2005-09-24 00:55 UTC


Pangea Organics Shower Gel

Another item I discovered at Future Green is Pangea Organics “Pure & Scentless Organic Herbal Shower Gel.” I was attracted to this product by the ingredients list: Water, Saponified Coconut, Olive, Hemp & Jojoba Oils (w/ Retained Glycerin), Vegetable Gum (Guar), Aloe Vera Gel, Glycerin, and Rosemary Extract (all of which are labeled as “organic”). In other words, this soap consists, primarily, of…soap, soap being what saponified fat is.

Lots of products contain lots of ingredients that either serve no purpose other than sounding good on the label or else serve a purpose related more to marketing than function. Hydrolyzed silk protein enables the marketing people to put “Silk Protein” on the shampoo label, which sounds great, but I rather doubt it does anything, and if amino acids are useful there must be a cheaper and better source than silk, but silk sounds good. Lots of cleaning products of all varieties contain ingredients to generate the maximum amount of foam humanly possible. Foam isn’t actually useful, it’s actually sort of a nuisance, being a pain to wash away, but the marketing department loves it. I’m not so happy spending minutes trying to wash foam out of my ears, but I’m apparently considered to be in the minority.

The Pangea soap, as the “scentless” label implies, has only a faint, pleasant smell. It gets me clean, it leaves my skin feeling good, it doesn’t foam up, and it’s easy and quick to wash off. Rather than being greasy, it leaves a slightly sticky feel, presumably from the glycerin. I prefer it this way. I’ve tried a lot of shower soaps, looking for something that doesn’t have a strong smell and doesn’t dry my skin out yet isn’t greasy. This is by far the best I’ve found.

2005-09-23 16:32 UTC


Fluffy new towels

I’ve been purchasing some new towels from my local painfully organic vendor, Future Green located on 2352 S Kinnickinnic Ave in Milwaukee, an area that is a pocket of low-rent hipness these days, with a coffee shop, a Harry Schwartz bookstore, a bookstore called “Broad Vocabulary,” a nice little sandwich shop by the name of “Wild Flour Bakery,” and a bunch of other interesting places, like a small guitar shop. It’s a fun area, easily reached by bike from downtown.

The towels are from Under The Canopy, and are the softest, fluffiest, nicest towels I’ve ever had. They are made, of course, of organically grown cotton. The washcloth was $9, the big towels about $30. I honestly don’t know what good towels of the non-organic variety go for these days, but these are very nice and I’ve figured out that this is the sort of item that lasts for years, so I’m satisfied. Recommended.

2005-09-15 21:00 UTC


Ezra Klein: Pee Expert

Ezra Klein is a liberal blogger and, according to Google, pee expert.

2005-08-24 01:50 UTC


Great t-shirt

If you want to buy cooler t-shirts, you ought to read Preshrunk, the cool shirt blog. It was there that I discovered this:


The Preshrunk entry says, “But when my girlfriend said that this design from B1 Originals is ‘so adorable that it hurts,’ I put aside the shirt I was going to run in favor of this one. But don’t think I’m running it because she lets me touch her boobs. No sir, I actually think she’s on to something.”

My girlfriend also thinks it’s just adorable. She also lets me touch her boobs. That said, I doubt anyone will let you touch her boobs just because you’re wearing this great shirt. But it can’t hurt. From B1 Originals.

2005-08-23 15:45 UTC


Podcasting thoughts

I read Dave Slusher’s insight about David Coursey a while ago, the one in which he says, “he is like a street whore expressing incredulity about and contempt for those who would have sex for fun,” and I finally heard the interview he was referring to a week or two ago. That is a memorable way of describing it. Coursey seems remarkably down on the possibility that people would write or talk (or presumably, sing, paint, photograph, or code) for fun, even though it’s pretty easy to find lots of examples of people doing exactly that. I think though, that he really missed the point of RSS, and that feeds into it.

