Erik DiVietro IS Jack Ryan

Erik DiVietro posted this via his MySpace page. As I hate MySpace, and loved this, he gave me permission to cross-post it here.

Erik treated one of those inane e-mail surveys as if he were Jack Ryan, the protagonist in most of Tom Clancy’s novels. (Also, I should note that, just like Erik, I’ve read all of Clancy’s novels. Clancy peaked with The Sum of All Fears—avoid the movie, though—and really hasn’t done remotely as well since.)

I completed this entire survey as Jack Ryan, of the Tom Clancy novels. It is disturbing that I retain this much information about a fictional character, and more so that I do it about MANY fictional characters.

1. If you were to kill a man, horror movie style, which kitchen utensil would you use?
Horror movie style, eh? That’s a tough one. I had an Ayatollah killed by sending in the B-2 bomber with a bunker buster.

2. Did you ever swallow a coin?
No, but I did buy a helicopter once.

3. What was the worst gift you’ve ever received?
That moron Tom Clancy ruined my legacy by writing Teeth of the Tiger

4. What is your most embarrassing childhood memory?
That my father almost arrested John Clark

5. How many kids do you want?
I have four. For some reason, every time my wife and I slept together in another country or in a time of international crisis, she got pregnant again.

6. What’s your moms middle name?
She didn’t have one, but her maiden name was Burke

7. Have you ever operated a fire extinguisher?
In ways the manufacturer never contemplated.

8. What did you eat for breakfast?
I skip breakfast a lot, and Kathy is always getting on my case about it.

9. who do you hate?
Used to communists, then the Japanese and then the Asian-financed terrorists. Oh, and bureaucrats. MAN do I hate them!

10. what do you hope to have accomplished by the end of this year?
When you’re Jack Ryan – there is nothing left to do. I made millions on the stock market; I wrote books; I was a Marine; I’ve been head of the CIA, Vice-President and President. SHOOT…I single-handedly brought peace to Jerusalem. I stole an entire ballistic missile submarine from the Russians AND forced the head of the GRU to defect! There’s nothing I haven’t done.

11. do you have any reallllly crazy relatives?
Apparently, I have two twin psychotic nephews. My daughter is a little strange as well.

12. Did you ever wake up under the influence of NyQuil, completely unable to move?
I was addicted to painkillers after I almost broke my back, and had a drinking problem that forced me out of government service for awhile.

13. Are you feeling nostalgic right now?
I’m a former president of the USA, of course.

14. Did you own a Lite-Brite?
My grandkids do; but it is nothing compared to the NSA command center.

15. Can you dive?
In a wetsuit? No. I’m a terrible swimmer; but I did operate the dive planes of the Red October under Captain Marco Ramius

16. Do you own a mouthpiece for anything?
Not really.

18. Have you ever used a pogo stick?
Is that anything like a 9MM handgun? Or explosives?

19. Who was the most creative bum you’ve ever met, trying to get some money from you?
Probably Ed Kealty.

20. What’s your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor?
Can of INTERNATIONAL WHOOPIN’. That’s a flavor, right?

21. favorite food you CRAVE?
I love my wife’s cooking. Of course, every time she makes a special meal, people seem to try to kill us.

22. When was the last time you pulled lint out of your bellybutton?
What do I look like? A democrat?

23. Did you ever use someone else’s toothbrush?
There was this crisis where the president thought the Russians were launching nukes at us, but it turned out to be a BIG misunderstanding. But I stayed up for like 3 weeks without sleeping, so I probably did.

24. Do you REALLY floss everyday?
Of course. I’m a Georgetown alumnus.

25. what is your favorite cologne/perfume you always wear?
Cologne is for men who haven’t killed Irish terrorists with their own hands.

26. If you were on Double Dare, would you take the physical challenge?
Look. I’ve been dropped from helicopters onto submarines in storms; I’ve been shot at by drug czars; and I was there when a crazy Japanese pilot flew a 747 into the Capitol building. My wife and I survived nuclear blasts AND two different version of the Ebola virus. You got nothing on me.

27. What’s the largest living organism that you killed?
Shoot. I’ve killed so many things. Probably my father-in-law’s ego.

