Mmm-mandoline

We bought a mandoline yesterday. I was planning on going to Williams-Sonoma, since we have a gift certificate, but I got a wild hair while I was at the grocery store, and I bought one (next door, at Linens-n-Things). It’s the Oxo one.

We used it last night to thinly slice a cucumber and an onion. It was heaven. Plus, the whole thing is dishwasher safe! But watch those blades, they just might be the sharpest thing we have in the house, and we just got our knives sharpened.

I hope to make crinkle-cut potato chips just as soon as I am able.

Honest Tea

Okay, so I was all set to relate the wonders of Honest Tea, a tea drink in a bottle ($1.35 here in the middle of the Midwest) that was billed to me as delightful and only slightly sweet. I have a sweet tooth when it comes to drinks, and it would do me good to kick that particular habit. So today I got three bottles when the boy and I gave Mommy some alone time with a trip to the grocery store:

  • Gold Rush Cinnamon – This stuff smells great, sweet, with a lot of cinnamon. It tastes pretty good, too, but here is the trick for tea: it smells much stronger than it tastes. In the case of this one, that’s not bad. I would drink this again, and might even go out of my way to look for it.
  • Lori’s Lemon Tea – Pretty plain, boring tea. If you can’t be bothered to make it yourself, you could spend some money to buy this. I was hoping, from the name, that it would be more like a lemonade tea, but it’s more like a tea, with lemon wedge.
  • Moroccan Mint Tea – Not so impressive. Smells like mint, has an aftertaste of mint, but the mint tea we used to brew at home from the peppermint leaves we got at the New Pioneer Coop was much better.

That said, I am looking forward to finding some of their other flavors. From their web site, I can see being interested in Vanilla Mint White Tea and Kashmiri Chai. They also have a new line of fruit juices coming out, but they might defeat the purpose (reducing my dependence on sweet drinks).

The wife is of the opinion, and rightly so, that we could make much of this at home. If I could get Honest Tea at work, or the flavors I like, it would be great. But buying it at the store and bringing it home (where I could be making my own tea) does seem silly. I do like their philosophy though, and who can resist the whimsy of their naming?

So, I guess I’m a programmer

Yesterday, I spent six (6) hours chasing down one (1) bug in a web-based program I am writing for work.

Oy.

This is going to get a bit geeky.

I have a form that pulls data for a select box from a MySQL database. Based on what the user chooses in that select (a drop-down box for you non-geeks), a second select needs to be populated from the database. I could pull all the data the first time, and just parse out the appropriate material when the user makes their choice, but it is a lot of data, and it seems like that is not the right way.

Instead, when the user chooses from the first select box, it triggers a javascript function with onChange, and that function actually submits the form using submit(), but not until changing a variable in a hidden field that indicates to the page that the data should not actually be INSERTed into the database. Instead, it uses this second reload of the page to pull the data for the second select.

Only, it wasn’t working. The javascript submit() just wouldn’t go. I spent six hours trying to debug it, including writing the page over, finding another page online that did much the same thing, and comparing it, stripping out all the extraneous material from my form until it looked like that working form… and then, yesterday at 4:05 pm, I found it.

My form has a submit button. It was coded like this:

    <code>&lt;input type="submit" name="submit" value="Add this Client"/&gt;</code>

The form I found that worked, was coded like this:

    <code>&lt;input type="submit" name="Submit" value="Add this Client"/&gt;</code>

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I don’t want to be a programmer.

Why Globat? Here’s why not Globat.

I have an ISP, Globat.com. I am going to be rid of them soon, perhaps sooner than I thought, if I have my way. I used to park my Internet presence with Earthlink, but they cost a lot, and I had been shown this little company called Globat that offered a ton of space for your web site for just a very little money. Earthlink had given me no trouble, really, but they were expensive, and I was greedy for disk space. So I made the switch.

Globat was fine for a while, until my web site started to choke a little. And when I had questions about installing Movable Type, they were unable/unwilling to help. Each time my web site was inaccessible, or if it took several minutes to load my home page, I would dutifully send off a message to tech support, letting them know of my problems. Once it lasted a day and a half, but most times it was several hours of not-quite-outage. In one or two of these cases (and there were a dozen of them) I received a reply indicating that the problem might be other people on my same server, other customers, who were taking up too much of the server’s resources.

But most of the time, I’d get a reply from Globat saying that they had checked, and everything seemed fine with my site, and they were closing the ticket. Of course, this was 24 to 36 hours later, and the problem had been gone for some time.

Finally, I felt they had strung me along enough. I was getting two-and-a-half GB of space, sure, but for all the customer service I was receiving, I might as well have been beating on the box myself.

I decided to leave. Picking another ISP was easy, but Globat was no help. I determined to move my sites slowly, leaving Globat up until it was time to renew, then letting it lapse. After all, I paid for a full year in advance.

