Monday, January 31, 2005

Wassily Kandisky

Wassily Kandinsky, Farbstudie Quadrate, 1913

Wassily Kandinsky, Farbstudie Quadrate, 1913

As a founding father of abstract art at the turn of the 20th Century, Kandinsky used the intensity and abstraction of musical compositions to inspire his paintings. Artist: Wassily Kandinsky. Title: Farbstudie Quadrate, 1913. Frame: Satin Black - 1.25" . Mat: Cream Linen - The Tot Spot


I just learned from the The Tot Spot that I'm a year younger than Tater Tots. No wonder I feel like a kid.

I like tots but I'm kind of partial to curly fries right now.

Exciting Weekend - Gymnastics - Viruses - Browser HiJacker

I had an exciting weekend.

My brother in law from Minnesota came to visit us. I always enjoy seeing him, he's funny and easy going. Likes to just hang out, eat, drink, fish, watch TV....whatever is going on, he's happy.

We saw our niece (his daughter) compete at the University of Washington Pac-10 gymnastics meet on Friday night. She took first in the vault and tied for first in floor.

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Way to go Katie!


I spent a long day Sunday cleaning up my daughter's laptop. She was having some problems and brought it home with her from college for good old Dad to play with. It was interesting. I almost thought the junk on her computer was going to get the best of me, but eventually (after about 12 hours) I got the programs she needed re-installed, various trojans, viruses and browser hijackers off of it, and it was working like new.

whewwww.......glad that's over for awhile anyway.


Not much new going on at my Cafe...other than I SOLD OUT TO THE MAN.

Just kidding. I put all those ad links on for color and maybe I'll make a few pennies. So far I have grossed about 1 dollar on my web endeavors, which puts me way in the hole if I was thinking about this from a profit standpoint. I've made some fraction of a cent per hour (or day) for my time.

That's really not the point. I just want to make something fun to look at, maybe interesting to someone, give myself something to do and learn about.

I hope you have some things that you like to do that keep your mind active. I'll probably get bored with blogging and take up the drums or something if past results are any indication of future behaviour :-)


I have an AIM handle now. My daughters suggested I try instant messaging. My AOL instant message name is yustyack.

It's supposed to be pronounced yust yack (like just jack only with a Scandinavian accent). Like Jon is pronounced yawn.

Anyway my AIM name could be pronounced yusty act, which sounds funny. Or it could be like yust Yack as in Just Talk...sort of.

Glad we got that out of the way. Instant message names are hard to come by. All the good ones are taken.

Chatting reminds me of some of the funny lines at the Napoleon Dynamite soundboard. It's hard to get Kip singing "Always and Forever" out of your mind after you see the movie and then listen to it a few times. "Yes I love technology...."

Whatta ya gonna do today Napoleon?

Peace Out

Verizon Please Fix My Web Space

I'm hoping the folks at Verizon get my web space back up and running sometime soon. Some of my personal graphics and pictures are inlined to that server....which is why some of my old stuff on this page, and others, isn't displaying.

Here's a Google-cached link to my Verizon site Pictures I Like For One Reason or Another.

It worries me to see all the graphics, text, links...gone off the Verizon web server.

I know they backup their servers and will get my data back online soon.

Ads - A New Look - Old Look?

I started to fill in the edges of my blog with advertisement graphics today.

I'll see how it goes. It kind of reminds of an old webpage from the 80's with blinking banners and stuff that people did just because they could. On the other hand I'm trying to make CafeJack more appealing visually.

Not too many people want to read page after page of text on a computer. The advertising pictures give your eye, and maybe your mind, a break.

The downsides are the page will take longer to load (probably way too long for a dialup user..but you can always subscribe to RSS if you wanted to read-only) and some graphics are distracting when you are trying to read.

I wondered where all those little ads came from on some blogs and wanted some for my space. I like the look of Boing Boing: A Directory of Wonderful Things. Lot's of colorful things.

It's funny in a way that it used to be desirable to have a personal webpage without ads. Now I'm sticking them on this page voluntarily. I think a blog can be more like a newspaper or magazine than a traditional personal webpage. People expect to see ads.

I was home with a cold today and found this link from a advertisement. You can sign up and get all the little ads your heart desires. It's a firm called Commission Junction. Their claim to fame is, "Online marketing solutions: performance-based affiliate programs & search marketing."

Friday, January 28, 2005

Let Us Play Well

Pastor Kerry Nelson writes,

"Maybe it is as simple as recognizing that life is a playground. Some
kids are jumping rope. Others are playing a game. A few are off by
themselves studying the ants. Some kids are swinging; others just
sitting and talking. Together they are all at play.

The key to working with others is recognizing that everyone has a
gift. Everyone has something to offer. Every person is valuable and
capable of making a valuable contribution to life."


Here are a few thoughts I've picked up on that theme over the years -

Our strength comes from our differences.

