Friday, August 31, 2007

Too early?


It's the first of September, and the Cubs are in first place. They are playing well, and would be great if Zambrano could remember that little rectangle called the strike zone.

I am daring to hope...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Frugal Muse

I have found nirvana. Well, maybe geek nirvana. Booknerd Nirvana.
On the way to Pedro's (very good food, great salsa!) for lunch I spied a used bookstore. I hit it up after work and barely got out alive.
The Frugal Muse is a fine mixture of current and used books, CDs, videos, and DVDs. They have a great children's section, a fine SF section, and perhaps the largest selection of boxed books I've seen. The first thing I saw was a copy of Tad Williams new short story collection, signed. Be still my heart.
I picked up Hatchet (which believe it or not I've never read), Cruddy by Lynda Barry (which I'd never heard of but looks excellent and was $5.95) and Dan Simmons' The Terror ( a library reject for $8.00). Not a bad haul, and I would have spent more if they hadn't closed at 8:00pm.
Frugal has a giant SF section, including a great selection of Bradbury in both hardback and paperback. I also found Vonnegut's last published novel, and a few others that will have to wait until next trip.
The Frugal Muse is a dangerous place for someone like me. I'm going to have to limit the amount of cash I have on me when I go in there.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Once around the lake... again

I figured if I can make it around the lake in Madison, surely the same thing would apply back at home, yes? Around an even smaller lake?



On Tuesday of this week I set out around our local Lake Vermilion. It's a shallow pond in comparison to most lakes in Wisconsin, but hey, it's our lake, and it's there.

I set out up Logon and then down the very steep hill to the lake on Denmark Road. This hill would never exist were that road made today, it's too steep. IDOT would figure out how to lengthen it and make it shallower. I was able to drop into Granny gear and power up the other side, and the it was down the hill past the country club and back up. Again I powered back up, but by the time I got to the top I was done in. I didn't stop but slowed way down and took my time.

The day was much hotter than my trip in Madison, and it was around 10:30 when I set out so it was getting hotter, not cooler. All of this ice in my first bottle was already gone. My second bottle though, which I had completly frozen, was still mostly solid and delicuously cold. Lesson learned: freeze the first bottle about half full then fill just before the ride, and freeze the second one entirely.

What I had once thought of as the long flat stretch of Denmark Road, going to West Newell, is not flat. It's a long hill going mostly up unti it gets to Denmark Road. There are some ups and down, but it's mostly up. Drive it and pay attention and you'll see it.
What all of that amounts to is that by the time I got to the long (and much welcome) downhill on Denmark Road, I was done. Seriously done. So I pulled into the Heron Wetlands (the second longest boardwalk in Illinois, did you know?), parked my bike in the shade of the pavilion, and crashed out on one of the picnic tables. It was wonderfully quiet and there was a nice breeze, and after ten minutes and some still-cold water (still ice in the bottle!), I was rejuvinated.
I'm somewhat proud that I made it up the other end of Denmark Road without stopping to walk the bike. The hill is not real steep, but it's long. Then the rest of the way home, a mostly straight shot down Vermilion, was uneventful. Well, except for the nearly overwhelming desire to stop for Dairy Queen, and missing the old A&W Root Beer stand across from the mall.

Some differences between Madison and Danville:

Bike Lanes: Danville - none. And I missed them. There's nothing fun about riding down a rural road with no bike lane and cars whizzing by at 55 mph.

Road Kill: Madison- one squirrel. Danville - many possums, and what may have once been a bird. I don't know why this struck me, but it did. Far more road kill down home. This is likely due to the more rural nature of the route.

Shade: Oh how I missed the shade of Madison. Much of my ride in Danville was in direct sunlight. Again the rural nature of the route, but there do seem to be far more 'old growth' trees up north. That's what I get for living on the prarie.

Hills: Wisconsin is far hillier than Illinois... unless you're riding around the lake.

Conclusion: Next time, ride it early or late, but never in the middle of the afternoon when the temperature is over 90 degrees again.

R.I.P.


Appleworks was the first word processor I ever used. I remember to this day the thrill of graduating from my electric typewriter to my first real computer, a Lazer 128 Apple clone. And Appleworks.

The notice of the death of Appleworks sparked many memories.

When I first started you had to switch 5 1/4 floppies in the middle of the program load. Then I upgraded to 3.5' disks, and I was the shit. I could load Appleworks without playing floppy swappy. Eventually I upgraded to TWO 3.5' disks, and I could have one for program and one for data.

I think I could navigate around Appleworks more quickly with keyboard shortcuts that I can around Word yet today. I wrote tens of thousands of words of fiction in Appleworks. Most of it crap, but hey.

Appleworks remains the first Suite of products : Word Processor, DB, Calc program. In it's day it outsold Lotus 1-2-3.

