Totally Useless Information

It takes me between 1700 and 1750 footsteps to get from the front door of my apartment building to the front door of my office building. [Later: Now I live in a house. I haven't counted steps -- in fact, I haven't walked between here and there yet -- but it looks like it'd be somewhere around 6000, guessing from the map in the phone book.]

There was a can of grape soda in the middle of the sidewalk along Springfield by the Central Tap for about a week.

WARNING: Do not attempt to hang from towel, or insert your head into the towel loop. Failure to follow these simple instructions can be harmful or injurious.

The east outside wall of the building at the NE corner of Race and Main in Urbana looks like it's made of plaster stucco, but I happened to knock on it as I walked by there, and it turns out it's actually plastic.

The other day while Robert and I were out shopping, I had to buy a battery. The magic code number was CR 2025. We went to Radio Shack, looked up in a catalog to find the corresponding Radio Shack part number, and found one on the rack. Then later we went to La Bamba for some lunch. As we pulled out of La Bamba, the car in front of us had license plate CR 2025.

You can fit my file cabinet in the back seat of my car and close the doors, but only if the windows on both sides are open so the corners of the file cabinet can stick out.

On Saturday, 21 January 1995, I successfully viewed a random-dot stereogram for the first time in my life.

"Preferred 10 to 1 over standing too close to the microwave." -- From a billboard advertising a vasectomy clinic.

My all-time favorite .signature quote belongs to Jonathan Haas: "Jake liked his women the way he liked his kiwi fruit: sweet yet tart, firm-fleshed yet yielding to the touch, and covered with short brown fuzzy hair."

I found a comma this morning on the way to work. I can lend it to you if you need one, but I want it back.

The flusher on the urinal in the downstairs men's room is called "Delany Flush Boy". I don't know, that just amuses me.

I wonder if rocket scientists or brain surgeons ever say things like "It's not rocket science" or "It's not brain surgery", and then follow it up by saying "Well, actually, it is."

I'm not pleased with my Thin Mints this year. The box looks like it's about the same size, and there are still two stack-packs of cookies, but the bags are short on cookies. It saddens me that the Girl Scouts have reduced themselves to the level of potato-chip manufacturers, with their mostly-air packaging.

I've known for many years that 8675309 -- Jenny's phone number, from the song by Tommy Tutone sometime around 1981 -- is prime. (My HP-33E figured it out for me in a mere 4 hours or so.) Well, I just discovered that it's actually a twin prime, along with 8675311. (Our Sun workstation figured it out for me in less than 0.1 seconds.) Cool, huh?

Occupants of our building are being tormented by evil maintenance people. They regularly put the paper towels in the bathroom paper towel dispensers upside down, with the flat side showing, so you can't get the paper towels out without scratching and digging around under there.

More and more these days, when someone in a meeting says "We should take this offline", what they really mean (besides "Shut up") is "We should take this online" (email).

You know what I think is so weird about the Web? This whole "Look at me!" attitude that everyone has. "Look at my site!" "Hey, I made a cool page!" "Will you put a link to my page on your page?" Ugh.

I hate the way the media (both TV announcers and newspaper reporters) always refer to the Olympics as "these Olympics" or "these games" or "this 26th Olympiad".

I dreamt last night that my teeth were falling out. I've had that dream before; I read somewhere that it's a common one. This time after about 3 or 4 teeth fell out (swishing each one around and spitting it out), I kinda thought "Wait a minute, this can't really be happening, it's that stupid dream again," and then I woke up.

What is that beep on the airplane when you're making your initial ascent, that sounds just like the beep that happens when the "Fasten Seat Belts" sign goes off, but it's waaay too early for that light to be going off?

Today Robert and Dan and I were going to lunch, and I saw a dog on a porch roof. (The Central Illinois Roof Hound, Robert later suggested.) All the windows leading to the roof were closed. Just as Robert and Dan turned to look, the dog took a dump on the roof.

The following contains violent material and adult content which may not be suitable for some viewers. Parental discretion is advised. Also, there were some boobies, but we cut them out.

I'm starting to get really annoyed at people who tweak their email addresses so that Usenet spam-crawlers won't find them. It's kind of a pain to have to be alert to change the email address when I respond to a posting by email.

