Sunday, December 31, 2006

State Farm

"And like a good neighbor, State Farm is there."

I don't know about you, but if I had neighbors who made me pay them "insurance" money every month, I'd probably move.

Gas prices: the year in review

So remember when gas prices were falling all summer, and some of us cynics were saying that it was a cheap ploy by Bush's friends in the oil industry to increase satisfaction with the Republicans leading up to the election in November? And how we said that the price would start going up after November 7? How oh how could we ever be that cynical? You know, if you're going to pull shit like this, don't make it so transparent that the price starts to go up steadily ON THE VERY DAY OF THE ELECTION. Seriously, look at this national price chart from

Women: Do more housework or DIE

It was a scientific study, so it must be true! Sorry, ladies!

Women who keep their homes clean and tidy are less likely to develop breast cancer than those who let the dust and dishes pile up, according to a new report.

Researchers found regular moderate exercise such as housework provides greater protection from the disease than more strenuous but less frequent sporting activity.

Being active in the home cut the likelihood of pre-menopausal women developing breast cancer by 29 per cent compared with being inactive, and reduced the risk for post-menopausal women by 19 per cent.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Photo contests

OK, here's a question. Why is it that every photo contest grand prize winner is either a) a b/w photo of a newborn near his mother's exposed nipple, or b) an ancient African man sitting on a stool in front of a shack?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Bluetooth: It sucks

Allow me, for a moment, to complain about Bluetooth.

Who the HELL designed this flaming bag of waste? Has anyone ever gotten ANY Bluetooth device to work correctly and consistently? Don't think too hard, I'll answer it for you. No.

My first experience with Bluetooth was when I wanted to sync my Pocket PC with my laptop, using Bluetooth, a couple of years ago. It was easy! I just bought the crappy little Bluetooth dongle thing, attached it to my laptop, got the ActiveSync connection going, and...nothing. After spending what seemed like forever configuring this miracle of technology, I discovered that you could only sync certain things over Bluetooth. Why? For no goddamn reason, since everything works just fine over a serial connection.

A few months ago, the keyboard crapped out on my Tablet. I got this cool little fold-up Bluetooth keyboard. It didn't work right. For some reason, the driver needed a security code each time I tried to use the keyboard. I had to choose it each time, because Bluetooth would forget everything I had taught it.

I got a new Tablet. I also got a Treo. They both support Bluetooth, so connecting them should be the easiest thing on earth. This time, ActiveSync wasn't half-crippled like previous versions were. It's easy now. You just make sure both devices are broadcasting and allowing discovery, select "Sync via Bluetooth," and wonder why the hell it worked yesterday but doesn't work now. Why the partnership just disappears from time to time. Why I have to go in and discover ActiveSync services through the Bluetooth dialogs over and over again.

Then I got a Bluetooth earpiece to go along with the phone. Everything would be different. In order to securely partner the earpiece to the phone, I had to type in the top-secret security code. Which was 0000. It would always be 0000. It was hard-wired. For security, every Motorola H500 headset on earth has the same security code.

Not that the security code matters anyway, because I've had to re-enter the partnership three times now. It works great for a couple of days, and then disappears as if it's never been there in the first place.

At least the headset works sometimes. When I want to use the earpiece, the phone call goes through the phone. When I want to turn the earpiece off, the call goes through the earpiece. When I try to switch them, the call disconnects.

I have never had a Bluetooth device that works reliably. Ever. And it's not just one piece that's giving me trouble. It's every damn device that relies upon Bluetooth. Bluetooth is a broken, shitty technology that should be taken out back and shot.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Verizon Redux

They restored my wireless data plan, but "only the $44.99 a month version is available now." That's good. I do love a good mobile plan slamming.

I called our corporate account rep to complain that I'd been slammed, and requested my $20/month rate back. He said he'd have it switched back.

Well, he did something. My EVDO stopped working altogether on Wednesday around noon. "The remote modem has disconnected." I tried everything, and none of the options worked.

After a day of this, I called Verizon on Thursday and we walked through soft resets, hard resets, degaussing, drop-kicking, the whole scripted routine. Nothing worked, so they actually looked at my account.

"Oh, when you changed your data plan the other day, they never turned your Internet back on." They flipped a switch, and everything worked OK.

Verizon Wireless has only fumbled my billing three times in the past month. "Can We Slam You Now?"

Reasons to hate the LIRR

The train ride started out OK. I read a little bit, dozed a little bit. At about 5:15 I undozed. The train was crawling into the station - Hicksville, to be exact. The conductor announced that a train had hit a car outside Sayville and we were probably going to terminate at Babylon. We were stopping at Hicksville so that people could get off and take the train to Ronkonkoma if they wanted.

We sat at Hicksville for 10 minutes or so, helpfully waiting for people to figure out whether they wanted to get off or not. One or two people did. Then we continued the long slog to Babylon.

The woman across the aisle from me was headed for East Hampton, but after the train left Hicksville she called her aunt and decided to go to Huntington instead. "The announcement said you could catch the train from Babylon to Huntington, didn't it?" Well, not exactly.

As we approached Babylon, they announced that the westbound train had hit a tractor-trailer. The train pulled into Babylon and disgorged its load of weary commuters. The station was packed with people trying to figure out how to get to Speonk. They announced that buses would be available within an hour. Some of us dashed over to the taxi stand.

We were all going to Bay Shore, so as a public service the Lindy's dispatcher would only charge us $10 a person. Four of us crowded into a cab and took off. Not that bad, we'd only be 20 or 30 minutes late.

Halfway down Union Blvd, our driver started to swerve around like he'd had too much Robitussin. Then, suddenly, THUMP thump-thump-thump. Thump. We pulled over with a flat tire. I announced that I was going to walk the rest of the way. The driver urged me to sit with him for half an hour or so until help came. I asked him how much it was for the drive to where we were. "Nine dollars." I tossed him two fives and got out. The other passengers decided to come with me.

Union Blvd at night is pretty dark. We took turns looking for cougars and wolves. We were only about 20 minutes by foot from the station, so we didn't have to take turns sleeping.

Finally, the station was within sight. Like a shining gem, sparkling in Bay Shore's famed convenience store district, the station beckoned one and all. It was gaily festooned with Christmas wreaths and vagrants. And the sound of an eastbound train providing restored service. MOTHERF______________________________

FRIDAY UPDATE: The cab is still sitting, untouched, on Union. It hung out there overnight.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

New stomach remedy

Last week I had a little problem that involved lunch at a pasta bar on 51st St, followed by a night and morning of heaving. While I was on my deathbed, I made a startling discovery. If you take a peppermint oil caplet like Pepogest about 45 minutes before everything rockets its way back up, when it does return it will all taste minty instead of vomity. Saves you a terrible taste memory! I am thinking of marketing this as a product now - SweetHeave.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006


According to, the #1 song half my life ago was "Walk Like An Egyptian." That little turdfest has been around for half of my consciousness now.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

By any other name

Here's something that's been on my nerves for a while. For years, the Meadowbrook has underlooked the gorgeous American Ref-Fuel plant in Uniondale. Day and night, the bright gray exhaust billowing out of the plant has reminded us all of the wonderful day when everyone will burn their own refuse to keep warm.

But a few months ago, everything changed. Ref-Fuel was no more, replaced with a big Covanta sign. It used to be an axiom of marketing that if people don't know what your product is, you haven't sold it well. Now the rule is that you should take away names with any basis in reality and change them to invented words. Covanta is, of course, a company that turns refuse into fuel. Royal Mail used to deliver the mail in the UK. Now they're Cosignia.

When is it going to go the other direction? When will Covanta change its name to reflect its mission, and rebrand itself as Mr. Trashburn's? They could do the typical trick of inventing corporate mythology, too. Just explain that the company was actually founded by General J.P. Burntrash in 1867 but was now called Mr. Trashburn's.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Is that your cell bill in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

I got my monthly paperless bill from Verizon Wireless today. Same as always, since I'm on a "ton of minutes and unlimited data" account. On 12/17, their auto-pay will take...$1423.13 OUT OF MY CHECKING ACCOUNT? WHAT THE NEVER-STOP-WORKING-FOR-YOU HELL IS GOING ON HERE?

Something's going on with the data plan. I just know it. So I open up the monthly billing PDF. They sent me a replacement phone on 11/8. My data plan is listed as:

PDA Unl National Access $20
10/29 - 11/8
$20.00 monthly access charge
Unlimited monthly kilobyte

PDA/Smartphone 10mb $24.99
11/9 - 11/28
$24.99 monthly access charge
10240 monthly kilobyte allowance
$.0050 per KB after allowance

So when they activated my new phone, they conveniently switched me from the $20 unlimited plan to the $25 plan where you get 10 MB and then get charged just $5/MB thereafter. To the tune of $1300 in November. Without telling me.

I called VZW. The woman opened up my bill and her first word was "Wow." She then continued, "I haven't seen a bill like THAT since we first did data charges and nobody knew the correct code to enter." I'm awaiting resolution, which will absolutely not involve a transfer of $1400 to Verizon Wireless a week before Christmas.

New NHL uniforms coming next season!

The NHL has announced "new, streamlined uniforms" for next season.
Commissioner Gary Bettman said yesterday that the NHL will introduce a new, streamlined uniform next season that will blend fashion with function.

Bettman said the new-look uniforms, designed over the past 2 years, will be unveiled at the All-Star Game in January.

In an interview with Reuters at the NHL's headquarters in New York, Bettman said the players who have tested it so far "have been thrilled."

While the new tapered uniforms are fashionable, Bettman said they were designed with players in mind.

