I guess I will listen to Kerry’s speech tonight. I haven’t really checked him out.

There are a number of things he could say to win my vote. If he denounces the war in Iraq and pledges to bring our troops home immediately, I’ll vote for him. If he denounces the Patriot Act and pledges to repeal it, I’ll vote for him. If he promises universal healthcare or an end to the drug war, I’ll vote for him. If he condemns American imperialism, I’ll vote for him. If he says that gay people should be allowed to marry, I’ll vote for him.

I think any reasonable person should support all of these ideas, but I’ll vote for him if he supports just one.

iMovie Bugs

At last, someone has acknowledged the iMovie “Save Frame As…” bug. I was beginning to think I was crazy, because this damn thing has been annoying me ever since iMovie 3 came out back in early 2003, and I could never find any mention of this bug, though surely it must have bewildered thousands of users across the globe.

Well, iMovie 3 is widely known to be buggy. I thought I’d do my part by sharing a fix for a problem that has been messing with my mind the past few weeks.

First, the problem: I’ve encountered this a few times on different machines in different situations. Audio and video appear to capture correctly. Clips on the shelf play back both audio and video. But clips in the timeline play back video only — no audio!

The fix: Open your project file in a text editor like BBEdit. Look at the tenth line or thereabouts. You may find something like this:

AudioTrackMute: 1 1 1

And that’s the problem. It should be:

AudioTrackMute: 0 0 0

Change the ones to zeroes and the problem should be fixed. Easy. Yet I can find no mention of this solution, or even the problem, using Google. Hopefully this write-up will help someone else who encounters the same problem.

Road Rage

As I was riding to work this morning, about to pass a big Ryder truck that was parked in the street, a motorist came up behind me and honked. Horns are ambiguous, but this one seemed to be saying, “Get out of my way.” I was pissed, but I braked and waved the car past me.

Actually, I was already pissed because I was running late and there were some server problems at work that I was not relishing. This little encounter just made me more pissed.

I poured on the speed, and sure enough, in a block or so I’d caught up with the honker. Now the car was blocking my path, trying to parallel park. I rolled up alongside, saw that the driver’s window was rolled down, and yelled, “You’re blocking traffic!”

As I pedaled off, I raised a middle-finger salute and shouted, “Fucking asshole!”

I’m not proud of this behavior. I’m ashamed. In fact, I regretted losing my temper almost immediately. Now that I’ve cooled down further, what I really regret is the fact that, since I don’t know who I yelled at, I will probably never have a chance to apologize.

I Got Mines

Daring Fireball Shirt

Back in June, John Gruber tried something daring. He asked his readers for money to support his blog, Daring Fireball.

It’s a great blog, probably the best I’ve seen on the Mac OS. I might have thrown some cash his way just out of general principle. It’s that good. What really clinched it, though, what separated me from my hard-earned cash, was the cool t-shirt design in my favorite color.

So I bought a shirt.

It arrived today, and it’s cool. I even wore it to a Web development meeting at work, but everyone was too preoccupied with Important Stuff to ask me what “Daring Fireball” meant.

The Eviction of Folds

Today I evicted a tenant.

She had been living in the shed behind our house for I don’t know how long; she took up residence on our bed about six months ago and has been there about 23 hours a day ever since. She wasn’t paying rent, but she was very affectionate, aggressively so, and so we let her stay with us. She slept with us every night. Our housecats, Lucy and Van, weren’t too happy with this situation, but as long as she kept to the bed, they left her alone.

The tenant in question is one Folds the Cat, a gray tabby with shriveled ears and a voice like a vacuum cleaner sucking broken glass.

She also had a dark side. With increasing frequency, she would scratch Xy’s face. I blame Xy for this, mostly. Xy is smarter and should know to keep her face away from Foldy’s claws. The poor cat gets overstimulated and freaks out. She’s never clawed me because I always play it cool with Foldy. Xy can’t seem to master that art.

All this summer, Xy’s face has had at least one scratch somewhere on it at any given time. Bad scratches. Foldy always breaks the skin. Soon Xy’s face would be a mass of scars.

Something had to be done. I told Folds that if it happened again, I would throw her out. She didn’t understand, of course. But Xy understood. Nevertheless she started kissing Folds again, putting her poor face in easy reach of those sharp claws. She was asking for trouble, tempting fate. Why? She wouldn’t tell me, but I extracted a promise: If Folds clawed her face again and got evicted, there would be no word of complaint from Xy’s quarter.