It's good that we don't see things exactly the same. If you and I see things exactly the same, one of us is redundant.

Ideally people and cultures are not a melting pot where everything mixes together into a bland soup but better to be like a fruit salad where you have individual bright unique flavors which add to the whole.

In a synergistic relationship 1+1 can sometimes equal more than 2 (or as a friend of mine jokes, 1+1=2 except for extremely large values of 1). Simply put, in a collaborative relationship the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

There is no out us and them. We truly are all in this together.


It saddens me to see the political correctness or whatever the term is to describe the blanding of America - the idea that people can't display or talk about their unique cultural or individual differences.

I think of people and cultures sometimes like my favorite cookbook from Butte Montana. It's a collection of recipes from individual cultures that lived in Butte. It's great. I don't want to live in a society of white bread and bologna, actually or metaphorically.

It ranges from the goofy (and mean-spirited in a way) idea that Sponge Bob is promoting something evil, to removing the granite block with the ten commandments inscribed on it, from the courthouse lawn.

The television show Reno 911 has a funny satire on that idea. The police officers are told to remove a granite block, that has the ten commandments on it, from the lawn of a public building. They unsuccesfully try to lift it themselves, then with a helicopter and finally start hammering on it try and chip off the offending words.

I can't help but think the Taliban destroying the ancient statue of Buddha isn't really that different than the folks who would like to prevent the display of a nativity creche or label homosexuals as "evil". Diversity in nature and in humanity is wonderful, and the protection of the freedom to be different, a cornerstone of a democratic society.

Not only is diversity a source of beauty it's a key to survival. Taking a lesson from agriculture, people have to understand we won't survive as a monoculture.

A farm of identical crops or a world of identical people has limited immunity to the spread of disease. You could think of that immunity as the ability to withstand a plague of locusts (plant at least one crop those hoppers won't destroy), or some form of plant disease (it might get to your wheat but you still have the corn) or in a worldview the ability of a society to recognize early, and respond effectively, to counter the destructive effects of socialism, communism or the ultimate embodiment of hate and mono-culturalism - fascism.


I'm going to do my best to play well today.

Hope to see you out there on the play ground.

I'll be the kid over on the edge studying the ants ;-)

Wishing you a good Friday.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Yahoo Factor vs. Enterprise Portals

Competition is great eh?

Microsoft, Google and Yahoo are all in the thick of it for search capability.

The article the The Yahoo Factor in the MIT Technology Review talks about Yahoo being poised to capitalize on desktop and mobile search capability.

This quote sort of says it all -

"Without a very good search engine -- one that pulls information not only from the Web, but also from the repository of information stored on the computer -- the vast power of a networked culture goes untapped."


The idea of a networked culture is powerful. I want to watch that video where Jean Paoli talks about XML again. It ties into the idea of networks making all electronic data accessible for intelligent use (as opposed to just making all electronic data accessible).

On the flip side.

There's an interesting anti-networking/web idea at work in some places. People are selling the idea of "Enterprise Portals". These folks aren't using the term portal ala AOL or or something like that. These are sort of like silo-shaped information containers within an intranet, that are isolated from one another and from search engines. The idea (in the implementations I've seen) seems to be to break the web into pieces that are accessible only to people with proper credentials. Of course the capability to control access already exists using much finer tools that work on a site, page or document basis, rather than the "break the web into pieces" portal idea, but that doesn't seem to phase the people selling this idea.

Wikipedia has a brief explanation of the concept of Enterprise Portals.

Unless you have had an opportunity to see the harm these "Portals" can do to an intranet this discussion is pretty meaningless.

So I'll cut it short.

Here's how they work from one users perspective. Assume you (and thousands of other employees where you work) need access to a particular document to do your jobs. Depending on where you fit in you might look at that document every day or every week or at some longer interval. Prior to "portalization" you could "google" for that document or just bookmark it. After "portalization" Google can't find it and neither can you without a lot of digging inside portals that are very counter-intuitive. The most ridiculous part of it is once you find where the document is can once again bookmark it. You just can't use a search tool to find it, so you have to hope it stays where it was and nobody creates a better version somewhere else on your web. Multiply that one document by the thousands on your web, and number of people in your company, and you can start to see the productivity harm this concept causes.

It's amazing what you can sell with a good Powerpoint.

Picasa: Free download from Google - Works Great With "Hello"

I've mentioned the programs, Picasa and Hello before but they are so great I have to mention them again.

Both are free. Picasa is a photo-organizing and editing tool that works with Hello which is a tool to store and upload photos to a blog and share pictures with friends. They are super easy to use and did I mention - free...such a deal. Picasa 2 just came out and has some enhancements to photo editing capabilities.

They are superior to anything else I've seen in this area. Hello allows unlimited picture uploads to the web. You get to store all the pictures you want, no spam emails, no requests for you to upgrade to a paid subscription, no problems at all.

