Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Good Literature

Yes, I am linking another short story. Edgar Alan Poe stories are classics, but when was the last time you read one?

The Cask of Amontillado

Friday, January 26, 2007

Birthday Weekend...

It's my birthday this weekend, and we have an awesome slate of celebratory type activities planned thanks to Shannon. It will include dinner at Castle Hill Cafe, of our rehearsal dinner fame.

A friend in Slovakia sent the barbarian happy birthday song. Please enjoy.

To the Tune of "The Volga Boatmen"

Happy Birthday. [Hunh!] Happy Birthday. [Hunh!]
Doom, destruction and despair,
Grief and sorrow fill the air,
Happy Birthday. [Hunh!] Happy Birthday. [Hunh!]

Birthdays come but once a year,
Marking time as Death draws near,
Happy Birthday. [Hunh!] Happy Birthday. [Hunh!]

May the cities in your wake
Burn like candles on your cake,
Happy Birthday. [Hunh!] Happy Birthday. [Hunh!]

May your deeds with sword and axe
Equal those with sheep and yaks,
Happy Birthday. [Hunh!] Happy Birthday. [Hunh!]

You must marry very soon,
Baby's due the next full moon,
Happy Birthday. [Hunh!] Happy Birthday. [Hunh!]

Your servants steal, your wife's untrue,
Your children plot to murder you,
Happy Birthday. [Hunh!] Happy Birthday. [Hunh!]

They stole your sword, your gold, your house,
Took your sheep but not your spouse,
Happy Birthday. [Hunh!] Happy Birthday. [Hunh!]

When you've reached this age you know
That the mind is first to go,
Happy Birthday. [Hunh!] Happy Birthday. [Hunh!]

While you eat your birthday stew
We will loot the town for you,
Happy Birthday. [Hunh!] Happy Birthday. [Hunh!]

Indigestion's what you get
From the enemies you 'et,
Happy Birthday. [Hunh!] Happy Birthday. [Hunh!]

So far Death you have bypassed
Don't look back, she's gaining fast
Happy Birthday. [Hunh!] Happy Birthday. [Hunh!]

We brought linen, white as cloud,
Now we'll sit and sew your shroud,

Just be glad the friends you've got
Haven't found out you-know-what!
Happy Birthday. [Hunh!] Happy Birthday. [Hunh!]

This one lesson you must learn,
_First_ you plunder, _then_ you burn!
Happy Birthday. [Hunh!] Happy Birthday. [ARRrr!!]

Hear the Women Wail and Weep
Kill them all, But Spare the Sheep

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Major LOLs

This is something I've always wanted to try on Velcro, but Shannon is unwilling to budge. I think it would have major health benefits: better cooling and less risk of a hairball.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Mysteries of Everyday Science (Part 2)

Mystery #2: The hyper-cooling of nacho cheese
A fresh plate of cheese nachos (chips covered in queso for Texans) is a culinary joy. Yet, like a leaf in a Robert Frost poem, the joy is short-lived.

Piping hot nacho cheese cools at hyperspeed to room temperature or colder. The result is a lumpy, soggy, curdled mess. And, it's ice cold.

The laws of thermodynamics generally state that anything warm will give it's heat to the surrounding area until an equilibrium is reached. A plate of hot food will steam, sizzle, and give it's warmth to the plate and surrounding air until it reaches room temperature. That's pretty straightforward. Conversely, a cool object will absorb surrounding heat.

The Mystery:
Yet, it's hard to understand why nacho cheese cools so quickly. Where does the heat go so rapidly? Further investigation by science is warranted here. Does nacho cheese open a microscopic wormhole to another freezing dimension that leeches the heat away? Is nacho cheese a crude lifeform that consumes heat as life force?

Potential Applications:
1. Could nacho cheese be used to help absorb the massive temperatures of a space shuttle re-entry into atmosphere?

2. Nacho suits for firemen.

3. Guests on the O'Reilly show could slather on some nacho cheese to safely absorb his fiery vitriol

4.Dell just announced a liquid-cooled pc system. Why not computer cooled by nacho cheese?

