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September 25, 2008


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 aboutt 5.5 hours of stacking wood into ranks, we got more done than I got done on my own in 4 days of work (at about 3-4 hours per day). We didn't clean up or get the last little bit of kindling/starter wood inside because my back locked up and my arthritic hands and feet were aching by this time. I was just done/finished.

However, we are short on our wood. The fourth rank is not as high as the others, and it should be, plus we should have another quarter rank of wood in front of that (see Figure 2). So there is a bit more stacking to go.

September 24, 2008

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 doing okay in the division sink like a stone and become a laughingstock in the league. Millen should have been fired at least 4 seasons ago, but probably after his second when he proved his lack of qualifications was no fluke.

Amen that the Fords finally grew a pair and fired this freakishly bad club manager.

September 22, 2008

Mobile Desires

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 laptop (which she obviously has with her during her conference in FL) was still here so I could be doing these out in the front room or, better yet, in bed.

I think I may need to look into getting a laptop of my own as either a replacement for this desktop or in addition to it sometime in the future (after a job is secured and our moving-related debts are surmounted). If I replace my desktop, I might go with a "mobile desktop" system, as I will still want to play my games on the new PC. However, laptops have closed the gap so much with the new dual- and quad-core processors and tons of memory that I may not need to go that route necessarily (it used to be, if you were a gamer, you either got the highest-end notebook or a mobile desktop, but that has changed in the last few years).

Secondarily, I'm wondering if something like the Asus EEE might suffice for my basic needs. I used one briefly when my mom was here (she got one for her trip from PA to here), and, if I can install something like OpenOffice on it okay, it might do enough to help me with my mobile blogging, DnD, and writing desires. I'd probably have to get the upper end of that type of machine though to run a program like Word or OpenOffice, or Adobe.

Anyway, something to think about for the (near) future.

Of course, there is the other side of things:

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 "" and an "" 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 states and here are generally caused by Canada/Canadian legislation. For example, Canada knows it has poor TV and cannot compete with American productions (which, ironically, are so often filmed in Canada), so it passed legislation forcing a certain minimum amount of Canadian fare on its networks. Rather than allow the competition and rising to the challenge, it has denied itself the competition and its people suffer with the mediocre results.

I've been in contact with a few different companies via email about some issues or lack of service(s) and, to a one, each has replied back that they would love to provide the service/content/whatever to Canada, and in a few cases that they are in negotiations with the Canadian gov't to provide it, but that it is difficult, costly, and time-consuming to get the appropriate approvals from the Canadian gov't and either they are in process or have chosen not to due to those inconveniences. So, again, the Canadian gov't avoids competition and its people suffer the results.

This, coupled with the Canadian service industry's desire to apologize for a lack of service or bad service rather than simply providing good service, is one of the things that will likely take me the longest to "get used to." I doubt I will ever truly accept it, but I imagine at some point I will stop railing against it.

September 19, 2008

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.


September 18, 2008

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 receiver, and is setup to get both cable and satellite. Since the SD receiver does not have the channel changing issue of the HD receiver (see post), we are setting up the TiVo in there to do the bulk of the recording. Then, we will use the TiVo transfer functions to copy programs between the two TiVos and watch where we are most comfortable (most likely in the front room, or on a PC if we need to or are going to be away for awhile).

I also checked the older TiVo and contacted about a potential problem. It turns out that when you add additional hard drive space to a TiVo, the primary drive "marries" itself to the secondary drive. When M had the primary drive fail on her in December and bought a replacement primary, it no longer could speak with the secondary drive. Due to an interesting twist, the techs at Weaknees are not certain that a new secondary drive can be married to our new primary drive (a lot of technical reasons I won't go into here). So, if we want to get more room now, we have to either send both our new primary and our older secondary drives to them and they will do what they can, or we purchase a larger primary.

With shipping issues and costs, it will likely be less expensive to simply get a larger primary drive for that one if it turns out we need it with our current arrangement. But we will delay that decision for a bit while we see how our setup works now. On the plus side, both those drives are high-quality, 80 gig drives, and M and I both have uses for them in our PCs. So we may repurpose, reformat, and reuse them with our computers if we do get a new, bigger primary (we are going to do that with the secondary anyway, as it doesn't work for the TiVo any more).

