Saturday, December 11, 2010

Karmic payback can be a bitch.

Over the last couple of months I've spent a lot more than usual. There were some unplanned home repairs, but some of the expenses were nothing but indulgence, and could easily be considered unwise.

I think God, Karma, or whatever is making sure I know that nothing comes without a catch.

Our old TV was showing definite signs that it was about to die. The cumulative wisdom I found online seemed to suggest the best deals on TVs occurred just before Black Friday, so I went ahead and got myself a new 50" TV just before Thanksgiving.

High on electronics shopping, judgement obviously taking a vacation, I then ordered a new Playstation 3 on Black Friday. While waiting for the system to arrive I went to a friend's videogame store and bought a copy of Bioshock.

Why is any of this bad? Why am I complaining about getting all of these neat toys?

The PS3 arrived 2 days ago. I began playing Bioshock last night, and played some more tonight. Bioshock looks like a neat game, and so far I'm liking it a lot, and would like to keep playing it.

BUT IT'S MAKING ME SICK. After about 30 minutes of gameplay, I am suffering major motion sickness, and have to stop, or I'm afraid I'll vomit. When this occurred last night I figured I'm overdue for a bout with the flu, and I was very tired, so maybe I was getting sick. But I woke up this morning feeling fine. Then after playing for another 35 or 40 minutes tonight I again felt very queasy. It's now been about an hour since I stopped playing and I'm still feeling sick.

I've never had any problem with motion sickness, so this is a new and seriously unpleasant and disheartening thing for me.

I read a post online about this, and a suggestion was to play for short lengths of time, and gradually build up a tolerance, essentially teaching my brain to handle this better.

All I can say is ARGHHH!!!

Funny PS: I'm not making this up, but about 30 seconds after I posted this, Reese Witherspoon used the phrase "karmic payback" on David Letterman.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Things I'm grateful for.

Wow, I can't believe I haven't updated this for three months.

I'm going to keep this short and sweet. Listed here, in no particular order, are things I'm thankful for:

Cliched as it is, I'm thankful for my family.

I'm thankful thagt after the last two years of struggling to make ends meet, I'm now earning a living and capable of paying my bills.

I'm thankful for Abbey Road.

I'm thankful for Alice's Restaurant Masacree. I discovered this song about 20 years ago at Michael Cohen's house on Thanksgiving Day, and have ritually listened to it every single Thanksgiving day since then. It doesn't grow old.

I'm thankful that tending to the leaves in my yard during the fall, and tending to the snow in my yard during the winter doesn't debilitate me as much as it did when I first started tackling those things 12 years ago. Practice and almost-regular visits to the gym have noticeably increased my stamina.

I'm thankful for generous relatives.

I'm thankful for The Princess Bride.

I'm thankful for the luxury of getting to drive anywhere I want, whenever I want. On the horizon, our krewe will be heading to Metairie,LA, for example.

That's all. And remember, you can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant (excepting Alice).

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Seen this morning on HuffPo

That's the drag about being on the Left. You have less power than a gnat with a bad leg, but everybody accuses you of running the world.
          -- Zogimperator

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Goodnight Iraq.

I turned on the boob tube tonight and learned that the last US Comabt Troops are exiting Iraq now, as I type this.

Yes, 50,000+ US Troops will remain in Iraq. And yes, our government and politicians still do things I disagree with.

But seeing our combat presence in Iraq finally leave evokes in me feelings of relief, happiness, and pride in our country.

Trouble syncing Windows phone to PC? Me too.....

Yesterday I discovered Microsoft OneNote, and almost immediately decided this was a really, really neat program. I wish I'd investigated it when I first encountered it a few years ago.

OneNote can sync with my Windows Mobile phone, but that wasn't happening. Eventually I discovered my phone hadn't sync'ed at all with my laptop since mid-July. (My email/contacts/calendar items sync wirelessly via T-Mobile, so I very rarely try to sync the phone with the PC.)

I spent a lot of time yesterday, and a few more hours tonight trying to resolve the problem. The computer runs Windows 7, so I've got Windows Mobile Device Center v6.1 installed. The phone is a T-Mobile Touch Pro 2, running Windows Mobile 6.5.

I tried every solution I found online (via Bing, Google, T-Mobile, Microsoft, and HTC). No luck.

I found and unpackaged the USB cable originally provided with the phone and tried it. No luck.

After a few repairs and reinstalls of Windows Mobile Device Center (WMDC), several reboots of the PC and/or the phone, a system restore, and restarting services on the PC, all to no avail, I was beginning to lose hope.

Finally I set ActiveSync on the phone and WMDC to sync via Bluetooth. The sync started successfully and is still going. Hopefully it will eventually complete, and hopefully afterward the phone will sync via the USB cable as well. Here's hoping....




Another reboot later, and I can report that I still cannot sync via USB cable. Bummer.

I guess I just need to sync via Bluetooth when I need to sync.

Now I need to get to sleep.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A similar letter to Best Buy

Earlier this evening I read about Best Buy's donation to Minnesota Forward. I am writing this email to you to express my enormous disappointment with this decision.

Since Best Buy opened their first store in Louisiana several years ago I've liked shopping at Best Buy for electronics. I've taken my parents there when they wanted new AV equipment or computers, bought countless printer cartridges there, and have bought videogames and music CDs at Best Buy for as long as I can remember.

