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8 September, 2004

Answers, Part I

Here are answers to some of the questions that were asked here.

T-Dog: What exactly is your relationship with Toad?

I thought everybody knew this story. But for the newcomers here... Toad and I grew up together in the slums of Toledo, where we played baseball using broomsticks and rolled up socks. Because of my tutorage and his excellent cheating skills, Toad made it through elementary school and high school. We both got drafted into the Army and, as luck would have it, we were both assigned to the same unit in Viet Nam. He wasn't much of a soldier (too busy working on his C-Rations recipe book), and I was forced to save his life on three or four different occasions. When we returned to the states, we went our separate ways. Years passed, and we eventually got back in touch after a drunken phone call one night. To make a long story short, Toad managed to steal my woman away and they're now living as man and wife (she's affectionately known as Mrs. Toad). Time wounds all heels, however, and I eventually forgave him. We're now good friends again and we exchange Christmas cards every Easter.

No, wait. That's a lie. I "met" Toad on the Whole Wheat Radio chat. I think he discovered WWR after reading about it on this blog (but I may be wrong about that -- it could be the other way around). I like him because he's quick-witted, extremely funny, and he's a member of the legal profession. I've never met Toad, but there's a chance that he and Mrs. Toad may come to visit us in a few months when they're in Arizona. I fully expect that, in real life, he'll turn out to be extremely dull and boring.

Tina: Have you ever been in a band or do you just play for your own enjoyment? What type of music do you prefer to play?

When I was in 8th Grade, I was in a band called the Dregs of Civilization. We played at a few parties and even at a parent/teachers meeting. We were actually pretty good, considering that none of us knew anything about music. In college and grad school, I used to play a lot with others -- just informal jams and get-togethers. Since then, I've had very little contact with other musicians. Typically, I'll put on a blues CD and play along with it. I like to play blues, folk, country, and bluegrass. I've tried to learn jazz, but it's beyond me.

Shallow: Where did you and Pamn meet for the first time?

At my house, a little over three years ago. I cooked dinner for her and she was impressed. This was after a few days getting to know each other via an online dating service.

Leslie: Leaving aside questions you can't answer, what do you take into account in deciding which questions to answer?

I don't know. So far, I've answered them all. I guess I'll avoid questions that are too personal or those that may incriminate me. After all, this stuff will be archived forever.

Toad: Who wrote the book of love?

I don't know. I don't find it in my Bible.

ed: Have you ever gotten into a fist fight?

Probably, when I was a kid. Nothing since then. I tend to avoid situations where such a thing is likely to occur. However, I did have a dream a while back. I forget the details, but somehow I was a member of the Fight Club.

Dan Coulson: Do you think the Padres can come back and win the division or get the wildcard?

No, I really don't. Not a chance.

Chris: What was the last really good thing you grilled barbecued or smoked? Burgers, hotdogs and chicken breasts don't count. Steak is iffy.

Well, probably the ribs on Monday. Lately, I've pre-baked them (seasoned and wrapped in foil). Then I finish them off on the grill, indirect for about 30 minutes, with lots of mesquite smoke and sauce. The only problem is that they fall right off the bone.

Cookie Bretz-Smith: What is a pivot table and will my world come to an end if I never use it? ...and if I need it ... will it make my life infinitely better...yes, excel is more than a tool ... it's my "friend" ...

An Excel pivot table is useful (a) If you tend to store data in tabular format, and (b) if you need to summarize or cross-tabulate that data. As with most Excel features, a pivot table can be used on several different levels. It's actually very easy to generate a simple summary table of key fields in your table. But a pivot table can do a lot more that that if you're willing to spend the time to figure it out.

Wilma: What made you want to learn/know so much about excel?

It was an accident. I never really set out to learn Excel. I just used it for my work (in the banking industry), and in the process I learned it (I couldn't help it!). When I started writing articles and books about it, then I picked up on the features that I hadn't used. As it turned out, that accidental career has worked out well.

Wendy: If you HAD to get a "nine-to-five corporate america job", what would you want to do?

That's a good question. Maybe a landscape architect?

doinks: Have you tried using thet Excel add-in called DigDB? Any comments?

I haven't tried it. In fact, I hadn't even heard of it until now. I just found it on Google. I read through the home page, and it looks useful for those who deal with a huge amount of data -- which I don't.

Wendy!: So now that you have it, what do you think of gmail?

I guess it's OK. I'm not ready to switch over yet. So far, the best thing I've done was sent myself some large files as attachments. It's a good way to have an offsite backup.

Curtis: What are your three all-time favorite, essential: 1) novels 2) recordings 3) movies 4) beers 5) sex kittens (as in famous)

I hate these kinds of questions. Without giving much thought, here they are.

