Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Haiku

Pirate is my dog
One day he peed on the couch
Michael yelled at him

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Oh, you work with computers?

Believe it or not, I get asked to fix computers a lot.

It turns out that in addition to a degree in computer engineering, messing with computers your entire life also gets you a lifelong position as the free tech support guy.

In an effort to reduce my support calls, I am bringing back the "Fix it yourself" page. Some history... long ago (in "web" years) I had a page with some basic instructions on how to fix your PC. It was great--I would get a call with the usual symptoms (viruses, popups, sluggishness, yadda, yadda). I would then direct the caller to my website. They'd follow through the list and either fix the problem without my direct help or get distracted and forget about the problem.

While I hope that the content on my site is still mildly distracting, I think it is time for the page to come back, albiet in "post" form. So here you go.

Basics


First off, if you don't have WindowsXP, you are in for a world of pain. Most of the tips below will work for you should know that you are using an operating system with security analogous to a straw house with all the doors and windows open...on a windy day...in Kansas...during tornado season...with Dorothy.

So, you should have Windows XP and it damn well should have Service Pack 2. Here's the easiest way to check: Hold with windows key on your keyboard (b/t Ctrl and Alt) and press the break key (usually above the 10-keypad or the backspace key). This will bring up System Properties window. If you already have Service Pack 2, the first section will say so. DO NOT go poking around in the other tabs--just hit Cancel to close the window.

Whether you have SP2 or not, go on, we'll get it later if you need it.

Essentials


Download and install these now.

  1. Firefox (web browser)

  2. Thunderbird (email, if you don't use only web-based email)

  3. Microsoft AntiSpyware (free, for now)



The above titles are FREE and of very high quality. I suggest installing them and setting them to update automatically. Then, use them in place of Internet Explorer and Outlook Express. Now's the part where you have options...

If you have a virus scanner installed, update it now. Then, set it to update automatically. If you cannot update because your subscription is over, you have two options. You can either get a new antivirus package, or pay the fee for the one you have. Obviously paying the $20-$40 to keep the one you have is easier.

For the cheapskates out there like me, follow these steps to get you 12 months of free virus scanning:

  1. Uninstall that McAfee crap that came with your machine.

  2. Then, open up that red shield in your task bar--the one warning you about a lack of virus protection.

  3. Click on Recommendations

  4. Where it says, "Get another antivirus program." click "How?"

  5. Follow onscreen instructions. Note that the CA antivirus comes with 12-months free.

  6. Let the install actually scan your computer--it takes forever but it is well worth it!



Obviously you will have this problem again in 12 months...

Now it's time to run Windows Update. If you already have windows xp sp2 and it is set to update automatically, you can probably skip this step. If not, this is the singly most important thing you can do. Using Internet Explorer, go to WindowsUpdate.Microsoft.com

Install all the critical updates. If you don't have SP2, it will be listed here. Install that one all by itself. This will take awhile.

Depending on the updates you have available, it might take a few visits to this page to get everything. Keep coming back until there are no more critical updates to get!

At this point, you have accomplished a lot. You should have antivirus, antispyware, and windows updates--ALL of which should be updating themselves automatically. Hopefully, these packages will eradicate your machine of existing problems as well as protect you from new problems.

If you run into problems or have other comments/suggestions please email me or post a comment. For those of you who know my cell number, feel free to call that as well.

While it is never too late to perform these actions, the sooner, the better. Good luck!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

So the server was down, big deal!

Gimme a break! Even well-oiled machines run out of disk space now and then. Of course when that happens to my webserver, the database stops serving data.

If I hadn't ignored those persistent "warning" emails I've been getting, this could have been prevented. My bad.

Friday, December 2, 2005

Healthy(er) pick me up!

I believe that vitamin enriched coffee would increase my productivity by removing my need to eat (as often). Perhaps I can experiement with Flinstone vitamins and Maxwell House.

Stay tuned...

This is my million dollar idea, what's yours?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

How to easily install miniblinds

If you have ever installed miniblinds, good for you. I recently moved into a new home and had a hell of a time getting these things installed. Considering myself relatively handy with a power tool I found this odd.

blinds

Further investigation revealed that the problem was with the window frame. You see, my windows are surrounded by a nice sharp edge. To create this edge, the builder uses a metal strip on the corner (drywall edges are not so nice). The problem is that the crummy screws you get with the blinds are nearly immpossible to get through this metal strip.

blinds

The solution, while obvious now, wasn't for the first few windows...

blinds

You can either use a drill to poke through the metal or just a nail. The nail has the added benefit of holding the bracket in place so that you can similtaneously create a second hole while still keeping things lined up. Obviously, it helps to choose a nail that is a little narrower than the screws you will be using ;).

blinds

blinds

Super simple, huh?

When Batteries Attack!

I was cleaning out my desk draw the other day and came across a bunch of batteries. I have a pretty good collection of rechargeables so I threw a few in the charger and plugged it in. After about 20 minutes, I heard a little pop-sizzle-whistle noise. This is what I found:

battery leaking.

Didn't see it? Look al ittle closer:

battery leaking

You might notice a little foamy goodness leeching out of the non-rechargeable battery.

Oooops! I wasn't trying to be cheap, I am just becoming senile.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Updates All Around

This isn't the usual I'm-getting-pressure-to-update-the-site update, no sir.

I have been pretty busy of late. You can thank my company, my dog, and my house for the lack of updates :). Sarah actually encourages me to update the site, so it's not her fault.

Pirate


So let's start with the dog. Pirate is doing fine. He's doing well at driving us nuts, too. He is cute when he wants to be, but he just uses it to lull you into a false sense of security. Once you start trusting him he becomes a trouble maker--eating and defecating everywhere. grrrrrr.
Pirate, being a pirate
He is crate-trained, though, so we can put him in there or outside for a few minutes instead of killing him. :)

We took Pirate to the vet last week because we thought he was very, very sick. Believe it or not, his primary symptom was good behavior. We were concerned because he was moping around and resting all the time, like an old dog. He was also eating, and vomiting grass. Finally, we couldn't confirm that he had defecated that day...at all.

Pirate, being a pirate

We don't really know what was wrong, but he's fine now. As it turns out, Pirate was a pretty accurate name.

I've also added some pictures to the gallery:

Pirate, being a pirate

Work



In other news, my Canada project is wrapping up. I was up there all last week and was able to test and release pretty much everything Rovisys has developed, which is good. Hopefully this also indicates that my days of traveling 34% of the time are over.

I talked to my new boss today (I now have 4!) regarding another project he is working on. Apparently, I am now the resident SAP expert. That title is a load of bull, considering how little I know about SAP. On my last project, we developed a thread to move data from a SQL database to a few SAP instances. I never touched any deep and dirty pieces of SAP. I am by no stretch of the imagination an expert.

Moving right along...Rovisys-NC is set to open next week. This means I will be getting out of the house a little more and interacting with adults. I stopped by today to check things out and it is pretty neat. If you know any aspiring engineers or soon-to-be engineers looking for work in the Apex, NC area, let me know. Rovisys has been known to hire all types, even you silly chem e's and mech e's.

Holidays



My entire family is coming down to NC for Thanksgiving this year. We are so excited to see everyone and throw our inaugural thanksgiving bash.

House



My house has grass now! We moved in 10/1/05 and were told to expect the sod to be installed sometime thereafter. I called 11/1 and was told that they forgot about us. I woke up the next morning to 8 pallets of sod at the curb. What service! Just about the time that I began wondering if I should water the pallets (it IS grass, after all), a truck of 12 people showed up and went to work. 10 minutes later, another 10 people arrived with another truckload of equipment. It was the craziest landscaping job I have ever seen. They did my entire front yard in less than 30 minutes. If I were doing this myself, it'd have easily taken two weeks...or more.

Funny



And finally, here's a laugh. Since I've been going to Canada so often, Sarah got me this great shirt:
Toothpaste for dinner: Canada
Check out this site. Somehow he puts out a comic every single day. They are hilarious. Plus, I think he is from Ohio.

Here's one for you chem geeks (e.g. Sarah and Shelley):
Chem shirt

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Pirate Updates

I have posted a bunch of new pictures of our puppy in the gallery.

In related news...my website was down for about half a day because of what turned out to be "wiring trouble".

Ethernet 

I found that extremely interesting and decided to interrogate my dog. He came clean and confessed to disecting my Tivo ethernet cable, too. That's great--my webserver goes down AND my Tivo is about to run out of programming. Damn dog!

I guess I should be greatful that so far his antics include only eating ethernet cables. After all, he could be peeing and pooping all over the place. Oh wait...damn dog!

At the end of the day, however, he really is a great dog. We just have to remember that he's a puppy and interested in EVERYTHING. And by interested in, of course I mean insatiably led to chew and by everything , of course I mean...well, everything.

So we've basically got a two yearold on our hands. He eats everything and only runs into places you don't want him to be :).

On a final note...a cool thing about dogs is that no matter how long you are absent (even a few minutes), they go NUTS when they see you. They cannot wait to see you. That's a great feeling.

Maybe later I will fill you in on his invisible fence...with holes. :(

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Pirate is Home!

Our new friend, Pirate, has just come home :). You can see plenty of pictures in the gallery. He's getting well aquainted, sniffing and digging EVERYWHERE.
Pirate

The name Pirate is going to take a little time to get used to, but it won out hands down.
Pirate

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Check Out This Hot Dog

If all goes smoothly, this may be our new friend!:
Carl, the beagle

He is a four-month old beagle/basset hound. We've spent a fair amount of time with him at the SPCA and really like him. If our application comes through and the timing works out, we will be all set.

