Elliptical observations

I didn’t drive until 2004. I relied on public transit to get everywhere. This meant that I thought nothing of walking for half an hour to get where I wanted to be, and then walking back afterwards. Especially if the bus didn’t turn up. In Massachusetts, I would start to gain weight as winter set in; all my body wanted me to do was eat and stay in bed. But in spring and summer, I’d walk it all off again.

Things that suck

When I moved in with rothko, we bought a vacuum cleaner. At the time we were living in a fully carpeted apartment in Malden, MA. Money was tight, so I did some research via Consumer Reports and bought a Sharp vacuum cleaner. Unfortunately, I overlooked one detail. While excellent on carpets, the vacuum cleaner was entirely unsuitable for hard wood floors. After a couple of years we moved into an apartment with wood floors, and the Sharp took up residency in the basement.

FotFM: The Domain Name System (DNS)

Once upon a time, back in the ancient history of the Internet–before the 1990s–domain names were carefully controlled and regulated. A single organization controlled each top level domain. If you wanted a domain name, you had to meet their requirements. Often the policies enforced were quite picky. If you wanted a .uk domain name, you were required to actually be in the UK, for example. If you wanted a .org domain, you were required to be a non-profit organization.

Mostly for Dan

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed nicotine yield of cigarettes sold in Massachusetts from 1997 to 2005. The result: cigarette manufacturers have been gradually boosting the level of addictive nicotine by an average of 1.6% per year, or 11% over the 7 year period studied. Something to bear in mind while watching re-runs of the South Park episode “Butt Out“, in which Parker and Stone bravely defend the cigarette corporations for providing a little harmless pleasure to people, who after all smoke of their own free will.

In memoriam: Tower Records

Tower Records holds a special place in my heart. The store in Piccadilly Circus was one of the places I would try to visit every time I traveled to London. Back in the early 80s the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street was the place for obscure music, but by 1990 they had jacked up the prices and cleared out the unpopular stuff. Tower kept the prices reasonable and had an unrivaled selection of imports and obscurities.

In widescreen where available

We’re right in the middle of the city. I discovered a while back that all I had to do was use unshielded speaker wire and I’d pick up AM radio. I checked, and all the TV transmitters are in a cluster less than 10 miles away from us. So, this afternoon while we were out shopping for Christmas meal ingredients, I picked up an $8 UHF loop antenna, plugged it in, put it on the shelf above the TV, and lo—we can get 10 channels of digital TV.

Nobody escapes the taxman

Got mail from Massachusetts demanding excise tax on the car. Am sending them a copy of the paperwork showing that we were only in Massachusetts for about a week after buying it. Q: Why is the City of Cambridge office of vehicle taxation like a swan? A: They can both stick their bills up their asses. (Sorry, I guess I’m still a bit bitter about that unexpected $7,000 tax bill.)

So let me tell you about this house thing…

When we arrived in Austin at the end of October, we didn’t expect major problems finding a house. During our visit in April we had spent an afternoon with a real estate agent, and had seen a number of suitable houses. Sure enough, the first day we went house hunting, sara walked into a place and immediately thought “This is it.” We went back when I had finished work, and I agreed.


Today was vehicle registration day. This is stage 2 of 3, the stages being (1) get TX insurance (2) get TX registration (3) get TX license. A necessary prerequisite to the vehicle registration was another inspection. The Texas DOT web site suggested the closest place that would handle new cars, and we went there. It was a Honda dealership, and the technician was scared of the Prius. He said we might need to go to a Toyota dealer, but there was a place a couple of blocks away that specialized in inspections and might be able to handle it—something about the headlights needing to be set a certain way.


I’m generally a pretty placid person, but some days things push me close to the edge. I started off with an e-mail reminding me that healthcare enrollment for 2005 ends in a week. Which would be fine, except that the web site’s broken, and has been since the start of the month. Even though I called last week and allegedly got my healthcare coverage updated for Texas, the site still says Tufts, MA.