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September 26, 2003

Health

Another 'I forgot to mention.' The small string of tests following my annual physical included a visit to a urologist because my regular blood test included higher than average PSA levels. The urologist ran a blood test specifically designed to scrutinize PSA, and just got back to me recently. Result, my levels are perfectly normal, and the original reading was in error.

So that's it. All my health metrics are normal, and I'm good for another year!

Which reminds me, I've got to call my Dad up and find out how his round of tests have been going...

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:15 AM

Portland Art Museum

I forgot to mention that we went to the Portland Art Museum Sunday. My workplace negotiated a free day for employees, so the family unit headed into Portland to check it out. It was a nice mild day and I enjoyed walking from our parking spot to the museum. It'd been so long since I last went there I wasn't sure I knew where it was, but we got there eventually.

The visiting exhibitions were the painted sculptures of Joan Miro, and the medicine themed paintings of Norman Rockwell. There were really only six or seven paintings by Rockwell, but the Miro exhibit was pretty big, mostly because the sculptures were.

I was more interested in the paintings, as their American collection included several paintings by Childe Hassam, one of my favorites. In particular I liked "Sunlit Nude in Woods" (bad guess at title from memory). There were many more, and I spent a long time looking. I was disappointed however, that they no longer had the JMW Turner painting I liked.

Kelly vacillated between boredom and fascination, and perked right up at the museum store, where she bought a plastic 'tangle toy'. I didn't buy anything, but had fun looking. The capper was when I lounged in the 'sculpture garden' outside the museum while Jean and Kelly paid for their purchases. I watched the long line across the street at the Historical Society, where the Declaration of Independence was on display. Wish I could have seen that too, but our time was limited.

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:58 AM | Comments (2)

September 21, 2003

Times Tables and Tears

Kelly is enduring the times tables. She's got to know them for the state tests by the end of the school year, and so the teacher is asking parents to help. So far, Kelly hasn't broken out in tears over the ordeal. No, she is much better at passive resistance, audible sighs, and frustrated subvocalized monologues.

She's got my sympathy. One of my earliest memories is of sitting in my maternal grandmother's bedroom in Washington, D.C. while my mother grilled me with flashcards, over and over. I remember the sunlight streaming through the curtains with a subdued light. And I remember wishing I was outside climbing trees with Junior, my friend from across the street. I certainly cried. It was deeply frustrating to me, and felt like an inquisition, rather than a learning experience. Rote memorization is sometimes necessary, sometimes helpful, but rarely enjoyable.

But Kelly seems to get it more quickly than I did, so I'm heartened that she won't suffer too much. Retention is a problem, though, which means that she'll keep getting periodic quizzes long into the school year. Good luck, kid!

Posted by dpwakefield at 11:00 AM

Dissonance

I went for my increasingly favorite bike ride yesterday, a loop from home out to 65th via Frobase Road, and back via Norwood. I've gotten so I can do the route in 33 minutes, which is not bad considering that my bike isn't really a road bike.

I was enjoying the fresh air and scenery, and cresting the final hill on Frobase before it intersects 65th, when I saw an old guy driving a tractor from his house out to a field. Feeling friendly and pumped up from my ride, I gave him a hearty wave. He slowed down, leaned out of his seat, and yelled "why don't you stay home?"

Well, I was non-plussed, to say the least. This was a dash of cold water on my happy little trip. Still, I was back in the mood within a couple of minutes, and completed my ride home without incident.

On reflection, I can only guess that he has seen the land around him claimed by McMansions (the stretch of 65th between Tualatin and Wilsonville has several large houses with what I call 'tax farms' on them -- the owners growing a small crop to satisfy zoning regs while allowing them to have a house with a lot of land around it), probably seen his own property taxes escalate, and is bitter.

It reminds me of a farmer with a dwindling plot of land in the middle of Lake Grove (offshoot of Lake Oswego). Jean and I would talk to him occasionally when we lived in the apartments there, and he was unabashedly bitter. He felt the encroaching city which was eating away at his farm was a (capital C) Communist plot, that the local government had been taken over by Reds, and generally ranted until we extricated ourselves.

I'm sympathetic, really. I don't like disruptive change in my own life, and these guys are the epitome of gradual change. Granted that the smart farmer is always evaluating new crop techniques, being a good steward of the land, and more than I have any insight into. But most of these small farm owners are members of farming families. I don't think too many folk today decide to buy a farm and start a business. So if you grew up on a farm, planned to do farming for a living, and got gobbled up by urban sprawl, well, bitter doesn't describe it by half.

