june 2006

6.1.06
I'm not obessed with my site stats or anything—mostly I just poke around a couple of times a month to see if there are any new trends developing among my visitors, etc. But it's always fun to look through the search results, that is, the phrases that people typed into search engines that led them to your site. I've been meaning to post some of these for a while now, so I think to make sure I do it reguarly, I'm going to highlight the most interesting of the previous month's search phrases at the start of each month.

Sometimes it's questions that I will attempt to answer, sometimes it's just weird searches, but either way, it's stuff that caught my eye while digging through my server logs. Here's the good stuff from May (I'm posting the search phrases exactly as they were entered, poor spelling/grammar and all; the search phrases are indented and bolded, my responses have a normal margin):

i spend my whole day eating cheetos and arguing on message boards

Okay. It disturbs me a little that this search brought you to my site...

how does open brain coral reproduce

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coral#Reproduction

what is no depression/alt-country movement

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternative_country

Are you getting it yet, people? If you have a specific question, try Wikipedia instead of Google next time.

speeding up molten core runs

Ah, now here's something I know a little about. Biggest thing that helped our group: do your looting and bidding on the fly. Never stop for official breaks, just keep pushing on with one or two people going AFK at a time, and let the master looter take bids and assign loot as the group is already moving on to the next set of mobs. Also: don't fight your way back to Gehennas after Maggie, just die and graveyard run back or hearth out and fly back from Iron Forge. You can also skip all the mobs on the left as you work your way down the slope to Gehennas' room. One last thing: pre-assign warrior targets for dog packs based on clock position (10 o'clock, 2 o'clock, etc.), and use a mod to do the targeting for Garr and Domo.

what is mark z. danielewski's middle initial

I'm assuming that the question is really "What does Mark Z. Danielewski's middle initial stand for?", because his middle initial is obviously Z and the person doing this search clearly knows this. I thought I knew the answer to this at one point, but I can't remember now and I couldn't find the answer using the search engines, either. Just to be snarky, I'm going to say "Zampano", even though I know it's not right. But at least it's relevant.

who was the kid that played the banjo in deliverance

Billy Redden. The only reason I know this is because my friend Tom met him when he was at an artist's residency down in rural Georgia where Deliverance was shot and where Billy still lives. According to Tom, he didn't really play the banjo in Deliverance; another kid was sitting behind him and stuck his arm through to play the frets, and then they dubbed in the actual banjo later. Another interesting note about Billy: he also recently starred in Tim Burton's Big Fish.

blackwing lair boss fight explanation

Which boss? Come on, people, there are eight bosses in there. I'm not going to explain them all.

where did brain coral get its name?

Uh, because it looks like a big freaky mutant brain, maybe?

general grievous birthday cake

That would be awesome!

indoor cat lifeless and has trouble walking

I'm not trying to be snarky here, but maybe you should take him to a vet instead of trolling the web.

who has sold the most albums the beetles or the arctic monkeys

I'm pretty sure I know the answer with this one without having to consult Billboard's official stats. Oh, and you spelled Beatles wrong.

what chores would the wainwrights son do?

That is a really weird question to ask.

are there laws against being demoted to a windowless office

I thought this was a pretty silly question to ask, too, but apparently I have still not adequately grasped the ludicrousness of our current litigiousness. See this page for an example (although to be fair, the person who sued her company over this was also being harassed in other ways).

why do i have to reset the date and time on powershot a700

My guess: the internal battery is dead. Not the batteries that you replace to enable the camera to take pictures, but the much small internal one that keeps the date and time stored while you switch between your normal batteries.

do brain corals look like brains

Yes. Yes they do. Big freaky mutant brains. Like I said before.

i stopped caring a long time ago

Me, too, buddy.

myspace freddy krueger layouts

?!?

who are ugly cassanova

Ugly Cassanova is Isaac Brock's side project. His main band is Modest Mouse, but when he wasn't sure if Modest Mouse was going to break up, he made a solo record under the moniker Ugly Cassanova.

is russia in europe?

Kinda, but not really. Russia is an enormous country, and most of it is iin Asia, but the far western portion, which includes the capital, Moscow, is adjacent to Europe and is sometimes considered part of that region.

That's it for this month. See you in July when we'll explore the server logs for June.


6.2.06
It's our tenth wedding anniversary next week, so Julie and I are taking the entire week off to go on one of our rare vacations where we don't visit family, we don't have business, etc. We've decided to go to Niagara Falls, because I've never been there before (and Julie's only been once when she was a child) and it's in driving distance—I'm really not in the mood to spend any time in airports these days. We've got a nice hotel suite booked that looks directly out onto the falls, and while there's plenty to do right around the falls, we're also likely going to take some day trips to Toronto, Stratford, etc.

What does this mean for you? No posts next week, and tons of pictures from our trip that will be posted over the next couple of months. See you when we get back.

