GirlHacker's Random Log

Welcome to my weblog. It's not really a journal and not merely a list of must-see links, but more of a place to stick those random thoughts that pop into my head. You can find out more about this weblog on the About and FAQ page and more about me at my personal site. If you are enjoying this random spiel, you are most welcome to tell me so.

Friday, June 29, 2001

The California DMV must be drowning in a sea of angry drivers with their new name cross checking policy for drivers licenses. It's spilling over. I renewed my car registration (not license) and sent in a copy of my insurance card as they now require. I got a response back saying that I did not include proof of insurance, so I had to send it in again. I wasn't too upset, maybe I forgot to enclose it, maybe they lost it, no big deal. But then the same thing happened to my fiance. Now I'm wondering what system they are using over there that keeps failing? I have a feeling we're not the only ones.
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If you've driven along Highway 101 in Mountain View recently, you may have noticed the monstrosity of the new Shoreline Ampitheatre signs. These are not billboards, but they may as well be. In the usual green signage used for highway markers, the new additions read "Shoreline Ampitheatre at Mountain View, Presented by The Chronicle, Next 2 Exits." It could've been worse, I suppose. The worst case would've been "Shoreline Ampitheatre at Mountain View, Presented by The San Francisco Chronicle and Bill Graham Presents, Next 2 Exits." So I'm not going to complain. Really, I'm not.
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Another silly wedding news item, a bridesmaid is told to lose 20 pounds by her seamstress. It was supposed to be a joke, so says the store owner, who makes sure to mention that the seamstress has her own separate business, though she does some tailoring for his shop. The bridesmaid was upset enough to publicize her public humiliation even more by telling the press; I guess that's her revenge. It's unclear whether she was getting fitted for a dress order or if she was being fitted into a dress she had already ordered. For some reason the bridal industry didn't shift along with other clothing manufacturers when size designations were adjusted downwards ("yesterday's size 16 is now a size 10 or 12"). So a woman going into a bridal salon unprepared for the old style sizing is usually in for a shock. Since I'd been fitted for bridesmaid dresses several times, I was prepared to hear my wedding gown size as "just a number". But anyone who doesn't know about the difference or refuses to acknowledge it (it happens!), may be in danger of provoking a scene like the one the aforementioned bridesmaid went through. Was the seamstress out of line or was the bridesmaid too sensitive? It's impossible to make the call from the outside. (via Obscure Store)
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Thursday, June 28, 2001

Ahhh, the B&B; journal. That voyeuristic peek into the lives of those who stayed in your bed and breakfast room before you. I've always read through them, as the article's author does. It's like reading sections of online diaries where people you may never meet let you in on a bit of their lives. People hint about the fun of the Jacuzzi, are candid about same sex partners, gush about their honeymoons, recommend restaurants, and warn about the possibility of tripping on the fireplace corner (that was me). Perhaps this is an idea for a novel with a plotline that'd be an interesting challenge to develop.
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A SFGate columnist laments the demise of the stick shift. He goes a bit too far into the sexual parallels for my taste, but perhaps I'm too prudish to enjoy driving in a visceral manner. I must admit that although two people have tried to teach me how to deal with a clutch, I haven't truly made the effort to learn how to drive a manual transmission. I'm surprised, though, that manual transmission sales are down. More of my friends own stick shifts than not, so I've always felt in the minority.
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When your fiance buys three copies of the Diablo Expansion Pack and drops one off for a friend who lives half a mile away from you but doesn't bother to stop by and drop off your copy, is that grounds for calling off the wedding? No, I guess not. After all, he did buy me one too. I'll pretend it's because he really wanted to wait to play it with me.
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Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Some parents go to great lengths to provide a memorable wedding day for their children. And heaven help the vendors if something goes wrong. A man in Cleveland is picketing a restaurant because of the awful job they did catering his son's wedding. The restaurant has offered to reimburse half of the cost, but he refused to settle. Now the restaurant has filed suit to keep him away from their property. Seems he's bad for business. (via Obscure Store)
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A few clicks away from Medley, I found RootBeerWorld.com, aka Root-Beer.org) wherein they chronicle all things about that wonderfully yummy beverage. A state-by-state and alphabetical guide of root beer brands includes vintage models like this one from Canada Dry. My easy to find (for me) favorites are Henry Weinhard's which has honey added (so it's sweeter than most) and IBC. But my most favorite was a cranky, earthy tasting variety brewed and only on tap at a San Mateo brewpub that has gone out of business. Ah well.
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Tuesday, June 26, 2001

