Monday, November 28, 2005

The immovable booger

You know what I hate?

When you get a booger deep up inside one nostril.

It's up there so far that blowing your nose doesn't really dislodge it.

What you need to do is take your little finger (coz it's smaller and more nimble than the rest) and shove it up inside your nostril until you can almost scratch the back of your eyeball, and then you can finally get to the booger.

What's really annoying is when you get a booger deep up inside your nostril like this, and you're at work, so you have no privacy to go rooting around inside your nose like a miner digging for gold.

So the booger stays there, making your nose itch, and you try surreptitious picks, like the full-hand nose scratch where one finger or your thumb slips inside and tries to get to the booger, but that doesn't work, because you need to go long, as they say in football.

You try rubbing the outside of your nose, but that really doesn't help either.

You need to get a finger up deep inside your nostril, but for that, you need privacy.

Coz no one, not even Sienfeld, wants to get caught with a finger in their nose, even if there was no pick.

Monday, November 21, 2005

We watched the latest Harry Potter on the weekend. Good movie. I love how they keep reminding us of Professor Snape's dark past, because it is, after all, an ongoing, integral part of the story. Is he still a bad guy? Has he really reformed? Is he just fooling Dumbledore?

I expect at the end of the series when Harry is on a ledge over the fires of Mount Doom fighting Gollum for the One Ring, I mean, when Harry's fighting Voltemort at some yet to be determined precarious and deadly dangerous location, Harry is going to need Snape. Seriously need him. Like if he doesn't get help from Snape, it'll be all over for Mr. Lightning Bolt Head.

And that's when everyone will be holding their breath.

Both Voltemort and Harry are going to turn to Snape for help, and that's when we find out whose side Snape is really on.

Of course if Snape does turn out to still be a bad guy then Dumbledore will appear and save the day. This will be an unexpected surprise because previously we will have seen Dumbledore apparently fall to his death while fighting a Balrog, but now he's back! Yay!

That's going to be an excellent movie.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Age of Empires III

We bought Liz AoE III the other night, but it wouldn't install on her new PC, coz we got an error message claiming various CAB files were corrupt. The CDs themselves looked fine, but the game wouldn't complete the install. I tried burning a copy of the CD (you know, like threatening something. See here? This is you, only an effigy of you, and I'm burning it...get the picture? Wait, that's not what I meant by "burning a copy"...never mind) but during the burn my DVD reader reported quite a few unreadable sectors on the CD (the original CD, not the burnt copy...I mean all the sectors on the burnt one were unreadable, coz it was burnt, right?...never mind) so I figured the CDs got messed up while they were being produced, so we returned them tonight.

Yes, you can return opened video and PC games, but you can only exchange them for a copy of the exact same game, which was fine with us. Liz had already played the demo and enjoyed it, so we were happy to get a working copy.

We got home, popped in CD#1 (of 3), ran the install, it asked for CD#2, we popped that in...and a corrupt CAB error message came up. WTF? What the hell is this shite? Well the game is produced by Microshaft Microsoft. Need I say more?

This time I attempted to not burn a copy of the CD, but install it, on my PC, and it worked...WTF? Ok, Microshaft Microsoft are taking the piracy thing a little bit too far and are encoding their CDs so they are more difficult to pirate...which is complete BS because they're no more difficult to pirate now than they were last year...but they are harder to install unless you have top of the line readers to handle all the encryption shite, like I do, but Liz doesn't.

I then attempted an install on Liz's PC over our LAN using my PC, and it worked...sort of...despite the fact that in the network neighborhood I could see the shared directory on Liz's PC, and that said directory contained a folder called AoE III, I could see that folder only on my PC. I mean it was on Liz's PC, but I couldn't see it using her PC, I could only see it using my PC. WTF? So Liz calls my bro-in-law to ask him for help, but she calls my bro-in-law by mistake, as in she meant to call my older BIL but called the younger BIL instead. While I was chatting to him I copied the AoE III folder from my PC to Liz's PC over our LAN. Not installed, copied. Liz popped in the CD, and instead of getting an Install prompt, she got a Play prompt. That was good, but another WTF? moment.