This morning I noticed fresh blood on Xy’s chin. “What’s that on your chin?” I asked. She didn’t answer, and I knew immediately what had happened and what I had to do. I turned on my heel and stalked away.

Xy started to plead on Foldy’s behalf. I pointed an accusatory finger and reminded her of her promise. She was silent after that.

I stormed upstairs. I was plenty angry. But when I saw Folds sleeping on our bed I was suddenly sad instead. She was so plainly innocent. I woke her up gently and explained the situation, then carried her to the kitchen and put her down on the floor. I opened the door to the back deck and she walked outside, as if she understood how it had to be now, as if she knew this was really for the best.

As I write this, Folds has taken up residence on her shelf in the shed once again, and we’re all getting used to the new arrangement. Archer (our other outdoor cat, who lives on the neighbor’s roof) seems to enjoy the company (from a respectable distance of course). And our housecats are quite happy. They may even reclaim the bed.

100,000 Spam E-mails

I’ve been letting the Mac OS X Mail client decide what’s junk for the last seventeen months. As of this morning, it has identified 100,031 e-mail messages as junk and filed them away, sight unseen, in a designated junk folder. That’s 44,288 messages to my “private” e-mail address; the rest have accumulated through a couple accounts that I manage for other people.

Of my 44,288 junk mail messages, the most popular subject line seems to be — no subject at all. I ran a few keyword searches and found these results:

  • 985 home
  • 727 loan
  • 609 penis
  • 545 vicodin
  • 523 viagra
  • 508 money
  • 457 mortgage
  • 376 sex
  • 195 enlarge
  • 193 women
  • 149 cialis
  • 60 wow
  • 50 orgasm
  • 34 xxx
  • 34 hydrocodone
  • 2 vagina

This is hardly a scientific statistical analysis, but it’s amusing to see “penis” beat “vagina” by such a margin. Need I add that with such a large volume of spam it’s impossible to be sure there isn’t any legit mail buried in there somewhere? But I’ve wasted too much time on this already. It’s time to delete this 199 MB load of crap.

A pox on all spammers.


Sweat is a good thing. I love to sweat. Lucky for me, because I’m doing a lot of it. It’s summer in New Orleans, and it is hot.

I just rode my bike in the midday heat to PJ & Andrea’s new house. It’s in Broadmoor. They closed the deal this morning, and we met at the new place for a 1:15 PM champagne toast. The seller did an excellent job on the remodelling. It’s like a new house, but with lots of old details. Gorgeous.

Then I rode my bike back to the university, and I am soaked with sweat. It’s nice to have a job where my shirt doesn’t always have to be clean. After all, what’s wrong with sweat? Fresh sweat doesn’t stink. (Old sweat does stink, which is why I bathe regularly.) It feels good to sweat. It’s healthy.

Of course, I have used antiperspirants for years, on my armpits. They reduce the amount of sweat under my arms dramatically. But they also contain that nasty aluminum shit, which Mr. Chris has just reminded me are Alzenheimer’s suspects. This question has been open for debate for ten years at least, and they still can’t give the aluminum in deodorants a clean bill of health? That’s frightening. I need to get off this aluminum shit now.

Toilet Part IX

I was unable to replace the faulty hose connecting the toilet tank to the water supply. Seems my shutoff valve has a flange coupling, odd for this application, and the hardware store doesn’t have a hose that could do the job. They recommended replacing the valve altogether. Ah, but that is a tricky proposition. Cut off water to the whole house, and then what? That valve is connected to an old steel pipe, and it looks pretty rusty. Anything could happen, and that makes me nervous.

And so I was plunged into despair.

Then it occurred to me: Rather than replacing the old hose, maybe I could repair it. It was leaking at the other end, where it joins the tank. So I had Xy hold it, and I wrapped it up tight with some of that black plumber’s tape, and I reattached it.

That was over 24 hours ago, and it appears to be holding. The floor underneath is dry. That makes me happy. When the time comes for a more permanent solution, I’ll hire a professional to replace that old rusty steel pipe all the way through the wall, all the way to the street if need be. Wrestling toilets is one thing, but I know my limitations.

