Thursday, June 29, 2006

Buzzword alert: Attention

The idea behind is that other people are tracking what you're doing on the Web (your "attentionstream"), so you, the "attention owner" should be tracking it as well. Using Attention Recorder software.

This makes my head spin. What do you think?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Do you scramble?

I just came across a site on the Seattle Street Scramble. Sounds like fun -- and the Ballard Street Scramble is this Saturday. There's still time to sign up!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The good, the bad, and the merely adequate

Our new exterior window awning was installed today, leading me to reflect on the joy of dealing with a great contractor. In this case, it was Rainier Industries. They've been in the awning business for more than a century, and they've really got it down. (They also do banners, yurts, tents, marine window systems, and trade show displays.)

A very knowledgeable salesman came out to the house with a book of decent-sized fabric samples. He took measurements and photos, and discussed my options without any pressure. I ordered the most basic awning (hand crank, not the elegant motorized styles) but he treated me like a valuable customer.

Last week the head of installation called, told me our awning was due to arrive, and scheduled the installation for today. Sure enough, right on time this afternoon I got a call from the installers saying they were 15 minutes from the house. They arrived, did the installation (which involved a very tricky bit of work where the porch roof is close to the top of the window), and then called me out to train me on using the awning. The awning is exactly what I ordered, and performed just as the salesman said it would. Rainier Industries: heartily recommended.

(And exterior awnings are also highly recommended. With the awning deployed this afternoon, the glass on the West-facing picture window remained cool, and so did the living room! A picture will be posted when Blogger's picture uploading feature is back online.) (NOTE: Photo added 6/28. And Rainier Industries called this morning to ask if I was happy with the awning!)

The nice experience with Rainier reminded me it was time to call the company that is supposed to be fabricating and installing our screen door. I ordered the door a week before I ordered the awning, but there hasn't been a peep out of them. Of course, it took me a week of nagging them to get the door guy out here to do the measuring.

I called Door Company X to find out where the door was and their front desk woman (why is it always a very young woman?) went off to ask the salesman. Gosh, golly, gee, (she reported back) my door had JUST arrived! She told me to expect a call from their installation scheduler "in a few days." I came away with the impression that the door had been languishing there for a while and that the installation scheduler would get around to calling me, eventually. (Note that the Rainier Industries folks called to schedule the installation when they knew the door had been shipped to them; they didn't wait for it to arrive, much less for it to sit around.) Door Company X will have the opportunity to redeem themselves when the door arrives -- if it is the special material I ordered and if they follow my request that it be installed using hinges that allow us to pop the pins and remove the door in the winter.

Stay tuned...

Meanwhile, I'm waiting to hear from our lawn service (we'll call them "Gone to Seed"). We've been using Gone to Seed for four years, and had been extremely pleased with the weekly mowing and edging (particularly the painstaking edging) until this year. Gone to Seed used to be a two-man operation -- a Polish fellow and one of his friends. Apparently business has been booming, because last year much of the time the work was done by a "second team" of Polish guys who didn't speak any English. Which was fine -- we waved a lot. But this year our small yard job must have been assigned to the bush leagues: two guys, not Polish, and apparently not experienced in using an edger or caring for lawns and gardens.

They'd probably do OK mowing a large, rectangular meadow. But edging? Their edging was eating big chunks out of my plants, blasting grass clippings all over the patio and garden shed, and, this past week, they took big divots out of the front lawn where they'd been swinging the gas-powered edger in uncontrolled semi-circles. In the back yard, they were too lazy to disconnect our green plastic hose from the black soaker hose buried in the flower bed. To move the green hose out of their way, they just ripped the attached soaker hose, and all the plants growing on top of it, out of the entire length of the flower bed and threw it on the patio! (Well, they did take the trouble to throw the plants they ripped out back on top of the live plants -- so I didn't notice the savaged plants until they'd died in the hot sun that afternoon.)

