Saturday, March 31

DST part 10 *

It'll be interesting to see how many people have Daylight Saving Time issues tomorrow, when their older devices Spring Forward automagically, after their owners did so manually three weeks ago. I don't think any of my gadgets fall into that category, but .. anything's possible.

I only outed two of my co-workers who thought they'd sidestepped the DST issues by manually adjusting their (Windows XP) PC's clocks. Turns out their email messages appeared out-of-sequence in any message threads where the messages were sent within an hour of their arrival. Busted!

Amusingly, both appeared shocked (shocked, I tell you!) that I easily figured out that they didn't patch their systems. Turns out neither of them Trusts Microsoft so they routinely go through life not running Windows Update and thus having fully patched systems. Idiots, both.

* 10 in binary = 2 in decimal. But, you knew that, right?

Friday, March 30

tornado season: opening day is (Sunday) April 1st

Living in Tornado Alley (even if Dallas is generally Where The Alley Starts) can be troublesome. I often forget when Tornado Season Starts and when it ends. Pity it can't be made to coincide with something like Daylight Saving Time. Already (in March) there have been several Tornado Watches. It gets to be very, very routine. Less so if you live in a Mobile Home Park.

Here's the latest RADAR image, showing today's Tornado Watch ("conditions are right") area - the infamous red boxes. I haven't seen a live tornado since living in Louisville (circa 1974) and I've no desire to repeat that procedure. Still, I know it's possible that I'll get Up Close And Personal with one again someday.

With The Watch often comes The Rain. Even though we're technically in a continued drought, we've had our share of Wet the last week or so. One of the challenges is mowing the grass when it's not too wet .. that may have to wait for Monday. Still, with no natural Weather Stoppers (mountains, etc.) most storms blow through here quickly, often Jumping Over Dallas (an Urban Heat Island).

Still, I'm conditioned to listen for the sound of an oncoming train .. the last sound you supposedly hear before a tornado hits. I've (long ago) decided on my home's "safe room" where I can go without thinking if the need arises. It's the place in the center of my home where there are no windows, and presumably a good place to hang out while the storm passes.

Reminds me of when I lived in California and was conditioned to head for the nearest doorframe when an earthquake struck (in the theory that this is the strongest part of most structures).

Alas, I can hear thunder in the distance, so it's time to feed Beta the Wonder Dog and her two feline companions. Just in case we have to duck.

Sunday, March 25

playing with DICE

After mowing the grass yesterday morning ("there's no local storage on a lawnmower") I decided to push (!) the car out of the garage and install The iPod Connector. This will only be the second (probably last) modification I make to the car. Soon after I bought it in 2001, I installed a factory alarm system (mostly plugging into the existing wiring), although much disassembly/reassembly was required. This time would prove similar.

(rewind about 4 weeks)

Most of the iPod<->CarAudio devices use a weak FM transmitter, but I wanted one that integrated well with the steering-wheel controls, so this meant stringing cables. I looked around at the local retailers, but only found übercheap stuff - few of them stock anything of quality since Most Americans Only Want Cheap, Not Good.

After asking around (the local car club was useful, as always), I opted for the iPod Car Integration Kit from DICE Electronics. A few weeks ago I bought the stuff from Bavarian Soundwerks in Atlanta, and it's been sitting on my kitchen table waiting for an opportunity.

Their 15-step instructions were mostly helpful, and I had everything done in an hour or so .. although I had to cheat a bit since the last step involved testing my iPod (which has local storage) with the stereo.

Next, it was time to install the spec.dock (from a company called 2point5™); this mostly low-tech gadget allows me to dock my iPod into the ashtray space, rather than leave the iPod inside the glove compartment, or (worse) dangling from a cable. The instructions from 2point5 weren't as good as for the DICE module, and this resulted in the two Band-Aids adhesive bandages now on my fingers. Once I began interpreting the directions instead of following them, things became much easier.

This morning, I made the Annual Pilgrimmage to Carl's Jr. (a west-coast QSR chain that is replicated at the Love's Truck Stops here in Texas) and played with my new toy en route. It sounds great, absent a few odd clicking sounds that may be part of The Learning Curve. Since it ties into the CD changer/amplifier in the trunk, it requires pressing [CD] twice to activate it, then the radio buttons [1-6] to do things like "select next album" (button 3) or "select next playlist" (button 2).

Friday, March 23

see ya'll again on Sunday!

Sunday afternoon update:

At midnight Friday, my home became eerily quiet. When I shutdown everything, the fans inside my PCs ceased their background noise. Several times throughout the day Saturday, I started to wander in and Google something, but then caught myself. That night, I could hear not only the crickets chirp, but the dew dropping off the leaves outside (not to mention the Love Sounds of the Neighborhood Cats, but that's another story).