Used to be, whenever I'd see a field, park, or lawn covered with dandelions, I'd think "I know they're considered weeds, but still, they're rather pretty." But now that I'm a homeowner (and lawnowner), I can't help but visualize what that field must look like below the surface, with all those evil dangly tentacles pointing down into the ground.

When I sign informal email, I use "mag", all lowercase. (Actually, I use all lowercase for most entire email messages.) But to sign informal handwritten notes, I use "MAG", all uppercase.

I turned over my calendar to June today, June 2nd. I think this may be a record for the earliest I have ever turned my calendar over.

It infuriates me to see screen captures of web pages where the majority of the image area is taken up by browser toolbars and other such junk. I can see the usefulness of huge browser buttons, large toolbars and so on (especially for naive users), but when you're attempting to display the Actual Content of your page, wouldn't it pay to minimize so you can actually see some of it?! (It should come as no surprise that I consider the "presentation mode" feature of NCSA Mosaic for Windows to be one of the best browser features ever implemented.)

Up above a bit I wondered about an airplane ding. A flight attendant sent me mail and told me what it was. But I'm not going to tell, so as not to spoil the fun. Instead, here's another airline secret revealed. When you pull up to the gate, and the captain turns off the "Fasten Seat Belts" sign (and there's a ding), that's actually a secret code which means "EVERYONE STAND UP IN THE AISLES AS QUICKLY AS YOU CAN!!!" This one must not be such a well-kept secret, judging from people's behavior.

Speaking of email, I've gotten some from NASA scientists and doctors who report that yes, rocket scientists and brain surgeons do make that joke.

How often do you see something fall off someone's shopping cart? Maybe never. Certainly very rarely. Yesterday I was coming out of the supermarket, and I saw it happen to two different people. One of them lost a big bag of charcoal (slid off the bottom rack), and the other lost a 12-pack of toilet paper (blew off the top of a very loaded cart).

"The Pause of Futility" -- that momentary pause in a game of Atomic Bomberman when the walls are closing in and one or two players lay out a row of bombs all the way across the screen and everyone realizes... everyone's dead.

Of all the work I've done on my house -- and I've done quite a bit of difficult and dirty work -- probably my least favorite is pulling up old carpet, especially pulling up all the tacking strips around the edges of the room.

It bugs me that Smarties come with an odd number in each package. I like to eat them two or four at a time, so that I can have the same number on each side of my mouth as I chew them up slowly. But I'm always ending up with three or one at the end, and eating an unbalanced load. I suppose I could save one and have it with another package, but something seems wrong with that.

When I was a kid there was this kids' center that we used to go to. The center had several steps leading up to the front door, and also had a pop machine. We used to get cans of grape soda from the machine and roll them down the steps, and then open them up and spray each other with the light purple foam. Grape soda foam is a nice shade of purple.

There was also this bumper pool sort of game. It was played on a board with a tiny little golf course laid out on it. You knocked around these little sliding pucks with a pool cue and tried to get them from one hole to the next. I think there was also something about trying to knock away your opponent's little puck thing.

I just typed the word "earlier" (not here, somewhere else), and automatically put a 'y' on the end of it because my "finger memory" made my fingers think they were typing my name.

Today I happened upon a website that had several choices of mirror sites that I could click on. My choices were: "Mirror: Fast!" "Mirror: Fast!" "Mirror: Fast!" "Mirror: Fast!" "Mirror: Fast!" I was so dazzled by this array of possibilities that I could only choose at random. Luckily, my choice of mirror site was fast.

The change slot in the pop machine in our office was designed by criminals. There's a tiny little slope and a hole in the back of the slot, so that if you reach in too vigorously to grab your change, you might accidentally hit it and knock it up over the ramp, down into the bowels of the machine somewhere. I'm sure it's part of a grand conspiracy, and the pop-machine filler guy will be snickering to himself the next time he comes to empty out the secret change bucket that now holds a quarter that formerly belonged to me.

"Nothing like waking up in the morning after a night of sleeping in a one man tent with two other guys and walking into the surf for a pee." -- PMac (yes, that's pronounced "PEE mac")

You know what really hacks me off? E-mail with formatted text. You wanna hear a complete list of people who send me e-mail with formatted text in it? (1) Junk e-mailers. (2) People from NCSA. Geez, people.

