Sunday, November 18, 2007

Upward Trending

I've got to admit it's getting better
A little better all the time
I have to admit it's getting better
It's getting better since you've been mine.

Last night I took Jessica out to a Hoboken club, Maxwell's, to have dinner, and then see Eric Hutchinson perform. I discovered Eric Hutchinson when he opened for Joe Jackson at Town Hall last April. At first, Eric reminded me of John Mayer, then Steely Dan, then Stevie Wonder, and finally I gave up trying to categorize him and just accepted him on his own merits. He's funny, he's got clever lyrics, and the music is good. I've had a brief email exchange with Eric, and spoke to him last night after the concert as well - he seems to be a nice guy to boot, even with someone about twice the age of his average fan!

I'd arranged to have our babysitter arrive at the house at 5pm, and she didn't demand us home at a particular time, so we had no deadline, practically speaking. I don't remember the last time we got to go out for an evening, just the two of us, and didn't have to hurry home by a certain time. It was wonderful. Jessica isn't much of an Eric Hutchinson fan, but she was a good sport and let herself enjoy a few songs anyway.

Thursday evening, Nov. 7, our fairly new Sony VCR broke. The problem is mechanical - any tape inserted into the deck is eaten up. I haven't figured out how to repair the VCR, and it's no longer possible to buy a quality VCR, but the Saturday following the breakdown I managed to buy a low-end VCR for $10, from a lady who had posted a VCR-for-sale ad on Craigslist.

Come back to this just-completed week. Thursday evening, Nov. 14, our other VCR, a high-end JVC that I bought in the mid-90's, broke. This time around, the problem is electrical - no matter what button(s) is/are pressed, the VCR exhibits no response at all. It makes no noises, nothing mechanical moves, no motors spin, no lights turn on or off, nothing. The only way to know the unit is even plugged in is that, when plugged in, the clock displays. Well, yesterday I managed to buy another replacement VCR from a Craigslist ad, this one a JVC, slightly better than the Sharp I bought last week, for $20.

In the meantime, the two good but dead VCRs are sitting in a corner while I ponder what to do about them. It's likely I'm going to rebuild my MythTV system and give up on the VCRs.

In my previous post I mentioned a dead phone, in addition to the dead VCRs. This phone is a Motorola Disney Classic cordless phone. It's a neat little phone, but the keypad had pretty much died.

Well in 1982 Atari sold a system called the Atari 5200. The 5200 was my all-time favorite videogame system. I love it, and still play it occasionally. One enormous flaw with the 5200, though, was the controllers Atari provided with the system. These controllers were outstanding when they worked, but they very rarely worked properly. Atari had engineered a new technology to use for the buttons on the controllers. There were exposed contacts underneath each button. The bottom of the rubber buttons was coated with a conductive carbon dot. When the button was pressed, the carbon dot would touch both of the exposed contacts underneath, and close the circuit, allowing electricity to flow, and registering as a button press. Regrettably, the circuits corroded upon exposure to air, and the buttons very rarely worked for long. Very soon after the 5200 arrived on the scene, the technology was improved, and many, many products use similar buttons today.

Motorola, in a fit of nostalgic incompetence, used faulty technology similar to that in the 5200 controllers for my phone. A few weeks ago I opened the phone up, cleaned the contacts and buttons as thoroughly as I could, and put it back together. No dice. I then took it apart again, and tried to paint the underside of the buttons with some conductive paint that Radio Shack sells for rear-window defroster repair. After that, the phone worked magnificently, for about 2 weeks. One day it stopped working at all, but would sometimes display weird lights, and would behave unpredictably in response to button presses. It seemed to be shorting out. It turns out that the paint on several of the buttons had come off the buttons, and adhered itself to the contacts underneath the buttons, so that several buttons were being pressed simultaneously, all the time. Again, I cleaned the circuit board contacts and keypad thoroughly, reassembled the phone, and again the buttons failed to work, rendering the phone unusable.

So this morning I again set out to repair the phone. This time, I cut tiny circles out of aluminum foil and super-glued them to the underside of the dead buttons. I reassembled the phone, and now it works pretty well. Only time will tell if the glue holds, but for now I'm pleased with the results.

That FISA bill, that included a section granting legal immunity to the telcos that helped the thugs in the White House spy on us - well, after much pressure from the public (you, me, etc..), the immunity content was stripped from the bill before the House passed it. The Senate Judicial Committee, meanwhile, decided to not take any stand at all on the matter, and will let it be debated by the full Senate. So while there's still the possibility that the final law will grant immmunity to the telecom companies for spying on us and colluding with the scourge at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, what's occurred so far is positive.

Just discovered a refreshing blog to read.

Sounds like a sitcom - an English woman and her Southern Redneck husband, living in the Midwest and raising their family. I was just hitting the 'next blog' link at the top of the Blogger page, skimming through random blogs when I came across this gem.

That's all, nothing of earth-shattering import to write about.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Feeling Jinxed lately.

Recently my wife flipped our faucet-mount water filter, and the thing broke off the faucet. The faucet-mount units tend to leak anyway, so our faucet is unfiltered, and without an aerator right now, while I search for a new faucet altogether, one that will have a built-in faucet. Years ago, before I grew used to filtered water, I'd have thought it crazy to care about this, and I'd have been perfectly happy with tap water. I'm spoiled.

Thursday evening, 2 weeks ago, the battery in our minivan bit the dust, and we needed to buy a new car battery. That's OK - the car was still on it's original battery, now 5 years old, and just entering winter. A new battery wasn't really a bad idea, all things considered.

Last Thursday evening, when I came home from work, my wife reported that one of our VCRs (the one that's only a year or two old) was eating any tape inserted. OK, no sweat. Saturday morning I bought a very low-end, but working VCR off of somebody via Craigslist for $10. I still hoped I could figure out the problem with the good, fairly new VCR and fix it.

This past Thursday, exactly one week after our newest VCR died, our other good VCR died. This unit is absolutely frozen. It won't move any mechanical parts, at all. It makes no noises, at all. It exhibits absolutely NO reaction at all to any button presses. The only sign that it even has power is that the display works when it is plugged in.

It's possible the jinx might be spreading too. While sitting at my dining room table tonight, with 2 VCRs and one phone disassembled and laid out in front of me, while I tried to fix them, I saw red & blue lights flashing outside, in front of my house. I walked over to look through the living room window to see what was going on, and there were a couple of police cars parked in the middle of my street. Next to them was an Altima, headlights on, passenger door open, front end against a telephone pole and airbag hanging out of the steering wheel. I think the driver must have taken off, because one of the police cars kept driving off, shining it's lights every-which-way. After a while a flatbed came along and towed the car away, not bothering to turn off the Altima's lights. Shortly after that, a firetruck came back to the telephone pole, along with a police car, and a bunch of guys with spotlights checked out the telephone pole. Finally all of the police cars, tow trucks, and fire trucks all went away, and I was left sitting at my dining room table with 2 broken VCRs and a broken phone.

You've been warned - bring valuable possessions near my aura at your own risk.

Monday, November 12, 2007

More grumblings. Maybe I've got Seasonal Affected Disorder?

Over the weekend I tried to play a game of racquetball with a friend of mine. Prior to starting the game I was slightly out of breath. Shortly into the game, I was incapacitated, lying on the court trying to catch my breath.

Since 4th or 5th grade I've suffered from a very low-level asthma. I've always just tolerated it, and considered the symptoms nothing more than a minor nuisance. The couple of times I tried to use an inhaler, I saw no change in my ability to breath, with or without the inhaler, so I don't have one. I also take no medication, other than Sudafed sometimes to control allergies.

Generally, I think doctors are a waste of time, money, and a huge inconvenience and discomfort. My personal worldview is that whatever you're dealing with, just cope with it and eventually you'll muddle through and the problem will go away.

That explains why I tend to go years between doctor's appointments. In fact, my last visit was shortly after Warren Zevon went on David Letterman to discuss his being diagnosed with terminal cancer. Warren said, if I recall correctly, "Yeah, not seeing a doctor for about 20 years may have been a tactical error." [Edit: According to Wikipedia, the exact quote was "I may have made a tactical error in not going to a physician for 20 years." ]

Warren could be a real smart-ass. [NPR's 4-minute recap after Zevon's death.] But when he said that I was motivated to go get a physical exam, and I did. According to the omniscient Oracle (um, that would be Google), Zevon's Letterman appearance was October 30, 2002. So that means it's been about 5 years since my last visit to a doctor.

After the asthma attack that squashed my racquetball match, I was pretty annoyed. Thanks to the damn asthma, I was prevented from playing the game. I was embarrassed. And, of course, I was out of breath for the rest of the day, and even now am a little bit out of breath, two days later.

So I decided to revisit the doctor. First, I had to try and remember my Doctor's name. Took a little while, but I found it. I then looked him up on my Healthcare Provider's website. Guess what? He's not a participant in the plan! Well, why shoudl I expect something good & pleasing from an insurance company, right? OK, no big deal, I'll use my wife's physician. After all, I now remember that when we switched to this plan we saw my doctor was absent, but her doctor was a member. So I called her doctor's office to make myself an appointment for a physical/check-up. AND.... they are no longer members of the plan either! BUT, but, but... they are listed on the healthcare providers' website as plan participants. Nevertheless, they've stopped participating in that plan.

