Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Yes, it's my Birthday

Or at least it was yesterday, August 30.

My wife kindly pointed out that I'm almost 40 years old. I like to think that I'm only 29, just it's the 8th time I've turned 29 ;)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

House pulls no punches

Last night's episode of House was brilliantly engaging, or were there two consecutive episodes? I'm not sure.

A pregnant woman, late third trimester, is admitted to the hospital when, as is the way of House, she starts having problems. Serious problems. By the end of the show with the wife in a coma, Dr. House speaks to the husband and tells him that he needs his ok to operate on the wife. In particular, Dr. House needs the husband to ok a C-section to remove the baby.

The problem: if they perform the C-section, the wife will die.

The real rub: if they don't perform the C-section, the wife will still die, and so will the baby.

The husband reluctantly gives his approval, the C-section goes ahead, the baby is removed and, as predicted, the wife dies during the procedure. The final scene has the husband standing over his wife's body with an MD behind him telling him that his son is going to be ok. The husband looks at the MD blankly and doesn't really respond, he then turns back to his wife and leans down to hug her.

I'm not sure if there were two consecutive episodes last night or not, but another dilemma faced by House & Co. last night involved a 12-year old girl who had collapsed during a high-dive competition for her school. Like the pregnant mother, the girl also had various, unexplained things going on. In one eerie scene the girl freaks out because blood is coming out of her eyes. It's not so much coming out of her eyes as leaking from around them. With the lights in the room dimmed, Dr. Foreman (Omar Epps' character) shines a flashlight over her eyes while reassuring the girl that the antibiotic they gave her can turn her tears red, so it's not blood.

In a tight, very close up shot of the girl's face (very dramatic and spooky with the dim lights) the girl slowly opens her mouth and we see her teeth are pink. Dr. Foreman shines the flashlight into her mouth which is all red, "but that," he says, "that is blood."

House & Co. are stumped, until Dr. House asks who has come to visit the girl. He's told only her family. None of the school friends have come by. No one from the diving team (except the Coach). Not even a boyfriend. Suddenly it all clicks in Dr. House's mind and in the next scene he's running an ultrasound wand over the 12-year old's abdomen. The monitor shows she is pregnant, very clearly pregnant. Note - In all of the ultrasounds Liz had, I don't remember any of the images on our monitor being anywhere near as clear as the image we saw on House.

The girl tells Dr. House not to tell her parents that she is pregnant. He tells her they have to find out somehow and in classic House style holds up his fist and says "Play you for it. Rock, Paper, Scissors". The girl shakes her head and tearfully tells Dr. House that they never have to find out. It's obvious (at least to me) what she means, and she asks Dr. House to promise not to tell her parents.

Dr. House leaves her room and meets her parents, and while he doesn't tell them what's going on, he kind of does too. He says their daughter will be ok, she just has TTP.

They ask what that is.

He says it's Thrombotic Thromboctopenic Purpura. (Yeah, I looked it up :P)

They ask what that is.

He says it means she has a growth in her abdomen that they're going to remove, but then she'll be fine and she'll be able to go home in a few days.

They ask him what kind of growth. Can he be more specific. (They don't give up, this is their daughter, after all.)

Respecting the girl's wishes Dr. House shakes his head and says he cannot be more specific.

The final scene has the girl recovering from her "operation" in her hospital room, and the mother entering. We look in from the outside over Dr. House's shoulder, and although we can't hear the words, we know what the tearful daughter is telling her mother. She does not reel back in shock. There is no judgmental look; no criticism. All we see is the unconditional love a mother has for her child.

Wow.

Monday, August 22, 2005

video games are dangerous

Scientists have always been trying to prove that video games cause aggressive behaviour. Take it from someone who plays a lot of video games (and I mean A LOT), the scientists are right. The thing is, the scientists are not looking at the right games. I've played all three Dooms, I've played all three Quakes. I played the original Castle Wolfstein as well as Return to Castle Wolfenstein. I've played all of the GTA games back to the original, which was not the Grand Theft Auto released immediately prior to GTA:Vice City; and while that was released as GTA III there were actually three GTA games released before "GTA III". So trust me, I know what I'm talking about. The Scientists are barking up the wrong tree. I've played all of those games and none of them causes me to act aggressively; if anything, all of those games are actually very good ways for me to blow off steam and relieve stress.

But you know which games do make me want to act aggressively?