Sometimes the cans that come down out of our pop machine don't come out all the way, and you have to contort your arm up into the slot past a couple of little doggie-door type of things to wiggle the can down into the chute. It's poor design, but I don't necessarily think it's criminal like the change return slot (mentioned a few bullets above). That could be just because I'm in a pretty good mood today.

Lately we've been jumping in our office. Standing long jumps. It started because Pat said he could jump 10 feet in college. Nowadays he's just an inch or two shy of 8 feet. I just squeaked over the 7-foot mark. Mike is the current leader, just about an inch in front of Pat (still shy of 8 feet). The first day we jumped, we did it way too much. We all had sore legs and abdomens for about 3 days. We're all better now. Last night I dreamt that Michael Jordan and Cindy Crawford were in our office with us, jumping.

Cinda and I were blowing up balloons for one of the lessons at our MATHmaniaCS summer workshop. All the dark-colored ones (blue, black, purple) looked the same color before they were blown up. Sort of a nondescript darkish color, like what happens to the water when you rinse out your watercolor brush, except much darker. So we had about thirty or forty balloons done and Cinda observed that there were no green balloons. We had every other basic color plus black and white, but no green. Then I blew up the balloon I was holding in my hand at that moment, and it was green. Then Cinda blew up the balloon she was holding at that moment, and it was green.

"Sorry about the bumps, twists and turns, but we did get you here." -- The only comment made by our pilot, after an incredibly turbulent landing. This was the only time I ever remember being frightened in a plane. I'm referring to the landing, not the pilot's reaction.

I might never go to the post office again. Recently Pat and I determined that 90% of the time it's unnecessary. We addressed and stamped 10 envelopes to ourselves, and dropped them on sidewalks all over campus. Eight of them arrived on the next mail delivery day. A ninth turned up a few days later.

It's a nice time-saving feature of Internet Explorer (and perhaps Netscape, but I don't use it, but that's another story) that you often don't need to use the mouse if you don't want to. I usually don't want to. The TAB key gets me from anchor to anchor on a web page, and will also move the focus through form controls as well (text boxes, buttons, etc.). So here's a pet peeve: web pages where the only reason you're there is to enter some text into a box, but in order to TAB into the box, you have to go through so much navigational crap at the top (or left) that you spend more time hitting the TAB key than you would have if you'd just grabbed the mouse and pointed and clicked on the box in the first place. Examples: Yahoo!, AltaVista, IMDb search, MetaCrawler. Counterexamples: Google, Webster (thanks to a virtually trivial Javascript "onload" call).

There are people in the world who would use the word "veritable" in a sentence. There are also (I suppose) people in the world who would use those disgusting tape strips to remove dirt from the pores on their face. But I would assert that, notwithstanding a certain annoying television commercial to the contrary, these two sets of people have an empty intersection.

Recently I had minor foot surgery. My anesthesia was "local with IV sedation". According to a brochure they gave me, this type of anesthesia puts one "in a state of tranquility which you may or may not remember". I was really amused by this phrase, and told it to a number of people on the day before my surgery. As it turned out, I did not remember anything about the surgery. The nurses in the recovery room, however, told me I was talking during it. (I gather from friends' recollections that this is common.) The nurses said that during the operation I kept asking them if I was in a state of tranquility.

I've got a temporary crown on a tooth at the moment, and will be going in for the permanent one soon. A couple nights ago I dreamed that my temporary came off, and woke up absolutely convinced that it was true. I could feel the tooth stump in my mouth, and I felt around on the bed and could not find the crown there. Losing one's temporary crown is a very minor problem with no pain, and, after waiting for some more time to be sure I was awake, I took the event in stride. I woke up my wife, saying "well, I guess I swallowed my temporary crown". Then I felt around with my tongue again and found that the crown was still there.

On a recent trip to Austin, I set my hotel-room alarm clock to wake me up with the radio. I happened to wake up a few minutes before it went off the next morning, so I was lying there awake. When the radio came on, the first words it uttered were "the rectums of cattle."

When I'm elected king, movie credits will go like this: 1) cast 2) music 3) all the other useless crap.

