A pack of gum

•May 10, 2010 • 2 Comments

You only live once.

My eight year old son came into my office to show me a picture he had drawn. We had a little chat about it and during the conversation he spotted a half used package of gum on my desk. Politely, but with a sense of excitement he asked if he could have a piece.

It was one of those rainbow fruit gum packs with each piece wrapped in a temporary tattoo paper. It’s also the stuff that loses it’s flavor after about 2 minutes of chewing. I used to get this as a kid all the time and my wife came across it and has on a regular basis replenished my supply.

Feeling he deserved it, I told him he could have a piece. When he tried to get a piece out, he had a difficult time and ripped the wrapper and didn’t get the gum either. I began to assist and found that I was having trouble too, so we commenced to tear the packaging up so we could get to the sticks. We both had a sense of delight as we dug, ripped and sorted them out by color. When we had finally extracted the treasure we found ourselves with around ten pieces of gum and really no way to store them. So he got a piece, I got a piece and then we kind of just stared at the left overs.

We both sat there in silence for a minute with nothing but the sound of fresh gum chomping when he piped up and said, “This stuff doesn’t keep it’s flavor very long, Dad.”

He was right, so I gave him a second and a third piece. “Here have some more.”, as I handed them to him. “Do I eat them now?”, he asked. I said, “Sure, why not? Here, take the rest of them.” And with that I gave him the rest of the package. I don’t get to spend as much time as I’d like to spend with my son and this was one of those times when I could be a little bit of a hero. You can’t buy love, but you can pay off your guilt sometimes, and my penance was a half pack of gum.

It was then I realized I had a pretty good kid. Put in a situation where he could have been selfish, gluttonous and stuffed his face, he handed me a couple of pieces. “Here Dad, you take a couple. I’m going to save these other ones for later. Do I need to come ask you before I can eat them?”

No son, you don’t, not this time.

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Iron Man 2

•May 8, 2010 • 1 Comment

Iron Man 2

So my wife and I snuck out of the house at midnight to go see Iron Man 2. It’s about the only time we can get “alone” time and it was well worth it. Perhaps because it’s the end of the semester and I was able to let my hair down a little, we had a blast. I’ve already ranted and raved about the soundtrack, and the movie was exactly what I expected it to be.

Yes, there were a few slow spots, but it worked. Yes, there were some things that didn’t make sense, like when Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) needed to bust out some concrete walls to feed some electrical power lines to an particulate collider, he used a sledge hammer. Now if I had a suit that gave me super human strength, wouldn’t it make sense to use it on heavy labor projects?

Anyway, some of the movies critics were dumbfounding. They said it lacks depth and substance. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? It’s a comic book super hero movie and you’re looking for “Gone With The Wind” type depth? Dude, get out a little more and enjoy life. Movies like this should entertain the 12 year old in all of us. That’s what it’s meant to do and it did it well.

Downey was awesome as Tony Stark and Mickey Rourke almost stole the show as the villain. I actually started to cheer for him a couple of times just because he was so bad a$$ (sorry mom, couldn’t think of a better way to put it). Don Cheadle had a great role as the sidekick who saves Stark from himself. Scarlett Johansson was just smokin as the mixed martial arts legal assistant… Gwyneth Paltrow was ok as the whimpy chic interest, but I would have liked to have seen her character have a little more substance.

I’m not going to go over the plot or give anything away, but here are a few things that I heard about, looked for and also caught in the movie. During one of the scenes, Stark needed something to put under his collider to level it… the agent that was with him rummaged through a junk pile and handed him what was an obvious plant for a future Marvel movie. It was a beat up shield… from Captain America. That agent is played by Clark Gregg who to me was an unlikely choice for the role (He’s the guy who plays Richard, Christine’s ex-husband  in the sitcom, “The New Adventures of Old Christine” ) but his quirkiness is actually perfectly timed. He has one other major spot in the movie that comes at the very end. No, not the end of the movie, at the end of the 10 minutes of credits that roll. I won’t spoil the scene, but his only line is, “Sir, we found it.” Don’t leave the movie theater until you see it.

