Danged whippersnapers and their motoring

I’ve never had a driveway before, and I’ve discovered one irritating thing about it: people tend to use it to turn around in.
There I am, sitting in the living room, and a car pulls up into my driveway. There’s a twinge of excitement with the thought that someone — anyone — has come to visit me; although I can’t imagine who it might be other than one or two people I know here.
Then comes the realization that it is someone using my driveway as a convenient turnaround so that they can park on this side of the street.
That’s very disappointing. And makes me feel just let down enough to want to pull my car from its usual parking spot at the back of the house to close out near the street just to keep people from doing it.
Trust me, soon I will be an old man who yells at kids to stay off his lawn. If I’m not already that man, of course.

Last Night Was a Big Rain

It was a doozy here, the heavy rain whipped up by really high winds — it drove the rain against the windows, which were rattling around like there was an earthquake. There were ominous noises outside, booms and bangs, which kept me looking out to see what was happening, but I never saw anything other than wind.
This morning, during a short, sunny lull in the weather, I wandered out to see what had happened. (I took a bunch of photos with my new cell phone, but they all turned out blurry. Why can’t these little camera snap a photo quickly enough to eliminate the blur of being held in the hand?)
The street is covered in the typical sort of debris, little branches and leaves everywhere. They were clogging the storm drains, so I moved them so that the flooded street corners could drain.
At the end of the street, one yard was completely buried under fallen branches from several trees. In fact, one tree has part of its trunk sheared off. It almost looked like there was a microburst just beside that one house.
My house is unscathed — a couple of gutter downspouts were blown off, but they weren’t really secured in any way to begin with.
More of the storm is coming… and with it, the migraines that I always experience when there is a sudden change in the weather and pressure changes.
But I’m patient, and soon the sunny, warm San Jose weather will return.

Apple Sherlock

All this Apple drama is getting to be too much. How did Steve Jobs manage to create such insanity around that company? Every move is scrutinized, predicted, and rumored to death.
Last night Jann woke me up calling to tell me that there was a new device being launched that downloads movies in your home. I sleepily pointed out that Disney had tried this years ago. Turns out, that was what he was talking about: MovieBeam. Back when this was first released, industry pundits said that it would flop–and it did. It relied on downloading movies over the air using portions of TV station bandwidth. Evidently, they’ve now upgraded it so that it downloads over the internet instead. But it still has several problems in my opinion, including:

  • Because it must download movies, it is not instant like Comcast’s On Demand feature, although they say “instantly” in their marketing. They send out a certain number of movies every week, which replace older ones on your box. If there aren’t any movies you want to see, you have to wait to find out what they transmit next week. It’s not an “On Demand” service. Unlike Netflix, you can’t choose what is sent to you. You pay for the box. You pay for the new account service. And you still have to pay each time you watch the movie. “Rented” movies are only good for 24 hours.
  • They also say “Never leave home for movies again.” That’s a charming slogan, let’s all never leave home again!
  • How many of us really want another box and its assorted cables to connect to our TVs which don’t have enough connections for it?
  • The box has no other capabilities, it just plays the movies downloaded to it. In that respect, it’s like another DVD player, taking up space. They should have combined this with a DVR device so that it could at least earn it’s keep taking up a TV connection.

Now, the reason this comes up in the context of Apple. I can’t find any confirmation anywhere of this, but Jann said that MovieBeam was using FairPlay DRM — which would mark the first time that Apple has licensed its DRM technology. This is the same format they use on the iTunes Music Store.
Then this morning, he called and woke me up again with the news that Apple was buying Disney. I was very skeptical, and explained my reasoning. It turns out that Barron’s made the comment that Apple should buy Disney, not would; but that was enough to set off the Apple fanatics out there and they’re jumping to a conclusion — the same way they see a Photoshopped image on the web and jump to the conclusion that Apple is about to release an iPod with a touch screen, a flashlight, a toenail clipper, and a corkscrew.
Time will tell of course, and if Apple does buy Disney I’ll be shocked and bewildered. And worried that it means the end of the Macintosh. Who knew that Apple’s biggest enemy all along was Sony?
Meanwhile, two other interesting Apple developments for people to ruminate on: they’ve been buying up and leasing lots of office space around here for a while now — lots. And now it seems that they are buying up data centers, including a large one here in the Bay Area.

Data centers generally house computing, data-storage and networking equipment assisting in Web-based services and transactions. The most elaborate “Tier IV” centers such as the Newark facility have the highest levels of redundancy and security, and can cost upwards of $1,200 per square foot to erect and equip. Cupertino-based Apple, which declined to discuss its facilities, is thought to have paid in the vicinity of $450 per foot.

So, what’s that all about? Apple buys up a bunch of data centers? What are they going to be doing with them? An iTunes Movie Store?
I’m almost as bad as those other rumor mongers.

[Update: Turns out that the Disney MovieBeam service still uses over-the-air broadcasts to deliver movies. It has broadband internet interfaces and they claim these will be used "in the future"; but for now, all movies are sent over local TV station signals. So add this to the list of problems: you'll need to get an antenna put on your house.]

