So You’d Like to Buy a New Computer?

I originally posted this as a note on facebook, but then I thought that jesush could use the content. The computer I link to is no longer available, but deals of its ilk–fairly powerful refurbed machines–show up on a woot site at least once a month lately.

Some of my friends have been in the market for a new computer.

I recommend you go get a Gateway Media Center PC with Intel Core 2 Quad Processor right now. Here is a solid post outlining the reasons why. Then go visit 23″ LCD Computer Monitor, Logitech Wireless Keyboard/Mouse and buy that too.

When you get the computer screw around with it for as much as you can for a week. If something breaks, return it. If nothing has broken by then, your machine should essentially match the reliability of a brand-new machine over its life. For $650 you have a very future-proofed machine with premium monitor and wireless keyboard/mouse. Delete all the stupid crap the manufacturer puts on the system, install avg free for antivirus, upgrade to windows 7 (this machine may qualify for a free license–I’m not clear on that) when available, and don’t do anything dumb like run Microsoft communication products and you’re golden. If you decide you want to game, the upgrade path to gaming rig is a better power supply and a recent video card. Both are simple to install and have many reasonably-priced options to choose from at any time.

If you are a Linux Bigot, you are my spiritual brother (or sister) but I think it’s time to admit the configuration and operation of a Linux machine for desktop use is not an efficient use of the average person’s time.

The Windows UI is better, and it’s also much more widely known. There’s a ton of built-in familiarity with the Windows interface in the market and those people shouldn’t learn how another OS works if they don’t have the native interest to do so. They’ll be wasting their time deciphering the differences in behaviour from what they’ve been conditioned to expect with Windows when they’re not scouring the net for drivers.

As far as I can tell, Linux is not an efficient use of my time either. I am a computer geek who uses Unix and Linux most of the time at the day job. I recently had to re-install the latest build of Ubuntu five times on a machine before it ran stably. I would expect a more sensible computer user would have considered the value of their time and decided to stop wasting hours and drop a hundred bucks on a Windows license by that point.

There’s a lot of good free or cheap software on Windows these days. I don’t have a penny of Microsoft product on this machine other than the OS.

Alternately, you could spend a lot more and buy a mac.


As if I needed an additional reason to detest financial institutions: Overspending on Debit Cards Is a Boon for Banks [New York Times, h/t @kingkaufman]

“Everyone should know how much they have in their account and manage their funds well to avoid those fees,” said Scott Talbott, chief lobbyist at the Financial Services Roundtable, an advocacy group for large financial institutions.

Hey, Scott, how about you just fuck off with that nonsense? You’re providing to users a service that most of them probably don’t want by default. You’re obviously making a ton of money on loaning someone five bucks to buy lunch when they miscalculated and slightly overdrafted with that very reasonable $34 overdraft charge or you wouldn’t be complaining about the government turning their eyes on debit card legislation similar to recent credit card law overhaul.

Banking industry mouthpieces in the article warn that there are institutions which make more in overdraft fees than they do in profit, and that any such institution would be in danger of going under. Good! That means there are banks that either don’t make most of their money ripping their depositors off or aren’t afraid of making their overdraft policies palatable enough to be described up front so they’re not concerned with everyone opting out, and I’d like those banks to win please. I’ll no more mourn the loss of a bad bank than I did the telemarketers who lost their jobs after the Do Not Call registry was created. Get employment with an outfit that’s actually making the world a better place, people.

Banks also warn that they might have to do something like start charging for “free” checking accounts to make up for the lost income. No problem! Checking accounts are a legitimate service provided, not a scam, and charging for them is reasonable. It’s also more honest than running your business with usurious short-term loans, paid in large part by the segment of your customers least able to afford it.

Later in the article:

“If you think about when you swipe your card at, let’s say, Starbucks or at the Safeway or the Giant, there is no real sort of interaction there,” said Mr. Talbott. “It’s just approved or disapproved. So how logically would that work? Would a screen come up? Would someone at the bank call the checkout clerk and say, ‘That customer is overdrawn?’ Logistically that would be very difficult to implement.”

Oh come on. Ballistic Terminal Services provides a quick overview of how credit and debit card processing works. Here is an excerpt:

2. The processor will then pass that information onto the bank that issued the credit card. The issuing bank will then check the validity of the card and see if the requested amount is available. If it is the bank will set aside the amount of the purchase for the merchant.

