January 2009 Archives

okay, first off let's get the obvious one out of the way. last week on friday i went to the optometrist and had my eyes examined. he said my eye health was good (good pressure, no glaucoma, no cataracts, good retina, etc), but i had an astigmatism (honestly, i didn't know there was an "a" at the front of that word until i was typing this entry) in my right eye and my overall vision was about 20 40. after the exam i looked through their frames, which are all pretty much thin rectangles or ovals these days (at least where i was). i tried some different ones on, but in the end i made a pretty conservative choice. (and actually got several comments from people at work that they were surprised i got something so...normal.) i went ahead and sprung for the transition lenses, since i'm not used to carrying glasses around and really didn't want to be carrying two around. all that said, here's a pic of me with them on:

phliktid-glasses.png

i unfortunately sort of needed to capture my face and eyes in order to get a picture of me with the glasses. (the look of concentration on my face is me trying to get both myself and the johnny cash poster somewhere in the picture by looking at the screen of my iphone through a reflection on a pane of uneven glass in a door.) at first i wasn't sure if i was happy with my choice, but as i've worn them i think i've decided they were a decent choice. i've been wearing them pretty consistently for about a week now.

when i first put them on, it was weird. the previous glasses i'd had (8+ years ago) were pretty weak, so they really just focused things more than anything. these are a little stronger, so my depth perception felt about half an inch off when reaching for things, and when moving my head back and forth i felt like i was looking through fun house mirrors. (or that effect on tv they use when someone is drugged or drunk and things are moving out of proportion and bending and stuff.) when looking through the lenses some inches from my face, the right one bends the image about 3 degrees counterclockwise. the left one just seems to magnify. i'm guessing this is compensation for the astigmatism. now that i've been wearing them for a week, they don't feel as weird to look through. it's still a bit odd, and my eyes continue to hurt some, but i know they're also still adjusting to looking through the glasses.

i watched my blu-ray copies of hellboy, underworld, and run lola run over the last week. i wasn't too impressed with hellboy. it has some decent stuff in it -- i particularly liked the undead wind-up nazi with the arm swords -- but overall it felt kind of flat to me. i also never really got into mignola's hellboy comics either. underworld still seemed like a really good movie to me: the plot is interesting, the visuals are nice, the color palette and costumes are nice, the action sequences are pretty good. not perfect, but an enjoyable, satisfying watch. i hadn't seen run lola run in years. it has some really clever cuts and sequences, and some really unique ones too. the idea behind it, the questions it is playing with, are nice too. i did think maybe the third variation deviated rather too wildly from the first two based on the time difference. but still an enjoyable film.

i got the copy of two trilogies i'd ordered on ebay. it's 505 of 1500. the dust jacket has some shelf wear (small nicks and bends, fading or wear along the edges), and it feels like maybe the book was opened to the first few pages and either left open a long time or had the spine pushed to keep it open (though that may just be the binding style, since it's sort of like that on the back side as well), but overall the thing is in really good shape and well worth the approximately $25 i spent on it. (it originally retailed at $80.)

i also used ebay to pick up the 5-issue x-statix presents: dead girl series. all of the comics were in very good shape. the art and story were okay, but i didn't think they were anything spectacular. it's also sort of weird that it didn't seem to be particularly about dead girl. i was never much of a fan of doctor strange, who plays just as prominently as dead girl. but it was nice to see dead girl, u-go girl, and mr. sensitive in something i hadn't already read.

this past saturday or sunday i decided to go to a van's outlet store. i like van's old skool skate shoes. i used to wear them some in college, then i bought a couple of pair a year or so ago (high-tops in college, low-tops now -- but same shoe design). it's kind of hard to find unique styles in normal sizes, so i figured their own outlet store would be the place to go. wrong. their selection really wasn't much (if any) better than i could find online. their prices also didn't seem to be better. that being a bust, i went ahead and dropped in a few other outlet stores. what i discovered was that the selection kind of sucks, and the prices aren't that great. i mean, most of the stuff there they already had on clearance sale or whatever in their regular stores before they moved it to the outlets. not that you can't snag a bargain sometimes either if you're not too picky or just happen to chance upon something you love. i don't love shopping enough to go through that over and over for that one good time though.

