and, without even setting foot outdoors, running up insane totals on your metaphysical state-line boundary-crossing odometer, click, click, click, click, 1,919,032... 1,919,033... 1,919,034... 1,919,035...

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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Euclid's Fifth

Axiom 5 (Cf. Euclid's Fifth-- Postulate, Symphony, or Amendment): For every universe of discourse, and every paradigm not in that universe of discourse, there exists (a) none (b) at most one (c) one and only one (d) at least one (e) more than one (f) a countably infinite cardinality (g) an uncountably infinite cardinality of universes of discourse coincident with that paradigm, and parallel to the first universe of discourse.

The Commentary on Axiom 5: Choose one, (a) through (h), like picking up off the ground one acorn out of thousands. In the first analysis your choice is free, but to be informed by it is to be bound, and to be bound by it is to be informed. You are what you geometrize, but in the final analysis the geometry, like the joke, is on you. Plato: ho theos geometrizei. Mighty oaks from little acorns. The oak, like the joke, is on you. Aristotle: Entelechy! (Humpty Dumpty: "Impenetrability!") So in the final analysis (but only in the final analysis) you cannot plead the Fifth.


Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Drake Esmay

Congratulations to Dean and Rosemary, who are the proud parents of a new baby boy, born today at 12:27 PM Eastern time. Draco Eugene Esmay joins older brother Jake. Much happiness and joy to the entire family!


Caltechgirl notes the final nail in the coffin of the forged Rathergate memos.

Dowingba has re-opened comments on his blog. Yay!

Casey Tompkins has some incisive remarks on a world (or worldview) in which il n'y a pas de raciste à gauche.

Jay Solo writes on the perils of saving Girl Scout Cookies long-term.

IB Bill offers his list of the 25 Best Rock Songs Ever.

Donald Sensing has a piece on Stanislav Petrov, the man who, in 1983, refused to launch World War III.

And Mrs. du Toit has a lengthy and fascinating discussion of different varieties of blogs (with scads of for-instances).

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Well, Land Sakes!

Welcome to Die screaming with sharp things in your head! A collection of impaled garden gnomes.


Have You Been Abducted by Aliens?

Have you been abducted? Take our Alien Abduction Survey. Also, don't miss "Alien Implant Removal and Deactivation Method"!


Monday, January 17, 2005

Photos of Titan, Cartoons of Saturn

Like many of us, I've been intrigued these past few days by the photos from Titan, Saturn's largest moon. You can find this photo and many more, here.

Surface of Titan
I think back to when I was a kid, in the days of the Mercury and Gemini missions. Back in those days, I would've taken it for granted that it would one day come to this: photos from Titan. I was fascinated with the space program, and astronomy. I knew the various Mercury and Vostok flights, the names of the astronauts and cosmonauts, how many orbits they'd made, the way some kids know sports statistics. I knew the planets and moons of the solar system, diameter, orbital period, rate of rotation, surface gravity, you name it.

For some reason, I was always especially fascinated by the planet Saturn, and its nine moons. Yes, in those days it was nine moons of Saturn, and I could tell you all about Mimas and Enceladus and Tethys and Dione and Rhea and Titan and Hyperion and Iapetus and Phoebe...

I also used to draw comics. From 1961 through 1964 or thereabouts, I turned out a comic book a month, drawn on 4"x5½" notepads. In my April 1963 issue (I was six years old) I drew a book-length story about the planet Saturn.

Seems the TV science fiction hero Rocky Jones (who I used to watch on TV in syndicated reruns) had flown his rocket ship on a mission to Saturn, and gone missing. Back on Earth, TV is interrupted for this "CBS Speshal" news report:

CBS Speshal
"Rocky Jones has gone to Saturn. But he disapeered!"

