The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

Taking a break…

| July 28, 2004

Waiting for Liz to put me back to work….

Anyway, Saturday at Historicon was basically a wash. I had two games I wanted to try to play that didn't happen. The first was a very large game in a very small, hot room. The second was an unscheduled game that seems to have been cancelled. But, it wasn't a total loss – I hung out with the non-annoying group of late teens/early twentysomethings. We talked, played some Axis and Allies, watched Family Guy and some movies, and just generally hung out.

Sunday was a relaxing ride home.

Monday and Tuesday, Liz and I painted the walls. They're not perfect (is the paint line near molding ever perfect?) and we got some spots on the ceiling in the first room that we did (need to touch that up), but in general it makes a huge difference. I wasn't sure how much I'd like it, but I'm quite pleased.

The spare room/Irene's room is a light green; kind of a sea green/spring green, officially called “Cristopher Robin's Swing”.

Liz and My bedroom is a Lialacish purple called “Cinderella's Glass Slipper”.

The main room is kind of a Periwinkle. Very relaxing, which is good because I'm going to be spending a lot of time there.

I'll post photos when I get a chance. Time to go back to moving.

Edit: Liz posted a link to pictures in the comments.

Hello from historicon!

| July 24, 2004

It's been a good convention so far. ESR was supposed to show up today, but I haven't seen him yet.

I played in a modern infantry/armor game (US Army vs. Iraqi’s). Of course, the GM played the Iraqis because they’re not that much fun to play as they fairly easily get slaughtered. But, I won a $20 gift certificate (random die roll, no skill required) to the place that casts the figures so I picked up some of them and then today I picked up some Bradley APC’s for the US troops. Of course, the funny thing about this is that it’s really hard to get “bad guy” troop carriers for modern infantry, since most of them are riding around in the back of Toyota pickup trucks! I also realized that I miss gaming, but not enough to want to do it every week. However (provided Liz is agreeable) I’ll be running small games maybe once a month on a Saturday or Sunday at our new place. So, I picked up a few hills at the flea market, and a bag of trees. I was amazed – the trees were like $10 (cheap!). Then I showed them to a friend, Bob, and he said that I should go to a cake decorating place. Well, lo and behold bags of 144 for $20. Now, they still need bases, but you can stick them into cardboard and base them like that pretty easily. So, I might pick up some of those. They have Palm trees too, and those fit desert warfare better. I’ve learned a lot about terrain on the cheap. You know those large felt groundcloths that a lot of people put on tables for a base layer of terrain? Well, a roll of automotive carpet works just as well, and you can get them in the sizes I need (no larger than 4′ x 6′, ideally 2’x3′) for like $10. Of course, you can use rolls of felt too, but those tend to be more expensive. Let’s see; what else? I played in a western game yesterday. It was the townsfolk and lawmen vs. the outlaws and it ended up splitting down the main road with 2 groups of Mexicans vs. the happy drunks and the Earps on one side and and the guys in long dusters and the Irish gang vs. the sherriff and depities and the townsfolk on the other. I was one of the groups of mexicans. We basically slaughtered each other, and the group on the other side took up positions in buildings and ended up shooting at each other across the street and fighting to a stalemate when no one could kill each other because they were hiding in buildings. Today I’m going to try to get into the game that my mom always talks about where it’s basically a movie – everyone gets and actor and you make up the script as you go along. After that, there’s another of those modern games, only unscheduled and I was invited to play. I picked up a copy of Axis and Allies. I might run that some of that too. Dunno. I just want to play lots of different games, and there’s no need for them to have any continuity. I’ll probably write up scenarios to keep it interesting, and am going to try to keep it to “just show up and play” complexity. I’ll make up the armies, and all everyone else does is learn the rules. Strange bits: For some reason, when I sit with my computer in the evening, it seems to attract a group of late teens/early 20’s. Not that I mind most of them, but there are a couple just annoying skate rat / anti-establishment / I’ll smoke inside because fuck them and their rules types which are rather annoying. Gaming conventions are tremendous motivators for diet and exercise. I think I’ve got the diet down – I don’t eat that badly, and I just need to start exercising more. The motivators are twofold – there is a lot of walking around, and there are a lot of obscenely fat people who come out of the woodwork at these things. Large, fat, sweaty, smelly men with soaked T-shirts clinging to their enormous girth. Sketchy. The above fat men wearing various “Airborne” and “Navy Seal” T-shirts. Yeah, like you could be in any special forces.. One guy with a Hitler brush moustache and a variety of German shirts, largely centered around famous Wehrmacht tanks such as the Tiger. I tried to go to bed early last night, but I get to my room and it’s like 85 in there. I call the desk and a man comes and replaces the thermostat (it had broken), but it takes about an hour, so I end up getting to bed at midnight anyway. I think that’s about it. I think I’m going to go try to find some lunch.

Why I like Macs

| July 20, 2004

I like Macs because I can, in good conscience, recommend them for people as a computer. This is opposed to Linux, where I have to listen to their bitching about how Linux is [crap|difficult to use|annoying to install|looks funny] whatever.

