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Archive for January, 2006

Ack, PE!

Posted in Life on January 26th, 2006

My Roomie posted an email from Spud that was really well thought-out. So well thought-out that it got me remembering the sports we played in PE back in Podunk when I was a kid.

Basketball: not so much. We were all VERY white and we all sucked. Sure, we had a school team and all, but man, what a bunch of no-talents. Come to think of it, that described all of our “official” teams – with the exception of our footbal Defense squad. It seems that bailing hay all summer sets a guy up pretty well for throwing around other guys his age.

Baseball: I never really played; I became a Little League Umpire instead. I was the one in the sleeveless shirt with the ponytail. We did play a little softball for a while though. The one time I can remember, Coach Bradshaw was pitching to give everyone a “fair pitch”. (I think he just liked to pitch.) I remarked off-hand to one of my chums as I walked up to bat “watch me hit him.” First pitch came in low, and I let it go by. The second pitch, though, that pitch was perfect. That aluminum bat sang as it connected with the ball.

Coach grunted as the ball connected with his leg, just a couple inches lower than the jewels. You should have seen the look on his face as I took my bases.

Wrestling: what the football D-squad did off-season. The rest of us stayed the hell away.

Football: In PE we played flag with a 5-aligator rush. This means the when the ball is snapped, you chant ‘one-aligator, two-aligator…up to 5 ‘gators before you can rush the quarterback. We did this because the 6th-grader with the least talent invariably got made center, and there was no way he was going to stop an 8th-grade nose tackle.

Jarrod and I were the only 8th-graders in that class one day, and we of course appointed ourselves QB and Nose Tackle. I’m only so-so at tossing the ball, but I had an absolute talent for counting 5 gators in about 1/10th of a second, running a few steps and launching myself into the air. There would be poor Jarrod, trying to find an open receiver with Da Wolfie hanging in the air over his head like the hammer of Thor.

The funny bit came when Jarrod tried a running play and I ended up chasing him. He could run just the slightest bit faster than me, and he was pulling away when I just leapt for him. Somehow I managed to get both of his flags in hand as I fell back to the turf, and things got a wee bit embarrassing for Jarrod. See, Jarrod had a habit of crushing the Velcro tabs of his flags as much as he could so they wouldn’t come off – and when I hit the dirt, so did his flags, his flag belt,…and his shorts, which immediatley tripped him onto his face.

So there’s poor Jarrod, faceplanted, with his bare ass in the air. And 20 6th graders laughing their ass off.

It’s a good thing I never liked Jarrod, or I’d have felt guilty about it :)

Winter was when PE really got to be fun. Podunk Oregon, like any other stretch West of the Cascades, is bloody wet from October through April, which means we were largely confined indoors. This equated to a lot of co-ed games like volleyball and badminton. This of course meant we had a fair number of girls bouncing around in skimpy shorts and worn-out t-shirts.

And my chums all wondered why I liked PE ;)

One girl I can remember to this day. Julie wasn’t one of the pretty girls – she was unfortunate enough to have the eyes of a bat, and wore true coke-bottle specs that did nothing to improve her appearance. She did have, however, a spectacular body to offset the glasses.

She came into PE one day with the best shirt ever: a picture of Garfield with the caption “You might as well take all of me, because the parts you want won’t come off!” spelled out across her chest. I almost fell over laughing.

Reviews: Lord of War and Transporter 2

Posted in Reviews on January 22nd, 2006

We decided to stay in with a couple of movies over the weekend, and chose Lord of War and Transporter 2. I’ll list them in the order we watched them.

Transporter 2
We had been warned ahead of time that while the movie was good, there are some seriously painful parts. They were right.

The plot isn’t bad for an action movie, although it’s finer points needed more work. Of course, we know what the basic plot is going to be when we go into it: The Transporter takes a job to move something, gets involved somehow more than he wanted to, and ends up kicking everyone’s ass. This they do, and well.

The rough parts come with the why the bad guys do what they do – aside from normal bad guy stupidity.

The really painful parts come with the action sequences. Most moviegoers are willing to suspend disbelief for a while, but this film asks us to simply shut our brain off and watch the pretty pictures at a couple of points.

In all, I give it 2 1/2 paws out of five.

Lord of War
This is not a happy movie. One of the first sequences follows the life of an AK-47 round (from the bullet’s POV) through manufacturing, delivery, dissemination and eventually to the end of it’s life – in the forehead of what appears to be a 14-yr-old African boy.

It doesn’t lighten up much from this for the rest of the movie.

I get the feeling Cage took this project to in some way make up for a couple of the cheesier roles he’s taken recently. National Treasure was pure Disney, and I’m not sure Ghost Rider is going to turn out very well. So, he takes the role of one Yuri Orlov and tells you how this character turned from potential restaraunteur into an arms dealer.

Cage does a very good job of making you like and identify with Yuri, who is not in any way a good man. He provides the means for nations to lay waste to their neighbors in exchange for cash, drugs, contraband and lives. Through all of this, you still like him.

Not exactly a date movie, but well-made and worth watching. I give it 3 1/2 paws out of 5.