This movie was fun. I enjoyed myself and felt like a superhero when I left. That’s what I paid for and that’s what I got.

Four and a half stars out of five.

Happy Post

•May 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I just read over my last post. Sheesh, guess I had a little pent up anger. Maybe we need to bring this back to a more pleasant tone.

Hmmm…. what to do…

How about an LOLCAT… they always brighten the mood…

Different people, different levels of…

•May 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Editors Note: I’ve had a few days to look back on this post and realize that it’s a touch on the bitter side… I contemplated taking it down, but decided against it to remind myself not to post anything while still angry. Lesson learned… well, probably not, but maybe I’ll think twice before hitting the publish button.

Now that I actually have some time to breath, I am going through a period my wife likes to call, decompression. That’s a pretty good word for it. Last night I found myself cleaning out a plugged up vacuum cleaner and I thought to myself, “I don’t have time for this crap, I have homework to do…” Oh wait, no I don’t!

It’s similar to when I came home from the service, but not as intense. You get ingrained in a routine and mentality for getting things done and then suddenly your whole routine changes. It’s hard to make that adjustment. It’s not like turning a light switch on or off. It’s more like a dimmer.

So as I reflect back on the semester, a few things keep popping into my head. Mostly negative things, but that’s human nature. We don’t watch the evening news to learn that no planes crashed, the storm that blew through left no damage or the local factory announced no new lay-offs.

I’m peeved at one of my instructors. Not because I got a low grade, because I got straight A’s in all my classes. What I’m peeved about can only be summed up from a recent article about managing IT Pros.

It’s called, “The unspoken truth about managing geeks” and it contains some of the most insightful information about tech savvy people I’ve ever read. You can read the full version here. I can’t say I agree with everything it says, but probably 90% of it. I know for me, I fit the mold of the article to a “T”.

One of the outstanding statements comes in around the second page;

IT pros are sensitive to logic — that’s what you pay them for. When things don’t add up, they are prone to express their opinions on the matter, and the level of response will be proportional to the absurdity of the event. The more things that occur that make no sense, the more cynical IT pros will become. Standard organizational politics often run afoul of this, so IT pros can come to be seen as whiny or as having a victim mentality. Presuming this is a trait that must be disciplined out of them is a huge management mistake. IT pros complain primarily about logic, and primarily to people they respect. If you are dismissive of complaints, fail to recognize an illogical event or behave in deceptive ways, IT pros will likely stop complaining to you. You might mistake this as a behavioral improvement, when it’s actually a show of disrespect. It means you are no longer worth talking to, which leads to insubordination.

And that’s where my Rant will begin. [/rant on] One instructor in particular was a blooming idiot who will go unnamed. “It” constantly harped about deadlines, professionalism and doing work that was flawless. It was an online class, so I never had face to face time with this instructor, yet my blood boiled over with their lack of responses, technical screw ups and downright asinine behavior. For example, assignments would come out on Sunday and pieces of them would be due on Wednesday of that week. No less that 80% of the time I had to email the instructor by Tuesday to let them know that the assignment hadn’t posted, wasn’t accessible or was wrong! On one assignment I pointed out that the reference material was pointing to an incorrect table. It took “It” three times to get it right, each time I had to contact “It” to let them know it was still incorrect. This was an instructor who is high up in the computer science department, so you’d think they’d know how to run a simple bulletin board! If this had been a one or two time occasion, I wouldn’t have thought anything about it, but it happened almost every week without fail. To cap the semester off, after turning in a group project, I got points counted off for not turning in a piece of the assignment. I had clinched an A, but it was the principle of it that bothered me. I HAD turned the assignment in and turned it in 3 days before the due date.

I had to email “It” a screen-shot of my assignment sheet showing not only had I turned it in, but the time stamp of when I turned it in and also the screw up of where there were two spots to place the same assignment. Only then did “It” give me my points. No apology, just a note saying, “I don’t know what happened, but I can’t see it on my end, but I’ll give you the points.” Bull crap! You’re incompetent and have no business teaching computer science classes!