My own profession is being encroached on by globalization. I hope firstly that I can continue to educate myself in a way that will keep my skills in demand as many software jobs shift overseas. I hope secondly that if I need to jump to some other job to meet the shifting demands of life, that I can do it without nursing a bitter regret.

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:42 AM

September 17, 2003

Ghost In The Machine

Okay, now I know why Primal was on clearance at Fry's. There is a very annoying bug which only crops up when you are deep into the first level. Scree, the gargoyle sidekick, who is necessary for successful play, occasionally eludes a clipping plane and ends up in 'inside-out' world. He seems to be stuck behind the walls of the world, and while every once in awhile he can maneuver into the same space as Jen, he cannot interact with her. He flashes in and out of existance, but he just ain't there man!

I think I'll try to play through the first level, saving frequently so I can go back to the last place where he wasn't stuck, which is tedious but doable. But if I try another level and this sort of thing continues, then it goes on the shelf.

By the way, I've already gotten my money's worth by the movie scale, so I don't feel gyped, or lured into a scam by that low price.

P.S. - Searching the Internet, I found this quote:

And then there were the lovely multiple instances of dropping out into a skybox (all architecture disappeared and I was left with just the background image that’s wrapped around the whole level), once with each character, and once simply by walking up to a wall. The first time this happened, I tried saving and resetting the PS2, but it saved the skyboxed character as well. If for some reason someone happened to save over their only savegame, they’d have to start over from scratch. Clipping issues that result in skyboxes are something that should be caught by QA long before the game ships, and it was utterly frustrating to see a game that otherwise felt very polished end up as such.

PSX2 Reviews

"Skybox", that's a word that's goin' into my gamer's vocabulary, right up there with "gibbed".

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:38 PM

September 16, 2003

Ring

Ring is finished, in a marathon session this evening. While my clumsy description of the American remake of the Japanese movie adaptation left Jean cackling at it's stupidity, I enjoyed the movie and thought it was both a reasonably subtle story of fear in the face of the unknown, with a frisson of Lifeboat style moral challenge at the end.

Well, the book is about twice as good as the movie version I saw. It still has the classic ghost story notes I mentioned in the past, but it works very well as a detective story, and has a very nice science fiction twist at the end. I won't give it away to those who want to read the book, I'll just encourage you to read it.

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:05 PM

September 14, 2003

Surrogate Pet

Or, "How Our Tuna Bill Doubled in One Week."

Kelly bugs us on and off for a pet. We say no. Allergies are the main problem, though I for one am still sad about Grendl passing away (even though she lasted a record twenty some years, outrageously long for a cat).

We tried a goldfish, and went through three before we acknowledged that we couldn't figure out the equation. We've talked about potential outdoor pets, perhaps pigeons, maybe a rabbit hutch, but no action has been taken. I really don't want to be stuck with most of these animals, and either Jean or I would end up taking care of them. So I feel, anyway.

We do get visits from the neighborhood cats, though. One in particular is a beautiful orange tabby. Rather large, I don't know the gender as I've not gotten close to it. I expected it to be skittish, so I never put out the effort to go outside and greet it. It has been napping under our apple tree, and whenever I see it, I point it out to Jean and Kelly.

Now Kelly has begun going out and visiting with the cat, and has gotten to the point where she will feed it some tuna, pet it and play with it. Today they were trundling about the back yard, Kelly dragging some string behind her, the cat following and occasionally making a grab for the string.

For now I'm totally happy. Kelly 'gets' a pet, we get to avoid our allergies. I'm hoping this will fulfill Kelly's needs, rather than aggravating them. Crossing my fingers!

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:15 PM

True Note

Jean, Kelly and I went out to celebrate our anniversary. Jean's parents had sent us $50 to note the occasion, and after much debate we agreed to split the dough and go to the bookstore!

This really captures one facet of our relationship so well. Jean and I met at a bookstore (we both worked there), we have both been avid readers for all that time, and our tastes overlap and diverge like melody and harmony!

So Jean told Kelly she could have some of the money too. "How much?" Jean said $10. "How much are you getting?" Jean told her that Daddy and Mommy were getting $20 each. "That's not fair." It's our anniversary, Kelly...