I am now seriously considering a personal boycott of Best Buy stores. Don't think I'm singling Best Buy out. I read that other corporations including Target also donated to MN Forward and I've sent a similar letter to them.

I am vehemently opposed to Rep. Emmer's immoral stands and offensive, un-American statements on many topics. Even if I agreed with him however, I think it is improper for a corporation to donate corporate funds to a political campaign, even if the donation happens to be legal.

I don't see any way for Best Buy to somehow 'ungive' the donation already given, and that would be dishonorable even if it could be done. While you cannot undo what has already been done, I'd very much like to see Best Buy donate an equal amount of money to an organization supporting Mr. Emmer's opponent, to try to mitigate the MN Forward donation.

Thank you for your time, and I sincerely hope I can continue shopping at Best Buy in the future.

My letter to Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel

Earlier this evening I read about Target's donation to Minnesota Forward. I am writing this email to you to express my enormous disappointment with this decision.

Since discovering Target stores in the late-1990s I've liked shopping at Target and turn to Target first for almost every type of product I shop for. I go to Target for housewares, clothing, electronics, music CDs, small furniture, toys and pet food.

I am now seriously considering a personal boycott of Target stores. Don't think I'm singling Target out. I read that other corporations including Best Buy also donated to MN Forward. I intend to send a similar letter to them.

I am vehemently opposed to Rep. Emmer's immoral stands and offensive, un-American statements on many topics. Even if I agreed with him however, I think it is improper for a corporation to donate corporate funds to a political campaign, even if the donation happens to be legal.

I don't see any way for Target to somehow 'ungive' the donation already given, and that would be dishonorable even if it could be done. While you cannot undo what has already been done, I'd very much like to see Target donate an equal amount of money to an organization supporting Mr. Emmer's opponent, to try to mitigate the MN Forward donation.

Thank you for your time, and I sincerely hope I can continue shopping at Target in the future.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Letter to Newsweek - regarding the common opinion about upcoming November elections

Lately I seem to frequently read or hear in Newsweek and elsewhere about low poll numbers for President Obama and Democrats in Congress. The low poll numbers seem to me to be in response to imprecise questions such as “Are you happy with President Obama’s performance on the economy?”, or “Are you happy with his handling of the BP Oil Spill?”.

The poll results published for mainstream consumption never seem to mention any follow-up questions, such as WHY the respondent feels the way he/she feels. Yet the results are routinely presented to suggest the country is likely to vote out a substantial number of Democratic candidates this November, and the presumption is that those seats will be taken by Republican candidates.

I haven’t seen any mention of another possibility though. What if a sizeable portion of voters feel as I do? I am unhappy with President Obama’s performance on nearly every issue, and far more unhappy with most Democrats in Congress, but will most likely vote for them all again. As opposed to the very vocal right-wing speakers on political television programs I feel that President Obama and Congress have consistently not gone far enough with their actions. If my choice is between somebody that will do something absolutely opposite to what I desire, or somebody that will take a baby-step towards what I desire, the choice is clear. It is not at all a wonderful choice, but there’s not a lot there to struggle with.

If a polled voter is unhappy with a particular officeholder’s performance, that doesn’t necessarily mean the voter will vote for the challenger. Assuming that is a mistake.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Shopped for a clock radio lately?

A few years ago I decided my very old AM/FM clock radio had served an honorable term of duty and should be put out of it's misery. I replaced it with a fancy clock radio with CD player that I purchased from Linens and Things as they went out of business. The fancy model was an Emerson, but it seemed like a decent unit and I bought it against my better judgement.

The clock-radio never worked right, and I finally decided recently to just junk it and get something that works properly. (If anybody reading this is researching an Emerson model CKD5811, DON'T BUY IT. STAY FAR AWAY FROM THIS DEFECTIVE, POORLY ASSEMBLED PIECE OF MEDIOCRITY.)

I spent some time today researching online, and then driving around shopping for a CD/AM/FM clock radio. (I never even looked for AM, truth be told.)

iPod docks have just about eliminated CD clock radios. There are very low-quality cheap clock radios with CD functionality, and there are $250+ clock radios with CD players from the likes of Bose and Cambridge Soundworks. Other than one less-than-impressive $40 Sony there are no other CD-clock-radios available.

Rather than spending a ridicuolous amount or buying another cheap piece of junk I'm skipping the whole thing.

Listen up any potential decision makers at Panasonic, Pioneer, Sharp or Aiwa: If you produce a decent-sounding, decent-quality, stereo clock radio, with CD-player, for under $100 I'll buy it. And I'll bet I'm not the only one.

When I asked for a TV-remote/cellphone combo unit you ignored me. I'm giving you another chance here! :)

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Lebron James announcement

I'm not at all interested in pro basketball. Currently with a group of guys watching the Lebron James announcement on ESPN. Tonight's the first time I've ever seen Lebron.

He looks like a black Kelsey Grammar.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Is it wrong to like blue?

So the Uruguay v. Netherlands soccer match just began. All I know about either team is how to spell the country’s names. Is it wrong to root for Uruguay, solely because I like the sky-blue jerseys more than the orange jerseys worn by the Netherlands players?

