Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Buying a Kilt

When my English ancestor came to Australia he brought with him a Scottish wife. Being English he had no clan, just a family name, but with his wife being Scottish her family name was also her clan name. As such there's no official tartan for my family, but there is a Fraser tartan, that being my great(x3) Grandmother's clan. While looking up kilts online I found they seem to be rather expensive. I can buy a decent suit for the same price as a single, good quality kilt...and that's just the kilt. That does nae include a sporran or any other kilt accessories.

Of course when I looked up the Fraser tartan I found there's not just the Fraser tartan, there's a Fraser Red Ancient tartan:

and a Fraser Red Modern tartan.

There's a Hunting tartan, a Muted tartan, and a Weathered tartan, and more, to boot, and then in the Fraser name alone, even under the name "Red Modern" there's different tartans yet again.

I have a tie of my father's in the Fraser tartan color, but I believe it's the Ancient Tartan, not the Modern tartan, which I think is the sharper of the two. The question is, do I get a kilt to match my father's tie? Or do I get a kilt in the color that I prefer, being the Modern Red? Considering I'd never wear the tie with the kilt, is it even necessary to match them? Then again, I can just hear my wife saying, "Why do you even need a kilt?"

And if my family name is English, why would I get a Scottish kilt? How important is the Fraser identity to me when that's not my name?

Our Scottish heritage was important to my father, and it being important to him means it's important to me. It was important enough to my father that he purchased a Fraser tartan tie. It was important enough to him that for years he wore a tam o'shanter, although he stopped wearing it when he realized it was no in the Fraser colors, and again that's how important it was to him; as much as he loved his tam he refused to wear one in the wrong colors.

It's probably too late to be getting a kilt now for me mother's wedding, and considering she wants me to walk her down the aisle, if I was going to be wearing a kilt for that auspicious ceremony it could nae just be the kilt; it would have to be the whole kilt & caboodle, including a jacket in the correct cut to accompany a kilt. But I fear that even if I were to don traditional Scottish garb for that occasion, it would take attention away from my mother, and it would also, later, take attention away from my wife, as difficult as that may be considering she looks FUCKING AMAZING! in the dress she finally picked out. And no, you can't see a picture, yet.

So there's no point me looking at kilts at this point in time, but maybe next St. Patrick's Day, at the local Gaelic Festival, I might pick up a Fraser kilt (even though the Festival is Irish and the Frasers are Scottish ;). And yes, as much as you don't want them now, there will be pictures ;)

Monday, July 30, 2007


Saturday afternoon I finally got off my arse (figuratively speaking, not literally) and ground through the last half a million XP I needed to level my Dwarven Hunter to 70, the highest a character can (currently) go in the World of Warcraft. Being 70 meant I'd earned the right to fly a Gryphon everywhere, instead of stuck riding along the ground on my Battle Ram, and as soon as I could was tearing skywards on my Gryphon, not unlike Superman. Up, up, and away!

Apparently there's a ceiling but I never hit it, although the ground got pretty far away and I could only make out one or two buildings, so back down, down, down I went. The only problem is, and it's probably a gripe among all 70s, is that the lvl 60 Epic Mount runs faster than the lvl 70 Mount can fly. There's an "Epic" Flying Mount but he costs five times as much as the Regular version, although he apparently flies four times faster than the regular Flying Mount, and over twice as fast as the Epic Ground Mount. I go back to Australia in a few weeks time for my Mum's wedding. I wonder if that's enough time for a casual, hardcore gamer like me to accrue 5,000 gold coins? I'll probably end up doing nothing but killing Mobs for hours on end, day after day. Then again, I don't do much more than that in WoW anyway ;)

I know a couple of my Guildmates have the Epic Flying Mount on one of their toons, and with the daunting challenge of farming 5,000g in front of me, I can see why they only have it on one of their toons. A quick Google of "Buy WoW Gold" reveals that 5,000g can be bought for around $400. If I'm lucky, I can grind out that gold at approx. 100g/hour, but more likely we're looking at 80g/hour, or 60+ hours. For $400 that comes out to about $6.50/hour, or slightly more than Minimum Wage. On a somewhat positive note, I usually get in an average of 3 hours of WoW per night, with a few extra hours thrown in on the weekend, sometimes as much as 30 hours per week. Chances are good that I will have an Epic Flying Mount before I go back to Australia :)

The O.C. Fair

On Friday Liz and I took the kids to the Orange County Fair for the afternoon.

