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Updated on January 14, 2004 08:43 AM

SpycyRoll

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January 14, 2004

Happy New Year!

The Kindoll's Would like to wish you and yours a Happy New Year! May all your resolutions last at least...

L.A. ROADS

LA has an interesting way of solving the traffic problem. The solution? Make at least 5 lanes on each side of the road (sometimes 6 with the HOV lane, or 7 if there is a lane merging). Some really smart CalTech dude in the 60s said, "fuck it, let's just solve this theoretical problem by making a bunch of roads". But despite the enormous amounts of money that have gone into it, they still couldn't afford decent signs, dammit.

The roads in Los Angeles are a lot like an OSS project. Lots of capacity, incredibly good, but fucking hard to navigate by intuition and with very few signs.

Mountain Worship

While on my way to lunch today, I happened to pass by the Cathedral to St. John the Divine in New York. An impressive bit of architechture, almost out of place in the stark confines of the American urban landscape. I stared up at it, and to be quite honest I didn't have the reaction I thought I would have to a cathedral. Instead of looking at the minutae of the architechture, like the statues, the inslays, the columns, rather I just stared at its size. The cathedral is enormous, really. It gives a larger impression of size than many large skyscrapers I have seen.

While dumbly staring up like a nube tourist, I noticed an idea forming in the back of my head, uncurling like a snake from the reptilian part of my brain. I could imagine my ancestors looking up at a similar structure, amazed at its size, girth, and shape. The strange thing about the idea, though, was that I was thinking the object was a mountain (or a range of mountains), not a cathedral.

I then looked at the shape of the cathedral more closely. Thes arches, the windows, the very shape of the structure itself was like a great set of mountains laid above me. Is it possible that every-- or at least most-- religions of the world are actually mountain religions? Worship of mountains. Buddha came down from one, so did Moses. The taj Mahal, great pyramids, Buddhist temples, Russian arabesques, and Catholic vaulted ceilings are all basically mountains. Or, at least, abstractions or kanji of mountain forms. And what about the Trinity, or the cross, or all of the other symbols and ideas that conjure up triangles and peaks.

One time while in B.C., I was gushing about the mountains (the MOUNTAINS Gandalf!) on our way to work. Foz said that mountains are hardwired into the human mind, that we love mountains for whatever evolutionary reason. I wonder how much our love of mountains, of the sublime realization of the immense, creates us.

Also...

There's some new photos up at photoredux, now that I have my camera back....

fMac Reborn

William has been kind enough to send along the pictures of the fMac surgery, so I will give you a step by step pictoral explanation of the surgery.

Helping us today will be the two Felux hackers, Cow and Packet. They mostly observed the surgery, but at one point also helped test the dimensions of a potential case

NOTE: As a precaution, let the iMac sit unpowered for at least two days before attempting this. There is also some doohicky that you can ground to dissiapte the power, but I didn't do that (probably foolishly). Just be careful. I don't have firsthand experience, but apparently touching the monitor innards while it still has a charge is very very bad. Like, on a scale of one to ten, it is really not good. I highly suggest that you do this project with a friend just in case something goes wrong. YMMV, LTBB, etc.

OK, so the first thing you want to do is assemble the parts you will need. These include: one older-model Apple iMac. One iMac-to-ATX power convertor. One Apple-to-VGA video convertor. One extra-long IDE connector. One ATX power supply. One extra-long ATX power extender. One ATX power splitter. And of course a set of tools consisting of at least a phillips and flat screwdriver set, lots of screws, electrical tape, a screw retriever, wirecutters, pliers (needlenose and otherwise), aspirin, and a 16-pound sledge.

Shoot, a 'fella could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff.

Take apart all of the plastic that doesn't need to be on the chassis, including the Underside. Then, disconnect the three connections from the motherboard, including the reset and sound (lower left), power (upper left), and video signal (grey, right).

Take off the greyish front bezel with a flat screwdriver. This is so you can take off the Green (or appropraite fruity colour) outer shell.