A Very Brief Comment on NJ Governor Chris Christie

For whatever it's worth:

On April 3, 2010 I sent a very short email to the NJ Star-Ledger and cc'd Governor Christie's office. (I realize I usually write a lot. To prove the letter is short, I've pasted it to the bottom of this post.)

Today, July 6, 2010, I've received a brief, canned response from the Governor Christie administration, and nothing in the response suggests my letter was ever even read. Not much of a surprise, but still disappointing.

I'm not writing about my own opinions concerning Gov. Christie in this post. I might do that some other time.


My message to them:
For as long as I can recall there has been discussion and hand-wringing about our state's financial situation. Perennially there are excessive expenses, and insufficient revenue.

A couple of years ago I heard a news story regarding a plan in Utah that had the state operate with a 4-day workweek. (

State workers would work an extra 2 hours each of the 4 days, and then have an extra day off, resulting in no total reduction of hours worked.

I think this is very much worth exploring, and has the potential to save significant money, as well as reduce environmental impact, wear and tear on our highways, etc...
Thanks for your time.


Their response:

Dear Mr. .....:

Thank you for your views and suggestions regarding the Fiscal Year 2011 Budget. I appreciate hearing your ideas to help restore fiscal sanity to our State.

Given these tough economic times, we had some very tough decisions to make in this year's Budget. We had to balance the need to get our State's economy back on track by not raising taxes and making sure we only spend money we have. At the same time, we must never forget our obligation to protect the most vulnerable of our State. That is why the Budget that I signed on June 29 reduces spending by nearly 9 percent, demands a higher level of efficiency and accountability across state government and maintains funding for critical programs.

I believe that while the choices we made in this year's Budget were tough, they were necessary. Today's sacrifices in which we are all sharing have put our State back on a path to lower taxes, more jobs and a place where we can all afford to live.

Again, thank you for writing. Best wishes.

Chris Christie

July 4th musings

Between viewings of various fireworks displays this weekend I spent a little time thinking about the state of the country, and my feelings about things.

As is obvious to anybody that knows me, I was truly distressed during most of this past decade. I felt (and still believe) that our country was hijacked by truly evil and villainous people determined to destroy everything America stood for, and I felt powerless to do anything about the situation.

When I learned of President Obama's election and then again as I heard his inauguration speech last January I felt enormously happy, relieved, and joyful. I can't really describe just how optimistic I felt.

Since then I've been consistently disappointed, watching as President Obama and his Administration compromise on issue after issue. Many times I've felt that the left-leaning members of our country have been betrayed.

But at the same time I've always wanted to give Obama the benefit of the doubt, and I've tried to find ways to do so.

This weekend I think I came to a mature conclusion. Or else I'm just a naive sap. In the interest of happiness I choose to believe the former.

I concluded that while a lot of issues haven't gone the way I'd like, and while I think Obama and the Dems in Congress have given up a lot more than I think they should have, a lot of good stuff HAS been accomplished in a relatively short time.

So while things haven't gone as far as I'd like, things are definitely moving in the right direction, and I hope to see more positive progress.

Possibly coloring my perception is that I'm personally having a pretty good year. Answering Reagan's soundbite, I AM better off than I've been in many years.

After nearly a decade of honestly worrying that I was witnessing the end of our country, I am sincerely happy and relieved to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!!!

And now I need to go to sleep. Work resumes in about 7 hours.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Weird LAN problem - wireless router degrades LAN performance

I'm suffering a strange LAN performance problem I can't figure out. I'm hoping somebody somewhere on the 'net might read this and offer a potential solution. Here goes....

I use Verizon FIOS for my internet connection. My service level is 20Mbps/5Mbps. My main PC is a alptop with a built-in 802.11n card. The card, according to Win7, is an Atheros AR9285.

Verizon FIOS supplied an ActionTec 802.11g router.

The wireless card in my laptop is DISABLED. The laptop is connected to the LAN using an ethernet cable, plugged in to the back of the ActionTec router.

Speed tests performed at consistently display results of 19.5+ Mbps / 6+ Mbps.

About a year ago I purchased a Belkin N150 router. I configured it as an Access Point and plugged it in to the back of the ActionTec router. I had found the ActionTec router to have unreliable wireless, and the Belkin's 802.11n would provide faster speeds and greater range.

A couple of weeks ago I started seeing frequent weird network drops. On my laptop network connectivity would seem to just stall every few minutes, although Windows diddn't  report that the connection had dropped. A few minutes later the connection would work again. If I disconnected the Belkin router from the network the problem disappeared.

I did a lot of troubleshooting, and ultimately found that if I used my laptop wired, with the wireless disabled, and disconnected the Belkin from the network, the problem disappeared. This would suggest the Belkin is broken somehow.

I've upgraded the Belkin firmware to the latest version. I've reset the Belkin to factory settings. Still, anytime the Belkin is on the LAN, my laptop gets terrible network performance. The speed test results drop dramatically, down as low as 0.54xx download speeds in some instances. The moment I disconnect the Belkin the network performance returns to 19.xxxMbps downloads.

There is something that makes the culprit less obvious, though. With the Belkin connected to the LAN, another laptop in the house sees no troubles at all, and still gets perfectly good network performance.

