Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Unhealthy habits

Since I haven't really needed to go anywhere for the past week, I haven't been on the bike in a week either. Nor have I gotten any other real exercise, so I'm starting to feel like a slug. My eating habits need work, too. I tend to snack a lot and eat unhealthy food when I have significant chunks of time off. Laura always makes a delicious healthy dinner, but the single healthy meal doesn't balance my eating an entire bag of chocolate-covered pretzels for breakfast. Yesterday, I even hit the baked-goods trifecta: cake for breakfast, cookies for lunch, and pie after dinner. I've got to stop this. I don't know if I'm making actual New Year's Resolutions this year; I may decide not to make grand statements about how much I'm going to exercise or how healthy I'll eat. But I definitely need to start taking better care of my body. I'm not old*, but now's the time to start paying attention. It's much easier to stay in shape than it is to get back in shape....

* Dennis the peasant: "I'm thirty-seven! I'm not old!"

Low-tech holiday week!

For most of the year, I spend at least four hours a day sitting in front of a computer. Some of it's work, some of it's play, some (not enough) of it is writing time. But that's a lot of time staring at an LCD display. So for the past week, I've been on a digital vacation -- I've only been online once, and that was to retrieve a phone number. I sent no e-mail, didn't blog, didn't surf comic strips, didn't play games. I wrote, a little, but that was the complete extent of my computer usage over the holiday. It was nice, and a bit weird. Until you go a while without, you don't realize how much you're at least a bit psychologically dependent on a near-constant stream of information and communication. It feels like I think less when I'm so continually tied into a stream of information; hanging out online and reading webcomics and news and blogs is more mentally engaging than watching television, but it doesn't seem like a big improvement over gluing myself to a teevee for a few hours a day. And taking a break felt nice. Now I'm back in the routine and back online, but I'm paying a bit more attention to how I spend my time.

This internet-free vacation feels a bit different from my last low-tech week, hiking in King's Canyon. In King's Canyon, I was fifty miles from cell phone reception, and a minimum of twenty miles from the closest working electrical outlet. Technology wasn't an option (plus, I was busy with hiking and cooking and filtering water and not showering). But this week, the computer has been right here, a few feet away at all times. It was constantly available, and it was a bit of a mental effort to avoid it at times.

Laura and I were both free for the past week; she had a single one-hour meeting last week, and other than that, we spent the entire week together. We cooked and read and loafed and snuggled on the couch in front of the Christmas tree and had a wonderful week together. I'm glad we had the time to spend, and glad we didn't squander it glued to our computers.
------------
Update. I just discovered a disadvantage to spending a week offline: I've got a bunch of library books overdue. I usually visit the library's website every day or two and renew any books that are getting close to expiring. And, since I wasn't planning my Luddite week in advance, I didn't renew my library books first....

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve: on wrapping gifts

It's Christmas Eve, and I'm busily wrapping gifts. Here's my collection of random thoughts during the process:
  • Wrapping always takes twice as long as I plan. No matter how much time I set aside for wrapping, it always takes much longer.
  • Crinkly noises, loose bows, dangling ribbon, flapping wrapping paper: wrapping gifts is serious playtime for the cats. They really want to "help"; by help, I mean "tear your wrapping paper to shreds and unravel all the ribbon".
  • Recycling boxes from previous years is good. It's efficient and environmentally friendly, and helps you fill your unused storage space in the basement with combustible material.
  • Two exceptions: if your wife unwraps a Victoria's Secret box, there had better be something from Victoria's Secret inside the box (lost spousal points are doubled if there's a cleaning or cooking utensil in the box). And, much worse: a guy I know tells a story (funny now, much less so at the time) about planning a really thoughtful gift for his wife. She had a problem getting in the house when she carpooled, since half the time she left the garage door opener in the car. Or, she'd remember it, but forget to put it back in the car when she got home. So he got her an extra garage door opener and programmed it; she could carry it in her purse, and leave the original one in the car. Thoughtful and practical -- a great gift. But he gave it to her in a box from a high-end jewelry store. Ouch....
  • Sign I might be a tightwad: even though we buy bows ten for a dollar at the after-Christmas sales, I still use scotch tape to hold them on, instead of using the self-adhesive tabs on the back. This way, I can re-use them later!
  • It took me some time to realize that I'm wrapping Laura's gifts for her benefit, not for mine. She likes ribbon and bows, so I use ribbon and bows. She likes pretty paper (not the Sunday funnies), so I use pretty paper. It's all about the recipient, not the guy doing the wrapping.
  • Efficiency is good, but here's some advice for type-A engineering-minded people such as myself. Even if you measure all the gifts and the rolls of wrapping paper and do elaborate planning and math to minimize the size of your offcuts and re-use offcuts to wrap other gifts, don't tell the normal people. They don't want to know, and they won't be impressed. You can always tell other type-A engineering-minded people; you might even end up in an unofficial competition for efficient use of paper. But don't tell anyone else.
  • I'm thinking that next year, I'll start the cats playing with wrapping supplies a few weeks in advance. When gift time comes, they'll be bored with the ribbon and bows and less inclined to "help".