Unscrew all of the screws that holds the motherboard to its cage. Take the motherboard and put it on some non-conductive material, the more unwise the better (for example, a piece of cardboard works great!). Unscrew the area under the motherboard that has the power and video connector and retrieve that motherboard. Once you have everything outside of the cage, reconnect it as shown. The iMac-to-ATX convertor (the yellow thing on top) goes on the power "nub" such that the ATX motherboard connector is facing the same way as the IDE controller connection (i.e. to the "front")

Now here's the tricky one, and I don't have a picture for it, unfortunately. At the front of the iMac there is a small daughterboard that has the reset LED and switch. We had trouble making the fMac turn on without that little card plugged into the same card that has the video signal (you can see it next to the VGA/Mac convertor, to the left). To get to this card, you will have to take off the logic board on the iMac that is near the power supply. BE CAREFUL! Don't touch the monitor's innards! Then you basically have to unhook a great deal of electronics to get to the front panel. We even snipped the wire going to the microphone at the top of the iMac because we couldn't get the little board out otherwise. After all of that, you will have the board and it is easy to hook it up.

OK, now just hook all of the IDE devices up, put the Apple-to-VGA convertor on, connect the power, and fire her up!

And at last, I have separated the guts of the iMac from its candy-coated shell and it works.

In my next installment, I will show you the case that I am in the process of planning and making for the fMac. More details when I get them.

Don't Piss With Hardware

It always surprises me when companies piss around with the productivity of their workers. Usually, to save $10 in computer hardware costs a company will inconvenience a worker for thousands of dollars.

Hard drives are a prime example. Either buy people decent hardware with plenty of space, or get a bunch of terminals that will allow for both cheaper hardware and more reliability.

(side note: it also surprises me that Linux has not gone to a more OSX-like method for packages, thus getting rid of one of the bane of dependency hell, which is just as bad as DLL hell. OSX does it right, it gets rid of dependencies AND registries, but keeps all of the benefits of registries and "dot" with a good set of XML .plists.)

Another example: laptops. You know, if you buy your workforce cheap but heavy laptops, they won't carry them around. Laptops are useless if not carried, and are a burden to carry if they are heavy and bulky. Word to the wise: if there is a business reason why a worker would need a laptop, then get a decent one that is small and compact.

Game Cube Fever!

This household has been possessed by this new game on the infameous Gamecube. It's Mario Golf. It is crazy. We're...

NEW CAR

So we went looking for a new car now that Natalie is now totally legal, insured, carded, etc.

We wanted to get a vehicle that had the following criteria:

  1. Safe
  2. Reliable
  3. four door
  4. larger than the escort
  5. some cargo capacity
So we looked around, even looking at some Dodge vehicles (the salesman tried to herd us into the Town and Country), looking at the minivan area of the vehicle spectrum.

We ended up with a great car: a 1997 Volvo Wagon 850. Given one of the best safety ratings of all time, very reliable, and with just enough bells, whistles, and user-interface surprises to make us very happy.

Even better (I hope) is that we got a grat deal on the car, and even had a mechanice look at it. The mechanic's assessment of the car's condition was, "excellent," so we are optimistic about this car being really great.

And it has seat warmers. You know, after the "I just wet myself" feeling goes away, they are awesome.

Christmas on the Farm

We went up to Pat and Joe's for Christmas time. The weather was really nice. We had a lot of...

ZZzzzzzzzzz

So. Tired.

Review: The Kia Optima

I had the misfortune to have to travel to Mississippi a couple of weeks ago, and while down there I had a Kia Optima rental car. I thought that as a little public service I would review it, in case someone was in the market for a new car.

Apparently the Kia line is supposed to be a "no frills" starter car for those who really need a new vehicle and can't afford a Segway. Since almost any convenience you could possibly imagine was gone from the Optima, the interior felt as Spartan as my old apartment in Louisville. I think it had a radio and air conditioning, and power windows. Other than that, you were on you own. Also, any desire for good or standard user interface in a car was thrown out the window. For example, the side mirrors were powered, but I had to take about two minutes to figure out how to move them. At one point I looked like a monkey from 2001, trying to figure out how to use a bone as a club. I got strange looks from passersby when I waved my hands in the air in simian glee once I had discovered its secret.

The air conditioner controls were weak at best, and the air conditioner itself was not up to the task of a hot Mississippi day. While not the sheer wall of heat that Nat, Nat's Mom, and I discovered when in Nashville a couple of years ago, but still so hot that the Waffle House signs seemed to sag like melting butter.

As far as the construction of the car, it felt flimsy. Maybe I am used to American cars and SUVs whose design goals include how many deer you can hit without getting a scratch, but the Kia felt flimsy and almost unsafe. Opening the trunk felt like I was opening the lid of a toybox. The doors were light and while they cleanly rested in place now, I could easily imagine that two years down the road you would have some structural problems. Also, keyless entry was not a standard feature, which I think should be a crime (I love keyless entry... so nice, so nice).

