Archive for July, 2008

That’s a relief. After today’s earthquake, I was scared to death I’d have a destroyed or at least severely damaged aquarium on my hands. Instead, I get home to find not even a drop has spilled, and the fish are doing their usual thing, wondering where the food is.


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Okay, so I have a weakness for online quizzes and I’ve always wanted to be a Japanese demon. Who doesn’t? Anyway, Here’s my result:

Your result for The Japanese Demon Profile Test…


You scored 18 in Malice and 24 in Chaos!

The Yuurei are the lost souls of those whose lives were abruptly ended in the midst of great distress or emotion. They are pale, white spectres nearly indistinguishable from humans, except that they possess no legs, indicative of their detachment from the earthly world. Yuurei haunt the place of their deaths, waiting for the opportunity to fulfil some incomplete purpose.

Yuurei are more commonly female than male, victims of male cruelty or neglect. Those who become Yuurei typically die violent deaths, whether by suicide or by murder; they become trapped on earth until they have taken care of unfinished business. Male Yuurei are less common, although a slain warrior may become one in order to set the record straight regarding the manner of his death, i.e. to clear his name from disgrace.

Although most Yuurei are relatively harmless, some may become “Obake-Yuurei,” or monster ghosts. Obake-Yuurei, instead of restricting their passions to reasonable limits, are wont to loose their rage and sorrow on any people who happen to be unlucky enough to pass by.

Take The Japanese Demon Profile Test at HelloQuizzy


Update: Gosh, thanks, WordPress. So I can’t link to outside images? You’re making me really like this service.

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Adieu, mon Earl

I’ve used MS-Office since before there was an “office suite,” since the days of Word 1.0a for Windows. Yep, the days when you hoped Windows 3.0 would at least boot-up before crashing. And, I’m not ashamed to admit, I liked MS-Office. The programs did just what I needed them to do, and the wide-open architecture let me customize it to my heart’s content. I taught myself to make automated templates in Word, macro-laden spreadsheets in Excel, and a fully-functional, VBA-programmed database in Access that kept the UCLA Science & Engineering Library’s reserve system running when our computer system became one of the few genuine victims of the Y2K bug. For all its bugs and gotchas, I was an ardent advocate for MS-Office.

But, not anymore. Frankly, I hate the new version, Office 2007. They needlessly rearranged commands that had been in the same spot since the earliest days, leading me to waste valuable minutes poking around to find something I needed. The “ribbon” format is annoying as can be: toolbars were easily configurable, didn’t take up much screen space when in use, and could be detached and floated for better positioning. Ribbons are none of that. And the new document format? Just a trick to lock one into a proprietary format. I haven’t even bothered trying to learn the new programming language; it just isn’t worth my time.

While I have to use Office 2007 at work, I don’t at home. In fact, I don’t at all. I haven’t “upgraded” since Office 97. Why should I, since it met all my needs? But, it is 11 years old, and there are newer features I need. While I had considered buying a secondhand copy of Office 2003 (aka, “the last good version”), I couldn’t see spending money on an MS product that was going to be unsupported soon. So, I’ve made the switch to Open Office, which is free … and free of those damned ribbons.

The one regret I have is saying goodbye to Earl. You might recall the Office Assistants, animations that would appear (often unwanted) to offer help in some cute (to a Microsoft marketer) way. “Clippy,” an animated paperclip, was by far the most famous and most annoying. Whole web sites were devoted to calling for his death (or at least how to remove him).

In another shameful confession, however, I must admit to a certain fondness for Earl the Cat. Like the Warner Bros. cartoon characters he was clearly modeled on, Earl would engage in various amusing antics in tune with whatever commands I had given. He was my companion during late night, short deadline writing sessions and, no matter how many times that shark ate him when I closed the program, he was there waiting for me whenever I would start it again.

But his time has past, and there is no place for cartoon cats in the ultra-serious world of Open Office.

Farewell, Earl. And watch out for the shark.


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Just some observations from the last couple of days.

Drivers who turn right from the center or left lane, left from the right or center lane, or go straight from a left-turn lane: Do they think they have a “You won’t die from your own stupidity” card?

