Zhaba Zhournal
Friday, October 31, 2003 
Yo, don't mess with Philly! 
This is why I love South Philly: when schoolgirls spotted a flasher who'd been exposing himself on the playground, they chased him down, beat him up, and held him till police arrived. You go, girls.

[ at 9:52 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]




Thursday, October 30, 2003 
Peoplewatching 
Yesterday, on the bus: a woman carrying an unsettlingly realistic mannequin head. I don't think it was a Halloween thing; maybe she was a beauty school student and she was taking it home to practice. But it was a very odd thing to see at the end of a long day.

In the drugstore: a guy standing in the feminine hygiene aisle, looking utterly perplexed. He finally took out his cell phone to call his wife/girlfriend, to no avail; no one answered the phone. I thought of offering to help, but figured that I'd just make him more embarrassed. ("So, is she a heavy bleeder?")

Also in the drugstore: a nun was ahead of me in the line at the pharmacy. I've hardly ever seen nuns out in public. I guess they have to get their medications somewhere, though.

[ at 12:55 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]



"Well, duh" Department 
Perhaps the most appropriate use ever of the Fark.com tag: Kentucky motorcycle deaths increase 58% after repeal of helmet law.

Two words: Organ donors.

::sigh::

[ at 12:29 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]




Wednesday, October 29, 2003 
Transfer of power 
Gov. Gray Davis said [the San Diego et al. wildfires] may be the costliest disaster California has ever faced. He estimated the cost at $2 billion.

"This is a total disaster," he said.
Following which he said, "Here you go, Arnold, it's all yours! Hey, is there some water the firefighters aren't using that I can wash my hands of the whole situation with?"


[ at 9:29 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]




Tuesday, October 28, 2003 
Is there anything they don't sell? 
This is...odd: Amazon.com has launched a gourmet food store. So now you can get your cookbooks, your dishes, and your dinner all in one cyberplace. I don't know, I don't quite trust mail-order meat...


[ at 11:42 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]




Monday, October 27, 2003 
Our fear(less|some|ful) leader 
Trying to describe Bush's usual facial expression:
Me: He has the confused and earnest expression of a dog that's been given a command it doesn't understand.

J.: "Farch!"


[ at 10:37 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]




Sunday, October 26, 2003 
Back in action 
Finally my server is letting me post again...it was apparently under the impression that, because my domain name expired last year on 10/24, it also expired this year on 10/24, even though I renewed for two years on 9/24. And they say computers are good with numbers.

Anyway. All seems to be well in file-transfer-protocol and universal/uniform-resource-locator land, although all is not necessarily well in real-life-land. My brother's new house turns out to have had an addition that not only had termites, but was also not actually attached either to the ground or the roof, so he had to get the whole back of the house taken off. Now there's some plywood and plastic sheeting over the door to where the kitchen used to be, and the tiny South Philly back"yard" is full of concrete and timber and building materials. Oy. At least the temperature isn't regularly below freezing yet; the contractor says they'll be done by Thanksgiving. Probably. (You'd think the home inspector would either have caught it or would have to pay some money for not catching it, but apparently not; the only way to detect it would have been to put a hole in the wall, and home inspectors are generally not allowed to do that.)

So my parents and J. and I were over there again today, scraping paint and wallpaper and spackling the living room and hallway. Wall-scraping is actually kind of fun; it's the same guilty pleasure as peeling a sunburn or picking a scab, except no one looks at you funny for doing it. The primate grooming instinct, writ large and extended to interior design...

(I think I have an especially strong primate grooming instinct. I'm almost categorically incapable of leaving a pimple unsqueezed or an ingrown hair unplucked, although at least now I don't go after them on other people...)

(I occasionally think I should have been a dermatologist; then I think of exactly how bad some dermatologic conditions can get, and I'm glad I didn't.)

[ at 8:28 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]




Friday, October 24, 2003 
Good. 
X10—they of the ubiquitous, God-awful pop-up voyeuristic camera ads—has gone bankrupt. Possibly because no one, ever, in the history of the universe, ever bought one of their products.

(I posted a rumination on the evils of X10 back in June.)


[ at 9:21 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]




Tuesday, October 21, 2003 
Keeping up, or not 
Lots to catch up on. (Yeah, I keep saying that.) It's one of those "working at work" periods when I'm trying very hard to avoid Internet use except during my scheduled breaks, and I usually spend those e-mailing J. and catching up on my news and blog reads, and when I've finished all that I don't have any more time to post about the things I just read. (Don't you hate it when work interferes with your workday?)

