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Showing posts from 2008

Skip It!

My sister got me the WALL-E DVD, which is one of my favorite movies of the year (and I'm still not sure if it beats, is tied with, or just loses to The Dark Knight as the year's best so far, but it is close).

Being that it is a Disney production, the DVD starts with a whole bunch of snippets and adverts that I cannot skip, fast forward, or otherwise get beyond to get to the menu. Disney is by far and away the worst at this practice, but nearly all of the DVD producers do something similar.

It irritates me to no end that I cannot skip these "features" and just get to the movie, the menu, or the special features. I already bought the product, don't beat me over the head with ... more product. These types of things should always be optional and I should always have the ability to press menu, at any time and from anywhere on the DVD, and get the freaking menu to display!

Happy Christmas

Yes, you read that right... Christmas.

I'm feeling much more in the spirit today than usual. More than a little of that has to do with my Christmas-loving wife, of course. She has brightened the holiday with a tree, lights, and good cheer to help my usually curmudgeonly self out of my typical holiday funk.

So, happy Christmas. Be safe, be happy, be healthy this holiday, and don't take things too seriously. Relax and enjoy the day.



Now, back to our regularly scheduled rants and ravings....

A Small Memory

I recently reread The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin, because I thought it had in it a scene that I have had in my memory for some time now. It didn't, but this is a favorite from my teen years, so I enjoyed rereading it anyway. Then I asked my sister, who has a great memory for things she reads. Unfortunately, my description of the scene was just too vague. Basically, I told her, I remembered a scene where a girl is with a guy who likes to dress up in costumes and he was some sort of detective. The scene in particular is him wearing something on his face and standing behind her while she looks at him in a mirror. She realizes that the thing she thinks is on one side of the face is actually on the other, and this leads to solving the mystery. I also explained that I remember it being written in a similar style to Ellen Raskin's book, which is why I thought it was in The Westing Game. My sister couldn't remember that scene, but had some suggestions for ways I could search for i…

The Lion, et al

The story in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is primarily about the four main characters learning lessons and growing as individuals. There are moments in the book where this is really pointed out, like when Lucy tells Aslan to hold on a minute after administering the juice of the flower berry to Edmund and Aslan getting cross with her and asking if more should die for her brother. Each child learns to grow up (to a degree, as well as literally) and becomes a better, more caring, and more understanding person because of the lessons he or she learns during the course of the story.

(I grant that, if you want to look hard enough, there are religious allegories. However, I would argue that a) those are not the point of the first book and b) that most children, the aim of these stories, will not recognize or get those allegories with the exception of the obvious "Aslan allows himself to be killed for the sins of another and rises from the dead because of it" one.)

In the movi…

Narnia... Redux

So, this has been The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe month. First, my wife and I read the book to each other (don't laugh, try reading to your loved one in bed and see how he/she likes it). Next, we watched the recent live-action/CGI movie. Tonight we saw a musical "based" on the book.

I need time to fully process what I'm going to say, so expect a further post on this subject in the near future. But I think I can boil it down to this: you are making a musical and/or movie because of the source material. So why would you stray so far from the source to the point where the basic premise and reason for the source material is no longer there?

More later after I digest tonight's show.

It Hurt My Eye!

Being a desert rat through and through I am not accustomed to the temperatures of my new location. It is -12c with a wind chill making it close to -25c outside. We needed gas on the way home and I did the "manly" thing and offered to pump it. I was okay everywhere except my face, where the wind and the shear cold stung so bad it hurt my eye. I put up the hood on my coat, but to no avail; no matter what I did, the incredible cold continued to feel like a weight on my right eye.

My eye is now tender and I have a "headache" directly behind the outside corner where it stung. That is insane!

Financial Customer Service Takes a Hit

I have been a member of American Express Blue for, well, a long time. At least 8 years. In all of that time, I have always either paid off the card in full, paid off a sum much more than the minimum amount, or paid the minimum. The few times there has been a dispute on the card, the company has admitted it was its fault and the extra charges or whatever were credited off.