SO, I ran a new search for a physician from the provider's website. I searched for any Primary Care Physician within 10 miles of my house, associated with the hospital we've used for Emergency Room care or to have our children delivered. There were a grand total of *9* results. Nine.

OK. Brain starts thinking to see if there are any alternatives. Waitaminute - I'm paying $666 per MONTH for this crap. Surely there must be a better way to spend the money. So I investigate to see if I can drop the crappy plan I'm in now, and insure myself for less. The absolute cheapest plan I can find to cover my family, a plan that would probably be far worse than what I suffer with now, is over $1000/month.

This sucks. There's no nicer way to put it.

And, if any of you are curious what provider I need to suffer through, it's Oxford Health Plans Liberty Plan. Where I enjoy the liberty of not being able to find a doctor. Whee!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Open letter to DSCC, MoveOn, DLC, DCCC, DNC, etc...

Ever since it became apparent just how unprecedentedly awful and, yes, malevolent and evil, the criminal Bush Administration was, I've been giving to various Democratic and liberal organizations whenever I can afford to do so. I've never been able to donate much, but over the last several years I've probably given at least $25 every couple of months to somebody. I've donated to tha ACLU, the DSCC, the DCCC,, Howard Dean, John Kerry, Chris Dodd, Mary Landrieu, and a handful of other Democratic Party candidates over the last 6 or 7 years.

I was surprised and relieved when Democratic Party candidates saw so much success last November.

Since then, I've seen absolute capitulation and spineless pandering by nearly all Democrats on the national scene. Any craven thing Bush or Cheney wants, happens.

Mukasey was confirmed, and with Democratic support. Impeachment isn't happening. The Kyl-Lieberman bill, accelerating the path to another war of choice, this time with Iran, was passed, with Democratic support. Democrats are on record supporting an extension of a revised and weakened FISA bill, and granting legal immunity to telecom companies charged with illegally recording people's conversations.

As far as I can tell, the Democrats are doing the exact things Republicans before them did. The only difference is how they talk about things. They apologize for these obscene behaviors, and explain why their hands are tied, or why they had no choice for whatever reason, or why different actions would have made no difference in the grand scheme of things.


I'm already stressed out enough trying to pay down my credit card bills, my car note, utilities, etc... Until I see Democratic Congressmen and Senators doing what is RIGHT, polls be damned, I will donate NO MORE to any of them. They've screwed me one too many times. SCREW THEM.

I want the Constitution restored, and I want every federal law passed since the year 2000 repealed if it impacts civil liberties, privacy, and protection of the individual against the government, for starters. I want 'signing statements' clearly and unequivocably prohibited. I want Bush & Cheney impeachment proceedings begun. I want the terrible bankruptcy 'reform' bill repealed. I want non-computerized voting machines, and a paper-trail to prove what votes are, or aren't, cast.

I want the congress to begin doing things for the good of the country, instead of for the good of the congress-critters.


For years I've been thinking about problems with our elections and I've come up with one possible solution that I wish could happen. Stagger, and maybe tweak the term-lengths of the President, Vice-President, Senators, and Congressmen. Maybe make the President/VP term 6 years instead of 4. Maybe let a Congressman/woman serve for 3 or 4 years, and change a Senator's term to 7 years. THEN, prohibit serving more than one consecutive term. NO Re-elections. MAYBE, some period of time after the end of the initial term, allow them to run again. So, for example, 6 years after a term is over, allow the person to run again.

And, all the talk about changing the law to let Schwarzenegger run for Pres? If the folks proposing this change of law truly believe this is a good change, then they should propose the law, written so that it only applies to people born *after* the enactment of the law. That will guarantee the law isn't being written to serve any specific person.

Now I have to beg off and help with the kids. More later.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

From the Learn Something New department:

1) If you're using Windows Remote Desktop to work on a remote windows computer, and you want to ALT-TAB, you'll find the ALT-TAB occurs on your PC instead. This is a problem, especially if there are mouse issues and you can't use the mouse to navigate. I found a solution to this:
Instead of pressing ALT-TAB, use ALT-PageUp and/or ALT-PageDown. WONDERFUL! And, to give credit where due, I learned this at

2) If you order steamed dumplings for lunch, and then let them sit for an hour before you actually eat them, they aren't very good.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Stuff That MATTERS

The below post was copied verbatim from :

Chris Dodd

My Oath of Office

As required by Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution, Members of Congress are bound to support the Constitution. We take the following oath: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter."

As the representatives of the American people, our job is in many ways quite simple: to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." There's no question in my mind that Democrats were given a majority in both the House and the Senate based on their promises to change the course of the country. We were elected to strengthen the nation by ending this war, restoring our standing in the world and returning the nation to an adherence to the rule of law. An integral part of that mandate was to reverse and stop the Bush Administration's assault on the Constitution.

Yet, we today are faced with the possibility that the Senate will see a renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that enables the Bush Administration to broadly eavesdrop on American citizens and provides for retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies that helped them violate civil liberties and the law.

The Constitution of the United States belongs to the American people, not to the Bush administration. It is our responsibility as Senators and Congressmen to stand up and fight for it.

That's why I announced last week that I would put a "hold" on any FISA reform legislation that includes retroactive immunity for telecom companies -- and why, if my hold is not honored for some reason by the Senate Leadership, I pledge to filibuster to stop telecom amnesty from becoming law.

The need to honor our oath of office isn't limited to defending the Constitution. Anyone who has paid attention these last five years knows that there is no military solution in Iraq. We will be more safe and more secure when we get our troops out of Iraq. To continue on this failed course, to continue to fund our involvement in Iraq's civil war is, in my opinion, a dereliction of our oath of office as well.

The path forward is clear: it's time for Congress to set a date certain for withdrawal from Iraq and tie it to funding. If I could, I'd say we start bringing our troops home tonight to the heroes welcome they deserve. At the same time, we have to act to defend the rule of law and support the Constitution.

The truth is, I never thought I'd be running for President on a platform of restoring the Constitution and America's standing in the world or something as elementary as honoring the oath of office we take. But with our security at risk, we haven't any other choice. I haven't forgotten the words I first uttered on January 4th, 1975 and I will dedicate myself to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic until I take the oath of office on January 20, 2009 - this time, as the President of the United States. I hope you'll stand with me and ask your Senators to do the same as they consider further funding for the war in Iraq and retroactive immunity for telecom companies.

Learn more about my campaign at

Posted October 22, 2007 | 04:36 PM (EST)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wow! A really neat toy included with Vista.

I've just learned of a really, really nifty tool included in Windows Vista. NO, this isn't some hidden feature that has all of your gasoline expenses automatically paid by Microsoft. For that you'd probably need to buy the Vista Ultimately Super-Duper-Luper Edition, Deluxe.

What I'm talking about is slightly more down to earth, and even better, is *real*.

If you have Vista, click on Start, and then, in the Run field, enter 'snipping tool', and hit Enter.

I've only just discovered it, but it looks to be an excellent screen capture tool.

That's all for now. Enjoy the tip!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

BREAKING NEWS! Congressmen prove to be hypocrites!

So there's a bill coming up in Congress to ditch the 'Fairness Doctrine'.
H.R. 2905 The Fairness Doctrine is the law giving the FCC the authority and responsibility to force broadcasters to air both sides of political issues.

Now, I'm not sure how I feel about the law itself - on the one hand, I am uncomfortable with the Fairness Doctrine as it conflicts with the freedom of a broadcast outlet to do as he likes. On the other hand, the Fairness Doctrine was squashed in 1985 (link here), & the results have been bad for the country.

BUT, that's not the point of this post.

A couple of Congress-critters, Mike Pence & Greg Walden, have proposed the 'Broadcaster Freedom Act', a bill to specifically prohibit the FCC from reinstating The Fairness Doctrine. In their bill, Pence and Walden write:

Over 200 of our colleagues have joined us as co-sponsors of this important measure...

Considering the significance associated with protecting free speech, we respectfully request that you schedule floor action on H.R. 2905 by Friday, October 12, 2007. While we may not always agree with those who are on the airwaves, as members of Congress and freedom-loving Americans, we should never back down from an opportunity to defend their rights or speak their piece.

OK, so they are big-time supporters of free speech, even speech they disagree with. That's admirable, and a trait too few others in our country share. The shame is that they actually couldn't care less about free speech, as evidenced here:
Vote on Resolution to condemn MoveOn ad questioning the veracity of General Petraeus' testimony before Congress    Both Walden and Pence voted for the resolution.

I guess Walden and Pence only care about the 'right' free speech.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Fun with MAME

Three or four years ago I was visiting my family in New Orleans. While there, I loaded up MAME on my Mom's PC, and showed it to my stepsister's son. He loved it. His birthday was in a few months, and I told him and his Mom I'd go through the ROMs, weed out those that were age-inappropriate, and send the collection to him for his birthday.

