A service called Bringo offers to wade through call trees (those mazes of menu options when calling a corporate phone number) and then call you when they've found a human to talk to you.

The Google Image Labeler is like a game where you and a partner try to give labels to images that match. I'm not sure how the point system works, but it's neat to see how you can guess similar keywords for images to someone else.

I find myself driving a lot more often than I would like. During those times, I am usually listening to my XM radio. The XM tuner uses an FM modulator that allows me to tune my radio to an otherwise empty channel and listen to satellite radio.  I also have a Creative Zen Micro that I use on longer trips to listen to audiobooks. I'm using some Belkin-brand FM modulator to listen to the Zen playback on channel 107.3.  The funny thing is that these two devices don't always work as intended, and I think it's the fault of the iPod.

As I drive, I'll hit intermittant spots where the modulator goes to static. Since the modulator itself hasn't moved relative to my car's radio, I can only assume it has been affected by an outside influence.  There are a few regular outside influences I am aware of. For instance, the stone-front bank at the light at 30 and 322 puts off some kind of signal that simply blocks everything - satellite, radio, whatever. But mostly, my interference is caused by other drivers with modulators.  Every so often, whatever I'm playing will be completely supplanted by some strange music. Then, as quickly as their Mercedes drives by, it's gone.  With the modulators I have, I need to crank up the volume just to hear my own music, but when these guys drive by, I hear their stuff over mine as clear as day. My main question is this: What brand of modulator did they buy, and where do I get one? They had better not be iPod-only.

I wrote this entry on June 20, 2006, but did not post it until today.  After a nice evening dinner and playtime in the park - spawned by yet another evening of a completely uninhabitable eating area at home - we returned home to prep the kids for bed and another day's cycle of painters-gone-wild self-inflicted eviction.  Riley was the first to bathe, and Abby whined insistantly (a habit that I am soon to break her of in likely unpleasant ways) that she wanted to spend a few minutes across the street with her friends. With Berta occupied, I was the only one "available" for the task, in spite of the growing mound of after-hours work that isn't being done due to - dare I mention it again? - the blasted painters.  Too weary from the prospect of all impending things, I relented. We went outside where I dragged her bike across the street. She with her lopsided helmet rode the bike only the house breadth from driveway to driveway where the cross-street kids were hiding from a neighbor's watering hose before dismounting.  I recalled standing on that pavement in my youth, the sidewalk of my neighbors, under the shade of the giant oak. It was there under that tree, where the roots of the oak had shifted the sidewalk tectonics, that my first girlfriend called me "OD" and I, her "TC"; we mutually recognized this idea.  Not far from there, in the driveway, I threw the last of the water balloons I would ever throw in our neighborhood at the youngest daughter of that neighbor, who came out on her porch to scream at me for it like I was her own child, which I heard every night through the thin air over the street that separated our houses.  We rode our bikes up that sidewalk and back relentlessly. We raced. I was fastest, naturally, as the "oldest". In grade, at least. And the summers and school evenings were unending with games and play of this sort until the year of my ninth grade school play, when I met Mimi Upright, who I fell for hopelessly in spite of being involved with the girl across the street. And that was the end of that.  Abby dismounted her bike and went to play with the other kids. The hose was put away before she got there, and the kids were in the process of moving on. All of them at least one year older - and at least one made a point of that vocally to the adults present on the porch - they decided to make show of it by climbing over the brick partition from one porch to the porch of the half double on the other side. Abby was only briefly stymied, but wasn't tall enough to climb it, so she tottered around the outside of the porch with her helmet back to her bike to chase them down.  As children are, they weren't forgiving. Either you come to play, or you don't. You're "Little Abby", since you're smaller than the Abby on their side of the street. Do they think you're weak because your dad follows you around to watch you outside? Or is it because your training wheels have yet to come off your bike?  Will they care that you know how to swim better than they do? That you've learned passable ballet for your age and will soon learn karate? Will it matter that you've been places they will likely only see on holiday parades on TV?  She may whine to get her way with her parents, but Abby is steadfastly creative when it comes to impressing other kids. Ditching her bike, she deftly snatched a lightning bug from the air. Chasing down her favorite (the most friendly) of the three neighbor kids, she showed her prize.  Soon it was taken from her, and the child exclaimed, "Look what I caught!" We know better, though, don't we Abby? She thought briefly to protest, but there was no need, since Abby is the best kid with bugs I've ever seen. Nearly imperceptibly she had already caught another. And a third. And she knew she had no reason to complain because for her there was no effort. The bugs were magic. She was magic.  The others soon requested use of their back yards for bug hunting, since clearly there were no more bugs to be had in the front yard if they couldn't catch them. And with such permission granted, they headed into the back to begin their search.  Abby rounded the corner to the fence, following them hesitantly. Then, quite unexpectedly, she freaked out, spasmodically flailing her arms and screaming, running back away from their gate to hide behind some cars that were parked in the driveway.  I was very surprised, and I didn't know what was wrong. She screamed, "The dog will bite me!" Things became more clear.  Abby has gained a deathly fear of dogs since the occasion when in the back yard of the neighbor, the little dog attacked her, biting her arm and leg. I suspect she still has nightmares about it, since the memory of it is so strong today. The dog didn't do much damage, but did draw blood on her arm. I had heard that the dog would be put down. I suppose not, because although the dog was not in the back yard, the parents on the porch chuckled upon reassuring her that the dog was inside.  I have impolite words for some of my neighbors. Your children are unkind, impolite, abusive bastard offspring, and I have no doubt where they've learned it. You ask on the health of my mother, which seems kind, and then use my report of wellness as an excuse to openly gossip of her condition in front of me. You allow my daughter entry to your property, yet allow such a thing as a dog attack to come to pass while she's under your supervision. And you chuckle at the trauma it has caused her. These are only the latest in your continued offences to me, for which an apology would no longer suffice.  I don't have words to express the rancor that boils within me.  C'mon Abby, it's time to go home. You need a bath for camp tomorrow.  She begins to protest her need to go inside while I drag her bike back across the street, but she spies another firefly and captures it. She runs toward the front door where she sees Berta holding Riley, still wet and wrapped in a towel.  "Riley, look what I have for you!"