I think he used the New York Times as an example, saying that, sure, you can get an RSS feed, but why not just go to the web site with your web browser? I agree: for the purpose of just plain reading, an RSS feed from the NY Times, or Boing Boing, or CNN, or any other site that gets updated constantly, is not a really a big added value. If you wake up and wonder what the Times has to say, sure, just go to the web site. I guarantee they will have something up there that wasn’t there yesterday. What the feed is really useful for are the amateurs who only write (or record podcasts…) when they have something to say, which might not be very often. If I have to remember to visit Joe Intermittent Blogger’s site to see if he’s written anything yet this month, eventually I’ll forget about him, but I can keep dozens of very occasional feeds in Bloglines, or in my podcatcher, and every now and then a nugget of goodness will appear from someone who doesn’t say much but who I always want to hear from.

The whore thinks servicing thirty-five guys every night is too much work for anyone to do for fun. The professional radio guy thinks the minimum any one person can do is four hours of morning drive-time-radio every single frickn’ day, and no one would do that just for fun. If you had a broadcast radio transmitter and only turned it on for a half-hour a week at unscheduled times, you would not have any listeners. If you put out a podcast every other week or so, it is entirely possible for people to put your feed in their software and receive your show. There have been four “Live from the Formosa Tea House” podcasts in the history of podcasting so far, but I really like them all. I wouldn’t want to miss any of the occasional “Really Learn Spanish” podcasts. The feeds are in my podcatcher, and when something new is posted, I get it automatically. It’s not some sort of terrible burden on me that happens on an infrequent, irregular basis. You don’t have to put out 12 hours a day every day just to keep people from forgetting about you.

The vision of a bright podcasting future is not a thousand insanely dedicated people each putting out 8 hours a day, it is a million normal (kind-of) people, each putting out what they can.

2005-08-17 01:40 UTC


Mike Rowe: Poop Expert

Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe is back for another season on the Discovery Channel. Really, they could call it Mike Rowe: Poop Expert. If something/someone shits it out, Mike cleans it up. It’s not all poop: there was demolition, which by his standards would be a fun job, but mostly, it’s poop.

2005-08-12 15:54 UTC


EAA Airventure 2005

The Experimental Aircraft Association’s 2005 Oshkosh fly-in (the “Airventure,” as they call it) for 2005 was last week. My photos are gradually being added to my flickr page. I’ll set up a set for them someday. I have over a thousand digital images and a hundred or so still-undeveloped frames of slide film.

I spent the week camped there in Camp Scholler in what’s now my usual location, south of the West Camp Store. They changed the schedule from the former Tuesday through Monday to Monday through Sunday. I arrived on Sunday morning, a hot but windy day. With a strong wind blowing and a lot of time on my hands, I did a seemingly excessive job of tying down the tent with many tent stakes and lots of string. When the thunderstorms hit Monday night, it didn’t seem excessive at all. There is no such thing as too many tent pegs. The winds at times during the Monday night procession of storms were pretty impressive, and it rained all night. I’ve been learning, the hard way, how to set up a tent to survive rain and wind, and my tent stayed in place and didn’t leak at all. No mosquitoes this year, and no significant rain during the day. I managed the week without blisters or sunburn, either. Also, it seems like the water heating for the showers by the West Camp Store has been improved. The water was never cold, though the pressure does drop during heavy use.

Oshkosh isn’t Oshkosh without the fresh, hot, donuts in the morning (near Aeroshell Square) and lots of soft-serve ice cream. This year you can get waffle cones, root beer floats, and, at least in one place, chocolate soft-serve. New and improved.

Staying the entire week is sort of overkill, but for me it’s a chance to get away from it all and camp in a field and watch airplanes all day, so it’s a nice vacation.

I’m not sure exactly what the organization wanted to achieve with the new Monday-Sunday schedule, but somewhat to my surprise, I like it. I always liked the quiet Sunday night in the mostly-empty campground and a day of watching departures, but Sunday, to a surprising extent, is the new Monday. Saturday night is quiet and private, Sunday is uncrowded, and lots of planes are departing Sunday. It’s a more convenient schedule for me, and I get to enjoy Saturday night and Sunday with my girlfriend, who can only spend the weekend.

Besides the experimental aircraft at the event, Camp Scholler is filled with experimental ground vehicles. Weird carts. Every kind of strange motorized bike or scooter ever manufactured. Junk bicycles. Folding bicycles. Recumbent bicycles. Motor homes, trailers, vans, cars, motorcycles, ATVs. All operated erratically in the dark. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a properly lighted vehicle at night there other than the fully street-legal regular motor vehicles. Absolutely no one on a bicycle or motorized scooter has any lights.

