This may look like I'm tempting fate but really, I'm not

I would be tempting fate if I put my ducks go out for a swim, which I am not about to do, no way. But this sure looks like a duckworthy puddle, nonetheless. In February, yet.

Meanwhile I was doing some stuff on my powerbook a little while ago and while I was at it I installed a weather widget there, and it came up defaulting to Atlanta where it is, amazingly, 9 degrees colder there (the widget claimed), with the next five days forecast colder than the same widget forecasts here, go figure that. Understand I am not complaining here, nor gloating, just reporting. Surely the weather gods can not object to that, can they? (In case they do this is not really me writing this, it's somebody else who lives in Dubuque. That's it. Dubuque.)

The house on the lake

So it's taken me a while to get around to this. The problem is I don't know where it ends. But at least I do know where it begins.

Russ picked out the house by himself. The first time Marge saw it was the day the moving van arrived from Nebraska. It would forever after be her favorite house of all. It stood on about half an acre fronting on Lake Superior (the superior lake) and the first thing Marge did when she'd finished unpacking was have a hole cut in the back wall and a picture window installed so she could look out over the water from the dining room. The lake changed every minute, she'd say, and was never the same twice.

And it is a beautiful thing - and stormy, treacherous, and cold. Russ hired a guy to help care for the yard on weekends - a guy named Marshall, who had been a sailor on the lakes in his younger years - and when Marshall was finished with his chores for the day he'd sit with me and tell about legendary storms and shipwrecks, about how the vast iron deposits in Northern Minnesota deflected the mariners' compasses, and how to recognize the ships by the rake of their stacks and the way they were painted.

The lake's surface sat 25 or 30 feet below the edge of the yard, separated by a steep bank of solid, water-carved rock. In the coves of the rock at the water's edge were little beaches of fist-sized rocks, not sand, that would shift from place to place in the storms - sometimes being behind our house, sometimes behind a neighbor's. The Neighborhood Mothers' Rule for swimming was to get out of the water when our lips turned blue - ten minutes was about the limit. And on summer afternoons when a softball would get hit or a football kicked into the lake accidentally, the next door neighbor's golden retriever, Rusty, would be employed to swim out and bring it back. It was a great place to be a kid.

In the winter storm waves would crash against the rock, splashing the row of birch trees that stood along the back edge of the lawn until they were covered with ice and glittered like crystal in the morning sun. Later in the season there'd be mountains of ice on the water, formed by successive splashings and freezings, and, as climbing out on them was strictly prohibited by the Neighborhood Mothers we climbed on them with a certain amount of guilty pleasure and care.

In the Spring, ships would race to be first into Duluth - the winning crew got a party and the winning Captain a prize of some sort - and get stuck in the ice for trying, occasioning a laborious process of backing and then crashing forward into the ice, advancing a few feet with each blow. More than once we went off to school in the morning with a ship stuck right off our lot, and come home in the afternoon to find it a few lots further on.

The house itself was comfortably large enough for the family but not the kind of place that stands out in memory. Aside from the picture window, which Marge added, the only thing I remember about it clearly was that it had the ugliest fireplace I've ever seen anywhere. It was the lake that was the thing, and the lake was unforgettable.

(The house was about a mile and a half or so from the location of the webcam in the sidebar. When they were just about even with our house ships would sound their horns requesting the bridge over that canal to be raised. Often on a summer evening we'd pile into a car and drive downtown, arriving in time to stand on the breakwater and watch the ship come through. In the late 40s and early 50s Duluth was the busiest fresh water port in the world and the third busiest port of any kind in the US, measured by tonnage. The principle cargo was iron ore.)

I still don't know where it ends. The house is still there, last I heard. And I still miss the Great Lakes.


Hey don't ask me, but here's where you can find out about it. Sounds kinda cool. Weird, but cool. I mean, if you had a whole lot of work you needed to avoid, this could be just the thing you're looking for.

Is this what the DOOFUS was talking about the other night, that cloning thing?

Lance Armstrong and Sheryl Crow have split, the couple announced in a joint statement Friday night.

I didn't know they were un-split to begin with, especially Armstrong - there was never only one Lance Armstrong, was there? The Crow one I don't know much about.