oh yeah, and i didn't mention that i had to drive way out past beltway 8 on 290 to get to this collection of outlet stores. at approximately 8 mpg, that's quite the un-bargain of a trip considering i came back empty-handed. i guess it's online shopping for me.

sunday i went to einstein bagels with the potts clan for lunch. later, i met sue and the kids at bath and bodyworks in rice village. their website had some candles on sale so i thought i'd try them, but they weren't on sale in the stores. that was another shopping let-down.

sometime this week i went by target to buy some oil for my pickup. (it was nearby.) while there, i ended up buying some holiday oils that were on sale, a 3-pack consisting of: pumpkin spice, apple spice, and tahitian vanilla. two kinds of oil, one trip. now that's more like it.

i also recently bought some superglue and used it and a c-clamp to repair my wooden incense box. it'd been built warped, or warped over time or something, and one glued side had come loose. i put in superglue gel and clamped it down and let it sit for a day or two. almost as good as new...the top doesn't seem to slip on and off quite as easily before, but it's way better than when the box was broken.

remember the speakers i bought my dad for xmas? and one of them didn't work? on jan 3rd i contacted them about it and on jan 4th they told me to ship it back to them for a replacement. i replied that day to ask if they could ship the replacement straight to my dad. on jan 6th they said they could do that but were out of stock, but they should have a shipment of more in a day or so. my dad shipped the speaker back to them on jan 8th. but he didn't realize he needed to put an rma number on the package. so on jan 9th i emailed them and let them know that, along with the tracking number and any other possibly useful info. <sound of crickets> on jan 21st i emailed them again to ask where things stood, and let them know ups showed the package delivered on jan 13th. <more crickets> on jan 28th i went through their website to submit my question about status instead of sending an email. i got a reply back quickly, stating they hadn't processed the returned speaker yet (though it was probably in the warehouse somewhere) but they would ship the replacement the next day. it shipped on the 29th, and has an expected delivery of feb 3rd. so hopefully that'll take care of that, and my dad can listen to his music in stereo finally.

messages that showed on the board during the news article were:

|  NAZI  |   |ZOMBIES |   |THE END |
|ZOMBIES!| |IN AREA!| |IS NEAR!|
| RUN!!! | | RUN | |!!!!!!!!|
|CAUTION!| |RUN FOR |
|ZOMBIES!| | COLD |
|AHEAD!!!| |CLIMATES|

various people in the piece note the seriousness of such a prank, since the signs were warning of construction and detour information -- but seriously, does this message (which is what shows on the board after it'd been fixed in the news article) really help much when you're driving 30 mph down the highway:

|RD WK ON|   |   USE  |
| MLK | | 15TH ST|
| EB CLSD| | DETOUR |

maybe it's just me, but half the time i don't have the ability to read all of the information on those signs before i pass them. in fact, i wouldn't be surprised if those signs cause some accidents because people are trying to read them before the pass them, waiting on the text to flip to the one page they haven't been able to read yet. then suddenly they're in the back of the ford focus in front of them because the traffic's stopped...just like the sign warns on the page it flips to immediately after the accident.