I will have to hit the huge pile of wood again tomorrow, but my aging, arthritic body needed a day off and some of the aches and pains are finally lessening. I need to remember to take more breaks and not carry as much when I start back on this tomorrow.

September 17, 2008

And That New Task Is...

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!


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.

September 15, 2008

The Shelving Unit

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 and the design to see if there were any immediate gotchas that were going to need resolving.

A dry run of the boards and design.

Then it was back to more sanding, work on the gotchas, and making the whole thing as square as I could given my limited means. Once that was done, I moved on to what I thought was going to be a dry-fit with hardware, but turned out to be the permanent fitting.

Dry-fit on the floor and upright after screwing it all together.

It turns out that some of the boards were a bit more warped when put together than they appeared when looked at as separate boards. Because of this, I didn't think I could unscrew the unit, stain and varnish it, and put it back together again. I felt it was necessary, in order to complete the project, to keep this dry-fit together and go for the staining and the varnishing as a whole unit.

(Pictures of staining missing -- they are on the internal memory card for the camera and I can't find the wire needed to move them off onto my PC.)

After getting the entire shelving unit stained, it was on to the varnish/polyurethane and final sanding phase of the project.

Caught in the act of sanding.

The finished product after sanding, staining, polyurethane-ing, sanding, reattaching the backer boards, and cleaning/dusting.

No matter what angle I put it at, or how I used the flash, I got sun spots in the picture. Try to ignore them.

Finally, the end product in the room, on the wall, with movies.

Looks pretty good, doesn't it?

It turned out not to have as much free space left on it as I was hoping, but we still have a full shelf+ to expand, and each shelf holds nearly 50 regularly-sized DVDs. Unfortunately, it isn't big enough to hold all of our CDs as well as the DVDs. I guess I miss-judged the quantity of movies we had as a couple! But it does well for the DVDs and does allow for quite a bit of expansion, so it works, looks decent, and fits in the space.

Now, on to the next project....

September 13, 2008

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:
  1. 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.
  2. Re-enabling the SD tuner and using both the HD and SD tuners and the two TiVos to mix and match until we got everything working close to the way we want it.
  3. Canceling the HD tuner, going back to only the SD tuner and saying Fuck It loudly and often. (This may not be a direct quote from the previous entry on this subject.)
We spoke with Joe this time, our first male service representative. Joe is working and living in Texas, way down south on the coast, and wasn't getting more than some rain and a lot of humidity from Ike. He also simply couldn't get what I initially asked him/explained to him. I explained the issue to him and that we wanted DirecTV to resend our channel line up without the HD channels on it as the resolution to this problem at least four times (but I think it may have been 5). He finally understood what we were asking well enough to go ask someone if he could do that for us. Nope. If you have an HD receiver, it doesn't matter that you are not paying for the HD channels, those channels are sent to your receiver and just not enabled-- so you get black screens with the "Channel not purchased" error code. Very useful *sarcasm*, especially considering that DTV knows exactly which channels we are paying for, they can enable/disable individual channels (proved by their special packages where you can purchase individual and small groups of channels), and, if you have your DTV receiver hooked up to a phone line, they can push all sorts of individual items on and off your system, but they choose not to in this particular circumstance.
Note: M did some research and it turns out that their HD receiver software originally defaulted to the SD channel for dual definition channels. They only switched that fairly recently; we didn't see a specific time, but it was within the last couple of years at most. Had they not made that change, we would not have this problem.

Note 2: I don't understand why they don't just separate the HD and SD channels. People who have SD would then have no problem, and people with HD would have no problem. Yeah, so USA Network would be on, say, 242 (SD) and 2242 (HD). Who cares? As long as the receiver knows what it is doing and pushes the right channel output to whatever input you have it attached to on your recording device or TV, it doesn't matter where it is. Add into this the availability of setting up channel Favorites and personalized channel lists and the argument to have the SD and HD versions on different designations just becomes stronger. And, yes, I will be informing them of this in a letter/email in the very near future.
So, next up I asked him to re-enable the SD receiver. I explained that I wanted to add that to our existing account for use in the bedroom. His first response, "So, you want to cancel the HD and switch to the SD?" No. I want to I add the SD to the same account for the additional $4.99 a month and have two receivers on the account. It took a couple more tries, but I got him to do that.