I sent a letter, with a photo of the bare brown gouges in the front lawn, to the owner of Gone to Seed and explained the problems. I said the two apes would not be allowed on our property again, and that he could either send his experienced crew or let me know he no longer wants our business. Of course, we will not be paying for last week's "service," if he has the nerve to bill us for it.

So, anyone know a good lawn service in Ballard?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Free Agent Nation

In Free Agent Nation, journalist Daniel Pink documents the rise of "free agents" in the American economy. These 25 million "free agents" range from minimum-wage temps to highly paid solo-practice entrepreneurs in fields such as design, high tech, and therapy. Some people choose free agentry in order to gain control over the hours and the content of their work; others fall into it because of layoffs or reorganization of corporate jobs. Pink believes that whether chosen or involuntary, free agentry is likely to be part of the career path of more and more Americans.

Tonight I was one of a dozen members of the Seattle-area group Biznik who met in Ballard for a spirited discussion of the book. Members were uniformly enthusiastic about it; for some the book validated their own experiences as free agents, for others it raised issues they hadn't considered. If you are working solo, or planning to, I recommend this book. It's not a "how to succeed" -- it's simply an in-depth picture of free-agentry and excellent documentation on how it evolved and where it's taking us.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

A rave for Pixar's Cars

I rarely write about movies because, as I rule, I find a few reviewers I agree with whole-heartedly and figure they've already made the points for me.

But when it comes to Cars, I feel like I saw a different movie than the reviewers did. This feeling was reinforced when so many of them commented that wasn't up to the standard of Pixar's previous films.

Now, I loved Monsters, Inc., which had some of the most memorable animated characters of the past decade. The Incredibles and Finding Nemo were both pleasant to watch, but I felt that Nemo dragged, and somehow both of those films faded from mind just a few hours after viewing.

Cars, however, has continued to haunt me. I agree with the reviewers who were unhappy with the central character, a smart-ass young race car named Lightning McQueen. He's allowed to be a completely arrogant brat for too much of the film before making the predictable transition to a nice guy halfway through.

However, I thought that the visual aspects of the film were so spectacular that the plot and characters could get away with being secondary to the animation. The visual artistry is even more amazing when you consider that the previous, highly acclaimed, Pixar films take place in fantasy worlds. Cars takes place in the real world, the American Southwest, and it brings that setting alive in all its breathtaking beauty.

My favorite part of the film is a sequence in which McQueen goes for a drive along the old Route 66, swooping through canyons and across a dam. Watching that scene, I felt as though I were in a car experiencing it myself. Several of the other outstanding sequences were shot at night, on the deserted streets of the automotive ghost town where McQueen finds himself stranded. Have you ever stood at night on a street corner in the "downtown" of a western town, say, in the Tri-Cities, or maybe Klamath Falls, where things were so still you could hear the street lights buzz? Cars captures it.

I love driving (not being in a car someone else is driving, mind you, but driving) particularly alone. One of my favorite memories is driving from Boston to Cape Cod on a deserted highway late at night in mid-winter. There was a full moon. I turned off my headlights and drove for as along as I dared through a flat landscape of frozen marshes.

Cars gave me that same feeling -- that special way you experience a vast landscape from a moving vehicle. I'd probably be perfectly happy to see Cars again without hearing the dialogue except that I wouldn't want to miss the fabulous music in the soundtrack.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Friday bird blogging

Two of my colleagues in the Mac journalism world reported run-ins with domestic fowl today.

In Boston, Andy Ihnatko found a turkey in a tree outside his office; in San Francisco, Joe Kissell rescued a pair of scruffy chickens wandering around in the street.

No fowl goings-on out here, but the night is young!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Asleep at the Wheel July 13

The fabulous Century Ballroom dance floor is open for Western Swing dancing July 13, and the best Western Swing band in America is playing the tunes!

Asleep at the Wheel
comes to the Century Thursday, July 13. Show is at 9 p.m., with Jo Miller and her Burly Roughnecks as the first act.