Here's some footage of the new uniform design in action.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Fun with Verizon Wireless

When you search for help on, your query is used as part of the navigation eyebrow. Like this:

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Las Vegas

I don't know if I've mentioned how much I hate Las Vegas, but it's almost all-encompassing. I've been staying at the Mandalay Bay in preparation for my session at Windows Connections. (Trivia fact: Mandalay is the only hotel on the Strip that's named after a male enhancement creme.)

I spent a couple of days in the glorious perma-twilight of the big hotel, prepping and praying. I was actually happy at the way my session went off. I spoke clearly and slowly, I didn't repeat too much, and I gave some good examples. I had 40 or 50 people hanging on my every word. I ended a few minutes early and even got enough Q&A to go past my allotted time.

I've been suffering from some sort of sinus infection, which was nice enough to hold off while I spoke. After I stepped off the podium, it started to get worse. I also had to check out of the hotel today - Mandalay went from $200/night to $489/night because The Who are playing there on Friday. I've moved to the Orleans, which went down to $89/night because Suzanne Somers is appearing there.

I spent the late afternoon chasing the sunset up at Valley of Fire, where I took a few nice panos. Dark fell pretty quickly, and left me realizing how easy it would be to hide a body in these parts. The one vista I want to figure out for next time is the view of Vegas you get when you drive back south through Apex on I-15. You have a pitch-black valley with the city lights outstretched beneath you. It's pretty cool, but I couldn't figure out where to go for the best angle.

Of course, all the fresh desert air did nothing for my sinuses, and I collapsed in a pool of crud at the Orleans. It's surprisingly run-down for a ten-year-old hotel. Not that it's in tatters, but it feels dated and cheap. Across the street is a porn emporium where you can get your porn 24/7. Up the road a bit is a billboard for a Chinese restaurant that shows a scantily clad waitress and the slogan "Nice Dumplings." There really is very little to recommend this city.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Almost a clean sweep

Well, the elections are finally over. I took a little break after the stunning victory for the forces of good.

I was out at 5 AM, putting up Mejias signs around polling areas in Suffolk. I got to my polling place at 6 AM sharp, and already several neighbors were lined up.

I volunteered to canvass at the polls, but I ran into some difficulty. The law states exactly where you can stand - 100 feet from a polling place. The first place I tried, a crusty old man started in with me about how I was breaking the law. I pointed out that I was standing on the other side of the "No polling past this point sign" but I went inside to make sure I wasn't violating any rules. The supervisor was already walking outside to yell at me, and told me that they just put up the signs at a convenient location, but the REAL line was way out in the middle of the muddy field contained on all sides by the parking circle in front of the school. That wasn't going to work.

I went over to a polling spot in Babylon and asked the supervisor where I would be allowed to stand. He seemed to be a Dem, and told me that pretty much anywhere past the signs was fine. The signs were about 10 feet from the door. He said it was fine for me to stand across the street at the entrance to a parking area.

What struck me was how many people took real offense to my presence. Another old guy, who was trying to look like ex-Army, puffed up his chest a few inches away from me and started lecturing me about how I had to stay 150 feet away. I corrected his poor grasp of New York election law and pointed to the signs across the street. He demanded my full name, and I told him he didn't need to know my name. Then he asked me who I was campaigning for. I replied that I was working for Dave Mejias. He glared at me and said "You've got just as much integrity as your candidate." I honestly still don't know what that means - was there ever some question of integrity with either of us? Was it just that the guy had a limited vocabulary from his years of listening to Hannity?

I decided that my presence was doing more harm than good, because people on both sides were having negative reactions to my presence. I waited for the grump to come back out and drive off, so that he wouldn't think that he had scared me off, and then I left.

I made it to JFK in time for my flight to Vegas. I booked JetBlue specifically so I could watch the returns and have a mini party on the plane. The results didn't disappoint. I flipped back and forth all night, from the great commentary on MSNBC to the balanced commentary on Fox (Michelle Malkin, Fred Barnes, Brit Hume). You could actually watch the faces on Fox News melt as the night went on, like they were stuck in the Devil's Rain. At 11 PM EST I switched over to WNBC, and found out that Pete King had won. Which sucked.

But it was an incredible day anyway. We made King spend all his money. He couldn't help other candidates. He had to actually campaign, and lots of people didn't like what they saw. Best of all, he lost his Homeland Security chairmanship. Which is a great thing, because he was singularly unserious about doing anything but parroting Bush's crap about Iraq and accusing anyone with brown skin of being a potential terrorist. And his reward for clownishness was a lost of 40% of our region's security funding. Full of crap AND powerless - a great one-two punch for Long Island.

Monday, November 6, 2006


I dropped by the Mejias HQ this morning, and things are buzzing. They have over a dozen people doing phones and lit counts. They didn't need any help on the phones! The polls are within one point, which is remarkable against an opponent (Pete King) who generally wins by a 2 or 3 to 1 margin. Mejias has taken in more money this cycle than King. And since it's so close, get-out-the-vote efforts will be key tomorrow. King has no apparent ground support. He has a campaign office that's nothing but a closed storefront on Rt. 109.

I was hoping against hope when we started this thing, but Mejias has a real chance of winning this. I'll be out at 5 AM tomorrow, putting up signs and handing out lit 100 feet from the polls. This is the first time I've done this much for a candidate, and I am crediting my own work for the shift in polls.

One last day of campaigning

The Republican town clerk's people were outside Stop & Shop a little while ago. As I walked out, they collared me and asked me to vote for their candidate. I replied, "I would, but I still have too much pride in my country to ever vote for a Republican." The woman I said it to looked taken aback, and said "I'm sorry to hear that."

I think they're trying to build a constituency of people who are no longer proud of the country. Oh well.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Stolen signs

I've now had four Mejias signs stolen. Two were at the Bay Shore LIRR station. The first of those disappeared the morning that canvassers for Pamela Greene showed up. The second went up on Saturday afternoon, and was down by this morning. The third was on Union, across from the exit of the Stop & Shop. (The "age 3 and up soccer kids" sign stayed up.) The fourth was from my yard. Someone pulled the sign down but left the metal stakes up.

It looks like this has become a trend around the district - same thing happened to the good folks at King Watch, and all over the place. Of course, Pete King is trying to blame "Democratic operatives." He's probably blaming Newsday as well. So if you see a copy of Parade Magazine sneaking out of your home delivery bag on Sunday, walking down the street, and ripping up signs, please call 911 immediately.

I was up in Westchester/Dutchess County over the weekend. There are signs everywhere. In many cases, John Spencer signs and Hillary Clinton signs sit next to each other at intersections. So what's the problem with King's sign stealers down here?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Pete King: Lapdog

Another new clip I put together tonight. Pete King, Lapdog.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Terrorists and Peter King

New video just up on YouTube. This one's more serious. Let me know what you think. (Or don't. It's a free country.)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Let's Go Islanders!

So I took Cynicor Jr. to the Islanders game on Saturday, courtesy of a friend in the organization. The seats were in the same row I was in when Shawn Bates scored on The Penalty Shot.

The Islanders shot out ahead 2-0, and looked like they were cruising. Then Carolina, the least impressive Cup winners ever, scored three quickies in the third period. The crowd started to get restless, even though it was Third Tier Mascots Night.

The Isles never gave up, however. Mike Sillinger snapped in the game-tying goal a few minutes later, and the place erupted. The play went to the booth for review, but league rules state that no goal will be disallowed after the crowd has done the "WOOOOoooOOOOOO" chant.

When the Isles score on the power play, the scoreboard ribbon declares it an LIRR Power Play. This is fitting, because both the LIRR and the Isles PP unit operate at about 12% efficiency.

Anyway, former Rangers favorite and goal-a-game-deflecting-into-own-net hero Tom Poti loosed a cannon from the blue line just a few seconds into overtime, sealing the win for the mighty Isles. Even Stinger, the Columbus Blue Jackets mascot was excited, despite living with the terrible knowledge that if his mascot tail were ever to break off, he'd surely die.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Peter King: The Longer You Look...

It's my first YouTube video!

Times endorses Mejias!

AWESOME! I'm sure that Peter King will call for the Times to be hanged for treason again.

Elections in the Third Congressional District, which covers half of Nassau County and a slice of Suffolk along the South Shore, are usually yawners, with Democrats meekly stepping up to be stomped upon by the Republican incumbent, Peter King. He has not had a close race since his first, in 1992.

This year might be different. The Democrat, David Mejias, is waging a lively campaign, brandishing his credentials as a member of the Nassau County Legislature and seeking to ride what he says is a general wave of disgust with Washington, with Congress and with President Bush.

Mr. King is the last Republican standing in Long Island’s Congressional delegation, and judging from his lonely pugilist persona, he just might like it that way. Many voters warm to his belligerence, believing it denotes independence and truthfulness.

Those on the receiving end of his rhetorical bombardments are surely less charmed. He has blisteringly belittled many, from constituents criticizing Mr. Bush’s Social Security plan to Catholic clergy members who condemned Mr. King’s immigration bill and got a lecture in return about pedophile priests and an admonition to go to confession.

(The Times was also in Mr. King’s cross hairs, for writing — treasonously, he says — about a secret terrorist-surveillance program.)

We do not support Mr. King, but not because he wants us in jail. Our decision has to do with temperament, effectiveness and differences on issues from taxes and Iraq to abortion and immigration.

Mr. King does not get everything wrong. As chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, he has been a vocal defender of New York’s interests in anti-terrorism funding. But he has also stood in zealous opposition to abortion rights and in support of Mr. Bush’s harmful tax-cutting policies, and he has been an enabler of Mr. Bush’s go-it-alone defiance of Congress,
courts and the Constitution in waging the war on terrorism.

