Frozen Dead Cat Under the Bus Story

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A Gruesome Find

One bitter-cold morning while waiting for the bus for Junior High Nathan Groves and I found a dead cat that had obviously frozen to death during the night. On a dare, I picked up the cat by the tail and discovered it was so stiff I could wield the cat like an axe. And a plan formed.

When the school bus arrived I slid the cat under the front tire of the bus just before I got on. When the bus driver, whose name was Sandy, started to drive away there was a noticeable bump and the bus gently rose and fell as she drove over the dead cat. Sandy freaked out and backed up the bus to see what she had hit — which is surprising because if I ran over something and was concerned about it, backing over it again would definitely not be a good idea.

So Sandy backed up (with the noticeable bump again) and looked for what she had run over. When she saw a dead cat (which was now much flatter) she rolled her eyes and casually said “Oh, it’s just a cat.” She then pulled the bus out (running over the cat for the third time) and we went on our way.

I remember being shocked how casual and uncaring Sandy was about potentially killing a cat. I was to find out years later she had greater demons haunting her than dead cats.

An Unexpected Ally

Another cold winter day I waited for the bus by the Golden Dragon restaurant with my friend, Paul Barutia. We foolishly decided to start throwing snowballs at cars as they drove south-bound on Main Street.

Even though Paul and I played on the same baseball team, we seemed to lack any skills at actually hitting moving cars with snowballs. We often missed by 20 feet or more.

One of my snowballs, however, connected with a Volkswagen Bus full and square on the passenger-side window. The thump echoed loud and clear in the crisp morning air as it hit and I remember thinking it was a miracle the window didn’t shatter. The Volkswagen Bus immediately slammed on the brakes and screeched to a halt. Before the VW had even stopped I was already running away, diving behind a mound of snow that had piled up in the parking lot.

The VW owner, a livid man in a black trench-coat, got out and stormed over to the group of kids waiting for the bus. Almost immediately our school bus pulled up and kids started to climb on board. The man was swearing and cursing at Sandy saying how one of the kids had assaulted his vehicle. I remained crouched behind the snow drift watching the kids slowly get on the bus and I began to realize that if I didn’t get on the bus, I would be walking (and it’s a long, long way).

In an instant I decided to make a run for it and I sprinted toward the bus. The angry man had his back toward me as he was still yelling at Sandy and, at the last second, I slid under his arm and ascended the steps. As soon as I was on the stairs Sandy told the man to — well, she swore at him — and she slammed the door and drove away.

Sandy never said anything to me that day and I decided that I would never torment my bus driver again.

A Sad Ending…

My sister-in-law, Tasha, worked for the Transportation Division of the Salt Lake City School District for a number of years. One evening at dinner while talking about school bus stories I retold some of the adventures I had with Sandy.

Tasha interjected “Sandy? On bus 217?” and I replied, a little surprised, that she indeed drove bus 217. Tasha then told me this story, which had happened before she started working there but had been told and re-told as a legend around her office.

Apparently one day Sandy drove bus 217 through the gates of the Jordan River LDS Temple (which were locked) and attempted to park the bus inside the temple itself. The temple grounds, not being built for easy bus access through the front doors, afforded enough landscape-related obstacles that the bus never made it into the temple.

Sandy claimed that voices were telling her to kill the children and she was attempting to flee from their torment by entering the temple. So frantic was her flight she forgot to loose the bus before going in. That was the last day she ever drove a bus.

The Faith-Based Encyclopedia

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This article written by Robert McHenry has an interesting view on Wikipedia. Mr. McHenry is the former Editor in Chief of the Encyclopaedia Britannica and shares his insights in encyclopedia creation with regard to open contribution efforts and the challenges they present. This was interesting to read as I’m a big fan of Wikipedia.

My favorite quote from the article:

The user who visits Wikipedia to learn about some subject, to confirm some matter of fact, is rather in the position of a visitor to a public restroom. It may be obviously dirty, so that he knows to exercise great care, or it may seem fairly clean, so that he may be lulled into a false sense of security. What he certainly does not know is who has used the facilities before him.

This is a long-standing problem with the Internet that I first read about in Silicon Snake Oil by Cliff Stole. And the problem is: how do you know that the information on the Internet is accurate? And more importantly, real information doesn’t seem to be available on the Internet at all.