The show is $28 advance, $33 at the door, and I expect it to be worth every cent. Asleep at the Wheel is the contemporary incarnation of a 1940s-style, high energy Texas swing band. About 15 years ago I had the chance to dance to this band at the old Parker's disco up on Aurora, and it was the best two-stepping I've done since moving to Seattle 21 years ago. Between the hardcore C&W dancers in the area and the new Western Swing dancers coming from Seattle's hot Cajun/Zydeco scene, this should be a fabulous time with lots of great dancing. Polish up those boots!

For more info and tickets:

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Be useful

It's unfortunate that Blogger software doesn't include the capability to categorize blog entries by type (for an example of that, see J. LeRoy's blog or TheZorg, both done with Typepad).

This allows readers to follow not the entire blog but simply the category that interests them. The Mysterious Traveler Sets Out blog entries usually fall into one or two of the following categories:

  • Lifestyle (home, garden, food, travel, shopping, clothes, dining out)
  • Politics and society
  • Technology
  • Cats
  • Writing and communications
  • Local Seattle/Ballard news and events
  • How-to's
  • Personal stories (family, relationships, etc.)

I use free StatCounter software to track traffic to the blog, and it's always a humbling experience to see that the heavy readership is not for my personal rants and raves but for those blog entries with useful information (usually the how-to's). I may fancy myself a writer with "something to say," but what the Internet marketplace tells me is that my value to society is as an explainer who can present information clearly: How to use an ice-cream maker, how to caulk a tub, how to figure out what's wrong with your stove, how to care for a cat with cancer, what new products to use in your garden.

In my non-Mysterious life, I'm currently doing some writing about the direct marketing business, and have subscribed to several newsletters and feeds from direct marketing organizations. Today I came across this article by Nick Usborne on writing effective direct marketing emails. He points out that, even once we excise the industry jargon from our writing, we still end up writing copy that is so bland and, well, expected, that no one listens.

While he doesn't address one of the problems I've often encountered as a copywriter (have to write something that appeals to the marketing department head honcho instead of to the customer), Usborne presents some concrete examples of how to spice up an email. He concludes "Be specific. Be useful. And avoid saying things in the same way you have said them before."

The stats prove him right: Useful is what gets those click-throughs.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Two ways to lose a loyal customer

We go out of our way, literally, to buy Nutro's Nature's Choice Complete Care Weight Management kibble for our herd of cats. The low-calorie formula allows us to leave bowls of the kibble available at all times, so there is no whining for food because a bowl is empty, and no worry on our part if we have to leave the cats on their own in the house overnight. Another reason we like this brand is that the large oval pellets have been very effective in keeping the cats' teeth tartar free. With teeth cleaning running well over $200 at the vet (and requiring full anesthesia) we'd prefer to keep such procedures to a minimum.

So you can imagine how delighted I was to get to the pet supply store today and see the familiar light blue package of Nature's Choice now has this banner on it "Smaller kibble! Improved taste!"

Well, I don't go around comparing the taste of cat food, but I can compare pellet size. Nature's Choice is now just like all the other kibbles available, and will be no more effective in reducing tartar than any of the competing low-cal kibbles. We'll likely switch to Royal Canin, whose speciality formulas we're already using for our elderly, frail cat.

It was on to the high-end garden supply store, for more disillusionment:

Last year, Seattle gardening expert Calvin Creasey advised me to use inexpensive corn meal gluten (also called simply corn gluten) in the garden to suppress weeds. Great idea! The corn gluten, sprinkled lightly over a garden bed or brick pathway, prevents weeds from germinating. It gets applied every two or three weeks. It's cheap. It's safe for pets. And the brand I've been buying at the local garden supply store has convenient packaging: a heavy-duty bright yellow sack that opens (like a ziplock bag) at the bottom to expose a perforated shaker. Holding the top of the sack by a clever plastic handle, I simply walk along my garden beds, holding the bag at arm's length and shaking the corn meal gluten out the bottom of the bag. It takes five minutes to treat the entire yard; then I up-end and reseal the bag and store it. A bag lasts for three or four treatments.

