There’s quite a little drama outside my office window. I’m in the basement, and next to my desk is a window well (it’s actually the “escape hatch” for the basement). For the past few days there’s been a sudden influx of crickets, and even a praying mantis that prowls around.

Just now Alex decided to climb down into the well (from outside, of course) and he was banging on the window. I looked out, and he pointed out how one of the crickets had stumbled onto a big spiderweb in one corner, and the spider shot out and attacked. It looks like the cricket is having a bad time of it, but it’s endlessly intriguing to Alex.

Now Zack is at the top of the window well, looking down and offering his comments. Great stuff.


Laralee’s garden is flourishing, and I can’t wait until it’s time to harvest the corn. I don’t really care for the squash and some other things she’s growing in there, but corn is my favorite vegetable and there’s nothing like just-off-the-stalk corn on the cob.



A word of caution: when you’re sitting in a stroller, going down the sidewalk, ALWAYS WEAR YOUR SEATBELT!

Zack decided he didn’t need one, and he took a header out of the stroller the other day. The side of his face got pretty scraped up, and although he’s happy in this picture (several hours later) be assured there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth after the incident…


Researchers at Edinburgh University in Scotland have been awarded a grant to develop what they call “smart sand”, which are speck-sized computers that communicate via wireless technology and include sensor arrays. They’d be used– at least initially– to perform health monitoring functions and transmit the data (after processing it locally).

Amazing stuff. It’s exactly the kind of thing described in Vernor Vinge’s fantastic book “A Deepness in the Sky”, and in fact parallels my own ideas for my science fiction novel “Dusk”, which includes an entire desert comprised of nano-computers. Heck, the researchers even call these things “smart sand”…


So if you were a time traveler, and you were visiting today’s world but your time machine broke, how would you get it repaired? Obviously you’d need to contact someone who has the appropriate parts, but I don’t remember any Time Traveling section in the Yellow Pages. So how would you find the right person?

Of course– SPAM! Send an e-mail message explaining the problem to a million people, and hope that one of them has what you need.

Apparently that’s the rationale used by Brian Appel, a stranded time traveler who sent the following (no kidding) message to me and, presumably, a million others:


I’m a time traveler stuck here in 2003.

Upon arriving here my dimensional warp generator stopped working. I trusted a company here by the name of LLC Lasers to repair my Generation 3 52 4350A watch unit, and they fled on me.

Since nobody in this timeline seems to be able to deliver what I need (safely here to me), I will have to build a simple time travel circuit to get where I need myself. While it might be hard to find parts in this time to build anything decent, I need easy to follow schematics from the future to build one which is safe and accurate that will not disrupt the time space continuum with both forward and backward capability accounting for temporal location settings (X, Y, Z,), which can be built out of (readily available) parts here in 2003. Please email me any plans you have. I will pay good money for anything you send me I can use. Or if you have a dimensional warp generator available, and are 100% certain you have a (safe secure) means of delivering it to me please also reply with a secure way to contact you. Send a separate email to me at:

Do not reply back directly to this email as it will only be bounced back to you.

Thank You
Brian Appel


“Do not try to think outside the box. Instead, realise the truth: there is no box.”


“Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking
what nobody has thought.”

Albert von Szent-Gyorgyi


My friend Derek was once in a college band called Love Cows. There’s a funny story behind the name, but suffice to say I’ve heard their CD and it’s not half bad. They did covers of a few songs, and (if memory serves) even wrote a couple themselves.

In any case, one Halloween a couple of years ago I decided to dress up as a “punk” rocker. I colored my hair red, put on some piercings, got a few tattoos, tore up a pair of jeans a bit, and… needed a great concert shirt. Naturally the Love Cows came to mind, so I actually made myself a Love Cows shirt and wore it that Halloween.

Today, digging through stacks of shirts in my closet, I laughed when I found the old shirt. What better to wear on a lazy Saturday?

I’m, like, their biggest fan… I wonder when they’ll have their Reunion Tour?


Many years ago, back in college, the Residential Life Department splurged and bought lunches for the RA’s who were going through training (we had to be at school a couple weeks before classes actually started). I used some of my lunch money to buy so-called “recycle mugs” because (1) they held a lot of soda, (2) they were non-styrofoam environmentally friendly, and (3) they had cheap refills.

Anyway, through my three years as an RA I amassed about a dozen of these mugs. They were great, and I kept using them because (1) they held a lot of orange juice, and (2) they were sort of thermally insulated. The dishwasher took its toll and scratched off all the cool logos and stuff, but you can see here today’s orange juice sitting on my desk as I work.

Recycle mugs rule.


In her never-ending quest for excitement, thrills, and life on the edge, today Laralee sat down and PEELED ALMONDS. I’m not kidding– she took a small bucket of almonds and scraped the skins off every one of them.

Does my wife know how to have a good time, or WHAT?


If I build my own FM radio and listen to music, I’ve committed no crime.  

If I build a telescope and look at the stars (or the airspace over Area
51, or the nude beach) I’ve committed no crime.  Right?