5. Automobiles use toxic antifreeze and water coolant. We could replace this with savory, non-toxic nacho cheese. If you get stranded in a snowy wildernesss, radiator fondue could keep you nourished.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Mysteries of Everyday Science (Part 1)

Mystery of science: The Hardness of a Dog's Head:

The Rockwell scale indicates the hardness of materials by way of an indentation test. Hardened steel, like in a high-end knife, will have a rating of around 55 to 62. Lower grade metals score in the low forties. A hard piece of tempered glass can score 80 or higher.

Now, none of these materials come close in hardness to that of a canis lupis familiaris (dog) head. Paradoxically, a dog's head is comprised of pretty standard organic stuff. You have bone cells, muscles, and even some cushioning fur. Yet somehow, these items combine into diamond-like hardness that is capable of battering the unwary into unconciousness.

Having shattered a diamond with his head, Rufus looks hopefully for other items to headbutt

The evolution of the hard dog head probably came about in response to icy surfaces or the use of hardwood floors. When traction is scarce, the feet scrabble and the head is often used as a crude brake for the dog. Therefore, the hard head has evolved to protect the dog's brain. Still, science cannot explain the unusual hardness properties.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Happy Blue Monday

Scientifically, today is the most depressing day of the year.

News Article About Blue Monday

The weather is absolutely lousy. It's cold, gray, and dismal.

Some hyper-virulent strain of cedar allergy spore is seething in the air. Allergy sufferers have been living the last few weeks clogged and mired in suffocating mucus. The medications aren't much better. Nose spray is habit forming, and Claritin and friends leave a person jumpy and nervous like a truck-driver on those pills that come in the little paper packets from the truck stop check-out counter.

Christmas has come and gone, and all that remains is the financial wreckage left behind from the season of giving (spending?).

New Year's Resolutions? HA! They've already sputtered out, if they even got started in the first place.

The Nintendo Wii is still not yet available in large quantities. So many wishes and dreams are still unfulfilled.

Actually, it's not all that bad. Spring is just around the corner, and every day will be better from here on out. If this is as bad as it problemo.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Be Careful on the Roads

Be on the lookout for a new hazard on the roads these days. Minivan Aggression Disorder (MAD) affects many male drivers of the usually harmless mini-van. Mini-vans are frequently seen moving in an extremely aggressive manner with rapid acceleration, crazy rates of speed, and abrupt boorish lane changes.

Leading psychoanalysts believe that this behavior stems from a subconcious manifestation of the male ego. Led to becoming a mini-van driver by family or other circumstances, the driver sometimes feels diminished or less masculine. The aggressive driving is an attempt to regain that diminished masculinity by brazenly displaying aggression to other drivers.

Proceed carefully and do not make direct eye contact with such drivers. Among this sub-species, direct eye contact is perceived as a challenge to male dominance. If the driver is wearing a sports jersey of any kind, immediately leave the area.

Please pass this along to everyone you know, and let's all be safe out there.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Horrible Austin Ice Storm of 2007

The great Austin ice blizzard of 2007 is sadly melting to a close. Icecicles are withering and collapsing into eye-gouging projectiles. Sheets of ice are flying off of the roofs of cars on the way to work for the first time in days. Water is drip dripping everywhere.

As far as civilization-halting natural disasters go, ice storms are ok by me.

The time off work is great. We all get a de facto holiday break. Either work is officially cancelled, or all my peers are "working from home." Strangely enough, even with hundreds of people working from home, there is no e-mail traffic and no conference calls.

Playing in the ice is fun. We're adults now, so we don't really sled or have snowball/ice ball fights (we are aware of the co-pays and the expense of visiting an eye doctor). Adults have fun in the ice in more subtle ways. First, there's that little thrill from 'living on the edge', knowing that you are a split second from a firsthand study of ice storm physics, namely the interplay of friction, gravity, and force that culiminates in your brain box crashing into concrete. Garrison Keillor once said, "Winter is the season when Mother Nature makes at least two serious attempts on your life." This is true, and it feels good to survive.

