Archive for the ‘Life Slices’ Category

McCain release video

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

This is interesting. A reporter in… Sweden?… has discovered a unique bit of archive footage: John McCain’s release from Vietnamese prison. He is among a number of other prisoners being released. He is notably pretty gray-haired already, I would guess form his ordeal, and is walking with a significant limp.

The page is not in English, but the video works just fine. Here’s the link:

John McCain release from prison video

Argh Argh Argh *clutches throat*

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

I’m not a coffee drinker, primarily because coffee seriously does not agree with my digestion. When I’m feeling dangerous I will have those tasty Frappuccinos — the ones in the bottles, not a “real” one from Starbucks. Even as diluted with milk and sugar as the coffee in those is, my gut is still a bit unhappy usually, so I still generally limit myself to half a bottle and save the rest for later.

So… when I’m dragging in the morning and need a little “pick me up”, I’ve taken to drinking those energy shot things you get at the drug store — the ones that come in the tiny bottles and cost like six bucks for two. I like the “Five Hour Energy”1 ones.

The funny thing is, every time I down one of those, I can’t help but feel like Doctor Jekyll downing one of his infamous draughts. Which in turn reminds me of a classic old Carol Burnett sketch in which she and another actor kept drinking potions, gasping, and dropping down behind the table — and then the other would stand up in their place.

Does everyone have these weird mental associations, or is it just me?

1: I was amused the last time I was in the store — right next to my “5-hour Energy” drinks was a competing SIX hour drink. Boy, those manufacturers really have the timing down to a science, don’t they?


Thursday, May 8th, 2008

So the other day I decided to upgrade my hard drive. The ol’ 60 gig was getting cramped, and I was tired of removing stuff to make room for other stuff. I wanted my iTunes library back, among other things….

The tricky part is that I’m talking about my laptop, not a tower.

So first things first: If you ever plan on disassembling a laptop computer, go online first and find instructions — hopefully instructions for your specific model of computer. I was dealing with an old Mac Powerbook, and as Macs have some pretty obsessive fans, you can almost certainly find such a guide for any particular model. I did.

Next: before you start, read all of the directions.

No, really. Put the screwdriver down. Yes, you. Read the directions. All of them. Don’t you look at me like that. Read!

Why yes, Step five really does contain the words “This is scary”. Take a deep breath — It’s going to be okay. Yes, that is a lot of screws, and yes, you have to remove them all. Just keep track of what you remove from where. What do you mean you don’t have a screwdriver that small? What kind of geek are you, anyway?

You need a what? What the hell is a T6 torx screwdriver? Oh, those little star-shaped things? People actually use those? Where do you get one? (Answer: Home Depot or, if you’re lucky enough to have one nearby, Microcenter. See? Aren’t you glad you read the directions first?)

Two Words: Don’t sneeze.

It helps to have a good toolkit. For example, if you drop a screw, you’re going to need a skinny tweezers or a nosepicker1.

The really scary part is where you have to crack the two halves of the case apart. Some sections part easily, but others are quite happy where they are, thankyouverymuch. Screws are completely straightforward — prying something apart when you’re not sure what exactly is holding it together can be intimidating. Take your time, it’ll come.

Okay, we’re down to the drive. This is the easy part. Remove the bracket, pull out the plug. Good. Good. New one is in. Oh good, it does fit.

And the last step of course, is: “Now do everything you just did, but backwards (and in high heels)2.”

Finally, when you get everything back together, just plug in your backup drive, boot from that and restore it to the new drive.

Um, you did make a backup, right?

Oh crap.

1: You know, one of those things with the plunger at the end, and when you press it down these three prongs flex out of the tip — for grabbing small objects in tight places

2: Ginger Rogers joke. Sorry.

Louis Armstrong would have liked this

Monday, May 5th, 2008

I have a tendency to envelop myself in politics and such when bumming around the Internet. I think that involvement in such things can be important in the long term, but over time it really can drag you down — so much backbiting and spite, and the inevitable “anything to win” attitudes and resulting calumny and fraud and… *sigh*

So it’s nice when I come across something like this. It’s just an ad for a TV network, but what a breath of fresh air.


A Worthy Campaign

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

This campaign season, I’ve found a campaign I can really get behind…


Tax Day Coincidence

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

I had to pull out the ol’ checkbook today to send some money to our benevolent overlords. What was waiting for me, in entirely coincidental anticipation of this auspicious transaction?

Check #1040.

You don’t even want to know what I used check #666 for….


Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

I have a Mardi Gras party every year, in preparation of which I make a big ol’ pot of red beans & rice from scratch. Beyond the two crushingly obvious ingredients, the recipe calls for various veggies, ham, andouille sausage (hot!), lots of spices… and fresh chopped garlic. I’m not a terribly experienced cook, and the first time I made it there was one teeensy, little, inconsequential mixup.

Partway through the process of chopping ingredients, my mother called me for something or other (or more likely I called her to ask some Duh Ralph cooking question), and in the course of conversation I told her I was chopping up a pile of garlic. She paused a moment and asked, “You know the difference between a ‘clove’ and a ‘head’, right?”

I of course laughed and said “…Uh …what?”

So rather than five or six cloves of garlic, that pot had about 2 and a half heads. (For the non-cooks out there, a head of garlic can easily have 6 or 10 cloves in it. Do the math.)

I acted casual, served it up, and people loved it. Thank goodness for a forgiving recipe and the power of Hurricanes1.

Inspired by this post by Ryan

1: The fact that my roommate had been secretly mixing the Hurricanes with Bacardi 151 might not have hurt, either. Bad B!

Slice of Life

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

When I was about four years old I stepped on… something sharp… under the water at a lake in northern Wisconsin. Sliced my foot open right good. I screamed like a banshee until Mom or Dad (don’t quite remember) came and got me — I was only about ten feet from shore.

I’m now 35 years old. I still vividly remember the pain. I remember Mom (or Dad?) washing my foot off, hands soaked in red. I remember the drive to the only hospital in the area, which was on an Indian reservation.

I remember getting the novocain shot (seemingly) directly into the gash that almost severed my pinkie toe, and I remember the feeling of the sewing needle going in and out as they put in the stitches.

And I remember not being scared. Mom and Dad were right there.

(Inspired by this post.)

Northern Gentleman

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

There is a large gaming convention that used to run every year in Milwaukee Wisconsin (now moved to Indianapolis, Indiana), by the name of Gen Con. It started out about 40 years ago in a basement in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, when a bunch of friends got together to play table-top war games.

It has grown a bit since then. Today, something like 30,000 people attend every year — coming together to play role playing games (“RPGs”) such as Dungeons and Dragons and its many, many descendants. In recent years it has expanded to also include a significant science fiction element — with guest celebrities from movies and television, signings, author presentations, memorabilia, and the like. Between playing everything from chess to D&D to “live action” games and miniatures battles, to game companies showing (and selling!) there latest wares, the convention has plenty for all those thousands to do for four days. A significant reason it left its home in Milwaukee is that that town didn’t have enough hotels to house the attendees! Indianapolis, home to the infamous “500” race, has more room.

I went every single year for about 12 years — I had a place to stay about a hour out of town, and did the commute, rather than spend an extra couple hundo for a hotel (I started going when I was 16).

So, one year I’m roaming through the Great Hall at Milwaukee’s Wisconsin Center, and I come across a large booth hawking a new card game. Card games were hot that year, as Magic: The Gathering had appeared on the scene a year or two previously, and given its creators a virtual license to print money. (That company, Wizards of the Coast, now owns Gen Con, literally.)

The new game was called Legend of the Five Rings. (I could date this specifically from that fact if I wanted to, but off the cuff I think it was about ten years ago.) It was modeled on Japanese mythology, and seemed an interesting concept — so I sat in on a demo.

