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2003 (old posts, page 1)

Nobody knows it but me

Nobody knows it but me by Patrick O'Leary

There's a place that I travel
When I want to roam,
And nobody knows it but me

The roads don't go there
And the signs stay home
And nobody knows it but me

It's far far away
And way way afar
It's over the moon and the sea

And wherever you're going
That's wherever you are
And nobody knows it but me

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Where shall we go to war today?

I just heard an interesting soundbite on the news from an interview with the President last Thursday.

Reporter: If we do go to war...
George W Bush: (interrupting) Which country?

Fair question, but it definitely reflects the rather troubling times at the moment. Growing nuclear tension with North Korea, an imminent war in Iraq, continuing violence in the Middle East, and a still uncertain state of 'homeland security' in the US, it's not looking great.

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Starbucks

I have to give it to Starbucks, they really know how to do business. Comfortable sofas, good coffee, relaxed atmosphere, all very good. But it doesn't stop there.

I recently discovered a Starbucks card in my car, a corporate gift or some such. This is the deal - you get a magnetic-strip card precharged with $5 that works just like cash. You order your drink, hand over the card, it gets swiped and returned - no signature, no change. What's special about that? Well, it's convenient, but the real magic is the automatic recharge - when your balanced drops below a threshold and it can automatically be topped up from a credit card, again, no signature, no hassle. I'm hooked; I've always had a Starbucks problem, but they've really got me this time, it's just too damn convenient.

The original logo is still there at the first location by Pike Place Market, which incidentally is one of the eight outlets in a three block radius from here.

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Grammar

The only thing really missing in the American lexicon is the word 'fewer'. Although hearing 'there are less people over there' irritates me, I can't help but think of it as progress.

For completeness

Usage Note: The traditional rule holds that fewer should be used for things that can be counted (fewer than four players), while less should be used with mass terms for things of measurable extent (less paper; less than a gallon of paint). However, less is used in some constructions where fewer would occur if the traditional rule were being followed. Less than can be used before a plural noun that denotes a measure of time, amount, or distance: less than three weeks; less than $400; less than 50 miles. Less is sometimes used with plural nouns in the expressions no less than (as in No less than 30 of his colleagues signed the letter) and or less (as in Give your reasons in 25 words or less).

I don't believe the English language will ever cease to amaze me with its long list of rules and equally lengthy set of exceptions. Why is it necessary to have two words that convey the same idea? I'd better not get started on noun gender.

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Tomorrow's World is no more

It's a sign of the times when the BBC decides to axe Tomorrow's World. While it is sad, it does say something about the current state of technology and its position within our lives.

In the 1960s, the type of technology featured on the show would have been very new and exciting to all, whereas now, technology is taken for granted, it is expected rather than admired. Sure, things are advancing, but all the magic has gone.

(As an aside, in looking for a suitable accompanying photo, I discovered a rather alarming Philllipa gallery).

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Rain rain rain

Leisurely day today, the only interesting things were lunch at Ivars and a trip up to a very wet Snoqualmie. I whiled away the rest of the day in Starbucks, drinking coffee, thinking and writing.

On the drive back from snowboarding, I was doing some calculations about the risks of speeding. Let's say I have to travel 50 miles. If I travel at 60mph, it takes me 50 minutes. If I travel at 85mph, it takes me 35 minutes.

Some figures would be nice, but I'm going to guess that going 25mph faster probably increases the overall risk of something going wrong by 20% (interestingly, at these speeds, the 'cost' of an incident probably doesn't run with speed, rather the specific mechanics of the event). However, if all goes well, I'm saving 15 minutes. That's a saving of 30% in time spent on the road and in danger. More than that, I'm likely to be less able during that final 15 minutes due to fatigue (especially after several hours of physical activity).

Sadly, although it sounds convincing, this argument is flawed; many other factors are dominant. It's commonly considered that most incidents occur within 5 miles of home (well, duh, those are the roads I travel on most) and I'm going to have to drive that stretch at some point. The most dramatic conclusion is that leave slightly earlier or later, and the two journies will never be the same - the slight differences in traffic completely disrupt any kind of analysis. Of course, slow or fast, the traffic I experience will vary too.

There is no order to this; it's a lottery. We have traffic laws in place to encourage 'social' behavior on the roads, but at the end of the day, that's the best we can hope for.

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Energy saving light bulbs

It's strange, of the three apartments I've lived in in the US, none have had ceiling mounted lights; an interesting 'fashion'. Anyway, my point is this: energy saving light bulbs aren't perfect. The 11W rating should be a red flag - these bulbs might last for years, but that simply means you're living in near darkness. No cheating the first law I suppose.

Whilst at Ikea buying more lamps and wasteful bulbs, I noticed the massive number of people buying the stock art. Ikea sells cheap prints and matching frames, and lots of them by the look of it. Interestingly however, there are probably only 10-15 different prints available to choose from - that's a lot of similar looking homes. I'm one of them - my choice of furnishings is purely functional. I'm not sure what it says about my attitude to art, but I'm saying there are plenty of other forms of expression.

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Some great snippers

A few great shorts worthy of mention.

  • The geographically accurate tube map.
  • Thinking of giving up something for New Year? Some inspiration (disclaimer: purely humor as far as I'm concerned)
  • Not usually one for reality TV, but Joe Millionaire looks to have a refreshing twist
  • Seeing in the New Year in NYC.
  • Only in Montana would someone actually change their name to Jack Ass.
  • Ticketstubs; I've long thought about this, good to see someone's finally gotten to it.
  • BBC News has a list of new words; delights such as 'bollotics', 'plagiarhythm' and 'weaponsofmassdestruction'...
  • ...which should really by abandoned for mis-use, over-use and general uselessness.
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Fitness

Seattle has just moved up from number four to the second fittest city in the US, just behind Honolulu. I'm pleased to say I'm doing my part to keep the side up.

On a related note, there are now 41 million obese Americans, a scary 21% of the population.

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Four wheel drive

Only a moderate hangover this morning, so I decided to go and pick up my car from Sean's and head out to Snoqualmie. The journey, usually about an hour, took almost three, mostly sitting stationary on I-90 watching fools implement that well-informed technique 'really rev it up in the snow, the car is sure to move'. And move it does, backwards, around, anywhere but forwards. As usual, I took great delight in seeing the ridiculously large SUVs flailing hopelessly because the owner clearly bought the vehicle for the image and decided 4WD really wasn't worth the cost.

With all that over, I enjoyed a fantastic few hours - 8" new snow today so lots of powder, and the slopes were empty. Getting a lot better on the snowboard too.

However, I made a horrible discovery when it came time to leave. On the CR-V, four wheel drive only engages going forwards! Having parked head in towards a snowdrift with cars close on both sides, it was looking bad. Using an umbrella to excavate trenches for the front tires wasn't precisely how I planned to end the day, but it seemed to do the trick anyway.