This was a good year for odd and famous air/space craft. The Global Flyer was there on Aeroshell Square, as was Spaceship One and White Knight. Both the Global Flyer and the White Knight and Spaceship One did flybys for us. The Dornier Do-24ATT, a 1930s seaplane that was converted into an amphibian and re-engined with turboprops in the 1980s, was there, and flew with the more conventional trimotors during the airshows. The Honda jet made its first public appearance. There were numerous B-17s. The P-38 Glacier Girl was on display and flew in Heritage Flights with a P-51, an F-4, and an F-16.

Two Eclipse jets flew a showcase flight. The Eclipse tent, the biggest and fanciest around, seems to get bigger and fancier every year. I wonder if that endless music drove the Eclipse people nuts by the end of the week, though.

Rutan, Melvill, Binnie, a bunch of other Scaled Guys, Paul Allen, Sir Richard, and some others spoke to a large crowed about Space Ship One and Virgin Galactic. I have to wonder, when a billionaire comes to Oshkosh, he doesn’t stay in a tent in the far corner of Camp Scholler, right?

Overall, it was another great year.

2005-07-23 03:28 UTC


Bob Roll

OLN has given Bob Roll a bigger role in their coverage of the Tour de France this year. I have to say that I like the guy and enjoy hearing him more. He can’t exactly fill the shoes of Paul Sherwin and Phil Liggett (what cyclist hasn’t imagined Phil shouting “he’s dancing on the pedals” while grinding slowly up a hill?), but he is fun.

Also, the Specialized commercials with Levi Leipheimer are funny.

2005-06-22 14:40 UTC


Sports magazines and time lag: F1 Racing

Now that I’m a Formula 1 racing fan, I’ve been buying F1 Racing magazine. The June issue wasn’t in the bookstores yet on Sunday, but I did find a copy on Tuesday, two days after the rather bizarre United State Grand Prix. It takes a long time to get a magazine together, print it, and get it to the stores, so the big topic of the latest issue is the San Marino race at Imola, which took place on April 24, two months ago. They were able to get a few pages about the Spanish Grand Prix of May 8 in at the back, and then at the very back two pages each for track maps and historical results for the Monaco, European, Canadian, and US Grands Prix, all of which have been run by now. It’s got to be really difficult to write for a sports magazine knowing that by the time anyone other than your editor reads what you’ve written, five more events will have been run and readers will be straining their memories to recall the events you are writing about.

The weirdest part, really, is reading speculation about the future when there is a five-race delay between writing and reading, and all the speculation is semi-distant past by the time anyone reads it. I’m not at all sure how I’d want to write under such circumstances, but the policy of F1 Racing seems to be to write as though readers would be able to read it shortly after it’s written, giving the same effect for the people who read it as soon as possible as those who stumble upon a pile of old back issues on a shelf somewhere get. I’m not sure I like it that way.

There is plenty of content that does age well, such as driver interviews. Those of us used to this new-fangled Internet thingie might be inclined to wonder if it would make more sense to just fill the printed pages with the things that age well and put the current events and speculation about the future on the web site, where the future will still be future when people read it.

(Leave comments at the Livejournal post about this.)

2005-06-15 18:11 UTC


Broadcast Radio vs. Internet

Something I’ve been thinking about with all the podcasting excitement, and portable MP3 players in general, is how amazingly crappy the broadcast radio experience is, even on just a technical level. There are all sorts of programming issues, the bad shows, the advertising, the endless promos for upcoming shows—someday, we’re going to hear promos for upcoming promos—but the actual technology doesn’t work well.