3. The card issuing bank will send back either an approval number or a decline message back to the processor.

4. In approximately 12-15 seconds the information will be sent back to the credit card terminal which, if the transaction was approved will print a receipt for the customer to sign.

and here’s how the process would work with a notification step:

2. The processor will then pass that information onto the bank that issued the credit card. The issuing bank will then check the validity of the card and see if the requested amount is available. If it is the bank will set aside the amount of the purchase for the merchant. If the card is valid but the requested amount is unavailable, the bank may choose to extend an overdraft offer to the cardholder rather than denying the transaction.

3. If overdraft offer is generated, the fee amount and total transaction fee will be sent back to the credit card terminal in approximately 12-15 seconds. The user has the option of accepting the offer by pressing “Yes” or “Accept” or similar. The processor will then pass that information onto the bank that issued the credit card.

4. The card issuing bank will send back either an approval number or a decline message back to the processor.

5. In approximately 12-15 seconds the information will be sent back to the credit card terminal which, if the transaction was approved will print a receipt for the customer to sign.

Was that so hard? I’ve never seen a credit/debit card terminal anywhere that accepts debit payments that didn’t at least look software-upgradeable–push out a software update and send out a bunch of individual pieces of paper describing the very simple and easily-understood change. You can even print this post and use it if you like. (And for the terminals that can’t be made to work this way, buy better stuff next time.) And by the way, I’m sure phone number portability was a technical pain in the ass too, and once we all decided it would make our life better and demanded it, it happened quite quickly and easily.

At Bank of America, you can’t even opt-out of overdraft protection unless you’re granted an “exception”. That’s just another in the series of reasons I’m really glad I don’t bank at Bank of America any more. There’s simply no good reason to not allow someone to opt out of such a practice by calling unless you’re just intent on ripping them off.

Baby, Part Deux

I recently discovered we hadn’t told everyone we thought we’d told, so: things are working out so well on the kid front we decided to have another one. Here’s an ultrasound of him looking right at you.


It’s a boy. His working title is Arquimedez (as in Arquimedez Pozo, the most awesomely named player in baseball history), but I doubt that’s going to stick.


They’re doing some crazy things with ultrasounds lately. We had a really good tech working the machine last time we were in the hospital and she made some 3D scans for us. In this one Arquimedez is a little shy and is hiding his eyes.


Here’s a sharper one, where he’s rubbing one eye. He might have got some trail dust in it.


Michelle just had an amniocentesis, on account of you can never be too careful these days, and we got the test results back today. Everything is straight normal and healthy, which made this a very good day.

The due date for the youngster is Nov 21.

Barbecue Time

The days are getting nice and warm and long and we’ve been doing a lot of barbecuing the last month or so. It had been a while, so last weekend I got out the grill cleaner, 409, rags, and shop vac and cleaned my barbecue.

Holy cow, what a difference! Steaks before were an adventure. When I had the fire all the way up, I couldn’t close the lid for more than a few seconds without getting flareups and charring things. On Sunday, I brushed them with some olive oil to avoid sticking and still left them long enough to get those pretty grill marks and some texture on the surface, while remaining nice and pink inside. (If you like your steak well done, you might as well start ordering hamburger and saving yourself some money. That’s like actually using steak sauce on steak, for Christ’s sake. What a horrible misallocation of resources.)

I give barbecuing with a clean grill Five Pochaccos.

(image from Evolution of BBQ shirt at shirt.woot. I’ve been buying a lot of woot shirts lately.)

The Price is Right

I was on the elliptical today and someone had The Price is Right running on the TV. Which reminds me, when did Drew Carey decide to turn into a John Candy cosplayer?

Anyway, as I started they were doing one of the product bidding things, where the four possible contestants submit bids for an item and the person who is closest without going over gets to play a pricing game onstage. Product is ping-pong table. One contestant bids. Then contestant two bids $600. Then Contestant Three bids $599.

“Now that’s about the dumbest fucking bid you can make,” I think to myself, and I begin to weep for America.

The next product–an electric fireplace (snazzy!) comes up. Contestant Three bids $1999 this time, and the next bidder bids $2000. “Not her fault this time, but she’s an idiot so she deserved that,” I says to myself.

But wait, John Candy says, we have an exact match! The electric fireplace runs $1999. Contestant Three gets the fireplace, and $500 cash for hitting the price exactly. Then she goes on to win a car.

In retrospect, it’s obvious that Contestant Three intentionally avoided winning the ping-pong table because it wasn’t luxe enough for her, and she’s a hell of a lot better at The Price is Right than I am.

