Friday, May 25, 2007

Needful things

As usual, Japan is way ahead of the rest of us. It is embarrassing to me to hear people say we're the No. 1 leader in all things, because we so obviously are not.

To wit:

I'm trying to figure out what the coolest use would be for one of these ultra-thin, ultra-flexible displays. I mean, there's a whole basketful of obvious choices: A TV you can easily hang on the wall would be nice, but it would have to be pretty big, I think. If the wizards who come up with these things can ever overcome the physical obstacles to making high-fidelity, ultra-thin speakers, we'll be in business...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Categories I could easily beat that Jeopardy guy at

I think his name was Ken, or Kirby, or maybe Kitten. Whatever. He knew everything, right? Well, he didn't know everything about (or would be slower than me at):
  • Weaving terminology. Is it a woof or a weft? The world wonders.
  • Birds seen by me on Plum Island, Mass.
  • Tasks undertaken in the former Strauser Manufacturing plant in Walla Walla in the summer of 1994. Hey, they all sucked.
  • Best routes from 2B N. Main St., #212, Newmarket, N.H, to 17 Executive Drive, Hudson, NH. These mostly sucked, too.
I'm sure there's one more out there, but Jeopardy ceases to amuse me...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Pretty huge deal

The butterfly lady got her official sign-off as a Ph.D. on Saturday at the University of New Hampshire, so we rolled out that way with her dad and met up with a couple of pals to hang out for the extended weekend.

This meant lots of chow in our old stomping grounds, tooling around in same, hanging around for hours in the chilly mist (not a warm day for graduation) and other fun activities. I felt a pretty fair amount of nostalgia and homesickness, but that passed Sunday afternoon when I was driving along Routes 107 and 111 in rather unweekend-like traffic. That I do not miss, not one bit.

Nevertheless, the visit was very nice and seeing the doctor anointed would have been worth the trip all by itself.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Awww, yeah

Here comes Kool-Aid!

Speaking of birds

I see the Associated Press, the world's largest news-gathering organization, has misidentified a Steller's jay as a bluebird. USA Today has duplicated the error, too. OK, so both of them have blue feathers, but give me a break.

Here is a Steller's jay.

And here is a Western bluebird.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Laid-back bird watching

I haven't been out much lately, but I like to go bird watching. So does the butterfly lady, who suggested we head out into the toolies Sunday to check out what we could find. Having lived here for most of the 1990s, I've seen most of what the county has to offer (which to be fair is a lot of great birds), so maybe I'm not in a big hurry to rush out on the weekends because a) I have a lot of other stuff to do; and b) I've seen a lot of these guys before.

Among the cool sights:
  • A Say's phoebe, on the same stretch of road I was on the first time I saw one, ages ago. They're cute little flycatchers with a pretty song, and they flick their tails to pass the time.
  • A great horned owl, perched in a nest in a riverbank. Their "horns" and yellow eyes give them a particularly fierce glare.
  • About a half-dozen American white pelicans, moseying along in a lake at the McNary National Wildlife Refuge. I saw a couple pelicans once out at the local reservoir. When I told a birding pal about them, he asked if I was sure they weren't swans. Um, yeah, I'm pretty sure I could tell the difference.
  • Ruddy ducks! The butterfly lady's favorite duck - a cute little brick red sort with a spiky, upturned tail and a bright blue bill. These were in another of the refuge's lakes.
  • A northern oriole (or if you're a splitter, a Bullock's oriole), along the Walla Walla River. I don't see too many orioles on this side of the country, and they seem to be visible around these parts only for a brief spell.
We were on a very easygoing expedition, so we didn't go to great lengths to turn up oddballs, but it was still a nice way to spend part of a fairly lazy Sunday.

Friday, May 11, 2007

What are you paying me for?

Besides my 40-hour gig I do other things for money, too. The way I see it, the transactions I'm in, the person is buying either a) something I made; b) something I am doing for them; or c) both.

I do not think the buyer is purchasing "my time," and I doubt the run-of-the-mill customer thinks that's what they're getting when they hand over the cash.

Nevertheless, people frequently say, "I'm not sellling X, I'm selling my time."

I suppose. But when a customer says, "I'm not buying X from you, I'm buying your time," I think that maybe reality is being stretched a bit too far.

Call this semantics if you think that'll stick. I call it bullshit. You want to buy my time, you just give me some money, and I'll go read a book.