Well, that had to be too good to be true, didn't it?

Today at the garden store I asked for the usual corn meal gluten and the fellow directed me to a shelf. I peered. "Sorry, I don't see it," I said.

He pointed again. That's when I saw small dark blue/green bags of something called "PrEmerge." I looked at the bag. It said nothing about corn gluten. Finally, in tiny print at the bottom, I read that it was "100% corn gluten." The slippery bag had neither a shaker device at the bottom, nor a handle.

Incredulous, I turned back and asked what happened to the convenient bright yellow shaker bags of Weed Prevention Plus that said "CORN MEAL GLUTEN." The fellow indicated a heap of 50-ton yellow sacks on the floor.

I pointed out that you couldn't sprinkle either bag, and asked why the small, convenient shaker bag was no longer available. The fellow proudly told me that he had changed their order to PrEmerge ($11) because it was cheaper than the Weed Prevention Plus ($22). Mind you, this is at a fancy nursery where a medium-sized glazed pot runs you about $80. I considered whacking him over the head with a bag of PrEmerge, but then realized there wasn't a handle to swing it by.

Water! Water!

Once again, the condo developers busily overbuilding Ballard remind us of their presence by rupturing a city water pipe and cutting off water to much of Ballard west of downtown. Water service went out at around 10 a.m. this morning; a neighbor who has been talking with the water department says service is estimated to be back on late this evening.

This time, perhaps the developers would like to foot the bill for our dinner out? Unfortunately, we can't patronize one of the restaurants near our house since they are -- you guessed it -- without water.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Gates' retirement news is no big deal

Someone who blogs under the name Jon Swift (his profile picture is a engraving of satirist Jonathan Swift) greets the news of Bill Gates' retirement from Microsoft with a yawn. He makes several good points, including

Gates' retirement is going to be a very slow process. Get up, make yourself a cup of coffee. Make yourself two cups of coffee. Chances are when you get back to your desk, Gates still won't be retired. In fact, the entire retirement process may get hung up and have to be restarted again from the beginning.

Father's Day

Skating with my dad on the backyard rink he built for us. (Falls Church, Va., 1961)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Solstice Parade Report

There was a stupendous turnout for Saturday's Fremont Solstice Parade, which featured a record number of nude (but painted) bicyclists and clothed (but barely) belly dancers, along with a mix of theme floats ranging from the exuberant to the political to the downright inscrutable.

The fun continues tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. with the associated Fremont Fair, one of Seattle's better street festivals.

From the thousands of photos uploaded to the Flickr photo-sharing site just hours after the event, you'd think that every sentient being in Seattle with a digital camera had been at the parade. To view them, go to, search on "solstice," and then click "most recent." Here's one of mine:

Friday, June 16, 2006


No, I haven't broken my own rules about avoiding exclamation points in blog headlines. "SuperDuper!" is the name of a software product — probably the most valuable software product any Mac owner can buy.

Imagine you came home one day and discovered your house had been broken into and your computer was...gone. It might have been your nephew with drug problems, or someone who worked for that shady contract who put on the roof next door.

Gone are all your digital photos, your entire digital music collection, five years worth of email, and your financial records. If you run a small business, chances are you've lost the electronic originals of all your bidding documents and estimates and most of your mailing list and contact files. Writing a novel or a thesis? Oops. You've lost several months of work. much would you pay to be able to have the entire contents of your computer restored (except for perhaps the past week of new files) and immediately usable? Does $200 seem too steep?

I urge you to invest that $200 up front, buying an external hard drive with a slightly greater capacity than your computer's drive, and spending $27.95 on SuperDuper! backup software.

SuperDuper! is a free download for the basic version, so you can try it out and make bootable backups whenever you want. However, the $27.95 payment unlocks access to two features of the software that I'd argue are essential to hassle-free data backup: Smart Update (for faster, incremental updates rather than copying the entire hard drive each time you back up) and Scheduling.

