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Monday, February 28, 2005

When All Else Fails, But Not Until

I was just reading the help files for a computer program. A friend recommended it. The program that is, not the help file. It's a good program that works well for him. It works well for me too, except one small glitch, it won't shut off. Trying to end the program has thus far led inevitably to a hard reset of my computer.

So, even I read a help file now and then. About five minutes of reading and I find this line: "...was not tested by author under WinMe at all." Ooops. Perhaps just this once I should have read the directions first. Oh well, at least once I work this bug out I'll be able to tell the guy that his program works under Me. I'm like a public servant.

Friday, February 25, 2005

How Does He Do That?

I used to work for a university. My domain was the pool, and I reported to various people in the athletics department. Between the pool and the offices was the main gym. Rather than go around I would often walk through the gym. The gym has no windows. Light from the lobby would outline the doors.

Walking towards those dim outlines through the blackness was always a weird experience. I'd tell myself 'smooth basketball court' over and over. The outlines would disappear for a flash, and I'd think someone was coming the other way out of the darkness until I realized I had just blinked my eyes, tired from straining at nothing to see. The mind, cut off from its most relied upon source of input, would create. A basketball left on the floor could trip me. If they were set up for volleyball I could walk right into the net, or a pole. No amount of knowing things wouldn't happen could keep them out of my mind.

I take Jack to a big grass field by the church. He runs. He takes a slow trot out to the fence line, and turns along it. When he gets near the corner, I call him, and he races back. He charges around the field until his tongue lolls out of his mouth, then he does it some more; though the trot makes more frequent appearances after a while. He gives no thought to what he can't see, he just runs.

I love my dog.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Don't Try This!

There's a commercial. It's for some service; ISP or cell phone probably. The fact that I'm talking about their commercial without having remembered anything about who they are speaks volumes about the inneffectiveness of the ad, but that's another issue entirely.

The theme of the ad is 'people do stupid things'. The product connection being 'stupid things like not using service x'. The visual is this guy on a snow covered housetop, skiing. He sails down the pitch of the roof, and flies off about half in and half out of the bed of a pickup truck. No question; stupid thing. Of course he's a stunt man getting well paid for it, or a real idiot captured on video and then rewarded for their stupidity.

Either way, I was put a little on edge by the 'stupid people' theme, but thrown off the edge by the required disclaimer. The guy hits the truck bed and crashes to the ground in a heap, and the ad agency has to protect themselves by flashing the words 'DO NOT ATTEMPT'. And here it looked like such fun I was gonna run right out and buy some skis.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Techno Gladiator

I might not be the greatest computer tech. Strike that, I'm NOT the greatest computer tech. Okay, strike that too. I'm not a computer tech at all. And whatever building a handful of computers and doing a few upgrades makes me, I'm out of touch timewise for sure. My knowledge of hard drive installation was sorely lacking.

Got a bunch of good parts to build mom a new machine and yesterday was d-day. I learned some stuff. The new world of hard drives is blindingly fast. I like that. Even though they serve no purpose whatsoever in the world of read/write CD-ROM, you still have to have a floppy drive or things get really confused in the BIOS. I didn't like that. The twelve hour bulldog approach still works, but it is physically and mentally draining. I'm not sure if I like that or not.

So, end result. I'm at my mom's computer, which is working like a champ. I now have no working computers, since this one is a hybrid of some of her new parts, parts from both of my machines, and even some parts from her machine that broke down to start this whole mess. Today's task is to take the three carcasses and get two working machines out of it. This machine is a huge improvement for her, and I expect I will upgrade both of my machines in the process as well...hopefully without the twelve hour bulldogging.

Once more into the breech my friends!

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


Yesterday was a Costco run day. We had to take the Compaq back. I'm really impressed by Costco's return policy. Anyway, since we were there, and had no time or inclination for the usual cruise around, I took off on the fast circuit to get the necessities while mom perused the book section for her week's worth of reads.

Danishes for dad's breakfasts, a jar of peperoncinis and a pack of babybel cheeses for me, a couple other things we were notably low on, and I was headed back to books. Fortunately mom remembered we needed crackers. I almost missed my weekly cracker aisle amusement.