Mr. King also lost us with his singular devotion to hard-line immigration enforcement measures, particularly the bill he co-sponsored that would make felons of people giving charity to illegal

Mr. Mejias is one of the few bright bulbs in the low-watt Nassau Legislature. He helped to create a bill of rights for domestic workers in Nassau, requiring that employers give them written statements of their rights under federal and state law. He has a good environmental record, particularly in efforts to preserve open space, and has been an important ally of County Executive Thomas Suozzi in restoring fiscal discipline to Nassau government. He promises to be a refreshing change in the Third District, and we endorse him.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

An even CUTER eternity

This Huggable Bear Keepsake Cremation Urn makes the Precious Moments urn look like a pile of CRAP.

Now they're just rubbing it in

Stingray jumps aboard boat and stabs Lighthouse Point man, 81, in chest

LIGHTHOUSE POINT -- An 81-year-old resident was in critical condition Thursday morning, a day after a spotted eagle stingray jumped onto his boat in the Intracoastal Waterway and stabbed him in the chest, leaving a foot-long barb stuck in him, authorities said.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The cutest afterlife EVER!

I heard a story today that a company had entered into an agreement with Major League Baseball to offer caskets and urns with your favorite team's logo on it. OK, I thought, maybe someone is really anxious to be buried with the Arizona Diamondbacks rattler on their box. I'd actually heard of another company doing this for some college teams. (Go Dawgs!)

I did a quick search on this story tonight, and the company (Eternal Image) has a rather spare Web site right now. You can get baseball caskets. You can get AKC breed urns for your dog's ashes. (A little odd but understandable.) And you can get...


You can get an urn with a Precious Moments figurine on top. If you croak, but still want people to talk about how cute your remains are, why not dump the ash into a Precious Moments urn? After all, you got married at the Precious Moments theme park in Carthage, Missouri. You're going to get saved for all eternity in your Precious Moments urn. Hey, why not make it a triple play and use a Precious Moments diaphragm on your honeymoon? Live the Precious Moments life. Die the Precious Moments death.

And if all goes well, guess what? This will be the only page referenced within Google that has the phrase "Precious Moments urn" in it. See?

Pete King: Baghdad as safe as NYC

Well, except for all the torture, kidnapping, and murder. DELUSIONAL.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Mejias now on "emerging races" list

This is so great. Usually the field of competitive races starts to narrow at this time of year. For the good guys, it's expanding. The DCCC added Dave Mejias to its list of "candidates who have taken traditionally non-competitive districts and, through the strength of their campaigns, put themselves in a position to win in November." Rahm Emanuel has been bickering with Howard Dean a bit, but let's face it. Because of Dean's long-term strategy to build the party in every district in the country, Emanuel now gets to expand the list of competition halfway through October. Pray for rout, and read more about Mejias vs. King here.

Top ten signs I'm getting too fat

  • The conductor on the train charges me a step-up fare for my ass now.
  • My shirt button flew off in the car and shattered the windshield, sending the car over a cliff where it burst into flames.
  • Target no longer carries my pants size. Even Wal-Mart doesn't. I have to go to Fat Hank's Pants Hut in Corona, which is closed on Saturdays.
  • I was asked to sit in an aisle seat on the train to give it a better shot at making it through the tunnel.
  • I failed the pencil test--with my navel.
  • I was banned from the Olive Garden "Endless Pasta Bowl" night. In fact, they banned all people named Josh to avoid discrimination suits.
  • I have been avoiding NYC on Thanksgiving week ever since I broke free of my tethers in a brisk wind three years ago and crushed a 34-year-old mother of two.
  • I don't have the energy to make it all the way across the supermarket now, so I start with frozen foods and aim towards fruit and veg.
  • I stitched a racing stripe down the side of my underpants to give myself a sconch of extra room.
  • I accidentally started "the wave" at an Islanders game, as the people in neighboring seats kept pushing my gut back and forth out of their way, creating a mesmerizing ripple effect.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

King 48, Mejias 46

MoE +/-3. This is yet another "gimme" race for the GOP that's within the margin of error now. The choice is stark here.

If you like how George Bush has launched an endless war in Iraq on false pretenses, held hundreds of people without charge for years, approved torture on POWs, ignored major disasters in American cities, trashed the environment, tried to dismantle Social Security, and created the largest spending government in history, vote for Pete King. He thanks God every night that Bush is president.

If you don't like that stuff, vote for Dave Mejias.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Bipartisanship is crap. Bipartisanship is meaningless. Bipartisanship means that sometimes you do the right thing, but sometimes you go along with Bush. Anyone who claims they're bipartisan is just saying "I think Bush is doing a good job on a lot of stuff." Anyone who claims that they want to make the tone in Washington more civil is really saying "I think Bush is doing a good job on a lot of stuff, so please don't yell at me."

Peter King is known around these parts, oddly enough, as "bipartisan" and "his own man." What does that mean in practice? It means that he voted against the Clinton impeachment eight years ago. It also means that he "thanks God every night that George Bush is our president." I'm going to weigh one against the other and go out on a limb here. King is not bipartisan. King has boasted that he mocks Democratic constituents who write to him. King celebrates Karl Rove, not to mention terrorists. (But only light-skinned ones.)

But back to the point. There is no such thing as "bipartisanship" in America today. Anyone who claims they're trying for it is either lying or delusional. Anyone who thinks Pete King is "bipartisan" is kidding themselves and not looking at his voting record, statements, and actions.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Jericho, episode 8

(CBS) Weds 8 PM ET/PT
Jericho - The gang finds a box of crackers. (CC/Stereo)

Who is Rod Bernson? WHERE is Rod Bernson?

And why is he haunting me?

I got a comment this morning on an old blog post, a 2005 ranting about Los Angeles. I wondered what drew someone to read it, and went to my StatCounter page. Something is going around, because most of the searches leading to my site involve Rod Bernson. And this isn't just one person. This is searches from Independence, MO. Rancho Cucamonga, CA. And of course, Torrance and Burbank. People are even looking for him on the Fox 11 site.

First of all, he's not here. He was mentioned once because he happened to be on a Fox News report that I saw while I was flying to Long Beach last year.

Second of all, his name is spelled Bernsen, not Bernson. That's why you can't find him. Try it again, everyone.

Google "Peter King terrorism"

Here, you can just click here and it will do it for you. The first ten entries:

  1. Wikipedia entry that talks about Newsday readers and editors speaking out against King's thoughts on ethnic profiling. (Quoting MY letter!)
  2. "Peter King, has been aligned with one of the most violent terrorist groups in recent European history...."
  3. "King endorses ethnic profiling"
  4. "The principled opposition to the all paramilitary groups contrasts sharply with Pete King."
  5. "Pete King and his support of terrorism. From a BBC interview: King: To me terrorism is always wrong, but I think the IRA was a legitimate force that had to..."
  6. GovTrack on Peter King
  7. The Media Jihad Against Peter King
  8. NY Times search on Peter King
  9. "Peter King likes to say that he is committed to fighting terrorism. However, when the interests of the terror fight and big business conflict, without fail"
  10. King on NewsHour, where he says "I think it's wrong to make it a partisan issue because the president is absolutely committed to this as are many Democrats. I've never made this a partisan issue."
So out of the top ten hits, two are neutral. One is right-wing. Six link Pete King to terror. And the tenth is a lie from King, the guy who says that he thanks God every night that Bush is our president.

Since Pete King is linked with terrorists wherever you look, it shows just how little the GOP leadership cares about truly fighting the threat when you consider that they made him the head of Homeland Security in the House. Can you imagine? It would be like putting a mining industry official in charge of mine safety enforcement. Or Donald Rumsfeld in charge of defense. Or Dick Cheney in charge of protecting the Constitution. Or....

Monday, October 9, 2006

Peter King, terrorist supporter

You can really go a long way in this life if you're willing to bully your way through while shifting your principles to suit.

So yes, this is about Peter King. Rep. King now holds the spot at the head of the Homeland Security Committee, a plum assignment for the Long Island Republican. And his leadership has paid off, as Chertoff drained funding for New York this year in favor of popcorn factories in Indiana.

King has been campaigning for reelection in his two constituencies (Nassau/Suffolk and Fox News), consistently talking about the threat of "Islamic terrorism." He uses the phrase in interviews, in mailings, and he even has Ed Koch using it in the pathetic radio ad for King. (He wanted to get Grandpa Al Lewis, but he wasn't dead enough.)

And you know why he uses the phrase "Islamic terrorism," right? Because for years - decades - King was the American patron of the IRA. Never forget that King aligned himself with "one of the most violent terrorist groups in recent European history."

King defended the IRA and their slaughter in Britain. He called the IRA the legitimate voice of occupied Ireland.

King used to travel to Belfast regularly. Now he has turned on not just the IRA but the entire country of Ireland. He recently said "There's a certain unpleasant trait that the Irish have, and it's begrudgery ... and resentment towards the Americans."

Peter King worked with Noraid, a group that supplied money and guns to the IRA.
Peter King would go to Ireland and drink in IRA clubs - including one that was limited to IRA veterans who spent time in jail.

The conflicts between the IRA and loyalists resulted in over 3600 deaths. They assassinated officials and royals. The IRA was responsible for designing car and truck bombs. The same designs are now used in Iraq against Americans. This is the group that Peter King supported for years.

Peter King is beyond hypocrisy. A hypocrite is someone who says they're a strong supporter of education but then votes for No Child Left Behind. Someone who supports terrorists who slaughter civilians, then vilifies other American citizens as potential terrorist supporters because they happen to be Moslems (or just dark-skinned), is a treacherous, race-baiting danger.