As you've probably guessed, I never got around to this project. Rosh Hashannah inspired me to actually get off my duff and get to work. So yesterday I copied the first batch of ROMs to a hard drive, set up a spreadsheet of the filenames, and began testing each out to see which games included inappropriate sex/violence.

Let me say, this is an extremely tedious task. Just on the first disk (of 5), I think there are about 1500 ROM files. I've only copied the 'A's to the spreadsheet so far, and there are about 130 of those. And, after two days of trying out a ROM, cataloging it, and moving to the next, I've tested out 64 files.

I'm somewhat shocked nobody has yet compiled a list of what games have objectionable content and posted the information. It's rare that I can't find answers to whatever I'm seeking online. So I plan to eventually finish this, and post the spreadsheet online, so other parents may benefit from the information. Certainly there is no way to prevent kids from playing something if they want to play it, but there may be others in my position, that want to provide a MAME collection to a child, but don't know what games to exclude before giving the package. Granted, in my case procrastination is going to cause the 'child' to be well into his teens long before I ever finish this project.

(Note: I believe owning ROM-files of games you don't legitimately own is illegal, as would be selling the files. It's probably unlikely any random person using the files will be prosecuted, and I have a hard time believing anybody or any corporation is actually harmed if somebody happens to have a copy of Space Invaders on his PC, but you should be aware it is illegal. Probably along the lines of taping Monday Night Football, and then giving the tape to your brother-in-law or something...)

While the chore is tedious, there are occasional moments that are truly interesting. In 1986 I attended University of New Orleans. Several of my friends also attended. In the UC there was a small gameroom, and in this gameroom there was a game called 'Super Sprint'. My friends Richard, Eric and I played this game nearly every day. The competition was heated, and I couldn't begin to tally how many quarters we must have pumped into that machine. Tonight I'm going through the various ROMs in MAME, and I land on a game called 'American Speedway'. This game seemed very much like a crude version of Super Sprint, so much so that I had to investigate to see which came out first. I can't see why I'd care, but for whatever irrational reason, I was relieved to learn that Super Sprint came out first, depsite having far better graphics, control, and sound.

Super Sprint (c)1986Super Sprint (c)1986

American Speedway (c)1987

Compiling this list also provoked a question I haven't satisfactorily resolved yet: Just where should I draw the line when deciding whether or not to say a game is 'violent'? Conflict is pretty much necessary in any medium for there to be interest. So naturally nearly every game has violence to some degree, though it may be more or less abstract. Puzzle games like Tetris have no violence, Breakout is not violent, and most sports games aren't violent. Just about every other type of game DOES have some violent component, though.

Should every 'shooter' - Space Invaders, Asteroids, Xevious, 1942, etc... be termed violent? Should the earlier games not be called violent because the graphics weren't lifelike? What about Elevator Action ? What about Karate Champ or Punch Out! ? Should there be any difference between a game with a sci-fi 'shoot the bad aliens' theme and a game with identical play mechanics, but an earth-based, military-theme? (I.e., you fly a spaceship and shoot other spaceships, or you fly a fighter jet and shoot other military aircraft.)

Is this violent?

What about this?

Judgements like these, I think, cannot accurately be made by 'outsiders'. Only the person(s) that is raising a child, and knows him or her better than anybody else, is really qualified to decide whether or not a game will be appropriate for that child. What may be overly violent to one person may be obviously buffoonish and unreal to another. After all, many of us grew up watching Wile E. Coyote plot to violently ambush the Road Runner, yet most of us didn't turn out to be violent TNT-blasting, anvil-dropping hooligans.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Xbox mod saga

This was written Sept 7, 2007. It describes my XBox modification project -

I initially had trouble getting the save-game file on to the memory card. In fact, that was probably the most trouble I had during the entire project. Turns out, the USB memory card reader was not a straight-forward, simple USB memory card reader. Neither Windows XP, nor OpenSUSE 10.2, was able to properly detect and read the card-reader.

I explored a bit online, and determined the reader was a Datel 'Action Replay' device. In order to read from & write to the card, I needed to download and install some piece of software, I think called 'Max XBox'. I could then use that software to interact with the memory card.

After that was figured out, the rest was pretty easy.

My 'Platinum Hits' version of 007: Agent Under Fire worked fine for the mod. Here I ran into some minor roadblocks, though:
* IF the save-game file for the mod is loaded directly from the card, instead of being loaded from the Xbox's hard drive, then as soon as you try to load the file the Xbox crashes, and displays an error, and instructions to call Customer Service. This is avoided by simply copying the file from the card to the Xbox hdd, and then loading it from there.
* OK, having learned that, it took me a while to figure out HOW to copy the file from the memory card to the hard drive. It wasn't intuitive at all.
* From what I've read online, with either Splinter Cell or Mechassault you can boot the game, load the save-file, and proceed with the soft-mod. With 007:AUF, you must first start a game, and then you can quit the game and load the save-file.

OK, so now I've managed to copy the file to the Xbox hdd, and loaded it into the system. At this point things were looking very cool. I backed up the eeprom.bin file, and installed the UnleashX dashboard. I finished up the mod with no more issues, and nothing else that was memorable.

Once everything was working, I started having a lot of fun. I've copied to the hard drive:
* Mrs. DrillerX - homebrew version of Dreamcast's Mr. Driller. It's OK, but not nearly as good as the commercial, DC version.
* Mameox - Haven't got this working yet.
* Descent - looks like a real port of the great old DOS game, but hangs each time I try to load it.
* DVD2XPLAY - DVD player for the Xbox that plays all region DVDs, and doesn't require the DVD Playback Kit/remote.
* Asteroids - a pretty bad homebrew Asteroids for the Xbox.
* JumpNBumpX - No idea what this. I thought it was going to be a clone of the old arcade game Bump 'N Jump. Turns out it was some platformer, I think, but I'm using an old, cheap, low-quality 13" TV and I couldn't really make out squat.

So I left the above alone for a night or two, and then Wednesday night I disassembled the system and swapped out the original 8Gb hard drive for an
80Gb drive I salvaged from a broken Maxtor OneTouch. After swapping the drives, my data was all present on the new, larger drive, but for reasons I don't understand the system now booted to the original MS Dashboard again. I uninstalled the softmod, and reinstalled it, and everything returned to normal.

The last thing I did was rip my GTA:Vice City to the hard drive, to improve loading times, and test out a Wiggles DVD that wouldn't play on the unmodded Xbox. The unmodded system complained that the disc was an incompatible region. In reality, I believe the disc has no region encoding at all on it. The newly modified Xbox plays the Wiggles DVD just fine.

So, I'm having a blast with the system and the mod.

My immediate plans are to try and get MAME working on it and copy a lot of my ROMs over to the drive. I may also investigate why Descent hangs at start, as I always liked Descent. And, I want to install Xbox Media Center to the system, and some DVDs and CDs. Of course, I'll probably need to replace the 80G drive with something closer to 300Gb sooner or later, if I do all that.

I was disappointed that I had to ruin a couple of labels on the bottom of the console to open it up, but other than that things went great.

Enormous Thanks to LucidDefender over at Digital Press for his advice/guidance/help, and the Scenyx website and community for the various information and software that was absolutely necessary for this project.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Follow-up to a previous post.

(Subtitled, grammar?, we don't need no stinkin' grammer...)

Comment seen on another blog:
  • Celia said...

    This article is fantastic; the information you show us is very interesting and is really good written. It’s just great!!

More about my geeky interests.

(Currently eating Chicken with Broccoli and listening to Steely Dan - 'My Old School'.)

On August 7th I bought an Xbox. To head off the usual incorrect assumptions, let me clarify: I bought an original Xbox, not an Xbox 360, and I bought it used. (It's true, I do have a mortgage, a car note, and the wisdom to not spend the equivalent of 2 car notes on a videogame console + accessories. And now having read that, my Mom and Dad are proud, even if they still don't understand my hobbies.)

The Xbox is undeniably *NEAT*. While playing around with it shortly after hooking the system up, I inserted my Cowboy Mouth CD, Voodoo Shoppe. I was offered the option to copy the CD to the hard drive, for listening later without the actual disc. I did so, not really expecting to take advantage of the functionality, but hey, it was neat, so why not, right? Fast-forward 3 weeks. At NAVA a couple of weeks ago, I purchased a second-hand copy of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City for the Xbox. Now, you've very likely heard about the Grand Theft Auto games, and formed an opinion about them, whether or not you've played them. Everything you've probably read or heard about the game is probably true. The game is obscenely over-the-top in terms of gratuitous violence, sleaze, display of drug and thug culture, etc... It's truly prurient. HOWEVER, it is also an excellent game. I wouldn't ever condone the playing or watching of this game by anyone not already a mature adult, but it is fun, clever, and well-made. If you aren't aware of the game, it's a spoof of Miami Vice, set in the '80s, with an 'M' rating (mature audiences only).

