Is Microsoft Still a Monopoly?

(See, I go on vacation for a little while, and catch up on my blogging all at once...)

Microsoft Windows still dominates the desktop. But in many other areas, including Web servers and supercomputing, Microsoft is just one player among many, and often a weak player at that. On the gaming side, despite the latest xBox getting all kinds of media buzz as "the" console to buy, Sony's Playstation outsells the xBox at least two to one, and many analysts expect Sony to widen that gap even more when Playstation 3 comes out in the Spring of 2006. On the Internet, MSN and MSN Search are so far behind AOL and Google that it isn't funny. And even on the desktop, Linux keeps getting stronger, while Mac OS X is commonly accepted as more reliable, secure, and user-oriented than Windows. So why do we keep saying Microsoft is a monopoly?

(Story continues here.)

Reality Bytes: Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked

A large gap exists between the public's perception of video games and what the research actually shows. The following is an attempt to separate fact from fiction.

(By Henry Jenkins, MIT Professor.)

Twas the night before Xmas - Battlefield 2 style!

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Strike At Karkand was loading, as I wiggled my mouse.
Karkand had loaded, I was almost there,
There would be no flying, no stingers, no flares.

My team started spawning, it’s time to cap flags
I'll be sure to kill some bunny-hopping fags.
If I spawn really quick, maybe I’ll snag the tank,
Then head to the Hotel to shoot at their flank.

Passing the Market, I heard enemy chatter,
I turned my tank around to see them all scatter.
I stepped on the pedals and gave it some gas,
They hid in the same spot, they died in one blast!

So then I debated on where I should go,
Maybe to their arty, with C4 to blow.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a packed Humvee, and a driver who couldn’t steer.

The driver sees me so I have to shoot him quick,
One shot to the tires really did the trick.
More rapid than eagles the enemy came,
I killed them one by one and called them some names!

“Die n00bie! Die Lamer! You dolphin diving bitches!
I pwn j00! Die Hax0r and fags who use glitches!
You can hide on a rooftop or behind a wall,
It doesn’t matter ‘cause I will pwn j00 a11!”

I spotted a spec ops out the corner of my eye,
I nailed him with a tank round, and made that bitch fly!
I made kill after kill, my score really grew,
But I needed quick repairs and some ammo too.

My commander was useless, a total goof
What kind of retard drops supplies on a roof?
I drove around the map to buy me some time,
When I saw something else that would do just as fine.

Here came an Engy, with some AT mines to lay,
I killed him so fast, he got mad and called me gay.
I hopped out my tank to go pick up his pack,
To repair to full health and then renew my attack.

My tank was like new, so pristine and so cherry,
This would help win first place and make me so merry.
I started the engine, the tank treads did roll
Onward back into battle, first place was my goal.

Coming towards me was trouble, their APC,
I rolled up ahead as my team began to flee.
He shot once and then twice, there was no direct hit,
The driver was a total n00b, and in deep shit.

Now he wasn’t moving, he was totally still,
He was easy to hit as I went in for the kill.
I left-clicked on my mouse as I shook my head,
His APC blew up, his lame ass was dead.

I spoke not a word, and went straight back to work,
The other team called me hax0r and a jerk.
When you have this much skill, that’s just how it goes,
You’ll get no respect from those whiney-ass hoes.

The match was almost over, the ticket count low,
I got killed at the Market by that stupid ass tow.
I shouted to the n00bs who bowed before my might,
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good fight!”

(Kudos to cyrus360.)


And a Very Merry Christmas to You

In the spirit of the holidays, I present to you the goal to which we all strive for, the ultimate expression of what this season is all about. Cheers!


Google acquires stake in AOL

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Google Inc. and America Online Inc. Tuesday expanded their search and advertising alliance to include video and instant messaging, shutting out Microsoft Corp., which had fought hard for a deal with Time Warner Inc.'s AOL unit.

America Online said Google had agreed to invest $1 billion to take a 5 percent stake in AOL, as part of an enhanced pact where Google will move beyond text-based advertising to allow AOL to sell graphical ads to Google's fast-growing ad network.

Terms of the deal call for AOL to make more of its Web sites searchable via Google search, including a plans to feature AOL's premium video services within Google Video, a way of searching for Web-based video programming.

They also said they had agreed, under certain unspecified conditions, to allow users of Google's recently introduced instant messaging system Google Talk to communicate with users of AOL's market-leading AIM instant messaging service.


Steam Hybrid Car from BMW

Now here's an interesting tidbit read over at Slashdot. BMW is unveiling its turbosteamer hybrid engine, which uses the excess heat in the exhaust system and reclaims 80% of it by powering a steam engine that assists the gas engine. Overall, this gives a 15% more efficient engine; and significant additional performance (power and torque) with practically no downside. "This project resolves the apparent contradiction between consumption and emission reductions on one hand, and performance and agility on the other," commented Professor Burkhard Goschel. So, what do you think, could steam engines be the future of environmental-friendly hybrid vehicles?


Just in time for the holidays...

Q: I've heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life. Is this true?

A: Your heart is only good for so many beats, and that's it... don't waste them on exercise. Everything wears out eventually. Speeding up your heart will not make you live longer; that's like saying you can extend the life of your car by driving it faster. Want to live longer? Take a nap.

Q: Should I cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables?

A: You must grasp logistical efficiencies. What does a cow eat? Hay and corn. And what are these? Vegetables. So a steak is nothing more than an efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef is also a good source of field grass (green leafy vegetable). And a pork chop can give you 100% of your recommended daily allowance of vegetable products.

Q: Should I reduce my alcohol intake?

A: No, not at all. Wine is made from fruit. Brandy is distilled wine, tequila is made out of cactus, that means they take the water out of the fruity bit so you get even more of the goodness that way. Beer is also made out of grain. Bottoms up!

Q: How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?

A: Well, if you have a body and you have body fat, your ratio is one to one. If you have two bodies, your ratio is two to one, etc.

Q: Aren't fried foods bad for you?

A: YOU'RE NOT LISTENING!!! Foods are fried these days in vegetable oil. In fact, they're permeated in it. How could getting more vegetables be bad for you?
______________________________ __

Q: Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the middle?

A: Definitely not! When you exercise a muscle, it gets bigger. You should only be doing sit-ups if you want a bigger stomach.

Q: Is chocolate bad for me?

A: Are you crazy? HELLO Cocoa beans--another vegetable!!! It's the best feel-good food around!

Q: Is swimming good for your figure?

A: If swimming is good for your figure, explain whales to me.

Q: Is getting in-shape important for my lifestyle?

A: Hey! 'Round' is a shape!

Well, I hope this has cleared up any misconceptions you may have had about food and diets!

Remember my happy little chums. Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways - Chardonnay in one hand & chocolate coated strawberries in the other - body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming - WOO HOO! What a Ride!


Aeon Flux

Off of Slashdot, the movie AeonFlux has been getting a mixture of reviews since its debut and most tend to be on the negative side. A review posted on BinaryIdiot goes a bit more in-depth than most reviews and gives the movie a fair shot. From the review:
First of all, I have to say that I'm disappointed, but not altogether surprised by the reviews I've seen thus far. Those who review films for a living are notoriously unreliable, and in many cases, they miss the whole point altogether. Rest assured, even though I'm as skeptical as they come, and can find a flaw in absolutely anything, I won't pick on this movie simply because the plot may be too hard for some people to understand.
I've been looking forward to seeing this movie, though most likely I'll be waiting for the video... Here's the bottom line from the review, which sounds promising:
All in all, if you are one of those who have an imagination that's functional enough to let you enjoy a movie as far-fetched and fantasy-esque as this one, you will probably be riveted. If you are more narrow-minded and get nauseous at the mere thought of something that's not 100% realistic (like many of those who have already reviewed this movie) then go do something useful, since you're probably beyond help and reading this review isn't going to accomplish anything for you. It's a movie and therefore has the right to -gasp- take place in the future, and -bigger gasp- have characters that don't look or act as if they just walked out of Starbuck's. This movie is a down and dirty sci-fi thriller with a deep and ever-expanding imagination and it never tried to sell itself as anything else.
So, anybody seen it yet? Ever heard of Aeon Flux? Do you even care? I swear, the number of comments on my blog, I could count on one hand... :-)


The Top 10 Weirdest USB Drives Ever

Fosfor Gadgets lists the top weirdest USB drives ever, including photographs. Shrimp, sushi and dimsum, mmmmm... I've seen the big Tiki drive at ThinkGeek before, but I gotta agree with their number one weird drive. There's just something wrong with ripping Barbie's head off and inserting the body into a USB port...


