June '03 --> July '03
Apr '03 --> May '03
Mar '03 --> Mar '03
May '02 --> Feb '03
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I spent an afternoon and dinner at the home of my old G&T teacher , Cassie Lewis and John Jordan on Saturday night. The company and food was soul-freshening. An image of Cassie's fantastic lemon meringue pie being held out to me still lingers on my mind like a gentle dream. I think that the entire evening revolved around that piece of pie. The bread and cheese, the intelligent conversation, seeing John's orchid photos, cutting red, yellow and orange peppers, laughing about Sally's taxes, the wine, listening in on two interesting conversations at once, admiration. A fantastic evening!
I just got a callback from Assemblywoman Connie Myers about my letter concerning the YES Network (see Journal entry for 3-10-03). :-) She tells me that she was already opposing the bill and values my opinion. :-) Thanks for the callback, that's very stand-upish! In the (boring) continuing struggle between the YES Network and Cablevision, talks broke down on March 28th, so it looks like we won't be getting -any- YES network. Actually, the dispute won't have a direct impact on my family. We've been planning to switch to Direct TV for a few months. It's cheaper and the picture quality is better. Dish Network is less expensive still, but they don't offer YES Network at all. [insert confused head gyration here].
I just read this article on ESPN where YES stopped simulcasting a WFAN radio sports program for 45 minutes because, mostly due to a minor scheduling issue, the president of Cablevision was going on the show before the YES Chairman even though YES asked to go on first. What friggin babies! "If I can't go first, then I don't wanna play!" Remember "Everything I Needed to know I Learned in Kindergarten"? The article was originally reported in Sports News Daily concerning the "Mike and the Mad Dog" radio show.
I've been using CoolEdit Pro to convert a bunch of my aunt's older records to CD. The digital filters on this thing are sweet. After just a few minutes of configuring (and figuring out what all the pretty buttons do) I was able to run one filter to eliminate clicks & pops. Then I configured my own custom filter to get rid of some hums (likely from the turntable motor and/or a power supply). Filtering takes about 2 hrs per 30 minute album side; overnight batch processing to the rescue! The restored tracks sound just about great! I'm a little unhappy that the sound right off the record is a little muddy. That might be due to an old needle, or maybe that the records are like 20 years old and have been well enjoyed many times over that period. I know that chasing that beast could take forever so, you know what? They sound pretty darn good!
Ha! I got the .mp3 settings adjusted just so. The .mp3s are indistinguishable from the originals but only take 0.5 meg per minute... 15 meg per album side... 25 albums per CD! The entire collection will fit on one CD! Wow, you've come a long way, baby! I'm encoding at 64kbps mono. The albums are in mono, I considered sticking with stereo to keep the "fullness" of the sound but after carefully listening to some, the only thing I could hear in full stereo on the vinyl were the skips! I also thought about doing simulated stereo but that doesn't do too much for opera.
I just wrote a review of some software from Eric Berntson's company, Clonesoft. It is very practically named, "Customize Folder Shell Extension". If you run Windows and use File Explorer, you really want this software. It's the bees knees! Get it!
Today's fun statistic: According to American Greetings, Women ages 35 to 55 purchase 92% of all greeting cards. So you know how your mom is always better at sending cards than you are and she always rails you about it? Well it turns out that she has a decided advantage, she's genetically predisposed to purchase cards! Source: Baseline Magazine, March 2003, p. 44.
var TheCSS=new Array(2);
document.write('<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="' + TheCSS[WhatCSS] + '">') ;
And thank you to BrownPau for the CSS toggler... who got it from A List Apart.
I finished reading In Code but I'll likely be re-reading it for a while to get all the number-theory goodness I can out of it. I've started playing piano... well, sort of. It'll be a while before I'm a virtuoso.
Today's weirdness: The air freshener was recently patented. U.S. Patent : #6,254,836
Here's a good one... I borrowed Microsoft Streets & Trips from Dave B. Today I wrote him this letter.