Now all we need is a name! We have several ideas, including:

  • Carl

  • Hendrix

  • Gordon

  • Sam

  • Pirate

  • Napoleon


My personal favorite has got to be Pirate. Just imagine the scenarios...


> "Oh he's so cute, what's his name!?"
< "Pirate."
> "Oh...um...oh."
> "Hi...pirate."
< "Yarrrr!"


Feel free to submit any ideas as a comment--we are open to suggestions. We were pretty set on Charlie Brown but that was vetoed because we found it was used by another family member's dog.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Learning French

On my recent journey to Canada (work, don't ask), I took it upon myself to learn French. Audiotapes? No. Workbooks? No. Full Submersion? No. Street signs? No. Oh wait, yeah, street signs. For much of the way through Canada, the highway signs came in pairs: the first in English and the second in French.

Using a few signs as my Rosetta Stone I now consider myself a fluent speaker. Here's what I've learned so far...

Metric Conversion


Let's start with an easy one:
Metric speeds (english) Metric speeds (french)

Cool, let's add some words to my vocabulary:

  1. Metric

  2. Conversion

  3. Maximum

  4. Radar

  5. Detector

  6. Prohibited


Another easy pair:
Speeding costs you (english) Speeding costs you (french)

Some more vocab:

  1. Speeding

  2. Costs

  3. You

  4. Speed

  5. Fines


And one final pair:
Tailgating (english) Tailgating (french)

Last set of vocab:

  1. Tailgating

  2. Kills

  3. Leave

  4. Some

  5. Space


Awesome, now I have a fluent vocabulary of 17 words. My next challenge is to communicate with others using only these words. Feel free to submit your suggested sentences as a comment.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

How is your WiFi?

I must admit that I am impressed with the adoption of WiFi. My parents, friends, coworkers, etc. all have jumped on for the ride. In fact, in my apartment I can see at least five networks—seven if I stay near the window. I think this is great!

Of course you knew I was going to say "but." Here's my gripe: the wireless protocol is still notoriously unreliable. It isn't enough that we get less than half of the advertised distance and perhaps a quarter of the advertised speed; we also must weather intermittent connections.

It's really the randomness that bothers me most. For example, I have a Netgear wireless router at home (802.11g) that worked pretty well for my Dell laptop for about three months. I could venture all over my apartment without fear. Recently however, my connection sucks. It is dropped frequently (several times a session) and often refuses to reconnect. If you use Windows XP and have experienced this, you are familiar with the dancing yellow ball. That annoying animation is supposed to indicate "one sec, we've got the network." For me, it usually lasts about a minute before the horrid red X appears. That awful red X is supposed to indicate that no access point is available. In my case it indicates "fuck you, you're on your own today."

Whoa, I got a little worked up there.

Perhaps the problem is with my router. I don't remember reading in the manual that it requires daily hard-resets but doing so does seem to do the trick.

I recall similar experiences with my D-Link router (so old that I could only find it on the support site!). I used to use a Linksys router at work and it functioned pretty well most of the time and required a reset only a couple of times each month. All of my experiences have been with protected (WEP or WPA-PSK) protected.

My point is that this technology has had plenty of time to mature. I'd rather see advancements in stability instead of speed. For nearly all users, speed isn't the issue.

If you have had good experiences with your wireless connection, please comment on what equipment you have. It might also be helpful to know if your access point is open or closed (if you don't know what that means and you set this thing up yourself, your router is open).

Finally, if you are using a Mac, don't bother commenting. My iBook rocks with any WiFi connection.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Intelligent Cat Door

Here's another cool use of imaging that I read about last year: the intelligent cat door. A guy made this in his spare time to solve an annoying problem. Apparently, his cat had been bringing dead rodents into the house with him. Obviously this was unpleasant. What he did was surprisingly simple.

He realized that he could tell if his cat was dragging in an unwanted rodent with him by looking at the cat's silhouette. He setup a computer to capture images of the cat's silhouette as he waited by the cat-door. Then a relatively simple comparison algorithm is used to determine if the new image represents the cat with or without a rodent. If the cat is rodent-free, the computer triggers the solenoid-controlled door so the cat can enter. If the computer detects that the cat is carrying an unwanted critter, the door remains locked and the cat is forced to wander away.

The beauty of this design is that it is built using mostly off the shelf components. First, consider the solenoid door. These already exist in the form of proximity triggers—typically you would attach a beacon to your pet's collar which electronically unlocks the door only when your pet approaches, keeping other animals out. As your pet walks away from the door, it automatically locks. Brilliant!

The "imaging device" is just a webcam—simple enough. [Warning: geek-stuff coming] The comparison algorithm could be something like a bitwise compare or (even easier) a GZip compare to a reference image. If my memory serves, nothing more complex like feature vectors + distance functions was required.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Poseidon Swimming System

Now this is damn cool. The Poseidon Swimming System is a computer imaging system used to detect when someone is drowning. Effectively, it tracks swimmers and sounds an alert to screens, sirens, pagers, etc. when a swimmer stops moving. How cool! This is an awesome application of imaging technology—a field that typically only receives publicity for its security implications.

You might also be surprised to hear that this product has been around for several years.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Auto-Tint Glass

Auto-tint glass has been used in eyeglasses for many years now (my earliest memory reaches as far back as 1995). You've probably seen it around—people wear a single pair of glasses that transform into sunglasses when they go outside into the Sun, and transform back into regular eyeglasses when they come inside.

Let's all pause a moment and consider how amazing this simple thing is.

Ok, thank you. I am curious why this technology hasn't found itself more useful. Imagine the possibilities!

Windows...everywhere!

You can buy permanently tinted windows but they come with a pretty serious limitation: at night, they are really, really dark. How about windows that automatically tint during the day, but lighten up at night? It seems to me that this would keep our cars and houses cooler in the warmer months by blocking out the Sun (energy efficiency is all the rage these days, right?).

I think this would be particularly useful at offices. The office I used to work at had tinted windows and they always made things look dreary outside. When it actually was dreary, the windows made things look like a storm of biblical proportions was approaching. Auto-tinting windows could reduce this problem by dimming only to the authority of the Sun.

Sure, I guess a naysayer would complain that we'd lose the energy savings in the colder months because the Sun helps but screw it, I say it's well worth the trade off. You could still use this in lieu of standard window tint for reasons already mentioned.

So the next time you plop into your hot, 140F degree car on a hot summer afternoon consider auto-tinting windows.

If anyone has any figures detailing how expensive this stuff is, let me know. This is the only reason why it isn't more popular that I can think of.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Gas prices

This isn't your usual "oil prices are out of control post" so simmer down.

Thanks to my friend Brian here at RoviSys-NC, I have some new insight into the problem. The standard response to the "gas prices are too high!" complaint is, "you're actually lucky, they pay $7.13 in Amsterdam!" My personal favorite is when they something like, "You're complaining about $2.56/gal? Try Amsterdam, they pay $2.56 PER LITER!!!!!!!" They actually add that many exclamation points in added emphasis--it's as though a gallon is equivilent to 100000 liters (in case you don't know, 1 US gallon = 3.7854118 liters).

Anyway, the point of all this. The price of crude oil isn't that high. What really gets you is the tax. The article referenced indicates that for an average price of fuel in the US of $2.56/gal, the tax tacked on at the federal, state, and sometimes local level totals to about 40 cents. That is, without tax, that gallon of gasoline would be only $2.17, not $2.56.

Not a huge deal, but consider this. In Britain, the average cost of unleaded was $6.06/gal. If you cut the 75% that goes to the government in taxes, the price drops to a mere $1.97. Holly cow! That's right, Britain's fuel costs are overwhelmingly dominated by taxes.

It seems that a similar trend exists within some states in the US and most countries in Europe. These tactics appear to be part of an effort to encourage the use of other fuels and efficient vehicles. While I'm all for such outcomes, I wouldn't be happy about forking over so much in taxes--and I'm not even a smoker (roughly, a pack of cigarettes: $3.00 = $2.00 tax + $1.00 tar).

So the next time someone tries to stop your complaining by throwing in some (probably) made up number from Europe, remember that most of it may be in taxes.

Also keep in mind that I didn't thoroughly research this or fact-check anything.

References: csmonitor.com

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Buying an iPod: Fight the Urge to Splurge

Continuing our discussion of the sneaky iPod pricing structure from yesterday, here are a few tips to help you fight the impulse to splurge.

Purpose

Are you planning to use your new player while exercising? If so, you might be better off with a flash based player like the Shuffle and Nano. Running and shaking can cause the hard drive based players to skip, crash, and otherwise stop playing music. Do not let that "3 minute anti-skip" crap fool you—they don't work well when used while exercising. This is the primary reason that Sarah got a shuffle and she loves it.

Space

Do you really need that space? Possibly not. First, do you even have 5,000 songs (that's how much you'd need to fill up a 20 GB player) on your computer? If not, why get the 60 GB beast? Spend the extra $100 on music!

Another thing to consider for this point is how often you will be updating your player. If you are fanatical about your playlists or just by habit happen to dock your player several times a week (remember: the more you listen, the more you've got to charge!), you can probably get away with a very small player since you won't need to carry your entire collection with you all the time. To accomplish this, setup your player to populate with new stuff every time you plug-in (automatically).

Physical Size

I'm not claiming that the full-size iPod is big, but the shuffle and Nano are tiny. If you are already lugging around a wallet, cell phone, pda, etc., a full-size iPod might be too much.