A Winning Strategery

I’m wondering — why isn’t there a member of the minority in Congress willing to stand up, every day, and ask: “Why hasn’t this administration captured Osama bin Laden?”
I think someone should ask that question every day, because the White House has done a very good job of focusing attention on Saddam Hussein and Iraq, and shifting it away from the actual enemy out there.
Am I the only one who thinks the Bush administration looks inept over its inability to track and capture this man?
Of course, if say a Democrat steps up to ask this question, it could backfire quickly as I don’t think the Democrats are any better equipped to capture him.

Hard living in Mayberry

This weekend, two rather famous actors died — Don Knotts and Darin McGavin. Knotts, of course, is remembered for his portrayal of Barney Fife, and McGavin will go down in history as The Night Stalker.
Here’s the interesting thing: Knotts was 81 when he passed away — he certainly seemed older than that. But McGavin was 83. Who would have guessed that Darin McGavin was older than Don Knotts?

House Proud

It has taken nearly three months, but I’m finally beginning to feel happy about buying this house. Sure, I’m still worried about paying the enormous mortgage; but today in particular, I feel good.
The temperature is back to 70°, Diego has settled in and loves spending his day following the sun around the house. I work here in my little home office with the French doors open to the backyard. This has become a little haven, and being able to look over my backyard, green and cool and peaceful, has really calmed me down and helped me relax a bit.
No, I still don’t have a job other than my freelance work. Yes, the cost of living here is astronomical. Yes, I miss my friends an co-workers back home. But at least one part of my decision to move here is working out just fine.
Nonetheless, seeing my property tax reassessment has just undone what relaxation I was able to get earlier.

No news is relaxing

At the beginning of the week, I was going to write another political post about the UAE port deal — but I decided to put it aside for a bit and try to have a week without politics, without news, just to pretend for a short while that the world was happy and peaceful and there were no problems to worry about.
Well, except for the property tax bill that arrived this week.
I feel much better about things because the port deal blew up almost immediately into a major scandal. I hadn’t expected that, but it seems that the media have finally started to take notice of weird things happening with the Bush White House. Took long enough, didn’t it? I wondered to myself what would have happened if they’d been reporting news like this before the last election. How did Karl Rove and the rest keep the media so cowed for so long?
Of course, just because the media got a backbone doesn’t mean that the world is happy and safe. But at least I don’t feel alone anymore. And there is still plenty to worry about in the media, as well. In fact, we might be at the beginning of a completely new political force as the media increasingly turns over its responsibilities for uncovering news to bloggers. The citizen press is creating the news these days, the media is just using it for punditry.

Cords Loosing

Can’t stop myself. Here’s my anagram map of Metrorail, Washington’s subway. Wherever possible, I tried to tailor the anagrams to the specific place or a general Washington, DC sort of commentary. For example, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport becomes “Ghost Nonagenarian Drawl, Irrational to Nap.”

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By popular demand, you can pick up a shirt with the station list at Cafepress.
(See also the Santa Clara VTA Map.)

Take a little ride

Since I was playing around with the VTA map, I decided to go ahead and add placemarks for the VTA on Google Earth. Now I can visualize where the stations are, since as a newbie I have no idea where it goes. Download the KMZ file here.

Mama Sang Rap*

Its the latest thing! Get on the bandwagon!
Yes, it seems that the net is suddenly flooded once one person comes up with a good idea. Today that idea is a subway map using anagrams for station names. And never let it be said that I wasn’t right on top of that bandwagon!
Here’s a map I did for the Santa Clara Valley light rail system. It wasn’t as easy as it looks. (Click for a full size version.)

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Oh, and here’s the anagram map for the Washington Metro.
* Map Anagrams

Wine is for rich people

I’m telling you, my flirtation with learning about wines and buying good ones — rather than the cheap stuff from Safeway — is going to cost me.
First I got six bottles from the J Lohr winery; then I picked up a few more bottles of the Coppola that I like… and then I picked up a small wine cooler to keep it all in.
You know how it is when you go to Costco, you never get out of there for less than, say, $2000. Today I picked up the wine refrigerator, two bottles of wine, three pot roasts, some ink for my printer, and… oh, yes. Three bottles of Dom Perignon.
Well, I’ve never had it before and I’ve never really felt like I should spend so much on a bottle of something you’ll drink; but hey, it was relatively cheap, and I have a 40th birthday coming up in 6 months. (Two of the bottles are for Jann, so don’t yell that throw my money around willy nilly. He’s paying for them.)
Anyway, Costco is astonishing in that you can buy very few items and still rack up a balance on that credit card. It’s always a surprise when you get the total and by then you would feel guilty or conspicuous by saying “Oh, put that $100 champagne back, it’s too expensive.”
It’s not cheap living like a rich man.

Freaks Wanted

Dear Volkswagen:
Your new commercials are freaking me out.
I’m sure you meant them to be tongue in cheek, evidence of some sort of a sense of humor… but in fact, they are just creepy in the extreme.
May I suggest that it might be time to resurrect the Fahrvergnügen campaign? At least we could understand that one.

Umarmungen und Küsse,
Gene