Of course, in my comic story I flew to Saturn in my rocket ship, along with a friend of mine, and rescued Rocky Jones. Here are the two rockets returning to Earth:

Return to Earth
However, we were followed to Earth by an alien from Saturn! I think that's a re-entry parachute on top of the alien's ship:

Ship from Saturn
Notice also in the background a six-year-old's rendition of Jupiter and Saturn. Here is the alien from Saturn, visiting on Earth (yes, I knew about the differences in temperature and atmosphere, it was just a cool shot):

Alien from Saturn
And then I had to go in my rocket ship, and use rays to tow the Earth away from Saturn— Earth had been teleported out to Saturn's orbit through a space warp— in a scene which I think I was borrowing from an issue of DC's Mystery in Space comics, where Earth was about to collide with the planet Rann:

Towing Earth
And finally we cut to a cosmic perspective, with the Sun but a point of light amidst a multitude of stars:

Sun among the Stars
There you have it, a six-year-old's view of Saturn, the Universe, and Everything, back in April 1963. A six-year-old who would've been not at all surprised by those photos from Titan the other day.

Odd, back in those days I was almost the only person I knew who was enthusiastic about space exploration and astronomy. I was almost the only person I knew who thought we would one day make it to the moon. I remember a lot of people back then— adults as well as kids— were dismissive, angry, almost venomous about the space program. As if it was threatening to demolish their pre-Copernican geocentric worldview. "Go to the moon? Naw, that's impossible! Foolish to think it could ever happen! Bark! Snarl! Grrowwwrrrr!!!" I haven't run into that kind of rabid anti-space animus in a long, long time. No, we live today in a world where astronauts in orbit and photos from Titan are taken for granted.

Descent to Titan
And we can listen over the Internet to sounds from Titan, descending toward the coast near the island-strewn methane sea.

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Friday, January 14, 2005

The Best Browser You've Never Heard Of

I haven't messed with the K-Meleon browser in over a year now, but I understand it's still a damn fine browser. Indeed, it may be the best browser you've never heard of.

K-Meleon uses the Gecko rendering engine— just like Firefox or Mozilla— but its user interface is written in native Windows code rather than in XUL. KM is lightning fast— it may well be faster than any browser you've ever seen— and it will run nicely on even the most dinosaurian of computers.

K-Meleon can be endlessly customized, extended with plugins, whatever. It has a built-in macro language which will let you make it do almost anything. KM is extremely easy to use, once you've got it set up. But caution, KM is not easy to customize: it's mostly a matter of editing config files and writing macros, in ways which are often poorly documented or not documented at all. I do believe there was a time when the macro language itself was largely undocumented. You were just supposed to figure it out on your own. I remember one no-holds-barred fight on a KM forum where one of the regulars was arguing heatedly that anyone should be able to learn how to use the macro language simply by glancing through an alphabetized list of its commands.

K-meleon has a community of devoted and fiercely loyal users. Yet KM is next to unknown, even among people who are into alternative browsers. Firefox, K-Meleon is not. Hey, KM isn't interested in being the biggest, only in being a fast, light, flexible, and rather geekish best.

These days I'm a Linux man, and Opera has long been my browser. But I have to confess, if I were still on Windows, and if I weren't using Opera, I'd probably be websurfing with K-Meleon.


Thursday, January 13, 2005


"Come on, fhqwhgads, I said come on, fhqwhgads, everybody to the limit, everybody to the limit..." Strong Bad stars in his own music video. Directed by The Cheat.

(BTW, that's pronounced f'ho-go-gosh. More or less.)


Britney Spears

Did you know that Britney Spears is an expert in semiconductor physics?


Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Do Not Call

Last night something happened to me that hasn't happened to me for a long time. I got called by a telemarketer.

Not just once, but twice.

It was somebody calling for a daily newspaper in the area, trying to peddle subscriptions. I've never subscribed to this paper, I wouldn't have the time to read it if I did. First time they phoned me, my old reflexes kicked into gear instantly: "Sorry, I'm not interested in that offer"; and then I hung up.

Second time they phoned me, just a few minutes later, I said, "Sorry, I'm on the Federal Do Not Call list"; and then I hung up.

I remember the bad old days when I routinely used to get two or three telemarketing calls a day, every day. Sometimes more. Offering credit cards. Offering debt management. (What debts?) Offering vacations to Disney World or wherever. I had a universal way of dealing with telemarketers: first time I could get a word in edgewise, I would say, "Sorry, I'm not interested in that offer," and then I would hang up.

