Monday, May 30, 2005

You Might Be a Nerd If...

We were on our way home when the conversation turned to geeks and nerds.
L: I do not know many people I would consider geeks.
C: That's because you are one.
L: Hey... I may be a geek, but at least I am not a nerd.
C: Yes, you are, honey.
L: No, I'm not!
C: You are too!
L: No, I'm not!
C: OK... what has been your favorite topic recently?
L: ...Science... fiction?
C: Well, you got the science part right. What kind of science?
L: Um... Astronomy?
C: And...?
L: ...quantum mechanics?
C: I rest my case.
L: ...
C: And I love you.
L: ...OK, I'm a nerd.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Warning! Domesticated Male Ahead!

It is not likely you will ever again read an adult male gushing about his new vacuum cleaner. Here's your chance, because I got a new vacuum!

Yes, that right... I do the vacuuming around the house. I am your atypical domesticated American male. I even do the dishes, exclusively. Cathy insists upon performing laundry duty, however.

We bought a Hoover EmPower "Pageant Blue" from Costco and it comes with a Bagless Flair Stick in an attractive, mustard color. Both units are bagless, so that's a new experience for me. I have not attempted to clean the removable chamber yet, so the utility of a bagless vacuum remains to be seen.

I love the Flair Stick! While both units have a "bare floor" mode, my previous experiments with "bare floor" vacuuming resulted in flying debris, kicked across the room by the powerful, 12-amp brushes. The Flair Stick, though, stops the brush for the "bare floor" mode, and I haven't swept since we bought it! It's very handy for quick pickup jobs and for the tiled kitchen floor. I used to sweep the area around the cats' litterboxes, but now I just vacuum it with the Flair Stick.

Another thing I like about the Flair Stick is the ability to get under furniture. I can turn it 90° and get right underneath the bed and the dresser. No more moving the furniture around! And it has a convenient eyelet in the handle from which I will hang this unit, tucked away in a corner.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Working with Young Geeks

I did a server migration from SCO OpenServer (a flavor of UNIX popular with businesses like Wienerschnitzel) to Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition on Wednesday. The client introduced me to a couple twenty-somethings and announced that they would be helping to administer the network.

this is an audio post - click to play

My initial encounter with them resembles this Dilbert comic:

Man... was I ever that young and clumsy around computers? Experience counts for more than you would imagine, since these guys understood everything I said to them (or at least seemed to understand).

They ran all the cabling and helped cludge together a T1 connection for the network, so they have more than average knowledge. Yet they had a difficulty executing and had a loose grip on the "big picture"...

It was amusing when one of them had to leave for a computer class during the installation. They're good kids... I (believe I) was patient, gentle, not condescending, and even mentoring. I think they'll go a long way with experience and some patience (from the client).

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Walmart Leaves Online DVD Rentals

Wal-Mart has exited the online DVD rental market, partnering with Netflix. Wal-Mart will refer all their DVD rental business to Netflix, and Netflix will refer all DVD sales to Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart's exit leaves only Netflix and Blockbuster as major players in the game. It is rumored that Amazon has a product in the UK and may offer the service in the US later this year.

For a previous review of online DVD rentals, see this link.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Flooding at Church

This Sunday I witnessed the flooding of the church men's room!

As our regular schedule took us to church this Sunday, Cathy & I sat down to enjoy the worship service. I got my hands dirty messing with the sound stage equipment, necessitating the washing of my hands. As I went into the men's restroom, I discovered that the urinal was stuck on 'flush'. Being frugal and a former deacon, I had the sensation that I was watching money flushing down the drain. I asked a friend who used to do maintenance around the church what the problem might be; she indicated that the gasket is probably torn again.

That was at 11:00; it was almost three hours later that I got to wash my hands.

Here's a picture of a flushometer valve. See that elbow on the right which connect to the wall? That's a "control stop"; I was under the impression that the water shutoff is in here... you remove the cap to the control stop and turn the screw clockwise to stop the flow of water.