Well, the jig is up. Tonight, I received a receipt from Globat, letting me know that I had been charged for another full year. I received no notice that my renewal was coming up. I received no indication that I should check my credit card on file to make sure my information was still valid. I just got a receipt.

And so, I asked them to rescind the charge and to cancel my account immediately. That they have done, and with an alacrity that belies my previous experiences with them.

So… if you want cheap hosting, Globat is good. If you want customer service, try someone else.

Nutty Flag Amendment supporters get nuttier

So, yesterday was apparently Flag Day. Whatever. USA Today ran an Editorial about how a Flag Amendment (you know, the oft defeated attempt to criminalize the burning of the US flag) was misguided, etc. But they also ran an “opposing” editorial, by Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA), the sponsor of the latest Flag Amendment legislation.

You can read it here.

But let me point out the funniest/scariest part of his argument:

“[Our Founding Fathers] recognized, as most Americans do, that the free-speech rights of individuals must be considered in relation to the rights of all people, most of whom support protecting our national symbol.”

So, wait. So, individual free-speech rights must, in some cases, be abrogated in favor of the “rights of all people?” So, if the majority of “all people” disagree with me about, say, who should be President (need I remind us all that 51% is, in fact, a majority, just not much of one), I should not necessarily be allowed to point out that I think their choice is an evil monkey? You know, because my pointing that out impinges on their right to… feel good about winning?

Let me just point out, for those that think Mr. Cunningham makes a good case, that there is no room for argument on this: the free-speech rights of individuals must be considered more important than the free-speech rights of a majority, by simple definition. If I cannot speak my mind (or burn the flag) because more people disagree with me than agree with me, then I do not have the right to free-speech. Instead, I have a totalitarian censorship thrust upon me. Mr. Cunningham’s argument is, by far, the most idiotic and specious peice of illogical granstanding I have heard in a long time. And this year has been impressively full of that.

How did the nutjobs get so bold?

Fearsome Mormon missionaries revealed to be pimply-faced dweebs

So, our “neighborhood,” sandwiched as it is between the biggest (and “bestest,” I am told by parents of teenagers) mall in Omaha and two large apartment complexes, gets buzzed by Mormon missionaries on a pretty regular basis. We think there might be a Mormon safehouse ((I swear I’ve seen apple-cheeked young men with name badges and Mormon-issued clothing disappear into this house. They go up the street (we live in a cul-de-sac) and don’t come back. So I am pretty sure this is a house where Mormon boys on mission can stay the night. That, or they feed Mormons to their carnivorous plant in the basement. Or they sell tasty meat pies. Those would be film references one and two (well, okay, technically number two is a theater reference).)) up the street, but we’re not sure.

In any case, we live in fear of the uncomfortable situation that might arise should an earnest Mormon couple (Ha ha. No, really, I’m just kidding. I’m sure they call them partners… Ha! I kid again!) ring our doorbell. What would we say, once we calmed our doorbell-frenzied Poodle? Would we be polite? Would we gibber and spit and carry on about Dungeons and Dragons, hoping to scare them away permanently?

I just don’t know.

Anyway, tonight, we spied two young men, impeccably dressed, walking up our street. “There are Mormons out there,” Sweetie offered up. We watched them surreptitiously from the upstairs windows, as they rang the doorbell of the house across the street. Nobody came to the door, but they stood there like good Soldiers for a long while. Finally they moved on up the way. I took the opportunity to leash up the feral Poodle and go hunt us some Mormon boys.

It took me a while to find them (luckily for us, our little slice of residential Omaha is nestled between the aforementioned commercial properties and two large roads (the kind your Mother wouldn’t let you cross on your own until you were 25). It is a cul-de-sac heaven wherein no road leads anywhere, and all paths loop back on themselves. When we finally crossed their path, I was a bit taken aback. These fearsome missionaries, were, in fact, two pimply dweebs. Not more than fourteen or fifteen, one was pudgy and crew-cut, the leader, and the other was thin and sallow, with his backpack cinched tight over chest and stomach. They smiled nervously at my toothsome dog, and managed a friendly “Hello” as we swept past. Or maybe they were smiling nervously at me, wondering why I was examining them so closely.

I said “Hi” in turn and promptly began to stalk them.

You have to understand how easy this is in our neighborhood. All you really have to do is hang out at the nexus intersection, and eventually everyone will cross your path. Plus, we have a perpetually empty field (a year-old sign declares that a cheerleading accessories store will be built there), and an intermittently occupied retail property (formerly a Generic Chinese Buffet, formerly a Godfather’s Lounge, serving alcohol and pizza)… clear sightlines for a half mile or so.

