Posts

Showing posts from 2009

The Birds

Image
I never really thought of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" as a scary movie. It was tense, and well-acted and directed, of course, but scary? I never thought so.

My guess is that for a large number of people, birds are not thought of as predators. They are cute and (relatively) small. We see more of them in a parental capacity or sucking nectar from flowers than we do eating flesh, so it is hard to see them as predators. Even when watching an osprey, hawk, or eagle grabbing fish out of the stream, we rarely consider them "predatory" for some reason.

The other day, as I was puttering about the house, I notice a shadow infrequently obstructing the sun shining through the window. After a couple of times, I went and looked to find out what it was. What I saw astounded me.

A flock/gaggle/group/horde of hundreds of ravenous birds, all small and cute, were flying from yard to yard in the neighborhood en masse and devouring thousands of worms, caterpillars, and similar bugs…

When the Milk is Free

So, the last few times I've gone to Variety.com, Variety's online site, within seconds of starting to view the page a full-page ad for Variety asking me to become a member and sign in has displayed. The sign-up has a small charge, it appears. Not as much as getting the mag for a year. However, and here's the thing that a lot of online sites seem to not understand: the vast majority of people who are used to getting the milk for free will refuse to pay for the cow and will move on to other locations where they can continue to get milk for free.

And I'm just like that-- I have eliminated the links to Variety.com from my home page and just won't go to their site any more unless and until the information is free. It is WAY too easy to get any entertainment industry news from a variety of other sources for free still, so I'm certainly not going to pay for it.

Variety may argue that they provide a service that is worth paying for and the price is reasonable. I would co…

Economics 101

All the experts know that there is simply only one way to solve a recession/depression -- for people to spend money. It is a little counter-intuitive to those who don't understand the way economics work, but that is the simple truth.

What I don't understand is why the President or some of his top people don't do PSAs that state this. Maybe have Al Gore come on and do a send-up of his Oscar winning movie, An Inconvenient Truth, and show bar graphs and pie-charts that explain that when you spend money, it trickles through the economy and impacts, literally, hundreds of other people, jobs, and businesses.

For example, you go down to your local eatery of choice. You spend $50 for you and your honey to have a nice meal. That $50 and your presence at the restaurant causes the owner to have to hire and pay a server, a cook, a dishwasher/cleaner (each of whom then have money to spend on their own things). The owner also has to buy groceries from his distributor so he can make your m…

Sometimes You Know

Sometimes you know you have made the right or wrong decision by the physical reactions your body has to the choice.

If you get sick, develop severe headaches, start sweating profusely, even start suffering tremors, you likely have made a bad decision and should rethink things.

If those symptoms go away, or minor aches and pains ease "for no reason," or your happiness level goes through the roof, it was likely the right decision for you.

Champions Online Lag

Lag is a sometimes fact of life for massively multiplayer online game players. Even the best games have periods of time, either daily, weekly, or monthly, where their servers or the connections to the servers are not as good as others, and the large number of gamers connecting to the application causes the game to slow down and "rubberbanding" and other effects to occur.

I have played or currently play World of Warcraft (WoW), Lord of the Rings Online (LotRO), Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO), City of Heroes (COH), EverQuest (EQ), and some games that could be played online with smaller groups, like Diablo II, NeverWinter Nights (NWN), et al.

I cannot remember ever having the lag issues in any of those games like I experience each and every time I connect to the Champions Online servers.

I build my own machines; have since 1987 when my dad and I built my first PC. I know the quality of the products and the capabilities of the hardware within my box. It is built to be a gaming…

NFL Football; Injuries, Longer Season

I think there are two easy solutions that will help the NFL in two areas: injuries (especially concussions) and the fear of playing 17-18 games in a regular season.

1. Do away with the roster limit of 53 people. This is an anachronism from an earlier time when teams frequently had two-way players and special teams was primarily filled with generalist instead of specialists. Today's NFL needs more players on a team for a variety of reasons, but injuries are the primary one. As it is, coaches play fast and loose with the injured reserve list and practice squad in order to carry closer to 60 players on their roster than the 53 mandated by the NFL. I say, do away with the limit all together. If a Jerry Jones or a Dan Snyder wants to pay the luxury taxes involved and load up with 60, 70, 80 players, let them!