Well, one of the things I like enormously about the game is the in-game music. Throughout the game you frequently get into cars and drive from one location to another. There are maybe 6 or 8 active radio stations broadcasting in Vice City, and as you travel you can select which station you want to hear. A couple of nights ago, while playing, I was cycling through the channels, and as I hit 'next' after the last channel on the dial, I landed on the tape deck, and it was playing the Cowboy Mouth album I'd copied to the Xbox weeks ago! So, if I'd wanted to, I could listen to that album in-car as I tooled around Vice City! It's just a really neat little feature of the system.

Another neat thing is the additional functionality that can be implemented with a little bit of effort and disdain for Microsoft's preferences. I'm talking about 'modding'. The Xbox can do an amazing array of things when configured to. Over the last week I've successfully modified my Xbox, and have had a lot of fun doing so. Years ago, I spent a Saturday building a couple of adapters that allowed me to use Sega Genesis controllers on my Atari 7800. I had more fun, and spent more time, building the adapters than I did actually playing the system with the controllers once the hack was finished.

Similarly, I'm having more fun 'hacking' my Xbox than playing the games, and in fairness, they are good games.

On the modified Xbox, I've copied a half-dozen homebrew games to the system. I've installed MAME, and am working on copying the MAME ROMs to the system as well. The system is now capable of playing DVDs from any region, not just US Region DVDs. And I intend to swap the hard drive for one with greater capacity, and install Xbox Media Center as well, turning the machine into a full-blown media jukebox.

One unrelated tidbit I thought of while thinking about this post. I'm sure everybody has some topic that fascinates them, and isnot thought of as an interesting topic to discuss with others 'around the watercooler'. It might be the new drapes at JC Pennys, or the Treadmill machine at the sports shop, or some new self-help class at a local community college. Maybe 'Geeks', usually interested in traditional 'geeky' things, are simply more likely to discuss their hobbies with people that aren't necessarily interested in said hobbies, as opposed to being geeky simply because they are interested in something considered silly? I'm not sure if I'm explaining what I mean, but hopefully I'm getting the point across.

Back to work now.
(The Chicken & Broccoli is nearly finished now, and Wilco just faded out, into U2 now....)

PS: Yet again, the Blogger text editor is hosed on some of the paragraphs above. If anybody reading this knows how I can fix or workaround that, I'd love to hear from you.

PPS: Re-opened the post for editing, using Firefox, and this appears to have fixed the weird formatting. Aren't computers grand?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Honest-to-God Truth

I'm not lying, nor exaggerating. Word-for-word, I received the following in a fortune cookie:

"It's over your head now. Time to get some professional help."

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Some Pet Peeves, or, The Curse Of Being Literate

Irritatingly Common Grammar Mistakes:

1) LEARN the difference between less than and fewer. I see and hear this mistake ALL THE TIME. I very frequently hear or read this mistake committed by mainstream, professional publishing organizations that should really know better. Isn't knowledge of proper grammar part of an editor's job?

As written here:
The opinion of a professional translator... Oct 15, 2006

A lot of crap is becoming 'acceptable' in informal/colloquial English. Although I personally would not bother to correct anyone on this point, I personally firmly hold to a very simple rule: if you can count it, it's "fewer," if you can't, it's "less."


Anything else is simply poor English, regardless of who says it.

I couldn't have said it any better.

2) As seen in an email sent to me from Sirius Satellite Radio, a very large company, with a LOT of money that could be used to hire a grammarian or two:

Listen Now: Hear Jon Bon Jovi's recent visit, including why they collaborated with Leann Rimes.

Why who collaborated with Leann? Jon Bon Jovi? Then why use the word 'they'? Or maybe the writer meant Jon Bon Jovi's band, in which case that should have been made clear.

I see mistakes like this nearly every day on mainstream websites, in magazines like Newsweek, on local television news programs, etc.... Admittedly I'm probably just a nerdy crank and shouldn't let such trivial things bother me, but if the mainstream press doesn't care to use proper grammar, how can we expect anybody else to even know what's correct and what isn't?

Monday, July 30, 2007

new photos up at has a new set of photos up. Nate, Maren and I went to Princeton Saturday afternoon to see Mr. Ray perform at the Princeton Barbecue Festival.

Mr. Suburban-Dad was there to take pictures. Just hit the link above, and click on 'Digikam Pictures'.

SEEMS DNSCentral is down right now. Maybe you can get to the website manually:

Friday, July 27, 2007

Growing more aware as time goes by.

Over the last year or so I've begun to occasionally have what feel like flashes of insight into the human condition. This never happened to me previously, and it suggests to me that for most of my life I was walking around fairly clueless about things. (Sad to say, that isn't at all hard to swallow, or any surprise to me.)

Let me give an example -

Earlier this week Nate told me a kid at camp was teasing him. I agonized for about a day trying to decide how to advise him about this. I was always the kid that was picked on in every class, camp, etc... that I attended when I was a kid, so I knew everything that DOESN'T work to defend against other kids, but I didn't know what DOES work. Well, after sleeping on it, I came up with a potential solution, and talked to Nate about it the next day. Whether or not my solution is effective I don't know yet, but that isn't the point of this post.

Point 1) I might have found a solution for Nate to try, something I never realized before. It's likely this 'solution' is obvious, and something I should have figured out when I was 6 years old.

I was thinking about the above this morning. Now, Nate didn't use the word 'teasing', or the phrase 'picking on me' when telling me about the other camper. Being 6 years old, Nate said the kid was calling him names. I introduced the other phrase and word to the discussion.

Extrapolating from this, I wonder if the words I introduced sounded like 'big words' or 'fancy words' to Nate, and maybe he was thinking that they were unneccessary. Fast-forward a little. As we grow older, our vocabulary expands. At various points in life, we may hear some people using 'big words' when perfectly ordinary words might be adequate.

Point 2) MAYBE these terms we think of as 'big words' are just a case of somebody else, with a more developed vocabulary, using words that aren't affectations by their standards. It might be that those speakers are just accustomed to those words and to them, the words are simply words. To the listener that isn't used to hearing the words, they sound pretentious. MAYBE some or most people, once they reach a certain age or level of intellectual growth, simply plateau. Others might keep growing and expanding their vocabulary, and then sound wordy to the others.

Just an idea.

This, led me to yet another insight.

Point 3) As I wrote above, I never really noticed these insights earlier in my life. I wonder if the insights are a consequence of having kids, or having a kid at Nate's level of maturity/education/whatever. Maybe if I'd had my kids in my 20's instead of my 30's, I'd have been less ignorant for the last ten years? If so, that's something nobody ever told me. Might have been nice to know.

And now I've got to get back to work.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Wonderfully put!

Seen this evening over at TPMmuckraker:

Oh, for heaven's sake, just find them all in contempt, arrest all three, and bring this constitutional crisis to a head. I'm really tired of the Democrats' nibbling at the edges of their power while the Republicans laugh at them. We liberals deserve better than this crop of quislings representing us.

Posted by: Michele
Date: July 17, 2007 9:54 PM

This was in reference to Harriet Miers, Josh Bolton, and RNC Chairman Robert Duncan.

Imagine if there were non-evil Federal Government Politicians with a spine... May as well imagine all the people sharing all the world.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Depressed, angry, and bitter.

Lately I've noticed a few things about those people in the United States still clinging to the notion that the current US 'leadership' are good, and that the country is headed in the right direction.

These people will make assertions about Republicans, the right-wing in general, etc..., that have no basis in fact. If challenged, they refuse to answer the challenge or engage in the debate. Rather, they change the subject or simply don't respond at all.

If a charge is levelled against a Republican proponent of our current disastrous policies, whatever the charge may be, the initial defense is almost ALWAYS "Well, Clinton did it (too/first/whatever)". Maybe I should try that - Next time I'm pulled over for speeding I'll simply explain to the officer that it's OK, because Governor Corzine was going 91mph on the Parkway.

The other thing I've noticed is that I think lately these same people are beginning to feel backed in to a corner and desperate. I've been receiving more frequent, and more bitter or angry, emails espousing Republican viewpoints than in the past.

Yesterday, at a July 4th party, I wore a T-Shirt with an image of the United States flag and the phrase "Think - It's Patriotic." The one vocal Republican in the group - a guy who proudly supported Rick Santorum and thinks the man was shafted - said my shirt meant "Think Democratic", and seemed offended by it. He explained to me that we needed Republican leadership now more than ever, because the Democrats have ruined this country. This is coming from a guy, about 30 years old, with a nice house in a nice, upper-class neighborhood, that drives a Range Rover and has no material concerns whatsoever. Spoken after the Republican party has owned the White House for 7.5 years, and controlled Congress from 1994 until last November. And since Novemebr the Democratic majority in Congress has been very slim, and too spineless to exercise any meaningful control anyway. To think the Democrats are the culprits for the destruction of America is delusional.

The 30-percenters have me discouraged and bitter. I felt angry and sad yesterday morning, and didn't really feel celebratory about Independence Day, seeing what has happened to my country. Not knowing what I could do to try and improve things, I decided on the T-shirt I mentioned above. I'd seen the slogan on a bumper sticker and liked it. So I found some Iron-on transfer sheets and a white t-shirt, and designed myself an image.