Yeah we really do need a gossip columnist, we'd be more up to date on stuff like this. We might even understand Yahoo's front page. That'd be something. W00t.


Right back atcha, McAfee

You too, Microsoft. Win32/MyWife? What kind of thing is that to say?

Of course it's a whole lot better than Worm/Generic, which is Grisoft's name for the same thing. Or W32/Small, which is Norman's.

Here's a Washington Post story on the Babel of virus naming. Don't worry - it won't make you any more confused than you already are.

This has been a really gloomy day, hasn't it? Two in a row now. And it's not my fault. But I'll try to think of something more upbeat to write about tomorrow, so the end is in sight.

Oh and by the way it's Monk night tonight. Monk night is the highlight of the week around here, so you can see what a glamorous life we lead behind the scenes.

Maybe we should hire a gossip columnist here at YAME.

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Look at this picture from the Duluth Webcam this evening. That sure looks like hardly any snow to me. Is this February, or am I missing something here? And I don't see anything that looks much like ice in the canal, either. If you rotated that camera 180 degrees you'd be looking into the harbor, and I've heard tell of people driving cars across the ice in that harbor this time of year. I don't think I'd be wanting to do that today. (OK, true, I didn't want to then either - but still.)

It's truly weird. No snow here either, to speak of. It was well into the 40s and raining hard all day, with fortyish temps and rain projected for the weekend and above-freezing highs until Wednesday at least.

I'm not complaining mind you Weather Gods, I'm just pointing out - I hope that's clear.

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Oh no! Not that! Please not that!

DefenseLINK News: Anti-Terror Conflict Is War of Wills, Rumsfeld Says:
Rumsfeld said terrorists also seek to shape public opinion. "They get up in the morning, have committee meetings and think about how they're going to manipulate the world's press to their advantage," he said.
Damn. If they're holding committee meetings we are screwed.

I, for one, give up.

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The first nanosecond is on me

The Seattle Times: Iraq war is costing $100,000 per minute:
Iraq war is costing $100,000 per minute

By Mark Mazzetti and Joel Havemann
Los Angeles Times
The rest is all yours.

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Make it Fix Your Firefox Friday, folks

If you insist on inhabiting the dark side the least you can do is fix your Firefox, an upgraded version of which appears this week. If, on the other hand, you use a Mac, you should fix yours too, but I'm cutting you a little slack if you use Safari. If you are a Fairy Godmother make Firefox recognize OS X Services or put a Firefox-like sidebar into Safari and let me know.

Firefox fixing can be accomplished by clicking on a button in the sidebar and downloading the new version, or if you're already using it check for updates from the Help menu.

Thank you.

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Flies with the oysters

No no no, it's not a dumpster story. It's about flying home from business trips to New York.

When I lived in Atlanta there was a bar that got a shipment of fresh oysters in once a week from the Gulf Coast. They'd arrive packed in mud inside a big barrel, and on the appointed day at the appointed hour I'd make it a point to be there and have them dig out the first dozen for me. When I moved to Chicago, though, I became oyster deprived.

But I did travel frequently to New York on business, and being a former resident of that place too I knew it was faster, not to mention a whole lot cheaper, to get from lower Manhattan to LaGuardia during rush hour by public transportation than to try to get there in a cab. This entailed taking a subway into Queens, then switching to a bus for the airport.

Turned out there was a fish store at the bus stop, and one fine evening it occurred to me to buy a bag of oysters to take home. It was only about a two-hour flight to Chicago so I figured they'd make it OK but just to be on the safe side, when I boarded the plane I handed a big brown paper bag to the stewardess and asked if she could put them in the galley with the ice. She asked what was in the bag, I said oysters. "Eeeeek!" she said, throwing up her hands. And dropping the bag.

I spent most of the flight home crawling around under people's seats trying to get my oysters back. It was an interesting way to get acquainted, but thereafter I always carried a big plastic shopping bag on trips to New York and kept my oysters to myself, thank you very much.

PS: The oyster problem is not why I wound up in New England but it might as well have been.

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Here's lookin' at ya, kid

Brit tracks girlfriend's phone. In the name of science. Errr, journalism. Something.
I can't quite believe my eyes: I knew that the police could do this, and telecommunications companies, but not any old random person with five minutes access to someone else's phone.
Cool, huh?