I'm guessing these programs and services are free because Google sees value in enhancing the content of the web (in this case with personal photographs...this would be similar to the business plan for Blogger being free). Of course not every picture is going to tell a story, or be worth a 1000 words (I think some of mine might be worth just a letter or two). But there will be enough quality, or interesting, web content developed using these tools that Google will generate a revenue stream from the Ad's By Google that you see in soooo many web places these days.




And now a word from a sponser -

AT&T Family Plans for Cellular

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Lunar New Year - Banh Chung

This page has some interesting things to read and pretty pictures about Tet, the Vietnamese people's Lunar New year.

My dear friend Kim was kind enough to share some banh chung with me. It's a rice cake made with pork, bean and wrapped with a banana leaf. It tasted like really good comfort food to me. The rice was light and spongy and the combination of flavors very nice.

There is a long history associated with Banh Chung it is one of a variety of Special Tet Foods.

It is very interesting to read about this dish called Banh Chung. I like this description of a family sitting by the warm fire telling stories from the past with hopeful wishes for the New Year, from

"In Vietnam, you can enjoy Rice cake at any time, but you can feel it clearly in the Lunar New Year. At that time, beside the dish of rice cake you could see dishes of lean meat pie, salty onion to eat with. In the tradition of Vietnam, before the New Year one or two day, by the warm fire, the family sit aside telling the past stories and ready for a New Year with hopeful wishes of the best thing."

This description of Tet at Web Holidays has some interesting background, it says Tet falls on February 9th this year. I'm not really sure though...surfing around the web I've seen a few different dates. Maybe because it's a celebration that lasts up to a week. I'll have to ask someone who knows.

The Welcome to TET IN SEATTLE has some good information and a schedule of events that will be going on at the Seattle Center on Saturday and Sunday February 5th and 6th.

Wishing you a hope-filled life, a warm place, loving family and friends...good stories and good food. Maybe some fireworks thrown in for excitement...


Monday, January 24, 2005

Jean Paoli - Co-creator of XML,

Good video for getting a feel of what XML is about.

Jean Paoli - Co-creator of XML, part I

Jean Paoli - Co-creator of XML, part II

It's cool to see someone like Jean Paoli, who really knows a lot and can explain things in simple terms (maybe because he knows a lot).

It's amazing how complicated explanations can sometimes get as you move from original sources. On the other hand often if you talk to the originator, or someone close to the origination of some thing (a design, a book, a program...most any thing) they can give you an explanation to fit your needs.

People who understand concepts, "why", and history are invaluable. Of course we need detail oriented people to work out the implementation, the "how". But someone has to be able to tell the story.

Jean Paoli does a nice job in the video.

The Littlest Angel

"... there was a butterfly with golden wings, captured one bright, summer day on the hills above Jerusalem, and a sky-blue egg from a bird's nest in the olive tree that stood to shade his mother's kitchen door. Yes, and two white ..."

From the book The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell.

I loved it when my Gram would read me that book when I was little.

It's a great story for any ages about appreciating the beauty in simple things here on earth.

Playing With The Moon

A Little Tape and It'll Be Fine


The moon and clouds were pretty tonight. I fiddled around with some shots and stuck them in Pretty Colored Stuff.

I think as I collect pictures of pretty colored stuff (and shiny stuff) I will eventually need a Petabox. A Petabyte is a million gigabytes. The petabox will use 60 Kilowatts so I'll probably need a new service box and some heavy duty extension cords ;-)

Internet Archive, Sandwich Project, CowParade Art and Madeline Peyroux

You can find all sorts of interesting things (music, text, speeches, videos, software) at the Internet Archive.

Some examples -

The video Warthog Jump has cool music and graphics. I wish I had an Xbox so I could try Halo...sort of. I spend too much time in front of a computer as it is.

Beginning Responsibility: Lunchroom Manners is a school video from the 50's or 60's. It's a hoot. Amazing to think we watched that sort of thing as kids. There's a lot more old film at A/V Geekery.

There's way too much to summarize at the archive and related links but just one more example from a music standpoint - you can find Blind Willie Johnson-If I Had My Way I'd Tear The Building Down recorded in 1927.



The Sandwich Project is fun to check out if you love different kinds of sandwiches. I think a BLT or an egg and cheese sandwich are in the top 10 of all time great sandwiches. I love a good sandwich. Someday maybe I'll make it to Primanti Brothers Restaurant for Pittsburgh's Most Famous Sandwich.

I like some of the Links from the Sandwich Project too.


The link to Cow Parade says the Cow Parade, "is the world’s largest public art event. From Chicago and New York in 1999 and 2000 to Kansas City and Houston in 2001 and London in 2002, CowParade continues to evolve, not just in size, but in creativity and quality of art. While the cow sculptures remain the same, each city’s artists are challenged by the art from past events, inspired by the cultural influences of their respective cities, and moved by their own interpretation of the cow as an art object."