Cheez-It crackers current marketing program is probably pretty effective. Even though I watch very little television I know I've seen the ads. Somebody has them, somebody wants them, and the slogan gets hammered in at least a few times. "Get your own box." Everybody should have their own supply of Cheez-Its, clearly. And in case you forget, and ask your friend for some of theirs, it is stated in big letters on the back of every box. Yellow on red, and nothing else to detract. All the product info has been moved away to the side panels so the slogan can fairly scream out; "GET YOUR OWN BOX!"

Somehow I can't help but laugh when I walk by the palette full of boxes with slogan proudly displayed. Now how the heck could you tell someone "get your own box" if you were snarfing down Cheez-Its from the Costco standard THREE POUND box?!?

Don't bother me for the next couple days, I gotta chow down on these Cheez-Its before somebody tries to take some away from me.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Sand Down A Rathole

I started writing a book a while ago. I had some peculiar views and the characters in the book are an expression of them. It's a suspense novel, full of terrorists and counter-terrorists, life on the fringe of the modern world. Then, as most good stories go, I met a girl. My edgy fringe views are getting pretty blurry, and my characters are having a harder time justifying their actions. I read the more recently written stuff, and it is nowhere near the quality of the first chapter.

On the other hand, I've been working on an archive form of my serial project. It's the thing that new readers are linked to in the intro to Arvil Bren's Journal. It's just all the journal entries put in proper order, and I'm working on illustrating it. Anyway, in the course of putting it together I was reading some bits and pieces. I am really pleased with my readers who stuck with me at the start, because I personally think the early episodes weren't that good, especially when I compare them to what I am putting out now. Unlike my suspense novel, my heroic fantasy skills seem to be improving with my shifting viewpoint.

A heroic fantasy view is a lot more fun to live with than an edgy fringe of society view. Thank you Laurie.

Now I have a dilemma. I'm feeling more and more like working on this novel is pouring sand down a rathole, but I have to work on something. The ads in AB's journal are not going to make me a living unless there's a sudden influx of about a hundred thousand readers. So here's the confession of a challenged author: I'm terrible with names, character names and place names. Suspense novel, no problem; Los Angeles, Honolulu, Chicago... and for characters, truth be told, I just open the phone book. I want to write a fantasy novel. Maybe not the next Lord of the Rings, but I think I can do as well or better than a lot of the stuff I see down at B&N. I have a good plot...so help me out here. I need good usable names for heroes and heroines, kings and dukes, cities and villages. All I can offer is a place in the acknowledgements of an as yet unwritten book, and not even the first place there...that's already taken. Like I said, every good story really is about a girl.

Friday, February 18, 2005

How Can Someone With No Particular Job...

be so busy?

I have two main writing projects, and I alternate between them. My serial fiction project, Arvil Bren's Journal (link is over there---->) sort of sets the pace, since it gets an installment published every day. I work on it until I get a good number of installments 'in the bank', and then work on my book until the bank gets low again. Last week I made a mistake.

I made good progress on the book, I still had five days of AB's Journal 'in the bank', and I took a day off to play a computer game that I'd had for about a month without taking time to play. Well, I took a few days off. Okay, I took pretty much the week off. Then I figured out that the last day that I had for AB's Journal wasn't actually written, it was just notes. I have been scrambling ever since.

Trip to Oakland to get Jack, my mom's computer crisis, my usual care and maintenance at my parent's house; just a lot of stuff going on it seems...and I just can't get ahead on this thing. When I had days in the bank I could knock out three or four in a day, this week it has been a battle just to publish on time every day. What is it about playing catch up that makes everything seem to go so slow?

Thursday, February 17, 2005

This Is Sporting?

ESPN is gonna pay a million dollars to Major League Baseball for the rights to run their Fantasy Baseball site. A million dollars! This is worth doing since people pay thirty dollars to play, and I can't even guess how many players there are.

