Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Master's Voice

An interesting interview with John Williams, film composer and Kenneday Center Award recipient, on his composing process and the progress he's made so far on Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

Birthday Conversations

(Tink comes bouncing into the bedroom this morning)

Tink: Happy Birthday Daddy! How old are you?

I'm 12.

No you're not....

Ok, ok. I'm 13.

(laughing) No!!

Actually, I'm 4700 years old...


...but I don't feel a day over 4500.

(pause) Huh?

(some jokes kids just don't get till they're older...)

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

We're Home

Driving in the snow and ice is not fun, kiddees.

West Tennessee this Christmas was a Winter Wonderland, for sure. The storm that didn't quite make it to Knoxville hit Jackson, TN and socked in the town for a couple of days.

We normally leave mid-Christmas morning to head down to Jackson and several days of visiting my wife's family, but this year we had to delay a day to let some of the ice melt that plagued that city's streets.

So Christmas Day this year, for the first time in our kids' lives, was spent at home. And for those out year who might come up with such a situation, it might be best to plan ahead for just an eventuality. Like stocking up with some extra food, since nothing's open on Christmas Day.

Well, almost nothing. Santa brought a 'Smores Maker, which under normal circumstances would crank out some delicious hot 'Smores. Santa not being a weatherman, however, did not foresee his hooligan recipients actually wanting to use the blamed thing that day, so Santa did not think to actually stock up on the things you use to make 'Smores. You know, little things like chocolate bars. Graham Crackers. Big honkin' marshmelons. Sterno.

So pop trundles out into the big, wide, quite world in search of 'Smores fixin's.


Walgreens is the only store of note open, and while I did find the last box of Graham Crackers (exp date: 05/1997) and a cluster of Hershey bars there wasn't much else. So no 'Smores Who Saved Christmas.

But we did make Icees.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas!

From Barry, Laura, Brainyboy (v8.7) and Tink at the
Inn of the Last Home

Headed out of town - back next Wednesday!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

All Healthy and Stuff

L. and I got our flu shots yesterday - they had some extra at the hospital, and were opening it up to all employees who wanted one.

I can't recall ever actually getting the flu, and I don't remember if L.'s had it any time recently or not. Mainly I want to make sure I wouldn't pass it on to the kids.

I'm a little amazed there were any left over for us - neither of us work directly with patient care - but apparently there were still some patient-care employees that didn't get them.

Good grief. Hope they don't come into contact with anyone who has the flu, and in doing so give it to someone else just because they couldn't be bothered to walk over to Employee Health.

People, if the shot's available - take it. As of 12/11, flu activity is still Sporadic in Tennessee, but more widespread in Kentucky and North Carolina, and evidently pretty heavy up in New York state.

Theatre Thursday

Week 31 - Revisionist History

Have you sat in the theatre, watched the characters do something impossible, and thought to yourself, "There's no way that could really happen..."

Here's your chance to set the record straight. Think of a scene from any movie that physically or logically shouldn't have been able to happen: The car that made the impossible jump..The soldier who blows away 500 soldiers without getting a scratch...The couple that amazingly run into each other after 50 years apart...

Then rewrite the scene, or write another scene to show how it should have gone.

(See previous post for my answer)

The Way It Should've Gone...

We see it all the time - our hero defies all odds and harnesses incredible luck to accomplish his goal. Whether defusing a bomb, rescuing a princess or merely getting to work on time, the main characters in movies always seem to have everything work out correctly for them. Even the longest odds and most far-fetched situations can be overcome by that most magic of artifacts: poetic license.

What would movies be like if those on-in-a-million chance shots failed and the far more likely and plausible solutions occured?

Let's take a look, shall we....

Scene: The Death Star Command Center

Death Star Officer: Governor Tarkin? Our sensors have picked up a small freighter attempting to join the battle.

Tarkin: Is it one of ours?

Death Star Officer: No sir, it appears to be the same YT-1300 freighter that we had captured several hours ago, and led us here via the homing device. The Millenium Falcon, sir.

Tarkin: How interesting. Captain Solo is quite resourceful - he may be a potential danger. What is his heading?

Death Star Officer: He's on a direct course for Lord Vader and the single remaining X-Wing, sir.

Tarkin: (considering) Did he think he would fly right up there under our very noses, without being detected and dealt with? Very well. Warn Lord Vader and dispatch two reserve squadrons to destroy the freighter.

Death Star Officer: Yes sir.


Death Star Officer: The Millenium Falcon has been destroyed, sir.