Once upon a time JE used to enjoy going on the Giant Slide but lately we haven't been able to pay him to ride it. The bunny, on the other hand, thought the Giant Slide was great and together we went on it three times. She also went on two kiddy Roller Coasters, once with me & once by herself, and she was screaming with laughter the whole time. When she saw the Chair Lift ride she was adamant that she wanted to ride it, too. Liz declined but I managed to talk JE into riding it with us so we rode it across the park and back again. Afterwards we still had a couple of tickets left so JE took the bunny through the mirror maze, again. He also went through the Fun House and was a bit disappointed that it didn't have two stories like the one from last year's LA Fair. I was, too. It didn't take him much more than 30 seconds to go from one end of the Fun House to the other, and that's being kind to the Fun House. It was so short that we were able to get the bunny on to the Flying Dumbo ride (again by herself) then walk to the Fun House, which JE went through twice (and got stuck behind a slow kid the second time through), and when we got back to the Dumbo ride it still hadn't stopped.

The kids also played a couple of midway games. They both went "fishing" and won a small, stuffed turtle each, while JE threw darts at balloons, popping two (with two darts) and won himself a stuffed dog. The bunny wanted to pop balloons too but we didn't think it wise to let her be throwing darts around. Lord knows where they'd end up.

The (supposed) last stop was the Petting Farm, where they sold small cones of feed for $2. I don't think the girl in charge of selling the food was happy to hear me telling JE what would happen if he went in there with a pellet-filled cone. You get mugged by goats is what happens. You offer them a small handful of pellets but they go for the cone instead, and one quick crunch is all it takes to spill the pellets all over the ground. Inside the enclosure was a gumball machine set up to dispense a handful of pellets for 25¢, so I got a handful and gave the kids some each. They tried to feed the baby wallaby and the baby goat and were somewhat successful, although the baby wallaby was a bit freaked out by the little boy who kept trying to pick him up (his parents didn't do too good a job of stopping him), and after eating a few pellets he ran off. The wallaby, that is, not the boy.

On the way out we passed the stage where a group of Chinese performers were just starting their show, so we sat down to watch. Initially I stood behind the bunny's stroller but Liz called me over to sit down at the table next to her. It was shortly after that I heard the people behind me yelling at people in front to sit down...perhaps they'd also been yelling at me. One woman (who appeared to be someone's nanny) was approached by a man and told she was blocking the view of people behind her. She nodded and handed off the baby she was holding to the woman who appeared to be the baby's mother, who was sitting in the baby's stroller, then remained standing. Of course the yells from behind us persisted, directed specifically at the nanny, and when it was mentioned that there was an empty seat next to her (I think that comment came from my wife) a young boy crawled out of the stroller and sat in the empty seat, while the nanny remained standing, for the entire show.

Finally we made it out of the Fair grounds back to the car and despite not having had a nap both kids stayed awake the entire drive home, but neither of them stayed awake long once they were home in bed ;)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Battle at Rorke's Drift

On January 22nd and January 23rd, 1879, one hundred & thirty-nine British soldiers defended "Rorke's Drift", a mission station in Natal, South Africa, against a Zulu army numbering somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 warriors. Armed with single-shot, breech loading Martini-Henry rifles chambered for a large (by today's standards) .577 caliber round, the British soldiers successfully repelled every attack, even when it came down to bayonet vs spear.

The Battle at Rorke's Drift has been the inspiration for several paintings
"Defense of Rorke's Drift" by Alphonse de Neuville (1835-1885)

and at least two movies; Zulu Dawn (1979), and the older (but better, IMHO), Zulu (1964), which gave Michael Caine his big break.

Being a movie I grew up with and watched at every chance, even just the few minutes of the final battle between the British soldiers and the Zulu warriors is enough to send a chill down my spine.

As the Zulu chant and work themselves up into a frenzy before they launch their final assault, the soldier who rallies his fellow soldiers, leading them in the singing of "Men of Harlech" (a Welsh battle hymn), is Welshman Emmanuel Ivor, an accomplished singer and performer in his own right.

If you're a war movie buff I totally recommend checking out Zulu if you get the chance, then again, if you're a war movie buff, you probably already have ;)

Pocket Pool on a Phone or PC

My Razr phone comes with a Pool game, which lends itself well to a phone because pool is not a twitch, reflex-based game so doesn't require a lot of processing power from the phone, or frantic button pressing from the player. But the limitations of the phone, the small screen, etc, can make playing the game somewhat frustrating, combine that with computer players who can line up the perfect shot, including bank shots and cannon shots, and you have a challenging game which lends itself well to the old gamer's cry of "Cheating bitch!" (as made popular by Kurt Russell in John Carpenter's "The Thing").

The game also requires you to know the rules of three games of Pool, being 8-Ball UK, 8-Ball US, and 9-Ball. While the game does provide a small Rules page you can often find yourself making a foul without knowing why. Take breaking, for example. You shoot the ball down the table and into the rack of balls at the other end, only to be told it was an Illegal Break, or you committed a Foul. Why? I had to go online to find that out, and what I found was that (naturally) an Illegal Break varies from game to game. In 9-Ball the cue ball has to make contact with the lowest numbered ball first, which is not hard on the break because the Yellow (Ball #1) is the ball closest to the shooting line. On the break you must also either pot a ball (any ball) or cause four (or more) balls to hit a cushion. If you don't do this it's an Illegal Break, or a Foul, and your opponent can choose to rerack the balls, or play the table as is. In 8-Ball (both US & UK) a similar condition to the break applies, where you must drive four (or more) balls to the cushion, or pot one (or more) balls.

