Friday, February 27, 2009

What Microsoft REALLY wants us to do!

I got my At Home and Work newsletter from Microsoft today and noticed something amiss. Could this be some sort of Freudian slip perhaps?


They are advocating "irradication" of viruses. Hmmm...that doesn't look right:

I need to look this up. A quick Google and here is the definition:


So, to summarize, they want us to root viruses deeply in our computers. Now all those security holes make sense! They want to make it easier for us to get viruses rooted deeply on our computers! Why didn't they just say so?

And to make it more ironic, the first section of the newsletter was titled "Make your computer run better, faster and smarter".

I wonder which marketing person will be looking for a job because of this one? Sometimes, spell check just can't save you.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

One of the funniest things I have ever read

My wife reads several blogs, and they are all quite good. Most are by moms and recount the trials and tribulations of family life. There is one by a single woman recounting the trials and tribulations of single life (with dachshunds). She posted this blog about a call she got from her sister.

Miss Doxie: Cookie and the Geese

I read this aloud to my wife (and I was quite stuffy at the time which helped immensely) and by the end we were both in tears laughing so hard. Maybe it's just me - but every time I read this I still crack up! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Thrill of Perfection

I love sports - it's so sad that I'm not 6' 3" 250 lbs and as fast as a jackrabbit. None of my physical stats even come close. While that doesn't keep me from participating, it is a major drawback to excelling.

But even those of us with limited physical gifts can have moments of perfection. I remember with startling clarity several moments that everything came together and I couldn't have executed any better.

A very early recollection has to do with tennis. In my teens, I took tennis lessons at a country club and we had matches against kids from other clubs. In a match I believe I lost (which was not unusual) I had a moment, just before I served, that I knew I would ace this guy. I tossed the ball, struck it pure, right down the center line. He never had a chance. Oh, to be able to summon that feeling on demand!

I remember playing an intramural football game and catching a touchdown pass by twisting my body in such a way that it felt like my legs were still moving me forward but my torso was facing the line of scrimmage behind me. I also remember another play where a guy kicked me in the head as he tried to leap over me, but just barely.....

Football strikes again, this time in college. I remember throwing a post pattern, letting the ball go even before my receiver had made his break to the middle of the field and looked for the ball. The look on his face was priceless as he turned and the ball, which spiraled perfectly, settled gently into his arms without his breaking stride.

An intramural basketball game in college was another moment of glory. Two of my best friends were good basketball players. "Drew" was tall and lean. He looked like a basketball player and he could play. "Jerbil" (initials JRB) was my size, as in NOT tall, but could shoot from outside like nobody's business. I was the defensive specialist (no one gets by alive). My talents did not extend to much more than picks and passes. But one day we were on a fast break and I filled the right wing. For some strange reason, Drew threw me the ball as I reached the corner. I caught it, took one hop and let it go and it ripped through the basket like I did this every day. I still rember Drew saying "Oh my God! Dachsieguy (not my real college nickname) made a shot! There's no way we're gonna lose!". Another time, a pick-up game this time, I was in the lane, left side of the basket, and got a pass from the top of the key. The ball was over my head, but I leapt up, caught it, and put it in the hoop in one smooth motion. A mini alley-oop. It happened to fast for me to think - just react. Like the shot. Hmmm....don't think, play good...hmmmm.

Then there was softball after college. College intramurals had set me on a career path as a slow-pitch softball pitcher. I think it was more from the fact that no one else was dumb enough to stand that close to testosterone filled college guys trying to kill a slow moving softball. But I had a talent and rarely walked anyone - the prime tenant for a slow-pitch pitcher. I continued to play after college and had moments were the ball leaves you hand perfectly and settles into the catcher's mitt without him having to move it and the umpire rings up the HIGHLY embarrassed hitter who takes the walk of shame back to the dugout, having struck out in a slow-pitch game. I moment I also recall with great clarity was not one of perfection but one of pain. Extra innings - the batter hits a ball to our shortstop who has a cannon. The cannon, however, misfires, and the runner heads to second. The first baseman fires it to second. Alas, the ball is now rolling into shallow left field, where the left fielder, shortstop, and third baseman are all after it. This leaves a dilemma. The runner is now heading for third, but we have no one covering. Being the clever person I am, I run to cover the bag. Our shortstop has corralled the ball and fires it to me. We're going to get this guy, until he leaps into the air to do a head first slide. The ball skips off his back while he is parallel to the ground and ricochets into my left eyebrow. Down I go. As I lay there, feeling the swelling begin and the blood run down my face, the runner take off for home and runs over the catcher, which you really aren't supposed to do. After much arguing, someone finally says "Hey, Dachsieguy's hurt!" Suddenly surrounded by most of the players, nothing happens for a while. Finally, I ask, "Does someone has something I can put on my eye?" A quick-thinker offers to tear his shirt. I decline, hoping for something a little cleaner. We won't go into the multi-hour wait at the emergency room, where every time someone would be ready to work on me, ANOTHER chest-pain case would come in.