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A pressing need for average coffee

I'm spending my morning at the information desk at the Artsgarden ("What's the world's fastest land animal?" --"The cheetah."), answering questions ranging from the extremely common ("Where's the mall?") to the extremely obscure ("Which building on Washington Street had its facade moved across the street?" --"The Griffith Block, in the 100W block.") One of my more common questions is, "Where's the closest Starbucks?" And I always answer that there's two on Monument Circle, and I give them directions. Then I tell them that to get to either one you have to walk by the South Bend Chocolate Company, which serves better coffee, especially if you want any kind of coffee-based beverage with chocolate in it; they make their hot chocolate and mocha collection with high-quality melted chocolate, instead of Hershey's syrup. And a surprising number of people aren't interested. They aren't interested in experiencing the best possible chocolate-oriented coffee beverage; they want what they're used to.

The sad part isn't that they're missing out on a supreme beverage experience. The sad part is that anyone so locked into their mental routine that they can't even try a new coffee shop, is almost certainly locked into their other mental routines. I can't imagine the other interesting experiences these people miss out on because they're so attached to their routine of comfortable mediocrity. Rarely, someone will get actively angry that I'm daring to suggest a new experience for them. I feel a little sorry for them.

And, for reference, my favorite beverage at South Bend is the Cafe Wien, which is half coffee, half hot chocolate. It's an exalted level of yummy, if you like coffee and chocolate. If you want a really new experience, ask for a dark wien or a white wien: the same, but made with dark-chocolate or white-chocolate hot chocolate. Yum!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Oddly safer than I expected.

So, I biked home in the freezing rain and sleet last night. Which was no fun, to be sure, but was actually much better than I expected. For one thing, the bicycle handled the ice pretty well. It turns out, as long as you're moving in a straight line, you're a lot more stable on a bike than walking. Unless you try to turn, wheels don't need much traction to function, and your stability on a bike comes from your movement. And, traffic was light enough that I could spend most of the ride on the roads, which had mostly been salted. And I only once had to dodge an SUV that tried to run me into a parked car. So, yeah -- the ride sucked. But much less than I expected it to, and much less than it could have.

I had a first, though -- I had freezing rain form into ice on my glasses. It was creepy. I thought it was just mist until I tried to wipe it off and realized it was one with the lenses. I ended up riding home without my glasses. I couldn't see anything through the slowly thickening ice sheet, and even as bad as my non-glasses vision is, it was much better than trying to see through the ice.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gifts: the giving of