(Tarkin's tight grin widens slightly)


(More to come. Feel free to add your own)

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Still Feel the Same Way?

Hey Heisman voters:

Still confident you picked the guy with the best character in 1997?

1. Woodson, Anderson arrested early Monday
"Four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson and safety Marques Anderson were arrested early Monday for investigation of public intoxication following the Raiders' victory over the Tennessee Titans.


n May 2000, Woodson was named in warrants charging him with drunken driving and driving with a suspended license in Ann Arbor, Mich., where he won the 1997 Heisman Trophy for Michigan. Police said he registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.24 percent, more than twice Michigan's legal limit."

2. Manning comes up short, but in a classy way

" Sure, Manning could have thrown what would have been his 48th touchdown pass of the season to tie the record Dan Marino set in 1984. But with the Ravens refusing to use either of their remaining two timeouts, the right thing to do was kneel. And that was what Manning did. Twice.


'There at the end, I can't get over the crowd booing,' Manning said afterward. 'I hope those were Baltimore fans because (kneeling) is just the way you're supposed to do it.'


Peyton Manning had a lot of respect for the Ray Lewis-led Ravens defense.
It showed class. It showed dignity. It showed everything Manning has been about through the entire chase."
Emphasis mine.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

At The Turning of the Year

This is one of my favorite days of the year.

Dec. 21st - Winter Solstice. The day where darkness reigns supreme and daylight only shows for a brief season.

From now on, inexorably, the days will get ever longer and the nights ever shorter.

Although the cold weather will not abate for several months, the light will eventually overcome the dark.

Something to look forward to.

TV Tuesday

Week 36 - Christmas Specials

Only four more days until Christmas! And then means only one thing--only four more days of Christmas specials! Every year, there are classics that are shown and a couple of new specials try to gain the title of classic. This week, we'll look at those Christmas specials.

1. What is your favorite Christmas special?

I always loved John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together. I need to find the soundtrack on CD...the 12 Days of Muppet Christmas was a classic :)

2. Do you have a Christmas special that you don't care for as much?

Never watched the White House Christmas Special. Never cared.

3. One recent trend is making sequels to popular or successful Christmas specials. Do you like or dislike this trend? Why?

I don't think I've noticed many. I did see a couple of trends this year I hadn't seen before - sequels to classic Christmas specials. So far I've seen two new Charlie Brown Christmas tales, one with Rerun (! - Linus and Lucy's little brother introduced to the strip in later years) and several of Snoopy's brothers. The music was the same as the classic special, but it's mostly about the Van Pelt family. I remarked to my family in my best Ian Malcom/Jeff Goldblum voice at one point during the show, "This show actually is about Charlie Brown, right?

I also saw a "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" sequel made in CGI that was....odd.

4. Is there a book, story or song just waiting to be turned into a great Christmas special?

You know, they should turn that old Charles Dickens novel, "A Christmas Carol" into a holiday special... nobody's ever done that one before...

~ BONUS ~ Share some of your favorite memories of Christmas specials growing up. Also, if you have kids, what is the one Christmas special that you look forward to sharing with them either when they're old enough or each year?

"Santa Claus is Coming To Town", which they've seen twice this year....and I've missed both times. Rats. Maybe next year.

Monday, December 20, 2004

I've Died and Gone to Key West...

Got this last night as a Christmas present:

Because I am, at heart, just a Cheeseburger in Paradise.

Changes Gotta Come

It's coming up on my 2nd blogiversary in January. I can hardly believe I've been running the Inn for almost 2 years now... My birthday's coming up in 10 days, if anyone's interested as well. ;)

So here's my question. A lot of people have redesigned their pages recently, and very few bloggers I know have the same design they started with.

Well, strange as it may seem coming from a professional web designer, but I haven't changed my layout since the day I started blogging. For the new year and to start my 3rd year of blogging, should I redecorate the Inn?

If so, what should I change? What should I add? Do you like graphics, or straight text? Give me your feedback and I'll make a decision after Christmas.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Which literature classic are you?

Lord of the rings
J.R.R. Tolkien: Lord of the Rings. You are
entertaining and imaginative, creating whole
new worlds around yourself. Well loved, you
have a whole league of imitators, none of which
is quite as profound as you are. Stories and
songs give a spark of joy in the middle of your
eternal battle with the forces of evil.

Which literature classic are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

I'm Legal

Finally went and got my car license renewed today downtown at the Courthouse. No more driving around with an expired tag!

Yes, I am now a somebody again.

Friday's Feast

What is something that never fails to grab your attention?

People laughing, and kids laughing.