Let’s look at another instructor, who was not part of the computer science department, but rather the math department. I sat under her in a regular lecture class last semester and took an online class she was teaching this semester. Without fail, grades were posted in a very timely manner, communication was extremely high and emails and other communications were responded to in a very reasonable time frame without fail. All throughout the semester the bulletin board was updated, we were made aware of helps, and never once did I have an issue that wasn’t quickly resolved or explained in a manner that I couldn’t understand or agree with. She was fair, always, even when she didn’t have to be. When I or anyone else was wrong about something, she told us, but because she was right 99.9% of the time, I respected her and her authority over the matter at hand.

Contrast this against the idiot in my former paragraph and you reach the matter/anti-matter dichotomy.

Notice, I didn’t bring into the equation the English teacher who stated the first day of the semester he didn’t know how to use the web based system and don’t expect him to learn it either. I can respect that. He was upfront, in your face about his short comings, but he didn’t try to fake it.

I have the utmost respect for both the Math and English teacher. They were real, hard working, genuine scholastic heroes. To me, they walked on water. As for that other ho-bag…

So here it is, in a nutshell. Don’t fake it. I hate fakers. If you know your foshizzle, great, give it to me without a chaser. If you don’t , then fine. I can live with that too.

But for the love of Pete, don’t make out like you know what you’re doing and then pressure me into showing the rest of the world what kind of an idiot you really are!

[/rant off]

Iron Man 2 Soundtrack

•May 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

With finals over, and making the Dean’s list with a perfect 4.0 GPA (no applause needed, thank you), my wife got me a little reward that simply rocks!

When I came home from one of my last finals I found a little gift on my desk in the form of a collectors edition Iron Man 2 soundtrack CD and DVD. It comes in a killer little booklet type case with stories and info about the movie, the band and the making of such.

First off the soundtrack is a perfect mix of some of the best hits from AC/DC without being a best hits album. The diversity is sick, with songs spanning the entire career of the band going all the way back to the 70’s with Bon Scott as the front man. If you swing by my house while I’m working out, you’ll be hearing this blaring from our garage gym. I have also dubbed this the summer album for boating. Every year when water skiing season approaches, we usually have a theme CD that plays while wakeboarding, tubing and generally screwing around. Iron Man 2 is the CD of 2010 for me.

On the inside cover is a little blurb about the band, movie and this album. In it is a quote from Bon Scott, the late front man from the 70’s era, which sums up the band and this album, “We just want to make the walls cave in and ceiling collapse. Music is meant to be played as loudly as possible, really raw and punchy, and I’ll punch out anyone who doesn’t like it the way I do.” Well said Mr. Scott.

CD Tracks

1. Shoot to Thrill (Back In Black, 1980)
2. Rock ‘N’ Roll Damnation (Powerage, 1978)
3. Guns for Hire (Flick Of The Switch, 1983)
4. Cold Hearted Man (Single released, 1978)
5. Back in Black (Back In Black, 1980)
6. Thunderstruck (The Razors Edge, 1990)
7. If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It) (Highway To Hell, 1979)
8. Evil Walks (For Those About To Rock, 1981)
9. T.N.T. (High Voltage, 1976)
10. Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be (Let There Be Rock, 1977)
11. Have a Drink on Me (Back In Black, 1980)
12. The Razor’s Edge (The Razor’s Edge, 1990)
13. Let There Be Rock (Let There Be Rock, 1977)
14. War Machine (Black Ice, 2008)
15. Highway to Hell (Highway To Hell, 1979)

The DVD has a great collection of commentary, videos and an original music video of “Shoot To Thrill” made just for the movie. The other videos and such are some rare pieces of vintage stock that are outstanding in their own right.

DVD Play List

1. Shoot To Thrill (Iron Man 2 Version)
2. The Making Of Shoot To Thrill
3. Highway To Hell (Live At River Plate Stadium, Buenos Aires)
4. Rock ‘N’ Roll Damnation (Apollo Theatre, Glasgow, April 1978 – Stereo)
5. If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It) (Live Video)
6. Back In Black (Live Video From Plaza De Toros De Las Ventas – Stereo Version)
7. Guns For Hire (Joe Louis Arena, Detroit MI, November 1983 – Stereo)
8. Thunderstruck (Stereo)
9. Let There Be Rock (Live Video From Plaza De Toros De Las Ventas – Stereo Version)
10. Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be (Live At The Circus Krone, Munich, Germany June 17, 2003) (Stereo)

Thanks Honey!!!

