June 2010 Archives

a few days ago i got a book in the mail:

  • a heartbeat and a guitar: johnny cash and the making of bitter tears - antonio d'ambrosio (nation books / perseus)

i didn't order it, so i'm guessing it's a present...probably from my brother. but there was no name or anything connected to it, and no one has 'fessed up or mentioned it, so i'm not sure.

also a couple of days ago i got something i ordered off ebay. it's the canopus advc-110, which is an analog-to-digital video converter. so you can hook any analog video source (vcr, analog-only video camera, etc.) into this and it will convert to digital, which can then be imported onto your computer. there are cheaper devices around to do this, but the canopus product is generally considered one of the best consumer-grade devices. there are three canopus models: 55, 110, and 300. the 300 has extra features but is about twice the price of the 110. i had watched them on ebay on and off for the last few weeks, but last week a brand new one with the power supply (an optional accessory) popped up on ebay as a "buy it now" for $100. the device retails for $200-$250 and the power supply is usually around $40. most of the ones on ebay, used without the power supply, end up going for around $160+. so i am pretty happy to have gotten what i did at the price point i did.

saturday morning i got up around 10am, then went to meet loopylow at a mexican restaurant on airline drive called teotihuacan. the food i had was good. from there we headed up to near intercontinental airport to go to apollocon.

i had a harrowing experience on the way up. i was on my motorcycle following scott (loopylow). just as we crested the 610 overpass on i-45, traffic immediately came to a dead halt. i mean completely. the car in front of loopylow slammed on its brakes and started fishtailing, scott hit his brakes hard, and i hit mine...but i could tell i wasn't going to stop in time. we were in the middle of three lanes and i knew there were cars to my right. i hadn't seen cars to my left so i quickly decided to veer to the left to go near scott, hoping there wasn't anything in my left blind spot (i didn't have time to turn my head or anything). as i started to slow and veer i heard my tires lock up and start squealing, but i managed to pop around him okay. fortunately no one was right behind me to my left so i was able to pass scott and slow down. (i guess maybe it's a good time to mention that when i renewed my driver's license this last time i agreed to be an organ donor.) the rest of the trip up was uneventful.

the main reason i went up to apollocon is because barrett (from technology bytes) and kd5gzi (david -- a radio show listener, irc-er, and geek gathering regular) were doing a presentation on open source hardware and following it up with a workshop on building your own arduino on a breadboard. i find the arduino stuff and open source hardware community somewhat interesting, but i'd never jumped into it on any level. (for example, i've been eyeing the ice tube clock kit on ladyada's adafruit site. not arduino, but a cool build it yourself kit nonetheless.) i figured this was a good way to push myself into getting my toes wet. i managed to be the first one in the group to get my kit to perform its first task: blinking a light. that was really all we were supposed to do, but i went ahead and started playing with it some more, changing it to blink morse code "sos", then adding a bunch of cables to control 6 leds and turn them on and off in sequence, then sweep back and forth like a cylon. i still don't really feel like i accomplished much, but i guess it's small steps that build toward something bigger and better.

the rest of the con reminded me of why i usually don't go to cons. it's not the con's fault at all. i know some people might think i should feel like i'm in my element there, but they're wrong. i used to be into and collect comic books, and i enjoy sci-fi/cyberpunk books and movies (fantasy not as much), and i played some d&d in high school, and i'm into computers/tech stuff -- but most of the people at cons seem like they're just living it all at a whole different level than me. maybe it has to do with my growing up in a small town. plus this was really a writing/gaming con and not a comic con, so even my history with comics couldn't make me feel like i fit in. and while the whole steampunk thing is intriguing, it's not something i want to get into myself. that one chick in the polished silver tight-fitting robot suit that completely covered everything head to toe -- based on sorayama's "sexy robot" work -- was pretty swank though. (and evidently won the costume contest, although i only saw her standing outside in the hallway since i missed most of the contest.) i managed to find two pics of the apollocon sexy robot: solo sexy robot and group shot sexy robot, both on facebook. i stayed around late because i was intrigued by what music dj hawz might play at the party, especially with his really cool poster of a skull with a mario hat on it over crossed classic nintendo console guns -- i was hoping maybe he'd be mixing some 8-bit, glitch, electroclash, etc. -- but while i was listening he played pretty typical party songs mixed with the occasional tip of the hat to geek culture (like a remixed imperial death march, the dr. who theme, etc.).