When not on the break you must hit one of your own balls first then either the cue ball or your own ball must hit another ball or a cushion, or you must pocket one of your own balls. So the old backyard method of snookering your opponent by hitting the cue ball just hard enough that it touches one of your own balls then stops is actually a Foul if neither ball hits a cushion.

The Pool game on my Razr is actually rather fun, if not for the computer "cheating" through superior knowledge of geometry and vectors, and in the limitations imposed on you by the digital controls, especially when your cue ball is at the other end of the table from your target ball. Sometimes you find a single press of the key moves the targeting reticle just too far for the shot you want, so you move it back and now you have the same problem from the other side. You can either miss to the left, or miss to the right, whereas the computer doesn't seem to be affected by the same limitations and makes table-length shots with ease.

I still think one of the best and most realistic computerized Pool games I've ever played was Virtual Pool, which virtually eliminated the aiming problem so common to 99% of PC Pool games. Rather than using keys to move your targeting reticle back & forth, your Virtual Pool cue was controlled by the mouse. So as you slid the mouse left and right your point of view rotated around the cue ball and changed the direction of your shot incrementally. By sliding the mouse forwards and backwards your "virtual head" raised and lowered over the cue ball, allowing you to get down low and really line up your shot. Finally when you felt the balls were in alignment and it was time to shoot you'd press & hold 'S' then slide your mouse backwards then forwards, simulating the action required to use a real pool cue. Whereas most games required you to press a button to start then stop a power meter to determine how hard you hit the cue ball, Virtual Pool gave you more precise control; the faster you slid your mouse forward, the harder you struck the ball. Ingenious!

Of course despite the more refined control Virtual Pool gave you over your cue, when playing a computer you were still subject to the same, freakishly genius way the computer could nail bank shots & combo shots. How can you beat someone who knows not just where the cue ball is going to go, but where their target ball will go, and where any other balls involved in the shot will go, too. We can determine this ourselves to some degree, but when you shoot a ball into a pack of balls it's almost impossible to determine what will happen on the other side. But the computer knows because it has to calculate everything that's going to happen, so your computer opponent knows exactly what will happen if it hits Ball 1 at Angle X with Force F.

In 9-Ball you have an easy out. Unlike 8-Ball where it's an automatic loss-of-game if you sink the Black out-of-turn, in 9-Ball it's a game winning shot as long as you hit the lowest numbered ball first. Sink the 9 on the break, you win. Hit the 8 (legally) into the 9 and sink it, you win. Hit the 1 and cannon the cue ball into the 9, sinking it, and you win. The computer knows this, too, but will often ignore this facet of the game. I've played games where the computer is on a run and I've been waiting for him to make a mistake because the 9 is poised over a corner pocket so as soon as it's my turn, it's Game Over, I Win! Cheating? Hardly, it's within the rules of the game :)

So while I never played 9-Ball until I came here to the U.S., I'm finding it's my game of choice against a computer opponent. Especially when playing a jammy bastard who pulls off impossible shots, and does things like bounce his target ball off the two corners of a pocket sending it back out into play, where it rolls down the table and drops into the opposite pocket. When the computer has precise control of every ball on the table and they play a shot like that, you know they meant to do it. Just like when the best player in the game repeatedly sinks the 9-Ball on the break. Jammy bastard! So when I get the chance to sink the 9-Ball out-of-turn I grab it with both hands.

"You got lucky this time," says the best player in the game. Hey, a win is a win, and I'll take them whenever I can get them.


I was going to respond to Wolf's comment with one of my own (Noob ;) but realized it was quickly turning in to an entry length post, so I figured I'd add it here.

Growing up I had a grandfather who had a room in his house devoted to his pool table, and so I became very familiar with the three mainstream Pocket Pool games, being 8-Ball Pool, Billards, and Snooker. 8-Ball Pool you already know how to play, while Snooker you may have seen on the Tele' but billed as Pot Black (or at least that's the name the older series went by). Snooker is played with 10 red balls initially racked in a triangle a la 8-Ball (which uses 15 balls) but in addition to the 10 reds you have 6 colored balls: yellow; brown; green; blue; pink; & black, which are placed on the spots that you may have seen on better quality pool tables. The object of Snooker is to pot a red ball, then pot a colored ball of your choice (which gets respotted after potting), then pot another red ball, another (or the same) colored ball, and so on. You score 1 point for a red, and 2 to 7 points for a colored ball (in order as named earlier). After the reds are all sunk you work on the colored balls, again in successive order, until the black is sunk. The winner is not necessarily the person who potted the black, but who scored the most points during the game. Sink the most reds but only pot yellow and brown (or not sink a colored at all) and you might find yourself losing to someone who sinks the pink or black each time they pot a red. The term "snooker", meaning to finish your turn leaving your opponent no clear shot at a legal ball without making a bank shot, comes from this game.