Sounds fun and benefits some charitable organizations. There are some good links to paintings and photographic art at their CowParade Art page. The page has some nicely organized art print collections.

I like the print Dance Me to The End of Love because I'm excited about seeing and hearing Madeleine Peyroux sing "Dance Me to the End of Love" at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley in Seattle next month.

It'll be great. Betsy and I are taking a little mini-break to go to a concert and have a little fun in the city.


It's sad to hear of the passing of Johnny Carson. He was always one of my favorites. Loved staying up and listening to Jack Paar and later Johnny when I was kid. I've always liked staying up late and he was a great guy to spend your time listening to late at night. We'll miss you Johnny.


Wishing you a great week.

Looking forward to more light.


Saturday, January 22, 2005

It's 4 AM - Do You Know Where Your Dad Is?

That's right hanging around in the living room. Taking pictures, drinking coffee and writing on his blog.


I put some new pictures on my Pretty Colored Stuff blog from this morning. I like


In shiny wrappers.


We all know how medical costs are skyrocketing right?

More companies are trying to figure out ways to save on their health insurance costs.

It's really something. I called the doctor's office to see if I could have some minor surgery taken care of. She told me my insurance didn't cover any hospital stay, or in fact even having it done as an office procedure.

She told me I could drive my car over by the clinic and the Doctor will come out and operate on me in my car.

Can you believe that?

How about this?

She told me she'd send me a do-it-yourself surgical kit and I'd only have 200 dollar copay.

Well not exactly but health care is a problem I guess. My insurance doesn't cover any elective surgery the only option I have is non-elective surgeries performed by aliens. I thought Dennis Miller's comments about an advanced race of alien beings coming all the way to earth to probe some hillbilly's behind was funny. Must get serious.


Let's see.


How about this. Yesterday on my way to work I saw a middle aged man dressed in what looked like a turquoise flannel nightgown wearing an Uncle Sam like stars and stripes hat. He was holding a sign that said "Income Tax".

I'm telling Kim about it and how I wished I could have stopped to talk to him to see what his story was. You know why he was protesting Income Taxes and dressed in a nightgown...the scoop on some interesting character.

She says, "there's an income tax preparer's office there, he's advertising for them."

oh okay


I guess I should be moseying along now. Headed down that long lonesome highway. In my virtual world it's a long lonesome information super highway...but it's a lot warmer and drier than the real thing tonight.

I think I might head over to that Amazon store and get this Jim Croce CD Photographs & Memories.

Wishing you and your's a great weekend.

Looking forward to seeing you at CafeJack again....maybe sometime in a non-virtual Cafe. I like to think about constructing a non-virtual place...Maybe one of these days we'll give it a shot.


Friday, January 21, 2005

Working Working Working

I spent 12 plus hours working yesterday and extra hours the two days before that... Need to decompress a little. I love my job, it's interesting, challenging and I get to work with lot's of good people.

What more could you ask?

It's not that I love every minute of every day. Often there are stressors..mostly good. Sometimes frustrating stressors when we run into things we can't change. Note to self - Try to use the Serenity Prayer more often.


I really admire my daughters.

They have the ability and wherewithal to stick with academics and athletics.

Having to stick it out with a coach who is unable to motivate you is one of the unique features of High School athletics. If you were to hire a coach for say voice lessons, or fitness or organizational skills; you certainly would not keep paying them if they were unable to perform (defined as assisting you in getting your goal accomplished).

In a work environment a person who is unable to perform their task is either let go, reassigned, or in the absence of management attention somehow integrated into a workgroup (how successfully of course depends on the person, the group and the nature of their task).

Anyway....I think coaching like a lot of things can be categorized in one of three ways -

a. Motivate people to do better than they would in your absence
b. Have no effect one way or another
c. De-motivate people to actually perform at a level below what they would in your absence.

It's sort of a "first do no harm" philosophy. If you can't motivate at least try to not cause people to perform below their capabilities. Easier said then done sometimes.


A few years ago I was thinking about work dynamics and the choices each of us make on the job to either help or hinder the goal of the enterprise. This is in the "first do no harm" category as well.

Assume I sit at my desk all day, get my work done, and don't bother other people (by bother I mean prevent them from doing what they need to do). That's okay. Not grounds for an immediate bonus but okay.

Now assume I sit at my desk all day, don't get my work done and don't bother other people. That might be okay if my work is not important or maybe I don't really have any work to get done. This is the first do no harm scenario.

The third scenario is I don't get my work done and also prevent other people from getting their work done. This could range from the minor case of just distracting other people with trivial but enjoyable conversation, to medium distractions of unwanted conversations of a complaining nature, to major distractions involving multiple people actually changing work they need to be doing to attend to my distraction.