I spent some time looking for a large enough wrench to open the control stop until a fellow church member found me and informed me that the urinal is running.
Me: "Yeah, I know."
Him: "We can turn it off in here." (points at control stop)
Me: "I've been looking, but we don't have a large enough wrench."
Him: "I'll run home and get one!"
Me: "Nah... I'll ask Mike to go home after the service."
Him: "Really, it's no trouble! I'll be right back."
I went back and enjoyed the end of the worship and caught about 5 minutes of the sermon. The poor man came back 10 minutes later with a bucket and some tools. As I watched, he did what I was planning and opened the control stop; unfortunately, the volve was merely a spring-loaded shutoff. We should have twisted the control stp until the water quit instead of removing it.

As soon as he had the control valve loose, water started coming out. Then, it came completely off, and water was gushing out of the one-inch pipe at a very high rate, and he could not get the stop back on the valve, and neither could I. By the time I got back from my trek to the water main (on the other side of the church property) he was standing in an inch of water. It was so sad it was funny.

We started scooping water with plastic trash cans until the water was low enough to mop up. Then he would push the water into the trash can and I would empty it. By the end of the service, I was able to convince him that I could finish mopping and he could go on home. He felt soooo bad... but he only saved me from doing it first! He did find the problem... the diaphram was torn. I went to Lowes and purchased a replacement.

I did not get to hear the sermon, but I enjoyed the service. Our kitchen and bathroom remodel has served me well! There is very little I am afraid of trying my hand at anymore.

A point of interest... Shanghai's Moon River Art Park has a $600,000 toilet!

Friday, May 20, 2005

Driving Games

We've been trying to do as much as possible together since the day we were married (eight years, three months ago). The sheer quantity of time we spend basking in our mutual company has led to the development of several silly games. Most of these games were developed at random intervals within the confines of our fuel-efficient Honda Civic(s). Let's see... there's Silly Songs, Cardiff-by-the-_____, (Squ)eek Toy, Finger Wrestling, Poke!, and of course the obligatory Alphabet Game.

Silly Songs: This is where one of us hijacks a well-know tune and either presents it in silling sounds, or put silly words to a tune, or take turns making up a tune. I imagine everybody else does this too, but I'm egocentric that way.

Poke!: A game elegant in its very simplicity, Poke! is where we warn the other of an incoming index finger, usually aimed at the stomach or the ribs. The object is to either successfully poke the other person's side or to block such at attemp. Note that attempted pokes are (usually) preceeded by an audible alarm from the poker. Cathy's "machine-gun poke" inspires fear in the most seasoned pokee.

Finger Wrestling: Wrestling came out of Cathy's imaginative mind. One day, I was antagonizing her with pokes of my finger and she began to pretend her hand was a living bodyguard. We imitate Hong Kong-style Kung-Fo movies when "fighting" with our hands, flying around and "kicking". Cathy's fingers tend to get my my fingers in a choke hold. Her finger "body slams" are quite impressive!

(Squ)eek Toy: This happens only when I drive. I will often pat Cathy's hand or knee affectionately. One day I hit a ticklish stop on Cathy's knee and she exclaimed, "Eek!" I spent some time attempting to map out the "eek-able" spots. Now I will occassionally press an "Eek Button" and Cathy will dutifully say "Eek," regardless of whether it tickles or not. If I press lightly, she "eeks" softly; she also varies the octive and volume, which makes for quite a fun game. I confess that I enjoy this game more than she.

Alphabet Game: I assume everybody has played this one... Players must spot and jell out each suceeding letter of the English alphabet and cite the source. Example, "'x' in 'Exit!'". The letter "Q" is the worst! There's never a Dairy Queen or a B-B-Q around when you want one.

