Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Lunch

I'm having lunch at the Mandarin House, a Chinese restaurant next door to where my newspaper office used to be. We had a hillbilly secretary who called it the "Medarin House."
My cookie fortune: "Generosity and perfection are your everlasting goals."
Well, to a point...

Sunday, December 24, 2006

They're crazy and they're not going to back down


From Reuters:
TEHRAN - Iran condemned a U.N. sanctions resolution as “a piece of torn paper” that would not scare Tehran and vowed on Sunday to accelerate uranium enrichment work immediately.

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on Saturday to impose sanctions on Iran’s trade in sensitive nuclear materials and technology, in an attempt to stop uranium enrichment work that could produce material to be used in bombs.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said those who backed the U.N. resolution, drawn up by Britain, France and Germany but supported unanimously by the Security Council, would soon regret their “superficial act.”


This is disturbingly close to the League of Nations' feeble attempts to curb the Axis powers in the years leading up to World War II. Will we elect a Neville Chamberlain in '08 or will we have the good sense to choose a Winston Churchill?

Friday, December 22, 2006

Tying up loose ends

I am now officially caught up with obligations to photo clients.
I delivered a 100-page album this afternoon to a couple whose wedding we shot Sept. 23. We were concerned that we wouldn't be able to get it to them before they left town for Christmas, but MyPublisher.com came through brilliantly.
We placed the order on Sunday afternoon and the FedEx guy delivered it to our front door on Wednesday afternoon. And it was perfectly printed.
The temperature hit 53 degrees (F) today (that's 11.6666666 for my friends in Canada and elsewhere in the Metric world), which is sort of an early Christmas gift - especially considering the hammering our friends in Colorado got this week.
I was tempted to get one of the bikes out, but I had too much to do and I didn't want to upset the balance of fuel stabilizer to gas in the tank. So it appears my 2006 riding season is over and I can record and report my BMW miles to Harold Patterson, who succeeded Martha Thomas as the keeper of mileage records for the Indianapolis BMW Club. I think I only rode about 6,000-some miles this year, which means I'll fall short of earning one of the club's 10,000-mile awards for the second consecutive year.
One of my New Year's resolutions will be to make the 10k and not let work interfere with my riding.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Wicked fast

I delivered the CDs today to last Saturday's wedding client and finished the CDs for the Sunday portrait shoot yesterday. This is absolutely incredible!
The fastest I've ever been able to turn around a wedding shoot is four weeks. What a spectacular machine this is.
I finally got my Treo synched with the new machine today. That's the last major thing I had to do to settle in on the new computer.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Computer Hog Heaven