Many may say that the more income-rich teams could then buy the Super Bowl like the Yankees do in MLB. I don't think so. There are so many fewer games in which to shine, players…

Insurance "Debate"

If the President of the United States tells you to do something, you do it or make your very best effort. Right or wrong, good or bad, President Obama asked our leadership to come up with a plan for "universal" health care for all Americans, so that Americans can enjoy the same basic privilege of every other industrial nation. He outlined the following minimum requirements for this plan to be signed into law.

The Democrats, those of the same party as the President and the party with a majority on both sides of Congress, went to it with relish. They turned in a massive, bloated, and potentially problematic law that may not solve the problem, but at least covered what the President asked for in most ways. By all accounts, they tried to get Republicans to help with the plan and got a little bit of cooperation.

And the Republicans.... did nothing. Well, not nothing. They poo-pooed the plan the Democrats came up with, they poo-pooed the President and the President's proposal. E…

Gun Laws and Tragedies

One of my favorite sportswriters is Peter King from SI. While I find his NFL knowledge timely and well-researched, he frequently digresses into politics and non-football related topics. Those digressions usually wind up being fairly knee-jerk reactions that do not have his usual research or thought-out responses.

A case in point. In his most current Monday Morning Quarterback article, he has this little throw-out near the end:
My heart goes out to the victims of the Fort Hood and Orlando shootings and their loved ones. Senseless, senseless incidents. I will not go quietly into the night on this one. America needs to do something about idiots with handguns. How many more Fort Hoods and Orlandos do there have to be before our political leaders have the guts to severely restrict access to murderous weapons?
While I definitely agree with the sentiment he shows for the victims, the rest of that is, in essence, an anti-gun diatribe that has little to do with the facts. Because of this, I took …

Last Dance?

I grilled steaks last night. It took forever to cook them, as they were good, thick, Costco steaks and high quality. I actually thought they were done after 18 minutes of cooking (I even cut into one to check, something I try to avoid doing). However, they were not done cooking and I took them back out for another 6 minutes with the grill on high.

When I brought them back into the house this time, they were a nice medium... a bit of pink in the middle with a nice sear on the outside. And boy were they juicy and tender.

However, the sadness is that we are rapidly running out of grilling days. It is November now, and the temps are getting to or below freezing at night and the days aren't warming up much. The rains have started, and we've even seen some flurries and some light dustings on the ground once or twice.

It is nearly time to roll the grill into the shed for the winter. My wife is fighting it as long as she can, but even she knows the inevitable is just about here.

The good …

Milk

Today we went across the border. While there, we picked up two gallons of milk, in plastic jugs, for a cost of $3.32 USD each, or $6.64 total. In SJ, we can only purchase up to a 2 litre amount in handy plastic jugs and those cost us $3.72 CND each. Since the two dollars are close to the same value right now, that indicates that in America, an hour and a half away from here, in a location that does not have a bottling and distribution center in the same city, we pay approximately the same amount of money for almost twice the amount of milk.

The other thing we cannot fathom is why Baxter, the main milk producer/distributor available in SJ, does not provide larger than a 2L plastic jug. Oh, you can purchase more milk than that, you just have to buy it in bags. Yes, you read that correctly, bags. You can purchase a 4L bag (which, in almost every case, is actually two 2L bags sold together in one larger bag), but you then have to pour that milk into something else in order to drink/use it …

Gas Stations

You live in a town with only one gas station, which sits on one corner of a crossroad. As this is the only gas station in the town, you are at the mercy of whatever the owner charges for gas.

Soon, a second gas station is put up on the corner opposite. The first gas station owner now has competition and must be more careful with raising rates and being competitive with amenities and other considerations, or you will start getting gas from the other gas station. However, there is still some chance for collusion between the two, as they are the only game in town and might find ways between themselves to increase their profits at the expense of the people who live there.

