The Snoozeletter @

Gellért Hill > Notting Hill > Spook Hill.

Anikó and I just flew in from London's Heathrow Airport last night. No matter how many times you make that jump, the ol' jet lag is always a highlight of the trip. ;-)

Anikó spent a major portion of the last month arranging for the sale of our Budapest condo, to help my adult stepkids buy condos of their own. She did an enormous amount of work, orchestrating three real estate transactions in 25 days. When I showed up last week, after most of the dust had settled, we all took a little time off for a family dinner at Udvarház Étterem, a spectacular restaurant in the Buda hills. A review in The Independent gives a hint of what it's like: "A young Hungarian couple, high on Champagne and love, walked to the balustrade and stared, entranced, at the city far below, until the waiter reminded them their starters were getting cold."

The food was amazing, too. Even the paintings on the wall were stunning. Afterwards, we drove to Gellért Hill and gazed at the magnificent bridges spanning the Danube. We just couldn't get enough of that hypnotic view.

A few days later, Anikó and I flew to London, mainly to give her a break from all the wheeling and dealing. It was exactly what the doctor ordered: four days in Notting Hill, just being simple-minded tourists. And a new friend was kind enough to set up a reservation for all of us at De Amicis Ristorante Italiano (A, B). By hosting the meal, I was hoping to (1) thank our new friend for helping me with some unconventional pain treatment, and (2) apologize for pulling her leg so hard. She was very gracious, and proved to be fascinating company, as well.

And now I'm staring at Spook Hill, a mile away from our home here in Mesa, Arizona. But it just doesn't measure up. Sigh.
Software Contest Rollercoaster(7). 

Sun/OOo AwardScrew it. I'm tired of waiting for the press release. I kept quiet until the 15th. Hell, I kept quiet way PAST the 15th. You saw. I was a good little boy. I held up my end of the bargain. I played ball. I rolled with the punches. I kept the faith. I went along with the joke. But this radio silence has gone on long enough. So here's the inside scoop:

My screenplay formatting template won an Hono(u)rable Mention Award in this Sun Microsystems/ software contest. The check has already arrived. In fact, I cashed it last Saturday. $3,333. Ain't that a cool figure? When I was a kid, 3 used to be my lucky number. Still is, I guess.

OOoCon 2008 BeijingWoo-hoo! It's not the Gold Award I was aiming for, but it's better than a sharp stick in the eye! And the company has offered to fly me to Beijing, so I can accept the prize during a ceremony at their annual conference. Excellent.

Anyway, the results were first scheduled for publication on 8/15. Then the date was moved back a few times, until they finally settled on 9/15. Hopefully, the press release will appear sometime in September. But considering this rollercoaster's design (or lack thereof), I wouldn't be surprised if it takes a year or two. ;-)

Alan screenplay page, on an iPod     Get Extension: Screenwright(R) screenplay formatting template     ZDNet 4-star Editors´ Pick     business card

UPDATE, 9/24: It looks like they've posted a podcast (see Winners), but still no press release... or even a list of honorees.

UPDATE, 10/6: Press release + winners' list:

Gold (each receives $13,750):
  Per Eriksson, "QA Track 2.0"
  Maximilian Odendahl, "Notes2"
  Daniel Naber and Marcin Miłkowski, "LanguageTool Integration and Community Website"
  László Németh, "Spell Checking"
  Regina Henschel, "Improve numerical stability of spreadsheet functions"
  Dominique Archambault (Team Leader), "odt2dtbook"
Silver (each receives $6,875):
  Jean-Marie Gouarné, "The Perl OpenDocument Connector"
  Dmitri Popov, "Sun Report Builder User Guide"
  Bruno Cavaler Ghisi, "mOOo (Mobile"
  Gabriel Gurley, "Construction of Course Training Package for 3"
  Anthony Bryan "Metalink"
  Olivier Ronez, "The Dicollecte Project"
  Jim White, "Groovy For OpenOffice"
  Helge Kraak, "Member Database"
Bronze (each receives $4,583):
  Ihsan Faisal, "Indonesian Translation of Writer Guide"
  Holger Brandl, "OpenCards"
  Joshua Martin (Team Leader), "FLUX User Interface"
  Guillaume Maillard (Team Leader), "Java + Open Document = jOpenDocument"
  Filip Molčan, ""
  Kálmán Szalai (KAMI), "Extensions of Extras"
Honourable Mention (each receives $3,333, except Markus Schneider - not eligible for cash award):
  Dysmas de Lassus, "Swiss knife - On screen formating tool"
  Alan C. Baird, "Screenwright(R) screenplay formatting template"
  Roland Mundloch, "myPWDs addon"
  Markus Schneider, "VN Thesis Template Tutorial / VN Thesis Template"

UPDATE, 28Sep2010: Donated Screenwright(R) to LibreOffice by The Document Foundation. Also: Facebook page.
Chrome, trailer hitches, etc.

Google Chrome is a new browser, released just a couple of weeks ago. Even though the software is still in beta, it seems to be an exceptional tool. I also like the Google Chrome comic by Scott McCloud:
Google does a lot of things right, but some of their best accomplishments are in promotion. For example, they really know how to display the brand... um... prominently:

Pamela Anderson
Firefox heading the way of the dodo?

I'm getting tired of Firefox' inability to do what Internet Explorer does. The thing that really bugs me is that most of these browser problems are simple, and easily fixed.

[BTW, I'll try to make this easy for non-tech types, but if your eyes glaze over when someone mentions "HTML," you might want to skip the rest of this.]

For example, try hovering your mouse over this photo:

shifting pair o' dimes

Shifting paradigms can be tricky. (Sorry.) If you have IE, you will see a small tooltip box, after the image is fully displayed. It will say "shifting pair o' dimes".

But in order to get FF to do the same thing, I have to add a whole sh*tload of redundant coding, and make it clickable:

shifting pair o' dimes

If you have FF, you should be able to see the tooltip when your mouse is hovering over that second pic. If you're running IE, you'll see it over both pix.

So anyway, I have WAY too much time on my hands today, and I decided to get into this issue at the FF site. I couldn't believe the attitudes over there.

It's really disturbing, when the programmers start running the asylum...
A taste of Arizona.

Saguaro LollipopsSaguaro Lollipops from in Gilbert.

Prickly Pear CandyPrickly Pear Candy from in Chandler.

Arizona Highways magazineArizona Highways magazine from the Arizona Department of Transportation in Phoenix. [TV program]

Over Arizona DVDThis Emmy Award-winning program is a thrilling aerial adventure over some of the most dramatic landscapes in the country. Over Arizona will take you on a breathtaking journey over canyonlands, verdant pine forests, snow-capped mountain peaks and shimmering modern cities. The program also features never-before-seen views of the Grand Canyon and Arizona's sprawling deserts.

AZ State of MindArizona State of Mind takes you across the beautifully diverse landscapes of Arizona for a one-of-a-kind television journey. Season One of the series, filmed in high definition, focuses on experiencing these extraordinary places: Grand Canyon, Oak Creek Canyon, Rim Country, Sedona's Red Rock Country, Sunset Volcano Crater, Saguaro National Park. The quiet sounds of nature are blended with stunning visuals in these six episodes. [2-disc set, created in standard definition and designed to play on standard DVD players.]

David Yetman, of The Desert SpeaksThe Desert Speaks is hosted by David Yetman, Ph.D., a research social scientist at the Southwest Center of The University of Arizona in Tucson. His background and interests are a perfect fit for The Desert Speaks. As the crew journeys to some of the driest places on Earth - from areas just south of Tucson to dangerously remote peaks in Argentina and Bolivia - his enthusiasm, abundant energy and expertise will no doubt be called upon frequently. [TV schedule]

Raising ArizonaRaising Arizona is a hilarious film satire, starring Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter, written by Ethan Coen & Joel Coen:

H. I. "HI" McDUNNOUGH (Cage, narrating the final dream sequence): I saw an old couple bein' visited by their children - and all their grandchildren too. And the old couple wasn't screwed up, and neither were their kids or their grandkids. And I don't know, you tell me. This whole dream, was it wishful thinking? Was I just fleein' reality, like I know I'm liable to do? ... But me 'n Ed, we can be good too... and it seemed real. It seemed like us. And it seemed like well... our home... if not Arizona, then a land, not too far away, where all parents are strong and wise and capable, and all children are happy and beloved. ... I dunno, maybe it was Utah.
The Day The Planes Stopped Flying. 

United flight 175, BOS-LAX, south tower, 9:03am, September 11, 2001Some folks like to get away
Take a holiday from the neighborhood
Hop a flight to Miami Beach
Or to Hollywood . . ."

-- New York State Of Mind
   lyrics & music by Billy Joel


Surely you remember that crazy Frenchman. What was his name? Philippe something? He started bringing up his equipment a couple of days beforehand, slipping everything past the Twin Tower guards in a rucksack. By the eve of his big performance, he'd stashed a sizable pile under the open-air tourist platform. He hid there until after everyone had gone home that night; then his crossbow landed a grappling hook on the other building's edge. Was the attached nylon rope secure enough? Would it hold his weight, while he dangled upside-down in the midnight winds blowing up from Battery Park? He risked everything in the darkness for a half-hour in the next day's limelight. Shimmying across the quarter-mile distance at a height of 110 stories, he made several trips during the next few hours, trying to secure a heavy cable. By dawn, everything was ready.

But he was exhausted. Not the best condition for a tightrope artist.

And yet he managed to wire-walk his way into history, from one building to the other.

How about that mountain climber who scaled the outside of one tower during a nail-biting afternoon? By rush hour, every news crew in the city had a camera focused on him.

Then came the parachutists... or maybe there was only one. I can't quite remember.

However, I do recall my much-less-dramatic visit to the top. On that perfect September day, Lady Liberty seemed like a child's toy: so close, you could almost pick her up with casually-outstretched fingers. With the other hand, you might grab onto the huge bridge spanning Verrazano's narrows.

I remembered starting my first marathon over there, on Staten Island, ten years earlier. It was an easy sprint into Brooklyn, but by the time we jogged through Queens, I was hurtin' for certain. Later, the Bronx became a cruel hallucination of pain, and my legs seized up in Manhattan. There's a half-repressed memory of lying flat on the pavement, beating my fists in frustration against a cramped thigh, while some Harlem kids laughed at the foolish white boy in their gutter. Somehow that white boy got up a few minutes later, finding a way to float just above his suffering body while it half-ran, half-limped across the finish line in Central Park.

World Trade Center, September 10, 2001And that's why the September day was so perfect, one decade later--I took enormous pleasure in surveying the five boroughs, from horizon to horizon, at the top of those magnificent buildings. They allowed me to daydream about the vast domain I had conquered, when I was young and foolish.

Damn, that was a great view.

© 9/11/2001 Alan C. Baird
the tenth of september
photo on top of 2 WTC, 1980
FAA animation
Copying Beethoven.

Copying BeethovenImpressive fictional drama, based on the last year of Beethoven's life: When young Anna Holtz (Diane Kruger), a Viennese music student, is asked to transcribe scoring notes for the great Ludwig van Beethoven (Ed Harris), she eagerly accepts, despite warnings about his volatile behavior. Part maestro, part mentor and part madman, Beethoven reluctantly relies on Anna to help him realize the culmination of his art.

Directed by: Agnieszka Holland. Written by: Stephen J. Rivele & Christopher Wilkinson.

BEETHOVEN (Ed Harris): The vibrations on the air are the breath of God speaking to man's soul. Music is the language of God. We musicians are as close to God as man can be. We hear his voice, we read his lips, we give birth to the children of God, who sing his praise. That's what musicians are.


BEETHOVEN: God whispers into the ears of some men, but he shouts into mine!



ANNA HOLTZ (Diane Kruger, taking dictation for Beethoven's "Song of Thanks to the Deity"): What key does it start in?


ANNA: No key? You can't write music in no key.

BEETHOVEN: Well, I can't write this in anything but no key. It's common time, molto adagio, sotto voce. First violin, quarter notes. Middle C up to A. Measure. G up to C, tied, F. Second violin, bar two. Middle C up to A. Double note E, G, C. Viola clef, 2B pressed.

ANNA: It's a hymn.

BEETHOVEN: Yes. Hymn of thanksgiving.

ANNA: Thanksgiving?

BEETHOVEN: To God, for sparing me to finish my work. After the pianissimo, the canon resumes. First violin takes the theme. Viola, C to A. It's growing, gaining strength. Second violin, C to A.

ANNA: An octave higher.

BEETHOVEN: Yes. Then the struggle. First violin, C, up an octave, and then up to G. And the cello...

ANNA: Down.

BEETHOVEN: Yes, down. Pulled down. Half notes, F, E, D. Pulled constantly down. And then, a voice, a single frail voice emerges, soaring above the sound. The striving continues.

ANNA: Yes.

BEETHOVEN: Moving below the surface.

ANNA: Crescendo?

BEETHOVEN: Yes. First violin longing, pleading to God. And then, God answers. The clouds open. Loving hands reach down. We're raised up into heaven. Cello remains earthbound, but the other voices soar suspended.

ANNA: For an instant.

BEETHOVEN: Yes. For an instant in which you can live forever. Earth does not exist. Time is timeless. And the hands that lifted you caress your face, mold them to the face of God. And you are at one. You are at peace. You're finally free.
A good week.

You work hard, for months or even years, to Make Things Happen. And then, they do. All at once:

(1) I was invited to write a spec script for a short film that will be directed by a Golden Globe® winner and produced by an Emmy® winner. It's part of an anthology project that has already started filming, with several other directors and producers. I wrote the 10-page screenplay in 24 hours and turned it in on Thursday. But I probably won't hear anything until at least the 21st.

(2) Even though this item is the best news of all, if I told you about it, I'd have to kill you. The company has imposed a news embargo until the 15th. Darn.

(3) I sold a short story to the anthology entitled My Dad Is My Hero. This is part of a series; their most recent book was:
My Teacher Is My Hero

(4) Finally, I received an eMail from the co-editor of Budapest Tales, requesting the reprint rights to another one of my stories. He publishes a nonprofit anthology series which includes these two books:
Warsaw TalesPrague Tales

When he said the new anthology would be launched in late September, I became pretty excited. Anikó is already over in Budapest, catching up with the fam, and I will join her in a couple of weeks. So I had this fantasy of flying in, taking all my in-laws to the bookstore launch party, and flying out without ever having to show my feet of clay.

Fat f*cking chance. ;-)
Baling wire, duct tape and spit.

Does anyone else feel like the McCain-Palin ticket was slapped together at the last minute?

With no real planning or forethought?

And that the wheels are about to come off, at any second?

Image from the 666 CD booklet
Software Contest Rollercoaster(6).

Whew, it's finally over. The notification eMail arrived just a couple of hours ago, with the final results for my screenplay formatting template. But I have to keep the secret until September 15, when the official list will be posted on the CIP contest page.

So ♪ I know ♫ something you ♬ don't know. ;-)
Software Contest Rollercoaster(5).

Re: notifications...

At the CIP contest website, I just saw this:

Note: We are late in notifying people and apologize for our tardiness. Notifications will be going out very shortly--today, if all goes well. Thanks for your patience! (2008-09-03)

But I'm not holding my breath... ;-)
Exotic soft drinks(1): Tamarind. 

Jumex Tamarind NectarJumex Tamarind Nectar:

The tamarind (or tamarindo) tree is native to eastern Africa, including parts of the Madagascar dry deciduous forests. It grows wild throughout the Sudan, and was brought to India so long ago, it has often been reported as indigenous there. Sometime during the sixteenth century, it was introduced into America and became widely cultivated in Mexico. Today, it is grown in the tropical areas of Asia, Australia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The pods of the tamarind contain large seeds surrounded by a sticky brown pulp, which is sold as tamarind paste for use in flavoring preserves and chutney, to make meat sauces (including Worcestershire and HP), and to pickle fish. Candy can be made by mixing the pulp with dry sugar and molding it into desired shapes. Pad Thai, a Thai dish popular with Europeans and Americans, sometimes includes tamarind for its tart taste.

The hard green pulp of a young fruit is very acidic and is most often used as a component of savory dishes. The ripened fruit is sweeter, yet still distinctively sour, and can be used in desserts and sweetened drinks, or as a snack. In Thailand, there is a carefully cultivated sweet variety with little or no tartness, grown specifically to be eaten as a fresh fruit.

Obscure fact: in Asian temples, the pulp is sometimes used to clean brass shrine furniture, removing the greenish patina and dull spots.

Footnote: I was also planning to recommend this company's Guanabana nectar, until I discovered the possible connection between Guanabana and Parkinson's disease.