Good God!
This Dell XPS computer is freaking amazing!
The Core 2 Duo processor and 2 GB of RAM give me enough computing power to do two or three tasks – any one of which would have choked my old machine – simultaneously.
I was able to organize and burn a couple of CDs for the client who hired us to shoot her grandson's high school senior photos and also edit and post a 454-photo gallery from the 1,800 wedding images we shot last Saturday. This is nothing short of astonishing – that I could get both projects done in a few hours of work, in the same day. I have never been able to turn projects around that quickly with the old machine. Whatever anxiety I had about the cost of this setup is evaporating in the light of the time it will save. If our business continues to grow in 2007, there is no way I could keep up with the photo editing and album building with my old machine. (Incredible how much improvement there's been in the less than five years since I bought the old one.)
And this fabulous 24” LCD monitor is like having a billboard-size screen in front of me. Our scenic photos displayed full-screen are so huge, yet so vivid, that it feels like I could walk right into the scene.
I'm running a 1920 x 1200 screen resolution. Everything looks gorgeous and I finally have enough screen real estate to run Photoshop CS with the tool pallets off to the outside of the workspace and still have an enormous view of the image being edited.
I discovered to my chagrin yesterday that the hard drives in my old computer were IDE drives and the new Dell is set up to take SATA drives (no, I don't know what the difference is, other than that they take completely different data and power plugs).
So how to get the data I need to rescue from my old machine without putting the drives back in and dragging the box and big CRT monitor back into the office and stringing a bunch of cables?
I found a couple of solutions yesterday afternoon at Best Buy.
Solution 1 is to get a card that adapts the IDE drives to work in the new machine. That involves getting back into the new XPS box, popping in the card, the two drives and the appropriate ribbon cable.
Solution 2 is to buy a USB external hard drive enclosure – basically a small aluminum box that contains a circuit board upon which you mount the hard drive. Poke it back into the aluminum box, screw on the end piece with its on/off switch and power and USB connections, connect to the XPS and turn on the power.
I opted for Solution 2 because it made it possible for me to use one of the old hard drives as an external storage device for photo files and I was charmed by its elegance. And it only cost $49.
So last night I transferred my iTunes library from the old drive to my new C: drive. But when I synched my iPod, I suddenly discovered that none of my purchased music from the iTunes Store would work because the XPS is not an “authorized” computer. After a moment of panic, I found I could easily go to the iTunes site and authorize my new computer. Phew! Problem solved.
Next, I transferred all of my image files from the old drive to my C: drive. Oops. Now my 300 GB new hard drive is down to 133GB of free space. Maybe it's time to start archiving to DVDs...
Today's work involves putting my other drive – the former C: drive of my old machine – into the aluminum box and retrieving my Treo/Palm desktop and its database. I've misplaced my original installation disk that came with the Treo 700p and, of course, it has stuff on it that I can't download from the Palm website, so I need to continue accessing the old one. I hope I can just copy the Palm folder and program over to the new machine, but I fear it may not be that simple and there may need to be changes made to the Windows registry or elsewhere that only the installation disk can make. That means I may have to keep using my old C: drive as an external H: drive with the XPS, at least until I find the Treo installation disk.
Eventually, I plan to wipe the old machine's second hard drive – the one that had my pictures and iTunes on it – and install the Ubuntu version of Linux that I downloaded last night for free. If I don't like Ubuntu, I can always go back to the Windows XP that's on the old C: drive, if and when I no longer need it hooked up to the new machine. Stick a WiFi card in the old box and voila, we've got an extra work station or another machine in the house to surf the 'net.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Not a pup anymore

Yesterday began Pete the Aussie's second year with us.
He was only six weeks old when we brought him home from the farm where he was born on Dec. 17, 2005.
So, at the risk of seeming to perform the doggy version of one of those hideous annual personnel evaluations that a generation of micro-managers forced upon us, maybe it's time to reflect on how that first year has gone.
Pete has grown into a fine, funny, affectionate dog who charms everyone he meets with his friendly, playful personality.
His toilet training has been a bit, uh, spotty, if you know what I mean. We gave himt he run of the house much too early and, as a consequence, he developed some favorite places to relieve himself when we weren't looking. Like on the stairway landing and at the top of the stairs. So we quarantined him and Ruthie, a golden retriever mix, in the kitchen with only supervised visits to the rest of the house.
But with our encouragement, he has figured out that the back yard is the proper place for his bathroom activities. The only problem was that he wasn't very good at letting us know when he needed to go out.
So about two months ago, Maria hung some decorative holiday bells on the back door doorknob and showed Pete that we would open the door for him if he'd ring the bells by poking them with his nose. To our amazement, he picked it up right away. Like, in one day.
Of course, now he does it whenever the mood strikes him to go outside whether he needs to do doggy business or not.
But that's alright. The accidents on the kitchen floor are much less frequent and pretty much only happen when we don't hear the bells.
But he also has a shy and fearful side and at least one bizarre behavior.
As I write this, Pete is pacing back and forth on the rear deck, looking nervously up at the sky.
He's the only dog I've ever know who took any interest at all in the sky.
I think it's because he thinks the sky tried to kill him a couple of times.
The first time was back in the spring when a fierce thunderstorm hit. Maria and I were away from home and Maria's daughter Morgan was at home with the dogs. They were in the back yard when the storm blew up, but Morgan was unaware of it because she was organizing stuff in the attic and had her boombox cranked up.
It was Pete's first close encounter with lightning and thunder and he fled in terror. A neighbor said he saw Pete streaking down the street illuminated by the flashes of lightning. We caught up with him two days later after a woman who works for the local veterninarian recognized him and called to say we'd find him about a mile north of town.
Pete's second traumatic sky experience was around the Fourth of July when a neighbor's errant bottle rocket crossed into our airspace and exploded over his head. Even though Morgan was standing nearby, Pete bolted and was gone for three days.
So Pete worries about the sky and notices details that might even escape human observers.
Clear, sunny mornings are the worst, because he has an unobstructed view of the southern sky and frets over the criss-crossing jet contrails tracing the paths of east-west airline traffic.
Conversely, he's relatively worry-free on overcast days when there's nothing up there but a blanket of gray.
I'd love to get Cesar Milan's take on it. I'm sure the Dog Whisperer could cure Pete's sky anxiety in short order.
So, on balance, Pete is turning out to be the Christmas gift that keeps on giving love and entertainment.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Real soldiers respond