6.12.06
That was a good week off, and a good weekend off afterwards to recover from traveling before going back to work. Details starting tomorrow. Pictures are coming, too, but it might be a couple of days before I get them all sorted out and start posting them.

6.13.06
Because I both hate crowds and I hate going back to work the day after getting back from a vacation, we decided to go on our tenth anniversary trip Sunday-Friday, so we'd miss the weekend crowds and still have a couple of days to transition out of vacation mode before returning to the workplace.

It took about 8 hours to drive to Niagara Falls from our house, including a couple of pit stops, but since we left fairly early on Sunday morning, we were still able to check into our hotel (on the Canadian side) by around 6 or so. We had reserved something called a Junior Presidential Suite, which was supposed to include a king size bed, a whirlpool jacuzzi, and a view of either the American or Horseshoe Falls, but while we were checking in, the desk clerk said that there were still a couple of nicer Presidential Suites that she could offer us for only a few dollars more. I turned her down initially, but then decided to let Julie make the call, and she voted in favor of the bigger suite, so that's what we got.

That turned out to be an excellent decision. I'm sure the other suites were pretty nice, but this one had a huge circular window in the sleeping area that gave a full view of both the American Falls and the Horseshoe Falls. I took some pictures, but it's probably better if you look at it using the hotel's virtual tour:

http://www.embassysuitesniagara.com/vtour4.html

The room in that tour is exactly like ours, except ours had a fireplace where the two chairs are (we didn't use it, but it was still cool to have it in the room). And that tour really doesn't do it justice—we spent a lot of time in the hotel room just looking out the windows at the falls, especially in the evenings when they were illuminated (the first night they also did a 10 minute fireworks display that we watched from our room).

The first night we were pretty tired from the drive, and since there was no easy way to get down to the falls at night from our hotel, we just had dinner in the hotel and went upstairs to watch the fireworks before turning in. The second day, however, was filled with activities....


6.14.06
I'm not sure if it was the near-constant mini-trips that Julie's parents took her on as a child or just her own sense of wanting to get her money's worth that made her this way, but Julie tends to be somewhat of a trip nazi, always wanting to have a schedule and a plan and to be doing something all day. I like a little more relaxed pace on vacations, but we usually find a happy middle ground where I still get to relax some and we still get to check all the sights off our list. I think we leaned a little more towards the activities side of thing on this vacation, probably because I had a new camera to play with and I wanted to see as many things as possible (I ended up taking nearly 800 photos over 4 days).

As luck would have it, my friend Ryan had just returned from Niagara Falls the week before we went up there (it turns out his hotel was right next to ours, so he undoubtedly had a great view as well), and he had lots of practical tips for us. The best one was probably his recommendation that we purchase a multi-activity pass that let you visit several attractions over the course of your stay, including the butterfly conservatory, the Journey Behind the Falls, the Maid of the Mist, and the Whitewater Walk. It also included one day's use of the incline railway, which was handy because that was the quickest way down to the falls from our hotel.

We weren't ambitious enough to try and tackle everything in one day, so we decided to do the closest one: the Journey Behind the Falls, where you take an elevator down through the rock and get to walk down a couple of tunnels that end behind the falls, so you can actually see the water on it's way down. That was pretty cool conceptually, but in actuality it was pretty boring—just a roaring white wall of mist. But there was also a viewing platform outside right next to the Canadian side of the Horseshoe Falls, and the views there made the attraction worthwhile.

I had wanted to go down to the falls that night to take some time lapse photos when there were illuminated, but after a relatively late dinner I just didn't have the stamina. So we watched the falls from the room for a bit and went to bed, planning to hit a couple more attractions and Niagara-On-The-Lake the next day.

6.15.06
On our second day in Niagara Falls, we decided to drive down to Niagara-On-The-Lake, a little town about 15 or 20 miles away that sits on the edge of Lake Ontario where the Niagara River flows into the lake. We had heard that there was a nice little shopping district downtown, along with winery tours at many of the vineyards surrounding the town.

On the way we stopped at another one of the sites on our multi-attraction ticket, the Buttefly Conservatory, a good-sized indoor butterfly habitat with thousand of butterflies freely flitting around. Ryan had recommended it, as had a couple of our other friends, but I was a bit skeptical that it would be all that interesting. I was wrong though—it was very cool to walk around in an environment thick with butterflies, and plenty of them sat still long enough for you to get pictures of them.

Julie was desperate to have one land on her so I could get a picture of her with a butterfly, but it hadn't happened after an hour or so and we really couldn't afford to stay much longer. Then, just as we got up off a bench that we sat on hoping that if we remained stationary we could attract one, one landed on her side. But it was big one, and she wasn't expecting it, and she kind of has this thing about bugs, even pretty ones like butterflies...and, well, let's just say that I didn't get a picture of it and the butterfly narrowly escaped with his life.

