Sunday, December 21, 2008

Parts of Me

I have a body, but I am not my body.
I know this because sometimes my body desires or does things I don't want.
How could we be one and the same, if there's conflict? Conflict requires two separate elements to oppose each other.

I have emotions/feelings, but I am not my emotions.
I know this because sometimes my feelings do things that hurt me, and are not in my best interest.
How could we be one and the same, if there's conflict? My mom used to say, "it takes two to tango".

I have a mind, but I am not my mind.
I know this because sometimes my mind is filled with thoughts that hurt me or distract me; that are not in my best interest.
My mind tells me how separate, how different, how much better I am from other people. But my heart says it's a lie.

My body, my emotions, my mind are my closest friends. We are inseparable. Since I can feel their pain and I can't get away from them, I guess I should do my best to keep them healthy and happy, but guide them to make the best choices and take the best actions.  Sometimes that includes NON-action; like not dwelling on a painful or self-defeating thought; not letting someone else's words hurt my feelings; not exercising beyond my capacity.

My body, emotions, and mind hate me when I abuse them. I can feel it. If I yell at myself silently and say "you're so stupid," my mind says, "I'll show you ... I'll actually act stupid... so there!"  I understand it; I'd probably do the same if I were in that situation. Nowadays, I try never to say those bad things that nobody can hear me say. What a relief.

My body, emotions, and mind think that they have limits, and remind me about them all the time.  It's my job to push those limits, and show them they're more powerful than they think. One time my right arm "couldn't reach that next handhold" when I was at the rock gym.  It said "don't even try, you can't do it."  I was exhausted, but I forced myself to try anyway. I was actually able to grab that handhold! Surprise!

My body, emotions, and mind really like me when I take care of them. I can feel it. They're more cooperative when I have something new & unknown I must do. I need all 3 of them working right to be completely successful in the things I do in my life.  If they trust me and do what I ask of them, together we can accomplish anything.  I have a bigger vision than they do of what we're trying to accomplish in my life. I'm the boss, and they're still learning. I'm lucky, because they enjoy learning, most of the time.

I've been thinking about this a lot recently.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Send Physical Greeting Cards from the Web, at Last!

It's such a pain to mail someone a real greeting card - we hardly ever do it anymore.
Yet, I have to say, I love getting a personal greeting card in the mail! Don't you?

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a web site you could enter people's names and addresses,
browse through funny cards from a huge list of pictures, and type a personal message?
Then, somebody else would print it with the words in your actual handwriting, stuff it, stamp it, and mail it for you?

Well guess what - they finally did it. There's a service you can sign up with to send real greeting cards in the postal mail, all from a web site! It's called SendOutCards, and it's a lot of fun.

If you want to be able to make people smile when they get your greeting card in the mail, I recommend this site:
When you sign up for a free trial, you can send up to 3 cards including postage for no cost.
Send a card to a loved one, then send one to yourself and see how cool it is to get one in the mail.

My family's sending all our holiday cards this way next month - between my wife and I, we have over 100 people to send cards to. Unbelievably, each card is cheaper than buying grocery store cards. So it's easier, quicker, and cheaper. What's not to like?

Once you log in, you have a contact manager that stores all the names and addresses of people you send cards to. I had to type in all my friends and family this time; I won't have to next year. I also entered the birthdays I knew of - the system will notify me about their birthday a week or so before, so I can send them a card on time. This is sweet, because its so easy to forget to send birthday cards when it comes around again. I won't look like a doofus for forgetting someone's birthday ever again.

Anyway, you should check it out. SendOutCards is also a multi-level business, so you can become a distributor and make money by recruiting other people to join up. If you do it right, you can make a good income from it. But you don't have to - you can sign up for a Retail or Wholesale account (wholesale gets better pricing on cards).

The holidays are coming up fast. Check it out.

Friday, October 17, 2008

To Cure Cancer, Find the Cause of Cancer, the Origin

There is a new theory going around that I think has some merit, about the cause of cancer (the illness). Sometimes if you know the cause of something in your own life, you can find ways to deal with it or even fix it.

The theory states that the root of cancer is a highly painful emotionally charged experience that happened to the person in the past. The painful event happened, and some time later the person is suddenly diagnosed with cancer. Not every time, mind you, but apparently sometimes. For example, in the news recently there was an article about a woman whose husband was in the army and died in Iraq (or was crippled; I didn't read it fully). Some time after that, she came down with cancer, and her whole family just felt so sorry for her. If this theory is true, then it's obvious to me what "experience" the woman went through that caused her cancer!

So let's see now. If an emotional trauma is the origin of the cancer, then what could possibly cure it, or at least alleviate it? Why Emotional Freedom Techniques, of course! This is an amazing area I have been playing around with myself recently. I cured my own 40-year-old food allergies (blogged about here), and have nearly cured my Asthma now - for the first time in my entire life, I don't have to take medicine for it every day. I haven't had to take a puff of Advair for about 3 months, and I can't even remember where my Albuterol inhaler is (I used to carry it around in my pocket everywhere, in case I had an attack). I discovered that food allergies and Asthma are both emotionally rooted, not physically rooted. This is why medical doctors haven't cured them yet.

I highly doubt they're going to develop a physical medicine that can cure an emotional problem any time soon!

But when I read that emotional freedom techniques like TAT ( and EFT ( can help with the emotional sides of Cancer, I thought, "oh yea, that makes sense, Cancer is such an emotional issue for the victim and their family, I can see how these exercises could relieve the emotional pain for everyone involved, while the person is treated and eventually dies." But then I read more about it. They're actually proposing that TAT and EFT could completely cure the Cancer!

Well, that bowled me over. I could hardly believe it. My wife has a friend who's bed-ridden and dying of cancer right now. Her children have been sent away to live with another family member (sister, I think?); she doesn't have much time left in this world. Had I known about this a year ago, we might have been able to help her.

I mean, think about it. How emotionally tormenting would it be to hear the news that you have cancer? Emotional shocks hurt your immune system, making the cancer even stronger. But TAT and EFT are two emotional exercise systems which might, possibly, cure Cancer?

I say, don't believe it until you see it. If you have cancer, isn't trying one-more-thing worth it? Aren't you willing to try anything to stop it? If someone close to you has cancer, wouldn't you want to recommend something that could save their life? Especially when there's no needles, no drugs, and no cost whatsoever? TAT and EFT are completely free. Go over to the web sites and download the instructions right now! I did, and I'm glad I did.

I'm currently using EFT to rid myself of some hangups I have related to calling customers on the phone and negotiating money deals. I run my own business and I am my own salesman, so it's important to get over ridiculous issues like that. EFT has improved my live tremendously, and my family has benefitted a lot from what I've done for myself with EFT.