Eventually I got onto saying, "Sorry, please put me on your Do Not Call list." As I understood it, telemarketers were obliged by law to keep and honor such a list. Though there were a few outfits that just didn't bother, such as one shady credit foundation which faithfully left the same prerecorded message on my answering machine once or twice a month: "'ve already been approved, and frankly I'm surprised we haven't heard from you already... If you phone me back, I'll be in my office until ten tonight..."

But saying I wasn't interested usually worked, with occasional exceptions, such as the ones who tried to press me for a reason why. (I'd simply repeat, "Sorry, I'm not interested," and then hang up.) Or such as the outfit which then proceeded to call me back half a dozen times in the next twenty minutes. Telephone harassment, anyone?

Or then there was the telemarketing flunky who got my answering machine— "Hi, this is Pastor Paul Burgess, I'm unable to come to the phone right now..."— and before he got to the point where he identified the company he was calling for, he decided to pause in mid-script, make a U-turn, and wrap up his suddenly aborted telemarketing presentation with a cheery, "666! Satan rules!"

(Yeah, I know, telemarketers weren't supposed to leave messages on answering machines. But that didn't stop some of them from doing so anyway.)

When the Federal Do Not Call list became available for signup a year and a half ago, I signed up immediately, the very first week. When the Do Not Call list went into effect a year ago in October, it was like a sudden blessed blanket of peace and quiet descending across my daily life. No more telemarketers waking me up from a nap. No more telemarketers phoning while I'm eating supper. No more telemarketers pestering me on my day off.

Last night must be only about the third time in a year and more that I've received a telemarketing call from other than a charity, a pollster, or (in the weeks preceding the election) a political outfit. It makes a real difference in the quality of my life, not to be getting all those telemarketing calls all the time. In my line of work, I can't not answer the phone, because it could be somebody phoning me, at any hour, about a sudden emergency. It makes a big difference to have the reasonable assurance that when the phone rings, it's someone I know, calling me for some bona fide reason; and not just some paid flack intruding into my home to hawk a credit card.

I view much of what our federal government does with a measure of suspicion, to put it very mildly. (You know, one of the three big lies is, "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you.") But I've got to admit, the Do Not Call list is close to an unalloyed good. For once, the folks in Washington did something completely right.

Phone, ring thou not! Oh, by the way, if you're not on the national Do Not Call list already, and you'd like to get on, you can register by making a toll-free call to 1-888-382-1222. For TTY access, call 1-866-290-4236. Or you can register online at

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Radio Voices on a Winter Night

Winter is the time of year when those voices from afar come in especially strong over your radio. I remember the winter of 1968 and 1969. I was 12 years old. And upstairs in a dimly lit back room, I would sit at table, tuning carefully up and down the radio dial. Tuning in search of elusive distant radio stations. Tuning to hear voices that could sometimes barely be heard above the hiss and crackle of static.

The radio was an old Stewart-Warner— it was older than I by a good margin— dark bakelite box of a cabinet, bronzed metal grille across the front, and two knobs. At lower left, the On/Off/Volume knob; at lower right, the AM tuning dial, running from 55 to 16. It was a tube radio; when you turned it on, it would take a little while to warm up before you heard that dark electric hum from the speaker grille.

Of course, it was easy to tune in the local radio station, WIBU 1240 Poynette, Wisconsin. That was a loud signal, not because it was powerful— I believe it was only 250 watts by night— but because it was nearby, up on top of WIBU Hill, outside of town. Tuning up the dial a bit further, it was also easy to receive WPDR 1350 from Portage, 12 miles to the north of us.

Then there were the stations in Madison, Wisconsin, just 20 or 25 miles to the south of us. Oldtimers from the Madison area may remember the call letters, which for some of the stations have changed since then: WHA 970, the public station; WKOW 1070, which I recall had a talk radio program called "Night Line," long before talk radio became popular; WIBA 1310; WISM 1480; and WMAD 1550.