So she plays AoE III for a little while, and she's enjoying it...but it's awfully slow...coz she doesn't have a dedicated video card...she has an onboard video card using 64 of her 512Mb of PC2700 DDR Memory, which is enough to run the game...it's enough to run the game. Liz got a little annoyed. Frustrated even. Some might say "Pissed."

I was playing World of Warcraft (as I do every evening) and I don't know what came over me, but I voluntarily gave up my PC so Liz could play her new game. No, she didn't ask me if she could kick me off, I offered my PC to her. She was so pissed at first that she didn't want it, but the desire to actually play the game (not just run it, get the difference?) was too strong, and she agreed.

Tomorrow, we get her a BFG4000 video card...from Best Buy...or maybe I'll see what CompUSA have...although we have a 12% discount coupon at Best Buy...I think BB is gonna get our business...again.

Running late

This morning I was going to take out the trash when I looked at my watch and realized I was running late for my bus, so I left the trash outside the front door (hope it was ok, there) and ran for the bus stop.

At the intersection across the road from the bus stop, while pressing the button for the little green man, I looked down the road and saw the bus coming. I'd just missed the lights so I had to wait for them to cycle, but the bus was approaching, and I would have run across the road like I do sometimes but I never got a large enough break in the traffic.

An elderly Chinese gentleman and his wife normally wait at the stop in mornings with me, and I saw him talking to the bus driver and pointing across the road at me. We have a couple of regular bus drivers, and if you ride the bus often enough you get to know people, not by name, but enough to wish them a good morning.

So I waved at the bus driver, and pressed the button, and prayed for the light to change so I could cross. The driver slowly crept forward and he was probably wanting the light to change, but it didn't, and he crept forward into the intersection, and then, well, he couldn't really stay there, so he drove on through.

I saw the Chinese gentleman looking at me through the window so I waved to him, in appreciation for his willingness to ask the driver to stop. As the light finally changed the bus pulled through the intersection, and stopped, and switched on its flashers.

I ran across the road to the bus stop but once again I was still on the wrong side, and the light was once again against me. But this road is a smaller side street, just one lane each way, with a considerably smaller volume of traffic. Before the light had changed again every car wanting to proceed through the lights had done so, and the way was clear.

I ran across the road, up beside the bus, and the door opened for me. I thanked the driver for waiting and headed up the back to my usual spot. I shook the Chinese gentleman's hand as I passed him and thanked him for asking the bus to stop.

What a beautiful start to the day.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

One of life's lessons

When I was younger, maybe 10 years old (not sure of exact age), we visited a paternal uncle and his family in Melbourne. Because they were fairly well off, they had an inground swimming pool. Being summer we all spent a lot of time in the pool. At one point my uncle told me he'd hold a pool bean bag for me (like a regular bean bag but for the pool, not your family room) while I did a forward somersault from the edge of the pool into the bean bag.

So I climbed out and I guess everyone but me knew what was coming because it was a big joke when I did a flip into the pool and hit the water, because my uncle had pulled the bean bag away of course.

Laughing, my uncle told me he'd hold it for me for real this time, so, still trusting him, I climbed out and did another flip and again went straight into the pool.

He was the only one laughing when he did it the third time.

And when I climbed out of the pool the fourth time my Dad told me to stop.

Dad knew by the look in my eyes that I intended to continue doing flips into the pool until my uncle stopped pulling the bean bag away. Dad also knew that my uncle would always pull the bean bag away, long after it had stopped being funny.

See my uncle and my dad intended to teach me a lesson, that you can't trust anyone, not even family, and they were right of course.

But I intended to continue doing flips into the pool because I wanted to teach my uncle a lesson; if there's anyone in life you should be able to trust, it is family.

I did learn something that day. Nothing hurts more than when your family betrays you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Liz's tiny PC

When I picked up my two sticks of Ram from my local Best Buy, because the store cannot alter an online order, nor give me a refund for the overcharged sales tax, the manager sold me the Ram as if my order never existed. He honored the online price and gave me $5 off, which was the sales tax on the two items. I just had to cancel the order when I got home, which I did, and in the comments section I made sure to mention how upset I was with the CSR I spoke to who couldn't communicate with me, and who couldn't resolve my problem, and who wouldn't transfer me to someone who could.

