Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Okay, enough with the cold and rain

I vowed I would never complain about the abundance of rain we've been getting, but combined with the cold and the lack of sunlight, I'm about to say Uncle! It's dark when I come to work, it's dark when I go home. I work underground so I have to confess that I'm looking much paler than usual.

I need sunshine, I need temps in the 90's , I need to be able to put on a swimsuit no matter how bad I look in it.

Spring won't come soon enough!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving at the Geek House

Fall is a time of year that has always held a certain, almost intangible, fascination for me. I'm not sure if its the changing of the seasons, the rapid fire sequence of holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years), or the general vibe of those around me, but I love the Fall more than any other time of year.

Last Spring I was able to buy my first turkey frying rig for about half what one would normally pay and have been waiting to properly break it in. I fried a whole chicken a month ago as a test run with decent results. At the beginning of November I stocked up on peanut oil and was duly surprised as to how ubiquitous it's become lately. The two weeks prior to Thanksgiving had me reading everything I could get my hands on to make sure I was prepared for the task that lay ahead, and Tuesday night I found myself sequencing the entire meal in my head to make sure that I'd not left out anything important. Wednesday night I got all the hardware in one place, and Thursday morning I did a final check and lit the fire. I did happen to learn a few things along the way.

1) Make sure you have EVERYTHING you need, and it's best to either have someone out there with you to run for the occasional need that arises, or in lieu of that, a very patient wife will also do the trick. I lit the fire and put in the peanut oil. I did do a displacement test with the bird in water beforehand and got a good idea as to how much oil I would need (which is VERY important step). In went the oil and my thermometer. I watched as the temp crept up and learned lesson number 2:

2) Be cognizant of the weather. It was a cold day and there was a breeze blowing. In retrospect I should have setup near the garage (but not IN the garage) for more protection from the wind. The previous time I used this rig I had to turn down the flame to almost nothing to make sure I didn't smoke my oil. This time I ran it full out the entire time, and thankfully it stayed at 350 due to the wind.

Once the oil hit 350 the bird went in. Five minutes later I realized that I had not started the timer, so I did that and kept a close eye on the thermometer. It's amazing how the temperature dropped when I inserted the turkey, and I was also pretty stunned at how full the pot suddenly became. When the oil started to splash over I realized that I was in for some serious stains on my concrete so my patient wife brought me some cat litter (something I left off the checklist). The bubbling subsided and I was left to my own devices as the bird continued to cook.

My in-laws showed up soon there after and my wife was able to get these which include the finished product (and which I have captioned Two Turkeys).

Overall it was fun with the only burned flesh being on the bird itself, thankfully.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Also testing out this new blog program I just downloaded.

Just found a program that will let me post without having to log into the website. Here's hoping. . . .


Hellooo Open Source

I finally took the plunge. After about a year of window shopping, I'm finally making my first blog post from a computer (my laptop) running the Linux operating system. It was a tad scary, and I had a buddy of mine present when the hard drive itself got partitioned, but I just made my last hurdle: getting the wireless configuration to work at my house.

I'm still getting my feet wet, but everything looks good so far. I have to add that there is a certain perverse thrill in downloading an operating system and installing it legally. Here's hoping the fun continues.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Things that I think are cool

I know that it's been well over a month since my previous post, but it's been kinda crazy. Figured that I would jump start the creative process by continuing a post that I started a few years ago.

For this post, it's the Discovery Channel TV series Last One Standing. Take some normal athletes and take them to a tribe living in the rain forests of Brazil and let them compete as warriors. No pads, no going back. I stumbled across this gem a few nights ago and had to record it tonight. Haven't watched it all the way through, but what I saw grabbed me. I know it's not completely unique, but it is something that I do intend to follow.

Now, if you're reading this, you are officially tagged. Post something in your blog that you find irretrievably interesting and way underrated.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Farewell Top Chef!

One huge problem I have with reality series' is that I get tuned to one person and if that person gets voted off, I'm done.

Tre Wilcox was a Dallasite who consistently performed in the top half of the show. Yes, I know Casey is also from Dallas, but from what I've seen, Tre appeared to have what it took to win. Apparently I was wrong, or didn't see everything that the judges saw.

Regardless, I gotta find a new show to watch. Here's to next season.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

We're back

I don't ever recall coming back from a vacation feeling like I do right now. I am emotionally spent and both physically and mentally exhausted and yet a part of me feels like a new man. Wife and I just got back from a five day cruise and we spent two days in Mexico. One day in Progreso and the other in Cozumel. Cozumel was a great experience as we spent the day snorkeling and kayaking in the Gulf of Mexico and had some of the best fajitas outside of my grill. Progreso, however, was the one place that I don't think I'll ever forget. There I got my chance to touch a piece of history: I got to climb on an actual Mayan ruin in Dzibilchaltun on the Yucatan peninsula.

Who woulda thought?

