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Archive of August, 2001

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[Permalink 2001-08-31] Tool Alert!

August 31, 2001:

Saw this license plate Saturday: CMU CHME. The funny thing (to me, anyway) is that, this guy's obviously pretty smart to be a Chemical Engineer from Carnegie Mellon. But the Acura logo on his trunk was upside-down.

[Permalink 2001-08-30] F--- the Steel Industry

August 30, 2001:

The Yinzers may run me out of town on a rail for this one, but here goes:

Surprise, surprise, the steel industry and the unions are bitching again about how the current administration needs to "do something" about these evil companies who have the audacity to undercut the U.S. industry. I got news for ya, USX and USWA: It's your own damn fault.

The unions, which were necessary when they started, eventually drove up overhead so much that the companies had to start charging inflated prices for their product. And the companies went along, to avoid bad PR. And now they're all screwed.

Modern steel workers are, at best, semi-skilled workers. I doubt half of them know what element steel is comprised of, let alone how the process works. They just know how to read the dials in front of them, and where the manual is if one of the warning lights comes on.

So now they want Dubya (and Billy-boy before him) to create some ultra-protectionist tariffs to protect the steel industry. Never mind that the suddenly higher prices will fuck the auto industry (among others), it'll keep these overpaid workers in their cushy jobs for a while.

[Permalink 2001-08-29] Driving For Dummies

August 29, 2001:

It's not a difficult concept, really -- if you're in the passing lane, pass somebody.

[Permalink 2001-08-28] To Find a Job, One Must Look

August 28, 2001:

Just finished an AIM session with a friend of mine; and he's found a new job. Not the pay he was hoping for (but who gets that besides executives?) but an increase from now. Needless to say, I'm bitter.

It's my own damn fault, too. I have three jobs from the Tech Council site bookmarked, but since my resumé's on my home computer (and thus not connected to the 'Net) I can't send it to anyone. I oughtta stick a note to my forehead to remind myself to put it on a floppy disk. Then come in Saturday (tomorrow) to send it out without distraction.

[Permalink 2001-08-27] I Smell Burning Plastic in My Wallet

August 27, 2001:

Before I left to buy myself a microwave last night, I called the Discover and Mastercard customer service numbers to get my account balances.


It appears that some of my other plans, like a receiver/surround sound system and DSL may have to wait a while. Don't worry, I won't be sleeping on the sidewalk; but I've spent at least three months' rent just getting this apartment set up. Fortunately these things are mostly one-time expenses.

[Permalink 2001-08-25] How to Convince Yourself to Spend All Your Money

August 25, 2001:

Picked up my TV last night, and got it plugged in. The only thing attached to it right now is the DVD player. The VCR's not connected because I don't have any co-ax to use, and I haven't set up cable yet. So I crank up a DVD. The Matrix.

Bad move. Since my little stereo doesn't have sound in ports, I'm restricted to the two speakers on the TV itself. Now I want to go out and buy the surround system I was looking at earlier, but I know I don't have the money to spend on it right now.

[Permalink 2001-08-24] "Ti-i-i-i-ime Is On My Side ..."

August 24, 2001:

Impressive. I just looked at my time sheet for today, and barring the half hour I spent walking to and from a client's office for a meeting they thought was scheduled for tomorrow (and thus didn't happen) I've had no billable work today. I've had a little work to do, but on projects that are internal.

So depending on whether or not I'm allowed to count the travel time, My billable time today is either 0.00% or 6.67%. Why do I show up every day?

[Permalink 2001-08-23] Powerball

August 23, 2001:

Well, I've gotten into a Powerball pool here at work. I threw in three bucks out of a hundred total, so if one of the tickets wins, I'll get 3% of the lump-sum (which is currently $110 million, so I'd get a cool $3.3 mil).

If we all win, I'm sure I'll find an inconspicuous way of posting it to my site. And I won't quit my job, either. But it would get a lot more fun >:)

[Permalink 2001-08-22] TV, Or Not TV ...

August 22, 2001:

Just finished an AIM session with my truck-owning friend. He needs the truck as a tow vehicle for his race car this weekend (yes, he actually drives a race car in the SCCA -- gets his ass kicked too). So I can't borrow it this week to go get my TV. Since I'm opposed to paying for delivery (about 13% of the cost of the TV, in this case) I'm just going to go put it on layaway (if they do that -- I'm guessing they do) and pick it up next Monday. I had no idea how much TV I watched until I couldn't do it any more.

[Permalink 2001-08-21] God Hates Me, that Prick

August 21, 2001:

I was at a wedding over the weekend, for my stepbrother. Myrtle Beach, SC, for anyone who cares.