Finally there's "English Billiards", the gentleman's game, best played among friends while smoking cigars and drinking expensive wine, whiskey or cognac. English Billiards (henceforth just called Billiards) is played between two players, each with their own cue ball (one of which is marked with a spot), and a single red ball. Yep, just the one red ball, which is placed on the dot at the bottom of the table. Technically there's no "break" in Billiards (no racked balls to break), so the person with the first shot has just one way to shoot and keep their turn; sink the red ball, or their own cue ball, on the "break". If you fail to score your opponent places his ball in the D at the top of the table and takes his first shot shooting down the table, that is, his ball must cross the line before striking the red ball or your own cue ball.

Now with three balls on the table you can also score with a "cannnon", that is striking both balls in either order with your own cue ball in one shot. You can also sink any or all of the balls during a cannon and score additional points. Be warned that if you sink the red or your own cue ball they come back out and get placed on the table and you keep your turn, but if you sink your opponent's cue ball it does not return to the table until the start of his turn, leaving you with just your own cue ball and the red with which to score points, which once again can now only occur through potting a ball. So it's not necessarily a good idea to pot your opponent's ball because it limits the ways you can score; it's better to attempt to pot your own cue ball, if possible. Billiards is played until one player wins by reaching a predetermined score, usually 100 but sometimes higher if players are particularly skilled and have no trouble scoring 100+ points in a single run.

Walter Lindrum: "G'day son. How about a game of Billiards?"
Sonny Jim: "If it's ok with you, sir, let's just say we played and you won."

Walter Lindrum's gravesite at Melbourne General Cemetary in Carlton North, Victoria, Australia. The man wasn't a fanatic, he was that damn good.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Quick, think of something witty for a title!

Sunday Liz and I hooked up with Xinh and we went in to Burbank to watch HP5. For some reason I was thinking this was the HP book I'd quit reading halfway through, but as we watched the movie more and more of it seemed familiar, and now I wonder if I didn't give up on She-who-shall-not-be-named (because I've forgotten her bloody name) midway through HP6. Initially the HP books reminded me very much of Enid Blyton's stories, the Magic Faraway Tree, and various other english books I grew up with, then somewhere between HP5 and HP6 She-who-shall-not-be-named changed something with her writing style, because as much as I wanted to read HP6, all I could do was pick it up, read a bit, then put it down. It wasn't the length of the books, I've read thicker; it wasn't the content, I've read worse. It was something in the way she wrote that made reading her a chore, at least for me. I've had other books like that as well where I've really wanted to read them and I could only manage to read them a few pages at a time, too, before finally giving up on them. A writing instructor told me I was probably subconsciously picking up flaws in the way the authors wrote and so their words didn't flow, for me at least, which made reading them very difficult.

That said, I found HP5:The Movie very enjoyable, although the actors are getting older and I fear by the time HP7:The Movie comes out, at best the cast will look like college kids. Then again, HP7's kids are probably High School-senior age so college-age kids are not too far off. I tell you what though, they better be filming HP7:The Movie as you read this, or the kids really will look too old.

After HP5 let out the three of us made our way to a chinese-buffet that Xinh recommended, and I fear I ate too much. Dinner-time came around and I was still rather stuffed. It was Liz's Dad's birthday this Sunday so we ended up buying him dinner, which actually meant crashing their dinner at a local restaurant, eating some of their food (and I really shouldn't have) then paying for the entire meal and taking our kids home.

Around 2am Monday morning I awoke to the unpleasant sensation of imminent vomiting. I lay there for a few moments, trying to use superior will power to suppress it but soon came to the realization that this was not going to work, this time (it's worked in the past). I trotted to our bathroom and got ready to drive the white, porcelain bus. While not enjoyable, this vomiting session was also not particularly unpleasant, I've had far worse (vomiting blood, for one...make that two). After a couple of heaves my stomach was empty and I was feeling that post-nauseous euphoria that accompanies a good expulsion, along with the cold sweat. I crawled back into bed where I went back to sleep for the next 8 hours, except for getting up, briefly, around 5am and emailing my boss that I wouldn't be coming in to work that day.

The rest of the week has been rather uneventful, it's a short week for me, too (even shorter, now). I'm off Friday and Liz and I are taking the kids down to the O.C. Fair. It should be a good day, just hope it's not too hot.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

More Coffee News

The Calorie-Count.com website claims the following...

A Tall (12oz) Non-fat Caffè Latte apparently has 126 calories. 0g of Fat, 12g of Protein, and 18g of Carbs, of which 16g are Sugars.