Making a bootable backup copy of your computer's hard drive using SuperDuper! is easier than making Minute Rice. SuperDuper! keeps the directions short, sweet, and at the beginner level. (There's advanced stuff, but you'd have to dig around to find it and make a mess of things.)

Once you've backed up your hard drive to the external hard drive, you can ask SuperDuper! to schedule regular incremental backups -- say, once a week.

If you don't keep your external drive on (and I don't) you can set a reminder in your calendar software to turn the external drive on in time for the backup. SuperDuper! will then open at its appointed time, look for the external drive, and once it finds it, back up any new files.

One of the reasons I don't keep the external drive turned on is that I usually disconnect it and store it in a small cabinet in my office, particularly if I'm going to be out of town for a few days. Most burglars just grab the big, easy-to-sell stuff (like the computer) and leave peripherals alone. But just in case, it's nice to have the bootable backup tucked out of sight.

I sat down to write this blog entry on my 12" PowerBook about 30 minutes ago, when SuperDuper! came on to do the weekly backup of the 100 GB of data on the 250 GB hard drive of my Intel iMac. SuperDuper! completed the weekly backup while I wrote this entry -- in less than the amount of time most of us take for a lunch break.

Gates in transition

Bill Gates' announcement that he will be transitioning away from day-to-day leadership of Microsoft and doing more work with the Gates Foundation is bound to strike a chord in geeks of my generation.

I think it's one of the most impressive decisions I've seen him make. And I suspect he'll get more satisfaction out of foundation leadership than he ever did trying to leverage DOS, Windows and Office into some "next big thing."

His mom, Mary Gates, a much-admired Seattle-area philanthropist who died a few years ago, would certainly have been proud of this direction.

And, it's a challenge to the rest of us. What's your life after tech?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Animal house

June is traditionally the time of year when strange animals come to visit our yard. A few nights ago we heard a car honking in front of our house, and a man yelling "There's a raccoon chasing your cat." He was pointing to our back yard. We ran down the path and came upon our cat Zoe frolicking with a young raccoon (at that point, she was chasing him). Her sister Kaylee was watching. The raccoon hustled around the corner into our side yard; by the time I got back around to the front, our next-door neighbor was standing in his driveway with a sack of garbage in his hand and an incredulous expression. Apparently the raccoon had ambled right over his foot and across his yard on its way to the underbrush in the nearby alley.

The following morning, there was an immense bug-eyed black and white cat on our back porch, eating Betaille's catfood. Zoe and Sheba begged to be let out to get him. I opened the door, and they got him to back off a few yards, but he didn't seem particularly intimidated.

We've been trying to bring Zoe and Kaylee in by 10 p.m. every night, which is increasingly difficult. Tonight we lured them into the house at the appointed hour. But a few minutes later, I spotted Zoe out on the back porch again. She turned around to face me, and I realized it wasn't Zoe, it was a nearly identical large gray tabby, who slunk down the stairs and across the patio. Zoe, it turned out, was behind me on the kitchen table and didn't see her doppelganger.

I give up. It's a zoo.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A different perspective on t-shirts

Zoe and Kaylee have befriended a frisky young raccoon, and I hope to have pictures of that soon.

In the meantime, something useful: A truly different way to fold a t-shirt. Can you do this?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Now we are three

The Mysterious Traveler Sets Out celebrates three years of blogging -- and 614 posts -- on Blogspot today.

Here's the first post from June 12, 2003:

Sheba attacks

Two years ago my husband adopted a deaf white cat. The shelter that found her wandering around had temporarily named her Angel, but it was clear to me within minutes of meeting her that this was a particularly inappropriate apellation. We renamed her Sheba the White Tornado. People often mis-hear the name and think we are referring to her as Shiva (the Hindu god of destruction)--a mistake that's understandable when you've seen her in action.

Sheba's deafness theoretically renders her vulnerable to surprise attack from other animals, but in practice this never happens. Sheba's defensive strategy is to savagely attack any cat, dog, or other small animal she sees. It's effective--no one has ever voluntarily gone a second round with Sheba.

