Monday, September 28, 2009


Yesterday I picked up Renee's Xmas present, a new XBox 360 to replace the dead one, at Fry's. This one is a Jasper motherboard, so it should run cooler overall (the power supply is perhaps 70% the size of the original). Since this model has the smaller GPU too, I hope we won't experience another video failure.

I grabbed it now on the slim chance that the Microsoft rebate program which ends October 5th will actually be honored. Generally, I assume that the rebate is a scam, since that's been my experience in the past.

Anyway, we are giving the box a burn-in period during the return grace period from Fry's. Then it goes into a closet until Xmas!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Thumper

Just a quick note, since I'm at work. I am playing The Thumper, by Jimmy Heath, and I realized that I never recorded here when I got it. It's an eMusic acquisition, and is somewhat above average...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Verizon Sucks

I'm posting this from work because I can't post it from home. For the third morning in a row, I fired up the computer and no Internet access! If they follow the pattern, when I get home tonight, everything will be fine.

So what I'm observing is that when I get up at 6am, there is no Internet access, and no amount of rebooting or resetting of computers and/or routers makes any damned difference. Since I have maybe an hour on the mornings when I drive Renee to school, and I try to get in early on mornings when I don't, that eliminates the idea of calling tech support, which is usually at least an hour of frustration. Besides, what would be the point? There's nothing wrong on my end. The damn connection is back up all by itself in the evening.

I suppose it could be something weird like a temperature drop causing a cable short, which is corrected as the day warms up, but I'm reaaaaaally skeptical. Maybe, if I have no Internet on Saturday morning, I'll postpone my crowded day to deal with some drone forcing me to walk the same old tired diagnostic menu and try to find out what's really going on. But for now, I just want to go on record: Verizon Sucks!

P.S.-If there were REAL competition, I'd have a choice other than Comcast, whom I am assured by all my friends sucks even more.

P.P.S.-In the end, it was Jean who donated an hour out of her hectic day to walk the telephone tree, and then the drone's diagnostic menu ("have you tried turning it of and on again?"). The final verdict: "there seems to be a bit of a problem with our server. I've reset it". So still magic, still sucktastic.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Death of a Console

According to my notes, I bought my Xbox360 on August 31, 2006.

In the intervening 3+ years, I've used it quite a bit, but tapered off gradually until my weekly usage was easily under an hour. In the meantime, conversely, Renee's usage has grown, especially over summers, such that some weeks she logs high double-digit game time.

I warned her about the red ring of death, and how extended play could shorten the lifespan of the console. Of course, it's all free to her, so she was oblivious, and would frequently leave the box on for hours while gabbing on her cellphone, or chatting away on the Internet.

So anyway, the last week she's been playing Fable 2 and complaining that the screen would begin to take on a staticky green hue after playing for an hour. Then after playing for half an hour. Then upon startup. Tonight, no video signal at all. Yes, she killed my Xbox. I've browsed the forums, this is a well known problem, and unlike the red ring, is not covered by any extended warranty. And since I'm just outside of three years with this box, I don't think it matters.

Renee wants an Xbox360 for Christmas. I'm told that I'll be allowed to play it when she is not using it, which hardly seems fair since she broke mine, but then, I realize that it's not any different than how it's been for the last couple of years.

So, Tom, anyone else from my gang... Feel like beating on a warped motherboard?

Oh, and P.S. - I just checked my notes, and I bought my PS2 over eight years ago! Of course, Renee is now hammering on it since she doesn't have an Xbox360 to kick around any more, so it'll probably go in the next month, but still!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Farmer's Market

It was a somewhat busy weekend, at least for Jean. Saturday, she helped set up and run an outreach table for the Portland Clinic at the Beaverton Farmer's Market. Sunday she ran in a 5K fundraiser for breast cancer. Add these to the usual weekend routine and it was fun...