Puzzle games. Like Tetris. Remember that game? The one you could never win. The pieces just kept coming, faster, and faster, and faster, until you lost. Every. Single. Time. Sure, there was Tetris B which was released to make people feel good about themselves, where you just had to clear 25 lines and you'd "win" the game, but that was only because the programmers of the original version of Tetris were killed when their test-ape became extremely frustrated because he couldn't beat Tetris. Never. Won. A single. Game. Ever. And so the test-ape went bananas. Get it? He's a test-ape. And he went bananas. HA HA! So their test-ape went bananas (HA HA!) and killed the original programmers, and the people who came to clean everything up, they saw the Tetris game and said "Yeah, it's a good game, but you can never win, and that will drive people..." Bananas??? That's not as funny as a test-ape going bananas (HA HA!) So they made a Tetris B which you could "win" as long as you could complete 25 lines. But the original Tetris. You can't win that. No one can. Eventually, you get tired. I don't care how good you are. You're going to get tired. You're going to lose. Everyone does. So Tetris frustrates me. Tetris makes me want to crush, kill & destroy. Forget those violent, first-person shooters. They've got nothing on Tetris.

Platforming games drive me nuts too. No, not bananas. Do I look like a test-ape to you? I might be as hairy as one...but all resemblances end there. Now, where's my banana? I'm gonna kill someone if I don't get my banana!

See, platformers really bring out my aggressive side, too. Especially when the programmers devise a level so maniacal that you have to make several pixel-perfect jumps in a row, and if just one of your jumps is off by more than just one pixel (you know how big a pixel is? It's smaller than a bee's dick), if you're off by just one pixel your avatar falls to his death. And you have to repeat the level. From the start. And the pixel-perfect jumps you need to make? They're at the end of the level. And it takes you fifteen minutes to get that far. And you can't save. And when you finally get there again, you once more have to make several pixel-perfect jumps in a row, perfectly, or you have to start all the way over from the start, again.

Frustrating, isn't it?

Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein, GTA. Not frustrating. Not at all. Why not? Because I'm releasing aggression! I'm not building it up, getting more and more frustrated with the game! I'm not being driven into a murderous rage. I'm already in there killing computer people. I'm letting it all out! Oh, YEAH!!! And when I'm finished, I push myself away from the computer, and I let out that big, long breath I'd been holding...and. I'm. At. Peace. I am in my happy place. I have attained Nirvana (and I don't mean the extinct rock band).

But some games do kill. I'd heard about this from a friend. Couldn't verify it, until now, when, as is the way of The Net, while searching for one thing, I stumbled across another. I came across the story of a Korean man who played video games at a video cafe (like an internet cafe but dedicated to gaming) for 50 hours. Straight. Well, not quite straight. He got up to use the bathroom. But he forgot to eat or drink. What do you think happened? Yeah, he died.

I thought it was bogus, but there it is, on the MSNBC website. So it's true. Video games really are harmful. They can even kill you. And as Brooke Shields said, if you're killed, you've lost a very important part of your life.

A man's Backyard is his OWN Backyard

Saturday morning I got up, got John Edward his breakfast and played with him for a little while, then Amber woke up demanding her breakfast. That woke up Liz who decided to do some laundry and clean the garage a bit.

I decided that the sections of lattice had been sitting in the corner of the garage long enough so I dragged them and the 8' stakes out and went to work in the backyard. The goal was to erect a 2' high lattice across the top of the 4'6" stone wall along the back of our house.

The prep work involved cutting back the Bougainvillea in the north-east corner of the yard; an errant branch from the neighbor's Lemon tree; and the Bottle Brush tree which overhangs the stone wall. Sidenote: I just noticed (and I recall from back home) that the Bottle Brush is technically a shrub, although our Bottle Brush appears to be of the tree variety and is easily the 15' tall as mentioned in that website. I wonder, if I cut it right back, if it will survive and become a beautiful shrub, as opposed to the tall but scraggly tree that it is today.

So I did all that, then endeavored to get the first of the stakes in between the stone wall on our side of the yard and the brick/stone wall on the neighbor's side of the yard. There's a small gap between the two walls there, I don't know why there are two stone walls adjacent to one another, perhaps because (as I found out on Saturday) the walls are made out of stone blocks which look great from one side...but look like crap from the other side. So there are two, adjacent, stone walls, with a small gap between them. Now the gap was large enough for me to get the first stake in, but only if I carefully positioned it between the pieces of mortar and the chunks of stone sticking out into this small gap. I had envisioned the stakes going all the way to the ground between the walls, but this wasn't going to happen with the first stake. I did manage to get it in to a depth of approximately 2'. I could have got it in further, but it required the stake to be inserted at a severe angle, which did not appeal to the eye. At least not to my eyes. That was really the only stake I had problems with, all of the rest went in fairly well.

