Welcome, Internet.

home_washington_welcome_signAfter decades (yes, plural, it turns out) of maintaining a ridiculously out-of-date website on one host, I’ve switched over to WordPress.com.

Lots of traffic is probably looking for the Kafka resources and other things I had on the old site.  I haven’t moved it over yet, but will get to it eventually.

In the meantime, here’s one of my favorite YouTube videos:


My Pros and Cons of my Honda CR-V


I bought a Honda CR-V about a year ago – after owning two Jeep Cherokees in a row.  I wish I could have gotten a third Cherokee, because over the past year I’ve not been very happy with the CR-V.  Below is a list (in no particular order) of things I don’t like about it, and some things I do.  I tried to only include objective things, and not just things that I liked better about the Jeep.

Bad things

  • the windshield wiper controls (sticking out of the steering column) work opposite of what I would expect – you move it down to turn it on and increase speed, and move it up for slower speeds and to turn it off.  Also, when it’s in the “off” position, you can push it up to make the wipers go just once – except, there’s no real indicator that it’s in the off position, so sometimes I think it’s off and it’s not
  • the speedometer is marked at 20, 40, 60, 80, with no numbers for at 30, 50, 70, etc.  The problem with this is most US speed limits are 35, 45, 55, etc, so when you glance down to check your speed to see if you’re doing 35, you have to calculate whether or not the needle is 3/4 the way between 20 and 40
  • the dome light stays on for 30 seconds after turning car off.  I hate this because I’ll be all the way across the parking lot and away from my car, yet anyone near it can clearly see what’s inside
  • daytime running lights on all the time.  This just seems like a waste to me.  It also means I can’t sit somewhere to eat lunch in the car with it running, because the lights being on makes it looks like I might move at any time
  • dome light comes on as soon as you take the key out, rather than when you open the door.  Also annoying.  Anything that takes control away from me in favor of “convenience” annoys me
  • the roof luggage racks too close together.  Serious, they’re about two feet apart, which means any large load is basically secured at one point.  Stupid
  • the antenna is center back of roof, making it hard to put large flat loads on top – something like a mattress or couch or 4×8 sheet of plywood. Or even one kayak – nothing can be centered on the roof, because the antenna is in the way
  • 6-disc CD changer is extremely slow to load or switch between discs.  It would be faster to have a single CD player and let me just change discs myself
  • the scan stop on the radio is too long.  It’s like ten seconds, rather than three.  Which means, if you put the radio on scan, you have to listen to terrible stuff for a full seven seconds after you’ve decided you don’t like it.  Or do what I do, and just keep hitting the scan button to turn scan off and back on, to move to the next station
  • the keys are too big – they have the built in remote unlock, which means it is very bulky and uncomfortable to keep in your pocket.  Even the “valet” key is too big to comfortably fit in a pocket – and forget about hiding a spare somewhere
  • oh, and the RFID in the key means replacements have to be done by dealer and cost $50
  • only the driver door has lock – not even the rear hatch has a way to unlock with a key.  This annoys me because I carry the valet key instead of the super-huge one with the remote unlock buttons, which doesn’t fit in my pocket.  This means that I can’t unlock the passenger door for anyone who is with me, nor can I just unlock the rear hatch when I’m carrying something big that I want to put in there
  • the fold-away back seats are poorly designed – they don’t fold flat, they block access the back when they are folded up (I can’t reach my arm back there without lifting up off the seat, and they use a stupid strap to hold them up when folded away so they don’t slam back down