Subaru Forester: Graveyard

This commercial pisses me the hell off.

Let me get this straight: you need to get rid of a car, so you and your douchebag buddy Larry spend TWO DAYS driving to some formerly scenic hill to abandon it? This is not to mention the TWO MORE DAYS of driving you both need to do to get back home. So between you and Larry, your maudlin, estrogen-soaked emo jaunt cost 8 TOTAL MAN DAYS of human effort? Christ.

Seriously, did you make Larry take vacation to be a part of this adventure? Time that he could have spent with his family? You sir, are a complete asshole. Your Subaru is glad to be rid of you.

California Budget Crisis

All those fancy propositions (except the funny one that kept lawmakers from getting raises if the state’s in a budget deficit) failed to pass yesterday, even though I didn’t get my no votes to my polling place until right after it closed. My bad.

From the article:

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa predicted that the city’s budget could take a hit — but he vowed a fight: “I’m going to do everything I can to protect the city coffers.”

This is why we have these problems–because people say “hey, cut their services, not my services.” Antonio, you cunt, look at Los Angeles’ budget and cut what you can. Everyone else in California, do the same thing. Budgetary governance doesn’t need to be this hard.

Wanda Sykes Limbaugh OUTRAGE OMFG!!!2!?

There has been an amusing backlash against Wanda Sykes and Barack Obama for her standup routine at the Correspondents Dinner on Saturday. You know, where she said she hoped Limbaugh’s kidneys would fail. Obama then laughed at this, which is essentially the same thing as him giving tacit approval for wanting Limbaugh murdered! FOR SHAME.

I don’t understand why we aren’t hearing backlash against the suggestion (at 4:00 in the attached video) that Obama shouldn’t go out for burgers with with Biden in case he gets assassinated and Biden gets killed in the crossfire (“Who thought that was a good idea, Nancy Pelosi?”). Obama laughed at this as well, signaling his tacit approval for someone to assassinate him at a burger joint. FOR SHA… wait, what?

It was a stand up comic giving a comedy routine, jackasses. Laughter sometimes ensues.

Home Improvement

There’s a room directly above the garage that would be perfect for my office*–I’m safely away from the rest of the family unit back in a corner and I can rant on the phone or turn the music up loud without disturbing anyone–except that the only way to get to this room is to go through another bedroom. That’s not a problem now, but we can’t put anyone in the connecting bedroom without my potentially clomping through their room to get to the office while they’re asleep or otherwise engaged, and that just won’t work.

I want to do something to the house to enable me to directly access the prospective office. I talked to pop about this and we came up with what may or may not be a good idea: incorporate a dinky spiral staircase into the landing of the current staircase to allow me to cut past the bedroom and get straight to the office.


Here’s the layout (click the picture for a larger version). I want to get from the landing to the other side of the 87″ wall. At the top of the picture, you can just barely see the door that leads to the room above the garage I’d like to use for an office. The 34″ is the amount of wall above the floor on the other side of the wall, so that could just be cut out. According to my math, that leaves 53″ that I’ve got to climb in pretty compact fashion.

The 14″ at the bottom of the image refers to a modification pop suggested, which is raising the landing by a couple of steps in order to get some more depth to it so there’s more room for the spiral staircase–or whatever other solution we come up with–in the corner of the landing, and less vertical space to climb. These are standard interior steps with a 7″ rise so two of them would raise the landing 14″, leaving 39″ of vertical distance to the door. (If the 14″ is to scale in the image, that’s totally by accident.)

Here’s an example of a short spiral staircase I found on the internets:

Obviously I could ghetto this thing out and just hang a rope ladder over the wall, but I think putting an actual spiral staircase in here would have a pretty compact footprint, only require about four steps, and might look cool to boot.

Any ideas?

*well, the room also needs a window or two and some other stuff. But the location is perfect if I can get access worked out.

Tidbits from the Tech Corner

  • Let’s say you have a mysql install whose data you want to relocate somewhere else. I’ve done all that garbage with mysqldump-ing everything, but I seem to always have problems with column names being illegal or some such. Today I just copied the data directory with

    cd [old data dir]
    tar -zcf mysqldatabases.tar.gz data
    mkdir -p [new data dir]
    cd [new data dir]
    tar -zxvf [old data dir]/mysqldatabases.tar.gz

    (be careful with those permissions, but tar will preserve them on the data directory so you probably won’t have to do anything.) This worked, and only took a couple of minutes, and I didn’t have to dick with giant .sql files. (source)

  • I had to take a bunch of Postscript files and concatenate them yesterday. Of course, Unix makes this easy and profitable.

    cat *.ps >

    Took all Postscript files in the working directory and built a single file out of them. This might be useful with some video formats as well–this source recommends usage with .mpg files.

