Life


I have this song from the Counting Crows band in my head. Here are the lyrics:

A long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can’t remember the last thing that you said as you were leaving
Now the days go by so fast
And its one more day up in the canyons
And its one more night in Hollywood
If you think that I could be forgiven…I wish you would
The smell of hospitals in winter
And the feeling that its all a lot of oysters, but no pearls
All at once you look across a crowded room
To see the way that light attaches to a girl
And its one more day up in the canyons
And its one more night in Hollywood
If you think you might come to California…I think you should
Drove up to hillside manor sometime after two a.m.
And talked a little while about the year
I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower,
Makes you talk a little lower about the things you could not show her
And its been a long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell my myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass
And its one more day up in the canyon
And its one more night in Hollywood
Its been so long since I’ve seen the ocean…I guess I should.

A lot has happened recently and I haven’t posted much, been trying to learn to play the guitar which has taken up a lot of my free time. With the election over, and a new administration taking over in January, “there’s reason to believe this year will be better than the last.”

PC Magazine will stop printing soon and will be available online only. I hate to see this as I learned much about computing from their magazine. I fondly recall learning about expanded memory, extended memory, micro channel architecture, and so on and so on. In truth, since the dot com bust, the magazine went from a multi pound thick info packed warehouse of knowledge to a thinly disguised advertisement and buying guide for their advertisers.

Part of this is due to Intel copyrighting the Pentium name and keeping more of the lid on the inner workings of these chips, or perhaps people just are not as geekily interested in how these chips work like some of us before were. The information is available sooner online anyway. My Kim Kommando newsletter I receive from her is timely and informative about technology and tech issues. People like Jim Seymour, who died prematurely a few years ago, aren’t around to enliven the mysteries of computing either. He was great to read in PC Magazine. I like John Dvorak’s writing but the magazine has definitely moved from being an information tool to being a sales tool. John is not afraid to challenge the makers of software and hardware products. Still, I hate to see it go. It was a good run.

When you’re Democrat or Republican, isn’t it refreshing to be treated by the new hires as adults, rather than some ignorant people who don’t deserve any information at all?

Enough said. December has only just begun, but it will soon be over.

Happy holidays!

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I’m finally participating in online banking. I pay bills online and save the cost of postage. A side benefit is the ability to schedule the date of payment and coordinate when it will be deducted from my checking account. I no longer receive paper statements, instead opting for online statement delivery. It’s pretty slick; except when the web site is down and I can’t access my account. Admittedly, this is a rare occurrence, but when it does occur, and it does from time to time; it’s very annoying.

A couple of weeks ago, I needed to rent a pickup truck. So on a Thursday morning I went to U-Haul’s web site, put in my information including the fact that I wanted to pick the truck up two days later on Saturday morning. I received an immediate reservation email which said someone would call me back within an hour to confirm, and someone did. I went in Saturday to pick the truck up and as they were completing the paperwork and getting the key, another individual came in to ask about renting a truck. They were all booked up and didn’t have any available. I commented to the U-Haul employee that I reserved my rental through the web and got a call back to confirm; that it was nice and I appreciated the convenience. His reply was, “Yeah, it’s pretty slick when it works.” I didn’t realize, not being in the habit of doing of lot of renting, that it would not work.

I have a Flickr photo sharing account and ordered some prints this weekend, designating the local Target store as the place where I would like to pick them up. The web site said the photo department at Target opens at 9:00 and that the photos would be ready in one hour. I had some errands to do and arrived at Target three hours later to pick up my photos. Unfortunately, their photo processor was out for the day and my pictures would not be ready until the following day. I remembered the U-Haul rep’s comment, “It’s pretty slick when it works.” The problem is, people are involved, not just computers. Computers can do their bit, but then people have to carry out their part to make it look “slick”.

The U-Haul rep’s comment is applicable to many things about the online age, and it also a warning. Whether it’s Internet Explorer, Windows Vista, wireless networking, cell phones, cd’s you burned, online banking, online reservations, etc. It’s pretty slick, when it works. The warning being the fact that you should always have a back up plan, and don’t be overly surprised if the online processes don’t work like you expect.