I'm going to tell my various cancer-involved friends to try TAT or EFT. I mean, who wouldn't try it? And, if it works, let the doctors think they miraculously cured you. Maybe it will puzzle them, and inspire them to find a cure for Cancer.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Discounts on Popular Shopping Sites

To save even more money on sites like and, I found this coupon search site

There's a lot of other good info about personal finance, saving and making money at that site: 

Check it out.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Real Reason Flies are Hard to Swat

Just read this scientific article on why flies are hard to swat:

That's all nice and good, but they're on the wrong track. As scientists, they're analyzing the mechanics of flies and fly swatters to a microscopic degree, completely missing the basic truth about flies. The truth which, if they only realized it, would enable them to swat flies nearly every time, over and over again, with little difficulty. I know because after I figured this out I was immediately able to swat flies in my back yard without missing, at least 9 out of 10 times. And I can still do it today.

My Fly Swatting Story

About 2 summers ago we had a dog which would poop all over the back yard. Our 12 year old son had the responsibility for cleaning it up, but if mom and dad didn't keep on him about it, sometimes an entire week's worth would be out there - a field of landmines for anyone walking around the yard. What's worse, our big outdoor trash can needed to be washed out pretty badly; let's just say, that summer we had lots and lots of flies in the back yard, and it was my "duty" to swat them before visitors came over to our house.

I'd get out there with my trusty bent-up wire fly swatter, running back and forth across the porch in the heat, trying to catch those little suckers when they landed on anything. I was missing a lot, hitting maybe 1 fly for every 15 swings, and getting really frustrated. They'd taunt me, landing on my forehead or my swatter arm sometimes just to piss me off.

Then I did something funny; I went to swat a fly, I began the motion, but something happened and I didn't move my arm (I think my elbow locked or something, it happens sometimes). The swatter didn't go anywhere near the fly this time, yet - the fly immediately flew away!

I had to think about that for a while. What just happened? No part of me or the swatter went within 3 feet of the fly, yet he took off as if the swatter just landed next to him!

My Discovery

A few days later I figured it out. Flies can feel emotions that creatures around them emit, just like any other animal! Flies are just really small animals. They're tiny, so their reaction times and movement are quicker, but they still have all the basic traits of animals. Larger animals like dogs and cats can sense when you are happy, sad, angry - from many feet away - and react based on that. Flies are no different. And, if your life depended on fleeing from a huge creature that's about to kill you, wouldn't you use your senses to know when to fly away too?

The Test

During the next few days' worth of fly-swatting, I watched myself: sure enough, I could feel myself emit a pulse of emotion right at the moment of swinging the swatter at a fly. Now, it wouldn't happen if I "pretended to swing", or "tried to hit NEXT to the fly"... I couldn't psyche myself out. I had to really be trying to hit a fly, and I would feel this quick pulse of emotion coming from me right as I committed to the swing!

What if I could suppress that emotional pulse?

I practiced and practiced. Man, it was hard to control that pulse. I tried thinking of something else while swatting. I tried doing math in my head while swatting. I tried staring at the paint that needed touching up on the wall while swatting. The problem was, I wasn't looking at the fly, so I couldn't really see what I was doing. Was I was missing, was the fly still flying away before the swatter got there? Etc.

I realized I just had to make my arm be an automaton - a robot arm. My arm must move when I command it, and all other parts of me must stay calm, cool, collected. No thought. No feeling. Just 1 movement of 1 arm, and nothing else.

I practiced and practiced. Finally I was able to do it once only. With more practice I could do it about 1 out of 10 times - but every time I could feel myself doing it right, I would hit a fly!

It was tiring. It took a few days of trying, getting mad, jumping up and down on my fly swatter, and trying again the next day. Thankfully we had no end of flies at that time - I could easily swat 40 a day and still have another 40 flying around the next day. I practiced and practiced, and finally got good at it.

Now, I can do it almost every time, as long as I'm focused on "nothing" while swatting. The fly won't move, because it won't sense the danger.

Learn About You

This is one of those "I learned something about myself" experiences. I learned that a lot of things we do every day have a complex combination of elements to them that we don't see. Elements of our physical, emotional and mental selves, all mixed together. Some of the parts are lightning-fast; most of the time we don't even sense them.

Can you think certain thoughts without feeling the related emotion, without changing the features on your face? That's called a poker-face, in some circles. Can you feel an emotion without moving a muscle? Can you make a movement without requiring a burst of emotion or thought? These are good things to practice.

I learned that it's possible to move without letting my emotion give away my movement. I learned to swing my arm at a focused location without sending out a "ping" of emotion right beforehand. I had no idea it was even possible.

It's like juggling: it sounds easy until you try it; after trying it, you're convinced it's impossible; after lots of practice you can do it almost without thinking about it. Teaching myself to juggle helped me learn how to drop things on the floor without the related emotional self-abuse that was part of my family heritage growing up (but I'll save that story for another blog post).

Our Back Yard Today

We have a different dog now, and the kids are older, so their chores get done more reliably now, and I cleaned out that trash can. We don't have the fly problem anymore - I haven't seen more than 2 or 3 flies in the back yard all summer.

But hand me that swatter and back up a bit - I still can take 'em down if I need to!

Friday, August 01, 2008

I found some YouTube videos of a very wise man.
Here he speaks about what real freedom is (2 parts).
This is worth a look.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My videos - Creative Expression

One of these days I'm gonna have to improve my studio for video, and record some of the ideas I have for music videos.

I have some music I totally love playing again and again, I think I could do it justice with my own video. I set up my video camera tonite and recorded about 30 mins of video of me just goofing around to songs I like. It's fascinating to see what movements and expressions look totally cool, and what looks lame. What looks intense, and what looks poser. I want to train myself to express only the cool movements the way a dancer does. Then with a green-screen backdrop and proper lighting, I could achieve my goals.
And I do have some awesome ideas.

Songs I Think I Could Do Justice

Good Charlotte - I Just Want to Live

Linkin Park - In The End
Linkin Park - My December
Linkin Park - One Step Closer
Linkin Park - Somewhere I Belong
Alien Ant Farm - Movies
Alien Ant Farm - Attitude
Assemblage 23 - Complacent
Smashmouth - Satellite
Smashmouth - Then The Morning Comes
Smashmouth - Walking On The Sun
Stabbing Westward - Save Yourself
Stabbing Westward - So Far Away
SR71 - Fame
Garbage - Untouchable

My vocal range actually matches the lead singers of Smashmouth and Alien Ant Farm really well; I love singing songs by those guys in the car when I'm driving. However, my videos would NOT have my voice, hell no - I'm way more of a dancer than a singer. My videos would have the original song, as is, with my visuals on top of it.

