There’s a new addition to the Schroeder household… and no, it’s not a baby.

It’s a teensy painted turtle named Spike. He’s about the size of a half-dollar and has a really nifty pattern of orange and green on his belly, although it was hard enough to snap a picture of him right-side up. He’s always zipping around looking for something to do (or, more likely, trying to escape the clutches of Zack– who always wants to pet him).

Alex “inherited” Spike from his teacher Ms. Auer on the last day of school. She had brought him into class for a week or so, and needed to get rid of him at the end of the school year. Alex asked Laralee, who said I was the final authority on the matter. Despite not wanting another pet (two fish is enough for me), Alex pleaded enough that I gave in and agreed to take Spike “for a while”. The deal is that we’ll release him back into the wild after a few months.

In the meantime, he’s living in a Lego box containing a half-inch of water and some rocks. Alex is very good about checking up on him and feeding him his daily worm (yum!). And Zack is always interested in picking him up, petting him, letting him crawl on his arm, et cetera. The other day I caught the kids giving Spike a ride on their little toy fire engine, and had to explain that he really prefers some peace and quiet in his little watery Lego box.

We’ll get a nice aquarium soon, I suppose, and will have to track down some more worms at some point– our Cool Whip container of Dirt ‘N Worms is just about empty.

“It is never wise to assume that a genius cannot do something because the incompetent or mediocre cannot.”

— Eric Raymond

As a physicist (well, sort of) I love quotes like this:

“Don’t believe in anything you can’t see, smell, touch or at the very least infer from a good particle accelerator run.”

Alex is in a little skit for his first-grade class later this week, and he was telling me about how he needed to make sure he knew all his lines. He said if he messed up a line, he’d be in trouble.

“Really?” I asked. “Why is that?”

“Daaaaaad,” he said, as if it was painfully obvious, “because these are first graders– they’re not like some kind of little people who won’t care if I mess up.”

Wow, the pressure!

The kids were out this evening prowling around the backyard of our neighbor Bill. The yard is more like a nature preserve; he’s never put in a lawn or anything, and for the third summer in a row it looks like we’re going to have a few thousand square feet of four-foot-high weeds to enjoy.

Aesthetics aside, the kids love bushwhacking around the weeds (they practically need a machete) and today they were catching bugs and sticking them into a pickle jar. Of course they threw a bunch of grass in there as well– the grasshoppers needed something to eat. They were really excited to show me and Laralee their catch: at least twenty grasshoppers and a few roly-polies, all squirming and leaping around inside the jar.

We let them all go before bedtime, with my assurances that they could catch them all over again tomorrow.

Kyra informed me that at her upcoming birthday party (two months away) she’s going to have a “bug catching party” where everyone goes out into Bill’s weeds with their own jar to catch bugs. Whee! I’ll bet all the little girls at the party will get a kick out of that!

Zack came running in from outside today, crying about a “huge” bleeding cut on his foot. Upon closer inspection, it was a tiny scratch and there wasn’t any blood. But he was carrying on about it, saying how he needed a Band-Aid. Since I was in the midst of cooking dinner, I told him to go upstairs and get himself one.

He came back down, no longer crying, and showed off the bandaging job he had done. Little did I know he needed to cover most of his foot for this massive injury!

Some friends of ours loaned us their DVD of “Cutthroat Island” and told us it was a pretty fun and exciting movie. What the heck, we watched it last night.

At the end, both of us agreed it was possibly the worst movie we’ve seen in a long time. It was so cheesy you could smell the cheddar wafting from the screen. Despite the movie case’s assurance that it was a “tidal wave of adventure”, I’d have to say it was so full of cliches and obvious plot twists that it was just painful.

The star is Geena Davis as swashbuckling pirate Captain Morgan Something-Or-Other. If this had been her first movie role, it would also have been her last. Neither of us could believe how bad her acting was… although perhaps the screenwriters should share some of the blame for the terrible dialogue.

In a tie for the Worst Line are these two scenes:

First, Captain Morgan rescues her comrades from the brig. After snapping the neck of a guard with her bare hands and taking his pistol to blast the other guard, one of her crewmates looks up and says, “Captain Morgan, it’s you!”. Her response is a deadpan, “Yes, it’s me, Captain Morgan.” Oh my. I suppose it’s hard to tell it’s her, since she’s the only woman in the entire movie and likely the only woman pirate captain on the entire planet.

And second, after the climactic swordfighting scene with her evil uncle Captain Dog– during which she climbed to the top of the main mast for reasons that can only be described as confusing– Captain Morgan reveals a cannon hidden under a sheet and says forcefully “Bad Dog!” as she lights the fuse. Captain Dog is subsequently blown through about fifteen bulkheads, propelled by the cannonball and a special effects budget of at least twenty dollars.

All in all, it was an amazing display of cheesiness only rivaled by watching a casual friend’s grainy home movies for hours on end. Once we accepted the fact (about five minutes into the show) that the movie was simply not going to be any good, it was somewhat fun to watch and laugh at the horrible lines.

