Archive for April, 2008

Someone jacked my idea!!!

Well… maybe that’s not entirely true, but I feel like it is!

Basically, years ago some of my buddies and I decided that we needed to lose a few pounds — 20, to be exact.  How do you motivate guys?  Competition and money.  Ever heard of Las Vegas?  It’s all about that.  It seemed to me that a friendly wager among friends to lose some weight might work pretty well.  Each person contributed $20 to the “pot”, if you will, and the competition started.  You weighed in for the first week, and then weighed in each week after until someone lost 20lbs.  The winner received all of the $$$ in the pot, so the potential for some payoff was decent.  This was an “honor system”, of course, but these were guys I trusted.  (I still do.)  We had a few other rules in there, but that was the basic idea of the whole thing.  Anyhow, I’ve done this a few times over the years, and it’s worked pretty well.  I’ve never won the $$$, sad to say, but I’ve come close.

So… what do I see in our local newspaper this week?  A story on two local guys who set up a very similar system, and then made a website for it.  It’s called “FatBet“.  Hey, wait!  That was MY idea!!!!  Alas.  You snooze, you lose.

Hope it works well for you guys…..and thanks for stealing one of my *rare* good ideas….


Branded Browsers = LAME

In the course of my day job (techy “IT” sys admin-type stuff), I deal with a fair number of new computers — laptops, desktop machines, servers, etc..  You home users typically have to wrangle with all of the preinstalled *crud* that comes with a new computer — here, here and here — but business clients, such as our company, usually get some say in what is and isn’t loaded.


Our buddies at Dell evidently *have* to have their hand in something on these new computers.  Anything!  So what do they do?  Check it…

Honestly…how useless is that?  Does Dell really need to ‘brand’ my browser window?  Are the Dell-branded screen, laptop case, and bootup screens not enough?  Perhaps I’ll forget where I purchased my computer from??!  Well, Dell has the solution for that.  And how *exactly* is Dell (in this case) “providing Internet Explorer”?  Just by *allowing* it to be preloaded with the OS?  Hmmm.  Good thinking, guys — and thanks for the subtle reminder. 

May I suggest a few more “branding” opportunities that you’ve missed?

To be fair, I’ve seen other vendors pull the same, lame stunt <cough> COMCAST <cough>.  Thanks, but no thanks, guys.  We can do without it.

By the way, here’s how to remove that text.

The Bloodhound Gang! (not the band)

Anyone remember the show 3-2-1 Contact?  It was pretty good, but the Bloodhound Gang was awesome!!


Anyhow, I just found their episodes posted on YouTube!  I generally think that YouTube is trash, but it has some merit now and again…

So awesome…  🙂

Travel mug woes

My life over the past couple of years has been fraught with one “coffee cup woe” (TM) after another.  Travel mug, coffee cup, beverage container, or what have you — I need them, and I can never find one that suits my fancy.  You see, the issue is that my car (an early 90’s Saab 900 Turbo) doesn’t have cup holder, unless you count the slightly raised rings in the glovebox. <insert picture here>  Those are difficult to use while driving.  Actually, they’re pretty useless while you’re parked too, come to think of it.  In fact, there aren’t a LOT of great solutions for a cup holder in a car like mine.  Rather, I opt to find a good travel mug that won’t leak.

Easy enough, right?  Not so much.

I tried a few Starbucks mugs — typically plastic cups (or mugs) with a threaded lid and a closeable top.  I went through (4) of their mugs before giving up.  They nearly all would leak — some worse than others — and all ended up broken at one point or another.  The “clear plastic around inner plastic” models typically develop a crack between the handle and the lid, and become totally nasty when a little water gets in between the plastic layers.  One of my cups had mold growing.  That’s sick!

One cup to rule them all.  One cup to save them!

I thought I’d found the be-all-end-all of travel mugs.  Those wacky folks at OXO — makers of the Good Grips brand — have a pretty decent reputation.  When I found one of their LiquiSeal (TM) travel mugs, I figured that my search was over.  Nice looking, well-shaped drinking lid, no handle (I don’t like handles on my coffee cups), and virtually leak free!  Observe…

(Pretty handsome, eh?  If I was single again…)

Well, the Good Grips love ended last week.  Let me explain:

Shortly before leaving for work, I happened to glance down into the spout of the travel mug and notice some “crud”, if you will.  Looked like it wasn’t cleaned very well.  Mind you, either my wife or I would handwash this cup every single evening, so it should’ve been fine.  Regardless, I unscrewed the top to drink my coffee that day, with a promise of “looking into things” that evening.  I kept my promise, but I wasn’t happy about what I found!  First of all, the drinking spout had quite a bit of gunk and crud in it.  Using a Q-Tip (TM), I attempted to clean it out pretty well.  Next up, the underside of the lid where the stopper and seal reside.  Guess what?  You can’t unscrew it.  In other words, except for the 1/4″ of space that you have to around the seal, there is no real way to get in there and clean.  Busting out my trusty Q-Tips again, I attempted to clean what I could.  Not pretty.  About 20 Q-Tips later, I still had rings and chunks of dried nastiness falling into the palm of my hand.  Each Q-Tip was covered with brown dried or slightly gelatinous gunk.  Know what?  Amazon reviews tell me that others have been finding the same thing…

I couldn’t use that cup any longer.  (Well…. *that* and the fact that I ruined the lid trying to boil it and loosen the gunk.)  No more OXO Good Grips LiquiSeal cup!

So… I’ve purchase a new cup today, and it looks promising.  It’s the ThermoPerfect 16oz Vacuum-Insulated Travel Mug.  More or less similar to the picture below.

Know what else!  It looks like you can *actually* CLEAN this thing!  A novel idea.

Anyhow, the “verdict” is most certainly out on the new cup, but I have high hopes.

Most. Frustrating. Person. Ever.

A somewhat atypical Saturday afternoon around our household. I was still groggy from a short (1.5 hour) nap — so sue me! — and I flipped on the TV to see what was on. We don’t have cable, satellite, etc., so whatever fuzzy TV show you can get you have to live with. Needless to say, we don’t watch a whole lot of TV around our home, but that’s ok.

So… what do we find after a few moments of flipping channels? America’s Funniest Home Videos! Hey… who doesn’t enjoy the occasional videotaped baby throw-up, unexpected scare, flailing-person-at-the-pool-party, and so on. It’s just good stuff!

Well. It would be.

It would be great, if it weren’t for one person.

Who am I talking about?

Bob Saget, of course.

The most frustrating person ever.

Let me ask you something: do you know anyone who thinks Bob Saget is funny? ANYONE?? Seriously, I don’t know a single person who enjoys watching that guy or listening to his random “humor”. I’m not trying to be mean here — the guy is simply aggravating to watch! Don’t believe me? Check him out for yourself…

Of course those Full House days were pretty humorous, right? Yeah, no.

Maybe the writers were bad.

Musical musings

I absolutely *love* music.  In fact, I can hardly trust people that don’t.  Equally as important to me as the music, though, is the content of the lyrics.  I’ve never been much one for instrumentals, though they’re fine from time to time.  I’d really rather chew on the words like a tough piece of steak — over and over until finally taking it in.  A competent mix of good music and great lyrics is what really floats my boat.  That was a clever pun, by the way, though you won’t know it until later…


One of the bands that I consistently enjoy both musically and lyrically is a group from Pennsylvania called mewithoutYou.  Ever heard of them?  To be fair, their musical style may or may not be to your liking.  I enjoy it.  Very much, in fact.  But I can see how some may not appreciate the vocal style or musical noise.  I would hope that anyone could respect some masterfully written lyrics, though.  I mean…. C’MON!  The first track off of their latest album, “Brother, Sister“, is titled Messes Of Men.

Here are the lyrics (mostly correct, I hope):

“I do not exist,” we faithfully insist
sailing in our separate ships, and in each tiny caravel
tiring of trying, there’s a necessary dying
like the horseshoe crab in its proper season sheds its shell
such distance from our friends, like a scratch across a lens,
made everything look wrong from anywhere we stood
and our paper blew away before we’d left the bay
so half-blind we wrote these songs on sheets of salty wood

you caught me making eyes at the other boatmen’s wives
and heard me laughing louder at the jokes told by their daughters
I’d set my course for land, but you well understand
it takes a steady hand to navigate adulturous waters
the propeller’s spinning blades held acquaintance with the waves
as there’s mistakes I’ve made no rowing could outrun
the cloth low on the mast like to say I’ve got no past
but I’m nonetheless the librarian and secretary’s son
with tarnish on my brass and mildew on my glass
I’d never want someone so crass as to want someone like me
but a few leagues off the shore, I bit a flashing lure
and I assure you, it was not what it expected it to be!
I still taste its kiss, that dull hook in my lip
is a memory as useless as a rod without a reel
to an anchor-ever-dropped-seasick-yet-still-docked
captain spotted napping with his first mate at the wheel
floating forgetfully along, with no need to be strong
we keep our confessions long and when we pray we keep it short
I drank a thimble full of fire and I’m not ever going back

Oh, my God!