In November, I looked online at my balance due, which was around $42. Now, granted, that was just the monthly payment amount as, with the expenses of everything involved in the lead up to, the moving, and certain expenses since moving, I'm carrying a much larger overall balance than usual. I reviewed my statement, then logged into my bank and sent AmEx $100. More than enough to cover the $42 I saw due and take another small bite out of the overall balance until I find work and can start making more serious payments. As a note, I keep the tab with the CC balance up for reference when I log into my bank account to m…

I'm Shocked, Shocked I Say!

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This is my result of this particular quiz.

Your results:

You are Superman

You are mild-mannered, good, strong and you love to help others.
Superman 75%
Supergirl 60%
Hulk 60%
Robin 57%
Spider-Man 55%
Wonder Woman 55%
Green Lantern 55%
Batman 40%
The Flash 40%
Catwoman 30%
Iron Man 30%


Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz

Challah Bread

M and I watch a show called Anna and Kristina's Grocery Bags. In this show, the two hosts, Anna and Kristina, take an existing, popular cook book, try out some recipes from it, and then make some recipes on-camera and serve them to a chef who is expert in that genre of food.

During one of the shows, they tried French Toast made with Challah bread. The expert really enjoyed it and said that he won't make French Toast without that type of bread. I told M that I had eaten challah bread before, and that it was a sweeter bread and quite good. M really likes French Toast, so, when she spotted some challah at a store, picked up a loaf with the express intent of me making her French Toast.

Yesterday (and this morning), I set about doing so. Used my usual mixture of two eggs, a bit of milk for thickening, a splash of vanilla for flavor, and a small pinch of cinnamon. Cut three thick slices of the challah (a good solid inch), soaked liberally in the sauce, and put it on a frying pan set t…

Extra Lines?

I started noting recently that friends and family who used Blogger were posting items that had extra line feeds. I then found my own posts starting to include extra line feeds.

Somewhere along the way, the people from Google behind Blogger have modified their auto-generated HTML coding to include the "div" and "/div" codes in each paragraph. However, they did not program the auto-generator to create the code correctly or insert it correctly, thus leading to extra line feeds.

What is extra fun is that the Preview button doesn't express the extra line feeds, so it looks the way you want it until you click Publish Post. At this time, the incorrectly placed div codes come into play and your published entry has the extra line feeds.

I have taken to clicking the "Edit Html" tab and scanning through my posts and editing out all of these codes, and then making the page look the way I want it (whether by manually adding standard spacing or deleting extra spacing)…

Thanxgiving

M and I prepared a 13 pound turkey, stuffing, a couple of different kinds of veggies, mashed and sweet potatoes, home-baked bread, crescent rolls, and apple pie for Thanksgiving.

We had a good time cooking together. Sandra came over and gave M a pie lesson (and it turned out beautifully), and she again helped us with gravy mixing when the time came.

The turkey was an odd cooking experience. We went with the 20 minutes per pound theory, but also put it in a cooking bag. After barely over 2 hours of cooking, both the pop-up thermometer and our good electronic thermometer said the bird was done... which was about an hour and a half minimum before we were expecting it to be. Figuing that something was not kosher with the thermometer, we started eyeballing it from there. We wound up taking it out about a half hour before we thought it should be done, which was a good thing, because the turkey was definitely done and was starting to get a bit dry (not bad, just starting).

I carved that up whil…

Tidbits

It was fun to wake up Saturday morning to the first snowfall of the season. Seeing everything covered in a gentle blanket of white was pleasing. Since then, we have had temperatures hit -10c (-20c with wind chill), which I do not find anywhere near as nice. These temperatures sneak up on me because I look outside and I see a sunny, cloudless sky and my brain automatically thinks "Nice day." While that may be true, it has not built up a knowledge base that, while pretty or nice, the day may be cold as hell. Needless to say, my hands got pretty cold before I remembered to put on my gloves. I need to get better about that, but I think only experience and time will teach me that lesson.