Vast swaths of spectrum are reserved for broadcasting, the broadcasters set up huge antenna towers and run transmitters so powerful that the electric bill is a significant operating cost. Yet I hear mostly static. On a portable player, the signal cuts in and out with each step. At home, hiss. I’ve bought antennas, built antennas, hung antennas up in awkward positions, and still, the classical station comes in in hissy mono. The local public station comes in with hiss at home and unlistenable cutting in and out when out walking with a portable radio. I’m not out in the hinterlands, I’m in the city of Milwaukee. Back in Champaign, IL, the college’s station was pretty much unlistenable on campus. I get better ham radio reception sometimes. It’s really amazing to me that so much bandwidth, so much power, such a huge antenna, gives such marginal results. Maybe I’m listening to the wrong stations, but wherever I live, this is what I get.

The MP3 player works fine, of course. The crappiest low-bitrate MP3s sound better than radio, though the radio people are better at setting up decent microphones and getting the levels right than some of the less experienced podcasters. The only radio show I listen to is Pipedreams, but not by radio. No one here plays it. I grab it with streamripper and cron from WDAV’s MP3 stream. It would be a lot easier if was just podcast instead of making us mess with streamripper, but the broadcast mentality lives on. I sent in a donation, and now I have a card good for discounts at some Davidson, North Carolina shops. I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1300 km away. The unlistenable Milwaukee stations (no MP3 streams, even), continue to hit me up for donations.

2005-05-16 18:20 UTC


A Bad Urban Design Walking Tour

I live in the northwest corner of the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, not far from an “office park” to which has been added in the last few years a small shopping center with an American Bread Company restaurant. On occasion I walk over there for lunch, something I wrote about a year ago. Walking was obviously not intended. You are supposed to drive a car. Let take a walk anyway and see what happens!

We begin with Fond du Lac Avenue, the street I live on. Here at the northwest end, it look like this:

Fond du Lac Ave

Not really an inviting place to walk, but at least wide.

The intersection of Fond du Lac Ave. and 107th Street is perhaps not too welcoming to pedestrians, either:

Fond du Lac Avenue and 107th Street

The next section of the journey is over Highway 145, a six-lane controlled-access freeway with virtually no traffic on it:

Highway 145-No Cars

It was not at all hard for me to get a daytime photo with no cars visible. There is actually more traffic noise from the two-lane Fond du Lac Ave in front of my apartment building than from this six-lane freeway behind it. Total waste of pavement.

Next comes this segment of 107th street:

107th Street

Welcome, pedestrians!

Then, another giant intersection, with Good Hope Road:

107th Street and Good Hope Road

We are now nearly there! That building with the green roof at the left, in the far distance, is it:

Building In The Distance

But how do we get there from here? Remember, we were supposed to be driving a car, not walking. We could take the sidewalk north on 107th street, walk a long way, then follow a long curvy road back to the southwest, but we are not crazy, so we will walk on the grass.

We now discover a fundamental fact about building design in the US: each building has one front side, and one back side. The front side is prettier, and the back side is really ugly, windowless, with utility connections and dumpsters. What if one side of your building faces your parking lot and a small access road, and the other side faces a busy six-lane road, near a freeway ramp, along which many of your potential customers will be traveling? Well, the parking lot and access road side gets the windows, and the busy road gets this:

Back, or is it the front? Atlanta Bread-Back, or is it Front?

Electrical Gas

Hey, I like gas meters as much as the next guy, but is this really the face you want to present to the public? I thought the building was still under construction for a long time after it was done. I kept waiting for the windows. They did eventually take down the temporary banners and put up the permanent signs for each business, at least.

Once you get around to the parking lot side of the building, it looks a bit nicer:

Liberty Plaza

Atlanta Bread-Front, I guess.

Note the beautiful outdoor seating area in the parking lot:

Outdoor Seating

There is a Starbucks and Qdoba on 124th and Capitol with an outdoor seating area right by the intersection of those two major roads, separated from them by a tiny strip of grass. It is such a strange place to sit that I sometimes go there just for the experience of drinking mocha while watching twelve lanes of traffic intersect. I mean, you wouldn’t want to do it very often, but occasionally, it’s so bad it’s fun. I don’t think the Atlanta Bread parking lot is bad enough to be fun. It’s just ugly.

2005-05-16 15:30 UTC


The political economy of electronic medical records

Mark Kleiman wonders why there isn’t more consideration of adopting the VA’s electronic medical records system and concludes that it is in part because the code is public domain and thus none of the firms developing proprietary systems can make money off it. Well, they may not be able to make money off it, but money is in fact being made off of it. Larry Augustine, CEO of Medsphere, talks about it and other open-source enterprise projects at the 2005 Open Source Business Conference, and you can listen to his talk thanks to IT Conversations. The wrong lobbyists get all the attention, though.