  • I’ve talked about the GIMP before, but I was about ready to bin it after using it at work over the last couple of months. The damn thing kept crashing. Luckily, I didn’t have a modern image editing tool on my computer at home and when I needed to do some graphics work there, I decided to give the GIMP one last try. The current version is very slick and feature-ful. I’ve done some fun things with it, and once I had such a good experience at home I upgraded to the latest version at work and have been happy there too.

    There are a ton of tips and tricks for the GIMP within easy reach of a Google search. A couple I’ve used recently are putting a nice coloured border around text and creating a neon sign effect with text. Here’s how the latter turned out:

    And as always, GIMP is free.

AIG and bonuses

So you may have heard that pitchfork-wielding mobs are heading AIG’s way over “retention bonuses”. It’s gotten a little time on the news and in Congress lately.

Here’s the problem: when I (or most people) hear the word “bonus”, we think back to the definition of the term:

something in addition to what is expected or strictly due: as a: money or an equivalent given in addition to an employee’s usual compensation

Now I understand that people not in the credit-default-swap department of douchebaggery at AIG might have been doing amazing jobs. I know that some of them were working for a buck plus this “bonus” that’s about to be taxed by 90%. But really, if this had been called “salary” or “compensation”, this wouldn’t have resonated like it has.

The idea that a bonus can be contractually obligated to be paid is horseflop. If there’s a contractual obligation to pay it, it’s guaranteed compensation, and if it’s guaranteed compensation, don’t call it a bonus or people who understand the term as it’s actually defined might get pissed off.

I’m sick and tired of five-oh running up on my block

Have you noticed an increase in police activity lately? I don’t mean serving and protecting… I mean the type of activity that doesn’t really accomplish anything to improve law and order. I’m getting the feeling that the tight local and state budgets are translating into the government asking the cops to shake-down their citizens. Pasadena’s finest have been staking out the Fish Taco District lately, pulling people over for rolling stops and jay-walking.

A few weeks ago I parked my car at the airport for a few days and came back to a $25 expired tags ticket. No biggie – I hadn’t got around to taking the plate frame off so I could get the tag on. I was surprised to get ticketed in a parking garage, but I guess the city owns those lots. I remember expired tags being a fix-it ticket, but there were no instructions on the ticket for how to get it corrected, so I figured I’d wait for the version that comes in the mail. I got that three weeks later as a “notice of delinquency” and a notice that if it wasn’t paid in another two weeks the fine would go up to $66 – that’s an increase of 164% if I don’t pay within two weeks of receiving the official notice in the mail! There are no instructions for getting it corrected, and a perusal of the Parking Violations Bureau website turns up nothing about fix-it tickets.

Seriously, what the heck? This kind of thing bugs me a lot more than a straight tax increase because it’s a) intellectually dishonest and b) it’s actually a form of regressive tax. People who can’t afford to pay immediately pay two-and-a-half times as much!

If there are any law enforcement types that frequent this blog, I’d be interested to hear whether the city pressures the police to increase their revenue-activities in times of economic stress.

The Metaphor Gap

Obama has signaled a willingness to speak directly with Iran about its nuclear program and hostility toward Israel, a key U.S. ally. At his inauguration last month, the president said his administration would reach out to rival states, declaring “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

“They say we have stretched a hand toward Iran. … If a hand is stretched covered with a velvet glove but it is cast iron inside, that makes no sense,” Khamenei said.

Obama responded “The cast iron inside our velvet gloved outstretched hand is necessary to reinforce our foundered flesh, which was singed by the fires of many past intolerances between our peoples. If the Iranian people would only unclench their fist and uncap the restorative balm of friendship, we’re sure that that would help rejuvenate our flesh to the extent that medical science (tempered always by the wise restraint of universally held religious principles) would allow us to remove the cast iron inside our velvet glove, leaving us with with only a velvet glove over mostly healed cyborg outstretched hand of reborn mutual understanding, albeit with a loose bandage of cautious prudence, to be changed daily through the liberal application of continued diplomacy. I ask the Iranian people: what about that does not make sense? What about that is unappealing to your people?”