Age

Finally, with all things tech, you may find your device out of date before you were able to exploit all that extra space. In my experience, these players are designed to last two to three years of solid usage. If you don't really need the biggest player right now, relax. The chances are that a cheaper, smaller, and higher capacity player will be available in a couple years when you do. Plus, a video capable iPod is coming soon, trust me.

Timing

If you can't really afford any iPod now, don't sweat. They are only getting cheaper. You might recall that only three years ago, the cheapest model was $299 (5 GB). Now there are a handful of offerings below the $299 mark. As competition increases, you win. Look forward to the iPod Pico in the spring (j/k).

Final Note

If you've had your heart set on a particular model, go for it! At $299 for a sweet music player and storage device I'd say you're getting a deal. On that note, if you plan to use your iPod as a storage device (pictures, documents, movies, etc.), a larger model may better suit you after all.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

iPod Nano

My friend Bryan did a quick analysis of this tiny, little device. I completely agree with his conclusion regarding color choices: what happened? Like Tif, My wife agrees that the mini is soooo "I want one" because of the color choices. As it stands now, your only options are white and red (U2). Wow it's small, though.

Check out Bryan's article for some more commentary and references.

I find the iPod pricing structure devilishly clever. It kills me:












ModelSize (GB) Cost$/GB
Shuffle0.5$99$198
Shuffle1$129$129
Nano2$199$100
Nano4$249$62
Mini (disc.)4$199$50
Mini (disc.)6$249$42
iPod20$299$15
iPod60$399$7




Let's ignore that last column for now ($/GB). We'll work our way down. Suppose you are interested in a Shuffle. You get double the songs for a mere $30 more. That's a tough upgrade to ignore unless you really lock into the first model being sub-$100. Don't worry, it gets worse.

Suppose you were interested in a Nano. Starting at $199, you are damn close to a full blown iPod. For a mere $100, you get ten times the space! Ok, ok so space is important to you but not that important? So you move up to the larger Nano (4 GB). Whoops, now you're only $50 away from the real deal—might as well upgrade right now. We had basically the same problem with the Mini that this model replaced.

Tomorrow I'll discuss a few ways you can talk yourself out of (or maybe into) these upgrades.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Impatience at its best

While waiting in line on one of Cary's main roads a few days ago I was presented with a fine display of impatience. Let me set the scene for you. We're all waiting at a traffic light that has a left-turn lane. There is no one in the lane and the cars going straight at backed up so far that if someone DID want to turn right, they'd have to wait to get closer--to the point where the lane begins.

While I admit this would be a little annoying it certainly doesn't justify using your SUV to drive onto the cement median with all four wheels for a significant distance only to wait in the turn lane for the light to change. Is that what we've come to? I'd be pissed, too, if I didn't get any use out of my trail-rated vehicle--what with all the off roading I do in my family transport--but take it out on the environment like everyone else. Thanks for doing your part to keep gasoline prices up there (can you say supply/demand?).

Friday, September 9, 2005

House Hunting Updates (II)

We bought a house today! Our agent haggled with the builder and settled on a great price--we signed a contract earlier today! We are so excited. Check out the photos in the gallery to see our sweet new home.

So if you are heading down to or through the area (to the beach perhaps?) stop in to say hello. You could even stay the night in our extra bedroom (provided I know you of course ;)).

I'll keep all you avid readers posted as things move along.

Thursday, September 8, 2005

House Hunting Updates

Sarah and I found two homes that we really like but after revisiting both homes, one has surfaced as a clear winner. Our agent was over late last night preparing an offer for 105 Stoneline Court.

We chose this house over the other for several reasons. Stoneline is in a nicer area with better schools, etc. It is in an area of higher/quicker appreciation. The community feels better--we have a community pool, and nearby ballpark and bike path. One of the big selling points is land. The first house had less and 1/5 acre. The house we've chosen sits on 2/5 acre. Additionally, two of the 3 adjacent lots (one side and rear) will most likely never have homes on them. The rear lot has a pond on it and the side lot is almost completely in a flood plane with poor position and terrain relative to surrounding properties. That effectively means that we have a lot more privacy and the feel of a lot more land. Obviously all these things translate into a higher cost but it is definitely worth it.

There remain only two things that could keep us from getting this home. First, there is a contingency on the home. This means that another party has sent an offer that is contingent on something, typically the sale of their existing home. When another offer comes in (i.e. our offer), the original party is given 24-48 hours to decide if they want the house or not. Our agent tells us that the odds are in our favor.

The second obstacle is the loan. We don't have much cash on hand so a down payment isn't really an option. We've been told that since we are first time buyers, financing the whole shebang shouldn't be a problem...I guess we'll see.

I'll keep you (that's plural you--my 5 loyal readers) posted with the goings on.

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Happy!

Today marks our (Michael's and my) 2 year anniversary! No longer newlyweds, we move into the "young couple" or "20-something" category...yay :) 2 down, 50+ to go.
In other news, we've started house hunting in the Raleigh area and have found a pretty good prospect. If you want to check it out, head on over to the gallery.
That's all for now :)

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Canada

I recently went to Canada on a business trip. I stayed in London, Ontario for a few days and came to notice a few things to which I'm not accustomed. These aren't bad things, mind you. I'd actually consider most of these to be a big plus.

Black Clothes

While I don't like to buy into stereotypes (except when they're true--j/k ;)), I couldn't ignore that everyone seemed to be wearing black t-shirts. While my coworker had many interesting and potentially offensive names for the local residents, the fact remains that four out of five people that I saw walking the streets were wearing black t-shirts. I guess it's the style.

Metric

Yay! Why, oh why hasn't the US adopted the metric system!? It would be a pain in the ass for about two years, but after that it would be so nice. Why is the US the only stubborn country left using the English system of measurement?

Speed Warning Signs

Every so often, we saw a road that had the speed limits listed along with the penalties for breaking them, in 10 km/h increments. For example, in a 110 km/h zone:
  • Going 120 km/h = $100 + two points
  • Going 130 km/h = $200 + three points
  • Going 140 km/h = $300 + four points

  • Ouch!

    Beer

    I didn't believe this until I checked it out. Beer is only available at the US-equivilent of a liquor store, known in Canada as the "Beer Store." I'm not kidding, that's what the sign says. You, apparently, cannot walk into your neighborhood Canadian grocer and purchase beer--instead you must go to the beer store before 6:00pm and buy it there. hmmmm...

    Currency

    First, Canadian currency is neat! It is colorful with shiny ribbons on it. Cooler than that though, is that they have coins in $1 and $2 denominations. That is really strange at first but a system I am all in favor of. Here in the US we have $1 coins but they are not used anywhere. In Canada, I bought a sub for $5.50 and paid with a $20. I expected to get a bunch of bills back. Instead I was given a $10 bill, two $2 coins, and two quarters. It was a very weird feeling at first, but something that I'd like to get used to.

    The accent, eh?

    I couldn't leave this out! I'm a big fan of the accent. When working in close proximity with a bunch of Canadians it's nearly impossible not to pick it up. I was there only three days and found myself slipping. It was so bizarre.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Cards in Newark

My brother took me to play cards on Friday. It was a big open warehouse full of tables and about 40 card players. Here’s how it works. People bring their own chips and play a couple of loosely organized tournaments. If you don’t play the organized tournaments, or if you get knocked out, you can join or start a side game. We were there just for the side games. One gaping whole in my understanding of this place is that of who pays for it. None of the games are raked and there’s no entry fee. All the money you pay in goes back out to the winners so what’s going on? Here’s the kicker: The concession stand is fully stocked, self-serve, and free. They have free soft drinks, chips, candy bars, etc. Who pays for that?

I’m taking the “don’t ask, don’t tell” position on that. So long as the cards are good, it’s easy money. Oh yeah, I should explain that. The majority of the players at this place are absolutely terrible. These people will showdown with any two cards, regardless of the action coming at them. This point was reiterated over and over again when people would call my pre-flop “all-in” with great cards like 2-7. After I rake in the chips the poor guy surprisingly often defended himself with, “but they were suited.” My job in this situation is to nod in artificial agreement and watch the terrible play continue.

Of course this can be frustrating, too. When people play any two cards, they get lucky sometimes. When this luck comes in streaks two things happen. First, the players getting burned while making the right decisions, like my brother and me, get a little frustrated. Second, it teaches the player and those observing that the cards don’t matter. So long as you can keep number one in check, number two will continue to pay you in large sums.

This simple fact was proven Friday night. The first tournament we played, Chris and I did very well. It came down to three players (from eleven) with relatively close chip stacks. Chris and this other guy get involved in some heavy betting. Chris makes top-pair on the turn and re-raises all-in. After 10 minutes (seriously) of deliberation, this other guy calls with all of his chips. He flips over an open ended straight draw. Let me lay this out for you. This guy did not have a made hand, only a draw. If he put Chris on a pair or better, he’d have to hit the straight to have a chance at the pot. This gives him eight outs or about a 17% chance to hit the straight.

Even if he put Chris on a total bluff, his cards were low so he’d still have to hit to win the hand. This situation gives him perhaps fourteen outs, his open end draw (eight) plus either of his hole cards (three+three). Wow, a whopping 30% chance. Those are pretty bad odds to commit all your chips, too. This makes even less sense when you consider that he had about as many chips as each of us—we were all pretty even. Other than this particular hand, this guy wasn’t too bad.

Not to deny mathematics, he did not hit his draw and Chris won the hand, giving us first and second place (the only places that paid). Even though Chris had me covered 2-1, we split the money and moved on to another game.