Cardiff-by-the-_____: This one only occurs when we drive down to San Diego. There is a city named Cardiff-by-the-Sea (yes, the hyphens are part of the name). Cardiff-by-the-Sea is
"a shoreline community within Encinitas, a city of over 60,000 people lying about 25 miles north of San Diego and 95 miles south of Los Angeles. The moderate climate, two miles of Pacific coastline, and world-class surf drawrofessional and amateur surfers from all over Southern California and beyond."
Anyway, on one long trip I got bored and began reciting passing highway signs. Cathy read "Cardiff-by-the-Sea" and I said "Cardiff-by-the .... Lake!" Thus began a competition to think of as many words denoting bodies of water as possible. Both running water and standing water are permitted, and formations need not be naturally occuring (e.g. Cardiff-by-the-Dam).

Hep C Update

The downside to proactively absorbing information at high rates is the low return on investment when listening to people attempt to introduce you to a topic. Cathy & I went to a mandatory Hep C class at Kaiser and were quite thoroughly bored since Cathy has already devored three books (not counting articles and pamphlets) on the subject. An aversion for public speaking aside, Cathy could have easily taught the class, and I could have pretended to teach it with just the transparencies provided.

We're at the stage where we need to determine a few things before deciding on a course of treatment (or not). Since Hep C has three genomes the treatment varies depending on the kinda of Hep C virus. Cathy is waiting to find out which genome her Hep C strain is before we decided what to do.

Oh, I mislead some of you in email conversations. I previously thought that Hep C is incurable; that is not exactly correct. It turns out that Hep C is very difficult to treat, and the cure rate is low (30%) for the most common viral genome and 70% for the other two variants. Not absolutely incurable, just not terribly likely. Now we're waiting to see exactly what kind of Hep C Cathy has before deciding what to do next.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

What I Do To Computers

This comic is sooo true. Often times I will explain something that makes sense to me, and I can only imagine that is sounds like a foreign language to others.

And, you know, sometimes it really is unimportant.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Yahoo! Messenger Includes Free VOIP

The new beta vesion of Yahoo! Messenger goes beyond instant messaging to include full-duplex voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) functionality. This means I can talk to friends in Haiti and Japan on Yahoo! Messenger for free, likely with better audio quality than traditional long-distance service.

While instant message services have provided free VOIP in the past, they have been half-duplex; only one person could talk at a time. Microsoft has offered free voice over the Internet for some time now. My first experience with PC-to-PC voice was in 1996 using Microsoft NetMeeting; NetMeeting was replaced by MSN Messenger in 2000. Yahoo! Messenger version 7 includes voice functions which are half-duplex.

The beta release of the new Yahoo! Messenger allows both parties to speak simultaneously. Granted, older computer sound cards may only allow for half-duplex operations; if your computer is old, it might not be able to record your voice and play your friend's converstaion at the same time. Newer computers should not have to work about this, though.

Oh, this release also includes free "voicemail" features... So you're not online? Your friends can leave you a voice message, much like the delayed instant message delivery feature
Yahoo! already supports.

Since the release is beta, you may not want to jump on the bandwagon just yet unless you have a vested interest in doing so, like I do.
I'm waiting to see if Gaim will support it right off... my guess is "nope." If Gaim supports it, that would just great! But for my friends around the world... I'll probably be using this pretty soon.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

FREE: Do you want a Gmail account?

If you want a Gmail account let me know; I've got 50 invites. Gmail is a mail service offered by Google on an invitation basis. It is not available to everybody (yet). I like it, and you might, too.

Gmail offers free online email with up to 2GB of storage and includes spam filtering. Gmail gives you nine months of idle time before killing your free email, so that's pretty generous. I'm beginning to use it for all my personal correspondance. I've added a link to email me in the sidebar on our main blog page.

FREE Online Protection for DSL Subscribers

SBC Yahoo! DSL subscribers can now download free online protection software, including virus and spyware protection as well as parental controls. I know many people who subscribe to SBC Yahoo! DSL, so get it now if you do not already have protection.