Saturday morning we decided to try for Calais for mail and some Thanxgiving shopping. However, even after getting an all-wheel drive vehicle from Alex, we only made it about five miles out of town before we decided to turn around. The better part of valor said that, with the slow speeds we would h…

Quantum of Solace

While there is not anything fundamentally wrong with this movie, I cannot grade it above a B for one reason-- shaky-cam. When will directors learn that, if you are directing an action sequence that is inherently filled with danger and suspense, you don't need to make your audience sick by adding a shaky-cam. Unless the use of shaky-cam is integral to the plot (for example, Blair Witch or Cloverfield), buy a fucking steady-cam harness and film it right!

Now that that is out of my system I feel better.

The acting by Craig and Dench is superb again. They both hit home runs with their portrayals of Bond and M. Wright, as Felix Leiter, seemed to think looking constipated equaled angst. Amalric was okay as the main villain, but really wasn't given much to work with. While Arterton was beautiful and did what she could with her role, the role really should have been written out of the movie and all her scenes should have been given to the other Bond girl, Kurylenko.

The plot was a bit co…

A Little Ego Boost

M asked me to review some documents one of her coworkers put together for her company. Not knowing the audience, intent, or how much latitude I would have in editing them, I jumped in intending to do the basics; make sure the document was parallel, check for consistency, review grammar and punctuation, etc. Nothing major. When I was done, I was pleased with the result but had a lot of questions. However, as this was not my project nor did I know the audience, I simply passed the document back to M and let her review my changes.

During the review, the changes I made caused her to ask me a ton of questions -- all questions I had thought of but chose not to ask as this was someone else's project -- and started her on the path of editing my edits as she realized that the document did not go into the depths she was hoping for.

In the end, after her umpteenth question to me and my umpteenth 'item to consider,' she said to me, "Tech writing is hard."

Most companies think h…

Dead Motherboard

My machine has been acting a little funny the last few days and not like the smooth gaming rig it has been since I built it. Last night I set my machine to go to Sleep mode and, when I decided to check email just prior to going to bed, it wouldn't come on. I managed to get it to run the BIOS, but then it died on POST.

Something was wrong with the BIOS.

This morning I read up on how to re-flash my BIOS for this motherboard, downloaded a known good as well as the current BIOS, put them on a USB, and managed to boot the system into the BIOS. I followed the directions, but the flash utility would not downgrade the BIOS to the known good. Since I was slightly afraid the current BIOS might be causing the problem, I wasn't really wanting to try that one, but I did anyway. Sure enough, it failed the flash and now my machine is dead to the world.

Didn't really want to buy a new MB right now, but if I want to get up and running, I must. Without a BIOS, a machine goes nowhere really, re…

Brief Tax Note

I finally got my tax refund (in the full amount, but without the $600 incentive I really should be entitled to) deposited in my account on Friday of last week. So, many months late and without much fanfare, I finally have my taxes done (regardless of the fact I intially sent them to the IRS at the beginning of March!).

Yay.

Addendum 10/31/08
Checked my account this morning and I had the $600 incentive check deposited in the account. Yay!

Selfless Acts

One of my good friends, Matt, has kidney disease and has been on a personal dialysis machine for a while now. Another of my friends, Annemarie, took it upon herself to be checked for compatibility with the first friend and found they are a good match for kidney donation.

Today, they are both in surgery as she gives one of her healthy kidneys to him.

As I type this, they should both be in the middle of surgery.

My thoughts and prayers are with them both for their safety during the procedure and a quick and healthy recovery afterward.

Addendum
1. 10/24/08 I got an email that both patients are "doing as well as the surgeons could have hoped for" after the surgery. The next few days are important for both as one is recovering and the other is in ICU recovering. Keep sending any spare thoughts and well-wishes to SoCal to aid in their recovery!

2. 10/27/08 Got another note that Annemarie has been released and is doing okay. As of today, Matt should be released as well, and continuing hi…

Heroics, Super or Otherwise

Articles are suggesting that the NBC hit show Heroes may be in trouble. It is losing audience and the blog-sphere and comments boards are fairly negative. Warner Brothers recently announced, to almost universally negative reactions from fans, that they plan on taking their comic book movies (and they specifically mentioned Superman) in a darker direction after the success of The Dark Knight.