All told for the night, we each made $80 each, making it the single most profitable and easiest poker night I’ve ever had. I almost feel guilty ;).

The plane (oh yeah, I’m currently at 22,000 feet) just began its descent so I better close up.

Mary Lyle-Storie’s Wedding

I’m not sure what Sarah and I were thinking as we planned out our weekend but we messed up somewhere along the way. We left for Newark, Ohio from NC Thursday night and arrived very early Friday morning. Sarah did the whole wedding decoration thing all day Friday. Friday night we did the rehearsal dinner thing. After the dinner Sarah threw Mary a bachelorette party and I went with Chris to play cards.

Here’s where I might have slipped up. We played cards from 11 pm to 3:15 am. Oops. I’ll cover this more later.

So the next morning, Sarah’s up bright and early to do more wedding stuff and I get to relax until the wedding. The wedding goes very well and concludes with a nice reception.

Afterward we caught dinner with my family and headed back to NC at about 9:30pm. We were both really, really tired. We stopped after about 3.5 hours and slept for an hour. We drive for a couple more hours and stopped for another nap. After a couple more hours, breakfast. We finally got home around 10am, 12.5 hours after we left. This drive usually takes about 8.5 hours. Ugggh. I guess it’s better than driving off the road…

I know I didn’t talk about the wedding much, but I’ve got to leave something for Sarah to talk about ;).

Thursday, July 28, 2005

TiVo to the Rescue, Slickdeals.net

I just (finally) picked up a Tivo. I've wanted one for a long time but simply couldn't afford it. It wasn't even the initial cost--often they're available for < $100--it was the monthly service fee of $12.95.

Well I came across a deal I simply couldn't pass up. Thanks to SlickDeals.net, I found a Toshiba Tivo with 140 hour capacity and a DVD-R burner for $100. As an added bonus, the unit includes basic service for free.

Here's the deal breakdown (this is ridiculous): pick of the $600 unit and use a 50% off coupon at checkout. This brings it down to $300+tax. Then send in a $200 rebate to bring the final cost to $100+tax. Hell yeah! I was lucky enough to find one in stock and have it all up and running. Many thanks to SlickDeals.net.

The unit includes 45 days of TivoPlus for free so I am enjoying all those great features. I admit that I will probably end up picking up the service after the trial expires, if only for Season Pass.

One thing I don't understand with this thing is that it still requires a phone line to set up initially. After the first 20 minute phone call, you can use a sold-separately network adapter to hook the unit into your home network, but you've got to make that call at least once. Normally this wouldn't be a big deal--but I don't have a phone line!

There are lots of sites that give tips on using special dial codes, etc. to avoid the phone line stuff but none of them proved successful for me. I ended up hauling the unit over to my Dad's to borrow to the initial setup. No big deal.

Another thing I'm confused about is commercial skip. What happened to it? It seems this is a feature that they removed to appease the television guys. Oh well. It was just a button for crying out loud!

So now the only remaining issue is whether or not to buy the Plus service. If I do get the Plus service, which I probably will, do I get the lifetime subscription or go month-to-month? The lifetime subscription isn't as good as it initially seems because it's good for the life of the unit, not the life of the owner :). If a unit malfunctions, though, the service would then carry over to the replacement unit.

The cost? $12.95/month or $299/unit-life. I'm leaning toward the lifetime subscription. It'll pay for itself in just under two years ($299/$12.95 = 23 months) and people tell me that their Tivo's have been running for at least that long. Even if it dies, the service can carry over to a new one, anyway.

I know the subscription thing is what made me hesitate to buy initially but let me explain. The unit is not likely to become obsolete for a least a little while--it's currently top of the line. The subscription is optional (it used to be required!). I'm not in college anymore so I have a little bit more money.

Comedians

I love comedy, who doesn’t? I’ve been listening to a lot of comedy on CD lately and it makes for a great travel soundtrack. My two favorite comics are Dane Cook and the late Mitch Hedberg. I've also recently picked up a new CD by Alonzo Bodden.

Mitch Hedberg


Mitch is definitely my favorite comedian. He’s been on Letterman several times and has two CD’s. His first CD is now available in stores as is his second CD, produced by Comedy Central. I highly recommend both discs. If you are new to Hedberg, though, go with the second disc.

I saw Mitch live last year and he was great. He had a lot of excellent new material and put on a great show. Unfortunately, he passed away last year. He will be missed. If you ever watch Comedy Central’s Comic Remix or Shorties Watching Shorties, you’ve probably heard some of his jokes.

Dane Cook


Dane cook is another of my favorite comedians. Unlike Mitch’s one-liner style, Dane is more of a story teller. His first CD, Harmful is Swallowed, is excellent and highly recommended. It also seems that he has JUST released a double-disc album full of new material. I can't wait to pick it up!

Alonzo Bodden


I just picked up a 40 minute audio of this comic through Audible. He’s a bit more like Dane Cook and definitely keeps you laughing. The general consensus seems to be that he pales when compared to Mitch, but he’s definitely a good listen. Apparantly he was on last comic standing, a fact I didn't know until I started researching this post.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Work Updates

I’m working out of my home office, telecommuting to the Aurora, Ohio office. It’s pretty neat and the hours are very flexible. You wouldn’t believe the morning traffic, though. Sometimes the fourteen feet I must travel to find my desk are total gridlock.

The plan is to have an office in the area “soon.” I’ll let you know when I know .

Presently I’m working on a bunch of software for a big project. I don’t really know if I’m allowed to talk about it so I won’t. It’s not hush-hush or anything, I’m just being extra careful my first few months until I get a good feel for what is appropriate and what is not. Besides, why bore you with the details?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

New site

If you've been here before, you no doubt have noticed that things are now completely different. I've dropped the custom blogging stuff that I wrote for this spiffy application. I'm a big fan of rolling my own software but it's hard to resist free software that is so well supported.

I managed to import pretty much everything from my old blog with one big exception: photos. I still have my photo gallery but all my imbeded pictures are gone. How's that for a backup plan? Oh well--you live, you learn.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Diary of a Mad Black Woman (0/5 stars)

There's no easy way to put this so here it goes: this movie sucked. Actually that was pretty easy. This was one of those movies that you start watching, but about 30 minutes into it you start thinking you should just cut your losses and stop. But you don't because you keep thinking, "This is the slow part--the character development--it'll start not sucking soon." And they never do. Sigh.

I'm afraid that I must place the blame for this one completely on Sarah. You know to be a little anxious when she says something like, "Just so you know, I take no blame for this if it's bad." M'kay.

Oh, I just thought of another reason to not see this movie. Sarah is pretty sappy when it comes to movies with love stories. If it's got a couple people who like each other, the good guys don't cheat, and the movie has a happy ending, she's usually sold. Believe it or not, this movie had all of the above and she didn't like it at all! There you go, it failed the sappy-sarah test, so don't even think about it.

As you may come to realize, though, my choice in movies may not be any better.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Batman (3.5/5 stars)

Oh boy, what a classic! Batman, the original. 1989, wow.

Batman has always been my favorite super hero. Why, you ask? Because he's really just a regular guy, that's why. Anyone could be Batman. I don't have to mutate or learn to fly; I just take up ass-kicking, hire a butler, inherit a crap-load of money and I'm good to go.

It's weird going back to see a movie like Batman. It's probably been over ten years since I last saw it and my memory isn't so great. I always end up a little disappointed when I do something like that--go and see a movie that I haven't seen in forever and have kept in high regard. I guess I'm setting myself up for it :/.

Anyway, I'll try my best to ignore those feelings. Although a little weird (like the 80s), it was really neat. It had all the charm of a great comic book take off without all the fancy computer graphics. I wish I could say that the acting stepped up to cover any potential gap, but alas. I am reminded of a Celebrity Jeopardy! as paraded by SNL staring Michael Keaton, Batman. You see, I've recently seen the SNL skit and just assumed that Michael Keaton was being caricatured by the SNL staff. Having seen his career's best work, I was wrong. SNL portrayed him perfectly.

On the other hand, Kim Basinger as Lois Lane--err--Vicky Vale (why always with the alliteration?) did pretty well, as did Jack Nicholson.

I've got to give it a 3.5/5, but that includes some bonus points for being a classic and portraying my favorite super hero.

Garden State (4/5 stars)

I must admit that I was a little hesitant to see this one. I really like Zak Braff on scrubs and Natalie Portman's been cool since she played the preteen assassin in Léon so I gave it a go. By the way, did you know that she was born in Jerusalem, Israel? At least according to imdb.

I really liked it. I thought it moved along a little slowly at times but overall, I felt it to be pretty true-to-life. I connected with the characters on some levels (certainly not too many ;)) and really seemed to understand where they were coming from.

I'm new to this movie reviewing thing so this is as good as it gets as I'm the first to admit, I'm not a professional critic. If you have any titles you'd recommend, drop me an email or post a comment.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Updates soon

It's taking a little while longer than I hoped to retrieve my webserver from Columbus. So, until then I'll be posting some updates with this new software.

Sunday, June 5, 2005

Updates: Exams (3 of 5), Sofa Express, Sarah's Car

Exams


So far, exams have gone well. First I had my ice skating exam. No joke ;). I got a 98% in the class. That's not bad considering I sprained my ankle pretty badly a few weeks ago. Sarah and Shelley both, of course, got above 100%. :P

I took my CSE694 exam last Thursday and I think I did well. No big deal. The course is on data mining so it consists of about equal parts of hand waving and algorithms.

