Monday, December 29, 2008

Winter Driving Gripes

It is nearly the end of the year, and I realized two things:
  1. Things have been going very well for me. As a result, I haven't been complaining enough lately.
  2. It has been awhile since I last wrote a blog entry.
Trying to be practical, I have obviously combined the above two points and decided to write about something which affects anyone who drives where temperatures drop below "freeze yer ass off" or the landscape is littered with that (usually) white falling crap more commonly referred to as "snow".

Here in Chicago, we have already had 6 weather extremes this season... and winter has just started. Let me repeat that again... 6 WEATHER EXTREMES THIS SEASON, SO FAR. Just in case you are keeping track, We've had very cold ("freeze yer spirit thermometer's ass end off"), overly warm ("tropical"), flooding ("damn rain and melting, grab the rowboat"), extra dense fog ("I wish I could find the rowboat"), high winds ("this blows"), oh, and snow ("22.3 inches, so far, up the wazoo").

For the record, we had locusts last year, my neighbors across the street lost power and had 3 days of darkness during the summer, the Chicago river is still green, and the corruption investigation of Gov. Blagojevich seems like it will decimate the dysfunctional state political family. I think we have cornered the market on Biblical-like plagues for the time being, thank you very much.

So, yeah... the joys of winter. The joys of making snowmen, snow angels, snow ball fights, the crunch of the ice and snow under foot... Then comes the agonies of the season: cleaning off your car, shoveling yourself up and out of snow creek with arms which feel they are without a snow shovel paddle, the crunch of your bones after falling due to the ice and snow under foot, and lest we forget winter driving.

Winter driving can be rather pleasant, please don't get me wrong. However, there are times where is is the suck. There are times where being off the road (read: safely at home, relaxing with a cup of tea...) is significantly better than being a driver on the road. Here is my list of winter driving gripes:
  1. Slow down, dammit! This shouldn't come as a surprise, but trying to drive your usual 95 mph when the weather is crappy and there is snow and/or ice on the road is what most professional stuntmen would describe as "effing nuts". Surprise, surprise, that moron driver who had to go 70 when there was an inch of ice on the roadway ended up in the ditch after doing a fishtail spin out that would make a figure skater jealous. Guess what, in snow and ice conditions, your tires may not have grip or friction enough to safely keep you going on the roadway, let alone to maneuver well or stop. If you don't know what I am talking about, google "hydroplaning" Slow down and allow a lot more room to maneuver and stop.

  2. Get off my ass! I love it how drivers feel like they are obligated to tailgate me. I love it even more when they decide that they should slam on their brakes when they are inches away from rear ending me at the stop light. One would think that when the road conditions are crap these people would allow a small bit more room to stop, just in case they hit some ice... But NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. For crying out loud, please stay off my car's ass end and try to allow at least a half car length of space between you and the driver in front of you. Also, allow more room for stopping in general. Thanks to all the crappy ass riding drivers, I've decided to supplement my car insurance my having Chuck Norris roundhouse kick any car which gets too close.

  3. Right turn on red isn't always right. Now, I am not a professional driving instructor, but let me explain something...
    "You may make a right turn at a red light or a left turn at a red light when turning from a one-way street onto another one-way street that has traffic moving to the left. In both instances, drivers must come to a complete stop and yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic and pedestrians before turning." (from Illinois Rules of the Road, Chapter 10)
    This means that doing a turn on red when oncoming traffic is approaching faster than Superman on Redbull is a bad idea. On the other hand, when traffic is all fubared due to weather, doing a right turn on red is not only stupid, but is makes traffic worse.

  4. Hang up and drive. This is an ongoing gripe. I will admit that I do, on occasion, talk on my mobile phone while I drive. However, I always use a hands-free set while driving, and I will not use my mobile phone during circumstances where I, as the driver, must devote more than 100% of my attention to the road (read: when driving conditions are bad). Unfortunately, it seems that too many people around here feel like they must chat at all times. Making matters worse, their conversation has higher precedence than driving while they drive. This normally is a sucky situation, however, throw in the usual winter crappage, and this can be downright deadly.

    Now, you drivers under the age of 19 who like to drive with their phone attached to their heads all the time, let me remind you of the rules of the road again...
    "Persons under age 19 are prohibited from using a cell phone while driving except in an emergency. Local municipalities may govern whether cell phone use is permitted, regardless of the driver’s age." (from Illinois Rules of the Road, Chapter 11)
  5. Lights, dammit! It seems that too many drivers are a bit dense when it comes to using their lights. Let me simplify it... Your car must have two headlights, and they are to be turned on from sunset to sunrise, as well as when the weather requires you to use your windshield wipers or when you are unable to see objects 1000 feet away. (See IL Rules of the Road, Chapter 12) Parking lights are not headlights, and using your parking lights instead of your headlights makes you look like a tool.