How did Kelly spend her loot at the bookstore? She bought a Ty plush puppy for $6, and talked us out of an extra buck to get a packet of Yu-Gi-Oh cards at the register. She waffled over whether to get a book or the puppy, and she and I had a long and involved discussion of the utility of each. Turns out you can only read the book once (!) and you can play with the plush puppy many times. I pointed out that she could use the book as a doorstop too, but that didn't tip the scales.

Jean got a pocket nursing reference for her classes this Fall, then used her own money to buy another book she'd had her eye on for quite some time: Fluids & Electrolytes Made Incredibly Easy! Well, with a title like that, you can understand her enthusiasm!

I had amassed a pile of books from the computer, science and sociology sections of the store, and winnowed my pile down to two: The Best American Science Writing 2003, edited by Oliver Sacks, and Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World, by Bruce Schneier. I really couldn't decide, and Kelly said to me in a quite serious voice, "Dad, which one do you think you'll get the most out of?"

She worked it out with me, and I ended up getting the Schneier book. But I did look up the Sacks book once we got home, and have it on request from the library. In the meantime, Ring is turning out to be a rather good book, and a bit more subtle than the movie (the American one being all I've seen). It's sort of horror, sort of detective story, with offbeat characterization and a new twist on the classic campfire ghost story. I just breached the halfway point, and hope I can finish it before renewal comes around, as the library often says I can renew, then refuses to when I try (via the web). It's sorta "Psych! We really had someone else waiting in line to be next all this time, but we didn't tell you!"

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:02 PM

Buns of Oatmeal

I took my bike out today, and on a lark decided to see how close to work I could get in a half hour. Once I reached 30 minutes, I thought, I'd turn back and do another 30 getting home.

Now my bike is not a road bike but a Frankenstein combo of mountain bike frame and hybrid road/dirt tires. I've been riding in a big loop outside of Tualatin, which if I do not dawdle, takes me around 35 minutes. So I was stretching a little to plan on a round trip which would take an hour.

Anywho, I took a nice backroad which had less traffic, and discovered that it's mostly downhill between Tualatin and Wilsonville if you take this route. I clocked 30 minutes, and was so close to my office that I just finished the ride. Thirty-two minutes total. I called Jean and let her know what I'd done (what have you DONE?!?!?).

Now I realized that the return trip would, by reversing conditions, be mostly uphill, so I let her know that I'd be a little late getting home. But. It wasn't only uphill, there was a strong headwind all the way home. My left gluteus had already been complaining, but I grit my teeth and pedalled away. And I got home in 39 minutes! I surprised myself. Total bike time, 1:11.

Now I'm listening to the gentle nagging of mah butt muscle, taking me to task for overstepping my bounds. Who knows what it will feel like in the morning. But for now, it feels great.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:30 PM

September 12, 2003

Primal

Over the Labor Day weekend, I went down to Fry's to buy a GBA game that Kelly wanted for Christmas. It was on sale, so worth the trip. Woe unto the geek, though, who travels to Fry's on a holiday. There were sales everywhere, and I didn't escape unscathed. They had a big rack of games on sale, and Primal was there for only $9.90! On my movie benchmark system, I'd only have to play for about four hours to get my money's worth. So I figgered, hey, why not?

It's creeping up on two weeks since I bought the game, and I've definitely racked up more than four hours. I'm about halfway through the first level, Solum. I'm pretty sure I'll finish that level, then I can either continue playing or put it on the shelf to gather dust.

Thing is, what's made it so easy to play is that I moved the PS2 to the den. When it was in the family room, I often had to pass, because Jean or Kelly would be using the television or the exercise machine down there, and so it would have been rude to play a game. Now, with it in the den, my 'official' hangout, I can play whenever time permits and I'm in the mood. To think I moved it up here to facilitate watching Region 3 DVDs!

If that isn't enough, I decided to ditch the cords, and got a wireless controller. Makes things a bit easier without having to watch for the cord every time I shift my legs.

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:09 PM | Comments (2)

September 11, 2003

Apple vs Apple

I was wondering when this would happen...

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:47 PM

iTunes Music Purchases

Next up on the musical purchase caravan (I just got my bill for the last load yesterday evening!):

Some Girls is possibly my favorite Stones album of all time. It seems more like a 'best of' album than just that year's output. In fact I just finished listening to it, and there is not one bad tune on there. Some better than others, but all winners.