One of the decisions I had to make was what to shut down (most everything has an IC in it these days) .. so I opted for anything with local storage. So, I powered down my (Linux) server; my 4 "desktop/deskside" PCs; and even my TiVo (although it still records stuff even when on Standby). So I wouldn't tempt myself, I turned off the DSL modem/router, too. I didn't power anything back up until Insomnia Time this morning (about 0330) and even then, only one thing at a time - several PCs are still off.

I tried to give feedback on the Shutdown Day website, but got a rather rude reply:
Your IP address is banned
I can only guess that they're using some software which has banned everyone using at&t's DSL service, since someone spammed from there. If I had a static IP address, I might complain, but since I have a dynamic address, there's not much I can do. This is the first time I've ever seen such a thing. Oh well .. his loss.

Thursday, March 22

POTUS 2008

Yet another Texas Idiot has surfaced: US Congressman Joe Barton (Republican from Ennis, TX). This putz (whose pockets are surely lined with bribes from the oil & energy companies) claims that Global Warming is a fraud. He's probably an IDiot (Intelligent Design) too.

I guess that means he'll soon be the Next Precedent of the United Staits! Rudy and John and Mitt had better watch their backs.

Wednesday, March 21

Only in America

While this is probably tongue-in-cheek and (trust me on this one) not just for the Über-Corrupt Bush-Rove Regime, I'm afraid the need to pass this legislation Absolutely Positively exists: Read The Bills Act (RTBA)

digg story

Sunday, March 18

GPS? Jeepers!

Last weekend, Judy-Bob was driving around, showing off her new TomTom. While not without its faults, it wasn't a bad GPS. I was able to figure it out without a manual, which is always a plus, and it didn't make any egregious mistakes as we tested locations.

I suspect that Garmin has the market share lead for portable GPS, but I haven't seen the numbers so this is little more than a SWAG. I haven't chanced across one of their units yet, although I suspect they're all using the same basic technology.

Today I knew that we'd be in need of directions to Janice-Bob, so I decided to give the GPS in my cellphone a whirl. Rather than spend a few hundred dollars for a TomTom or a Garmin, why not try the VZ Navigator [VZN] to see if it would meet my needs (at $3/day or $10/month plus some airtime as explained in the FAQ) especially since all I had to do was download a BREW applet to my phone?
Aside: don't know how much airtime I consumed today (at weekend rates) since Verizon appears to have a 48-hour delay in statistics, when accessed from the phone.
The verdict? I got mixed results. VZN found the first place (Poor Richard's Cafe in Plano) without breaking a sweat. Then, I gave it a specific street address (on Preston Road) in Plano and it found a different address in Frisco (inexplicably, a different location of the same automotive service chain). Since the locations were 5+ miles apart, this was less than inspiring.

When I tried to search by business name, it found many other locations, but not the one I sought. Is the Achilles' Heel the typical GIGO problem (Garbage In, Garbage Out)? Trying to maintain an updated database of retailers - who come and go as the wind changes - is a difficult task.

At our next stop - a clothing store chain - we found an empty store* (I suspect there was a location of this retailer at one time, but the location had long-since closed). Fortunately, there was another one a few miles away, so by then we'd turned off the VZ Navigator (rapidly sucking the battery) and were locating by sight.

After JB dropped me off, I had an errand of my own to run .. only about 3 miles away. I thought I'd amuse myself and see how well it performed this task .. and the results weren't stellar. First, it had a lot of trouble figuring out my location, having to reorient itself a dozen or more times. I suspect it's trying to use cellphone towers to triangulate my location rather than a GPS satellite (!) so I may have been at the mercy of the cellphone network. It seemed to do okay on the freeways, but bogged down when there were lots of small streets nearby. Pre-trip planning seems to be an appropriate part of using this service.

Part of VZ Navigator involves displaying only a local map, and it did a credible job (given the small screen on my cellphone). The voice prompts were nice, although it'd be nice to shut the speaker off when desired - there's no obvious way).

Also, the [Recent Searches] menu doesn't allow individual entries to be cleared, which is annoying .. mine rapidly piled up with bad locations.

Bottom line: VZ Navigator's handy, but not trustworthy .. I'd grade it a C+/B- overall. I'd rather have access to Yahoo! Maps, which gives step-by-step directions. Yet, VZN downloads maps as needed, so any wrong turns could be corrected quickly. And certainly, in a unfamiliar city, it's more useful than stopping at a gas station every mile to ask directions, fer sher. I'd also compare it favorably to the Hertz NeverWorks NeverLost which I last used about 8 years ago, IIRC.