Hey, is there an update available for Microsoft Streets and
Trips? This copy is a bit out of date. Hackettstown is listed as "Helm's
Mills". It hasn't been called that since at least 1780... maybe earlier.
It's weird, If you search for "Hackettstown, NJ" in MS Streets & Trips, it works fine. But when I downloaded a map into Pocket Streets on my Pocket PC, the name "Helm's Mills" was in the place of where I know Hackettstown to be, and it claimed to not know where "Hackettstown" was! So I looked online and found some historical info mentioning that Hackettstown was, in fact called Helm's Mills at some time in it's distant past!
You can verify this by searching for Helm's Mills NJ in MS Streets and Maps. Up will pop downtown Hackettstown!
I'll find out more about the history of Helm's Mills and then write to Mr. Gates about his error...
I saw Henry Rollins in a spoken word concert at ESU last night. He rocks. I'll tell ya more about the evening soon.
Haven't I become the joiner?
On Monday I joined the US Chess Federation and the Hackettstown Chess Club. I had a very nice tournament game against Jeff from the HCC... of course losing, but it was a blast! I was thinking so hard, it hurt!
I joined the East Coast Indoor Modelers in February. They... we... fly ultralight slowflyer model airplanes inside the huge hangar at the Lakehurst Naval Base. The hangar was built for dirigibles in the 1920's. I'll be taking my dad there this summer. I'm sure he's going to get a huge thrill because the last time he was there was with his father, sometime in the '50's or '60's. The hanger is big. The photo at the right is of the American Los Angeles/German LZ-126, an airship 650 feet long! Click on it to get an idea of the scale.
After thinking about it for a couple years, I've decided to actually try my hand at making music. Liner notes on my first multi-platinum record might read in part, "Lee's wide ranging influences include Crystal Method, Chemical Brothers, African mbira music, number theory, the natural world, his own insights into the boundary between the real and imagined worlds of the mind." Yea, whatever.
I'll shortly be joining RAMAC, the Roxbury Area Model Airplane Club so I have a place to fly my just finished Zagi 400X model airplane! I'd show you a picture but I can't find the battery charger to my digital camera! It's been missing now for weeks... I'm going to have to really go rummaging for that charger!! I'm pretty happy with the plane. It took a lot longer to finish than I thought. The devil is in the details. (or, as Daniel Dennett might say, god is in the details... but that's a story for another time). I'm still waiting for the charger for the plane. It'll be here in a few days.
TJIC had recommended I see Dark Star. Oh my! It's hilarious! It's astounding! It's better than cats, I'll see it again and again! My sides hurt for hours after seeing this movie. See this movie. This was John Carpenter's first film, done originally as a student project in 1970 and finished up as a professional film in 1974. 1 Part Rocky Horror, 2 Parts 2001: A Space Odyssey, a dash of Snow Crash, gently blend in 2 cups Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, bake at 350 until tender.
Last night I bought a couple things so I can get my Zagi flying wing model airplane in the air for the spring. It should be flying soon.
I subbed today at the High School as a Music teacher. The kids were difficult and I don't have any musical training to fall back on so it was rough. One class had me keeping the 41 girl chorus in decorum. It wasn't so bad. But those piano classes were rough!
Yow, in the last month, I've seen 15 movies with Netflix! My brain is getting full. Here's what I've seen and how I rated it on Netflix (from 1 to 5). I've got no plans to systematically rate and review all of the movies I watch. That's a bit obsessive, even for me. Netflix begs you to rate the movies so you can get better customized recommendations...
Memento 4, XXX: Special Edition 1, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3, Jackson Pollock: Love and Death on Long Island 3, Fight Club 3, Donnie Darko 5, The Royal Tenenbaums 2, The Matrix: Revisited 5, Princess Mononoke 4, Mystery Men 2, Changing Lanes 3, Mr. Deeds 3, Signs 5, Panic Room 2, Minority Report 3
I'm getting straight A's in both my Psychology and Math classes. I like it like 'dat!