Destroying ice is more fun that popping packing bubbles. When you are swiping away a long row of icicles, you feel like "Master of Nature." How about breaking off a wicked icicle and threatening your loved ones with a scary ice dagger? Believe me, it's fun.

Plus, deicing a car is immensely satisfying. The process starts slowly: start the car and turn on the front heater and the rear defroster. At this point, it's easy to get discouraged. The ice is implacable, and the scraper cannot find purchase. Then, almost imperceptibly, the ice weakens. Now, instead of impotent little scuffs, the scraper sends long cracks spidering across the windshield ice. Suddenly whole sheets of ice come loose and float on a thin layer of water. A few swipes sends the ice sheets crashing to the ground as your car's Ice Age comes to an end. The bigger the sheet of ice you can detach, the better. This is officially "some unpleasant chore that I have to do to get my car ready to drive to work." Unofficially, it's flat out fun.

Snow Day 2007:
Finally, being homebound can bring out the best in friendships. The Floyd Boys came over and we had awesome Snow Day 2007 activities. We played Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit. We braved freezing sleet for games of Ice Bocce and football toss. We rocked some Guitar Hero 2 on the old Playstation 2. The hot chocolate was flowing like water. This would have been a normal workday but for this horrible, horrible ice storm.

Thank you, nature, for the freakish winter storm and the horrible ice storm of 2007. It was a good run while it lasted.

Monday, January 15, 2007

A Day in the Life of Vincent Young, QB of the Tennessee Titans

Location: Nashville, TN
8:30 A.M.:
VY, yawns, rolls out of bed, does 100 pushups to start the day. Incidentally, when VY does a pushup, he isn't lifting himself up; he's pushing the Earth down.

8:32 a.m.:
VY sidearms his pajamas in the general direction of his laundry hamper. They miss. He looks around to make sure nobody is watching, then unleashes a perfect form overhand throw. The pajamas tumble wildly through the air and knock over his Maxwell Award trophy. VY shakes his head sadly, and a single tear slowly rolls down his cheek.
9:00 a.m.
Works out on a well-worn Bowflex machine. VY is able to quickly reconfigure the machine through each and every single one of the contraption's 95 different exercises, and he does so without consulting the instruction manual. He reminds himself of the tensile strength of welded steel. There is a twisted Bowflex PowerRod (tm) still embedded in the wall of his gym as a warning of what can happen when VY forgets his own strength.
9:46 a.m.
He strolls through long mahogany-paneled hallways, footfalls echoing from the Italian marble floor. He is like a Behemoth astride the world. The Behemoth is hungry, so he goes to the kitchen. His sustenance for the day will be the most amazing breakfast burrito ever assembled from top-tier millionaire dinner leftovers. The recipe remains a secret.
11:15 a.m.:
On the way out, VY spots a cardinal with a broken wing flailing in his driveway. He picks it up, dances, high-fives the wounded wing, and yells inspirational words at the stricken bird. The rejuvenated cardinal spreads its wings and launches into flight.
He goes to a Nashville area children's hospital. Leads the kids in a 5-minute flow session that gets them so fired up that 19 off-duty nurses must be paged into work to restore order.
2 p.m.:
His cell rings (ringtone: "Ridin Dirty") and VY checks the caller I.D. It's Matthew McConaughey...again. He lets it go to voice mail. A few minutes later, the phone rings. This time it's from Lance Armstrong. VY answers it and discovers it's McConaughey using Lance's phone. VY sighs and hangs up on him.
4 p.m.:
VY plays 4 hours of Madden '07 as the Tennessee Titans. Sets up lineup so that #10 plays free safety and alternates kick return duties with Pac Man Jones. Makes members of his entourage play against him using the Houston Texans. It's an unwritten rule among the entourage that they will lose the games. In the last game of the night, Big Rozz accidentally beats VY when a computer controlled player scores a fluke last-second touchdown. B-Rozz is immediately expelled from the entourage.
8 p.m.:
He drives in his burnt orange Escalade over to Lendale White's house. Lendale's mom is in town, and she has cooked a great home-cooked meal. The group spends the whole night talking about how much they hate Matt Leinart. Everybody hates that guy.
10 p.m.:
Posts anonymous derogatory comment on Reggie Bush's MySpace page.
10:30 p.m.:
Falls asleep studying Titans play book. In his sleep, his mind replays the New England Patriots season-ending game. His unconscious mind suddenly discovers an inherent weakness in the Titan's entire offensive philosophy. He will call Norm Chow and Jeff Fisher in the morning, and the changes will begin.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Friday Roundup