Then I had Math today. It was a piece of cake. The exam was comprehensive, covering topics from set theory, counting theory, relations, graph theory, recursion, etc. It was a pretty neat class, actually, but I'm glad it's also my LAST math class.

My next two exams are Tuesday and Wednesday... ;s

Sofa Express


For graduation my parents gave us a bunch of money to buy furniture. I, to my great surprise, actually enjoyed the experience. I never thought I'd say it but there you go. We're having some cool living room stuff delivered the day we move in. Of course I wouldn't bring it up if the story stopped here...

We placed our order at just about closing time one night and were told that we were the second sale of the day. They had 3 people working. Wow. I bet our salesman was 2 for 2. He took everything down, gave us 10% off, and zapped our credit card for 20%. The rest would be paid off over 12 months of interest free payments. So we're all set.

A few days later, my dad gives me a postcard from sofa express advertising a 20% sale! So I call the store and they say no big deal, you save an extra $xx. The problem is that before hand, I did up the calculations and arrived at a much larger number. So she ran the numbers again and got a different savings. Not the same as me. So she ran them again. And again. And each time (4) she got different amounts. Seriously, now, isn't this something these people should be able to do reasonably well? So I walked her through the entire invoice making the adjustments and updating the calculations until we agreed. Basically we just redid the invoice as though I had saved 20% and took the difference of saving 20% and 10% as the refund--BUT NO! she reminds me that we only get 1/2 of the adjustments because we already saved 10%. Huh?! I again explained how the math works and she finally agreed.

I was pretty shocked that this was such a complicated thing for them. Like I said, they had two sales the entire day...isn't this a pretty simple thing!? I can't wait to get my updated invoice...

Sarah's Car


Oh man, this is a good one. So i am driving though our little alley and I'm just about to pull into our parking lot when I see my neighbor backing towards me. I honk and attempt to get out of the way but all efforts are futile. He manages to not hear me, or avoid me. He backs right into the side of the rear driver's side door/wheel. The damage is very small but deep enough that it will require some painting.

Since body shops calculate quotes with a magic formula that starts the bidding at $500, he wasn't happy. He tells me he's got this uncle of his who runs a body shop and can take care of it, no problem. At first this doesn't seem TOO bad. I mean, I'm not really liking the idea, but I'm still listening. Here's the problem: the guy keeps talking. I swear, the more he talks, the less I like the idea. It seems that his uncle works only during the summer. It also seems that the guy who hit me (my student neighbor who is currently flaming up his charcoal grill on his covered, wood porch) is the one who is actually going to do the work, he just wants his uncle to be there to be sure he does everything correctly. I'd really like to help this guy out but I'm not comfortable sending my car with him to a shop that's 45 minutes away so he can hack away at it.

This all happened Friday and we decided to discuss it Monday (today). Well, we discussed it and now I have more material for this post ;). He messed up--he started talking again. His uncle can do it--it's just that he can't start right now because he's a little flustered because his friend had a brain aneurysm and this guy's wife found him in the driveway like unconscious so she took him to the hospital where he was in a coma but died today, Monday, he was in a coma but died this morning, so he can't get to it right away, cool? OK, so I turned on "Neighbor speak" there for one "sentence." So now I'm a little less comfortable with the idea and I say so.

But he keeps talking...he tells me that he wishes we were buds so we could take care of this another way. What way is that?! I ask him how that would change anything. He tells me that if we were buds then he wouldn't have to come up with $500+ on the spot. I remind him that I don't have $500 sitting around to be used for this either, even if we were buds he's still have to pay for it right now. He says that he knows, he just wishes we were buds so that he wouldn't have to pay $500 all the sudden. I am seriously confused at this point and don't reply.

I tell him that I'll get one more estimate tomorrow and then I'll take it to whichever one is cheaper. It will be up to him to pay for it with cash or with insurance.

I wish I could work more comedy into that but alas, my apologies :).

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

More updates - Lost, Graduation

Lost

Of course I'm speaking about the TV show, not my state of mind. The finale was completely...anticlimactic. A couple new things happened, but little was resolved. In typical ABC fashion, we have to wait until next season to figure out what we've been waiting all season to figure out. Damn!

Graduation

Sarah, Shelley, Ben, and I graduate next Sunday (hopefully ;) ). So as of this writing, just 10 days left...

For me: just 2 classes, 4 exams, and one long ceremony are between me and a diploma.

Post graduation plans are a little hectic but we should be ok. Immediately following graduation on Sunday (6/12/05), we are having a cookout with about 20 people. That should be a good, long-sigh-of-relief time.

On the following day, Monday, we're picking up a moving truck in Newark and bringing some stuff over to Columbus where we will pack till we drop. We've already got damn near everything into bins and boxes so this should be a pretty simple procedure.

If all goes according to plan, we'll hit the road Tuesday night around 10 with me driving the UHual and Sarah driving my car. We'll stop every two hours or so and arrive in time to eat breakfast before our 9 am move in at Waterford Forest Apartments.

Now, if he plan continues to follow, we'll have furniture delivered Wednesday morning, cable/internet hooked up on Wednesday afternoon (because we're a bunch of geeks), and we'll be mostly settled by the end of the day Thursday when I have to return the truck.

And then the real world starts on Monday. Sarah is deferring the real world until next Spring when she starts teaching about it to highschoolers. :)

Now I just need to figure out why GoogleMaps says the drive will take 10.5 hours and MapQuest says it will take only 8.5 hours...

And that new address one more time...
2916 Waterford Forest Circle
Cary, NC 27513

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Hockey!

We'll my friends, you are reading the pen of a d-league hockey champion. Yes indeed! Sarah, Shelley, Jeff, and me. We kicked some serious ass on the ice. We led by one goal the whole game and finished 4-3, claiming the title and winning our much deserved t-shirts.

The game was extremely intense, with each of us taking a good hit (read: fall) and Jeff getting a penalty. The other team was ridiculously aggressive. Now don't get me wrong, I love playing super-aggressive, but these guys took it to a new level. They were skating and playing hard, they were just taking sucker shots and slide tackles. I lost track of the number of times we had multiple players go down as one of their guys slide into a group head first.

During the Shelley's first line, someone took the liberty of hooking her leg and yanking her down in what appeared to be a painful manner. It really was bullshit. The same happened to the rest of us a number of times. Jeff's penalty was even strength so no big deal. The other team had an additional penalty for all the crazy tripping, giving us a power play.

That should be a sign that something's amiss: penalties. We're in D league and haven't had a penalty the whole quarter until tonight. And the other team got TWO! Craziness.

Anyway, now were are invincible. ;)

Monday, May 30, 2005

Updates from the crypt

Finale time has come and gone, and let me tell you, what a season it has been.

7th Heaven

What a load of crap. Oh my goodness, I'm not sure I'll be able to express how terrible this was. I'm not even going to try. Instead, I'll just give props to the writers. I'm 100% sure this is how it went down:

Writer 1: OK guys, our show is so bad and we've been on the air so long that I bet we could outsource the script to our 4 year olds--
Writer 2: --or lets hire some crack hos!

Well, that's what they did. 'nough said.

24

This was a two-hour show. It was awesome for about 1:45. The show had been lagging a little bit but this finale was pretty good. That is, until (spoiler...) the jackass President decided that even though Jack saved the entire damn country (again, 4 seasons running) and was willing to be handed over to the Chinese government for some bullshit that happened 3 weeks hours ago, he's got to be killed because--get this--he knows too much.

Well pardon me, sir, but wtf? What a terrible ending! Basically, Tony and Bitchelle fake Jack's death so he can go into hiding and start a "new" life. That is, until next season tomorrow another terrorist does something that only Jack can handle.

That brings up a barely related point I've been thinking about. I think that they should codeword each season with a day of the week. So season one is Monday, season two is Tuesday, etc. If they're feeling really ambitious and worry that seven days won't cover it, they could start with a date Jan 1, Jan 2, etc. Just a thought...

Alias

Or as I like to call it, Jenny plays dress-up.

This show was really, really good the first two seasons. Season three and now season four were a little slow and repetitive. The last three episodes of this season, however, have been extremely good.

As an added bonus, they may have finally dropped all this Rambaldi crap.

Now about the season cliffhanger (spoiler coming...). Holy fuck! OMG! I was completely unprepared. We had been tivo-ing the show and watching several at once so I didn't realize that as we watched the final episode there'd be a ridiculous cliff hanger. It went something like this: Syd and Vaughn get engaged at the beach and are driving away when Vaughn says some stupid thing like "I love you, and that's why I have to tell you something--I don't want us to have any secrets. For starters, my name isn't Michael Vaughn." CRASH! Episode over. What am I supposed to do with that!? I'm still lift up my jaw.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

updates on the way...

I've got a lot to write about but it's going to have to wait just a little while longer. I've got a final test and a final project due this week and a whole slew of finals next week...

