Blog Sites Tech Useful

Hey, I can see my house from here!

On Sunday most people got their first glimpse of MSN Virtual Earth (well, the PR started Sunday at any rate) and frankly… it’s pretty damn cool.  Imagine the useful features of Google earth… but in a web page… no software installer needed (unless, of course, you’re not running a modern browser, but then you’re probably on a 200 baud modem as well). 

The site is cool for what it is, but it gets better, the Virtual Earth team thought ahead and built in some cool functionality to allow people to create custom maps… so one of our architects did.  To the see the fruits of his handiwork go to the start preview, click the down arrow next to the “start preview” logo and select “MSN Bloggers Map” from the Popular Feeds/Staff picks section.  Voila, a list of MSN bloggers showing their office locations on a satellite picture. 

Think about how fantastic this is; we’ve made stalking accessible to the insanely lazy and clinically agoraphobic.

Web Weird

Sadistic? Maybe. Hypnotic? Definitely.

I don’t understand exactly why… but I’m mesmerized by this:

Try grabbing them by the feet.

Idle Life Sites Useful

Eye scream, you scream…

From high school biology I remember that blue eyes is recessive and brown eyes is dominant.  I have blue eyes… so I have two recessive blue eye genes… should I have children, that’s all I can pass on.  If my wife had brown eyes then I’d know that our children would likely have brown eyes but possibly blue.  My education was useful up to the point I married a green-eyed lady (who here is old enough to remember Sugarloaf? Raise your hand… but don’t pull anything, please).

The other day while discussing genetics and eugenics with Imran my curiosity got the better of my and I did a search for an eye color calculator.  My search turned up a very nice page which happens to be hosted by our local Tech Museum.  My question has finally been answered: 66% chance for green eyes, 33% chance for blue.  Want to know your chances?  Make sure you know your parents’ eye color, your mate’s parents’ eye color, your mate’s eye color and your eye color then go to the Tech’s eye color calculator.  Note, if you can’t remember your own eye color you’re in trouble… if you can’t remember your mate’s eye color you’re in really big trouble.

Now I now the odds for eye color… if I could just find out if they’ll inherit her good looks or my idiocy.


Idle Toys Web Weird


When I was a kid… aw heck, I’m still a kid.

Let me start again, when I was 9 my G.I. Joes used to “hang out” with my sister’s Barbie dolls (hey, I was 9, give me a break).  I can’t imagine, however, a Jesus Action Figure doing the same thing. 


Perhaps I just need to wait for the Mary Magdalene doll.

Gear Idle Tech TV

Technology that works

My DirecTV TiVo died a month or two ago so I went out and bought a new one (well… it was a shelf model but works great).  The old unit I just kept on a shelf, suspecting the problem was one of the hard drives… and since I had broken the seal and added a new hard drive warranty was out of the question.

This weekend I finally got around to taking an extra hard drive, imaging it and sticking it in the dead TiVo.  The process was not simple due to an intersection of no UNIX knowledge and aversion to reading instructions but it worked.  The DirecTiVo is back up again! 

But wait… I had the unit disconnected for over a month and DirecTV no longer recognized it.  I could tune to the help channels but couldn’t get any real channels.  Every channel has the same message, call DirecTV, extension 722.  Crap!  It was Sunday night… there was no way DirecTV employees were going to be around to help me.  <sigh> Okay, time to break down and call DirecTV, wade through thousands of voice prompts and button presses only to get a “call us Monday” message.

Thank you for calling DirecTV.  For English press 1, para Espanol …
For faster service, please use our automated phone system for paying your bills or adding services.  If you have a 3 digit code or extension displayed on your TV, please press it now, if…
One moment while we check your configuration.  Please check your TV…

What?  I turn and look at the TV… the TiVo is reacquiring satellite data and then the picture shows up.  Freaking magical.  I dialed their automatic phone support, it recognized my caller ID, I input the code and it corrected the problem… no human required.  You see, this is the type of thing people like me in the software industry want to do, but it never quite comes out right and then you end up with things like the Comcast PVR (so Omar, can you record a new show yet without a reboot?).

Idle Life Travel

We ordered cheese sticks

Vegas in July, sounds like a great idea, right?  109 degrees in the shade… tourists in wife-beaters… wondering if the misters use “reclaimed” water.

Scary as it sounds we had a fab-tastic time.  We ate some great food at Delmonico Steakhouse (the waiter screwed up my order… but brought me something delicious… no harm no foul), we watched a great show, Zoomanity (the reviews were mixed on this cabaret-style twist on Cirque du Soleil but Paula and I loved it) and, above all, we had some great company.  It was a great way to spend Mike’s 40th birthday.