A women’s clothing line that has the word PINK splashed in giant letters across the buttocks. And yet they get ticked when we stare?

People who order caffeine-free non-dairy cafe au laits. I think the humor is lost on them.

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It tickles!

I love tropical fish. I love keeping aquaria. I love working with a tank to create a natural home for the fish, a beautiful artificial world.

But, somehow, it never entered my mind to stick my foot in the tank for a pedicure:

Flesh-eating fish give pedicures

A novel type of pedicure involving live fish which chomp away at dead skin is catching on at a Virginia beauty salon.

Owners of Yvonne Hair and Nails in Alexandria, a suburb of Washington DC, estimate 5,000 customers have so far tried the unorthodox treatment, in which customers immerse their feet in warm water filled with tiny, voracious carp.

The toothless fish, termed garra rufa but known as “doctor fish”, nibble away at dead skin while leaving healthy flesh untouched, providing what advocates say is a natural alternative to potentially unsanitary razors, clippers or pumice stones.

John Ho, who owns the salon with wife Yvonne, said he was initially sceptical about offering the technique, which is popular in spas in Turkey, where the fish come from, as well as parts of Japan, China, Singapore and Malaysia.

”I know people were a little intimidated at first,” he told the Associated Press. “But I just said, ‘Let’s give it a shot.’ “

Gives a whole new meaning to “eat me.”

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You might want to keep this in your travel kit for the next time you stop to check your directions: the cannibal map of the world.

You know, I am going to Indiana later this summer….

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Bits and bobs

My writing partner and I had a good morning working together today. Our spec script for Without a Trace I think is in pretty good shape, but now we’re at a point where we need outside eyes to tell us what’s working and what doesn’t. Sadly, our current writer’s group is pretty useless. I wish we could find a stronger one.

The Without a Trace web site has a neat section: a link to this week’s featured missing person. Click here to have a look.

We’re down to five panda cories: another one bit the dust a few days ago. This is frustrating: I can only assume these two were weakened in some way, since I’m 99% sure I’m giving them good care. But still, I didn’t get back into this hobby to bring home fish to die. I’ve just fed them and, watching, three are swimming around searching for food, but two are hanging back, under the driftwood. I hope that’s not a bad sign.

I recently let my membership to the US Chess Federation expire. (Chess has been one of my main hobbies since I was a kid, but I’m an awful player. Anand has nothing to fear.) I just grew tired of the toxic politics and, since I play only by correspondence or Internet, and since the magazine is being gutted by the chuckleheads who dominate the Executive Board (Revenues are declining … I know, let’s cut services! That will bring people back!), I just felt it was no longer worth my dollars. So, I’ve joined CCLA instead. (It’s been around in one form or another since 1897.) Mostly to avoid being dropped from an ICCF event I’m playing in, but I think, with its lower dues, CCLA will be a better value for me.

As long as people don’t cheat by using computers. Waiting

So, I’m taking this Monday and next off. How am I enjoying my two three-day weekends? By burying my nose in books and writing like a madman to meet a deadline for a book project. Whee. Sure, it pays money, but I’d really hadn’t planned to be cooped up at home. Of course, if Your Host hadn’t been a dope and left most of the work for the last minute….

Oh well. At least in this modern age it’s okay for me to take no personal responsibility for myself and instead blame others.

So I blame George Bush. Doesn’t everyone? Winking

Time to get dinner on the table. Steak night — yum!

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Standing at a bus stop today, I saw one of the ubiquitous (at least in Los Angeles) bebe ads.

Is it just me, or do the models in those ads look not just dumb or stupid, but like they’ve been utterly lobotomized? Somehow, I wouldn’t find a clothes line appealing that promised me I would look like someone with less awareness than a one-year old.


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I bought two more panda cories today, one to replace the one that died, and another to bring the population to six. Assuming they survive, that should do it — other than for adding a new male betta, which was the whole point of setting up this small tank.

Right now, the new guys are enjoying their first meal of bottom-feeder tablet — yum! At least, I hope they’ll start eating. Usually, I wait a day to feed new fish, but I figure these guys will learn what food is from the current residents — veterans of all of one week. These came from the same tank as the last group: the store’s last two, in fact. I’m writing the death of the last one off as “stuff happens,” since overall the store seems to take good care of its fish.