Not using SBC Yahoo! DSL? Free security software is already included with SBC Yahoo! competitors America Online (AOL users click here) and EarthLink.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

El Monte and The Full Monty

We did not know what a monte is, so Cathy and I were wondering what "El Monte" means. Del Monte cans tomatoes, I know the owners of El Monte RV...

this is an audio post - click to play

After I thought about it, I realized that "Monte" may not be related to "the full monty" as they are spelled differently.

Anyway, monte means "mountain" in Spanish. I suppose I should have guessed, since there were so many mountains around, and nearby cities are also named after mountains.

"The Full Monty" probably came to denote nudity due to the 1997 movie The Full Monty. The phrase probably derived an equivalent meaning of "everything" (like "the whole enchilada") from a gambling game (scam?) named monte. The funny thing is that "the Full Monty" originally meant "maxed out of resources" or "16 megabytes of memory" since the standard IBM clone with an AT- or ISA-bus cannot access more than 16 megabytes of RAM (this is a very old PC, by the way).

There's some computer trivia for you... :-)

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Update on Cathy's Liver

A little update on my previous post concerning Cathy... we got the results back, and Cathy has Hepatitis C.

Before we did more research we had a mild panic attack. I was being calm and reassuring (though I did wonder about being a widower), and Cathy was terribly eager to do more research. Now we realize it is a manageable problem which does not pose a risk to our loved ones.

Still, we became concerned with three things:
  1. how bad is this?
  2. can she give it anyone else?
  3. how did she get it?
How bad? Well, it turns out that between 1-in-20 to 1-in-100 people actually die from Hepatitis C. With treatment, Cathy should die of old age. We'll know more after the liver specialist checks her out.

Can she give it to someone else? Apparently, there is no evidence that the hepatitis C virus can be transmitted by casual contact such as hugging or shaking hands, through foods, by sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses, or by coughing or sneezing. At least we don't have to worry about Cathy getting other people sick.

A book Cathy is reading says that Hepatitis C is far more common in women than in men. This is due to the fact that women living in communities tend to be in constant contact, and it is possible to transmit hepatitis C through menstruation. Several articles I've read indicated that day-to-day contact in households may spread Hepatitis C. Because Cathy's mom lived with us for so long, she'll probably get tested as well. To cover all the bases, I'll probably get tested soon.

How did she get it? According to the CDC fact sheet on Hepatitis C, blood contact is a prime mode of transmission. So we are talking tattoos, drug use, manicures, cuts or sharing razors... The only risk here would be the sharing of razors...

Cathy was required to get blood tests before entering school 12 years ago, so she got Hepatitis C some time after entering college. According to former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, 40% of people who get Hepatitis C cannot determine how, and 10% really just have no clue. So, we may never know. What's odd is that Cathy had her blood tested just a few years ago (for a prescription she was starting) and she was fine at that time.

Apparently, Hepatitis C is really common; so common, it is also called the Silent Epidemic. About 2% of Americans have it and don't know it, and the symptoms might not show up for decades, so people are pretty bad off when they find out. God was gracious to us, as Cathy had no reason to order a blood test except to determine if she should change her diet to lower her cholesterol. Now we have to make sure she does not get Hepatitis A or B; the combination with Hepatitis C would likely kill her. Eeek!

"Thank You" to those that have emailed and commented to express your support and your pledge to pray. I will (naturally) update you as we learn more.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Lee Bached It This Weekend

Baching it this weekend while Cathy visits her mom in Arizona... Friday night was pretty bad since I was so lonely I literally did not know what to do with myself. I suppose eight years of marriage will do that to a man.

this is an audio post - click to play

I spent the weekend completing honey-dos. Friday night I bought a wireless router for Cathy's home office. I did some laundry and watched the extra features to "National Treasure," which were pretty cool.