Love that open source freeware!

When I decided to stop using a copy of Microsoft Office 2000 that wasn't exactly licensed to me and opted, instead, for the free open source OpenOffice suite, I was forced to stop using Outlook, the Microsoft e-mail client.
So I installed Thunderbird, the e-mail client that comes with the Firefox browser and is also free.
It lacks the scheduling and calendar bells and whistles that Outlook has, but I don't need them because I keep track of that stuff with the Palm Desktop, synched with my Treo 700w smartphone.
But it does have a pretty good spam filter that is more efficient than the spam filter than comes with my Norton Internet Security package.
And, by the way, I'm going to dump Norton when the new computer arrives, in favor of Nod32, which is recommended by Leo Laporte and other people I trust as being superior to Norton and McAffee.
Maria's Norton software expired a couple of weeks ago and I replaced it with Nod32 for $39.
The big problem with Norton and McAffee is that they are "bloatware" - big, cumbersome programs that slow a computer down, yet provide less antivirus protection than the smaller, more nimble Nod32. Maria's machine is running a tad faster since I yanked out the Norton stuff.
Nod32 has a package price for two computers for something like $64, so I think I'll take advantage of that deal to protect my new machine and add Nod32 to our Sony VAIO notebook computer.
FYI, the Windows firewall is unnecessary if you're using a router, since the router serves as an even more effective firewall against unwanted internet intruders. Laporte says the Windows firewall should, however, be turned on if you're using your laptop on an open WiFi network away from home, like at Starbuck's or a hotel/motel.

Mumbling through the gag order.

If only I were allowed to blog about my stepkids...
Major changes going on that could enhance our finances and help some military recruiter make his quota.
I can say no more.

Dell+UPS=Damn Fast Service

The UPS tracking system says the three Dell packages - computer, monitor and speakers - arrived in Indianapolis at 4:02 a.m. today, which means they may show up on my porch today instead of the projected Monday delivery date. Amazing, considering that the order was placed Sunday afternoon. And it wasn't an off-the-shelf order in that I made some custom tweaks.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

In the UPS pipeline to Indiana...



Dell says I should expect the new computer and monitor on Monday.
UPS says it left Mesquite, Texas before dawn this morning.

Bring it, Moonbats!


I was stunned this morning to discover that there is talk of a Clinton-Obama ticket in 2008.
There are web sites selling t-shirts for what they're calling the Democratic "Dream Team."
Astonishingly naive.
It's actually the dream team opposition the Republicans would love to face - a ticket that would be completely incapable of attracting crossover red state votes.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The computer has shipped!!!

I just checked my Dell account and found our new computer shipped today. Woo-hoo!
Should have it by the middle of next week.

None of that fake chocolate for me!


"Made with real chocolate?"
So what's in a Hershey bar or Lindt chocolate?
Seen in the Lafayette, Ind., Meijer store.

Oh, no! I missed Edvard Munch's Birthday!