Devils Panties

Posted in Humor on January 19th, 2006

Content? When I can linky?
Devils Panties. What to do with squirrels.

More Good and Bad: Taxes

Posted in Life on January 14th, 2006

I took a rough estimate of my tax picture today and came up with good mews and bad news.

Compared to 2004, I think I may have finally found the sweet spot for making sure I don’t owe any taxes: pay the State an extra $25 a paycheck. The sad part is, that just breaks me even – I won’t be getting a State refund. (Gee, like I’m surprised.) The Wolfie Savings Plan seems to be working as well, because the extra $15 a paycheck I gave the Fed should turn into a rather nice chunk of change on my 1040 return.

Here’s the bad news: how I figured this all out. I kept a copy of my 2004 returns, and compared my wage listings with my final paystub for 2005. They are almost identical.

Most of you are thinking “hey, that’s not so bad. Sure, you didn’t get any raises or anything, but it all works out.” True, except for one salient fact: I was unemployed for 8 months in 2004. Three months at my previous job plus about a month of contract work plus 8 months of unemployment equals what I made working 12 months straight.

Yup, that’s right. My job sucks.

On the brighter side, that Federal return is going to be put to good use. The Beastie will get some TLC, and the Rayboy will get some time in a dentist’s chair. Anything left over after that goes to the computer slush fund. I smell a 64-bit upgrade :)

Update – WP 2.0

Posted in Geekery on January 14th, 2006

To answer B’s question about why the commenters don’t get a rich text editor: because it doesn’t work as well.

It turns out that the thing is slow to respond, so if you hold down the backspace key or something, it doesn’t always stop where you want it to. This means us lousy typists end up spending a lot more time correcting typos.

It also makes any cut-and-paste operation twice as long, since you will have to go back and edit the HTML to fix the tags it breaks.

So, it’s easier to use the old editor – at least for me. You can turn the RT editor off in the “Options – Writing” pane.

Friday the 13th – good, bad or indifferent?

Posted in Life on January 13th, 2006

Good: I have the urge to write.

Bad: I can’t think of a damn thing to write about.

Indifferent: You get stuck reading this tripe. ;)

Good: Was asked to interview for a job that pays alot more than what I’m getting now. (Yay!)

Bad: Spent 2 1/2 hours piddling around doing other stuff while waiting for Micro$haft to fix their activation servers today so I could finish rebuilding a client’s PC.

Indifferent: We’re only 1 for 2 on the SpySweeper Enterprise install for that client – seems it won’t run on Server2000, but runs fine on Server2003. Now I have to monkey with the router settings to add the 2003 server to both networks. *shrug*

Indecision is a terrible thing

Posted in Work on January 11th, 2006

I am now greatly familiar with every single bump on the road from Beaverton to La Center.

We have a client there with an aging NT 4 domain controller we’ve been having some difficulty replacing – seems the security settings are bolloxed somehow, and it won’t give up control to another server, no matter how we try to coax it. I went up an hour after our lead tech to deliver the replacement.

I got there, and we found out the plan he had concocted would require a copy of Windows Server 2000 – you can’t upgrade straight from NT 4 to 2003. Wouldn’t you know that is the ONE cd he did not have with him. Back on the highway to Beaverton.

Got the cd, got some lunch, back on the highway to La Center. Arrived only to get a call from the manager, asking if my presence was strictly necessary, since the shop is short-handed. Well, not necessary as such…

Back on the highway to Beaverton.

——————

Things my clients have learned over the past week or so:

  1. When a tech tells you your three-year-old laptop is behaving strangely and you should budget for a replacement and do something about backing up your data, do so. Don’t bitch at us 6 months later when it goes tits-up and you have no backup whatsoever of your company’s financial data. You were warned.
  2. When you pay over $200 for someone to re-install Windows for you due to spyware / virus damage, sit the kids down and talk to them about safe surfing habits before you let them get back on the internet. (No shit, that computer came back the very next day, completely un-usable.)
  3. Do not yank on the cables connected to your computer in an attempt to remove them, or you will – complete with the connectors they are screwed down to.
  4. The purpose of a UPS unit is to keep your servers powered-up long enough during an outtage for you to shut them down safely after saving your data – not so you can blithely continue working. Had your brand-new, less than two-week-old server been powered down and had your UPS not been completely drained when the spike came back up the line, it probably would have survived. Now I have to replace almost the whole thing.
  5. No, that is not covered by the warranty.

Ack! he upgraded again!

Posted in Geekery on January 8th, 2006

Ok, Greyduck got me thinking it was time to upgrade to the WordPress version 2.0, so I have done so. As a part of this, I am trying a new and (what appears to be) better spam killer. Please email me if your comments disappear.

*Update*

Well, for those of you who have been thinking about trying out the new version, I can tell you this is pretty damn cool! There are a number of improvements in the writing interface, most notable a mini rich-text editor that allows you to write posts without worrying about all the tags. Simple keyboard shortcuts turn bold, italics and strikethrough on and off. (There is no longer an underline option, but in web-text, I suppose that makes sense.) Should you need it, there is a button that launches a sub-window with all the bare HTML for direct editing.