I got up early on Saturday and took the car to our old stomping grounds in Ontario for major service. I edited church sermon audio and read a "Cat Who..." book. By noon I noticed that I was pulling at my beard far more than usual, a sign of stress or boredom. I returned home and did all the laundry I felt competent to wash without destroying them.

Saturday evening was the worst. I am completely and utterly lost without my other half; I am so accustomed to doing things we both like that I forgot how to be a bachelor. I visited Chris and Laura briefly then went to the office to upload the church sermon audio. I then watched "Timeline" (O.K.) and "Mortal Kombat" (Ugh... Chris warned me, too).

I had sent the camera with Cathy to her mom's and I must confess that I feel under-dressed without my camera. Upon some extensive cogitation on the subject (I had the time, after all), I deduced what I photograph so much stuff... I have such poor memory, I remember only factual data, but not the tangible existential experience of important events of my life. I could give a dry accounting of events, and the time and date and people would likely be accurate, but there is little emotional impact to my recollections of distant events. This is not so with recent events, mind you. However, my inability to retain emotional memory is likely why I feel so lost without my photographic memory device. If you will, my memory is an archive of factual events, but for the photogenic, emotional aspects, I rely heavily on photographs and other mementos.

Sunday I did not bother going to both churches... What's the point of going to Mother's Day service without a woman? It turns out I missed a sermon from Pastor Randy, but I'll hear it when I pick up the digital recording to process and upload to the web site. By the time Cathy got home at almost midnight, I had done all the dishes, vacuumed, and folded 90% of the laundry.

God is good... and it is good to have my wife back. I am truly incompletely without her, and this weekend helped me realize that more than ever.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Speed up your web surfing with Google Web Accelerator

If you use Google as your search page, you can also speed up your entire web surfing experience with the Google Web Accelerator. As seen on the official Google Blog, Google is now offering a web-accelerator for broadband users. In other words, it won't help dial-up users, but DSL or faster connections can save time! Kind of like the situation Democrat politicians complain about, making the rich even richer, or in this case making the fast even faster.

Here's the idea... Google gives you search results within seconds, right? Now they want to help you find display those results quickly using the Google Web Accelerator(GWA). If you are using a Windows computer and you use Internet Explorer or Firefox as your browser, and your are living in North America, then GWA will speed up your web page downloads.

How does it work? When using GWA, you will actually download a copy of the page from Google's servers. If the page changes, Google will update the page that you download. To speed things up more, Google search will automatically download the most likely choices right away. GWA also involves a other speed enhancements, like compression.

Granted, Firefox users were already enjoying web site prefetches, but this extends the acceleration further. Privacy advocates such as the EFF warn users to be sure cover their tracks, but frankly I'm not worried with Google.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Possible Health Problem for Cathy

I just got off the phone with Cathy. We switched health plans recently and Cathy made an appointment to go over some blood tests she ordered. She just got done with the doctor and it is possible that Cathy has liver problems. The doctor says it "may be inflamed."

Well, that has me somewhat concerend. Your prayers are appreciated. They are going to double-check the test (make sure its her results, make sure the tests were done right...) and we'll go from there.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Hacking Blogger with Expandable Posts

I am having fun playing with Blogger and expandable posts. I wanted to know how to shrink the posts so that people could look through the blog and tell at a glance if they are interested in a particular entry. So I followed "Hacking The Blogger Matrix" to find directions on how to create expandable post summaries using CSS. It is not automatic, but I do not want to rely on JavaScript, which the "show/hide links" method requires.

Problem is, the "read more" is showing up where it shouldn't, like every post. *sigh* UPDATE: I hacked a bit more and fixed that problem, but create another one. After more hacking... I finally added "Display Entire Post" in the footer. :-)

Anyway, you can check out the May 2nd post off the May 2005 archive page to see what I mean. Let me know if you like this, or if it just wastes your time by making you click on "Display Entire Post"

In the (near?) future, I plan on splitting this blog vertically. I'll be posting all the "Keeping Up" and "cute cat" posts on the left, and the "computer news" and "deep thoughts" on the right.