But anyway. Saturday was my tenth high-school reunion, and Sunday was our first wedding anniversary, both of which could provide ample posting fodder if I ever had time. J. and I spent our actual anniversary at my brother's house, putting up wallboard and taking down wallpaper; we're doing the Anniversary Dinner thing tomorrow at Deux Cheminees. It's one of the city's top restaurants, less famous and hence less crowded than Le Bec Fin. We had dinner there twice when I was doing restaurant reviews; this time we've got to pay for it ourselves, but it's oh-so-very worth it.

It's been a year since our wedding, and, of course, a year since our honeymoon, which we spent in Washington, D.C., during the sniper attacks. We heard that they caught the guys on the radio in the cab on the way to the train station for our trip home. It was a bit nerve-wracking, especially when we were out on the street for long periods of time, but we eventually managed to ignore it as much as possible. There wasn't anything we could do about it; it wasn't even possible to avoid white vans (which is what everyone was looking for at the time). One day, J. tried to count all the white vans we saw; he gave up after seeing six in one block.

On the bright side, everything was reeeaally uncrowded. No school trips at the Smithsonian or the zoo, no one in the sidewalk cafes... There wasn't even a line to see the giant pandas, though the zoo was obviously prepared for one: there was a Disney-ride–like maze of buildings and walkways, with a point of interest every twenty feet or so, that would probably stretch a quarter-mile if you straightened it out.

(Okay, I've wasted most of the time I wanted to spend writing this on a fruitless Web search for the psychology of Disney ride line design. So I'm just going to post this and try to do more later.)


[ at 3:19 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]



Possibly on TV 
In the works: The J. Lo TV show. Excuse me, I just yawned so wide my jaw hurts.


[ at 12:31 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]




Friday, October 17, 2003 
The purple frog 
I never saw a purple cow,
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
This frog is really damn purple.
Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis was recently discovered in a remote, mountainous area of India, where it lives underground for all but two months of the year. No wonder no one's seen it before.

A quote from the article:
"New species are found all the time—about 70 are found each year—but almost always they are related to other known species," [evolutionary biologist Blair Hedges] said. "This one is not; it is not closely related to anything and distantly related to a family in the Seychelles. That makes it very remarkable."
Yikes. 70 species a year? I think most of them are insects; still, that's an awful lot of previously-undiscovered species. I wonder if it's keeping up with the number of species going extinct every year. And I wonder how many undiscovered species go extinct every year, things we've never seen and will never see...

(Hey, I just brought myself back around to the purple cow poem. Not bad for a workday morning.)


[ at 10:04 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]




Wednesday, October 15, 2003 
She said/she said 
I am not, I repeat, not not not, going to get into a detailed discussion of the Kobe Bryant rape case, specifically the defense lawyer's, how shall I put this, sleazeball tactics:
[Eagle County sheriff's Detective Doug] Winters detailed how [the {alleged} victim's] blood was found on the panties she wore as well as on the inside front of Bryant's shirt, and that a sexual-assault nurse examiner found her injuries "inconsistent" with consensual sex...
whereupon
...[defense attorney Pamela Mackey] suggested that her injuries could be "consistent with someone who had had sex with three different men in three days."
All I'm going to say is that, if I'd had sex with three men in three days and suffered bleeding genital injuries, I would not be very eager to have more sex. Okay?


[ at 9:28 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]




Tuesday, October 14, 2003 
Holiday spirit 
So last night J. and I were watching the news, and, as usual, making snarky comments to the TV:
Newscaster: President Bush celebrated Columbus Day by meeting with Italian Americans.
Me: Oh, there's a big surprise.
J.: Well, what did you expect him to do, go to an Indian casino?
Me: Hey, that's actually a really good idea.
Yes, what better way to commemorate Rape of the Americas Day than by pouring money into the most successful Indian economic venture since the early days of the fur trade? It's too late for this year, but next Columbus Day, I say we all take a bus trip to the nearest Indian casino and put our money where the government's mouth isn't.

(Someone could probably think of a clever line involving roulette and putting one's money on red, but I'm not going to.)


[ at 1:15 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]




Friday, October 10, 2003 
Na zdorovye! 
Hey, it's the 500th anniversary of vodka. It was originally used as an antiseptic. Then they figured out you could drink it, and the rest is history. (Much of it lost to blackouts.)

Damn, do I love vodka. (I'm half-Slavic. I can't help it.) Straight up, please, and preferably distilled from potatoes. I think I'll go home and have some Luksusowa tonight...


[ at 4:15 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]



Mental health 
Apparently yesterday was Bipolar Awareness Day. Hm. I wasn't aware of that. And I'm bipolar. Are we supposed to find this stuff out via brainwaves or something?

I got that from this article about how most Americans don't understand bipolar disorder:
A new survey found 78 percent of Americans polled failed to name bipolar disorder as a mental illness and 38 percent couldn't name a single symptom associated with the disease.
In all fairness, I bet they'd have responded differently if the surveyors had called it "manic depression." But we don't call it that anymore, it sounds too crazy...