monday after work i went over to the flying saucer downtown thinking i was going to meet someone there. i got there and didn't see him, so i sat down at the bar and had a breckenridge vanilla porter. i didn't really taste vanilla, but it was pretty good overall. i still didn't see the guy, so i moved on to a southern star buried hatchet stout. (southern star comes from conroe, Texas.) it smelled like coffee, a bit of chocolate, and was pretty yummy. still no guy, but i decided i should probably stop. i got on my motorcycle and started heading home. on westheimer it started raining on me some, but i didn't really care. it rained on me most of the rest of the way home, but never really heavy. i got home and took off my wet clothes...then i woke up in my bed and it was 4am. i'm really unsure exactly what happened after i got home. but after i woke up, i couldn't get back to sleep. i guess maybe i'd gotten at least 7 or 8 hours of sleep already. so i was up very early for the next day.

tuesday i took the bike to work again. when i left work rain was coming in, but i figured i had 30 to 45 minutes before it arrived so i decided to go by taurian. i got about a block or two from them and then decided i wouldn't have time to go in and look and talk to them before the rain hit. so i turned and headed home. i got about 2/3rd of the way through downtown when big giant raindrops started pegging me. by the time i got on westheimer it was coming down pretty hard. i kept thinking i was going to get ahead of the rain but i never did. i was completely drenched by the time i got home. coming home drenched and cold is always a much better situation when you have someone waiting at home for you. when you're by yourself it pretty much just sucks.

tuesday night i made my first trip to the house of pies in a couple of months. a guy who used to be a co-worker that has been living out of state the last year or two was in town, and we planned to meet there for supper. we were there for some time, so i ate supper and then ended up getting a slice of bayou goo.

wednesday between work and the radio show i went back by taurian. i rang the doorbell but no one answered. i waited awhile, then rang it again. no answer. so then i tried the door, but it was locked. i started trying to call their phone number, but the line kept immediately dropping. after the radio show i started poking around online, and i learned that taurian had closed down. after some more google-sleuthing, i found someone that said byriah was now piercing at Texas tattoo emporium. i called their phone number and asked about him, and found out that is indeed where he is. so i decided i'd drop by the next day.


mr. henry: well, i mean, it couldn't hurt could it?
dignan: no, it couldn't hurt. but...well, you gotta weigh the pros and the cons, and you're the one who hit me to that, mr. henry.
mr. henry: shoot, go ahead. what are the cons?

even though i don't really want to drive the belair now, it was raining thursday morning and the belair was in the driveway closest to the street, so i took it to work. it is continuing to make some odd sounds, but it hasn't fallen apart. after work i went by petco (the one where i totaled my vtx motorcycle), then i headed over to whole foods. as i was walking into the store, i saw what appeared to be julia (the hrc) walking out with some guy i'd never seen before. i didn't see her dead on, just a profile, so i wasn't sure -- so i turned around and walked back to my car. if it wasn't her, which it might not have been, this girl was a shocking replica. she looked like her (hair, face, body), she walked like her, she even had a big red leather purse, although not the same one julia used to carry. they got in a car he was driving, which was parked going in the opposite direction of where my car was. i started walking back to the store, but the guy ended up looping around the lot so he drove right beside me. and then stopped for another car. so at that point i walked right by her. she had looked straight forward the whole time, until i was walking right beside her. when she finally turned and looked at me, she registered no response. (as in, usually you can tell recognition in someone's face -- postive, negative, whatever.) i'm still not sure it was her. the whole thing ended up feeling sort of like that odd/awkward scene early in eternal sunshine of the spotless mind where patrick (elijah wood) walks up to joel (jim carrey) and taps the window on his car. joel rolls the window down and:

joel: yes?
patrick: can I help you?
joel: what do you mean?
patrick: can I help you with something?
joel: no.
patrick: what are you doing here?
joel: i'm not really sure what you're asking.
patrick: oh, thanks...