On my laptop I've reset the TCP/IP stack. I've deleted all entries from the ARP table. Of course I've rebooted multiple times. It just seems like my laptop is suddenly allergic to the Belkin router.

I'm stumped, and would really like to use the Belkin router if I can just resolve this.

Anybody out there have any idea what might be causing this?

Who matches the funds?

For several years now I've received frequent solicitations from various groups aligned with the national Democratic Party. Many times the solicitiations state that if I donate within a certain time period my donation will be matched, doubling its effectiveness.

I don't think these messages have ever stated who will be donating the matching amount.

I can speculate (i.e., guess) as well as anybody else. I want to know what person or organization matches the donations received.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

On The Road Again...Just Can't Wait To Get On The Road Again...

At the end of July my family is going to a tiny resort town on the northern border of Georgia to attend a family reunion. Tonight I finally stopped procrastinating and spent some time online analyzing airfares and trying to choose which airport to fly into, given that there are 4 different commercial airports equidistant from the resort. The resort is about 2 hours from any airport.

After my analysis I concluded that my cost to fly was going to be approximately $368/person. For my 4-person family, that comes to $1472. That cost doesn't include any addl taxes/fees we'll undoubtedly end up seeing. We'll also have to rent a car. Let's call that an addl. $40/day though I think it would end up exceeding that by a lot. So the transportation costs are now up to $1592, so I'm calling it $1600.

Now let's figure travel time:
  • Home to airport -- 30 minutes
  • Arrive 90 minutes early -- 90 minutes
  • On plane, In-air -- 120 minutes
  • Wait for luggage -- 30 minutes
  • Drive from ATL airport to resort -- 136 minutes
  • Rent car -- 30 minutes
TOTAL: 7 hours, 16 minutes.
And that doesn't account for any time driving in circles as I try to exit Hartfield Airport, or trying to find the resort.

So, $1600, 7:16 travel time.

  • Gasoline to drive the MPV 782 miles, 22mpg = 35.54gallons at $2.65/gallon = $94.20.
  • Travel time = 12:55
SO, As I see it that comes to about $1500 for about 6 hours, or $250/hr if my math is correct.

!!!   ROADTRIP  !!!

(EDIT - was comparing air travel expenses round-trip to car-travel expenses one-way. The proper comparison would be approx. $1600 vs. approx. $200. My conclusion doesn't change a bit.)

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Three Cheers for Sears

For as long as I've been a purchasing member of society, I've never really seen any appeal to shopping at Sears, with one notable exception.

I've always believed that if a person is buying tools, the person should buy Craftsman tools, from Sears of course. Craftsman tools are quality to begin with, and they have an unsurpassed (and unsurpassable) guarantee. Craftsman tools have a lifetime guarantee, and the few times I've need to swap one out the process has been completely hassle-free.

The latest episode occurred today. About 20 years ago I bought a 50-piece Craftsman ratchet and socket set from Home Shopping network. Honestly, it was the first time I'd ever seen Craftsman products sold outside of a Sears store.

A few months ago I discovered the entire set was covered in some nasty rust. Chrome wrenches, ratchets, screwdrivers, and sockets aren't supposed to rust. I thought of this while in Sears yesterday buying some deep sockets to work on the MPV. So I asked a clerk and he said that yes, I could still exchange the socket set after all these years.

So I returned toi Sears today, carrying the rusty set. It was no surprise that the store didn't carry an identical product. I was surprised at the way they handled the exchange. First, I found a similar socket kit (Retail - $39.99). That kit only had two wrenches however, and my original set had 6 wrenches. So the clerk let me pick out an 8-wrench wrench set as well (Retail $29.99). At that point I was almost completely whole, excepting a magnetic screwdriver handle with a set of interchangeable bits. I felt like I was pushing things though, so I went ahead and paid for the screwdriver & bits myself.

Still, the process was completely hassle-free, and Sears gave me a new $30 wrench set and a new $40 socket set in exchange for an approximately 20 year old socket set that had rusted.

I've got a new appreciation for Sears.

My new favorite network

In my previous post I wrote that I'm loving Doctor Who. Doctor Who airs on BBC America, a network I'd never previously watched.

During Doctor Who there are frequent promo spots for other BBC America programs that look like they might be entertaining - 'Ashes To Ashes', 'The Graham Norton Show', & 'Gavin & Stacey' come to mind. I haven't seen any of these yet but they look good from the ads. The network also shows 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' often (my favorite Star Trek series), and a very funny car review program - Top Gear.

Top Gear has three smart-ass car reviewers drive various cars and give tell their opinions about the cars. The show is very funny. In fact, I was watching an episode just now, and had to stop in the middle to write this post. The cast was tasked with reviewing 3 small economy cars. This was likely to be dreadfully boring - driving a Honda Fit around a racetrack doesn't promise excitement. So the three guys on the show recruited their mothers for the test. First, each of the guys drove the cars to the track, and parked them in a line.

Next, each of the mothers had to get into one of the cars (simultaneously), and get everything configured and adjusted appropriately for them to drive the car. They had to adjust the seats, the mirrors, and change the radio from the 'younger' station to a classic rock channel.

The first one to start the engine and begin driving would 'win' the race.