The butterfly gods were kind enough to give her a second chance, though—as we were literally steps from the exit, another much smaller butterfly landed on her shoulder, and I was able to warn her about it before she freaked out. She stayed perfectly still, and I was able to get several shots of the butterfly sitting quietly on her shoulder, and she was able to leave happy.

When we got into Niagara-On-The-Lake, it didn't seem to be the place we had heard described; all we could find was the dock where the jet-powered rapids boats left and a little town park by the side of the lake. We sat in the park for a while, enjoying the beautiful weather (it was great the whole time we were up there—the temperatures were in the mid to high 70s each day and it was generally pretty sunny), but we were wondering where this shopping district was that we'd heard so much about.

We found it on the way out of town, but since it was right at lunchtime, the place was thick with tourists and we figured we'd have an easier time finding something to eat if we drove up the road a little and found another, less well-known lakeside town. We found just that in Port Dalhousie, where we had lunch outside and then spent a few minutes at the lakeside beach.

I wasn't feeling well that evening, so we had a quick dinner at a food court (all I had was a chocolate shake, which was about all I could stomach) and then went to the casino housed in the hotel next to ours. Usually when we go on vacation somewhere where we have access to a casino, we'll have a set limit of how much to spend and we just plan to go in and spend it and have fun for a couple of hours. But Julie has been unnaturally lucky at these places so far: on our honeymoon, she won $175 in the ship's casino, and in New Orleans last year, she won $150.

We don't expect that to happen every time, but sure enough, she picked a slot machine at the end of a row (she heard somewhere that they pay out more often) and within 15 spins, she won a jackpot of $450. The casino came and paid that out, and using the money that was still left from her original session, she ended up winning another $75 before we took a break from that machine.

Now we were left in the enviable position of being able to decide not how much we were willing to lose, but exactly how much profit we wanted to walk away with. We settled on $400, and then spent another hour or so playing different machines in the casino before heading back to our hotel for some sleep.

6.16.06
I think in the last couple of days I've written enough about Canada, eh? (And yes, Canadians do say that, although not very often—I think they've gotten shy about it since Strange Brew.) So I'll finish up the stories from our Niagara Falls trip next week.

6.19.06
Still working on prepping the photos from Niagara Falls. I think I've finally found the one weakness with digital photography: since there's no financial penalty for taking as many pictures as you want, it's easy to take...oh, say 800 or so when you're on vacation in a place like Niagara. And sorting through those, editing them, prepping them for the web, etc., takes quite a bit of time. But the first batch should be ready later this week.

And, um, I guess that goes for the text, too. Didn't get around to writing about our third day in Niagara Falls yet, which we spent on the American side.

In the meantime, I have posted five photos that I took before we left, and which I meant to post earlier. Enjoy.

6.20.06
I clicked on this link, which as entitled "Beating Boredom in the Office" because, you know, it's pretty boring in my office during the summer. But I swear, I'd rather hang myself than be in an office where the supervisors viewed these suggestions as good ideas and not methods of torture.

6.21.06
The Braves have always been a second-half team, and I don't think there has been a single season in their current string of 14 consecutive division titles that a lot of their fans didn't think, "This could be the year when the streak ends."

But this could be the year when the streak ends.

Right now, they are 11 games under .500 and 14.5 games behind the division-leading New York Mets, who have the best record in the National League and the second-best record in baseball. They have lost 8 straight games, and are 1-9 in their last 10, which means that not only are they in a deep hole, they don't show any signs of being able to claw their way out of it.

No one likes to give up on their season at this point in the year, but honestly, if they get to the All-Star break and haven't gotten to within 6 games or so of the division lead, they can pretty much forget about it. True, back in 1993, they were something like 8 or 9 games behind the Giants at the break and they came back to win the division, but that was a once-in-a-lifetime season—it was neck and neck from the first of September through the end of the season, and they only clinched their title on the final day of the season, when they beat the Rockies and the Giants lost to their arch-rivals, the Dodgers.

I don't expect that the Mets will play as well as they have been for the rest of the season—last year, the Nationals were about 6 games ahead of the Braves at this point in the season, and I knew they would stumble—but they've got too much talent to play badly enough to give another team a chance to catch them (last year, all of the teams in the NL East were at or above .500 for most of the second half of the season and it was easily the toughest division in baseball; right now the Phillies are in second place, and they are one game under .500 and 9.5 games behind the Mets).

It was a great run while it lasted, but I don't know if the current Braves team has the willpower, the talent, and the experience to overcome the odds, and every day they lose another game, it becomes that much more unlikely that they'll be able to get back in control of their division. But I'm rooting for them anyway.

6.22.06
Ah, training—possibly the only thing that's more boring than the stuff that I normally do in the summer at work.

6.23.06
I don't want to say my training over the last couple of days was a waste of time, but...well, let's just say I'm pretty sure the teacher learned more from her students than any of us did from her.

