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February 27, 2004

Atlanta Traffic Website

It's not often there are any perks to working at DOT, but they are letting us test a new traffic website. It will be available to the public but right now it is at a temporary address:

It allows you to customize your view of traffic and add pictures from your favorite traffic cameras, show text from your favorite overhead message signs, and see what the average speed and travel times along interstates. It's pretty neat. You set up an account and it remembers your settings just like My Yahoo does with news and stocks.

Eventually the current page will be upgraded to the existing site:


February 26, 2004


I knew there was some phrase shorter than "The quick brown fox . . . " that contains all 26 letters of the alphabet, but I couldn't remember it. So I started poking around and came across some anagrams which are words or phrases consisting of the same letters ("stop" and "post"). Here is a great one:

"Eleven plus two" and Twelve plus one"

That's almost as good as "Rocket Boys" and "October Sky"

Oh . . . and I found several shorter versions of quick brown fox, but this is the best:

Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs

February 22, 2004

Geeky iPod stuff

I found a program called tunes2html that creates a neat listing of all your iPod's albums (for some reason, however, my singles show up under G as does my partial Led Zeppelin album). You can dowload it from http://www.joescafe.com/tunes2html/

So I ran it and you can see the results

Also this weekend I wrote up a page describing iPod battery backups, but I don't have pictures of the cool one that I made.

Helping people

Yeah, it's not going to Jamaica or anything, but I still like to help people. So on ipodlounge a guy posted a question:

>>I know that this has been covered numerous times, but I have yet to see a post about the Tivoli radio. I would like to play my iPod thru my Tivoli radio, it has a 1/8 (mini plug) hole in the back labeled MIX IN. would I need a line with a 1/8 jack on both ends'
Thanx for the help.<<

Always wanting to help, I posted a response:


I felt kind of bad because it was such a short response. Usually I write more than is really necessary. But I thought that really said it all and it was kind of funny (I thought) how short it was. I hoped the guy didn't feel bad that I didn't explain it anymore than that, but here is what he wrote back:

>>Thanx for the help, I'm sorry I forgot to mention I have the Tivoli RadioCombo, nontheless, I bought a line at Radio Shack with an 1/8 jack on both ends for $4.99 and am enjoying the iPod thru the Tivoli as we speak.Thanx again and what a great place come for questions.<<

February 19, 2004

Katie's Surgery

I took Katie to the vet today for knee surgery. She had been limping some since after our first dog hike in November, but I thought she was just stiff or sore (like I was). When it didn't go away I took her in to the vet. They gave her some anti-inflammatory steroids (I'd given her some Advil before) but it didn't seem to do much good. When I scheduled a follow-up visit to take X-rays I wound up leaving her at the vet all day and they never got to her. Time for a new vet!

It was January by the time I got her to the new vet. They thought almost immediately that it was a knee injury to the cruciate ligament. It turns out this is about the same thing that my sister-in-law Jami had in both her knees after playing Ultimate for years. The CL in "torn ACL" is the cruciate ligament. The new vet did X-rays that day and referred me to an orthopedic surgeon since they couldn't do this surgery.

There are two ways of fixing the knee. The ligament that is ruptured can't be repaired but it has the important function of holding the knee together. So one surgery installs stretchy sutures along the outside of the knee to hold it together. After scar tissue grows in around the suture it all acts kind of like a new ligament, only on the outside instead of the inside.

The other surgery involves making a round cut along the knobby part of the tibia just below the knee and rotating it along that curved cut until you get a more favorable alignment of the knee. If you do it right, the leg fits together such that a ligament isn't even needed, and in fact they don't put one back in. I asked the doctor if that alignment is so favorable why haven't dogs just evolved that way? He said it seems like they should have and he didn't know. I don't think he's a creationist because he had Galapagos Islands pictures on his wall (in fact he was there just a few weeks after I was).

This bone-cutting surgery is called "Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy" or TPLO. It was developed in Oregon and apparently there are only a couple of hundred vets in the US that have been trained to do it. It is patented, meaning it is very expensive. A metal rod is screwed onto the leg to hold the part of the bone that was cut in place until the bone knits back together, but they leave the plate in forever unless it causes trouble. This doctor has done over 100 and has enjoyed very good success with them. For larger more active dogs he recommends the TPLO and I agreed to go that route.

This evening the doctor called and said the surgery had gone well and Katie was coming around from the anesthesia. He had measured the tibia angle at 24 degrees and rotated it until he got it to 6 degrees which is about the ideal. I had read that the closer the angle is to 30 degrees the more likely that the other leg will need the same treatment. But he said the other knee seemed fine and didn't display any sign of the arthritis or other secondary problems in the bad knee. He did say the meniscus was beat up and had to be trimmed while he was doing he surgery.