It's that time of year when we get to buy gifts for friends and relatives. I've recently developed a tiny ethical problem with this, because I work from the paradigm that we, as Americans, already have way too much crap. Giving someone more stuff puts you firmly on the "part of the problem" half of the problem/solution continuum. Anything you give someone becomes something they need to devote mental energy to -- the recipient will need to store it, use it, pay attention to it, and generally make room for it in their lives. With a lot of gifts, it seems you're really not doing anyone any favors by adding it to their life. But it's that time of year, and I really do want to get gifts for people. So I've worked out a mental formula for acceptable and unacceptable gifts. It's something like this:
  • Acceptable: DVDs, music, and books. If you give someone a movie you know they'll like, you're doing them a favor. Ditto with music they'll listen to often, and books you know they'll read and enjoy. And the incremental cost of adding books, CDs, and DVDs to someone's household is small; they've already got storage and usage systems in place for them, and adding another book or DVD to someone's collection has no practical effect on their organizational system.
  • Also acceptable: software. If you know of a game or utility someone will enjoy or use often, it's a good gift. Games are also nice, because it's the kind of thing that people have trouble rationalizing buying for themselves.
  • Very acceptable: anything you know the recipient really wants, but is unwilling to buy for themselves.
  • Also good: gift certificates for services. Gift certificates can be impersonal, but really, so's a copy of Spiderman 2. And giving someone a gift certificate for a massage or spa services is a nice gift. You're treating them to something special without adding to their collection of stuff. On the other hand, I try not to pick gifts that might send an unintended message. I've got a friend who hates cleaning, but giving them a gift certificate for a maid service might seem like more of a hint than I intend....
  • Tools make great gifts, if I'm reasonably certain the recipient will use it and doesn't already have an equivalent tool.
And, things I try not to give:
  • Anything seasonal, that requires storage for a good chunk of the year.
  • Anything that inflicts my taste on someone else, unless I'm really sure it's also to their taste: wall art or sculpture or yard statuary are no-nos.
  • Anything cute/funny. Funny is temporary, and anything that's funny the first time, probably won't be funny after they've seen it often enough.
  • Any member of the "widget" family, unless it's so extremely practical that the recipient will use it every day and wonder how they ever survived without it.
  • Clothing. Not that clothing is a bad gift, necessarily; I like receiving clothing. But I'm aware that my taste isn't great, and that anything I give has a fair chance of never being worn.
That being said, some of my favorite gifts I've gotten don't meet my gift-giving standards. We got one of those nifty outdoor fireplaces from my brother, and we used it until it fell apart in a heap of rust. Back in my car-driving days, I got much enjoyment on a daily basis from my dashboard ninjas, even though they fail both the cute/funny test and the widget test. And I might be buying myself a post-Christmas gift of the LOLCats book, even though it's definitely of the cute/funny oeuvre....

Monday, December 15, 2008

Naughty, nice, and a bit kinky

Laura and I decorated our Christmas tree today. Given the holiday-oriented nature of our day, we spent a lot of time subjecting ourselves to holiday music. And I couldn't help but notice the slightly kinky subtext of the too-often-covered song "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus". We've all heard the song, and the joke is that the kid narrating the tale is actually watching his parents -- it's not Santa his mom's kissing, it's his father in a red suit and fake beard. But, really, there's a logical gap here. If the dad's playacting Santa for the kid's benefit, mom shouldn't be canoodling with the fake Santa. And, the kid was sneaking out of bed in the middle of the night; the parents really couldn't have planned on the kid waking up to see him playing Santa. I infer from this that the dad was in a Santa suit for reasons having nothing to do with the kid....

The only question is, whose fantasy is the Santa suit? Does the husband like being the Jolly Old Elf ("come sit on my lap and tell me what you want in your stocking!")? Or is it the wife's fantasy to seduce (or be ravished by) Santa Claus? It's a good thing the kid decided to go back to bed after watching them kiss (and watching mom tickle him under his beard-so-snowy-white), before seeing what came next. He narrowly missed the need for years of therapy.

And don't get me started on the song "Snow", wherein Danny Kaye expresses her fetishistic wish to wash her hands, her face, and her hair in snow, and her desire for a man entirely made of snow....

Friday, December 12, 2008

State quarters and happy memories

I know more than a few people who collect the state quarters. I don't know if it's much of an investment; I suspect that in 40 years, a complete set of 50 will be worth something less than what you'd get investing $12.50 in the bank for 40 years. But I enjoy the state quarters anyway. They function as a memory trigger for me; every time I pick up a state quarter, I think of people I know who live there, or good times I had visiting there. In a few cases, I think of trips I'd like to take or places I'd like to visit. I've got a personal association for almost all 50 states -- the only exceptions are Arkansas, New Hampshire, Delaware, and Kansas. Some of them were things I had almost forgotten about until I saw the quarter. I went to a friend's wedding in Connecticut; I stopped in Rugby, North Dakota, to stand at the geographical center of North America; I've got an old friend in Texas; I took a vacation in Oregon to visit Laura on tour; another friend moved to Atlanta for a surreal job offer; I got spectacularly lost on Minneapolis's interstate system. The list is long and broad, and thinking and remembering make me happy. So whenever I dig through a handful of change to feed a meter, I think of old friends, good times, and future plans. It's nice, having a pocketful of memories....