Who was the last person who gave you money, and what was it for?

The guy at the drive-thru window at McDonald's - he gave me my change back.

If you were a Smurf, what would your name be?

Director Smurf

Main Course
Do you believe in astrology? Why or why not?

No, because a) it has no basis in fact, b) it's random and only fits the circumstances by coincidence, and c) well, duh..

Have you seen any snow this year yet? What's the weather like today in your area?

We had some major flurries a few days ago, but nothing has stuck yet. We're supposed to see more on Sunday but no word on expected accumulation. Being in East Tennessee, I'm sure the grocery stores will be packed all day Saturday. Other than that's it's just been col-l-l-l-l-l-ld.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

3 Things

Three Names You Go By:
1. Barry
2. Mr. Barry
3. Daddy

Three Screennames You Have:
1. Barry
2. Joshua
3. Phoenix

Three Things You Like About Yourself:
1. My ability to sense what other people are feeling, and adjust my interaction with them accordingly
2. My love and respect for kids, and the fact I enjoy just being around and teaching kids
3. I try to find the good in people and the hope and promise in different situations, rather than looking for and assuming that bad is inevitable.

Three Things You Hate/Dislike About Yourself:
1. Judgementalism
2. I have a memory like a broken sieve
3. Very difficult to admit I was wrong about something, or that I screwed up.

Three Parts of Your Heritage:
1. Scotch
2. Irish
3. Since both sides of my family have lived in East Tennessee for decades and probably centuries, probably some Cherokee somewhere down the line.

Three Things That Scare You:
1. Nuclear weapons
2. Letting my kids out of my attention range for more than a half-second.
3. Guns, and the thought of #2 mixing with #3

Three of Your Everyday Essentials
1. James Lileks
2. Big Orange Michael
3. seductive kisses

Three Things You Are Wearing Right Now
1. White cable-knit sweater
2. Brown loafers
3. Light blue tank top under the sweater

Three of Your Favorite Bands/Artists (at the moment):
1. The Beatles
2. Huey Lewis and the News
3. Phil Collins/Genesis

Three of Your Favorite Songs at Present:
1. "When You Wish Upon a Star" from Pinocchio and "Circle of Life" from Lion King
2. "The Long and Winding Road" by the Beatles
3. "Stars" and "Bring Him Home" from Les Miserables

Three New Things You Want to Try in the Next 12 Months:
1. A new career direction
2. Play in a racquetball league and really get myself and family into going to our fitness center a lot more
3. Finish the home improvements we've been planning for years.

Three Things You Want in a Relationship (love is a given):
1. Quality Time
2. Physical Closeness
3. Partnership, Teamwork and Mutual Respect

Two Truths and a Lie:
1. I once had a date laugh in my face when I tried to kiss her goodnight, and continue laughing as I beat a hasty retreat down the front steps to my car.
2. My college roommate and I once collected so many old pizza delivery boxes they stacked higher than our heads in the kitchen, until we discovered the colony of roaches that mistook them for condos.
3. I played the Tin Man in my 6th grade school play, complete with silver makeup, silver cardboard cylinder costume and silver wooden axe that I still own to this day.

Which is the lie? Guess in the Comments

Three Physical Things About the Opposite Sex (or same) That Appeal to You:
1. Full head of hair - my wife's is brown, and she lets it grow out occasionally, and occasionally keeps it short - but I've always loved long, full hair.
2. Eyes that smile and mirror an inner happiness
3. know.... Both of 'em. Well, I do...

Three Things You Just Can’t Do:
1. Roll my tongue into a tube
2. Remember what I came into the kitchen for...
3. Watch a UT football game without getting upset about something.

Three of Your Favorite Hobbies:
1. Reading
2. Watching my kids discover something new and wonderful
3. Childhood nostalgia (70's Saturday Morning TV, etc)

Three Things You Want to do Really Badly Right Now:
1. Take an Aleve
2. Go home and nap on the couch for about three hours
3. Change the hearts and minds of all Americans and convince everyone to start celebrating the Christmas season in December, not September.

Three Careers You’re Considering:
1. Theatre Directing
2. New Media Internet Production
3. Space Exploration (hey, never hurts to be prepared)
Bonus. Buy a boat and become a beach bum in St. Maartin

Three Places You Want to Go on Vacation:
1. Any island in the Caribbean with a "St." in front of it
2. Disney World
3. Scotland

Three Kids Names:
1. Frank Hardy
2. Jupiter Jones
3. Ramona Geraldine Quimby

Three Things You Want to Do Before You Die:
1. Direct a play. A real play, or a musical. For a lot of people, somewhere important and relevant that can get me noticed.
2. Hang glide
3. Conduct a symphony. Wait, conduct "Pines of Rome". Or "American Symphony" from Mr. Holland's Opus. Or anything from Star Wars. Or "1812 Overture". Or "Ride of the Valkyries". Or....