A Tall (12oz) Soy Latte has 162 calories, 5g of Fat (1g Saturated), 8g of Protein, and 22g of Carbs (1g Dietary Fiber, 17g Sugars)

At Starbucks' website I was able to pull up the following information.

Tall Non-fat Caffè Latte - 100 calories, 0g fat, 10g of Protein, and 15g of Carbs (14g from Sugars).

Tall Soy Latte - 130 calories, 4g of fat (0.5g Saturated), 7g Protein, 18g Carbs (14g from Sugars).

Now I don't drink Tall drinks, I drink Grande, and according to Starbucks,
my Grande Non-Fat Caffè Latte has 130 Calories, 13g Proteins, and 19g Carbs (18g from Sugars)

While the Grande Soy Latte 170 Calories, 4.5g Fat (0.5g Saturated), 9g Protein, 23g Carbs (17g from Sugars).

Oddly enough the Calorie-Count.com website's figures for Tall Lattes are very close to Starbucks figures for their Grande drinks. Do we believe Starbucks? Or Calorie-count.com? Or do we hazard a guess that someone at Calorie-Count.com entered the Grande figures for Tall-sized drinks? And why are both of these figures different from those I found last month on a third website?

Regardless of who's right or wrong, what this all boils down to is that I was about to go and get a Soy Latte but I've changed my mind; I'm sticking with my Non-fat Caffè Latte, Grande of course ;)

Although, I just noticed the Café Au Lait stats.
70 Calories (almost half that of my Caffé Latte), 0g Fat, 7g Protein (but who drinks coffee for Protein?). 10g Carbs, all of it sugar, but again close to half that of my Caffé Latte.

I think I'll give a non-Fat Grande Café Au Lait a try.

Of course an Americano has even less calories, carbs, etc, but with it I'll need to add Creamer & Sugar which defeats the purpose of getting the lower calorie drink in the first place.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The waltz was easy...

once I figured it out, but what the hell kind of tempo is 1, 2, cha-cha-cha, 3, 4, cha-cha-cha?

To top it off, our Instructor wants us to start on either the upbeat or the downbeat (I can't remember which) but basically you take 3 steps to start, then do the cha-cha-cha. So it's 1, 2, 3, cha-cha-cha, 1, 2, cha-cha-cha, 3, 4, cha-cha-cha

I'm listening to the music and trying to work out when to take that first step to the left and I can't hear it because there is no 1, 2, 3, cha-cha-cha. It's all 1, 2, cha-cha-cha, 1, 2, cha-cha-cha. Apparently any fool can start with the 2-step cha-cha-cha, but our Instructor wants us to learn the advanced Cha-Cha and start with a 3-step.

I think the first step is supposed to be on the final "cha". Yeah, that makes sense. I don't know why I didn't get that last night.

When we're in the chorus line everything works well. I'm dancing ok, Liz is dancing ok. We've totally got it. Then we cross the room and hook up and everything goes to pieces. It doesn't help that nobody wants to give us room, even though we're two of the tallest people on the floor.

Sometimes you just want to start smacking people and yelling "Get the fuck out of our way! We were here first! Go back to your own little spot and STOP CROWDING US!!! I'm gonna be stamping on toes soon and they won't be my wife's. You hear what I'm saying?!"

So we slowly start to get the hang of it, and we're moving together and doing ok, and then one of the Staff comes by and starts to tell us what we're doing wrong, or what we need to do right, and then it all goes to hell in a handcart again.

And sweat! I was still sweating at the In-laws over half an hour later. Of course it didn't help that they wanted us to show them what we'd learned, and my kids were jumping all over me, and my son (who's still a young boy but not so little any more) practically jumped into my arms, so of course my daughter did the same thing when I finally put my boy down, which is when I was asked to show off the Cha-cha, which I did while carrying 30+ pounds of child.

I'm not really complaining. I actually had fun. And I'm enjoying learning how to dance with Liz without stepping on her toes. More importantly she's learning how to dance with me. She already knows how to dance (and well, I might add), but she's used to dancing with her family who are also quite competent dancers. Liz is not used to dancing with someone who doesn't know how to dance so it's a learning process for her, too.

The Highwaymen

sing The Highwayman.

As much as I love country, and as famous as this song is, I don't believe I've ever heard it until GoCountry played it this morning, and right away I loved it.

Here's Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash, collectively known as The Highwaymen singing their title song, The Highwayman.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Just another typical Monday.

Shortly after getting in to work this morning an email was sent around congratulating the successful candidate for a position I'd interviewed for a few weeks ago. No, I wasn't the successful candidate, and it wasn't the guy who's been here for 10+ years and is already working in that position; it was a girl who's been here for less than two years.

I decided to go to Starbucks and get a conciliatory latte. While making my drink the barista asked me what I'd ordered.