[ at 3:32 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]



Editing geekery 
Okay, this is how much of a regular-expression geek I am: I have previously had dreams in which I did regular expression searches, but last night I had one that was so accurate I was able to use it, to good effect, at work this morning. (Warning: This next bit probably doesn't make much/any sense if you don't use regular expressions. But I'm pleased with myself, so I'm writing it anyway.)

<geek>

I'd been searching the files I'm editing for HTML character entities—&eacute; instead of é, for instance. So I searched for this:
&[^&;]+;
Except that kept bringing up every line that had an ampersand and a semicolon, including the lines with bizarre hidden Word coding.

(This, for instance: T]?C@T0?}G ڡEt;oKôv(>DP/il?Ds &y+;D} What the hell is that?)

And I wound up with the dismaying message "Found 109 occurrence(s) in 32 file(s)"—a pain in the neck to individually examine. Feh.

But in my dream, it occurred to me to limit the size of the string: &[^&;]{2,8}; I.e., to only catch strings with two to eight characters between the & and the ;. And I managed to remember it, and I tried it when I got to work this morning. And not only did it work, I was actually correct about the number of characters in a legitimate HTML entity. (In general, the longest ones have six characters, but in the Greek language set there's one with eight characters: &thetasym; I don't know if that will show up if I try to put it in here, though. ϑ—does that work on anyone's browser?)

Anyway, I ran that search, and got this: "Found 5 occurrence(s) in 5 file(s)". Hey, I like those numbers a lot better...

</geek>

And now, back to my regularly scheduled editing...

[ at 10:02 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]




Thursday, October 09, 2003 
Shiny rocks 
Half-assed Guarantee of the Day:

For an eBay gem auction:
*Item looked at and verified by certified gemologist*
(Asterisks and all.)

Um, "looked at"? From where, across the room? And "verified" as what? ("Yup, that's a physical object of some kind.")

Oh, and by the way, eBay gem dealers: There is no such fucking thing as African moldavite! It's called "moldavite" because it's from a meteor that landed in the Moldau region of the Czech Republic. I don't know, maybe there are meteor-based gems in other parts of the world, but they're not frickin' moldavite, okay?*

(I really, really like gems and minerals—or, more inclusively, shiny rocks—but I haven't bought any in a long time, since it's not exactly a cheap hobby. I'm getting an itch for moldavite, though, and maybe a demantoid garnet. And maybe a chrysoberyl cat's eye. And maybe...oh, crap, here I go again...)

(Here, for reference, is some moldavite. And here are some demantoid garnets. I assume everyone knows what chrysoberyl cat's eyes look like, but they're pretty, so here are some of them, too.)

*Update: On 12/23/03, I wrote another entry on the African moldavite question.

[ at 3:16 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]



Things I've said 
To J., last night, when he asked how my work day had gone: "I'm going to make Microsoft Word my bitch."

[ at 2:47 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]



Overheard 
"Excuse me, I have to go find a ten-foot pole to not touch that with."


[ at 2:46 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]




Wednesday, October 08, 2003 
Evil Microsoft Word 
Update: Since combinations of "VBAWRD8.HLP," "VBAWD10.CHM," and "download" are by far the most popular search strings for my Web site that don't involve Li'l Kim, and because Microsoft sucks and I like to help people, I'm going to belatedly provide a link for the elusive VBAWD10.CHM file. It turns out you can actually download it from a non-Korean, non-bootleg-looking Web site—I was able to get it today (9/15/2004) from the IST department at Marshall University, who I hope aren't going to come after me with lawyers and hockey sticks for linking to them.

On their IST: Download page, under "Documentation," you can download the .CHM files for Microsoft Office, Excel, Word, and PowerPoint. If you got here with a "VBAWRD8" or "VBAWD10" search, their link for "MS Word Object Model" is the one you're after.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled entry...
I hate Microsoft Word. I hate it more than most government officials, more than the public transit authority, more than menstrual cramps. If it were a person, I'd hire someone to beat it up or set its car on fire or have an affair with its spouse. I. Hate. It.

Since our clients insist upon using this evil thing, however, I have to deal with it. And I am, slowly but surely, bending it to my will. Today, for instance, I achieved something that I have hitherto only dreamed of: turning those God-awful automatic numbered lists into actual paragraphs with actual text numbers in front of them.