I played a year of indoor soccer (yes, I love sports). I was not very good. I'm old enough there was no organized soccer programs when I was younger. My entire soccer career consisted of lunch time playground games in elementary school, watching the Tulsa Roughnecks NASL team, and coaching a teen team in college with my roommate who assured me he knew soccer. He didn't. But I did manage a moment of perfection. A teammate was in the corner, fighting for the ball, when it came out of the corner. The ball arched high into the air and about 20 feet in front of the goal. There was a large group of us, waiting for it to come down. I jumped into the air (I think I may have been the only one, and that was probably because I played years of volleyball) and flicked my head at the ball. I watched it go, laser-like, straight from my forehead into the top right corner of the goal, the goalie's hand rising too late to stop the fast moving ball. I turned and trotted back to midfield, trying to act nonchalant, but could help myself from grinning insanely.

Volleyball..hmmm...again, my height deficiency limited me to setting and occasional non-lethal hits. Blocking was more of a "slow it down a little " than "send it straight down on the other side" act. But setting can bring its moments. The perfect pass to the center, a middle hitter leaping in the air, all the blockers on the other team converging and then crying "Oh crap!" and you send the ball arcing to the outside hitter who creams the ball, never worrying about it being blocked.

My last one has to do with golf. Two moments of perfection. One being a hole in one. The very definition of perfection. And yet, the second moment outshines it. The hole in one took place on my mother's birthday when we were on vacation. I was 18 years old. 9th hole at Grandfather Golf and Country Club in Linville North Carolina. Such a beautiful place. Grandfather Mountain is there too. Go if you ever get the chance. Go. Anyway, hit a five iron (not all that well I thought) and the ball came straight down on the flag. Made a strange clunking sound and we couldn't see the ball. I had to wait because no one else in our group was on the green. Once everyone was on, I walked up to the hole. There was a tiny divot missing from the lip of the hole and nestled at the bottom of the cup was my ball. The ball was a quarter inch short of in on the fly. Which may have been why it went in. That quarter inch further and who knows what kind of richocet would have happened. My father would not let me keep the divot. :-) I repaired it as best I could. When we played the next day, I went over to the plugged hole. There was my dead divot in the lip.

And yet, a tee shot I hit with a two iron is my most special golf memory. I have never hit a ball more "pure". I swung hard, and I could actually feel the ball compress against the club face. The shot seemed effortless and went as far as I have ever hit a ball. It was out there with my friends who had used drivers (I used a two iron because my driver and I were not on speaking terms at the time). It was perfection. It must be the way the profession golfers feel most of the time when they hit a good shot. I've played golf for years, and that's the only time I have ever felt that feeling on a full swing.

It's what keeps you playing. These moments, where you do everything right, where it seems effortless and yet the result is far beyond the norm. That's why we keep playing. Yes, there is the thrill of victory, but that may come in second behind the thrill of perfection.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Doctors and Patients - does it have to be us against them?

Two very interesting blogs on how doctors can better interact with patients and patients can better interact with doctors. Since we all deal with doctors (and I am in a job related intimately with health care now) I found these articles worth sharing.

Six Rules Doctors Need to Know - Well Blog - NYTimes.com

Six Ways to Be a Better Patient - Well Blog - NYTimes.com

More updates on the way - I am promising myself I am finally going to start posting about some of my favortie authors and their books. Really, I swear...I will get around to it...soon! At least I hope I can motivate myself enough to do it, and not be one of these bloggers that gets started and then nothing happens for months on end.... I WILL overcome my laziness!!! (maybe...)

Til next time - whenever that may be...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

My Road to Online Gaming

I've bee playing Everquest for over 10 years now. For those of you not familiar with MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game), these are computer games about worlds that can be accessed at the same time by many customers at once. The world is persistent and things happen while you are not there. It's not like the old BBS (Bulletin Board System - anyone remember those?) games where one person dialed in and took their turn, then another, etc.