This was prompted by the fact that my mother (an archetypal “uses a computer at work but doesn't want to know anything more about it. It should just work, and she shouldn't have to be afraid of getting virii from the internet” type user) spent a few hours at Liz's on Saturday, figured out iMovie in about 5 minutes, and was able to import, cut, splice, and edit a movie from her digital camcorder. We've now sold her on buying an iBook. Bear in mind that she has also sat and used my Linux boxen, but she did not take to them nearly as rapidly.

Tequila and frying pans

| July 20, 2004

  • So, the annoying cats managed to break a bottle of Jose Cuervo. The thing is, they were sneaky about it. We came home, and the floor was wet, and it smelled odd. We couldn't place it right away, and traced it up to the shelf, and then noticed that the back was broken out of the bottle, and all the Jose had leaked out.

  • So, I mentioned previously that picked up the Calphalon One saute set, right? Well, I'm quite impressed. Not impressed enough to replace all my Calphalon Nonstick, but definitely enough that if I was starting from scratch, I would buy the One as opposed to the Nonstick. I highly recommend it.

So, today was reasonably productive

| July 17, 2004

  • We went to Best Buy and got Liz some new speakers to match the Mac. We also picked up some DVD's.

  • Then we went on to Kitchens, Etc., because they're going out of business, and everything is 10% off. Of course, pretty much everything good had been taken.

  • We had some coupons for Bed, Bath and Beyond, so we headed further up route 2, and overshot it to hit EMS and grabbed some Nalgene bottles. They were on sale – 2 for $14, and there was another “buy 3 things, get a 4th of equal or lesser value for free” so we got 2 bottles and 2 of the anti-splash inserts. (One each for me and Liz).

  • We hit B,B and B on the way back, and I picked up a 3qt saute + 10″ frying pan set. I have those in nonstick, but that kind of defeats the purpose, considering that they can't brown things that well. Of course, a nonstick saute pan is good for those frozen bagged skillet meals. I also got a salad spinner (nothing worse than a puddle of water in the bottom of your salad bowl), and a set of earthenware bakeware. I was just going to pick up some custard cups, but this had small and medium ones, plus some various shapes of larger dishes between 1.5qt and 2.5qt with lids. Considering that neither Liz nor I have a lot of bakeware (we each have one of the requisite pyrex/corning casserole dishes, but nothing more), I figured it was a good investment. The larger ones are good for shepherd's pie, chicken pot pie, quiche, etc., and and smaller ones are good for all the various custards, flans, and all that. I have a recipe for a cappuccino custard that I'd like to have a go at, plus there's all different kinds you can do – fruit, carmel, hot fudge, etc. We picked up some other random things – couple extra chef's knives for when people come over and help cook, a soft cheese slicer (you know, the kind with the thin wire).

I'm really sad that Kitchens, Etc. is going out of business. It was really a kitchen store, where Bed, Bath and Beyond and Linens N' Things really aren't. They have some kitchen stuff, but not huge amounts. JC Penney often has a decent selection, and I'm looking at Kitchen Emporium which was listed in Alton Brown's book. It's down in Westerly, and looks like it has some decent stuff, though expensive.

Why Cingular will lose my business

| July 13, 2004

Remember this post about how Cingular sucks?

Well, guess what – they STILL suck, only I have official confirmation this time.

1.) I have not been able to pay my bill for 2 weeks because their website is broken, and I get an “unknown error”.

2.) I would be in trouble, not having a paper bill and all, except that THAT portion of the website is broken too, so I still get a paper bill despite trying to turn it off 4 times.

3.) I would have told them about it, except – whoops, no email address, form submission, anything.

So, what the hell, I call up, and talk with a very nice lady. I tell her about 1 and 2, and she agrees that the website is completely broken, and they're working on it. Fine. They've been working on it for 6 months, but fine.

Then, she tells me that 3 is not a problem; it's a decision. They used to have it, and they removed it.

WHAT?!?!!

So I let her have it (not trying to be mean, but I am not going to do business with people like that). I told her:

Cingular is a telecommunications company. I pay you for service to facilitate communication. When I have a problem, I should be able to communicate it to you via any communications system valid in todays business market. Email is one such system. For you to have no such system means that I must inconvenience myself in order to mate up with your schedule, and I must wait on hold. If all I’m doing is reporting a website problem, then immediate feedback is not necessary, and email latency is just fine. For a telecommunications company to be stuck in the dark ages and not use modern communications methods is unacceptable, and I will be taking my business to Verizon. After all, I’m not even their customer and have emailed them and they’ve responded quickly and rapidly.

Then I thanked her for her time and hung up.

I hope they recorded that conversation.

Get in the kitchen, and make me a chicken pot pie!

| July 12, 2004

So, Liz gave me my presents yesterday (she was at her parents' house the previous week).

  • 4 french onion soup crocks (onion soup is one of my favorites)
  • A copy of Coffee, which is, as it's name would imply, a book on coffee. I like this because coffee is the one substance that I REALLY enjoy that doesn't bother Liz (cigars bother Liz, and I don't like alcohol as much as I like coffee).
  • A copy of The Joy Of Cooking. In case people live in a cave, this is the quintissential cookbook in the US. Some credit it with inventing modern cooking in America sixty-five years ago when it first came out.
  • A copy of Alton Brown's Gear for your Kitchen.