Here's what the suits at NBC and Warner Bros either don't know or have forgotten: people who like comic books like heroes. While it is true that anti-heroes and bad-assery will show momentary favor, those of us who like super heroes want our heroes to be, ultimately, heroic. We all go through our Punisher and our Wolverine phase. But the way in which those characters have stayed viable throughout the years is by having authors that show the inherent goodness inside the rage and the revenge. I mean, you don't hear much from Lobo these days, because he was too much of a one-note characte…

Calvin and Hobbes

I find myself missing Calvin and Hobbes. I have not found a comic that spoke so directly to me and my friends like that comic did on such a consistent basis.

While ostensibly about a child and his imaginary friend, Bill Watterson managed to actually speak to all levels on a variety of subjects. Calvin was smart, sassy, crude at times, sly, creative, and surprisingly emotional. Hobbes was just as intelligent, but also more conscientious and equally as emotional. The parents were always smart and seemed warm and caring, even when Calvin was at his worst.

The comic strip managed to hit the right balance between funny for funny's sake and having a message that only the best comics (of any type) can do. The strip touched on religion, war, economics, bigotry and a host of other adult topics as seen through the innocence of this one child's eyes. Many strips since (as well as before) have tried to hit the right balance between message and humor, but few really get it right.

I understand…

They Don't Build 'Em Like THAT Any More

M was home today, so we ran some errands. One of those errands was finding and purchasing some book shelves at Home Depot. These shelves had the color that M likes, were five shelves high (6'), and they had a few of them on hand, so we could get two that matched. And the price was fairly right at $65; we wanted them for the basement and didn't mind having lower-quality particle board and veneer down there, or that they wouldn't match with the other book shelf we already owned. Win-win, or so we thought.

We finished our errands, carried the shelves inside, and I set to work building the first one fairly soon after. These shelves were of the IKEA style, put-it-together-yourself variety. As it was using the same style of attachments as my computer desk, I didn't worry about it-- I knew how strongly those fasteners could hold.

Nearly immediately I recognized I was going to need assistance, so I called M down to the basement and we set to work. She kept me honest with the dir…

The Rise and Fall

Every fall I like to tell my TiVo to catch quite a few of the new shows. I watch a few episodes of each and then decide if I'm going to make it a regular program or delete the season pass. While I do this with the new shows, I also evaluate my enjoyment level of existing season passes and eliminate any that have tanked.

So far this early fall TV season, I have removed Two and a Half Men and CSI:Miami from my existing season passes. 2.5 Men seems to have seriously gone off the end and is completely one-note now (which is saying something, because it was only a 2 note show to begin with).You know it is time to stop watching when you find you are looking forward to reading the cue cards at the end credits than the show itself. CSI:Miami has been getting more ridiculous every season but, like a train wreck, I kept watching. The first two shows of this season were so predictable, poorly acted, and over the top that I just tuned out. And, dammit, why can't David Caruso frame himself…

And Happiness Ensued

The final piece of our Tivo-DirecTV puzzle was the fact we had to use an IR blaster in order for the Tivos to change the channels on the DirecTV receivers. IR blasters are notoriously unreliable and we found this truism to be doubly true. Occasionally we would record an hour of black screen, sometimes we would record the wrong channel-- it all depended on how the IR blaster was working, if there was interference, and/or if there were two copies of the channel.

M and I looked high and low for a solution, but were unable to come up with anything. However, about two weeks ago, I was on the boards for one or the other of these systems and, about 20 posts down, saw a link someone had posted to an article about channel changing and Tivo/DirecTV. I read the article, which was about 2 years old and about a company on that was creating a device that would allow users to take advantage of the USB port on the back of the DirecTV tuner and the serial port connection on the Tivo and have it change …

TomTom

I was very disappointed a week or so ago when I went to turn on and use my TomTom and nothing happened. And I mean nothing. The only thing that happened was the little green "charging" light came on when I plugged it in. Other than that, nada. I tried the reset on it (which, for my device, involves simply holding the On/Off switch down for around 20-25 seconds), but still no go.