I just got back from the 2003 Myhelan Film Festival. See my movie notes in my Film Section (not written yet... Maybe tomorrow)
Comment on Film Fests 
I got Snorcomments running!
Most of this time, I've been trying to get Symbio working. But I ran into a huge host of problems. At one point, I tried to apply what I had learned in my Symbio hunt to the slightly simpler Snorcomments and BOOM, it worked right out of the box. Here's what I learned this summer:
I -DID- get this working.
I'll straighten up the formatting tomorrow. I rock.
Comment on Snorcomments 
I also installed Spambot well poisoner... Spam^Bot^Poison. You can get the source here or see it in action here. The idea is that Spambots will fetch the bad addresses on this page and it'll slow their spamming down a little. Hey, every bit counts. These kinds of things make me feel all warm and fuzzy.
I got the formatting on Snorcomments just right. Done.
How come sweet and sour sauce is really only sweet and sweet sauce? Was the sour aspect weeded out by American tastes?
I've got a call in to Earthlink via email:
The following simple web script doesn't work. It generates a
"500 Internal Server Error"
print "Content-type: text/html\n\n";
print "Hello world!\n";
However, if you were to comment out "use CGI::Cookie;", it works just fine.
Interestingly, the Earthlink Perl Syntax checker doesn't see any problem with my code.
Can you help?
I sent it via email because there wasn't anyone on support at midnight last night.
I've noticed that Earthlink's email support sucks mad cow testicles, while the LivePerson chat support is very respectable. I think I'll try a chat now...
Earthlink admitted that their CGI::Cookie module is messed up! 3 freaking days of banging my head against this and I've solved all the hard parts!
NOW, I just have to install my own CGI::Cookie module in my own directory and forget about Earthlink's. Of course, I've never installed my own module, but it should be a piece of cake, right? Ugh.
There are 4 different cookie modules at CPAN and it's not obvious which is the right one. I'm getting unhappy already. You know, there's a film festival going on this weekend a couple towns over.... Maybe I'll go to that and when I come back, this problem will be magically fixed (by the Perl Gnomes of course)
AUTO ASCII MODE!
I DIDN'T HAVE FTP VOYAGER IN AUTO ASCII MODE!!!!!!
I WAS UPLOADING MY .PL FILES IN BINARY FORMAT, NOT ASCII!!!
With a little luck (and no more hangups) I'll have comments working shortly.
It still doesn't work. That Cookie thing will need a call to Earthlink.
I -will- get this to work.
4:29am. I give up. I can't do it. Something at fucking Earthlink is stopping me. I found a really sexy comment system called Symbio. And I pushed and prodded Snorcomments and Symbio for-freaking-ever.
Earthlink says they don't offer CGI support, just the space. So I might be fucked. Maybe I'll run it by them anyway, and a couple friends.
In case you're interested, my favorite swear is, "God-damned mother fucking shit." It's said quickly and quietly, almost under one's breath. This has been my preferred swear of last resort for as long as I can remember... at least early high school.
God-damned blog comment software! I've spent too many frigging hours working
on this, with no frigging results!! All I want is a cute little button at
the end of my log entries letting people talk about my log entries. It'd look
I spent forever surfing the net for code. Then what I found doesn't work. Cgicomments... NOBODY can get Cgicomments to work. Snorcomments... I've been fiddling with the frigging file permissions for hours and I'm getting nowhere. Whenever I find a reference to someone who's gotten a good blog commenter working, the reference turns out to be old... They switched to Movabletype or Blogger or something. And I'd use an online blogging comment solution too if I thought for a single second that I could trust them with my data. But there is NO WAY I'm going to trust any of these services with my bits on a permanent basis. They're free services being weighed down by sizable bandwidth and hardware fees, being run by guys in their spare time. I know what that's like... I ran such a service and, at some point, they'll run out of steam and there's a very real chance that some of the bits will get lost forever.
