As I’ve been listening to Pandora, I’ve noticed that many of the ads are targeted at people in the “greater Albany area”.


Modern browsers have the ability to send location data to sites that request it, so I figured maybe something weird was going on there. Perhaps the IP address associated with my internet connection was somehow linked to an ISP in Albany?

Then it hit me. In my Pandora profile, I’d given my ZIP code as 12345. That’s Schenectady, New York… about 30 minutes from Albany. Schenectady is my old standby whenever a site asks for a ZIP code and has no real need for it. Take that, Pandora advertisers!

Elevator science

Last night I read a fascinating study of people in elevators by a psychologist named Lane Longfellow. By “fascinating” I mean “I can’t believe someone actually studied this, but it’s fun and cool and exactly what you’d expect”. Here are the highlights of the study:

Normally the first person on the elevator grabs the corner by the buttons or a corner in the rear. The next passenger takes the opposite corner. Then the remaining corners are seized, after which comes the mid-rear-wall and the center of the car. Then packing becomes indiscriminate. “When the sixth person gets on you can watch the shuffle start,” says Longfellow. “People don’t quite know what to do with the sixth person. Then another set of rules comes into play governing body contact.”

In an uncrowded elevator, men stand with hands folded in front; women will hold their purses in front. That’s called the “Fig Leaf Position”. Longfellow says, “As it gets more crowded you can see hands unfold and come down to the sides, because if you have your hands folded in front of you in a really crowded elevator, there’s no telling where your knuckles might end up. So out of respect for the privacy of other people you unfold them and put them at your side.”

High-status individuals are given more space. For instance, if the president of the company gets on, he gets more space.

Men leave more space between themselves and other men than women do with other women.

See? Fascinating!

I don’t like that

I was scrolling through Facebook posts on my tablet just now, and apparently I hit the “like” button on accident as I was scrolling. Horrified, I looked at the post. It was a friend talking about her thoughts on switching health-care providers from Anthem to Kaiser (or something like that). Holy cow, what an inane thing to “like”! I attempted to undo or withdraw the like but it’s not possible. Sheesh.

On the bright side, at least I didn’t accidentally like someone’s relative dying.

Aaaaand, she’s off!

Kyra’s officially away at college! We drove out to BYU this week to drop her off and get her started on the next step of her life.

She’s living off-campus in an apartment complex called The Riviera (motto: “Live the Riv”). It may sound like a vacation resort, but it’s not actually quite that nice. What is nice, however, is that it’s right across the street from campus– which makes it a nice walk as she heads to classes.

When we arrived, no one else was in the apartment. She has three other roommates, and one of them had apparently been living there during the summer and left a note for the others saying she’d be back on Saturday. Her name is Kira. (Yes, Kira and Kyra.) The others are Kennan and Anna. Kira’s stuff was scattered around one of the two bedrooms, and she had tons of cookware and utensils in the kitchen. That meant we could take home a few things, like the colander we’d brought, since no one really needs two colanders!

Here’s the first set of boxes in the empty room:


And a little while later, all of Kyra’s stuff:


It’s funny how few things a college student has. Later in life you find out that it takes a tractor-trailer to haul all of your things to a new house. But for now, simplicity is great.

After a bit, we had her room all set up nice and pretty:


We decided to go out to dinner, and Kyra chose the Olive Garden, which is right nearby.


They have a new deal where you get a second dish when you order certain entrees, so both she and Laralee were able to score a take-home dinner for free. And everyone knows that free food for a college student– especially delicious Italian fare– is a big deal.

Laralee and I had made arrangements to stay with our friends up in Herriman (about 45 minutes away) and just as we were leaving, Kyra’s roommate Anna appeared. She’d been living with a friend for a few days and was going to move in that evening. Anna gave us the news that Kennan is a friend from her missionary days, and they’d been planning to room together. Oops. That would’ve been good to know before Kyra had spent all that time moving into the empty room! Now she had to move everything over to the other bedroom where Kira’s stuff was. Fortunately Kyra’s pretty easygoing, and it didn’t bother her too much.

We came back to Provo the next morning for freshman/parent orientation. All of the incoming freshmen were gathered on a practice field on campus:


There were nearly 5,000 of them… that’s the same size as the entire student population at UMR when I went there! However, BYU must be accustomed to huge numbers of students like this, because they processed everyone very quickly. Kyra was assigned to a “Y group” of about 20 other students, with one leader who was a sophomore named Molly. All of the students headed off for campus tours and whatever, while the parents were treated to some workshops and discussions with titles like “How to Help Your Student Be Successful” and “Your Daughter’s Experience at BYU”. While they were good, there weren’t really any surprises. Moreover, the presenters kept saying things like “be sure to tell your student… yada yada…” and I mentioned to Laralee that it’s basically too late for that. We’ve had eighteen years to teach Kyra what she needs to know to be successful, and cramming it all into her head on the first day of college isn’t going to be much help.

After a busy day, we met up again at Kyra’s apartment (still no one else there– Anna had gone out to work or something) and chatted for a bit. Here’s Kyra relaxing a bit and deciding not to attend the big freshman dance that night. No surprise there.


There wasn’t really anything else for us to do, so Laralee and I gave Kyra big hugs, wished her luck, and left. That was that. Of course we’re worried about a few little details, but all in all I know she’s going to do a great job at BYU and have an amazing experience.