And now King is running on his record - Ed Koch is extolling King's vote to remove habeas corpus from detainees, to wiretap American citizens without cause, and to allow American citizens to be detained without rights at the president's say-so.

Think about it. Peter King supports the reversal of rights that we have assumed since King John in 1215. He wants to rip apart the Constitution, which talks of "inalienable rights" - rights that all humans have. He supported major terrorist groups, and now covers up his past record by vilifying Moslem residents of Long Island.

Peter King stands against the basic goodness that made America the greatest country in the world. A vote for him is a vote for fascism, without exaggeration.

The Curse of the Yankees

I don't talk about baseball all that much these days, as I have nothing much new to offer. I'm partial to hockey. But a momentous event occurred in New York over the weekend. The Yankees were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round. The Mets swept their first round series and moved to the league championships. What does it all mean?

The Yankees spend a fifth of a billion dollars on payroll. $200 million. They gathered all the top stars. Created a Hall of Fame lineup. And for six consecutive seasons, they have not won the Series. Most everyone you hear talking about this says that the reason is clear: while they're a collection of great pieces, the Yankees aren't a true team. They are a bunch of individuals. You can't win if you don't play as a team.

That's true in basketball. That's true in hockey. That's true in football. However, this is most decidedly not true in baseball. Baseball is a series of individual acts. The only people who have to work together are the pitcher and the catcher. A shortstop doesn't have to intuitively know that the left fielder is in a particular spot. A runner on second doesn't need to have a particular play worked out with the batter. Baseball is a collection of individual events performed by individual players. A lack of teamwork is never to blame for striking out, popping the ball up with the bases loaded, or on the other hand, wild throws and dropped fly balls.

So why haven't the Yankees won since the WTC was intact? It's very simple. In 2000, they beat the Mets in the World Series. At the time, I cursed them. Sure, they won the dream series, but I would make sure that they never again won it all as punishment. Well, it's been six seasons now where they have the best team but choked. I put that lump in their throats. I said "in six years, you'll sweep the Red Sox in a five game series during the season, but it will not make up for the fact that you lost a 3-0 lead to them two years earlier. Jerks."

When will I lift this curse? The Mets haven't won the Series yet, but they have at least a one in four chance. If they do take it all this year, I'll consider lifting the hex. But I probably won't. See, the Yankees just don't play well enough as a team yet.

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Big in Tirana

Dridhe Trupin

"Baby Shake! He he, shake your body or "dridhe trupin" is the essence of this song. Simple but damn to the point. Oran G the King of Rap, member of the Shqip Squad break dance. You will love this song."

Joe Lieberman sucks

I lived in Connecticut until 1995. In that time, I voted against two Democrats. One was a local race in New Haven; I voted for my friend Lisa Valentovish. She was a Republican, but not one of the sucky ones.

I also voted against Joe Lieberman when he ran for Senate. I voted for Lowell Weicker, a decision I am prouder of every year. Weicker was a Republican, and he was more liberal than Lieberman. Lieberman's campaign was backed by William F. Buckley. Weicker later broke from his party completely and won election as governor as an independent. He was truly beholden to no one, from the time he bucked his party and demanded the truth of what Nixon had done in the Watergate scandal.

Lieberman was always an annoying, moralistic scold. A jackass, and not in the good MTV sense of a guy who staples his scrotum to his thigh for a TV show. The type of jackass who cares so much about what's right that he will throw Clinton overboard while still expecting his support years later. We all gritted our teeth when Holy Joe was added to the Gore ticket in 2000 as a way to shore up the Jewish vote in Fairfield County.

And still, he's at it. He has consistently spoken out in favor of Bush's war in Iraq, which shows that he will take the wrong position and stick with it, even when it puts the House elections in danger. He is adopting this "bipartisan" line, which over the past 12 years has translated to "do whatever Republicans say or we'll start rumors that you're gay." This is truly the worst part of his act. He has taken several substantive steps away from women's reproductive rights under the cloak of "bipartisanship." He really tries to uphold Bush's "uniter, not divider" line, when we've all seen what a crock of crap it is. I just don't know whether he's really stupid and is getting played, or if he's so sinister that he's trying to save his cushy job at the expense of his views. The third possibility is that he is setting himself up for a Unity '08 run for president, where he plays the role of the Republican who pretends he's not.

Any way you slice it, Lieberman, Buckley's favorite Democrat, has been the wrong guy since 1990.

Mejias for Congress ad

Hey, spot me in the Mejias for Congress ad!

Hint: From 0:23, look to the right of the screen and watch as my face appears. I'm the large-headed guy in the pink shirt.

Seattle photos

While I was in Seattle for family and work, I had the chance to take a few photos I like. I went to two good locations: Seward Park and Gasworks.

At Seward Park, you can get a great view of Mount Rainier - but only when it's crystal clear, and only when you're using a good polarizer. If you get everything just right, your photo can look like this.

At Gasworks, the park is open until 11 PM, but it's completely unlit. You can't see where you're walking after dark without a flashlight of some sort. Through the miracle of long-exposure photography, however, you can see the gasworks lit only by the moon and stars. Gasworks also has, in my opinion, some of the best views of the Seattle skyline you can get. The reflections off Lake Union on a clear, still night are amazing. You also get a great sense of foreboding because you literally can't see anything but silhouettes walking around. Get the photos without losing your nerve!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five years ago

I am on Redmond campus all day today, doing a ton of work, recording podcasts, and trying to find Steve. (Who didn't come to campus! WTH?)

This is also a significant day, because it's the first time I have not been in New York on 9/11 since the WTC attacks. I am used to wall-to-wall coverage and remembrances, but in Seattle today? Nothing. Not a single person mentioned it all day. People said that they forgot it was the anniversary. There was a little coverage on the news, but it was little enough to feel surreal to me. I was in Redmond in 2003 when the blackout hit NYC, and at that time EVERYONE wanted to talk to me and feel like they were part of the story.

But being Seattle, they did have one special way to handle their grief. There was a "9/11 Memorial Healing Drum Circle" in a local park at lunchtime. Sitting together like that, banging on some drums and smoking each other's peace pipes, it really brought me some closure. Made me feel whole again.

Healing drum circle. Are you people fucking kidding me?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Grandma Natalie

My grandmother, Natalie, died at age 95 last week. I flew out to Seattle for the memorial ceremony. It was the first time I'd seen so many Trupins in years.

Many memorials are full of sadness, both for the deceased and for regrets that we didn't spend more time with the person while they were alive. Natalie was different. We had ample time to prepare for her passing, and she left us with what can only be called a rich legacy of stories and remembrances. We were sad to have lost her, but at the same time we were upbeat all day.

She lived quite a full life. She was born in Harlem, and learned English in school. Today we'd call it immersion teaching, and maybe shunt her off into an ESL course for a while. Back then, the mid 1910s, you learned in English.

Natalie was always striving for more in life - not in a bad way, but in a way that was about two generations ahead of her time. She graduated from Hunter College way back when. She had a tack-sharp mind, strong opinions, and a personality that would befit a CEO. She and my grandfather, Julian, passed down a strongly liberal political bent through the entire family. In her later years, I visited her a few times in her senior residences, and she complained to me that everyone was so nice there but they never took an interest in discussing politics. For me, that would be almost like losing the ability to see in color. I am sure it was the same for her, perhaps even moreso.

I flew in the night before, sitting next to a guy with a passport written in Arabic who evidently smuggled more than three ounces of concentrated B.O. onto the plane with him. He repeatedly stretched his arms and spritzed three rows around him. I stayed at the cheapest hotel I could find at short notice. I realized I didn't have a decent jacket, so I spun by the Factoria Mall on Sunday morning to get the Target special. It turned out that I was pretty much overdressed, as Rabbi Jonathan and I were the only two wearing ties.

The family had put together a slideshow of Natalie's life. My dad and uncle each got up to speak for a few minutes. The rabbi then asked what it was like to be Natalie's grandchildren. I looked around, and none of the four of us stood up. So I took the lead. I got to my feet and talked about how Natalie had always instilled certain values in us, whether intentional or not. We all got a strong political leaning from her, and a pride in intelligence. She never truly left her upbringing. We would be at many a restaurant where she would clean out the dinner rolls, ketchup and sugar packets, and anything else that could help her lead a life free of privation.

Most of all, I spoke of her concern for her grandchildren. She was always worried about our health. Once, when I was a teen, she walked over to me one morning and said "Sonny, I know you're not a health nut, but I want you to promise me you'll always wear a thingie on your dinkus." With that, Rabbi Jonathan had to retake control of the ceremony.

We spent a long afternoon just talking about Natalie, sharing stories about her life and interaction with each of us. She could be difficult at times, but when I look back, it wasn't just a matter of being a cranky person. It was never due to thoughtlessness, because she was never not thinking. She forgot a lot of things in the last few years of her life, but she will never be forgotten. Because she's not really gone; she lives on in each of us.

Monday, August 28, 2006

If we can't impeach Bush...

...the next best thing will be to start getting some oversight back in Congress. And the way to do that is to take it away from the Republican Party.

My district, New York's Fighting 3rd, is a good place to start. It is held by Rep. Peter King, who is increasingly nutty and flaky. He splits his time between the Committee on Homeland Security and Fox News, proclaims that Bush is the best thing ever to happen to the country, and writes nasty letters to constituents (like me). Meanwhile, our area gets screwed on security funding, which points to the fact that he really doesn't have that much power.

For years, he was the patron of Sinn Fein in the United States. Even today, he carefully talks about the fight against "Islamic terrorism" in his constituent mailings, when the rest of us would say "terrorism." He does this in every instance of the word, leading me to think that it has to do with his prior support of the political arm of a really nasty terrorist organization.