Details, if anyone's interested:
phone: Motorola V325 (software R9.1_X_05.28.09P)
BREW 3.1.2
VZ Navigator 2.8.1 Build 40

* if this has been a trip with Jill Wazabob, finding an empty location would be the expectation, not a surprise.

Friday, March 16

DST-induced time warp

I watched today as some email threads between friends got very confusing. Some of them had applied the DST [Daylight Saving Time] patches to their systems, while others had not, so the email thread became difficult to follow. Ref: EPACT

Most people don't realize that their PC is the source of the timestamp affixed to every message, (unless you're using your provider's webmail). Even if the PC's clock appears current, email will arrive in the recipient's mailbox out-of-sequence:
11:52 John / here's my reply
12:04 John / John's conclusion
12:45 Mary / here's the original email
12:58 Mary / Mary's reply
In case you're not following the example .. Mary didn't apply the DST patches. In real time, Mary sent an email at 11:45am -- but was timestamped as 12:45pm. John replied seven minutes later (11:52), Mary replied six minutes after that (11:58) and John finished the thread six minutes later (12:04pm).

That could be hard to follow if you're trying to make sense of this email thread. The problem will continue until either:

1- 16 more days pass until DST would otherwise start - on April 1st;
2- the person applies the new DST patches.

Even then, it's not foolproof since the clocks on most PCs wander. On one of my XP boxes, I was forced to install Automachron because the PC wandered up to 8 minutes a day, and there's no obvious way to adjust XP's Internet-sync feature to probe more than once a week.

Related: I watched one TV news show - sometime around March 9th - explain how to "fix" the PC without installing the DST patches: they said to simply (x)uncheck the box related to Daylight Saving Time, then manually (x)check it back on April 1. They must've been Texans because the advice was WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.

Wednesday, March 14


In the wake of This Week's Scandal, when asked to comment on reports that some have asked for AG-AG's [Attorney General Alberto Gonzales'] head on a silver platter, President Quagmire is reported to have said:
"You're doing a heckuva job, Gonzo!"
just before boarding a plane for Dubai to confer with his masters at Halliburton.

Film at 11.

lowered expectations

Since I've been doing The Insomnia Thing the past few weeks, I found a good use of my time between midnight and 0400 today : installing patches.

Although Microsoft told everyone they'd "take a month off" and not have a Patch Tuesday in March, they did anyway .. requiring 4 or 5 updates to the stuff on my various PCs running Windows XP.

While they were doing that, Apple released the Mac OS X 10.4.9 bits .. which took a few hours to download. In addition, there was an iPhoto 6 update on my Mac Mini (Intel Core Duo) but not my PowerBook-G4.

Once all that was done, I caught a few hours sleep before today's first concall .. at 0830. And the cycle continues ...

Tuesday, March 13

Ben, meet Jerry

I was checking out of a store tonight, having a random conversation with the cashier. Although he didn't ask if I owned a dog (when I purchased dog food) the exchange wandered into the "everything tastes better with cheese" theory.

I wondered, out loud, why there was no such thing (yet) as Velveeta ice cream.

Somehow, I think I shocked the lad.

Tuesday, March 6

turning Orange into Green

About six years ago, I opened a small savings account with ING Direct. It's certainly not large, and I've never done much with it other than watch a little interest land, a few times a year.

So, although it won't impact them much, I've decided to close the account, as my way of saying "thanks" for being such a proud sponsor of Ann Coulter's website. Personally, I've lost any faith that even the conservatives will be able to contain this clown, so it's the least I can do. Matter of fact, what I'll do is take the money from that ING Orange Savings account and give it to the John Edwards campaign. I'm sure that'll please both parties.

Worth noting: I don't see ANY ads on Coulter's site today - only a "You Can Prevent Forest Fires" public service item - and (of course) links to buy Ann's mental garbage books. Interesting.

Update: I called ING today but was unable to close the account, because they wanted my PIN number, which I've never used (far as I know). So, they're going to mail me a new PIN and I'll be able to call them and cancel the account in a few days. I can hardly wait.

The Final Solution

News item, 9am today:
The death count has jumped to more than 90 people killed in a suicide attack on Shiite pilgrims in Hillah.
Well, I'll bet that Ann (nee Andy) Coulter and the rest of the CFRP are So Very Pleased. They've told me that Bush's Army is Surging, and the streets of Baghdad are now safer. Why, prospective Starbucks franchisees are certainly lined up around the block. I'm reminded of the comment Laura ("Rocket Scientist") Bush made a few days ago:
"Many parts of Iraq are stable now. But, of course, what we see on television is that one bombing a day that discourages everybody."
Yeah, it's all the fault of those TV crews; if only we could stop the flow of information, all our problems would go away. I suppose Cheney and the rest of His war planners never thought the insurgents would simply resort to Whac-A-Mole™ tactics - attack elsewhere. Memo to Cheney: if you secure one place, the terraists will go elsewhere. It's like trying to contain Jell-O™ without the bowl.