Booty Pop

Today’s winner for hilariousest spam:

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Your bigger rear-end dreams are no longer just wishful thinking! Make your Booty Pop with our advanced formula, you can see a firmer and more bootylicious backside in as little as 2 weeks.


He ate WHAT?

So Alex, the guy who’s been a picky eater for as long as I’ve known him, has definitely changed his palate. After ten months in Peru, he’s eaten some crazy things. Today he told me that he had suri which is, in his words, “some kind of grub or maggot or something that they eat in the jungles of Peru”.

Yeah, some kind of grub or maggot or something. That doesn’t sound like food to me. And it definitely doesn’t look like food, either:


But to his credit, he said “it’s actually kind of tasty (it’s got a flavor kind of like pepperoni)” and put it down the hatch.

Oh, and one final comment: “I did eat the head, too!”

I wonder if he’ll come back to the States and ask whether he can get suri on his pizza…


After Zack and I went over to the local pinball joint a few weeks ago, I had a hankerin’ for a pinball game. Of course the “good” ones cost around eight thousand dollars, so it wasn’t really in the budget.

Enter my friend Roger, who happens to own three pinball games. He also happens to have an idea about renting them out to people (on a monthly basis) and make a little money when he’s not using them. He’s been kind of sitting on this idea for a few years, and never really made anything happen with it, so a few days ago I talked him into allowing me to be his first customer.

This afternoon we hauled one of them over to my house and set it up in the basement. Voila!


I played a few games and had a great time. Now I can learn all the “tricks”, especially because Roger included a sweet DVD that will teach me how to master any pinball game. Wow!

A piano? In this house?

After something like twenty years of talking about it, this week Laralee finally accomplished her goal of having a piano in the house. She’s been telling me for years that she actually already owns a piano, but it’s up in Idaho at one of her siblings’ houses (she “inherited” it from her parents or something). Since we don’t really have a good way to transport it from Idaho to Colorado, we’ve been piano-less for all these years.

She stumbled across an ad where a woman in town was looking to give away her piano for free. Nice! So Laralee went to see it, decided it was decent, and then worked on how to get it to our house. She called a few piano movers, who told her that it’s really super important that you use a piano mover any time you want to move a piano, because transporting such a delicate, precious instrument in, say, a (shudder) pickup truck would be ridiculous. Legs could break off! The sounding board– or whatever it’s called– could get warped. Oh, and once it’s at home, don’t put it along an outside wall because the humidity will warp everything. And don’t put it too near an air vent because moving air will cause mold and rust and fungus and herpes. It was kind of funny how all of them were very protective of an old free piano we were looking to move a few miles.

In the end, the cheapest piano mover was something like $250 so Laralee gave up on that idea. I rounded up some friends and we drove over to the woman’s house, where we loaded the piano into… wait for it… a pickup truck. Oh, and it was raining at the time. Yikes, humidity! We threw a tarp over it, hauled it across town, and had a grand old time hoisting it into the house.

Now it sits in our living room, probably quietly warping. It’s definitely out of tune; even I can tell that. So we’ll get it tuned, and I predict the piano tuner guy will tell us it needs to be tuned at least every few months for a hundred bucks a pop, because if we don’t then it’ll cause dogs to howl and whatnot. (My guess is we’ll tune it once and that’ll be it for the next decade.)

In any case, I’m happy that Laralee is happy with her piano. I sat down to play a few notes and realized just how horrible I am– I can’t even read music. I look at the staff and count up (“F-A-C-E… okay, that’s a C. Now where’s the C on the keyboard? Okay, here.”) and finally play one note, then look at the next note. Every measure takes about 30 seconds. It’s breathtaking, to be sure.

Kyra, on the other hand, sat down and immediately started playing some great music.




It’s too bad that she’s the only musical person in the family, and about to move away to college. Zack enjoys sitting there banging away on random keys, which of course is fantastic. I guess the question is whether any of the three of us will take the plunge and actually learn how to play…

King Jeff

Kyra and I just played a couple of games of Dominion… my favorite game (and maybe hers as well).


I won both of them, which makes the fifth and sixth win in a row. A long time ago we decided that there are different terms for each win in a series:

1 win – just a win, nothing special
2 wins – coincidence
3 wins – lucky
4 wins – a streak
5 wins – all hail the king
6 wins – an empire
7 wins – a dynasty!

So I’m at the level of an empire now, and another win will give me a dynasty. Since the two of us are pretty evenly matched, it’s rare that we go much beyond “lucky”.

I have nine Dominion sets, and the latest one, Empires, was just released. I’ve already ordered it and expect it within a week. Awesome.


It’ll be sad when Kyra heads off to college, because I won’t have anyone who wants to play against me…

rm -rf

Back in the day, it was possible to completely trash any ‘nix system by running the recursive delete command in the root partition:

# rm -rf /

There are plenty of stories of system administrators who did something like this (with slight variations, and always by accident) and ended up with a mess.

Today I ran that command on four different servers, on purpose, so I could wipe out everything on them. Imagine my surprise when I ran into a safeguard!

# rm -rf /
rm: it is dangerous to operate recursively on /
rm: use –no-preserve-root to override this failsafe

Well, shoot, my operating system is warning me that I shouldn’t be deleting every file on my computer!

It’s funny that someone actually thought of that and added it to the delete command. Of course I forged ahead and added the flag so I could proceed with complete system destruction. Take that!