Anyway, I got to the reception and spotted a fairly cute girl wearing a red strapless dress. As almost every other attractive woman there was seeing someone, she caught my attention. I quickly formulated a plan and set it in motion.

The plan was a simple one. Step One: Drink enough Liquid Courage (ethanol, C2H5OH, booze) to start dancing with her. I need the alcohol simply because when I'm sober I'm way too aware of how dumb I look out there. Step Two: At the end of the reception, inquire about her plans for the remainder of the evening. Step Three: Aww, yeah.

Something that simple should be foolproof, right? Well, I made it through to 11:45 just fine. She seemed to enjoy dancing with me, and we were flirting a little bit. Since the reception ended at midnight, I thought I was golden. I went over to a chair to take a quick breather. (Hey, I'm out of shape and I'd been dancing for a few hours.)

My stepcousins, who are really nice people, see that I'm not dancing. Since they were drunker than I was, they didn't notice that'd I'd been out there more or less constantly since 9:00. They just thought I wasn't having a good time. So they haul me back out on the dance floor. This is the last non-slow dance, so it's really winding down, and she cuts out early. I miss it.

When I get off the dance floor, I saw she'd already left and quickly grabbed my suit jacket and speed-walked to the elevators. As I got there I saw the doors close with her inside.


I pressed the Down button about 300 times, hoping to convince the computer to send another elevator to the 16th floor. When it finally got there and took me to the lobby, she was gone. Not in the lobby, not in the parking lot, not on the beach. Gone. Without a trace.

And the hell of it is, I can't really get angry with my cousins, because they really thought they were helping me out. It just flat-out sucks.

[Permalink 2001-08-20] Operating Hours: Whatever's Not Convenient

August 20, 2001:

Is it just me, or should the library be open later than 8pm?

[Permalink 2001-08-18] "Just a Putrid Liquid For Breakfast ..."

August 18, 2001:

Ugh. Tried one of those Slim Fast drinks this morning (hey, the exercise thing fell through). Now granted, it was one of the canned ones instead of the mix, but that thing was pretty bad. It was chocolaty, but there was just something ... not right about it. Can't explain it though.

[Permalink 2001-08-17] "Jenga! Jenga! Jenga!"

August 17, 2001:

Impressive ... I've had dishes for less than 48 hours (I'm writing this Monday morning) and I've already got a pile of dishes in the sink waiting to be washed.

[Permalink 2001-08-16] The Blue Smoke Express

August 16, 2001:

On my way back to Ikea last Saturday to pick up dishes for the apartment, I was almost in the middle of a multicar incident. In front of me, there was a Cadillac, and behind him was an older Mustang who was following a little too close. I was following the two-second rule behind the Mustang, and an Acura was following the two-second rule behind me. Four cars; I'm number three.

Anyway, the Caddy slams on his brakes and the ABS does its thing. The Mustang stands on his brakes, but since the car is old and doesn't have ABS, he locks 'em up. The squealin' and smokin' begins, and he veers into the right lane which was (luckily) empty. I come to a stop not quite a car-length behind the Caddy. So if the Mustang had hit the Caddy, I'd have hit him. And the Acura behind me stopped a couple inches behind my bumper. If the Mustang had hit the Cadillac and I'd hit the Mustang, the Acura would've hit me.

Technically, me and the Acura would have at least shared some of the fault (I think) even though we were following at a proper distance. The problem would have come if the Mustang had stopped short because of an impact with the Cadillac. I'm not exactly sure how that would work, now that I think about it.

[Permalink 2001-08-15] Vacation

August 15, 2001:

God, I'll be so glad to get out of here for a five-day weekend. Today (8/15) I'm just loafing around, maybe I'll run some errands later. Thursday through Sunday I'll be in South Carolina for my stepbrother's wedding.

Hey, maybe by the time I get back they'll have work for me to do. Nah, probably not.

[Permalink 2001-08-14] I'm Such a Pain

August 14, 2001:

I realized last night what a pain in the ass I'm probably being to my friends talking about my move all the time. I can't help it; I tend to be really talkative when I think I have something to share. And since this apartment is a new thing for me1 I've basically been going on about it both in the real world and here.

The good thing is, I'm pretty much done. I've found all the idiosyncarcies and problems in my apartment, and I'm at least deciding what I want to do about them. So my friends (and my reader(s)) should be getting a reprieve from my inane chatter.

1. OK, how does a nearly-25-year-old move into an apartment for the first time in his life? Well, I lived at home until I left for college, then spent a year in a dorm and three and a half years in the fraternity house, followed by two and a half years splitting a house with my college friends. Which brings me to here-and-now.