Does anybody else do this with state quarters?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What I Do At Work -- who knows?

We just found out that I don't have an actual written job description at work. My vague non-written job description is also my de-facto job title, Tech Guy, but there's no formal list of duties anywhere. This is nice; it means that, whatever I do, there's a chance that it might be my job. Doing the Booty Dance? Might be my job. Eating Cinnabons? Might be my job. Practicing curling with the planters in the Artsgarden? Difficult to prove that it's not my job. I wish I would've known this earlier; I could've taken advantage.

But it's too late, because I now have an official job description. I just wrote it, because it needed to go in a presentation to the board of directors. The job description took about ten minutes to write and another two minutes to edit. And the editing was important; amongst other things, I struck the phrase, "moves heavy objects with great alacrity" and elimated the multiple appearances of the verb "to schlep". And I'm never sure if board members actually read these things, but I didn't want to press my luck by having my job description include things like "band wrangler" and "chorale corraler".

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Kitted out for the Zombie Hordes

So, I was pondering what my ideal inventory for the Zombie Apocalypse would be. It's a natural train of thought; in the last three days, I finished reading World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, and I also watched the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, so it was only natural to take inventory of the house and see how well prepared we'd be in the event of Zombie Armageddon. The answer: we'd probably be zombie chow. We've got lots of food around, but not much water, and no firearms whatsoever. I couldn't even find my big crowbar, which would be my standby zombie-bashing weapon; I think it's hanging from the rafters in the garage.

But I started thinking about what I'd like to have on hand in advance of the zombie horde's advance. And here are my thoughts. Some of it's probably best suited for firearms geeks, but here goes:

Given that your only reliable "kill" is a head shot, and that only structural damage -- destroying a knee or hip joint -- will slow one down, you need penetration more than raw stopping power. And you need accuracy. But there are also cases where you need maneuverability in tight spaces (for fleeing through the sewers, maybe), good knockdown (for the first one charging up the stairwell; it slows the rest down), and either multiple weapons or a huge ammo capacity without complex reloading (for those mob scenes). Given the difficulty of making a reliable headshot while running, especially at night (when it's harder to get a good sight picture), I'm leaning towards a laser sight. And you don't want something that'll be hard to scavenge ammo for; that P90 might be all kinds of cool, but you'll never find 5.7mm in anyone's garage. So with all this factored in, my ideal load-out looks something like this:
* Primary: a low-recoil selective-fire submachine gun: an H&K MP5, with a flashlight under the barrel and a laser sight. Close-range accuracy, reliable, good penetration, extremely common 9mm ammo.
* Handgun: something in .45 auto (good knockdown) with a laser sight, and maybe a flashlight mount too. In a perfect world, I'd take a Para-Ordnance PXT Hi-Cap -- then again, in a perfect world, I wouldn't have to fight off zombie hordes.
* Close combat: not the crowbar; it gets too heavy, after the first few swings. I'm thinking axe handle -- light, high-impact, durable, and more maneuverable than a baseball bat.
* In the armored school bus: a pair of accurate semi-auto rifles for sniping (AR15 and FAL, maybe, for ammo variety), and a shotgun or two.
* It'd also be nice to have something silenced (like that special-forces MP5 with the integral silencer, or that cool Russian 9mm sniper rifle), for taking out the walking dead standing in front of the convenience store you need to loot for food, without making loud noises to attract others.
* Given the guaranteed-lethal nature of zombie bites, I'm thinking some sort of body armor. It doesn't need to be ballistic-quality, just tough enough to stop teeth. Maybe motocross racing armor. Plus, it looks cool -- very Mad Max.