The move from Appleworks (ClarisWorks) to iWork makes sense and is likely overdue.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Once around the lake, please

So I shlepped my Giant TC2 into the back of the PT Cruiser rent-a-wreck all the way up to Madison this week. In a town criss-crossed with bike trails, I had to ride somewhere.

This morning arose cold and rainy, and it looked like it was going to rain all day. Lunch time was still wet and drizzly. But miraculously, I came out the door after work (late, of course) and the sun was shining and the pavement was dry. Well, mostly dry. OK, dry enough.

I came back to the hotel long enough to change and fired off to a park along Lake Manona, the smaller of the two lakes in Madison. I knew there was a bike trail along at least a portion of it, and assumed I could follow it around the lake without too much trouble.


I set out with great energy and hope. I'd had a light lunch and was feeling great. I passed about three people swimming around the lake, being followed by canoes. I'm not sure if they were college kids or what, but I thought they were nuts. I enjoy a good swim now and then, but laps around a lake? Or even up and down the shore? No thanks.
Then a bunch of kids (I say kids, meaning college age) were water skiing in formation, making pyramids and crashing mightily into the water.
Young kids with their fancy bike clothes on their high-end Trek bikes kept passing me like I was a lamp post. I passed some joggers, but that was the extent of my prowess. One of them asked me if I knew how far the trail went, and out of the hundreds of smart-assed replies that ran through my head I managed to come out with "I have no idea". Not that I was being nice, but it was about all I had the breath to say at once.
Being the fatso that I am, I ran out of gas about three-quarters of the way around. My water tasted like plastic, my shoestring got caught in the pedal, my back tire was starting to flat.
Joggers were now passing me.
Somewhere I lost the trail and swung closer to the lake, following it more directly than the path above shows.The houses were stacked on top of each other. They are lovely, but close together. I did like the fact that now and again there is a parcel of land set aside as a park on the lake. It's nice to know the city is concerned enough with quality of life to take a piece of land that's worth hundreds of thousands and set it aside like that.
Also they kept the tall trees throughout most of the lakeside neighborhoods. So often you see development with no tree over thirty feet. Here "old growth" was prominent. My guess is that there may be zoning ordinances concerning tree cutting and care. If there's not, there should be. It was great to be in the shade most of the time, to see a bazillion squirrels, to hear as many birds as I did. Madison is a very densely populous area, and I'm most impressed by the fact that in many areas they've managed to maintain that park-like feel.
The common denominator everywhere seemed to be construction. There wasn't a half mile when I didn't ride by some house in some stage of remodel, redesign, or repair. Most of the houses along the lake that I saw are older and their age is beginning to show.
Somewhere in there I hit a decent hill, and my indexed shifter decided it was not going to co-operate. I'm exited about the new set I ordered off of ebay for $130 (OK, slightly used but guaranteed), but they're not in yet. So off the bike and push up the hill, with no shame. It gave me a chance to straighten up, down some plastic tasting water, and catch my breath.
On the next hill my front shifter decided to work, and I got into granny gear to go up. I thought perhaps there might be a God after all.

( I hate to digress here, but on TV is "Flipping Out" on Bravo, where someone is giving acupuncture to a cat. No, really. It's perhaps both the saddest and funniest thing I've ever seen.)

Finally the end of the line was in sight, and I could see the Cruiser in the distance. I still had strength to turn over the bike, disassemble and stuff it back into the Cruiser, and dump out my plastic water. Everyone that left around the same time I did was long gone. I'd left for my adventure at around 6:15, thinking I had plenty of daylight left. When I climbed in the Cruiser to crank up the air, the sun was setting and it was just about eight o'clock.
Then I drove around the lake, taking the same route, in about fifteen minutes. I wanted to cry. I nearly stopped at a Dairy Queen on the way back to the hotel to make up for it, but willpower prevailed.
The true test of the ride will be in the morning. I'd like to hit another, shorter trail by the hotel. I'm guessing I'll wake up stiff and sore and not do it. I'm old that way.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Trek lives on....


...and on and on and on.
I've always known that Star Trek, in one incarnation or another, would never die. I figure every ten years or so we'll get hit with some 'new' version of the series, boldly going where no man has gone before. (Had to say it.)

When I first heard of a group of people producing NEW episodes of the ORIGINAL Trek, I pictured a bunch of amateurs stumbling around a make-shift set. Something a little less flattering than that long-ago Saturday Night Live Star-Trek parody.

But after visiting the website for the show, it appears that these guys are professionals. The first episode directed by none other than David Gerrold.

The first two episodes are already available for download. How could I have missed this for so long? Have I removed myself that far from the world of the uber-Geek?

The next webisode, "The World Enough and Time", is up next starring none other then George Takei, our own Sulu. There's a list of upcoming episodes here.

I'll report back after I've watched a couple.

Live long and Prosper.