(Hat tip to Sugarfused)

Theatre Thursday

Week 30 - That's a wrap.

We've come to the end of another year, almost. So it's time to pick the best (and worst) of 2004.

1) Which movie do you think was THE BEST of 2004? The worst?

This year I saw (in theatres:) The Incredibles, National Treasure, Shrek II, Spiderman II, The Terminal, Passion of the Christ, Home on the Range, Walking Tall, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (and on DVD:) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Master and Commander, and I, Robot.

My favorite movie of the year - probably Passion of the Christ. Least favorite (of those I saw) - Walking Tall.

2) If you were handing out the Oscar's this year, who would pick as Best Actor and Actress. Name the actor/actress and the film.

Best Actor: Tom Hanks, The Terminal. Best Actress: Maia Morgenstern, Passion of the Christ (Mary)

3) The category is 'best film of 2004'. There are 5 nominees. What 5 movies would be on your list.

Top 5 of what I saw: POTC, The Incredibles, The Terminal, Harry Potter, and Spiderman II.

BONUS) Is there a moving coming out in the upcoming year that you're excited to see? If so, what is it?

Heh. I don't know, gonna have to give that one some serious thought.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Life Support

The hard drive on my main work PC seems to be dying. I got a dreaded "UNABLE TO READ BOOT DRIVE" error message this morning.

Still waiting for the tech docs to come take a look, but till then all I hear is the cardiac monitor:




(longer pause)





Beep. Beep.

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.

Things are looking up!

What a Weekend - Part 3

While I was tooling around town rescuing stranded motorists and generally making the world safe for all mankind, L. was picking up the kids.

On the way home, she noticed lights behind her. Blue lights.

Obediently pulling over, she was cited for driving with expired tags. Actually, she wasn't cited - I was cited, because she was driving my car.

Several months ago - ok, it was last December - my tag renewal form should've come in the mail like everyone else's. It didn't, and I promptly forgot about it.

I realized sometime in May or June that I never got my renewal form, so the sticker on my license plate still says '03. That fact would bounce around my consciousness for the next several months until it got to be about November, when I realized it would probably be a good idea to, you know, get legal.

You can see how well I took my own advice.

So now, I have to show up in court in January to show proof I have renewed my tags. That should be all that required (no fines) but we're afraid there may be court costs. I'll let you know.

Now I have to find time to drive downtown to the courthouse, figure a way to get myself back into the system and get legal again so I can get out of this thing. Meanwhile, the citation is in my car - if I get stopped again, it will be my shield against further citations.


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

You're Killing Me.

You're just killing me....

What a Weekend - Part 2

Well, meanwhile, David's teenage daughter has a chorus concert this evening. She's getting a ride with one of her friends back to the friend's house to change, then David is to pick the two kids up and take them to the movies (and meet our church youth group for a later lockin).

Confusin', ain't it?

I drop off the van at 8:45, leave the keys at the front desk and wait in the van in the rain for David. He pulls up and I climb in, as he takes a call from his daughter - her friend's dad's SUV has a flat. In the dark, in the cold, in the pouring rain.

We're off to the rescue.

By the time we find them a few streets over, we notice numerous other cars pulled off with their hazards on. The friend's dad has finished changing the tire, and tells us part of the street has washed out creating a huge pothole. It actually twisted the rim of the wheel out of shape, and apparently did the same to several other cars.

We follow them to their house, get out and let the girls change while we wait. Turns out the dad belongs to the fitness club we belong to, and plays racquetball...and it just so happens I've been looking for a racquetball partner. Well, whaddya know.

Somewhere it's written in teenage girls' genes that it requires a minimum of 30 minutes to change their clothes, so about 45 minutes later we're headed back out again to the movie theatre.

At this point, I'm along for the ride. Ah, what the heck.

We get to the movies, drop the girls off then run by the grocery store so I can grab a few essentials. Then back to home...

David helps me carry the groceries up to the front door and comes in with me for a moment.

L. meets me at the door. "Guess what. You have a court date..."

(to be continued...)

Monday, December 13, 2004

What a Weekend

Ok, everyone out there who really wants to hear about the exhausting, emotionally draining weekend I had, raise your hands...

(crickets chirp)

Ok, fine. I'll tell you anyway.