Ahh, Hollywood. Providing mental stimulation for the masses.

So I guess someone got the clever idea to include “custom smilies” in e-mail messages or something, because I’ve been getting weird links embedded in messages from clients. Take, for example, this message from someone out in CA:

You Are The Man <>

I guess that goop at the end is supposed to show up as a winking kitten or something, but it sure doesn’t look like it to me. Maybe I need to use a brain-dead mail client like Outlook to make it work…

(And yes, she really did say I was the man. So there.)

Reading Slashdot (my daily lunch pastime) is sure to lead to some interesting stuff, but it’s pretty rare that I absolutely bust out laughing in my office.

Although there was that line about “that caused my monocle to POP RIGHT OUT!” that for some reason struck me as so funny I would periodically chuckle for days.

Anyway, today there was a rather good discussion about quantum mechanics and the dual-slit experiment. It was in answer to an article where a physicist claims you can detect parallel universes in your own living room (“Hey kids, want to detect a parallel universe after dinner?”). He shows how to set up the experiment– which is a classic in physics– and claims it’s proof of a parallel universe. Whatever. This is an ongoing religious-like discussion amongst physicists, and only persists because there is no valid explanation yet… which leaves some wacky ones.

In any case, between all the discussion threads about quantum states and measurement and wavefunction collapses, I found this gem that made me crack up:

“When I tried this experiment I ended up with a 3D holographic image of the words ‘There is no alternate universe’ and a few moments later someone whispered ‘If you try that again we’ll eat your soul’.

So there is no alternate universe…

OK, mister spooky voice, you can stop making my walls bleed.”

Many other great quotes followed, including the insightful:

“I tried the experiment myself, and it worked! Through the holes, I saw images from many parallel universes, worlds in which Columbus discovered Europe, Lincoln shot President Booth, and Germany and Japan saved the world from Nazi America and Fascist Britain in WWII. However, Michael Jackson is a disfigured weirdo pervert in every parallel world. Must be a fundamental physical law, like the speed of light.”

“Science is like sex: sometimes something useful comes out of it, but that is not the reason we are doing it.”

— Richard Feynman

A few weeks ago I decided to rip my entire CD collection (several hundred albums) to high-quality digital format. About four years ago I did the same thing, except I used lower-quality output and I only did some selected songs.

It turns out to be a pretty big undertaking, simply because I have so many CD’s. In the end, my approach was to set up a little “rip station” where I could cruise through them. Note the stack of three laptops here, and the monitor showing the rip program for each one.

I still have a few hundred to go, but soon I’ll have everything on the ol’ hard drive and can use the CD’s for, oh, home decor or something.

It appears that the record companies just don’t get it.

For two or three years the RIAA– a consortium of the largest record labels– has been whining and moaning about how downloaded music is destroying their huge profit margins… er, taking money from starving artists. They’ve done everything from lobby Congress for draconian punishments (a prison term for downloading something by Eminem?) to file over two thousand lawsuits against individuals suspected of downloading and sharing music.

Despite numerous studies indicating that “pirated” music actually benefits artists and album sales, and certainly doesn’t affect CD sales in the way the RIAA claims, the labels have continued their relentless pursuit. Fine, whatever. They have more money than most of us, and if they choose to spend it on litigation that’s their prerogative.

Enter legal music downloading. Apple’s iTunes site is doubtless the most popular, and in the year it’s been running it has seen hundreds of millions of downloaded songs. At a buck apiece, the price seemed right– and the digital rights management included with every song protected the interests of the RIAA. It seemed like everyone was winning: the RIAA was getting paid for their music, people were okay with shelling out a buck for a song, and Apple made a bit of a profit on the side.

So what happens now? Well, the record companies have decided to raise the price! That’s right, it’s not enough that people are switching in droves from pirating music to paying for it… the RIAA and friends have decided they need to make more money off the deal. Many singles will go from $1.00 to $1.25, and some albums will go from $10 to $17.

Hmm. I could buy the stupid CD for $17, and I’d have free control to rip the music and use it in whatever medium I’d like. Why would I download the same music (at a slightly lower quality) and be forced to use it only on approved media devices, and never in more than three places?

Raising the prices of singles seems equally lame. It’s not like the distribution costs have gone up (rather, they continue to go down), nor is it like there’s suddenly a host of new fees that need to be paid. Rather, it’s a very obvious case of trying to turn a bigger profit. Of course that money will go into the legal coffers and be used to sue the dickens out of anyone still unafraid to share their music.

For a time, I was thinking the RIAA might finally join the rest of us in the twenty-first century, and revise their outdated business model to better compete in the digital age. But alas, they’ve proven to me once again that they don’t have a clue what their customers really want.

Always remember, when installing servers into a rack, be sure to wear your hard hat.

As an avid reader of Slashdot, it was hilarious to read this… on Slashdot:

Slashdot is no better than Simone:

“My best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with a girl who saw Ferris pass-out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it’s pretty serious.”

It’s funny because it’s true.