“And there is distrust in Washington. I am surprised, frankly, at the amount of distrust that exists in this town. And I’m sorry it’s the case, and I’ll work hard to try to elevate it.”

— President George W. Bush


Tom and I always exchange gift cards for Christmas and birthdays, so in keeping with long tradition I decided to get him a card from Lowe’s, since he’s always working on some new house project.

But when I hit the Lowe’s web site and went to the gift card area, I see this:

What the heck? I want to send him a card via e-mail– not even a physical card or anything– and it says I can’t. Is the internet full or something?

Even today, five days after Christmas, it’s still down. This is really starting to suck. At this rate Tom might have to wait until his birthday to get the dang thing…


So the kids came home from school with some Christmas gifts this week. According to the story (verified by Laralee, who knows all of the “in people” over there), a mysterious benefactor actually bought presents for every kid in the school. And these aren’t just cheesy plastic cups with a snowman on them or something– Zack got an Etch-a-Sketch, Kyra ended up with a nice silver charm bracelet, etc.

There are around 450 students enrolled at Loma Linda Elementary, and about 65% of them are on the “free lunch” program because their household income is pretty much at the poverty level. These are kids who probably don’t have much of a Christmas, and even if they do, Dad probably has to leave to work one of his three jobs to scrape by. So for someone to buy gifts for all 450 of the kids is a really, really cool thing.


I found this picture on a plastic cup I’d made in first grade. Holy cow.

The cup had, sadly, finally fallen apart to the point where you couldn’t drink out of it. But I figured I should at least salvage the picture.


This cartoon struck me as terrifically romantic, in a geeky kind of way.

Maybe I’ll put it on a Valentine’s card for Laralee someday…


Whoever thought of the idea of a talking web site– err, I mean “virtual salesperson”– must have been smoking something pretty interesting. I stumbled across one today:

Does anyone really believe that having a web site start talking to you is going to “increase online sales”? I would think it would make people click the “X” in the corner as fast as they can move their mouse over there.

And for the record, this woman had a really hard time saying “hey yo wassup brotha”. Her pronunciation was all wrong.


It’s such a hoot interviewing people for a position at Zing. The resumes I get are often beyond comprehension. For example:

  • Last week I received a resume and cover letter from a guy who professed strong experience in web technologies like ASP, .Net, and SQL Server. While I have no doubt his skills were just fine, they were completely different from what I was asking in my job posting. He didn’t even mention the skills that I listed as “absolutely required”.
  • Early this week, someone with graphic design experience asked if I’d be willing to take on an intern. While the idea isn’t a bad one, I’m pretty sure that a job whose description includes heavy-duty programming skills isn’t going to suit someone who studied Art History and spends her time doing graphics work.
  • Yesterday I received one from a guy who’s living in Moscow, and whose example projects were all in Russian (making it hard for me to know what the heck he was doing). Apparently he didn’t see the part in my job ad about “local candidates only”.
  • Today I received one from a guy who, like the first rock star in this list, doesn’t have even the slightest mention of the programming skills I requested.
  • Out of curiosity (a morbid curiosity in some cases) I often poke around the web a little bit to see examples of these candidates’ work. Most of the time they’re, well, unimpressive. But today’s made me laugh. The guy’s web site had this at the very top of the page:

    “(Company name) provides design and development of software solutions for complex problems. Novel systems are nothing new to (Company name).”

    That’s funny, because I’m pretty sure the very definition of “novel” is something that’s never been seen before. How could that be “nothing new”? Novel means new, dude!

    Anyway, the search for a good candidate continues.


“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

— Groucho Marx


We’re going to a Christmas party with some friends tonight, and the highlight of the evening is always the white-elephant gift exchange (home of the legenday Gravy Boat). Since we didn’t have anything really earth-shatteringly dumb around the house, I headed down to the local thrift store to pick up some real gems.