The one good thing about the Optima was its engine. It had a decent amount of power, but it was whisper quiet. The only time I heard the engine was when I was really revving it up to get out of the way of a truck bearing down on me (which I'm sure had the good 'Murrican construction mentioned above). Also, the road noise in the Optima was almost nill.

So, if you are wanting a decent, quiet, cheap 4-door car then the Kia Optima is for you. Buyer beware, though, that it may not have a huge resale value if it starts to fall apart on you after only a couple of years.

Homeschooling update

A lot of people have been inquiring about where we are on Homeschooling. Things are progressing very nicely. We're not...

Extreme Makeover

Our home is getting an overhaul, out with the old and in with the new. I'm currently in the process...

Paul Groper, more like it.

Newest in a series of unfortunate photographs...

BIRTHDAY CAKES

Rodeo drive is weird, it creeps me out. Several of the houses are "arty", and look like the house was made out of shrinky dinks, and then put in the oven for only half of the alloted time. Or maybe like a melted wedding cake. IT totally creeped me out.

The Black Plague

The black plague has descended upon the Kindoll household since the return from Carrollton. First Joe can hardly breathe and...

Halloween Rocks

I know at this time of year when asked what is YOUR favorite holiday, everyone will usually reply in chorus,...

A Black Day

Sadness.

My heart has joined the Thousand, for a friend stopped running today.

Compromise

We were ][ this close to going out and getting two PowerMac G4s via the Apple Loan program, but wiser heads prevailed and we instead cannabilized various machines (i.e. the multimedia machine) so that Nat can have a decent box. She had been using a PIII 450 with 384 megs of RAM and a slow hard drive, and it just wasn't cutting it. I have been wanting to get her a new machine, but even the modest cost of about $600 was too much...

Actually, that's not entirely true. The problem was that I figured if we were going to get a new box, we should at least get something COOL and FAST, like getting IDE RAID0 and a ton of memory. Realisitcally, though, buying a gig of RAM for $150 and a hard drive for $80 gives most of the same effect.

So what we did was cannibalize the multimedia machine, Ripley, and Vasquez to make the following machines:

Nat's Main Machine (Zaan)
XP 2200+
1.12 gig of PC2100 RAM (new)
120 gig Western Digital HD with 8 Meg buffer (new, same as in the bMac)
Elsa Gloria -- aging rapidly, but still OK
Asus motherboard with sound, lots of USB ports, and NIC
Lucent 56k Modem

"New" Multimedia Machine (Vasquez)
PIII 450
384 Megs PC125 memory
10 gig 5400 spin HD
32 Meg Radeon All-In-Wonder
Linksys WMP11 wireless NIC
Generic soundcard
Generic Motherboard (onboard but unused NIC)

My "New" Game Box (Ripley)
Athlon 700
384 Megs PC100 memory
40 gig 7200 spin HD
32 Meg GeForce2 MX
Generic Soundcard
Generic 10/100 NIC
Asus motherboard of some type
extra USB header from MB so I have 2 more USB ports in back

And of course we have our two laptops and the bMac...

So the Multimedia box went from an XP 2200+ processor to our oldest machine. This means that the idea of the digital PVR is out of the question, as it is probably able to capture really crappy video at about 170x100 resolution. However, it plays DVDs wonderfully and even does all of the TV functioanlity just fine. The added bonus is that while I was doing all this I finally added the wireless NIC so that I will be able to get the updated weekly programming files without having to drag out 100 feet of Cat5. It also means that I can more easily do things like get bacon factor when watching movies.

You know, the important things in life

The other thing is that other than the multimedia machine, the two other "new" machines are on XP Pro. So far so good, everything seems to be running fine and dandy. MS seemed to get the update process a little better in XP, but it is still a big PITA to upgrade a new machine after an install. It took me three hours to upgrade all of my machines last night. If it had been OSX, it would have been maybe a half hour, max. If it had been Linux, the original install would have been totally up to date (well, if it was debian, at least).

Up From The Grave He Arose!

(He arose)
With a mighty triumph o'er his foes
(he arose)
He arose the victor from the Dark Domain..[snip, etc. etc.]