28. Did you ever take a lighting bug and smear its guts on your arm so you get a cool glowing effect like war paint?
Who writes these stupid questions?

29. What’s the best toy you’ve ever gotten in a McDonalds happy meal?
an armored limousine Hot Wheel

30. if you could be anywhere in the world doing anything right now what would it be?
Back in the Oval Office, ordering Clark and Ding to take care of people.

31. Can you juggle?
HELLO! Fearless leader of the free world here!

32. how do you feel right now?
nostalgic, see 13 above.

33. Do you remember that square candy bar called “Chunky”?
I do. Ate many a Chunky bar out of the CIA vending machines.

34. Predict the length of the next Peter Jackson movie.
Longer than Bear and the Dragon felt but somewhat shorter than Executive Orders actually was.

35. What was your favorite toy as a kid?
G.I. Joes.

36. Are you willing to go the distance?
That’s one heck of a question to ask me. How many of you have even TRIED to read all my books?

37. Did you answer question 17?
How could I? It was stolen by Arab terrorists bent on bringing down the free world through Internet hacking.

Random Webness

Race a Duck, Improve Some Lives …

Racing rubber duckies on a subterranean river, repleat with sewage, industrial waste, and waterfalls; what more could you ask for?

Visit for more information or to make a donation. You can sponsor a duck for only $5.

Welcome to the World’s Highest Rubber Ducky Race. The race will be held Sunday, April 22nd, in La Paz, Bolivia at a starting altitude of approximately 12,800 feet above sea level. Proceeds will fund the construction of a protective fence at the Kallutaca home for mentally and physically disabled adults in the countryside outside of La Paz.

Life at the Kallutaca facility is hard. All of these residents have been abandoned by their families. In turn, the goverment of Bolivia provides very basic housing, food, and clothing until they die. As there is very minimal staffing at this rural home, it is not uncommon for residents to take long, unsupervised walks. In recent years, two deaths have resulted from this problem. One person fell into an offsite well and drowned and the other apparently got lost a night and then died of exposure.

Photos via Picasa Web Albums

I started experimenting with Picasa’s (Google’s) free Web Albums last night. One gigabyte of storage, seamlessly integrated with Picasa, which is the free photo management software God would use if He didn’t run Linux.

Check out our new Picasa Web Albums, which I’ll be updating over the next week, and which are also linked to our sidebar. You can even subscribe to them via RSS!

And, here’s the photo I promised of my Mom and her fiancé, George Fortini:

And here’s another image of NaNi, the world’s cutest 3-year-old. She’s got the Wii controller in her hand, and is beating nearly everyone at bowling. This was taken at Nichelle’s birthday party in March:


Isaac and David were very excited yesterday to have experienced and correctly diagnosed a magnitude 2.7 earthquake that occurred while they were in school. Isaac, and much of his class, felt the whole building vibrate, and (after later discussion with Nichelle), concluded it must have been an earthquake. David didn’t feel the building shaking, but a picture fell on his head!

Here’s the data sheet for this quake from the US Geological Survey. There’s a map here.

The earthquake was centered just to the west of and midway between Laconia and Wolfboro, New Hampshire, and 5 km deep.

The Future of Computer Interfaces

(Thanks to Kevin Ilsen for pointing me to the video.)

This is absolutely amazing. With a few simple gestures, this is way beyond the “ancient” computer interfaces we use today, and is nearly exactly like what was seen in Minority Report, which is an excellent film despite Tom Cruz’s presence.

I was thinking about this recently. We complain about the mouse, but the mouse is incredibly intutive to use. All our children were computer-mouse-capable by age 2.5. Watching Naomi is interesting, though. She can use the computer mouse without difficulty. She’s learned to do pretty well with the keyboard, also, good enough to play World of WarCraft.

The Xbox controller, however, still befuddles her. She’ll try to play Halo 2, but end up with her character stuck up against a wall. We discovered yesterday, however, that she did much better with the “Superman: Returns” game, which offers more freedom of movement, and didn’t require her to stay alive by fighting.

