Archive for the 'Geek Matters' Category

On Weight Loss, Tornadoes & TV

Saturday, April 5th, 2008

Okay, so it’s not March any more, but, rebel that I am, I’m trotting out the shamrock icon one more time for this miscellaneous stuff:

I wanted to post this while the posting’s still good: As of last Sunday, I’m below 190 pounds (189.8, to be exact) for the first time since the months following my surgery two years ago. At any rate, my size 36 khakis are fitting nicely, and maybe even a bit loose. That means I’ve now got about 12 pairs of khakis that fit, and three really loose ones.

The amazing thing is I’m losing weight while unemployed — that is, while having too much time on my hands, time that could be used sit around and stuff my face. I’m also surprised since the past four months were not only the coldest of the year (when it’s toughest to get outside) but also the most fattening.

But I’m managing to keep to my walks almost every day, since we’ve had lots of warm days lately, and I’ve been keeping my daytime meals small, so that seems to have done the trick.

The only problem is that my wife reminded me that she doesn’t like skinny men, so I’d better not overdo it.

So I had some ice cream and she feels better about it now.

Yesterday morning we discovered that the TV in the computer room was totally dead (probably a dead power supply).

And what’s a computer room with a TV? NOTHING, that’s what! A BIG FAT GOOSE-EGG-LIKE ZILCH!

So anyway, I went out to check prices on TV. But since there were storm clouds rolling in, we checked the local news stations for the weather. The local CBS weather guy said, “We’ve got a few little clouds up in Denton county”, that’s where we live, “but what we’re really concerned with is down here in Burleson” (60 miles to the southwest) “where this situation could easily spawn tornadoes”.

So I went on to WalMart, and as soon as I was back in the TV department, my wife called on my cell phone and told me that the tornado sirens were sounding. “You don’t hear them?” she asked. “I hear about 40 TVs, and piped-in music. I’m toward the back of the store!” Nobody else in the store was panicking, so I wasn’t going to perform solo. I just figured stick close to the sturdy looking shelving, and the second anything hit the building, I’d have an edge on ducking under it.

As soon as she heard the sirens, she grabbed her purse and the phone and a flashlight, and herded Bristol and Molly into the bathroom, then called me to see if I had pulled a Dorothy yet.

Anyway, nothing happened, but I learned I can’t trust the local weather wizards to know what’s going on.

Anyway, enough about life and death matters, back to what’s really important: Replacing the TV in our computer room. I found a passable small Samsung at WalMart, but we wanted to check at our local resale store before spending the big bucks.

Long story short: I found a fairly recent model 20″ Panasonic for $9.99.

It’s a combo TV/VCR and the VCR part doesn’t work, and they didn’t have the remote …. but hey, NINE NINETY-NINE!

It actually took some work to get working — and in this case the tech support guru was my wife, who sacrificed a fingernail to freeing the VHS tape (Star Trek, The Original Series) that was stuck in it, and then stopping the tape ejector mechanism from making a constant clattering sound — and more work to get it programmed — again, it was my wife that found the solution on the internet, and without losing a fingernail this time — so there was indeed some “sweat equity” involved …


We got an $8 remote at Dollar General — again, my wife’s doing (this could give a geek a complex) — and now we’re back up and running, entertainment-in-the-computer-room-wise, so we’re happy.

Yes, we’re partying like it’s $9.99.

I was supposed to bring this up on Monday, but better late than never: Go to Renny’s site to see how they celebrate April Fool’s Day in Norway.

Second Life?? I barely have a First!

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

(Click the picture to view the large size for full effect.)

Well, I finally did it: I finally broke down and checked into Second Life. I heard about it a couple of years ago, but never really got motivated to check it out, and lately I’ve been hearing that it’s over the hump, and was never really all it was cracked up to be.

Besides, I’ve done the Everquest thing, so I know how involving those virtual worlds can be, and I needed to put my time into other projects..

And I’ve done the thing, so I also know how UN-involving virtual worlds can be. So I blew it off.

But now, Second Life happens to be intersecting with one of my other projects — and it’s free, and I’m unemployed, and on Friday it was an alternative to driving an 80 mile round trip — so I finally took the plunge.

As it turns out, it was a great time, both Friday night and all day Saturday, with several RPMers and even a few civilians gathering their avatars in a virtual nightclub and having those avatars boogie down, as shown in the above picture, to music that WE wrote and recorded.

A great feeling it is, to see people (virtual in this case) dancing to your music.

The dancer in this case is not one of the fellow musicians, but rather a lady named Mazzie from Australia. (I’m posting this particular picture because she didn’t believe that her normally silver outfit was giving off a distinctly green hue for an hour or so.)