Friday night was Parents Night Out at our church, so we made plans with two other couples to drop all our kids off and go out together for dinner, then go back to one of their houses to hang out and play Cranium. So very domestic, yes, but after the past week so very soothing.

Those of you who are local will remember, however, that the floodgates continued to swing wide open and the deluge ensued all day and all night...

I left work a couple of minutes early to pick up some dry cleaning, and began getting the cell phone calls. First letting me know we had reservations at 6:15, then informing me that some of the group might be late, being stuck in the rain traffic.

Myself (always thinking ahead) picks up the cleaning, drops it off at home and heads to the church to meet L. and the kids. My wife was just leaving the pede's office from Tink's checkup, and we get there around the same time at about 5:30. Patiently, we wait for at least one of the other two couples to make it, but 6:00 rolls around and still neither one. I decide to press on to the restaurant to make sure we keep our reservation - braving West Town Mall holiday shoppers, various car wrecks, rampaging rhinos - and get to the restaurant. In time to see one half of the couples is there, waiting, reservation taken care of.

So eventually everyone trickles in, and we have a nice Italian meal.

But there's a 9:00 deadline - I have to drop off our van at the dealer for some work, and they close the gates at 9, which requires a lift back from there. There's no time for going back to someone's house, so we call it a night. One of our friends, David, volunteers to follow me out to the dealership out west while L. takes David's wife back to the church to collect all our kids.

And the rain, rain, rain comes down, down, down...(to be continued...)

Friday, December 10, 2004


Go over to Teresa's (Hatamaran's) place and get ready to give her some good vibes, because she just got some very bad news about a furry friend...

Friday's Feast

Make up a word and give us its definition.

Partisandbox (par-ti-sand'-box) [n] - A state of political being where your side is correct, only correct, always correct no matter who's making the speeches or running for office, and all others are hopelessly wrong, stupid or evil.

What is currently your favorite song?

I don't really have one right now. There's a song my wife and a friend and I are singing in church this Sunday called "The Lord is With You" that's a gorgeous trio between Joseph, Mary and Gabriel - I guess that's my favorite right now.

What's at the top of your Christmas wish list this year?

Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward men. And Puppets. And also chickens.

Main Course
Name a scent that reminds you of someone special in your life.

The smell of hot buttered popcorn reminds me of someone very special: Orville Redenbacher.

Just kidding :)

Actually my wife used to wear Colors perfume when we were dating and first married, and that always reminds me of a very special time in my life :)

Who is someone on television that you feel probably shouldn't be, and why?

You want the long list, or the short list?

Let's see:

Jerry Springer
Anyone connected with WWE
Sean Hannity

I'm sure I'll add others as they occur to me.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

BoB Awards

The Best of Blogs (BoB) Awards seek to recognize the best personal blogs of the year. We strive to recognize the smaller blogs in categories that other competitions would never think to honor. You want political blogs? Sorry, nothing to see here, move along. You want to vote for the Snarkiest Blog? Best Sex Blog? Best Knitting or Crafting Blog? Now you're talking!

Nominations start December 10.

(Hat tip to Sugarfused and Busy Mom)

YES!!!! Just Pack Me Up and Blast Me Off!

Congress OKs private-spaceflight bill
"The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act, or H.R. 5382, now goes to the White House for President Bush's signature. It would put a clear legislative stamp on regulations already being put in place by the Federal Aviation Administration — and more significantly, allow paying passengers to fly on suborbital launch vehicles at their own risk."
If I ever get to go into space - great. It's what I've dreamed of since I first knew what it was.

But if this means a step closer to my kids getting to go into space - even better.

(Note to Brainyboy and Tink: Just remember your old man, huh?)

Theatre Thursday

Week 29 - Merry Christmas

It's the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas.

1) Which holiday movie/special do you have to watch every single year?

"A Christmas Story" and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"

2) Which holiday movie/special could you live without every year?

Sorry, I know Michael recommends it every year but I have no desire to see "Christmas Vacation". Our family tuned in a bit of "Home Alone 2" the other day, but when Kevin started attacking the burglars, I turned it off. That kind of slapstick/pain humor just turns me off in a major way.

3) Do you have any special traditions that you do while watching the holiday films? (i.e - decorating the tree, drinking eggnog, opening gifts)

Generally getting the kids to sit still long enough to watch something with them is tradition enough. But sometimes popcorn or hot chocolate is involved. We were decorating our tree while watching the aforementioned "Home Alone 2".

BONUS) Is there any holiday classic that you would like to see remade? If so, what is it, and who would you like to see play the parts?