Milwaukee was about 90 miles to the east of us, and from there WTMJ 620 came in loud and clear day or night— I believe the call letters stood for The Milwaukee Journal, for which I had a paper route in my home town back around that time. If you were lucky (and here I'm guessing from memory at the frequencies) you could also get WOKY 920 and WISN 1120 from Milwaukee. And there was WYLO 540 Jackson, which I always took to be somewhere over by Milwaukee: I used to get a shiver up my spine receiving this station, the lower part of the radio dial for some reason had that effect on me.

Which brings us to another point: listening to these stations over the radio felt to me then— it still feels to me today— like entering some strange new dimension, like connecting with some alternate level of reality. I never knew quite what I was going to find, tuning that old bakelite radio in that dimly lit upstairs room on a cold winter night.

The Chicago stations also came in clearly day or night. WMAQ 670; WGN 720; and of course WBBM 780, "News Radio 78," were all news stations. WLS 890 came in also, but less clearly: they were at that time a music station, if I remember correctly, and popular with some of my friends. When I rediscovered WLS in the mid 1980s, when I was living down in Illinois, they had gone to a news-talk format, though at that time they still interspersed some music with the talk. The Chicago stations WCFL 1000 and big-band-music WAIT 820 came in much more faintly, when they came in at all. And then there was also WIND 560 Gary Indiana, another of those eerie stations down near the bottom of the dial— to me, the furthest radio outpost before we entered into the Ultima Thule of nighttime DXing.

Winter nights I would sit there listening to WMT 600 Cedar Rapids, Iowa; or WCCO 830 from the Twin Cities. There was WHO 1040 Des Moines: I was fascinated by these occasional stations west of the Mississippi which started their call letters with a W. It was sort of like those stations out east which started with a K, KDKA 1020 Pittsburgh and KYW 1060 Philadelphia. I entertained fantasies of tuning in some forgotten station which started with a really odd wrong letter: not just some station in Texas which (like a Mexican station) might start its call letters with an X, but perhaps a station out in Nebraska, say, whose call letters might start with an R. At 12 years of age, anything seems possible.

Tuning down the Mississippi, it was possible at night to receive KSD 550 St. Louis, which I find listed in my notes as "Audio 55"; KMOX St. Louis (frequency?); or WWL 870 New Orleans, "broadcasting from the Roosevelt Hotel in downtown New Orleans." In between, one might pick up WAAY 1090, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Or aiming eastward, there was WHAS 840 Louisville, Kentucky; or WLW 700 Cincinnati. Turning south into Tennessee, Nashville had both WSM 650 and WLAC 1510. There was WJR 760 Detroit, and just below it on the dial, CBL 740 Toronto. And from the Southeast, it was easy at night to receive WSB 750 Atlanta.

Out East, I could pick up WHAM 1180 Rochester, New York. Also 810 WGY Schenectady. And WCAU 1210 Philadelphia. And WRVA 1140 Richmond, Virginia. I remember getting WABC 770 and WOR 710 New York, but somehow back in those days I didn't often receive other clear channel stations from New York City— WCBS 880 and WNBC 660. But I do remember WBZ 1030 Boston coming in loud and clear.

Turning the radio to face various shades of southwest and westward— the ferrite rod antenna inside was fairly directional— I would get stations from the wide open spaces out West. I can still remember the jingle to which they sang "WOAI, San Antonio"— yeah, WOAI 1200. From Texas there was also WBAP 820 Fort Worth/Dallas. And for some reason it was always a special thrill to receive KOA 850 Denver— "KOA 850, the Timekeeper!"

The Rocky Mountains seemed to form a barrier to radio propagation. I never had any luck getting a station further west than Denver. Yeah, from up in Canada I could get CKY 990 Winnipeg, and maybe some station from Calgary. But never anything from the West Coast. In the early 1980s, when I was living out in Washington State, I noticed a similar phenomenon in reverse: out there, I could get stations from all up and down the Pacific Coast, but never a station from east of the Rockies.

The stations I've listed so far are all the big powerhouses, the blowtorches, or the 50-kilowatt clear channel stations. I'm listing them from memory, aided by a pamphlet I drew up back then which I ran across just the other day. Somewhere around here there's an old brown spiral notebook: if I can ever find that, I'll be able to list many of the softer and more elusive voices I used to hear over that radio.