We ended up picking up a couple of other things while we were in the store. Liz had been complaining about how noisy the fan in the new PC was, because her old PC had a super-quiet fan, and I guess it was, because Liz noticed the new one, so I got a tube of thermal grease, necessary for replacing/changing over heat sinks. I also saw Age of Empires III. Liz said she was getting bored with AoE II and wanted a new game so this was perfect timing.

Back home I opened up the case for the new PC and was amazed again at just how compact they had made it and still got everything inside. Of course it helps that practically everything inside is built into the motherboard, but, you still have a hard drive, a CD Rom, a 3.5" floppy drive, and a power supply (just about the biggest thing in there) all tucked into the tiniest of cases. The hard drive is actually mounted in a bay which runs horizontally across the case, rather than being mounted in the usual manner, i.e., front to back like the CD Rom. In order to change over the hard drive I actually had to remove the entire hard drive bay, not just the hard drive itself. Well, in order to replace the fan and heat sink, I actually had to take out the power supply. This probably means nothing to anyone who hasn't cracked a PC case before, but this is not SOP for replacing CPU fans & heat sinks.

This is akin to shoe horning a 5.0 litre V8 (about a 308 to you imperialists ;) into a Mini Cooper S. We're talking about getting stuff inside an area where it technically fits, but has never, ever been in a space that small before. The economical use of limited space is just sheer genius, although it does make working on those things a real bitka (no offense, Bitka, I just had to throw that in ;).

Fortunately Liz uses her PC for surfing, doing our finances, and playing AoE II (now III) so what she has now is pretty much going to get the job done for a long time. About the only other upgrade I'd consider is a real Video Card. Her onboard card is using 64Mb of the 512Mb of Ram I dropped in, which makes it an average card by industry standards, but it's not a real 3D card. Not that she needs one, but, it would be nice for her to have a dedicated 3D card, so, I might have to buy one and drop it in for her, and then she'd have everything she needs. AoE III should run on her system, but, it may want a real 3D card too, so I could be cracking her PC once more in the very near future.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Monday, November 14, 2005

Best Buy's imaginary Customer Service

I've decided I no longer like Best Buy. A month or so back, I visited a Best Buy store with a page printed from their website showing an item and its price. The in-store price was several dollars higher than the online price. The clerk told me they couldn't honor the online price because their website is considered a separate entity from their brick & stone stores. It didn't occur to me at the time that if www.bestbuy.com is a different entity from Best Buy then I should have asked them to price match like they would a competitor.

This morning I placed an order online for two memory cards. Annoyed that I was going to pay twice the S&H for two exact same items (how much harder is it to grab two of one item from a bin and stuff them in a box than just grab one? Not twice as hard, that's for sure) I decided to pick up the cards at my local store, just a few miles away. So I placed the order and put it on my Bestbuy credit card. Several hours later I received an email confirmation that my items were definitely in-store and ready to be picked up. I went to bestbuy.com and verified my order, and discovered I'd been charged twice the sales tax (i.e., 16.5%) for one of the memory cards. I also got charged 8.25% for the other, so it wasn't like the sales tax was combined.

Not a problem, right? I called Bestbuy's Customer Service Dept. where a gentleman by the name of Raj with a heavy indian (asian/middle eastern) accent took my call. Now not only was Raj's accent rather heavy, but his syntax and grammar were way off. Hey, as long as Raj knows his stuff and adjusts the sales tax, I'm ok with that.

Raj had no clue.

Raj has no idea what sales tax is. He doesn't comprehend that two items on the same order at the same price should incur the same sales tax. After amusing me with his bizarre version of english and putting me on hold, it was not so amusing when Raj informed me that he would send my "request" to the "research" department, and that they'd get back in touch with me in 24 to 48 hours.

Excuse me? My "request"? Raj, buddy, this is not a request. Your company charged me the wrong sales tax amount. This should be a simple correction. Just go into the system and change the sales tax so that both items are charged the same amount. Raj cannot do that. Ok, Raj, let me speak to a supervisor, coz this is going nowhere. I'm sorry, Hal, I can't do that. Now Raj sounds like a nice guy, but there's something in the way he's denying my request to speak to a supervisor that says my call begins and ends at Raj. So I hang up on him.