Unfortunately, Sheba has got it in for the big gray cat next door, which is plainly terrified of her. Since we never take Sheba out at night, the gray cat has become more or less nocturnal. But yesterday the two collided in the neighbors' backyard. I separated them immediately, and carried Sheba home, but the gray cat seems to have suffered psychic damage and now won't come out at all.

Three-year follow-up report: Sheba and the gray cat (Kit-Kat Water Rat) have achieved detente. Every afternoon they sit on their respective front porches and stare at each other.

Why writers write

Jeff Pierce's new blog The Rap Sheet points to this short essay by crime fiction master Michael Connelly about the moment in his life that led him to the police beat and, later, to his crime fiction writing career.

Connelly is a terrific storyteller. He writes with enormous integrity and respect for the reader. If you haven't read any of his Harry Bosch series set in LA, this essay is a good taste of his spare, no-nonsense style.

NOTE: Blogger appears to be publishing blog entries as duplicates today. My apologies. - MT

Friday, June 09, 2006

Ooh, look what I found!

The latest addition to this blog's Hot Links list is Tag Sale Tales. ("Tag sale" is the East Coast version of "yard sale" or "garage sale.")

The weekend's here, happy sale-ing.

Mac as cat toy

If you like your cat better than your Mac, you'll find this video, Kitten vs Frontrow, hilarious. If you are an AppleCare technician, don't look. You'll have nightmares.

New I can admit that I enjoy Apple spoofs!

Like this one by Darren Barefoot and John Riviello.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Tea-d off, again

I like to think I don't complain that often, but that's probably not true when it comes to tea.

I used to complain about hot tea, but now I'm making the seasonal adjustment to rant about iced tea. If you could call it that.

To be accurate, what I'm ranting about is not iced tea, but the tepid fruit-flavored amber-colored heavily sweetened water in massive glasses that's masquerading as "iced tea" at trendy restaurants. At the more pretentious bistros, they have the gall to tart up this tropical bilgewater with a slice of fruit, a sprig of greenery, and a reprehensible price tag. Mind you, this is offered not as an alternative to real iced tea, but as a ghastly replacement.

Understand, I would not object to paying $2.95 for a glass of actual iced (meaning cubes, not shaved slush) tea (meaning a strong, dark caffeinated and flavorful liquid that has at some point in its history evolved from the lusty marriage of plenty of camillia sinensus leaves and boiling hot water). In fact, I'd pay quite a bit more. Last month, while visiting my friend Nina in Bellingham, we lucked out at The Big Fat Fish Company and found a waitress who, seeing the our appalled reaction when she confessed (under routine grilling from us) that their "iced tea" was truly some mango-flavored slop from a restaurant supplier, went out to the kitchen and made us a French press pot of hot black tea. She returned with the pot, two glasses brimming with ice cubes, and we proceeded to make real ice tea. And, of course, we left this woman a whopping big tip.

I try to imagine the reps from the restaurant supply companies selling restaurants on tropical iced tea, and it's not difficult. Good iced tea is a pain to brew, bulky to store, and, since it goes stale and even ferments after a day or two, it needs to be brewed daily. How much easier, the restaurant manager (probably a coffee drinker) thinks, to just open a big jug of mango-flavored liquid. The stuff looks so pretty in restaurant pictures, watered down with crushed ice! Who cares if it tastes like something that belongs in a toddler's Sippy Cup?

Customers? Oh, them.

Now that summer's here, I make a pathetic effort to obtain iced tea at restaurants, but it's getting increasing painful. Last week, at a place in Lynnwood, I got one that was, as the waitress promised, free of fruit flavor. It was also free of any flavor, essentially water with a reddish tinge that got even fainter as the shaved ice melted in it.