Monday, July 23, 2007

A Pre Cruise Photo

I am the blue blob in the lower right hand corner. Image is from the webcam atop the Harbor House Hotel. I'll post more photos when we return.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A test post.

It's amazing what one can do nowadays with a cell phone and a small data plan.


Monday, July 16, 2007

IPTV Anyone?

It's not often that I get to be on the cutting edge of something (at least on my budget), but I've never minded playing lab rat, especially when there is a financial incentive to do so.

Last Friday my wife and I tried out AT&T's (sorry, at&t's) new Uverse video service. In a nutshell it delivers television to your home not over standard cable or satellite, but over your standard telephone line. I will admit to being a little flummoxed when I first heard of DSL, but when I got it a few years later I was pretty astonished at what it could do. Now they are compressing Internet AND Television over that same line: one of the benefits of deregulation apparently.

Install Technician showed up on time and proceeded to check out everything. Since my house is older, there was no telling how easy or how complicated the install would go. I told him that the house was a pier and beam foundation and that easy access could be had to most all of the house (except the office). First hitch was the phone interface (or NID as he called it - it was probably 60 years old and was original to the house) and the phone line running from the pole to the house. Both needed to be replaced. Apparently since at&t is handling all this, they have linemen on standby. A guy was there in two hours to replace the run to the house followed by the interface box. Once that was done it was simply an issue of mapping out the existing video lines and configuring everything. Install did take a little over six hours and we had to call tech support the next day regarding missing movie channels. Last night I did notice a stuttering in the box that required a reboot, but other than that it works pretty well.

the cost is less that what I was paying for Dish Network.
The channel lineup seems to be a bit more comprehensive.
I can record four shows at once (compared to two on DN).
Set top boxes are much smaller than those from DN.
SD video quality looks very nice.
Got a brand spankin' new RG and Access Point.
Access point came pre configured with a WEP key already in it.

The service currently allows only one HD video stream at a time. Apparently there is a fix for this coming down the pike.
HD quality seems to be a bit blocky.
Recorded shows can only be watched on the main STB. Supposedly there is a fix for this coming down the pike as well.

So far I'm pleased. Here's hoping.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A Changing of the Guard

If you read my previous missive you saw what we went through to update our uber-reliable SD Dish Network account to one that would take full advantage of our new HD television. We finally thought that we'd cornered all the little gremlins in the system, but alas two days ago was the last straw. We lost signal again (apparently our switch was bad) and it was going to be almost a week to get someone out here to fix the thing. After two install attempts and more calls to tech support in the last month than I'd made in the previous 3.5 years, we finally pulled the plug. Wife called Dish Network today and requested that our service be discontinued. The poor folks at DN tried their best to keep us, but as wife said it was "too little, too late".

Looks as if we're going to run with AT&T's new U-verse system. Apparently it's a fibre-based system that delivers both HD programming AND broadband internet. Free install and free movie channels for the first year are very appealing.

Here's hoping . . .


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Just an update:

I'm happy to say that the folks at Dishnetwork came through for us. Friday morning they were at the house and basically switched out our receiver box. I am also happy to say that we were able to see the last *&*^&^&*^%&%$&%^$%$%$$ episode of the Sopranos in Hi Definition: including the 5 seconds of black that jarringly ended the episode. First thought was satellite had gone out. Second thought: that there is a special place in Hell for David Chase.

On a less antagonizing topic: Summer is almost midway over, and I cannot believe the amount of rain we're getting. I resolved never to complain, but sheesh. Glad I took the four hour window between storms I had yesterday to mow my lawn.

Hope that the Summer is good to all of you. I'm taking six hours this time, so free time is at a premium. Wife has promised to make me a London Broil tomorrow night. Not dead sure what it is, but she's cooking and it's red meat: OhBoyOhBoyOhBoyOhBoyOhBoyOhBoyOhBoyOhBoyOhBoyOhBoyOh

Also, don't forget that September 19th is National Talk Like A Pirate Day!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Welcome to the 21st Century - sort of.

In my family, things often have a ripple effect. Someone gets something and immediately others in the family get the “itch” to get caught up with the times. I started it with a computer back in college, my brother did it with his turkey fryer ($40 at Amazon, couldn’t pass that one up), and now the spectre of HD television has finally hit the Geek household. Wife saw it recently at my parent’s house and she (and later I) were (or was) hooked. As a ceremonial ending to the end of a long and arduous Spring term, my wife hit our local electronics retailer and scoped out the scene while I looked into getting our satellite TV updated to handle the newer HD format. Heck, the Federal Government itself is requiring everyone to switch over to digital so who am I to disobey the Government (and I know digital and HD are two different things, but this entire missive writes better if I do it this way, so bear with me).

TV arrived at the house on Friday, and we got it connected Friday night (which was a learning curve in its own rite). I was up until 1am figuring out the intricacies of surround sound (and yes, you would think that I would already know this in my line of work, but home audio and what I do are markedly dissimilar in many respects) and got the low end rumble that all us AV techs dream about.