Finals

•May 6, 2010 • 1 Comment

Wow! What a semester. All of it was freshman level classes, but my head is hurting from all the brain energy I expelled.

I won’t know for another week how I did on everything, but I know I got an A in Trig, Database Mng, and likely have it in Engrish and Java. (Yes, I know, I spelt it Engrish… it was on purpose, chill out)

Speaking of which, I hate Java. Maybe my class was a bad example, but why do programming classes always have to end up being a math class? If I wanted to take more math, I’d take more math! I wanted to learn programming to learn how to make programs that actually do something, not just figure the GCD of a string of numbers.

English Comp was a good class. I really enjoyed it. It’s one of the inspirations that prompted me to start this blog. I’m taking another comp class next fall but it’s more technical writing and research papers. Don’t think it will be as much fun.

Trig was a trip. I haven’t work so hard in a class since Algebra last semester. I put no less than 7-8 hours a week into it, between studying and doing homework. But it paid off; I got a 98% on the final, whoo hoo for me! The instructor was awesome and I had a really good tutor which helped a lot.

Database Management, oh how I loathe thee, let me count the ways. Now I know why people with SQL skills make six figures to start. Anyone who wants to deal with that much code that doesn’t really do anything except keep track of tables has to either have no soul or is so numb it doesn’t matter. I would either become suicidal or an alcoholic if I had to deal with it on a daily basis.

Next up, summer session, Operating system class and HTML. Gonna learn how to make my own webpages… hehe, this ought to be fun.

Downloading flash and other video from websites

•April 29, 2010 • Leave a Comment

A good friend of mine recently posed a question to me that I thought would actually make a decent how-to article. It involved being able to save video files, specifically flash video files, for later use. In his case, he had a subscription to a guitar lesson site where the lessons in video form required a log in, choosing the lesson he desired and then viewing.

But let’s say you’d like to save these lessons to a laptop and take them with you to the beach or camping or whatever and you aren’t going to have internet access. How can you save a flash (or any other video file) for later use?

It’s actually quite simple and with a couple of add-ons and a player you can take your videos on the go.

First thing we need is a way to capture the video. Firefox browser has a nice add-on that works famously called Video Downloadhelper. To install, go to Firefox and at the top menu bar choose Tools>Add-ons. (See Fig -1) After clicking on Get Add-ons (upper left corner of newly opened add-ons window), in the search box, type in downloadhelper and hit enter and you should see something like Fig-2. Click on “Add to Firefox” and the installation process will begin. Accept any default requirements to complete the install and after it’s done, Firefox will require a restart.

Once Firefox restarts, you’ll notice a new button in the toolbar for the Downloadhelper. It may be grayed out, but when you visit a site that has video on the page it will come to life as in Fig-3.

While the video is playing on the website in question, if you click the arrow just to the right of the Downloadhelper button, you’ll see a name of the video file you can download. If the page has multiple videos, you’ll get multiple file choices. In my example in Fig-3, you can see that a flash video file called “imaginesong.flv” is highlighted and if I were to click it, it would begin the process of saving the file to my computer, just like any other downloadable file. Decide where you want to save it and follow the standard procedure for saving/downloading the file.

Now that we have the file, we need to be able to play it back. In many cases as in my example, I’ve downloaded a flash video which can’t be played in a standard media player. You’ll need to install one that can handle these types of files and would recommend Final Media Player which you can get by clicking the link or going to (http://www.finalmediaplayer.com/flv-player.html). Download and install per instructions on the website.

Once you have done the above, open Final Media Player, and go to your flv video file we downloaded earlier and enjoy the show!

Disclaimer: Author implores the reader to follow all applicable copyright laws and takes no responsibility for any illegal or immoral use of these instructions. You must still follow the laws applicable to your area!