Songs I Love but Could Never Sing

Sneakerpimps - Low Place Like Home
Sneakerpimps - Spin Spin Sugar
Sneakerpimps - Post-Modern Sleaze
Sneakerpimps - Roll On
Madonna - Human Nature
Madonna - Vogue
Veruca Salt - Volcano Girls
Kill Hannah - Crazy Angel
Sophie Ellis Bextor - Get Over You
Sophie Ellis Bextor - Lover
Telepopmusik - Breathe
Portishead - Glory Box
Switchblade Symphony - Dissolved Girl
Barenaked Ladies - Another Postcard
Garbage - Push It
Garbage - A Stroke Of Luck
Garbage - Fix Me Now
Garbage - Milk

Hopefully someday (soon) I'll be able to upgrade my studio to record awesome videos, and mix them the way I want to, and post them on qik or youtube. I've been wanting to do this for a long time.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

People Who Like Your Music, Near You

I stumbled over (a really awesome music discovery site ala and which, when I typed in the band name "Garbage", and after playing one of their songs, it decided to play for me Dissolved Girl by Massive Attack (Mezzanine album).

Boy I hadn't heard that song in such a long time - and it was totally the right song for me in that moment! I don't know what it is, but sometimes I just need to hear a song that fits something deep inside of me; Triphop music often does that for me these days. Now I want to buy the album (I used to have it a long time ago, I think I lost it somehow; I can't find my mp3's of it anywhere).

As extremely happy as that song made me, listening to it with chills down my spine, I can't help feel bad (yet again) that nobody I know appreciates the music I like! Look. I'm a male, in my 40's, married, with 2 teenagers. My wife doesn't like Triphop music at all. My kids are too young to really get it. Most of my guy friends only like metal or rock or alternative, "radio" music as I call it. Nobody appreciates strong-female-lyrics music like I do. Nobody enjoys No Doubt, Garbage, Kelly Ali, Sneakerpimps (Becoming X), Portishead, Olive, Kill Hannah, that sort of thing. I believe I've asked everyone I know.

And yet, I know there's people all over the Internet who deeply understand these songs the way I do. I just don't know who they are - I don't want to be emotionally relating to some 16-year-old; that would be creepy. And I can't physically meet the person if they're in a far-off place or too young.

What I'm trying to say is - how do I find the people who like the music I like, near me?

There are so many social networking systems today, but most of them try to eliminate the borders and distance as a limitation. I'm all for that - don't get me wrong. But sometimes it would be nice for a bunch of adults with a common musical interest to meet for a couple hours at someone's house (with a good stereo system!) to listen to music they like together.

Meet up with Common Music Friends

For example, let's say I like Triphop and Alternative. I should be able to find a dozen people within 25 miles of me who like Triphop; and a similar set of 25 (different) people who like Alternative. Maybe all of us Triphop-25-mile-radius people talk together some how, and decide to meet at "John's" house for a couple beers and some great music! While listening we can talk about the deeper aspects of the songs, performers, bands, era, movies that used the songs, etc. That would be really cool.

And, maybe set up a completely different meeting with the dozen-different-people who like Alternative music. Perhaps some of the same people would be at both groups; perhaps not. Perhaps 1 or 2 songs/bands the group plays are ones I don't particularly care for; most of the songs will be ones I like though, so I don't care.

Solution - Location Based Social Networks

A whole slew of new social networking systems are coming out that are location-based in one way or another. Without going too much into it, check out this article:

I'm going to give Britekite a try. I know a lot of these location-based social network sites have failed. I will know a good one when I see it. Hope I see it soon.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A New Toy

I just got a new toy to play with!

My friend Randy gave me a 1U rackmount PC - an older computer system he didn't want anymore. Except, it doesn't just have 1 PC in it... it has 2! Two completely separate motherboards, power supplies, memory, cpu, network/video/mouse/keyboard ports, everything.

Both machines are identical - AMD Athlon 1.2GHz with 1.5GB RAM (maxed out), with a small hard disk (1 each). He was running Win2000 on both of them. But I know the real potential of these boxes: Linux web servers! Windows has way too much overhead, especially with each next release that comes out. It makes you think you need faster and faster machines, older ones have to be discarded. But with Linux, you can install just the parts you need with nothing else; bloat cannot happen on Linux because of this. I can install just what it takes to have a web server and/or mail server and/or database server, then I can create virtual hosts, user accounts, remote-access, etc, all I want.

Randy says the box has overheating issues. I opened the box and checked it out, they only have 4 tiny 1.5" fans to move air thru the whole double-pc-system. The design causes the front mobo to overheat the rear mobo; I think I found a way to add 2 or 3 little 1.5" fans to fix it. And there's a couple other basic maintenance things to do on it (power cable breaking; needs bigger hd's)

People don't realize that a low-end home-pc for single-user use needs to be way beefier than a low-end web server with 2 dozen web sites on it. Drawing YouTube videos with audio is fairly large demand; opening 10 apps at the same time takes a lot of memory. Because of that, people's old discarded Windows PCs can actually be re-used as Linux-based web servers, if you know what you're doing.

The only downside is, once you have 5 or 6 of these low-end linux boxes running, you're drawing a lot of power (and generating a lot of heat) - more than if you just broke down and built a brand new server for $2000 that has the capacity of all of those systems combined, with far less power requirement and heat generation.

I love fixing up old computers and giving them a new purpose, allowing them to be useful again. It's fun.

Update on GOM player

In an earlier post I mentioned I was switching my PC music players from Winamp to GOM player. Well, GOM player is not far enough along in its development for me to use it on a daily basis.

I have 3 issues with GOM player today: a bug in mp3 decoding, and a bug in sound-driver-playing, and buffering.

Some of my music (actually, a large portion of it) plays fine in Winamp, but flickers badly in GOM player. What I mean is, a little chunk of audio is skipped (like 1/10th of a second's worth), so the song "speeds up" by 1/10th of a second, which sounds horrible to the ear; it messes up the beat of the music, especially if you're trying to sing to it or follow it in your mind while listening to it.

I know there's a ton of different mp3 encoders that can generate mp3 files in a wide variety of ways, including CBR versus VBR differences; Winamp just seems to handle them all perfectly, today.

There's some bug in how GOM player talks to my sound driver, in a way I've never seen before. Let's say I load up an m3u file (which is a list of many mp3 songs to play, in the order to play them). GOM player plays the first song. Then, it switches to the second song, and begins "playing" it - except no sound is coming out of my speakers! I can see the little thumb/bar moving horizontally, showing that the music is "playing" from GOM's point of view, but I can't hear a thing.

If I grab the little thumb and drag it ANYWHERE (including right to the spot it was just at), the sound immediately resumes playing through the speakers! So, I have to baby-sit every song - grabbing the thumb and dragging it back to the beginning OF EVERY SONG, to get that next song to play. Frustrating.