So all I can do is trust some locally based system... The idea isn't hard... heck, it's just a snazzed up Guestbook run on my own server. But Earthlink.... and... errr. ahahahakljsldkjsa dflsl ajkasdf j JDFSASD FJJSK:L
I -will- get it to work.
WNTI radio rules. Eagleslayer singing "The boy with Robotic Arms" made me laugh so hard, my sides hurt for 10 minutes! Heard right here on Ritchie Murder's Atari Baby show, 1:40am, 3-13-03.
Check out this style sheet junkie. Go to Brown Pau's site. Now reload his site... and again. Each time it loads with different style sheets and has an entirely different look. Nifty. :-)
I'm still on my all-pastrami diet from Saturday night's food adventure. Yow.
Dave and I went out to Harold's Deli in Edison, NJ Saturday night. Had a great time. He gave me some new warez. I still have over 1/2 lb of pastrami in my fridge. Their portions are..... when Dave's slice of carrot cake arrived, I couldn't stop laughing for a full 5 minutes; it was over 18" tall! The waitress laid it down on it's side so it wouldn't tip over, crushing one of us. I swear, as it sat there, it looked more like a log of firewood than a piece of cake! Dave cut a sliver off, split the sliver in half and gave it to me. It was pretty good cake, and it filled me up.
On the way out, he handed me one of his bags so he could open a door. I was confused for a moment because I hadn't seen Dave come in with any packages, but here he was, handing me some shopping bag with maybe a toaster or a small ham in it. Then I realized, and laughed again!
Dude, telemarketing is reaching new heights every day. I just got a call from a machine saying [paraphrased], "Hello. Legislation in NJ is going to make you pay for television that you don't want! Legislation is going to force every cable subscriber to pay for the YES network (The Yankee's baseball network) whether they want it or not. Press 1 now and we'll connect you with your state representative. Tell them that you would like them to vote 'No' on the YES Network bill."
So I pressed 1 and it connected me to the NJ state senate! I didn't leave a message because I don't like making decisions like this so quickly... But in the time I've taken to write this, I've weighed the issue and, yea, I think I'll write a letter to my state senator opposing this ridiculousness. What the hell is the state doing getting so involved in cable TV? If people want to watch the Yankees, then they can Pay-Per-View it.. or pay for an extra tier of cable service or something. Sports isn't a universal pastime. And even if it was, then pretty soon I'll be paying $100/month for cable for the Rangers Network, the Jersey Devils Network, the Giants Network, etc... And if the cable TV network can't handle so many tiers or pay-per-views or whatever, then maybe it's time to invest in a better cable TV system.
Done. I sent three letters today.
I'm just a little mad at myself that I didn't send those letters sooner. But then I didn't have Cablevision before...
Oo oo oo! Radio Userland might just be the thing for helping my cousins (and myself!) do archivable weblogs (see my 3-7-03 log entry)! I'll try it out soon!
My good friend TJIC has recently started a business in mail-order technical video rentals.
From his page:
Technical Video Rental is a service that rents video tapes - just like your corner video store...but we rent the kind of tapes that you can't find on every street corner. Videos on running lathes, casting aluminum, and bending sheet metal... cool videos!
TVR carries titles like "Basic Milling Machine Operation" and "Greensand Casting Techniques (Volume II)". I think this is an excellent idea. You can watch the video, learn how to use your shop tools more effectively and safely without busting your bank on expensive videos that you probably don't really need to keep in your library.
I don't have a shop but, heck I might rent a few videos just because the titles sound so cool. What red-blooded American tool fanatic doesn't want to get the guys together to watch "Advanced Aspects of Milling Machine Operation"?! It's the epitome of guy-ness.
TVR has just started out, go easy if the interface is still a little rough around the edges.
I've discovered the joys of Cascading Style Sheets.
