Monthly Archives: October 2004

My Dream Vacation

I spent five wonderful years in Austin, Texas, in the late 80’s and early 90’s. While life there was mighty fine, just imagine if I could have been a contented resident of Austin, Minnesota. Instead, I’m left to dream about a potential vacation to Austin, MN, to see … the Hormel Spam Museum.

Wired has a tantalizing tale – A Tribute to Spam, the Meat – online about the delicious spiced ham and the other fascinating exhibits that await you in the museum.

Now, Austin, TX, does have something spammy over Austin, MN. I attended Spam-a-rama several of the years I was in Texas. Who could forget the Spam Put, the Spam toss, and the Spam cram? The Spam cram contestants race against each other and the clock as they open a fresh can of Spam, extract the contents, and force it down their gullets. The fastest time I remember was 27 seconds.

Another great part of Spam-a-rama was the culinary exhibition. I was enthralled by the delicate nuances of spamagiana, spam rolls with hot mustard sauce, and spamoni ice cream. And, of course, those taste treats were made all the better when accompanied by a spamarita.

John Eisenhower to Vote for… Kerry

John Eisenhower | Why I Will Vote for John Kerry for President

John Eisenhower is the son of the late Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower. John served on the White House staff and had been a lifelong Republican until the last few years. In addition to his disapproval of the way the current leadership initiated and then thoroughly mismanaged the invasion and occupation of Iraq, he is sorely disappointed with the lack of fiscal responsibility displayed by the Republican party.

I seem to remember that one of the classic debate chestnuts for Republican candidates had been to attack a Democrat opponent as wanting to spend taxpayer money like a druken sailor. It seems the GOP has flip-flopped on this issue, as enormous deficits no longer seem to be a concern. All that matters now is cutting taxes.

That attitude reminds me entirely too much of the dotcom companies of the late nineties that are no longer with us. The cost of gaining market share was rarely seen as issue for concern. All that mattered was not limiting the potential top line (obviously, many of these companies had the added problem of being poor judges of potential). Well, those companies painfully learned that when your bottom line stays far above your top line for too long, eventually you find yourself going 200 mph in a plane with no wings at the end of a runway.

VoIP on the Cheap

VoIP Market Leaders Declare a Price War –

The recent drops in monthly rates for AT&T CallVantage, Vonage, and Broadvox Direct suggest that the consumer VoIP market is heating up and that these companies all expect adoption rates to take off at a much quicker pace soon. When the inflection point occurs, you don’t want to be the most expensive provider.

Unlimited calling plans from VoIP providers originally started out at around $40/month. I’m sure that this would have been a cost savings for some people, but I very rarely spend $40/month on non-cellphone or broadband telecom charges. I use my cellphone for almost all long distance calls. With the most recent price cuts, you can get unlimited calling plans across the US from the above trio for anywhere from $20 to $30. Those prices are now reaching levels that are tempting even for me.

Of course, the pure geek appeal of replacing my old school POTS connection with a VoIP connection is mighty tempting, but my geek to-do list is already too long. Also, there’s plenty of free, do-it-yourself VoIP software for me to while away my time with. A list of the software I’m looking at will be the subject of an upcoming post.

Since EarthLink is my ISP, I wanted to try EarthLink OnlineCalling. But, the software they are OEM’ing is Xten’s X-Lite, which runs on Windows and Mac OS X, only. It looks cool, though, maybe a bit too gratuitously puffy. Maybe I’ll try it on my wife’s Powerbook when she’s not looking.

One major drawback of OnlineCalling/X-Lite is the Earthlink license. When you sign up for OnlineCalling, Earthlink displays in a tiny little text box a grotesquely lengthy license covering pretty much every product and service they offer. Why couldn’t they have separated out just the part that was relevant! Must … control … anti-bad-license fist of death.

Sphinx-4 Beta

A beta version of Sphinx-4, an open source speech recognition engine implemented in Java, was recently released. Sphinx development is centered out of Carnegie-Mellon University, with major contributions from employees at Sun, Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs, and HP and smaller contributions from individuals at UC Santa Cruz and MIT.

Ideas that are unlikely to come to fruition, but I like to imagine I have time to implement them, anyway:

  • Non-real time dictation engine for PhoneBlogger
  • Along with OpenVXI, Festival, and CCXML4J, a complete open source VoiceXML and CCXML server
  • Speech recognition engine on a Treo 600

Linux Powered Toilet

Okay, maybe not. But if Linux isn’t involved, why the heck are these penguins fondling a toilet on a studio set for Laugh-In?

Toilet surrounded by penguins

The rest of the page at the Toto site has many other fascinating photos that reveal more about Japanese culture than I thought possible in a set of marketing photos from a maker of fine bathroom furnishings.

For example, what’s up with these guys?

Listening for rim scouring

Are they trying to channel Elvis? Are they trying to experience the rim-scouring cyclonic action?

Is this woman a toilet psychiatrist? Does she just like to talk to toilets that appear to talk back? Is it possible that she is so boring that she has to resort to friendships with animatronic waste disposal devices? Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Talking toilet

And I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in sitting on a toilet that has a bidet mode that uses cyclones. I mean, that’s got to hurt. Doesn’t it?

Spraying toilets [via Boing Boing]