The last issue is that GOM player isn't buffering up enough decoded music ahead of the play-point. I know this because when I start launching apps and opening windows, even IE windows, the music cuts out for fractions of a second, then resumes. The music gets choppy like that, over and over, until the CPU is back to "idle", then the music plays continuously again. Winamp never did that. I assume it's a buffering issue; perhaps Winamp is multithreaded, with one thread doing playback, and another doing decoding; the decoder must run fast enough to be ahead of the playback by a wide margin, for times when CPU becomes scarce. Then the playback can read its data from the buffered-up audio, play it, and not hiccup.

Really intelligent software will even do internal "low-water-mark" measurements to see how well the buffer size is working; if it ever runs out of buffer entirely between decoding and playback, it tweaks an internal setting so it remembers to keep a larger buffer next time! That way it can prevent hiccups in the future by learning about how this particular machine works.

Yes, I'm running this on a machine with not quite enough memory (512MB Windows XP; it's the max this poor box can have). But if Winamp can do it, I would like to think GOM player can, with the proper programming.

So, I guess I don't have a good music player after all.

Yes I've tried VLC media player, which is awesome for movies, but has a sucky user interface in my opinion. You can't display a playlist of upcoming songs you've queued up, such as when you open a m3u file which VLC player does understand just fine.

I'm going to look around some more.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Future of Internet Video

Some interesting events have happened in the past few days and weeks that are making me think about the future.

Event #1: Senator John Culberson's Qik Videos

We have an actual senator who carries around his Nokia N85 and video tapes a lot of what he does today, twittering constantly throughout the day, updating anyone who is interested about bills, people, votes, etc.

Except "video tape" is the wrong phrase. Let me see, what's a better way to say it? How does "live streaming video that shows up instantly on your screen" sound? Yes, he's using the Qik service to do that (, as are a surprising number of other people (non senators), such as Scoble and others.

With Qik, you (the viewer) can type messages in a chat window which the Senator can see, such as questions for the individual he happens to be interviewing! You have a voice in politics, in a sense, directly inside the happenings and events of what's really going on there. I've seen senator Culberson on many occasions repeat a question someone typed on the chat window, to the person he's interviewing. How awesome is that?

Senator Culberson spends a good amount of time explaining his technology to all the politicos around him who had to hire interns to handle their own email. I seriously hope they don't squelch this type of communication. I have learned a lot from the few weeks of watching the senator's postings on Twitter, and watching his videos. I've learned that a lot of the conspiracy inclinations people have are wrong; there's a real explanation behind something that sounds like a conspiracy at first.

I am totally for this technology.

Event #2: Twit Live 24 Hour iPhone 3G Vigil

Leo Laporte, foremost podcast entrepreneur and videocaster just had a 24-hour long live video session, on the day of the iPhone 3G release from Apple. He interviewed a wide range of popular knowledgable computer people in the industry, as well as regular folks who just bought their iPhones in various parts of the world including Canada and Australia. He fielded phone calls from anyone who wanted to call in and talk. He took bathroom breaks. His daughter came in to hang out for a while, then left.

He learned all kinds of useful iPhone information, together with us, his viewers, such as how to take a screen-snapshot with the new edition of the software available for all iPhones (hold the main button in and press the top button; the screen will flash; now go look in your pictures for the snapshot).

Watching his show was mesmerising. I had work to do but I couldn't stop. I left it running in a window while I worked on Friday, I probably watched about 3 hours of it in various doses at a time throughout the day; listening to it when I couldn't see it (as my active windows covered his video cast).

I worked on an emergency project until 11PM then watched some more. Sometime around midnight I had to go to bed; I forgot and left it running all nite.

What the Future will be like

I am imagining a cool future where everyone has their own 24 hour video display of themselves and all the cool things they're seeing. They're sharing it with all their friends, anywhere in the world, all of the time.

Yes you can turn it off or walk away from it when you want to; but don't you want to share awesome things you see or hear or discover with your friends? Especially if you go to the zoo, the park, a new city, on vacation, etc.

Cameras are really small and light now, and getting cheaper and better practically every month. I imagine we'll have some way of automatically holding a camera that can show our face, and another one pointing in the direction of what we're actually seeing. It seems stupid to have something strapped to your head; I think it can be done without going that far. Perhaps some technology like that used in the Matrix 3 movie, virtual-camera technology, which can reproduce a view in a place where no camera can possibly be (such as right in front of your face pointing directly at you). If it can be done in 2003 for millions of dollars, then of course it will be doable in the year 2012 for $19.95!

Perhaps we'll have a standard for "3 camera view" (1 pointed at us, 1 at what we're seeing, 1 directly behind us). By having all video viewers displaying these 3 images in a standard location and size in relation to each other all the time, it will become natural to comprehend the person's surroundings and view in your mind, by simply watching their video. It's like looking in a rear-view mirror in a car: it didn't make sense when you first learned to drive, but now you can tell where vehicles are all around you, you naturally know, when you drive down the road today. Your body adapted to the little rectangle of different-picture that is your rear-view mirror, and your mind converts it to the knowledge of cars slowly passing on the left, falling behind you on the right, coming up quickly behind you because you're in the fast lane not going fast enough, etc.

All these tiny video cameras need a computer of some sort to manage everything, and broadcast the composite video stream to the Internet, live. Perhaps in the future computers will be woven into the fabric of our clothes - how light weight and easy will that be to carry around with us. Perhaps ultralight solar cells, also in the fabric, will be the power source to these ultra-low-power devices.

Your computer will have a video-viewer application with live video streaming of everyone in your family, your friends, anyone who "friended" you. Your retired parents and college professors can see what your up to (ok, well, perhaps there should be some limits).

Crime Drops to Zero

Imagine what will happen if most people in society have this kind of equipment. This is more powerful than any handgun! Nobody can take advantage of you, lie to you, cheat you and deny it later; you have it all on video, and your close friends all witnessed it. It was recorded someplace for posterity, and can be replayed in a court of law at any time. "Do you remember the face of the man who robbed you?" No, I was scared; but I have it on video right here. "But the thief stole your video equipment!" "yes, but it was streaming live to the Internet; all my friends had a copy 10 milliseconds after it happened." Regarding the disappearance of that person last week; let's go back and watch the past 48 hours of video they recorded to see where they were last. Nice.

I think about these things a lot, and I am excited to see actual accomplishments being taken in our world that match what I know we'll have in the future.

All that having been said... I be jonezin for a Nokia N95 and an iPhone 3G, I need both. :)

Winamp Sucks Now

My favorite music player for Windows, Winamp, sucks now. AOL has completely ruined it.

What Happened?

Ever since AOL bought Winamp, they've been slowly ruining it. They redesigned the layout to be totally cluttered - they decided where everything should go, and it's all welded in place in 1 big window. I don't want that. I want separate windowlets that I can resize and drag around in the position I want, let them snap in place. The way Winamp used to be.