(apologies to cake for the entry title)

i called about the atomics hardcover and of course they didn't have the hardcover. but i went ahead and kept the trade paperback they sent me (since all i currently had were the individual comics). they still haven't fixed their site. i found a hardcover on amazon and on some other site, but i don't really want to pay $250 or $300+ for it.

i got my dark horse the complete madman comics limited edition box set in the mail. it's in awesome shape: the box, the dust covers, the books, everything! it's 116 of 500.

while i was looking for other stuff, i also ran across a copy of the madman two trilogies limited edition hardcover. it was for just about $23 total! i should be getting it in the mail sometime soon. i think it's 501 of 1500. hopefully it'll be in as good of shape as the dark horse box i just got.

friday was a maintenance window, so i used the free daytime to eat lunch at sylvia's and drop by the mall to pick up a late birthday present for my brother's wife. i had planned to take care of some other stuff, but i made a pit stop by bedrock comics and lost time. i didn't buy anything though. friday night at work i put in some new mail servers and a new proxy server. good times.

i used the good weather saturday to get out on my motorcycle some and take care of a few errands. it was a little chilly, but not horrible.

first, i dropped by a walmart (westheimer near dunvale) to return the digital coax cable i'd bought for my dad's stereo set-up. you know, i think walmart in big cities is kind of depressing. in small towns everyone shops there because a lot of times they don't have much choice. but in big cities...i was standing in the return line thinking "i think this is a cleverly conceived ploy by the man to break the wills of the poor and keep them broken." what else could explain the aura of futility, brokenness, psychosis and depression that pressed in on my psyche the whole time i was in the store?

hopefully it's not just some kind of socioeconomic snobbery on my part. i had to analyze myself to see if i thought that was it. i don't think so. it just sort of feels like no one cares at walmart -- the employees, the shoppers...no one. but maybe over the years i've become entranced by the slick marketing and presentation that exudes success in modern culture. can i still truly appreciate and identify with my rural roots? or have i created an idealized sham of what it was, something that lets me feel connected but is in no way similar to reality? years of separation from something leads to that...nostalgia, the "good old days" so to speak. but it's really a sanitized, repackaged, safe version of the past that only amplifies the positives from that time. or it makes you feel better about your current self because you think you can identify with something you really can't anymore. i don't know.

i then dropped by a few comic book stores to see if i could find anything. one store is clean, orderly, and pleasant. one store is cluttered, kind of dark, and a touch seedy. and one store is equally cluttered, dark, and seedy -- but lorded over by a guy who was the inspiration for, or takes all his cues from, the simpsons' comic book guy. seriously, the guy is a pompous doofus. and i'm not saying that because he did anything to me, because he didn't. i was just in the store listening to him talk to other people as i looked around. (i'll leave it to anyone who cares to identify the three stores in question.) i of course didn't find anything i was looking for. plus i noticed i can get pretty much everything cheaper online.

i came back home and did some stuff around the house (like trying to clean and organize a bit, and finishing matting and framing my going away pictures from lockheed martin and dyncorp, from my years as a rocket scientist at nasa). sue texted me to see if i wanted to meet them for dessert later, so i jumped in my pickup and drove to james coney island for supper beforehand. when sue texted me again, they'd decided to go to house of pies. not too much surprise there. it was jack and sue, chip, and a couple of friends of chip. i had a couple of cups of coffee and a slice of house of pies' new texas pecan cheesecake. it's sort of like a cheesecake with a pecan pie (minus the crust) in the middle of it. it was pretty good, but not spectacular.

i got home and futzed around, then i went to bed. except i couldn't. the caffeine probably didn't help, but besides that my eyes hurt pretty badly, my sinuses felt weird, and my digestive system was not very happy about something. basically, i ended up getting some fitful sleep starting around 3:30am, and gave up and got up around 9:30am. 6 hours of low-quality sleep on a weekend night is very uncommon for me.

over the last few months or year i've been having several nagging problems, and they seemed to all come out at once. i've self-diagnosed as follows: my sinus problems are due to my cat and/or dust and/or artificial heat; my stomach problems are due to a growing lactose intolerance; and my eye problems are due to spending so much time in front of computers.

speaking of that, lately i've been having worse problems with my eyes. enough that i'm starting to get worried that maybe it's not just that my eyesight is getting worse so my eye muscles have to strain more and that explains the eye pain. my right eye generally hurts worse than my left. i think i'm slightly left-eye dominant (although i don't ever tell firearms instructors that), but i'm not sure if that helps explain one eye hurting more or not. i made an appointment today for friday, so hopefully i can get at least one of my anomalies resolved.