Add to this the usual survival gear: water purification, dehydrated or preserved food, multi-fuel camp stove, and the other bare necessities of life. Throw it in the back of your armored schoolbus with some jerrycans of unleaded, and you're ready for the zombie-resistant life on the road!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Bailing out Detroit

Congress just approved a big, expensive bailout bill for the auto industry, still pending (as of this moment) White House approval. It seems to be conditioned on the presumption that the U.S. automakers will reinvent themselves -- that they will turn themselves into a structurally sound, profitable business. This strikes me as a bit odd, because they've been reinventing themselves for a few years. They've started research into increasing fuel efficiency without sacrificing power, and are scaling back production of less-efficient vehicles to support the new-found consumer desire for better gas mileage. They've started designing cars well, for a change, and selling cars based on performance rather than catchy advertising and market segmentation. They've still got heinous union problems, they still suffer from bad management, and for some reason they've been unable to ditch useless product lines. But, compared to five years ago, things are finally looking up for Detroit.

Or were, until gas prices started spiking. Now they're hurting. The problem isn't so much with the U.S. automakers, but with their place in the auto industry as a whole. There are cars available for every market segment, and the Big Three were overly dependent on sales to the market segments that were hit hardest by high fuel prices: full-size pickups; overpowered sedans; sports cars; and full-size SUVs. The U.S. automakers spent too much time and marketing energy getting good at making huge, inefficient vehicles. When you think Ford, you think F150 and Expedition (you may also think Escort, but you don't think fondly of an Escort). Honda wasn't hit hard by rising gas prices. Their best-selling and best-known vehicles are small and economical, which put them in a comparatively good competitive position. Ford, on the other hand, was extremely dependent on people buying full-size pickups as cooler alternatives to minivans. When fuel prices spiked, the buying market shifted from the vehicles in which the Big Three specialized, to vehicles made better by others.

Then the gradual tanking of the economy got bad enough that it was obvious even to the oblivious. And things got worse for the Big Three. Chrysler, which seems to be doing the worst, doesn't even have a product line under $20k (unless you count the PT Cruiser, which is such a bad vehicle in so many ways, its only selling point seems to be vaguely-retro styling; it should come with a factory-installed bumper sticker that says, "I didn't do my research!"). Even Ford and GM are dependent on too many expensive vehicles and too many vehicles that get horrible mileage. And people aren't buying them, or not in the quantities they were a few years ago.

And, the UAW -- possibly the most benefit-heavy set of workers in the entire world. A friend of the family once sold hearing aids for a living, and the best calls were to UAW members or retirees; they're the only workers in the country whose insurance pays 100% of the cost of hearing aids. Congress doesn't get free hearing aids. Unions serve a valid purpose -- they give workers a degree of protection and leverage against abuses committed by their employers. It costs employers more financially to use union labor, but with the benefit that they've got a large pool of expert workers to pull from. But the UAW has been unnaturally powerful for decades. Anecdotal story: a friend was working as a contractor at a Ford plant in Detroit a few years ago, and there was a low-grade scandal while he was in the plant. Two workers backed a truck up to a loading dock, threw in around $40k worth of truck transmissions, and drove off. The theft was caught on tape, but not only could they not prosecute the thieves, they couldn't even make them give the stolen goods back. The union repercussions (equipment sabotage and work slowdowns) would've cost the company much more than the lost parts. This is appalling, and apparently not uncommon. The UAW has made some "concessions" to the automakers as part of the push for a bailout, but the concessions were both inexpensive and insignificant. They're still firmly on the "problem" side of the problem/solution continuum.

So I'm not sure what the Big Three can promise the government. I was at least a little curious what would happen if the bailout didn't happen; Chevrolet said they needed the loans by the end of the year, or they'd be forced to file for bankruptcy. And I'm not seeing the down side of this. Bankruptcy isn't the same as closing your doors; it means you restructure with debt relief as a cushion for your transitional period (I grossly oversimplify). Which seems like what the government is proposing anyway, without using the B-word. But in bankruptcy, the restructuring is less voluntary and more drastic. And, everything's on the table. With a bailout, the UAW gets veto power over anything involving the union; under bankruptcy, a court could order the union contract completely rewritten. And courts have already decided with telco workers that "lifetime benefits" refer to the life of the contract, not the employee....