I also promised several people a shout-out, including Mazzie, Gwenette Writer (another non-RPMer, but something of a mover-and-shaker within Second Life), Fence Flatley (our DJ for the evening and an RPM musician in Omaha, whose artist name is One Inch From Midget), Ruby’s Cannon (who wrote me a very complimentary email about my music), Jigjaw from London, England, Sister Savage from Bristol, England (I told her, “We have a dog named Bristol!”)
and … well, I can’t remember the others right now, but there were lots of us, and lots of strangers getting exposed to our music.

Oh, and Domestic Science wasn’t there at the party, but she also gave me a nice compliment about my music in an email, so I’m giving her a mention and a link as well …

Go to the RPM Jukebox, click Library, and check out these artists and others. You’ll be glad you did.

(Note to old college buddy Terry: Find Ruby’s Cannon in the Jukebox and listen to their stuff, especially 442, and see if it reminds you to Pat Travers.)

Well, Crud

Friday, March 21st, 2008

I was actually going to post more than this tonight, but after lunch today I hooked up a piece of USB hardware, and suddenly I no longer had a display.

Most illogical.

So, long story short: Eight hours and a 30 pound monitor hauled in from the garage later, I finally got the #$%@&*# $#@*#&-%&$*#@% thing working again.

The problem turned out to be a loose 12-volt Molex.

It’s always the most obvious thing.

But seriously: When I installed my shiny new power supply last summer, I noticed that the new 12V tendril didn’t snap into place, but I just figured it was a problem with the plastic part of the new connector.

Tonight, though, when I realized that it was the only one of the many loose power tendrils that shouldn’t have been loose, I borrowed some of my wife’s many pieces of jewelry-examining equipment and confirmed my suspicion that one of the pins was bent.

So I bent it back.

It’s the feel-good story of the year.

So here I am, able to be ‘putering again. Lucky you.

And now I’m going to go back to getting the USB thing working now.

Music in a Can

Monday, March 10th, 2008

We’ve been a very musical family lately, my wife having been reviving her interest in singing in the last couple of years, and with me having the RPM Challenge last month, her own work has increased in pace as well.

So now comes MySong, a program from Microsoft Research that supposedly puts instrumental music to your singing — seriously, you sing, and the program sings along.

That sounds nice, in theory, for those who can actually sing. For the rest of us, I don’t know, I haven’t watched the video yet.

This video:

(The actual demos start at about 2:45, so skip forward if that’s all you’re interested in.)

Read the article here.

(Via Geekologie (which in turn was via Attack of the Show)

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

Some quick things before I have to get back to the music (just 1 more day to go!):

I’m using the clover bullet point in anticipation of the Irish Festival this weekend!

I promised a shout to the fine folks at Hurricane Glass and Mirror, with whom I had an interview today. It probably won’t amount to anything, since I’m vastly overqualified for this particular job (I’m hearing that a lot), but on the other hand, they’ll be expanding their operations soon, and my skills can come in handy.

Anyway, it was a good interview, and the main reason I tried out is because the office is 2.5 miles from my house.

After almost 13 years of driving 27 miles to toil on the corporate minefield, it would feel like a paid vacation to work in a small office right here in my own town, even if I would be vastly underemployed.

In other news, I’ve been meaning to mention that William F. Buckley Jr. died this week.

Buckley was what you call a classic intellectual consevative — as opposed to what we have now.

RPM Challenge (my music project) progress report: With just one day left, desperate times call for wacky measures, thus the book you see at right.

Seriously, though, I saw this at the library and couldn’t resist; I posted a picture on the RPM message boards and got a laugh from some of my similarly desperate fellow challengees.

Hey Spook, tell your mom Happy Birthday for me tomorrow!

And Now For Something Completely Different: Tron footage remixed with the sounds of nerdcore master YTCracker.

A Group of 4 Related Things, Follow the Chain

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

1. First of all, I need to give a shout to Mindy, a recruiter who’s putting me in for a proposal coordinator/technical writer position. Hi Mindy!

It’s an unusual feeling to be touted by a headhunter, as opposed to doing it myself. It’s not unlike feeling like a product being hawked on an informercial. “Don’t answer yet — you’ll also get an extra refill kit at no extra charge!”

It’s not a bad feeling; there’s worse things to be than a Bedazzler.

2. Next: Because of the above-mentioned potential-employment transaction, I needed to scan in some of my old writing samples. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: That this Dostoevsky-grade prose should be able to stand on its on as a portfolio representative of my brilliance.

This client, however, is apparently more discriminating, so I had to get off my sweatpants-clad rump and get my scanner working again.

The trick was that I had to restring some USB cable to bypass a non-functioning hub, which required the finding of a longer cable and some tricky behind-the-massively-oversized-computer-hutch maneuvering, some of which involved a straightened coathanger and some twist-ties.