“I do not exist,” we faithfully insist
while watching sink the heavy ship of everything we knew
if ever you come near I’ll hold up high a mirror
Lord, I could never show you anything as beautiful as you

Such great imagery.  That’s the kind of stuff that makes me think, feel, and ponder.  Your mileage may vary. 

Ahhh… product tie-ins

Made a quick stop at the local Shell station this morning.  As always, gas stations have a pretty sweet selection of random and (seemingly) useless stuff.  Case in point, the “Corpse Bride” Peppermints in a very nice tin.

A very sensible product tie-in, if I’ve ever seen one.  And won’t your friends be jealous…

Switching back to IE. Seriously.

For those that know me, it’s no shocker that I’m a fan of Microsoft and their products. I don’t like everything that they produce, but more often than not I’m willing to…

  1. Give them the benefit of the doubt
  2. Put up with their nonsense longer than other vendors
  3. Willingly take part in useless arguments over things that really don’t matter

I may have just defined a “fan boy”.

So… a few years back I saw others operating in these new-fangled “tabbed” browser sessions. My browser-of-choice at the time, IE6, didn’t support such wackiness — atleast not without installing some sort of ‘Internet Explorer shell’, which I wasn’t interested in. I’m still not, to be honest. As it turns out, there was this *zany* product out there called Mozilla Firefox. I wasn’t about to switch browsers without a fight, but Firefox was certainly compelling to me. A few years back I began using Firefox (1.x) and never looked back. Tabbed browsing was mine!!!

Well, here we are in early 2008 and I’m writing this from an IE7 session. In fact, I don’t even have Firefox installed on my box. Whassup wit dat? I guess it’s due to a few things. For starters, IE7 offers “tabbed browsing” and does a pretty good job of it. It really does. Secondly, I got really tired of the memory-sapping behavior of Firefox. Thirdly, I got tired of Firefox crashing on me. Blame whomever/whatever you like, Firefox crashed on me quite often. It gets old.

As the song says, “Breaking up is hard to do“. Indeed. I had become VERY accustomed to several aspects of Firefox. Perhaps the most difficult to give up is AdBlock for Firefox. It works very well, and you REALLY don’t miss the lame ads, pop-ups, and painful Flash videos everywhere. Thankfully, there is a very nice add-on for IE called AdBlock Pro that does the same thing. I would venture a guess that the Firefox add-on is better, but not by much. Secondly, the IEtab add-on for Firefox really made switching between the Firefox and IE engine for a particular site very, very easy. Of course, I primarily needed to do this when I was browsing a site in Firefox that did not look so good. In my world, it seems to happen more often than I’d like. That being the case, now that I’m using IE7, I really don’t have much of a need for the IEtab feature. Perhaps a ‘FirefoxTab’ add-on for IE? 🙂 Thirdly, my “bookmarks” in Firefox were very organized and quite extensive. I thought for sure that IE7 would not be able to import my Firefox bookmarks, but I was wrong. In fact, it imported them PERFECTLY and life resumed with nary a hiccup. I guess Microsoft is aware of Firefox’s growing popularity?

Has my IE switchback been perfect? Not necessarily, but it’s been just fine. Better than I expected, in fact. IE7 performs well, is stable so far, and is certainly a polished product. What would I change in Internet Explorer? I’m glad you asked. Here are some items that I’ve found bothersome in IE7 thus far…

  1. Have to select a tab to close it. Firefox had the [X] icon on browser tabs even when you weren’t using that tab. That meant that I could close the tab quickly, without having to switch to it. Evidently I can middle-click a tab in IE to close it, but that ain’t working for me right now. Might be my fancy mouse drivers. Hmmm.
  2. The top-right “search” area in IE doesn’t show me what engine is currently selected. Nit-picky, perhaps, but it’s annoying to me.
  3. Folders and/or network paths showing up in my URL drop-down. Firefox doesn’t have this issue. I realize that my IE browser is supposed to be “integrated” with my OS, but I typically use my browser for browsing, and my file manager for managing files. Crazy, I know.
  4. Placement of the refresh icon. For whatever reason, the placement of the refresh icon in IE feels strange to me — like far away from the other stuff. I don’t like it much, but then again I don’t use it much either.
  5. The ‘find’ feature. Simply put, the find feature of Firefox is great and *much* better than IE’s “pop-up” method. You listening to this, Microsoft?

Here are some things that I really enjoy about using IE7…

  1. The New Tab button to the right of the current tabs. Although I’m quite used to hitting CTRL+T to make a new tab, using the mouse to do that task feels very natural. It’s also a lot better than File > Whatever > New Tab > Blah, Blah
  2. Favorites management. It’s taken me some time to get used to, but I’m now a fan of the IE method for favorites managment. Left justified, nested, etc.. Good stuff. Quite honestly, messing with my favorites (or ‘bookmarks’) in Firefox always felt like a chore.

Finally, a few things that I’m not quite sure about just yet…

  1. The placement of URLs in the URL drop-down. Here’s the deal: IE and Firefox handle this differently. IE will take sites you’ve visited and automatically place them at the top of your URL drop-down. Makes sense, I guess. More commonly used URLs float to the top of the list, while others migrate downward (and eventually OFF entirely). Firefox doesn’t do this, though. The URL, for instance, would retain it’s position in the URL drop-down until it goes away. Strange, in some ways, but I got used to seeing at the bottom of the drop-down while remains at the top. Who’s right, in this case? I don’t know. Microsoft, I think, but both methods have merit.
  2. Quick Tabs function in IE7. Notice that little “four squares” icon next to your favorites in IE? That shows you a large thumbnail view of your current browser session windows. Seems like a handy feature, but I never, ever use it. I’m not sure why I would. It’s a bit like the Flip 3D feature of Windows Vista — neat to look at, but seemingly useless, if you ask me.

One last thing: does anyone else use their URL drop-down as a sort of “favorites” location? I find that I’ve grown accustomed to seeing certain URLs in my drop-down, to the point that I almost become protective of it. I know that if I have to visit a URL real quick-like (that I normally wouldn’t need to visit), that it’s going to show up in my drop-down for the next few weeks. It bothers me to see it there. Why can’t I right-click on an item in the URL drop-down and remove it? Perhaps I’m the only person who cares… 🙂

That’s it, then! A summary of my IE-to-Firefox-to-IE-again experience. Who knows… maybe I’ll end up switching back to Firefox again when version 3.0 comes out!

(Note to Mozilla: put the Home icon back on the nav bar for Firefox 3.0. Trust me.)


Time to check out Paint.NET again?

What image editing programs do other “part-time designers” (like myself) use? I don’t edit images every day. Heck! I don’t even edit every week!!! But when I need something, I need it *now* and it needs to have a fair amount of features. For instance, I typically: crop, resize the canvas, scale the image, add/edit text, adjust opacity, use filters, and use/abuse layers. Clearly, this rules out Microsoft Paint that ships with Windows 🙂 It does have some use, though, I suppose.

So… what does a person do? I’ve used Photoshop in the past, but when I finally got around to being “legal” with my software, I just couldn’t stomach paying hundreds of dollars for software that I use for personal projects. Also, Photoshop does a LOT more than I need it to. How about the GIMP? Truly another great product, and the price is right (free!). My main issue with GIMP? For starters, it loads pretty slowly — especially if you have a lot of fonts. Secondly, the interface is somewhate cumbersome. I get used to it when I’m using it regularly, but after a few weeks of “GIMP vacation” I find myself having to relearn some things. Well, as the title of this post suggests, how about Paint.NET??? Again… the price is right (free!!!) and it has a lot of great features. In fact, aside from the ability to edit text (after you’ve placed it), Paint.NET covers all of the uses that I’ve listed above. What’s even better is how fast it loads! It may seem trivial, but I don’t spend all day in a photo-editing app, so the load time is important to me. Waiting a minute or two for a program to load when I have a simply “resize” job to do is pretty annoying. Some of you will agree with me.
If you haven’t looked at Paint.NET lately, give it a download. It’s a paltry 1.6mb download (assuming you already have .NET Framework 2.0 installed), it’s free, and it *really* works well! In fact, I would venture that Paint.NET covers 99% of the functionality that most people need… and it does it all while still managing to look pretty cool!

Enjoy! 🙂


Here we go…

Here we are… April 23rd, 2008, and the “blog has begun”.

More importantly, it seems a better use of my domain name — — than the random Flash graphic that’s been posted there for years. I was hoping for the massive appeal of something like, but it never happened. What’s the deal with that? Lame.

Talk to you soon.