As far back as I can remember, every time there has been a strike by players in a major professional sports league (baseball, basketball, whatever), my life has remained pretty much the same throughout. What a relief!

I have developed a set of criteria for determining if a home project is successful. In order for your project to be deemed a success, you must: (1) have made at least two trips to [insert name of your favorite home center]; (2) have some parts or pieces left over; and (3) have suffered at least one cut, scratch, bruise, or other minor injury.

Sad news from the Social Security Administration/Internal Revenue Service "Reporter" newsletter of Winter 1998: "Social Security will no longer accept 8 inch diskettes (!) as a medium for filing Forms W-2 beginning with tax year 1999 (for W-2s due the last day of February 2000.)"

Today as I headed out on campus with my backpack, I hoisted it onto my back with both straps, thinking "so what if I don't look cool, this is more comfortable". To my surprise, the next three people I saw with backpacks were wearing them the same way. I started counting. By the time I got to where I was going, I had seen 25 people with backpacks. 20 of them were wearing both straps. (Of those, one was on a bike and another was on rollerblades, so they don't really count.) Only 5 cool souls were wearing them slung on one shoulder.

Niceness is still worth a little these days. The other day I found a kid's baseball glove left behind at the little league ballpark across the street from my house. There was a name and phone number on the glove, so I called it and left a message. Later the kid's mother called and I made arrangements to leave the glove where she could pick it up. A few days after that I got a thank-you note from the kid, along with a $5 gift certificate from a local custard place.

The other day it rained. Today it is raining again. There are reconstituted worms on the sidewalk outside.

In our classroom the other day someone had written up in the corner of the chalkboard, "PLEASE ERASE WHEN FINISHED". There was a box drawn around this, and outside the box was written "SAVE". So what would you do?

Above I mentioned the "Delany Flush Boy". I don't work in that office anymore, but the thought still amuses me. Anyhoo, my friend Tom says that he saw the actress Dana Delany on the Craig Kilborn show, and that she said that her grandfather was the inventor of that puppy. Inventor of the Flush Boy, I mean, not the Craig Kilborn show.

If you open up the toilet paper dispenser in our bathroom there's a warning stamped on the inside that says "Important -- colored plastic spindles must be retained for next loading". Seems to me if there's someone who doesn't already know that, they probably don't know words like "spindle" and "retain" either.

I guess I have too many t-shirts. Every so often I discover that one of my favorites is WAAAAAAY down in the pile and I haven't even seen it for weeks and weeks, or even months.

I think airline desk clerks and flight attendants take a special course in Preposition Emphasis. "All passengers traveling with small children...". "American Airlines Flight 37 to Chicago...". "Customers seated in an exit row...". Pilots, on the other hand, take special courses in mumbling and whispering. And don't even get me started on "This will serve as the last and final [sic] call for...".

"She ran like a scalded dog, but she shore didn't know how to pass no gas stations." -- a guy I heard describing the '69(?) Chevy Nova he had once upon a time.

Me: "Is this hole not for what I think it is?" Baba: "Yeah, it's for what you think it is, you're just going to have to push harder." (A technical discussion about my CD-ROM drive.)

Today I saw a railroad spike embedded in a telephone pole. Just one spike, about three feet off the ground.

Today (not the same day) I saw an SUB (sport utility behemoth) with a bumper sticker that had the AtomFilms logo on it. No other bumper stickers, just that one. Now, AtomFilms is a nice site and all; there's a lot of good stuff there. But the bumper sticker thing confuses me. Why is AtomFilms so important to this person that they would go so far as to deface their own personal property to tout it? I can see how people would want the Jesus fish, or maybe even a political ad. But AtomFilms?

Recently the Austin Public Library system employees were told they'd be getting a bonus 65 cents per hour for hours worked during evenings and weekends. But they were given incorrect instructions for how to designate on their timecards which hours were eligible for the increased pay amount. As a result, on their next paychecks, instead of getting 65 extra cents per hour, they all just got an extra 65 cents.

The other day I saw a pickup with two identical-sized hitch balls on the bumper. I can see why you might have two hitches that are different sizes: you might have trailers of different sizes, and it'd be annoying to switch out your hitch every time you want to pull a different trailer. But why would you want two balls of the same size?