    It should also be mentioned that when the weather is crappy using your high beams can make visibility worse, not better. This is because snow and fog will reflect the light from your high beams back at you. Try using your fog lights (if you have them) instead.
While I am at it, I may as well discuss something else which has been bugging me. Here in Chicago, due to the extreme budget situation, snow plowing of side streets has been significantly cut back. I am not going to discuss the politics behind that. What is really pissing me off is the pissing and moaning I hear and read about it. The constant whining about "I pay my taxes, you clean it up" or "I was slightly delayed because of a little snow" has gotten to the point where I want to go slap some people around. Hell, I bet that a good portion of the people complaining about the lack of snow plowing also bitched constantly when the same snow plows neatly plowed the snow and pushed the snow so close to their cars.

I am only going to say this once... QUIT WHINING AND DEAL WITH IT. If you are able bodied, quit whining about the damn snow and demanding that others bail your ass out and instead grab a shovel and/or a snow blower and deal with it. Seriously, I am sick of this victim culture which lets people make excuses for everything and get by without actually fixing their problems. The snow sucks, this is a fact. The lack of plowing sucks too, this is also a fact. However, if everyone does what they can to improve the situation, we will all get through this and be better off.

Chicago is supposed to be the city that works. Looking back into history, when the proverbial kilometric pantload hit the fan, people rolled up their sleves and worked hard to fix the situation. Sitting around and bitching never improved the situation. If we want something, we must be willing to work for it. Likewise, if the city isn't able to move the snow, we should be able to move the snow.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Blagojevich's Options, Updated

Now that a few days have passed, let me list the current options Gov. Dipdunk faces...

  1. He can step aside. This is still unlikely.
  2. He can resign. With his arrogance and ignorance, this is unlikely.
  3. He will be successfully impeached. Best case, and seemingly most likely to happen.
  4. He pulls a Budd Dwyer. Unlikely, but plausible.
  5. He finishes out his term and retires. Hey, it worked for OJ the first time...
At this point, I still hope he is removed from office. I mean, we could replace him with a baked potato, and have better state government. Also, the baked potato would have better hair.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Blagojevich's Options

Ok, so it is no longer shocking news (ok, it never was "shocking"...) that (D-IL) Weed, a.k.a. Gov. Rod Blagojevich is facing charges for corruption.

So, lets review what could happen in the upcoming weeks:
  1. He steps aside. This is unlikely.
  2. He resigns. This is also unlikely.
  3. He is removed from office by the IL Supreme Court.
  4. He is impeached.
  5. He calls a press conference and proceeds to re-enact the actions of Budd Dwyer, using live ammunition.
  6. Nothing. The absolute worst case: everything blows over, and Blago keeps his job.
Now, I personally would prefer that he would not only resign, but also be dragged out of his office kicking and screaming while handcuffed in federal custody. Of course, I'll settle for impeachment too.

No matter what happens, every day in Illinois politics needs to become Weasel Stomping Day.

Monday, October 13, 2008

My list of ideas to improve the Chicagoland area

After much thought, here is my list of ideas which can help fix certain problems in the Chicagoland area...
  1. Chicago aldermen will have their salaries reduced to $55,000. At this time, Chicago aldermen make about $100k each, costing the City about $5 million per year. Reducing their salary to $55k would save the City about $2.25 million per year. Hey aldermen, if you don't like this, tough shit. Get a real job or a real second job and quit whining. Most citizens in the City work significantly harder than you ever did and they make far less.
  2. Mayor Daley, while I overall like you, your salary should be reduced to $75,000. You currently make $170,000 per year, but since the City has a budget shortfall, it is time you make a small sacrifice. If there are any objections, see my comment for Chicago aldermen above.
  3. Chicago Police need to enforce all of the traffic laws. This applies to motorists as well as cyclists. Maybe our budget would be closer to balanced if you guys did your damn job and nailed people for going way way way above the speed limit, yacking on their damn cell phones while driving, or any of the other laws which can raise money for the City.
  4. All bicyclists must obey the rules of the road while riding on public streets. While this is currently STATE LAW, it unfortunately needs to be placed in this list.
  5. ALL Chicago Police officers need to meet some sort of minimum fitness standards. No offense, but police sometimes have to engage in physical activity while carrying out their duties. I would prefer our officers not to have a heart attack while chasing after a suspect or beating a suspect almost to death.
  6. ALL Chicago Police officers need to improve their shooting. A few months ago, the media was going crazy with stories about a cougar on the loose in the city. That cougar was shot and killed by Chicago Police. Unfortunately, the officers put a minimum of 18 rounds into nearby garages and other property before actually hitting and killing said cougar. A police officer, who has undergone significant training, should be able to hit a cougar at close range and not expend that many rounds into nearby property.
  7. Mayor Daley's handgun ban needs to go. Personally, I disagree with this ordinance. The handgun ban does not work: criminals and gang members have hand guns, and are getting them from other sources (i.e. out of state dealers, stolen property, back alley cash sales...). Also, criminals commit crimes with weapons other than firearms, such as golf clubs, baseball bats, knives... yet those items can be purchased in any K-Mart. The ban only serves to punish otherwise law abiding citizens who have already passed the stringent background checks required by the state of Illinois to own and purchase a firearm.
  8. Any alderman who repeatedly drafts stupid ass ordinances needs to be replaced. Sorry, but bans on foie gras, trans fat, or metal baseball bats do not serve the citizens of the City. Instead, such bans are simply retarded. These ordinances overstep the boundaries of law.
  9. Lower the Cook County sales tax. While I realize corruption at the county level costs money, maybe you corrupt bastards could find the funds elsewhere and leave us citizens alone.
  10. Todd Stroger needs to go. In addition, all people who are in any way related to Todd Stroger should be immediately banned from working for Cook County. This ban should be made retroactive the second Todd Stroger took office.
  11. All members of the Cook County board should be replaced too. While we are at it, the salaries of the Cook County board members should be cut to under $55,000. Once again, if there are any complaints, see above commentary for Chicago Aldermen.
  12. Pay raises for aldermen, county board, mayor, or similar positions should be approved by ballot initiative only. Let me be clear: if the civil servants who run the City or County want a pay raise, the citizens should decide by popular vote.
Now, the list above is anything but complete. However, I feel that implementation of a majority of the items would significantly improve the quality of life for the citizens of the Chicagoland area.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A short letter to Warner Bros.