I remember one station, broadcasting at only one kilowatt, from down near the bootheel of Missouri: I got them one day just as they were signing off at sunset. It was my first introduction to the phenomenon of radio stations carrying unsightly distances north and south right at sunrise or sunset. I wrote them, giving details of what I heard, and got back from them a letter verifying that I had indeed received them. As per my request, they agreed to play On, Wisconsin for me on their station.

And then, down in the magical lower ranges of the radio dial, there was the time I received WILL 580 Urbana, Illinois. I can still hear that station, its choppy signal rising and falling rhythmically in a sea of radio static, and amidst the static, half drowned, the strains of Sweet Blindness and Stoned Soul Picnic.

And sometimes I would listen to distant voices which were nearly submerged in the static and the radio hum, unintelligible, too far off, a hubbub of voices, like something heard but not understood in the background of the Beatles' Revolution 9.

It was magic, it was truly magic, listening to those far distant voices up and down the radio dial. Like eavesdropping on some other level of reality.

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Monday, January 10, 2005

Laughing Geysers of Ronicaldo

Once several years ago I had this dream, as is recorded in my Book of Dreams:

I am watching a program on Public TV about "The Laughing Geysers of Ronicaldo"...

Narrator: "The mud geysers in this remote region of the Amazon erupt with a sound virtually indistinguishable from that of human laughter. The scientist has no explanation for this phenomenon.

"But to the natives of Ronicaldo, the laughing geysers are no mystery.

"The native has long observed how the white man is able to detach his presence and make it appear, in motion, on a sheet of white cloth.

"The native has long observed how the white man is able to detach his voice and put it inside a small wooden box.

"So it seemed natural to the native to assume that the white man detached his individuality and his laughter, and sent them wandering off through the rain forest, until at long last they took up residence in these geysers.

"In recent years, scientists have begun to take these suggestions more and more seriously..."


Saturday, January 08, 2005

Irish Gaelic Fonts

Irish Gaelic
I haven't got a drop of Irish blood in me— I am part Welsh, and part Scottish too— but somehow I was fascinated by a site I ran across which discusses various Irish Gaelic fonts available for your computer.

I downloaded and installed an Irish Gaelic True Type Font called Bunchló Ársa (pictured above). I have no practical use for it at all, but it's just sorta cool.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Excuse Me, But I Think I Know My Own Name

One day maybe 10 years ago, back when I was living in a town in north central Illinois, I came home to find a message on my answering machine. It was from the local veterinary clinic, some dude calling to inform a lady (let's call her Mrs. Smith) that she should stop by to pick up some medication for her dog Bruno.

Well, I phoned back, got this same dude on the line. I said I didn't want Bruno to miss his medication, so I wanted to let him know that his message to Mrs. Smith had somehow ended up on my answering machine.

He said, "Is this 555-1234?"

I said, "Yeah, that's my number, but I'm afraid I've never heard of Mrs. Smith or Bruno before. Maybe she accidentally gave you the wrong number."

He said, "You're Mr. Smith." Not a question, a statement.

I said, "Uh, no, my name's Paul Burgess, I'm afraid I've never heard of Mrs. Smith."

He said, this time in a rather peremptory tone, "No, your name is Paul Smith-Burgess."

I said, "?????"

He repeated, in an even louder and now rather angry tone of voice, "I said, your name is Paul Smith-Burgess."

I said, "No, I think I know my own name. And I'm afraid I've never heard of Mrs. Smith before."

He boomed angrily into the phone, "Your name is Paul Smith-Burgess, I heard it on your answering machine!!!"

I said, "Oh? Well, listen to this." I pushed a button on my answering machine, and the message played over the line: "Hi, this is Pastor Paul Burgess. I'm sorry I can't come to the phone right now, but if you'll leave your name, phone number, and a message at the tone..."

Bloodied and bowed but not defeated, he said afterwards, "Well, 'Pastor Paul Burgess,' that sounds like 'Paul Smith-Burgess.'"

I said, "Oh. Well, I just wanted to make sure Bruno didn't miss his medication."