Close your eyes before reading one more word

Just pointing out here, as a YAME public service, that you should not under any circumstances whatsoever look at this Tom Toles cartoon. It is beyond tasteless, say the Joint Chiefs in unison. (Our Science Editor informs us "beyond tasteless" is a technical term for the state in which you don't simply not taste something but actually untaste it, so you can imagine how terrifying that would be.)

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The big payoff - Super Bowl XL

"There has never been a Super Bowl with such a marketable number attached to it," reports the New York Times.
Ten years ago, the N.F.L. and other businesses looking to profit from the Super Bowl could not play off the entendres of XXX. Ten years from now will be Super Bowl L, which will be big, but not this big. Everything in between, filled with chicken scratches and consonants, tends to be little more than Roman graffiti.
Roman graffiti would be stuff like XXXVIII, which happened two years ago. (Imagine having to add that to XXIII. The reason you don't is because the Arabs saved our butts.)
"A lot of people probably think the N.F.L. invented Roman numerals," Janoff said. "I don't think they've copyrighted it, but they pretty much own it."
And they can have it, as far as I'm concerned.

(And who but a marketing guy could imagine copyrighting Roman numerals, I wonder.)

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Plumbing the depths of the DOOFUS POTUS SOTU

That's State Of The Union - SOTU. You can't be a real stud if you don't abbreviate.

I'm still struggling through the thing. Now what I'm trying to figure out is, will it be OK if the human-animal hybrids marry their goats? And is there some kind of fixation at work here I just haven't figured out? I suppose O'Reilly will clear it up for me eventually but for the time being, I'm confused.

Yeah, I'm a little grumpy but that's because I had chicken noodle soup for lunch. Not for medicinal purposes - I just got home and felt like soup. And I had a can of this stuff (for medicinal purposes) so I ate it. I never eat canned soup. Except on medicinal occasions, and I don't have many of those. It was like eating a bowl of wet crackers. (If you are more couth than I, which is likely, it would be like eating a bowl of just plain wet.)

Remind me to make some real soup. Here we are at the end of January and I've only made soup once all winter, so far. It's a shame, is what it is.

Maybe I'll read something else. I don't really care how this comes out anyway, if you want to know the truth.

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No, he didn't really say this, did he?

Ethanol? Really? He really said Ethanol? Didn't we try that 20 years ago? Or was it 30, I don't remember, memory is the first thing to go. I don't remember when was the last time I filled my car with it either. Wasn't any time recently, I don't think.

Oh well, doesn't matter, we're going to have hydrogen cars any day now. No? What happened to hydrogen cars? They didn't work? Damn. I never even got to see one of those.

Well I didn't watch the speech. I figured I'd read it today. But I haven't read it yet. Maybe that's why I'm so confused.

Will reading it help?

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Gain much needed fleshiness, take up Grecian Dancing and more!

Yes, it's true. For the delicate young thing who "must, in the confines of her bedroom, through shame, try to cover her poor thin figure from the gaze of her beloved spouse," Professor Williams' famed FAT-TEN-U Foods, at only $1.00 a bottle, is the answer. Or would that be are the answer? Beats me. I'm not even sure I know the question here.

But a satisfied customer enthuses "In four weeks Professor Williams' famed FAT-TEN-U Foods increased my weight 39 pounds." And gave her womanly vigor, too boot. Hence the Grecian Dancing and leading roles in local productions, it seems. Sounds like a winner to me.

And I really don't want to know about the mechanical devices, OK? Just don't tell me that.

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Here's the web site of some San Francisco based artists (or is that redundant?) who call themselves The Flaming Lotus Girls and specialize in "fire art."

Better drop by and have a look before they flame out.

(I know, I know. The devil made me say that.)

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How much fun can you have, I'm asking

Arianna of the HuffPo notes a lot of Republicans (1375 of them to be exact, as of this moment) are planning SOTU parties! (no I didn't register - if they want my mailing address they can get it from the NSA) and if you happen to be one of those fun-loving Rs you can get your Stand with President Bush Party Pack! here.

Knock yourself out.

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I suppose it's some consolation that Dubya didn't make No. 1

But I didn't even get on the list.

Oh well. Maybe next year.