Anyway, things to write about...
  • moving/packing
  • hockey (GAME TONIGHT at 11:15! We're in the finals!) [6/1/05]
  • Graduation [6/2/05]
  • perl and php
  • Damon's
  • 7th Heaven and other things evil [5/31/05]
  • 24 Season Finale [5/31/05]
  • Alias Season Finale (OMG) [5/31/05]
  • Lost Season Finale [6/2/05]
  • Ike (the hampster)
  • Sofa Express [6/6/05]
  • etc.
So you see, I have been busy, just not talking about it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Racin' for the Cure

Hi all :)
I ran in the Race for the Cure last weekend, a 5k road race in Columbus intended to raise money for breast cancer research.
I did better than I had expected - 24:06 (~8 min/mile), placing 33rd in my age group, out of 988 women ages 20-29 :) Last year I placed 155th (out of 983).
Over 26,000 people participated!
I had a great time - running with 26,000 other people is a very cool feeling. Michael has told me that he'll run in a 5k with me once we move to North Carolina...yay!
If anyone is interested in running in the Race for the Cure next year (in May sometime) let me know and we can try to get a group together - I'll come back to Columbus for it :)

Until then
- Sarah

Monday, May 16, 2005

music freeloading

In my quest for legal music, I've been doing quite a bit of research. iTunes looks great but has one serious shortfall. When you buy a track, you are locked in. This means that you must use iTunes or an iPod to listen. I've got a mac but I use linux more often so this would be a problem. Another problem with iTMS is that if you lose the files, you are sol. You cannot download them again. This may be true with other stores, too, but I don't know.

Most other stores support only windows (which I don't have at all) so that's even worse.

I looked into Napster and Rhapsody and found a common misconception. These services claim to offer unlimited downloads for $5-20/month. Wow, a helleva deal. Alsmost. That's a subscription fee, meaning that you can only play the music so long as you pay the fee. Thie makes the service more like subscription radio than like digital cd sales. Also, with these services you cannot put tracks onto an ipod (only certain other players). Since I have an ipod that's a problem. And again, no linux support.

I am annoyed that these companies downplay the subscription thing so much--it is very misleading. One particular commerical comes to mind...it pictures a chart that indicates filling an ipod from the itune music store could cost $20,000 while filling a similar player with their service costs only $15 (per month. If you don't pay, you can't play. I can't believe you actually enlarged this to read it, dork.). Sure it'd take you a while to get up to $20k on the monthly plan but still, very misleading.

So, until we have a music store that provides plain old drm-free music files that is compatible with linux, mac, and windows, i'll have to stick to ripping ol' fashioned cd's :)

hockey

We, believe it or not, made it to playoffs! Our first (and perhaps last) game is tonight at 1:15am at the OSU ice rink. I haven't played in almost a month so I am very much looking forward to tonight's game.

Hope to see you there.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Poker [updated]

The poker tournament went very well. We had 21 people show up for three tables of action.

The tournament paid 4 places ($5, $10, $20, $77). The final 4 at the final table were my brother Chris, his two roommates Justin and Greg, and my friend Jon. Justin and Greg were eliminated simultaneously as follows: Greg raised huge preflop. Justin raised allin. Christ re-raised allin. Greg called allin. Chris had at least a 4-1 chip lead over either Greg or Justin. Justin shows JJ, Greg shows QQ, and Chris shows KK! This made Chris a 67% favorite to win huge. No action came on the board and Greg and Justin were eliminated, Greg in 3rd (he had more chips) and Justin in 4th.

This left Chris and Jon to go heads-up for over an hour. There was some really great poker playing by both players. Chris was doing well in blind stealing and really taking a bite out of Jon...until...Jon doubled up with a pair against Chris' failed super omega draw to a straight/flush/pair.

The process repeated and Chris was left with a very short stack. The process repeated again and Jon took the title! Congratulations! Thanks to all the players for coming out.

And then on Sunday we both played in a 330 person tournament. I got 2nd place at my table of 10 and Chris got 1st at his table. He went on to the final table and played against Daniel Negreanu, a very famous poker professional. He played awesome the whole night and won so cool prizes! He finished 3rd out of 330. You can read all about it on his site. The pic you see is Chris with Daniel.

Sunday, May 8, 2005

Mike and Ike

Geronimo is gone now, and we're all very sad and miss him. He was a great pet. Because I was so sad about the loss, Michael went out and got another hamster! Despite my family's advice to just name him "Geronimo II" so we could keep his name on the cage, we decided on Ike. Ike the Hamster. Mike and Ike (and Sarah). We think it fits him nicely.

He is a little smaller than Geronimo (though we've been told Geronimo's large size can be attributed to his affinity for Cheerios), and seems to be a lot faster. We're still getting to know him, but so far he seems like a pretty cool little guy.

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

:(

It is with great sadness that I bring you this news.

Geronimo has passed away in his sleep to natural causes.

He will long be remembered as a happy hampster who loved cheerios :).

[Update: I added more pictures, by request.]

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Mother of God this hurts

For those of you (everyone except my only loyal fan, Chris) who missed the game last night, here's an update.

We played the same team that destroyed us our first game this quarter. The pattern continued last night. We were down 0-1 within the first minute. Towards the end we hit 1-3 and scored again making it 2-3 with about a minute left. Instead of us scoring, they scored again with 10 seconds to go making it an unquestionable 2-4 loss for us.

Perhaps the highlight of my night was at about 90 seconds left. Their really fast guy and me start fighting for the puck as we fly to our goal. He's going to score because our goalie sucks--unless I stop him. We are jabbing and chopping each other the whole way, skating faster and faster. All this must have distracted me from the wall that was rapidly approaching.

We were now headed to the corner, not directly towards our goal. Good. He falls near the goaline. Good. He takes me down with him and I slide feet first into the boards. I am between the wall and this guy. My right ankle decides that it wants to stretch a little and bends inward a little. I get up and furiously fight back into the game. Wait, actually, I get up and fall down immediately. I can't put any pressure on my right skate. I keep thinking I can walk this off and tell the official that I'm fine--the game's still in high gear. I quickly realize that my ankle isn't designed to stretch as far as it did, which was apparantly pretty far, and I have a serious sprain...or a broken ankle. I do the "Mother of God this hurts" shimmy and hobble to the bench, hollering for another player to replace me.

I fall to the ground and Shelley comes over to assist. Shelley is, besides my wife, my best friend and I now owe her HUGE. She's a physical therapist in training. She works at the PT office for OSU and will have her PHD in PT in 2 years. Lucky to have her around ;). She gives me the ol' "you'll be fine, I know this hurts a lot, you are fucked--don't even think about walking ever again" look. Ok so I exagerated a little. She gives me a quick exam and tells me it's probably just a sprain but if I'm lucky, it's broken. Seriously. That's something I didn't know. Apparantly, with ankle injuries, the recovery is much smoother, more painless, and quicker if it's broken rather than a sprain. I guess the idea is that bones break and heal more cleanly while ligimants do not. I never thought that I'd hope for a broken bone.

So her and my other awesome friend Jeff push me across the ice to our gear (the games over, we lost, we're gettin' outta here!). The pain is unimaginable. I can put absolutly no downward force my right foot. Or is it upward force (normal force for you physics-geeks?). Whatever--no weight on the right foot. They set me down and Shelley ices my ankle and tapes me up while I think about passing out or vomiting in the recycle bin beside me.

Shelley is so patient and gentle. She really made this so much less painful than it could have been. Thank God for her. Actually, everyone was so nice and helpful. Upon seeing that I'd likely pass out soon, Jeff got me a soda. Sarah was still confused as to what happened but she talked to me and calmed me down. She returned all my gear and took care of me.

It is amazing how helpless you feel when you are missing a foot.

They get me home and Shelley ices it some more and tells me that I must go to see a doctor now or tomorrow. I decide to go tomorrow and sit it out. Then I reconsider and when I find out that our copay is pretty low and that the pain is amazing, we decide to head of to the OSU emergency room. It's not really an emergency but I don't want to wait until morning. It's about 3 am at this point.

[UPDATE 5/5/05]
I went to the hospital and after xrays, it was determined that nothing so broken...seriously. They gave me some crutches and meds and sent me on my way.

I went to the doctor the next morning and she confirmed that it probably isn't broken. She prescribed physical therapy. I've been to physical therapy a few times since and it's great. I do all these excercises that are pretty painful but help a whole lot. I can walk now with a slight limp and when I take pain meds I can run ;).

It's been over a week and some of the pain is still very acute. I don't have any pain at all unless I am walking or stretching. Pam, the PT said the acute pain may indicate that it was slightly broken afterall--like a small chip or something. Regardless, it's getting better. I should be able to skate again next week and play hockey again (if I'm careful :P) in 2 weeks.

Thanks again to Sarah and Shelley for taking care of me and putting up with my whining ;)

BTW: Those pictures were taken 5 days after it happened--the bruising didn't show up until then...weird.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Hockey Hockey Hockey

While our regularly scheduled games are each Tuesday night at 1:15 am, we had last week off. However, during our game 2 weeks ago, we were asked if we wanted to play anyway, just on Wednesday. Of course!

So we show up completely pumped and find that half of our team skipped out! Normally this would be a bad thing but for D-League hockey, this is actually good. We have 9 people and no goalie. The officials propose that we let one of their friends play goal and we agree. So these leaves us with 9 people, creating 2 lines. Since we switch lines every 3 minutes, every person will get to play 3-on, 3-off, 3-on, 3-off....except each time someone will have to stay on the ice for a double shift.


As it turns out, only our 'better' players showed up. This made for a great game. We lost our first two games but destroyed this team. The final score was 5-1. Spectators tell me that the final score should have been 6-1 but an error was made. There was just too much scoring action for me to keep track!

Now here's the crazy part--we all played really well! I know! We're terrible! We were lucky enough to play a team more terrible than ourselves! We were passing and setting up plays and everything! Frank had a goal, Sarah had an assist, and I had 2 goals and an assist. Yeah, I hardly believe it myself. You're probably saying the same thing my dad said when I told him: "did they have a goalie?" Yes...but apparantly he sucked. It wasn't all his fault--the other team wasn't really into the whole skating thing. :)

I learned a few things during this game. Most of these apply to people who are not very good ;). If skating with the puck through a weak defender, simply charge through them. I don't mean that you actually knock them over, but just go past them. 75% of the time you will end up with the puck on the other side. 50% of the time the defender will fall down, creating a makeshift blockade, protecting you from other defenders.