I’ve said before that one thing they never tell you when you’re preparing for computer technician certification is how much time said technician will spend rolling around on the floor under the furniture.

If I got a merit badge for this, the symbol would be a dust-bunny and a flashlight.

Anyway, the re-hooking worked, as if sometimes does, and I was able to scan my newspaper articles.

3. I was also able to scan other things I’ve been meaning to scan as well, such as this logo that I designed for Comics On Tap. I figured I need to get a lot of my memorabilia from that time (we were at our zenith 10 years ago) scanned into the computer and backed up on disc, before I lose track of all the bits and pieces.

Those times were the glory days, if indeed I ever had glory days. We were kissed up to by the local comedy community, since we represented one of the most open places in Dallas to get stage time, always a rare commodity for comics in their first few years.

And we were the first comedy venue in Dallas to ever have a website. Not even the Improv had a site before we did, which is pretty bizarre when you think about it.

As for the logo, we were about to give up and see if we could barter with some low-level graphic design professional, but I decided to give it one last shot — and this one worked. It might not look like much now, but it was pretty impressive back before every horror movie and soft drink marketing campaign used the same font. Again, few comedy clubs in Dallas had the design presence that we had.

Anyway, I’ll be scanning in more of our marketing materials in the weeks ahead, so stay tuned.

4. Finally, speaking of those days, my wife’s 2003 Honda Accord that she bought a few months ago still had the original battery, and it was starting to sputter on recent cold mornings, so I went to Walmart today and got a new battery.

What does that have to do with our old comedy group?

Have patience and you shall learn.

It seems that the geniuses at Honda began requiring a code to activate their car stereos — so as to theoretically make it harder for a stereo thief to operate the unit after stealing it.

Unfortunately for the legitimate owners, you have to have the stereo’s ID number and call the dealership to get the activation code.

And for some older models, that means taking out the unit to get the number, then reinstalling it, a process that could cost $100 to have it done right.

It’s also a process which wouldn’t bother thieves, since they would already have the unit out of the car.

Anyway, I called my old Comics on Tap partner Bill (aha! the link!), who is now a high-muckity-muck at Lute Riley Honda where my wife bought the car, and he walked me through the process of getting the ID number, and promptly looked up our code so we could the radio turned back on.

Thanks much, Bill!

Busy Saturday

Saturday, January 5th, 2008

Let’s see if we can make this quick, starting with re-using my 5th Blogiversary bullet:

I was trying to run a boot-from-disk Linux distro on the computer I keep in the garage, and got this on the screen.

“Ok, booding dhe kebnel.” I thought the computer might be drunk …

Actually, it’s probably a corrupted RAM chip. I haven’t used the thing since last spring, so anything can happen with the temperature extremes we have around here. I’m sure I’ve got some suitable spare chips around here somewhere — what kind of geek would I be if I didn’t? — but they weren’t in any of my garage stashes, so I blew it off for tonight.

Anyway: “Gelcome do dhe KNO@@IH life Lineh-on-CD!” Click here for an easier-to-read view.

The reason I was trying to use the outside computer is that it was unseasonably warm today, probably close to 80F, and at least 20 degrees higher than the high yesterday. I finished raking the leaves in the back yard as my exercise (since my tendonitis was killing me from the fitness center treadmill yesterday). After I was done, it was still so nice out that I decided to sort out some of our (my wife’s) endless boxes of Christmas stuff in the garage so we could actually WALK out there, what a concept.

And by the time I was finished with that, the ABC News/Facebook debate was in full swing on TV and Thistle and Shamrock was starting on NPR, and since it was still a nice night and all that was still not enough stimulation (not that I have raging ADD or anything), I decided to boot up my “live” Knoppix games disk, since unlike some other distros I’ve got (like Ubuntu) it would work well on the 256 megs of RAM on the garage PC.

But alas, it was not to be.

Molly & Bristol “helped” me rake the leaves, and I got to show them off when a guy down the alley brought down his little girl who had begged him to take her down to see the two barking dogs. As a bonus, I also got some footage of Bristol bouncing like he’s spring-loaded as they were walking toward the yard, and it might be enough to make it worth editing a little and posting to YouTube. That new little Olympus of ours can do amazing video, as long as there’s enough light.

About 10 tonight we heard a police siren give a couple of blasts, like somebody was being pulled over, and it sounded very close. Then Molly started barking at the front door so I thought I’d check it out.

There was a fire truck, all its lights flashing, in the middle of the street in front of our house, an ambulance in front of it, and cop cars both in front of and behind those. Cars on both sides were forced to turn around and go back down the street from when they came.

It turns out that all the action was focused on the house to the east of ours, the family from Mexico. We never did figure out what was going on, but I’m going to ask around on our community bulletin board, because you just know there’s always got to be a Nosey Nellie monitoring the police scanner to be up on all the juicy goings-on.