In Memoriam: Athos

So I get up this morning to do a 4am install, turn on the lights to the basement and see Athos lying there. He's sprawled on his side, so undignified for a cat who was always the epitome of dignity. Not moving, his fluffy grey-and-white fur just lies there.

I feel stupid for getting so upset. He was an old cat, almost 12 years, and he'd been having trouble for awhile. Spent a good deal of money at the vet with xrays and medicines to see why he wasn't eating and when he did, couldn't keep anything down. We had flushed his system out and everything seemed to be ok. I actually just wrote out a tag on a Christmas present last night, to Mommy from Athos, Olivia and Salem (the cats). And thinking how nice it was he was still with us. And then I walked down the stairs this morning.

We got Athos as a kitten, the summer we were married. He was like our first child, when we weren't intending to have actual children of our own just yet. Over time we had many more cats, five at one time, but when we moved back up to Maryland from Virginia Beach we knew we could only keep two (the usual limit for renting), so we kept Athos and Uther. Uther (Pookie) passed away last Christmas when his kidneys failed. We had to take him to the vet, he was in so much pain, and they had to put him to sleep. That was hard saying goodbye, but I knew he wouldn't be in pain anymore. He was a few months younger than Athos though.

I remember Athos as a kitten, the definition of trouble. Got into everything, always up on the counter. Closed him in the fridge once - he must have snuck in behind my back when it was open. When I next opened it there he was, face down in the cheesecake on the bottom shelf and having the time of his life.

I recall another time, I was eating ice cream in front of the television. Had my bowl on a stool in front of me. Athos was just off to the side, when suddenly with a leap worthy of a tiger pouncing on his prey, he dove into my ice cream bowl. I had to drag him out, smacking his nose and scolding severely, but he didn't care - he was too busy contentedly licking his paws off.

Athos was the strongest cat I've ever known. I mean, to clip his nails I had to literally lay on top of him, and then it was even money whether or not he'd push me off. I think I still have scars from the unfortunate time we had to give the cats a flea dip bath.

He definitely had his own personality. Very aloof, and unforgiving at times, but he was also lovable and comforting, always knowing when a good fluff would cheer one of us right up.

He was my first cat. My first baby, and the only one left from when we got married. He always seemed like he'd live forever, too stubborn by far to go away. But, all things end, all things pass. And so now he's gone.

This has helped alot to erase the shock of seeing him like that this morning, with the warm memories of how he was. So, if you actually bothered to read this far, thanks for sharing. I'm at work right now, but I'm hoping to take off early so I can go home and fluff two cats. I have the feeling they could use it as much as I do.


From Shorts to Sweaters

Back at Donna's parents tonight. And let me just say: Dialup sucks. 'Nuff said. (Bloody internet dark ages...)

Anyways, uneventful flight back. Many many good memories, fun time by all, it was great to relax and not even think of the day to day things that tend to stress one out (work, school, bills, schedules, etc.) and just enjoy the time we had together. We definitely need to take more week-long vacations - extended weekends just doesn't cut it for quality family time.

All told we have a little over 500 digital photos (that we kept, I know we deleted many that didn't come out) from 6 days at Disney (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, MGM, and Downtown Disney/Marketplace) and 2 days at SeaWorld.

Last week, we were in shorts and sandals. Back home in WV, they're calling for snow the next two days. Ah, well, 'tis the season... Christmas is coming...

(BTW, did I mention my lovely wife is now a featured contributor?)


Our Days at Disney

We have had several wonderful days in Florida, even though it rained off and on yesterday at Epcot and this morning at Magic Kingdom. We have now been to all 4 parks, though not much in MGM yet. We are going there Friday. In between we are taking 2 days at Sea World and going back to finish up Disney for the end of the trip. The girls had lunch with the Princesses yesterday and loved every minute of it. The didn't eat anything, but they got to meet Jasmine, Belle, Mulan, Ariel and Aurora. They also have met Mickey, Pooh, Woody and Jesse, Turk from Tarzan, and CHip and Dale. They've seen Pocahontas' show, Katie and Carrie even rode a mini roller coaster, we've eaten at the Sci Fi Drive in, and played in every country at Epcot.

We are tired, but having a Wonderful time and looking forward to tomorrow. After Sea World tomorrow we go to the Arabian nights show with 60 horses, and Thursday after Sea World we go to the Polynesian Luau christmas special. Today we rode Peter Pan, It's a small world, Stitch, and buzz lightyear's space ranger spin and saw Cinderella's coronation. Too much to write it all here, but I've taken about 300 pictures, so I'll get those up when we get home. I don't have the program on this computer to do it, so I have to wait, unforunately!

There's more to do here than can be done, even in 8 days. Today we laughed to hard. There was a talking moving trash can in Tomorrow land called Push (obviously so named for the "push" label on his flap) A lady tried to put trash in him, and he moved and thanked her. She freaked out. he was talking to the girls and asking for hugs and wanted to know where they were from. It was really fun. There was a little boy who kept trying to look inside it to see who was controlling it, but it was just a trash can.

Oh well. Getting tired so going to bed. Can''t wait to see everyone, even though we don't want to go. The weather is gorgeous- today was around 70 after the rain cooled everything down. It's been close to 80 and a little too hot, but it's great now. we have the air conditioner running all the time and the girls are enjoying their "fort holiday" where there little room is.


Sony's DRM Debacle, or Why You Can't Trust the Man

There's been so much written about Sony's draconian foray into hacking. (I love that word, "Draconian". Has a nice feel to it. First time I've really gotten to use it, go me.) It would be difficult for me to put into words the utter disbelief I am exhibiting at the moral misbehavior of a giant corporation. Yes, companies do this sort of thing all the time. I'm not a conspiracist by any means, but yeah they're all out to get us. Right in the pocketbook. But this was so blatantly obvious, and showed such a callous disregard of not only the consequences but if we users would even CARE what they were doing... it just boggles the mind.

Userfriendly.org has had some nice cartoons running that, as usual, hit the nail right on the head. Illiad is a genius. But I was also just reading a lengthy article posted on Datamation called "Where was Sony's Privacy Officer?" The author, Ray Everett-Church, has some interesting points and nice summaries. So, if you've been wondering what the hype is all about, and why you should even care (not just in this case, but regarding corporations in general and what they think they can get away with), go give it a read.
As this month's controversy over Sony's distribution of music CDs with flawed digital rights management (DRM) software continues to play itself out, the whole mess is already primed to become a classic case study in why corporations need competent Privacy Officers to keep them out of trouble.
And, my new favorite quote:
When interviewed on the radio, the president of Sony BMG's Global Digital Business, Thomas Hesse, said, "Most people, I think, don't even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?"

Note to Mr. Hesse: "Who cares?" is seldom a good response.
Good stuff. Indeed the upper echelons most likely did not, and continue to be ignorant of, the issue at hand. They proclaim "Make it so!" and leave things in underlings hands, but then are surprised when it blows up in their faces. Does Hesse even know what a rootkit is, or the consequences of installing such on unwilling consumer's computers? Unlikely. "Unfortunately for him, the gross tonnage of what he doesn't understand about how his company screwed up only now is coming to light."

Planes, Cats and Automobiles

...plus other modes of transportation...

So both of my kids now, primarily my youngest, have gotten it into their heads to be terrified at the prospect of flying down to Disney this coming Friday. My youngest has used it as an excuse for awhile now not to go to sleep on time, but now the date looms closer and they're both more than a little nervous. Does no good explaining what all is entailed in flight itself, nor does it help to talk about past flights people have taken. I've talked to them (heck I just flew halfway around the world!), my Mom talked to them (and she was a stewardess at one time), nothing has helped. Need to find one of those books like "Brother Bear Goes to the Dentist" or something, but for airplane rides... hmm, that's actually a good idea, just popped right into my head, guess it helps to talk these things out...

Another headache has been our poor old cat Athos. We got him when we got married, so he's going on eleven and a half years old now. Still very energetic and healthy as an ox, at least until recently. Been having trouble keeping stuff down, and not much appetite. Taken him to the doctor's twice, xrays and medicine (and a cramp in our wallets) but can't seem to find out what's wrong with him. Going to be tough, we're going out of town so we won't be there to make sure he's doing ok. But, the last time we took him on Saturday he got a shot of antibiotics and some uppers, plus got his system flushed out. None too happy with us, but he seems a lot perkier and is eating again. This is the last of our original family, before we had kids, and though I know his time will come eventually, it will just kill me when he passes away.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

On a final note... I am really diggin' my car. I mean, I've never been one to drool over cars, or treat it like a baby, or even understand how some guys can get together and jut talk about... cars. Now however, I can boast with the best of 'em. I love my Prius. Not just the fact that it's a hybrid and gets awesome gas mileage. Not just because the insides look like something out of the future. Not just because I can boot my car up without using a key. Not just because of the spankin' audio system, or the comfy seats, or the climate control, or the cute little fact that the radio will now pick up extra signals from radio stations that broadcast their id and song title now playing. It's all that, plus it is SOOOO FREAKING COOL!

'Nuff said. For now anyways.


Off to the Movies

"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" opens today. Our ops group at AOL is taking time off to see the 11:50am show, caveat being the "expectation is that those who go will come back to work afterwards and complete their workday." However, significant others are welcome, so Donna's driving down to see it with me, and she'll have time to get back to pick the girls up from the bus. Heh, I actually get to go on a date, cool beans. Tickets already bought online, so I'm off to the Regal Countryside 20 in Sterling VA soon...


Fun BF2 Videos

Mario Kart Spinoff


"Mine" (this one is the best)

Site Update

Been tweaking my site a little bit. Updated my Gaming page with a review of Star Wars Battlefront II, and moved the older reviews to an archive page. I had added a weather banner to my front page, but that seems to be timing out now, wonder if they went offline... I really should do some updating of my Computer and Book pages. I've been rereading some of my older novels (the ones by David Eddings are always favorites) but now I've moved to the Narnia books in preparation for the movie coming out... oh yeah, that will be sweeet...

Oh, and speaking of movies, tomorrow (Friday) I'm going out on a work-sanctioned (but not sponsored, tickets are my own purchase) trip to see the new Harry Potter movie. Fortunately it's at 11:50am, whcih means Donna will be able to meet me there, thereby avoiding much maritial dissention... lol


Worst Job Ever

WARNING: Some major cussin'. If that doesn't bother you, go ahead and click after you crank your speakers up. Definitely worth a good laugh.

What's in a (Pirate) name?

My pirate name is:

Mad Sam Kidd

Every pirate is a little bit crazy. You, though, are more than just a little bit. Even though you're not always the traditional swaggering gallant, your steadiness and planning make you a fine, reliable pirate. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from fidius.org.


The Open Source WRT54G Story

The story of the Linksys Wireless-G Router (model WRT54G) and how you can turn a $60 router into a $600 router is a little bit CSI and a little bit Freaks & Geeks. It’s also the story of how the open source movement can produce a win-win scenario for both consumers and commercial vendors. What’s especially exciting is that tricking out this router doesn’t require any eBay sleuthing or other hunt for some off-the-wall piece of hardware. Instead, grab it off-the-shelf. The WRT54G is stacked high in every Best Buy and Circuit City across the country and, of course, most online retailers — Amazon.com sells it for $55. It’s ubiquitous and, some would say, a diamond in the rough. Or a wolf in sheep’s clothing.


New Logitech G15 gaming keyboard

This is awesome, just found this from a post on BBR.
The Logitech® G15 keyboard offers gamers an unprecedented level of in-game information, programmability and control. Its adjustable-tilt, backlit LCD display shows you crucial information during game play, and lets you set timers to keep track of game events.
Oh this looks sweet. If it weren't for the $80 tag I'd run out and get one, even though that's an insanely low price for a keyboard with these features...
The 18 programmable "G Keys" allow you to execute macros—like casting spells in World of Warcraft—with a single button press, and the backlit keys are great for lights-out play. The G15 also features a switch that turns off the 'Windows' key, so hitting that button accidentally won't end your game.

The Logitech® G15 keyboard is completely customizable to help you play better. Try it and you'll never go back to a standard keyboard.
It is getting good reviews and a site has already been setup to discuss this keyboard and scripts that can be used with it.

The Next Big Thing in Online Type

Vista, the upcoming version of Windows, is getting lots of ink. To learn all about the fonts that Microsoft used in Vista's interface, read Anne Van Wagener's "The Next Big Thing in Online Type":
Bill Gates wants computer users, well, Microsoft users, to have a more enjoyable on-screen reading experience -- so much so that he made improving reading on the screen one of his top five priorities.

Beginning in 2006, Microsoft says it will ship with its operating system and other software products six brand new typefaces created especially for extended on-screen reading.
Personally, I really like the Calibri font, it looks like a cleaner version of Helvetica, which is one of my favorite web fonts. Corbel is really nice too, touted as a "nice alternative to Arial, Trebuchet or Verdana."

PC World's "Windows Vista Looks Slicker, Safer" gives you three pages full of its new features. And if you've just got to stay up-to-date on every Vista announcement, you can check in with PC World's Windows Info Center.

If you have a LCD monitor or a laptop, you can substantially improve the look of your on-screen fonts. They'll be sharper and clearer than ever before. All you need to know about is ClearType. It's a feature built into XP that's turned off by default, oddly enough. You can fiddle with XP's settings to get ClearType, but it's way easier to use Microsoft's online wizard to change the setting.

Steve Bass' favorite tool for this is ClearTweak, a cool, free utility that lets you fine-tune ClearType, or turn it on or off. Haven't tried it myself, so I can't really comment on it. The guy has good instincts though, and I tend to trust his opinion (even if he does tend to stick with a non-web-standards-conforming, dinosaur of a browser like IE).

Much of this post, BTW, was taken from Steve's newsletter, "Steve Bass's Tips and Tweaks". Definitely worth signing up to get weekly tidbits.


The Birdcage

There once was a man named George Thomas, pastor in a small New England town. One Easter Sunday morning he came to the Church carrying a rusty, bent, old bird cage, and set it by the pulpit. Eyebrows were raised and, as if in response, Pastor Thomas began to speak..."I was walking through town yesterday when I saw a young boy coming toward me swinging this bird cage. On the bottom of the cage were three little wild birds, shivering with cold and fright. I stopped the lad and asked, "What you got there, son?" "Just some old birds," came the reply.

"What are you gonna do with them?" I asked.

"Take 'em home and have fun with 'em," he answered. "I'm gonna tease 'em and pull out their feathers to make 'em fight. I'm gonna have a real good time." "But you'll get tired of those birds sooner or later. What will you do?"

"Oh, I got some cats," said the little boy. "They like birds. I'll take 'em to them."

The pastor was silent for a moment. "How much do you want for those birds, son?"

"Huh?? !!! Why, you don't want them birds, mister. They're just plain old field birds. They don't sing. They ain't even pretty!"

"How much?" the pastor asked again.

The boy sized up the pastor as if he were crazy and said, "$10?"

The pastor reached in his pocket and took out a ten dollar bill. He placed it in the boy's hand. In a flash, the boy was gone.

The pastor picked up the cage and gently carried it to the end of the alley where there was a tree and a grassy spot Setting the cage down, he opened the door, and by softly tapping the bars persuaded the birds out, setting them free.

Well, that explained the empty bird cage on the pulpit, and then the pastor began to tell this story.

One day Satan and Jesus were having a conversation. Satan had just come from the Garden of Eden, and he was gloating and boasting. "Yes, sir, I just caught the world full of people down there. Set me a trap, used bait I knew they couldn't resist. Got 'em all!"

"What are you going to do with them?" Jesus asked.

Satan replied, "Oh, I'm gonna have fun! I'm gonna teach them how to marry and divorce each other, how to hate and abuse each other, how to drink and smoke and curse. I'm gonna teach them how to invent guns and bombs and kill each other. I'm really gonna have fun!"

"And what will you do when you get done with them?" Jesus asked. "Oh, I'll kill 'em," Satan glared proudly. "How much do you want for them?" Jesus asked

"Oh, you don't want those people. They ain't no good. Why, you'll take them and they'll just hate you. They'll spit on you, curse you and kill you. You don't want those people!!"

"How much?" He asked again.

Satan looked at Jesus and sneered, "All your blood, tears and your life."

Jesus said, "DONE!"


Quote of the Day

Those who can laugh without cause have either found the true meaning of happiness or have gone stark raving mad.
- Norm Papernick


My Eyesssss.... They Burnsssss.....

Ugh, I feel like the undead. My head is stuffy, my eyes burn, I know some of it is just exhaustion. First day back in the office, and I've been swamped with stuff to catch up on. My wife and youngest are home sick with some bug, I think I may have gotten that was well. I wasn't stuffy at all while in India - so maybe instead it's just my allergies kicking in. Any way, I feel like crap.

Maybe I'll go home early. Or, since I seem to actually have some readership, maybe I'll take advantage of my fuzziness and write something barely coherent.

That is, if I could find something even marginally intelligent to write about.

Aw, hell, this sucks. I giving it 15 more minutes, and then I'm blowing this joint. Not that I don't have a ton of stuff to do still (including the frigging expense reports from the trip so I can get reimbursed in a somewhat timely fashion, though that's all relative) but it will wait till next week. Only saving grace is that the Bangalore folk are on holiday all next week. I will have some breathing space to catch up. Just as soon as I get through these server lease replacements that need action on them by the 1st...

Bah. It'll wait. I can have the weekend to rest up. Saturday I'm supposed to help Kimmer move tho, almost forgot about that... and just when my body might have an inkling of what time zone it's in, daylight savings time hits Sunday... ugh...

And now, for something completely random.
There is still a difference between something and nothing, but it is purely geometrical and there is nothing behind the geometry.
- Martin Gardner


EDIT: Almost forgot, I meant to mention this before. Found out last night that my grandfather passed away on Oct. 17th, the day I left for India. I'm not upset at all about not finding out til I got back, I understand perfectly the reasoning behind that. And I'm not as shocked as when my grandmother passed away over the summer - that was unexpected, but I didn't figure my grandpa would outlast my grandma by much. He was pretty much gone anyway from what I understand, the Parkinson's really had a hold on him, but I'm pretty sure he knew what was going on and that his wife was gone. So, they're now together again, and in a better place. And I have many good memories of them. In a way, I'm almost grateful I wasn't able to see them recently, as I don't have the memory of their deterioration, but of their full and active life. I'll never forget my grandpa's woodworking, I have some of his stuff at home, and he gave me his chiselling tools when he couldn't use them anymore. It's gotta be hardest on my mom, though, to have lost both of her parents within the span of two and a half months.


Flyin' High

I am posting this blog from 32,000 feet above the Irish Sea. How freaking cool is THAT?????

Currently 7 hours from Washington DC. We've flown over Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands... all places I've visited long ago when I used to live in Europe...

What's that, how am I posting this? No, not some delayed post, but comin' at you LIVE from an Airbus A330, with the new extended travel business class. Wireless service via satellite hookup, with a first-time-user discount it's costing $20 for the whole flight. This, my friends, is the only way to fly! And, to top it off, I have no-one sitting next to me, so I can stretch even more. Not that you really need to in these seats, they fully recline horizontally to a whole 2 meters! Built in chair massage, reading light, video console with movies on demand (I'm going to finally watch Hitchhiker's Guide and City of God after lunch)...

Looks like we're currently over Ireland, passed directly over Dublin in fact. 3302 miles to go, flying 485mph at 32,000 feet. Wow. Funny thing is, I've been traveling from Bangalore for fourteen and a half hours now, and yet by East Coast time I only left five hours ago. Very odd.... LOL

So, I'm going to relax and enjoy my lunch here in a bit, watch some movies. I'll see if I can't catch up on email first. Should touch down 1:40pm EST.

Oh, should I mention the luncheon menu? Started off with the Italian Ham platter (Parma, Coppa, Melon and shaved Parmesan) with some rolls and a salad. For the entree I think I'll go with the Fiorelli Pasta with Ricotta sauce and veggies, then the Panna Cotta with Passion Fruit Puree for dessert.

I tell ya, I don't think I could fly economy again, after being on this side of the glass...



Leaving Soon...

So I work a full day today, be at the airport by midnight, and my plane leaves Bangalore around 2am. Two-hour layover in Frankfurt, home at Dulles by 1:40pm, God willing. 20 hours of traveling in a little over 11 hours. Boggles the mind.

I was hoping to come back to the hotel later on and nap, but the latest they're willing to extend my checkout is 2pm. So I might as well pack up now, come back after lunch and put my bags in their storage. Or, I could just check out this morning... Nah, I might want to come back here for lunch or something. I'll still get packed now though, and maybe just go to the airport early, I think they might have a business-class lounge, nap there.

OK, so keep the lamps lit, I'm on my way soon. It's been an incredible experience, as you can tell from my earlier entries. Might help to start at the beginning, I'm going to send an email out to everyone now rather than wait till I get home, since I'll most likely be sleeping a good bit of Thursday.

I'll just run through the trip's blog entries from the start, funny how my outlook changes over time as I'm here longer...
I'm off soon...
Leavin'... on a jet plane...
Quite the Adventure
Another Day in Paradise
What an Outing!
Have Camera, Will Travel
Thank You God, We Have Mountain Dew
Sleepy Man Walking

OK, so that's all for now. Talk to y'all soon!

Sleepy Man Walking

Went to a great restaurant tonight, just got back around 10:30pm here. It was on the 13th floor of a hotel, open-air so you could lean out over the balcony by your dinner table (not that I would) - fantastic view, food was very good. Deepak took us out, he's the Project Manager for both my products, great guy.

Best news: I'm flying back normal schedule, so I'll be home Wednesday afternoon EST. Awesome. I miss my family something terrible, I know the next outing (most likely February) Nathaniel wants to stretch to 2 weeks if I could swing it, but the more I think about it, just not feasible. This was really tough, being away from my girls for so long.

I can't wait to get home.

Happy trails...



Awesome, Nathaniel posted up more videos. The first, in particular, is pretty damn funny - our India-Jones-like-quest for a Mountain Dew culminated in the find of a KFC in Bangalore, Commerce street shopping district.

Again, these are big videos, please download them before playing.


Most of these are from this past weekend, as described in my last post. Of particular interest might be the temple videos, where you can see the one we hiked some 50 bajillion stairs barefoot to the top... Enjoy!

Thank You God, We Have Mountain Dew

Humorous as the title may be, we don't get to that till the end. We will, however, cover the events of the weekend. In mind-numbing detail. No, just kidding. Really. Here goes:

So Saturday early morning we pile into 2 jeep-type cars common here (I forget the model name, they seat 6 including driver comfortably), all told 9 of us. I know I won't remember all the names, but we had in one car Madu, Umesh, his brother, Paul(?), and I think Dave. OK so I totally screwed the last three up, I'm bad with names as we all know. Anyways, in my car, besides Nathaniel there were Sean and Eric, two very cool guys who we hit it off with right away. We traveled about 3 hours or so to the first temple site. Absolutely stunning, perched high up on a mountain, fantastic view, I got lots of pics to upload (though I'm sure Nathaniel will have some up soon on his journal). Did I mention we had to climb up to it, some 50,000 carved-in-stone steps? Barefoot???? Yes, as with all the religious sites we visited, we had to remove shoes. I have some serious callouses built up. Ugh. Worth the climb though. Architecture was stunning, at the very top was a huge statue, maybe 40 feet high, carved out of a single boulder. Very cool having Umesh and Madu along, BTW, as they were able to tell us more of the background and history, as well as the Hindu mythology, behind the temples we visited.

So by this time, smelling quite ripe and feeling like we'd run a marathon, we climbed back in the cars and went another 45 minutes or so to check into the hotel, the Southern Star in Hassan. According to Nathaniel's travel book, which we consulted after we got back to the Leela, this was the best hotel in Hassan, "almost cozy". Yeah, almost. And the DC beltway is almost a serene country drive.

The beds were a thin (maybe 3" if I were being generous) hard mattress on top of a solid plank of wood. Might as well slept on the floor with a blanket under me. We'll get back to the hotel fun that night.

By this point Eric came down with a nasty case of food poisoning, and stayed behind while we ate there (quite tasty buffet) and then drove to another set of ruins, half hour away. This temple was at Belur, it was architecturally even more stunning. I know the location only because I bought the guidebook and some postcards (need to send some out, mental note). The common problem of vendors and beggars at the entrances to these temples was slightly worse here, they get very pushy trying to get you to buy anything. But at least there was an official desk there selling stuff, so I didn't get TOO ripped off. Got smart this time and took our shoes off in the car, so we didn't have to pay and wait for our shoes at the gate.

Then we're off to the final temple. This one really showed the desecration from the Moslem invaders of old (these temples are thousands of years old). We got a guide for this tour, and found out lots of fascinating stuff. The temple itself took about 112 years to build, IIRC. Lots of fascinating tidbits, got one really nice pic of a carving which had incredible detail, animals hiding in the woods at the top, and one of the gods on it had three bodies (and heads) but only two arms and four legs. Done really well. The temple itself was set in a really nice parklike setting, beautiful green grounds.

On the way out we were mobbed by the vendors. And I mean mobbed. Items thrust in our faces, they don't really take no for an answer... being polite means nothing, you have to shout "GO AWAY" for them to really back off. One vendor was a real pro though, she was insistent but not in my face, just kept bargaining downwards for a little stone dish-sort-of-thing (hard to describe really, but it was cute). Went from 50 rupees down to 10, and I decided to reward the more polite behavior by buying one. Turns out I paid too much anyway, according to the driver, but that's ok, it's only maybe 20 cents, big deal. And it was cute.

