Sunday, June 29, 2008


Geek-boy-Bob persists, wins two out of two, after twin long bouts.

I had done it, but only accidentally, merging parts of two photos together to create a fake reality in Photoshop Elements 6 (see Mars Lander, two posts below). Finally, yesterday, I hit upon the magic combination of understanding and skill to now KNOW how to do it. So no pictures will ever be safe from me. Until Saturday I could improve single shots, even merge panoramas, but I couldn't assuredly clip this thing from this picture and put it into THAT picture there... and now I can. What fun! I plan real photo-anarchy!

My second success, minutes ago, was getting music played downstairs UPSTAIRS to the central control for the house (a.k.a. Home Theater amplifier/receiver) then back DOWN to the outdoor speakers or the ones in the living room. This receiver has possibly the worst interface in the history of all electronica. And, having not been on site while the house was being built, and not thinking it all the way through, we omitted a single wire from the central CD player (located just outside my listening room (downstairs) to feed the amp upstairs.) The player location was chosen due to the proximity of the CD collection, which sits in my listening room. Yes, you could schlep a CD upstairs and play via DVD player, but then the CDs are all over the place. Also, schlepping increases exponentially.

I found a bluetooth transmitter/receiver pair with really good range - said to be 100meters! (After I tried and discarded a cheapo-hyped up FM transmitter of questionable fidelity.)

Only today did I figure that the receiver had been blocked by several metal boxes in our new home theater stand... moving it and then trying various configs within the rat-bastard amp finally brought a Madonna test disc upstairs wirelessly, then downstairs on the distribution system. Madge is dizzy, but sounds like a very rich 50 year old.

Since these were the twin outstanding electrical issues in my life, I am now ready for another challenge, but have an electrician coming tomorrow for the dead switch box in the attic. I know if I get it wrong I can burn down the house. (Yes, I checked all circuit breakers --- I even have a tool that shows the power gets into the switch but doesn't leave it.) $73, and the guy will remove two screws, twist two wires, and that's that. We'll have him install another switch elsewhere just to amortize the visit into something more useful.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


It's no secret to the people in Texas, and especially Austin, that the Governor's Mansion, closed for a remodel, was torched the night of June 8, despite security on site. Damage was extreme, but luckily, all artifacts, antiques, etc., were in storage for the renovation. The building was unoccupied.

The mansion is on a public street, fenced in, however, with security cameras and other tools of surveillance peopled by guards on site.

Now the DPS (Dept of Public Safety), those in charge, are trying to keep their videos secret with the flimsy excuse that exposing such would weaken future security for terrorist attacks.

So... a guy with a bottle of gas or some 'accelerant' can get up onto the front porch and set a fire, but somehow terrorists would be dissuaded or caught?

Excuse me?

Apparently the site was understaffed and several of the cameras and motion devices were out of order - or - and this is cute - THOUGHT TO BE, even though they weren't.

7 of 20 cameras were not working. The infrared intruder device worked, but they didn't know it. They got the perp on one camera but don't want to show it.

The world keeps getting crazier and crazier. I do all the head shaking I can, but it doesn't help.

Friday, June 20, 2008


To be sure, a lyric from a STEELY DAN song. Also the best description I feel I can use to explain the day. Wake up, get to endoscopy tower, get suited up, rolled into procedure room, wink wink... it's over. The drugs linger. I came home and slept for hours and feel another nap coming on. Atypically today is cloudy and only warm not hot so it all seems surreal.

One bizarre thing to report is how hungry I wasn't even after a day+ with no food. What's that all about?

Thursday, June 19, 2008


WHO CARES? And MISERY LOVES COMPANY vie as titles for this posting. I guess after more than 700 self-indulgences on this blog, another is appropriate, if not entirely wide-reaching.

Today is pre-procedure day. This involves two issues: all liquids and the carpet bombing (hopefully not literally) by laxatation later in the day.

So, so far, no breakfast - just tea. I find I keep wanting to head to the kitchen for a snack... it's what I do, and each time I feel the urge, I tend to forget I can't answer it. I imagine after a few more hours it'll get more interesting. Of course this means insignificantly little compared to those who suffer REAL hunger, are flooded out of their homes in the Midwest, etc. It's just a new experience for me. I was surprised by how many people commented to me yesterday that this is the hard day. I believe there's a community or brother-and-sisterhood tapped by this. Every one suggested the impending - how shall I say it? - "emptification" was a pain in the...