[Permalink 2001-08-13] Movin' In

August 13, 2001:

It's official; I know live at the apartment I've been paying rent on since August 1st (it's now the morning of the 9th). Last night, Rob and Dave helped me move my bed and computer in, so with the exception of a few t-shirts all my stuff is at the new place now. Slept there last night; it was fuckin' HOT in that bedroom. This place has no air circulation at all. I'm gonna need either a pair of giant window fans, or an air conditioner.

This weekend I'm getting my last bit of stuff, and putting my old Ikea desk in the basement until I can sell it on the b-board at CMU. If I'm lucky I'll get $60 for the whole thing. Then I'm going out and buying a TV.

Maybe it'll look like somebody actually lives there by the time I leave for my step-brother's wedding on the 15th.

[Permalink 2001-08-11] Yay, Money! Oh, Wait. Never Mind.

August 11, 2001:

I was kind of excited about my $300 tax check that I'm supposed to be receiving this week. Then I sat down and made the Everything List. Three pages of stuff I need to buy at Giant Eagle, Circuit City, Ikea, Target, etc.

I just came to the realization that, while it will definitely help, 300 bucks ain't all that much.

So. Anyone looking for some freelance Web development?

[Permalink 2001-08-10] My Inner Geek Is Crying

August 10, 2001:

My computer is disconnected and sitting in its component pieces on my apartment floor right now. And even if it were assembled, I have no connection to the 'Net. From the time I leave work to the time I get back in in the morning, I have no e-mail access, no gaming access, no ability to surf the Web, nothing.

It's almost like I'm suffering withdrawl. I have to get my fix when I get to work in the morning.

Fortunately, I'm going through a really light period right now, so I have time to stay current while my expenses get back to normal and I can see if I can afford DSL access.

[Permalink 2001-08-09] ...

August 09, 2001:

Sorry for the non-descriptive title, but I'm not even sure this one's going to stick around.

At work, the conversations tend to move from tangent to tangent, and Monday was no exception. We somehow got to talking about things that had aired when they probably shouldn't have. We discussed the Challenger explosion in 1986 that most of us saw on TV, or hear on the radio, live. The station airing the liftoff (CNN?) didn't have much choice though -- it was live and nobody could have known what was going to happen 73 seconds in.

Then we moved on to Budd Dwyer, who was the state treausrer of Pennsylvania in the mid 1980s. He was convicted of federal corruption charges, and faced more than half a century in prison at his sentencing hearing. He called a press conference -- to resign, most people thought -- and lashed out at the people who had helped get him convicted. Then he pulled a largish gun out of an envelope and killed himself. The cameras kept rolling, but only one station (WPXI, here in Pittsburgh) showed the footage on the news that evening.

After some digging, I found a copy of the footage on the Web. I won't link to it here; if you want it, go find it. I checked around the office to make sure no-one was looking over my shoulder, took a deep breath, and watched the 14-year-old event unfold.

The imagery isn't particularly graphic as Dwyer commits suicide -- most of the ... um ... "material" exits the frame and is only visible for a fraction of a second. Much worse is the zoom onto the then-late Dwyer's body. Due to the nature of the injury, blood was pouring out of his nose and mouth.

After many years of seeing Hollywood's mock-ups of death (Leonard's suicide in Full Metal Jacket was surprisingly realistic, now that I've seen the subject of today's missive) the gory nature isn't what bothered me. As I said, the nastiness left the frame almost before I could process what it was. But the fact that I had just watched a person take his own life -- even 14 years after the fact -- left me a little stunned for the rest of the day. Conservatives and Liberals alike can say what they want about fake death, but the real thing is still pretty nasty.

I have the page where I originally found the video loaded in another window, in case I need to verify my facts. The movie is sitting there, waiting to play. If it were just a scene from a movie, I'd have no qualms about watching it again. But given what's in there, I'll say once is enough.

[Permalink 2001-08-08] Shopping at Rob and Dave's Used Furniture Warehouse

August 08, 2001:

As I alluded to in a previous Brain Fart, my model-building hobby may have to wait until I have other things, like furniture. As it stands right now, I'm taking my bed with me and I'm buying Dave's futon, Rob's old table and Allison's entertainment center. It's like my own little Goodwill shopping spree.

Now for the down side. That's all I'll have. My entertainment center and VCR won't be very useful without a TV, so I'll have to buy one of those. I should probably have more than one furtinute item in the living room, so I'll need to supplement the futon. I'm taking my computer desk too, but I think I want to replace it, so that's another expense that I probably shouldn't incur. I own DVDs that I can play on Dave's machine right now, but I'll need a player of my own at some point... the list can go on for quite a way if I let it.