I found the correct dimensions and proportions of the US Flag online, created the image using MS-Paint, and printed it up. (Note: In the Lexmark printer driver there is a choice to print on an iron-on transfer sheet. This choice will automatically 'flip' the image for you before it prints. Of course, this 'flipped' the image I'd already flipped myself, causing the waste of one iron-on transfer sheet. Don't let this happen to you!)

My shirt looked identical to the one found here:

Wearing the shirt I could demonstrate my beliefs and views (so far, and provided I'm not in view of TV cameras at a Bush Rally), which is what this country is supposed to be all about.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


The linked-to article is about something that is pretty much AS IMPORTANT AS ANYTHING GETS. Please read it, and act on it.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The hypocrisy is stunning in it's enormity!

"Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical -- and it is not the only option before us." - George W. Bush, June 20, 2007  
(Source: )

Unbelieveable! This from the bully that sends so many off to be injured or killed, commanding the US Military forces to go kill others, allegedly in order to defend us, and hopefully save our lives.

What a jerk.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Another FALSE chain email that frequently goes around.

Yesterday afternoon I received the bogus email about Ollie North & Al Gore. Furious, I researched the email, found the truth about it, and posted the absolute falseness of it.

At the bottom of that email, was another little morsel I've received several times before. This story describes some Palestinian terrorist that was captured by the Israelis for blowing up a bus. The story explains that Clinton and his administration pressured Israel into releasing this prisoner, over Israel's objections. Later, the same terrorist was one of the 9/11 hijackers.

This is yet another email story that seems to suggest that people opposing the current occupants of the White House and their policies are foolish and blind to reality.

Unfortunately for the people trying to pass this story off, IT IS ALSO FALSE.

The two terrorists were two different people. The bus bomber Atta was a different person than the hijacker Atta. 
The bus bomber was not captured by the Israelis. Rather, he was captured 
by the FBI, and extradited to Israel for prosecution of the bus bombing he 
was involved in. And later, according to the Jerusalem Post, he was 
released due to "faults in the extradition process".

This misinformation is harmful. Fact-checking this stuff, in the age of the internet, Google, and, is embarassingly easy.

Before anybody forwards any emails of this nature to others, we should all at least make a little effort to confirm the truth of the message.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Heard the one about Ollie North and Al Gore?

There's an email making the rounds on the Internet. I think I receive this particular email about once every 2-3 months.

The story told by this email is that, back during the Iran-Contra days, Ollie North testified that yes, he did use government money to install a security system in his house, and he felt justified in doing so, becuase he's been threatened by "the most evil person alive". (No, he wasn't talking about Cheney.) The email goes on to say Oliver North was referring to Osama Bin Laden.

The story in this email suggests the Senator that's questioning Good Ol' Ollie is disrespectful of North, mocking him.

The final hook of the email is that the Senator was Al Gore.

Gives you something to think about, huh? Looks like North was a prescient, bright guy, and Gore is a fool.

Problem is, the story is FALSE. BALONEY. A CROCK OF MALARKEY.





I am so damn tired of the arrogant, knowitall, smug, and ironically ignorant, selfish, and foolish right-wing whackjobs pushing this sort of trash in my face.

Goddamn bullies. They successfully stole the 2000 Presidency. They successfully stole the 2004 Presidency. They own and control pretty much every influencing tool. They've gotten away with trashing the Constitution. They've gotten away with trashing what used to be a middle class in this country, so that the Yacht and Learjet crowd can have even MORE STUFF, but it isn't enough. These paragons of maturity feel a need to continuously lord it all over the peons and 'lessers', rubbing it in like the insecure bullies they usually are.



If you don't believe it's veracity, follow the embedded links within the article. They lead to the supporting documents, straight from the US Senate. If you still don't believe, there's nothing to be done for you; please refrain from ever voting again.

Possible small problem for Dems in '08?

Like seemingly many liberal (i.e., brain-using-homosapiens) U.S. citizens, I've been watching the Democratic Presidential campaigns, and holding out hope that Al Gore will step in and announce his candidacy, win the nomination, and once again win the Presidential election next year. This, despite all of his protests that he isn't planning to run. Despite the many reports from close friends and associates of Al Gore claiming they don't believe he will return to politics.

Now, suppose that Gore really doesn't ever step in to the campaign, as seems likely when I shut off the emotions and look at things coldly and rationally. Personally, I'll be very disappointed. And only then will I consider donating cash to any of the contenders. I'll undoubtedly feel that the actual running candidates are second-tier, regardless of their qualities or qualifications, and I won't have nearly the same passion for them as I'd have had otherwise.

I'm no expert on politics or the political 'business'. However, *assuming* the various pundits and consultants are right, it's important that voters feel passionate about a candidate if he/she is to be successful.

Could it be problematic for whatever Democrat wins the nomination, if all of the folks who wanted Gore end up feeling a little lukewarm about anybody else?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Memo Pad for Windows Mobile?

Quick, serious question for any Windows Mobile using readers of mine -->

On Palm devices, there is an application called Memo pad. I can very quickly and easily just jot down a note to the Palm, and move on with my life. Later, I can pull the note up and review it. (Example - jot down measurements before visiting Home Depot)

Yesterday I tried to do the same thing on my Windows Mobile 5 device, and found nothing similar. I ended up recording a voice memo to myself on the device, and feeling like a real dork.

Surely there's some simple app like what I'm describing, right?
EDIT - July 11, 10:18PM --> This afternoon, at work, I found and installed 'Millonotes' to the Dash. Later this afternoon I discovered there is no calculator on the Dash either. Sheesh! I wonder if these glaring omissions were rectified in Windows Mobile 6. I've been on the fence about upgrading, but if I keep seeing things like this I may just go ahead and do it.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

A shock, and then motivation.

Several years ago my wife gave me a Handspring Visor. I loved this gadget, but it quickly grew outdated.

A couple of decades ago there was a computer game called Zork. Zork spawned a genre of game known as the 'text adventure', or, as they are now known, Interactive Fiction games. In Interactive Fiction (IF) games, there are no graphics, no sound, and no hand-eye coordination requirements. The game will describe a situation, and the player responds by typing in his commands.


Nearly all IF games may be played through what's called a 'Z-Machine' interpreter. There are freely downloadable Z-Machine interpreters for just about every computer device imaginable - old computers, new computers, the Dreamcast videogame system, most mobile devices, I think even the iPod has one!

Well, I installed a couple of interpreters on my trusty Visor, and while they worked OK, the Visor was pretty slow for these programs. Some of the newer IF games were too taxing for the Visor, and each input would take about 2-3 minutes to process. This rendered the game unplayable. So for a long time I wanted a new, more powerful PDA that I could use to play these games at an acceptable speed.

This past week, as mentioned below, I got myself a brand-new T-Mobile Dash. The Dash is a really neat, Windows Mobile PDA/smartphone. The phone was supposed to have Windows Mobile 6.0, but 6.0 only came out this past week, and my unit happened to still have Windows Mobile 5.0. 6.0 is a free download and upgrade, if I decide to do it.

Windows Mobile 5.0 is on millions of smartphones and PocketPCs worldwide. It's a very mainstream, very popular system, and has been out for at least a couple of years. Surely there is a Z-Machine interpreter available for WM5.

Well, it turns out, there *IS* a Z-Machine application for Windows Mobile 5. It simply is incompatible with my T-Mobile Dash! Argghh! I was so incredulous that there is no Z-machine for my very popular and common PDA/phone, that I searched the 'net for hours thinking I'd find something. Nope. Nothing's out there.

Well, many years ago, before giving up my thoughts of becoming a programmer, I decided I wanted to learn C++. I never got a round tuit, though.

There are several open-source Z-machine interpreters. Open source means I can look at the source code and see how the program is written.

I don't know that I'll ever finish the job, but I'm going to try and write a Z-Machine interpreter for my Dash. Microsoft has some tutorials for developing Windows Mobile software, and they suggest using C++.

So maybe I'll teach myself C++ after all.

My Fun New Toy.

A few years ago (3, maybe?) I was given a cellphone by my company. The company offered to put $100 toward any phone I chose. Being frugal (some call it cheap), and liking to think of myself as sensible, I chose a few-frills, pretty much bottom-of-the-line phone. I got the Nokia 6200. It was sufficient, but not very fancy, and I was envious of other folks with their Treos.

For the last couple of years people at my office have occasionally asked me to get their various smartphones/PocketPCs/etc... working properly with our Exchange server. Properly in this case means that the phones should be able to sync the phone's Outlook with the Exchange server, wirelessly. Any new incoming mail messages should arrive at the phone, and of course the user should be able to send outgoing messages from the phone. When the phone syncs with the server, any contacts, tasks, calendar items, or messages should all synchronize between the phone and the server.

According to Microsoft, this is such a simple operation that it will 'just work', and there's nothing to really do configuration-wise, so there isn't a whole lot of documentation as to making it work.

According to ME, this is a really tough thing to get working.

So, for at least a couple of years people at my office wanted this functionality, and although I tried to get this working a few different times, I never managed to succeed.