I have a suggestion. Take your fantasies to the park people! Go to the park and get in a pick up game. Play catch with your kids. It's free, and no one is charging a million dollar licence fee. If you don't have kids, borrow some from someone who has to relax in front of the tube to get over the hard day's work that they had to do to pay the credit card bill from when they bought the tube. Let them put in a couple hours overtime to pay for Fantasy Baseball. They need it.

Sorry about the rant.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

So Much For The Lazy Way

My mom's computer cooked last week. Actually it had had us on slow boil for a while. Intermittent problems are the worst. Anyway, last week intermittent became frequent and I declared it dead before mom took a hammer to it. From there we looked at all the available paths.

Swap out parts, starting with memory. But even though the problem had gotten frequent, it still wasn't constant. Not like I could put in a new part, turn it on and say 'that was it'. The drama of 'I think it's fixed, I think it's fixed, nope there it goes again' wasn't something we wanted to go through.

Build mom a new machine. I knew this was the right thing to do. She actually doesn't need much of a machine to start with. Ethernet card, DVD player, minimal hard drive, and enough processor and memory to play games on Yahoo. To buy a machine with a DVD drive is to pay for about three times the basic machine that she needs. But if I built it I'd really be responsible every time something got sideways.

So the lazy way. Off to Costco and buy a Compaq. Which did something odd right out the gate during the Windows initialization, but seemed to get over it. Then it started having a mouse problem.

Check the system log, it's not really the mouse, it's a DVD drive disappearing and reappearing. While the system tries to figure out what to do about that the mouse buffer overflows. The error code suggests replacing the IDE cable, I write a politely scathing e-mail to Compaq tech support...they tell me it will be okay if I do that. I was actually hoping they might think to PAY FOR THE CABLE, if not my time.

Anyway, the new cable didn't solve the problem. I think it's probably the connector on the motherboard. I have no further interest in working on their machine, so Compaq is gonna get this fine specimen back. I will build her a machine.

Like I should have done in the first place. Lesson learned. I just wish I could stop needing life to crack me in the head.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

New Clan Member

The really observant may have noticed that yesterday's post was actually done on Sunday night. That was due to a fourteen hour road trip yesterday. The photo shows what would make me take on such a trip. This is Jack.

Now for plugs and thanks.

The Milo Foundation is the best! They rescued Jack...taking on a dog that they knew would be hard to place because he is blind. On their site they have a section for dogs and cats with special needs. Looking at that list of what they have been willing to take on will give you a sense of what they are about. Then look at the vast array of dogs and cats they have rescued and find one to give a home to. Every one you take makes room for them to rescue another!

That was the plug and thanks in one for the organization...these are just thanks...

To Abbie, who tended Jack as his foster mom...kept up his manners...let him know he would always be loved...

To Lynne, who drove all over to get Jack and bring him to meet me (in the rain and Oakland traffic)...

To Molly, who came into the office even though she was sick just so she could answer the phone when I called for directions...

I think animals should get to judge which humans get to heaven, and ladies you have earned front row seats.

Sunday, February 13, 2005


This weekend I introduced my girlfriend to the wonderful world of real-time strategy games. Why? I have no idea. Yet another way to lose her for hours on end. It did offer some amusement though.

The game of choice is a classic; Age of Empires. First scenario, guiding an Egyptian hunter. He has to gather food by hunting Gazelles. "I don't want him to kill them. They're nice. Aren't there some mean things he can kill?" After I got her to accept that he was a good stone age conservationist that would only kill at need, the rise of Egypt began in earnest.

Some number of hours later she was still playing. I watched as she built a major land army to battle some marauders, probably Libyans. She grabbed up some idle villagers and coolly sent them to dispatch some nearby gazelles. "What are you doing?" I asked.

"Building my army." I watched as she started the military buildings training another set of soldiers.

"I see that, but you have plenty of food. What's with the hunters?"

"Oh, they just needed something to do."

Games follow life.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Rain, Rain, Make My Day

I live in the desert. Since it is a desert, one would think the local cities would not invest heavily in drainage systems. You would be surprised.

There are literally hundreds of miles of drains. They mark out the valley in big squares, like a checkerboard. We certainly couldn't do without them. It floods here every time it rains.