Got back to the hotel, napped for a bit (best I could) and then we walked over to get dinner around 8pm. Did I mention everyone here eats meals so much later than the US? 9pm is normal, some don't even start to cook until 9 so they eat anywhere from 10-11pm. Craziness. Anyways, got to the recommended restaurant, sat down and ordered, and were ignored for the next half hour. I swear, maybe they had to go butcher the animals or something, I have no idea, but we finally got some drinks and bread (it was later suggested that since Indians get tipped not for good service, but to get something, like good service, ahead of time, that may have been the reason why, I dunno) and 15 minutes later had an excellent meal. I cannot recommend any higher the cheesy naala bread. Awesome.

It was raining by the time we got out, so the drivers were nice enough to come pick us up. These guys were fantastic, I mean they were the best drivers I've seen in India, and that's saying something - ours had an uncanny knack of avoiding the numerous potholes that abound, got us safely across unfinished roads and washed out roads (literally, I think a dam broke after all the unusually high rainfall and it was maybe a foot or so across the road at one point), only hit one dog (and hey, that's saying something, fortunately we had braked and the dog just bounced off and kept going, poor driver was really shaken up). We had at least two close calls with oncoming traffic, no one drives on the same side on the road, all over the place, passing up slower cars. I don't know how we avoided a serious crash, but both times he slowed and timed it just right to swerve around and still stay on the road. Most impressive, yet heart-stopping. Serious pucker factor, there.

Hey, tangent, back on track now. So we crash at the lovely Southern Star. Traffic right outside the window, horns beeping all night, AC loud as a lawnmower. There were candles in the room, which I thought was odd. Hmm, little did I know...

4am I'm woken by a big BANG and a flash of light, as the transformer outside blows. Dead silent in the room now, for 15 minutes as it gets hotter inside, I now can't sleep because of my tinitus... finally it comes back on. And then off. And then on. And so on, for the next three hours or so. I light one of the candles and set it in the bathroom just in case I have to pee the next time the power going off wakes me.

Next morning, we all feel like crap. Our car decides to just go back to Bangalore instead of another temple, which is actually too bad, we later found out it was a huge palace with 7 temples inside and a church, would have been nice to see. Next time we're out, Nathaniel and I are going to make a trip just out to there.

Anyways, Eric is just as happy we're heading back, he's doing better but still not up to par. Another bumpy ride back, partially in the rain.

Side note: Many houses along the way had one or more walls entirely painted as an advertisement for some concrete company. And there were hundreds we saw. Bright yellow, with blue writing and a red slogan. Everywhere. And they were pristine walls, so the house owners must have gotten some kickback from the advertising. Most of the houses here are concrete, so it must be a big business.

We saw lots of animals along the way, cows and water buffalo ('everybody wants a water buffaloooooooo'), dogs, sheep, goats. All over the place, across the roads, some being herded but most just walkin' around. And we did see two monkeys on the side of the road, but we didn't get a pic fast enough.

One village had huge piles of corn cobs just lying on the side of the road, drying out. Also saw huge piles of coconuts, bananas... We went through many villages with nothing around, the driver said all that was out there was agriculture.

So we get back this morning. I have never felt so thankful to arrive anywhere. (I will likely revise that statement later this week when I touch down at Dulles.) Took a quick break to unpack, then Nathaniel, Eric, Sean and I head over for some brunch at the Zen. (Tried the Citrus first, but apparently you need a reservation on Sundays for brunch, it's the most famous brunch spot in Bangalore. Who knew.)

Then we decided to head out for shopping. Well, except for Eric, he was pretty wiped. Hired a driver from the hotel, took us to some touristy places, found some very cool stuff for everybody. Ended up spending way more than I intended to. Sorry honey. It's all cool stuff, honest! And none for me, all gifts! Well, I did end up finding a street vendor selling what looked to be an obvious pirated edition (bad print and blurry cover) of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, which funny enough is the only Dan Brown novel I haven't purchased and read yet. And for only 100 rupees (about $2).

Found a KFC of all places on Commerce street, a long row of shops where the locals mostly go. Nathaniel got a really funny video of the three of us ordering Mountain Dews there. I didn't realize I had such a craving, but that puppy was drained in no time...

Had to come back early since the driver went off shift at 4pm, he drove us around till 5 but we were supposed to have the car another hour and a half. Not his fault really, but Nathaniel laid into the concierge when we got back, I think we're getting some money back.

Nathaniel and Sean are walking over to TGI Friday's (LOL) to see if they can find a Guinness, which is a rare find here. Only can find a local beer called Kingfisher I guess. But then they're coming back and getting me for dinner.

I'm pretty wiped. My back is killing me, and my legs are aching something fierce. And Monday is going to be a very, very full day. Lots of work to do still. We might or might not be leaving regular schedule, some travel agent that Hazel (the nice lady who set us up on the trip) works with often holds back seats on booked flights, so we may still fly back Thursday instead. I know we have a lot to do and all, but I'd still like to get back. As it is, I will be back in February (better be early instead of late in the month, gotta specify that to Nathaniel, I am not missing Carrie's birthday) for at least a week. Both products I am supporting out here plan to release initial builds to production Feb 3rd. What a nightmare.

So, not sure when the next post will be. I have to write out some postcards, and tonight I really want to just soak in the bathtub. It's gonna be at least a twelve-hour day tomorrow....



Have Camera, Will Travel

I really do wish I'd brought our digital camera instead of the Elph. It's nice with the Advantix film, getting panorama shots and all, but I could be uploading pics and all. Oh well.

Nathaniel took some movies with his digital camera, they came out really nice. One of the waterfall in the Leela's courtyard, and one on the walkway above the hotel entrance.


Warning: They're big, so download them first. And they're on my site, so don't go craching it. He got video of the rickshaw ride but hasn't uploaded it yet.

OK I'm off to bed for real now. Have to get up in 6 hours and leave for the trip in 7.

What an Outing!

So today, some very nice people (Shailaja, PM for the jdb switcher project) took Nathaniel and I out to lunch. Well, we thought it was just a quick lunch outing, ended up getting back 3 hours later. Turns out most Bangalore folk eat much later - not getting up till 9-10, lunch 1 or 2, and dinner as late as 9pm. Anyways, we took a rickshaw ride (wow) across town to a little hole-in-the-wall type establishment, in a sort of mall, but it was authentic Afghani food. No utensils. Lots of spice, but excellent food. I was stuffed. Then Shailaja took us a few blocks so I could buy a backpack for this weekend's trip - only 800 Rupees, which is like $16, for a very nice full-sized one. And then the rickshaw ride back. Again, wow. Driving here is like an artform, really, they honk constantly, but to let others know where they are, and all drive by pure reflex, all over the road, inches within hitting other vehicles, motorbikes swerving in between... It feels like utter insanity, and yet like a choreographed ballet of exhaust and steel. Just... wow.

So this weekend: We're getting picked up by company van around 7am, and driving out to see some historic and religious ruins. Staying overnight, then back Sunday early evening. And, since the top AOL Bangalore exec will be along, the whole shebang is company-paid. Booyah!

Oh, I keep meaning to mention the other meals here. The first dinner was on the top floor of the Leela, a high-class French restaurant. Several courses, all very high in presentation, yet small portions. The only low point was the sorbet which left just an awful aftertaste...

And last night's dinner was Asian, great seafood, great ambiance. Well, I won't go into any more details since Nathaniel's blog talks about the meals. I gotta run for now, stay tuned for more...


Ars System Guide: Small Form Factor systems

A functional computer does not need much to operate. Most users get by fine with a single hard drive, single optical drive, single CPU, single Ethernet interface, and often do not end up using their PCI slots thanks to the integration of just about everything onto modern motherboards.

Small Form Factor (SFF) represents a newer footprint for computers, one that allows them to be small enough to disappear from the desk, or the exact opposite: often considered attractive enough in their brushed-aluminum and anodized-black finishes with bright blue LEDs to be a showpiece of status.
Read More

Another Day in Paradise

So I got into my new room now, literally twice the size of the old and all to myself now. Very, very nice. I was going to check out the jacuzzi outside to soak, but they're having a business dinner by the pool, so meh. I'll soak in the tub.

Bad news is, I have to take an extra day here. Long story, but it's necessary, and my boss (who was supposed to fly out Monday night) will stay as long as well.

They have a live woodwind quartet playing in the lobby. Nice touch.

I still have to cover the meals here, and I will do so, but I need more time. Last night was a French cuisine, tonight was Asian (some of the best sushi I've ever had), and lunch both days was traditional Indian food - AOL BDC perk, they get free lunch (and you thought that never happened) on the roof of their building. Yep, roof open air restaurant. OK, I'll go into it later, honest.

Looks like we'll be taking a trip this weekend, not the safari though (I'm still too chicken) but to see some ruins and temples. About 8 of us in two vans, should be fun, as well as a lot cheaper. Still overnight though.

OK, the tub is calling my name. Stay tuned, same channel.

Oh, and BTW, it is 8:54pm here. Just in case you were curious.


Quite the Adventure

Yes, it has been. I've spent two nights in Bangalore now, and it has been interesting to say the least. You can keep up on the fun with my boss, Nathaniel's, journal.

It all started at the airport Monday. Got there in plenty of time, stood in line at the wrong counter (domestic economy, not international business), when I moved over Donna and the girls had to leave as they were getting a might clingy. Just as well, or I would have had to drag them around a bit! So I get to the counter at United, she starts to book me on a different flight! I say no, this is my flight - "Oh, that's Lufthansa, you need their counter." (Even though it was a United flight, it was operated by Lufthansa.) So I get to Lufthansa, they can't issue me a ticket because I am now booked on two flights! Now I have to run clear around all the counters to the United ticker purchase line, who complemented the other ticket agent on their creativeness as they tried to fix it. Finally got a ticket, NOW I have to get back to Lufthansa to get my boarding pass. All told, an hour wasted before I can even stand in line to get through security. Very, very glad I got there early...

Long flights, incredible comfort. Three course meals, luxurious room, separate video consoles and headphones, power plug-ins for laptops (had to remove my battery to get enough current though), pillows and blankets, and even hot washcloths soaked in citrus water to freshen up. Yep, I could learn to like this... Except I got violently ill from something on the first-leg plane flight... Four-hour layover in Frankfurt, slept some at the business lounge (also very nice) then another long flight to Bangalore. When we get there, no car is waiting for us. Hmmm, ominous...

Get to the hotel after a very harrying taxicab ride (the amazing race show does it no real justice, trust me) to find they don't have our reservation. In fact, they still had us down for our OLD one, which had us arriving two days earlier, so they gave our rooms away. So for the last two nights we've been bunking together in a small box of a room, but last night Nathaniel had the travel agent call and make new reservations (because I don't think they were trying all that hard to fix things at the front desk...) so tonight at least Nathaniel has a room of his own. And he found out there's a full gym downstairs, so he's a happy camper now.

OK, so I'm off now, I'll write more of my dining experiences later. That's an adventure all in itself....


Leavin'... on a jet plane...

In about half an hour I pick my girls up from school, then Donna will pick us all up to get some last-minute legal stuff signed, and then we're off to the airport. Didn't sleep well last night, but I did get the laundry done. Maybe I'll sleep ok on the plane, who knows, business class is supposed to be much more luxurious for trans-atlantic flights.

Dammit, can't find an umbrella. Guess that's one thing I'll have to buy in an airport.

Anyways, hope to blog again soon. Keep the lights on for me.
Then he said, "That is that."
And then he was gone
With a tip of his hat.



I'm off soon...

Next week I leave for India. Still pretty nervous, that's a hellofa long way from home... I'm not worried about myself so much, really (except of course for being in a massive swarm of people, which I hate, and meeting new people, which I hate, and having to present to said people, which I hate...) but I will worry sick about my family, if anything happens it's not like I can get there anytime soon... I am really, really counting on my niece Cassie to come that weekend I'm gone and help out, I need to call them tonight and verify that...

Watching 'The Amazing Race' hasn't helped, or course, with my nervousness. Seems every season they visit India, and it looks like a crowded, dirty milling mass of humanity. That's a gross overgeneralization on my part, I know, and Bangalore isn't anything like much of urban India, most American-citizen Indian ex-patriates reside in Bangalore now. But still, it is definitely nothing like Europe, which is my only foreign experience so far.

I'm not a snob, really. I know as an American, I am unbelievably blessed and privledged beyond any imagining, and I am thankful for that. I also know there is much poverty in the world, and places that we, as Americans, would consider impoverished but that they don't consider as such.

I just really, really don't feel the inclination to immerse myself in it.

The reality is that I'm sure I will feel even more thankful for the privledges I have, once I return. But that doesn't erase the overall uneasiness.

In short, this sucks.

But it will be an experience. I'm sure Nathaniel (my boss) will think me a wuss for not wanting to really go anywhere over the weekend of our trip. I will most likely just want to huddle in my hotel room, catch up on sleep and watch movies and play games. Ya, I'm a geek like that.

I keep telling people, and they just don't believe me. Sometimes I really don't even like the concept of people.

I have a problem with crowds. I have a problem with personal space violation. Ya I know, whine whine, bitch and moan. Get over it, that's what a blog is for. No-one else would listen to me in person, right? So now you're stuck with me, unless you click off. So za.

On a last note. I know I tend to internalize things. I refuse to let my family know of my uneasiness, because I don't want them to worry, and they will have their own problems when I've gone. I don't want my co-workers to know my fear, because I don't want them to think less of me and I have to work with them, duh. And I don't want my boss to know my worries, because I'm trying to make a good impression.

So that leaves you, gentle readers, to bear witness to the fact that I am slowly becoming scared shitless over the prospect of this trip.

And just in case I've completely ruined what little opinion you had of me: Know what the worst part is?

No BF2 for two weeks.

Now THAT sucks.


Best LAN Party Evar....

So after work this past Friday I trucked myself up to Urbana for an all-night LAN party. And I do mean all-night: Got there around 5:30pm and packed up at 6am. Since I figured out a way to connect us wirelessly from the basement to the host's router, we could get out to the internet. My thinking was just to enable Xfire connectivity, but as there were maybe only 7 of us there it was raised that we could just hop on BF2 ranked servers and verbally coordinate as a squad. And therein started the best night of gaming.

In one night, I played for six and a half hours actual gametime on ranked servers. I accumulated 575 points, including a new best round for me, 142 on the Karkand map, to go up a new rank from Staff Sergeant to Gunnery Sergeant. I earned two new badges (Veteran Engineer Combat and Veteran Support Combat, awesome) and five new ribbons: Armored Service (I've been trying for ages to get that one), Far East Service and Mid-East Service, Valorous Unit, and finally Good Conduct (which requires a round with no team damage or kills, been kinda hard for me to attain).

When we were all on the same side, we would squad up and SWAMP the other side. Other times, the single round went on for over an hour. Good times. I readily accept the sleep disruption which threw my whole weekend off, and got me to work late today (woke up with a migraine, but the meds and extra sleep got me well enough to make it in).

You can see my new stats here, and where some of the other partiers are at now (though many on here didn't make it to the party, and I don't know the usernames of the others offhand...)

It seriously rocked. 'Nuff said.


BF2 Goodness

Battlefield 2 patch 1.03 is now out. Many cool things fixed, and a new map added. Check around for the details; but one of the most exciting things is the reduction in points needed for new ranks. I went up three ranks to Staff Sergeant! W00t! UBAR has the new rank requirements up already, those guys rock.


LAN party site repair blog

From my friend, and former boss, Steve.

Samantha and I decided to start keeping a record of our toasted house and its reconstruction. It's mostly pictures, but they're better than words anyhow right?

Anyways, now y'all can check in from time to time and see how far (or close) we are to getting our other primary LAN party spot back.

Boggles the mind. I'll update if I hear back on when he expects to be able to actually move in again.


The Ultimate Geek Car

So I got my new car on Tuesday, a 2005 Toyota Prius Hybrid. I am floored beyond description.

The Prius uses a "Hybrid Synergy Drive" which gives it a few advantages over its closest competitor, the Honda Civic Hybrid. In short, unlike the Honda a Prius can run air and heat while the electric motor is running (eliminating cold commutes in winter stop-and-go traffic). While the Civic requires the gas engine to start and drive, the Prius can run on the electric only up to 40mph.

The Prius drive also allows for some pretty amazing fuel economy. On August 7, 2005 five men took an unmodified Prius nearly 1400 miles on a single 12.87 gallon tank of gas. That’s 109 mpg! They did it by using a technique called “Pulse and Glide”. Normal consumption is much lower, I've been averaging about 50mpg on my commute, but I'll see if I can try the "Pulse and Glide" technique on some stretches.