Back to computer interfaces. One of the things that hasn’t “arrived” yet, despite the fact that our current computers are more-than-capable, is voice activated software. It just hasn’t caught on, which surprises me. Is is simply too complicated for most users? Is it merely too annoying for most offices?


Educational Update

Isaac and David both earned highest honors for their first quarter. That means they get a $1/week raise in their allowances, which will now compensate for the $1/week they contribute toward our World of WarCraft subscription. David has become very proficient in handwriting, which is always difficult for a lefty; there’s a huge improvement over last year. Congratulations to them both, the weasels!

Last night I took the second of two “midterms”—our single major exams—for my Boston University graduate courses. I got a stinking “B” on my first exam, in “Object-Oriented Analysis and Design.” I think I did better on the Software Engineering exam yesterday.

Both classes have projects due within a couple of weeks. The Software Engineering course is a group project with three of my co-workers, and we’re building, using Ruby on Rails, a Web-based calendar that is idea for families and small organizations. This is a program I’ve always wanted to put together, and it will be fun finishing it up. So far we’ve learned that Rails is amazing in putting together the data connectivity and display pieces virtually automatically.

In OOAD, I am having a blast designing a simulator of a Star Trek transporter, including replicating the Enterpise D transporter control panel. For this I’m uisng Adobe’s Flex Builder 2, at the suggestion of co-worker RaviShekhar Gopalan, to create my application programmatically for Flash. Although far from finished (I should be “mostly done” by Monday), I’ve published my incomplete-but-working project to . There are some fun hidden features (and I’ll be adding several more), although the simulation/demonstration code isn’t in there yet. I fell victim a bit to a common programmer’s overconfidence: “If I know one object-oriented language, then I can learn another one in minutes!” I’ve figured out just about everything I need to do in Flex (I have one more technical problem to solve, and it’s a small one), but I’m my no means a master yet. You can also take a peek at the PowerPoint presentation I gave to the class for that project. (Can you spot the big omission from my Domain Diagram? It’s a real forehead-slapper!)

(It’s been determined that I will get real credit for the courses I am taking, but that I cannot get my Certificate in Software Engineering, because I don’t have a baccalaureate. I will investigate, after the next two courses are done in the spring, what it would take to convert these credits into undergraduate credits and fill in the missing pieces to get a B.S. in computer science.)

John (we still hear from him occasionally) has been telling people for a while that he is enrolled in a GED review course at Massasoit, but if he is, he’s taking on days it isn’t offered, at times of the day it isn’t offered, with an instructor who isn’t teaching it, using a textbook that isn’t part of the course, and getting a ride from people who claim they aren’t giving him a ride to the class.

And NaNi continues to learn letter recognition and writing from Nichelle, although the impending holidays have cut down on the teaching schedule a bit. Naomi can spot capital As anywhere, and writes them perfectly, except for tending to draw them upside-down.

IE7 Doesn’t Like gzip Compression

Geek Version:

(See the Non-Geek Version below, as well as the Blonde Version.)

It seems that Internet Explorer 7 doesn’t like gzip compression being served up from at least some Web servers.

For a week or more, I’ve been aware that getting to our BLOG using IE7 was impossible. (Bob Richardson first pointed it out to me.) More specifically, one could get to the BLOG, but it would nearly immediately disappear with the “Internet Explorer could not display the webpage” being displayed instead.

The Wilcox Family BLOG, before today, as viewed by Internet Explorer 7.

I hunted off and on for the past week, using a computer at work we have at the office running the prerelease version of Windows Vista (which is amazing, for the record). I removed pieces of the BLOG, checked for logs that would tell me the problem, but was completely unsuccessful. I could take off every piece of the BLOG, and just display some text via PHP, and the problem would still occur; but, if I saved the HTML to a plain file and served that from my Web server, everything would work fine, which seemed ridiculous, as the HTML delivered was exactly the same.