Because of Chris' help, we were having this phone call from our front room and had set up the SD receiver for testing purposes prior to the phone call. So when Joe said, "It should be working," we were able to test it immediately and find it was not working. So poor Joe had to do some more work to re-enable it, but by the time we hung up, we had a working HD and SD receiver.

Now, we're going to pair the Dual Tuner TiVo and the SD receiver and the Single Tuner TiVo with the HD receiver. (Since the dual works like a single on satellite channels anyway, we might as well put the single with it. And that way we can have the dual working with the most channels and resolving the most conflicts by having both satellite and cable channels to choose from.) We will decide in which room each pair is going to go, re-do all of our Season Passes on both TiVos depending on the satellite-only or satellite+cable setup of that room/system, and then we should be done.

Outside of this, we need to decide if we're running a separate coaxial line from the dish to the bedroom, or if we're running a splice from the existing line to the bedroom (we're leaning toward new line, as that will provide the lease degradation of signal), and then setting up the permanent solution in the bedroom.

Things we have learned along the way:
  1. DirecTV has a great product that their poor customer service, arrogant and abusive business practices, and Machiavellian and narrow-vision procedures completely obfuscate. If this wasn't our only real option for what we wanted, we would have given up a long time ago and gone with a competitor or just with the cable services available.
  2. It amazed me when we knew more about their systems and services than those with whom we talked. M said it best when she said, "Do they not know how their own system works? They should all have to use it and understand it before they can talk to customers!" Amen, wife, amen. I mean, trying to convince me that my dish somehow is "talking back" to the satellite-- give me a break! This is a unidirectional communication system-- unless you have the receiver hooked to a phone line. Trying to tell me that I cannot have an HD receiver without also getting HD service? Unreal. How many dozens of people are doing just what we're dong-- trying simply to have local channels for which they must have the HD receiver and dish but do not want HD services? Trying to inform me that the channel guide preferences and setups can resolve my lineup issues, even though I've just told you that I used them/followed them and they did NOT solve the problem? Get real.
  3. DirecTV does not want you using any sort of recording method except what they provide you. Luckily, TiVo is smarter and better than they are, and can overcome a lot of these issues. Probably why they are limping back to TiVo and having them do the software for their DVRs again, starting in 2009.
  4. Thank god for, eBay, and our own smarts. The people at weaknees consistently provided email answers to questions we had, usually within an hour. eBay had vendors with great reputations to choose from, and we got exactly what we ordered and better instructions from the vendor than anything we got from DTV. And, well, I'm always the first to praise my own or my wife's brilliance. ;-)
  5. I'm just happy that DirecTV has not outsourced their customer support. I can only imagine how much longer I would be on the phone and how many more calls I would have to make to them had that been the case.
  6. The new dish does provide a better signal capture and picture than the previous one. And it has outputs for up to 4 lines on it (which may be handy when we re-wire).
  7. If you are okay with having DirecTV come out, do their own installation, get you setup on the TV, and you hold firm to exactly what you want (assuming you know going in), you are okay. If you don't like conflict, or if you have special needs/setup issues, you are pretty much on your own. And if you don't want them coming out to do the dish setup, prepare for battle or go through eBay or a third-party vendor. From what I read, it is nearly always better to go through a well-spoken-of third party installation company than DirecTV. That's just sad.

September 10, 2008

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!


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 "242" to the DTV receiver and it defaults to the HD channel, we get an hour of a black screen with a message that reads, "Channel not purchased. Contact Customer Service."

The thing that makes us laugh is that the SD channels used to be the default. They only recently updated their software to default to the HD channels instead, but didn't provide any means of blocking the receiver from getting them if you choose not to get HD.

Why might you choose not to get HD but pay for an HD reciever? Well, two reasons; 1. DirecTV aggressively upsells you on the benefits and reasons for getting one and you relent, even though you do not have an HD TV (or they just charge you for it and send it to you, regardless of what you want) or, 2. You are like us, you desperately want local channels and those are purposely only sent through the HD satellites to force you to pay for an upgrade to the new dish and receiver or to make you pay the higher costs for the HD dish and receiver.