Another other day I saw a pickup with a bumper sticker that said "My boss is a Jewish carpenter". "Gee," I thought, "how clever and original." But then I noticed that the license plate on the pickup said "NAIL IT". Then I thought "Huh. Maybe the guy really does have a boss who's a Jewish carpenter."

An unfair number of my recent observations have been about pickups or sport utility vehicles. I can't help it: I moved to Austin.

"Everything's OK in the server room." That's what we say when the alarm goes off on the UPS supporting our server machines. This usually happens several times a day, whenever someone does something that puts too much of a drain on the circuit, such as turning on a lamp. We really gotta get out of this horrendous office building.

I heard a local (Austin) radio announcer talking about an upcoming hockey game between the Austin Ice Bats and the Corpus Christi Ice Rays of the Western Professional Hockey League. He made some sneering comment like "Ice rays? What the heck is an ice ray?" Um, hello? "Ice bats"?

Still more words of wisdom from airport announcer types: "...the inbound arrival of flight so-and-so inbound from Oakland...".

One day ICQ (version 2000b) was crashing on me every time I received a message. More precisely, it crashed whenever I closed a message window after reading it. Late in the afternoon, Baba, wag that he is, sent me an ICQ from his Palm Pilot that said simply "Crash". I left the message open for a while so ICQ wouldn't crash, but then eventually I did close the window. It didn't crash, and it has never crashed since (about two weeks).

I pass by a nursery (the botanical kind) on the way to work. There's a split-rail fence along the road, behind which are large quantities of landscaping materials. A big sign on the fence says "SOIL". Another big sign on the fence says "ROCK". In October, still another big sign said "PUMPKIN".

"Of course it's not cotton, but it is cottony soft." -- the slogan on a toilet paper wrapper. (Kleenex Cottonelle)

I think the social science of "software engineering" is a lot like psychology. Both disciplines seem to be all about assigning names to concepts that, if you are reasonably sensible, you already know about anyway.
Is that too deep a thought for this page?

My street runs up to the edge of a creek, where it ends at a guardrail with two plain, red diamond-shaped signs on it. A couple weeks ago LG noticed that someone had stenciled the word "SHIT" on one of these signs. (She actually made me walk down the street with her, instead of just telling me about it. Can you imagine!) About two hours later I happened to drive by, and noticed that someone had hand-painted a loop on the T to turn it into a P. But today I just noticed that the extra paint is gone, and the P is back to a T again.
Update: After two full weeks of "SHIT", the sign is now painted solid red.

Speaking of Jewish carpenters (I did above somewhere), there must be Jews who are carpenters (or is that vice versa?). Do they get tired of the obvious jokes?

I cannot seem to type the abbreviation "UI". Every time I do it, I type "UIU". I think my fingers think I'm asking them to type "UIUC", but my brain is able to pass along the "no, stop, dammit" message before they actually get to the "C". In a similar vein, I can't type "probably" any more, because I have typed "baba" so much in the last year and a half. It always comes out "probabaly".

The chrome plumbing on the urinal in our bathroom has a little saddle point in just the right place so if you lean over while you're um... standing there, you can make all kinds of freaky two-headed monster and cyclopean faces with your reflection. I think my favorite is to turn my head so that the monster has one mouth, two noses and three eyes. The two monster heads are actually mirror images of each other. Thus another neat trick is to merge your two heads together so that you see just one person made up of two mirror copies of the same half of your face, and then close the appropriate eye so that you can see what you look like with your eyes closed.

How many times -- or for how many weeks -- does a song have to be played on the same radio station before the DJs stop announcing it as "new from so-and-so"?

When I'm elected king, people with perfume will not be allowed to ride elevators.

Recently I saw the following sign in an airplane lavatory, on the little trapdoor for the trash can: '1. hold door "open" with one hand. 2. put trash "in" with other hand.'

It's not often you get the opportunity to use a quote from the StinkyMeat website in a real context, but I did this morning. I noticed some rice on the kitchen floor and said to LG "Hey, we either got some rice or some maggots on the floor here." Then in a brilliant flash of inspiration I followed it with (the StinkyMeat quote) "Here's hoping they're maggots."