By the way - research for a syndication I did once showed me that cravings last about 15 minutes. If you can distract yourself you'll beat it. (Which is why I am writing this.)

More later.

It's later. 4 pills almost 3 hours ago are working their way through my system like a reform through congress - slowly! In about a half hour I start the every-fifteen minute 'jump-up' as they say, for another reason, in the Caribbean. I will chug the Gatoraide plus Miralax and stay poised for the dash to the finish line.

Dump Truck

My food fixation has abated somewhat as I've been downing unusual amounts of fluid.

Next, in 22 minutes... 8 OZ every quarter hour for two hours will, uh, breach my levee, if you get the drift.

I don't think Hallmark covers this one.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Everybody says, the day before - the prep day - with liquid diet and whammo atomic bomb doses of laxatives - is actually the hard part. I had one of these procedures some years back but don't remember much. They give you a drug which, as a side effect, helps you forget what just happened, and I must say it did - I don't remember much.

Yuk. Well heck, we get to the medical suite at 6AM so hopefully I'll be sort of out of it before they put me out of it. Tomorrow, though, I will do some high-stepping to the porcelain like a band frenzy at a New Orleans Funeral.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


A doctor's waiting room with 25 seats is no place for the impatient.

Friday, June 13, 2008


Tomorrow I have to rebuild our chainloose chain saw. If I can get it working, there's pruning to do, and I don't mean the kind that fights constipation.

If I can type later tomorrow, it'll be a victory. Up a ladder with whirling chain... that's a fate-tempter anyway you look at it.


Followup to the preceding post: I arrived at the electronics giant box store with only 15 minutes left in my time budget to drive back to the movie theater. Traffic was worse than I expected, and I stopped for a chicken sandwich sans tomatoes at Wendy's. Of that 15 minutes, I blew 25 minutes anyway and that was just the tip of the time iceberg which lurked down every aisle. There's a certain fascination with many of the items - "oh, so that's what they are and what they do..."

Remember I said I'd come back with something I didn't need or want particularly? Yup. A 4GB Thumb drive. I'm not exactly sure why, but they intrigue me as a way of ordering the chaos on my computer in at least one folder. And they were on sale. But the larger capacity ones approach the 10-times-more capacity hard drives in cost if not convenience.

A very quick walk through the hall of TVs showed me that most of the sets weren't set up correctly. A quick hands-on with one of the new flash card HD cams blew me away. I cannot believe how small they are - but think about it - with none of the mechanical parts required by a tape or disc transport, why not? Lens, sensor, card. I think they are the size they are to accommodate fingers on the buttons more than what's inside. No time left forced me to put it back without getting a picture to work.

I raced back to the Cineplex, late, where I was just in time (within seconds) of the main feature. The theater appeared empty but muffled noises convinced me that some teens were up on the corner doing what teens do.

THE STRANGERS is one of the worst wastes of time I've ever seen. On the way home I saw a skunk waddling down the street - it got more stars than the film which had almost no plot and missed making sense on so many levels. Example: Slasher coming? Hide - with a shotgun and plenty of ammo where you can't see him coming. If I had a shotgun I'd go outside and wait in the front yard where I could get a clean shot, not hole up in a small bedroom. Axe comes through door - grab the axe!!! There so much more but it's just not worth discussing.

Later in the movie two more gaggles of teens arrived but were reasonably quiet - I think they hop from film to film... seeking the dark in which to play.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Tonight there’s a party. My wife is having ‘the girls’ over from work. Men are out of place, except in the stories shared. More specifically, I will be out of place. Voluntarily I will leave the comfort of the house and drift for 4 hours or more. It will be a journey of self-discovery.

I’ll travel into the sunset alone. My acquaintances are still that – no close male bonding has happened here in our new city; certainly no female either. I have no guy to call with a hearty “let’s make it guys’ night out!!!” My good friends are scattered around the country, the friendships victims of a nomad's career.

Most of the music bars don’t start going until my bedtime anyway.

I’m not a drinker, not a good drinker. I get woozy very quickly, bypassing several stages of warmth, bonhomie, comfort and whatever else propels people to drink socially or in solitude. It amplifies my insecurities and then skips right to where I want to sleep. Apparently, noisily. So, no bar, no titty bar, no pickup bar, no hotel bar, no theme bar. Instead I will drive upstream, against most traffic, to an electronics supermarket where I will roam the aisles, needing nothing, interested in only some of it, surprised that they make this or that, things I have no use for but which are seemingly good ideas for someone to possess.