Don’t you just love the Internet.

And finally some sad news today: I’m always mentioning the World’s Greatest Dentist, Dr. Mary; today her mother-in-law passed away. My wife was taking the news hard since her dad and Dr. Mary’s husband’s dad were friends from way back, and the families new each other well.

Sorry to end the day on a bummer note, people, but sometimes that happens.

Three Short Rants, Pre-Christmas Style

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

Just a few things that I hope I can keep quick:

TIME Magazine reveals their Person of the Year tomorrow, and I get the sick feeling that it’s going to be Al Gore. Why do I think this? Because he has just had all the Nobel publicity on him, on top of all the other Me-Too awards this year, and TIME is such a shameless bandwagon jumper, just as all the Old Media dinosaurs are these days.

PLUS it’s a liberal cause, PLUS it’s an election year and what a better note for them to start the year on.

I won’t start on the Gore and the Global Warming thing here — except to say that I do believe that we need to drastically reduce our emissions (and also our fuel consumption, and thus our national SUV addiction), and that, contrary to Gore’s policy, so-called developing nations like China and India need to make sacrifices right along with us, since they pollute more.

But I think that was isn’t realized internationally is that Gore is actually hurting his cause in the U.S. more than he’s helping it, because a lot of us here realize that Global Warming is his Golden Meal Ticket, and that he conveniently disregards any data that doesn’t support what he wants to preach.

See, you got me started. I’ll rant more at a later date, but for now … You just watch, those idiots will pin him for this prize too.

Okay, I already ranted, so I won’t go on about how much I HATE HATE HATE Windows Vista.

Suffice it to say that I’m glad we’ve only got it installed on our laptop PC.

We’ve been watching Clash of the Choirs on NBC this week, and it’s pretty good. My wife is a huge Patti LaBelle fan, plus she loves being in the choir, so of course she wouldn’t miss something like this. And apparently, unless there’s a sequel (always a possibility), I think the whole thing will be over by week’s end. Tonight was the second night, so if you’re going to watch, better start tomorrow.

It’s pretty interesting, but I wish Michael Bolton’s group had been the first kicked off tonight — and no, not because of all the crappy music he’s brought us over the years, and not because of the people in the choir.

I just felt — and my wife agreed — that he did the worst job with his choir, trying to form it in his own image as a solo singer: He had one singer (male, of course) sing most of the song, with the rest of his choir as his backup … singing only the melody, and very little harmony!

That’s right: Just like his act, but worse.

Okay, I’ll stop ranting now.

School of Rock

Monday, December 10th, 2007

My wife and I have been getting more serious about music this past year, especially in the area of using electronics to make music — me with my Cakewalk software, and she with her keyboard (excuse me, I mean electronic piano).

Now she’s at the point where she wants to use her Boss BR900CD Recording Studio (pictured above) that she bought about two years ago, but which has been a formidable mother-duck to learn how to operation.

So this weekend we decided that today we would sit down and watch the instructional DVD that came with the unit, and try to learn how to operate the beast.

It was a challenge, since the Australian accented instructor talked a mile a minute, and everything was a tidal wave of jargon, either musical or technical. Fortunately, we were able to glean enough vital information (my sequencer software experience helped, for my part), so that she was able to knock out a quick recording of a Norah Jones song tonight.

There’s still a lot to learn, though, so I have the feeling that we’ll be schooled on that monster for some time to come.

Anyway, click here to see the much larger view, in all its fine detail.

Three things:

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

Yes, that’s right, three things:

1. One of many great lines by Tina Fey from tonight’s 30 Rock:

“I call the movie ‘Risky Business’ ‘Risky It’, because ‘It’ means ‘Business’!”

Another great line, after Alec Baldwin says, “We’re not colleagues, we’re lovers,” she says, “Ooh, I’m uncomfortable with the word ‘lover’ — unless it’s between the words ‘Meat’ and ‘Pizza’.”

2. The New York Times had an article today about all the wacky-named website names that have popped up in the past year: “Doostang. Wufoo. Bliin. Thoof. Bebo. Meebo. Meemo. Kudit. Raketu. Etelos. Iyogi. Oyogi. Qoop. Fark. Kijiji. Zixxo. Zoogmo.”

Ha ha — “Thoof”!

I supposed they just threw in “Fark”, which has been around for about 10 years now, just to demonstrate how clueless the Lumbering Dinosaur Media (LDM) is after all this time, but they do have a point: Every combination of letters that actually spells something is already taken.

Heck, why do you think I picked a meaningless compound-word anagram of my name for my own blog five years ago? Because there was nothing left that’s not stupid.

3. And finally, just because I can’t go a day with video, dogs, or Christmas, here’s a Pomeranian Christmas video!: