Backyard Fun

Last night as I was writing my blog entry about the Georgia Aquarium the dogs wanted to go out. Katie goes in and out anytime I am on the computer since I am right next to the door. I could hear one of them barking way out in the backyard. Sometimes they see dogs go by on the street behind me or they just hear other dogs barking. But this was more of a high-pitched bark. I decided I had better go back there and make sure they were okay and had not trapped a cat or other critter. They really enjoy chasing after chipmunks and squirrels during the daytime, but they never come close to catching them.

I got out the flashlight to make sure I wouldn’t step in anything and could see what was back there. Along the back fence Katie and Clio were pawing at something on the ground. As I got up closer I could see it was a possum turned over on its back looking dead.

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Its fur had wet spots I guess where the dogs might have bitten or licked it. I could see its mouth and maybe its tongue hanging out. I tapped it with my foot and it moved a little. It had fooled me, but it was just playing dead. That didn’t mean that the dogs hadn’t hurt it, but I didn’t see any blood at least. It would be hard to get the dogs back in the house with something so interesting back there so I decided I should move it to the other side of the fence. It looked pretty benign and I was just going to pick it up by its tail, which doesn’t have fur and tapers down to a point Jeb said he had picked one up one time. But, realizing that it wasn’t dead at all and might just bite the heck out of me, I decided that was a bad idea. I took off my sweatshirt and wrapped that around my hand so that if it bit me at least it would hopefully just get a mouth full of cotton. I lowered it down to the ground on the other side of the fence. I don’t know where it lives or if it will be able to get back where it wants to go, but I thought that sure beats getting played with by two dogs. Although it looked dead the whole time, of course it wasn’t there this morning.

P.S.: In September 2006 Katie found another possum, this time in the front yard. I was able to get the picture above and, after putting Katie back in the house, I took this picture of him after he perked up and was walking away (they can remain passed out for about 4 hours, but I have seen resurrections twice and each time it just took a few minutes). I was reading up on opossums (not derived from Latin, so the plural just adds an s) on Wikipedia. It said that they don’t play dead consciously, but are so frightened that they pass out and emit a strong odor (which I smelled last night). The article also said that in adults the tail is not strong enough to support their weight, so you shouldn’t pick them up by the tail.

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Georgia Aquarium

Today I took Susan to the Georgia Aquarium for her birthday. Though she doesn’t usually like to take MARTA, tonight downtown they were having the Georgia high school football playoffs at the Dome, a Thrashers game at Philips Arena, and the Georgia/Georgia Tech game further uptown, so we opted for public transit. The aquarium is a hike from MARTA, at least a 15 minute walk, at the northwest corner of Centennial Park. Even though I had reserved the tickets before the aquarium opened, we still had to stand in line (though there was a second line for walk-up tickets that was longer) to get through security. I was stopped because I had my swiss army knife on my keychain and no knives or guns are allowed. I tried to talk the guard into letting me go through but she said my only choices were to throw it away, take it back to my car (40 minutes away), or hide it somewhere outside. I finally decided to hide it and picked a spot just outside the aquarium. I came back and thought I could have probably just stuck it in my shoe and she’d have never known the difference. Anyway, it was good hiding spot I guess because it was still there when I got out.

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Spoon

In my excitement to find out more about The Killers I didn’t end up watching the rest of that episode of Austin City Limits. Sunday night I watched the next act, an Austin-based indie band called Spoon. In the AllMusic entry for The Killers they had Spoon listed as a similar artist, so I thought I might like them too. They are pretty different though. Whereas The Killers have a definite Cure and Oasis influence, Spoon has more of a Elvis Costello sound, though more like “Watching the Detectives” than “Alison”. I think they sound at least a little like X though not rockabilly like X could be, more like “Blue Spark,” at least with the songs they were performing which came from their current CD Gimme Fiction. On other albums they have a little different sound, but I like the spooky funky blues sound of these songs, particularly “The Beast and Dragon, Adored” and “My Mathematical Mind”. Those titles make them sound geekier than they really are.

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The Killers

Austin City Limits is a live music show on public television. They have pretty good taste and the show has been around for a long time. Based in Austin, they seem to spotlight a lot of Texas bands. Lyle Lovett has probably been on a lot, Stevie Ray Vaughan was on it. They had The Pixies when they got back together. So if something seems remotely interesting I’ll try to record it. (For a while another PBS show had a similar lineup of well-chosen talent called Sessions at West 54th, but it disappeared after a couple of years.)

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T

I’ve always thought it was neat that some of the biggest companies in the world were so old, so powerful, and so well respected that their stock symbol was a single letter. AT&T was one of those: T. Ford is another: F. Citicorp is C. Not all big companies are one letter, for instance, General Motors is GM. And anything on the NASDAQ has to have 4 letters regardless, like MSFT, GOOG, and YHOO. (I found one place that said “M” and “I” on the New York Stock Exchange were being reserved if Microsoft or Intel ever decided to leave the NASDAQ). Other tickers are kind of interesting too: 3M is MMM, Southwest Airlines is LUV after its home base, Dallas’ Love Field.

Anyway, in August 2003 I bought some stock in SBC which had formerly been known as Southwestern Bell, (one of the “baby bells” born when AT&T was broken up). The whole reason I bought it was that no one was providing a decent interest rate at the time, but SBC was offering a 5% dividend every year. Power companies pay pretty good dividends too, but I decided against Southern Company. Things have gotten better lately with interest rates. Paypal is paying 3.9% and ING is paying 3.5%. CD’s are over 4%. But at the time nothing could come close to that, plus SBC was even going up in price, so I bought more later that year. The price has stayed about the same since then, but it does keep cranking out a nice quarterly dividend.

Well, SBC just bought its former parent, AT&T, today. Because so many people haven’t heard of SBC, they are going to keep the name AT&T for the whole company. All of the stock traded under T will become shares of SBC, I guess on Monday. But on December 1 this year, my shares will change their symbol to “T”. For Ted, of course.

Good Potato Chips

At Kroger they have Cape Cod brand potato chips that are kettle fried. One of the varieties is a reduced fat version that has 40% less fat. It is kettle fried too, but also baked. I tried them. They seemed just like regular kettle fried potato chips to me except they use little potatoes that yield small (but almost always whole) chips. They don’t come in nearly the variety of flavors (just plain), but they are worth trying, especially if they are on sale. I think they are just as good as the Ettensohn favorite, Krunchers.

Slow Amazon

After my birthday even though I really liked all of my presents, I decided I still needed to get some headphones, a U2 CD, and a Palm stylus. So I ordered them that night. The headphones and CD were ordered from Amazon, the stylus (I ended up ordering one for each of my two Palms and one extra to defray the shipping cost) from Styluscentral. Monday I got an e-mail from Styluscentral saying my order had shipped. Amazon listed my order as preparing to ship and I was not allowed to change or cancel the order. Today the styluses arrived in the mail. However I checked several times over the last couple of days and Amazon still had my order preparing to ship. When I ordered my AirClick it took weeks for it to arrive and I wasn’t looking forward to that again. I checked out buy.com and nearly placed an order for both of these things for the same price except that buy.com’s free shipping icon disappeared once the headphones were actually in my cart and they wanted $7 for that. Just before writing this entry, Amazon sent an e-mail saying the items had shipped, but that’s still four days before the item shipped. Earlier this year an order of CD’s took 6 days to ship, a headset took 5 days, and it took an amazing 26 days for the AirClick though Amazon warned it wouldn’t ship for 1-2 weeks (still took almost four).

Here’s my solution: don’t let them combine items into one shipment. Even though you would think they have just about everything in a big warehouse somewhere, apparently they have millions of warehouses with one item in each one. So you always end up waiting longer. Also, don’t hesitate to use buy.com who ship faster (on three orders this year they always shipped the next day) and are usually about the same price.

XL Birthday

It is harder to get everyone together and we were still lacking Bob, but I certainly am thankful for everyone coming to my 40th birthday. It was great to see Michael running around and I was very surprised to see Danny come up from Spring Hill and glad Nicole could make it too. Susan really enjoyed seeing everyone too since she is usually out of town for the big holiday get-togethers and vacations. The food was delicious! Thanks too for all the great presents; when I got home I got really, really drunk, baked cookies, and watched movies.

Thanks for all the good food and the loud company. It was an XLent birthday!

(XL is 40 in Roman numerals – ed.)

That Google

Susan and I recently rented a newly released DVD starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn. Later on I was writing the review (B+) and I wanted to look up some information on the movie, so I went to Google. I entered “the translator” (not in quotes). It gave about 3 results and then under that said “Results for The Interpreter” with the first link going to imdb’s page about the movie I had watched and whose title I had not been able to remember correctly (getting only “the” correct). I’ve always liked that Google could detect misspellings and ask “Did you mean . . . “, but this is a new level of outhinking otherwise less intelligent human beings.

I don’t think this is good for our future. Evolution worked for centuries making people stronger, with better vision, hearing, etc. Then we came up with machines that could make up for our weaknesses, made glasses for the myopic and hearing aids for the hard of hearing. Now Google is taking away the penalties for being stupid.

By the way, I tried this on MSN and Yahoo just now and got a bunch of results for translator-related stuff.

When I started putting rotating quotes in the blog description I would go to Google and enter the name of a movie and then the word “quotes” (not in quotes) and the first link would be imdb’s page of quotes for that movie. Compare that with going to imdb, searching for the title of a movie, picking that movie from the results page, then scrolling down to some quotes and clicking “more”. It’s actually easier to navigate imdb’s website using Google than it is by going to imdb.

Halloween

I started this as a reply to Kelly’s blog entry about Halloween, but it got to be too long so I decided it should be it’s own entry. Oh well, that’s one less comment for Kelly and one more entry for me . . .

I ask people what they are as much as a I can. Sometimes the answers are pretty funny, even though I didn’t have any Zombie Pirate Clowns come by. I had a record number of people come by without costumes. Three of them showed up and I asked what they were dressed as. They said “Nuthin'”. And I said well, you don’t get any candy. They looked shocked as I shut the door.

I wound up giving out Sweetarts, Starburst, and Sugar Babies. I wanted to get the Sweetarts that come in the paper package with 3 pellets because they are so cheap. I figured they would be good for people who didn’t wear costumes. But this year the store didn’t have those so I had fun-size packages which had about 10 or so in each package. I had some left over packages of saltines from getting chili at Wendy’s the night before so I thought that would be good to give to people without costumes. I put them in the bowl with the candy and gave one of the packages to a girl without a costume. I don’t think she noticed. Then in the next group this guy (in a costume) says “Oh, man saltines! I love saltines!” so I gave him the other package of saltines.

The funniest group was a little girl in an Incredibles outfit. Her Dad was with her too and *he* was wearing an Incredibles outfit. But then behind them was the girl’s little brother who could hardly walk, also in an Incredibles outfit and then behind him, the mother Incredibles! So it was the whole family.

Avondale was a zoo as always. There are just tons and tons of people. I went through half of my candy in the first half hour and saw only one white kid, so I know most of the people weren’t local. Later on I got a better mix of people but ran out of candy after about an hour and a half. That’s okay because thirty minutes later (at 8:00) Halloween officially ends and the police drive around with their bullhorns telling people to go home. It turns out the Starbursts were pretty cheapo because each pack only had two squares, but I had a lot of them so the candy held out longer than in most years.