Another technique to use against unskilled skaters is to skate around them. They will sort of spin around but not persue you. It seems obvious, sure, but once employed this is a very successful tactic. This doesn't end with the defender falling down as often but since no one can skate backwards in D-League, it doesn't really matter.

Finally, a technique common to most sports: passing. Believe it or not, d-leaguers almost never pass. It occurred to me that when surrounded by 4 defenders, passing out of the group to a teammate would leave him/her almost completely open. This is another obvious one that we've only begun to use. The initial step is tough though: learning to pass. This, for me at least, seems to consist of a lot of bad passes which go straight to the other team, reducing its effectiveness.

I assure you, we are improving. Since we won last week we will be heading into the playoffs!

If this turn of events has inspired you to come out and see us play, we'll be on the ice at 1:15am tomorrow night (Tuesday night/Wednesday EARLY morning).

Perl - huh?

Perl is a scripting language that's been around a long time. Its claim to fame is its incredible ability to process text. I've been told that perl gurus can code up a perl script that will parse a set of input files, do a bunch of processing, and generate an output file, in less then 10 lines, less than 5 if they're sloppy. And it'll be damn fast, too.

So I'm doing a quick project for CSE694-DataMining and the instructor suggested we use perl. Not to step down from the great joys of learning another language, I started hacking away. It's like learning a foreign language, except you don't have to speak it and the vocab test only covers about 25 words. And everything's a cognate. And like the old languages you already know, it's in English, too. OK, so it's not really like a foreign language.

Moving on, we had to parse 20 files, each were about 2.5 mb. Each file consisted of articles. The total number of articles was about 2,100. Instead of parsing 20 files, which could be accomplished by a good ol' for loop, I used 'cat' to--get this--concatenate them into one giant 50 mb file.

Then using about 30 lines of perl (i'm not a perl guru) I read in the entire thing--bad for memory, good for performance. I do a bunch of processing and output a bunch of stuff that totals about 100 mb.

I mentioned speed earlier...the first pass takes about 10 seconds while the second pass takes about 20 minutes. That's pretty damn fast. The second pass does some weird algorithm stuff that runs something like an O(n^3) algorithm--terrible, i know. However, since I'm only doing this once, there isn't a huge need to make this optimal ;).

After my first experience with perl I immediately see that it is very similar to PHP and C++, both of which I am very familiar with. It has a few interesting syntaxes that PHP didn't adopt that threw me but I'd have to say that I'm a big fan. It definately is well deserving of its fame.

So, of the two or three people who read my blog, one of you might not be interested in this at all. And if you're still reading, I've got good news and bad news. Bad news: there's no upshot for you, this is the end. Good news: I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance.

Poker updates

3 posts in one day? You betcha!

I've been doing pretty well. Sarah and I play every Thursday (cash) and Sunday (tournament). On the last couple Thursdays I've doubled my money to a whopping $10 each time. I'm trying to focus on new strategies and it seems to be paying off.

Three Sundays ago I suffered my earliest elimination ever. I think I was out by 9:15 (started at 8). I usually make it to the final 3 or 4 but finished 2nd to last (8th?). Two Sundays ago, however, things went much better. I finished 2nd place after going headsup for over 1.5 hours. It was some of the best poker I'd seen in a long time. Several of the players did very well and made some awesome plays. Finally, this past Sunday I was again eliminated early. I had one semi-bad beat that started my sharp decline. I was up to 250 in chips (start=200) so I was slightly above average. Two seats to my right Jeff goes all in for 94 chips. He is called by Chris A., immediately to my right. I look down and see KK. I call. I should have pushed right here to get Chris out of the pot (I had him covered). The flop comes out pretty harmless 2, 5, 8. I push all in and Chris folds. Jeff reveals pocket 8's for trips. I was probably an 80-20 favorite over him but never tell a poker player the odds. After he made trips I was looking to be a 9-1 underdog. I lost another 100 on a few plays that didn't work out and my final 50 chips to a race situation.

I haven't updated my spreadsheet for a couple weeks but overall, I'm still up about $90 for the year. Clearly it's not paying the bills :). We play for fun--with money--not for money. If anyone reading is interested in a game on Sundays or Thursdays at 8pm let me know!

Also:
Now hear this: Poker Tournament on May 13 (the Friday AFTER Mother's Day, don't worry moms). It will run just like the last one. We'll start around 8:30. Buy in will be $5 with rebuys. The usual snacks and drinks will be provided. All money will be paid out to the top 4 places (I'm not taking a cut, that'd be illegal here in Ohio :)). Please let me know if you are planning on coming!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Items on the horizon

Updates very soon:
  • hockey (preview: it was sweet!)
  • perl - every coder's resume's friend
  • poker updates - hi/low? who knows!
  • potentially others...

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Hockey Madness!

We have a hockey game tonight at 1:15 am at the OSU Ice Rink. Come on by for the show!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

random updates

This is lengthy...

In this edition:
  • school
  • rovisys and UNC
  • hockey game 1
  • hockey game 2
  • disease transmission - food for thought...err [updated]
  • Six Feet Under
  • Movie:Resident Evil (hint: what?!)

School

School is going pretty well, I guess. I've got a couple tough classes but I'm pretty sure I'll pass all of them :). I'm taking ECE320 (ridiculous circuits), Phil 215 (Asian religions), CSE694Z (datamining), math 566 (i'm not sure what this is), and ice skating. THe classes are all pretty interesting and not too tough. I particularly like ice skating ;). Man, i am just out of witty banter. Normally I'd have funny stuff to say....

RoviSys and UNC

I accepted the RoviSys job in NC. Since we have the apartment, the job, and the grad school (for sarah - she finally got her "congrats" letter!), all we need are diplomas and we'll be all set! I'm very excited for the move. It will be a lot of fun to be completely on our own (without roommates and families so close by).

Hockey Game 1

As promised, hockey updates! This quarter we are playing D-League, the lowest you can go. You might recall that we played C-League last quarter and got stomped every game. As it turns out this second time around, many of those that played C-League also moved down to D-League because we are again getting our assess handed to us.

I don't remember the score of this first game but it was brutal. I think I was -1 or -2 for the night which is no good and I didn't even get to trip anyone. It turns out that our "awesome" goalie who "allowed only one goal last season" actually sucks. We must have him confused with someone else. Either that or we are just so bad in fact that the best he could do was allow something like 5 goals the first game. To his credit, he's not getting much help from the team. Most of us don't understand the concept of defense or this crazy thing called "hockey" and the when-it-goes-into-your-net-the-other-team-gets-a-point thing.

Then again, it's all just for fun. It'd be nice to win one game so we can go into playoffs but it's not a big deal.

Hockey Game 2

This game was much better! We were playing against a team that didn't completely dominate us (...at first). About five minutes into the game we are down 0-1 but manage to tie it. We're playing well and getting in some good shots. Our glory is answered with another goal and we find ourselves down again 1-2. Then another. 1-3. We answer making it 2-3. Chris A., some other guy, and me are responsible for this one! Chris A. is pretty good at this stuff, it seems. Then we have a unique line change in that those entering the ice have limited ability to play defense or skate. During 3 minutes, the other team scores 3 times on the same line. No joke! We were within reach and then all of the sudden, we're down 2-6. There's only 6 minutes left so the game is over. We play hard anyway and keep them to 6-2.

Believe it or not, this game went MUCH better than our first game. We just forgot to play for 3 minutes. The game is getting much more fun, too. I'm becoming a better skater which allows me to play faster and rougher. It's really a lot of fun. If you have any skating ability and the opportunity to play, I highly recommend it!

Disease Transmission - Food For Thought...Err

Update: Sarah has found a website that describes the difference between various methods of disease transmission.
Completely changing gears...I've been thinking about some stuff lately. I was sick a couple weeks ago and that got me thinking: how are germs/bacteria/viruses transmitted? If something is airborn, what does that really mean? I'm told by my biologist wife and biologist roommate that it means the virus or bacteria can survive in water droplets that float through the air. I just have to ask, if it is in water droplets, what distinguishes an airborn virus from a virus that survives only in body fluid? Aren't they both liquids? Is it that airborn viruses have the unique ability to survive in saliva? Do they require only a small amount to survive? What's the deal? I've been instructed to ask a pathologist or microbiologist. I don't know any of those :(.

Here's another (more) interesting question: how much do these air born droplets weight? Can they float around endlessly? Here's an idea: if they float around, does having a heating/cooling system in which the vents are in the ceiling and the intakes in/near the floor help to prevent disease transmission by sucking the little droplets towards the ground (away from faces) rather than the reverse which would stir them up into the air at face level? Man that's a long sentence. Seriously, though, if you have an air filter that can catch these little droplets would the direction of flow make a difference? My house is bottom-fed, which I hypothesize is bad but my dad's house is top-fed, which I hypothesize is good. I have again been instructed to ask a pathologist. This could make any interesting research topic, i guess.

Six Feet Under

Sarah and I have started watching HBO's Six Feet Under. She found the first two seasons at the library and we're plowing through them. Basically, it details the workings of a family that owns and operates a funeral home. In the beginning of ever episode, someone dies. This person then talks to the funeral guys during the episode. Other stuff happens to make it worthy of HBO's R-rated TV.

I find that it's not as good as the Sapranos but pretty much on par with Oz. I recommend it.