Posted by dpwakefield at 01:33 PM

September 08, 2003

Happy Anniversary

Today is the nineteenth anniversary of my wedding to Jean. We're going to celebrate in some fashion this weekend. More importantly to me, the fourth week of September is the period when Jean and I truly got serious about a relationship, and when I committed to love her forever. That anniversary is running twenty-one years.

Jean, you've made my life so much better than it would have been otherwise, and in fact, than it had been before I met you. Thanks for being my partner and my best friend.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:53 AM | Comments (2)

September 07, 2003

Lifer

NOVA was this weekend. We had our annual elections, replacing the past year's officers (who had served their terms with honor and great effectiveness). Dan Baxter bowed out as President, yielding the reins to Lisa Eide. But before he did, he called me to the front of the meeting to bestow on me a lifetime membership. Seems that between running the club web pages and the club mailing list, and contributing a large amount of anime and art works to the club, I've contributed enough to earn the honor. I am truly touched.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:47 PM

I Are a Plumber

Our hallway bathroom sink has been developing a steadily worsening drip, until it got to the point that I was twiddling the knob to try to reduce the trickle to a drip. I'd come into the bathroom to use it at night and hear a sinister wheeze, like a tracheotomy patient hiding in a porcelain bucket. About that time I'd had enough.

I started working up to suggesting we call a plumber, as I hate, hate handyman jobs with a passion. But Jean asked a couple questions, I guess directed at fully informing the hypothetical plumber, and one thing led to another, and she ended up emailing her dad for hints on how to repair a leaky faucet.

I actually tried taking the faucet apart following the general directions he sent back, and eventually emerged with a valve affair that channelled the water to the faucet. But I couldn't for the life of me see how it could be causing a drip or decaying in any way similar to that described by Jean's dad.

So I took the whole affair to the hardware store, only they were closed. Now my stubbornness gene kicked in, and I drove to Home Depot to see if I could find a replacement there. They had maybe five valves that looked similar enough to mine that they might do.

I waited around to talk to somebody from their plumbing department, and he pointed out that there was a rubber gasket and spring in each of the blister packages, that wasn't in my collection of parts. I bought one he recommended, and drove home. After a bit of fiddling, I discovered that there was such a spring/gasket in the faucet, just not readily apparent.

I pried it out, eased the new ones in, replaced the valve, and put the whole thing back together. The steady trickle was gone! After some careful watching, I noticed that there was still a drip, just much smaller and slower. Turning off the cold water supply made it go away. Darn, they were both leaking, with the hot water faucet making the majority of the racket.

Saturday after grocering, we stopped at True Value Hardware, and I was feeling confident enough to buy just the spring/gasket replacement, rather than the entire valve. And it worked! Sunday morning, the sink was bone dry, proof that the leak was gone, or so slow that evaporation outpaced it.

If this seems like a long and tedious tale of something trivial, bear in mind that I'm not the handy type. Besides learning how to do this simple task, I also learned one more thing. Some items at True Value cost more than twice what they do at Home Depot. Still, True Value is closer to home by ten minutes, so I'll still give 'em my business out of laziness.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:39 PM

September 02, 2003

Roomba Evolves

I am interested in the evolution of robotic appliances. We have a few, of the assisted variety, but then most people nowadays do. Ever heard of a dishwasher? Still, the Roomba is another step along the path. It doesn't empty itself, or charge itself, but in between, it apparently does a decent job of vacuuming by itself.

Here's a recent review of iRobot's newest and most expensive model.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:55 PM

Six Easy Pieces

Finished this one yesterday. Indeed the first five 'pieces' were easy. Only the section on quantum mechanics had any confusing bits, and Feynman went very far to improving my understanding of it (which was rudimentary to begin with).

For example, I could recite the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, but it was mostly by rote. Now, I really have a better comprehension of what it means.

He grounds his explanation in the classic 'two slots' experiment to show the wave/particle nature of electrons and photons, then shows how the measurements by sensor can determine which hole an electron enters, but only by destroying the interference. I won't recite the whole outline of the chapter, read it for yourself. By the time you're done, you'll understand that the Uncertainty Principle has physical manifestations which don't require a particle accelerator to show up.

