Monday, October 01, 2007
Dear Microsoft

Dear Microsoft,

     Thanks for being such a tremendous pain in my ass, specifically, with your Microsoft Word 2007. There are many aspects that are spectacularly inefficient and irritating, and the one that is currently making me mad is that you are using a new file type to save standard documents. Saving files as .docx instead of the more common (and frighteningly convenient) .doc is kinda like putting the transmission lever of a car in the back seat. It's stupid and a pain in the ass.

     I was worried at first that your changes to Word would stop at the cosmetic and functionality, but you've also made it impressively difficult to access from other computers EVEN WHEN THEY ALSO HAVE MICROSOFT WORD 2007. So, thanks for that. I thought it was neat enough that you moved common functions around within the program, slowing the creative process by making me hunt around for simple things that used to be in very different places. Apparently that wasn't neat enough, though, so I applaud you for not stopping there.

     It would have been even funnier if you'd taken away the ability to save files as the apparently (you wish) obsolete .doc extensions, because then at least I could be furious every single day, instead of just when I need to transfer work from my laptop to other computers.

     Anyway, thanks for being such a pain in my ass. Also, good job on Vista. I like how my computer is as indecisive as four year old in the toy aisle of a department store. "Can I get this?" "Can I do this?" "Are you sure?" "Are you reeeeeally sure?" When I bought my laptop I described it with terms like "powerful" and "efficient." Thanks to you, I now get to use words like "scared" and "confused," which are much more fun to use anyway, especially for technology. So, thanks! Here's hoping the next operating system you introduce somehow incorporates cuneiform pictograms in the "help" section!


Making my life more interesting:
Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007

Posted at 11:32 am by Sinja
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Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Posted at 01:06 am by Michael
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Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Ya Just Gotta Have Love, Love, Love

How To Get The Best Seat In The House
You just cant make this stuff up, people.  I guess you could, but the real life stuff is better.  Like for instance did you know there is a cheap economical way to fly first class? All you have to do is die in flight, and the flight crew will drag your dead body to 1st class, tie you in with a seat belt and pad you with pillows.  The Pillows are to keep you from being inured if you fall.  Thoughtful folks! Thats class! First Class!

Chinese Politicians: Beware or Pay The Price
Did you know the remote Chinese villages they have had enough of corrupt politicians! Its true!! They have rioted in places and let the Chinese government know that they will not tolerate any more corruption from any political figures at all.  Something else not tolerated is a dirty rotten political refusing to pay them bribes for votes. Nothing is more dangerous than an unbribed Chinese villager. Unless  you are wealthy, I don't recommend running for office in China.  Its a nice place to visit, but just don't stay there.

Kamikaze Bikers of Dutchland
Beware of elderly Dutch Kamikaze Bicyclists.., especially if you're a shop lifter. They'll nail you at  great personal expense to limb and bicycle. I'm not sure if they use the same tactic on politicians or not, but perhaps they should. It would send a message like, "We're old, We're bad and we just wont take it any more" [insert theme song by T.S."We're Not Going To Take It", here]

Where da love, people? Where da love?

Posted at 10:03 am by Daveman
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Saturday, March 17, 2007
Daniel Tammet aka Brain Man

I recently followed a link on a search engine news page entitled "Brain Man."  It took me to the Sixty Minutes TV show's video clips of their recent interview with Daniel Tammet, an extemely unique individual among us on the planet.  His nickname Brainman came about from a Science Channel documentary about his savant abilities.  Unlike Kim Peek, the inspiration for the Tom Cruise / Dustin Hoffman film, "Rain Man," with which most of us are so familiar, Tammet has consciously taught himself the social interactive skills that autistic people normally lack.  This sets him in an even more unique category among savants.

He can explain how his amazing mind works to the rest of us.

Daniel Tammet has unbelievable abilities of memory and calculation of numbers.  He broke a European record for reciting the numeric representation of Pi to over 22,000 digits.  When you and I can barely remember our 4-digit ATM PIN, wouldn't it be helpful to understand how he does this?  He can calculate 512 to the 4th power and spit out the answer faster than you or I could punch it into a calculator.

Tammet's descriptions of how he sees numbers in his own mind is a sublime vision that I can only personally compare to the scene in which Cuba Gooding Jr. is teaching Robin Williams how to fly in the film, "What Dreams May Come."  Tammet apparently sees numbers with shapes and colors.  His calculations are like a journey through and an instantaneous vision of the beautiful landscape in his mind.

