False Alarm

I was at the office this Sunday catching up on some work when an unusual thing happened. I was sitting at my desk typing away at the keyboard when the 90 decibel fire klaxon suddenly went off. Going out into the common area of the building, I noticed several other sirens, buzzers, and klaxons going off as well as flashing red strobe lights. I noticed the cleaning staff trying push the handle of a fire alarm back up (which can’t be done without a key). I asked them what happened and they began jesturing at a feather duster that one of them was holding and then at the alarm panel (only one of them could speak any english). This is very odd. It was one of the red fire boxes with the white, “pull in case of fire” T-Handles. They are not easy to pull down even intentionally and somehow this guy managed to pull it using a feather duster!?

It took about 9 minutes for the Las Colinas fire department to arrive. It took only 8 minutes for the cleaning people to pack all their gear into their car and drive away, leaving myself and a couple of other innocent bystanders to explain things. The first problem the firemen noticed was that they couldn’t get in the building because the magnetic door locks, which are supposed to release automatically in case of emergency, didn’t. Fortunately, we were able to let them in before they did anything drastic. Next, we discovered that management didn’t have any procedure in place to turn off the alarm. We finally found someone with a key but they were over an hour away. I guess the firemen felt sorry for us having to listen to fire alarms for an hour – they offered to drive back to the fire station and look for an alarm key that might fit our alarm. They made it back in about 15 minutes and after trying a few different keys, got the thing shut off. Interestingly, I’m working late tonight and someone I didn’t recognize just emptied the trash cans in our office. It seems we may have an entirely new cleaning staff. Hmmm…

South Padre Island

It’s been a week since I’ve had time to post news! Let’s see, last Thursday, Susan and I left for a weekend vacation on South Padre Island. We had planned on staying through Monday. Our stay was cut short when we were kicked out of our hotel on saturday morning as part of the “voluntary” evacuation due to hurricane Bret. After checking out, we hung around as long as possible hoping to get some cool photos of a palm trees bending over in hurricane-force winds.

While we waited for the storm, we visited the small nature walk near the South Padre Convention Center. There’s supposed to be an alligator living there but in several years of looking we’ve never caught a glimpse of it. We did rescue some sort of tiny baby turtle that had wandered out onto the road and was in danger of being hit by a car. It was too small to tell if it was a sea tutle or just a plain-ol’ turtle (at least by me!). Anyway, we saw a few unusual birds and a strange looking moth that was big enough to be one of Mothra’s relatives – but no alligator. We eventually gave up waiting for the storm to get there and, after taking a few photos of the locals nailing plywood sheets all over there houses, we headed up to Harlingen and caught the next Southwest flight back to Dallas.

The flight itself turned out to be pretty interesting as there was a strange assortment of people who’d also been forced home early because of the weather. There was a party of about 10 or so drunken red-neck hunters from Arkansas who kept trying to flirt with the flight attendants and any other females that happened by. One of them kept telling the same story about having gone deep sea fishing in the gulf to about five different people on the plane. We did finally get back home and, as it turned out, the hurricane turned away from South Padre and hit the coast near Port Mansfield instead. Here’s a page with some South Padre Island post-hurricane photos shot by a local.

Shopping Carts and Webcams

Hmmm… not much to report lately. Still doing lots of work on our Perl-based shopping cart. I should be able to release it soon. We’re using it on one of our e-commerce sites now and, hopefully, the final debugging will be done over the next week or so. In other news, it looks like some progress is being made on the CPiA USB driver by the Linux guys. A posting to the USB list this morning indicates they’ve been able to reproduce the kernel oops I was getting. If we’re lucky, we’ll have things running when the 2.3.14 kernel gets released.

Blue Raspberry Slurpee Ice

There’s nothing like sitting down with a good book in one hand and a Blue Raspberry Slurpee Ice in the other. The book is Psychological Types by C.G. Jung. The Blue Raspberry Slurpee Ice is a conical snack module from the local 7-Eleven containing water, sugar, corn syrup, natural and artificial flavors, citric acid, phosphoric acid, guar gum, modified soy protein and blue #1. I don’t like corn syrup but it seems like nearly everything made these days contains it. I’m not sure why that is, maybe there’s a corn syrup conspiracy? Try substituting “Soylent Green” for “Corn Syrup” when you read the labels on things and you’ll really begin to notice it. If you ever wondered what all that other stuff in your cream-filled snack cake is (like Polysorbate-80), check out this cool table of food additives. Mmmm… makes me hungry just reading it.


I’ve just discovered that Cherry Pop-Tarts taste sort of like stale crackers with congealed cough syrup on them. I highly recommend sticking with grape or strawberry (and make sure you get the ones with white frosting and those little colored binkies). Caution is advised in the case of the strawberry Pop-Tarts however as they may be put to use as cheap incendiary devices. Oh, and I would have provided a nice link to the Kellog’s Pop-Tarts web site but it’s just a bunch of non-standard, plug-in requiring stuff. All you get with a standard web browser is a black page with a couple of broken links on it.