6.26.06
Finally got around to organizing the first couple of days worth of photos from Niagara Falls, and it looks like I'll have enough to populate my daily photos until the end of July (which means that when I get around to organizing the photos from the final two days, I'll likely have enough to get me through September).

There are some decent shots in this batch, but nothing that I've edited so far really captures the magnitude of the falls.

6.27.06
I haven't been feeling well the last couple of days, and my not being in the office means that, by the next time I see my boss, I won't have seen him since before Memorial Day. He was out from the friday before Memorial Day until the second week of June, at which point I started a week's vacation for my tenth anniversary. When I returned from that, he was on a two week vacation to his summer home in Maine. Yesterday and this morning were his first days back in the office since my week of vacation; this afternoon he heads to Germany for a week, and he's not scheduled to be back in the office until July 6.

It should tell you something about both my solid relationship with my boss and how much things slow down for our office in the summer that this lack of face time with him doesn't concern me one iota.

6.28.06
For our third day in Niagara Falls, we decided to head over to the American side to get up close and personal with the American Falls and to do the Cave of the Winds tour, which lets you stand right below where the American Falls cascade down.

We had heard that the American side wasn't quite as nice as the Canadian side, and as far as the attractions near the falls, that turned out to be true. We had forgotten to bring sunscreen, and we had both already gotten a decent amount of sun from the previous two days, so we decided to try and find some in a drug store or souvenir shop before going into the national park that contains the American Falls. The first couple of places were souvenir shops located on the same block as the Hard Rock Café, which of course means tha they were in the heart of the tourist area. Neither of them had any sunscreen in stock, and both of them said they knew a place that probably carried it that was a couple of blocks away, but neither recommended going because they wouldn't feel comfortable sending us into that part of town (keep in mind this was 10 a.m. on a Wednesday morning—not typically a high-crime time of day, even in high-crime areas).

Hearing the same thing from two different store owners unsettled us enough that we cut short our search for sunscreen and headed directly back to the park. Luckily, we found some sunscreen in the park's souvenir shop, which was good because we ended up spending pretty much the whole day outside in the sun.

As far as the park itself, the American side was actually much nicer than the Canadian side; not that the Canadian side is bad, it's just that there's not really much space on the Canadian side between the gorge that the falls flow into and the cliff atop which sit most of the hotels and attractions. On the American side, it's mostly flat around the falls, and there's a huge National Park to wander around in, including bridges that take you across to islands around the falls.

The coolest thing we did on the American side was the Cave of the Winds, which wasn't actually a cave anymore (the cave collapsed a long time ago). Instead, you took an elevator down to the base of the American Falls and were able to walk right up underneath them to a place called the hurricane deck, a wooden platform right below where the falls hit the rocks. The roar of the water was impossibly loud, and that combined with the water and the wind generated by the tremendous force of the falling water hitting the rocks made it abundantly clear why that area was called the hurricane deck.

Since the American side of Niagara Falls is essentially a suburb of Buffalo, NY, we decided to stay on the American side for dinner and seek out some genuine buffalo wings. We hadn't thought of this before we left, so we didn't have the ample resources of the internet to guide us, but our AAA guide book noted a couple of local favorites, and we settled on Duff's, which has been serving buffalo wings since 1948. Usually Julie and I like stuff pretty spicy, but I was feeling in a mild kind of mood that day, so we ordered 10 mild medium (which I ate most of) and 10 medium (which Julie had). I didn't think there would actually be that much difference between genuine buffalo wings from Buffalo and the buffalo wings I've had at countless other non-Buffalo restaurants, but I'll tell you what, Duff's absolutely set a new standard. If you're ever in the Buffalo area, I'd definitely recommend stopping in here.

I had orginally wanted to park down near the Canadian Falls when we got back to Canada and shoot some time-lapse photos of the falls at night (they illuminate them with slowly changing colored lights), but after walking around all day on the American side, we were pretty tired. So we just went back up to the hotel and got a good night's sleep before our final day in Niagara Falls.

6.29.06
I haven't been feeling well the last couple of days, and my not being in the office means that, by the next time I see my boss, I won't have seen him since before Memorial Day. He was out from the friday before Memorial Day until the second week of June, at which point I started a week's vacation for my tenth anniversary. When I returned from that, he was on a two week vacation to his summer home in Maine. Yesterday and this morning were his first days back in the office since my week of vacation; this afternoon he heads to Germany for a week, and he's not scheduled to be back in the office until July 6.

It should tell you something about both my solid relationship with my boss and how much things slow down for our office in the summer that this lack of face time with him doesn't concern me one iota.

6.30.06
I'm taking today and Monday off for Independence Day, so don't expect any further posts until next Wednesday.
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