Since I was in a fairly good humor that day, I decided not to mention that this dude's boss, the veterinarian, was a parishioner of mine, and in fact an Elder on our church Session; and that in a town of several thousand, I could easily be over at the veterinary clinic within 5 or 10 minutes, to discuss this little misunderstanding face-to-face. By the way, is Doctor So-and-So in right now?

Come to think of it, that was one of the most blogosphere-like experiences I've ever had, out here in meatspace.


Thursday, January 06, 2005

Hot Apple Cider

It was back right after Thanksgiving that I got on my present apple cider kick. Was looking in the supermarket for some kind of fruit juice, found that most of them featured high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient. Then I noticed that apple cider was, well, just water and apple juice concentrate. So I got some apple cider. And I've been going through it ever since, by the gallon.

I find it hard to drink apple cider cold. Something about the taste— same as with apple juice. But warm the apple cider up, and it's a whole 'nother story. Some other time we'll get into what a Selective Luddite™ I am; but I do appreciate the microwave. A coffee cup of apple cider will heat up to just the right temperature in 2 minutes and 10 seconds.

One great thing to do with a cup of hot apple cider is to go curl up on the couch. Preferably with a blanket over me— I use an über-heavy wool blanket I picked up at an Army surplus store. Then just lie there (or, as we say in my dialect of English, "just lay there"), holding the hot coffee cup of apple cider in my hands. And just fade in and out, mind lost in the wide open fields and closed lumber rooms of woolgathering. Taking a sip of hot apple cider as the spirit moves me. When I finish the cup and come to, I sometimes find that half an hour has passed me by.


More Weather Yet

This weather has got to let up. First, starting Saturday, the area was pretty well paralyzed for several days by an ice storm. Then, just as conditions around here were starting to improve (emphasis on the word "starting") snow started falling yesterday morning. And it continued to fall, most of the day. Bad enough, that I canceled confirmation classes for last night.

And it looks like a little more snow fell overnight. Actually I'm surprised that we didn't get more snow than we did. But still, it looks like several inches. Nothing like the foot or more of snow that fell further south into Iowa. (Indeed, on the radio this morning, I hear some areas to the south of us got 17 inches of snow.) But we got enough snow in this northeasternmost corner of Iowa that the local schools are closed for today.

Let's see, schools were closed here Monday and Tuesday due to the ice. Schools here closed early yesterday, due to the snow. And now they're closed again today. The kids around here have hit the snow-day jackpot, never mind that if we get much more snow they're going to have to make it up in June.

I don't know. This is loose, drifting snow. Underneath, there's a coat of ice which is just as slick as ever, as I discovered when I ventured outside yesterday. Not good driving weather. But I may have to creep in to town today, if only to replenish such staples as milk, bread, coffee, and pizza.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Spending Spree

A hunnert dollars here
A hunnert dollars there
Pretty soon you're hunnert dollared
Clear up through the county



Yes, it's Trogdor the Burninator! "Burninating the countryside, burninating the peasants...

"And the Trogdor comes in the niiiiight!!!"


More on Uma Thurman

Okay, a few weeks ago I did a piece on Uma Thurman's Huge Hands. Nice pictorial piece, I thought like most items you do on a blog it would eventually recede over the event horizon.

Wrong. Uma Thurman's Huge Hands soon ended up in the search engines, and look at what the searches arriving here on my blog look like now:

27 Dec, Mon, Google: uma thurman "large hands"
28 Dec, Tue, Google: "xorg 6.8.1" mandrakelinux
28 Dec, Tue, Yahoo:  uma thurman freakishly large hands
29 Dec, Wed, Google: "stray google search"
29 Dec, Wed, Google: uma thurman huge hands
29 Dec, Wed, Google: paul burgess
29 Dec, Wed, Google: uma's huge feet
31 Dec, Fri, Google: r-expo india
01 Jan, Sat, Google: uma thurman's hands
01 Jan, Sat, Google: Uma Thurman huge hands
01 Jan, Sat, Google: aquamobile
01 Jan, Sat, Google: uma thurman huge hands
01 Jan, Sat, Google: uma thurman large feet
02 Jan, Sun, Google: rocker blotter
02 Jan, Sun, Yahoo:  star of bethlehem desktops
03 Jan, Mon, Yahoo:  paul burgess
03 Jan, Mon, Google: "uma thurman has huge"
03 Jan, Mon, Google: Randian Objectivist
03 Jan, Mon, MSN:    Harry Potter Anagram Finder
04 Jan, Tue, Yahoo: making a wooden rocker blotter
04 Jan, Tue, Google: uma thurman "big hands"
04 Jan, Tue, Google: huge hands