Other text-formatting tools include easy bullet-points and lists, an undo/redo option, and text justification. Not so easy are the new hyperlink tools, which only become available after you have highlighted the text you want to link. It does now give you the option of specifying a new window for the link, however. I think I liked the old one better.

The “more” tag still links to the single-page-post view, but there is a plugin to make it simply expand the post in the current page – I’ll play with that later. Another plugin I will be playing with is an automated acronym-replacement widget. Very handy for those of us using acronyms to refer to people. Not so handy

For those who are more aesthetically-inclined, one of the final and cooler features of the new writing interface is the “live preview”. Previously, in the advenced edit mode, you could see the basic paragraphical layout at the bottom of the writing page; in V2, the preview pane displays it with your theme, so you get a better idea of what the finished product will be. Very handy when you are trying to get images lined up.

Well, that’s about it for now. Maybe more next post if stuff blows up.

Warp speed, Mr. Sulu!

Posted in Geekery on January 6th, 2006

Link purloined from Slasdot:
Scotsman.com News – Sci-Tech – Welcome to Mars express: only a three hour trip

AN EXTRAORDINARY “hyperspace” engine that could make interstellar space travel a reality by flying into other dimensions is being investigated by the United States government.

The hypothetical device, which has been outlined in principle but is based on a controversial theory about the fabric of the universe, could potentially allow a spacecraft to travel to Mars in three hours and journey to a star 11 light years away in just 80 days, according to a report in today’s New Scientist magazine.

Considering how much sci-fi we watch, read and play around here, you can bet that a discussion has cropped up on several occasions regarding the possibility of Faster-Than-Light travel. Also considering that at least two of our regulars have spent serious amounts of time and effort understanding theoretical physics, you can guess that these have been extensive. Current ‘theory’, as applied to a role-playing game, is that FTL is possible, but the craft in question would need to come to a complete halt before engaging these drives, as the “hyperspace” it jumps into is extremely volotile, and momentum adds tons of uncertainty to initial navigation.

I should have thrown a “boring!” warning in at the front of this, eh?

Anyway, me being the fiendish fan of Space Opera that I am, this goes completely against my instincts. The idea of outrunning your pursuers long enough to get a good exit vector before applying that extra bit of thrust and kicking in the hyperdrives to escape pursuit is a long-standing tactic. Having to somehow get enough time together to drag the ship to a standstill is just…just wrong, you know?

“Ensign! Park this bucket so we can get the hell out of here!”
“Sorry, Sir – it’s lunch hour and the only space I can find is a loading zone!”

Okay, back to the article. How does the thing work?

The theoretical engine works by creating an intense magnetic field that, according to ideas first developed by the late scientist Burkhard Heim in the 1950s, would produce a gravitational field and result in thrust for a spacecraft.

Basically, (as I understand it – B will probably correct me) you project a magnetic field large enough and powerful enough to ‘attract’ your ship. Since the ship is projecting the field, though, it remains a constant distance, and you accelerate perpetually. You put out a big enough field, and you can eventually get moving right along.

Make that field even larger, and you may be able to ‘warp’ space-time enough to slip into another dimension – one where the speed of light is much higher than in our own. Einstein’s theories state that as an object approaches the speed of light, it’s mass will increase proportionally – so much so that it would take nearly all the available energy of the universe to accelerate a truck to c. Well, if light travelled faster, that would give you more legroom on the speedometer, right?

Well, however the theory goes, if it works I will dance a frigging jig. Good luck, boys!

The Joys of Renting

Posted in Life on January 5th, 2006

About a week ago the denizens of Chez Wolfie received a letter from our property management informing us that we owed them an extra $150, and that the sum was 90 days past due.

This came as kind of a surprise – it was the first we’d heard anything of the sort. So, I called and left a message on their machine that night. Two days later, I called them on my lunch hour and got the machine again. Today, I finally got a response in the mail

It seems that, unlike every other property management I have had, the rent is considered late if paid on the 5th, and we paid on that day twice over the past year, incurring two late fees of $75 each.

Now, I have known many people in different industries who got paid on the 5th, and the 5th as last day to pay rent came about to facilitate this common pay schedule. Yet our prop mgr seems to think the 4th is the better day.

You’d think this may be in an effort to extort more late fees, but they never told us about these until they were 90 days past due, and they probably would have let it go longer if it hadn’t been for the end-of-year paperwork. Hell, the first charge was from july!

Considering that they have not made any effort whatsoever in the entire year to contact us for anything other than a notice of inspection, I think I make a pretty good case. When they took over, we got no calls, no letters, no notices of policy at all. I even went in to talk to them about signing a new lease, and they never said a thing.

So, I wrote them a nicely legalese-filled letter explaining my point of view in the situtation – basically that they are full of it, and I would rather not pay a late fee (but much nicer). Especially one they felt so strongly about that they could let it go for 6 months before even mentioning it.

If I screw up, I’ll bite the bullet and pay the fees – but you have to tell me the rules of the game first.