Here is my brief blog letter to Warner Brothers concerning Harry Potter 6...

Dear Warner Brothers,

As a Harry Potter fan, I am exceptionally disappointed in your recent decision to move the release date of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Price from November to July.

I can think of one word which describes your actions: LAME.

Please do the right thing and move the movie back to the original release date.

A Harry Potter Fan

Monday, August 4, 2008

A brief note to my 7th grade teacher...

I recently had a chat with my mom, and somehow during that chat the topic of my education was brought up. To be more specific, we discussed the topic of my grade school education. For some odd reason, this brought up a memory from when I was in 7th grade.

Now, for those of you who don't know me very well... I attended a small private school. The school size was about 210 students, with roughly 25 students in my grade.

When I was in 7th grade, I wasn't exactly the best student in the class. Granted, I was bright (I did become a member of American Mensa that year), but at the same time, I didn't turn in my homework. I wasn't the best student, but by no means the worst student either.

Hell, this was the year I made it into the "Midwest Academic Talent Search" program. This program offers classes for gifted students, much like high school advanced placement courses. It should be noted that while I did qualify, I never actually took advantage of this program. As a side note, thanks to this program, I took the ACT test and scored a whopping 14. While this sounds low, it should be noted that the national average for high school students is 19 - 20, and I took this test in 7th grade without knowing algebra, trigonometry, or any of the advanced grammar rules used on this test. So overall, I did quite well for that time.

One of my strengths at that time was geography. I did enter into my school's geography bee that year, and ended up in 4th place. Technically speaking, I was the alternate contestant just in case the top 3 students could not compete for any reason in the state level. This was no easy accomplishment,

When I returned from the bee, I notified my teacher of my placement. Being the very pleasant person she is, she simply responded "Well, thats nice you got 4th. Too bad you are barely 27th in my class."

Now, I wouldn't say my teacher had class favorites... she just had students she absolutely hated. I was one of them. I could do nothing right in her class. If someone stole something out of the desk of one of her favorites, the perpetrator was punished heavily. If someone stole something out of my desk, no action would be taken.

So anyways, here is my brief note to my 7th grade teacher...

To my 7th grade teacher,

Its been a long time since I was in your class. Now I am graduating with a masters degree in Computer Science. My GPA is 3.6 on a 4 point scale.

You may never have though much of me, nor have shown me due respect. I'm fine with that.

I just hope that all of the other students you have put down over the years have become successful and happy, while you have stayed the same.


A former student.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Why I wear a kilt

One of the questions tossing around in my mind for awhile is "Why do I wear a kilt?".

For those of you who don't know me, I own and proudly wear two Utilikilts (tm): a black Classic Utilikilt and a Jean Cut Utilikilt. I also have a custom made leather belt and a black leather sporran which looks absolutely great with the Jean Cut Utilikilt.

So why do I wear them?

I cannot choose one singular reason why. I wear them because I can. I wear them because it makes me stand out. I wear them because they are comfortable.

1. I wear my kilt because I can.

This is pretty much the non-reason reason. In many ways, it is the reason we all use to justify our hobbies and interests. It is a driving force which can inspire both fear and confidence. It is the bold statement which weeds out the strong from the weak. I wear my kilts because I *can* wear them. I'm not afraid to wear my kilts, and I don't give a damn about what you think.

2. I wear them because it makes me stand out.

I never intended to spend my life being the odd person. I never wanted to be the person who never quite fit in. I definitely never wanted to be the person who was bullied and constantly criticized over every damn thing. Fate had something else in mind, though. Between being intelligent and diabetic, I was always different in grade school. Making matters worse, I was the non-athletic geeky kid who was always picked last.

Spending so much time putting up with being the outcast causes subtle changes. I am a lot more understanding and sensitive to others, however, I'm also more of a realist (some would call me a pessimist) and I have a different edge. I can exist in the mainstream, but I choose to be my own person. My sense of individuality runs very deep inside of me.

So, when it comes to my clothes, I have decided to have a few items which are different from everyone else. Somethings which reinforce my individuality. I'm a casual non-conformist.