Anyway, King has really gone off the rails here. He's got a really decent challenger, Dave Mejias, who is everything King isn't. Every seat counts in the House, and this seat has gone from off the board to 45th on the list of 435 most endangered. Top 10%!

If you live in this district, drop by the Mejias HQ in Farmingdale (on Main St., just past the Chocolate Duck) and pick up some yard signs and bumper stickers like I did. There's still some name recognition work to do, so if you have a bit of time please consider volunteering to help as well. Until November, I am putting a link to Mejias's site up to the right here -->. Everyone out here is sick of Bush, and Peter King is one of his unrepentant enablers. It's long past time to get this country back on the right track, and restore some of the respect and dignity we had before Bush decided to turn us into a virtual pariah.

Now I want a hitch

So I can put the metal skull with glowing red LED eyes that work as brake lights on it.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

New Photojournalism Controversy

Staged, retouched photo throws reporting of WWII outcome into doubt!

This photo was cropped and accentuated from the original by our dishonest media outlets. What does this say about the disgusting leftist political bent of our reportage today?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Friendly money-making advice

If you've set yourself up in the walkway tube connecting the B/D/F/V subway with the 7 line at 42nd St., and you're playing a set of drums for donations, you can make more money if you don't yell "FUCK YOU LEARN SOME RESPECT, MONKEY" at half the people walking by.

Unless, of course, you're Sen. George Allen.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Rep. Peter King thinks dark-skinned citizens look like terrorists

Man, I am so sick of Peter King. This time, our esteemed Congressman has popped onto Fox News and elsewhere, sayiing that we have to single out people who look different from him and give them a hard time. The covert racism of our nation's conservatives once again bubbles up. As per usual, I wrote to Newsday about it, and as usual, they published me! I am 5 for 5, not including the letter I sent to Marvin Kitman that discussed how great Richard Bey was.

The first letter in the group they published was a good lead-in to mine. Some twit from Seaford talked about how great it was that Rep. King was calling for racial profiling at the airport. My letter followed:
Rep. Peter King has the germ of a good idea when he suggests that we start ethnic profiling to single out people of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent for additional security checks. I applaud this stance, but I would extend it a step further.

Perhaps King would consider extending this proposed policy to all travelers whose ethnicity matches the alleged perpetrators of other recent acts of terror: Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, Eric Rudolph, Gerry Adams, Colin Ferguson, Jose Padilla, and John Walker Lindh, to name a few. After all, summarily abridging one's rights based solely upon ethnicity is the key to defending a truly free society. King should be very proud of his contribution toward creating two classes of citizens in our country.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Stranger

This is charming.

The White House has decided to try and convince the world that Bush isn't a big effing moron. So what do they do? They announce that over his summer vacation, Bush read "The Stranger" by Camus.

Over the next few days, there was a lot of mockery from various quarters. No way did Bush read this book, people said. Why are they trying to make him look more intellectually curious. Everyone has missed the fundamental issue with this story.

Bush's big summer read was a book about - that's right - a sociopath who kills an Arab. That's what Bush read, after spending three years killing Arabs. This is a pretty tasteless statement from the White House. When The Cure wrote a song about the book, they ended up having to play a benefit concert for Arab children some years later.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Flying back to Newark

Yesterday was a great day.

Joe Lieberman lost his primary on Tuesday. I'll talk about why I've always disliked him at some point, but he lost! Amazing!

We flew back from Glasgow yesterday. Let's compare yesterday and today.

Yesterday: First in line at the ticket counter. First in line at security. 15 minutes from front door to gate at Glasgow Airport. Continental boarded the whole plane at once, and pulled back from the gate 10 minutes early.

Today: Eight hour waits as people have to toss water bottles out, lest they be filled with fruit flavoring. No one can carry anything on the plane. Everything cancelled as the world reacts to yet another probably overblown terror alert.

My first thought was how convenient it was that we got out of the UK a day ago. My second thought was how convenient it was that there was a terror alert the day after Lamont beat Lieberman.

Monday, August 7, 2006

Back in Glasgow

Alas, the week in Millport is over. But Glasgow is still here for a couple of days.

I tried Irn-Bru for the first time. Irn-Bru is this orange, carbonated soft drink that is actually more popular in Scotland than Coke. It tastes like, well, a carbonated orange soft drink. I can only chalk up its popularity to provincial preferences.

I discovered that the soccer rivalry of Rangers vs. Celtic doesn't have to do with mere team preferences. It is actually sectarian rivalry - Celtic is the Catholic team, and Rangers is Protestant. Things are nasty up here! Why can't everyone just be friends?

I dropped by Boots today to check out the newest in IBS medications. I got a box of Buscopan, which I'd never heard of before. I got back to the flat and read the box: "This medication is not recommended for use if you have megacolon."

Not recommended if you have megacolon. MEGACOLON. What the HELL is MEGACOLON?


Saturday, August 5, 2006

More Millport

After skipping a week of email, I can honestly say that I've rarely felt this relaxed. On other vacations, I've checked my mail. This week, it's been nothing but collecting crabs, looking at seals, and taking photos. I actually feel like I know what I'm doing behind the lens now. A painfully strict upbringing crushed my self-confidence, but enough people are telling me that my photos are good that I can't discount all of them anymore. It would be nice if you'd buy some prints though.

I could live here, looking at the ocean every day, forever. Too bad I have to work.

Thursday, August 3, 2006


Another beautiful day on Great Cumbrae. The morning is devoted to collecting specimens above the water line - plants, bugs, dirt, peat. After lunch, we're scheduled to put together presentations that the kids will present to the entire group. We collect samples, then head back up to the hostel for a bite to eat.

Then we get the email. The heat back on Long Island is still brutal, and Edina, our oldest dog, didn't make it through. While we were collecting samples and relaxing off the Scottish coast, poor Edina expired at home. She had been sick for several years with Cushing's Disease, but this news just...

You can't really put into words the emotions that hit you like waves when you get news like this. You feel a terrible, empty feeling that you will never see the poor dog again. You feel guilty that you weren't there for her, not that it would've made a difference. You start to wonder what she was thinking. Was she wondering where we were? Was she thinking "They'll be back in a minute to help me?" Did you spend a few minutes petting her before you left for the airport, or were you in too much of a rush to see her that one last moment? Then you start to feel upset with yourself for telling her that she smelled bad or snored too loudly.

That was what went through my mind for the first second. After that, you start to think about whether, and how, to tell the kids about it. Should you wait until the trip home? Should you tell them right away to be honest with them and let them get their emotions out? We decided to tell them just after lunch.

Julian and Cordelia are two very different people, and they reacted much as I expected. Julian has always been fairly stoic, and he didn't say much at all. Cordelia burst into inconsolable tears, and just kept saying that she wanted to hold Edina again. I sat with Cordelia for half an hour or so, talking about the good things we remember about Edina and how you should never take anything you love for granted, because it may not always be there.

We went back to the lab for the afternoon work, which involved cataloguing the morning collection and creating a report on our findings. Julian was short-tempered and sullen, and after a while said that he was tired and just went to his room to lie down for the afternoon. Cordelia was still fighting back her upset, but we worked on the transparencies and she decided to graph her findings.

We gathered in the marine station lecture hall. A few kids went first, and then Cordelia walked up to the front. About four hours after finding that the dog she'd had since birth had died, she looked over the crowd, and her poise kicked in. She detailed the types of life we'd found in the tidal zone. She mapped them by role (predator, scavenger, etc.). She spoke clearly and directly, and even put in a joke. She was the youngest person in the room, and ended up with the award for best presentation. It was an amazing moment by any measure, but the ability to do this was not something you'd expect of any child.

After dinner, Cordelia went to an art lesson. Julian came back out and played volleyball with the other kids. I got on my bike and just started to go. I did a 6.5 mile look through the island, just looking at nature and life and all these cows who had no idea that Edina ever existed.

Lying in my tiny hostel bed that night, I flashed through the long day. I was the first person to see Edina at the kennel 12 years ago. I spent her whole life with her. I would never see her again, and I would never get to whisper to her that loved her as I scratched her belly with a dog brush. I cried myself to sleep, quietly.

Edina: June 19, 1994 - Aug 2, 2006

Tuesday, August 1, 2006


Everyone's having a great time on Great Cumbrae. The kids have bonded as a group, and no one has mentioned TV or XBox or even PlayStation.

That said, there's nothing cooler than putting a starfish and a scallop in a pan together and watching them square off. The starfish slowly crawls towards the scallop. When it gets close enough, the scallop starts clapping its shell together to squirt away. Then the starfish starts after the scallop again. This goes on for, oh, a while. The scallop eventually gets tired, and the starfish grabs onto it. With three legs on one side, two on the other, it starts pulling. The scallop gives up after some point, relaxes its shell-holding-together muscle, and the starfish feasts on sweet, sweet scallop. Mmmmmmmm. I never knew that starfish were such nasty things.

It also turns out that you can grow a new starfish from one leg and a little bit of the center part. When you break a starfish in half, you get two starfish.

The best thing of all is that it's in the high 60s here, and it's over 100 degrees back home on Long Island. NYC is about 194 degrees. HA HA! I hope the dogs are OK, imagine what the city must reek like, and go back for some homemade shortbread.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Bus to Great Cumbrae

Hustled to the airport to catch the bus to Largs, then the ferry to Great Cumbrae. Julian is in a program for talented youth, and one of the offerings is a week at the University Marine Biological Station, Millport. No TV. No XBox. No...en suite toilets or showers. But lots of spiny lobsters. It's workable.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


Drove to Edinburgh. Walked up Arthur's Seat. Met some Scottish lads with kilts and no shirts.