anyway, since i'd gotten up at 9am, i spent a few hours listening to music and trying to go through papers and junk i have laying around all over the place (i clutter like nobody's business...but i'm not a slob generally). eventually sue texted to initiate operation yankee candle. her plan was to hit a few yankee candle stores while their final sale of winter/holiday stuff was going on (it ended monday). ...but we ended up only hitting one because she blew all her money in one place. which is sweet, sweet justice considering that she used to make fun of my purchasing tendencies there. anyway, here's what i got this go-round:

  • berry jam (large jar)
  • christmas cookie (large jar)
  • chocolate cupcake (large jar)
  • oatmeal cookie (large jar)
  • black cherry (oil)
  • cinnamon sugar (oil)
  • christmas cookie (oil)
  • candle wick snipper

all of the scents were on sale except for the oatmeal cookie candle. it was in the bin of stuff they used to sell but is only around now for a little while. i had to choose between it and a few others. and the candle wick trimmer wasn't on sale. make fun of me if you want, but long wicks blasting out soot and mushrooming is annoying, and trying to trim a wick inside of a jar with a regular pair of scissors is somewhere between not easy and impossible.

afterward i went with the whole potts clan to buca di beppo. we ended up sitting at a booth right next to the tables i'd sat at with the potts and a bunch of other people years ago. i don't remember the occasion...jack's birthday, perhaps? (i mentioned this in one of my blog entries that disappeared forever back in 2004 or whenever when my server crashed -- taking my year or so old fledgling secret blog with it, then my desktop followed it a few weeks later.) if i recall, at the time i was still trying to be friends with tamara. she'd already admitted to having the affair, she was living with raj and keira (in the house i'm living in now), and we were still going to a marital counselor i think. tamara showed up with william, a mutual friend (although originally her friend, and they were closer) -- they were both being kind of lewd and immature...just kind of acting like teens who'd recently left home and were trying a little too hard to prove they were wild and crazy and free. (all categories which neither of them fit into all that well.) my heart was breaking with the situation, but i was trying to maintain my composure. eventually i couldn't do it and i got up and left. i don't remember if jack or sue called me, or if i called them to let them know i had to leave the table and couldn't come back. i think jack either talked to me on the phone for awhile, or maybe came out and talked to me. i don't remember anymore. i just remember that i couldn't sit there and watch tamara act like she was an irresponsible college teen oblivious to the reality of the situation that directly involved me while i was sitting at the table. i know i spent a long time outside crying and being upset. yeah, those were the fscking glory days.

anyway, this time nothing dramatic happened. now, i've been there at least two or three times in the last few years -- so don't think i was averse to the place and this was the first time i'd ever managed to get up the courage to go back. it's just that this was the first time i sat in a place close enough that it triggered the memories.

monday i had the day off for mlk. i decided to go down to league city and eat at the village pizza and seafood on 518 ash and i used to eat at. i had the cheeseburger sub, which was as good as i remember it. afterward i was at a stop light on 518 near 45, staring forward waiting for the light, when someone making a left in front of me caught my eye for some reason. in my mind it was something like: "mmm-hmmmm...waiting at the light...ladada...sky...cars...man, this is boring...hey she's kind of attra...is that jennifer?...it's a maroon suburbun..." i mean, i wasn't even really paying attention to my surroundings and all of the sudden my mind realized it. i looked in the rearview mirror at the back of the suburban and sure enough it had the bumper sticker hers used to have. how bizarre is it that i would be in an area i never really go to, and at that exact moment we would both be at that same place and cross paths? not that i think she realized i was there. it's still pretty bizarre.

since i was in the area, i stopped by the yankee candle in baybrook mall. but you know, after going out of my way to visit there twice now, i think i can safely claim i don't care for that store so much. their selection has been pretty limited compared to the other stores i go to. maybe more people buy there, so by the time i get there it's slim pickings. whatever the case, i don't see much reason to make trips there in the future unless i'm desperate or i call ahead.