Winamp is totally bloated now. On my low-memory workstation that I use for day-to-day things like music, news and twitter, Winamp now takes more than 30 seconds to launch. Oh, the window draws in about 5 seconds; but it's completely locked up for god-knows-why, for the remaining 25 or more seconds! It's ridiculous.

I double-clicked the title bar while playing a video, and BAM! It made the window so huge, it was literally 6 inches below the bottom and right sides of the screen! Nobody caught this bug? Double-clicking again did not reverse it: it minimized the screen to just a title-bar at the top of the screen, same width as before (6 inches off right side of screen). This is stupid. It took me 10 minutes to figure out there's no menu choice to fix the damage, I had to re-size from the upper-right corner of the window (after dragging it to the left a long way), to a smaller size, then drag the window back up and onto the screen again.

The behavior of the new features of Winamp don't feel like the old features - which leads me to believe the programming team has been replaced, and new people are working on it now. Code strangers. These newbies probably don't fully understand the code base or the reasons why things were done the way they were done in the past. They don't see the vision; they don't feel the same needs; they aren't working towards the same goals. This is purely conjecture on my part, of course, but having been a software developer since age 13, I know how to read between the lines. I think I'm right about this.

It's Time For Something New

So now I am going to switch music players. I've heard GOM player is a good one, I just installed it a couple days ago. Though it's focus is video, it can play MP3's just fine. I dragged and dropped an "m3u" file into GOM and it loaded all the songs perfectly - that's good. I don't think it can do ripping, though, so I'll have to find another good quick-loading ripper. GOM player is fairly new, it hasn't had time to get bloated and over-feature-laden. Everything it has works right, and it has new features that other players like VLC player don't have (like predictive file loading).

Music is really important to me. Music I like really energizes and uplifts me, I can work harder and longer and have way more fun doing so. Music I don't like really hurts me.

Music As Medicine

Music is a medicine for me - if I'm stressing out about certain things, I have specific music that heals my emotions related to that pain. Difficulty with my aging dad, feeling insecure and small after visiting him? Linkin Park heals that quite well!

When I was single, problems with dating and women would be fixed somewhat by strong, sexy female vocalists - Garbage (Shirley Manson) is my all-time favorite; good trip-hop like Sneakerpimps (the early years with Kelly Ali); Morcheeba; No Doubt; Pink; Madonna.

Good Programming Music?

Programming and music is an interesting topic. There's 2 completely different things that programmers do - designing and coding. For designing, your brain is fervently trying to create a new design: how data shuld be stored, how it should interact, how a screen should look, how to simplify what you already have. This is difficult work. For design work like this, I work best in absolute silence. Leave me alone; no phones, no music, no people; I don't exist, only the problems to be solved exist, and I'm completely focused on that and lose track of time.

Coding is completely different. Coding is the equivalent of "automatic pilot" for me. I know the plan in front of me of what needs to be done, since it's already designed. I just need to implement the design. Make it happen in program code, the way I want it to. It's easy, in a sense, after 20+ years I have it down to a science. I'm only limited by how fast I can type, and I can type extremely fast. For coding, I totally thrive with music. But it has to be energy music - Greenday, Alien Ant Farm, techno (Crystal Method, U2's Pop album, Run Lola Run soundtrack), Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sum 41, Assemblage 23, Psykosonik, Hednoize.

Music Has a Powerful Effect

Music has a powerful effect on my emotions, as well as my mind.

Programming does not involve the emotions at all - too much programming is very unbalanced, I've figured that out, because my poor emotions needs a life too. Family, wife/girlfriend, cats, dogs ... these all help a person's emotional self. Going out in nature and seeing beauty helps. Going to a play or opera, one that you connect with and uplifts you, can really help. Getting out and talking to a close friend can really help.

I know that as a human being I have 3 parts: my physical body (it needs exercise and good food and water); my emotions (needs love, connection with other people); and my mind (needs to solve problems and figure things out, think positive thoughts). And that's not including my spirit or soul, which also needs to be fed (helping others, planning my future success in life, love of God or nature, praying or meditating, making a connection with something higher inside of me).


I love how PCs can hold pretty much every song on every album in my music collection. That means my laptop can carry all my "medicine" wherever I go.

I guess everything in life has its beginnings and endings.
Farewell, my old Winamp, I'm going to miss you.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

No More Bruises with Stop Bruise

I found a cool new product called No Bruise:

The idea is, if you just bashed a part of your body (whacked your elbow on the door,
banged your shin on the coffee table, stubbed your toe, etc), and you're sure
it's gonna bruise, you can prevent it by wiping this product on the damaged area
as soon as possible. If you get to it fast enough, you won't get a bruise,
and it won't hurt nearly as much as it would otherwise.

Sounds crazy - but it really worked for me.

This thing comes as a box containing a bunch of little medicated pads in thin foil envelopes. Sort of like those towelette packets at the fried-chicken place, only sturdier;
and they smell way different.

It's some kind of all-natural remedy. The box says it can "reduce and prevent potential
swelling and discoloration of the skin." I found this to be true; I whacked my wrist
on a door knob really hard a couple days ago, and automatically grabbed it with
my other hand. I could feel a bump forming. As a software developer,
my hands are fairly important to me for typing.

Then I remembered I had just gotten a box of this No Bruise stuff about
2 weeks before, on a friend's recommendation.

I immediately ran and got the box from the cabinet, opened 1 envelope and
wiped the pad on the damaged area. It actually felt better right away, but I wanted
to see what would happen later. I'm sure I hit it hard enough to cause a bruise.

Sure enough, the next day it was still a little bump; no new swelling, and no
discoloration whatsoever! It still hurt a little when I touched it, but not nearly
as much as it did the day before. I could fully use my hand when typing that day.

Anyway, try it for yourself and see. The thing is, you gotta have
some of this on hand right when you hurt yourself for it to work.
If the bruise has already formed, it's too late.

I haven't seen this product in any stores yet; if they're smart, they'll sell it
at grocery stores, sporting good stores, and Walmart.

I think No Bruise is going to be popular; anything that can stop bruises completely
should be made available to everyone - sports enthusiasts, especially.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Bank of America - Unending Problems

Bank of America - Unending Problems

I don't like to write negative stuff and bring my readers down, but sometimes when my outrage is too high, I have to get it off my chest. I believe this post is in the public interest, so I decided to publish it. It's about my experiences with the worst bank I have ever used, Bank of America.

Many years ago I opened my very first business banking account for the very first small-business I ever held. I chose to use Bank of America, at the time they had a nice deal for small business accounts (I forget the details). I was happy to open a personal savings, personal checking, and business checking account with them.

I mean, a bank is a bank, right? They assign you an account number, which you use to identify your account with their bank. You can deposit money in and withdraw money out of your account, with that number.

You get a bunch of printed checks - you can fill one out, sign it, and hand it to someone as payment; when they take it to any bank, they can transfer the money from your account to theirs. You also get a debit-card, with which you can perform credit-card transactions to pay people, or debit-transactions to withdraw money. All banks and credit-unions are the same in this respect.