If you can pull the show up - Top Gear - on your On Demand and watch this episode, I recommend it. You'll laugh. (On Verizon FIOS OnDemand the show is listed as episode 6.04. )


Monday, May 31, 2010


So, I've been watching Doctor Who lately on BBC America lately and I *LOVE* it! I like both the new Doctor and last season's equally.

Also, assuming this post appears, this will be my first post made from my phone.

Happy Memorial Day!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I'm back, back in the blogging groove....


Two Months.

I knew I hadn't updated this in a while, but I had no idea it had been this long. Oh well, I'm updating this tonight, so until Doc Brown meets me and gives me the keys to his cool ride, this is the best I can do.

Current goings-on in my life:

  • Work - I've been busy lately. In fact, as I type this I'm building a server to run Windows Server 2008 R2, and Exchange Server 2010. I need to learn Exchange 2010 and setting up my own server is an effective way to get started. A coworker gave me a year-old motherboard/CPU (AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+)/VGA (512Mb GeForce 8400GS) bundle he'd replaced, and I supplied the hard drive, case, and DVD drive. I only needed to buy the RAM - 8Gb, PC-8500. Admittedly the machine has no applications installed yet, but is a FAST system, and will hopefully remain so after it is actually bearing a load. The installation didn't go at all smoothly though, and the machine is suffering weird crashes, so I'm worried about the hardware - I'm worried there may be an issue with the RAM - the modules were a little too thick to fit easily alongside each other in the motherboard.

    Other than the possible hardware issue, work is humming along lately. We've been busy and clients seem happy.

  • Town - New Jersey regularly has 'School Elections'. School elections are elections in which voters choose who is elected to their local School Board, and whether or not to approve of the coming year's school budget. Despite our insanely high municipal property taxes, the school budgets nearly always pass. (NJ has the highest property taxes in the country, and our town's property taxes are among the highest in the state.)

    This year, headlines were made when voters in about half of the towns in NJ rejected the school budgets. Our town was one of those. NJ law stipulates that if the school budget proposed by the school board fails, the proposed budget is then reviewed by the Town Council, and the council then decides whether or not to approve the budget as-is, or make changes. Monday evening there was a joint meeting with the Town Council and School Board, open to the public. I attended the meeting. The school board brought their accountant, who tried to explain the budget they'd presented and defend their choices. The town council brought their accountant, an independent firm hired to audit the school budget and make recommendations.

    Both accountants went back and forth, spewing numbers (seemingly with no consistency) back and forth. Personally, I thought that neither accountant knew what he was talking about. It seemed to me that they kept stating different numbers, never the same amount twice, and if they couldn't explain anything in a comprehensible manner than I don't think they understand things well themselves. The only thing of value I took from the meeting was that I don't envy the job of the council members. The council was required to decide what to do about the budget by yesterday. I've just read an article online that didn't cover the new budget in detail, but did state that the council pared $2.5 Million from the $118 Million budget. Seems like a pretty small reduction, in my opinion, but I guess it's a step in the right direction.

  • Family - On Sunday Nate & I joined about 15 other people and went on a Nature Hike organized by the Environmental Committee at our synagoge. We hiked up Pyramid Mountain. The trip was a lot of fun. The two of us wolfed down 3 Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwiches, 3 Almond Butter & Jelly sandwiches, 1 banana, and some Cheese Chex Mix before beginning the hike. We then trekked up the mountain, pausing about halfway up to stand near a cliff and look at the NYC skyline. After a few pics, we continued to the top to see Tripod Rock. Once at Tripod Rock, we sat down and listened as the park guide told our group about the rock. Once the group had rested and learned about the rock, we stood up and walked back down to the bottom of the mountain, where everybody disbanded and drove home. The day was fun, relaxing, and good exercise, with perfect weather. The absolute best part, though? When, in the car on the way home, Nate said he had a good time and asked if the two of us could go hiking again!

  • Home - (Outside) After several years of first ignoring, and then losing in my battle against a pitiful, dying yard around my house, my efforts and enormous quantities of grass seed are finally showing results. While there are still some thin patches, my yard is mostly grass now! Still to-do: trim the hedges, cut and dispose of a huge pile of fallen branches, and certainly not least, tear down and rebuild the deck before somebody falls through.
  • Home - (Inside) A couple of weeks ago I pulled out an album from my collection, one I'd never actually listened to. I was psyched - it was a Lou Reed double-album set and I was in the mood to hear some Lou. The album skipped so much I couldn't listen. Disappointed, I put the previous album back on the turntable and listened to Springsteen Live (Badlands, to be specific). Today I felt like hearing a particular Jimmy Buffett album that I don't have on CD, only on LP. This album also skipped terribly, though there is nothing visibly wrong with the album. I suspect I need a new stylus. I emailed an online turntable supply store ( and asked about my turntable and a replacement stylus; hopefully I'll hear back from them soon. Worst case, I've got a second turntable hooked up to my PC in the basement (useful to rip LPs to MP3 files), and might be able to take the cartridge from that turntable and use it on the turntable in the living room.
  • Health - very little to write here - I've been very, very bad about working out lately, and need to get back in to the gym.

I'm sure there's more to write about, but for now I'm done. If I don't return for a while, enjoy the summer!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

American On Purpose

A short while ago I discovered The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. I've probably been watching the show for, at most, 2 years now. I like it and try to stay up late enough to watch it, although that doesn't happen consistently. I LOVE the theme song.