"Non-fat latte," I told him, as I watched him pour a latte from the whole milk pot.

"Non-fat latte," he said to me, handing me my...whole-milk latte? Aah, it doesn't matter; it's only a few more calories.

Back at the office I took the first sip from my latte. What the??? This isn't even a whole milk latte!!! What the hell am I drinking???

The answer to that would be "Vanessa's" Hazelnut Latte. Which wasn't too bad once I was no longer expecting a regular latte. I sure hope Vanessa took a sip of "her" drink before she left Starbucks.

A Subway opened up across the street. I went over there with two coworkers and got a Turkey & Ham on Honey-Oat...or at least that's what I ordered. Got back to the office and discovered I had a Turkey & Ham on Wheat. Better than White at least, which would have been taken back to Subway...maybe...they were kind of busy when I left.

I wonder...dare I say it?

Come on, Monday! Is that the best you can do? BRING IT!!!

Where to begin

when there's not much to say...

Probably the most exciting thing to happen all week was getting a Juror Summons, because I've always wanted to be on a Jury. And having a Government job means I get paid my regular wage for the entire time I'm on Jury Duty, so for me it represents no undue hardship and is actually something I'm looking forward to doing. Before I became a Citizen I received at least three Juror Summons, and I kept responding saying "I'm not a U.S. Citizen", but they kept sending me more. Then I became a U.S. Citizen and I never received another Juror Summons. Until now.

The phone system to call in was not the most helpful. The very first question the automated system would ask me was "Are you a U.S. Citizen? Press 1 for Yes, 2 for No." So I'd hit 2 (back when I wasn't a U.S. Citizen) then get asked every other question as well (Are you a convicted Felon, etc), then get put on Hold. I'd get put on Hold by an automated phone system. Finally it would come back and say "You said you are not a Citizen. Is this correct? 1 for Yes, 2 for No." See where they're going here? This is the reverse of the first question. It's now a negative question, but with a qualifier, which means it's easier to answer than a true negative question.

"Are you not a U.S. Citizen?"
Yes, that is correct, I am not.
No, that is incorrect, I am.

I'm sure there's probably a 4" thick grammar book discussing how to answer Negative Questions, but it seems to me that as obtuse as the above answers are, they're technically the correct answers for that particular negative question.

"He's not your dog?"

"No, he's not" answers the question with no ambiguity, but is it correct to answer this particular question like that? Or should you say, "Yes (that is correct), he's not my dog."

Both of these questions are phrased in such a way that the questioner appears to already have a preconceived idea regarding the situation.
"I didn't see you there. Didn't you go to the party last night?"
"You don't seem too fond of him. He's not your dog?

Despite this, it seems that a No answer should be more correct when agreeing with a Negative Question, simply because we're taught that No is negative.

Didn't you go to the party last night?
No, I did not.
He's not your dog?
No, he's not.

But appearances can be deceiving, and an incorrect answer is still an incorrect answer regardless of how correct it appears, and regardless of common usage and acceptance. Remember, once upon a time it was accepted that the world was flat, and in fact it appeared that it was, but eventually everyone came around and realized the error of their ways.

Still, I'm very open to people commenting and providing reputable references that support their point of view. So, which is correct?
Q. He's not your dog?
A1. Yes, he's not my dog.
A2. No, he's not my dog.

Friday, July 06, 2007


Or, careful with that iPhone, Eugene.

You'd think if you just bought a $500 phone, you'd be a little more careful taking it out of the box.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Bus Driver pwnd by one of his own

As I was approaching my bus stop this afternoon I saw an elderly gentleman coming the other way. When he saw the next bus approaching he began running towards the bus stop, waving his arms. Being already at the bus stop myself I began waving at the bus too. I also attempted to make eye contact with the driver but he looked away from me in a blatant "I don't see you there, waving your arms, so I don't have to stop for you" kind of way, despite the fact that this stop was one of his scheduled stops and he darn well should have stopped.

The bus roared passed me as the elderly man approached, then he said "7756. It's ok, thank you. 7756."


We chatted for a bit and I noticed his ID badge on his shirt was a Metro ID badge. Metro just happens to be the agency that owns the bus and pays the driver who drove passed us.

The gentleman waved at the next bus that came along and this one stopped for him. "7756," he said to me, "have a good evening," and he waved as he boarded the bus. I looked at him curiously as he stepped through the doorway and heard him say once more, "7756." Then I noticed above this bus's door a 4-digit number. Not 7756, but within that vicinity.

The gentleman had taken note of the earlier bus's number and was repeating it to himself to ensure he remembered it. Darned if I haven't remembered it, too.

Quite a few times I've filed a complaint on the Metro website about Bus Drivers failing to stop for me. Not once have I even got so much as an Auto-Response to my complaints. I had a feeling that when this particular gentleman filed a complaint about the driver of Metro Bus No 7756 that someone was going to listen to him.