For example, if you ask the question”How far is the earth from the sun” you will find a lot of answers on the Internet. If you follow that up with “how do you know how far the earth is from the sun” meaning, how does one compute the distance, you won’t find very much. And if the follow that up with the question “out of those methods for computing the distance, what are the strengths and weaknesses of those methods in terms of accuracy?” you find practically nothing — if at all. How reliable can the information on the Internet be if the answers to the underlying questions aren’t available? How would you even know?

If I ever become a professor teaching general Internet stuff, I’m going to have a midterm paper that is one simple question: “What time is it?” The D students would put something like “11:59 PM”. The C students would put something like “11:59:59 PM MDT” and even add the date. The B students would put something like “11:59:59 PM MDT according to NIST or some other time server.” The A student would reply “We don’t really know exactly what time it is because UTC is really a consensus not an exact measurement.” Perhaps the original question should be “How do we know what time it is?” In any event, the real underlying questions are much more fascinating than the answers — and the Internet isn’t good at giving you the questions.

Good questions lie at the heart of any good reasearch and I’m not talking about cutting-edge science. Research is an oportunity not always an activity. You can take any casual question and do research. Why haven’t I gotten that e-mail? Do I go in the bathroom to fart? Is it possible to gather enough earwax to sculpt something? Questions are everywhere and, surprisingly, more questions are unanswered than not.

So I encourage you all to ask questions. Find answers and then find more questions. Innovative solutions and wonderful discoveries and inventions are the result of questions. Go forth and ask questions and find answers!

Spyware Hunting

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I’ve spent the past two weeks working on a project for a client to remove spyware from their computer. I never would have guessed that spyware was so insidious and so difficult to remove. I learned a lot by going through this exercise and would probably be able to remove any spyware in about 30 minutes now — but the first time always takes the longest.

General Information

There are some good links that provide general information about spyware and links to popular tools to remove them.

The Anti-Spyware Guide has links to different articles and lists of programs that battle spyware. Not a bad resource for technical people, but not very good for end-users. You can find the guide here.

Microsoft has a very end-user friendly site which includes a short video that is friendly but not very helpful. They have some good general tips. You can find their information here.

The Tools

In the end I had to use 4 tools to eradicate the problem.

Spybot Search and Destroy is a general purpose spyware detector and remover. One thing I found that most people might not know is that this product edits your local hosts file and adds a bunch of dummy entries. Another tip is when you are presented a list of things to possibly remove, instead of clicking on each individual entry, you can right-click and choose to select all. Spybot S-n-D is available here.

Ad-Aware is another general purpose spyware detector and remover. Ad-Aware is available here.

Hijack This is a forensics tool for seeing the things that are run automatically in a system, such as spyware. This program is not automated with a nice interface like the others and should only be used by those who know what they are doing. Otherwise you can cause more damage than you are trying to fix. You can download Hijack This here. There is a nice tutorial available here.

Zero Spyware Lite is the trimmed-down freeware version of ZeroSpyware 2004, made by FBM Software. This program seemed to be the only one that could remove search2web, one of the most dug-in spyware programs I’ve found. The user interface is also the coolest, but is more evasive than the other programs. You can get Zero Spyware Lite here.

Re-Install TCP/IP

When I got the last of the spyware off the computer I found that the TCP/IP stack had become corrupted. Under Windows XP it isn’t really obvious how to re-install the TCP/IP stack at all. Some people would suggest that you can simply run the following command:

netsh int ip reset resetlog.txt

But that command simply resets the IP stack, it won’t repair damaged files. To re-install the IP stack on XP, you can follow these directions:

1. Delete HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESystemCurrentControlSetServicesWinsock
2. Delete HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESystemCurrentControlSetServicesWinsock2
3. Reboot the PC
4. Open the properties of your network interface.
5. Click Install
6. Click Protocol and click Add
7. Click Have Disk
8. Type c:windowsinf and click OK
9. Choose TCP/IP from the list of protocols
10. Click OK and restart the PC.

Thanks to this site for the instructions.

Icon Art

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I read an interesting discussion on Slashdot today about how programmers and developers can get good art, specifically icons, for their programs. The point was made, and it’s true, that it doesn’t matter how good the code and application work, if it doesn’t look nice the customer thinks it’s crap.