It even applies to my blogging software, which I have been through several frustrations with. It’s pretty slick, when it works.

 

 

My better half has become one of the 25,000,000 viewers of American Idol on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. It’s okay with me. She puts up with my watching reruns of Burke’s Law, the original Lost in Space, the Green Hornet and Supernova. I don’t watch House or Boston Legal or really anything on the networks prime time schedule. She says it’s to have something to talk about at the water cooler the next morning at her work.

American Idol

I can tell she likes the show, and that’s okay. It is popular because it gets people interested in a contest of talent. Seventy-four million votes were cast during the 2007 season.

The show was created by Simon Fuller in England in 2001 and was called “Pop Idol”. America, as it often does, brought, borrowed or copied the show the following year. Simon Cowell, a judge on American Idol, and the guy you love to hate, is actually a record executive, and was a judge on the original Pop Idol show.

Image: New Yorker magazine

The judges, Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson, rate people on vocal talent, song choice, presentation and miscellanea related to the overall performance. The judges don’t always vote the same as the people who watch the show.

Some of the singers who have made it big from the show include: Carrie Underwood, 2005 winner; Jennifer Hudson, eliminated midway through 2004 but ended up winning an Oscar for the 2006 film “Dreamgirls”; Chris Daughtry, finished 4th in 2006; and Kelly Clarkson, the winner in the first season.

What I find interesting is what happened a few weeks ago when Neil Diamond was interviewed during the show. You find out a bit about the artist whose songs are being sung during the episode, and sometimes on how they write the songs that made them famous.

My wife asks me to watch the show with her but I stay at the kitchen table with my laptop. When she makes a comment about a performer and looks over at me, I pretend not to be watching or listening to the show. Yes, it is a guilty pleasure. I don’t like the fact that I am paying attention to it and don’t want her to know, not yet anyway. Maybe it’s a bit of embarrassment. The show has brought me in by using a lot of tunes from the 1970’s, which I know rather well, a misspent youth or whatever. I usually know the original artists, the year and even a good portion of the lyrics.

For me the show is like watching Jerry Springer, which I don’t but have in the past on occasion. You want to peak in, take a look, see what’s going on, what all the fuss is about, but you don’t really want anyone to know you looked. So I listen to the show as I surf the internet, even watching it from time to time, but turning my head back to my laptop at the commercial break in order to preserve the fiction that I’m not paying attention.

So let’s see; it’s on Tuesday May 12 at 7pm and Wednesday May 13 at 8:00pm. She always asks me when it is on and I always have the answer. She hasn’t asked me how I know or if I looked up the listing. I may even try to vote this time. Shhh! Don’t tell my wife. When she outs me for watching, she’ll probably tell me she knew all along.

Many countries celebrate Mother’s Day. In the United States, the holiday was imported from Britain by Julia Ward Howe, composer of the song ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’, and was intended to unite women against war. She wrote in 1870 the Mother’s Day Proclamation calling for peace and disarmament.

Though she failed, Howe inspired Ann Jarvis to work for reconciliation between Union and Confederate soldiers. Her daughter Anna Jarvis began the crusade for a memorial day for women after her mother died in 1907.

In 1914, President Wilson declared the first national Mother’s Day, as a day for Americans to honor those mothers whose sons had died in war.

Mother’s Day is the most popular day of the year to dine out.

Tom Rickard writes the comic strip Brewster Rocket. Below is today’s Mother’s Day themed, science fiction themed, (no that’s not an error) comic strip. I thought it was very funny.

 

The gas tax proposal as promulgated by Senators McCain and Clinton is a bad idea as shown in this Ben Sargent cartoon as it will: increase demand for a commodity that should be conserved, reduce funds available for repairing roads and bridges that the gas tax is used for, and increase the federal deficit.