And I call the local Best Buy store.

The one where I plan to pick up the memory cards after work. The one in California which will understand about Sales Tax.

A girl answers, I explain the situation, I need a refund because I've been charged the wrong sales tax. She transfers me to another girl. I explain the situation to her. She transfers me to a guy. He works in the Home Theater section, so he transfers me to Customer Service. The second girl answers the phone. She's still working on my problem, she says. Why I ended up at Home Theater I don't know, although I've been sent there while visiting their brick & stone store as well. It's as if Home Theater is the place to send a customer when you don't want to deal with them.

After talking to someone else there, 2nd girl comes back and tells me I'll need to speak to a manager when I come into the store.

I plan to do just that.

I've also written a nice letter to Best Buy corporate detailing how unhappy I am with their so called Customer Service. I'll be giving the manager at my local Best Buy a copy of the letter when I go there this afternoon.

I used to love Best Buy. I'm not so happy with them anymore.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Half the weekend

We went out for Breakfast at Millie's in Covina with the in-laws. It wasn't too bad, but not unlike a Denny's. The service was a little slow, food preparation wise, but those coffee refills kept on coming, even before the food arrived, and I got seriously wired.

They had a Solitaire "jump-the-pegs-until-one's-left" game on each table. I was able to get down to one peg almost every game I played. JE got down to three a couple of times, the FIL just didn't seem to have a clue. Now he's an intelligent man (I'd like to think) but he had a huge problem "seeing" the moves he needed to end up with one peg. Of course he was also trying to be clever and finish with 8 pegs and no legal jumps, but that's damn near impossible.

And what the hell is up with people who cannot cook "fried eggs over medium" as I always request? Denny's cannot do it. Several breakfasts at Denny's I get my eggs over easy, which is not a big problem, I'll eat that, but I ordered over medium. I ordered over medium at Millie's too, and they came back "over-less-than-easy". I kid you not, the whites were still runny, not the yolk (it was runny, too) but the whites. We'd waited so long for our meal that I just ate it anyway. Liz and the MIL ordered over easy, they got over easy. No surprise there, I almost had over easy myself, just another minute or two on the grill and they would have been over easy, but I ordered over medium.

After breakfast the kids went with the in-laws and Liz & I stopped at Ikea where we picked up a set of shelves for the garage. After they were put together Liz turned them into a shoe rack. The garage is looking a lot cleaner now, so much so that we actually found the key to the padlock on the back gate. We promptly made use of the key and unlocked the gate because the gardeners had arrived. It's a good thing we were in the garage because the gate has been locked ever since they let Anzac out (he was found by a neighbor a couple of doors up) and they cut down the tree we had growing in the backyard. The gardeners asked if we wanted them to cut the lawn, we said yes. We'd already locked Anzac all the way around the back and Liz picked up the little surprises he'd left on the lawn.

Saturday JE wanted to ride his bike (he still has training wheels) and I had a cunning plan. We rode (JE rode) down to the bike path alongside the river, where I hooked Anzac's leash to his bike and he pulled JE along the bikepath. I actually had two leashes on Anzac. One for him to pull JE, and the other I hung onto to make sure Anzac didn't run down into the river. JE thought it was neat that Anzac was pulling him along, and Anzac got a good workout, which he needs, being a Border Collie.

We joined friends of Liz's at the Macaroni Grill Saturday night and pigged out. The husband is in the clothing business (manufacturing brand name clothing in China, not knock-offs, he has contracts with the stores to make the "original" items) so I wound up with a bunch of new clothes. Liz gave her friend (who is 7 months pregnant; "just 71 days to go" she said) a bag of her old maternity clothes, so it was a fair trade. We were going to catch a movie at Santa Anita afterwards, but the four story parking structure was jam-packed, at 7:30 on a Saturday night. Then again, there's also a Dave & Busters which accesses that same structure, but it was 7:30 on a Saturday night, and that structure was fuller than I've ever seen it. Liz gave up and we headed for home...after stopping at TJ Max's first ;)

This morning I plan to get Liz a new PC. I think the mobo on her old one is dying. Fry's have a good PC (full system, will just have to change the hard drives over) for $170. It will give Liz an upgrade at a fairly low cost.