Anyway, I drove and helped carry gear for the Farmer's Market adventure, and brought both my cameras along, intending to take a few photos of the setup, since Jean and I usually don't get to the market until it is well underway. As you can see from the photo set, we weren't the first folks there, but we were early enough to catch some people pitching their tents.

As it turned out, I took enough pictures to fill the memory card in my D70 (that 512MB card seemed big five years ago), something that I've never done before. I then spent most of the free hours of the weekend tweaking them and uploading them to Flickr. I know they're not that sharp, and neither are they that insightful. But I had fun taking them, so I figured I'd share anyway.

Sunday we were at Costco, and I picked up two 4GB cards for $25. So now I have eight times the space on top of my old card. Maybe I'll fill 'em up if we get to Europe...

P.S. - The pictures from the two cameras are not nicely interleaved in the order I took them because I accidentally set the clock on my D70 to PM instead of AM!

Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat

I'd already been contemplating picking up some edition of Guys and Dolls after seeing a 'cute' rendition of "Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat" in the premiere of Glee, but it was Renee who pushed for me to grab one. Go figure.

Now she and I both have copies on our iPods, and while I won't speak for her, I'm enjoying it immensely.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I've tried in the past to read some of Feynman's autobiographical books, and gave it up each time as too annoying. I acknowledge that he was brilliant, but he knew it, and it showed, if you know what I mean. Annoying.

So today Kottke pointed to an interview with Murray Gell-Mann, wherein he answers a question about his relationship with Feynman:

Feynman was pretty good, although not as good as he thought he was. He was too self-absorbed and spent a huge amount of energy generating anecdotes about himself.

Spot on, as far as I can tell.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Our Man In Amsterdam

Our Man In Amsterdam is my latest eMusic pick. One of the albums from Dexter Gordon's self-imposed European exile, it's not considered definitive (see Our Man In Paris for that), it is nonetheless a fun little album.

Nasty Little Crittersesssss!

A few weeks back, Jean was taking a nap in the bedroom. It was a quite weekend afternoon, and she kept hearing what she thought was the gentle dropping of pine needles on the roof. But there's no tree on that side of the house (now of course, no tree on any side, boo hoo!). So she went outside and had a look, and saw a steady stream of wasps flying up to a hole under the eaves, disappearing inside. Occasionally one would pop out again and fly on it's merry way.

We had The Bug Man! come out, and he put on his space suit, crawled up into the attic with a garbage bag and some poison, and came out minutes later with the nest. We got ninety days of active poison. Anything flies in, it dies. But they would most likely not want to.

So I look outside at the back yard the other day (already outside of my habit zone ) and what do I see, but a stinking huge wasp nest in the tree just outside the bedroom window. Bastards couldn't use our attic, so they decided to set up shop right outside! Damn them nasty little crittersesss!

Oh Bug Man!!!!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Squeaky Wheels

I guess eMusic got worried about all the grousing people were doing over their price increases and clumsy 'album pricing'. They gave me an extra 50 credits for being a 'loyal customer'. So I used a bunch of them to grab these:

The Rachael Yamagata album contains Letter Read and Be Be Your Love, both of which I got when she gave them away free, so I decided to grab the album now that I could 'afford' to experiment. Most of the other songs are nice, but nothing to write home about. Still like her voice.

David Gilmour is an album I had in high school, just replacing it.

The Jimmy Heath album is just an experiment, based on browsing and seeing it labelled bebop. Seems pretty fun so far.

Recent Movies

In addition to finishing up Black Books (highly recommended), Jean and I recently watched Mr. Death, an Errol Morris documentary on Fred Leuchter, who made a living renovating and testing execution equipment, and stumbled pretty naively into the controversy of Holocaust denial. Jean was lukewarm on this movie, but I loved it. Fascinating character.

Today we finished watching Kitchen Stories, which I'd seen reviewed when it was in theatres and thought would be an interesting movie. Turns out it was damn good. Jean ranks it among the highest she's seen via Netflix.