It appears that educational software is stagnating with little innovation and mainly tried and true sequels being released. But how many copies of the same game in different disguises will parents buy? Sales have dropped and publishers are scaling back and trying to get creative again. There's always a new crop of fast-growing kids, though, so perhaps they won't have to reinvent the wheel. (via LTSeek)
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I grew up reading The New York Times. Like many other advantages I had, I didn't truly appreciate it until I was away from it. I figured most newspapers were of that caliber. That's not to say that they get it right or unbiased all the time. But the Times offers something on a different level from most dailies. This L.A. Times article discusses what that is. A brand researcher found that "the most loyal readers of the New York Times are interested in abstract theorizing, in getting underneath, in being surprised. . . . They had what we came to call a 'vigilant curiosity' about the world." What that means to me in plain English is "we like to know the real how and why, not just the hyped what." The article is mostly about the Times' stepping into the role of being a national paper. But I crave the New York centered news too. The national edition isn't the same for me. There's just something about that mix of humanity in New York that makes for fascinating local news.
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Monday, June 25, 2001

Appetize is "a patented blend of tallow and non-hydrogenated corn oil created by Brandeis University that contains no cholesterol and is naturally trans-fat free." Most restaurants use (unhealthy) partially hydrogenated vegetable oils for deep frying. No fast-food restaurants have switched to Appetize yet, though its makers claim that it restores that yummy fried in beef fat taste to french fries. Some say consumers are too confused about what is healthy and what isn't. I figured it can't be as cheap as veggie oils, so consumers are going to have to demand it in order for food companies to take any notice. Their FAQ claims it can actually be cost effective since the fried food absorbs less of it and it has a longer frying life. I really hope this catches on and doesn't have any Olestra-like issues.
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I don't remember who mentioned this to me, but it really made a lot of sense. We were discussing the memory it takes to load dictionaries on PDAs, and this person said that instead of the smaller dictionaries having fewer of the less-known words, they should filter out all the easy words. You will most likely be looking up a word you haven't heard a lot, not something like "cat", and a lot of space could be saved. I just discovered that the Palm dictionary I use, Noah from ArsLexis, does have an "advanced" dictionary database, suitable for native speakers who don't need the simple words. Nifty!
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Friday, June 22, 2001

I had left the sliding glass door open a bit one day when I went out. My cat likes to go out on the balcony and recharge her solar cells. When I came home, there was a dead bird on the carpet a few feet from the door to the balcony. There was no sign of struggle and the cat seemed to be meowing more than usual, but was still nonchalant. One stray feather sat mournfully closer to the door. I was torn between motherly pride ("good hunter kitty!") and extreme guilt that a poor bird had died. But maybe it had keeled over on its own and the cat dragged it inside? I'll never know. I bet the cat does, but she just ain't telling. In memorium, though, I will now always try to buy sustainably grown coffee as promoted by the Songbird Foundation.
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My dad would drive miles away just to get cheaper gas. He knew it defeated the purpose, but it was the principle of the thing. He supported cheaper stations, and was amongst the early adopters of self serve along with its lower prices. GasPriceWatch.com tracks the prices at gas stations, and of heating oil (and marinas, coming soon) in the U.S. and Canada through the help of volunteer spotters. You can search on zip/postal code and find stations near you and compare prices. Prices are color coded so you know how old they are. And maybe you'd like to sign up to be a spotter yourself. I always try to buy gas at the cheapest place I can find, but I don't go overboard about it. My dad has also loosened up. Time is money, or, more importantly when you're older, time is, well, time.
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Thursday, June 21, 2001

Dr. Robert Hutson, inventor of the first Oral-B toothbrush, died last month (no free linkage anymore). He was San Jose's first periodontal dentist, and, if I remember the obituary correctly, was appalled by the bruising on his patients gums caused by toothbrushes. He used the now common tufted layout and end-rounded bristles to help create a brush that was still tough on teeth but gentler to gums. This was in 1950, and Oral-B went on to become the leading toothbrush manufacturer. Oral-B toothbrushes traveled with the first moon landing.