I think I’ve made nine or ten trips to the hardware store on this project. My boss came and helped me three times. But I only spent $30 or so, and at least I learned some stuff.

Lazy Hazy Crazy

Over the last few days, I’ve noticed a haze hanging in the air, especially on my morning ride to work. It’s remarkably thick. Yesterday morning, as I squinted from the Jeff Davis overpass at the shrouded skyscrapers beyond the Superdome, I said to myself, “Hazy enough for you?” But I thought it was just regular summer haze.

Wrong. The morning paper says it’s smoke from wildfires in Alaska and Canada and the western states:

Some of the smoke over New Orleans traveled more than 4,500 miles from fires burning to the north of Fairbanks, Alaska, a journey that would take at least 70 hours by car.

I think that’s just plain weird.

Mother of Thousands

XY and I have wondered for a while about these plants growing in our courtyard. A neighbor lady brought another one over in a small pot this weekend, and she said she’d heard it called the Mother of Thousands.

Yup. A quick Internet search reveals it’s also known as the Mexican Hat Plant, the Devil’s Backbone and Kalanchoe daigremontiana. Google indexes a bunch of pictures but I like the one I took back in March:

Blossoms, Some Withered

This show the fantastic blooms that this plant eventually produces, but you can’t see the Seussian body, which can become quite large, even grotesque. It dies after it blooms.

I think it’s called Mother of Thousands because it reproduces itself with great enthusiasm. In fact it is a bit of a pest. It might be poisonous.

Here’s some more pictures I just took:

Mother Above


Toilet Redux

My boss came by after work today, and we tackled the toilet again. This time we junked the old floor flange. Turns out it was held to the floor with tacks! So we drilled holes in the concrete and bolted a shiny new flange into place. Then we installed a Fluidmaster 7500 Wax-Free Toilet Bowl Gasket, which I recommend most highly. Easy and clean. Fuck a wax gasket, man.

And yet…

When we hooked everything back up and flushed a couple of times, we discovered the little tube that connects the tank to the water supply had sprung a leak, probably from being detached and retached so many times over the past week, and it was too late to make it to the hardware store. So, damn, we still don’t have a working toilet downstairs. But I am confident that we will tomorrow.

And then, when my in-laws visit, they can enjoy taking a crap in our non-climate controlled bathroom in New Orleans in August. Yeah, that sounds real pleasant, doesn’t it? But it would be worse if the toilet was leaking.

(Well, why shouldn’t “retached” be a word?)


We bought a Kenmore Tumble Action Washer (which the Sears website calls a Kenmore White-on-white 3.1 cu. ft. Front Load Electric Washer w/Eco Care™ System!) last Tuesday. It was delivered Thursday, but I didn’t see it in action until yesterday.


Wow. I’m not one to wax on about appliances, but this thing is awesome. It uses a lot less water than a top-loading model. It saves energy. It’s quieter. It’s fun to watch. It’s gentler on clothes. And it spins clothes much drier, so they don’t have to spend much time in the dryer.

This is a bottom-of-the-line front-loader; it only cost $600 some dollars. That’s three times what a cheap top-loader costs, but it might just pay for itself if it holds up for a good long time. Some of the reviews at Epinions make me wonder if we should have bought the extended warranty.

Update — July 27th: Mailed in my rebate coupon.
Update — September 4th: Got my rebate check.
Update — 2005: Washer destroyed by flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.


Toilet Before

Nothing beats getting up early after four hours of sleep, still drunk from the night before, to fix a troublesome toilet. Except failing to fix it.

We were replacing the wax gasket that sits between the bowl and the floor flange (for the second time — long story) and in so doing we discovered that the floor flange isn’t really firmly affixed to the floor at all. It’s just kind of sitting there. So it looks as if we will need to replace the floor flange and bolt it to the floor, which will entail drilling some new holes into the concrete. I’m sure we’ll also end up replacing the wax gasket a third time. I really need to get this toilet in working order before my in-laws come to visit in a couple weeks.

Props to my boss for coming over (again) to help me with this project.

Someday I will look back on this and laugh. But that day is not today.

Thursday Night, Friday Morning

Thursday night means pub trivia at the Crown & Anchor. That can sometimes lead to Vaughn’s to see Kermit Ruffins, if I’m lucky.

Tonite I got lucky.