Who woulda guessed that there's a constituency out there for Uma's huge hands? But evidently there is.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Albert Camus

Albert Camus
It was 45 years ago today— January 4, 1960— that the French writer Albert Camus died in a car accident. He was 46.

I remember sitting one evening 30 years ago in a burger joint on Monroe Street in Madison, Wisconsin. I was a college sophomore. I sat at a table with an order of a burger and fries, nursing a Coke, as I read Camus' novel, The Stranger. Or rather, L'Étranger, since I was reading it for a college French course. I've read The Stranger several times since then. I've also acquired and read a great many other of Camus' writings, in dogeared paperback. There are certain writers who grow on you; for me, Camus has been one such.

Albert Camus was a native of French Algeria, and his writing and thinking were always infused with something of that Mediterranean sun, the same Mediterranean sun which shone also on the ancient Greeks. Camus was a writer, a playwright, a novelist, an essayist. In World War II he edited a newspaper of the French Resistance.

Camus has also been described as an existentialist philospher, which he was; but he was nothing like his one-time friend, the French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre was an ideologue and an apologist for Stalinism; Camus was made of better and more decent stuff than that. It was Camus' book-length essay, The Rebel— a study of Man in revolt, from the French Revolution to the present— which marked Camus' decisive break with Sartre and the French Left. Camus wrote: "Ideology today is concerned only with the denial of other human beings, who alone bear the responsibility of deceit. It is then that we kill. Each day at dawn, assassins in judges' robes slip into some cell: murder is the problem today."

Camus was not a religious believer; but an undercurrent of dialogue with Christian thought runs through many of his writings. His sticking point had to do with the problem of evil and suffering: he concluded that the world is without meaning. But at the same time, Camus rejected the trendy thread of nihilism that has run through so much of modern Western thought: he stood firmly for truth and right, even if by his lights this was absurd. And he did so without odium and without rancor.

For some reason I find myself especially drawn to the essays of Camus. From "Helen's Exile":
The Mediterranean has a solar tragedy that has nothing to do with mists. There are evenings, at the foot of mountains by the sea, when night falls on the perfect curve of a little bay and an anguished fullness rises from the silent waters. Such moments make one realize that if the Greeks knew despair, they experienced it always through beauty and its oppressive quality. In this golden sadness, tragedy reaches its highest point. But the despair of our world— quite the opposite— has fed on ugliness and upheavals. That is why Europe would be ignoble if suffering ever could be.

We have exiled beauty; the Greeks took arms for it. A basic difference— but one that goes far back. Greek thought was based always on the idea of limits. Nothing was carried to extremes, neither religion nor reason, because Greek thought denied nothing, neither reason nor religion. It gave everything its share, balancing light with shade. But the Europe we know, eager for the conquest of totality, is the daughter of excess. We deny beauty, as we deny everything that we do not extol. And, even though we do it in diverse ways, we extol one thing and one thing alone: a future world in which reason will reign supreme. In our madness, we push back the eternal limits, and at once dark Furies swoop down upon us to destroy. Nemesis, goddess of moderation, not of vengeance, is watching. She chastises, ruthlessly, all those who go beyond the limit.

The Greeks, who spent centuries asking themselves what was just, would understand nothing of our idea of justice. Equity, for them, supposed a limit, while our whole continent is convulsed by the quest for a justice we see as absolute...

It was Christianity that began to replace the contemplation of the world with the tragedy of the soul. But Christianity at least referred to a spiritual nature, and therefore maintained a certain fixity. Now that God is dead, all that remains are history and power. For a long time now, the whole effort of our philosophers has been solely to replace the idea of human nature with the idea of situation, and ancient harmony with the disorderly outbursts of chance or the pitiless movements of reason. While the Greeks used reason to restrain the will, we have ended by placing the impulse of the will at the heart of reason, and reason has therefore become murderous.
A writer still very much worth reading today.