I called the TomTom support number and he had me walk through some very limited testing (which mostly involved me holding down the on switch while he was on the phone). He agreed it was not working and that I would have to send it in. Luckily, it is still under warranty (only got it a couple months ago), and I sent it into a Canadian depot that would "fix it or send you a new/refurbished one that is known to work." He said the RMA I got was only good for a month and that, once they received it, it could be upwards of three weeks to get it back.

Well, yesterday it returned; much faster than an…

Wood

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So, I mentioned earlier and was frankly somewhat proud of the amount of wood I had ranked on my own. I wound up over 4 days of work getting nearly 1 and 2/3 ranks done on my own, but it took a huge toll. However, I had many other tasks and then got a bit sick, so not much stacking occured this last week.

M was at a conference and took today and tomorrow off to unwind. Using some of her suggestions (getting her dad's wheelbarrow and working together), we set to at about 11 am. We broke for about 40 minutes for lunch and worked until 5pm.

We broke the task into two section: I filled the wheelbarrow and hauled it into the house and dumped it, M stacked the wood into the ranks. I occasionally also helped her with ranking the wood, but she (very importantly) also managed the projected and reminded me to break often and drink lots of water (went through 4 bottles of water).

This is the result outside:
Figure 1: The pile of wood outside

And inside:
Figure 2: Nearly 4 ranks of wood inside

So, in…

Lions Finally Make Move

In what, at this point, seems like a surprising move to end mediocrity, the Detroit Lions NFL team fired Matt Millen as the president of the organization.

Why I say this seems surprising is because the team has been the league worst during Millen's tenure, yet the Fords held onto him despite that. Millen fired coaches left and right, and the Fords held onto him. Millen made some of the worst draft choices ever (only 2 of the draft choices during his time have amounted to much of anything, and a third only did after leaving the team... some of his #1 picks are out of football altogether right now!).

Per one article, "The 0-3 start dropped Millen to 31-84 overall, giving the Lions at least 10 more losses than any other NFL team over the past seven-plus seasons."

Millen was hired with no qualifications. From that point on he proved that he lived up to his qualifications and those of us who were devout Lions fans watched a team that, albeit not great, had some talent and was do…

Mobile Desires

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I am missing my work laptop. I never thought I would miss a laptop, but there it is.

Laptops sort of grow on you. I fought getting one for a long time at work and then was forced to update to one and found I liked the flexibility. Suddenly, if I wasn't feeling well, I could call in and work from home. When I started my relationship with my now wife, I could take my work with me on the "working vacations" and it allowed us to be together a lot more often than we otherwise could have.

And then, since the company had a sort of "don't ask, don't tell-- as long as it isn't porn or illegal" policy, I used it for things like taking files for either DMing or playing Dungeons and Dragons with me, I could take notes on it, I had my stories and poems on thumb drives that I could then push in and work on at a moment's notice.

Right now, I'm sitting in the office typing this and some other things, watching MNF on the small TV, and wishing my wife's lapt…

So Why?

Being in the location in which I now reside, I'm starting to see how totally screwed Canadians are in the simplest of things. Take, for example, Amazon. There is, I'm sure only Canadians know, both an "amazon.com" and an "amazon.ca" to service either Americans or Canadians.

I was just looking for an item to purchase, one that I know is currently out and available. Since I wanted to avoid the hassle of going to Calais to get it, I looked first on ".ca". Not only is the price higher (by quite a bit more than can be explained by the slight difference in the two dollars right now) but on ".ca" it says the item normally ships in 1 to 3 weeks. Yet, if I don't mind either paying more to ship it to Canada or pay less to ship it to Calais, the exact same item from ".com" can ship within 16 hours of my placing the order right now.

What the hell?