If I build a radio telescope and capture radio emissions from distant
stars for analysis on my computer screen, I’ve committed no crime.  

So if I take that radio telescope and adjust a few things so I’m
capturing DirecTV transmissions and displaying them on my TV screen, am
I committing a crime?

Here’s my thought: DirecTV’s satellites (I think there are two) are
transmitting radio waves.  Bunches of photons.  If I passively collect
those photons and turn them into something entertaining, how is that
any different– in principle– than listening to FM radio or
stargazing?  It’s all electromagnetic radiation.

Please note this is different than if I bought a DirecTV settop box and
hacked the smart card or whatever… I’m assuming I built the receiver
entirely on my own, and happened to be clever enough to decrypt the
signals.  Is passive recording of electromagnetic waves criminal?

To take it a step further, what if I then started intercepting military
transmissions and broadcasting/selling them?  Criminal or no?

And if the answer to any of these questions is “yes” (or even
“probably”) then who decides what parts of the electromagnetic spectrum
are illegal?  How can the FCC– or whoever– “outlaw” bunches of
photons, or the processing of them?

Strange world.


Man, it’s been hot out lately. Today I played ultimate at lunchtime, and it was bordering on 100 degrees. My bare feet don’t enjoy that scorched ground too much.

This picture is our digital thermometer a few days ago…


So it looks like DirecTV, makers of those little dishes, has decided to
file lawsuits against 8,000 (and counting) people accusing them of
pirating DirecTV signals.  These people are on record as purchasing
devices called smart-card programmers, which are apparently useful if
you want to “hack” your DirecTV system and get the Playboy channel for
free (or something).

The problem is, DirecTV has no direct evidence that these people are
committing a crime.  Many of those who have been accused don’t
subscribe to the service, don’t have a satellite dish, and simply
bought the devices for other– legitimate– purposes.

However, those same (innocent) people are often choosing to settle with
DirecTV, typically for somewhere around $3,500, rather than face a
lawsuit and the much higher price tag of a lawyer to defend them in
federal court.

It seems to me this is a gross abuse of the legal system.  DirecTV is
using the fact that (1) people are intimidated by legal notices from
big corporations, and (2) people would rather pay $3,500– even if
they’re innocent– than pay $10k or more for a lawyer to defend them.  
It seems to me this is a sad state of affairs, when innocent people
give in to blustery legal threats because it’s easier than the


I saw something on Slashdot that made me chuckle… because it relates to why people hire guys like me to build them a web site…

If you can’t afford a webguy, how do you let people know how good you are? Hmm, that reminds me of something:

Bill: Ted, while I agree that in time our band will be most triumphant, the truth is Wyld Stallyns will never be a super band until we have Eddie Van Halen on guitar.
Ted: Yes Bill, but I do not believe we will get Eddie Van Halen until we have a triumphant video.
Bill: Ted, it’s pointless to have a triumphant video before we even have decent instruments.
Ted: Well how can we have decent instruments when we really don’t even know how to play.
Bill: That is why we need Eddie Van Halen.
Ted: And that is why we need a triumphant video.
Both: Excellent. (Air Guitar.)


So La and I finally got around to watching the ULTIMATE EDITION of “Stargate” the other night. There are two DVD’s: a Theatrical Cut and a Director’s Cut. Obviously we chose the latter.

It was amazing. Absolutely incredible. I think there was an additional twenty seconds of footage… maybe even thirty. (Yes, I said “seconds”, not “minutes”.)

Seriously, I have no idea what made it the Director’s Cut– except for a little 20-second clip that I hadn’t seen before, I recognized every scene in the movie. What a rip.


At dinner we were talking about the Evil Advertising Agencies and how they make TV commercials designed to entice you to buy their products. Laralee was expounding how Froot Loops have no redeeming quality whatsoever, and Alex retorted with, “But they say they have vitamins and minerals!”

To this, La replied, “Yeah, but it’s still like pouring sugar all over you.”

Alex’s response: “Yuck! Even on your feet? Between your toes?”


From a newsgroup posting:

One box to run them all,
one box to blind them,
one box to control them all
and in the darkness grind them
in the land of Redmond where the shadows lie.


The Linux Prayer, seen on Slashdot:

Our PC GOD Torvalds, which art in Transmeta^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H OSDN
Hallowed be thy skillz
Thy kernel comes, in the US and all the earth
Give us this day our daily updates.
And forgive us our holes, as we apply thine patch.
And lead us not into closed source, but deliver us from Microsoft.
For thine is the kernel, the skillz, and the leetness for ever and ever. Amen.


Example of irony:

I got an e-mail spam about software I can use to stop e-mail spam.


I just ordered a new computer for my company.

I’ve ordered five of the same thing over the past few months, and early this year (four months ago) they cost $600 apiece. Today’s order was under $400.

$400 for a brand new super-fast computer system… sheesh, I remember the first system I bought (an Apple IIgs) that was over $2,000 USED. My first IBM clone PC was also well over $2,000 and it had a screaming 386/33 processor…

I guess if I wait a week or two I’ll be able to get this puppy for even less!