While we mere mortals may never quite understand or ever duplicate Tammet's numeric visions, there are some earthly mnemonic methods you can employ to increase the capabilities of your memory with numbers.  One method that I have tried myself involves assigning phonetic sounds to the numbers zero to nine, which then create words, and the words can then paint visual images of long numbers.  This phonetic method is taught in "Advanced Mega Memory."  It takes some initial motivation to learn a new skill, dedication to practice it, and then some tenacity to continue using it -- but I can certainly vouch that it works.

Daniel Tammet's story personally inspires me.  Here are some additional links you may want to check out:

Born on a Blue Day - Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant
Daniel Tammet's memoir

Daniel Tammet's website

Brainman, At Rest in His Oasis by Sarah Lyall, New York Times
A well-written, recent update about Tammet's home life in Kent.
(registration required -- or --

Autism, Autism Spectrum and Asperger Syndrome

Neuro Diversity - a great resource for parents and info on autism
Also: check out another version of the Ekman facial recognition game/test.

Daily Doses and Tiny Treasures
Blogdrive blogs written by parents of special kids

Three more movies I've seen and loved:

Kevin Spacey is too cool:
Staring Kevin Spacey

Based on a true story:
A Beautiful Mind

Bruce always saves the day:
Mercury Rising
Staring Bruce Willis

Posted at 01:17 am by John Furie Zacharias
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Wednesday, January 03, 2007
I am not worthy

thank you

In the United States, people are encouraged to ponder the things for which they are thankful from the day after Halloween until after the New Year holiday.  Whether it is a religious or secular tradition, most people are thankful for things like good health, or friends and family.  That's all very thoughtful and nice.  However, I think we should expand our thankful attitude toward ubiquitous things in our standard of living in order to appreciate them more fully, especially when several billion people on our little spinning ball of mud don't have those things.

For example, people don't carve into their Thanksgiving Day turkey and exclaim, "Thanks be to Thomas Edison for the lights over the dining room table!"  Certain things have become an under-appreciated given variable in the equation defining our modern life.  One need only look toward the hundreds of thousands of displaced people in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to appreciate the more basic things on the heirarchy of human needs.  Indeed, just open your eyes and look around the globe.

In that spirit of being thankful for common place things in my life, I wish to give thanks to Mrs. Ruth Graves Wakefield.  Why?  She invented the chocolate chip cookie.


Posted at 07:30 am by John Furie Zacharias
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Monday, August 28, 2006
Why do they call you Sparky?

Did you ever do something really stupid when you were a little kid?  Kids do stupid things, I guess.  I know I did a few unbelievable things before I started kindergarten (and then a few thousand stupids things since then).  I really hated family gatherings, or when I'd bring someone new home, only to suffer through the embarassment of hearing the perenial story that began, "Remember when you did (something stupid)?"  I think the only saving grace is that the stories were not published in the newspaper.

A weird little news story has made the rounds on local TV stations in Florida recently.  It all started with a 3 year old boy being removed from a foster home by the Florida Department of Children and Families and a police report by the local county sheriff in north Florida, near Jacksonville.

The headline I first saw by the time this story made it down to central Florida was "Man Accused Of Shocking Toddler During Potty Training," which sounded horrible enough for me to want to read the article.  Then I googled the horrible man's name in the article to see if there were any earlier news articles written about this story, with more details.  I quickly found the local story, here.

Now, the horrible man's name is Paul Trotman, and he's an electrician.  I only continue to call him horrible because he has been arrested on a charge of aggravated child abuse.

This news article has his mugshot and a video.  Just click on the face that looks like Gimli from Lord of the Rings to see the TV news video clip.  If you read the whole article, you can almost understand why Mr. Trotman did what he did and how it might have made some weird sense for him to do it, though.

The reason I say this goes back to the idea of stupid kid stories.  Here's a direct quote from the news that will follow this little kid around until he's thirty or forty years old and why they'll call him Sparky at his office job:

Trotman, an electrician employed at the Kings Bay Naval Station, admitted using a transformer putting out 56 volts to shock the boy who had been intentionally urinating on electrical devices to see them spark.

Woo Hoo! Now you know why your office printer/copier is always broken.


Posted at 06:10 am by John Furie Zacharias
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Thursday, July 20, 2006
Internet Superhighway= Internet Turnpike?

     The Internet Superhighway! Similar to the famed Geman Autobahn, which allows you to travel as fast as your engine and vehicle will allow; with the internet, your computer is your vehicle, and your connection is your engine. Websites are merely stops along the ride, and you can get from one to the next just as quickly as your vehicle will allow.

     Until now?