The one benefit we see is that the new dish accepts up to four inputs, so we can add a new cable (or maybe split the current one) and run a line to the old SD receiver, add it back onto our account for a nominal extra fee per month, and set that receiver up to do the bulk of the recording via the TiVo (since we know from experience that it defaults to the proper non-HD channels that we can see/record). The only time this won't work is when we are recording from the local channels. We'll still need to figure something out there, or find the cable of version of as many of them as possible.

One thing I did confirm tonight; you can use the Autotune function on the DTV receiver to tell it to change to a specific channel at a specific time, and, if the TiVo is trying to record something, it will get the feed of whatever channel the Autotune switches to. So, for example, I had Eureka scheduled for this evening. We set that TiVo recording to one minute earlier than usual, and then set the Autotune for the same show to switch on-time to the SD channel. One minute after beginning to record the blank screen of the HD channel, the Autotune changed to the non-HD channel and the TiVo recorded the episode. So there is a sort of work-around for it, awkward though that is.

I am utterly dumbfounded as to why the DTV receiver doesn't have a "do not use/show" option anywhere for this type of use to disable those channels you don't get. DirecTV knows exactly which channels we paid for and which we didn't, so why would they even send the ones to the system that we don't get? It is almost as frustrating to be watching the satellite without the TiVo and still see the HD channels we don't get listed on the guide, etc.

So, we are left with one of three options, as best we can tell:
1. See if they can resend the channel lineup without including those channels we are not paying for.
2. Re-enable the SD receiver and mix and match our programming/TiVos until we get a decent 80/20 rule for recording stuff.
Note: We have the entire house wired for network, and both Tivo's on it, so we can easily copy recorded programs from one to the other TiVo within the house. So we can watch whatever is recorded on either TiVo.
3. Cancel the HD receiver, cancelling the local channels we worked so hard to get, and go back to what was working before (SD receiver + cable channels) and live with it until the next stupid thing DirecTV does.

Or, of course, the super-secret options that DirecTV really wants us to go with: either pay for HD service or buy/upgrade to a DirecTV receiver with DVR functionality. I love my TiVo and the TiVo service offers so many additional things that cable/satellite DVRs just don't do, why would I want to go with that second option? And as to the first, they claim it is $100 upfront charge for HD programming plus a minimum agreement of 12 months at $10/month. That's an additional $220 on an already too-expensive experiment trying to get us the TV we want to watch.

So, we're back to pondering our decisions again.

September 7, 2008

DirecTV Retake

Alex picked up a new DirecTV receiver for us when he went through Bangor. This one is an HD receiver, as we had learned that you do, in fact, need an HD receiver in order to receive local channels via DTV.

Yesterday, we were in Calais, so we spoke with Becky and got everything all set up... or so we thought. When we were able to view the picture, there wasn't any. Matter of fact, and very strangely, the error message yesterday said "account not activate (711)". Today it read "channel not purchased (721)".

I had a lovely chat with my sister about having her help us by performing a three-way call so we could contact DirecTV while in our living room so we could see if/when things were fixed. However, she didn't have the necessary function and we didn't want her to pay extra for it. We contacted Chris and he had that function on his cell phone, so we had him do the three-way so we could talk with DirecTV.

Josie (may not be her actual name; is the closest to what my ears could hear) was nice. First she fixed the butchery of my wife's name on the account (both first and last name were badly misspelled) and then she helped us with the issue. And by helped, I mean that she walked us through what she was doing, what she wanted us to do, and it worked. We now have a working satellite WITH local channels.

Go team!

So a big thank you to sister for being willing to help (and the good conversation) and to Chris for helping us with the phone call.

Now to re-set up all our season passes, the TiVo in general, and see about getting back to normal. And, likely, we'll host the Super Bowl party this year. Yay!!

September 5, 2008

Getting It

A friend let me re-borrow her Serenity/Firefly DVDs and I'm re-watching the series. Joss Whedon gets what George Lucas has forgotten-- it's all about the small details.

The TV show Firefly didn't have a great budget, but they worked well within it. The small details, like the constant wash of the engines when in atmosphere, the grunge and gunk of the ships and the worlds, and the attention to the clothing, weaponry, and the accents/languages used all make the world seem more believable. But, even if not believable per se, it makes the audience more forgiving of the larger details that maybe don't work as well; when a computer graphic doesn't quite look right, or something else doesn't seem to fit.