I'd love to see "It's a Wonderful Life" with Tom Hanks as George Bailey and Patrick Stewart as Mr. Potter. And Selma Hayek as Mary. (Ok, that last one's just a personal fantasy...)

The Working Life - Part II

The other success I had today (well, now it's yesterday) is I finally got our website tracking to work.

It's fairly important in the web business to know how much traffic your sites are receiving. Now it's common for bloggers to be fairly paranoid about how much site traffic they get - me especially - but in the internet business world it can be crucial, especially when your job depends on putting out a popular and well-designed product for the world.

One of the best indicators is your traffic levels. I use a product called Webtrends, which is pretty much the industry standard for this sort of thing. It reads the log files that are created and added to during every user session on our sites, and assembles them into easily interpreted reports for the huddled masses, like me. Not only does it catch the basics like hits, page views and user sessions, it also detects trends in traffic through the site, dead ends, bad forms, countries of origin and a hundred other things.

My copy of Webtrends quit working in June, and I've been futzing over it ever since.

You know, the whole deal - hood up, parts all over the ground, my hands covered in grease. I even thought about wearing overalls to work but it clashed with the dress code.

The problem, as far as I could figure out, was I would set up all the paramaters and START the report.. It would chug along for a few moments, then just stop. Just stop. No helpful error messages, no nothing.

So yesterday I found an error reporting section of the application I hadn't noticed before, examined it and found out that it was unable to create the report files on the network drive I'd specified. The network drive it had always been able to create them on. A drive I have full access to, being that it's our Intranet drive and I'm responsible for it. Apparently there were some changes made on the drive by our IS department, and the rights were altered slightly.

Okeedokee. One little change....

I switched the destination drive from the network to my PC's hard drive - and if I don't have access to it, I'm in deeper trouble than I thought...

But lo and hebold, it's chugging along swimmingly. Huzzah!!


Did I say June...? I have six months of tracking to catch up on. For 32 websites.

Crap. Wait, was that another email?

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Working Life

I don't often blog about my job, and I don't really know why. Hatamaran and I stare at each other all day and toss jokes (and the occasional wadded up pieces of paper) at each other, so there's no end to the hilarity.

But a couple things noteworthy things happened today that are probably of no interest to anyone but I'm blogging them anyway.

I design and maintain websites for a major health system here in Knoxville. Hint: We own and operate five hospitals here and in the surrounding counties. Hint: We're not Baptist, St. Mary's or UT. You do the math.

Anyway, currently we have a promotion giving away free Holiday Survival Handbooks provided by our Behavioral Health division. There's an order/request form online that gets about 5-6 requests a day from people wanting us to send them a free copy - the majority of which come from in and around this area. All well and good.

I come in this morning, and overnight there are over 200 new requests for Handbooks. I check the email orders that are created, and the addresses are from all over the country. There are a few local ones, but most from everywhere else.

First of all I thought that maybe there was a national promotion, but a quick check with our Behavioral marketing reps nixed that idea. Then a closer look at the orders showed the forms were submitted every 3-4 minutes all night long - wee hours of the morning, even on the West Coast.

And they continued after I got to work this morning - one every 2 or 3 minutes. Each different from the other, each with a random name or address. My next immediate thought was a spam-bot, similar to those that send comment spam on blogs, but I can't figure out why....

The only reason would be to cause trouble, since there's no ad pitch, no marketing gimmick... It seems like someone wrote a program to submit names from a mailing list into the system. Something that I would think would require a bit of work, but hey, I'm the one with the real job.

So, along about 10:45 I pulled the webpage, replacing it with a "Down for Maintenance" message. The emails stopped in their tracks.

An hour or so later, I put it up again - the emails started right back up. So I pulled it again.

While this saves our servers from overuse, it keeps legit customers from requesting the books, which bugs me to no end. I'll probably try to put it up again closer to the end of the day and see what happens.

I just can't figure out why someone would want to do that, except to annoy me...

(looks around suspiciously...)

I'll write about the second thing later...

UPDATE (12/09/04): Well, I thought I had it beat. At 4:00 I reposted the page, and the emails started up again as if the bot was continuing to access the page continually. So I pulled it down, renamed all the files involved, changed the links on the referring pages, and reposted. This should stop it since, like all robots 'bots are stupid and only do what you tell them to do. In this case, go to this particular page and fill out the form with different names and addresses over and over.

So about 4:15 I posted the new page, and it stopped. That way legit customers could navigate their way to it and order, but the bot would by stymied. By the time I left at 4:30, nothing had come through.