Saturday was spent tweaking and cleaning and Saturday night the first official (i.e. non test) DVD was spun. Image was clear and finely detailed; my little 8 inch sub was pounding away; and all appeared to be right with the world. In a few days the satellite people would arrive and complete my part of the world, ergo ushering my household past the velvet ropes of 525 lines of resolution and into club HiDef, where it is my God given right to see every pimple on Tony Soprano’s face at a native resolution of 720x480 (and in progressive scan, mind you).

The ushering was to commence at some point between 12-5 yesterday. I had hoped for a 12:05 admittance, but at around 4:45 the guy finally pulled up. He looked tired (not a good sign) as he came in and I showed him the layout of the house. We’d moved some stuff since I called the request in but had the workarounds all figured out. First sign of trouble was the cable run. He wanted to run a cable across the floor. I told him we couldn’t do it because of foot traffic, but that he was welcome to drill a small hold in the corner behind the entertainment center and run a cable underneath the house. He said it was too wet (second bad sign). I told him we’d have to reschedule if that were the case (we have a pier and beam house and underneath is always dry and easy to access – I’ve been underneath myself a few times). He took a look and decided it was dry enough, so we’re back in business. Since cabling was basically there, I figured a two hour install: problem number three.

An hour later, a more experienced installer showed to lend a hand. Problem number four was the installation of a second dish mount on my garage. At this point I figure I’ll add a few aerials to it and grow myself a first class antenna farm. I tried as I could to stay out of the way. I offered beverages as needed and pushed dinner at 8:30. The rear TV was not picking up correctly (this is being wired to control two TV’s) and that caused another delay. Combine all this with my factory remote to the rear TV deciding not to work and dinner got pushed again. Once the receiver/DVR was in place, we began to hold out a glimmer of hope. At 10PM, it was in place and was working (except for one little glitch that they tried to solve with some apparent success). They packed up, I signed the form, and they were headed home. Wife and I sat down and began to explore the new world in front of us. Maybe the worst was over. We had finally paid our dues and would be rewarded with movies in their entire digital splendor and in surround sound (which my wife finally got working). Ten minutes after they left, the unit dropped signal completely and required a reboot. I rebooted and got it on its feet again. We tuned in with anxious anticipation, hoping that our patience would finally be rewarded. We were wrong. Another ten minutes passed and it rebooted again. I called Dishnetwork Customer support: they will have a person out Friday.



Saturday, May 12, 2007

I'm Back!

Yesterday at around 5:45PM my year officially ended. I unplugged the intercom, disconnected the sound system, and put things as "away" as I could convince myself to.

One of the advantages of working in academia is the seasonality of the work: there is a definite ebb and flow to things. Summer is almost here, and for the next two weeks I get what is usually (and still hopefully) a proper run up to Summer.

Here's hoping . . .


Wednesday, February 28, 2007

What is the downside?

I've been trolling around the behemoth known as Google for the last few days exploring the very nooks and crannies that make them what they are. I got a gmail account a few years ago thanks to a good friend who sent me an invite. I now use that address for all my academically related items. I started blogging a year and a half ago just to see what all the stuff was about, and have enjoyed the creativity that it affords me. I recently started probing around and have discovered a slate of features that make me both excited and a little cautious:

Google Calendar is a very nice feature that will send me an SMS message when I have an appointment listed on their service.

Google Reader is an RSS aggregator that is surprisingly easy to use, and lets me keep all my usual haunts (at least those with RSS functionality) in one place.

Google Earth is a wonderful way to kill time while zooming in and out on your favorite vacation spots. People have actually plotted points of interest here that include (among others): airplanes photographed in flight, cruise ships docked in multiple places simultaneously, and people doing ordinary things outside.

Google also has a docs and spreadsheet feature that they basically bought outright from Writely. The concept is cool, but the funcionality of it has me thinking a lot about the need for, and future of, group based software.

On a larger scale, with all this free stuff, what is in it for Google? The old adage of nothing is truly free reverberates with me much more than usual on this. Yes, the basic structure of the Internet was built on getting free stuff (browsers, video clips, music, etc . . .) but from a business sense, what is the bigger picture here?

I would love to hear some other viewpoints on this.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Yeah, I know

I've been ignoring my blog. Actually, I've been spending time with my other one over on wordpress as it's currently been tasked for a class I'm taking.

It's February and it looks to be a busy month. March has Spring Break, and April has Good Friday. I know that February has Valentine's Day, and I am very fortunate to have someone with which to celebrate, but right now I'm also looking at days off.

I wish you all well!


Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Hey ya'll. Just an unsolicited ad for something wonderful. I had one of these pies a month ago and had another one a week ago. I almost wanted to curl up inside one of these and take a nap. One of the best apple pies around, period!

Tootie Pie Company


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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Just a test post

Got my hands on a cool little FireFox extension that allows one to post from within the browser.

I hope that 2007 is good to all of you, and don't sweat the small stuff!


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