The bad part of all of this (other than the price tag which will pay for most of a return trip to the Galapagos for the doctor) is Katie will be out of commission for 8 weeks. She is supposed to stay confined to the house except to go outside. No walks, no running. So I am going to put up a mailbox temporarily so she doesn't have to charge the mailman when he puts mail in the slot. And I'm moving the couch and my bed to the floor because she isn't supposed to go up stairs or get up on furniture either.

They are keeping her tonight but I am supposed to go pick her up tomorrow morning. Some dogs have casts when this is done and some have to have a rope tied around their waist so you can pick the back end of the dog up like a suitcase and help them get around.

Meanwhile Clio isn't sure about being an only dog, but she did enjoy the longer walk we were able to take (I'd gotten to where I only took Katie down the street for walks instead of our normal 2 miles to the lake). Once Katie makes a full recovery I will be able to exercise again so the surgery is as much for me as it is for her.

Read a follow-up posted after 4 weeks

February 16, 2004

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

With the fifth book in the series J. K. Rowling takes a step backwards. While the first book was very simple with extremely flat characters, she has added depth with each successive book. In this one we return to characters who are so clueless and/or so evil that it simply isn't believable. At the end of the fourth book Harry Potter tells the world that the leader of evil, Lord Voldemort, has returned to power. Rather than raise any alarms he is ridiculed as a liar by both the governing Ministry of Magic and the wizard media.

Meanwhile, Voldemort's top lieutenants who have never done anything but evil, are still respected members of society and even send their children to the same school as Harry, the same school whose headmaster believes everything Harry is saying. Don't you think the headmaster of school would kick out the child of evil incarnate? Instead they make him a prefect so that he can continue to antagonize Harry and his friends.

The Ministry of Magic is unbelievably stupid and destructive. They take over Hogwarts assigning a top crony of the Minister to the school and giving her vast powers where she quickly goes to work punishing Harry while rewarding the evil children of the Voldemort's supporters. At a school for magic she refuses to actually teach magic. Meanwhile she works constantly to undermine Dumbledore who inexplicably allows all of this to happen. With the end of the world hanging in the balance, Rowling expects the reader to be upset that the sport Quidditch has been banned this year and an incredibly obtuse Harry has a hard time with his romantic life.

I know these are children's books but they are so completely lacking in subtlety that it is hard to excuse. And while the plot is simple enough for the smallest kids there is still plenty of violent imagery that borders on inappropriate. With the third and fourth books, we started to see some depth in Harry and his friends as they argued amongst one another and even started to date. Here Harry is just a whiner (with some justification given the level of mistreatment he receives from all sides). Ron is a bumbling idiot. And Hermione continues to be far more talented than any of them and gets no respect for it.

The adults have always been flat and remain so. Hagrid is dangerously stupid but contributes nothing to the plot. Snape is completely consumed with hatred for Harry and yet continues to be his greatest ally behind the scenes. I just don't buy that Harry and Snape could be working towards the same goal and despise each other so deeply. Dumbledore takes a back seat most of the time. Though he is regarded as the greatest wizard alive and understands the danger of Voldemort's rise to power, he does almost nothing while his school and the rest of the world come crashing down around him.

One flaw in the entire series of books is that they must stretch out over an entire year. This fifth book covers Harry's fifth year of school. Predicatably it starts in the summer with Harry miserable at his aunt and uncle's house. The plot centers around a recurring dream Harry has of exploring some secrets in the basement of the Ministry of Magic. Meanwhile Voldemort has seized great power and yet takes the entire school year to break into this area of the Ministry eventually working his way in during, of course, final exams. The book should have taken place over about a two-week period instead of entire year.

One thing I will give the author is she continues to flesh out the world of wizards with all kinds of creatures, spells, and paraphernalia. Ron's brothers come up with some interesting practical jokes. We are introduced to Thestrals which unlike the Griffins, Dragons, Centaurs, and Unicorns of earlier books seem to be completely made up. We learn some about giants as well. Also we are exposed more to how wizards can fight using spells and jinxes against one another as well as trips to new locations The Ministry of Magic and a wizard hospital. Those incidental items make the book worth reading but it is a shame they don't support a better plot.

I'll give this a C+.

February 9, 2004

In the paper

The Columbus newspaper ran a story about a public information meeting for some of my projects at work. I think it's funny that no matter what newspaper you get in, you can still call it "the paper". So I was in the paper.



February 1, 2004

Sony Car Stereo and iPod

I've put together a web page about how to connect an iPod to a Sony car stereo. I had bought a Sony head unit in 1998 with cassette and a CD changer in the trunk. I had been using a cassette adapter but had some problems. So I wound up getting a Sony XA-300 auxilliary input adapter. This is a successor to the XA-107. The web page has other work-arounds that might be useful and it seemed more appropriate for that information to appear on its own web page instead of a blog entry.