  • We're all still recovering from the insanity of the Christmas season. Christmas decorations have been taken down, but I have not yet lugged them to storage. By the way, the "War on Christmas" has taken its toll. As I typed this entry, my political correctness conscience kept pushing me toward typing "Holiday."
  • The Magical Mystery Christmas Tour of Texas for Shannon and Me covered the following cities: Potosi (outside of Abilene), Holly Lake (Tyler), Jacksonville (Tyler), Plano, Lewisville, Keller, and Waco.
  • We attended our first ever Commish's Casino Night at my old high school hang-out, The Sants (the Floyd household). The cookies there were phenomenal, especially a plate of Commish's famous "Dese Nuts" cookies. It was great to see old high school friends. We're all getting old, be we ain't dead yet.
  • Special thanks to Santa Olie-O for the Bama mini helmet and the state of Texas calendar. Both items are proudly hanging in my dismal cubicle at work.
  • Jon Merril's Austin Pop Culture Trivia Contest is coming soon. This contest, modeled after the awesome VH1 show, has been in the works for many months. January 20th is the preliminary targeted date, but nothing is confirmed yet.
  • The next cooking contest is also just around the corner. The Soup or Salad challenge will again test creativity and cooking acumen. It's always a great party! Details to come here and via E-vite sometime soon.

Yet Another E-Mail Forward Hoax...

I just received this picture of a gigantic rabbit via e-mail.
The purpose of this posting was going to be all about how people are always emailing urban legends, unverified stories, and photoshopped fake pictures. I was going to look at how the mystical medium of e-mail is so effective at the spreading of these tall tales and phony stories.
Is it that everyday is so mundane that we really want to believe the outrageous stuff that hits our in-boxes?

Perhaps we all have a strong desire to entertain and impress the folks in our distribution lists. It doesn't matter if the information in the forwarded e-mails is entirely true. What is important is that it gives a moment of enjoyment, disbelief, or, even a few laughs to the recipient.

I was going to conclude by telling the loyal audience here that is your friend. This site offers a way to immediately check the veracity of e-mail forward that you receive. You, too, can become the Captain FunSquasher who chimes in on e-mail forwards with the sad truth that it's all a bunch of hooey.

A funny thing happened on the way to my soap box. This outrageous, obviously fake photoshop rabbit photo is apparently not an e-mail forward hoax. So, please just enjoy these photos of the giant rabbit named "Herman". Oh, and is still your friend.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Tribute to a Friend

Day after day we have worked together. When I first left the good times of college and staked my cubicular claim in the business world, I had no idea how close we would become. Any problem, no matter how big or small, can be solved in your grid of dreams with your formulas of hope.

I've made shopping lists, graphical household budgets, and multi-billion dollar financial statements with your steadfast support. Heck, you helped even helped plan my wedding. The color coding and sorting options for our guest list was great.

Unsung Hero:
You have a legion of devoted fans, yet there are no stories on CNN or in the filler segments of the local news. Millions of us speak your secret language, but never to each other.

Control-C, Control-V
Alt - E - E
Alt F S
Control - Page Down

This is a tribute to my best business partner, Excel. May all your macros run without run-time errors, and may your #REF? and #NAME?s be rare.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Puzzler of the Day

Dear Blog Audience:
You as a collective group are extremely intelligent because of the following factors:
  • You are skillful and shrewd internet users who have transcended forwarding emails and discovered the nirvana of the blog world
  • You have good taste in blogs
Lest your frighteningly keen intellect begin to atrophy, we will be throwing up periodic puzzlers. Please feel free to post the answer, because the first correct commenter will receive a luxurious prize or a congratulations.