Over the last few weeks a client of mine has needed this to work, and asked me to make it happen. This client had purchased several Treos for their staff, and wanted the Treos to do email wirelessly.

After a handful of visits to the client's office to try and get their phones and server communicating, I was hitting nothing but brick walls.

So on Tuesday, June 5, I spent some quality time with Lentworth, over at one of the multiple T-Mobile kiosks in the Rockaway Townsquare Mall, and went home with a brand-new T-Mobile Dash. For any readers outside of the US, the Dash is the HTC S620.

I think this phone is amazing - I love it. The reception/coverage has been nearly perfect everywhere I've used the phone since buying it. The only problem spot is in an area that has no coverage of any cellphone, from any provider.

Vindicating the purchase, at about 3AM Wednesday morning, I managed to get the phone synchronizing perfectly with the client's Exchange server!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Interesting tidbit from my morning commute.

Every weekday morning at 9:00am, Classic Vinyl, on Sirius, plays the Beatles Fab Four - four songs in a row by the Beatles or any of their solo libraries, usually tied together by some sort of theme.

This morning, following the Beatles Fab Four, the DJ played the old Mott The Hoople song 'All The Young Dudes'. The song that played after Mott The Hoople was the Rolling Stones - 'Ruby Tuesday'.

So, we have: Beatles, then 'All The Young Dudes', then Rolling Stones.

The interesting bit? Here's a snippet of lyrics from 'All The Young Dudes':

And my brothers back at home
with his Beatles and his Stones.
We never got it off on that revolution stuff.
What a drag, too many snags.

Myself, I like the Beatles, Stones, and All The Young Dudes (only Mott song I know).

Friday, June 01, 2007

Little Bit of Cowboy Mouth...little bit of crawfish poboy.....

Back in '98 or '99 I was a new transplant to NJ, and learned of Michael Arnone's Crawfish Festival. This sounded like it may be fun, so Jessica and I went to the Fest on one of it's 2 days, and had a good time. The fest seemed to me to be an exact replica of an early, not-too-crowded New Orleans Jazz Fest.

Since then, the Crawfish Fest has grown larger, more crowded, and more expensive, just like the N.O. Jazz Fest. I've been reluctant to go back for those reasons.

But this year we're returning. Cowboy Mouth will be performing Sunday afternoon, and we haven't seen them for a few years. If you aren't familiar with Cowboy Mouth, you're missing one of the finest rock'n'roll bands to ever grace a stage. When CM plays, it's always a good time. When CM puts on one of their better performances, you leave feeling exhilirated. I imagine it's a feeling similar to the feelings evoked by an Old-Tyme Religious Revival, but never having been to one of those I couldn't say for sure. Suffice it to say the emotions are nearly spiritual, very positive, and happy with a capital HAPPY.

But Cowboy Mouth won't be the only attraction. In addition to the various crafts for sale, and the other musicians that will be performing, there is FOOD. Crawfish. Po-Boys. Crawfish Po-Boys. Jambalaya. Etouffee. Red beans and Rice. Beignets. Sno-Balls.

On Monday, I'll be heavier in the stomach, and lighter in the wallet. Life is for LIVING, and I'll be living high Sunday afternoon.

Have a good weekend. If you're in the Northeast, stop by at the festival. I'll be the happy slob chowing down and dancing with his family. Come say Hi.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Out of sight, out of mind.

I believe that, with CNN and Faux News having moved on to other stories, most people in the USA have probably forgotten all abotu Katrina and Rita, and the devastation heaped on the Gulf Coast, and particularly on New Orleans.

I believe most people ALSO believe that the Feds gave a ton of money to New Orleans as disaster relief, and that New Orleans and Louisiana squandered the money, and have no justification for complaint.

The above is grossly inaccurate.

As with everything else the US Government has touched over the last several years, the entire Katrina-related operations undertaken were primarily a case of managing the media, and incompetently screwing up everything else.

Details HERE.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Too busy lately to properly update this blog.

Over the last 3 weeks I've been too busy to take time to update this page. I regret that; there have been many things I wanted to record here, mostly forgotten by now.

Tonight isn't much different. I've been unusually exhausted for the last several days, and wanted to go to bed early tonight. Yet it's now 3:05am, I'm engrossed in a movie on cable (Heist, with Gene Hackman), and just now starting this entry. Anyone with half-a-brain can reasonably conclude I'm an idiot.

So I'm going to try and keep this brief. I just want to try and jot down a few quick notes.

Yesterday evening, going through the mail, I encountered a return-postage-paid survey sent to me by the DSCC. At the end of the survey, there was the expected request for a donation.

I'm a registered voter. I'm registered as an INDEPENDENT. Given that our country was hijacked several years ago by the absolute worst people to ever occupy our government at it's highest levels, I began donating money (not much, but some) to various Democratic campaigns, to try and help eliminate the Republican politicians that have been doing so much harm to our country and the world. Nevertheless, I am still an INDEPENDENT.

Since I began donating to various Dem campaigns, the Natl Dem party has assumed that because I donated money, I am a member of the Democratic Party. Actually, all the donations mean is that I have a minimal amount of wisdom, empathy, and intelligence. Maybe that does make me a Democrat, hmmm......

Back to the point - this presumption on the part of the Democratic Party leadership has been a low-level irritant to me for a while. It seems to me this happens nearly every time I make a donation anywhere. Several years ago, I made the mistake of donating to some Jewish Charity that probably nobody has ever heard of. Since then, we get solicited at least once a week from some organization asking for donations to help a family in Israel put Shabbat dinner on the table. I give plenty to my synagogue and a select few other legitimate groups, and we no longer even answer the phone if CallerID indicates an unrecognized Brooklyn number.

So that's the background. At the end of this survey from the DSCC, there was the usual plea for cash, but it was worded such that by donating, I would become a proud member of the DSCC.

I declined to provide more money. It REALLY doesn't help their case that I received this mailing on the same day I read about their latest capitulation to the White House. They're Spineless.

(ASIDE: The movie, HEIST, just ended. Pretty good.)

So, that's one point I wanted to mention.

Another political point - For once, I'm actually pretty pleased with several of the potential Democratic nominees for Pres. I don't like Hillary, but I think she could make a good President, though I do have some reservations about her. I like what I know about Bill Richardson. I don't believe he's got even a snowball's chance in hell of winning the nomination, but I kind-of like Kucinich. I don't dislike Obama, and his optimism is extremely refreshing. I'm still holding out very strong hope that Gore will step in and win it all (again). And even if he doesn't, I just read an incredible speech by John Edwards. Read it yourself. I actually like, and would be proud to have as President Bill Richardson, Barack Obama, Denis Kucinich, John Edwards, or Al Gore. I could easily get behind any one of them. Hell, if we could get a Gore-Edwards White House, I think that would be a wonderful start to repairing the tragic damage that has been done to our country since the current goon squad began their occupation of the White House.

Shifting Gears...

I frequently fill out surveys online for a couple of polling organizations. I seldom remember having dreams. I only believe I actually do dream because according to established science everybody dreams, whether they recall doing so or not.

Well, the two seemingly unconnected facts above come together. I actually remember a dream I had last night. AND, I remember answering a survey question that asked if I recall my dreams or not. Ironically, I can't think of any survey I've filled out that asked the question about dreams, and for all I know, I encountered that particular survey question in a dream!

So, what do I recall about last night's dream? It was a little odd, and probably of no interest to most people. I remember standing in front of a videogame store in a mall, similar to Babbage's or Electronics Boutique, looking at the display in front and struggling over a decision of whether or not to buy one or several games. To a videogame afficionado though, the specifics just might be a little interesting.

I was trying to select among 3 brand-new games for the Sega Saturn. The Saturn went off the market in late-1998, according to Wikipedia. Also, I was never a very big Saturn fan, and have hardly played the system. So it's strange that it would make such an appearance in my dream. Just to be clear, my dream occurred, as far as I can tell, in the present.

There were 3 titles I was considering for purchase. Two were games packaged similarly to the Saturn Netlink. White box, grey and blue lettering, very clean looking. Of the two titles, I cannot remember one, and the other was some 2007 version of a baseball game. The games were about $50 each. The third title was in a larger box, though it was styled similarly. This title was a "Teach Yourself Spanish" program, and with purchase a 'free' Japanese Zen Garden was included in the package. This item was about $70.

I distinctly recall trying to decide whether or not to get all three titles, or just the two games, or just the Zen Garden/Spanish instructional program.

Dreams Are Weird.

I wish I could write more - previously this week I saw my first Opera (not the web browser), I let my wife drive my car for the first time since I bought it in November, lots of things have been going on at work, my wife & I just celebrated our 8th anniversary, I recently received my copy, #108 of 250, of Adventure II for the Atari 5200, and many other happenings, but it's now 4:50am, and I really need to hit the sack before work tomorrow. I'm really bad at keeping things brief.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Did some reading tonight.

Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.
-- Albert Einstein

Early this evening I headed for Newark International Airport to catch a flight to Atlanta. I will be visiting a client tomorrow and Wednesday to install Microsoft CRM. Wednesday evening I return to NJ, the land of 20° swings from one day to the next.

