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Showing posts from July, 2006


Solar path lighting done right

How cool is this? You've seen those solar path lights, right? Pathetic: no light, die after desk. Not worth it. I have a low volatage system, but I crace ecofriendliness AND good lighting. Presenting Sun Bricks. Just replace some bricks in your path with these, and, thanks to EXTREMELY efficient LEDs, and good design, voila!

Southworst? Not anymore with this hack!

Southwest is cheap, convenient, and utterly demeaning. Even for me, who gets to an airport 2 hours before a flight, I almost never get the A line; that means a middle seat or back of the plane...when we finally take off, that is. But now, my luck is changing! Check out this online guide for Changing A Southwest Boarding Pass . I'm an A! :-)

Getting RAMmed

Charles gave me a game for the PC: Splinter Cell. He raves about it, and I see why: it's not a "kill 'em all" game," nor is it overly strategic. Rather, a clever blend of intrigue, action, and thoughtfulness. It's all about being silent and undetected. Amazingly cool. I took this as a chance to add some more RAM to the old desktop. I ordered from an eBay seller, got a good deal. RAM came about a week later. Popped it in: three beeps from the computer, then the sound that chills the bones: know that sound from the ER when the heartbeat goes flatline? Yup. Quickly, I reinstalled the old RAM. No beeps...and no Windows. Windows had been wiped out. Sigh. So, down to Best Buy to buy another hard drive, then install it, then install Windows on it, then rebuild from my two old hard drives. Just got done yesterday. The eBay RAM? Back to the seller. I grabbed some new RAM from Best Buy, for about $20 more than I paid on eBay, and popped it in with no issue. So, the com

Spare the Air

It's rare that it gets hot here. After all, the Mark Twain quote has been proven time and again by the hapless tourists halfway across the Golden Gate Bridge: their shorts betraying the fact they thought this was California, and their overpriced fleece sweatshirts emblazoned with "SF" giving away their acquiescence to the cold fog. However, on occasion, the fog takes a vacation, and the mercury climbs. When that happens, valleys quickly produce smog, making it unhealthy to breather. Hence, the government calls for a Spare The Air day: all public transit is declared free, so that less people will drive, keeping smog down. This year, the three Spare the Air days were already used up in June, unseasonably. Then, the heat wave hit: last week, we have been breaking records. As I write this, it's triple digits within 10 miles of here: unheard of. So, three more Spare the Air days were declared last week. And the ferries were PACKED: tourists, who used it as an excuse to see

Belated Independence Day recap

This July 4th, we joined friends at McNear's beach in San Rafael for an old fashioned Northern California barbeque. Here, that means gathering the shorts for the mid-day, and the fleece for the afternoon when the fog comes rolling in. We had quite the spread, thanks to Charles and Karen: they staked out the perfect spot, and we relaxed with barbeques, wine (shh! not allowed there, so it was "grape juice."), and great fun. After the day's festivities, we retired to Casa Mars for a great afternoon of swimming in the pool, admiring Charles' deck work, and a dip in the hot tub. As the night approached, we ascended to the roof deck, and watched the fireworks blossom all over the bay: Berkeley, Richmond, San Francisco, and Oakland's displays were all laid out before us. Now THERE is a way to welcome the summer!

New look...After!

New look


Even a movie fighter doesn't know when to quit

I heard the rumors, but I assumed they were a joke. I was wrong. Rocky Balboa is back. A few thoughts about this: - Is Stallone that desperate for the money? Surely he made some nice money from his past movies, as well as Planet Hollywood? - He was on track to really change his career with non-traditional roles. In recent years, the Spy Kids movie, not to mention Cop Land . Keep at it, Sly: all you need to do is get into a movie where you are not the lead or the star, but a member of an excellent ensemble. Hell, what about the finale of the Sopranos? - Why, why, WHY would a movie studio back this one? It's not a "reboot of a classic franchise" movie; it's not a "new take on an old story" movie. IT'S THE SAME DAMNED MOVIE. Sad. Just sad. Sly, come back: we love you. As I'm sure they say in the movie: Don't do this to yourself.

Trek: Rethought

Some people swear by Star Trek: The Original Series. Me, I'm more of a Next Generation guy, with a healthly like for the later Deep Space Nine episodes. Paramount was toying with the idea of "remastering" The Original Series, with new effects, and decided to do a proof of concept. Judge for yourself!

G3 iMac: worth it?

As I type this, my old Ruby iMac looks at me from the side, forlorn for the bad video card. I've resisted fixing it, as it will probably cost about $200, but I can't bear to part with it on eBay. What to do? This article makes me think that it might just be a good investment. My dream? This becomes the kitchen computer: streaming audio (with a USB Wifi adaptor), recipes, IM, email, even voice chat. Why not? What do you think? Comments? Votes? Tell you what: whatever you all decide by next week will be what I do. It's in your hands now!