(if you've seen the movie, you can probably see the similarities of awkwardness. although i didn't actually talk to this person. and i'm not really comfortable with me being identified as patrick, since he was sort of slimy. although perhaps in this situation it's more appropriate than i'd care for it to be.)

whether it was really the hrc or not, what i can say from the experience is that i'm obviously still not done with my emotions over her -- which isn't surprising given my tendency to forge strong bonds with romantic interests and have them not go away very easily or quickly at all. my adrenalin was pumping, my heart was racing, my hands were starting to shake some. it's really kind of stupid of me. perhaps it'd be nice to be able to slash through emotional bonds like lots of other people seem to be able to do.

i went home, then drove to jack's to try and knock out the back of the techbytes 15th anniversary party t-shirts. unfortunately, jack was waiting in line for an iphone 4. so i went and ate, then came back to his house. he still wasn't back, so i went ahead and started getting stuff ready. it took awhile to get everything set up, and doing the back was slower and more complex than the front was. so i gave up around 4am, having completed about half of the shirts.

friday morning i managed to wake up a little after 9am and go into work (neither of which i was confident was going to happen after my late night). friday evening i went back over to the potts' and continued working on the techbytes 15th anniversary party shirts. this time i managed to get them knocked out before i left (around 3am). jack moved some speakers into the garage where the screening machine is, so i was able to hook up my iphone and listen to music while i worked. that helped make the process more enjoyable, since without that all you hear is a large shop fan.

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last week i netflix streamed the roast of bob saget. it was okay.

monday i had my first fry/chip in over two months. it's not a conviction or anything for me, but it was still difficult since i'd gone so long without any. i decided it was kind of silly not to have one though, as it was a special circumstance. a coworker had another coworker bring them back some interesting chips from india. these were lay's potato chips, but the flavor was chicken and thyme. so i had one. it tasted sorta like chicken noodle soup, or rotisserie chicken. kind of weird to have that taste sensation as a potato chip, but it wasn't bad. still no coffee or sodas for over two months.

monday after work i went over to the potts'. we went by and picked up all of the t-shirts we're going to be using for the techbytes party. jack and i spent the rest of the evening screening the front of all of the techbytes 15th anniversary party t-shirts. considering that neither of us really had any experience with silk screening, and printing white is supposed to be more difficult to get right (the ink is thicker, etc), i think they came out pretty good. i think my technique was a bit off, and i'm not sure the screen distance from the shirts was just right, but i'm still pretty happy with them. hopefully we cured them long enough and the ink will stick to the shirts and not crack or peel off or anything.

tuesday after work i went back over, but we ended up not getting too much accomplished. we needed to make one more screen and the first attempt didn't go quite right, so we had to do another one. by the time we got another one done, which was good, it was already late and i didn't want to start then since we probably wouldn't have been done for at least two or three hours. i was already tired from staying up late the previous night. we should be working on getting them finished tomorrow night.

after driving my car to the potts' and back on sunday i noticed the engine was running hot and getting hot really fast. when i checked the radiator it didn't have much fluid in it. monday i was able to pour in a full one gallon jug of radiator fluid, so i'd have to say it was pretty low. it still seems like it's running hotter than i think it should. but i didn't see any radiator fluid leaking. so i'm not sure if i've got a leak or what's going on at this point. also over the last couple of days the car has started making an odd sound. it appears to be related to the flywheel or clutch or transmission, as it definitely relates to the speed of the engine but goes away if i push in the clutch. so, yet more things to deal with on the car. that vehicle just does not want to play nice.