Well, William and I ventured forth and finally made my iMac the fMac. That is, the frankenMac. I will have pictures later, but for now you will just have to take my word for the fact that the iMac has been de-gutted and is currently lying, naked, on my desk.

Kinda arousing, actually. [wink]

However, havign the Mac filleted in front of me and yet displaying on a 19" monitor has reinforced the fact that I really want a new Mac. Its not that I don't like the fMac, but it would be really nice to have something a liuttle faster, slicker, and not prone to a cat just suddenly lying on it and disconnecting something.

Another reinforcement of this desire is that I have had to use PCs for web surfing and general computer use for the past week. God, i freaking hate Windows. Everything is so.. clunky. Even at a slower clock speed, the Mac just feels faster and better. But enough gushing.

Cold Moutain

A trip down through the tale of the Odyssey. One man's struggle of escaping the brutality and horror of the...

Another One Bites the Dust!

William is the current fatality to the Kindoll plague. He started getting rosy cheeked last night. He was burning up....

Free Love

My friend Kaivalya shared this with me yesterday. As you will see at a glance, it is worth sharing, and embracing as in its very meter, between every word there is to be found not only love, but hope.

Free love? As if love is anything but free! Man has bought brains, but all the millions in the world have failed to buy love. Man has subdued bodies, but all the power on earth has been unable to subdue love. Man has conquered whole nations, but all his armies could not conquer love. Man has chained and fettered the spirit, but he has been utterly helpless before love. High on a throne, with all the splendor and pomp his gold can command, man is yet poor and desolate, if love passes him by. And if it stays, the poorest hovel is radiant with warmth, with life and color. Thus love has the magic power to make of a beggar a king. Yes, love is free; it can dwell in no other atmosphere.

--Emma Goldman

New Year's Resolutions

It's that time again when everyone resolves to do something! The classic, Loose Weight! I work at the YMCA, January...

On The Ave

I am in New York City right now, staying over night because it is a two-day (or more) job. Currenly writing on an overly-trendy Scandanavian-style bed located in my overly-trendy Scandanavian-style room in a OTSS hotel. Not my first choice of styles, necessarily (although I do like Scanadavian style in general, not just IKEA), but I must stay where it is reasonably cheap.

Before this trip, I saw New York as a dirty, overcrowded, wreck of a city. You can literally see the decay and delapidation before your eyes. It is like the city is slowly melting into a big junk heap, and only the sea of everpresent brave-yet-overly-optimistic contruction workers seem to stem the tide. New York looks like a beautiful candle's drippings.

Not my kind of town, New York.

And yet, on this trip I was able to just walk up and down a few block of Broadway and I can see why people would want to live in this city. It doesn't have many of the niceties of other cities I have known (Chicago is cool, Vancouver rocks, etc.), but there is something about being right next to a theatre running a broadway (or off-broadway) play. There is something about passing almost every kind of ethnic restaurant known to man within three blocks. Hot dog vendors, pizza joints, artsy boutiques. Parks. History, culture, There is something about New York that well... that I can see why people like it.

I think one of the biggest problems with New York is the parking situation. I am currently paying (or rather, my company is paying) $43 to park overnight. And good luck trying to find a place to park during the day. for a few hours of parking more uptown, I spent $22 plus a tip. And while the hot dog vendors look good, try stopping some time and see how that $1.50 hot dog is now $15 after parking fees.

The more I think of it, the more New York strikes me as "the pedestrian's city." Pretty much the only way I could conceive of living here is if I was either totally fucking rich, able to lather $100 bills all over my body while singing, "I am the Walrus." Or, to live as one who has accepted the fact that driving is for suckers.

As most of you know, I am not wholly (or even partially) averse to the idea of not needing a car. Don't get any ideas, though: in my job, I have to own a car, so that only leaves the "totally fucking rich" option.

The BLUE Bathroom

I decided to change the all encomposing white that is our house and paint the bathroom. It is very blue....

Addendum

But I also need to say...

Dear Diary

What's a girl to do? In other words, what can I procrastinate on today? I've got a huge list, but...

The DaVinci Code

When you go into a book with the idea it is going to be a great piece of literature, you're...

RSS Feed Help

I don't use RSS, haven't gotten the need or knack of it yet. However, some of my loyal readers (giggle) do indeed use it, particularly an aggregator named "Feeddemon".

Apparently there is a problem with the RSS feed on the site. It doesn't validate correctly.

