Friday, April 25, 2008

Plat du jour

Yummy! But, sadly, it's not on my diet.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Semi-random thoughts

● I was a little surprised to read that there have only been 110 U.S. Supreme Court justices since we adopted the Constitution--over 220 years now. I realize that the court didn't always have nine members (I think it started with five--I've always found it curious that the Constitution does not specify the size), but it has been at its present size for quite a while. I would have guessed there have been more.

● It somehow escaped my notice that among the stockholdings I inherited from my mother were three shares of Collective Brands. So now when I buy shoes at Payless I'm actually buying them from myself.

● It's great to see the judge threw the book at film star Wesley Snipes, at least as far as the law would let him. These "tax protesters," who believe that there is no requirement in the law that most U.S. citizens have to pay income taxes, are just a bunch of selfish fools. It's too bad that Snipes was acquitted on the most serious charges, but at least he's getting three years in jail for his misdemeanors. So, Judge William Terrell Hodges, I salute you.

Monday, April 21, 2008

I'm back blogging. Sort of. Kinda. Somewhat.

For the last year plus I've been having computer problems. My old machine, running Windows XP, was crashing more and more frequently. It never worked right after Service Pack Two. Also, my Internet response time was slower than it should have been. The result was that it took several hours just to read my e-mail every day.

I hoped the answer to my problems was to get a new, more powerful computer running Microsoft's brand new operating system, Vista. I should have known better.

The new computer still crashed sometimes, though not as frequently as the old one. In addition, the keyboard and mouse stopped working at random intervals. And Internet response was still slow--it took 13 days to download all of my files from Carbonite, the web-based back-up service I use, when it should have taken only a few hours.

To make a long story short, I had problems with the computer hardware (specifically the hard drive), the Vista operating system, and my cable service. But it took a long time to figure it all out. Dell replaced my hard drive in early August. That solved the crashing problem. But as time went on, the keyboard/mouse problem got more and more frequent.

Dell tried a couple of times to fix it. I was on the phone with their support people (one guy mostly) for hours. They tried all sorts of things--mostly removing stuff they thought might be incompatible with Vista. Maybe it helped a little, or maybe we just hit a random good period (it could be 30 seconds, or 3 days, between these failures). But the problem kept coming back.

I was afraid I would have to do what Dell was recommending: reformat the hard drive and start from scratch, with a clean copy of the operating system. I went out and got an external hard drive, so I could back up everything locally and avoid another 13 day download. But the back-up software that came with it didn't work right. It refused to back up to the external drive. It would only do its back-up to the same internal drive it was copying the the data from. I could then manually copy that onto the external drive. But I really wasn't happy with the situation.

And then the keyboard/mouse failures stopped. A couple of months ago, I think, I noticed it wasn't happening any more. I think it must have been one of the periodic Windows Updates Microsoft sends.

But my Internet was still slow. I kept putting off calling Time Warner, because I didn't want to have to clean out my office even enough to give them access to the outlet under the table next to my desk, which was blocked by a file cabinet, which I couldn't move without cleaning up two piles of junk and at least one stack of boxes. (I also really didn't want to even think about having to run a new cable on the exterior of my walls from the cable distribution box down a long hallway to my office--though I realize now that it probably would have been easier to have an electrician run a power line into the closet where the box is, and put my modem and router/wi-fi transmitter there).

But last week the Internet speed was so slow I had to bite the bullet--it was taking 5, 10 even 15 minutes to see one e-mail, and I had a couple hundred piled up. So I called the cable company. In fact, I killed two birds with one stone, because the hard drive in one of our DVRs had just died. I told them about that one first, as I figured it was the easy one. We scheduled an appointment to fix that (the CSR said it was possible that the hard drive could be fixed, but I had my doubts--I was 99% sure they would want to replace to whole DVR). Then I said I also was having slow Internet problems. I expected to be transferred to someone else, as that is a separate choice on their voice-prompt menu.

But the same CSR said she could handle it. After the usual rebooting which they always try, she sent some sort of signal, and it looked to her that everything was fine. But my response time was still horrible. So she put me on hold and had someone in their tech department run a more sophisticated test. She got back on to me and said that the modem needed to be replaced. She said I'd have to schedule a separate appointment--or I could just take the modem down to their office at 23rd St and get a new one. And I could also swap the DVR also, if I didn't care about them trying to fix the old one. That sounded great to me.

So Friday afternoon I went down to 23rd St, making sure I made it there before the after-work rush. I only had to wait about 10 minutes, and I walked out with a new modem, and a different DVR. It obviously wasn't new, but presumably it worked. It did come with a brand new remote control, with more buttons, which were all back-lit. Very nice.

After a some more shopping, lugging the DVR and modem (most of the weight was the former), I eventually got home. I connected up the easy one first--the DVR. The first two attempts to boot it failed, but I gave it one more shot and that worked.

Then I connected up the modem. It was a completely different manufacturer than the old one. It took a couple minutes or so for it to identify itself to the server and do all its handshaking or whatever it needed to do, but eventually the lights on it lit up, and I tried reading an e-mail. Boom. It appeared in a couple seconds. I tried another. It came up quickly. I found a You-Tube video, clicked and it started in seconds--AND PLAYED WITHOUT STOPPING! I haven't been able to this in over a year! I was in heaven.

It's taken me a while to get all caught up on my e-mail--not to mention a whole bunch of videos from You-Tube and elsewhere that I really wanted to see. But now I'm basically current. I had a nice 80-minute workout on my exercise machine this afternoon--the longest I can remember having had in months. This was after single-handedly putting away our weekly grocery order from FreshDirect, as my wife was out.

So now I have more time to blog than I have had in over a year--though I really don't know if I'm going to go back to the level I did when I first started, at least for a while. I still want the get my office cleaned up, and I want to get my audio-video system working the way it's supposed to. We don't use the VCRs much any more, but the last time I tried them there was no sound from the VHS one, and the Betamax (yeah, I still have one in my system) wasn't working at all. And the unified remote control has never worked right. But I do think I'll be posting more than I have been, more long posts, especially.