Novels: Les Miserable (Victor Hugo), The Mezzanine (Nicholson Baker), Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown).

Recordings: Time Out Of Mind (Bob Dylan), Tone Poems (David Grisman and Tony Rice), Midnight Sound (Flanger)

Movies: Memento, Frequency, French Lieutenant's Wife

Beers: Corona, Sam Addams, whatever else is available (I'm not picky)

Sex kittens: Sigourney Weaver, Meryl Streep, Margo Timmons

Ask me tomorrow, and I'll have completely different answers.

biff: This seems a little too obvious and may have already been asked: How many books have you sold?

I don't have access to all of the sales figures, but I'm pretty sure that it's over 1.5 million -- maybe even 2 million by now (that's spread across about 40 books and 10 years). I wrote a blog entry about this back in January. See this entry.

Posted on 8 September, 2004

New Search Feature

I added a new Google search feature to this blog. This is in addition to the standard (but limited) search feature.

One advantage to using the Google search is that you can search within the comments. A disadvantage is that there is a 1-2 day lag before blog entries are indexed by Google -- even longer for recently-entered comments. Also, the results of a Google search are not listed in order of date posted.

Posted on 8 September, 2004

How We Read News Sites

This is interesting. It's from the Poynter Institute: Eyetrack III: What We Saw When We Looked Through Their Eyes.

In Eyetrack III, we observed 46 people for one hour as their eyes followed mock news websites and real multimedia content. In this article we'll provide an overview of what we observed.

Some of the finding are fairly obvious, but others are a bit surprising. For example:

Text ads were viewed most intently, of all the types we tested. On our test pages, text ads got an average eye duration time of nearly 7 seconds; the best display-type ad got only 1.6 seconds, on average.

I guess that designers from all of the news sites will be reading this research. Soon, all news sites will look the same!

(via Boing Boing)

Posted on 8 September, 2004

Ask Me A Question Redux

Somebody just sent me an email asking for a repeat of the Ask Me A Question thread. That sounds like a good idea. Frankly, I had forgotten about that, and it was kind of fun. For those who are interested, the last round of questions were answered here and here.

So go ahead, ask me a question. I'll answer* them later today (or maybe tomorrow).

*J-Walk reserves the right to ignore questions that he cannot answer or chooses not to answer.

Posted on 8 September, 2004

Photoshop Contests

Here's a fun site for all you Photoshop fans: Photoshop Contests.

Here you can take a pre-chosen image, manipulate it how ever you like and post it for others to view, vote, comment and submit their own versions. A true playground for graphic artists of all skill levels.

Posted on 8 September, 2004

Cheney Talks

Yet another reason I hate politics and politicians. These morons will say anything at all if they think it will help them get elected. Here's a quote from Dick Cheney:

"It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States."

Uh Dick... who was in office the last time we got hit?

Update: Thanks to Zaine Ridling, who pointed out this relevant cartoon at the Illustrated Daily Scribble: Cheney Says Elect Or Die.

Posted on 8 September, 2004

J-Walk Guitar O' The Week #6

This week's featured guitar is a 1994 Samick LC015G.

This guitar is living proof that you don't have to pay a lot to get a decent guitar. I think I got this (new) for less than $50.

It's a Korean-made nylon string guitar. Its main purpose in life is to function as a "knock around" guitar. In other words, I can take this anywhere and not even bother to put it in a case. I don't care if it gets scratched, dinged or beat up.

Despite the bargain basement price tag, it'll stay in tune for weeks at a time. I think I've changed the strings twice in two years. Yet it sounds great and has nearly perfect intonation.

Even though I don't take good care of this guitar, it's still in pretty good condition. I don't think it'll ever look like Willie's Trigger.

Posted on 8 September, 2004

Blogs Illustrated

Blogs Illustrated is a Web Ring described as:

The new art of illustrated blogs, illustration used as a means of blogging, illustrated by the blog owners. They'll be illustrated blogs then!

It's a short list, but they're all pretty good. I especially like Life is but a dream - the comic blog of Mars Tokyo.

(via vitriolica webb's ite -- which is also worth checking out)

Posted on 8 September, 2004

Daily Doses

Don't forget to take your medication...

Posted on 8 September, 2004

Weirdest Records

From the Mirror: The 50 Weirdest Guinness World Records.


  • ORANGE NOSE PUSH: Alistair Ross pushed an orange with his nose along Brighton seafront for a mile last year.
  • MOST WATCHES EATEN: Kim Seung Do from Seoul, South Korea, ate five in 1hr 34mins in 1998.
  • LONGEST MAGGOT BATH: Christine Martin of Horsham, West Sussex, sat in a bath of them for 1hr 30mins in 2002.