I've been looking into snazzing up my journal and letting it graduate into a full fledged blog but I can't find a solution I like! I might just stick with my home-grown FrontPage-flatfile-FTP system for a while. MovableType looks real nice but stupid Earthlink won't let me run MySQL in my account! Just as well. I'm a tiny little skiddish about putting my journal in a database just yet. Flat files work darn good at keeping things simple.
This search was predicated by my cousin John, who asked me how he could make a journal like mine. His primary wish is to have a journal that his kids can view in years to come. So my wishlist started with:
Someone HELP ME! I've found lots of resources but none that work for me. Grrr, I think I'm going to have to put on my DIY hard-hat, switch ISPs so I can run MySQL, install MoveableType, configure it, and then scream (because I will have then put in some 20 hours of work into essentially doing nothing).
I am now officially tired of winter.
Due to the bad weather, I was late to my job application test. MAYBE I'll be able to get another retest date. Then again, maybe not. I gave myself 1 1/2 hours to get to my destination, even though it's only a 45 minute trip. But of course, it took me 2 hours to get there.
I get home at 11:30... more than 4 hours after I left in the morning, with nothing to show except a nervous stomach from being late and 4 hours of dangerous driving. Actually, before I got home, I almost got in an accident. I had stopped at a gas station near my home and filled up. Then I pulled up this 200 yard uphill road to get back on the main road. My car (for the first time in my experience) couldn't make it up the hill! I slipped and slid. I tried going at 5 MPH and that worked for about 100 feet. But then there I sat, another 100 feet to the main road. Rather than try to make 1 MPH on this slushpile, I decided to back down the hill with my blinkers on. Everything was going fine. A Fedex van passed by me going down the hill. Then some cars came up behind me trying to make it up the hill. First in line was a big SUV. He slowed down and then stopped for me, seeing that I was pointing the tail of my car toward the gas station's entrance. Another car pulled around the SUV into the oncoming lane. Upon seeing me, he stopped as well. "Thanks!", I thought. Now that both lanes were safely blocked, I I started making my cut toward the gas station in earnest. Just then, a tiny sedan zipped past both the SUV and the other car in the oncoming lane's shoulder! He was doing about 35, apparently intent on using his momentum to go through me and up the hill. He very nearly rammed my backside! As he sped by me, I noticed a flash of red, white and blue on his license plate; I'm pretty sure it was a Washington DC plate. This being further evidence that people from non-snowy places have no concept as how to drive safely in snowy conditions.
Remember I told you that I had two -other- tests today? Well school was cancelled as well. GRRRHHEHRFFRIGGINGRIG!
Just for the record, I hate math. I hate psychology and I hate job applications where you've got to be tested for 4 hours in math and psychology
All my hates are coming together tomorrow! 3 tests in 1 day. Well, at least there's this (weirdly synchronistic!) overlap between the job app. and the other two.
Today's reality check:
(click to enlarge) Yes, these are real resin models for sale at The Catholic Shopper. Thanks to Jay for the reference.
Yes, I'm aware that these are supposed to just be allegorical, and some folks might "get it", but.... Check please!
More (completely unrelated!) reality check:
Megan's Law would not have saved Megan. Megan's murderer, Jesse Timmandequas' prior criminal history would not have put him on any public sexual predator lists.
Lee Quote of the Day: "The manner in which something fails is often far more instructive than how it succeeds."
Jen pointed out a good site to me: BookCrossing.com. It's a free book reviewing, book exchange environment. Neat. If you read and want to let your books roam free while keeping an eye on them, this is nifty.
[excerpted and edited from a letter from me to TJIC]
Hey Trav, didn't you say that a friend of yours was a part of a TV show
called Myth Busters?
I stuck it into Tivo and the first episodes will be airing this week. 3 episodes of "Myth Busters" on the Discover Channel on 3/7/03 at 8, 9 and 10 pm.
This'll be one of the last new things going on my Tivo for a while. I recently put my Tivo account on hold.