The first thing I noticed was that this game was bigger than Magic. Where Magic involved two opponents facing off, there were about eight or ten people sitting at the table, and we were all going to be playing one big game. I was at a corner of the long table. There was an older man across from me, and a twelve-or-so year old kid to my left (at the end of the table.)

Before things got going I was chatting a bit with the older guy and the kid. I remember the man well — he was grey haired and balding, with a salt & pepper beard and a friendly face. He and the kid clearly knew each other, as the kid was good-humoredly trash talking the man as the game got under way. (I discovered shortly later that the man was his father — it figures, though the age difference did surprise me a bit….)

The way the game worked, you could ally yourself with another player to take on a third (or an opposing alliance, as the case may be). As this was a demo, they were encouraging us to try such maneuvers out to see how they add richness to the game. I was getting a kick out of the kid, so I decided to ally myself with him against his dad. We played along, working out the new rules and enjoying the game, and after a few minutes I started noticing muttering and a few chuckles coming from further down the table. One comment caught my ear — “He’s taking him on!”

Who’s taking who on? What’s the big deal?

Then I looked down. At the convention, your ticket into events and the Great Hall was a badge that hung around your neck. A badge with your name on it. In large capital letters. The man’s badge said, in large staring-me-in-the-face-for-twenty-minutes black print: Gary Gygax.

If you’ve read this far, you are now in one of two categories: people who just cracked a grin (and maybe uttered a “Cool!”), and people who just said to yourself: “Gary Who”?

Gary Gygax is basically the guy who created Dungeons and Dragons. He’s the guy without whom the 30,000 strong convention I was enjoying at that moment would not exist. And here I was quite genially ganging up with his son against him and handing him his ass in a card game.

Normally in these kinds of situations, I end up at a loss for what to say. But I’d been chit-chatting with the guy for about half an hour by this point. We were practically buds. He was a really nice guy, and I’d liked him a lot before I realized who he was beyond “they guy sitting across from me”.

Naturally, I got his autograph. I still have that Gen Con Four-Day Pass, signed by the man himself.

I am saddened to say that that autograph just became a lot more valuable.

Gary passed away yesterday, March 4, 2008, at his home in Lake Geneva. The world has lost a really nice guy — a real gentleman. I’m happy that I had the opportunity to really meet him — far beyond the two second “autograph table” meetings you usually have with celebs at such events.

R.I.P., Gary. We’ll all miss you.

When is a Mac not a Mac?

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

Of the members of my immediate family, the majority of us are Mac people. Of the exceptions, one brother has a Windows machine because he likes games Pretty much all he does on it is play Everquest or online poker. Another brother has used Windows for years because obviously it’s a better computer. <Insert Mac stereotype(s) here. They’re not “real” computers. They’re too expensive. There’s no software for them. They’re no better nor more stable than Windows, just different….> If he ever overhead me talking to my Mac-using brother about some issue we were having, he would laugh and mock the fact that our “amazing computers” were actually having problems.

Recently, however, he broke down and bought an iMac, because his kids are in school now, and the school apparently is all-Mac. Shortly after this (right around Christmas) he and I had a conversation in which I revealed to him the startling fact that, yes, he can buy Microsoft Office for OS X, and that in fact, Yes, he can actually run Windows on the thing if he so chooses. He asked me a lot of questions, and I was happy to answer them.

He has installed Windows XP on the Mac, using Boot Camp — primarily to run Microsoft Money1. Since our conversation at Christmas, he has called me a few times for tech support.

Here’s the ironic part:

Every call has been a question about how to get this or that working in Windows. As far as I can tell the OS X part has been relatively trouble-free, because he hasn’t called me about any of that.

Welcome to the fold, Brother.

1: I will certainly conceded that one — OS X is lacking in really good comprehensive personal finance software. Quicken for Mac doesn’t compare to Quicken for Windows, and MS Money doesn’t exist for OS X.