i don't think i mentioned it, but after driving to brady and back again, i'm definitely leaning towards giving up on the 3-on-the-tree. as much as i love the uniqueness these days of having one, i just can not enjoy higher speeds with the 3 gears i currently have. one option is overdrive, but if my current transmission doesn't have overdrive then i'm not sure it's worth replacing it with another 3 that has overdrive. a guy from work has talked about some rear axles that have an overdrive built into them, so that's an option (although i don't know how common those are or anything about them). or i could change the gearing on my current transmission. but again, if i'm doing junk like that, it'd probably cost enough that just putting in a new 5-speed transmission with a floor straight shifter would be worth it. it just makes me a little sad to think about cutting a hole in that virgin floor. of course, not having that column shifter would also free up engine bay space on the driver's side for more exhaust header choices. *sigh*

last night i upgraded my iphone (3g) to ios 4. because it's a 3g, i'm not going to see most of the benefits of the new os (such as multitasking), but i do get the unified inbox and some other stuff i think will be worth the update. i'm probably going to be getting the new iphone here at some point though.

after freaking out for a bit after i got back from my trip last weekend, my desktop has seemed to run without problem. it's still a 6+ year old machine, so i keep thinking about replacing it. i originally was waiting for a mac mini refresh. that happened, but now i'm not as excited because they bumped the prices up on them. what to do. also, i realized tonight the battery on my macbook air is kind of sucking. it went from full charge to near dead in only about 2 hours.

i didn't mention in my last entry that someone(s) scanning for vulnerabilities found a php-based software on my server that was crackable. fortunately, all of the ips that were hitting it appear to have been script-kiddies (or didn't spend time mucking with my box), as they don't appear to have actually used the access to crack my box (which they could have done). one (or more) of them ended up using it as a relay to spew spam, which is how i noticed it. i figured out what the flaw was and modded the php code to error out with a snarky message to them. *sigh* that's just part of what goes with having anything available to the internet-at-large. keeping up-to-date on your software helps, but even then there are 0-day exploits and lag times between when the world (and thus the crackers/script-kids) knows about an exploit and when a patch is made available by the vendor. and that is ignoring brute force cracking, social engineering, etc.

i was supposed to be working all day saturday to do disaster recovery site email testing, but it got canceled friday afternoon. so that's now the second time it's been canceled the afternoon of the day before. it's really annoying because you get geared up and ready to do it, try to make everything fresh in your mind -- then you're told it's not going to happen. it's a major mental and emotional let-down.

speaking of major mental and emotional let-downs, i suppose i should mention today would have been my 12 year wedding anniversary. and it could be father's day for me; i could have a 6-year-old kid. but it's not, and i don't. does that aspect of my past matter any more to me? sure. but not like it used to. for all intents and purposes, the tamara i believed i married back then is dead and gone from this world. she has become a painful memory in my past, a tagged mental note that you can never be sure what is lurking underneath, and just how unfair and two-faced they can turn out to be because of it. enough time has passed that it doesn't fill my thoughts very often any more. and even when i do think about it, though there is still pain and anger and sadness there, it's much less intense overall. but, at the same time, marriage and a family is a desire i have for my life, so that failure and loss can bring me down a lot if i let it (focusing on it and/or starting off in a poor emotional state). it's still relevant to me because i've never really had new memories in that area to shift my focus onto. (i wish jennifer or the hrc could have done it, but neither of them were ever really very committed toward me.) because of that, my experience with tamara is always sitting there available to me when i get lonely or sad or depressed -- especially over that facet of my life. as the crucified song notes: "my loneliness is evidence of my failure" (though in the song they are trying to point out that is flawed thinking, so don't trash them for being negative or such nonsense...trash me instead :). anyway, enough of that subject.