So what I'm saying is that my living space might be a bit spartan for a while, and I won't want to get involved in any kind of hobby until I get this big stuff taken care of.

[Permalink 2001-08-07] Summer in the City

August 07, 2001:

Jesus Tap-Dancing Christ it's hot today. I mean, I know I'm not a summer person, but this is disgusting. currently says the temperature is 88°F with 45% humidity. That doesn't seem too bad, but that's at Allegheny County Airport, on the other side of the South Hills. It isn't downtown where you have three rivers pumping out humidity and asphalt and skyscrapers holding down the heat. If I had to guess I'd say it's at least 95° with 70% humidity.

No, I'm not running out of material at all. Why do you ask?

[Permalink 2001-08-06] "Hobby" (n): An Excuse to Sit on Your Fat Ass and Watch TV

August 06, 2001:

I've decided I need a hobby. Not something very intensive, mind you, but something to do with my spare time. I'm thinking of building models.

I used to try that stuff when I was a kid, and I kinda liked it and kinda didn't. The end results were cool, but I didn't have the patience to do them correctly -- parts would be fused together that shouldn't have been, there'd be plastic knobs where the pieces came off the mold, decals would be broken, etc. -- so I wound up throwing in the towel after a few. I just got to thinking about it a few weeks ago when I helped my mom and my stepfather clean out their house so they can move. I wound up throwing away a model airplane and a model space shuttle that had basically fallen apart over the last 15 years. It's a shame, too, because I'm pretty sure I'd used the Challenger decals on the shuttle -- I doubt I'd be able to get any of those any more.

I think I could actually do it right this time around. By virtue of not being a nine-year-old with chubby fingers, I have a little bit more manual dexterity. And I'm much more patient than I used to be. No, really. And it'd feel nice to create a physical thing, since what I make at work consists of nothing more than a large collection of electrons.

So once I get moved in and finish buying furnishings (more on that soon) I think I'll start again. When I finish one I'll make sure to put it up here, mixing my physical creation with my collection of electrons.

[Permalink 2001-08-04] "Urge To Kill ... Rising ..."

August 04, 2001:

Just moved my first loads of furniture to the apartment Thursday night. Fought with the futon for a while before I got it together, but I managed to avoid injuring myself. I guess when you look at it in that light, the evening was a success.

This is just turning out to be so much more annoying than I thought it would be. I'm going to have to spend most of Saturday afternoon over there, just getting everything set up so I can move in more of my stuff so I can get that organized so I can ...


Anyway, all of you out there who are older than about 25 are undoubtedly reading this and wondering what the hell I'm complaining about. Nothing, really. I figured that it wasn't as simple as it seemed, and I turned out to be right.

But this section is here just so I can vent the contents of my brain, so here ya go.

[Permalink 2001-08-03] And I Thought Finding the Apartment Was a Pain...

August 03, 2001:

I just realized what I have left to do now that I've signed the lease and written the check for my first month's rent and my security deposit. I've still gotta sign up for renter's insurance (and I don't even know where to get that); have cable installed so I get Comedy Central, ESPN and the other necessities; and look into DSL, so I can continue being a geek.

And I thought this got easier after I found a place to live.

[Permalink 2001-08-02] Warning: Thinking About Viruses Can Wipe Out Your Hard Drive

August 02, 2001:

All week, I've been receiving e-mails containing viruses from various people across the Web. Apparently one of them used Outlook Express to send an e-mail to a while ago, and it got stored in his address book.

So this spam-virus starts e-mailing me copies of itself left and right. Then it infects some other people who also have Virus Express, and I start getting mail from all of them.

Until this happened, I'd never realized just how stupid people are. The computer industry has been telling them for years, "don't open suspicious-looking attachments." And these are what you'd consider suspicious -- if you have extensions turned off (so your Word document show up as "My Stuff" instead of "My Stuff.doc") you have an alleged JPEG file (or some other thing) that has the sprocket-in-window icon of a batch or command file. Don't people notice these things, do they just not care, or what?

So now we're blocking all their addresses. Hope they don't have anything constructive to send us.

[Permalink 2001-08-01] Wuss, Or Lightweight. That Is the Question.

August 01, 2001:

Went to a Pirates game recently with a friend of mine. Drank three Budweisers at the picnic beforehand, and two Penn Golds at the game itself. Woke up this morning with a pretty bad headache.

Which either means that I'm a wuss who can't handle a simple headache, or my ability to handle alcohol has deteriorated to the point that five beers (counting a Bud as a whole beer) gives me a hangover. I'm not sure which is worse.

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