Overall, worth the read. I'm looking at The Song of the Earth by Hugh Nissenson, next. It's a novel in the form of a journalistic biography, and thus far, isn't sustaining my interest. I'll probably give it about fifty pages, then bag it and move on to my next book, Ring, by Koji Suzuki. This is the Japanese novel on which Ringu and it's American remake The Ring were based. Dunno if it will grab me, but I thought I'd give it a try.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:58 PM

September 01, 2003

At the Drive-In

Last night we took Kelly to her first drive-in movie. It was at the Newberg Drive-In, the only drive-in in the Portland Metro area (if you call a half hour drive south of Tualatin part of the Portland Metro area). It turns out Oregon has quite a few drive-ins. This one was small, compared to ones I attended in my childhood and youth. One innovation I was unaware of is that they now use a radio transmitter, instead of the old speakers on posts.

We got there around 6:50pm, as they said on their website that parking spots would get crowded after that. Unfortunately, it wasn't until 8:30 or so that the movie started. Lots of other people around us had brought chairs, coolers, and what-not, and were making an evening of it. I saw lots of 'trailer picnics' and at least one portable television.

The movie we saw is the current retread of Freaky Friday. This version starred Jamie Lee Curtis as the mom, and Lindsay Lohan as the daughter. It was actually pretty fun. Not 'Finding Nemo' fun, but a painless way to spend an evening with our daughter. Both Kelly and Jean were disenchanted with the whole drive-in experience. Too much waiting around, long walks to the bathroom, and long lines once there. I had the good end of that stick. There was never any line at the guys' restroom. Overall, I think I enjoyed it all much more than either of my gals.

I tried hard to think when the last time was that I hit the drive-in, and I think it was in East Lansing, Michigan sometime in the early 80's. The movie was Roger Corman's Galaxy of Terror, which I saw with a housemate at the time. I remember that he got drunk during the movie, and I had to drive him home (though I didn't have my license with me). I tried to hide his keys from him when we got home, but he found them anyway and went for a drive when I wasn't looking. The cops nailed him within a block and threw him in the drunk tank overnight. Those were the days...

Before that, the only drive-in experiences I can remember hark back to my childhood in Washington, D.C. I seem to remember seeing Fistful of Dollars at a drive-in, and I have quite vivid memories of seeing Reptilicus there. I remember that one as I bawled through half the movie. My dad was really annoyed with me. Assuming we saw this first-run, I had to be four or five years old! I didn't think I had any memories from that time!

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:27 AM

The Return of Weird Science

We had another blind taste test yesterday. This one catered more to Kelly's interests than mine, as it was a test of dark chocolates. Jean bought seven brands of chocolate at the store, and then chopped them up into anonymous pieces, each in lettered muffin cups. The choices were:

The Private Selection brand appears to be a no-name brand from Germany repackaged for supermarkets. The seventh flavor was Dove Chocolate, slipped through the cracks of the initial taste test, and was introduced 'unblinded' after the fact. Oops!

Jean asked Kelly if she wanted to write her name on the form, and Kelly decided that if the chocolates were to be hidden, she would be too, so instead she chose a pseudonym. Trouble is, I can't remember it now, and she didn't write it down. Here's her rankings, anyway:

  1. C 'very very'
  2. B 'very'
  3. A 'good'
  4. F 'sortu'
  5. G (the Dove)
  6. E 'is bad'
  7. D

Sweetest: C. Strongest chocolate taste: D. Which would you buy: B.

Jean chose the reviewer name 'Windswept' and ranked things this way:

  1. D
  2. E
  3. G
  4. B
  5. A
  6. C
  7. F

Sweetest: C. Strongest chocolate taste: D. Which would you buy: D, maybe E.

My reviewer name was 'Neo', and I my ranking was:

  1. C 'Another waxy, malty! Mild aftertaste'
  2. F 'Another trace of malt, more chocolatey, sweet'
  3. G
  4. D 'Mildly bitter, flat, no wax, some aftertaste'
  5. B 'Not so waxy, more "milky"'
  6. A 'Some degree of wax, aftertaste, but cocoa is there'
  7. E 'No real character, almost like eating chocolate "air"'

Sweetest: F. Strongest chocolate taste: A. Which would you buy: C, F, G.

There was a lot of variability, but there were two votes for C and two votes for G in the top ranks, so Dove and Private Selection Milk Chocolate seem to have the best standing.

This has been a Consumer's Union report.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:52 AM