(via The Huffpo, sort of)

The Perilous Quest for Attention

I don’t want to dwell on this since the entire episode is catty and ridiculous, but I found myself thinking that it’s sort of weird that I had never heard of alleged conservative radio personality Laura Ingraham before she called Meghan McCain “the flavor of the month in left-wing media land because [she is] a Republican bashing the GOP”.

I mean, I’m just saying…

(via The HuffPo)

Old Spice Swagger “LL Cool J”

There are a lot of really bad commercials for men’s hygiene products. Most of the ads that come to mind for that demographic are either of the retarded-CG-animation-with-chiseled-metrosexual or athletes-playing-grabass varieties. I mean, listen Gillette, I have considered carefully and I’m 100% goddamn sure that I am not interested in the extra two blades that are available on the Fusion – treating me like an idiot and constantly reiterating the five-blade thing doesn’t really help anybody. If you want to spend your time on doing something constructive, why don’t you have your R & D geniuses revolutionize the comb? Make a comb that flexes or vibrates or shoots lasers or something. Then we’ll talk. But the razor ship? It has sailed.

Don’t even get me started on the Gillette Fusion Power Gamer. Seriously, just stop it.

Despite my misgivings with the segment, Old Spice has been doing some really good work lately. I continue to enjoy their excellent centaur commercials (that centaur guy is two things: awe- and a really great actor), but I think that their finest recent work has been with their Swagger campaign, starring LL Cool J and some brute named Brian Urlacher.

Everything about the conception and execution of these commercials is awesome. The flashback scenarios are ridiculous (notice that Brian Urlacher the Dungeons and Dragons loser is being laughed at by a gang of different Dungeons and Dragons losers that have turned on one of their own kind – truly one of the harshest phenomena in nature) and both of the celebrities do a great job delivering the actual pitch (LL Cool J’s big jackass grin is much appreciated). I think the part I enjoy most is that Old Spice aren’t merely saying that these celebrities endorse the product, they’re saying that without the body spray, the celebrities expressly would not exist. It’s a funny, ridiculous message, but it’s also sort of subversive. The Swagger commercials are basically parodies – the kind of commercials that you might make if you desperately hated making commercials and wanted to explode the entire industry.

Anyway, Old Spice has had a terrific run lately and I hope they can keep it going, even if it seems like they might not actually want to.

=== BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!!1! ===

While we’re all here together, here is a special bonus commercial that I don’t think I’ve actually seen on TV before. It’s a minute long Old Spice spot with Bruce Campbell, that has some of the same “Oh, God please make us stop having to make commercials” quality as the Swagger spots.

Orkin “Broken Down”

Not many people know this, but I am something of a connoisseur of commercials (to the extent that I was at one point considering trying to implement a PVR sort of arrangement, with the commercial-skipping feature modified to exclude all shows and only record commercials. Maybe one day…). There’s something very pure about the exercise of distilling a message down to 30 seconds that I am drawn to. It’s a beautiful thing when it’s done well, and among life’s greatest disappointments when it’s not.

The best commercials defy their limited timeslots and low art underpinnings to create real moments of drama. An excellent example of this quality can be found in these two gems from Orkin – “Broken Down” and its less-frequently seen counterpart “Pizza Delivery”, where smooth-talking bug confidence men try to socially engineer their way into attacking your wainscoting. I think that these commercials strike a chord with me because I’m pretty sure that I would actually let the bugs into my home to wreak havoc. I am a victim, and Orkin knows it.

The genius moment of both commercials is the scene at the end where the bugs drive by really slowly in their cars and then speed away. Beautiful. The dialogue in both commercials is also excellent. Details like the termite wanting to call his brother-in-law and the cockroach suggesting he “just place the pizza on the table” are really disconcerting.

I have to say that between the two, I prefer “Broken Down” because I find the big termite to be more sinister and charismatic than the big cockroach. Both commercials are really good though.

High Seas Hijinks

I have been following the blog for a few months now. The site’s main contributer is a USCG licensed Master Mariner of Unlimited Tonnage (sort of like the ship captain version of a License to Kill), and he writes exhaustively about the current state of all things nautical. I don’t understand most of the junk that he talks about, but every once in a while he covers something that’s really interesting. For instance, today he has considerable coverage of the following oddball story that I guess happened yesterday:

Yesterday, five Chinese vessels “shadowed and aggressively maneuvered in dangerously close proximity” to the U.S. Navy ocean surveillance ship, USNS Impeccable, as it conducted routine operations in international waters in the South China Sea. According to reports, two of the Chinese vessels closed to within 50 feet (15 meters) of the USNS Impeccable, waving Chinese flags and telling the U.S. ship to leave the area. The Impeccable sprayed its fire hoses at one of the boats in order to protect itself. It is also being reported that one of the crew of one of the Chinese vessels stripped to their underwear and continued closing within 25 feet.