2005-05-14 02:33 UTC


Flickr DeFlashing

Flickr has removed the Flash from the photo pages! I think they did a nice job of doing something useful rather than <BLINK> Tag Writ Large with it, but without Flash it’s faster and now the page can be scrolled with the mouse pointer on the image—no more carefully moving the pointer off the image to get the wheel or the page-up/page-down/space to work.

Yea Flickr!

2005-05-14 01:05 UTC


The Big Red Button

The Big Red Button. Via Tess.

2005-04-16 03:55 UTC


Get Perpendicular

Via Dave Slusher, a deeply bizarre and wonderful flash animation in the Schoolhouse Rock style by those wild and wacky folks at Hitachi, of all places, about their new “perpendicular” hard drive technology: Perpendicular Animation. A must-see.

Update: They are giving away 230 “Get Perpendicular” t-shirts (230? Because they have achieved 230Gb/ Enter here by 2005-05-06.

2005-04-12 22:00 UTC



Since I have the Beige Alert/Journal/Photos theme going, I had to get a picture of this Chicago-area billboard:


2005-03-09 04:05 UTC


The World Wide Web by Cell Phone, 2nd Try

I just bought a new cell phone, an LG 6100, which I use with Verizon’s service. I tried activating the web access on my old phone, a Motorola vc120, which I wrote a blog entry about around six months ago. I concluded at the time that it wasn’t very useful. My new phone, however, has a bigger screen with color and WAP 2.0 support. This time around, I’m a lot more impressed.

Specifically, the killer-app, for me, is weather radar on the color screen. That’s genuinely useful. There are various sources of weather data formatted for cell phone usage, including several on Verizon’s menu, the best of which is probably Accuweather, which offers limited but better-than-nothing animated radar loops as well as satellite images. My overall favorite weather site is Weather Underground, which offers a cell-phone page with conditions, a radar still, and the forecast all in one page. I’ve tried WxServer, a pilot-oriented weather site for phones, and while I think it’s a very good service, those of us who are not pilots will probably not be able to justify the fee for just the weather information. The airport information might be very useful for pilots who do a lot of cross-country flying.

There is other fun to be had. The Onion has a mobile page. Flickr has a WAP interface to your contacts’ pictures, comments on your pictures, and more, which is a great time (and airtime) waster. There are gateways to post to LiveJournal. My phone has T9 text entry, which makes things like Livejournal posts tolerably painful.

The browser is really slow and unresponsive. Expect to wait a while after hitting the scrolling buttons. Even the backlight doesn’t brighten immediately upon a button press. I haven’t found any way to bookmark sites by navigating to them and then selecting some sort of “add bookmark” option, the way all browsers on the desktop operate. Instead you have to record the URL somewhere and painfully type it in manually on the keypad, or possibly add it using a regular browser on a regular computer, if you can figure out how to log in and do that. Verizon’s whole user interface approach to their “portal” seems to be airtime-maximization rather than customer-satisfaction, as you’d expect from a phone company. The tiny screen and limited browser still make ordinary web sites mostly unusable—only phone-specific sites are really usable. If anything, the color screen and WAP 2 make that problem worse than on the old phone, because it will try to render the colored sidebars and such that decorate web sites but which are entirely unusable on the tiny screen. The browser will crash from time to time, occasionally requiring pulling the battery to reset the phone, which (so for) has been non-destructive to the phone’s configuration settings and stored information.

Overall, I think it’s a useful service, and this time I plan to keep it enabled. The weather information is what justifies the fee, and there is plenty of goofy entertainment available as well. I’ve signed up for a package of web access and 500 text messages per month for $8/month. Weather Underground can send severe weather alerts by text message, and can send TAFs and METARs, among other things, via text messages, so that feature is useful, too.