Now, to fix dinner.

No, not catfish.

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More homework

Season four of The Closer premiers Monday night at 9PM, 8:00 CST:

Let’s hope this season is better than last, which I thought was rather a letdown.

By the by: Okay, that stinks. WordPress won’t allow me to embed video other than from YouTube or Google. That may cause me to reconsider this site.

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Aquarium update

I haven’t written an update about my aquarium in quite a while, so here’s one I recently posted at Aquaria Central, a great site for tropical fish hobbyists.

Sad to say, the famed Rocky T. Betta went to the bubblenest in the sky on June 13th (yes, Friday the 13th). He developed a case of fin rot, and I think I caught it too late. The antibiotics cured it on his fins, but he never recovered: I think the infection had gone internal. I was very sad when he died, as he had a good personality and I had only had him for about three months. In essence, I feel like I was at fault here. Crying

Oh, well. Live and learn, and other cliches. I’ll just have to give the next one better care. (And, no, he won’t be named Rocky II! )

For a few days, the japonica shrimp that shared the tank had it all to themselves. One of the four died and, in what must be a hidden ritual of the Shrimp Faith, the other three ate their fallen brother. (And, boy, did one fight me when I tried to remove the body!)

This last week I added a school of five panda cories: very cute! Sadly one died (I’m saying that a lot lately, it seems), but I think he was in bad shape from the time we came back from the store. The other four are OK so far, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Tomorrow, I plan to get two more. I think the tank can support 6 pandas and a (to be acquired later) betta.

Some of you might recall from earlier entries that I was battling water chemistry, since I had stupidly made the water way too soft and thus PH-unstable. After Rocky’s death, I decided to really work on it. As of last weekend, using small doses of baking soda I had raised the KH to 7 and the PH to 7.4. The latter was higher than I wanted, but the KH was just right. That was just before adding the cories, and I haven’t tested it since. I’ll be curious to see what the readings are tomorrow morning.

Also, I seem at last to be winning my battle with algae. Both green thread and staghorn algae had become a real problem. My pretty planted tank looked like crap. (Maybe Rocky died of embarrassment?) So, I changed my fertilizer treatment to all Seachem, all the time: Flourish, Potassium, Nitrogen, and Trace. Also, on the advice of someone at The Planted Tank, I doubled the daily dosage of Excel and the dosage of Nitrogen. After two weeks, there’s been real progress. While there’s still a bit of thread algae, the staghorn has receded by at least 80%. A centerpiece Java Fern that had been badly infested is almost clear. Thankfully, none of the tank inhabitants have shown any distress from the overdosing. But, after a CO2 unit I ordered from Big Al’s arrives next week, I’ll cut back on the Excel.

This adventure with algae has been a good learning experience. When I set up my planned 40g tank later this summer, I definitely will use dry fertilizers. Seachem’s good, but I can see the expenses adding up.

That’s all for now!


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Thump … thump

I have neighbors in the apartment below who believe that the only way to enjoy music is with the bass cranked up to 10 on the dial. The floor and walls of my apartment are vibrating like the inside of a drum, yet the building managers won’t do anything until “quiet hours” at 10PM.

Hmmm… According to California Penal Code section 197, justifiable homicide includes

…lawfully keeping and preserving the peace.

They’ll never convict me.

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Busy day today

Lots of errands to run, including a trip to LAPL to beg them to let me renew some books I need, even though I’ve hit the renewal limit.

Time to break out that wining smile. Big Grin


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The 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still is rightly considered a beloved classic, both of the science-fiction genre and of cinema in general. So, when I heard it was being remade, my first reaction was “In the name of God, why??” When I then read that Keanu Reeves was playing the role of Klaatu, played by Michael Rennie in the original, my next reaction was akin to the horror one feels in the face of unspeakable blasphemy.

Well, now I discover that someone has gotten their hands on the script for the remake and, if you believe him, it sucks worse than anything since, oh, almost anything else Reeves has done.

There’s only one thing to do, now: unleash Gort!