So, I guess I know what my role in the new apartment will be, eh? Not that I mind. I like to cook.

People need to come over and keep me company and EAT!

I also need to go to Bed Bath and Beyond (did you know Kitchens, Etc. filed Chapter 11?) and get some things, such as:

– A non-nonstick saute pan (the nonstick ones just don’t crisp and brown things properly). I have a nice dense cast-iron skillet, and that works really well (especially for meat), but I prefer the curved bottom of a saute pan for sliced/diced things. So, for general-purpose cookware, I like hard anodized aluminum, because it’s tough as nails, nonreactive, and goes in the dishwasher. Calphalon (THE name in hard annodized cookware) actually has a “Saute Set” which has a 3qt saute pan (which is kind of on the smaller side, but considering I rarely cook for more than 2 people, is a good size. If it’s too small, I’ll buy a 5qt one) and a 10″ omelette pan. I LOVE omelette pans. They’re nice and shallow and good for browning things. – A roasting pan. Neither Liz nor I has one, and it’s a good thing to have. I usually just use a pyrex deal, but then the meat sits in the juices and gets soggy on one side. – Loaf pans. You know, for bread, meatloaf (despite the cliche’s I like meatloaf) – Extra chef’s knives – because whenever people come over, everyone wants a chef’s knife. It is THE knife. – A box grater. I have a flat grater, Liz has this Oxo thing that does really fine ribbons (excellent for zest and hard cheese, horrible for anything like cheddar). I hate my flat grater, it’s a pain. Set the box grater in a bowl, and you’re done. Or, KitchenAid one makes one with a snap on bottom, so no bowl required. – A pizza cutter, the kind with the slicer IN the handle. Zyliss makes one that’s really neat. You can press right down on it, because the half-moon shaped handle goes around the blade. It’s not just for pizza though, oh know. Use it to cut dough, or anything else. – Some rubber shelf liner. I used to use a towel to stop my cutting boards from slipping. However, shelf liner works better. Holy crap, that’s obvious! – A silpat, maybe. You can freeze them, you can bake them, and nothing sticks to them. What’s better? (and I’m only halfway through the book!)

News and other stupidity

| July 10, 2004

This is an amalgam of various stupidities:

1.) A commercial which states “People prefer the taste of new Lays (whatever they're called) over Pringles. Why? Because they taste better!”. Well gee folks; if people prefer the taste, then might it be because they taste better?

2.) A commercial which states “What does the phone company know about selling satellite dishes? At Cox communications, we know television; it's what we do. Some come to us for Digital Television, Digital Cable and Digital Telephone”.

The first part of this makes sense. What does the phone company, historically a purveyor of symmetrical Tx/Rx technologies know about a broadcast-based method of content delivery?

Of course, this means that Cox's position is affected by the converse. What does a broadcast-based company know about symmetrical systems like telephone and internet? Maybe that's why cable modems are so high-latency and have such poor upstream bandwidth. (Actually, it is. Cable modems function by polling each one on the switch in series asking if it has data to send (increasing latency) then stuffs you the data you're requesting. It's silly and brain damaged).

3.) News article. Allegedly, a MS employee stole proprietary technology from Altavista before he came to work at MS. There is speculation that he might have used that stolen technology in MSN search.

But, I thought that this was one of the reasons that the GPL was bad? You know, the whole “we don't know where Linux code comes from and its likely that people stole it from Unix and put it in there” bit that SCO and MS are trying to push, and how “proprietary companies have strict auditing to determine where code came from, so this doesn't happen” stuff.

Yeah, right. In reality, in either model, the code comes from some developer and the company assumes that the developer didn't steal it. Often, this is enumerated by contract. If somethign does happen, and the company gets sued, it would be traced back to that developer, who would be fired, and the code would be removed as part of whatever settlement there was (or the defendant would license the code from the plaintiff).

4.) Americans read fewer books. Maybe because of that there internet thing? Plus, this just seems to take into account dead-tree books, and not what people are reading on the internet. I don't know about the rest of you, but I actually read MORE books now than in the past few years, because I'm out of school and have the time to.

Looking for little green men

| July 10, 2004

So, much like this post where I talk about the windows box doing cancer research, all my Linux boxen have joined Seti@home. I really wish I could find something more worthwhile to do with my spare CPU time, but unfortinately, that cure for cancer thing only runs on Windows. Sad, especially since cancer gets 1 P3 550 and Aliens get 1 P3 866 and 2 Athlon 1.0Ghz.

Oh well. Take me to your leader, and all that kit.

Birfday presents

| July 8, 2004

My parents rock:

e1000: eth0: e1000_watchdog: NIC Link is Up 1000 Mbps Full Duplex

5 port gig-e switch.

WRT54G router – you know, the one that runs Linux and has all the custom f/w for it?

And a couple video games.

Time to go to sleep.