The town continues to grow and soon a third gas station is built on the third corner of the crossroad. Now, both existing gas station owners have competition from another gas station. The opportunities for collusion go down with more diverse ownership, and the competition for customers goes up. The people of the town have …

Random Thoughts

It personally pleases me whenever a public figure actually speaks his or her mind and uses "inappropriate" language. Political Correctness has been the norm for far too long and I am just waiting for the day someone uses a term like "faggot," acknowledges the use of the word, and then does NOT apologize for it or "go to rehab for anger issues." Yes, he or she will have some backlash at first. But when a movie company wants to sell tickets, that person will be hired. When a team wants to win, that person will have a job. And, you know what? They will be successful, the people will mostly forget or forgive, and those who were somewhat offended by the use will realize that life went on. If the person continues on that path and if people are truly offended, they will stop seeking out that person's products, team, or whatever. Why can't we admit that many of these words are simply ways to vent anger and frustration and move on? Why can't we hurt fe…

Marathon Man

So the dream I dreamed all night long involved me having a secret Macguffin of some sort and running from those who wanted it. And by running I mean the dream started in something that looked a lot like my home town area of 29 Palms and ended with me still hiding out in someplace cold and very wet, much like where I live now.

The upshot of all this is that I am now awake, my body is sore as hell, and I'm tired. There is nothing worse than waking up from a "good night's rest" tired. And by a good night's rest I mean that I went to bed at a decent time, fell asleep at a decent time, and slept the entire night through. But I'm so damn tired now, in the morning, and feel beat up from the many harrowing escapes, runs, and fights I was in to keep the mysterious Macguffin from "their" hands.

I can barely twist side to side because my ribs ache so much. Both hands and wrists are sore from the bare knuckle fights I had along the way. And my feet and legs are s…

First Flame

Image
It got cold enough in the house yesterday that I went down to the basement, clear some things away from the stove, and lit our first fire of the winter to warm things up. I didn't make a "John-special" that would drive us out of the house with heat; my goal was to start it around 2:30 pm, tend it until around 7-8 pm, and then let it die down. I figured the residual heat and the fact it was supposed to be a little warmer and dryer today would carry us.

My wife was sure happy to come home to a warmer house. When it gets down to around 20 C she starts complaining, and the last few days have been low 19s, so she's been making a lot of comments. When she got home yesterday, it was 23 C.

The tending plan worked well; it was still plenty warm last night when we went to bed, even though I had stopped looking after things at around 8. This morning, sure enough, the house is still pretty warm with most of the house registering in the 21-22 C range.

I don't think we'll be …

Musically Inclined

M and I have come to the belief that most artists today don't know a) how to finish their songs and b) when to finish them either.

I am a big fan of Prince. I've enjoyed his music from the early 80s on. However, the vast majority of his songs are between 1 and 2 minutes too long. He lingers. He gets lost in the guitar strokes and carries them well past when they are viable. And he's not alone.

I can't tell you how often I get the inkling to flip the station after about 3 minutes of a song. I'm not saying these are bad songs; quite the contrary, many of today's songs I find quite worthwhile and filled with meaning. But the artists drive that point home with one two many repeats of the refrain, one too many guitar, drum, or keyboard solos, or way too many nonsense lyrics, grunts, and moans.

I'm not a big fan of the Beatles, or Elvis. I respect them, of course, but just never found their music or their points to be relevant to me. However, especially their earlie…

Rogues

Image
Recently, SJ had a severe down pour that lasted about two and a half days of nearly constant rain. A few days ago, I was sitting in the office with the window slightly open (the office gets very warm and stuffy) and M had gone to bed.

I heard some strange sounds from outside the window. I couldn't place them, so I moved to the bathroom window to get a better look but did not see anything. Returning to my chair in the office, I heard strange sounds again. This time I moved to the larger windows on the double-doors in our kitchen and looked out. I noticed that Romy was sitting looking out the windows intently.

This is what caused me to stop looking out into the yard for whatever I heard and instead look where Romy was looking... and directly on the other side of the glass was a a large, cat-like face wearing a mask looking back first at Romy and then at me!