Norwegian expressionist painter, born Dec. 12, 1863, at Löten, Norway, died Jan. 23, 1944, at Ekely, near Oslo.
Happy 143rd birthday, Eddie!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

TCB


I've taken care of a whole bunch of things today that I was putting off.
Maria and I did a bunch of Christmas shopping our favorite way – mousing our way around Amazon.com.
And I finally bit the bullet and bought that new business computer that we've been needing. After weighing the relative merits of Mac and PC, I opted to remain in the PC fold and ordered a Dell through Leo Laporte's web link at twit.tv/dell.
I've dealt with Dell before and, like Leo, find them to be a company I can feel comfortable with.
So I bought an XPS 700 Special Edition Formula Red with Intel Core2Duo processor, 2GB of RAM, a 320GB hard drive and a 24” Dell UltraSharp Widescreen Digital Flat Panel monitor.
It comes with a free upgrade from XP Media Center to Vista when the new operating system is released late next month.
Since the new Dell cases have bays for two additional hard drives, I can yank the two drives out of my old computer and have all of the files on board without having to do a lot of transferring. In terms of familiarity, it should be like my old machine on steroids (going from a 2400 MHz processor to a 1.86 GHz processor) with a display twice as wide as the one I have now.
At last, I should be have a machine that runs Photoshop fast enough to stay ahead of me. I'm stalled out on a current wedding album project because my computer is choking on the big Nikon D200 and D100 images to be manipulated.
And, since the temperature got into the mid-40s this afternoon, I was able to check and correct tire pressures on both cars (the del Sol's little donut spare tire had zero psi) and put fuel stabilizer into the gas tanks of both bikes and the lawnmower.
That little Sears air compressor paid for itself a long time ago when it comes to convenience. I hate crawling around my car at a gas station topping off tire pressures.

Reason #98 why I love my iPod/iTunes

Here's a neat trick you can do with iTunes that I learned from Steven Levy's book “The Perfect Thing.”
If you're on a network like an Ethernet hookup at work or a WiFi network at home or maybe Starbuck's or McDonald's, you can look and play selections from any other iTunes user on the network.
That is if they have the “sharing” feature enabled.
Levy says in his book that sharing is the default setting, but that may be prior to the current v 7.0.2 of iTunes because I had to manually turn it on to get it to work on the computers on my home WiFi network.
So I can fire up the Sony VAIO laptop in the kitchen, which has iTunes with an empty library on it and see the libraries on my desktop computer and on my wife's desktop computer. And I can play any selection from those libraries on the laptop.
Sorta like the feature Microsoft is so proud of on the Zune that lets users “squirt” (yeah, that's the word they use) songs via WiFi to any other Zune in range. The difference is that there is apparently no way to capture the song on the iTunes receiving end other than to play it in real time. The Zune recipient can keep the squirted song three days or three plays, whichever comes first, which makes it a completely different listening scenario.
To enable the feature in iTunes, click Edit, the Sharing tab, then check the appropriate boxes and circles. The resulting SHARED list shows up in the far left column of the iTunes window between STORE and PLAYLISTS.
Cool, huh?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Photo contest - Please Vote!


Click this link to go to the photo above at JPG Magazine's site and vote for my photo of window washers in downtown Portland, Ore. The category is "9 to 5," people at work, and the criteria is (1) does it fit the theme and (2) is it a good shot.
If I get enough votes, I get included in the next issue and win $100 and a year's subscription.
Also, there's a ton of really good photos on the site, of which a few are mine.
Oddly enough, the one that's getting the most attention is a picture I shot in September, 1970 of KFC founder Col. Harland Sanders on the occasion of his 80th birthday in Greenwood, Ind.

Friday, December 08, 2006

BW3

One of the consequences of a newspaper career is that one finds oneself overqualified for most trivia competitions.
Our nearest Buffalo Wild Wings (BW3) restaurant has a wireless online trivia game that lets you compete, not only with other players in the restaurant, but with thousands of players in restaurants and bars worldwide.
Our BW3 is in a Big Ten college town, so you would expect a slightly higher level of play than some place where the average I.Q. is room temperature or below.
But I'm pleased to say that each of the three times that Maria and I have played as a team, we've beaten everyone else in the joint to emerge the local champs at the end of the evening.
We're both highly competitive, which makes winning particularly gratifying.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Good news

I got the results of the polyp biopsy from my doctor today - no colon cancer.
I wasn't terribly worried, but it's a relief to know for sure. So I don't have to think about another colonoscopy until 2009.
We also signed up for his weight loss program, since all of my problems:
Diabetes
High blood pressure
High cholesterol
Sleep apnea

are consequences of carrying too much weight around.
With any luck at all, I'll be shopping for smaller motorcycle apparel next spring and changing the setting on my bike's shock absorber.

