Friday, March 30, 2007

45.7M Card Numbers Stolen

AP Story: TJX Says 45.7M Card Numbers Stolen
TJX owns T.J. Maxx, Marshall's and other stores in North America and the United Kingdom.

"the biggest card heist ever."

(Link will present story with styling & ads from a randomly selected participating newspaper site.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Hard Target

Really, is there anything more majestic than Wilfred Brimley on horseback with a bow & arrow? Is there? There is? Oh, ok.

Well anyway, I just watched, or glanced at actually, bits and pieces of Jean Claude Van Damme's movie Hard Target. It was set in and around New Orleans, from what I saw, and they really seemed to play fast and loose with the geography. The opening scene was of a man being hunted by a mish-mash group of incongruously calm and sophisticated-looking sickos and dark-helmeted motorcyclists ("bikers" would be a misnomer) in the French Quarter. Cut to the same man running from same sickos and motorcyclists across the river on the west bank, making his way over the levee, supposedly to reach the safety of his small boat on the river. He is shot down with a crossbow. (IIRC, crossbows were big in the early 90s.) In the next scene, a woman is driving from the west bank (the side where the guy was killed) to the east (the side where the French Quarter is) and the gondola towers left over from the '84 world's fair can clearly be seen. Perhaps the guy eluded his pursuers by crossing over on the cables. It would be quite a feat as there were no gondola cars in sight.

At this point I was absorbed in installing Visual C++ 2005 Express (a free download from MS along with other programming languages) and the Windows Platform SDK so I missed most of the movie. I guess.

When I next looked over my shoulder, there was Wilfred Brimley, not yet on horseback, taking aim with his bow and arrow. He shoots, narrowly missing the lead antagonist, but hitting his intended target: a can of whoop-ass in the form of bottles & jars of highly volatile & flammable liquids that ignite on the impact of the arrow. BOOM! Bad guys aflame. Lead antagonist shows he's a nice guy in an evil sort of way by mercy killing a flambe'd bad guy. The the dynamite goes off and Brimley takes off on horseback after taunting the baddies and attracting a hail of pitifully aimed automatic gunfire and one grenade or rocket or something that hits a convenient shed. The picture above is the best I could find. It does not do justice to the scene, which includes a slow-motion shot of Brimley bouncing on his galloping horse towards the camera as the Convenient Exploding Shed explodes behind him.

Then I returned to my task of configuring VC++ to use the platform SDK. Maybe if I actually get around to learning to program in C I'll blog a bit about that.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Hurt Back

Yesterday we got about ten large packages from FexEx and UPS, and I think I strained a muscle lugging them around. I have a pain on the left side of my back, about midway or so between the shoulder blade and pelvis, on the ribs. It's worse today then yesterday. Evidently it's a muscle that is involved in adjusting the torso to maintain balance while sitting. That's when I most often get twinges, if I have nothing to lean on. I have a deep enough desk at work to have room in front of the keyboard to rest my arms and lean my belly against the front of the desk, but at home my desk has the keyboard on a slide-out tray. I found sitting backwards in my chair helped. I'm glad I didn't put the arms on when I assembled it.

I've tried both ibuprofen and tylenol, and neither seem to have much effect. But then the whole thing seems to have ramped up between yesterday and today, so maybe they did keep it from being worse than it would have been. Maybe I'll try aspirin next, on the theory that the blood thinning will improve circulation to the area and help get the damaged cellular material out and the materials needed to repair it in.

Sleeping was almost impossible. I usually sleep on two pillows, but I guess the alignment isn't really quite right like that because I had to switch to one to get comfortable. And every time I shifted position it would twinge. I could barely move this morning, and my wife had to drive.

Anyway, I had an oriental chicken rollup at Applebee's for lunch, and my wife had a BLT minus the B. (She's a vegetarian, by taste.)

Hopefully I'll be feeling better soon.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Roll With It Baby

It's been a while since I highlighted the new entries in my list of links, so there's a lot of them here...