Photos, as for the rest of the trip, are here.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Sauciehall Street

Since the sun goes down at 9:30 PM in Glasgow, it is only natural that all shops close at 5:00 PM. We were walking down an utterly deserted Sauciehall Street at, oh, 5:03 PM when Julian paced well ahead of me in his "I am an orphan" mode. From out of nowhere, a pleasant young Scotsman approached Julian and said something approaching "You nae wants tae go tae, but you cannae nae gonnae no dae that right scunnered dis'nae heid nip."

I sensed trouble. Not least of which because this Glaswegian was talking to my son for no particular reason in the middle of the street. And he was puffing his chest up just a little bit.

I hustled over and said "He's only 12!"

The wiry Gers partisan took a step back, widened his eyes, and started laughing. "You nae wants tae go tae, but you cannae nae gonnae no dae that right scunnered dis'nae heid nip!!" he exclaimed. I replied that yes, he was going to be a big guy when he grew up.

How to make a GPS device for a Nikon D200

If I've made any mistakes in this guide, forgive me - I am typing it up at 3 AM on a red-eye to Scotland. Please use the comments to tell me what I got wrong and I'll fix it!

I've had a Nikon D200 for a few months now. I've also written GPS software a few times. Since the D200 takes GPS input and saves it in the RAW/JPG headers, I wanted to get this to work for myself.

However, I had two problems. First, I had some problems finding a compatible GPS device. The shockingly expensive Nikon MC-35 cable took a DB9 serial connection. No USB. Most GPS devices out there are either USB or Bluetooth these days. I have a drawer full of old devices like the DeLorme EarthMate, so I started trying things out.

First, I tried the EarthMate. The D200 didn't recognize it, probably because it doesn't output NMEA 2.x, which is what the camera requires.

Next, I tried my Magellan eXplorist 210. This has a USB output, so I went through an extensive effort to design a reverse USB-to-DB9 setup. This had a DB9 gender changer into a serial-to-USB dongle, which then went into a F-F USB A style plug. Which, by the way, are exceedingly hard to locate. This ugly jury-rigging yielded exactly nothing.

I wondered whether the D200 10-pin port was operational. I got an Adidt (rhymes with "shitty") shutter release that didn't work. I even took the D200 to a shop to have it tested; a genuine Nikon cable worked, so it wasn't the port.

I finally decided I was going to have to build something myself. I poked around a few enthusiast sites, and decided that I would wire a small puck-style GPS receiver to do the trick. And "trick" was the word, because I have almost no experience crimping and soldering, and lived in constant fear of frying my camera. But I got it working, powered directly from the camera, and thought I would share the way I did it.

You will need a few things for this task:

- Garmin GPS18 LVC (not the USB or PC). had them for cheap.
- 2 or 3 DB9 female kits from Radio Shack. I would buy a spare DB25 female so you have extra crimp pins.
- A 9-pin cover thingie
- A European-style terminal connector strip. This lets you test your connections with a multimeter and get them working before doing the final setup.
- A multimeter. Simple is fine.
- A small soldering iron and some acid-free solder.
- A small crimper
- A small wire cutter/stripper. You'll be working with 26 and 28 gauge wire. Radio Shack has a small version of this that I found worked well.
- An M3 screw
- A plastic camera shoe (Nikon BS-1)
- Some silicone sealant
- A Nikon MC-35 cable (these can be hard to find)
- A Nikon MC-23 cable (this is 10-pin to 10-pin)
- Heat-shrink tubing
- (Optional) 3x AAA battery casing with two wires out (Radio Shack again)

OK! To start, snip the cord on the GPS18, and strip it. Everyone says that it's a six-wire lead, but I opened it up and counted seven wires. Not a problem. These wires are:

Yellow - Highly accurate one pulse per second (DCD)
White - Data output
Green - Data input
2 Black- Two thin black wires are the data grounds

Black - One thick black wire is the power ground
Red - +4.0 to 5.5 volt DC power input

Now for testing purposes, strip and tin four 26/28 gauge wires. Crimp them into pins 2 thru 5 of a DB9 female kit. Strip and tin the wires coming out of the GPS18. You can solder together the two data ground wires.

If you have a Euro strip, wire this up like so:

GPS white -> pin 2
GPS green -> pin 3
GPS black pair -> pin 5

Now wire the red and black power lines from the GPS to two other ports on the strip. Connect the same color wires from the 3xAAA battery holder and put batteries in. Your device now has power, and you have output to the DB9 female (maybe).

You can test this in three ways. 1. Plug the DB9 into a computer with a serial port and go into Hyperterminal. Getting output at 4800,N,8,1? Then it works. 2. Plug the DB9 into a serial-to-USB adapter and repeat step 1. 3. Plug the DB9 directly into a Nikon MC-35 cable, then plug that cable into a D200 (or other GPS-enabled model). If a small GPS icon shows up on the LCD readout within a few seconds, you've got it.

You could stop right here if you are OK with a battery powered device, but I wanted to power it directly from the camera. I toyed extensively with splicing the GPS directly to a 10-pin connection, but haven't gotten it going yet. I came up with a hybrid solution for this.

The Nikon MC-23 spec has ten different color wires in it. Brown is 5v power coming from the camera, and yellow is power ground. Take that nice new MC-23 cable, and cut it in half. Strip it so the wires come out, and strip and tin the brown and yellow lines.

Now remove the battery holder from the Euro strip and connect:

MC-23 brown --> GPS red
MC-23 yellow --> GPS black

This will give you a GPS device connected to a DB9 data cable and a 10-pin power cable. Now plug the DB9 into an MC-35, and plug the MC-23 into the spare port of the MC-35! When you plug this all into the camera, you should get a GPS indicator. It flashes at first, until it gets a fix. Be patient.

Once this is all working, you just need to replicate what you've done, without the Euro strip.
- Remove the GPS wires and crimp them directly into the appropriate DB9-F pins.
- Slide some heat-shrink tubing over the power lines and solder them together, then shrink the tubing down.
- Attach the DB9 cover thingie.
- Squirt in some silicone sealant to secure it a bit better.

I am talentless in this, but I got it working. You should have:

GPS puck -> cable -> DB9
+----> MC-23

The DB9 and 10-pin each get connected to an MC-35, and the project is complete!

Almost. I wanted to mount this directly to a cold shoe. So I drilled a small hole in a BS-1 hot shoe protector, and connected it to the puck with an M3 metric screw. I put a small nut between the two as well (I should add that to the parts list.) Just for safety's sake, I covered the screw head with a small piece of electrical tape so that it didn't make inadvertent content with the hot shoe leads.

Now I can slip the GPS into the hot shoe, plug it into the 10-pin port via an MC-35, and I get positional data in my EXIF.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Summer Vacation!

So where have I been, and why am I blogging about it now? Good questions. We went to Scotland for two weeks at the end of July, and through the miracle of back-dating, I am just now entering some thoughts about the trip. Yes, thanks to dishonest timestamps, I will now pretend that I posted this in real time four weeks ago.

We took the red-eye from Newark to Glasgow on Thursday night. Fortunately, Continental flies 757's across the Atlantic, so you get one aisle and one movie choice. And really, what more do you need than today's hottest films like "National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation?" Sleep was scarce. Glasgow airport is a nice, manageable size, however. You sail through customs and immigration pretty quickly, get your bags, and get your car, and you're off.

For some reason, 90% of the cars in the UK are manual transmission. When you're sleep-deprived from an overnight flight, you really want to cram your ass into a mini-sized car and fumble with the stick using your left hand. I don't handle the stick with my left hand, you know.

The struggle got worse when there was no evident way to put the car into reverse. It had six gears, and reverse was indicated with a little up-arrow to the side of the R on the knob. Makes sense. Let me just check in the driver's manual that's not in the car's glove compartment. Parallel parking and getting out of dead ends is a joy when you can't reverse. I ended up finding a spot on a hill with a 40 degree decline, and letting the car slowly roll into place.

How to take more awesome photos: Sunsets

Welcome to the first in a series of Cynicor Photo School lessons. Today we look at taking the perfect sunset photo.

Most photogs don't expose sunsets properly, or they take boring shots without interest. Figure 1 shows a typical shot. It is OK-maybe a bit too bright-and lacks interest.

The first step is to boost the color a bit. open the shot in Photoshop and crank up the saturation as far as it will go. Don't worry about overdoing it. People love bright colors. Pretty!

Step 2 adds interest to the shot. Why have a dull, flat horizon? Sunsets come alive with subtle silhouettes In the foreground. You can even add your own. Notice what I've done In Figure 3. Nice. Notice how the silhouette looks natural. It adds interest without looking out of place.

Finally, you should always crop to the area of interest. Be selective! A busy photo is a poor photo. Figure 4 shows the outcome: a TOTALLY awesome photo!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Amendment XXV, Section 4

The VP and cabinet won't do it, unfortunately. And maybe the Constitution should read "incapacitated or just a real big fuck*n retart." But give me a break. He decided to give the leader of Germany a back rub? Good lord. I'm going to have to go break out my copy of Proud American magazine until this latest embarrassment fades.

Proud American

As I was walking to my office this morning in lovely Manhattan, I popped into a local newsagent. Displayed prominently at the register was a new magazine, Proud American.

The idea behind Proud American is simple. For too long, we Americans have been ashamed of the way our president is a steaming pile of incompetent dogcrap, the way we flout international laws and conventions, and how we have actually made Iraq worse than before while sending the region hurtling towards wider conflict. Just the way Bin Laden said he wanted things to go five years ago.