I'm going to cut to the chase if I can. My point is that you can not work (perform work-related tasks) and not gum up the organization sometimes. That's okay...and in fact in some cases it's for the best.

The reason I say that is to lead to the worst case scenario. That's where you don't get your work done...but create additional non-value added work for others.

Here's an example -

Say I'm a manager of a team of people. My assignment is to ensure a set of tasks is accomplished on time and on budget. An important part of that assigment is to ensure my team is motivated and as much as possible satisfied with their work. I have any number of resources to teach myself how to accomplish my assigment as a manager.

However rather than concentrating on my task I let my eye wander from the ball and don't get my team motivation/satisfaction work done. Instead I either decide or am directed to concentrate my efforts on promotion/tracking of non-value added activities.

I think I just described Dilbert in a really boring way :-)

You may have heard people say as a worker you should treat the business as if you were the owner. I like that idea. I like to think about what I would pay people to do and how they would be rewarded. In really simple terms, like assuming I owned a lawn mowing business where I get paid a certain amount for each lawn I mow. If I extended my business to the point I could afford to hire another person I'd hire another person who was good at mowing lawns.

My simple point not to belabor it too much is, a business has to decide what it does and then hire and retain people who are good at doing that thing. If you forget what you do...or allow too many people to get onboard who aren't good at doing that thing then someone, rightfully so, will take your business's place as provider of that item or service.


There's a secondary point here that is worth mentioning. If you hire people to do a job, we as human beings will strive to do our best to accomplish that job. The problems arise when you assign people jobs that didn't need to be done (not so bad) or worse yet, jobs that interfere with the goal of your organization. In the mowing example that would be equivalent to me hiring someone to rebuild my mower engine every week. Not only is it unnecesary but it causes me to lose money because I can't mow while they are tinkering with my tool.

An finally a third point on knowing what it is your business does. Again this sounds simple as heck but take my word for's not. We might assume everyone in an organization knows what their business does and works to get that business done. Not quite. What actually happens is the business of business (I'm talking big business) is not so much to produce a thing as it is to please a person.

That's okay as long as the person you are pleasing knows what the business does and accomplishing that is his or her prime goal. Problem is as you build layers of organizational structure (aka management) people get further and futher from the customer.

I'm going to propose the ultimate goal of a business is to please customers who pay for your product..if that pleases the guy or gal on the org chart above you good deal...if not I hope you are close to retirement or have alternate occupation plans for when the biz goes down the tubes.


Note - I'm relatively sure this has very little meaning for people unfamiliar with the context. If I was any kind of small business owner/entrepreneur of some sort the conversation of above would be like two pounds of crap in a one pound bag. Of course you aren't going to pay someone who doesn't help you get the job done....take my word for it that is not necessarily the case as organizations grow.

Peace out

Choose Your Battles Wisely

Kate Lorenz at MSN Career Builder writes;

"Successful people have an uncanny ability to know when to advance and when to retreat. It comes from having a mindset that is oriented toward making things work, not wasting time figuring out why things went wrong. Successful people are realistic, seek responsibility, tolerate ambiguity and are willing to make decisions and take action. They expect to win. And one of the best ways to win is to choose your battles."

She has provided some guidelines for choosing fight over flight.

When it's OK to fight -

- Your ideas are being diminished.
- Your reputation is being sullied.
- It's for the betterment of the organization.
- You're standing up against action that is cruel or illegal.
- Something legitimate or terribly important is at stake.
- The issue involves integrity.
- The issue involves a significant amount of money.

Some examples of when not to fight -

- You are trying to change people who have no interest in changing.
- The outcome won't be materially different whether you win or lose.
- The matter really isn't all that relevant or important to you.
- You are not fully informed about the issue or fully convinced that your position      is correct.
- You have no chance of winning.
- You have other priorities that are far more pressing.
- You're just feeling surly or want to show others you're not a wimp.

"There are times that embracing confrontation is good," says David D'Alessandro, CEO of John Hancock Financial Services. "Don't be mean to people just because you're mean or you're unhappy. Pick a fight when you believe you are absolutely right and the stakes are worth it. Even if you lose, you'll be respected for having picked the fight."

Monday, January 17, 2005

In His Own Words - More Than a Dreamer has a nice collection from Martin Luther King's speeches MLK Jr. In His Own Words.

From the article -

"Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true."

From "Strength To Love," 1963.

Alternet also has a thoughtful piece by Paul Rockwell discussing the legacy of Martin Luther King More Than a Dreamer.