There was also a bunch of trash down between the walls, including a square of carpet. I have no idea why it was down there. I guess the builders were too lazy to carry the small square of carpet (small meaning approx. a 2' square) to the dumpster, so they shoved it down between the stone walls. One of the stakes was meant to go right where the carpet was, it ended up going a few inches to one side instead. I overlapped each section of lattice by a few inches as I went (to give the whole thing stability and strength), with the result that at the west end of the stone wall, underneath the Bottle Brush, the lattice ends while the wall continues for another 8 to 12 inches. I do have another 8' section of lattice, and I could have cut off a small section and concealed this gap, but I figured it's tucked away in the corner, it's fairly unobtrusive, and the Bottle Brush conceals that corner anyway. Plus, that corner is an important part of my plan.

In that important corner is a large pot. A couple of months ago (back in June, before we went to Australia) I planted a few clippings from the Ivy growing out next to the complex's dumpster. Two of the clippings died; the third survived and is growing like crazy. I had a couple of small stakes in the pot because Anzac liked to get up on top of the pot and sleep inside it...on top of any plants I had growing in there. No, this is not why two of the clippings died :P

The surviving clipping was growing up, as Ivy likes to do, and had wrapped itself around one of these stakes a couple of times, until it got to the top of the short stake at which point, unable to support its own weight, it sagged down in a pitiful "I need a taller stake" kind of way. I painted a 4' length of plastic tube a nice green color (coz it's going to be there to stay) and replaced the short stake with this much longer stake, which leads up to the newly installed lattice section. The Ivy will eventually grow up this stake, over onto the lattice, then spread like crazy down the lattice where it will eventually meet up with the Bougainvillea, which I'll be training to grow across the lattice from the other end. The Bougainvillea has these beautiful purple flowers, the Ivy has these awesome yellow and white flowers. Eventually (it might take a year or two) there's going to be a 2' to 3' wall of green across the top of the 4'6" stone wall enclosing our backyard, which will give us a very secluded and private oasis, with lots of pretty flowers :)

Not only will this make our backyard considerably more private, but I believe it will also greatly increase its desirability to any future, potential buyers. When you live in a townhouse/condominium, sharing your space with the other owners, the space that belongs just to you, I think you want that space to be all your own space. You don't want the neighbors' prying eyes peering over the top of the fence into your yard. You don't want to look out your kitchen window and look over the fence into the neighbor's yard, especially if the neighbor is out there looking right back at you...and you're standing there washing dishes...in your birthday suit.

No, if you have a backyard, even if it's just a backyard in the middle of suburbia in the middle of a townhouse complex, you want that backyard to be your space and only your space. You want privacy in your inner sanctum. In a year or two, or however long it takes for the Bougainvillea and the Ivy to meet in the middle, we'll finally have that privacy.

I don't know about you

But for some reason I find this image just a little disturbing.
Perhaps being that it's from an internet ad...for Yahoo eMail no less.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

multi-regional DVD players


In the world of DVD players, America would like to think it's the King, hence giving itself Region 1 out of the 6 global regions. The rest of the world appeared to play along, but they really just ignored America's pretentiousness. Not realizing (or perhaps not caring) how much of a bastard they were being, the movie studios (20C Fox, Universal, etc) took the DVD manufacturers to court and prevented them from manufacturing multi-regional DVD players, at least they did so in the U.S. Thus anyone who travels regularly to other countries outside the magical "Region 1" and purchases legitimate copies of DVDs (I'm not talking pirated stuff, I'm talking about going into a real store in another country and buying an authentic, copyrighted DVD) on their return to the "Land of the (not so) Free" is forced to either play the DVDs on their computer, or purchase a DVD player that has been chipped by a third party, which voids the warranty but turns it into a multi-regional DVD player.

I suspect the other countries have done what Australia (appropriately known as The Lucky Country) has done, and that is they have accepted that they are Region 4 (well, Australia is), produce movies on DVD encoded for Region 4, but when the DVD manufacturing companies make their DVD players, they make them universal players, i.e, multi-regional players. So Australians (and people from countries other than the Land of the (not so) Free) can travel to other countries, as people often do, purchase DVDs in those countries, and return home to watch their newly acquired DVDs on their multi-regional DVD players, which come with warranties because they're legitimately manufactured multi-regional DVD players.