Updated 12:59 PM 5/4/2005
Updated 5:22 PM 5/4/2005

Monday, May 02, 2005

Weekend and Knott's Berry Farm

Cathy and I signed docs to refinance our triplex last week. We're hoping this means we will operate in the black. Wouldn't that be nice! :-)

On Friday, Cathy and I visited Chris & Laura Brown's new kitty, Lana. Lana needs to have her nails clipped, so Cathy brought over our clippers to give Laura a hand with Lana. Lana, as cats are wont to do, put up a stiff and razor-clawed resistance, and the feline eventually prevailed against its human oppressors. Ah well. Cathy and I left to lick our wounds and spent the evening at Barnes & Noble reading and sipping tea.

I got up late on Saturday. Cathy ran some errands then woke me about 09:30. We went shopping at the nearest Whole Foods Market we could find in L.A. County. That took us to Torrance, and on the way we literally saw the Goodyear Blimp. We like Whole Foods due to their philosophy of sustainable agriculture and organic farming. The free wireless Internet at the Torrance location doesn't hurt, either. After getting home, we had dinner and watched more of A&E's version of "Pride & Prejudice".

Sunday - Knott's

Sunday was a great day! We got up and went to church (which was unusually sparse). Afterwards we grabbed lunch on the run then went back to Chris & Laura's place. Our good friends Mike & Heather had given us tickets to Knott's Berry Farm for Christmas. We were so busy we never used them. The Browns agreed to come with us to Knott's and we finally went, and with friends!

Chris & Laura used to two blocks from Knott's. We spent most of our time in Ghost Town. We roamed around for a while before riding the Timber Mountain Log Ride and the Calico Mine Ride. Then, Chris and I got on the Silver Bullet, which I promised Heather I would ride.

Now, the Silver Bullt (PDF link for stats ) is an inverted, outside-looping ski lift style ride on a steel, tubular track. In other words, your feet dangle. You start with a 109 feet drop into a Zero-G Roll, then turn into a Cobra Roll, which kindly turns into an outside loop before descending into a corkscrewn and double spiral. We waited in the line for the very front, and I would say the extra wait was truly worth it. The operator of the ride tells you to put your head back and hold the shoulder bars, and he is not kidding! I feel like I need a chiropractor! As Chris and I got off the ride, Laura and Cathy indicated they also wanted to try the Silver Bullet, so all four of us rode it again! Man's it is quite a rush!

By God's kind favor, I managed not to throw up. Or, as Disney Land cast members learn, I did not produce a protein spill.

I think dizziness and slight nausea causes thirst and hunger to come over me. We decided that this would be a good time to rest and enjoy some funnel cake. Ah... funnel cake! :-) Apparently, Chris would have visited Knott's rather frequently if the funnel cakes were accessible before purchasing a park ticket. We enjoyed it very, very much!

I was still feeling queasy, so I watched the others ride WaveSwinger (a witches hat). Chris and I did some acquainting while Cathy & Laura rode the High Sierra Ferris Wheel. It is amazing some much we have in common, though I couldn't do Chris' job. Cathy and Laura already hit it off, so I'm glad I could relate to Chris.

After some shopping and watching the three of them ride the scary "Revolution" ride I felt settled enough for riding Jaguar with the gang. Oddly, I was the only one up for riding Supreme Scream, which is a 200-foot free fall in a harness. We also went to the geode shop and purchased a geode and a cool, carved cat. Chris succumbed to the siren call of ancient meteorites and went home with some new additions to his collection.

Sunday Evening

We left Knott's as they closed the door and went to dinner at Outback Steakhouse. We had the obligatory and very tasty Bloomin' Onion. That was a good dinner and great conversation.

We dropping off the Browns and checked in on the kitty, but Lana had not forgotten her previous encounter with Cathy. Chris & Laura have truly similar interests, and we borrowed Stargate from them. Ah... what a lovely day!