A quote from Mr. Rockwell's article -

"King, however, was not a dreamer – at least not the teary-eyed, mystic projected in the media. True, he was a visionary, but he specialized in applied ethics. He even called himself "a drum major for justice," and his mission, as he described it, was, "to disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed." In fact, the oft-quoted "I have a dream" speech was not about far-off visions. In his speech in Washington, D.C., August 28, 1963, Dr. King confronted the poverty, injustice, and "nightmare conditions" of American cities. In its totality, the "I have a dream" speech was about the right of oppressed and poor Americans to cash their promissary note in our time. It was a call to action."

Friday, January 14, 2005

The Best Things In Life Are Nearest

"The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life's plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life."

- Robert Louis Stevenson

Here are some other fine Quotes on Simplicity.

They are compiled by a fellow named Michael Peter Garofalo.

He has a website called The Spirit of Gardening.

I thought that was such an interesting collection of quotes I put it on my favorite link/blog list to refer to every so often.

I hope you find something you like in that list of quotes too. It's one of the better collections I've seen.

Another Good Friday

There all good I think.

I was pondering how complex, and interesting, people's lives are. Without too much thinking I can come up with a variety of people I know, or have known, to one degree or another who have amazing stories to tell.

This particular morning I was thinking about people who have difficulty in their lives. Of course that includes everyone to one degree or another. The ones I find most interesting are those with a high degree of difficulty or challenge. Or something out of the ordinary.

I wish I could collect verbal stories from people and put them in written form. Maybe they could use them, or their children, or other people; for learning about how to live a good life. Or just learning about life.

I'd have to anonomize (is that a word?) some of them. Besides the people I currently know, I wish I would have had the chance to get a record either in writing or by verbal recording of people I've known that aren't around any more. c'est la vie


Shifting gears here.

"If they don't fit grind-em", as Mom used to say.

I've been thinking about something that seems sort of absurd, maybe humorous.

I got a small battery operated indoor rock garden water fountain from my sister for Christmas. It's called the "Serenity Fountain". I should say it was called the serenity fountain, that is until somehow it got broken at work. I think someone may have accidently dropped it or knocked it off my desk. Whatever, it's no big deal.

In my warped sense of humor it seemed funny to think of an incident where someone's serenity fountain got broken and then they went on a rampage.

I told you it may be humorous...enough running amuck at work fantasies for now I guess.


I think we should stop donating blood.

We're undercutting poor people who sell blood.

That idea should go over like a lead balloon eh?

I think there's a couple things going on for my warped self that makes me come up with such a stupid idea (a) I can't give blood because of the therapeutic rat poison I take and (b) I get a little weary of people who give blood and talk about giving blood and what a good person people are who give blood. Well maybe just one person.

Give all the blood you want...just shut the hell up around me okay?

I need another serenity fountain.

One other thing...

We have an old PA system in the building I work in. I'm not sure why. The only thing it's used for is for some lady to announce that a blood drive is taking place several times a week. I think that adds to my blood anger because I know I can't participate.


I'm getting near the end of "Gilead". It's a nice story about an old man who is writing a letter to his young son. The old man is nearing death and wants to leave a story of his life for his son.

It's a slow moving story. It reminds me of watching a baseball game, or better yet listening to one on a lazy day. Nice and quiet. Slow...relaxing.

The old man is a third generation minister but the story isn't written in a "ministerial" style (I'm making words up this morning). It's thoughtful or thoughtfilled with an interesting storyline about a "bad" kid, who was the son of the minister's best friend.

The friend named this son after the minister. The son raised hell, did some bad things and left home as a young man. He has now returned as a middle aged man and wants to have conversations about life, grace and forgiveness with the old minister. I'm curious to get to the end to see how things turn out for him and the minister.


Let me see if I can get this thing into another gear here.

Fascinating person this Temple Grandin. Besides designing humane slaughter facilities she wrote a book called Thinking in Pictures, is autistic and a University professor and consultant to large corporations.

I heard her talking on All Things Considered with Terry Gross the other night. She has compassion for animals and people and a practical outlook that allows her to contribute to the well-being of both.



Wishing you a good Friday and a relaxing weekend.

Peace to you and yours

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Remove Engine To Change Spark Plugs?

I thought there was a non-production Mustang or maybe a Corvette, built in the 60's, that required you remove the engine to change the spark plugs.

Maybe it was just an urban legend.

I got a lot of interesting conversation on the question is there a car that you have to Remove Engine to Change Spark Plugs? at

I think the answer is nobody really knows. When the owner of one of these cars found out how hard it was to change the spark plugs they sold the car to some other sucker.

Actually there are quite a few answers. Sounds like a Monza, Porsche, maybe a vette, and some others had the "remove or at least disconnect and move" the engine to change the plugs.


Well not on my forehead but this guy in Ontario's forehead.

Better hurry because this Ebay auction ends today.

Actually my forehead is getting bigger all the time. Maybe I could rent a piece of it for advertisements (nothing permanent).

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Pictures of First Snow In Pacific Northwest - Everett Area

Winter2005 has pictures I took this morning of our first snowfall of the winter.