it's not entirely true that i just went there because i wanted to though. sue had contacted me earlier and was regretting haven given up operation yankee candle too soon. she wanted me to secure some more stuff for her, as she was at work and couldn't get to a store. but the baybrook store didn't have what she wanted, or anything i wanted, so i left it.

i also stopped at a kiosk in the mall to look at some incense and oil burners. they had some kind of cool looking stuff. it was being operated by an indian lady and a young indian woman. the younger one helped me, and she was a very persistent seller. she almost had me, but i managed to get away without buying anything.

because i was under obligation to make a purchase for sue, i had to go to another yankee candle store. i thought about going to the one in that mall at i10 and beltway 8 since i hadn't been there in some time and they had a good selection the times i've been there, but in the end i was kind of tired and didn't feel like devoting the extra time and driving without knowing if i'd find what sue wanted. so i just dropped by the rice village store. while there, i found one more thing on sale and then used the gift card the potts gave me for xmas:

  • cookies for santa beanswax (large jar)
  • star fruit and orange (large jar)

the beanswax candle was on sale. i've not had one of these, so it's sort of an experiment to see how i feel about them. it has two wicks, so it'll burn faster. but it may throw more scent too.

(apologies to the cure.)

a couple of notes about having pictures taken.

first, there is the good result. at chris and mary's new year's party, amanda wanted to get a picture of my 8-bit tie. here it is: TeRRY with an 8-bit tie (the tie comes from thinkgeek)

college-slacker-crop.jpg

next up we have the bad result. this comes to us from a completely different amanda than the one who recently took the 8-bit pic. back when i was in college, one time while i was at home i decided to cut my hair. at some point afterward, i decided it was new and cool enough that i should take some pictures of myself and send them to various friends. the pictures were taken, developed, picked, and mailed. (as in traditional u.s. post office mail...i used to write real letters on paper back in those days!)

years go by. then a couple of days ago i get an email from amanda (who'd recently caught up with me online and now reads my blog sometimes) with the subject of "who in the heck is this guy?????" there's an attachment. it's a scan of a pic. a pic from years ago. a pic of me.

(as a random aside, tamara used to love the pics taken from that day. she thought i was utterly yummy, and asked me if i thought it were inappropriate if she fantasized about the me from those photos since it was still technically me.)

the only thing i can say in my defense is that i'm very, very happy the scanned image in that email was from those sets of pics and not from some i'd taken maybe a couple of years before that. although this reminds me that those may be floating around out there somewhere in the world -- and that, my friends, is a very scary thought.

holiday haul (xmas + my own)

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i forgot to mention in my last entry that i rolled 69k on the pickup during my trip home over the holidays. i was somewhere in austin near or on lamar when it happened. i didn't actually see it.

i also forgot to mention that november 23rd was the one year anniversary of owning the bel air. which just happens to be the exact same day the engine blew. coincidence? i've got a pretty good idea of what engine i'm going to put into it -- i'm still trying to figure out who i'm going to get to do the work.

in my last entry i forgot to mention that on new year's day before i packed and took off for austin i decided to eat at brasil for lunch. (because i was already running late, so i might as well go ahead and eat lunch, right?) there was this really cool four-piece playing a lot of folk, country, jazz, and swing kind of stuff. one guy played a washtub bass and the saw, as well as guitar. and the female fiddle player had a really cool voice that sounded like 40's/50's female singers. i didn't catch their name or anything though. last night i did some online searching but came up empty. i finally called brasil and asked if they knew. they said it was a group of whoever shows up, but they also play there on tuesday nights. so i may have to show up at brasil on some tuesday nights to see what kind of stuff they play week to week.

yesterday i had lunch at sylvia's with the potts clan (minus jackson, who was at a birthday party). i continue to highly recommend the carne guisada and sylvia's tortilla soup. seriously, if you want some great mexican food go there.

now we get to the part where i start listing all of the stuff i got for xmas, as well as the stuff i've bought for myself recently. instead of listing it by who got me what, i'm going to instead break it down into categories that make sense to me...