Every month, the bank mails you a statement of all activity that went on with your account. This helps you balance your checkbook, keep track of deposits and withdrawls, and verify there's no fraud going on - every withdrawl listed is something you expected.

All fine and dandy. Until the month after I moved.

Then the Problems Began

I moved, so I had a new street address. I went to the bank and gave my new address to the overly cheerful BofA teller. She joyfully typed it into the computer. But at the end of the month, I didn't get my statement in the mail.

This is weird, especially considering I forwarded my mail at the post office from the old address to the new one, and I had already been receiving some mail that had been redirected from the old address to my new place.

When I went to the bank to ask about it, a different (but equally ecstaticly overjoyed) teller said it had been mailed, she didn't know why I didn't get it in the mail. "Would you like a copy of the statement right now?" she smilingly asked. I said Yes. "Should I deduct the $8.00 fee from your account?" WHAT? $8 to print a 1-page statement for my tiny business that's not profitable yet? Yep, for business banking that is the cost (price accurate as of the time this occurred, probably 12 years ago). OK, whatever, I paid it because I just wanted my statement.

I had her re-enter my new address, which she was completely happy to do.

Next month - no statement.

Each time I'd ask at the bank, I got lots of excuses about time-delays updating the database, and assurances that it was fixed now.

Each month my statement didn't come.

Each month I went to the bank in person, and spent $8 to get my statement printed out.

I checked with the post office again, nothing wrong at their end.

This went on for about 4 months. I made phone calls to various departments at the bank, all to no avail. Everybody either told me "it looks like the right address is already in the computer," or "it will take 30-60 days for the change to take affect."

Now, I am a programmer and database designer by trade. You can't tell me it will take 30 days for data to be updated in a database. What the hell kind of database takes that long?!?

Oh sure, maybe there are multiple databases tied together, far, far apart. Using standard networking technologies today, why would that take more than 30 seconds to copy data between servers located around the world? From what I understand, banks don't use the Internet to transfer data internally, they use direct-connect lines that are even faster than the Internet.

Let's look at it another way. When I opened my account, I gave them my address only once. It went into the first database just fine. It was distributed to all the other databases that needed it in less than 30 days. I know this because I received my very first statement in the mail within 30 days of opening the account! So why should it take more than 30 days to re-distribute my new address to the same servers using the same distribution method? How can that be?!?

I wasn't receiving the statements, which means it was not being sent to either the old or new address, from what I can tell. How is that? If postal mail is stamped "do not forward," which many banks do, that's their feedback-loop to know when the address they have for a customer is no longer the best one. This way they can obtain the new address. Maybe BofA uses that technique; I don't know. If they do, they should have received the bounced statement, corrected their database, and re-sent the statement to the new address. That would result in a delay, from my viewpoint, but I would eventually have received it.

Let's suppose they do it wrong, and correcting the database does not result in re-sending the statement. I would have "lost" the first statement, then received the very next month's statement at my new address. I would then have only missed 1 statement, not 4 in a row.

Shouldn't a bank have the best technology available, to provide the best service to their customers? Don't banks value the accuracy of data, don't they want to keep it current? Don't banks MAKE MONEY based on accurate data, being a financial business and all? Can't they spend a little of that money upgrading their computers to perform properly for however many accounts they have in however many states they exist in, in the United States? If my home Linux-server-and-database, which costs less than $1000 to build, can exchange data quickly with other systems in under 1 minute, why can't a big bank mainframe do it?

That Was the End of That

After about 4 months of paying $8 for a replacement statement, I couldn't take it any longer. I went into BofA and closed all my accounts there. I moved everything to a new upstart bank named Compass Bank which promised Free Checking, even for business accounts. That was new and amazing at the time; since then most banks have adopted this policy, but Compass started it all. I do not work for Compass, I'm just a happy customer of theirs. And I'm sure there's other banks equally good out there today.

Fast Forward To Today

Why am I writing about painful old banking memories right now? Because the were all stirred up by my visit to BofA today.

I didn't want to visit BofA today, but I had to. I needed to send some money to someone I know who has an account there. The fastest way to transfer money between banks is NOT electronic (strangely enough). It's faster to drive to bank #1 and withdraw cash, then drive to bank #2 and deposit the cash. I won't write any more about how completely stupid this is in the year 2008 - that I have to physically visit both banks to perform a high-speed money transfer - I'll save that for another day.

So, after withdrawing some money from the first bank, I drive over to BofA and walk straight over to the little writing table with deposit slips on it. There isn't just 1 kind of deposit slip, oh no. There's 2 kinds: one for local deposits, and one for out of state deposits. What? I have to know what state they're in? I have their account number and the routing number, that should be all I need.

I start filling in the out-of-state deposit slip, because I know the person lives in Texas.
There's little boxes for nearly every state in the USA - separate box for each state - I'm supposed to mark what state they're in. This section literally uses up the upper 1/4 of the form.

I fill in the account number, person's name and the date, but don't get any further.

The teller lady at the front isn't helping anyone at the moment so she calls me over, which ordinarily would be annoying (if I knew what I was doing, I'd want to be left alone until I finished writing my deposit slip). So I went over to her counter and gave her the money to deposit, and the deposit slip, as she's smiling a big smile at me.

"What state was the account created in?" she asks me cheerfully after glancing at the form.

"I have no idea what state the account was created in. It's not my account. I'm trying to deposit money in someone else's account. The person lives in Texas," I reply.

She types on the computer and puts a mark in the "Georgia" box on the form (which I would never have guessed), and says, "what's the birthday of the person on the account?" What? What's their birthday? How am I supposed to know that?

I tell her, "I don't know, July something. I shouldn't have to know their birthday to put money in their account."

I imagine she was asking that for verification reasons, to make sure I didn't give her the wrong account number. It's easy to mis-read or mis-write numbers - we don't want the money going in the wrong account! But isn't the full name of the person enough verification? I wrote their full name on the deposit slip. This person's name is so unique, there surely is nobody else in the entire USA with the same name; nor, possibly, in the world.

I say to her, "I have the routing number and the account number. That should be enough to uniquely identify the right account." She says, "we're not doing a wire transfer, so I don't need the routing number." I say, "OK, so the account number is all you need to deposit this money."

"That and the state they created the account in," she adds. "See here, at the top of the deposit slip, you can check the box of which state the account was created in... unless your friend doesn't want you to know that," and she puts away the deposit slip.

At this point, just as she's handing me my deposit receipt, I can't take it any longer.