Last fall Craig Ferguson released an autobiography - "American On Purpose". I checked it out from the library this past Saturday, and have just finished it about 20 minutes ago. It's great, and I recommend it to anybody.

Most of the book is interesting, moving, or dramatic, but occasionally there are truly funny bits. Here's one:

Robbie and I became roommates when he found a sublet that was available in a large basement flat near the art school. The place was available for a year, and the only problem was that while the owners were out of the country we'd ahve to look after Ken, their enormous white cat. Ken was a sonofabitch, he must have weighed forty pounds and could actually open the refrigerator door by himself. I would never have believed this had I not seen him go into the kitchen, open the fridge with his big, meaty paw, and steal a cooked chicken that Robbie's mother had sent as a care package. I yelled and tried to catch him but he grabbed the chicken and jumped on top of the cupboards, out of my reach. He stared me down defiantly as he enjoyed his lunch. He hated me, and I, in turn, loathed and feared him. Sometimes I would wake up in my small damp bedroom and find him staring at me, a look of smug pity written on his whiskery face. I always felt Ken was judging me, and I think I was right. Ken thought I was a lazy alcoholic stoner who would never amount to anything other than babysitting cats, to whom I was an intellectual inferior, and I don't suppose I can blame him, given the evidence. My continuing distrust of cats stems from my dysfunctional relationship with Ken.

A thought I had recently about the Big American Health Care Debate

For the last year or so there has been a lot of talk about the manner in which health care is handled in the United States. The term 'Health Care System' is often used, but calling the chaotic mess that currently exists a system seems like a whitewash to me.

The one component of the proposed reform that bothers me greatly is the mandate - the idea that everybody will be forced to buy insurance under the new laws. This seems like a very, very bad thing to me and is very discomforting.

I realized a few days ago that I've been buying insurance for myself (& my family) for most of my adult life, and for at least the last 12 years, if not longer. The mandate won't affect me directly. If anything it may help me if it has an affect of bringing rates down. (Unlikely, but why not dream a little? :) )

My aversion to the concept still exists, but I think about it more deeply now, pondering why I feel strongly about the issue. My best guess is that it offends my sensibilities similarly to seatbelt and motorcycle helmet laws, although it doesn't feel the same. I avoid absolutes, but generally I oppose laws regulating personal behavior, and laws that seek to protect people from themselves. I believe every person should be allowed to do whatever he or she wants, provided it doesn't hurt somebody else. You should be permitted to be an idiot, if that's your choice.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Back on the Wagon - Followup

Since my previous, I haven't been to bed before 11pm a single time.

BUT, I have gone to the gym to work out 9 out of the last 10 days!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Getting back on the wagon.

In November 2008 I began working out for the first time in my life. I regularly visited the fitness center in my local JCC and exercised 2 or 3 times/week. A couple of times I didn't get to the gym for over a week, but that was a very rare occurrence.

Then for no particular reason other than lack of motivation I stopped going in mid-January of this year. (Last visit was January 19.) Compounding things, between Mardi Gras Kingcakes, Saints Superbowl party wings/chips/etc.., and Purim baskets (Shalach Manot), I've been eating a ton of junk food lately.

I decided last night to renew my efforts at going to the gym. My plan is to be in bed before 11pm every night, and go to the gym almost every day. We'll see if this really happens.

So far, last night I was in bed by 11:30p and fell asleep with Rachel Maddow. The alarm went off at 6:45, I was at the gym at 7:15, and I am now ready to go to sleep (at 6pm, for anyone keeping track!).

Sunday, February 28, 2010

From the Learn Something New Department

About 10 or 12 years ago I began using a little-known (at least in the USA) proprietary e-mail program called "The Bat". I used the program for years, but over time I became more & more immersed in mainstream corporate and IT environments, and I concluded life would be indescribably more simple if I just used Outlook for all of my e-mail accounts, both personal and business. (I still intend to segregate business and non-business emails within Outlook.)

So I needed to extract my decade+ worth of messages from The Bat and import them into Outlook. That task was nothing I looked forward to, so for over a year I've been using the web interface from my ISP to manage my personal emails, while I put off the necessary task of exporting my data from The Bat.

Tonight I need some information from an old email message buried somewhere in my The Bat data, so I finally bit the bullet and have begun trying to move the data into Outlook.

Here's where things get interesting. To be clear, I'm using the word interesting to suggest "What a damnpainintheneckwhyohwhydidMicrosofteverdosuchastupidthing!!!!!%$%#^&@*)".

I don't think it's possible to export the messages from The Bat directly into a format Outlook 2007 can import. I AM able to, with some minor futzing around, to export the data from The Bat and import it into Windows Live Mail. (I have Windows Live Mail, not simply Windows Mail, because I needed to examine it for a client.)

So with a moderate amount of effort I've moved a specific subset of my messages into Windows Live Mail. So far, so good.

Windows Live Mail is a Microsoft product. Outlook 2007 is a Microsoft product. Neither product is particularly exotic, and it's a no-brainer that I should be able to export messages out of Windows Live Mail and import them into Outlook 2007.

As a matter of fact, that IS easily done. But there's a really, really aggravating screw-you in the process. Unlike every other computer program I've ever used in my life, when I export the data from WLM, I am not asked where I want the exported data saved, and I am also not informed as to where WLM is going to save the data for me.

SO tonight I ran the export repeatedly, trying to sleuth out where exactly the data was being saved. I searched my hard drive for .pst files. (A .pst file is the file format Outlook uses for local data.) I checked time stamps. I made sure I turned on hidden file visibility.

Finally, I looked at a Microsoft user forum focused on Windows Live Mail, and found my answer. WLM helpfully took the messages I was trying to import into Outlook, and added them into the PST already being used by Outlook.

The result is that I now have 13,622 messages, spanning approximately 13 months, stored in the same Inbox that holds my business email messages from the last 12 years. Everything is mingled together, nice and cozy.


I'd already set up a brand-new folder, specifically for the personal emails. And while I was trying to figure this out I probably ran the export at least 4 times, so I may have about 55,000 of these messages when you include duplicates.

For those of you that aren't familiar with the way these processes USUALLY work, the program I want to export the data FROM will typically ask to where do you want to save the exported data, and that program will create a file in the spot you specify. THEN, in the program that you want to use the data going forward, you would import the data yourself, specifying where you want the new program to maintain the data.

For WLM to take it upon itself to just put the data into Outlook for me, without telling me where the data would be inserted, is REALLY, REALLY RUDE.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: As it turns out, Windows Live Mail exports the messages into whatever the default 'drop-point' is for Outlook. As my Outlook was configured to place messages into the server-based mailbox by default, that's where the exported messages were placed.

And as it works out I ran the export a total of 5 times - adding about 60,000 messages to my Inbox. Aside from the additional clutter and the undesirability of hqaving my personal and business communications mixed, Outlook then couldn't send/receive within a reasonable amount of time as it was busy trying to upload 60,000 messages to the server during the sync process. I cancelled the sync and spent well over an hour trying to find all of the personal emails and move them to the appropriate folder.

WLM Developers -- BAD. BAD. BAD! THINK!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Let it snow, let it snow....

So I moved from the New Orleans area up to the frigid & often rude northeast almost 12 years ago. Yes, property taxes are insane, strangers are less friendly, and anything automobile-related is downright hostile. You can add to the list of negatives the aggravations associated with snowfall - it's cold, damp, impacts traffic, requires painful and tedious shoveling, etc...

BUT, most people will admit, it's very pretty to look at:

I took the above pics walking around my house today. After a snowfall the entire world just seems more tranquil and serene. The world, when the kids aren't home, is quiet. Mardi Gras raucousness is surely something to appreciate and celebrate, but if I can't be down South partying as Argus rolls by, I can enjoy the snow up here.

(Full disclosure: I'm not, of course, blowing off Mardi Gras entirely! I've had authentic King Cakes sent to me, & this evening will be taking my family out to dinner at The New Orleans Steakhouse in Jefferson, NJ for the third year in a row, to attend their Mardi Gras party.)

Friday, February 05, 2010

Too Good To Be True?

Over time I've accumulated a lot of old computer junk. Some was purchased, but a lot was given to me by others after the particular item was replaced due to malfunction, old age, or obsolescence.

Printing in our home has been a mess for a long time.

As this week began, there were 10 printers in my house:
* HP 612C - given to me when a friend replaced it - no clue as to its condition
* HP 682C - was Jessica's, purchased in the late-90s. This printer worked up until a housecat attacked it while it was printing something a few years ago. Since then it had paperfeed issues.
* HP 3620V - given to me, never removed from box - unknown condition
* HP LaserJet 5L -- frequent paper misfeeds
* HP PSC500 All-In-One -- Untested - got this as part of a bundle, used, from CL or Freecycle a long time ago - was reported to work perfectly, I've never opened it. (includes box)
* Canon Pixma ip4000 -- works sporadically - I think it needs a new printhead ($50). When it prints, it is a beautiful printer.
* Okidata OL600e - needs drum and paper pickup rollers. As-is it provides a readable, but marred printout, and has paper pickup issues.
* Primera inkjet CD printer -- hasn't been used in 5 or 6 years, probably.


* Lexmark Z52 with unopened black ink cartridge -- works perfectly, but there is no Win7 64-bit driver for it. This has been used regularly by Jessica (from WIndows XP) for sometime now. We bought the printer shortly after Nate was born in 2001.
* Okidata OL400e -- works great if something small is placed underneath it to press up on the paper tray, otherwise has paper misfeeds (needs revitalized pickup rollers) I keep a small notepad underneath it and it works flawlessly. This printer has been used regularly by me from my Windows 7 laptop. I bought this printer new in 1993 or 1994.

In order to print to either of the printers from our laptops I had to print through a Windows 2000 desktop on my network. I've never found a USB printserver that worked properly, and the Okidata is a parallel printer so it wouldn't connect to modern equipment anyway.

The desktop is 10 or 11 years old and I'd like to decommission it altogether.

The final motivating factor was a recent purchase of a ReadyNAS storage unit. The ReadyNAS has 1TB (mirrored) storage, so I can move all of the data on three un- or underused desktops in my house on to the NAS, and then get rid of the three desktop PCs. That will reduce noise, heat, clutter, and electricity use in my house. PLUS, the ReadyNAS has a printserver built-in. Considering this isn't a low-end budget device I'm hopeful the printserver might even work.

So yesterday I posted an offer on Craigslist. I described 8 printers I had (forgot abotu two of them at the time), and wrote that I'd like to trade all of them for one decent USB printer that was Windows 7-compatible.

This afternoon I completed the trade. I gave the 10 above printers to somebody, and in return he gave me a brand-new, still factory-sealed in the box Hewlett Packard CD055A.

He and his girlfriend came to pick the old printers up and seemed genuinely happy about the haul, explaining that they planned to recycle the old printers. Obviously I was thrilled to get a good, new, printer that I can use on the network from all of our computers.

Plus, the printer has wireless functionality built-in so I don't even need to use the printserver on the ReadyNAS if I don't want to do so.

Everything seems too good to be true, but so far all seems OK. Admittedly I haven't removed the printer from the box yet, but I expect it to be exactly as if I'd brought it home from Staples myself.

It will be a mystery for me.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Been a long, long time.

Wow. The last time I added a post to this blog was nearly three months ago. In that time a lot has happened, some things more notable than others.

At a Mens Club meeting, I *think* the second Tuesday in November, I bet a friend that the Saints would play in the Super Bowl. I didn't intend to make the bet, just sort of got talked into it, and for the stakes of the bet we agreed the loser would wash the winner's car. All season I was worried the Saints would choke. Hasn't happened yet!

At a NAVA last November I discovered a Playstation 3 game called Gravity Crash. I immediately fell in love with the game, and now badly want a Playstation 3. During the last 3 years I felt this way about the XBox 360 after playing Geometry Wars, and later felt the same way about the Wii after playing Wii Sports & Wii Sports Resort. In both earlier cases the urge passed. I assume the PS3 urge will pass sooner or later. I'll get the systems eventually anyway, once new, more advanced models are released.

I was laid off by ISS Group, and immediatley afterward (all pre-arranged) contracted by Cloud Strategies. With Cloud I'm a 1099 employee and therefore responsible for my own healthcare, savings plan, taxes, etc..., but this will hopefully work out well. Cloud Strategies helps businesses implement Microsoft BPOS, a very exciting suite of products from Microsoft including Exchange Online and Sharepoint Online. One perk is that I work out of my basement office now, so I use far less gasoline. I do get substantially worse mileage now, however, seeing as all of my trips are short.

Nate and Maren got far too many gifts for Chanukah (Thanks everybody!) and have been loving them. Nate especially enjoys his Legos.

Our family drove to Orlando in late-December and got to see many relatives that we don't see often enough. On Christmas day a bunch of us visited Disney and had a blast. WDW stayed open that day until 1am, and we didn't leave until closing. My back and feet hurt as much as they ever have, but it was absolutely worth it.

(Pics Plug - I've uploaded pictures of our Florida trip to my Flickr site. I haven't edited or weeded out any of the pictures (haven't even rotated them) so you'll see the raw shots. But some of the pics are nice nonetheless.)

One Thursday in mid-December I signed up for a new contract with T-Mobile and bought myself a brand-new G1. Realizing I was working with a new company that was a close Microsoft Partner and it may be a BAD THING to carry around a Google phone, I returned the phone on Saturday and went back to my old T-Mobile Dash.

Speaking of the Dash, I got my Dash in the summer of 2007. I was excited to have a Smartphone, and hit the 'net to find a z-machine for the phone. Z-machines are programs that run old-fashioned text adventure games like Zork and Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy. (Text adventures are now called interactive fiction, or IF.)

Z-machines were available for every computer device imaginable - Palm Pilots, the Sega Dreamcast, PCs, MACs, Playstation 2, etc... I was shocked and disappointed to discover there was NO working z-machine for my T-Mobile Dash. Windows Mobile smartphones were simply excluded from the party.

A few weeks ago I ordered a new HTC Touch Pro 2 (and the expected T-Mobile contract, of course, to get the phone for free). The Touch Pro 2 is a touchscreen Windows Mobile device, so there is a Z-machine for it. In fact, the best Z-machine I found for it is able to run on the Dash too! I wish I'd known about the program when it came out last summer. For anybody interested, the program is called "PocketZax", and so far it has worked perfectly fine for me.

My big Chanukah present was the Beatles Remastered Boxset - Mono. I've been loving it. The set was supplemented with 2 of the three Stereo-only remasters. All that is lacking from the collection is Let It Be, and I'll probably pick that up the next time I'm at Target.

Last weekend we threw Nate a Lego birthday party. I hung various Lego spacecraft from the living room ceiling, I made brownies that looked like Legos, and all of the party guests made their own Lego racer. Pictures were taken and are at the Flickr page.

Lastly, but not at all least, THE SAINTS MADE IT TO THE SUPER BOWL. So as soon as there is acceptable weather and scheduling permits, I'll have a nice, shiny car thanks to the efforts of my friend in the Mens Club. Thank you Drew, Sean, Reggie, Garrett, Mike, Pierre, Deverey, and all of the rest of you. There aren't words to describe my emotions last Sunday night! But I might have pulled something deep inside trying to stifle my screams so I wouldn't wake my kids.

I'm sure there is more to write, but this should suffice for now. Have a happy February. (SUPER BOWL!)