But what truly ticked me off and inspired this rant was the iced tea yesterday afternoon at Sazerac in downtown Seattle. Now Sazerac is a restaurant with Southern roots. Named after a bar in New Orleans, it lives up to its claim to serve "a damn good gumbo." This got my iced tea hopes up. In the South, when you want iced tea, you just order "tea," and it turns up a rich mahogany color with a few big ice cubes swirling in the glass -- a drink every bit as potent and refreshing as a chilled beer or or a "Coke-cola."

Feeling optimistic, I asked the Sazerac waiter if they served real iced tea, no fruit flavor, and he assured with much enthusiastic nodding that they did. When, a few minutes later, he presented me with a tall, chilled glass of vaguely tropical-flavored, pale gold, tea-water, gussied up with a big fat slice of orange, I considered storming the kitchen screaming "This. Is. Not. Tea. This. Is. Kool-aid." What stopped me was that I was lunching with a young man who recently married my cousin and I didn't want him to find out right away that food-related insanity runs in our family.

So I choked down my disgust and ignored the tea in the interests of a pleasant lunch (I got distracted by the good gumbo!) but this morning found I was still fuming. A Southern-style restaurant with lousy iced tea!

So, here's a plea to Jan and Jason (Sazerac's self-proclaimed "fearless chefs"): Sirs, Aunt Safronia would be spinning in her grave if she knew what passes for "iced tea" in your establishment. Heed your heritage, and serve up some "damn good" iced tea. Just brew it!

(And here's a whole webpage on how to make iced tea, courtesy of Texas chef Patricia Mitchell.)

Monday, June 05, 2006

Whose space?

Josh Kornbluth, a radio host on station KQED, discovers that a malicious prankster has created a MySpace account in his name, filled it with porn, and people are now emailing the station with complaints.

What could be worse? Well, he then discovers there is no mechanism on the MySpace website to contact anyone, MySpace Customer Care does not exist, and, when he finally reaches someone at MySpace via outside channels, they hang up on him. Read the details and squirm. (This story spotted on Scott Rosenberg's Salon blog.)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Adventures in pressure washing

When your brick walkway is growing more plants than your garden, it's time to get out the pressure washer.

Last year Consumer Reports identified a small, efficient pressure washer, the Campbell Hausfeld PW1310 - 1300 PSI Electric Pressure Washer, available on Amazon for $90. This looked like a great alternative to our traditional approach to pressure-washing. (That had involved going to Rent-A-Tool and lugging home some huge, gnarly machine, dripping oil and reeking of gasoline, that we'd have to wrestle with for the better part of an hour before it blasted into operation at 100+ decibels and the neighbors began slamming doors and windows.)

So I bought the Campbell Hausfeld, and today I tried it out. It's a very small machine, smaller than a cannister vacuum cleaner, and has everything you need to clean: its own long power cord, a long hose, and two cleaning wands. All you do is attach your garden hose, and plug in the power cord.

It had no trouble blasting off all the dark green moss, and did a great job of cleaning the dingy concrete on the raised beds. Of course, flying moss and sand ended up all over the nearby plants, various planters, the recycle bins, and the front steps. That's when I discovered the pressure washer does a wonderful job of cleaning cedar steps! I began seeing all sorts of uses for it, and tried it out on the weeds in the cracks in the driveway asphalt.

It's a fairly quiet machine, similar to a vacuum cleaner, so the neighbors didn't mind. Amazingly, the cats were happy hanging out on the front porch as I worked.

After putting away the pressure washer, I used a regular hose to wash the overspray of sand and moss off the plants, the planters, the steps, the garage door, and my shoes. All that remained was to get the sand and moss off me -- I was covered head to toe, including my glasses. Sorry, no pictures.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

What ho! Golf, anyone?

Next Saturday, June 10, is Seattle's first Urban Golf Tournament/Bar Crawl. Wonder if I can get my friends at the Angler's Rest (Seattle's outpost of the P. G. Wodehouse Society) to throw together a team?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Spoiled by Apple

For 20 years, my Macs have just worked. Whenever I venture outside to a hardware or software product from another company (such as Palm) I have an experience remarkably similar to what David Pogue describes with his new (well, sorta) GPS system.