Karma can be a real bitch sometimes :D

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy 4th of July

This morning Liz & her Mom, and JE & I headed out to the Ontario Mall. While the women were shopping JE and I caught the Transformers movie. It was actually pretty good, for a movie based on a 20-year old animated TV show. Amusingly my last post was relevant to a tiny portion of the movie when the power of the All Spark (a cube that turns tech into transformers) was demonstrated on a cell phone. The guy doing the demonstration looks at the phone and comments that the Japanese are geniuses. Another character then says, aside, to her boss, "Nokia (No-KEY-Uh) are from Finland." Her Boss holds his finger up to his mouth in a "Shh, don't embarrass him" kind of way.

We were barely home from the mall and the movie when it was time for JE and I had to head back out again to Dodger Stadium. When we'd tried to buy tickets for this game a couple of weeks ago the "cheap seats" were all sold out and we ended up buying seats alongside the Left Foul Line, but three tiers up. Here's a picture of our view of the field, courtesy of my Razr V3xx:

We're actually closer than what it looks like.

It still would have been an exceptional Foul Ball that made it up to us, but not knowing quite how far up we were JE and I took our gloves anyway. The Dodgers lost but it came down to the wire, and at the bottom of the 9th the Dodgers needed 3 Runs for the tie and had 2 runners on base, with 2 outs. But it wasn't meant to be and their "last chance" struck out.

Interesting to note is that the Dodgers' Short Stop, Rafael Furcal, started his career with the Braves and played with them until 2005. In case you didn't know, the team the Dodgers played tonight was the Braves. When I saw that on the big screen everything came together because the Dodgers player I'd seen walk up to the Braves runner on 2nd and give him a "What's happening, Homie?" handshake and have a moment during a mid-innings downtime was none other than Rafael Furcal.

At the bottom of the ninth the Dodgers' hitter who struck out with two runners on base was not Rafael Furcal. But it was Rafael who struck out with the bases loaded at the bottom of the second, ending the innings. A Home Run, or even just a Hit, would have given the Dodgers another Run or two (or four) and could have made a world of difference at the end of the night. Rafael avoided any further dishonor by making it to first base at the bottom of the ninth where he watched Olmedo Saenz strike out to end the game. Of course he can't win, either way. If he'd struck out to lose the game against his former team I'd have said he threw the game, especially in light of his "What's happening, Homie?" gesture towards the Braves' runner. And of course he didn't strike out but made it to first base; the Braves didn't want the Dodgers to suspect Rafael was not 100% loyal to them and that he'd thrown the game earlier by striking out with the Bases Loaded.

A C-17 flyover had been arranged prior to the game and here's a picture:
Did I mention there were fireworks at the end of the game? JE and I braved the stairs and just made it down to the field when the lights went out. Yup, we were allowed to take the field to watch the fireworks, which was something JE was looking forward to. Actually that's two things he was looking forward to, being on the field and watching the fireworks. Here's a short clip of the Fireworks, again courtesy of my Razr.

When we finally made it back to our car (I'm sure we emerged from the stadium on the complete opposite side to our car) I abandoned my plan of just sitting and waiting for most of the traffic to clear and rolled out to try my luck with all the SUVs Angelenos feel compelled to own. We actually made it out fairly quickly, considering how disorganized the parking lot is. But we wound up in the wrong lane and got routed off Stadium Way by the helpful traffic police, who further down the road again routed us away from the 110S entrance. I guess they figured if we were all going that particular way we needed the 110N, the entrance of which we passed shortly afterwards. After passing over the 110 we ended up in Chinatown and I knew exactly where to go to get onto the I-10, which is the Freeway I really needed (the 110S would have taken me straight to the I-10 as well).

Playing his DS I thought JE was going to hang on until we got home but a glance in my kiddy mirror a little while later showed JE fast asleep. He'd had a nap in the car on the way to Dodger Stadium but it was just a short one, and this time he was out for the count.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Nokia: A mispronunciation

or When the Japanese are really Finnish

I don't know if it's just me, or a misconception held by the general populace, but Nokia is not a Japanese company. Nope, it's not, Nokia is Finnish, as in from Finland.

So if Nokia is not Japanese but Finnish, how do we pronounce Nokia? Is it still No-KEY-Uh? Nope. Uh uh. That's a Japanese pronunciation, but Nokia are not a Japanese company, they're Finnish. The best pronunciation I could find, from a Fin himself, put the emphasis on the NO, not on the KEY. But the Fin didn't elaborate as to whether it's NO-Key-Uh or KNOCK-Ee-Uh. Although he did state that the first syllable is short, like the rest of the word, which makes me think he actually means KNOCK-Ee-Uh. Because the O in Knock is short, whereas the O in No is long.