Be ashamed no more! Proud American is here to tell you how "the United States of America is a force for good in the world, and the public wants to read about it. Whether it’s supporting our troops during this war on terror, protecting our national treasures, promoting patriotism, or just showcasing the liberties and freedoms we are allowed to enjoy in this great nation."

There's also coverage of beer, muscle cars, NASCAR, and Bruce Willis.

Here's the thing. Our greatest national treasure is our Constitution. I'm sure that upcoming issues will cover the erosion of our liberties and the trashing of our greatest national treasure by the Bush administration in the name of the "war on terror." Or maybe just photos of German shepherds wearing flag bandanas and where to find great BBQ.

Beer, eh!

I took a walk to the Radio Shack on Broadway and 56th during lunch today. While I was inside, these two guys walked in. They first asked the clerk where they could get a small instant camera, because they were about to go see Letterman. She pointed them towards the Duane Reade. They said "the what?"

Then one of them said "can you get beer at the Duane Reade? We just got here from Canada. Where can you get beer?" As part of that fake "be nice to tourists" thing we do here, I told them to look for any store with a bunch of flowers outside. Go in and ask find beer.

I then continued to Ranch One, that lusciously filthy fast food outlet next to Letterman's theater. A woman in front of me spilled half her fries on the floor. I told her that the five second rule was in effect, but she wouldn't pick the damn things up and eat them.

(sigh) Tourists.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Big Dig-saster

I was in Boston this week for the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference. I got there on Monday evening, and a few hours later the connector to the Ted Williams Tunnel collapsed. Three things about that.

1. I appreciate that people tell me "Thank god you weren't in the tunnel at the time." Yeah. I join that small group of 6.5 billion people who weren't.

2. It was a terrible tragedy how a mother of three had her life snuffed out in an instant by a cascade of three-ton concrete slabs. We all weep for her family's loss.

3. It was pretty sweet for me personally!

I booked late for the conference, and all the hotels in mid-Boston were packed solid. My choices were Newton to the west or Revere to the east. I have stayed in the Newton hotel in the past, and while it has its charm (hovering over I-90 as if in space), I chose the Comfort Inn in Revere. While the T didn't run right next to the hotel (so I couldn't pretend I was in a futuristic SpacePort like I could in Newton), it did have the advantage of a location right next to the Necco Candy factory. If I felt peckish in the middle of the night, I could slip over and buy a few rolls of those shitty, shitty chalk wafers.

I drove up on Monday. I must have taken the wrong exit off I-93, because I ended up doing loop-de-loops in the North End for about 45 minutes before I finally found the entrance to the Callahan Tunnel and Rt. 1A. It was conveniently located between two Jersey barriers in the middle of a street, marked only with a chalk outline on the ground.

I got to the hotel, and the snack situation consisted of a Good Humor machine featuring ice cream sandwiches, crusted in frost like Santa's beard, for $3.00. Or a packet of Clamato flavored tortilla chips. Clamato flavored tortilla chips. The person who came up with that idea should be shot in the butt, and then his corpse should be stuffed with Clamato flavored tortilla chips.

Three hours later, the Williams tunnel bit it. This is the extension of I-90 that goes to Logan.

On Tuesday morning, the traffic on I-90 was backed up past Newton, all the way to Cleveland. Had I been in Newton, it would've taken me hours to get to the convention center. The traffic coming from Revere, on the other hand, was not a big problem.

On Tuesday night, I started back for the hotel. By now, they had set up the detour signs everywhere. Anywhere near I-90, you were now redirected to the 1A tunnel with readable, well-placed signage. I had no problem at all for the rest of the week. This tragic collapse was so awesome for me!

And yeah, tsk tsk on the shoddy workmanship and cost overruns, more condolences for the victim's family, etc. But thanks for making my life just a bit easier.

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Kiner's Korner

I don't know whether this is my memory going faulty or if someone else is wrong here. But let's see who else remembers this.

My memory: In 1981 or 1982, Mookie Wilson and Doug Flynn were on Kiner's Korner after a Mets game. It was a bright day out, and Flynn was still wearing lamp black under his eyes. Kiner asked Flynn to explain the lamp black to the viewers, and then after Doug was finished, Ralph said "Mookie doesn't need any."

However, another Mets fan has a slightly different recollection of the post-game show. This would put it in 1983, when Heep first played for the Mets:

Mookie Wilson and Danny Heep on the show after a sunny day game. Heep still has the eye black on his face. So Ralph says "Danny has that black stuff to cut down on glare. He's not trying to look like Mookie."
Man, I wish the Internets were around back then to settle this.

Saturday, July 8, 2006

Spelling Wasp

It must run in the family. Both my daughter and my sister won grade school spelling bees. The difference? Cordelia didn't F-U-C-K it up by ignoring the well-established Bee Rules. And my sister went on to a career selling her plasma for booze money. So based on this empirical evidence, spelling bee champs end up as drunk monkeys.

Writing to Rep. Peter King

I just got off my butt and wrote a letter to my Congressman.

Dear Rep. King,

I am a constituent of yours in the Third District. I am writing you because I believe you have both the position and the moral authority to reduce the most caustic elements of our national debate - if that is something you deem worthwhile.

I am referring, specifically, to Ann Coulter's recent remarks. A month ago, she said of the 9/11 widows, "These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by griefparrazis. I have never seen people enjoying their husband's death so much."

Gov. Pataki has condemned these remarks and called for a retraction. Sen. Clinton has done the same. To date, I have not heard any opinion of these remarks coming from your office. I can't imagine that you would approve of a single word of this statement under any circumstances, given your work supporting all of us who were affected by 9/11. I also doubt that you are close to Ms. Coulter, seeing as she referred to you last week as "nuttier than squirrel droppings."

Unfortunately, statements with this destructive tone are all too common from Coulter, as well as from others like Michael Savage, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, John Gibson, and their ilk. As a constituent of yours, I would like to request, sir, that you take a strong stand against this style of vile rhetoric in our public discourse. Our district, and our country, deserve a fair and frank discussion of issues - not slander against the victims of 9/11 and comparisons of elected officials to fecal matter. I am sure I speak for the majority of your constituents when I say that I have had enough of this.


(name and address supplied)

Friday, July 7, 2006

North Korea

1. Who gives a crap what they're doing?
2. Why is Bush now saying that if we had a working missile defense system, we could've stopped the North Korean missiles?

The North Korean missiles had about the same terror value as the bottle rocket that landed in my pool on July 4. We said that we had activated our missile defense system. The one that doesn't work. Their missiles were piss-poor. Now Bush is saying that we need to continue working on the Star Wars program. I wasn't aware that we had stopped it. I just thought that it kind of, you know, didn't work without rigged tests. But let's assume that it did work. Why would we waste millions of dollars every time North Korea tossed their damn M-80s in the air? We're supposed to be scared that they put together an off-the-shelf Estes rocket and launched it with a car battery.

We've spent $91 billion on Star Wars now. Nothing to show for it. But we could've used some of that money to find Bin Laden, or buy out A.Q. Khan before he sold nuclear secrets and supplies to North Korea, Iran, and Libya.

Actually, we were investigating Khan's money trail, but the CIA probe was shut down by Bush's NSA because it got too close to Saudi Arabia. So now North Korea has nukes, even if their rockets suck and we can't stop them.

Winter/Summer Tragedies

Pictures like this really piss me off.

Sure, it looks cute enough. But WHY THE HELL WOULD THE SUN NEED TO WEAR SUNGLASSES? Is it going to get itself in its eyes? Is the Sun driving somewhere? No. It just sits there, rotating around the earth, burning itself out. There's no sunglasses, and there's no excuse for this shitty art.

That's the summer version. The winter version is this: a snowman throwing a snowball.

Oh, how precious. Well, no. See, this snowman is made out of snow. He's throwing a snowball made out of snow. This is the equivalent of a human throwing a big chunk of human flesh. It's ghastly and horrific. Why do we put coal smiles on snowmen? They are standing there with flakes of their own flesh falling out of the sky. They're generally standing on a lawn about 8" deep with snowman intestines and other internal organs, and they have these ineffectual twig arms. This is something out of nightmares. Unless, of course, they're smiling because they're borderline psychotic.

Lots to talk about

It's been a month. A busy, busy month.

I started out in Boston for TechEd. After 15 years of Orlando, Dallas, Orlando, Atlanta, Orlando, New Orleans, Orlando, it was GREAT to be in a real city. I took the train to the conference! How great is that? While I was there, I got some photos of the really cool Zakim Bridge.

I got home, spent a day or two, and hit the road again. This time I was in Minneapolis for the Gates-Nunn wedding. I've never been to Minneapolis before. It has some great abandoned mills that have been turned into an area called, well, Mill Ruins Park. It's got some great bridges, too. More pictures.

But the weird thing about the middle of the city was that it seemed to be largely abandoned. It was a lot like Denver the one time I had the pleasure. And every meal involves wild rice in some way. And people really do have that Minnesota accent, even the clerk at the Nordstrom in the Mall of America, who overlapped it with a flamboyantly gay undertone. And there's a Target every two blocks. And a Best Buy on the other blocks. All the way out to Chanhassen.

The wedding itself was on Lake Minnetonka, which is pretty enough, I suppose. But it's weird how all those lakes out there lack the good ocean scent you get on the coasts. It makes the water seem sort of dead.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to be the official photographer of the wedding, my first job. Everyone was really nice and helpful, which put me at ease. I was terrified, never having done anything like this before. I overbought equipment, planned all this complex lighting stuff, and when the day came I just took photos with fill flash. It actually wasn't that easy because the sun was setting over the lake, providing some really strong back lighting. I am still Photoshopping some of the photos where the fill flash wasn't strong enough. 650 photos later, I had a decent selection to choose from.