From a blog called The Beast, here are The Beast 50 Most Loathsome People in America, 2005.

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Probably not - but on the other hand, what the hell?

Like Pioneer and Garmin, other makers of GPS units are branching out into entertainment. For example, Magellan's $1100 RoadMate 800 lets you plug in an SD Card or MultiMediaCard and play music or display photos (but not, probably, while driving).
I once saw a woman do some kind of makeup thing to her eyes while driving a bumper-to-bumper 70 on Chicago's Eisenhower Expressway so I figure, hey, what harm could a couple of snapshots do? Of course I've been driving around in the boonies of Western Mass for so long now I figure just getting to work in Chicago on a normal day would be an exercise in abject terror, so who am I to say?

Anyway this stuff does sound awesomely cool, all the new gizmos they're putting in cars these days, and it'd be pretty hard to resist. You could just park in your driveway and watch movies or something, that would be OK.

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Roo poo!

"It's taken my breath away just how popular this is," she says.
Well, yes. What Joanna Gair, manager of an Australian paper company, is referring to is paper made from kangaroo dung - roo poo.
So far there are two versions of the roo poo paper.

"One is a pure version, which is dark and actually looks quite pooey," says Gair, adding the paper doesn't actually smell.

She says the paper's appearance depends on what the kangaroo has eaten.
Yes, indeed. And (as you will certainly have guessed by now) there' s more.
The length of the fibres will also be determined by how much the animal chews on them. This means that old kangaroos with bad teeth could provide the best poo for paper.
Turns out this is not a particularly new idea, this roo poo paper, as Sandinavians use elk dung in paper making and Africans, elephant. Didn't know that, did you?

(And thanks to UNDERNEWS for turning this one up.)

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Some things transcend politics, achieve buffoonery

This, for example, from an essay by John Kerry in this morning's HuffPo.
After all, Judge Alito was nominated only after extreme members of the right-wing killed the nomination of Harriet Miers, an accomplished lawyer who ideologues fumed lacked a track record of proven, tested, activist conservatism.
We're in some kind of alternate universe here, are we? OK, maybe it's true what he says about "ideologues" (never use a good word when a dull one will do), but "accomplished lawyer"?

Take the rest of the week off, John. You've done enough.

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Oh oh - you can just see these geeky days coming, can't you?

Today's a class day, which means another morning on the dark side - maybe that just seems darker when it happens to be Monday too. Maybe there's some obscure mathematical law involved.

Which is just a roundabout way of bringing up Benford's. There's been talk of Benford's Law over at Boing Boing recently - it's a theory that predicts numbers that start with the numeral 1 will turn up more frequently than any others in certain sets. (And it has some deep and dark implications, like that business about catching homework cheats, so be warned. Next time stay away from 1s. 7s are good - with a 7 you almost never go wrong. There's a lot of math in that.)

So now here's this guy named William Fawcett who's written a nifty Flash app that illustrates Benford's Law. Type a starting number in the first field and type an incremental factor in the second, then just click the button - or, seeing it's Monday and things are still a little foggy maybe just click the bottom "automatic" button and generate a random series - and see for yourself. How outstanding is that?

Maybe not too practical. Here's the real math problem for today. How many people in the lab this morning will push the ON button and then, seeing that nothing happens right away, push it again?

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A little geek humor here

Bruce Scheier points to this Dave Farley cartoon.


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Maybe if you get over there right away you can still sign up for this

The transit authorities in Amsterdam are looking for a few good vandals to help test subway car designs.
To make an informed choice on which trains to order, Van der Horst wants to "get some Amsterdammers from the streets to test them" and see what the vulnerable parts of the trains are.

"Our new Amsterdam subway must be absolutely Amsterdam-idiot-proof," he explained.

The hooligan tests are set to be carried out next year. -- AFP
I highly recommend this sort of thing. I spent one summer vacation from college helping to tear out the insides of an office building in downtown Columbus, Ohio, so it could be remodeled for a new owner. And believe me, there is absolutely nothing more therapeutic than walking into an empty room with a sledgehammer and not leaving until the room is gone. And don't forget to yank the ceiling down while you're at it - it makes a deeply satisfying crash. I still have a couple of scars but they were worth it.

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