yesterday and today i spent some time over at the potts' house working with jack trying to figure out how to silk screen. he got some equipment from someone, i came up with some designs for a simple shirt for the party for the radio show i help with, and we're supposed to screen some shirts. yesterday was the first day for either of us, and we learned we didn't really have stuff figured out. earlier today jack and jackson figured some stuff out, then this afternoon jack and i made the screens for the techbytes shirt. tomorrow we should actually try screening some shirts. i watched some youtube videos today trying to learn more about silk screening and techniques and such. it's so nice to have an instant resource for all kinds of things right at your fingertips whenever you want it. hopefully our stuff will come out well.

i forgot one of the russian books i bought with the others, plus i bought another book:

  • beginner's russian script - daphne west (teach yourself)
  • rapture ready! - daniel radosh (scribner)

rapture ready is the adventures of a non-xian guy who decided to look into the xian pop culture scene. i've read a couple of other books in the same vein, but i've read some excepts and reviews and this one seems like it might be pretty decent as far as the guy having a fairly open mind and being even-handed about everything. (more like body piercing saved my life and less like righteous.)

i finally finished lovesick blues by paul hempill. it's the story of hank williams. i'd started reading it probably a year or more ago, taking it to crescent city or coffee houses with me. but i hadn't been going out like that for some time, so it'd just been sitting there. it was good. i also read why i am not a calvinist by walls and dongell. it seemed to walk a pretty good line to me between being very simple and complex. some ideas relating to predestination, election, evil, and the attributes of G-d just can't be made simple. who'd 'a thunk theology ain't easy-peasy? anyway, i really enjoyed the book, and i thought they did a good job of opening up some holes in the reformed/calvinist positions that i hadn't thought of before. they were also able to articulate much better several things that i've thought/felt but never been able to flesh out very well. the reformed camp tends to have lots of verses to point at, but it always felt like to me the overarching theme of the bible is choice and free will. it just doesn't seem like the G-d of the calvinist/reformed position is the G-d throughout the bible. i could go on for some time on this subject, but i i'll save you the pain.

i also bought some cds over the last couple of weeks:

  • borko - celebrating life (morr)
  • daft punk - homework (virgin)
  • daft punk - discovery (virgin)
  • it's a musical - the music makes me sick (morr)
  • peaches - fatherfscker (xl / kitty yo)
  • playradioplay! - Texas (island / def jam)

i've watched a few movies via streaming netflix over the last couple of weeks. first up is revolution os, a documentary about the history of gnu, linux, and the free software / copyleft movement. it was pretty good. next up is second skin, a documentary about people who game online. it includes some of the history of computer gaming, but mostly focuses on the culture and lives of various people. it was pretty enjoyable, and went into a lot of different aspects (both good and bad) of gaming culture, focusing mostly on wow. then i watched the dark ages, a history channel piece on the dark ages. it was pretty interesting. although i know lots of fragments of historical information, sometimes it's nice to watch something that kind of puts timelines into order and shows where/how things fit chronologically. after that i watched visioneers, a fairly black comedy about a dystopian future where no one is supposed to dream because people are exploding. it stars zach galifianakis, playing it straight...although it's a quirky near-future world. he works in a life-draining sparse office doing menial tasks with a few people, barely interacting with other workers that he rarely sees. he's unhappily married. imagine perhaps brazil mixed with idiocracy and a bit of donnie darko or something. i liked it, but i flipped between times where i felt like i was totally getting the point they were trying to get across, and other times having no idea what of several points they were trying to get across...especially since it seemed to contradict the ones i thought i was pretty sure of earlier. i'm not sure if that makes it a complex good film, or just a confused jumble of seeing what sticks. last up, i watched welcome to macintosh, which is a documentary about the history of apple and the culture around it. they interviewed quite a few key players, which was nice, and it was cool to get some aspects of the history of the company i was unaware of.