  • the all-wheel drive only kicks in after the car starts to slip – which means I’m already off my steep icy driveway before I get traction (the Jeep’s 4-wheel drive, that I could shift into manually when I knew I’d need it, is much better)
  • it has a huge windshield, which means clearing off lots of snow/ice – which is hard for even me to reach
  • the gas cap has inside-the-car release lever, which is dumb and I never remember to flip it
  • the center console wastes lots of space because it folds down – either you can’t put anything under it to reserve the ability to fold it down, or you lose the ability to fold it down
  • no 24-hour time setting on clock
  • no intermittent wipers – just off, low, high, and super-high, and it’s rare that any of their speed settings actually fit the conditions
  • there is no way to check time when car is off – how dumb is it that you can’t push a button on the dash to make the clock display the time?  You have to insert the key and switch it to accessories, and then wait of course, to know what time it is
  • very bad visibility when backing up, especially into a parking spot – it’s hard to see around, but very difficult to see down.  Actually, visibility is pretty poor all around, with lots of blind spots
  • passenger seat airbag has a light that lights up OFF when it is off.  Why is it important to communicate this to me?  Anytime there is some – but not a lot of – weight on passenger seat (like groceries, books, etc), that OFF light comes on.  And when I go over a bump and the weight is relived from the seat, the light goes off.  Then it comes back on again when it senses the weight.  So constantly, right in the top center of the dashboard, a light is flashing on and off for no useful reason at all
  • the windshield wipers are different sizes, which means I have twice as many lengths to remember when I go to replace them
  • you can’t sit on the bumper.  When I’m taking a break from shoveling the driveway or working in the yard, sitting on the bumper was a pretty convenient place to rest – not any more!
  • I hate the power window control that makes it go all the way up or down – it’s really not so much trouble to hold the button myself for those few seconds, and it’s really easy to accidentally hit the auto button so I’m constantly fighting with it to open the window just a crack
  • the rear side windows are blocked by headrests, so when I turn around in the driver’s seat to back up, I can’t really see to the sides at all
  • steering wheel blocks some dashboard gauges – this might be due to my height (6′), but I think it would be true for anyone
  • back windows don’t go all the way down – this is annoying, and sometimes I need to stick long things out of the window (like tools or boards or something) and I hate having to rest them on the glass
  • there is no room under or next to the front seats – more storage is always good, and these are obvious spots for storage
  • the spare tire is under the floor in the back – which means if you have anything in there, it all has to come out to access the spare tire (like, if you’re on a trip and blow a tire on the highway). Also, it turns out the wheel well for the spare is not big enough to hold a full-size spare. This CR-V came with a donut, and when I replace it with a full-size spare, the lid to that compartment doesn’t close, and instead rests on the sidewall of the spare
  • the body is all shapey and molded to be aerodynamic, which means the read lights are right in line with the rest of the body, which means they get covered by snow and ice easily, which means you pretty much have to clean off the entire back of the car, not just the read window
  • and one intangible: there are so many identical CR-Vs out there, it feel like it has no character or personality.  I liked my Jeeps because they were my Jeeps, and everyone could recognize them as that.  This CR-V is just anonymous and blah

