Sunday, June 29, 2003

As I have said several times, I am not a real computer geek expert, I just fake it as I go along. So, you'll just have to imagine a nice, fancy, "Brunching Shuttlecock"-ish interface in front of this -

Chinese Restaurant Name Generator

Please to choose one from Column "A" and one from Column "B":

Asia . . . . . . . . . Bamboo
China . . . . . . . . .Buddah
Golden . . . . . . . . Delight
Happy . . . . . . . . .Dragon
Hunan . . . . . . . . .Dynasty
Imperial . . . . . . . Garden
Jade . . . . . . . . . Grove
Lucky . . . . . . . . .Lotus
Mandarin . . . . . . . Pagoda
Ming . . . . . . . . . Panda
Peking . . . . . . . . Peacock
Royal . . . . . . . . .Phoenix
Shanghai . . . . . . . Temple
Szechuan . . . . . . . Tiger

Now open your own restaurant and enjoy delicious Chinese food!

(and I'm sure there's a better way to lay that out on the page, so if any of you "experts" can tell me how, please feel free!)

Thursday, June 26, 2003

So, last night we switched over to Verizon DSL service from the broadband (Comcast, which used to be ATT, which used to be MediaOne) we�ve been using for a couple years now. No, this wasn�t due to any Lance Armstrong-commercial backlash, or even any lingering resentment at the imminent requirement to change our e-mail addresses for a third time in two years. It was strictly a money decision - Verizon wants a piece of a market that had not been available to it before, and is offering a good deal. Of course, Comcast is also offering good deals in retaliation, but only to new customers, so we figured that even if we don�t like the Verizon service we�d only be out the time and the e-mail addresses (which we�d have to have changed anyway, remember) if we want to later switch back.

Hey, sometimes, the free market works; when there really is legitimate competition in a marketplace, sometimes the consumer can win by exercising their choice. I like having choices, even if I consistently choose one option over the other. Coke over Pepsi. McDonalds over Burger King. Democrats over Republicans. It�s being able to make the choice that�s the good thing.

Whether we made the right choice, though, is still up in the air, at least in this instance. The two immutable rules of technology - self-installation never completely works, and everything takes longer than you expect - still apply to Verizon, although I have to admit they�ve been awfully cooperative and pleasant so far. Even though I had to wait on hold for 45 minutes for tech support, they told me up front the wait would be that long (this was actually the second call to tech support, but I�m not counting the embarrassing �now is the other end of the phone cord plugged into the wall?� call from earlier in the process). Maybe soon we�ll actually get new email accounts, and be able to actually use the service we're paying less for!

And, just to keep up with the continual spin process, this just in - Senate Majority Leader says �Intelligence is tough.� Yeah, and math is hard.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Perspective of the Moment

So I see they (all scientists, researchers, scholars, etc., can in fact be lumped under the useful subset of people known as "they") have found 160,000 year-old skulls that appear to be anatomically identical to modern homo sapiens, meaning that people exactly like us were walking around on this planet about 60,000 years longer than we (another useful subset of people, meaning "scientists, researchers, scholars, and those that read about them") had previously thought.

Great, wow, neat, but what's it mean to me? Well, my history's a little rusty, but here's what this made me think of:

Three generations (or about 100 years) ago, none of my own grandparents had yet been born, but their parents were all alive and were, I think, mostly all making their way west from the eastern half of the North American continent. I personally didn't have any direct contact with any people from this era, but I knew people that did.

Go up by a power of ten and we're back to 30 generations (or about 1,000 years) ago. All, or probably most, of my own ancestors were most likely living in dark-ages Europe, but it would be almost impossible to identify any of them. I certainly do not have any direct or secondary contact with any people from that era. In fact, practically everything that I do, use or come in contact with on a daily basis has yet to be invented. These people, however, left records of their existence (just not in English!) and many of their places and artifacts are still around.

Go up another power of ten - now we're back 300 generations (or about 10,000 years) ago. Not only do I not have any contact with these people, my ancestors, I don't have any idea where they were living and they left no written records to tell me - not even on stone. We are in pre-history now, and with the exception of that new-fangled agriculture thing that just started up around this time, absolutely nothing of what I would think of as "human" culture has been created yet - including the pyramids, or indeed any surviving structure (so far as we know).

Go up one more power of ten and we find ourselves back 3,000 generations (or about 100,000 years). These are the oldest previously-known people. Between now and the step in the paragraph just above this one - that is, for 2,700 generations and 90,000 years - people just like you and me walked this planet, being born, living and dying, without any of us knowing anything about them.

Now go back another 1,800 generations and say hello to our oldest ancestors.

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