How? Well, I looked in all the menus. I looked at the included "Help" file. I dug up a Word 97 manual and read everything about lists and numbers. I looked at the "Help" file some more. I did a Web search. I checked the O'Reilly Hacks page. I checked the Microsoft Help page. I checked the Microsoft Help discussion lists. I was directed to use the VisualBasic Editor. I opened it and found out I didn't have the elusive VBAWRD8.HLP file. I looked for it on my hard drive. I looked for it on the office server. I tried to find our original installation CDs. (Of course we don't have them anymore.) I did another Web search. I found a Korean Web page with a link to a download that was, well, sort of like it. (VBAWD10.CHM.) I downloaded it. I read it. I ignored the constant "Internet Explorer Script Error" pop-ups I got on every page. I put together a macro. I ran it. It didn't work. I tried again. And again. And again. And finally—finally—after only three hours of not getting any frippin' work done—I had a macro that would do what the frippin' program should be able to do anyway.

And here it is, in all its deceptive simplicity:
Sub convertnumber()

ActiveDocument.ConvertNumbersToText (wdNumberParagraph)

End Sub
Yeah, it doesn't look like much. And no, it doesn't solve everything. And the programmers among you are probably entirely unimpressed. But I'm not a programmer. And I shouldn't have to be.

And now, back to the editing I was supposed to be doing in the first place...

[ at 1:47 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]




Monday, October 06, 2003 
Unsent 
Dear SoBe,

Why, pray tell, does the lid from my bottle of green tea bear the slogan "Remember the Alamo"? Since "SoBe" is an abbreviation for "South Beach," which is not in Texas, and your corporate address is in Norwalk, Conn., which is also not in Texas, I'm not sure why you feel the need to promote Alamo remembrance. I, personally, have absolutely no interest in whether the Alamo is remembered or not, being a) not from Texas and b) living in this century, thank you. (I mean, seriously; is anyone in the U.S. really afraid of the might of the Mexican army?)

I'm starting to worry about what I'm going to find under my next bottlecap. "The South will rise again"? "Fifty-four forty or fight"? There's enough antiquated, ack-basswards political thinking in this country without soft-drink companies throwing out last century's sound bites. Okay?

Sincerely,

Zhaba

P.S. Your Web site looks like it was designed by three spastic, colorblind first-graders with attention deficit disorder. I know you're trying to sell energy drinks, but jeez, do you have to make your Web site hyperactive too?


[ at 4:20 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]



Nachnamen-R-Us 
I've gotten two searches in the past few days for the literal meaning of Schwarzenegger, so, being the public-spirited person that I am, I'll do my best to provide it.

Via the German Surname Lexikon:
Schwar(t)z black

Egger/Eggers harrow, plow man
So it's something like "black plowman." No, I do not know what "black" has to do with anything in this context. Maybe just that the first person with this name was a plowman with black hair or a really deep tan. (Come to think of it, you would get a really deep tan if you were out plowing in the sun all day.)


[ at 3:05 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]



Weekend, schmeekend 
What with one thing and another, I didn't get any time to post over the weekend, leaving me with an even greater backlog of Things I Want To Write About. Much of the weekend was spent helping my brother work on his new house; it's a South Philly rowhouse like mine, although with a much nicer basement. We scrubbed down walls, steam-cleaned the carpets that were decent, tore up the carpets that weren't, and removed three layers of tile from the kitchen floor. He's helped me move many, many times, so I don't begrudge the time or effort J. and I spent on his house; but it did use up most of my time and energy.

Speaking of my brother, on Saturday morning he made his first TV appearance as Cop In Background. The local NBC station had a report on a murder that occurred in his district, and you could see him for about a second on the porch in front of the house. (My parents recognized him right away and called me at 8 a.m. to tell me to turn the TV on.) We all hope, of course, that he never winds up being the focus of a news story; but it was cool to get a glimpse of him in full Officer Mode.

(I tried to find a link to the story, but I can't find it at the NBC 10 Web site or on Philly.com. I guess murders in Southwest Philly aren't considered newsworthy after two days.)


[ at 12:17 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]




Friday, October 03, 2003 
Word association 
So much to say, so little time...maybe I'll get around to all the stuff I've been thinking about and wanting to write about this weekend. In the meantime, a quick word-association meme:
  1. Herpes:: Simplex
  2. Freddy:: Kruger
  3. October:: Revolution
  4. Hunting:: Of the snark
  5. MSN:: BC
  6. 36:: D
  7. Hotel:: California
  8. Travesty:: Of justice
  9. Health:: Insurance
  10. Conditions:: Terms
(Swiped from SwimFinsSF, who found it at Subconscious Mutterings.)


[ at 11:45 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]




Thursday, October 02, 2003 
Note to self 
Post about this later: Women with breast implants have increased risk of suicide. (Actually, is it a risk if it's something you do yourself? "Risk of becoming suicidal," maybe.)


[ at 3:37 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]



The local fauna 
At the corner of 2nd and Tasker: a guy on a motorcycle with a rottweiler behind him in the jump seat. (Neither of them was wearing a helmet.)

Right outside my office: a cat eating grass at the base of one of the sidewalk trees.


[ at 3:24 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]




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