the friday before last i had a lunch meeting at work and they only provided tea. so i had a glass of tea. but i put no sugar in it. other than that, i've still had no soda, tea, or coffee. or chips or fries. i've finally started hitting the point where i sometimes think about having some coffee or a soda, but so far i've continued to completely abstain. i've been drinking water or 100% fruit juices, but mostly water. i can't say as i can really tell any difference in anything (energy, etc) but i'm still doing it anyway. it can't really hurt much to cut out sodas or "fruit"/flavored drinks with insane amounts of sugar / high fructose corn syrup.

last week or the week before at some point i replaced the hard drive in my desktop. i'd switched from an 80gb to a 160gb a few months ago i think, but i'd almost filled the 160 so i put in a 500gb. i have plenty of room to spare now, and should for awhile probably. it's very nice being able to put in a new drive, boot off the os cd, install the os on the new drive, then tell it to copy all of the old accounts, files, configs, etc. off the old drive. (i did that on the 80-160 upgrade too.) the only problem i noticed either time was the license keys for the macromedia products don't get set up right so i have to re-enter them.

friday i worked in the evening, so i used the daytime to get my motorcycle inspected and then go renew my driver's license. i had renewed online last time, so i had to physically show up this time. the license renewal office is the typical soul-sucking, depressing, slow-moving, cheerless government setup. at first i showed up around 12:30pm and there were a bunch of people just sitting waiting...bleh. plus i didn't have cash and they didn't take credit cards. so i left and ate lunch, got some cash, and came back. i think the line was shorter. somehow, they'd never retaken my picture since 1996 when i first got my motorcycle license. that's 14 years. but they retook it this time, and i must confess it looks pretty fine. you see, my goal in license pics is to make it look as much like a mugshot as possible. my pic from the last 14 years was pretty good. but i think this one might top it. i'll have to wait and see the full-color, full-size version though. i also was happy i was able to pass the eye exam, so i still am not required to wear corrective lenses while driving (which sucks on a motorcycle if you wear goggles).

saturday morning i got up and decided to drive to brady. i hadn't been since xmas, plus it was the leifeste family reunion on sunday. i took my belair. since i have no a/c and i was driving between 12pm-7pm, it was pretty hot. but it was okay. i arrived and my parents and brother and miles had just left for underwood's in brownwood. i called them and they decided to come back and get me. while i was waiting, a lady came over and asked me if i could help her. a lady next door had fallen and she couldn't get her into a wheelchair. i got over there and the lady was sitting on the ground near the open driver's side door of a pickup, although she didn't appear to be able to use her legs. even though i'm a bulky guy, i do computer work all day in an office so i'm not exactly strong. but i managed to get her into the wheelchair. a little while later, she went by driving the pickup and smiled at me real big and waved. odd. my parents got me and we all went to underwood's and ate, then came back to brady. that was a lot of time in a car for saturday.

sunday we ate breakfast with my grandmother, then everyone left and i stayed and hung out with my grandmother. a couple of hours later my parents came by and picked me up and we went to the reunion. it was about the same as usual i suppose. i hadn't done anything on the genealogy stuff in the last year or two though, so i felt kind of bad. we drover back to brady, then after a nap i got up and drove back to houston. i didn't leave until around 6pm, so the temperature wasn't quite as bad on the trip back.

my brother gave me an early birthday present:

  • lightnin' hopkins - from the vaults of everest records (collectibles)

it's a 4-cd set of recordings lightnin' did on everest records. of course, he recorded on tons of different labels, of all different recording quality and such. he also would record multiple versions of the same songs on different labels, as well as making up songs on the spot. the story is if you came to him with a bottle of jack and some cash he'd let you record an album of him.

when i got back sunday night, my desktop wasn't working and the fans were spinning at full tilt. i don't know how long it'd been like that. it's happened a few times, and usually is due to some process running out of control, spiking the cpu, and locking the system. but when i went to power cycle it, it crashed before it ever really started booting. it did this a few times. after that i waited a few minutes with it off, then powered it up. it got further, but locked up again. i thought maybe my machine had finally bit it. i wondered if maybe it was just too hot to operate though, so i went to bed. the next morning i got up and started it up and it booted up fine. and has been running okay since.

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