"Look," I say, "you just told me the account number is all you need." "Yes," she says, "we can look up the state for you from the account number." I say, "no other bank I've ever used has ever asked me what state the account is created in, nor should they ever have to. They never ask me the birthday of the person holding the account. The account number has all the info you need. Please tell your management to stop asking people what state the account was created in, because you don't need to ask that question. Do not make your customers do more work than they have to. If you can look it up, then you should always look it up, and stop asking. Please tell your manager to print new deposit slips that don't have little boxes for every state in the union on the top; it's completely unnecessary and confusing and frustrating for your customers."

"OK, thanks," she said, with a worried look on her face, at which time I turned and walked out.

I've been around long enough to know how businesses work. She'll probably gossip to her coworkers about that weird customer, to relieve the pain she felt from our conversation. I never intend to cause pain for anyone, in my life; but sometimes its unavoidable. There's probably a 10% chance she'll actually mention my suggestions to her boss. There's absolutely no chance that her boss will do anything about it, or if s/he does, there's no chance their higher-ups will actually listen and respond. I know this bank will never change their deposit slips, at least, not as a result of my efforts today. Only if a VP high up the chain makes it a new policy corporate-wide, will the deposit slips change.

My Conclusion

BofA has serious issues (many of them) which cause their customers lots of pain and agony. Their policy of how they deal with this has always been "be more friendly and smiley," rather than actually fixing the problems. This makes me doubly-angry when I detect it. And I always sense it with this bank. Why fix the problems when you can just sweet-talk your customers more? After all, PR is more important than quality, right? At least, in my experience, this has been BofA's underlying policy for the past 15 years, at all branches I have ever visited in Arizona - and it really pisses me off.

Do you use Bank of America? You're welcome to, if you want. I'm sure many people have had acceptable experiences with it, or the bank wouldn't exist today.

But I'm sticking to my promise: I will never hold any BofA account again for as long as I live. They don't deserve my money ever again.

OK, I feel better now.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Strange Car Tire Day

Tuesday was a very strange day. I dropped one of our cars off at the shop for new tires. Originally they thought it would take 20 minutes, so I planned on waiting for it, but by the time I got there at 2PM they estimated a 2 hour wait, so I walked home. It's about 2 miles, which isn't too bad.

On my way home I reached the major street intersection between the car shop and my house, and noticed thousands of nails in the road, this weird kind with a blue plastic ring on each one, causing most of them to stand with the point facing straight up! It was a nightmare of tire-popping evilness covering perhaps a 30 square foot diameter from the empty cardboard box that must have fallen out of the back of some contractor's pickup truck. This mess covered about a lane and a half of this 3-lane-each-way road.

As the only pedestrian in sight, I felt a special duty to help pick these things up. I would NEVER want to drive my car over such as mess; how could your tires not pick up at least 3 or 4 of those? How long had this been here, with people driving over it? (It looked fairly recent to me).

There was no way I could pick all these up in my hands and throw them to the side of the road; it would take an hour or more. Looking around quickly I spotted one of those home-made signs on a wooden stake, "make money fast, with realestate!" or something. These signs are everywhere, and technically they're illegal, but nobody ever does anything about it.

I grabbed the sign and yanked it out of the ground - looks like a good shovel to me!

So I started shovelling mounds of these nails as fast as I could, in between sets of traffic trying to drive by; waving oncoming traffic in my lane over to the next lane, so they wouldn't run over them any longer.

It took about 3 light-changes to get the vast majority of the nails scooped onto the side of the road. Of course, some of the nails (pointing down) had been driven into the asphalt, and wouldn't shovel very well. I kept scooping at them with my makeshift shovel, but a few just wouldn't budge.

I kept hoping a police car would stop and help out, they're usually good for things like this, but none ever came by. From the 110 degree heat, I was feeling weak and a little sun-stroked (this happens quickly in Phoenix AZ), so I figured what I had done was good enough; there couldn't be more than 5 or 6 of these damn little things in the street anymore. I stumbled through the intersection over to the nearby Bashas to get a bottle of water and an iced coffee.

After that I walked home.

Now it's 4PM. I call the car shop, but since one of their employees just quit earlier that day, they're a little back-logged, our car had just gone up on the rack for the tire change. "Should be done in 20 minutes," the guy assured me, which I knew meant 45 minutes. You know how that works.

But I had a problem - I needed to be somewhere at 4:30, and it will take 10 mins to get there, and my wife and I only had 1 car left at home. She agreed to be dropped off at the shop and wait for our other car to be finished. So I dropped her off, and went to my appointment. Everything worked out - or so it seemed.

The next morning I go out to the garage for something, and notice one of the front tires of our brand-new-tire-car seemed a bit low. "That's odd, maybe they didn't seat the tire properly," I thought. I had instructed them to put the 2 new tires on the front of the car.

Then I looked at the top of the low tire, and what did I see --

There was a nail plunged cleanly straight into the tire; the blue plastic ring was flush with the outside tread.

Yes, my wife had driven back the same way I had walked, through the "evil nails intersection", and somehow picked up one of those nails, even though I had scooped every one I could out of the way, two and a half hours earlier!

What are the odds of that?

The only good news is, they guys at the shop screwed up and put the new tires on the back of the car, not the front. The nail had punctured one of our old tires. That was a relief to hear, that we didn't puncture a brand new tire 2 hours after purchasing it; the bad news of course, it cost a little money to get the puncture fixed on a non-warranty tire.

So, I guess you could say I picked up 1000 nails out of the road, that day; but my wife - she picked up the last one.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Best Mailing List Manager

I've been using an email Autoresponder for some time now, which is the most awesome mailing list management system I've ever seen. It has all the features I've always wanted and more. It's web-based and very easy to use.

It's the Aweber Autoresponder System. Once you subscribe, you can set up as many different mailing lists (autoresponders) as you want. My favorite feature is the ability to schedule emails to go out at aspecific time and day in the future! I can "queue up" a bunch of messages and have them sent one-per-week if I want. I can log in at any time and edit the ones that haven't gone out yet, see when my "queue" is going to run out, and schedule new ones.
I put a link on my web site to encourage people to join the list - and I can send a link in email, to people I know who would enjoy the lists.

You can compose messages in graphical-format or text-format on the web site, or you can do what I do - compose them with your own system (a macro-to-HTML language I invented, in my case), and then cut-n-paste the HTML right into the message window. I put both HTML and text in my messages, for people with older mail-readers - in case they can't receive rich media messages (or choose not to).

Anyway, it's a great system - if you've ever considered maintaining a mailing list of highly-qualified individuals for your business, you should check out Aweber.

You don't have to commit right away - sign up for their free demo first:

AWeber Demo
Read More about Unlimited Autoresponders

Sunday, March 23, 2008

My son found a really fun game that's free on the Internet - Disney's Pirates Online ( It follows roughly the story line of Pirates of the Carribbean, the movie trilogy. My family's been playing it for 3 days now, it's so much fun.