I seldom fly, driving whenever possible, as the flying experience became dreadful over the last 25 years or so. When I arrived at the airport, I used the eCheck in kiosk, and was offered a seating choice! And the Exit Row was still available! I got myself a seat with no seat in front of it! I had more leg room than the high rollers in First Class. Of course, my seat was barely wider than a 6-pack, and the seatback reclined whenever I leaned back, even without me pressing the button to lean back. Also, going through security on my way to the gate, I had to throw out an unopened tube of toothpaste, an unopened bottle of water, and my shaving cream. At least the air travel experience held true to expectations.

My laptop is a little big, and very unwieldy in the cramped space of an airline seat, so on tonight's flight I didn't even try to take the laptop out of it's bag. I thought about taking out the Gameboy, but it wasn't worth the effort either.

I'd brought with me a book that I'd been wanting to read for several years - Driving Mr. Albert. On the flight down, I read the first 96 pages, almost halfway through the book. It's an entertaining book, and I spent a lot of thought wondering whether or not it's actually true, or a work of fiction. Every so often I'd come across a great quote, such as the one up above.

Now, I need to get some sleep.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


Finally, a Congressman possessing courage!

Denis Kucinich may look as goofy as they come, but the fact that he's not a Robert Redford lookalike should not matter. This motion ought to be strongly supported by anybody that cares at all for the USA.

While I don't expect anything, I fervently hope this action receives the mainstream media coverage it deserves.

1.20.09, but who's counting?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Yet more about the 2004 "Election" (or theft, to use the more accurate term)

Tragically, it seems our country doesn't really care that the current cabal that has hijacked and horribly damaged the country didn't really win the 2004 election either. I've seen many, many articles detailing all of the evidence showing GWB couldn't have possibly won in 2004 (or 2000, for that matter), yet none ever seem to get mainstream press coverage. Hell, Rolling Stone had a few cover stories about this, and it still seems under the radar. I don't get it, but I'll do whatever I can to spread the word.

PLEASE, read this article:

To stay informed, you should also visit occasionally.

THINK, it's good for you.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Things I've Learned Over the Past 24 Hrs., Vol. 2

1) LogMeIn-ITReach is an amazing product. I'm very, very tempted to purchase it and use it to support many of my freelance clients. Mom - if you're reading this, I'll probably try to use this to help with your printer problem.

2) I just solved a maddening problem involving Outlook Express 6. On this particular system, when trying to print a message from within OE6, the message would print out the HTML code that comprised the message, rather than the properly formatted message.

I found countless pages online telling me to disassociate .tmp from Notepad. These were all very old pages, and this solution was inapplicable to the involved system. I also came across many pages explaining how to solve the problem wherein OE6 doesn't print the headers to an email. Well, the headers were printing perfectly fine, thankyouverymuch.

I finally found a suggestion to reset Internet Explorer to the default web browser. I did that, and all of a sudden email messages printed with the proper formatting, and no longer included all of the HTML code in the printout. Unfortunately, the problem of the missing headers is now present. Fortunately, that problem is much more widely discussed online, there are a few workarounds, MS is aware of the problem, and has a hotfix available by request. I've requested it, and hopefully the new problem will be fixed once I receive the file from Microsoft.

Good night.

Monday, April 16, 2007

So, I just heard Barbara Ann by the Beach Boys....

And got to thinking about the old pop song 'Bomb Iran', that was such a big Flash In The Pan almost 30 years ago.

When the song was popular in the late-70's, I liked it a lot, and was all for bombing Iran. Of course, I was only 10 or 11 years old, so I'm curious how more mature, intelligent folks felt about things.

Before the current embarrassing mess with Iraq began a few years ago, I was against starting a war with Iraq, but not entirely sure about that. I'm now very much against starting an additional war against Iran.

I see 2 likely reasons for my different feelings on the matter then, and now.

Back then, I was very young, uninformed, and easily swayed by jingoistic hype. There is a second, valid explanation, as well. Iran had actually done something directly aggressive to the United States, something that was provocative and deserving of retaliation. In contrast, Iraq hadn't provoked the US in 2003, and Iran hasn't attacked us yet in current times.

I wasn't intelligently aware of world affairs in the late-1970s, however, so I'm still wondering how mature and wise adults felt about things then. I suspect they would have been against military action. If anybody reading this was a "grown-up" then, care to share your memories?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Man exits the proverbial cave, discovers the charm of Zelda

Long, long ago (mid-1980's), in a galaxy far, far away (friend's apartments, Baton Rouge, LA), I played the original 'The Legend Of Zelda' videogame on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). This game was enormously popular, and within the videogame playing universe the conventional wisdom held that Zelda was an excellent game. Ground-breaking, wonderful, entertaining, etc... Pick a superlative, and it's likely the word was applied to Zelda by somebody somewhere.

Well, I played the game, and whatever the appeal was, I missed it. I truly didn't "get" the game. It seemed to me that the game was nothing more than wandering around, and occasionally running into some minor on-screen opponent that you'd have to engage in combat, and the combat was far too easy.

According to the Zelda webpage linked to above, the game was released in 1987. I began playing videogames when Pong arrived, in the early-1970's. So for about 15 years I'd been playing videogames before encountering Zelda. In fairness, Zelda was substantially different in a lot of ways from most of the games that preceeded it. Well, I *liked* the games I'd been playing for over half my life, and I didn't really like Zelda.

The games I liked were fast-paced, hand-eye coordination challenges. I liked games like Spy Hunter, Xevious, Star Castle, Berzerk, Marble Madness, and Defender. All of the games I liked were adrenaline-pumping and heart-racing - Zelda was a leisurely stroll through various screens. I found it BORING.

I was mature enough to recognize that the game must surely have merit, but I just didn't understand or appreciate it myself. Curiously, I liked the Atari VCS game Adventure a lot, and the fundamentals of Zelda are similar to Adventure. (BTW, if you liked Adventure also, and if you have an Atari 5200, Adventure II is on the verge of release. Check it out here.)

Since that time, there have been many other Zelda games. (According to the Zelda website I referred to, there have been 14 additional Zelda games.) I never bothered to try any of them, and many have been highly praised and quite popular.

When the latest Zelda game arrived in December 2006 I read a lot of praise online about the game. I'd been thinking about picking it up to try it out, and debating whether I should get the Gamecube version, or wait and get the Wii version once I get a Wii.

Then, on March 30, I stopped at my friend Joe's store, Digital Press, for the latest NAVA meeting. While there, I purchased a copy of Zelda, The Wind Waker for my Gamecube. For the last couple of weeks Nate and I have been having a blast playing this game.

Sunday evening Nate got in trouble and the game was banned for this week, but until then we were plowing through the game and having a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to resuming play this Sunday.

I may be late to the party, but I'm enjoying it thoroughly.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Things I've learned over the last 24 hours, Vol.1

1) If Windows XP is installed to a PC running Windows Vista, and you are careful to install XP to a seperate, unused partition, so as to not damage Vista, then, upon completion, you can no longer boot Vista. ** Vista No Longer Uses The Boot.ini File. ** The CORRECT way to do this is to install XP FIRST, then Vista.

SOLUTION to the problem, if you've already done the damage:
a) Run a Vista repair install.
b) In Vista, download and install a program called EasyBCD (currently v1.52)
c) Use EasyBCD to add a boot entry for Windows XP, allowing you to repair the XP boot option that was removed when Vista was repaired.

2) Lexmark Optra S1250, or other Optra S-series printer giving error 241 paper jams?
           The problem is most likely caused by worn pick-up rollers on the bottom of the printer, positioned over the paper tray. When the rollers get worn, they no longer are able to pick the paper up from the tray. Rather than trying to find and order replacement rollers, and then wait for the rollers to arrive, you can fix the problem yourself in about 2 minutes:
a) remove the paper tray and toner cartridge, then turn the printer on it's side so you can easily see the bottom.
b) visually locate the rollers - there are 2, and they look like off-white rubber cylinders, about 1.5 inches long.
c) Pull the rollers off the metal spindle they are on.
d) Turn the rollers inside-out.
e) Replace them on the spindles, place the printer back right-side-up, replace the toner and paper-tray, and congratulate yourself on saving the printer service fee.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I Don't Like Change. I Don't Like Change. I DON'T LIKE CHANGE.

In mid-'98 I moved from Metairie, LA to New Jersey and took a job with what would probably be called a dot-com company. Things with the company are rocky right now, and I'm considering leaving. I used to love working with this company, but things changed.

In mid-'98, all things considered, I enjoyed life, I was proud to be an American, and I think we had it pretty good in America. Diebold happened in 2000 & 2004, and things changed.