There are a lot of tips out there on how to max your mileage on the Prius, but the biggest are:
  • Drive slower - The aerodynamic drag on the car increases dramatically the faster you drive. For example, the drag force at 70 mph (113 kph) is about double that at 50 mph (81 kph). So, keeping your speed down can increase your mileage significantly.
  • Maintain a constant speed - Each time you speed up the car you use energy, some of which is wasted when you slow the car down again. By maintaining a constant speed, you will make the most efficient use of your fuel.
  • Avoid abrupt stops - When you stop your car, the electric motor in the hybrid acts like a generator and takes some of the energy out of the car while slowing it down. If you give the electric motor more time to slow the vehicle, it can recover more of the energy. If you stop quickly, the brakes on the car will do most of the work of slowing the car down, and that energy will be wasted.
So here's my new beauty, I think I'll call it Kit. You know, from Knight Rider. Oh come on, surely you've seen the reruns... I swear, kids these days...


Red Hat Performance Tuning Tools

As a system administrator, part of your daily duties is to monitor systems for performance and to tune systems where necessary. While there are expensive software products and benchmarking tools that can hone a machine to optimum efficiency, there exist several basic tools within Linux that permit the knowledgeable system administrator to gather information and use the valuable information to make decisions about where and when to tune a system.

Read more from Red Hat Magazine, Issue #11 September 2005.

Miyazaki Talks to the Guardian

The Guardian is running an interesting summary of an interview with Hayao Miyazaki, proclaimed 'God' of anime. In the interview Miyazaki discusses a wide range of issues from his distribution deal with Disney to the future of anime.
There is a rumour that when Harvey Weinstein was charged with handling the US release of Princess Mononoke, Miyazaki sent him a samurai sword in the post. Attached to the blade was a stark message: "No cuts."

The director chortles. "Actually, my producer did that. Although I did go to New York to meet this man, this Harvey Weinstein, and I was bombarded with this aggressive attack, all these demands for cuts." He smiles. "I defeated him."
According to Miyazaki's publicist this is the first interview he has agreed to in 10 years. Miyazaki has produced such excellent titles as "Howl's Moving Castle", "Laputa: Castle in the Sky", "Princess Mononoke" and "Spirited Away".


Yet Another BF2 Stat Page

I really hope EA gets off their butts and gets their own external stat server going. But for now, here's another stat page that might work better (and longer) than the other one.

Well, this could get addictive...

Your Power Color Is Teal

At Your Highest:
You feel accomplished and optimistic about the future.
At Your Lowest:
You feel in a slump and lack creativity.
In Love:
You tend to be many people's ideal partner.
How You're Attractive:
You make people feel confident and accepted.
Your Eternal Question:
"What Impression Am I Giving?"

Your Birthdate: February 24
Born on the 24th, you have a greater capacity for responsibility and helping others than your may have realized.
You may also become the mediator and peacemaker in inharmonious situations.
Devoted to family, you tend to manage and protect.

This birth date adds to the emotional nature and perhaps to the sensitivities.
Affections are important to you; both the giving and the receiving.

You Are 60% Weird
You're so weird, you think you're *totally* normal. Right?
But you wig out even the biggest of circus freaks!

My Inner Child

I usually don't do these corny kind of things... Geeky yes, corny no...

Your Inner Child Is Surprised
You see many things through the eyes of a child.
Meaning, you're rarely cynical or jaded.
You cherish all of the details in life.
Easily fascinated, you enjoy experiencing new things.


Patch & Workaround for Firefox Flaw Available

Saturday Slashdot reported on a Firefox vulnerability which could allow remote code execution. Today Firefox has a patch and a configuration workaround, both of which immunize against the bug. If you are using Firefox you should immediately go to the URL 'about:config', type 'network.enableIDN' into the box, and verify that 'network.enableIDN' is set to 'false'.


What's In Your Laptop Bag?

TheTechZone is running a cool human interest story showing what their chief editor has inside his laptop bag. Some of the stuff in there could really make a geek salivate - like a mobile VoIP adapter and the world's smallest wireless router.


I Can't Afford My Gasoline

Driving into work today, filled up the tank like I do every morning (takes half a tank a day, and I don't like it to drop below a half tank). After I fill up, I notice the gas price went up 20 cents since last morning. TWENTY FREAKING CENTS!!!! Was that really necessary? Did they have to pay more off of the tanker this morning? I don't think so!! And will they lower it again later on? Hell no.

This sums it up perfectly.


Google Talk

Yep, everybody's talking about it. Nothing revolutionary, it's another IM client, but integrated into Gmail so if you want to send invites, you can hook right into your Gmail contacts.

Ken over at Ars Technica takes a look at Google Talk. Short summary: Minimalist will love it, people that like all the bells and whistles probably won’t.
Google Talk is clean and easy to use. It's also absent almost every feature found in other IM clients. Want to send a file? Pshaw! Want to have a group chat? You're too social! Want to view your previous chat sessions easily? Get outta here! Want little emoticons? Skins? Go bug somebody else!

Keep in mind, tho, that this is still in Beta. It has a way to go. But the one thing that really struck me was the VoIP clarity - better than I've heard over AIM at least.

Well, it's fun to play with anyways.


Bangalore, India. God Help Me.

So... India.

At my job, I provide operational production support for two product lines now, chat (AOL Chat and AIM Chat, as well as a new chat line in the making) and now another new groups product. For both lines, the development and QA team are based in Bangalore, India. Since I'm the only lucky SA to have such an arrangement, I knew I would be traveling out there with my boss.

So today he mentions that he would like me to stay out there longer. Like 2-3 weeks. Ugh. Minimum is 10 days anyway (takes 2 days to travel, each way) so we're only talking an additional 4-11 days. But still. Three freaking weeks away from my family?? I just don't see how I can do that. I sleep like crap when I'm not at home anyway. Last time I traveled, out to CA while with NEGT (then PG&E NEG), I was gone for about a week. And slept horribly the whole time.

Now this is halfway around the globe. And if I would have thought of an Asian locale I'd want to visit, I'm pretty sure India would have been at the bottom of my list. Japan would have been cool, China maybe, definitely Australia or New Zealand (OK different continents, but same hemisphere) but India? No. I was watching reruns of The Amazing Race on GSN last night, they were in India, and the whole time I was thinking "Holy crap, what am I getting myself into... am I really going over there?"

I am so not a people person. I barely like the concept of people. I am perfectly happy communicating solely via email and IM. The notion of "shaking hands and kissing babies" and my boss puts it, is a good one theoretically, but just not my cup of tea. Especially in India. (No pun intended.)

Good God, wtf am I going to do over there for so long all by myself? In an area even more crowded than NYC?

Few silver linings exist. Yes, I would rack up the frequent flyer miles. And there's the possibility that I could, on the way back, make a few-day layover in London and meet the family there, that would be fun if we could swing it financially.

20+ hr flight. They'd damn well better let me fly business class.

I'll have to talk this over with Donna. I think maximum I might do two weeks, including travel. It's not until October, but with everything involved... gotta get the itinerary first, then mail it and my passport to get my visa, in time to process it and get it back... I hope my business AmEx application goes through. I really don't want to pay for all this myself, even if I do get reimbursed.

I feel an ulcer coming on...


Scientific Laws of Battlefield 2

1. If you spot an enemy before he sees you, chances are you will die.

2. The probability of killing someone is inversely proportional to how much you want to kill him.

3. For every good thing done, something bad happens.

4. If you see a bunch of easy targets in front of you, you will miss all of them and die.

5.You have a better chance of throwing a handful of sniper rifle bullets and killing the enemy, than shooting them at him.

6.For every one enemy you kill with mines, you will kill 2 friendlies and they will both punish the TK.

7.Idiots have a unique pheromone receptor which can sense a friendly arty strike. Once initiated they run to the center of the strike like moths to a flame, thrust their noses in the air and put there finger on the PgDn button ready for the climax!

8.Thou shalt always respawn into an arty strike or a massive unfriendly assault and die before you can do anything.

9.A dune buggy slowly slipping down a gentle slope is the most brutal and deadly thing in the game if you're standing in its path.

10.When fleeing from an enemy, you will be shot to death, inches away from your cover.

11.When a gunner in a helo, chances are u got the worst pilot u can think of

12.When you have no money chances are your joystick will go funny.

13.If someone with an ak101 happens to glance at you, you will instantly die of fear.

14.No matter what weapon you carry, it will take over half a magazine to attempt to kill the guy that take you out with a three round burst or less.

15.Holding right mouse button when throwing a grenade changes throw length from feet to inches.

16.Even with the dexterity to balance the blade of his knife on his finger, a soldier will constantly miss when lunging to stab a stationary enemy.

17.Somehow, a man can take a 50.cal sniper round to the chest WITHOUT DYING.

18.Your pistol is a much better sniper rifle than your .50cal rifle

19.A crescent wrench can fix anything

20.You can raise a flag in a tank.