Setting aside the trivial detail that we never should have attacked Iraq in the first place, I still think the best solution is simple:
Draft the children of anyone who voted for Bush in 2004. And that includes Jenna and Barbara.
That should provide more than enough bodies to police all of Iraq. President Quagmire did have a mandate then, right?

Saturday, March 3

my first YouTube

After being mesmerized by Jill's videos of the snow in Hoosierville, Indiana; her cats; and American music playing on the car radio while driving the Autobahn, I decided to upload a few videos from my own collection to YouTube. Indeed, this was mostly uneventful since the files were already in an acceptable format (my Pentax digicam produces 640x320 AVI files .. some of my earlier videos were saved as 320x160 MOV files).

First impression: it takes a lot longer to upload the files than it does to view them (yes, I know DSL download speed is usually much higher than upload).

It'll be a bit harder to upload stuff from my [Sony CCD-TRV75] camcorder, which is (probably) one of the last analog camcorders. I bought it in 1999 and still haven't used it enough to get my money's worth! ($835)

A few months ago, I bought the Pyro A/V Link but haven't had the time to use it yet (it works on either Mac or PC - the input is a Firewire cable).

Update: I finally went to sleep around 1am, after uploading 24 videos. That should do for now; others will probably be added on an ad hoc basis.

Friday, March 2

Texas Liars Independence Day

I nearly forgot that today is a state holiday:
"On this day in 1836, the Republic of Texas declared its independence from Mexico."
Given the fact that 29.3%(*) of all people living in Texas were born in Mexico, I find this .. uh .. Curious.

I was reading the Bold Types Blog (columnists from the Dallas Managed News) where one of the guys (Josh Benton) is taking flak for inferring that we dispense with having schoolchildren recite the Texas pledge of allegiance:
"Honor the Texas flag. I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one and indivisible."
Hey, I'm with Josh, but 91%(*) of the Texas population would rather send him back to Louisiana for even thinking that The Texas Pledge should be sent to the dung heap of history. Me, I find it a meaningless rote gesture that will have lost its meaning after about three recitations, but you can't tell that to a Texas native, who has it so drilled into her/his brain that it cannot be dislodged by logic.

Later, Josh tried to correct a blog commenter who wrote
"Texas is the only state in the Union that was previously a nation all its own. Texans are particularly proud of that fact."
.. which is an oft-repeated lie (think Hawaii and Vermont). The same commenter babbled on with
"And proud of the fact that ours is the only state flag that can be flown side by side with the US flag."
.. which is ANOTHER lie (see

All this reminds me of the need to Get It Wright Right The First Time. So many times, I've received an email from someone who has forwarded a maltruth .. and cc'ed everyone in his/her Address Book. While I used to be forgiving and only reply to the sender, pointing out the error, I have learned that she/he never sends a retraction .. so I'm now happy to do it for him/her. Let this serve as a warning to any of you who emails me with a pack-o-lies: I WILL respond to Everyone On Your List with the corrected information. This will make you look like a fool to all your friends. This is not my problem: you should have investigated it yourself and decided Not To Forward It.

Jill Wazzabob used to say: "A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part" which I have morfed into "A lack of fact-checking on your part does not constrict my ability to make you look like the moron you am."[sic]

(*) I concocted this statistic. To native Texans: that means I "made it up".

Thursday, March 1

can you hear me now?

One of my first paying jobs was in the radio business, so microphones [mics] are like an old friend to me (no, not the ones who owe you money). That said, I'm frequently amused by people who speak to crowds where a microphone is appropriate, yet they push it away like a rotting turnip.

I wonder if they somehow think that using a microphone makes them A Weak Person in another's eyes. "I don't need a microphone!," they arrogantly bellow to anyone-who-would-listen, as they continue to strain their vocal chords to show how Manly they are. Then they act downright irritated when someone says "I can't hear you!".

Me, I learned the Proper Care And Feeding Of Mics eons ago, so that I can say words with a P in them without sounding like I'm sppppiting. Or know enough to keep it out of my airstream so I don't sound like a Heavy Breathing Pervert. I also learned the subtle nuances (!) of keeping the mic away from the associated loudspeaker, minimizing feedback.

Why is it that 93% of the population needs to read Amplification For Dummies before attempting the use of these high-tech devices? Is it just practice, practice, practice?

Completely unrelated, and probably should have tossed it onto my award-winning Sundry on Thursday blog: Quotes - The Marx Brothers