I'm hungry. I made myself a bowl of Cheerios, took a big spoonful, was chewing away and noticed a rather bitter taste. Checked the carton of milk, it expired two days ago. We have no more milk. There's probably breakfast goodies in the freezer. I'm going to check. Bye for now.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Homestyle Cafe

The owner of the Homestyle Cafe was a lovely English woman who probably took to me a little more than her average customer because of our shared heritage, and I always took the time to have a quick chat with her whenever we visited there for their HUGE breakfast at rock bottom prices.

I just found out she passed away not too long ago. Her children decided they didn't want to go into the restaurant business, and so the Homestyle Cafe is no longer open for business.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

My cousin must know someone

First he features in this article which appeared in The Age, one of the major Australian newspapers.

A few months later he rears his head once more in this article.

I'm not jealous, I'm just feeling a little melancholoy at the moment; googling relatives, being cognizant of the time that's gone by.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Tetras have arrived

We made a trip to the Pet Store tonight and picked up eight Neon Tetras. I only have a 10-gallon tank, but Tetras only grow to 1.5” or so, and they’re narrow bodied fish, which means you can put in more fish than the recommended 1” of fish per gallon of water. Plus the Tetras are schooling fish, so I wanted to get several of them. Six would have been a good number too, but I’m expecting one or two to not make it (just the way things are) so if we do lose one or two we’ll still have six of them, which is still a decent number for a small school.

I did several water changes throughout the week, changed out the filter (again) and got an A-Ok from the guy at the Pet Store who tested the water, so last night we picked up a small plant and the Tetras.

After a lengthy acclimation of over half an hour, the Tetras were finally out of their plastic bag and happy to be swimming around in the tank in a little school. Amber was extremely excited to see the tank occupied once again and we’re going to have to keep an eye on her because as soon as she’d pulled herself up next to the tank she was banging on the glass and it was extremely obvious why aquariums ask you not to do that; the Tetras were swimming around at a mile a minute, with a couple of them even hiding in the plant or under the rock decoration.

Then we noticed that one of the Tetras that we’d thought was hiding in the plant was still hiding in the plant, face down, under a leaf, not moving. The school had regrouped but this particular fish was still hiding, face down, under a leaf, not moving. Man, they’d been in the tank barely twenty minutes and we had our first casualty. I poked the net into the tank and a JE did a quick 180 from tears of grief to tears of joy as the "dead" fish shot out of the plant and rejoined the school.

The website I linked to earlier tells me the Tetras like a darker substrate/gravel in their tank, as it makes them feel a little more secure. I seem to recollect reading that a darker substrate also helps to bring out the colors in colorful fish, so I think I’ll have to pick up a bag of darker/black gravel and start mixing it in with the current substrate. As that would probably make a lot of substrate in the aquarium I think I’ll have to replace a substantial portion of the substrate, not just pour the dark gravel in on top of the current lot.

And now, here’s a picture of me and my coworkers from last Monday, when we wore our pajamas to work. Actually we didn’t wear them to work, we just wore them at work :)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The things you find on the Web

I was searching for sites explaining the laws regarding a licensed driver driving without being in possession of their driver's license, i.e., they left it at home, in their other jacket, pants, etc.

Then I discovered this gem. Now I'm a Christian, but I find the thought of The Kingdom of Heaven Driver's License to be just a little bit disturbing.
You can also register your car with the Kingdom of Heaven. The KoH gets the title to your car, you become a steward of the vehicle; so KoH owns your car but you have their permission to drive it. That's scary.

From their website, here's their spiel on how to become a resident of the Kingdom of Heaven.

"Take care of your State obligations. If you are in debt, pay off your loans as quickly as possible. If you have long-term loans or mortgages, consider selling the property or letting the bank foreclose. If you are burdened with loans, you are a servant to the lender and are still in bondage. If you can become free, do so.

After paying off your loans, you will no longer need a corporate job. Ask God to lead you to work where you do not need the marks of the beast, such as a social security number and State licenses.

You will also need to withdraw your children from public school and remove the family from any State tax-supported activities. If you wish to partake of public libraries, swimming pools and community colleges, pay non-resident rates."

I guess I'm not yet ready to become a resident of the Kingdom of Heaven.