January 30, 2004

Drink Beer: Less Cancer

Yahoo! News - Guzzling Beer Helps Rats Stay Cancer-Free

So the lead doc in this study was working for Kirin, the Budweiser of Japan. But this makes me feel a lot better about my affinity for marzens and stouts.

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January 23, 2004

Hidden Messages

When I look at the sparsely highlighted numbers to the right in the monthly calendar the MT folks have so thoughtfully provided for us bloggers, I can't help but think: If you post just on certain days of the month, could you spell out something really vile?

Reminds me of some stunts I heard some tech writer pulled a long time ago:

1. In your manual's index, provide entries that when sorted and aligned, the first letter of each entry spells out something nasty.

2. Hide your nastygram in a screen shot or console display, etc.

I never got the chance to try any of these. Honest!

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January 21, 2004

How to Eat Crow

So I've been having this running feud with the folks who host our department's external Web presence--I and a lot of folks haven't been able to view our PDFs when served up from that domain. We can access PDFs on any other Web site, just not the one that serves up our PDFs. Gotta be a server problem, right?

No, says that dept. It's your client config. You're an idiot.

No, says I. Why is it just shitty on your server? Every other site works for me. You suck.

So I uninstall and reinstall Adobe Reader (er, Acrobat Reader 6). And sure enough, I can view inline PDFs on that site now. Sheepishly, I tell those folks to close my ticket--but you know, if you could figure out what it is that makes your server lame, that would be a more optimum solution... Bite me, they reply, in slightly more polite language.


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January 14, 2004

Watch out for those airbags

The LA county sheriff's department put out a bulletin--watch out for delayed deployments of car airbags. A couple of firefighters got knocked out when they were extricating a victim from a crashed car. Even after the car has been motionless for some time, the airbag can still fire.

With around 12 or 14 airbags in a car these days, between the dash and the side pillars and the seats, you've gotta be careful out there.

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January 08, 2004

More Skills for Life

On the subject of vocational courses like Woodshop, Metalshop, or Auto Repair--maybe a more general "fix-it" course would've been better. Like "This Old House" in a semester. You'd tackle:

  • Drywall
  • Framing
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical
  • Flooring
  • Painting
  • yadda yadda yadda...

Wouldn't such a course prepare vocationally-minded students better for their future trade, while preparing the more domestically-minded how to fix up their house 20 years hence?

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January 06, 2004

Day Hiking and Preparedness

In the midst of one of the worst cold snaps in recent memory (ok, I hear the folks back East snort in your -40 ice storm, but lows in the 20s is damn cold for us Californians), a day hiker got lost in the local redwood forest.

Now this isn't real wilderness, like Alaska. Nor is it getting lost in Central Park. but the Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve borders some of our more affluent bedroom communities, like Woodside and Hillsborough.

According to writer Sean Webby (how's that for an online journalist's name?) in the San Jose Mercury News, the hiker was found after "two bitterly cold nights" and was being treated for hypothermia and dehydration.

Avoiding Monday-morning quarterback speculating, and thinking purely of what-if scenarios, I started thinking about the stuff I carry on day hikes, and what I have on my person on a daily basis.

I rarely have fire-starting materials (Survival precept: Warmth) in this anti-smoking community. Signalling, assuming lack of cellphone reception, would be limited by my voice. And shelter would probably be a hasty lean-to from scrounged materials and cordage.

Time to start giving this serious thought, and to pack accordingly. More later.

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Mad about Mad Cow

In line at the fabled IKEA cafe today, the lady ahead of me demanded to know what was in those Swedish meatballs everyone was chowing down (and were neatly arrayed on her plate--and mine too). She was, evidently, concerned about the mad cow disease (BSE) threat now present on American soil.

I volunteered that they were probably from Sweden--heck, isn't everything in IKEA "from Sweden"? (globalization notwithstanding). [Tip o' the Stetson to the immense Swedish cattle and hog ranching community].

Nope, says the exceptionally polite cashier. Pork, beef, and who knows what from Brazil, New Zealand, and a bunch of other places that aren't the USA.

Besides, I say, aren't these things processed and frozen, then cooked? Wouldn't all that unnatural processing kill off any infectious agent?

Satisfied, the lady paid and sat down to eat. I did too. Mmmmm. Lingonberries.

Of course, I get back to my computer and Google (via FDA.gov, but Google is the omniscient one these days, ain't it?) tells me that a ton of other countries have had cases of mad cow disease. And yes, Sweden is on that list.

Then I read HowStuffWorks' page, and man, is this some scary shit.

What we know about mad cow disease:

  • You don't know you have the disease until it's converted enough of your brain to spongy crap and you're about to die. Could be years after you get infected.
  • You can't kill the agent that causes it by cooking or freezing.
  • You can't kill the agent that causes it with the usual disinfectants (e.g. Lysol).
  • We don't know what that agent is.

Dayyaaam. Is Stephen King now scripting our destiny? Did we really piss off God this time? Is this Osama's last laugh?

Guess I'll be cutting back on that weekly In-n-Out habit. Sigh. Good thing our company cafeteria serves up Niman Ranch burgers.

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January 05, 2004

Skills for Life

I was musing the other day about classes I wish I had taken while in elementary school or college--skills that would've helped me in later years, had I taken advantage of the "free" training offered by my educational institution.

For example, while at State I could've taken judo as a P.E. elective--and trained under/with several Olympians.

Other topics that would've been nice:

  • Speed-reading
  • Woodshop (I took metal shop instead)
  • Home Ec
  • Espanol (I took French)
  • Various memory/lateral thinking/creativity techniques
  • Schmoozing

I guess a lot of these aren't individual skills--they might be just innate talents. You either have them or you don't. Like a natural ability to schmooze. Maybe folks who lack the EQ (in the Daniel Goleman sense) just can't learn such "soft" skills, but wouldn't they have helped if you learned them early on?

I was lucky enough to have had speed-reading instruction in the fourth grade. We were part of a special program, where every week we got to ride a little yellow bus to a central school in the district, and got tastes of such topics as botany, optics, library science, video production, and so on. Man, that must've been fun for the teachers. Prop 13 killed all that, though.

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