Gapminder World
A very interesting interactive animated chart and map of various metrics of countries around the world. Choose any of sixteen different indicators to assign to the X & Y axes and the dot size. Or view the dots in their geographical locations and pick a single indicator for their size. Watch it all animated and see how the values have changed over a period of years since 1960. (Some dots disappear when data is not available.) Fascinating.

RealClimate - Responses to common contrarian arguments (against climate change & its human factors)
I've been seeing a lot of the same arguments against a human factor in global warming. Mostly they seem to originate from the same house-organ/astroturf sources funded by a few corporations. Here's the reality, from people who have actually done the real science.

15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense
Another in the bad/pseudoscience debunking genre. This time a Scientific American article that addresses the sometimes convoluted, sometimes simply willfully obtuse arguments put forth in favor of creationism/ID.

IMDB - old style (The new layout SUCKS. Switch all IMDB links to this URL and spread the word!)
IMDB has changed their layout. Their research indicates that most visitors concentrate on the main portion of the screen and largely ignore the links to additional information in the left hand sidebar. Accordingly, they have moved much of what had been in the center section to the left hand sidebar. (Boggle!) IMHO, they should have simply changed the visual styling to emphasize the connection between the main section of the screen and the sidebar. While it lasts, use this link instead of their main URL to get the old style IMDB. If enough people do this, maybe they'll catch a clue.

PR Watch - See who's behind the message.
A useful site that explores and exposes the real source of many messages & ideas you hear passed around on a variety of subjects. Is it the truth, or is it PR? That's the question this site asks and answers.

John's Secret Store at
John's Other Secret Store at
As you may have noticed (I've mentioned it here enough) I've been designing and selling shirts & gifts at Recently I learned of this other similar site - - with its own selection of goods. They allow "shop owners" to set up categories & subcategories in their free shops (cafepress charges) so I've begun putting up some of my favorites & best sellers to take advantage of their different selection of colors & styles. I've heard their print quality is good too. I have two shops there. The "other" one is the one I won't be showing my parents. ("Bad" words make conservatives cry.) I find that while they seem to have greater potential than cafepress in control of size & position & such, they lack certain controls that would allow easier editing and mass changes.
NOTE: I've recently learned of a "wrinkle" in both sites' printing process for dark shirts that is forcing me to make alterations to many of my designs. If you plan to order one of my darker shirts pleas contact me first here and I'll let you know if the one you want is safe to order yet. Otherwise, you might get a white border around the design.

That's it for now. Hopefully I won't let the roll grow so much before the next update. Happy surfing!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

One for the cat lovers & owners...

Monday, March 5, 2007

Dedicated to my wife...

We danced to this at our wedding. And after the employees left we danced to a video of it at work.

Here's to my brown eyed girl.

My Strangest Work Yet...

This has got to be my strangest, geekiest work yet on Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, ROT13-encrypted.

Yes, that's right. I took the entire text of A Tale of Two Cities and ROT13 encrypted it. Then I scanned the blank back of an old yearbook of mine and used it as the basis for the cover design.

I case you don't know what ROT13 encryption is, it's a very very weak encryption scheme that's really only good for allowing people who don't want to read something to avoid it. It's often used in usenet newsgroups. (Those groups that Google Groups & others repackage in a web interface - they're much better read with a real newsreader.) Both encryption & decryption is accomplished with the same algorithm: rotate each english alphabet letter 13 letters over, so that instead of ABCxyz you get NOPklm. All other characters are left as-is. I actually wrote my own utility program to do the conversions, txt file to txt file. (Yeah, I'm that geeky. Not geeky enough to buy and read a book like this, but enough to get a chuckle out of it - and I hope bigger geeks than me will do me one better and buy the thing.)

Now that I've done this one, it should be relatively easy to do others. The time-consuming part is proofreading the formatting. The cover design was quicker than I anticipated, once I got the blank cover scanned. I'm scrounging around my book collection for other blank-backed books, of course. Can't have them all green, can I?