Not much snow but enough to be pretty.

This one is my favorite. It's a single thread of a spider's web hanging down with some fluffy snow stuck on it...

I Was So Bored On Saturday Night I Took My Washing Machine Apart

I took my washing machine apart Saturday night because it was making a noise and not spinning fast enough during the spin cycle.

Washers are pretty easy to take apart (hopefully pretty easy to put back together too).

Sometimes in appliance repair, the hardest part is figuring out how to open the darn thing up. Once you get them open it's pretty straightforward. Appliances are made to have components replaced (as opposed to repairing components).

There's some really good help on the web too. One good example is

Actually I really like to take stuff apart and see how it works, so spending Saturday night laying under a washing machine is pretty fun for me. We had a really old dryer years ago that I took apart and put back together so many times I used to joke with my wife I could disassemble and reassemble that dryer in the dark.

With a direct drive washing machine such as mine a common drive problem is the drive coupler. It's a rubber bushing and two plastic sprocket devices used to connect the motor to the gearcase/clutch assembly. You can buy one for around 10 bucks.

Unfortunately for this washer, the problem is a stripped/damaged gear inside the gearcase. A gearcase is around 150 bucks. I almost got one on Ebay for 20 but I got outbid by 50 cents. I'm going to go to a used appliance place tomorrow and see if I can get a gearcase. Actually you can buy just the gear that is stripped...but it's over 50 bucks and I can't see how to get it off the shaft without a special gear puller of some sort.

If I can't get the part for less than 60 or so, I'll buy a new washer. I'm not going to put 150-170 bucks into a washer when I can buy a new one for 300 and up.

In the mean time at least our dryer is still working. My contingency plan is to take showers with my clothes on and then throw them in the dryer. I told my daughter that when I was a kid we didn't have a washer or a dryer. We'd take a bath in our clothes and then dry them in the oven. It was hard walking to school in the morning if your pants weren't totally dry and it was sub-zero outside.

I made this little collage of pictures to show what a Whirlpool direct drive washer looks like taken apart...and give you some idea of the steps to get it apart. (Assembly is the reverse of disassembly as they there are some good blow-up parts lists on the web you can use if you can't quite see how some of the small parts fit back together). It's really not that hard...but then again I've always like to play around with stuff like it might be way hard for someone not so inclined to tinkering.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Freddie's a Lucky Dog

Nick Gevok in the The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports Freddie, a pekinese mix, survived abduction by an eagle.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The Da Vinci Code

I know I'm late but I finally read the The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, over the Christmas holidays. It's a page turner.

The movie starring Tom Hanks is slated for release in May.

The book is (and I imagine the movie will be) fun and exciting and you can leave it at that.

I wanted to do a little homework after reading the book because it made me want to know a little more about Opus Dei and the story of Jesus's life on earth.


A key part of this fictional book are the actions of a Bishop and a Monk who belong to the Catholic Organization "Opus Dei". If you would like to learn a little more about his organization, Terry Gross interviews John Allen, a journalist who covers the Vatican and author of the book "Opus Dei - An Objective Look Behind the Myths and Reality of the Most Controversial Force in the Catholic Church".

The interview isn't as exciting as the sinister, manipulative, violent portrayal of Opus Dei in Dan Brown's fictional work, but it is informative. This snippet from the NPR page mentions Josemaria Escriva, the Spanish Priest who founded Opus Dei in 1928 -

"The core idea revealed to Escriva in that 1928 vision, and unfolded in subsequent stages of Opus Dei's development, was the sanctification of ordinary life by laypeople living the gospel and Church teaching in their fullness. This is why one of the leading symbols for Opus Dei is a simple cross within a circle--the symbolism betokens the sanctification of the world from within. The idea is that holiness, "being a saint," is not just the province of a few spiritual athletes, but is the universal destiny of every Christian. Holiness is not exclusively, or even principally, for priests and nuns. Further, holiness is not something to be achieved in the first place through prayer and spiritual discipline, but rather through the mundane details of everyday work. Holiness thus doesn't require a change in external circumstances, but a change in attitude, seeing everything anew in the light of one's supernatural destiny."

The portrayal of Opus Dei and the even more mysterious organization - the Priori of Sion didn't interest me as much as the idea of what might be debatable or controversial regarding the life and teaching of Jesus. I couldn't help but think about who decided what goes in the Bible and why. What makes up the Canon (the authoritative set of books accepted as the holy scripture)?

Even seemingly small changes to scripture can have vast impacts on the meaning. Suffice it to say, Dan Brown's book deals with more than small changes to what we think about Jesus's life on earth.

To see how a small change to the wording of the text can drastically change the meaning, compare, different versions of the Gospel according to Luke - chapter 2 verse 14 -

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." (NIV)

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

The King James version provides for peace and good will toward men. In the other two translations if you want peace you better please God and gain his favor. If I wanted to find a Christian reason to wage war I'd pick one of the first two.