The proposal to suspend the 18 cent per gallon tax for the summer while the average cost per gallon is currently $3.60 is only 5% of the cost. It doesn’t nothing except pander to the voting public and allow these two candidates to over hype the proposal like they’re delivering a windfall to the American public. In fact, since Senator McCain first made the proposal a few weeks ago, the cost of gasoline has risen over 20 cents per gallon, obliterating any savings the consumer may have gained.

However, the proposal seems to be resonating some with Indiana voters. I hope they will consider the trade-off of short-term relief (very short-term) versus the long-term damage the tax suspension will create. I would be more in favor of a small tax credit for low income tax payers rather than an across the board cut for everyone, including those with large vehicles.

I believe Senator Obama is on the right side of this issue. In informing us of his decision he is going against popular sentiment, however, we need someone to start talking straight to us. It’s tiring to hear those in or vying for positions of responsibility to make all sorts of promises only to conveniently ignore the same promises once they are elected to office. Let’s show Senators Clinton and McCain that we’ve wizened up a wee bit over the past few years.

Think of these tips to avoid the art of the social engineering scam. Awareness goes a long way toward defending yourself.

1. Don’t ever click a link in an email, especially if its from a bank or brokerage; PayPal or eBay. Go directly to the company’s home page and investigate before entering any personal data. Emails asking for updates or to correct problems with your personal information are fake 99.99% of the time.

2. Don’t click on links in emails to obtain free software or goods, especially if you have never heard of the company. If you think its software you might like to have, perform some Google searches to vet out any complaints or adverse comments concerning the software.

3. Don’t ever download software from a site that you are not familiar with. It may be trying to load you up with malicious programs to steal your keystrokes or other personal information. If you are at a site, and it says you need “Quicktime from Apple” or “Adobe Flash” to display content, go to Apple’s web site to download the Quicktime player or to Adobe to download their Flash program.

4. Don’t download special software to view videos. If it is a well known product, go to the home page of the producer of the software to download the program. A lot of the time, extraneous software and malicious programs are included in the “special” software you are being told to download. The video viewers that came with your PC should be able to view most any legitimate program.

5. Don’t use an out of date web browser. Use Internet Explorer 7.0 for Windows or Firefox 2.0 for Windows or the Mac. These are more bullet proof and have all the up to date security features. Apple’s Safari for the Mac is good but lacks ‘anti-phishing’ detection.

6. Don’t be without anti-phishing capabilities. If your browser doesn’t support this consider McAfee or Norton security software that contains this important feature.

7. Don’t assume anything. Be aware by reading up on social engineering scams and phishing techniques and what to do to avoid these popular scam approaches.

These tips are from Walt Mossberg’s www.wsj.com column and can be found at his web site http://walt.allthingsd.com.

 

 

First there was the 5.2 magnitude temblor in the early morning hours of Friday, April 18, more precisely at 4:37 am Central Time. Then five and one-half hours later at 10:14 am came a large aftershock of 4.6 magnitude, a mini-earthquake in itself.

Then this morning, April 21, at  12:38 am came an aftershock of magnitude 4.0.

states_illinois_cy

Although most of us who live in the area are aware of the earthquake and the two large aftershocks; there have actually been 22 aftershocks in Illinois and the region of the initial earthquake.

None of the eleven aftershocks occurring since the magnitude 4.6 on Saturday morning have been very strong, in fact no one I’ve talked to have noticed them except for the larger aftershock early this morning.

Typically, most people do not have earthquake insurance coverage. These events of the last couple of days have no doubt caused many people to reconsider whether this is such a wise strategy, even though the possibly of earthquake damage is still remote. We just don’t experience earthquakes of any consequence very often. And as much as my house shook, nothing came loose or was damaged, inside or outside the house.

The record for earthquake magnitude in Illinois occurred on November 9, 1968. It was a magnitude 5.3 that was felt over 580,000 square miles in 23 states. Reports say that tall buildings in Ontario and Boston felt the shock.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a nice Richter scale graphic that you can select a magnitude range, and by clicking on that range a picture above the Richter scale vibrates according to the magnitude you select. This helps demonstrate how much a building, a tree or a car would shake under that particular magnitude.

 

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