I’m sure people will be thrilled to receive the vinyl album The Star Carol, as sung by “Tennessee” Ernie Ford.

But since music is such an important part of the holiday season, I didn’t stop there. I also found A Very Merry Christmas, Volume IV. The scary thing is it implies there were three volumes before this one!

And finally, just because the picture on the cover cracked me up, I present America’s Top Tunes, in Golden Tone Hi-Fidelity.

It’s still in the original plastic! I’m sure that makes it much more valuable to the discerning collector. Notice the yellow GUARANTEE sticker on the right, which says this is “BRAND NEW HI-FI: The most thrilling hi-fi you have ever heard, regardless of price, or your money refunded in full!”

Considering the price was $1.75, I wonder who I ask about getting it refunded.


When hanging Christmas lights in tall trees, some people buy those long wooden sticks and have a heck of a time maneuvering lights around the top of the tree.

Me? I just send Alex up there.


This is what happens when your kids steal your Clie and figure out how to use it.


So today I was at Wal-Mart buying Christmas lights, and I used the self checkout lane (motto: “Fast! Easy! Fun!”). When it came time to sign the little screen for my credit card, I gave a halfhearted scribble.

That wavy line at the bottom, below the bar code, is my amazing signature.

Funny, though: suddenly a voice boomed out “Please wait for a service attendant” and the little red siren at the top of a pole in the checkout lane started whirling around and flashing. I was curious what had happened, since the credit-card screen said “signature accepted” and I assumed everything had been paid for properly. The happy face Wal-Mart screen said something like “ATTENDANT: COMPARE SIGNATURE WITH CREDIT CARD”. Aha.

The 70-year-old tired-looking service attendant woman ambled over, looked at the screen, and typed in a quick code (without comparing my signature, of course). The siren stopped, my receipt spewed forth from the machine, and I was allowed to go home and hang lights.

I suspect the system is programmed to look for lazy signatures like this, to deter credit card fraud. Ha. Next time I’m either going to draw a straight line, or a series of several hundred up-and-down squiggles. I wonder what else the system is programmed to watch.

Oh, and I wasn’t joking about the motto of the self checkout. You can see it at the top of the receipt.


Ultimate everywhere!

I was reading an article on software engineering, and there was a little random photo in the margin. There are a bunch of guys running around, and upon closer inspection they’re clearly playing ultimate. (The disc is a little white line almost directly above the rightmost guy.)



Today was an amazing day for ultimate. The forecast called for balmy 65-degree weather but with high winds; in the morning I could hear it howling around the house. The ultimate gang was a bit apprehensive, wondering whether we’d play or not. But at lunch time, there wasn’t much more than a slight breeze, and the promised temperature had arrived. Who expected sunny and 65 on December 4? What a great time.

And afterward came the wind. I was in Boulder for some meetings and I’ll bet the wind was gusting well over 40mph. It was hard to even walk– I had to really lean into it just to get down the sidewalks.

I guess God likes ultimate, because he let us have a couple of hours in there.


From the Associated Press:

The number of Iraqi civilians killed last month fell to 718, the lowest monthly death toll since January 2006.

What’s interesting about this is the fact that more than likely the Bush administration will flaunt this statistic as some kind of triumph, an indication that their failed policies over there are somehow succeeding. Indeed, a Navy spokesman said:

There have been improvements in security, however, militants, insurgents, extremists and criminals out there will continue to keep looking for opportunities, so we have to remain vigilant and on alert.

I can’t help but think that 718 civilian deaths is about 718 too many. How can we say that the murder of that many innocents is somehow a good thing? One could indeed say this is an “improvement in security” but I think it’s hard to really understand the scope of the disaster when this number is an improvement. No matter what happens, the administration insists that we have to continue our occupation. If the death toll goes down, it’s a sign that things are going the right way so we need to “stay the course” and “remain vigilant”; if the death toll rises, it’s a sign that we’re not committed enough so we need to do still more.

End it.