     What if telecommunications giants like Time Warner, AT&T, Bell South, and Verizon had the ability to dictate whose websites load quickly and perform better based on who have paid for the bandwidth usage?

     Well, they do.

     These telecom companies want to charge websites for the speedy delivery of streaming video, television, movies and other high-bandwidth data in an effort to be compensated for the cost of maintaining and upgrading the infrastructure that makes all this possible. How does this affect you? Webites such as Google, Yahoo, Amazon, etc. are not going to eat the cost of this service, they will pass this on to consumers. This means higher prices for consumers all across the economy, because companies will be charging more for online advertising.
     Not to mention slow websites for those who haven't paid up. Independent bloggers, webcomics, and similar low-budget sites will be the hardest hit, with viewer/readership levels sure to plummet, as well as smaller businesses who will lose business because the websites don't perform like their large corporation competitors.
     In April, a measure submitted by Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts was rejected by a House subcommittee that would have prevented these companies from being able to charge this. Let's hope that other officials get on board so that Congress may vote to prevent this from happening.

Posted at 05:16 am by Sinja
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Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Move Along!

Nothing to be terrified of here, folks. Move along. Be ready to present your ID.

Posted at 11:04 pm by Saladin
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Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Rasta School Marm

 JfZ wonders WTF?

According to the BBC News, 60-year-old school administrator Linda Walker has been afflicted by a rare neurological condition called Foreign Accent Syndrome following her recovery from a recent stroke. Walker, normally as bangers-and-mash Anglo as any Newcastle resident might be, no longer speaks as she had for much of her life and now speaks with a linguistic difference that some say sounds French Canadian and others say sounds distinctly Jamaican.

Linguistic abnormality (expressive aphasia) is fairly common with traumatic brain injury and stroke, but Foreign Accent Syndrome is something unusual.  Listen to her speak in a videotaped interview.  If she wasn't so personally upset about the situation in which she finds herself, it would be really funny.

I remember coming back to the states after living in Germany for over four years.  I found that I had some trouble speaking English occasionally, but in my case I think it was just a matter of still thinking in German.  I embarrassed myself on occasion among my friends with wacky grammar mostly, after I drank a few tasty beverages too many.

When you listen to Linda Walker speak now, with your eyes closed, you really can imagine her wearing a colorful Rastafarian knit hat.  She's a sweet lady and I hope her health continues to improve.  At the same time, if she starts smoking the ganja, growing her dreadlocks, and listening to Damian Marley, she might have some more explaining to do.


Posted at 10:16 pm by John Furie Zacharias
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Tuesday, June 06, 2006
School Skip Day

Do you remember how great it was to get an official day off from school?  Getting an unexpected day off from school, like when they had "snow days" in the winter, was even better.  I rode around with Danny Bowen on his Dad's snowmobile until we slid sideways at an intersection.  Then, we hit the one piece of gravel road that wasn't slickly suitable for our mode of transportation.  I think I flew nearly 50 feet down-range when the Ski Doo stuck and flipped. I was launched through the air like an un-seatbelted Volvo passenger.  I was punted from the ride.

Despite my grade school trauma, days away from school were always memorable and important.  As a matter of fact, I found out something very cool and useful around my high school daze.  I became Jewish.

I wasn't really Jewish, but being the little thug that I was, I did notice that all the Jewish kids got a number of days off because of their religion.  Before long, I knew when Yom Kippur and Rosh Hoshana fell on the calendar.  I skipped school on every Jewish holiday for three years and never caught any flack for it.

Today, if I were a kid in another circumstance, in another time and place, I would still be a school skipping little thug.  Who the hell wants to be in school when they could be doing anything else?

The same is true for kids all around the world. It's universal, apparently.  In Afghanistan, opium eradication days are days away from school.

It's a day out in the country for Noor Mohammad, as he stands in the middle of a field with a stick, beating energetically at the opium poppy plants around him.

"I like destroying poppies," he said. "It's fun to be away from the city for a day."

Noor, 16, is in the tenth grade at a school in Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province. His one day trip to the country is part of an experiment being conducted by the government's counter-narcotics department in Balkh.

"Even with transportation and lunch, students come a lot cheaper than any other work force," explained Zabiullah Akhtari, a senior government official in charge of poppy eradication in Balkh. "We are going to use students several more times before the end of the poppy season."

"Afghanistan: Schoolchildren Used to Eradicate Opium Poppies"
by Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, Environmental New Service

So, yeah ... anyway.  Right.  That seems fun, too.  A real field trip.


Posted at 08:12 pm by John Furie Zacharias
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