  • all of the absolute sandman volumes, 1-4 (dc comics) -- big format, leather-bound, hardcover, slipcased, remastered compilations of neil gaiman's sandman comics. these things doth rock mightily. i provided a link to the first, you can get to the rest from it.
  • 20th anniversary limited edition (1000) sandman and death bookends -- mine are 821/1000. they look really cool.
  • madman gargantua! (image) -- big format, hardcover reprinting the original two madman 3-issue series and the twenty issues on dark horse, plus some extra stuff.
  • madman - limited edition box set (dark horse) -- this is a limited edition box of two hardcover volumes collecting 1-5 and 6-10 of the dark horse madman run. they come in a black slipcase with a silver embossed madman and exclamation bolt on the outside of the slipcase. (i actually haven't gotten this in the mail yet...i hope it's in good shape.)
  • the atomics (diamond) -- they said they had a hardcover, but they sent me a softcover (recent release by image comics). i bet their website is wrong. i bet they don't have a hardcover.
  • the atomics - spaced out and grounded in snap city! (oni press) -- a tpb collection of four individual comics about different atomics characters
  • madman t-shirts (from strange candy ink) -- that black ringer shirt is awesome! i haven't gotten this stuff in the mail yet...
  • batman pez collector's set (two-face, riddler, joker, and batman with custom chest logo)
  • the unreleased recordings - hank williams (time life) -- almost destroyed transcriptions by wsm radio finally make their way to the public, increasing the known recordings of hank by over 50%
  • the complete recordings of the father of western swing - milton brown and the musical brownies (Texas rose) -- this compilation was put together with the help of milton's brother, and released with the blessing of the brown estate
  • devo: live 1980 - devo (target video) -- this is a recording of a devo concert from 1980. i was really impressed by the performance. at one point they showed some punk/new wave girls in the front row with partially shaved heads and lots of black eyeliner and i thought "hey, she's pretty hot" -- which was immediately followed by "hey...she's probably about 50 years old right now! i wonder what she's doing and what she looks like these days."
  • oxford american magazine subscription -- my initial issue was an anniversary edition with two cds of southern music
  • all over the map: true heroes of Texas music - michael corcoran (university of Texas press)
  • milton brown and the founding of western swing - cary ginell (university of illinois press)
  • reservoir dogs (15th anniversary edition) - tarantino (lionsgate) -- blu-ray 15th anniversary edition of the classic tarantino film
  • why i am not a calvinist - jerry walls and joseph dongell (intervarsity press) -- i don't want to be a calvinist. even if they do have good arguments. unfortunately, the anti-calvinist camp is usually found to be intellectually lacking as far as reasoning and strong arguments go. hopefully this book remedies that.
  • hexbug -- mine is delta (the black one)
  • various candy and stocking stuffer materials
  • some essential oils and soaps from bath and body works
  • a container for holding my xmas lights and sundry xmas paraphernalia during the off season

i think that pretty much covers it. maybe.

xmas and new year 2008/2009

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man, i've really slacked off about writing updates.

i've been buying more stuff for myself. sometime around xmas...maybe the day after xmas...i went by eurway and bought myself a coffee table. i've been looking at coffee tables forever and could never find exactly what i wanted. i'm still not sure this is the one, but it's pretty cool. it's the neo coffee table by actona. it looks like white high gloss plastic bent at both ends and looped under itself with a gap in the middle, with brushed steel legs in rectangular loops with rounded corners supporting it. it is actually a painted and glossed single piece of thick particle board. but it looks pretty cool. i also got two "beaker" accent lights by lite source. one is red and the other is orange. the orange was on display but out of stock, the red was not on display but on close-out and they had one left. so i have to go back and get the orange one when it comes in.