Our boys, walking slowly and making little eye contact, had clearly just been doing the minimum required. They’d pounded the pavement, but appeared to have visited only those homes that looked unlikely to have tenants. But now it seemed they had found a target for their convictions. A cute, twenty-something woman walking her Yorkie. You could see it in the way they suddenly stood up straighter, walked faster, and seemed to have discovered some kind of special purpose. ((Film reference the third.))

She took her Yorkie to the empty proto-cheerleading field. They sauntered along the sidewalk next to it, hoping to discuss Jesus with… the weeds? Somebody whizzing by in a pickup? Eventually they couldn’t loiter any more and still be seemly, so they kept on going up to the abandoned Chinese Liquor Bar. Cute-but-probably-concerned girl took a right turn along the property’s parking lot, when lo! The mission boys came back, not exactly trotting, but clearly aware their quarry had given them the slip.

Turning the corner into the parking lot, they found her Right There, waiting in ambush, and they kind of nodded and smiled and walked past her. She turned left and started to put some distance between them, when the leader boy turned back and said something (I don’t know what, since my sightline was clear but I was a long way away) and she stopped. They held some sort of stilted conversation for thirty seconds, at which point she hurried away. The other boy, the thin, pimply, shy one, raised his hand in farewell, as if seeing the lovely governess off at the end of a long, Platonic, British television show, her train pulling out of the station slowly, but inexorably, in a cloud of steam.

Then, slumped and trudging, they went on their way.

I took the furry fury home, thinking to myself, Why, these Mormons are people too. Hormone driven, break-out suffering, shy, awkward, kids on a mission from God. ((Film reference the fourth. Identify your film reference picks in the comments!)) I sure hope our “Dean for President” bumper sticker continues to keep them out of our driveway.

Apple to Intel (updated)

How can I not write about this? You may have heard: Apple will be transitioning all their computers to Intel chips starting one year from today. I just followed along with the keynote where Steve Jobs announced this (and not much else, but who’s quibbling).

So. Denny pointed out that this means it’ll be a few years before he buys a new Mac. I think that may be true… but if this results in faster laptops, I may not be able to make myself wait. And Xserves… can you imagine an Xserve with real computing power behind it? Or what a Mac mini could turn out at its current pricepoint?

My thoughts on the keynote as reported by a few folks who were actually there:

  1. Mac OS X has been running on Intel for five years? I think there are some Apple engineers today who will see their first daylight in a long time. For no verifiable rumor to have surfaced about this before last week… they must have lived under guard.

  2. The surfacing of the rumor last week must have been an intentional leak. If the level of secrecy that was evinced had been kept until this morning, when he talked about it in front of a huge crowd at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, there would have been pitchforks and flaming torches, you can be sure.

  3. Paul Otellini, Intel President & CEO, took the stage and said “he’d never give up on Apple, like IBM has.” Ouch. Consider that bridge burned.

  4. That said, IBM apparently promised faster chips (Steve’s famous assertion of 3.0GHz chips by… last year) and cooler chips (because really, Powerbooks are still running G4s) and have not been able to deliver.

  5. Will my new Powerbook come with an “Intel Inside” label? I fervently hope not.

More thoughts added an hour later:

  1. Glad we bought our iBook last fall, and not, say last week. Now I feel neither cheated, nor that the wait for a new one will be too long. Woe to those who were waiting until this conference to buy a new machine. Shelf life of a new Mac is now 365 days and counting.

  2. Apple may have thought that this was the best time to do it, given record iPod sales to keep the company afloat while no Macs are sold. I mean really, who is going to buy a PowerPC-fueled Mac now? Anyone? Maybe Steve Jobs will buy a few million and donate them to schools/Africa ala Bill Gates.

  3. Does this mean Apple will have nothing to show at next January’s Macworld show? Hm. Methinks I sense some consumer products in the pipeline that aren’t computers.

Screensaver bounty claimed

Okay all. Remember this post? I was looking for a Mac screensaver that could show pics pulled dynamically from a web site/folder. Well, I have it. Gabe at Cellar Door Software was two-thirds of the way there with his RandomWeb screensaver, and he pushed it the rest of the way with my prodding.

$100 is winging its way to him via PayPal.

I have, of course, submitted a bunch of suggestions to him for the next version, but the current one (v 1.3 as of this writing) does what I needed. You’ll want to choose “Location” as the type, and put in the address:

http://dannytiffanyandfamily.com/screens/

As the location address. Then it should just work. There are lots of settings, and it is a little complicated, but it does do the job. Also, the other functionality is pretty cool, too. You can set RandomWeb to scrub pics off a web site (like nasa.gov) or do a Google image search for your search term (like “puppies”). You can implement Google’s SafeSearch, too, to lessen the unexpected surprises.

It is a neat bit of software.