3. I wear them because they are comfortable.

Most simply put... If you have never worn a kilt, you wouldn't understand.

There is an unique feeling of freedom which is virtually impossible to describe. Movement is so much easier. You can feel the local environment.

Nothing can match the feeling of being able to feel the cool air rushing by as the rain gently falls on you while you run outside to your car. Nothing can ever match the feeling of standing on the upper observation deck of a ship, looking at a glacier directly ahead of your position, as you hear the glacier calve and feel the wind blow.

4. I wear them because they reinforce my image of toughness.

This reason is strictly self image and ego. In real life, I am a stout computer geek. In real life with kilt, I'm a tough stout computer geek. Ok, so the image doesn't quite work out. You may have to use a bit of imagination here...

In any case, I feel like a tough guy when I wear my kilt. Therefore, I am a tough guy while I wear my kilt. Self image is everything. Your inner self image directly influences your outward image.

Friday, July 25, 2008

"Loyola Bounce" still exhists, film at 11.

Ok, first a little back story. At Loyola, students call the tendency to be bounced from office to office to office ... in order to get something signed or otherwise submitted or done the "Loyola Bounce". Usually, the Loyola Bounce will send a student to no less than 8 offices before they will get what they need done. On a particularly bad bounce, someone will be forced to make frantic calls or send emails to a staff member who will (ideally) respond (at some time, hopefully, if the phase of the moon is right and the proper blood sacrifice had been made...) with some information (usually wrong or vague, or both) which will help the student get what they need (usually at this point, the student has started to draw up plans of armed rebellion against the machine...).

In the good old days, the Loyola Bounce could mean being bounced between multiple buildings and multiple campuses. Average distances covered during the various quests in these ancient Loyola Bounces could reach well into a 6+ mile (administrative) hell march. And yes, we did have to face a gate keeper with questions three. Back during those days, student losses were high. But the survivors tended to become stronger... or something like that.

Now, the administration (read: those bastards, the keepers of the red tape, the ominous "they" who upon mentioning will cause the average Loyola student to projectile vomit...) made an announcement that the creation of the new Student "Service" Centre, the "Hub", formerly the Sullivan Science Library, has put a total end to the Loyola Bounce. Rumors have circulated that they held a funeral ceremony for the Bounce.

Anyways, let us move on...

So, on Wednesday, I decided it was time for me to do the unthinkable. Yes, it was time for me to submit my request to be promoted to Graduate Student Emeritus. For you non-edumacation folks, it was time for me to submit the paperwork to apply for graduation from graduate school.

My starting point for this exercise is the Granada Center. For you new Loyola Students, don't be mistaken to call this building "Fordham Hall". Fordham is the dorm which is attached to Granada Center. Granada Center is the rest of the building.

Anyways, from Granada, I walked to the Student "Service" Centre in order to pay the Bursar (also known as "those trolls", or more affectionately "the department of making me broke") the graduation fee (read: not a bribe) and to get a special stamp (made from the bones of undergraduates who died on one of the Bounce quests of old, inked with the tears of 1000 graduate assistants...) which indicates to the Graduate School that your account is paid in full. This fee is $75, and ideally should (in theory) be the last damn fee you (theoretically) pay Loyola.

From the Student "Service" Centre, I had to walk back to Granada. Unfortunately the Student "Service" Centre, which is supposed to be a "one stop shop" for students does not include the Graduate School. Anyways, after a brief elevator ride to the 4th floor, I was on my way to the kingdom of he Graduate School.

I entered the inner sanctum and immediately was greeted by a sign which read "Please ring bell for service!"


Yes, ringing that bell was the highlight of my day. To be honest, I wanted to ring that bell a few times as it was so satisfying to hear it ring out into the abyss... A clerk greeted me and immediately told me that this was not the place of form submission I was looking for, and that I needed to visit another office located around the corner. *SHIT, THE BOUNCE HAS RETURNED!* So, I went to that office. Upon entering that office, I was told that this was not the place of form submission I was looking for, and that I needed to visit another office located a few doors down. *SHIT, THE BOUNCE HAS ME!* Upon entering that office, I was told that this was not the place of form submission I was looking for, and that I needed to visit another office located a few doors back and to the left, but if I saw the copier I went too far. *BOUNCE!* Upon entering that office, I was told that this was not the place of form submission I was looking for, and that I needed to visit another adjacent to the mens room. *BOUNCE.* Upon entering that office, I was told that this was not the place of form submission I was looking for, and that I needed to visit the office of some person who they don't personally know, but should be able to help me. It was located somewhere, but they don't know where, so I need to ask the clerk again. *BOUNCE, again.* Upon finding and entering that office, I was told that this was not the place of form submission I was looking for, and that I needed to visit another office located a few doors to the left. *BOUNCE.* Upon entering that office, I was told that this was not the place of form submission I was looking for, and that I needed to visit another office located near the elevator. *BOUNCE.* Upon entering that office, I was told that this was not the place of form submission I was looking for, and that I needed to deposit the form in the mailbox of someone, and that mailbox is located in main office area.