My folks got me Netflix for Christmas. I'm very happy with it... $20 a month gets me about 12 DVD rentals per month, delivered via US Postal Service to my door. And, I have a suped-up Tivo, it's got an extra 60 gig drive in it, for a total of 80 Gig or so. That gives me about 85 hours of recording capacity. Actually, it's between 55 and 200 hours depending on the picture quality you choose to record at ... I usually opt for "High Quality" mode, which gets me 85 hrs. The snazziest factory built Tivos get about 35 hrs of record time on High Quality mode. But recently I've been selecting the lowest quality mode... I'm hoarding TV programs for that vast upcoming time without a Tivo programming guide. I still don't understand why Tivo doesn't have a dual 100 gig drive option for TV nuts... I'm sure that lots of folks would go for it and love it. The hardware isn't that expensive and it's completely worth it.
So I've got like 100 hours of all my favorite television programs + 3 new DVDs per week + I'm taking 2 classes + I'm teaching 2 days per week. I won't be reinstating my Tivo service for a while...
That isn't to say that I'm not a huge fan of Tivo. It's only because of all the reasons above that I can put the service on hold for a while.
[Begin Tivo gush]
If you watch television and don't have one, you need one. You don't even realize it, but you do, really. I'm not just saying that. Your television watching will become smarter and more productive with less effort than your current channel surfing habit affords you. You'll watch more of the type of programs you want to watch, when you want to watch them. You'll find lots of great shows that you didn't know existed, and you won't ever be tied to network program guides as when to watch them.
If you're thinking of paying extra to get more cable TV channels, don't. Get a Tivo instead and the amount of stuff that you want to to watch on your existing channels will instantly quadruple. I can give you a hundred examples but here's a start: My dad likes programs about WWII. So I put in a Tivo Wishlist item looking for the keyword "WWII". In 5 minutes, I found many programs that he would NEVER have found on his own. Like "The Veteran's Project". It airs bi-weekly, Sunday mornings at 8am on the History Channel. It's a fantastic program but we would NEVER have come across this without Tivo.
So, a month before his visit, I pack Tivo full of WWII programs for him. Of course he watches TV most nights when he's in Florida. Nevertheless, fully 3/4 of the programs that I record for him are shows that he hasn't seen! Quadruple!
[End Tivo gush]
I could gush about Tivo for a long while; it's pros and even it's few cons. I'll leave the rest of my gush for another time.
I subbed my second day on Friday. I helped another teacher in the Alternative Learning group in the Hackettstown middle school. It's a small class where some kids that do well getting a little more attention are. The class completely rocked. The kids were great... and way smart. The format happily made me think about the Sudbury Valley School, a "Free School" where students are strongly encouraged to do their own thing. Check out their web page to find out more about it.
Our class wasn't nearly as free as SVS, but the feel was there. 1/2 the class time was reading Willa Cather's My Antonia out loud. After each paragraph, and sometimes each sentence, we'd pause and ask what a word means, or what is going on with the characters. While staying focused on the subject material, our discussion touched on an extremely wide variety of subjects.
I believe that the idea of a "free school" is wonderful. I'm not convinced that it's the best way to go about a teaching program, but it's important to see a free school as one end (though not the extreme end) of a continuum of teaching styles. Actually, I haven't ever seen a free school environment first-hand so I can't make a judgment on whether it's not a good style.
I have had the good fortune to become friends with several graduates of The Sudbury Valley School. They introduced me to these ideas but certainly didn't push them on me, in the same way that you might relate your own high school experience to another person. I've found that these free-schoolers come out of this non-standard environment just fine! The SVSers that I know the best moved seamlessly out of SVS and into college, showing that their academic skill-set was fine. All the SVSers I know are creative, intelligent people. I have many good things to say about "organic learning", the concept of the free school, and the place of this type of learning in the world.
Hmm.... You know, I'm looking around on the internet now and... I didn't quite realize this but it seems that SVS isn't the product of an educational movement... it started the movement. Cool.