Kermit rocks. And I say this despite the fact that he never ventures into the rock idiom. He’s all about the jazz. Cool, sweet jazz — in the heat of the summer, that’s just fine. Hearing Kermit tonite made me feel good inside and out.

Info Jones

The website has been down since July 4th and it’s really chapping my ass.

See, my favorite news aggregator, Shrook, uses for distributed checking of all the sites I read. Distibuted checking is cool; it appeals to my notions of a good cyber-ecology.

Sure, I could run Shrook without using, but that seems so primitive.

You don’t realize you’ve turned into a junkie until someone gets between you and your smack. Why, today I almost missed the fact that my favorite film ever is being released on DVD, and that S-Train and T-Steel are running for Prez/VP in 2008, and that Julie and Dave Summitt are having a baby. (I should have been able to predict that last, since everyone my age is having a baby.)

I need my fix.

House Projects

In an old house like ours, there’s always some work to be done. But in the last couple of weeks, the number of projects demanding attention has multiplied dramatically. Even keeping an up-to-date to-do list is challenging.

New Pipes


Here’s a few things that have recently been accomplished:

  1. We had a plumber replace leaky drainage pipes from our upstairs bathroom.
  2. We used a little hydraulic cement to patch the hole the plumbers left around the bathtub drain.
  3. The plumbers installed a new and better seal on the cleanout for the drainage, which was leaking sewer gas occasionally.
  4. Our neighbor rebuilt the back of their shed, which had been eaten by termites. This shed is one of the walls of our courtyard. I painted it pink.
  5. I installed an AC window unti in the kitchen, which had been the hottest room in our house. Nice to have it below 90 degrees in there.
  6. Our dryer broke down so we had a guy come out and fix it.
  7. Our downstairs toilet was leaking, so my boss came over and helped me replace the wax gasket that goes between the floor flange and the bowl. I also replaced the gasket between the tank and the bowl. Still have some trouble with that.
  8. XY scraped off the moldy old caulk around the downstairs bathtub/shower area and re-caulked it.

Pink Wall

Moldy Old Caulk

Here are some projects which are somewhat urgent but still aren’t finished:

  1. We need a new front door for our downstairs porch.
  2. We need a new dehumidifier. The Hampton Bay model I bought a year and a half ago broke, and the service center advised me that it wasn’t worth the cost of repair.
  3. One of the steps on our interior staircase needs mending.
  4. I need to patch the hole in our downstairs bathroom ceiling.
  5. I also need to patch hole the hole in the siding outside the downstairs bathroom. Both of these holes were created by the plumbers so they could work on the drainage pipes.

Pipe Hole

Finally, the third layer, stuff that is less pressing but that we’d like to get done:

  1. We want to paint the alcove off of our hallway. We’re thinking about a blue and white porcelain crackle finish.
  2. The attic access door in the ceiling of that alcove could needs to be painted or stained.
  3. I need to put another coat of stain on parts of our back deck. I also wanna stain the inside of the door from the deck to the kitchen.
  4. Our hallway could use a coat of paint too. Green? Blue? Not sure.
  5. The front and back iron security doors need to be repaired or replaced.
  6. It would be nice to ventilate the downstairs bathroom.
  7. Hell, it would be nice to convert the downstair bath to a shower stall.
  8. We need a new washing machine. The one we have was purchased used and has never worked correctly. It spills water all over the floor. Still we’ve made due with it for a year and a half.
  9. The electrical outlet for our washer dryer was never properly finished.
  10. The lower front porch needs to be cleaned up. There’s still a lot of junk sitting there that was left by the previous owner.

Alcove Before

Access Before

Whew. I never knew owning a house would be so much work.

Quarter Cats

A few nights ago, Xy & I walked past Jackson Square with our friend David Bryan after coffee and beignets.

The park is locked at night, but through the bars we’ve often observed cats — lots of cats — cavorting or merely lolling about. I’ve counted as many as twenty cats within spitting distance of the gate on St. Ann Street. Indeed, I’ve never seen so many cats in such close proximity.

But on this particular night, there was nary a feline in sight. We wondered aloud: “Where are all the cats?”

Being that we were in the Quarter, we didn’t have to wait for an answer. A dishevelled woman who happened to be shuffling past replied immediately: “Underground. There are tunnels.”