I have seen this over and over again. We even put disclaimers in our contracts that say that the bid price does not include art. We then give the customer several options for art at varying prices. Everyone always chooses either nothing or the cheapest art there is. And they all complain that the application doesn’t “look and feel like something substantial.” It’s a matter of perceived value. Anyway…

But there were some good websites and links that came from the discussion forum that I’d like to share.

Microsoft’s Guide to Creating Windows XP Icons
This article discusses how to design and create colorful and dynamic icons for Windows XP using a vector program, such as FreeHand or Illustrator, and Photoshop. (19 printed pages). Not a bad article.

Aquatint (for Mac)
Aquatint assists you in creating images that go with Apple’s Aqua user interface appearance. The glossy, liquid appearance of Aqua looks great, but it places a burden on users and software developers who are not trained artists, since such images are not easy to make. With Aquatint, you’ll effortlessly produce your own custom Aqua icons and images.

Color Scheme Generator 2
Generator of color schemes and palettes to create good-looking and well balanced and harmonic web pages. This is the new version of the previous color generator. This is a piece of software I have used personally and works pretty well for those of us who lack any sense of color.

I’ve also borrowed heavily from various open source projects for icons — many of which you will see re-used over and over in various projects.

But it seems that the overwhelming response to the question of how to provide good icons is to hire a professional. As you know, professionals are very expensive (ranging in price from $30 – $60 per hour on average).

So what do you all do for art?

Wal-Mart Madness

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Not long ago a Wal-Mart opened on our neighborhood. And this isn’t a regular Wal-Mart, but a Super Wal-Mart which means there is less parking available. Oddly, this Wal-Mart is located on 1300 South just East of I-15 where Rick Warner Ford Truckland used to be. Parking is on two levels (and I prefer to park up above because the spaces are wider and there are fewer people parking up there.

Shopping at Wal-Mart has proven to be a new experience for me. I’m not used to getting most of my errands done in one go. But between Costco and Wal-Mart, that’s 90% of my needs so it has turned out to be quite a time saver.

But I have noticed a few things about Wal-Mart that I would like to share – tips if you will. And maybe you will share some of yours.

Too Many Bags

I think cashiers get paid on a commission on how many bags they go through. The first couple of times I went with 20 items (10 of them being baby food jars) and walked out with 6 bags. 6 almost entirely empty bags.

So on subsequent visits I would say to the cashier “how about putting all that stuff in one bag. I bet you can do it!” Strangely, almost everything I buy there seems to fit in one or two bags.

The other day my wife said “I always wondered why you told them to put everything in one bag — I thought you were just being a weirdo. But then I went shopping there and came away with 5 bags that could have fit in one.”

Strange things are afoot in the bagging department.

Personal Pies

I was introduced to the personal pie by an old friend, Nigel Swaybe, whom I’ve known since high school. Nigel works in the dark arts of search engine optimization. Anyway, I ran into him a couple of weeks ago and he introduced me to the personal pie — at least that’s what I call it.

The personal pie is what I call the small, individually portioned pies that are available in the fresh bakery section. These are not slices of pies, but rather a full miniature pie measuring about 5 inches across. And they are good.

So far the apple pie is my favorite as I cut it in half, microwave it then share it with my wife accompanied by some vanilla ice cream. Very tasty.

The best part of the person pie is that it costs 50 cents. Have you ever had a 50 cent pie? Well now you can!

Digital Prints Ripoff

I have also tried both variations of the digital prints Wal-Mart offers and I have found them both to be a rip-off. The Kodak ones cost almost $5.00 per sheet and fade quickly (I have prints only two months old and the colors have started to shift).

The Fuji prints are better but cost double of what Costco charges (Costco is $0.16 per print). Not only that, Costco has 4 kiosks now whereas Wal-Mart has but one.

The Hot Pop

One afternoon I went shopping at the Wal-Mart with Erin and the family and I bought a bottled drink from one of the many vending machines in the front entryway of the store. When I retrieved it from the machine I was shocked to feel that it was hot. And I’m not talking about room temperature, I’m talking hot. As if it had been in an oven. So bizarre was this feeling of holding a hot bottle that I dropped it.

I took the bottle to the nearest employee and told him about my hot purchase and asked if I could get a refund. He said “Let me see that” and when I gave it to him a look of terror crossed his face and he blurted out “it’s hot!”

I did get a refund, but I won’t be buying another pop at the Wal-Mart.

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