new year's eve the radio show was only manned by myself, barrett, and groovehouse. it was kind of a weird vibe without the part of the crew that usually does most of the talking, but i think we managed to get our radio legs under us fairly quickly and do a pretty decent show.

from there i went over to a co-worker's place nearby for a new year's eve party. stupidly, i decided to try and drive the 3 or 4 blocks and find parking. i couldn't find a spot for a long time, plus i lost the spot i'd had. eventually it worked out though, because i got a spot right in front of his place. it was a formal party, so i went about as formal as i can stomach -- fedora, black leather western-cut suit jacket, black dickies slacks, western shirt tucked in, and my red thinkgeek 8-bit tie. there may be some pics, but i haven't seen them. i hung out there until about 1am and headed home.

new year's day i got up and packed the drove to austin. i went to my brother's and exchanged presents with him and his wife and my nephew. i gave them my old sony stereo, my old linksys wrt54g, and my old airport express 802.11g. i got heather some house stuff and gift cards and such, and got miles some plastic food containers and a gift card to ikea. the main thing i got my brother was a new turntable, along with an ion u record converter device that you hook things (turntable, tape deck, etc.) into then plug it into a usb port on your computer so you can convert them to digital recordings. i ate supper with them, then helped them set all the stuff up. i'd never set up a nice turntable before. when i left, i had pretty much everything going except the sub. his old setup was a stereo+speakers set, and everything including the sub used zip cord to the receiver. my old stereo only provided an rca jack for the sub. i left thinking maybe i could wire his sub with an rca jack and drive it from mine.

i left there and headed to brady. i got to my parents' house around 1am, but they were up. we went ahead and opened presents. i got my mom some house stuff and gift cards. the main thing i got my dad was a pair of infinity bookshelf speakers (primus p162). and i took my brother's old turntable and stereo, plus his old dvd player, to set up a new system for my dad.

the next day i started to set things up. unfortunately, my brother's sony stereo wouldn't really push the infinity speakers. (well, it would, just not very loudly.) fortunately, he'd also given me our grandfather's old pioneer receiver. it'd been mine, then i gave it to him, then he gave it back to me after i gave him mine for xmas. (it'd been out in his storage room.) it was able to push the speakers well. in the bad news section, the banana clips on the 12 gauge speaker wires i bought for the speakers would not fit in the receivers. i had to go and buy some thinner gauge speaker wire. (*sigh* yes, at wal-mart.) while there i bought a digital coax cable too. but since i couldn't use the sony receiver, i ended up not needing it. in even worse news, one speaker didn't work out of the box.

another thing i did was buy two outlet plugs at an ace hardware and cut and rewire the plugs on both the turntable and the dvd player. this is because both of the wires had been chewed on years ago when my brother got a couple of kittens, so they were both frayed in spots. the dvd player would short sometimes because of this. after i cut and rewired them, they seemed to have no shorting problems. the dvd player is for using as a cd player on the stereo. :)

my dad is having to ship the speaker back to the people i bought it from, and they are supposed to be shipping him a new one. i both them from audioholics.com, and so far i've been pretty happy with their customer service.

also on friday i went over and spent some time with my grandmother. i'd gotten her some house stuff, plus a new phone with big numbers. (it also has a pretty loud speaker in the earpiece.)

saturday afternoon i went with my parents down to beaver creek and art, then we stopped at mason and ate at the northside cafe. i've mentioned it a couple of times before. if you're in mason and need a place to eat, i highly recommend it. i had the fritos chili cheeseburger and i had to compress it in order to be able to get my mouth around it.

sunday i drove back to austin and went to a birthday party for my nephew and sister-in-law. (my parents drove separately, but went as well.) after the party, i went with my brother and paid for most of an open-box sony powered sub at a best buy. we took it back to his place and i helped him set it up. this purchase was made because after reading online while at my parents i figured out his sub was powered off his stereo (i.e., the sub was unpowered) and my old stereo only provides line out -- line out would have nowhere near enough juice to drive an unpowered sub (i.e., it needs a powered sub). i also returned his sony receiver to him, as well as his phono pre-amp (since the pioneer had a phono-in and thus didn't need the pre-amp). then i drove back to houston.