A sample validation: http://feeds.archive.org/validator/check?url=http://daggurl.com/weblog/index.rss#l135

This feed does not validate. line 3 , column 121: Feeds must not contain SYSTEM entities.

I read the help for this piece of error message code and am still befuddled. Anyone care to elucidate me on what I am doing wrong and how to cahnge it?

Happy New Year

A new years greeting from everyone at staticred.net

I need a...

All I want for after Christmas is a personnel chef, maid, personnel assistant and nanny. This isn't too much to...

And Behold, the bMac is Born

Well, on the heals of another announcement, I have fianlly put the fMac into a case and if I may say so myself, it looks pretty sweet, even on Mr. Bilancio's kitchen table. below is a blow-by-blow of how we assembled what I have affectionately renamed, the bMac (as in, the big Mac, after the sandwhich effect of the plexiglass)

OK, so first you get the money, then you get the power... no wait, wrong topic

Anyhow... The design goal of the bMac was to put the fMac into a shell where it would be protected from shifty-eyed characters. While the G3 processor in the fMac is almost never hot, the 120 gig Western Digital drive attached to it can get hot to the touch. The guts of the iMac were designed to be right next to a monitor, for gods' sake, but I wanted to make sure that the airflow was correct. The bMac was supposed to simply look good and fit on a shelf; it was not meant to have the same form factor as any other machine. It is supposed to be (relatively) unique, without need for further expansion, etc.

A few weeks ago, we bought several panels of plexiglass from a local window shop. The dude there didn't exactly cut to spec, as we later found out, but the pieces were about 12" by 24", and we cut off about 6 inches from the end, leaving the bMac at about 12" by 18" by 8" tall. The plexiglass cost about $40.

After a long pause in construction, we finally hashed out the bMac design (bottom and middle) on the paper that wrapped the plexiglass. Note that the plexiglass is not exactly easy to cut. The problem is that as you cut, the plexi will fuze itself again from the heat, meaning you have to go over the same cut multiple times, and it can scorch the plexi (which by the way is flammable... I know this from the warning, not personal experience).

The next step was to get the hardware. We had already gotten the plexi, of course, but now we needed the other pieces(refer to this picture for the following description).

The four large threaded rods were to become the support mechanisms. We bought 3 of them and used two because we ended up going with an 8" height, and the rods were 24" (you do the math, dude). With them, we got 24 nuts and 12 washers that would fit them. As to the the bolts: the long silver bolts are 8/32" 2" (for mounting the motherboard), the golden bolts are 8/32" 3/4" (for mounting the hard drive), and the small silver bolts are 6/32" 3/4" (for mounting the CD-ROM).

So after we planned everything out and had the plans made, we laid all the hardware out, and assembled it to make sure it would work together. Pictures here, here, here, and here of the dry run.

After we had gotten everything in place and made sure that it would all fit together, we then assembled it for real. The first order of business was to make the basic supports. an approximately 1/2" hole at each corner allowed for the threaded rod to go through, and a nut and washer on the bottom became the "foot". Another nut to secure it, and you suddenly have the base.

A similar tactic was used for the picture of how that looks when assembled with the motherboard and power supply next to it, and mounted on the nuts. There is about 1" of clearance between the acryclic and the mothervboard.

The front panel took careful consideration. There are two small daughterboards that are connected to the iMac's motherboard, one that has the video connection, one that has the equivalet of the power buttons and lights on a case. It incidentally has microphone and speaker connectors, but those were sacrificed early in the process. We had a devil of a time figuring out where these two suckers were going to go (and the devil is in the details, believe me). However, luckily the video daughtercard had a small hole where a screw could go, and both cards had enough holes for us to zap strap them together. Elegent? No. Sturdy? No. Utilitarian? Yes.

The same picture also has a view of the IDE connections. Basically, those run up to the next level that holds the CD-ROM and hard drive. The CD-ROM (actually, a Verbatim R/W) was screwed in place by drilling holes through the plexi and then putting the small silver bolts into the four holes on its bottom. Similar theory on the hard drive, we used the gold bolts, but also put nuts to hold it so that it would be lifted a little off of the plexi for airflow reasons.

Finally, put the top layer on top and viola! The bMac is born. We made sure it still worked, took a picture for posterity, and the rest is history.