It's about damn time

An AP story on the wire today suggests LEDs will soon be a viable alternative to incandescent bulbs and compact fluorescents, too.

Incandescents and CF bulbs are of course the most widely available choices for most people's lighting needs, unless, I suppose, you count candles. Both have major drawbacks - inefficiency (while I was writing this post, I had a funny parenthetical - (Who hasn't used an incandescent light to warm a chick?)), aesthetically displeasing light, contributions to mercury pollution and climate change, that sort of thing.

As the story points out, LEDs aren't ready to take over as your garden-variety solution to home-lighting problems, but maybe in a few years, they will be.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I am told one of my earliest responses to that question was "a bear."

Starting in about high school, I thought I might be a: soldier, civil engineer, anthropology professor, restaurateur, writer or weaver, as well as a few other oddball ideas here and there. Maybe some of those I named are themselves oddball...

I did not, until I started working at newspapers, expect that I'd become a journalist. I must like it: I've been at this for quite a while. But even though this is a great job and a valuable/meaningful/significant way to pass the time, I'm not sure I'm sold on it for the long haul.
  • The hours can be long, especially if you're a striver (been there, hope not to return).
  • The pay is just OK. I am not raking in the dough as a weaver, but I'm also not the only person in my profession who has more than one job.
  • The industry's long-term outlook is foggy. Thinking about the future of newspapers is like pancakes, all exciting at first, but after a while you're fucking sick of it (thank you, Mitch). I'm tired of thinking about this.
But it is a lot of fun. I pretty much get to talk, write, read, edit and think for a living - not too bad a deal. I'm still not sure about the answer, though. Maybe pizza critic?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Information and communication technology and you

The Pew Internet Project is running a project that uses a short self-report to slot people into one of several categories based on how they use information and communication technology. You can participate, and find out your "type" here.

Me? Omnivore:
"They have the most information gadgets and services, which they use voraciously to participate in cyberspace and express themselves online." (A Pew description)
According to Pew, this slice is about 8 percent of the population, with a median age of 28 (the youngest of the 10 available types), have the most gizmos and the highest rate of broadband Internet access at home.

I suppose, but I know people in this segment who are way more of gearheads than me, and who are way more involved. Maybe the 8-percenters need a special test :)

Monday, May 07, 2007

Where's for dinner?

Lulu tagged me with a places-to-eat meme, so I guess I have to spill the beans about where's OK for food in Walla Walla :)

Here're the rules:

1. Add a direct link to your post below the name of the person who tagged you.

Include the city/state and country you’re in.
(Sydney, Australia)
(Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
(San Giovanni in Marignano, Italy)
(Jakarta, Indonesia)
(London, England)
(Utah, USA)
(Toronto, Canada)
(Saitama, Japan)
(Dallas [ish], Texas, United States)
(Chicago, Illinois, United States)
Alasdair (Walla Walla, Wash., U.S.)

2. List your top five favorite places to eat at your location.

3. Tag five other people (preferably from other countries/states) and let them know they’ve been tagged.

Well, let's see. Walla Walla is a city of about 30,000, tucked away in the southeastern corner of Washington, near the Oregon state line. It is fast becoming a big-deal wine destination, so the places to eat have changed quite a bit in recent years. One thing we have very little of is chain, sit-down restaurants. We've got Applebee's and Shari's, but that's about as far as it goes.