In ancient times, some cultures used frayed tree branches to clean their teeth. Some web sources say that the Chinese invented the modern toothbrush (1498 A.D.) which was then brought to Europe. Boar bristles were used until the invention of nylon. Dr. West's Miracle Tuft Toothbrush (an original ad, large gif) brought the truly contemporary toothbrush to the masses.

An interesting sidenote: here's a WWII era ad for Scot Toilet Tissue which asks "With most doctors having to ration their time today and almost every hospital full to capacity--are you prepared for a possible home delivery?" It describes how to make your own protective masks from toilet tissue. Clever, huh?

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Wednesday, June 20, 2001

Although I have been using my Palm Vx for a while now, I am not a master of Graffiti. The concept is excellent and I don't mind being trained instead of training the software to understand how I write (though one day that will be the best model). But I always run into problems and end up bringing up the keyboard. I could practice more, I suppose. But I'll definitely check out these tiny keyboards when they are released. Typing with my thumbs... I can do that! Unfortunately, it looks like it'll be difficult to use with my Palm in its metal cover. (via Evhead)
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8.5 million people in the U.S. have an autoimmune disease where their immune system is attacking some part or parts of their own body. 6.7 million, almost 80 percent, are female. Researchers have discovered that pregnancy may be a triggering factor. "During pregnancy a mother and fetus exchange body cells that can persist in one or the other's circulation for years or even decades after birth." When the molecules that identify cells as being the mother's or the child's are too similar, the immune system can get confused and attack the wrong cells postpartum. Type 1 diabetes, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis are some examples of autoimmune disorders. Scientists have realized they need to study these as a group.
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Tuesday, June 19, 2001

We saw a very cool looking computer at an open house. It was much more interesting than the house, especially since we discovered that the house was priced at over a million dollars (and not a mansion by any means). Turns out it was a 20th Anniversary Macintosh. It's a sleek model that escaped my notice in 1997. The audio and video features sound impressive for the time. But CPUs never age well.
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Parents of Original Milk Carton Child Give Up Hope. The boy whose disappearance sparked national awareness of missing children has never been found. His father is declaring him legally dead in order to proceed with a civil suit against the man they believe is reponsible for his death. His mother won't sign the documents that ask he be declared dead, but she's not opposing the action. The father is, most certainly, propelled by the chance to seek some form of justice, or he very likely wouldn't want to sign either. A NY Times article on the subject.
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The Diablo II Expansion Pack will be released in a couple weeks or less. Just as the wedding planning ramps up. pooh. Runes are new and look to be very interesting and useful. The rarest of them makes weapons and defense items indestructible.
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Monday, June 18, 2001

There should be a "wedding planning confessions" site. Here's my contribution about invitations: even though all the books say you should write out the complete address with no abbreviations, I simply refused to write out the state names. Except for a couple of the short ones. I didn't even use the old style medium length abbreviations (which you can see on this chart). I used the common two letter postal codes. It's a good thing I'm not inviting Miss Manners or the President.
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This is probably rather common now in other countries, but it's the first time I'd seen it. The Stereo MC's "register for more info" form has a field for "mobile no." so they can send you text/SMS messages. (You may remember the Stereo MC's for their single "Connected" way back in the early 1990s. They have a new album out finally after 9 years, and it supposedly takes up the groove where the last one left off. They're touring a bit too -- I noticed their return from a flyer advertising their appearance in Boston.)
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In college there were always rumors about students tunneling, an activity that supposedly was grounds for immediate expulsion. The rumors were more about MIT fraternities using Wellesley's steam tunnels for secret rituals, rather than our own students running around underground, but I often wondered what was behind those padlocked basement doors. When there was snow on the ground, the track of the steam tunnels was obvious as the heat would melt the snow above. But I never braved the chance for expulsion. There are numerous websites devoted to college tunnels, such as UC Berkeley. Wired wrote about it in 1993. Away from campus, explorers conquer inaccessible areas of cities, such as hidden sections of Grand Central Station in NYC. You can't get expelled but you can get fined and jailed for trespassing. These urban explorers often seek out abandoned buildings in their modern archeological excursions. Last year, a documentary was released chronicling the homeless who took shelter in abandoned Amtrak tunnels underneath Manhattan.
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Friday, June 15, 2001