I’ll look at tools, remote controlled airplanes, computers, TVs, parts, adaptors, power supplies and wire. The store is huge and stands at the far reaches of my roam, so I’ve only been there two or three times over the years. I doubt I'll buy anything, and am pretty sure if I do, it won't be out of need or even desire.

The store has a cafeteria in the middle of it. I don’t think I will be that desperate. Cafeteria catfish is a level of hell I am not yet prepared to face.

And then as traffic downstream clears I will make my way to the Cineplex, to see a horror! movie I wouldn’t normally even notice, a row to myself, another weird guy sitting alone in a cocoon of spilled popcorn and loneliness.

Saturday, June 07, 2008


Stick Farm?

Three trees, replaced last year due to death by unknown causes, began dropping their leaves two weeks ago. I sought help. The local green "Natural Gardener" store asked me if I had thought to bring along any leaves. I didn't. I then made the round trip with leaves, to hell with the price of gas. The response from their expert was, "Gee, I don't know. You should call an expert. Here's the list of experts."

My teeth grinding did stop later that day.

I call the Arborist. "$125. I'm booked till late next week."

Well, heck, trees are expensive and something is making this set look like the last set and that's bad. I book the guy.

He came Friday and was actually someone I trust... of course I don't know any better, but he was older and seemed to know what he was saying. And he had a trowel. He said none of the trees was near death, that I had to lower the soil level, expand the 'saucer' made by mulch'n'compost'n'dirt'n'stuff. And water the hell out of them. Oh - and stake them so that the rootball doesn't wiggle in the wind we get here because that snaps the widdle rootlets before they can establish.

I go to LOWES, get the stakes, some tubing; already have the wire.

Today before it got too hot I thought I'd drive those stakes into the ground... uh...
no. The soil here is caliche. That means it's rock. Our property has a thin layer of soil under which is rock. Limestone.

I got out the "Texas Toothpick" - a 6 foot steel bar with a point on it - I'd guess it weighs 35 pounds, but whatever it is, it gets heavier with use. Trust me. This is seriously heavy-duty steel. At one point I had it jabbed into the 'soil' to a depth on only an inch or so and I was putting so much pressure on it that it actually flexed. Arrr. Arrr. Arrr.

Two of the 3 trees needed staking. While thinking I should:

a) go rent an air hammer
b) seek explosive
c) be careful because by now I am dripping sweat and must rehydrate
d) NOT spray myself with the hose because it's sitting in the sun and that water is scalding
e) get my will in order
f) hire day laborers
h) go buy some quick set cement

...I grunted for hours - literally - and mined my way through the dirt and stone.

The deed is done and I hurt in places I've never hurt. My fingers hurt - my arms, shoulders, neck, back, legs...

But I do feel like I accomplished something.

Will This Tree Cheat The Grim Reaper?

Thursday, June 05, 2008


It's a JD Powers & Assoc. survey released today - problems reported in the first 90 days of ownership. Quality is said to have been improved! Leading the pack was Porsche with only 87 problems per 100 vehicles.

And that's improvement!

It equates to roughly one per car. Most listed were over 100 per 100. That means that every car sold has at least one thing wrong with it, on average - more likely - some aren't found in the first 90 days, or are unreported, and others have several problems.

What's wrong here? Well, a focus on quality is worthy. Improvement is worthy. But when it's acceptable for every vehicle to roll off the line with at least one thing wrong with it and they can't find it, it seems pretty lame. What's the average price for Porsche? I haven't kept up since I traded my old trouble-prone 944 (it had continual and major service issues.) Let's say... oh... $75,000 (probably low.) For that they can't check everything?

I know it's a whole other situation, but I am reviewing a high-end audio amplifier which ships with a 20 YEAR warranty. That's integrity. For $2650. How can they do that? They test and torture test and test again.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


I guess he's officially in - as officially as he can be at this stage. And now Hillary is sweetly saying she'd accept the VP spot.

Here's why it'd be a mistake, according to me: BILL. Imagine. Your Veep is out doing whatever and every day is being fed politics soup by none other than the master manipulator.

That's more trouble than it's worth. Unless you'd lose without her.

"Beware the handshake that hides the snake!" - "The Backstabbers" by The O'Jays.