You can create an account for free, and play the story line, up to a certain point.
You have to download and install an application, which talks over the Internet to the game. The installation takes a while, but downloading all the basic data for the islands and seas and characters takes a REALLY LONG time, the first time you start playing. I'd say from beginning install to actually being able to run around in the game for the first time, it probably took 20 minutes or more.

You start out a beginner pirate, and have to perform various tasks for various people around the town you start in, and are awarded various things including a pistol. You learn how to sail a ship (you start with a sloop), and can fight the Navy ships on the high seas.

There are many things that makes this game so much fun. First, you are free to wander anywhere in the world, or over the seas, to various islands like Tortuga, Port Royal, and many others. Other players cannot directly hurt you, so there's none of the "kill the noob" attitude in this game. If you die, you end up "in jail", and have to kick your way out. You don't lose the stuff you're carrying when you die, and there's no limit to how many times you can die.

Second, this is a MMORPG - you can see many other real players running around doing things too. You can become "friends" with them, and if they accept, then you can:
* whisper to them (private chat)
* teleport to them, anywhere in the world
* join their "crew" - sail on their ship with them.

When you're sailing in a ship, there are different roles that you can play. On the basic sloop, you can steer the ship, or man the left or right cannons. (If you're all alone, you'll want to sail the ship - you can still fire broadside cannons left and right). But the best thing is when you have 2 other "crewmates" on your ship - you can steer, and they can fire the extra cannons left and right, to terrorize the Navy sea ships!

Not only can you blast away at the enemy, you can even board them (by firing grappling hooks at them once you've weakened their ship to a certain point), and battle on board their ship with swords - if you defeat them, you swing on ropes back to your own ship, and theirs sinks. You get lots of booty from their ship that way.

The more you practice with sword, gun, and cannon, the better your skill level becomes, over time. You do more damage, and can focus your skill building on whichever skills you want, within that type. There are combination attacks, which you can become good at with practice.

All the ships and people in the game have their names printed above their heads, and colors are used to indicate extra information. Enemy NPCs have their skill level displayed overhead too, so you can avoid ones that would completely kick your butt if you attacked them. Enemy ships show what kind of ship they are, and their origin (Navy, East India Trading Co, or other players). The font size is smaller the further away they are - Disney did a really good job with how this all works.

There are enough people playing this game that there are many servers now - after logging in, you should choose the same server as your friends, so you can see them in the game. A server is simply a computer that's up 24 hours a day, on a high-speed Internet connection. One server computer, and the Internet connection it's on, can only handle so many players at one time. Besides, your computer has limits, too, of how many players you can practically track and display on the screen; more than a certain number and it will start lagging really bad.

Which brings me to some of the downsides if this exciting game. Lag, being the biggest one. If you're using wireless, make sure you have a strong connection, and that the connection is not broken from time to time - that completely kicks you out of the game, which is frustrating, especially if you're in the middle of a battle on the high-seas with your crew - you person disappears, and they have to make due without you until you can get back online!

There are a number of bugs in this fairly new game, however all the bugs I've seen are fairly harmless. There are some out of control flames, that appear randomly in different spots on one of the islands. Sometimes you see them burning in the middle of the sandy beach, or partly out in the ocean. Other times they're in the center of a building, on a table in the pub, etc.! Luckily the flames don't harm you or anything, they're just there looking strangely out of place.

Another bug is really an interaction between Windows and the game controls. One of the most important controls is SPACEBAR, which is how you open doors, search crates, dig in the ground, kick the bars of your jail cell, etc. If you ever press SPACEBAR 5 times in a row, Windows thinks you're trying to invoke Handicapped Mode, and temporarily suspends your full-screen game to tell you that you've just turned on this special mode! You have to click "cancel" to go back to the game.

Once in a while the executable application of the game will crash, and kick you back out to Windows, completely exiting the game. This rarely happens on my laptop, but always seems to happen on my wife's machine about every 15 mins or so. We're both running WinXP.

But overall, the game is totally worth playing. It really sucks you in, and when you start hitting the limits of the storyline for free players, it makes you want to pay for the full version of the game. You cannot upgrade to better ships until you pay for the game. You also can't have certain special weapons (and even voodoo), until you pay for the game. With a sloop you can only have 3 people on board - my family has 4 members, and this causes us to want to upgrade, just so we can get a better ship that can fit all 4 of us on the high seas. We'll probably subscribe 1 or 2 of us pretty soon.

The music and sound effects really set the mood, too, and aren't at all irritating with repetition like many other games I won't mention.

If you enjoyed any of the Pirates of the Carribbean movies at all, for any reason, I highly recommend downloading and playing this game. My whole family is playing it this weekend. It's a blast.

Friday, March 21, 2008

My father-in-law's Hyundai Elantra's headlights were pointing down too low, and he asked me to adjust them when he was visiting our house last night.

My father-in-law came to visit us last night. He mentioned his Hyundai Elantra's headlights were pointing down too low, and he asked if I could adjust them for him. So I got the manual out of his glove compartment and found the section on headlight adjusting.

The instructions say to look for a hole in the top of the radiator-area near each light, you can supposedly put a phillips screwdriver in there and twist to adjust the vertical alignment of the headlight. I tried it, but it wouldn't work. So I shined a flashlight down in the hole, and I could see what they were doing.

There's a little gear-like thing that's supposed to mesh with the phillips screwdriver prongs, so that when you twist, it rolls the gear, which adjusts the headlight. Well, it doesn't work. I tried a variety of bigger and smaller phillips screwdrivers, no luck. I even tried a very thin standard screwdriver, trying to "flick the teeth" of the gear down in there, that didn't work either.

I have adjusted headlights in other cars before, and the way you usually do it is go in behind the headlight (as if you're going to change the bulb), and look for some kind of thing to twist as an adjustment. So I looked down in back of where I had been trying to adjust the headlights, and there it was! The normal headlight adjustment!

It's recessed somewhat, so you have to use a thin-standard screwdriver on it. You can completely bypass that whole weird gear-thingy, and directly adjust the thing which raises and lowers the angle of the headlight.

The one on the right-side is harder to access because the battery's over there, and there's a plastic cover covering the whole area. The little plastic connectors holding that cover in place simply pop off, when you pull up on the cover, so you can re-attach them again when you're finished. (It feels like a cheap design, one of the plastic connectors broke off when I did this, so be careful).

The rest of the instructions were somewhat accurate, about trying to adjust the height of the projected light to the same height as the lights are physically installed on the car itself. I could not understand their instructions for horizontal alignment, but it already looked good to me, so I left that alone.

2007 Hyundai Elantra

Friday, February 08, 2008

Wrapping Presents - When the Paper is Too Small

Here's a trick most people don't know about. What can you do when you're wrapping a rectangular present with the last scrap of wrapping paper, which is (of course) too small?

Here's the trick: rotate the object you're wrapping and try folding the paper diagonally. This makes better use of the wrapping paper (less waste - less paper overlapping other paper), so it often works.