If you've known me for a while, you know I have a penchant for see-through electronics. Here, via Memepool, is a page devoted to a clear MacSE. Of course many of the latest Apple products have some amount of clearness to them. Once I was in an audio store and asked the salesguy how much the neato clear speaker was. He said "uh, that's a demonstration model so you can see what's inside." Hmph. Harman Kardon's funky clear speaker set is still Mac only; their PC speakers are the usual yawn beige and black.
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Thank goodness. Landmark Theatres is back under old management and the Palo Alto Square theatre I mentioned a while back is renegotiating their lease. Cross your fingers. It sounds like the new old management has the right perspective to make the art house chain thrive again. (Thanks peterme).
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Everyone is noting the Duck Tape Prom fashion contest, but delving a little further, I discovered that a couple from L.A. recently won a Duck Tape wedding. They will be married in Duck Tape wedding clothes. Canadian sculptor Todd Scott "will be making the bride’s and bridemaids’ bouquets, a Duck Tape wedding cake (to supplement the edible one) and an array of beautiful floral arrangements and decorations for this very unique wedding." It's September 29, 2001, at Universal Studios. Sticky jokes will abound, I'm sure.
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Thursday, June 14, 2001

It is often educational to think of something commonplace and wonder how it got that way. And with the Internet nearby, you don't have to head off to the library to find the answers. Today I wondered "tuna in cans... how did that happen?" A few clicks later, I discovered that the tuna industry began "by accident" in 1903 when sardines became scarce. Albacore tuna had no market value at the time, but an enterprising employee at a San Pedro, CA sardine plant decided to can it instead. The public liked the taste and an American pantry item was born. San Diego was once the Tuna Capital of the World, ranking third in the local economy to the Navy and aircraft industry. Tuna headed for cans is cooked under steam pressure, both before canning and afterwards. These days, most canned tuna is produced by foreign countries, as the U.S. industry fell to competition, rising costs, regulation, and environmentalists. There are opposing views on the "dolphin safe" controversy. Some say activists exaggerated the dolphin issue and filmed an atypical boat and crew to generate highly emotional publicity. The truth, as I always try to remember, probably lies somewhere in between.
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Perhaps you didn't even know you wanted one of these: Cuisinart's Two To Go. It brews coffee right into one or two travel mugs. I know a few people who could eliminate time-consuming steps in their morning ritual by getting one of these. Just don't tell Starbucks.
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I forgot to mention in my trip summary that I also saw an Amtrak Acela whiz by while we were waiting for the commuter rail into New York. I know that's not a very interesting report since I didn't ride one or even see it standing still, but it was impressive nonetheless. It was going pretty darn fast. We could've taken it to and from Boston instead of driving, but we had things to do that weren't easy with public transportation.
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Wednesday, June 13, 2001