Remember in third-semester calculus how you learned about saddle points, and your instructor used Pringles potato chips as an example of something in real life with a saddle point? Today I was thinking about that, and I thought, "I wonder what instructors used for examples before there were Pringles potato chips?" and then I thought "Oh yeah, probably saddles."

The ingredients list on Dole 100% Juice "Country Raspberry" flavor is pretty entertaining. Mind you, that's "Country Raspberry". Ingredients: filtered water, grape juice concentrate, apple juice concentrate, clarified pineapple juice concentrate, clarified lemon juice concentrate ("for tartness"!), natural flavors, and ... oh yeah ... raspberry juice concentrate. (And last but not least good old ascorbic acid -- vitamin C.)

I recently got tires for my pickup. I didn't care about the speed rating, but it so happened that the cheapest tires which met the criteria I did care about were rated 'H'. This means I can safely drive 130 mph. If you know me, you know why this is funny.

While we're on the subject... while doing research about tires, I discovered that speed ratings go way down lower than I ever thought they did. With the exception of 'H', the lower the letter the slower the maximum speed. At the bottom end of the scale, there are ratings A1 (slowest) to A8 ("fastest"). A1-rated tires are rated for 3 mph. Why on earth would there be tires rated for a maximum safe speed of 3 mph?

Texans have some really weird ideas of pronunciation of place names (not that they're unique in this regard, I suppose). Here are some examples:

Austin is home to the Texas State School for the Blind (which is a few blocks from our house) and the State School for the Deaf (which is south of downtown). The other day as we passed the SftD, LG (seeing it for the first time) said "What's this place?" "School for the Deaf", said I. Said she (with a couple of brief pauses for thought: "Wow, it's much prettier than the School for the Blind. ... I guess it doesn't really matter what the School for the Blind looks like ... but I guess it probably sounds better than this one."

What constitutes "launching an investigation"? When something happens that needs to be "investigated" by "authorities", and some news media report "so-and-so is launching an investigation", does that mean that some actual person from the "so-and-so" organization actually said "I hereby launch an investigation?"

Folks familiar with Austin know that it has areas that violate certain well-accepted principles of space and time. The best example is the area where US 290/TX 71 (Ben White), Loop 1 (Mopac), Loop 360 (Capital of Texas Hwy) and a few assorted major surface streets all converge. Baba says he's afraid that one of these times he's going to end up on the upside-down side of a Möbius strip. Another less well-known one is the area where I run. There's a 3.6-mile loop formed by Shoal Creek, Foster, Great Northern, and White Rock that, no matter whether you go clockwise or counterclockwise, I swear it's uphill the entire way.

Right now there's one of those Asplundh trucks parked out on my street. You know, the tree company with the !!BIG ORANGE!! trucks? Luckily they barricaded the truck with those traffic cones; otherwise I probably never would have seen it.

I don't like my computer to beep or sing at me without me telling it to, so I generally keep such things as email arrival sounds turned off. But I can tell when email arrives by the unique sound my hard drive makes. Sometimes when it's quiet in the middle of a lazy afternoon, I can even hear it from another room.

You've seen shoes lying in the road. Always singles, never pairs. Where do they come from? It's one of life's great mysteries. (Or is it?) But to my recollection, I had never seen a woman's high-heeled pump lying in the road before, until today. I saw one just south of North Loop and Burnet. Then I saw another one, different from that one, just moments later and a couple of blocks away! (Leah conjured up a nice mental image of an oblivious female driver on the way to Goodwill with shoes flying willy-nilly out her windows.)

A while back I won a Fabulous Prize on the inside of an orange juice bottle cap. I went to their website and entered in the secret code, then sat back to await my little scale model NASCAR race car. It arrived yesterday, a 1:64 scale Dodge something or other. (That's the size of matchbox cars, about 3 inches long.) On the back of the package it has a disclaimer: EXACT SCALE REPLICA VEHICLES ARE INTENDED FOR ADULT COLLECTORS AND NOT SUITABLE FOR INDIVIDUALS UNDER 21 YEARS OF AGE.