I flipped on the light and found three raccoons on the porch outside our kitchen doors. I would guess two of the three to be about…

Where The Wild Things Are

Taking a book that is some ten lines long and turning it into a 90 minute movie is a challenge. Having that book be beloved by millions makes it doubly difficult. In most respects, Spike Jonze has succeeded.

In the book, Max is mischievously bad. He acts up and his mother sends him to bed without dinner. There, his imagination takes over and he "sails" to a land of the Wild Things where he is soon crowned King and leads them in a wild rumpus. However, he soon grows lonely and homesick and "returns" from that land to his bedroom to find that his mother has set out his dinner, still hot. Basically, it shows that, even if his mother has to punish him for being bad, she always loves him.

In the movie, Max comes from a family of divorce, whose father is absent, sister ignores him and wants to be with kids her own age, and whose mother is overworked and stressed out. He acts out in ways that are not mischievous; he directly opposes his mother and physically attacks her, bi…

The Pass-Thru's the Thing

We have a rather complicated setup with our electronics in the front room of our house in order to get cable, our DirecTV, and TiVo to all function at the same time. One thing that made this slightly better was finding and purchasing a special pass-through cabel from Paterson Technology. This device hooks up from the TiVo USB to the DirecTV USB slot and changes the channels correctly for us.

The great thing about the Paterson pass-thru device is that you can flash the ROM on it and set it to redirect what the TiVo sends to the correct channel on the DirecTV. This was important when we got the HD receiver in that room, as we only have Standard channels via DirecTV and that meant that every channel that the TiVo turned to that had both an HD and an SD channel option needed to be redirected to the SD channel for us to view it. In other words, TNT is channel 245. However, the HD is 245 (1) and the SD is 245 (2). So if the TiVo changed to channel 245 without the pass-thru cable, we got 245 …

The Question?

I've recently run into a spat of women who all speak every sentence as though it is a question by raising their voice at the end. My first thought is that anyone who does this is unsure of themselves, but then the last two to do it were experts in their field and were providing me with their expertise; both came across as intelligent, assured, and accomplished women, yet every single sentence sounded like a question.

I'm not sure how women get into this speech pattern, but it is one that happens to annoy me to no end. The last woman with whom I spoke was a doctor of veterinary medicine and was helping me with a mild issue M and I had discovered with our cat (nothing to note here; we just wanted some advice). Literally every sentence this woman uttered to me during our 10 minute phone conversation sounded like a question. While she was obviously smart, caring, and knew her stuff, during and after the conversation I was left with a feeling inadequacy over her answers as the quest…

Printer

Right before leaving for vacation, the black and white Samsung ML-1210 laser printer I purchased in 2001 stopped working correctly. It was frustrating because the printer still functioned but I couldn't get it to grab and feed paper. I opened it up, cleaned things out, tried to adjust the feeder bits, etc., but no dice-- it just didn't want to grab paper either through the multi-page feed or the single-page feeder any more.

Since moving, M and I have found it very nice to have a laser B/W printer for quick things (like printing from the internet) and for text-based items and leaving her color ink jet for pictures and things that we need color on.

The other day M found a Brother HL-2170W printer on sale for $120. Since I still hadn't been able to get my 8-year old printer to function, we discussed it. All of the Brother's technical specs were better than my old printer and it is network-able using either wireless or wired. Rather than pay a ton of money to get the old pri…

The Trip West

My wife and I flew to SoCal recently for both work (her-- a conference) and vacation (both of us).

The flight out on September 10 was beautiful. I don't like flying that much, but have gotten used to it in the last few years with all the trips back and forth from SoCal to here. This series of flights was smooth, all on time or early, and with no hassles or issues. The closest we came to having a problem was when we checked into the Maple Leaf Lounge; the man running the desk was unsure if we were supposed to be there. We girded for a fight, but he found us in the PC quickly and let us in.

Knowing that nearly every time I travel, especially by air, one way or the other is hell on earth, we immediately started joking about the trip back.

And then we did the trip back.