21.Seconds before you get your hard-earned Flag-Capture Point, an Enemy will pop up and kill you, giving the Capture Point to your Team-Mate.

22.After shooting an enemy Tank to low Health with your APC, your Gun will overheat and a Team-Mate will grab the kill, leaving you with not even a Kill-Assist.

23.You will never be able to swim away fast enough from an accidently drowned Jeep.

24.Claymores only kill foolish teammates.

25.If you want an enemy to abandon an armoured vehicle, run at it from the rear and let them see you doing it, they'll jump out.

26.No matter what, defibulators cure all

27. The pinnacle of aviation technology cannot help a bomb hit its target

28. All vehicles have electrical armour plating, as when u touch it, you're dead

29.The more you press the 9 key to deploy a chute, the less likely the chute will deploy

30.You spawn right next to the enemy tank.

31.If you want to be a sniper you should choose Anti-Tank Class.

32.Just as you detonate the C4 on the UAV trailer, two to three teammates will drive up in a jeep right next to the detonation site.

33.No matter how much you shoot a guy parachuting down, he will never take any damage. And, when he gets down you are out of ammo and he kills you.

34.You are killed after a 10 minute run to an enemy flag, right before you reach it.

35.Water is extremely flammable and will cause vehicles to explode.

36.If your in a group and run into a single enemy, you WILL die first.

37.Confucious say: When commander drop supply crate from sky, look up or you will endure headache until next spawn

38.Confucious say: Man with handful of wheat will hit enemy more than with M229 SAW.

39.Spawning is more like a race to the heli.

40.A tank that's motionless while capturing a flag will wait until you run up behind it to plant C4 before the drivers cat steps on the S key and kills you.

41.Just after you found a great Spot to snipe from, while taking careful Aim at a Group of Enemies - you will be knifed from behind.

42.After taking a few well-aimed Shots at an Enemy, he will spin around and kill you with a single round from his MP5.

43.You must be the fattest person in the army as you cannot fit through a 3 foot wide gap between the bamboo

44.After throwing a pack of C4 on top of a smoking tank, and pulling out detonator, the remaining C4 (in your pocket) will magically explode...every time.

45.If you are capping a flag alone in a tank the one enemy that manages to spawn in time will be a spec op...

46.If you are capping a flag and once it goes neutral you hear arty guns firing in the distance, run like #@$%!!!

47.If you need tank support, drop a mine on the road and a friendly tank will show up in no time...

48.If you respawn as an anti-tank the tank will have either disappeared or magically spawned many enemies' who know exactly where you respawned

49.When in need of medical aide call for a supply drop, the crate will be there in no time to crush you to death, thus ending your need for medical aide

50. Asking a Commander for ammo means he will send Artillery with the assumption you catch them and throw them at the enemy.


What is History? (And other facts of life...)

History is the fiction we invent to persuade ourselves that events are knowable and that life has order and direction. That's why events are always reinterpreted when values change. We need new versions of history to allow for our current prejudices. (Calvin and Hobbes are wise beyond their years.)

Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant, filled with odd waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don't always like. (Lemony Snicket)

Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, Champagne in one hand -- strawberries in the other screaming WOO HOO!

98% of us Americans are hard-working people. It's the other 2% that give us a bad reputation. Then again, we did elect them.



The events of this weekend, well of my Grandmother's passing away, has gotten me to thinking of the usual topics one would think. Life, death, living. I haven't had a blood relative die since my Grandpa Graham died from lung cancer about 20 years ago. So I'm not all that used to death. My wife has had all her grandparents pass away, some fairly recently, so she's a little more accumulated to it. If one could ever be.

I'm still debating whether or not I should make the effort to fly out to CA. Things are still up in the air. My Aunt isn't going to tell my Grandpa that his wife is gone until she gets out of the hospital herself, so the funeral is in stasis. I believe she will be cremated anyways.

Wouldn't that suck to be the absolute last to know about something like that?

Anyways, I had this awesome teacher back in high school, Doc Szymkowiak. He was my Spanish teacher, multilingual and funny as hell. Like a second father to me for awhile, I always valued his advice and full outlook on life. But he had gout problems, and when I was in college he passed away. I didn't find out about it till much later, my parents assumed I knew and let it drop at dinner one time. I was pretty devastated, and always guilty I couldn't have gone to his funeral. So part of that is what is driving me to consider flying out to CA.

But what is a funeral really for, anyways? They almost never end up being a celebration of one's life, and why should we really be mourning a person's passing on to a new and better life? Isn't that inherently selfish of us, to cling to their memories in such a negative way?

Are we truly honoring them in such a fashion?

I can use three days of bereavement leave if I want to, already gotten the approval from my boss. And I suppose we could swing the ticket price. Would the rest of my family out there think less of the family on this side of the continent of none of us show? Does that opinion really mater all that much to me?

Do I really need the stress of all this? Am I doing a disservice to my grandmother's memory by putting so much emphasis on the symbolism of this earthly life, where instead I should be celebrating her ascension to a new level of existence?

I think I'm developing another migraine.


Sad News Tonight

Talked to my Mom tonight on my cell phone, while at my in-laws house. My Grandma Krail died today. Since she was 85 she was too old to get the anti-clotting medication after her hip replacement surgery, and she died in her sleep from a clot.

My Aunt was in the hospital for some sort of emergency surgery of her own and when she woke up still drugged, my Uncle told her. She called my mom right away but still too out of it to know what was going on. The thing is, my Grandpa doesn't even know yet. My mom will call back when my Aunt is eating dinner, hopefully can get more out of her.

She can't fly out there either, with her knees. But apparently my Grandma will be cremated anyway.

I don't know how long my Grandpa will last now, they've always been very dependent on each other, and I know it's been hard since they were moved into a nursing home.

Last time I saw them was when I travelled out to California, they still lived in San Francisco just as they had all my life. That was three years ago this November. But I still remember them, so full of life, when I was younger.

But right now I'm just feeling old. And mortal. And more than a little depressed.



Game Tweak Guides should be your first stop anytime you install a new game. Or even if you have been playing one for awhile. OK, if you're a gamer, just check the site out. I've had good luck with the Battlefield Vietnam Tweak Guide, Half Life 2 Tweak Guide, and Star Wars Battlefront Tweak Guide. I used the Battlefield 2 Tweak Guide when it first came out, I need to revisit it since it's been dramatically updated now.

Firefox Improvements

Firefox is, without a doubt, the best browser on the market. No contest. What makes it shine are the extensions and tweaks that can be applied to customize your browsing experience and personalize how you want to control the information presented to you.

The Firefox Web browser is quickly becoming one of the most prominent Web browsers available. The fact that it is cross-platform makes it a comfortable browser for users who have to use more than one OS. There are, however, a number of hidden "gems" that you can enable that make Firefox even more powerful than it is "out of the box."

To increase the speed of opening Web pages, there are two options you can tweak. The first is to enable HTTP pipelining, which allows Firefox to request multiple files simultaneously rather than one at a time. To enable this, type about:config in the address bar. Scroll down the list until you find network.http.pipelining and set it to true. You can also enable network.http.proxy.pipelining as well.

Next, search for and then set "network.http.pipelining.maxrequests" to some number like 30. This means it will make 30 requests at once.

To speed up rendering speeds, you can tell Firefox not to wait the default quarter second before drawing Web content. The option to look for here is the nglayout.initialpaint.delay, but it may not be displayed in the preference list by default.

If not, right-click on the screen and select New | Integer. Type nglayout.initialpaint.delay as the preference name and the number 0 as the value. By default, Firefox uses a value of 250 (milliseconds).

Finally, the last gem is not a preference modification but an invaluable extension that is extremely useful for anyone doing Web development. In Firefox, click Tools | Extensions and a new box will open. Click on Get More Extensions. In the new page that opens, click on Developer Tools under the All Extensions sidebar. Jump to the last page and install the Web Developer extension. Once the extension is installed, restart Firefox and you'll see a new toolbar with a number of options that include the ability to quickly validate HTML and CSS, view image dimensions, outline tables and table cells, and a lot more.

Sources: BroadbandReports.com Forums, TechRepublic.com, and MetalRules Forum courtesy of Paul from EDL (thanks dude).


BF2 Prima Content

There is more Prima Guide content at the official BF2 site that is worth a look at...
With the time you've spent playing Battlefield 2 over the past few weeks, chances are you've found yourself on a dysfunctional team at least once. This can usually be attributed to the new chain of command system that players are getting familiar with. While it's impossible to force your teammates to play as a unit, there are a few steps you can take to encourage cooperation.

The guide mainly focuses on playing in a squad and some nice tips. Read the entire posting here.