This morning, (with human help, I suppose, or else it was designed for this kind of circumstance) it apparently found the new page and started submitting again. Much less often than before - only about 15 since 4:53 yesterday afternoon, and spaced apart very unevenly. I'll keep any eye on it and see what happens, but it's very annoying.

One of the entries was a local Knoxville address, and I'll have to make sure that order gets out...

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

This Just In...

Joker takes charge of Kentucky's offense

In related news, Two-Face has taken charge of South Carolina's offense, Mr. Freeze has taken charge of California, and the Penguin remains in charge at Penn State.

Good night, and have a pleasant tomorrow...

Monday, December 06, 2004

Unfortunate Events

Driving around with BrainyBoy (v8.8) yesterday, I was listening to the Titans post-game show.

"Sigh..." I heard from the back seat.

"What's wrong?"

"Football's just a series of unfortunate events..."

Amen, brother. Amen.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Tomorrow is Just 24 Hours Away...

I've finally gotten the opportunity the last couple of days to start watching (re-watching, rather) the 1st season of 24 I bought on DVD.

Warning: 1st, 2nd and 3rd season spoilers follow, but philosophical commentary abounds...

So far I've watched the first two episodes (12am-1am and 1am-2am) and the differences from the end of Season 3 are striking. Jack is much more flighty, and less driven than he is later (which of course, is understandable given the events of those three seasons.

I still think Teri is bland, bland, bland....with her dark, butch haircut and nonexpressive face it's hard to see Jack falling for her. Maybe the day before she'd just been the the hairstylist and been given a horrible style. Maybe she's normally got long, blonde hair :) After seeing Jack with Nina, Kate, the Mexican girl last year and this season another long blond, it's hard to see Teri was ever his type. But, bland and all, it was still nice seeing her again.

Tony is far from the stand-up guy he will be in later seasons. In truth, at this junction the producers probably weren't sure themselves who the real CTU mole was going to be and were making every agent act suspiciously.

Then there's the eventual turncoat, Nina. Sweetness and light personified, yet horribly ugly to come. It's going to be fun watching all the signals they put in to point her out as the traitor, that we missed the first time around.

Then there's Mason, Walsh, even a mention of Division Director Chappelle...

Ok, here's where the review stops really.

When I first saw Richard Walsh, Jack's superiour and obviously dear friend I thought, "Poor guy - you're going to be dead by the end of the next episode". When I saw George Mason being snarky to Jack, I thought, "Poor guy - you'll redeem yourself next year, catch radiation sickness and eventually sacrifice yourself by flying the plane with the nuke out to the desert." When Teri called Nina to ask for help in finding where Kim had run away too, I thought it ironic that in less than 24 hours, Nina would kill Teri.

Even the one mention of Division Boss Ryan Chappelle made me wonder what he'd think if he knew he'd eventually let himself be shot in the back of the neck by Jack.

At this point Tony has yet to even meet his future wife, Michelle, nor think about how we would be throwing his career and freedom away for her several years later.

It makes me wonder what we would do if we knew our fate. Or knew others'. If Gary Lundy's co-workers at the Knoxville News Sentinel could know a couple of weeks ago that he would be struck down by a fatal heart attack last Monday in the newsroom. What plans had Gary had? He had an 11-year-old son that he undoubtedly was looking forward to seeing grow up, graduate, marry, have children.... But now he can't.

Every person who ever gets in a car has dreams, hopes, plans... Most of us get out of our cars and keep on with our lives, but some people don't. Some people never leave their cars alive.

Obviously none of the jet passengers nor the World Trade Center or Pentagon workers ever thought that September 11, 2001 would be their last days on Earth. Some arrived for work or boarded the planes that morning thinking about what they were going to cook for dinner that night, or looking forward to their daughter's recital next week, or wondering if they had saved enough for retirement, or if they were going to make next month's mortgage payment.

Or if they'd forgotten to kiss their wife goodbye that morning, or regretted yelling at their kids to get ready for school, because I have to make the Manhatten bus RIGHT NOW!

If they all had known today would be their last day, would they have done things differently that morning? If they had known on September 4 that they would be killed the next week, would they have taken time to set some things right that they'd been putting off?

If that dad that's about to be hit by a drunk driver and thrown from their SUV to land in a ditch and slowly bleed to death had known they would die that day...would he have read to his daughter before bed the previous night instead of watching the end of the football game?

Foresight is a dangerous thing.

Cassandra of ancient Greek mythology was cursed to know the future, but unable to get anyone to believe her. Somehow I'd like to believe we know the future. One day each of us will no longer be here, and there will be no more chances.