Movie:Resident Evil (hint: what?!)

Let me first acknowledge that this movie was based on a video game. Even the fact that it stars Milla Jovovich can't change this. Keeping this in mind, the movie wasn't so bad. I enjoyed the action and the humorous attempts to explain zombies. They even through in a crazy AI computer. In fact, things were going great for everyone until the silly humans turned off the computer! OOPS! Ok, as I write this I am realizing that the movie actually sucked. I'm looking for good points of reflection and they aren't there. Sorry Milla, I tried!

I know it's been a long time since my last update. I'll try to keep on it! Unfortunately, I cannot control when interesting stuff will happen to me. Maybe I should just start making up stuff.

Time for lunch!

Hockey

Just in case you are interested, you can drop by an impromptu hockey game tonight at 1:15am (yeah, yeah, technically, it's Thursday morning at 1:15am).

Sunday, March 27, 2005

North Carolina

Sarah and I toured a bunch of apartments in NC last week. We found a clear winner and will have a new address, effective June 13, 2005:

2916 Waterford Forest Circle
Cary, NC 27513

Our phone numbers will probably remain the same.

Until then, the final quarter begins...

two-minute minor

Well my friends, the second intramural hockey season is starting up. This time around, we're all playing D-League. Basically, D-League requires no skating ability, doesn't enforce offsides or icing, and uses mandatory line changes. In fact, the ability to skate is a big plus.

I'll be sure to keep you up to date.

Hopefully I'll have some humorous posts on the way and less of this blah blah blah.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Finals!

Finals are finally over! Woohoo!

-- In other news --

I saw a commerical a couple days ago. Let me lay it out for you...

[Thirty-something woman, soft focus, camera jumping in and out]
"I have a life"
"I have a dog"
"I'm a mother"
"I enjoy a good dessert <smile>>"
"I get constipated"

Yeah, that's about how much warning I got, too.
"I depend on ex-lax."

Good, glad to hear it. I'm sure you're dog is happy, too.

Friday, March 11, 2005

What would you say you do here?

Note: this rant is pretty lengthy. Unless you are really, really bored, I suggest skipping to the yellow sections.

Since the quarter has come to a close (except for those pesky finals...), i find myself now able to rant about my business class. This past quarter I've been taking Business Management 630 because its required for my degree. The class wasn't too bad--it was pretty easy and sometimes informative. It was the kind of class that a friend could summarize for you in about 10 minutes, saving you 10 weeks of lectures and homeworks.

The real problem for me arose with the group work. I'm an engineering major so this is nothing new to me. I'm in 4 different group projects this quarter and 2 of them are pretty huge. As it turns out, business groups are a little different...

Our group came to be after several posts to the class message board. We agreed to meet to discuss the upcoming assignments. We were required to complete 2 group projects. The first was due 2/1. We then could choose one additional case out of three to be due 2/17, 3/3, or 3/8.

The first case went pretty well, which is easy to say because by 'pretty well," I mean pretty awful. We met three times before we could agree on the topic. Each time someone would dissent yet refuse to offer a better idea. Finally, two of us made a decision and challenged the others to come up with something better. That reminds me: a wonderful precedent was set with the first few meetings. No one, besides me, would every show up on time. Never. Additionally, only once during the rest of the quarter did everyone actually show up. The average attendance at a group meeting was 2 of 5. I never missed one. I'm not sure if it helps or hurts but I guess we only had 5 group meetings. To add pain to...pain, we only needed two meetings.

So anyway, the first case is due 2/1. Naturally, we meet the week before and delegate tasks and deadlines. I volunteer to do the hard shit and compile the document if everyone sends me a piece. Little to my surprise, I receive the bits and pieces of the report the night before it's due. Here's where the fun part comes. My part for this report was to generate a bunch of 'value stream maps' which are basically process control charts. They're a bitch. The other 4 members each had to write approximately 2 paragraphs answering questions. Two of these members are esl (english as a second language) and two are not. Here are their submissions. Can you guess who is who?
Transportation in this company such as the moving of person from one workstation to other workstation should be eliminated because it spends a lot of time and it doesn't improve the product and customer satisfaction. For example, the time to takes the completed material from mixer to proffer which takes about 10 feets should be eliminated so it won't takes so much time. The way to eliminate the transportation is by using value stream mapping to reconfigure the production line to make it more efficient from each process to the other process.
Next, the dough is sent on a streamer line thirty feet across the room to the deep fry area. Here all the donuts receive their golden brown color from the fryer which fries donuts at a rate of ten per every minute. Immediately after, the donuts are taken three feet to the cooling area where a batch of two hundred sits for approximately five minutes. From this point the donuts are decorated by hand at an approximate rate of ten minutes for two hundred donuts. After total completion of the donut making process, the donuts are then taken to the packing area and delivered to customers. Since The donut company is a large quantity supplier its main customers are businesses that sell to consumers. Some of the more affluent companies that it sells to includes Kroger, Heinnens, and Tops.
The Donut Shoppe needs lot of improvement in the processing section, such as:
  • Buying the ingredient in the smaller size. For instance, the distributors send the product daily instead of weekly, so the donut factory have a lot of space to do their production process.
  • The batch sizes need to be smaller, because it helps the factory to save lots of processing time.
  • Proximity in the factory. The factory need to placed the mixer close to the fryer
  • Giant fryer so it helps the factory to friend lots of donuts in one time and it can minimize the time.
  • Make the based of the donut dough and mixed with the other flavor follow the order, so it can save lots time and energy
  • Make premix packet so it can save lots of time because the do not need to measured the ingredient by scale anymore before they put in the mixer.
  • Cross trained person so they not only can do one thing in the factory but they can be flexible to help other.
The steps that we recommend The Donut Shop to implement in order to make these improvements on the process of the preparation of it's donuts is first reorganize it shipment orders from its supplier to start to receive it's ingredients in smaller quantity and on a daily shipment. Then, they should restructure the process room to organize the process line in a simpler form which minimize the traveling time of the work in process. Finally, they develop a rotation program for its employers in order them to improve the process line with a smaller work force. By implementing these steps to improve the process line of The Donut Shop the process time and the quality of the product offer to consumers.

OK, so you can probably guess--it's not too hard. It is, however, hard enough to be disturbing. This is a 600 level management class for crying out loud. My 12 year old brother could make fun of these people. How is it that my degree is going to be of equal worth to the 4 people that wrote that crap? I wish I could say it was a fluke, but the 2nd project didn't turn out any better.

Ah, the second project. The team elected to do the 3rd case, due 3/3. Again, the week before we delegate roles and set deadlines. Since only one person showed up (late) to the meeting, this was done mostly through email. Each person confirmed his/her task. I received no information until the evening before it was due. What did i receive you ask? Thanks for asking, let me show you:
Husni and I feel that we should not do the McLoed case and do the Broadway Case instead. The reason for this is because we do not have sufficent amount of time to finish this project.If anyone have any objectives to the notion please let us know so we can figure out a way to come to a conclusion. Ifnot we should meet tomoorw after class for about 15 mins to come up with a meeting time that we all can meet this weekend.
Pardon me but, yes, I have an objective. My objective is to kick your ass. Ohhhh, I meant I have an objection. I already did my part of the assignment. Bailing out the NIGHT BEFORE IT IS DUE is ludicrous. WTF?! Seriously, I haven't pulled something like this since 2nd grade. Even then, it wasn't a group project. The gloves came off.

I replied with my objection, which was met with silence. So we setup another meeting to work on the last project due 3/8. Here's the response I got:
From: Group Idiot 3
I will be there for sure
----- Original Message -----
From: michael
Date: Wednesday, March 2, 2005 11:38 pm
Subject: Re: group case two, part one

If we meet Sunday, at 3pm, is anyone besides Husni and me planning on showing up? Or if we meet after class tomorrow? We can have lots of meetings, but we had two for this project and each time, 2 or 3 people didn't show. This project is only 10 points so I'd like to waste as a little time on this as possible.
And for sure you weren't.

It was about this time that I met with my professor to discuss the discord within the group. He basically told me that I should have chosen a better group. Thanks buddy, real helpful.

So I hack together the last project and the guy still doesn't send his piece until 9pm the night before it's due! AHHHHHHRRRRRGGGG it's so frustrating. I'm not sure I am communicating effectively here. I can't muster the strength to show you the crap they wrote the second time around--it made me feel dumber.

I'd say the real clincher here is that each assignment was worth only 10 points...and interestingly enough: for the first assignment, I rewrote everything so that it was coherent. we got an 8.5/10. I didn't do this for the second assignment (i left the whole thing a bloody mess) and we got the same damn 8.5/10. Oh well.

Saw (4/5 bananas)

Tonight, I finally got around to seeing "Saw." Since Sarah's out of town, I figured this was my best opportunity.

I thought the film was excellent. Let me qualify that: the acting: terrible; the script: excellent. I thought it was a very well made film, except for the acting. I enjoyed the plot, the camera work, the sweet surround sound, and the characters (except for the acting).

I think most people have an inaccurate expectation of the film in that they expect to see gore and carnage. I had this expectation, too. I think, however, that there is now a distinction that must be made. The film had blood and battered flesh but it didn't have what I'll term "active gore." What I mean by this is that the film doesn't show a man's head being smashed or a foot being sawed off, just the beginning and the end. It skips that frightening;y disturbing middle part. I think this makes the movie much more acceptable in that it doesn't hurt to watch but you still feel for the character and understand what completely ridiculous things have happened.

On the michael scale this movie gets 4/5 bananas. Don't take the kids and prepare the wife.