I don't understand these highway warning signs that say "GUARDRAIL DAMAGE AHEAD". Are these necessary? Are there drivers who rely on guardrails for something other than emergency protection? Is the road department trying to protect itself from some kind of bizarre litigation? "Your honor, if I had only been informed that the guardrails were damaged, I could have swerved and lost control somewhere else."

On the interstate I passed a convoy of trucks hauling gigantic concrete freeway-parts. (The trucks were thirty-eightwheelers.) The follow truck had the usual flashing lights and a sign that said "OVERSIZE LOAD", except, this being Texas, the sign actually looked like this: "OVERSIZE  LOAD". Texas is so entertaining sometimes. No, make that all the time.

So I was in a men's bathroom in the Vancouver airport, and there was a little dispenser where for a buck you could get any of several items. They were all the sorts of things you might expect a traveling business person to need in personal, health or hygiene-related emergencies: 1. Condoms; 2. Tylenol; 3. Breath mints; 4. Drakkar cologne; 5. Looney tunes temporary tattoos.

You know those little carts they use to whisk old or feeble people around in airports? I saw one the other day that had a cow-catcher on the front of it. You don't want to get in the way of that cart when you hear it beeping up behind you.

One of these days I'm going to get a little clicker (counter) and a clipboard, and I'm going to sit on a busy street corner, or in a bustling train station. What I'm going to count is the number of people who come up to me and ask me what I'm counting.

Yesterday I passed a store that had the following words printed along the base of the storefront windows: "Colour Passion Intensity Timeless Romance Style" I had two problems with this. First of all 'Timeless', being an adjective in a sea of nouns, completely wrecks what would have been a nice bit of parallel grammatical structure. Second, regarding 'Colour', everything in the store was black, white, or shades of grey.

Most common type of litter seen on Vancouver city streets: cigarette butts of course. (Disgusting. Idiots.) Second most common: transit tickets. This surprises me. I noticed quickly that these things proliferate like crazy, but mine are only littering up my apartment, not my planet. I would have thought that people who ride the bus and the train would be more ecologically-minded than the average population. Or maybe they are in general, and the massive numbers of discarded tickets are only from the idiots inevitable even in a greener-than-average crowd.

In the train station where I arrive on my way to work, there is a spot where I come around a corner and pass under some kind of ventilation system. As I pass, for just a split second it sounds exactly like cheesy sound effects from a bad science fiction movie -- like the chirpy, whistly sound the giant ants make when they are closing in on you.

Guy on train, talking to friend: ...I downloaded it off the Internet...
Self (thinking): Well, duh.
Guy: Heh, I always seem to download off the Internet.

One night walking home down a city street I came upon a trail of business cards. About every 10 paces or so there would be another one. They were all the same, for a guy who did some kind of computer consulting. The trail lasted for about 2/3 of a block. Near the end of the block there was a whole pile of the cards, about 100 or so of them. They looked like they had been dropped from about shoulder height: mostly messy, but some still clumped together. No other signs of anything related in the vicinity.

There's an art to crossing the street efficiently with the little "walk" signal on a crowded city street corner. First you have to have just the right position in the crowd on your side. Then, depending on your position and your desired speed, you have to pay close attention to the oncoming crowd from the other side. You have to watch for the subtle position shifting of those people while carefully jockeying your own position accordingly. You want to line yourself up just right to pass among them, but you don't want to inadvertently mislead someone with your own actions such that they will think you are moving one way when you are actually moving another. I hate it when that happens.

Earlier today I glanced at my phone, which has an LCD display, which at the moment read "MAR 11 11:11 A". "Cool", I thought, "look at all the ones." Then the next time I happened to glance at the phone, it said "MAR 11 1:11 P".

The maple leaf in Canada is kind of like the outline of Texas, in Texas: you see it EVERYWHERE. There are two categories of appearances. One is having things made in that shape, like cookies or clocks or swimming pools. Texas is the undisputed champion of that. But (despite the "oversize load" sign I have mentioned here previously) I think Texas could actually learn a thing or two from Canada in the area of logo placement. Two recent examples: The other day I saw a Denny's where the apostrophe was a maple leaf. And yesterday I saw a McDonald's that had a maple leaf right smack dab in the middle of the golden arches on the big sign out front.

Tom Magliery