What I am starting to realize, too, is that most of these small discrepancies between the st…

Getting Older

I'm definitely not as young as I used to be. My wife had to be to the airport by 5 am for her flight to a conference. We got up at 4 am to get ready and go. Came back from dropping her off and couldn't get back to sleep, so started my day. I reprogrammed both TiVos as well as I could, and then started working on the wood. Didn't do much on the wood before I realized how hungry I was. Came in to eat, and then decided to relax for just a moment before going back out. Next thing I know it is 3pm and I've slept for about 4.5 hours.

*sigh

A Break and New Tasks

I haven't done anything with the wood today. I have one and a half ranks of wood in, and have made a big dent into the initial load of wood that was delivered by my FIL. But I needed time off from that activity and have been working on other things.

Yesterday, after working on the wood all morning, I stopped and working on wiring a new coaxial cable from the satellite dish (which can accept up to 4 discreet lines from it; we're now using 2) to the bedroom. I couldn't finish the project until after M got home, as I didn't want to punch holes in the wall without her seeing the project and having a say in where.

Late last night we got the wiring done and today I spent the early afternoon moving TiVos around and setting up the satellite receivers in each room. We now have it is installed so that the single tuner TiVo is in the front room with the HD receiver, and we will use it to record stuff on the networks primarily. The dual tuner TiVo is in the bedroom with the SD recei…

And That New Task Is...

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Taking all of this...


And putting it here, in nice ranks...


I often commented that simply living here was going to make me get into better shape. Tasks like this one prove it!
*sigh
BTW, just doing that half a rank, which barely put a dent in the pile of wood outside, took me a few hours and I'm sore as hell today due to it. Oh well, one log at a time and it will get done.

The Shelving Unit

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As I mentioned in a previous post, one of my tasks was to make a shelving unit that will store all of our DVDs and CDs. Currently, we have way too many for a conventional storage system, and we reused a bookshelf from the office to suffice while this one was built. Using this bookshelf led to the general knowledge of about how big to make the shelving unit, which was helpful.

After much debate, we settled on a general size and "design" (simpler the better, as I hadn't worked with wood in many years), and off I went to get wood and begin.


Boards purchased, laid out, and ready for sanding.

Then came the inevitable sanding. Luckily, I have a power sander my father got me a long ways back, which is a good size, works well, and for which I had a bunch of existing sanding paper in the grits that I needed.


First pass at sanding boards.

This is me during the sanding phase.


Sorry, ladies, but I'm already spoken for!

Once the initial sanding was done, I did a dry-fit of the boards an…

DirecTV, part three

So, we called and spoke with our friendly neighborhood DirecTV representative tonight, thanks again to my buddy Chris.

Previously, I had mentioned that we had three options we saw as available to resolve the outstanding DirecTV issue (either using the TiVo or manually entering the numeric code for a channel caused the HD DTV receiver to go to the HD version of that channel as the default for numeric entry for any channel number that has both feeds; i.e., USA Network is available in both a High Def (HD) and Standard Def (SD) on channel 242. The HD receiver defaults to the 242 HD version, which we don't get/pay for. Only by using the Guide or the Channel Up/Down buttons and manually editing the guide and preferred channels lists can we go to the 242 SD.

So, the three options as we saw/researched them appeared to be:
Receiving a new channel lineup from DTV that only includes the SD channel list; no HD channels would be set to our receiver allow it to default to the SD channels.Re-enabli…

You Can't Always Get What You Want, Or What You Need, Either!

So, we got what we wanted: we have local channels via our satellite dish. Yay. Go team!

Except...

It broke the TiVo setup. You see, DirecTV doesn't want you using a TiVo for their satellite service (or any other non-DTV DVR), so they make it as hard as possible to begin with (this came about when they decided to break from having TiVo as their default DVR software provider a few years ago and they went with their "own" software, which was such a knockoff of TiVo's that TiVo sued them and won. And I'm ignoring that they are in bed together again as of September 3).

Beyond making it so difficult, however, is the fact that the TiVo must send channel commands to the new HD receiver via entering the number of the channel it wants to record, and the new HD DTV receiver defaults to HD channels, even if you, like we did, choose not to get HD programming. So, for example, USA Network is on channel 242. 242 is also USA HD, which we don't get. So, if the TiVo sends "2…