I was playing Diablo, usually the single player game, when it came out oh so many years ago. Then I decided to try the online capabilities. After playing a while, I ended up regularly playing with two other character. Then one day, they said I had to come with them and play "The Realm". This was one of the early MMORPGs, put out by Sierra Online. It's still out there, will a small community still playing. Though not owned by Sierra. This was my first intro to playing with lots of people, quests, guilds, etc. I joined the Guild of Lost Dragons (GoLD). A guild is a group of people who belong to the same "club". They can chat in game with everyone in the guild at the same time. Made friends and had a great time. Then, my two friends said I needed to get into Beta 3 of Everquest. Little did I know what I was getting in to.

What a unique game. Now remember, this is 1998. Great graphics, a huge world, lots of computer characters to interact with and LOTS of other people playing the same time you are. GoLD began an EQ chapter and my first character, Winelover, was born. He lasted a few levels but then I decided a Wood Elf Ranger would be better than a Half Elf Ranger. Thus Cabernet was born. I believe that was April 1998. For reasons I can't remember, I joined a new guild, Muse and Merriment (M&M) and made a whole new set of online friends. Then the Elven Wine Brigade when enough people left to play other games M&M fizzled out. I then "retired", as I was only playing on the weekends and my friends had leveled so much more than me that I could no longer group with them. I was around level 35 when I got discouraged and gave away everything I had. Closed my account.

And came back about a year and a half later. To a naked wood elf. (They had redone the graphics and Cabernet looked like a naked Ken doll when I first logged in! Think there was a graphic glitch as characters with no clothing usually show with a default set of clothes.) Sony graciously doesn't delete accounts so if you decide to come back you don't have to start over. My friends who still played got me geared back up. One of my old guild friends invited me to join the guild he was in, Evolution of Faith. Problem was, I wasn't the required level 46. They were extremely patient and supportive as I worked and worked and finally made level 46. And joined a great group of people. I made friends in that group I still am friends with today. We also had a guild we were allied with and went on raids with - Grave Wisdom. I became friends with several people in that guild. This came in handy later on. Evolution of Faith lost a few key people and eventually got a little too small to continue to advance through the game content. We then merged with League of Levity, which was a very good merger. But then some people grew frustrated with pace of advancement (can you say Blood Raids for Dreadspire access) and left for other guilds. LoL began to implode and I decided to join the people who had been so nice while I was in EoF, Grave Wisdom.

I am now happily ensconced with a great group of people who always have fun playing together. We have a lot of different personalities (and in an online game - you never know if they reflect the person who is sitting at the keyboard or if it is a persona that person wants to use) and that's what makes it fun. Like any family, there are the occasional clashes, but for the most part everyone gets along quite nicely. When you need help trying to do something in game, you can almost always find someone willing to help. We cheer others accomplishments and pull together to defeat big nasties in game for phat l3wtz. And our reputation must be pretty good, as we have a steady stream of applicants. There is a bulletin board were we can share everything from game info to books we've read to recipes we like and everything else under the sun (especially the bad jokes we run across) when we are not in game. And the occasional real life hardship or tragedy that will always elict real concern and support. Real friendship come out of these online communities.

Oh, that those two characters who got me into all this? Turns out they were two sisters, both older than me (and I am not young by your typical gamer standards) and at least one was a grandmother to boot! One from the Tampa area (serious Bucanners fan) and one from Louisiana (loves to dance). Haven't seen them around in a while, but will be forever grateful for meeting them online and becoming their friend. They led me into a world where you can make friends from all over the globe.

Friday, September 26, 2008

How I learned to Solder (or DANG! That's hot!!!)

We depend on our Digital Video Recorder. Yes, we watch way too much TV, but I have a Radio and TV Journalism degree, so doesn't that give me some kind of special dispensation?

Anyway, our faithful Panasonic DMR-E85H (a DVR with a Hard Disk and TV Guide program guide) decided to show us the "Please Wait" message and nothing else. Turned it off and on. Searched the web. Called Panasonic and tried all the secret key combos to reset everything. No luck. We could ship it off to them and have a repair done for $130, but buying a new DVR with a digital tuner wasn't a whole lot more than that. So we bought a DVD recorder from Wal-Mart. The Panasonic was relegated to sitting on the fireplace unplugged for a few days.

But I got around to doing a little more research on the web, to see if maybe I missed something. And I ran across a post about someone having the same problem and fixing it by replacing a couple of capacitors that had gone bad. Hmmmm.... could this be our problem too?

After reading the post and a couple of related posts referenced, I cleared off the dining room table and opened up the unit. After fumbling around figuring out which screws to take out , I finally got down to the power supply board. Yup, the two capacitors in question had bulging tops and a little leakage. So now it was off to Radio Shack to buy a soldering iron and a couple of capacitors.