Please do not cheat by Googling up the correct answer. It's exactly what I would do in your shoes, but please don't sink to my level.

Carl and I started out making the same salary.

Then, last year, Carl got a raise of 10 percent. I think they cited two things that primarily were responsible for that: perfect attendance and improved grooming.

And I got a pay cut of 10 percent. So while Carl got an increase of 10 percent, my pay was cut by 10 percent. The reason they gave was "poor puzzler performance."

Now, this year, however, they raised my salary by 10 percent, and they had the good sense to reduce Carl's by 10 percent.

The question is, who's making more money now, and why?

(borrowed shamelessly from Click and Clack's beautiful radio program):

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Onion Chopping Salvation

Just about every recipe in the book starts out with sauteeing some chopped onions. I dread this lacrimoniously excruciating task every time.

I've tried a number of remedies to ameliorate the "IT BURNS, IT BURNS!" factor of the onion. I've refrigerated them and run cold water on them. I've chopped with great swiftness to finish up before the spread of the toxic cloud. None of these approaches prevent the conjunctivitis.

So, I want to give thanks to for this great cooking. Don't say I never did nothin' for you.

Click here for onion chopping tips. No more tears.

Why onion chopping burns eyes (nice explanation)

Thank you, Mrs. Roboto

This weekend, at the First Lego League Robotics Competition at the beautiful University of Texas campus, Shannon coached two teams of smarty pants science kids to glorious victory.

Shannon’s robot teams, made of kids from her after-school Science Club, are some interesting young intellectuals. Let me tell you, these are the type of kid that would answer “math” when asked for a favorite subject. This is in stark contrast to their lovely peers who would answer, “lunch, recess, or MySpace.”

What in the world are you talking about?


“This is an international program for children ages 9-14 that combines a hands-on, interactive robotics program with a sports-like atmosphere. Teams consist of up to 10 players with the focus on such things as team building, problem solving, creativity, and analytical thinking.

Each September, a new Challenge is unveiled to FLL International teams across the world. Over the course of 8 weeks, they strategize, design, build, program, test and refine a fully autonomous robot capable of completing the various missions of the FLL International "Robot Game" Using the LEGO MINDSTORMS™ technology.”

I, for one, welcome our new Lego Robot Overlords

Shannon and her two teams, the RoboJags and the cleverly named Luddites threw down some crazy robot good times this last Saturday.

I was seriously dragging from a late night of playing Guitar Hero 2 with friends, but the pure nerd energy and science goodness from this event was invigorating. The robots performed pretty well, but it was The Luddites’ humorous skit that would win accolades on this day.

Nano The Alamo:
Tasked with researching a creative use for nano-technology, they performed a skit about the theoretical impact of nano-technology liquid armor on the battle of the Alamo.

They had nerf darts flying everywhere, humorous asides, and a deep understanding of the science involved with nano-technology. The judges laughed the entire time, and Shannon was stunned and somewhat mortified by her team’s free-wheeling, whimsical presentation.

Something must have clicked, because they won a cool 2nd place trophy out of 30+ teams for their research presentation. Shannon continues her championship ways. The best part was seeing how unbelievably happy the kids were to win a prize after their robots struggled in the mission competition.

The Actual Trophy (not actual size)

Shannon kept repeating the two goals for the competition: to learn and to have fun. The kids were certainly having a great time in this academically-charged environment. We are all already fired up about next year’s competition. I’m going to try and assistant coach the team and serve as a mentor. Being married to a science teacher does rock, indeed!

Some possible fundraising to buy more robots for the science classes of Cedar Valley Middle School is in the works. This program gives gifted kids an exciting team sport that teaches them math, science, and teamwork, and I want to support it.

Congratulations again to Shannon and her awesome RoboJags and Luddites.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Worst Album Covers of All Time

Worst Album Covers of All Time. These are truly bad, yet so good.

We're Back

Apologies to the loyal readership here. The magical Christmas Tour of Texas has finally concluded. There will be plenty of new postings coming soon.