This piques my curiosity

I finally got around to watching the remake of Dawn of the Dead. As zombie movies go, it was good. But I'm extremely curious about another movie I found on the results page when I did an IMDB search for Dawn of the Dead. It's a parody of the original Romero Night of the Living Dead, with all of the Living Dead video intact, but the dialogue replaced by newer, funnier dialogue. This kind of thing is generally mildly amusing, but also generally a waste of time. But I'm curious about this one, largely because of the title. The full title:

Night of the Day of the Dawn of the Son of the Bride of the Return of the Revenge of the Terror of the Attack of the Evil, Mutant, Alien, Flesh Eating, Hellbound, Zombified Living Dead Part 2: In Shocking 2-D


Really, you can't go wrong with a title like this. If I can find a copy, I'll check it out and post a review.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

dreading the bike ride

So, I've been off of the bike since Thanksgiving -- Laura's been on tour, so I've had the Jeep at my disposal. It's been nice, being able to arrive at work warm, dry, and relatively quickly. And it's also nice being able to stop on the way home and pick up cat litter, instead of having to schedule that kind of heavy-objects shopping trip for when Laura's not using the Jeep.

Tonight, sometime between 1am and 2am, I hop back on the bike for what seems like the first time in a long while. And it's almost the worst-case scenario ride: late, cold, windy, slushy, and occasionally icy. Plus, the roads are slick for the first time this year, which means that people in cars are driving a bit like idiots, especially the less-sober ones who are likely to be on the roads with me in the wee hours. I'm extremely not looking forward to it. I'm not dreading it so much that I'm willing to call Laura and get her out of bed so she can drive downtown and pick me up, but it's the first time in a while that I find myself wishing I had a car....

-----

Update: I'm about to hop on the bike, and it's 20 degrees. Wind gusts to 20mph make the windchill factor 4 degrees. And if it's a headwind, that drops to below zero. Did I mention I'm not looking forward to this?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Appalling, and yet...

I still want to try this recipe sometime. Any recipe where the first step is "Weave Bacon" deserves looking into. I have a minor weakness for bacon. I can feel my cholesterol rising just reading the recipe, but I look at the last picture and think "yummy!". And then I think it's missing something -- maybe it needs to be batter-dipped and deep fried....

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Moment of surreal

Sometimes I'll overhear a little snippet of someone else's conversation and really wish I had the contextual information necessary to make sense of it. Today's example, in an elevator:

"How you doing?"
--"I feel like a hockey player in a candle factory."

A hockey player in a candle factory. It's a beautiful, surreal metaphor, though I have utterly no clue what it means. It seemed to make complete sense to the two people talking, so it's probably not nonsense; I just don't have the context....

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Obsolete skill set!

I work in a fairly technical field. Tools and techniques change a lot over time -- not as much as electronics or computers, but more than wiring or carpentry. So I keep learning new tricks, reading to stay current, and keeping up with the new gear. I did my first audio recordings on an Otari dual-track reel-to-reel tape machine, and recorded sound effects on cart; now I'm recording digital multitrack projects via Logic Studio on a fairly regular basis, and working my way through the intricacies of the newer technologies. Like any other competent tech guy, the leading edge of my technical know-how keeps pushing forward.

What I've been noticing recently, though, is the trailing edge. There's a good chance I'll never see another Otari dual track for the rest of my life, much less ever have to use one. But if I had to, I still remember how to thread the tape through and how to manually splice the tape. I still keep the correct size of pencil in my console drawer at work in case I ever need to cue cassette tapes. I know how to change phonograph needles and how to get to the belt on a belt-drive turntable. I don't know if I'll ever need these skills again, but they're up there floating around in my head. I hope they're not taking up valuable space I could be using to store recipes or remember phone numbers....

The Polar Express Human Robot

As advertising for the last season of The Polar Express at the IMax theater at the Indiana State Museum, we've got an actor doing promos for the show a few times a week during the lunch hour in the Artsgarden. He's really good; in character as The Conductor he moves in robotic stop motion, and he's a lot of fun to watch. Also entertaining, watching people notice him, then try to figure out if he's human or animatronic. This is cool for two reasons. First, it's a testament to the actor's ability. And second, it says a lot about modern effects technology. People actually assume that there's a possibility that a complex dynamically-balancing robot is being used for marketing purposes, and they're not too far from being right.

And, I'm trying to come up with a different "conductor" pun every time he does a promo at the Artsgarden. For his first two shows I've got "he's a good conductor -- a real live wire!" and "I hear he's considering a partial retirement; he'll be a semiconductor." I'm not sharing these with the IMax people; I don't want to be That Guy That Thinks He's Funny....