Now armed with my $7.99 Soldering kit (completed with a little metal stand, a double ended pick/scraper thingie, some clippie thing that is supposed to be a heat sink and a length of solder wound up like a spring), I set to removing the bad capacitors.

First I tried to "tin" the tip of the iron. This is supposed to coat the tip with metal to make things go on and off smoothly. Ok, melted some solder on the tip. Now to desolder the bad capacitors. According to what I read, you just used the hot iron on the back of the circuit board to melt off the existing solder. That should be easy. Well, then again - maybe not. First off, my hand is not as steady as I thought. I keep jabbing the circuit board as the tip slides off the solder point. Boy there is a lot of smoke. At the same time I am trying to wiggle the capacitor on the other side of the board loose. This is slow going..... And the heat from the iron makes the capacitors quite hot to the touch. In hindsight, maybe I should have read more on that heat sink thing. But finally I get one side loose. Hopefully I haven't scorched the board jabbing it with the iron tip. After a while I have both capacitors out of the circuit board. Sigh of relief.

Now its time to put the new ones in. After a Google search to see which lead is positive and which is negative (longer lead is positive), I position it in the correct holes in the motherboard. After I check to make sure there is enough room, I decide to leave them upright rather than laying them down on the board. I bend the leads enough so the capacitors don't go too far up or down and begin trying to solder. Strange, it seems like the solder is just vaporizing as I touch it to the tip. I don't get any little drops of solder to fall onto the lead to bond it to the circuit board. This turns into quite an ordeal before I finally get some solder to drip down where I want it. After struggling to get all 4 leads soldered, I have both done, put the board back in, put the hard drive back in and screw the case back on.

I take the unit over and put in on the brick fiireplace, carefully clearing all flammable items from the area. Well, something could go "Pop" you know? The moment of truth comes. I plug it in and ....... nothing. Not even a "Please Wait". Rats. Oh well, we still have the new recorder. Well, actually - we took that recorder back because it turned itself off a couple of times. We order a new one with a hard drive online. (Magnavox H2160MW9 - post from AV Science Forums - which is THE place to get info on all things TV and Audio. Great place to search for opinions on things you want to buy and help for stuff you have.)

Later, just before I fall asleep, I realize in my elation of actually getting solder to hold the capacitors to the board, I didn't trim the leads after I soldered them in. Maybe they are touching the case and causing a problem. So next day I unscrew the case, remove the hard drive, and remove the circuit board. I trim the leads and discover that one solder on each capacitor had come loose. Time to heat the iron up again. Trying again and again to heat the solder already on the leads proves difficult, and I worry I am charring the circuit board. I have to put more solder on and again, it seems like it just evaporates. Then I manage to drop a big glob of solder on the circuit board, but not where I need it - CRAP! I wait for it to cool and then keep tapping it with the iron, trying to get it to cling to the iron and come off the circuit board. I finally get that clean as best I can. I solder the leads and let them cool several times before I get them to stick. And of course, in my impatience, I am one point grab the soldering iron a bit too high up on the barrel and singe my fingers good. Hold them under cold running water then against an ice pack for a while.

Finally, everything seems to be holding. I screw everything back together again and walk over to the fireplace. My wife suggests the patio. I'm not surprised. I go out, plug it in, and ......"Please Waite". Cool! At least I'm back where I started. But wait, the screen changed. Can't read it in the sun. Wife comes out and I hold the unit up for her to read. Has the current time on it. Could it be?

Take the unit in, plug it all back up, and turn it on. The thing actually starts up! All the programs we recorded and haven't watched yet are still there! Those programs are immediately dubbed to DVD for safekeeping. We turn it to standby so the TV Guide listings can download. My wife walks out to the living room the next morning and the unit is recording the Today Show. It even remembered what we had set up to record. Amazing! Despite all the mishaps trying to solder, I actually repaired the unit for under $10 and some blistered skin. Many bonus points from the wife!

So now we have 2 DVD recorders with hard drives just in time for the new season. It remains to be seen what we will be able to do with the Panasonic when the digital switch comes as it is analog only. I read some post about a certain converter box and an IR Blaster. Hmmm...we'll see.

So the moral of the story boys and girls - you too can solder! Just watch where you grab the freakin' thing. And here are some of the posts that walked me through the process:

From Fixya.com, CDFreaks.com, and the first post I found that led me to fixing this, again from CDFreaks.com. Many thanks to the people that posted those great instructions. My wife thanks you too!