While we were waiting for a server restart, I explained all this to my co-worker RaviShekhar, and he said, “Have you looked at the headers?” So I took a peek. The header from the BLOG that failed in IE 7 looked (retrieved via Firefox) like this:

Response Headers -

Cache-Control: no-store, no-cache, must-revalidate, 
   post-check=0, pre-check=0
Connection: close
Date: Wed, 25 Oct 2006 20:22:53 GMT
Pragma: no-cache
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8
Content-Encoding: gzip
Expires: Thu, 19 Nov 1981 08:52:00 GMT
Vary: Accept-Encoding
Server: Microsoft-IIS/6.0
X-Powered-By: PHP/4.3.11-dev, ASP.NET

200 OK

And the one from a nearly identical BLOG that worked fine looked like this:

Response Headers -

Connection: close
Date: Wed, 25 Oct 2006 20:23:27 GMTm 
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8
Server: Microsoft-IIS/6.0
X-Powered-By: ASP.NET, PHP/4.3.11-dev

200 OK

One obvious difference is the gzip compression. What happens is this: Certain Web servers, to save bandwidth and improve speed, will compress the data that is sent out to the browser. The browser uncompresses the data when it receives it. This allows more information, especially blocks of text, to be sent more quickly.

But what if a browser can’t support the compression? Well, the browser is supposed to communicate with the Web server, and say what it will actually accept, and this is communicated in the request header. So, a browser should only be sent gzip-compressed information if it sends a code to the server that says it accepts gzip.

I don’t yet have the header information that IE7 is sending to the server, but I think it’s sending an “accepts gzip” when either it doesn’t accept it, or there’s something wrong with the uncompression algorithm.

At any rate, turning off the gzip compression on the BLOG lets me visit it using glorious IE 7 (which isn’t bad at all).

To be continued (when I have time to investigate the request headers) …

Non-Geek Version:

The latest version of Internet Explorer, just released by Microsoft, would not display the Wilcox Family BLOG for more than a fraction of a second.

After much investigation, and some helpful suggestions, I found the cause of the problem, and changed the BLOG settings to work around it.

Blonde Version:

It took our blonde site visitors a week to realize that “Internet Explorer could not display the webpage” wasn’t a new BLOG entry; so, no harm done.

Sancocho, Canis Lupus, and More


We have been awaiting a truly delicious traditional Dominican meal—sancocho—for several months now. (Doug: One of us had resorted to pleading and begging.) On Friday we were invited over to the DaLaCruz’s home for such a rich and delicious meal and also a great time with Mahli and Miguel and their family and friends. The aroma from this meal really brought us back to our visits of the Dominican Republic. How we long to be back there! (Perhaps next year.)

Canis Lupus

Friday night we got the kids excited about a surprise trip we were going to take on Saturday morning. All they knew was that they were going to woken up early and then we’d be off. We managed to get out the door before 8:30 a.m. (and for us on a Saturday was extremely impressive).

I made breakfast sandwiches and got other snacks and we were out the door. The trip was wonderful. The scenery was spectacular. During the trip, we had the occasional inturrption of “noise” such as: “Are we there yet?” and “How much longer?” but, besides that, it was peaceful. We were headed for the Wolf and Wild Canine Sanctuary in White River Junction, Vermont. We really picked an ideal weekend to go. Such breathtaking views.

Mica is the most handsome wolf I’ve ever met.

Some of you may be wondering, “A wolf sanctuary? Why?” We had purchased a six-month wolf adoption, after learning about it from Beth Costine’s BLOG, for Isaac’s 11th birthday, and the adoption includes visitation privileges. This was our first trip up there. Isaac’s wolf is named Magic, but my favorite was Mara and then Mica. All of the wolves are beautiful. (Doug: They are all beautiful, but I think Mica was by far the best looking.)

When we arrived at our destination, Isaac recognized the name and beamed. David and Naomi were thrilled, too. I couldn’t wait to see them and the same with Doug. We were greeted by the owner, Peter Porter, and he gave us the tour.

Pete Porter certainly loves his wolves, and vice-versa.

David was the only one of us Magic would approach closely. That weasel!

The first wolf we met was Mica. He was simply lovely. We could, through the fence, pet them and have them give “wolf kisses.” We all had that opportunity to do that with each of the wolves. Although, Magic wouldn’t come very close to us, except for David. That lucky weasel!

The last wolf we met was Mara. She’s not 100% wolf, and appears to be part Siberian husky and part collie. She was very gentle, considering her size, but very playful.

This plywood, guaranteed for 50 years, lasted only about 3 weeks in the kennel with Magic.

To top off the entire trip, Peter had asked Isaac if he would like to go in the kennel along with him. Isaac turned him down. (Yeah, right!) Isaac headed in, and Mara was right there to great him. Doug had the camcorder running and took many pictures. We were told that Mara loves children and she really does. She was all over Isaac and he loved every minute of it. David got a turn in there, too.

Isaac gets “wolf kisses” from Mara.

Peter also gave us a tour of his “man room” I believe that’s the name his wife gave it. It holds his hunting trophies of many kinds (perhaps most impressive was a huge boar skull) along with other “toys.”

Looking down on the wolf pens and exercise area from the entrance to the “man room” above the garage.

What an experience we had! It was a treat for all of us and I/we do hope to return before the adoption expires, but I am certain we will renew it. David has also mentioned wanting one for his birthday.

Isaac with Pete Porter in the background. Naomi actually took this photo.

… and More!

After we left the Sanctuary, we headed to Queechee Gorge and had a great hike and some time to climb on the rocks.

Looking down into the Quechee Gorge.

Before we got to the base of the gorge, we stopped along the way so the kids to catch the falling leaves. Simple things, but very sweet and many great memories.

Naomi, Nichelle, and Isaac during our hike at the Quechee Gorge.

I also had the opportunity to watch my husband walk up a tree (30 footer) that had fallen down over the riverbed. I was, of course, concerned for him, but one of the things that went through my mind was what would happen to the camcorder and digital camera if he had fallen. Twisted, I know. (Doug: I thought about the cameras, too, but once I started, there was no way I was going back down; it took a lot of nerve for me to walk along the tree, and I’m actually surprised—although glad—that I did it.)

There I stood, on what had once been nearly the top of a large tree, now fallen, facing the deadly 30 or 40 feet upward slope of the fallen trunk. Gripping the dead branches tightly, I forced myself to breathe more slowly. After standing there several minutes, I took a baby step. Then I let go of the branches, and tried not to look down onto the jagged rocks below. After a few more minutes, I was able to take another baby step or two, and soon passed beyond the reach of supporting branches. Slowly, I took a couple of regular steps. Then I discovered if I crouched down very slightly, and stared at the tree trunk, I could actually move fairly rapidly without succumbing to rising panic. Moving increasingly rapidly, without daring to look back, I reached the roots at the base of the overturned tree. I was elated! I jumped down about 6 feet from the trunk, with a grin of accomplishment on my face … then grin turned to an expression of panic when I discovered that the brush underneath the tree had hidden a very steep slope, down which I was starting to tumble.

Ah, yes, the memory of seeing my husband jump down off the tree which was on an incline, which he hadn’t noticed. He jumped and then slid. He was fine, but I was glad he was finished with his “climbing” that day. All in all, it was a great weekend.

I should also add that today, Sunday, was my second time back in choir since December, 2005. This coming Sunday I actually get to sing in service. I have longed to be back in that portion of ministry for such a long time and the time has finally arrived. Special music, here I come. I’ve been healthy, nearly perfectly healthy since July. I’m thankful and grateful for all that I’m able to do. So, to all that have been in prayer for me and my family, many, many thanks to you, and please do continue to pray.

Ahoy, Me Hearties! It Be International Talk Like a Pirate Day

(David be most excited about this one.)

From “How to Be Speakin’ Pirate-Like” (You’ll want to view the full page at their site; it includes vocabulary):

Startin’ Rules:

  1. Double up on all your adjectives and you’ll be bountifully bombastic with your phrasing. Pirates never speak of “a big ship”, they call it a “great, grand ship!” They never say never, they say “No nay ne’er!”
  2. Drop all your “g”‘s when you speak and you’ll get words like “rowin'”, “sailin'” and “fightin'”. Dropping all of your “v”‘s will get you words like “ne’er”, “e’er” and “o’er”.
  3. Instead of saying “I am”, sailors say, “I be”. Instead of saying “You are”, sailors say, “You be”. Instead of saying, “They are”, sailors say, “They be”. Ne’er speak in anythin’ but the present tense!