Good things

  • the digital dashboard has two odometers, which you can use to range an entire trip as well as individual tanks of gas
  • the digital dashboard also includes range estimation for the amount of gas you have left (which isn’t entirely accurate, but nice nonetheless), and also show you your average mileage for your current speed (also inaccurate as a snapshot, but seems more accurate when looked at for an entire trip)
  • the read hatch has multiple hand-holds inside that makes closing it easier
  • there are two glove boxes, and storage is always good
  • rear wiper is smart – it seems to turn on when the front wipers are, on and you shift into reverse, so you can see out the back window
  • there’s enough headroom, even for me



Business Idea: College Crap Capsule

storage signEveryone knows what a time capsule is, right – you put a bunch of junk in it, don’t open it for twenty years, and then enjoy going through the junk again.

I think this would be a perfect business model for a storage company – especially when the target market is college seniors.

When I was in college (’92-’96), my roommates and I accumulated all kinds of Miscellaneous Debris. When we get together now, we often talk about cool stuff we had, and wish we still had it. Of course the realities of life mean you can’t keep all that stuff – and really, you certainly don’t need all that stuff, but it still is fun to reminisce.

So, this company would help with that. When someone graduates college, instead of throwing away all the cool stuff, or instead of trying to keep it and then getting rid of it slowly as you move, get married, etc., the business model would be that they would create a “college capsule” that this company would keep and store for you. The, after 20 years or whatever, you’d get it back and enjoy remembering it all and reliving college life.

I think that would be neat, however, there would be some problems. First, it would probably be A Lot of junk, so whatever storage facility the company used would need to be huge. Second, I think you’d need to have the person check in with the company every five years or something, just to make sure the company could re-locate them when the 20 year period was over. Which would be too bad. I think many people would have forgotten entirely that they did this, and how great would it be for them for the company to show up with their capsule one day out of the blue? That seems like the fun part of a time capsule – not knowing what’s inside.

Words to Live By

Keep Calm and Carry OnHere’s a collection of “words to live by” that I’ve heard during my life – some I try to follow, others I just remember for whatever reason. Bonus life points to anyone who can cite the sources:

Love may fail, but courtesy prevails.

  1. Bones heal.
  2. Chicks dig scars.
  3. Pain is temporary.
  4. Glory is forever.

Drive fast, take chances.

  • Show up early
  • Work hard
  • Leave things better than you found them

Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes

  • The Lord loves a working man
  • Don’t trust whitey
  • If you catch is, see a doctor and get rid of it

Adventure, excitement, a Jedi craves not these things.

[if you ever sing the National Anthem before a sporting event]
Sing it fast, sign it straight, and don’t mess up the words.

Know the Gender of Your Baked Goods

Boy brownieOnce upon a time, my friend Banjo Mike’s daughters explained to me how to tell if your piece of pizza was a boy or a girl. This was my first experience in sexing food (and even I will admit that it seemed based on suspiciously flimsy grounds).

However, did you know that there really are gender differences between things like brownies, cookies, and M&Ms? It’s quite easy to tell: the boy ones have nuts, and the girl ones don’t.

Rules of the Office Candy Dish

Candy Bowl on office deskWhile there is some literature already devoted to the office candy bowl (does it make your coworkers fat, fatter, or just happy), I wanted to lay down some rules as to the mechanics of candy dish protocol:

  1. If you have two bowls on the same desk, they should not contain the same kind of candy (ie, two bowls right next to each other both filled with Hersey’s Kisses [unless they are different kinds])
  2. An extension of Rule 1 is, no two bowls in the same office should have the same candy – if one person already has Tootsie Rolls in their candy dish, no one else in the office is allowed to have Tootsie Rolls in their dish too. After all, variety is the spice of life
  3. Unwrapped candy (such as M&Ms) should only be in bowls that don’t allow people to dip their whole hands in – they should either have to be dumped out, scooped with a spoon, or dispensed through a spout
  4. It is okay to mix different kinds of wrapped candy in the same bowl
  5. It is not okay to mix wrapped and unwrapped candy in the same bowl
  6. It is never okay to mix chocolate and mints in the same bowl (because the chocolate will pick up the mint flavor)

Funny story about M&Ms: a coworker of mine once conducted an experiment to see how disgusting and unappealing he could make a bowl of M&Ms and still have people eat them. First, he kept a bowl on his desk to see who in the office would use a spoon to scoop some out, or tip some out into their hand, or just delve their bare hand in and grab some. Next, he started leaving things in the bowl – a pencil, a paperclip, the phone cord, etc. – to see if anyone would be deterred. Finally, he put the bowl on the sink in the men’s room – and even still, within a few days all the M&Ms were gone.

Product Idea: Weight Loss Daily Affirmation Toilets

Urinal shaped like a mouthAlmost everybody is concerned about their weight, right? But at the same time, most people don’t have the motivation to actually do anything about it. But should those lazy people be deprived of feeling good about losing weight? I think not.

So, here’s my idea. A person’s weight fluctuates throughout the day, right? Especially, presumably, right after you go to the bathroom (meaning #2). So why not have a toilet with a built-in scale? It would weigh you when you first sit down, and then when you stand up, speak aloud to you the change in your sit-down versus stand-up weight.