So, I deposited the form in the mailbox. 7 years of university (Undergrad and Graduate studies combined) ends not with human contact, fanfare, and paperwork, but with the sound of a piece of paper hitting an empty metal bin. I think I need a hug and a cup of tea!

Fast forward to Thursday morning... I get a form email from the graduate school...
Dear Graduate Student,

Your application to receive a degree in December 2008 has been received by the Graduate School office.

All students will receive written notification in December 2008 as to whether or not their degrees will be conferred. Due to the great number of students receiving degrees, we would be grateful if you refrained from inquiring by phone or email about the status of your application to receive a degree.
I sure as hell better have my degree conferred!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

An archer's thought

Somewhere between twang and thump
During the time perceived between taking the shot and impact
A split second, enough for a single intake of breath
While the bow string sings for the departed arrow

There is a period of peace and calm
Mind still and thoughtless
A fleeting moment in time
Shortly replaced by reaction

I am the one responsible for my shot
My arrow flies by my skill and dedication
My strength projected, Sent with sweet song

Monday, July 14, 2008

Music Playlist

Today I was looking through the play list in Rhythmbox on my main machine. I never really gave thought into what music I listened to until this moment. My current play list has the following:
  • Apocalyptica (Chello Rock)
    • Bittersweet
    • Apocalyptica (album)
    • Cult (album)
    • Inquisition Symphony (album)
    • Reflections (album)
  • Bloodhound Gang (Rap / Alternative)
    • Hefty Fine (album)
  • Blue Man Group ("Other")
    • The Complex (album)
  • Corvus Corax (Folk / Medieval-like Music)
    • Kaltenberg Anno MMVII (album)
    • Venus Vina Musica (album)
  • Cranberries (Alternative)
    • Zombie
  • Depeche Mode (Alternative)
    • Precious
    • Stripped
    • Personal Jesus
  • Eagles (Rock)
    • Journey of the Sorcerer
  • Filter (Rock)
    • Hey Man Nice Shot
  • Gary Jules (Rock)
    • Mad World
  • Hoobastank (Rock)
    • Running Away
  • Korn (Hard Rock)
    • Another Brick in the Wall (Parts 1,2,3, Goodbye)
  • Linkin Park (Rock)
    • Numb
    • Breaking the Habit
    • Minutes to Midnight (album)
  • Metallica (Hard Rock)
    • -Human
    • Ecstasy of Gold
  • Moby (Freestyle)
    • Porcelain
  • Muse (Rock)
    • Knights of Cydonia
  • Neil Young (Rock)
    • Sun Green
    • Be the Rain
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers (Rock)
    • By the Way
    • Dani California
    • Snow (Hey Oh)
  • Serj Tankian (Rock)
    • Elect the Dead (album)
  • Tanwut (Bagpipe Rock, also a subgroup of Corvus Corax)
    • Ihr Wolltet Spass (album)
    • Labyrinth Der Sienne (album)
    • Schattenreiter (album)
    • Tanzwut (album)
  • U2 (Rock)
    • Sunday Bloody Sunday
  • Weezer (Alternative)
    • The Red Album (album)
And that list is only a small list of what I have in my music library. I don't have Enya, Johnny Cash, Black Sabbath... all of the other good artists I listen to loaded up at this time.

I feel like there is a pretty big mix here... from geeky (Pork and Beans, the theme from Hitchhikers Guide...) to angry (Nein Nein). From conventional to cello rock to German bagpipe rock.

It is a pretty big change from my listening habits as a young child. I remember taking road trips up to Burlington, WI with my parents listening to classic rock (former Oldies 104.3 fm), but having my radio alarm clock tuned into classical music. In second grade I was a huge New Kids on the Block fan, but in fifth grade, I based my music preferences on Beavis and Butthead.

I remember taking piano lessons in grade school. I remember being somewhat good at it. I also remember playing Christmas carols at a small Christmas party my family held for my grandmother while she was in hospice care in the mid 90's. Actually, now that I think of it, that was the last time I seriously played piano.

Anyways, I feel that I'm starting to rant here... However, I do feel that the music we choose defines more than a simple play list. It defines what is going on at that moment in our lives. It becomes a sound track for the real life. I just wonder what my chosen soundtrack for this moment says about me.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Depressing College Milestones...

Looking back at my tenure as a college student, it seems that virtually every big milestone has been surrounded by deaths. Lets see...

2001, started the undergrad BS at Loyola.
Famous deaths:
  • Douglas Adams
  • Dale Earnhardt
  • 9/11/2001
2005, finished the undergrad BS and started grad school at Loyola.
Famous deaths:
  • Don Adams (Would you believe...)
  • Stan Berenstain (of Berenstain Bears fame)
  • Johnny Carson
  • James Doohan
  • Arthur Miller
  • Robert A. Moog
  • Pat Morita
  • Rosa Parks
  • Richard Pryor
  • Michael Vale (aka. The Dunkin Doughnuts baker)
2008, finished grad school.
Famous deaths:
  • Arthur C Clarke
  • George Carlin
  • Gary Gygax
  • Edmund Hillary

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Best. Spam. Subject Line. Ever. Part 2

Not too long ago, I was checking my email and decided to start clearing out my spam folder. The first subject line which popped out at me was the following:
Give a total monarchy to your pants member
Hmmm. ok... Is this spammer trying to sell my inseam a new form of government or something?