Posted on 8 September, 2004

Image Quiz

The Image Quiz.

Look at a bunch of pictures from Google Image Search, and then try to guess what search term was used to retrieve the images.

Posted on 8 September, 2004

Guitar Stolen From Ike

From Celebrity Justice: Ike Turner's Hendrix Guitar Stolen.

The 73-year-old legend was performing at an inner city Los Angeles nightclub two weeks ago when two guitars, both pieces of Rock and Roll history, were stolen.

These weren't just any guitars. One belonged to Jimi Hendrix, back when he was a member of Ike's band in the 1950s. And Tuner told us he's been holding onto this piece of Rock and Roll history every since he gave Hendrix the pink slip nearly 50 years ago.

Ike Turner, as you may know, is the self-proclaimed Father of Rock and Roll. He's also notable for his Guide to Restoring America's Honor.

Posted on 8 September, 2004

Random Chicken

When you need a random chicken, go to the Official Random Chicken site.

"Serving the Random Chicken Community since 1995."

Posted on 8 September, 2004

Chess In The Cinema

An extensive list of movies that have included the game of chess: Chess in the Cinema. Most of the films are accompanied by images.

Posted on 8 September, 2004

Not Quite Escher

From Worth 1000: Escher Blowout 2.

The rules of this game are thus: You are to photoshop any MC Escher image in some way.

Posted on 8 September, 2004

"I Believe You Have My Stapler"

One of my all-time favorite movies: Office Space.

Here's some trivia:

The red Swingline stapler that Milton was so afraid of having taken away was never actually manufactured by the Swingline company; it was instead painted red by a crew member in the props department.

However, following the movie's success on video as a cult film, the demand for red Swingline staplers (apparently as a symbol of quiet rebellion among cubicle-bound employees) was so great that the company began to sell the red Swingline stapler on its website

And here's an Office Space Soundboard.

Posted on 8 September, 2004

Successful Ads

From Wired: Ads That Annoy Also Succeed.

Most experienced web surfers will tell you that the most annoying aspects of life on the internet are pop-up ads and spam.

Sure, some think that publishers who demand registration for news are a pain in the digits, or that sites which don't accept alternative browsers are sacrilegious. And of course, the unrelenting stream of porn and other nasties is a major turnoff. Still, they don't come close to making people's blood boil like junk e-mail and "pops" do.

That being the case, you might think they couldn't possibly work. But if you did, you'd be wrong. On the contrary, they are enormously successful.

The article mentions a forthcoming book, Spam Kings,� by Brian McWilliams. That might be interesting.

Posted on 8 September, 2004

Ami Vitale Photos

Ami Vitale is an incredible photojournalist. Unfortunately, her Web site is terrible. It's one of those pointless Flash presentations that puts your browser into full-screen mode.

What is it with artists and Flash anyway? Don't they realize that people just want to look at the photos and not be forced to jump through hoops?

(via Fishbucket)

Posted on 8 September, 2004

Prisoner Blog

The jail diary of an Orwellian unperson: Jon's Jail Journal. It's well-written and fascinating to read.

I haven't read enough to find out what he's in for.� But, based on the photo, it may be some white collar crime committed during his "stockbroker days."

Here's an excerpt from one of the earlier entries (about six months ago):

We have had no running water for 3 days now. The toilets in our cells are full of faeces and urine. On the second day of the water outage, I knew that we were in trouble, as the mound in our steel throne peaked above sea level. Inmates often display remarkable ingenuity during difficult occasions and the current crisis resulted in a number of my brethren defecating in the small plastic bags that the mouldy breakfast bread is served in. These bags were then disposed of in the trash cans downstairs which helped to diminish the poop pile-up in our cells.

Posted on 8 September, 2004

Coney Island Sideshow

Here's the Coney Island Circus Sideshow.

...the last place in the USA where you can experience the thrill of a traditional ten-in-one circus sideshow. They're here, they're real and they're alive! Freaks, wonders and human curiosities.

Shown here is Scott Baker, the Twisted Shockmeister. Among other things, he's a human blockhead.

(via Zfilter)

Posted on 8 September, 2004

Hurricane Decals

At eBay: Hurricane Decals - For a good cause.

I live in Central Florida and went through both Charley and Frances. My house took a beating, but is still standing, so I decided to make a couple stickers commemorating the names and year of the storms.

The stickers are roughly about 3 x 4 inches and are printed on a clear sticky label. Any storm from any years is available.

So what's the "good cause?"


They cost $5.00 each. But heed this warning:

Before you purchase these, please understand that I am not a professional label maker. I printed these out at my home and since there was an immediate interest in them I am making them available to everyone on E-BAY.

Do not put these decals in direct sunlight. They will fade.

Posted on 8 September, 2004