That was the primary problem with Lucas' Star Wars prequels. Lucas was never a great storyteller, but in the original series he made a better attempt at making the world believable and we were willing to buy into his vision because of the believability. The prequels were too shiny, too fake, too computer graphic intensive to be believable. They were too massive, which led to the story becoming too large and unwieldy.

On the other hand, Firefly and Serenity stayed relatively small. Whedon used few sets and ensured they looked completely believable. When he made the jump to the big screen, although he had a large budget, he kept the sets relatively small and the story focused-- which led to it being more believable.

Recently, Christopher Nolan did essentially the same thing with his large-budget productions of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. He used real effects and real stuntmen in every instance where he could, built real sets or used location shots, and made sure the world looked gritty and grimy, as it should. In this way, we buy into his vision and are, once more, forgiving when some things don't quite work as well. Compare this to Joel Schumacher's vision for the same character in Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, and you immediately see a huge difference in the believability and realism of the world; and this leads to a huge impact on the respect with which we view that world and our willingness to buy into the vision, or not, as the case may be.

I have high-hopes that JJ Abrams has learned something from Joss Whedon, and learned what not to do from Lucas' recent efforts, and his vision for a rebooted Star Trek will be believable, small, and story-driven. In this way, he can get a franchise that deserves it back on track and back to the honored placed in our hearts it once held.

I also hope that other, up and coming writers and directors are learning from these hits and misses. Here's hoping there is a new Firefly by some promising talent who "gets it" in the works right now.

September 4, 2008

"The Hero from Elsewhere"

As a young adult, I read a novel/story called "The Hero from Elsewhere." While in many regards it was a 'typical' fantasy novel about a boy who goes to this mysterious other land and becomes its hero, it was atypical in that he was a math-geek and wrote a poem about math, which I remember to this day.
One and one is always two,
Each alone, here's me, there's you
The mathematics of the heart,
Add together, what's apart?
The sum of being friends is done,
And proves that one and one makes one.
And, with that poem, the white stone and black stone that the two protagonists have merge, and merge the boy and the other person into one super-human hero who is able to fight the antagonist (Fenris the wolf?) who is trying to destroy.... something. The world maybe.

Today I spent more time than you would expect trying to find the title of the story. It took me a somewhat fortuitous set of search criteria to find a Yahoo! Answers entry that happened to have the poem in question and the title of the story in it to find the title.

From there, I have searched the Library of Congress site,, eBay, Wikipedia, the internet in general, and a few other sources trying to find if this story is still published, who the author is, anything beyond the poem and the title all to no avail.

It is surprising to me that I can have a title, a general plot, and specific words from the poem and still not be able to find any additional information on this story. Makes you wonder about those shows like Criminal Minds where they ask the computer person to make a search for something and, tap, tap, tap, she finds the exact thing/person they are searching for, doesn't it?

My personal quest continues. At least now I have the title.

ADDENDUM (11/12/2012)
As you can see from the comments, the story is actually "The Hero from Otherwhere" by Jay Williams. According to this article in the NY Times, the story is being moved forward for a possible movie adaptation. 

September 3, 2008

IRS Blues

I am, frankly, incredulous that the advice I got from the IRS representative I spoke with today is to refile my taxes and then try to get an abatement on any penalties they take out of my taxes when (not if) there is a "late fee."

I turned in my taxes in March to give the IRS extra time to deal with what I knew was going to be a difficult return. And then, when I got my wife's ITIN in early June, the letter said they were forwarding it to the IRS proper (the ITIN's are handled through a different area of the IRS than the main branch that audits and reviews) and to wait 6-8 weeks for my refund. Then I called back promptly at 6 weeks and the representative I spoke with that day said she had no record of my return. None. She showed my wife's ITIN process, but did not have and could not find my return. She recommended I call back in about 2 weeks to give them time to receive and process it.

So, I gave them a month. Four full weeks plus. I called them back today. She still had no record of my tax return being received or reviewed. She recommended I submit my tax forms again, this time with my wife's ITIN on it, and hope for the best. She said that I would probably get penalties but that I could ask for an abatement on them and hope that they take the notes on my SSN at the IRS into account. But to realize they may take interest out of it.

Can you believe that? The government has had $1584 of my money since last year, and they will charge ME interest on it because my taxes are "late." All because they got lost somewhere between the Texas office and the Washington, DC office of the SAME GOVERNMENT BUREAUCRACY!