Then some other stuff happened, and here I am. I'm heading back to Boston next week for the Worldwide Partner Conference. Except that now, I am a professional photographer. Congratulations, Kerry and Matt!

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Zarqawi killed!

Great news - one of the terrorist leaders in Iraq was killed yesterday. This is the best news to come out of Iraq killed him in 2005. And who can forget when we killed him in 2004?

Real Networks: Annoying

In my continuing quest to get music I want without having it expire every three days (thanks, Napster!), I downloaded Rhapsody the other day. Unfortunately, it doesn't yet run on Vista. So I decided to cancel the account I had just set up. Their customer service page says:

"You agree that RN-DMC, in its sole discretion, with or without prior notice, may freeze or terminate..."

The only point I want to make here is that Real toyed with their acronym so that they could call themselves "Run-DMC."

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Vista and PDANet and Treo

I just can't help myself. Every time a beta cruises down the block, I have to install it. This almost led to disaster recently, Vista nearly hosed me.

I got a Treo 700w phone. It's pretty cool, and despite reports of buggy behavior, it works at least as well as any other phone I've had. I purchased a program called PDANet that let me use it as a USB modem too! Since I have unlimited data, I can dial up without a per-minute or per-byte charge.

Then I installed Windows Vista beta 2. Vista replaces ActiveSync with new Windows Mobile software. PDANet seemed to work - it connected to my phone, but always tossed an error 680 when I tried to connect. I figured there was a driver problem, so I tried to reinstall PDANet over Vista. Big mistake.

The PDANet installation uninstalls the program before reinstalling it. So it uninstalled, and then refused to reinstall because there was no ActiveSync on my machine! Disaster! I would have to resort to reading on the train.

"Hmmm," I wondered, "if ActiveSync isn't there, what if I put it back on?" I downloaded ActiveSync 4.1 from Microsoft and installed it. The trick is that it will install but not run - Vista blocks it. But it just needs to be installed. I now reran the PDANet installation, and it worked.

The next time I plugged my phone in, it loaded a driver for it (with a suitably beta device name). After it connected, the PDANet tray icon smiled at me and said I could connect. I clicked "connect with USB," held my breath, and it worked! I am posting this now from a train going through Bellmore.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Memorial Day - be a patriot

Let's get something out of the way here. Liberals love America. Conservatives love America. Everyone loves America. There is no difference between the two, as the post-9/11 reactions proved. Although this isn't a point that even needs to be "proven," because that gives some people the power to act as sole defenders of the flag.

We have, of course, for years been subjected to a false premise - that in order to love America, you have to support anything our troops do, and in order to support our troops, you have to support all of Bush's policies. Fortunately, finally, this spell is breaking a bit. At the same time that it has less resonance, it is being cast in an increasingly shrill manner by many commentators, like 45-year-old Harry Potters upset that their wizardry no longer works and resorting to shouting out the spells in hopes of overwhelming nature.

Let's review a few facts.

1. It is patriotic to concern yourself with America's greatness. This includes its standing in the world.
2. It is patriotic to expect America and Americans to do the right thing whenever faced with the option. It is patriotic to speak up when a small group of soldiers does the wrong thing and kills dozens in cold blood. Doing this does not lower our standing in the world, it shows that we take responsibility and punish those who act contrary to our beliefs. By covering it up and not taking action, the right to commit atrocities becomes our beliefs.
3. It was wrong to invade Iraq. It in no way "supports our troops" by continuing this folly. Support them by bringing them home now.
4. President Bush has not done a single thing that "supports our troops." He sends them to their death in wars of choice, doesn't give them sufficient armor or even food, uses crony capitalists like Halliburton for support, poisoning them with tainted food and water, cuts vet benefits, tries to cut combat pay, charges them for equipment that gets blown off, makes them buy their own tickets home from Germany, back-door drafts them, etc. etc. You can not name a single thing that Bush has done to support our troops.
5. Everything in point 4, repeated again. With the note that criticizing Abu Ghraib does not put our troops at risk. Doing all the crap in #4 does.
6. Tax cuts don't pay for wars. What a crappy idea.
7. Yellow ribbons don't do shit. They're out of fashion. You want to help America, stop driving an Escalade. Stop bragging that you're supporting the troops when you are doing all you can to make more oil wars unavoidable.
8. Escalades just really suck.
9. Illegally collecting everyone's phone records (and in some cases, all Internet traffic) hasn't led to a single terror arrest. This country is not crawling with terrorists, despite Bush's implications.

Once again, tell me a single thing that Bush has done to actually support our troops. I know, it's a stumper.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Nikon D200 manual, Page 16

Rotate the diopter adjustment control until the focus brackets are displayed in sharp focus when the shutter-release button is pressed halfway. When operating the diopter adjustment control with your eye to the viewfinder, be careful not to put your fingers or fingernails in your eye.
Wait, what did Nikon tell me? Never put fingernails in your eye. Never put fingernails in your eye. Always put fingernails in your eye. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGHH MY EYE!!!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Wildlife thought of the day

Channel 4 should hire a squirrel to do sportscasts. They could call him Len Vermin. ISN'T THAT ADORABLE???

Monday, May 22, 2006

Lost camera

The first rule of successful photography is to not suck.

Unfortunately, I violated that rule a week ago. I brought my camera to work (it's an expensive model, too). Took some photos. Brought it home. And left it on the train.

I left my damn D200 on the LIRR. I didn't even realize it for a few days because I've been frazzled. A few days later I went to get it, and there was no D200. The shelf was empty. I looked everywhere. I realized that the camera was not in the house, and I hadn't used it since the previous Friday.

There was no way i was ever getting it back. There was $3000 in gear in that bag. I should have felt like crying, but I've been on Zoloft lately so I got frustrated that I wasn't feeling more upset.
I called the LIRR Lost and Found and left a message. No one was there until Monday. I started gathering up all my receipts. I fought my way through the homeowners policy. It turns out that these policies cover just about any damage to any of your belongings, which is great! They also have something called Form HO 23 95. This has the unusual title of "Off-Premises Theft Exclusion, NY." My policy has a special exception to avoid paying off if anything goes missing in the five boroughs, Nassau or Suffolk.

Horrible images started to course through my brain. My wonderful camera, born of the gray-market antics of HotBuys Electronics, would never be in my hands again. Some dumbass would be taking shitty pictures of his ugly kids with it, or would sell it to a fence for $50. They wouldn't even know how to use the flashes in TTL mode. I love my dead gray camera.

I got on the 7:15 train this morning, and when it pulled in on Track 20 just before 8:30 AM, I ran over to the Lost and Found office. It's set up sort of like a pawn office. There's a guy with a computer who sits behind bullet-proof glass. There are all kinds of cell phones and credit cards on the counter on his side, and a bunch of bins in an attached room, each labeled with the type of lost cell phone it contained. "Kyocera," "LG," "Motorola," but no "Nikon."

I described my bag exactly, including the contents. He gave me that "No one would ever turn that in" look, but then said "Yeah, I think we may have gotten that in, but it's in the manager's office. He's here at 8:30, but he's not here yet." With potential back in my heart, I gave him my name and cell number.

I hadn't heard from them by 11:15, so I called up. I got a different guy who was significantly more gruff, and who asked why it would be in the manager's office. I told him I didn't know, but that's what they said. He said he'd call back in 15 minutes and hung up. He didn't ask for my number.

At 11:45, I called again. I got the first guy on the line, and he said that yes, they had the bag. I said I'd come down right away. 30 minutes later, I described the exact contents of the bag, filled out a form, showed them my license, and got my bag back.

So now I have that weird feeling. I am overjoyed that I got back this bag that I never thought I would see again. I am grateful towards the honest employees (and possibly commuters) who made sure the bag got to where it had to go, with nothing missing. But really, I am only back to where I was a week ago.

Plus, I got a jury summons today.

Saturday, May 6, 2006

Where did my confiscated nail clippers go?

I just found them. They're being sold, along with other instruments of terror, on eBay.

Thursday, May 4, 2006

Cynicor Sudoku fever: 5/4/06 challenge!

Today's Cynicor Sudoku is extra-challenging! It's regular Sudoku, with a twist. In this puzzle, you must fill in the grid so that every column, row, and 3x3 square adds up to exactly 9. There will be a billion dollar cash prize to the first person who submits the correct answer. Good luck!

Subway horror stories

Beyond the normal gross stuff that happens underground, I have three particularly memorable incidents that have occurred on the subways over the years.

1. Several years ago, at Penn Station, this weird drifter was standing near the turnstiles muttering incoherently. I went through the turnstile, and looked back. He made eye contact with me, said "I'll burn you. I got flame," and held a lighter towards me at arm's length.

2. Looking down at the track of the E train, these two rats were chasing each other. Suddenly, they met in a warm embrace and started humping away atop the rail just seconds before the train blew into the station.

3. This past Tuesday, I was walking from the LIRR to the 1/9 train uptown. (It has actually been renamed the 1 train, because they realized that the 9 train took an identical route.) There's this one area near the stairs that smells like, well, an abbatoir. Every day. It just reeks. It's this closed room next to the elevator.

On Tuesday, the floor in the passageway was wet. There was almost an inch of water on it, and two workers had those big scrubber machines trying to move the water towards a drain. The room itself had sprung a big, garbagey leak. Water was squirting out from between every tile on the bottom 12" or so of the wall.

If anyone out there is actually reading this, and is from New York, I have a challenge. In the comments, tell me about your worst mass transit experience.