Now on to two related subject lines...
Much larger amounts of aspirin than are usually recommended adoptive

Sniff doctor may want you to reduce gradually the amount you are taking

Unsolicited medical adoption advice is always needed. Yeah, needed to be sent to /dev/null

Be more protected; take your life jacket here.
Aye, Aye, Cap'n. While we are at it, can I tell you where to put that life jacket?

Next, a more complete spam for your entertainment...
subject: Boost your ego with herbal solution

text: With greater size comes greater powers
Yeah, and with great power comes great responsibility... Thanks Toby.

Oh well. At least my spam box is now clean. I think I'll go back to my regular non-normal hobbies.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Pop Quiz...

Here is a pop quiz on the topic of life...


Once when I was grade school, one of the older ladies on my street walked by my house as she returned home from the bank. At the time, she was carrying a few hundred dollars in twenty and fifty dollar bills. Unfortunately for her, the weather at that moment of time was rather windy, and as a result, a couple of the bills blew out of her hands and into the street. Most of the bills quickly blew far outside of her reach.

I was outside at the time, and one of the bills, a fifty dollar bill, blew close to my position. After hearing her issue a few exclamations and explicatives, I quickly realized she was the rightful owner of said bill. Taking the initiative, I immediately returned the bill to her. This was all done without any expectation of reward. The lady, who was totally surprised that someone would return some of her money to her, did give me a reward of twenty dollars for my actions.

The next day, I told my friend the story of what happened, and he immediately started to question me why I didn't just keep the money instead of giving it back and taking a reward of forty per cent of the found currency value.

Question: Which character from the story above became a medical doctor?

(Answer: The friend went to Harvard and became a medical doctor.)

Best. Spam. Subject Line. Ever.

I recently recieved a spam with the subject line "Crapless Craps". Now, I may sound immature, but WTF is a "crapless crap"? Does this involve some sort of imaginary dice, or is this gambling on passing wind. I dunno...

In any case, the email was gleefully deleted and I am planning on spending a good deal of time meditating and pondering that subject line. Who knows, maybe this is a new form of Zen...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

New hobby: Archery

In fall 2007 I decided to take up another hobby: archery.

My first experience with archery was many years ago at summer camp. I remember spending many hours on the range, shooting at close range targets with light weight compound bows. Fast forward to fall 2007, when out of the blue one weekend I decided to go to an archery range and spend a few hours shooting on the indoor range.

My first range experience was pretty good. One of the guys at the range volunteered to teach me about archery. He walked me through the different types of bows, shooting techniques, etiquette, and most importantly, safety. After the initial walk-though, I decided to focus on traditional archery. I can still remember that time on the range... I was shooting a rented 25 lb recurve bow. I didn't hit my paper target much that day, but it didn't matter much to me as I was happy to just hit the white target blocks at 15 yards. Later that day the owner of the range allowed me to take a couple of shots with his 40 year old magnesium recurve bow. That was a sweet bow and shot very nicely!

A few range visits later I learned how to aim properly and started to improve my accuracy. I was starting to hit my paper targets fairly regularly at 15 and 20 yards and my arrow spreads were getting smaller. I quickly moved up from 25 lb to 35 lb and finally to the 40 lb draw recurves.

In January I decided it was time to look into getting my own bow. I spent a couple of hours one day at Cabela's testing out different bows... I tested every recurve, takedown recurve, and longbow they had in stock. It was at this time I decided to see what my draw weight limitations were at that time. At that time, I found out that I could easily handle a 50 lb - 55 lb draw weight bow comfortably, and was able to draw and shoot a 60 lb bow with some difficulty.

With this in mind, I started to do a little more weight training in order to strengthen my arms. I was quickly able to build up my strength so that I could use a 50 or 55 lb bow for at least an hour without killing my arms.

Fast forward to March... My friends decided it was time for them to pick up a bow. They happened to decide on a 50 lb Fred Bear Montana long bow. At that time, I was eyeing a 55 lb Fred Bear Super Kodiak recurve. Let me tell you, both bows are great bows, and they feel about the same to shoot. Although the longbow requires significantly more practice than a recurve.

A month later, I decided that it was time for me to get my bow. On Friday, April 11 I went to Cabela's in Hoffman Estates, IL and spent some time on their archery range trying out and comparing the 50 lb Fred Bear Montana longbow and the 55 lb Fred Bear Super Kodiak recurve bow. I must have shot at least 100 arrows down range, but was unable to make up which bow was to come home with me that day. Finally something happened which decided it for me: I Robin Hooded with the longbow! Needless to say, I saw the sign and decided that if I could Robin Hood with it, it must be the bow fated to be mine.

So why did I get a longbow? I enjoy traditional archery because it is a challenge. I really enjoy shooting recurves, but I wanted to do something different. I wanted to be respected for taking up something difficult and mastering it to the best of my abilities. I wanted to be somewhat unique and shoot something most archers wouldn't even consider. Finally, I just thought it was cool and really damn fun.