The Da Vinci Code has more startling news then the tired fact that Christianity can be misused to justify war. Not just a few word changes here and there but a whole section of Jesus's life and teaching has gone missing (at least from the people not in the Priory of Sion, according to Dan Brown's book).

I tend to think the real story isn't quite as simple as a secret society that has the true scoop on Jesus and is waiting for just the right time to tell it like it is. There have been wars fought, people tortured, killed, and burned at the stake. That's all old news, and wouldn't make a good thriller.

Bringing ourselves into the 20th century - there is some interesting information on what makes up the canonical scriptures, and more interesting why the four Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were chosen - in this NPR interview with Elaine Pagels on 'The Secret Gospel of Thomas'. Pretty exciting stuff.

Short story is she thinks the Gospel of John was formulated to make Thomas look bad because the writings of Thomas would threaten the hiearchical structure of the church (hint - you're at the bottom of this hiearchy...if you are on the org chart at all..sorry Jews, Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists).

The writings of Thomas, or more accurately in this case - the writing of Elaine Pagels do get some people pretty worked up e.g. Beyond Unbelief -- A Critical Response to Elaine Pagels’ _Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas_

The writings attributed to Thomas were unearthed by an Egyptian farmer in 1945. There were other early Christian writings in the earthenware jars the farmer dug up as well...early being around the first century give or take a century depending on who's doing the dating. Suffice it to say the writings attributed to Thomas correspond to the time the other Gospels were written, so from a purely historical context there is no reason to believe they were any more (or less) accurate than the other four gospels. You can read more about the find at the Nag Hammadi Library and read one translation of the writing here.

The CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA has this to say about old Thomas, "Little is recorded of St. Thomas the Apostle, nevertheless thanks to the fourth Gospel his personality is clearer to us than that of some others of the Twelve."

In other words if you want to know about Thomas, read what John had to say about him.

I found the very end of that article most interesting. After hearing Elaine Pagels talk about Thomas, and reading about the find in Nag Hammadi I thought the writings were a big deal. Not according to the encyclopedia -

"Besides the "Acta Thomae" of which a different and notably shorter redaction exists in Ethiopic and Latin, we have an abbreviated form of a so-called "Gospel of Thomas" originally Gnostic, as we know it now merely a fantastical history of the childhood of Jesus, without any notably heretical colouring."

So....the writings unearthed at Nag Hammadi are, "merely a fantastical history of the childhood of Jesus". Hmmmmmmm

Now that might be a real conspiracy.


Postscript - I don't really care much about dissecting the bible, but reading the Da Vinci Code put me a bit of a conspiritorial frame of mind, wanting to find some thing mysterious (the Priory of Sion seems too phony and silly). I look at the bible as someone once said - "a collection of pieces from all over the place - as if a library was blown up and someone pasted pieces from the remaining books/magazines/newspapers into one big book". Unless you are a biblical scholar, who can read Hebrew, Greek and's a pretty tough nut to crack.

Also I don't really care if Jesus had a wife, and a big family...or if Thomas heard Jesus say that we all are son's and daughters of the divine spirit. I don't care if it's faith or works...or how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

For me it's all about the "tone" of what Jesus taught - a philosophy (or a religion if you like) that is non-violent, inclusive, compassionate and surprisingly radical in it's rejection of many things we have been taught are worthy of our devotion.

May your faith, philosophy or set of beliefs bring you peace and joy.

It's a Slow Night

Almost closing time. Nothing much to say. Nothing much to do.

Back to work tomorrow.

Very quiet around here.

Looking forward to a good nights sleep,

a good week

and a happy and productive 2005.

I'm going to do my best to move more in 05.

Looking forward to the longer days here in the Northern Hemisphere.

God bless you and yours...


I got a holiday greeting from a terry cloth monkey. Monkey comes up with some great thoughts every so often. Like this one where monkey quotes the buddha.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

The Movie "Smoke" (1995)

This IMDb Message Board thread asks, and answers the question,

"In this film Auggie Wren (Harvey Keitel) takes one photo every morning at 8:00 at the same street, why bother to spend a lifetime on this?"

"Smoke" was directed by Wayne Wang, who was born in 1949, in Hong Kong. Here's the search results for Wayne Wang's movies from Amazon. He's working on a new movie called "Good Cook Likes Music". IMDB describes it as follows,
"On a bender, a trailer-park slacker sends away for a mail order bride (Ziyi) - a woman who turns out to be a musical prodigy who changes his life."

"Smoke" was written by Paul Auster, who was born in 1947, in Newark New Jersey. He's written many books including Auggie Wren's Christmas Story which you can see in "Smoke".

Last but not least, "Smoke" has the great Tom Wait's song.... Innocent When You Dream (Barroom)