One fun part of the trip: Dick had never been to Vegas.  Claimed he was never going to go… would have anything to do with it.  Can you guess?  He loved it.  He’s going back.  In about a month.  My prediction: he’ll go every weekend for a year then we’ll need to perform an intervention.

Here’s a picture of some of the gang walking through the Venetian… looking very much like a still from a Vegas heist movie.


What’s Omar looking at you ask?  I’d wager it’s his Treo™ 650 smartphone.  He’s the next one who will need an intervention after Dick.

Oh, and yes, the cheese sticks were very good.

Idle TV Web Weird

You see Theo…

In the 70’s I used to listen to my dad’s Bill Cosby albums, in the 80’s I used to watch the Cosby show and in the 90’s I cringed when Bill Cosby would go on one of his inevitable moral tirades against [insert vice here].  Now, the Internet has provided me with a cathartic poke at America’s favorite overbearing parent… House of Cosbys.


If you want to enjoy some well produced, animated hilarity, hop on over to channel 101 and check out the first four episodes.  You may want to hurry, however… the Cosby lawyers already have gotten wind of the show and the animators have been served with a cease and desist (and none-too-soon, the show is obviously destroying America’s morality… House of Cosbys is without-a-doubt the inspiration for MTV’s Jackass, NBC’s Fear Factor and the perpetually disgusting Oprah Winfrey).

And now, for something completely different (yet totally related)… my short list of people who take themselves waaaaaay too seriously:
   Bill Cosby
   Tom Cruise

Dogs Idle

Tipsy dog, one month on

It’s been about a month since Nala’s second episode of vestibulitis and she is as happy as ever.  She isn’t, honestly, back to 100% though… she’s not even back to 100% of where she was before the second attack (which wasn’t 100% of where she was before the first attack).  Her balance is fine as long as she keeps her head up and is looking around.  She’s unable, for example, to look over her shoulder at us when walking so she has to turn around to see if we’re there (which usually results in us either gracefully tripping over her or hopping around her like epileptic pigmy dancers).

Every time she stumbles, slips or falls we feel terrible for her.  “Poor thing, she just doesn’t understand what’s happening.”  We feel bad… but when I think about it rationally, I honestly think Nala couldn’t be happier.  Her only complaint at this time appears to be that we’re feeding her dog food (the nerve we have to feed her anything but steak!).  Sometimes it helps me to put it all in context: she has survived being taken away from her parents without visitation rights, she had one of her legs chopped off, she was given to the humane society by her owners of eight years, she had Idiopathic Peripheral Vestibular Disease not once… but twice and yet still has managed to make it to 14 years of age.  I don’t think I could manage to be as happy and pleasant as she is if all that stuff happened to me.

Yep… of all the role models out there I just hope I can live up to the example set by my dog.

Nala Waving

What follows can be considered reference material.  If you’re looking for information on old dog vestibulitis, read on.

Here is some more information pulled off the forum.  This post by one of the forum’s contributing vets in 2000 gives an excellent description of the disease and diagnosis:

In reference to Cindy Ascher’s friend’s Labrador:  What you have described does not sound like a seizure at all, but a sudden onset of a vestibular (balance) problem, which is very common in old dogs. The classic symptoms are that side-to-side eye movement that you described (called Nystagmus) and a head tilt or tendency to walk or fall to one side. In the absence of any signs of an external ear infection which could have caused an infection in the inner ear also (this would cause similar signs), the usual diagnosis is “Old Dog Vestibulitis” of unknown cause. Occasionally a brain tumor can do this, but is much less likely. Part of the problem in communicating about and in diagnosing seizures is that what one owner has called a “seizure” may not be what the examining vet thinks of as a seizure. To us vets, a “seizure” is a convulsion, like epilepsy, where the dog is on its side, its neck and head arched backward, and virtually all the muscles spasming uncontrollably, particularly the mouth and the legs; A dog that simply can’t coordinate his legs to stand up and panics because he can’t, is not actually having a seizure. With vestibular signs, the dog thinks that “down” is in another direction than what gravity should be telling him. He is basically very dizzy and confused. The good news is that most cases of Old Dog Vestibulitis or Vestibular Syndrome get better very quickly with no treatment at all. The most important element is good nursing care, because they may not be able to get up to eliminate, and may not be able to get their mouth oriented properly to drink or eat, so they need assistance. I am curious to know if this is what the vet was diagnosing in Cindy’s friend’s dog.

Lucy L. Pinkston DVM

You can also find a recent discussion on the topic in the forums here: