Visual Basic

Posted April 26, 1999 at 2:07 am | No Comments

We’re playing an interesting little game at my research lab these days.   It’s called “Try To Learn Microsoft Visual Basic Without Randy Catching On”.  You see, Kevin will soon be leaving the research group for a new job in Utah, and once he departs, someone is going to have to take over the development and debugging of the Visual Basic portion of the Alice authoring tool.  Although several of us need to know Visual Basic for various programming tasks, none of us want to be burdened with the awful headache of maintaining the colossal, disorganized mass of Visual Basic code that makes up the Alice front end.   Although we all are reasonably proficient in Visual Basic, we all refuse to admit our knowledge, for fear that Randy (our director) will say, “Gosh, you seem to know a lot about VB.  Why don’t you take over the Alice VB project?”

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While pretending to look at photos of
women in lingerie, Dan learns about the
design of custom ActiveX Controls.

And so we are forced to learn Visual Basic in secret.  So far I’ve managed to hide my VB knowledge quite effectively by wrapping my copy of Mastering Visual Basic 5 inside of a recent issue of Maxim magazine every time I read it.  But sometimes there are close calls.  For example, last Saturday I was experimenting with FlexGrid widgets when Randy walked into the lab.  What could I do?  Thinking quickly, I minimized Visual Studio and started playing Minesweeper.  Phew!  That was a close one.Good thing Randy never reads

Custom Quarter Designs

Posted April 23, 1999 at 2:06 am | No Comments
Despite my stupid jokes on Wednesday, I really think that the new 50 States Quarters Program is pretty cool.  As Congress put it, the program is a good way to “honor the unique Federal republic of 50 States that comprise the United States” and to “promote the diffusion of knowledge among the youth of the United States about the individual States, their history and geography, and the rich diversity of the national heritage.”  My main gripe with the program is that all of the designs so far have been boring.  Oooh, an oak tree for Connecticut.  Oooh, a peach for Georgia.  Big frickin’ deal.  Can’t anyone come up with anything more creative?

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The new Connecticut state quarter.

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The Georgia State Quarter.

submitdesign.gif (2555 bytes) That’s when I noticed that the United States Mint is taking design submissions!   That’s right, anyone can design a quarter representing their state and turn it in to the state governor for consideration as the official quarter design.  There isn’t any prize if your design is selected, but imagine the honor of having your design featured on thousands of units of currency that will circulate for decades to come!
The US Mint even provides budding quarter designers with an easy-to-use quarter template.  I decided that I would have to enter some designs.  You can see pictures of the designs that I submitted below.

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Blank quarter template, provided by
the United States Mint.

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coin_ca.gif (13356 bytes)

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coin_tx.gif (9909 bytes)

State Quarters

Posted April 21, 1999 at 2:06 am | No Comments

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Pennsylvania and Delaware state quarters.

You know what these new quarters are?  They’re nothing but a cheap ploy on the part of the federal government — an insidious attempt to convince the American public to buy more quarters!   The fact is, the new quarters are no better than the old quarters we’ve come to know and love, yet with shiny cosmetic enhancements and a flashy advertising campaign, the US Treasury thinks that it can trick gullible consumers into believing otherwise.

I refuse to buy into this scam!  I’m not spending my hard-earned money on new quarters when it is obvious that old quarters suffice.  Please join me in boycotting the new quarters.  We must take a stand against the tyranny of the federal reserve system, whose officials seem to think that the coin-starved public will dutifully purchase any currency that it can mint.  We will not sit back and allow these monopolistic practices to continue unabated — it’s time to put the “us” back in “E Pluribus Unum”!  From now on, whenever you make a cash transaction, insist upon receiving your change in dimes, nickels, or pennies.

Restaurant Recommendation

Posted April 12, 1999 at 2:05 am | No Comments
While we were in Paris we stumbled across a lovely little Italian restaurant called “Pizza Hut”.  Rather a silly name for a restaurant, we thought, but what marvelous food!  That’s what’s so wonderful about Paris — you stop in somewhere at random and the quality of the food sweeps you off your feet.

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“So fine… New classic pie, we would eat it every day.”

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“So light… New classic pie, we’d eat it every night.”

As you may be able to discern from these clever subway advertisements, a “pizza” is a large circular piece of flattened bread dough, topped with tomatoes, cheese, and meat, and then baked in a special oven.  What a novel concept!   And what a fine meal we had.

Parisian Playgrounds

Posted April 6, 1999 at 2:05 am | 2 Comments

I think that one of the cool things about France is that there aren’t quite so many lawyers. The playground at the Jardin des Tuileries featured rides that park officials in the United States would never let fly for fear of massive lawsuits.

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This thing was sort of a ring of trampolines.  Kids would file in the doors at one end, climb onto the trampolines, and do all kinds of crazy stunts like spins and backflips.  Shawn and I were just waiting for some poor kid to miss the trampoline on the way down and smack his head.  I wanted to ride the trampolines but I figured I was probably too old.

jardin2.jpg (37486 bytes) We called this one the “Wheel of Death”.  Kids would climb up the ropes and ladders on the side of this pole while it spun around rapidly.  It seemed like it was designed to throw children off of the ropes and onto the asphalt below.
This is the “Return of the Wheel of Death”.  It’s a typical rotating merry-go-round, except that the wheel is skewed about 30 degrees on the rotational axis.   It definitely looks like it would be easy to fall off of this thing once it started spinning rapidly enough.  There aren’t even any handles.You can see the original “Wheel of Death” in the background, with a young boy perched precariously on top. jardin3.jpg (28033 bytes)


Posted April 2, 1999 at 2:04 am | 1 Comment

jolt.jpg (11755 bytes) Today is a great day.  Why?  Because the campus convenience store now carries not one but two new flavors of Jolt.  One of the new flavors is “Cherry Bomb”, which is a perfectly respectable name for a soft drink, but the other flavor is “Citrus Climax”, which sounds kind of suspicious.  I wonder if the next flavor will be called something like “Orange Orgasm”.

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