Because of William's help (he did most of the work on the power tools), we got done in about five hours with no major accidents or problems. There are a few places that we could have done better if we did it a second time, like lining up the holes on the hard drive, knowing how acrylic handles, and moving things around so that they would be easier to get to. However, the iMac's guts were not exactly made to be pulled out of its candy-coated shell, so even the feat we were able to accomplish was pretty neat. I hope you all think it looks cool; I sure do. It looks nice sitting next to me here, a shiny and transparent companion.

One last note. There are several things that will be added in the future to the bMac. First, MapleLeaf of UF fame gave Nat (to give to me) an acrylic Apple logo... the kind with the full colours and all. That WILL be integrated into the Mac, in memory of MapleLeaf's father, who apparently was a Mac head (Macheads live forever). Also, I am thinking of adding some cold cathode action, probably in the shape of an Apple.

Suggestions and comments are welcome.

Runaway Jury

I've got a summons for jury duty. I'm soooo mad! I don't want to help the system. From the looks...

YARWLNaSG

a nice article on why MIT chose .NET over J2EE is also a good discussion on why the Linux community needs a single, good development environment like Cocoa or the win32 API.

Quote of the Night

"What kind of deity would condone such irony?"

--Burt Gummer, Tremors the TV Series

Diary of a Housefrau

Dear Diary, Well, I learned yesterday that my "problems" are really just irritants. I mean, I've always known that, but...

Media bias!

Wherein I rant about an ethnocentric headline.

Spamboozled!

Being married to computer man, I SHOULD know better. In fact, I did know better! Yet, I was spamboozeled! What...

Yojimbo

Note: This is my first "movie review" on this blog, so this is like, a new feature or something. Instead of a numeric scale, movies will have a rating based on a) how much I would pay to see it and b) the urgency in which you should run out and see it, or aboid it like the plague.

Worth: "Sorry, can't pay rent this month, too busy buying DVDs"

Urgency: Next time you think, "you know, I wanna see a great action movie"

Summary: Down-on-his-luck samurai (Sanjuro) comes into a lawless town run by two crime lords and cleans house. Is Sanjuro greedy? Yes. Is Sanjuro a crusader for justice that wants to do the right thing? Yes.

OK, I admit that I have been watching A LOT of samurai films, and must admit there is probably a lot that I am missing. Some aspects of Japanese culture simply elude me. If nothing else, I can't wrap my head around the different names. You might as well assign each character a random eight-character number because it would be more memorable. I know that the names are the equivalent of "John" and "Jane" to the Japanese, but I end up getting so confused that I simply start labelling characters, "that one dude," and "the ass-kicker," and, "the guy who did that thing that one time" in my head.

I need someone (say, the love of my life Natalie) to translate a lot of the weird shit that Japanese people do into something intelligible to my poor western mind. However, the parts that I *did* understand of Yojimbo deal with violence, classism, lawlessness, the end of the samurai (technology creep), compassion, and well.... some major ass kicking.

Any time a character utters these lines:

Sanjuro [to the coffinmaker]: Have two coffins ready.
[sees one of his victims expire ]
Sanjuro : No, make that three.

You know that you have a major ass-kicker involved. There are several scenes where my Hollywood wire-effects-gorged brain went, "Whoa." It is impressive.

However, what makes this movie so great is that behind the ass-kicking, a morality play inexorably grinds on in the background. There is philosophical meat here, boys and girls, and Kurosawa is a master at making something cool also something deeply human.

Phone Rage!

Please press 1 or 2, To hear an endless list of choices, please press 6 to hear more choices. And...

Hidden Fortress Review

Worth: Put this really really high on your Netflix queue

Urgency: Put it in your queu before you forget

Summary: Two droids, I mean peasants, are going back home to their village after an unsuccessful attempt to be mercenaries (or something... they end up digging graves). THey have to take the long way around, and in the meantime they meet up with a samurai who is trying to smuggle his princess and 200 gold "coins" (more like ingots) through enemy territory.

This is a pretty cool movie, has lots of neat camerawork and the plot is cool. There is a spear dual that was worth the price of admission, and most of the characters are neat. The two peasants are funny and the samurai kicks some major ass.

The only problem I had was the princess, who constantly carried around this stick. I suppose it was meant to represent a sceptor or something, but with her baggie pants it looked like she was a female dominatrix who was into infantilism or something.