One of the things I noticed at the various ranges is that archers treat each other like family. We may show off our bows, but we are usually very friendly and welcoming. We talk and have a lot of fun while shooting at targets. In many ways it is an easy way to have fun and share some sort of commonality. For the most part, it is about the individual hitting their target while bonding with a group.

One of the things I always tell people is that in archery I am the asshole responsible for the outcome of my shots. I am the one who draws bow. I am the one who aims my arrow at the target. I am the one who decides when to release my bowstring and send my arrow down range to hopefully hit my target. For the most part, there are no excuses when something goes wrong. I have started applying this thinking to the rest of my life and it seems to have helped me focus on what matters to me.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Newfound stress... Part 3, The Epic Conclusion.

And now for the end of our epic series...

Today my neighbor contractor was able to finish he rebuild and repair of all of the gas lines in my house. The gas company sent a technician who inspected the work and then unlocked and turn our gas meter back on.

Yeah, I know... its kinda anti-climatic.

Well, at least I'll be able to take a real shower with actual hot water and enjoy the comfort of hot water heating throughout the house again.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Urban Survival Tip #1: Water Coolers

Greetings, and welcome to the first of what I hope won't be a long series of urban survival tips. Today's tip is about the multi-function use of water coolers.

Water coolers, those refrigerated water dispensers long delegated to the office are quite useful appliances. They are much more than a social gathering place for you and your fellow cow orkers to gather and discuss important topics (also known as bullshit or gossip).

Here is a brief list of uses for these machines...
  1. Source of chilled water for refreshment and re-hydration.
  2. Source of room temperature water for cooling down overly hot drinks.
  3. Source of hot water for making hot beverages.
  4. Source of hot water for making ramen and other non-beer survival foods.
  5. Source of hot water for bathing.
  6. Nearly endless source of little paper cups.
  7. Some models feature a little refrigerator which is useful for food storage (read: beer)
  8. Refrigerator coils (assume a proper water cooler, not a thermal electric cooler model) provide some heat to the cooler office area.
  9. Emptied water jug is useful for storage of some small items or liquids.
  10. Emptied water jug can be used in the production of some fermented beverages (read: mead, "hard" cider, wine)
  11. Emptied water jugs can be used as a simple defensive weapon.
  12. Emptied water jugs can be used for signaling or drumming.
  13. Emptied water jugs can be used as a source of entertainment (read: office chair bowling).
According to legend, MacGuiver could could turn a water cooler into an attack helicopter. Meanwhile, Chuck Norris could roundhouse kick one and turn it into a full color laser print center.

So, there we go.

Newfound stress... Part 2

For those of you just joining us, here is a brief overview... On Sunday, my gas detector went off and the gas company shut off my gas leaving me with no heat or hot water.

Monday came. We had a heating contractor come out and test the gas pipes. Now, in an ideal world it would be a minor leak in one fitting. This isn't an ideal world. Every effing fitting found some small place to leak. So we were offered some choices: 1. take apart everything and redo it, 2. replace everything and save $ BOATLOADS on labor charges. We did the logical thing and decided to ask the guy if we could duct tape it and call it even. After that sudden burst of logic, we decided to have our neighbor contractor put option #2 into action.

As of the end of Monday, the following work has been done:
  • replaced main feed line from the meter to the first tee in the mechanical room with flexible piping.
  • rebuilt and/or replaced the black iron piping to the furnace and hot water heater.
So, the system isn't quite done yet, but at least it is in a state where the gas company could, theoretically, turn on the gas and give us heat and hot water. Unfortunately that won't happen for at least another half day or so.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Newfound stress...

One of the things I've been proud of is my ability to stay cool under stress. For some odd reason, I seem to have a decent enough coping mechanism to be able to keep things together when the shit hits the fan. Unfortunately, this ability doesn't seem to be commonplace throughout my family.

Another thing I am proud of is my knowledge of safety and security. Yeah, Im a geek who likes to splurge on stuff every now and then, however there are a few things I absolutely insisted on getting, and what do ya know... they can and have saved lives.

Case in point: My house had a few small gas leaks today. Nothing serious, but somthing that couldn't go unchecked. The only reason why I found out about that was because of my CO2 + Explosive Gas chirping its little plastic ass end off. No big deal, just a little shocking when you are just sitting down and about to relax. Nothing says "alert! alert!..." better than "DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! " at what must be louder 200 dB.

Ok, so the alarm went off. Time to review protocol and what will really happen. Protocol: alert the parents then call the gas company. Reality: Tell the parents, deal with panic, then watch one of said parents struggle to call our neighbor who will say to call the gas company after he comes over, call gas company (non-emergency) and find out that they are closed and the automated system is down, then panic, find the correct emergency number, call them, wait an hour... Yeah, reality and the supposed emergency protocol is never the same.

So, after waiting an hour, the gas company guys come, and found three leaks. They promptly shut off the gas and lock the meter. So now I'm without heat and hot water, and before it can be turned on the entire gas supply pipe network needs to be pressurized and checked for leaks. This sucks.