July 4th: Embrace your American Responsibilities

As we approach this nation's birthday, I reflect on what it means to be an American right now. We are all ruled by a government that clearly has lied to us to achieve it's own goals. It's not the first time; it won't be the last. But, as the folks at point out, we are in a unique historical position: we can actually affect the outcome of the lie, while the actions that are being carried out in its name still transpire around us. Look, we all know we were misled into Iraq. We were content to allow it to happen, because Bush did a mildly ok job after 9/11, and Colin Powell, who we REALLY trusted, said this was all fact. We were, in short, lied to. What did we expect? Politicians do this for a living; why blame them? Blame us. I do not have any children. Nor do I have any children in Iraq. If I did, I would be protesting every day to get my child home. It's time for the lie to end. And yet, the Neocons keep talking, like last week's finding

Upcoming events/trips

What's next for us? Tomorrow, we head to McNear's Beach in San Rafael for a July 4 BBQ, hosted by Charles Hacskaylo, followed by fireworks at the County Fair, or a more sedate swim at Casa Mars, with an overlook of the distant fireworks on the Bay. Amy's headed to Boston at the end of the month; after having been in Las Vegas and Illinois last week, I'm headed to New York and possibly Boston at the end of this month. Probably New Hampshire, in August. Man, this is tiring. :-)

Heading back from Vegas

Well, after a few days in the desert sun, and the decadence of Las Vegas, we headed back across the Mojave to home. It's a wonderful long drive, especially on the evening of the summer solstice; we've driven twice through the desert on that day now. we love listening to audiobooks as we drive; this trip, it was Stephen King's Stationary Bike ; Stephen King's The Man in the Black Suit ; and Michael Crichton's State of Fear. We made it through all but the last half of State of Fear; we're listening to it in bits and pieces now. One of the fun parts of the ride back is a stop at Andersen's Pea Soup, on I-5. In the exact middle of nowhere rises a Dutch-Germanic country farm, with a massive truck stop and old fashioned food and service. Marked by the windmill, it offers a fun, civilized retreat from the road with good food, genuine staff and great service. Can't recommend the decaf coffee, despite their claims to fame; even out waitress suggested we head int

Vegas Hotel Reviews: Mirage

The Volcano. Before the Bellagio, it was the symbol of the "new" Las Vegas Strip. Live eruptions, every hour, complete with the searing heat, pounding drums, all in the middle of the desert. One of the best fire and water illusions ever. Obviously, the Mirage goes way beyond that. It was one of the first Luxury hotels that opened on the Strip, and damend if it doesn't still feel it. A good mix of tropical lushness inside, with a tinge of higher end, but never forgetting Vegas is all about the fun. Hotel: The massive aquarium behind the check in counter sets the tranquil mood,a nd the hotel is still one of the better ones. Not big on the theme, more about nice looking and good staff. Casino: Sprawls a bit, with that Vegas feel of getting you lost. Sometimes you are at a sports bar; other times, in what feels like the hotel lobby. Lots of $1 slots and active tables; REALLY lacking any blackjack slot machines. Pools: Supposedly, a good one, though I have not checked it out m

Vegas Hotel Reviews: Wynn

Looming out of the desert is the newest addition to the Strip, the bronze obelisk that is the Wynn. Built by Stephen Wynn, who is responsible for the Mirage, Bellagio, Treasure Island, and more, this was to be his crowning achievement: he sold all of his other hotels to MGM Grand, and plowed sumptuous funds into this representation of all he is. Before I go on, let me point out a few things. Wynn is the reason the Vegas Strip is what it is today. As much as Bugsy Siegel, the city of Las Vegas would not be the destination, and now living destination it is without his efforts. His work in the 80's to redefine Vegas as a vacation paradise, and the subsequent hotels that turned the strip to an atrtraction unto itself, are one of the many reasons people still love Vegas, while treating Atlantic City as a place to be forgotten. He has also suffered from a condition that has been progressively leaving him blind, never to see the crowning achievement of his work. Having established my resp

Vegas Hotel Reviews: Bellagio

This uber-luxury hotel redefined the Strip when it opened, and is still the King of Vegas. Completely over the top, the lobby alone is enough to blow you away: thousands of individual flowers, ranging from only a few inches to several feet wide...all made from hand-blown glass, and assembled in a 20 foot long, 10 feet wide sculpture, suspended upside-down over your head, as you wait to check in. You know this is a very different hotel. The Bellagio is all about luxury. The decor is impeccable. The music is constant, mingling with the slot machines. The garden area is bigger than most cities' museums. And, oh yes, there is one of those here, as well. Ocean's 11 was all about Bellagio, and they got almost all of the details right. Truly, to experience the new attempt of class in Las Vegas, mixed with it's complete "theme park for adults feel," Bellagio reigns supreme. Hotel: Reputedly, one of the best rooms in Las Vegas. Luxury, tasteful, elegant. Never stayed. Ca

Vegas Hotel Reviews: Paris

Across from the Bellagio, it started as a gawker's dream, but has turned into an actual place to be. The restaurants have evolved into truly high class, and the ambience outside of the casino is upscale, in spite of itself. The architecture is amazing, and, like New York New York, does an excellent job of incorporating the "highlights" of an idealized Paris. Hotel: No idea. Never stayed, but I'd be open to it. Very much an Atrium feel. Casino: One of the most architecturally integrated in all of Las Vegas. The casino takes the feel that New York New York did to a whole new level. Trees along a broad avenue cover rows of slots, etc. It's an "outside-in" feel, with the proud leg of the Eiffel Tower jutting right in the middle. Excellent. Pools: No idea. Dining: The "Ami du Gabi" (I'm sure I am misspelling it) is one of the dining places that the press can't stop fawning over. Reviews have been over the top, as well. Don't know abotu m

The Hard Cancel, Part II

A while ago, I posted the transcript of my chat with eFax, when trying to cancel my account. Today, I found out that my experience with the "hard cancel" was nothing. The New York Times had a great article about this practice, and the worst example of it, from a guy who tried to cancel his AOL account... and recorded the call. His site has been crushed by the traffic, but YouTube has this video of him speaking with Today's Matt Lauer about it, complete with the lowlights of the actual call. Worth remembering when you next have to deal with Customer Service.