i spent this week trying to get used to being back at work and getting up in the morning. fortunately, i did manage to accomplish some things at work (like building out a new proxy server from scratch on the fly because of performance issues on old hardware) -- and i even got a glowing letter of commendation from an engineer from another company that got passed around amongst all my management, even though i didn't really do much of anything in that instance to get complimented. i guess he and the customer thought otherwise though.

tonight was the geek gathering. it was at the coffee groundz in midtown again. turnout was good. the hrc was going to go again, but she twisted her ankle earlier in the day and decided she should stay off it and rest. the turnout was pretty good. loopylow gave me a nice batman hardcover to read. then he discovered his car had been towed. that sucks. there were some cool looking chicks in the area. i of course didn't talk to any of them.

i think i'll write up a separate entry for the various xmas gifts i got, plus things i've been getting myself.

about a month ago my two fedora systems at work (8 and 9) started making very slow internet connections (not 100% of the time, but pretty consistently...and specifically web pages through firefox). i had recently moved cubes, so at first i theorized it was my network drops in the new cube and there was nothing i could do about it. however, my mac mini didn't seem to exhibit the problem. i wondered if it was failing hardware or something goofy in a yum update, so i booted off an ubuntu live cd (8.10). but it exhibited the same problem.

in all cases, pings were just fine. also, inexplicably, streaming internet radio worked just fine (such as somafm.com -- the best online radio around).

after a few weeks of this, i finally broke down and went to talk to a couple of guys in networks. that's when i learned that fedora systems all over our network were exhibiting this problem. including the new fedora 10 (which i haven't installed yet), and some other linux distros. they provided some theories, but had no solutions.

learning that this was a wider problem, i decided to try and do a bit of google searching to see if there were any possible solutions online. with just the slightest bit of google-fu i was able to come up with a suggestion, which led to a couple of other suggestions.

the first was to disable ipv6 on firefox. to do this:

  • open firefox
  • in the url/address bar, type "about:config"
  • at this point, some firefox version may warn you. click ok.
  • in the filter bar at the top, search for ipv6
  • you should see "network.dns.disableIPv6 (by default it is set to false)
  • right click on the line and choose "toggle" (or double-click on the line)
  • it should now be set to "user set" and "true"
  • close and re-open firefox

before i did this, i was getting download speeds of around 0 to 2 kb/s. this didn't really seem to help much. but i don't use ipv6 anyway, so it shouldn't hurt me.

the next suggestion was a little more drastic, but worth a shot: edit /etc/sysctl.conf
and add the following lines:

# control tcp windows scaling
net.ipv4.tcp_window_scaling = 0

i set this and rebooted my box. my download speeds went to between 500 to 1300 kb/s. obviously this solved the problem. this worked on both of my fedora systems (8 and 9).

looking back on it, a network change that caused problems with tcp would explain why pings (icmp) and streaming internet radio (udp) were unaffected while http (tcp) was knocked around. now if i can figure out what happened on the network...

a guy in my group who used to work at rice university said they had some similar problems with redhat systems back in the day when people started switching over from the 2.4 kernel to the 2.6 kernel.

a little more google-sleuthing came up with this page. it appears setting tcp window scaling off might be a bit heavy handed. earlier versions (2.4) of the kernel had the setting on but had smaller max values. so it is possible that setting the rmem and wmem values might fix the problem without being as heavy handed.

then again, i'm not sure i feel like toying with it. i can load web pages and stream video again without issue, so i may be placated enough. plus i think the network guys may have identified the problem and may be pushing a patch that will possibly solve the problem. (of course, that's a lot of maybes.)

(thanks to google and this post on the fedora forum.)

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