Stay tuned for updates.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Random Thoughts: How to Survive on Star Trek

Ok, I know this has been covered so many times... but I feel like doing a brain dump about it anyways.

Here are a few simple rules for staying alive on a Star Trek show:
  1. Never wear red.
  2. Never work in Engineering or Security.
  3. Never join the Marines.
  4. Never board a starship if your rank is Ensign.
  5. Don't be a clone. Clones don't survive till the end of the show or movie.
  6. Don't work on a research space station.
  7. Always cary a big phaser.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Life, updated

It has been a very long time since I have last written in my blog. Hmmmm.... Feb 19, 2007 was my last post... hopefully no one has been holding their breath while waiting for this update. This will be the first of many posts concerning new hobbies and interests I have taken up.

There has been something on my mind for awhile that I wanted to write about. For months, I've been tossing around ideas, yet nothing has been committed to post until now. This topic is Amateur Radio, also known as "Ham Radio".

After months of deliberation as well as contemplation, concentration, and a healthy dose of procrastination, I still had nothing. It took a quote from an episode of Dr. Who to finally get my brain in gear and to finally churn out this post.
"...Some say that's where it all began, when he was a child. That's when the Master saw eternity. As a novice, he was taken for initiation. He stood in front of the Untempered Schism. It's a gap in the fabric of reality through which could be seen the whole of the vortex. We stand there, eight years old, staring at the raw power of time and space, just a child. Some would be inspired. Some would run away. And some would go mad." -- Doctor Who, The Sound of Drums (Series 3, Episode 12)
My interest in amateur radio began when I was in grade school. If my memory serves me correctly, it was sometime around seventh grade. I found out my grandfather (George A. Bobeck Sr. , W9QNY (SK)**) had been an amateur radio operator since a bit before the US entered WWII. He had heard the US government issue the order for all US hams to cease transmitting due to the state of declared war. I wasn't able to get too many stories out of my grandfater due to him being mostly deaf due to old age, and also due to his passing in 1997, but the ham bug had bit me.

I soon purchased a license study book and started to try to learn everything in order to get a technician no-code license. Unfortunately, at that time the material was a bit too complex for me to comprehend. It would take a few years before I would be able to successfully learn the material... but I am getting ahead of myself.

Roughly 8 years passed. It took Hurricane Katrina to give me the push necessary to motivate me to study and take the technician license exam. It is hard to explain, but seeing one major disaster cause the utter devastation of the Gulf coast as well as the destruction of a major US city plus the "Cluster Failure" FEMA operation afterward finally motivated me. Katrina took away the last sliver of confidence I had in my government. It took away my faith that our tax dollars will pay for services which will rescue us when we needed help. I finally was shown the void, and was inspired to act. I decided that with my limitations, I could serve others by becoming a radio operator. I could be the relay voice responsible for saving someone in need. I could become the person who uses technology to let someone else know what the situation is currently like. I could be the person many miles away that gives hope to another person. It may sound weird, but it actually made sense to me at the time. That became the driving force as I prepared to take the Technician exam.

I took my technician* exam on July 1, 2006 and passed it on the first attempt. I was soon assigned my first call sign, KC9JUA.

I remembered my grandfather, and decided in 2007 to start the process of having the FCC cancel his license so that I could apply to have his call sign. Ok, let me explain... My grandfather died in 1997, however he had renewed his license in 1996. Ham radio licenses are valid for 10 years and there is a grace period if it isn't renewed where the FCC will allow an operator to renew their license after it expires. So, since he renewed in '96, his license expired in '06 and was under the grace period, so his call was unassignable without some paperwork. In this case, it was a simple matter of providing documentation of his death and me filling out a vanity license application.

I wasn't satisfied with only having my grandfather's call... I wanted more. I started studying and soon I was able to upgrade my license to General class. So, for the first time in a decade, there was a George Bobeck with the call W9QNY who was a General class operator.

So what exactly have I gotten out of ham radio in relation to my field of study? Ok, a mouthful of question, but one that I need to answer. During my undergrad years, I took a lot of computer science classes, primarly about security and networking. After earning my license while in grad school, I finally understand more about technology, networking, WiFi (and related radio tech.).

Some of the concepts (tcp/ip, for example) from Dr. Dordal's networking class started to make sense. TCP/IP packets as well as UDP datagrams are very similar to radiograms. My wireless networking class taught by Corby actually started to become practical as there was a lot of crossover. Heck, being able to reference ARRL books in my classes made me feel more alpha geek.

Anyways, just a slightly structured braindump about the first of many new hobbies...

* In the US, there are 5 Amateur Radio Operator License grades, listed from lowest to highest: Novice (depricated), Technician, General, Advanced (depricated), Extra. The Novice and Advanced license grades are no longer issued, so practically, there are 3 license grades. Morse code is no longer required. Each license grade requires passing a written test (Technician and General have 35 questions, Extra has 50 questions).

** (SK) is Ham shorthand for "Silent Key". The designation "Silent Key" denotes that the Ham operator with that call sign has died.