Apparently Lucas got some of his ideas from this movie and other Japanese samurai films. Cool concept, never thought of the Jedi as basically a bunch of samurai whose age had gone.

and what a year it was.

2003, a year in review.

Belated Birthdays!

Geez, get called away on an emergency and miss a best friend's birthday!

Happy Birthday Joe! The Watkins-Uszkalo household tips a glass in a southwesterly direction!

And if Rita is reading, happy virgo birthday to you too!

Humbug!

A link to A Christmas Carol

COLD PREMIERE

I went to the premiere of "Cold Mountain". While it sounds sexy, it isn't. Mostly it meant standing around with Australians for three 1/2 hours, hoping to catch a glimpse of some uncaring star.

The celebrities I saw: Pat O'Brian, Ricki Martin, a bunch of Hollywood execs, and the following "beautiful people" (with commentary):

Nicole Kidman is too skinny. She is officially marked off my list.

Natalie Portman is very cute and seemingly very shy. She had a bodyguard or "handler" or something. I kept thinking of rabbits or something when I saw her.

Adrien Brody seems like an awesome guy, but damn does he have a big nose.

Jude Law is a surprisingly attractive man. In every movie I have seen him in, he looks kinda... weird. In person, he looks pretty good.

Bullet Points

Referendum

I originally wanted to post this here but apparently the posting doesn't work for me. Oh well.

Foz and I were talking about this last night, and I had a realization: the American People didn't really pick the current administration, in a weird way. What we picked (barely) was to sweep the Clintons out of office and get someone "new" that would do things a little differently. It wasn't a vote for anti-terrrorism (who even cared in 2000?). We really haven't had a "referendum" of sorts to decide whether or not we want Bush's methods for dealing with world events.

The 2004 election is going to define the rest of the century. Does the the American Eagle turn his head back to the olive branch, or will its eyes remain fixed on its clawful of arrows? We will see.

That said, that doesn't mean I am optimistic considering the state of mind of most Americans I am around (Philly and NYC). I fear that Bush will win and set the U.S. policy for so long that we will be unable to stop him from essentially dismantling 200 years of democracy in America.

Uszkalo exhonerated; Uszkalo found guilty

A story of intrigue, suspicion, and vindication.

Finally, a Sensible Defense

Finally, someone who defends "communism" and open-source intelligently. To break down my thoughts on open-source and file sharing, it basically comes down to this set of comparisons:

open-source:proprietary::science:superstition

filesharing:DRM::libraries:bookstores

in first case, open-source/science basically says that there is a set of information and ideas that everyone can use for the benefit of the whole. In the second cases, they are both techniques that only a few use to the benefit of the few.

Filesharing is like having a huge digital library, all the time. Is there a moral, or even technical, difference between a library and KaZaa? Not really. The RIAA is really saying, "Hey, we don't like libraries and edu-ma-cation". Yes, some people want to OWN a copy of the book, and therefore they go to the bookstore to buy one. For example, I own pretty much everything that William Gibson has ever written.

How did I first read Neuromancer? From the Ball State University Library.

A Sad, Sad Day

Well, I think I have decided. It was a hard decision, and believe me I don't like it, but there it is; I am going to start using my WindowsXP box instead of the Mac as my main box.

It isn't that I think XP is better than OSX in ANY way whatsoever. As a matter of fact, while Windows frustrates the hell out of me, the Mac has always given me a nice, smooth experience.

The reality of my current situation is, though, due to generous donations of a new motherboard/cpu/memory, and my purchase of a $60 128 meg GeforceFX 5200 card, I will soon have a kickass Wintel box, whereas my poor bMac is showing signs of age. I mean, sure, its g3/333 processor works like a champ, acting like a PIII/500+ intel chip.... and OSX is pretty sweet....

But after using an XP2200+ box for a while, going back feels slow and clunky, at best.

sigh. So until I get a new Mac, I will unfortunately be using the bMac as a server, and using XP as my play/surf/editing environment.

The reason I mention this at all is that I feel that many people are in the same predicament as I am in: they want to use a Mac, they even want to throw money Apple's way (Like, say, enough money for an OS...), but Apple makes the cost of entry too high, even for its loyal customers.

I am so relieved

According to this article, Ben and J-Lo are still an item. Thank god! I don't know how much I could take after the Benjamin Bratt, Julia Roberts thing

Urgent Request

Got a mac? Let me know.