Albert Camus, November 7, 1913 — January 4, 1960.


Sunday, January 02, 2005

Ice Kingdom

We got an ice storm through here yesterday. First little ice pellets, then a "wintry mix," as they call it. The windows on the east side of the house were just coated with ice, so thick that I couldn't even see out through them.

This morning when I looked out my front door, I found that my welcome mat was only somewhat visible, beneath a layer of something like a quarter inch of solid ice. And my back steps are covered with ice the way a cake is covered with frosting.

Worship services at both churches are canceled for today, due to the ice. I've heard no traffic going by outside on the gravel road since some time yesterday, not even the usual inevitable farm vehicles. I wouldn't even want to set foot outdoors this morning for anything less than an emergency.

Last time I remember services being canceled due to ice, it was twelve years ago, the first Sunday in January 1993. At that time I was interim pastor at an old German Presbyterian church on a gravel road out in the countryside of northern Illinois. I wasn't moved into the manse yet, I was staying in a bed and breakfast in a nearby town. Country roads were impassable, but we managed to make it to the service of a newly organized congregation which was meeting in the hallway of the Wil-Kleen building. A truck driver from Pennsylvania led a chaotic charismatic service, complete with speaking in tongues and altar call. Good stolid Presbyterian that I am, I just stood there by my folding chair like a fence post.

This morning I'm just going to sit around quietly, drink more coffee than I ordinarily would on a Sunday morning, and perhaps tinker with my computer. Nobody's going anywhere today.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year!

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year in 2005! (Which, by the way, is pronounced "two thousand five," and not "twenty oh five." ;-)

Mandrakelinux 10.1: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Mandrakelinux 10.1
Well, it's been over a week now since I installed Mandrakelinux 10.1 on my IBM Think Pad T20— a week largely taken up by the weekend of Christmas, and then several days away on vacation. I've been tinkering with things, reconfiguring my system back to what I'm used to. Not quite there yet. But getting there.

General impressions? Mandrake 10.1 is very slick, noticeably faster than Mandrake 9.1 (which is what I was using before), and, if you're semi-technical to begin with, it's quite user-friendly. There are a few bugs. But overall, it's quite slick.

I did tons of downloads, 50 megs to set me up with the UW-Madison computer science department FTP mirror, 84 megs of security updates, 80 megs for Fluxbox (that's 800K for Fluxbox itself, the rest for dependencies), 30 megs for a real noncrippled version of mplayer, another hundred megs or two of miscellaneous stuff, and 290 megs of bugfix updates. All done over a dialup connection, pretty much around the clock, in those days before I took off on vacation. opens way faster than before. Featurewise, Fluxbox 0.9.10 is just light years ahead of the dinosaur version (0.1.14) I was using under Mandrake 9.1. The GEdit text editor now color-codes HTML tags; The Gimp 2.0, there's no comparison... (Nautilus has regressed, but hey, that's GNOME for you. ;-) Overall the software that comes with Mandrake 10.1 is, well, a year and a half more advanced than what I was using before; and it shows.

I've been reconfiguring things back to the way I'm used to. Am surprised and pleased at how much of that I'm able to do off the top of my head. Experience does add up, and it does make the job much easier, compared to a year ago in September, when I was diving into Linux for the first time, sight unseen.

Problems. There are a few problems. The system often shuts down uncleanly, requiring lengthy file scanning when next you boot up. Worse, the 2.6.8 kernel plays ball only intermittently with peripherals plugged into my USB port: I understand this problem afflicts only some computer chips, evidently including mine. Yes, I've found workarounds, gleaned off the Net; but bugs like these should never have been let out the door in a "final" release.

Oh well, if I wanted to live safely, I shouldn't have settled in Dodge City, out here on the frontier. I'll take the rough-and-ready freedom of the frontier any day, over living sedately in "sivilization" under the thumb of Bill Gates. And meanwhile, step by step and tweak by tweak, Mandrake 10.1 is progressing toward all the Linux goodness I had before, and more.