The plane at John Wayne (SNA) run by United took forever to board and then the flight attendants had the gall to ask us to hurry about sitting so they could push off from the gate and make their "on time" departu…

Ram Johnson: Part 2, Moons

Previously

When they got back to the office, a small one over a cartoonist's gallery at the Orange Circle, Ram headed straight to his office to think, ignoring the nods and hellos from his office staff and secretary. They looked to Keiko, and she just shrugged. They had all seen him in these moods before when he couldn't figure out a particularly tough case. He could be moody and noncommunicative for days on end.

Keiko similarly headed to her office, but she was all business; she wanted to get the pictures of the crime scene into the database and print out any she thought warranted it for their board.

Ram's detective agency was doing pretty solid business. Unfortunately, southern California has enough gang activity, rich people doing stupid things, businesses playing underhand, and out-and-out criminal activity that most PIs work steadily. Ram was well-respected in the business, but didn't flaunt it; he had his modest business front, a small house, and employees who were …

Brick and Mortar

I specifically waited until my wife and I were in SoCal before going to a book store for the two items I wanted to get my father for his upcoming birthday. We stopped by two stores and, at the second (Barnes and Noble), we actually spoke with a worker at the Information desk concerning one of the two books.

You see, my dad was born and raised in Detroit, MI. There is a book out now called Goodfellows that talks about the championship high school football system at one of the schools nearby to where he lived. I thought he might like reading about that as he is from there and because he is a football fan.

We looked up the book in the B&N computer and saw "In Stock". Yay, we thought, we can get both books, buy a bag or some wrapping paper (or use some of my mother's when we visit her) and wrap these up for dad and give them to him for his b-day.

But no. In Stock meant that the company as a whole had it somewhere. When we clicked on the more details section, no store in Sou…

Did Repubs Even Listen?

We picked up one physical newspaper and I have since looked at a few virtual newspapers online and I'm left shaking my head and bewildered at many comments made by Republican representatives in the House and Senate concerning President Obama's health care plan speech made earlier this week.

It seems like they didn't listen at all, as the vast majority of the statements made by the Repubs are diametrically opposed to what Obama said. Here are some examples, from The Denver Post:

"... what the Democrats' plan proposes is a government takeover of the entire health care industry that will force Americans out of their current plans and will have a tremendous cost that can only result in higher taxes and a larger deficit." Rep. Doug Lamborn.

"I heard loud and clear from my constituents this August that the current Democrat proposals are unacceptable -- they won't help reduce costs and they'll kill millions of small-business jobs." Rep. Mike Coffman

In…

Procession

I was amazed when we left the church and drove in a funeral procession to the grave site for M's grandfather. Without a police escort, on both sides of the street, traffic came to a veritable halt. People on the streets removed hats as we passed. Without a cop and completely on their own, traffic allowed us through intersections without issue.

The last time I saw a funeral procession was in Irvine. I was driving to a store on a weekend and saw a police motorcycle ride up to an intersection on (I think it was) Jamboree and begin to wave all directions to stop. The funeral procession arrived and he waved it through as the police escort at the rear of the procession sped past him to do the same at the next intersection.

It so happened that I was turning to follow that same direction, and I noted that traffic on both sides of the street did not stop for the funeral. Some cars had to be "convinced" by the escort to get out of the way of the funeral by pulling into the slow lane…

Windows 7

I downloaded the RC for Windows 7 and have planned to install it somewhere for testing for quite some time. M decided she wanted to test it for work-related reasons, so I installed it on her older laptop. Just this week, after successfully using it on the laptop for about a month, I decided to try to update my desktop PC with the OS.

Now, I have been successfully using Vista since release. I love Vista. Yes, it has some quirks that you have to turn off and some different behaviors from XP/98/95 that you need to relearn, but overall it has been:

A. More stable than XP, requiring no "just because" reinstalls.
B. Faster than XP.
C. Chock full of nice gadgets and extras that XP didn't have inherently; for example, the Snip tool.

Of course, prior to going from XP to Vista, I paid attention, ran the compatibility wizard, and read the suggested minimums and the suggested "full value" requirements and was prepared. I knew what I was getting into and didn't rely on a thi…