(via gCaptain)

So obviously this appears to be among the most mundane international incidents ever (if you change the players from Navy warships to teenagers in canoes, you basically get a lost Gidget episode), but the site follows up that post with a helpful video explaining what the hell everybody is actually up to.

(via gCaptain)

The short version? The U.S. Navy has gotten a teensy bit antsy about the increased numbers of Chinese nuclear submarine patrols, especially since the November 2007 episode where a Chinese submarine surfaced within torpedo range of a US aircraft carrier (in the middle of a carrier battle group) apparently without having been detected by anybody, so they are aggressively using these surveillance ships to keep tabs on Chinese submarines. And I guess the Chinese don’t necessarily like the increased scrutiny.

Full disclosure: they never really explain the part about the Chinese Navy stripping to their underwear.

This particular water balloon fight probably isn’t all that significant in the grand scheme of things, but it’s cool to see that there are people out there who are actively tracking this sort of thing when it happens.

Chargers Lose to Steelers

I was thinking about posting something about how the Chargers would beat the Steelers like I did about the Colts, but I really wasn’t feeling it. Turns out they got thrashed by the Steelers, and the dream of an 8-8 team winning the Super Bowl is over.

I didn’t see the first third of the game, which was from all reports very competitive. I tuned in just in time to see the Chargers take their last lead of the game on the Kaeding field goal, and watch the Steelers march down the field for a touchdown in response. Then there was that horrible, terrible, very bad third quarter that doomed this effort. I have never seen a quarter of football like it–*one* offensive play for the Chargers in the entire 15 minutes, which was a tipped ball for an INT. Phillip Rivers was quoted as saying

“There was a little bit of disbelief. … You can’t call it a fluke, those guys made plays, but that was crazy.”

which is exactly what I was thinking.

* The Chargers defense missed a lot of tackles at the initial point of contact in this game, apparently starting from when I started watching. The defense was very successful at getting the Steelers into third-and-long situations throughout the second half, but they kept blowing it.

* Let’s not get our knickers in a bunch about Darren Sproles if he leaves San Diego. He’s a very good kick returner and a pretty good change of pace back, not a dominant player. I hope the Chargers keep him, but I hope they don’t break the bank to do so. Remember, he was a fourth-round pick. AJ Smith can find difference-makers on special teams in the lower rounds.

* Shawne Merriman, on the other hand… they need him, or someone like him, badly. A top-flight pass-rusher crashing the pocket does a few things. He turns second banana Shaun Phillips from an overmatched primary threat to a dangerous bookend. He keeps the secondary from having to cover all day. I’m looking forward to seeing what a reloaded defense does with a defensive coordinator who isn’t afraid to bring the heat next year.

* I think LaDainian Tomlinson will be back, and I think he’ll have a better year in 2009.

* I was very encouraged with what I saw from Jacob Hester late in the season. This guy is a fullback who can run and catch, and he seems to be learning to block. Mike Tolbert had some nifty moves but wasn’t much for blocking, and former Charger Lorenzo Neal couldn’t run for shit. Having a guy who can do all three things is going to be helpful.

Florida wins BCS

I saw the end of the Florida’s college football win over Oklahoma last night. I hadn’t seen a minute of college football since Woody and I watched the end of a very entertaining USC-Oregon State game a couple of years back at Vivandres’ place, and I was amazed at how dinky and slow these teams–surely, other than USC, the best in the country–were.

I seriously don’t understand how anyone watches college football. The whole time I found myself thinking “the Detroit Lions would murder these guys.” If it wants me as a regular viewer of its football product, the NCAA needs to put its student athletes on a rigorous steroid regimen.

Wireless Home Audio

How about them Chargers? OK, OK, so it wasn’t two touchdowns…

I have a technical question for the JesusH community.

We’ve got two TVs on the ground floor of the house, and connected to each TV I’ve got a stereo system, complete with amplifiers and speakers and whatnot. What I want to do is give them the ability to use each other as an audio source, and play the same thing simultaneously. In other words, when I play a CD in the DVD player connected to Stereo A, I’d like to be able to get that line output sent to Stereo B so I can hear the music in the other room from the other set of speakers (and vice versa).