It's a good thing we can get our money's worth though, since it does only really rain about three times a year. They paint lines down the middle of the drains. Most of the time we call them roads.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Show Must Go On

This is a tribute to the late great Johnny Carson.

There's a whole world full of comedians who owe a lot of their success to Johnny. For decades, the holy grail of comedy was to appear on The Tonight Show. A guy would start out working a circuit of open mic clubs, honing his craft, sorting out material that worked from stuff that didn't. After a seemingly endless struggle there would be that first paying gig. By then the show had a style, an image; and the material included a lot of solid material that was tried and true. Success, repeated success, a steady diet of paying gigs and maybe finally the chance to quit that day job. The material accumulated is top notch, the delivery is polished to a fine edge, and that magical moment comes. An invitation to appear on The Tonight Show.

The fresh new comic comes on right after Carson's monologue. If he can overcome his nervousness, "national television audience!", he might be tapped by some network executive to have a situation comedy written as a vehicle for his bit...but at the very least he is gonna be able to tell managers of big clubs "Yeah, I can work a big room. I was on The Tonight Show." It doesn't get any bigger than that.

These guys would follow Johnny on to that stage, armed with a set that might have been honed for years. Johnny walked out on that stage, stood and delivered every day. I laugh at so much of life that I thought it would be easy to find something and jot it in here and be funny as hell on a daily basis. Once again I am learning the hard way. Here's to you Johnny, wherever you are.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The Last Samurai

A great film that I saw again this last weekend. My girlfriend had never seen it, which made for a good excuse, but this one I would watch over again without any excuse required. Watching with her was great though. It gave me a chance to really think about things in more depth than I might otherwise.

The samurai lived to serve the Emperor. In the end they died for the Emperor before he would listen to their advice. He didn't completely trust what they lived for, but when they died for it there could be no question. My observation, that is still a truth; you can tell what someone lives for if you can find out what they are willing to die for. You might not like it, but at least you know.

My complaint about the modern world is that life has taken on such sanctity that many people wouldn't die for anything, and get upset by those who will. Astronauts didn't shut down the space program when a few of them died for it, bureaucrats did. Fighting men honor their commitments when some of their fellows are killed in action, even though their 'leaders' brave no danger whatsoever. For the many there isn't anything they would die for.

My question; if there isn't anything worth dying for, what are we living for?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Duck hunters?

I stopped at the post office this morning. You don't exactly wait in line to drop mail. A little hesitation to let the guy at the drop slot handle his business maybe, maybe even a glance around to make sure someone else doesn't arrive at the same moment as you do, but not like standing in line. It was just enough contact with my fellow humans to be surprised at the strangeness of it all.

When I left the stamp machine and headed for the drop slot there was a guy dropping his mail. He was wearing a camouflage jacket, jeans, and lug soled boots. Not a military jacket; he was wearing the kind you see on American Sportsman. I couldn't help picturing him in some Delaware marsh, crouched in a duck blind. That might not have struck you as odd, but I live in the desert, and at that time of morning it is bitterly dry cold. Any duck in the vicinity is frozen, or stuffed. Okay, clothes are clothes and to each their own, him being dressed that way wasn't all that strange I guess.

The strange part was the guy who was doing the pause to let him get out of the way thing. He was closer than I was, so he went ahead of me. Hunting camouflage...jeans...lug soles...they looked like brothers in arms. I went out the door behind them; a string of three guys having dropped off our mail, two of them obviously on their way to ambush a duck somewhere. I couldn't believe it as they went their separate ways. Not only were they dressed in identical strangeness, but neither of them had given the other a second glance.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Rat's Nests?

My girlfriend has beautiful hair. Like many beautiful things it takes some effort, and time in the mornings. On our laid back weekends this turns into the quick and easy pony-tail. Sunday we were in the shower and she says "My hair feels like a rat's nest." Now there are lots of good things to say at a time like that, but of course my mind abandons the obvious.

"When was the last time you felt a rat's nest?" Once started, my curiousity hit high gear in very short order. "Was there a rat IN the nest at the time?" "Why would you be feeling a rat's nest in the first place? I didn't even know you liked rats." It was surprising that I got out as much as I did, but she was washing her hair so I had an advantage.