PING PING PING PING PING

So we got a new cat. I'm still not 100% sure WHY we got another cat, other than the fact that Packet has been insistent on us paying attention to her all the time. Also, she has been bugging Cow Cat a lot, when old CC just wants to sleep.

So the theory is that another young cat would be a playmate for Packet, and it would give her something to do other than terrorize the stupid monkeys and old cats.

Natalie scouted out the once and future cat while shopping at PerSmart. The cat, then-named "Otis", was one of the most incredibly cute and fiesty little cats I have ever seen.

After an insane conversation with the organization that was adopting the pets (better chronicled at http://userfriendly.org/iambe/daily.html), we got her and brought her home.

Oh sure, having to dig her out of various holes and niches was annoying. But after the newly-dubbed "Ping" was used to her surroundings, she has been an incredibly nice addition to our little family. Packet is now playing more often, Ping is cute, and CowCat get a rest.

http://daggurl.com/images/ for some images of Ping (and other things)

RETURN TO THE KING

What can I say, other than it was fantastic. In Jackson We Trust.

Of course, in my back-seat editing mode, I would say that they kinda screwed up TTT, thus making them rush through some cool stuff in 'King.

In TTT, instead of making the trek to Helm's Deep so long, and making Helm's Deep the focus of TTT, they shuold have made Helm's Deep the "feel good" moment (Hey, we CAN win against the orcs!!), and then gotten Frodo to Shelob so that the audience was in a year-long state of anticipation for the conclusion.

This of course would have meant reworking the whole Faramir angle, so that on one hand he was shown as tempted by the ring, but on the other hand not making it take so fucking long to resolve.

Instead, I think they rushed through Shelob a little, and seeing the SECOND attack of Osgiliath (and the useless attack later), that time would have been better spent on Frodo and Sam.

Also, either more of Arwen and Aragorn, or less. What they did felt like it took too much time and didn't really resolve anything.

All that said, though, it was the most fulfilling, awesome set of movies ever made.

Digital PVR Bliss

For those loyal readers out there that remember my previous post about my self-made PVR, I have an update. It is all done and done.

This weekend I finally got all of the parts necessary to get the thing running and I can now capture MPEG-2 quality video from cable. The quality is pretty good, the amount of space it takes up is large but can be modified, and all is right in the world.

Now comes all of the tweaking, including:

  1. Getting desired videos to automatically back themselves up to the fMac FTP server
  2. Getting better results from the remote control, mostly from fiddling with its programming
  3. modifying the space and size requirements for files, making sure I get everything tweaked correctly.
  4. Getting the CD-RW set up correctly so I can make VCDs easily
  5. Getting a program that makes DVD backups
  6. Getting better speakers, or getting the speaker setup adjusted for better sound. Right now it is OK, but not great.
  7. Figure out how to do video-input from the VCR so I can get Farscape into digital format.
A lot of little tweaks to go, but at least it is all basically working.

LOTS OF NEW POSTS

Hey all, lots of new posts. I just came back from a trip to L.A. for work, so many of them are observations I had while in that fair city. Hope I haven't overwhelmed y'all. Enjoy!

Anniversary

Happy Anniversary to me...

EOL PCI FW

Well, I finally EOL'd the FireCard that I have been using as my firewall and have opted for another solution... a broadband router that doesn't have some of the quirks that the firecard had (including being able to properly set up ftp sessions without hacking the firewall file), has an easier interface to change settings, and even comes with its own print server.

So now I have yet ANOTHER box that is now free, since it no longer needs to be on because of the FireCard.

So, now that the FireCard is no longer part of the ol' network topology, what do yous guys think I should do with it? Is there anything cool that we can do with this sucker now that we have a free one floating around? Ebay it? Need the info and suggestions here.

Boy, if only we had a BEOWULF CLUSTER of these things! We could render hot grits and petrified Amidalas in SECONDS!!

Never Forgotten

Yet, it was more than just a war between nations. It was a war between what was and what was to be. The "old world" was dying, and the new world had yet to be born. People of all classes and nations saw it as some great cleansing fire that would accelerate this battle and lead to a better world. But, when it was over, more than men had died in the mud of the battlefields. The naive dreams of progress, along with the innocence of the pre-war world, faith in God, and hope in the future all died in the trenches of Europe.

--Tony Novosel, on The Great War


WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED
to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind...

--from the U.N. charter


pity this busy monster, manunkind

--e. e. cummings