Everyone is sure to lose a couple pounds in this process, I think, and it seems like it would be a nice, daily reminder to hear a reassuring voice say,

Congratulations, you are now two pounds lighter.

I think we’d have to stick with the difference, rather than the absolute weight- focus on the loss, rather than the total amount (which may indeed be rising and demotivating).

The other great thing about the Weight Loss Daily Affirmation Toilet is that is should appeal to both genders – women have the stereotype of being weight-conscious, so they’d probably like to hear they lost weight. And men have the stereotype of being immature, so they’d probably like to find out how massive their dump was.

See, a win-win.

New Words and Old Words and Book Idea

I took the summer off, but the Oxford English Dictionary didn’t. News has it they just released a list of new words they added to the dictionary. That’s nice.

Oxford English Dictionary

But here’s what I’d like to see: a list of all the words they remove from the dictionary. I’m sure it happens with every revision – archaic words that have fallen out of use are culled from the language by the vocabulary monitors.

Which is fine, but I’m curious about this, and I think a good book idea would be to publish a book of all the words that have been removed.

But since this would probably bring some of them back into popular usage, they’d then have to be re-added to the dictionary again, and I have a feeling that the dictionary people discourage this flip-flopping. Merriam-Webster’s website wants us to forget about these words, but that is like forgetting your history. A book containing all these words would be a handy and culturally-important thing, and therefore should exist.

But oh, I guess it does – it’s called “old dictionaries.” Oh well.

Update: Hey, this is neat: OED has a “vault of failed words.”

New Toy: Baitfish

kid fishingI think this would be a great toy idea:

You know those little foam things, that you put it in water and it grows to a hundred times its size? Well, this one starts out looking like a worm, but then it grows into the shape of a fish.

It would be perfect to put on the end of a kid’s fishing pole so they can “go fishing” in any water, and they’ll catch something every time.

Of course, the drawback is they have to leave it in the water long enough to grow, but still, I think it’d be neat. They could be sold with a little fishing pole, or separately as refills, and could grow into different kinds of fish.

Cards for Coworkers

John Hancock's signatureWhenever something happens to someone at work – they get hired, they get married, they get sick, their child graduates, their parent dies, they retire, whatever – someone buys a card, passes it around, and everyone has to sign it.

This annoys me. I don’t like cards in the first place, and I certainly don’t see the need for 30+ people to all write variations of the same theme. Examples:

  • We’ll miss you!
  • You’ll be missed!
  • We miss you already!
  • Won’t be the same without you!
  • Please don’t go!
  • Blah blah blah!

For years I’ve tried to be creative and original, but now I just don’t care. It’s not that I like my coworkers any less – I just don’t see any value in these cards.

As you might expect, with most of my coworkers, this argument doesn’t hold water. So, I came up with a new card signing strategy.

I noticed that, after half or whatever of the staff have signed the card, pretty much everything you could say has already been said. Subsequent coworkers always read the previous comments and react, “oh, so-and-so already said what I was going to say.” (As if this matters.)

But it occurred to me that when the person of honor reads the card, they have no idea who signed first or last. So since the signing order doesn’t matter, I try to make sure whatever I write will be read first. That way, even if I steal the most sentimental message already written in the card, the person reading the card will read mine first, and then when they see the other one, they’ll think, “oh, person #2 just copied that.”

Tactics for primary visibility:

  • Write in large letters
  • Write in a bright and/or unusual color
  • Write your message in the top-center of the card
  • Include a little artistic squiggly design or wavy underlines or flowers doodle next to what you write
  • Of course, make sure your name is large and legible

This strategy requires a fine balancing act. You need to wait until most other people have signed the card, so you have the most material to chose from. However, the longer you wait, the less space you’ll have for a large letters, and the more chance all the prime spots will be taken.

But again, if you sign too early, someone could pull this trick on you so that their message is the first one the person will read. You can’t let that happen – you’ve worked far too hard appearing to be sincere.