Bad news


James Kim, the CNet gadget guru who went missing in the Oregon wilderness with his wife and two daughters more than a week ago, was found dead today.
His wife and daughters were rescued a couple of days ago when Kati Kim used an umbrella to get the attention of a search helicopter crew. She and the kids stayed with their stranded car and James struck out on foot last Saturday morning to get help.
I remember him from the late lamented TechTV. My condolences to his family and friends. It's a very sad day for the tech community.

I'm a Guinness

You Are Guinness

You know beer well, and you'll only drink the best beers in the world.
Watered down beers disgust you, as do the people who drink them.
When you drink, you tend to become a bit of a know it all - especially about subjects you don't know well.
But your friends tolerate your drunken ways, because you introduce them to the best beers around.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Evan Bayh in '08?

Even though I consider myself a Republican these days, I was raised in a Democrat household.
My grandfather was a township trustee and later the Carroll County (Ind.) treasurer, elected each time as a Democrat. The family archives include a receipt Granddad received for a $1 contribution (that was a substantial amount in those days) to the 1908 presidential candidacy of Democrat William Jennings Bryan. Bryan lost to William Howard Taft, but later served as secretary of state under Woodrow Wilson.
I still revere Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman. I went to JFK's funeral in November, 1963, in Washington, D.C.
But the late 1960s saw the party of my father and grandfather drift farther and farther to the left. I guess I date my estrangement with the Democrat Party to the presidential candidacy of George McGovern. Over the past 30-odd years, the party has pandered to a nutball constituency that shares none of my values. The candidates they fielded in the last two presidential elections - Al Gore and John Kerry - were so flaky and devoid of character, I was astonished that anyone took them seriously.
I fervently hope the party comes to its senses soon, but the hype surrounding Hillary Clinton is worrisome. She's not flaky, she's downright evil and scary.
But yesterday brought the news I'd been hoping for. Sen. Evan Bayh, Indiana's junior senator, announced he's forming an exploratory committee - a first step toward a presidential bid.
Bayh is the son of a former senator (Birch Bayh), was a two-term Indiana governor and is loaded with poise, style and charisma. His wife, Susan, is pretty and whip-smart and they have beautiful children. It doesn't hurt - from my perspective anyway - that he's among the more conservative Democrats in the Senate.
So I could be comfortable with a Bayh presidency, especially if the Republicans don't come up with anyone better than John McCain.
Evan has my vote, for sure, in the primary.
And, if he is elected, he'll rehabilitate Indiana's image on the national stage after the horrible damage done by Dan Quayle.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Doh!

I'm a regular listener to several of Leo Laporte's podcasts and generally learn at least one new useful thing everytime I listen.
Friday's gem was the discovery of Open Office, an open source, free alternative to the pricey Microsoft Office suite that retails for about $400 and has a street price around $330.
I'd been using an obsolete bootleg copy and feeling vaguely guilty about it. Mostly, I was just using Word as a word processor and Outlook as my e-mail client.
I downloaded Open Office and installed it and determined it could, indeed, open and manipulate all of my old MS Office-created files and create files in those MS formats. In fact, I'm composing this post in Writer – the Open Office word processor.
So, without giving it much thought, I deleted Microsoft Office from my computer.
Oops.
As a result, Outlook – complete with all of my saved e-mails and my e-mail address book – went away.
Fortunately, I have almost all of my important e-mail addresses backed up in my Palm/Treo contacts list, so it's not a complete disaster.
But still, I feel like a bonehead for failing to realize that Outlook was a component of Office.
I no longer had a copy of Outlook Express on my computer, so I turned instead to Thunderbird, the open source e-mail client that came with Firefox when I tried it out a month or so ago.
Thunderbird will be more secure, since it's not so thoroughly hacked as is Outlook and Outlook Express, so I guess I'm better off.
But I know I'll be kicking myself in the days and weeks to come whenever it occurs to me that I need a piece of information that resided in those old e-mails that no longer exist.
BTW, you can check out Open Office at openoffice.org
It's a complete office software suite with lots of bells and whistles that was originally developed by Sun Microsystems.