Eventually she got free enough of the shampoo to open her eyes and say "You are so weird."

Weird? I'm not the one feelin' up rat's nests.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Lady Macbeth's dog

On Thursday nights I practice guitar with a friend of mine. We go to this coffeehouse after he gets off work. I'm learning a song he does, he's learning a song I can do. We both have a couple other songs we're working on. It's not like a free concert, by any means. But we are learning to play together, which brings a whole new aspect to our guitar journeys. Anyway, this post isn't about guitars.

The coffeeshop girl, who puts up with us once a week, is reading Macbeth. When I saw it in her hand last night I couldn't help myself. I quoted, "Out damn spot." My partner in auditory assault was baffled until I pointed out the book. "Lady Macbeth. One of Shakespere's most famous lines. You'd think with all the dialog he wrote that no one would remember Lady Macbeth talking to her dog."

Greg looked doubtful, but puzzled. Then our hostess looked up. "I don't think she has a dog. Are you sure that was her?" The youth of America, always letting the truth get in the way of a good story.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

I am very observer

I just got this thing in my e-mail. It has these very cool optical illusion artworks in it. Some I've seen before, and some new ones. The one that really cracked me up though had this great caption. It says:

"There are 11 human faces in the picture. Can you find them all?
Normal people find 4 or 5 of them.
If you find 8 of them, you have a extraordinary sense of observation.
If you find 9 of them, you have a sense of observation above the average.
If you find 10 of them, you are very observer.
If you find 11 of them, you are extremely observer."

I really wanted to be extremely observer, but got distracted wondering how someone who put so much effort into putting together all these cool visual effects could fail to see such obvious butchery in the caption.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The excitement never ends

My dad is eighty-five years old, and apparently driven by the idea that he doesn't want to be a bother. I came here to take care of my folks because my mom just couldn't physically manage him and the house any more. How she was managing mentally is anyones guess.

I tell the old bird regularly that I'm in great shape and have plenty of time; getting him in the car, loading up his chair, none of this is a problem. He could get out if he wants, anywhere he wants. No, he doesn't want; perfectly happy to hang out at home. Just ask him.

So today is the day for preliminary lab work prior to next week's routine check-up. Mom and I tried not to tell him, but I won't outright lie, and he asked yesterday.
"Don't I have a medical coming up?"
"Yeah Pop. Coming up."
Oh boy. "Next week Pop." Might dodge the bullet here.
"Isn't there some preliminaries first?"
No luck dodging. "Yeah Pop. Lab work tomorrow."
"Good thing I asked. It would have snuck right by me."
Oh boy.

Obvious question. What's the problem with telling him?

So I arrive this morning and bring in mom's newspapers. Usually I just lay them within reach for when she wakes up, but today she's waiting for me. Dad's had her up for an hour; "Where's Tim?", "Does he know I have a medical?", she's about half crazy. The lab isn't even open yet. I feel sorry for anyone who has so little to look forward to that getting blood drawn is such a highlight. One more try on the way home. "Pop, how about one of these afternoons when it's warm we get you out and about somewhere?"

"Oh no, I don't want to go out. I don't want to be a bother."

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The Funny Blog

My girlfriend calls me every morning while she walks into work from the parking lot. A new regular component in that call is "have you written your funny blog yet?" How do I get myself into these things? My serial, Arvil Bren's Journal, has about forty regular readers. I post an episode every day, Monday through Friday, come hell or high water as the saying goes. Neither rain nor snow nor smoked video card has made me miss. There I can cheat though. I have a buffer. Some days I write three or four episodes, so some days I can write none. Here I can't get ahead...and somehow 'my own thoughts' has turned into 'the funny blog'. The pressure!

Well, before I get funny I want to point out the more serious side of 'the funny blog'...over there--->... I put a link to an interesting serial that I just stumbled onto a couple days ago. I've read about half of it so far and have enjoyed it. Anyone who finds any other serials let me know the link.

So now for the funny part! Okay. Hmmmm. I know it was supposed to be here somewhere.