It’d be simple to connect some RCA cables from each stereo’s line out jack to an input on the other stereo; I’d then just have to set input on Stereo B appropriately to hear whatever Stereo A is playing. But unlike my old house, I don’t have a crawlspace or an attic to run wires, and I don’t have a carpet to stick speaker wire under either. Running a pair of stereo audio wire between the stereos is certainly possible, but it’s going to be a pain in the ass.

So I need to either use the existing house wiring or go wireless. I see there’s an outfit called Devolo that has a product that appears to send an audio signal through powerline. That’s a clever solution that would meet my needs, as I obviously have power near both stereos. But the product line isn’t exactly established, and they’re 220V in any case, so they’re not going to work in the good old USA.

Wireless is the only other idea I have. I know some wireless house audio systems like Sonos have been getting written up in major newspapers and periodicals, and I could probably get them to do what I want and then some, but that’d be like swatting a fly with an axe–and considering these jagoffs are charging four figures just to get into the game, it’d have to be a totally blinged-out axe at that. I don’t want a wireless controller for my music. I don’t want to control my music at all.

There’s a lot of consternation about wireless rear speakers in home theatre setups, which seems kind of like the problem I want to solve. Here’s a recent blog post from the always-interesting Bob Cringely about the absence of wireless audo in today’s whiz-bang HDTVs, for example. But I think most of the problem there is that you’ve still got to get power to the rear speakers to get any output, and until someone solves that problem you’ll still have a power wire going to those speakers even if you have them get their audio signal wirelessly, so it’s generally kind of dumb to not just wire audio as well. The true solution for wireless satellite speakers probably involves some nifty engineering on the part of the radiant power geeks, but I don’t need to wait on that. I’ve got power at both locations, and don’t need it from whatever the solution to my problem is.

I guess I could use something like the idiotically-branded RocketFish™ rear speaker wireless kit, but that’s over $100, it’s unidirectional, and it looks like I’d have to do some goofy bare-wire-to-RCA hacking on both ends to get it sorted.

All I want is to take a stereo signal at Stereo A and transmit it to Stereo B, across about twenty feet and through one wall. It seems like in 2009, when I can see about a dozen access points from my computer’s wireless network dialog box and buy a wireless router for twenty bucks, this should be dirt-cheap and easy, but I’ve been looking around and so far I’m not seeing much. Any ideas?

Chargers Season Wrapup

The regular season is over for the San Diego Chargers. In last night’s contest, they pancaked the Denver Broncos 52-21 to claim the AFC West crown and move on to the playoffs. What an interesting season it was!

* the better team surely won last night. The Broncos are pathetic. They should have lost the first time around, and they’re just a much worse team than the Chargers. That’s not to say the better teams always make the playoffs, but even worse, the Broncos’ magic number was one with three games left, and they lost all three while the Chargers won all three of theirs. Really, this was an absurdly large choke job–maybe not on the level of last year’s Patriots, but close.

* I more-or-less ignored the Chargers through the ugly middle of the season, but the defense sure looks better under Ron Rivera than it did under Ted Cottrell. I’ve really enjoyed watching cornerback Quentin Jammer, in particular. The guy used to be a walking, talking pass interference call and busted high draft pick. He still doesn’t have good hands, but his coverage has gotten a lot better and he might be the best run support cornerback I’ve ever seen in a Chargers uniform. He knows how to wrap up and isn’t afraid to hit a ball carrier. I’ve met him a couple of times and he seems like a nice guy, too, so good for him.

* The offense, of course… well, it’s totally ridiculous that professional pain-in-the-ass and interception thrower Brett Favre was voted Pro Bowl starter, and it’s fitting that both he and Jay Cutler are going to be watching the playoffs at home. Phil Rivers has played really well, and hasn’t even said anything dumb lately as far as I know.

* the Chargers have won four straight–though one was a squeaker against a lousy team–and they’re looking dangerous. Their first playoff game is at home on Saturday against the Colts, who have won nine straight (including one against the Chargers), but they’ll have the business given to them this weekend. The early betting line says this is a close game, but I don’t think so.

Chargers win by at least two touchdowns… you heard it here first.

2008 Voting Guide

For this election’s voting guide we’re going to skip past the presidential election: not only is the outcome a foregone conclusion, but not enough of you listened to us last time we tried that. So let’s hit the proposition circuit.

If you are in California, please vote against Proposition 8 on Tuesday.

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Like all good things, the 2008 JesusH Voting Guide fits on the face of a pumpkin.

The asinine “protect marriage” crowd is busy telling you all sorts of horrible things about gay marriage’s legality in California, but here’s the straight scoop: homosexuals ought to have exactly the same rights as heterosexuals, no more and no less, and their ability to enter into a life partnership that exactly matches the one that man and woman can enter into should not be subject to the whims of people who shake their head and say “no, I’m just not comfortable with that.”

Until 1943, Chinese immigrants did not have the right to become US citizens and vote. My wife could never have acquired the same rights and responsibilities of United States citizenship that Paris Hilton has, no matter how hard she worked or how much better she made America, because she was born in China and Hilton was born here. That is Extremely Fucking Nuts, and we know it now, but I’m sure back then there was a bunch of people shaking their heads and saying “no, I’m just not comfortable with Chinese having a path to citizenship and enfranchisement.”

Read the rest of the Voting Rights Timeline if you have time. It’s an eye-opener.

That’s a jarringly recent example of constipation of justice in the United States, but this country has a long history of that kind of nonsense. If someone *doesn’t* have the same rights as you, they ought to have done something felonious to get themselves in that position. Being born homosexual shouldn’t count. In fifty years, this will look as silly to everyone as barring Chinese people from access to citizenship looks to us now. This isn’t the first time we’ve covered the gay marriage issue around here, and we haven’t changed our tune one note.

Let’s all do our part to ensure equal treatment for Californians regardless of sexual orientation on Tuesday.

Non-Soapbox-y postscript: I left my jack o’ lantern in front of the house Halloween night and the next morning the “Yes on 8” organization had kindly left me a voting reminder right in front of it.

Don't Forget!
Really stupid, really funny, or both: you be the judge.

Thanks, Yes on 8 team! I’m still ashamed of you, but I got a chuckle out of it.

The William Hung of Politics

I’d like to break the JesusH posting hiatus just long enough to say that I, for one, do not give a shit what Joe the Plumber thinks.

Also, congrats to Brent, Official Cop of JesusH, on his graduation from the academy, and Jeff has some nifty video of Matt, Other Official Cop of JesusH, distributing justice in the mean streets of Oxnard which he’d surely share with you if he wasn’t such a dog in the manger about posting.

Thank you.

No Bailout

The first bailout has epic failed in the House. From the article:

The overriding question for congressional leaders was what to do next. Congress has been trying to adjourn so that its members can go out and campaign. And with only five weeks left until Election Day, there was no clear indication of whether the leadership would keep them in Washington. Leaders were huddling after the vote to figure out their next steps.

You already have the advantage of incumbency. How about you stop looking ahead of the current crisis and stay in session until you get this thing worked out, Congresspeople?

Thoughts on First Presidential Debate

Some initial thoughts on the first presidential debate:

– Jim Lehrer’s “say it to him” shtick at the beginning made him sound awkwardly like a marriage counselor.

– I’m surprised the post-debate polls seem to have scored it so clearly for Obama.  I didn’t think there was a clear winner, though I do think a tie on the foreign policy debate is a great outcome for Obama.

– I was disappointed with both candidates’ answers on the bailout issue.  Clearly it would have been foolish to say “I do” or “I don’t” support the plan, but it was a missed opportunity to demonstrate leadership by laying out a clear framework for what a successful plan ought to look like.

– McCain advocates a federal government “spending freeze” on everything except defense, Veterans’ Affairs, and entitlement programs?  This is a huge policy proposal.  Why isn’t everyone talking about this today? 

– “You’ve sung songs about bombing Iran.” – it’s nice to finally see the Democratic candidate hitting back hard instead of going on defense.  There’s something to be said for Chicago politicians.

– When McCain forces a smile even though he’s kind of annoyed, he looks like Skeletor having dinner with the in-laws.

– Don’t the VP candidates normally appear on all the networks for post-debate commentary?  Interesting that one campaign decided to take a different tack.  That’s so maverick!


The Debate is On!

It was a close-run thing, but John McCain and Barack Obama will debate tonight, just a few scant days after McCain “suspended his campaign” to go fix all the high finance crap going down in the nation’s capital.

I’m sure this is because McCain cat-herded the bailout meetings to a successful conclusion after heading back to DC in such an all-fired hurry, and not because the average voter’s response to McCain’s campaign suspension seems to have been “the fuck’s he going on about? does he want to be President or not?”