Gort firing

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Poor little fellah

I came home tonight planning to do a water change on the 10-gallon aquarium and saw that one of the panda cories, which I bought last weekend, was on his side barely moving. Not a good sign. I think this is the one I noticed last night with a pinched stomach, indicative of not eating and a sign of starvation. Perhaps he was in bad shape when I bought him; perhaps it’s poor care on my part. I don’t know. But it’s frustrating losing so quickly even a tiny life we take responsibility for. Sad

On the positive side, the other four are foraging for food and seem to be eating. Tonight I fed them shrimp pellets, broken up so they could get some before the shrimp could steal them all. (Yes, shrimp eat their own! Soylent Shrimp! Skull )

UPDATE: Found him dead this morning, but the others seem fine. Fingers crossed….

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I saw this item in Variety today:

In what will be his first job since the blockbuster “Iron Man,” Robert Downey Jr. is set to star in “Sherlock Holmes,” the drama that Guy Ritchie will direct for Warner Bros.

Eh, I’m not so sure about that. I thought Downey was perfect in the role of Tony Stark in Iron Man, but as Sherlock Holmes? I have trouble picturing him playing the cerebral, perhaps manic-depressive character, particularly in light of how Jeremy Brett defined the role for Granada TV twenty years ago. Still, I’d normally reserve judgment until I saw the movie, except I then read this:

Much the way that “Iron Man” launched Downey as an action star, “Sherlock Holmes” will also take advantage of his physical skills as the character displays brawn as well as brains.

The basis for the film is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s classic tales, but also the comic book “Sherlock Holmes.”

Action I have no trouble with; a lot of people forget Holmes could be quite physical when needed. But “comic book?”

Ermmm … no. Let’s just say this one doesn’t sound promising for Holmes fans.

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I think I’ve hit the dream of every high-school student: since I have to do homework, at least let it be watching TV.

Hey, if one wants to be a working television writer, then watching TV shows is de rigeur. My partner and I are following several shows: Criminal Minds, Without a Trace, The Closer, Cold Case, and Supernatural. Tonight’s study involves watching Supernatural, the last two episodes of the most recent season. How will they save Dean’s soul from the fires of Perdition?

Man, school is rough.

By The By: It looks like we’ll have to wait until next season to see how Dean get his … soul out of the fire. Maybe a crossover with Reaper?

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Last night I was twice woken by noisy neighbors: the first at 2:30 AM, when a group of women decided they had to carry on their loud conversation (Which included telling each other “shut up” several times. Good advice.) in the apartment courtyard, and then again three hours later, when the neighbors below elected to share their taste in rock with us.

Common courtesy, like chivalry, may not be dead, but surely it lies bleeding in the gutter.

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Got some different food for the panda cories today: flake food that I crumbled and then let the filter current distribute around the tank. I think one, maybe two were already eating. Fingers crossed that the rest do. I’d hate to think I brought them home only to have them starve to death. Praying

The shrimp, of course, are right on it.

If they turn their noses up to the new food, does this make them racist?


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And so, another holiday weekend comes to a close, and I face the prospect of going to work in a few hours. Weeee! I wonder what it’s like for people who actually enjoy their day jobs?

Not much happened this weekend, other than picking up some panda cories for my 10g aquarium. They’re cute little guys, less than an inch big, though they’ll eventually grow to just under two inches. I hope they thrive: so far, the japonica shrimp in the tank have been grabbing all the food, for all the world acting like bandit raiders. Hey, guys! Learn to share! Group hug! Big Hug


Assuming all goes well, next weekend (or the next after that), I’ll get another betta to replace the late, lamented Rocky T. Betta. Bettas are neat: just take my word for it. Meanwhile, I’ve got an algae problem that needs tending. At wits end

I’m also coming to the conclusion I’ve become a “holiday depressive.” You know, the kind of person who, as the holiday cheer grows, becomes more and more of a wet blanket? Nice to meet you. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Fourth of July … all the holidays I love lately leave me nearly paralyzed in my apartment in a deep funk. I wonder if this is common to middle-aged bachelors? Either way, it’s not fun.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Time for a bit of reading and then bed. G’night! Peace Sign


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