Daring Marketers Add Fizz To Fruit, Milk, Cereal, Yogurt. Will this be the new trend in food? Will this encourage kids of all ages to consume more fruit (and burp more afterwards)? FizzyFruit plans to market a device that adds carbonation to fruit so you can make your very own bubbly pears. Texture plays an important role in food and drink, something that most people don't realize as they are crunching on their new crispy M&Ms; or wondering why they like potatos mashed but not whole. I can't see myself buying a FizzyFruit device for my kitchen, but I could probably convince myself to buy a fizzy bunch of grapes instead of a smoothie or frozen yogurt when I'm out for a quick nosh. Of course a smoothie or frozen yogurt with fizzy fruit in it is even more appealing (and, sigh, has more calories) (via Follow Me Here)
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Via Larkfarm, the Mah Jong Cyber Museum displays tile sets of all sorts, including a lovely white jade set. I've only ever played with a modern plastic set, but I do love how those gently click together. When I was little, the green side of the tiles reminded me of yummy pieces of hard candy.
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Santa Clara County's Office of the Clerk Recorder provides PDF versions of their marriage license applications online. Applying for a marriage license in California is painless; probably the hardest part is fitting in time to appear in person with your spouse-to-be during their business hours. San Mateo County has started closing some offices on Fridays to reduce energy use, while increasing their hours other days of the week. Sounds great to me!
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Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Just the other day I was wondering how much more radiation we get exposed to in an airplane, and the NY Times kindly obliged by publishing an article about it. Experts disagree (no surprise) on whether it is a big problem, but they do agree (wow) that "a pregnant woman could be exposed to enough radiation on a single flight to exceed government health guidelines." The melanoma rate is higher among pilots, but some say that might be from other lifestyle factors. Radiation over the poles can be twice as high as over the equator, so those handy hops over the North Pole may not be a good idea. Only the Concorde carries radiation monitors and it doesn't fly at high altitudes (or at all currently!).
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Here's a most nifty list of upcoming Broadway shows. Some new possibilites are musicals based on "Little Women", "Blade Runner" and "Batman". Yes, I said "Blade Runner". No, I don't think Harrison Ford will be in it. There are planned revivals of "Oklahoma" with choreography by director of the moment Susan Stroman, "My Fair Lady", "South Pacific", "Into the Woods", and even "Flower Drum Song" with (probably a good idea) a new libretto by David Henry Hwang. (thanks BrainLog!)
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The Federal Trade Commission makes sure that brides know what is legally required to be identified on a wedding gown. Some stores rip off manufacturer's tags so that you can't try on a dress and then order it elsewhere, such as the popular online discounters. Tag ripping is not entirely illegal, since the store can replace the label with one of their own as long as they supply four pieces of information: one business in the distribution channel (e.g. the store name, so they don't have to tell you who made it), fiber content, country of origin, and care instructions.
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Monday, June 11, 2001

What I did during my week away (complete with linkage and tiny photos):

Watched lots of PBS:
Store Wars (about Wal-mart invading Ashland, VA), Frontline's Blackout episode (about the California power crisis), and some of a five-part documentary on New York in which I learned about the Triangle Factory fire in 1911 which claimed the lives of 146 garment workers, mostly women, some as young as 14.

Saw the Rose Center for Earth and Space. The sphere in a glass box architecture is striking. Here are two closeups (a side and a corner) of the metal doodads holding the glass together.

Visited the "Make Way For Ducklings" sculpture in the Boston Public Garden. My photo.

Found out that some people think Elizabeth Pain was the inspiration for "A Scarlet Letter" (her grave is at King's Chapel), though it's more likely that it was a young woman from Salem, MA who was sent her away to live with relatives in Virginia. (my photo of the headstone)

Discovered that they are building an IMAX theatre at the New England Aquarium. I suppose everyone else has one, so they're keeping up with the Joneses. I took a photo of the construction.

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I don't know if it's spoiler info or not, so I'm not saying exactly what it is. The name is also in the URL, so don't look at that either. I am so thrilled that this person is going to be on E.R. next season that I am bursting with anticipation.
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Joss Whedon continues to prove he's the coolest of the cool. First of all, he mentions that he likes Elvis Costello and Aimee Mann (he has plans for a musical episode of Buffy!). And then I find out he was the one under all the makeup as Numfar on Angel. As in: "Numfar! Do the dance of joy!" I didn't even know it was Joss and it cracked me to pieces. (via TOS and WCH)
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Friday, June 01, 2001

Blogger has been very slow and cranky this week so I'm struggling with entries. I'll be posting sporadically next week since I'll be on a trip to New England. It's time already for a 10 year college reunion. And it's definitely time to make sure my parents meet the fiance before the wedding. During my stay at what is very likely the last house in my hometown that doesn't have cable TV, Food Network is showing the Iron Chef rematch with Bobby Flay, and A&E; has a special 2 hour Biography on The Impressionists. But the good thing about cable is that they'll repeat these again. And again. Besides, I can content myself with the Tony Awards on PBS and CBS. Oh, and play with Mom's fluffy cat. At least they finally got a VCR. And Internet access.
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