Take the chances now.

UPDATE: After rereading this, I'm reminded of just such a chance that was taken on 24.

In the second season, George Mason is accidently exposed to a lethal dose of radiation. He knows that he has less than 24 hours to live, and is forced to deal with that foreknowledge. George locates his estranged son, who lives in LA, and invites him out to CTU headquarters to meet with him. The son is understandably resistant but George eventually is able to at least make his peace with his son.

This is just what I'm talking about. If he had not been able to resolve this conflict before he died, it would never have been cleared up and his son would've lived the rest of his life not knowing what his father had to say.



I'm now convinced I'm getting too old for this.


Thursday, December 02, 2004

Friday's Feast

Tell about a toy you remember from your childhood.

One of prized toy possessions, which I actually still have and my kids play with, is my Star Wars Death Star Space Station play set. Three stories tall with control panels, a trash compactor, tractor beam cutoff, turbolaser and retractable bridge plus an elevator made this the home of many galactic adventures...

If you could make one thing in the world absolutely free for everyone, what would it be?

My first thought would be to make every musical recording or composition available to anyone on the planet who wanted to listen to it. That would probably not be good to the pocketbooks of the people who wrote and/or recorded the music...but then, what could you possibly give away free that wouldn't hurt someone?

Of course, giving away freedom without the price we and they are paying for it now would be nice. I don't think many people would mind giving up that price.

Approximately how many times per day do you think about your significant other?

Well, since my wife and I work for the same company, work with many of the same people and even interact professionally from time to time I think about her more than most working husbands do in that respect. When not in a professional setting...I still think about her all the time.

Mostly wondering if she's going to notice I forgot to take out the garbage, or something...

Main Course
Name something you believe in 100%.

I believe 100% that you should never believe in anything 100%. Always leave room for the possible - even in religion, and especially in politics.

List 3 things you did this year that you would consider a "good deed."

1) I agreed to teach Sunday School to the Senior High Youth at my church
2) I (hopefully) helped out a friend in a dark time in their life

3) I helped build a Habitat for Humanity house, and gained a new appreciation for the people who put up aluminum siding...

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

This Stinks...

Actually, it really, really stinks - just on general principles.

Mississippi fires Cutcliffe after 4-7 season
"Mississippi coach David Cutcliffe was fired Wednesday after his first losing season in six years with the Rebels, a source close to the football program told The Associated Press."
Cutcliffe was Tennessee's offensive coordinator for a number of years, culminating in our National Championship season of 1998. For that, as a former Vol coach, this upsets me.

But what upsets me more is the attitude these days that coaches should be fired for one losing season.
"Cutcliffe was 44-29 in six seasons at Ole Miss, 25-23 in the Southeastern Conference, and just a season removed from going 10-3 season and finishing tied for first in the SEC West with Eli Manning at quarterback."
Which basically says you screw up once, and you're out.
"Cutcliffe was the only coach in school history to win at least seven games in his first five years."
Nice going, Ole Miss. Hope those boosters are happy. Archie Manning....did you have a hand in this? I hope not.

Dan Aykroyd

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I'd love to ask actor Dan Aykroyd some questions about the choices he's made in his career.

Well, lo and behold here's a recent interview with him that addresses some of those very questions.
"Question: How picky are you? Good comedies are hard to come by and you've been doing this for so long now. Are you very selective?

Aykroyd: Obviously I'm not too picky if I got into Caddyshack 2 and a few other clunkers out there. But you have to look at how these things come to you. An executive calls you up and says he has your script on the table and he'll produce it for you if you play this part n Caddyshack 2. So if you want to see your script made you have to make certain deals."

UPDATE: (12/14/04)
I never finished my thoughts on this post..

Aykroyd has always been a little different. Not just an actor, but an intellectual. I have a feeling if he hadn't gone into acting, he might actually be a little like Dr. Ray Stantz on Ghostbusters. Even now, he sponsors a paranormal/UFO nonprofit organization and website. Not only an intellectual, he's a producer, director, writer - one of those kind of Hollywood people not just content to put in their hours in front of the camera and retreat back to the trailer. Because of these ambitions, Aykroyd has to make compromises at times to get his projects out there and in production. Some of these compromises were, unfortunately, like Caddyshack 2. And probably the Ghostbuster cameo he made in Casper, though I'm not sure. I've always respected him as an actor and filmmaker, and I'm sorry that not enough of the established Hollywood elite believed that enough to give him the freedoms he needed for his art.