Now I have several movies from Australia, which I bought in Australia, and hence they're Region 4. For a while I was able to watch them on the cheap $40 DVD player (some no-name brand) I bought from K-Mart exactly for this purpose. The problem was, I had to repeatedly press 1 on the remote as the DVD loaded in order for it to play from Track 1, (2 to start at Track 2, etc) and once the DVD was playing the remote was useless, the controls were useless, no FF, no Pause, no Menu, nothing. The only thing that would work was the Open/Close button. This was fine for watching movies from start to finish, but I recently acquired the 2 DVD set of Lano & Woodley's TV Show, and when I pop the disc in my player and press 1, I get to watch the first episode on the DVD, which plays, gets to the end, then presents me with a menu of sorts asking if I want to watch the next episode. As my remote no longer works after the DVD starts playing, I cannot press Enter and watch the next episode. Repeatedly pressing 2 as the DVD loads doesn't work either, that just takes me partway into the first episode, as does pressing 3, 4, 5 & 6.

I contacted a couple of the DVD manufacturers here in the U.S. and discovered that the Land of the (not so) Free allowed the movie studios to make it verboten (I specifically chose that word) for DVD manufacturers to produce multi-regional DVD players, unlike The Lucky Country (and others) which recognize that the world doesn't end at their own borders.

To cut a long story short, I started researching multi-regional DVD players and found a plethora of third-party companies which chip and make multi-regional DVD players. The first website I visited had a lot of top quality chipped players available, but they had a dodgy shopping site. When I clicked the Purchase Me link, I was redirected to a website belonging to someone in Scotland. If I wanted to purchase a DVD player from someone in Scotland I wouldn't have gone to the website of a company in Illinois, USA.

Then I discovered that Amazon.com (yes, Amazon.com) sell multi-regional DVD players via partner companies. The beautiful part of this is you are shopping through Amazon, so your purchase is protected by their Buyer Protection Plan! Awesome!

Liz's birthday was a couple of months ago, and I bought her a flat panel LCD Monitor. My birthday is coming up real soon, and my darling wife went and bought me a multi-regional DVD player! I'd already picked out the one I wanted (a Toshiba model) and let her know I wanted it AND SHE BOUGHT IF FOR ME!!!

Now I can watch all of the Lano & Woodley episodes, not just the first one on each DVD!
And I can watch all the extra stuff on my other DVDs too.
Now I won't be so reluctant to buy some cheap DVDs when I'm in Australia next time :D

I love my wife :)

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Pooping babies, and stupid fish

Amber has gone off bottles and is now eating A LOT more solid foods, or at least as solid as jars of baby food can be. This means her nappies (diapers) are not as full of pee as they used to be, but she has turned into a veritable pooping machine. Almost every nappy has poop in it. The good side of this?

"What can possibly be good about this?" I hear you say.

Because she's on "solid" foods, her poop is no longer a runny mess, but just one big solid chunk. The down side. It seems to stink a whole lot more.

Too much information, you say? What do you mean by that?

(insert)Evil Laugh(/insert)

part deuce
One of the goldfish seems to have gone a little whacko. It lies on the bottom of the tank, on its side, then flaps around turning cartwheels and other sorts of non-fish-like manuevers that clearly indicate it's gone a little crazy in the head. I thought it was dying last week, but it survived, but at what cost?

The other goldfish, the big one, the fat one, Mr Piggy (I just named him right now) who I'll also call Stupid Fish, is such a pig. When I put food in the tank he swims to the top of the tank and gobbles up as much of the food as he can before it gets pushed underwater by the stream from the filter. Once enough food gets pushed underwater (I don't know how much "enough" is, it's "enough" in Mr Piggy's stupid little fishy mind) Mr Piggy heads down to the bottom of the tank and starts gobbling up the food down there as fast as he can. Meanwhile Mr Whacko (the brain damaged goldfish) swims around in circles, sideways, while lying on the bottom of the tank; swimming repetitively over the top of a flake of food before collapsing exhausted next to it; which is when Mr Piggy comes down, shoves Mr Whacko aside and gobbles up the flake of food.