2005-02-10 17:22 UTC


Comments Disabled

I’ve disabled comments on this blog after getting hit with twenty megabytes of comments spam. Much of this blog is either linked-to or cross-posted to my Livejournal, which seems to be free of comment spam problems. There are a great many Livejournal users, and there must be some comments spam in the system somewhere, but I’ve never seen any. There are several options that Livejournal users can select for comments, but allowing anyone with a Livejournal account to comment screening all comments from others seems to result in no problems from Livejournal users and no attempted spam from nonusers, either. Flickr requires would-be commenters to register for an account, too, and is also as far as I’ve seen free of comment spam. Asking people to register to comment doesn’t seem ideal, but it does seem to work, at least for large services like Livejournal or Flickr with millions of users. I don’t think that each and every individual blog could require separate registrations.

I have an e-mail address for comments, I’ll add any good comments to the posts.

2005-01-31 16:52 UTC


Spam Spam Spam Spam

Somewhere in the world there is a person actually named Budgie Commodore who simply cannot understand why no one ever seems to read any e-mail he sends.

2005-01-21 02:50 UTC


How to Kill a Mockingbird

Via Bill Roper, How to Kill a Mockingbird, an amazing, hilarious, very-hard-to-describe Flash animation thing. You just have to see it. It features pirates with laser swords riding flaming, flying sharks, and things weirder than that.

2005-01-20 20:19 UTC


Dawn and Drew Podcast

Dawn and Drew have the best phone number in the whole wide world for their listener comments voice mail: (206) 666-FUCK. It’s easy to remember. It’s great that they have this voice mail setup, because whenever people have the urge to call someone up and say something completely crazy, there’s always 206 666-FUCK as an acceptable outlet for that kind of thing. Two of my outbursts (“more cowbell” and “the lion beeps tonight”) have been played on the show. I must think of more….

2005-01-17 15:28 UTC


Time Warner Cable Digital Video Recorder

I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and have Time Warner cable television (and broadband Internet) service. I have had their digital video recorder (DVR) service for about a week now. They charge an extra $6 per month for DVR, which last time I checked was half the Tivo service fee, plus the cable company DVR includes two cable tuners built in. I can now, for the first time since I was a child, record one show while watching another. We could do that easily in pre-cable days, but with cable you’d need a second cable box, and who wants to pay for that?

The box is a Scientific Atlanta product, as usual. The thing works. It records shows, it plays them back. You can record two at once and watch one of them or a previously recorded third show. It won’t tell you how close to full the disk is, and there seems to be no indication at all how much capacity it has. I guess the cable company wouldn’t want to confuse their customers by telling them the most basic bit of information about a recorder. It can be set to record a single show or each episode of an entire series, but it has no concept of reruns, so if set to record a series it will get the early east-coast showing, the later west-coast showing, the rerun the next afternoon, and if they rerun it on the weekend, too, it will get that, too. You can and will end up with two or three (Or more! They rerun the “Daily Show” a lot) copies of each episode that you will have to delete manually. I don’t know if Tivo has the same problem. It does retain whatever information about the show that the program guide has, so you can do your deleting on the basis of that without having to watch a minute of each to see which are the same.

The remote control that the thing comes with is excellent. If you are geeky enough to read the instructions and type in lots of codes, you can get it to power up and down the cable box, TV, and stereo with one button press. You can get the volume control buttons to operate the stereo system’s volume. Very nice.

It does add one more faint sound to the noise background of our lives, a very faint whir of the spinning disk and the more noticeable ticking of the disk seeking constantly. It never spins down the disk, and it never stops seeking the disk, either, though it seeks just two or three times a second when it “isn’t doing anything.” It isn’t really a problem, but it is easily heard from across the room in the TV-watching couch.

2005-01-12 02:50 UTC


Pico De Gallo

What is Pico de Gallo?

Pico de Gallo-flavor snack food bag

It’s one-trillionth of a jug of cheap wine.

2005-01-10 05:15 UTC


First Skiing, 2005

On January 5 and 6 we got enough snow in Southeastern Wisconsin for good skiing. I went to Lapham Peak State Park after work on Thursday and Friday, and to the Nordic Trail in the Kettle Moraine State Forest Southern Unit on Saturday.

I have a ski photo set on Flickr with more photos.

skiers in a corridor though the tall



by Michael Pereckas


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