In mid-'99 I bought a house, and simultaneously signed up for Speakeasy DSL Internet service, which I've had continuously since then. My SE service is slower and more expensive than Comcast cable or Verizon DSL service, but the service/support and liberal Terms of Service are so refreshing and outstanding that I've done nothing but rave about Speakeasy for the 8 years I've been a customer. Last spring I cancelled my Verizon phone service and moved my home phone service over to the Speakeasy DSL line as well. Then, this morning I received an email from Speakeasy informing me that Best Buy has bought SE. According to the email, nothing will change. I don't believe it. I'm willing to give the new, Best Buy-owned Speakeasy a chance, if for no other reason than changing will be a major pain, but I expect things to change for the worse over the next 6 months to a year.

I Don't Like Change. In fact, I'm thinking I ought to make that the name of this blog.

There is a potential upside to this, though. My neighbor recently got Verizon FIOS. For $99/month, he's getting digital TV to 2 different TVs in his home, VOIP, and unprecedently fast Internet service. For a while I've wondered if maybe I should cancel SE and get cable or Verizon, in order to spend less and get faster service, but I always stuck with SE for the less mainstream benefits - liberal TOS, 2 static IPs, competent and friendly tech support, news servers, free national dial-up, etc.... If SE begins to suck and eliminates all of those benefits, I'll simply grab FIOS and save money while surfing at much higher speeds. Things could be worse.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Saved from watching yet another TV show.

A few minutes ago my lovely wife Jessica called me while on her way home, to ask me to record a television show for her. Specifically, CSI:Miami.

Now, I don't really care for police dramas, and it seems that lately there is ALWAYS at least one episode of Law & Order or CSI running on some channel or another. However, I grudgingly moved my lazy butt to the den and recorded the show for her. There was no time to program the VCR, so I turned the TV on to CBS and waited the 2 minutes for the show to begin, so I could use Instant Record and tape the full hour automatically.

The result is that I was watching as the show began, and saw the bit before the opening credits roll. Now, as I said above, I don't usually like police shows, and CSI is no exception. I have minimal interest in watching these shows, and never seek them out.

The beginning of this episode began to hook me, however. The scene was interesting, and I started thinking about carrying the laptop and AC Adapter into the den so I could watch the show as I worked and browsed the web. Then, just before the credits rolled and the commercials aired, the star of the show, that guy from NYPD Blue, opened his mouth and said a few typically 'smug'n'smarmy' lines, and I remembered why I never want to watch this particular show.

Thank you Mr. Caruso, for sparing me the desire to waste an additional hour of my life in front of the boob tube.*

*For those of us that really do want to see boobs, why can't the boob tube return to the old-fashioned glory days of Jiggle-TV, like Three's Company and Charlie's Angels? 8-) The only boobs that frequent TV nowadays seem to be on CSpan or Fox 'News'.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Take it down to a bite-size chunk.

Climate Change.

Major Pet Peeve: The proper term for the environmental changes occurring right now is CLIMATE CHANGE, **NOT** Global Warming.

When the process is called Global Warming, it frames the situation such that it can easily be disputed by unseasonably cold or snowy weather, when, in fact, extreme climate swings in both directions are occurring.

Now, aside from pedantry, what's the point of this post? I had an idea this morning. As a child, I recall there were frequent occasions in Sunday School Hebrew School, or other synagogue-related events where donations were solicited to plant trees in Israel. I could easily be mistaken, but I believe that this organized program soliciting American Jewry to donate funds to Israel, specifically for large-scale planting and production of TREES in Israel, played a large part in transforming Israel to a vibrant oasis capable of self-sustenance.

Now, I read something this morning about the USA refusing to sign some treaty, having something to do with trees having an effect in combatting climate change. (Aside: I was unsure of the proper spelling for combatting - one t or two? Turns out, lists both spellings. Some authority.) I depressingly filed that article under 'more of the same' and didn't pursue it. But it sparked an idea related to the idea of planting trees in Israel 30 years ago.

The whole climate change crisis seems awfully daunting and overwhelming to me, and probably most other folks. Practically speaking, I've got pretty much all I can handle just keeping my day-to-day life together and my mortgage paid. I don't have the resources to erect solar panels on my roof, as much as I'd love to lower my monthly utility payments. I'm not prepared to trade in my V6 Station Wagon (indulgent, I know, but I love the car) on a $25k Prius, and can't lose the functionality of my wife's minivan.

BUT, I can probably plant an additional tree in my backyard.

I doubt it would solve the problem on it's own, and would undoubtedly just be a small part of a larger solution, but maybe if large numbers of people, all over the world, made a committment to simply plant one tree somewhere, maybe that could help.

And if some capable group organized a legitimate effort to solicit tree-planting world-wide, so much the better.

As for me, I'll just try to plant the tree near the edge of my yard, so the leaves land closer to the curb, minimizing the additional raking I need to do every fall.

Sign Of The Times

What some call Bush-bashing, others call THINKING.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Nigerian Dwarf Goats For Sale

A lot of ground's been crossed since my last entry, so this will likely end up being a pretty lengthy post.

Our plan to leave NJ on Wednesday evening was tweaked to have us leave NJ Thursday morning. As things worked out, we finally hit the road sometime around 1:00PM Thursday afternoon. Feeling good about finally hitting the road, we confidently began our route as plotted by those helpful computers over at Expedia. The first substantial leg of our journey had us cross most of Pennsylvania on Interstate 78.

Soon after we started our trip we began seeing signs on the side of the highway stating that I78 was closed at PA Rt. 100. No reason was offered. When we entered PA, we stopped at the Welcome Center to ask about the closure. The Welcome Center employee at the desk was not entirely welcoming, and wouldn't tell us why the road was closed, or offer an suggested alternative routes. He could barely be bothered to help us find the maps stacked on the counter somewhere amidst scores of marketing brochures. Eventually I found the maps, took one, and we left.

I tried to devise an alternative route using the PA Highway map. Normally I'm pretty good at this. For whatever reason, I was having a lot of trouble finding a satisfactory east-west route across Pennsylvania last week, using the map I had.

We proceeded very slowly across PA, using very slow-moving two-lane roads. Crossing many rural areas of Pennsylvania on these non-Interstate roads, I was exposed to several entertaining signs. The first I saw was painted on the back of an eighteen-wheeler. I am by no means mockingn the message. In fact, I respect and admire it a little bit: "Life is God's gift to you. What you do with it is your gift to God." The messages grew weirder from there. The other messages I saw were:

  • Are you living slightly left to living right? -- this was Jess' favorite.

  • Ye who lives after the flesh shall die. - As opposed to those that don't? This was my favorite, and the most 'mock-worthy' sign we saw.

Finally, a non-religious sign that took the cake for weirdness: Nigerian Dwarf Goats for sale.

After a few hours slogging through the state highways of PA, we returned to I78, where we almost immediately saw a sign stating that the exit to I-81 was closed. I-81 was our next leg, so we exited I-78 and returned to the map, again looking for alternatives. Within about 15 minutes I noticed on the map that weren't close to I-81 yet, and decided we would return to 78 and stay there until we got near 81, and would then worry about how to get to 81 from 78 at the closed exit.

Turns out, the exit wasn't closed when we reached it, and from there the trip proceeded smoothly. More later.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Liftoff delayed.

Sadly, as it turns out we aren't leaving NJ tonight. In a few minutes I'm going to pack the van, and then go to bed.

The new plan is for us to hit the road first thing tomorrow morning.

Still excited to get to N.O., though.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

T-Minus about 24 hours.

Tomorrow evening, about this time, we ought to be pulling out of our driveway and heading for relative warmth, friendly crowds, and mobs of people chanting 'Throw Me Something, Mister!". For the first time since migrating to the hostile Northeast in '98, I'm returning to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.

My suitcase is packed. The laptop bag & camcorder are packed and by the front door. Our digital camera batteries are charged.

For the first time since I was a little kid, and truthfully the first time I can even remember, I plan on dressing up for Mardi Gras. A week from today, I will be Anthony, the hungry Wiggle.

Words can't describe how much I want this vacation. I am extremely eager to pack the car and hit the road. My workday tomorrow will seem to progress so slowly it's possible time will flow backwards. But boy, once I hit my hometown, things should be excellent.

There simply isn't enough time for me to do all the things I want to, which really means to eat at all the places I want to eat. There's a CBD grill I discovered last July (don't recall the name) when I went down for my high school reunion. Danny & Clyde's for a good Po' Boy, followed up next door at Casey's for the best snowballs. (Pay no attention to the uptown snobs that swear by Hansen's - Casey's is tops.) Bud's Broiler, for a #4 with Hickory Smoke Sauce and onions. Camellia Grill's Chef Special omellette. Anything from Cafe Paniche. Harbor Seafood. Deanie's. Whatever Al Copeland is doing now. Cooter Brown's Cheese Fries. Daiquiries.

Oh, and then there's King Cakes, almost forgot about them!

I can't wait for Nate and Maren to witness Endymion, or to bring them to daytime parades on Veteran's Ave.

Swingin' at Mid City Rock N' Bowl.

I just can't wait for this trip.

Naturally, I'll have to spend tomorrow morning clearing snow from our sidewalks, driveway, and cars. That's Nature/Fate/God's way of reminding me what the great Northeast is like, lest I forget it while enjoying the mid-50's evenings in New Orleans.

To quote the Animals, "We gotta get outta this place...."