I noticed earlier Mr Piggy was swimming around with his mouth open. He looked a little upset. Now despite Mr Piggy getting way more than his share of the food I put in their tank, so much so that he's twice the size of Mr Whacko, Mr Piggy is such a pig that he sucks up the stones at the bottom of the tank and spits them back out again looking for even more food, which I realize is a completely natural fishy thing to do. I guess you can call it natural selection, because Mr Piggy sucked up a stone that was too big for him. Now the stone is not so big that Mr Piggy wasn't able to get it inside his mouth, but it's so big that once Mr Piggy got it inside his mouth, he wasn't able to spit it out. So Mr Piggy has a stone stuck inside his mouth. So he can't eat until one of two things happen (actually three things but that third thing will result in him not eating ever again). Mr Piggy has to either somehow manage to swallow the stone (which is probably as bad as the third thing which I didn't mention) or he needs to spit the stone out.

I have a feeling that in a couple of days, maybe less (maybe more, his fat might keep him alive longer) Mr Piggy will be floating belly up. If that happens, I think it'll be time to give Mr Whacko the old flush-ho as well, then I'll start all over again with a new set of fish. Maybe a small school of tetras, which are way too small to attempt to eat the stones at the bottom of the tank, but a school of tetras would be nice.

And if you're wondering why I don't do something about Mr Piggy before the third thing happens, the only possible thing I could do for him (other than making the third thing occur even sooner) is take him to the Vets, and I'm sorry, but he's a frigging goldfish. I'm not spending god knows how much money at the Vets for him to even attempt to remove a stone from a goldfish's mouth. I told you, it's natural selection. Stupid Fish shouldn't have sucked up more than he can chew.

(insert)funeral dirge(/insert)

*update*

I checked on Mr Piggy this morning and one of the two things had happened. I suspect Mr Piggy spat the stone out because I find it hard to believe he could have swallowed it.

Here's a picture of Mr Whacko (the brain damaged fish on the left) and Mr Piggy, looking as arrogant as ever. I don't know how a fish can look arrogant, but Mr Piggy manages to do it very well indeed.


You can click the picture to view Mr Piggy up close & personal.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Ganking from Liz

Top 10 Google searches for Capn John

1. Cap'n John's Boat Lettering

2. Cap'n John's Page (chartered cruises)

3. Cap'n John's Sports & Scuba

4. Noah an' Jonah an' Cap'n John Smith

5. Cap'n John Kipper Fillets (sp)

6. Cap'n John's Blog (my old Pitas blog)

7. repeat of #4

8. Repeat of #1

9. Promote Cap'n Crunch to Admiral (Admiral Crunch just doesn't sound the same)

10. Repeat of #1 (this guy has good advertizing)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Yesterday, today, tomorrow, and 5 things

10 years ago: I met a woman on the internet who would change my life.

5 years ago: My son was born.

1 year ago: My Dad celebrated his last birthday.

Yesterday: I got up, went to work, came home, and spent time with my family.

Today: I drove 180 miles to Visalia, then drove another 180 miles back to Los Angeles.

Tomorrow: A coworker "officially" retires.

5 snacks I enjoy: Honey-roasted peanuts; pistachios; potato chips; chocolate bars (w/o peanut butter in them), muffins/cake.

5 bands/artists that I know the lyrics of MOST of their songs: Dire Straits; Shania Twain; Garth Brooks; Crowded House; Mental As Anything

5 things I would do with 100,000,000 dollars: pay off my current mortgage, pay off my college loan; buy a real house w/ a real yard; buy Liz her SUV; buy me my '68 Mustang.

5 bad habits I have: procrastination; little patience with fools; drive too fast; obsessive compulsive; WoW addict ;)

5 things I like doing: spending time with my wife and children; playing WoW & other video games; playing golf; reading; shooting.

5 things I would never wear: A bikini; a bee-kini; leather pants; a speedo at the beach (or anywhere else in public); a hat at the dinner table.

5 TV shows I like: The Simpsons; X-Files; Alton Brown's "Good Eats";

5 movies I like: Labyrinth; The LOTR Trilogy; The Punisher (2004),

5 famous people I'd like to meet: Jennifer Connelly; Harrison Ford; Bruce Willis; Guy Pearce; Tom Hanks.

5 biggest joys at the moment: My children; my wife; coming home to my children & my wife; looking forward to my mum, sister & bro-in-law visiting next year; playing WoW

5 favourite toys: My Nintendo (in all it's various guises); Guitar; Golf Clubs; 2-Way Radios; My wife (not necessarily in order of most favourite ;)