I'll be honest here. I miss southern New Hampshire/Greater Boston pretty intensely when it comes to food, and we rarely go out around here. I may not be a professional chef, but I'm sorry to report my meals are significantly better than most of what you get in restaurants here. This isn't a complete wasteland, though: Here are some good places for chow, in no particular order:
  • Taco trucks: Walla Walla has a whole bunch of these, step vans that carry a kitchen on board and can be found pretty reliably at a few locations around town and at special events (like game days for the regional Mexican Soccer League or over at the alma mater). You gets your basics here - a beef taco on corn tortillas with salsa and lime for about a buck. Tasty, quick and friendly is standard fare, whichever one you choose. There's also a place called Taqueria Yungapeti, which is kind of like a taco truck except that it is a sit-down restaurant. The food's the same, but the venue's nicer on any of Walla Walla's 50 or 60 annual days with rain.
  • Whitehouse-Crawford: OK, this is really a place I/we go for drinks, which are pricy, tasty and strong. The restaurant and bar are in a reconditioned mill and the ambience is maybe a third of the reason to go. Besides sidecars and martinis and such, W-C also has tasty fried onions (I love onion rings) and excellent desserts, especially their twice-baked chocolate souffle/cake and flan. Plus, if you spend a lot of money, they'll give you a customized woodworker's pencil as a souvenir.
  • Rosita's Mexican restaurant: Besides the taco trucks, we have no shortage of Mexican restaurants here. Rosita's is a kind of quiet, hole-in-the-wall sort of place that's been around for decades. The enchiladas verde are the best Mexican food I've had in Walla Walla by a long shot - spicy, rich in tomatillos and with a good proportion of chicken, cheese and sauce. Most out-of-towers don't notice Rosita's because it isn't near the main entrance to the city and because it isn't flashy. So much the worse for them, but so much the better for the locals, who don't have to wait for a table...
  • Fast Eddy's and Ice Burg: Two high-profile drive-ins, both of which are good old-fashioned hamburger joints. At Fast Eddy's, the lady comes to your car, at Ice-Burg you step up to an outdoor counter or use a drive-through. Both places have quality burgers, really good milkshakes (Ice-Burg has fantastic blackberry shakes) and serviceable onion rings and fries. Compared to In-N-Out Burger, these are both highway robbery and just all right for food, but they're pretty damn good for local fare.
  • Patit Creek Restaurant: The classic fancy place in the area, this little restaurant is in Dayton, a smallish city north of Walla Walla. Frommer's gives it two (out of three) stars; I've heard someone else offered three (out of what I don't know). I have actually had their signature dish, filet mignon poivre verte, which I would put in my top-five all time for steaks (another meme, perhaps. The others were 1) an open-face roast-beef sandwich at a steakhouse in York, Neb. I think it was at Chances 'R'. 2) a steak at Front Street Steakhouse in Ogallala, Neb. They even give you an ice cream sundae for dessert. 3) lunch special at Suehiro in Kyoto. You cook it yourself on a little griddle brought to your table. Served with some kind of proprietary soy sauce - fantastic. 4) New York strip steaks grilled by yours truly in Newmarket, N.H., bought at the Durham Marketplace meat counter and seasoned with Spade L seasoning. 5) Uh, Patit Creek? Yes, and it was very good.)
So, I suppose I have to tag some people. How about the butterfly lady, mama, MWR, Daphne and Rich. The first one and the last two don't follow the rules for geography, but I like to compare (and I have a limited circle of acquaintance!).

Spring release weekend

One of two big local wine events in town just happened over the weekend. Spring release weekend is a big chance for snooty wine tourists to drop through and spend money in a very impressive but limited fashion. This meant that buses, stretch limos, stretch Ford Explorers and other rubbishy cars - along with some gems, like the Fiat the Butterfly Lady and I saw at the video store - were strewn around town among the usual cavalcade of diesel pickups driven by people who need neither a diesel nor a pickup.

What did we do? Well, we cleaned house some, watched some movies, taste-tested gummy worms (Trolli, Black Forest and Western Family. Only the Black Forest worms were edible - the other tow brands nearly reeked of coconut, which makes sense when you find out they're made with hydrogenated coconut oil - yuck.), and ate crepes (which were of course fantastic).

Also, I bumped off a warp and refit my creel (a spool rack) to make putting on warps more efficient. Wow, what a rockin' weekend!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

An amusing pastime

A friend of mine in New Hampshire discovered this typing test online, and being the competitive sort, she badgered the rest of the newsroom into taking the test. Sealed off from the outside world in our reconditioned warehouse in an industrial park in Hudson, we may all have had a skewed perspective, but this was our idea of fun...

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

What the heck is that?

I do not know, but the radioactive death rays seem to originate in Walla Walla.

Oh man, another missed holiday

You might not have noticed, but May 1 was proclaimed Law Day, U.S.A., by our busy president.

His proclamation included this summons to action:
I call upon all the people of the United States
to observe this day with appropriate
ceremonies and activities.
I also call upon Government officials to display
the flag of the United States
in support of this national observance.
I'm not sure Part A was accomplished, but I'm pretty sure Part B was not a big deal. What constitutes appropriate activities and ceremonies? I'm not sure, and I'm also not sure this big day will hold up under much scrutiny. To wit, check out the creepy theme for this year's Law Day:
"Liberty Under Law: Empowering Youth, Assuring Democracy"
What? Why is liberty *under* law? To keep the militias down?

w e i r d