But when push comes to shove Nokia actually cannot be correctly pronounced in English, or in any language for that matter, but Finnish. You can come close, but unless you know how to speak Finnish or make the correct Finnish sounds, you cannot pronounce Nokia correctly. Until then, the best we have to go with is KNOCK-Ee-Uh.

All this is a moot point, really, because I no longer have a Nokia but a Razor, or MotoRazr as it's correctly known...aah crap, I just have a cell phone. Then again, in Australia or the U.K. I'd actually have a Mobile.

Can't we all just get along???

But all of this brings up an interesting point. What is the "correct" pronunciation of a word? Can you say that the correct pronunciation in the U.S. is No-KEY-Uh if that's how almost every Nokia user pronounces it? And what if that's how it's pronounced in commercials? What if that's how the CEO of Nokia USA pronounces it?

What if, like in the US of A (and many other countries in the world), people from different parts of Finland have slightly different accents, and so the Fins themselves have several different ways of pronouncing Nokia? Does it come down to how the CEO of Nokia Finland says it? Or is it how it's pronounced in commercials in Finland...Finland, Finland. The country where I want to be Pony Trekking or camping.

Aah, let's forget Nokia, Finland, and even obscure Monty Python references, and just listen to some singing horses from Sweden the country that gave us ABBA.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The weekend in review

As has become customary, our trip down San Diego way this Friday was via Ontario, specifically the Homestyle Cafe on Old Brookside Road in Guasti where we stopped for a late breakfast. Liz and I split a plate of Pork Chops and eggs with breakfast potatoes, biscuits & gravy, and we pretty much managed to finish the plate. JE got the kids breakfast pancake, which was not a kid's pancake but one of their regular pancakes and it was as big as JE's head...bigger even. I helped him out and together we devoured most of it.

We weren't overly impressed with the service this time around, mainly because a large group of bikers were already there so the place was very crowded for a Friday morning. Our waitress seemed to have no clue how to be a waitress, but I'm sure I've seen her working there before. Several times she passed our table, and she'd acknowledge us, but she just kept saying "I'll get to you a minute" or something like that. Finally she stopped but only to ask if we wanted coffee, and as soon as she poured Liz and I a cup each she was off and running again. I didn't get why she couldn't just take our order as several times she brought other people their food then ran passed our table, empty-handed, back to the kitchen area. Of course once we'd finally ordered our food was pretty quick in coming.

The trip down to Carlsbad (Legoland area) was uneventful, which is good, except for the guy who'd run his car headfirst into the concrete divider which backed up traffic for a bit, but finally we'd made it to Legoland. Liz dropped JE and me near the front entrance then went off shopping at the nearby outlet mall. We met up later and after a bit of a drive found this local deli where JE refused to eat anything but chips, I had some roast pork (very tender and tasty), while Liz had prime rib. Afterwards we shared a cup of coffee and a slice of chocolate cake (this is a euopean/german-style deli) before the drive back home.

Saturday morning Liz took JE to the in-laws, picked up our daughter and took her to ballet, then dropped her back at the in-laws before coming home where we spent the next hour or two cleaning up the kids toys in the upstairs hallway, and we did an awesome job of cleaning and getting the place straightened out. We also visited Lowe's where we got two new toilets and Liz picked out the tile to redo the upstairs bathrooms' floors. We also checked out shower stalls and our en suite bathroom will get a total overhaul for well under $1,000, at least in materials; not sure how much the family friend will charge us for labor. The plan is to remove our current tub/shower which takes up 1/3 of the bathroom and replace it with a corner shower stall (half the size), while also having the current linoleum floor replaced with slate/tile. This will really open up our bathroom. The second new toilet will go in the kids' bathroom which will also get a slate/tile floor. I'm hopeful that these new toilets will do a much better job of flushing unmentionables than our current toilets, which tend to do an incomplete job and prompt one to flush a second time...and maybe a third. In light of one my recent posts that's not a very water conscious act.

Sunday we bummed around most of the day before joining the kids at the in-laws where we spent far too long in the pool. Last week almost the entire complex was in the pool, this time we just had 3 families in the water and it was considerably more pleasant. Our daughter is really taking to the water now. We have a vest on her so she can float and bob around and she loves in. At one point she had a nerf ball filled with water and she was squeezing it out on my head. The next thing I knew she was climbing into the pool and sitting on my back. "Look at me!" she'd cry to Liz. This is one of her favorite phrases right now. "Look at me! I'm swimming!"

With the summer evening fast approaching it was starting to get a little cool and we managed to get the kids out of the pool and inside in showers, followed by a yummy dinner prepared by Liz's mom. It's funny how the food her mom prepares is traditional Shanghai-style food, but it's certainly not what most westerners would consider traditional chinese food. That doesn't mean it's not yummy, coz it is :) In fact I offer prefer Liz's mom's food to the same dishes we sometimes order in Shanghai-style restaurants. Mmm-mm good :)